Monday, December 19, 2005

It's Break Time!!!


Friday was, amazingly, a really good day. It's usually a day that teachers dread for several reasons. One, the kids are insane. Two, you are basically stuck with your advisory/homeroom class the entire morning. Three, the kids are eating more sugar and junk so they're becoming even more insane.

That being said, my class was wonderful. Granted, only 14 of them showed up for the half day, which made it nicer. They cleaned out their lockers (we don't need any leftover food, etc. stuck there over break) and were well-mannered at the teachers vs. 8th grader volleyball game. They brought in snacks and goodies to share with the class and were wondeful while they ate and watched a DVD one of the kids brought (Madagascar, which was pretty cute). Afterwards they even cleaned up and wiped down all the tables and picked up after themselves.

It was almost too weird.

Mr. Social Studies, on the other hand, was just about ready to string some of his group up. True, he's got some real crazies in his class, but he does need to lighten up. They are, after all, still kids.

I got my collection of Christmas cards, coffee mugs, lotion, and candy for gifts. Probably the best gift I got was a $20 gift certificate to a local restaurant which just stunned me. However, I love them all because if a kid and a parent takes the time to even get you a card, that's something to treasure.

The buses rolled at 10:45. I'm not sure who was happier...the teachers, or the kids!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Is it break yet?

Deputy Dog is never frazzled. Never. I've never seen this guy even look remotely like he's stressed out.

Until today.

It's the last full day before Christmas break (tomorrow is a half day).

The kids have completely lost their minds. The fact that it is a full moon is not helping any.

Two of my kids get caught wrestling during the volleyball tournament, Coach Angry sends them into Mr. Enforcer; one gets ISS (In school suspension) and the other gets sent back to class.

Another one of our kids decides to write, with a Sharpie, on the bleachers during the volleyball tournament, "Pinhead was here." Since he's the only kid named Pinhead, and since about half a dozen kids were all watching, going "Dang, that's stupid to do, especially putting your name on it like that," it didn't take long to figure out who did the vandalism. He's in ISS.

It's before 8:00 am.

Later in the day six kids from Mrs. Eagles team decide to have a food fight in the cafeteria and end up in ISS. Two basketball players are involved and are informed that they won't be playing that evening and they'll be staying in ISS. Coach Cutie is hopping mad at them and is considering kicking them off the team.

By this time we're getting hourly update emails from Mrs. Saint, the ISS teacher, with the names of the kids who are there (she does this in case we're looking for a kid or need to send out assignments). She started the day with 3. By the time buses roll at 2:00 she was up to 26 kids.

And that's not to mention the 8th graders who brought Christmas stockings for their friends, complete with the gift of bottle rockets.

Deputy Dude was shaking his head and looking fit to be tied by fifth period.

Tomorrow better fly by awful fast.

Confession is good for the soul

Sometimes my kids just astound me.

Case in point. This morning, while we're doing advisory (which means the buses are unloading, kids are heading to breakfast, and heading into the rooms), Mrs. Language comes in with Klepto-Boy who's just looking sheepish and embarrassed. Apparently he told his parents that he got in trouble for stealing (and this is before the principals have even worked the referral) and they insisted that he make restitution. He gave me $4.00 (very crumpled, looks like they came from his allowance) to pay for the candy he stole, and he gave Mrs. Language some rubber bands and a new box of staples. The fact that he told his parents just amazes me, and I'm amazed that they even insisted he pay up. I added a post-it note to the referral indicating what he'd done so perhaps he won't get much besides detention.

Mrs. Language and I pulled Kelpto Boy #2 out of gym and asked him what he knew about the stealing, indicating that his name had been mentioned by several people as being involved in the stealing, and reminding him that I'd spotted him with candy wrappers. In other words, he looked guilty as hell. He got very defensive, said he didn't do a thing wrong, the candy was from Halloween, blah, blah, blah. I then used a trick I was taught by Deputy Dude - the art of the bluff.

"If I were to tell you that there was a video surveillance system in my room, what would I find when I review the tapes from the past few weeks?" I asked very calmly.

Big Huge Tears roll down Klepto Boy's face. "Me stealing."

Note that I never said there was a video surveillance system. I just suggested there might be. Amazing how people hear only parts of what we tell them.

So we got a confession, big huge tears, and had a little talk with Klepto Boy #2 who has undergone a really dramatic personality change lately. We asked if he was hungry, if things were all right at home, and why he felt he needed to steal. He clammed up, kept rolling tears down his face, and just stood there. We agreed that he did need a referral, but that I would write on there that he admitted guilt and they may go easy on him.

We did get another name, and about ten minutes late when we called Klepto Boy #3 out of gym to ask him, he was confessing all before we'd even opened our mouths. He was about ready to melt into a big puddle of sobs, and after we talked about not doing what your friends are doing when they're wrong, we let him go back to class. Since he readily confessed (he probably heard that "they have cameras!") we gave him a behavior note. This is not the type of kid to get into trouble (we were surprised, to say the least, that his name came up) and I think the scare might be all it takes to get him back on track.

So our little candy theiving ring is all handled...for now.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Candy today, a car tomorrow?

During the last few weeks I've noticed something very odd happening on my desk.

My candy jar was losing candy.

At first I thought perhaps I was imagining it, but then I got smart and started making very slight little marks with a dry erase marker on the jar where the candy level was. And the candy level kept going down. I'd add more Sweet-Tarts, Jolly Ranchers and a holiday chocolate mix and the candy kept disappearing. I wasn't eating it, and I wasn't handing it out (I use it primarily for a game we do called Candy Vocabulary where I call out definitions, and if a student answers correctly they get a piece of candy.) Today was the final straw when I noticed that sometime during 3rd and 4th period, my candy jar went down a full inch. Someone was obviously stealing from me, most likely when I was doing hall duty in between classes.

Now, I know it's only candy, but this really pisses me off. For one thing, it may be candy today but who's to say it won't be a car or jewelry or whatever in a few years? And I paid for that candy out of my own pocket (and believe me, these pockets aren't deep) and to have these little snots steal from me just grates on my very last nerve.

I calmly informed my afternoon classes that there would be no candy in my room until I felt like I could trust them again. I told them that I was personally offended and morally outraged that they would do something so low down and sneaky. I also informed them that if they witnessed someone stealing, and didn't report it, they were just as guilty. (That got their attention, amazingly enough.) I stated that I wanted names of the guilty, and better yet, the guilty to come confess to me privately.

There being no honor among thieves, by the begining of 6th period I had at least 4 kids give me the name of the kid who was apparently stealing. Interestingly enough, I was also informed that he was stealing from Mrs. Math and Mrs. Language as well. Mrs. Language has been missing rubber bands from her desk, as well as staples from her stapler. The staples, by the way, are straightened out by pinhead seventh grade boys who then put them in click pencils, rather than lead, and shoot them at people. I blasted off an email to the rest of the team, passing along the information from my informants about who our hotfingered little kleptomaniac was.

My kids were finishing up their tests and working on a word search when Mrs. Language appeared at my door and asked to speak to me. I went out in the hallway and discovered she had little Klepto there. Apparently he had been caught stealing staples - again - in her class by three kids who started yelling, "He's stealing staples! He's stealing staples!" She had just read my email when the uproar began and had her student teacher cover her class while she dragged Klepto over to my room.

We had Klepto empty his pockets and amazing enough we find rubber bands, staples and candy wrappers, all of which match the candy missing from my jar. Klepto whimpered and mumbled and said he wasn't stealing, that the candy wrappers were old, from earlier this week. I reminded him that we haven't done candy vocabulary this week and he finally admitted that he'd taken the candy. Mrs. Language can lay a guilt trip on a kid like nobody's business and she does it in that great Southern drawl that just drips sarcasm and honey all at once. By the time she was done, Klepto's head was hanging so low I thought he was going to bump his nose on his shoelaces.

I wrote up the referral and gave us both as witnesses, along with the names of my informants (on a sticky note so Klepto won't see who squealed). Mr. Enforcer has it, and I'm sure he's a tad disappointed. He's a tech-head and was all ready to find a camera unit to hook up to my laptop and record the kids stealing. Maybe I'll let him hook it up anyway, just in case.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005 any extra credit?

I hate extra credit.

Extra credit to me is so very pointless. After all, if my students actually did their work, they wouldn't need any extra credit in the first place. That being said, I'm not a complete witch since if a kid decides to do an extra homework assignment I'm not going to discourage them. Heck, the fact that you have someone motivated enough to actually go above and beyond what's required does call for some sort of reward, even if it's only five points.

So here we are.

Four days before final grades for the nine week have to be submitted to guidance.

Two progress reports have been printed out, distributed, and sent home.

And I get a kid sidling up to my desk asking if she can do some extra credit to bring up her grade "so I can pass."

She has a 59%. Passing is 70%.

No freaking way is she going to pass.

I ask her about the progress reports that she received...didn't she notice that she wasn't passing? Well, she did, but she didn't really think about it much. Apparently mom had a conversation with her last night and the gist was that mom has, for the very first time, been informed that there is a distinct possibility her daughter won't be passing this semester.

You'd have thought she'd have noticed the notes in her daughter's agenda, the report card, the progress reports, not to mention the phone messages. But I guess not.

In inform my young scholar that it would have been a lot easier to pass if she'd done at least one homework assignment (she didn't). If she'd have turned in a cell model (she didn't/worth 100 pts). If she'd have turned in a journal (she didn't/worth 100 points). If she'd brought her book every day for her prep grade (she doesn't). If she'd actually studied and prepared for tests (she doesn't/best grade ever is a 65 out of 100, and I give her modified tests). In short, if she actually did something besides take up space in my room.

