Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mathletes? Cool!

I took my math team to Prior Lake on Monday for our last traveling meet of the season (we're hosting the last meet). When we got to the school that was hosting the meet, there was a big group of kids standing outside the entrance. They looked at us as we got off the bus and headed towards the entrance.

A couple kids piped up and asked, "What sports team are you guys with?"

I told them that we weren't a sports team, we were our school's math team.

The group's response? "Wow...COOL!!!"

Now THAT'S not a response you hear every day.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The New Property

I'm going over the assignments my students turned in today. The homework was about different properties of addition. For a few of the problems the students had to identify which property was shown (Additive Identity Property, Property of Opposites, or Opposite of Opposites Property).

I looked at one student's answers for those questions and couldn't figure out why such a kind, respectful student would write such inappropriate words as answers to the questions he didn't understand. And then it hit me.

"POO" = "Property Of Opposites"

As my 7th grade math colleague put it, "Would it really kill them if they wrote down the whole property?"

Smiley Faces

As I was teaching my last block today, I looked over at a couple of my students and noticed that the back of one of their necks had a smiley face drawn on it. I saw a brown marker in the hand of the boy sitting behind him and came to the correct conclusion that he had drawn the face on the kid's neck.

I asked the boy with the marker when he had drawn the face. He looked at the clock and cotemplated for a few moments and said, "Oh, about...five minutes ago."

Later that hour I looked again and the face had become a whole person!

I was able to take a picture of the little person on the kid's neck before the bell rang.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

If These Walls Could Talk...

Oh, the stories I have to share!!

Let's start with yesterday morning, shall we?

I got to school and heard an announcement on the PA system letting us all know that the server was down. Fine. I had to type up my algebra PowerPoint lesson for the day anyway, so I'd just use my laptop. Not a big deal. No Internet access, which really stunk, but I'd live.

I finish typing up my lesson, pull up the LCD projector tool on my computer, hit the power button to turn it on and..."The projector is not connected." Crap. I forgot that the projector was hooked up through the network.

I gave my first hour students the option of which "old school" way we'd go with the lesson: whiteboard or overhead. They chose whiteboard. Granted, one wanted me to use a blackboard, but sadly, that was not an option, as there is no chalkboard in my classroom.

Second block came and I had two students who had to make up a test. As always, I had them work in the classroom at first while the rest of the class took the pre-test for the next chapter. When it was time to hand back the tests, I had the two who were still taking the test go out into the hallway to finish. When they were done with their tests, they came back in and gave the tests to me. I set them aside as I finished teaching the lesson.

I had a chance to correct the tests during worktime at the end of class. I found it quite interesting that the answers both tests had the exact same answers except for one problem. I had the two students come up to my desk and spoke with them about it, having a good idea of what had happened. One confessed right away, which actually surprised me quite a bit. I had the other sit down and spoke with the confessor about why they had done it. The response? "Well, I didn't really get it, so [I was told] I could get a couple of answers from [the other student]." Uh huh.

Confessor sits down, other student comes to my desk. I ask said student to tell me what happened. Silence. I explain what the confessor said and the student agreed with that story. Right.

I kept both tests, and told both of them that they will have to retake it. Now I have to find out what the policy is on cheating and go from there. How fun.

Last block. Technology was up and running again (yay!!!), so things should have gone quicker compared to my first algebra class of the day. Of course, my last hour kids are WAY chattier and love to get off on tangents. They always say they want to do better than first hour, though. Go figure.

I had told the class that they should have no problem finishing quicker than first hour and should have more worktime at the end as well, IF they stayed on task and were quiet. They thought that was the greatest thing ever.

I was going through a homework problem students had questions on at the beginning of class when some students began to talk loudly enough for me to need to raise my voice to be heard. So I just stopped talking. One student yelled, "Hey, guys! Stop talking!! We're trying to get through this!" Talking stopped and one student asked why they should be quiet. "Because," was the response, "Ms. Grivna knows what she's talking about and she's pretty."

Dead silence.

For like, a millisecond.

I knew that the class would latch onto that comment and milk it for all it was worth if I didn't veer them back to the math at hand FAST. I started talking at the same time my students started moving their mouths. Somehow, I managed to bring them back to the math without laughing (which I was fighting very hard), without going red in the face (which was almost more difficult), and without letting any cracks get in edgewise to the boy who had made that comment (who was sitting almost in shock with the realization of what he had just said). Poor kid.

