Monday, January 31, 2011

Wiggling and a Writing

I haven't posted much because, truth be told, I'm tired of hearing myself whine about snow days so I can only imagine how you all feel.

For the record...we have not gone a complete, full, five-day week since the week of December 6th.  We're hoping that we'll make 5 days this week because we've already lost every holiday scheduled, and we're so far behind on our scope and sequence that I'm not even going to bother looking at it.

So there.

It's been a absolute monster trying to get our genetics unit finished.  We just love teaching this unit - it's so much fun, and there's so many cool things you can do.  However, it's not fun teaching a unit when it keeps getting chopped up by days out of school.  I feel like I can't get into my groove, and the kids seem to be getting things piecemeal.  It's frustrating.

So anyway, we finally - FINALLY - got our unit test in today.  As a rule I hardly ever give a test on Monday, but we are so far behind we really didn't have a choice.  As soon as I finish this, I'm going to start grading them (yeah!).

I'm kind of curious as to how one of my students - Wiggly Boy - did.  Because we tried something different today when it came to taking his test.

Wiggly Boy is tiny, and cute, and a lot of fun, and enthusiastic, and just a neat kid - but he can't pass a test - any test - to save his life.  From class observations and discussion, he knows the material fairly well, but he just blows it big time when it comes to tests (and the subject doesn't matter).  One thing, however, that The Team noticed, is that Wiggly Boy likes to stand a lot.  He would much rather stand than sit in a seat, so I got the idea, why not have him stand at my teacher station while he takes his test?

I approached him with the idea, and he was willing to give it a try, so that's what we did.

So he stood there, and took his test...he did all the good test-taking strategies I've taught him, but since he was standing, we added in his natural bouncy enthusiasm.  (I think he needs his own soundtrack, personally.)  Even if he didn't do better (and that remains to be seen) he seemed a bit more focused, and certainly had fun.

And honestly, when's the last time a kid had fun taking a test.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Last to Leave

Will this winter never end?

The weather forecasters have been going crazy over the past week forecasting snow and ice and every miserable thing a cloudy sky can produce for today.  Great.  We've already had to use one holiday up to make up a snow day and the last thing we want to do is use up another.  When I went to bed last night the storm was supposed to hit around 3:00 pm, so we were all hoping that we could get in a day of school before the Great White Death began to hit.

No cancellation call this morning, so off to school we went.

Only to be told by the kids getting off the buses that the bus drivers had informed them that we were going to be dismissing early.

Great.  Nothing like having them bouncing off the walls with excitement before 7:15 in the morning.  I think every teacher in that building was about ready to find a bus driver and wring his/her's neck.  Good luck trying to get any learning out of our kids today.

Of course, we didn't get the word until every kid in the building knew about it.  But finally, we were told that yes, we were going to have a half day and get the kids out of there by 10:45.  The storm was apparently going to hit around noon, and we needed to get all the high school and middle school kids dropped off and then the buses would pick up and deliver the elementary kids.

But first we had to feed them.

For seventh grade and sixth grade, the day wasn't bad.  Seventh has 1st and 2nd period planning, sixth has 3rd and 4th period, but eighth grade - they didn't get any planning today as their planning is 6th and 7th period.   The idea was that the sixth grade would have lunch first, then us, then eighth, and we'd have them all fed by 10:30.  To speed up the food service, the kids would be eating in their classrooms.

I actually had kids in my room making up their benchmark tests during 1st period, 2nd period was free (although I spent it with Mrs. Eagle making up a different lesson plan than we'd planned since we'd only see two of our five classes today), and then third period we'd take them to lunch, and 4th we'd have an actual class.

It really did go a lot smoother than I thought it would.  My third period, the group that had to eat lunch in the classroom, did pretty well and actually once they'd finished eating, they got out their workbooks and began working on a meiosis assignment (which will be extra credit, but I sure as heck didn't tell them that).  Fourth period was a bit hard to get going as they knew they'd be leaving shortly, but they didn't do too bad either.

