. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Bits is Back!

My blog is fixed! My blog is fixed!

Thank you to Mr. McCartney from Sydney, Australia for your help on the Blogger help forum.

I thought The Bits was going to be in bits forever.

Happy New Year Everyone!!!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Toxic Culture

I think I've mentioned on more than one occasion that our students do not like running.

Well, today is Wednesday.

Wednesday is Mile Run Day!

yippee...

As usual, 99% of kids whipped out mommy notes excusing them from running for various made-up reasons.

In an odd twist that I think should be studied by the medical community, many of them found the realization that they must sit out of recess if they aren't healthy enough to run surprisingly healing and mustered up the strength to drag themselves around for a mile.

(I'm contacting The Journal of the American Medical Association to see if they'd like me to whip up an article on this groundbreaking cure for "I-Don't-Wanna-itis.")

My favorite note was written by a student and it read:

I would like to be excused from PE today. Running makes me breathe hard.

Another kid came up to me and said that his parents did not want us to use a marker to track his laps on his palm with dots.

It's toxic and could get into his bloodstream and kill him.

Do they honestly think we would do anything to KILL HIM?!?!?

If Vis a Vis markers were toxic, we all would have been dead loooooong ago.

I don't know about you, but I can't use a marker without inadvertantly smearing ink all over myself like a toddler.

On second thought, maybe that IS just me...

That is neither here nor there. As the marker-poisoned student was "running" his laps today (with masking tape on his palm on which he could collect his dots), he decided to sharpen his thespian skills.

I spied him approaching me, arms outstretched in front of him, weaving and stumbling and looking in distress.

Me: You ok?

Him: Whaa? I...I can't really see you. Eh...every...every...everything is all blurry and going dark.

Me: Well, then head towards the light, but do it at a jog 'cause I want these laps done in under 15 minutes.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A "Little" Blog Problem

Hi Folks,

Sorry about the wonky-looking blog. I'm not sure what's going on. I didn't change anything, but somehow over night my blog header and wrapper have gotten smaller. I tried increasing the width in the html, but it had no impact.

Maybe they're just standing farther away and simply "look" smaller.

Anyhoo, I have no idea what's going on and no answers about when things can get back to normal around here. Blogger is being decidedly unhelpful. I am open to any suggestions, if anyone has any.

I am sorry about this. I try so hard to look professional...

(Haha! Even I don't believe that one!)


Monday, December 5, 2011

Tough Day?

Finish each day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.


Some blunders and absurdities have crept in;
Forget them as soon as you can.


Tomorrow is a new day.
You shall begin it serenely 
And with too high a spirit 
To be encumbered with your old memories.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, December 2, 2011

Etiquette 101

FOUR!

Or do golfers yell, "FORE"??

"For," maybe???

Why on earth did they pick a homophone?

(Which leads me to think that "TWO" would have been poor choice as well...)

But I digress.

The field trip we took took on Thursday involved learning how science and math play a part in golf. It was a unique opportunity for our students to participate in hands-on STEM activities AND do so in a swanky country club in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Southern California.

NOT our usual digs.

We did some schoolin' at the Chevron World Challenge!

Thank you to Chevron for sponsoring our visit!

The kids LOVED it, and the activities were exciting, well planned, and engaging for the students. They even got to walk the course a bit and see a professional golfer in action.

To be honest, our kids were p-e-r-f-e-c-t! They could not have been better behaved, and we could not be prouder of them.

You don't realize how stressful it is to take 90 kids to a super-fancy country club where athletes are competing for millions of dollars and one little kid's inability to contain his desire to loudly crunch leaves under his shoes can cost a golfer millions of dollars. Where people who paid lots of money for tickets glare at your loooooong line of students because, well, they're KIDS and are probably going to ruin the whole grown-up golf spectating experience.

The kids were so wonderful that strangers, spectators, and people working the course couldn't resist smiling at them and complimenting them on their fine manners and good behavior.

In a nutshell, we were

SO!!!!

PROUD!!!!!

But my favorite part happened as they ate their lunches in the shadow of the luxurious clubhouse at white tables with white folding chairs, and REALLY rich people walking all around them. One of our boys said (a bit too loudly):

Wow! This is REEEAlly nice. 


This is the kind of place where you should chew with your mouth closed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Livin' the Unhigh Life

On a field trip with our kids today, our bus drove down a street with huge-normous mansions. The kids all oooo-ed and ahhhh-ed over the opulence.

At lunch, I overheard a table of kids talking about them.

Molly: I would LOVE to live in one of those houses.

Mark: Not me!

Molly: What?!?! Why not?

Mark: I want to live in a normal house so people think I'm normal.

Hey, kid, whatever it takes!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Genius is Relative

One of our sweetest, nicest, kindest, most responsible, never-gets-in-trouble boys came to school today wearing a necklace with a big ole medallion hanging on it.

That's weird.

So, I sat next to him to do a little questionin'.

Me: Hey Zach! You got a new necklace there.

Zach: Yup! (Big grin.)

Me: Do ya know what it says on your medallion?

Zach: Yup! "Geniuses." (Bigger grin.)

Me: That's kinda what I thought you'd say. You're wearing it because you're a pretty smart kid, huh?

Zach: Yup! (Gigantic grin.)

Me: I agree, Zach. You are a smart kid, which is why I think I should tell you that your necklace says, "Guinness" and THAT is a beer.

Zach: (Huge, mortified, beer-bottle-sized eyes. No grin.)

Me: That probably explains why a necklace about "Geniuses" is shaped like a bottle.

He pulled that necklace over his head and jammed it into his pocket faster than college student in a beer drinking contest.

Poor kid. He couldn't look me in the eye for the rest of the day.

I should have confiscated it.

It would have made a great gift for my husband!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

You Asked for It

I've received many emails asking me for more information about King Arthur Flour and their Life Skill Program, so click here if you're interested.

I'm so glad my teammie found this program and that our kids could participate.

Best of luck to you and your kiddos if you decide to do this or any other charity work. It's the perfect time of year for giving!




Saturday, November 19, 2011

Baker's Dozen Times Seven

After a few weeks of banging my head against the wall with Howard, I needed some feel-good stuff to happen.

Ask and ye shall receive!

Thanks to my take-charge, do-gooder teaching partner and some pretty awesome students, my wish was granted.

You see, my partner is one of the good guys. His message to our students is consistently positive and always sincere. Each year, he seeks out ways to allow our students to be of service to others; reinforcing the message that no matter how much we are struggling, there are always ways to we can help others who are struggling more.

AND, because he drags me along on his charitable adventures, when it's all said and done I look like this great teacher too!

Great-by-Association is more like it.

Well, my teammie contacted King Arthur Flour and arranged for them to come to our school and teach our students how to bake bread. After the lesson, the students were supplied with all the dry goods and a recipe, thanks to King Arthur Flour, to bake two loaves of bread at home that night.

One loaf was for our students to enjoy at home with their families. They were instructed to bring the other loaf back to school the next day so that it could be donated to needy families by way of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

The King Arthur Flour representative was fantastic with the kids, and they loved the lesson. We gave them their bags of dry goods and sent them home with good wishes for some successful baking.

As they marched off with their baking materials, we teachers said we'd be so proud if 30 or 40 of our 100 kids managed to bake bread by tomorrow. Many of them have little money, live in apartments with several other families, and have parents that work crazy long hours. Thirty or forty is a fine amount of participants.

Our little bakers awaited us the next morning with 83 loaves of freshly baked bread! Some baked baguettes, some braided theirs, some made half-moons, and others made simple loaves. Eighty-three loaves of bread! One parent fouled up her recipe so she went out and bought two loaves of bread with her own money so her son could experience the power of charity.

Have you ever baked bread from scratch? This was 83 families that sacrificed at least 4 hours of their night to make bread for some other needy family to eat.

It makes my heart swell with pride.

I am humbled.

It is a privilege to teach these children.

It is my honor to continue to learn from them.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Language Barrier

Here's the scene:

Three little first graders are standing outside their room, talking loudly like first graders do.

Heck, like ALL graders do...

"You kill me!"

"No! You kill ME!"

"NO! I wanna be killed!"

A teacher, my teammie, was walking by and overhears this little conversation, and stops to discuss it with them....

