. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: March 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Recipe for Disaster


1 LA Lakers jacket, preferably expensive and relatively new, and belonging to fifth grader

3 Mischievous boys, unattended, relatively bratty and belonging to Ms. Lee

1 Old, dirty urinal, relatively disgusting and belonging to no one because who would want it


First thing in the morning, have a fifth grader leave his jacket in the boys' restroom. It should be left draped over a stall door all morning so as to be good and forgotten by its owner by the start of recess.

Next, dismiss your class to recess at the normal time. Be SURE you also dismiss the 3 mischievous boys as they are key ingredients. Remind all students, including the boys, to use the restroom.

Leave the students on the playground and go enjoy your break.

In your absence, the 3 mischievous boys should enter the restroom and discover the expensive and relatively new LA Lakers jacket hanging over the stall door.

The order of the next steps is crucial to ensure proper results:

  1. Drop the jacket on the filthy floor
  2. Kick it around soccer-style while other students wander in and out to watch
  3. Use the urinal as a net and score a GGGGGOOOOOOAAAALLLLLL
  4. Flush urinal repeatedly until jacket is sufficiently soaked
  5. Laugh and tease the owner of the jacket when he arrives in the bathroom to find his jacket in a urinal

Viola! By the end of recess, you should have yourself one big disaster.

This disaster is best served with 5 screaming playground supervisors gathered around your class and 1 upset fifth grader dangling a dripping jacket between his thumb and forefinger with nothing more than a soaked square of one-ply toilet paper between his fingers and said jacket.

For dessert, consider a nice detention followed up with a week's worth of "Playground Beautification" (AKA: 3 mischievous boys in rubber gloves picking up garbage during recess and lunch and their teacher following around behind them saying, "If you can't respect your schoolmates, then you're going to clean up after them instead!")

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

165 Carnival of Education

Grab your bikinis, swim trunks, and towels (and keep your fingers crossed that everyone waxed) because the Spring Break Carnival of Education hosted by MyBellRingers is under way. You know what they say: There ain't no party like a BellRingers party!

I really enjoyed Bill Ferriter's entry about how the emphasis on testing has impacted his teaching. You go, Bill!

Of course, you can find me there in a couple places too.

You bring the chips and salsa, I'll make the jello shots and I'll see you there!

Sunday, March 23, 2008


We have been studying geometry as of late. It is mostly vocabulary at this stage of the game, and therefore a challenge for my class of 4th grade second language learners. I haven't been getting the impression they are retaining a whole lot of it. I was pretty sure I needed to do some reteaching.

To test their general knowledge so far, I asked them each to do a circle map about polygons. A circle map is a brainstorming tool that looks like a giant donut. The topic gets written in the center and all the information a students can recall goes in the larger circle.

In all honesty, they knew quite a bit more than I had anticipated. (That is not necessarily a good thing.) Here are a few highlights:

A polygon is a many sided figurine.

A circle is not a polygon but I think it should be.

I have a cousin named Poly.

Quadrilaterals have 4 sides. They got their name from the quads you ride in the desert with 4 wheels.

Geemommatree is about shapes.

Line segments have endpoints. Lines go on and on forever. I don't think anything can go on and on forever though. That's impossible. Do teachers sometimes make stuff up?

There are many kinds of triangles. Way more than I knew about before. I can't even remember all their names.

Tri means 3, angle means angle, quad means 4, and rilateral means wheels.
(Gee, can you guess what example I might have used for "quad"?)

Polygon does not mean your parrot is missing.

A pararalllelleloagram (actual spelling) looks like a tippy rectangle.

I learned about rectangles in kindergarten. I feel I'm ready to move on.
(Ah... "Ready to move on" is ripped right from the Ms. Lee language playbook. He IS listening!)

And now for my all-time favorite. Drumroll please!

Since we're studying polygons, shouldn't we be making a square map instead of a circle map?

Now, SHE gets it.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Different Angle

In general, my objective for this blog is to focus on the humorous aspects of being a teacher. As my college writing professor told me after critiquing a particularly disasterous attempt at writing a serious piece, "Stick with the funny, Edna. Serious is not your thing."

