Friday, December 18, 2009

Making The Cut

One of the things the three seventh grade teams had to do before we left for our Christmas break was to select the twenty-four students per team that we wanted to invite on the annual camping trip in May. The trip costs money ($100 to be exact) and since many of our kids receive money for Christmas gifts, we wanted them to know about the trip in case they wanted to use their money to help pay for it.

Choosing the twelve boys and girls we want to take is not easy. Some years it is easier than others. The group of students we had last year was so unpleasant that we actually had the unusual problem of not being able to come up with 24 that we could tolerate and trust for a weekend. This year the problem was that we have so many neat kids that it was hard to narrow the list down to the number we needed.

We could, obviously, do it the easy way and just take a look at the kids' grades and work our way through the list of A and B students. However, this trip was originally designed to serve as a something special for kids that may not have a lot of opportunities in life and may not have ever done something like this. So, we tend to pick kids who have good character, who could possibly be leaders in the 8th grade next year, and who may not have a lot of economic advantages. (The $100 is paid for over a period five months so most of the kids can, eventually, scrape the money together - if not, the student council can help, and we've had donations from some of our PTO families and even a teacher or two has funded a kid's trip.) In short, nice kids. Kids you wouldn't mind spending an unpaid weekend in the wild with and who you know won't start a forest fire or create some other disaster.

I had the team email me the kids that they felt would be good candidates (including some alternates as some kids don't want to, or can't go), and came up with our original 24. This was not easy. However, when I saw the list, I liked what I saw - we had a good mix of kids with different academic levels, ranging from gifted to special ed kids, and including at least two who are in our remediation class. We had kids from single parent homes, military kids, and kids who live with grandparents. We had every sort of race and ethnic group represented, and we had a nice mix of personalities - quiet and steady, fun-loving and active, and everyone in between.

It is a really neat group of kids.

And as team leader, I got to hand them the letter inviting them on the trip and letting the parents know the details. (It also helps that I teach a subject that ALL our kids have so I see them all.) Mrs. Social Studies wanted in on the action so I'd pop my head in her door and she'd come out and join me in the hallway when I'd call the kids out for a discussion.

The first few groups of kids all thought they were in some kind of trouble when we called them out into the hallway. When they found out what it was for - "I'm invited on the Camping Trip! - the look on their faces was absolutely priceless. Eyes widened, mouths hung open, and they looked at those letters in awe. We impressed upon them that this was an honor, that we couldn't take everyone, and that we picked them because of their good character. In other words, don't come back to school in January acting like a heathen and getting in trouble or we'll take back the invitation.

They were pinging off the walls by the time we sent them back into the classroom.

By the end of the day, the kids in the last few periods had heard about The Letter and when we called them out into the hallway they were already bouncing and bobbing around. The last group could hardly contain their excitement as we handed them their letters. Mrs. Social Studies and I had a ball!

The next day I was nearly stampeded with kids bringing back the signed letters indicating they were going to go on the trip - these kids (especially some of the girls) are pumped!

I wish we could take them all. However, this group of kids this year looks to be very promising. It may be our best camping trip yet.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Just When You Need Them the Most

For about five years we had a wonderful nurse at The School. We loved her. Nurse Bee was a dream. She was warm, and fuzzy, and smart, and was just the perfect middle school nurse. However, she wanted to go on to school to become an RN so she had to leave.

And so we started a new school year in August with a new nurse.

Who, after our September flu epidemic, decided that at 60, she wasn't cut out for the fast pace of middle school medicine.

So we got a new nurse who was young and sweet and just a delight.

Who, having just moved to the area, had some childcare issues and had to quit to stay home with her children (probably a good idea economically considering what the cost of childcare is versus the wage of a school nurse.)

We are now nurseless.

The Guidance Goddess and Guidance Diva are doing their best to deal with the dispensing of meds (which is mindblowing) but if it's a headache, an injury, flu, pestilence, plague or anything else that a middle schooler may be experiencing, it's a call home so the parents can come fetch the little darling and haul their infectious little rear end home.

Where they should stay until they are are well and not able to spread their little germs everywhere.

So, of course, this week we have an outbreak of stomach flu. Not just the "I feel icky" kind of stomach issues, but the real "I have to go to the bathroom now to barf!" variety. Fortunately all my children have made it to the bathroom and we haven't had any incidents in the hall or the classroom - so far.

Honestly, you know this is real. You can't fake green pallor after all. (Even Skater Goober with his make-up can't look this ill.) When they come up to you with That Look, you simply point to the door and tell them to run like the wind.

"I need to go to the nurse," one of the kids will say, clutching the edge of a desk, or wiping their hand across a sweating brow.

"We have no nurse. You'll have to call home." And off I go to fill out the phone pass so they can go up to the front office to call home. (I hope they are disinfecting the phone between calls.)

This works out okay as long as you can get a hold of a parent. Sometimes you can't. (It helps, I might add, to have a working phone number on file on the emergency card when the kid can't remember the parent phone number because they're too busy losing their lunch in the front office restroom.) If we can't get a hold of a parent, they're back in class, looking like death warmed over. At this point I just tell them to chose an isolation seat (my kids all sit at tables which are great for group work and passing along germs) where they can sit and put their head down.

Three more days...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Have I Got a Deal For You!

I love the last week of a grading period. That's the time of year when forlorn little seventh graders come sidling up to their teachers begging, pleading, and in some cases demanding, extra credit in order to bring their grades up to a passing level.

I hate to tell them this, but no amount of extra credit is really going to save most of them. I mean when you have a 43% and 70% is just doesn't compute.


Because I like to have fun, I put a note on the PowerPoint agenda that is broadcast on the Big Huge Screen in my room for the first nine minutes of class (four minutes in between class periods, and another five once the bell has run.) The note said "Today Only - turn in Twenty Reward Tickets and earn 10 points of extra credit!"

Now from the very first day of school one of the things I tell my students is that they Need To Read the PowerPoint When They Walk Into Class...this slideshow tells them what our standards are, what we're doing, what's due, any messages I need to get to them, plus a daily quote and a science trivia. And, of course, every day I have some knucklehead asking me "What are we doing today?" when it's sliding by them on a Big Huge Screen in full color.

Any guesses on how many kids actually read the message about the extra credit and took advantage of it?

Out of 97 kids?


As my grandmother would have said, "if it had been a snake, it would have bit 'em!"

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Could be a Vampire Thing

As a seventh grade teacher you tend to get a little immune to weirdness.

Especially if teaching middle school is your second career and you've already spent a lifetime dealing with the weirdness that is corporate life (which is perhaps why the movie Office Space is one of my favorites) along with helping hubby deal with the general rock'n'roll public with his music business. You want weird? Hang out at a record and CD music show in any big city and see what comes strolling in. Green and pink hair is nothing new.

Oh, and I grew up in L.A., so there's little that phases me these days.

Which is why I wasn't completely freaked out, or even remotely concerned, when one of our boys, Skater Goober, started to wear really heavy foundation makeup.

Mrs. Aide was the first one who asked me about it. "Did you notice that Skater Goober is wearing really heavy makeup?" she asked me the other day.

I had to think about it for a minute. "Yeah," I finally said. "I did notice that. Didn't pay much attention truth be told."

"Really? Isn't that a bit odd? I mean for a boy?"

"Well, I had the glam rock kids a few years ago where the boys were wearing eyeliner (skaters again, interestingly enough) and I've had the goth kids, and now we've got kids who want to be vampires, so no, I guess I didn't think it was odd."

I'm not sure at this point she didn't think I was nuts.

(On an aside, Skater Goober has done a pretty impressive turnaround. He's passing all his classes but one, which is amazing since he failed most of his classes last year and was on that path again this year. He's doing great, and I've got to give him credit for that. He's matured and learned that - amazing - when you study, you pass!)

Mr. Math, youngster that he is, thinks it might be a medicated thing for acne. Could be. After all this is seventh grade where the hormones are raging and making life miserable for my kids, not only emotionally but with the curse of acne, stringy hair, cracking voices and just general overall misery.

However, considering the raging popularity that are the Twilight books, and how the kids are all of a sudden obsessed with vampires, I'm seeing quite a few kids, mostly girls, who are trying to look a bit more pale than normal. I figured Skater Goober might just be in the vampire camp at this point.

Too bad he doesn't sparkle.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

He's Baaaaack!

I was cruising through Guidance the other day (it is, after all on the way to the bathrooms and mailboxes) when the Guidance Goddess flagged me down.

"Mr. History is going to want to talk to you," she said. "Bully Boy is back."

This stopped me in my tracks.

"He's back?" I asked, although it didn't surprise me. I figured he'd come bouncing back one of these days, I just prayed it would be after he'd done his time in seventh grade and wasn't my potential problem anymore. After all, he'd bounced back twice last year.

"Yes, he enrolled yesterday. He's apparently now living with Dad and Dad's girlfriend."

"Really?" I raised my eyebrows at this one. "So now Dad wants him?"

"Apparently so. Dad's Girlfriend has a daughter in 8th grade as well, and from what I can tell, this girlfriend has managed to put a foot up his ass. Which he needed. However, Mr. History will still want to talk to you."

He better. This kid is a holy terror.

Some of my former students, now 8th graders, managed to come by and fill me in with this joyful news later on in the day. They were less than thrilled. This kid is so mean, and so hateful, that even the other bullies can't stand him. The 8th grade populace was not happy to see this one bounce back among their midst.

Unless Bully Boy has been completely reformed (doubtful) Mr. History and his 8th grade team are in for a quite a journey.

