Friday, May 28, 2010

The Truth Hurts

We learned about sonnets, we read sonnets, we wrote sonnets, and then we shared our sonnets. ( I wrote one, too; I often write with the kids. Mine was LAME.) The next day is Sit in Computer-generated Groups of Three and Share Our Sonnets Day, and since one kid is absent, I take his place in C and H's group.

C looks so troubled. He can't meet my eyes.

Me: What's wrong?
C: Nothing.
Me: I don't believe you. You look so sad.

We swap poems once. I look up, and C's face just breaks my heart.

Me: What's wrong?
C: Nothing.
Me: Wanna talk to a counselor?
C: No. I'm fine.

We swap poems twice. C's eyes are brimming with tears. I realize my sonnet is terrible, but not that terrible.

Me: C, I really wish you'd talk to someone. I wanna send you to the counseling office.
C. I really wish you wouldn't. I'm fine, really.

Fast forward two weeks. Our Seminar class is to see a play together, and parents are dropping kids off at school for car pooling. Of course I am running to every vehicle, shaking hands, thanking parents, discussing pick up strategies, and when C's mom rolls down the passenger window, I understand his heartache.

His mom is pale, painfully thin, and wears a tell tale head scarf.

Damn cancer: now I'm crying, too.

I Wept After She Drove Away

Slow tears streak your face...
Why? Then I meet your mom: her
head scarf answers me.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

totally awesome

If you care about the pervasive and icky use of "alot" when "a lot" is the right way, please treat yourself to this--I plan to get permission to use it next year in my classroom!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

One Month to Go: ACNE

In history, we are full on in the middle of the Civil War; we finished Glory last week, and Pickett makes his futile charge this Friday at our Gettysburg re-enactment. It seems the kids are enjoying our bungalow's in-class paper wad battles as a means to learn about the War Between the States.

We all are doing our darndest to keep the lid on PDA, senioritis (yes, 8th graders catch it, too), hot pants, and envelope-pushing.

The last month is packed with distracting elective class trips to exotic locations (three separate trips to Disneyland! One to Legoland!), 8th grade Career Day, a school-wide talent show, an assembly, finals--and parents. I teach 8th grade, and parents who have been silent and absent all year suddenly surface, like adult acne.

Like acne, things can get ugly.

Choose-Your-Own-Ending Haiku!

Buckle your seat belt--
the last four weeks of school can
be rather:


Saturday, May 8, 2010


Monday we begin the Civil War.

I mean we really do. The desks are in rows, facing each other, battle lines drawn. The armies have been drafted by the generals, the two kids with the highest grades in the class. Monday we load up our "ammo" by reading the text, then we "open fire" on each other--with one paper wad to the person who answers a question correctly (for points).

In between playing this game, threading it really, we learn how to march like soldiers, view the edited-for-classrooms version of Glory, assume the identities of soldiers and civilians so we can watch the war through their eyes, and try to memorize the Gettysburg Address.

There is sooooo much more, though. The War Between the States is truly fascinating, and the tough part for me is editing. It is deciding how best to focus, on what to focus (the standards are at least some small help with that), at the year's end when student focus tends to shift to the lovely weather, the opposite sex, and summer vacation.

I would love to know what everyone's favorite anecdote/focus/activity/book for teaching and learning about this epic event might be--and whether I could adapt it for 8th graders within a 55 minute class period. :-)

Friday, May 7, 2010


Last week, ten minutes before the last class of the day let out, a bunny hops up the ramp to the classroom, frightened by an errant 6th grader. Someone notices him and announces it like the Second Coming: "A RAAABBIT!" and of course with all the chair scraping and requisite "Awwwwwww!"s that burst out, the rabbit shoots to the far corner of the room. Barking like a New York cop, "FREEZE!" and then like a New York librarian, "HUSH!" the rabbit only poops a little before I am able to get it hopping toward the--dang it! Bunny makes a right instead of a left and now he's in a corner clogged with bean bag chairs, books, and years of detritus!

A quick call to the custodian, and up the ramp comes K. with a broom in his hand and a smile on his face. "We have a wascally wabbit," I inform him. I am glad he has his Wabbit Wemoval Bwoom with him. We (well, K. does, anyway) have to maneuver a bookcase out of the way, but the rabbit does find his way back out the door.

This morning in the middle of high stakes testing (more on that in a future post), a honeybee finds its way into my first period class. I have to give the kiddos loads of credit. As calmly as he would have informed me that he needed paper, R. says "There's a bee in here." Not one shriek--A. looks panicky and asks to move because, as she puts it in a rushed sentence, "Iamdeathlyallergicandcoulddieifitstingsme." Yes, yes, and she swiftly puts herself as far away as the room size allows. I tell them the bee is cheating; the kids say, "How?" "It's telling you the answer is 'b' !" Some giggles, some groans, and a few beats later, K. guffaws, "I get it now!" so we all laugh again. We turn off the lights, close the blinds, open the door, and eventually we (well, I do, anyway) persuade the bee it's better off outside. A. recovers her breath, I close the door, and testing goes on. (The state of California should give them extra credit for their calm reaction!)

Then, during the ten minute nutrition break, about fifty kids are circled around the corner of a neighbor's bungalow, and the excitement is unnerving--the word "rattlesnake" is on everyone's lips. I try to prevent kids from mobbing, I try my NY cop bark, and I watch the words bounce right off of their ears onto the blacktop. Mr J and Mr P successfully nab the baby snake (but not before idiot kids throw pieces of Chex mix at it--I swear, this many centuries later we are in no position to judge the Romans for their bloodthirst) and return it to the canyon.

And finally, Ms A. comes up the ramp during the second half of the high stakes test, motioning me onto the balcony, pointing at something to the west. We live next to a naval air station, so I worry it's a plane crash. No--it is a SWARM of bees not fifty feet away from my door. I let them finish the test before informing them.

People think that owl cam is so cool (and it is: maybe we need a kid cam at school...

School on a Canyon

curious bunnylost wandering honey bee
baby rattlesnake

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Can I just tell you
how much I am enjoying
teaching my favorite?