Friday, September 22, 2017

A Little Trouble with Aim

There are times I feel like someone stole all the middle school kids and replaced them with elementary kids.

Make that lower elementary kids.

Today was one of those days.  I've been cursed blessed with four days of Whiny Boy's delightful presence.  He is one of the most immature seventh graders I have seen in a long, long while.  Truly.  And he whines so much that even his ordinary speech sounds like a whine.  And this is his third trip up to ISS and we've only been in school for six weeks.

I didn't have a large crowd today, just Whiny Boy and three others.  Which made it nice when we went in for our bathroom break because I didn't have to deal with impatient kids waiting on each other.  I just let the two boys and two girls go on in and I waited in the hallway for them to finish their business and line up along the lockers.

However.  One of the disadvantages of all the tile in the restrooms is that it amplifies the sounds.

A lot.

So I was standing there and I hear the 8th grade boy getting after Whiny Boy.  "Hey stop playing around over there."

Not something I want to hear, especially as we had a rash of bathroom vandalism last year.  I was about ready to yell in for Whiney Boy to settle down, do his business, and hurry up, when he yells back at the 8th grader.

"Hey, I was playing around and peed all over myself!" he yells back.

Did I mention that the sounds in the bathrooms are amplified?  And that Whiney Boy tends to talk loud anyway?

And that every kid in that part of the hallway with a hall pass stopped and looked back at the bathroom?  Even the girls, who had just finished up and were heading out of their own restroom stopped and stared.  I could almost picture the thought bubbles over everyone's head, "Did I really hear a kid say he peed on himself?"

Whiny Boy comes over and stands in the doorway, and sure enough there was a large wet stain down the front of his khaki shorts.

Oh dear Lord.  Really.

"Hey Mrs. Bluebird!  I was playing with my thing and I peed on myself!" he declared.  Loudly.

At this point, nearly every kid within ear shot was giggling.  I was having a hard time keeping a straight face and trying to figure out what to do with him.  I couldn't take him back to Our Happy Little Portable, and I was considering walking all four of my charges up to the front office to drop him off to make a phone call home.  Luckily, Mrs. SweetTea popped out of her office and I was able to flag her down.  Which was good because she's the one who put him out in my room in the first place.

"Mrs. SweetTea, would you be able to walk Whiny Boy up to the front to see about a change of clothes," I asked.  She looked confused and then looked at Whiny Boy.  And the look on her face was priceless.

"Well, I see we've had an accident," she said quietly.

"Yes, I was playing around and I peed all over myself," he again declares loudly.

"Well, let's not broadcast it to the world, and lets go get some clothes," she said as she lead him away, shaking her head.  "Honey, you probably need to stop playing with things and work a little more on having better aim," I heard her say as they walked off.

At that point we all lost it.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Mean Girls

Mean middle school girls annoy me.  And right now, I've got two of them in My Happy Little Portable.  And they're all up there for bullying other girls.


Apparently it all came to a head on Friday when we had the first back to school dance (I had a date night with Mr. Bluebird instead so wasn't there to witness the chaos fun.)  In any case, they got plopped in my room with a couple of pretty damning write ups, and an investigation was started.

These two girls, both of whom I've had before and believe me, they aren't all sweetness and light, are already professional victims.  They came in and whined and complained how it wasn't FAIR, and it WASN'T their fault, and everyone is making a big deal out of nothing, and it's just not FAIR, and they wanted to talk to The Enforcer RIGHT NOW, and on and on and on.

I told them no, they could not talk to The Enforcer. And no, they could not call their mommas as they've already been called when they got placed in My Happy Little Portable.  And no, I really wasn't concerned with if it was fair or not.

Life isn't fair.  Get used to it.

There were further incensed when I told them that they were not to sit near each other, talk to each other, or even look at each other as per my directions from admin.

Of course NONE of it is their FAULT and it's just STUPID.

Yeah, well, whatever.

And you know, I can see, perfectly, where they get this behavior.  They learn it at home.  Because Mean Girl #1's momma came huffing down to the office for a meeting with her homeroom teacher and Dr. Kindly, and Was Not Happy With The Result and DEMANDED that she have a meeting with The Enforcer.

I don't think she realizes who she's dealing with.

In the meantime, I'm just going to fill my diffuser with lavender oil think calm thoughts until these two high maintenance girls are out of my room.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Nowhere to Run To!

It's been unusually quiet this year - so far - in ISS.  Even the folks in guidance and all the admins were commenting about it.  And as luck would have it, the only kids getting sent out to see me are sixth graders.  We're all just waiting for the tidal wave to hit.

In the meantime, I've been sitting in Our Happy Little Portable with one, maybe two, kids a day.  The past three days I've had a rather nice little guy, Stormy, who gets mad and tends to storm off when things don't go his way.  He's the third in line - I had his oldest brother when I taught Science, and his middle brother tended to find his way out to Our Happy Little Portable quite a bit but managed to pull it together before he went off to high school.

Stormy did pretty well during his visit with me, despite having brief moments of shutting down when his math got to him (hell, I didn't like fractions when I was his age either).  But overall he was a pleasant kid and I enjoyed having him.  He did his three days, finished his work, and I sent him on his merry way back to his classes.