I told this story to my sister on the way home from school yesterday. She practically died laughing. It's funny...I've heard about student crushes before. I never had a crush on a teacher...probably because they were all quite old or just plain weird. I know of some of my classmates who had crushes on teachers, though. I always thought something was seriously wrong with them. And now, somehow, I've become victim to one. Me. Of all people. I find it funny, flattering, and disturing (I was going to write "frightening," but that didn't really describe it) all at the same time.

Math Team practice was held yesterday after school.

Towards the end of practice, I had the answers to the sheet my team was working on projected onto the screen in my room. I exited out of the answers and my desktop could be seen. My wallpaper is of the pit orchestra I played with for "State Fair." The kids got to talking about it and music in general.

The discussion ended up coming around to marching band. One of my new mathletes said that her cousin, who played the bassoon, marched bass clarinet. She couldn't quite remember the school that he went to, though. The one she said that she thought was it happened to be my high school. Whoa. She told me his first name (couldn't remember his last name) and told me he had a younger sister still at that school.

A few minutes later she remember the color of his marching uniform - blue. I called my sister on my way home and asked her about this guy. Turns out that yup, she marched with him!! He was a year behind her in school, but definitely knew him.

I told my mom the same story when I got home and she knew him, too! Now I need to remember to find my mathlete sometime this week and tell her of this funny connection.

Fast forward to this morning.

I got to school this morning and helped one of my students study for a math test re-take that she was going to do after school today. As she worked on a couple problems, I dropped off my lunch in the teachers' lounge and made some copies of a couple slides from today's lesson for my trans math kids. I got back to the room and worked out a few more practice problems with my student.

My first hour kids started coming in and dropping off their stuff. One student came in and said that there was yoghurt all over my door. I looked and, sure enough, there was yoghurt all over my door. Wonderful.

I ended up bribing two of my students to go get some paper towels and clean off my door. The bribe? They didn't have to do the warm-up problems for today's class. Heh. That's probably the easiest bribe I've ever made.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Seating Charts

Oh, the nightmare of trying to figure out new seating charts!!! But, oh, the amazing rewards to such a change!

My kids all got new seating charts today, as we are starting chapter 5. Seating charts change every two chapters. I chose the first eating chart, my students chose their second seating chart, and I chose this third seating chart. The pattern keeps going throughout the year.

We went out to lunch today, as today is the last day for one of our language arts teachers' student teachers. All of my colleagues were commenting on how loud and out of control their kids are today. I said that I was really surprised to hear that because my kids have all been almost dead today - completely in another zone.

It hit me shortly into my last class that the subdued nature of my classes today probably has a great deal to do with the new seating charts. For the most part, they really don't like their new seats (good!) and have very little to say to their new tablemates.

It was a beautiful, much needed day of quiet. Especially with my last hour. I actually enjoyed teaching them today!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

NO Lip Gloss!

All my classes were taking a test today. The Absolutely No Talking rule is in effect until all tests have been turned in. I don't care if students draw on my small whiteboards (as long as they use their own markers), read, do other homework, or even sleep. As long as they are not talking or disrupting their classmates who are still taking their test.

My last hour always finds this a bit tricky, but they usually do a pretty good job with it. They were fine again today until one student wanted to get my attention to show me something. Does he walk up to my desk to quietly speak with me like he should? No. He calls out my name instead.

"Ms. Grivna, look!"

I looked.

"Do you like my lip gloss?" Please note: he was wearing the lip gloss on his lips.

I asked the girls (and the couple boys who were playing with the girls' makeup) to put ALL the makeup away and sit down. A few minutes later the same boy who called my name before started laughing about who knows what. I spoke with him, telling him he had to be quiet, and made him put his head down on the desk and not talk for the remainder of the hour.

When all the students were finished with their tests, I let everyone talk and visit with each other for the remaining 15 minutes of class, except for my one boy who still had to be quiet with his head down.

A few of my students had questions about missing work, so I helped them figure out what they needed to do and turn in. As I was doing this, I hear my boy-who-should-be-quiet-with-his-head-down-on-his-desk start whining about something. I looked up and saw him rubbing one of his eyes quite hard and a group of girls giggling.

The makeup was being quickly put back into purses and pencil bags as I approached the table. The boy rubbing his eye looked up at me and told me that the mascara got into his eye and "it really, really hurts!" Uh, yeah.

After explaining to him that, had he followed my directions and kept his head down on his desk in the first place, none of this would have happened, I kindly let him go to the bathroom and rinse his eye out, letting him know that if it ever happened again, I would not be so kind.

I then told the girls that if I saw any makeup out in my classroom again, except for Chapstick, the makeup would become mine and would be thrown away at the end of the day. Oh, they got so angry with me!

"We can't even have lip gloss out????? I apply my lip gloss, like, five times every class period!"

