Monday, June 25, 2007
posted by Q6 at 2:39 PM
This year's graduating class has special meaning for me. Their first year at our school was my first year at our school. They've been a pretty good group (those that are left, anyway), and it's been great knowing them. As I've mentioned before, they loosen up a bit once they're out of the 7th and 8th grades; I'm only indirectly involved in the high school, so they treat me like more of a person at that point. This is the first group that has only known our school with me in the front office, and I'm the only administrator left from their first years here.

I wish them the best. They've been great, and I've been lucky to know them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007
posted by Q6 at 9:36 PM
One of the greatest ironies in this business centers around the importance of the graduation ceremony: it is the penultimate experience, one not to be missed, to be treated like the Holy Grail itself . . . unless, of course, you're a graduating senior. Our campus has been hit with several pranks from the senior class this year--including tree-mounted squid (WTF?), streaking, and now we have five girls who went around painting "07" on every car window they could find in two lots (although I understand they painted a few car doors as well, including a staff member's, and that stuff's not coming off easily). The last group was told that as a result of this, they would not walk in graduation. They cried. They screamed. They wanted to know why the streakers get to walk (actually, so do I). The girls even offered to wash all the cars they defaced--like anyone's gonna let them near those cars a second time.

In the end, here's what happened: they walked graduation. The three streakers walked. The five painters walked. The squid guys--whoever the hell they were--walked. I realize that we have very little left with which to punish exiting seniors, but to let them off scott-free seems wrong to me; moreover, it guarantees that there will be more of the same next year. Early in my parenting I learned an immutable truth: never make a threat you're not willing to actually carry out, for you will be tested. Either we mean business, or we don't.

Footnote: The day of graduation, 90 seconds before rehearsal ends, some moron leaps out of his seat and runs to the parking lot. He's stopped, and although he probably left for no reason other than to avoid the parking lot traffic he called enough attention to himself and his car for security to find his stash and his bong. He didn't walk. What message does this send? That we're anti-drugs, but we're cool with vandalism and indecent exposure.

posted by Q6 at 4:35 PM
I'll say this for the streakers that ran through the quad today at break: they're a lot less fazed by public nudity than those of years past. One kid just stood there for, like, 15 seconds (which is an eternity when you're naked) when he saw I was blocking his exit. I managed to follow him to his getaway car, but I didn't make the plate (note to other administrators: we don't typically try all that hard to catch these guys, since they'd have to become registered sex offenders; we're not happy about streaking, but we're not cruel--besides, two hours later everyone knows who did it). Of course, the only two idiots to be late to third period AND out of breath wouldn't cop to it.

The ordeal did have its plusses, though: the younger students, the seventh graders, were sort of grossed out by it. And, I must say, those little kids have to have WONDERFUL self esteem right now . . . more than one said they expected seniors to be, um, bigger.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007
posted by Q6 at 10:31 AM
Our school site is near the beach, but not so close that the quad should smell like dead fish in the morning. I can only deduce, therefore, that the end-of-the-year pranks have begun.

Squid in the trees. I gotta be honest: it's not very inventive. Moreover, I still don't understand why the pranks have to be destructive. There are plenty of practical jokes that don't break or damage anything, they're funny, and most of all they're inventive. It seems that the same old proanks are being done year after year: let's spray paint things on the buildings; let's break things; let's streak the quad at break. All we'd have to do is keep them from walking graduation one year, and we'd be done with it. One group, one year--that's all it would take.

I'd even be willing to quietly float the idea that no one would get busted if it were non-damaging, legal, and creative.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
posted by Q6 at 5:26 PM
My school district hired a private investigator to check me out.

No shit.

It all has to do with the AP Testing last month (of course; because anything stupid and utterly ridiculous in my life at work is connected to those damn tests somehow). It's a long story, but the short version is this: I discovered too late that the district wouldn't pay the hire-in proctors, so on the advice of the school's business office I paid the proctors out of my own pocket and put in for reimbursement . . . which made it look to SOMEONE like I was dipping into the till. The investigator was very nice about the whole thing--he specializes in matters concerning schools--and he said that everything sounded reasonable. We'll see if this month's paycheck includes the reimbursement. Honestly, I expect the district to stiff me on this one. In the end, I followed the school's instructions and got screwed. It's a lot of money; not quite worth it to be able to tell the story, but it is one more reason I can tell people I've just about seen it all in this business.

