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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Break out the party hats!

Today is the last day of January, and thus the last day of what I consider an extremely successful month of Guest Posting here at Learn Me Good!

In addition, yesterday, Jan 30, marked the 3-year blogiversary of Learn Me Good! But back to the Guest Posting Initiative...

I want to thank everyone who volunteered to take a stab at it here on these pages -- from the comments alone, I know that readers have really enjoyed getting a fresh and different perspective.

Let's have everyone who participated stand up one more time and be recognized.





Red Priest, of Intellteacher's Blog

100 Farmers, of 100 Farmers

Mrs. T, of La Chucheria

Mike in Texas, of the now, sadly defunct Education in Texas (and people are STILL asking what happened to ya, Big Mike!


Ms Teacher, of Ms Teacher


The Scholastic Scribe, of The Scholastic Scribe

and finally, Stephanie, of Not Just Surviving

Thanks again to all of you for writing AND for reading.

The final Guest Post of the Month comes again from yours truly, and it can be found over at education.com. This week's Mr. Teacher's column is titled, "The Ice Day Cometh," and it is all about the pros and cons of taking an inclement weather day. It's very ironic that I wrote that, saying that DISD never closes due to the weather, and that very week, we get an ice day.

As I mentioned before, Learn Me Good the blog is now 3 years old! Stay tuned, dear readers, as I think I am VERY close to a major development which will hopefully provide some fun opportunities in February!

Friday, January 30, 2009

You got the Touch!

Today's Guest Post comes from a Ms. Stephanie Bowyer, who runs a blog called Not Just Surviving. Stephanie writes about Kinesthetic Learners in the Classroom. It's interesting to see how this post complements Intellteacher's post from earlier in the month.

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Teachers want all of their students to benefit from the classroom environment. Unfortunately for the teachers, no two students are ever alike. Some learn very well from handouts and others from lectures, but in every classroom there will be a student who just doesn't seem to work well with any teaching style. How can we reach out to this student? What is a teacher to do?

In recent years, researchers have learned many things about the brain. Where learning is concerned, they have found that there are three main types of learning styles. (Some people say four, some seven or eight, but the point remains the same. There are different styles.) The most common of the learning styles is visual. These students learn best by seeing things written on a board, a handout, the back of their hand, the top of their desk, and so on. Auditory learners take in information that they hear. They listen to lectures, they read things out loud to themselves, and they talk to other students about their lesson.

The third learning style is called kinesthetic, or tactile, learners.

What does a kinesthetic learner look like?

Kinesthetic learners are the ones who won't sit still in class, no matter what is going on. They are often wiggly, especially at younger ages. They always seem to want to touch things. Sometimes they will stand up for no reason, or ask to go to the bathroom often, when you know they shouldn't need to. This student may crawl under a table or desk to do their work – and will surprise you by getting it all done, correctly and much faster than usual.

Parents can give very helpful information about students and how they learn best. Where do they do their homework? What else is going on around them while they work? Do they have to walk around when having a conversation, especially if they are talking on the phone?

How does a kinesthetic learner learn?

There are two major aspects to consider regarding kinesthetic learners. First, they love to be moving around. In this aspect alone, the classroom environment is often not conducive to the education of these students. After all, an important element of the classroom is being able to sit still, at least for longer than 30 seconds at a time.

Also, these children learn by touching things, and doing things with their hands. They like models and manipulatives. Many of them also like to write or draw. Any activity that involves action, or something in their hands, will help them focus and recall information.

How can I translate this to the classroom?

Have you thought of a student who is kinesthetic? Then you've fought half the battle. Recognizing what they need is a huge step toward helping them succeed. (I'm sure you all know that, of course, but it bears repeating.)

In younger grades, be sure to schedule some time in during the day where you can afford to allow these students to stand up. Let them work at the back of the classroom, where they can stand without distracting anyone else. Schedule in some group time, and have the groups rearrange the desks in the room. Ask the student to draw a picture, or write a story, to show what you are teaching about.

Sometimes they don't need to be looking you in the eye when you speak to them. In fact, I had a student that didn't hear a word you said if you forced her to look you in the eye. If you let her draw or play with a toy while giving her directions, she heard everything and did the assignment perfectly. Realize that they may not need to be looking at you to hear what you are saying.

In older grades, give the students models to work with, or have them make their own. High school science classes are often extremely well-designed for kinesthetic learners, because they do labs and other hands-on activities. Again, let them draw pictures, or stress that they need to take notes on what you are saying. They won't like this, but it is one way to help them remember. Standing and moving around are still beneficial as students get older, although they often learn to sit still for longer periods of time.

Let students be themselves! Let them learn the way they need to, and they will amaze you with the amount that they can accomplish.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Guest post. Guest post. Guest post

Today's Guest Poster is none other than the Prolific Scribbler herself -- The Scholastic Scribe! If you haven't checked out her SX3 challenges on Sundays, then you're really missing out, because they are usually some pretty funny snaps with some pretty funny captions!

The Scribe's post is titled, "The 5-Paragraph Essay," and it really reminded me of a story from my high school days. I'll share that story at the end of the post.
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The prose struck me. Fluid. Full of imagery. An intro paragraph that fairly lifted off the page and hung there.

The Boy definitely “gets it,” I said to myself. He captured the thesis—the gist of his analysis—within the first two sentences, and laid it out there for all of us to see. None of this “The book I read is about…” nor “The thesis of my research paper is…”

Manna from Heaven. Or, prose proffered by a pupil, if you prefer. Literate, readable: the yin and yang of the perfect research paper.

Paragraphs two and three stood at attention. Then they marched off the page and into my psyche, begging my green (green, you know, is the new “red” for high school English teachers these days), pen to scritchy-scratch across the sheet. But I kept my powder dry. Only the merest “Good Job!” emitted from the felt point of my Flair.

I knew that calamity surely waited around the bend in Paragraph 4. Or perhaps 5. But the melody of The Boy’s prose continued to sing along with the harmonic balance of his analysis. “Bravo!” I scrawled.

But then came Paragraph 6. Hmmmmmmmm….I know! I’ve read this before! Plagiarist! I knew it was too good to be true! I scurried to my laptop to search for the roots of The Boy’s criminal action.

But nothing clicked. Nothing remotely resembling the research paper before me. What, then, was that “familiar feeling” that kept lurking right behind my eyes, willing my green felt-tip to scribble away?

I turned back to page one. Searching for an answer. Which lay, of course, in the first paragraph of this alleged prodigy’s “masterpiece.”

Yes, The Boy wrote a near-perfect first paragraph. Anchored with a tenacious, bold thesis. His subsequent four paragraphs echoed the thoughts that he meant to argue, and persuaded he his reader—this reader, me—that his points were well worth considering. Until…

Paragraph 6? The same as Paragraph 1. And Paragraph 7? The same as Paragraph 2. And so on and so forth. Word for word.

The Boy had not suddenly learned how to write. Rather, he had absorbed that age-old lesson that we teachers of writing don’t like to admit. Not all of us read every word we assign.

He was a “Copy & Paste” crook. And a gambler, I’d wager. He was betting that 5 solid, golden paragraphs would be a good investment. And then he Copied & Pasted until he had the required 5 pages. Wrote a deceptively wicked conclusion and called it a day.

You might say The Boy was a repeated offender.
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I will admit, just now I was sorely tempted to paste this post in again two or three times. . . ;)

Actually, it reminds me of my buddies and I and our junior year chemistry class in high school. We had a standing weekly assignment to find and cut out a science-related article and to write a one page summary of said article.

It was well-documented that our teacher only glanced at the first sentence of the paper and gave grades based on that. So my friends and I would have a contest to see who could outdo the others with the wildest, most redonkulous papers.

A typical paper might read as follows:

"NASA has developed a new, innovative way to protect astronauts from over-exposure to UV radiation during manned space flights. This was never performed on monkeys when NASA shot bozo the chimp up to the moon, but people are another case. My throat feels scratchy when I eat potato chips, and Vodka is a funny sounding word. Is my grandmother supposed to snicker when she breaks wind? Elizabeth Taylor kind of scares me, but my dad likes her. Dogfood and horse doodles, I always say."

And so on, for a full page.

Every time, our papers would come back with a check plus.

Surprisingly, our chem teacher was fired over Christmas break that year (not related to his lax grading standards -- the rumor was always that he was caught in flagrante delecto with a senior cheerleader), and a new teacher arrived.

This new teacher kept the old assignment, and whereas MOST of us began to write an actual page-long review of our article, one of my best friends pushed his luck the first week and continued the nonsensical review.

I'll never forget how much red ink came back on his paper. Some of his sentences, like "But there's still one thing that puzzles me -- there is no mention of the crown jewels!" were repeatedly circled and surrounded by question marks.

Ahhh. . . high school.

Thank you, Scholastic Scribe, for bringing back fun memories!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CLOSED???

I can't believe it. DISD is actually... CLOSED!

Sure, it's 24ºF outside.

