Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What Is It About 6th and 7th Period?

It's not unusual to have a class, or classes, From the Very Depths of Hell Itself.  In years past, my third has won that title, plus a seventh, and then a few others in between.  And usually, when you have a class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself, that same group of kids, due to all the weird scheduling things we have going on, tend to travel together so all the other teachers on your team have other class periods From The Very Depths of Hell Itself.  Mine might be third, Mrs. Social Studies may have hers fourth, Mrs. Reading has hers fifth and so on.

But something really weird is happening this year.  Nearly every teacher you talk to, and it doesn't matter the grade level, has the same two horrible classes every single day - sixth and seventh period.

They are, truly, classes From the Very Depths of Hell Itself.  Mine are Horrid.  What makes them even more horrid is that my fifth period is AMAZINGLY AWESOME.  They are the perfect class.  They are the class that makes it fun to be in the classroom.  And then...then...sixth period walks in and it all goes to hell.  And seventh period is even worse.

Which makes one wonder...what in the world are they putting in their lunch?  

I mean, these kids are awful in terms of behavior (and of course, it reflects in their grades).  They just can't be quiet, pay attention, follow directions, you name it.  (And then my third, fourth, and fifth, all do these things and do them well for the most part.)  But after lunch?  Good gracious.

Mrs. Eagle has it so bad that her seventh period is about ready to make her throw in the towel when it comes to labs and just make them do workbooks.

Well, actually it's worse than that.  We were sitting around at lunch the other day talking about the show Falling Skies.  And in that show, the Second Massachusetts is based in a high school.  We got us to talking about how long we could hold out against the skitters and the mechs at our school with what we have in our science lab, and so forth.  (Okay, we have weird conversations at lunch.  You spend all day with 12-year-olds and you'd have weird conversations as well.)  Mrs. Eagle said it wouldn't be a problem.  Why?

"I'd just give them my entire seventh period to harness and then they'd just leave us the hell alone."

They are that bad.

But sad to say, the aliens would probably give that group back.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Now, That's Some Thinkin'

I met Bus Boy last Spring during my stint working as an admin when the discipline referrals were starting to overwhelm the office, threatening to bury the Guidance Diva under mounds of paper.  It's also known as the season When the Kids Went Freaking Insane After the Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests.

Anyway.  I recognized Bus Boy's last name - it's a bit unusual - because I had his brother.  We only had a few weeks of school left so we had a little heart to heart about behaving on the bus and helping him to realize he had just a Few More Days to deal with the bus, and he Could Do It!  So, it was a bit funny when I looked at my rosters and I realized that Bus Boy was going to be in my home room this year.  I actually liked the kid.

And truth be told, I still like him.  He's personable and funny (a lot more animated than his older, very serious, brother), and a pretty good student.  However, on his student information sheet, he answered the question "What do you like the least about school," with "My bus driver and riding the bus!"

So, he still hates the bus.  Go figure.

In any case, most of our after school clubs are starting to meet this week, and yesterday he stayed after they dismissed bus riders so he could attend game club.  He also handed me an application for knitting club which will be meeting on Fridays.   (He is the sixth boy in knitting club so far.)

"Bus Boy," I asked him, "just curious.  Why'd you join the knitting club?"

"Oh, my friend is in it," he said, "And I already know how to crochet, so I figured I'd give knitting a try."

I'll be honest, this just about cracked me up, and I chalked it up as one of the more entertaining comments I'd heard this past week.  And, truth be told, it is a pretty fair reason why a kid would want to stay for knitting club (especially since he's a boy.)

But then today I noticed he was staying late again.

"So Bus Boy," I asked him "what club are you staying after for today?"

"Oh, newspaper club," he said.  "I think that sounds like fun and I have a digital camera to take pictures."

And then it dawned on me that this kid has really gotten it figured out.  He hates the bus.  He hates the bus driver.  Solution?  Join clubs that meet every single day of the week so he never has to ride the bus home and his brother or parents have to come pick him up.


I can't wait to see what club he's going to be attending tomorrow.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Roll of the Dice

Today was the first day of The School's Chess and Board Game Club.

Mrs. Eagle and I have been sponsoring this club for, I think, something like seven years now and we usually get around 20-25 kids every year.  Sometimes when the fashion show club gets rolling (student council puts on an amazing fashion show every year for a fundraiser) we lose kids who are models, or doing the lighting, or something.  Or soccer or baseball season or something starts up.  But in any case, we can usually count on about 20 kids.

