Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Piggies Beware!

Some of these new seventh graders are starting to show their true colors lately, and truth be told, some of them are pretty amusing kids.

For example, the second or third day of school the kids at the table in front of my teacher station were having a conversation about their favorite foods before the bell rang.  One of the girls, a thin, pretty little thing mentioned that her absolute favorite food in the world was pork chops.  Now, I've heard kids rhapsodize about pizza, and chocolate, and ice cream, and candy, but never pork chops.  And she doesn't just love pork chops...she LOVES pork chops. Absolutely adores them.  Would probably be happy if she ate them for every single meal, every single day.

Now, I wouldn't have thought much of it, but a few days later the topic of pork chops comes up again and she begins telling the kids at the table about the great dinner she had the other night with her momma's pork chops.  They are all seriously listening to her, which is funny in and of itself.

Okay, this is getting amusing now.  And it wouldn't be nearly so funny but she's not a big kid.  She doesn't look like she could manage one pork chop, let alone two, at a meal, but apparently she polishes them off quite handily.

Yesterday, she asked me how my weekend was after she walked into class.  (This kid, by the way, has apparently adopted me and considers me her school momma, and is checking in every morning to make sure I'm here and it's not a sub.  I'm not sure why this is, but every morning I get a bearhug from her - she's strong for such a tiny kid - and off she goes.)

"I had a pretty good weekend," I tell her.

"Did you have pork chops?" she asks.  Really.  I thought I was going to crack up laughing right then and there.

"No, but I think I'll have to have some this week," I told her.

So last night, I tell Mr. Bluebird this story about my Pork Chop Girl and he thought it was great.  However, he did have something to add.  "You need to ask her how her momma cooks her pork chops.  If they are that awesome, I want the recipe."

So I did.  I pulled her aside this afternoon, and asked her how her momma made her pork chops.

"Well, I honestly don't know," she said.  "Momma gets mad at me for wanting to eat them out of the pan and not waiting to sit at the table so I stay in my room until supper is ready."

Okay, by this point, I'm picturing this girl standing by the stove with a fork in hand reading to spear those chops from the pan into her mouth.  In one bite.

"Well, Mr. Bluebird would really like to know how your momma cooks them, so can you bring me her recipe tomorrow?" I asked.

"Okay," she said, "I'll ask her.  But you know, you're making me hungry."

We'd finished lunch only and hour earlier.

So, we'll see if she shows up with a recipe tomorrow.  Truth be told, I'm intrigued.  Maybe we'll do pork chops this weekend.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Really? A Week Already?

I'm not even remotely surprised that I have not posted this week.  I'm actually wondering just where the week went.  To say it flew by was putting it mildly.

The first full week of school is always like that but this year, in between STEM and the fact that we're bursting at the seams with kids, seems to make it a bit more chaotic.  It's one thing to learn 22 names for a class.  It's quite another to learn 34.  Now multiply that by five class periods and you get a clue how frazzled we all are this year.

Our numbers aren't going down.  The kids are showing up, very few are withdrawing and heading elsewhere and even more new kids are showing up.  If it keeps up like this we'll probably get another teacher or two, but where they'll put them is anybody's guess.  The PE classes are already so large that the gym can't hold all the kids so some of the kids are walking across the parking lot to the city-owned community center to use the gym there.  The electives teachers - music, band, art, PE, and so on - have classes inching up towards 40 in size. Seventh grade doesn't fit in the lunch room so a few groups of kids are eating in what we call the Large Group Instruction classroom right down the hall from the cafeteria.  The Head Janitor put in a request with downtown to provide us with 80 student desks from the warehouse because we'd ran out.

All of which makes me wonder...what were the people that got paid the big bucks thinking when they redrew the zoning maps and said we'd be down - way, way, way down - in enrollment this year?  Last year's sixth grade was big, and all you had to do was drive by our feeder elementaries and see all the portable classrooms they had to realize that there was a population bubble heading our way. I'm wondering if these people even got into the neighborhoods.

So the attendance secretary from the middle school that we rezoned with (we took, supposedly 85 of their kids, but the real number is over 100) is having a freak out because they may lose teachers because their numbers dropped and our attendance secretary is telling her to send them our way because we're about 200 over predictions.  (Some of us have suggested we just send the kids back to their old school, but that would really cause some community melt-downs.)

It's nuts.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Honeymoon

That first day or so of school is sort of a honeymoon period where the kids, for the most part, act pretty well until they figure things out.  After that, it's anyone's guess how it will go.

The first full day went off pretty well.  One of the downsides was that PowerSchool was off line for repairs so we had to use a back up to get kids copies of their schedules because - surprise! - half of them had left them at home.  Yet, for the most part, it went fine.