"Oh," says the scholar. "So you don't have any extra credit?"

"Not 400 points worth," I inform her.

"Oh," she says.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Snow Day!!! Snow Day!!!

I had a reader send me a note the other day mentioning that if someone dropped an ice cube on the floor in the South, they'd call a snow day.

Well, looks like someone dropped an ice cube.

We had a snow day today which I am eternally grateful because it gave me a chance to sleep a lot and get rid of this dammed cold.

The only problem didn't snow.

We started the morning with freezing rain and sleet (which is probably why they closed school in the first place since some of our county is really rural, hilly and gets really nasty when there's ice). It was supposed to turn to snow around 1:00 pm, but here it is, nearly seven hours later and it's still just rain.

However, I talked with Mrs. Eagle on the phone and she mentioned that it's supposed to be a whopping 17 degrees tonight and with all this rain, we may get a lot of ice. And we may be closed again tomorrow.

Hum. We shall see. As it is, there's some very happy teachers out there.

Damn these head colds

There is truly little worse in life than having to teach while suffering from a massive head cold.

Honestly, it's bad enough that you can't hear well, your throat is on fire, and your head feels like it's going to explode, but to have to deal with that while trying to actually teach a class of hormonal seventh graders is truly ugly.

The other option is to take a sick day and have a sub come in, which really isn't much of an option (unless you're on death's door) because it's more work to prepare for a sub than it is to drag yourself to school. And truth be told, I felt bad, but not too bad in the morning. By the time fourth period rolled around, however, I was feeling awful. And since my worst classes are fifth and sixth period, I was feeling particulary nasty by the time they rolled into the room. They got no mercy from me. I was mean. I was evil. I was wicked. I also could hardly speak, had watery eyes, and was blowing my nose every five minutes.

It was ugly. I staggered home both days and was sound asleep by 8:00 pm which is really early for me.

There is something truly wonderful about Nyquil.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A little communication here, please!

Before I go into my rant...let it be known that I worked as a substitute teacher for three years before I ever got hired permanently for my own classroom. (I got smart, realized that there was a teacher shortage down South, plus it was warmer, and moved). I even began subbing before I ever finished my college work in education - I had a degree (in business, no less), a pulse and was willing to do it. I ended up working as a permanent sub for a small, rural district where I ended up knowing just about every kid in the county, and along the way learned a lot of tips and tricks about what to do (and what not to do) when I got my own classroom. I also learned that it is probably the most thankless and underpaid job there is out there, with the possible exception of school bus driver.

That being said, I was a pretty darn good sub. One thing I always did was spend a few minutes to leave a nice, detailed note about what happened that day. Who was good, who wasn't, what we did, what we didn't accomplish, blah, blah, blah. I figured the teacher probably needed to know what went on while he/she was out. After all, I'd want to know.

Which brings me to my rant. I've had a sub twice this year. Once for an afternoon to attend a meeting, and once yesterday when I took a personal day to go with Mr. Bluebird to a historic preservation event. Neither sub left me any note whatsoever.


Not even a slip of paper to tell me who the heck was even in my classroom. No name.

I had no idea who was good. I had no idea who wasn't (I can guess, but I'd like proof). I have no idea if they accomplished anything. I'm not even sure if they were sitting in their correct seats because, instead of taking attendance, the sub simply had them sign in on a piece of paper, which means they could have been skipping and having their pals sign in for them for all I know. (I've seen this done.)

So, when the kids come in bouncing up and down and asking, "We're we good? Did she leave a good note?" all I can say is "I have no idea", which annoys them (and me) because I'd like to reward my kids if they're good for a sub because nine times out of ten, they aren't.

But hey, I'm in the dark here.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Yeah, yeah, I'm still here...

I can't believe I've been away from the blog for so long, but I guess I have. Amazing how one little thing can suck up all your free time.

Case in point...hubby's knee.

My hubby is a wonderful guy. And a wonderful guy like hubby, who also happens to be a historian, volunteers to help our 8th graders go on the last field trip of the year (before the edict on "no field trips after Thanksgiving due to the fact we've run out of money for fuel for the buses" goes into effect). The trip is to a local Civil War battlefield that hubby spends a lot of time at, giving tours, volunteering, etc. So hubby is having a grand time, the kids are loving it, the teachers are loving it (he gets really into it when he's doing things like this) and he hops down into a pit where the large cannons are to show the kids how they work and - BAM! - he lands wrong on his 52 year old knee and screws it up big time.

At the time he thought he just twisted it and winced his way through the rest of the field trip. He gets home and it's the size of a large grapefruit. I get home and we go to the ER. A few days later we have it drained and the doctor says it's either a hairline fracture or a torn ligament. Great. He's in a knee brace and is told to keep it up, keep off, and ice it. Well, the best place to keep off of it, keep it up, and keep it iced is in front of the computer.

So, while hubby is being good and following doctor's orders, he'd doing it in front of the computer, and I'm doing anything in the house that requires walking, which is pretty much everything. Hence no time to blog.

Sigh. If it's not one thing, it's another.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Angry Boy II Update

Some of you may have recalled my posts on Angry Boy II (sad to say I have two of them) who has a lot of "anger" issues and who earned himself a place in alternative school after trying to clobber someone with a lunch tray. So we're sitting around the lunch table yesterday trying to figure out when Angry Boy II is going to return to our regular classroom when Mrs. Squirrel walks in. Mrs. Squirrel has news about Angry Boy II and it looks like we won't be seeing him for a long time. Turns out Angry Boy II was expelled for a calendar year from Alternative School. Why? No details, but considering the blow ups he had in our building, I can only imagine. What's going to happen to him? I have no real idea. The State will probably step in and he'll be court ordered to go to school somewhere.

The sad thing is that this kid is emotionally disturbed but he can't last in a school long enough to get him tested and identified as such. No identification, no resources, no help. Perhaps the best thing for him would be to be made a ward of the court (again) and then someone could help him.

Goodness knows we tried.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Melt down!

Last year we had a student on our team we called Meltdown Boy. Meltdown Boy would, and did, have meltdowns at the slightest provocation. Someone picked on him on the bus? Meltdown? He forgot his band instrument? Meltdown. You put a "did not have homework" stamp in his agenda? Meltdown.

Meltdowns could range from grabbing onto his hair and wailing "I can't remember!!!" followed by laying his head down on his desk in dispair after he's been called on to answer a question, that, I might add, he volunteered for, (we learned really quick to call on him really fast, before he forgot what he wanted to say) to laying down on the floor in the middle of the classroom and sobbing his eyes out.

When he first landed in our classrooms we thought he might be special ed, possibly midly autistic. However, according to his mother, he's simply depressed, lacks social skills and is ADD. he's also brilliant. However, when she says he lacks social skills, she is not kidding. This kid has absolutely no social skills to speak of, which, in the world of middle school monsters, is certain to get you teased and abused to no end. And apparently one of the biggest abusers his his little brother who, we hear, is a holy terror. Meltdown Boy is, in the words of our Star Football Jock, the "only kid who really scares me because he's so crazy." That's saying something.

In any case, the other day we're walking by the guidance office on the way to meet with a parent up in the office when Miss Reading says, "Look who's sitting in Guidance, sobbing his eyes out,". We look (the entire front of the office is glass - there is NO privacy whatsoever), and there he is in all his Boo-Hoo Glory. Meltdown boy, another year older, and he's still just sobbing his heart out.

I honestly wonder if this kid will survive his first week of high school.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wham! Bam! Let's go Glam!

Seventh grade boys are an odd bunch. Then again, that's what makes them so darn amusing (and infuriating) in the first place.

Case in point. I have a lot of skaterboarders on my team. Last year we had the jocks, the kids who played football and basketball. This year we have the little boys (skaters are, for some reason, invariably small) who are completely into skateboards. They sneak skatobard catalogs into the classroom and read and compare every chance they get. I never once saw a boy with a catalog last year, a game magazine perhaps, but a catalog, never. Now I find them everywhere. My advisory kids, in fact, have so many catalogs that they sit there and comparison shop. Some of these kids, in fact, began selling their Halloween candy to classmates in order to fund their addiction to radical t-shirts and skateboard decks.

In any case, there are two trends among the skater squirts that are a bit more than a tad weird, and they began showing up this week.

First trend - skater squirts are wearing girls jeans. Apparently the reason they are wearing girls jeans is because they're tight (very, very tight if you've seen the styles lately) whereas boys jeans are very, very loose (so loose you could be three skaters in one pair). Skaters like tight jeans because the loose ones get in the way when doing skateboard tricks. However, it's really weird seeing some of our boys in these skintight jeans. In fact, one of them, Whiney Boy, looked as if he was having trouble walking. I'm wondering if their parents have any idea what they're wearing to school.

The other new thing is eyeliner. Dark, smokey, almost Goth eyeliner. And the little seventh grade girls just adore this new fad and are whipping out their eyeliner pencils and dolling up the boys in between classes. This whole trend, along with the jeans, has Mr. Social Studies just about beside himself. He's retired military and boys just don't do things like this in his book, even goofy, space cadet, seventh grade boys.

However, as I'm standing there in my room it occurs to me that my boys are now starting to look like David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars. The Glam movement is alive and well in my classroom! All they need is a little glitter and they'd be set.

I happened to mention this to a few of the boys who, thankfully had heard of David Bowie, but never heard of the Spiders, Mick Ronson, Sweet or any of the other Glam bands from that era. So sad, their musical background is a void.

Perhaps I need to whip out and play my Velvet Goldmine CD during class?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

When technology bites you on the butt


I love technology at the same time I hate it.

