Friday, December 16, 2016

When Technology Is Your Friend

So this year, amazingly, I got nine student laptops to use in my Happy Little Portable.   This was shocking because the three desk top computers I had in there last year were more or less "illegal" to our technology department.  I was told not to expect any technology out there (we aren't a "priority") and one of the tech geeks is a good friend of mine on Facebook and he took pity on me.  He went to the computer graveyard, scrounged up three desktops, fixed them up and installed them.

And then during the summer they were removed and I figured I was screwed.  And just when the District was pushing "digital blended learning" and wanting teachers to use Google classroom, and Nearpod, and we were going to all on-line testing in the four academic areas through our own district website.  But the District decided to go all-in and processed, over the summer, 30,000 student and teacher laptops.

I figured since I wasn't supposed to have had those three in the first place, I wasn't getting any new laptops to replace them.  I was wrong.  I was originally assigned three, and then remarkably, we ended up with an additional lab, and I got six more.  Considering how much testing and classwork is now done on line, this was awesome.  (I suspect the powers that be saw me sending out emails requesting paper assignments because I didn't have enough computers. Whatever.)

However.  When you have that many student laptops, it's a bit of a challenge to monitor where the kids are on-line.  They can't all sit by me, and I can't see their screens across the room.  So that was a bit of a dilemma.

Until one of the other ISS teachers at another middle school told us about some software that lets him monitor the kids' laptops from his desk.  I put in a tech request and within two hours was up and running.  (It's called NetSupport, in case you're interested).  The only thing I had to give up was one of the student computers that's now my monitoring station.  I figured that was a small price to pay.

This. Is. Awesome.

I can sit at my desk and view all eight computer screens, see where the kids are at, take over their computers if they are having trouble, lock them out of the computer, making their screen go black, send them meand generally make them nuts because I Am Watching Their Every Move.

Honestly, I use this more to help kids who are having trouble accessing websites. Say what you will about this "tech generation" but their typing skills suck.  Nine times out of ten, they can't get to a website because they misspelled the URL.

But every once in a while I'll get a kid in there who hasn't quite figured out that I Am Watching, and it's fun to make his head explode.  Especially when he's out with us for a tech violation.

I've had the same 8th grader twice this past month, both for tech violations.  The first he was researching to see what size his penis should be (I kid you not).  The second was for being on YouTube and watching music videos and not doing his assignment.  So when Tech Violator decided to go shopping for shoes when he was supposed to be writing an essay in Google Classroom, I decided to blow his mind.

I turned his screen black.

And sat back and watched the fun.

"Hey, what's going on?" he said.  He tapped at the screen.  He tapped at the escape key.  He picked it up and looked under the computer.

"Tech Violator," I said from my desk, to get his attention.

"Yes, Ma'am?" he said.

"Stop shopping for shoes," I said.

"What?"  Panic stricken face.  "What do you mean?"

"She can see everything you're doing on that computer," one of the other kids said.   "She turned your screen black because she saw something you weren't supposed to be doing."

"She can do that?" Tech Violator asked.

At this point, I turned his screen back on and send a message.  "Stay off shopping websites and type your essay," I wrote.

It dinged in on his screen and he read it.  He looked around at me, and then looked at the other kid.

"That's scary," he said.

"Yup," said the other kid.  "So you better not be looking up sizes anymore."

Monday, December 12, 2016

And the Revolving Door Spins and Spins

Another busy Monday in Our Happy Little Portable...We had eleven kids, which is high, but considering how the kids have apparently had a collective come apart everywhere you turn, that wasn't surprising.

What was surprising, however, was they apparently got the memo about "She'll really suspend you!" because they were good as gold.  I did have to use the seat I refer to as the Penalty Box (so shoot me, I love hockey) because it's the one seat where no one can really see if there is a kid there.  And I have a Drama Queen of a Seventh Grader who will stir up drama like no body's business.  But put her in a seat where she can't see anyone, and they can't see her?  Worked like a charm.  She was quiet and she worked.

So they were, for the most part, pretty awesome.

However, the emails just kept coming.  We have so many kids getting assigned to ISS that I'm taking advanced reservations.  So I spent most of the day processing new kids who were getting assigned to ISS on Tuesday and on Wednesday (and one unfortunate fellow will be with me all the way through Thursday).

I really need to time how long it takes me to in process a kid...Set up a folder, print off a schedule and grades, type up an assignment sheet, email the assignment sheet, update my roster, assign a seat, fill out a contract, set up their work folder, blah, blah, blah.

But what I started to notice when I was processing my advanced reservations was that they were all kids I had had before.  And kids I had had very, very recently.  Like last week.

They apparently are NOT learning from their mistakes.

Which is not good.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Just What Part of "You'll Be Suspended." Do You Not Understand?

Well last week was...well...hell on earth.

Let's face it, it's been a beastly semester.  The sixth graders we had been warned about lived up to their reputation, and then some.  And there are times we look at each other and wonder if we're working in a school or a mental health facility.  Too many incidences of kids having screaming, kicking, crazy melt-downs and having to be removed by the SRO (in handcuffs no less). The kids are off the chain behavior-wise, and we're busy just trying to make it Four And A Half More Days.

And My Happy Little Portable was full to the brim this past week.

Usually, I have 6-8 kids.  That's ideal.  That's perfect.  That gives me a chance to get to know the kids, sit down with them, help them, and generally it makes for an awesome day.

But this week?  Let's see...12 on Monday, 11 on Tuesday, 12 on Wednesday, 14 on Thursday and 15 on Friday.  I was running out of seats.  And the administrators were running out of patience with these kids.   Most of them, truth be told, were kids I'd had multiple times.  Frequent flyers so to speak.  So they know the drill.  But 15 of them in there is not a good situation. I have to really lay down the law and get a little more bitchy than I like, but if I don't it's chaos.   And some of the kids I had this week were real that were tearing up classrooms with their behavior and kids who think, for some reason, that they can argue with adults.

I don't argue with children.  Period.

I have written a dozen write ups this year.  Five were this week.

And the admins have always been good about backing me up when I have a kid removed.  But this week they decided that they weren't going to waste any time and were going to suspend them immediately.  As Coach Cool said, "You're more than patient with them, if they screw up for you, they deserve to be suspended."

I always warn kids about this every morning when I go through our orientation.  I like to remind them that this is the last stop on the discipline train and that They Do Not Want To Aggravate Mrs. Bluebird.

But two knucklehead apparently didn't get that memo.  Or chose to ignore it.

The worst part of the day is when we move, en masse, from our Happy Little Portable to the building to use the restrooms.  They're pretty good when they're in their seats working, but get them up and moving, and all hell breaks loose (even though they're supposed to be single file and silent, they're still moving.)

So one kid decides to slap another kid in the face after we come back from the bathroom break.  The kid that got slapped, surprisingly, didn't retaliate.  He was just so stunned he sat down and blinked a bit.  I simply told Slap Boy that he needed to get his things together because he was leaving.

I picked up the phone and dialed the office.  "I need an administrator to remove a kid, please," I said.

"No problem," said our ever efficient secretary.

"Thanks," I say, and as I say this, I see another kid stand up, twirl around and throw a wad of paper at another student.

Really?  I'm on the phone asking to have a kid removed, and you stand up, get out of your seat, and throw something at another kid?

"Make that two kids removed," I added.  "Hold on, let me see if there are anymore."

"Hey, while I have the office on the phone," I announced, "Is there anyone else who wants to do anything stupid and get suspended?"

Silence.  They all turned around in their seats and started working (or pretending to work).

The two kids who were removed were stunned.  It's like they don't believe me.

However, the kids that remained?  They got the message.  They were good as gold the rest of the day.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Cubs Won! And I'm Exhausted.

So, I haven't posted much in the past few weeks but I have a really good reason.


Seriously.  Between the NLCS and the World Series, this Cubs Fan was getting very little sleep, and blogging time was non existent.  Priorities people.

See, baseball has always been a huge part of my life.  My Dad, awesome man that he was, realized that even though his only child was a girl, that didn't mean he couldn't teach her to love sports.  So I spent a lot of my childhood and young adult life (when I lived on the West Coast) going to California Angel games with my dad and my cousins (and no, I'm never going to call them anything but the California Angels.  So sue me.)  Our family relocated to Los Angeles about the same time the franchise started and so my dad, who loved the underdog, became an Angel fan.