We had 45 today.


So many that we had to split them up into two rooms - I kept half, and Mrs. Eagle took the other half (fortunately we both have tables in our rooms rather than desks.)  So from 2:30 to 4:00 we had screaming, yelling, laughing chaos in not one room, but two.


Oh, and by the way, (and this is for all those folks who think teachers roll out of school at 2:30), we don't get paid for this.  We just do it because it's a cool thing to do for the kids, many of whom have no one to play games with them at home.

Knitting club starts after labor day.  So far I have 20 kids signed up (was thinking we'd get lucky to get 12).  Including 5 boys.


Our kids are digging the clubs this year.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Something of Value

Every once in a while I am reminded that you really don't need to watch soap operas if you spend most of your time in a middle school.

Thursday my fifth period kids are coming in to the room to put their things down and get ready for our walk down to lunch.  I'm getting ready to put up my agenda PowerPoint (a scrolling PowerPoint that gives the kids instructions and lets them know what we're doing) and I do a quick check of my email and see one from Mr. Math.  It reads, "If anyone finds a rather large stack of SWPBS money, beware!  I just had a bunch stolen from my desk and they didn't have my name on them yet."

Oh great.  However, I look up from the email and my eye falls on one of my kids in the back of the room who is standing there counting out his HUGE MASSIVE WAD of reward money.  The stack is so huge he has a massive binder clip on it that he's using as a money clip. Amazing.  Especially since this isn't the type of kid that's such an angel he's going to be earning that much money in the three weeks school has been in session.

We drop the kids off at lunch and then the team along with Mrs. Eagle are having our lunch and I mention that Sneaky Boy was in the back of the room counting out his cash and he may be the one we're looking for.  Mr. Math mentions that he had a number of sixth grade teachers email Sneaky Boy's name as well since he apparently did the same thing last year.  At this point Mrs. Language adds that she saw Sneaky Boy counting out a HUGE MASSIVE WAD of cash in her class as well, and in fact, he used five dollars of it to buy a chance to sit in her teacher chair for the period.

(Okay, some explanation - we're trying to have things for the kids to buy that don't cost us things in addition to the real items in our store.  So, kids can buy an opportunity to read the morning announcements, a ticket to sit in the teacher's chair, lunch in the library, and so on.)

Mrs. Reading then adds that Sneaky Boy was also seen in her class counting out a HUGE MASSIVE WAD of cash in her room and he also paid to sit in her chair for the period.  She suggests going back to her room to see what was on the back of the money he used to pay for this privilege, so she went back, and went to Mrs. Language's room as well, and brought back the ten dollars that Sneaky Boy spent with them that morning.

By this time Mr. Math has called The Enforcer and filled him in on our suspicions because we do take this pretty seriously at the school - this is the currency our kids use for a lot of rewards and shopping and it really does have value with them.  (Which, The Principal reminds us, is a good thing.)

I turns out that Sneaky Boy had forged all ten of the dollars he'd used to buy his chair-sitting that day.  He'd written most of our names on several of them (he spelled Mr. Math's name wrong!) and the reasons he gave for receiving the money was pretty funny.  On one where he'd forged my name he wrote it was for "saying yes mame" and another one from Mrs. Social Studies was for "telling the truth".  You can imagine how much fun we had with that.

By this time Mrs. Reading has the rather frightening thought that perhaps, while he was sitting in the teacher's chair in her class, he may have gotten in her desk and taken her supply of money as well.  So back she went to her room only to discover - you know where this is going, right? - that her reward money was all stolen out of her desk.

Mr. Enforcer comes down to the lunch room, snaps up Sneaky Boy, gets a hold of his wad of cash and asks us to sort it all out.  Most of it didn't have a teacher name or signature on it and the rest were mostly forged teacher names.  We have a policy that a reward buck has to have either a teacher's initials or name written in ink, or a stamp (I use a signature stamp) on them to be valid.  So, when you see one that's entirely filled out by a kid (and that's pretty apparent, especially when they can't spell our names correctly), then it's safe to say we may have a problem.

Well, truthfully, Sneaky Boy had the problem.  And he earned himself five days in ISS.

