Tuesday, March 25, 2008

You Are What You Eat...

...Unless Your Parents Are Idiots And Send You To School With the Most Disgusting and Unhealthy Lunch EVER!

Phew! That title was a bit long. But oh so accurate.

We went on a trip today. I love trips!!

Yes, I know they are physically and mentally exhausting. Yes, I know that the screaming on the bus reaches near deafening levels. Yes, I know that every one gets so excited that they can barely control themselves. And yes, I know there is never a man around yet there are an entire group of boys who need to pee which means standing outside the bathroom and yelling empty threats until they come out. It means complaining. And long lines. And other school groups who seem to be led by rude and obnoxious adults who encourage their class to push. Yes, yes, yes, I KNOW all that...

Wait a minute...I lost my train of thought. Let's see. I like field trips...because....um, well...now that I think about it...hmmm.

I love field trips because it always reminds me of just how young and sweet my friends are. I love bringing them places and seeing them excited about learning.

See? And you thought I couldn't come up with anything good.

We were having a fabulous time. Fabulous! And then it was time for lunch. We sit down and open up our lunches. This is always very exciting for the kids. Almost all of them get free-and-reduced school lunch (read "dogfood and prison grade meat") and so the experience of eating a lunch that their parents lovingly put together/bought for them is a big freakin' deal. I know. I don't really get it either.

Anyway, my friends are starting to eat and I'm frantically running around twisting caps, opening bags and inserting straws (those Capri suns are no joke!). I then start to monitor what everyone has, preparing to enforce my Sandwich First law. I get to one of my friends and notice that she is already eating her chips.

"Honey, you need to eat your sandwich first."

"I don't have one."

"Well, what do you have?"

She shows me a bag of Doritos, a bag of Cheesy Poofs and a big bottle of Blue Sugary Liquid masquerading as "juice."

WTF??

She tells me that is all her mother bought her. Her mom was in a hurry.

Hold on. I've been in a hurry too and grabbed a yogurt. Or a PB and J. My mom worked full time and raised me on her own, yet somehow I always managed to have a lunch that didn't come exclusively from the Fats and Oils sections of the food pyramid.

And it's not a money thing because those bags of chips are like $1.99 each...and if you have two bags, that's about $4. At the corner store closest to my school you can get a turkey sandwich and a bottle of water for $4.50. I know because that is what I brought on the trip today.

I promptly gave my little friend half.

Friday, March 21, 2008

If There's Tension And You Know It, Clap Your Hands...

CLAP! CLAP!

Maybe it's just that time of year, but doesn't seem like every year that once spring comes, patience and positive attitudes go? Everyone is SO ANNOYED with everyone else (and no, I'm not talking about the kids, I'm talking about the numerous adults that I want to snap in half).

Example #1:

The vice principal sends a snippy-pants email to everyone demanding that we update our substitute packets in the office stating that it is unfair to "dump" children on our colleagues without work to do when we are absent.

Um, pardon me, but isn't the administration that is doing the actual "dumping" without notice rather than getting a sub or (gasp) putting together a schedule in which the out of the classroom teachers cover the absent teacher during their MULTIPLE free periods a day?

And, just another small point, I do seem to remember having students "dumped" on me without a sub packet on many occasions despite my personal knowledge that said teacher did leave a packet of work behind. And when I asked the administration for a copy of that packet, I was told (and I quote), "I am not dealing with that. It's your problem."

Of course it is.

Example #2:

I am sitting in a committee meeting. We meet every month. We are supposed to do something. My colleague, who was absent for four months on maternity leave, was shocked to see that in four months time, we had accomplished absolutely nothing. That in fact, we were having the same argument we were having four months ago.

Perhaps that is because our meetings are run by an outsider from a near by college. A "facilitator" who is charged with "keeping us on track" because clearly as adults in possession of multiple advanced degrees, we can not be expected to facilitate ourselves.

Way to go sister friend, way to facilitate that progress.

Example #3:

I am mid-brilliant mini lesson. Seriously, I should have been taping this...kids are engaged, turning and talking with their partners and my teaching point is oh-so-relevant. (Side note, I have never been that afraid of tooting my own horn).

I am about to utter the words that will pull all of their thinking together, magically connecting it to their work when....

RRRRIIINNNNGGGGGG!!!!!!!!

