Sunday, November 16, 2014

To Snow or Not to Snow

For as long as I've been at The District, we have had a total of 3 inclement weather days.  What's amusing about this is that every single district around us geographically have anywhere from 5-10 inclement weather days.  It's a little disingenuous to think that we live in a pocket where it doesn't snow, flood, ice or generally get stupid weather-wise, but that's the way it goes.  Whenever The Powers In Charge are asked about it, we get some mumbo jumbo about how the teachers voted on it, it has to do with in-service hours, blah, blah...problem is NO ONE I've ever spoken to remembers ever voting on something like this so it's probably a good idea to bring it up again since it must have happened so long ago...if it happened at all.

So, for the past few years, when we've had some wicked winter weather and went over by, oh, nine or ten days (really), we've had to lose holidays and then the Dreaded Add On An Extra Thirty Minutes To The Day routine, which everyone - parents, kids, teachers - just HATES.   Adding an extra five minutes to my class periods really doesn't amount to much in the long run, and the parents absolutely hated how it messed up schedules.  Finally enough parents complained and went to the School Board and they grudgingly gave the KIDS five inclement weather days and the teachers still get three.  Which means if we go over, we'll end up at the end of the year sitting in in-services re-arranging our classrooms, or something that requires us to be in the building for 7.5 hours to make up the time.

So...that being said, it's November.  And it's been freaking cold - especially for November.  And they're predicting ice and snow over night.

So, now that we have 5 days, any bets on the fact that we may be using one of them up waaaaay before we usually do?

Waiting to see...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Yeah, I'm neglecting ya'll

But I'll try to be better.

In the meantime, the best kid comment of the day from one of my homeroom darlings who actually has parents who came to conferences.

"My mom and dad really liked you.  They said you were the type of person they'd like to hang out with and have a beer with."

Well.  That's a good sign, I suppose.  I hope they're paying.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Spirit Week - Or "Do You Have One of Those Machines?"

So last week was Spirit Week.  This is new for the school, part of our SWPBS program, and was implemented to coincide with our High School's homecoming.  Why not?  These kids will belong to this high school in a short while, so might as well get them used to it.  What surprised me was how much they got into it, especially since this was new.

It also gave teachers a chance to dress in jeans and other casual wear for an entire week.

Monday was school colors day which was a huge hit (red, white and blue).  Tuesday was Twinsie Tuesday and kids, and staff, dressed alike.  Loved the kids who dressed like The Enforcer, complete with coffee mug.  (Mrs. Eagle and I dressed alike).  Wednesday was Nerd Day, and again was really popular (lots of bow ties and pigtails).  Thursday was Throwback Thursday and that was HUGE.

I, in particular, was looking forward to Throwback Thursday so I could relive my punk rock days.  Since I happen to have a 1979 promo t-shirt for The Clash, black jeans, black Keds, lots of rock pins from the punk era, I went back to my favorite musical era.  I even found some pink hair chalk and turned my hair pink which the kids loved.  My favorite part of the outfit however, were my props  - actual vinyl records from my collection by The Clash, the Ramones, and The Sex Pistols.

I took a few minutes to show the kids my records because, at 12-13 years of age, these kids definitely aren't that familiar with them.  Many had heard of them, but hadn't really seen up close (defined as "allowed to touch" a real one).  However, the best comment of the day came from one guy in my homeroom who asked, "Do you have one of those machines that you play it on?"

It took me a minute to realize he was asking if I had a record player, or turntable.  Which I do.  At home.  But I never thought of it as a "machine to play a record on"...

And Friday was Green and Gold day and The High School won, for like the first time in a decade, their Homecoming game!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

So Who's Whining Now?

It is a truth to be acknowledged that seventh grade is probably the toughest year for parents and kids and teachers.  Basically once those pesky hormones hit, most kids just become raving lunatics for about 18 months (sometimes more, sometimes less) and aren't fit to be around during this period of time.  

In middle school we have the sixth grade which is new and marvelous and the kids are, for the most part, still kind of sweet and want to please you.

In seventh grade they're, well, lumps that often get into trouble and have no idea why they do what they do.  When you ask a seventh grader, especially a boy, "What were you thinking?" and the seventh grader replies, "I don't know," they aren't kidding.  They Honestly Don't Know.

