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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Farewell letter

Last Wednesday, the last day of classes for the year, I got a very sweet little note from one of my students from last year. It was written on a salmon-colored piece of paper, folded in half, and it was left taped to my door.
Here is what it said:

Hi! Mister Teacher is me D. I was in your class in 3rd grade. Now I passed to fifth grade. I'm not going to be here next year I'm going to the new school. Today is my last day of school in (my school). So I'm not to wave to you every time I see you! I'm going to miss you and the 4th grade teachers!

Very sweet, isn't it? And the really funny thing is that her impression of me must have really changed dramatically. Last year, on her first day in my class, we could hardly get her to enter the room. She was bawling on my doorstep as her mother and I tried to convince her to come in and set down at a desk. It finally took our bilingual teacher to come and talk her down, in Spanish, before she would even set foot in my room.
But, like I said, I guess I turned out to be not so bad after all...

Friday, May 26, 2006

The simple life

Oh boy, do I enjoy not having to get up early! Yesterday, even though it was not a school day for the kids, I did have to get up and be at the school by eight for a final teacher preparation day. We sorted our kids into classes for next year, took care of all the final paperwork, and cleaned up our rooms.
But this morning, I didn't roll out of bed until 11:30! So sweet! I got out of bed leisurely, did some yard work, puttered around the house, ran some local errands, and just had a very nice, relaxed day.
Tonight, I have a date with a beautiful young woman (and a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader too!), so the summer vacation is starting off right. Next week, I'll probably have to look into getting my continuing education classes out of the way, but that's the only real "goal" on the horizon for the next couple of months.
I'm not doing summer school, so I'm just really not sure what my blog entries will be like for the next few months. Maybe I'll go back and dig up some memories of people and events from the first semester of this year, back before I discovered the wonderful world of blogging. Or maybe I'll just post complaints about how freaking hot it is down here!
Regardless, it's all good, because -- ITS SUMMER VACATION!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

School's out for summer!

Finally, the 2005/2006 school year is OVER! (And there was much rejoicing)
I'm sure that in about three weeks, I will be bored out of my skull, but for the moment, I am enjoying the fact that I will not have to wake up early to face a gym-full of screaming kids anymore, or try to get my students motivated to take seven-hour tests, or try to prevent any of my kids from attempting professional wrestling maneuvers.
Today I gave my kids a "memory book" which had a page for collecting signatures, and a couple of pages with prompts for favorite things, such as favorite book, favorite movie, etc. I enjoyed walking around and looking over their shoulders to read what they were selecting as their favorites. Whether or not they were trying to suck up to me, I did like seeing "favorite subject: math" several times. And thankfully, I did not see one instance under favorite movie of Most Xtreme Primate. One category was Favorite thing that happened this year. One of my girls wrote, "All of the things that we did, and lots of school." This is actually quite good, because I was afraid for a moment there she was going to be vague. Another of my brainchildren filled in that last category with, "Recess."
At the end of the day, as is tradition, teachers clapped and waved as the school buses pulled away, some danced, some yelled, some shot pistols into the sky (this IS Texas, after all).
Though I have certainly had my share of troublemakers and brats this year, I think I'll focus now on the really special kids. The ones I will truly miss. There were several of them this year, and they are what helped me make it through the year with (most of) my sanity intact. Normally, I would look forward to seeing these kids in the halls next year -- proud fourth-graders that I can actually treat as friends, as opposed to my charges. But our district, and more specifically our local area, is undergoing massive changes for next year. A new school is opening next year, and the busing lines have been redrawn. This reminds me of the time we studied gerrymandering in American History class. A lot of the kids who would normally go to our school are now assigned to a different school for next year. A significant number, in fact. Our school had between 1000 and 1100 students this year. According to estimates, approximately 400 of those kids will be returning next year. The other 400 or 500 enrolled will be brand new to the school, coming from other local elementary schools.
I know that I will be seeing some of my kids next year, but I also already know that several of my favorites will not be returning, and this makes me very sad. But I'm trying not to focus on that right now -- after all, I have three months of blissful emptiness lying ahead of me. Bring it on...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What have they done to the nickel?

