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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Reminders

Just a couple of reminders about upcoming events --

Monday is the deadline for the contest to win 500 business cards or 500 brochures from uprinting.com. Remember, all you need to do is leave a comment in the original post explaining what you would do with that prize. There aren't a ton of entries, so your chances are still good!

Also, I am hosting the Carnival of Education here next Wednesday, and it's going to be BLOCKBUSTER! Don't get left in the dark; get your tickets to the big show and submit a front-row post ASAP!! You can email me or use this handy submission form.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

We love to fly, and it shows

Doing a little project with my kids called, "I Want to Go There," which involves the kids picking a vacation destination and then making a travel brochure about it. Included in the brochure will be trip information, travel costs, tables showing sight-seeing fares, etc, etc.

Yesterday, the kids in partner groups decided where they wanted their vacation spots to be. Most of them were really good choices like New York City, Miami, Paris. And some of them even chose those spots because they knew about some touristy things to see like the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and so on. Of course, there was an issue with spelling "beaches" (One kid -- "I know! It's B-I-T-C--" before I cut him off and said, "Nope! That's not it!")

A few weren't quite sure what their attractions would be. One group had chosen Mexico as their location. When I asked what people would go there to see, they replied, "Mexican people?"

Um, we can see plenty of them right here!

Today, I asked the kids to estimate the cost of airplane tickets to their destination. It was really interesting to see how much they think travel costs. One group said a ticket to NY City would be 2 bucks, while another group had a ticket to China rather under-priced at $50.

Hey, be sure to catch this week's Carnival of Education over at Siobhan Curious. Lots and lots of great articles there! And the Carnival will be here at Learn Me Good next week! So be sure to get your entry in early, by emailing me or using this handy dandy submission form.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

One more week

Just a reminder, the contest for 500 free business cards or 500 free brochures ends next Monday night, June 1st! All you have to do is leave a comment on the original post telling what you would use the cards or brochures for. Best entry will win! It's as simple as that!

Can't win if you don't enter, though!

Pump up the Volume

My last post was about kids who answer (nearly) every question with the words, "I don't know."

But what do you do about kids who answer so softly that you can't even hear them?

I have a couple of kids in class who I am constantly urging to speak louder in class. When I call on them, I can see their mouth moving, but even the person next to them can't possibly hear what they are saying. It's even worse when the air conditioning is blowing and making noise. Then, there is NO chance of hearing these kids.

Some of them are kids who just don't like to be called on, but some are kids who always want to be the "teacher of the moment," even asking to be called on to go up to the board to work out a problem.

I have a strict rule in my class that when someone works a problem in front of the class, they are not allowed to just write and DO the problem. They have to explain the steps verbally as they go. In some cases, I have to stop a kid midway through their first step and say, "We can't hear you." Usually, they pause for a heartbeat, then start over AT EXACTLY THE SAME VOLUME LEVEL. So I repeat, "We can't hear you. Please speak louder."

Apparently, they think "louder" means "don't change a thing."

There are some days when I think we could play the game all day long, with me just repeating the same request and them starting the first half of their sentence with no change. Over and over and over.

Even out-of-the-ordinary entreaties often fail to have any effect:

"I've heard you yelling at people out on the playground, so I KNOW you can speak louder!"

"Pretend you're talking to everyone in the whole school!"

"I can't hear you -- I'm OUTSIDE your head!!"

Sure, I could go over and put my ear directly beside each child's mouth as they speak. However, besides not wanting to contract every disease and illness they have, that doesn't solve the problem. The point is not just for ME to be able to hear them, but for the whole class to hear what they are saying.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

What do you mean You Don't Know??!?

I was just browsing through the most recent Carnival of Education and came across this fantastic post by Loony Hiker (Pat) of Successful Teaching. How often have you heard your students answer a relatively simple question with the words, "I don't know?"

Do they truly not know? Unlikely, most of the time.

Is it a stall for more time? Quite possibly, if you give them more time and they DO answer the question.

It is merely a defense mechanism that they are accustomed to using? Most probably yes.

So how do we get them out of this habit? Read Loony Hiker's post, but please leave your comments here as well, because we ALL have this problem I think, and we are ALL looking for ways to get our kids out of this rut.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The results are in!