Thank goodness I didn't have to deal with my Seventh Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself.

Mrs. Eagle, Mr. Math and I are part of the "Snow Team", the group of teachers that stay back for an hour or so until the last bus has delivered the last kid and the last parent has picked up their child.  It's a volunteer thing, but basically if you live nearby the school, don't have any kids of your own to pick up, and can drive in the snow, they kind of like it if you stay.  The idea is we want someone at The School in case a kid(s) doesn't get picked up or a bus has to return.  It wasn't snowing yet when the buses rolled, so we didn't really have anything to do but go back to our rooms to work on whatever.  (Mrs. Eagle and I ate our packed lunches and worked on our notebooks for next week).  It's actually not a bad thing because it does give you some quiet time to work in your room - I love that opportunity.

And goodness, after 12 years in Ohio, I can drive in snow.  Don't like to do it, but I can.

And now, that I'm home, it's snowing like mad.  And tomorrow?  Who knows?  The high is only going to be 23 degrees.

And it looks more and more like we're going to have to add 30 minutes to our day to make up the time.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Mom With the Right Attitude

Last year when the school board came out with our inclement weather make-up plan, it involved using our winter holidays (MLK Day, Presidents Day and Good Friday) to make up the school we missed due to weather, over the measly three days we are allotted.

No one raised a fuss.  Not a peep.  And, keep in mind, the school board meetings are open to the public and the school board is elected by the public so there was plenty of opportunity for the public to have some input.  If they cared enough...

But oh my, when it actually came to implementing the plan (with MLK Day the first day we used), you would have thought that some big vast conspiracy was afloat.  (For the record, we had to make up days last year, but we didn't go over our limit until after MLK Day so we didn't have to use it as a make-up day.  We did use President's Day and Good Friday and no one squawked.)

We had a lot of absent kids, but, for the most part, very few kids who had notes stating that they were at some of the regional MLK celebrations.  Most of our kids were absent because (a) the parent is so clueless they didn't get the phone call/email/read the paper/watch the news to figure out we were going to school and the kids sure as hell weren't going to tell them of (b) they had plans made for the three day weekend already and most of them didn't involve any sort of MLK celebration.

So, the kids that were there were, for the most part, completely accepted the fact that we were making up a snow day, buckled down and got to work and didn't whine.

Drama Boy, a boy I had last year and who is now in 8th grade, was apparently whining a big about going to school to Mrs. Sandpiper's room next door.  He wasn't happy he was in school on MLK day.

"So, what did your mother say about it?" Mrs. Sandpiper asked.  We both have always liked Drama Boy's mom because she's pretty much no-nonsense when it comes to school and Drama Boy's drama.

"She said that if Martin Luther King were alive today, he'd want me in school getting my education," Drama Boy replied.  "And you can't argue with that."

No you can't.  Perhaps that would be a better way to celebrate the day - put a focus on getting an education and being the best person you can be.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Back at Last!

Finally!  Finally, we made it back to school, the high school kids were able to finish their exams and we'll be able to start the second semester tomorrow...8 days late.

I was beginning to wonder if we'd make it because just about every other county around us canceled and had another snow day (and many are cancelling already for tomorrow as well) but we went ahead and went.   I won't make any criticisms regarding the roads - I live in town where the roads aren't as hilly or twisty and they tend to get cleared and plowed before the county roads do.  For all I know, there's county roads under two inches of ice.  But we went ahead and had school (thank goodness), and we'll be making up our extra snow day on Monday, MLK day.


One thing that has always perplexed me is how rarely we use delays.  When I taught Up North we used delays all the time.  The district would announce a two hour delay, which gave everyone a chance to see better in the daylight, and if the roads were still dangerous, they'd cancel for the day.  However, a lot of times that two hour delay was all the time we needed for the roads to begin to clear up, especially on a sunny day where the morning sun could begin the job of melting.  True, our classes were shorter, but we weren't having to make up so many snow days.

