Saturday, January 31, 2009

She Has A Way With Words

Yesterday I received a note from a parent. I don't mind parent notes. In fact, I prefer a note to what seems to the alternative form of communication for parents at my school- bombarding me with questions at 7:58 in the morning while I'm just trying to pick up my class and go upstairs.

Someone needs to just put it out there, so I will...back up off my nuts at 7:58. It's freaking early! And if I talked to every parent who had what they claimed to be a "quick question" before I went upstairs, our instructional day wouldn't get started until at least 9:00. That is why we have free periods and after school - to meet with parents. In fact, the Visionary pretty vehemently discourages from having any sort of conversation with parents as we pick up our classes. He wants our asses upstairs and learning, STAT. And I have to say, I agree with him.

Would anyone ever charge a doctor in his office as he stepped through the door, shoving some sort of rash in his face and demanding an answer? No. The answer is no. One would not do that to a doctor, because it is gross (keep your rashes to yourself) and it's just not how things get done. I would like to think that the same rules apply here, but evidently they do not.

Anyway, I got a note from a parent who wants me to call them. No problem, right? Um, WRONG. First of all, I have NEVER met this parent. They have NEVER responded to any of my notes or phone calls. They did NOT come to open school night or parent teacher conferences. I'm not even sure they know my name. Here was my biggest clue that my identity remains a mystery to them. The note read (and I quote):

Hey! Give me a call!

That's it. No signature. No salutation. No reason. No name. Just a "Hey!" and a phone number. (In my head it sounds more like, "Haaaaaaay! Give me a call!" but whatever.) To me, it feels more like an invitation to meet up for a cocktail rather than a request for a meeting to actually discuss her son, but I don't have many context clues to work with here.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Apples Don't Fall Far From the Educational Example

We had a concert today. It doesn't matter what we were listening to, because really, we weren't listening. Correction. I was listening. My class was listening. My Super Colleagues' classes were listening. But the other classes? Yea, they weren't listening at all.

Concerts have the potential to drive me batshit crazy. I sit there and fume. And really, why do I care so much? Maybe something is wrong with ME...

During the concert, Trumpet Dude is up at the microphone talking. He's asking for quiet, but because he's not a teacher, he doesn't actually wait for quiet before he proceeds to talk. But we, the teachers, are there, and should therefore be in control of our classes. Through a combination of frantic handwaving, loaded glances and deathly whispers, my Super Colleagues and I effectively coerce our friends to pay attention. Unfortunately, there are 10 OTHER classrooms with less diligent teachers present in the auditorium.

As Trumpet Dude continues to chat over the dull roar of the crowd, I look around for the source. I notice that some teachers are fully turned around and engrossed in their own conversations. Some teachers are texting. And some teachers aren't even sitting in the vicinity of their little friends. So OF COURSE the kids are talking.

Um, WTF people?

And then I sit there, mortified that Trumpet Dude is thinking that our school is just "another one of THOSE schools" and that we are a bunch of "THOSE teachers". When really, what do I give a shit what this guy and his trumpet think? Except I do. Because he is going to walk away with a certain feeling about teachers and what our work is like based on the actions of these totally irresponsible d-bags. And that drives me insane.

But like I said, maybe it's just me.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Hug Is Worth A Thousand Words

I don't handle everything beautifully. (Gasp! She admitted a flaw!) I mean, sometimes a fart flies on the carpet and I just can't deal with it in an adult fashion. Sometimes, farts are just funny. However, it's not always just a fart I have to handle as an adult. Sometimes, I have to handle much bigger issues and occasionally (notice I said OCCASIONALLY) I falter.

For example, last year, I couldn't deal with the Vagina Monologues or the Foke You Incident of 2007. I'm not alone though. We all have our troubles with "touchy subjects" (Right, Weave?)

But this time, all seemed to go well...

Right before lunch, one of my little friends handed me a note she had found crumpled up on the floor. I carefully unfolded the contraband and discovered a disturbingly anatomically correct rendering of a penis, along with the words "Watch Out! This is for you!"

Oh dear.

Unfortunately for the little culprit, the handwriting was extremely distinct. I know who it was right away. The only problem was, this is the last friend I expected this sort of Dirty Talk from. I mean, all little boys sketch penises from time to time, I guess. I don't have one myself, so I don't know what the obsession is, but that's a conversation for another day. But this was a little too graphic, a little too far for my taste.

