Saturday, December 22, 2007

Seven Lords A Leaping...Actually Just a Meme

I've been tagged by Ms. Whatsit, to write down seven random things about me. Considering that my train of thought has been pretty random, this should be easy!

  1. I collect scottish terrier items. I had two scotties as a kid, Angus and McDuff, and began the collecting when I was five. I still collect, although I've gotten pickier over the items as I've gotten older. My favorites are items from the 1930's and 1940's when FDR had Fala, the first scottie in the White House.
  2. I was a tall flag twirler in High School (back here they call them color guard) and actually marched in the Rose Parade one year. The two things I remember the most about it was how bloody long the parade was and the absolutely horrible food they feed us afterwards.
  3. I love to knit. My grandmother taught me when I was five, I did it a little as a kid and picked it up again in my 30's. I don't like knitting sweaters, however, because I get bored by the time I'm half way through.
  4. I absolutely love W.E.B. Griffin novels. I read and re-read at least one series a year. I think my favorite is The Corps.
  5. I have absolutely no music talent whatsoever. None. Can't sing. Took piano lessons so long ago that I can't even read music anymore. I do appreciate it however, and would love to learn to play the violin or guitar one day. I listen to lots of music however, and I'm probably the only person in America who doesn't own an MP3 player or an iPod.
  6. I may teach science but I'm also a huge fan of history of well. I think hubby and I own well over 2000 books on various eras of history. I've been reading a lot of Rev War and WWII lately.
  7. I've lost 20 pounds since school started this year. The holidays are kicking my butt, but hopefully I'll get back on track when the new year starts. Going down two sizes was wonderful.
Hum, who should I tag now??? How about Elementary History Teacher, Princess Lionhead, Ms. Cornelius (check out her post on that dip Jamie Lynn Spears), Mrs. T., Darren, Teacher Girl, and Ms. M. Enjoy!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Gifts for Angels, Hot Cocoa, and Horns!

It's actually been, amazingly, a pretty good week. Perhaps it was because the kids, for whatever reason, lost their minds last week. When The Principal tells you that it's been the sort of week where she wanted to toss her purse up on her arm and walk out the building, you know it's a bad week. In between the 13 eighth grade girls who got busted with slam books (the contents of which were described as "disgusting beyond belief"), the bipolar student who threatened suicide and attempted to run away, and the chaos of the holidays and basketball season, it was a doozy. Which is why this week, which was oddly calm, was so nice.

A few weeks ago my third period (which is also my advisory class), decided that they wanted to adopt one of our angel families. Angel families are the families that we help out at the holidays with Christmas gifts and food; they all have at least one member of the family that attends our school. Every year the student council, various clubs, the PTO, the faculty and staff, local churches and other groups put together Christmas for well over 100 families. It is quite an undertaking, but the amount of good that it does for the community is beyond measure. In any case, I was talking up the canned food drive when some of the kids said they wanted to bring in cans but they really wanted to have a family to shop for. We had a pretty serious discussion about commitment, (I wasn't going to get stuck holding the bag, in other words), and they voted and decided they really wanted to do it.

To say I was impressed with these kids is an understatement.

I went to guidance and got our family, which had three boys, ages 7, 10 and 14. We knew their first names, sizes, and wishes. I sent out a letter to the parents to let them know what the kids were doing, and stressing that even a single dollar would be welcome. (I had noticed that at least two of my students in that class were actually members of Angel Families themselves.) The toys, clothes, and gift cards began to arrive and this week we spent two days wrapping them all up. I couldn't believe it! We had over 30 packages for our family! It was amazing! The kids, who can't wrap much better than I can, had a blast, and we all trooped over to guidance to deliver our packages. It was nice to hear the kids' conversations this week as they talked about buying presents for other people, and not just conversations about what they wanted. We had a fun discussion on how good it feels to do something for other people, and many of them agreed that they tended to be a bit selfish. They did good.

We had pizza and a movie for the Military Support Group this week where, in addition to pizza, we offered a shoulder to one girl whose boyfriend had broken up with her that day. I loved seeing these kids, who all have a parent deployed, rally around her and help boost her up and get over the sobbing. Halfway through the afternoon she was giggling, eating pizza, and playing with a Rubik's cube. Mamma's Girl was there, and was beaming as she'd heard from mom earlier that week. Another girl got a wake up call that morning and it was her Daddy who she hadn't heard from in three months. She said it was the best day ever and the pizza was just icing on the cake!

The Christmas Store was open again this year although it may be the last year. Our very active PTO mothers are moving on to High School this next fall and there doesn't appear to be any go-getters to fill their shoes. Stocking the Christmas Store is a lot of work and requires a lot of manpower (to go to the clearance sales and buy the stuff at dirt low prices, wrap it up so it looks nice, and to man the store), plus storage. It's such a great thing for the kids, however, and many of them would come up to me with a dollar in their hand and ask permission to go to the Christmas store. Talk about empowering.

Today was a half day which can be hell on earth. It was, however, the nicest day before break we've ever had. For one, we had a lot of kids absent. I think because Christmas is during the beginning of the week, rather than the end, that many people headed out of town early. Usually we have a few absent, but today we had a lot. I think maybe ten kids showed up in my homeroom (then again, I have one suspended, one in alternative school, and one in the hospital).

After a locker clean out, the annual student/teacher volleyball game was held and I had volunteered to watch the kids who didn't get to go (admission is two canned food items for the canned food drive). I had color pages, suduko puzzles, and crosswords ready to go. They came in, sat down, colored, listened to Christmas music and were so well-behaved (surprising considering some of the characters that were there) that I was able to get all their tests graded from the day before (and they did well!)

Earlier in the week we had the kids sign up for what they wanted to do during the half day - they had a choice of game room, or three movies. The kids fixed a plate of food (many had brought in bags of chips and cookies) and went to their assigned room. They did great. They were well behaved, didn't spill anything, and weren't running around being pills. I had bought hot chocolate mix the other night (on sale for a dollar!) and made some using the microwave in my room (we had some team money to use up or lose so we bought a frig and microwave; it's in my room so we can use the excuse that I need it for science labs). The kids loved the hot chocolate and sat and watched Shrek 2 (they sang along to the songs and actually recited all the dialog which was a bit cute and freaky at the same time).

Then at the magic hour, 10:45, the bus riders were dismissed and those of us who had walkers in our rooms headed out to wave the buses goodbye. Waving the buses goodbye takes place two times a year - before Christmas break and the last day of school. It is one of my favorite traditions, and we got to introduce it to our new teachers this year. Mrs. Language loved it - she had never seen anything like it. It really is the buses start to roll out (pretty impressive anyway, considering how many roll by), the drivers lay on the horns and the kids wave at those of us along the sidewalk who are waving back at them and yelling! It's a great way to end the first semester.

And now...two weeks of rest and relaxation!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Trials and Tribulations of Technology

One of the first things I learned when I stumbled into the world of education (after a stint in the world of corporations) was that when you have a 42 year old building and 21st century technology, things don't always work.

And that's being nice.

The District is building a lot of new buildings, due to our regional population explosion, and all these new buildings come with what they term Model Classrooms. They're awesome. They have document readers, sound systems, DVD players, big fancy screens, you name it. These work wonderfully in the new buildings because the buildings are designed to handle this equipment. Last year I was one of ten teachers in our building to get a Model Classroom (because I happen to be one of the ten teachers that was considered a "tech head" by the administration). This meant that they had to fit all this fancy technology in a room that not only wasn't really wired well, but wasn't even square.

When I came back to my room that August, I discovered that all the wires and hook-ups for the Model Classroom were on one wall, and all my network wires and hubs were on another wall. This is not an ideal situation. No one has ever been able to tell me why this was done this way and everyone that walks into the room, and sees this comments on how "this doesn't make any sense." This meant that my phone and printer were on one side of the room, but my computer and document reader were on another side of the room. In addition, the only way I could get my computer hooked up to the network, was via an airport.

I put in a work order to have a network cord run through the ceiling and dropped down next to the Model Classroom wiring so I could hard wire my computer. I was told by our tech person (who shared us with 3 other buildings so you saw her maybe once a week) that "there' s no way I'm messing with that Model Classroom stuff because I don't know anything about it." Not the answer I needed. I would put in a work order every month or so and was always told that "we don't mess with that Model Classroom stuff, we'll have to contact the vendor." And it never happened.

I ran all of last year on an airport which worked okay (not great, but okay) because I had a Mac computer. It was an Apple airport. They seemed to communicate fairly well. The lab I tended to use was all Macs, so there wasn't any huge problem. Mild problems, yes, but major, no.

And then we got a new Big Wig in Technology and it was decided that we needed to be weened off of Macs and go to Windows systems and all of a sudden there were Dell computers everywhere. Our team got a lab assigned to us (which means one lab for 6 people as we share it with a special ed teacher) and it was a Dell, so when some of us with old computers were issued new ones, we could go with Dells or Macs, our choice. Mr. Social Studies and I, who were both used to Windows systems, went with the Dells. We quickly learned that most of our technology staff knew nothing about Windows operating systems or Dell computers, so we were left hanging quite a bit of the time. Not a good situation. About the only good thing I noticed was that our former tech rep apparently refused to work on Dells as well and was no longer with the District.

Keep in mind this is the same technology department who told us not to plug anything in at the beginning of the year because they'd send around "experts" to help us...and they screwed up the network.

