Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Murphy's Law in the crassroom

1.  Every ruler in a classroom will eventually break as a result of being used as a drumstick or sword.
2.  It is impossible to accidentally cut yourself with a pair of Fiskars safety scissors unless you are under the age of 15.  Then, it is distressingly easy to do.
3.  Your district will switch on your classroom's air conditioning system in November.  They will switch back to the heater in May.
4.  The day your school's principal plans to make a formal observation of your classroom will occur the morning after your most ADHD kid's father decides to take his son to a midnight opening of Star Wars and then feeds the child two bowls of Fruit Loops and a can of Red Bull to keep him awake at school.
5.  You will catch every illness that your students have.  Twice.  You won't get sick enough to stay home.
6.  The student who makes you feel the most uncomfortable spends the most time in your classroom after school.
7.  A fight will break out on the one day you forget to do your yard duty.
8.  The students who make a habit of shaking your hand before leaving your class are inevitably the students who publicly pick their nose or scratch their bums.
9.  A thrown pencil always lands point-down.  In someone's eye.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

We need less "pickle tickle" in our schools.

I was out in front of the school today, looking for a student who'd left his homework on his desk (again), when I noticed a couple of girls goofing around.  They had invented a game called "Break the Pickle" where you take pencils and sticks and other long, cylindrical objects of varying diameters, and try to break them over your knee on the very first try.  If you fail to break the "pickle", the other person gets to grab the object out of your hand and chase you while poking you with it.

One of the girls failed to break the pencil she was using.  The other girl grabbed it out of her hand and started poking her with the eraser in the belly and the ribs.  Both laughing, the first girl took off running, screaming "NO PICKLE TICKLE!  NO PICKLE TICKLE!" with the second girl in giggling, poking close pursuit.

I about pulled a muscle trying not to die laughing, yet no one else seemed to see anything amiss (several parents and the vice principal were about 10 feet away, and none of them batted an eye at this spectacle).  Apparently, Washingtonians have not been acquainted with the phrase "pickle tickle" before.  It must be a midwest thing.  For those of you who don't get the joke, "pickle tickle" is a rather colorful term for "bumping uglies" aka "playing hide the salami" aka "having sex".  

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cat Blogging

Toki is definitely my cat.  The other two, Pucker and Tallie, definitely love my husband, but Toki has claimed me for her own.  Her picture graces my bio page, since none of you would be interested in staring at my ugly mug.  If you imagine a Siamese crossed with a leopard-spotted beach ball, you've basically got her.

I love Simon's Cat animations because I swear the person who makes them secretly borrows my cat while I'm at work.  Either that, or Toki uses them for training videos when I'm not looking.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Think of it as a VIP account.....

So it's been about nearly two months since school started, and no doubt some of you have received the unfortunate news that your wonderful child, who has brought so much joy to your life, is currently failing in someone's class.  For some, this news comes as no surprise.  For others, this may be the first time you have heard the news and you are shocked.  And always, the question runs through your mind: "Why didn't I hear about this earlier?"

Unfortunately, we can't call everyone.  I may have (and have had in the past) as many as 175 students to monitor.  If I called everyone and spent a scant two minutes on the phone with you, that's nearly 6 hours of phone time!  Oh, and I'm assuming you want more than one phone call this year?

So how do we choose who gets the call?  Well, if your student is passing, you probably won't receive a call unless I have extra time (ha ha hahahahaHAHAHAHA! HAha ha ha...ha......ok, it does happen from time to time) or your child does something wonderful that I'd like to share.  If I sent you a message and didn't get anything back, you're usually near the end of the queue until you contact me.  The student who is tanking fast gets jumped to the front of the line, but let's face it: this is not a VIP pass most parents want their child to earn.

