. Regurgitated Alpha Bits: 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Whattta Load of Junk

Kid: "Are we learning any Common Core this year?"

Me: "Absolutely, everything we're learning is based on Common Core standards."

Kid: "Oh. Well my mom says Common Core is a load of junk."

Me: "Oh? If she has any questions or concerns about what you're learning this year, tell her she can give me a call. I want her to be very comfortable with what her son is doing in school." How about you? Do you feel like you've learned anything new this year?"

Kid: "Nope."

Me: "Well, did you know how to make compound sentence before 4th grade?"

Kid: "No."

Me: "What about the patterns we've been identifying in math? Did you see those before 4th grade?"

Kid: "Well, no."

Me: "Both of those come from the Common Core standard. It seems you have learned something from those standards, right?"

Kid: " No. They are just a load of junk."

I guess you can't fight genetics. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Brass Yourself


As I've done too many times to count, I spoke before I thought. 

And had this conversation with a child:

Me: So Timmy, what instrument are you going to play in orchestra?

Fifth Grader Timmy: Trumpet

Me: Ah, so you're a brass man. (Wait! Did I just say that?!?)

Fifth Grader Timmy: I guess I am! Maybe I'll call myself that!

Me: Um, let's not. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Put It in Reverse

Poor little 4th grade Michelle. 

She's always a bit out of the loop. 

It's not her fault. School is hard for her. Most of it is way over her head. 

She tries, but everything is tough for her. 

Today, she accidentally got into the wrong app on her iPad, and couldn't figure out why hers looked so different than what my teaching partner was showing on his. 

When he came over to help, he explained that, whoops, she's in the wrong app. 

"Go ahead and back out of that app and open this one," he said. 

"Ok," she said. 

And she slid her chair back from her desk. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Oh, Bloody Hell

I cut my hand. 

Not a big cut. Hardly noticeable, in fact. It was right on the back of my hand. 

I did it several days ago, and the scab started coming off today. It was getting caught on everything. Who knew one little scabby edge could be so annoying?!?

So, during Language Arts, I ripped off the scab and went back to discussing the ethical issues found in The Giving Tree

I'm teaching and talking and pointing and questioning and being all animated to keep their attention after lunch, which we all know is a battle, but to no avail. 

Well, they were just staring at me. 

In horror.  

Turns out, little cuts on the back of your hand bleed a lot. The whole back of my hand, fingers and part of my pants were all bloody. 

I've seen WWII footage with less blood. 

In my head, I simply couldn't understand why they were not into this awesome lesson I'd developed. Meanwhile, in their heads, they were wondering why I hadn't died from blood-loss yet. 

A little pressure from a tissue, and a lot of offers to get me (and for some reason themselves) a bandaide, and soon I was all fixed up. 

And I certainly have learned not to take scabs for granted. 

Friday, September 12, 2014


Here are all the ways my students spelled the word "punctuation" today:


My personal favorite:


And finally...

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, just about sums up my teaching. I better get crackin'. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Seems About Right

As we do every year, we are using Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree to introduce the Depth and Complexity Icons we will use throughout the year. One icon is Unanswered Questions. For example:

Why did the tree call him "boy" when he was actually a man? 
Did the boy still love the tree when he got older? 
If I were the tree, would I have given so much to the boy? 

Students discuss their thoughts on each. It makes for interesting discussions, as students have to justify their positions on each question. 

And here is my favorite. I received it via email from a student. 

Question: Why was the boy so rude to the tree?
Answer: The boy was rude because he was older and his brain was older too so it can't think too much. 

Well, that explains a lot about me. Now I know it's all my old brain's fault. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Two Hands Too Many

School started!!!!!!

Our new bunch seems like they are going to be a lot of fun. 

Well, 99% fun. 

Here's the other 1%:

One of the girls hugged me goodbye today. 

And grabbed my butt with both hands. 

That was weird. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sweet Life

At the end of each day, I choose one student to receive a red licorice. The name is kept secret and only revealed if the child packs up silently and gets in line without a peep. Since it could be anyone, they all line up quietly in the hopes they are the one. 

After handing out the licorice today, a kid said: 

"Why is it called licorice? You don't lick them. They should be cheworice. Ice cream cones should be called licorice."

Good point, young man. Good point. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Admit Nothing

Today I was going over the Accelerated Reader progress of my class; calling individuals to my desk to discuss concerns and rewarding ones who are making progress. 

Of all 30 students, two have gotten 100% on every quiz they've taken. I called them both to my desk at the same time to give out some high praise and, more importantly, a couple pieces of red licorice. 

Now, kid # 1 is pretty savvy. She's always coming up with interesting questions and thinks pretty deeply about what we learn about in class. 

Kid #2 on the other hand, is usually not aware I'm even speaking in class. He needs a lot of support to keep even a tenuous grasp on what is going on in class. I tell him to imagine a bullseye on my forehead, and to try not to take his eyes off it. My next step may be to put an actual bullseye on my forehead. 

We work very hard to help him stay focused...

Here's our conversation:

Me: I am so proud of you both for all this hard work. You both have earned 100% on every single quiz this year. Good for you! Have some licorice. 
Kid #1: Wow! Really? I did that? Thanks, Mrs. Lee!

Kid #2: Wow! Really? I have no idea how I did that! I never read the books. I just guess every time! (And he was so proud of himself!)

Kid #1: (insert a dropped jaw, a "why did you just admit that" glare and a palm to her own face)

Despite his innocent admission of, well not guilt, but laziness, I gave him his licorice anyway. He rarely has anything good happen for him.  

But he's on my radar now. 

Not that he'll notice...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

One is Frozen. One is not.

Are Navy baseball players singing Disney show tunes related to teaching? 


But it's adorable, so if you haven't seen it, watch it. 

