Friday, December 04, 2009

Been a long time...

Wow - just remembered tonight that I still had this blog!

Silly story:
The other day in Earth Science class, I cracked a geode to show my students the crystals that grew inside. I used a hammer (borrowed from another teacher), wrapped the geode up in several layers of paper towel, and whacked away. Students were fairly impressed, and expressed appreciation that the hammer was for that activity and not something more violent (they haven't been behaving very well lately.)

After school, I was waiting in the hall for the teacher who owned the hammer - wanting to give it back to her before it got lost on my desk. The head PTB came by, and the following conversation took place:

HPTB: Lookin' dangerous there, Lowe.
Me: No worries - just used it to crack a geode today.
HPTB: Geode? What's that?
(I duck into my class to retrieve the geode to show him)
HPTB: Very cool. I hope you used goggles.
Me: No - but I wrapped it up in paper towels and stood far away from the kids.
HPTB: Well, I've known geode shards to come through paper towels.
(What? Two minutes ago, you didn't know what a geode was!)
HPTB: Bottom line? Always use protection, Lowe!

While always good advice - especially in the halls of a high school - this made me laugh.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Teach your children well...

Conversation between teacher (me) and 2 students today in Earth Science class:

Teacher: Who can remember the names of the moons of Mars?
Student 1 (frantically waving hand): Fabio and Deimos!!
Teacher (trying not to pee pants): Not Fabio! He's the guy who got hit in the face by a goose on the roller coaster at Busch Gardens.
Student 2: Did he really get hit in the face by a goose?
Teacher: Yep
Student 2 (shaking head dolefully): That's gotta suck...

Will they remember the real name of Mars' other moon? Not in a million years.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz, and I know where some birdies is...

A few weeks ago, some wrens built this nest in a discarded car trash can in our garage. For several days, the two birds flew out of the garage each morning as I raised the door to leave for work, and came back every evening. After a week or so, I noticed there were 4-5 little eggs in the nest.

Nature is wonderful, but what this means is that our cars have bird shit on them every morning. The daddy bird hangs out on the garage door mechanism on the ceiling - right over our cars. He leaves gifts for us.

Meanwhile, the momma bird has settled in on the eggs. She leaves each morning as I start my car (the nest is right in front of where I park) and comes back whenever the garage door opens again. She's there every afternoon when I get home from work.

Mom worries that one day we'll get all our signals crossed, and lock the momma bird in or out. She tries to schedule our going and coming to accommodate the bird.

Should get really interesting when the eggs hatch. To be continued...

4/29 The eggs hatched yesterday.

5/2/09 - As I was leaving this morning, momma was bringing in breakfast. She froze when I was in the garage, trying to be invisible, so I was able to get a picture of her.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

owen and newt, newt and owen

You see these two guys? I think they look alike. The one on the right is Newt Gingrich. The man on the left is Owen Gingerich. Yep - he has an extra 'e' in his last name.

Here's the story: Last week, we were watching a Bill Nye the Science Guy video on the solar system in Earth Science. Owen was the resident expert on the ancient models of the solar system, and was trying to get Bill to read Babylonian. Good times. While the video was playing, I kept thinking, "God, this guy looks familiar." Then, his name flashed on the bottom of the screen. Leah (the other teacher in the room) and I both said, at the same time, "Wonder if he's related to Newt?" The kids think we're crazy, anyway, so they paid no attention to us.

During my Channel One class, I looked up Owen on Google. This is where I found out about the extra 'e' in the name. Then, I found out that Newt is not really a Gingrich, but a McPherson by birth. So, fail - not related. During our joint planning time, Leah told me she did the very same thing during her Channel One. We. are. total. nerds.

But we do find out stuff.

And now I'm wondering if, perhaps, Newt is related to my brother-in-law?

Yoga pants and sports bras

One of my chores today was to take a trip to Target (pronounced, as everyone knows, Tar-jay) and pick up the things on mom's list. I can't go in Target and just buy what's on a list - don't know why - just can't.