We have these laptop labs at school that we got last year and they're just the neatest things to roll into your classroom and use. The kids love them, they get computer experience, and they usually learn something. It's amazing how quiet the room will get when they're doing something on a computer.

In any case, I had this great review lesson to do over our systems of organization unit utilizing a fantastic website we finally got the district to pay for the licenses for - BrainPop. The kids love this site. It's good for all sorts of subjects, has cartoon movies that teach content, a "pop" quiz, and more. All in all, I'm looking forward to this lesson, the kids are excited about getting the laptops, and even Mrs. Squirrel is going to come watch the lesson for one of my observations.

Except the network was down.


See, our network, for some reason I have yet to determine and no one can tell me, will work fine until about 7:30. Then it will either shut down completely, or internet access is so slow it's all you can do not to fall asleep watching a page to load. And wouldn't you know it, it comes back up around 3:30....when we don't need the darn thing.

So, knowing how technology can reach up and bite you in the butt, I had a plan B - Review Bingo!!! And loads of leftover Halloween candy for the winners, so all worked out okay although I think the kids have had way too much sugar this week.

But you know, what's the use of having the technology if the stupid network won't even stay up?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

How I Earned the Grade I Got

I got a number of emails from folks who wanted to see this handout I give my kids (and which they are required to have all year in their binder). I cannot claim credit for this - it was borrowed from a lecturer on one of my grad school tapes and I simply modified it.

How I earned the grade I got

If you can answer "yes" to all of these questions, congratulations! You did a fantastic job! If any of these are answered with a "no", then you have some work to do. The key to a better grade is in your hands! If you can change "no" to "yes" your grade will begin to improve! It is all up to YOU!

1. I turn in all assignments complete and on time.
2. I write my assignments in my agenda every day.
3. My work is neat and easy to read.
4. My journal entries are dated, numbered and written in my composition book.
5. My science section of my binder is neat and everything is in its place.
6. I put my full name, date, period and assignment page on all my assignments.
7. I come to class prepared every day with my pencil, my book, my journal, my workbook, my binder and my agenda.
8. I study a little every day so that I am well prepared for all tests and quizzes.
9. If I don't understand something, I ask questions.
10. I care about my future and take pride in always doing my best.

Now underneath this I have a copy of a newspaper clipping I got this past June out of USA Today. It's one of those little snapshot graphics on the front page and this one is titled, Earnings Soar with More Education (data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2004 statistics). It shows the average yearly salary of workes ages 18 and older. No high school diploma is $18,734, high school diploma is $27,915, a bachelor's degree is $51,206, and an advanced degree is $74,602.

Of course, if you're a teacher, you won't be earning that kind of money, but you get the idea!

A Merry Olde Tyme

This year we have a very active PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) which is a rather nice change. We've had great PTO leadership in the past but it was, in truth, maybe about 5 parents doing it all. This year we have enough people that they're actually out there en masse doing things for the school - landscaping, providing food packages for our hungry kids for the weekend, selling t-shirts, etc. This year they wanted to revive the Medieval Festival that apparently was done at our school years ago. It was ambitious to say the least - cakewalk, basket auction, jousting area, carnival games, face/hair painting, human chess match, and the fall dance. I'll be honest and say I was wondering how it would pan out. I knew the kids would be there (if there's a dance, they're there), but would we get enough people to make the money the PTO was hoping for?

I think they may have. I haven't heard any figures, but the place was packed.

That morning, however, we started things off with a bang. A local merchant donated a couple of sets of armor that were set up in the core and each advisory room had a class banner (kid designed and made) hanging outside the room. Mine had a chessboard, musical notes, a skateboard, a knight's helmet draped in yellow ribbon (my Army kids wanted something to represent supporting the troops), and in the middle a white hamster (for our class pet). The kids had all made coats of arms in reading class and they were hanging everywhere.

The kids and teachers were encouraged to dress up and I was astounded at how many kids did. I had knights and maidens, a couple of monks, a pirate and a few musketeers, as well as a couple of executioneers. And amazingly, although a lot of the costumes were homemade, they were awesome. Some of the boys did a great job making knight's helmets out of cardboard and silver paint. Mrs. Eagle and I, both being science teachers, dressed up as alchemists. You can do a lot with an old graduation gown and some cool drapey fabric. I did knit up a quick hat out of a velvety ribbon that looked somewhat like Dumbledore's in one of the HP movies. In any case, it was tremendous seeing the kids all entire the spirit of the thing, even the ones who I wouldn't have thought would have.

Some of my students from last year came by to show me their outfits which was really fun. One of my favorite kids, Metalhead, had a great peasant outfit, complete with a cap and looked like he walked out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Fortunately he actually knew what I was talking about.

The festival started at 5:00 and it didn't even look like the same old school. The booths were packed with kids making feather face masks, magic wands, little pendants with colored sand, getting their hair painted and their faces decorated. The jousting booth was popular where the kids paid fifty cents to wack each other with foam swords.

And then there was the human chess match. Out behind the cafeteria and the In School Suspension (ISS) building was, much to my surprise, a slab of concrete with a very faded chess board painted on it from years gone by. The PTO bought the paint to have it repainted, a few teachers worked on it in the afternoons, and it was fantastic. We had run a tournament in chess club to pick the four players, and they were ready to go once they drafted 32 kids to be the pieces. We had signs made up to hang on them so they knew what piece they were. We ran two games and it was just hysterical! First off, getting middle school chess pieces to be quiet enough and still enough is a challenge. Then, because they've all seen the Harry Potter movie with Wizard Chess, they got into the whole idea that chess is the ultimate war game. Our chessmasters (and I'll brag here and say that 3 of the top 5 players in the school are on my team and one is in my advisory), would walk up to a piece and point at a player and go, "take him out", and the kids would yell and scream and just have a riot. One little girl that I have was beaming all night because she "killed the king!" and helped win the game. Most of the pieces haven't a clue how to play, but they had a lot of fun. So much so that they wanted to know when we'd do it again. I think I should thank the folks who made the Harry Potter movie with the Wizard Chess match because, honestly, it has revived interest in the game among kids.

The dance was a typical middle school dance with one big exception - they got a popular DJ from a local radio station to come down and DJ the dance and she was great. The kids were just besotted with her and the place was packed. We did have to sit a few kids down on the benches for a time out for inappropriate dancing - body slamming, touching too much, or just being lewd. They duplicate what they see on TV and some of it can be pretty raunchy.

I got home at 10:00. I'd arrived at school at 6:15 am. I was whupped, but we had a blast.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What a Difference a Day makes...

Remember a few weeks ago we had parent conferences and I basically spent the entire time trouble shooting a computer/printer problem, filing, and talking to the stray parent that wandered in looking lost?


Report cards went out on Wednesday.

Tonight we had our second parent/teacher conference night.

It was standing room only.

And for once, it was mostly parents I really needed to talk to. I'll have to remember to have a tissue box a little closer at hand because I had at least two boys in tears while I informed their parents that they were looking at grades in the 50% range (and passing is 70%). Not happy campers. Then again, preparing for a test so you don't get a 35% would be a little bit sensible, dontcha think?

I had a list of study tips to hand out to parents (they loved it) along with a sheet my kids have in their binder called "How I earned the grade I got" which is a list of ten questions they need to answer "yes" and "no" to. If they're all "yes", then they probably have an A. Simple things (for most people, but not 7th graders) like being prepared, putting your name on papers, turning in assignments, blah, blah, blah. Hum, maybe I should post it....

Seventh grade is such an awful age. I swear, you think the hormone fairy dropped off some hormones and sucked out their brain cells at the same time.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Not My Boy!

We had a kid last year that drove us nuts but his mother was even worse. He's a very bright kid, but a druggie (Dad even admitted it), who did nothing, was a bully, and had to have an audience to show off for. He's had a reputation since sixth grade when he was caught red-handed in the act of drawing some incredibly accurate (and quite good from what I hear) renditions of the male reproductive organ. He's apparently fond of this subject as he was also caught in seventh grade doing the very same thing. Why he can't draw a landscape is anyone's guess, but if it is a penis or a sex act, he'll draw it. His father is a serviceman who's gone a lot and his mother is Korean.

In the Korean culture, the male child can do no wrong. Bully Boy's mother is a holy terror and is a classic example of a Korean mother who feels that her male child is absolutely perfect. Bully Boy runs the house (especially when Dad is deployed) and when he gets in trouble his mother comes down to the school and screams at everyone in very broken English. Her command of English curse words is amazing. She apparently almost went over the front counter and tried to grab our bookkeeper who was explaining that her son owed money for book damages last year. She apparently will sit in meetings with teachers and principals and scream "Not my boy!" the entire time, along with her other stock phrase, "My boy good boy! You lie! You lie!" We were lucky last year in that she didn't show for the meeting we scheduled with the parents (I think Dad made her stay home, to be honest) as Dad is actually sane and realizes that his kid is a thug and is quite upset about it.

In any case our students are allowed to have cell phones, but they have to remain in their lockers, and are not to be out or used during school hours. Bully Boy apparently was taking calls on his phone (and who on earth is calling a kid at school during school hours?). Mr. Government knew he was doing it but couldn't catch him at it.

So he got clever.

Somehow he got a hold of Bully Boy's phone number (I think some of the other kids squealed on him and gave it to him - there's no honor among thieves), and called Mrs. Goldilocks, a very lovely, sweet, young teacher who's tough as nails, and told her what was up. Mr. Government was going to call Bully Boy on the phone, and she would be there to catch him as he started messing around in his pocket (it was on vibrate).

Mr. Government called. The phone vibrated. Bully Boy reached in...and looked up only to see Mrs. Goldilocks with her hand out. "Hand it over."

