Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another day... another DR story. First hour, social studies kids had 3 tasks: #1, finish their end of section questions from social studies book they started yesterday #2, make flashcards for the vocabulary words in the chapter, and THEN, they could go online and complete the review games posted there.

Everyone was busy, working on their tasks, except DR, who had immediately turned on a computer, headed to play games. I went over and reminded him he needed to complete the bookwork and vocab cards first and walked away, helping other students with their work. Most were working productively, intent on finishing the less engaging tasks, trying to get to the more lucrative online games. Those not quite as productive, I prodded, reminded, helped, getting them moving on whichever task they needed to work on.

As I circled back by DR, there he is sitting, computer off, social studies book in front of him, closed, playing with a plastic tiny skateboard. I took the skateboard and reminded him to get going on his questions. I moved on, knowing he doesn't deal well with confrontation.

Eventually, he did open his book and try to get started, causing a huge ruckus in the process, having neither paper nor writing utensil. But fortunately for him and me both, other students intervened and provided those for him. (They are also available in the classroom but going and getting them quietly was apparently too complicated for DR!)

After completing a couple of questions, he decided to turn back on the computer, Again, I reminded him he needed to complete the other tasks FIRST. But that set him off and he simply quit working. Luckily, it was near the end of the hour by now, so I let it go.

Next hour, he comes back. I need a break from DR. Three hours in a row is TOO MUCH for both of us.

First, we correct yesterday's assignment, which he doesn't have so he spends the time writing with his red pen on the toy skateboard I had returned to him. We review the skills we are working on - multiplying fractions, especially the icky mixed numbers into improper fractions, and vice versa, and simplifying fractions. Lots of students are struggling in this group so instead of moving on, I give them more practice problems. As a group, they are relieved. They know they just don't GET IT yet.

DR has now spent the first 20 minutes or so of class playing with his toy, making noises and faces at others, throwing little pieces of paper, etc.... Will work time be better?

Of course not... 10 minutes into work time, everyone is busy, except DR and those he is sucking into his black hole of oblivion. I break... I write up the office referral and send him out. I write, "No point in being in class. Refuses to work. Disruptive. Interferring with learning of others." and with a sigh, tell him to leave. With great finesse, he manages to touch base with all his buds as he gathers his belongings and finally leaves.

A collective **sigh** can be felt in the room. Even his buds settle in and work, and work, and work. One of them came to me after class and thanked me, shyly, for giving them more of the same problems to practice, telling me he is trying but still "kinda lost." We talk... mostly me... I tell him what a great kid he is (and he really IS!) smart, good lucking, likeable... but how I really LIKE him more when DR is not in class. We talk about choices and not getting sucked in and he smiles, and says with a shy smile, "I know Mrs. G, I KNOW!" He walks out the door and turns back around, yelling, "THANKS MRS. G!" and I want to cry.

DR is suspended the rest of today and all day tomorrow, Halloween, which is a HUGE blessing. No DR all day tomorrow when all the kids will be WIRED, AND he will not be able to come to the Fun Night tomorrow night.

I feel guilty for wanting him gone, I feel guilty for enjoying 3rd hour without him. I touch base with the young lady who wrote the note yesterday to him. She is apologetic and tells me how she wants more from life than she knows she is going to get like this. She seems sincere, genuine and soooo terribly young. I want to hug her, but don't. She seems so cautious and wounded somehow, and I know her life has been tough. But I feel like she and I finally are connecting, at least a bit.

Last hour, I share my bag of "boo" goodies left on my door with my class. The empty bag is really cute and one girl asks for it. I tell her sure and hand it over. Later, after school, at the drugstore, she is there also and smiles a HUGE smile and says, "THANKS FOR THE BAG MRS. GEORGE!" making the day seem so perfect and worthwhile, even after the DR trauma.