In eighth grade, they've matured over the summer and are starting to turn into young adults and you can have a half way pleasant conversation with them.

So, when it comes to faculty meetings and events where teachers from all three grade levels are present, most of the sixth and eighth grade teachers look at those of us who teach seventh grade as a bunch of whiners who are, most likely, nuts.  If you have never taught seventh grade, and many people go through their entire career never having the pleasure, you just don't get it.

However, this year's eighth grade teachers are starting to feel our pain.  

We sent them an interesting crop of kids.  A real doozy of a bunch.  Kids who have no sense of humor, no self-control, no common sense.  And we warned them.  And they said, "Sure, they can't be that bad, can they?  After all, they'll mature over the summer and be just fine."

Except this bunch, for whatever reason, did not mature over the summer.  At all.  And if it is possible, got even worse.  

And our eighth grade teachers are now running down to our end of the hallway screaming, "Good Lord, how did you deal with these kids!  They're horrible!  They're a nightmare!  They won't work, they wont behave, they talk back!  What's the secret to surviving this bunch?"

And we just smile.  Prayer baby.  Prayer.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Run, Scream, Eat Pizza...Repeat

It's been quite a few years since I chaperoned a middle school dance.

One reason why is that, with the increased emphasis on TESTING and DATA and SCORES, Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Angora and I spend most of Friday afternoon drilling down data, doing lesson plans, copying work, getting labs ready, rearranging lab groups so we can differentiate, and basically, even without working a dance, we're lucky to get out of there by 7:30 pm or so.

But this week they were desperate, our husbands were not at home and we said, "What the hell?" and decided to volunteer.

Things haven't changed much except, if possible, they do less actual dancing.

They do, however, run, scream, hop, jump, scream, and eat a lot of pizza.

And I still left around 7:30 and was exhausted, but truthfully, it was kind of fun for a change.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Return of My Red Headed Fireball

Last spring a new student arrived from Another Southern State who made quite an impression.

For one, he some of the reddest hair I have ever seen.  And a personality to match.  To say that the Red Headed Fireball is a handful is putting it mildly.  He could tear up your classroom like nobody's business.  The fact that he arrived at about three weeks before our Very Big Deal Government Mandated tests, when we were reviewing for the year - and keep in mind, he just came here - he was a bit lost.  And so he acted out.  A lot.  Some days he drove me so batty that I'd send him down to Mrs. Eagle's class just to give everyone a break.

He also had a pretty tragic story, primarily he was orphaned and had moved in with his aunt and uncle who were planning on adopting him.  At least he had somebody, but it doesn't make up for the fact that he'd lost his parents before he hit seventh grade.  That's tough.    We were told if he had issues to send him to guidance.

And one day I had him out in the hallway because he was doing something disruptive - again - and giving him yet another talk about behavior and manners and expectations, and I made some comment about losing my own dad barely a year earlier and things all of a sudden changed.  He wanted to talk to me about losing my dad and losing his dad and next thing I knew, I had a Read Headed Fireball that took every chance he could to be in my room.

That hasn't changed.

My new room is on the corner of the 7th and 8th grade hallway, so most 8th graders have to go by in the morning to get to their classes, including My Read Headed Fireball.  Every morning I get a hug and a conversation about how he's doing.  In the afternoons he tried to sneak down when bus riders are dismissed, but kept getting caught by Mrs. Sparrow, one of the assistant principals, because he is supposed to go out the 8th grade door, not the 7th.  Mrs. Sparrow came to me this past week and said that he is constantly trying to come down to my room and would I mind it horribly if he did come down during 8th grade homeroom because his homeroom teacher has her hands full (and boy does she - I saw her roster and it's a nightmare bunch).  I said it wouldn't be a problem.  His homeroom teacher was elated.

So now, the Red Headed Fireball, shows up at my door at 1:50, when I'm still teaching my 6th period.  He goes quietly to my desk, where he starts on his homework, fixes my marble calendar for the next day, cleans up my desk, and generally makes himself useful.  Once my kids go to their lockers, he'll want to have a discussion about his day and how it went and about football practice and all sorts of things.

