. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: October 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Please enjoy this little reenactment of today's dismissal conversation on the playground.

Anthony: What are you going to be for Halloween, Ms. Lee?

Me: Oh, I haven't really picked out anything.

Anthony: Maybe you could be a witch? You could get all hagged-out with green make-up, have messy hair, and put a wart on your nose.

Me: That is a good idea, Anthony but let's face it: it's gonna take a bit more than some green make-up to make my beautiful face look "hagged-out." Just look at me. I'm gorgeous! Not even a mask could hide my good looks. Ok, maybe a really thick rubber mask, but none of those flimsy ones. My beauty would just radiate through one of those. Turning me into a hag would be a big job.

Anthony: Or you could just put on a pointy hat.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Value of Common Sense

So I have a student teacher right now, and I have to say she is doing a bang-up job with this little class of misfits.

Those of you who have had student teachers know, you never can anticipate what you're gonna get when you agree to this little bargain of "master teachership."

Bargain, you ask?

Yes, the actual deal (at a minimum) is that I sacrifice at least 8 weeks of my before and after-school prep time to preview, review, teach, model, advise, guide and direct a student teacher and in return I get (drumroll, please)


that the university from which my student teacher came from pays out after I hound them for many months because they ALWAYS neglect to send it.

But there is more to that bargain than what we see on the surface, though. Isn't there always?

The other benefit for me depends wholly on the student teacher.

Common sense, and if they lack common sense, I don't get my extra "bonus."

But before I describe my bonus, I must admit student teachers have a difficult job.

Teachers, including student teachers, must possess the skills to multi-task, and that is not an understatement. They must teach highly engaging and interesting lessons while simultaneously scanning the room for students who look confused, lost, or who were never with you in the first place, and mentally target them for future help. Meanwhile, they must also be on the lookout for students off task, playing around, chatting, and generally not following the rules, and utilize a variety of techniques to alter their behavior without interrupting the flow of the lesson and sacrificing precious instructional minutes. Speaking of instructional minutes, teachers must also fit lessons into the appropriate amounts of allotted minutes while remembering to send child X to speech therapy, children A, B, and C to the resource teacher, and child F to counseling (which is one we NEVER forget to send) at their scheduled times. During this time, teachers are constantly checking for understanding, adjusting the lessons on-the-fly to meet the unique needs of a particular group, moving around the room to maintain proximity with every child all the time (a physical impossibility yet still expected), noting what's working and not working for future use, and developing ways to get the objective across to every child in the class in a meaningful way.

And student teachers have to do all that while having their every move evaluated by a master teacher.

And if they can do all those things, it's due almost entirely to their finely developed use of common sense. Then, we master teachers get many hours to prep and plan that vastly make up for the sacrificed time before and after school and the paltry stipend. Bonus!

I have had several student teachers who could do all those things listed above, including the young lady I have now, and they make my job as a master teacher a joy. After all, we are here to teach, right? Be it children learning their basics or adults beginning a new career, we love to see when people "get it." We also love more prep time, which I for one desperately need.

But not every student teacher is cut from the same cloth…

Let's face it; either student teachers have common sense or they don't. If they don't, I can't teach it to them because it's "common" sense, meaning something everyone should have if they were not raised by wolves. In my experience, the lack of common sense is what does-in most failed student teachers.

Take "Tanya" for example. Like all student teachers in my state, she completed 90 hours of observation in a classroom and her requisite classes before darkening my door. Unlike all student teachers, I made her observe me for weeks before taking the reins in any subjects because she did not seem to possess much common sense.

In my room, when it comes to student discipline, I focus on positive behaviors before I slam kids for the negative. If I see kids fooling around in their desks, I reward kids who are not and the others usually get the message. If they continue, I issue consequences. We are all happier, myself included, if issues can be handled through positive reinforcement.

In Tanya's eighth week of her eight week student teaching stint, and after many long hours of discussion and direction about how things needed be done in my classroom, I gave over my students to her for a day of teaching. (I had a feeling she would not last out the week.) Her idea of positive reinforcement was to put a kid in time-out in the front of the room with a rolling pocket chart hiding him because, as she told the class, "A naughty boy like him is not worthy of being seen by others."

What was his offense? Not knowing the answer to a question when she called on him, and it was his first offense of the day.