It rapidly became apparent that running these Dell computers off of an Apple airport didn't work very well at all. Getting an internet connection was tricky in the first place, and then it tended to drop off several times during a basic 45-minute class period. This drives the kids absolutely nuts. They'd be working on something like Study Island (which is an awesome program) and they'd be in the middle of a game and they'd lose their connections. When you only have 45 minutes to do something, and you spend well over half of that trouble-shooting technology, even the kids tend to not want to use the computers. We were told by the Tech Department that we needed Cisco routers and they were on order and they were coming.

In the meantime, I was having major computer issues with my Dell. Because I was still running off an airport I was losing connections every period. My email wouldn't work. I couldn't use some of my favorite websites that I teach with, like Brainpop because the connection would be so weak, even though the airport was in my room. In order to get anything to work, I had to reboot my computer at least once a period, sometimes twice. And, yet again, I was putting in work orders to get a network cable run through the ceiling and dropped down to where I have to have my computer station because of the Model Classroom wiring. This time I actually had new tech reps who said it could be done, but it had to be done by an outside vendor and they'd put me on the list.

And then they'd close my work order saying the work was completed.

And no one ever came and fixed the problem.

So, I did another work order. And they'd close it. And another, and they'd close it. (See the pattern here?). One of them finally told me to stop doing the work orders because I was "on the list." I found out from Mrs. Talladega, who teaches our technology kids (groups of students who do some computer repairs and maintenance in the building and who, in my opinion, know quite a bit more than the tech reps actually hired by the District) that the reason they kept closing my work order was because they get in trouble when there's one there for more than 5 days. Considering I've been issuing work orders on this same problem since August of 06, I'm sure they weren't happy. Mrs. Talladega had seen all my work orders (she reviews them to see if we can solve it in-house or bump it up to District) and she was as frustrated with the situation as I was.

Finally, last week, I lost it. I couldn't show a Brainpop video for a review, I couldn't get my emails (was expecting one from a parent that was pretty important), and I had just had it. I sent Mrs. Talladega an email telling her to find a 40 foot network cord and I'd wire the damn thing myself.

The next morning I arrive at 6:15 to find the Guidance Goober (the biggest computer geek head I know) in my room, running an network cable through the ceiling for me.

"I got sick and tired of waiting for the Technology Department to do this, so I'm doing it myself, even though we aren't supposed to," he said. He had me hooked up and running by the time the kids rolled in that morning, and now I even have a phone on my desk (and not across the room). I have a good connection. I haven't had to reboot my computer a single time. I can show a Brainpop.

The Guidance Goober is a treasure. I know he's frustrated by the limitations we currently have with technology as we've both discussed blogging and wikis for the kids which is something we'd like to do in the future once we have the capability. He's actually testing out some things along these lines (on his own, mind you) and hopefully we'll be able to get something in place soon. Of course, my kids, as long as we don't have the Cisco routers which are supposed to solve all the world's problems, will still have the same connection issues I had with the airports, so I guess it's all a moot point until we can actually connect. It's frustrating.

Mrs. Talladega, The Guidance Goober, and I, however, have a little game going. We're placing bets on when the District tech people get to their "list" and actually come out to wire my room. I'm guessing April.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just How Many Points is Breathing Worth?

Up until last year Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Robin and I had the kids do a model during our cell unit. This involved making a model of a plant or animal cell out of any material the kid desired, doing a presentation, and getting a grade. For most students this was an easy 100 point assignment as they didn't have to memorize anything for a test, and they could display their creativity. We had some fantastic projects over the years and the kids, for the most part, looked forward to it.

However, there were some problems. Storage of the projects was an issue. There just isn't room in my room, or any other room, to store 100-plus projects. Kids who road the bus often had trouble getting projects to school (although I've had some creative kids actually use a tennis ball as the basis of their model and they simply tucked them into their backpacks). Many of my low-income kids used the lack of money as an excuse not to do the project since they couldn't buy supplies. I didn't consider this a valid excuse as I had such a student do his out of things he scrounged out of the wastepaper baskets at school - paper clips, a paper plate, and foil - and it was one of the best projects I ever saw. However, when we noticed that more and more parents were actually doing the projects, and not the kids, we decided we'd had enough.

It's amazing how annoyed parents get when they don't get an A on an assignment they obviously did for their kid. My favorite comment from a kid regarding this was "I told my mom the cell didn't have two nuclei, but she wouldn't listen to me." Mom didn't get an A, obviously.

We have since modified our out-of-class project assignment to an in-class project assignment. This way no one can use the "we don't have money" excuse to avoid it, the parents aren't doing it, and we can get a better idea of what our students actually know regarding cells. We feel that it's just a much better way to assess. We have them put together a four-part booklet on cells which includes a cover page and title, colored and labeled drawings of a plant cell and an animal cell, a vocabulary page which lists the organelles, their definition, their function, and an analogy for each organelle ("A mitochondria is like a power plant"), and then they go through magazines and find pictures of things that represent the organelles (a picture of a fireplace for the mitochondria, for example). We provide the construction paper, the drawing paper, the crayons, the glue, the magazines, the scissors. We also gave them three full class periods to complete their project and turn it in. Those that didn't finish in the three days had the option to finish at home and turn it in the next day.

Out of 110 kids, I had 28 that did not turn in a single thing.

Nothing. At. All.

According to the rubric, if they had turned in a scrap of paper with their name, class period, and date on it, they would have received points.

I didn't even get that from these 28 kids.

This absolutely freaking blows my mind. How in the world can you sit in a class for three solid days and have absolutely nothing, nothing at all, to show for it?

By the time I had finished grading the projects I was incensed. On Monday I printed out a progress report for a typical C student (removing all identifying information of course) and showed the kids the overall grade if this student had earned an 85 on the project. It was a respectable 82%. I then showed the same progress report if the student had turned in nothing and earned a zero. The grade dropped to a 62% which is quite a bit below our passing grade of 70%. They were silent. Some actually seemed surprised that choosing not to do a 100 point project would affect their grade. (What in the hell did they think it would do?) I told them that I could not believe that they sat in that room for three days and managed to do absolutely nothing. I had been in the room, as was Mr. T the student teacher, and witnessed them all working on their projects but obviously 28 of them didn't feel it was worth the effort to turn them in.

I asked them point blank (very quietly which scares the hell out of them because when I'm quiet, I'm usually pretty mad) what in the world they did for three days that they had nothing to show for it. At this point most of the students were staring intently at their desks to avoid eye contact. Only one student in five periods had the guts to raise his hand to answer my question.

"We were probably goofing off and not doing what we were supposed to do," he said.

Ya think?

I gave them until tomorrow to turn in their project for half credit. Grades are due and I'm cutting them off.

As of today, Thursday, not one has managed to turn in their project. If Santa brings these kids anything, let it be a work ethic.

Post script - Mrs. Eagle and I did a brief check of project turn-in percentages when we did the outside "do a model anyway you want" project, and the do it in class project. Despite the 28 that chose not to turn anything in, we have a higher turn in percentage than we did previously. Sad. On some of our other projects, where the kids get choices as some people mentioned, the turn in isn't any better. We do a lot of projects where kids get a chance to present the information in a format of their choice, and most of them chose to do a poster or, at the most, a PowerPoint. Despite giving them the option of doing a video or a website, none of us have ever had a student chose these options. Perhaps if we had video equipment at school (heck, I don't even own my own video camera) and a computer lab they could use on their own time, it might change. Hard to say. Regardless, even when given choices they are choosing not to do the work, perhaps because they know, in the end, it doesn't matter. They'll all get socially promoted anyway.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

For the Scientist in all of us.

Mrs. Eagle and I attended our first NSTA (National Science Teacher Association) convention this past week. We had been planning this since August, but still were a bit surprised when we realized that it was this past week because things have been so busy and crazy at school. Sort of like Christmas creeping up on me (I still have pumpkins on my porch.) Mr. T is done with his student teaching so I was thrilled to be back in the classroom with my kids, but disappointed that I only had three days and then I was off again to the conference in Birmingham.

In any case, we got up way early on Thursday and drove down, registered, and started hitting the sessions we'd checked off as being of interest. We had two goals for this conference - 1) get more ideas on literacy and science and 2) get ideas on the new standards we'll be teaching in two years. The state has dramatically changed our standards so we'll be losing matter and weather and gaining genetics, rocks, minerals and some earth science, and simple machines. We'll also be looking at a new textbook beginning next year so we wanted to see what was out there currently.

The sessions were, for the most part, exactly what we needed. I can honestly say that we brought away at least one good idea (often more) from each session we attended with the exception of one that was geared a lot more towards high school teachers. Some of the vendor sponsored sessions were exactly what we needed as they highlighted products we weren't currently familiar with.

And of course all the free stuff was pretty cool too.

Mrs. Eagle won a $50 forensic lab kit. I didn't win anything but we were given copies of new textbooks, t-shirts, rock sets, cotton seeds, and more. In fact, there are about 3 huge bags in the trunk of my car with all the goodies that were given out to the folks at the conference. Of course we also shopped quite a bit (who can resist a stuffed Einstein doll?) and picked up some books on simple machines, minerals, famous scientists, and more.

We noticed that one of the trends many of the book publishers were featuring were modules, rather than textbooks. We actually liked this idea because most textbooks are geared towards a single branch of science. For example, most states consider seventh grade the year that life science is taught so there's lots of life science books geared towards this grade. However, as you probably figured out, we teach a little of this, a little of that, and finding a book that is a perfect fit is a pain. However, these modules would work out really well. Each grade level could use the books in the set that works for them. We'll have to see if this idea flies when we actually go through the textbook adoption process next year.

