Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Southern Tradition

I grew up in Pac Ten country, lived a dozen years in Big Ten country, and I can assure that there is nothing - nothing - like football in My Beloved South.

The high school football season kicked off last night and as we drove by the closest high school near our house my husband and father commented on the absolute and total lack of parking. The crowds are so big that people are parking in ditches, driveways, streets, and anywhere else you can squeeze a vehicle, even if it means walking a good hike to even get to the stadium. The stadiums are packed and it's often standing room only. The evening news spends a good ten minutes or more reporting on high school football on Friday nights, and today's sports page is thick with high school reporting.

But it's still nothing compared to SEC football.

Hubster, the military historian, born in Chicago but raised in Georgia, Texas and Arkansas (Daddy was in the poultry business), has often commented that Southerners play football as a way of getting revenge over losing the War Between the States. And truth be told, they're damn good at it.

When I lived Up North and would make the long trek down to see Daddy when he lived in Hotlanta, I would see car after car after car after car heading south with flags flying - UT, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina - to the game of the week. Many folks have season tickets and even with the price of gas think nothing of driving (or, in the case of UT, boating) to the games every weekend.

It is a passion here.

And truth be told, the game, as we play it down here, is awesome. It's a different style, although, what with some of the former southern coaches moving on to teach outside the SEC, I think we may see that migrate to other parts of the country.

And today, it begins.


Go Dawgs!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Carnival Time!

Okay, it's a three day weekend, so celebrate Labor Day - and all the hard labor you put into your jobs all year - by spending some time over at Sharp Brains for this week's carnival!

Not feeling the love

We've finished three weeks of school.

We've taken our first unit tests. (Horrid)

We've sent out our first progress reports. (Pathetic)

And as Mrs. Bunny commented to me the other day, "I'm not feeling the love with this group." Mrs. Eagle and I both nodded our heads in agreement.

This group of seventh graders is a tough bunch. And that's being nice.

We kind of had a feeling that this wasn't going to be an easy year. After all, the sixth grade teachers last year spent most of their time looking frazzled and stressed and were eagerly planning their summer breaks in October. We also spent a lot of time watching these kids in the hallway (their hallway behavior was atrocious) and we all prayed that they'd mature and grow up over the summer. The majority of our discipline referrals last year were from the sixth grade and the time I spent doing admin while my student teacher was around convinced me that this bunch had a real problem with self control.

And they haven't changed.

For the first year ever, the team had to implement a locker schedule because these kids can't manage to go to their lockers without messing around, hitting each other, smashing fingers in their lockers (assuming they get them opened) and generally fussing and fighting.

The first fight at lunch happened this week...during seventh grade lunch.

Most of us had to do seating charts for our lunch tables within the second day of school because these kids can't sit and behave during lunch. We had to implement lunch detention (bless Coach Math for volunteering to do this duty) for kids that can't behave at lunch and in the classroom. This is another first.

I have had to take each class out in the hall at least once (third period has done this three times) to teach them how to walk into a classroom, get quiet, sit down, and get their agendas opened, because they come into the classrooms screaming at the top of their lungs and don't stop even when the bell rings. I have never had to do this before.

In School Suspension, which hasn't been busy at all, has had a few customers and, you guessed it, the majority of them are seventh graders. This week three of them were from my team alone. And these weren't minor offenses like having a cell phone. They were for cursing at a cafeteria lady during breakfast...showing off naked pictures of a girl from Mrs. Eagle's team on a cell phone...slapping a kid in the back of the head at lunch, knocking over his milk, then kicking him while he was at his locker later that day.

I've spent time watching video of kids bullying each other...calling parents about kids getting caught during their test with a study guide out on their table....emailing the Enforcer about witnessing a kid slamming another kid upside the head and then having the bully look me square in the eye and sneer, "What are you going to do, call my mom again?"

My Fifth Period From the Very Depths of Hell Itself...can't stay in their seats, can't get quiet, refuses to turn in work, throws things, and generally manages to waste enough time every day that they basically end up losing about ten minutes a day of instruction. I feel awful for the kids in that class that actually care because they're being exposed to a bunch of malcontents who don't care...and when you call their parents you get comments like, "Well, I can't make him do anything at home so what the hell do you expect me to do?"

That's if you even get a parent on the line.