The TAKS results came in earlier this week, and I finally told my kids how they had done yesterday. Overall, my scores were really good. Out of 37 kids tested, I had 32 pass and 10 get Commended (missed 3 or less questions).

I was a bit sneaky in how I broke the news to the kids. I had told them before the test that I would throw an ice cream party for everyone who passed the test, but earlier in the week I told them that I was pleased with how everyone had tried their best, so they would all be getting ice cream.

Yesterday morning, I wrote a small note and picked 2 kids to take it across the hallway to my partner teacher. I then told the class that they had done really well, we'd all be enjoying ice cream, oh, and by the way -- you all passed! Every one who I was talking to passed!

Of course, the note I wrote asked my partner to hold those 2 kids there for a couple of minutes, and of course, those 2 kids were the ones from that class that had not passed. I intercepted them in the hallway on their way back and broke the news to them gently.

Did the same thing with my afternoon class and the 3 kids that didn't pass.

Out of the 5 kids who didn't pass, 4 of them were really close. It would appear that they missed passing by only 1 or 2 questions.

We also got the results of the 2nd reading test, and combined with the FIRST results, the 3rd grade rocked this year! We had a 94 or 95 percent passing rate, which is spectacular for our area!

Now we just have SEVEN more days of school left to trudge through...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Exclamation points!!

The other day, I was working on punctuation with my kids. Specifically, the exclamation point. We went over how it is used when someone is excited or shouting. Perhaps an oversimplification, but it gives a pretty general rule for its use.

We did a few example sentences together.

"Don't call me names!"

"Stop talking!"

Then I asked the kids to write some of their own examples. Some of them got it pretty quickly, and it was amusing to read things that they have obviously head/said often.

"You're grounded, Corey!"

"Mary, stop copying me!"

"Hey kid, that's not your pencil!"


A few others didn't quite get the distinction between a statement and an exclamation, as evidenced by their line of sentences.

"I like pizza!"

"I like the Incredible Hulk!"

"I like water!"


Then there were the oddities, like the boy who had obviously done a poor job of copying from his neighbor.

She had written, "The school is out!"

He had, "School out!"

*Is that like Seacrest out?*

In other news! This week's Carnival of Education is up! It's over at the Education Wonks! Check it out!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Meet Hopeful But Frustrated

I received an email a couple of weeks ago from someone at a "Virtual Book Tours" site. They asked me if I would like to host one stop on such a virtual tour for the author of a new book which sounded like it was right up my alley. Seeing as how this seemed like a REALLY neat idea to me, I immediately said, "HECK YEAH!"

Meet Hopeful But Frustrated Teacher. HBF for short. In this world of parent showmanship when it comes to naming children, one can only hope that Hopeful But Frustrated is not her LEGAL birth name, or that if it is, that at least she goes by Hope.

HBF is a middle school teacher who has written a book called No Teachers Left Behind. Set at the fictional Vilyon Middle School, the teachers don't merely have to deal with unruly students and stubborn parents, but (the horror!) a truly awful principal named Alicia Marsh.

I must admit, I know all of this from reading the information at the book's main site. I haven't actually read No Teachers Left Behind. But I can honestly say that I WANT to read it. The format sounds very similar to that of Learn Me Good, a series of emails and communications. The tiny excerpt I read was very captivating. And of course the subject matter is near and dear to heart.

Without any further ado, let's get on with this Virtual Book Tour, and allow me to present a Guest Post (since 2009 IS the year of the Guest Post here at LMG), by HBF.

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Dictionary Additions from HBF Teacher

Mister Teacher delights and inspires his fellow teachers on a daily basis, but few of his posts have delighted me as much as Mister Teacher’s venture into the world where only a few, the talented ones like Webster and Scholastic, have gone before - into Dictionary Land - with his own Teacher’s Dictionary.

When I read some of the terms, I was laughing so hard that I was hitting my head up against the dry erase board. Don’t think for one minute that some of my students did not take the opportunity to write on the back of my blouse at that time either. Well when I was done rolling on the floor laughing, I realized that at my middle school, we have a few unique terms ourselves. Before I can discuss them, I must first pay homage to a couple of Mister Teacher’s terms which stood out to me, and then I will share a couple of my own phrases with you. Perhaps one of them may strike a chord with you, just like a few of Mister Teacher’s words hit home with me.