What's funny is that all this transpired in the span of about 15 minutes at lunch.  And it probably wouldn't have transpired if Sneak Boy wasn't so blatant in the counting of his cash.    I hope he enjoys all the workbook packets he's getting instead of labs!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Please, Let it NOT be so.

I feel like I'm coming down with a cold.

There's something just WRONG about a cold when it's 96 degrees outside.  Colds are for when it's nasty out and you want to curl up under a warm blanket with a cat and a book or too.

And having one the first month of school sucks some more.

Off to bed.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Better Late Than Never, I Suppose

We have a policy at The District to keep track of kids who are no-shows.  These are kids who were enrolled last year, didn't indicate that they were moving, but who don't show up for school.  If, after ten days, they haven't shown up, we drop them off the rolls and figure they've moved on.

So, since the ten day period was up on Friday, I spent the weekend putting together my nice, new gradebook with all the nice new names of all my nice new kids.

In ink, of course.  Colored ink.

So, this morning one of our kids walks this girl over to me and says she's new and she needs a locker.  No problem, I have a few lockers left to hand out.  I ask her name and it occurs to me that she's one of the kids we just dropped off the rolls on Friday.

"Hum, you're not new here, are you?"  I asked her.

"Oh no, I went here last year," she said.

"I'm asking because we dropped you off the roll as we thought you weren't coming," I told her.  (I found out later from Guidance Diva that they had to go through the whole enrollment process with her in PowerSchool.)

"Oh, yeah, we were on vacation," she said.


I guess we know where the priorities are in this family.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

It's a Numbers Game

When I first started at The School nine years ago (Wow, has it really been nine years?), the average size of each grade level class was around 300-320.  Maybe.  My first year we had two full seventh grade teams, and then a mini-team, to accommodate all the seventh graders.  As our numbers have gone up and down, we've morphed to three full teams, down to our current incarnation of two teams with a whole bunch of kids (144 on my team at last count) but with some eighth grade teachers picking up the extras and teaching a couple of classes of seventh graders.

They have Very Smart People at The District who spend a lot of time staring at maps and real estate projections and all sorts of things to figure out just where, exactly, all these new kids we get every year (about 600-800 a year the past ten years) are going to go to school, and where we need to build new schools.  And then this year they announced a new zoning plan to take affect next year to even out the buildings so we don't have one school with empty classrooms and another crowded with portables.

A few years ago when they eliminated the third seventh grade team and started having the eighth grade teachers help out with the seventh graders, Mrs. Eagle and I sort of shrugged and said, "whatever", but thought that it wouldn't last too long because all of our feeder schools have portables all over the place.  They were FULL.  We sort of figured this would be one of those little population dips in the road, and eventually the numbers would be back up again.

And from what the Guidance Diva tells me, this could be the year that the bubble has moved to middle school.  As of Friday, after we dropped all the no-shows off our rolls and added in all the new kids who registered the past two weeks, the sixth grade has a total of 356 students.  That's the biggest class she has ever seen and she's been at The School way longer than I have.  The sixth grade teachers, who are used to slightly smaller class sizes than seventh and eighth, are besides themselves.  They are putting out requests for student desks as they have rapidly run out of room and furniture.

And they just keep on coming.

Very few seventh or eighth graders have registered this fall, but there have been hordes of sixth graders.  And if they stick around a few years, that means they'll be a whole bunch of seventh graders next year.  And that's not factoring in the 100 or so new kids we'll get with the new zoning.

So.  What does that mean for us next year?  Three full seventh grade teams?  Huge class sizes?  More eighth grade teachers teaching seventh grade?

Who knows?  I do know we won't find out - most likely - until May.  If we're lucky.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Longest Day Ever

Open House tonight!

I still find it weird that we hold Open House barely two weeks into the year when I'm still trying to learn all my kids' names.  But hey, at least I can recognize them!

Had a good turn out, everyone seemed happy (and a number already got my first parent email last week so it's good to know it's working).

The best part?  Seeing my former kids come back and visit.  There is one family that I've taught all three of their kids - a daughter who's a senior (and who I totally adore), a son who is a sophomore, and a daughter in eighth grade.  This family doesn't have much financially, but they are good, solid people.  They all showed up to visit and say hello.  I got very close to the oldest when mom asked for my help with her when she was going through a rough patch in middle school.  It's nice to know that parents realize you can love their kids to and trust us to help them when they need it.  Glad to say that so far, the kids are doing fine.  I'm hoping that they'll be able to earn some scholarship money for college as they are all quite bright.  I love that this family cared enough to stop by and visit.

