Monday, December 15, 2008

Who takes a kid's toy?

It's been a long time since I've written anything here, I know. Honestly, I've been feeling a bit blah about my work, about the state of the public education system, about teachers' unions, about my co-workers. A three week vacation helped a great deal, and last week was the first time in months that I felt, once again, like I have the greatest job on earth. And I do. Sometimes bad things happen in good jobs, though, and today was one of those days.

Over the weekend, someone who works at the school (or who stole keys and learned the alarm code - not likely) came into the library and took my laptop and charger, several digital cameras, and the Playstation 2 that my boyfriend donated so that I could hold a weekly Game Day after school.


Why do people do things like this?

I noticed the PS2 right away. Its cord still dangles from the top of the Fiction Coh-Cre bookcase, just as I found it this morning. At first I figured that someone borrowed it. A few teachers here use the PS2 and Rock Band equipment from time to time when they have a group of students who've earned a reward. It seemed odd though, that anyone would have come to borrow it Friday afternoon after I had already left for the day. I emailed the staff asking that it be returned. I heard nothing back.

Later in the day, our tech guy (Mark) stopped by for a visit. He mentioned that one of our teacher's laptops was stolen over the weekend. I mentioned the PS2 and he suggested that it was almost certainly stolen. It was only then, at 1pm, that I went to see if my laptop was on my desk. It wasn't. Nor were the 4 digital cameras that I had been using late last week.

One may wonder why I hadn't noticed the laptop until so late in the day. Truthfully, I don't use it much, and I'm almost never in my little office. And the cameras? Yes, they were just sitting on my desk, not locked away in a cabinet as they most certainly should have been. In my defense, I am a flake. Also, almost NO ONE has key access to my office. Plus, I just didn't think anyone would do this.

It's the Playstation that really gets me. What about Game Day? What about the Rock Band tournament that I was planning for the spring? What about all the kids who love to come sing, play guitar, and just be with each other? I think you have to be a low-down dirty dog to steal from kids. A flea-ridden, mangy, stinky, oozing, low-down dirty dog.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Make a Wish

In the library, I have a "Make a Wish" form that kids can fill out to request a certain title or topic. I keep their suggestions in mind when I'm purchasing new items for the collection. Today I started looking through their suggestions and came upon this wish for a new book/author:

"Booty Tits"

What are those? Any ideas? Or is it suppsoed to be Booty, Tits? I'm pretty sure that's not a book title, or an author's name. But perhaps I'm wrong.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Add it to the OED!

Today a student told me that he saved his Power Point presentation on his "chip card". That means flash drive. I think.

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's the Thought...

The object pictured here was given to me today by Veronica. She came up to me with a shy smile and said, "I got this, and I don't really want it, so, like, I wanted to give it to you." Hmm. Thanks, Veronica. I love it! How did you know I would love this so much? She says it's a donkey. I'm not so sure about that.

Two days ago, Veronica asked me, "Does plucking mean killing, or just taking the feathers out?" I explained, and then she explained that HER MOTHER ATE HER PARROT! WHAAAAAT? Her mother ate her parrot. Plucked it, cooked it, ate it. I asked if this parrot was a pet (I'm not sure what I was getting at here. What else would a parrot be?). Veronica said that, yes, it was a pet. It talked. I wondered aloud why her mother would eat her parrot. Veronica had no idea. She hadn't asked. I'm not sure I would ask my rabid, crazed, Glen Close of a mother either if I were Veronica. Geez!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Oh, I wish, I wish, I wish!

Students often approach me asking if I could buy a certain title, books by an author we don't carry, or more on a favorite topic. When a kid is a very regular library patron, and I know s/he is just dying to get the next book in a series, I usually just buy the book myself and consider it a donation. It's hard to keep track of what they want, though, and I have recently added a Make A Wish box to the library in which students can drop a slip of paper detailing their reading desires. As you can imagine, the large majority of their requests are completely bogus. Very few are actual titles or names of authors. Many are TV shows and characters. Plenty are highly inappropriate or lewd. The vast majority are related somehow to the Disney corporation. I love the Make a Wish box. Here are a few wishes that were made this week (I have been true to the students' spelling and spacing):
Tinker Bell
Pokemon Michel Jaskson
Stephen King: Cell
Pokemon Novel
Suite life of Zack and Cody
Holloween Poems
Jonas Brother
Jonas Brathers
Jonas Book
Scary Stories 3
Scary Stories !
family gay
UFO books seris (I think this is series?)
Jonas Brothers
Jonas Brothers
Jonas Brothers
Twel (I have no idea what this one is)
teletubies and barnie
Breaking Up!!!
InLove books
I wish I can take the Guinness world records 2008 (this book is non-circulating)
todal drama instand (my favorite, read as: Total Drama Instant!)
Pronale Ms Merfy (What? I would love to know what this says)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lame-Ass teaching

One of the many frills that comes with working in the library is that I am the Goddess of Lamination and Photocopying. Meaning, a half-broken laminating machine and an ancient Duplo machine are located in one of my work rooms, and I get the pleasure of teaching people to use them, change ink, change laminating film (although I leave this pain in the neck to my assistant), fix paper jams, etc. I'm very handy when it comes to Duplo repair. I also get to look at all of the items that people leave in the Duplo machine after they've made their copies and walked away. Most of the time, teachers are copying informational letters to send home to parents, or quizzes, or reading material for their students. Every once in a while, though, I get a glimpse of some hand-drawn chart or worksheet that a rushed, under prepared teacher has thrown together at the last minute. Usually, this is not a good thing. Usually, these are sloppy and meaningless. Today's example is both. Let's take a look at what is wrong with this "learning" activity, shall we?

1. If the teacher was making copies of this, that means the teacher planned to pass one out to each student. That means that the students were going to be asked to write their answers out on a sheet of paper. What do you want to bet that this teacher will also ask the students to write the questions along with the answers on that sheet of paper, thus making the activity take longer so the teacher has to do less actual teaching and can focus on something more important like reading the newspaper, surfing online, or balancing his/her checkbook? I am willing to bet a lot on this one.

2. The students are instructed to "Use pages 137-140" to complete this activity. That means that they will be asked to sit quietly with a textbook, looking for answers that correlate exactly with the questions. The questions are probably listed in sequence to go along with the text. The students will be asked to do zero thinking. They are only hunting for recognizable words and phrases.

