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Saturday, May 31, 2008
As I should have expected, this immediately led to questions of, "Where are the dinosaurs now?" "Did King Kong live with the dinosaurs?" and, "Did you see Jurassic Park?"
Once we were on the topic of dinosaurs and lizards, one little boy saw fit to tell me about the time he picked up a lizard and put it in his cousin's sandwich. While all of the other kids in the class were making retching sounds, I try to explain that you should never touch a lizard, or any other wild animal for that matter, because of the diseases they carry. Without actually using the word salmonella, I told the kids that lizards carry a disease that can make your stomach hurt really bad.
A couple of the kids piped up with, "And you can get rabies!!" I agreed with them that rabies is a disease that some animals carry.
One of the boys in my class raised his hand and asked, "Do birds give you herpes?"
While the sarcastic side of me wanted to answer, "Yes, and those lousy unicorns will give you genital warts," I instead responded with, "Uhhhhhhhhhh, I don't think so."
How would YOU have answered?
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The Carnival of Education is being hosted at Mrs. Bluebird's Classroom this week, and it has lots and lots of nuggets of bloggy joy. Check it out!
A while ago, I told the kids in my class that I would have an ice cream party for all of the kids who passed the math TAKS test. Today, I came through on that promise.
I had 30 kids in my classroom during recess, going nuts as usual. Of those 30, exactly 2 said Thank You to me at any time during the day. Many of the others were too busy gobbling their ice cream and coming up, wanting seconds before some other classmates had even had firsts. Afterwards, they actually got upset that they wouldn't be going out to play, since the ice cream party had taken up all of their recess!
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
As usual, I got a very humorous, interesting cross-section of responses. Here are a few of the best.
I would live in planet Jupiter. Because it is a little bit hot and a lot cold. I would be a monster and I would love it there. My name is billiBob just to let you know.
[Good to know. I wonder if he chose this name because I use it all the time when I make up word problems?]
If I lived on the Venus everybody will be on fire. The police won't be using guns because they are using fire. Fire will be water and it will rain fire. All of us could fly because fire is a gas and there won't be any kind of vehicle.
[Seems to me that Donald Trump would be quite at home there -- you're fired!]
I would like to see Jupiter to see the houses and how many bedrooms. One day one of my friends will be going to Jupiter because his mom wants to see what it's like over there.
[Yeah, I hear the real estate market on Jupiter is out of this world!]
If I lived in Mars I would be boiling and hot. And for my lunch I would eat hot rock.
[That might actually be an improvement over cafeteria food here on earth.]
If I lived in Neptune I would need a lot of jackets, maybe 20 jackets, gloves, hats, very bold sweaters and jackets.
[Very bold sweaters? Like the kind Bill Cosby used to wear?]
If I live another planet I would be sad because food in Mars are not good and I don't have a house, no bed.
[For this exact same reason, people who live in Arbys are sad.]
If I lived on Mars I would be dead because it doesn't have air. I'm supposed to wear a helmet.
[I kind of have to wonder if that second sentence is truly related to the planet homework, or if this kid was just letting me know his mental status.]
[This one is my favorite because of the closing comment]
I would live on Venus. I would bring a bag of T-shirts. Venus is a lot hotter than Earth. I would live a short life, because of the volcanoes. I would die when I reach Venus's atmosphere. I made a really bad choice of going to Venus.
Always an entertaining venture, my kids did not disappoint!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Grab some popcorn, find your comfiest chair, and check out the column over on education.com!
Monday, May 26, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Every grade level is assigned a country or two, to use as a decorating theme for their hallway. This year, third grade has the country of China. So our hallway is festooned with construction paper lanterns, glue and glitter fireworks, fans, dragons, pictures and drawings of the Great Wall of China, etc.
Today, I had the idea that I would have my kids write fortunes, of the sort you would find in fortune cookies, on large slips of paper, and that we could put the good ones out in the hallway. As you might expect, I got some interesting responses.
