Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Super Boss

If there was any doubt that I a.) have super powers (such as lightening bolts coming from my neck, eyes, and knee) and b.) am the Boss (with a trusty sidekick), here is some proof.  Really, what more do you need? 

Note the cocky stance--that's how you stand when you are electric.

I am the one in purple with the trusty sidekick.  You can tell because there is an arrow pointing to me.  Next to me is one of my super students.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Darling Clementine

All of my classrooms have a ghost.  Either I have a strong link to the Other Side, or I need a patsy for the odd things that happen in my room... you can guess which one.  In this classroom her name is Clementine.

Way back in the olden days of yore, my aforementioned amazing cousin-friend (here and here) created amazing characters with watercolor.  This week we used watercolor in our art project, and I got to play with some of the materials (mostly just the leftovers).  

What do these things have in common?  Today I created Portrait o' Clementine a' la Awesome Cousin.  This is what happens when you pour watercolor water on old paper and splash around in it.  The Netherworld speaks to you!

Hellooooo Clementine!
Important Note: Recently, this amazing cousin I speak of had some of her art copied and sold without permission.  I must say that while artists are often our inspiration for what we teach or create, it is vital that the artist, author, or originator of the work be recognized.  Inspiration is a gift, we must make sure to respect it. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Quote of the Week #10

Two boys are doing what middle school boys do--slapping at each other and running about.  One of the boys is the instigator and has been doing this quite a bit for a few days.  I call him over...

Me: This whole hitty-mchitterton and punchy-mcpuncherton thing you've got going is very typical for your age, but I would like you to grow out of it now, okay?
Student: Okay

We'll see if it the power of suggestion works.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Artsy Fartsy 2--Electric Boogaloo

And THEN we played with color!!!!  What fun was that?  First, color wheels.  Spiced up the typical color wheel lessons by using magazine cut-out mosaics to create the colors (Thanks to the awesome classroom staff person with awesome ideas and awesome artistic talent.  Did I mention awesome?).  Then a review of ROY G. BIV, and some color schemes--monochromatic, analogous, complementary, triad, gray scale, and black-n-white.

Using some abstract blackline coloring pages I had, the students divided each into four sections, picked four color schemes and colored like crazy.  I'm quite tickled at the quality of their work.  They worked hard, they enjoyed themselves, they were proud, and they complimented the work of others.  I don't know how real art teachers feel, but I'm thinking this went pretty well!

Below is a collage.  Click here for a closer look.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

More Wreckage

Do not fear!  This is the good kind of wreckage!  I promised you, way back in the olden days of yore, that I would share more from the Wreck this Journal.

Here they is.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Quote of the Week #9--removed

My Quote of the Week #9 was just too gross.  It was been removed for your protection.  If you want to hear something really gross, I will tell you by request only...

Woe and Despair

Just kidding.  No woe.  No despair.  I was pretending.  Sometimes, when the kidlets are being obnoxious, I strike this pose (usually standing up, but it was sunny and I wanted to rest) and someone says for me, "Is it hard to be you?"

To which I reply, "Yes.  It is hard to be me.  Woe and despair."

This is often an effective way to get them to calm down a notch.  It must be my incredible acting ability.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Artsy Fartsy

This year I am teaching art.  For those of you that know me, I am not, technically, artistic.  Certainly, I am what you might call creative.  I am... crafty (homograph intended).  What I am not is an artist.  I know small bits of information, I know what I think is pretty, and I know how to research new ideas.  I fall heavily on this non-artistic skill base to get me through.  I think our students need art in their lives, I am saddened that I am their only option, but I am willing to try.  Luckily for me, one of our classroom aides is quite artistic and helps the kids with the actual... you know... art part.

I follow a simple lesson-planning model for the art class.  I pick an artist or artistic idea, teach some information about it, show examples, and then let them at it.  My plan, over the course of the 9-week quarter, is to expose them to some basic principals of art, some artists with whom they may identify, and some ways to express their little grinchy-heart-soul thoughts.

One of our first projects was centered around the concepts of line, shading, and portraiture.  Not small ideas (admittedly, I started too big).

First we reviewed the work of Chuck Close.  I focused in on the terms "portrait" and "photorealism" and showed how many of the pieces look differently close up versus far away.  Here is a short video of me teaching the concepts of "Near" and "Far."

Okay... not really.  Heh.  That is making me giggle more than it should.  No really.  I've watched it three times. Simple minds....

Anyhoo, the students picked magazine photos from my stash and drew a half-inch grid on them.  They then penciled in a one-inch grid on the drawing paper.  We showed them how to transfer the lines they saw (as opposed to what they thought the picture should be). Some students understood the concept immediately.  Some understood it part way through, a couple never quite grasped it, and one or two created some wildly abstract art pieces ("Well done kidlet, is that a... giraffe?").  Any piece that was completed was fawned over, exclaimed upon, complimented and displayed ("I just LOVE giraffes!").  Below is a collage of the pieces.  If you'd like a closer look click here.

or click here
*Note--it's almost 24 hours later and I am still giggling at Grover.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Giggle and Snort

Taylor Mali is probably best known for his "What Do Teachers Make?" poem.  I like it.  Very much.