3. The questions are poorly written. So poorly written, in fact, that if I wasn't sure that the students wouldn't need to understand what was being asked, I would worry that the students wouldn't understand what was being asked. Let's look at each question one at a time.
- 1) Why were most kids taught to read? I assume the teacher wants to know what was the main purpose of education during the Great Awakening. This phrasing, however, fails to ask that. I would tell a student who wrote this question that it lacks clarity and that the reader wonders which kids, where, when, what the heck are we talking about?
- 2) How did poor kids learn? Well, look. This is a question that just cannot be answered, even by the best experts in the fields of psychology, education, child development, etc. How do people learn? How does anyone learn, and what does being poor have to do with it? Again, the teacher doesn't actually want to spark that discussion here. The teacher wants the students to locate a sentence in the textbook that reads something like "Children from poor families usually learned by _________".
- 3) How was literacy rate measured in the colonies? Way to model proper use of the word the, Teach!
- 4) (Please note that on the original document, this question is indeed number 4, but is listed before number three.) The Primer contained what 2 things? Hmmm, let's see. Two things. Two things one might find in a book. Paper and ink? Page numbers and letters? Chapters and a table of contents? Once again, the teacher doesn't really care what was in the Primer. The students are only supposed to look for a sentence that says "In most cases, students would read from a Primer containing _____ and _____."

I don't know if I can go on. It's too painful. Let's just skip to my favorite.

- 7) The Great Awakening was a _________ movement. I'm going to say bowel. Wait, that can't be right. I'd like to change my answer. Especially since the teacher has helpfully mentioned that I'm looking for a nine letter word. How will I ever figure it out? Can't you just picture a room full of kids counting how many letters are in the words on pages 137 - 140? It was a squirrels' movement. No, a squelched movement. A stevedore movement. I've got it! A kowtowing movement. That's gotta be it!

Apart from the many questions this worksheet discovery demands that I ask myself about how our current system has failed this teacher and his students, I must also ask a more practical question. What, if anything, should I do about it? Do I alert the Social Studies department chair that someone is a lame-ass teacher and should be identified and provided with some sort of intervention? Should I show my Assistant Principal? Should I tape the page to the wall by the copier, which would both expose the teacher and allow that person to claim his distinguished work? Probably I should just file it away in my scrapbook to be used later in my memoirs. Sigh. I think this one is going to get away with it. Beware your child's tired, frazzled, hasty teacher, just looking for a little peace and quiet. The next thing you know, these kids are going to be dimming the lights for a round of Heads Up Seven Up so the teacher can get a little shut-eye.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Nothing Left for Me To Do

I have three volunteers who have taken over my library so thoroughly that I have nothing left to do. Well, not really. I could do a lot of work that I don't want to do. I could plan ahead, or reorganize my files, or begin massive projects that would benefit the entire school community but would take hours and hours of work on my part, not to mention the frustration and tedium of completing truly great massive projects. I could do that. Probably I will. For now, however, I am going to sit back and enjoy the fact that all of the clerical work that I normally need to do in order to stay afloat is, for once, pretty much done.

These three giggle monsters - Gaby, Cindy, and Veronica - are a dream come true. They're off track, which for most kids means that they're bored to tears at home for 8 weeks. So instead, they've started to come to the library to help customers, shelve books (this they do poorly, but I give them credit for trying), answer the phone, clean, and giggle like I've never heard people giggle before. It's constant and only a little irritating. Today one of them brought ham sandwiches on white bread and mangoes to share for their lunch. They sat in the work room in the back and ate in silence, only giggling once in a while. They were silent because a teacher was in the work room to laminate posters, and it turns out that they felt their conversation should be suspended in the presence of said teacher. I think that's pretty funny, since they never stop talking when they're behind the counter working for me.

So maybe I'll get to write on this blog more often now that these ladies are running the library. Or maybe I'll tackle some of these big 'ol projects that have been haunting my To Do lists for ages. Not today, though. I'm going to just enjoy this for today.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Some Boys Are Really Nice

I'm not feeling so hot today. I'm on cold medicine that's making me loopy, alternating between a stuffed and a runny nose, and my energy is zapped. It's the last period of the school day, and the class that was scheduled to come to the library canceled. So, my three eighth-grade student clerks (Alfonso, Jesus, and Khalil) have little to do. I've let them just chill together, and watching them has been enlightening. I knew this, of course, but these boys are really, really nice. Just a minute ago, I admitted to them that I was feeling tired and didn't want to do a whole heckuva lot of work.
Alfonso said, "Just rest, miss."
Khalil followed with, "We can handle it. We can handle everything here."
Jesus rounded it out with a humorous, "You really should get some Vapo Rub miss. You do sound quite congested."

When the main office called a few minutes ago to say there were two packages that needed to be picked up, they bickered over who would go get them! And how have they chosen to spend this rare free time (I don't normally believe in free time for students)? They are shopping for books online, visiting author websites to see when their next books are being released, watching movie previews for Twilight, the hottest new book-to-movie about vampires,making short movies on the computer, and reading. And these are not dorky kids. They're just soooo nice.
A girl, Iris, arrived not too long ago to join them. When she walked in she said, "It's a slow day today in the main office", which is where she has her service job. She fit right in with the pack, discussing the various vampire series each has read.
Mysteriously, Jesus came into my office to ask what accounting irregularities are. I explained. Not too long after, he returned to ask what Tarmac is. Again, I explained. When I asked him what he was doing, he said reading a book about cars. Ok. He also wanted to know why our computers had such an old version of Flash. I didn't know what to say to that. Jesus is cooler than I am, I think. Certainly more curious.

My point is, I think, that middle school boys have a bad reputation that many of them do not deserve. I don't remember too many boys being this nice when I was their age, I will admit. My dad, I have been told, was not this nice. Although maybe he was this nice to someone. Maybe these guys are just this nice to me? I don't think so. I think they're nice all the time. Right now, crazy as this seems, I hear what I believe is Mozart wafting across the library. I think they're listening to Mozart! And remember, not dorks. Not at all.

No one knows that there are boys like this in an overcrowded, low-performing school in South Central Los Angeles. People think that the boys here are violent, hard, mean, or maybe dumb. I listen to Alfonso, Jesus, and Khalil talk about what they're planning to read next. I watch Alfonso help Khalil print out, cut, and laminate bookmarks with images from Khalil's favorite new series of books. I watch Jesus and Iris work on this movie together with absolutely no awareness of the usual tension kids of these age feel towards members of the opposite sex.

By the way, Jesus just came over and exclaimed, "Funky! Disco night is back on!"
I don't really know why he did this.

Anyway. I need to start a campaign to project this image of urban boys. Anyone would like these three. And they have friends. Lots of friends who are just like them. It makes me happy in the midst of my head cold.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Failure to Launch

In my role on the Technology Use Committee, I have worked hard to provide countless professional development workshops for teachers who would like to advance their basic technology skills. We've held sessions on Microsoft Excel and Powerpoint, Windows Movie Maker, Google, using Databases, creating web pages, using document projectors, using LCD projectors, using instructional videos, and the list goes on. At times, I feel we are making great progress. Many of our students are even mastering these skills, which makes me hopeful for their futures.