Deal with it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

"God bless you."

What a refreshing phrase to hear in a public school towards the end of a very long day of conferences!

The dad of one of my TM kids, who is one of the top in her class, came by for a conference after our dinner break. Before I even started talking, he commented on the fact that we are teaching without a contract right now and how disgusted he was with that fact.

I asked him if he had any concerns about his daughter in my class and the joking started from there. He asked, very seriously, if his daughter was talking too much or majorly misbehaving in class. I shot back at him that she was one of the worst kids in my class!

We chatted for a few moments about what a great kid she is and he said that it was all from her mother, who is the serious one; he's the goofball in the family. I then told him that it took a combination of the two personalities to make a kid like his daughter work. He agreed with the comment, "It's a God thing." Yes!!

We chatted for a few more minutes about how she was doing in class. Before leaving, he thanked me again for my time and doing what I do - teaching - even with how little I get back in return. I thanked him and he left with the words, "God bless you."

*sigh* Ahhh...

Music to my ears. :)

I think I can get through the last couple of hours of conferences with that one.

I know that he, nor any other student's parent, will ever read this, but I still want to say it:

Thank you for your thanks - I don't think you will ever know how much your verbal appreciation for me and my profession means to me, but that and your blessing at the end made all the difference in the world to me today.

Thank you. :)

Monday, November 5, 2007

"I don't think I got the whole test..."

Oh, dear. Thank goodness for honest students!!! I was just about to start writing an entry in here about the darn s*** that started falling from the sky before last hour today. Yes, I am sadly talking about that horrible four-letter word: snow. And to think I was thinking about wearing sandals to school today!! (I totally should have....)

One of my sweet algebra students came up to with her test and looked really confused. I was just about to ask her what was up when she held the test out to me and said, "Um, I don't think I got the whole test." Here, she had the first page, staple and all, but no second page! Poor kid. I ran across the hall to my colleague's room to grab another test. She just laughed when I told her what had happened.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


"Ms. Grivna! Did you cut your hair?!?"

Why, yes, I did get it cut. Just yesterday afternoon, actually. And you're the first person at school to notice.

"It's really cute!"

Thank you. :)

Ah, 7th graders. heh

After giving a re-take test after school yesterday, I decided to leave school and get a couple things done before pit rehearsal. Oh, right. That's why I haven't posted anything in...forever. I'm playing in the pit orchestra for a community theatre production of the musical "State Fair." We open the show on Friday.


I stopped at Target to see if I could find a Halloween-ish bowl to put the candy in that I had bought about a week ago for the pit and some non-chocolate treats, since we had a four-hour tech rehearsal scheduled on Halloween. I found a really cute Halloween punch bowl that was perfect for my candy bowl. I found my old college roommate, who now works at Target, and went to her register to buy my stuff and say hi.

After Target, I found I had enough time to stop at Great Clips (yay for cheap haircuts!) to get a couple inches cut. I hate pulling my hair back and I've found that I've needed to do that in pit this week to keep cool on stage and not get the hair flying in my mouth. Ick.

So it's nice and short now and my family has NO idea about it! Hahahaha They won't see it until sometime on Saturday, unless Mom is downstairs before I leave tomorrow morning. It'll be a great shock to them when they see it!!

Thursday, September 20, 2007


"We're going to the pig race! How about you?" reads the piece of paper I found in my mailbox at school this morning. Greaaaaaat. Can you tell I am so thrilled with this prospect?

Our school fundraiser (magazine sale) started last Friday and the first turn-in date was on Tuesday. For classes that reach 100% of their sales goals, they get a Mr. Bacon pig that they can do anything to (other than re-wire it or do anything to its legs). My kids last year shaved the pig and colored it MN Twins colors with Sharpie markers.

It took multiple turn-in dates for my class to meet their 100% goal last year. This year? It took ONE turn-in date. Only ONE!!!

I was really hoping my class this year wouldn't make the goal. I hate that darn pig race. It is so dang loud in that gym and the kids just get so wound up with it. It's practically impossible to get the kids to focus on their work after the races.

Granted, if our pig wins, we get $60 for a class party. I wouldn't mind that. That'd be pretty darn cool, in all honesty. They're one of my best classes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I have bus duty Tuesday afternoons.

I stand outside in the middle of the road, watching kids run across to the parking lot to get to their buses, run back across when they've forgot something in the building, and run across yet again to hopefully catch their bus before it leaves. Why in the middle of the road? To make sure cars don't go through and mow the kids down. Because it's better to have a teacher hit than a kid. Just kidding.