So imagine my surprise this morning, when there was a banging on my door, and I opened it to find a very upset Stormy on my landing.  He didn't say a word, just stormed by me, sat down in his old seat, crossed his arms and stared straight ahead.

Well then.

I noticed Officer Cool down the breezeway and gave him a thumbs up that all was okay.  It looked like he'd been following Stormy from wherever he stormed off from.  A second later Principal Cool called asking if I'd seen Stormy.

"Yup, he's right here," I told him.

"Okay, he had a tussle with someone in the locker room and when Coach Grump told him to go to his office and wait for him, he took off.  I thought he might find his way out to you."

Principal Enforcer then dropped by to check on Stormy.  I told him all was fine, we'd get his computer and binder sent out and I could keep him busy until we figured out what to do with him.

Basically he stayed with me all day and after about an hour of fuming at whatever aggravated him in the first place, he got to work on more math, and other assignments.  He then told me that he didn't know where else to go when he got mad.  He feels safe in ISS (because there's no drama and he's been out here with no other kids for the most part).  I guess it's a good thing he has somewhere that he feels safe although there is some irony that it's ISS.

They never got to his referral today so I told him to go back to class tomorrow morning and he would probably end up back out with me for a day or two (and idea he loved).

However, the most heart-warming thing about the whole situation is we were walking in the building on our last bathroom break and were heading to get his backpack out of his locker when we saw another kid heading our way with a hall pass.

"That's the guy I got into it with this morning," Stormy hissed.

The other kid stopped and I was about ready to get between the two of them when he started talking to Stormy. "Man, I want to apologize for what happened this morning in gym.  I really feel bad about it, and just want to say I'm sorry,"  He held out his hand for Stormy.  "Can we be friends?" He asked.

Stormy took his hand, "Yeah man, we can.  I'm sorry too."

There are times these kids just amaze me.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Totally in Totality

Last winter, during a faculty meeting, we went over the calendar for the following year, and learned about Things We Need to Have on our Radar.  One of those things was the Great American Eclipse of 2017.  The sixth grade science teachers were already jazzed up about it (they teach space) but the rest of us went "Huh?"

As The Enforcer explained, we just so happened to be in one of the best viewing spots ANYWHERE for this rare event, so it was decided that the kids would have school off, and we would be at work at an in-service.  Because, you know, we got to get in those teacher work days.  The fear was if we had school, it would end about the time buses started rolling and traffic was a concern.

That was in January.  By June all anyone could talk about was the Eclipse.  It was at that point most of the country began to realize it was a very big deal.  And by July, the School Board thought it might be a good idea to let everyone have the day off because city and county officials were predicting insanity.


Hotel rooms had been sold out for years.  Farmers were renting out their fields to campers.  The cell phone network might go down (because everyone was expected to Instagram their eclipse photos). Traffic was going to be a nightmare.  It was recommended that locals get their gas, cash and groceries on Friday and then hunker down and wait until the Eclipse was over on Monday.  Banks and small businesses were closed.  Over 200,000 visitors were expected to the area.

And people were going batshit crazy trying to find eclipse glasses.

As luck would have it, I already had mine, bought from the local university.  And when a friend from Virginia texted and asked if I knew of any campgrounds that might have a spot I told her to stop being silly and explained she could stay at my house.  As her kid loves cats, that worked out great.   And my nephew had just finished up his graduate internship and decided to stay a few days so he could see the Eclipse before heading to college.

Monday arrived, our picnic lunch was made, our glasses were secured, our very awesome Eclipse timer app was loaded on the phones, our lawn chairs were out under the big huge massive tree in my yard (it was hotter than blazes that day), and we even had white poster board so we could see the eclipse through some pinhole viewers and catch some shadow bands if we were lucky.

All I can say, truly, was it was better than the hype.  In fact, it could quite possibly be the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed.  It was also the fastest two and a half minutes I've ever spent.

What surprised us all was how fast it happened.  I guess part of me thought that if the sun was 50% covered by the moon, the light would be reduced by 50%.  Not really.  It didn't really start to get dark so that you noticed it, until about a minute before totality.  And then it got dark very, very fast.

And that moon, in front of the sun, with the white feathers of light around it....was truly magical.

We got lucky.  We saw shadow bands, faintly.  We saw the Diamond Ring effect, and we had the best time ever.  And The Boy, who was 12, was nearly overcome it was so amazing to him.  The looks on everyone's faces, the cheers and hooting we could hear from everyone in the neighborhood, was amazing.  (The last time all the neighbors had been out in all their yards was after a small tornado went through and we were all surveying the damage.)

It was joyous, and awe-inspiring, and amazing.

And I want to see another one.

And I'm so thankful, so very thankful, that our School Board let us stay home and share this with our families.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

All Bets Are Off

Usually the first day, and even the first week, of school are rather uneventful for me.  Or they should be.  Having kids in ISS the first week is NOT a good thing.  That's the Honeymoon Phase.  If they can't keep it together for the first week, it does not bode well for the year.

First problems.  In fact, the first full week was quiet for me.