...in Vietnamese.

She's not doing this just for fun. Two of the kids are Vietnamese, and speaking to them in their home language usually raises their level of respect.

The other kid is Chinese. No worries. She speaks that too.

The kids, of course, immediately deny their conversation.

The teacher, of course, tells them THAT is not gonna fly since she heard them.

Then, much to her surprise, one of the Vietnamese kids says, "I don't speak Vietnamese."

Leading her to ask, "Uh, really? Then why have you been answering my questions in Vietnamese this whole time?"

(insert pregnant pause accompanied by looking everywhere but at the teacher)

Looks like "deception" is just one more thing we don't do a good job of teaching in school.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Miss America

One of my favorite things to do is chat with the kids.

Informally, just hanging out, getting to know them and all their little kid thoughts.

A few weeks ago I was out with the kids during free-play on a Friday afternoon. Quiet little Ana giggled her way through a story about a time her mother pretended to be Miss America. How one morning, in her bathrobe and with bed-head hair, she slipped on her highest heels and sashayed through the kitchen waving the wave of a beauty queen and carrying the morning paper like a bouquet of roses.

Ana and her friends all pretended to be beauty queens in heels too and tottered on tiptoes across the playground, laughing and waving like her mother had.

That memory will always be special to Ana. It was a gift that she shared it with me.

Ana's mother was taken from her this morning. Cancer stole her, leaving her three daughters and husband with only memories.  

Every day we have with our loved ones is a gift, and our memories are what we find when we unwrap it.

Go hug your family.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Running Shorts

So we ran the mile again this week, much to the chagrin of most of our students.

Every week, we remind the kids to wear comfortable running shoes and loose clothing in preparation for the run.

But we SHOULD have reminded them not to wear their father's boxer shorts under their jeans because by lap 3, they begin to ride up...

...in a most uncomfortable manner.

And then, not only do you have to be miserable because of the running, but you have to do it with an atomic wedgie all of your own doing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Don't Sweat It

Today we...

by "we" I mean "they"...

... the kids...

ran "the mile."

Six loooooooong laps around the playground, complete with moaning, crying, limping, coughing, and puking.

As our little joggers said, "Oh look. Asparagus!"

They are a motley little crew of misfits out there running.

 Every Wednesday, all the kids except maybe two launch into dramatic displays of their various "ailments" in an attempt to get out of running the mile.

They heal surprisingly fast when we suggest that if they're too sick or injured to run, they must skip recess...

...for their own well-being! We would HATE for them to make their sickness or injury worse by running around at recess. Better they sit it out at the lunch tables and heal.

As my mother would say, "The only way to get better is REST."

"Uuummmm. I think I can run now."

Today, a little girl came up to me in a true panic and said, "Mrs. Lee!! I have to stop running. I'm leaking!"

"Oh, great," I thought. "I've made another one wet her pants. HOW does this keep happening?"

As the girl approaches, she's showing me her leaky...

...armpits.

She actually raised her heart rate enough to break a sweat.

...and thought she was dying.

"Have you never sweat under your arms before?" I asked.

"NO!" she shot back like I'd just asked her if she had ever murdered a puppy or something.

"Keep running, kid. That's just your body saying Thank You."

People, we gotta get these kids outside more!



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

You Can Run, But...

Howard ditched after-school detention with me today.

Man, was he surprised to see me marching up to him.

...in the park he was playing in.

...a mile away from our school.

When you're nine, you don't consider the fact that hiding in the place where you play every day makes finding you so easy.

Thank you, Howard!

The best part was that he was playing with a group of boys, one of which ditched detention with me last year.

And what did that boy say?

"I TOLD YOU she'd come find you!"

I'm nothing if not predictable.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

They Shoulda Warned Me!

Remember when you started your training as a teacher; ready to change the world one little mind at a time?

Well, here's a funny from YouTube about this very topic made by this guy (who happens to be recognized by Smart Technologies, one of my favorite technology providers, as a super techie teacher. That's my kind of educator!)


This video is so true it hurts...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Walk About

Remember when I said that there is no better way to get to know a kid than to have lunch with them?

Well, walking them home is pretty enlightening as well.

I walked Howard home yesterday.

You see, Howard is a difficult child to motivate. He hates school.

... and school isn't in his fan club either.

He's always exhausted, laying around on his desk, playing with his pencil, bugging his neighbors and being a general nuisance to others. He is also always unshowered and rarely brushes his teeth.

I feel like all I do is redirect his behavior and ask him to go wash his hands.

ALL I do is redirect his behavior and ask him to go wash his hands, making teaching all the other students (also really needy kiddos) a big challenge.

It's like trying to read a wonderful novel while simultaneously remodeling my own kitchen with nothing but a plastic fork and super glue.

Impossible to do, but guaranteed to leave you feeling like a failure.

So at the end of the day yesterday, after Howard got in trouble for punching another student in line as we were leaving, I decided to make a change.

You see, Howard is not a good student, but he is savvy enough to know that doing things at the end of the day on a Friday probably means no immediate consequences.

What he didn't bank on was the fact that I have no life, therefore I have ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD to dedicate to his consequences.

I sent his friends walking home without him and kept him with me for 20 minutes to discuss his decision to hit. I let him know that detention on Monday was coming too. Then, I began walking him off campus.

...and never stopped walking him.

Howard: Are you going to walk me all the way home?!?


Me: Yup.


Howard: To talk to my grandma or mom, because they're not there.


Me: We'll see.

I just started chatting with him, asking him what he liked about school.

Recess.

What he doesn't like about school.

Everything and everyone else.

What he would like to see more of in school.

Playing.

If, in his 5 years at our school, he had ever been on a rewards contract to earn good stuff for making good choices.

Nope.

Would he like to be on one?

Yes!

Who he lives with.

About 11 other people in a 3 bedroom house.

Who is home when he gets there.

No one.

Who he shares a room with.

Mom and two sisters.

Bunk beds? Single beds? Share a bed?

I sleep on the floor.

Who gets him dinner and reminds him to get ready for bed?

No one. Mom is out until late and everyone else is busy with other stuff.


I told him that I agree that recess is fun and I like it too. I also think that more playing can happen while we learn, but that we have a lot of work to do on behavior before I think he can learn while playing. Playing is something that can be earned on a rewards contract.

He was in a pretty good mood by the time we reached his driveway, however his grandma's truck was in the driveway.

I'm sure he thought, "Oh, crap..."

Me: Well, thanks for the great ideas, Howard. I'll see you on Monday.


Howard: ummmmm, You're not going to talk with my grandma?


Me: Nope. I just wanted to talk with you.


Howard: (sheepish grin) Really?


Me: Yup. Have a good evening, Howard.


Howard: You too, Mrs. Lee.


It might take all year, but Howard needs to trust us. He needs to know that for the hours he's at school, someone wants to take care of him.

And someone cares enough to remind him to wash his hands.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Unexpectedly Happy Ending

My teammates and I had an all-day meeting scheduled with our new principal today.

We grudgingly stayed until 5:30 the evening before writing sub plans.

We groggily arrived early, as usual, to finalize sub plans and ensure our rooms and materials were ready 'cause Company's Coming!

We cheerily met our subs but predictably freaked out a bit because they didn't quuiiiiiiite seem up to the job.

(Well, at least I did.)

We kerploppingly sat down in the assigned empty classroom and sighed audibly when we saw chart paper, markers, post-it notes, print outs of colored bar graphs, and other evidence that we would be crunching a LOT of numbers today.

(Again.)

We silently cheered when, an hour into our meeting, our subs got yanked to go to other schools because too many teachers called in sick.

(On a Friday? Weeiiiird.)

We happily returned to our classes to teach.

I love a day that doesn't suck!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Shame on Me

Do you know what I said yesterday?

Do you KNOW what I said?!?!

Well, I'll tell ya, I crossed a line. I crossed a line, and I can never go back.

I can't unsay it.

My students can't unhear it.

It's as permanent as the marker stain on my left index finger that won't go away because I always miss when recapping my whiteboard marker.

(Deep breath)

I was teaching my students about figurative language; specifically about how to recognize the difference between similes and metaphors.

An innocent query came from the back of the room. Why do we have to learn this?