How was this positive? In her mind, the other students were being rewarded by NOT having to stand in time-out.

She did not last out the week. Bye, Bye, Tanya.

You can't teach common sense.

My favorite disastrous student teacher was "Marge."

Although I did not want to give Marge my class for a week, her student teaching supervisor begged me to give this woman a chance. After all, she's a single mom raising 2 kids on her own after a messy divorce and really needs this teaching career.

But I kept saying…

You can't teach common sense.

Turns out, you REALLY can't. What adult with any common sense would think of leaving 30 children unattended in a classroom, especially after a student uprising?

Uummmm, that would be Marge.

Day one of her independent week, while I was working in the teacher's lounge to give her the space her supervisor asked me to give her, Marge decided to take away PE as a class consequence for poor behavior…by 8:30 in the morning.

What on God's green earth could they possibly have done in the 45 minutes school had been in session to warrant, what is to them, the most severe consequence possible?

More importantly, now that you've taken away their most prized subject, what are you going to use to manage their behavior for the rest of the day?

(But what about the uprising you mentioned, Edna?)

Oh, well, after the consequence was issued to the class, little Ralphie began pounding his fists on his desk and chanting "NO PE, NO WORK! NO PE, NO WORK!" Soon the entire class was pounding and chanting, and Marge had officially lost all control of the class by 8:32 in the morning.

So Marge approached Ralphie's desk and attempted to silence him, but he got up and ran away from her...

so she chased him…

and she has a limp from some old injury so she kinda runs like Igor…

and he ran (because children are like puppies. If you run, they run)

So Ralphie is running in a big circle around the room and she is fast in pursuit Hunchback-style and the kids are in hysterics.

Eventually, she catches him by the arm and immediately begins to drag him up to the office, leaving my hysterical class unattended.

And I see her, Ralphie in tow, marching by the window of the teacher's lounge and immediately wonder, "If she is up here by the office, who is with my class?"

Turns out, no one! When I raced down there, I found chaos. Chaos that immediately folded its hands and sat up straight when it saw me in the doorway.

She did not last out the week. Bye bye, Marge.

Of course the kids were wrong for what they did, but a modicum of common sense on the teacher's part would have avoided the whole episode, and unfortunately…

You can't teach common sense.

And, therefore, I don't get my prep time!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I ‘Spect the Signs Ain’t Clear

(In case you're new to this blog or a frequent flyer that doesn't hang on my every word, I have a very low class this year. Mostly sweet and well-intentioned, but L-O-W. I have 1, that's a one, that's the number just before two but thankfully after zero, that is a proficient reader. Did I mention that she can't add or subtract?)

So we have been studying word roots, and this week we focused on –sign and –spect.

We talked about the definitions of both word roots and generated a list of words containing them and discussed their definitions. I made sure that the words found on the practice book page we would be completing were on our list.

Our list included words such as inspect, respect, design, signature, signify, etc.

And then we attempted to complete the page…


with me feeding them answers like Lucille Ball working in a chocolate factory.

First, we read the directions which stated students were to fill in the blanks in sentences using the –sign and –spect words in the word bank.

I added to the directions by having the students circle the word roots in each word.

Next, we read each word and pretended to draw in the air while reading any word that had –sign as a root and pointed at our eyes with every –spect word.

Finally, I hauled in a dead horse and we beat it just for good measure.

We echo read the first sentence (I read, they read).

Me: I liked the creative (blank) drawn on the picture.

Students: I liked the cretif blank drawn on the picker.

Me: Alrighty! I see the word "drawn" in the sentence, so I can guess we need a root that has to do with drawing. Talk to your table groups and decide on a word that would make sense.

(Students discuss possible word choices)

Me: Anthony?

Anthony: Inspector!

Me: Nope. Good try though. That has –spect as it's root and that means "to look." Nikki?

Nikki: Spectator?

Me: Nope. Good try though. That's another –spect word. "To look," remember? We want the one that has to do with a sign or mark. Robert?

Robert: Spectacular!!

(I'm freaking out now because this is the best their little collective minds can muster.)

Me: Noooope. Boys and girls, what are the two roots we learned about?

Students: -spign and –sict

Me: That's right, -sign and –spect. I am going to give you a bigger hint. I want you to look at the words with the letters s-i-g-n in them. Work with your group to reread the sentence and put your finger on your word choice.