Apparently the look on Bully Boy's face was priceless.

Now the phone is up in the front office and his mother is going to have to come and retrieve it. That should be worth the price of admission.

But the question remains. There were three missed calls on the phone. Who on earth is calling this kid during school hours? My theory? His drug supplier.

I think a locker search is in order...


My friend and fellow teacher Mrs. Cool just cracks me up. She's one of those gals with a quick wit and a great sense of humor. Then again, if you teach 8th grade you pretty much need both of these characteristics to keep sane.

I've been after Mrs. Cool to give up the cigarettes for ages, but she's just started grad school and just got divorced (after twenty years of marriage) so her stress level is a bit high. In any case, we have an approved smoking place for the teachers where the kids and the public can't see them, outside behind the cafeteria.

It's been really warm, unseasonably warm, and Mrs. Cool was taking one of her "checking the weather" breaks this week when a door slams open and a child comes out at a dead run, turns a corner and heads away from the building.

Sixth grader on the loose!!!

Mrs. Cool said it was sad that her first thought wasn't, "Hey, there's a sixth grader on the loose!" but was, "Oh crap, they got me with a cigarette."

In any case, she stubs out her smoke and runs back in the building, picks up the phone, calls the front office to let them know there's a kid on the run. Turns out is was a sixth grader who was apparently supposed to be getting suspended for some reason or another. When the SRO finally caught up with him he claimed he was trying to get to the local shopping center to "pick up some things." Why a sixth grader would need to go shopping to prepare for a suspension is anybody's guess.

Apparently this is the third escape that Mrs. Cool has helped catch this year. Our sixth graders are apparently quite the slippery bunch!

14 freakin' percent!

I'm a bit annoyed at my kids.

We had a unit vocabulary test and unit test this week. We have worked on this unit for three weeks. We have done labs. We have discussed. We have taken quizzes (which were the unit test broken into three parts). We have had a study guide with all the test answers for three weeks.

And barely 30% passed the freakin' test.

The topper was that I had at least two kids get a whoppin' 14% on this test. One of them was a kid I had last year so this is the second time he's gone through this whole unit and he still only gets 14%!! Hell, you'd be better off playing Vegas and just guessing and the odds are you'd get at least 25%. But not my kids. Oh no....they get scores much lower...Why?

Because they just don't care.

They don't care enough to study at least 5 minutes a day. They don't care enough to even look at their study guide - which has the answers for goodness' sake! They don't care enough to put any effort whatsoever into doing a good job.

They're more interested in the opposite sex, video games (which I'm beginning to think are the curese and bane of our society), talking on the phone, and skateboards. The last thing they care about is their education.

And you know what's sad? I don't think their parents care either.

We gave out report cards Wednesday. I had kids, quite a few, who didn't pass this nine week grading period. I was waiting for the phone calls and emails from the parents to hit on Thursday, or at the least, on Friday.

Not a peep. Nothing.

The sound of the silence was deafening.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Poverty Piece

I mentioned in a previous post about the in-service thing we had on poverty, and a reader asked if I learned anything new. Well, the answer is sorta yes. See, I was one of the presenters.

It all started last year when The Principal sent out an email for those teachers interested in a research based project to find ways to work with and help our at risk student population. Mrs. Eagle and I fired back answers saying, "sign me up". One thing that came up during one of our research meetings was that the district was going to be hosting a workshop put on by aha! Process Inc, an organization started by Dr. Ruby Payne. Dr. Payne married a man from poverty and has made it her life's work to research, write and educate people on poverty issues.

Let's just say that was probably one of the very best seminars I've ever attended. I learned a lot. A whole hell of a lot. And it actually has changed, in some ways, how I teach and what kind of assignments I give. The key is that I understand my kids more and can find ways to show them to get out of the generational poverty, get off their butts, and realize they can escape it through education and hard work. As they hear me say all the time "You're momma isn't gonna take care of you forever and believe me, the taxpayers won't either."

Some things I found interesting...

Kids in poverty don't do homework. They often have no place quiet to work, they aren't always sure where they're gonna be sleeping, or if they're eating, no one is available to help them with work, and it's just not a priority in their lives.

Kids (and adults) in generational poverty have a circular way of thinking while middle class people have a more linear - organized - way of thinking. It's easier for middle class kids to organize, plan, and get things done. People in poverty tend to react, and have trouble planning beyond the next minute. They're pretty good at emergencies, however.

Women in poverty often stay in abusive and dangerous situations because the boyfriend-of-the-month is the rent payment. The BOTM will beat the snot out of the kid, but she won't leave as she needs a place to stay. However, relationships are everything with people from poverty (middle class like things) so to protect the relationship with the child, she'll come storming down to the school raising holy hell for no reason whatsoever but to prove to the kid that she still loves him/her.

There's a whole lot out there on the subject...tons of stuff. And a lot of it makes sense, and it has made me see my kids a little differently. What's sad is that so much of how poverty and lack of education affects a child plays heavily in the first five years of life. In other words, before we even get the kid into school. And it's all uphill from there.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Only two....

This week is almost a pointless week because we only have two days of school. It's like, why bother? The kids are on hypermode coming off a five day break, and it would have been easier to just give them two more days and be done with it. As it is, I'm doing fun labs this week because there's no point trying to teach new content. They just aren't with it enough.

As for those of us who teach...We did get Columbus day off (whooo-hooo - let's do yard work all day long and still not get caught up). Tuesday and Wednesday were Teacher In Service day which is a nice way of saying "you're stuck in workshops and meetings all day when all you really want is time to work in your room." Why we rarely get a chance to just have time to work in our room (and goodness knows my room and I could use some work) is beyond me. But we sat through sessions on poverty and education, on the job safety and accident prevention, 6+1 Literacy model, Focus Group, blah, blah, blah.

Update on some previously mentioned characters.

Angry Boy II had a meltdown of some sort in the cafeteria at lunch, was charged by the SRO with disorderly conduct, and assigned to 30 days of alternative school. What this child really needs is mental health care, especially with his anger management problems. This kid is a ticking time bomb. What's even worse is he's completely, totally noncommunicative when he's upset...which is most of the time. No one is even sure what, exactly, set him off since he won't speak when he's mad. He's perfected the art of staring through people, especially adults, when he's mad.

PoopBoy apparently showed up with a doctor's note that said he suffers from "involuntary defectation." Whatever. I haven't heard this from an administrator, nor have I seen this note, so I'm not sure of the validity. Basically what it means is if he manages to do his little stunt, we can't discipline him because it's a medical problem. However, I think we can insist that the parent come get him, but we'll see. As it is, when he does let loose, he's completely disrupting class, not to mention being a health hazard, so I'm sure we'll have to come up with some plan. What, I don't know at this point. I'm sure the parent is a bit annoyed right now as DCS was called. The kid, BTW, has a whopping 50% in my class because he does nothing but whine, complain, interrupt class in a bid to get attention with stuff that is completely irrelevant and unrelated, and yabbers at anything that stands still long enough to be talked at. He's one screwed up kid, and having seen the parents, I'm not even remotely surprised. I still think there's some abuse in the family somewhere...

Tomorrow is Friday!!! yeah!

Friday, October 07, 2005

It Stinks to High Heaven

You know, one of the many reasons why I chose to teach middle school (outside of the fact that I'm just nuts) is that you don't have to deal with the messy side of childhood. No wetting pants, no barfing (usually), no lice, no boogers on the desk. Seventh graders have pretty much outgrown this and although they can be disgusting, it's not as disgusting as a bunch of pre-school rug rats with a bathroom problem.

And then we got PoopBoy.

PoopBoy apparently earned a reputation last year as having the unique talent of being able to poop, in his pants, on a dare. The kids, being snotty little sixth graders, just thought this was hysterical and would dare PoopBoy to do his little stunt, which got PoopBoy sent to the office, the nurse's office, and then home.

Now, to be honest, PoopBoy isn't the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but he's not special ed, he's not a life skills kid, he's not autistic. (To be honest, he's lazy and is used to people calling him stupid). According to his father (who's a real treat, I assure you), this child has no medical problem for his bowel issue, and is perfectly normal. Don't know about you all, but if my kid was shitting on himself in middle school I'd have his butt in to see every specialist and mental health professional I could get my hands on.

PoopBoy was fine up until this last week and all of a sudden has started to poop regularly in his pants. You know when this happens because the smell makes my cat's litter boxes seem like a basket of blooming roses. It will knock you flat. It can clear a classroom. It can cause teachers from other parts of the building to ask, "What is that awful smell coming from your team area?" It is beyond disgusting. It is why I spent fifteen bucks buying super high powered hot oil air fresheners for my classroom.

PoopBoy will, when confronted in the hall, admit that he pooped in his pants, and while admitting this, will not show the least bit of remorse or embarrassment. He will then sit in guidance (on a stack of paper towels) while the Guidance Goddess sprays Lysol throughout the room, and wait for his father to show up to take him home. His father, by the way, will then spend half an hour yelling at every person he sees that his son his normal, that the school screwed him up, and there's not a damn thing wrong with his kid, and it's all our fault he shits on himself.

Except now the father won't come down. He simply sent his kid to school with a change of clothes and a packet of baby wipes. We are talking about a thirteen year old here.

So the other day PoopBoy walks in my room, stinking of shit to high heaven, and I immediately usher him into the hallway after my kids start making gagging noises and hideous faces of disgust. PoopBoy, for once, claims he didn't poop. He also claims he actually wiped his ass and cleaned himself off. However, the smell says otherwise. Off he goes to get his baby wipes and his change of clothes. Before he goes he whimpers and whines (which is kind of freaky considering that he's a big kid, too) about how nobody likes him and everyone says he stinks all the time.