WTF?

RRRRIIIIINNNNGGGGGG!!!

Is that the phone?

RRRRRIIINNNNGGGGG!!!!

Oh, someone had better be on fire for this to be a worthwhile interruption....

"Hello?"

"This the nurse." (I'm not kidding...her statement was totally lacking a verb).

"Yes?"

"I need a phone number."

"They are in the office filed under my class number."

"I don't want to get up and walk there."

(Are you kidding me?)

"Well, I don't to stop doing my job just so I can start doing yours. Check the office."

CLICK.

"I'm so sorry friends, as I was saying...today, we are , um... (damn! I have lost my train of thought! What was I teaching?? Oh yeah)....so today, when you go back to your seats, I want you to..."

RRRRIIINNNGGGGG!

(I am so going to kill this woman).

RRRRRIIIIINNNNNGGGG!!!

"Aren't you going to answer that Mrs. Mimi?"

(Oh, I'll answer it sweetheart.)

(Through gritted teeth) "Hello?"

"Ya, this is Mrs. Copylady. Your copies done."

"Ok....I'll pick them up when I drop the kids off for lunch. Thank you"

"No. You need to pick them up now."

"But I'm in the middle of a lesson."

"Now."

(Is she freaking serious??!?? )

"I can't, I have kids."

"Send one of them."

"You want me to send a child to pick up the copies? I put in copies for the whole grade for an entire unit."

"Yea, it's like 500 copies."

"And you want me to send a small child, who is supposed to be reading, to pick them up. And why is this so urgent?"

"Because they're done."

(I suppose you'd like me to send down a cookie or small trophy with the child as well?)


My list could go on and on for days, because sadly, we all want to kill each other right now. Thank goodness for holiday weekends.

CLAP! CLAP!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

If You Can't Handle The Heat....

Well, well, well. Juicy, juicy, juicy.

Every week, I am required to meet with the Bacon Hunter so that I can "collaborate with her and improve upon my practice" (read "explain to her the curriculum because, ironically, she's never taught it herself").

Needless to say, it is not the highlight of my week. Although I have to admit that this year has been better (in other words, she keeps her mouth shut more this year).

The hour of doom was almost upon me when I received the most mysterious phone call in my classroom (remind me to tell you sometime about the "joys" of having a phone in the classroom).

Bacon Hunter: "Mmmmmm, hi. I need to cancel our meeting today."

Me: "Oh (YAYAYAYAYYYYYYY!!!!!), ah-hem, why?"

BH: "I have a lot of work to do. You may not have noticed, but we gave the math test last week."

Me: "Oh, because you were assessing, you can't meet with us?"

BH: "I'm swamped."

Me: "Oh, so you're swamped with outside assessments? In addition to what you're already expected to do? That must be hard." (insert sarcastic tone here)

BH: "Mmmmm-hmmmmm"

Me:"Should I let everyone else know that since you are assessing, that you can't meet and then maybe they can catch up with all THEIR additional work, since, you know, WE usually don't get to cancel meetings because of our other responsibilities."

BH: "Look, I have a lot on my plate"

Me: "Yea, I know. I can't imagine having to work from 8 to 3 without a break and then to take work home. Oh, wait a minute, yes I can."

BH: "I have to go."

Me: "Hey, did that mom ever catch up with you about the tests?"

CLICK.

Hmmmmm. Verrrrry interesting.

I have some theories about her absence from our meeting (and my sudden freedom to catch up on MOUNDS of papers).

Theory #1 - She smelled bacon cooking and had to go for it.

Theory #2 - The administration of the math tests required her to put in more than two hours of consecutive work and rudely disrupted her usual schedule of coffee, bacon, coffee, water break, take up space in meeting, lunch, waste people's time, online shop, pack up and go home. I mean, c'mon, can our principal really expect her to work from 8 to 3 and then possibly take stuff home?? Wait a minute....

Theory #3- My parent DID meet up with her and she is ashamed of herself.

You pick.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

I Pity the Fool

Ah, and the Bacon Hunter strikes again. This last year has been so much better and so different from my previous experiences with her as a "staff developer" (read "raging waste of space"). Perhaps all the negative commentary and ground standing got through and she decided to slow her role this year. Whatever. I don't care. She has been far less irritating.

