Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mission Accomplished

I got the tattoo, btw, and it looks beautiful! I'd show it off, but I don't want any of my teacher friends who find this site to recognize it (it's distinctive). I can tell you I got the design from tattoo tribes and that the guy who tattooed me (he inks himself, btw. Talk about faith in your skills) had two kids in my class. And yes, he recognized me. Hilarious.

Here comes the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo......

There's a period in the deep winter where teachers don't see the sun. We get to work before the sun rises, and leave after it has set. But this past week, I've been gifted with the sunrise on my way to work. It's not much sun, but it's enough to perk my mood. Speaking of mood, an interesting thing happened on Friday that really made me laugh.

We have several students who wear cute slippers to school. I've brought it up as a safety concern (I am a science teacher and broken glass happens), but was shot down. Picking battles and all that. Well, Alexa and her friend came up to show me their goofy kitty cat slippers. I mentioned to them that they were adorable, but I worried that one day they were going to wear these slippers on a day when we had a fire drill (remember from my earlier post? Sprinklers? Wet lawn? 40 degrees right now?). They laughed and went to their first period class.

I bet you can see where I'm going with this. Because we had an earthquake that very morning, the principal decided to hold a surprise earthquake drill. I shit you not, I had no idea it was going to happen. I ran into Alexa as she was walking in her socks to the football field (she didn't want to ruin the slippers), shivering and hopping from one frozen foot to the other).

Talk about learning a lesson the hard way.

I made sure to mention it to Alexa when I saw her later: "Oh Alexa, are you feeling better? Your feet must have been half-frozen! I was thinking about you the whole time we were out there and how cold and wet you must have been....."

I was thinking about her the whole time because her predicament gave me such a sense of schadenfreude.

One of the little tricks in middle school is this: you can't tell them "I told you so!" It only breeds resentment and it would have guaranteed that Alexa continued to wear her slippers just to get to me. By fawning all over her to the point of embarrassment (now EVERYONE knows about it), it's guaranteed she won't wear them again, at least for a while. I'll be sure to post as soon as I see them.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A teacher with a tattoo?

So I'm thinking about getting a tattoo on the side of my calf. I absolutely love it: it's a total scuba diver's tattoo so it'll be a reminder of all the things I love about scuba diving. These are all animals that are threatened or near threatened (in the case of the manta ray) by human activity, so it reminds me to always be mindful of my choices and what effect they have on the world around me. Finally, it reminds me of Maui, my little piece of Heaven On Earth.

The thing is, I've always been told "Never get a tattoo: no one will hire a teacher with a tattoo". Okay, it was usually mom telling me this and she's understandably biased to keeping her daughter tattoo-free, but she's a teacher too. On the other hand, we have several teachers with tribal bands or anklet tattoos and stuff and someone felt it was okay to hire them. Even the former Catholic school teacher has an anklet tattoo with a cross (appropriate in ironic ways). So I figure: why can't I?

What do you think? Is it okay for a teacher to have a tattoo? Mine won't be visible unless I wear a pair of shorts, unlikely for me at school. But does a tattoo on a teacher diminish the respect you have for them? I'm dying to know: my appointment is next Saturday and I'm as nervous as a cat in a room-full of rocking chairs.


So I was walking around the class today, minding my own business, when one of my good kids suddenly explodes.  You know the type: always helpful, gets A's without trying most of the time, and usually is the calmest kid in the bunch.  So it's always pretty weird when that kind of kid goes bat-shit bonkers.  He just looked at the boy sitting next to him and told him in that freaky I'm-not-taking-any-more-shit-from-you-so-shut-the-fuck-up voice to ""

I went over to see what caused the entire commotion and got this baffling story.  Apparently, Paul was trying to focus his microscope while Ben, sitting next to him, started to violently and noisily choke himself around the neck with his own hands.  Paul tolerated this behavior as long as he could before exploding.  