Lump wrote, "Be a police when you grow up." -- Hey, at least he participated. A quick update: though certainly not a model student, Lump has remained manageable since last Friday's "breakthrough." Ironically, he hasn't played football with me since then, but he also hasn't made noises or played around in class. He doesn't really do the work in class with us, but any time he looks like he's about to start causing trouble, I go over and ask if he'd like to do some more 2-digit by 2-digit multiplication problems. He eats those up like Scooby Doo with Scooby Snacks.
Here are some other "fortunes" by the kids:
When your happy your mom is happy.
You are going to the chocolate factory.
Some people are smart like in Dallas, Texas.
If you swim like a fish you will be a fish like a different one like Pinocchio.
One day you will get married and then have a divorce.
Everyone goes through a lot of phrases.
The man with a woman can live.
If you study and study you will become gooder in school.
A man with a house does not need another house to give to his children when they are eight years old.
You will get a lot of money when you are 13 years old.
They say emnesia isn't a word, well here are your lucky numbers 4,8,12,9,6,2,1.
If you eat a fortune cookie and read this paper you will become smarter.
Definitely some pearls of wisdom in there. As well as some opals of confusion, some topaz of oddity, and some amethysts of what the hell??
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
The column is all about what impact (if any) this change in policy has affected. If you work in a district that has a dress code, weigh in with your thoughts on the matter!
Monday, May 19, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Flashback to Thursday. Lump had been absent for a few days in the week, and he returned to school on Thursday. He was up to his usual tricks of doing absolutely nothing productive, and doing lots of stuff that was disruptive. While the other kids were doing their morning work, Lump decided to make farting noises. When I tried to talk to him, he argued loudly with me. Sad to say, I stooped to his level for a bit and argued back. I finally sent a kid down to get the assistant principal, and when she came down, Lump gave me an insincere apology and said he would come back into the room and do his work.
However, this proved to be not so true, as he started scribbling all over his desk. When I took the pencil away, he started banging on his desk like a drum again. I put him in my newly upholstered timeout corner, and he ripped one of the papers off the wall. Then when my back was turned, he stepped out of the classroom and started playing in the hallway.
I had to stop what I was doing and look up his mother's phone number. When I got her on the phone, I told her what was happening, and she spoke to him. I received another insincere apology from him, but at least he came back into the room and was much less disruptive for the rest of the morning.
Here's where I place the turning point, though. At recess that day, I was throwing the football around with some of my students, as I often do. Lump approached me and asked, "Hey Mister Teacher, can I play?"
Firmly, but not unkindly, I replied, "I'm sorry, but you already played in my classroom today. You can't play in there AND out here."
Friday morning arrived, and when my kids filed into the classroom, Lump told me, "I'm going to do my work today." I of course tried to back that statement with major encouragement, not really expecting it to happen.
The first thing we did was go over the homework from Thursday night, which was 10 two-digit by two-digit multiplication problems. I placed a homework sheet in front of Lump, since he had not brought his own. While the other students went up to my overhead and worked the problems, I stuck around near Lump and tried to encourage him to listen to what those kids were saying and do what they were doing. Lump wasn't extremely active in the following along with what the other kids were doing, but he did make an attempt on the first problem, and after that, he was at least not causing any problems.
Next, I gave a quiz to the class. Five problems of the same variety that we had just done in the homework. Lump had some difficulty with the first problem, but he WAS writing it down and trying to figure it out. I spent some time with him and showed him the techniques that the rest of the class had been practicing for two weeks (that he had either been ignoring or had missed due to having to leave the classroom). He really started to get into it, and at one point he even uttered the words that all teachers long to hear -- "I get it now!"
After walking him through the first problem, he raised his hand and showed me his work for number two and number three after completing each one. He had gotten both right, and each time I heaped as much praise as I could muster onto him and encouraged him to continue. He did the last two on his own. At the end of the morning, I had a 100 quiz from a student who had been averaging a 0 for lack of effort.
At recess, Lump approached me and said, "Can I play with you today, since I didn't play in your class?"
My reply? "Go long!!"