Some of these kids and families never leave your memory or your heart.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Two Down, Two to Go

Whoo-hoo!!!  My first two observations of the year are done and off my plate!  My next two aren't until January so I have some time to actually catch my breath.

The lab we did today went well, the kids were great, and even later in the day (when I wasn't being observed) my two classes that make me insane (sixth and seventh) managed to behave.  In other words, I didn't have to kick anyone out and give them an alternate assignment (the dreaded workbook packet) for acting like an idiot during a lab. Maybe they'll get the picture.

The lab was a "mining for minerals" lab that we picked up at the NSTA conference last year.  It involved birdseed, tiny seed beads (gold, silver, blue for copper and white for reclamation).  The kids have to sift through (in other words mine) the birdseed to collect their minerals (the black sunflower seeds are iron along with the glass beads).  Then some math to determine how much money they made (or lost due to reclamation costs).  Had a blast and the kids were QUIET.  They were so busy digging through the seeds, especially in my fifth period, that you could have heard a pin drop.  They didn't want to stop!

Love it when a plan comes together.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Glue + Scissors + Seventh Graders = Chaos

I think I'm losing my mind.

Last year, Mrs. Eagle and I piloted science notebooks in a few of our classes to see how they went.  Well, they went great so we're going full speed ahead with our science notebooks for all our classes this year.

The problem is, apparently cutting and gluing (correctly) is a bit beyond some of my kids this year.

I have never - never - seen such a disaster in the making.  These kids, despite me modeling it over and over and over on the document reader, can't seem to cut and glue things into their notebook without making a disaster out of it.  I had foldable flaps glued in upside down, inside pockets glued all the way shut rather than on two sides only, notebook tabs cut in half and glued upside down, you name it.  It's been, shall we say, a challenge.

And then when you get my seventh period (which, I'm starting to think is the class that all the rather "interesting" and quite low kids got stuck into), you get an absolute nightmare. When Happy Boy is the star student in the class, you've got issues.

Obviously, the million times I say, "look at the screen and watch what I do!" is going in one ear and out the other.

And then of course you get the goober who decides to see what happens when you pour glue in the palm of your hand.

(What happens is Mrs. Bluebird pulls you into the hall and explains to you that we do not act like four-year-olds in seventh grade, and that we use the glue for our notebooks, not for decorating our hands, and if you ever do anything like that again, I'm calling your mother.  THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING. )

Oh good gracious.

Monday, August 15, 2011

We're Just in the Dark Here

I'm trying to remember back to a first few weeks of school where we didn't have something dramatic happen.  Trouble is, I can't seem to find a memory that fits that criteria.

Today was no exception.

This morning, probably about 15 minutes after the kids left homeroom and went to first period, all the power went out in The School.  I was actually in the hallway on my way to the front office when it all went dark.  (Fortunately, since we have first and second period planning, we didn't have any kids.)  The power went off, the emergency lights went on and gave off enough light to somewhat figure out where you were going, and all was quiet.

Seriously quiet.

What was weird, is that in the nine years I've been at The School, this is the first time we've had the power go out and I DIDN'T hear a large yell from the student population.  Usually when the power goes out you can hear the kids yell.  You'd think they'd be used to power going out considering the number of severe storms we get here, but no, every time the power went out, there was an uproar.

Except for today.  There wasn't a peep - even out of the sixth grade.  You'd walk by classrooms and you'd hear teachers teaching (sans all our technology) and the kids listening, and just everyone carrying on as normal.

Wow.  Amazing.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Just a Leeetle Bit Different

You ever have a kid who just is annoying as hell, drives you (and the rest of the kids) up a beam but who you really, really, really like?

We have one this year.

A few years ago, we didn't have enough kids that qualified for placement in our ED unit (emotionally disturbed) so they relocated that unit at another middle school.  This year, however, the numbers were up, so we had the unit moved back to The School.  We needed to find a teacher for the unit and NO ONE wanted it (even out of state teachers applying to the district didn't want it - face it, dealing with emotionally disturbed kids is not everyone's cup of tea.)  So, the Principal talked to Mr. Baseball, one of our special ed teachers, and he agreed to do it.  Now I, for one, think this is a brilliant idea because he has a great way with kids (especially boys) because he's also a coach.