On the plus side - and that's because I have to find the silver lining somewhere - Pinball Boy is still doing great for me. I have a few kids asking for extra help to bring their grades up and we may come up with a homework clinic since tutoring was canceled this year due to budget cuts. Some of my parents are great about emailing me with questions, letting me know their kid is absent, wanting to volunteer. My squishy toys are very popular and the kids that use them are calming down somewhat.

But it's still going to be a hell of a year.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Thankyew, Thankyewverymuch

As I sit here, head full of snot and with scratchy throat, I've discovered two of my blogging compatriots have seen fit to bestow upon me a blog award. Now, I love awards, especially those that are glittery and sparkly, so this is very cool. The guilty parties are Mr. Teacher (who I am going to adopt and pass off as my very smart and articulate son, especially as he's written the most hilarious book on earth and you all should buy it), and Melissa, the Scholastic Scribe (who's a Jane Austen fan and that puts her at the top of my list without even breaking a sweat.) Thanks you two...

Now, I'm supposed to add a picture of this little award, but blogger is being stupid and it won't let me add any pictures at all - even adorable ones of my adorable cats being adorable.

So I'm miffed.

However, I'm supposed to share the love, but I'm still so wacked out on Nyquil I can't maybe later.

Anyhow...I'm flattered.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Eleven days of school.

I already have my first cold.



Carnival Time!

Ding! Ding! Ding! The Carnival is up over at Bellringers! Check it out!!

As always, good stuff to get you inspired, help you laugh, and make you think.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hey Brother Can You Spare Some Copies?

I teach in a Title 1 school which means that over 50% of our student population is on free and reduced lunch. I think last year we were at 54% and I'm guessing this year it will be even higher. What this means is that we have a lot of Federal money sent our way to help our at-risk population.

Over the past three years this money has helped pay for things that have benefited our students. Hiring aides to work with our at-risk kids has been one of our expenditures that have seen real results. Another one has been the Reading 180 program that has moved kids up 2-3 grade levels in reading within a year. These have been the major expenditures.

Some of the minor expenditures were something as simple as extra copies. Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Robin and I got permission to go over our allotted copy budget to make individual copies of our tests. Now this may not seem like a real important thing to spend money on, but one of the things we really focused on last year was teaching kids good test-taking skills, and to make our tests more like the Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests. This was something that Mrs. Standard, our Science Consulting Teacher from The District, had wanted us to do as it allowed kids to mark up the tests, cross out obviously wrong answers, make notes on the edges, highlight things and so forth and so on. Granted, it took longer to grade as I graded it by hand but it gave me a better idea of their thinking, and allowed the kid to see where the mistakes were. A bubble sheet doesn't quite do it. And, since we only get 3,000 copies a month, we got permission to use Title money to supplement our copies.

And we had the highest test scores in the school, so maybe there was something to it. I don't know.

So last week we get an email from The Principal, who had a meeting with her boss, and the long and short of it is that the Feds have decreased a lot of the funding to this program, and money we were expecting isn't coming. In fact, everything is frozen. Not just Title 1 stuff, but everything.

Frozen freaking solid.

So, when Mrs. Eagle and I wanted to give our health class kids a "fun food Friday", where we taught them how to make easy healthy snacks, we found out we had to pay for it ourselves. Which we did. (And weirdly, not one of them whined or complained about eating carrots, red peppers, celery and zucchini as a snack.)


The bulk of our science labs where we use up a lot of consumables are at the beginning of the year, according to our pacing guide. And until something shakes loose, we may just have to pay for the supplies ourselves.

And don't even ask about copies. The way things are going now, we'll be lucky to get 2,000 a month this year.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Pinball Wizard

Teachers can spot the kids that are going to be a challenge within seconds of them entering our classroom. It's like radar. Sometimes it's really obvious (swinging from the light fixtures is often a big clue) and sometimes it's something as subtle as how they make eye contact.

With Pinball Boy's case, it was the fact that he appeared to be physically incapable of sitting still for more than five seconds and his mouth was in constant motion. I've only had one other kid this hyperactive, and he was a kid who'd come out of a meth house in a neighboring county and had more issues than ADHD to deal with.