Well, duh, I don't think most kids are rushing out to be best buds with a kid that smells like a diaper and probably should be wearing one.

We've told Mr. Enforcer that this has got to stop. He's disrupting at least one class a day and lets, face it, he's a BioHazard. If, as his father says, there's no medical reason why this is happening, then there's a mental one. And with a father like this kid has got, I wouldn't be suprised that there's a lot more than mental issues involved.

And if his father is so damn smart, as he's claimed to all who will listen, then I think he should just homeshool the little cherub and he can shit all he wants.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Lucky Seven

Tonight was parent/teacher conference night.

Basically the district sets aside a couple of evenings a year, from 4:30 - 7:30, and the parents can drop in and have conferences with their kiddos' teachers. Nice set up. The past two years I've had a lot of parents drop by, and granted, most of them are the parents of A students (any wonder why with involved parents like that), but occassionally you'll get a parent you really need to see.

This year we had seven parents.

Out of 125 kids.

Three were parents of perfect children. Two were parents of kids who could use some help. Two were parents of nutballs and I was glad to see them.

Still, how horribly, horribly sad, and telling, that out of 125 kids, seven had their parents show up. Are baseball playoffs more important that their children?

Apparently so.

The Color of Correction

Interestingly enough I've received quite a few emails asking me what color of pen I use to correct and grade papers. Apparently it's considered politically incorrect to now use red as it can hurt a child's self-esteem as it's considered negative.


My mother had mentioned this at one time and I pretty much laughed it off. I've never taught anywhere where anyone told me what color to grade with and I've taken a course where anyone told me what color I grade with. And quite honestly, most of my students are too busy thinking about skateboarding, sex, movies, sex, girls/boys, sex, lunch, sex, music downloads, and sex, that I doubt they even read, much less notice, what color I've written in.

That being said, I grade in whatever damn color I can reach first. I've graded in red, blue, pink, purple and green (I tend to like green; it's my second favorite color). I've graded in highlighter pens too, which are a lot of fun. Sharpies are cool in terms of color (the lime green is fun) but they bleed through the paper so I tend not to use them.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Buried in paper

I absolutely hate it when the end of a grading period rolls around because I feel like a chicken running around with my head cut off.

Things start to pile up, especially grading. I had to grade a unit test, journals, a water cycle/carbon cycle poster, as well as Friday homework. Multiply all that by 125 kids (and substract a few for the kids who do absoutely nothing) and it's a full weekend. And boring. Grading is boring, boring, boring.

The one thing I absolutely hate to grade are journals. Our district believes in "writing across the curriculum" and kids write in every class with the exception of math. I do a number of writing assignments throughout the year, including a research paper and a website, but the journal is the one thing that I do all year long and despise with every fiber of my being.

Honestly, it can't be easier. Write three sentences (every other class wants five) answering some question about what we're doing, a science article in the news, or a reflection. It couldn't be easier, especially because I often recycle section review questions out of our science book. I give the kids about 8 minutes in class to do this and we work, and work, and work on how to restate the question so that the reader can actually figure out what the kids are writing about.

But I still can't get some of them to do this, let alone turn in a composition book with 8 flipping journal entries in it. They can't/won't write a complete sentence that makes sense. They have time to do this in class but prefer to goof off and spend the week before journals are do scrambling to figure out what the questions are so they can answer them.

I admire English teachers. I don't know how they can read and grade all those papers. I'd be a drunk before I could ever manage that.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Mrs. Eagle and I came up with the idea of starting a Chess and Boardgame Club at our school last year.

The way we figured it, our kids spend way too much time in front of video games, need critical thinking skills, and could use a little training in the way of sportsmanship. Our principal loved the idea and they decided to make it part of our after school program for at-risk kids (in other words, it's funded by a grant) but open it up to the population at large.

We had 42 kids show up for the first meeting today.

Now, some of these 42 are pretty bright. They're the A students and this is right up their alley. On the other hand, a lot of them aren't in that category. Some of them, as a matter of fact, aren't doing so hot in my classes, but the idea of getting together after school to play chess and boardgames was just the ticket to get them excited about school.

Several things I've learned:

We need a much bigger room. Much bigger. Even with two adjoining classrooms, it was packed. We stuck the kids who already knew how to play chess in one room (so they could concentrate) and the others were still practically on top of each other.

Risk is huge. Especailly LOTR Risk. Cardgames are tough because they can't shuffle to save their lives. The liked Sorry and Monopoly as well.

I have a lot more kids who want to play chess than I expected, incluing one little sixth grader who's just floating on air because he "whupped an 8th grader!" in chess. Some of these kids are GOOD. (I am not good, for the record, I'm barely adequate.)

I want to get them to a tournament or host one. The thought of the local paper running an article about my kids playing chess and BEATING kids from the wealthier schools (especially the smarties froma magnent school) is something I fantasize about. I hate the fact that my kids get looked down a lot because they don't go to a school in the wealthy part of town.

More than one wanted to know if they could do this every day after school not just one day a week. (Oh dear Lord, save me!)


Sunday, September 25, 2005


It's middle school football time!!!

And, instead of cleaning my house, doing more BORING GRAD SCHOOL CRAP, or grading papers, I headed out to watch three hours of middle school foorball. This is time well-spent.

I learned really fast that going to my students' extra-curricular events pays off big time. Sure, the house doesn't get cleaned and there probably a zillion other things I could be doing, but it means a lot to my kids to see their teacher there. There's about 5-6 of us who are there at nearly every game and the kids know it. You'll hear them talk about it in the hallway, they'll ask you about it before class starts, and on Fridays they'll remind you about what time the game starts and what number jersey they're wearing. Considering that a lot of parents can't make it due to jobs or deployments or whatever, having your teacher there is, well, kind of cool.

And I'll be's really amusing entertainment. For one thing, the size disparities between middle schoolers is mind-blowing. You'll see a kid out on the field that you could swear should be a senior in high school based on his size, then a little squirt that looks like he should be playing with a Tonka Truck, rather than getting chased by big guys across the gridiron. Most of these boys have the skinniest legs you've ever seen and you put them in football pants, with pads, and they look like top-heavy chickens.

Our chickens, however, did fairly well. The JV lost 12 - 6, but at least they scored a touchdown. The Varsity won 36-6 and it was a pretty exciting game.

As for the cheerleaders...well, the varsity did great. There were an amazing 28 of them, 12 of whom I've taught in the past. The JV....well, they need some work. Actually they need a lot of work. Their coach, one of my mothers, informed me that they were the most untalented group of children she'd ever worked with in twelve years of cheer coaching. Their hearts are in the right place, though. This week they managed to smile and actually knew all the words which was great.

I actually had two parents come up and thank me for coming to the game which is a first. One parent of a cheerleader said that "K was so excited when she saw you up in the stands. It's so wonderful you come out and support the kids."

Well, heck, there's nowhere else I'd rather be on a Saturday afternoon!

Friday, September 23, 2005

And you thought "The Exorcist" was scary

I don't really, really get mad too often at my kids but when I do....oh boy, watch out!

My sixth period was in DEEP TROUBLE today. And they paid for it.

Yesterday all five of us on the team had to attend a meeting in the afternoon (in the building) and they got subs for us for the last half of fourth period, and fifth and sixth periods. The meeting was actually useful and had other teachers from across the system who were also trying to implement a program called GPA - Greater Potential for Achievement. It's a good plan similar to the AVID plans that many high schools have, that helps teach kids how to be organized, use effective study skills and take good notes.


We all had slight misgivings about the entire team of us being out, and as we suspected, they were psycho when we were gone. Mrs. Math's sub wrote up 4 discipline referrals, Mrs. Reading's wrote one, Mr. Social Studies had one, and Mrs. Language had one. I didn't have any, but that wasn't because my kids were good.

Mine were so bad an administrator could hear them carrying on while he's trying to do an observation next door so he comes in, hauls two of them out and gives them hell in the hallway, then goes in the room and gives them all a dose of reality as a class. He's a former warrant officer in the Army and he can get really, really scary. I wouldn't want to be on the other end of one of his lectures, to be honest.

I find this out Friday morning when Mr. Enforcer comes by to inform me of his little lecture. I had an inkling something had happened because The Princess, who spends more time on her hair and on lip gloss than she does on anything remotely academic, came running in after homeroom wanting to "explain what really happened sixth period." Now this child is NEVER, EVER responsible for anything that goes wrong. NOTHING is ever her fault. I basically told her she needed to get to class and if it was so important her teacher could give her a pass and she could come talk to me. No go. She pulled the same stunt on Mrs. Language which told me that The Princess (who can't shut up either) had a problem with the subs.


Sixth period was on silence. I've used this before and it's somewhat effective if for no other reason that they have plenty of quiet time to think about what pinheads they've been. They were informed that the second they stepped in my room, their mouths were shut. No talking AT ALL. First word was their first behavior note. Second word was their second one, and their third was a discipline referral. I meant business.

When I get mad...I get really, really quiet. And that's kind of scary coming from a teacher who's usually pretty loud and talkative. I was mad. Really mad, and I let them know it. I was personally offended at their beavior. I was embarassed at their behavior and that they should all be embarrassed as well. Subbing is a rotten stinking job. I know because I've done it. Kids think subs are the perfect targets for abuse and think it's a sport to be disrespectful and rude. I pointed this out and told them they were a bunch of ungrateful, rude and disrespectful brats who treated a retired teacher who agrees to be a substitute because he loves kids and hates sitting around not feeling useful in the most deplorable and disgusting way.

