February 25, 2007

Did You Hear About Poor, Sweet Mac?

My laptop died last weekend. I took it rather well considering that I can't even begin to tell you the things I didn't have backed up to my flash drive. Three years. We've been tight. I just feel so empty and lost.

It's actually a school-issued laptop, so I took it in to my techie person. She could not make any promises to me about what could be saved, nor could she give me another one. Would you believe I did not even cry?

I was strong.

I am in no way without means to connect. My sweetie's a computer nerd. We're okay. But I miss my sleek little silver Mac. I hope he comes back to me soon. If he doesn't, it's okay. Just introduce me to a brother or cousin. I'm easy that way.

Life just isn't the same without portable connectivity.

February 24, 2007

Was It Really only a 4-Day Week?

It was a very long week, wasn't it? Here are some things I wanted to say but didn't get around to:

Searching the Help Wanted Ads

Thursday afternoon I hopped online but couldn't think of anything to say. Or anything I wanted to say without being ugly. Instead, I searched for other jobs I could do besides teaching. There weren't any listing needing "washed-up school teachers" in any of the places I looked. Let me know if you see anything out there. I'm not really looking to move, but if I were, this would be the time before we do anything crazy like buy a house.

So what's my deal? I'm just in over my head right now. I went to my weekly meeting with the other 8th grade teachers and came back depressed because it just feels like I am not doing half of what I should be in terms of keeping track of my students. Lots of paperwork. Not that I don't believe in the philosophy. I just believe that I hate having a life-consuming job sometimes. Most of the time.

Traffic Sucks

On Wednesday night, I drove 13 miles across town for a meeting. It took me an hour to get there. I was lamenting what 13 miles means in the city compared to the country, and in Nevada that actually means, the barren desert. When I lived in the barren desert, I used to have a friend who lived 15 miles from me. It would take me 10-15 minutes to get to his house. In those days that I lived in rural Nevada, I drove a lot because one had to get out of town for supplies and fun. Sure it took hours to get somewhere, but that somewhere would be 150 miles away.

Living in the F Lane

Despite warnings that progress reports were coming out this week, about 40 of my students ended up with F's in my class. Sure, I teach the brightest and the laziest. It's about driving my team nuts this year. (I hear next year's group is worse, but in two years it will be good again.) Spring hasn't even sprung yet and students are getting crazy. The parents we've met with are confused in the changes they are seeing in their students. We just nod our head, "Yep. Lots of drama. Lots of hormones."

The good news is that about half of those students have crawled their way up to a passing grade. (Not before those F's had been reported, though.) I gave personal invitations to the rest of them to work on resurrecting their grades over the weekend lest I should have to tattle on them to their parents. Oh the fear in their eyes! (Those progress reports are sent via the student, so you know they'll never make it home.) I do not believe I should have to give personal invitations to students to turn in their work. Irritates me. Furthermore, those missing assignments were done mostly in class, so those students have the assignments somewhere. The assignments are likely finished or about 15 minutes away from being finished. Crazy.

For next year, we are working on a no-late work policy in our program. I hope so. All of us teachers are for it; we just want to know it will be supported by administration.

He's Finally 6--Now 7--Now 8

It's been a long birthday week for my stepson. He had a party with some friends on Sunday, but his birthday wasn't until later the week. Basically his was a birthday brat for days. He's at his grandparent's house this weekend, having more birthday. I'm so glad it's finally over. I was rather amused by the fact that he thought each time he celebrated his birthday this week that he actually gained a year. Only a child would actually want that. Adults prefer to subtract years everytime we celebrate.

A Rant About My Cluttered Life

We are working on spring cleaning this week because we have a lot of company coming in the next few weeks. One weekend we will be packed in like sardines here, but it's better than $179 a night for a room, I say. Anyway, I'm about the lose my mind. What is it with the kids and their stuff? They bring home 5-6 pieces of paper a night, half of which I have to sneak into the trash because it's just sooooooooooo important--important enough to keep, but not for them to find a place. And what about the little bits of this and that? Little toys, erasers, buggy things, bouncy balls, barrettes. Bleah. Where do those things come from? I don't know. I can tell you where they go.

And my sweetie is all about little pieces of paper everywhere that have numbers on them. Phone numbers of important people? Computer configuration numbers? When I ask him if they are important, he gives them a glance and throws them away. Could he possibly do that when he gets home from work at night instead of letting them pile up for a while until I threaten to light a match?