And just remembering some of his stunts is starting to give me hives.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009



Guess who showed up with a nice new twenty dollar bill to put into his lunch account?

Lunch Boy!

Wonder if The Principal finally got to the parents and Made Her Point?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Take Care of Your Kid, Already

Every day my fifth period class comes into my room, puts their things down on the tables, and then we line up to go to lunch. And every day Lunch Boy is standing at the head of the line, and just a bit to the side because his job (for some reason) is to "walk with Mrs. Bluebird."

I'm not sure where this comes from. In the past (last year comes to mind when I had the Lunch Group From the Very Depths of Hell Itself) I've used the "walking with teacher" bit as a way to control a kid who can't control himself or herself in line. It's either shape up or walk with Mrs. Bluebird. It usually works. For some reason, this year Lunch Boy has decided that he needs to walk with me, and not with the class, on the way to lunch. I think, honestly, that he wants a grown up to talk to.

Because his parents don't give him one bit of attention. At all.

Our conversations usually run like this.

"How's your day been?" I'll ask him.

"Oh okay," he'll say. And he'll mention something that happened in math or some gossip about some other kids (I learn a lot from this kid).

I'll then ask about lunch. "So, you have money in your lunch account?"

"No, not today. I asked them (them being his parents) for money last night and they forgot again."

"So, what are you planning on eating?" I'll ask. "Did you pack anything?"

"Oh, probably nothing," he'll say again. "Mom won't make me a lunch." At this point I'll remind him that we have crackers and apples for the kids with no money or lunch and all he has to do is ask the lunchroom aides for help and they'll take him aside and at least give him a piece of fruit.

This is a daily ritual with us. He never has lunch money in his account. He currently owes $9 in charges on his account and has been cut off by the cafeteria management. We have sent home several forms to request free and reduced lunch and although Lunch Boy says they've been returned, no one has any record of them ever coming back. (We doubt they've been returned. In fact, we doubt they've been filled out. We suspect that the family may not qualify.) Mr. Math, his homeroom teacher, has called and left message after message about the fact that Lunch Boy is not eating lunch and needs money in his account, and has never, ever received a return phone call.

And the Lunch Boy will make comments about his mom playing video games. "Oh Mom was busy playing World of Warcraft again yesterday," he'll say. "She's too busy playing on the computer to give me lunch money."

I am so sick and tired of this nonsense. It is absolutely ridiculous that this kid is going hungry. If his parents can't afford to feed him, there's a program out there to make sure he's fed. In fact, none of our children in school should be going hungry. So really there's no excuse for the fact that every day this kid is not eating lunch (and goodness knows about breakfast).

If the reason he isn't eating lunch is because mom and day are too busy playing video games, then that's just insane. And irresponsible. And just downright beyond belief.

But part of me is thinking that it just might be the truth.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Teachers aren't used to when we get it, we're usually, well, stunned.

It's particularly sweet when it comes from a peer you respect. So, you can understand that I'm very flattered and really quite surprised and very giddy to see that Mr. Teacher, one of my favorite bloggers, has nominated me for Best Teacher Blog for 2009.

I am humbled, considering what a great blogger Mr. Teacher is. (And you should buy his book).


Friday, December 04, 2009

There's Just Something About a Punnett Square

This week we started a new unit on genetics.

I absolutely love genetics. It's a totally cool subject and there are so many activities that you can do with it that I could, if I had the time, spend an entire month on the subject. (Unfortunately, I don't because we have that Carved In Stone Deadline of the Very Big Deal Government Mandated Test looming on the horizon). has been my experience that this is one of those units where you will actually see a light go on over a kid's head when they all of a sudden get it. We'll be going over (and over and over and over) how to do a Punnett Square (and better yet, how to interpret the results) and you'll hear a kid exclaim, "I get it now!" and off they go, crossing genes left and right. It's a lot of fun.

When the kids actually listen, pay attention and retain anything you've said over the past, oh, three or four days. Or better yet - actually learn their vocabulary words so they know what in the heck we're talking about.

We are using (over and over and over and over) the words genotype, phenotype, dominant, recessive, homozygous, and heterozygous. We have written these in notes, given example after example, worked problem after problem, and used these words over and over to the point that I'm seeing them in my sleep. I've had the kids throughout each class period raise their hands to indicate "got it", hand clenched for "kinda got it", and thumbs down for "completely lost". By the end of each period, all hands were in the "got it" range. So you'd think, hey, we're home free, right?


Some of them are still absolutely clueless. (The ones, interestingly enough, who rarely do work and can't shut up.)

I teach our study skills class during one of my planning periods on Thursdays and I used that time to - once again - reteach the subject. I had Mrs. Aide in there with me (this was a repeat for her as she had just come from Mrs. Eagle's study skills class first period where she did the exact same lesson - we do collaborate after all!) After I finished the review I gave the kids an activity pack called Zork Genetics (developed by Rodger Moore from Wooster High School in Reno, Nevada - go here for a link to the pages; you'll have to scroll down a bit) which is a ton of fun and really, really easy. The idea was to walk them through the first problem, put them in pairs, have them solve the next problem, class discussion, pair up again, and so on.

Except they couldn't even get how we did the first problem.

Homozygous? Didn't have a clue (and couldn't even figure out how to look on the handy little table and read down the "homozygous" column for the answer). Heterozygous? Even worse.

I was aghast. Mrs. Aide was shaking her head. These were the same kids who assured me that they "got it", the day before. Today they were completely blank. Utterly unable to answer a single question.

"So, just a quick question," I asked. "How many of you actually did your vocabulary cards Monday and started studying them?"

They blinked. Not a hand went up.

"So, you have no clue what I'm talking about?"

More blinking.

"Any suggestions?" I asked them.

Polite Boy raised his hand timidly. "I think we need to learn our words, Ma'am," he said.

"I think you're right," I answered. "Because if you don't know what they mean, you're never going to figure out what's going on."

It's going to be a long two weeks...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Carnival Time!

Well it looks like the Education Carnival is back, but with a new mentor - please take a look and enjoy some fun, witty, and thought provoking writing!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

And They Thought We Were Kidding....

Once every nine week grading period we have to assign a writing prompt related to our academic content area. We collect it, grade it for content, then pass it along to the language arts teachers who grade it for all that language artsy stuff like grammar, spelling, and so forth. These then go into the students portfolios which follow them from grade to grade to grade.

(Can you just see some high school senior going through his or her portfolio and coming across some of the absolute garbage they churned out in middle school and asking themselves, "What was I thinking?")

This is a district-wide requirement. So, it was a tad disheartening to see that we had, maybe, about a 50% turn in rate on our first writing prompt this year. These are not difficult at all. We have a rubric, we have fairly easy prompts, we include a graphic organizer so students can organize what few thoughts they have, and we give them time in class to work on these. Apparently, churning out a decent paragraph for some of these kids is like pulling teeth. And what was infuriating was that we knew that they could do better. A hell of a lot better.

Mrs. Eagle and I were not happy with this at all. Some of these kids, if we let them, would have nothing but empty portfolios at the end of the year. This wasn't going to cut it.

So, based on Mrs. Eagle's brilliant idea, we asked The Principal if we could hold an after school detention for the kids who didn't turn in their assignment. She loved the idea and said, "Go with it." So we did.

When we assigned the prompt we told them this was a district requirement, they were going to turn an assignment in, and if not, they'd have to stay after school to complete it. One way or another, they'd get something in that portfolio. It may be crap, but it would be completed crap.

A few of the kids took us seriously and by the due date (Tuesday before Thanksgiving break) I had about 75% of the papers turned in. This was a big improvement over the last prompt, but I still needed 24 more papers to get my full 100% turn in.

On Monday the students who still owed the writing prompt had a letter stapled into their agendas informing the parents that their child still owed us an assignment that not only was a district requirement, but that was Actually Worked On In Class, and that if we didn't have a completed assignment in our hot little hands by the this morning, they'd be staying after school this afternoon. Parents were asked to sign the letter confirming that they'd pick their little darlings up at 4:00 pm should they fail to complete the assignment before detention. I also emailed a copy of the letter to the parents in question.

You should have seen the papers come flying into my in box the next day. I've never seen kids so eager to turn in an assignment and to make sure their name was crossed off the detention list. It was apparent, from the urgency of these kids, that not only did they not want to stay after school and write for over an hour, but Mom and Dad were Not In The Mood to have to take time out of their day to come pick them up from detention because they didn't do an assignment.

As of this afternoon I am only missing four assignments. One is from a girl who has been out sick and I haven't seen since before break. Another is from a girl who was also out sick and just came back today - her language arts teacher is going to work with her to get it done. Another is from a boy who's already staying after for tutoring and who was working on it this afternoon. The last was from a boy who was supposed to stay after, forgot, and who royally ticked off mom when he got off the bus this afternoon. She called me and asked if she could bring him back. I suggested she save the time and gas (they live on the edge of our zone) and I'd just email her the prompt. She loved the idea and he was going to spend the afternoon writing at the kitchen table.

Amazing. I may just make a 100% turn in on this. And what's even more astounding. Most of these writing prompts were, from a science standpoint, pretty darn good.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

When Bouncing a Ball is Too Much Work

A few weeks ago I had a chance to catch up with Coach Math who is now teaching P.E. and coaching full time, having achieved his dream of Finally Getting Out of the Math Classroom when some of our teachers moved on up to the Local High School, creating an opening. His morning hall duty station is nearby so I strolled on over to see how the basketball season was going to shape up.

"Oh man, it's not looking good," he said. "Very few of my kids from last year had the grades to play, so I'm having to go with younger kids with no experience but with better grades."

