Friday, March 22, 2013

The Week Before Spring Break

            “You never told us we had to have this done today.”
            “Yes I did Landon.  And it’s right there on the Homework Board too.”  I swept my hand towards the whiteboard.   It was empty.  “Well, the janitor must have erased it when he cleaned last night.”

            Across the room Caitlyn argued with Mrs. Alvarez.

            “I’m going to finish this at home.  I want to clean out my binder right now.”

            Mrs. Alvarez spoke slow and low.  “Caitlyn, this review sheet is due tomorrow.  I noticed in math you didn’t get any of it done.  Now do you remember how to calculate percents?”

            “I can do these.  I don’t need any help.  And I don’t want you talking to me in math class.  It’s embarrassing.”

            Mrs. Alvarez sucked in a shaky breath.  Her voice was pinched.  “Caitlyn, I’m helping everyone in that class.  But when I walk by your desk and you haven’t even started working and everyone else is almost done, it’s hard not to say something.”

            “It’s embarrassing,” Caitlyn shouted.  “You’re embarrassing me.  I’m telling my mom.  She’ll get me out of here!”

            Mrs. Alvarez looked at me pleadingly.  I started walking towards Caitlyn, but stopped.  Landon was panting hard and making a low growling sound.  He tore the sheet of paper he had been writing on out of his spiral and crumpled it into a ball.

            “I hate this.  This is so stupid.  Why do I have to do this?  I hate school!”

            I turned back to Landon, but before I got there, he grabbed his binder and threw it across the room.  As I watched it sail past me, papers flew from it and gently floated to the floor.  My room was raining old and incomplete assignments.

            The binder clattered to the floor at the feet of the school principal.  She was standing in the doorway writing on a clipboard, sadly shaking her head.

            Across the room Caitlyn screamed, “My mom will get you in trouble!”

            I gasped in a breath and opened my eyes.  The red numbers on the clock glowed 5:09.  It was just a school dream.  It wasn’t good. 

            School dreams before spring break are never good.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Please Pass The Problem

            “I just got an angry call from Landon’s mom about an assignment she said Mrs. Mason wouldn’t help him with,” said the principal.

            She was standing next to me as I supervised class changes.

            “I’m heading down to talk to her.  Do you know anything about this?”

            And it begins.

            I drew my words out, “Well, actually, I do know something about this.”   I turned to the principal and smiled, but I was serious.  “Do you want to address this, or just make the problem go away?”

            Her face was puzzled now.  “What do you mean?”

            “Landon did a poor job on a big assignment for Mrs. Mason.  She gave him the opportunity to earn some extra credit back by correcting the assignment.  I think Landon’s  looked online at his grades, and has figured out that the corrections will only raise his overall grade from a B minus to a B.”

            “So he’s not done anything?”

            “Correct.  But  I think he’s told his mom that he has done them.  His mom keeps emailing Mrs. Mason asking why she hasn’t put in the extra credit, but  Landon hasn’t given Mrs. Mason anything.   Now Landon’s mom keeps emailing Mrs. Mason telling her that Landon has done the work.”

            The principal’s eyes narrowed and she began to frown. 

            “Mrs. Mason told me about this yesterday,” I continued.  “I talked to Landon, and he admitted he hadn’t done any extra credit work.  He said he’d do the corrections last night.”  I paused, then added, “I can go get him and make him do the extra credit work, but I don’t know that that would solve the issue of Landon deliberately dodging this work.”
            “Got it.  I’ll talk to Mrs. Mason.”  She began walking down the hall, but turned.  “And then I’m going to talk to Mr. Landon about responsibility.”

            After lunch I stood in the locker area again, supervising the students. As I looked to my left, I saw  Mrs. Mason bearing down on me.  Her eyes bulged and she was breathing hard.

            “I just got an incredibly rude email from Landon’s mom telling me I’m not doing my job.  This is ridiculous.  How is it extra credit if I’m supposed to run him down and make him do it?  I’m going down to talk to the principal.”

            I watched her stalk down the hall.

            And it continues.

            Fifteen minutes later I opened up my email.  In it was a short message from the principal.

            “Hi Mrs. Jones – Could you go get Landon from music and make sure he does the extra credit corrections for Mrs. Mason?  I also want you to walk him into Mrs. Mason’s room and make sure she puts the extra credit into her grade book.  Thank you.”

            And it’s finished.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Who Owns This Problem?

            “I am not going to track Landon down to make him do the corrections I offered him for extra credit!”

            I stood in the hall between classes with Mrs. Mason, the Social Studies teacher.  Her eyes were wide.  I could see white all around her pupils.  She was breathing hard.  She. Was. Mad.  I try to stay away from angry people.  They might ruin my weekend.  I pulled up my best diplomatic tone.

