Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fixing Other People's Kids

As I've mentioned earlier, we're getting a lot of new kids in the building this year, including a lot from out of state.  The Guidance Goddess has been swamped with new registrations, contacting previous schools for records, and just processing all these new kids.

Busy as she is, she knew something was amiss when she called a school in a Northern State to request records for two girls who had landed in our building and they laughed at her.  "Oh dear!" was the hysterical response, "They ended up with you!  Good Luck!! You'll need it!"  Hysterical laughing all around in the background.

This is not a good sign.

The younger sister was on Mrs. Eagle's team and on the first full Monday of school, essentially our 3rd day, she asked permission to go to the bathroom and then didn't come back.  Her teacher did an APB (we send out these emails all day long to the school at large looking for kids who should be with us but aren't, and aren't on the absence list) and she was found in one of the bathrooms with her sister, an 8th grader.  Back to class she was sent where she stomped in, threw her notebook on the ground, and shoved a kid.  When her teacher picked up the notebook to give it back, she realized that it was full of a lot of really inappropriate comments and writing and turned that over to the administration along with the write up for the skipping, and shoving.

Giving the young lady, who we'll call Skipper Girl, the benefit of a doubt, I was informed by Mrs. Sparrow that they wanted to give her a fresh start so she was moving to my team and my homeroom.  She had to, however, finish a stint in in-school suspension first.

To make a really long story short, she and her sister (because they are joined at the hip and if one gets in trouble the other one does as well) got suspended from ISS for attempting to flee the building and the school grounds (which sent our Sheriff Reserve Officer and administrators running across the parking lot to catch them).  Then mom said they were both going to be out for ten days due to chicken pox (although their records, which arrived a day later, indicated they'd both already had chicken pox).  Then mom said, no, she didn't say they had chicken pox, but that we'd said they couldn't enroll until their records come.  (Which is funny because I have an email from mom about the chicken pox and we always enroll kids without their records, and when these girl's records came, they were huge!)  Then they came back, had to go to ISS, got suspended again for trying to leave the building and swearing at The Principal, then came back.  In addition for their trying to leave the building and roaming the halls trying to locate each other, Skipper Girl and her sister like to curse and insult the adults, including the administrators, in our building.  The situation is so nuts with these two that the front office has radio codes for each girl so they can let people know when they're on the lose.

Now, keep in mind.  This kid is in my homeroom and I haven't even SEEN her.

After about 4 weeks of this on and off suspension thing I get a call from the front office asking if Skipper Girl is in my classroom.  "Uh, no, I haven't seen her," I said.  "I don't even know what she looks like.  Isn't she supposed to be in in-school suspension?"

"No, they don't want her out there anymore, and she needs to be in class, so she's supposed to be with you," said the Front Office.

At this time, I look at my door and see a skinny little blonde in the hallway.  "Are you Skipper Girl?" I ask her.  She nods, and I wave into the room and sit her down.  "She's here," I tell them.

I get her seated, get her my new student paperwork, and get her caught up, best I can, on the assignment the kids are working on.  She sits down, doesn't make a peep, and gets to work.  A few minutes later the phone rings.  It's the Front Office.  The Attendance Lady from Central Office wants to talk with Skipper Girl.  So, off she goes.  Except she doesn't come back.  She takes herself out to the in-school suspension building.  Mrs. Saint, the teacher out there, calls me and asks me to open my back door and make sure Skipper Girl comes back to class.  (Apparently Skipper Girl doesn't want to be in a classroom with the other kids.)  She comes back, class ends and off she goes.

That day she made it through 3rd period, 4th period, and in 5th had a blow up with another girl and threatened to beat her up.  The other girl is mystified by this because She Was Just Sitting There Minding Her Own Business (for once.)  Mrs. Social Studies called the office, they said to hang on to Skipper Girl until the class change (since Mrs. Social Studies had moved her into a corner away from everyone which seemed to make her happy) and they'd deal with her then.  Off she goes to 6th period except she just kept walking on out of the building, with Mrs. Sparrow and Officer Cool chasing after her.

Suspended.  Again.