A story in the Dallas paper yesterday tells of a Keller school that is really trying to make a statement with this year's yearbook. On the cover of the book is an enlarged picture of a nickel, complete with freakishly huge profile of Thomas Jefferson. What is missing however are the words that are usually seen on a five cent piece.
"May the Force be with you" is NOT the phrase I am referring to.
These wise school officials have decided to excise the words, "In God we trust" from the picture of the nickel. Sure, we wouldn't want to offend anybody, by say, having our pictures be accurate and/or representative of real coinage. But Christians, fear not! For inside the yearbook, there is a peel-off decal containing the offensive words, so anybody who so chooses can restore the nickel to its original glory.
I'm not sure, but I heard a rumor that the engraving of Jefferson might be next to go. Some people are still offended that Jefferson had slaves on his plantation, and to appease those people, Jefferson's picture will be digitally erased. I'm sure there will be a corresponding decal on the inside of the yearbook for those purists still out there...
According to my sources, some of the students at this school are making a push to have a certain American History teacher's picture removed from the faculty pages. Oh, and also little Jimmy Snodgrass in Mrs. Hooper's class -- he didn't make the cut. But no doubt there will be decals to make up for their exclusions.
Way to go Keller school! You're setting the groundwork for the future realization of a "build your own yearbook." YOU choose the pictures, the people, and the events to be remembered! Someone wouldn't be your friend at recess? Don't put them in your yearbook! That girl who wouldn't share her juice in the cafeteria -- OUT! Always irritated with the letter "w?" Don't aste your time ith it!! As long as you always include the letters PC in your vocabulary, you can make a case for anything.
(Wow, I really went off on a tangent this time...)

Monday, May 22, 2006

The apple doesn't fall far...

Last Thursday night, we had a big International Festival at the school. There are so many different nations represented at our school (it's a veritable UN), and there was a very large turnout. There was a fashion show, to show off all of the different apparel and garb from these native countries. There was also a talent show. And plenty of games both inside and outside the school building.
For the most part, the night was a big success. Lots of people there, and most of them seemed to be enjoying themselves. However, the consensus of teachers the next day was that after a night like that, it's very easy to see why our kids are the way they are. Throughout the fashion show and talent show, there were adults speaking loudly into cell phones, letting their children run wildly into people and objects, and holding conversations that were louder than the children trying to perform up on the stage. There was free food and beverages at the festival, and a few of the mothers apparently saw this as a chance to take as much as they could stuff into their oversized purses.
I was outside for most of the evening, running a game over on the basketball court. Despite the fact that they were orange pylons set up to mark the court, and that there was a large group of kids standing around shooting basketballs, that didn't seem to stop people from walking right through the center of the court with their toddlers and other tiny children in tow. When I asked them to walk around, I received either uncomprehending stares or pained looks as if I had offended their sensibilities.
Mrs. Educator was inside holding a cakewalk. She told me that some lady walked in pushing a stroller containing a screaming baby. This lady pushed the stroller into a corner, left it there, and joined in on the cakewalk! Way to have your priorities set, lady!
I suppose that after a night like that, I can't really blame the kids for behaving poorly -- it's certainly not entirely their fault. I guess I should be happy that I have the kids, and not a class full of parents...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I've hit the big time

Well, Learn Me Good the Blog has passed another milestone today. No, I haven't quite reached 3,000 hits yet, but I apparently AM noteworthy enough to be comment-bombed.
Some idiot named "Anonymous" (yeah, like THAT'S his real name...) has posted about 15 comments throughout the site that all say really generic, vague stuff that you normally don't see outside of a Junior High yearbook.
So I am implementing the "Word Verification" feature of blogspot. You can all still leave comments, but now you will have to type in a word to prove that you are a real person and not some heartless spam-bot. Unfortunately, I don't get to choose the word, or else it would be Quetzlcoatl. But you might luck out and get an easier one, I don't know.
And Anonymous, wherever you are...watch your back.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bringing out the engineer in me