What I should have said: Because learning how to recognize figurative language is the first step to being able to use it in your own writing, which will make you a better, more interesting, more vivid writer. Good writers have a big bag of tricks they can pull from so that their writing doesn't become boring and uninteresting. I want you to have as big a bag of tricks as possible.


But I was thinking: Good Question, Kid! Why DO you have to learn this? Many of you have only been speaking English for a few years, only speak it in the classroom, and don't even know the basics about how to write a simple sentence yet because I am forced to spend weeks on figurative language instead of teaching you the skills you really need. In addition, I'll bet millions upon millions of people live productive and fruitful lives without knowing the nuanced differences between similes and metaphors. That being said, I would LOVE to teach you this skill after I felt you'd had enough time to learn the prerequisite skills necessary to even use figurative language in a sentence. 

So I said: Because it's on the state test.


(Pause for dramatic effect)


Yup. I admitted to them, and to myself, (and now to you) that I was teaching them something simply so they can pass it on that stupid state test.

(GASP! oooooOOOOoooo... She said "stuuuuUUupid!")

I am ashamed.

And a bit brainwashed.

Have I really succumb to the mentality that because it's on that test, it's a life skill my kids need?

Have I lost all perspective on what students REALLY need and now I am simply checking off skills found on the state test?

Looks like I have.

But at least I'm not the only one. Here's a funny from Learning Laffs.

Number 8 was my personal favorite.


Enjoy!




Friday, September 30, 2011

Field "Trip"

We have a sweet group of kids this year, and I like them very much.

Sweet, yup... they're sweet.

Very sweet and thank goodness for that.

So we had our field trip today, and as usual it was a fun-filled day for everyone.

(cough cough)

We piled our sweet little kiddos onto the busses and headed off to learn some science at the local estuary.

We worked hard to get ready for the trip before we left, learning about ecosystems, wetlands, and how organisms interact with nonliving things in their habitats.

But what I SHOULD have been teaching them what a bird is.

The Naturalist: Ok, boys and girls. Think of an animal that is NOT a bird that can fly.


Kid 1: A duck!


The Naturalist (cheerily): Good try, but that's a bird.


Kid 2: An eagle!


The Naturalist (less cheery):  Another good try, but that's a bird too.


Kid 3: A penguin!


The Naturalist (now confused): That's a bird AND it can't even fly.


Kid 4: A hawk!!!


The Naturalist (exasperated): Also a bird...


Kid 5: A pterodactyl!!


The Naturalist (suicidal): uuummmm. Ok? I guess that works.


Kid 6: A monkey!


The Naturalist (defeated): Really?


She then handed out binoculars for bird watching and allowed them plenty of time to watch everything within 1/4 mile that wasn't a bird. They looked in each other's ears, into local homes, at bugs on the ground, and at me pointing out ALL the birds surrounding us.

Oh Well!

My teaching partner said that his group wasn't too with it either.

The naturalists play a game with the kids while we hike called "Reporter." One student stands in front of a plant or other interesting thing and repeats a fact about it (given to him/her by the naturalist) while the line hikes past.

For example, Timmy points at an anise plant and repeats, "These seeds taste like black licorice. These seeds taste like black licorice. These seeds..." You get the idea. He does this until the line of students hikes by and then he joins the end of the line.

Artie, a student who struggles to pay attention which is why he was placed in a group with a teacher, pointed at a plant, was told his fact and then and repeated, "I forgot what I'm supposed to say. I forgot what I'm supposed to say. I forgot..."

You get the idea.





Another One Rides the Bus

Today is Field Trip Day!

Field Trip Day is usually dripping with good stories.

Like this one.

And this one.

Annnd this one (that I'm not too proud of).

Stay tuned and keep your fingers crossed that we have some ADVENTURE!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hand Picked

I had lunch with a couple of girls on Monday.

I know that's not big news, but to them it was.

You see, one of them was officially adopted by her foster parents on Friday!

Being an adoptee myself, I feel a kind of kinship with her. I invited her and a student from last year, Abby, who was also adopted by her foster parent while in our class to have a celebratory lunch in my classroom.

We are now all officially members of "The Super Duper Extra Special Because Our Parents Picked Us While Everyone Else is Just Stuck With the Kid They Handed Them in the Hospital Adopted Girls Club."

(No offense to those of you biologically related to your children and/or parents. As we adoptees like to say, "Don't hate me because I'm hand-picked.")

Well, my little fourth grader was not so keen on the idea of being adopted at first because she felt it made her "different" from the other kids.

Abby and I managed to convince her that it does indeed make you different, but not in a bad way. She was feeling pretty good by the end of our lunch. She really likes the fact that I am adopted too. It gives us a special connection.

In the end, I was assuring her that I am here if she needs to talk, but Abby stepped right over me and told her that WE are here for her.

At first, I thought it was kinda funny that she did that, like she and I are peers or something...

...but now is realize that, in a way, we are and just how sweet it is.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Words Get in the Way

Here's a giggle for you!

While practicing compound sentences about desert ecosystems in my classroom, one student wrote:

Kangaroo rats like to eat cactus fruit, but cactus fruit can be pricey.


So what we can take from that is, in this economy, even kangaroo rats are tightening their belts.

...and that the kid can't spell prickly.


I've got another one for you too!

While practicing identifying main events and details in the beautiful story The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, the students quickly picked up on the fact that Edward, a toy rabbit made of china, was self-centered at the beginning of the story but eventually learned the value of loving others. This becomes very clear once Edward meets a four year old girl named Sarah Ruth.

One student wrote:

Edward goes to Sarah Ruth to perfect his lovemaking.


Yup.

Kiddie porn.

Bestiality.

The soaring price of cactus fruit.

We got it covered.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mouth Organ

So I'm reading my students a story and one of the characters is playing a harmonica. I took a moment to make sure that everyone understands what a harmonica looks like and where they may have seen one.

Michael, with one finger in the air and much authority, adds:

Oh! I know! Alotta times, they play them in prisons!


ummmm, sure?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

That's a Good One

Hahahahahahahhaaaaaaaaa!

Hooohahahahahahhhhaaaaaah   ahahahhahahahahhahahahaaaahaha!!!

phew...

hahahahahahahaha(snort)hahahahaha hahahaaa aahahahahah HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

OK OK...giggle giggle...ok... I'm ready now...teeheee...

Get this! The new teacher at my school came up to me on day 3 of school and asked...

heehee

if I...

gigglegiggle

have any advice...

 snort 

on how to handle GEORGE!

AAAAHHHHHhhahahahahahahaaaaa!!!!

HAHAhahahahahamystomachhurtsfromlaughinghahahahaha!

She seems like a great teacher. She should be...

 FINE! AHAHahahahahaaa!!!HAHAHahahaOhGodICan'tStophahahahahahahaha!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Year - New Lessons

I'm back in the saddle again.

I must admit, it's nice to once again surround myself with the smell of whiteboard markers and glue sticks.

I really have nothing too interesting to report regarding my first two days in school, but I have learned a few new lessons. (Gotta lotta "to's" in that sentence! I've met my quota.)

Lesson #1
Light-up tennis shoes are no longer just for toddlers. About 1/2 of my girls are prancing around in polka dotted Converse-esque tennies that flash colored lights with each step.

Not.

Distracting.

At All.

(I'm just hoping they don't start wearing the ones that squeak with each step!)


Lesson #2
Despite the fact that I apologized up front and about every 1.3 seconds for two days straight, my students show no mercy when I can't remember their names. They take it as a personal insult and are quick to roll their eyes or harrumph at me (both HUUUUUGE mistakes, they soon learn) when I have to ask them to tell it to me.

Get.

Over.

Yourself!


Lesson #3
No matter how many times you tell them, some kids don't grasp that when the teacher explains directions and then says, "Raise your hand if you have a question about what we are doing," asking "Can we start now?" does not qualify as an appropriate question.


That being said, they seem like a nice bunch of kids and I look forward to having another great year.

At the very least, I'll hopefully have some fun stories for us about kids who are having a great year!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ahoy There, Mateys

I've been busy

doing NOTHING!

But today I have dedicated myself to spending quality time with my nearest and dearest friends...

on the Internet. (Because you guys don't seem to mind that I'm always wearing sweats with holes in them when we get together.)

