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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

'Twas the night before Halloween

Tomorrow night is Halloween, which means a lot more to me now as a homeowner than it ever did as an apartment dweller. Don't get me wrong, I've always loved Halloween -- dressing up, going to haunted houses, eating so much candy that you beg someone to kill you -- but I never got any trick or treaters at my apartment, whereas I get a ton of them at my house.

So I've made all the preparations for this year. By that, I mean I've gone to the store and bought candy. Name brand candy, thank you very much, none of this knockoff stuff. One of my colleagues was talking about how she went to the dollar store to get candy and came away with a bunch of really cheap, imitator brands. I can just imagine kids coming to her door and receiving packages of n&n's, Smickers, and Swete Tarts.

None of that for me! I've got Twix, Nestle Crunch Bars, and Jolly Ranchers at my disposal. Of course, my plan is to give these precious candies ONLY to the little kids who come dressed in costume this year.

For the past two years, I've enjoyed seeing all of the little tykes in their Halloween getups. What I have NOT enjoyed is the roving bands of teenagers who come -- in no perceivable disguise -- knock on the door, and mutely hold out a pillow case. They're not even going to the effort of saying the words, "Trick or Treat!!!"

So this year, I have a plan for that. And I love it when a plan comes together. Along with my tasty goodies, I bought a single bag of candy corn. I know there are some people out there who love candy corn, but personally, I think it is one of the most disgusting candies ever, second only to those really nasty orange circus peanuts that have the look, feel, and taste of Styrofoam packing peanuts. I'm pretty sure that's what they are, just spray-painted radioactive orange.

So tomorrow night, when I open my door, if it's a group of little kids in costume, I will happily place a Twix bar or other delicious treat into their bag. But when I open the door to find some punk, trying to capitalize on October 31, he/she will receive one single candy corn.

Eat up, bucko, that's all you're getting from me. Be glad it's not a toothbrush or a walnut.

On a completely unrelated note, if anyone has any recommendations for de-toilet papering trees, please let me know...

Mr. Teacher is back!

Hey everyone, it's Tuesday again, which means it's time once again for my weekly column over at education.com!

This week, my column is about the dreaded Parent-Teacher Conference Night. Something I'm sure you're all very familiar with.

Please go check it out and share it with your friends, family, convenience store clerks, and bus seat companions.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Let me tell ya, I got boxes

For the past couple of weeks, my classroom has had a most annoying habit of accumulating boxes. These boxes are delivered to me, usually via trolley by the custodians, at all times of the day. It's gotten to a point that I'm afraid to go into the office in the morning, because I see the boxes THERE, and I know they're going to wind up in my classroom!

Now if these boxes were full of money, chocolate, or vintage comic books, I wouldn't be complaining. Unfortunately, these boxes always contain math products. And when I say math products, I don't even mean the cool stuff, like laser pointers to help you figure out symmetry, or transforming robots that quiz you on basic multiplication facts.

The math products that these ubiquitous boxes contain are just samples -- one textbook, one workbook, some promotional material, a handful of flyers, and a smattering of manipulatives.

From what I can gather, the program that my school district has used as a large part of its math curriculum for the past several years is going to be up for adoption again this year. So I guess that all of the other wannabe programs are trying to win my vote.

Here's the problem though -- No one has told me (or anyone else at my school whose classroom is slowly but surely disappearing under the growing volume of boxes) how exactly we are supposed to express our vote. I mean, I can take a look at these products with my third-grade math team, but what then?

Do we stand up, spin in a circle three times, throw some salt over our shoulders, and declare at the top of our lungs, "I choose THIS curriculum program over all others!!!"

Or, like in the movie Gladiator, do we lift up one hand, thumb extended, wavering between thumbs up and thumbs down to decide a program's fate, while the box in question shouts, "Are you not entertained???"

Or (boring) are we supposed to go some place online to cast our vote?

Whatever we're supposed to do, I just wish someone would tell us! Because the quicker I can get those boxes out of my room, the sooner I'll have room for all that money, chocolate, and comic books.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bathroom browsing?

