Sunday, April 14, 2013

Congratulations, it's a bouncing baby...mayhem?

I'll leave my opinions on abortion out of this.  However, handing out rubber fetuses in a high school is never a good idea:

Many students pulled the dolls apart, tearing the heads off and using them as rubber balls or sticking them on pencil tops. Others threw dolls and doll parts at the “popcorn” ceilings so they became stuck. Dolls were used to plug toilets. Several students covered the dolls in hand sanitizer and lit them on fire. One or more male students removed the dolls’ heads, inverted the bodies to make them resemble penises, and hung them on the outside of their pants’ zippers.
Teachers at both schools complained that students’ preoccupation with the dolls disrupted classroom instruction. While teachers were trying to instruct, students threw dolls and doll heads across classrooms, at one another, and into wastebaskets. Some teachers said the disruptions took eight to 10 minutes each class period, and others said their teaching plans were derailed entirely.
However, we have found a great niche market for Oriental Trading Company.

Yahweh is strong, Yahweh is right, Yahweh is mine tonight

Teaching social studies has been an interesting experience. Mind you, I failed almost every history course I took in college, so please don't ask me why that makes me a "highly qualified teacher" in this subject. The logic makes my brain hurt.

 This week, I stopped pretending the Diaspora Acrostic Poems I was supposed to grade were invisible and actually took a look at them. Thankfully, Ashley's poem saved me from crying, but not in the way you'd expect...

 Let me back up a bit and discuss why these poems might bring me to tears. The differences between Judaism and Christianity elude most middle-school students so I've tried to be very clear about how they're different. Jesus Christ does not figure prominently in Judaism. Drawing a Menorah or a dreidel or the Star of David to represent Judaism is fine. Crucifixes are not. To be fair, only one student ignored this and drew artful crosses all over his work. However, if I see one more Bible or Jesus-fish or Holy Grail, I'm going to scream.

 Ashley's poem provided some much-needed levity. The students had to include the four central beliefs of Judaism, including Monotheism (the belief in one God). Ashley's line about Monotheism was "All-powerful and all-knowing single God with Monotheism to prevent one person from having all the power." The spirit of Billy Mays stirred in my soul...and spoke: "All-Powerful Yahweh! Now with more Monotheism (tm)! Prevents stubborn stains to your history! Be sure to look for quality Yahweh products at your local fine retailer! Remember: it's Yahweh or the highway!"

 I need to learn not to grade at the brewery. Snarfing beer up my nose is too painful.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Wait a few minutes, I'll fart for you too.

It's time for the science fair. Trevor and Hector caught me on the way to the copy room after school, asking for a copy of the procedure-writing tips page.

As a middle school teacher, I've learned the fine art of when to be stern and when to be a goofball. Trevor and Hector's class had been particularly unruly the last couple of weeks, so I was more than a little tired of being Mrs. Grumptastic. And, as the two boys trailed behind me in the empty hall, I seized the opportunity. With skill honed during many a frat party, I relaxed my esophagus and released a long, reverberating belch that would have brought down the walls of Jericho itself.

The enthusiastic chatter behind me crumbled into shocked silence. After a few seconds, Trevor almost whispered, "Mrs. W, was that you?"

I shot Trevor a sly glance and responded, "Yeah."

His awestruck response: "That....was awesome!"

I can reteach the whole trimester for you if that makes things easier...

At the end of a trimester, things are always a bit...dramatic. As the slow, deliberate cultivation of procrastination begins to bear pendulous fruit, an air of expectation fills the air. And by "expectation", I mean, "slowly-sinking despair". The kind of despair felt by children who expect to never see their iPhone again.

Cue the requests for Hurculean assistance:
"Mrs. W, I need a list of all my missing assignments. All 22 of them. If I turn them in tomorrow, can you grade them before my mom checks my grades tomorrow afternoon?"
"I need you to print out the directions for the major project we did 4 months ago based on the science unit about evolution that I can't even remember learning about. If I get an A on the project, will it raise my grade to at least a C?"
"Can you photocopy the missing homework assignment you gave me 5 times last month? You seem to be out of extra copies."
"Would you give me some extra credit assignments to help raise my son's grade from an F to a B? We're hoping to get him into WorkYouToDeath academy next year, and we don't want them to think he isn't capable of keeping up."

Thank God spring break is next week.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Why You Teach Speech

Welcome back to school! It's September: I hope you brought your supplies with you and do NOT ever ask me if you need a pencil for class today. I will bite you and, as Mrs. Skapinsken proved last year in her science classroom, the mouth of a teacher has more germs in it than a school toilet (no really, I'm serious: she proved this by growing bacterial cultures from swabs). Don't make me do something you'll regret.

