Friday, March 30, 2007

What happens with the "Loser Kids" are gone...

My Third Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself has a special set of rules, different from all my other classes. They have these rules, as they will tell you, because "we can't behave and act like normal 7th graders." Given the opportunity, this group would chase each other, hit and slap each other, mess with each other's binders and books, call each other names, and generally act like elementary kids on a playground. I've never had a group that acted so immature. The constant hitting, slapping, and chasing just drove me over the edge. It also drove the normal kids that were stuck in with this crowd bonkers as well.

The crazy thing is there's a lot of kids in this class that I really like and I tend to feel sorry for them. They're in a class where I have to be particularly strict since this group can't handle the least little bit of freedom. So, taking a page from Mr. Social Studies' rulebook, I implemented 3rd Period Rules and they're posted by the door, and we go over them nearly every day. They're pretty simple: Once a kid enters the room they sit in their seat and stay there, absolutely no touching of anyone or anyone's belongings, no horseplay, and they are to fill out their agendas and wait for further instructions.

This rule thing has worked in a rather interesting way. The kids that follow the rules are starting to get very upset with the kids who aren't. They're constantly telling their tablemates who aren't behaving to settle down and get quiet and things were starting to fall into place...just a bit. And today it really broke open.

I'm in the hallway between classes watching the drinking fountain area (a favorite trouble spot) when three of my students come get me and complain "there's kids in our room doing horseplay and they know they aren't supposed to." Mr. Social Studies steps out of his room, spies them goofing off, and by the time I get there, it's bedlam. Sullen Boy, who never speaks or does anything, is nearly chattering he's so upset. It appears he had $70 in class (what the heck he was doing with this much money, where he got it, and why he had it out is beyond me) and Cast Boy (who is always, for some reason, in the middle of everything and anything) grabbed it from him and started tossing it to two other boys in glass, Gullible Boy and Wide-Eyed Boy. So they're tossing it back and forth, Sullen Boy is ready to have a meltdown and the other kids are telling them to stop, sit down, and give the money back.

I bark at them, get them all in the hallway and Mr. Social Studies and I try to get to the bottom of it...none of it was making any sense so I told him to watch my class and I hauled them up to guidance, sat them down, told the Guidance Goddess to give them statement forms, and get them writing on their statements while she contacted our SRO.

I get back to my room and my class was still in a bit of an uproar discussing what just happened.

"Okay," I yell over the noise, "If you saw what happened, you need to write out a witness statement and sign it and turn it in to me."

The place goes silent as they race to open their binders, get out paper and begin writing. I've never seen them tackle a writing assignment with such enthusiasm. They couldn't wait to
tell what they saw. Heads down, pencils moving, it was amazing how dedicated they were to this assignment. The writing flowed.

I promptly wrote out, in the middle of working the kids through a review foldable on plant and animal cell organelles, four referrals, included a copy of the class rules with each one, and had those and all the witness statements (which were remarkably consistent) delivered to Mr. Enforcer and Deputy Smooth who took care of my four miscreants.

And we continued class which went fantastic...they participated, they raised their hands, they listened, and they were just delightful.

"You guys are a lot of fun today," I told them, "even though the day got off to a rough start."

"That's because all the loser kids are gone," one of them said and they all agreed. And then I looked at my absence list and realized they were right...two were already in ISS, we just sent 4 more up to ISS, two were suspended (one for a fight and another for telling Mrs. Language to "eff you", among other things), and one was out because he broke his finger in gym that morning.

"It's more fun when they're not here," a few others commented. "They ruin everything for everybody."

What followed was a discussion on peer influence, and how they could influence the "loser kids" for the better. It was refreshing to hear their comments and realize that they just might be getting it.

And now, at last, spring break!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Get a cup of coffee and read awhile...

It's that time again - time for edubloggers the world over to visit this week's Carnival of Education, hosted by the Education Wonks. Be sure to stop by and read some excellent posts, as usual, this week.

