. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: July 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

182nd Carnival of Education

It's Baa--acck!

The 182nd Carnival of Education is in full swing over at The Chancellor's New Clothes.

I can be found in this edition of The Carnival, writing about crappy teacher gifts in a most ungrateful fashion (again.)

There are some wonderful blogs in this Carnival and I encourage you to check them out!

Thanks to The Chancellor's New Clothes for hosting and doing such a bang-up job of it. Great work!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More Teacher Gift Ideas

I've been cleaning out my closets lately and finding the stashes of gifts I have yet to lug off to Goodwill. It got me thinking about teacher gifts again. Here are a few dandies that I've found online that you might want to consider. I don't mean consider as a gift for someone...

just consider.

Chubby Nuts the Dog




Mimosa Soap

For the teacher who wants to smell like they've been drinking before school.

Giant Wooden Pencil

Just in case you want to record some big ideas.

Teaching is my Bag Tote

Alternative saying:

Don't Bag on me for Carrying this Stupid Tote. I'm a Teacher.

Grow Your Own Brain Plant

If only...

Chubby Nuts the Horse

How many times do we have to say this?

Teachers should not get chubby nuts from their students. Period.

Bumblebee Numbers

Is it me, or does this bee seem genuinely surprised to be crapping out numbers?

Books and Learning Stainless Steel Flask

Just tell your principal that little Billy would be hurt if he didn't see you using it.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Times Have Changed, Part 2

Continuing our walk down memory lane, let's take a look at student rules and punishments in the 1800's.

Student Rules, 1860

Boys and girls shall file into classroom in separate lines and be seated quietly on opposite sides of the room.

This is a great idea! We should continue to enforce this rule, but would need to add that they may not make googly-eyes at each other during class and sign "I Love You" across the room to each other while snickering behind their hands.

Boys shall remove their caps when entering.

Since students are no longer allowed to wear caps, we should amend this to say that boys shall pull up their pants so their ass isn't hanging out when entering. (That has just GOT to be uncomfortable!)

Children must sit up straight at all times.

Sit up straight? Heck, I'm happy if I can just get them near their chairs most of the time. If they're actually sitting, I'm not going to nit-pick.

Children must not squirm, fidget or whine.

Now students have a legal right to squirm, fidget, and whine because it's written right into their IEP's at their lawyer's insistence.

Children must be clean and tidy in clothing.

"In clothing?" As opposed to naked? I should hope they'd be "in clothing." Do you really have to make that a rule?

There will be a daily inspection of neck, ears and fingernails prior to class to ensure cleanliness of person.

Now we inspect backpacks, purses, and waistbands to ensure disarmament of person.

Young ladies must never show a bare ankle; girls' and boys' clothing should cover arms and legs completely.

Because you know how provocative those juvenile ankles can be. If only the authors of these rules could see 140 years into the future. Covered arms…hah!


Five minutes tardy in the morning = 1 hour after school.

That's weird, at my school it's one hour tardy = five minutes after school.

Double assignments if homework is not done.

So you can doubly not do it tonight.

Nothing shall be dipped into ink wells except pens.

Ewwww… What else could they have been dipping in their ink wells?

Children who are caught writing with their left hand = 1 ruler rap on the knuckles.

Sounds messy. Wouldn't a ruler rap splatter the ink the lefties have smeared all over their hands from dragging them through the wet ink on their papers as they wrote?

Do not speak unless spoken to by the teacher. Talking in class = 1 whack with a rod.

Ahhhh…the good ole' days.

Nothing shall be thrown in class. Such behavior = 5 whacks with a rod.

Good thing we did away with this consequence. I think A-Rod is a bit busy cheating on his wife with Madonna to come and whack my students right now.

Chewing of tobacco or spitting = 7 whacks with a rod.

I couldn't agree more! What is WITH spitting?!?! Can someone explain that to me? I'd almost risk my job to give a kid 7 whacks for spitting. Blaaaak.

Speaking immoral language = Suspension.

Then your f*&king parents can listen to your scr&^%ed up, mother(*&^$&#ing, potty mouth in your sh*&hole of a house for a while.

Carving on desks or defacing school property = Expulsion.

Unless I agree with what you wrote.

Fighting, lying, or cheating = Expulsion.

My school would be empty…

…because most of the teachers would have been expelled.


If only…


for the middle and upper classes of society. The rest of you just get to go to school and learn how to take a yearly test.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Times Have Changed

I suppose we have all received that chain email outlining the rules teachers had to abide by in 1872. I recently got it again in my inbox, and thought I'd include it here with my thoughts on each rule for today's classroom.