            “Well, I don’t think you should be chasing Landon down either.”

            But Mrs. Mason still had steam to vent.  “Landon’s mom has sent me three long emails this week wanting to know why I haven’t entered in his extra credit so he can raise his grade.  How do I enter in extra credit that has never come in?”

            I put on my pained-face expression and sympathetically shook my head back and forth as Mrs. Mason continued.

            “I email back every time saying I haven’t gotten any corrections from Landon.  And then she emails me back saying he has turned the extra credit in.  I have 180 students to keep track of every single day.  I can’t be running after one student to make him raise his grade from a B minus to a B.”

            Hmmm.  Landon’s mom wants Mrs. Mason to fix this problem.  And now I think Mrs. Mason wants me to fix the problem.

            “Uh,” I hesitated, “I don’t see Landon today because the kids are taking state tests this afternoon.”

            The bell rang, and we both turned to go back to our rooms. 

            “Well, I’m not running him down,” Mrs. Mason huffed over her shoulder as she disappeared into her room.

            Fifty minutes later, as my reading class was ending, the door cracked open and a small head peaked in. 

            “Hi, Mrs. Jones.  Did I leave my binder in here?”

            “Well hello, Landon.  Did you finish your tests?

            “Yeah.  But I can’t remember where I left my math binder.  I need it for next hour.”

            I shrugged.  “It’s not in here.”

            Landon started to pull his head out.

            “Hey, wait!” I called walking towards the door.

            Landon peaked back inside.

            “Come here,” I said motioning with my finger.

            He cautiously stepped into the room.

            I bent down and whispered, “Did you have some corrections you were supposed to turn in to Mrs. Mason?”

            If life came with background music, we would have heard, “DUN, Dun, dun!”  Landon’s eyes widened.

            I continued, “Your mom has emailed Mrs. Mason several times wanting to know why she hasn’t given you credit for your corrections.”

            Landon stood frozen, but his eyes began darting back and forth.  The tip of his tongue peeped out and he bit down on it.

            “Have you even done your corrections?” I asked.

            Landon hiss-whispered, “I’m going to do them when I come to your class.”

            “You don’t come to my class today.”

            “Then I’ll do them at home tonight.  I’ll do them for homework.”

            “Your mom thinks you’ve already done them.”

            His eyes widened even more.  Now I could see white all around his pupils.

            “If you want the extra credit, you need to get it in.  Mrs. Mason is not going to hunt you down for it.”

            She told me several times!

            He stood quietly. The room was silent.  Suddenly the bell rang startling us both.

            Landon sputtered, “I’ve gotta go and find my binder.”  He turned and ran out of the room. 

            I stood at the doorway as the rest of the class filed past me.

            Landon’s mom wants Mrs. Mason to fix this.  Mrs. Mason wants me to fix it.  I want Landon to fix it. 

            Landon just wants his math binder.


Thursday, March 7, 2013


            I felt them before I saw them.

            I sat at my desk putting grades into the computer.  When I lifted my head to look across the room, I saw Ramon staring at me.  It was his evil eye stare.  His head was tucked down as though he was looking at his paper, but his eyes were lifted, glaring at me.  When he caught my eye, he quickly turned his head and began studying the bare tree outside the classroom.

            Yeah right.  You’re looking at the tree.

            I lowered my head and continued to enter grades, but after a few minutes I felt evil eyes again.  Instead of lifting my head, I slid my own eyes up.

            Yup.  Evil-eye stare coming across the room.  Ignore him.

            I went back to my work, but I could feel the power of evil eyes reaching across the 20 feet that separated us.    

I kept my eyes on my computer but casually called out, “How’s your Science review coming, Ramon?”

            Angry people make you wait for answers, and Ramon made me wait a full 10 seconds before he slowly lifted his head.  Now his eyes were narrowed, but they had not lost their intensity.

            His voice was deep and slow.  “Fiiinuh.”

            “Good,” I said cheerfully.  “Let me know if you need any help.”

            It is exhausting work telepathing your anger across 20 feet, and evil eyes were growing tired now.  Finally I heard a sad, high pitched sixth grade whine.

            “Why do I have to do my Science worksheet over?   I told you I already did it.  It’s at hoooome.”

            I sighed, got up, and walked over to Ramon.

            “Ramon, you’ve been telling your science teacher for a week that you’ve done this assignment.  You’ve been telling me it’s done for the last three days.  Your mom says it’s not at home.  It’s already late, so she said you’re to complete it here before you go home.”

            “That’s not faaaaaiiiir!”

            You’re right.  It’s not fair.  I want to go hooooome too.

            Now I sighed.  “Ramon, just finish it.”

            I turned and walked back to my desk, but felt my neck prickling.  Evil eyes were back.