Monday, June 04, 2007
posted by Q6 at 11:09 PM
I spent four weeks in May losing my mind over the Advanced Placement (AP) tests. For the students, it's about inflated GPAs and college credit; for the parents, it's about prestige, family honor, and one-upping the family down the street; for me, it's about getting the paperwork right and giving as many tests as necessary using the fewest resources. In a word, AP tests embody education as a whole--do it well, do it better than the other guy, and do it cheap. (When I took the AP tests in high school--I took four of them--all we got was college credit. No GPA bump, no neighborhood comparisons, no expensive preparation classes. We took the classes, we took the tests, and we got what we got. One of the tests got me out of two semesters of history my first year of college.)

So here are some of the highlights (some of which include new AP test titles I've come up with; feel free to suggest your own):

AP Procrastination
I don't know how anyone else feels about deadlines for students, but here's a phrase I used quite a bit: if you can't manage to register for the test during the four month registration window, how do you expect to get a decent score on the test? These kids had from the end of October to the end of February to make three marks on a form and pay $83.00 for each test. Even if they had to spread it over payments, they still had four months to get it done. The last payment came in--no kidding--three days after the test. I can't wait for that kid to start paying taxes.

AP Tupperware
Each section of each individual AP test is sealed in shrink-wrap. When you open the test packet, the free response section is still sealed in its own shroud of shrink-wrap. (The REAL money in college testing, I think, is in the shrink-wrap business.) Of course, the little red strip of plastic you're supposed to pull to open the whole thing doesn't work, and students use their teeth, their fingernails, even their brute strength to get the thing open. If only they had something sharp . . . like . . . a pencil?

AP Apathy
(No, it's not a voting test.) Some students come prepared to take the test. Others come not so prepared, but they take the test seriously. Others still show up to the test and you wonder how they even found the room, much less why they signed up for the class in the first place. During one exam, I toured around the room making sure no one was cheating only to find that very few were taking the test at all. One of the questions provided statistics about an E. Coli outbreak and asked for a statistical analysis. One student wrote the words "I don't know" and then proceeded to draw the finest pencil sketch of a hamburger I'd ever seen in my life. Another student created a word search puzzle that filled the page, complete with a list of words to be found. Needless to say the Statistics teacher will be pissed when he sees the scores; the art teacher, on the other hand, would have been impressed. (By the way, did you know that the new-fangled graphing calculators that all these kids use nowadays have games built into them? I thought they were working really hard on the test.)

AP Cocktail Party
I'm not one to throw stereotypes around, but I will say this: many student athletes have no earthly business at an AP test administration. When the instructions say "don't talk until I have collected all the test materials from everyone," it means "shut up or I'll think you're cheating." Most of the kids who would talk, crack jokes, or actually get up like they were working the room were athletes at our school. I realize that they have a different sense of what appropriate social behavior is in an academic setting, but it's really a let-down to know that the guy working really hard to make this test happen (me) seems to be the only one who cares about it. I didn't do it, but it would have been nice to say--just once--"Congratulations, Shortstop, you just invalidated the tests of everyone in this room." It would have been nice, just to make the point, but the eggheads would have skinned him alive, and it wasn't time for the "AP Gross Anatomy" test yet.

AP Origami
Each AP test comes in two parts: the multiple choice section, and the free response section. After the multiple choice section is over, students are supposed to seal the book up using three Avery labels. They're left with a perfect 3x3-inch square of wax paper, which is perfect for folding paper airplanes, little boxes, "cootie-catchers," and paper cranes (both the static AND the pull-the-tail-and-the-wings-flap variety). I started a collection of them, and students tried to compete at one point. It got to be such a running gag that I jokingly put on the board "AP Origami test has been postponed to May 23rd." The only thing that disappointed me was that I didn't get a single frog. Not even during the AP Biology test. (NOTE: The AP Bio test does not involve dissection. I had visions of feline cadavers in shrink-wrap, but it doesn't work that way.)

My Personal AP Awards:

Best Origami: It would have to be the Samurai Hat, though two kids made little paper cups. (Since they used waxed paper, they actually drank from the cups, so I don't have either of them.)

Fun Fact: About 20% of our school's AP students snore. (The AP Program should take note: lots of kids finish these tests early.)

Worst Question: "May is the fifth month, right?" (I can't wait to see his score. It was a Calculus test, of all things.)

Dumbest Question: "Is there really an AP Origami test?" (I answered that there was; if you can fold 1,000 paper cranes in three hours you get "5." I think she believed me.)

Best Question AND Best Quote: (This was during the five question, multiple choice survey each student must fill out about how they prepared for and why they decided to take the test) "Mr. Q6, I don't know how to answer #3; it wants to know what motivated me to take this test and 'Asian Parents' isn't anywhere on the list."