At other times, I worry that I/we are failing our students miserably....and in this case, the students I'm talking about are the teachers. After years of technology workshops (which include very specific advice about how to frame an assignment for the children), the teacher I will highlight today has managed to create what I feel is an extremely confusing and incomplete sheet of instructions for his students who are to make a Power Point slideshow about Ancient Egypt.

A few details about this assignment...
These are 11-year-old kids in the 6th grade. This is their first time using Power Point (probably) and for many of them, their first time using any Microsoft product. This teacher has asked them to make a 15-slide presentation about Ancient Egypt. That's a lot of slides. A whole lot. A real lot, as they say in Decatur. As an added bonus, these students have not actually started studying Ancient Egypt yet. When they first visited the library to use the computers, they were asked to simply "set up" their slides. I don't even know what that is supposed to mean, and I've made a hundred Power Points.

Ok, so, on a plain, white half-sheet of paper is written the following:

How to do a PowerPoint/Slide Show

Start by going to start and left click (L C.) on the mouse.

Then go to bottom left and lick on All Programs

Then go to list and click (L.C.) on Microsoft Office

Then slide mouse over to Microsoft Office Power point and (L.C.)

Now, I suppose these directions could be followed well enough by someone who knows what they're doing. I do find the (L.C.) instruction bewildering in all of its forms. First of all, who calls it Left Click? It's just Click, dammit! Also, the first time it appears, the words "left click" are followed by the acronym in parentheses. Fair enough. The next time, however, the acronym for Left Click follows just the word Click. And finally, the words Left Click are left out entirely, but the acronym is still in parentheses. The words Left Click were shed one by one, until there were none.
Another problem I have with this is that this is not, in fact, the instructions needed to "do" a Power Point. To open the application, yes. To use the application? Not in a million years.

I would like to be the kind of person who is brave and cruel enough to directly address these problems with the teacher, but I am not. After all, I am not an administrator. I do not have true supervisory powers. Also, I am a yellow, clucking chicken.
As I prepare for today's Technology Use Committee meeting, I am reminded that being a teacher is a lot like being Sisyphus. That stone just keeps on rolling back down the hill, and I/we keep charging down to get it and to start over again. Maybe we know more about the hill we're climbing up; we can avoid divots and gravel. But that stone doesn't seem to get easier to push just because we recognize the terrain. What does it say about me, about the other teachers, that we choose to do this? Are we unrelenting optimists who believe in the promise of all people? Or are we just quirky, foggy-brained, and strange?

In the end, I have to give this teacher credit for attempting to do a Power Point with his students for the first time, right? I do. I really, really, really do. Really. I do. Right?

Monday, August 11, 2008

I Have Finally Found It, After a Lifetime of Searching

This is the name. The best, strangest, most difficult to wrap my head around name that I have ever heard. It belongs to a young girl who likes to read fashion and gossip magazines in the library while sucking her fingers, like a small child would suck her thumb. She is very sweet, but her eyes always seem a little glazed over when I tell her that lunch is over, it's time to go to class. My guess is that she spends a lot of time in front of a TV. Her name makes me think of ducks. It is a wonderful name to say aloud, and I find myself adding an extra U as the next to last letter to make the name sound just a bit more rolling, a little more like it came from some long-ago language spoken by sun-baked ancestors. The name is...


Yes, Tommaniqueck(u)a, the goddess of harvest and light.
Or, Tommaniqueck(u)a, a warrior princess riding a great, tamed beast.
Tommaniqueck(u)a, who betrayed her people and brought down a curse upon them.
Tommaniqueck(u)a, who lives with her grandmother near a solitary pond and can communicate with the geese and swans who live among them.
Tommaniquek(u)a, a fierce and vengeful sorceress, dressed in animal skins and a crown of sharp teeth.

I could go on and on like this for hours. Say her name again and again and I think you'll know what I mean. The added U is necessary for me, since the harsh ending sound of the true spelling (Tom-an-eek-eck-a) does not inspire such glorious possibilities. It does however, better fit the small, fragile, dazed girl in the corner, sucking her fingers and reading about glitz and glamor.

The years go by and the names get more elaborate, more challenging for the unsuspecting teacher reading the roll for the first time, more filled with apostrophes (Arie'L, for example), and more exotic. Eight years ago, Tanjalay Lovelady crossed my classroom threshold and I thought that no name would ever be better than hers. It was so satisfying to say. One couldn't help but grin at the thought of the parent who lovingly chose it, declared it, and had it written in stone. But honestly, Tommaniquecka brings things to an entirely new level. I cannot wait for the name that I will someday find that will make Tommaniquecka sound like Mary or Beth. Just imagine the possibilities. It makes me giddy.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fear of Rejection

Below is the trancript of a note I found today in the library. It is written on a mint green index card. There is no way to know exactly when one girl stops writing and the other starts, so I will simply transcribe what is on the card, true to the girls' punctuation, spelling, etc.

U shuld not have 2 say that I sed it...Heez gunna stop talkin 2 me fine then I tell him that I was just kidding! Do you feel much better !? no dont tell him tat....Jus tell em 2 not stop talkin 2 me lyk utha guys okay I will -----> So u n yvette tell Daniel that jus becauze I like him to no stop talkin to me MAN ULISES DOESN'T STOP SHARING dumb of Jimmy N.

So, my best guess at interpreting this is that Girl A likes a boy and maybe she actually said so to her friends, which is pretty much the kiss of death in middle school. Girl B and Yvette told the boy what Girl A said. For some reason Girl A often finds herself in these situations; her honestly about her affection towards boys does not appeal to them. Are they too shy? Do they dislike her? Whatever it is, she can't take the rejection this time. Girl B doesn't seem to concerned about all of this, if you ask me. Some friend.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Student Homepage dot com

During nutrition and lunch (nutrition being a morning snack break), the library gets crazy. I should probably put a stop to it, to tell the truth. It's so crowded in here that I cannot control what's going on. Things go missing, it's hard to get kids to leave at the bell, the checkout line stretches for miles. It's been suggested that I should begin to treat library like a night club. X number of people allowed, you come in when someone comes out, red ropes, all of that. That's the most reasonable thing to do, but I just can't bring myself to limit access to the library, especially for those kids who see it as a refuge.

Anyway, today there was a very sweet, shy, timid, space cadet of a girl sitting at a computer with her hand raised. That's my first clue that she doesn't know what's going on. Her hand is raised during nutrition? How the heck am I going to see that? Well, I did, and she asked her question.