At the end of recess, Lump told me that he was going to do his work for the rest of the year. That of course remains to be seen. It might just be that yesterday was a really high point on his bipolar roller coaster. But for now, I'm excited with the prospect that I might just have hit upon a motivator -- football -- for this kid.
Now I just need to find a similar motivator for the other two little boys that decided to be major juvenile delinquents yesterday...
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
In the past few months, the Internet geeks in my district have done a much better job of filtering all of the junk messages out of our school inboxes. However, for a while there, I couldn't open up my e-mail without having 30 or 40 bogus subjects screaming at me. And that's what led to the idea for this week's Mr. Teacher column over on education.com.
Field trip tomorrow -- if a tsunami doesn't hit. I'll probably have lots to blog about tomorrow.
Also, a last piece of housekeeping. Back when I had my March Monday Madness Contest, I sent out e-mail copies of Learn Me Good to several people. If you are one of those people, I would like to request again (with deep feeling, mixed with just a bit of desperation) that you post a review of the book on Amazon.com. Since it's self published, every little bit of word-of-mouth really helps!
Monday, May 12, 2008
OK, I feel like I'm just about at my wit's end here. And since I haven't done an INTERACTIVE MONDAY in quite awhile, I figure my dilemma would be good to ask other teachers about. My principal keeps saying that this time at the end of the school year is the time when Master Teachers show themselves, but I keep looking in the mirror, and I'm not seeing any Master Teacher.
My kids act like someone has flipped the switch on their backs from BAD to LUDICROUSLY BAD. I mean, we have our class field trip coming up this Wednesday, so you would think these kids would be on their best behavior. Instead, I found myself having to call parents in after school today to tell them that their daughters had been writing notes back and forth to each other, calling each other curse words in Spanish and talking about having sex with one of the new boys in the class. WTF???
But here's the dilemma I want to talk about with this INTERACTIVE MONDAY. I have a couple of kids that just will not stand in timeout correctly. I have a timeout corner between my bulletin board and my door, and the procedure that I've gone over all year long with these kids is that they must stand with their nose in the corner and their hands behind their back. But for some reason, the word of the year with these kids is "vandalism." I guess I didn't notice what had happened the first time or two, but suddenly there were huge scratches and gouges in the wall in that corner. After that, I paid much more attention when kids were in that corner, and I would actually see kids using their fingernails or a coin from their pocket and scratching up the wall.
Today, I got tired of this kid alternating between falling asleep and tossing his pencil up and down right in front of me during class, so I sent him over to the timeout corner. A few minutes later, I noticed that he did not in fact have both hands behind his back, and that one of the papers on my bulletin board was hanging at a strange angle. He had actually taken one of the thumb tacks out of the bulletin board and was using it to scratch up the wall. This is infuriating!
So let's get interactive here. What would you do in this situation? How do you get someone to stand in timeout correctly without having to stand right behind them the whole time?
My immediate action today after school was to remove all of the thumb tacks from my bulletin board and staple everything in. Also, I covered up the scratched up wall with a few pieces of paper. That way, no one else will be able to scratch up the wall without first going through the paper and making it very obvious that they had defaced the corner. It made me think back to my own childhood, when my brother and I would accidentally make a dent or a hole in our bedroom wall, and my brother would immediately make a GI Joe or Transformers poster to artfully hide the damage.
Of course, our parents weren't idiots, so the question of, "Why is that poster hung at knee-level??" came up often.
Anyway, I look forward to hearing the suggestions of all you Master Teachers out there. Please just don't tell me to go down to Home Depot and stock up on spackle.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
I invite you all to check out E-Raser, a parody of Speed Racer -- made on a budget of only about a buck and a quarter! (And it shows!) Next up, my 3 year old nephew and I collaborate on a Lego reimagining of Iron Man...
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Thank Goodness It's Thursday!! The science fair projects have been turned in, the learning walk is over, and Lost comes on in a couple of minutes.