This was a surprise. Basketball is usually a Very Big Deal around here and there's usually no shortage of kids wanting a chance to play on the team.

"It's weird," he continued. "It's like they don't want to put forth the effort to be on the team and do the work it takes to practice and learn the game."

What? Not wanting to work? Lack of effort? These are the words those of us in the academic courses, not P.E....however, it appears that the perpetual laziness that we've seen in our classrooms have now permeated sports.

Many of us have used sports as the carrot to bribe some of our low-achievers into performing so they could play. However, from what Coach said, this isn't working anymore. These kids aren't motivated enough to keep up the grades to play, and they aren't motivated to run and sweat and actually work at developing their basketball skills. Apparently the only thing they want to do is go home, play on their video games or text their friends, and do as little physical exertion and thinking as possible.

Jeez, I know it's bad when kids down and out refuse to do academic work, but what's the world coming to when they're so damn lazy they won't even bounce a ball down a basketball court?

Is this just a weird little blip on the radar or are we raising a generation of committed slugs?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Avoiding the Inevitable

It's the last day of my Thanksgiving Break. Daddy is here, it's raining outside, and there's football on television.

And I have three periods of writing prompts which I should be grading.

But I don't really feel motivated to do so.


As much as I like to read, and write, I could never have been a language arts teacher. They have my utmost respect for slogging through essay after essay after essay. It's bad enough that we have to assign, and grade for content, one writing assignment every nine weeks. I could not have done it on a regular basis.

So I have these writing prompts dealing with pollination, some of which are quite good and some of which - let's be honest - are awful.

Putting a needle in your eye awful.

And I really need to get them graded. But honestly, I'd rather hang with Dad, knit and watch football.

What's a girl to do?

Friday, November 27, 2009

When Parents Stick Their Heads in the Sand

We have a girl on the team who has incredible potential but is probably one of the most messed up kids I've seen in a long time.

The fact that I didn't even meet her until the fifth day of school, because she was in ISS during the first four days, was an indication of trouble to come. Academically she should be an A and B student, but is getting by with C's and D's.

The kids all think she's nuts. They'll come right out and say it if you ask where she's at (often I see her in the morning, but she'll do something to get in trouble and end up in ISS).

"Oh, Crazy Girl, she's up in ISS," they'll say to my inquiries. "She's nuts! She's just crazy." Now, in middle school, when your peers think you're crazy, chances are that there's something off somewhere.

We had a meeting, called by Mom, early in the year which was a bit odd in itself. Mom is going to college so she isn't home a lot, but Crazy Girl has both parents (biological dad is in the picture which is almost unusual these days), and they live in an area in the rural part of our county along with a lot of their kin in the same neighborhood. "She's never by herself," Mom assured us. "She has lots of love and support from her parents, her grandparents and lots of aunts and uncles." Mom didn't understand the dark eye makeup, the defiant attitude, the refusal to do work, the mood swings. Mom nervously giggled during the entire meeting and Crazy Girl sat there and sulked until we asked her to leave so we could talk to Mom in private. Mom didn't seem to get that there were problems out there, much more than academic.

Like Crazy Girl's obsession with the really bad boys in school - she's drawn to the kids that ooze hatred and trouble. Her latest was a boy she met in ISS (and passed some incredibly graphic notes to explaining the various sex acts she was willing to do with and for him). He's been sent to alternative school and she's been trying to get there ever since. Prior to his removal, she ended up in ISS a number of times for groping and kissing him in the hallway.

Another weird habit of hers is that she hangs on kids. It's kind of hard to explain without a picture, but she'll literally drape herself over her friends' backs and hang on them. She's very touchy - always grabbing at her girlfriends, hugging, holding hands, and hanging on them. So much so that Mrs. Social Studies asked me in the hall one day if I thought that perhaps Crazy Girl was a bit confused over her sexual orientation.

And then there are the days that she's absolutely wild and manic prior to lunch, and then almost falling out of her chair, woozy, and incoherent after lunch. Substance abuse? Stealing mom and dad's meds out of the bathroom? Hard to say, and I simply type up another referral to guidance to have the counseling pros check it out.

And she's a cutter.

I had heard from guidance that we were getting a few kids who had had issues with cutting in sixth grade. From what we were able to tell, most of these kids had stopped cutting and were dealing with life a lot better. Not Crazy Girl, however. She has, from the first day I've seen her, cut herself, on the face, of all places. You actually have to look fairly close to see the cuts, but they are there and they are definitely caused by a razor blade.

So, this last week, Crazy Girl cursed out a substitute teacher and ended back in guidance and Mr. Enforcer finally decided that she'd earned herself a ticket to alternative school. Where, I hope, she and the boyfriend don't get put in the same room together - however, if they do, it won't take long before they do something really stupid and find themselves expelled. Crazy Girl spent most of the day in guidance waiting for her parents to come in and meet with Mr. Enforcer.

Which gave the Guidance Goddess and Guidance Diva a lot of time to observe some really odd behavior.

"I think that kid needs a therapist in the worst way," said Guidance Goddess. "She's crying and sobbing one minute, giggling and laughing the next. And every time we gave her something to eat, she'd go into the bathroom and throw up. Heavens she's probably bulimic."

I had to agree with her. This is one troubled kid. I checked with Mr. Enforcer at the end of the day to find out what was going to happen with her.

"She's got 30 days in alternative school," he said, shaking his head. "Her parents are just clueless about what's going on with this kid. It's so sad. Do you realize that her mom thinks those cuts on her face are from the family cat?"

This absolutely stunned me. Those cuts look nothing - nothing! - like cat scratches. And they've been there for months, in the same exact place.

I feel so bad for Crazy Girl, and for her parents. They want to believe that everything is fine because all their other kids are fine, they have a nice nuclear family, and everyone is fed, clothed and cared for. However, something is missing in Crazy Girl's life, or she wouldn't be engaging in such self-destructive behavior. I hope and pray that she gets some help soon, because she's on a dangerous path.

But if parents keep sticking their heads into the sand kids like her won't get the help they need.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Vision of Hell

Is Black Friday.

My goal? To stay home, sleep in, knit, pet a cat or four, hang with Daddy Bird, and avoid the entire mall area of town.

In the meantime, I'm giving thanks that I have a fantastic husband, two wonderful parents in great health, and some great friends and family.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mr. Teacher Does It Again

I love the blog (and book) Learn Me Good, hosted by Mr. Teacher. He's funny, he's witty, and he's brave because he teaches elementary math. And this week he came up with a post that actually had me laughing so hard I was crying. Perhaps it was just the title (he's great at those), but it's well worth your time to check it out. And buy his book!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

For Those Trying to Work the System

Just a little advice here.

When you come down to your kids' school to see about getting on the list to receive the care packages we put together for Christmas, it's not really smart to drive up to the school in a car that's nicer than those owned by most of the staff and the administration in the building. Yeah, we know you're really proud of that gleaming 2009 SUV, but when the teachers are driving cars that are at least ten years old, it's not really cool. Granted, you may have gotten it with drug money (I mean, who's to say?) but cool. Walk to the school. Or take the bus. But don't flash around in your Escalade.

And another thing. We know you're really attached to that snazzy little bluetooth thing wired into your head, but since you're there to ask for free food for your kids because you can't possibly feed them, you may want to consider leaving all your electronic toys at home. Tuck that nice little iPod out of sight, unplug the damn earbuds from your ear, and for heaven's sake, stop the texting while the ladies in guidance are trying to help you. It's rude.

And then there's the clothes. Remember, you're here to ask for free food and clothes for your kids, because you can't possibly afford to feed and clothe them yourself, so it's a good idea to dress modestly. That means leaving the designer jackets and tennis shoes at home. And ladies, let's try to keep our bosoms covered up - this is your kid's school, not a try out for a Shakira video, so we don't need to be seeing your boobs. Especially when they're covered with about $1,000 worth of tattoos. Come to think, make sure you remove all those piercings and cover up those pricey tattoos so we don't really find out what your spend your money on.

I'm just saying...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When You Do Too Good of a Job

For as long as I've been at The School, we've always had a pretty good program whereby we help our most needy families during the holidays so they can have a decent meal for Christmas and some gifts for the kids. The student council raises money, we beat the bushes for donations (some church groups donate quite a bit, as well as businesses), and we manage to take care of quite a few families every year. Heavens, one year my homeroom class even, on their own initiative, adopted a family and made sure that they had a nice Christmas. I was proud of them for doing that.

Unfortunately, every year as our free and reduced lunch numbers increase, so do the numbers of families we recommend. I think this year the team recommended about 15 kids, which is about 8 more than we've done in the past - and we're the small team this year. But let me tell you, these kids need the help. Badly.

One thing I just found out, however, is that we've developed a reputation. Apparently word has gotten out around town that The School does a really good job on taking care of our needy families and now people from all over town - from other schools in fact - are calling to be put on our list.

This absolutely floored me. Guidance Diva, who fields the phone calls for this program and who calls and confirms with all the families we recommend, mentioned that she's getting call after call after call from parents of students at other schools wanting to get in on our care packages. I could be wrong, but we were under the impression that the other buildings in the district pretty much did the same fact one high school not only has a program in place but each and every classroom is stocked with apples, crackers, and food just in case a kid is going hungry at lunch. All they have to do is ask.

It's nice, in a weird way, that people think we're doing a good job. However, it will take every penny we have to take care of our own students this year, let alone children from other buildings. You hate to turn them down, but we are. Our kids need to be taken care of first and foremost, and considering the increase in numbers, it's going to be a lot of work to see that this happens. wish you could take care of them all.