Sure, the roads are frozen solid.

Sure, it's incredibly treacherous to be driving anywhere.

That just hasn't seemed to matter much in the past. But today we have an ice day, so I am home catching up on DVRed TV shows and much-needed sleep!

Wii wants to teach

Two great items on the agenda today:

1) My Spreadshirt T-shirt store is having a Valentine's Day Sale, and you can save 14% on purchases from now until 2/11! Be sure to use code FEB19.
and

2) Mr. D from I Want to Teach Forever is our Guest Poster today! I really enjoyed reading his post, and I know you will too. The main thrust of his post is changing your teaching style, but I must admit that I waxed nostalgic when he mentioned Tetris (I was the MASTER!!), and I waxed current when he talked about the Wii. My girlfriend got a Wii for Christmas, and dang that thing is FUN!!

But anyway, on to Mr. D's post!
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When I was growing up, the Nintendo Entertainment System was the pinnacle of video game entertainment. I played a lot of Tetris (an addiction I rediscovered recently) and many other fun, replayable games. Nintendo always went out of their way to come up with new ways to interact with the games—I reveled in playing Duck Hunt with my Light Gun, and friends who had the Power Glove and Power Pad allowed me to play in a much different way. They didn't all work as well as they should have in theory, but you couldn't fault them for trying.

As I got older, wars between Nintendo, Sega and other companies led to a never ending series of bigger, better, more expensive systems. I think it's fair to say that you could make a graph showing that as the number of buttons on each controller increased, my interest decreased exponentially. I also know I'm far from alone in that respect. Of course, that hasn't stopped the video game industry from growing exponentially in their own right--but until recent years, gamers were mostly male adults. Then something changed.

Enter the Nintendo Wii. The Wii does many of the things the company wanted their early NES peripherals to do, but it works. It has captured the imaginations of not just the hardcore gaming community, but everybody—it is outselling Sony's cutting edge PS3 system by leaps and bounds, and breaching demographics that the industry had been ignoring. But it's not processor speed, high-definition graphics, or a built in CD/DVD player that is attracting people to the Wii. It's a reinvention of what gameplay is.

When you play Wii games, you have to get up and move around, participating in a more direct and engaging way than even the most detailed virtual world could emulate. Nintendo focused on making things easy, fun and engaging. Similarly, you may have seen commercials where Apple demonstrates a game where you drive a motorcycle by turning your iPod Touch left and right. The software has also changed: games are focusing on learning in ways never before attempted. This is where the lesson for educators come in.

School districts and administrators are constantly foisting new technologies and methodologies on their teachers in the name of raising student test scores (and, ostensibly, improving their education). How many of these are just variations of the same thing—binders full of worksheets disguised as “hands-on activities”, classroom response systems (i.e. “clickers”), collections of PowerPoint presentations, or overly complicated (and expensive) computer software programs?

How many of them have really made your students' eyes light up, left them furiously excited in anticipation of your next class, or created the type of moment they'll never forget? How many of them have been as successful with your struggling readers as they have with your most advanced students, with boys and girls, or from one grade level/subject to another?
The most effective lessons I do always require the students to interact on a level that none of these solutions could do. It involves them getting out of their seats, out of their routines and expectations of what “learning” is supposed to look like. It requires them to think and respond quickly, but isn't so complicated as to prevent them from jumping in right away. Most of all, it has to be fun.
I'm not saying any of this is easy for a teacher to do. We already put on a performance every day, and put a ton of work into preparing for our classes. I'm not asking you to do more than you're already doing—instead, I'm asking you to do it in a different way. Your lessons don't need to be trashed, either. Sometimes you just have to look at what you've done previously and ask yourself the kind of questions that the Wii's designers did. “How can I make this lesson more interactive? More fun?” This is something I did after my first year of teaching, when I was barely keeping my head above water and following my mentor's lead of having my students copy pages of notes and take multiple-choice tests constantly. My second year was much better and my students were more successful.
Since then, I've seen a lot of supposed solutions to all of our problems come and go. What the success of these kinds of interactive technologies teaches us is not just what kinds of technology we need in schools, but principles we can apply to everything we're doing. It gives me hope that there are ways to engage every student, and it doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. It all starts by reflecting on how to make what you already do more simple, involving, and fun.
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Be sure to check out Mr. D's blog -- I Want to Teach Forever -- for more stimulating posts!

* I sometimes wish I had a Nintendo Power Glove that would let me virtually smack someone upside the head when they acted up in class...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sometimes, you just gotta trust your gut

Today's Guest Post comes from a California teacher that many may recognize -- Ms. Teacher! Her post is a bit heavier than the usual fare here at Learn Me Good, but it's a powerful example of how teachers just need to go with their instinct sometimes. __________________________________________________________________ At the end of the school year last year, I received word that I would be teaching GATE students. Much of my summer I spent reworking my lesson plans in ways that I hoped would be engaging and challenging to my new crop of incredibly smart students. I eagerly awaited the first day of school and the many challenges that came with teaching incredibly intelligent kids.

For the most part, the first few months of this school year have been relatively easy in the sense that my GATE students are able to grasp concepts that often beyond the other students that I teach this year. Many of these students have told me that they have really enjoyed school this year and enjoy being in my class. I figure I must be doing something right!

One of my students, Sara, is a quiet, but has always participated in classroom discussions. She is highly creative, writing a lot of poetry and drawing pictures in her notebooks. Truthfully, she has been one of my favorite students because she reminds me a lot of my daughter. This student did really well in my class the first quarter, earning A's and B's in her classes. Even though quiet, she is not what one might consider to be withdrawn or standoffish. She possesses a quiet strength, just like my daughter.

At the start of the 2nd quarter, Sara seemed to be on track to earning the same grades as the first quarter. She continued to be an active participant in classroom discussions, raising her hand when needed and doing her assignments.

In November, something changed.

All of a sudden, Sara stopped doing her work. However, I wasn't really aware of this because my students do the majority of their work in notebooks, which are collected every couple of weeks. When I checked her notebook, I was stunned to see that the majority of her work was either not done or incomplete. Other work that I collect on an on-going basis was also not completed. When I talked to her about it, she would just kind of shrug her shoulders and tell me that she forgot it at home. When I talked to her other teachers, they confirmed that she was also not performing as well in their classes. I had also noticed changes in her classroom participation. Once active in classroom discussions, she now seemed averse to any participation at all.

One day, I pulled her aside to talk to her. I expressed to her my concern about her grades. She was reluctant to meet my gaze. As I talked, I quickly noticed that the quiet strength that so much reminded me of my daughter wasn't there. Instead, I was faced with a student who was withdrawn and depressed. I asked her if she okay, really okay and she assured me that she was. She told me she had a lot on her mind and that she would try to do better.

She seemed to be doing a bit better in my classes, but she still was not the same girl that had been in my classroom at the start of the year. One thing to keep in mind that in the school district where I teach, we no longer have counselors in our middle schools. Our school psychiatrist is only at our school site one day out of the week. I would talk to her to check in on her, but still there was this little nagging voice that told me something was not right.

While she did manage to pass my class that cannot be said for her other classes. She ended up failing two of those, stumbling from an A to an F in both. As far as I know, neither one of her other teachers had the same conversations that I did because they knew that I was trying to keep tabs on her.

When we returned from the holiday break, it was decided that a parent conference was needed. At the conference, we went over grades, missing work and lack of participation (participation is not graded). We expressed our concerns and her parents told that they would see what they could do. The conference wrapped up after about 30 minutes. I returned to my classroom to prep for the next day, but was quickly interrupted by my telephone ringing. I saw that it was one of Sara's other teachers as I answered the phone. My colleague informed me that in November, Sara experienced two very traumatic events, the first the loss of a close family and the other, a sexual assault. Sara was in counseling. Her parents returned to my colleague's classroom just moments after I had left (his classroom is closer).

It suddenly all made sense. How could this young girl, a child of only 11 be expected to focus on school work when it seemed as if her world was shattering? That little nagging voice, that gut instinct that was telling me that SOMETHING WAS WRONG had been right all along. Looking back, I wish that I had picked up the phone in December to talk to her parents. While they may not have been willing to say exactly what was wrong, they surely would have given me some type of confirmation as to what I was feeling.

Like I said at my own blog, I may not have been able to be there for Sara in November, I will be there for her now. Finally, I learned that I really need to trust my instinct. Students usually don't make such a dramatic change in behavior unless something is going on. It is up to me to figure out what that is and how I can help my student be successful despite those life challenges. __________________________________________________________________

Monday, January 26, 2009

After further review

I got a notice this weekend that the people who do reviews for Lulu, the company that I used to self-publish my book, Learn Me Good, had finally put up a review for me! It starts off just a BIT depressingly, but then turns into a nice glowing review. Please check it out and offer comments!!

Also, I did a bit of review on the picture card that I mentioned earlier. It certainly looks like Barack Obama and his wife and 2 kids. I couldn't find a publication date on the box or on any of the materials inside the box, so I called Hampton-Brown, who publishes them. They put me in touch with a local rep who looked up the publication date.

