Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Big Payoff

Earlier this week, Mrs. Eagle and I engaged in one of our favorite rituals signifying the ending of one school year and the beginning of summer.

We went to the local High School and saw a lot of our former students graduate.

Both of us had actually received graduation announcements from former students which just blows my mind. Kids often remember the teachers that made a difference in high school, but there aren't many that reflect way back on their past and recall a middle school teacher. Especially seventh grade teachers...I think seventh grade is such a rough year for most kids that then tend to blank it out (I did). But we got those invitations and that was even more motivation to go see our kids graduate.

Several things really stood out for me.

One, I was amazed (and relieved) that some of the kids I had who just really struggled during seventh grade were graduating from high school with honors. It goes to show that often times a kid can pull it together after falling completely apart in seventh grade.

Second, the best part of the ceremony had to be when one of the graduates, who had been in a severe accident a few years ago, nearly died, and who has undergone a lot of rehabilitation, received his diploma. One of his teachers wheeled him up in his wheelchair, and then he pushed himself up, stood, took two steps, and received his diploma. That young man got a standing ovation from everyone in that auditorium and he deserved it. He's undergone a lot in his young life, but he's managed to do something many kids don't even try to do - he graduated.

Third, and this is the old lady witch coming out in me, I wish people understood the dignity of a graduation ceremony and dressed the part. I swear I saw more inappropriate clothing on parents (sagging pants, boobs falling out of tops, short shorts, you name it) than I see at one of my rare trips to the mall. Come on people, your kid is graduating, so stop looking like a hooker for once and act like a parent! (Mrs. Eagle and I spent a lot of our time rolling our eyes at each other as some of these fashion disasters paraded by.)

But on the whole, it was a wonderful experience to see these kids make it to graduation. They were a nice group of kids when I had them all those years ago, and I wish them the best in their future.

And it's just kinda neat that I may have had a small role to play in their success.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Last Day!

So today was the last half day of school.

Yeah, I know. A half day on a Monday. Why bother? Honestly, I don't know why we did it like this this year, but we did. Teachers, however, have two more days to report for in-service, including one day that's a make-up for the snow days we had earlier this year.

We actually managed to get report cards handed out on Friday, so we didn't have to deal with that. It was, honestly, a fairly nice morning. The kids that showed up (19 out of a homeroom of 26) helped do some packing, ate some snacks and watched The Sandlot and had a pretty nice time. And then, of course, we waved the buses goodbye which is my favorite end of the year tradition.

I had, for the most part, a pretty good group of kids this year. And if you compared them to the group from the previous year, they were angels. I'm going to miss seeing some of them every day. Some of them I'd take home and keep in a heartbeat. Some of them already have good character and I know will be successful in life. I'm proud of many of them.

On a good note, I've received some really nice graduation announcements from some of my former students. That's always nice to see because kids don't always remember their middle school teachers like they do their high school teachers. Mrs. Eagle and I will be going to commencement on Thursday and I'm looking forward to seeing some of my kids walk across the stage and get their diplomas. It's nice knowing you may have had a small part in getting that kid to that point in his or her life.

And better yet? One of my girls from way back came by today and invited me and Mrs. Bunny to her graduation. She's going to be going to Eastern Kentucky University this fall and will major in Chemistry! A scientist! I'm so proud of her. I love it when our kids do well!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Mystery Club

This year we had a new club on campus called TAG. None of us really seemed to know much about TAG except that one of the newer 8th grade teachers was the sponsor, and most of the members seemed to be 8th graders. A lot of us thought it might have to do with technology, others (like myself) thought it might have to do with business skills as these kids came up with some really innovative ways to make money. And others pretty much gave up trying to figure out the club because the kids were always really vague on what it was about and gave answers along the lines of "if we told you, we'd have to kill you."

But the kids were always out there working hard, raising money, and they seemed to enjoy it, so we figured it was a pretty good thing.

Last week we found out what the TAG club was all about. According to The Principal, a number of 8th grade students came to her this past fall about putting together a club. She gets kids all the time coming to her about clubs, and she tells them all pretty much the same thing - find a teacher to sponsor your club and she'll sign off on it. She told this group the same thing and they went off and she figured she would never see them again.

