I am an Amazon.com Affiliate, and I warmly invite you to shop using my store!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Goodnight STAAR

As many of you know (or are even living through), the standardized testing season is upon us.  Here in the great state of Texas, the first STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) will be administered this Tuesday.

Obviously, as a teacher, this has been occupying much of time and weighing heavily on my mind.  And as a parent, I have been reading the story Goodnight Moon to my son a whole lot.  So I decided to combine these two aspects of my current life.

I've written a story based on Goodnight Moon, and I would LOVE for someone with talents (and free time) to volunteer to illustrate it!  And feedback is always welcome.

So without further ado, and with my thanks and acknowledgements to Margaret Wise Brown, here is...



Goodnight STAAR


In the 5th grade room

There was a smart board

And a red pen jar

And a picture of –

A book-reading Hollywood star

And there were twenty-two tests sitting on desks

And a covered up word wall

And an old soccer ball

And a small group table

And a laptop cable

And a sign with a crest and a bratty class pest

And a teacher up front whispering “Just do your best!”

Goodnight class

Goodnight STAAR

Goodnight book-reading Hollywood star

Goodnight chalk

And the red pen jar

Goodnight tests

Goodnight desks

Goodnight word wall

And goodnight ball

Goodnight bags

And goodnight flags

Goodnight group table

And goodnight cable

Goodnight sign

And goodnight crest

Goodnight scantrons

Goodnight pest

And goodnight to the teacher whispering, “Just do your best!”

Goodnight kids

Goodnight D.A.R.E.

Goodnight testing everywhere

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Unexpected Snow Days!

The school districts in my area have been out of school for the past two weekdays, thanks to some bad weather.  We woke up yesterday morning to find a sheet of dangerous ice on the roads and sidewalks, then since it didn't all melt off, we stayed home again today.

Ironically, the weather people are predicting 1-3 inches of snow to fall sometime during the morning tomorrow, but plans are NOT being made to cancel school tomorrow.  Maybe we'll be building snowmen on the playground!

What have YOU been doing the past couple of days?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Quotes of the day

For some reason, today was full of strange and hilarious quotes, many of them in the form of a question to me.

First, one of my kids came up and asked me, "Um, is it ok if you get hand sanitizer on your face?"

Seeing that this was not an exercise in theoretical wondering -- he truly HAD gotten hand sanitizer on his face -- I replied, "Well, it's not going to kill you... but they do call it HAND sanitizer and not FACE sanitizer for a reason..."

This is the same kid who later came up and told me he had somehow gotten water on himself, and could he go to the restroom to clean it off.  I handed him a paper towel and told him to sit down.

Later on in the day, I was walking around observing the kids playing a math game.  I say that in the most generous terms, because while they were supposed to be playing the math game, some of them were mostly just chatting, and as I walked by, I got pulled into the randomness.

"Have you ever almost been in a coma??  I have!"

I find that sometimes it's best to just look away, pretend to see Ghengis Khan, and wander over to the doorway.

Friday, January 09, 2015

It's all about the units

Maybe it's the engineer in me, but I'm a real stickler when it comes to units on measurement problems. On ALL math problems, really – but especially measurement problems.

I mean, after all, in the real world, there is a HUGE difference between 4 inches and 4 feet. Even more so between 4 feet and 4 miles!

It's been a fight throughout the years to get a lot of the kids to understand this. The mentality seems to be that as long as the number is correct, that's all you really need. They're shocked (and often angered/annoyed) when I tell them that an answer of 12, 35, or 2,453 is flat out wrong and that the number means nothing without the unit.  (And now throw in squared and cubic to change the "flavor" of the unit)

I'll admit, I do take a kind of devious pleasure in walking around the room and telling kids who have the right number but no unit, "Sorry... You're close, but that's not it."   Then giving a thumbs up to a kid at the same table who has the right number and unit. It's kind of fun to see the first kid glance at the other child's paper, see the same number, and go from confused to indignant, to understanding. 

I'm just afraid that some of these kids, when the grow up, are going to be very upset when they design their dream home and go to find a very lovely doghouse. 

Monday, January 05, 2015

Color Me Surprised

Today was the first day back to school after the holiday break, and as far as first days back go, it wasn't too shabby.  Sure, I wasn't able to sleep last night -- as usual, right before returning from a long break.  And sure, it was cold enough to freeze a dragon's tooth when I left the house this morning.  But the kids were pretty well behaved, no one's brain seemed to have turned to total mush (at least not visibly), and we had a little fun.

One of the things I did with my classes was read this wonderful little book that my son got for Christmas.  I told the kids up front that this was not a book about math, or even a book written specifically for 5th graders.  I told them that my son really enjoyed it, and that I thought it was really excellent myself.