After getting everything on the list, I browsed through the clothing department, just in case there was something I could not live without. Over by the lingerie (I guess that's what you would call it at Target) a guy was wandering around, looking a little panicked. As I walked by, he said "I can't find anyone who works here, so can I ask you a question?" "Sure" I said. He held up a couple pair of yoga pants, then said "I'm trying to find the sports bras. Do you know where they are? If my wife is a 38 D, would she wear the same size in a sports bra?" I assured him that would probably be a good bet, and directed him where I thought the sports bras should be. A few seconds later, I heard, "Eureka! Found 'em!" Meanwhile, I looked through some camis, and wandered around a little. From behind me I heard, "Not to be creepy or anything, but these bras don't seem to have the letters behind the size. Would a 38 fit just about anyone if it has this stretchy material?" I turned around to see the guy holding up a black bra. Now, despite his assertion to the contrary, this felt a little creepy. He proceeded to tell me that he was just trying to do his wife a favor, so she wouldn't have to go out tomorrow to find a sports bra (?) I told him to go for it - but keep his receipt. He held up the yoga pants and said, " She wears petite medium, hope these are OK." I told him I hoped so, too. He sprinted off, waving the exerware, yelling "Gotta run!"

OK - couple questions:
1) Ken has never, to my knowledge, even thought about buying me any type of bra. Why would he? Would I want him to?
2) Why can't his guy's wife wife buy her own stuff? If she is disabled in some way, why does she need yoga pants and a sports bra?
3) Maybe the stuff was really for the guy? He looked a little like a 38 D, and he wasn't very tall - sorta petite, medium-sized
4) Why did I spend money in Target on crap I don't really need?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hitler's socks and other interesting stuff

This might be a long post - it's been a strange week, so far.

I co-teach a class in Ecology. It's filled with 11th and 12th-graders who would rather be somewhere else. It is not an SOL class, so is deemed less important than other science classes. I'm currently presenting information on renewable and nonrenewable forms of energy. (BTW - Happy Earth Day!) I digress...
In planning for this subject, I found out that our media specialist lived in Kiev in 1986, and had family/parents who lived in Chernobyl! Holy Can-You-Come-Speak-to-My-Class?!? She came in and told the students about how she was helping her mom plant potatoes in Chernobyl the day AFTER the accident while she was pregnant, and how nobody was told anything official for 4 days. Crazy! She and her family (including the 'rents) moved to America in 1990. Everyone in that family (including the child born after the accident) have some kind of cancer/blindness/illness directly attributed to the radiation. Pretty intense stuff, and fairly random to find someone in central VA who lived through this accident.

OK. On Saturday, a group of us from school went to check out the planetarium at a local university. We are nerds. Anyway, on the ride there I was telling the other teachers about the randomness that is our media specialist. One of my friends says, "Get this! I was talking with the grandmother of my neighbor, complimenting her on her knitting skills, when she told me she learned how to knit as a girl when she was forced to knit socks for Hitler's army." !!!! Not only that- the woman came to the US after the war as an orphan. Both her parents were killed when the Russian Army came through their town, and she has horrible scars from a grenade on both legs. Again - randomness in central Virginia!

And, oh - one more story from this week:
One of the students in my Ecology class has been out for several days. We heard through the grapevine that her father died. Very sad. There's more...
Seems this young lady's family moved to Las Vegas when she was 11 years old. Her parents gave her permission to spend the summer with a friend, here in central VA, while they got settled in Nevada. Over that summer, the parents moved - left no forwarding address! (Tell the truth - how many parents have threatened that? I know I have!) She ended up staying with her friend's family, while people tried to locate her parents. After 2 years, the parents were found - and they gave up their parental rights. WHAT? Who does that? She was adopted by the friends, and stayed in VA. Evidently, last week her biological dad passed away, and she's in Nevada for the funeral. Question for you -- would you attend this funeral in the same situation? I can't say that I would...


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

George Washington slept here...

For a change, I wore my hair like this to work today:
As she walked past me in the hall (where I was doing my requisite hall duty between classes), one of my students said "Wow, Mrs. Lowe - from down the hall, I thought you were George Washington!"