And then he shows up, like he did on Thursday, when he's having a melt-down about something.  He no longer wants to go to guidance, but wants to sit in my room.  No problem.  I called his music teacher, told her what was up (some kid made some comment about his mother, which You Do Not Do to a kid who has lost a parent) and she said keep him.  He sat in on my third period, my largest class, which also has an aide in there with me.  He did his work, alphabetized my kids assignments, helped hand out and collect laptops, and generally was useful.  By the end of the day when he came by he was fine - the kid apologized for the "your momma" comment - and we were back obsessing about football.

This Red Headed Fireball needs a lot of mothering and apparently he has chosen me to do it.

And that's fine with me.

Ah, The Smell of Seventh Graders...

Friday was a weird freaking day.

Friday was going to be our first early dismissal where the kids get out two hours early so teachers can have meetings, in-service, training, blah, blah, blah.

As such, it was the first early dismissal day with our New Wonky Schedule.  The Enforcer spent most of the past two weeks trying to figure out a schedule that enabled us to have most, if not all, of our academic classes, as well as get kids fed lunch, with a minimum of craziness.  At the faculty meeting on Thursday he went over the plan which looked, for the most part, like it would work pretty well.  Basically we cut out the kids' elective time and they simply went to their four core academic classes, plus lunch.  However, being new, you never know.  The Enforcer declared Friday a "casual dress day" just in case we had to "put out any fires, stop any meltdowns, and generally deal with the chaos a new schedule creates."

Looking back, I'm wondering if he regrets those words.

So, Friday started off pretty well.  I had the kids on computers doing centers on plate tectonics using a variety of websites, plus I was going around and having them model the different plate boundaries for me using index cards and red construction paper (for magma, dontcha love it?).  My inclusion class, which is my favorite class because the kids are so awesome, went great.  Next was my fourth period which is my least favorite class, just because the mix of kids in there is toxic.  It went pretty well, considering.

Five minutes left of fourth period and the freaking power goes out.


We were informed to hold our classes (because the hallways, even with the few windows and emergency lights, were really dark) and just sit tight.  Strangely enough, we still had internet, so as long as the kids had battery power on their computer, they could keep working.  Once they'd finished their centers, I had to come up with something to keep them busy so I had them race each other on Quizlet which is a great vocabulary building website.

One hour ticked by.  It was dark, the AC was off, and it was getting really, really warm in the classroom.  I started watching the thermometer tick up and up and up.  Not good.

After another half hour ticked by (and they were now bored with the vocabulary races and the batteries were dying on the laptops), we were told to take them down to the cafeteria to get a cold lunch.  So, lined them up, used the flashlight app on my phone to help light the way, and down we went.  They got a PBJ, an apple, some chips, a frozen slushy, drinks, and back to the room we went where they could sit down and eat (it being too dark in the cafeteria for 375 seventh graders to eat.)   They actually did pretty well and didn't make a huge mess, but it was getting hotter and hotter in the room.  I could actually start to feel sweat trickle down my back.  We were told we could crack our outside doors, but I when I opened mine it was really apparent that it was hotter outside than inside.

Seventh graders really start to smell, especially seventh grade boys, when the AC is off.

By this time everyone was hot, cranky, bored, and sick of each other.  I was sick of them as well, especially because this is not my favorite bunch to start with.  I finally had them put their heads down on their tables and listen to me read from the science book (again, thank goodness for my flashlight app) until we were told to have them go to their lockers and get ready to go.

Five minutes before they were to leave...the power comes back on.

Longest. Friday. Ever.

And the smelliest.

Monday, September 01, 2014

So It's All About the Relationships

We're always being told at The School, that good teaching is about building relationships with kids.  That's one thing I can't argue about (and oh, I can argue about a lot of stuff lately.)

Some of the best relationships I have with kids have spilled over into their young adult-hood.  The Daughter We Never Had (TDWNH) is a case in point.  She has never lost touch with me, we hired her as a house and pet-sitter, she also cleans my house (I feel I'm helping pay for nursing school that way), she texts or calls me almost daily and generally Mr. Bluebird and I love her as if she were our own.


I'm not sure The Powers That Be consider "building relationships with students" to include going out to the local firing range and firing pistols and shotguns with one of your former students.

Oh but gosh, we had a blast!  And she was tickled, as she put it, "To finally get the two of you out of the house for some fun!"

