Friday, October 29, 2010


The beginning of 7/8 block today brought with it one of my students carrying a package of cookies into class. It's his birthday. He asked if he could share them with the class. There were enough for everyone in the class, so I said that he could.

Once the homework had been collected and the lesson was getting ready to begin, he came up to my desk to get the package of cookies to pass out to the class. I was giving two students the lesson's note packets to give to everyone in the class and heard him thinking out loud, trying to figure out how many cookies each student could have.

He asked me how many students were in the class (27, but add 2 more if you're counting adults). Then he counted up the cookies. "There are about 18 in each row....18 times 3, what's 18 times 3? Wow, look, I'm doing math!" I couldn't help but smile when I heard that.

He then went on to figure out how many cookies each person could have - it turned out to be exactly two cookies each.

I had to share his story with the class, because it was just too cute not to. The whole class applauded when I got to the part about his "ahah" moment of using math somewhere not directly related to math class.

Seventh graders are funny. :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

This is Not a Drill

So, my Friday was short. I didn't even finish teaching one class before my day ended. On my way to my car, I called my husband and then my mom letting them know I decided I didn't want to teach today, so I was heading up to Mom's school and helping her out the rest of the day. Both recipients of my phone calls were quite confused when I retracted the first part of my statement and said that I actually had no choice in teaching or not today - school had been evacuated.


Just as homework questions were ending, our principal came on the intercom and announced that everyone needed to evacuate the building immediately due to a chemical spill at the high school (which our middle school is attached to). I instructed my class of 28 7th graders where to go and meet me outside and headed out to our meeting point. Not ten minutes after we got outside, we saw the waving arms of the administration standing at the doors signaling to us that we could go back inside and continue our classes.

I need to break in my story here and commend my students for being really wonderful with that evacuation. Every student spoke to me and let me know they were present when we were outside and, once back in the classroom, were all ready to go with the lesson almost immediately. Wow!

Once we got back in the classroom I told my class a story about a chemical spill that happened at my high school when I was a senior there. Chemicals had been spilled while they were being disposed of and we were evacuated from the building. Due to the explosive nature of the chemicals and their fumes, we got to leave school early (for those who rode the bus and for those who brought their car keys outside with them when the fire alarm went off in school). I finally got to leave once my friend, who drove me to and from and school, got her extra set of car keys from home.

The rest of the class went quite well. I was handing back homework and had just started speaking with students who still had missing assignments for the chapter when our principal came back on the intercom and made another announcement. This time the evacuation that was taking place was a big one.

Students and staff were to gather their things and head out of the building and down the block to the church which is our evacuation site. Buses were in the church parking lot to pick students up and bring them home, while parents picked students up who called them and let them know what was happening.

As we were walking down the block to the church, a couple of my students walking near me said, "Mrs. S! This is just like your story!!" I couldn't help but notice the striking similarities, too.

All but four of my students found to check in with me before heading off to their bus or ride home or to walk home. Pretty impressive, given the mass chaos that was going on!

The staff was debriefed in front of the church once the buses filled with kids had left. Apparently a custodian at the high school was neutralizing chemicals before disposing of them when the system got backed up and a spill occurred (yup, sounds just like what happened at my high school). Emergency procedures began and that's why the first evacuation took place. High school buses bringing students to school just turned around once reaching the high school and dropped the kids off back at home.

Later, as district administration evaluated the situation, they decided to evacuate our school yet again and end school for the day. The vent systems for the high school and our middle school are separate, though the buildings are connected, so there was no danger for fumes to be spread to our school through the vents. The administration was concerned that, with the way air could move between the buildings, that students may begin to smell odd odors as the day wore on and, as a precautionary measure to this, ended our school day.

Everyone was safe, no one was hurt, life went on, and everyone was happy to have a shortened week, even if by just a few hours. Granted, it's Homecoming this week, but the parade is still on and the game is going on as scheduled tonight, too.

And to think, next week is a short week, too! :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blast From the Past

After school ended today, I was packing things up in my classroom when my classroom door opened. In walked three high school boys, two of whom I knew and the third looked familiar, but I never had him as a student.

The first one who walked into the room said, "Hello, Miss Grivna. Do you remember me?" in his slight German accent.

