Monday, March 27, 2006

Spring Break!

It is spring break.

I am sleeping in.

I am getting a lot of walking in (need that exercise).

I am doing yard work.

I am actually cleaning my house.

I am reading. (A great book on Krakatoa)

I am knitting.

I am loving it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The New Adventures of Klepto-boy

Ya'll remember Klepto-boy, dontcha? He was one of the little critters that was busy raiding my candy jar back before Christmas. I would have thought, after Deputy Dude went and had him wallowing in a puddle of tears with visions of incarceration dancing in his head, that he might have learned a lesson.

Apparently not.

On St. Patricks Day, during homeroom when the kids are unloading from the busses, and heading back from breakfast, I had to step next door to talk to Mr. Social Studies about a little lecture we needed to give the kids about gossip and rumors. It's that time of year when the gossip flies and the fights start.


Klepto Boy, who is in Mr. Social Studies' homeroom, sees his chance and goes next door to my room and grabs one of my green pens from the pencil cup I keep on my desk. This is my pencil cup and the kids know that they are not allowed to take anything from it. Even more, they're not allowed to touch anything on my desk, regardless.

I walk back into my room and one of my kids, who sits by my desk informs me that I've received a visit from Klepto Boy. I turn heel, find him next door, complete with my green pen tucked behind his ear. (The kids know I use a lot of wild colored pens and he obviously wanted a green one for St. Patrick's Day.) I ask if it's mine, and he stammers and hems and haws. I inform him that someone witnessed him taking it. He finally admited that he took it.

So I wrote up a discipline referral because, after all, this is the second time he's been caught doing the same thing. The referral gets worked, he ends up with 2 days of ISS, which is lucky because according to School Board Policy, he could have been suspended. However, there is a problem.

Klepto-Mom is not happy.

I'm in another parent meeting with the team on Monday morning (what a way to start the week), when The Principal comes over and asks if I could step in and talk with Klepto-Mom and The Enforcer (who worked the referral). Apparently Klepto-Mom doesn't agree that Klepto-Boy should have received a referral for what he did and refused to sign it.

"He just borrowed a pen. He didn't steal it," she says.

I then relay, yet again, the story: he left his homeroom, entered my room, took a pen off my desk, never asked to borrow, blah, blah, blah.

"He said he needed it to write down his assignments and he never lies to me so I know it's the truth."

At this point all three of us look at Klepto-Mom with our mouths agape. This is the mother of a 13-year old and she thinks he's never lied? Is she crazy?

Apparently so.

We then go over again the situation (I won't bore you the recitation). She again insists that he just borrowed the pen and meant to give it back.

"Well, if he needed a pen, why didn't he ask his homeroom teacher?" asks The Principal. "Why did he leave his room and go into another room, onto another teacher's desk and take a pen without asking."

"Well he just borrowed it." Klepto-Mom insists. She then demands to know why her son isn't being "properly supervised" so he doesn't leave the classroom.

We inform her that the kids are allowed to move a bit among the team during homeroom. After all, they're going to lockers, breakfast, visiting other teachers to turn in work or get makeup assignments. Amazing, but apparently this mother wants us to watch her child every second to make sure he doesn't do anything wrong, rather than have him develop the self-discipline and character to do the right thing in the first place. It is, of course, all our fault.

We got nowhere. The Enforcer and The Principal explain that no, he wasn't borrowing, he was stealing and yes, she should thank her lucky stars that he didn't get suspended. Klepto-Mom says she doesn't agree and there's obviously no changing our minds and she's just very upset because her little boy never lies and never steals. We are just mean, evil people who aren't doing our jobs.

Klepto-Mom leaves. I thank The Principal and The Enforcer for backing me up (not all administrators do this apparently; I'm blessed). The Principal rolls her eyes and shakes her head. "She had better get used to orange jumpsuits if she's going to make excuses for him forever," she says.

I can see it now, four-five years from now. Klepto-Boy is pulled over in a stolen vehicle, looks up at the officer and says, "But officer, I was just borrowing it. I really meant to give it back."

Friday, March 17, 2006

Dude, got some green?

It astounds me what a middle schooler will spend money on.

We have a student in the building who's been in critical care and seriously ill which is having, as you can well imagine, a bit of a financial impact on her family. Our PTO ladies decided that they could have a quick fundraiser by offering a St. Patrick's Day "Green Day" where they'd offer services such as hair gelling, hair spraying, green fingernail polish, shamrock temporary tattoos and the like. Prices were all to be under $2.00. They scheduled two hours for each grade, and it was up to the teacher's to decide if a kid was good enough to go. (That want something, they'll be angels - see my microscope posts for proof).

In any case, the kids went absolutely nuts and the PTO room was packed all day long. I have no idea how much money they raised but there were hardly any kids in the entire building that didn't have green hair, nails, or tattoos. You give a middle schooler a chance to spend money on something as stupid as putting green gel in hair, and they'll be plopping the bills down faster than you can say "Hand it over!"