So many people out there have great ideas, and great ideas are what I'm searching for (since I am in short supply); so I've decided to spend the day combing my favorite blogs in an attempt to pillage and plunder my way to some New School Year Inspiration.

Let me ask you... When you stumble upon an idea for your classroom that you love, do you get so excited that you begin talking to yourself and planning aloud to no one in particular about how you can use that great idea in your room and how you can tweak it for your kids, and how you're gonna share it with everyone you know and which theme you can apply to it and what standards it meets?

No?

Yeh, uhhh, me neither...

So here's an idea for group behavior management posted by Ginger Snaps that most certainly did NOT cause me to begin talking to myself...

at all.

In a nutshell, design a cute bulletin board with a path. Groups of students move a colored pin along that path as they demonstrate good behavior. Prizes are earned at various points. What I love about it (but haven't discussed with anyone including me because that would be weird) is that it's a long-term positive reinforcement behavior management idea. We've all done Table Points, Dismissing Tables First, Raffle Tickets, blah, blah, blah and they are effective for a while, but good teachers have bags of tricks that are as endless as Mary Poppins' Carpet Bag.

This one is going into my carpet bag.

AND then there's the super idea I am totally snagging from Miss Teacher over at juice boxes & crayolas that involves posting positive affirmations around your room. I don't know about you, but my students spend a fair amount of time staring at pencils, each others' ears, and walls. Why not give 'em something positive and motivating to stare at since they're gonna do it anyway?

Well, I can't hang posters on pencils (too small to read) or students' ears (illegal, I think), but I can hang them on the walls!

Now, if I can only find an artistic person to make these things for me and then put them up in my room...






Monday, August 15, 2011

Grammar Aside

Bored with your summer reading list?

Is Tolstoy weighing you down?

Ready for some good ole fashioned teacher giggles?

Then have I got the book for you!

John Pearson, aka Mr. Teacher, over at Learn Me Good has penned a sequel to his run-away hit of the same name. Only this one is, as my kids would say, even more better and it's called Learn Me Gooder.

Gifted in storytelling and quick with the wit, Mr. Teacher will keep you laughing throughout.

You KNOW you wanna read it!

So on August 22nd, boot up your computer and drive it right to Amazon to buy your copy.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I'm Where?

Do any of you like to number-crunch?

Love chewing on some data like a ham bone?

Sadly, I do.

It's scary to admit, but Excel is my favorite Microsoft program...

 (I know. It's pathetic that I even HAVE a favorite Microsoft program...)

because you get to dump in some data, move it around, compare it, color code it, put it in order and then reorder it in countless ways, average it, and then make a graph outta all of it.

A graph that you can pick the colors of the lines, the backgrounds, the floors, you can make it 3D, adjust the size, insert pictures, label things, blah, blah, blah...

I just LOVE it all!!

Putting Excel aside for a while, let me just say that the next best thing for me and my number obsession is to combine it with my blog using Google Analytics. This site gives me detailed information, in the form of numbers, about how my blog is doing, who is reading it, how they found it, how long they stay on it, where they're entering it from, how often readers return, what countries they live in (Hello, Germany!), etc.

Oh! Don't worry. There is no personal data on it. You are all just a number to me.

Which is why I LOVE ya, 'cause I can CRUNCH ya!

I pour over this site about once a month and stay on it for hours. (Sometimes I even dump some of the info into Excel and make a graph, just for sh!%s and giggles. Ssshhhh, my husband thinks I'm actually working when I do that.)

One of the most interesting aspects for me is to see just how you people found The Bits.

By far, the number one referral site I have is Scholastic. Thank you for naming me one of your top 20 blogs! It's an honor and has led readers to my cyber-doorstep many, many times and I am grateful.

The number two referral site was a new one this month and one I was surprised to be included on: The Teachers' Lounge Blog on Really Good Stuff. (!!!!!)

I love the stuff at Really Good Stuff (although I usually call it "Really Good Stuff I Don't have the Funds to Purchase" but I see why they go with the shorter name.)

I'm listed with nine other blogs in their "Related Sites" section.

Me.

Related to a blog about Really Good Stuff.

Me.

Really Sarcastic Stuff, THAT I can see.

Really Honest Stuff, THAT I fit.

Really Inappropriate Stuff That Could Get Me Fired or At Least Earn Me a Stern Talking - To Stuff, I'm a match.

Really GOOD Stuff?

Me?

Ha!

But I am grateful nonetheless.

I am grateful that we found each other, dear readers, no matter how it happened. Your comments keep me motivated and laughing and I am awe of your great ideas and tenacity. Many of you are bloggers who share your stories and ideas and there is nothing more interesting for me to read.

Thanks for reading and for sharing!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Quiet! I'm (not) Thinking!

Have you been thinking about working again?

Worse yet, have you begun working again??

Not MeeeEEEee!

By now, I've usually busted out the flash drive and begun planning away for the coming school year that starts at the end of August. In all honesty, in years past I've had the majority of my year planned by now, but this year I have not.

And I must say, I feel a teensy bit guilty about it.

I met one of my teaching partners for lunch the other day, and he had just returned from a science camp for teachers. He LOVED it and for good reason. It was a week of non-stop activities with other highly-motivated educators from around the world. The activities developed team-building and science knowledge, all of which can be applied in the classroom.

Needless to say, he is...

FIRED

UP

about the coming school year.

Funny. None of his enthusiasm oozed over to my side of the table. (Maybe my empty beer glasses blocked it.)

He was also telling me about how the other 1/3 of our team has also been hard at work on ideas for the coming school year as well, despite the fact that she has two wonderful young children who keep her on her toes.

It is at this point that I begin to feel like the childless, non-science camp attending, beer-swilling, no excuses dead weight that is going to drag us all down.

And yet, guilty as I feel, I still can't bring myself to get working yet.

(But I do think that, "Childless, non-science camp attending, beer-swilling, no excuses dead weight" would make a great t-shirt.)

Am I still recovering from last year?

Maybe. (Possibly the easiest year of my career? Yeh, riiiight...)

Am I being lazy?

Probably. (Certainly.)

Should I get my butt in gear and start working as soon as I get back from this little family vacay I'm currently taking?

I really can't say. Committing to that right now would probably mean lying to you, and I'd hate myself for doing that.

Should we really be spending our vacation time working on school stuff? What motivates so many of us to dedicate at least a portion of our time off to school work?

Our reasons probably vary. I'm curious to hear why you do it (because I KNOW you do!)

For now, I'm just going to continue enjoying time with my extended family and keep procrastinating on that whole work thing that my team seems so busy doing. I can play catch-up when I get home.

Maybe.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Another Year Done

Ahhhhhh.

Smell that?

That's the scent of freedom!

Sweet, isn't it?

I started my summer vacation today. Time to clean out my brain of all that teacher clutter and begin the decompression process.

The process itself is simple:

1. Stop teaching.
2. Drink margaritas (starting at breakfast).

As with any lesson, the valuable learning occurs after the lesson is complete and you've had time to reflect on what went well, and what you'd do different in the future.

What went well this year:

1. Teaming. I heart teaming with my teaching partners. Sharing a vision of student success and working together to make it happen is more rewarding than I could ever have imagined when I taught in a self-contained classroom. Teaming isn't for everyone, and I'm fine with that. It sure works for us though.

2. We had GREAT kids. Yes, even George can look ok...

...in my rearview mirror.

That being said, I really enjoyed working with this group of kiddos. They were excited about learning, sweet in disposition, and an overall joy to teach. They will be missed.

3. We had awesome parents who supported our unique way of teaching. What we do is different, and different can be scary for some, but they hung in there with us. In the end, many parents expressed appreciation for what we do and told us how much they enjoyed their year with us, which is simply the...

Cherry
On
Top!

Now for the tough part...

What I'd do differently:

1. I talk a good game about wanting parent involvement in the classroom, however I haven't perfected my method of inclusion. I want parents to feel welcome, be there often, and have valuable things to do while they're on campus. In the future, I will include them more in my daily routines. Maybe you people can share some of your ideas with me? Please!