He will be back Monday. Will anything change? No... I know that. And, I hate knowing that. I hate feeling like I have already given up on DR, and it is only October. But I have to focus on the ones who DO care, who want to learn, and find a way to keep him from pulling them into the dark hole with him.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It's great to be back at school this week, though physically, it has been tough. The kids missed me and I missed being there and with them.

However, the joy is overshadowed by DR. He is my thorn this year. I have tried and tried with this young man, but somehow, the shell cannot be broken through, at least not by me. He has had a tough life, granted. He & his sister live with his grandparents, who admittedly are not thrilled to be raising a second family. DR has been in trouble with the law on more than one occasion. The last time was for breaking & entering and larceny.

All that really doesn't matter to me, except he is making consistently bad choices in my classes. I have the young man 1st, 2nd and 3rd hours. He is often late to class, seldom has even a pencil, and comes in with a flair. He is much more interested in the females of the group than academics. In math class in particular, unless I am hawk-eyeing him constantly, he is throwing something, usually erasers broken into tiny pieces, passing notes, making crude comments, or otherwise causing grief to others around him.

Today was the clincher for me. He and a young lady were passing a note. I have taken a lot of notes away from students over the years, some innocent, some cute, some hilarious, some sexual in nature. However, this note was the crudest, most disgusting sexual reference I could even image. The young lady was suggesting doing something to the young man I would never even consider consider considering doing. I was appalled, embarassed, speechless. I am no prude, at all, and little embarasses me. I love a funny (Ok, even crude, and inappropriate) joke as much as the raunchy construction worker or sailor. But this note was over the top disgusting. And she is 12 years old.... and there was even a plan for where and when and how...

I referred them to the principal who gave them lunch detention, TOGETHER.

What now????

Thursday, October 23, 2008

One of my favorite pasttimes has been riding my 4 wheeler, ever since the first day I jumped on it, several years ago. I didn't want one. My husband did. When he bought his, he insisted on getting me one as well, despite my protests. It wasn't long before I was begging to trade in my cheap little 2 wheel drive for a faster, more powerful Bombardier 400 Outlander. It was a match made in heaven. I loved the speed, the freedom, the thrill. Every chance I got to ride, I did. Until 2 weeks ago.

My husband and I were up at our cabin, working all day burning the pile of leftover building materials, cleaning out the pole barn, just enjoying the fall day and being outside together. We had gotten both ATV's out of the pole barn to be able to get to other stuff, but were not planning on riding. He promised we would go for a long ride the next day and we had our trip all planned. One last ride before snow fall.

When time came to put the machines away, as usually happened, when I jumped on mine, it just didn't want to go inside, so I let it lead the way down the winding forest road our cabin sits on, no helmet, just enjoying the wind in my hair, taking in the golden leaves slowly floating down, the smell of autumn heavy in the air. I was only going about 20 mph, putting along, enjoying being there, alive, free. Suddenly this HUGE mid puddle appeared. Knowing my machine would spray mud all over me, I jerked the handlebars sharply to miss the puddle. Too late... somehow, as I was sucked into the muck, and came up the opposite side, I hit a small hump of dirt. The sensation of flying through the air will haunt my dreams for a lifetime. The ATV landed upside down with me nearby in the middle of the road.

It could have been worse. Several broken ribs, bruises from the handlebar from my chin across my face to my eye. Bruises and aches all over. But I am alive and thankful.

THe worst part has been being away from school for 2 weeks. I miss the kids. I know they are OK, but I also am egocentric enough to think no one can teach them 7th grade math as well as I can. When I am gone for a day or 2, I can leave busy work, something to occupy them, but no real NEW learning for them.

THis extended absence has made me have to turn over the teaching to the substitutes. As I sit here this morning grading papers, I am in tears at the low scores, the lack of understanding, the obvious misunderstandings being developed.

It is not the sub's fault. She is wonderful. She taught elementary school for years and is just terrific, but when is the last time she balanced an algebraic equation or thought about irrational numbers?