But, as of late, a serious topic of conversation out there in educational blogland has me thinking. A discussion has begun about Parent/Teacher relationships. I was pulled into the conversation when a reporter from Education Week magazine contacted me to get my thoughts on the topic since my posting about my relationship with a parent had been quoted by Joanne Jacobs on her blog. I read Joanne's posting and the comments that followed and then followed her link to Matthew Tabor's site and his thoughts on a posting he had read about a new teacher's experiences with parent conferences. It was enlightening.

Many commenters on each site I visited appeared to take an adversarial stance on the issue of parents' rights versus teachers' rights and the roles said rights play in our interactions with each other. Feeling particularly attacked (as a teacher) by one commenter, I too found myself on the defensive in my comments.

I suppose what I take issue with is the notion that parents are "customers" and teachers are providing them a "service." On the surface, such an analogy makes pretty good sense, but it still did not sit well with me.

The argument was made by a few that parents are paying for their children's educations through their taxes and are therefore entitled to certain rights and choices. It is true they are paying with their taxes. Additionally, I certainly agree they are entitled to rights and choices, but not because they pay taxes. We are all paying taxes, even those of us who do not have children and those who have grown children no longer in the public school systems.

Another problem with customer/service provider model is the tendency for the "customer" to quote the age-old adage, "The Customer is Always Right." This commmonly accepted, but often misunderstood, mentality creates an imbalance in the relationship between customer and service provider which is acceptable in the business world. Customers require businesses to provide them services and can make certain demands of said business because they understand the business' profits depend on their patronage. Businesses require customers to remain profitable and will do whatever they deem acceptable to maintain a customer's patronage. It is acceptable for the scales to be tipped in the favor of the customer because both parties get what they need; services for the customer and profits for the business.

The model does not hold true for schools. Profits motivate business relationships, but children's needs motivate educational relationships. At least, they should motivate educational relationships. The "profits" are measured by student success. Creating an imbalance in power, such as the one born from the customer/service provider model, does not improve student success which is the goal of both parents and students. In fact, this imbalance causes student success to diminish.

Since parents and teachers both share the same goal, I would like to suggest an alternative to the customer/service provider model. I feel a more apt analogy for the relationship between parents and teachers should be as people playing for the same team. Like a team, we share the same objective: Student success. Like a team, we need to communicate our thoughts openly, fairly, and respectfully. Like a team, recognition for the expertise all team members bring to the playing field should be given and an open dialogue maintained. Like a team, disagreements must be handled with everyone's dignity still intact in the end.

Parents and teachers must stop bickering like bitterly divorced parents because, like bitterly divorced parents, we are only hurting the children and making the unnecessary rift between us wider.

Let's all start acting like grownups.

While mulling over the various avenues I could take in this post, I pondered asking you readers to share items you thought should be included in a Parent's Bill of Rights. Consequently, that would then require a Teacher's Bill of Rights. Ultimately though, I found I was missing my own point. So I ask you:

What do you feel should be included in a Student's Bill of Rights.

Allow me to suggest a few items:

The right to have more than one caring adult in their lives.

The right to have their physical, educational, and emotional needs recognized and addressed.

I will not post anymore of my own ideas because I am really more interested in yours. Please continue my Student Bill of Rights in the comments section. I look forward to reading your thoughts on this topic.


Update: I altered some of the text regarding taxes. I did not change my position on that topic, but found it was driving the conversation towards money and not students. I would like to focus on students for this discussion. Thank you all for your spirited comments!

"Survey Says..."

So I am teaching my students how to design a chart or table and use it for the collection of data. Since I have taught this skill eleven times before (although it feels like a million) I expected some of the potholes we might run into.

For example, because students must generate data, they must design a question to ask their peers which can be answered in a multiple choice format. Of course, the questions they suggested were oldies but goodies such as:

What's your favorite color?
What's your favorite food?
What's your favorite ice cream?
What's your favorite pet?
What's your favorite tv show?

The thought of enduring another data collection lesson about these topics was enough to make me consider jumping out of a window (except my school is only one level so I would have just landed on my feet and been forced to walk back into my classroom in shame.) So I decided to push the envelope a bit and ask the kids NOT to use "What's your favorite___" questions.