2. Patience. I need to have more patience. Patience with the students, their parents, my coworkers, and myself.  Loud-mouthedness I got. Sarcasm I got. Wordiness I got. Patience? Well, let's just say it's not winning the race with the other personality traits I have. I wish it would hurry up. I'm sick of waiting!

Besides, I hear it's a virtue. Who couldn't use more of those?

3. Incorporate more technology in the classroom. My history with it has been spotty, but it sure is a motivator for kids. As challenging as it can be on my nerves (see "patience" above), it is a necessary evil if my students are going to be at all successful in the future.

4. And finally, find time to blog more often. Lots of funny shi... stuff happens every day in school, and I need to find time to share it. More importantly, writing keeps me sane. The birth of this blog was a purely selfish attempt to keep myself sane in a job that was driving me crazy. I don't want me to go nuts. I don't have the time or the patience to fix it if I do!

That's enough reflection for now. It's time to go relax in the California shade, because sun is bad for us mole people, and enjoy a margarita. You know what they say:

It's 8:00 AM somewhere in the world!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ego Blow of Another Kind

Typical Friday

Kids are being remarkably good considering we're entering the home stretch here with one week to go.

The teachers seem more anxious for summer than the kids!

As usual on a Friday, I went to lunch today with my teaching partner. We realized that eating at the same joint for an entire year leads to the cashier putting in your order before you even get to the counter and instead of greeting you, she just smiles and tells you what you owe. Now THAT'S service...

...I think.

As I headed to the ladies room to wash my hands I see a familiar face smiling at me. Although I can't recall a name, I know she's a former student.

I smile back and say:

Me: Weren't you in my third grade class a few years ago?

Girl: Yes, Miss Lee. (My name before I became Mrs. Lee a few years ago) 

Me: Oh gosh! You look great! I'm sorry, but what is your name?

Girl: Diana

Me: Oh Yes! I remember now! (She could have said anything. Faces I remember. Names? ehh...) Out for the summer now?

Diana: Yup!

Me: Wow! What grade are you in now?

Diana: I just finished my sophomore year in college.

Me: Whaaaa???? (audible snicker from my teaching partner back at our table)

Diana: Yup, I'm studying to be a nurse.

Me: Whhaaaaa???? I mean, woooow! That's greaaaaat...

The pain I felt when I realized that this little person I had taught in third grade was rounding the corner on becoming someone who might soon care for me in my old age was indescribable, but let me try.

Crappy.

The cherry on top was when my human calculator of a teaching partner did the math and told me that my first class of third graders would have graduated from college last year.

Brat.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ego Blow, Part Deux +1

 I'm not going to go through the laundry list of backlinks that showcase the vast array of comments George has made this year. To do so would require increasing the size of the Internet.

Suffice it to say,

George has struck again.

Sadly, my principal is leaving our school. (Maybe George finally wore her down?) Each class is participating in a video tribute to her.

Our fourth graders were all gathered on a hill in a nearby park so we could record them for our final portion of the video. A chorus of 100+ sad little faces waved at the camera and said in unison:

"Goodby Mrs. SoAndSo. We will miss you!!!!!"

And as the video fades to black, you hear one recognizably sarcastic voice yell out,

"Hallelujah!"

Geez...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Come Again?

Handball is big at my school.

Epic would be a better description.

Kids take it very seriously and have all sorts of rules.

They also have all sorts of names for different moves, any of which can be allowed or banned from a court by whomever got there first.

There's Hardies, Super Hardies, Cross Countries, Babies, Bubblegum (not a move, but a way to keep your place in line), Under-doggies, etc.

So today, one of my students, Steve, was on a tear beating the pants off of kid after kid. Finally, after something like 10 wins in a row, he finally got out when a savvy player lightly tapped the ball against the wall when Steve was at the back of the court.

Exhausted and a sweaty mess, he came over to me.

Steve: Phew! That was tough! I'm so tired. Making babies is hard!

Me: uummmm, I'm not sure you should be doing that at school.

Steve: No, the girl on that court said it's ok. I just can't make babies very well, especially when I'm tired after all the cross countries.

Me: Well, I suppose long-distance relationships pose their own unique challenges.

Steve: Huh?

Me: Never mind.

I'm not sure, but I think we may have been having two different conversations.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Perspective is Everything

If you've been on my Facebook page, you know all about the newborn kittens found under my teaching partner's classroom.

Well, as the animal control lady and our custodian pulled the little, black, slightly hairless bundles out from under the room, all of our students were outside for dismissal. Of course, they gathered around with curiosity.

A boy: Wow! Are those RATS??

Class: eeeeEEEEeeeWWWWWWW!!!!!!! That's sooOOOO gross! They are disgusting! Ahhhhhgghh!!!!!

Mr. Custodian: No, they're kittens.

The Same Class: aaAAaawwWWW!!!!! How CUTE!!!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On Your Mark!

I gotta say, I’m super proud of my students’ efforts on state testing. They really are giving it their all with the Big Game is on the line.

Since testing started, the kids have been using those almighty test-taking strategies we’ve mercilessly pounded into their heads since the first day of school. Their outright refusal to use them on any test before this had me believing they might never put them to use. Obviously, they are absorbing than I suspected. (phheeew!)

Additionally, all of the students who generally treat every test like a foot race with a million dollar prize for finishing in first place are taking their time and being thoughtful about their answers.

 I never thought this day would come!

And to top it off, their level of cuteness is at DEFCON 10. On little cut-outs of our school mascot, I wrote each of them a short personalized note about how I believe in them and how proud I am of them. Once they seemed to be getting tired or losing motivation, I dropped their note on their desk and gave them a little pat on the back.

Each of their little faces lit right up!

Many of them clutched that little piece of paper in their hands for the rest of the test. Most of them saved their notes in their binders, placing them next to pictures of their families and friends in the cover.

 AaawwwwwWWWWwwww!

 And where did they put the generic motivational sticker that every kid in the school got?

 Your guess is as good as mine. (Probably stuck on to someone else's back!)

 It’s good to know my kids treasure me as much as I treasure them.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ego Blow, Part Duex

So I've been telling you all year about George. He's the kid who said this....

 and this...

 and this...

 and this...

 and finally this.

Well, he has struck again.

Me: Alrighty kids, let's get inside and get started on some science! Let's see if we can make our lines quieter than Mr. Smith's lines as we walk to our room! (Mr. Smith teaches Social Studies next door.)

The Class: Yeah! We can do that!

George: Mr. Smith is smarter than you.

The Class: gasp!

Me: Well, George, that was not very nice of you to say. You've just hurt my feelings.

George: No offense. He just really is.

The Class: Gasp!

Me: Well, George, saying that is offensive and hurtful. Unkind opinions should be kept to yourself. If someone said something like that about you, I would tell them the same thing.

George: But he just really is smarter than you.

Me: Listen to my words, George. Saying that to me makes me sad. It makes my heart hurt. I don't think you're the kind of person who would want to make someone feel that way.

George: I'm just say that Mr. Smith is...

Me: George, stop talking.

Later in the afternoon, the students were helping me pass out two weeks worth of graded papers. I gave every student a job except George. Every student understood why...

...except George.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Quiet Grace

In our class of 100+ fourth graders, it seems there are a 1,000,000+ personalities.

Allow me to introduce you to Stephanie, just one of our little personalities.

Stephanie... a sweet little girl with a huge heart. She is quick with a smile and even quicker with a hug. Absolutely filterless, she tells you every emotion she has just as she's having it. A little gem and a daily joy to her teachers.

On a day when I was feeling particularly down because one of my cats had been sick and we didn't have much time left with him, Steph showed up to school with a homemade necklace for me with three little cats dangling from it. She had no idea what was going on with me at home, but her little necklace is a treasure of mine now and forever. I have since lost my cat, but that necklace brings a smile to my face!

In addition to being loving and cheerful, this darling little girl is also an easy target for bullies.

She struggles both academically and socially. Her glasses sit crookedly on her face and both her gross motor and fine motor skills are not as developed as her peers. Almost everything we do in class is too challenging for her to complete independently. In a nutshell, she is different and pays dearly for it at school. She does have a best friend though.

Her dog Ruby.

Each day, Stephanie's mother and Ruby pick her up from school. We get to watch a little girl and her dog reunite as if they had been separated for months instead of hours. Stephanie runs to them, scoops the wiggly white puffball into her arms and just gets drenched in sloppy wet kisses.