When I got the information sheet back from his parents, I noticed several things. One, he'd failed math and science last year. Not good. That means he has to pass these subjects this year in order to be academically promoted. Second, he was diagnosed with ADHD. And third, he was not on any medications. On the positive side, he had two parents in the home, they appeared to have jobs, and even had email. That's good.

On Monday, our newly minted teacher Miss Language, had a rough day with Pinball Boy. He'd pulled an attitude on her when she told him to get out his punch card as he couldn't sit down and be quiet (we're working on a reward system using punch cards - I'll explain in another post one of these days). She came to me asking for advice on what to do with him.

I decided to do some research, so I pulled his discipline file (no surprise there that he had one), and his academic records. One thing I discovered is that he has the potential to do well academically. His problem, obviously, is that he can't focus. The other thing I discovered was that he had 245 (!!!!) discipline points last year, was in alternative school for 30 days, came back, and was expelled in April.


However, I wanted a bigger picture so I went to talk with the Guidance Goddess because she knows everything. I discovered that biological dad was remarried and living in another city, biological mom was remarried and there was a step dad at home. I also discovered that he was the oldest of five boys, all one right after the other - there's one in 6th grade, one in 5th, another in 4th, and the littlest is in 3rd. Mom has a fairly good job managing a local restaurant, but that also means long hours. And if all the boys are anything like Pinball Boy, they're probably pinging off the walls competing for attention.

What this kid needed was a lot of attention, and some strategies to help him focus. He needed "Mommy Time."

So, he got moved, on Tuesday, to the seat right next to my teacher station - my "right hand man" seat. Since he's in my homeroom class and the isolation seats are full, (not because kids need it, but because I'm out of lab tables) Pinball Boy didn't see this as a negative. He was thrilled to become my "right hand man". (I might add that he's kind of small, has braces, a huge smile, and glasses which he often forgets.) He is now in charge of my light switches which need to go on and off during the class as I'm using the document reader or my LCD projector. He is the first to get asked to hand out things and to collect things. Anything to give him a chance to get up and move a little bit.

And then I gave him the squishy ball. I asked him what he wanted to do this year and he said he wanted to pass all his classes and stay out of trouble. I told him that I knew he really was a good kid, and that I wanted to really help him with that so I was going to try some tricks that may seem a little strange - like holding a squishy ball in his hands and squeezing it during class to help him focus. He said he'd try it.

It worked like a charm. This child, who'd had write up after write up after write up for disruptive behavior, was my model student last week. He'd come in, ask for "Squishy", and sit at his seat and fiddle with the ball, but at the same time, he'd take notes, he'd jump up and turn the lights on and off when asked, and he was quiet. It was amazing. I see this group of kids three times a day - homeroom, 3rd period science class, and for fifteen minutes at the end of the day to check agendas, announcements, hand out papers, and all that. Every time he came into the room, he asked for Squishy and sat down and did what needed to be done.

On Thursday I called and left a message on his mom's voice mail, primarily to introduce myself, but also to brag on what a great job he was doing. I wanted her to know that I knew he had issues but I was going to see what I could do to work around them.

On Friday, as the kids were being dismissed to the buses, Pinball Boy ran back and gave me a big hug.

"My momma said you called and it scared me at first, " he said, "But then she said it was a good call and I've never had a good call before."

"Well kiddo, you earned it," I told him.

"Yeah, I did, didn't I?" he beamed. "I love you!" he said and then he was gone.

Dang. It don't get much better than that.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What should I do with all this free time?

Nothing frosts my cookies more than hearing some nitwit going on about all the free time teachers have. I need to avoid reading the comments section in the on-line version of our local newspaper because it seems to be a cesspool of nothing but ignorant whiners who do nothing but aggravate my already frazzled nerves.

My favorite this week was someone who was whining about what a great gig teachers have because "they only work nine months out of the year while everyone else works twelve."

This twit obviously didn't do well in math because the last I looked, getting out the end of May, and starting the first of August, leaves June and July and I can assure you that that is TWO months, not three. And a lot of that is filled with in-service workshops and other things that we do to maintain our licenses along with finding ways to teach the offspring of the above-mentioned whiners. These people who complain about how teachers have summers off would be the same folks who would have a nuclear poop if anyone even suggested year-round school. The irony is amazing. Their kids need summers off, but teachers should not have summers off.

I love this kind of logic.