Some interesting facts - my friend, we'll call him The Artist, didn't give this note to anyone in a threatening manner. It had simply fallen out of his desk (Which is a freaking mess... I mean how many times do I have to say the words "an organized desk equals an organized mind"? ) onto the floor. The little girl who picked it up very clearly told me that The Victim didn't give it to her, she picked it up off the floor, in a bold attempt to help The Victim get organized, and discovered it's contents on her way to the recycling basket.

Ok. Deep breath. How to deal? Well, I think this would be a lot worse if The Artist had forced his graphic renderings on another children in a threatening fashion. Really, I have no way of knowing if those were his intentions. Plus, The Artist has no prior record for Gross Incidents involving the ever popular Body Parts (also known as penises, va-jay-jays, boobs and butts). I don't' want to just let this go, but I don't want to blow it out of proportion. In the past, I have made this mistake and somehow it just makes the misbehavior that much more tempting.

After lunch, I send my friends to their seats to do ten minutes of quiet reading while I talk to The Artist in the hallway. Now, The Artist and I have a very good relationship...I also have a good relationship with his mom, who does not play around. She is the ace in my pocket.

Me: Friend, check out what I found on the floor today.
The Artist: (turning several shades of horrified) Oh.
Me: Is this yours?
The Artist: (nodding)
Me: (I love your honesty, sweetheart! I mean, who doesn't love a kid who just owns up?!?) Ok. So let's talk about this...

I then launch into a fairly decent and appropriate speech about private parts, privacy and sexual harassment - all in child friendly language of course. We talked about how this would have been a major deal if he had forced this note on another child, how these images are private, how the wrong assumptions could easily have been made...blah blah blah.

Important note, during this speech (which never descended into yelling but rather, maintained a very honest tone) The Artist had tears rolling down his cheeks.

Bingo! He gets it!

I told The Artist that I had to decide whether or not to tell The Weave and whether or not to call his mom. It was a hard decision. But I told him that I decided to do neither. That this time, this incident would remain between the two of us. However, I made it clear that I will be watching and listening and the next time, which there shouldn't' be a next time, I will have no choice. Everyone makes mistakes, but smart people fix their mistakes.

"All right. Do we have a deal? Do you understand?"
The Artist nods vigorously, wiping away tears.
"Now go to the bathroom, wash your face and come back to class."

At the end of the day, The Artist comes up to me privately, gives me a giant hug and says,

"Thank you for trusting me, Mrs. Mimi. I really won't do it again."

Now it's my turn for a few tears...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Put A Fork In Me...

I think you know how the rest of that little saying goes.

I'm so disappointed in myself. Here it is 22 days into 2009 and I was doing such a good job of staying positive. I'm loving my class more and even getting some better results out of Big Boy. Everything was coming up roses with my new Positive Attitude for 2009, until today. Today, friends, I was reminded of my relative place in the food chain. It's on the bottom in case you were wondering. The very bottom. Sometimes, I think even the mice are tolerated more than the teachers are...at least they are left alone.

Where to begin? Well, as you could have guessed, the source of my angst is a meeting with the Bacon Hunter. If I could find a room full of bacon, stuff her in it and lock the door, it would be a happy day. I fantasize about the trip to Costco, the frying, the distinct smell of bacon luring her closer and closer until, WHAM, I lock the door and live happily ever after. I think she might even be happier in that room of bacon too, because then she wouldn't have to pretend to work anymore. Evidently pretending to work is harder than actually working, because she is barely able to keep her eyes open during our forced meetings and never, ever brings anything to the table. Except a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, of course.

My ranting aside, let me tell you my little tale of testing. Testing, testing and more testing. As I have said before, we are about one test shy of requiring full body scans. Today in our math meeting we were talking about (can you guess?) testing. Since I have been working in my school, we have been lucky enough to have tons of professional development in math. As a result, we are all teaching in significantly smarter ways than we were years ago. While we do have a math program in place, we use it as a guide (rather than a bible) and allow room to craft lessons that better suit the needs and realities of our students. It's all really very exciting when you are a huge nerd such as myself.

Unfortunately, I don't think the Bacon Hunter understands a word of it. Or at least she has done nothing in the last few years to demonstrate any enthusiasm or understanding. Whatever, she sucks.

Since we do use a math program, there are also pre-made tests for us to give to our students. They are OK. However, since we have been rocking math lately, we decided it might be better to tailor the tests to match the more authentic work we have been doing as well as specifically address our particular math standards. Sounds fabulous, right? A bunch of teachers who are willing to put in extra work and create new assessments rather than make a trip to the photocopier...utopia! But no, in OUR world, we have to "know our place" and "stick to the chain of command." All this means that the Bacon Hunter needs to present this to the administration and ask for permission.