In any case, we arrived back home on Saturday afternoon. I have a ton of laundry to do, I haven't read blogs in a week, Christmas gifts to wrap and get ready to mail out, plus cell projects to grade.

And I can't wait to see the note from my sub!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Birthday Girl

Mr. T, my student teacher, is still here so I'm spending the bulk of my time either in guidance or in the speech therapists office (she's not here all the time), acting like an administrator. Between Mr. Enforcer and I, we're able to keep on top of the discipline referrals and keep things running a bit more smoothly than they were when everything went nuts before Thanksgiving.

I was walking to Guidance to drop off a file on the Guidance Goddess' desk when I got invited to a birthday party for Mamma's Girl, a little sixth grader we have in the building. At the party were all of Mamma's Girl's sixth grade teachers, The Principal, the entire Guidance department, and the honored sixth grader. On the table was a big cake with gobs of frosting, just the thing we all need at 7:45 in the morning.

It was Mamma's Girl's twelfth birthday. I mentioned Mamma's Girl in a previous post on the Military Support Group, a club we have at school for kids who have deployed parents. She was the little girl who was beaming because she managed to forget - for five whole minutes - that her mom was in Iraq. Well, with her mother in Iraq, no father in the picture, and staying with a family friend, this wasn't looking to get a great birthday for Mamma's Girl. Her teachers have been doing a great job in looking out for her, but it's still been a rough transition for her. Nothing like moving to middle school - tough for even the most secure kid - but to have to deal with the stresses our military kids deal is just an added burden.

So, her teachers, and guidance, decided to throw her a party. Because, after all, every twelve year old needs a cake with frosting, and just a minute in the spotlight. The look on her face was priceless and she just smiled from ear to ear. If we gave her just five more minutes free from worry and missing her mom, that was truly a wonderful gift.

It's times like these, the ones that don't make the headlines and never get reported, that I wish all the critics could see.

Carnival Time!

The midway is open so check it out over at Matt-a-Matical Thinking!

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Anti-Shopper

I was born, apparently, without the shopping gene.

My mother loves to shop. Part of my annual Mother Visit to California is at least one day of shopping which I tolerate because it is, after all, only one day and Mom has much better taste than I do and I usually end up looking much better dressed after these visits. However, it still nearly gives me hives. Mother, however, is very good and always make sure we get to one yarn shop so I can get my patience back.

My cousins love to shop. They're the ones who plan and organize and scheme and get up at oh-dark-thirty to get out there and be VERY FIRST IN LINE on Black Friday. They love it. They love the excitement. They love the crowds. They love the fact that they may have actually found a deal. I would rather put a knitting needle in my eye.

I think of Black Friday as looking into the very depths of hell itself.

Which is why I about swerved off the road yesterday afternoon as we drove by the local Best Buy store and saw people pitching tents on the sidewalk outside the store.

Pitching Tents!

I can think of about a million and one things I'd rather do than sleep outside on a sidewalk in front of a store just so I can get up and be first in line to buy something. There are only two types of stores I even enjoy shopping in, book stores and yarn shops, and even then I wouldn't be camping out just to get a crack at catching alpaca yarn on sale.

My idea of shopping is to sit in bed, in my jammies, and flip through catalogs, make my choices, and then go online and buy it. I was catalog shopping before the internet, and so it was a natural progression for me to move to online shopping. It's perfect for me. No crowds. I can do it with a cat on my lap. I can take my time, enjoy a class of wine, and look for deals, all the while snuggled in my jammies. It is perfect. And I love the idea of coming home from work and finding a box on my porch.

So today I'm not going anywhere near a mall. I'm going to sit in my chair, knit, snuggle with my cats. The rest of you can do the shopping for me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Education Carnival Time

And it's also time for the Education Carnival over at NYC Educator (truly a patient soul if there ever was one)....There's tons of good stuff to read, as usual, so go check it out. I just wish that I wasn't getting home so late lately as I keep missing the submission deadlines!

Teacher Potluck Carnival

Ms. Whatsit hosts this unique carnival that combines cooking and education! Check it out!

A Very Quiet Surprise

The worst part about having a student teacher in the room is that I miss my kids. I'm not there every period to find out what's going on with their lives, to listen to them chatter, to just be there and enjoy the silliness (and oftentimes frustration) that comes with your average seventh grader.

I am getting a bit of a kid fix by working the discipline referrals. Often times these kids just want someone to listen to their side of the story (which is sometimes highly amusing and creative). The fact that they have your undivided attention is not lost on these kids. The sixth graders, in particular, will spill their guts and go on and on and on their lives, inside and outside of school. The counseling part I truly enjoy. Sadly, there are some teachers in The Building who aren't particularly patient and who write referrals for things that I'd never even consider writing a referral for, so a lot of what I've done is counsel and warn the kids not to do it again. (I'm sure I'm going to hear about it too, but hey, In School Suspension is full and detention isn't far behind..what's a girl to do? Toss them under a bus?)

Yesterday, our "Friday" since we have the rest of the week off for the Thanksgiving Holiday, I was out in the hallway by my room when they dismissed kids for the buses. Truth be told, I kind of just wanted to wish a lot of them a nice few days off from school.

I was standing there when Studious Girl walked up to me and give me a big hug and put her head on my shoulder. This surprised me a great deal because Studious Girl has maybe said all of a dozen words all year and is one of the most silent kids I've ever known. She's in my homeroom, and although she's a pretty good student, it's because she works so hard at it. She doesn't talk - to anyone - and if she has any friends, I couldn't tell you who they are. I always make a point of trying to draw her out in the mornings when she comes into homeroom, by asking her how her morning is, but the most I usually get is a smile.

And today I got a hug.

"What's this for?" I asked her, although I suspected I knew. A lot of my kids have been whining about "when are you coming back?". They like Mr. T, but they want "School Mom" back in the room.

Studious Girl just looked up at me and smiled.

"Is it because you miss me?" I asked her and she nodded her head and smiled again.

"Well I miss you too," I told her, "and I'll be back soon."

She beamed, hugged me again, grabbed her bookbag and headed for the buses.

Wow. Not a word, but volumes were in that smile and her big brown eyes.

Good Lord, I'm thankful for kids like her. It makes it worth it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Playing Principal

So, I'm standing in guidance the other day, having just finished putting the science lab together, when Mr. Enforcer comes by.

"You've got your Master's Degree, right?" he asks.

"Yeah, sure do," I reply, wondering where this was going. After all, I have the student loans to prove it.

"We're really backed up on discipline referrals, so do you think you could help out since you have a student teacher in your class?"

I took a look at the mountain of discipline referrals. He wasn't kidding. It was huge. Massive. Tottering.

"Sure, I could help out as long as someone tells me what to do. I've never done admin before."

"Meet me in my office in the morning and I'll show you the ropes. You'll be great."

So this morning I met up with Mr. Enforcer, who gave me a 5 minute lesson on how to do a referral, turned his office over to me (newly decorated and painted by his wife and The Principal as a surprise), and he took off for a meeting downtown. I had a pile of about 15 discipline files, all for tardies. Basically in The Building, three tardies earns a kid a discipline referral. It's pretty easy to work. They get 5 points in their discipline record and it's up to the administrator (which was me today) to decide what to do with them. This involves looking in their discipline file to see what they've been written up for, counseling the kid and finding out what they think the problem is, and coming to a decision. Most of the kids get your basic after school detention which really isn't a big deal at all.

I had worked one referral when all hell broke lose and the sixth graders lost their minds.

First I had a little sixth grader walk into The Enforcer's office and inform me that a girl he knew had a razor blade and was going to hurt someone.

This was not what I bargained for when I said I'd work the tardy referrals.

I told the kid that he did the right thing by reporting this and walked him across the hall to the Guidance Goddess who had him write his statement. A few minutes later she shows up at the door.

"We need to go get the kid with the razor blade out of gym and you're the only administrator I have," she says. "Mr. Enforcer is out of The Building as is Deputy Dude. The Principal and Mrs. Squirrel are in an IEP meeting with a parent. You're it kiddo." Great. So we walk to the gym, get the girl, and plop her down in guidance to cool her jets until a real administrator was free. In guidance we find three little sixth grade boys furiously writing statements. Apparently there was a fight in the boys locker room.

Oh boy.

They turned in their statements and we sent one of them, Miracle Boy (he's tiny and according to his mother, it's a miracle he's alive) to the nurse. He apparently was choked and slammed into a locker by another kid in the locker room. It fell to me to interview the victim and the two witnesses to see what happened and to get to the bottom of the incident.

The first I talked to was Miracle Boy who was, quite honestly, a laugh riot. We're talking the cutest little sixth grader on earth with freckles, curly hair, big eyes, you name it. You want to take him and hang him on a charm bracelet. It was all I could do not to laugh at some of the things that came out of his mouth. He held nothing back. He informed me that he was ADHD and did pretty good in school but by the time he gets home his meds have worn off and it was all he could do to get homework done what with the cats distracting him and all. His binder was a disaster and he loses everything, and well, that probably has to do with the missing assignments. He's disappointed that he went from being an AB honor roll kid in 5th grade to "just not doing well academically" in the sixth grade, and well, sixth grade is "just not being a good year this year." He admitted to an anger management problem, a bit of a temper, and yeah, well, he does have issues with behavior on the bus. In short, a good kid with a lot of issues, who still didn't deserve to have someone choke him and slam him into a locker.