One day, Steph's mom came with Ruby bouncing along to pick up their favorite little girl, and we noticed that Ruby was being walked on a rope tied around her neck instead of her usual pink harness and leash. Steph explained that her harness and leash were gone, but couldn't explain what had happened. Like most of the families at our school, their family doesn't have much  money so there would be no new harness or leash in their future.

The next day, Steph came up to me with an even bigger smile than usual on her face. In her hand she was clutching a pretty little light blue collar with rhinestones on it, brand new and cute as can be.

You see, Abby, the little girl who had been the target of a large group of bullies that I wrote about here, also noticed the rope around Ruby's neck so she spent her allowance on a new collar for her.

That was one happy little girl who stood before me!

Abby thought nothing about the gift. She saw someone in need and could fix her problem, so she did. "No need to thank me," she said. "It was the right thing to do."

The lessons these two little girls could teach others will most assuredly be lost on their peers, but their teachers will remember them forever.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ego Blow

Student: When are you going to be our teacher again, Mrs. Lee?

Me: As soon as our student teacher is all done with her time with us. We sure are going to miss her when she leaves.

Student: We miss you too, but you don't need to come back right away.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Technically Cursed

I [heart] technology.

But technology does not [heart] me back.

Every time, no wait...

EVERY time I use it, ANY of it, in my classroom, it craps in my hand and runs away.

And these are the words coming out of the mouth (keyboard) of someone who is pretty durn adept at using technology.

Take a stroll with me down Technology Torture Lane:

Our district pays good moola for us to have access to Discovery Education, and I have made it my mission in life to put that moola, combined with our class set of notebook computers, to good use this year. Many weekends have been spent developing lessons that integrate the vidoes and other pieces available on the site, only to find that our bandwidth is inadequate for all the students to stream said videos at the same time or even for ME to stream them on my computer alone for the kids.

If, by some blessing from the bandwidth fairies, students can stream videos on their notebook computers, then no fewer than eight of those computers will require a reboot in the middle of the activity for no particular reason, causing panic and disappointment on a monumental level for those nine-year-olds because it takes at least 10 minutes for their computers to complete a reboot.

Challenge 1: Give yourself and your family big bowls of your favorite ice cream, but you sit there for 10 minutes doing nothing while they eat theirs, complete with lots of slurpy sounds and yummy moans. Sucks, huh?

Or, since some of the computers have Internet Explorer as the default browser and others have Mozilla and one or the other is incompatible with Discovery's streaming (depending on how the wind blows), some kids can stream and others can't and a third group can stream but without any sound.

What was intended to be a highly engaging activity melts down into an hour of me running around helping distraught miniature scientists who just want to watch a damn video clip on electromagnets, build a digital frickin' version of one, and take a gosh darn quiz on what they just did.

Instead, they get a tiny hourglass on their computers and a frustrated teacher trying desperately not to lose her s&!t in front of them.

So then I decide to give myself and my kiddos a break from Death by Discovery Education, and we bust out Qwizdom. Qwizdom has standards-based lessons and quizzes and much more, and each student gets a remote...

WE GET REMOTES! yesssssssss [insert fist pump]...

that they can use to send their answers to my computer. We get immediate feedback on how well they did on each question (complete with a pie graph). The power students feel just by being handed a remote is palpable. Qwizdom is a useful, fairly straightforward, tool and SUUUUPER motivating to the students...

...when it works...

I am about to clap out then number of times it has worked this year. Ready? Here I go:

Did you hear that? THAT was what zero claps sound like. (I told you I was technologically literate.)

Of course, it always works for SOME of the students, but never for all of them which leaves those without a remote feeling dejected, disappointed, and decidedly UNmotivated. (See Challenge 1)

So I give up on all the fancy-dancy stuff and just get out their notebook computers again for them to use ST Math, an online math instruction site which we use because of a grant our district received.

...except we can't use it...

...at least not all of us because three computers crashed, two students can't remember their eighteen character passwords, the Internet dropped off and we all lose access, and then when it comes back twelve computers now have the site displayed only the right halves of their screens and there is no sound.

It's enough to drive a girl to drink...

...in class...

...WITH the kids.

But I won't.

Because drinking requires some sort of device to cool the beverages, like a refrigerator, which might be considered technology by some standards...

... and I'm afraid it might rise up and kill me.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

W.A.W.

What.

A.

Week.

This week has been a busy one. Lemme just tell you an itsy bitsy bitty bit of it.

On Thursday, two boys came to tell me they saw a couple kids bullying a girl in our class.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again...

and AGAIN. Bullying

Chaps

My

Hide!

Nothing makes me more upset, especially when our most defenseless students are the targets. (But isn't that always how it goes?)

The target of the bullying is just that: a sweet, special young lady who is totally unable to defend herself against a bully. She's an easy target.

So we started interviewing students, and each interview revealed more students involved in bullying her,

and more students,

and more students,

and MORE students...

Bottom line, this sweet, shy little girl has been terrorized on the playground and IN OUR CLASSROOMS by over 30 of our students...

Every

Single

Day...

with the most horrible, painful words and actions I've ever encountered of in all my years teaching.

And we, her three teachers, knew nothing about it. (I am a HORRIBLE teacher.)

The degree to which individual students were involved ranged from gathering around her to point and laugh while others bullied her to such egregious threats against her that I can't even bring myself to type them here.

And she never told us, or any adults, because she didn't want to be a tattle tale.

(Insert dagger into already broken heart.)

Well, needless to say, consequences are being rained down on these students. RAINED DOWN!! In addition to that, all the time they will NOT be allowed to feel the blacktop under their feet or the sun on their skin will be filled with anti-bullying and empathy training.

And we teachers are developing ways to make sure this NEVER happens again.

But there IS a silver lining in all this.

(I know! I'm shocked too!)

When my teaching partner addressed the students who were not involved in the bullying, he asked that they let the teachers know if they ever witness bullying again so we can intervene because we all need to protect each other.

A few moments later, the most popular boy in our class came up to him with big tears in his eyes. He knew about the bullying and said nothing and felt HORRIBLE that he had not protected her.

(awwwwww!!)

Then he said that when students were lining up each day after recess and bullies were telling everyone not to line up behind the little girl because she "smells," HE would purposely get in line right behind her even though the kids would tease him.

(AWWWWWWW!!!!)

After two days of finding out just how despicable people can be to someone, our heavy hearts were lightened just a bit by the simple kindness of one little boy.

Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

...but if you do, I'll presume you're guilty.

We teachers must be the police officers of our own little worlds. How many times has a "crime" been committed in the classroom or on the playground that we must investigate?

For me, like a billion times a day.

Ok. That might be a slightly inflated number.

I like to do the Good Cop/Bad Cop routine, however due to a lack of grown-ups in my room, (there's only one and it's me and I realize referring to me as a grown-up is sometimes stretching the truth) I must play both parts.

Here's generally how it works.

Child A comes to me sobbing HY-STER-I-CALLY and says something like:

Child A: Iwasontheplaygoundandsallygotallherfriendstomakefunofmyshoes.(snifflesniffle)

So I say: Whaaat?

So Child A says: Iwasontheplayfoundand SALLY gotallherfriendstomakefunofmyshoes!(snifflesniffle)

Me: Sally did what?

Child A: Made(sniffle)fun(sniffle)of(sniffle)myshoes.

Me: Sally made fun of your shoes?

Child A: NoooOOoo!(sniffle)

Me: Well, that's what I got outta what you said.

And that's when another child, eavesdropping from her seat and fluent in Sobbingese, translates: She SAID, Sally got ALL HER FRIENDS to make fun of her shoes.

Me: Oh.

And so the clock starts ticking on the 48 free seconds I have to solve this mystery.

We all know, if I call Sally over and ask if this incident occurred, she's going to lie to save her bacon. That is why I never do that.

I give her time to stew before I ask her to lie.

First, I interview witnesses. I take copious notes on what is said by all the witnesses, keep facts that are the same and throw out what is different, and am usually left with some semblence of the truth...

...if you're comfortable with a truth that is about as clear as mud.

In all honesty, I usually have NO idea what really happened.

