Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Career Day #1

     Today was the first day that we had presentations for our Career unit. We had 2 gentlemen from the Air force in to speak with all my classes today. They gave out some great information and the kids were genuinely interested. Pictured are Sargent Diaz and Airman Tompkins, who is a 2013 graduate of Pioneer Valley High School, one of the sister schools in our district. I try to bring in at least four presenters every year, when I have juniors like I do this year. The students need all the information they can amass so they can start making decisions about their futures, or at least start thinking about it. I, growing up in a military family, know the many benefits of a military life. Many of my students have no idea where they will go after high school. When they learn that the military will pay for their education, while supplying them with food, a place to live and medical benefits for themselves and any future family they might have, they truly are amazed. So the first presenters were a success and I got a ton of work done! :) Tomorrow we are having one of my favorite people in to present: Teresa Hanan from the Arts Institutes. She always has an interesting program!

Monday, September 29, 2014


As I got to school this morning I was met with the smell of hash browns cooking. OMG! They smelled so good, and I am not even a lover of hash browns! I looked around the corner and I saw the ASB (Associated Student Body) cooking breakfast. They had pancakes, hash browns, ham (although I didn't smell any ham or bacon cooking) and all kinds of juice. It was the ASB officers that were in charge of this breakfast. Mr. Salazar, pictured above, center, says that the kids are responsible for everything: the shopping, getting to campus early to set everything up, the clean-up. Different committees within ASB each have the opportunity throughout the year to plan, cook and serve a breakfast to the rest of the ASB students, of which there are probably 60 +/-. They offered me a pancake and even though I couldn't partake, it was a nice way to start a Monday morning.   

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sanity Day

     Today is Friday. I took a "Sanity Day" today. For all of you non-teachers, (although people in other lines of work probably do this also) that is a day we take off just because we can. Just because we don't have anything major planned. Just because the stress gets to us and the districts allows us so many (ours allows us 10) days off per school year. I don't take these very often. I usually roll 6 of my 10 days over to the next year (I love being able to do that!) and usually if I do take a sick day, or one for "personal need," it is usually because I am sick or have a doctor's appointment I just can't schedule after school.
     There are some benefits to taking a sanity day. #1: I get a day off (which makes this a three day weekend for me.) #2: I got to sleep in a little (getting up at 5:00 is playing havoc on my endurance this year.) #3: I let a sub come into our room and that lets them have a paycheck. #4: I think the kids enjoy having someone else to look at every once in a while. My students have told me that it is almost like having a little vacation day themselves. I never plan anything too difficult for a sub. I've been a sub; having to teach a subject, like Math, that I know nothing about. It's agony when teachers do that! 
     So, I got to stay up a little later last night. Today I slept late (until 7:00!) I met with the company that installed the counter-tops in our new kitchen; they had to make some small adjustments. I lovered (yes, I know Dictionary .com will not accept that word but it is a word in our family) on the cat over a leisurely second cup of coffee. I get to go out to lunch with my hubby, daughter and son-in-law. I get to spend the morning blogging, here and on my other blog: Stitching Life Together http://stitchinglifetogether.blogspot.com/  and I get to read the afternoon away.
     Next week is Career Week and I have speakers coming in every day so it will be hectic. Hopefully, though, with this extra little bit of free time I will be able to face the chaos with a smile!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Was That a Ding?

     Many days now, as we are reading "The Crucible," I will let the kids finish a minute or two before the bell so they can get their textbooks put away and gather their personal belongings. This is especially true for 5th period; the period right before lunch. Now that our lunch period has been shortened with this new schedule, many of the kids barely have time to get in line and out of the cafeteria with their food before the bell for 6th period rings. Today I had taken the opportunity to put my daughter's lunch in the microwave, (she is subbing for two periods and stays to have lunch with me...I know. She's sweet!) in those two minutes and started to answer an email. The kids were gathered by the door and in front of my desk. I was typing away and as I finished a line in my email, the microwave behind me dinged. A startled student turned to me and asked, "Do you have a typewriter in here?" I was amazed that he actually knew that those sounds would go together and know what a typewriter was. We all laughed. My students constantly amaze me!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Parking Problems