I particularly liked Mister Teacher’s "gradecation" although I’m not familiar with the word. My students typically frown upon me grading their papers because in order for me to come up with a grade, they would actually have to complete an assignment. Therefore I have no official knowledge of “gradecation”, but I have taken at least one “mental health day” this year. No, I’m not crazy, but a day away from the classroom, locked away in a padded room with nice, soft music, and no one repeatedly calling my name does a great deal for preserving my sanity.

"Maximum Kiddage" (the largest amount of students that can fit in a certain area) is another one of Mister Teacher’s terms that I love. At my school, there is never a number that is too large to go in the smallest area of the school. This area is generally known as my room. I tried explaining the theory of “maximum kiddage” to my principal, but for some reason, he didn’t seem to understand it.

There is so much school jargon bantered about my middle school that it took me a while to decide on the best words/phrases, but somehow I got it down to my two favorite work related expressions.

Number 1 – “frequent flyer”. I’m not talking about Delta or Air Tran. I’m talking about those kids who are always sitting on the principal’s bench. You know the ones I’m talking about. I walk into my classroom, even before the day begins, and this kid is on the bench. Eight hours later, I’m walking out the door, and this kid is still on the principal’s bench. Of course this kid had not been on the principal’s bench all day because I did see him in the cafeteria getting his lunch. Later, I saw him eating that same lunch on the principal’s bench. Nevertheless, there are quite a few students like “him” at my school. They can barely go forty-five minutes without getting in some kind of trouble and being sent to the principal’s office. When these kids are seen in the hall without passes, nobody even questions them because everyone knows where they are going. They’re going to the bench. They’re the “frequent flyers”. If you could accumulate points for trips to the bench and convert these to dollars, these kids could buy their own schools.

And Number 2, sadly my favorite – “five year plan”. This phrase is similar to one of Mister Teacher’s words, but in middle school, some of us dreamier teachers like to think of our students as being goal oriented. Sure there are only three grades (6th, 7th, and 8th) in middle school, and it should normally take only three years to complete them all. But we would be less than enthusiastic teachers if we did not rejoice when some of our lower achieving students finally made it out of middle school in their fifth year. Sure they are a little behind their peers, but hey, these kids were working on a plan.

On a different note, despite the words my colleagues and I toss about, we are very serious about inspiring our students to set high expectations and then challenging them to exceed their own goals. In my novel, No Teachers Left Behind, I give voice to my frustrations about the people and events which place obstacles in my way as I attempt to motivate my students. The novel is told through a series of emails, poems, and brief conversations and is available at Amazon.com. Give it a read; you’ll love it.

Mister Teacher, you’re tops with me, and I look forward to reading more of your dictionary. Thanks for allowing me to visit.

HBF Teacher

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ask and ye shall receive

This weekend, I wrote a post asking people who had read Learn Me Good to post a review on Amazon, and I just want to say thank you to the people who heeded the call!

An especially big thanks to The Scholastic Scribe who put up a glowing review on her site this morning, asking all of her readers to check it out. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The Scribe and Columbia Lilly, who also posted on Amazon (thank you), were winners of the book through a contest I ran back in February. Don't forget that it's not too late to get entered in the CURRENT contest going on here at Learn Me Good.

500 business cards and 500 brochures are up for grabs from uprinting.com. All you have to do is leave a comment on the original post, and the best description of how you will use the cards or brochures will win. I will say that only a couple of people have even mentioned the brochures, so they're at the top of the list for THAT half of the prize!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Follow me on Tattle

Since I don't Twitter, after all, I'm thinking there needs to be a network for teachers called Tattle.

I was speaking yesterday with some fellow teachers about the excess of tattling we experience every day, and one of them said that she uses a sort of "tattle box" with great success. The kids write out their complaints on a piece of paper and put it into a box which is then thrown out perused at the end of the week.

My own personal philosophy is to quote WC Fields and say, "Go away kid, you're bothering me!"

Last year, I wrote a Mr. Teacher column about this topic, where I asked several teachers what strategies they used to combat this epidemic that is tattling. This column, entitled, "I'm Telling!" originally ran on education.com on July 28, 2009.