One kid decided to talk to her friend and earned the first, and only, behavior note. You could almost see their heads spin and the words form in bubbles above their heads, "Dang, she's serious and she's mad!"

Not a peep all day. They sat, worked on their water cycle and carbon cycle posters and were perfect angels.

I hope I scared the living daylights out of them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Just give me a line here...

Want to know insanity?

A middle school building with something like 1100 students and 70 faculty and staff.

And three outside phone lines.

Yup, that wasn't a typo.



T H R E E.

Trying to get an outside phone line to call a parent is beyond annoying. First, we have to call The Secretary, who is delightful and wonderful, but who also gets a zillion phone calls coming in and can get a bit busy. You then have to ask The Secretary if she can program the system so you can make an outside call from your room. This usually takes a few minutes, and if The Secretary is really busy chances are she'll forget. And then you look at the clock and your planning period is gone and the kids are gonna be here in second and you'll just have to try later.

It drives me nuts.

I had a grad school professor once say that it was ridiculous that the one piece of technology that teachers could really use effectively, the telephone, is the one that's nearly impossible to get. I tend to agree with that. Having the ability to simply pick up the phone and call a parent Right In The Middle Of Class would be wonderful.

I've actually done this with my cell phone. I resent having to use the cell phone and minutes that I pay for to do this, but I do it. I had a Royal Brat last year who decided to roll her eyes, draw pictures, and refuse to work. Well, The Royal Brat's mother and I had had a little chat a few weeks prior and she said to call her on her cell ANYTIME The Royal Brat was, well, a Royal Brat.

So, right there in the middle of class, I got out my cell phone, keyed in Momma's number and walked over to The Royal Brat and showed the number to her on the LCD screen.

"Make me push send," I said. "One more think out of you and I'll do it."

The Royal Brat looks at the screen and her eyes get big as saucers. "No Ma'am. You won't need to do that. I'll get to work right now, Ma'am."

I want an outside line in the worst way.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A little dose of maturity, please?

They got on my last freakin' nerve today...and I wasn't alone.

I'm not sure if it's the full moon scheduled for tomorrow, the change in the weather, the fact that it was Friday, or all of the above, but every single teacher in our building was ready to toss his/her hands up in the air and head for Happy Hour once the buses rolled.

Okay, I know they're seventh graders, and it's early in the year, but there were times I could have sworn I was trapped in a first grade classroom. These kids are that immature. Especially the boys. Honestly, a little bit of testosterone wouldn't hurt any of them at this point.

We're in our sixth week and they're STILL asking where they're supposed to turn in their homework every Friday.

It goes in the same basket on the same table by the same giant cut out of Gollum (from LOTR, don't ask) that we had in the old room. Nothing has changed but the room.

Sixth period (the absolute last period of the day and on a Friday can only be equated with Hell) just did me in. I had two kids out at one lab group which left one kid by himself. We are doing poster notes where I assign a part of the chapter to each group and they outline the important information we need to know on a large poster, which I then hang up and discuss and we all take our notes. It's fun, they get to do group work, and they're learning how to outline. So Lonely Kid is there by himself so I sit down and help him get going since it's kind of a drag to be working alone. We're having a good time, Lonely Kid is getting it (thank the Lord), and all is well.

I then look up and see Goofy Boy 1 chasing Goofy Boy 2 around a lab table. Like second graders. And they're giggling and carrying on like second graders. The fact that Goofy Boy 1 is nearly six feet tall made it even more annoying.

So, they were rewarded with the first two behavior notes of the year which I filled out and stapled into the agenda for a parent to sign. (Fat chance.)

I am having wine tonight.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ain't Goin' Back

We had open house tonight. Therefore I am exhausted. However, I thought you all would enjoy this exchange I had tonight with a parent.

This Parent, Mrs. C, is new to town. In fact, she, and the rest of her family are staying with relatives. See, they're from Gulf Port, Mississippi, and Huricane Katrina basically did a number on their home, lives, and livelihood and they headed up here to stay with kin. She enrolled her sun, D, in school yesterday and he landed in my class 5th period. Fortunately for D, we had a lab (and a fun one with something called Oobleck) and it was a good welcome to school for this kid.

So, I'm talking with Mrs. C., telling her about how happy we are to have her and her family here, and to let her know I'm here should she need me. I then ask her how long they plan to stay here.

She looks at me with these big sad eyes and says, "Oh, we're staying forever. We ain't goin' back. No ma'am. We ain't going' back."

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Boogie Night

I love working the middle school dances.

Truth be told, we shouldn't even call them dances. It's more like A Run Around And Jump Up And Down Two Hour Frenzy. It's actually quite entertaining. As a chaparone you tend to spend more time telling a kid to "slow down and stop running" than anything else.

They chase each other, they run around the floor, they run out to get junk food, then run back in, they run out to get a glow in the dark necklace, they run back in, and then maybe they'll jump up and down with the music. At times it reminds me of a 1979's mosh pit in an L.A. punk club, without the safety pins.

What cracks me up is how many students will ask, "Mrs. Bluebird are you going to be at the dance?" on the Friday of the dance. Why they care who's actually going to be there is beyond me, but they all seem to want to know who's going to be there. And of course Mrs. Language, Mrs. Eagle and I always work the dances (because it's cheap entertainment) and we always get a flock of 8th graders who may have hated our guts last year but are now wanting hugs and squeal when they see us there. Go figure.

The Skateboard Squirts were there and they seem to have no interest in girls (probably because all the girls are taller than they are) but they're really good at jumping up and down and chasing each other. We have the Hip Hoppers there in force, looking cool and doing the moves. Then there's all the girls who rove in packs following The Cute Boys. And once in a great while you'll actually have A Couple. And when you have A Couple, you make sure they aren't tooooo close. Considering that the DJ doesn't play any slow songs, that isn't too hard to do.

And every once in a while the DJ will look over at us graying rockers at heart and play some AC/DC or Def Leappard so the teachers can have some fun too. Bless his little hip hop heart.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Terra Firma

I am so happy.

I am, finally, in a classroom on the ground floor, near the rest of my team, and it even has air conditioning.

Okay, so the fact that it is completely covered with boxes is a small detail that I will fix tomorrow (yes, teachers do work on Saturdays). However, I am happy. I am on the ground.

We did The Big Move today and the new wing is open, complete with the new, state of the art science lab. The nine of us that teach science were basically standing there with our jaws hanging open when we saw it. It is beautiful. I can't wait to get in and use it, but it will be some time before that happens. We have to, in the meantime, round up all the science equipment we hid and stashed all over the building when we were without a lab (I had Mr. Bones, the skeleton for a year and the kids never knew.). We need to inventory, get rid of stuff we don't need, put away stuff we want, and then we can use it.

The student council members stayed after (they were working the dance anyway) and moved all the various teachers from room to room to room. Granted, they will do just about anything for pizza. It went a lot easier than I thought it would. Some of my kids from last year helped, plus some of my current crop. I had my room pretty much emptied and moved downstairs (remember, there's no elevator, just steps) in an hour or less. We did have to move the desks that were left into storage, and my tables and chairs were rolled in, thanks to some PTO parents and a few of my Skateboard Squirts.

My big, nearly new Steelcase desk, as well as my nearly new file cabinet, are still upstairs but I sweetalked The Janitor (who is truly one of the nicest and most helpful people I know) and he will be bringing it down sometime Monday evening. I also have a very nice cabinet with a glass display case that's stuck in a hallway (rescused from a previous science lab) that will be moved in sometime later in the week as well. I'm a bit weird about keeping my nearly new stuff. When I started a few years ago, I was a new position, so I got all new equipment. I will probably never ever get anything new again, so I'm hanging on to as much of it as I can.

So tomorrow...I unpack.


As I mentioned before, I teach in a school where 50% of my kids are on free and reduced lunch. In other words, a lot of our kids don't have much.

They raised $3,000 for Hurricane Katrina relief.

Each classroom had a container where the kids put coins (and in some cases bills) in, which was counted and tallied. Today was Hat Day and they paid $1.00 for the privilege of wearing a hat in school (usually a big no-no). Tonight was a dance sponsored by the Student Council with proceeds going to Katrina. I chaparoned the dance which is, in truth, one of my absolute favorite things to do. It's just plain silly and fun.

My kids just rock.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The hard facts of life

My kids took a test on Friday. It wasn't a hard test, just thirty questions on matter and measurement, and they had a study guide (that basically gave them all the answers) for a week before the test.

Their scores were beyond awful.

Mrs. Eagles' kids were awful as well so we decided to put a little fear into them (down here this is called a "Come to Jesus Meeting") today, by putting up a graph from this past June that appeared in USA Today. The graph shows how much the average salary is for different levels of education. For example, no high school diploma is about $18,000 a year, a high school diploma is $27,000, a bachelor's degree is $51,000 and an advanced degree is something like $124,000. I made the kids copy this into their notes, and it's going to be a permanent part of their folders this year. Then we had a little discussion about how they needed to get off their rears and start working towards that high school diploma or they're going to be living with mom and dad and riding a bike for the rest of their lives because they wouldn't be able to afford anything else.

They were not happy.

And of course I always get the yahoo who says that "I'm going to play in the NFL," whereupon I launch into my "What's Your Plan B" story. Basically this is where I ask them what are they going to do when they step off the curb and a drunk driver hits them and they lose a leg? Or what are they going to do when they blow their knee out their senior year in high school? And how on earth are they going to play college ball so they can get drafted into the NFL, if they don't pass seventh grade????!!!! They usually look at me with that "I never thought of that" look.

Then I made them retake the test again, open book, and I'm going to average the scores.