An Unexpected Surprise

Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Hummingbird and I were not really too hopeful that our students would do well on their first benchmark. Why, you ask?

1. We have a huge, and I mean HUGE, number of kids reading 1-2 years, and yes, 3-4 years, below grade level. When Mrs. Eagle and I went and helped edit the benchmarks, we voiced a concern that it was written way above grade level. High school kids might be able to decipher it, but we had doubts about seventh graders who were reading at a 4th grade level. We figured they'd read the first page of questions, give up, and start bubbling in designs on their answer sheets.

2. These kids, while nice, don't turn in work. They don't do work. So therefore, we had some serious reservations that they'd remember anything they'd been taught, since they weren't practicing any of it.

3. There's really no incentive for the kids to do well outside of perhaps the bribe of a pizza party, and for some of them, it's not worth the effort. They'd rather bubble in the answer sheet and daydream for 70 minutes.

4. And then of course, there were the kids last year who, as a group, scored 1% proficient on the first benchmark. That means 3 kids out of 300 seventh graders passed the silly thing. We didn't see that this group would do much better.

Imagine our surprise when we went and scanned in the answer sheets and discovered that, as a grade level, we had 21% proficient!

Yes that was 21% proficient!! We about fell over. Seriously.

And interestingly, when we sat and analyzed what the kids had trouble with the commonality was that they were on questions without graphics (science is heavy on graphics and charts) and with long passages of reading. One page of the test was all text, and crammed together with little spacing between questions (to save paper, obviously, but it makes the test difficult to read) - they had trouble with all the questions on that page, regardless of the standard or topic. Heck, it made my eyes go blurry just looking at it.

So it was a nice surprise...considering how low this group is when it comes to reading skills, we were glad to see that they managed to actually exceed our expectations.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


I hate having a cold.

Flu (not N1H1, just your normal garden variety flu) swept through the building in September and I didn't get a thing.

But now? A nasty icky cold that feels like a cross between allergies from hell and bronchitis.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Up By Ten

We had our first of two parent teacher conference nights last night.

The weather was forecasting possible rain showers, so we weren't really counting on a lot of folks.

We've had little to know reaction to our report cards that went out last week, so we weren't really counting on a lot of folks.

And the last time we held conferences, my team made school history by being the first team to score a perfect zero in parent attendance.

So, we weren't really counting on a lot of folks.

Conferences ran from 4:30 to 7:00 and amazingly, I saw ten parents. Even better? These were the parents I really wanted and needed to see for the most part. All in all, it went pretty good.

Mrs. Eagle, however, had a total of six. Mrs. Hummingbird had four. And there were a few who had even less. I guess the days of parents two to six deep waiting to get into the room to see you are gone.

But overall, after last year, I'm pleased as punch.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Is it Me or Does it Echo In Here?

For the past two years, The District has utilized an on-line gradebook system called PowerSchool. I love it. I can update grades at home, run reports on missing work, progress reports, and probably reports I haven't thought of yet. Parents can check grades any time of the night or day, see that work is missing, and can even get grade updates emailed to them. Students hate it because parents can keep a really close eye on what they are, or more precisely, what they are not doing.

District surveys show that about 89% of our parents have access to email and a computer. I send out a weekly email to about 85% of my parents, so despite being one of the poorer buildings in the district, our numbers aren't too bad. Last year to save paper, they put the Code of Conduct and Student Handbook on line and parents had to sign a form saying that yes, they reviewed it with their kid or no, they needed a hard copy. This year I had one kid in my homeroom request a hard copy. So everything sounds hunky dory and all our parents are utilizing PowerSchool.

Except they aren't. I can go on-line and see the last time a parent or a student accessed PowerSchool and you would be amazed how many of them either haven't ever logged in, or how many logged in in August and never came back. Getting a password is not a challenge - they've been sent home at least twice, there is a table staffed by guidance at nearly every school event (except sporting events) where people can get their passwords. And I'm not the only teacher who sends out a weekly email that mentions checking grades in PowerSchool and to "contact Guidance Goddess at blah blah blah to get your password if you need it." Every single parent meeting we have we mention PowerSchool and if we get that blank look, we walk the parent down to Guidance, get their user name and password, and hopefully they can figure it out from there. All it takes is a little effort.

Last year The District decided that enough parents were on PowerSchool and that we would cease sending home paper Progress Reports. The Principal nixed that idea and said we'd keep sending them on paper because "it's the right thing to do", and since we had a feeling based on our numbers that PowerSchool wasn't being utilized like it should be. Considering the number of parents that went "What's PowerSchool?" when asked, we figured that we'd better do the paper thing.

This year we find out, courtesy of a front page story in the newspaper, that The District is moving to online report cards and will not be sending home paper report cards for the first grading period. Wonderful idea about moving to the 21st century, saving paper, going green, blah, blah, blah, blah...and parents that don't have access can request a paper report card, blah, blah, blah...

The Principal, again, said we'd send home a paper report card because "it's the right thing to do."

On Friday, there is an update to the news story - apparently the District folks did a survey of PowerSchool usage (probably prompted by the deluge of phone calls they received from people that wanted their passwords) and discovered that only 20% of the families in the District have ever logged on to PowerSchool.

Let me repeat that...20%. That's it. 89% supposedly have access to a computer but only 20% have made the effort to check their child's grades.

That silence you hear is the sound of parent involvement, or, more precisely, the lack thereof.

My team sent home 97 report cards. I had 47 students fail science for this nine weeks. To date, I have not heard a peep. No email, no call requesting a conference, nothing.

It's like they don't even care.

And we wonder why the kids don't care either.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reason Number 324 Why It's a Really Good Idea to Review Materials

One of the standards that we kept when The State revamped the middle school standards, was body systems. Our old book had very little on this subject so we were pretty tickled to see that the new book actually had a lot more information on the different systems.

And in some cases, too much information. Like the full color, gloriously accurate illustration of the male reproductive system. The book publisher, however, apparently realized that the pictures in the teacher edition (which is what we get to preview before during the Book Publishers Dog and Pony Show) were a bit too graphic. The student edition of the book has nothing but white space where the pictures (both male and female) used to be.

Now before everyone crawls all over me about how important reproductive knowledge is, and how we're censoring books and all that, please rest assured that we do teach this but in a less "graphic" way (and I might add that our standards don't even specify what body systems to teach, but rather that kids "understand how they are interrelated.") These kids have all gone through the birds and bees talks in lower grades, and in their health classes, although in each situation permission slips were sent home so parents could approve or disapprove. Quite honestly, I have no desire to teach the whole birds and bees thing with a bunch of immature seventh graders, especially considering that some of them may already know more than I do, while others are still playing with Barbies and are as naive as they come.

And I think parents should be teaching this to their children, rather than me, but I digress.

Today my kids were taking their social studies benchmark test and I'm keeping one eye on them (which is like watching paint dry) while I'm looking ahead to try to see what kind of materials we can use for our upcoming unit. Our workbook is wonderful, so I'm flipping through it when all of a sudden, I see The Picture. I'm sure my eyes just about popped out of my head, because that was the last thing I expected to see. They removed the picture from the textbook, but kept it in the workbook.

Mrs. Eagle and Mrs. Hummingbird came by for planning after the test and I showed them the page. They were astounded as well. Mrs. Hummingbird, who has seventh grader on my team was particularly astounded. "Oh gracious, there's no way I'd want my kid looking at that without permission."

"I can't believe they haven't found that," said Mrs. Eagle. "We would have heard the uproar and giggles if they had."

"Now what?" I asked. "Think we should show it to The Principal?"

"Oh yeah," said Mrs. Eagle. "She could use the giggle."

Suffice it to say, The Principal about fell out of her seat, and echoed Mrs. Hummingbird's opinion that she didn't want her daughter to see that picture, and Academic Coach (who has a seventh grade boy) said the same thing. Mrs. Sparrow, who is in charge of textbooks, and used to teach science, went white and said, "Oh good gracious, that would be highly uncomfortable to use in a classroom."

"Oh my word," said The Principal, "the kids would lose their minds if they saw that, and we'd have parents storming the office."

I think it was the parent response that had us the most concerned.

So, after the dance this afternoon, we spent a few minutes tearing this section out of the workbooks. Thank goodness that we keep workbooks in the classroom (if we let them leave the room they'd disappear in the black holes that are backpacks and lockers). It took all of fifteen minutes for us to get the pages torn out. They'll work well in my compost bin!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It's Gnomes, I Tell You...Or Maybe Elves

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the Earth.

Actually it was Fall Break (YIPPPEEE!)which was wonderful, but then coming back is just, well, a bit of a let down. See, I had to finalize grades for report cards which go out on Friday. And, out of 97 kids, 50 passed.

Yes, nearly 50% failed science. Amazing. However, I'm not alone. All the other 7th grade teachers had similar results. These kids just won't turn in work. If it's anything that leaves the room - homework, class work that isn't finished, a model, a project, anything - it will not be turned in.

I had one student, Elf Boy, who's a small kid, really sweet, and according to his records, is smart as a whip. But he's failing every single stinking class because he won't turn in work. His mother, whom I've emailed, called, you name it, is kind of vague about things like getting him into an after school tutoring program ("Well, uh, I don't know, maybe it would help," and comments like, "Oh, I only check my email about once a month, or so.") In any case, Mrs. Band is having fits because he's a good band kid and parents claim that they're going to pull him out of band if he doesn't bring his grades up.