     There has been a problem this year with the students walking in and out of our Staff Parking Lot. They are not supposed to be in the lot because it is a danger to them. It is not a huge lot, at least the one I park in, and there is low visibility when one backs their car out to leave.The parents also tend to drive into the parking lot to drop off their kids, (even though their are signs everywhere that state there is NO STUDENT DROP OFF!) instead of going to the circular driveway where they are supposed to go. I admit, the circular driveway is busy in the mornings with all the cars, and even a bus or two, dropping kids off. There is not room in the lot to do a three point turn and so it bogs down the cars that are waiting to park.We teachers have been complaining to the Administration all school year about this issue. 
     ASB to the rescue! When I went to the gate this morning I found this sign posted on the inside of the parking lot, walk-in gate. It is on paper but backed by cardboard and put on with plastic ties. I think it was made to last a while, at least until the students get used to walking around instead of through. So that begs the questions: Just how long with that take? Will they ever break their bad habits? And most of all, teenagers being teenagers, will they even pay attention to the sign? We will have to wait and see. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Live Body Count

     We received an email today, that tomorrow, we will be required to do a "live body count" in our class rooms. Hmmm...when you stop and think about it, what other kind of body count would they want us to do? Not a dead body count. A sleeping body count? That should be easy; some of those in each class period, especially on the warmer days.
     This "live body count" is an effort to solidify the enrollment numbers for the school year. Every year, in October, on a specific day, in each period, we are to take a count of the actual "live bodies" sitting in our class rooms and email one of the administrative assistants our count. I can understand the need for accountability; our state funding is based on admissions. It reminds me of a phrase on CSI or NCIS. I would think they could come up with a better name for it! I bet you if I told my students we were doing a "live body count" they would tell me they're all dead or lay down on the ground and ask me where my chalk is!

Monday, September 22, 2014


     They've started early this year. It's less than two months into the school year and I have already purchased a $21 t-shirt from the girl's volleyball team, sponsored 2 kids in a jog-a-thon ($2 each) for the FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), bought a $10 ticket for a flapjack breakfast for the band (of which I can't eat), and a roll of $12 reversible, wrapping paper from the senior class. Today I was approached to purchase a tri-tip dinner for 4 for $35 for the basketball team. I turned that one down. I have also been approached this year to buy a dining discount card (only 5$ but all the places that are giving a discount are in Santa Maria and we very rarely eat down here; many of them fast food and pizza parlors) and participate in a golfing fundraiser for only $100 a ticket. I have been asked to buy a chance at a raffle for FFA (Future Farmers of America) for $25. Whew!
     Clubs on campus and sport teams used to make a good amount of money selling dollar candy-bars, bags of chips and packages of cookies. I would buy these and give them out to students when they won an in-class contest like getting the most wins in Literary Bingo. But the schools have decided that #1 those snacks are not healthy (like the kids don't eat them if they're not bought from someone raising money!) and #2 they undermine the student store on campus, that also sells snacks and drinks, etc... All of these do not include the various other things we buy from our peers, because that's just what you do when you work with people: help them sell their kid's stuff. 
     So far this year, I am out $47 and most of that I can't even declare as a charitable donation because I received goods in return for my money. I think it is a shame that the kids have to continually do fundraising to get every little thing they need. The Seniors are responsible for the Prom and they start fundraising when they are Freshmen. The teams do not have any way to replace uniforms without continually asking for money and the band...the band can't even think about getting new instruments, and pay a small fortune to get the ones they have repaired. I don't understand it. To be considered college material in this state (and probably in most states) a child has to be able to put extra-curricular activities on their application. If these activities are so important why can't the college system chip in for some of the expenses? One of the biggest expenditures on the local college campus is by the fraternities and the sororities throwing parties. I think the more charitable cause would be to help the future generation. Just my opinion.  

Friday, September 19, 2014


Just a couple of quotes from my students to end the week.