And told them that this will never, ever, happen again. That they better get with the program and that means doing a little bit of work and putting forth a little bit of effort.

Nothing like a hard dose of life to make a seventh grader squirm.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Met one of my heroes!

Some of you may have noticed that I hae a link on my blog to an organization called Adopt-A-Platoon. My hubby and I have been supporters of this group for about 4-5 years now and have had a number of military penpals during this time. One of the penpals we really got to know well (since he was wrote back a lot) was Chris, who was a tank driver. He participated in the famed Thunder Run into Baghdad, and was over in The Sandbox for well over a year. Unfortunately, when he returned home we were in the process of moving and we never got to hook up and meet him in person.

We met him and his wonderful wife this weekend!!!!

Wow! We had the best time and it was like the four of us had known each other for ever. I guess when you write to someone for over a year you get to know them pretty well. Chris couldn't thank us enough for all the support (and cookies) we sent him when he was going through a particularly rough time. Honestly, it was the least we could do!

And they're coming to visit again shortly!!! Yeah!!!


Yeah! The new air compressor was installed and air was turned on in my classroom on Friday!! Of course it came on during the last period of the day, but there was air! Yippeee!

Of course, I'm only going to be there for 4 more days, but we knew that would happen, didn't we? Story is we're giong to do The Big Move on Friday, which is also the day of the first school dance and our Katrina fund-raiser. Should be interesting. I'm going to start boxing up this week so hopefully it won't be a major pain in the rear.

Our first Katrina Kids enrolled on Friday. I'm sure there will be more.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina's Long Reach

I'm checking email in between classes and see one from our principal, that's a forward from someone at Central Office. Looks like the district is getting phone calls from families who have left Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana and are here in town and wanting to enroll their children in school.

We are at least 400-600 miles away from the Gulf Coast.

I have at least two students who've told me that relatives have shown up, with little or nothing, and are staying at their homes. One boy told me that more were coming and they've already ran out of room, and his mom is trying to find them some clothes for them to wear as they're running out. I put him in touch with Guidance and they contacted his mom and we're going to see about having the school help a bit. May seem weird, but as a low-income building, we tend to collect clothing for our students in need. You just never know when someone is going to need some clothing. With a house full of refugees, he's not going to have much of a quiet space to study or do homework, so I asked him to ask his mom if she could drop him off before school in the morning and he could come to my room to work.

Many of our faculty and staff have families who've lost everything and other family members we can't even get a hold of. Student council is going to raise some money next week with their fall dance and many of the teachers are putting coffee cans in their classrooms for the kids to donate their spare change.

Gas is $3.09 here in town and I guess, from what I've heard, that's good. I love my Saturn, but I'd like a hybrid right about now.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

An apple for the teacher

The cats and I survived the wind and rain from Katrina last night although it wasn't the most restful night. It really kicked up a while there and got a bit noisy. However, no tornados which is always a very good thing. We only lost power for a short while.

My apple tree, however, did not fare very well. She's laying on her side, although her roots haven't popped out of the ground. I'm hoping when hubby returns we'll be able to prop her back up and she'll survive. Neighbors across the street lost a big tree, and friends up the hill lost a few. I think we got lucky. Did check the rain guage and we had 3 1/2 inches..not near the 6" they were calling for but I'm not complaining.

The more I watch television, the more concerned I am about some close friends we have down in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast areas. Some of them live in areas that were particularly hard-hit according to the reports and I only hope they got out okay. Hopefully we'll hear shortly.

Off to do more Dreadfully Boring Grad School Crap (DBGSC).

Monday, August 29, 2005

Teachable moments

A teachable moment is one of those moments where you can relate some content to something going on.

Like, for example, a hurricane.

We teach weather in the seventh grade, but we're not scheduled to do it for a while yet. We do severe weather late in the year because it's a great one to do for projects, and the kids love it. It keeps them involved when they're starting to think about summer vacation and shut down mentally.

You can show a video of death and destruction (i.e., hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods, blizzards, etc.) and seventh graders will sit for HOURS, mouths agape, watching the stuff. It's astounding.

Today I took a few moments in between activities and read a couple of news articles about Katrina. The kids were fascinated. (One kid even had a carload of relatives show up last night from New Orleans.) The dire predictions of the LSU computer forecasters just blew their minds.

I love teachable moments.


I live about 600 miles from New Orleans.

And I just got one of those automatic phone calls our school district uses to notify parents/teachers/staff about important developments and we're closed tomorrow due to Katrina. Apparently the predictions of flooding and tropical winds, not to mention the tornados that seem to hit our area frequently anyway, was too much for people to deal with so we're being safe and cancelling for the day. Good call. I never, ever want to be at school when a tonado hits.

And knowing my luck, if a tornado hits, it would tear apart the new wing and I'd be stuck up in that armpit of a classroom forever.

So, tomorrow I'll try to sleep in but probably won't because I'm so used to waking up at 4:30 am anyway (and if it's stormy the felines will be pinging all over the place) and then spend as much time as possible working on Dreadfully Boring Grad School Crap (DBGSC).

But on the good news side...the air conditioning compressor has arrived at school. It won't be installed, however, until Thursday. Which probably means Friday.

And we'll be moving to new classrooms the following week.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Something interesting happened on Friday.

It was Vocabulary Test Day and the kids were finishing up their tests and those that were done were working independently on their workbooks and turning in their Daily Science sheets when Angry Boy I came into the room. He hadn't been in class due to his meltdown yesterday, so I was a tad surprised.

"Mrs. Bluebird, I'd like to talk with you privately for a minute if you don't mind."

"Why certainly, let me finish putting this grade in the book and I'll be right over."

I look up at the theater door and Mrs. Saint is standing there along with another one of her charges who I don't know (you don't dare leave any kid, let alone these types of kids alone...if you need to go somewhere you take them all with you.) I walked up to the door and Angry Boy is standing there, looking really embarrassed.

"I want to apologize for my bad behavior yesterday. I feel really bad about it."

What is this? An APOLOGY??? From Angry Boy???

"Well honey, I certainly accept your apology. I just want you to know that when you're having a bad day that you don't have to get mad at people like me. We're here to make your day better."

"I know. I feel really bad. Can I come back Monday?"

"Of course you can. I'd like you to be back on Monday."

Angry Boy then slides over and very awkwardly reaches out an arm. This kid wants a hug. This kid probably NEVER gets hugs at home. He's not even quite sure how to initiate a hug. I give him a hug.

Mrs. Saint catches my eye. "I want you to know that this was all his idea. He has been sitting there all day very upset that he caused a problem yesterday and decided that the best thing he could do was apologize."


Friday, August 26, 2005

See Ya Later, Bye

My fith period is...well...interesting.

It is my smallest class. It is also my class with the highest number of high maintenance kids. I have three kids from the Behavior Adjustment (BA) unit in there. BA kids are kids who usually hae severe behavior and emotional problems. Many of them have been abused. Many cannot, or will not, control their anger and have problems in social settings. Many are also identified as special education because they have reading and computation problems and generally do poorly in school. These kids have emotional melt-downs on a regular basis.

And I have three.

However, Mrs. Saint, the teacher in charge of the BA unit, has graciously offered to loan me one of her aides, Miss T., who comes to class with this crew of three and works to keep them on task, calm, and somewhat in tune with what the rest of us are doing. Overall, they've been pretty good although I have to admit that Obsessive Compulsive Boy can grate on my very last nerve. (We are currently having an issue with the fact that he wants to put about 20 staples into every single thing he turns in to me - including single pieces of paper that do not need staples.)

This week Thursday, however, the melt downs began.

Angry Boy came in Angry. Big surprise. Angry boy has an attitude and a chip the size of a third world nation on his shoulder, but he can be a bright kid and actually can be very smart when he's not too busy being hateful. But Thursday was a bad day. He didn't want to sit in his seat, preferring, instead to slouch and put his feet on the chair in front of him. He didn't want to bring a book to lab. He was rude, beligerent, disrespectful, didn't want to communicate and didn't want to do anything for anybody. It didn't take a rocket scientist to see he was a few seconds away from a melt-down so Miss T slid off down the hallway and got Mrs. Saint who got Deputy Dude who came to talk with Angry Boy. (Deputy Dude is a real sherrif's deputy assigned to our building, thank the Lord.) In any case, none of the students were really aware of the drama going on in the back of the room as they were - for once - actually listening to me tell them about the lab they were about to do. Then, of course, Angry Boy had to get really riled up, knocked his desk over and was escorted out of the room.

And that was just the beginning.

Not more than five minutes later, after I put the kids in their lab groups, I had one of my regular ed students begin his melt-down. Angry Boy 2 decided that he didn't want to work with the lab group he had sat down with and proceeded to curse and kick his seat and act like a Class A Brat. Sigh. I told him to wait for me out in the hall while I got the rest of the class going. I knew that Angry Boy 2 had been having a bad day - he'd used profanity earlier in the day and my teammate, Mrs. Language had sent him to be counseled by Mr. Enforcer, the assistant principal. Angry Boy 2 would not open up, wouldn't talk, sulked, so he was counseled and warned and sent back to class. AB2 was pacing back in forth in the hall, obviously upset. I tried our new "warm fuzzy" approach with him with no luck. He would not talk. He would not tell me what was wrong. In fact, the only thing he said the entire time was "You can't make me do anything." So, I gave him his final the lab or sit at a desk in the back and he could work on study for his vocab test. He chose the later option, but as soon as he got to the desk, he threw his books on the floor, sat down and spent the entire time banging on his desk.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

The kids are ignoring him. I'm ignoring him because I am not going to give him the satisfaction of seeing me get mad. The truth of the matter was, I wasn't mad at him at all. I can tell when a kid is having some emotional distress and this kid needed a guidance counselor and needed one badly. I didn't want to make a big deal of it, so I casually walked by Mrs. Eagle's computer, and dropped a quick instant message to guidance suggesting that if an administrator was in the area, it wouldn't be a bad idea to come get AB2 and talk him somewhere to talk out his issues.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

A few minutes later Mrs. Squirrel arrives and takes AB2 away.

