School is coming back!

The governor of Michigan has decided that schools can open up in 2021. I am so glad.

I was at The Young Human Factory past midnight two days this past week. Each day, I read and responded to more than 125 emails. Virtual meet-ups? Did them. Long phone calls? Yes. Making videos of everything from grammar lessons to “How to Do Today’s Work”? Heck, yeah!

And then my poor students had to do the work, which was bad, and read the directions, which was… worser. (Actual vocabulary of middle-schooler.)

My favorite conversation this week occurred when I received a desperate plea from one of the Brainiacs (the contentious members of the Middle School Mafia). He was encountering problems doing a grammar practice.

Brainiac: [Detailed explanation of the problem.] I can’t figure this out.

Me: You did not read #3 on my instructions today. Therefore, you have failed your first reading comprehension assignment of the day! Ha ha!

Brainiac: Oh poop.

In school, this Brainiac would have been in the honors class with other Brainiacs, who would tease and laugh. The back-and-forth conversation of class is the most fun, especially when peers help each other learn by repeating what I just finished saying. (Fun fact: A teacher can say “Read the directions” forty times, but when a student says “Read the directions” the first time, the other students hear it.)

I look forward to hearing “Oh, poop” in person.


Little People

As I prepare for the new, improved sanitized new year at The Young Human Factory, the little ones are squeezing in all the fun they can manage before this extraordinarily long summer vacation ends.

I heard a child’s yell of outrage in the morning. A girl of four had come up my driveway, dumped her bike on the lawn, and was walking back to mom. Seems she JUST got the training wheels off and was having trouble steering.

I went out and chatted with her mom. I tried VERY hard not to laugh at the oh-so-serious little girl. She had a doll, and her daddy mounted a doll carrier to her bike so she can take Dolly for rides. Dolly will keep her company when her sibling enters full-day school.

The Middle School Mafia, once limited to bikes, electric scooters, and the occasional dirt bike, has acquired a golf cart. It isn’t clear who commandeered it from grandpa, but they were running the road with five kids on it. Next week, their little band is breaking up. Some of them will be attending school; others are taking the online option.*

For my part, I am prepping for the weirdness to follow an abbreviated school year and continued restrictions. And I remind myself: I have to keep an upbeat attitude!


*NOTE: Families have two weeks to decide if their child is enrolling in an online class or attending in-person classes. Frankly, I hope a good number do the former, since the rosters are ungainly: 29 to 35 students cannot social distance.

Covid-19 Lockdown: A Child’s View

Between floods and riots, I sometimes forgot that it was May, not summer (yes, that’s the season of floods and riots). Only two weeks are left in The Young Human Factory’s scholastic year.

As a brief writing assignment, I asked middle schoolers to imagine that they were elderly and their grandchildren asked about the historic quarantine. I wanted to share some of their reflections on the shutdown. I did not edit them except for brevity and added commentary in brackets for clarification.

“Quarantine in 2020 was honestly very boring. There wasn’t much to do because of social distancing. A lot of kids were super happy at first because they didn’t have to go to school. But later on, they became super unmotivated to do the online school work.  Lot of them missed school because they missed the lack of being able to talk to their friends everyday that wasn’t through a screen.”

“Everybody went crazy and got toilet paper instead of food. There was no more toilet paper left.”

“I started to really miss my friends and the school environment. Even though all of us would complain about being at school everyday, we took that for granted because for a lot of us, that was our main source of socialization other than talking to our parents and/or siblings. We didn’t really know when Quarantine would end because every time there would be a date that the stay at home order would be lifted, it would get extended.”

“It was very scary thinking you could get a sickness that could kill you and you wouldn’t even know you had it for a few weeks and you could cause so many people to get sick and also die. It was also very scary for the people who were having a child during the pandemic because babies have very week immune systems and could easily get the virus and die from it. It was also scary for elder people with many health issues being it made them have a bad immune system and they could also get the virus and die.”

“Corona virus was one of the best and worst times of my life, everyone in the world was moving so fast and now the world slowed down more home cooked meals, family’s spending time together, people are enjoying nature I mean this has never happened. I enjoyed quarantine because I had time too play with my brother and I had time too also play my Xbox and enjoy peace and quiet.”

“i whould tell them like any old person whould it was horrible we fought over tolite paper as clans of goons seized towns…. breakins and horders scavaged the land gasmask filters were of thin supplie but i managed to find a few as total war raged outside … and just like that you have never wanted to talk to another human person in your life now GET OF MY LAWN!” [NOTE: I told the students specifically not to include “Get off my lawn.” But instructions, like auto-correct, don’t exist in this child’s world!]

