Tuesday, February 24, 2009


It isn’t often that my students surprise me, 8th graders being predictable: selfish, oozing with drama and full of themselves. But occasionally they do surprise me with their actions or thoughts. Today was one of those days.

It was an ordinary enough day. A “b-week” which for some reason always seems to speed by like a runaway train. Busy, hectic and chaotic, but that describes just about everyday at a middle school. During the class change between 4th and 3rd periods two of my students, M and J decided that smack talk wasn’t enough to prove their manly “maness” (keep in mind of course that these students are 14 and a far cry away from “man”) so words became challenges and a gauntlet was throw, picked up and accepted. Imagine the very romantic image of knights in shining armor and then go to the complete opposite. Now, we had just come back from lunch and they were hyped up on chocolate milk and cold hamburgers, so the full stomachs and sensitive hormones gave way to an all out brawl. A brawl that I was unfortunate enough to get stuck in the middle of.

Normally during fights, I am crowd control. I push kids into the nearest classroom and kick the mob back so nobody gets hurt, as is required. I am not overly strong, so me trying to break up a fight is laughable. And with my medical issue, bruising is a concern for me, so I try to stay out of the way of flying fists. Besides, I really, really, really, don’t like pain.

So there I am, stuck in the middle of the hall surrounded by a mob of students that I am trying to keep back. The mob decided that it was far more fun to get as close to the fight as they could, which resulted in the unfortunate side effect of me being closer to the fight. At that point, two male teachers at the top of the hall are trying to push their way towards the fight. Two other students D and T are trying, unsuccessfully, to help break up the fight. Good rule of thumb, if people are intent on injuring each other, it is kind of pointless to try to stop them. In any case, I am still far too close to this fight but it seemed to be winding down in that J was on the floor and M was pummeling him about the head. At that point it is a simple matter of pulling M off J and M would be considered the “winner” (at least this is easy in boy fights, girl fights? I don’t even want to think about it!).

So I figure in order to end the fight and get the kids out of the hall, I’ll pull M off J and that will be that! And amazingly, it worked. I grabbed M with my left hand and pulled him up and back. As soon as I put my hand on him, he stopped punching. Whether he let me pull him back or in the moment I became grinch-like strong, I don’t know. But I pulled him back and swiveled to my left and pushed M away from J. Now, keep in mind, we are in a hallway, I can’t get to my classroom because a mob is standing in front of it. I am pushed up against the lockers because a mob is behind me. So in essence I am stuck in one spot in the hall. But I figure I’ll be ok, because I know that the two other teachers are making their way towards me. (remember the mob?)

M immediately “calms” down when he sees me. Now he was still yelling but he wasn’t swinging and he certainly didn’t have anymore to prove by that point. My right arm is braced against the lockers and I keep trying to push M farther back away, but mob! So I am holding him in place. I look at him and in a split second, just as I feel a presence behind me, M’s face goes from calming down to boiled up. J came up behind me and started swinging at M over my right shoulder.

Now, let me remind you: MOB!!! I had no where I could move to. As J started swinging inches from my head I twisted away so that instead of fighting over my shoulder, the boys were now fighting two inches from my face. And really, I never knew punches really did sound like a sickening thud. Now, at this point, I am more than a bit nervous…I am bordering on fright. Both of these boys were bigger than me, both were athletes and took great pride in working out. With the mob pushing in to see the fight I could not move in any direction. The two teachers were still trying to get to M and J and all I could do was lean my head back.

I started off this post saying that a student surprised me, and here is where the surprise comes in: As I am trying to avoid being hit (although I do have to say, M and J were very accurate with their punches) my other student, D, who had been trying to help break up the fight to begin with, saw that I was stuck, pushed his way up to me through the mad mob of 8th graders eager for some blood, grabbed my upper chest with his left arm, called a quick, “Watch it!“ and forcibly shoved me behind him, effectively shielding me from the fight. Now whether his “watch it” was directed at me, M and J or the other students I’m not sure. But by that point, the other two teachers were able to get in between M and J and pull them apart and down to separate ends of the hallway. And I resumed my crowd control job shoving kids into classrooms and clearing the hall.

Afterwards, during the class change at the end of the day, I called D over to my door and thanked him. I said, “You shoved my out of the way, thank you.” And, bless this boy, because he looked down at me in shock and said, “Ms. M, I’m so sorry I pushed you but you were gonna get hurt.” I almost cried. I said, “No, Darling, I was scared and didn’t have anywhere I could go, you got me out of the way. Thank you!” He just grinned a sheepish sort of embarrassed smile and went to class.

Not one to leave enough alone, I called D’s mom before I left for the day. At first she was afraid that I was calling with bad news, and I said “No, Ma’am,” and explained to her what happened, that her son, who apparently outside of class gets into a bit of trouble, was concerned for my welfare and helped me. I told her how proud I was and grateful to D that instead of looking to “get in” on the fight, he was doing the right thing. She started to cry and thanked me for letting her know about the “good stuff” that happens.

Now I can honestly say, that in my four years at my school, I have not been scared in the sense I was afraid something was going to happen to me. I had a student with a gun in my class. Didn’t phase me. I had a student who, in anger, threatened me. Not a problem.

Today…today, I was scared. And grateful. And proud. And really, when I think about it, when I think about the kind of kid D is, I’m really not all that surprised.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Live and Learn

Okay, so here’s the gist of what has been going on this week.

