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.