Except they found a sponsor. And a new club was born. And the name of the club? The Teacher Appreciation Group.

I kid you not.

This group of kids wanted to put together a club for the SOLE PURPOSE of raising money to throw a party for their teachers and staff at the end of the school year as a way of letting us all know how much they appreciated all we've done for them for the past three years. They wanted it to be a surprise, and didn't really want to reveal who all was in the club until the party.

You should have heard the response in the faculty meeting when The Principal told us about this club and told us that the party would be after school on Thursday. We were dumbfounded. Amazed. Flattered. And just plain astonished.

Who would have thought, in this day and age, that a group of kids would want to spend all year raising money just so they could throw a party for their teachers?


So we had the party today and it was astonishing. Hamburgers, hot dogs, BBQ chicken, sides, and acres of desserts. The kids had music playing, a massage chair set up (nice touch) and were offering to pour more punch, hand out another brownie, and to make sure none of us wanted for anything. They got up and expressed their thanks, talked about how much we meant to them, and just were awesome.

The best part? The kids in this group were not the popular kids, or the top academic kids, or the kids that really grab your attention. For the most part they were the middle of the road kids, the kids easily overlooked, the kids that didn't stand out for any particular reason. Many of the ones I had were kids who struggled in class, and honestly, had some rough times in seventh grade. But each and every one of them had an adult there who took him or her under his or her wing and, obviously, made a difference.

I've never been so proud of my kids. And so humbled.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Digging the Denim

Happiness is carefully rationing out your casual day coupons so you have enough left to wear jeans for the rest of the school year.


For the uninitiated, at The School, The Principal requires that we dress professionally - henceforth, no jeans. However, on occasions we will have a "free" casual day as a reward (for example, the day after parent/teacher conferences). We have also figured out that selling casual day coupons to teachers (at $5 a pop) is a great fundraiser. These things are like gold.

And the best ones? They're the ones that an admin will randomly hand to you for doing things like always being in the hallway during class changes. Sort of a reward for doing your job right.

I love casual day coupons.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Just Not My Perky Self, and an Exploding Mountain

I hope this isn't so.

But here it is, the very last full week of school...and I feel like I'm coming down with a cold.

Truly not a good thing.

However, there are some positives. For one, it's the time of year where The Enforcer tends to look at discipline files and the number of days left to go, and begins to suspend kids for the duration. Of course, many of these kids, by now, are repeat offenders and have racked up enough points for suspensions. He just makes it easier on all of us, as well as the others, by eliminating the problem children from our rooms.

Hall duty has been entertaining. I have made Mrs. Bunny happy by writing up one of her darlings who decided to turn around and punch the boy behind her in the family jewels. Poor kid doubled over and I thought I was going to to pick him up off the floor.

Queen Bee Bully is gone. Apparently the family is moving out of state so she got checked out for good. The kids have breathed a huge sigh of relief. Texas, prepare yourself.

Snotty Girl is suspended for yet another cell phone infraction. She's a perfect example of how some people can't (or refuse to) learn from their mistakes. That cell phone is the bane of her existence. Then again, the number of kids getting busted for cell phones is skyrocketing. Apparently they seem to think that the rules get tossed out of the window during the last week of school.

Think again.

And that includes my little lazy darling who has spent this entire year shaking his long hair back and forth (except for the week when he was out with - you guessed it - lice) and not working. Apparently he felt it necessary to bring his weed to school and is now gone for 365 days. At least it explains a bit about his complete lack of motivation and poor work production (although capable of much more).


On a good note, today is the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. NOVA has put on line a wonderful video called Mt. St. Helens: Back from the Dead, which we have spent the past few days watching and discussing. (I'm so glad I get to teach earth science now...although we covered all this stuff at the beginning of the year.) It's a great video and the kids really were fascinated by it, and asked a lot of really good questions. I highly recommend it.

And me, going to watch some hockey, take some vitamins, and hope I'm really not getting a cold.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Curse of the Seventh Grade

I am beginning to think that this class of seventh graders has a curse hanging over their heads. Or, if not a curse, one big black miserable cloud.