Which meant I could plan out the entire year of Craft Club, get the Veteran's Day Program started, and work on forms and paperwork.  It also meant it gave admin a few more days to actually figure out my schedule which gets changed every year for no reason whatsoever.  Every year they change it, and every year I have to remind them that there is a one hour time period where my kids (and me) can have lunch where they will not miss their RTI classes.  Why they can't leave well enough alone is beyond me.  The old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" adage... In any case, they had our lunch scheduled for 3rd period, and my planning for 6th (and no one was assigned to watch my kids during my bathroom break planning.  That's a problem.

On Friday afternoon I get word, from a bus driver no less, that I will have a kid starting Monday.  Really?  I go into guidance and ask the Guidance Goddess and she confirms.  Once again, Ditzy Admin forgot to tell me, forgot to put the paperwork in my mailbox, and generally just forgot.  Great.  We are off to a great start.  To be fair, she did, finally email me about 3:00 on Friday afternoon, but by then I'd already tracked down the kid and his information and notified his teacher.

And I was wrong.  We all were.

We were all betting that the first kid in ISS would most likely be a seventh grader.  The sixth grade class from last year, which is now the seventh grade class, was infamous.  We'd been hearing about them and their behavior for years and they lived up to every bit of their reputation.  So I figured things hadn't changed much and my first customer would be a seventh grader.

And if it wasn't a seventh grader, an 8th grader.  Because there were a few troublemakers in that bunch who spent a lot of time in my room last year.

My first kid?  A sixth grader. A sixth grader who slapped an 8th grader as they got off the bus that morning.  And remarkably, the 8th grader had some restraint and didn't hit him back (since I know that kid pretty well, I'm still astounded).

Who would have thought?

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Front Office Frenzy

So here it is, August, and if it's August here in my Beloved South, it must mean It's Time for School to Start!

Yes, I know it's ridiculously early.  I'm not happy about it.  I'd rather start after Labor Day and go further into June, because at least that way we aren't going to school during The Hottest Month of the Damn Year, but nooooo, we start in August.  

Fortunately, it wasn't that hot.  Because it was POURING rain all morning.  

As the In School Suspension teacher, the odds of me having a kid on this very first half day of the school year are slim - although it has happened before - so I was assigned to help out in the front office with whatever needed doing.

Oh. My. Goodness. Gracious. Sakes. Alive.

I always knew our Amazing Secretaries were really buy in the morning, but I had no idea the drama and chaos that is the front office of a middle school.  Really.  It was insane.

We had parents dropping off enrollment paperwork.  

We had parents - in their pajamas - dropping off enrollment paperwork.  

We had parents with no identification so we couldn't sign them in and send them to guidance to enroll their kid.  The Guidance Goddess had to trudge up front to deal with them.

We had parents coming in with a dazed look on their face that said the other middle school nearby sent them to us as they were in our zone, not theirs.

We had parents trying to convince us that they had moved to our zone and try to enroll, but when asked the kids said no they didn't move and gave an address that belonged in the other school's zone.

We had parent and grandparent arguing over whether they wanted the kid/grandkid removed from the special education bus and placed in regular transportation (which must be changed on an IEP).  Apparently the kid told grandpa one thing and mom another.  Whatever.

We had a mother inform us that her daughter couldn't be anywhere near another kid in the seventh grade, that they were going to court, the other mom had pulled a gun on someone, and goodness knows what else.

It was mind-blowing.

And our secretaries were amazing.  They were calm, cool, and collected.  They didn't blanch or roll their eyes or lose their minds with the 217th person that morning called and asked just when, exactly early dismissal was?    They didn't bat an eye at any of the craziness.

As for me?  Anytime a kid arrived who needed to be walked to their new homeroom, I was there to do the escorting.  It got me out of the drama.

But dang, folks, school secretaries?  They are Super Women.  Truly. 

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Back At It, Or Another Year Begins, Along with Some Random Stuff

After a brief summer break (no, we don't get Three Whole Months Off, like most people think), we reported back to work today.

Unlike most Back to School for Teacher's Days, this one wasn't held at The School, but was instead held at one of the District buildings where we joined up with The Principal's new school (remember, she left last year and the Enforcer now is our principal) and sat through a day long workshop on mental health and kids.  Actually a really good workshop.  I enjoyed it and learned a lot.


I have not sat for this long the entire summer.  Within the first hour and half I was getting really, really restless.  And it continued for the entire day.  And it drove me nuts.

I know tomorrow will be more of the same, and I only hope we get more breaks so I can at least take a walk around the building or do something other than sit.

So, what have I been doing all summer? usual, I didn't get everything done I wanted.

I didn't read up and bone up on math like I wanted.
I didn't clean out as many closets as I wanted.
I didn't clean out my garage.
I didn't clean my house as often or as deeply as I wanted.

But what I did do was pretty awesome.

I hosted a family reunion and had 20 relatives, mostly cousins, come visit from all around the country.  One of my cousins I hadn't seen in 18 years, and that's just nuts.  We decided we're doing this again, sooner.

I, well, we,  had a roommate.  One of my cousin's sons is living with us this summer while he completes an internship for his Master's in History from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.  This has been a lot of fun.  He and Mr. Bluebird are having a ball talking history and we took him to see Dunkirk for his birthday (amazing movie, too.)   It's been a nice change having him around.  He's very low maintenance as well.