About "The Crucible" at the end of Act I: "This is getting good!"
Heard in passing: "Why is it so easy to cuss and so hard to pray?"
About The Book Thief: "Death. I am drawn to him." (For those of you who have not read it, the narrator is Death.)
Trying to learn MLA Documentation (with a whine): "This is hard!"
And my favorite question of the week:
"You're giving me an F just because I didn't do my work?"


Thursday, September 18, 2014


     One of the nice things I like about teaching teenagers is their willingness to be outrageous and join in. I could tell when I got to school today that one of the Social Science classes was having presentations. Quite a few young ladies were dressed in their finest dresses or shirts/blouses ensemble, wearing high heels. This causes quite a stir, as most kids wear sneakers or flip flops to school. Sometimes a nice sandal but if you saw the pavements in this school, one would never wear high heels willingly. It had to be for a special class presentation. It happened to be in AP History. The young man in the picture here was part of a news conference. He was George Washington; gray hair and all. He said he also had a pony tail for the event but it got too hot and he took it off before coming to my class. And, he was dressed up in a suit with sweater vest (it was 78* today in Santa Maria!) After the initial shock of seeing him wore off I informed him that he didn't have enough wrinkles to be that old. He just smiled. A good sport and willing to go around all day with spray powered hair, just to get a good grade!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Water, Water

     Many people believe that teenagers only eat junk food and drink only sodas. I'm here to tell you; this isn't true. More and more, my students are eating fruit and drinking water in class. (Unfortunately, a lot of it is purified water, but that's another blog.) The point here is that  kids are getting healthier every year and paying it forward at the same time.
     I have a big trash can in my room with a sign that says, "RECYCLE FOR THE BAND!" The students fill that can 4-5 times a year with their empty water bottles. And that is only the students that come through my classroom. Many of the clubs collect bottles to recycle as fundraising. I chose the band because I think the music and art departments are sorely overlooked in the school budget. And, I think it is a good things for students to do: give back, donate, put others before themselves. I tell them it builds good karma. They don't always know what that means, and I have to explain it to them. But once they understand, they like the idea of making points out there in the universe somewhere. One never knows when they'll need help. Water...it's a good thing!  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ballet Folklorico

     It is sometimes hard to teach my 7th period class. My students ask if they can shut the door, drowning out the noise. You see, there is a Ballet Folklorico class in the building next to mine, and many of the dances they do require hard heal stomping on the wooden floor and calling out in jubilee!
     I love to watch anyone dance (I'm not talented at all) but I think it is simply amazing how well the students in my school create this beautiful dance. For those of you whom have never heard of Ballet Folklorico, it is folk dances from the many different regions of Mexico, each with their own costumes, dance steps and music. Over the years I have had quite a few students that dance for fun and exercise, and to reach out to their culture. Our school is very well known for its dancing students and they have won many state and regional awards, which in a state with a high Hispanic population, has given them a lot of good competition. We are proud of our program here at SMHS. We have even built a special dance studio for them to practice in. 
     These kids dance hours at a time. They start 7th period (about 1:00) and sometimes go until 5:00 in the evening. They dance on Saturday. They dance at lunch, they dance at break. You can see them practicing steps in the hallways. And always I find that these students are dedicated to not only their dancing but to their school studies as well. They get so proud when they get in their costumes and entertain an audience. 
     So, it is noisy when they start, but I don't mind the noise. The creation of the dance is beautiful and joyous. I keep the door closed during 7th period but once the kids leave and I am left to my work, after school, I open the door and take in the music.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Another New Phrase

     So, today we are reading through Act II of "The Crucible." As always before we get started I review the previous day's reading and as we read I very frequently stop and ask them questions; always checking for comprehension. In the beginning of this act John Proctor (male lead) and his wife Elizabeth are having a discussion about the accusations of witchcraft going around in the village. In this conversation it is clear that Elizabeth wants John to tell everybody what Abigail (female lead for the first part of the play, with whom he has had an affair, months earlier) told him in Act I; that all this was fraud and silly nonsense. But he would have to go to Salem (they are farmers) to do this and she really doesn't want him to go to Salem. I asked the kids, "Why doesn't Elizabeth want John to go to Salem?" One kids pipes up, "Because Abigail's there; she's his side chick." "Really?" I said. "Side chick?" "Well," he said, "I was going to say something else but it wasn't very nice." "Thanks for that," I said.
     At least I know they're paying attention!