"First of all, we can't have open-ended questions. You must have definite answer choices. Try to be more creative. Take your thinking to a higher level. By fourth grade, you guys can develop more mature questions than "What's your favorite___."

I gave a few examples:

Where would you prefer to travel: Mexico, Europe, Asia, or Antarctica?

Where were you born: California, another state, another country?

After brainstorming in small groups, here are some of their suggestions:

If you were to die, would you prefer to be stabbed, shot, hanged, or hit by a car?

Which of these would be your worst nightmare: being eaten alive by a shark, shot by the police, have experiments done on you by aliens, or having to show up to school naked?

What is the grossest thing to eat: worms, toads, poo, or school pizza?

Uuummmm...is anyone else noticing a pattern here?

I must admit, they were kinda freakin' me out. Where is this coming from? These are kids wearing cartoon t-shirts and carrying binders covered in puppies and kittens. They have cute little faces and perpetual bedhead that is sort of endearing.

Is all this innocence a facade?

Of course, I batted down every one of those suggestions (although I will admit to a macabre curiosity about how they might have answered) and sent them back to the drawing board. Here is what they came up with:

Which color do you prefer: red, black, blue or yellow?
Which food do you prefer: pizza, ice cream, tacos, or candy?
Which ice cream do you prefer: chocolate, vanilla, rocky road, or mint chip?
Which pet do you prefer: dog, cat, fish, or bird?
Which tv show do you prefer: Zoey 101, Hannah Montana, Avatar, or George Lopez?

Darn those wiley kids!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hang a Left at Treachery

Forget what Dante said. There is actually a tenth circle in Hell, and I visited it yesterday.

Nestled right after The Violent and Fraud, but just before Treachery, Lucifer's hometown, lies the often overlooked additional circle of Hell: Projectile Snot Blowing.

I can hear your collective groans from here. "Move on already, Edna. We get it. Mucas=Gross. Blah blah blah..."

No, I am afraid you do not get it. Evidently, I have not made myself clear to anyone, including my students. As evidence:

Yesterday, I was instructing a small group of students at the front of my room. As usual, Alex chose the spot right at my feet. If he were one of the seven dwarves, he'd be named Snorty due to his loud, um...I suppose I could call them sniffles but that lacks the correct flavor. It really is a constant snorting, like a dog does when he pulls too hard on his leash, and that is followed by an audible swallowing sound.

Things were going great. The kids were all focused on the task at hand. Alex Snorty-Snortenheimer is simultaneously hawking back snot balls and struggling through geometry problems, and then...

Without warning, Alex sneezes and blows a giant, silver-dollar sized blob of snot on my foot. It was thick, greenish brown, and smeared like mucas frosting on top of my vanilla foot. It dangled from the cuff of my pant leg, across the top of my bare skin, and onto my shoe.

Did you get the part where I said it was ON MY SKIN?!?!?!

Now, I pride myself on being an even-tempered person, especially in the classroom. I like to keep an even-keel, no matter what the situation.

Evidently, snot is the exception to that rule. I think I shrieked something like, "What! Are you kidding me!?!?!" and then steamrolled over my poor little kids to the back of the room and thrust my foot, shoe and all, under the sink.

It's all a bit of a blur, but I think I also called for a student to boil some water and sent another for the janitor's high pressure hose. One student suggested I just put a little cold water on it, but the look I shot her silenced any and all further suggestions from the peanut gallery.

After scrubbing my foot until nothing but bone was left, I returned to my duties as a teacher and finished the day...

almost without incident.

On the way out to dismissal, my student Peter was walking next to me. A gentle breeze was blowing.

Without warning, "AAAcchoooo!"

That oh so gentle breeze carried the remnants of Peter's unexpectedly wet sneeze across the sky and smattered it across my face.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Stick My Tongue Where?

If I haven't mentioned it before, I fear boogers. Adult snot is gross enough, but kid snot really freaks me out because chances are it has been simmering on their hot little fingers for several hours, if not days. I don't even want to think about what's under their nails.

Along those lines, allow me to share an actual conversation I had with my class today:

Me: ...so when you see an obtuse angle in a triangle it is an ob...oh! Cindy, take the pencil out of your mouth please.