Why the hell do I always get the weird ones?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ah, the joys of young love

Can I just say right now that I hate Axe body spray?

Puberty has officially hit the 6th graders and the smell of love is in the air.  By the smell of love, I mean the hideous reek of old body odor unsuccessfully covered by the hideous reek of body spray.  I swear, there are some places I can no longer go in my classroom because the stench of Axe hovers like a cloud of poison gas.

And then there are the girls.  Perfume marketed to girls are made to attract girls, not boys (colognes are the same for boys.  Please take note: when buying cologne, bring a girl along.  What smells good to you might be female repellent)  As such, they are the most godawful mix of sweet that it gives you cavities from 5 feet away.  

And none of it takes the place of a bar of soap or a stick of deodorant.  Around this time, we have to have the Conversation.  The Conversation goes something like this: "your armpits have turned on, so you can't go 4 days without showering anymore.  And please buy deodorant: you could knock a horse down."

And there's the flirting.  Girls and boys haven't figured out how to flirt properly yet, so you get some pretty amusing results.  I had a boy who went to sharpen his pencil and, on the way back, he suddenly stopped, stroked the hair of one of the girls in class, then returned to his seat.  She looked really confused, so I asked him later why he did it.  He looked at his hand, looked at me, and said, "......I don't know?"

Most boys don't know what to do, so they flirt with the girls the same way they'd complement a friend: by hitting them or stealing their stuff.  Binders and pencils go missing, then the girl has to wrestle the guy to get them back.  Oh, I'm sure he liked it, but she gets pissed off and smacks him one.  To a boy however, this is the highest compliment and he thinks she's flirting back.  So then we have to have the Conversation about "Most people don't hit each other because they like them.  Cut it out before she scratches your eyes out."

Girls flirt differently.  First, out comes the flirty clothes.  Tube tops and string tops, short shorts and tights, bra straps hanging out, tight T-shirts tied in the back with a hair band so every fold and breast is outlined.  Cleavage (is it fair that some of them have more cleavage than me?  God is cruel.)  popping out of too-small bras.  When they laugh, they lean forward, giving the boys a view straight down their top.  School dances are worse!  They'll gang up on a cute boy, one in the back, one in the front, and one on each arm.  Then they shimmy up and down , rubbing all over them.  He's got a goofy grin on his face, unaware of the splendid case of blue balls he's going to have in a few hours.  So the girls get a conversation too: "Save the skimpy clothes for when you're not in school and when it's not 35 degrees or we're going to make you wear the ugliest pair of pants and shirt you've ever seen.  I'm not joking.  We'll stick you in a painter's jumper for the rest of the day."  If we could possibly get away with writing "loaner" on the back with a sharpie, we'd do it.

Looks like nobody's going to get any work done until 9th grade.

Dogs and Cats: Elementary and Middle school teachers

(note: the analogy of dogs and cats comes from Michael Grinder, who presents wonderful seminars to both teachers and business leaders on how to communicate with others.

Elementary teachers and middle school teachers are as different as night and day, I've noticed.  Me, I teach middle school but I taught first and second graders for a year and let me tell you, the little ones are cute but I can't teach them.  The drool and snot and "help me in the bathroom" gave me the heebie jeebies.  Elementary teachers tell me all the time that they couldn't teach middle school because puberty turns kids into raging, disrespectful monsters.  Middle school teachers tend to be saltier too.  I was at a conference and the presenter asked the inevitable question "Why did you get into teaching".  I hate that question, mostly because I'm not entirely sure why I started teaching, I just did.  As they went around the room, the elementary teachers gave answers like "I love children" or "I couldn't have a child of my own so now I have 20".  When they asked me why I started teaching, I responded, "I became a teacher because I'm good at working with animals".  There was a gasp from the elementary crowd, but the middle school teachers in the room broke into raucous laughter.  See?  Like cats and dogs.  