Speaking of the science projects, my afternoon class tackled the problem of Will a Paper Airplane Fly Farther with a Paper Clip or without? We spent days making a hypothesis, coming up with a list of materials, going over the steps of the procedure, and making our data table. Oh yeah, and making quite a few paper airplanes as well. Several times when I asked kids for their hypothesis, I had to gently remind them to include the word "farther" because they kept telling me that they thought a paper airplane would fly with a paper clip. Yeah, it will fly without one too, but we're trying to see which will go FARTHER.
Then came actually performing the experiment. The procedure included standing behind a line on the floor, tossing the paper airplane, and then measuring the distance from the line on the floor to the spot where the airplane landed. Of course, much like their large steel counterparts, paper airplanes tend to skid along the floor after they land. Since we wanted the distance that the paper airplane actually FLEW, it was necessary to quickly mark the spot where the airplane first hit the ground.
Each time we threw the paper airplane, I asked a different child to tell us where the plane had landed by stepping on that spot. Then two other kids would get to use the tape measure to see the distance between the starting spot and that child's foot. I soon found myself doing my own science experiment inside my head -- What Is the Average Distance between the Spot Where the Airplane Actually Landed and Where the Child Puts His/Her Foot?
I figure the answer was about a foot and a half.
At any rate, it's finally over, like I said. Judging is tomorrow, so we'll see how the kids did. At least I know they did better than that second grade project titled Which Tastes Better -- Dog Food or Cat Food?
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
This morning, I got to exercise the algebra muscle in my brain and figure out a puzzle without using a paper. Mr. Hard Drive, our IT guy, drove by while I was out in front of the school doing my morning duty and presented me with a math problem.
"A guy on a bike is following a path that goes up and back down a hill. He rides for five hours. Going up the hill, his speed is 8 mph; coming back down the hill, his speed is 12 mph. How many miles did he ride?"
I won't post the answer here, so as to ruin the joy of discovery. And I do mean joy, as solving that problem was the high point of my day.
Lump was back from suspension and up to his usual modus operandi today. You can pretty much set your clock by when he's going to raise his hand and tell you he has a potty emergency -- 8:00. Also, have I mentioned how much of a hypochondriac he is? My knee hurts, the knuckle of my fourth toe is aching, my outer elbow appears swollen. Two weeks ago, he called me over and just pointed at one of his eyes. When I asked what he was trying to show me, he said, "This eye is big." If I had been a little more quickwitted (and slightly less mature), I should have recoiled in horror, slapped my hands over my mouth as I released a gasp of terror, and let out a bloodcurdling scream.
Today, I took my morning class outside to the field so that we could do the experiment for our science project which involved rolling a basketball on grass and on wood chips. Lump kept disrupting the project, so I finally told him to go stand in a spot about 10 feet away. Instead, he started walking towards the building with no intention of stopping. I shouted at him that if he was going to go inside he better be sure to go by the principal's office. Later, when he decided to grace us with his presence again, he claimed to have stopped by the principal's office, but I highly doubt that he did. It was quite obvious that he HAD stopped by the clinic, though, to tell the nurse all about the mysterious ridge that had shown up on the inside of his thumb. I'm sure he made her day.
When we came back inside from doing our project, I discovered that one of the kids from my other class had been acting like a fool and running up and down the halls. When I asked him what was going on, he decided that he didn't need to answer me. It really irritates me that so many kids, at least at my school, think that that's an acceptable choice, and that they don't really need to respond when an adult asks them a question. I had to spend about 10 minutes dealing with him, including getting one of the bilingual teachers to call his Spanish-speaking mother.
That was 10 minutes I really didn't have to waste, as the science projects are due tomorrow, and we were under the gun. Couple that with two of my team members being out, field trip permission slips needing to be sent home, and the short-notice advance warning from yesterday about all of the fourth and fifth grade teachers coming into my room tomorrow during class for a learning walk. Yeah, I'm feeling a little stressed.
So I made a little bit of a misstep this afternoon, and I did something that I normally don't do. I didn't break any laws, commit any crime, or violate anyone's civil rights, but I said something that I've tried to excise from my at-school vocabulary.