First, their camping trip was canceled due to The Flood we had at the beginning of the month. Some of these kids had been looking forward to this since December and were besides themselves with excitement. I am still amazed at how well they took it when I gathered them up and explained that we just couldn't guarantee their safety and since the camping area was under water, there wasn't much we could do. They didn't whine, fuss, or complain. They just sucked it up.

Then, the kids in drama, most of whom are seventh graders, received the news that their play (a musical, no less) was going to be postponed until we return to school in the fall. They had lost precious rehearsal time, many of the kids still didn't know their lines, and The Flood just complicated things. Another major disappointment.

And then there was Field Day.

Field Day is a big deal for these kids. I mean who couldn't love a day of running around, screaming, eating snow cones and just having a grand old time with your friends and not being stuck in a classroom all day? (I'm not including the teachers in this statement. Most of us tolerate it. Barely.)

So, due to The Flood, instead of having field day on three successive Fridays, they had Field Day on three successive days. Sixth grade was on Wednesday (warm and clear), eighth grade was on Thursday (hot and clear) and ours was today.

Any guess on the weather?

They had been predicting thunderstorms and rain (NO! WE'RE TIRED OF RAIN!) all week. It wasn't raining this morning and so we went ahead and tried to give it a go. We got the volleyball tournament started in the gym and while that was going on, the skies opened up. Great. It was raining like mad.

But then it stopped.

And they decided instead of 15 point games, they'd do 21 point games to take up time in the hopes that it dry up outside. And it sort of did so we were able to take the kids out for the kickball portion of the day. The PTA had hot dogs and Gatorade for the kids (free with a ticket from their teacher), they had other snacks to buy, and although it was a tad muddy on the field, the pavement was dry, the sun was shining and it was hot and muggy.


And then we could hear thunder in the distance. And it got cloudier. And we just finished up the last game of the kickball tournament and had taken the kids inside for lunch when it began to rain again.


But it gets better.

The kids are in the cafeteria eating lunch, we're down the hall in the teacher lunchroom eating pizza (delayed Teacher Appreciation Lunch which was supposed to happen during the week of The Flood), and Mrs. Sparrow, the assistant principal is there with the radio. All of a sudden were hear The Principal come on the radio and announce that she's going to have to pull the tornado drill alarm as we were under a tornado warning. She then mentioned that all the teachers who had kids in the cafeteria had to go get them out of there and into the hallway where it's safer.

Most of us were sprinting out of the lunch room and into the cafeteria before the alarm went off and we hustled the kids out and into the hallway. I got in there so fast that my kids looked like they didn't know what was going on. They figured it out pretty fast, and hustled toward the door. We got all 300 kids out of there in record time, into the hallway, and down into the tornado position. Getting them quiet was the tough part, but they finally quieted down and we stayed in there for nearly 45 minutes.

Let me tell you, being in a long hallway with a bunch of kids, and insisting they be quiet so we can hear directions on the one radio we had, is tough.

Finally it was over, we let them go back and finish their lunch, and then we went back to our classes. It was still raining. We finally gave up on finishing field day and got the word that they are going to try it again later next week when the weather is supposed to be better. The remainder of today we basically let them relax and watched some videos. Of course, being the science geek I am, I had them watch one on tornadoes.

Appropriate, eh?

I hope next week everything works as planned. I really, really do.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

One Bad Apple

Anyone in education will tell you how amazing it is that one kid - one! just one! - can change the entire group dynamic of a class, or even a team of kids. A class will have one personality when this kid is there, and completely different when this kid is gone.

The Queen Bee Bully is such a kid.

She has been, quite honestly, probably the biggest pain in our neck all year. She is the sort of kid who can find the weak point in others and exploit it. She loves to cause drama. She loves to stir up trouble. She has an opinion - usually not nice - about everyone and every thing and isn't shy about expressing it. She was in our remediation class (she's smart as a whip but won't do work) until we saw that she was in there for the sole purpose of tormenting the other kids. Since she had all her work done, and was passing (at that time), we exited her and I told guidance that we wouldn't let her back no matter how much her aunt demanded it. Those kids needed to be in a classroom without this little snot bothering them and causing disruptions every five minutes.