Some of my favorites include the Teacher With a Bad Attitude's look at homework, an incredible post on plagiarism from an American teacher in Turkey, an inspirational post on courage from Missprofe, and my favorite, and all out rant from Mamacita, with the stellar title of Parents Who Want Their Daughters to be Whores and How to Spot Them at the Mall.

Go! Read! Enjoy!

Monday, March 26, 2007

An Award Just for Breathing!

I received an interesting piece of mail in my box on Friday. It was from our Title I Aides (a new program at our school). They have apparently been asked to put together a list of awards to hand out to the kids who have been identified as Title I students and have been receiving services throughout the year. We were supposed to rate them according to "improved academic achievement" or "improved attitude towards academics". I heard through the grapevine that someone "in charge of the program" from district office stated that "Everyone will get an award."

I have a serious problem with this.

Lately I've been seeing articles on the net and in the news about how this generation of kids are more narcissistic and self-centered than any before. Some people are linking this to the constant push to let children believe that they are "special", and that everyone gets a trophy for participating. In other words, you show up and you are rewarded. And then I look out at my classroom, at kids who've been socially promoted year after year, at kids who could care less about education, kids who make no effort to do anything and who have learned helplessness down to an art, and I wonder if we didn't create these lazy toads by constantly giving them things they haven't earned.

And coming from a corporate background, where you get promotions and pay raises depending on what you actually produce, and what you can accomplish, I'm convinced they're in for a rude awakening unless they plan on camping out on mamma's sofa for the rest of their lives.

My parents would have kicked my ass if I'd acted like that. But then come to think of it, they never convinced me that I was any more special than anyone else and that I'd have to work to get anywhere in life. It wasn't going to be handed to me.

So, I'm looking at this list and I see kids like Rude Boy who've done NOTHING all year except throw his homework and in-class work away in the trash rather than turning it in, who've lied to me and his parents all year, who've been nothing but behavior problems. I look at the three kids tossed out of the after school tutoring program for horrible behavior, and for refusing to even open a book, lift a pencil or punch in a problem into a calculator. I've see kids who have simply sat in my classroom and sucked in air all year.

And we're going to give them an award?

There's a kid on the list who enrolled in school a week ago from out of state. We're giving him an award? For what? Moving to our area?

Granted there are some kids on there who really, honestly, have earned and deserved awards and I feel they should be celebrated like no body's business. Some of them, including Hockey Boy and Nascar Boy, have made incredible strides - from F's to C's. They've busted their butts, worked hard, and they deserve a big deal. But if the kids sitting next to them, who've done nothing, get an award, won't that make their award a lot less meaningful?

So...the kids that deserved it got a nod from me. The other ones I left blank. I'll let someone else come up with an award for them. Maybe they'll hand them out for breathing regularly.

And Nascar Boy and Hockey Boy and all the others in my classes who've made great strides? I'm going to come up with something special to reward them...I haven't figured out what yet, but I want them to know that what they've done is fantastic and, better yet, it's something they earned.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hey Dude, Where's My History?

I may be a science teacher, but another passion of mine is history, so this post by Ms. Cornelius at A Shrewdness of Apes, caught my eye.

With more and more emphasis on high stakes testing, history and social studies are getting swept aside. This really worries me. Our democracy was founded with the premise that citizens will participate. However, knowledge and understanding of history (and geography and civics, etc.) is needed so that people not only understand what's going on, but participate in an intelligent manner. Our kids aren't being taught enough history, especially in elementary school, because it's not a focus of testing.

When it comes to the elementary schools science and social studies face a similar problem - with the focus on reading and math, both subjects tend to get ignored. Couple that with elementary teachers who don't feel comfortable teaching these subjects, and you get kids who hit middle school with little to no prior knowledge of the subject. Pretty hard to build on prior knowledge when there isn't any.

I wish that more elementary teachers would use books on science and social studies (lots of great historical fiction out there) to work with kids on reading. It certainly would go a long way in filling in this critical gap.

Rant over for now...

