June 28, 2007

Got Soap?

I'm going to be in soooo much trouble for blogging about my dad, but apparently I already am in trouble with him. (And this just a week before I go home for a visit. Not too smart, is it?) Today, my dad told me that we needed have to have a little talk about the language in my blog. I think that means I cuss too much. I do that sometimes, but I didn't think I'd been too bad. In fact, in the last two months, I haven't inserted any strong language.

I'm not going to say I'm innocent of ever using strong language, which I know some better bloggers would never do, but it hasn't been that much. Or has it? This is what I figured:

In 2 years--
that is 222 posts,
I have used
6 "a" words
19 "d" words
11 "h" words
1 "b" word
8 "s" words

At first it didn't seem like very many, but when I counted them up, it could be considered one word every four posts. Only, I often go weeks and months without any and then one post might have more than one. And when you think about my verbosity, those few words are nothing!

Point taken, though, Dad. I'll try to be better.

And Dad, while you're commenting, I could always use help with proofreading, as I am forever making silly errors that are more embarrassing than my low-brow language.

Oh! And thanks for reading!

Eight is More Than Enough

Thank goodness Ms. M tagged me for a meme because I have even less to write about than usual. It's kind of hard because I think I've told about every random thing I could about myself in other memes here, here, here, here, and here. Oh, and another one here. Now, why don't I just reveal myself completely since you know everything about me.

  1. My social security number is--just kidding! It does have three 5's in it. Easier to remember.
  2. I go by the common abbreviated form of my formal name. My husband also goes by the abbreviated form of his name. What makes this interesting is that in abbreviated form, we have the same first name. Isn't that cute?
  3. I'm in the mood for some Vonnegut-like books. I'm sure if I read any of Vonnegut's works again, I would enjoy the experience, but I don't usually read things more than once. Any suggestions?
  4. I often go alone to see movies at the theater. Many people thing this is strange. I think it's enjoyable.
  5. Only once in my life have I had a car that wasn't red. Both of our cars are red now. Trust me, it was hardly on purpose. It's about function.
  6. My sweetie and I are hooked on reality tv. (Anxiously awaiting Big Brother, which is our favorite.) This summer we are totally into cooking reality shows like Hell's Kitchen, The Next Food Network Star, and Top Chef. We are simple eaters, but we love those shows!
  7. I have a pair of slippers under my desk at school that I sometimes wear instead of shoes during my prep and after school. Sometimes I change for comfort, and sometimes I change for warmth.
  8. I do not own a movie collection--not even Walt Disney. I'll watch a movie more than once if it's on television and it fits my mood, but I can't imagine owning a movie and watching it over and over.
Okey Dokey!

I'm tagging
Adeline @ ChezWhat?
Kimberly@Terrible Teacher
Teaching in the 408
Graycie@ Today's Homework
Ms. Sigh Ants @Red Fish, Blue Fish
Ms. Whatsit who, by the way, is having a Potluck next week

Oh! And if you're going to join in there are some RULES:

The rules are 1. Let others know who tagged you. 2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves. 3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts. 4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

June 26, 2007

It's All About Appearances

A few days ago, workers from the lawn maintenance company that does the landscaping at my apartment complex were working for hours outside my patio for hours. I noticed because I never see them. The landscaping just magically looks wonderful. All year long we have green grass. Seriously. As it turns out, there were several patches of the lawn that were yellow, due to sprinkler issues. I hadn't noticed the yellowed lawn, either. In my mind, that's bound to happen when it's so blasted hot outside.

Today when I came home from errands, the yellow grass was gone! What how can this be? It can't grow green that fast. No, it was SPRAYED GREEN! Is it just me, or this crazy? We are in the back corner of this huge complex, so it's not like the management is showing the property back here. And now I wonder if it's safe the kids (and their clothing) to play on the lawn.

My only hope is that the color is loaded with grass vitamins so it doesn't seem so pointlessly vain.

(I think I found a place to live, and there's no fake grass there.)

June 25, 2007

This Nesting Stuff Sucks

Apparently it's too early for me to look for a place to live at the beginning of August. Houses want to rent immediately. Apartments aren't sure of their openings until July 1. I don't know why I keep looking. I suppose because in July I'll be going on vacation and then to a conference, so the 8-9 days in July when I'm home seem kind of tight to find a new home.