The other one that gets me is how people insist that our job is so easy because we get off at 2:30 and have all afternoon and evening to sit around and eat bon-bons and get pedicures. I wish.

Here's what this week looked like:

Monday - arrive at 6:15 am, leave at 5:15 pm. It was the first full day so I don't have too much paperwork to go over. Did spend about an hour checking off returned paperwork (the two pounds of "mandatory" paperwork we foist on kids the first day of school) for my homeroom.

Tuesday - arrive at 6:15 am, leave at 5:00 pm. Go to the market, buy groceries, go home and sling hot dogs and tomato soup at hubster for supper (good thing he actually likes this kind of meal). Spend two hours going over returned science lab rules, make parent phone calls, and set up file folders.

Wednesday - arrive at 6:15 am, leave at 4:45 pm. Run more errands (shoe repair, bank, etc.). Sling pizza at hubster for supper. Spend two hours grading health class papers and four classes of science class safety worksheets. Make some parent phone calls. Fall asleep on sofa.

Thursday - arrive at 6:15 am, leave at 4:00 only because I have allergy shot appointment at 4:30. Get home around 5:30, make quick supper for myself, as hubster won't be home until after 7:00, then make parent phone calls for two hours. Heat hubster up some soup and give him a salad for supper.

Friday - arrive at 6:30 am (after breakfast at Waffle House with Mrs. Eagle), and leave at 5:30 pm. Did not take any work home because the School is open tomorrow morning and I'm going in to work then anyway. Why lug it back and forth?

Saturday - arrive at 9:00 am and leave at 2:00 pm. Finish grading all turned in papers, file them away, set up assignments on new grading program, input grades, work on parent emails, get copies ready for the week, work with Mrs. Eagle on health unit, and then go home. Take no work home because I need to have a weekend.

Take a nap.

If I wasn't on a diet I guess I should be eating my bon-bons, eh?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Carnival Time!

For those of us who've already started back...take some time to chill and check out this week's Carnival of Education over at Joanne Jacob's's worth the time.

And for those of you who haven't started...go on over there as well. You can certainly spare the time!


Why Some Kids Don't Need a Pencil Pouch

Three days down on the first full week and I'm beginning to get to know my kids. This is pretty amazing because there's a big difference in learning 24 names as opposed to 32. It doesn't sound like that big of a jump, but when it's 12-year old bodies and they're crammed to the walls in your room, it can be a challenge. There are times it reminds me of the mosh pit at The Palace in Hollywood years ago in my college days. I'm lucky I remember my name by the end of the day.

So today one of my kids, Big Haired Boy, is up at my desk and I'm checking off that he has turned in his signed-by-a-parent science lab safety sheet. Now Big Haired Boy has really big hair. Really. Big. Hair. His head is a mass of tight blond curls and it's huge. You can't miss this kid in a crowd. And he's a really nice kid from what I can tell.

So he's standing there while I'm doing my thing, and beside him is another kid waiting his turn. The other kid is looking around and begins to stare intently at Big Haired Boy's head. It is, after all, truly a work of art.

"Dude," he says, "You've got pencils in there."

"Oh yeah," says Big Haired Boy, "That's where I keep them."

And people wonder why I do this???


Monday, August 11, 2008

It's a Good Thing I'm a Little Nuts Already

The saga of the exploding homeroom continues.

On Friday, 29 of 35 kids showed up. Whee!!! I had seats for everyone. It's not unusual to have a good chunk of kids not show up because a lot of them move over the summer and we may not have received a request for records yet from their new school. I was hoping, as you can imagine, that this number would stabilize.

This morning, three of my "missing" children appeared, so my number jumped to 32. I have, barely, 32 seats available. This means every single isolation island is being used, and those kids will need to have some spare chairs to pull up to a lab group when we do labs - there's no extra lab tables available to start with and there's no room to put when if I could find one. So, I sent a request to the head custodian to find me 4 plain chairs. Mrs. Social Studies, next door, had to get 3 more student desks. We are not alone. Chairs and desks are a hot commodity right now.

This afternoon I get an email informing me that a student was being transferred from Mrs. Eagle's team to my team. I knew the name right away - it's the younger brother of a kid I had a few years ago. His mom is very involved, but I actually kind of enjoyed her - if I ever needed a volunteer, she'd be there. She had told me a year ago she wanted her youngest on our team - however, the team her older son had isn't the same. I'm the only returning member from that era, and in fact, Mrs. Bunny's team has two of the teachers that were on our team that year. However, amazingly enough, her team's numbers are even higher than ours are, so I ended up with Little Brother.

