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Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Greetings

Hello readers!

It's 2008! Or at least, as I'm writing this, it WILL be 2008 in just a few hours. So like they say in the song, "May old acquaintance be forgot..." and let's make some new acquaintances!

As I like to do at the beginning of a new year, I'm going to throw open the guest book once again!

Here's how this works -- if you are reading this, please leave a comment listing your name, your location, and one interesting fact about yourself.

I look forward to hearing from all of you in the new year!

Be safe!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Oprah drops the ball

As astute viewers of this blog may have noticed, I have taken down the graphic that displays how long it has been since I sent my book, Learn Me Good, to Oprah.

That's right, it was a year ago today that I dropped a copy of my novel in the mail, with dreams of stardom dancing through my head. 365 days later, not even a rejection letter rubber stamped by the big woman herself.

Sure, I can naïvely hope that my book is packaged away somewhere, misplaced in a large crate in some anonymous warehouse, right next to the Ark of the Covenant. And that someday soon, Oprah or some member of her team will happen upon it and declare it the next Great American Novel.

More likely, however, pages 135 through 142 are lining the bottom of her parrot's birdcage.

Oprah, if you're reading this, please at least take a glance at the content before Polly does her business??

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Juicy attire

Merry Christmas, everyone! It's a day late, but here is the weekly reminder about Tuesday's Mr. Teacher column on education.com.

This week, I advise parents to be aware of what their kids are wearing to school. For instance, anything with the word "juicy" stitched across the butt is a general fashion no-no...

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas update

I don't normally write a form letter at the end of the year. But I get plenty of them, so I figured, why not? Here is what I sent out this year...


Merry Christmas, everyone! It's that time of year for rum-heavy eggnog, recycled fruitcakes, and long form letters to friends and family, recapping the entire year!

I normally don't do this sort of thing, but since I am supposedly an actual "writer" now, and since everyone else does it, I figured now would be as good a time as any to begin. So without any further ado, here was my 2007 in a nutshell.

In January, the new year started off with a bang as I woke up at 12:30 p.m. Sleeping in rocks! On the 27th, I walked around my neighborhood for an hour, thus fulfilling my resolution to exercise more in the new year.

February was a time for new love, and shortly after Valentine's Day, I met a wonderful, beautiful young lady who touched me in ways I had never been touched before. I have to say, I didn't really like being touched with the cattle prods, but the wet rigatoni was strangely comforting.

March came with its usual madness, but this time I had the prescription anti-psychotic medication ready. Spring Break, always a joyous occasion, was even joyouser this year as I fathered a beautiful baby boy! Wait, I meant that I UNCLED a beautiful baby boy! The proud parents aren't exactly sure of where the red hair and blue eyes came from, but young Josh is a fantastic new addition to the family. On a completely unrelated note, in the month of March, for some reason, the milkman started wearing a hat and sunglasses. Weirdo.

April showers brought... a complete home makeover! Well, more specifically, I remodeled the master bathroom! Not all of it, mind you, but rather the part that interfaces between the bathing area and the general space of the room. To be concise, I got a new shower curtain. It was blue!

In May, the school year ended, and I made a decision that would forever change my life. I switched from dial-up to high speed internet. E-mails with attachments no longer take half an hour to download, and I don't have to devote hours to YouTube just to watch a 15-second monkey clip.

June began the long summer vacation, and I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. To keep busy, I began a little research project, and I'm proud to say that I discovered three new uses for the peanut! Suck it, George Washington Carver!

In July, I took a trip up to Virginia and DC, where I saw many spectacular things, including Die Hard 4, Transformers, and Knocked Up. I also got to visit with several friends in the area, and I'm happy to report that they are still my friends!

August brought a distinct honor, when an anonymous philanderer named a star after me. I'm not sure exactly where my star is located, but I do know it's somewhere in the vicinity of Uranus.

September threw me right back into the swing of school days, but another awesome opportunity presented itself. Citing the wild success of my groundbreaking novel, Learn Me Good (available online at Amazon.com), the good folks at education.com invited me to join their staff of weekly columnists. I agreed, and the Mr. Teacher column has appeared every Tuesday since. For anyone wondering, education.com has NOT gone under as a result.

October I was a bit of a downer, as my girlfriend of eight months and I parted ways. Unfortunately, she felt forced to choose between her love for me and her love for cheese in wheel form, and I regretfully beheld the power of cheese.