______________________________________________________________


I used to have only two pet peeves in life -- people who drive in the dark with only their parking lights on, and people who quote entire scenes of Monty Python at a time. Since becoming a teacher, however, a new contender has risen to make those a distant second and third. Oh heinous pet peeve, thy name is tattling.

Anyone who has dealt with children (or professional basketball players) has had to deal with tattling. Some kids tattle to get other kids in trouble, some kids tattle just to get some attention, and some kids tattle because they truly feel a misappropriation of justice is happening.

Regardless of the reason though, most teachers find tattling incredibly annoying.

There is a significant difference between telling the teacher something and telling on someone. For instance, if Susie is hanging upside down from the monkey bars by her shoestrings and can't get down, then yes, that's something I need to know. However, I think I can do without hearing that Billy allegedly called Peter the "S -word" ["stupid"] at the apartments last night.

Many children seem unable or unwilling to make this differentiation. I had unofficially given one boy in my class last year the cabinet post of Tattle Tale General, as he would assault my ears as soon as he saw me each morning, laying out the general school population’s misdeeds with almost military precision.

"Sir, status report, Sir! Tommy kicked Lisa's book bag, Kelly was making faces at a second grader, and Donnell is jangling pennies in his pocket. In world news, Lindsay Lohan was busted on DUI charges again."

I once joked that if teachers didn't receive any base salary at all, but they were given $25 every time one of their students tattled on someone, we could all retire to the Bahamas by the end of the second year.

Since tattling is so prevalent, I asked several teaching colleagues how they handle it in their classrooms, and what, if any, strategies they employ to curb it.

Some of the no-nonsense teachers immediately replied that they tell their kids up front that they don't want to hear any complaining unless it involves one of the 3 B's - Barfing, Bleeding, or Broken - or the "Double D" - Dangerous or Destructive.

One teacher said that when a child approaches her, she tells him, "Save it for tattle-time." Of course, there is no tattle-time, but the younger kids never catch on to this.

Another interesting technique was the suggestion of a "tattle sandwich." Sounds like it would be quite tasty with a bit of mutton and some ripe tomato, but this teacher allows students to tell on classmates as long as they say something nice about the person before and after that tattle.

Many of the responses I received suggested having the kids write down the tattles instead of speaking them. When pressed to use perfect grammar, punctuation, and spelling to report an injustice, it seems many kids just aren't willing to put forth the effort. Some teachers require their students to write down their grievances during recess, which is a deterrent, and some require that the kids fill out complicated incident reports involving exact times, minute details, and a list of witnesses.

My favorite strategy of all the responses involves the use of a tattle patsy. A few teachers told me that they have a stuffed animal or a picture on the wall that they send the kids to when they absolutely have to tattle. This makes perfect sense because some kids just want to speak the words into the air, regardless of who is listening.

A couple of years ago, I witnessed one of my little girls, desperately in need to tattle, turn to some random woman who happen to be walking down the hall, and claim, "Miss, he hit me!"

To this woman's credit, she continued walking without making eye contact.

My thanks go out to all of the teachers who replied to my request for information. I know I learned some new tips that I will be employing this year, and if you are a parent or teacher reading this, hopefully you have as well.

I can already picture "Tattle Toby," the stuffed elephant in the corner. Yes, he's already rolling his eyes.

Be kind, re-view?

Hey everyone, this is just a generic request. As we are very close to the end of the school year, and summer vacation is often the time when many teachers can once again lift their head above water and read for pleasure -- I am asking anyone who has read my book, Learn Me Good, to please, please, pretty pretty please, post a review of it on Amazon.com (if you have not already done so).

It doesn't need to be Hemmingway-esque -- just a paragraph or two would be great!

If you have NOT read it, but would like to review it, send me an email, and we'll see if we can make a deal. Some kind of email copy for a review type swap.

Thanks!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Now THAT's how you save money!

Some of you may recall a few of my district's poorer moments, in terms of decision making and money handling. The most recent and glaring of these, of course, was the $64 million dollar shortfall which resulted in the firing or "retirement" of almost 500 employees.

Well, it would seem that they have taken action to recoup some of that money. A little belt-tightening, a little budget crunching, a little cost saving.