The cards were printed in 2003. Therefore, it can't be the Obamas, because the little girls on the card look like the Obama girls do NOW.

But see for yourself. I took a picture of the card. Tell me that doesn't look like the Obamas...


Domo Arragato, Mister Roboto!

We have come to the final week of the Learn Me Good January of Guest Posters! And this week, there are some excellent guests to read and visit!

Today I present another fellow DISD teacher, Kathy, whose blog is called Trimming the Bonsai. Kathy is a Technology Applications Teacher who is also a Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher. Her blog documents her incredible trip to Japan and her experiences there.

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I recently traveled to Japan as a Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher. I saw some amazing things and had a wonderful time. I’ve been sharing my trip with my students as part of my follow up plan and the reactions of my students have been interesting.

Most students are interested in what I ate, what I did, etc. But the strongest reactions I get come when I show pictures of Japanese students cleaning their school. After lunch students clean assigned areas of their school. They use brooms, mops, rags, and cleaning products. I loved watching them work and almost all of them seemed to take great pride in what they were doing. Most of my students are curious as to why we don’t do that here. I kind of gloss over the reasons because I don’t want to get into a discussion of our legal system versus the Japanese one. Then there are the students who make comments like, “You couldn’t make me clean.” And that is disheartening to hear. I’m not sure if cleaning the school would be a great idea, but I would like to see students have a little more pride in their school.

We’re trying something new at my school. We have a huge front lawn and so for the first time since I’ve been here we are keeping everyone off the lawn so that we can have nice grass this spring. The kids caught on quickly to stay on the sidewalk. We’ll see how it turns out!

I hope you enjoy the blog. It was a trip of a lifetime and I am so grateful I got to go. The program has ended and I was in the last group. That made it even more special to me.
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Personally, I have a hard time getting my kids just to clean their small area at the end of the day, much less mop down the school! It WOULD be nice to see the kids take a little more pride in the appearance of their school.

My thanks to Kathy, and Sayonara!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

HE is playing on the beach

Earlier this week, I was doing a lesson pronouns with my ESL kids. We were practicing writing a sentence with a noun and then expounding on that with the use of pronouns.


As prompts for their sentences, I pulled out about a dozen of the large picture cards that came with my Avenues curriculum set. These are nice colorful scenes of kids building a snowman, a girl in a field of roses, a swimming pool in use, etc.


The very first thing that I noticed was the card that had a family building sandcastles at the beach. This was not card number 1 of the set, mind you. I had pulled out something like 67-81. But on the very first card that I looked at, there appeared to be the First Family in swim attire, playing at the beach.


Does anybody else reading this use Avenues? If you have these cards I'm talking about, PLEASE take a look and verify this for me. This was not just some dude that sort of looked like Barack Obama. This was a man, a woman, and two little girls who looked EXACTLY like the Obamas.


I forgot to look at the publication date on the box, but these cards CAN'T be brand new, so it's just very interesting that somebody in the past would have taken a picture of a (who knew?) future president to help with English language mastery.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Return of the Blogger

Today I have a very special treat for people who have been reading edublogs for a while. One of the original FoLMeGs (Friends of Learn Me Good) has been convinced to come out of "retirement" and write a Guest Post.

Many of you remember the wildly popular Education in Texas blog which surprisingly and sadly went dark last April. I am happy to say that I have been able to keep in touch with its gregarious author, Mike in Texas, and I asked him to submit a post.

Mike's post doesn't fill us in on what he's been doing since Education in Texas or what he's doing now, but it does address a glaring hole that he observes in the national educational system -- the lack of corporate sponsorship in schools. I'm totally with him, and I've posted similar suggestions in the past!

Here is is, ladies and gentlemen, the latest and greatest scribblings from the Blogger Formerly Known as Mike in Texas. The title is, "Corporate Sponsorship, Or Maybe I Should Just Pay A Little Better Attention."

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As a teacher I’m enthralled by anything that is:

1. coffee related
2. free

So it’s my good fortune to have a relative in the healthcare business, where she is inundated with items from pharmaceutical companies, including coffee cups, which she kindly passes on to me.

Many mornings I grab a last cup to drink when I get to work and I end up with several coffee cups sitting around my room, as I usually forget to bring them home.

Several days ago I was having a severe case of heartburn so I asked a student to take a coffee cup, wash it out, and fill it with water. Without really thinking about it I grabbed a cup off the shelf and sent her on the way.

About 10 seconds later my brain realized what I had done; I had just sent a 10 year old girl down the hall to fill a coffee cup emblazoned with the VIAGRA logo!!

At first I was horrified by my own carelessness but then I began to consider the possibilities of corporate sponsorship. After all, I recently read about a teacher who sold ad space on his tests. Many school districts have sold naming rights to buildings, stadiums, sports arenas or even on the sides I’ve school buses. I’ve also heard of people selling space on their bodies on EBay, so why not a little extra cash for me?

Are you listening Viagra, because I have some great ideas on how you can sponsor my coffee breaks. Who would be able to forget, “This stiff cup of Joe brought to you by Viagra!” or “Need a pick-me-up? Viagra!”

Networks are constantly inventing new ways to sell advertising during sporting events, like “Time for the Preparation H Dump Off Pass of the game, brought to you by Preparation H”. Everyday millions of school kids are taking commercial free recesses when they could be viewing a message saying, “This recess brought to you by Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs”.

Why stop with there? I have several extraneous body parts I’m hardly using.
First, there’s my bald head. Are you listening Rogaine?

Then there’s my ever expanding mid-section. As an added bonus I’ll gladly agree to eat more Popeye’s Fried Chicken to increase the surface area available for a company logo.

“Popeye’s! Over 2000 calories per meal served!”

If I happened to leave my PDA at your business feel free to stamp it with your logo before sending it back to me.

You’ll have to excuse me now, the coffee’s brewing and there’s money to be made.
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Friday, January 23, 2009

Thank you. Truly, thank you

You know, I have been known to forward the occasional funny email. But I always cringe when I do, because I know how much I often hate getting the email forward. Some are honestly, truly, gut-wrenchingly funny. But some just make me irritated. Especially when the email implies that my true Christianity can be proven by forwarding an electronic text or that my value as a friend is only worth my willingness to dump cheese on my entire address book.

Thus, I decided that I would not forward the email that I got from a teaching colleague a few days ago. However, it IS hilarious and represents my deep feelings about so many of the above mentioned emails, so I thought I'd post it here for all to enjoy.

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THANK YOU FOR THE E-MAILS!!!!!
I just want to thank all of you for your educational e-mails over the past year. I am totally screwed up now and have little chance of recovery.

I no longer open a public bathroom door without using a paper towel or have them put lemon slices in my ice water without worrying about the bacteria on the lemon peel.

I can't use the remote in a hotel room because I don't know what the last person was doing while flipping through the adult movie channels.

I can't sit down on the hotel bedspread because I can only imagine what has happened on it since it was last washed.

I have trouble shaking hands with someone who has been driving because the number one pastime while driving alone is picking ones nose (although cell phone usage may be taking the number one spot).

Eating a little snack sends me on a guilt trip because I can only imagine how many gallons of trans fats I have consumed over the years.

I can't touch any woman's purse for fear she has placed it on the floor of a public bathroom.

I MUST SEND MY SPECIAL THANKS to whoever sent me the one about poop in the glue on envelopes because I now have to use a wet sponge with every envelope that needs sealing.

ALSO, now I have to scrub the top of every can I open for the same reason.

I no longer have any savings because I gave it to a sick girl (Penny Brown) who is about to die in the hospital for the 1,387,258th time.

I no longer have any money at all, but that will change once I receive the $15,000 that Bill Gates/Microsoft and AOL are sending me for participating in their special e-mail program.

I no longer worry about my soul because I have 363,214 angels looking out for me, and St. Theresa's Novena has granted my every wish.

I no longer eat KFC because their chickens are actually horrible mutant freaks with no eyes or feathers.
I no longer use cancer-causing deodorants even though I smell like a water buffalo on a hot day.

THANKS TO YOU I have learned that my prayers only get answered if I forward an e-mail to seven of my friends and make a wish within five minutes.

BECAUSE OF YOUR CONCERN, I no longer drink Coca Cola because it can remove toilet stains.

I no longer can buy gasoline without taking someone along to watch the car so a serial killer won't crawl in my back seat when I'm pumping gas.

I no longer drink Pepsi or Dr. Pepper since the people who make these products are atheists who refuse to put 'Under God' on their cans.

I no longer use Saran Wrap in the microwave because it causes cancer.

AND THANKS FOR LETTING ME KNOW I can't boil a cup of water in the microwave anymore because it will blow up in my face... disfiguring me for life.

I no longer check the coin return on pay phones because I could be pricked with a needle infected with AIDS.

I no longer go to shopping malls because someone will drug me with a perfume sample and rob me.