Several of the kids had heard of or read it, and they gasped with excitement when I told them the title.  The book is called The Day the Crayons Quit, and it's just a very cute, entertaining little story.


The story is a series of letters (wow, sound familiar?) to a boy from each of his crayons.  Most are complaining about some aspect of their life -- overuse, underuse, nakedness -- and the letters are humorous and colorful.

We also shared some stories of ways the kids used math over the break.  Many stuck to counting stories -- I counted my presents, I counted cars on the street, I counted the number of times I kicked my brother -- but others put some thought into it, telling us they had estimated the distance to grandma's house, or measured fractions of cups and pounds to make recipes, or measured the length and width of a kitchen before a renovation project.

Tomorrow should be a good day also, but for Pete's sake, let's hope I can sleep tonight!

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Top Ten things about Winter Break

Here at the end of this Winter Break/Christmas Break/Holiday Break/Whatever you want to call it -- I thought I'd take a moment to put forward my own top ten things about the break.  Don't agree?  Put your own favorite things in the comments below!

10)  No homework/tests to grade -- or if you DID bring some home, you had over 2 weeks to get them all done!

9)  You can totally indulge in your basest vices -- for me, they are movies, tv shows, and books, but hey, Bombay Gin and knitting can totally make the list as well.

8)  You get to sleep in!!  -- at least until your son starts singing the alphabet song and "Let it Go" at 37 dB.

7)  No cafeteria food -- unless you happen to be a frequent flier at Luby's or Furr's... Not that there's anything wrong with that.

6)  Christmas movies!!!  -- Die Hard, Enemy of the State, and Iron Man 3, just to name a few!

5)   No dress code at the house -- or at least, a very lightly enforced one.

4)  You have a couple of days grace period when it comes to forgetting to write the new year -- Get all of those 2014s out of your system now!

3)  You can use the bathroom whenever you want -- no schedule to stick to, no need to maintain a stainless steel bladder!

2) You can gain a few pounds, get a bad haircut, superglue your nostrils together, and no one is going to remind you of it every 5 seconds.

1)  Missing the kids -- it's true, absence DOES make the heart grow fonder, and I find myself missing even the biggest stinkers by the time break is done.

Friday, January 02, 2015

2014 Year in Review

Happy New Year, everyone!  As I have done for the past several years, I have put together a Year in Review for the year 2014.  Mostly true, a bit exaggerated, all tongue-in-cheek.

Enjoy, and have a great 2015!



January
We started off our year by having friends over to celebrate New Year's Eve and play games. I have to say, Canasta and Baccarat are NOT as cool as they sound.  Even after drinking.

On the 7th, we celebrated Tamara's birthday in style, at Chuck E Cheese with 40 of her closest friends. Wait, that's just how I envision birthday parties in my near future.

February
Early in the month, our bathroom sinks were backing up, so my dad and I did a little home repair, installing a cleanout panel in the closet behind the bathroom. We estimated it would take us about 45 minutes, and we were finished right at the 10 hour mark. In hindsight, a handheld power saw would have made cutting the two by four a lot easier and quicker, but we managed with the screwdriver and chisel.

I got a lot of birthday wishes on the 21st, as I hit the Big 4–1. Rather than tell my students how old I was, I told them I was born in 1973 and let them do them math. I did have a few who guessed I was 3987 years old.

I nearly got permission to go to Sochi to compete in the Luge competition, but two things help me back. One – I was not a valid citizen of Albania and therefore could not represent them, and two – I don't know what a luge is.

March
It took roughly 2 hours over the course of four days, but with the help of some Leapfrog letter blocks and a fanatical father, Drew made his very first bracket picks for March Madness! Though very few of his picks proved accurate, his bracket has nonetheless been framed and hung in his bedroom. We will always be able to fondly remember his bold pick of Baylor versus Villanova in the championship game!

Tamara found out that the cast of NBC's Revolution (now canceled) was shooting some scenes in her hometown of Blanco. She got pictures of Andrew and her with several stars of the show. Now that certain events have come to light, the one with a leering Stephen Collins in the background seems even creepier.

April
The culmination of this year's basketball tournament was in Arlington, so my dad, my brother, my buddy Ted, and I all went to the Final Four. Unfortunately, Duke could not join us there, but with the distance our seats were away from the floor, we could pretend it was anybody we wanted it to be.

At a local church where Tamara's mommy group meets, we took Andrew for an Easter egg hunt, and he got to meet the Easter Bunny. I don't think any other kids got to meet the Easter Bunny that day, though, because once Andrew got him in a hug, he refused to let go.

I finally finished my screenplay! I had been stuck for the longest time, unsure how to end my ethnic pre-Civil War zombie superhero rom-com.  But then the answer slapped me in the face – mirrors!