This morning I gave up my quest to try to find a place that is zoned for a nine-month school. The zoning is so erratic. One year a school is nine-month and the next year it could be twelve-month, so it was time to get over myself because I was seriously limiting my housing choices. I think a third of the elementary schools are twelve-month, but based on my housing search, it seems like it should it was two-thirds. I really don't have a lot against twelve-month--other than the sheer inconvenience for me since I work on a traditional nine-month. Once I resigned myself to the fact that we might have to deal with it, I figured that the kids' Cali family could benefit from a schedule like this. Track break? Go see Grandma.

My brain is fried with trying to figure out other important details. What would be a comfortable commute for me and my sweetie? Before he even told me to do so, I decided to make the convenience of the commute all about me. That freed up my brain power a little. I work in the central part of the city, which would seem like a good thing, but I guess it depends on what side of the "spaghetti bowl" one lives. I also think it's important for me to have a short commute because then I can pick up the kids after school. In the last year I'd say I was able to pick up the kids about 70% of the time. I'm really into trying to cut costs on our budget this summer, so let me tell you, being able to pick them up saves our family about $200 a month. (This money issue is also why I refuse to assign academic or behavioral detention. If I stay after, I'm usually getting paid for it or it's mandatory meeting Monday.)

And speaking of living and having a close commute to the central part of the city...I'm familiar with my ghetto 'hood, but I don't know about the other ones that would be within good traveling distance. (My own 'hood doesn't seem to have much housing available right now.) So, my brain is swirling with trying to figure out if a neighbor is going to be safe enough. One can't just think, "Oh, that street's bad. That neighborhood is bad." I'm finding that so many places in Las Vegas have pockets of new and old, nice and run down, tagged and untagged. You wouldn't believe the change in scenery you might see change in just a few blocks.

In addition to figuring out good neighborhoods, I have to decide what is the best value for my money. Old or new? House or apartment? Freeway underpass?

Ugh. I hope this ends soon.

June 22, 2007

Boring Tales of Summer: Going Into the Closet

I have been doing some school work and thinking this week, but mostly I'm pretty into home things. You know all those things you put off doing until summer so you have more time to dedicate to them?

I started small by tackling the linen closet. You know, I have lived in places that didn't have linen closets. Can you imagine? I would die if I had to do that again! My linen closet also serves as my craft closet, as well as storage to undisplayed collectibles, such as my tea cups, and some paintings (from my brother) that don't "fit" anywhere in my home at this time. As you can imagine, the towels and sheets get crowded out.

It's a daily struggle for me to live a simple life. I try, but I'm not that good at it. I keep at it though. I also try to be frugal. So, as I organized my closet, I found that there wasn't much that should have been thrown out. However, I did have several towels and a sheet set that had seen better days. Of course, everyone needs rags, which is what those towels became, but there were too many to fit into the assigned rag bin. I didn't know quite what to do. I don't need more than a bin (milk crate size) full of old rags. I don't have extra storage for rags. You can't really donate old dingy towels. I hate to say this, but I had to throw them away. I felt like such a fool hauling those things to the dumpster. I was actually looking around, hoping nobody would see me.

It just occurred to me that what I used to do with old rags and towels was to take them to the stage. We were always in need to drop cloths for painting, and a good scrub down of the props and dressing rooms was standard practice when we finished each production run. Now, that's a good use. Throw old towels and sheets away? I am totally ashamed of myself.

Tomorrow I'm going into the kids' closets. My son has been walking around with high waters for the last three months of school. My daughter has far too many clothes for one person--even a girl. She's on a hand-me-down circuit that has been quite active this spring. Don't worry, I'm not throwing away any kids clothes like I did the rags. It's my turn to box up and pass clothes down the circuit. Now THAT seems like a simple, frugal way to deal with my closet. No shame there.

June 20, 2007

The Day Is Here!

I'm bored. Or I just don't know what to do. Whatever. I've been busy with company and then I've spent some time at work with my colleagues prepping for next year, but today, I don't have anything planned. I know how boredom works. It's a personal problem. I have things I could do. Yada, yada, yada. I've hit a wall and am more interested in the life as blob right now. Summer.

June 18, 2007

Goals and Aspirations Revisited

Let's rewind to last summer. I had great hopes of getting organized. My first task at hand was to organize weblinks I had on three computers that I had accumulated since the beginning of time (or since 1997) into a del.icio.us account. It took me days to organize everything, but it has been the most beautiful tool I have. Now, I realize that I probably have more stuff in there than what I can use, but it has saved me so much time in the last year. IT'S ALL ABOUT THE TAGS, MAN!

