Friday, February 22, 2013

Take Home Test

            “Landon, you never did the take home test from last weekend.”

            The locker pod was full of loud, happy confusion as the kids prepared to leave.  The big snowstorm of the season was coming and everyone was counting on a couple snow days.  Mr. Abelman stood over Landon as he pulled on his backpack.  I stepped over to listen.

            Landon looked up, puzzled.  “What take home test?”

            “The take home test everyone was supposed to do on-line over the long break last weekend,” Mr. Abelman said patiently.

            Landon squinted and furrowed his brow.  “I didn’t know anything about a take home test.”

            “Landon,” I interrupted, “You spent two days in class doing the study guide for the test.  We went over the guide in my room to make sure you had everything you needed.”

            Landon’s face brightened into a smile.  “Oh that test!  I did it last night.”  He shrugged his pack higher and turned to leave.          

            Mr. Abelman reached out.  “Hold on a minute.  Let me check online.”  

            He walked back into his room. 

            “I’ve got to go,” Landon pleaded.

            “You don’t ride the bus,” I said.  “Is your mom picking you up?”

            “No.  She’s at work.  But it’s important I go home right away.”

            “Let’s check with Mr. Abelman first.”  I steered Landon into Mr. Abelman’s classroom and over to his desk.

           Mr. Abelman looked up from the computer, “There’s nothing recorded.  You haven’t done the test.  You haven’t even logged in to look at the test.”

            “What test?” Landon asked again.

           Mr. Abelman and I both sang out,  “The take home test.”

            “I . . . I’ve never heard of this test,” Landon sputtered.

            “Yes you have,” I said.  “Come in my room and let’s check your backpack to make sure you still have your study guide so you can do it this evening.”  I walked briskly back to my room with Landon on my tail.

            “What study guide?”

            “Look in your backpack.”

            Landon rolled his eyes, shrugged off his pack, and plopped it on the round table in my room.  He unzipped the top and peaked inside.

            “Yep.  I’ve got it,” he said quickly and zipped the pack closed.

            “Let me see it.”

            Landon’s head collapsed to the side.  He looked wearily at me and he sighed deeply.  He slowly unzipped his pack again, dug his gloved hand around inside, but pulled it out empty.  Suddenly he looked up and smiled.

            “It’s at home.”           

            I walked over to the counter and picked up a blank study guide.

            “You really can’t do the take home test without the study guide.  Sit down here and I’ll help you fill this out before you leave.”

            “I already did it,” he moaned.  “Let me look some more.”

            Landon took off his gloves and began pulling books, spirals, and wrinkled papers out of his backpack.  Soon the round table was covered.  It was as though the backpack had thrown up all over my table.
             “Here it is!” he said suddenly waving his study guide triumphantly.  “I have it.  Now can I goooo?”
            “Yes.  Go.  And don’t forget to do the test tonight.”

            “I won’t.  Promise.”  Landon began stuffing things back into his pack.

            I looked up and saw Mr. Abelman in the doorway.  He was slowly shaking his head.  I strolled over and began laughing.

            My voice was low.  “He’ll have another long weekend.  There won’t be any excuse this time.”

            Landon squeezed past us.  “Bye Mrs. Jones.  Bye Mr. Abelman.  Have a good snow day.”

            We watched him scurry down the hall, then both turned and went back into our classrooms.

            The round table was still cluttered with trash from Landon’s backpack. 

            He better not have . . .

            But he had.  Nestled under some papers on the table was Landon’s study guide.

Friday, February 15, 2013


            “You can’t make me re-do my math.  My MIP says you can’t.”

            I looked up from my desk to see what was going on across the room.

            MIP?  Minor in Possession?  Has someone been drinking?

            On the other side of the room Mrs. Alvarez was sitting next to Ramon helping him with his math.  Ramon was sulking, and Mrs. Alvarez was looking frustrated.

            “Ramon,” I called out.  “Do you have a question?”

            Ramon looked up at me and huffed, “Mrs. Alvarez says I have to re-do my graph for math.”

            “He’s gotten his variables mixed up,” Mrs. Alvarez explained.  “I’ve been telling him that his graph is going to be completely wrong if he doesn’t switch his sides.”

            “My MIP says she can’t help me with math,” Ramon shot back.

            What is getting into this guy?

            I signaled Mrs. Alvarez to take a break, walked over, and sat down next to Ramon.

            “What do you mean, your MIP says you can’t be helped with math?” I asked.

            “My Mom says I have an MIP for reading.  So why does Mrs. Alvarez say I have to re-do my math.”

            I paused a minute and furrowed my brow.