Friday, September 12, 2014


.There are some weeks that just need to end. This is one of those weeks. We are five weeks into the year and most of us are tired. This picture of one of my students kind of says it all. 

     We had a surprise school lock-down yesterday afternoon. The SMPD and the Highway Patrol were chasing a car that was speeding (100 MPH) It started in Guadalupe (about a 15 min drive west of Santa Maria, although at that speed I doubt it took 15 minutes.) It came into the neighborhood around the school and since they didn't know why the people inside were running, they closed down the near-by schools. Lock-downs drills happen twice a year but real lock-downs rarely happen. The first one I experienced was during my first year of teaching at Righetti High. A gang of kids had come on campus (it wasn't closed during lunch) at the end of the lunch period with weapons: knives, pipes and chains, to exact revenge on a rival gang. Everybody was rushed into their 5th period classes and the doors were locked, kids are moved to the floor along the wall (out of the sight of the windows, if possible) blinds were drawn and lights were turned off; standard procedures. Quiet ensued. We were in lock-down for 2 1/2 hours that time. Yesterday it only lasted 15 minutes. The SMPD finally found the culprits after they brought in a helicopter (that sounded like it was landing on the roof of my portable, by the way.) 
     So, today has been a relaxing day. SSR and a journal and the day is over. Just have to do that 5 times and for me it is a catch-up day to figure out how I am going to post grades in this stupid new Internet-based grade book (I really don't like change!) I think I finally have it figured out...Now if all the students would hand in all their work so I don't have so many failing...Is that really too much to ask?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Williams Act

     Today was the annual Williams Visit. That is when inspectors come around to the schools in California and make sure we are compliant with The Williams Act. I'm sure it is very legal and lengthy in full content, but in layman's speak here's the story: A young man was going to school somewhere in the LA area. His school did not have enough supplies, nor was the campus well kept and safe. He and his parents took the district to court and won the case that created the Williams Act.
     So now, once a year all the schools (I'm not sure if it is just the public schools or private ones also) are subjected to inspection by the Williams people. They come to random classrooms to make sure every child has a text book of their own, that they are able to take home with them, and that the campus, on a whole, is suitable for a learning environment; bathrooms working, no leaking ceilings and everything else in good repair. As far as I know, we have always been in compliance with the law. And they don't give surprise inspections. They are scheduled, so everybody knows that the students are to have an individual textbook out on their desk, in case the inspectors pop in. Every year I have been in this school they have always chosen to come to my classroom, except for this year. This year I didn't even see them walking around campus. I know they were here because one of my students said they had visited his classroom. and my daughter, who also teaches here, had them in her classroom counting the textbooks. I guess I escaped review this year. Gee, I thought they liked me! :}
One of the corner entrances into the Cafeteria. Granted, it is one of the newest buildings on campus and looks well kept but the other buildings on campus are well kept also, surprising due to the fact that some of them are over 100 years old!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Posting Grades

     You guessed it! Today is Wednesday. Not a particularly exciting day on campus. The only thing exciting I did today was post grades. I print each period's grades out to let them know where they stand so far in my class. Progress reports are due next Friday, the 19th. So, if any of the students are behind or need to work on their assignments, they have a little over a week.
     I'm pretty sure, (in fact I know) that most of my students are now mad at me. The high average class grade is 70%. (For those of you who don't grade, that is a "C".) My lowest class average is 58%, which is an "F." The other 3 classes are scattered in-between. Not an exemplary showing for the first 4 weeks of school, when they are supposedly still fresh and eager. My second period class has 18 F's. Out of 26 kids. These low grades are simply due to the fact that many students are not doing their work. I warned them at the beginning of the year. I told them they were going to have a lot to do. Obviously, they didn't believe me and shunned the work. Hmmm...that's not working for them.
     In each period today I spent 10-15 minutes telling them, again, what is expected in my class. The speech fell somewhere between "You can do this! I know you can!" and "I don't believe you, as Juniors, are not being responsible enough to do this work!" It's a fine line we teachers balance on. More assignments are due to be graded the first of the week, to be included in the progress reports. Let's hope we all get over this major "hump"!    