Honestly, they all have to wait for me to be a b*tch about things. It's the wife/mom thing to do, I suppose.

Is HappyChyck perfect? No. She has more pens than Office Max scattered everywhere. And paperclips. And tubes of lip balm. None of those things she can find when she really wants them.

February 18, 2007

I Think?

I do my best thinking while I'm driving 80 mph down deserted roads with some hard rock blaring in my ear. Yea, I was doing some hard thinking just before I got a speeding ticket last month. Anway, Mrs. T, bless her heart, has given me the Thinking Blogger Award. This is more a complaining and wondering blog, but I do appreciate those of you who stop by from time to time.

So, now it's my turn to tag FIVE bloggers who make me think. Only five is very difficult, some of my daily reads have already been tagged, and some others I have enjoyed reading in my time as a blogger are not blogging right now. Can't you just look at my blogroll? But the rules say five, although that did not seem to stop NYC Educator from breaking the rules. Gotta love him, though.

Here are my picks: Mrs. H, who always makes me want to be a better teacher; Are We Doing Anything Today, who writes about issues that I think my teens really notice and care about; The Reflective Teacher, who is just so reflective at times I just don't know what to say; Mrs. Whats It, who writes in a voice I enjoy about many things; and finally, a blog I just picked up the other day because it sounded like good stuff, Throughlines. (I found the last one from one of my regular reads, but I can't remember which one right now.)

If you aren't familiar with my picks, please check them out. Memes like this are intended to learn new things and celebrate the wonderful things we all have to say, right?

February 14, 2007

Death by Pink Fur and Chocolate Hearts

It was hell today fighting for attention against fluffy stuffed bears gripping fake roses. So, in the spirit of the holiday, which believe it or not, my sweet husband and I don't even celebrate, here's a recap of my true feelings for Valentine's Day:

I used to think this holiday was to sucker consumers into thinking they have to prove their love to their sweethearts with cutesy boxes of chocolates and teddy bears sold at an exorbitant price. After teaching middle schoolers, I realize it's really the perfect holiday for them. It's mostly girls giving their friends these sickingly sweet gifts, and it truly makes sense since I don't know what adult woman who really cares about all those cutesy things. (Ah, flashy jewelry is another thing entirely.) Now, it might not seem like such a big deal, but when my classroom suddenly looks like the Hallmark store exploded, and everyone is hopped up on chocolates and conversation hearts, I realize we might as well make it a day off for all we accomplish with dreams of adolescent love suffocating us.

February 13, 2007

Jumbled? Aging? Sick? Addiction Withdrawal?

I have a jumbled brain this week.

It's starting to affect my breathing. Sometimes I forget to breathe. Sometimes I can't catch my breath.

The pressure in my head feels like my brain is just going to EXPLODE out of its shell.

My sight is blurry, and each morning my the crows feet seem a little deeper, probably from squinting so much because I keep forgetting my glasses.

And the more I think about it, a little voice in my head sounds just like little Peggy Ann McKay.

Perhaps the upcoming three day weekend will buy me some more time to tick off a long list of things I need to do and reward me with a little more relaxation.

What I really need is a good book.

I haven't read a good book--or any book in, well...too long.

Yea, a good book will fix me right up!

February 10, 2007

What Would Be Considered "Cool Office Supplies"?

If you're here for cool office supplies, skip to the bottom of this post, or spend a few minutes relaxing before you read the Happychyck's List of Cool Office Supplies. Regular readers, carry on with your normal skimming.

Every couple of days I amuse myself by looking at my sitemeter to see what google searches have brought people to my blog. Well, they don't really come in and stay too long. One look at my boring blog skin with no big pictures and visitors return to Googleland.

Recently, I found a strange one that I can't make sense of: writing exam what colors to wear. I hope that wasn't one of not one of my students trying to decide what to wear for the big exam. How sad! Well, Happychyck says that you might want to try wearing your lucky color depending on your astrological sign and the day of the week. Personally, I'd wear a color that makes me look pretty and check my biorhythms instead.

Hands down, the most popular search term that brings people to my blog is "cool office supplies." Seriously. It relates to one of my first posts about my addiction to office supplies. Yep, it's about as profound as the rest of my posts. So, as a service to my potential readers, here is my list of cool office supplies. Be sure to read my comments, dear supply shoppers. My broad audience will probably have some good ideas, too.