I encourage you to add your thoughts as well!

Teacher Rules, 1872

Teachers each day will fill lamps, and clean chimneys.

I don't think this is my job anymore, but can someone explain why half my lights don't work and the heater spits out flaming dust balls? Maybe someone should fill the lamps and clean the chimneys?

Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day's session.

I see the need for the bucket of water. Waterboarding those unruly students won't happen on its own. I don't think I would be able to bring in a scuttle of coal since I'm not entirely sure what a "scuttle" is. Is it bigger than a breadbox?

Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.

Individual tastes range from "Pointy enough for effective ear cleaning without damaging ear drums" to "Efficient for spearing roaches in a single shot during math."

Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.

Well, under the law, they are entitled to a fair and speedy trial and going to church should only serve to bolster their cases. That's actually good advice.

After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.

Like Learn Me Good. (A shameless plug for a man unafraid of shamelessly plugging himself!)

Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.

I can see dismissing women who get married. Clearly, they have their priorities all screwed up. But to fire someone for unseemly conduct??!? Come on!

Every teacher should lay aside from each day pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.

Due to this job, I have prematurely entered my "declining years," so I'm going to spend my money now. Besides, I've spent all my "good years" working with some delinquents who may be a burden on society long before their "declining years." Let's face it, they're gonna owe me.

Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.

I've never been shaved in a barbershop but I have been waxed in a salon. Does that count?

The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.

Some things never change.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Go Team!

I can hardly wait for next school year to begin!

Did I just say that?

Out loud?

Well, here's why: I am going to have the most kick-ass 4th grade team ever!

I have worked on strong grade level teams before, but this year will be special. Teaming has been a challenge thus far at our school because of our year-round schedule, but we have tried our best to work within our limits. We are switching to a more traditional school calendar this coming year so we will all have the same vacation schedule, making true teaming more of a reality.

As a further hindrance, not all the teachers on our 4th grade team believed in the power of working together (shall we say); but in recent years that dead weight has moved on so we are free to become one cohesive unit.

Let me introduce you to my team. We are three members strong with two regular ed 4th grade teachers and one GATE teacher.

Fourth Grade Teacher #1:

(Drum roll, please)

He's relatively green and still enthusiastic about teaching. Ladies and gentleman, let's give a big hand for…Mr. Manners! Mr. Manners came to teaching as a second career and boy are we lucky he did. He enjoys long walks to the copy room, lingering lunches of salad and leftover treats found on the lounge table, and listening to social studies text books on tape.

Mr. Manners believes in meeting students' needs at their individual levels rather than setting arbitrary expectations for 4th graders as a whole. He is dedicated and committed to his career, to his teammates, and to all of our students. That is why I respect him. Also, as the butt of many of my jokes, he is willing to take quite an emotional beating. That is why I appreciate him.

Fourth Grade Teacher #2:

(Drum roll, please)

She's no longer a newbie, but she always will be to me. Ladies and gentleman, let's put our hands together for…Miss Shoes. Miss Shoes teaches our Gifted and Talented students, and is living proof that you don't have to be gifted and talented yourself to teach those students. Just kidding! TOTALLY kidding on that one!

She has the gift of compassion and a talent for reaching out to students who need that little extra push. She enjoys waiting in the dark of the early morning for the custodian to arrive late and unlock the campus, long lunches making fun of Mr. Manners, and getting supplies for other people from the supply room. Also, like Mr. Manners, she is frequently the victim of my caustic humor and takes it like a champ.

Fourth Grade Teacher #3:

Me. After reading the last two descriptions, you've probably surmised that I spend much of my time give others hell. If that was you're assumption, ding ding ding…we have a winner!

I so look forward to next school year. This grade level team has the energy, the dedication, and the will to make great things happen for our students. We will even be in the same building with adjoining rooms for the first time! My room is on the end, Mr. Manners is in the middle, and Miss Shoes is on the other end. This opens up endless possibilities…

…for torturing Mr. Manners! (Hey! I'm not alone in the "giving others hell" department)

Miss Shoes and I are in the planning stages for ways to make Mr. Manners' life miserable residing between our two rooms. So far we've considered:

  • Running a string across his room with cups on either end for us to communicate. We'll add a line in for him later (for a nominal fee.)
  • Using that same string as a zip line to send written messages to each other across his room.
  • Using a remote control truck to carry supplies back and forth between our rooms, through his room. Of course, the supplies must be innocuous such as a single pencil, one marker, or one stick of staples. Ideally, the truck will have a horn…beep beep!