I love that girl.

The Offspring

It has happened.

I have been invited to a baby shower for two of my students (who married each other).

I hate baby showers.  I particularly hate baby showers for kids I had when they were 12.  It means we're all getting older.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Obsession with Throwing

Our team is at the point where we're about ready to ban erasers.

Because erasers, you see, are wonderful projectiles. Especially when they're torn up into smaller pieces.  And our book fair, which ended yesterday, sold a ton of erasers which are now being systematically dissembled and launched across our classrooms.

I rarely write kids up, but one thing that will cause a write up faster than their heads can spin around is throwing things.  We had a girl today smacked in the eye with an eraser and that's exactly why the throwing is a big deal with me.

So, I basically informed them that if they so much as even made a throwing motion, regardless of whether or not they actually threw anything, I. Would. Write. Them. Up.  No questions asked.

It's not a democracy in my room.  It's a benevolent dictatorship, and they better figure that out.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

28 Bells...

We have a new schedule this year...for a number of reasons.

We've gone from 7 periods to 6, mainly because The State says that we can no longer have a reading teacher and an ELA teacher, but one person doing both.  So, we also went from 5 people on a team to 4.  The good news is that it means we have classes that are nearly an hour long.  We have been 47 minutes long for the past five years (and our test scores sucked compared to when we had hour long classes but admin apparently didn't see the connection...)

And then we solved the nightmare that is lunch, mainly trying to feed over 300 kids in 30 minutes.  And if you're a seventh grader this year, 373 kids in 30 minutes.

Basically, starting with sixth grade, each team goes in 15 minute intervals.  Now, this does mean that we interrupt my fourth period, but let me tell you, there is a world of difference when there are only, say, 100 kids walking to lunch as opposed to 300 kids.  In some cases, my class, depending on the timing, may be the only class moving to or from lunch and they are in line and silent.  No jumping up and smacking the ceiling, no yelling, no out of line, they are doing it right.  And the only thing I can figure is because there's only 25 of them at the moment, and no distractions from other classes.

It's been amazing.  Lunch is quiet, everyone gets fed, it is wonderful.

However.  It also means that every grade level is on a slightly different schedule and we have 28 different bells that ring all day long.

All. Day. Long.

I have our schedule printed in huge font hanging behind my desk because even I have trouble remembering what time we do what.  So when a bell goes off, and the kids look at me, I end up saying, "Not us," and moving on.  I also had to put a timer on my iPad to remind me when I had only 5 minutes left (and to remind me to take the kids to lunch.)  Even then, it's a bit wonky and I'm hoping pretty soon we start ignoring the bells that aren't ours.

If they could only do a different tone for the different grade levels, it would be so much easier.

P.S. Someone asked the question about couldn't teachers get the kids to lunch without bells?  Well, interestingly enough the only time a bell doesn't go off is for the different lunch periods.  The bells are going off for class changes between periods, and then tardy bells.  So, for example, a bell will go off for the sixth grade to end 1st and go to 2nd period; then four minutes later a 2nd period bell will go off for 6th grade.  Then an 8th grade bell will go off, etc.  Due to these funky lunches, the class periods do not line up equally at the same time for each grade.

I know, we don't get it either.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Hate You But I Can't Stay Away...

Last year I had a seventh grader we'll call Auburn Boy (because he is obsessed with Auburn University). Auburn Boy started off the year really rough.  He didn't do any work, would saunter in whenever he felt like it (which meant that he was pretty soon visiting with administrators due to tardies), and generally was a little turd.

The second nine weeks, after much prodding on my part and a stint or two in ISS for tardies, he decided getting to class on time and doing his work was not going to kill him.  He was in my little class of 16, and loved to talk and could be a royal pain, but I really liked the kid.  For one, he was funny.  He also seemed to need a lot of attention, especially in January when Mom had twins and suddenly he was the oldest, by quite a bit, and had four brothers and sisters below him - the newborns, a 3 year old and a Kindergartener.  He was starved for attention (although he wouldn't admit it) and he would do everything he could to engage me in a conversation regardless of the time or circumstances.