Cindy: Whyth?

Me: (pause until she removes it) Because it is covered in germs and you are eating them like a germy snack.

Class: eeewwwww

Cindy: But they're all my germs.

Me: Not necessarily.

Cindy: It's my pencil. Who else would be putting their germs on it? I don't see the big deal.

Me: Here's the big deal. Picture this: It's a normal day and you are working at your seat. Everyone at your table, in fact, is miraculously focused on their work. The warm sun is shining down on your back through the window, and you stop and enjoy it. It reminds you of the warmth of Ms. Lee's smile that fills...

Cindy: eehh heemm, The PENCIL, Ms. Lee.

Me: Oh, yes, and your pencil rolls off your desk and onto the floor without you noticing. Joe sees it and removes his finger from his nose just long enough to grasp your pencil between his thumb and germy pointer finger and hand it back to you.

Class: eeeewwww

Cindy: I wouldn't take it from him then!

Me: Oddly enough, you guys never seem to notice each other's nose picking habits. Sadly, you would not even know what he had been doing just seconds before he retrieved your pencil. The point is, what was once in his nose moved to his finger and is now on your pencil.

Class: eeeewwwwwww

Me: So you get right back to work, and out of habit, start chewing on your pencil. Now, what was once in his nose but was transferred to his finger, and then smeared on your pencil, is now


Class: eeeeeeewwwwwww!!!!!

Me: Therefore, if you are that anxious to consume another person's mucus, save yourself some time and several steps in the process.

Head straight to the source and simply go stick your tongue up someone else's nose.

Class: eeewwwwwwwwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Tribute to Old Goldie

Dear Readers,

I don't know if you've heard, yet. I hate being the bearer of bad news, but last week, I lost a valuable asset to my school and a true team player.

Old Goldie died.

I know! I was shocked too!

For those readers who don't know, Old Goldie worked at my school, mainly with the staff lunches. My school doesn't have a kitchen, so she was relegated to a closet of sorts, right near the ladies room. Old Goldie has been at my school for years. She had already been there for a long time when I started 11 years ago. Although she had a coworker who did her exact same job, she was the one with seniority. The Grande Dame of lunch.

To be honest, I think we all saw it coming but didn't really want to face the truth. She was getting up there. Her generally stoic demeanor had been peppered with some signs of discomfort recently. We all heard her soft groans and whispered sighs, but we ignored them.

Just the other day I was standing next to her while waiting for the ladies' room, I could feel the heat radiating from her side. If that wasn't a sign of trouble, I don't know what is. Of course, I chose to ignore it in the hopes that she was just having another busy day. Wishful thinking, I guess.

Besides, I never felt comfortable addressing concerns with her. I thought it would look strange if I was found talking to her. What a snob I am...

Truth be told, many of us found her to be a bit cold, dare I say frigid; but now in hindsight I realize that she needed that personality trait to do her job well. She also struggled with an odor problem that kept many people at a distance. Now I see that was a result of all her hard work. We asked a lot of her and, while she might not have done it with a smile, she always made sure it got done.

I now realize how we neglected her needs. I find myself counting the ways I could have shown I care. I could have helped her get cleaned up so that others didn't shy away from her...but I didn't. I was remiss in my duties as a coworker and a friend and vow never to repeat my mistakes again.

Where ever she is, I hopes she knows we all appreciate what she did for us. Her tireless efforts to ensure lunches were there, ready and on time each day, are no longer unnoticed or unappreciated.

Thank you, Old Goldie. Rest in Peace

And now for the hardest part.

I would like to say that Old Goldie is irreplaceable, but reality forces me to admit that there is still work to be done and we will have to find someone to do her job. With that being said:

Does anyone out there have an old fridge they'd like to donate? With California's drastic budget cuts, there is no way we will be able to buy one ourselves. It's a great tax write-off!

Besides, with the entire staff sharing one fridge, my PB&J's keep getting squished.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

162 Carnival of Education

What's a Carnival of Education, you ask? It's a place where a whole bunch of really great blog posts on a particular topic are collected and posted together as a "Carnival." The latest one is being hosted by Mr. Teacher on his blog Learn Me Good.