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

To Be the First

   I am still filtering through my 3x5 cards looking at my students' "15 Minutes of Fame" comments. Many of our students at SMHS have come to this country from various states in Mexico and other South American countries, not to mention the Philippines, Asia with a smattering from Europe. But the majority of our population here is of Hispanic decent. They have been brought here by their parents to go to school and take advantage of a better life. I applaud these parents who want the best for their children; who risk life and limb sometimes to bring their families here. Many times only one parent will come with the children because that is all they can afford, hoping that as time goes on the other parent and some of the other members of the family can join them.
     I am not trying to be a snob here, but I did not know anyone, of my age group, who did not graduate high school. All my cousins, even those that joined the communes and hippy movements in the 60's, graduated high school, and the majority of them went on to college. I know I led a somewhat sheltered life, but in my younger years, I did not realize that people in other countries did not have the luxury of an education. As an adult, I understand this fact. But it still brings a little catch to my throat when I see, year after year, someone putting down as their "15 Minutes of Fame" the fact that they will be the first person in their family to graduate high school.
     It will be a wonderful yet scary time for these kids. How brave they will be to set the standard for the rest of their family; their little brothers and sisters and cousins. How proud their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles will be. And how great they will feel, knowing that this enormous undertaking they have endured will all be worth it when their child walks across that stage in June.

Monday, September 8, 2014


     I have been going back over my little index cards I have the kids fill out on the first day of school. The first time I go through them I concentrate on their names. The second time I look at the English teacher they had last year (then I know where they came from and where they need to go.) The third time I go through the cards and make a note on my seating chart as to what they want to do with their lives: college, (2 or 4 year) trade school, military or work.
     The last thing I always ask them is to tell me their special "15 minutes of fame." Some of the kids talk about helping their siblings or doing community service, showing an animal at the local fair. But this year I got quite a few (all boys I might add) that mentioned they were: "2 months sober", "not drinking for 2 years", "stopped drinking this year." I don't know about you but I find this disturbing. On the one hand I want to applaud them for backing away from a habit that is not good for them. On the other hand, I have to wonder: just how long have they been drinking?
     I had a student once that told me that he wanted to go back to Mexico because life was just so much easier. No drugs (no one in his village could afford drugs even if they wanted to partake) no higher education, no technology assaulting the senses (my words, not his, but the idea was his.) Life was easy. You worked, you partied, got drunk (beer was the drink of choice, he said, and everybody drank it, even the little kids), slept it off and started all over the next day. He is not the first student to have told me this.
     I find it sad and disturbing just how much these kids have in their lives that I never had to deal with. And I hope they have the personal strength to win the battles.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Revolving Door Day

     Today is a minimum day. We had Back to School Night last evening. If you read my post yesterday I talked about Back to School night and how I was wondering, with the new system we have for this event, how many parents I would have show up. My personal best for this event is 14. I went out after school and bought 4 dozen cookies, just in case I had a room full. I had 6. Four sets of parents and some little brothers and sisters, and two single moms and a visit from a couple of Vice Principals, (we have 3 in addition to our Principal) and those people ate all but 18 of the cookies. But 10 parents total. That was in a 2 hour span. I finished the book I was reading and started on another. I answered email and took at look at Pinterest.
     Because BtSN is not in our contractual work time, but Administration wants everybody to show up, they always give us a half a day the next day as a little incentive. This means our classes are only 30 minutes each. And by the end of the day I feel like I've been stuck in a revolving door. Kids come in, sit down, get up, leave, other kids come in, sit down, get up, go...
     We get out at 12:55, which is actually nice; we can start the weekend early. I probably should stay in my room and get some grading done, but I won't. The door will be closing on my back as the bell rings. I've had enough of the revolving door for one day!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Back to School Night