I talked to the witnesses, neither of whom saw Miracle Boy defend himself, nor saw any reason why the perp would want to hurt him. They did mention that Perp Boy was a bit of a snot who was "always talking trash", and saying mean stuff to everyone.

By the time I finished with that little drama, Mr. Enforcer was back and I gave him a briefing and he took care of dealing with the Perp (who was, I believe, suspended). By this time The Principal and Mrs. Squirrel were dealing with Razor Blade Girl (who tossed her razor blade in the faculty bathroom trashcan where we found it) and her accomplice who sat and cried for two solid hours and finally admitted she'd brought the razor blade from home and gave it to Razor Blade Girl.

Finally. Back to tardies.

Actually the tardies were a bit amusing to work. You get the kids who oversleep ("How about setting two alarms? You have a cell phone, right? Use the alarm on that as your backup."), to the chronically social, ("How about carrying books for more than one class at a time so you don't have to go to the locker and get caught up in the drama?"), to the kids who just can't seem to get life together ("You really need to let Mr. Math know that you are having trouble with your locker.") I'd talk to them, get their side of the story (which was often highly creative), and we'd look at the problem of tardies and find a solution. Most of them either were counseled and warned, a few got two days of after school detention ("You do realize, you have been tardy 15 times this year?"), and most got one day of detention.

It was actually kind of amusing in it's own little weird way.

The part I liked the best was counseling these kids on goals and ways to solve their behavior problems. I discovered that one eighth grader was working towards going to the 8th grade dance this spring and was concerned his discipline points would prevent him from doing this. Considering that this kid had 175 points last year, and only had, as of today, 30, I'd say there was some major growth and maturity. It was nice being able to point this out to him and find out if there was a teacher who could work with him on this goal and maybe find a way to get him to the dance. The teacher he said he felt the most comfortable with was one of our new ones, a science teacher, so I emailed him and told him the story. It's nice seeing these newer teachers connect with these kids.

I had the pleasure of working a referral for one of my most troublesome kids from last year - a kid who nearly drove me, and all of us on the team, insane. You name it, he did it. His referral was for tardies, and there was another one there for talking back at Mrs. Respect. Now Mrs. Respect is just one of those people you don't talk back to. She loves the kids and does everything in the world for them, and she rarely, if ever, writes a kid a referral. If there's a referral written by her, you know it's serious. So I sat Mouthy Boy down and we talked about the tardies (which he readily admitted) and then talked about the disrespectful attitude he had towards Mrs. Respect.

"I honestly can't believe that you'd talk this rudely to her and disobey her," I told him. "She never, ever writes referrals so you really must have crossed the line."

He hung his head (something he never did last year). "Yeah, and she's my favorite teacher this year."

"You owe her an apology," I said, "And although I hate to do it, this really does warrant a day in ISS. "

"That's fair," he said.

What? Did I hear right? He said that a day in in school suspension was Fair???? Last year this kid would have gone on and on about how it wasn't his fault, he didn't deserve to get in trouble, and so forth and so on. And now he's agreeing with me and saying that his consequence is fair?

Wow. It's wonderful to watch them mature and grow up.

And I'm drinking wine tonight.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Baking Cookies for a Cause

A few months ago, when we saw that we would, yet again, have a huge number of our students with a deployed parent, the Guidance Goober asked for volunteer teachers to help run a Military Support Group. The idea was to give these kids an after school activity where they could be with other kids who were going through the same sort of thing, give them some fun things to do, and also provide a safe place to vent their fears and frustrations.

So of course Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Language and I signed up to help.

We had our first club meeting on Wednesday. It was a rainy, windy, and dreary day, but a perfect day to bake cookies. We thought it would be fun to bake Christmas cookies for the parents and also for the military unit that has adopted our school. We made gingerbread cookies and sugar cookies, and Mrs. Language brought her box of 100 different cookie cutters. I never realized that there was such a thing as a box of a 100 cookie cutters...which shows you how often I bake.

We had a pretty varied group of kids. We had quite a few sixth graders, plus some seventh graders, and one eighth grader who is also autistic. Our roster will probably expand a bit once we get the bus transportation set up with the transportation department and the kids don't have to be picked up after the club meeting.

One of the seventh graders was Too Kool, a kid who thinks he's too cool for school and who just doesn't want to do anything unless it's his idea. He was on our team originally, but was removed due to conflicts with some other kids on the team. In any case, he definitely didn't want to be there and sat away from the other kids, with his back turned. He decided that making cookies was "lame".

Fifteen minutes later after realizing that (a) there was no one in the room whom he needed to impress with his coolness and (b) that the other kids were having fun while he was sulking, he decided to join in. By the end of the afternoon he was cutting out cookies, cleaning up the pans, and putting on frosting decorations. He smiled, and giggled, and acted like a normal kid (and not a thug) for once.

The kids had a ball. They worked as a team to mix up the gingerbread cookie dough, they made beautiful art with mini M&M's, sprinkles and frosting and they didn't whine and beg to eat most of the cookies. They were awesome.

The best part of the whole afternoon for me was when one of the little sixth grade girls, after decorating a heart-shaped cookie, looked up at me and said, "Wow! I just realized that I've had fun for five whole minutes and forgot that Mom was in Iraq." She beamed.

Just giving those kids a moment of relief and peace is worth its weight in gold.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Saga of the Science Lab

When we got the new wing added to our building we ended up with a brand new science lab. This is a good thing since most of us were doing labs in our rooms, without sinks, which lead to some interesting situations. My students informed me they always knew we were having a lab day when they saw the kitty litter buckets out in my room (those buckets are awesome!).

The problem with the new science lab, aside from the fact that it's on the far side of the building and can take a lot of time to get to (which cuts into lab time), is the fact that no one has ever had time to put it together and organize it.

No one, that is, until I took it upon myself to do it while Mr. T was teaching my classes.

What prompted this seemingly altruistic act of mine was the fact that Mrs. Eagle and I got royally pissed off the other day when we went in to get our microscope lab set up. The lab was, quite simply, a disaster. Apparently a number of former eighth grade teachers simply chose to empty their cupboards and dump what they didn't want in the lab. The student council dumped things they didn't have storage for in the lab. Whomever used the lab last didn't bother to wash any of the lab equipment which is why I found two beakers solidly glued to a counter and it took over half an hour to get them pried free. (The glue was, I believe, corn syrup of an uncertain age.) The sink was full of dirty graduated cylinders, beakers, and flasks.

This was not going to fly. No one is going to use a the lab if it's a disaster, and no one is going to use a lab if they don't even know what's in there.

So I've spent, so far, three days or so getting it cleaned up and organized. Every drawer has been inventoried. Every drawer and cupboard has been labeled. Obsolete equipment is stacked where it can be disposed of by The District. I have a list of twelve items that need to be done that were never finished when the original construction took place, simple things like making sure there is hot water to one of the sinks, we have paper towel dispensers installed, that the eye flush sign be posted, and so forth and so on.

I have found some interesting things in the lab. There are two stainless steel sinks that belong...somewhere. However, all the sinks in the lab are complete, so who knows where these go (another school?). I found two computer tables that someone dumped in there, along with a dozen rolling chairs that someone also apparently didn't want. I found a tub of frogs that have been there since who knows when. There are also two portable sinks and work stations in the lab that really need to be out in the classrooms. Well, since none of the 6th grade teachers want them (I asked) and the 8th grade teachers have water and sinks as they're in the new part of the building, it looks like Mrs. Robin and I will be moving these to our rooms; Mrs. Eagle's room is in the old science lab from 40 years ago so she has sinks and water.

For the record, rolling chairs and middle schoolers are two things that don't need to be anywhere near each other. Whomever decided that we needed rolling chairs has obviously never taught middle school before.

I am also writing a procedures page for our teacher manual on how to use the lab. Simple, common sense things like CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF. I am just astounded at how filthy some of the equipment was, especially the stuff tossed into the sink. However, the two science teachers that left last year were not known for cleaning up the lab, so I suspect they were the culprits when it came to the dirty, sticky equipment. Thankfully we have two new teachers who will be getting with me later this week so I can show them all the cool goodies we have ("Look, bunsen burners!") and go over the proper procedures to use the lab.

Hopefully this means that the lab will, finally, get used like it should be. And if I catch anyone being a slovenly pig in there I'm going to go a little but nuts.

Friday, November 09, 2007

They also serve

I teach in a military town, so Veteran's Day is a big deal here. Many members of the community are veterans (many come here to retire), and we always have a big Veteran's Day parade downtown. The School also has a ceremony every year to mark the occasion.

And we do it up right.

The band plays patriotic medleys. The chorus sings some wonderful patriotic songs and our music teacher sings the National Anthem (she's amazing). We have the school winner of the Veteran's Day essay contest read his or her essay, we have some honored guests from our local military post, and we have a veteran guest speaker. One of our own teachers, also a veteran, acts as emcee because when he retires he better go into preachin', he's that good. Talk about motivational. We also honor all the faculty and staff (and there's quite a few including Mrs. Eagle, Mr. Enforcer, and Mr. Social Studies) who are veterans.

This year, however, we added a little twist. Those of us on the committee wanted all the students who currently have a parent deployed to have a bit of recognition as well. They all got American flags when they got to sixth period, and they brought them to the ceremony.

First, we had faculty and staff who had a child or spouse deployed stand up to be recognized. Again, quite a few. The kids screamed and cheered.