However, when one moves to and eastern time zone, like Daddy Bird and I both did, it is really hard to follow a West Coast Time.

So we became Cubs fans.  My Dad always, and I mean always, loved the underdog.  And he loved Harry Carey and his announcing.  So he started following the Chicago Cubs. Because seriously?  Was there any other team that defined "underdog" like the Cubs?

And we fell in love.

Whereas we aren't from Chicago (Mr. Bluebird is, however) and we don't have a legacy like many of my other Chicago Cubs fans do with the team, we loved them none the less.  My Dad, every year, would hope for a championship, and like millions of Cubs fans before him, was disappointed.  When he passed away three years ago, I made sure that he had a Cubs t-shirt with him in his coffin.  He would never have forgiven me if I didn't.

So, for the first year after he died, baseball was more painful than fun.  I didn't have him to call after each game to discuss the plays and the scores and the bad calls and everything.  And I missed that more than you can imagine.  It made my heart break that I didn't have anyone to discuss the Cubs with, as Mr. Bluebird is not a baseball fan (hockey is his game).  And so baseball sort of left my life for a year or two.

And then I met Baseball Boy, and baseball, and especially Chicago Cubs baseball, became fun again.

So now that Baseball Boy (who I also call my nephew because he's told everyone I'm his aunt, and his parents are thrilled by that, so who's to stop him) is in high school I don't see him as much, but we text and talk a lot.  Especially during baseball games.  And it was a fantastic year for us Cubs fans.

And as the season went on, Baseball Boy and I started to wonder if this finally was our year.

And we won the NCLS, the first time since 1945.  (Baseball Boy calculated that my dad was 10 when that happened.)

And then we won the World Series and partied like it was 1908!

And Baseball Boy and I are still just beaming.  And waiting for Spring.  And Spring Training.  And Opening Day.  And another great season.

And in the meantime, I'm teaching him about hockey.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

And then there was the Minion

We had a nice fall break at the beginning of the month with warm weather and many of us headed out of town.  (I went to Colorado to visit Momma Bird who relocated there this past summer.  I had The List of Chores to do for her.  List completed...)

But back to school we went, and with it came a phone call one morning from The Enforcer.

Now that The Enforcer is the Principal, I don't talk to him as much as he's not working behavior referrals for the kids.  However, once in a while he gets involved with a kid issue and today was one of those days.

"So, Mrs. Bluebird, need your help.  I have this kid, a seventh grader, who just absolutely hates school, except for band.  Kid is falling apart, but he's borderline in a few classes.  Put him in study hall, but that didn't work due to the number of kids.  I've got his dad on the phone and we were wondering if you could take him under your wing one period a day and see if you can get some work out of him."

Oh here we go again.

Turns out I know the kid, he'd been in my room a few times last year, and there are days he'll work and then there are days he will Absolutely Freaking Refuse to do Anything He Does Not Want to Do.  At All.  He's also one of the rudest kid I've ever met which apparently is how The Enforcer met him.  He's one of the few kids I've ever heard who would talk back and buck up to The Enforcer And It Did Not Go Well for him.

I told The Enforcer that I wasn't going to make any promises, but I'd try.

He's a bit of an odd duck, a small kid, and very immature.  He reminds me of an 3rd grader in a lot of ways.  He cannot for the life of him figure out how to use a locker, can't get to class on time to save his life and loses things.  Which is why his parents got him these glasses that look like goggles that strap to his head.  And make him look like a Minion.

The Minion got his schedule changed and showed up in my class the next day.

"Mr. Guidance said I'm your aide," he declared when he came in and sat down in the seat I pointed out for him.  Right next to me.  (He was not happy.  I happen to know he dislikes me a lot - mainly because when I've had him before I've held him accountable.  He hates that)

"Well, actually it says aide, but you're here more for study hall.  And when my aides aren't working for me, they're doing their school work."

"It says I'm your aide," he repeated.

It was going to be one of those days.

The Minion has his moments.  He still has this idea that he's my aide and wanted to know why Honor Roll Kid, my regular aide, got to run errands in the building and he didn't.

"Because he has all his work done and has A's and B's," I said.

He pondered that for a few days and kept harping on why he didn't get to run errands.  Which is obviously something he wants to do.  So now we have a routine.  His teachers email me work for him to do, I give it to him, he does it, and then he gets to use the swipe card, go into the building, and deliver it to the teacher.  Whatever it takes to keep him working and happy.

He wanted to go to the book fair.  I told him he had to behave and get his work done.  He got his work done but then wanted to be disruptive and wave his arms and make faces at my regular customers so I told him he'd lost his chance to go to the book fair and he'd have to see if he could do better the next day.  He did and he got to go to the book fair.

Really, showing this kid rewards and consequences is pretty easy at this point.  He's still rude, still cranky, and still very strange with his big google eyeglasses strapped to his head.

And when he showed up in a yellow rain slicker the other day, looking EXACTLY like a Disney Minion, I about died...but so far, so good.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Going Three for Three and Dodging Mashed Potatos

It's been an interesting week in Our Happy Little Portable.

We're in the last week of the grading period and as such, I'm seeing quite a bit of activity.  Kids have racked up a lot of discipline points and write-ups and they're landing out with me.  And for most of them, it's their second or third visit.

This week we were blessed with The Tyrant.  This little guy is a sixth grader who came to us with a behavior file that boggled the mind.  He is a piece of work.  Has a hair trigger temper, refuses to do anything he does not want to do, and is angry with the world.

Oh yay.

The first day he was out with us I had to call Admin to come remove him as he would not be quiet, would not stay in his seat, and absolutely utterly refused to do his assignments (he'd throw them at me).  When Coach Cool asked him to get his backpack, he screamed "NO!" and went home with out it.

The second day was pretty much a repeat of the first but slightly better.  I didn't have to call to have him removed until later in the day.  (Keep in mind I rarely ever call to have a kid removed.  It's just not something I usually have issues with but this kid...well, he's something else.)

Today was our third - and thankfully, last - day with The Tyrant.  He was, amazingly, almost done with his work (even though it was crap) although he was getting very frustrated with math because he does not know his basic multiplication tables.

Today started out rough.  There was some police activity in the neighborhood so Coach Cool had me relocate my classroom from Our Happy Little Portable into the building, into a room across from the library.  We call it the reference room, but it's more like book storage combined with a meeting room.  In any case, I wheeled in my cart with emergency supplies, computers, and files and camped out there for the day.  It's not ideal, but it works.  I only had four boys this morning, including The Tyrant, so it probably wouldn't be too bad until they started adding kids (which they usually don't when we're in the building, they wait until the following day).

Mrs. Sweet, the library aide who takes the kids to lunch, arrived from the library and took them down to the cafeteria to pick up their lunches while I have my 30 minutes duty free lunch.  Ate lunch, checked our mail box for assignments, and headed back to our room, passing by the Librarian's desk.

And look across to see the lead custodian enter the room we were using with a bucket, rags, and a yellow "wet floor" sign.

"Oh crap," I asked her.  "What's going on with my kids?"

"That little blonde one you have?  He apparently lost his mind, started screaming at everyone, and started slinging mashed potatoes from his lunch all over MY room," The Librarian responded.  Oh she was MAD.  (And I don't blame her.)

I get to the room to find Mrs. Sweet and the Lead Custodian cleaning up the room, wiping down shelves, tables, chairs, and the rug.  (Which was going to have to be shampooed tonight apparently).

Mrs. Sweet stood up, "I honestly don't know what happened or what I did.  One minute he was fine, the next minute he's flipping the bird at the other kids, screaming and throwing mashed potatoes at them.  Or maybe he was aiming at me.  I really don't know.  But he threw them everywhere."

I assured her that she didn't do anything, that the Tyrant flips his lid at the slightest provocation and there isn't anything we can do about it.

"So where is he?" I asked.

"The Enforcer came and got him," she said.  "I had to call for an administrator before he tore the room apart."

Oh great.  The Enforcer.  Who is now The Principal.

So, I had the other kids write witness statements (more to keep them busy than anything else, but they LOVE witness statements) and pretty soon The Guidance Diva came by and told me that she'd just dropped The Tyrant's files off on The Enforcer's desk and that The Tyrant was perched on the arm of the chair like a little vulture waiting to pounce.