The Sting

I'll admit, I'm a bit prejudiced in favor of people who come into teaching as a second career (I'm one, after all), and part of the reason is some of the skills they bring to the game. Take Mr. Social Studies, for example. His background is in military law enforcement. His take on things, such as parent meetings, has become quite valuable. It's sort of that second sense he has when someone is lying to him or hiding something. It's amazing how many times we'll walk out of a parent meeting and he'll comment that "I can tell something is not right there," and he'll eventually be proven correct.

He's also really good at catching kids cheating on tests and quizzes.

He had a suspicion that three of our darlings, Spoiled Princess Girl, Brat Boy and Snarly Boy might be involved, along with a few others that sort of hang on the fringes of their clique. Mr. Social Studies thought that Smart Goofy Girl might be the one feeding them the answers because she has his class first period, is friends (most of the time) with Spoiled Princess Girl, and because she's, well, smart. And goofy enough to do something so stupid. Or perhaps, bullied into it by Spoiled Princess Girl. Anyhow, the kid scuttlebutt had it that there was some cheating going on and Spoiled Princess Girl was one of the cheaters.

On an aside, isn't it amazing what kids will talk about in the room with a teacher right there? I find out the most interesting things during my homeroom, in the hallways, and before the bell rings.

Mr. Social Studies, patient man that he is, laid a trap and waited. He suspected that Spoiled Brat Girl was writing the test answers on her leg (you have got to love capri pants) and was doing a lot of adjusting and scratching on her calves during tests. However, there being no honor among thieves and seventh graders, he didn't even have to wait to have his theory verified - two of Spoiled Brat Girl's so-called friends, Wide Eyed Girl and Smart Goofy Girl (amazing!) ratted her out. All he had to do was sit and wait for her to reach down, ease that pant leg up, and catch her at it.

Which he did.

This happened fourth period. I have Spoiled Brat Girl and Brat Boy in fifth and they didn't show up for class that day. I asked the class if they knew where they were and they couldn't wait to tell me about how they were in guidance because they'd been caught cheating. For kids who consider themselves to be quite the elite and very popular, they certainly aren't well liked.

In any case, Spoiled Brat Girl sang like a canary and told everyone that Snarly Boy was getting the answers early in the day and was giving them to her and Brat Boy at lunch. Considering that these three always eat lunch in the large group instruction room with their overinvolved PTO mothers, it's no wonder they got away with it. What we all found interesting is that the parents most likely knew this was going on. The way they hover over these three, it would be hard to get away with anything without their tacit approval. (We have since heard from another PTO mother - who is not part of their clique - that it's not uncommon for them to sit in there and do their children's homework while the kids goof off and eat lunch.)

I have to question the wisdom of Spoiled Brat Girl relying on answers from Snarly Boy. She is extremely smart, usually an A student. Snarly Boy barely gets D's and C's.

I'm not sure how this will all play out. I do know they all got talked to by an administrator, and earned zeros on their test (which at 100 points, is a big chunk of points). I'm sure the mothers are all madder than heck at all of us for "picking on" their kids. They'll probably make it up to their darlings by pulling them out of school for a mini-vacation, which is exactly what Brat Boy's mother did a few weeks ago when he was suspended. (And amazing, it wasn't one of us who wrote him up, but a teacher from another team who had a student who was hit by Brat Boy on the way back from lunch as they walked by the Large Group Instruction room - ten witnesses are a lot to fight against, and he got suspended...and a vacation.)

We keep thinking...just a few more weeks with these three. Just a few more weeks.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Finding time to sleep...

Last weekend our friends, Mr. and Mrs. Buckeye, came down from Ohio to visit, go to a civil war conference, and attend a hockey game. It was wonderful seeing them, catching up on stuff, and generally enjoying ourselves. Mrs. Buckeye and I were out shopping for a bit and got to talking about things and she mentioned an on-line "spat" she had with someone on one of her listserves who kept bagging on teachers because "they leave every day at 2:30 and don't really work." Bless her heart, she stood up for us.

But it got me to thinking.

Which can be a very dangerous thing.

And I started to wonder just how much time I really do spend as a teacher. So I decided to spend a few days keeping a tally, because I don't recall the last time I left at 2:30.