Then Mrs. Numbers, the sixth grade math teacher who puts this together every year, asked the kids if they knew why they got flags. "Because my Dad is in Afghanistan!" came one voice, followed by "My mom is in Iraq!", and pretty soon a chorus of "Mine too!" followed . And then, her voice breaking, she had the kids with the flags, the ones who currently have a parent serving overseas, stand up and wave their flags. Approximately 200 kids stood up and many of us who teach this kids got a tear in our eye.

And the place erupted into clapping and cheering and stamping and hollering as their classmates acknowledged that these kids, in their own way, serve as well.

Because it sucks to be a middle schooler in the first place. But to be a middle schooler, with the added weight of having a parent serving overseas, and missing them and worrying about them, sucks even more.

And I was so proud of both groups of kids - my stoic little military "brats", and their classmates who showed they cared. It was the perfect way to end the week.

To all my veteran readers out there - thank you.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Flying Solo

Mr. T, my student teacher, is flying solo this week.

Which means I'm just about bored out of my mind.

He's doing fine. His content knowledge is excellent. He has good rapport with the kids. He listens well and takes advice to heart. He acknowledges that he has issues with planning and organization but he's already improved in that area. He's also learning that a 45 minute period flies by faster than lightning.

I turned him lose yesterday, although I was in the room most of the day - just in case - but today, after first period, I left him alone. He did pretty well. He did say that 5th period was a bit noisy and ill-mannered (and amazingly enough, I guessed which table was the culprit), so he's going to move some seats and write some behavior notes tomorrow. He's very good at getting the kids quiet for the most part, and commands respect.

The hardest thing for me is finding something to do while I'm exiled, so to speak, from my room. I spent time today in guidance getting some paperwork done for some new kids I need to s-team, plus some follow-ups. I read my new issue of Science Scope, graded some papers, and stayed awake. I'm going to spend tomorrow and possibly Friday cleaning up and organizing our science lab, and writing a page for the teacher handbook on how to use the lab. Nothing elaborate, just simple things like making sure you clean up after yourself. (That's another rant for another time). Guidance asked if I could help administer some skills inventory tests next week to the eighth graders. I've also brought some reading along and, tucked into my bag, some knitting. I may work on a Wiki we have here on our school site, and maybe work on a grant to get some new books for our science library and maybe some iPods for a podcasting idea Mrs. Eagle and I are tossing around.

But I do miss seeing the kids every day. So I tend to be in the hallway when classes switch, because I need my fix. I need to know how they're doing, if things are going okay, if they're having a good day or a bad day, or if they just need a smile.

I guess I'm too much of a mother hen at times.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Carnival Time!

And speaking of festivals...head over to the Science Goddess and check out the Haunted Education Carnival.


I'd Like Some Green Hair Please

We had our Fall Festival last night.

I am so freaking tired I can hardly see straight. Still.

Talk about a long day...I arrived at 6:30 am, left at 8:30 pm...and was on my feet most of that time. One thing they don't teach you in Teacher School is that you'll be on your feet a lot and the value of Very Good Shoes.


Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Language, and I, as sponsors of the Chess and Board Game Club, decided we'd run a booth at the Festival which was, amazingly, put together in about two weeks when we found out that the PTO decided they didn't have the manpower or support to do it on their own this year. The Jr. Civitan club and Student Council stepped up as did a few of the other clubs and even some teachers who aren't club sponsors. (For example, our new Miss Reading bravely hosted the karaoke booth.) We decided we were going to do the "hair and nail salon" which involved spraying colored spray into kids' hair, using colored gel to make spikes and mohawks, and do weird colored manicures. Kids could buy tickets for fifty cents a piece and go to all sorts of events - cake walk, 2 liter soda pop ring toss (hugely popular), bean bag toss, and more. We also had a craft show and a silent auction for the adults.

The three of us were busy for two solid hours making our students look even stranger than they normally are. Even at one dollar per "beauty treatment" we had lines 2-3 kids deep waiting to sit down and get beautified. We had boys come and get their nails painted metallic blue and black and then ask for red and blue mohawk spikes. Girls got red, white and blue stripes in their hair, with orange nails and black tips. Want glitter gel in your hair? We got you covered. Green stripes? No problem. Want an all over bright pink spray? Sit down and we'll take care of you.

Amazing what middle schoolers like, isn't it?

Maybe that's what makes them so much fun.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

It's My Party, I'll Buy Cookies if I Want to!

Our big fall festival is tomorrow, with the traditional Medieval theme, so we've been doing fun Medieval history stuff with our third period class, which happens to also be our Skills Class. (Skills Class is a 25 minute block of time, where we work with these kids on checking agendas, organizing binders, and character education stuff.) One of the things we did was to make a class banner or coat of arms.

Since I've taught a class on heraldry at summer camp, I pulled my collection of books out (with lots of gorgeous pictures) and using my document reader showed the kids different patterns and designs. They decided they wanted to do one in school colors (red, white, blue) and make a pinwheel design. It was also decided that each of the seven lab groups would come up with symbols that represented their group and we'd put a symbol on each of the eight pinwheels. There was an extra pinwheel and they insisted that since it was my class, I needed to do a symbol too (I did an apple). We also thought it would be neat to make the symbols out of craft foam (which I bought for them) so it would have a neat 3-D look. We also got smart and printed off graphics of some of the designs (like my apple because I can't draw) and used those as templates.

The kids spent quite a bit of time on this, discussing their symbols, choosing the colors, making the pinwheel part of the banner. They worked great together and really got into the spirit of the thing. Even my severely ADHD kid, Scrawny Boy, worked diligently and was a huge reason the shield got done in time as he was one of the kids who worked on the pinwheel (which seemed to have been the most difficult part). The kids took the choice of their symbols very seriously, discussing and coming to agreements over what they wanted. We had one that was had a basketball hoop, a softball and a gymnast, for my table of athletic girls. We had a dragon for the table that has the kids that are into fantasy and comics. Another table chose a stylized cross (these kids loved hearing about the Crusades) and a heart. It was just so cool to see them work on this so hard.

And we were so sure we would win the prize for the best banner. The kids were pumped! Being a science teacher, I have all sorts of weird odds and ends in my cupboards, so we found some things to add to the banner. We added some silvery cloth to drape over the top, and a bit of cord (made out of kite string), and hung it up along with an explanation about how we arrived at the design and what it meant.

We didn't win.

There was a tie between two other seventh grade classes (Mrs. Reading and Mrs. Robin). When the kids came to their lockers they were downcast and disappointed. They had worked so hard and weren't going to get the donut party the winners were going to get. I felt so bad for them because they really put their hearts into this. Every kid participated, every kid put forth a lot of themselves in choosing their symbols, and I had never been as proud of them as I was this past week. What I saw in my room is what we want to see when kids cooperate and come up with a creative solution to a problem. It was magic.

So, I was at Sam's Club this afternoon, picking up a prescription, and I saw these plastic boxes of cookies just sitting there. And I thought, "you know what, these kids deserve a party even if they didn't win."

So I bought two boxes of cookies and we're going to have our own reward party tomorrow, just because they deserve it and because they are such great kids!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mr. T Comes to Town

I have a student teacher.

I wasn't expecting a student teacher - at all - and had agreed to have an observer from The University come and observe. I've had a bunch of observers the past few years so that's pretty much a no-brainer. However, someone at The University apparently can't count and handed off two student teachers to one of our sixth grade science teachers.

We have two new science teachers in eighth grade, and our one senior science teacher up there is probably going out for back surgery soon. So eighth grade was out of the question. The other two sixth grade science teachers were also relatively new (just two years experience), so they weren't an option. That left seventh grade. Mrs. Eagle had a student teacher last year, and Mrs. Robin, with her husband deployed and her two kids being a complete handful, just wasn't up to adding one more thing to her life, so that left me. I'd actually considered taking one in the past, but never pursued it, so I guess now it was my time.

Mr. T just finished student teaching High School Biology and since we are heading off into the cell unit, it's a great time for him to come. He spent today observing and I had him helping do a few things today. So far, so good. His University teacher said he needs work on organization and planning, and since those are two of my strong points he'll be getting a lot of exposure in that area.

Of course, today being a full moon, we had more than our share of drama. First, we had rumors of a girl fight pending, and Mr. Social Studies and I spent some time with kids in the hallway getting to the bottom of it. Mr. Social Studies, by the way, is a master at getting kids to spill their guts to him. It must be his experience in the military as a police officer, but all he has to do is give them a look and they're telling him their life story and confessing to crimes they haven't even thought of yet. He whips out his memo pad, takes down the information, and we turn it over to administration. I ended up giving one of my boys, Puppy Boy, a coupon for a treat at the snack shack for next Friday as he did the right thing by letting us know about the details of the proposed fight, and didn't do the popular thing and keep quiet.

Then we had the 8th grade rumor mill going strong which sent two of my girls from last year down to my room in tears looking for some "mommy time". They came by on their way back from lunch to let me know that one of our boys was in the hospital with meningitis and was going to die or lose a leg or something. Apparently the rumor was spreading like fire and the whole 8th grade was in an uproar. I told them I'd find out what was going on but not to believe anything until an adult told them. They wanted hugs and cried a bit more and then I sent them on their way with tardy slips. Seems that the young man in question simply had a bad case of the flu, went to the hospital because he was so dehydrated, and now was home.