Yesterday, I finally got to try out something that my mom had gotten me for Easter. She got me a box of bandages that look like duct tape. Unlike some people who bite their nails, I have the habit of picking at loose skin around my fingernails. Often, to the point of bleeding. So yesterday, I wrapped one of these bandages around my thumb. It was great! All day long, people were asking me why I had duct tape wrapped around my thumb! Ah, good ol' duct tape...
I also had the enviable task yesterday of overseeing a small group of fifth grade TAKS re--testers. Just when I think I'm done with TAKS for the year, they keep pulling me back in!! The hardest part of my morning was trying to keep one of those kids awake and working. I had to tell him to wake up FIVE TIMES before nine o'clock! What's the old army saying -- We fall asleep more times before 9 o'clock than most people do all day.
Since I was in this other room watching the test takers, there was a substitute teacher in MY classroom. Let me just say, I am not too pleased with this lady. I came back to my room around noon, and slowly began discovering little ways that she had messed up my area. She had opened up all of my windows, she had turned half of the overhead lights off, and she had the radio playing while the kids worked. At first, I thought she was just playing a CD for them, but then the musical piece stopped, and some news guy started talking. I'm sure my kids are more productive when they know all about the ups and downs of the Dow Jones index.
I had told this lady that the kids were beginning work on a planet project, but that they were not to actually draw on poster-sized paper yet. So of course I come back to the room to find several posters already made. Some candy that I had over by my desk was gone (whether the substitute took it, or whether she just didn't observe one of the kids taking it, I'll probably never know). And I found out this morning that while she was grading a group math problem with the class, she told them all that they didn't need to follow the steps that I had spent all year long teaching them.
In the Road Runner's world, this lady would be scientifically named "Substitutius non Returnus."

In another funny piece of news, Mrs. Educator told me that she asked one of our little girls to bring a book about sharks over to me this morning, and that the little girl replied hesitantly, "Can someone else go with me?" When Mrs. Educator asked her why she needed someone to escort her 10 feet across the hall, the little girl answered, "I'm scared of Mister Teacher..."
After we had a good laugh, I considered walking across the hall to Mrs. Educator's room and yelling, "D, WHY ARE YOU AFRAID OF ME? BRING ME THAT BOOK!" But that would have been cruel, and while I may be scary to some, I'm not cruel.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Not playing favorites

I gave my final math test to this year's class last Friday. At least I hope it will be the final test of the year. I needed something to finish out our March Mathness tournament -- I know, it's May, isn't that ridiculous?
This was not a test out of a workbook, or anything that I had copied. I just made up 10 questions, wrote them down on a blank overhead transparency, and had the kids do their work on a sheet of notebook paper.
The very last question on this test was, "Draw your favorite polygon." We had gone over polygons and their properties several times throughout the school year, and I wanted to see who remembered. What really cracked me up though was one little girl's response to the question.
She wrote, "I do not really have a favorite polygon."
Gotta watch how you word these things...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

You talkin' about my mama?

Tomorrow is Mother's Day, so I would like to take this opportunity to wish a very happy Sunday to all of the moms out there. One mom, Two moms, Red moms, Blue moms -- however your family unit is set up, do something special tomorrow! (And my apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

It's contest time!

Hello, everyone!
Today is Thursday, which can mean only one thing -- it must be time for a little blatant self-promotion!! :)
I've decided to run a little contest, and I hope that everyone will join in. Here's the object -- to publicize Learn Me Good as much as humanly possible. The way to do this is to post this web address http://learnmegood2.blogspot.com on other web sites, forums, newspapers, etc.
When you have that web address posted to a legitimate site, e-mail me the link at learnmegood2@yahoo.com. It DOES need to be an actual site though; it doesn't count if you just copy and paste the same line over and over again on a Single 50s Love chat board.

The grand prize is a copy of my book, Learn Me Good, shipped directly to your doorstep! With over 39 copies sold (and counting!), this book has been entertaining people of all ages for countless days. Okay, so I counted -- it's been about 40 days...
I'm going to set the deadline for this contest at May 31. This could be extended or retracted, depending on how much participation there is. The lovely person who e-mails me the most legitimate links by then will win the book! In order to be declared a winner, you must have sent me at least eight links though...
If you have any suggestions, you know where to find me.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Stop surfing, you're home!