Her aunt, bless her heart, is amazingly patient, but also doesn't realize that it's about time that Queen Bee Bully realizes that her actions have consequences. She wasn't happy when we said that we wouldn't escort her from class to class so she wouldn't get in trouble in the hallway. She's old enough to know better, and they certainly aren't going to hold her hand and escort her throughout the 8th grade, so she was going to just have to do her best and deal with the repercussions of her actions. Time to grow up.

Eventually she earned herself a trip to Alternative School (for tormenting Little Big Boy and getting into a fight at lunch). The team all breathed a sigh of relief and I'm including the kids here. It was like a different world with her gone. You could almost feel the tension float away. The kids were thrilled that she was no longer lurking around, talking trash, and generally making life hell.

Anyhow, according to our calendar, she was due back this week. However, we had five days of flooding and were hoping that meant she wouldn't be back for another week. She also owed a few days for being suspended (again, for fighting) from alternative school. So, if we were lucky, we might see her for a week.

We weren't lucky.

She showed up again Tuesday and the drama started before third period was over. She was up to her old tricks, the kids were upset, and the nice, smoothly functioning team of kids was in an uproar. You could feel the tension on the team now that all the kids knew she was back. If anything, she came back with a worse attitude than she had when she left.

She's in my Fourth Period Class of Malcontents, and as soon as she walked back in the room and sat in her isolation seat (cannot sit with others, big surprise), I had kids demanding to be moved away from that part of the room as she was trying to get them to pass notes to other kids. Great. I rearranged everything and now she's on her own little island.

And we had so much fun when she was gone.

However, she got mouthy with Mrs. Social Studies, started threatening another girl with a fight in the bathroom, and we walked her over to The Enforcer and he said he'd put her in ISS for the rest of the week. Thank goodness. He also said her aunt was supposed to come next week and withdraw her as they were moving to another state. We can hope.

I feel bad for her because this kid has not had a good home life. She's never lived with her mother (I don't think she knows who dad is) and is raised by an aunt. She has BIG issues. However, when it comes down to it, I'd rather see her gone than see the other 94 kids on my team all twisted up in knots because of her antics. I absolutely despise bullies, and I don't care if they big, little, male, or female. And this kid is, without a doubt, one of the nastiest bullies I've ever run across.

So hopefully she will leave next week and we can end the year on a calm note.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Back Where We Belong

After a week off for flooding, we managed to get back to school this past Monday.

Thank goodness.

The kids seemed to be glad to be back. Some of them mentioned some flood damage at home, including flooded basements and garages, but for the most part seemed to take a lot of the week's drama in stride. These kids prove, once again, to be a pretty resilient bunch. Mrs. Social Studies asked most of them what they did with their week off (the weather was absolutely beyond beautiful) and most of them mentioned that they stayed inside watching TV, playing video games, or helped parents clean up after the mess. How sad that so many of my kids aren't allowed outside unless a parent is home. They're prisoners in their own homes.

Everyone seems a bit stressed because instead of having three weeks to do all the end of the year stuff - field day, academic award parties, the drama club play, National Junior Honor Society - we have two weeks. Two weeks that are crammed full of events and activities. I'm almost glad that teachers have an extra work day to make up from our snow days back in January and February as we're so busy now that we need that day to pack up our rooms.

It's nice to be back.

Friday, May 07, 2010

If You Are Moved to Help...

Click here...and thank you!

The Five Hundred Year Flood

At least that's what they are calling it now.

Our kids have missed an entire week of school. Staff reported on Thursday and Friday. It was decided that since the River was still above flood stage, and since the alternate bus routes would involve 2 1/2 hour commutes to and from school, the kids were staying home (smart call). I was one of the lucky ones because my drive to school wasn't impacted much by the flooding so it didn't take me any longer than normal. Some of the staff had to take detours - long detours - and had drives well over an hour, when normally it would take maybe twenty minutes. Traffic in most parts of town was bumper to bumper.