Of course he ended up in my homeroom.

I informed Guidance Mom that he'd be sitting on the floor as things stood now. She's going to try to move another kid out of that class and into one of my others, and hopefully we'll keep that 32 number. As it stands, most of my classes are in the 28 range which is a pretty big group.

However, it beats sitting on the floor.

Our numbers this year are, well, unpredictable. The Principal informed that even before school started, we were running 100 kids over the prediction. I have no clue where they are coming from, but they're here and we're running out of chairs.

I have heard, however, that the 8th grade is rather empty, compared to sixth and seventh grade. Funny how things work out.

Speaking of 8th graders...I'm teaching an 8th grade Health Class this year which is going to be kind of fun, as long as my 8th graders don't get lost. I have 29 on my roster. When the bell rang for 7th period, only 7 had shown up. Something was wrong. I asked one of my kids from last year to show me his schedule and discovered that it had my name, my room number, and the title was "PE"...ah, health used to be part of the PE department and apparently that didn't get changed when they did the schedules. So, I had seven kids who read their schedules and came to the right room (and earned a Jolly Rancher for not being a goober), and 22 who, most likely, ended up wandering lose in the gym.

I got a hold of the Guidance Goddess to see if she could radio the gym teachers and send me my missing kids. About ten minutes later one of the coaches showed up with the missing sheep, and was on her way to drop off Mrs. Eagle's missing sheep (she only had 4 find her room!)

You know, I quit watching soap operas when I began's just way more entertaining.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Worst Job Ever Meme

My friend, Mr. Teacher over at Learn Me Good, tagged me for a Worst Job Ever Meme, which is kind of ironic in a way. I'm a latecomer to teaching, having bailed the corporate world after about 15 years, and The Principal actually put me on the stop about that during a faculty meeting this week. Her question, "We know you came to us from the corporate world...what made you go into teaching?"

My answer sounds so stupid, but it's true. "I wanted to change the world and I wasn't doing it moving paper from one side of a desk to the other." Honestly, my job had no meaning at all. It didn't make the world a better place. And as someone without kids of my own, I wanted to help kids out there that may not have scored a prize in the parent sweepstakes. So it's trite, but it's me.

And on the way to teaching seventh grade, I've had a number of loser jobs.

In high school I did a year-long stint in a donut shop. To this day I can't stand frosting and I'm not wild about donuts.

I've stuffed envelopes for a realtor.

I've waitressed. A lot. It got me through college. It's hard, physically demanding work and you realize that most people are just plain rude. I am, as a result, a big tipper when I get good service.

I sold jams and jellies in a mall during the Holidays.

I typed for professors during college.

I sold payroll systems. I hated my boss who liked to have screaming fits at all the sales reps, so one day I went to work with my swimsuit on underneath my business suit, quit, and went to the beach for the day.

But I think the job I hated the most was selling a sales training program for an unnamed company. It was lonely. I hated doing cold calls. My territory, since I was new and all the seasoned reps had dibs on the good areas, was so awful that if you did an economic forecast for the area it would be in a depression during an economic boom. Face it, 2-man machine shops do not want sales training. It made me absolutely freaking, cry in my pillow, miserable.

After that, seventh grade is a breeze.

One Down, One Hundred Seventy-Nine to Go!

We had our first half day of school on Friday. Don't even ask why we start with a half day, then have a weekend, then have a full week beginning Monday. I have no idea what the thinking is behind this plan. All I know is that at 7:05 Friday morning over a thousand kids showed up and we just prayed we had schedules for most of them.

The new system we've put into place for grades, scheduling and all sorts of cool things (PowerSchool) tanked on Thursday, but was up again on Friday morning. I think most of the guidance department was putting in 20 hour days just to make sure we had a smooth opening.

Those folks rock.

In the meantime, I was hoping I'd covered all the bases with my new team. I have one returning team member, Miss Reading, who will be starting her second year teaching. The others are Mr. Math who transferred from another building, Miss Language, a brand new teacher, and Mrs. Social Studies, who was on Mrs. Eagle's team last year. As a new team leader I was just hoping I wasn't forgetting anything.