And then.... (C'mon, you knew that was coming didn't you? Like I would post a glowing review of her or something. Please!)

In the spirit of Extreme Standardized Testing, we have decided to test the living daylights out of small children who haven't even reached an official testing grade yet. I know, it's awesome (insert sarcastic tone here, and maybe a small tear running down my cheek). And the Bacon Hunter developed a whole NEW test that not only duplicates some of the findings of old tests and impacts my instruction in no way at all, she has also found a way to make the test a degrading experience for teachers too. Jackpot, right?

Let me explain. She decided that we needed ANOTHER math test which was catered only to the state standards for our grade (keep in mind that we are already assessing children on these standards about four hundred other ways that are more authentic and telling than a pen to paper test). We are mandated (read bitch-slapped if we don't comply) to give this assessment about once a month. So not only is it unnecessary, it's basically omni-present. As icing on the cake, she also demands (read wields her non-existent authority) that we turn the completed test in to her so SHE can grade them.

Because I can't draw the hands on a clock correctly.

Or add double digit numbers.

Or measure a straight line to the nearest inch.

I mean, you all know that teachers are only as smart as the grade they teach and since I teach a lower grade....

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!

Are you kidding me? I can't correct my own students WORK? So not only do you waste my/our time by insisting that we engage in this ridiculousness, you also insult my intelligence and maintain your position as a raging jerk off.

Sah-weet.

Fast foward to parent/teacher conferences. The Bacon Hunter has corrected and photo-copied the most recent Assessment Of Nothing that she has created and has once again demanded (read snarled) that it be distributed to parents during conferences.

"And I will be checking up on you."

Because again, I am no smarter than or more responsible than the children I teach.

In the spirit of Being Positive in 2008, I have decided not to fight this battle. ( OK, in all honesty, I fought this battle tooth and nail last year and lost. Stupid teacher, I should remember my place. At the bottom. )

I am in the middle of a conference with the second parent of the night when I dutifully hand out the test. A particularly motivated and concerned parent (Yes, friends, they are out there and I heart them) took the time to look through the test.

Something which I had failed to do because I was also dispensing reams of my own much more useful student work to parents. Oops.

Her: "Mrs. Mimi, why was this marked wrong?"
Me, looking at the paper and seeing that the child has written 6 x 3 = 18 in response to a number story. Which is correct.
Me: "Uuuhhhhh...I'm not sure."
Her: "Didn't you correct this test?"
Me: (shit) "No."
Her: "Who did?"
Me: "Our math specialist."
Her: "And isn't this also correct?"
Me, looking at the paper once again, seeing 22 + 15 = 37, which is, yet again, correct.
Me: " Um, yes it is."
Her: "Actually it looks like my son should have gotten several of these marked correct."
Me: "Yes, it does."
Her: "What does your math specialist do with the results of this test?"
Me: "She graphs the information for the entire grade and then it is placed in the kids' permanent records."
Her: "And it's incorrect?"
Me: "Um, yes. Again, I'm very sorry. Please know that I plan instruction and grade your child based on assessments I create, assign and grade myself, more than I look at this kind of data. While it is required, I rely more on the notes I take as children are actually engaged in math work."
Her: "I am sure that you do. I have a lot of confidence in your work. My son has been making a lot of progress this year. But don't you think I should bring these errors on the part of your math specialist to the attention of the principal? I mean, this is more than just one mistake. "
Me: "Yes, yes I do think he would be interested. Let me walk you down to his office."

Is it wrong that I smiled from ear to ear the entire walk down the stairs?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Love Smart People

This week is Parent-Teacher Conferences week. This week brings with it many small joys such as The Joy Of Plastering A Smile On My Face For Three Hours As I Tell You That Your Child Is Consistently Showing Little To No Effort, or The Joy of Watching You Refuse to Discipline Your Child in Productive Ways and finally, The Joy of Acting Like It Doesn't Piss Me Off When You Answer Your Cell Phone In the Middle Of Our Conference While Other Parents Wait in the Hall.

So much joy...I almost don't know how to contain myself. Yet somehow I manage.

And then, the most unexpected and lovely Joy walked into my classroom and it's official. I have a Teacher Crush.

