Sunday, March 25, 2012

When Your Teacher is a Body Snatcher...

We're currently working on our body systems unit which is one of my favorite ones to teach.  It's also kind of scary when you start finding out how little 7th graders know about their own bodies and how they work, but that's another post for another time.

In any case, a few years ago, someone in The Building got the bright idea of ordering some preserved pig lungs to illustrate the dangers of smoking.  However, for various reasons, they had never been used and were stored away in the science lab.  It's actually a real cool set-up - a rack made of tubes, with valves, and a place to attach the lungs (both at the same time even) so you can then attach the bellows and pump them to make the lungs inflate and deflate.  And these damaged lungs look incredibly disgusting, with a tumor or two on them, and they really don't pump well.  The healthy lungs are really nice and healthy and slightly bloody looking and they just pump up like a dream.

If you're a science geek like me, the set-up is really cool.  For some folks, however, it's a bloody mess.

So, Mrs. Angora remembered we had these so we decided to rotate them around and use them in a mini-review of the respiratory system.  Nothing like a little blood and gore to capture a seventh-graders attention.

First off, I had the rack in my room a day before I needed to use it, so I covered it with a sheet and put my "Do Not Touch" sign on it (fat lot of good that does), which prompted a lot of questions.  "What is that?" they'd ask and I'd say something vague like a demo we're going to do tomorrow, or something like that.   I may have even said "body parts" a few times, just to get them guessing and curious.

The next day, when I snapped on my rubber gloves and opened the plastic cases and hung the lungs up on the rack, was, well, priceless.  You can only imagine the comments.


"That's so disgusting!"

"Is it real?"

"What do they feel like?"

And so girl in my 5th period got a little green and asked to go get a drink of water, which may give you some idea of the reaction.  When I started pumping the lungs up, the comments and noise level got even higher.

What's even funnier is that we were a bit vague on exactly what type of lungs they were.  Mrs. Angora had told her kids that they were real lungs so of course, that's what my kids thought.   They kept asking if they were real (they were) but not what species.  I didn't bother to tell them they weren't human, but were pig instead.   Neither did Mrs. Eagle who's kids had the same reaction.  As Mrs. Angora said, "It probably didn't hurt them to think we go around gathering body parts in our spare time.  Keeps them on their toes."

I wonder if they think we're gathering up more body parts over Spring Break?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Her rotors are off a bit...

The Team has a kid this year who is a pretty average student - when he wants to be - and can, at times, actually be a pretty good student - again, when he wants to be.  The problem is his mother is more interested in his school work than he is (and, I suspect, does a bit of it.)

However, Helicopter Mom has a few things just out of whack, or as Mr. Bantam Rooster said, "Her rotors are off a bit."

Instead of making sure that he actually does his assignments, she has him do reams of extra credit.  I only allow 100 points of extra credit a grading period, and she was not happy with that.  (She's lucky I allow any.)  She'll send voluminous emails checking on his grades, questioning this, questioning that, but what she's not questioning is why her kid has zeros for assignments he hasn't turned in.  She also expects us to take any assignment late, and to give full credit for late work.

But what really kills me is her obsession with National Junior Honor Society.

Apparently, as a sixth grader (where, I swear, a kid has to be nearly comatose to fail sixth grade apparently), Helicopter Boy made it into National Junior Honor Society.  This is a very big deal for mom as she reminds us about this fact in Every Freaking Email.  However, Helicopter Boy Could Care Less.

A few weeks ago many of our seventh graders had a letter go home that basically says they were in danger of getting kicked out of NJHS due to either poor grades or behavior.  Now, seventh grade is usually the year that Kids Absolutely Fall Apart, so this wasn't unusual.  We get a lot of kids who were A and AB students in sixth grade who can barely manage a passing grade in seventh.  (I think the hormones hit them right smack between the eyes and knock every lick of sense out of them.)  However, Helicopter Mom nearly lost her mind over this.

The daily emails began - "Can he do more extra credit?" (No).  "How come he only got a 56 on his test, that's so unlike him!" (Because he didn't study and he's tested that low before). "Can you check his extra credit amount again?" (Of course.  For the Fifteenth time he has earned the maximum 100 points).  And so on.  I was not alone.  Every teacher on the team has been receiving these.

He did, miraculously, earn a 93% (A) in my class so, blissfully, I haven't heard from Helicopter Mom since he hit that magic number.


The end of the grading period was Friday.  Today, Mr. Bantam Roster and Mr. Math both get emails from Helicopter Mom wanting to know what she can do to bring his grade up for the past grading period to an A.  Notice it wasn't what he could do, but what she could do. (Hum, need some new school supplies?  Here's your chance.  A mom wanting to give a bribe.)

Mr. Math was aghast.  "This woman actually wants me to change his grade to a 93% so he can stay in National Junior Honor Society!"  

Mr. Bantam Rooster was nearly as horrified.  "There's no way I'm changing his grade.  He had assignments that were not turned in and were incomplete, and he earned the grade he's getting."

Exactly.  He earned the grade he's getting.  And even though Mom is apparently wanting to do something - anything - to convince these two teachers to change grades, it's not going to happen.  As Mr. Math said, "We're getting into a moral issue here and it's not right to do what she's asking."

The fact that she even asked, is what I find the most appalling.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Difference the Weather Makes

The other day The Principal observed that a cool, rainy winter keeps the kids much calmer than a warmer, dryer winter.  As she put it, there's something about the warmer weather that makes them lose their minds.  Considering that she has two middle schooler's of her own at home, as well as the years she's been at our building, she knows what she's talking about.

The last few years we had cold, long, snowy, rainy winters.  Dreadful winters (for My Beloved South, don't get all snarky, those of you in the Great White North.)  And, I think we got a bit spoiled because the kids didn't act really crazy until mid-April.  Of course after that it was absolute madness, but we were braced for it.

This year has been completely crazy.

Aside from having no measurable snow (and having just used one of our three snow days), it has been a rather warm, dry winter.  And this warm, dry winter, has morphed into a very, very early spring.  I have plants blooming about 4-6 weeks early if that gives you any idea of how early.

And the kids are blooming early as well.

The kids began losing their minds towards the end of January, a full two months early, and it hasn't let up since.  Whereas last year we didn't have any fights until April, we've already had quite a few and it's only the first week in March.  We've had kids expelled (and that's rare, even for my building), and so many stupid things happen that I'm starting to think these kids really are possessed.   Some of the fights are just stupid boy things where the kids are horsing around, "having fun", until someone gets annoyed and it gets serious.  And then there are the stupid girl fights that usually begin because girls can't shut up about each other and there's almost always some boy involved.

It's just plain stupid.

And I'm looking forward to the rain tomorrow in the hopes it will calm them down.