Elementary teachers are total dogs (this doesn't mean that they're worse than middle school teachers, just different.  Dogs are loyal and friendly.  They're helpful, they love without prejudice, and they're just so darned sweet.  Middle school teachers, on the other hand, are total cats.  We're aloof and proud.  Sure, we have a sweet side too, usually when we want something.  Treat us poorly, and we're just as likely to scratch.  We can be loyal too, and good natured and friendly.  But we demand the same in return (in case you're curious, high school teachers are like the moon: distant and remote.  You see them all the time, but you don't know what they're really like and you're not really sure what they do.)

So, presented below is a comparison chart of elementary teachers and middle school teachers.  With a little humor thrown in for good measure.

Elementary school teachers:
- wear clothing that has "ABC 123" and has cute pictures of children and chalkboards on it"
- talk in a sing-song voice
- are so darned sweet to everyone it makes your teeth ache.
- like stickers
- decorate their houses with stuff that remind them of school
- love all their children, no matter who they are
- put comments on report cards like "Jimmy is a wonderful boy who loves to paint and draw"
- refer to their children as "adorable" or "cute" or "sweetie"
- miss their school during the summer
- will happily leave older students to middle school teachers
- buy books with bright pictures and cute stories so their children will like them
- don't mind wiping noses or butts
- will hold hands and give hugs all day
- give complements all the time because a student likes it

Middle school teachers:
- look forward to casual Friday with a passion because we can wear jeans and a T-shirt.
- talk in a gruff "Piss me off and you'll regret it" kind of voice.
- are so darned unpredictable to keep their students on their toes
- don't give a shit about stickers
- decorate their houses with things that help them forget about school
- say they love all their students but secretly hate some of them
- wish they could put comments like this on their report cards.
- refer to some of their kids as "fucko" or "The Jellyfish" or "passive aggressive"
- miss their summer during school.
- will happily leave younger kids to elementary teachers
- buy gross books about nose picking and freaky disfigurements so their kids will like them
- would rather juggle Ebola vials than have anything to do with your orifices
- don't give hugs, but will give you a high-five or a handshake
- tease their kids because their kids like it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cat Blogging

I haven't done a cat blog post in a while, mostly because my cats have been behaving like, well.....cats.  But Toki today did something so unusual, I felt I had to mention it: my cat was huffing my shoes. 

Yes, you heard that right the first time.  My cat Toki was getting high off my footwear.

It flooded here last week and I spent a day helping sandbag the neighborhood.  Unfortunately, that mean that I was standing ankle-deep in water and it leaked into my boots.  I tried to dry them out, but by Monday, my boots had developed a distinctive corn chip-y smell and I finally decided to do something about it today.

I found some anti-fungal cream and smeared it on my feet.  Then, I put my feet in my boots and walked around for a little while (to hopefully smear the cream inside my boot and kill the stuff growing inside it).  Then I took my boots off and left them on the floor.

I came back several minutes later to find Toki buried head-first in my boot.  Seriously, I couldn't even see her ears.  I pulled her out of the boot but she proceeded to nuzzle it to death like it had been dipped in catnip.  Finally, I put the boots up on a table so she couldn't get in them.  She spent the next 10 minutes glaring at me out of the corner of her right eye, then the corner of her left, like some demented parrot!

Since she can't get at my boots, she is currently rolling around on the rug that I stepped on after I put on the anti-fungal cream.  Cats are so weird.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Snow Days

Between the floods and the snow storms that have plagued Western Washington, it's been a very long time since I've seen the inside of my classroom.  I hope my potted plants are ok!

One year, the school district decided not to schedule a snow day on a day when they obviously should have.  I mean, there was like a half-foot of snow on the ground and the roads were hellish!  Most of the teachers made it in ok (we've been up here long enough to have cars that can handle the snow), but the real problem is the buses: they can't.