How great are the posts, you ask? Well, good enough to include me!

I'm honored! There are some wonderful bloggers featured there, with fantastic insights into education.

Check it out!

The Jig is Up

Dear Mrs. X,

Thank you very much for meeting with me last week about your child's progress in my class. Fourth grade can be a tough year. I feel it's important to keep the lines of communication open between myself and parents. Through honest and open conversations, we can really make a difference in students' lives.

In the spirit of honesty, I feel I must offer you an honest compliment. You possess a keen insight into the minds of teachers. Your ability to identify characteristics in me that, in eleven years of teaching have gone unobserved, astonishes me. It's spooky how you can look into the depths of my heart to reveal my true intentions as an educator.

I suppose I have been living a double life of sorts. Through our frequent conversations via email, on the phone, and often using the prinicpal as a conduit, I have come to realize that the mask I don has begun to wear thin.

I guess the best thing for me to do at this point is confess.

It is my goal to ruin your child's life.

There. I said it.

Everything your child has told you about me is true.

The reason he is failing math IS because every time he raises his hand to ask for help, I ignore him. I go to every other student but him. Yup, I have never worked with him in a small group, neither on a daily basis or ever for that matter. I have never worked with him one-on-one both before or after school. I have never pulled up a chair next to his desk and sat with him while he completed his assignments. No, the truth is, when I see his hand go up, I look right past him.

His poor math grades have no relation to his daydreaming, playing in his desk, talking to his neighbor, or digging in his backpack. Thankfully, you astutely diagnosed him with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which explains the apparent inattentiveness. In all honesty, if I made a better attempt to be more engaging, perhaps he wouldn't feel the need to otherwise entertain himself. To remedy this, I'm going to give some serious consideration to your demand that I sit next to your child whenever students work independently so he can remain focused. I am comfortable redefining "independently" for him.

I also feel I must apologize. I am sorry that I sent your child to the nurse the other day when he complained of a toothache. I don't know where my head was. Thank you for the quick analysis of my motives via email that afternoon. Had you not pointed it out, I would have never picked up on my underlying desire to lessen the number of students in my class by sending them to the nurse for innocuous ailments. I got your message loud and clear though. Your use of 18 point font, bold print, all caps text really aids in the reading process. From now on, I will not send him to the nurse for toothaches.

I was shocked to hear from your child Monday morning that he had pink eye over the weekend. You know, when he complained of a watery eye on Friday, I made sure to take a good look at it. The gale-force winds we were experiencing might have lodged something in his eye. I did not send him to the nurse for two reasons. One: the eye did not appear irritated and your child said it was not hurting or causing any discomfort. Two: I recalled your message about maintaining my class size at all costs.

I was just dumbfounded when your child relayed the following message on Monday morning: "My mom says you should have sent me to the nurse because I had pink eye!" I can't tell you the relief I felt to learn that you possess the requisite medical knowledge to diagnose your child without the benefit of a professional health care provider. That must save your family precious time and money. (By my count, your ability to diagnose your child has come in handy twice now. Once with the pink eye, and once with the OCD. You have a keen eye for ailments, Dr. X!) And thank goodness it was the 24 hour pink eye or your child would have missed that family party on Sunday!

As an aside, I would love to know the name of the drug store where you purchased the over-the-counter antibiotics used to cure the pink eye. It is so difficult nowadays to purchase such things without a doctor's prescription. I would really like to get some myself.

And finally, about my most recent egregious act. I did indeed give your child a bladder infection.

It was willful and intentional. I do withhold all bathroom usage while students are in class. What teacher in her right mind would allow a child to USE THE BATHROOM when their bladder gets full? If I let students go to the restroom each time they asked, it would take much longer for them to develop bladder infections and UTI's. For time's sake, I must forbid bathroom trips just to get in the requisite number of infections I am mandated to create by the end of the year. For that reason alone, I must continue, as your child claims, to deny bathroom usage...period.

(Please ignore that passage in my beginning of the year packet explaining our bathroom break policy. Disregard the portion that says, "Students will be dismissed to use the restroom when needed." I didn't really mean it.)

