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.