As the buses began to depart today, a few stragglers came running out of the building trying to catch their bus before it rolled out of the lot. I stood on the sidewalk near the school while my bus duty partner stood across the road from me, waiting to help stall the buses in order to let the kids cross.

One of the last buses slowed down and stopped with its doors right in front of me. As the driver opened the doors, I walked towards the bus, thinking that he was looking for a kid or he had a question. Instead, he says "Here..." and tosses me something. I catch it and look down: a grape Tootsie Pop! I smiled and said thanks as the driver closed the doors and went on his way to deliver the kids to their stops.

Now...How does that fit in with our new district Wellness Policy? ;)

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Woes of Coaching

So I coached our school's Math Team last year and was willing to do it this year again. It's not so bad, now that I know what I'm doing.

And then again, it's no fun at all when people don't respond to e-mails for three weeks.

It's not like I e-mailed every day badgering people either. One e-mail a week, that's all. And still, I didn't hear as much as an "I don't know, I'll let you know when I do" from our division coordinator until today. Almost three full weeks from the time I first contacted him about the meet schedule for this year.

I'm glad things are finally settled, but it would have been really nice to get information out to kids like, the beginning of last week.

We'll have the informational meeting next Monday that I finally set up just to get the ball rolling. That at least gives me time to figure out bus costs and stuff between our school and the other middle school we'll be sharing buses with.

You know, I felt so on top of all this stuff three weeks ago. All ready to go with everything and the TIME to get this stuff done. Now that the school year's underway, I don't have the leisure of time anymore to get this extra stuff done.

Speaking of extra stuff...Maybe I should let our AP know that I still need to get and sign my contract for coaching Math Team this year...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Blast From the Past

I checked my hotmail e-mail account after lunch like I've gotten into the habit of doing (gosh, I love Firefox). Two new e-mails: one junk and one retired Kindergarten teacher!!!

We have tried to stay in touch over the years, which has become harder to do, especially once she retired and then I started teaching a few years later. Life just became too hectic and random for us to easily keep in touch. It was such a nice surprise to see an e-mail from her waiting in my inbox.

Her e-mail was short - just a few sentences in length, checking in to see what new stuff was happening with me. My response was...WAY more than a few sentences. It was at least a short novel. Written in less than half an hour. There went my prep time today. :p

It was completely worth it, though. I've got papers to go through tonight, but that shouldn't take too long.

Wow. I might be able to beat the high school rush out of the parking lot if I can leave in the next five minutes. Let's hope that works! If not, I'll be stuck here at school for another 40 minutes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Old Program, New Teacher

My algebra 1/2 block kids were playing games and working on their math homework during Connect Time (our school's adivsement) when the math TOSA walked into my room.

He asked me how things were going and if I was swamped with stuff in my new position. He was surprised and slightly amused when I told him it's been a breeze so far, compared to last year (six classes vs. nine; all classes with curriculum to use vs. making up all my own stuff for eight of my nine classes).

He asked if our new FOL Math teacher had talked with me about how I had set up the program (it was a new program my first year). I told him that he had and that I hoped things were going alright so far. The TOSA then said that he hadn't gotten a chance to watch the new FOL teacher teach yet, but when he does and if things aren't running smoothly (we had a new guy the last half of last year who had some...difficulties...with the program and kids), he wants the new teacher to observe me teach a lesson. The TOSA said that I have some really good strategies that work well for the kids.

I never really think about that kind of stuff. I know I should, as that's so important in teaching, but I never really do. It just kind of...comes.

One thing, though. I HATE being observed. No matter what the supervisors say to ease the pain of it, I still feel like I'm on stage, performing all my tricks to please the audience. I just hate that feeling.

It's one thing making a fool of myself in front of my students. I do that on a daily basis. It's totally another thing making a fool of myself in front of the administration.

Monday, September 10, 2007


A student brings an apple to school and gives it to the teacher, who puts it on their desk and eats it later for lunch or a snack. What a quaint, old-fashioned view of the world, no? No one ever does that anymore. An apple to a teacher? Yeah, right.

Yeah, right!!

I was sitting at my desk after lunch, entering some student data in my laptop as our new health teacher taught his class of...six. Seventh graders were out in the halls, putting their books away and grabbing lunches from lockers, heading to lunch. My door opened and in walked one of my new students (new to the school this year).

This kid stopped in with his mom, sister, and friend the week before school started to meet his teachers and find where his classes would be. As I have him in my first class on A Days, I was the first teacher he met. He is so quiet in class, but a really good kid.


He quietly walked over to my desk, handed me something wrapped up in a napkin and whispered, "I brought you an apple."

