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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sad, and scary

I saw this post on the Dallas Morning News education blog site today.

You can read the whole story here, but basically this beloved elementary school crossing guard was hit and killed by a drunk driver. Yes, drunk, at 8:30 in the morning.

Tragic.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Are you kidding me?

OK, so I have this friend who is also a teacher. And she tells me these stories about her principal that just make me shudder in horror and disbelief. But lately, she's really gone off the deep end (the principal, not my friend).

For one thing, she has been trying to get a certain grade level at this school to do after school tutoring the way SHE wants it done. Namely, from 3:30 - 5:30, 3 days a week. Now, speaking from personal experience, at MY school, we tutor ONE day a week, from 3:30 - 4:30, and the kids (and teachers) are exhausted and not thinking at the end of that.

At my friend's school, they already tutor 3 days a week, but her grade level has only gone till 4:30, whereas another grade level buckled under the pressure and tutored till 5:30 each day.

When the results of the reading test came back, my friend's grade level had done quite well, with about an 85% passing rate. The other grade, who tutored till 5:30, had a lower rate.

Nevertheless, this principal is so stuck as the star of her own personal movie that she is still harping on everyone to tutor till 5:30, fixated on the handful of kids who did NOT pass the reading test, and worse! Get this... She actually asked my friend, a professional teacher as most of us are, "Can you GUARANTEE me that every one of your kids will pass the math test?"

As if tutoring for another hour every day (and draining the kids' will to live even further) would make it impossible for anyone to fail!!!

I do tend to have a sarcastic side, but if I worked for this lady, I think I would have had to go back to my room, pull a 3rd grade math text off the shelf, walk back down to her office, and go over the chapter on Probability with her.

"You see, some events are certainties, while others are only 'most likely.'"

What an idiot.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

America's Next Top Student

Class picture day is coming up for us this Monday, so I thought it might be a good time to dust off an old Mr. Teacher column from education.com. This column originally ran on December 25, 2007 here.

Like I told my kids yesterday, try to come to school looking your best! No shirts with hot cheeto stains, no holes in the armpits, no fishstick crumbs hanging from your eyebrows!

And follow the advice below!!
_____________________________________________________________

My school district made the transition to standardized uniforms a couple of years ago, so all of the kids now wear white collared shirts, and blue or navy bottoms. But before that, the fashion statements varied widely.

There were of course the wacky outfits, the mismatched colors, and the unfortunate accessories. All of which can be excused because, after all, these are very young children we are talking about. However, there were several cases where I had to scratch my head and wonder how on earth the parents could let their child come to school dressed like that.

Adjectives can be fun. T-shirts that shout, "Awesome!", "Super!" , or "Rockin!” are great for children, but no one should ever wear any article of clothing that proclaims the wearer, "Juicy." Especially if this word is stitched across the rear end of a pair of sweat pants. That's just wrong, plain and simple.

Also in the category of incorrectness, third grade kids should not be wearing shirts to school that promote Hooters. I don't care how tasty their chicken wings are, or how pleasant the service, the connotations associated with such a shirt would most likely hinder the educational process. Save the Hooters shirts for the neighborhood birthday parties.

And while we're on the topic of insinuated body parts, let's try to keep the racy images to a minimum. When a child comes to school wearing a shirt depicting a bikini-clad woman of Pam Anderson-dimensions, it can be a huge distraction. For the male teachers, anyway.

I'm not going to make any suggestions in this forum as to when girls should begin wearing supporting undergarments. However, I will posit my opinion that no one under the age of 19 should sport the colored bra/translucent white shirt combo. If your daughter insists on wearing that red polka-dotted brassiere, then you need to insist that she wear three shirts on top of it.
Parents, you may have outgrown your “Mondale -- Ferraro ‘84” T-shirt, but please don't foist it on your middle schooler. They will be exposed to politics soon enough; let them enjoy this time of blissful ignorance.

Finally, we come to the ultimate fashion transgression. Before the dress code, the thing that disturbed me the most was seeing kids wearing North Carolina sports jerseys. This, quite frankly, is NEVER acceptable.