One of my kids kept playing around while I was trying to give instructions to the class. He was across the room from me, but I looked him directly in the eye and told him to go stand in the corner. Then I resumed talking to the class, but this kid started trying to talk over me, pleading his case. I told him to stop talking and go to the corner. In all, I had to tell him three times before he finally went to the corner, and then he still kept telling me how this other kid had done such and such. So I had finally had enough, and I shouted, "SHUT UP!!!"
Like I said, I almost never say that at school, and I didn't feel too proud about saying it today. But on the bright side, the rest of my kids were perfectly quiet after that. For about 10 minutes.
3:00 could not come fast enough today. Hopefully tomorrow will be a much brighter day. Because after today, I feel like one of my thumbs is bigger than the other, and that one of my nostrils has turned green. Lump and I can visit the clinic together.
In a much lighter note, Richie over at Bellringers has put together a really awesome Carnival of Education for this week. I really can't tell if she's mocking my t-shirts or promoting them, but either way, they get a lot of mention. Check it out, and see if you're smarter than a blogger.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
I saw the new movie Ironman over the weekend, and it was spectacular! From the previews I had seen, I was very excited to see it, and I already thought it was going to be super cool, but it greatly exceeded my expectations. It had a great story, great special effects, lots of action, some very humorous moments throughout, and it was all about one of my favorite topics -- superheroes!
Seeing Ironman -- coupled with the fact that my unwritten topic list already included a column about kids and comic books -- inspired me to write today's Mr. Teacher column over on education.com. I could talk for hours about comic books and superheroes, but I kept the focus of this column on the benefits kids can obtain by reading comic books.
Check it out, and until later,
Monday, May 05, 2008
What a weird, wild day!!!
This morning, a couple of my team members were running late, so I was asked to look after one of their classes until they could get to the school. So I got all of my kids into my classroom, tasked a couple of them with passing out breakfasts, and then went and picked up one of the other classes. I was down in their room with them for about five minutes until a teacher's assistant came, then I went back to my own classroom.
When I entered my classroom, the first thing I noticed was that one of my boys looked like he had been in a bar fight. He had a black eye, and several bruises on his face. I asked, "What happened to you??!?" and he replied in a very matter of fact tone, "Oh, I got my butt kicked by a midget."
Now THAT'S something you don't hear every day, Chauncey!
I wasn't going to be phased, though. He said it so nonchalantly that I figured I should respond in kind. I just said, "Oh, ok," and then turned to talk to one of the other children. The whole exchange had taken about four seconds, and of course, in my mind I was wondering What The Hell????
I waited until recess to follow up. When I asked him what had happened, he told me that he was at the pool at his apartment, and he had just gotten out and was drying himself off. Some kid, much littler than him, had come up and said, "You wanna fight?" and my kid had shrugged and said, "OK, why not?"
I suggested that the next time someone propositioned him with the question, "You wanna fight?" that his answer should be, "No thank you, I would prefer to do something else."
Ironically, I was having this conversation with the boy about a half an hour after I had been scratched and cut by one of his classmates in the cafeteria.
This kid is relatively new to our school, and he has little man syndrome, big-time (no pun intended). So you could say the two incidents today were tied together by the theme of midgetry.
Anyway, he has a really bad habit of ignoring adults, not responding to questions, and not following directions when he gets in a mood. These are all serious pet peeves of mine, and I have a very hard time standing by while he is doing this. So when he first won't answer my question at all, then I told him to go stand in the corner of the cafeteria, and he turns around and starts to walk away to go back to his seat. Well, I wasn't about to let him sit back down, so I told him that we were going to go talk to the assistant principal, and he wouldn't move. I told him his choices were to start walking or to have me taken by the hand and lead him over there. Guess which option he chose?
I took him by the hand, and of course he was digging in his heels. Then he started trying to pry open my grip, clawing at my fingers and my wrists. He wound up ripping my wristwatch off and drawing blood with a cut on my arm.