Thank you again for consistently communicating with me. It is through your guidance and support I am finding my true identity as a teacher.

Edna Lee

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Miracle Drug

I don't know if it's just the water at my school, but we teachers have found it is a miracle cure for pretty much anything. I utter the phrase, "Why don't you go put a little cold water on it and see how you feel after that" no fewer than 16 times a day.

The benign:

Got a paper cut?
Owww! I know that must sting. Why don't you put a little cold water on it...

Have a little headache?
Awwww. Why don't you wet a paper towel with a little cold water and put it on your forehead...

Feeling tired this morning?
I know that feeling. Try a little cold water on your face...

Try sipping a little cold water...

Yikes! How about a little cold water on it...

I'll bet you just need a little cold water in your belly. Got get some...

Scrape your knee at recess?
Ouch! Wash it with soap, then put a little cold water on it. You'll be fine...

Arm hurts when you "move it like this"?
First, stop moving it like that. Next, head into the restroom and run a little cold water over it...

Have a big argument with your best friend for the 8th time this week?
I know you're upset. Go drink a little cold water to help you calm down...

I have prescribed cold water for things that, if they'd happened to me, would have driven me to take a week off of work:

Accidently staple your finger instead of the paper?
Ugh! Let's get that staple out of there and then get a little cold water on your finger...

Swallow a bug while swinging on the swings?
Blak! Go drink a little cold water and drown that stowaway...

Have an itchy red spot on you skin?
Go dab a little cold water on it, and don't touch anyone else!

Take a 102 mph tetherball to the side of the face?
I'll bet when he wakes up he'll want a little cold water on that cheek. Let's have some on hand...

I have prescribed cold water for so many ailments, my students have actually begun believing it is truly a panacea for everything.

Larry: Go get Ms. Lee! I just glued my hand to Susie's head.
Susie: No, let's just pour a little cold water on it.

Me: Today we're having an emergency drill. We practice so you know what to do in case I am not here or unable to go with you.
Jamie: You mean you could get hurt and we would have to leave you here?
Me: We just want to be sure you guys know where to go to be safe.
Jamie: If you got hurt, I would come back for you with help and a little cold water.

Lucy: Ms. Lee, I think my hamster is really sick. He hasn't been moving at all, even after I put a little cold water on him. Do you think he's dead?

Billy: Ms. Lee! Jimmy just fell off the monkey bars and and now his left leg is facing the wrong way. Should I go get a little cold water? Ms. Lee? Ms. Lee? Wake up...

...Someone go get Ms. Lee a little cold water!!!!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Let's Boogie on Down

What is the deal with children and their propensity for public nose picking?

Is private nose picking not satisfying enough? How do you not notice that I am watching you?

...in horror.

Do you not feel the river of snot you've allowed to dry on your cheek when you dragged your finger from your nostril to your mouth? Doesn't that itch?

Because of this disgusting habit, the lengths to which I'll go to avoid exposure to their boogery remnants have become almost bubble-boy-esque.

For example, I never lick my fingers to turn the pages of a book or separate papers in a stack, and frankly, I am frequently mortified to see my colleagues do it.




After handling students' papers which virtually teem with germy booger flakes? After grabbing their pencils to help them with a math problem; pencils that have themselves been used in their nasalogical expeditions due to the unexpected ulility of that sharp lead point? After typing on the same keyboards as them; keyboards with a crusty texture only a nostril could love?




Have you not witnessed kids routinely picking their noses with abandon. Haven't you seen their uninhibited digging, followed by the inspection of their findings that practically screams out for a jeweler's loupe, and finally, (more often than not) the inexplicable consumption of their findings? I have even seen kids carry on conversations together, each with index fingers plunged knuckle-deep, simultaneously mining for that elusive green snack. How does that not cause their bile to rise? I want to ralph just typing about it.

And High Fives...

I won't. I refuse. I understand that it's common to give kids high fives for various achievements such as remembering to come to school in the morning, an unexpectedly accurate answer, or for simply NOT pinching their neighbors when you're not looking. I understand. Sometimes, the overwhelming excitement of some moments take over, like the exhuberance felt at dismissal time, and one simply can't resist the urge to share it with others through the spontaneous slapping of hands...

but not me.