Evidently, it doesn't pay to take hair risks in Stanardsville, VA

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Break -- out

Tomorrow is the last day of my Spring Break. A week ago, I had all sorts of plans and a 'To Do' list. Today, I can't even find the list. I always do this to myself - try to rearrange and reorganize my life in the space of 7-10 days. It never happens, don't know why I try.

What did I accomplish? I did get lots of rest (and I needed it), and I caught up on all my laundry. I read 2 books, and got a manicure/pedicure. Ken and I bought a new lawnmower, and I watched Ken use it. I'll get to use it, soon enough, when he's out of town and the grass is ankle-high. In the meantime, I'll let him have his fun.

I started a new online class last Tuesday, and this time I only have 7 students. I start another one on Tuesday, and there are only 4 students on the roster. Grading will be fairly stress-free, methinks. I have one more scheduled for May, and I think I might take a break for the summer. While I enjoy the extra money, I'm getting tired of teaching the classes. I think it shows in my interaction with the students - I'm starting to sound canned, even to myself.

Anyway, it's back to school on Tuesday. By my reckoning, I have 7 1/2 more weeks of school. Of those 7.5 weeks, I have 2 weeks with four workdays, one week with a Friday 1:00 dismissal, and 7 Mondays. Should I count up the days? Oh, what the hell... 41 school days left.

OK - I feel better about going back to work now. I can do 41 days standing on my head. After all, I've already done 139!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Takin' it easy...

I just returned from a 4-day trip to New Orleans. I use technology in my classroom called 'mimio' (and yes, it's supposed to be lower-case) that turns my white board interactive. It's a really cool little piece of technology, one I've been using for about 2 1/2 years now. I won the little gizmo after entering an online giveaway, so I was the first person in my school district to have one. My principal saw me using it, liked it (way cheaper than some other products I won't name {{cough}}smartboard{{cough}} and portable. Seriously portable), and ordered 4 more for our school last year. He asked me to be the trainer for mimio in our school. Toward that end, I started to take some classes offered by the company. While taking those online courses, I got to know some other teachers across the country using mimio, and got to know the mimio trainers. Long story short, (too late, received an email about a month ago, asking me to travel to New Orleans as part of mimio's teacher team, and present mimio at the the National Science Teacher's Association national conference. All expenses paid. PLUS a $200/day stipend. Jumped on it!

I've never done anything like this before. Basically, I stood up in front of anywhere from 25-50 people 3 times a day, showed them the lessons I have created using this software, and how I present/teach the content in my classroom using the hardware. There were two other teachers rotating presentations with me - one from Kansas, and one from Louisiana. We worked from 9 - 6 each day doing this. We earned our money. While we presented, the sales people for the company were working the crowds. I felt like a carnival barker. I was miked, and wore a shirt with the words 'mimio Master' on it. Pretty. Here's the one problem I had with the shirt (and they gave us 3 of them, so we had a fresh one each day), it was cotton spandex. Did I mention it was SPANDEX?? Not a good look on me - or on anyone who weighs more than 100 pounds, or who happens not to be running a 10K. anyway...

Don't get me wrong - I absolutely love this product, and highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about buying this type of technology. I'm hoping my school system eventually outfits every classroom with this. One really cool thing about our presentations - at the end of every one, we raffled off a system. Very nice. People were coming back all day, attending our sessions, just to try to win. We also did a 'secret shopper' thing, where if a person was spotted out and about in the exhibit hall sporting the giveaway tote bag, one system was awarded daily. The first day, one teacher came to every session. She was determined to win a mimio. She told us she would come back all day, every day, it that's what it took. The sales team took pity on her (after all, she paid to attend the conference - not to sit on a bench and watch the same three presentations for three days running) and 'spotted' her carrying her tote bag at the end of the day on Thursday. She still came back several times on Friday, and brought friends.