"Of course," I replied. Really, how could I forget this kid who moved from Germany to our school halfway through my second year of teaching? He made me laugh almost every day in class and was a bright kid. Back then, I taught the math support class for kids struggling in their core math class. This kid was there mainly to get up to speed on how the book was set up and vocabulary support (Chicago Math is practically all vocab.).

Yeah, he's a junior in high school now.

The second boy who walked in asked me if I remembered him at all. I could never forget his face, but it took a couple minutes to recall his name. I was confused by this at first (I've been pretty good at recalling names when I see former students) until he said that he was surprised I remembered him since I only had him for two summer school.

The memories came flooding back then. Oh, the behavior challenges from that one!

My mother had actually been in my classroom during summer school one day that year, helping me with some stuff in my room. After this boy left my room when summer school ended that day, she laughed and said that he was more than a couple handfuls! She didn't know the half of it, either.

That boy, as well as the other familiar face, are high school seniors this year. Wow.

They have study hall last period at the high school. They said that there are 65-some students scheduled for that study hall period and only about 10 show up. The rest just leave school early. From what I've heard from other years, this is common. If I remember correctly, students have to fill out and sign some form to be able to skip last period study hall.

No matter what, though, it was a lot of fun to see these kids and visit with them for a few short minutes. I love it when former students come back and keep me updated on what's happening in their lives! :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

It's Good to Laugh

This year has started out so much more stress-free than last year. My 7th grade math colleague agrees. Last year was just so much push, push, push with the brand new text books and needing to write new lessons for everything and new assessments along with everything else new for the new books. Ick.

This group of kids continues to be fun.

The past two days of lunch have been filled with crazy stories and so much laughter. It's nice. We had a fun discussion about California's Proposition 19 (legalizing marijuana-related activities, among other things about marijuana) during lunch today. Yesterday the conversation was about concerts, old cars, and quoting movies. Well, the quoting movies part seems like it is turning into an everyday occurrence at lunch now. As long as our new health teacher keeps coming to lunch in the staff lounge, I have a feeling we will continue hearing movie quotes as we eat.

I was just about to shut down my computers today after the kids left when I decided to read one last e-mail. It was from our secretary who works in the copier room, making copies for teachers. I had put in an entire chapter of guided notes to be copied this afternoon for my Trans Math kids. It was the whole first chapter. That felt incredibly nice to be that prepared! The e-mail from our secretary was about making all of the copies that I requested this afternoon. This is what her e-mail stated:

"Hi Meg,

I did an oops. I was copying your projects and was wondering what was taking so long when I realized that your first project got entered as 1005 instead of 105 copies, so you have about 400 of one of your packets. :)"

Whoops is right! I figured that I now have copies of that lesson for a few years worth of teaching now at least. :) As I replied and let her know that, I found that I was laughing pretty hard about the whole silly situation, mistake and 400 copies and all. Again, it felt good to laugh and really mean it at school.

That's when I realized how really and truly stressed I was last year with the new curriculum. I can only remember a handful of times from last year when I laughed as hard or as often as I have this week. And it's only the first week of school.

Let's hope that this is the beginning of a theme of laughter and fun this year. I need that kind of year at school.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mrs. S

First day of teaching with my new last name is now over. I'm exhausted.

Today brought with it my largest classes of the year: 28, 24, and 27. My first hour, with 28 kids, was so quiet you could probably have heard a pin drop most any time during class. I know one kids' name from that hour now - he was the one who actually raised his hand and said something during class, as well as volunteered during class. The only kid out of 28. Weird.

My second class may prove to be an interesting one. I'll be keeping my eye on a couple of those kids.

Lunch was good. A nice break in the middle of the day to finally sit down. Oh, and eat some food that my husband packed in my lunch. :) I always enjoy the realization the first day of school that, once lunch hits, I only have one more class to teach before the day is over. SUCH a nice thought.

Last hour was my class of 27 kids...and a para, thank goodness. I've never had a 7th grade para in my last hour class before (always has been during 3/4 block). Last hour with a para is a very nice change. And with 27 kids in the class, a much needed change. These kids were pretty chatty, but that's no surprise. Last hour is always chatty, without fail.