"How do I get to the student homepage?"

Oh boy. The what? "Do you mean the library's homepage on our school's website?" I ask gently.

"The what?" she says.

"The school's website. Perhaps that's what you're looking for. Go ahead and open up Internet Explorer and I'll show you."

She stares blankly at the desktop. I point to the icon. She double-clicks.

"Is this what you meant?" I ask, as the school's page opens.

"The other day, I was here, and I went to this place. I typed something in at the top. But I don't remember. I think it was 'homepage'."

I sigh inside. I close my eyes to gather my patience and love for children. I point out the school's computer use rules taped to the monitor (school website and assignments only). I tell her that I'm not aware of a website called "Homepage", but perhaps she could show me sometime. The entire interaction takes less than five minutes but feels like a lifetime. All the while, hordes of students are spilling though the entrance, through the exit, through the skylight it seems, all with questions like these. I need coffee.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Bad Decision Making

At the end of lunch yesterday, I hear a ruckus in the stairwell that leads to the library exit. This happens a lot; kids hang out there and must be kicked out so they're not late for class. So I went to do the kicking out. On the landing between floors, I saw Noe (the lisping boy who believes we are made of dirt) being shoved around by a surly group of at least five. I made my presence known, they fled, I followed. Outside, the harassment continued. Noe's collar was tugged, he was elbowed, he almost lost his balance. At first I assumed that this was your average bullying, that these were your average bullies, and that I would need to make an average intervention. Noe is, after all, a kid that most people would not be surprised to see bullied. I am sorry to say that anyone is bullied, but it is a solid fact of middle-school life.
I intervened to find a complicated story that took some time to unweave. It goes something like this. Boy 1 (let's call him Miguel) brought twenty dollars to school. Why, no one knows. That's a lot of candy, even in today's market. After PE, he put his things in his locker and went to take a shower (again, why? Ew, those showers cannot be nice), but he left his locker open. This is his second Bad Decision by my count. The money fell out, or so we think. To think otherwise is to assume Noe is devious and criminal, which I choose not to think. Noe walks by Miguel's locker and picks up the money, keeps it. Bad Decision three. Someone sees this happen and at lunch in the library, Miguel's gaggle of followers attempts to retrieve the money through the art of intimidation. Noe sticks to his story, claiming finders keepers.
Enter Boy 3 (let's call him Juan). Noe tells us that Juan reached into his pocket and took the money back. Juan says no. Juan says he did, but then he put it back. Juan says Noe is a liar. Juan says he took the money and gave it to someone else. Juan says a lot of things.
Suddenly, Miguel's gaggle is suspicious, but no longer of Noe. Now they are looking to Juan and saying things like, "Man, where's the money?", "Man, you better tell where the money is!", and "Man, you spent it, didn't you?". Juan stammers. Noe looks hopeful. Miguel just hangs his head in total disappointment.
Noe is redeemed, Juan confesses, they all go to the dean to record statements. You see, Juan only has seven dollars in his pocket. He must have treated all his buddies to snacks at lunch, because that money is gone.
You would think that all of this would cause some lasting tension among this group of boys. Maybe Miguel would hold a grudge against Juan for lying. Or Noe would be angry with the rest of them. Twenty minutes later, I see Noe, Juan, and Miguel crossing campus together, returning from the dean's office. I say, "Is everything ok with you boys?" Smiling and laughing, practically linking arms and skipping, they tell me yes. Miguel says, "He'll bring me twenty dollars tomorrow and that'll be the end of it". All is forgiven. Perhaps the final Bad Decision, at least on Miguel's part.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


A sixth grade girl just asked in all seriousness, "What city are we in?"
That is all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The First Few Weeks

Well, so much for writing every day. These last few weeks have been some of the most hectic I've seen at this school. Hectic in a good way, because our school seems to be breeding nerds, which means that the library (their kingdom) is getting more play than ever before. This is wonderful of course, but exhausting. How and why is this school breeding nerds, you ask? I don't know for sure, but I suspect a few specific changes over the last couple of years are at the heart of this transformation. One is that we are now heavily recruiting students in gifted programs at their elementary schools, and our gifted program is growing in size and prowess. Another is that we have full blown electives now, so drama kids, art kids,and tech kids have a place to thrive. The third is that were are pushing reading pretty hard, the staff is visibly reading, and books are now a little more cool than they were. The nerds are establishing their space, their superiority, and their right to exist. More and more of them are maintaining their nerd personas all the way through 8th grade, or if they shed the nerd skin, they only do so in favor of becoming intellectually cool, meaning they wear black, listen to rock 'n roll, smear on eyeliner, and talk of living downtown, or in Hollywood, or somewhere that is not here.

It's the 6th graders who are really funny though. One recently came to me and said "Ms. Murphy, I would like to discuss with you the possibility of starting a Young Authors club". He has since returned several times, once to show me a book he has written (incomprehensible), and another time to write out plans for the establishment of this club. Another boy recently told his teacher that evolution has been disproven, and that there are those who now believe that we are all made of dirt. Two others orbit me like satellites or moons during lunchtime. I could hold my arms out straight and smack either one of them in the head at any time. Yet another recently passed me a note during a busy time. He was recommending that I post a sign on the door of the library about the rules for borrowing chess boards.

I am so pleased that these little smarty-pants kids are here. I am worn out by them, by their questions, their ideas, their need for my attention and perhaps my approval. The line to check out books exceeds thirty people most days during lunch, and stays that long even though we are checking out books at a rate I find astounding. I have to turn them away at the bell for class. They look so sad that they aren't going to get to take their dinosaur, solar system, baseball, dragon, horse, puppy, ghost, and UFO books with them. It's all I can do not to laugh.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

the Writer Lady's challenge

I've been absent from my blog for too, too long, but today I received a little kick in the rump from one of my favorite YA writers, who is encouraging the readers of her blog to write for 15 minutes a day about anything at all. I'm going to give it a shot, although I have a feeling that on a few days I'll be my usual slacker self, sorry to say.

Today was the first day of the official '08-'09 school year. Students on the year-round calendar hear in Los Angeles had one day off (yesterday) between x grade and y grade. Elementary school Friday, middle school today. Not much in terms of a transition period. I needed way more than a full summer to get used to the idea of going to 9th grade, and the poor, withering, blubbering, teary-eyed, terrified freshman out there on LA's B-track got a whole three days.