Without waiting for a response, he headed back out the door to lunch.

What. A. Stinkin'. Cutie.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Education cuts, here we come?!

Yup, those are some marching band members that my sister marches with. She's actually in the second picture. Fifty points if you can find her. ;)

This was the front page article in the Star Tribune today. The kid second from the left in the first picture goes to my church. It was funny to see all the people talking to him after church today. Instant celebrity status!

CPHS will be one of the hardest hit schools in the state if the referendum doesn't pass this year. It's a very painful reality that most people hate to think about. More money that must be paid in the form of taxes...But you know what? I personally would rather shell out the money now and see our future be well educated instead of paying for their poor education later down the road with higher end jobs going to better educated people from overseas.

Maybe that's just me, though. Maybe the majority of people don't really care who gets the good jobs or who will be deciding our future in the years to come.

Ah, the joys of being an educator.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Thank You

Two words I have never heard from a student: Thank you.

I heard those words from numerous students today. A couple thanked me after my second class. Practically every student who left my room at the end of the day had those words to say to me. Totally made the week that much brighter.

I have officially survived my first week as a "real" teacher and I couldn't ask for a better week. Well, I'm sure I could, but I'm not going to push it.

Time to go home and unwind from a long, four-day first week. Or sit back and get more lessons done...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

They just keep popping up...

...Like daisies!

Let's see...three new kids in my last class on the first day of school. Ok. No biggie. I found out at the end of that day that three students had been dropped from that class without my knowledge (thank you, Mr. 8th grade counselor), so I just had to adjust my seating charts a tiny bit.

Yesterday was smooth sailing - only one girl added to my second class. And she just switched hours, not an entirely new kid.

Today Mr. 8th Grade Counselor came walking into my first class with a new student for that hour. At least she's a sweetie and I won't have to keep an eye on her every second like I'm used to doing with the kids he throws my way. Later that same class he comes in again with another new student. At least this time he decided to give me a bit of a warning...this new girl would be in my last class of the day. Yet again, another sweetie. Thank goodness.

This last class on A days I have a set of's funny having the set in a class together. I'm not complaining, they're quiet and good and stinkin' cuties (as most of them are). Now I just have to remember to put the right name with the right facial features. It'll help now that they aren't sitting right next to eachother.

I introduced this game called "24" to my kids today. My second class was absolutely hilarious with it. The jist of the game is this: you have four numbers and must use all four once and only once by adding, subtracting, multiplying, and/or dividing to get the number 24. The process is what we're looking for, as we know the answer is always 24. My second class just ate it up. They even applauded their classmates who solved the more challenging problems! It just made me so proud to see that comraderie evolving already.

I hope my last class will have some fun with the game, too. They're taking a pre-test right now. So quiet! I cherish these moments as much as I do the ones when everyone is involved in the lesson and having fun!

And now that the day is done (some hour and a half or so later)...One of my new additions to my last class has now been switched out. Mr. 8th Grade Counselor came in towards the end of the hour and said that her schedule had been screwed up (she had been put on two different teams) and it was now fixed. The poor girl. She looked so sad when she handed me her math book as she left at the end of the day! She even said that my class was fun. THAT'S something you don't hear every day when teaching math.

Oh, right. I took a couple pictures of my kids last hour before transitioning into the game 24. One table was working on a couple puzzles that I always have lying on my desk. Darn kid decided to stick his tongue out at me as I snapped that photo. Typical 7th grader.

The other photo was absolutely classic, though. One of my kids finished his stuff early and asked me what he should do. He didn't want to read and didn't have any homework to get a head start on, so I told him he could sleep if he wanted to. Hey, at least he'd stay quiet that way! He took me up on that one and he could be found lying underneath the back table where the classroom computers are lined up. The picture turned out beautifully. Like I said - Classic.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A short first day

"How was your first day?" Mom asked when she came in the door.
After a pause I answered, "Short."

Compared to the past two years when I barely knew how many students would be in my classes, let alone their names or even if I would have students in my classes, today was a breeze. It's amazing what a switch in positions does to the feeling of a school day.

Now, instead of teaching four or five classes each day, I'm down to three: two back-to-back, lunch and prep time, then my last class. The day just flies by!

My colleagues tell me I'm crazy for having so much ready for my classes already (I'm already almost a full three weeks into planning...most are only ready for this first week) and seemed relieved to find out that my first day as, what my students from last year would say, a "real" teacher went smoothly. I don't know what the big deal is. This job is SOOOO much easier than FOL and all the other random junk that got tossed my way the past two years. AND it's better pay. AND I finally get benefits. I couldn't be happier!!