These past two days, without students, were really productive. We were able to work on finalizing grades for our retention and promotion meetings, get field day rescheduled, get our academic award party for the team organized. We do have one problem with the academic award party as the guy we usually buy our plaques from was, sadly, flooded out. So we're going to have to find another vendor as his phone is not being answered (I was hoping he may be working out of his house).

We did, unfortunately, have to cancel the field trip for the kids. No camping this year. Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Bunny and I had a conference call on Wednesday and decided that we couldn't guarantee our kids' safety. The river is still a mess, things are still flooded, roads are still washing out, and it was just too full of unknowns. So we canceled. I'm sure there are a lot of disappointed kids out there, but honestly, not a single complaint from a single parent. They probably wouldn't let them go anyway.

Amazingly, out of our entire staff, only one of us suffered serious damage to a home (many were stuck and stranded for a few days). Our librarian had 6' of water in her basement and floating freezer and goodness knows what else. She's already applied to FEMA for aid as they had no flood insurance. Then again, many people who got flooded out didn't even live in the 100 year flood zone so the insurance issue is going to be a mess. We're still not sure how many of our kids got displaced, however. We hope to find out on Monday when we're back to school.

I do have another friend, a lady I serve on a board with, who pretty much has lost everything. She's one of those fantastic ladies who does a lot for the community, her church, the arts, you name it. A real classy lady. It breaks my heart that she lost her husband to cancer two years ago, and now her home. Sadly, she's not alone. It's been a pretty tragic week down here.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Hundred Year Flood, Part Two

Monday - no school.

Tuesday - no school.

They've called school for Wednesday as well. Fortunately they also said they were going to approach the State Department of Education and try to have these days forgiven. I hope so. Our kids have been through enough already.

The river is supposed to crest at 1:00 am Wednesday morning. Hopefully the weather will stay clear and dry - it's been amazingly beautiful and warm. Good weather to clean out the damp part of the garage, sort through everything, toss out stuff, apply more Drylock, and put things in plastic tubs. I'm beat. Going to school would be a relief.

Many of our staff are still stranded. The terrain here is rolling hills along with rivers and creeks that criss-cross the county. Just about every low point with a bridge is closed. Getting from one side of town to the other is a challenge so Hubby and I are staying put except for a quick trip to Lowes for more supplies. We have plenty of food and water, the power is on (never went off) and although the waste water plant is shut down, we have water.

We may make a visit to rescue our friend Mrs. Littlebird, who is stuck in between two flooded roads. Her youngest, who is a non-verbal autistic, does not understand why he can't go to Burger King and everyone at the Littlebird house is stir-crazy. They can walk through the floodwaters to get to a road where we can pick them up so we may do that just to give them some peace and a change of pace.

The camping trip, alas, may be a wash (pardon the pun). We'll have to see. Mrs. Bunny, Mrs. Eagle and I are going to talk about it tomorrow, and see what The Principal has to say. There's the issue of transportation, the issue that the river won't be cresting near our camping area until the weekend, they may be using the campsite dorms for emergency shelters, and if everything is flooded, what can we do with the kids anyway?

And then there's the snakes. One thing flood waters leave in their wake down here are unpleasant creatures like water moccasins. I am not taking kids camping in a snake-infested zone. Sorry, just not doing that.

We may have to reschedule, if possible. Or we may do something special for the kids if we ever get back to school. A cookout at a local park, or something. I honestly don't know at this point.

I just really want to get back to school and see how my kids are.

In the meantime, if you are moved to help, go here:

Middle Tennessee Red Cross

The Hundred Year Flood

It was bad in 1932.

It's worse this year.

Nashville had over 13" of rain and the rivers are still rising.  Schools closed, businesses damaged, lots of homes and lives lost.   Nashville, and the surrounding areas, are being impacted hard.  We are closed again today, most of our downtown in closed off, and I'm thankful I live on a hill because I'm high and dry.  We have a curfew and are asked to stay home, if possible.