On Friday morning, I met a cute little lady from Guam who sat through my first session. Afterward, we talked for a long time. She also teaches Earth Science, and we exchanged emails. I promised to send her my list of interactive websites, and any other good stuff I had stored on my flash drives (powerpoints and such). She also wanted to win a system, but was philosophical about it. If she won, so be it - she was going back to Guam and writing grants to get the system in her classroom, regardless. She came back a couple more time that day, and watched the other two teachers present. Saturday morning, first thing, she showed up and gave me a Guam pin - told me she really liked the things I showed in my presentation, and was looking forward to sharing files with me. She also took the time to draw a beautiful beach picture on our graffitti wall. Nice lady. We talked a bit more about when we were both leaving, and she asked me when my last presentation was. She said she would try to come back and see it again. My last presentation was at 2:00, and I didn't see her in the crowd. After I was done, she came up to me, saying she was in a session and didn't get out in time. She was going to try 'one more time' to win our raffle, so was going to stay for the next teacher's presentation. While the session was going on, I talked to the marketing person for the company, and asked if I could be the secret shopper for the day. After receiving permission, I went out into the exhibit hall, and hung out. Soon, I saw my friend, and we stopped and chatted for a while about travel plans and such. I asked her how her last raffle went (I already know she didn't win), and commiserated with her about not coming away with a system. As we talked, we started walking toward the exit. I stopped suddenly and said, "Say, isn't that a mimio tote bag you're wearing?" She looked at me in shock, then fell to her knees and started to cry! O.M.G. I felt like Santa. I hauled her to her feet and escorted her back to the mimio booth where another tote bag, this time containing the system, was waiting for her. THAT was fun!

Yes, I spent time in the evenings exploring the French Quarter, eating excellent food (really helped me look better in my spandex shirt!), and walking Bourbon Street. I didn't have my camera with me most of the time, mainly because I didn't want to carry a purse while walking in all the crowds, so I don't have many pictures. I discovered two main things about New Orleans: 1) It doesn't matter that Mardi Gras if over - girls are still earning beads on Bourbon Street for baring all, and 2) That city is SURROUNDED BY WATER! What were they thinking? Don't they know that shit's gonna flood in a big storm?

All in all, an interesting trip.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Madison Moment

Mom wanted fried chicken for lunch today, and the weather is really rainy and yucky. None of us felt like going out anywhere to get food. So, I called in an order to the local greasy spoon, and went out to get chicken. Once there, I had to wait for the food (it may be a greasy spoon, but the food is pretty decent). As I sat at the counter, a young girl - maybe 12 or 13 - walked up. On the counter is a tray with pennies, and the usual "need one-take" note (y'know, for those times you don't have change, and don't want a ton of coins back). She stood there for a few minutes, picked up the little tray and looked under it, fiddled with the sign, and then -- took a penny. Yep, just took a penny, put it in her pocket, and walked back to her table.

I guess she really needed a penny, and the sign said she could have one. Wonder how many times that happens? I mean, I know the economy is bad, but seriously? Anyway, I went out in Google, trying to find an image of a penny tray to spice up this posting, and came across an advertisement for a penny cam!

I especially liked how he, as he put it, acted 'all shady and shifty' as he held his hand in the stereotypical, horizontal, gangsta gun gesture.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Very cute video

I've fallen in love with Elmo all over again!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Random Channel One Moment

I absolutely adore the kids in my Channel One class. They are hysterical, and a bright spot in my day.

Today, one of the students (a senior, and ranked about 5th in the class) stands in front of my desk and informs me, "Mrs, Lowe - I'm a Watusi. Wat-u-si is Wat-u get!"

Guess you had to be there....

Monday, March 02, 2009

How do they do this?

This act was on America's Got Talent a couple years ago. They were the halftime entertainment at the last UVA women's game. I filmed this from the jumbotron - I figure since I paid for a ticket, it was OK to film. Right? OK, I'm sure I'm violating some kind of copyright here, but whatever....

If someone knows how they do this - I'd appreciate an explanation.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Overheard in the hall

"Dude, seriously! The Catholics HATE the Amish. They, like, feud and shoot each other."
What? Really? I didn't even know the Catholics knew the Amish. It creates such wonderful scenes in my mind -- men in white collars and big hats chasing around after men in white shirts and big hats ...
wait.... wait....