We did have a bit of a case of nerves when Mr. Math lived the nightmare all teachers have. He woke up that morning and asked his wife (also a teacher) what time it was. The clock said 5:00 am so they had a bit more time. He didn't think that seemed right as it was a bit too light outside. He checked his watch and it said 6:00. I can only imagine the chaos that ensued as they both raced to get ready, get the baby ready, drop the baby off at the sitter, and power on to school. Mr. Math rolled in about 2 minutes before the buses unloaded and was a bit rattled, to say the least. Fortunately, he's a pro and everything was ready to go so there weren't any lasting problems.

We put all the seventh graders in the theater and each of us called out our homeroom class and marched them off to our rooms. My roster had shrunk from 37, to 32, then up to 35 by the time Friday morning arrived. The problem, apparently, is that the advanced math, reading, and language classes are 4th, 5th, and 6th periods. I teach 8th grade during 7th period, have planning 1st and 2nd, so the only period they can take science is 3rd. So, most of these kids are advanced, but that also means they can be quite a talkative bunch. In any case, 29 showed up, so I did have enough seats for everyone although it meant I had to use isolation seats just to get a kid in a chair.

In the past, we've kept our homerooms for about 2 hours, then have them rotate through their schedules for 10 minute periods until it's time to release them to go home. This year it was decided that we'd keep our homeroom kids for the entire time.

I don't know how you elementary teachers do it. The thought of keeping 29 7th graders busy for a solid 3 hours and 30 minutes is daunting.

So, we handed out the ream of paperwork that needs to go home. And went over it piece by piece, and reminded them which needed to be signed and returned and which needed to be kept. I figure half of it will end up in the trash. I was astounded at the number of free and reduced meal letters I sent out. Well over one third of my class was apparently on free and reduced last year.

I did a PowerPoint on important things like lockers, and behavior, and lunch, and behavior, and supplies, and behavior, and so forth and so on. We took a bathroom break and I realized, as they were marching back to the room, that I have about 20 boys in this class. We did a group activity. We did a learning style inventory worksheet (which they thought was pretty cool). We did a word search and we did a vanity license plate drawing....and we kept them busy until it was time to send them to the buses.

And we waved them goodbye, went out to have our last sit-down restaurant lunch for a long time, and realized that it went pretty well.

We had seats for everyone.

All but four kids - in the entire school - had their schedules.

The system didn't crash.

Every kid knew what bus they got on to go home.

And no one cried or threw up.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Maybe We Can Stack Them on the Bookshelves?

As school starts on Friday, teachers and support staff had to report to work on Tuesday. It was actually nice to get back into the swing of things. I'm one of those people who do better (especially when it comes to watching what I eat) when I have more structure in my days, and school certainly provides that.

One of the new things we're piloting this year is a web-based gradebook program. I've already been through the training and this program is going to be light-years ahead of the ones we used last year. Last year we had continual problems with uploads, files getting corrupted, servers crashing and just about anything bad you can think of. It frustrated us and it frustrated the parents. The only people who were delighted with all our problems were the kids who loved it when mom and dad couldn't check up on them. Those days are past. Now, the grades are accessible as soon as you save them, we're doing attendance electronically, and it's a much more stream-lined and user-friendly. One of my favorite features is it allows parents to request an email progress report whenever they want - daily if they so desire.


Being a pilot school means that we're going live with this program without much of a chance to test it. Instead of dumping data from an old program, (which was a dog and goodness knows what troubles that would cause) our guidance department (which is phenomenal) was going to go live with raw data. I don't know all the details, but I guess one of the biggest challenges was scheduling the students, not so much due to the software, but due to all the kids who have to been in classes that are offered only once a day - gifted classes, special education programs, and the like. It was apparently quite the nightmare.

So today the rumor went around that we could go look at our rosters as they were available. There's nothing a teacher likes more than getting his or her hands on new rosters. We all want to see if we got kids we wanted (or kids we didn't). I was particularly interested to see if some kids I'd requested (siblings of kids I loved, and one kid from gameclub who I really connected with) were on my team. It's always kind of like opening a Christmas present when you get your rosters.

Boy was I in for a surprise!