As an aside, I don't believe that for a minute. They won't do a thing to help bring his grades up - meet with teachers, check grades on PowerSchool, check agendas - so I'm guessing this is some idle threat. So far, that's exactly what it is. No parent down in guidance demanding that Elf Boy quit band. In fact, what we're hearing is a giant bit of nothing. Parents aren't telling Mrs. Band this, Elf Boy is telling Mrs. Band that parents are telling him this. It's just bizarre.

In any case, I've spent a few of my free planning periods trying to get Elf Boy caught up on some of the larger assignments, which he finally did, but it wasn't enough to earn him anywhere close to passing. I did get to talk to him a few times about what happens to all the work that he claims to have done, but never turned in.

"I honestly do all of my work," he said to me. "But it disappears."

"Do you put it in your binder in the homework sections?" I ask him as we have the kids set up on a program similar to AVID where The Binder Holds All.

"No, not everything. A lot of it like my cell model I put on my dresser before I go to bed."

"And it's not there in the morning?" I ask him.

"No, every morning when I wake up everything I've put there is gone." His big round eyes are looking at me with dead seriousness at this point.

"Gone?" I ask.

"Gone," he confirms. "Every day."

"Without fail?"

He nods his head.

"So who's taking it?" I ask him as the stares at me. I'm thinking I'm going to hear a story now about Evil Sibling who's destroying his life by stealing all his work.

"I think it's gnomes," he says.

He is serious.

"Or maybe elves," he responds. "I'm not quite sure which."

"Have you considered an Orc?" I ask, the Sarcastic Bird taking flight.

"No, I don't think it's an Orc," he answers. "I'm thinking it's elves."

Oh. Good. Gracious.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Glowing Reviews.

I'm a bit of a weather junkie.

So, this morning I dutifully watched the local news and verified that today was going to be a bit warmer with a small possibility of scattered showers.

Note the small possibility part...

We noticed at lunch that it was raining and pretty dark out. Not raining hard, but it was definitely gloomy outside.


During sixth period we had almost made it to the end of the class when the thunder began rumbling and we could hear the wind blowing pretty hard and the rain was crashing down on the roof. One of my kids came from an errand to the office and mentioned that it was pouring sheets out there.

And then the power went out.

Oh wonderful.

Luckily my emergency light was working and my laptop switched to battery. No internet, no phone, but at least we could play a game of candy vocabulary while we waited for the lights to come on.

And waited.

And waited.

We went through several rounds of candy vocabulary and the kids were getting restless. I dug through my desk and found my glow-in-the-dark fluorescent chalk and my flashlight that has a blacklight setting. No batteries. Dang it! I dug around, found some batteries, loaded it up and joy of joys, it worked! Next, I grabbed some of our free poster paper (from a local publishing company that donates scraps to us) and found some that was pretty dark in color.

"Hey, look at this," I told my kids (thankfully this is my smallest class so it's no big deal to have them circle around a table and watch me demonstrate something.)

I gave a kid the blacklight, and grabbed one of the chalk pieces and started drawing a cell. As soon as the orange chalk hit the paper it was illuminated by the blacklight.

"Ohhhhhhhh," said the kids in unison. "That's cool!"

I proceeded to draw a cell and had the kids tell me what organelles I was drawing. "That's a mitochondrion!", they'd yell. "Oh, look, a chloroplast!"

A great way to review, even in the dark, eh?

I think we were almost disappointed when the lights came on ten minutes before the end of the school day!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Blinded By the Light

You've just got to wonder about 7th grade boys.

My fourth period class is, well, interesting. It's a small class, but there are at least three kids in there that Do Not Get Along With Anyone. At All. That annoy and drive everyone nuts. These three have their own tables and work on their own, while the rest of my class does group work.

And they're perfectly content working on their own because they don't like the other kids any more than they like them.

The rest of the kids are also getting very good at correcting all the other kids in class. Including, Fog Boy.

Fog Boy is in a perpetual fog. He's a nice kid, but he's also at risk as he does nothing and hears absolutely nothing you say. At all. It's so bad that he'll raise his hand to ask a question about something I just said and his classmates will all roll their eyes and yell, "She just said that!" This happens all period. His hearing has been tested and it's perfectly fine. It's just that he's too busy fiddling with papers, playing with the zipper on his pencil pouch and basically just checked out to lunch and running about five minutes late. Today his table partner did a fantastic job of prompting him with "Pay attention!", "Look, here on the paper!" and other prompts that I usually do but she's taken it upon herself to do them as he's driving her crazy with his perpetual fog.

It's so bad that I give the class directions by starting off with his name, "Okay Fog Boy, and the rest of you, open your book to page 53," and the like. He giggles and thinks it's funny, but at least it gets his attention for about three seconds.

So today we're going over the guided outline we started yesterday (these kids have a huge problem reading content so we're working on teaching them how to outline their reading), and Fog Boy raises his hand and I call on him.

"I can't see what's going on," he says.

"That's because you stared at the light!" screams the whole class back at him.

"He what?" I ask them.

Drama Boy, who really is in drama, but acts more mature than most of his classmates, answered for them. "While you were out in the hall watching the kids, that fool stood and stared at the light in the projector for like five minutes."

Oh good gracious.

"You stood and stared at the LCD projector light?" I ask.

Fog Boy giggles. "Yeah," he answers. "My eyes are burning."

The rest of the class by now is rolling their eyes, tossing up their hands and just grousing over the foolishness of Fog Boy yet again.

"Why on earth would you do that?" I ask him. Although I'm not sure I really want to know.

"I don't know," he answers.

So, I filled out a nurse form for him and sent him on his way but only after writing specifically what he did so that the nurse would know that it was a very poor decision on his part. The other kids were insisting that any behavior that stupid would generate a write up and the nurse was sure to do it. (We have a new nurse this year - she's not warm and fuzzy like our last one and these kids are nearly scared of her.)

After Fog Boy left the rest of the class sighed and settled down. I paused for a moment and asked them, "Is it me, or is he like this all the time?"

"All the time!" they chorused. "And he was like this in sixth grade too!"

And he's driving them just about as crazy as he's driving me.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Howdy Ma'am

I get allergy shots every Wednesday afternoon. I actually don't mind it much. I go to the on-site clinic that is part of our health insurance program (for county and school district employees) located at the neighboring high school, get my shots, knit for twenty minutes, the nurse checks my arms and I'm off. No big deal. Sometimes I run into other teachers and folks I know, so that can be fun.

Or a bit weird.

I was sitting there yesterday, knitting away on a cardigan I'm making, when I sort of notice out of the corner of my eye a young man leave one of the examining rooms (they're busy with a lot of school sport physicals right now). I don't pay much attention until I hear, "Hey, Mrs. Bluebird."

I turned around and it's the young man, all six feet two inches of him, and his mom who I don't recognize. The kid looks familiar so I know he's one of mine but I can't for the life of me put a name to the face.

(As an aside, I have an awful time with the boys when they grow up - they looks SO DIFFERENT from when I have them in seventh grade.)

"Oh gosh, I know I know you but I can't put a name to your face," I tell him, a bit embarrassed.

His mom laughs. "Oh, he's changed a lot since seventh grade," she says.

"It's Goober Boy," he informs me.

Oh. My. God.

No Way! Goober boy was a long-haired, skater dude who had the motivation of a slug. Nice kid, but a goober. (He was one of my favorites out of a class of really unique individuals.)

What was standing before was, well, a cowboy. He had on the pointy-toed boots, skinny cowboy jeans, big huge western belt with a shiny buckle, a button down shirt, and was carrying a straw hat in his hand. With short hair!

I swear, I couldn't believe the difference in this kid!!! Talk about a 180 degree change. He actually sat down for about twenty minutes (Mom took off - Goober Boy is driving his own truck now) and chatted with me. We talked about some of his classmates, who's doing what, what he's up to (doing much better in school now) and what he's thinking of doing when he graduates. It was such a nice visit, and so surprising to see how different he was now that he's about five years older.

I never, in a million years, would have predicted this change! Cowboy, no less!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ack-Ack-Ack-Part Three

You know it's going to be an interesting week when the school nurse is out sick with the flu and isn't expected back until next week.

I suppose all the coughing, hacking, and spewing finally got to her. Thank goodness she was well and healthy on Monday when we were able to get our flu shots during our planning periods. So, in the meantime, if a kid needs meds we send them to guidance (and I swear, half the school seems to be on meds) and if they're sick we send them up front to call home and get them out of the building.

One of the high schools in the district is running 25% absent so they've closed for the next two days. We're only running at about 15% absent, so we're nowhere near closing. However, last week a lot of the sixth grade was out and now a lot (more) seventh graders are out.

Starting last week we started to get emails and homework forms that read something like this:

"Sick Kid is going to be out until Someday. Could you get together his/her missing work and send it up front from Mom to pick up?"

Seventh grade has 1st and 2nd period planning so if we get one of these emails after 9:00 am, we don't have any free time (except maybe a few minutes after we've gulped down our lunch before we pick up the kids from the cafeteria) to get anything together. We have repeatedly asked the secretaries to please let the 7th grade parents know that we'll have the stuff ready by the next day because we are - surprise! - busy TEACHING and don't have time to get together five days worth of work until we're done TEACHING. And that's after school.

Does this happen? Not often enough.

So we've rushed around trying to get work together for these kids, in between TEACHING our classes, and have a kid run these packets up to the front office. Sometimes we get the stuff up there in the afternoon, and sometimes we don't.

And here's the kicker. Most of the time the parents don't bother to come pick the stuff up.

Kid you not.

We have had a least half a dozen of these kids come back to class over the past few days, all of whom had piles of work sitting up in the front office.

Mrs. Social Studies and I asked one of these kids, who strolled in today, about the work we put up in the front office.