Other fun and funny things that happen on the first day of school in LA -
1. The computer system responsible for maintaing class rosters doesn't work. It's too much, I can hardly stand it. Teachers were not given accurate lists of the students that should appear in each class period, nor could they use the computer system to take attendance for the kids who did miraculously show up. I can only imaging how many 6th graders wanted to cry today, how many teachers are counting the minutes until their first cocktail (teachers are huge drinkers, you know), and how many parents will be shocked and awed by the stories of wonder that their kids bring home this evening.
2. Countless students were put on tracks without their parents knowing before today which track that would be. If you aren't familiar with this system, we have A, B, and C tracks (each about 900 kids), and they are staggered to accommodate overcrowding. So today, B and C tracks begin. C track will be in school for the next 4 months. B track will be in school for 2 months, have a two month break, and come back for 2 more months to complete their first semester before christmans (the worst one by far). A track is on vacation until B track goes off, at which time A track will be here for 4 months straight until Christmas. Sooooooo, today lots of kids showed up for the first day of school only to be told that they have been placed on A track and should come back at the end of August. Really cool for a kid, but maybe not so cool for a parent.

The library isn't open today or tomorrow or the next day, largely because the school district won't be updating out computer records for a while, so we can't check out books to kids yet. So I have been hauling books today, shifting them two cases to the right to make space on the shelves. I bought $200,000 in books in the last two years and I am running out of SPACE! It's a daily struggle to find room to squeeze in all of these new novels.

Ok, that was just 13 minutes, but I've now been interrupted by two history teachers and an english teacher. One history teacher wants to give me hundreds of tattered books he found in a cabinet (NO!), the other is ready and waiting to laminate, the other needs help with his web page. Gotta go, gotta go.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You're hired!

It's the end of C-track's school year, and I've been collecting job applications from 6th and 7th graders who want to work in the library next year (for their electives). It's a pretty thorough application, and my favorite reponses to read are the ones for the only two open ended questions. Here are some of the answers I've gotten.

To the question "Please list any special skills here":
- speak a little french
- studied water color drawing, only graphite drawings, primary, secondary colors
- using math and algera
- good on flying thing and on cars
- i like to have everything really organized
- drawing flowers
- taking orders
- writing and signing things
- sport
- speack spanish
- types of books, authors [i'm not sure what this skill is supposed to be]
- spelling, grammer
- smart, playing drums
- I know my numbers
- By lingual
- My writing is nice
- could carry books and put them on the shelf
and (this one is my favorite)
- I can sing the national anthem

To the question "Please writie a brief explanation of your reasons for wanting to work in the library. Be sure to include the reasons you think you would make a good member of the library staff":

- because I want to earn more grades
- I would make good staff because I'm good at a lot of stuff
- I know how to communicate
- because I live read books
- because i want to achieve my goals
- i know a lot of art
- I will like to clean the library
- I simply want something to work on that interest me
- because i am a person who likes to do fun stuff
- i'm good on ordering books in order
- I want to know how many authors
- because i feel like working there, the computers and things
- so my mom can be prood of me
- I want to work because I like to help people I do not care because I do not help people out for money [Huh?]
- great rememberence skills
- well, if you guys pick me, i'm going to try my best. I will demonstrated, too.
- I like to be around with book and i like to put stuff back in there place
- because I wanna be Doing. something to keep me buissy and to keep me out of troubal. Thanks for your time
- I have a feeling that its going to be fun

Who to hire? Who to hire?
There are more gems, but I'll save them for another day.

Monday, April 7, 2008

What's in a Name?

Today another one came across my desk. This name is less outrageously flamboyant than many of the others, to be sure, but it does point out a subtle issue in naming conventions that will result one of two things. 1 - We will, as a society, begin to accept bizarre, invented names and their spellings as commonplace, therefore never again being able to count on the ability to spell or make an educated guess at a person's origin, religion, heritage, etc. Or 2 - this child, and other children like her, will be forced to change her name if she wants to escape not only ridicule (in her younger days) but the assumption that she is uneducated (in her middle years). If #1 happens, #2 will not. Probably. My guess is that #2 will happen first, and has already happened to countless kids and professionals.

This child's name is Beronica. Like Veronica, but not. Because of the fact that many Spanish speakers pronounce v's as b's, her parents clearly did not hear or know the standard spelling of this name. Not that Beronica is such a bad name really, but it does probably indicate a lack of knowledge on her parents part, which she may or may not ever realize. I could be wrong. This could be intentional. Yet there are other names that lead me to believe that these are mistakes, not acts of creativity. Yonatan, is my next best example. Jonathan, but not. It is pronounced just like it is spelled, which is how someone with a heavy accent might pronounce Jonathan, after all. Y for J, hard T for TH. It makes perfect sense. I have nothing against the namers of these children, but I do wonder if Beronica could be a bank president if she keeps that name, that spelling. Maybe. Maybe by the time she's old enough, there will be enough Bictorias and Baleries that Beronica won't stand out. I do hope so.

Monday, March 17, 2008

More 8th grade ideas

15 out of 25 students have a myspace page, all of them with fake birthdates to pass the age limit. These students spend more than one hour per day on the Internet, primarily on myspace and youtube.

Games enjoyed by these students include:
Gears of War
Halo 3
Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2
Final Fantasy 10
Devil May Cry 4
Prince of Persia 3
Resident Evil 4
Need for Speed Most Wanted
Smackdown 08
Smackdown vs. Raw
Mortal Kombat Armageddon

So, this class seems more like a TV and Internet class, although there are about 6 boys who say that they play games for more than 5-6 hours per day. So, what are they watching on tv? I gave them one minute to discuss it at their tables. Let's see what they had to say.

South Park, Simpsons, One Tree Hill, the Hillz, House, Drake and Josh, Americ'as Next Top Model, Futurama, I carly, Cesar and Chuy, Making the Band 4, Oprah's Big Give, Gossip Girl, That 70s Show, Spongebob, Failry Odd Parents, George Lopez, Family Guy, American Dad, Wild and Out, Boiling Points, MTV Cribs, Naruto, El Chavo del Ocho, Mexican League Football, Married with Children, Bones, Bleach, Scrubs, Death Note, Tyra Banks Show, Divorce Court, Arthur, Curious George, Spiderman, Batman, Sesame Street, Science NOVA Now, Animal Planet.

How did it come to this? I have more incommon with these students when it comes to video games than television! Who would have thought?