"That sounds like The Tyrant," I told her.  "Are they finally suspending him?"

"Finally," she said.  I'm sure his team will be delighted.  It's nearly a daily occurrence having to have him removed from a classroom, but we can't do anything until a behavior plan is in place as he's identified as special education."

Well, he went three for three in my room.  Three days in ISS, Three days removed from ISS.

And then there was the mashed potatoes.

Seriously.  You can't make this stuff up.

Two days until break.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

8 Weeks and Counting

Eight weeks into the first grading period.

And we still don't have a seventh grade science teacher.

But we do have a rather busy parade of substitute teachers, bless each and every one of them.

There are no applicants in the pool who are qualified and/or want the job.

I have a feeling this is just the beginning.

A Family Affair


Nine kids total.

Three were sixth graders.

All with the same father.

All with different mothers.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Another View on Why Teachers are Leaving the Profession

As most of you know, we started the school year at The School, with two unfilled teaching positions.  We are nearly finished with our first nine weeks grading period and we just, finally, filled one of the positions (a special education slot dealing with our kids with emotional and behavior issues) but the seventh grade science position is still open.  Rumor has it there may be a candidate for it, but nothing concrete at this point.

So, I got to wondering if it was just my district (my building isn't the only one with open teaching positions) or the State, or what.  So I started cruising some of the educational blogs and websites I read and stumbled across this gem.

You must read these.

I basically want to find this woman and hug her and scream, "Yes!  What she said!" because she freaking NAILED IT.

Read these.  Read them now.

Full Circle - Or When Your Big Brother Kicks Your Ass

About ten years ago I had a kid who just tore my room apart with his behavior.  He was a mess.  Smart as hell, but mouthy, and lazy and just off the chart disruptive.  He spent a lot of time in ISS and suspended and generally broke my heart because I knew he had it in him to be more than he was.

And then he went to high school, joined JROTC and it changed his life.  His sophomore year he came back and apologized to me and his other teachers for being such a jerk when we had him (and that, my friends, in 14 years, is the only kid who has done that).  We've kept in touch, mainly through FaceBook, and now he's in the military, engaged to a nice girl, and is doing great.  The turnaround was remarkable.

In any case, last week, I got a call from Principal Cool that an 8th grader was coming my way for the day and I recognized the last name and realized it was my former student's little brother.  When I opened the door and took one look at him, there was no doubt.  They are dead ringers for each other.

"So you must be Former Brat's little brother," I say when I introduce myself.  "I had him about ten years ago when I was teaching science."

"Oh he was horrid, wasn't he?" Little Brother said.  "I remember my parents always getting on him for stuff in school.  He's in New York now,  He's in the Army" he volunteered.

So I get Little Brother processed, get him to his station, he gets out his work (a much better student than his big brother was, I noted) and he gets to work after we talk a bit about why he was there and how his grades were doing.

And then I sent Former Brat a message telling him that his little brother had landed in my room.  I figured he was at work, but thought he'd read it at lunch or something.

Ten minutes later, my phone dings.  I look at the screen.  "What's your phone number?" was what it said.

Oh boy.  Someone is gonna get a phone call.  I texted it back and five minutes later the phone rings.

"Hey, Mrs. Bluebird, it's Former Brat," he says. (It still cracks my up how my boys voices change so much after seventh grade).

"Well, gosh, it's nice to hear from you.  Just wish it hadn't been under these circumstances," I respond.

"Can I talk to Little Brother please?" he says.

"Of course," I say, and I hand Little Brother the phone.

The look on his face was priceless.  The look on the other kids' faces was nearly as good as you could almost read their minds.  (Crap!  She knows his older brother?  Wonder if she knows mine?)

Little Brother then spent about ten minutes on the phone getting his ass chewed out by his big brother (whom it was quite apparent he idolizes).  He was not enjoying the conversation at all.  At the end he handed it back to me.

"He wants to talk to you," he said.

So we chatted a bit, he wanted me to text him a report at the end of the day about Little Brother, and said our goodbyes.

I looked at Little Brother.

"Got your butt chewed, eh?" I said.

"Yeah," he responded.  "You didn't hear that did you?  Because if you did, I'm sorry.  He drops the F-bomb a lot,"

"No, we didn't hear that," I assured him.

"Are you gonna tell him I was good?" he asked.

"Maybe.  Depends on if you are or not."

"I'm gonna be," he said.  "He's gonna call Dad tonight, too."

Little Brother was awesome.  Former Brat got a text.  I even told Little Brother, on his way out the door at the end of the day, that he was a lot better than Former Brat ever had been.

That earned me a smile, and dang, if he didn't look just like his older brother with that big toothy grin!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Why No One Wants to Teach

So Yellow Rose posted a comment (Hi there! Yellow Rose!) about my previous post about substitute teaching, money, testing and silliness in general.   And her comment was right on target:

"So is Awesome Sub not interested in the full-time job, or does she not have the paper qualifications to get on full-time?  She sounds ideal."

The answer is....both.

Awesome Sub was pretty much offered the job as long as she took the Praxis and passed.  It was her's for the taking.

Except she really didn't want it.

Awesome Sub and I talked quite a bit over the few weeks she was here, and she really was awesome.  But she felt completely overwhelmed.   She had a Fifth Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself (if I know most of the kids in the class from their stints in ISS as sixth graders, then you know it's a tough bunch).  And it was a class of 36.  And it was an inclusion class.  And even with an aide in there, They Would Not Be Quiet and Behave.  She told me the only time they got quiet was when I was in there and threatened to haul the lot of them off to ISS for several days.

And that was just the beginning.  She was overwhelmed by the time spent planning, and in meetings, and grading papers, and prepping for labs, and generally just all the things that go into being a teacher these days.  And she has her own middle school son and felt that she wasn't being the Mother to her own kid that she wanted, and he was being short-changed because of all the time she put into her job.

So she's actually applied for an Aide position, which is a lot less stress, and would still give her a steady paycheck and benefits.  And she can leave at 2:30 and take her own kid to his soccer games, and out to dinner after when they suffer a loss and he's upset, and help him do his homework.

I have noticed a trend the past few years with some of our staff - and I don't think our school is unique in this by any measure. Many teachers are leaving because the cost to stay is just too high in terms of emotional well-being.

One of our best sixth grade language arts teachers, who had rock star test scores, decided she had had enough and quit to stay home and being a mom to her kids.  She and her husband realize that money will be significantly tighter than when she was working, but now, instead of grading papers all night, she's spending time with her own kids.

Another rising star math teacher quit a few years ago and is now installing fencing.  He blames the hours and time put into his teaching job as a contributing factor in the break up of his marriage.  Now he has half the stress, makes about the same amount of money, and is able to spend a lot of time with his little girls.

I even had some serious thoughts about leaving myself a few years ago.  I was leaving school every day at 6:00 pm, spending all day Saturday grading and prepping, and was constantly being told it wasn't enough.  When I started teaching, lesson plans were written in a 3" square block in a lesson plan book.  Now we not only need weekly plans, typed, but daily plans, also typed,  which are so scripted they explain exactly what you're going to do and say during every minute of class - and can run to two pages long.  The hours, the stress, the pressure to get those almighty test scores was tremendous.

And along the way we forgot that these were kids, and not test scores.

If I hadn't been given the gift of ISS, I probably would be out of the profession by now.  I have a degree in business, and can run an office with one hand tied behind my back, so finding a job outside of the profession was feasible.  I was at the point where something had to give.

And then I was given ISS and decided to stay.  At least for a while.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Is It About the Kids or About Saving Money?

As you may have read, we currently have an opening for a seventh grade science position.  We are also heading into our fifth week of school and this position is unfilled.  This is a pretty big district, and they recruit heavily throughout the state and even go to job fairs Up North and elsewhere, but we still do not have a single applicant in the pool who is qualified and/or wants the job.

Which means, we've been skipping along using substitute teachers.  And yes, that's plural.

Our substitute program was brought in-house a few years ago, so the subs are now employees of the District.  Employees, yes, but without benefits.  And that's the way the District wants to keep it.  And since we have Obama Care, which would require the District to pay for their health insurance should they be considered full-time, the District has decided that substitutes can only work for 20 days before they have to take some time off.  I'm not sure how long they have to take off, however. 

