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.