Parents, please take a look at your kids before they head off for school. Take a minute to review any pictures and words that you see. Demand a wardrobe change if necessary.

If they complain, you can always suggest that they save that particular outfit for their grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary later this year.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I wonder...

I wonder if poking myself in the eye with a sharp stick would have hurt less than after-school tutoring today...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The noticably less than Amazing Race

I had a frustrating day.

Not so much that I threw a marker across the room or kicked the lockers -- but I definitely thought about it. More than once. In fact, at one point, I did actually walk out of my room and offer up a silent Edward-Munch-like Scream in frustration rather than literally kick the lockers out in the hallway.

What has me so frustrated is my afternoon class's apparent apathy towards all things school related. I feel like I should bring in a crate of Zyrtec tomorrow, because my kids seem to be allergic to thinking.

Oh, but they certainly like to race to be first! When I ask an open-ended question, oh how they race to be the first to answer. Nevermind whether or not the answer is in any way, shape, or form reasonable -- all that matters is that they were first.

"Is 3 smaller than 10?" I'll ask.

"YES!!" 1 or 2 of them will shout. 5 or 6 will then do their best parrot impersonation and shout the same thing.

When I look at them strangely and ask again, incredulously, most will change their answer to "NO!" but I can see the furtive look behind the eyes of the front-runners that tells me they are thinking that they're the bomb now, they got their answer out first.

And then I have the kids that like to race to be done with their work first. They whip out answers to all the problems, then sit there staring at me, as if to say, "What else ya got?" Usually, when I go look at their answers, there are several mistakes, but these kids would never know it because they don't ever look at what they've written down.

I would tell them, "Great job, kiddo! You're so awesome at being first that I think you'll be in my class again NEXT year!!" but I feel like irony is lost on them.

Besides, they'd probably like the fact that they would be the first in the class to be retained...

Monday, March 23, 2009

10 more weeks??

Daggonit, Spring Break is over!! I certainly can't complain about the break. It was nice and relaxing, the weather was great, I got to catch up on sleep, on TV, and I got to watch ALL the basketball I wanted to.

However, that first day back is always torture. Then looking on the calendar and seeing that we don't have another day off between here and 2015. . .

The great news however is that my kids did really, really well on the TAKS reading test! The scores came in over the break, and only 4 kids out of my two classes did not pass! One even earned herself a million dollar bill by achieving a perfect score! In addition, 11 or 12 others received a Commended score!! So they did great!

In a sad piece of news, one of the members of our faculty went to the hospital with a brain aneurism last week, and she is now by all reports brain dead. I know that most people reading this don't know her, but I would still ask you to keep her and her family in your prayers. Thanks.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

An open letter to CBS Sports

Now that March Madness has begun and the crazy, wonderful, sweet, sweet tournament games are underway, I feel that it is as good a time as any to openly petition CBS about something that has bothered me for many, many years.

I am not going to begrudge CBS for their overall coverage, even though way back when, when the tourney was covered by ESPN, you could watch every game if you so chose. You might have to stay up till 4AM to see a rerun of the 2-15 blowout, but you could still watch your team if you wanted.

I also applaud CBS for their recent step of getting rid of Billy "Fudge" Packer, a man who, admittedly, knew his stuff when it came to college basketball, but who also had the disposition, personality, and charm of a rotting jack-o-lantern. I am SO thankful that I will not have to listen to Packer claim that a team is losing merely because they are playing inside a dome or that no team has a chance of winning without 2 swingmen.

No, what I want to address in this letter is the crowning jewel that comes at the very end of every Final Four weekend. The recap of the entire tournament known as "One Shining Moment."

One Shining Moment used to be 3 minutes of pure brilliance, capturing all of the highlights of the entire run of games. It used to be one last chance to see every awesome dunk, every blistering blocked shot, every bone-jarring charge.

However, over the past ten years, it has become a mere shade of its former glory. Does anyone truly consider a shot of a cheerleader clapping a "shining moment?" Does anyone in his right mind actually think that a highlight of the tournament is two drunk fans high-fiving each other??

And I almost don't even dare mention the debacle from about 7 years ago, when some (obviously drunk and/or high) CBS exec decided to trick up the video by adding visual special effects. Thank you, but when a player slam dunks the ball, I really don't need to see a big glowing ball of energy come out of his butt.