I can't wait until Monday when I can go back to school. I miss the kids, I miss teaching. I know I will still be in pain. I can't bend over, or sit in one position for long, or even breathe deeply, but I have to be there. I have to be with my kids!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

What an up and down week.... Wednesday I was so frustrated with a couple of clowns in my 2nd hour, I lost it and yelled at them all. Most of the group is wonderful, kids who struggle in math, but are trying desperately to "get it" and do well. However, there are also a few in there who are the hard core, trouble makers, including the ringleader who has already been suspended for 3 times this school year (and we are in the 4th week of school).

While the few are trying hard to do anything but math, it makes it tough to help those who do care. I see them dragging along more and more with them each day.

I have gotten 2 new students in there as well, both of whom come with baggage all their own. But Thursday, we had a little chat, I gave a new seating chart which spread out the worst of the crew as far from each other as possible, which seems to help some. Unfortunately, for the worst 2, just being in the same room together seems to be enough to cause grief.

Friday was test day in all my math classes. 2nd hour, general math, took a mid-chapter test. Some did extremely well, others, the point seemed to be get done as soon as possible. Next week is the end of the marking period and 2 students are failing the class. Another is hanging in with a D-. To be fair, one of the failing grades is a new student, but she has made no effort since coming here about a week ago, already being suspended for having stolen cigarettes at school. I probably will mark her card as too new to give a grade.

The one young man with an E is the one who is a chronic suspension, but honestly, even if he were here all the time, I am not sure his grade would dramatically change. He spends so much time bothering others, and so little actually working. I have tried to help him. I have called home. I have offered to help after or before school. I have tried to help him during seminar. But he just doesn't care.

My other 2 math classes are pre-algebra. I was supposed to have one higher group and then a kind of middle ground group, having divided the kids by placement test scores. However, it has been kind of a flipflop between groups. My 4th hour is amazing! One student in there has a C and all the rest are A's and B's with an overall class average of 89%. And.. they are trying desperately as a group to get that up to an A. They are excited about math, they work hard, they are hilarious, they are energetic and a strong reminder of why I love 7th graders.

My last hour pre-algebra group is an odd one. About half the class is the made of the "cool kids" , the popular girls who rule the roost. The remainder is made of an odd assortment of cool kid wanna be's, several who are just great kids, one girl who tries so hard to be a hard core troubled child sometimes but is truly just a sweetheart, a boy a recently referred for special ed testing after trying to work individually with him and discovering he struggles greatly getting the info from his brain to paper. There 5 C's in this group, with an overall average of 86%, which is great, but just seems ironic in light of the initial placement test scores. There are a lot of hard working kids in this group but there are also some who work hard because of pressure at home.

In the last group, there is one girl who is struggling big time. She got a 40% on her test the first time through, but stayed after to rework some problems. I had to leave so she didn't quite get done with the redo, and I didn't have time to sit and work with her but will try to make time Monday. I think she is in over her head even in pre-algebra but I wonder if moving her would be a good idea. The language arts teacher is seeing her struggle as well, and wants to call a parent meeting so I am thinking about my recommendations for her.

I can't believe how quickly the year is flying by. It seems like we just started last week.

MEAP's are coming up and that will blow 4 full days of instruction right out of the water. I can't believe the horrible rotating schedule we will torture kids with in the name of testing. The last day, I will have the same group 4 hours in a row, with no test to give. I would love to do something exciting and innovating, but in my mind, most of those things also involved group work, noisy things, and other classes WILL be testing so we must be quiet. What can I do with 26 7th graders for 4 hours that is engaging, fun, educational, AND quiet?

Teaching has its ups and downs and it seems for every Wednesday where things seemed so bad in my 2nd hour, there is a victory day like Friday where I was so pleased with their tests. I like to see their satisfaction when they hand me the test and you can SEE they KNOW they did well, and are happy with themselves.