Unfortunately, upon my arrival back at school in the fall, I discovered that the school district network had blocked del.iciou.us and every other social networking application I was interested in trying out in my classroom. My frustration was voiced loud and clear at least once a week as I tried to share links with my students. Since I knew of a better, more efficient way, yet couldn't use it, my life suddenly was worse off than before, although technically it was just the same as it had ever been. A little knowledge hurts sometimes.

(Actually, if I'd just taken the approach that many of my students do in trying to access such forbidden sites such as YouTube and MySpace by using a proxy, I'd have no problems at all. I was tempted, but that sets a terrible example and breaks the AUP.)

If any of you ever find yourselves in such a position, I did find an online bookmarking site that my students could view called Portaportal. It was very easy to use, but not as easy to post to. Plus, the site has advertisements, so about half the time there were some weird ads for "real" shrunken heads. Uhm. Yuck. Luckily the students don't even look at those paid advertisements on any site. Here's a screen shot of what my page with one folder open looks like once you have the secret password to get in. It actually worked out pretty well since, at this point, my del.icio.us account is too large to be student-friendly.

But guess what? I'm suddenly able to access del.icio.us at school, plus I am now able to access Wikispaces, too! I'm so excited, and now I'm returning to another goal from last summer:

So, what I'm working on this week is getting myself organized. It's not just for me, but so I can share with my colleagues, too. (I'm really just thinking those with the same grade level and subject.) My big undertaking is to create a wiki for me and my mates to use as a reference and for sharing too. There are apparently many uses for a wiki, so I hope this is a good one. We often share things anyway, but this might make it easier.
It's so sad that I'm about ten paces behind what's new in education, but I'm getting there. Oh! And as fate would have it, I've somehow scored some pay to work collaboratively with my colleagues this month--we call it a kind of in-service, I guess. A group of us is meeting in real life, trying to figure out how we can use wikis. In just a few days we have made a lot of progress in setting the groundwork for some online collaboration, too!

June 15, 2007

Other People's Vacations

My best friend from childhood was in town with her family this week, and boy, my first week of summer has been busy! We did all the touristy things that we could squeeze in, which as it turns out wasn't half the things that could have been done.

I'm not a great tour guide, and I can't really figure out what people like to do when they come to Vegas. Well, other than gamble, which is not what families do. There are plenty of things sights to see, but then perhaps I'm jaded, but some of the sights are not really that exciting. The volcano at The Mirage is only mildly amusing; however, the Lion Habitat at the MGM is always a hit with the kiddies. I keep trying to lure people into going to The Atomic Testing Museum, but I have yet to convince anyone in going--even my dad, who I know would enjoy it.

So, wahoo for the tour guide (it's a good thing I'm not getting paid) who was able to leave town to do a little touring this week. Using a spontaneous plan, I ended up trailing back to to St. George, Utah with my friends where I went to see My Fair Lady at the Tuacahn Amphitheatre. It's been quite a while since I've gone to any kind of theater performance--probably about a year--so it was about time to get a fix! We had seats in the middle of the fourth row--practically on stage! (And free thanks to family connections!)

My theater experiences started in an outdoor summer theater, but it is nothing compared to Tuacahn. (Our theater, although new when I started, had a nice view of the rodeo arena.) The red rock backdrop was gorgeous and amazing! Here's a picture of stage left and one from the stage perspective looking out. Don't worry--the theater itself wasn't a distraction with the talented performers. It has me craving more live theater!

My summer's off to a great start; hope yours is, too!

June 10, 2007

Finding a New Nest

Phew! Okay, now that's schools over, my number one project is to find a new, larger place to live, purge our home of that which is unnecessary, pack up the house, and move. No, really, it IS just one project. It just has many parts.



I've spent many hours searching the Internet this weekend, trying to find just the right place. It was challenging when we moved here a few years ago, but now it seems more complicated. We have more knowledge of the city, and we have more constraints.

When we moved here, we did not have the children and never thought we would ever have the children with us full time. So, that community that has houses 3x6 foot backyards look like a landscaping dream to me (not so good with landscaping, plus we live in the desert), but without a nearby park it might be a miserable place for our family in general. We don't have much of a yard now, but it's enough that the children can keep themselves entertained for a while.

Schools are another issue. I went through some worry last year when we were in transition of getting custody but didn't know how long it was going to take, so we didn't move to a better neighborhood. In the end, I was happy with the school in our neighborhood despite how bad it looks on the accountability reports.