Anyway, CBS, I entreat you... When putting together this year's One Shining Moment video, PLEASE adhere to the following criteria...

Buzzer beaters are a no-brainer.

Slam dunks are next in line. The harder they shake the backboard, the better.

Players running down the court, holding up a finger in the "we're number 1" gesture makes for a nice feel-good moment, but HAS NO BUSINESS being in the highlight video.

Close-ups of high-fives and lingering shots of crowd reactions are acceptable. . . If the tournament is shown on the Oxygen Network. On CBS, get that @#*) outta here.

Save the cheerleader shots for a separate video titled "Girls gone Mad-ness" -- DON'T put them in the Shining Moment video!!

OK, so just to recap. If you want to restore One Shining Moment to its former greatness, pack it full of dunks, blocks, dagger shots, and hard fouls. Get rid of the cheerleaders, the fans, the highfives, and the spheres of light coming from nether regions.

I trust that you'll do the right thing, CBS.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Last chance to win!

Hey, just a reminder that today is the last day to get in on March Mathness! Fill out a bracket at http://games.espn.go.com/tcmen/group?groupID=7805&entryID=105947 for the chance to win bragging rights AND a nice 14 disc DVD set from The History Channel!!

So far, there are only 13 entrants, and that's counting me!! So your odds are pretty good if you join! Please don't worry if you don't know Northern Iowa from Robert Morris! The matchups are so even this year, even a total hoops newbie could take it all!!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Break has Broke!

AH YES!!! Spring Break is upon us! And once again, the stars are aligned and the universe is at peace, since they moved our break back to the week when the NCAA men's basketball tournament begins.

Last year was miserable, as not only did we have school on the Thursday that the games began, but it was also parent conference night, so I didn't get to see ANY basketball that day!!

Speaking of, if you're a fan, or even if you just want something to do with the chance to win a prize, head over to my espn.com bracket challenge and make your picks. Bragging rights is the biggest prize, but the top person in my pool will win a nice DVD set called "The Founding of America," courtesy of A&E Entertainment and The History Channel.

Late last week, Ed U Cater stopped by my room and put my simple plan into effect. He stood in the doorway and said in a conspiratorial voice, "Did you get that note about the district saying that 1 yard equals 3 feet?"

I replied, "The kids aren't supposed to hear that!!" (since of course there was dead silence by that time).

A few minutes later, as I was getting ready to dismiss class, I said to the kids, "You didn't really hear what he said, did you?"

Several kids yelled, "Yes we did!! He said 1 yard equals 3 feet!!"

So a good trial run for the simple plan. We'll see how well that information is retained when we get back from break. Thankfully, Spring Break isn't quite as bad a memory wipe as Summer Vacation (I liken the kids' brains to a beach ball with a slow leak).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

WHEN does Jack Bauer relieve himself???

OK, if you are a fan of pop culture at all, you recognize the reference I'm making to the great Monday night show, 24. Well, I felt a bit like Jack Bauer today, living at the school from 7am till 8pm. Tonight was Parent Conference night. And it was a conference night like no other I've ever experienced.

I'm used to sending out 10-12 requests, then sitting through 4 hours of mostly boredom while 2 of our requested parents show up, maybe 2 or 3 who we didn't request show up, and the rest avoid us like the plague.

But then, that was when I taught Gen Ed. Tonight, being a dual-language (ie, bilingual) teacher, it was like, "Welcome to the Big Leagues, Mister Teacher!"

Conferences started at 4:00. By 4:05, we had about 15 people in the hallway outside my room.

My partner and I had sent home requests to 16 of our kids, spacing the conferences 15 minutes apart. I had told both of my classes that if they did not get a request form to PLEASE tell their parents NOT to come to the school tonight. I told them that we would be happy to talk to them some other time, but that we needed the time to speak to the parents we had requested.

By the end of the night (and we WERE the last ones out the door), we had met with 24 parents. There was no downtime, no lulls, no periods between 4 and 8 that there weren't people waiting to see us.

