Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Well Why Don't You Do Something!!!?

During the past two weeks I've had some interesting emails from parents regarding the fact that their darling chooses not to do homework.  One parents insisted to know WHY I didn't place her daughter in after school detention because ANYONE KNOWS that if you take something fun away from a kid, they may actually get the message.  The other parent expressed a concern that since he and his wife are both working in the afternoon, and his son chooses to do everything BUT homework, was there anyway I could put him in after school detention so he'll get his homework done?

Well, as I explained, at The School, we only have after school detention for kids with behavior problems, not lazy problems.  Neither of these kids is a trouble maker so they don't qualify for that.  The Administrators decide who's going into after school detention based on the classroom discipline referrals.  I also explained that we are allowed to pull kids from their elective classes on Mondays and Fridays and that serves sort of as a detention where they can get their work done.

However, what I really wanted to say was "Isn't that really YOUR job as a parent?"  We have these kids for about eight hours a day, and then they go home and then, in theory, it's the parent who should check their planner, see what the homework is, and see that it gets done.  My parents even get an email letting them know what the homework is, so they have that to rely on.  But apparently these parents what us to keep their kids even longer, see that their homework is done, and then send them home.  Shouldn't they be the ones "taking away something fun" from the kid because they didn't get their homework done?  Shouldn't they be the parent?

Some of my fondest memories of my childhood were of my parents and I sitting down to go over homework.  It was our time together - no television, no computer (well duh, they didn't exist back then), no interruptions.  These parents apparently don't want to spend time dealing with their kids' academic issues and at the same time are missing out on a really vital part of the parent/child relationship.  

Do you think if we asked these parents to pay more taxes so we can get paid to stay later and parent their kids, they'd go for it? 

Really, I'm getting sick of parents wanting to be pals, not parents.

P.S. Update 3/2/2012

One of these parents requested a form for an after school program we have called homework hour which works with our tutoring program and is funded with a grant.  I sent the form.  The comment he made back was that his son couldn't participate because no one would be able to pick him up.  What?  Who was going to pick him up from after school detention then?  The Tooth Fairy?  Or did he think we ran buses to drop kids that stay late off at their doorsteps?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sorry to Interrupt your Saturday

It's been a busy weekend down here in My Beloved South (the Civil War Sesquicentennial, dontcha know?) but I did manage to squeeze in some grading on Friday night and Saturday night.  The rest of it will have to wait until Sunday afternoon.

Anyway, we've been doing our Dragon Project in class, which is an exercise in genetics, heredity and a whole lot of Punnet squares.  This is, from the comments I get from former students, one of their favorite things we do all year and the kids really enjoy it.  It's a four day, in-class project, worth 200 points, so it can really boost a kid's grade if he or she actually puts forth some effort. 

So, I'm grading the projects yesterday and I come to Goober Boy's.  He has done half of the first page of an 8 page assignment (a lot of which is coloring dragons to represent their phenotypes).

That is all.

25 points out of 200.

In four days.

Of class work.


Well, ordinarily, I wouldn't pick up my home phone on a Saturday and call a parent (I'd usually email, and I do a lot of that on the weekend, even though, as the mythology goes, teachers don't work after 2:30 on a weekday afternoon).  However, I know this parent pretty well.  I've had Goober Boy's cousins and his Aunt was one of those parents I'd like to keep forever.  She was that good.  And his parents are cut from the same cloth.

So I picked up the phone and called and got Mom on the line.

She was (a) shocked I'd call on a Saturday, (b) beyond annoyed that Goober Boy did nothing, and (c) promised that if I'd give him a second chance he would get that assignment done and turned in.  I mentioned to her that this nine weeks has pretty much been an exercise in goofing off, giggling, and not doing work and she mentioned my email from the week before about low grades.  She stated that Goober Boy said that "reproduction is really hard" and I had to bite my tongue at that one.  (The possibilities of snarky and sarcastic comments are nearly mind-blowing with a statement such as that.)  I did mention that never once did he raise his hand to ask for help, and that I've talked with him about that as well.  She agreed that she thinks it's simply a matter of not wanting to do the work (honestly, the kid should be a solid B student), rather than not understanding the work.  