The end of the day brought an early dismissal, which continues to be annoying. It seems like the early dismissal comes earlier every year. I barely had time to explain one of the homework assignments (the one that required explanation, not the "cover your math book" assignment) before the kids were dismissed to their buses.

Once the kids left, homemade cookies and brownies, along with chocolate and white milk, were in the lounge for the teachers - a fun tradition for the first day of school and something I look forward to every year. The cookies were yummy. I probably ate more than my fair share. :)

On to Day 2, which brings Algebra my way. :)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How Long Does it Take?

So yesterday was the last day of the state tests for the year; Day 2 of the Math testing. I’ve learned from experience that the kids can’t handle much more math after being subjected to the state tests for two hours in the morning. So the two days of the state math tests are game days in my classroom – very rare occurrences for my students.

My last hour class started out pretty good until after I had them rate how the state math tests went. They answered with a finger rating (one finger for going really well; five fingers for going very poorly; two, three, and four fingers for somewhere within that spectrum).

Their hands went down and I began to let them know what they would be doing in class that day – having a free day. I got two words out of my mouth before the whole class erupted in chatter. I walked over to the light switches near the door to turn the lights off, signaling the class to be quiet. As I approached the switches, I realized that the past few times I have tried that, it has not done anything to quiet that class. So I just walked out the door, letting it close behind me.

I stood with my ear at the small opening of the door, waiting to hear the kids quiet down. There were shouts of “Guys, we need to be quiet or Ms. Grivna won’t come back in!” and whispers of “I think she’s not coming back.” I just tried hard to stifle my growing laughter at their statements.

Our 7th grade counselor walked by and gave me a questioning look. I told her that I was waiting to see how long it would take for the whole class to be quiet. She peeked in the room to see who was in the class. We talked for a minute or so and laughed at the whole situation. She was still chuckling and shaking her head as she left.

A couple minutes later, my door opened and a piece of paper was thrown into the hallway, with the door slamming shut moments after. On the piece of paper was a note stating (in muli-colored highlighter):
“Declaration of Algebra
We the
People of
7/8 B Algebra
are really
sorry and
will be quiet.

I laughed quite loudly and had to read it aloud to the two students sitting across the hall from another class, as they had been witnessing the whole course of events.

I cracked open the door just slightly to hear if the class was going to stop talking finally. They had! I opened the door and got half of one foot into the classroom when three of my girls, on bended knee in front of the door, started to break into song.

I turned my back on them and walked out of the room, completely closing the door behind me. Once the door was closed, I started laughing again. I could hear the volume level increasing again, so I cracked open the door.

The kids began arguing about what they should do to get me back in the room. I thought I would help them a little, so I folded the note they had thrown into the hallway so that just the last two lines were showing (“will be quiet – class”). I held that part up to the door window and stood there, waiting to see if anyone noticed my little hint.

Two students did notice. They yelled to their classmates and pointed out the note in the window. Not more than a minute later, they were silent and I made attempt number two at walking back into my classroom. This time the kids stayed quiet. I looked at the clock. TEN MINUTES had passed since I had left the room.

But, oh, what an amusing ten minutes that had been. :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Silent" Lesson

I went to my youngest sister's high school band/orchestra concert last night. As I watched my high school band director conduct, I thought of when he would do silent rehearsals with us. He would not say a word for the entire 85-minute class period. He would get his point across with only his gestures and facial expressions. The only sounds that were heard in the band room were the sounds we made with our instruments. I loved those rehearsals.

I decided to try the whole "silent" thing with my last hour class today as I listened to them correct (yes, listened) their homework. I collected the homework and then started to say as little as possible throughout the rest of class. The kids caught on pretty quickly. It turned into a really fun lesson. Well, at least for me.

The kids who wanted to learn paid attention. The kids who didn't care were talking a little, but were usually shushed by their classmates who were trying to pay attention to my charades at the front of the room. I felt like I got my point across better than for any of the other classes with respect to teaching the kids how to reflect images across a line. :)

I was even able to stay mostly silent when explaining the reflection project the kids worked on today.

And you know what? I felt so much more relaxed throughout the entire class period. I wonder if I could pull off a "silent" lesson again....