I pulled up the website, logged in, when to the gradebook section, and discovered that my homeroom class (which is also my 3rd period class as I have 1st and 2nd planning, and which is also the same group of kids I get at the end of the day for a 15 minute advisory) had 37 students enrolled.

That's 37.

That's not a typo.

I have 28 seats.

Do you see a problem here?

I could, if pushed, find room for 32 kids and that's filling up every available isolation seat. I only have 7 tables (because that's all my room can hold) for my students to sit at. That's 28 I need to find space for 9 more.

My other seventh grade science classes have 25, 25, and 27 kids, which is fine. My one eighth grade health class has 29, but that's fine as well. I knew that my science class sizes would go up as I'm teaching four, not five, sections due to volunteering to take the health class. Last year I had classes with 19 kids, and they lacked the dynamic, especially in class discussions, that a larger group of kids would possess.

But 37 kids?

I have been assured that this is temporary, that the rosters are not finalized, and that they'll try to even things out. I've also been told that a lot of kids move over them summer so hopefully they won't all show up.

We shall see.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Where's an Expert When You Need One

I've been working in my room a bit the past week or so mainly because we get paid a stipend for spending a day outside our contract doing this, and because it takes me forever to get everything together. Every year we pack everything up so that the maintenance folks can empty our rooms, strip the floors, wax the floors, and, if needed, paint. Since I'm in the old part of the building that means I have no built-in storage units, so everything is in rolling cabinets and bookcases. So, every August, I stroll in to the building and start unpacking and sorting. The plus side is that it gives me a chance to go through everything and to get rid of stuff I don't need anymore. The downer side is that it's a bit time consuming.

When I showed up a few weeks ago I discovered that my room had become the dumping ground for this part of the building. There were tables, cabinets, chairs, and more that did not belong to me, or in my room. I found one of the janitors, explained the situation, and discovered that all that had been put in my room when they'd remodeled the speech teacher's room. That's fine, but I needed it put back in her room so I could get mine put together.

By last week, most of the extra stuff had been removed, but I still ended up putting at least ten chairs, a table, and a file cabinet out into the hallway - my subtle reminder that this stuff needs to go somewhere else.

On an is stated clearly in The Principal's end of the year letter, that we are to label everything in our room with our name and room number. Why most of this extra stuff (and I later found out it belonged to not one, but three other teachers) was not labeled is beyond me.

And then there was the tech issue. (Isn't there always a tech issue?)

Before I left for the summer, I drew a map of my classroom on my white board so any of the maintenance staff could see where things went. Everything was put into its place except for my tech stuff which was apparently set up by "experts" sent to us by the district office.

Anyone remember our "experts" from last year? Well, they were back, apparently.

Although the room map was directly in front of where they were working, they didn't bother to read it. Consequently my desk and teacher stand (that holds my document reader and computer) were not where they were supposed to be. My printer was smack in the middle of my desk (my, that would be efficient, wouldn't it?). It was supposed to be on a table in another part of the room. My phone wasn't hooked up correctly. Nothing worked.

And someone had torn off all the labels I had put on every single wire and plug and outlet and hub and put them in a nice, neat pile on my document reader.

So...Mrs. Eagle and I had to unplug and rearrange everything. Which took an extra hour since all my labels were removed.

What a waste of time. I wish they'd just let us set the tech stuff up ourselves. And leave my labels alone.

Oh, and just in case you're wondering...they managed to crash the system - again - this year.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The End of Summer Song

Every summer, about a month before school starts back up in August, there's a sound that I hear that reminds me that summer is winding down.

It's the song of the cicadas.

I never heard of cicadas until I moved to the Midwest about 15 years ago. Suffice it to say, they don't thrive in Los Angeles, where I grew up. (Go to this site, scroll down to the cicada picture, and listen to the sound they make if you aren't familiar with them either.)

Every once in a while the media makes a big deal over a designated "brood" of cicadas, which can be impressive. However, there are cicadas that show up every single year and just hang out in the trees and do their thing.

What they do best is remind me that summer is almost over.

I'm not the only one, either. Mrs. Cardinal and I were walking to the tavern while I was up in Ohio and we heard them. "Ah," she said. "That means there's only about four more weeks of summer."


Still, I enjoy listening to them. It's nice to have a reminder that doesn't beep at me or need batteries.