At this point, the kid has been here for four weeks and had racked up 110 discipline points.  She was on the fast track to alternative school.

So.  A parent meeting is set up to decide on Skipper Girl's placement.  The entire team is there.  The administrators are there.  The school psychologist is there and there's even a psychologist from Central Office there.  Mom is there, along with her sister and her sister's baby (why, I have no idea except mom wanted them there).  We have people from guidance.  Mom has a government advocate from social services or something.  In short, we have about 20 people at this meeting to decide if Skipper Girl is going to go to alternative school.

The meeting starts late because Mom doesn't show up on time.  Apparently she was downtown enrolling another child, a high school student, in our school for severely emotionally disturbed children, after she had been expelled from the high school.

Really.  You can't make this stuff up.

So we have the meeting.  Mom basically says that Skipper Girl is really bright, has no problems academically, but she needs a special placement due to emotional issues. It is, after all, OUR job, according to mom, to "fix my daughter."  Problem is, we don't have a single piece of documentation from a doctor that says the kid actually has something going on with her emotionally, so we have to treat her as we would any other child.  Mom says that she doesn't understand why her daughter doesn't want to go to school, but school is obviously a trigger, and she also doesn't like the fact that we get our Sheriff to track her down. At this point the principal makes a comment that mom is lucky that we haven't called 911 and had the kids arrested for disturbing the peace based on their behavior.

That shuts mom up for a minute.

The psychologists asks for input from the teachers.  Now keep in mind, this is about 5 weeks into the school year.  We go around the table.  I start.  I mention that I've had Skipper Girl in my room for 20 minutes total so I can't really tell them anything.  Mrs. Social Studies and Mrs. Reading mention that they've had her for one period.  Mr. Math and Mrs. Grammar say they haven't even met the child.

The lady from Central Office, the Psychologist, and the government advocate all seem a bit taken aback by that.  I honestly don't think they really realized how little this kid has been in our classrooms until they actually heard it from us.

At this point, I look at the clock and ask if they really need us anymore as we have classes starting.  The Principal sends us on our way.  Thank Goodness.  Because that meeting lasted for three hours!

I got word later that many of the folks in the meeting felt that mom wasn't being honest with us about her situation and her kids.  She was really vague in areas, kept mentioning that the kids had PTSD, but never would say why, then would claim that all these problems just happened since they'd moved Down South (but the files from the other schools say otherwise.)  The end result was that Skipper Girl got sent to alternative school, and surprisingly, she's actually showed up and registered down there.  Although truth be told, she probably won't last and will get expelled considering her fondness for threatening other kids and skipping out.  She'll threaten the wrong kid.

The older sister was withdrawn from school and mom is going to home school her.

What's really scary is that out of the three kids we know about (there are more, believe it or not), not one of them is a typical, normal kid.  One is obviously very emotionally disturbed to the point that she's in a special school (Skipper Girl and her sister did tell the guidance staff that they had an older sister who was crazy).  The other two can't/won't stay in school.

And mom thinks it's OUR job to fix her kids.

Holy Cow! Where'd The Time Go?

Yesterday Mrs. Eagle and I were working after school getting our lessons done when we looked at the calendar and realized that Fall Break was in TWO FREAKING WEEKS!

We were stunned.  Honestly, it seems as if we've been on a high speed treadmill since the beginning of school in August, and it hasn't let up yet.  With over 400 seventh graders this year, all the seventh grade teachers are exhausted.  Planning time has been chewed up by meetings, meetings, and more meetings, and if we don't have a meeting, we're doing interventions for kids who aren't doing well in school.

For those of us teaching science and math, STEM has been a real kick in the butt.  Don't get me wrong, I think the idea behind STEM is great and actually a better way to teach science and math, but it's a heck of a lot of work.  Basically everything we used to do, we're tweaking and changing.  Throw in the mandatory STEM challenges, and you have a lot of time being spent just prepping for units and grading projects.  And with about 30 more kids than normal, it just takes a lot more time.