Of course, one could take from this that my kids just don't follow directions (often true), but I suppose a lot of the parents wanted to meet with us because we were not their children's teachers back in October when the last conference night occurred.

Hey, by comparison, tomorrow will BREEZE right by!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

There's the bathroom on the right

I got an email a while back from Tim Wei, who wrote the Guide to Getting a Teacher Job, asking if he could guest post here on Learn Me Good. I'm always open to a nice story, and if it makes less work for me, then so much the better!

Tim is a 3rd grade teacher in upstate New York, and here is Tim's post:

_____________________________________________________________

True story: This past Tesday morning my students were coming into the classroom. In less than a half hour they'd be taking the Grade 3 New York State Math Exam. I was busy putting name stickers on the booklets and reminding kids to sharpen their number 2 pencils.

Over the past week the students had completed half-a-dozen practice tests and we'd reviewed every possible concept that could be on the test. The day before I had reminded everyone to get a good night's sleep so they'd be sharp and ready to show off their great math skills.

Now that it was the morning of the test, I was feeling good that the kids knew their stuff. I was feeling pretty confident that they were prepared.

Olivia walks up to me and we have a conversation that goes something like this:

Olivia: "Can I go down to the Math Room?"

Me: "Why do you need to go to the Math Room?"

Olivia: "Because I have to go down there."

(Now I'm wondering what the Math Room is. Our school doesn't have a Math Room. At least I didn't know about one.)

Me: What Math Room are you talking about? Where is this Math Room?

(Olivia points down the hall)

Me: Who is in the Math Room?

Olivia: I don't know.

Me: I'm confused. Do you need help with Math?

Olivia: No.

Then Olivia is giving me a blank, confused stare. And I'm looking at her wondering if she's gone bananas.

And then I realize that she didn't want to go to the Math Room at all. She was asking me if she can go to the BATHroom.

And I was too dumb to realize it.
____________________________________________________________

To read more from Tim, go to www.iwantateachingjob.com.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Let the March Mathness begin!

OK, so I didn't quite the widespread spreading wide of the new learnmegood.com address that I would have liked (you can always STILL post the link!), but this was a sweepstakes after all, so I am here to honor the effort and pass out prizes!

There were a slew of comments posted between Feb 9 and Mar 9; the FoLMeGs just about doubled in number; the guest book entries increased dramatically. . . If you participated in any of those things, then your name was in the hat for the drawing! Prizes up for grabs were 2 copies of my book Learn Me Good (ask for it at your local bookstore!) and 2 witty T-shirts from Mister Teacher's Spreadshirt Store.

And so, without any further ado. . .

The winners of a copy of Learn Me Good are COLUMBIA LILLY and THE SCHOLASTIC SCRIBE!!

The winners of a T-shirt are MISS PANDA and RAMBLIN' EDUCAT!!

If you are an above named winner, please contact me at learnmegood2@yahoo.com to claim your prize.

And now that that's done with, time to announce the next round of games. As many of you may know, I am a GINORMOUS college basketball junkie. I love March more than almost any other time of the year. I love the fact that my Spring Break once again coincides with the start of the tournament.

I'm inviting everyone who's interested to join my bracket pool at espn.com. The name of the pool is "NO PACKER! YESSSS!" Even if you know absolutely nothing about basketball, this is the year to join anyway, because the teams are so evenly matched that any pick could be a good one.

To sweeten the pot, I'm going to offer a prize for the person with the top bracket. I recently received a lovely package of DVDs from the History Channel, courtesy of A&E Home Video (thanks, Anna) so I thought I'd offer up their set titled "The Founding of America" as a first-place incentive. After all, I'm sure the founding fathers had March Madness in mind when establishing this great nation.

You can find more info about this set by clicking here, and here's a small blurb about the set:

The inspiring early days of America -- the personalities, the battles, the bravery, the losses, and even the romance -- spring to life in spellbinding detail in this sweeping 14-DVD set from A&E Home Video.

FOUNDING FATHERS and FOUNDING BROTHERS examine the relationships of the very human men who risked their fortunes and lives for independence. THE REVOLUTION recounts great battles, devastating losses, and miraculous victories. BEN FRANKLIN and BENEDICT ARNOLD: A QUESTION OF HONOR look at the critical roles played by both men--one a hero, the other a traitor--while WASHINGTON THE WARRIOR and THE CROSSING pay tribute to the soul-stirring leadership of our first president.