If you have any other ideas that would be fun for us to try, please feel free to share! It's a long year, so we'll need a big bag of tricks to keep ourselves amused.

I hope my readers who are teachers feel the same hopefulness and excitement that a new school year brings.

I also hope you, unlike me, are sensible enough to wait until at least August before even thinking about it.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Westward, Ho!

I love road trips!

Since I am off for the summer (for the first time in my career), and my boyfriend is off (because he works in I.T. and has been laid off like everyone else in I.T.), we decided to take a mini-vacation to the Grand Canyon since we've never been there before.

We've taken many road trips together and always enjoy ourselves. We blast the iPod (or, in the past, stacks of CD's), eat snacks, stop at interesting places, and chat about random stuff we're too busy to chat about during our regular lives.

The only problem we ever have is returning to California.

It's not that we don't want to come home. We like that part too. It's that Mother Nature always works against us when we head west.

For example, many years ago, we were driving from Washington D.C. back to California and we got stranded in Wyoming in a terrible blizzard…

in June.

Our car was an old beater that he had bought when he got out of the Marines and it had no defroster. No big deal! We live in Southern California. Besides, it's June! Who needs a defroster in June?

I don't need to answer that question for you now.

So we got stuck in some little town that consisted of a Flying J Travel Plaza, a Best Western, one diner, and a billion cows. We became very close to the waitress at that diner as we had to eat three squares a day there for three days while buckets of snow fell, burying our car. On the morning of day four, we were chatting it up with our new waitress friend when she nonchalantly says, "You know, you all are the taulk of taawn. People are waulkin' by yur motel room just to get a look at y'all."

Here's where my being white and him being black becomes an important point. Evidently, they don't take a likin' to our kind in them thar parts.

We dug that hunk of crap car out of the snow with our bare hands and drove straight from Wyoming to Southern California in one shot, defroster be damned.

On another road trip, we got stranded in Tennessee for two days because of tornadoes. Not only were we stuck in a motel room, we had his chain-smoking-ceaselessly-complaining sister with us. Threatening to drive to the next major city, purchase two plane tickets for ourselves, and abandon her to drive home alone got her to stop, but if "pouting" had a sound, she was making it and it was as annoying as listening to her complain.

So back to our mini-vacation to the Grand Canyon. We hit a little rain on the way there, but it was nothing we hadn't faced before.

But when we headed west…

the sky opened up and buckets of rain poured out. Huge drops of rain cracked against the windshield and I could barely see the road. Just as I thought I should pull over and wait it out for a while, it cleared.

Pheewww! The sky remained gray, but the torrential rain had stopped. The air felt thick because it was almost 100 degrees outside, but we were in an air conditioned car (not the same one as the Wyoming debacle), so we were comfy.


"What was that?"

"Must have been a rock."


"Is that HAIL?"

"That can't be hail. It's like 100 degrees outside."


Of course it was hail.

Why were we shocked? We've been in blizzards in June. Hail in 100 degree temperatures in the middle of Arizona during a drought should be an everyday occurrence for us.

After the hail stopped, the torrential rains returned for another 20 minutes.

After the torrential rains stopped, we encountered a dust storm. How all the dirt had not been turned to mud by the rain escapes me, but why do I even ask. We were headed west, right?

Of course, the dust storm was because of the gale-force winds that were blowing the car off the road every 30 seconds.

Just as the weather seemed to clear, traffic came to a complete stop due to an accident caused by the rain-hail-dust-wind storm. As we sat on interstate 40, we got to know our neighbors quite well. People were sharing snacks from their coolers and chatting it up on the side of the road as we waited. If we were there much longer, one guy was prepared to bust out his grill and start making us all hamburgers and hot dogs. After all, it was the Fourth of July!

Once traffic got moving again, we tooled along for a few hours incident-free until we got to the goats.

Yup, goats. A whole herd of them in the middle of the road. Evidently they were trying to cross from one side of the interstate to the other, a straight shot across (if you don't factor in the 85 mph traffic), but they seemed to have gotten lost traveling in a straight line and were now meandering around the 40. Some guy got out of his car and ran at them waving his arms and they all scattered towards the side of the road.

And we were off again. We had our dog with us and she had not peed or pooped since we left the house two days ago. Evidently, taking her to the same spot every day to do her business does have some negative consequences. She took me very seriously about that being "the potty spot" and she wasn't about to go against my wishes despite my pleading with her to go at every rest stop along the way. Our concerns that she just might explode all over the interior of the car caused us to drive 95 mph the remaining weather-free 200 miles of our trip.