Yesterday was my first day back to school since last Friday, as I woke up Monday morning and started vomiting. Vomiting is really a big deal for me, and when it happens, which is incredibly rare, it means I'm really sick. So I stayed home on Monday and Tuesday.

Which of course means that I got to behold all of the wonders that await a teacher when he or she returns from an absence. The missing pencils, the overhead markers in random locations, the page full of notes from the substitute teacher detailing exactly how poorly behaved my class was.

And why do my kids always ask me, "Where were you???" Like I took two days off to attend a Dixie Chicks concert in Tuscaloosa.

But enough about that. My topic today is the odd behavioral patterns of the little girls in my classes when we take a restroom break. Not just the girls in this year's classes, either. The girls have always done this, and it makes me wonder what is going on in their heads.

Here's how it looks to me: I'm standing outside of the bathroom doors, and through the doorway, I can see two of the mirrors hanging above the sinks. Reflected in those mirrors, I can see two or three of the stall doors in the bathroom. What I see is a girl pushing open one of the stall doors and then giving a long, lingering look at whatever is inside. Then that girl will move to the next stall door and repeat the process.

It's like they're comparison shopping!!

I always have to shout in at them, "Just pick one and go! Stop window shopping!"

What is up with that???

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

And so it begins

My career as an online columnist has officially begun!

I few months ago, I was offered a weekly spot for a humor column on education.com. Of course, I jumped at this chance. And now, my first column is up and running!

This first column is all about the frustrations involved from a teacher's standpoint when kids come to school unprepared to do their work. In particular, that frequently asked, yet always groan-inducing question, "Can I have a pencil?"

Please, please, please -- Go and check out my column! Rank it! Leave comments! And forward it on to your friends and fellow educators!

Thanks in advance for all your support.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Does this make cents to you?

Last Thursday, I spent about 10 minutes with one of my students on what I thought started out as a simple question.

She had written, "200 cents" as an answer for one of her questions. I asked her, "What is it another way we could say that?"

She stared at me uncomprehendingly. I tried to clarify. I said, "That answer is not wrong, but usually, when the number is that high, we use a different unit for money. Can you say 200 cents a different way, using that other unit?"

She thought for a moment and then responded, "200 dollars?"

Since cents and dollars are not the exact same thing, her response began the long, complicated discussion of how many cents are in one dollar. Getting that answer out of her was like pulling teeth. Teeth that apparently would have wildly fluctuating values for the tooth fairy.

I asked her to imagine that she had one dollar in her pocket, and I asked how many cents that would equal to. She corrected me, and informed me that she actually had seven dollars in her pocket. My mistake.

I tried a different tact. If she were to give me one of her dollars, how many cents what I give her for it to be a fair trade? One cent was her answer. I questioned that logic.

"So you could give me one dollar bill, and I could give you one penny, and that would be fair?"

Her head said no, but her eyes said she didn't know.

Her next guess was that one dollar was equal to twenty five cents. So I took a quarter out of my pocket, placed it on her desk, and asked, "This equals one dollar?"

"Four cents?" was her reply. Although she was grossly wrong, I thought I understood where that answer had come from, and that it meant she was at least stumbling towards the right path. Sure enough, when pressed further, she confirmed that she had gotten that last answer by adding the quarter four times.

So I asked her to write down twenty five cents four times on her paper and add them up. She did that and came up with -- gasp -- 100 cents.

"Yes, one dollar equals 100 cents," I confirmed. "So how many dollars with 200 cents be worth?"

"Seven dollars?"

At that moment, I honestly felt like I was stuck in the middle of a MasterCard commercial.

"Everyday Math Journal -- $1.50

Demonstration Quarter -- $.25

Incomprehensible Mathematics Conceptual Error -- $7.00

Bleeding Head Wound, Caused by Pounding My Head on the Surface of the Desk -- Priceless"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's nice to have friends

Our Problem of the Day this morning read as follows:


Mister Teacher scored 148 points playing basketball. His friend scored 99 points playing basketball. How many more points did Mister Teacher score?

When solving a problem such as this, my kids know that they need to draw a picture to show what is happening in the story. This can be done by putting the large numbers into circles and either putting the circles into a box to show that they are being put together, or by drawing an arrow from one number to the next to show that something is being taken away. The kids are also supposed to label the circles with something that will make them stand apart.