Down here, at least in my district, delays are rare.  And what's even stranger (and this just makes absolutely no freaking sense to me at all) is that even if we are on a delay, faculty and staff sill have to report at the regular time.  Which is two hours before the kids come in, assuming we're on a delay.  So, if the roads are too bad for buses, how come they aren't too bad for employees?  After all, supposedly, the whole issue is safety - we don't run buses when the roads are unsafe.  So why should the school employees get out on these dangerous roads to get to school?  And then, if it was eventually decided that we needed to go ahead and cancel school, (because the roads are unsafe) we then have to dismiss all the employees that went ahead and showed up and send them back out on dangerous roads.

Makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Ideally?  Everyone reports two hours late...and that way, if it's decided that a cancellation is in order, there's no one to send back home.  And if the delay is all we need, we'd get in our scheduled day.

But hey, no one asks for my opinion.  I just give it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Yet Another Snow Day

Our 4th Snow Day...which means we go to school on MLK day rather than have it off.

I am getting tired of not being in school.  True, I have plenty to do, but I'm getting bored with my own company at this point.

Hopefully we'll go tomorrow.  Please.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Semester that Will Not End

Prior to the Christmas break, we had two snow days.  Two snow days right at the end of the semester when we were all finalizing grades and the high school students were taking their final exams.

So, it was decided by The Powers That Decide Such Things that when we returned this past Wednesday, the High School students would review for their exams (because we know they aren't mature enough to study for them over their break) then they would take them on Friday and today.  As a result, it was decided to extend our 2nd nine week grading period by one week so that everyone in the district would be on the same calendar.  Grades were held off for a week, and report cards delayed.

For those of us in the middle school it was more an administrative pain in the butt than anything else.  The kids were annoyed because they didn't get to go to their new elective classes (things like art, music, computers, etc).  We had kids going around with paper schedules because we couldn't make schedule changes in PowerSchool.  Just more of a pain than anything.  And in the midst of all this, we've got Benchmark testing coming up and all the silly scheduling nightmares that entails.

So today, Monday, the day the semester was going to finally freaking end as the High School kids would be taking their snowed.

And we had a snow day.  Our third (and last - from now on we use up holidays).

So the semester is not over.  Still.

They are predicting more snow and ice to come in tonight (oh joy) so we may be closed tomorrow as well.  As it stands we are now just about the only county in the region that is showing as open for tomorrow.  We shall see.

But as of now it feels like this semester will never, ever end.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

For Those Who Inquired - Science Notebooks and Weber Grills

I love it when you guys leave comments!

First off, Jessie left a comment asking about my science notebooks.  First off, I'm not an expert.  At all.  In fact, I've done science notebooks for a whopping two days.  However, I'll lead you to some of my resources.  First off is Dinah Zike's book "Dinah Zike's Notebook Foldables for Spirals, Binders & Composition Books"  We have used her foldable techniques for years and one thing Mrs. Eagle and I did not want to get rid of were foldables - we saw this book at the NSTA conference in December, and attended one of the conference workshops that her organization put on about doing science notebooks.  That workshop may have been the best one I've attended in ages.  Now we know how to keep doing foldables and at the same time, utilize notebooks.

Mrs. Eagle also went to an in-service (I was supposed to go but my father was in the hospital) where another teacher in our district shared his notebook ideas.  There are lots of teachers out there who do them.  If you are a member of NSTA, you can go on their website and find a lot of things.  Also, Google them like mad.  You come across a lot of resources that way.  And of course, one of my favorite bloggers, But Wait! There's More!, does a lot with notebooks so you may want to check out her site.  (And if you aren't interested in notebooks, check out her site anyway).

As for the Weber Grill...My mother refuses to get my husband books for Christmas.  She feels, rightly so, that we have run out of room at our house for books so she won't buy any for him.  He loves to cook out, and really needed a decent, larger grill.  So, she got him a grill for Christmas...