There was a very interesting article on the front page of the Dallas Morning News yesterday. School kids have found a way to bypass Internet filters in order to surf sites that are supposed to be off-limits. These kids might not know the capital of Alabama, but by golly they are Web savvy enough to work their way around these feeble so-called obstacles.
According to the article (though I have my doubts), only a handful of these mostly high school students are using their wiles to access sites such as hotwetducks.com or grandmasgonewilder.net. Mostly, they want to be able to send e-mail, play games, and chat on MySpace.com.I say, if they're going to surf prohibited sites, why not surf Learn Me Good? Welcome, all you high-tech slackers! Sure, your grades are going to take a hit since you're too busy playing Warcraft online to know the Treaty of Paris from the MPEG of Paris Hilton. But look on the bright side, you make the top half of the class possible.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Luxury TAKS

I was very relieved this morning when I walked into my classroom, and I didn't find any floods infernos, OR deadly carnage. I did have to deal with the alarm going off in my section of the building for about ten minutes (WARNING! WARNING! BURGLARY! LEAVE NOW! WARNING!), but I was still pleased to have a normal-looking space to come back to, so it was all good.
And the good got even better. We got the results of the TAKS back today, and my kids did really well! Out of the thirty-nine kids in my classes who took the test, thirty-four passed! For an inner-city Dallas school, and considering the group I had to work with this year, that is really... what's the word?
THAT'S PHENOMENAL!
I came home this evening, and celebrated in outrageous fashion. I went out and got a Super Mega Double Big Gulp of Mountain Dew (no longer measured in ounces -- now in gallons!), and then I went outside and mowed my lawn. Man, partying as a new homeowner really kind of sucks...
While still at the school, one of the other teachers suggested that the best way to tell the kids whether they passed the test or not would be to write the words YES and NO on a piece of paper, and then call the kids one at a time to where I was standing and cover up one of those words. So I gave that method a try. If the student passed, I left YES uncovered; if they failed, I left NO uncovered. Only in one instance did I feel the need for a third option -- WHAT, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? But, I allowed the simple NO to do its job.
Now I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. I'm proud of my kids. Now let's just hope they don't forget everything over the summer and enter the fourth grade saying, "What is this...mathemassics, is it?”

Monday, May 08, 2006

Monkey business

All right, I am back!
It is currently Monday evening, so I haven't been back to my classroom since Friday afternoon -- I have no idea what I'm in store for when I walk through that door tomorrow morning. Hopefully, all will be as it was when I left it. Hopefully, there will be no burning tires in the middle of the room, or vines or trash hanging from the ceiling. But you just never know when you take a day off...
Since our fun day outside got rained out on Friday, we stayed inside and watched movies. We put up this film called Most Extreme Primate (MXP) -- a movie about a chimp who snowboards. I kid you not. As you might guess, this movie was excruciatingly painful to watch. The plot was ridiculous, the dialogue made no sense, and quite frankly, that monkey was just phoning his performance in. The director must have pulled one of the actors aside before filming and told him, "OK, I need you to pretend that you're Keanu Reeves trying to be Pauley Shore!"
I give this movie two opposable thumbs down. But, it did have a lot of scenes of monkeys running around in underwear, so naturally the kids absolutely loved it. Go figure.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Three day weekend!

I am going to be taking a long weekend, so there won't be any new posts until Tuesday. I'm headed to Arlington for a couple of days, and I have a dentist appointment, and I'm taking my car in for a tuneup. Let's hope I don't get those two confused -- I don't want to get my teeth rotated, though my drive shaft could probably use a good flossing.
I'm also taking Monday as a day off. It's my own personal protest. Of what, I don't really know yet. But I'm sure I'll think of something.In the meantime, you high school teachers out there better down those Cokes while you still can. Texas at least is outlawing them in public schools. Now if only they would outlaw cafeteria corny dogs...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