Number 1

- Florida Writes. This inhuman test of an 8th graders ability to barf an essay onto a piece a paper is a major hassle and an inconsistent way of judging whether or not a student can write. I’ve kids who can write brilliantly if given enough time. I’ve no love for standardized testing though I understand the concept. I would rather go to a portfolio based assessment program, unfortunately, many teachers are too lazy to want to keep up with all that paper and a portfolio system would cost the district more money since someone would have to collect the portfolios and “grade” them. Anyway, the test was on Tuesday and the week leading up to it was so incredibly stressed, I have no words for it. I can say that I am exceptionally proud of my homeroom. For a group of kids that had barely given me an inch all year long, they showed out well on test day. They all planned and all but one of them wrote a full page and most of them wrote front and back - a whole actual essay! We’ll see how their grades turn out in late May, but I am hopeful. Besides, if they do well, my principal is more likely to keep me on in the face of HUGE budget cuts coming down the road.

Number 2

- Wednesday I got home to pretty crappy news. My non-tech savvy husband managed (and I’m still trying to figure out how) to perform a complete system wipe on my computer. I know it involved one of the cats and the keyboard, beyond that, I’m at a loss, as is he. So, I yelled, screamed, cried, begged the computer gods to wake me up because you see…I did not have a backup. So, I got on the phone, to my tech geek buddy at work who said, “that sounds bad.” And he referred me to a geek company, who said, “Wow? Really? A complete system wipe? Wow. That’s bad.” Then they offered an outrageous fee per hour to attempt (attempt - not guarantee) to recover some (SOME) data. I called my big brother. Still crying, and was informed that “yup, it is bad and really there isn’t much hope.” I believe my big brother. I do. I put faith in his knowledge of computer geekiness but that did not stop me from calling an additional 12 computer repair companies in town to try to get my data back.

So where did this leave me? Well, fearing for his life, Scott slept on the couch after I threw a phonebook at the wall, screamed, “Fuck all this, I’m going to bed” and slammed into the bedroom at 7:00pm. Thursday was not much better. I kept thinking about the lost pictures, the lost stories, the lost everything! I moped through the day, grouching at my students, not yelling at them, but just in a funk and they knew it and for the most part left me be and actually worked. By the time I got home, I was still upset but not mad anymore. After all, Scott didn’t do anything on purpose. It was just something that happened. I made some attempts to get the computer back up in working order and realized that a daunting task lay before me.

My computer was 6+ years old and while in human terms that isn’t very long, in computer terms, my faithful tower should have already been put out to pasture, sent to the great PC pile in the sky. I started in with updates and downloads from Microsoft. Even with high speed internet it took about an hour to download everything. Then I tried to open Word. My product code have been deleted. Yikes! So I called up HP and begged for them to give me my product code so I could reinstall it. The nice foreign lady explained to me that it would cost a nice shiny credit card for them to remotely access my computer and manually input that information. And that it would take up to three - five days and would cost me $56.95 each day! What? I politely declined. By the time Scott got home Thursday night, I was no longer mad or upset, just frustrated with the reality of the situation. I told Scott that I wasn’t mad at him. I was just sad at the loss. He said he was sorry, and that I could blame him all I wanted. Instead I spent a good ten minutes hitting him with a throw pillow. While I felt better afterward, it was kind-of pitiful because he just took it.

That left me Friday to think about what to do. I had already had plans to purchase a new graphic card so that I could play Spore. The more I thought about the amount of money I needed to spend to update the system the more I began to think maybe it would be more cost effective to get a new system. I researched. Which is what I do. And found that graphic cards are expensive. And one that would be compatible with my ancient motherboard was about $200. Yikes! Again.

So, with Scott’s bonus check for making Salesman of the Year, I went out today and purchased a new HP Pavilion desktop for under $650. It was bundled with a flat screen monitor (which is beautiful) and printer (which I didn’t need, but can give to Ashleigh to have in her room). It has about a gazillion GBs of hard drive space (and read that gazillion as 500 GB which is almost 3 times as much as I had before and I hadn't come anywhere near to filling it all up). I brought it home, plugged cords in like mad and was rewarded with a shiny new computer.

So the story ends with a lesson learned - I bought an external, portable hard drive that I will use to religiously back up my files once weekly. A “big” purchase with money that wasn’t slated for anything and that we didn’t account for when budgeting (and really, I’m just doing my part to help the economy!). And a realization that stuff is just stuff. I may have lost photos of my girls, but I still have my girls. I may have lost stories and ideas, but I’m full of ideas and stories (just ask Sara). And one of the reasons (aside from financially) that I hadn’t purchased a new systems was because of the hassle of transferring files. Not a problem now. And what’s more beyond that, I know have the capability to use ALL my Sims expansion packs without crashing the computer or closing 30 background tasks while I play!

So, live more, learn more, take more pictures, play more Sims, write more stories, rip more music…and apologize to the husband for yelling at him because, of course, I should know better than to not have back-ups!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Silent Fury

I'm not exactly ready to blog about certain events yet as I am still to pissed off to blog objectively, however, the moment will be coming and all will be revealed. That my husband is still alive and untouched is a testament to my previously unknown self-control. So really that is all I have to say for now until I get some perspective.