We adopted two kittens, sisters, and that's been amazingly fun.  The older cats have adjusted well for the most part.  The energy level these two have is off the charts.  They are better than television.

I taught a week of Civil War Summer Camp again.  This time I had amazing kids who all wanted to be there (none of the "let's put the kid in a camp to get him or her out of the house" crap).

I went to Texas for a few days for a conference and had a blast.

I re-read Pride and Prejudice again.

I knitted.

And I spent lots and lots of time at my CrossFit Box and worked on pull ups and rowing speed and generally getting better.  I'm getting there.

It's been nice.

But on Monday, it's back to work with the kids.  Hopefully a fantastic year is ahead of us.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Testing, Testing, and Badly Behaved Kids

To be perfectly honest, the past few weeks have been a challenge.

First we had testing.  And more testing.  And even more testing.  We spread out the Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests over a total of nine days and I'm not sure that was the smartest way to go.  Yeah, I can see how they want to make the testing blocks of time shorter - more like a class period which is what the kids were used to - but jeez, two freaking weeks of testing?

The problem being that, due to the fact that Testing is Everything in Education, we couldn't send kids to Alternative School, our in-house version of Alt School was at capacity, and suspending was problematic.  We could suspend kids, but only if the parents agreed to bring their spawn every morning for testing, then take them right back home when the tests were over.  (Remarkably, three parents agreed and did this.  We were shocked.)

So we had to deal with the kids being stuck in the building creating havoc.  Or more precisely, I had to deal with the kids stuck out with me in My Happy Little Portable.

It was not pleasant.  It was like two weeks of the very worst of the worst, kids who were already returned from alternative school, on limited 25 point contracts, and who had already exceeded that number.  I was told, "try to keep them if you can, but if they so much as blink, call us and we'll suspend them."

Oh blink.  Dare ya.  Just blink.

I ended up having to call and have two of them removed.  They made it through almost 3 days of their 4 days with me (four of the longest days of my life) but finally blew it when they couldn't mind their manners and got disrespectful and rude to me and their classmates.

And they were gone.  They are now both in alternative school and that's where they'll start 8th grade.  But then I'm sure I'll see them again.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Beam Me Up Mrs. Bluebird!

The Enforcer once told us in a faculty meeting, when he was an Assistant Principal, that his job pretty much involved sitting behind a desk and having kids lie to him all day.

I feel his pain.

I had this little sixth grade girl, truly a piece of work, who was with me for two days due to her really insulting and rude behavior to her teachers.  (Lovely).  Every morning I do a brief orientation about what it's like in ISS, expectations, etc., Like most sixth graders, Little Rude One didn't really believe me when I said that all work had to be finished before they could be exited from ISS.  I swear I only say this a 100 times a day, but some kids Just Don't Get It.  A lot of kids are Shocked - Shocked! - when I actually do something I say I'm going to do.

In any case, Little Rude One turned in her social studies assignment with Nothing Attached.  Seriously.  Nothing.  I called her up to my desk to find out where her work was.

"So, it says here that you should have the Egypt worksheet you got from your teacher yesterday for homework," I say.  "Where is it?"

"It's at home," she says.  Considering it was given to her to take home by her teacher the day before, that's a possibility, so I didn't pursue it.

"Okay, so below that it says you are supposed to read pages 302 through 320.  Did you do that?" I ask knowing full well she didn't'.

"Yes, I did!" she boldly proclaimed.

"Okay, so on pages 320 and 321, you're supposed to do questions 1-10 on notebook paper.  Where is this?"

"It's at home!" she chirps.

"Really?" I ask.  Because she just got this assignment This Very Morning.

"Yes, it's at home!"  She says again.

"So, I'm wondering how it could be at home, when you didn't even get this assignment until this morning, and as far as I can tell, you have been in this room with me all day."

"It's at home!" she again insisted.

"So, what you're saying, is that you got this assignment this morning, and somehow managed to teleport yourself back to your house where you completed it and left it?" I asked her.

At this point, I was expecting another, "Its at home!" but what I got, finally, was that look in her eyes that said, "Oh crap, she's caught me lying,"  She realized, finally, that she'd been backed into a corner of her own making.  And I sent her back to her seat to hopefully, finally get her work done.

Sh e didn't get it done.  She had to come the next day during her PE and art classes to finish.  And the whining and fussing were amazing...she just didn't seem to get it.  She'd do half the questions, and turn them in.  I'd give them back to have her finish.  Back and forth we went like this on all her assignments, social studies and reading language arts.  When she got 2 out of 20 correct on her vocabulary assignment, I then had her sit with a dictionary to look up the words she got wrong.  At that point she nearly lost her mind because she didn't know how to use a dictionary because the words "don't pop up at you".  

Oh good gracious.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Spring Has Sprung...and so have the Hormones

So Spring Break is over.


And it was greatly needed because we Didn't Get A Single Snow Day.  Everyone's nerves are shot - kids and teachers alike - and it was nice to get away from each other.

So some came back with tans, others with great stories about awesome trips, and even others with...hormones.

It's that time of year, the sap is rising, the birds are singing, and sixth graders are turning into hormonal future seventh graders.

I was up in guidance flipping through the stack of write-ups that had been turned in (I like to see what is coming my way) when I noticed a trend.  Lots of sixth graders, boys and girls both, are doing a lot of grabbing, hugging, and groping.  A lot.  .