So, at the beginning of the year, we had Mrs. Awesome Sub in for the seventh grade science position and man, she busted her tail and did a great job.  I would go and help her when I could, especially those first few days when I didn't have kids, and she was a gem.

And she had to leave after 20 days.

So then they got another sub.  I've never seen this man in the building before, but bless his heart, he should be home enjoying retirement and not dealing with obnoxious seventh graders.  He appeared to be in his 80's.  And as soon as I saw him, I knew that the kids on that team (who have been frequent flyers with me already) would chew him up and spit him out.  Which they did. I think he made it through one day.  

And now we're on to our third sub who actually retired from our building a few years ago because of the stress,  He's a great guy, a veteran, and he doesn't take any crap from the kids.  But like he said, if the stress gets too bad, he'll have to leave too.

So it begs the question...since school districts live, eat and breathe on test scores (as stupid as it is, that's the reality), wouldn't it make sense to have a good, qualified, substitute in there for the long haul, as opposed to changing them up every 20 days?  

But apparently that's not important.  Saving money is.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Kicking and Screaming

So one of my three readers asked me how I liked ISS and if I thought I'd go back to the regular classroom anytime soon.

Let me put it this way....we have a an opening, still, for a seventh grade science teacher.  It is currently being filled by substitutes because we cannot find anyone who is either qualified or who wants the job (I am so not kidding here).

I live in absolute fear that they will want me to go back to teaching seventh grade science and leave our Happy Little Portable.

So far, I don't think that's going to happen because I've got ISS running like a well-oiled machine and I'm actually pretty good at what I do.  And not everyone has the temperament to put up with the kids that tear apart other people's classrooms.  But still, a little part of me is praying every night that they find a teacher for that position and they never ask me to leave ISS.

I got into teaching to work with kids, and it's a lot easier to do that when there aren't 35 of them trying to get your attention.,  And when you're stuck with them for an entire day (or two, or three, or...).  And I do good with the kids that are less than perfect.  Not sure why that is, but maybe it's because I'm a bit of a snarky bitch and I have a pretty infantile sense of humor.

Regardless.  I love ISS.  I don't want to leave.  It's a great gig.  Sure, there are things that can be annoying.  Like teachers who don't send work, kids who don't get with my program, and air conditioners that don't work, but I also don't have to grade papers or do lesson plans.

Let's face it, I get to hang out with some pretty entertaining kids all day long.  And that's kinda fun.

So if they ask me to go back to seventh grade science, I will, because I'm a good soldier.  But believe me, I'll be kicking and screaming when I do.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Another Little Bird for My Nest

So last week the Enforcer came into our Happy Little Portable along with a little seventh grade girl.  What was odd was that he was simply showing her around the portable, acting like a tour guide,.  Usually when an administrator brings a kid out, they're madder than hell, and then they're dropped off.  The Enforcer introduced me to her and she was all sweet and bubbly and they left.

Okay that was weird.

About a half hour later the Enforcer called and filled me in what that little visit was about.  Apparently the young lady suffers from some major debilitating migraines to the point that she missed over 50 days of school last year and was eventually home bound.  She wants to be in school however (I mean, heck, she's a seventh grade's their social milieu) but we needed a plan.  Middle school noise is too much for her and the florescent lights aren't much better.  And she needs a place to catch up on work when she manages to make it back.

And so, the idea was to take her out to my room, which is usually pretty quiet, and to see if that was an environment she could deal with.  It was apparently, so they asked if I wouldn't mind having her come to my room during during homeroom, 1st and 2nd periods, and whenever she felt a headache coming on.  Considering she's quiet, a straight A student, and perfect, she's a nice little addition to our Happy Little Portable.  The best part is I put her in a station I NEVER put kids.  It's dark, in the corner, and the way the cubbies are built, it's impossible to see who is there without standing up and actually looking.  She can be there with her head down (which she sometimes has to do due to the headaches) or working and none of my regular customers are none the wiser.

So now I have a Sweet Little Bird as an addition to the nest.

I only hope she can manage to work in there when my regular customers start acting like idiots.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Hatchling Shows His True Feathers

Well, I may not be seeing the Hatchling again.  Which is fine with me.  Yet another example of why I should keep my mouth closed and not volunteer for anything.

He did pretty well this week until today.  Well if you can discount the battle over gum, kicking his desk, not doing work, and lying.  My favorite was when he decided he wanted to move his desk so i couldn't see him behind a partition.  Not going to work buddy. He didn't want me watching him and by golly I was going to watch him.

Today was yet another day.  Came in with gum.  Told him to spit it out.  He didn't (he faked it) and then I busted him out and he lied and FINALLY spit it out.  (I'm usually not such a gum freak but it was a wad that made him look like he had chewing tobacco in and he snapped it which is aggravating.  And I have carpet.)  Said he didn't have any work.  Had him show me his agenda where he had written "nothing" for all his classes.  Sadly he apparently is one of those kids who don't seem to think that teachers actually talk with each other and I mentioned that I happened to know for a fact that he had science and social students homework.

"No I don't," he said.

"Really?  That's not what your teachers said when they emailed me earlier."

"But it's done."

"Show me."

He brought it up and it was, of course, not finished.  Not even started.  Told him he needed to do it.  He didn't have a book.  One of my regular kids was using my copy of the book so I sent him in the building to his locker to get his social studies book.  So he got his science book.  (This kid isn't stupid by any means...sneaky and very capable of doing things so he doesn't have to do what you want him to.)

So since he brought his science, he worked on that.  But instead of that, he decided to mess with the globe on the shelf above his desk.  Then he kicked at his desk.  And then he carved the word "savage" into the wall of the cubicle next to him.

"Well that's interesting," I said when I saw the vandalism.  "Did you do that?"  

"Yes," he admitted.  

"Oh good, well, let's get a picture," I said as I took out my phone.  At that point, once I was photographing it, he decided that maybe he didn't do it.  By this time I was done playing his games, had my own kids to deal with, and just walked away and wrote him up for vandalism.  He kicked at his desk for the remaining 15 minutes.  The other kids ignored him best they could.  

I did tell the Guidance Goober and Coach Cool that I was done.  I didn't want him back.  He is too high maintenance for me to deal with him every second of the time he's there to make sure he's not into something he shouldn't be, talking back, engaging my own kids, whatever.  And even though he's supposed to act as an aide, I don't trust him unsupervised in the building.  He lies too much.  And after spending quite a few hours this summer repainting the cubicles, I didn't appreciate the vandalism.  My busiest times of the day are in the morning and in the afternoon when I'm processing kids and their work in and out of ISS.  I don't have an aide this year in the afternoon to help me, and I just don't need the additional aggravation.

Not sure what the final result will be, but Coach Cool pulled him off the bus and was marching him to the front office last I saw.

So this is what happens when you open your mouth in a meeting.  I think I'm done volunteering for a while.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

When Your Behavior Defies Logic

So T, my kid who can't say his own name, was in my class for disrespect.Which isn't all that unusual with our population.  There are some mouthy, rude kids out there.

But you have to wonder about a brand new sixth grader who decides to get lippy with Coach Mean, all 6'5", 300 lbs of him.  Seriously, this guy is huge and he never, ever cracks a smile. And this was the teacher T decided to get rude with.

Makes you wonder about T's common sense or lack thereof.  He obviously doesn't have a strong sense of survival.

Anyhow, T was in there this week with my group of 7th grade trouble makers and had a real difficult time following directions.  He did fine the first day, but by the second day, every time I told him to do something I got the eye roll, the "Ohmygod", and back talk. This wasn't going to fly.  And I noticed he didn't have his contract turned in so I decided to pull out the big guns.

I called Momma.

In front of everyone.

So I got Momma on the phone and asked about the contract, which she claimed to have never seen.  I informed her that it needed to be signed and returned so he could get out of ISS and she asked me to send another one.  I then casually mentioned that I was having a problem with T's rudeness and disrespect and was considering adding an additional day to his time in ISS.

Stunned silence out of every other kid in the portable as they were all listening and you could almost see the thought bubbles above their heads..."Oh shit, she's called his mom and now she may be adding extra days!"

Momma wanted me to put T on the phone, which I gladly did.  And then I could hear her yelling at him for about five minutes.  The rest of the kids pretended not to be listening and acted like they were doing work, but you know what they were focused on!