"Um, Mom didn't come pick it up," he said. "She got busy."

I bet. Kind of like the mom who has a kid who is going hungry (no money in the lunch account) and who's too busy "playing her computer video games" to either give her kid a check or sign a free and reduced lunch request form.

Kids as accessories. I swear, that's all they are for some folks.

And in the meantime, I'm not really motivated to stop my TEACHING to get work together for some kid if all it's going to do is collect dust in the front office.

Monday, September 21, 2009

You Just Gotta Wonder

So we had a meeting with Skater Goober and his parents.

First off, out of the six meetings we've had scheduled so far, only three parents have shown up. I shouldn't complain. Mrs. Eagle has had only one show up (out of six) and they're darn glad she did because they all stayed after school for an hour to talk to this parent. SG's parents seem pretty together and with it. We talk about the fact he does nothing. We talk about the fact that they uncovered, like some strange archeological site, page after page of undone homework, worksheets, notes, and the like buried deep within the recesses of his backpack. They ask him why He Does Absolutely Nothing and he mumbles "Don't know," and just sits there like the oxygen thief that he currently is even though he's capable of much more. They ask to be emailed (Dad has a Blackberry for work and can show up at school within minutes) with updates daily. In fact, the next day when Skater Goober spends an entire class period and did one freaking vocabulary card (despite the nearly constant taps on his desk, prompting, etc.) I email Dad. Dad says he and Mom are going to come down and follow him around this week, most likely on Monday.

Did they come? Nope. Not yet.

And what did Skater Goober tell me?

"Hey, Mrs. Bluebird! Guess what? I got tickets to go see Kiss!"

"Really?" I ask. They bought Kiss tickets for this kid?

"Oh, yeah, isn't that cool?" he beams. He does not, by the way, have his book or his binder with him. I doubt he has his pencil. He is not, yet again, prepared for class.

"Well, all I can say is it's a good thing you're not my kid," I tell him.

"Really? Why?" he asks. (He really is clueless.)

"Because there's no way my husband would let you out of the house, let alone buy you Kiss tickets and let you go see Kiss unless you had passing grades in all your classes."

Skater Goober looks stunned. "Really? I mean, he'd really not let me go?"


And then they wonder why the kids don't do anything.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ack-Ack-Ack Part Two

I thought today might be a bit better on the absences. After all, some of our kids are starting to come back and the number of kids listed as absent has been going down.

My homeroom had four out. That wasn't a surprise as two of them had parents who'd called for work as they'd be out until next week.

Third period, which is mostly, but not all, of my homeroom had four out (including one suspended for a girl fight which was quite the talk of the team the other day).

Fourth period - none. Looking good!

Fifth period - three. Not too shabby. It's my largest (and most unruly) class.

And then there was sixth period. The tardy bell rang. I walked in the door from hall duty and stopped. Looked over my shoulder at the hall. Empty. And then I counted.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight.

Eight kids in the room. Eight.

That. Was. It.

The kids were all looking around, looking at each other, and then looking at me.

"Mrs. B," said Hard-Working Boy, "there's like nobody here."

Man, he wasn't kidding. This is my smallest class, but to have over half of them out? Good gracious. It was downright weird. was kind of fun. The kids thought so ("Hey, this is cool!"). And the fact that a few of the characters who were out are the same characters who can't sit down and be quiet, made a huge difference.

The total out for the day? Twenty.

And now Mr. Bluebird has a cold. Great.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


My classroom sounds like a tuberculosis ward.


Kids are coughing and hacking all over the place. Their eyes are glassy and bleary. They have headaches. They come in, lay their heads down, and just want to stay there all period. I've filled out so many "go to the nurse" forms that I've had to go make extra copies as I ran out.

On Monday we had 20 kids (out of 96) absent.

Tuesday we had 16.

Wednesday was 18.

Today we're back up to 20.

Some of them are starting to come back after about five days out. For some it's the flu. For others it's strep. For others, who knows? Of course they all think they've got swine flu (thank you dear media for that one) and are nearly beside themselves because it means They Are All Going to Die.

Of course, letting them know that yes, the regular flu can kill you too, isn't really a great idea. They'd probably all just crawl under their desks and prepare to die.

What's weird? Very few of the teachers have been out. Go figure. We'll probably be the last to get sick and all be sick the same week.

And to's only September.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Vocabulary War

Science vocabulary is the bane of our existence.

Mrs. Eagle and I have spent years trying to figure out ways to get our kids to learn their science vocabulary. Mrs. Hummingbird is now collaborating with us as well, and she's facing the same problems we have had for years.

In short:

If you don't know the science vocabulary we're using, then we might as well be speaking a foreign language (Klingon comes to mind).

Therefore, if you don't know what we're talking about, you're probably not going to understand anything and you'll most likely do poorly in science.

We've finally ended up with an Academic Coach that understands that the same tools you may use for vocabulary in language (Frayer models, finding synonyms, etc.) don't work particularly well for science.

Dare you to find a synonym for mitochondria, for example.

Our vocabulary is somewhat technical. It's specialized. It's not something you can easily work with. It is what it is and quite honestly, it comes down to using the words and studying the words until they are embedded in that long term memory.

Of course, playing video games is a lot more fun than doing vocabulary work.

We have the kids do crosswords (they hate these, they'd rather do word search which requires no thought). We have a word wall. We have vocabulary games. We have vocabulary cards or foldables , (word on one side, definition on the other, extra credit for a picture) where a kid gets a freaking point if all they do is write the word on a card. They are supposed to use these to study and learn their words. We even spend a few minutes a day doing vocabulary games which involve a great many Jilly Rancher candies.

And this year we have the vocabulary study log. We are trying, despite their best efforts to avoid it, to get parents involved in their child's learning. We have a study log where the parent signs every night after their child has studied his or her vocabulary flash cards or foldables for five minutes. It isn't worth a whole lot in terms of points, but it is an easy way to boost a grade.

And it's astounding how few of these we get turned in.

It is, however, improving. We had our second unit test on Friday, which is also the day the study log and the vocabulary cards are due. I saw a pretty huge uptick in the number of cards that were completed and turned in as well as the number of logs turned in. Amazingly enough, they had much better grades on this test than they did on the previous one.

Do ya think there's a connection? Huh? Do ya?

Now lets see if the shovelers can figure this out.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Just me talking...

I was interviewed this summer by a nice young man, Alex J. Mann, about this crazy profession we're in. If you're interested, check it out.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Shovel Ready

You know, there are times I just have to laugh when I read yet another article about how savvy, and wired, and technologically advanced this generation of kids are. Yeah, so they can text faster than I can knit (and that's pretty darn fast) but there are times they just don't have a clue about the power of technology.

Case in point.

I send out a weekly email to my parents letting them know what we're doing in the upcoming week, what the homework is, what's due, any special projects or assignments, and any generic school news they need to know. I've done this for about three years now and the response has been universally positive. Parents love having this little email in their arsenal because seventh graders lie just aren't the most honest creatures on this planet.

In short, if I had a dollar for every parent that told me that "X tells me that you never assign homework," I'd be bailing out the government.

So I get an email yesterday from the mother of one of my laziest students. Skater Goober was non-academically promoted as he apparently did nothing in sixth grade, and is again doing nothing in seventh grade. What's truly astounding is that if he put as much effort into doing his work, as he does in trying to avoid it, he would probably be a good student. In any case, SG's mom tells me that she noticed that my weekly email indicated that 24 vocabulary cards for this unit were due on Friday and when she asked SG about it he said that he didn't have to do the cards because he just wrote them in his science journal. She wanted to know if this was true.

Oh definitely NOT true. So NOT true. I wrote her back and explained what, exactly, was due and asked, by the way, asked if she'd seen the vocabulary study log that SG was supposed to give her every night to sign after he'd studied his vocabulary words. Any bets on whether or not she's seen this log?

Yeah, that's what I thought too.

Later in the evening I get another email from SG's Mom. She apologizes for bothering me and wanted to check on something once again. It seems that she READ MY EMAIL to her soon and now he'd changed his story and said, oh, yeah, he did do the vocabulary cards but he'd already turned them in. Again, was this true?

You know the answer to this don't you?

Again...definitely NOT true. NOT, NOT, NOT. The whole idea behind the vocabulary cards was to use them to STUDY the words every night so when the test rolls around (which is tomorrow, by the way, any guess on how well my stellar students will do?) they know the words inside and out and can actually PASS THE TEST. It is the ONE thing I do not accept early. Not only did SG NOT EVEN ATTEMPT TO TURN THEM IN EARLY, if he had, I WOULD HAVE GIVEN THEM BACK.

So here's what cracks me up. Skater Goober obviously KNOWS that mom and I are communicating because she's reading him the emails. She's telling him that she's going to check with me and HE STILL LIES. He puts forth so much effort in his attempts to avoid work, that he actually starts digging himself a deep, deep hole that he's going to be hard pressed to climb out of. And here this "technology-savy" kid sits, not realizing the full potential of parent and teacher email communications.

You're busted, goober!

I think I'm going to take one of my extra yard shovels in to school one day. These kids are digging some amazing holes and probably could use the help.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

In One Ear and Out The Other

The School District didn't give us the head's up on the Very Important Speech By The President until late Friday - most likely because they were trying to figure out how to handle the parents who wanted their kids to opt out. An ed-connect phone call went out to the parents to let them know that kids could show up with a note from the folks if they didn't want them to watch it. We simply had to send them to another classroom with some seat work to keep them busy.