Friday, February 13, 2009

Channel One moment

Today, in Channel One, one of the guys got hit in the face by a girl's shoe. They were sitting in the back of the room, just talking, when she decided to cross her legs. She was wearing mules, and her shoe went flying off, and hit her friend in the side of the head. He yelled, "I got hit by a moccasin!"

For the next few minutes, between uncontrollable laughter, the students debated why Harry - at age 17 - was not as quick to duck as Dubya. We decided that Harry did not have distance on his side, so had less time to prepare for the hit.

And no - I never turn on Channel One in this class.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Grandma, why do you have that tattoo?

Had a conversation today at work about tattoos. I have a tattoo ----->

Pretty dull. But - I like it, and I'm seriously considering getting another one sometime.

One of the first year teachers on my hall (she's 23, newly married, and very funny) stopped by my room today to chat. Somehow, the subject of tattoos came up, and she showed me hers.

Here's the back story: She grew up in Richmond, went to school a VCU, is a Richmond girl through and through ( I feel a country song coming on...).

So, when she graduated high school, she got a tattoo on her back. A big one. On her lower back. VERY low. It says, with lots of scrolling and flourish:

"Good times remembered here"


After she showed it to her friends, and they all died laughed at what she tattooed over her butt, she went back and had the word "Richmond" added above the words.

But still....


Saturday, January 31, 2009

Guess who said it!

Here's a quote for you:

"If I knew he didn't have a gun, I'd give him the finger!"

Who said it?

Last night, we went to a UVA women's basketball game. I was designated driver, and we gave one of mom's friends a ride - so it was me, an 87-year old, a 90-year old, and a 70-ish friend. The game was great (we won) and a good time was had by all. It was a very crowded game, lots of UVA and Maryland fans there. We always wait a little bit before leaving our seats, because the elevators are always crowded, and it's just easier to wait in our seats for the crowds to thin out a little.

When we finally get to the car, there are still quite a few cars out in the parking lot. There's only one exit we can use, so there is often a line to get out of the lot. Now, there is an unspoken etiquette for leaving a parking lot. You take turns letting people in - kinda like shuffling cards. Everyone knows what you're supposed to do.

As we wait for our turn to get into the main flow of traffic out of the lot, we're talking, rehashing the game. When it came my turn to move into the lane, three cars in a row go out of turn! Foul! The last one to sneak out in front of us studiously avoids looking at me - he knows he's in the wrong. That's when mom says, "If I knew he didn't have a gun, I'd give him the finger." I'm in the middle of a conversation with the ladies in the back seat, so it takes a few seconds for it to sink in that my mom is threatening to flip off a guy in a mini-van in the JPG area parking lot. Mom thinks it's absolutely hysterical that I'm shocked.

BTW - she doesn't know this yet, but tonight at the American Legion Hall (more about that in a later post), I ratted her out to our pastor. AHAHAHAHAHA!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ain't misbehavin'

Had a teacher workday today with a guy who is, in essence, running our school. No, he's not an administrator, but our administration has worshiped at his feet for the past few years, His words drip like liquid gold from his lips, and the ptb of my school absolutely adore him. I suppose he knows his stuff - otherwise, why would we (meaning the ptb) spend good money in a bad economy to have him come, not once, but TWICE in the last 2 years to spend a day with us?

OK - here are my problems with him as a presenter (taking nothing away from his ideas and experience.):
  1. He closes his eyes as he talks. When his eyes are open (which is seldom) he is looking at the ceiling. I find this very disconcerting.
  2. His catchphrases are: "I come in peace" and "I never lie in workshops." Those are the two that annoy me the most - he has others that pop up regularly.
  3. When he wants us to discuss something, he says, "Before I start blabbing away, is this (whatever it was he was just discussing) something you might use? Turn to your best friend and discuss. Go." Then, when he wants us to pay attention to him again, he says, "come back to me. On three, Clap!" Then he counts to three, and like morons we all clap. Sheesh...
  4. If we still are not attentive enough, he says, "come here, this is good, watch this!" I kept threatening to get up and walk toward him when he said this. (my dare money only got up to $20, and then one person at my table said she would give me $20 NOT to, so my net was only $10. Not worth it...)
  5. He has no neck. Nothing he can do about that, I suppose. It's just a physical flaw that bothers me, Seriously, his head sits smack dab on his shoulders - no visible neck.