However, a conversation with Auburn Boy could be a challenging experience.  He got mad easily, would pout, stomp his feet, throw up his hands and act like a frustrated and annoyed teenager.  A typical conversation would go like this:

"Hey kiddo, get your homework out now, we're going over it."
"Jeez, lay off, I'm getting it out now...stop being so darn pushy."

But here's what's weird.  I couldn't get rid of the kid.  He acted like he hated me most of the time, but he wouldn't go away.   I didn't have him until sixth period, but he'd come by in the morning, claiming he needed a pencil.  Then he'd come by a little later with another excuse (usually another pencil although when he sensed I was getting annoyed with the pencil bit, he'd ask for paper.)  He'd show up sixth period for class, and then after seventh, he'd show up for afternoon homeroom.

Except he wasn't in my homeroom.  He was in Mr. Dobbie's (as in Dobbie Gills...long story) room.  But Mr. Dobbie kept letting him come over, and after a while he just came on his own and I'd send Mr. Dobbie an email letting him know he was there.  Auburn Boy and his mom and I got to be quite good friends as he'd text her (from my phone) about staying after for a club or something and she'd answer back.  He became somewhat as permanent in my room as some of the furniture.

So today is our third full day with our kids and I'm there doing my thing sixth period when I look up and there is Auburn Boy, now an 8th grader, standing in my doorway with a pass around his neck (which meant he had permission so there).

First words out of my mouth?  "Do you need a pencil?"

He smiled.  "No, just thought I'd come by."  My seventh graders are quiet and looking over at him.  It is, after all, a real 8th grader.

"Really," I said. "Are you sure?"

"Yup,"....I walked over and we proceeded to have a conversation, but he never would say (or admit) why he was there.  He just wanted to be there I guess.  I told him he could stay and sit in the back and watch, and he said no, he just wanted to check in.

And then he left.

I had a friend tell me once that being horrible, for some kids, is a way of letting you know they love you.  Maybe they're right, because Auburn Boy and I had our share of battles last year.  But he just kept coming back.  And now, it looks like he's still coming back.

And I'm really happy about that.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

And Bam! We're back!

Yeah, yeah, yeah...I've neglected you.


But last year, well, it just sucked.  Between dealing some more with my Dad's estate (finally, finally, finally finished that up a week ago), and the absolute amazing amount of stupid crap that is rolling down our way from the Federal Department of Education, the State Department of Education, to the District, to The School, and so forth...well, last year was the first year I thought "Maybe I should just say the hell with it, quit, and go get an office job somewhere."


It Was That Bad.

Our District and Our State are just OBSESSED with test scores.  And sorry, but I didn't go back to school at 38 to become a teacher so that I could administer Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests to kids.

That Is NOT Why I Do This.  At All. Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests are a two hour block on one day out of one year in a kid's life.  It should not define the kid and it shouldn't define the teacher.  Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening.  And It Pisses Me Off.

My kids are not a data point.  They should not be defined by one test score.  Hell, I don't think they should be defined by any collection of tests scores.  But that is exactly what is happening.  (And if there are any parents out there reading this, wake up!  Because NOTHING will change until the parents get pissed off and start complaining...teachers and our opinions are not respected in this current political climate.)

So, that, in a nutshell, is why I didn't post much last year, this summer, and so on.  I was just so angry, disillusioned, and pissed off.

And then Stoopid Boy found me again.  I posted earlier this spring about Stoopid Boy and his best friend Skater Squirt who both tracked me down and who I was able to reconnect with now that they're both adults (gosh, 21 years of age! ACK, I feel old!)  My husband and I actually got to spend quite a bit of time with them over the summer, especially Stoopid Boy.

It turns out that during his Junior year in High School, Stoopid Boy's parents purchased a house Right Up The Street from me.  Which means for, oh, about 5 years he's been driving past my house several times a day and never knew it.  So, whenever he's in the area to see his folks, he drops by.  He invited me to come see him play in the band at his church, and Mr. Bluebird and I enjoyed the church and the people so much, we have started to attend regularly.  And I have become very good friends with his mother, to the point that Mrs. Eagle and I have spent some nice summer afternoons hanging around, doing lunch and sitting by her pool.  (It is nice to have a friend with a pool.)  Skater Squirt has been very, very busy with work, but we have managed to have him over a few times as well.   Mr. Bluebird commented the other day that it's like we suddenly had two nice young men as sons without the aggravation of having to raise them.