Arrive at school at 6:15 - put together daily PowerPoint Agenda, make sure all supplies are set out and ready, check mail box, go through mail from the day before (just how many forms do we need to send out every week?) and get Mrs. Language caught up on the day before as she was out sick (and brought me a steak biscuit from Hardee's to thank me for doing her lessons, bless her heart).

7:05 - 7:30 - Homeroom. It's Green Day at school, which means candy grams and all sorts of silly stuff. Kids are wild. Take attendance, check agendas, fix a locker, get make-up work for kids who've been absent.

7:30 - 8:25 - First Period. Have kids turn in homework, science dictionaries, and finish element projects. Help kids with computer issues, glue stick issues, scissor issues, and boyfriend/girlfriend issues.

8:25-8:30 - Run to the bathroom

8:30 - 9:25 - Second Period. See First Period Above

9:25-9:30 - Watch hallways for potential problems. More and more kids with green hair due to PTO fundraiser where kids can pay to have their hair sprayed green or gelled.

9:30 - 10:25 - Third Period. My Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself. Two kids turn in behavior notes for horseplay. See First Period above.

10:25 - 10:30 - Watch hall again. More kids with green hair and now, green tattoos on faces.

10:30 - 11:05 - Fourth Period. See First Period Above.

11:05 - 11:40 - Line kids up for lunch, walk them down once they get settled, eat my lunch, check mailbox, go to bathroom, pick up kids, walk back to class.

11:40 - 12:05 - Finish Fourth Period.

12:10 - 1:05 - Fifth Period - See First Period Above. Hand out a behavior note to a kid who is flicking other kids' ears and who can't, for the life of him, keep his hands to himself. "I don't know," is his answer to everything. Show Flicker his file with previous behavior notes and emails to mom in it. Inform Flicker that next incident will most likely be a referral.

1:05 - 1:50 - 6th period planning!!! And for once, no parent meeting!!! Run to bathroom. Get mail. Meet with Mrs. Eagle and do our plans for next week. Realize that we forgot to type up a vocabulary test which I will do over the weekend. Electronically drop the plans to Mr. Enforcer, and make copies for our binders. Make copies of unit test, both regular and modified. Send email to Mrs. Sweet, letting her know we have a test scheduled for Wed and it would be great if she was available to read to our special ed kids. Return mobile computer labs to lab room.

1:50 -2:05 Kids are sent back to homerooms to get their report cards stapled into their agendas. Much wailing and worrying about what the results will be when the report cards arrive home. Some are happy, others are not so thrilled.

2:05 -4:50- Kids are dismissed! Grade workbooks from kids who've been absent. Grade homework. Put grades in computer. Export grades to website where parents can see what their darlings are doing (or not doing). Write and send my weekly parent email. Update my website and add my homework and messages to grades website. Clean whiteboards, and one of the tables which has had interesting graffiti on it lately. Comet and bleach works pretty well, but I'm going to try to catch the offender...I have my suspicions. Water plants. Look at clock and realize I need to get home.

Saturday - 1:15 - 3:00 - Grade element projects

5:15 - 8:00 - Grade the remaining element projects. Goal was to have all projects graded before hockey game, but alas, that did not happen. Put together picture cards of lab equipment and measurement tools to use in a review game.

Sunday - 12:15 - 2:15 Mrs. Eagle arrives. We put together a purchase requisition for supplies needed in order to do our review for Our Very Big Government Mandated Tests. Go over the cards I made the night before to make sure they're what we're looking for. Work on fine-tuning our lessons for the next few weeks. Discuss the fact that we can't believe we're down to the last nine weeks of the year. Go over some of my NSTA magazines with some ideas on weather projects we may try if we can get money to pay for supplies

Hum...that's it. I suppose it's a good thing that I don't have any kids of my own to worry about and that Mr. Bluebird works most weekends out of town. I couldn't imagine how I'd get it all done with people underfoot.