Just to clarify - a Teacher Crush is not like a I Think You're Hot Crush...no, no, no. It's much more nerdy than that. (Besides, I have a fabulously gorgeous husband who is the love of my life...I need not look any further in that department). It's more like a crush on someone who is just so damn brilliant and good at their job. This inspirational teacher who just has this way of looking at things that you want to emulate. This person doesn't even really need to be a man, just someone fabulous.

Teaching in an elementary school can just be sad sometimes. It's really just a building brimming with women. Women and thanklessness.

And it's like a ray of sunshine when in walks your Crush, full of praise, and great constructive ideas.

My needy little dialogue went something like this:

Me: "Hi, how are you?? Thanks for coming in today."
Him: "I loved your mini-lesson. It was short and to the point and really got them started."
Me: (big, goofy smile)
Him: "And the children seem really engaged."
Me: (bigger, goofier smile)
Him: "I really like how independent the children seem in the room. It's a great space."

And like my big fat cat who just stares up at me, allowing me to pet her, I stared at my Teacher Crush with wide eyes soaking in all the praise.

How sad am I? Think we need a little more encouragement? Or positive reinforcement? Kids aren't the only ones who need a sticker every once in awhile.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

If You're Gonna Spew, Spew Into This...

Once we put vacation behind us, I also thought that we could put flu season behind us as well. I know, you're probably at home shaking your head at me and thinking, "you silly girl...when are you going to realize that you have chosen to work in an incubus of germ and snot?"

I guess sometimes I like to think that after years of hard work, and multiple advanced degrees that maybe, just maybe, my work place is somewhere that welcomes dry clean only pants and doesn't insist on giving me hideous ailments such as ringworm (oh yes...I said ringworm), the flu and snot-caked pants. But alas, pee, runny noses and wadded up tissues are my life.

Now, let's not get it twisted. While I have resigned myself to dealing with SOME aforementioned bodily fluids, there are still some that I prefer to keep out of the classroom. Such as puke, barf, boot...whatever you like to call it. And for some reason, the kids puke ALL THE TIME. I do not remember so much puke in my elementary school years. I chalk it up to the declining quality of cafeteria food combined with a steady diet of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for breakfast.

Usually there is a warning when someone is about to blow chunks. They will raise their hand with their other hand clutched across their mouth. Or start to dry heave. Or just run out of the classroom and I assume it had to be pretty urgent.

Friday a little girl calmly raised her hand (which shows she was listening when we talked about how screaming doesn't get things done any faster...) and said, "Mrs. Mimi, I need to hurl."

To which I replied, "Do you think you can make it?"

She nods her head yes, and with my blessing is soon off to boot all over the bathroom. When she returns, she looks pretty foul. I decide that she doesn't look ready to puke-and-rally (a term I'm sure many of you are familiar with from the college years..) and send her to the nurse with a friend. I scribble out a note on a nearby post it and send the girls on their way.

Several minutes later the girls return and Pukey Patty looks a bit worse for wear.

"Mrs. Mimi, we went to the nurse's office but she said we needed to come back to class to get an Official Pass."

"What?! An Offical Pass??!?" (insert an incredulous tone dripping with moderate sarcasm here)

"Yes. She said you should know better than to send her a note on regular paper."

"Let me get this straight. You handed her my note about Patty and she sent you back to class??"

"Yes."

"Is Pukey Patty ok?? She doesn't look so good.."

"She threw up again. But the nurse told us to leave, so I took her to the bathroom to do it."

"Ah, I see."

I sent the two girls back down to the nurse's office after digging up an Official Pass.

Ten minutes later, the girls returned once again.

"What's the problem now??"

"The nurse says Patty isn't really sick enough. She wrote you a note."

"Let me see it."

I DO NOT HAVE THE FACILITIES TO HANDLE CHILDREN THAT ARE NOT REALLY SICK. PLEASE HANDLE YOUR STUDENTS YOURSELF.

Oh no she didn't.

About thirty seconds after I finished reading the nurse's absolutely ridiculous note, Patty barfed again. A lot. But my poor little friend managed to make it to the trash can. She's such a good girl.

Then, despite some better judgement, I sent Pukey Patty and her friend back down to the nurse for a third time. This time they carried the trash can full of boot with them. They also carried a note:

IS SHE SICK ENOUGH NOW?

And wouldn't you know it...but my little helper came back to class alone and poor Pukey Patty mercifully got to go home.

Who's Peeking?