However, I snort and giggle at this one. Even when I'm alone, and only my dog can hear me.

"The The Impotence of Proofreading," by TAYLOR MALI

Saturday, September 4, 2010


This caped teacher does not know the strength of her powers.  Earlier this week I said this:

I should not have taunted karma in this way.

Yesterday, one of those bordering-on-sweet-needy kids lost it.  She lit out on another student, shoving a staff person on her way, and repeatedly kicked and punched him (the kid, not the staff person).  She wouldn't stop.  Screaming, swearing, dodging furniture as he tried to get away (and the teacher tried to help him get away).  He got up and ran down the hall to the office and she followed him.  In the end, she had injured four other staff members and was in the back of a police car kicking and screaming.  

Oh.  My. Goodness.  She just... lost it.  All we know is this...
  • The child she went after had been almost hit by another student the day prior for being... irritating.  
  • The child she went after can, indeed, be irritating.
  • She has had similar issues in the past.  It appears this happens when she hasn't taken her medication. There is no way to determine this though. The parent does not share this information.
What I can guess is...
  • The teacher was out of the room for a minute, and the two other staff in charge are more quiet-voiced and less assertive when it started.  This may have allowed the other child to be more irritating, but that is just a guess.
  • She has trouble moderating her moods (statement of the obvious, I know) and her social skills are still at the chasing-boys-at-recess level.  That day she had some big emotions (fear and relief) related to a classroom project she was working on, and that may have put her off-kilter.
  • The other student has a remarkable propensity to bother other people.  We had been working almost constantly with him to curb that. Even with a staff member right next to him all day he was poking, kicking chairs, stealing pencils, etc.  I had to stop and count to five several times working with him.  He could test the patience of a stone statue.

So.  The lessons today?  Do not tempt fate by making sweeping statements about the sweetness of your little poodle-heads. Apparently karma has a wicked sense of humor.

Next lesson, while it is true that physically restraining kids only leads to escalating the behavior, there are times when the behavior has reached a point that there is no other choice.  This is a mental battle for me. I fully embrace the idea of not restraining kids. I see it escalate them and know it is not helpful.  In situations like this though, there really is no other choice.  By the time they attempted to restrain her, it took four adults and at least two of those adults were injured.  Debriefing the event, the only thing that could have been done differently was back at the beginning.  When she first got upset, whatever happened right before that--that's the key.  I don't know what that was.  It was not my classroom.  I still feel like I should have done something to stop it, but I know I couldn't have.

Lastly, do not underestimate the power of middle school mood swings. They can really mess you up!

Peace out my caped friends.  It's time to place my thoughts elsewhere and recoup my strength for next week.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mums the Word

Well my dears, school started nigh on three weeks ago and I have been... mum.

"Seal up your lips and give no words but mum." 
--Bill Shakespeare

It's not that it's a secret exactly.  It's just that if you were to ask me how it is going, I would say, "Mmmmm" and then lose track of the conversation almost immediately.  This is not, as it can be, because my brain is empty.  This is, as it can also be, because it is so FULL!  There is so much this year!  It all happened so quickly, and there is so much to say.  Any one story links to tens of others and then I am struck... mum.

So, where to start?  How do you eat an elephant?  I'll just begin. Or take a bite.  Or something.

Our kids this year are not your typical punk kids.  We have many fewer gun-totin', teacher-hitting, drug-using turkey-butts than in the past.  This year our kids border on sweet (key word--border), just don't fit in, and just... need.  They need so much! Example?

In one of my classes you will find...
-A student with seizure disorder and severe attention deficits.  It is unclear when he is having seizures and when is just isn't listening.  He is learning at grade level though, and is bored easily.
-Two students who have not been to school for over 6 years (if at all) and cannot read, can barely write, and are learning to add.
-A student with serious mental health issues including a perception that we are all out to get him and he must plan his retaliation attempts well ahead.
-A student with Autism who cannot comprehend how to navigate the middle school social whirl (who can?).
-A student with a hearing loss and Tourette's Syndrome.  He also has attention issues, but it is unclear when he is not paying attention and when he didn't hear us.  Chicken or egg?
--A student working at 8th grade level in all areas that just needs to "serve her time" with us.

Add in 5-10 other students with a variety of seemingly lesser needs, and I feel like a whirling dervish.  I'm feeling pressure to simultaneously teach two kids to read (to READ for goodness sake!) while another student needs to be challenged with interesting literature and in-depth writing instruction.  One kiddo is spinning on the floor in a distracted state of... distraction while another has his head buried on his desk in despair because someone rolled their eyes at him (have you SEEN how often middle school kids roll their eyes?).  One girl is kicking the chair of a boy she likes while that same boy can't hear me--or just isn't paying attention.

And... I just adore them!  I can't find my own tail end to save my life, but all day I see so clearly that they just need to be taught.  I feel like I have been running at full speed for the last three weeks and the only thing to do is keep running.  So... hang on to your capes my super friends!  This is going to be a fun year!