It is very likely we will be able to put the children in a better school, but the stress I've been dealing with is finding neighborhoods that aren't zoned for 12-months schools. You see our district has both 9-month and 12-months elementary schools. I can't quite figure out the system, as it seems so random. For example, if we lived on the other side of the street, my children would be zoned for a 12-months school, which was actually a 9-month school last year. Scary! I guess it just depends on which neighborhoods are overcrowded. I can tell you that checking for school zones has narrowed my list of possibilities drastically.

Convenience and ease of commute are a major factors for me, too. My husband has a job where he travels all over the valley, so we just have to live with that gas bill (he does get a stipend to cover part of it), but I can't see the use of living on the edge of the city, where so many homes have been built, and then having to drive through heavy traffic for hours a day, especially with gas prices now well over $3.00/gallon. The people living in the 'burb edges must have a lot more money than I do to spend on gas! Maybe that's the small town girl in me, but this commuting stuff is not for me. I can handle a 10-15 minute drive, but much more than that, especially in heavy traffic, and I get irritated.

In some ways it's exciting moving to a new place, but the initial work is exhausting and overwhelming. I've moved many times in my adult life, but usually my options were rather narrow, or I just happened upon a good deal without even particularly wanting to move. Already it's more more complicated than it's ever been, and I'm just starting...

June 9, 2007

Bang Your Head! Venting Is a Good Release.

Over at Polski3's blog, he's banging his head over the structure of his school in the last days of the year. I can't blame him because they have class weeks after their grades are posted. At my school, if students had any clue that the last few weeks couldn't count as a grade, there could be riots. What else might they do if they know we aren't holding them accountable for every second of their time with us? Trust me. That's how it is here.

I'm truly thankful that we keep teaching (or pretending, as we're all exhausted by now) until the bitter end. There are many interruptions in the last weeks of school, but I try not be get too frustrated. Besides, since I am responsible for the yearbook, traditionally one of the biggest distractions at the end of the year, I can hardly get upset over everyone else's need to disrupt my routine.

I do have a few rants of my own, though. I might call myself Happy Chyck, but that's more what I aspire to be. You all know I like a good rant. So here are my head banger moments.

During the last week of school, our students are on a testing schedule and go home just before noon. We teachers stay the rest of the day. On the last day of school, our grades are suppose to be in 20 minutes after we escort students off campus. That hardly gives us enough time to run our answer sheets through the scantron (with 80 teachers and 7 machines), plus we are suppose to give essay portions on our tests! This year several people complained and we were given a two-hour extension. Wow! If I have 60 essays to read, as I've just had two classes take a test, that's going to give me just enough time. Needless to say, we all pick a few key things to look at and grade those essays in about 10 seconds. We all have learned coping strategies to deal with this insane deadline, but it's the principle of the matter. Dance puppet, dance! And we do.

The other head banger issue is just in general. Now in the past admin has asked us to leave our rooms intact until the last day to give the impression learning is still going on for the students. Thankfully they've backed off on that because it takes me more than one day, which is what we have the day after school gets out for the students, for pack up my room for the year. It irritates me that I should have to empty out my desk and box all of my books if I'm coming back to the same room. Do you think the office staff has to empty out their desks and box everything up as if they aren't coming back? Oh, the reason they give is so that the custodial staff can move things around to shampoo the carpets. They move the student desks and work around the rest.

This could easily lead me in a full circle frustration that I might save until August on how much time we are given to unpack our boxes and set up our rooms to start the year. Would that be a few hours here and there between those inane beginning of school meetings and trainings? Would that possibly be as many hours as I'd like to come in before my contracted days? Of course.

Enough with the head banging. It's summer. The only head banging I hope to do is while I'm driving down the freeway with my heavy metal music turned all the way up. No worries for now!

June 7, 2007

Just Call Me Ms. Numb Face

Okay, this blocked sinus thing better be from all the dust bunnies I kicked up in my classroom today and NOT from an end-of-the-year-cold. (Apparently we've been raising bunnies behind the computers for quite some time.)

If my body lets me get sick just because I finally have time, I will be super peeved!

Taking double shots of Airborne is no way to celebrate the end of the year...

June 6, 2007

Whoosh! There is Goes!

One more day!

During our three-day testing schedule, we have a minimum day with only two class periods a day, which are about the length of a double period. My prep is the last period, which is on tomorrow's testing schedule, so I will be done with students by 10:00 am. I cannot believe it! Where has this year gone?