So, my house hasn't been really cleaned since school started.  Truly.  And I'm a bit of a neat freak in some respects, so this is making me slightly crazy.  Knitting?  Only managing to get that out for knitting club and when I'm waiting for an allergy shot.  Walking/running?  Trying, trying, trying, to get a walk or a run in about 3 times a week and that's a real challenge.  The ankle I messed up in June is better, not 100%, but I'm thinking it never will be 100%.    And of course, just getting enough sleep isn't happening.

So my plans for Fall Break?  Sleep, knit, clean house, sleep.

Monday, September 10, 2012

And They Think I'll Never Call

It just cracks me up that my students honestly don't think I'll be calling their parents when they're missing, say, a 100 point writing prompt that we worked on in class for four days.

I graded 3rd period's Pet Rock Projects today (combining an assessment to see if they can explain rocks to me with one of our mandatory writing assignments for their portfolio).  We worked on this in class for four days.  That's FOUR.  So when I had eight kids who hadn't bothered to turn anything in, and it was due Friday, I got on the phone.

One dad was incredulous.

"He worked on this in class?"

"Yes," I replied.

"For four days?"

"Yes, from last Tuesday and it was due Friday."

"And you didn't get it turned in?"

"Nope, nothing as of this afternoon."

"That's ridiculous.  There's no reason he shouldn't have turned it in."

"Oh, I agree," I said.

"You'll have it tomorrow."

That one was fun.  However, it wasn't as fun as when I called one of my darlings, who answered the phone and politely asked who should he say was calling, and about choked when he found out it was me.  Mom got on the phone and I informed her of the missing assignment.

"Young man, where on earth is this assignment that you didn't turn in?" she asked.  Then a pause.  "He's holding up his finger asking me to wait a minute."....pause...."He's digging in his backpack."....pause...."He has it and he's turning it in tomorrow and if he doesn't You Call Me and we'll get things fixed."

I wish all my parents were this awesome.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The School of Misfit Toys

Last week Mrs. Eagle and I had our first fundraiser for our Knitting (and now Crochet) Club.  We needed some money to buy more yarn and needles, as well as crochet hooks for our new crocheters.  (One of our fabulous special ed teachers volunteered to teach them how to crochet, bless her, since neither one of us knows how.)

In any case, we were having a hat day which is The Easiest Fundraiser Ever because basically the kids give you a dollar (or in some cases, handfuls of coins) and you give them a sticker to wear on their hat which says that yes, they can wear a hat all day.  It's awesome.  Twenty minutes of work usually nets around $150 which is about all the money we'll need all year.  All we have to do is provide a bunch of stickers, a box to put the money in, and then set up a desk right outside guidance that All The Kids have to funnel through and that's it.

I love simple fundraisers.

In any case, The Enforcer was there right before the kids came in and we got to talking about some of the rather, well, unique, children we have this year.  It's weird, but it's like we have had a huge influx of kids with some serious issues with behavior and emotions and goodness knows what else.  A lot of these kids are coming from out of the area - many from out of state - and that was another thing we noticed.

The Enforcer, who has worked at a number of buildings in our town, commented that he thought it was as if word had got out that we do our best to help these types of kids.  "It's like we're the school of misfit toys," he said.  "We're getting all the kids the other schools don't want."

Are we ever.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Just Not Enough of Me to Go Around

Ah, dear reader, I really had much better intentions.

I truly was going to post at least several times a week.  I really was.  But, unfortunately, the beginning of the year reality has pretty much changed that.

With 151 students, a significant increase over previous years, I'm spending a lot more time grading papers.  Consider that it's like having an additional complete class of kids, it's taking way more time than it has in the past.

As for planning...what planning?  We've had this mandatory meeting and that mandatory meeting, and mandatory STEM meetings every Tuesday, and this IEP meeting, and that IEP meeting, and that means that we are doing work after school (or at the ungodly hour of 5:00 am) because that's the only time we have free.

And so, to be honest, I'm just beat.  At school at 6:30, home by 5:00, run or walk after I get home, cook supper, eat, clean up, grade papers, fall into bed by, we hope, 9:30...

I'm truly going to try to be better, I truly're just going to have to be patient.