Suggestion Box

I recently surveyed 241 kids (10% of the student population) about their use of the library and their gaming habits. This is part of an effort to determine how to go about launching a video/computer gaming program that both supports the school's educational efforts and appeals to the recreational needs of the kids. At the end of the survey (32 multiple choice questions), I provided space for students to make comments or ask questions. I assumed they would keep their thoughts focused on the topics at hand, but some of them had other ideas. Although many of these comments were relevant to gaming in libraries, several were just plain funny. Give a kid the opportunity to open his/her mouth, and what spews forth is golden. Here are some highlights (I will remain faithful to the students' spelling):

"I hope we play war games not just learning games"
"I think this is a good idea for the school"
"I like video games and computers games"
"The kind of games that I like is violence, blood, Adult lauange "
"Add Maplestory as an suggestions as a game"
"I hate Ms. L class because she sucks"
"will you have wii and xbox in the library to play wit if not plez bring them plez"
"Are you or are you not gonna let students play computer games on the internet?"
"Does the games have to be educational?"
"would be a good game for school is thing thing 2 or 1, or 3 and also clear vision 1, or 2, and Max bike and we could get if free at"
"Whoo! Hoo!"
"Thanks Bye"
"No Thanks"
"on #30 [this was a question about what they would like to learn about from games] it depends because in science its already fun so i don't know"
"could we come only some days?"
"I would like to work in the school library for the gaming systems"
"how long do I have to participate in the library?"
"if there going to put games then they try not too make it really, really educational because then it starts to get a little boring"
"whats this for and are u going to make a gaming event after school?"
"I love videogames"
"I want to learn about every subject and learn by being in library services"
"why after school if we cannot stay after school?"
"I would like to be chosen. I like games and to read. I would like to parcipate in events"
"I don't enjoy writing alot in Ms. L class makes you take notes"
"I don't like science class, neather Mr. T. He is my teachers for science. I don't like him, and I think he dosen't like me neather. Well I don't care if he dosen't like me."

So, there you have it folks. The hearts and minds of our future leaders unveiled. Not many of these are helpful to me, but still.... some things just need to be said.

8th Grade Games

I'm standing here with an 8th grade class of students, many of whom like to play video/computer games.Three of them already played a game this morning before school. 14 of them played a game this weekend. Here are the games they play:
Mortal Kombat
Madden NFL '08
Smackdown vs. Raw 2008
Guitar Hero 1, 2, 3
NBA Live 2008
Dance Dance Revolution
Super Smash Brothers Melee
Mario Kart Double Dash
Mario Party 5,6,7
Flat Out
007 in Russia
FIFA 06, 07, 08
Grand Theft Auto
Zelda - Windwaker
True Crime
Gods of War
Def Jam Fight for NY
Def Jam Vendetta
Super Smash Brothers Brawl
Halo 2
Dragon Ball Z 1, 2, 3, 4
Naruto Ultimate Ninja 1, 2
Sonic Heroes

So, these are the games my middle schoolers are playing. Where to they do this? With whom?
- at home with cousin
- hospital lobbies with strangers (children's hospital)
- GameStop with other kids
- apartment lobbies with children
- in the car

8 own a PSP
9 own a Nintendo DS
10 own other portables - GameBoy, Sidekick, cell phone

16 out of 22 say they would want to be part of a library gaming event or tournament.
12 out of 22 would want to play games for school

Thursday, March 6, 2008

What's Your Favorite Subject?

I recently surveyed 242 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students at my school about their feelings about school, the library, and video games. This is part of a study I'm doing to look at how the introduction of video and computer games to the library impacts student behavior, engagement, and performance. I have only just begun the tedious work of compiling the data, but curiosity overwhelmed me this afternoon, so I took a premature look at a few of the results. So far, I've only tabulated data for forty-eight 8th-grade boys. Take a look at their favorite and least favorite classes.

Favorite Class
Math 19%
Science 15%
PE 35%
Drama 0%
Digital Art 4%
English 10%
Social Studies 0%
Art 2%
Computers 13%
Service (Office helper) 2%
Dance 0%

Least Favorite Class
Math 31%
Science 2%
PE 2%
Drama 10%
Digital Art 0%
English 15%
Social Studies 13%
Art 2%
Computers 0%
Service 0%
Dance 1%

I wonder how this will pan out when all 242 surveys have been counted, and how boys will differ from girls. Where are our actors? Our Broadway dancers? Our Picassos? When do those talents begin to flourish? And what's wrong with Social Studies? Am I crazy, or are these boys saying that they don't really like maps?!? What's wrong with them? And aren't boys supposed to love math? Why do 31% of them hate it at this school?

I don't remember my favorite subjects in middle school. Because I got to attend a wacky magnet, my favorites might have been yoga, cross-stitch, or music video production. I know that 6th grade was a not a year for loving English class, since my teacher took points off of spelling tests when I didn't make my lowercase cursive 'b' properly (so unfair), not to mention the fact that she owned the exact same pair of ballet-style shoes with bows in about 14 different colors. And she made me read Jane Eyre. In 7th grade, the Art teacher taught science, but I can't remember if that made it my favorite or least favorite class. In PE, we got to roller-skate and square-dance. Who wouldn't like that? They did, however, make us do the dreaded "flexed arm hang" once a year for the presidential fitness test, which is enough to make anyone hate anything.

I'm eager to see the rest of my survey results, and will post them here as they come in.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

For Staff Use only

We have a serious problem with bathrooms at this school.

Our school is organized into several free-standing buildings (the California way) that the students roam between throughout the day for their classes - the gym, the office building, 5 classroom buildings.... Four of the classroom buildings are grouped together in a spoke-like arrangement around a small, round, cement courtyard. They are numbered the 1000, 2000, 3000, and 4000 buildings. Only the 1000 and 3000 buildings (which face each other, sort of) have bathrooms, and only those bathrooms on the first floor are kept unlocked. During class time. Before school, after school, and Nutrition, and at Lunch, these bathrooms are closed and the bathrooms in the 6000 building (way on the other side of campus) are opened for students. Do you find this difficult to keep straight? Let's throw this into the mix - students are not supposed to leave their classes for the first and last 15 minutes of class time for any reason (to prevent hooliganism, I believe), and during these times ALL of the bathrooms are closed and locked. Do you have it now? Will you remember this easily, after having been given the rundown? Would your 11-year-old self with bladder control issues remember it? Or be able to abide by these clear, sensible, reasonable urination guidelines?

Neither can the students at my school.
The library, of course, has its own single-sex bathroom. It's a gift, a treasure, a hot commodity. That is, until the students begin to find out it's there. They do find out, and pretty quickly, because who am I to deny a wiggling, red-faced youth who will probably not make it down the stairs much less across campus before ruining his life and his day by having an accident? So I let the emergencies sneak back to the Staff Only bathroom, because I am a kind person who is concerned with the prevention of urinary tract infections and all other varieties of torture inflicted by our school's riot-proof setup. Once in a while, though, I cruelly turn on the poor dears, put my foot down, and scream, "No more!". No more will I find paper towels stuffed into the bowl of the toilet (why? really. why?) No more will there be shredded toilet paper trailing out into the library's comfortable sofa and magazine area! No more will a droplet belonging to someone else find its way onto the back of my leg! Enough!