OK, so we're in the cafeteria with this guy all day today. By 2:00 I am antsy as hell, and start playing with things on our table. For some reason, we have tags with numbers in the middle of each table (our # was 11), and we had a large foam die on the table. We never use either one of these things during the workshop - not real sure why they are there. Anyway, the teacher on my left turns the table tag sideways, and balances the die on top. (When I say tag, I mean like a tepee sign, folded so it stood like an upside-down 'v') So now we have this interesting thing in the middle of our table. I pick up my soda can, and start to balance it on top of the die. Yeah - bad idea. The whole thing comes crashing down. The table full of ptbs are looking at me, and then the no-neck guy makes some crack about kinesthetic learners. I get a case of the church giggles, which are very contagious. My table spends the next 5 minutes or so trying to get ourselves under control.

I think I still have a job.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sam's Club virgin

Didn't know there were any left - kinda restores my faith in all that is good, um, y'know? (Excuse that - Caroline Kennedy disease)

The other day, as I was leaving school, one of my co-workers stopped me in the hall and asked if I was a member of Sam's Club. When I told him I was, he asked if I was going to be in Cville in the next few days, specifically Sam's. Turns out, he's the faculty advisor for Student Council, and they are responsible for BBall concessions for the next month. He needed to buy junk food in bulk, and is not a member. I had a workshop in Lynchburg yesterday, and come right by Sam's on my way home. We made arrangements to meet at 4:30-ish out front. Good times.

As we walk in to the wonder that is Sam's Club, Glen starts ooohing and aaahing. It dawns on me that he's never set foot in a Sam's, or a Costco, or any discount price club. He has a list, but continually gets distracted by all the other things available. I have to educate him on Sam's etiquette: Yes, you can eat anything that the people in hats and aprons are offering you - if you really like something, you can go back many times; Piling on is allowed and encouraged - but you have to coordinate your shopping so the heaviest stuff is on the bottom; Yes, this is where I buy all my Expo Markers; and No, they won't give you bags when you check out.

What should have turned in to a pretty short trip (after all - he had a list!) becomes an hour-long ordeal. He reminded me of when I took my kids to Toys-R-Us for the first time. Sensory overload.

At checkout, the cashier (who, btw, had the worst Elvis pompadour toupee I've ever seen) tried to talk Glen in to a membership with all kinds of perks. I guess he thought I was Glen's wife {{shudder}} and wanted to upgrade us to the next level of card. Glen, of course, had no idea what he was talking about, and was about to agree out of politeness when I spoke up with a firm, "No, thank you." The guy looked at me with a 'shut up, bitch' glare, then gave Glen the 'I feel for you, bro - women are ball-busters, right?' pity eye.

The one thing I forget to tell Glen about Sam's beforehand was the procedure for leaving the store. He conscientiously put his receipt in his wallet (while I was engaged in a glaring match with the hair-challenged cashier), and started pushing the overloaded cart toward the exit. He was flummoxed by the line to get out of the store, and asked me if they were going to request that he remove his shoes. I realized his receipt wasn't in his hand, so told him he needed it out so the lady at the door could make sure he wasn't stealing something (like that jumbo box of Slim Jim's.) He fumbled around for the receipt, then expressed concern that all the lady did was give the cart a once-over (looking for the stolen iPod or flatscreen), then checked him off.

He was very impressed with the whole concept, and said he's coming back next weekend to get his very own membership card.

Hope it was good for you....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Easy Week

This is going to be an easy week. We had a holiday on Monday, and a professional day on Tuesday. The first day of the 3rd 9-weeks was today, I have an IEP meeting last period on Thursday (which gets me out of my 9th-period class!!), and a workshop out of town on Friday. A strange week, which usually translates to quick week. One can only hope...

BTW - the 9th-grade Summit on Tuesday was much less painful than expected. In fact, it was rather dull, and not worth talking about.