He finally gave me the phone back.  Momma told me to expect an apology and she wanted me to text her at the end of the day to ensure I got it and to let me know how he behaved.

I got my apology, he shut up, and was perfect.  The other kids spent the rest of the day acting a little nervous, wondering when their mother wasn't going to get called.

Gotta love it.

P. S.  Since I was asked...T and Hatchling, although both sixth graders, are two different boys.

The Hatchling Pops an Attitude

So my little Hatchling had a pretty good week until Wednesday.  He'd been coming to our class sixth period, ran the very few errands I had for him, and showed me a completed agenda with his work complete.  No attitude, was fairly quiet, did his thing.  However, I was starting to worry a bit that this kid never seemed to have work so emailed his teachers to find out if he was missing anything.

He did have some incomplete work from School Dad (who runs our in house alternative school and who is big and bald and scary and coaches football and is a fantastic math teacher).  School Dad is doing a related arts class for our top behavior problems in all three grades to teach them how to "do School" and my Hatchling, with his record, is in one.  Hatchling is NOT happy about this.

On Thursday, Hatching came and brought his attitude with him.  By this time I was starting to get my Seventh grade trouble makers and it was a bit more chaotic in there than the Hatchling was used to.  So of course he wanted to talk to them, and then got snippy when I told him he couldn't.

He then got to work on a word search for School Dad, and wasn't happy when I gave him some incomplete work School Dad had put in my box.

"I did that," Hatchling said.

"Oh really?  Then why was it given back to me?  It doesn't look done?"  I asked.

"I did that.  They're lying if they said I didn't."  He replied.

Oh great.  He's having one of THOSE days.

And it went on from there.  He insisted that he technically wasn't in ISS (I silently said "yet") so he didn't have to follow ISS rules.  This was his study hall so he could do what he wanted.  He also hated being here and wanted to be back in regular study hall with the aide that he clashed with the 2nd day of school.  (Yeah, right, lets see how that works, kid).  He was going to start skipping and didn't care if that means he got a write up and got sent to alternative school.  And it went on from there.

I basically ignored him, especially as he wasn't loud about it, and let him keep whining and complaining.  Whatever.  I sent a message to Guidance Goober and was asked to document all of this, which I did.  I was thrilled when the bell rang and the Hatchling went back to his homeroom to annoy them.

So imagine my surprise at Open House when there's a knock on my door and I answer it to see the Hatchling and his dad on my doorstep.

Seriously.  Hatching was perfect.  Dad said he'd heard from all the other teachers that I'd offered to help him out and wanted to meet me and thank me.  Had a nice visit.  I showed Hatching his new desk which he claimed to like a lot better (in the far reaches of my room where I can still keep an eye on him, but he won't bother anyone, I hope).  Dad was happy.

I didn't see Hatchling on Friday because he got dismissed, but I ran into School Dad who informed me that Hatchling is being HORRID in his class so he was setting up a parent meeting with all involved for Friday.  I can't wait.

Call Me T

So the other day I got my very first sixth grader, a boy with a first name that held 17 letters, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to say it.  Seriously.  I've seen some crazy names over the years, but this one defied all laws of phonics.

So, I sat down with my newcomer and went through my orientation to ISS with him, and asked him what he went by (because I was thinking no way kids could say this name).

"Call me T," he said.

"Okay, good, I can do that.  But out of curiosity, just how do you say your name?" I asked.

He giggled.  "I don't know," he said.


You can't make this shit up.

The Insanity of Seventh Grade Boys

We managed to finally get back to Our Happy Little Portable after about the fifth time the district AC guys came down and FINALLY fixed our AC.  They also finally fixed the AC in the core part of the building.  Not sure what the hold up was (I have my suspicions but I will be nice) but it's nice that it's finally done.

And I didn't even get the stupid mobile hung up yet.

In any case, I've been busier than I expected with seventh graders.  Oddly, I haven't had a single 8th grader yet (and the 8th grade teachers are exclaiming with much joy about how awesome this group of 8th graders is which is beyond strange considering their horrible behavior as 7th graders).  And I have one 6th grader which, considering how they are clamping down on the Sixth Grade Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself, is not surprising.  They aren't giving them much time to get in trouble.

Seventh grade however, is in rare form.

I have had not one, not two, but three pairs of boys who apparently can't behave at lunch and try to start fights with each other.  So it's a juggling act remembering who can't be by who and who got in a fight with who and so forth.  But being boys, after about a day or two they're okay with each other.  If it were girls, that would be another story.  But still, apparently there's something going on with seventh grade lunch, and in particular, with this team of kids.  Mr. Math has his hands full with this bunch because all of them have come from his team.

And they're a high maintenance, squirmy, bunch, and shock of shocks, I know most of them because they landed with me in sixth grade.

I have them with me through Monday.  And then they'll be off, back to their classes.  But I have a feeling I'll be seeing all of them again. Soon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

When You Feel the Sweat Rolling Down Your Back

I am usually a cheerful, friendly and agreeable person.  However, when the AC unit in my portable goes out, and the repair guys come out and give me some nonsense about how it's my fault because I don't have a mobile or something hanging from the ceiling to move and keep the unit on (which is complete and total nonsense), I get cranky.

Really cranky.

So cranky that I might have gotten a bit snippy.  Because, you see, Daddy Bird was a pretty freaking good handyman and I know a thing or two about how things work.  And I know that these two repair guys were feeding me a load of manure.

Repair Guy One tells me "The problem is the AC goes off because there isn't enough movement here.  You need to hang a mobile or something that will move around and it won't go off."

"So you're saying there has to be movement in the room?  You do realize this is an ISS classroom?  That the kids sit and do their work and aren't jumping around?"

Blank Stares.

"And how come it worked fine last year without a mobile?  And I could leave for the weekend and come back and it was at the correct temperature and no one was in here moving around then.  And how come it's set at 72 degrees and it's 87 in the portable?"

"Well if you moved around more," Repair Guy Two attempts.

"Really?  That's your best answer?  It's blowing out HOT air," I snipped.

"Well, a mobile would help," Repair Guy One insists.

At this point I realized that I'd have better luck talking with my shoes, so I stomped in to see Coach Cool and informed him of what they said.  His response?  "That's nonsense."


So another work order was issued, because it was 87 degrees in there, and the repair guys apparently snuck out and around the building, hoping to bypass Our Amazing Secretary who was going to make damn certain sure that an administrator was around when they worked on my AC unit.  (I have lost track of how many times they've been out - they were out twice on Monday, however, and kept insisting they'd fixed it.  Our Amazing Secretary told them "No you haven't, get out there and get it done!", hence their fear of her.)

So today, I went out at lunch (my kids and I were in a temporary room inside the building which was damned inconvenient) and I noticed that the back door was ajar, and I walked up and felt cool air. Someone was about.  I went inside, notified Coach Cool, and he radioed the Lead Custodian and the Enforcer that we needed someone out there to make sure they were actually fixing the damn thing and not going on and on about some stupid mobile.

At 2:30 it was 72 degrees.

So, I'm not holding my breath - yet - but let's hope that they finally got tired of coming out and actually did their JOB and fixed the damn thing.

We shall see tomorrow morning.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Mrs. Bluebird Gets a Hatchling

If you've been reading (hey, thanks!) you may have noticed that I mentioned that we had The Sixth Grade Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself this year.  From what admin had observed last spring when they went out to our feeder schools to actually see what all the commotion was about, these kids don't know how to "do school".  Not sure why or how, but these bunch doesn't seem to get it when it comes to following rules and basic school functions.  How they managed to make it to sixth grade without figuring this out - or being taught and reinforced over and over again - I have no idea.  But truthfully, they are a handful.  Last year I didn't really see many sixth graders until the second nine weeks, and even then it was rare.  This year, my first customers will most likely be sixth (or seventh) grade.  (For some reason I'm not hearing a peep about the 8th graders.  Maybe that bunch grew up a lot over the summer).

On Thursday, the SECOND full day of school, one of Mrs. Eagle's sixth graders had a Really Really Bad Day.  One write up in his homeroom, another write up from Mrs. Eagle who had to have him removed.  And another write up from Mrs. Study Hall who had him removed as well.  Mom and Dad got three phone calls that day.  From what Mrs. Eagle told me, this kid was just HORRID.  Came in with a bad attitude and it didn't get any better.  Rude, disrespectful, noisy, disruptive, you name it.