In any case, Happy Boy is one of his students.

When we first found out that we were going to have one of his students we were a bit concerned - after all these are usually High Maintenance kids and there are times they do not do well in a normal classroom.  Over they years I've had quite a few of them, some did well, others didn't do well at all, and it all comes down to the kid, what their particular disability is, and how it all plays out.  However, Happy Boy is on consult which means he's able to spend pretty much the entire day in the regular ed classroom, so he's not as severe as some of Mr. Baseball's other kids.

Our IEP's aren't ready to be signed yet (hopefully on Monday) so I don't really have a clear picture yest of Happy Boy's disability outside of the fact that he's major ADHD, he has some form of Autism, and he has absolutely no filter and says whatever pops in his mind.  His social skills are very weak, but he's probably one of the most social kids I've ever seen.  He is DELIGHTED to be in school.  It's one great big adventure for him, and he comes in just ready to go every morning.  He's got longish hair that's often quite unkempt (he honestly looks like a mad scientist!) and he often looks like he just rolled out of bed, but he's always on time, happy to there, and ready to let everyone know.

He's driven both Mrs. Reading and Mrs. Social Studies to distraction the first few days, and he's freaked out a few of the kids.  Apparently he wanted to impress all the kids in Mrs. Social Studies class by saying the "F" word as often as he could.  (It worked, they freaked.)  A quick email to Mr. Baseball, a quick talk in the hall, and that one was nipped in the bud.  He's in my seventh period class which has a pretty high level of pretty low kids (why does that always happen?), and he had one kid decide she couldn't take the fidgeting anymore and she moved to sit by herself.  The other two left at his table don't seem to mind him much, and are often pretty helpful when he leaves early (he leaves my class ten minutes early to catch the special ed bus home.)  All that being said, this kid is SMART and can actually find things like his homework and his science lab contract (signed!) and turn it in - that's more than my regular ed kids chose to do at times.

So today he was in rare form.  He comes racing up to me before class to inform me that he hadn't taken his medication and he needed someone to walk him to the nurse because he didn't remember how to get there "because I really need to take my medication now and I really hope it's okay because I forgot so I need to get to the nurse but I don't know how to get there."

Okey dokey.  One of my other kids volunteered to take him, and off they go, Happy Boy just chattering away.

They come back before class, Happy Boy is all bubbles, and we begin work on our notebooks.  This was the first day we did our student notebooks and Happy Boy actually had his composition book (bless him) and was having a grant time cutting and gluing and just doing fine.

"I'm having fun, Mrs. Bluebird!" he yelled across the class a few times.  (When's the last time a seventh grader told me that?)  The other kids didn't seem to know how to react to this one.

Ten minutes before the end of class he yells, "Mrs. Bluebird is it time for me to go now?!" and when I said it was, he needed to pack up, his tablemates took his notebook and said they'd finish up for him.  "Oh thank you!  You guys are the best!  Thanks so much!" and off he goes...only to poke his head into the room, "Mrs. Bluebird can you open my locker?!"  So I go out to the locker, open it for him.  "Oh, Mrs. Bluebird, you are the nicest teacher ever!," he yells (I think that's the only volume he has.)  "Thank you so much!  You have a great weekend!  Bye!" and off he goes.

Later this afternoon I'm talking with Mrs. Reading and Mrs. Social Studies and the topic of Happy Boy comes up.  Mrs. Social Studies nods her head, "You know, he can be annoying as hell, but I really, really like the kid."

And we all agreed.  He's pretty awesome.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

If I Won the Lottery...

...the first thing I would do would be to buy new lockers for The School.

I am so not kidding here.  And I am not alone.  Mrs. Eagle and I both discussed this on our road trip before school started, and we decided one of the things we absolutely hate the most is Dealing With the Locker Drama.

Our building is 45 years old.  The lockers in my part of the building are, as far as anyone can tell, the original lockers that were put in at some point after The School opened.  And the kicker?  They weren't new at the time.  They were removed from another school and put in our school when the other school got new lockers.  (Got that?  Yeah, confusing.  What I'm wondering is why we never get our lockers upgraded).

What this means is that these lockers are a royal pain to open.  Many of them are broken and beyond repair.  Many of the locks are hard to turn, with numbers that are difficult to see.  They're dinged, dented, they stick, the handles break off, they are a nightmare.

