Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Class that Rocked

I usually make a point of going to graduation at the high school my kids end up going to, but this year, I HAD to go to graduation.  No way was I going to miss this.  Because this, dear friends, was the group of kids that we all fell in love with.  This was the Class that Rocked.

I don't care if you talk to their elementary teachers, their middle school teachers, or their high school teachers, you'll get the same response - "This was the best class I've had in years."  They were.  I think in nine years at The School, this class, easily, was my favorite.  In fact, if I look at the kids who've kept in touch with me through high school (and there are quite a few now that I actually sit down and count), most of them are from this class.  My house and cat sitter, after all, is in this class!

Oh sure they had their pests and troublemakers and thugs and goobers who wouldn't work (and the Third Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself), but overall, they were a great group of kids.  They got along.  They liked each other.  They actually had some ambition.   And they were nice.  And a lot of fun.

Unlike previous years where we all had to find our own seats in the rafters of the University Gym where all the graduations are held, The Principal called Mr. High School Principal and asked if he could arrange for us to sit with the faculty on the floor.  No problem.  When Mrs. Cardinal (8th grade Social Studies) and I showed up on Saturday for the ceremony, Mr. High School Principal was so enthusiastic to see us, it was almost embarrassing.  All in all about six of us went to graduation although a few others were in the rafters with family members because they had kids of their own graduating.  It was fun being close to the action.

This class was impressive, earning over $2 million in scholarships.  Many are going into the military.  A number of mine are going into the sciences - at least two into nursing and one into wildlife biology.  I ran into one of mine and asked if he remembered telling me he was going to get a Nobel Prize for science one day.  He did, he said, and he was still planning on the Nobel.  He got a huge scholarship and is heading to Emory.

I love these kids.

People rarely tell teachers thanks.  But when we see those kids walk across that stage, especially the ones who barely scraped through 7th grade, it is it's own reward.

Bless them all.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

And...They're Off!

Today was the last half day of school for the kids.  (We report tomorrow, then we're free for the summer, in-service season).

In nine years at The School, this has been, without a doubt, the best homeroom I've ever had.  They'll be a tough act to follow.  So, while part of me is glad it's summer, in-service season, another part of me was a bit sad to see my homeroom kids leave.

It's rare you get a bunch of kids who are, for the most part, nice, eager to please, and able to get along with each other.  I could leave the room to run an errand to the front office or guidance, and they'd behave perfectly, the entire time I was gone.  They were just that good.  (I always had someone keep on eye on them, just in case, but never was there an issue.)  I had other homerooms where it was risky to do hall duty.

I am really, really going to miss those kids.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Entering the Temperate Zone

The past few days the temperature in my room plummeted to a whopping 59 degrees.  It was cold.  I was dealing with it better than the kids because, after all, I knit and I have lots of cardigans to wear when it gets cold.  That is what they're for.  The kids, however, seeing as it is almost summer are wearing shorts, sandals, and t-shirts and are absolutely freezing (and whining) in my room.

So for the past two days I've had the kids come to class, we take attendance, and then we walk down to one of our large group instruction rooms (a room you can pull two classes in at once which is awesome) and we run class there.  The added benefit of this, aside from the lack of whining, is the threat that if they don't behave, we'll go back to my room and freeze to death.

They behaved.  For the most part.

Today John, the repair guy (yes, I know his name now) was back and he replaced the brand new sensor that he put in last week.  For some reason, this sensor was apparently defective from the factory, so he put in another one.  Within minutes the temperate started to climb.  He was finishing up when I had my last class of the day return all our computers and probes we'd used for our lab and they noticed right off.  I doubt that John ever received so much enthusiastic thanks from a bunch of kids before.

Let's hope it's a nice, normal 72 degrees tomorrow morning.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Give Them A Taste of Power

Ah.  Field Day.

For those of you, like me, that didn't have field days when you were a kid they are a day, usually towards the end of school, where the kids get to go outside and do events such as kickball, and tug of war, relay races and the like.  Ours includes a volleyball tournament and speed skating (skating across the gym floor on dust mops) in the gym while we wait for the grass to dry out in the morning, and then a pretty big variety of events outside for the rest of the day.  The PE Department really knocks themselves out with this every year.  The kids usually get a free piece of pizza and a bottle of water, courtesy of the PTO, and then they can spend money and buy snow cones, pixie sticks, more drinks, and other snacks. Beats sitting in a classroom no matter how you slice it.

The kids talk about field day all spring so you think it would be a piece of cake to get enough teams together so we could have a half-way decent competition.


These kids all want to sign up for volleyball, tug of war, and kickball and that's it.  Most of them won't even sign up for those three and simply want to spend the whole time just being outside doing nothing (can't say that I blame them, truth be told).  However, the whole point of field day is to compete against the other 7th grade team (it was more fun when we had three teams, rather than just two), to see who can claim bragging rights as Field Day Champions!  Every year it seems that we try to come up with a different plan in the hopes of generating more sign ups, and every year it's a battle.  It's also a battle, once we're outside, to try to round up kids who signed up for an event and then can't be found.  I absolutely detest trying to find and round up the kids.  I'm not alone.  Most of us can't stand field day for that very reason.

So this year Mrs. Eagle (who's the other 7th grade team leader) and I posted the event lists, with the spaces to sign up in our team hallways and told the kids to sign up.  What ensued was another nightmare.  Kids were crossing out each other's names (nice, aren't they), whiting out other kids' names, not signing up for some events, and then too many signing up for others.