Mr. T asks me if it's always this dramatic in seventh grade. I informed him that it wasn't always, but it being a Friday and a full moon, you just never know.

Like I've always said, I quit watching soap operas when I began to teach middle school because I have all the drama I can stand in my life.

However, it's going to be hard for me to step back and let someone else take charge of my kids, but as Mr. Enforcer said, "It's still your class." This is, most likely, going to be a learning experience for me as well.

And I'm so freaking tired I glad it's Friday.

Momma Bird is Back in the Nest

Momma Bluebird called today to let me know that she and Kitty are safely back home. They don't have any water, but as far as she is concerned, that's not an issue at this point. She'd been away from home since Sunday night and they were both ready for familiar surroundings. She did manage to leave the shelter on Wednesday after finally hooking up with her "California family", all of whom seemed to have ended up scattering with the wind when the evacuation order was issued and everything got crazy.

As an aside, it's kind of hard to explain relationships when it comes to Momma Bird. We don't come from a huge family so we tend to adopt people. Good friends become family, in other words. Mom's California Family consists of Beauty and her husband Beast, along with Beauty's Mom, Pam, and daughters Kolleen (who turned seven yesterday) and Baby Gracie who was born earlier this month. I love these folks because they are just wonderful people and they take care of my Momma Bird when I'm so far away and can't do it myself.

It sounds like Pam had the roughest time, having hauled Scooter, the horse, and her dogs to Del Mar. She slept in her truck the entire time and didn't get a shower, or much food, while she was camping out at the fairgrounds. She also had vehicle trouble which didn't help any. Beauty and the kids evacuated four different times before she ended up with Mom at her brother's. Beast stayed up at the house, along with his antique firetruck with a Very Big Tank.

But everyone is home, they're all safe, and Kitty, at last is very, very happy.

Carnival Time!

Put your worries aside, grade those papers later, and head over to the Education Carnival. Yet again, Elementary History Teacher does a fantastic job!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Quote of the Day

From Momma Bluebird who is staying in a Red Cross Evacuation Shelter somewhere in San Diego.

"It's not bad, kind of like a slumber party with 1200 other people."

At least she can see the humor in the chaos. She's still at the shelter she made it to on Sunday night. The National Guard came in to drop off cots for everyone and in the process split the gym into a family side and a senior citizen side (from news reports this shelter has a significant number of seniors). She said that made it a lot nicer without toys and kids all over the place. She reports that the school is clean, and they have plenty of good food to eat. She is spending most of her time in the shade of a tree with Kitty in her kennel, knitting. Knowing her, she'll be starting a knitting group her shortly.

Her house, according to the Former Fire Chief Neighbor, is still standing along with the others on the long as the wind doesn't change direction and the fire roars back on its tracks.

To all my readers who's sent their prayers and support - you guys are the best. Thanks so much!!! And if you feel so inclined, drop a donation to the Red Cross as they do a fantastic job in situations like this!

Monday, October 22, 2007

There's More Out There Than Malibu

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not overly impressed with celebrities. Perhaps it has to do with growing up in the L.A. area where every waiter was really an actor, where parents of classmates made their living in the film industry, and where you get so sick of hearing about celebrities that you want to hurl.

So I would like to remind my dear readers that, when it comes to the horrific fires in California, there are many people who aren't millionaires who are doing their share of suffering.

People like Momma Bluebird.

Momma Bluebird is retired and lives in a charming little cowboy town called Ramona, in San Diego County. This is a town with Title I schools, with residents who barely make minimum wage, with retirees and veterans who've saved to retire out here, and a few folks who have the money to live in Country Estates. (Keep in mind that a "half a million dollar" house in this area is equal to about $200,000 in most of the country.) Momma Bluebird tutors at a local school with kids who probably wouldn't get a meal if it wasn't for the nutrition department of the local school.

I knew when the Santa Anas were setting off fires in Malibu that it was simply a matter of time before Mom was affected. Four years ago the Cedar fire ran through her area and she was darned lucky she didn't lose her house (some neighbors did). By mid-afternoon Momma Bird had called and said that their luck had worn out, that there was a fire between Ramona and Julian and she was packing - just in case. Later that evening they were given a mandatory evacuation order and she packed up Kitty and headed out. (I have to give a big cyber-hug to her neighbor, the retired fire chief, who made sure she was okay, packed and had him follow his family out the single road that gets you out of her neighborhood. What a guy.)

She headed into Ramona to her friend's house, where she rode out the Cedar fire, only to get there in time to find out the whole town was being evacuated. Her friend loaded up her dogs and horses and headed out to Del Mar (this is a very horsey area), and Momma Bluebird found her way to a Red Cross Shelter. She's lost track of most of her other friends so it's just Kitty and Momma Bluebird (and her knitting) right now hanging out at the shelter.

She said it's a little weird and there's "people like your student Scratchy here." Great. She does have a cot, thanks to the National Guard, and a place to stay, thankfully. One of my old college sorority sisters emailed me and offered her a place to stay in Laguna but Momma Bluebird is afraid to leave because they keep closing roads and she doesn't want to get stuck anywhere.


So I'm here in My Beloved South, trying to teach my kids and worrying about my Momma Bluebird at the same time. Rough Day for me, but worse for her.

Keep all these folks in your prayers. They aren't all rich and famous celebrities...many are hard working blue collar folks who live pay check to pay check. And now, they might be burned out.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Things You Wish You Hadn't Heard

Mrs. Math relates the following conversation she had with one of our students, Quiet Girl, while she was checking agendas this week.

"Quiet Girl, you really need to make sure your mother checks and signs your agenda every night," says Mrs. Math. "You mother didn't sign it for the Friday before Fall Break."

"I know," says Quiet Girl with her eyes downcast. "I'm sorry, but mom spent the entire break drunk so I couldn't get her to sign it."

"Oh," says Mrs. Math.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Carnival Time!

Go visit the Education Wonks and check out this weeks' Carnival!!!

Disappearing Act

Scratchy had a very bad Tuesday.

He arrived mad because kids were yelling on the bus. We've noticed that he has issues with noise, which isn't surprising considering this is a kid who also hears voices in his head. During First Period he got mad at the kids that sat near him. During Second Period he again showed his intolerance for noise by screaming at the kids in social studies class to "Shut Up! Be Quiet!". He didn't have too much trouble in my class, although he did a lot of squirming, pencil tapping, wiggling, and scratching. (His legs are covered with scabs and bites.) After lunch he got mad at kids in his Fourth period and yelled at them. By this time Mrs. Math could see that he was rapidly reaching his breaking point and sent him to see the Guidance Mom.

Guidance Mom had him write down what was bothering him, which he did. He also drew a picture of how he felt. The picture was of a huge head with fire and flames coming out of the top and the words "explode!" written across the bottom. If that wasn't enough he proceeded to tear apart the stress ball that the Guidance Mom has had for years. He completely shredded it, pulled the stuffing out, and tore every piece apart. Hundreds of kids have used that ball to relieve stress and anxiety and he's the only one who managed to completely destroy it. She kept the pieces to add to the growing pile of documentation we have on this kid who so badly needs to get tested and identified as emotionally disturbed so he can receive some help!

On Wednesday he did not come to school.

On Wednesday afternoon his mother's boyfriend, who Scratchy and Mom were living with (he's also the parent of another student at our school), called Guidance Mom to let her know that he was concerned about Scratchy because he and Scratchy Mom had had a huge fight and she had packed and moved out, taking Scratchy with her. Guidance Mom, who had been trying for three weeks to get his mother to call us to set up a meeting, asked if he had any forwarding information (especially since the cell number she gave us was his). He said that she had another "friend" a county or so away and may be there. That was it.

He was absent again today.

We probably won't even get a phone call from Mom to withdraw him and will have to wait for another school to contact us for records to find out where he ended up. That school will be his fourth school this year. And, like us, they'll have to go through all the hoops before he can get tested and, most likely, Mom will be off with another boyfriend and he'll be whisked off to another school before his testing happens. And on the cycle goes. He will not get help.

Unless something drastic happens.

And that scares me like you wouldn't believe.

Friday Update: As we suspected, Mom didn't bother to withdraw Scratchy, but showed up at his new school and tried to enroll him. She was apparently royally *pissed* that she actually had to follow the rules in regards to paperwork. Fortunately he is still in the district, so Guidance Mom is going to call over there on Monday and give the guidance folks at his new school the head's up and see if she can get them to test him ASAP without going through all the paperwork B.S. Hopefully this will happen and he will be able to get the help he so desperately needs.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fall Break ends with a Jolt...or not.

This morning I walk into my room after a delicious week off, and start getting geared up for the day. Turn on the computer, check mail, print out a homework helper sheet, write classwork and homework on the board...and realize that I haven't heard the printer hum.

So, I go over, check the printer and it's not on. Weird. I could have sworn I turned it on. I flip the on button again. Nothing. And then I notice that my phone is not on, and there's no power to my hub. It appears that everything on one side of the room has no power, whereas everything in the rest of the room is fine. However, the items without power include my LCD projector and the sound system I use with my microphone.

This is not a good way to start a Monday, let alone a Monday after break.

I go up and inform The Secretary and The Head Janitor of the problem. Pretty soon Mr. Social Studies comes in and notices that he's lacking power in parts of his room as well. This was followed a short while later by Miss Reading who has the same lack of power.


