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.