On Monday afternoon Mrs. Eagle and I took the lists down and tried to come up with the team lists for each event.  We were comparing lists and moaning about the fact that the kids weren't signing up and wondering whether or not we could cancel the whole thing due to lack of interest (we actually had the PE coaches tell the kids that it was a possibility which did spur a few more sign ups), when I had an epiphany.

"I don't know about you, but I'm done trying to wrangle these kids into participating," I said.  "And I'm done, trying to round kids up for events once we're out there."

"Agreed," said Mrs. Eagle.

"So what do you think about turning it over to the kids?  Pick a team captain for each team, give them the list, and tell them that they have to fill out the rest of the team and it's their responsibility to get the kids there for the events."

"It's their field day," she said.  "Why not put them a little bit more in charge?"

So that's what we did.  We went through the lists for the various events, selected kids we could trust and who could get the job done, made them captains, and turned it over to them.  I sent out an email to all my teachers requesting to see those kids at the beginning of first period to tell them what was up.  I sat them down, gave them each a copy of their team, told them it was their responsibility to fill up their roster and to get their teammates there for the event.  I told them if they didn't have enough people to field a team, they were encouraged to grab spectators and draft them.

And off they went.

By the end of the day, they'd filled their rosters.  By Wednesday, which was field day, some of my captains reported a waiting list for kids who wanted to be on the teams.  And this for events that no one signed up for!

Field Day was Wednesday.  The weather was PERFECT.  Seriously.  The absolute best weather for a Field Day - ever.  (Some of you may remember the year we had the tornado warning and spent Field Day in a hallway.)  It wasn't too hot.  It wasn't humid.  It wasn't too cold.  It was sunny with fluffy white clouds and it was just perfect.    None of the teachers had to spend a second trying to round up kids for events.  The kids  did it themselves.  We actually got to enjoy the events as spectators for the first time!  Oh, granted, we had a couple of knuckleheads who got into trouble.  (Nothing like Mrs. Angora who confiscated a record nine cell phones during the 8th grade field day, however.)  But all in all, it was just a lot less stressful, and a lot more fun than any we've ever had in the past.

Oh my gosh, why oh why didn't we think of this before?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How About Some Ice Cubes Now?

So remember how my temperature in my room was just amazingly hot?

Well, as luck would have it, the repair guy showed up on Tuesday morning and figured out that somehow the sensor in my room disappeared (yeah, I'd like to know how that happened myself since I didn't even know there was a sensor in my room, let alone where it was or what it looked like).  What this means was that the temperature defaulted to heat.  And when he tested the temperature it was 86.5 degrees.  Fahrenheit.

Of course.

Well, he put in a new sensor, the temperature slowly started to drop and lo and behold we got down to just about normal again.

Except now it's 62 degrees and blasting cold air to the point that it almost sounds like an airplane engine going off below the floor.

So on Monday the kids were whining about the heat and today they had their hoodies up on their heads, arms tucked inside their shirts and were sitting there chattering and shivering.

If it's not one thing it's another.

I did another work order so hopefully they can get it back to a nice 72 degrees which is what it's been pretty much all year.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Wanna Roast a Turkey?

My classroom is in the original part of the building (built in 1966 if that gives you any idea as to the age).  What this means is that I have absolutely no control over the temperature of my classroom.  This just drives my kids nuts because they are usually complaining about how cold it is, and are dismayed when I simply tell them to put on a sweater.  I then explain that we are at the mercy of the air, usually cold, that comes up out of the vents in the floor.  On days when it's particularly cold in my room (and this can be in the winter when the heat is on), the kids will pile their books on the air vents in the hopes to keep it a bit warmer.

Until Friday.

On Friday when I got to my room I noticed it was unusually warm.  Really unusually warm.  I did an email to The Enforcer and the Head Custodian and then pretty much melted through the day.  It was brutally hot outside so I more or less attributed it to that.  The kids were grumpy, and I was grumpy, but hey, we only have about ten days left so EVERYONE is grumpy.

This morning, however, was a different story.

I noticed when I went to open my door that it felt, well, warm.  Warm like the outside of an oven door feels.  This was not good.

And then I opened the door.

And was nearly blasted off my feet by the hot air that blew out.  It was, really, amazing how hot it was.  It truly felt like it does when you open an oven door.  The air was freezing cold in the hall way, but my room felt, literally, like an oven.  The Bantam Rooster popped his head in and immediately stepped back.

"What's wrong with your room?" he asked.  "It's like an oven in here."

"Wish I knew," I told him.  "But for some reason the air conditioner is putting out hot air, in my room only."

The Head Custodian showed up and took a step back when he stepped into the room.  "Wow, this is the worst I've seen in a long time," he said.  We checked both rooms on either side of me and they were nice and cool.  The hallway was cool.  My room, on the other hand, was perfect for roasting a turkey.  Or a teacher.

My homeroom kids walked in an immediately started complaining.  I told them we'd put in a work order, they'd have to just be patient, and we'd deal with it.  I actually decided if I needed to, I could put the kids on the floor in the hallway and they could work on their projects (Element Superhero Comics) and if they acted up, I'd put them back in the room.  However, as luck would have it, we had 8th grade field day today so our kids didn't get their first and second period electives - the elective teachers were running field day.  So, we had reserved the theater and decided to show a movie for the entire 7th grade so they could still have some fun time today, and we could share the duties of watching them and getting some planning.  What that meant was that my room cooled off a bit with the door open for about two hours and by the time 3rd rolled around it was tolerable.  Not great, but bearable.

We made it through today without too much whining about the heat.  I also told my janitor to leave the door open so the heat didn't build up overnight.  Hopefully that will help.  In the meantime I hope someone figures out what's wrong.  With only 10 1/2 days left, I really don't want to spend them melting.