And I was venting the other day about how depressed I was to be starting school again, how they have taken the joy out of teaching, and how I just didn't have it in me, and Stoopid Boy looked at me and said, "But you loved on me and I turned out okay.  Those kids need you to love on them."

And he was right.

So tomorrow, when they show up for the first full day of school, I'm going to remember that my job is to love on them.

And screw the test scores.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Middle School Street Party

Two weeks ago we spent four very long days taking the Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests.  This is, sadly, very high stakes, so we do what we can to motivate the kids to help them focus and do their best.

Including a flash mob dance with the teachers during an assembly.  That, surprisingly enough, went off better than we thought and the kids went INSANE when they figured out what was going on.  We had one teacher choreograph the dance (very basic, very simple) and we practiced in the mornings in her room, a few times after school, and some people just watched a video.  The only time we actually did it with all of us together was during the assembly.  Amazing we did it and word didn't leak out to the kids.

The other thing we've done the past few years is allow the kids to earn testing "money" which they can then spend at a big party after we're done.  They get a "dollar" for being on time, for using all the testing time (no putting your head down and sleeping/drooling), and they get another one for checking their work, underlining, highlighting, etc.  They can then use the "dollars" to buy things like pizza, hot dogs, drinks, cotton candy, popcorn, and then visit booths where they can get their nails done, hair sprayed a vibrant color, a temporary tattoo, and more.

The party this year was probably the best ever, and it had a lot to do with the weather and location.  We moved it completely outside this year with seven inflatables (I was on inflatable duty which was amusing), football, basketball, a food zone, and a DJ and dance area.  By the time you get nearly 1100 kids out there, you have the DJ blasting music, kids dancing, playing games, running around and screaming, it looked like a block party for middle schoolers.  And the weather?  Absolutely amazingly perfect.

The kids were awesome.  No fights, just fun.  Imagine that.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

All Grown Up and I'm So Proud...or The Return of Stoopid Boy

I've been teaching at The School long enough that some of my earlier kids are now legal adults, some with kids of their own.

To tell you the truth that really kind of freaks me out.

Some of my kids have kept in touch with me through the years, including one who my husband and I pretty much consider to be our own - she house sits for us, cleans my house for me (I figure I'm helping pay for nursing school that way), and comes over to borrow books for her classes from our library of history books. She's doing great, and I couldn't be happier or more proud if she was my own.  I often hear how some of her classmates are doing which is great because her class was special.  That group of kids had some of my favorites.  Not the best kids, but my favorites.

Including Stoopid Boy.

Stoopid Boy was, without a doubt, one of my favorite kids ever.  His best friend, one of the Skater Squirts was another one of my favorites.  So when Skater Squirt found me through a post I'd made on The Nursing Student's Facebook page, I didn't hesitate to strike up a conversation to see how he and Stoopid Boy were doing.  These kids were just the kind of kids that never left your heart.

And the fact that Skater Squirt posted that I was his very favorite teacher - ever - well, that just knocked it out of the park.

These two did not have the best seventh grade years - Stoopid Boy, in particular, had one of the worst seventh grade experiences on record, including a stint in Alternative School.  He wasn't a bad kid, he just made bad decisions and had an uncanny ability to get caught all the time.  But he had a good heart, and some of us could see that despite the attitude and behavior.  Skater Squirt wasn't a trouble maker, but he was definitely a kid who wasn't all that interested in academics, but was more into music and being outside, and doing things.  (I was the teacher who introduced him to Jimi Hendrix.)

After a few months of chatting on line, these two young men (because they're now both 21!) came over and had dinner with Mr. Bluebird and I the other evening.  I cannot begin to share what a blessing it was to have these two mature, interesting, funny, and delightful young men spend time with us.

The best part?  They are fine.  They are doing well.  They seem happy and together and grounded and just everything I would have hoped they would be.  They survived middle school and became productive adults.

This is one proud momma Bluebird.  And I'm glad they're back in my life.  They are truly gentlemen.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Once I Get Caught Up...

On grading, and reviewing for The Very Big Deal Government Mandated Test, I'll be back to posting....


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

It Sounds Weird When She Says It

Today was the last day of notes for our Body System unit.

We finished up with the Reproductive System.

