Saturday, December 03, 2005

Week in Review

We had Honor Society Night for the not-so-recently departed first quarter -- with over 40% of the school qualifying with at least a 3.0 GPA. Strangely, because we've been discussing how weak the incoming 7th graders are, they compromised 75% of the honorees. So clearly, administration must launch an investigation into grade inflation within the C and D wings. I'm holding grades down -- only 11 kids made it. (Room D5, with its mission of kicking the crap out of proficient kids until they are academically strong, not just for our under-achieving corridor, but strong by any standard, has declared 85% a passing grade. Big time).

Huge parent turn-out, filling the entire cafeteria until there was standing room only in the back. And we have stopped noticing what a big deal that is, how important it is to get parents there, and how great it is that they want to be there. All credit due to the Principal of the Year (POY), with his charismatic promotion, joke-cracking in two languages. At the ceremony, kids names get called, they receive a certificate, bracelet, and a card with privileges (front of the line, homework pass, free dress day pass). The best thing, though, is the T-shirt. Long-sleeved black, gold writing, "Honor Through Excellence," and Jaguar Honor Society rendered into Latin, they get to wear them on Fridays with the oft-coveted blue jeans. And how cool is it to see the hordes of them in matching shirts the next day? Yeah.
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Basketball ended with more of a bang than a whimper, the team down to 7 players after I dismissed starting point guard and last girl off the bench for missing practice and just sucking. "Why don't I get to play more?" "We're gonna lose anyway!" "I don't wanna go to practice, it was my birthday Sunday!"

This was a .500 team brought down by poor work ethic and maybe my lack of clarity as to what it takes to be champions. I'm not sure how to take the remark from this player, "Next year will be better; we'll know what you expect from us."
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The exodus continues. I cannot remember a time when so many kids left my class, or a time when so many of the same type of student was departing. Usually, the upwardly mobile families express their mobility by moving North and Southeast to bigger homes and better schools. (Now, they move North and Southeast to bigger homes, but keep their kids here because we're the better school). Now, though, the low-performing, terrible behaving kids are dropping like flies.

D: Heads to an ED program at another school.
G: Draws and talks and does no work, which the mother chalks up to having difficulty with the transition from a different middle school in the District. Suggestions are made that the difference is apparently I have standards and they do not, but mother finaggles a transfer to last year's school.
J: Out of boundary and being annoying -- bye.
A: A constant, constant talker moving to Texas -- later.
P: Out of boundary and working really hard and behaving really well because she wants to stay, but she keeps bringing her Blue paraphenalia to school and this productive oasis will not last and then -- bye.
E: Was at another middle school last year where apparently no one cared if he never did homework, or classwork, or had a cell phone, or cursed; the initial surprise was real. Mother is angling for a transfer back to a place of low standards -- so long.

That's a lot of kids, and without exception I was not teary-eyed at their departure, although J. cried and cried and cried. I do wonder at the parents of some of these kids, though. Here is a place of achievement and production. We need your help to bring out those qualities in your sons. Rather than work with us, you choose to head to a place of least resistance. There are, thankfully, the minority.
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Boys basketball started, with two eighth graders over 6'0" and a guard I had trouble defending one day after school. This has been a down year for our athletics, but man, they're gonna win it all.
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After collaboration and a staff meeting Thursday, D5, E4, and I talked for maybe two hours. We are charter members of the Institutionalizing the Success foundation. What we have done must be formalized, implemented as a function of school culture, and not the personalities that inhere that school, otherwise we are vulnerable. One of the heartbreaking things I have seen is the decline of good schools in this District. I'm thinking specifically of one of our feeder elementaries destroyed by the inclusion of a small school and a change in leadership, and another middle school that just melted down under a horrific principal. It's like watching your alma mater fail 5 time to get the ball in the end zone from inside the 4-yard-line against Notre Dame (November 2000).

The three of us talk about how do we keep this going if POY is not longer around. We talk about extending our 7-8 school to a 6-10. We talk about teaching with tunnel vision, creating a sort of artificial blindness to external forces, and presenting everything as the most important work to date. We talk about how we can fortify our kids for high school. We talk about G. rotting in a jail cell, taking the rap for something someone else did, and about how sad it is that the only way he can express integrity or nobility of purpose is by keeping his silence.
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E4 and I are entering a handball tournament at the local youth center. I went out and bought a pair of high socks for the occasion.
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Saturday Academy: record attendance, death penalty/Tookie Williams conversations, formally written letters to the governor, some reading, pizza, and this from a girl who has been suspended at least twice this year: "I thought this would be boring, but it was pretty good. Can I come next week?"

2 Comments:

Blogger posthipchick said...

hmmm, i just got an ED kid transferred into my class because, as i understand it, the ED program is such a mess that they aren't allowing kids in there anymore. these are suspicious practices.

12:21 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

The ED program IS a mess. From what I'm told be people who seem to know, those teachers don't like teaching actual ED kids because...(wait for it)... they are difficult to manage.

4:58 PM  

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