Knowing the truth is not what matters. Having Sally THINK I know the truth is what matters.

When the interviews are done, I then take Sally aside and say: Sally. I've just been talking to some other students about an incident on the playground. After talking to the others, I now understand what happened (Yeh, right). You have been named as one of the participants (Which is the only fact I AM sure of). I'm just gathering facts here and would like your side of the story. I am counting on your honesty (therefore I am prepared to hear a lie).

And then Sally tells me a whole long explanation that is completely fabricated and is designed to make her look innocent. (Because to a kid, "Tell your side" means "Lie, Lie, LIE!" and she's had all this time to think it up.)

And I say: Sally, I already KNOW the truth (Ha!). Your story does not match the facts given to me by the others. I want you to be very sure that you've told me everything as it happened. Maybe you just got confused a bit?

So Sally jumps at that opportunity and says she MAY have been a little confused. She then tells me a story that implicates her juuuuuust a teensy bit but not fully.

And I say: Sally. I'm sure you're not fully being honest with me (I think). I want to help you with this (I want this over with), but I can't until you start telling the whole truth. Your facts just don't add up with what I KNOW is the truth (I think). Now, if you continue to be dishonest with me, I'll be forced to increase your consequences (even though I haven't the faintest idea what consequences to give for an incident I don't fully understand).

It is here that Sally realizes that she is indeed going to be getting some consequences, but the severity of which she might have some control over and she'd like to take advantage of that.

Sally: Ok! I DID IT! Igotallmyfriendstomakefunofhershoes(snifflesnifflesob).

I don't really know what she said, but it sounded a lot like what the other kid said so I take it as the truth.

I hand out some rough justice and move on with my day, satisfied that another wrong has been righted in my room...

...I think.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Party's Started

Over on 5 Minutes for Mom, the Ultimate Blog Party had gotten under way! Hop on over there and check out all the amazing information, links, and take the opportunity to hook up with some other blogtastic bloggy people!

Btw...I may need a designated driver. Can you give me a lift?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Oh, Florida...

I don't know about you, but I am glued to the goings-on is Florida.

You see, Florida Governor Rich Scott, just signed his first bill and it eliminates tenure for new teachers and changes teacher evaluations to be based, in part (50%), on their students' test scores.

I have some feelings about this. I'll bet my left earlobe that you do too!

And so do the teachers in Florida!

As I've said before, I dig reading people's comments and that includes all of them in the online papers I read. I actually get a little too caught  up in their comments and wind up spending a lot of my time commenting on their comments.

I gotta learn to shut up...

Anyhoo, I've been poking around in the Florida papers just to eavesdrop on the comments teachers and others have been writing online. (and put my two cents in on a few...)

One side thinks that merit pay and the elimination of tenure will be just the motivator teachers needed to really get those test scores raised.

The other side thinks that merit pay and the elimination of tenure will not motivate teachers but will instead hurt teaching and students because teachers will to teach to the test rather than foster a love of learning and creativity.

A third side thinks that teachers' pay might be unfairly hindered by the populations they service.

And THAT'S where the comments got really interesting!

(Btw, there are MANY more sides to this debate.)

There is a storm a-brewin' about how parent involvement and student motivation will impact a teacher's ability to earn a merit raise, since test scores will now account for 1/2 of the teacher's evaluation. (Only teachers rated "effective" or "highly effective" can be eligible for a merit raise.)

Now, we all have had those students who never do their homework, are always late, are frequently absent, and have parents that are impossible to raise on the phone or get into your room for a conference.

In Florida, could they keep you from getting a raise?

Some teachers say yes, and have, in the comments sections, suggested suing parents who do not live up to those "home/school contracts" many of us all sign at the beginning of the year.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, many districts have teachers and parents sign a contract that "commits" parents to certain promises like providing a quiet place for homework, making sure kids get to school every day and on time unless ill, etc. Teachers also promise as well to providing assistance if academic help is needed, treating children with respect, etc.

In my district, they get signed by everyone, filed in a drawer, and shredded at the end of the year. No one really takes them seriously.

Looks like some Florida teachers want to now!

Some teachers feel that if the actions, or perceived lack of actions, by parents or students inhibit a teacher's ability to earn a living, they suggest holding parents legally accountable to the contracts they signed at the start of the year.

Wow! What do you think about that one?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I'm Curious

...and by that, I don't mean strange.

I always love to hear what others are thinking. The best ideas I ever had I stole from other people!

No, seriously. In my opinion, the greatest thing about blogging is hearing what all of you have to say in the comments section. I find all of you fascinating!

So let me pick your brains.

I posted a really quick, and relatively useless (except to satisfy my own curiosity) poll over on my Facebook page. Drop by and check it out when you have a second.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

QR Codes???

I told you that I would tell you more about what I learned at The Cue Conference I attended, and I'm no liar.

(Despite the fact that I'm using a false name, false location, and changed the names, ages, and genders of just about everyone I've ever written about.) I'm NO liar!

QR Codes were EVERYWHERE at The Cue and I am really excited about them.

QR stands for Quick Response. That excites me because Quick Responses are not something I usually get at school.

Me: Timmy, what is 4 times 5?
Timmy: uhhh, ummmmmuhh, eeerrrrr, aaaaaa, weellllllll, hold on, I'll get it. Could you repeat the question?

QR codes, in case you're new to these, are little 2D doodads that have data encoded in them that can be decoded by a cell phone's QR reader. Once decoded, the data is revealed on your phone.

Most cell phones with Internet access have the QR reader software either already on them or it's available for free online.

I have an iPhone, also know as "my other right hand," and I use the Red Laser app.

(Which, by the way, is a FANTASTIC app for comparison shopping as well!! For example, scan the barcode of the TV you're contemplating buying at your local store and Red Laser will tell you how much it's going for at other local stores and online.

O.

M.

G!!!!!)

So, back to QR codes. I made one...

well, I made like 12, but I won't subject you to all of them.

I made ONE for you to try out. Get out your phone and let your QR scanner take a picture of image below.



Did it work??

If it did, you'd see my contact information all ready to be saved in your contacts in your phone.

(Don't actually save it unless you're dying to have fake info about me.)

Wouldn't THAT be handy at Back to School Night? Make one. Display that sucker at the front of the room. BLAM! Info shared!


They are simple to make and simple to use and give the users immediate access to information. You can make them online for free. I made the one above at Zxing.

What kind of data can be stored in a QR code, you ask? Well...

- Your contact information (obviously)
- Calendar events (for important school events)
- an URL to a website (when scanned, it will take them right to the site)

There are lots more application ideas for these doohickeys.

I LOVE the idea of using them to link to a website. My big dream as a math and science teacher (my mother still can't get over THAT fact)...

My Mother: You know, she couldn't even DO math as a kid. I had to pay for a tutor for...
Me: MaaAAAaa! Do you HAVE to tell everyone about this?!?! Really?!?!

 ...is to have students make videos of their science experiments to post online. Then, at Open House, we post QR codes that link parents to the website and they can watch their kids conducting the experiments right on their phone!

Students can post How-To videos for math lessons, post QR codes in the room, and parents can watch the kids doing the teaching!

The possibilities are endless!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Self Promote Much?

Ahhhh, Spring Break.

A time to sit outside and enjoy the warming weather.

Have a glass of lemonade and read a good book.

Listen to the birds chirping and the bees buzzing.

Obsess over a Facebook Fan Page.

Darn you, Mr. Teacher, for suggesting I start a Facebook page.

Do you KNOW how much time I have devoted to that damn thing!?!

It's bad enough that my Twitter account has all but taken over my life. Now I'm beady-eyed and frantic over my new Facebook page too!?!?!

First, a week was spent perfecting a hand-made (read Microsoft Word-made) logo for it. (Thank you Trina for all your helpful suggestions!)


What do you think? Not too shabby for being made completely out of shapes in Word, huh?

Next, I made 12,125,654,127 attempts to add one of Facebook's "Like" buttons to my blog to no avail due to issues with my customized blog background. No problem. I just made my own link using my handmade logo.

Then, the tossing and turning at night began as my mind was gripped with questions like:

How do I link my blog to Facebook?
(Figured that one out....I think.)