As one of the games we all seem to play at the beginning of the year is "Guess Who Will Be the First Customer in ISS", many people were putting their money on this kid.  (No we aren't really gambling, that's a figure of speech).

In any case, I was in guidance on Friday (because it was 86 in my portable) and the Guidance Goober asked me to attend a meeting with this kid's team since chances are I'd be seeing him shortly.  No problem.  So Mr. Cool (who is now an Assistant Principal), Guidance Goober, and the team and I got together and figured out a few things.  One, mom and dad are supportive of anything we are willing to do to help their kid.  Mom even apologized and took the blame for the melt-down day as she and her son had been arguing before school and that set him off.  Two, this kid has good days and bad days.  Thursday was bad.  Friday was fantastic (it was like a different kid).  Three, he has never excelled academically (which is why he was in academic study hall).

So, what we had was a kid who needed to get turned around and turned around pretty quick.  And the last thing he needed was to go back to Study Hall because the aide that runs it is not warm and fuzzy and quite honestly, has been known to really go off on kids.  And adults.  And everyone.  Maybe it's the migraines.  Whatever.  Doesn't matter.  What matters is that he really needed a more supportive environment.

Guidance Goober suggested he spend both of his related arts with Coach Math who is running a "how to behave in school and not get in trouble" class for our high level at-risk kids.  But this kid didn't need two periods of this, because face it, he needed academic help too.

So I opened my big mouth and said I'd take him.

You should have seen the look of relief on Guidance Goober's and Coach Cool's faces.

"He can come to me sixth period for a study hall and act as my student aide as well," I said.  "That way he can get help with his work and feel like he has an important role."  In addition, it was decided that if he felt he was having a bad morning, he'd let his homeroom teacher know and he could come out to Our Happy Little Portable to work and pull himself together until he felt he could go back to class.

So, about twenty minutes later I picked up Hatchling in guidance, and Guidance Goober and I told him what was up and he seemed pretty excited.  I took him out to Our Happy Little Portable, sat with him a bit and talked about things.  (He is motivated by Skittles and realizes he has issues).  He seemed like a pretty cool kid who just hates school.  We went by Mrs. Eagles class as we toured the building and she had a great talk with him.  He was awesome.  The only thing he really wanted from Mrs. Eagle was for her to call dad and tell him he had a good day, which she did after school.

So I have a Hatchling sixth period, a little one to tuck under my wing.

We shall see how this goes...

Friday, August 12, 2016

Squealing and Groaning, and No, It's Not Me.

My air conditioning unit in Our Happy Little Portable went out last Friday and it reached the lovely temperature of 94 degrees in there by the time I left.  Emailed our Lead Custodian and he did a work order and off I went to enjoy my weekend.

Monday when I went in, it was nice and cool again.  Yay!

I assumed it had been repaired over the weekend.  It had not.  It had, somehow, fixed itself.  (You can't make this up).

On Tuesday I opened the door again and it was cool!  Yay!  The kids weren't at school on Tuesday so it was Work in Your Room Day, so there I was, working in my room, when I started to hear the whistles.  Or I thought they were whistles.  And I was thinking "okay, we don't have kids so why do I hear the coaches blowing their whistles?"

And then I realized it was the AC unit making squealing and whistling noises.  Loudly.

Emailed Lead Custodian again.  He amended the work order.

Wednesday - coolness and squealing.  But still, cool.

Thursday - coolness and squealing.  But now we added in groaning.  Actually, I thought I was hearing trash trucks back by the cafeteria.  But it went on and on and on and I realized, after a walk around Our Happy Little Portable and a peek by the cafeteria where there was not a trash truck in sight, that it was - surprise! - my AC unit.

My 2nd Period student aide, Engineer Boy (this kid will tear anything apart and put it back together just to keep from being bored) and I used my iPhone to videotape the unit making squealing and groaning noises.  We sent the video to Lead Custodian.

And then the repair guy showed up (nearly a week after it first went out).  Honestly, he was a truly nice guy and gave me some tips about dealing with temperature issues in an old portable with minimal insulation.  However.  As luck would have it, that damn AC unit not only pumped out cold air, it didn't make a single groan or squeal the entire time he was there.  It ran like a charm!!  He couldn't find anything wrong, obviously, but said to let him know if it went out again.

I opened the door this morning and it was 82 degrees; the thermostat was on 73 and the air coming in was hot.

But hey, it wasn't squealing or groaning!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Off And Running...And the First Day that Almost Wasn't

The first half day of school was Monday and, but all measures, it went pretty well.

The AC in my portable was working again and instead of being 92, it was 76 which was a huge improvement.  However, I was informed that the work order hadn't even been assigned yet so it hadn't been fixed.  Really?  Really.  And as luck would have it, although it's keeping Our Happy Little Portable nice and comfy, it's squealing.  A lot.  So it's being rather noisy and I suspect it's on its last legs.  Which makes opening the door every morning a bit more exciting than normal.  Will it be hot?  Will it be cool?  Will it be squealing?  Who knows?

I walked into guidance where my role was to help put out fires, only to be asked by The Enforcer if I'd go get the year started in 7th grade science by helping the sub out.  We still have that position open (Anyone want to teach 7th grade science?  Anyone?). So, since this was my 14th First Day of School, and I Have This Stuff Down, I went in and helped the Awesome Sub.

But of course the technology was being stupid.  So Mr. Math next door, who has spare computer parts like most people have spare pencils, found us a longer cable so we could attach directly to the projector in the ceiling and were able to broadcast the required videos and power points.  The Guidance Goober even came by with speakers.  And over all, the homeroom class of these kids was awesome.  Great kids.  I only knew two of them which is a good sign.  So not a bad first day.  The hardest part was staying awake during the mandatory human resources training after lunch on blood-borne pathogens and accounting procedures.

So then on Tuesday it was teacher in service day - don't ask why we open with a half day, have a planning day, then start with a full schedule the next day.  I have no idea why.  It's just how it's done. And I basically spent the day in my room getting a bit more organized, and helping out folks that needed it.

And then last night we had an electrical storm.  And lightning hit central office.  And caused a fire. And ruined servers and communication equipment.

So we get a phone call from The District that says we may not have school  - the first full day - because we had no phones, no internet, no way to manage the buses, and a gazillion other things.  We were all told to wait for a phone call in the morning.

But our tech folks are amazing, they worked all night, and we had our first full day.  Granted, the internet was a bit slow, but other than that, not too bad.

My role?  Pop in and out of the 7th grade science, and help where needed.  I took more kids to the nurse and to their classrooms than I ever thought possible.

But hey, I still don't have any customers.  Which is amazing.  Because last year by 10:45 I already had a kid in ISS.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Last Hurrah!

So the kids come tomorrow for a half day and it promises to be interesting.

For one, we've got a lot of brand spanking new teachers, plus new administrators, open positions, and supposedly the Sixth Grade Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself.

Oh, and I have no AC in my Happy Little Portable.

Since I don't have a homeroom, my job, usually, on the first day of school is to hang out in Guidance and help out - running new schedules and emergency cards to teachers, taking new kids to their rooms, that sort of thing.  The Enforcer (our new Principal, thank God) informed me and one other teacher who doesn't have a homeroom, that he may need us, as certified teachers, to fill a couple of classrooms if he can't get a substitute lined up.  Truly, the first day of school and we still have open positions.

Know any science teachers who want to teach 7th grade?  Seriously, the applicant pool is empty.  And we need teachers. (I could do a LONG post about my theory on why they aren't any applicants, but that's a post for another time...)

And something new this year...The Enforcer is making a slight tweak to our morning.  Usually kids get off the buses and the 6th graders go to the gym, the 7th graders go to the theater, and the 8th graders (who know the school well by now, we hope) go to the 8th grade hallway, find their homeroom on the lists posted, and go there.  What this means is the gym and the theater, full of 6th and 7th graders, is NOISY.  These kids are all bouncing off the walls, wanting to talk to their friends, but usually end up yelling because everyone is talking to their's pretty ugly.

This year there will be no talking.  The Enforcer is expecting the kids to come in, sit down, and be quiet.  He's setting a tone for the year (probably because of the Sixth Grade Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself).

This will be a very interesting day.