So is there any way to earn the VIP pass without having to destroy your child's grade?  Yes there is.  It's called the teacher's bribe (well, we are government officials....).  We don't get paid much, so we can be bought cheap, believe me.  Below are a list of items that teachers covet as bribes (call it a back-to-school gift if it makes you feel better, but we don't mind shameless bribing):
  • cookies, candies, brownies, and anything home-baked. 
  • Starbucks gift cards
  • fancy or unusual pens and pencils.  Can be expensive, but doesn't have to be.  My favorite pen was a plastic ball-maze pen I got as a freebie at a reading conference.  Until someone stole it (you KNOW who you are).
  • bag of coffee or coffee cups
  • gift card to (fill in the blank: Cheesecake factory, local teacher store, Safeway, movie theatre)
Unusual teacher "gifts" I've received:
  • A bottle of wine (ok, I don't mind getting wine.  But please don't have your child deliver it to me and certainly not before class).
  • A certified pre-owned coffee cup.
  • A card that said, "My mom said I had to write a card so Merry Chrismas" (sic) on the inside.
  • Chocolates from Christmas.  Last year. (check to make sure the box design isn't year-specific)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kids say the darndest things.....

We were discussing today what you would bring with you to keep you occupied if you were stuck in a submarine for a month (as some of our soldiers...er, sailors may be).  One student mentioned taking pictures or something to decorate the walls.

I replied, "Nice thinking!  It's going to get boring staring at the same grey walls after a while."
"Well, what if we look out the windows?" someone asked.
That stopped me for a second.  "Windows?  There's no windows in a submarine."
"What about the windshield?"
"There's no windshield in a submarine either."
"How do they see where they're driving?"

We had a mini-lesson on SONAR, since many of the students believed that sailors drove submarines around while peering out of the periscope.  I'm waiting for when they ask what submarines use for turn signals.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Homogenized grouping

Who's bright idea was "homogenized grouping"?

For the uninitiated (or the uncredentialed), homogenized groups are where the teacher puts all the overachievers together in one group, all the middle kids in another group, and all the low kids in another group.  Then, theoretically, you differentiate the work (translation: you give the overachievers all the hard real-world problems and give the low kids the basic, no frills easy stuff) so everyone learns at their own rate.

The problem with homogenized groups comes with the low achievers.  These tend to be your ADHD kids, the ones that lose all focus the moment a fleck of dust floats past them.  Have you ever seen what happens when you put all the ADHD kids at one table and tell them to work together?  Turn your back on them for two minutes and it starts to look a lot like this. 

Every year, the administration makes us try this.  We split the groups up, homogenize them, and then give up after a few days.  So what then?  You stick the ADHD kid next to the overachiever.  The overachiever threatens to kick the shit out of them if they don't shut up and everything's back to normal.

Friday, October 10, 2008

By the way,

This might sound weird, but I thought I was the only teacher that drank like a fish.  But talking to some other teachers today, I discovered that being able to polish off an entire bottle of wine by yourself (or a bottle of wine plus a few beers) without breaking a sweat is apparently not unusual for many teachers.....

And on that note, I'm off to get another glass of wine.  Happy Friday.

Halloween in coming.....

It's coming.  Believe me, teachers notice these things.  Thankfully, it's on a Friday this year: wooooooooooooooot!  The last week of school is bad, but November 1st is never fun: they're so sugared up, they are either crazy, or they puke on your shoes.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

well, at least we won't burn

Schools have to do a fire drill at least once a month (many schools only do about 2 a year, but that's another matter), and our drill was today.  This was probably the first fire drill I've ever shown up to with screaming, soaking wet students.

My evacuation route is out my back door, across the patio (yes, I have a patio.  The Cadillac of classrooms), through a small chunk of lawn and then to the blacktop.  When the alarm went off, I gestured towards the door, grabbed my attendance and my first aid kit, checked under all the tables for pretend-injured students, and allowed myself a pat on the back as I walked out the door after my kids.

Up until I saw the sprinklers.

Remember the small chunk of lawn we have to walk across?  For a completely unfathomable reason, they decided to water it during school hours.  And school sprinklers tend to be under high pressure.  Being hit by a school sprinkler is like taking a shot in the chest with a fire hose.

My students stopped at the edge of the patio, some looking at me with trepidation, some with naked hope.  When I sighed and waved them (carefully) across the lawn, my class erupted in cheers.  They raced cross the lawn (a few darted between the streams like skilled guerilla fighters, but most charged willy-nilly through the water), screeching, screaming, pushing, shoving, falling over, getting up again, sprinting, and generally making a scene.  The rest of the school looked at us like we were escapees from the loony bin.