I no longer receive packages from UPS or Fed Ex since they are actually Al Qaeda in disguise.

I no longer shop at Target since they are French and don't support our American troops or the Salvation Army.

I no longer answer the phone because someone will ask me to dial a number for which I will get a phone bill with calls to Jamaica , Uganda , Singapore , and Uzbekistan .

I no longer buy expensive cookies from Neiman Marcus since I now have their recipe.

THANKS TO YOU I can't use anyone's toilet but mine because a big brown African spider is lurking under the seat to cause me instant death when it bites my butt.

AND THANKS TO YOUR GREAT ADVICE I can't ever pick up $5.00 dropped in the parking lot because it probably was placed there by a sex molester waiting underneath my car to grab my leg.

I can no longer drive my car because I can't buy gas from certain gas companies!

I can't do any gardening because I'm afraid I'll get bitten by the brown recluse and my hand will fall off.

If you don't send this e-mail to at least 144,000 people in the next 70 minutes, a large dove with diarrhea will land on your head at 5:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon and the fleas from 12 camels will infest your back, causing you to grow a hairy hump. I know this will occur because it actually happened to a friend of my next door neighbor's ex-mother-in-law's second husband's cousin's beautician . . .

Oh, by the way.....

A German scientist from Argentina , after a lengthy study, has discovered that people with insufficient brain activity read their e-mail with their hand on the mouse.

Don't bother taking it off now, it's too late.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Short week? EGADS!

As we draw to the close of a 3-day school week (I know, teachers worked 4 days, but we only had the kids for 3 days), I present this week's Mr. Teacher column at education.com. Titled, "Those Short Weeks are Killers!" it's sort of a rehashing of one of my prior suggestions to trim the fat and extend the weekend. Jack Bauer fans would definitely approve.

Also in linkage news, this week's Carnival of Education is up and running at Teacher in a Strange Land. The theme for the Carnival this week is the Virtual Inaugural Balls, in deference to our 44th President's arrival. For some reason, I seem to have a certain AC/DC song stuck in my head.

But where do you put it all?

For me to say that I have a guest poster today is a bit of an understatement, so let me try a different approach.

Today, I have a GUEST POSTER who went above and beyond the call of duty, submitting an entry that comes in at over 1,000 words! That's more than two of my education.com columns combined!!

The prolific writer in question is the one, the only -- Mrs. T! No relation to me, I just happened to come across her blog very early on in my own early writing days, and I've been hooked ever since. Mrs. T is un maestra espanol -- a Spanish teacher -- in Iowa. I encourage everyone to check out her blog, La Chucheria, which I believe means, "The Cookie Monster."

Her post is about. . . well. . . stuff. Enjoy.
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Hello, it’s Mrs. T here, guest-posting for Mr. Teacher. I wish I could do it in person, since our actual temperatures have been around -20º F the past few days and I’m fairly certain that it’s much nicer in Texas.

Remember how George Carlin had this bit that he did about Stuff? You buy a house to put your stuff in and then you get more stuff and you have to buy a bigger house and then you spend time worrying that someone’s going to take your stuff and they always take the good stuff when they do? Remember that? Well, teachers have got stuff. Not to generalize, but I’m going to because I’ve taught all levels, and it seems that elementary teachers tend to have more stuff than others. Some of you may already be nodding your heads in agreement. If it makes you feel any better, I’ll be inclusive here and say “we” for the duration. We hoard stuff- especially supplies- mostly because we can never count on the budget, so if there are paper clips to be had, by golly we’ll take 4 boxes. We scavenge- proof positive being that the chair I use at school is one pulled out of the trash.

We then become quite territorial about our stuff- even stuff that is technically not our stuff. We write our names on pieces of masking tape and stick them on our stuff, along with our classroom number. We do this numerous times. My fans at school say “Mrs T Rm 222” on all sides that are visible. In addition to the masking tape trick, we also write with permanent marker directly on certain stuff of which we are particularly fond. Underlining and exclamation marks can be added for emphasis. We do this at the end of the year in anticipation of the yearly “deep cleaning” that is to be done during the summer, when all of a room’s contents are placed in the hallways so that the floors and walls and ceilings can be boiled, or whatever they do to them. The cleaning is nice, but it leaves all of our stuff vulnerable to some over-achiever who happens to be in the building over the summer and takes a shine to that odd table you got from Mr. Jarvis who retired 4 years ago. And just like that (*snap!) it’s gone.

The end of the year is prime stuff-getting season. People are retiring or leaving the building. This is when people start trolling the halls. They strike up conversations with colleagues they’ve never given a second thought. They stop in just to chat, to well-wish. They are not to be trusted. They only want filing cabinets and bookshelves and kidney-shaped tables and cubbies made by the shop class in 1957.


So, aside from being a stuff vulture, what does one do when one needs stuff? I was in need of stuff once. I had just come to the building where I currently teach. I was to be a “travelling teacher”, in that I would go from room to room with my stuff on a cart. I was to have my own desk and a corner of another classroom- a home base of sorts. Great. So, I show up and thanks to my roommate, I’ve got a bookshelf, a computer cart, a filing cabinet, a wooden cabinet with 5 drawers, a cart to take from class to class, and a chair. A chair, but no desk. I was assured that a request had been made the previous May, that a desk would be coming soon. The next morning, no desk. I was starting to wig at this point. I needed a desk. My pens and cough drops and index cards desperately needed a home. This just would not do.

My colleagues and I decided to take matters into our own hands. We scoped out the Closet Under the Stairs, which is really a huge storage area where desks and chairs go to die. After scoping out the desk that we were going to swipe, we made plans to do the deed after our big, Beginning of the Year Meeting, still kind of hoping that the desk would show up during the meeting and then we wouldn’t have to steal one.

So, into the dungeon we go. We spot the desk and each take an end. We attempt to pick it up and carry it. No can do. Those things double as a Fallout Shelter- there’s no picking them up. But, we are determined. We count to 3 and HEAVE and shuffle. 1, 2, 3, HEAVE/shuffleshuffleshuffle. We’ve done this for about 12 feet when along comes Mr. Burns, one of the teachers in our department, who proceeds to have a conversation with us without acknowledging the fact that we are herniating ourselves right before his very eyes. “Hi, Mrs. T- what did you think of that meeting? I just wish they’d give us more time to work in our rooms, don’t you? That’s what they used to do, but then they got all caught up in having us be in meetings….”. Um, yeah. Do you not see that I’ve got a 2 ton desk I’m trying to heave down the hallway into my classroom before I get busted by the custodian?

After much heaving and shuffling and subsequent giggling, we did get the desk into the classroom. The drawers were filled. The calendar/blotter received its rightful place in the center. I went home that afternoon feeling that all was right with the world. Until the next day, when I unlocked the classroom door, turned on the lights, only to find… ANOTHER DESK. Apparently, the Desk Fairy only makes deliveries at night. We figured, oh well, we’ve got a big enough classroom, we can actually use this other desk. We made room for it and went on with our day. We went home that afternoon thinking that all was right with the world. Until the next day, when we opened the door to find yet another desk. That made 3 desks delivered to our room. This one, we had no room for. We had no use for. What to do? Which brings up the matter of Getting Rid of Stuff….
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Hey, I bet if enough people pestered Mrs. T on her blog, she would actually write the sequel about getting rid of stuff. :)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Now THAT'S a teacher work day!

OK, so I can stop humming the Inauguration Day Blues, as I hinted at in an earlier post. It turns out that one of the teachers across the hall DID have a cable attached to her TV, so several of us watched the inauguration in her classroom. They also had a TV set up in the auditorium, where many other watched it.

I thought it was great. Obama gave a fantastic speech, Aretha Franklin looked good for her age and sounded exactly the same as when she sang in The Blues Brothers so long ago, and the good reverand who gave the benediction was excellent. I especially liked his little riff at the end -- "When black will not be asked to get back; when brown can stick around; when yellah will be mellah, when the red man can get ahead man; and when white will embrace what is right."

You gotta think that somewhere out there, there is a man whose tanning project has gone terribly wrong, and he is wondering why the Orange people of the nation were left out.
[answer: nothing rhymes with orange]

It was also a cool day because I heard my own voice on the radio!

There is a local station called Jack FM. There are similar stations around the nation -- Bob FM, Carl FM, Reginald FM. They don't take requests, they don't have DJs, they just play music. But they DO invite people to call and leave witty little messages, some of which are then played in between songs.

Last week, I had called with the brilliant zinger -- "Jack, how many zeroes are in a gazillion?" And lo and behold, I was sitting at my desk, grading papers, when suddenly I heard those very words, right between Viva la Vida and Living on a Prayer.

Also, I got the Obama Spiderman issue! Apparently, this thing is going for over $50 online, but I managed to score a copy at my local Lone Star Comics for cover price! It's already worth more than my X-Factor number 1 that I've had for about 20 years!!

Tomorrow is back to school with the kiddos. I can only hope for as cool a day as today!