And, due to the number of kids on our team this year (even more than last year), we are running out of workable lockers to assign.  So today, the second day the kids had their lockers, we were dealing with kids having all sorts of fits trying to get their lockers opened and getting their things out so they could get to class (I'm not even worried about tardies at this point.)

I have one student, Wimpy Girl who is absolutely devastated that she might have to carry more than one book at a time.  (They are, she says, heavy.  She is, to be nice, not tiny.)  That's the beginning of the drama.  She went through three lockers today before we finally found one she could open.  Each time she had a problem she burst into tears and just about lost it there in the hallway.   Mrs. Social Studies and I spent most of our hall duty showing kids (including Wimpy Girl) how you turn to the right, stop, turn to the left and pass the first number (they have trouble with this) and stop at the second number, and then turn to the right to the third number.   I had Wimpy Girl spend most of afternoon homeroom practicing on her third locker until she could open it without trouble - or tears.

And she wasn't the only one.

I can't help but thing how much easier life would be if we had lockers that worked - my kids are dreaming of lockers with fingerprint sensors so all they had to do was touch their hand on the locker and it would magically spring open - not a bad idea, truth be told.

But I have a feeling, I'll be retired before we ever see new lockers.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

First Full Day

We had our first full day today with kids changing classes, breakfast, lunch, and all that fun stuff.

The good:

The kids, for the most part, seemed pretty good.  They seemed nice.  The were a tiny bit chatty but got the message when to be quiet.  Of course, we could still be in the honeymoon phase.  However, it seems I have a lot less girls with attitude and gang-banger wannabes than last year.  Thank the Lord.

Not a lot of absences.  There have been years past when I'd have 5-10 absent in every class - kids who've moved over the summer and weren't coming back (but didn't bother to tell us yet).  I may have 2-3 absent, if any absent at all.  And most of these kids know the routine around here, so that's nice.

My homeroom kids, especially the ones who are walkers and hang around for a bit while the buses are loading, are some of the nicest kids ever.  I already enjoy them.

The Bad:

Apparently the nutrition department installed new software in the cafeteria.  But didn't bother to tell or train anybody - they found out this morning when they went to serve breakfast and it took forever.  Breakfast and lunch were a challenge, but we worked it out.

PowerSchool is being difficult.  Enough said.

We have a number of eighth grade teachers teaching a number of sections of seventh grade which is confusing for the kids who are used to having all their teachers in one little area.  They'll figure it out tomorrow.  In the mean time I'm giving directions like, "go to the eighth grade hallway, turn left, and first room on the right," and I'm not sure they're getting there.

I'm tired.

Oh, and for those of you who commented regarding the four observations...That's what happens when you win Race to the Top.  New state law...professional licensed teachers get 4 observations a year, apprentice get six.  I feel sorry for our princpals who have to do all these.  I honestly don't mind, but I wish it wasn't the 2nd week of school.  I'll be lucky to know all their names by then.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Whirl, whirl, whirl.

Tomorrow is the first full day of school with all our students.  The schedule is a bit weird as we're spending two hours in the morning with our homeroom going over and training the kids in the School Wide Positive Behavior Support (hereby known as SWPBS) system (for the next three days).  Fortunately all of my kids were here last year so it will be more of a refresher for them, although we did tweak it a bit.  What this also means is that I'll only have 30 minutes for each of my class periods.

Which isn't much...barely enough time to hand out all the paperwork for science class and get attendance done.

And I also discovered, yet again, one of the huge disadvantages of being at the beginning of the alphabet.  My first two observations will be next week.  (We have a new state-wide observation system where ALL teachers get observed at least four times a year.)  I'll barely know my kids' names by then.


I feel like I'm on a hamster wheel already.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

And a one, and a two, and a three, and a four...

I have finished going through my rosters (fully realizing that they'll probably change a bit in the next three weeks) and have made file folder labels for each of my kids.

I have two Elijahs in my home room.  Fortunately one wants to go by Eli and the other Elijah.

But the topper is that I have four Peytons.

Two of them are in my homeroom, one male and one female.

The other two, both male, are in my fourth period class.

What's weird?  I've never had a Peyton before. Could it be a lot of my parents are University of Tennessee, Peyton Manning fans?  Perhaps.

The New Cell Phone Policy

Our school board, without much fanfare - which either means the local media was sleeping yet again, or the school board really didn't want to make an issue of it, or both - has made a slight change in wording in our district-wide cell phone policy.  That slight change of wording, however, may have some pretty serious consequences.

