Friday, December 23, 2005
posted by Q6 at 4:47 PM

In our school's attempt to remain religion-neutral--an idea I find almost impossible to accomplish during the "Holiday Season"--I was asked to make sure that the marquee message for the two-week break was either all-inclusive or, at least, not offensive (in an exclusionary sense). I ended up stealing an idea from a teacher in the English Department. Happy Holidays, everybody.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
posted by Q6 at 6:57 PM
One of our students learned probably the most expensive lesson we've ever seen--he screwed up, and he lost a finger.

Some of our classrooms use folding chairs, and some of the students like to sit back in their chairs on the back two legs. One such student combined the two, with his hands just under the seat--near the sliding mechanism--and the chair gave way, removing about 1/4 inch of his middle finger. I got to be the administrator who responded to the situation, and I gotta tell ya, THAT was probably the weirdest thing I've ever seen or dealt with so far.

So you keep your chair on the floor, young man, or you'll lose a finger.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
posted by Q6 at 4:57 PM
Anyone who works in a school knows that sometimes the bell schedules change: minimum days, final exams, stuff like that. All told, we've got seven. SEVEN. Seven bell schedules covering every possible need over the course of the year. Being someone who has the patience to do the math, I'm the "schedule guru" around here. Seems easy enough: a lot of time at the beginning of the year, and it's done.

Or so I thought. Then the new principal threw a curve ball at us.

Many schools have a "late start" day every couple of weeks for staff meetings, trainings, and the like. It means building extra minutes into the schedule so that they can be burned for the late starts about once a month. Our new principal wanted to do that. Now. So it was back to the drawing board for not one but THREE possibilities. One was finally selected (which starts the school day five minutes earlier each day), and seven new schedules, reflecting the change, had to be created. In the end, our 2005-06 school year will see fourteen different bell schedules, some used only on one day of the year. They've become old hat to me, but I have no idea how the parents and students keep track of them all. Thank God we ring bells.
Friday, December 09, 2005
posted by Q6 at 4:33 PM
So one morning a teacher finds something in our parking lot: a grocery bag maintaining it's boxy shape (with something in it), sealed with a few wraps of red duct tape. She lets one of the administrators know (not me), and he decides to play it "better safe than sorry" and calls the police. Within twenty minutes the bag is declared a "suspicious package" (a term that now gets a lot of play at school) and the Bomb Squad is on its way. In full accordance with procedure, I lock the campus down, more for crowd control than anything. The robot is sent in and blows the thing up with a water cannon to reveal the empty beer bottles inside.

I have no problem with the way the other administrator or the police handled it--nothing bad happened except the impromptu cancellation of second period, and the media that showed up really couldn't make anything of it, either. I do, however, take exception to the bag being labeled a "suspicious package" so quickly. If our parking lot is known for anything, it's for only two big problems: bad traffic and trash dumping. The way it was sealed with red duct tape is what set everyone off, and I have two theories: (a) if I were a kid trying to move my empties out of my house, that's one way I'd do it, and (b) red duct tape might be found at a construction site--just like the one on campus for the last three months. Either way, I wasn't going to interfere with a situation already in progress--but I was pretty sure as the robot went in that we were about to blow up somebody's gym clothes. In the end, it all went well, and the administrator who intially handled it should ultimately be commended for thinking of campus safety first.

None of this, however, has stopped me from wrapping most of my Holiday gifts--including the ones to the school staff members--in brown postal paper and red duct tape. It's just too funny to pass up.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
posted by Q6 at 10:26 PM
A group of AP teachers, counselors, and administrators got together today and discussed the AP Program. Specifically, should students in AP classes be required to take the test? Should the school grant the GPA bump for the course, even for those who don't take the test, especially when some students are taking the class just for the GPA bump? (We actually got to using the phrase, "the students are using us" when taking classes just for the bump and not for the test and the knowledge--the way we're being played is a lot like someone trying to beat the odds in Vegas with a "system," and the house is losing in some areas.) Should a student have their grade in the course raised if they pass the test? Finally, what should the pre-requisites for the AP classes be?

The discussion became quite lively for two reasons: first, many of the teachers wanted to see the problems solved with minimal impact on the way they run their programs (Math is getting hit the hardest with students who aren't taking the classes seriously, but History doesn't want their methods affected, for example); second, there are teachers who might not have such a problem with the students' tactics. In the meeting I got the impression that one teacher felt the status quo was just fine, regardless of whether or not other subjects (or even his own?) were bleeding to death as a result.

In the final analysis, the administration will have to review two things: what the specific pre-requisites for future AP classes will be, and who should really be teaching them.
Monday, December 05, 2005
posted by Q6 at 11:11 PM
I get questions at work from students and parents every so often about a website called "MySpace." [For the unintiated (read, "for those who have lives"), MySpace is an independent Internet bulletin board that provides cookie-cutter-type webpages with the ability to personalize, blog, send mail within the system, post bulletins, and create a list of "friends" within the MySpace realm.] I was introduced to it by a family member about a year ago. I didn't know what would happen there--I thought it was a neat little thing to try. Within two weeks, I received several dozen "Friend Requests" from people I soon found to be students at my school. It became very clear to me very quickly that having my little "icon" on their page of "friends" was some sort of status thing. The down side of it all was that it left other people--adults with whom I had been communicating--to wonder if I was really a 36-year-old professional instead of some 14-year-old masquerading.

The parents, of course, really have no idea what's going on in there. Drinking and drug references, allusions to sexual behavior, even threats. When I do get asked by parents about it, their questions are either very basic ("What is this thing, anyway?") or they want me to reassure them that their students will not be raped and murdered by some 59-year-old weirdo posing as a high school student. [Note: MySpace did make the news over a year ago when a young girl was lured to her demise by some sick psycho; some blamed the website and wanted to see it shut down. While a tragedy, to be sure, I don't think that MySpace was to blame. It wasn't long ago that a young woman was lured away from a car wash and killed, but you don't see the whole of America calling for the close of every car wash in the country.] It's this kind of paranoia that makes me a little hesitant to use the page much, as I don't want perception, misinformed as it may be, to infect my career. I don't shut the page down because, quite simply, the terrorists win if you give in to fear.
Long story short, I don't get much use out of my MySpace page anymore (but since people my age only seem to be using it for dating opportunites and such, I've really lost interest). Students will still approach me and ask, incredulously, "Do you really have a MySpace??" I don't know if it's absolutely necessary for them to ask as if I couldn't possibly be young enough to operate a computer (or have a life, for that matter), but they do. Then they search, and they find me, and they use my little cartoon icon to show that I'm their "friend." For a website called "My"Space, I don't seem to have much ownership of my identity there anymore.

Some parts of the Internet are good sources for quality information, but if the Internet really is a digital version of life itself, then let's be realistic: if we're going to have artificial intellgence, there's bound to be some artifical stupidity, as well. As far as I'm concerned, MySpace is akin to my horoscope: for entertainment purposes only.