Okay, let me back up and explain why it's a Weber grill.  A few years ago, Mother Dear was transporting her grill to a BBQ her GOP ladies were putting on at a blackberry farm.  She had the grill in the back of her little pickup and took a turn a bit too fast (for a grill) and looked in the rear view mirror just in time to see her nearly new Weber grill go sailing out of the bed of her truck and bounce down the street.  She was sure she had just ruined her grill and was not happy.  Anyhow, she stopped, went back, picked up her grill only to discover that not only was it still in two pieces (grill and lid) but they weren't even dinged or dented.  The lid still fit perfectly on the grill!  We've pretty much decided after that experience that Weber grills were the best made around.

Okay, so Mr. Bluebird gets a grill for Christmas and it was sitting there in a big box in my living room.  For about 3 days.  I kept hoping he'd get a clue and either assemble it himself, or something.  However, I'm the one in the family with most of the tools, so one morning I decided to go ahead and put the thing together myself. If not, it probably would still be in my living room.  It was remarkably easy.  I had it together in about half and hour, and had it put out on the deck (complete with cover) by the time Mr. Bluebird rolled out of bed.

I also am good at fixing toilets.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

We're back....

So I didn't post much (at all) during my Christmas break, mainly because I didn't have that much to post about (honestly how exciting is it to hear me talk about how my dad and I went to every place you can purchase a tool of some kind within a radius of about 20 miles? Or how I managed to assemble a Weber grill?  Or how I still woke up at 5:00 every morning but managed to take a nap?  And how many bowl games I managed to watch?).  We had a delightful time off, I did very little school work, went and saw the latest Harry Potter movie, read, knitted, napped and enjoyed my time away from the classroom.  Hanging out with Hubby, Dad and the felines was a great deal of fun.

But today, we're back.  Actually teachers came back yesterday and did in-service most of the day (which was actually interesting and informative) and Mrs. Eagle and I managed to get everything copied and prepared for the rest of our heredity and genetics unit.  Whoo-hoo!  Love to be prepared.  Considering that we couldn't even remember if we'd done lesson plans before we left for break (we did), that's a plus.

We gained (so far) a new student, a sixth grader who's being promoted into seventh who is a good student, a polite young man and an absolute delight.  What a relief.  I'm used to getting kids that no one wants.

The other good news is we lost one.  Yes, Very Mean Bully Boy, came back today to officially withdraw.  He will still be doing his 30 days in alternative school but when that's done, he'll be in another school across town.  Let's give mom credit for moving him out of that horrid gang-and-thug-infested apartment complex down the road and shifting them across town to a better neck of the woods.  However, they are both in for a rude awakening because the folks at the school across town aren't used to dealing with thugs like VMBB and and he's certainly not used to them.  He is, however, no longer my problem and I can enjoy doing hall duty without worrying about who his latest victim is going to be.

The kids, by the way, were relieved.  It was like a different atmosphere today.

And today, Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Hummingbird and I debuted for a few of our classes the New Science Notebooks!!

The good news is we didn't fall flat on our faces.

We've been kicking around the idea of doing science notebooks for a year or so, but really didn't get too motivated until we went to the NSTA conference and hit up some workshops on them.  We decided to go ahead and "test drive" them for two of our classes, our 3rd (lots of sped kids) and our 5th (lots of bright kids) and see how they go.  The Principal found the money in the budget to buy composition books for the kids and we also got a few new pairs of scissors, as well as some liquid glue (glue sticks, we were told, don't work as well).    The idea is to work out the kinks this year, then go ahead and start the year off with them next year.

The kids seemed to like them except for a few who see a composition book and assume they'll be doing nothing but writing in them.  Oh well.  We'll see how it goes.

The other good thing?  I only had 4 kids forget their locker combinations - that's pretty darn good!