Check out most powerful STAPLER in the world! It has some kind of power tool technology behind it. It might be plastic, but it lasts a long time because it rarely jams and you won't have to beat on it to make it staple. You only have use your finger. You can purchase this stapler at one of those big "Office" supply stores. I don't remember which name.

My students sold these SMELLY PENCILS for a fundraiser recently. They are made out of recycled newspaper, and believe it or not, they sharpen really well, don't get dull very quickly, and don't break. You can't buy them in any store, but I like them so much I'd probably buy a set just to have around. I have enough pencils to last me another 3 years, so I can't justify doing that, but maybe you can.

My favorite pencil that I can buy in stores is the BIG FAT PENCIL that I used to use as a child. It's comfortable. It doesn't break. The eraser stays on. Because it looks like a kindergartner's pencil, it doesn't get stolen from my desk. The downside is that it won't fit behind my ear very well.

When it comes to pens, what I think is cool may not be what everyone else thinks is cool, and depending on my mood and use, I like BALLPOINT, FELT TIP, THIN TIP, and THICK TIP and many colors to boot! Mostly I like cheap pens, or rather, pens that are less expensive and won't make me cry if I lose them. My favorite color to write with is purple, but I get super irritated if I can't find a damn black pen when I need one. Basically, I need options in my life.

I don't know if you consider a USB DRIVE an office supply, but I know I would be lost without my little Thumblelina. If you'd like to add some coolness factor why not try the MINI SNOWBOARD or CREDIT CARD. My sweetie has a credit card one that is a little thicker than that one, but he still loves it!

Do you need a stylish TAPE DISPENSER? I have a Mickey Mouse one on my desk that was a gift, but if I ever trade it in, I might go for ELVIS or a SNAIL.

Since I spend a lot of time at work, I like to make it enjoyable. Why not try some whimsy? Doesn't everyone need a NOSE PENCIL SHARPENER? It will make you laugh everytime you stick that pencil in a nostril. It does for me anyway! Why not use an EAR CLIP to keep important papers together? And if you're feeling stressed out, squeezing an EYEBALL STRESSBALL is quite satisfying! It's not too morbid, is it?

Finally, having some toys on your desk might be a good idea. It can be relaxing or distracting. I don't keep toys on my desk because I don't have enough room, but my one of my former supervisors used to have some, and I found them to be quite entertaining when I was waiting for her. Might I suggest a mesmorizing SAND PICTURE or MAGNETIC SEA ART?

Hopefully my cool office supply advice has been and get back to work soon!

February 9, 2007

Time for Teachers to Learn

It seems rather popular for us to share our inservice nightmares on the teacher blog neighborhood, but I'm sorry to say that after the first day, I am thoroughly irritated. Unless the idea of two days in a row give you the chills...

I was bummed that I had to attend a meeting off campus with other teachers who teach in the magnet program. The teachers who stayed behind played lingo bingo, that is a unsanctioned game of identifying educational jargon we could possibly hear during our two days of educational enlightenment. "No Child Left Behind" appeared in the center square. I have to commend the teacher who thought up that activity to keep us entertained. The game was still going on at the end of yesterday, but I saw several of my colleagues were just one square away from winning. Can't wait to see that moment. I should take my camera and try to capture it for the yearbook!

So, in the morning I went to a magnet meeting where we talking about applying more internationalism in our classroom and had an impassioned discussion about late work and homework policies. We middle school teachers are getting the parents crawling up our backs about stiff policies, which we don't think are stiff enough, actually, and the high school teachers wonder why our students feel entitled to turn in work whenever they want. It's not from us. It was really suppose to just be a session when we passed on information about what is expected at higher grade levels so we could prepare the students, but as I expected, it because a forum of frustration. It wasn't terrible, though. It's an on-going battle for us.

In the afternoon, back at my school, we had a gang awareness training, which we have about once a year. It's not that we have a bad gang problem, but it's there. There is an old gang that is named after the street where our school is located. The truth is, according to the trainer, that there are gangs everywhere in our city and suburbs. It's true. If you listen to the news, some of the most violent crimes happen in nice neighborhoods. It's fascinating to hear more about all this, and I do constantly find myself trying to make sense of the graffiti I see around. I don't believe I have any kids involved with gangs right now, and it's been quite a few months since I have.