When the AP told him we were going to her office across the hall, he started to pull his little act of refusing to do anything, but then he finally went. I wrote him up, and he's supposed to be suspended for the next two days.
Speaking of suspension, Lump returns tomorrow. Another super fun day to look forward to!!!
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Why is it that so many of my kids have a supreme sense of responsibility when it comes to OTHER kids in the room, but they can't seem to look after themselves? There are so worried about the kids around them not following the rules, but they never seem to notice when they're not following the rules themselves.
I think it's great for kids to take on responsibility, but one of my boys, A, always wind up taking responsibility AWAY from somebody else. I'll ask one of the kids to hold open a door so the class can walk through, and seconds later I'll turn around and A will be holding the door. Or someone in my class will ask if they can take a basketball out to recess, yet A is always the one who winds up holding the basketball after lunch.
On Friday, with a few minutes before the bell rang at the end of the day, I asked everyone to clean up the area around their desk, as I always do before we leave the classroom. Usually it's the kids with the lumber yard right under their desk that just sit and stare at me, while the kids with a few atoms of dust under their desk are lying prostrate on the floor, trying to make it clear enough to eat off of.
As I'm asking everyone to look on the floor around them, I'm looking directly at several scraps of crayon wrapper right underneath A's chair. Rather than glancing down and picking up his own trash, however, A notices that a boy roughly 10 feet away from him as part of a crayon underneath HIS chair. So he goes running towards this other boy's chair, does a power slide on his knees that would make Tenacious D proud, and picks up the crayon. Then he looks at me like I'm going to award him the Silver Star Award.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Unlike Tuesday and Wednesday, today I did not have to administer a state standardized test!! The only people taking a test today were the fifth graders, who were taking the science TAKS. Third and fourth grade or allowed to resume their normal schedule, complete with outside recess and afternoon specials.
Yesterday was the reading test for fourth grade, so I was up in Ed U Cater's room monitoring the test, and he was down in my room teaching my students. After that experience, I have no doubt that he is anxiously anticipating next year, when he will have these kids ALL year long.
Throughout the course of this entire school year, my kids have frequently interrupted my teaching with statements that begin with, "Miss Credit told us," or "Miss Credit always said," or "Miss Credit used to..." Then they go on to inform me as to exactly what she told them or said or used to do. Quite often, what they're telling me they learned from their old teacher is EXACTLY what I'm telling them were doing at the time. I usually see Miss Credit on Fridays, and I tell her that her students from last year obviously retained a lot of what she taught them. I tell her this because it's a nice stroke of the teacher's ego to know that a) the students remember you, and b) the students remember what you said.
However, I sometimes find it very irritating.
Today, after experiencing the mystical phenomena that is Ed U Cater, several of the kids started in with statements of, "Mr. Cater said..." and so on. UUGGGGGGHHHHH!!!
I took a moment, looked each one of my students deep in the eye, and made this heartfelt entreaty: "All year long, you guys have been telling me what Miss Credit used to say, and now you're telling me what Mr. Cater says... I'm asking each and everyone of you right now, PLEASE, next year when you are in Mr. Cater's class, be sure to stop him frequently and tell him what Mister Teacher always does and says. Thank you."
So next year should be very interesting for ol' Ed.
In one other note related to this week's testing... During my 20 minute break yesterday, I saw Lump in the teacher's lounge with a teacher's assistant. Since he did not pass the reading test during the first administration, he was among the small group of third graders who had to take the retest yesterday. (Just to refresh everyone's memory, third graders get three attempts to pass this test, and if they don't pass it, they don't go to fourth grade.)
According to the teacher's assistant, Lump did not even attempt to read any of the passages or questions. He just started filling in bubbles randomly.
Lump is annoying, I do not enjoy having him in class at all, and he is headed down a horrible road in life. However, a small perverse side of me secretly hopes that he passed this reading test. Because if he did, then maybe we can hold this up as irrefutable proof that these standardized tests are ridiculously useless. If someone can obtain a passing score by randomly bubbling, maybe the state legislature will finally see fit to throw it out.