(Thanks for sharing it, Teammie!)

Are 5th grade boys performing a synchronized swimming routine on dry land related to teaching?

Sort of. (It DOES happen at a school.)

But it's adorable, so if you haven't seen it, watch it. 

I have Indignation. Who has Regret?

Teachers have our little go-to time-filler activities, and one of my math class' favorite is "Who has...?"

It's a whole class game where each student gets a card with an answer and a question on it. The first student reads his card, such as "I have 16. Who has 5 x 4?" The student with the card that reads "I have 20" reads their card next. We bounce our way around the room until we get back to the first kid. It's fun! I time them, and they're always trying to beat their last score.

Well, there are 30 cards in the deck, however today I only had 26 kids in class. Several kids had to take two cards. As we worked our way through the game, Tanya (who had two cards) had the answer on one card to the question on her other card. All the kids thought it was so funny that she answered her own question! (This becomes relevant in a moment.)

After our first round, we had about 2 minutes left to fill. The kids wanted to beat their score of 1 minute and 54 seconds, so I told them to swap cards with their neighbor. I picked someone to start us off and started the timer.

We were flying through the cards. Everyone was focused and we were going to beat our time for sure!

Until we got to Oliver.

Oliver had swapped cards with Tonya.

He read his card and waited for the answer.

And waited.

And waited.

And then began looking around with this exasperated look on his face and began mumbling under his breath about how people need to be paying attention. "Hellooooo, people," he hissed.

Now, my little troopers didn't let on to what they ALL knew (check the other card in your hand, knucklehead) because we are each responsible for our own card.

Or cards.

So Oliver grumbled and mumbled and looked around accusingly.  "C'mon, everybody! Figure it out," he spat.

Until finally Tanya nodded her head in the direction of his other card.

Whoops! (Insert face palm)

Sheepishly, he read his answer and the entire class roared with laughter.

Lesson learned, I hope.

And we STILL beat our time!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Fluent in What?

Today was reading fluency testing day in my room. 

Fourth grade readers, start your engines!

I heard the story of a family vacation to ride The Maid of the Mist in Niagara Falls about 120 times today. 

Although, sometimes the family went to Nigeria Falls. 
Sometimes they went to Nigara Falls. 
Sometimes it was Nijeera Falls. 
And one time it was Nicaragua Falls. 

Sometimes they were on vacation. 
Sometimes vaccination. 

And although the family was there to ride The Maid of the Mist, a couple of times they rode The Mind of the Mist. 
One time it was The Maid of the Mints. 

And Nigeera Fills is a neutral wonder. 

Oh well, Spring Break started at 10:54 today!

Or is it Sping Bake?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ch-ch-ch-ch Changes

So, one of our kiddos was a terror.


He was caustic.
He was lazy.
He was mouthy.
He refused to work.
He disturbed others.

I don't know what happened. We spent an enormous amount of time working with him, encouraging him, giving him a safe place to be at recess and reinforcing the behaviors we wanted to see. His parents have also consistently been giving him ADHD medication.

I don't know if it's one of these things or all of these things, but he has been behaving like a great kid kid, working harder in class than anyone else and has been for months now. Even when he forgets his medication, he's goofy but manageable. We tell him every day how proud of him we are. I tell him that he's my hero. Changes like that are not easy.

Well, today one of our student teachers from earlier this year was at school today subbing for another teacher. When she was working with our 4th graders, he made her life hell. I'm surprised she became a teacher after dealing with him.

He walked right up to her and said, "Hi Miss Walsh. Guess what? I'm a new kid now!"

And he is!

I'm so glad he knows it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Communication Breakdown

I wish I were a better communicator under pressure. 

Take, for example, an upset parent. (Take them, please!)

I wish I were the kind of person who could put that person at ease; reassure them and convince them that I am open to hearing what they have to say. Let's have a dialogue! But angry parents don't always seem to want that, so communication feels more like confrontation. 

Honestly parents, I understand wanting an answer to your questions or concerns. I want you to understand my motivation or reason for doing what I do, and that I am always coming from a place of caring for your child. I am not afraid or ashamed to apologize when I've made a mistake. I make them all the time! 

But maybe I begin feeling like angry, upset parents are questioning my commitment to serving them and their children in the right manner? Maybe that throws me off? 

One thing I do know about me is that, in my life outside school, I am one who fights back when confronted. That is certainly not who I want to be at school though, and I am concious of that and work very hard to counteract that tendency of mine when I am at school. Does squashing my initial instinct to fight back send me into a tailspin?

In any event, it doesn't take long for me to become a blathering fool, fumbling to explain things and gesticulating all over the place. I rarely feel like a truly upset parent leaves feeling any better after talking to me. 

How do you learn to stay cool and use the right words to defuse tension? 

I know, I know. Some parents can't be placated. They just want to unleash their anger. That's not all of them though. Not even the majority. 

How do I become a better communicator under pressure? 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Unrelated, but Relatable

I'm going to tell you two short stories that will seemingly have nothing in common.

Story #1
I have been teaching my kids about fractions. They have struggled to understand the concept of what a fraction is and where to place them on a number line. We spent days and days on it, and we finally ended the math topic with most of them having a very tenuous grasp on fractions.

The End

Story #2
One of our male students got pantsed today at school. For those of you not in the know, that means some other kid pulled down his pants. It happened on the playground, no less, at the height of lunch recess. How horrifying for him! We called in witnesses to tell the whole, sordid tale and the bully who did it was given an appropriate consequence.

The End

Oh! I forgot to tell you how these stories are connected.

One of the witnesses was my math student. When asked to describe if she saw skin or underwear when the pants were pulled down, she said:

"I saw about 2/4 skin."

Proud teaching moment?

Lil' bit.

If only she'd put that fraction into simplest form…