Since I haven't seen much in the national media on this, thought I'd share a couple of links with you in case you'd like to see what's going on down here in The Volunteer State (and what an appropriate name - you've never seen so many people reach out to help perfect strangers).

The best local coverage is at News Channel 5 - check out the videos of LP field under water, the house floating down I-24, Opryland under water, and the rock quarry waterfall (and the quarry was full in a few hours).

The Tennessean also has some good coverage and photos. 

If you are a Facebook fan, you can find lots of photos and videos there as well.  Youtube, as well has a lot of videos.

Pray for us.  It's going to be a long recovery.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Just When You Thought The Year Couldn't Get Any Crazier....


After seven snow days, and several weeks of longer school days to make up the snow days (we only have three allotted in our calendar), we get this:

Rain.  Lots of it.  Lots and lots and lots of it.  (Actually, we got more than that...I emptied out the rain gauge when it hit 8" a little bit ago and It Is Still Raining.)

And school is closed tomorrow due to flooding.

Heavens, we down here in the Volunteer State have even made the National News - nothing like video of a building floating down I-24 to get national attention.  It has been something else.  Most of West and Middle Tennessee is one big fat wet mess.

I have students being evacuated from their flooded apartments.  The school behind my house is a shelter.  And with only 15 and a half days left of school...we have an inclement weather day.


Oh, and last weekend?  We had this:

That's hail on my deck.  And leaves stuck all over the place.  And a glider that needed to be repainted a bit but even more so now that it got "hail blasted".  But hey, I didn't lose a tree like just about everyone else in the neighborhood.

Spring in the South.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Losing Their Minds

Tuesday was, shall we say, interesting.

We had Kagan training going on in the school, so a lot of teachers were off doing that (I'd already gone through it). As a result, we had a lot of subs in the building. Usually that's a sign that those of us who aren't subs need to stay on our toes because the kids seem to get a little wiggy. It's like there's this undercurrent of mania that strikes them when they see unfamiliar faces in the classroom. That being said, we only had one sub on the team (for Mrs. Social Studies) so you would think our kids would be a little better than those who had more than one.

As usual, I was wrong.

We took our kids to lunch and dropped them off in the cafeteria and then went to enjoy our 30 minute duty free lunch. The first hint I had that something was amiss was when one of the teachers from Mrs. Eagle's team came in towards the end of lunch and mentioned that she thought a few of my girls may had got into a fight during lunch.

Mr. Math looked at me, "I didn't hear anything in there, did you?" he asked. Usually when there's a fight in the cafeteria next door we can hear it (and we'll run in and try to calm things down.) I hadn't heard anything either. Which was a bit weird. Maybe they're just so loud anyway, what with the countdown to the end of school, that we didn't notice.

So I go to pick up my kids to walk them back to class and my class looks, suddenly, a lot smaller. I always check with Mrs. Wonderful Aide about whether or not they'd been good (this is, after all, my Fifth Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself, so it's worth checking) and she kind of rolled her eyes at me.

"Oh dear," I said, "that bad?"

"That bad," she answered.

We walk back to class and the kids are more subdued than usual (they probably guessed they were going to get barked at when we got back to class - again), and as we walk past the Guidance office - which is surrounded by lots of glass windows - I see not one, not two, but six of my kids sitting in there.

This is not good.

Turns out that two of my girls were in there because they had gotten into a fight over - what else? - a boy. The fact that these two are best friends makes it more interesting. Three more were writing witness statements. (On a side note, I've often contended that if we made all our writing prompts witness statements, we'd get some of the best writing ever out of these kids - amazing how well they write when they're reporting one of their peers screwing up big time.) Another, Little Big Boy, was in there for a SEPARATE fight because he apparently was getting teased by one of Mrs. Eagle's kids and went nuts and started throwing forks and slinging chocolate milk all over, although for the looks of him, it landed mostly on him and not the other kids.

And then when we get back to class one girl breaks down crying because "people are cruel" and "fights scare me", and she wanted to go see a guidance counselor (she's a high stress kid and spends a lot of time with anxiety issues in guidance anyway.)

Oh wonderful.

Fifteen days. If they can just hold it together for 15 days.