Friday, August 05, 2016

When You're Hot, You're Hot

Oh good gracious... The AC in my Happy Little Portable just died. It's 88 degrees in there. I have relocated myself to Mrs. Eagle's room for the remainder of the day. Let's just hope it's fixed by the time I get customers out in ISS!

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Well hey! Summer is over and I'm back!

It's August, the temps are in the 90's, the humidity is high, and we're back in school.  Actually, teachers are back, but the kids don't report until Monday.

It could be worse.  A neighboring school system started the last week in JULY.  Last I looked, I thought July was in the summer, but hey, what do I know?  And seriously, what's with starting back - in the South - during the hottest month of the year?  All I can say is thank goodness the AC works in my portable.  If, by chance, it decides to tank, I'm going to raise holy heck.

So, lots of changes here at The School.  

For one, after 13 years at the helm of our school, the Principal left to run the school her youngest attends across town.  This was a shock to most of us - I actually got the email from her as I was driving to Texas and had my friend read it to me and about ran off the road - because in the 13 years she'd been there we had turned this school completely around and made it a gem.  Granted, it was still in Da Hood, but we ROCKED.  So of course, we wanted The Enforcer to take over because, well, he's an awesome no-nonsense kind of guy, and he and The Principal shared a brain and he was the moving factor behind our SWPBS program.  Of course, Central Office, being bureaucrats, pulled us into a meeting (I think they though most of us were on summer vacay and wouldn't show) and discovered a rather vocal staff who pretty much laid down the law on who we wanted.  When Coach Mean, who has never, in my 14 years there, raised his hand in a faculty meeting, raises his hand, then stands up (all 6'6" 300 lbs of him) and says, "Hire the Enforcer already", it was over.  We got the Enforcer.

We had a lot of retirements, some folks moved, others transferred, and we ended up with about a dozen new teachers.  I don't think we've ever had that many in all the years I've been here.  And then we have two new administrators, one Coach Cool, took over Mrs. Sparrow's position (she's off selling real estate now) and the other (whom we haven't met yet), took over The Enforcer's position. will be an interesting year.

And then there is the sixth graders coming up.

We have been hearing about this bunch of kids since they landed in Kindergarten..truly.  First off, it's a huge bunch, and we had to add an extra 6th grade team (Mrs. Eagle is now in 6th grade science) just to accommodate them all.  

And their behavior, or lack thereof, is legendary.  They are a tough bunch.  We have an 8th grade math teacher who has twins in this class.  Her comment?  "Be afraid, be very afraid."

Except we aren't.  For one, we're bigger than they are.  And we're smarter.  And we're the adults.  And they're just going to have to figure that out.

But I still have a feeling I'm gonna be busy.

Friday, April 15, 2016

And Now....Mrs. Bluebird Guidance Counselor

The other day I'm in Our Happy Little Portable, doing my thing with a handful of kids (it had been a calm week) when The Guidance Gramma calls.

"Hello Mrs. Bluebird, I was wondering if you could spare a  moment.  I have a student here who really would like to talk to you.  If you want, I could bring her down to your room."

Okay so this is a bit odd, I think,  but I do have quite a few kids who think of me as Second Momma (it's that Tough Love School Momma Thing I have going according to The Principal), so I figured it must be one of my breakfast bunch who come out in the morning to eat breakfast and chat.

"Oh really?  Who?" I ask, thinking it could be any number of kids I know.  They all seem to have issues.  That, however, is middle school at its best.

"It's Runaway Girl," she says.

I pause for a moment.  I don't recognize the name.    I am completely dumbfounded as to whom she is talking about.

"I'm afraid I don't know anyone by that name," I spit out.  "Are you sure she wants to talk to me?"

"Really?  You don't know her," said Guidance Gramma.  I can hear her talk to a kid, most likely sitting at her table in her room.  "Do you know Mrs. Bluebird?"  she asks.

Muffled voices.

"She says she doesn't know you but her best friend, 2nd Period Aide Girl, says you're really awesome to talk to, so she would like to.

Ah.  So now it makes sense.  I apparently got a referral.

"Mrs. Glamour is here to watch the kids, and I need to run into the building anyway so I'll swing by your office," I tell her.

So, I go in the building, do my quick errands, and then drop by Guidance Gramma's office.  She gives me a brief introduction and then offers to let us talk in private in her office.  She, along with the student teacher (student counselor?) who is with her leave.

So I talk to Runaway Girl and get the whole story, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...give her my advice, and after about 15 minutes she seems a lot happier and we open the door.

And I feel really awkward because, in reality, I just kicked the Guidance Gramma out of her office to do counseling with a kid who would rather talk to me than her, and she's the Professional!

Okay that was weird.

So Runaway Girl scampers back to class and Guidance Gramma and her student person ask me what I told her and of course, it was the same thing they told her (thank goodness, I was afraid I'd screw something up.)  Guidance Gramma thought the whole thing was funny (another, whew, thank goodness) and in truth it was.  I mean really, how weird is that that some kid you don't even know wants to talk to you about their life problems, just because her best friend suggested it.

But apparently I have a reputation.  And need to start thinking about some counseling in-service opportunities, apparently.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

If One is Good, Two Must be Better

You can almost guarantee that if it's a nice day and we haven't had a fire drill yet, then we're going to have one.  We're required to do one a month, so the first nice day of the month should probably be known as Fire Drill Day.

And that's what we had today.

Perfect weather.  74.  Sunny.  Little wind.

So, around the beginning of sixth period, the alarms went off and we filed out and stood around for a few minutes enjoying the sunshine.  I only had four kids, who were pretty nice and well-behaved, so it was pleasant.

We filed back in after the all clear, waited a few minutes for the hall to clear so we could go in for our bathroom break, had our break, then went back to Our Happy Little Portable.

And then we had another fire drill.

Not sure what the deal was...whether or not the alarm got reset correctly or what, but hey, it was a gorgeous day, so why not?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Momma of the Year

I had a student assigned to Our Happy Little Portable this week for two days.  She didn't appear on the first day so I marked her absent and sent out my attendance to let everyone know (who bothers to even read my emails) who was supposed to be with me and who was absent.  Within five minutes of sending that out I had one phone call from Coach Fear who said he saw her get off the bus, and another from a social studies teacher who saw her walk down the hall towards the eighth grade wing.

Ten minutes later she was escorted to Our Happy Little Portable by Mrs. Sparrow who later called her back in to work her referral and added an additional two days.  Miss Drama was apparently trying to stir up a fight with another eighth grade girl and decided she hadn't learned her lesson the first time (which is why she ended up with me in the first place).

Mrs. Sparrow called and said that Drama's Momma had expressed the desire to talk to Miss Drama and would most likely swing by after lunch if it was okay with me.  Heck, I don't care.  Our Happy Little Portable has an open door policy and I'm delighted if parents of my inmates students want to come out and visit.

So after lunch I get a call from the front office telling me that Drama Momma had appeared and could she please talk with her daughter?  I, again, said no problem, and she said she'd just drive around back to where our building was and would be there in a bit.  A few minutes later there is a knock on the door and this small, elegantly dressed and very professional looking woman is on my deck.

I told her that I didn't have any privacy for her to speak to her daughter out in Our Happy Little Portable, so if it was okay with her (and it was a halfway nice day), they could simple step out on my deck and have their conversation there.  Drama Momma said that would be "delightful" and so Miss Drama, who is about twice the size of her mother, trudged out onto the deck.

The door closed.

And then the yelling began.

My first thought was "that little woman can certainly give her daughter what for!"...while my second thought was that I better turn up the music so that the kids couldn't hear exactly what she was saying.  Every kid in Our Happy Little Portable was looking up from their work, eyes riveted on the door.  You could almost see the thought bubbles above their head with "Thank God that's not my mom!" written in them.

This went on for fifteen minutes.

During that time I got an email from a teacher asking if I could send a kid in to pick up an assignment.  I informed him that I really didn't want to open our door at this time since there was quite a mother daughter moment on our deck, but I would be sending a kid in as soon as the drama ended.

Finally, there was a knock at the door.  I opened it, Miss Drama trudged back in and went to her seat (madder than a wet hen, truth be told) and Drama Momma reached out, shook my hand, told me how nice it was to meet me and then left.

We were all sort of stunned.  That tiny, little, polite woman was the one that just ripped her daughter up one side and down the other?  Man, what a woman!