I triple dog dare you to guest post

Today's Guest Poster is a fellow Dallas ISD teacher who blogs under the name AND at the site 100 Farmers. Farmers writes a very "A Christmas Story" themed story about kids and their BB gun injuries after Winter Break.

Her story is titled, "Have a good holiday and don't shoot your eye out."

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On the first day back from Christmas Break, not one, not two but three students showed up with bb-gun injuries. One had pellets still in his chin. Now, you would think that with as many showings of a Christmas Story that everyone must have seen by now, that my students would know that “BB-Guns can shoot your eyes out.” Asking about the injuries, the class started sharing various stories of their injuries from bb-guns.

Just out of curiosity, I started taking polls of my classes and came up with some startling statistics. Out of 176 students, roughly 95 % had been shot with a bb-gun and about 90% had shot someone with one. The number one target seemed to be brothers. The largest target seemed to be their brothers’ keisters.

I can pretend to be appalled by such numbers but I must confess to a certain incident involving my sister’s keister and my brother’s bb-gun. To this day, I can’t tell you why I did it but I do remember that her keister just seemed really annoying at that moment. The funny thing is that my brother confessed to the crime out of pure nervousness after the initial screaming from both my sister and parents. I never got in trouble for it. I shouldn’t be laughing at that but paybacks are hard Brother dear.

Anyway, listening to my kid’s stories, I am always so appalled by the near misses, catastrophes, and sure stupid things that my kids do during vacations. It’s almost like the “stupid”, “hey ya’ll, watch this” quotient is ratcheted up by the word “holiday”. When I ask the kids what happened, it usually boils down to playing around and boredom. Not that I’m advocating 365 days of school (oh god, no), but I do worry less about them walking down the hallway than hanging out with bored friends playing Xbox.

When I send them out the door I send them with a prayer for safe travel or wishes for peace in a troubled family. At this point, I’m guessing my prayers need to be extended to either “please don’t target your brother’s keister with your bb-gun”, or “please be so busy that you come back safe to me.”
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My thanks to another great Guest Poster, and my invitation to everyone to check out her blog at 100 Farmers right away!!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration blues

I am and always have been decidedly apolitical. I can't stand politics, it just makes me feel dirty.

However, the inauguration of our nation's very first-ever black president is something that I am interested in seeing.

Unfortunately, tomorrow -- inauguration day -- is a teacher work day in my district. We were sent an email saying that we were welcome to watch the festivities if we had a television in our room, but that we WERE required to be at work.

I don't know anyone who has a television that actually receives network signals in their room, so I will probably wind up DVRing the event, I suppose.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mr. Teacher writes again

Since it's just another boring Saturday, with no Guest Blogger lined up, I'm reheating some old leftovers and bringing back my very first ever Mr. Teacher column on education.com!
This was back in October of 2007, and it addresses an issue that every single teacher on the face of the planet has had to face at one time or another. Why can't my kids bring a pencil to class??
This article was originally published here at education.com on October 23, 2007.
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We teachers hear all sorts of questions over and over.

"When's lunch?"
"Can I use the bathroom?"
"Is 60 a good grade?"
But I think the question I hear the most is, "Can I have a pencil?"
I’m a math teacher at a school where kids often come unprepared to class. It's not unusual, especially at the beginning of the year, for them to repeatedly forget papers, homework, and yes, even pencils. (Although they always seem to remember to bring the plastic rings and Yugi-Oh cards.)
It seems like such a simple thing for kids to remember. Not a day goes by when they won’t need to write something. Perhaps not at a school where they practice telepathy and astral body projection; but at most schools where your basic math, spelling, and writing are taught, pencils are a necessity.
Which is why it's so frustrating when kids come to class with no writing tools. Not unsharpened pencils, not even dull or broken pencils. Just flat out nothing. And then they ask that dreaded question -- "Can I have a pencil?"
Now many people might be saying, "Come on, Mister Stingy -- a pencil costs what, 10 cents? You can afford that, even on a teacher's salary!"
Sure, I could afford that. But here's where the math comes in (and I am a math teacher, after all). Imagine that 10 cent pencil being multiplied by six or seven kids – every day! It really starts to add up.
This is why teachers have become so creative in thinking up ways to motivate kids to remember their pencils. In days of old, when a student didn't bring his own quill, the teacher probably made him go out, chase down a bird, and pluck his own feather. Nowadays, some teachers have taken to handing out short, stubby golf pencils with no erasers, or ridiculously oversized novelty pencils the size of Christmas Yule logs. Pencils that the kids will be able to do their work with, but pencils they'll be embarrassed to have to use. Guess what-- after this happens a few times, that student doesn't forget to bring his own pencil anymore.

Parents, you can really help us out by asking your child to run down a checklist of backpack essentials every morning before leaving home. Or even at night, before going to bed.
Homework folder? Check!
Assignment planner? Check!
At least one sharpened pencil? Check!
Together, we can knock out this problem of unpreparedness, and "Can I have a pencil?" can be unseated as the most frequently asked question.
Then we can tackle the next item on the list -- "Do I have to show my work?"

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Turn, turn, turn

Just a few links for today:

This week's Mr Teacher column over at education.com is titled, "A Few of My Favorite Things." It is a short list (Top 5) of things that make me happy to be a teacher. We tend to complain about the bad kids and the frustrations, but I wanted to list 5 random things that happen from time to time.

This week's Carnival of Education is up and running over at The Education Examiner, where the theme is the changing of the seasons. Lots and lots of good posts over there, folks!

Finally, here's a link to a pretty funny and pretty silly parody of the old GI Joe public service announcements from the old cartoons. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Brand new jargon!

The month of Guest Posts here at Learn Me Good is going well so far, but if you have been lurking, reading the posts of others, and thinking to yourself, "I wish I could write something for Mister Teacher..." Well, stop talking to yourself, and start writing! There is still room!

Here is the future calendar so far:

Today: Red Priest from Intellteacher's Blog

Jan 20: 100 Farmers from 100 Farmers

Jan 22: Mrs. T from Chucheria

Jan 28: Mr D from I Want to Teach Forever

Jan 30: Stephanie from Not Just Surviving

So you can see, there are still plenty of open days, if anyone wants to jump in and fill a gap!

Now on with today's Guest Post, which comes to us from a blogger who calls himself Red Priest. His blog is Intellteacher's Blog, which, from what I can tell, is a pretty hard-core source for true educational information! Priest blogs about learning styles, classroom management tips, educational strategies, and the like.

When I first read Red Priest's submitted Guest Post, and saw the title: Neuro-Linguistic Programming -- The Short Answer, my eyes glazed over just a bit and I will admit, I started to think of chocolate chip cookies and Guitar Hero. But for something with so jargon-y a title, it's really well written to bring the topic down to a level where we can all understand it, without TALKING down to us as readers.

So here it is -- enjoy!
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Neuro-Linguistic Programming – The Short Answer

Brief (very) History

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) first burst upon the psychological therapy scene in 1975 with the release of Richard Bandler and John Grinder’s written work, The Structure of Magic. At the time, Grinder was mostly involved in transformational grammar which was created by Noam Chomsky during the 1960s, and Richard Bandler was heavily involved in the study of mathematics with special attention to statistics. Transformational grammar is a systemic approach to uncovering the “deeper” meanings of communication by way of creating models of how grammatical knowledge is both represented and eventually processed by the brain prior to being articulated.

What Bandler and Grinder did was to apply their separate disciplines to the psychological counseling techniques of Fitz Perls, Virginia Satir and Milton Erickson. For those not in the know, Fitz, Virginia and Erickson are absolute Titans in the field of talk therapy. The ultimate outcome of Bandler and Grinder’s efforts is that they were able to identify and quantify the specific patterns present in the practices of Perls, Satir and Erickson. Arguably for the first time, the mastery of psychological counseling was revealed in a very exacting and distinct series of concrete processes … the “how do they do that” puzzle was solved.

Okay, now that your eyes are glazed over from having read the above I suppose you are saying to yourself “Gee, Frank, that’s just swell, but what does any of this have to do with my being a successful classroom teacher?” I’m absolutely delighted you asked that question, gentle readers, and the answer begins below.

In the present form, NLP provides a highly refined matrix by which a person can capture the sensory input preference(s) of any individual. Huh? Okay, try this, we have all heard and probably read a great deal about “learning styles” and the importance of employing classroom instructional techniques that take into account a student’s preferred way of learning. When we say “learning style” we are actually addressing the preferred process, and not the content proper. We can know how a person is processing information but we cannot know the actual content, e.g., we cannot read their mind. One of the major criticisms, and justifiably so, that is leveled at proponents of learning styles is that the data substantiating claims of learning style are derived from self report forms. With NLP, we avoid the whole controversy by way of directly observing a person (student) process information … we ask them nothing and they tell us everything.