     Yay! It's Back to School Night! I hate to be a downer but I am not really excited about the event. The first year I started teaching, I was excited for Back to School Night. It started out with a public assembly in the main gym and then the parents, following their child's schedule, visited the class rooms, spend about 10 minutes looking around and then moving on to the next class, with 5 minutes as a passing period. That was at Righetti High. I had 15 to 20 parents visit my class room for each of the periods, (75-100 total) and some even found me during the period I had my prep with no students.
     Then I came to SMHS. We did Back to School night as more of a Parent/Teacher night. All of the departments would gather in the gym at long tables, the parents would pick up the student's progress report and go around to meet the teachers, all in the same room. My personal best for attendance is set at 14. The last 6 years I have had 63 students at a time and 14 was the max that I have ever had come meet me. 14. (This mind you, even though I offer extra credit points for attending.) 
     So, this year we have migrated back to the system Righetti has, including room visits. I have a WELCOME sign on the door and my name and subject posted on my window by the ramp so everybody can find me. I have the subject I teach, my name and my email on the board and right after I finish this I am going to go get cookies to serve to, hopefully, all the parents that will show up. And I have asked two of my students to translate for me, since I don't speak Spanish, and the majority of our parents do.
     The questions remains...will the parents come? Will they be able to make it from room to room? Will I have a lot of cookies (that I can't eat, by the way...) left over to give to my first class of the day tomorrow? I'm hoping for more than 14. But I brought a book, just in case.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


Today we finally got into our textbooks. We get them from the library at the beginning of the year but we have been busy with other assignments until now. The first unit I teach is "The Crucible." I have been teaching this play for all of the 7 years I have been at this school. It's on the curriculum calendar for Juniors. I love the play. Maybe because it is based in historical fact or maybe because I have read it so often, (think 7 years at least 4 times a year. This year I am reading it 5 times) that now, as I read along with the kids, I find new and interesting bits of information and insights into the story. I love that!
     But, I digress. This post is about textbooks. You can see, in the picture above, our textbooks. They are old and ratty and most of them are tagged inside and out. Some are worse than others but most are pretty bad. When I started teaching in this district I was told that we only use textbooks for 7 years and at the end of that time period the English departments get together and decide what they want in new textbooks. When I started teaching these textbooks were 4 years old. So now they are 11 years old. Money has been tight in previous years. And then 2 years ago, everyone started talking about the new Common Core Standards. For those of you who don't teach, textbooks are tied into the standards for us. It really makes life easier and assures we are compliant with the State and now National Education Codes. Once they started talking Common Core it didn't make sense to buy new textbooks until they were aligned. So, we wait. The district spent money this year to buy more of the "old" textbooks to accommodate our schedule change. And we are told that it may be two more years before the new CCS aligned books are ready. Until then we will make these do with careful handling and wishful thinking. I hope the new book includes "The Crucible"!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Spray Paint in the Morning

Football season is in full swing now and with this time of year the ASB kids are busy every morning making signs for the games. You know the ones: "SAINTS ROCK!" "CRUSH THE KITTIES" ( We are playing the Pioneer High Panthers) "WASH THE WARRIORS!" and so on...They display them at the games, along the fences, and bleachers, and they usually make a big one for the cheerleaders to hold so the team can run through, making their entrance onto the field.
     My class room is right across the walkway from the ASB room. Many times when I get to school in the morning, they are busy bees, out there in front of the class room, on the cement, making these signs. The cement is covered with large frames of colors from the over-spray of the spray paint they use to make these signs. They also use these cool, wide, spongy, dip-able paintbrushes, (that come, like a jar, with their own sealed lid where the paint brush fits snugly for storage and doesn't dry out.)
     But the smell from the spray paint welcomes me as I come around the corner. I always know, even before I see them, that the ASB kids are busy making signs. The good thing about them doing it outside is that once they stop the actual spraying, the smell dissipates quickly so there is no lingering obnoxious odor throughout the day.
     It is amazing how many of these signs they create in a year's time. And how quickly some of the students work. Of, course, once football season is over, they will transition to basketball and wrestling, baseball, soccer, swimming etc... And they also make signs for the different clubs and school events. Until I came to teach at a high school, I never really knew just how much the ASB students are in charge of decorating our lives!