Technology is awesome, but when there's no power, it's time to punt. Mr. Social Studies got creative with extension cords. I figured I could survive the day without dangling wires all over the place, so instead of having the kids listen to the audio CD of the book for the chapter we are working on, I read to them, and they did their post-it notes on the reading. After that was finished, we had a foldable to do on levels of organization (cells, tissues, organs, etc) which posed some challenges as the document reader wasn't working. However, my big screw up the last day before break when I made too many copies of the foldable helper sheets for my special ed kids turned out to be a blessing. I had enough copies that each table got two and they could copy the notes from the helper sheets, rather than from the screen as I walked them through the topic and did the foldable.

Fortunately, they got The District Electricians in rather quickly. The drawback is they walk into the room while you're teaching and are infinitely more interesting than anything I could possibly be doing. Besides, their cell phones kept going off - loudly - which got the kids even more intrigued. They were a bit disappointed that the ringing belonged to an adult's cell phone, and not one of their classmates, which would have meant a mandatory seizure and write-up.

The problem was fixed, thankfully, by the beginning of third period. Apparently, someone in another classroom down the hall had jammed something into a socket and it shorted out the entire wall. It's a wonder we didn't burn down the building.

So can any of you guess what happened later this day, after I got home and was getting supper ready?

Yup, power outage. For an hour and a half.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Yes, Virginia, Teachers do like Prog Rock Music

As Mr. Bluebird is working for a client for the next few months, we didn't make any travel plans for fall break. That's not to say, however, that we aren't doing a few fun things this week while I'm off.

Like going to Nashville to see Our Absolute Favorite Band in the Universe, Porcupine Tree.

Now most of you are going, "who?" because progressive rock bands get very little attention here in the U.S. and very few people have heard of this fantastic band from the U.K. (although one of the members is actually from Tampa). If you're into the Prog Rock scene, you pretty much have to find out about new bands through online sites, the awesome British magazine, Classic Rock, and other prog fans. Porcupine Tree is not a new band, they've been around for quite a few years, but they don't seem to tour the U.S. that often and the rarely every get anywhere in The South, outside of Atlanta.

So when hubby and I saw they were going to be in Nashville, we snapped up tickets right away. And the bonus was that it was during my break so I wouldn't have to take a personal day in order to recover from the show. (I'm used to being in bed by nine so a concert that begins at eight is pushing it for me.)

Talk about a fantastic evening. The show was everything I had hoped it would be and more. The venue, a relatively new club called City Hall, is just the right size, well ventilated (I hate hot and stuffy clubs) and the sound system was outstanding. Hubby and I had the absolute best time, the band was brilliant, and all in all we couldn't have hoped for more.

We had a lot of fun meeting with and mingling with other Tree fans (there are no seats, you simply stand around and chat with folks until the music begins) who are generally some of the nicest folks around. If I were still single, this would have been a great place to meet guys because you usually see a 10 to 1 ratio of guys to girls at prog concerts. (I have never figured out why more women don't like progressive rock, but maybe I'm just weird.) Many of the folks we met thought it was great that I was "passing the torch" by playing my Porcupine Tree CD's for my students.

My kids, by the way, absolutely love this band once I start playing it for them. It is unlike anything they've ever heard before.

Which is probably why I love them as well. Fantastic! I'd go see them again in a heartbeat!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Fall Break!!! Shadowbox, And Random Thoughts

It's Fall Break!

It seems weird because this first nine weeks of school have gone by so fast. Amazingly fast. And, interesting enough, we're in the middle of yet another heat wave so it's warmer now, during Fall Break, than it was last year during Spring Break. (The Spring Break where it got to 18 degrees overnight).

Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Robin and I decided to have some fun with the kids on Friday by taking them outside to run off some energy. We're just starting in on our body systems unit so we did a quick Brainpop on body systems, sat quietly and made observations on our respiratory system and heart rate and then took them out to run around and notice changes. The kids loved it.

Scratchy Boy, of course, didn't participate and chose to stand off to the side and either swat at bugs or engage in an imaginary sword fight with an unseen foe. I'm not sure, but I think he won the battle.

Two kids managed to kick one football and one soccer ball onto the roof of the recreation center across the parking lot from The School. Sigh. I had just bought these a month or so ago and this was the first time that they'd been used. I figured they were lost forever. I mentioned this to the Guidance Goddess and half an hour later she shows up with my missing football and soccer ball. Stunned, I asked her how she managed to get them back. "I know people," she said. She certainly does!

Hubby and I left as soon as I got home from school to head up to Columbus, Ohio to see some of our good friends and to do some business for hubby. It's a long drive, but worth it. While there we went to our favorite entertainment venue, Shadowbox Cabaret. If you live anywhere in Ohio, and even if you don't, this place is worth the drive. It combines rock music with sketch comedy and is probably the best entertainment value around. Honestly, I've never attended a show where I didn't laugh so hard that I was in tears. The food is great, the atmosphere is fun, and the talent of the cast members if amazing. Go there!

So, what am I doing for Fall Break? Let's see, going to a concert tomorrow with Hubby, grading papers (yes, I brought work home), hopefully painting my deck if the weather cools down, and just getting stuff done around the house and yard.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Carnival Time!

It's that time again - time for the every delightful Education Carnival! Check it out!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

When a School Becomes a Mental Health Facility

One thing about teaching in a public school is that you get kids from all facets of society. You get kids who have two loving parents, and kids who have parents who would be hard pressed to give an accurate description of their child should he or she turn up missing. You have kids with clean clothing, and kids who are in desperate need of a bath and some clean laundry. Nice kids, mean kids, spoiled kids, ignored kids, abused kids, adored kids - you name it and we've probably seen a kid like that walk through our doors at one time or another.


I have never, in my life, seen so many kids with so many mental issues as I've seen this year.

We have a kid who proudly proclaims that he's on meds because he's bi-polar and that although he did threaten suicide last year and spent a week in a hospital, he's doing much better this year. He's not kidding, Mom has been very up front with us about his issues.

We have another kid, also bi-polar, who arrived with a supportive but overwhelmed mother and two inches of paperwork from the mental hospital she spent most of the summer with due to her suicide threats. This one has a problem with anger, authority, and generally dealing with life, and has already landed in alternative school. It's sad, because when she's doing well, she's a sweet kid who's actually quite smart, but when the demons take hold, watch out.

And then we got Scratchy Boy.

Scratchy Boy arrived two weeks ago and we support-teamed him that first day. We were his third school in six weeks. Mom moves a lot due to her job and now she and Scratchy are living with her current boyfriend. Scratchy hasn't been at any one school, here and in other states, for more than several months at a time. Consequently, he hasn't been anywhere long enough to get tested and identified as emotionally disturbed, and therefore isn't receiving any kind of help for his problems.

And he has problems. Oh, does he have problems.

The notes in his file were scary enough - "hears voices in his head", "damages property", "bangs head repeatedly on wall when frustrated", "violent outbursts" - quite honestly, it looked like we had the makings for schizophrenia on our hands.

He endeared himself to his classmates by rapidly running his hands back and forth across his head and screaming "It's snowing!" as the dandruff flew. He scratched and itched and scratched at flea bites so bad that we were sending him to the nurse twice a day to try to see if there was anything she could do to get him to stop scratching until he bled. He steals things from other children (and was a bit upset when I caught him in the act). He refuses to do any work whatsoever. None. Nada. He won't even put his name on a piece of paper. He will, however, hum, play with pens, draw his cartoons, tap his pencil, rock back and forth, mutter, kick at chairs and yell at tablemates for no reason whatsoever. (I have him sitting with the two most patient kids on earth, bless their hearts). Today he pulled his shirt up over his head, tucked his arms in to his side, and assumed a fetal position for most of class.

At least he was quiet.

This kid needs help. Badly. The other students pretty much leave him alone because, as one of them told me, "Scratchy is weird and he's scary." He's gaining nothing by being in our classrooms and he's certainly not getting any treatment for the demons that are attacking his mind. However, he has to be in our rooms, with our other students, until we go through the long and tedious process to get him tested and identified as emotionally disturbed so he can be placed in the ED unit and receive help.

I've seen this process take over six months.

I think it's criminal to put a kid like this in a regular ed classroom. He's receiving no benefit from being there - he needs drastic psychological help and he's not receiving it. He's disrupting the class and quite frankly, frightening some of the other kids in the room. Who's to say that one day his violent outbursts won't involve another student? What then? Do the other parents know that by law, until we get this kid identified, or until he ends up in jail or alternative school, he's there in the classroom with their kids?

And what is it about our society that we're seeing more and more of these kids walking through our doors?

Friday, September 28, 2007

What? You Mean We Actually Get an Aide?

Our school this year is blessed, for the first time, with an aide for each team. That's nine new aides hired this year and some of us are still pinching ourselves to make sure it's real. I guess they're lucky we aren't pinching the aides just to make sure we aren't hallucinating. We used to go to these silly workshops where they would teach us "how to work with your aide" and we all used to roll our eyes and snort, "what freaking aide?" under our breath. But now, amazingly enough, we have real honest to goodness aides.

Our Aide, Mr. Title, has been around the building a few years, mainly as a long-term substitute. He's a delightful young man with INFINITE patience. You have to have infinite patience to deal with some of the characters he spends most of his day working with. He spends his day focusing on a core group of kids that have been targeted as our most at-risk. Most of these kids were non-academically promoted last year and are, yet again, struggling this year. They aren't special education, but have other issues - usually a lack of motivation and a home life that isn't the most supportive (just to be nice).