Now I know there are teachers that leave the second the bell rings - I work with some of them. If I did that I wouldn't feel like I'm doing the best job I can for my kids. My kids need me to be prepared, they need me to be organized, and they need me to give them prompt feedback on their assignments (I rarely take more than a day to get something graded).

I just wish some people would respect that.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Carnival Time!

Man, there is nothing better than sitting down with a great cup of coffee (or a glass of wine seeing as it's March and the kiddos are stepping on my last nerve) and mining all the great stuff that appears weekly on the Carnival of Education. So take the time, check it out, and thanks, as always to The Wonks for doing such a great job!

I'm in the dark here...

The building I teach in celebrated its 41st year this past year. It's undergone a lot of changes during that time, including new wings being added on to accommodate student growth. In fact, we just opened up a new wing a little over a year ago (including our science lab), and another wing was opened just a few years before that.

I teach in the old part of the building, and I actually prefer that. Sure, the room is oddly shaped because the building was originally built to look something like a wheel with the main office as the hub and classroom areas radiating off as spokes. And true, there's absolutely no storage, no counters, etc., outside of what I've managed to scrounge over the past few years. But it's close to everything. It's close to guidance, it's close to Mr. Enforcer and Mrs. Squirrel, and it's pretty much the center of it all. It's convenient.

However, this mixture of old and new means is that the building has a whole bunch of different operating systems running the whole thing.

Which can cause problems when it comes to thinks like, say, lights.

Last week, around Tuesday, or maybe it was Wednesday (who can keep track?), Mr. Social Studies and a few others of us noticed that some of our light banks were blinking a bit. It was real subtle, almost to the point where you would wonder if it was just a figment of your imagination. Then it got worse. The blinking became a lot more pronounced. A bank of lights would go off, the emergency lights would go on, and then the emergency lights would go off and the regular lights would go on.

Over and over. Until finally, they....just...went....out.

By Friday afternoon, the front bank of lights in my room was out, and so were the emergency lights. The only working lights in my room were towards the back. Fortunately my LCD projector, document reader, computer, and all that were obviously on another circuit because they all worked. Mr. Social Studies wasn't so lucky. He had more lights (only one panel went out), but his LCD projector went out as well. So, being the resourceful guy he is, he brought in an extension cord and draped it across his ceiling towards a plug that had power. Other teachers here in the older part of the building had similar experiences.

So, we notified the Secretary who tried to notify The Only Guy in The District Who Fixes This Stuff (keep in mind we something like 25 buildings), who wasn't being really good about answering his phone.

People came out and gazed at light fixtures.

A couple of ladders appeared, panels were moved, ladders disappeared.

Occasionally we'd see someone with big tool bags walking around looking into corners and staring at the ceiling.

Mr. Social Studies reported overhearing a conversation between Two Guys With Toolbelts who said something along the lines of "I remember doing some wiring with some fuse box out here a number of years ago with Elmer. Can't for the life of me remember where that fuse box was and Elmer, he's passed on a few years ago so I can't ask him."

In the meantime, it's gloomy and dark in my room. I've always been a person who really liked a lot of light, and now, after spending about a week in the dark in my classroom, I can tell that I need a lot more light than I've been getting. I'm cranky, the kids are cranky, and my plants are drooping. We couldn't take much more of this.

Mr. Social Studies reports another conversation between the Two Guys With Toolbelts who mention remembering where the mysterious fuse box was and "dang, that sucker was glowing red hot when we found it!"

Oh good. I'm glad they found the silly thing before we ended up with a real fire and not just a drill.

And now, at last, I have light.

And tomorrow is Friday.

Monday, March 12, 2007

They just don't care...

I had a bit of a hissy fit this past week while sitting in a data chat with Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Robin, Mrs. Standard (our district science consulting teacher), and Mrs. Hummingbird, going over the scores from our last benchmark. Fortunately, Mrs. Eagle and Mrs. Robin decided to "go hissy" with me.

Mrs. Standard, who has never taught middle school but who spent most of her career in high school, informed us that she analyzed all the various grade level scores district-wide and the problem seems to be in one area - seventh grade.