A visit from the Middle School Mafia

Thursdays are usually my “screen day” of work, which means hours preparing lessons, answering emails and commenting on students’ submissions. Every 25 minutes, I must look into the distance to give my eyes a break. 

The week before last, I looked up and saw two boys warily approaching La Casa de Tontería; a third waited on the road. They were heading back home after an afternoon in the State Park, an unaltered section of which lies beyond the dead-end of my street. They saw my house and wondered…

Yes, I welcomed them! It was good to see them “in the wild,” so to speak. One admitted to staying up all night – and it showed in the darkness around his eyes. Another was sent outdoors to give the rest of the family a break. The last is the quiet type with brains, which could go either way.

But they aren’t thieves or druggies. And they weren’t on the prowl for victims, just checking up on a neighbor-teacher. 

It reminded me why I like kids.

A Happy Accident

My online classes go live next week, but today I had a little shakedown cruise to see how my 7th graders did. A little assignment (about 20 minutes).

The biggest problem is identifying who’s who. Many members of the Middle School Mafia REFUSE to be themselves, choosing instead usernames like SpazzAttack360. Then there were two unfortunate boys who, using their mothers’ phones, joined under their moms’ names.

A couple hours after the assignment was posted, I received a message from an unknown name, asking, “Did you get mine?” I checked and answered, “I did. But I don’t know who you are, Miss Magic!”

A very long reply followed. It started with – and I quote – “Hi! I am a fourth grader and I was helping my cousin get on and it accidentally signed it on my google account and I got an assignment and I decided just to do it.” It segued to an elaborate apology.

I laughed so hard, imagining a little girl trying to sneak into class with the “big kids,” most of whom find reading and writing a bore.

After I told her she could stay in the class, she messaged me back quickly: “Thank you so much I am so happy” (sic)

I can’t die of Covid-19. I have to stay alive long enough to have this girl as my real student!

Shutdown: Shut it ALL down…

My state’s governor is working on the final wording of the order to completely shut down schools, from public to parochial. Although it’s my vacation week, the depression has set in.

I became a teacher because I love teaching students, helping them, and watching them grow. The only thing I dislike about teaching is the paperwork. Now it’s all paperwork.

Love Languages: Middle-skooleze

Last year I had a funny, snot-nosed brat who loved wisecracks and flipping plastic bottles (a real obsession with middleschoolers last year).  Last week, a giant eighth-grader came loping down the hall toward me.

I was wearing one of my “new” sweaters, a green one with a white deer leaping in the center. I don’t know what he was wearing because I didn’t have binoculars to see above the first mile of legs.

“Hey, Missus,” he called down with a grin, “it’s not Ugly Sweater Day!” (Translation: It’s good to see you, Miss B!)

“It’s not Ugly Kid Day, either,” I replied, “but here we are.” (Translation: Nice to see you, [name redacted])

He burst into laughter and yelled, “You roasted me!” (Translation: You still love me!)

“You roasted me first.” (Translation: You love me more, you monster.)


Are you okay, Boomer?*

I have been trying to instill fear grammar into my young charges. It has been difficult. Some of my colleagues think it’s because of technology; others think it’s because their parents don’t value reading or writing.

I think the Middle School Mafia is trying to break us and take over the Factory.

So it warmed my teeny-tiny crabapple of a heart to hear two boys discussing grammar as one finished his homework.

“It needs a comma.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. If you leave it out, it’s ‘okay boomer’ like they’re good boomers. But with the comma, it’s sarcastic like ‘Okay, boomer!'”

Now I’m apprehensive about reading the homework. I’m not that old!

*I came up with the title by imagining what a “concern troll” would say. I’m doing my part to destroy the usage by saying to seventh and eighth graders, “OK, boomer.” Because nothing takes all the fun out of something cool like having your teacher use it.


Attempted Assassination Foiled!

As faithful readers know, I am a Quality Control Inspector at the Young Human Factory.  Some of you may remember that two years ago, my assignment was altered so that not only do I inspect the late-stage production of young humans, but I deal with the delightfully defective* Middle Schoolers.

Yes, my nemesissies. (I’m not sure if that’s the proper plural of nemesis, but it ought to be.) The Middle School Mafia have brought me many things over the years, including eggs, mudpies, and now attempted murder.

There I was, inspecting the widgets, when one of the females kicked away her classmate’s desk – with said classmate still in it. The child-propelled desk slammed into my thigh just below my hip.

Yes, that hip.

Honestly, the pint-sized assailant is shaping up to be one of the best students this year. I just hope she can be realigned away from mayhem and murder.

* To you who protest “they aren’t defective,” I must ask you: have you met any recent Middle Schoolers? According to the custodian who cleans the bathrooms, they urinate on the walls near the ceiling. And the girls’ bathroom is worse.