The beginning of the school year usually involves a barrage of basic skills tests for the students. Math teachers test for basic skills such as multi-digit multiplication and long division, language arts teachers test for parts of speech and paragraph organization, that sort of thing. Things look promising this year from my point of view: most of my kids only took a couple of days to finish a 25 question basic math skills test and did fairly well. In comparison, many of my kids last year had problems calculating 14 - 8 and took 5 days to finish the same 25 question test. I wanted to stab myself in the eye repeatedly with a white board marker.

My team teacher, Dina came into my classroom giggling at break today. She'd given our kids a parts of speech test to see what they knew. Some of the parts of speech were pretty easy (noun, verb) and some were a little more difficult (like participle). To be fair, I don't even know what a participle is, and I wouldn't recognize a dangling participle if it fell off the sentence, or whatever it is they do.....

Here are some of the responses she shared with me:

Infinitive- "The number of nouns and verbs a sentence can have."
Verb- "A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y."
Preposition- "Another word for a bargain or deal."

I'm glad she's amused: it will help her next week when she feels like crying after reading their first essay.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be flashers.

It's been spirit week here for the last 4 days. Each day there's some new theme: crazy hair day, pajama day, piss off your teacher by making a paper beard/mustache set and taping it to your face day......ok, that last one wasn't really one of our themes. That's my everyday reality: spirit week just adds a whole level of chaos to my surreal existence.

Today was school colors day. Each grade level wore a different color (thank god, we got black this time around. It's easier to dress in all black than to figure out which pair of pajamas you can wear to school without getting fired) and we counted how many students participated in our first period class.

Now, I'm pretty liberal when it comes to counting participation. A half-black sweatshirt will probably get you counted. However, several kids have to try and push that line to its naturally absurd extreme.

"Hey, I have black on my shoes!", Sam said, flashing the bottom of his sneakers, which had black treads. "I have a black binder!", shouts Caelan. "My shirt is mostly black, why didn't you count me?", demands Jack (point of clarification: Jack was wearing a bright red T-shirt with some black text on it. Maybe 5% of it was black, which would explain why Jack is failing math, if that's his definition of "mostly").

Yeah, nice try guys....

I had managed to deflect most of these comments when Braden stands up. "Hey, I'm wearing black!" he proudly proclaims, pulling up his shirt and yanking up the waistband of his underwear to show me he's wearing black briefs.

The other kids in the class suddenly look like they're all watching the same tennis match. As one, their heads all turn to stare at Braden, then swivel to gauge my reaction.

Actually, I'm not quite sure what the appropriate response is at this point either. First, the last thing I ever want to see is an 11-year old boy's underwear. Second, this is dangerous territory for any teacher: any rumor of impropriety can kill your career.

My head spun to look at the other, safer side of the room so fast I'm surprised I didn't give myself whiplash. "Um, Braden, sooooo not going there....."

"No really!" he interrupts me, "It's all black...." And, to my horror, he actually starts to unbutton his pants to he can show me his underwear is all black.

OMFG, I am NOT going to jail because I have a budding exhibitionist in my class!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cockroach is to mother as hissing is to ______________.

It's that time of year again. I still hate the damned Madagascar hissing cockroaches, though I can at least touch them now. Of course, they had to prove me a liar this time around. The ones we got this year aren't as docile as the ones we got last year (the ones last year, you could throw rocks at them and they'd just sit there stupidly, staring at you. Kind of like 6th graders, actually....) but at least they hiss, which is cool and disconcerting at the same time. The curriculum tells us to tell the kids that they don't have any diseases and they don't bite. Supposed to make the kids feel more comfortable around them. Except.....Brady came up to me and showed me that his cockroach actually did bite him. Bastard drew blood too (that must have been one motherfucking pissed-off cockroach). So much for "they don't bite". If Brady comes down with some rare African sleeping sickness, I'm asking for my money back.

Anyways, we were discussing the hissing behavior in class today. "Why do you think the cockroach hisses? What was happening at that time?" I asked the kids.

Most of the kids could tell me that they were picking up the cockroach, or poking it with a pencil, or trying to shove food in its mandibles to try to get the thing to eat (They have no empathy, I tell you. They're bopping the poor bug on the head with a piece of banana and complaining that the thing won't eat. Maybe they'd eat if I threw a banana at their heads, but most of the world doesn't like being harassed with fruit), and that the cockroach probably hissed to scare them off. Then Devan raises his hand.

"So I think the cockroach is like my mom? Like, when I keep poking her, and she hisses at me to get me to stop?"

Mind you, if I poked my mom repeatedly and pissed her off, I'd probably wake up 5 feet away with a handprint on my cheek and my ears ringing so Devan's probably getting off easy. Might explain his lack of impulse control. But I suppose I should be grateful that he made a real-world connection.