Previous policy stated that cell phones must be off and stored in a student's locker until the end of school.  No big deal.  Kids usually hang their backpacks in their locker, and at the same time, they turned off their phones and put them away as well.  When a kid lost his or her locker (we take them away if they chronically don't come to class prepared), we'd simply have the kid turn in his or her phone to us and we'd lock them up in our file cabinet and then give them back at the end of the day.  No problem.  For the most part it worked well except for the chronic offenders (and I had none last year) who absolutely could not live without texting all day long.

Now the policy states that they have to be turned off and put away.  Put away means in a pocket, in a purse, or even in a locker.  But the crux of the matter is that they can have their phones with them as long as they are off.

Now some teachers are upset that kids could sneakily whip the phones out and take pictures of their tests and email them to their students.  (I, for one, am not too concerned about this because even when I let my kids use their notes on their tests, they didn't do any better.)  There is some concern on the part of Administration that they'll have a stampede of pissed off parents in the front office after someone wrote up their little darling for some infraction and the little darling went to the bathroom, whipped out a phone and called to complain to the parents. That's not to include those of us who are just not wanting to have to deal with phones going off in class.

However, the folks that are really concerned, and truth be told, they have a right to be, are the PE teachers.  They probably see, more than any of us, the bullying and teasing that goes on with large groups of kids and they are foreseeing a lot of trouble with cell phones (specifically cell phone cameras) in the locker rooms.  Let's face it, kids this age aren't exactly good at making decisions and they can be horribly mean to each other.  It's simply a matter of time before one of these knuckleheads takes a video or photo of someone in the locker room (in a state of undress) and then we'll find it texted to all their friends and posted on YouTube within minutes.   I can see how a very shy seventh grade girl (Crying Girl comes to mind) would have a complete melt-down if something like this happened to her.  It's vicious, it's mean, and it's so middle school.

I'm sure the school board thought that they'd be making their lives easier by eliminating the parents who were complaining that kids got write ups for cell phones that dropped out of pockets and fell out of purses.  However, I'm not sure they'll be prepared for the wrath of a parent of a kid who is cyberbullied as the result of cell phones in the school.  We have enough trouble with cyber-bulling as it is.

Friday, August 05, 2011


I don't know if I've finally figured out what I'm doing, or if the stars were just aligned right, or if someone up there just loves us, but this was the smoothest, and best, first day of school we've ever had at The School.  And this, despite the fact that PowerSchool has been very cranky as of late and was going up and down all morning long.  Our phones worked, the kids all had schedules, and everyone pretty much showed up where they were supposed to.

Now the schedule thing may not seem like a big thing to some folks, but being able to give a kid a schedule, listing classes and teacher names, is like gold.  For one thing, the parents want to see it.  And for another, it makes a kid feel important.  One of our aides had a son starting middle school across town and his schedule had his name on it, and nothing else - no one could figure out where he was supposed to go.  And from what he said about the lines in the guidance department, he was not alone.  (And he was NOT happy, either.)  Our guidance department seemed almost empty, especially compared to what a busy place it can be some days.

The two Criers that my team was bequeathed did quite well.  Both of these kids, Crying Boy and Crying Girl are painfully shy and very attached to their Mom's and Do Not Want to Be at School.  I had guidance put them both in Mrs. Reading-Mom's class because she's the warm, cuddly type (and is back from maternity leave, we missed her!) and she'd do well with them.  The good news is that neither cried today, and Crying Girl actually got up and participated in a "getting to know you" activity.  A huge accomplishment considering both these kids spent a lot of time in guidance just sobbing their eyes out.  (I actually know Crying Girl because she's in our Board Game Club - and she'd sit there and cry for whatever reason - she can never really give you one - but she'd come every week and once she got over the tears, she played games and made a few friends.)

My home room of 26 kids ended up with 24 showing up...which is pretty good.  They all seemed bright and happy to be there - none of the eye-rolling 'tude I got from my kids last year.  In fact, Mrs. Eagle and I both commented that these kids seemed more like kids, not like the twelve-year-olds going on 32 we had last year.  They were quite a bit of fun.   Chatty, but they got the message pretty quick over when to talk and when to shut up.  I actually had fun with them today, and believe me, there are years when it's almost torture to get through this first half day.