(Students reread and make new choices)

Me: Vanessa?

Vanessa: Spectacles?

Me: No… Ok, the word we are looking for starts with the letter D. Travis?

Travis: Dolphin.

Me: Dolphin? Really? How about you, Joe?

Joe: Spectacles?

Me: DESIGN! The word we are looking for is DESIGN. Put your finger on the word design in the word bank. THAT is the word we need. It starts with a D and has s-i-g-n in it. It is something that can be "drawn." All the SIGNS are there that it's the correct word (of course no one got that). Now write it on the blank. Let's save some time here, the answer to number two is "signify." Number three is…

Once we were just about out of answers, I let them participate again because there were so few chances to guess wrong, although they still did…

every time.

All the while, my poor student teacher is sweating bullets in the back of the room because she knows soon she'll be leading this little group of misfits.

Herding cats, I tell you. Herding cats.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Butt Hurts

I hate spending my Sunday filling out report cards.

'Nuff said.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Meeping Strikes a Chord

Well, I've heard from many people on this topic. Some wrote by way of comments and others via email, all sharing a common knowledge of or sympathy for the atrocities of being Meeped.

Evidently, meeping is the silent annoyer and worthy of inclusion in the next presidential debate.

With our voices united, the candidates will be forced to address the issue. Let's rally together to bring an end to meeping in our schools, shall we?

I can hear it now. <Dreamy music plays, everything goes wavy, and Edna slips into a dream world of presidential debates>

The moderator, the Scholastic Scribe, asks, "In recent years, a wave of terrorist meepers have stealthly moved into our neighborhoods and schools, viciously meeping our children at lunch tables, on the swings, and in the classrooms when the teacher is not looking. What is your plan to win the War on Meeping?"

And Barack will say, "It takes a village to shine a spotlight on such under-recognized annoyances as meeping so that those who are green behind the ears about the horrors of meeping can cast the first stone at the birds in the bushes who meep...

a lot.

When I am president, I will end meeping and then withdraw our support of the nonmeepers in a safe and timely manner…

for change."

Followed by McCain's response of, "My captors in Vietnam tried using meeping on me, so I know what it feels like. My plan is to seek out the meepers and crush them in their sleep OR influence them to stop meeping through a series of tax credits based solely on their choosing to end their meeping ways.

I am a maverick of meeping and have a long history of stopping meepers in their tracks. Moreover, my maverick runningmate Sarah Palin has watched as the Russians tried to meep us across the Bering Strait. Her record of preventing international meeping is strong."

I don't know for sure what our third party candidate, Hot Tub Lizzy , might say.

But my point is that there IS hope!

Together, we can bring an end to senseless meeping across this great land.

Monday, October 6, 2008

How NOT to Make Friends

I'd like to dedicate this one to all the fourth graders out there.

Here's how to NOT make any friends at all:

Take your hand and shape it into a beak-like mouth.

Place your hand right next to the ear of the person sitting next to you on the lunch benches. (Mere millimeters away is best.)

Open and close your "mouth-hand" while repeatedly saying, "meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep meep."

Next, and this is key, ignore the pleas of the person to whom you are meeping ceaselessly, even if they say "please." Ignore his/her friends when they ask you stop as well.

Do this for the duration of lunch and you're pretty much a shoe-in for the "Friendless Loner" award in fourth grade.

How NOT to Get Back at Someone Who Won't Stop Meeping in Your Ear

Under any circumstances, do not concoct a plan with your friends to tell the teacher that the Meeper made his fingers into a gun and said, "I am going to shoot you" IF the Meeper did not indeed actually do that. While getting him suspended under false pretenses SOUNDS like a good way to stop the meeping, there are more effective avenues.

Besides, you're nine year olds and haven't perfected the dynamics of group lying. The students less experienced in "telling lies decided upon in committee;" students also known as "only children," will throw the rest of you under the bus without hesitation if they think it might save their own skins.

Bottom line, you will get caught and the consequences will be steep. You get 2 days detention while the Meeper gets off scot-free.

As an aside:

You'd be far better off tripping him and making it look like an accident. Kids fall all the time on the playground. How are we teachers supposed to know the difference?