So for the circle with the number 148 in it, the kids wrote, "Mister Teacher" above it. But instead of writing, "friend" above the 99 point circle, several of my kids called me over to ask, "Instead of writing 'friend,' can we write 'Ed U Cater?'"

Ed is of course a fellow teacher at my school. Obviously these kids recognize that he and I are friends.

Now if they would only realize that Mrs. Math and I are NOT married to each other...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Um, I don't think you're doing that right

A couple of weeks ago, my partner, Ms. Jenn Ed, told me a pretty funny story about her conversation with my homeroom kids. One of the kids had mentioned one of her dad's bad habits, and so of course, that sparked a battle of oneupsmanship.

The verbal skirmish culminated with one kid declaring, "Sometimes, my parents drink pot!"

At least nobody mentioned snorting vodka, injecting cigarettes, or smoking Michelob.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Yo, Joe!

Today is Anonymous Joe's birthday! So let's all sing a rousing round of Feliz Cumpleanos to our crazy art teacher!!

And speaking of Joe, my brother sent me this link today:
http://www.hasbro.com/gijoe/default.cfm?page=Entertainment/onlinegames/casualgames/gijoetriviagame

It takes you to a pretty funny Family Feud-style game show that will strike a chord if your childhood was anything like mine.

Monday, October 15, 2007

And the winners are...

OK, the day has arrived, and it's time to pick some names for T-shirts! Thank you to everyone who participated!

Remember, even if your name wasn't chosen, you can STILL wear one of these stylish shirts by checking out my stores and clicking the cute little cart.

And so, without further ado, let me reach into the hat and pull out the two names. If your name is listed here, please send me an email at learnmegood2@yahoo.com and let me know which type of shirt you would like and an address that I can direct it towards. Don't worry, I won't put you on a mailing list for Ronco products or Leapin' Lizards Dogfood. Or maybe I will, you just never know.

And the winners are....................................................

Rasurec!!

AND

Simply Sublime!!

Congratulations to you both! I look forward to your emails.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Have gun, will lecture

There was a story in the paper today about an Oregon high school teacher who is fighting for her right to carry a concealed handgun in her classroom.

I wonder what the dress code is at her school, because I have a feeling that she's also petitioning for her Bad Idea Jeans.

This teacher claims that it's for protection against a vengeful ex-husband as well as being a preventive measure for a Columbine-like situation. I really don't think that arming teachers is the way to go. I'm thinking, if you HAVE to have guns at your school to deter would-be killers, you want those guns out in the open where everyone can see them! Therefore, armed security guards would be the way to go. School kids who can't even remember which hand is longer on the clock certainly aren't going to be deterred by the possibility that one of their teachers might be carrying a 9mm Glock in her Louis Vuitton.

Besides, can you imagine the lawsuits involved if one of the students got their hands on a gun that belonged to a teacher? It's not like this teacher in Oregon is wearing a shoulder holster; her gun is presumably kept in her purse, which I doubt she holds on to every second of the day. I can't imagine an effective teacher standing at the blackboard, chalk in one hand, purse in the other.

Hopefully, the Oregon courts will toss this lady's case out the window. Because personally, I don't want anything to do with an NTLU policy. Of course, that's No Teacher Left Unarmed.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Seven days!

Just one last reminder, there is only one week left to get those comments in over on YouTube to be entered into the drawing for a T-shirt.

Two names will be drawn next Monday. Winners will be announced sometime between Monday night and Thursday afternoon.

Get on over there and comment!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Accountable Counting

This year, the Dallas school district has made a really big point of stressing "accountable talk" among the children. This means that the kids are supposed to explain how they got their answers and discuss their strategies with the other students.

This is often quite difficult for many of my kids, since they are used to just saying a number when I ask a question or shouting NOOO! at another kid when they disagree with his or her answer.

Frequently, I will say, "Please raise your hand if you know the answer," and 15 hands will shoot up. But when I add, "and if you can explain to me how you got your answer," 12 of those hands go back down.