There are several ways, or active systems, for identifying how a person is processing information with regard to sensory input channel selection, e.g., up inside their head making pictures (Visual Learner), listening to their inner voice run a monologue (Auditory Learning), and so on. Please keep the context of NLP’s birth and development in mind as it is crucial to understanding what you can and what you cannot use in the NLP tool box. For example, while conversing with a person I can observe their breathing and have a decent understanding of what sensory channels they are engaging at that moment. That’s all well and fine in certain settings, however, a classroom filled with students and a busy schedule to maintain is not the right time or place for such a thing.
Ideally, we would all have the opportunity to create our capture – identify matrix out of several observation systems. The truth of the matter is we as teachers do not have that luxury. So what is our best course of action given that we want to add NLP to our teaching repertoire? We go with auditory cues and by this I mean we engage in active listening with a very specific purpose.

To get a feel for how NLP might benefit you as a teacher try the following experiment for an hour or so every day for the next 3 days. Listen carefully to the person you are conversing with and keep a mental tally of the times they used words like “feel” “hear” and “see”. You are listening for patterns to emerge and here is a hypothetical conversation taking place in which you are the listener as an example: “You know, I feel real bad about the state of the economy today. I mean, it hurts me to think of all the people who lost their jobs right before the holidays. I can’t begin to imagine how painful it must have been for them to tell their Children that the holidays were going to be slim this year. Whenever I think of this mess we are in I just feel so bad inside …” Okay, now I know you are all quick studies, have all ready analyzed the hypothetical above, and properly concluded … “Aha, Kinesthetic Learner!” Congratulations, without any fuss or muss you have just correctly identified the imaginary person’s sensory input preference and you immediately converted this knowledge into a learning style label. What is more important is that you did it without them even knowing and you did it without subjecting them to some “fill in the bubble” questionnaire. You actively listened, and they told you everything you need to know in order to quickly and deeply connect with them, namely, you frame your part of the continuing conversation by using words that are kinesthetic in nature.

There are some interesting visual and auditory cues that tend to present in all sensory input preference systems, however, they are outside the scope of this short introduction article. I informed Mr. Teacher that the article I submitted would be no more than around 700 words and I’m all ready well over the limit. So, this concludes my contribution to Mr. Teacher’s Blog and I hope you not only enjoyed the post, but come away with at least a glimpse of what could be a useful tool to you in teaching.
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Check out Intellteacher's Blog for more informative posts like this one!

Let the Guest Posts keep on rollin'!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I love teaching vocabulary

Last Friday, I stayed late, too late, at school, grading papers. Part of the reason for that was that I took up my students' journals to grade something they had written within, and I didn't want to take all the journals home over the weekend. Another part of the reason was that two of my former students came in asking if they could do anything to help me around the room.

I immediately put them to work, but as they were very talkative the whole time, it probably took me longer than it would have otherwise.

But that's not the point of the story. The point of the story comes from something that the boys told me about another student in their class. They told me that this child had been suspended for bringing alcohol to school.

When they told me that, I asked, "What kind of alcohol did they bring?"

One of the boys replied, "The white kind!"

And thus began the vocabulary lesson for the boys, as I rattled off a litany of possibilities, trying to hit on the white alcohol in question.

"Vodka? Rum? Everclear? Zima? Peach Schnapps?"

Afterwards, I was glad they had not said someone brought drugs to school. I could see a teacher grilling the kids:

"Was it marijuana? Coke? Cheese? Heroine? Yellowjackets? Speedballs? Goofballs? Ludes? Shrooms? X? Spanish Fly?"

(I later found out from another teacher that the alcohol in question was an airline travel-size bottle of Bacardi Rum.)

Monday, January 12, 2009

The first new review of 2009!

A while back, I sent a copy of Learn Me Good to NovelCritic, a website which reviews books, as the name would imply. A few nights ago, I got an email saying that the review was up and available. I checked it out and was very pleased with what I found! So much so, that I decided I'd copy it here for all to see!

Let the blatant self-promotion continue into 2009! :)

Again, this comes from NovelCritic, by the reviewer Nazzrat.
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This is one funny book. Learn Me Good, by John Pearson, is not your average three-act novel that most of us have come to expect from fiction. In fact, it isn’t all ficticious, but rather a chronology of events in written form, much like the Diary of Anne Frank, but with fewer nazis. The book is comprised entirely of email messages with no chapter breaks. And who needs ‘em?

The only fiction in the book are the names of the people involved. And maybe some of the stories have been embellished. A little.Jack Woodson has been laid off from a big engineering firm. What he used to be: an engineer. What he is now: a grade school teacher. It sounds like an odd coupling, but at least his background gives him a good footing to teach math and science. To third graders. In his spare time he shoots off an email to his buddy and ex-co-worker Fred Bommerson (not his real name) to report on how the teaching job is going, and to enlighten and inform (read: tattle) the good folks at the engineering plant as to what kind of antics the kids are up to. Apparently, the names of the children have also been changed to protect the innocent (name one!), but some of the names of the students were so compelling, I found myself aching to know what the real names were. For instance, Mr. Woodson mentions a kid named Samsonite, then throws in a clever quip about how a kid with that kind of name must be carrying around a lot of emotional baggage (ba-dum bum). So the question is: does the REAL kid have a name that also sounds like a luggage manufacturer? Trying to think of a real name to offset the fake one added an element of charm and intrigue to the overall story.

As the school year progresses and the email piles up, the stories become more and more entertaining and funny. This book shines a bright, multi-colored light into the deep, dark recesses (no pun) of the classroom and the emperor and serfs thereof. From the drop-in eye care lady (”I think glasses are SEXY!”) to the drill-down preparation for the dreaded TAKS tests, Pearson carrys the reader through a school year of fun and mayhem. And don’t think there isn’t a climactic finish. I practically blew out an O-ring waiting to see if the students passed the math part of the TAKS test. I won’t give it away here, but the results were quite surprising.

So, if you’re looking for a book that will stick to your fingers and keep you awake until you can finally learn the academic fate of these kids who are so (and some not so) eager to learn from their well-meaning and sometimes misplaced teacher, this is the book for you.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Who's the expert, anyway?

For my Guest Posting Initiative run, I have been putting up the post in the evening before the day I scheduled it to run. If I don't do this, then I won't be physically able to post it on the day I scheduled until I get home from school, which is usually in the 5-6:30 range. Thus, it won't be available for most of the day.

When I run it in the evening, then it's available for the ENTIRE day.

This is my Guest Post for Monday, January 12. Sure, it's not even 7 PM yet on Sunday evening, but Jack Bauer is about to embark on a world-saving day in just a few minutes, and after that, Jack Woodson needs to get his beauty sleep. So we'll just say I'm a little early for the Monday post.

Anyway, today's Guest is Kevin Hodgson, who blogs at Kevin's Meandering Mind. He teaches sixth grade and is also the technology liason with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project.

Kevin also draws a comic strip called Boolean Squared, which features a character called -- get this -- Mister Teach! So of course, I jumped at the chance to have him guest here on Learn Me Good.

Here is Kevin's post:
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It was about two years ago that I realized that some of my students (11 year olds) knew more about technology than I did. Given the state of affairs in most classrooms, this may not seem so surprising. But I have been immersed in technology for a couple of years now -- I began blogging with other teachers in 2002 as part of the National Writing Project -- and I figured that I was always a step or two ahead of my sixth graders when it came to knowing and using cool tools.

And most of my students, while having some knowledge of concepts like podcasting and wikis, don't know much about the applications but they are willing to dive in, if you give them the chance. We dive in quite a bit at our classroom site (The Electronic Pencil ). Yet, I have come to realize that there is a small cadre of students who are way beyond me, exploring new digital terrain on their own and, for the most part, without the knowledge of their parents or teachers and even their friends.

Here's what happened. My class was in the midst of a claymation movie project, which is stopmotion animation. It's a painstaking project that yields pretty interesting results and most of the students are completely engaged in the process. One of my students, whom I knew to enjoy technology, seemed a bit bored, standing around, so I wandered over to him.

"What's up?" I asked.

"Nothing," he replied. Standard pre-teen lingo.

"How come you aren't down there," I pointed to the floor where his group was setting up a shot. They were on their knees, working with little clay people and the webcam. An open laptop was next to them.

"I'm bored."

"How can you be bored? You're making a movie. You love this stuff." I was bewildered. I knew that he didn't quite like writing, which is the subject that I specialize in. But technology? This was his bread and butter.

"Well ..." he hesitated, looking sheepish.

"What?"

"I've been doing claymation and stop-motion for a year or so."

"You have? On your own?"

"Yeah. I have about 30 movies done."

I gasped. "Thirty?"

He nodded. "They're up at YouTube."

"On YouTube?" I sounded like an echo chamber.

He nodded again.

"You have 30 movies published on YouTube?" I must have sounded like an idiot to the kid.

"Well, actually, I have almost 100 movies on YouTube. I do more than stop-motion. I also make my own movies about all sorts of things. Vacations. Fooling around with my friends. Stuff like that."

The following year, I had an eerily similar conversation with three other kids, all of whom had lives as creators outside of the classroom in realms such as flash animation, website creation and podcasting. Of course, this made my lessons and discussions about safety in the online world all the more important, yet I can't help but being impressed by the skills they have developed mostly on their own.