I am in one of these I've-had-it phases now thanks to one particular young man whose name I do not even know. This boy, this insane little boy, has come to the library every day near the end of lunch for 2 weeks. I am always happy to meet a new student and we have become friendly, discussing the video games secret codes book he has been saving up to buy from the Scholastic book orders I provide. Once or twice he has started to leave, realized he blew his chance at an unlocked bathroom, and asked to use mine. Once or twice I have allowed him to do so. He's a little out of it, pretty sweet, and I was just doing a good turn. Then one day I told him it was the last time. He needed to get a grip on the school's bell schedule, on his own time, on the bathroom situation - tomorrow I would not allow it. He agreed.

The next day, young no-name reappears, and when he's told that it's time to go, he leaves with the parade of students storming out...or so it seems. A few minutes later, there's a rustle coming from back by the magazines. No big deal. Another few minutes later a definite clank can be heard from the teacher work room where the bathroom is located. I figure there is, what else, a teacher back there making copies or laminating. Several long minutes later, a flush. Not out of the ordinary at all, until my new nemesis comes slinking out of the room, hoping he will not be seen. A renegade bathroom user! Enough. No more. Staff only. Don't even ask. Don't even think about asking. Learn to hold it, that's my motto. I am done.
I used my best librarian finger-waggle as I shooed him out the door, and I haven't seen him since. Oh wait, that's a lie, he came back again today. I think I might scream.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Aforementioned Shark

It is so gross, I can hardly look at it. A hundred times a day, I am forced to answer these questions:
Miss, is this a real shark?
Miss, is it alive? or Miss, is it dead?
Miss, Why does it look like that?
Miss, where did you get it?
Miss, what kind of shark is that?
Miss, what's wrong with it?

Each of these questions is answered (yes, no/yes, because it's dead, from my sadistic clerk Mrs. Rodriguez, I have no idea, it's dead) and then followed by a murmured agreement from the students that "That's cool!" or "That's tight!"

Sadly, all of the preying manti(ses) in my menagerie have died. So now we are a wild kingdom of leftover crickets and a dead baby shark. It has been a seamless transition.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hats Galore

Halfway to work this morning, I realized I forgot my laptop at home. Normally this would not be a big deal, but I thought today would be deadsville in the library. late in the day yesterday, all of the teachers who were scheduled to bring in their classes had to cancel. They were sent to a last minute training (thanks for the notice LAUSD) and I don't really do subs. So I thought it would be quiet, even boring, and that I would spend some time on grad school work I've been putting off. It's funny how things turn out. I had a frantically busy day (actually, I'm still having it; this half hour is the first to reflect the tomb-like prediction I made last night). Here is what I have done (in no particular order):
- partially prepared a professional development workshop on effective web-based research techniques
- worked with the 50+ kids who came in before school to check out books
- worked with the 6th grade team to plan their book for the Black History Month fair
- starting planning a bookmobile for the Black History Fair
- checked my email a million times
- made coffee
- supervised 3 student volunteers who are working to pay for a lost book
- supervised 3 student volunteers who are working while off-track
- helped the 100+ kids who vidited the library at Nutrition (morning break)
- ate pastry that my clerk brought in
- taught the advanced chess elective to use chess clocks
- helped the 100+ kids that visited the library at lunch (it's raining, big numbers)
- kicked a kid out for gum and asked him why he didn't by pink gum instead of blue gum since it's easier to hide
- cleaned up something that looked like Corn Pops from the stairwell
- posted photos of chess games on our class chess blog
- watched my 19-year-old assistant avoid work, waste time, and surf the net (I cannot bring myself to be a harsh boss; i want her to have a relazed first job)
- prepared for a technology committee meeting
- checked my email a million times, writing back and forth with my 18 students and my boyfriend
- at a lean cuisine while standing and walking around during the crowded lunch period
- registered for a professional conference
- waited too long to go to the bathroom
- explained to students that, yes, that is a real shark fetus in a jar
- confirmed that, yes, the shark fetus is dead

The day is not over. This list is not complete. I love the variety of my job.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mario Update

Mario visited the library today with his class. The students had three tasks to complete. 1) Check out, renew, return books, making sure to have three books for the next week. 2) Complete vocabulary activity from class the previous day. 3) Post on student blogs and/or visit the Skirball Center's website to preview exhibits for an upcoming field trip. During this independent work time, the teacher conferenced one-on-one with students to review their reading progress so far this year and to make goals for the remainder of 8th grade. I helped kids choose books to read.

I was walking by Mario's reading conference when I heard the teacher say, "Congratulations, Mario. You are at the top of this class when it comes to reading!" Mario is up to 28 books this year. Upon hearing this, I ducked into one of the rooms where I keep a secret stash of books, to see what I might have in the way of prizes.

You see, there are a lot of books floating around this school that are not titles I can add to the library collection. Every once in a while, an English Department Chair, a Literacy Coach, or some coordinator gets the bright idea to order hundreds of copies of a single title. This is usually part of a grand plan to have a whole grade read the same novel, or maybe the entire school. This is not a bad plan, per se, except for the fact that in most cases, the person ordering the books has not read much YA literature. So s/he relies on some outside source (vendors, most likely) to select the books and, in the end, many of them go unused. These are not bad books, of course. Well, sometimes they are bad books. Most of the time, however, they are simply books we already have in the library. Sometimes they are dated. Sometimes they are not the best books by a great author. Sometimes they are the third in a series for which we cannot offer the first or second titles. These books make up my secret stash. Prize books. Giveaways. Help the kids build a personal library, I say.