Well duh.

Anyone who has taught this age could tell you that they pretty much flat-line mentally for the seventh grade year. In fact, if you look at some of the latest research on brain development, it also indicates that there's a period of time in a child's life where their brain actually loses memory capacity. Interestingly enough, it coincides with the onset of puberty (those awful hormones) where the body is dealing with growth and change in such a heavy-handed way that the brain is almost to the point of being overwhelmed so it shuts down somewhat. In other words, seventh grade.

Mrs. Hummingbird, who talks faster than an auctioneer, and Mrs. Standard could not understand why our students did not do as well as expected on the latest benchmark. They analyzed the questions the kids missed and were amazed at the answers they chose most often. They knew we were covering the material, they'd been in our rooms and witnessed the kids respond and act like they knew the material, so it just didn't make sense that they did so badly. What on earth was the problem?

Simply put, they just don't care.

They don't care enough to read the questions on the test (as evidenced by the fact that many finished a 40 question test, with pictures and graphs galore, in ten minutes - faster than I could even read the silly thing). They don't care enough to mark up their test with highlighters and pencils in good test-taking style. Heck, they don't even care enough to put their name on the test.

Or, as one student said, "Is this test worth anything? Because if it's not, I'm really not going to bother to try."

The sad thing is, we can't grade them on these benchmarks - the best we can do is give them extra credit (big deal), and the kids know this. So, in their eyes, why bother? And especially, why bother for the third time this year?

Mrs. Standard put forth the idea that we should stop using scantron tests and have the students write on their tests and we can grade them manually. This way they'll get used to underlining key points and highlighting information and can narrow their options down and do better. Basically, Mrs. Robin, Mrs. Eagle and I would love to do this but the fact of the matter is 3,000 copies permitted per month (and double sided counts as two) means that all our copying would essentially end up being nothing but tests...At 3,000, I can only make 20 copies of things per month per kid...a test with all the graphics ends up being about 6 copies per kid, about every 2-3 weeks. Oh, and don't forget all the copies I have to make for my special ed kids and 504 kids who can't copy off the board, and who need to have things in front of them. It just isn't feasible to do that. (I also find it interesting that we go to all these in-services about ways to increase learning with all these special forms and graphic organizers...all of which need to be copied.)

"Well how about giving them sheets of plastic that they can put over the class set, and have them highlight and mark up, then clean them off?" was an idea that Mrs. Standard proposed.

I actually do this with my vocabulary tests as they are one pagers and can go into a sheet protector. Maybe 1/4 of the class might chose to mark up the test with the waterproof markers (which I provide), the rest really don't care. Those that do mark up the test also tend to get ink all over their hands, clothes, table, etc., and then have to spend time cleaning themselves and everything else up (with cleaning supplies provided by me, of course). I can only imagine what this would entail with every child doing it on a 6-8 page test. They'd have to stop and clean up in between each page.

"Well," Mrs. Standard finally asks, "why don't they care?"

"Why should they? They know they'll get promoted to 8th grade regardless, they know the test means nothing, they have no stake in it," I say.

"And their parents don't care enough to return phone calls, or come in, and don't appear to be the least bit upset about failing grades," said Mrs. Eagle.

"There's no consequence for failure," says Mrs. Robin. "So what if you fail? Nothing's going to happen. We go on and on about how they'll have to earn their way to the next grade in high school, but they don't care about that even. It's just foreign to them."

Quite honestly...until there are consequences for failure, most of these kids won't put forth an effort. And in the meantime, we're just raising our blood pressure.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Education Carnival - Staff Development Style

The Science Goddess over at What It's Like on the Inside has done a fantastic job on this week's Education Carnival. Grab some coffee and step on over to her version of staff development!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Teaching Strategies: Scourge or Savior for Education

History Is Elementary: Teaching Strategies: Scourge or Savior for Education

This is one of those posts that hit you between the eyes and you go, "Yeah, what she said!".

Read it!

Friday, March 02, 2007

A Bad Kid Magnet?