How do I link my Twitter account to it?
(No go yet. Can't find my Twitter rss feed for anything but my "favorites" in Twitter.)

What the hell else do I have to say on another social media platform that I'm not already saying?
(Evidently only as much as I have to say on my blog, for now!)

How will my ego survive only having 3 fans on my page?
(Poorly...)

Well, there it is. My fan page is up and running and I hope to turn it into something useful for all of us.

Oh, and I'm not actually mad at Mr. Teacher for his suggestion. He's one of my favorite bloggers and a darn good author.

Hope I see you on Facebook!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring Break

Well, I am on Spring Break right now, so I have no fun kid stories to share. I suppose I'll just have to talk about my own life for a while. (I won't be hurt if you want to stop reading here. It's bound to get zzzzzz(snort)zzz. Whaaa? Oh. Where was I?)

Since I have two glorious weeks off from work, what do you think I've been doing?

A fair amount of work, to be honest. I even met with my teaching partners at one of their homes and we worked the day away planning how we're going to get all the math we need taught done before the state test next month, and ate homemade Pho. Yum!

Oh, and I got them signed up on Twitter!

If you're not on Twitter, let me just say you're missing out. That joint is hopping with cool stuff! I get tweets daily, loaded with wonderful websites and techie ideas that I can't resist trying out while I sip my coffee in my pajamas with a cat on my lap until four in the afternoon.

For example, SpeakingImage.org is a find! You can import images, add text to image, create a wiki to go with it, and collaborate with others! I've already created three that I'm going to use with my unit on electrical circuits when I get back! This would be a great way for students to show their understanding of a given topic.

Now, back to me...

We are dog-sitting for my vacation. I did the math. That is 22 legs in our little home now, 20 of which are hairy. (We have a parrot and I have been busy. Don't judge.)

Our temporary house guest is Louie. He's a spunky and fun little guy who belongs to my mother. He also piddles for no apparent reason, so he's got a cloth diaper tied around his waist to cover his squirter. (Judge all you want. He has no shame about this.)

Some Louie Fun Facts:

His breed is an unknown mix of some sort of shaggy brown mutt mixed with a sea otter. He's perpetually scruffy and looks like Benji if he'd be cut off at the knees. No amount of brushing can tame his locks, and his coat snags everything on the ground and hangs on to it until he gets on my couch evidently.


He desperately wants to please, but has absolutely no impulse control, which makes for an interesting mix of trying to follow commands while not being able to control his body in any way. He's in a war with himself and the winner is yet to be determined.

His inability to control himself has led to our cats perching on our counter to watch the shenanigans with a fair amount of amusement every time we need to put his leash on. I think they think it's some sort of sport or something, but I wish they'd find a way to help out rather than just being lookie-loos.

He's very curious about our two cats, but they have the weight advantage (they are BIG cats) and he seems to know that so he keeps his distance.

Oddly enough, he does not recognize the weight advantage most other dogs have over him and tries to pick fights with all of our neighbors' dogs. Our neighbors are used to our friendly Siberian Husky and are decidedly put off by her tiny bodyguard.

He's not had a lot of experiences in life. We take our dog all over the place with us so she's very used to car rides, sitting under my chair on restaurant patios, and shopping at the dog friendly mall near us. Louie... not so much. Therefore, he makes a lot of squeaky, unsure, whiny sounds for the first 20 minutes of any new experience.

Not.
Embarrassing.
At all...

Due to his nervousness, he's unpredictable around strangers. Our dog, while she looks like a wolf, is very calm and has proven herself trustworthy around children and adults. Louie, while he looks cute and cuddly, will take your hand off with the quickness of a ninja if you try to pet him. Amazingly, A LOT of people try to pet him! Out of necessity, my husband and I have developed a game plan. One of us walks the dogs and the other jogs alongside like the secret service, making sure no one tries to touch him.

Despite all his quirkiness, I really love the little guy and so does my dog. They play constantly and sleep in a little pile of wet noses and tails in his little dog bed. Well, 1/3 of my dog fits in the dog bed so Louie uses her as his bed.

She is going to be devastated when Louie leaves. We humans are fun...

but we're no Louie.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Uprising

I have another student teacher. She is a hard-working and dedicated young lady who will be an asset to education when she enters the workforce.

The other day, she was asking me if I had ever had a student teacher that I did not pass.

I have, sadly, had a few who did not make the cut.

Well, she was dying to know why so I told her the following story:

(Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful and innovative teacher named Neda Ele. Neda taught in a quiet school in a small village in Far Far Away Land. The students were perfect, the classroom was neat, and all the teachers were happy, well-paid, and content with their lives.

One sunny morning, a student teacher came to work in Neda's room. Neda welcomed her with open arms and an open heart.

Neda realized that much of student teaching is about learning classroom management skills. Without effective classroom management, no learning can occur. Neda worked hard to share all her knowledge, tricks, tips, and advice with her student teacher.

But to no avail. You see, her student teacher had children of her own and felt her own techniques were better.

She was wrong.

After weeks of practice, weeks of work, weeks of imploring the student teacher to remain positive with the students, weeks of reminders, and weeks of heavy drinking on Neda's part, the time arrived when the student teacher was supposed to lead the class on her own for five days.

Neda was reluctant to leave her students in the hands of such an ineffective, negative student teacher; however the student teacher's university supervisor implored Neda to give the woman a chance.

So Neda relented and entrusted her class to the student teacher.

She was wrong.

Within thirty minutes of leaving her classroom, Neda watched as her student teacher marched past the lounge window with little Ralphie's arm gripped tightly in her hand.

Neda wondered to herself, "If she's down here and I'm down here, who's up there with the kids?!?!"

Neda raced up to her classroom to find the school psychologist standing just outside her door, fists on her hips, observing the chaos inside. The psych had been walking by when she heard the roars from room 12, looked in and saw kids everywhere but no teacher. She demanded an explanation.

Neda did not have one.

Within a few minutes, the student teacher returned sans Ralphie, who had been left in the office for safe-keeping, and she explained what happened.

You see, the student teacher had spelled out PHYSICAL EDUCATION on the board, and every time she needed to correct student behavior, she erased a letter. Within twenty minutes, the class had lost all seventeen letters of PHYSICAL EDUCATION.

(Kinda the opposite of Positive Reinforcement...)

Well, her gun was empty now and Ralphie knew it so he took the opportunity to start The Uprising. He began chanting:

 "No PE, NO Work! No PE, No Work!"

Soon, the entire class joined in, fists pounding on their desks and voices raised in protest.

The student teacher went over to Ralphie's desk and demanded he stop chanting, but Ralphie hopped out of his seat and ran away.

So she chased him.

Ralphie ran around the room,

and she chased him around the room. 

He ran.

She chased.

(I feel I should insert here that she had a bit of a limp that became more pronounced as she ran around, making her look a bit like Igor as she lumbered after a nimble little kid. The other students thought this was hysterical.)

Finally, she somehow caught up with him, grabbed him by the arm and dragged him down to the Principal's office...

...leaving the remaining students in chaos and unattended.

The student teacher was told to go home. She would not be returning to Neda's room for reasons I think are clear...

...to everyone BUT the student teacher.

Neda went on to have a wonderful school year and she and her students lived happily ever after.

Oh, and the student teacher?

She had to repeat her semester of student teaching in another school, graduated from the teaching credential program (that Neda STILL won't take student teachers from anymore) and got hired in a private Christian school.

She called Neda not long after she was hired to say she had been suspended for teaching "inappropriate" math lessons to the students. Students were asked to create math problems that when solved on a calculator would make words.

Well, not only did some students create math problems that made inappropriate words...

...she hung them on the wall because, and I quote: "They ARE just words after all."

She was wrong.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Highs and Lows of Teaching

...all experienced in under 20 seconds.

Michael: I realized something today Mrs. Lee.

Me: What's that, Michael?

Michael: Even though all the writing is boring, it's important to show your work in math so you can get the answer right.

Me: Well! That is QUITE a realization Michael! I am proud of you for making such a grown-up decision about how you're going to do math.

Michael: Thanks, Mrs. Lee. ...Mrs. Lee?

Me: Yes, Michael?

Michael: I know I said I wanted extra  help with reading during lunch, buuut I'd rather go out and play.

Me:  Of course you would...