One poor bus tried to make it down the twisty mountain road to try to get to our school.  Unfortunately, the driver lost control and plowed into a guard rail.  The rule is: if a bus driver gets in an accident, they are required to park the bus immediately and radio for a replacement driver.  The original driver is taken in for mandatory drug testing.  It took a while (with the messy roads and all) for the replacement bus driver to show up, and in the meantime, the students are sitting in a cold school bus.  The second bus driver made it perhaps another quarter of a mile down the road before losing control and plowing into oncoming traffic (no one was hurt, thankfully).

The students finally showed up to school, an hour and a half after class started and mad as hell.  The next day, the district called a snow day and we all stayed home.

Experience is the best teacher, I've heard.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why don't adults eat frosting?

You remember when you were a kid and you always wanted the corner piece of the cake because it meant you got frosting on three sides of your cake instead of two? Or when you got the cupcakes with the huge cap of frosting on the top?  I keep watching teachers scraping frosting off of Costco sheet cake, and I wondered:  Why do adults hate frosting?  Don't get me wrong: if I get the piece with the rose on it, I scrape the thing off too.  I just wondered why our love of frosting stops when we become adults.  Maybe it's all the shortening?  That stuff coats your mouth like motor oil.

Teachers will eat anything!

No school today due to flooding (one of the few times a phone call at 5 in the morning is a welcomed event).  So let's talk about what teachers like to eat.

If teachers were wild animals, we'd be the scavengers of the animal kingdom.  There is almost nothing that we won't eat (except that child's dinosaur birthday cake that someone left in the staff room.  Admittedly, it looked like a green, scaly dog turd with a head, so that might have affected the results).  Here is a short list of the interesting things I've seen teachers eat that were left in a staff room.
  • burnt brownies
  • frozen shaker salads (have you seen what lettuce does when it freezes?  It gets slimy)
  • Necco wafers
  • week old vegetables with ranch dip that had been left out over the weekend (they justified that, since the fakey-ranch had no milk products in it , it should still be okay)
  • year-old M and M's.  The candy coating was coming off, it was so old.
  • Ex-lax brownies.  Okay, he didn't know the brownies had ex-lax in them, but he had it coming for stealing desserts out of other people's lunches.
This is why, if you want to give your child's teacher a gift and you're not sure what would work best, food is always a safe gift.  Whether it's lemon bars (mmmm....lemon bars....), Starbucks gift cards, See's candy or even a 12-pack of soda, believe me, it's appreciated!  Just please: no Ferrero Rocher.  The one thing I can't eat is hazelnut chocolates.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Name Game

One problem with being a teacher is there are so many names I can no longer name my children now.  All it takes is one knucklehead to ruin the name for you forever.  And unfortunately, because most humans cannot go through life without gaining a few biases, we sometimes groan if we see a child with this name joining our class.  So here is a brief list of names that most teachers have been burned by.

Mike- Michael's are usually fine, Mikey's can be questionable, but Mike is a kiss of death
Jesus- Why is it no Jesus can live up to his namesake?
Adam- Unlike Jesus, Adam's do live up to their namesake: often naive and dim humans easily led into trouble by girls.
Most boys' J names- Jeremy, Justin, Jake, Jordan: I'm not sure what it is about the J that makes a boy a pain, but most J's do that (Jose's are exempt.  I don't know why).

And for the girls?
Any flower name- please, no more Lily, Jasmine or Daisy, though I've had good luck with Rose and Rosa.
Angel- Like Jesus, Angel's don't live up to their namesakes (Angela's, however, are fine)
Names with overly inventive spellings- Mickaeyla, Jaeszerae, Naetalya- First, we get off on a bad foot because I have no idea how to pronounce your name on day 1.  It just goes downhill from there.

What names fill me with bliss?  I've liked every Jose I ever had.  Lena was my best student ever.  Natalie.  Chris.  Mitchell Oh, and a good student with a bad name can unpoison a bad name.  So if your child has one of the names mentioned above, all is not lost.  Just make sure they bring gifts (that's how Mitchell got on the good list.  Mmmmm.....lemon bars.......).