Unseasonably warm, November arrived and set up house. Despite nagging foot, back, and navel problems, I agreed to participate in the annual Turkey Trot with my brother and sister-in-law. Having sufficiently burned off a buttload of calories, I ate until I couldn't feel my lower extremities later that night.

Which brings us to December, the month where I decided to write a lengthy first-person account, chronicling my life in 2007. Beyond that, I got nothing.


I hope that everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Be safe, and we will talk again soon.

A good test to pass

As part of my continuing effort to teach my students their multiplication facts, we tackle one new number every week. For instance, we might be focusing on the FOURS one week, in which case the kids would take a test on Friday that quizzes them on all of the facts from 1X4 to 12X4. We would refer to this test as the "fours test." Similarly, there is a twos test, threes tests, etc.

Yesterday, we finished up the week with the number eight. After lunch, someone who used to teach at the school visited, and all of the kids swarmed around her to give her some love and attention. Many of them were very proud of their multiplication prowess, and they told her with glee, "I passed my eights test!"

Now I want you to stop for a moment, and say that phrase out loud, and kind of quickly. You will notice that it sounds like something else entirely to many adults.

I'm just sayin'...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

So where do they go after the dryer?

Today, I heard a very interesting declaration from one of my students. We watched a short online video called, "Sock Seeds." Two kids put socks over their shoes then went outside and walked around for awhile in an open field. When they took their socks off, they observed all of the seeds that their socks had picked up. The kids then "planted" the sock in a shoe box filled with potting soil, watered it, and declared that in a few short weeks, they would have a small garden sprouting from the sock seeds.

At the point in the video where the little girl started to bury the sock in the soil, one of my boys realized what was happening and enthusiastically told the child next to him, "That's where they get socks from!"

Off on another tangent, I called the house of one of my students who has not shown up all of this week. Her mother answered the phone, and when I asked about my student, the mother replied, "I thought she was on vacation?"

Um, no.

Ironically, this is one of my best behaved students. So I don't think that she lied to her mother maliciously. However, it does strike me as kind of odd that her mother would just take her word for it, without receiving any kind of notification from the school to verify. Not to mention the fact that she MUST have noticed the school buses continuing to pickup and drop off kids at the apartment complex.

Oh well, maybe she was too busy planting dollar bills.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lunch Bunch Crunch

Today, Ms. Jenn Ed and I held our very first lunch bunch rewards party.

Tired of too many kids not doing their homework, we made a big announcement at the beginning of this six weeks period. We wrote all 41 of our kids' names on whiteboards, and told them that every time someone didn't hand in their homework when it was due, their name would be erased from the board. We told them that after three weeks, whoever's name was still on the board would get to come to a very special lunch bunch with their teachers. There would be ice cream, juice boxes, Turkish delight (no wait, that's Narnia).

We kind of figured that at the end of three weeks, there wouldn't be that many kids left on the board. However, we also figured that if we really pulled out all the stops and made this first lunch bunch truly legendary, that the kids involved would go back and hype it up to the other kids, and that we might have a lot more homework being turned in after that.

That last supposition remains to be seen. But the lunch bunch today seemed to be a success. There were 11 kids (yes, out of 41). Those kids got to bring their lunch back to my room, where we gave them chips, candy, juice boxes, and ice cream. We ate with the kids and joked around with them.

I had made up a Christmas-themed CD for us to listen to. Interestingly enough, the song that really fired the kids up was Feliz Navidad (I want to wish you a Merry Christmas). I started singing "I want to wish ____a Merry Christmas," inserting the names of some of the kids in the room, and much hilarity ensued.

Now will just have to see how this success translates to the other kids turning their homework in.

Maybe we'll have 12 kids next time...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Go figure, he didn't do his homework

Today's Mr. Teacher column (now up on education.com) is all about homework excuses. At least the kids aren't blaming the dog anymore, but there are quite a few doozies out there. From the ridiculous to the sublime, teachers have heard them all.

Go check it out and leave a comment!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Learning walks--no stroll in the park

The new big thing this year -- Learning Walks.

The concept behind learning walks is that a group of teachers will invade another teacher's classroom, presumably while said teacher is actually conducting a lesson. This unruly mob of educators will question the students about what they are learning and what tools they have to help them. They will also examine the classroom walls for evidence of the principles of learning. Perhaps at the same time, they will check to ensure that no more than 10% of the surface area is covered by paper products.

OK, so I paint a bit of a sarcastic picture. Ideally, the mob of teachers will not be unruly. Not even a mob, even. A handful of teachers will observe another teacher in his/her own setting, to see another teacher's style and methods.