Sweet.

The answer was no. Just no. Like we're a bunch of five year olds begging to go to the bathroom or something.

Ok, it wasn't TOTALLY no. The answer was, keep giving the old test, but IN ADDITION to that and EVERYTHING ELSE you are ALREADY DOING, you can add your test too. No, in fact we DEMAND that you add your test too.

It went a little something like this:

Bacon Hunter: (slumped over table) He said no.
Me: Just no? Why? Did he say why?
Bacon Hunter: (eyes barely open) No, just that he wants you to do both now. You can't stop doing one.
Me: But why would we do twice as much work and waste that much instructional time on another test?
Bacon Hunter: (nostrils flared, desperately seeking the scent of bacon that remained on her grease stained notebook) The answer was no. Oh, and I need you to re-do this other test that I made?
Me: Wait, not only do we need to give BOTH tests, but now you want US to do YOUR job too?
Bacon Hunter: (grunting)
Me: Enough said.

So while the Bacon Hunter gets to continue her never-ending search for more bacon (rather than produce actual results for children), we will be responsible for creating and administering yet another test. 'Cuz more tests are better, right?

On the way out of the building today (I ran screaming from it at a very early hour as a direct result of this meeting and my subsequent disgust with the system), I almost asked The Visionary to check the bottom of his shoe....just in case some of me was still stuck to it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Version of a Tightrope

For this post, please picture me in a tutu with those fabulous lace up ballet shoes. I would never actually buy them, but sometimes, I think they sound amazing. We are not going to explore that one any further.

So my metaphorical tightrope is my relationship with Big Boy. I wrote an oh-so-controversial post about him awhile back and thought maybe just mentioning him (and that apparently scandalous post) would spice things up a bit.

Feeling spicy yet?

Well I'm feeling bad about myself. Definitely not spicy. And I rarely feel that bad about myself- in fact, I tend to air on the side of arrogant. (No! Say it ain't so!) (Hey, I may be arrogant, but at least I'm honest.) I just can't jive with Big Boy. At all.

Now typically, my fabulously arrogant self LOVES the naughty boys. They're just so...naughty. Like Curly - who doesn't love tons of curls and a saucy tude? And this year I have Mr. Suave (he has his hair gelled back, wears a chain and cologne...wait, did you hear me? I said he wears COLOGNE! I mean, does it get any cuter?) who has a very naughty side but also busts his little behind to do his best in class. Heart him.

But this naughty boy...dude. I just don't have any words. Ok, that is untrue. I have many words, but they are not very nice and therefore, must stay in my head.

Yes, naughty boys are frustrating, but I can always find something to love about them. Something to hold on to (like a freaking life raft) when all I want to do is scream. But with Big Boy, I am at a loss. A total lost. I am adrift with no life raft. I don't even have a vest or one of those little whistle thingys.

I have talked to him, I have put him on behavior charts, I have met with his parents, met with previous teachers, yelled, rationalized, sweet-talked, given him a job, excluded him from fun activities, tried to rely on his interests, praised him....my inventory of Teacher Tricks is exhausted. I am at my wits end.

I find this particularly disappointing/disheartening because I recently made a Resolution (which I usually stay far away from). I resolved to Be More Positive. For reals. Me. Positive. It's possible (jerks). I am prone to getting beat down by my own color-coded To Do Lists and Day-To-Day drama when in actuality, I just have too many good things going on and nothing to really be upset about. I know, it's a very mature stance. I was feeling extremely self-actualized until I came to work today.

Big Boy did not have his homework. (He didn't have it yesterday either.) He didn't have the note I sent home to his mother. He didn't have his independent reading books. He didn't do any writing during the 45 minutes he had to write. He told me that math was too hard for him. (Mind you, boyfriend is quite smart and was complaining about TRACING pattern blocks..dude, it's tracing...you haven't even gotten to the hard part yet!) And if we think about what he DID do today....he did push children on the stairs. He did call another child in my class "fatty." He did disrespect another teacher. He did disrupt everyone else's learning with inappropriate laughter. He did whine when I spoke to him about his behavior. He did ask for Chance #400. He did act like he was surprised when I asked him to leave the room to take a breather.

Sigh.

I'm not being very Positive in 2009, am I?

P.S. "Be More Positive" is not an original resolution for me...I've tried to climb that mountain before.

Sigh again.

Who's Peeking?