Anyway, the kids have lists of accountable talk prompts taped to their desks to help them remember how to begin.

These prompts include:

"I got my answer by ____________."

"To solve this problem, first I _______________, then I ______________."

"I'd like to add more to what __________ said."

To be honest, my kids very rarely begin their sentences any of these ways. However, the two prompts that they really DO seem to have latched on to are the ones that begin with, "I agree with __________" and, "I disagree with ______________."

So it was very funny to hear the way in which these prompts came into play on Wednesday of this past week.

We were completing a name graph in the Everyday Math journal. To construct this bar graph, we had to first create a tally chart that showed the number of letters in people's first names. I was standing at the center of the class asking the kids to raise their hands if they had 4 letters in their first name, 5 letters in their first name, etc.

When I got to the "10 or more" category, I had one little girl who raised her hand, saying she had 11 letters in her name.

With our tally chart completed, we moved on to the next step, but that's when a boy in my class raised his hand and said, "I disagree with her, because I counted the letters in her name, and there are only 10 letters in her name."

Immediately, the little girl raised her hand and retorted, "I disagree with him, because I know how to spell my name, and there are 11 letters in my name."

Let no one say that my kids aren't talking accountably...

Friday, October 05, 2007

This has gone too far

Call me a cheapskate, but I hate tipping. I WILL tip, for certain professions, but I still hate doing it. When I go out to eat, I try to tip between 20 and 30%, and when I get my hair cut, I always tip two bucks.

But now, I've noticed a tip jar in a place where a tip jar has absolutely no business whatsoever. Without getting into too many specifics, there is a lady at our school who performs a certain necessary function for all of the teachers. This is a function that teachers used to be able to do for themselves; however, a couple of years ago, our collective hand was slapped away from the cookie jar, and this woman was brought in to regulate things.

This week, she had a tip jar placed directly in front of her IN tray. Kind of hard not to notice it there, especially since it had been primed with a couple of bucks already.

Now maybe it's just me, and my crotchety old-fashioned ways, but I don't think it's right for someone in this position to be petitioning for tips. She does get a salary, after all. And you don't see ME holding my hand out to other teachers for money when I deliver new math materials to their classroom. Or shaking the jar at the children when I've taught a particularly well thought out lesson.

Maybe it's just a sign of the times.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mmmmmm... Traffic donut

As I was walking back into the school this morning at 7:45 (leaving poor Anonymous Joe all alone to fend for himself amongst the mad rush out on the street), one of my students came running up to me and handed me a donut!

How sweet is that!!

Oh, and also, one of my little girls handed me a ziploc bag with a nice big piece of cake in it. She had baked it for me in her Easy Bake Oven! She didn't look injured, and the cake tasted great!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Red letter dates

I just learned yesterday that my column online at education.com will make its first appearance on Tuesday, October 23. I had petitioned to title the column "No Child Left Befuddled," but unfortunately, the editors thought that title might leave a few readers befuddled. So instead, the column will be titled "Mr. Teacher."

So mark your calendars! October 23, and every Tuesday after that for the first seeable future. Or until I just plain run out of ideas.

Also, there are less than two weeks left to get in on the free T-shirt offer that goes with my YouTube Challenge! Just leave a comment on one of my videos (or all four for more entries), and you will automatically be entered for a chance to win a shirt!

October 15 is when the drawing will be drawed... or something like that.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sharp dressed man

Just like September is now over, so too is our privilege of "summer dress code." As of today, we had to wear our OFFICIAL teacher dress code, which is pantyhose for women and ties for men.

Never before in years past do I remember getting so many comments and compliments from the kids! My homeroom class didn't say a lot when they saw me this morning, but at 10:30 when we switched classes, Mrs. Jenn Ed's class had a lot to say!

"Nice tie!"

"You look great today!"

"I like your shirt!"

"Handsome!"

"You look like a businessman!"

"Is that 10 pounds of crap in a 5 pound bag??"

I just threw that last one in as an example of the kind of thing that was NOT said to me today. Everything was very positive!

So here's to the new dress code! And here's to the temperatures staying below 100° while I have to wear a tie!!!

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