For the first three days we have a two hour block in the morning where we do "getting the year started" stuff.  So, you get to keep your homeroom, and get to know them pretty well, for quite a bit of time during these days.  Part of that time is used to go over our SWPBS program (School Wide Positive Behavior Support) which isn't too bad because by now most of the kids know the drill and those that are new quickly get filled in my the old-timers.  It's also nice because we're given lessons that we can use to help them re-lean the program.  All in all, pretty easy.

The rest of the time is used to issue text books and do the "boy/girl" talk.  Friday was the seventh graders day for the "boy/girl" talk.

Actually it's a talk about what you can and can't do at The School, but we separate the boys and girls because there's some conversation in there about sexual harassment and dress code that wouldn't go over too well if the opposite sex was in the room.  So, I went with the boys to the theater, where The Enforcer was doing the presentation.  It includes things like bullying, lunch room expectations, write-ups, sagging, etc. and of course, cell phones.  The school board has a policy that the kids can have their phones but they must be off (not just silent) and away.  (Yeah, right).  This is one of the areas where the administrators have no leeway in consequences for being caught with a cell phone - the first offense is two days in ISS.

So any guess on what happened with cell phones in seventh grade on Friday?

First, Mr. Math managed to catch a kid with a cell phone out, googling away, right after The Enforcer finished his presentation (that included the whole "off and put away" message.)  We didn't even leave the room and he had his first cell phone violation of the year!  The second violation was a seventh grade girl later in the day who had her's out during a class.

You have to wonder...the grade level that had the talk about no cell phones was the grade level that got busted for the first two cell phone violations.

Makes you wonder.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

And We're Off!

The first day is over and done with.  And here's the amazing part.

The computers worked.

PowerSchool worked.

The phones worked.

The kids were well-behaved.

They all got on the right bus and went home.

And if you don't work in a school, you don't know how amazing this is.  It went so well, so very well, that some of us were wondering if we'd entered some alternate universe or something.  Even the Goddesses in Guidance were freaking out because no one was there freaking out.

We have had years where the network went down, the phones went down, kids got on the wrong bus, there was no way to print schedules, and any number of minor crises.

But this year...smooth as silk. Kind of makes you nervous.

Enrollment is another story.  We have to count kids who don't show up for about 20 days before we officially drop them off our roll.  We figure if they haven't showed up by then, they probably weren't going to.  Other kids we can drop off because we get requests for records from another school, or the parents actually take the time to notify us.  So, we usually figure that out of every class on the first day we'll have a chunk of kids who aren't going to be here this year because they've moved.  Some years it's been as much as a third of my class.  The past few years, it's been a lot smaller.

Yesterday, out of 30 kids, 27 were there.  And most of us had this experience, so it appears that we have a lot of kids who aren't dropping off our enrollment but who are actually showing up.  And our numbers are a lot higher than forecast, so that's going to be a challenge.  Seventh grade has officially hit 396 last I heard, which is a lot bigger than any grade we've ever had before.  There were so many seventh graders that we ran out of seats for them in the theater on Wednesday morning (where they go to find out what homeroom they are in.)  We have lunch for the first time tomorrow and there are some concerns that we may not have enough room for them in the cafeteria.  It will be interesting to say the least.

As for my homeroom...seems like a fairly decent bunch of kids but we're still in the honeymoon phase.  They have big shoes to fill because last year's kids were absolutely the best homeroom I've ever had.  But they have potential.

And then there's poor Mrs. Eagle and her homeroom...21 boys and 3 girls.  She's considering seeing if she could trade those poor little girls for three more boys and just do an all-boy homeroom.  That might be interesting.

Regardless, it's seventh grade, it's bound to be, at least, entertaining.

Tomorrow - first full day.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

On Your Marks, Get Set, Go!

Tomorrow will be the first day of school we have with the kids.

I've actually been back in my room, on and off, for about two weeks now, getting it set up, going through files on my homeroom, in-service on STEM, and so on.  We actually didn't have to report until yesterday, but I already feel like I've been there for a while.  It really does get easier after you've done it about ten times.

The big news is enrollment.  Remember the big sixth grade class we had last year?  Well, they've rolled into seventh grade.  And, as the Principal put it, it seems as if every seventh grader in town wants to enroll at the school.  Which means that as of this afternoon, we have 400 seventh graders.  So not only did the sixth grade roll up, they brought along a lot more kids with them.

Where we are going to put them all will be interesting.

My classes are all in the low 30's, which is tolerable.  Barely.  Depending on behavior.

But we'll see how many don't show because they've moved and didn't bother to let anyone know.  Could be a bunch, or it could be few.

Wish me luck!