The years are getting so blurred together. Anybody have any idea at what point a teachers truly cannot see the different from year to year? The first three years are rather blurred together now, yet I can specifically remember incidents I know happened in my first year. Then there were several years in there that I cannot distinguish from one another. I remember much pain and suffering three years ago during my first year at this school; however, I can't remember many of the students' names. Last year flew by so quickly that I can see already that it will likely become blended with this year, and I won't be able to tell you any specifics of either year.

Maybe it's just me, though.

June 5, 2007

I Don't Really Hate Them

I know that I irritate students pretty frequently. Most of them get over it and recognize later that I was only doing my job and/or what I was doing that was so irritating to them was really for the best. You know, like making them practice writing until their hands cramp--or so they say that happens. In fact, during Teacher Appreciation Week, I was rewarded with certificate saying that I was a #1 Hand Cramper Teacher. I took it was a compliment.

In my night classes, which are called Composition and Creative Writing as I constantly remind my students, I push two basic ideas:

  • If you want to be a better writer, you have to practice--it's like riding a bike.
  • Just put your pen to your paper and give it a try.

Last night one of my students from earlier in the year stopped by with a nice note and a box of Godiva chocolates to thank me for being a good teacher and helping her pass her proficiency exam. She claims that although she complained about all the writing I made them do, she learned a lot and attributed me and my class to her passing the exam. Makes me want to cry.

The students actually enrolled in the class this quarter made me want to cry, too. For the final exam, I assigned them three essays to write in two nights, which is about 4 hours to complete the work. None of them are the type of essay that will be more than five paragraphs, and the assessment address the different types of writing we've done this quarter. I have not asked them to do more than they are capable of doing, but they were super irritated with me last night. No, actually I'd say they were just plain pissed at me.

(For some of the students, I might be asking too much, but for others it's just right. It's a multi-grade, multi-level class so I'd be willing to look at the amount of effort the students make in trying complete the essays. Do you think I'm willing to work with bad attitudes, though?)

It was a rough start to the class. It took me forever to get everyone's attention. There were just enough hyper monkeys throughout the class that once I thought I had them, I had to stop and wait. While I was reading the directions, they kept trying to revolt, and they also kept wanting to ask questions that they would get the answers to if they'd simply listen and read the directions. They complained that it was too much, but rather than dig in and start, the majority of them chose to goof off. I separated students from each other and had to constantly remind students to get on task.

By the end of the night, I was so done with them, but I backed down because I gave the assessment, including a detailed rubric. They knew what was expected, and by their actions they were telling me what they planned on earning. That's another idea I make clear--I don't give them grades. They earn grades. They are only victims of themselves.

Perhaps I should have kept at it, but this isn't my first gig. I know a kid that can be cajoled into working, and last night, my classroom was lacking any of those kids. (Okay, not totally. The hardest worker was my goofball ELL student who always tells me the work I give is too hard. Of course it is for him! He often spends his time trying to get out of work. But he put pencil to paper and actually made more progress than any other student.)

By the note one of them left me on the board, F***Y** Ms. HappyChyck, I know they were so done with me, too. That hurt. It's been a while since I've had such a public slap in the face. (Mutterings under the breath and whispers to classmates are nothing compared to this.) This is another indicator of how wrong the night went. You know the girl who stopped by earlier to thank me? She would have complained about the assessment and the amount of work, but she would have gotten busy after a while. Furthermore, she would have never allowed such a harsh note to remain posted on the board. She wouldn't have exactly defended me, but she would have rallied the class--or at least the students around her--to do what was expected of them. The hate they felt for me would have never made it past whispers and 20 minutes--let alone such an eloquently written note left on the board for me during break.

As you can imagine, I am not looking forward to finishing the class tonight. They think I should have a party for them on the last night. I think they should grow up, and with the lack of respect they've shown me this quarter, they wouldn't really want to eat any cupcakes I might bring, anyway. >;-)

My personal mantra will be to remind myself that some students do appreciate how hard I make them work and don't take it as a personal assault when I set the bar high for them.

June 3, 2007

Last of the Sunday Night Blues...For Now

I get the Sunday Night Blues. This article describes a lot of what goes on during my Sunday. I'd say that tonight I'm more afflicted than usual because of all the things I need to do to finish out the school year.

Tomorrow is going to be a major GO DAY, as I try to finish assessing the projects that I didn't bring home over the weekend (not enough room in the car), make sure my final exams are ready to go since the copiers in graphics were down late last week, review the exam with the students, update my attendance reports for both schools (you know, I'm behind), take inventory of all the texts and materials in my classroom, stress about the number of yearbooks that haven't been sold yet, and seriously think about starting to check off things on my 18-point check-out list I have to complete this week--blah, blah, blah. I'm sure when I arrive at work tomorrow morning, I'll find more things set out on my desk that's I've forgotten about over the weekend.