"Holy moly," I said to the Guidance Goddess.  "These kids have discovered the opposite sex in a big way."

She nodded.  "You have no's nuts.  I can't believe the write-ups I've been getting.  It's like they've lost their minds."

And discovered sex.

Oh joy

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

So You Think You're Stressed?

There are times, truly, where I learn way too much about my kids.

That may seem odd, seeing as I have many of these kids for just a few days at a time, but I almost feel like a bartender...I'm there, it's a quiet environment, it's a perfect place to spill your guts.  A lot of times, it's a good thing.  I can do some counseling, we can talk about why the kids keeps making bad choices, and talk about goals.  Other times, I'd rather not know what they're telling me.

So this week I had a return visitor, except this was his first time this year.  He'd rocked 8th grade after falling apart - he ended up in alternative school - in seventh grade.  Grades were excellent, he was in advanced classes, he'd grown up.  It was nice to see that Brainy Boy was doing well.

Except maybe he'd grown up a bit too much.

It was after lunch and I was going through some of the work that the kids were turning in.  I check it to see if it's complete, spot check for accuracy, and either check it off and put it in the basket to return to the teachers, or give it back to be completed/redone.

One of my kids was not completing his work.  He kept turning in assignments that were either incomplete with blank pages, or completely wrong.  Everything he turned in had to go back to be redone.  So he was stomping, and fussing, and basically having a whining fit and the other kids were getting annoyed.

"Oh get over yourself", said Brainy Boy.  "You think your life is so tough."

"Oh but it isssss!" whined The Whiner  "This stuff is soooo hard!"

"You don't know what stress is," says Brainy Boy.  "Seventh grade work is not stressful."

"You don't understannnnndddd,' whines The Whiner.  "It's haaaard."

At this point, Brainy Boy dropped his bomb.  "Oh stop freaking whining.  You don't know stress.  You want to know what's stressful?  You want to know the kind of stress I've been going through?  I'm in 8th grade and I just got my girlfriend pregnant!  Now that's stress!"

Well then.

You could have heard a pin drop in that room.  (I might add it was all boys that day which may have been why he felt comfortable enough to say what he said.)

Whiney Boy's jaw dropped for a moment, he sucked air, then it his mouth closed, he went back to his seat and we didn't hear a word from him the rest of the day.

Algebra Kid, Brainy Boy's best bud and partner in crime (they had done something in their Algebra class to end up with me), gave him a sympathetic look.

"Man, you really didn't need to tell everyone that," he said.  "But you do have a point."

"Yeah, I know," said Brainy Boy.  "But damn, his whining just pissed me off."

And with that, they went back to their graphing calculators and worked on their Algebra.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

When You Just Don't Want to Get Out of the Car

Since January I've seen a lot of sixth graders start to morph into seventh graders.  In other words, perfectly good kids I've never seen before got hit by the hormone hammer and start showing up in my room, and showing up a lot.

Brat Boy is one of them.  Kid never crossed my radar until January and then it was like he was in my room every single week.  It wasn't for the same thing either.  One week it was disrespect.  Another week it was disruption.  And even another was for physical aggression.  In other words he was a hot mess.  But, from what his teachers told me, he was a bit of a spoiled brat.  Mom excused his behavior and pretty much let him run the household.  Dad, on the other hand, wasn't buying it.  And, you guessed it, Dad and Mom are divorced (or divorcing...I never could get a straight answer on that), so Brat Boy lives with mom - and gets his way in everything - but it takes Dad to straighten him out.

This is not a good combination.  Usually when kids have a total reversal of behavior we know something is going on at home, and often it's issues with the parents.  Whatever the reason, he was having a pretty serious meltdown as we headed towards Spring.  I never really had an issue with him - he seemed to like the quiet and would do his work and not cause any trouble for the most part. But the fact that he kept turning up in my room was not a good sign.

So, yet again, he was scheduled to be in my room for a few days, which wasn't much of a surprise.  And I marked him absent because he didn't show up.  Not unusual with the illnesses we've had racing through the schools this year.  But then I got a phone call from the attendance secretary.

"Hi I wanted you to know that Brat Boy is here, but he's not getting out of the car," she said.

"What do you mean he's not getting out of the car?" I asked.

"Well his mom brought him to school and he's refusing to get out of the car.  He actually did this yesterday too, but Coach Cool was able to talk him into getting out and coming to school," she said.

"You're kidding, right?" I said.

"Nope, this is becoming a regular routine with him,"  she said.

Oh my.  One of the funniest stories my mom ever told me about going to school - in a one room school house on the Kansas plains, no less - was about a kid who crawled up in the back window of his mom's car and refused to get out.  That image has stuck with her for over 70 years!  And now it was happening again in our front parking lot!

About an hour later I got another phone call from the front office.  "Brat Boy is going to spend ISS up here in the front office," she said.  "They're afraid that he might make a break for it if he's out in your portable."

"Good thinking," I said - which was true.  Finally - finally! - someone realized that putting kids who threaten to run away out in a portable was not smart.  Since we actually walk outside several times a day to go in for bathroom breaks and lunch, it wouldn't be that difficult to make a run for it.  And I'm not chasing anyone down.