When I think of high fiving a student, my imagination shows the scene in slow motion. The student's little, sticky, brown-under-the-nails hand innocently sails through the air. It floats past lazy clouds lounging in the blue sky towards my hand as the child grins and says, "Goooood Bbbbbyyyeeeee MMMMMMsssss. LLLLLeeeeee."

Upon contact, a smattering of green sticky slime transfers between our hands, creating a web of snotty goo that momentarily links our palms as they part. As the child skips away in slow motion, my imagination pans back to my face as I peer down in horror at the boogery concoction glued to my palm.

And then I watch myself barf into another student's backpack...in slow motion.

To avoid this scenario, my students and I touch elbows.

Every year, I explain to my kids how the high five will be replaced with touching elbows. I refer to it as, "Throwing an elbow." How often can you get away with throwing an elbow at an adult and be praised for it? Of course, students demand an explanation for this change. As I feel honesty is the best policy, I explain I won't touch their hands because they pick their noses. That, coupled with their inconsistant hand-washing habits, forces me to ask that they make contact with me using one of the few parts of their bodies that they cannot get into their noses.

I am the butt of many jokes at school. Laugh it up, fellow teachers. I see you giggling behind that wadded up tissue you been reusing all day because the school ran out during the Great Cold Epidemic of 2008. We'll see who has the last laugh.

I, thankfully, remain healthy (coughcough).

Monday, March 3, 2008

This One's for the Kiddies

Hey Kids!
Are you frequently getting in trouble at school?
Tired of those pesky notes home to your parents?
Wish there was a way to avoid that weekend of being grounded?
Have I got the solution for you!
Forgery! (In kid language, that means that YOU sign your parent's name to the note.)
It's THAT simple! I know, you're not sure if that's the right thing to do. Maybe you could land in more trouble than if you just faced up to what you did? Well, my answer to that is:
Of Course Not! Whose gonna know it was you?
By following my few simple tips, you can sign your worries away and enjoy a restriction-free weekend of working up a sweat on your Wii, feeling the wind in your hair on your bike, and endless consumption of junk food.
Read on if you're interested in this remarkable product.
How to Avoid Getting Caught when Forging a Parent's Signature
Tip #1 - Practice on a separate piece of paper first
  • Know your parent's real first and last names. Although you have always referred to them as "Mom" and "Dad," they have real first and last names. Affixing the name "Mom" to a note might raise a red flag with your teacher.

  • A misspelling in the parent's name. Most parents know how to spell their own name and rarely do they make mistakes when writing it. Be sure you know the correct spelling of the name.

  • Obvious eraser marks. Again, most parents know how to spell their own name. It is not often they have to erase it and try again.

  • Scribbling out and rewriting. I cannot stress this enough. Parents know how to spell their own names. Don't screw this one up!

  • The use of White-Out. See previous 3 explanations.

Tip #2 - Ensure you know the proper formation of cursive letters

  • Parents sign their names in cursive. If you do not know how to write in cursive, find someone who does; preferrably an older sibling who "owes you one, big-time." Do not, under any circumstances, print your parent's signature.

  • Be sure to form the cursive letters correctly. The backwards lowercase "f" or the lowercase "p" that looks like a giant-headed ant with a distended belly might tip teachers off to the fact that the signer of said note has underdeveloped cursive skills. Hone those cursive skills BEFORE you attempt to forge a signature.

Tip #3 - Remove any and all previous parental signatures from the school site as these might be used for comparison purposes.

  • Start with the classroom. Seek out and destroy any notes or forms that might contain a parent's signature. To complicate matters, teachers are notoriously disorganized when it comes to paperwork so papers could be anywhere! Be sure to check each filing cabinet (including UNDER the hanging files), inside the teacher's desk, in or near the briefcase and/or purse, on every shelf, inside every story book, under the coffee cup, on every table, between the pages of the lesson plan book and teacher's manuals, under the potted plants, and in the pockets of the teacher's coat.

  • Widen the search area. In ever-larger concentric cirles, expand the search area for paperwork that might contain a signature. Be sure to include any other classrooms that the teacher may have stopped in to chat and accidently left them behind on a table covered in papers that looked exactly like the ones the teacher may have been holding originally. Also check the restrooms and under the seats of the teacher's car.