It's unlikely I will get to sleep tonight, and I will pay for it later in the week when I fall down in exhaustion around Wednesday from lack of sleep and extended work days on Monday and Tuesday.

It's all good, though. This is the last Sunday I'll have the blues for several months. Oh, I'll still get twitchy for a few weeks because I've been afflicted with Sunday night blues for a long time, but at least I'll be able to talk myself down. Next Sunday at this time the only thing I'll have to worry about is...NOTHING!

June 2, 2007

They Think They Are So Smart...

A few weeks ago I went rounds with a few of my students who blatantly plagiarized their research papers. It wasn't just poor documentation. It was cutting and pasting. Half of the students I caught vehemently denied cheating, although I was standing there with the evidence. They claimed they'd never seen the websites where I'd found their information, but as we all know, it's not uncommon to find information in many places.

It almost got ugly with one student because after I called her on it, and made her sign a parent notification paper, she went back to her seat and starting talking about me behind my back to the people at her table. It loud enough for me to catch, but not loud enough for her classmates, who were busy doing other things, to notice. Since she wanted to air her dirty laundry, I called her out in front of the class and asked if she wanted to make a big production of it. Did she want me to provide the evidence to her classmates that she was indeed caught cheating? Did she really want to make a big production of it? I have years of directing experience. Oh yes! I can put on a theatrical performance. She backed down right away and even came in the next day to apologize to me.

Word gets around, though. You'd have to be a complete fool to NOT know that I was busting people for cutting and pasting work and calling it their own. So imagine my shock when I find three students who have plagiarized creative writing pieces--one of them I already busted for plagiarizing on his research paper. Is he a lost cause? Geez!

The one that is really cracking me up today is a girl who tried to pass off several poems as her own, including "I Could Give All To Time" by Robert Frost. I'd say Frost is the one poet I see students copy over and over. Oh, wait! It gets better! She also tried to pass off someone else's plagiarized/bastardized version of either Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 or Pete Seeger's "Turn, Turn, Turn" that we all know as a popular song by The Byrds. Oy!

Did you catch that? She took something that someone else tried to pass off as his own on a personal website and then turned it in. What is that called?

Beating my head on the wall...

Camped Out on the Living Room Floor

Oh! It sounds like a slumber party, huh? Nope. I have three boxes of projects to assess. I've made it through one, and so I thought I'd take a few minutes to goof off. Or report my progress or whatever.

I had my students turn in their research papers a few weeks before the whole project was completed because I know they struggle with the documentation. Now, after reading many research papers, I don't understand why they didn't take my advice to fix a few things. You know, a few things like citing their sources?

In general, I always wonder why students don't take advice when I give it? Of course, it's their writing. They can do whatever they like, but I'm a trained professional. I give them good advice. Individualized. And hey! I'm also the one doing the assessment and giving the grade.

When I collect rough drafts I tell the students it is to help them. I tell them that they should turn in their very best work--treat it as if it were the final draft. If they turn in the very best, I can give them my best feedback on the aspects that they truly need to develop. When I explain this concept to them, I use examples of what I might focus on depending on what I get, and they all nod their heads enthusiastically. You know, deep down, they know what they need to improve their writing. They often can't figure out how.

Now there are some students who choose not to get my feedback by not turning in rough drafts. A handful of them are actually some of best writers, so they usually get away with it. I do give my best writers constructive feedback, too. It's usually along the lines of, "This is exactly what is required (maybe even above), but if you'd like to work on ______, then it can be even better." I don't mind if those students don't take my feedback, but most of them want to be better, so they try out my suggestions.

Of course, the top writer who chooses not to take my feedback is the pleasant anomaly. The rest of them have problems that need to be resolved. Screw this happy-shiny educational jargon. Do my students really care about becoming better writers--better communicators?

I should just say, "Hey kid! Your writing sucks. You need to fix these errors because if you don't, you're going to fail this paper. I don't need the "rubric" to see that. You think you want to go to college? I don't care if you're only in middle school. Trust me. You're on the wrong road with writing like this. At the rate you're going, you won't need to good writing skills in your career. Want some fries with that?"

Tough love can be so beautiful sometimes! Does it really damage the poor students? Sigh.