With performances by Kelsey Grammar, Aidan Quinn, and Jeff Daniels, rare archival material, and commentary by leading historians, THE FOUNDING OF AMERICA presents historical programming at its comprehensive best.

You can set up your ID and join the pool now, just be sure to go in and make your bracket picks sometime between NEXT Sunday and the following Thursday...

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Almost time for the drawing

This Monday, March 9th, will end the Learn Me Good Grand Reopening Sweepstakes of 2009! There are still a couple of days left to get entries into the sweepstakes!

Remember, leaving a comment, signing the guest book, and becoming a FoLMeG all get you a few entries, but I was really, really, REALLY hoping that people would start posting links to learnmegood.com around the net! I see that a lot of places that link to the Learn Me Good blog still have the blogspot.com link up. I DO plan at some future date to do more than just mirror the blogspot, at which point any blogspot links will be outdated.

So switch NOW rather than LATER! Think of it like making sure your TV is up to date and won't be obsolete once THAT switch happens. Also, you get a chance to win a great T-shirt or Book!!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

HOT Carnival time

This week's Carnival of Education is up and running now at the Core Knowledge Blog. My Million Dollar Test post is there, along with lots and lots of other great ones.

So today was an absolutely gorgeous day outside. Sunny, something like 85 degrees, not too windy. Simply beautiful.

Inside the classroom, however, it was like a rainforest, hovering somewhere between 85 and 90 degrees. The air conditioning was doing a great job of. . .well, making noise, but certainly not cooling the room down. I suppose that's because the air conditioning hasn't officially been sanctioned by the good folks downtown. Hey, at least it wasn't blowing even hotter air -- it just wasn't blowing cooler air either.

We work in Texas, people!! Turn our A/C on!!!

Career path already mapped

Yesterday after school, I was sitting in my classroom doing lesson plans with a colleague when the TAG teacher walked by with one of the 5th grade ne'er-do-wells. She was getting on his case about something, which came as no surprise to me at all, because when he was in my class 2 years ago, I was constantly on his case.

The TAG teacher asks me to ask this kid what time he finished his TAKS test the day before. So I obliged and asked him what time he finished.

He answered: "Between 11 and 1."

I looked at him for a second and then commented on what a fantastic cable repairman he was going to be, since he was already getting used to giving answers like that.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Test Day. DUM DUM DUM!!!!

Today was the day of the TAKS.

YUCK.

I won't know for sure how my kids did for about 2 weeks, but I can speculate based on the reports I heard from the monitoring teachers. But we'll get to that in a bit.

First, let me share a few jokes. Since the test didn't actually begin until around 8:30, I had a bit of "dead time" to fill between when the kids entered the classroom and when the other teacher came in. Restroom break only took about 10 minutes, so afterwards, with the kids sitting there (and of course not allowed any kind of reading material -- they'd be getting enough of that later), I asked if any of the kids knew any good jokes.

They all told me no. Great. So I started racking my brain for jokes I knew which were clean AND simple to understand. I remembered a few really corny jokes:

What color is a burp? Burple

What did the rug say to the floor? "I've got you covered."

How do you catch a mouse on the computer? With an INTER-net.

These all received great big laughs.

Then I asked, "What did the fast tomato say to the slow tomato?" Catchup!

This was met with blank stares, so I spent the next 3 minutes explaining how ketchup was made out of tomatoes.

At that point, one of my goofballs said he knew a joke. "When did you find a cat named 13?"

I had no idea of course, so he told me the answer: 13.

The kids thought that was the funniest joke they had ever heard. Go figure.

Thanks for the nice comments on the story from yesterday. We read it to all of the 3rd graders at my school yesterday, and they all really seemed to enjoy it. As for how meaningful it was to them, well...

One of my classes was reportedly VERY thorough, taking their time, doing their work, and checking their answers. YAY!!