            “You’re right, Ramon,” I said, “We help you with reading, and reading is what you have goals for.  But the hard thing is, you have to read in all your classes.  Right now you’re working on a big math word problem.  If you don’t read it correctly, you’ll do the math wrong.  Mrs. Alvarez knows that you didn’t read the problem correctly.  She’s just trying to help you.”

            Ramon scowled back with dark, hooded eyes.

            “But I’m good at math.”

            “Yes you are.  But you put your variables in the wrong place on your graph.”  I pointed to his math book.  “’Hours’ is time, and time is an independent variable.  That always goes on the bottom.” 

            I handed Ramon an eraser and he began rubbing out his work.  I walked back to my desk, but turned around halfway.

            “Ramon, you have an IEP, not an MIP.”

            “And it’s for reading,” he snapped.

            I started laughing.  “So let Mrs. Alvarez help you read your math problems correctly.”

            Ramon bent his head down, but I could see he was silently mouthing “Let Mrs. Alvarez help you read.”

            I went back to my grading, but couldn’t help thinking about the ornery side of Ramon that was starting to creep out.

            Let’s hope it’s just an IEP and not someday an MIP!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Running For Cancer

5k Run for Prostate Cancer

            I stared at the front of Caitlyn’s t-shirt for several seconds before the shirt’s message registered. 

            Did Caitlyn run a 5k for prostate cancer?  Is her dad sick?  Does she know what prostate cancer is? Do any of the 6th graders know what it is?

            “Hi Caitlyn.  Cool t-shirt.  Are you a runner?”

            “No.  My older brother Jack gave it to me.  It’s too small for him.  He’s in high school.”

            “Oh.”  I casually nodded my head wondering whether I wanted to go any farther.  “So Jack’s a runner?”

            “No.  His friend David gave it to him, but Jack said he won’t wear it.  It’s too small.” 

            Jack’s not as nice an older brother as you think.

            I continued my slow, nonchalant nodding. “Uh, that’s a cute color.  It goes with your red pants really nice.  Did your mom help you put that together?”

            “Nope.  She’s out of town.  I did it myself.”

            “So, is David’s dad sick?”

            Caitlyn smoothed the front of her t-shirt, obviously proud of it and feeling pretty wearing it. 

“No.  David’s dad isn’t sick.  But I think his uncle makes these shirts for the posture cancer runs.”

            “Posture cancer?”

            Caitlyn touched her finger to the lettering on the front of her t-shirt.  “Yes.  Posture cancer.  That’s why they had the race.  For posture cancer.”

            “Caitlyn, your t-shirt says ‘Prostate Cancer,’ not ‘Posture Cancer.’  P, r, o, s, t, a, t, e.  Prostate.”

            Caitlyn tucked her head down and tried to read the writing on her shirt upside down and backward.

            “P, r, o, . . .”  She looked up at me grinning.  “It’s hard to read.”

            “Yeah, it is.  But it says ‘Prostate Cancer,’ not ‘Posture Cancer.’”

            “What kind of cancer is that?”

            “It’s a kind of cancer that men can get.”


            The bell rang, and Caitlyn walked happily off to PE.

            That afternoon I noticed she was now wearing her PE t-shirt. 

            I wonder what Caitlyn’s mom says to Jack when she gets home.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Back To Normal

            “There’s a sub in the math room today who’s using a walker!”

            I stared back at Mr. Abelman and gave him my grown-up response. 

            “Nuh Uh.”

            “Seriously.  Yes.  The sub in the math room today is old.  Really old.  He’s using a walker.”

            Mr. Abelman was not smiling.  He was serious.  As we stood watching the kids pull books out of their lockers and stuff their coats in, I’m pretty sure he was thinking the same thing I was.

            Will I still be working when I’m that age?

            Later that morning during my plan period, I made a point of strolling past the math room.  The sub was old, and he really did have a walker.

            This past weekend I had a quick out of town trip involving airline flights through two large airports.  As I was getting on my first flight, I was surprised to see a gate attendant, who appeared to be about 75 years old, collecting the boarding passes.  Later as I was changing planes in the next airport, the airline cleaning crew began working on the front of the plane as we were still getting off.  I couldn’t help but notice that the plane was being cleaned by a man and woman who both appeared to be over 70 years old.

            At my final destination, it wasn’t a cleaning crew working frantically on the plane as we all got off.  All the flight attendants and either the pilot or co-pilot were making their way through the seats carrying plastic bags, picking up the trash.

            Throughout January I heard on the news about how the real estate market and the economy were all pretty much back on track.  Things were back to normal. Really?

            Did the flight attendants and pilot know their job would include cleaning the plane?

            Did the airline agent and cleaning crew members ever think they’d still be working past 70 years old?

            Did that substitute teacher ever think he’d still have to work even when he got to the point of using a walker?

            We may be back to normal, but I think maybe it’s a new normal.