Now that I think about it, is the loony bin hiring?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

So how has your week been?

My chiropractor always makes sure to ask me how my week has been.  In a classroom, truth frequently is stranger than fiction.

The bathroom is always an issue with 6th graders.  They're still in elementary school mode, and everyone knows that they have the bladders of a French poodle- meaning, can hold obscene amounts of liquid but has to be emptied every 15 minutes.  Teachers have to walk a fine line when it comes to granting permission for the bathroom: while I don't want students peeing their pants, they do need to learn the art of going to the bathroom at lunch so you're not bugging others 15 minutes after the bell rings.

Danny came up to me in class and asked if he could use the restroom.  Danny is the kind of kid that can really abuse a bathroom policy.  For one, he tends not to plan ahead.  If you tell Danny that the project is due on Friday, he'll fart around for four days chatting with his friends while everyone else (except his friends) works, then complain on Friday that he couldn't finish the project because he had a soccer game and could you please give him a few more days.  Oh, and you're not going to take off any late points, are you?  Because I had a soccer game and my mom said I had to go to bed at 11 and it wouldn't be fair to take off points.

Anyways, Danny came up and asked to go to the bathroom.  He'd already gone to the bathroom during class yesterday and he wasn't doing the pee-pee dance so I figured I was safe telling him to hold it until the end of class.  

"But I have to go!  What if I go in my seat?"

I let him know that I had plenty of paper towels and I wouldn't get angry at all as long as he cleaned up after himself.  Disappointed, Danny walked off.

A few minutes later, Renald came to talk to me.  He wanted to know if he needed a pass to go to the office if he was hurt.  Concerned, I asked him if he was.  "No, but I had to go to the bathroom the other day and I didn't want to waste it if I needed my bathroom pass to go to the office."  I assured Renald that I would certainly make exceptions to the out-of-class rule if someone got hurt in my class.

Barely a few minutes passed when Danny came back up.  This time, however, Danny didn't want to go to the bathroom.  Danny had a puncture wound in his hand that looked like it came from a pencil.  It wasn't bleeding badly, but it must have hurt like hell.  He asked very politely if he could go to the office to have it looked at.

At this point, my suspicions were aroused.  "Sure, Danny.  I'll write you a pass.  By the way, you might want to stop at the bathroom on your way back."  After sending Danny out the door, I caught Renald's eye and motioned for him to come talk to me.

"Renald, what happened?"
"Don't 'Huh' me: you know what I'm talking about.  How did Danny get stabbed with a pencil?"
"Well, you said if we were hurt, you'd let us go to the office and I knew Danny wanted to go to the bathroom, so I told him to stick his hand out and when he did, I kinda poked him with the pencil so he could go out."

At this point, I'm not sure exactly how to feel about this.  On the one hand, I have to admire him for his strategy: he found a perfectly valid loophole for the school's bathroom policy.  On the other hand, stabbing a classmate with a pencil tends to disturb parents when they hear about it later.

I still sent Renald to the office, but you have to respect that kind of out-of-the-box thinking.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Can I input my own grade card comments?

It's probably a little early to be thinking of grade cards, but I've always wondered who comes up with the comments they ask us to use.  Even the sternest comment is sanitized to the point where it's hard to decipher its original meaning.  "Student choices in class may be affecting his/her grade."  What the hell?

Here's some comments I'd like to add to the gradecards.  And remember, you are only allowed to use a maximum of two comments: the district is paying for the paper.

01-Student is a pain in the ass
02-Student reminds me of a jellyfish
03-Cries a lot
04-Goes to bathroom so often, I've wondered about his prostate
05-Won't shut up
06-Needs to bathe and/or wear deodorant regularly.
07-I vaguely remember this student
08-Student is great, but mom needs to cool it
09-Needs to wear looser clothing: is distracting my boys
10-Must learn to think before speaking
11-Please homeschool
12-Aspires to mediocrity
14-Student grade improved due to significant teacher and/or parent effort