World's Finest... Stuff

Last week, we went to an assembly in the auditorium so the kids could learn about this year's fund-raising activity. The kids were able to purchase cases of World's Finest Chocolate bars to sell to their friends and family (and weak-willed teachers), and sales will somehow benefit the PTA at the school. A few kids in my class decided to pursue this, and yes, I did buy a couple of candy bars from them.
But it made me think back to when I was in the third grade, and my school's fundraiser was having us sell fertilizer door-to-door. Of course I didn't think anything of it at the time, but looking back on it, that seems a really odd choice of merchandise to have an eight-year-old child sell. But sell it, I did. I think I even sold more than anyone else in my class. I don't know if this is because people in my neighborhood really needed fertilizer, or if it was just a welcome relief from all of the other kids selling candy.
"If that's just another snot-nosed kid selling M&M's... Wait -- what's this? Fertilizer?!? THANK YOU, GOD!!"
I remember that there was one guy in the neighborhood who really boosted my sales. The whole time I was meticulously working my way through my carefully prepared sales pitch, he was making impatient gestures as if to say, "Get on with it," and when I finally did finish, he immediately stated, "Yeah, okay, gimme 20 bags."
I can understand the pity-buy for a candy bar. I've made a few of those myself. Nobody pity-buys a fifty-pound bag of fertilizer.
Thankfully, I wasn't out there lugging around huge bags of manure -- it was a system of pre-order and cash on delivery. And instead of some little crappy plasticy prize like my students get here at the school, WE were actually paid a commission. For every bag we sold, we received a Susan B. Anthony dollar. When I first laid eyes on this previously unheard of coinage -- the reward for my hard efforts -- my reaction was, "What the *%$#??"
Do you know who designed the Susan B. Anthony dollar? Yeah, me neither -- and there's a reason for that.
But, ridiculous coinage aside, I had been paid handsomely for my hard work, so I offered to use some of my money to take the family out to dinner. We went to Pizza Hut and pigged out. When my mom and I went up to the counter to pay at the end of the meal, I carefully laid out ten Susies before the waitress got to the register. When she came to ring us up, she asked, "Who put all these quarters here?"
My current third-graders don't need to worry about being paid in some obscure monetary unit. Instead, they'll get some little mini party at the end of the school year with an air bounce, ring toss, and other hokey little games.
They'd probably just lose the quarters anyway...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Janie's got a gun

Happy Tuesday everybody! Or, as we refer to it at my school, Happy Nacho Day!
I saw an interesting report in the news today. Just serves to remind me that no matter how crazy things may get at my school, things are just as bizarre elsewhere. Check this out:


Mom Gets Probation For Showing Gun To School Official

FORT WORTH, Texas -- A woman has been sentenced to two years' probation for displaying a handgun during a meeting with her son's assistant principal.
Mary E. Cozad, 56, was also ordered to pay a $200 fine after she pleaded guilty Monday to a charge of unlawfully carrying a weapon.
State District Judge George Gallagher sentenced her to probation with deferred adjudication, which means the charge will be dropped from her criminal record if she completes the terms of probation, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in its online edition Tuesday.
Cozad was in Assistant Principal Martha Beseau Bock's office Oct. 11 at Park Glen Elementary School in Fort Worth to discuss her son's one-day suspension for a fight on a school bus, according to Fort Worth police reports. Park Glen is in the Keller Independent School District.
After the door was closed, Cozad took a handgun and holster from her purse and placed it on a shelf near the assistant principal, according to reports.
No shots were fired, and Cozad left the office with the gun, police said.
Shortly after the incident, the Fort Worth mother was banned from Keller district campuses, a school official said.
Cozad could not be reached for comment Tuesday.


Now, I don't know about you, but my first thought was how different people's impression might be if the single word "Mom" in the article title was replaced with "Man." "Showing Gun" may have put a slightly different image in people's minds...

I find it very interesting that this woman went into her son's school to meet with the assistant principal, and she just takes out the gun and places it within site nearby. Is this equivalent to the Old West practice of slowly pulling open one' s duster to reveal a revolver tucked inside the belt?
Some of my good friends have kids in the Keller school district, and others teach in Fort Worth. All I can say is, you have my sympathies...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Uno de Mayo

Monday, Monday -- can't trust that day. Not like Saturday; I would trust Saturday with my life and my firstborn child. And Wednesday? Don't even get me started on THAT son of a beeyotch.
Several weeks ago, after a tremendous march on downtown Dallas, one of my little Hispanic girls told me that on May 1, "the schools will be empty." Unfortunately, this did not prove to be the case today. The little girl who made that prophecy was absent today, as were four kids in my class, and there was a spattering of absences around the school, but for the most part, it was just a normal school day.
Granted, I live in a tiny little microcosm, and worldwide events often transpire without me even knowing. So did anyone out there notice a bigger difference today? Were certain people conspicuously absent from work, from restaurants, from life? I'm not really even sure if this is just a Texas thing, or if it was a Hispanic movement across the nation. (I'm a big enough man to acknowledge my total ignorance on certain matters.)
Please let me know what you observed today, if anything. Anyway, you know how much I hate seeing that "0 comments" underneath a post.

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