"I'll send his work up front then," I said, and then emailed his teachers letting them know what was up.

From what I was told, this has become nearly a regular routine with Brat Boy.  He does not want to be at school.  What he does want (and oftentimes gets if you look at the attendance report) is to stay home and play video games.  Several times he was able to be talked out of the car by Coach Cool, but apparently this incident was different.  Coach Cool was getting nowhere. Mom was getting nowhere.  So, they  ended up calling in Dad.

And Dad came.  And within two minutes, Brat Boy was out of the car and in the office.

Amazing what Brat Boy could do when properly  motivated.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

There are days...

...I would really rather be home with my cats.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Communication Quandry

The other day I got a phone call from one of the administrators about a kid she was going to put in my room for the following day.  As usual she told me his name, and for how many days she wanted him to stay in ISS.  Then she paused.

"I think you need to know that he doesn't speak English," she said.

Oh. Really.

"He doesn't?" I ask.  "Where is he from?"

"He's from the Dominican Republic.  He speaks Spanish.  The Aide, Mrs. Multi-Lingual, is going to come out with him, sort of get him started and then he should be good the rest of the day," she said.

"Just curious," I said, "but what did he do to get out here?"

"Oh, he cursed out his ESL teacher in Spanish.  Apparently he didn't like his assignment and got a bit irate."

Oh this is just wonderful.

I grew up in Los Angeles, took Spanish in middle and high school, and at one time did okay with it.  But that was a long time ago, and I wasn't going to get very far with what remained of my Spanish skills.  And this kid apparently has quite the colorful vocabulary.

So I asked my husband to tell me all the Spanish curse words he knew and that he thought an 8th grade boy would use if he got mad at me.  Because my husband spent part of his youth (about five years) living in Lima, Peru and is still pretty darn fluent.  He comes in handy at times.

I was ready to go the next morning.

Curse Boy arrived, as promised, with Mrs. Multi-Lingual who translated and got him started after I did my new kid orientation.  He spends a lot of his time working on Rosetta stone on a laptop (which he brought with him) and he has a Kindle that he uses to translate, so aside from a math assignment and some science, he pretty much sat and did his computer work.

At one point he came up to me, handed me the Kindle and I could read "I need glue and scissors," that he had written in Spanish and it translated it into English for my benefit.

Okay, that was pretty cool.

During the afternoon he walked up, handed me the Kindle and I read, "I am finished with my work."

Okay, I thought...the kid isn't a whiz bang with English at this point, but he seems to get numbers.  So I got him on Reflex Math and he happily spent the last hour doing math fluency games.

He was the model student.  Didn't make a peep.  Stayed in his seat and did his work.

I'd take him back anytime.  As long as he has the Kindle. Or I can get my husband to follow me to work one day!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Hack. Cough. Blech.

So it appears that just about our entire state has the flu, strep, cold, or a stomach virus.  You know those flu maps they do on The Weather Channel?  Well, we're right smack in the middle of it.

And if that doesn't tell you something, the fact that 15 districts around us were closed part of last week due to illness should.

Notice I said "districts around us"?  We aren't closed.

That's not to say we haven't been hit and hit hard.  Although my building hasn't been hit hard with student absences, we have had a lot of faculty and staff down for the count.  From teachers, to bus drivers, to administrators, to guidance, we're hacking and coughing, and generally dropping like flies.  I was sick last week myself, but not bad enough to take a day off.  And since we're pretty much short of substitute teachers, even if I did take off, they'd most likely just shut down ISS and let the kids serve the time when I return.  It's that bad.

Some of the other buildings not only have a lot of sick staff, but the kids are out too.  Classes with ten kids are being supervised by custodians and cafeteria workers because there's no one left.  Buses are being driven by mechanics and anyone they can find.  We've had trouble with all our buses even showing up to pick up kids in the afternoon because they're so short drivers.

But we are still open.  Why?  Because we haven't - district-wide - hit the magic number of 17% absent.  Some schools may have 30% while others have 5%.  Whatever.  It's not working out to be 17% throughout the entire district.

So we are open.  Without subs.  Without bus drivers.

And we are all praying for a snow day. Or two.  Or three.

But instead it's so warm my damn tulips are already popping up.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

When They Have All Lost Their Minds, Or Why I Hate Collaborative Planning

Our District believes in collaboration.  It believes in collaboration so much, in fact, that it sets aside money to pay for substitute teachers so that teachers can have an entire day to plan together.  What this means is that each subject area - math, science, reading language arts, and social studies - gets a day to plan while someone else watches their kids.

It also means that the kids lose their ever loving minds and I get really, really busy.  Because, for whatever reason, middle schoolers cannot handle being with a substitute teacher.  It's the time that even the good kids act stupid and the trouble makers make even more trouble.  What makes it worse is that we have a pretty serious shortage of good, quality substitute teachers who can handle middle school kids.  Heck, we can't find permanent teachers to fill open positions (anyone want to teach 7th grade science?  Anyone?).  All the good subs are offered full-time positions, which leaves, for the most part a rather inept pool of people without the skills they need to survive these kids.  We do have some exceptions, like Mr. Brown, the most amazing sub ever who is retired military And Who Takes No Crap From Anyone.  The kids fear him, but they also respect him, and he's a dream.  Teachers fight over who gets him.  This guy is like the most popular girl in school, and is booked months out.  But he's a rare exception.