The reaction from most of the teachers was "How in the hell am I supposed to hit all my standards before the Very Big Deal Government Mandated Test if they keep interrupting my teaching time?" Many of us, myself included, teach bell to bell and didn't get enough notice (our plans were already done and submitted) to change our lesson plans to accommodate The Speech. Crap. Fortunately I was able to cram most of my lesson in, but with a little less discussion, and the kids didn't get too far behind. Hopefully.

I read The Speech the day before and the first thing that crossed my mind was "Whomever wrote this has no clue about the attention span of kids younger than high school."

No clue at all.

I could not, even on a good day, imagine any elementary kids sitting still for that long of a speech. Hell, even my seventh graders were going to be hard pressed to sit still that long.

Keep in mind that I've often believed that unless it has death, destruction or explosions, most seventh graders could care less. This is why they love tornado, earthquake, hurricane and volcano videos and can watch them ALL DAY LONG. However, someone just talking at them BORES THEM TO TEARS.

Their first big concern today was lunch. They had heard that the speech was going to be at 11:00 am and those that have figured out our bell schedule (honestly some never do) figured out that that was during lunch. So, of course, the rumor flew that they were not going to get to eat lunch. AT ALL.

Oh good gracious. They were in an absolute panic during homeroom until they finally stopped whining long enough to hear me tell them that they would have lunch at THE NORMAL TIME and would watch the speech on videotape later in the day.

Jeez people.

That was about the most interest the kids showed all day towards The Speech. They were more interested in the fact that we were having thunderstorms all day ("Do you think we'll have a tornado?? Uh, do you?") than the fact that The President was going to tell them the Very Same Things Mom and Dad and All The Teachers Tell Us OVER AND OVER AND OVER.

The fidgeted. They stared at the ceiling. They yawned. One wanted to go to the bathroom. Two had their heads bob a bit until I tapped them on the shoulder to wake them up. Most simply looked bored.

Just another grown up telling us what to do...

They could have cared less.

And considering that the class that watched this, my sixth period, has NO ONE passing as of right now, it was a tad ironic.

Another thing to note...last year we saw Obama t-shirts all over the place. The kids wore them to school all the time. I haven't seen a single one this year. Not one.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Sweet but Lazy

I know, I know, I know that the first progress report every year is just downright awful. It takes new seventh graders a bit of time to adjust to seventh grade, to remember how to "do school" and to get with the program.

I know that.

I realize that.

I doesn't mean that I like it.

And true to form, dear readers, these kids walked home last Friday with some DREADFUL progress reports. And our first unit test wasn't even on it. If anything, their grades are worse this week than they were on Friday.

I don't think a single kid in my sixth period is passing.


These kids, while they are heads and shoulders above last year's group of future felons in terms of behavior, just don't do work. Or if they do it, they won't turn it in. And if it gets turned in it's just absolute crap.

Mrs. Bunny, who teaches reading, along with a few other seventh grade teachers came up with an observation, based on the quality of the work that we were getting, that these kids apparently got "effort" grades in the past for turning in anything. She noticed this when she started getting worksheets with the names of classmates listed as answers. These kids were simply filling in blanks with anything and turning it in.

And expecting a grade.

I took about ten minutes yesterday and had a discussion with each of my classes about this. They admitted that they were used to getting "effort" grades from most (not all) of their teachers last year. They admitted to just filling in blanks with nonsense.

I informed them that we didn't operate like that in seventh grade.

They were crestfallen.

I walked them through their workbook pages (which are written at a 5th grade level, mind you) and had them highlight key words and actually take time to READ the questions before they answered. They weren't reading the questions, taking the time to interpret what was being asked. Oh no...they were simply grabbing phrases out of the reading and plugging it in to get the Damn Workbook Packet Done So We Can Play Videogames, or whatever the hell they do all day when they aren't in school.

And of course I had quite a few kids come up, all aflutter, asking just How On Earth Can I Have an F in Science?

"Hum, let's see...maybe it's because you have seven missing assignments?"

This just blows them away. It's like it never DAWNS on them that this
has any BEARING on their grade.


Oh, and out of the 99 progress reports I sent out, mostly with failing grades, I've had two - count 'em two - parents bother to contact me about the grades.

Amazing again.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Tale of Two Plannings

I've had some comments from some regular readers (the number of which never ceases to amaze me), about the fact that we have two - count 'em - two planning periods at the school.

Yes, I know. It's wonderful.

How and why we got two planning periods is worth sharing, in the hopes that perhaps there are other enlightened administrators out there who see the benefit.

By the end of my first year at The School, Mrs. Eagle and I were getting together to make our lesson plans. It made sense, after all. We teach the same grade and subject. We have the same standards to cover. So, why should we reinvent the wheel when we could collaborate and come up with the same plans?

The only problem with this was that we didn't have the same planning period.

So, once a week we would get together and meet in the morning before school to come up with our lesson plans.

At six in the morning to be precise.

This wasn't fun. However, we did it, and pretty soon Mrs. Robin (who had little ones at that time and couldn't meet before school) started giving us some input as well, although she never could attend the planning get together. So three of us were collaborating on our lessons and activities we were doing with our kids.

Our test scores rocked. In fact, in terms of growth in student achievement, they were the best in the school. The Principal wanted to know what it was that we were doing that the others weren't. The only thing we could come up with was collaboration.

A few years later The Principal took about a dozen of us to the National Middle School Association conference which had lots and lots and lots of sessions all about collaboration. I remember sitting in with The Principal and Mrs. Eagle for one of the big keynote speakers - who talked all about collaboration - and having Mrs. Eagle lean over and whisper to both us of, "We're already doing this."

Well, we were. However, it wasn't really easy and it wasn't really convenient.

So The Principal decided that all the grade levels would have the same planning. And that we'd have not one, but two plannings. This gave us slightly shorter class periods (we went from six periods a day to seven), but it also gave the kids an extra related arts class (art, music, computers, etc.), and it gave us a chance to work with the other teachers on our team and the other teachers in our subject area. In fact, The Principal put in a requirement that teachers would plan together, just like we'd already been doing.

And our entire school's scores went up. A lot.

So we have the first planning for individual planning - this is also the period where we meet with parents. The second planning is for team meetings, data chats about benchmarks, and collaboration. We also give up one planning per week to work with our remediation students.

I don't know why or how, but this collaboration thing just works.

And I'm glad it isn't at 6:00 am anymore!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Really Bad Timing

I don't know what Mrs. Eagle and I were thinking.

We are encouraged to work at least two after school events every year. They range from dances, to basketball games, to choir concerts and the like. For some reason Mrs. Eagle and I decided to work the first back to school dance, probably because we wanted to get at least one of our events over and out of the way.

Which in itself is a bit silly because we tend to volunteer and end up working most of the dances and events anyway.

However, this was one of those weeks where we both had something to do nearly every single day after school. I had a historical society meeting, a Civil War round table meeting, a board meeting for a non profit, open house, and then, lastly the dance. Obviously we didn't check our calendars when we volunteered to work the dance.

I don't think we realized that open house was this same week. For some reason the district scheduled the middle school open house really early this year - like nearly a month early. We're just barely getting all the kids' names down (I know their names but I still can't remember what class period I have them) and now we've got parents, grandparents, siblings and who knows who else coming by the room to say hi and see what it looks like. This open house was busy. Really busy. And to top it off we had the book fair (also very early this year) and our second annual community health fair which has turned out to be hugely popular. What was amazing was we didn't just see parents of the good kids, but my team actually got to meet the mothers (and get their emails) of two of the boys that were put on our team so they'd be close by Mr. Enforcer...and because he told the moms that we don't put up with any nonsense. The moms both mentioned that and thought of it as being quite positive - their sons needed a firm hand.

Side note. One of my students who is now sophomore showed up to visit. He's HUGE. He's a grown up! We talked about how much fun it was on the camping trip and what a goofball he was in class. It was nice seeing him, but kind of weird because he's so different now. the dance arrives and we're just beat, to say the least. It's been a long week. And our kids had been keyed up about the dance all day (and man, some of those girls were dressed up!) But hey, a dance is easy work for the most part. The student council sponsors and members are actually doing most of the work (it's their fundraiser, after all) and we're just there for crowd control.

And we had a heck of a crowd.

It may have been because it was the first dance of the year, and the kids were still excited about being back with their friends. Or, as Mrs. Bunny said, it was a good way to get rid of your kid for a few hours. In any case, it was packed. Not just with sixth graders and seventh graders, but even the jaded, cool eighth graders who don't often show up at dances because, well, they're just so over that.

The gym was packed. The cafeteria where the kids spend a fortune shoving candy, soda and pizza down their gullets was packed. And those of us working the dance spent most of the evening telling speeding sixth graders To Stop Running.

What is it about sixth graders that they come to a dance to run? We should have track meets with music for these critters.

The good news is that the student council cleared two grand which will go towards our angel tree program at Christmas.

And it's the weekend.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Deju Vu All Over Again

All the seventh grade teachers have first and second period planning (which has its drawbacks). However during the first week of school it felt like we didn't have any planning time at all. We had to cover the remediation class for one of our planning periods, and had some extra meetings thrown in for some of them, so by the time Monday rolled around we were looking forward to Two Free Planning Periods To Actually Get Something Done.

And then, right after we dismissed the kids to go to their related arts classes, and Mrs. Social Studies was walking our paper attendance up to the office, the fire drill bell rang.

Oh crap!

I looked out my door and saw about a dozen kids in the hall - some on the way to The Enforcer's office, a few heading to band, and the rest were either going to the office to drop off the attendance or had just dropped the attendance off and were heading back to class. They all had that deer in the headlights look - "What the heck do I do now!" I stepped into the hall, got their attention, and waved them into my room.