One of my absolute favorite kids, a girl I had last year, was expelled for the remainder of the year this week.

This just breaks my heart.

I love Goth Girl, although, to be honest, it certainly wasn't love at first meeting. She's got my first discipline referral last year for writing graffiti on a seat in the theater. However, if you took the time to know her (which many people don't because she can be pretty off-putting) she's a good kid, although incredibly screwed up, most of which is the direct result of her mother who's pretty screwed up herself. I tried and tried and tried to get mom to show up at school for a meeting (made appointments, never showed) and to send in a current doctor's diagnosis for ADHD (which Goth Girl could be a poster child for) so I could at least get her on a 504 plan. No luck. Mom talked a good talk but was too busy fooling around on her husband to spend any time on her kids. Goth Girl, like her mother, is all about drama and she generates drama and uproar wherever she goes. She also has absolutely no impulse control and a complete inability to think about consequences before she does something. However, although I'm definitely not a fan of medicating kids, when she was on her medication for the ADHD (which wasn't often) she was a perfect, model child and a lot of her behavior issues disappeared; she would actually stop and think before she did something.

That being said, she absolutely craved attention and if you gave it to her, you won her as a fan for life. Something as simple as a pat on the back and a "good job", could earn you a smile that would light up the room. I was hoping that 8th grade would be an improvement for her, and it started off pretty well. Not as many stints in ISS, not as many suspensions, and it was looking good. However, the little stuff started to add up and pretty soon she had enough discipline points and landed in alternative school for a while. She came back, had some conflicts with some other girls (like I said, it's all about the drama), and ended up in trouble again. I'm not exactly sure what the final straw was, but when I walked through guidance earlier this week and saw her there, I knew it wasn't good. She came over, gave me a big hug and said she was being expelled. She wasn't happy about it, and goodness knows I wasn't either.

The next day, three more of my kids from last year came by during homeroom to let me know the news, in case I didn't already know. All three of these kids, including Stoner Boy and the ever-popular Stoopid Boy, are the sort of kids that usually cause teachers to consider early retirement. They were, however, the kids I really did well with and the kids I really enjoyed. They were good, usually, for me, and if they got out of hand it didn't take much for me to get them back in line. They'd then go into other classrooms and act like holy terrors.

My homeroom kids watched these three with interest. Most of them know them, if not personally, then by reputation. After they left, one of my girls, Amazon Girl made an interesting comment. "Mrs. Bluebird, you're like a bad kid magnet."

"A what?"

"A bad kid magnet. All the bad kids love you."

I guess we have to be good at something in this world.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Fear and the Fury

We were supposed to have our Family Literacy Night tonight at school. However, Mother Nature being the cantankerous sort that she is, the district decided to cancel all after school-activities so we could get all the kids home before the severe weather hit us later this afternoon and evening. Interestingly enough, we were the only county in the area that didn't send our kids home early, but that could be because we send them home early as it is - our school day ends at 2:05.

Because it was kind of nice having a bit of time without a parent meeting, a staff meeting, or a tutoring class, I volunteered to be part of the skeleton staff that stuck around just in case one of the buses had to turn back due to weather. I'm a junkie about weather anyway (Dad worked meteorology for the airlines when I was little) and it's my favorite unit to teach. So, I worked on lessons for next week, watched The Weather Channel, and scooted out at 3:15. The storms seemed to have sidestepped us for the most part, leaving the really bad stuff for areas further south.

I'll be honest and say that I teared up when I heard the news about the High School in Enterprise, Alabama getting hit by a tornado. Although we train for it, practice our drills and emergency procedures, and read through our handbook, the reality is none of us ever really wants to be at school when something like a tornado hits. The idea of a kid getting seriously hurt, or killed, on my watch just leaves me with an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. I feel responsible for these children, and even though I have no control over the weather, I still would feel somewhat responsible if something happened. We have had tornadoes here before, and we will again. It's just a matter of time.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the students, faculty, and staff of Enterprise High School. Hopefully this horrific event will bring out the best in people, and not the worst.