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.