Of couse, we teachers had to get involved because the PTO made it free for teachers (yet we all managed to toss some money into the collection box) and even had a breakfast there for us. Mrs. Eagle and I went in and had our hair sprayed green and our nails painted. The kids, of course, just loved it.

When you teach middle school you sometimes just have to swallow your pride and do something to look goofy.

I do, however, look stunning in green hair.

Happy St. Patrick's Day Everyone!

Fabio Returns!

Fabio slunk back today.

I didn't see him until 3rd period but apparently he batted his eyes and tried to charm his way back into second period without much luck. He landed in my room and I informed him of his new seat (one of my isolation seats) which is somewhere where, hopefully, he can't torment any other students and won't be constantly upstaging everyone and everything. He wasn't happy. He slunk off without a word.

And yes, his hair was short, and he was wearing normal (loose) boys jeans (no more girl jeans for him) and had a pale blue and red striped shirt. He looked, amazingly enough, like a normal 13 year old boy.

That was, of course, until he snuck out of the lunch line and went to the PTO room to pay $2 to get his hair spiked with green hair gel (a St. Patrick's Day fundraiser).


And if that wasn't enough, we were busy trying to squash the rumor mill (started by his very own girlfriend) that Fabio was going to be a Daddy. Apparently she was "late", fainted in 6th period yesterday, informed everyone that she and Fabio "did it" and she was sure a gerb was on the way. Thankfully, mother nature intervened and realized that these two children didn't need to breed, and Fabio's princess started her period this morning.

My one thought upon hearing this was that if Fabio's father gets wind of this, Fabio will be having more than his hair cut off.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Wear it High and Tight there boy!

Fabio Boy is one of those kids who should be a straight A student but is spending the bulk of his time being a totally cool awesome skater squirt. He drives us all nuts. He needs attention so bad I'm surprised he doesn't have a giant arrow pointing at him with a sign that says, "Hey, look at me!" He will raise his hand 27 times in a class just to stop and ask a completely irrelevant question and then pout when you tell him that no, you aren't going to call on him for a while. He's sneaky, devious, and is my number one candidate for a random drug test. He thinks he's incredibly adorable and he can charm his way out of anything.

He also has the most annoying hair on the planet. His hair is his glory. It's long, skater style, and his bangs hang down to his chin. He plays with it constantly. If he's not running his fingers through it, he's swinging his head all over the place, flopping his hair every which way. I can't tell if he's auditioning for a shampoo ad or if he's having a seizure. I can look out at my class and the kids could be sitting still except for Fabio Boy who's swinging his hair up and down and back and forth. Distracting doesn't begin to explain it.

But Fabio Boy crossed the line this week and told Sweet Smart Girl that the breathmint he gave her during my class was really crack cocaine. Sweet Smart Girl starts to have a full blown panic attack during class, insists, in tears that she needs to see me in the hallway RIGHT NOW, which means I'm leaving 26 seventh grade hormonal psychos (full moon, too), in the room for a few seconds while I step out to see what the drama is. Mr. Social Studies steps out and he agrees to write a pass to the nurse for Sweet Smart Girl (she has his class next) and I then proceed to write Fabio Boy a referral for this stupid, and cruel, stunt. I step back into my class from our hallway conference to find over half the kids out of their seats, goofing off, and chaos reigning.

So Fabio Boy gets his referral, and gets three days suspension plus 25 discipline points. And we all figure that Mom, who usually sobs and cries and wails that "I don't know what to do!!!" will come in and sob and cry and wail.

We are wrong.

Dad is back.

Dad is back from Iraq.

Miss Reading, who handled the referral (when we get backed up they'll pull a teacher to do admin), has a meeting with Dad and Fabio Boy and Dad is EXTREMELY DISPLEASED with Fabio Boy. Dad has just come back from a long stint in Iraq, where people are shooting and him and he's shooting at them, and the LAST THING he wants to deal with is his twerpy little son who's running around telling kids he's giving them crack cocaine. From what we can tell, based on Dad's conversation, Dad isn't regular army. He's one of the guys with scary badges. The kind that float in and float out and never quite tell you what, exactly, they're up to. In other words, not someone I'd want mad at me.

We have been informed that on Friday, when Fabio Boy returns, there WILL BE a change in attitude.

And there will be no more hair.

At all.

And Dad was serious. Fabio Boy wasn't even in school today, due to his suspension, and that was all the kids could talk about. And not even just my kids, but Mrs. Eagle's kids too. Fabio's haircut was The topic of conversation.

I can't wait to see Fabio Boy on Friday. I'm betting Dad took him out to post for his haircut and he'll be wearing it high and tight.


Friday, March 10, 2006

Stupid Parent Tricks

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I teach in a public school so I deal with people at all levels of intelligence and education. All levels.