Now, I know how Marc Prensky has coined the digital immigrant and digital native monikers to talk about the divide between educators and their students. In a nutshell: teachers live in the Stone Age with the Flintsones while students are ready for the world of the Jetsons. I don't quite buy it and neither should you. It's too pat and clear-cut.But it is clear that some students -- not all, but some -- are moving faster into new terrain than we can guide them, and that gives ammunition to the argument that we need to prepare our students not for the world as it is today, but for the world as it may be tomorrow. These skills include creativitity, technological work-arounds when something doesn't do what you want it to do, and the ability to collaborate with a group of people.

For me, this realization also reinforced the notion that I am a guide in my role as teacher more than authoritative presence, but I also need to be open to learning from them. It turns out my claymation specialist who had dozens of movies on the web had some thoughts about how we could do better claymation but he was wary of stepping into the role of expert until I encouraged him and learned from him.

And I realized, too: this situation is ripe for comedy.

So I began developing a webcomic about the so-called digital divide that exists between teachers and students. The comic -- called Boolean Squared and which runs twice a week at the website of our large daily newspaper (grab the rss feed here ) -- features a boy named Boolean and his friend, Urth, who love to hack into systems and use technology, but they don't quite understand what they are doing. They do it because it is cool. And it gives them some power that they don't otherwise have. Their teacher -- Mr. Teach -- tries to keep them engaged but he is clearly out of his element.

I'm not quite Mr. Teach and Boolean is not quite my student (in fact, I often feel more like I am writing as Boolean), but somewhere in the storyline is my own reflections of the dynamics of a classroom where technology is making its impact -- whether we like it or not. And how we as teachers adapt to the situation will go a long way to preparing our students for the world in which they will live.



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I thought I was doing pretty good with my 12 YouTube videos!! This kid has me whipped!!
Be sure to check out more Boolean Squared comics and go read Kevin's Meandering Mind!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A very special guest

I hope everyone is having a happy weekend, and that the return to school did not fry too many brains out there!

Since it's Saturday, kind of a lazy day, my Guest Poster for today is none other than -- ME! In my Mr. Teacher of education.com guise!

I have been writing columns for education.com for a little over a year now, and the agreement is that there is a 90-day waiting period between when I post a column and when I can post something like it on my blog. Since 90 days have passed since many of those columns, I am free to post them here now! So I'm going to start with one of my favorites, which was my ideas during the Writer's Strike that affected many of us last year.

* This was originally posted on January 8, 2008 here at education.com *

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If you're like me, you are really upset about the writers’ strike that has had such a huge effect on movies and TV shows. Some of my favorite series -- "Heroes", "Lost", "Battlestar Galactica" -- have been delayed or suspended, while the very existence of others is up in the air.

Well now you don't need to worry any longer! Since I am not officially a member of the Writers Guild of America (or any Guild, for that matter), I am not forbidden to introduce new ideas into general public awareness.

So I have taken it upon myself to develop a few new concepts for movies and TV. These pitches -- all teacher-related, of course -- might just be coming to a video store near you, if the strike doesn't end soon.

"Try Hard" -- John McWayne was a 3rd-grade master reading teacher, the best at his inner-city public school. Until he ran into the class with no motivation. Led by an apathetic ESL student named Hans, this class didn't know the definition of the word, "effort." Witness McWayne win over and inspire the kids so they pass the evil standardized test.
*this movie would invariably spawn a sequel about the kids who did NOT pass -- "Try Hard 2: Try Harder".

"7" -- Special Agent Jack Tower of the CPU (Counter Plagiarism Unit) faces the longest school day of his life when a plot to mass distribute Senior term papers is uncovered. Meanwhile, Principal Palmer has his hands full dealing with a group of kids determined to kidnap the school mascot. Shot in real-time, each episode follows Jack and his crack team as they unearth clues, interrogate students, and enjoy a 30-minute cafeteria lunch. Don't miss the pulse pounding excitement!

"The Text-Files" -- Agents Sculder and Mulley, of the NTAA (National Textbook Adoption Agency) investigate mysterious occurrences involving misspellings and disappearing answer keys in Teacher Editions. Standing in their way is the sinister consortium, headed by the devious Pencil-Chewing Man. When it comes to history books, Sculder and Mulley are out to prove -- "the Truth is in there!"

"The Bourne Congruency" -- Amnesiac super-spy/assassin Jason Bourne is back again, this time as a high school geometry teacher! The pieces of his shattered life have finally begun to fall back into place, and to Bourne's surprise, those pieces are all the same size and same shape.

"The Straight A-Team" -- 10 hours ago, a crack academic team was sent to detention for a violation they didn't commit. These students promptly escaped from the minimum-security detention hall to the high school underground. Today, still wanted by the vice principal, they survive as mathletes of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... the Straight A-Team.

If these don't get green light for whatever reason, I've got tons more: "Fast Times Tables at Ridgemont High", "Charlie's Angles", "The Addition Facts of Life", "Everybody Loves Rounding", and so on and so on.

Writers Guild of America -- let this serve as motivation to you to get back into place quickly!!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

When's the next break?

I feel just about ready for another 2 week break! OK, so it's not because of the kids -- although after two great days back, today was a major headache day as my room was hot and stuffy, and the kids didn't seem to have their minds in problem solving gear -- I'm just not quite down yet with getting up at 6AM!! I got spoiled over break, sleeping till 10, 11. . . 3. . .

Anyway, it's back to the ol' grind.

I asked my kids what they did over their breaks, and that provided the material for this week's Mr. Teacher column over on education.com. It's titled, "Two Weeks Off??" and there are some pretty funny remarks on there.

Also, I found out that someone made a Mr. Teacher widget!! This will alert you to new columns when they come out!

This week's Carnival of Education is being hosted by the (ice bound) Rightwingprof over at Right Wing Nation. Go there to check out some fun posts by other bloggers around the edusphere.

I hope everyone is enjoying the Guest Posting Initiative. Right now, I have about 2 guests per week scheduled, but there is certainly room for more! Just shoot me an email if you'd like to expose yourself (cleanly) to a new audience!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

This post has flour power!

Next in the long line of January Guest Bloggers here on Learn Me Good, we have Carolyn, who writes Give Me Texas Wisdom. Carolyn is a substitute teacher, slightly lower even on the respect totem pole than full-time teachers, so God bless her.


She writes about an amusing incident during a recent high school subbing job.


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As a substitute teacher, one of the best ways to pick up jobs at the school you prefer is to simply sit in the teacher lounge during lunch. Last semester I was subbing for a coach. I didn't want to eat in his smelly gym office, so I went upstairs to one of the school's two teacher workrooms. I sat down with a group of outgoing women and jumped into the conversation. (Who, me?) The next thing I know, I was offered two weeks of Medical Microbiology.


Mind you, I majored in Art... but I would rather talk lice and tapeworms with seniors at a school I like than fingerpaint with pre-K at a school I don't. So I accepted.

I'm glad I did; Microbiology was great. These kids are brilliant with unique personalities, plus they all want to go into the medical field, so they pay attention. I couldn't ask for a better class. Still, every class has their "issues." We'll call this one "Sue."

Sue is the young woman who knows she's different but hasn't figured out how that makes her exceptional. She's more mature and independent than her clingy classmates. She has no problem showing her athleticism, bragging about trysts with her boyfriend, or wearing black nail polish. Sue yells out, "YES! MY FAVORITE SUB!" when she enters my classroom. She also wants to call

me by my first name and be my best friend.

Not so much.

Well, one day in Microbiology Sue walked into the classroom with this:



That's right, the infamous "flour baby" from Home Economics. (Although now I think they call the class "Family and Consumer Sciences.") Either way, while all the other girls had attached a head, arms, and legs, and had dressed their babies in the best Cabbage Patch clothing they could find, Sue had taped on a random baby face courtesy of Google Image Search and used a Hello Kitten scarf as a diaper.

I like Sue.

And, quite frankly, I like the idea of flour babies. I'm already discussing sexually transmitted diseases in Microbiology... why not throw in the ULTIMATE consequence of unprotected teen sex? Those babies lead to some pretty mature and important discussions, with Sue fully participating.

After I got of my soap box, having babies in the classroom proved pretty hilarious. I think it was the only time I actually encouraged someone to engage in kidnapping. I KNOW it was the only time I ever muttered the words, "Yes, you can go to the bathroom- just don't drop your baby in the toilet."

I can't wait to see which subject the teacher's lounge takes me next....

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My thanks to Carolyn, and I encourage everyone to check out her blog, Give Me Texas Wisdom! I could use some of that now myself!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Cheeseburger and a coke

Does anybody remember that old Sesame Street skit where a clueless Grover would be at a restaraunt, and the waiter would ask for his order, whereupon Grover would say, "I'll have a cheeseburger and a coke!"