He will be removed from his lab group and will have a new seat when we return on Tuesday.  He also will be making up all his missing work and knowing this mom, she'll see that it gets done.

However, I really would have enjoyed hearing her conversation when Goober Boy after we ended our call on Saturday.  From her tone, it would not have been fun for him in the slightest.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Balance? What Balance? Part II

There has been, yet again, some shifting of positions at The School.  A newer sixth grade math teacher wasn't cutting it, so they moved her to P.E. and moved The Coach from PE, into 6th grade math which is not making him happy.  He was the math teacher on my team when he first moved here and he's fantastic, but he's one of those guys who really got into teaching so he can coach.  (And he coaches two high school sports, plus one middle school sport, so he's busy).

What this meant is that the one math class he did have before this move, an inclusion math class, no longer exists, and they gave most of those kids to Mr. Math on my team.

Which meant he had an inclusion class, with no aide or other teacher, with 33 kids in it.

Yeah, like THAT's going to work.

Especially when his fifth period had a total of 14 kids in it.  Really.

So, guidance decided to flip four kids that had me for fifth period, into my sixth period, and then they went from math sixth period to fifth.

Which meant that now my fifth period is down to 22 kids and sixth is up to 30.  With six special ed students (who have resource math) in it.  I only have ten special ed kids over all, so most of them are bunched into what is now my biggest class.

Which also has 28 seats.

So, I've got more kids sitting out in the isolation seats than usual, and when we do labs, these "spare" kids, have to find a chair (I'm still hunting an extra one down) so they can sit at the tables (which are made for four kids) and work with a group of five.

Not ideal.  I actually wouldn't mind if I had more square footage in my room because it's more a matter of too many kids in too small of a space.  If I could punch the walls out and spread them out a bit, it would be a lot easier.  As it is, they're nearly on top of each other and fussing and whining and TALKING CONSTANTLY, so it's hard to get anything done.

So, after a week of this, after explaining that they are now the largest class, that we have a lot of kids who need to focus more, and how they can be good for 45 minutes out of the entire day, the gloves come off.  Half the class is telling the other half to shut up.  Tomorrow, I'll just start writing the talkers up as They Have Been Warned.  Maybe that will get the message across.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Scrawny Boy Update

It's been nearly a week since my phone call and email exchanges with Scrawny Boy's father regarding the hideously low grade (40%) in my class as well as all the missing work.

To date, he has turned in one assignment and half of an assignment.

Not exactly a stellar performance.

I have emailed Dad to let him know that I've only seen 1.5 assignments and to ask if he needed me to re-send any of the assignments I emailed last week.

Silence.  So far.

I'm not really surprised.  Dad has cancelled meetings with us before, and according to Scrawny Boy, is "too busy" to bother with him or his education.  He's probably not stretching the truth too much there.  I believe Dad was saying what needed to be said but probably didn't really enjoy the difficult part of parenting - making a recalcitrant and argumentative child sit down and get his assignments finished over the weekend.

After all, the Super Bowl was on.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Scan, scan, scan away

I love the fact that our big huge monster copier scans and emails documents.

And that I can email these documents to myself.

And email them to a parent.

And hope that they come back, complete, on Monday.

I'm thinking in particular of one kid in my fourth period (which is rapidly turning into one of my worst classes).  Scrawny Boy is failing spectacularly with a whopping 40% in my class.  He hasn't turned in one thing since the beginning of the semester and had a score of 20% on his unit test.


He always has excuses about why he can't do things - his parents give him too many chores, he forgot his book, he did it but left it at home, someone stole it - blah, blah, blah, blah.  Granted, I know his parents do have animals (horses for one) and he may be responsible for chores, but honestly, he's no dummy and can do a lot better.