But then again, it's the honeymoon.  We'll see how they are by the end of next week.

But we can always hope, can't we?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Down to the Wire

So tomorrow is the First Day of School With the Kids (keep in mind, many of us have already been in and around the building since mid-July).  It's a half day and we only get our homeroom kids, and that in itself is a challenge.

Having a bunch of kids for three and a half hours is a bit, well, boring.  For me, as well as for them.  Keep in mind, we're used to 45 minute class periods.  So, in between all the mandatory blah, blah, blah, I've got some fun activities planned that hopefully will get the little darlings out of their seats and moving around and getting to know each other.  (It still kills me that kids actually can sit next to each other for a freaking year and still not know each other's names.)  Hopefully all the talk about code of conduct, and cell phone policy (changing this year and no one is happy about it), and clubs, and rules, and where the bathrooms are and all that very important but dreadfully dull stuff (especially if you are 12) won't drive us all around the bend.

Me?  All I hope is that the air conditioning continues to work as well as it has done all this week and that PowerSchool actually works.  It kept crashing today so it wasn't until about one o'clock before I actually was able to see my rosters and get them printed out.

The good news is that I don't have 37 in my homeroom this year.  I have a more manageable 24.  But then again, 20 kids can enroll tomorrow and who knows what chaos will ensue?

Wish us all luck!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


When I left school today it was 105 degrees.

With the heat index, the weather service reported it at 115 degrees.

I'm trying to remember what all those stupid snow days felt like.

Thank goodness my room is heavily air conditioned, but honestly, I'd rather give up fall break and now show up until after Labor Day when it's a tad cooler.  Seems weird to be starting school during the hottest week of summer.  And it seems to do this every year.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Whap, whap, whap, whap...

Teachers report to school tomorrow for two days of meetings and rosters and human resources song and dance and fellowship and who knows what else.

Oh, yeah, copying.  Because goodness knows we have to give the kids STACKS of paper to get home and get signed and hopefully get back.  And that's not counting the huge stacks that came from The District Office and are now laid out in neat piles on tables with signs that say "Teachers Do Not Take Yet!"

So Mrs. Eagle and I, hating lines and being a bit, well, obsessive about Being Prepared, met at school this morning and spent about two hours getting our copies made - before all the other staff members showed up and needed to make their copies.  We copied off the new (four page) Science safety Contract (lovely light green color), the Seventh Grade Supply List (bright orange), Student Information Forms (white, how boring), Course Syllabus (cheerful yellow!), Study Guide for our first unit (lavender and the unit is rocks and minerals), and a few more I can't even remember right now.  We punched holes, stapled, stacked and now...we are ready.

I think.

Tomorrow it begins!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Counting Down

Yeah, yeah, yeah....I know, haven't been posting much but many of you want to hear about how my knitting is going and what I've been up to?  Let's be honest, there's always a lot more material for this blog when school is in session.

Which it will be on Friday!

Gosh almighty, it's almost scary to realize how FAST summer slid away from me.  Granted, we put in quite a few extra days to make up for all the snow days we had last year.  And in reality, we don't get that much of a summer, and especially not the legendary "three months off every summer", that people think we have.  Which makes me wonder..does anyone get three months off?  Anyone?  We get about eight weeks and it appears that for most of that I was taking in-service courses.

Believe it or not...I was already in my room and got it all set up by July 19th.  I suppose you can say I like to have everything prepared.  Mrs. Eagle and I spent quite a few hours - already - getting things ready for this year, including co-teaching an in-service on science notebooks (which had more non-science teachers there than science teachers - go figure).  We also did a quick 5 day trip up north to visit some friends, do some touristy things, and visit family.  But just in case you think we got off easy...we actually worked on this trip.  She drove, I read and took notes, and we planned a number of changes in our way of doing things.  We'll see how this all works out this year.

First day for teachers to report is Wednesday, but I'll probably be in the building tomorrow with Mrs. Eagle getting copies made of the mounds of paperwork that we send home.  I pity the parents.

A look back at summer...I didn't get nearly everything accomplished that I wanted to.  Never got started on the "knitted dogs" project (never even ordered the yarn) as I got sidetracked by another baby blanket and a lace scarf.  My garden is still a work in progress - a very dry work in progress at this point.  I didn't lose weight, but didn't gain any, and I've been walking about an hour a day.  I'll miss that.

I'll also miss naps.