  • Don't forget the school office. Rumor has it, the office is loaded with papers that contain signatures. The best plan of attack for a location as secure as the office would be a commando-type night raid. Again, that older sibling might make a good wingman for this.

And that's it!

No muss, no fuss. Your freedom is practically guaranteed!

Try it the next time you get a note sent home!

*The author of this post accepts no responsibility for punishments and/or consequences incurred by the implementation of the recommendations listed above. Any and all consequences should be expected and accepted by the chucklehead who thought he or she could follow the advice of the aforementioned posting.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Time is of the Essence

C.S. Lewis once wrote:

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.

Unless he is a fourth grader who still cannot read a clock with hands. For that child, time is definitely abstract.

At the end of the day, the clock in our classroom looks like this. Our day ends at 2:20.

We have a giant multi-colored schedule hanging in the front of the room which also indicates our dismissal time is 2:20.

We are entering our seventh month of school and we have left daily at 2:20.

For any normal person, this overwhelming evidence would indicate that at 2:20 our work is done here and we will be heading home.

Unless he is a fourth grader who still cannot read a clock with hands.

And for whom does the school bell toll? It tolls for thee...

...unless Thee's real name is Larry and he is a fourth grader who still cannot read a clock with hands.

RRRRIIIIINNNNNNGGGGGGG! The glorious sound of freedom bursts from the bell outside our classroom one Friday afternoon. After placing his chair atop his desk as instructed, Larry strapped his overstuffed backpack onto his back and strolled up to me with untied shoelaces, wearing an inside-out jacket, and carrying a hopeful question on the tip of his lips.

Larry: Are we going to go to the computer lab today?
Me: (Thinking in my head: What, are you kidding me?!?!)

Now, I know his intention was not to frustrate me. If this had been any other student, this "question" may have even been a snarky reference to the fact that we have not made it to the computer lab in two weeks, (talk to George W. Bush about that one) but I honestly don't think he is capable of such sly reasoning.

Me: Well, no Larry. I'm sorry but we are not going to make it today. Just look at the time. What time is is?

Larry looks behind me at the clock on the wall.

Larry: 10:20?

Just think about it Readers... imagine the minutes on a clock and you'll understand why he thought it was 10:20. Taken on face value, I could justify that incorrect answer.

But there was overwhelming evidence that the time was 2:20! Must I go through the list again?!

Me: Really? Would you say it's 10:20 in the morning or in the evening?
Larry: In the evening?

(Again, I can see the reasoning...but what about all this evidence?!?!?)

Me: Ok, let's look at this logically. What time do you eat dinner in the evening?
Larry: 6:00
Me: What time do you go to bed in the evening?
Larry: 8:30
Me: Would you say that 10:20 comes after both of those times in the evening?
Larry: Yes
Me: Have you done either of those things yet today?
Larry: Nope
Me: Ok, so now think about what we're all doing right now in our classroom. What time do these things happen?
Larry: uummm...10:20?
Me: (Thinking in my head: Seeeeriously! ARE you KIDDING me?!) Ok, Larry. What are we doing right now?
Larry: Getting ready to go home.
Me: Now I want you to look at the schedule right there and tell me what time we go home.
Larry: 2:20
Me: Ok, great! So then what time is it right now?
Larry: 10:20?

We teachers have natural instincts that drive us to grab the teachable moments and run with them. (Admit it! You thought I was going to say we have natural instincts to grab people like Larry by the throat, didn't you?) We see that Larry is baffled by an analog clock, so we whip out our trusty Judy Clock (you elementary teachers out there know what I'm talking about) and begin a quick review on how to read the hands on a clock.

Evidently, those natural instincts are not as powerful for me, especially on a Friday.

The "Get Me The Hell Outta Here" instinct seemed a bit stronger.

Me: (through gritted teeth) It's 2:20, Larry. The clock reads 2:20. The schedule says we leave at 2:20. We are packing up to leave because it's 2:20. You are wearing your backpack because it's 2:20 and we are about to leave because...?

Larry: ...it's 10:20?