. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: October 2012

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Step Down

Each Wednesday, some of my student leadership group and I head out at dismissal time to earn a little dough for our school by selling Smencils.

(If Smencils are not on your radar as a fundraiser, you're missing out. Our school sells them for a dollar and is making a KILLING on them.)

(BTW, Smencils did not ask me to endorse them. I am not even on Smencils' radar.)

So anyhoo, my student leaders are out milling around the crowd of parents, enticing children to beg their parents to buy one for them.

As I manned the Smencil table, one of the younger brothers of a girl in our class ran up to me in a panic.

Him: Why are you out here?

Me: I'm selling Smencils.

Him: Oh, that sucks. You used to be a teacher!

Me: I still AM a teacher. I'm helping earn money for our school.

Him: Oh, I thought you got fired.

Way to have faith in me, kid.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Passing Grade

Soooooo, my teaching partner was out on the grass doing a little physical education with the kids. He had them lay on their back to do a few leg lifts.

No sooner did they engage their abdominal muscles to lift their legs off the ground that a distinctive sound echo from each one of them.


Every one of them, well, tooted, so to speak.

Stunned into silence, they all looked at their teacher in shock

...and then busted out laughing.

Even their teacher couldn't keep himself under control.

This class is such a gas!

I'm so jealous. 

All the funny stories are happening to my teaching partner this year. 

No fair!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Family Ties

We have a lot of large, extended families who attend our school. It's not uncommon for us to have cousins and the like in the same class.

This year, one of our boys in our class is the uncle of one of our girls.

And that niece is a few months older than her uncle.

Well, at dismissal the other day, my teaching partner said to the little uncle, "Take good care of your niece!"

Looking confused, the kid said, "Ooookay," and then looked down at his legs to see what was wrong with them...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Let's discuss homework for a minute.

To be clear, let's discuss how much I hate it.

I hate homework!!!!!


Well, here are my thoughts. (THAT was a useless line since every post on this blog are my thoughts.)

Let's look at reasons people have given me for homework:

1. Homework is practice.

If a students knows how to do a skill well enough to complete it independently at home, they don't need more practice. If the students don't know it well enough to complete it at home, they need to practice it with me.

2. Homework promotes responsibility.

Responsible students do it. Irresponsible ones don't, and then I have to chase them down and give them consequences for not doing something that I am not there to ensure they do in the first place; eating into my valuable teaching time.

3. Homework is an indicator that we are doing a good job.

Schoolwork is our job. I take that job very seriously, as I know you do too. I will give up prep time every morning before school, every recess and every lunch to work with kids who need extra help. Homework is no substitute for what we teachers can do for kids with a little face-to-face time. My students' success or failure in class is an indicator that I am doing a good job.

4. Homework is part of school tradition.

School is changing. How we teach and what we teach is evolving. As that happens, we need to seriously reevaluate our traditions and look for evidence that they actually improve student performance. If they don't, dump them.

5. We all did homework as children, and it didn't kill us.

Really?!?! I ate an entire value-sized bottle of vitamin C as I child, and it didn't kill me. Should I promote that knucklehead idea too?

Now, you should know that my teaching partners and I do assign homework. Every night our kids must read for at least 30 minutes and study their times tables for 15 minutes. There are no book reports, no worksheets, no spelling words to practice, and no essays to write because none of those activities could be more valuable to a fourth grader than reading practice and math practice. If they just do those two simple things, the rest of the year will be a breeze.

But the parents still feel like we don't give homework.

We've been conferencing this week with them, and every one of them asks when we're going to begin assigning homework.

Which we have.

Since day one.

And we told them about our homework policy at Back to School Night.

And their kids told them in a video we made for Back to School Night.

And the principal told them in the video we made for Back to School Night.

And we sent a letter home about it after Back to School Night.

And the kids write it in the homework planner each night.

But still they are asking where the homework is.

So we reexplain our policy, one parent at a time, and also explain why we feel this is best for their kids.

But they still want worksheets.

To keep their kids BUSY!

Parent: "But what is Timmy supposed to do after school?"

Us: "Read for 30 minutes and practice multiplication for 15 minutes."

Parent: "So, no homework?"

Us: "Reading and math is their homework."

Parent: "Oh, so there is no homework."

Us: "No, there IS homework!"

Parent: "But they don't bring home any worksheets or a packet or anything?"

Us: "Nope, that is not what they need. Reading and math is what they need."

Parent: "Oh, so no homework."

But they want packets that keeps their kids busy, and our type of practice doesn't seem to fit the bill for them.

But I sleep well at night knowing that we are working hard in the students' best interests every day. The parents might want busy-work, but I will not offer that.

What are your thoughts on homework?