Last Monday, I was one of three lucky teachers chosen to have a group of principals and teachers from other local schools come through my classroom during a science lesson. To put it mildly, this sort of thing makes me feel very self-conscious. I think that the walk-through went well, and my principal said that the other teachers enjoyed it, but it was a pretty nerve-racking process for me.

Especially when I saw one of the other teachers (principals?) asking my lowest group of kids who normally writes for their group when Mister Teacher doesn't tell them who should write. I'm sure she felt the need to ask them this, since they were busy arguing over who was going to write, instead of actually doing the activity. Not much accountable talk coming from that group.

Tomorrow, I get to be a walkER instead of a walkEE. The third-grade teachers will be doing learning walks through the OTHER two science classrooms that were observed last Monday.

Can't wait!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cafepress biz

Hey everyone,

I am getting ready to send out another edition of my newsletter from Cafepress, where I feature items such as the T-shirts and such seen in the side-bar.

If you are interested in receiving this newsletter, please put your email into the yellow box in the side-bar. The newsletter will be sent tomorrow night (Sunday), so if you enter it afterwards, you'll have to wait until next time.

Thanks!

MT

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Somebody has some time on their hands

The Sunshine Committee at my school started a program about 3 months ago called the "Rays of Sunshine Wall." Anyone can write a nice little note to someone else, thanking them or complimenting them on something, and that note will go up on the wall for all to see. Also, both the sender and the recipient get entered into a monthly drawing for a gift certificate.

Apparently, someone has been buying their rays of sunshine at Sam's, because they've been putting them up in bulk.

This month, out of 26 rays of sunshine up on the board (and they're all cute little gingerbread men-shaped notes), EIGHTEEN of them are from one person!!

This person must have had a lot of time on her hands after she stopped terrorizing our first grade teachers...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Future roadkill

Anonymous Joe and I have really gotten the morning unloading procedure down to a science. Which is a good thing, because ever since the Classroom Breakfast Club began, we've got more cars arriving at once. But we are very efficient, we get them lined up by the curb pretty quickly and moved on so the next wave of cars can drop the kids off. We still have a few people who try to line jump, but we've done a pretty good job of stopping them when we can and getting everybody in and out in a timely fashion.

Recently, though, we've encountered one lady with a serious attitude problem. Early last week, there was a car parked directly in front of the school, right underneath the sign that says clearly, "No Parking." Besides being illegal, this car was making the whole drop-off process VERY difficult.

So I went back inside and asked the lady in the office to make an announcement over the loudspeaker, asking this person to move their car. A few minutes later, this lady comes plodding outside, totally ignores AJ when he asks her not to park there anymore and points out the sign, and moves her car over to the other side of the street.

Being the gentleman that I am (snicker), I walked across the street, ready to hold up the stop sign and allow her to cross back over. She had parked about 15 feet away from the crossing area, and she was just standing by her car (in the street, of course), waiting for the traffic to go past. When I called out to her and told her that she should come down to where I was so I could get her across safely, she just stared at me like I was some weird alien fungus. And then she proceeded to walk across the street from the spot where she was.

Idiot.

This morning, she and her daughter must have crossed the street when we weren't looking, because the first time I saw her was when she was trying to cross back over to her car on the other side. She had walked out of the school, straight down the path to the sidewalk, made a 90° turn, and then walked down about 15 feet so she was even with her car. Again, she was standing there, waiting for the heavy traffic to pass her by.

Foolishly, I again tried to use reason with her. I said, "Ma'am, it's safer if you cross down here, where we can get you across."

She replied by yelling, "I'll cross where I want to cross!"

Boy, she sure showed me!

To be honest, I really don't care about her. If a car hits her, I have a feeling the car is going to sustain more damage than she will. I'm more concerned about her poor daughter, who has no choice but to cross the street where her mother dictates. Hopefully nothing bad will happen to her just because of a parent with pride issues.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Incredible feat, or lucky guess?

Breaking news from London --

A 27 year old French dude has broken a "human calculator" record by calculating the 13th root of a 200 digit number.

Just let that sink in.

200 digits!

The 13th root!!

French!!!!!!

Personally, I'm not sure I would be able to calculate the 13th root of any number even if I had a calculator. Unless the number was 10 to the 13th power, then I might be able to beat someone from France.

According to the article from Yahoo, "Like an athlete, he trains his brain daily for the far harder task of finding the 13th root of 200-digit numbers."

Is anybody else out there fearing world domination if this guy were ever to team up with hotdog eating champion Kobayashi???