My other class, however, seemed just as knucklheady (it's a word) as ever. One of my angels even TORE OUT pieces from her test booklet so she could write notes to the girl in front of her!!! I later saw the note, and it said: "Hola!"

I'm sorry, but if you are actually going to go to the ridiculous extreme of MUTILATING the document that determines whether you go to the next grade, you had damn well better write something more than "HOLA!!" I'd better see Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, or the Gettysburg Address!!!

According to my old partner, Miss Jenn Ed, both of her sections (who are REALLY low readers) seemed to take the story to heart, or they at least spent a good long time on the test.

Strangely, the class of my colleague who printed out the million dollar bills was entirely finished by 10:30.

Anybody else have any stories to share from today?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Million Dollar Test

Kids all over the state of Texas will be taking their first TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) this Tuesday. It's often difficult to get the kids motivated to really take their time and do their best on these tests, so I'm trying a new approach.

I wrote a story this weekend called "The Million Dollar Test." It's the story of a group of kids who are offered the chance to make a million dollars, but only if they get a perfect score on the state test. Another 3rd grade teacher and I are going to read it to our classes tomorrow in the hopes that it will fire the kids up. My colleague is even printing out 1,000,000 dollar bills to give to the kids who DO get a 100 on Tuesday.

Read the story and see what you think. Anyone who likes this and thinks their kids might benefit from hearing it is welcome to print it out and use it. Feel free to tweak it to your needs as well (if you need to change the grade level, name of the test, etc). I would just ask that you give me credit if you're asked where the story came from.

The Million Dollar Test

"Yes! That's another goal for us!" Mikey shouted.

It was Sunday evening, and Mikey and his friends had gotten tired of studying for the TAKS test. Instead, they had met at the neighborhood park to play a game of soccer.

"We're still winning!" Peter yelled. "4-2!"

The ball rolled down the field again, and Peter and Mikey both ran towards it. Mikey got to it first, but when he kicked the ball, it bounced off Larry's leg and towards the playground.

As he tried to beat the other boys to the ball, Mikey noticed that it was heading towards a man sitting on a bench with a lot of birds at his feet. The birds flew away as the pack of children ran towards them.

Larry, who could be very rude, looked like he was going to kick the soccer ball away from the old man, who was reaching down to pick it up. The man was quicker than he looked, though, and he snatched the ball up before Larry could strike it.

"Just slow down there, young man!" he said. "I came out here to feed the birds," he continued, motioning at a bag of breadcrumbs on the bench next to him, "but you've scared them all away!"

"We're sorry, sir," Mikey replied. He was a very polite boy.

"You look like third graders to me," the old man ventured. "Shouldn't you be at home, getting ready for the TAKS this Tuesday?"

Peter answered, "We've been reading all weekend! We had to take a break and do something fun!"

Larry added, "I'm sick of the TAKS! Why do we have to take it anyway?"

"To show that we are good readers," replied Jose, who had chased the ball with the others.

"I'm already a good reader!" Larry bragged.

"Larry, you got a 50 on the practice TAKS test!" Peter exclaimed.

"So?" Larry replied. "I was the first one done, so there!"

At that, he began a ridiculous dance, waving his hands and arms, shouting, "NUMBER ONE, YEAH! FIRST PLACE, SUCKERS!!"

By this time, all of the kids had left the soccer field and joined the group watching Larry act like a fool. In addition to Peter and Jose, Mikey saw his friends William and Jenny.

The old man spoke again. "Well, I have a deal to make with anyone who is interested. My name is Mr. Franklin, and I have made quite a lot of money by being a good reader and a good mathematician. If you don't believe me, just take a look at my car and driver."

He pointed toward the parking lot, and the kids saw a big, black car with dark windows. Standing in front of the car with his arms folded over his chest was a huge bald man in a blue jacket wearing sunglasses and a frown. He did not look very friendly.

"The gentleman is my good friend Mr. Clark," explained the man. "Don't worry, he's not as mean as he looks. He probably is just watching to make sure nobody kicks me."

All of the kids glanced at Larry, who turned bright red and looked down at the ground.

"Sir?" Jenny asked. "You said something about making a deal with us?"