No imagine how much fun this can be, teaching the reproductive system to a bunch of 12 and 13 year olds.  Better yet?  How about a class with 22 boys in it.

What a hoot!

"Mrs. Bluebird, are you really going to say the words?" one of them asked as he looked down at the graphic organizer on the unit that has such fun middle school words as testes, penis, ovary, etc.

"You bet I am," I told them, and then proceeded to go through the lesson.

Best comment?  "It sounds really weird when she says, you know, THAT word."


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Will Winter Never End?

Spring Break (part two as we're calling it since we lost a week of school due to ice about three weeks ago) started on Monday.

On Tuesday it snowed and sleeted most of the day.


Guts and Gore, or Why I Love Teaching Body Systems

Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Angora and I are on our last unit before we start reviewing for The Very Big Deal Government Mandated tests that happen the end of April.  And as luck would have it, one of our very favorite units to teach is the very last one - The Body Systems Unit.  This unit is so much fun to teach because it can be so disgusting and gory.

And if you want to engage a seventh grader, especially a seventh grade boy, disgusting and gory is the way to go.

We have a real human skeleton at The School (it was bought for The School when it opened as a Junior High in 1965) which we can roll out and show the kids.  Of course, most of the kids wanted to take a selfie with it and I informed them that since it happened to have been a real person at one time, to have a little respect and to put their phones away.

After that we have the pig lungs which we put on a contraption with a bellows so we can inflate and deflate them.  I like to put them on the document reader first and zoom in so the kids and see how soft and squishy they are.  The sight of squishy, pink, tissue sends some of them over the edge.  The smell doesn't help either.  At this point, you start to see kids put their heads down on their desk.

Then there's the sheep's brain and the cow eye.  (The cow eye is fun to put on the document reader and then tell the kids "I can see you!")

But we decided to spend some of our own money this year (budget is done with) and bought a few tongues, some kidneys, and some fetal pigs to actually dissect for them.  (They don't get to actual dissection until high school.)

I can't wait for that.  It might be gross, but they'll remember it.  Trust me.  I have one student who's going to college to be a nurse based on seeing those pig lungs a few years ago.

Now that's engagement.

Monday, March 03, 2014

And the Root of the Word is...

Entertaining is trying to explain the meaning of the word "homozygous" to a class of 22 boys.

Use your imagination.

Can't wait for the body systems unit.

Where is Spring?

Our district only gives us three snow days.  Every other district around has something like ten, but no, we have three.  They always trot out a long-winded explanation about how we use these stockpiled days for in-service and early release (for more in-service) and blah, blah, blah, blah....and how teachers voted on this YEARS ago.  However, no one I know even remembers voting for this, and it seems our winters our getting worse, so we're all a bit miffed.

So here we our, on a snow day (should be called an ice day) and we'll probably have one tomorrow since it's not warming up any, there's no sun, and there's 3 inches of ice pellets frozen everywhere.  Which means, lucky us, they start adding 30 minutes to the school day to make it up.


Not happy.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

If You Don't Do Your Assignment You Will Die!

My sixth period is a really small class.  So small, in fact, that it almost seems as if we are just hanging out, doing science, and relaxing.  They all pretty much get along, which is unusual, and seem to enjoy each other.  The conversations between them can be quite entertaining.  

Yesterday the kids were working on posters about the carbon cycle.  Big Huge Boy, who is about 6'4" tall and who does NOTHING and freely admits he's just lazy and doesn't care, made a comment that he didn't want to do the assignment.  He often chooses to not do assignments, which is why he has grades in the 20's.  Calling home is pointless because the parents, who have a history of drug addiction, can't get it together enough to parent.  Staying clean is their focus.

I made the comment that I didn't want to do my taxes either, but I did them.  There are just some things in life you do, regardless if you want to do them or not.  

"Yeah, but I still don't want to so it," he whined.

That is when Super Boy (funny, cool, popular gifted kid obsessed with super heroes) stepped in.

 "If you don't do your assignment, you will get a zero.  If you get a zero, you fail.  If you fail seventh grade, you go to summer school.  If you go to summer school, you will get depressed because you don't get a summer.  When you get depressed about not having a summer you drop out of school.  When you drop out of school, your parents kick you out.  When your parents kick you out you have to live in a ditch.  When you live in a ditch you get even more depressed.  When you get even more depressed, you cut your wrists.  When you cut your wrists you will die!  So if you don't do your assignment you are going to DIE!"