Mr. Title usually comes to my fifth period class. My fifth period class is one of my smallest, with 19 kids (I know, that's another story - our class sizes have dropped), but it's definitely my lowest. I just input grades yesterday and noticed that my highest grade for 5th period is a C. I have eleven students failing that class. In the five years I have been at The School, I have never had a class that consistently low (and the one special education student in that class is one of my top students). I am giving modified tests and quizzes to over half the kids in this class and they're still failing.

Mr. Title has, at times, shown a few cracks in his armor of Infinite Patience. For example, the Big Homework Issue. Out of the nine kids on the team that have his study skills class later in the day, only one of them turned in homework last week. The other eight laid a big ol' goose egg. Again.

Now this year, I have most of my kids turning in homework. In fact, so few of them are NOT turning in homework that both Mr. Social Studies and I actually have the time to email or call the parents of the few who consistently don't perform in this area. Homework for the seventh grade science teachers is so easy it's ridiculous. They get four assignments on Monday, chose which two they want to do, and turn them in on Friday. It gets even easier...we actually have available on the work table, in sheet protectors, the keys to the homework so that kids can check their work - and gasp! copy - if need be. (The reasoning behind this is another post I'll do soon). So, in reality, there's no reason why anyone should not be turning in homework.

Unless you're nothing but an unmotivated slug.

Mr. Title checked with me again today about whether or not his eight slugs managed to get their homework turned in from the previous week (I said I'd take partial credit). When I told him that not one had bothered, he looked like he was going to bang his head into the closest wall.

"Good gracious, your homework is so easy it's insane! How can they not be turning it in?"

Ah, the million dollar question, isn't it?

Interestingly enough, I've already taken most of these students to the support team and one thing I found in the files was that nearly all of them had family histories of drug and alcohol problems and/or parents who's highest educational level attained was either ninth or tenth grade.

A connection?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Carnival Time!

It's time once again for the ever thoughtful Education Carnival. Swing on over to Global Citizenship in a Virtual World and spend some time!

Monday, September 24, 2007

When Good Kids Go Bad...or the Tale of Pout Boy

We have a kid on our team I'll call Pout Boy. He's a good kid, from a very solid, good family with parents who care and who want the best for him. He's very capable of being a solid B student, if not better, and is usually pleasant and respectful.


Pout Boy wants to be bad. Pout Boy, within minutes of arriving at school on the first day, gravitated towards the kids on our team who are not, even in the best of times, good influences. He wants to hang out with the kids who are on the road (if they aren't there already) to careers in gang-banging. His idols are the kids who are non-academically promoted, kids who end up in alternative school, and kids who find themselves expelled.

So, he hasn't been doing homework, for anyone, isn't studying for tests, and basically is failing this grading period. He and his buddies are also tardy to classes (by quite a lot, which prompted us to have the SRO do a cruise of the boy's bathrooms to make sure they weren't up to some mischief.) All of which prompted Dad to come visit Friday (without Pout Boy's knowledge) to find out what's going on.

Dad apparently saw quite a lot and what he saw didn't make him happy. At all. So, again, without Pout Boy's knowledge, he had the Guidance Goober work with Pout Boy and requested that his schedule be changed so he has no classes with his new found friends, and we had his locker moved to another location as well. Guidance Goober did his best but Pout Boy just didn't see what the big deal was, didn't care that he was failing, and generally didn't seem to care that his parents were at their wits' ends.

Dad didn't want Pout Boy to know it was really his idea about the schedule change, and didn't say a word to him about it over the weekend. Pout Boy arrives in my homeroom, Guidance Goober calls him to his office to let him know his new schedule and all hell breaks loose. Apparently Pout Boy was rude and disrespectful to Guidance Goober, and proceeded to spend the entire day being disruptive, rude, and disrespectful to anyone and everyone. He told Guidance Mom that he thought his teachers had all conspired to mess with him and he hated us one and all.

He was, in a word, MAD. Furious. Absolutely beside himself because his schedule got changed. Now, in my five years at The School, I've seen a lot of schedule changes, for a variety of reasons, and I have never ever seen a kid make such a big nasty deal about it. Honestly, by the time he arrived back in my fourth period class (about 4 hours after he found out his schedule was changed) he was still furious. He slammed his books down, sulked, pouted, refused to work, rapped his pencil on the table loudly, refused to stop when I asked him to (he was driving his new table mate, Bird Boy - I've never seen this little fellow ever sit in a chair, he always perches - batty). The third time he refused he got a behavior note. When it still didn't stop, I made him stand in a corner where he pouted the rest of the period.

All he had to say for himself was "I don't care." Every warning was met with "I don't care." I finally told him, "Frankly, I don't care if you're mad at the world either, but you have no right to rob your classmates of a chance to review for their test because you're having an attitude issue. You're nothing but a time thief if that's how you're going to behave." What I really wanted to saw was, "Oh, grow the hell up and get over it. "

I then proceeded to email his father, which was met with another "I don't care."

We have a meeting, again, with Dad tomorrow. It should be interesting to see how that goes. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if his parents didn't pull him out and either home school him or send him to a private school, just to get him away from the types of friends he's so bound and determined to associate with.

I do have to give my Fourth Period class credit, however. They were not impressed with his antics and looked at him with these expressions of "Jeez, get over it and grow the hell up," when he was doing his sulking, pouting, and pencil rapping. If he thought he was being a big, cool, bad boy, then he failed miserably.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

And just how do they manage to cross the street?

On Friday we had a quiz over compounds and elements. It's a pretty basic quiz about the eight compounds and elements that The State says my seventh graders need to know. Basically we want them to recognize them by both name and chemical symbol(s) and to tell if they're an element or a compound just by looking at them. Piece of cake.

So, before the quiz, I put a copy of it on the overhead and walked them through it by reading the directions and pointing out the different sections. In one section they give me the name of the compound or element, in another section they give me the chemical symbols along with circling E for element and C for compound, and in another section they look at five elements and compounds which aren't on the State Mandated List and tell me what they are based on just looking at them. (If it has one capital letter it's an element; two or more and it's a compound).

I figured that by going over the quiz in detail, in full color on a big screen, they wouldn't make any foolish mistakes. After all the directions are written right there on the quiz.

Boy was I wrong.

While grading these quizzes, I realized that a good 20% of my students obviously didn't pay any attention while I walked them through how to do the quiz, and even more obviously didn't read the directions either. My fifth period, the class with all the non-academic promotes and low achievers, had at least half of them that goobered it up. Big time. These were the kids who needed the extra bump the quiz could give them and instead, by not following directions, they missed 8 out of 29 points. And that's assuming they had everything else correct.

"Do you remember me standing up here and showing you the quiz on the screen?" I asked my kids after I'd handed the quizzes back and the kids were looking with horror at their grades. A few heads nodded.

"What did I talk about when I was showing you the quiz?" I asked.

One brave soul raised his hand. "You went over the directions," he said.

"Okay, so how come half of you still didn't manage to follow them?" I asked.

Blank stares.

It was so bad that Mr. Title, the aide that's in my room 5th period looking out for those non-academic promotes and low achievers, created one of those little quizzes that have about 15 questions (general information stuff), but if you actually freaking read the directions (what a novel concept) the last line of the directions reads, "skip numbers 1 through 15 and sign your name at the bottom".

He gave this quiz to the study skills class that the Title Aides teach, later that day.

One kid actually followed the directions. Out of about 18.


These kids are so unaware, so unobservant, so in a fog, that I wonder how they get to school every day, how they manage to find their way home, and how they manage to cross the street without being hit by a car.

Friday, September 14, 2007

How to Lose a Locker in 24 Hours, or Less!

Those of us on The Team keep shaking our heads and marveling over how good our kids are this year compared to previous years. It's a bit odd in a way, but I don't think you'll catch any of us complaining. It's just a completely different set of kids with a lot better behavior for the most part. Those sixth grade teachers obviously kicked some butt with this group last year and trained them well.

However, that doesn't mean we don't have our share of knuckleheads who just can't seem to get with the program. These are the few kids who think that they're just too cool to follow the rules, too cool to do work, too cool to do anything they're supposed to.

Like bring their freaking book to class.

At first we thought it was just a few of them being forgetful (which is a common state of unawareness with seventh graders) but during our discussions at lunch we noticed a fairly common pattern. These weren't kids who were forgetting to bring their books, these were kids choosing not to bring their books. Instead, they decided to spend their four minutes between classes socializing and hanging out at the drinking fountain rather than going to their locker.

Contrary Boy, when asked where his book was for the umpteenth time, informed me that he just didn't have time to get his book. I then pointed out to him that as a kid who played football, he was certainly capable of carrying more than one book at a time. That apparently never crossed his mind. The fact that our kids don't have to walk very far to get from class to class (we're all right there in a cluster, in fact, Mr. Social Studies and I have doors separated by a mere 12") tells us that they're just goofing off.

So, we laid down the law the other day. Lockers, we said, are a privilege, not a right and if they continue to choose to leave their books in their locker then they'd lose the use of their locker. Three "forgotten" books equals three days without a locker. We're basically borrowing this trick from the 8th grade playbook - they post locker eviction notices, empty the lockers, and secure them with zip ties for continual infractions of the student code of conduct (among other things). It's quite a sight to walk down the 8th grade hall and see the brightly colored eviction notices and zip ties up and down the hallway.

We announced the policy yesterday. Today we already had 3 kids who had lost their locker privileges. And guess what? They include Contrary Boy and two of his pals.

What a surprise.

They're gonna be mad on Monday!