"Ah yes, my dear girl," Mr. Franklin agreed. "Thank you for getting us back on track. Here is my deal, and it is only for the six of you, so don't tell your friends."

Mr. Franklin removed what looked like a green piece of paper from his pocket. "I will give one of these to any of you who makes a 100 on the TAKS test."

He unfolded the piece of paper, and the children gasped as they realized it was actually a piece of money. Mikey saw a one followed by six zeros.

"Wow!" Larry cried. "One hundred dollars!!"

"That's not a hundred, you goof!" William argued. "That's one MILLION dollars!"

Mikey just stared at the money in amazement. He didn't recognize the man in the center of the bill, but whoever he was, he looked very important.

"We can each get a million dollars," Jose asked, "just for passing the TAKS test?"

"No!" Mr. Franklin replied. "Not just for passing! To earn this money, you must get a perfect score of 100. Even one wrong answer, and there's no deal."

"How much can I get for finishing first?" Larry asked.

Mr. Franklin ignored him and asked Mikey a question instead. "Who is your teacher? I will tell her about our deal and have her tell me your scores."

The kids all shouted, "MRS. MARTIN!"

With that, Mr. Franklin suggested that the kids get back to studying, and they hurried home excitedly.

When Tuesday finally came, Mikey was nervous but prepared. He could hardly sleep the night before, but he knew that a good night's rest was very important, so he had gone to bed early. Looking around the room, he saw that Peter, William, Jose, Jenny, and even Larry looked wide-awake and eager to read.

Mrs. Martin passed out the tests and wished the children good luck. She sent a nervous thrill down Mikey's back when she said, "This just might be the most important test of your life."

Mikey opened the test booklet and began to read the first story. He was really trying his very best to pay attention to every word of the story. He used all of the helpful strategies Mrs. Martin had taught him -- writing a quick summary of each paragraph, circling words that looked important, and using context clues.

When he read question number one, he was overjoyed because he remembered where he had read the answer. He flipped back to the story, underlined the sentence that proved it, and then bubbled in the correct response.

"I'm that much closer to a million bucks!" he thought to himself.

With a growing confidence, Mikey continue to answer questions, always sure of the right answer because he was finding proof in the story. However, when he began to read the second story, he started to get worried. The passage was a biography about someone Mikey had never heard of, and he couldn't keep his mind from wandering.

He looked at the clock. It was a little before 9:30. Mikey knew that he had all day to finish the TAKS, so he read the biography again, this time more slowly and carefully. He noticed a few important details that he had not even seen the first time, and he wrote these down in little notes on the side of the page.

The questions for this passage were a little harder to answer, but Mikey felt he was doing well. That is, until he got to number 17. Number 17 had him stumped. He knew that answer choice B was not right, but he just wasn't sure whether he should choose A, C, or D.

The clock read 10:05. Mrs. Martin always said not to spend all your time on one hard question. Mikey thought to himself, "I'll skip this one for now and come back to spend more time on it later."

Sure enough, Mikey was able to find the answer to question number 18 with ease. He was quite happy when he finally finished that set of questions and moved on to the third story, which was much easier to understand than the biography of what's-his-name.

Mikey had just finished reading the third passage when he heard a chair slide back. He looked up to see someone getting out of his seat and turning the test in. It was Larry!

Larry was finished with his TAKS test at 10:30!

Mikey watched Larry strut back to his seat. Larry was acting like he was king of the world, holding one finger up and nodding his head crazily.

"There's one person who certainly won't be getting that million bucks," Mikey thought. "Enjoy reading your Captain Underpants, Larry, because that's all you can do for the rest of the day!"

Mikey refocused on his own test and was soon finished summarizing each paragraph of the last passage. He took his time with each question and found every answer in the story. When he bubbled in the very last answer, he put his pencil down and looked at the clock. It was just after 11:15.

His mind raced. "I feel really good about this test!" he told himself. "I could turn it in right now and be done with it!"

But then he remembered what his teachers had told him over and over again. It's very easy to make silly mistakes when you take a test. The only way to be absolutely SURE you've got them all right is to go back over the test, read the stories again, and check every answer.