What this means is that I can tell, by looking at how many subs are in the building, that my room will start filling up and filling up fast.  This week was a record for us in Our Happy Little Portable.  Monday we had a whopping three (yay!), Tuesday went to 13, then Wednesday, and Thursday we had 16, then Friday we had 10.  I pretty much  max out at 16 because I run out of seats to put kids, so 16 is the most I can take.

My ideal number is 6-8 kids.  That way I can get to know them, work with them, and help them.  The sort of things I like to do.  Anything over that and I feel like all I do is process incoming work (four subjects times the number of kids) and outgoing work, and hopefully making sure they behave.  In other words, I have to turn into a paper-processing bitch.

This week was something else.

We got banned from the 8th grade hallway bathrooms due to vandalism.  It appears that one of the kids I had for two days (we're pretty sure we know who it is) was jumping up and damaging the ceiling tiles in the bathroom.  So now, we have to walk to the other side of the building and use the ones by the cafeteria, which is not very fun when it's cold and rainy out as it's a much longer walk.

Two of the kids got suspended because they lied and said they were bus riders (I have no way of knowing who is and who isn't outside of asking) and then went in the building and were roaming the halls and got busted.

Another kid got an extra day for having a laser pointer.

A sixth grader scraped paint off his cubicle and will be coming in tomorrow during his PE and Computer class to sand and paint, as per his mother's request.  As she said, "Make him work, and make him work hard."

A girl got removed and suspended because she didn't like the fact that she had to sit in her seat and be quiet, and began banging on her desk with her fists and screaming, "I wanna call my Momma!  I wanna call my Momma!"  She's gone for a few days.

And another kid, who got suspended the last time he was out with me for slapping a kid across the face as we came back from the restroom, managed to shove and push a kid THREE TIMES HIS SIZE, and got removed and suspended, when we only had an hour left in the day.  Of course, again, this was on the way back from the rest rooms, and he picked on a kid who was big, but too darn nice to retaliate.

I was ready for the weekend.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Minion Goes on the Run

Life has been interesting with The Minion.  

He is still coming to my room 1st period to do his work (when I can get him to do it), he's irritable, grumpy, and gets suspended now and then for stealing  and for skipping class.  When I try to get him to work, and he's not in the mood, he growls at me.  He also has reverted back to some really bad habits he had when he's younger (let's just say he has bathroom issues).  We thought he had finally grown out of some of that but alas, no.  His classmates hate him because he's weird and he smells and truly, he's not very nice. At all. (It's really sad.)

So last week, when the Bottomless Pit was sent inside to get some work, he came back and reported that "that little weird kid from first period is wandering around outside."  Uh-oh.  That's not good.  Just then the aide that comes and watches my kids for about 30 minutes so I can go use the restroom, make copies, and get a break came in and informed me that she'd seen The Minion when she came out and sent him back into the building.  (I'm in a portable in the parking lot - to get to my room, you have to leave the building and walk out there.)

Since I was going in on my break anyway, I went on in to guidance and reported this to guidance.  We did some detective work, looked at some of the video (we have cameras all over the place). And discovered that The Minion had left his 3rd period class, gone out the door he usually goes out to come to my portable, and just kept walking.  He most likely would have kept walking if The Bottomless Pit and my aide hadn't caught him.  He's figured out that no adult supervises his walk out to my room so he took advantage of it. So, I ended up writing a referral for him for being out of area, and left it with the Guidance Goddess.

Half an hour later I get a call from Coach Cool.  "Is the Minion out there with you?" he asked.

"Oh heck no, he hates me, I'm the last person he would be with," I informed him.

"Well if you see him, let me know," he said.

What ensued next was an hour of admin sending out emails telling everyone to be on the lookout for this kid, and me getting asked about a dozen times if I'd seen him.  The local authorities got involved and the search for this kid was on.  About that time, our SRO showed up at his house and asked mom if she'd seen him and she calmly responded that he was home.

What?  She didn't think it even remotely weird that her kid showed up at home in the middle of the day?  And didn't think to call?

Apparently once the aide had sent him back into the building, he went to the nurse and then left the nurse and went out the exit near her.  And started walking home.  In the middle of the street.  A former student of mine (nicest kid and nicest family ever) was driving to the high school and spotted The Minion in the middle of the street, recognized him from church and, as he told his mom, "got a bad feeling about it", and turned around, picked him up and took him home.  He was worried he'd be hit by a car, or picked up by a predator, or something.

So the Minion was safe, which was good.  However, he's also in a world of trouble.  Mom was told to bring him to school the following day and stay for a meeting.  She didn't.  She put him on the bus and sent him on his way.  She didn't get off the hook that easily as he ended up getting suspended for a few days and she had to come get him anyway.

Not sure what the ultimate decision is going to be regarding The Minion, but I doubt I'll see much of him in the future.  For one, most kids that leave school end up going to alternative school and assigned a boatload of points because it's such a dangerous thing to do.  Secondly, I think everyone has decided that it's probably not a good idea to have a kid with a history of leaving and wandering around coming out to my portable every day where he has two opportunities to bolt.