Here are three great ways that my district is saving us money (even as we speak!):

3) Those supplies we ordered with our budget money way back in November? Yeah, they never came, so one can only assume that the orders were cancelled and the money recouped. Ca-ching!

2) I'd say the water bill is most definitely not an issue at my school, since several of the water fountains (most notably the one in the 3rd grade hallway) haven't worked since October. They say water is vital to brain function, but we say saving money is vital to budget!!

1) A decision was made last week to shut the air conditioning off in the classrooms at 3:15 every day. Nevermind the fact that many teachers work in their room PAST 3:15, or that after-school parent conferences are now held in an oven -- think of the coin we're saving!!!

This is just one man's observations. If you've noticed any other cost-saving measures, please feel free to submit them in the comment section.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Inspiring?

I found out today that one of my posts made someone's list of "100 Incredibly Inspiring Blog Posts for Educators." Oddly enough, it's a post I don't find THAT inspiring, but hey, one man's inspiration is another man's perspiration. Or words to that effect.

Anyway, the post that made the cut was America's Next Top Student, which was a reposting of an earlier education.com article about appropriate and inappropriate dress for kids at school.

Check out the list and you'll also find posts from Joel at So You Want to Teach, Mr. D of I Want to Teach Forever, and Dr. Pezz among many many others.

Monday, May 11, 2009

That is highly illogical, captain

Since there are only 3 weeks (and change) of school left, I thought I would stop having a Problem of the Day word problem as my bell ringer activity and switch to something more fun. Of course, I suppose I should have remembered that fun is in the brain of the beholder.

I've got a set of overhead transparencies of logic puzzles. You know the ones -- Bozo, Schmozo, and Jimbo own a dog, a cat, and a giraffe. You get clues and fill in a grid to determine which pet goes with which kid.

Personally, I have always LOVED logic puzzles like this. Of course, I love math also, so call me screwy. When I've done logic puzzles with my 3rd graders in the past, they've enjoyed them as well.

Maybe my kids will grow into them. However, the first day was not reason to celebrate their arrival.

The first puzzle in the set involves 3 boys having their birthday parties at 3 different places. I explained to the kids how they needed to copy the grid that showed the boys' names and the place names. We read the first clue together, which said something along the lines of "Richie, and the boy who had his party at the roller rink, are best friends."

I then asked the kids, "So what does this clue tell us about Richie or the other boys?"

Several hands went into the air. I called on one of my brighter little girls.

"It tells us that they are very excited about having their birthday parties?"

"Um, they probably are, but remember we're trying to figure out WHERE each boy is having his party."

I called on another kid.

"They are happy?"

OK, I thought, this is not going in the right direction. Maybe if, instead of party locations, the top part of the grid showed emotions like Happy, Excited, and Manic-Depressive, THEN we'd be getting somewhere.

But still I pressed on. "The boys are all happy and excited, but we are looking for a clue to WHERE the boys are having their parties. What do you think?"

"I think they will have their parties at a house because those places are too expensive."

By this time, I am just about making "gagaga" sounds, flapping my lips with my finger, when finally another little girl got the clue and offered the right piece of information from the clue.

Despite the rough first outing, I am determined to stay the course here. I always thought puzzles like this really exercise the brain, and I have some kids whose brains seem to be morbidly obese.

As long as we can get past frugality and emotions...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Calling cards, anyone?

I was recently contacted by some folks at Uprinting.com who wanted to offer the readers of Learn Me Good a chance to win 500 free business cards or 500 free brochures! Uprinting.com has been around for over 25 years and offers free file review and helpful customer service!

Now you might be thinking, Just what in tarnation is a TEACHER going to do with business cards?? Well, that's the whole point of this little giveaway! The sky (and your imagination) is the limit! Maybe you just want them to have something to throw at kids standing in time-out corner! Maybe you want to have some that say "Official Insubordinator" or "I don't do windows!" Or maybe you want to have something to pass out to friends, family, and people you meet that says a little something fun about yourself.

That's what I plan to do with MY business cards. Use them as little advertisements for Learn Me Good the book.

Entering the contest is super simple. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post, describing what you would use the free business cards or brochures for.

The best entries, as judged by my girlfriend, my dog, my pet raccoon, and me, will win the cards or brochures.