When the waiter informed Grover that they didn't have any cheeseburgers, Grover would reply, "Well in that case, I'll have a cheeseburger and a pepsi!"

And so on, and so on.

I had a moment where I felt like the waiter today.

We were discussing the short /u/ sound, saying, repeating, and blending several words like cup, jump, run, bug.

I reminded the kids that once you know a word that has a short u sound, like bug, then you know most of the rhyming words also have a short u sound.

So I asked for words that rhyme with bug.

"Mud!"

"Run!"

"Jog!"

"January!"

Each time, I tried to stop and remind the class what RHYMING means. I told them I wasn't looking for just any word that has a u in it, even if it IS a short u sound. I wanted a word that RHYMED with bug.

Next kid -- "Astronaut?"

You know what has a short u? UUUUUUUUUGGGGGGHHHH!!!!!

And for those of you with a devious mind (like me), yes I have already forseen a few mishaps later this week with a certain word in the "truck" word family. Or maybe I'm ok since my kids won't be able to rhyme anything with truck.

On a completely different topic, whoever is reading this from Raleigh, NC -- I don't mean to sound like a stalker, but my stat counter shows me that you've been working your way backwards through all my blog posts. Sign my guest book, let me know who you are! :)

Monday, January 05, 2009

TAG -- You're it!

Today is the first day of school after winter break for us folk here in the Dallas ISD, and I can only hope the kids come back more energized than I was yesterday at the staff development!

Today, I have the second in a long (hopefully getting longer) line of Guest Posters here at Learn Me Good in the month of January. The Guest Posting Initiative (GPI?) is a way to showcase and spotlight the writings and blogs of other people and to expose people to new things. For the writer, they may find a whole new audience. For the reader, they may discover a new enjoyable author.

Today's Guest Blogger is Jason, an 8th grade student from Louisiana. He writes about the requirements for getting into the Gifted programs in TX and LA. He just started a blog called Jason's Perspective, and I encourage everyone to go check it out.

Before I present his post though, I'd like to lay out the guest calendar so far:

Jan 8 -- Carolyn of Give Me Texas Wisdom

Jan 12 -- Kevin of Kevin's Meandering Mind

Jan 14 -- Red Priest of Intellteacher's Blog

Jan 28 -- Mr. D of I Want to Teach Forever!

So as you can see, the calendar is still wide open! Don't be shy! Step right up and pick a date to Guest Post here on Learn Me Good!

Now on with the show.

Here is what Jason writes, in a post titled, "Louisiana VS Texas: Gifted Style."
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Louisiana and Texas both have G/T Programs( according to Learn Me Good, Texas's is called TAG). Before we begin, I think I must state that this information comes from people involved in the Webster Parish, Louisiana G/T program, It comes from overhearing, questions, and a little bit of the book Learn Me Good.

Get over the unindented paragraphs you grammar nerds, I like the block format. The major differences are the admissions to the G/T program. Texas is based on teacher reccommendation and student performance. It is made of people typically called overachievers. Louisiana Gifted students go through an exam called the K-Bit2 (or a closely similar name) to see if they are eligible to take the exam. If they pass, onto the exam. If not, end of the line segment or try again. You must wait a minimum of one year to retake the exam.

The exam consists of three parts, a reading test, a math test, and a psychological evaluation. Each part is worth three matrix points, alltogether worth 9 points. You must have at least 6 points (I got 7- 1 pt psy, 3 math, 3 reading- my reading and math were in the 98th percentile) alltogether, or 3 points on the psych evaluation. 1 point on the psych evaluation is above average.

Texas is based on teacher reccommendations. Texas will easily accept a student from Louisiana in G/T, but Louisiana isn't so easy with Texas G/T. Louisiana is one of the top G/t states. It isn't good at much else.

TEACHING CERTIFICATES:

I will now briefly describe the difference between a Louisiana Teaching certificate and a Texas on. Louisiana shows your degrees (not your major, but i.e. B.S. Louisiana Tech University 1997, MS Out of State College or University 2001) and your areas of certification, and the years you obtained them. It also shows your teaching certificates you have had. Texas shows your name and areas of certification, not degrees. You can check it out online if you want.
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My thanks to Jason for his evaluation! Everybody, please be sure to stop by Jason's Perspective, and leave a comment about his Guest Post here on Learn Me Good!

Good luck to all the teachers and students out there in the year 2009! Make the next couple of months count!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Spoiled by warm weather

Yesterday, January 3rd, it was 80 degrees here. My brother and I took his two boys out to the park, where people were in t-shirts and shorts.

Now I know that's not normal for January, but I find myself wondering why it can't last, especially since the forecast calls for lows in the 30s for the next couple of days. Days when I have to resume my 7AM OUTSIDE morning duty before school!!

Yes, we have to go back to school tomorrow. The kids don't -- they return on Tuesday. But we have to go back to attend staff development and see what our rooms look like after 2 weeks of inactivity.

Suddenly having to wake up at 5:30AM again, after spending several nights over vacation staying up UNTIL almost that time is going to hurt like jumping off a 10 story high-rise.

Ugh. Bring the pain.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Great Guest Fiasco of 2009!

I have a very special treat for everyone today. No, it's not your own Toyota Camry -- who do you think I am, Oprah Winfrey?

Rather, I am pleased to present the very first Guest Blogger on Learn Me Good, well, EVER, I think! But certainly in January of 2009!

Today's Guest Blogger is Joel, of So You Want to Teach? Joel writes about The Great Fish Fiasco of 2008.

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Okay, so maybe it wasn't quite as monumental as the title makes it sound, but it was tremendous, memorable, and pivotal by most accounts. In fact, I remember next to nothing else about the day. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It all started Tuesday morning. Well actually it started two weeks before. Well actually it started in November. We'll call her Fish Girl, not because she looks like a fish or smells like a fish. Not even because she breathes like a fish. The name will become self-evident as the story progresses.

So Fish Girl is the first chair trumpet player in my band. I've been encouraging her some and trying to help her our quite a bit this year. Back in November, she decided to begin asking me for mariachi music. She asked every day for almost a week before I finally gave in and copied some music for her. She decided she didn't like it because it looked too hard.

She comes into the band hall every day now after lunch to practice. She comes in before school. She comes in after school. It seems that I am quickly becoming her favorite teacher. In fact, she gets mad and jealous when other students say that I'm their favorite teacher; even moreso when they hint that they might possibly be my favorite student. There's a little bit of background.

Fast-forward.

'Twas the Tuesday before Christmas break. Fish Girl comes into the band hall proudly carrying a brand new beta fish she bought at Wal Mart. She tells me that he can live on my desk and be our fish. "Great," I think, "the Christmas gifts have already begun coming in. This is going to be a crazy year!"

Mind you, this fish is not in your regular run-of-the-mill fish water. This is bright blue water. She said it came like that when she bought it at Wal Mart. I look over and notice that she is still messing with it when she opened the lid and decided the water smelled funny. She decided she was going to go change the water. We warned her that doing so could be harmful to the fish's health.

The first bell then rang and I left my office to get set up for first period. After the tardy bell rang, I noticed that Fish Girl and Friends were nowhere to be found. I asked and someone told me they want to go feed the fish. Whatever, it's time for rehearsal.

A couple of minutes later, they all walk in, fish in hand. The water is clear. When asked about this, she told me that she had changed the water because it smelled bad. When I looked at it, it was there lying at the bottom of the bowl just there. Floating food adorned the top of the water, but none was to be eaten.

Later in the day, the other band director decided to email the faculty to ask if anyone else had an aquarium so that we could get water from it since the tap water wasn't seeming to make him all too happy. We got a few offers for us to use vases, but nobody seemed to have an inhabited aquarium.

Just after I returned from lunch, I noticed that she fish was gone. Right then, I looked at the door and saw a group of three or four students coming in with a full-size aquarium full of water, with my fish swimming up a storm. I emailed the faculty and thanked them for their help and thanked the people who had donated the aquarium.

A little later, I noticed that the fish had stopped swimming. I then asked the other director where they got the water, and he told me he figured they got it from the bathroom.

Ugh.

He emailed the faculty and told them that we had stopped performing CPR on the fish, and that he had flatlined.

Emails began flooding in. The history department sent a picture of a flag at half-mast. Tech ed made memorial badges. People asked when services would be held and where flowers could be sent.

Shortly after school, we got an email that said the English department would be bringing breakfast Wednesday morning. I replied to the staff that the band department would be providing fishsticks. Expressions of shock came in. As did questions about who would serve tartar sauce. All told, there were something like 25-30 emails that were sent to the entire staff in reference to this whole incident.

Late in the afternoon, our principal emailed us and told us that he appreciated that we could converse with each other, but that the excessive emails were wasting district resources. He also noted that some of the teachers had sent emails during periods when they had students in their classrooms.

I am once again reminded why I don't keep plants or fish in my office.

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I want to thank Joel very much for kicking off the January of Guest Blogging with style, and I welcome anyone else who is interested to drop me a line and get a spot on the calendar!

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