At this point there is complete and absolute silence in the room and every kid is looking at Super Boy in awe.  Big Huge Boy is looking shocked with his mouth hanging open.  

"Wow," said Auburn Boy.  "That was impressive."

And then we all started laughing.  What I would have given for a video of that moment!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Out if the Mouths of Babes

My 6th period is so small, at 15 kids, that the kids are almost too comfortable .  There are times they act like they're  sitting around in someone's living room and just happen to be doing school at the same time.  (Don't ask about the class sizes.  We have block scheduling for English/Language Arts which means I have two classes of 30 and one of 15.)

I'm showing a PowerPoint and the kids are taking notes on cell processes.  The room is quiet and all of a sudden Diva Girl raises her hand so I call on her.

"Mrs. Bluebird, what do teachers do in their free time?" she asks.  (Of course, this has nothing to do with what we're talking about.)

I respond with the first thing that comes to mind, "We grade papers," I tell them, "lots and lots of papers."  Then I decided to amend it a bit.  "We aren't different than anyone else.  We take care of our families, have hobbies, the same things everyone else does." 

At this point, one of the other kids, Auburn Boy, who happens to be sitting right in front of where I'm standing says, "if I were a teacher I'd be drinking every night."

That was the second thing that crossed my mind.

At that point I just cracked up, along with the rest of the class.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Baby It's Cold Outside

Here in my Beloved South we just aren't prepared for temperatures in the single digits.  

That being said, it's been an interesting January.  We were late getting back to school after our Christmas break due to the temperatures.  Well, actually we were supposed to have four inches of snow on the Sunday evening before we went back, so they cancelled the teacher work day for Monday.  The snow wasn't as bad as they thought but then the temperature dropped like a rock.

Teachers reported that Tuesday and it was a whopping 1 degree that morning.  I teach in a 49 year old building that had its own weather system so I was expecting the worst.  After all, even on a normal day when the temperature is in the 50's we have rooms that are freezing, others that are sweltering, and others like mine that change throughout the day.  So I had on hand knit socks, layers, and even brought a wool shawl I could use as a blanket if needed.  As luck would have it, we had no problems.  Amazing.

However, other buildings, especially those with portables and those that were actually newer, had issues with frozen and bursting pipes and heating systems that wouldn't work.  It was fairly wide spread so they cancelled school for the following day so they could get the buildings back up to par.  Not to mention all the buses that wouldn't start.

Most of us thought that was a good idea, mainly because it meant our kids weren't waiting for a bus when the wind chill was -5. 

Now, my students Up North would have no problem waiting for a bus in weather like that, but they have the clothes for it.  My kids don't.  Heavens, were seeing temps that haven't been this low since 1994!  Some of my boys are still wearing basketball shorts in this weather with just a hoodie for a coat.  Gloves?  Unheard of.  

And here we go again.  Temperature tomorrow is supposed to be -10 to -5.  Some school systems are starting to close...wonder what we will end up doing?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The View from My Couch

Okey dokey, so I haven't blogged for a while.

Truth be told I haven't done much for a while.

You know how you look forward to break so you can relax, and get some things done, and enjoy your family and all that?  And you have all these great plans?  Well, I did too, although, compared to most people, they were quite tame.  Hanging out with Hubby, cleaning out my office, getting organized for 2014, reading, knitting, seeing some movies, some quick day trips, and all sorts of fun things. I was looking forward to this time off for weeks.

And then, lucky me, I got strep throat. And, even luckier, it took nearly a week before I could get in to see a doctor (or in my case, a nurse practitioner) who said I had a throat that "looks like a piece of really rare blood beefsteak."  Oh yay.  All I knew is I wanted to curl up into a fetal position on the floor of her office.  I got the magic ten-day antibiotic shot (works wonders although my hip hurt for a week), a steroid shot, and some "magic mouth rinse", and off I went.  

So, for the week prior to the shot - I pretty much napped the whole time, laid on the couch, read, ate chicken soup, hot tea and lemon (not all together) and felt miserable.  Gosh I hate strep.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.