Mikey remembered all of these things, but he also felt really tired of reading. He didn't want to go back to the beginning and read the first story again. Fortunately, he remembered another piece of advice. His mom had told him that if he ever got tired during the test, it was OK to take a little break.

So Mikey closed his eyes. He quietly rubbed his wrists around and massaged his hands. He reached up and rubbed his neck for a few minutes. While he did this, he thought to himself, "It's almost 11:20. Lunch is at 11:30. I think I'll rest until lunch, then get some food in me (I hope it's pizza!), then I'll take on that first story again."

Satisfied with this plan, Mikey opened his eyes again for a moment. Sitting in front of him was William, who had his hand raised. Mrs. Martin came and picked up William's test.

Mikey was a little surprised that William was already turning it in, but he knew that William was in TAG and was very smart. Maybe he really DID make a 100.

Three or four other kids turned in their tests before lunch also, but Peter, Jose, and Jenny still had theirs. While they were eating, they weren't allowed to talk about test, but the four friends kept smiling at each other and giving the thumbs-up.

After lunch and a quick bathroom break, it was back to business. Mikey was glad he had not turned his test in because now he felt refreshed and completely ready to start over.

He devised a game plan. "Since the second story was so tough," he thought, "I'm going to save that one for last. I'll check the first story, then the third story, THEN the second story."

Mikey dove back into the TAKS. He read the first story as if he had never read it before and checked the summaries. He made sure that he had chosen the correct answer for each question.

He found his first mistake on question 12. The question asked what happened BEFORE something else, and he had chosen something that happened AFTER! He happily erased the wrong bubble and filled in the new corrected answer.

He found his next mistake on question 33, with the third story. This truly was a silly mistake. Mikey had put a check mark next to answer C, which he knew was the right answer. However, he had filled in the bubble for answer B.

"That almost cost me a million bucks!" he thought nervously.

It was almost 2 o'clock, and lots of Mikey's classmates were reading books, having finished their TAKS. Mikey saw Peter hand his test to Mrs. Martin. Larry was asleep, drooling onto the pages of the book on his desk.

Only one passage remained to be checked a second time. Mikey took a short stretching break, then he began to read again. This being his third reading of the biography, he understood it much better this time. He started to check his answers and then noticed he had skipped one question.

Number 17! Mikey had totally forgotten that he had not answered question 17!

"Whew!" he whispered to himself. "It sure is a good thing I didn't turn my test in before lunch!"

It was still the hardest question on the test, but this time, Mikey felt confident he had chosen the correct answer. He finished checking the rest of the questions on the second passage.

By that time, it was nearly 2:40, and Mikey was exhausted. He also felt excited because he was sure he'd gotten every question correct. He raised his hand and turned the test in with a big smile.

The next two weeks were the longest days of Mikey's life. He and his friends had to wait to learn how they had done on the test. Most of them, like Mikey, thought they had made a 100 and were already thinking of the things they would do with the prize money. Larry continued to brag about how he had finished first.

On the Friday before spring break, Mr. Franklin stepped into their classroom, and Mikey's heart nearly stopped. The old man said hello to Mrs. Martin, who then announced that she had received the results of the TAKS reading test.

First, she announced that everyone except two kids in the class had passed. She then read the list of students who had received a Commended score. Mikey almost couldn't breathe when Mrs. Martin said his name. Of the six friends who had made the deal with Mr. Franklin, only Mikey and Jenny were on the Commended list!

Mrs. Martin asked Mikey and Jenny to step out into the hallway to speak with her and Mr. Franklin. Outside of the classroom, Mr. Franklin said to them, "Children, I am so very proud of both of you! I have come to honor our deal. Jenny, my dear, you did so well on the TAKS, but I'm afraid you did miss one question. While you didn't make a 100, you did simply fantastic, and your teacher and your parents are so proud of you!"

He then turned to Mikey. "As for you, young man, major congratulations are in order because you did indeed achieve a perfect score on your test!"

Mikey's heart had never beat so fast as Mr. Franklin reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the one million dollar bill.

"Don't spend it all in one place, Sonny!" he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Mikey stared with joy and excitement at the money in his hands, and he knew his life would never be the same.

And to think that it was all because he had taken his sweet time on a reading test at school!

***********

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