I can't see your SUV--one of my kids is blocking my view

Today's Mr. Teacher column over on education.com is all about the obesity crisis that is affecting American kids. I have had classes before where I can actually feel a difference in gravity when I'm around them.

Head over to the site, and weigh in with your opinion. Pun intended.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What, no ligers?

I should state up front that I'm really not a big fan of the movie Napoleon Dynamite. I will admit that it has about five laugh out loud hilarious moments, but in my ever so humble opinion, those moments are strung out across an incredibly boring two hour movie.

Nevertheless, I had a Napoleon Dynamite moment in class today.

The kids were in groups discussing animal traits, and I was walking around listening to them and observing. At one of the groups, one child told another group member, "It's in the book." That student responded, "It's in the book, gosh!"

It also occurred to me that my science homework assignment from Friday was very Napoleon Dynamite-esque. It was titled Mixed up Animal Traits, and the kids had to choose a mammal and draw what it would look like if it had traits of a bird, a fish, or a reptile. So I had some drawings of little kids with scales and fins, a whale with wings, and a bear with gills.

But thankfully, no ligers.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The most important meal of the day

This past Monday, we began serving our students breakfast in the classroom. Before this, kids had gone to the cafeteria to eat before school, so that when they arrived at our rooms at 7:45, we could begin the instructional day.

Now, when the kids get to school, they go to the gym and wait until 7:45. At that point, we pick them up, take them to our rooms, and begin serving the grub. The idea is that this is supposed to curb or terminate tardiness issues. I mean, who doesn't want to eat in the classroom???

After a week of trying it out, I have to say it's not as horrible as I had anticipated. At the very least, I haven't noticed any bugs in my room as a result. I am, however, losing at least 15 minutes of instructional time every day. I used to get the kids started on their opening word problem the instant they walked in the door. Now, we don't begin our day until around 8:05.

One perk is that teachers get to eat what the kids are eating. So I have enjoyed eating the yogurt/Pop Tart/honey roll/fruit loops along with a milk and juice.

I do feel like we're throwing away a lot of good food, though. Every kid has to take a breakfast, because that's how we get our Title I funding, but a lot of them don't finish it, and some of them don't even start it! It's the same way with lunch, though, so I guess that's par the course.

Also, since I have crosswalk duty every morning until 7:45, and then I have to go into the front office to use the usually-functioning biometric clock, I am frequently one of the last teachers to pick his kids up from the gym. Add to this the fact that I am unwilling to spend any more time than I have to on breakfast. So my kids have to eat pretty darn fast!

The most annoying thing about it is that I have one student who always makes a mess at his desk. His napkin always remains neatly folded inside the plastic package, while a puddle of chocolate milk and/or enough graham cracker crumbs to choke a zebra sit on his desk. When it's time to throw the trash away, he just throws it all away and makes no attempt whatsoever to clean up his mess. I always have to get on his case about it. Maybe I should start bringing in a rubber baby mat with the Teletubbies' picture on it until he gets the point.

Anybody else going through the breakfast in the room program? My understanding is that all of Dallas ISD is going to be trying it. Share your comments if you can.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sponsored by Campbells??

In the latest example of poor filtering by the Dallas Independent School District e-mail system, our inboxes have been flooded with messages that have the subject, "I need pantyhose and soup cans for fabulous Friday."

My first reaction was, "Well, who doesn't?" But then when I realized that I didn't recognize a single name of the 30-odd messages with that subject line, I decided not to open any of them and see what it was all about.

This new strategy by spammers and pranksters almost makes me more tolerant of the bogus e-mails that we typically get. I mean, as I was the leading all of those pantyhose messages, I was almost tempted to actually open up the e-mail that said, "Santa will bring more length and strength to your Willy!"

Almost, I said.

Has anyone else been contacted about "Fabulous Friday??"

In other news, this week's Carnival of Education is being hosted by Joel over at So You Want to Teach. Surf on over and check out the great links.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

It's almost Christmas time!!!!

Howdy folks! Once again, Tuesday is upon us, and you know what that means! Another Mr. Teacher column on education.com!

This week, I go over some things that might be considered appropriate and inappropriate when it comes to gifts for teachers. This is mainly referring to gifts that come from the students, but it certainly could apply to gifts from adults as well.

On the topic of great teacher gifts, don't forget to check out the following sites as well (although I'll be honest, the descriptions might be a tad misleading)

The Cure for Cancer!

Millions of Dollars per second!

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