Unfortunately, her daughter isn't too bright.  Two hours later when the buses were loading, and I let my kids out to get on their buses, Miss Drama YET AGAIN, tried to start a fight with another girl.

She has been suspended.  I'm sure she's having a wonderful, delightful time at home with her Momma.  I can only imagine the dinner table conversations.

And the best part?  Miss Drama wasn't even attempting to fight the right girl...she's in the middle of a big girl drama and got the wires crossed and was after the wrong person.

Big face slap on that one.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

We Told You So

If you've been one of the two readers of this blog you probably are well aware of the fact that I think this national obsession with testing kids is harmful and I am not a fan.  At all.  The Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests have become the focus of education.  Schools are judged on it, teachers are judged on it, and our kids are judged on it.  Sure some testing is necessary, but in My District we seem to test all the freaking time.

Anyway, a few years ago, our State decided to do away with our old format of testing which we did in late April and early May and go with a two part test - a writing test in February and then a more traditional multiple choice sort of test in April and May. (So, you see what you have here?  More testing.)  The kicker was that this was all going to be online.

Really.  The brilliant idea was to test all the kids in the State through the same website on the same day at the same time, more or less.  Now I'm lucky in that my District actually doesn't do too bad when it comes to technology, but for some of our rural districts, this, obviously was an issue.  So millions and millions and millions of tax dollars have been spent to upgrade school technology throughout the state so we could all be ready and able to take The Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests online.   Even my district, as ahead of the curve as we were, was going to have to do the testing in stages because we do not have a 1:1 ratio of computers to kids.  My building opted for four days of testing for the sixth graders, then the following week would be seventh, and the week after that, eighth.

Yes, folks, that's three weeks of testing.

We have spent the past two years getting ready for this.  Our tech people have busted their tails to make sure our technology is working.  Our teachers have practiced and practiced and practiced with the kids so they are familiar with the program.  Our kids, many of whom only see computers at school and who are much more familiar with phones and tablets as technology, have practiced and practiced.  I put kids on the computer quite a bit out in my Happy Little Portable, simply to practice their typing skills...because...if they can't type well on this timed test, it will impact their scores (or, as my mother asked, "Is it a test of typing or a test of knowledge?")  If we counted all the hours we put in to practicing for this online test, it would boggle the mind.

So yesterday was The Very First Day of the Very Big Deal Government Mandated Test.

Our sixth graders went to their testing locations (because we had to spread them around the building so they wouldn't all hit the same part of the network.)  They opened their laptops.  They signed in.  They began their test.

And within thirty minutes the entire thing blew up.

The servers at the State level just couldn't handle it.  The kids got error messages.  Emails flew back and forth and finally the District got the word from the State level to just Stop The Testing.

Late last night word went out that we will no longer be doing on-line testing this year.  The Commissioner of Education no longer has faith in the outside vendor hired to do the job (and you don't want to know what it cost, truly.)  The finger pointing has begun.  We will be receiving paper and pencil tests - exactly with the same content as the online, but instead of typing, the kids will be writing by hand - sometime this month.  The State will let us know.

Two years ago this month I sat in a meeting at the Capitol with a number of legislators the week after a statewide online writing test was launched for the Eighth Grade Only and it blew up.  That news didn't hit the media.  When we mentioned it to the legislators They Had Not Heard a Thing.  The whole thing seemed to have been hushed up.  And we told them right then and there that the technology wasn't there to do this thing on a statewide scale.  And they didn't listen.

So.  I told you so.

And you know what makes me the angriest?  That we have wasted so much time on this stupid online test and our kids are learning to absolutely hate school.

It's the kids I feel sorry for.

Monday, February 01, 2016

The Middle School Bartender

One of the few talents I do have in this world is that I am apparently a good listener.  I say apparently because I'm also quite the talker, and those are usually mutually exclusive.  Yet for some reason I always get kids (and now, young adults) who like to talk to me, tell me their problems, vent their frustrations, and sometimes spill their guts.

There is not a day that goes by that I'm not listening to some kid's story about life's injustices, the mean girls in school, the basketball play that went awry, or the fact that mom got arrested again.  I hear it all.  So much so that the Guidance Goddess once remarked that I'm like the middle school bartender...the kids sidle up to my desk and spell their guts.

I'm just not handing out drinks.  Although sometimes I may need to go home and have one of my own.

Today was no exception.

My Happy Little Portable is in the parking lot next to the end of the 8th grade hallway so I get anywhere from half a dozen to about ten eighth graders who drop by in the morning to eat breakfast and talk.  One of my regulars is Sparkle Girl who I had last year (and I thought hated my guts like her older brother did about nine years ago).  This family has issues - no dad in the picture, mom has major health problems and can't work, and is hearing impaired so communication is with the older brother who is more or less acting like the parent for Sparkle and her adorable little brother who is in sixth grade.  Sparkle has potential.  Lots of potential.  What she doesn't have is food.  She mentioned, off hand while eating her free breakfast, that they had run out of food in the house last night so all she'd get to eat was what she was getting at school.

And this isn't the first time I've heard this.  I had arranged a few months ago for her and the little brother to get on our FUEL free food bag program, but the bags don't go out until Fridays and I wasn't sure when the EBT card would arrive for these kids and who would actually be able to go shopping with it, especially if older brother was away working.  So, I made some calls and got an extra food bag sent home.  It's not much, but it's something.

Then Guidance calls and asks if one of my kids from last year, Waif Girl, could spend the day.  Waif was having a BAD day due to social media bullying, which is really just the tip of the ice berg with her.  Mom hasn't paid the bills in a while so the power and water has been shut off, mom is staying with some "friends", and Waif has been staying with a friend and his mom for a few weeks.  Mom isn't being really good at checking in with Waif, so it sounds like she's been more or less dumped and abandoned.  Waif wanted to be out with me, away from most of the other kids, and after collecting her assignments came out and spilled her guts and did her work.  Again, another kid with an amazing amount of potential but the grown ups in her life aren't acting like grown ups.

Then my phone starts to buzz and it's Skater Squirt, who is now 23, complaining about his boss (who is really the winner of the lucky sperm award and wouldn't have a business if it wasn't for daddy's money).  Skater Squirt texts me about his frustrations on a job he was working on today (having to wait on a contractor, the order was messed up, the boss measured wrong again, etc.) I text back during my planning and convince him that the world isn't going to end, and maybe it's time to revisit that application for the fire department he was talking about.

And then, when I wasn't acting like a therapist, I was trying to get kids to do their work, dealing with 8th grade math issues (I hate 8th grade math), and trying not to lose my patience with a kid who wanted to get suspended in the worst way.

So I'm the Middle School bartender....come tell me your story.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Baby, It's Warm Inside

So apparently mice will eat cough drops.


I know this because I opened my desk drawer last week after returning from our Christmas break and discovered about a dozen cough drop wrappers in a slightly shredded state, not one cough drop, and a quantity of mouse droppings to round out the surprise.

Oh freaking great.

My aide, after going through her desk, informed me that they will also nibble on Splenda packets, chew on straws, and tear apart tea bags.

Little Bastards.

We have no food - nothing - anywhere in the room with the exception of the refrigerator.  Everything is in there - Jolly Ranchers, tea bags, Keurig cups - because who knows what the Little Bastards will chew on next.  The drawback is that kids eat breakfast and lunch in there so the crumbs may be an attraction, although I've threatened severe bodily harm to any kid who so much as drops a raisin on the floor.  Meanwhile the kids are all on the hunt, hoping they'll spy one of the Little Bastards.  Why this is important, I have no idea, but it apparently is.  I'd rather they were on the hunt to find them and eliminate them from Our Happy Little Portable.

The Problem, says Head Custodian, isn't food, but the fact that it's now cold outside and the Little Bastards have figured out that it's warmer in Our Happy Little Portable.  Even though I drop the temperature down to 60 every afternoon before I leave, it's still significantly warmer than Outside.  (It was 13 this morning.)

So, Head Custodian is going to get traps, which bothers me because I'm the first one in the room in the morning and I don't want to deal with a dead or dying rodent.  Then again, I'm not happy about cleaning up mouse droppings from our counters and desks either.

Really, I need to bring my cats to work.  They'd solve the problem, sit on my lap, and purr.  That's much more pleasant.