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.

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 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!

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.

 

 

 

The Hottest Spot to Hang Out

…is La Casa de Tontería (aka my home aka The House of Nonsense). Specifically, the road in front of my house.

I blame one of my frequent readers (but NEVER commenter) who asked me why I don’t write more about the Middle School Mafia. Not that he wants me to have trouble, but…

He jinxed me. Continue reading

Hotter than a black squirrel on asphalt!

Because there are no tin roofs for cats around these parts.

It’s 95 Fahrenheit (35 Celsius) in the shade, plus 57% humidity. The temperature is still climbing.

I was in the backyard a few minutes ago and not a soul is outside except for one plucky Middleschooler on a four-wheeler. He was wearing a helmet and swimwear.  I suspect it may be part of the initiation into the Middle School Mafia.

“You will go out on a heat advisory day….”

“Dude, I got this.”

“…on a four-wheeler that’s been baking in the sun…”

“Okay, dude.”

“…and catch black squirrels…”

“Uh, dude…?”

“…and put them in your swim trunks…”

“Dude!”

“…and jump in the river.”

“Aww, dude… Let me grab my helmet.”

Hell on Wheels!

The Middle School Mafia has taken to the roads. Motorbikes and 4-wheelers are flying down the street from mid-morning until dusk. I had to go onto the porch yesterday to evil-eye them as they decided to pull up onto the neighbor’s lawn (strategically, the section with a stand of trees blocking the neighbor’s view).

Several years ago a similar band of mobile middle schoolers ran the blacktop. However, I don’t think this group has the audacity to come up to me and boldly request gasoline when their tanks run dry. (Not a joke; the previous gang had wretched ideas about what complete strangers owed them.)

I suspect the road-running will wane when the summer gas prices rise and parents need to budget for their weekend boating. In the meantime, vroom! Vroom!

Out of the Mouth of Middle School Mafiosi

I have been pleasantly surprised by the members of the Middle School Mafia who are under my control supervision at The Young Human Factory.  I have only twice been subjected to rage and unspoken threats, and one of those came from a parent.

In fact, they show a delightful willingness to throw themselves into the deep end of the pool of knowledge and understanding. The following are first-semester highlights:

  • “I am good at spelling, reading and riting.” (On a very confident self-assessment!)
  • “Do ‘women of color’ come in all colors or just some colors?” (Asked by a student categorized as POC and when the term was explained, said dubiously, “Isn’t that racist?”)
  • A drawing of a girl and a bucket of water. (A response to “What image comes to mind when you think of the protagonist? Write a brief response.”)
  • “Is there a movie of this book?” – pause to hear “no” – “We should read another book.” (This was followed by an explanation of how tech-using kids today need to have audio and visual versions because reading letters on a page is something people did before the invention of cellphones.)

Hurray for rainy nights!

Despite the threat of flash flooding, I rather like the evening rains. It dampens outbreaks of Middle School Mafia.

Like cicadas and virulent plagues, its appearance is cyclical. Summer is the height of infestations because of the increase in leisure time and uselessness allows for greater levels of dumb-assery. (Please let me know if these descriptions are too esoteric. I sometimes fall into professional jargon.)

All three conditions must be met for a group to coalesce. However, it will dissolve or revert to a more benign form unless the group perceives an external threat. Please note: This doesn’t involve an actual threat, such as an angry parent or a patrolling officer or Mister Guy-Who-Just-Wants-To-Be-Left-Alone.

No, not at all. The perception is the key. Continue reading