I realize I write more about my full-time job than anything else on this blog, and I feel a little repetitive. So, I'm going to vent a little about my part-time gig. For the past 5 years, I've been working for an online university, teaching courses in their Master's program in education. These courses are not easy, and are very intense - considering most are 4-6 weeks long. A ton of information is contained in these classes, and the assignments are very labor-intensive for the time the students have to complete them. Over the last 6 months or so, I've had at least one student in each class I've taught to turn in a plagiarized assignment. It's unbelievable. I state in my syllabus that I will check every paper for plagiarism, and will levy appropriate sanctions when plagiarism is found. I guess the students (at least some of them) don't believe me.

Ok - so in my current class, I have a student who has been (for lack of a better word) prickly. She doesn't want to work with her learning team - in fact asked them NOT to edit or critique her work. (mind you- they are working on a team paper, worth almost 30% of the overall grade) She offered to write the introduction and the conclusion for the paper. The others finally agreed, figuring she would cause the least amount of damage with these portions of the paper. (I also have in my syllabus that I reserve the right to grade team members separately - according to how hard or collegially each member works on the project) Obviously, this woman is not a team player.

At the same time, a paper was due individually. When I started grading the various assignments, this one student's paper came back as 35% plagiarized. And that's after I omitted any quotations and referenced material. Totally unacceptable! Then, I graded the team paper. You guessed it - both the introduction and conclusion were plagiarized. Hoo, boy....

So, I notified the student of my findings, and asked for an explanation. Basically, her response was that she had never had this problem before. My response? "Well, you've got this problem now!" She received a '0' for the individual assignment, and a 50% deduction for the team assigment. I explained to her that, if she had allowed her teammates to critique and edit her portion of the paper, this problem could have been prevented. She emailed me with threats of a grade grievance. I replied with the reality of an academic violation report to the university. She dropped the class the next day.

Now, I'm glad she dropped the class - I didn't want to have to deal with her anymore. Here's my issue: We are in Week 5 of a 6-week course. These courses start every Tuesday. I'm scheduled to start a new section of this same course on Tuesday, February 3. What are the odds that this person will show up in that class? I think it's a sucker bet, the way things seem to go for me....

Saturday, January 17, 2009

I got better...

Feeling much better today. I actually slept, lying down, in my bed, for about 8 hours straight. That hasn't happened in a while.

This past week, we had our 9-week tests. I've realized it's not so much about how the students do, but how successful each teacher is. All day yesterday, the topic of most conversations revolved around numbers - % passed, % who would pass the SOL if it were given today, and competition for the lowest attained score. It's bizarre. Those teachers who had students with astoundingly low scores (I think the lowest reported to me was a 20-something) seemed to think they should win something. Like a trophy for "Teacher with the most clueless class" or "Teacher who, despite teaching his/her ass off, didn't get the key concepts across." I dunno...

The head PTB was careening around yesterday, asking for percentages and handing out (according to answers) fistbumps or shoulder pats. I got a fistbump. Teachers (especially those in SPED) asked, with hope in their eyes, how my classes did on the test. When I replied that my students did fairly well, with just a few missed it by that much failures, I saw that hope die. They were hoping my students did as poorly, if not worse, than theirs! I don't get it. It's as if we are in this fraternity of Woe Is Me (WIM for short) where everyone whines about how awful and stressful their classes/students/schedule/LIFE is.

Speaking of WIM, we have a professional day on Tuesday. It's the end of the 2nd nine weeks, so presumably this workday is for entering grades and finalizing report cards. We got an email from the PTB, stressing how we are to use this workday as a time to get our grades in, and that there would be no mandatory meetings EXCEPT...and then there's a list of meetings. We have yet to have a protected workday - one that is truly a time for teachers to work without having to schedule around workshops and meetings. On Tuesday, we are all required to meet within our departments, to 'crunch numbers' (see above paragraph about test scores.) Then, I have an 'optional, but we really want your feedback' meeting titled (and I'm not kidding, here) The 9th Grade Summit. I'm expecting the leaders of the free world to attend, no shit. I will definitely be reporting on that meeting, because no way in hell do I believe it is optional. Should be interesting, if comments I've heard are any indication. One teacher said to me, "Well, I hope this doesn't turn into a gripe session. I don't have time for that!" and another (in a separate conversation) said, " I hope we'll get a chance to say what we really feel about this class, and the problems we're having."