"Get in here and head out the back door," I told them. "Follow him," I said pointing to one of my kids from last year. "He knows the drill."

Mrs. Social Studies joined us a few minutes later. "Boy, they didn't give the kids much time to get to class," she mentioned.

I pointed to my collection of kids. "Look what I gathered up in the hallway," I said. "Most of these kids were taking up attendance. I've got several from every grade level."

A few minutes later we heard the unmistakable whine of a siren. Some of us who were here two years ago, all looked at each other in amazement.

"Not again!"

Three fire trucks sped towards the front of the building which really had the kids intrigued. Then all the cafeteria workers were told to move their cars. One of them told me there was some smoke coming from one of the vents in the cafeteria so they called the fire department. Pretty soon Coach Grumpy came by and said he got a radio call to move all us back into the field behind the school. At that time, I started walking my strays around until they found their classes and were accounted for. The kids did great during all this. In fact, they weren't all that curious about what was going on, not like the group I had a few years ago who couldn't stop asking questions.

Mrs. Social Studies looked at me and groaned. "And just when I thought I'd finally get my entire planning time to actually accomplish something!"

But hey, at least it wasn't 102 degrees this time. And we got back inside after 45 minutes.

The cause? Apparently a belt of some kind on one of the ventilation units got caught and started smoking.

And I did, finally, get a little something accomplished during planning.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Well There Goes My Reputation!

Mrs. Goldfinch is one of those people who just wear me out. I don't think she sleeps. She teaches special ed and is one of the first at school and the last to leave. She's extremely active and athletic and hikes, rock climbs, runs, and swims, and in her spare time she gardens like a fiend, scrapbooks, sews amazing Halloween costumes, and makes her own jewelry. She's astounding. She's also an absolute hoot as a person and an awesome teacher.

Mrs. Goldfinch has a room right next to mine - in fact, for some reason we have yet to ever determine, there's actually a door between our two rooms, so we can actually pass from my room into her's without going out in the hall. Why we would want to do this is beyond me, and we rarely ever use it. In fact, right now I have a huge stack of new science books in front of the door because I know it won't be used. In any case, this means that we share a pretty good chunk of wall.

Which means that often times I can hear what's going on in her room and she can hear what's going on in mine.

Yesterday she pulled me aside while we were doing hall duty with a mischievous sparkle in her eye. "You should hear what your seventh graders are saying about you," she giggled.

"Oh great," I said. "I can only imagine."

"Oh no, it's funny," she said. "I had a whole bunch of them on the first day, when they got their schedules, just scared to death that they had you. They got to hear you get after that group of kids you had last year and it scared the daylights out of them. They thought you were just the meanest teacher in the building."

"Well, considering the kids I had last year, that doesn't surprise me," I said. After all it was the Seventh Grade Class From Hades (who are now tormenting the 8th grade teachers.)

"I know! After they had your class, they came in saying that they couldn't believe how nice you were," she said. "I explained that often how a teacher acts has a lot to do with how the kids act."

She's so right. I'm sure that most of the kids last year thought we were just the meanest group of teachers around - and I'm sure they think that every year. They have that affect on people. I felt like all I did last year was scream at kids and it was all I could do to get through the day. I hated it.

Which is why we're all still stunned that we are having such an easy time of it so far. I mean, here we are, four days in and we only have one girl in ISS because she got caught kissing a boy in the hallway. Last year we had at least three up there and it was for fighting.

Today, one of Mrs. Goldfinch's kids, Lovestruck Boy (who has admitted being smitten with one of our young ladies who is, truly, cute as they come), actually told me that he thought I'd changed from last year. "You're not the same as you were last year," he said. "You're nice. I thought you were mean."

"Because I had to yell at my kids all the time, right?" I asked him.

"Yeah, you've changed."

"I haven't changed one bit, kiddo," I told him. "The difference is you. You guys are just a great bunch of kids who get along, listen, and do your job. When you do what you're supposed to, we have fun."

"Yeah, I think it will be fun this year," he said. "You're nice."


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blah, blah, blah, blah, and blah

I am so sick of hearing myself talk.

That's one of the things I hate about the first few days of school. I feel like all I do is hand papers at kids and talk and talk and talk and talk. It's boring as all get out, but It Must Be Done.

On Friday, the first half day, we handed out and discussed all the school paperwork - fee lists, supply lists, fee waivers, free and reduced lunch forms, emergency cards, bus information, student information sheets and on and on and on.

Today was the first day I had all of my classes, not just my homeroom. Today it was all the stuff about science class - the parent letter, the science lab rules, the Science expectations sheet (how I run my class, basically), class do's and don'ts, and our first study guide. Of course I had to go through each thing and explain it, but show them around them room and on and on and on. Here is how we do homework, here is what the new workbooks look like, here's where you find my vocabulary podcats.


By seventh period I was pretty darn sick of hearing my own voice, my throat hurt and I'm sure the kids were wondering when those stupid buses were going to show up so they could go home.

And my feet hurt. No surprise there, they always hurt the first week or so until I get used to standing all day.

Tomorrow will be better...I don't do all the talking.

Friday, August 07, 2009

It's So Good, Something's Bound to Go Wrong...

Today was, at last, the first half day of school.

(As an aside, don't ask me why we have a half day on Friday, give the kids Monday off, and actually start school with a full schedule on Tuesday. I have no idea why. It's weird. But It Is How We Do Things.)

And something really weird happened.

Nothing went wrong.

Now, this may not seem like a big deal, but I remember first days when the entire network crashed, the phones crashed with it, and not only couldn't we call anyone, we couldn't print schedules, enroll kids, or even look up anything. A new kid would enroll and guidance would just go park him or her in a nearby classroom for the day until the system went back up. It was ugly. We've had days where many kids had no schedules or crazy schedules with, say, three math classes. We've had days where kids had no clue where the buses were and the bus drivers didn't know where to park.

And then we had last year when The Team decided, after the first half day, that everything we'd heard about those kids was True and we were in for a helluva year.

This year was so smooth we kept waiting for something to happen. The seventh graders were excited to be back, so much so that they cheered for The Principal, Mr. Enforcer, and Mrs. Sparrow, our new Assistant Principal. The Principal looked over at us with surprise and commented on that never happening before. The fact that these kids cheered for Mr. Enforcer, the guy who does a lot of the discipline referrals, was pretty amazing. And then they actually got quiet, listened for their names to be called, and waited quietly outside the theater (with the PE teachers supervising) for us to finish calling our homerooms so we could collect our cherubs and go to class.

They sat, they listened, the did their tasks, they were nice, they were polite, it was, well, a shock. We all gathered together after the kids were dismissed and kind of stood around stunned.

"Is it me, or were these kids just a lot better than what we had last year?" asked Coach Math.

"They're better," Mrs. Social Studies said. "I could tell within the first hour that this was a better bunch. It's weird."

I guess The Team is just used to our Seventh Grade Class From Hades acting like a bunch of hooligans and having nice, respectful kids in class is truly something we haven't been used to in the past year.

It was, truly, a really nice, easy, comfortable day.

Of course, the eighth grade teachers didn't have such a nice day. Apparently our fervent hope that our group from last year would grow up and mature and develop some people skills did not come to pass. Mrs. Angora, a fantastic 8th grade science teacher, came up to me before we went into our afternoon session.

"Oh. My. God." she said.

"Uh, let me guess...they didn't mature," I responded.

"Not even close," she said. "They were awful. Just awful."

And she got the best of the bunch. I truly feel sorry for our 8th grade teachers this year.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Counting down to the first half day.

Which is Friday.

Which seems way too early, but that's how it goes. Other districts in the area actually started last week.

So, for the past week or so, I've been to two in-services, unpacked and set up my room, met with Mrs. Eagle and Ms. Hummingbird and actually planned our lessons for our first science unit, met with Mrs. Bunny and Mrs. Eagle to plan some things for seventh grade, met with the team, and just more stuff.

It will be a different year this year. First off, the Seventh Grade Class from Hades is now the Eighth Grade Class We Hope Grew Up Over the Summer. Our rosters showed up in PowerSchool today so I had quite a few 8th grade teachers dropping by to get some insight on their kids (especially in terms of putting together lab groups - some kids don't need to be with each other). The good news is that my long email last spring to guidance about kids who needed to be separated worked because many of my more memorable kids (Sassy Girl comes to mind) are no longer with their fellow friends and trouble makers. Mr. Owl will have his hands full with some of his kids, but he got a great bunch for his Physical Science class.

My team is much smaller this year - only 93 kids as of today. So last year's nuclear meltdown when I had 37 kids in my homeroom didn't happen. I have only 23 and that's my largest number. Our seventh grade numbers are down a bit, so we lost a position, and only have four teachers - Mrs. Social Studies, Mr. Math, and Mrs. English (Mrs. English will be teaching reading/language arts blocks which is something they are trying in 7th grade this year). The Principal got approval to get a split Language Arts/Reading position that will teach one block in 7th grade, and the other in 8th grade - his/her room will be in our team area so we'll see quite a few 8th graders in our area, which should be interesting. She doesn't know when the position will be filled, so we've been told to expect a sub for the first week or so.

We had a cookout today to celebrate our Very Big Deal Government Mandated Test Scores which were amazing. We basically kicked butt over nearly all the other middle schools in the county (including two "rich" schools) and all this with a free and reduced lunch population now at 60%, not a whole lot of parental support, and kids that were, to be nice, a handful.

Tomorrow, more meetings, and I need more time to get posters hung up, and some copies made before the cherubs arrive on Friday morning.

Here we go!