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?