I can count on one hand the number of times I've had a kid removed from my room in the past three years. On Thursday, I doubled the number.

In one class period.


Merry Go Round

Just when I thought I was starting to whine too much about not having my permanent room and not having AC in the room I'm in, my kids begin to whine. The novelty of having to move to the theater to teach classes (because it's cooler there) is wearing off. It's like "oh great, we're going to the theater again." Big flippin' deal.

That being said, we did a bit more moving again this week. There's no way I can show a video in the theater (which sounds stupid now that I write that, I mean, it is a theater after all) beause there isn't a spare teachers station (TV/VCR, etc) to use and the kids would be sitting too far away to see the screen anyway. So, I went to The Librarian and asked if I could use a TV set up in her reference room which is still waiting for the new furniture to arrive and basically consists of boxes, a big piece of floor (with new carpet) and the TV set up. She set the whole thing up, provided me with a chair and a rolling cart for a desk, and I spent five periods walking the kids over, having them plop on the floor and watching a very cool video on matter and physical properties of matter. The kids enjoyed that even though I had one that claimed he couldn't sit on the floor. Considering that he seems to have trouble sitting in a chair, that didn't surprise.

On Thursday we needed to do a lab and my best friend (and fellow 7th science teacher) Mrs. Eagle loaned us her room. Basically we just walked our kids past each other, she used the theater, and I used her room, set up for the lab. We did a density lab which basically consists of the kdis FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS (interesting concept, that) and pouring different liquids into graduated cylinders and watching them separate. The fact that we were in a "real" classroom and one that had classroom pets, Watson the hamser and Keiko the ball python, was enough to make them crazy. Of course they all wanted to obsess about the animals but once I got them going on the lab, they were okay.

Well...most of them.

There's always at least one group of kids that seem to think that you don't need to read the directions, you just start doing stuff, and you've got a lab. These are the sort of kids that a science teacher fears because they're the ones that will set fire to your lab when you least expect it.

Which is why I rarely do any lab that involves anything remotely flammable.

In any case, some of them did great, some of them didn't have a clue, but we all made it out with no broken equipment, no spilled liquids, and at least one lab paper turned in per group.That in itself is an accomplishment.

No news on our room situation. Soonest the new wing will be ready to move in is after Labor Day.

Yeah. Right.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Too little to go around

No, I'm not ignoring you.

One of my big things is historic preservation, especially Civil War preservation. I happen to live in community that needs to learn that there's more to life than subdivisions and business parks and developers lining the pockets of greedy politicians. So, in addition to teaching the leaders of tomorrow the mysteries of science (and how to behave like civilized beings) I've been working all week in the evenings on a festival that we're putting on to highlight historic events and tourism.

So I haven't had much time to write. In fact, I don't have much time to write tonight but thought I'd let you all know that I was alive and the seventh graders didn't overrun the classroom.

And yes, we still have no air conditioning.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

It's just flippin' hot

I live in a town near a major military base, and teach a lot of military dependents, so the fact that I'm whining about the heat when I have friends and neighbors over in The Sandbox where it's routinely over a 100 degrees makes me feel, well, like a whiner.

That being said, t's 100 degrees on my front porch and according to my nifty little weather doo-dad on my desktop, I have a heat index of 102 right now. It's so hot the cats are sleeping down here in the basement and one is so close to an air duct that you can see the air blowing her fur.

Whomever decided that school should start before Labor Day (and cooler temps) is a pinhead.

And, yeah, I'm a whiner.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Frost my cookies

I need to keep remembering that most people who write letters to the editor aren't necessarily people who have a clue. Case in point, a recent letter that appeared in the local paper this week that mentioned that "it doesn't take any money to teach a kid" coupled with the zinger, "what we need are dedicated teachers and there aren't any."

I know that some people consider teachers to be a step below a used car salesman in the pecking order of life, but comments like that just frost my cookies. To whit...the last time I checked the school district wasn't getting any of its electricity for free so I can argue that it does cost some money to teach a kid. And granted, if you home school, maybe it doesn't cost anything to teach a kid, but if you expect the public schools to raise your child (and sadly, many people do) I don't think you can expect teachers to do it for free. After all, everyone else who has a job gets paid for it, and I think teachers should as well. Considering that I'll probably retire before the school loans are paid off for the bachelor's and master's degrees (masters' are just about mandatory these days), it would be nice to not be considered a volunteer.

As for dedication...hummmmm....I was at school at 6:15 am this morning and left at 6:30 pm this evening. I brought home 120+ homework assignments to grade, will probably spend several hours putting names in my grade book, entering the grades I've taken so far, finish grading some quizzes, update the grades on the computer (so they can be uploaded), planning for next week, and checking off daily science assignments. When that's done I'll spend most of Sunday working on grad school assignments for myself so that I can continue to be the best teacher I can.

Notice how much time I have in there to do anything like, say, clean house? Spend time with my hubby? Do laundry?

I go to all my kids football games. I go to all the basketball games. I'm at every dance. I go to every play and every concert. I don't get paid for any of these. But I go because I think it's absolutely criminal that there are more kids on the field or on the stage than there are parents in the audience.

I am not alone. In my building there are a lot of us - well over half the staff - who do this kind of thing each and every day. We buy the kids lunch because there was no money or food at home and the parents can't get it together to apply for free and reduced lunch. We raise money to purchase food to send home with some of our kids because the last meal they'll eat will be lunch at school on Friday until breakfast at school on Monday. (I don't want to even think what happens to these kids during the summer.) We buy, beg, and donate winter coats for our kids because they are coming to school in t-shirts when it's snowing. We're at all the events because the parents aren't. We're mentoring at-risk kids trying to convince them that they can rise above the poverty, the abuse, and their own fear and make something of themselves. We are there for the kids.

Because that's all it comes down to - it's for the kids.

So don't give me any snotty platitudes about there not being any dedicated teachers, especially when you're sitting on your butt watching NFL and NASCAR all weekend long and aren't giving up a second of your precious time to make this world a better place.

I am. One kid at a time....

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


We're finally getting rain. Unfortunately that means it's getting humid. Hot and humid and an upstairs classroom with a broken AC is not a fun combination. So, instead of doing a mini lab in my room, I ended up having to move the kids down to the theater starting with 2nd period.

Some of my classes handle this with no problem. They still listen, they still work, they're well-behaved. This can be a challenge when your teacher, who is usually down and walking around you, is forced to be on a stage to work the overhead. Some of the classes rose to the challenge, others did not.

So I was a bit grumpy with 3rd and 5th period today. And I don't like to be grumpy with my kids.

The People that Know say they're going to have to put in a new compressor unit, which is fine with me. Just get it done ASAP. Even after I get moved, the health teacher will eventually need to use this room, and he's gonna want AC.

Apparently the new construction is almost done....which means maybe, just maybe, we'll get a decent room, down on the core, near the rest of the team.

Oh, and the observation. Did as well as I could considering having to relocate the classroom in the middle of it. Sigh. Not the kind of stellar performance I like to do, but adequate.

I'm tired and I still need to assign lockers. Oh boy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Let's get organized!

At my school we teach in teams, which means five of us share 130 (or so) kids throughout the day. Our team was chosen this past spring to pilot a program for our seventh graders to help get them organized and to take those middle-of-the-road kids and turn them into high-achievers. They had a workshop over the summer on some of these startegies, which apparently are being used with some success in High Schools, but of course I couldn't go because I was off teaching summer camp.

In any case, one of the tenents of this plan is that the kids all carry 3" 3 ring binders, they have a section for each class, they have a pencil pouch to carry all their pencils, and there's notebook paper in the back of the binder. Now this may seem incredibly obvious and simple to some of you, but the idea of having all of your school goods in one place is just highly bizzare for your average seventh grader who's too busy worrying about acne and thinking about sex or video games to really care where his/her science homework went. The idea is that if all of the school work is in one place the kids will show up in class with everything they need, including, God forbid, a pencil. I had kids last year who were apparently physically incapable of bringing a pencil to class. I had one kid who could lose a pencil in the process of walking across the room to go sharpen it!! I suspect this child may have a career in Vegas in a magic show because he was good at macking things disappear.

The way I figure it, it's worth a shot. Anything that can help keep them organized and together because they are NOT going to go back to their lockers every time they forget something. Ain't gonna happen.

Fortunately our principal, who's 110% behind this program, offered to buy the kids the supplies they need so they all have the same thing - the binder, the folders, the pencil pouch, etc. Cool. Well, they goodies came in today (except for the pencil pounches) and we spent the afternoon counting, sorting, and labeling. Each of my homeroom kids will walk in tomorrow and find a pile of supplies on his/her desk. And the funny thing is, they've been bugging me about when they'd get them. I suspect for some of these kids, having something new, even if it's just a binder, is a thrill.

We've asked the parents to help pay for the supplies as part of the school fees. By purchasing in bulk we saved a lot of money (3" binders are pricey), so it actually was cheaper for the parents to buy it through us. What is surprising to me is how many of my parents on waivers (don't pay fees due to low income level) are managing to find the money to help their child participate in this program. Maybe they're looking at the lottery scholarships down the road in a few years and anything we can do to get the kiddo on the path to that can't be a bad thing.

And three more kids got added to our team today...