Good times a'comin!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I. am. sick.

Whooo boy, am I sick. I started feeling poorly last Saturday, but thought maybe it was my allergies acting up, or just a sinus thing. By Sunday, I knew I was sick. Again. Sheesh.

This week is our 9-Week testing, so there's no way I can be out. I have to review with all my darlings, and make sure they complete the study guides I put together for them. When I was sick last weekend. Our test (Science) is finally today. We are the last department to test, every time. I don't know why the calendar is set up that way, it just is. They didn't ask for my input.

Did I mention I was sick? Yeah, pretty sick. I've spent the last 3 nights 'sleeping' in the recliner in the den. If I lay down flat, I cough like crazy and get all stopped up. Even in the recliner, I cough like crazy - but at least I don't keep Ken awake. My ribs hurt.

So, I'm in school all week, trying make the best of it and get my students ready for the test. Today, test day, I have to read a 50-item test aloud in 5 classes. While I cough. So far (it's 1:00), I've had 4 bottles of water. So, now when I cough I have to pee. Great. I've gone through half a bag of Hall's lozenges, and my stomach hurts.

People are so kind when you are sick, aren't they? This morning, one of the teachers on the hall told me the sparkle in my eyes was missing. (?) Another teacher asked me how I was feeling, and I said "I feel about as bad as I look." She said, "You look normal, to me." I need to mention here that I did little to make myself presentable this morning. My hair is pulled into a knot at the back of my head, my eyes are at half-mast due to lack of sleep, I think I put on mascara, and I'm fairly certain I brushed my teeth. Telling me I look 'normal' today is not a compliment. Of course, everyone who talks to me does so bending backwards from the waist, leaning away from me, as I cough into my elbow. I think I could kill someone if I managed to get him/her in a headlock. The germs on my sleeves are killer. I am typhoid teacher.

I need to take tomorrow off, and try to get better. Here's the problem: We have a 3-day weekend coming up (thank you, Martin), so the usual suspects put in weeks ago to have tomorrow off. I'm sure there are no subs available. I'm also sure I would get the administrative stink-eye if I told them I needed to be out tomorrow. This is what Suzanne says I should do - wait until late tonight or early tomorrow morning, leave a message on the voice mail, then take my phone off the hook. It's a thought... except that involves either staying up late tonight, or getting up early tomorrow. I'm sick. I don't want to be bothered.

This is what I think I will do. 1) Read my 9-Week test one more time to my 9th period class. 2) Leave school as soon as I can without getting run over by a school bus. (Oh, shit - I forgot! I have a department meeting after school today. Scratch #2) 3) Take 2 Advil PM when I get home after my department meeting, and lay down on my bed with my dog. 4) Come to school tomorrow, and show a video to introduce the unit for next week.

That's good teaching, y'all.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Wii Adventures

I ordered myself a Wii and Wii-Fit after Christmas. I figured, why not? After all the gaming systems I've bought for my children over the years, I'm allowed to have one.

It arrived via UPS on Tuesday, and it was like Christmas (when I was like, 12) all over again. I set the puppy up, and started to play around with it. Very fun. Very cool. Pretty good workout (especially the boxing). I set up the Wii Fit board, and jumped through all the hoops to get a fitness profile. (yeah, about first calculated Wii-Fit age is 80!) Evidently, my balance is crap. In any case, I plowed on.

The next night, I played a little tennis, bowled, played baseball, and boxed. Then, I skied and hula-hooped. Good times. Just for giggles, I did the fitness test again. This time, (since I knew what I was doing - a little bit, anyway) my fitness age dropped to 59. Better. Now, this little jewel does all this, and weighs you, too! OK, fine. Only the thing tells me I've gained 2.9 pounds since the day before. What??!! I look down, and see Shelly (the dog) standing beside me with one of her front paws on the Wii-Fit board! And she's grinning....I swear it.