May
We celebrated Andrew's second birthday with a bunch of wild animals. There were lots of other toddlers, but also a backyard petting zoo and pony rides. Sorry to say, the pony didn't go very fast with me on it.

It was finally time, so we turned Drew's car seat around to forward-facing. He appreciated the better view, the increase in leg room, and the more direct path to hit us in the front seat with flying projectiles.

June
My first year in the Coppell school district ended, and shockingly, I was asked to return for the next school year.  Even more surprisingly, I learned that I’d be moving up to 5th grade along with the kids.  Some kids cheered, while some used vocabulary words that are not to be found on any spelling list.

T and her mom took their annual Corpus trip, and unfortunately Andrew was not a big fan of the beach this time around. Instead of lounging on the sand, he wanted to spend all his time at the swimming pool, reading CNN online.

Our attempt to run a restaurant failed after less than a month. In hindsight, I guess "Raisin the Bar" was doomed to fail for two big reasons. One – the name lead some people to think we only served alcohol, and two – people really didn't like hamburgers, pizzas, and yogurt made out of raisins.

July
Tamara and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary with a nice romantic weekend in San Antonio on the River Walk. We didn't see Jack Flack or a six- fingered grandma, but I did come home with a longing to rewatch the 80s movie Cloak and Dagger.

The whole family took a weeklong vacation to Destin, Florida and man, did we have fun! The weather was gorgeous, the waves were mild, and it was so awesome to see Drew really take to swimming around in his little floaties. I could have done without the hairy dude walking around in his lime green Borat mankini, though.

August
A new school year began, and most of my kids were kids I had taught last year as well.  However, the district theme was no longer Super Heroes, so I got a whole lot of very strange looks cast my way when I showed up at convocation wearing the Batman outfit.

The new fantasy football season arrived, and I once again drafted a team that looked good on paper but would outstandingly underperform in real life. I also had my PayPal account frozen for a brief time and found out their policy prohibits transfers related to "fantasy football" or "sensual bun massage."

Late in the month, I became one of the select few who accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Stylishly clad in sunglasses and a pair of underwear on my head, I dumped a Home Depot All Purpose bucket’s worth of ice water on my head, in the name of charity. A few days later, Andrew and I also completed the inaugural Pearson Tickle Challenge. It didn't catch on quite as well as the ice bucket challenge.

September
Mother's Day Out started up again on Tuesdays, and this year, there was a lot less crying involved. Drew started to learn the names of his school friends, but we have yet to figure out who the mysterious "Benjamin" is that he always mentions.  As long as he doesn't start muttering "REDRUM" in his sleep, I'm willing to let him have this imaginary friend.

At the very end of the month, I flew out to Hollywood to film the Jeopardy Tournament of Champions. As it turns out, I shouldn't have wasted all those months studying, because nothing I studied actually showed up! But I did at least get a really cool picture with Alex Trebek, and I met a nice family from Australia who probably went home and told all their friends and family that they had met someone from Wheel of Fortune.

October
I flew back home from California just a few days after the Dallas Ebola scare began.  It was fun to see Cheech Marin on the same flight; it was not so fun to have to wear a full body condom while walking through the concourse.

Our neighborhood was pretty quiet on Halloween night, so after answering the door a couple of times, Drew and I went trick-or-treating. Drew dressed as a spider while I was very convincing in my "Middle-Aged Daddy" get up. We only hit five houses, but Drew was able to charm an Elmo's head’s worth of candy out of the deal.

Dirty hackers broke into the cloud and stole several sensitive pictures off my phone. I've asked everyone to please not look at these pictures, but if you do, don't judge me. Catch up, nacho cheese Doritos, and Mountain Dew seemed like a good idea at the time.

November
At the beginning of the month, we went to a truck show at a local church and found our idea for Drew's next birthday party. Sitting in a police car or honking the horn on a tractor was fun and all, but apparently there is nothing more fun than 30 foot long delivery truck with room to run up and down.

The Tournament of Champions aired, and once again, I got bounced on the first day. On subsequent viewings, Andrew stopped pointing at the TV and saying, "Dada!" Instead, he pointed and said, "Ben!" 

December
At the school admin Christmas bash, I was only five away from the correct answer of 1574 in the "Guess How Many M&Ms are in the Jar" contest. I won the glass jar, AND all 1574 M&Ms! So take THAT, Ben Ingram!

The Pearson Christmas Movie Marathon on the 23rd was a fun night with family and friends and hours and hours of Yuletide-themed feature films. Drew managed the double feat of not taking a nap that day AND eating several cookies and sweets. We are just happy he didn't start quoting the "sh!tter’s full!" line from Christmas Vacation.

After Midnight Mass, we found out the hard way – homemade eggnog is NOT a good idea.