This means that sometimes we get parents who not only don't have a clue, but wouldn't have one if we put a handle on one and made it easy to carry.

Case in point.

A parent calls up to set up an appointment to meet with the team to discuss his child. One of The Secretaries takes the call and pulls out our team calendar and lets The Parent know that we could meet with him during our planning period (our only free time during the school day) at 7:40 am. This is not good with The Parent. The only time that is convenient for him is 1:30 in the afternoon so it will have to be then.

"I'm sorry," says The Secretary, "but they are teaching class at that time, so they won't be able to meet with you."

"You don't understand," says The Parent, "but that's the only time I can possibly meet with them."

"But they have students with them at that time. They can't just leave their classes to talk with you then."

"They can't?"

The Secretary nearly falls out of her chair at this one. She finally convinces him that if he can make it at 2:20, we can meet with him right after school for a few minutes before two of us have to head off to another meeting. He finally agrees to this, but still doesn't understand why 1:30 wasn't good.

I suppose we could have talked to him at 1:30. But that would have met leaving 120 seventh graders unattended for a while. And that, my friends, is a very, scary thing to do.

A little Bribery is good for the soul

I had to attend a conference on Tuesday.

You all know what that means. Conference + Teacher = Substitute. Substitute + 7th Graders = Insanity.

Honestly, when The Principal asked if Mrs. Eagle, the Guidance Guy, and I could go to this I was hesitant. Did I really want to leave my monsters alone with a sub for an entire day? These same monsters, after all, had to have visits from administrators the last few times I was out because of their out-of-control behavior. However, I wanted to go to the conference, so I swallowed my fear and went ahead and booked a sub.

And that's when I got smart.

My kids had all written in their journals about all the things they wanted to look at with microscopes: salt, blood, chocolate, hair, pond water, cat fur, etc. So. I made a deal with them. If I got a good report from the sub (and I mean really good), they would earn an additional day in the lab to look at cool stuff with the microscope. The way I figured it, they could always use an additional day working with the microscopes, making slides, and it wouldn't kill me to take a day out of our schedule (we're a bit ahead of our pacing guide) to give it to them. Plus, I figured that maybe only three classes would pull it off. There was no way on earth that The Fifth Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself would earn a microscope day.

The sub was a former parent of mine, so I know her pretty well, and I knew she'd do a good job and would be honest about their behavior. I even ran into her a few days before and told her about my deal with them and she loved the idea. She subs a lot in our building and knows most of the kids, which helps. She knows who to watch.

I was astounded when I saw that all five classes had earned their microscope day! In fact, even The Fifth Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself, had earned it. Not only did they earn it, but they received the comment, "I could have heard a pin drop they were so good."

A little bribery can be a very good thing.

Especially when I can point out that, "See, you can be a perfectly well behaved, well-mannered class, if you simply chose to do so!"

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Lab Days!

Most middle school students (and elementary for that matter) don't deal with a change of routine very well. A fire drill in the beginning of the day will totally set them off and they'll be acting like nutballs the rest of the day. Taking them to another location for class - whether it's the reference room, the theater, or a lab - can be a challenge. They tend to lose their cool, and what little common sense they may have had.

So it was with some trepediation that we planned for not one, but two, lab days as part of our microscope unit. Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Robin and I knew we'd be in for it, but the kids needed the practice on the microscopes and the only way they're going to get it was to take them to the lab and do it.

Of course, we all threatened them with just about everything short of death if they screwed up and misbehaved.

Amazingly enough, my kids did really well. In fact, so well that there were times I was almost nervous, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It wasn't a shoe, but a beaker, that did get broken but that's pretty minor considering what it could have been. The microscopes were all lined up along the counter and the kids did really well considering the close quarters and didn't squabble or fuss too much.

And they actually had the paitence to try focusing before they started squalling for me to come help them.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

You want motivation???

It's absolutely amazing what a seventh grader will do when properly motivated.

Because, you see, they aren't motivated by the things they should be motivated by. Taking pride in doing a good job doesn't do it. Getting a good grade doesn't do it. Actually being interested in the subject doesn't do it. Nope, none of those things do it.

However, if you tell the little critters that There's No Way On This Earth I'm Letting You Touch a Two Hundred Dollar Microscope Unless You Pass the Microscope Test, they'll get motivated.

So these little twerps, including some who maybe never got higher than a 50% on a test in my class (and if that isn't pathetic, I don't know what is), actually studied and passed the test. And I know this because they told me. For some of them it was the first time they even bothered to study.

All because they want to look at tiny things with a microscope.

Now you would think that they might, just might, get a clue that "hey, this studying thing really pays off," but chances are they won't. We used to teach this unit towards the beginning of the year and we'd all point out, "See what you can do if you try," and it always went in one ear and right out the other. And they'd go back to their old pattern of failing because they just didn't care.

But give a kid a chance to look at his or her own hair with a microscope and they'll walk across fire.