We made it home without incident, thankfully, and Mya peed and pooped for like 20 minutes straight. We collapsed in the comfort of our own home and asked ourselves why we don't just fly more often.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Husky-Proof Toy

Few things are what they claim to be…

A lesson I've got to learn.

What brings this to mind while I lounge around on vacation without a child in sight?

A "husky-proof" dog toy that my lovely husky Mya managed to shred in under 10 minutes. As I write this, she is pulling all the white stuffing out of an indestructible toy made from an actual fire hose.

A fire hose! It withstands pounds and pounds of water pressure, but not the tenacious teeth of a 13 month old pooch. I've learned to only buy toys designed for rough and tough dogs, but none of them last more than an hour. Vendors even sell toys specifically for the notoriously destructive husky breed, but those can't live up to their claims either.

It got me thinking about how this parallels my job as a teacher. Every year we teachers have our own set of "husky-proof" claims that ultimately disappointment.

Husky-Proof Claim #1: "I know what's best for my child!"

Parents should be their child's biggest advocate. I encourage them to fight vigorously for their children's rights and interests. I firmly believe most parents know and are willing to go to the mat for their kids' needs, which is what we all should do.

Unfortunately, each year we have parents who reduce themselves to fighting with us simply to win the fight with little regard given to the needs of their children. All efforts allocated to winning the argument, whatever it may be. Despite any powerful contrary evidence the teacher or education professionals might present, these parents refuse to concede.

Their "husky-proof" claim is that they are fighting for their kids. Our "husky-proof" disappointment is when they lose sight of the child's needs in an attempt to be victorious. Worse yet, the children's disappointments are immeasurable as children get lost in the fighting.

Husky-Proof Claim #2: "I know what's best for my students!"

Some teachers fall into the same category as parents; unwilling to lose an argument. Too many teachers are reluctant to concede that they might not possess all-encompassing knowledge about children and education, and therefore close themselves off from new and divergent teaching methods in favor of what they know. They hold firm to their "tried and true" teaching techniques and resist new ideas. I have been guilty of this myself.

Moreover, some teachers give little credence to the invaluable knowledge parents have about their children. I have heard parents' thoughts on a given situation be dismissed simply because it's not a "professional" opinion, but merely a "parental" opinion about education. Of course, this is not the norm, but probably quietly happens more than we know.

Such teachers cannot live up to their "husky-proof" claims to always know what's best for students simply because of their experience or educational degrees. Sadly, it is again the students who suffer the greatest "husky-proof" disappointments when this happens.

Husky-Proof Claim #3: "This in-service will offer invaluable resources for your teaching!"

How many teachers have sat through a four day in-service but walked away with few ideas and techniques that you could actually use in your classroom? There are several explanations for this occurrence. At times, teachers were not open to the new ideas being presented (see Husky-Proof Claim #2). Other times, the in-services were simply filled with useless information for today's classroom; leaving us doubting that the trainers had ever set foot in a real classroom with real students and real educational demands.

The flip-flopping of educational dogma also presents a barrier in our acceptance of new ideas and techniques. Too many times, the educational pendulum has swung wildly in the opposite direction from what we have been doing and required us to retrain our thinking and change our ways, only to swing back to where we started from within a few years. I am sure many of us have sat through trainings that are really old teaching techniques that fell out of favor several years ago, but that are now repackaged and delivered to us with a shiny new PowerPoint bow on top.

Trainings require quite a commitment from the attendees. Detailed substitute plans must be written, materials prepped, time spent in a training room and away from your students, and then finally the inevitable "clean up" upon your return to your classroom are just few of the details teachers face when attending a training. What a disappointment it is to find that the trainers made "husky-proof" claims they could not live up to.


Isn't it crazy how contradictory life is? Teachers and parents need each other on this educational road. We need to work together and stay out of each other's way at the same time.

Teachers also need to stay current with our trainings and be flexible in our thinking, but to do so we must be offered useful trainings that offer us techniques that can be realistically implemented in the classroom and realistic implementation varies from classroom to classroom.

Well, the fire hose dog toy is completely dead now. It's in tatters on the floor. Mya has a singularly satisfied look on her face and is napping on the remaining shreds. It seems I am the only one who was disappointed by that toy.

Maybe "Husky-Proof" claims aren't all bad after all?