And then to round out my 12-hour day, I went to an inservice at the school where I teach at night. We're trying to put an emphasis on proficiency exams that are coming up, so we met by content area to discuss how we can incorporate some test-taking strategies and do a last ditch effort to push the content on the students in the next few months. Our principal constantly commends us, and I have never felt so appreciated by an administrator. What cracks me up, though, is his passionate speech to encourage us to do what our day school principals mandate us to do!

We spent time planning with other teachers, which is something I always appreciate in an inservice, and it was nice since I rarely have an opportunity to talk to other teachers there since my schedule is not daily, which is not the norm. There was a teacher who had been teaching for 30 years, and I just didn't see eye-to-eye about our teaching techniques. Out of respect, it was hard for me stand up for myself, but I did finally say that I didn't think that the bare minimum he and another teacher were teaching the students to get by on the writing exam was good enough. I'll continue to do it my way. At my last school, doing it my way yielded a 90% first time pass rate. And doing it my way also passed those students (mostly special ed) in my remediation classes on the second or third try.

Oops! How did I end up with such a long post when nothing major happened yesterday?

February 5, 2007

Beating My Head Against the Wall

The big state-mandated writing exam is this week. The scores will play a part in our school making AYP. Last year 89% of my students passed. It wasn't good enough for my administrator.

We've been in writing rehab since we came back from Christmas break. Basically, reminders of those little things--and some big things--that will drive their essays to excellence. Last week, I gave the students a practice exam, which is an actual test that was used a few years ago, but the state has released it so that we may use it for instruction.

You should have seen the c.r.a.p. that my students produced.

And--I had about 10 students who didn't even write to the topic! What the hell? As if we haven't been through that. "Even if you have nothing to say, you have to address the topic, so make it up if you have to." And by the way, the kid who went into a burning house through the doggy door to save his friend's baby sister probably made it up, but at least he struck to the topic given.

I give my students difficult or boring prompts to practice so they might be prepared if the luck of the draw leaves them lost. The prompts are designed so that students from every walk of life might have something to say, but occasionally they might run into a topic where they have never had the experience they are asked to draw from. (The topic is usually narrative.) More likely, they'll probably get a topic that asks them about some time in their life that blah, blah, blah and what they learned from it.

You know, this isn't difficult! They are capable of producing wonderful pieces of writing! Early last week, on a simple practice essay that wasn't a simulated test, they wrote passionate essays.

I tell them that they all have the potential to pass the exam. Honestly, I don't have the caliber of students I had last year, but they could ALL pass. Some of them barely. My administrator would also like to see higher scores, and not just barely passing. I wish she were in my classroom and could see that may not happen. Writing is a skill you develop. It's not like regurgitating information, or reading and analyzing. This is CREATION! Sure, students can follow the form of an essay, but the words create it.

I don't know what to say to my students this morning, the day before their exam. Should I chew their butts out for not giving their best work on the practice exam? Should I pump them up? Should I play it straight? Or should I just wish them luck, and again reiterated that they CAN do it if they WANT to do it?

Maybe I'll just draw one out of a hat.

February 1, 2007

The Unsent Reply

Dear Frustrated Parent,

Thank for you the note explaining why your darling daughter was not in my first period class today. Unfortunately, I cannot excuse her from her absence, as I do not have the authority to do so. I will forward your note of explanation to the Attendace Office.

I'm glad to hear that you took some quality time this morning to talk to your daughter about her complete lack of academic achievement while she should have been in my class taking the practice exam for the state-mandated writing test she will take next week. I understand the difficulty being a single mom who works nights, and I can imagine you were quite upset that you did not have a chance to talk to her about our meeting yesterday.

Since she has already failed one semester of my class and is off to a failing-start this semester, I can see your urgency in talking to her about this terrible situation. I hope the two of you have established some sort of solution to her academic problems.

Starting tomorrow, I look forward to seeing this amazing change for which you are hoping. She did not stop in and ask for the assignment that she missed while she was having her little mommy and me breakfast. However, I do have every faith that she IMed a friend for the assignment and that she will hand it in tomorrow morning. Her addiction to her computer does have its advantages!

Thank your for your vigilant attention to your daughter's education. I, too, am sure that your wonderful daughter is indeed on her way to success at the magnet high school of her choice.

Mrs. Happychyck