We shall see.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Taking One for the Team

So the Bottomless Pit arrived in Our Happy Little Portable Yesterday like a tornado.

"Mrs. Bluebird!," he bellowed.  "I forgot my meds today!  Can I call my mom?"

Oh hell yes.  Call her.  Now.

So he called mom (14 and he still calls her Mommy, loved that).  Unfortunately Mom couldn't leave work to bring him his meds but she did give him quite an earful about making sure he wakes up on time and takes his meds because he does nothing but get in trouble without them.

Which is true.

I'm not a huge fan of meds for kids.  Truly I think a lot of kids would be better served with a lower carb diet, more exercise and more sleep, but there are some kids, like the Bottomless Pit, that really, really need their meds.  Without them, the Bottomless Pit is nearly crawling the walls.

I was amazed he had made it to fourth period without someone losing their minds over his behavior, especially as we had so many substitute teachers in the building.   So when the Bottomless Pit asked if he could stay in my room the rest of the day so he could get some work done without getting in trouble, I thought a minute, counted heads (I had two absent and only six there) and figured why not?

Called his teachers, sent him in for work, and then proceeded to try not to lose my mind dealing with him and the ping ponging he did for the remainder of the day.  But, let's be honest.  Better him in with me annoying only a few people, rather than driving a classroom of over 30 insane.

The Bottomless Pit without meds is a constant running stream of conversation regarding anything that enters his mind.  And I mean anything.  I heard his opinions on squirrels, why he doesn't like his language arts teacher, the benefits of chocolate milk over strawberry, why some girls annoy him, how he doesn't like mom's boyfriend, and any number of things.

My head was spinning.

I managed to make it through the day without losing my patience (although I came close).  I got a hug as he left for the day and he promised - "cross my heart and hope to die" - he would have his meds the following day.

He did.  Bless his little heart.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Giving a Kid a Chance

The few weeks before Christmas break was really, really busy in Our Happy Little Portable.  Kids were getting the crazies, teachers were frazzled and I was going from an average of six kids a day to sixteen.  My administrators are pretty amazing and are more than happy to suspend a kid who can't make it in my room.  I have a lot of patience, and do what I can do keep a kid in school, but there are times I have to just pick up the phone and have a kid removed and consequently suspended. 

The Bottomless Pit was one of them.  So, when I get a phone call informing me that the Bottomless Pit was going to be with me for a day, I was curious as to how this would all play out.  He could come in with a chip on his shoulder which would make for a very unpleasant day.  Or not.  It all depended on his attitude.

So, the Bottomless Pit arrived, with three failing grades, and was the only kid I had that day (it's usually pretty slow at the beginning of a grading period).  I told him we were going to focus on his grades and get them back up,  So, instead of parking him in a cubicle, I had him sitting right next to me and we got to work.

But what we really did was talk.  The kid spilled his guts and talked about how he had such a bad sixth and seventh grade year, how badly he missed his dad who passed away last year, how much he adored his little brother, and how his mom worked all the time.  He talked about how he has trouble focusing when he's not on his meds, how he knows he can do better, how he wants to play sports in high school, how he'd like to look at the military as a career, and how he has trouble not being a class clown. 

But what really got me was he said something I rarely, if ever, hear from a kid.  "It's totally my responsibility why I get in trouble."

Wow!  I get so tired of hearing from kids - and adults - how nothing is every their fault, how they are never responsible, and here was a fourteen year old who clearly owned up to screwing up.

So I decided to give this kid a chance.  He asked if he could stay in ISS for the rest of the week, because it was quiet, and he got help, and he liked to be there with me.  That's not an option.  But one option was to take him out of art class and assign him to me for that period as my Aide.  After all, I could use one.  But more importantly, we should be able to get his grades where they  need to be so we can send him off to high school a little bit better prepared.  And hopefully I can work with him a bit more on making better decisions.  He's obviously receptive.

So he's now my Aide and he couldn't be happier.  He's getting his work done, for the most part, although I still have to push and prod a bit.  And we're working on some goals.

As for his name?  Kid is constantly hungry.  Not because there isn't food at home (there is - mom may work a lot but she provides for her kids).  He's hungry because he's 14 and growing like a weed.   He told me he'd already grown three inches since the beginning of the year.  It's a wonder he doesn't eat the furniture.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Oh Hey, We're Back

So Christmas break is over and we're back in school. Had a nice time visiting Mother Bird in Colorado where we managed a White Christmas, and enjoyed some quality time with Hubby.

But now we're back.

And truth be told, it's kind of boring.

Our kids start over with referrals whenever we begin a new grading period.  Which  means I'm usually not too busy until the second week or so after a new period has started.  Usually.  This time it seems to be a little too quiet.

So quiet I'm waiting for the onslaught.

Oh, I've had a kid.  Or two.  All of them familiar faces which brings new meaning to the phrase "learn from our mistakes" because these kids just aren't getting it.

But for the most part it means I've been able to get caught up on things like filing, updating my sub book, watching a whole bunch of Khan Academy videos to brush up on my 8th grade math, updating the school wiki, and clean the room.

I'm thinking, however, that this honeymoon period is going to be over very shortly.  Like tomorrow.

We shall see.