So I called Dad.  Dad admitted that he doesn't check PowerSchool much (surprise) and was not really surprised that his progeny had been doing no work and scoring so low.  As he said, "It's always someone else's fault."  In any case, he asked if I could email the work to him (done), and send him a progress report (done), and if possible, information about how to access an online version of the book, if there was such a thing (done.)  He also asked me to tell Scrawny Boy that we'd talked and that he needed to bring his book home on Friday.  "We have a whole lot of weekend to sit down and get this work done," he said.

Scrawny Boy was not happy when he left school on Friday.  With his book.

Oh well.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Didn't Like You Then, But I Love You Now

Middle Schoolers are just plain strange.

As part of our school-wide positive behavior support program (I'm not writing that again, so you'll have to deal with SWPBS), we've developed a "check-in/check-out" program with our kids that had the dubious honor of being the 15% that were always in trouble.  We started SWPBS last year, tracked a lot of data, and realized that 15% of the kids were getting about 60% of the discipline referrals.  Interesting.  So, we came up with a 2nd tier of intervention (the first tier being the school store and the money you can earn to go shopping).

This involved matching these kids up with an adult mentor (not always a teacher, but support staff as well) that the kid checked in with in the morning, and checked out with in the afternoon.  In the meantime, the kid carries around a slip that they hand to each teacher who scores them on their behavior for the day; they have a certain individual goal of points, and there's a system of rewards in place. The goal is to get them behaving like they should, to have a grown up advocate in the building, and to eventually have them learn to self-monitor their behavior.

Teachers and staff could volunteer to be a mentor and we were given a list of kids and could select ones we thought we could work with.  The student then got to look at the list of available mentors and choose whom they wanted to work with.

Well.  That was interesting.

I ended up picking Mouthy Girl who was a member of last years' Notorious Seventh Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself, and then Last Word Boy who was also a member of this stellar class of children.

Mouthy Girl gave me absolute fits last year - she was a handful - always into fights, always into drama, never doing work, and just the rudest and most disrespectful little blonde fireball there ever was.  (The fact that she has a homelife from hell is part of the reason for her behavior).  However.  She hadn't been in much trouble so far in eighth grade when we got the list, and she'd even come by several times to talk, was nice, sweet, and pleasant so I thought, "What the heck?" and selected her.  Kids change.

Oh boy do they.

Apparently Mouthy Girl was ecstatic that I had selected her as a possible mentee.  (Surprised me, truth be told.)  Her enthusiasm has not waned and we've been doing this program since Thanksgiving.  She is a regular fixture in my room, comes by several times a day (in between classes, on the way to lunch, any chance she can) to get a hug, whine about something she's upset about, to get a pencil, and basically to have someone to mother her since her mother is too busy to do it herself.  The good thing is that she'll give me a head's up on a problem, I can email her teachers to let them know, and they'll keep an eye out and keep a lid on things.  In the meantime I have a kid whom my entire homeroom thinks is my real daughter as she calls me "momma" and constantly borrowing pencils, paper, etc. (which is fine, that's part of the job.)

It's paid off.  She has not had one discipline referral this year.  She's walking away from the drama.  She's not getting into fights.  And she's learned that she can be successful in academics as well (All B's and C's this nine weeks - yes!!)

Wow.  What a change.

Now to see if we can work magic with Last Word Boy.  He's new to the program.  He started before Christmas but made it only one day before he got a write-up and had enough points to earn his way back to alternative school.  He's back now, and so far, he's met his goal every day but one.  I did insist that he have a schedule change to get him away from a teacher whom he obviously had issues with, and I think that helped.  So far, so good.  His new teachers seem to like him, which is a plus.  He's a smart kid, but can be very argumentative and just hates to be corrected.  (He will admit this.)   If he can grow up, and get it together, he'll do okay.

Helping them out, one day at a time...