I chose six books and presented them to Mario with a flourish, telling him that I had a second stash if none I chose were of interest. Ten minutes later he approached the counter and gives back 2, saying the others look great.
"Miss, I've been collecting books from your free cart [where we place books to give away because of age/wear] and now I have a big stack. I'm going to ask my mom if she'll get me a bookcase!"
Remember - 8th grade boy. Tall, cute, funny. Wants a bookcase. I swoon.
I tell Mario that the only place in my house without a bookcase is the bathroom (to show my approval of his plan) and he replies:
"Miss! What if they do like in Fahrenheit [he means Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, which all of our 8th graders were forced to read this the Literacy Coach. I have a million extra copies]? What if they bust into your house at night to get your books?" He walks away cracking up at his literature-based joke.
I call out "They'd better not even try it!"
He returns to the counter to ask, "Miss, did you say there are more books I could have?"
So I show Mario the second secret stash, where he remains for a long time, making careful choices. His teacher tells me later that another boy asked Mario why he didn't just take them all. Mario replied that he didn't want to be greedy. The teacher said he said it in a way that implied, "Duh, I wouldn't want to be a hog, you moron!".
I got a big thank you and a smile as he left. I think I'll enjoy imagining his bookshelf for a long time. What color will it be? Will there be things on it besides books? Will he rearrange his books by size, author, title, color? As someone who has contemplated the infinite possibilities a single bookshelf can offer, I really hope that Mario's mother says yes to his request. What a kid.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Charitable Giving

It takes a while to get a new book into a school library. Let's say, for example, that I see a need for a certain title and decide to add it to the collection. To do this through the proper channels, I would need to secure funding, order from a district approved vendor, wait about a month for the vendor and the district to communicate about payment, wait about another month for the vendor to process the book (add bar codes, etc) and mail it out, upload the record for the book into the library's circulation software (if the system hasn't crashed and the record isn't corrupted), stamp the book, add the school's labels to the book, and only then can I put the book out for circulation.
This doesn't really sound that bad, except that securing funding can take months, and usually that comes in a lump sum. So what happens when a student says, "Miss! Did you you hear that the new volume in the ____series is coming out this week? Are you going to get it?" Or what about when I go to a bookstore for my own reasons and see that a fabulous YA writer has a new novel?
What happens is... I buy the book. I can't help it. My students NEED it. I know how it feels to wait on pins and needles for the next book in a series or by my favorite author; I do it all the time. The process for acquiring library books just doesn't allow for small purchases at random intervals. If I just by the dang book, all I have to do is stamp it, print out a bar code for it, and add it to the circulation system myself (too easy!), and VOILA! Someone is reading it immediately.
So today I added up the receipts I've kept throughout 2007. The sum total of this compulsion of mine turns out to be $749.93. Pretty steep when you think about the fact that this is not really an accurate representation of what I've purchased, (I'm not great at record-keeping).
Here's what the students were so desperate to read:
The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray (I am dying to read this as well)
The Bellmaker by Brian Jacques
The Pearls of Lutra by Brian Jacques
It's a Girl Thing: How to stay healthy, safe, and in charge
Sisters of Isis: Divine One by Lynne Ewing
Sons of the Dark: Night Sun by Lynne Ewing
Gilda Joyce: the Ghost Sonata by Jennifer Allison
A Girl's Life Online by Katherine Tarbox
Bec by Darren Shan
New Moon and Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (this was me too)
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Grand & Humble by Brent Hartinger
The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan
Harry Potter 7 (well, duh)
Hit and Run by Lurlene McDaniel
The End of Forever by Lurlene McDaniel
about 10 others by Lurlene McDaniel

There's more, of course, but this is a pretty clear picture. All but 2 of these are either part of a series or are by authors who churn out amazing numbers of books with similar themes and stories (hence the addiction). I can't keep up. It's really fun to try, though.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Only the Best

Those of you who have written a memo will probably agree that, in an ideal world, the people receiving said memo will actually read it. Even better, your memo audience will remember the information you have carefully passed along, and perhaps they will even act accordingly. If you are a regular writer of memos, you probably know that this rarely happens. Memo readers a)don't read memos, b)read and immediately forget what they have read, c)read and immediately ignore any instructions contained in the memo. This is true, at least, in every public school in America (if you doubt such a generalization, read Up the Down Staircase and become a believer).
My beloved assistant principal and I decided to reinstate our Chess elective this semester. We would gather together 16 students who have taken Chess with us before in order to create an advanced class. In order to recruit students, we sent a memo to four elective teachers with the following information and instructions:
- We would like to reinstate our chess class
- We would like 16 students who have taken chess with us before
- This will be an advanced chess class
- This class will be for 8th graders only
- Please ask your students if any of them have taken chess with us before and would like to take this advanced class.
- Please write the names on this memo and return it to us by X date.

The lists should have been returned to us on Friday. As of 10am on Monday we had received no names. I made phone calls to the teachers, who I will call Mr. Drama, Ms. Computers, Mr. Art, and Ms. PE.

Me: Hi Mr. Drama. Do you happen to have the names of the students who want to be in the chess class?
Mr. Drama: Um. Well. Oh, right. I guess I could ask them about that today.
Me: Ok, great. Could you let me know when you've got the list and I'll send someone over ti pick it up?
Mr. Drama: Sure, but (chuckle) that's if anyone actually wants to take the class.

Ok. So far, great response.

Me: Ms. Computer, sorry to bother you. Do you happen to have the names of the students who want to be in the chess class?
Ms. Computer: Oh geez. Hmmm. Awwww. Well....? (This is all said with great anxiety). Well, I think there was one name.
Me: Ok great! Could you give me the student's name?
Ms. Computer: Oh, hmmm. I think it was Miguel. He was reading the memo and said he wanted to do it. Oh, geez. And then I think he never gave the paper back. Awww. So what should I do? Should I write....oh, shoot.
Me: No, no. Just give me his last name and we'll go from there.

Is this FOR REAL?

Me: Mr. Art, good morning. Do you happen to have the names of the students who want to be in the chess class?
Mr. Art: (very exasperated sigh) I sent that to Mr. 8th-Grade-Sponsor.
Me: Huh. He has absolutely nothing to do with this.
Mr. Art: Well, I sent it to him.


No answer from Ms. PE.

So, at 11am the period begins. My Assistant Principal and I should have 4 lists of names and should spend this period planning enrollment, etc. Instead, this is what happens:
- A combined list appears from Mr. Art and Ms. PE. On this list are 8 names. Two are 6th graders who have never taken our class. Two are 7th graders who have never taken our class. Out of the four 8th grade names on the list, three have taken our class.
- 3 students arrive from Mr. Art and Ms. PE's classes, none of whom appear on the list. Why does this happen? I do not know.
- The one boy from Ms. Computer's list cannot be found, although two students from her class appear having heard about the class from friends, not from Ms. Computer (who never after made the announcement, since Miguel ran off with her memo).
- 3 students appear our of nowhere.
- Mr. Drama is never heard from again. Obviously he doesn't think to highly of the game of chess.

At the end of the period, we have somehow scraped together 9 students who are ready to take Advanced Chess, and we have 3-4 names of kids we'd like to contact. As he's leaving for lunch supervision, my Assistant Principal says, "I should have just visited the classes personally." We laugh, roll our eyes, and try to contain the deep, roiling disappointment we feel. Is it really so hard? we wonder. Were the instructions unclear? But then the bell rings, it's lunch, and there is no more time to feel sorry for ourselves. Instead, there are nachos to be eaten, ketchup packets to be accidentally sat upon, and a hundred frenzied library nerds to be tamed.