This contest will run from May 11-June 1, 2009. Please please please, feel free to blog about this contest and link to it from your own blog or website.

Winners who reside in the US and Canada will receive free shipping; costs will apply to anyone else.



Good luck, and be creative!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Running of the Bullies

Yesterday was Field Day at my school. And by Field Day, I mean Field Hour-and-a-Half for my grade level, which is really all the time we needed outside in the heat.

For the past couple of years, I have been having back problems and foot problems, but I decided yesterday that I was tired of NOT running the race with my kids and being a slave to health issues. So I ran.

The really screwy thing was that (in addition to eating a large, catered barbecue lunch immediately beforehand), I hadn't run in 2 years, and believe it or not, I was actually very nervous about running! As my class and I all lined up at the starting mark, I had butterflies in my stomach, and my legs felt a little weak!

However, as soon as the whistle was blown and I got those first couple of strides out of the way, it all came back to me, like riding a bicycle or gutting a shark, and I blew the competition away. Sure, they were all 9 and 10 year olds, but still, I smoked 'em!

Field Day was a lot of fun, and afterwards, I went out with a couple of friends and stayed out late. Needless to say, this morning, my body aches -- from the effects of a certain adult beverage AND the first run in years. I laughed so much and so hard last night that my abs actually are sore. Let's just say that when the cheesy cover band asks for audience help in singing the "Bum bum bummm" part of "Sweet Caroline," it is MUCH more fun to sing it at the wrong times during the song (and after).

While Field Day was fun, the parent conference I had the day before was not. It seems that one of my kids, who doesn't speak much English, has been experiencing quite a bit of bullying by his classmates. They have been calling him names like "gordo," "feo," "cabeza cuadrado," and so on. To make matters worse, a lot of it has apparently been going on in my classroom, right under my nose!

My Spanish is not the greatest, so when I hear kids speaking in Spanish to this boy, I had always thought that they were actually doing what they were supposed to be doing, which was translating what I was saying, so that he would understand the instructions. Instead, they have sometimes been mocking him, NOT helping him, and in cases, doing very inappropriate things.

Those kids have now been moved, and this boy has 3 new kids at his table, kids that I trust to do the right thing.

Looks like we will be having several more parent conferences this week to discuss the bullying itself...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Subscribe now, operators are standing by!

This week's Carnival of Education is up and running over at Steve Spangler's Science Blog, and it was written by Mamacita of Scheiss Weekly! If you're a teacher and feeling under-appreciated, head on over and you won't be sorry. If you're NOT a teacher, you might be sorry, but you won't be bored. :)

And since this IS Teacher Appreciation week, let me just say Thank You (in very large letters) to everyone who reads Learn Me Good on a regular basis, and to all of you who have become FoLMeGs. I love writing for a receptive audience, and for the past few weeks, you've been leaving bunches of comments, which is super fantastic!

For anyone who has not yet become a FoLMeG, may I humbly ask that you subscribe to the Learn Me Good feed, either through RSS or email using one of these handy links.

Email is pretty well grasped by everyone I think, but it took me a while to grasp the concept of RSS. When I did, I wrote this post which I'm going to re-run now for anyone who may have missed it.

RSS can beat YOUR RSS

I'm sorry to disappoint all of you Princess Bride fans out there, but the fact is RSS does NOT stand for Rodents of Substandard Size. But then, to quote Princess Bride once again, Get used to disappointment. ;)

No, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and it is a tool that is widely becoming more popular and more used. It's almost, sort of, not exactly, but pretty much like TiVo for your television. Instead of having to scour the TV Guide and set up your timer for each program that you want to catch, you just tell your TiVo the name of the program that you want to watch, and it records it for you whenever that show comes on. If the show doesn't come on, nothing gets taped. If the sci-fi channel shows a New Year's Day marathon, every episode gets taped.

RSS serves a similar purpose for the Internet community. Instead of hopping from one blog to the next, taking a peek in the hopes that something new has been posted, all you have to do is subscribe to that blog's RSS feed. Then whenever new content is published to that blog, you're feed reader is automatically updated and notifies you (boop-boop TiVo sound effect not included).

Joel, over at So You Want to Teach? has done an excellent job of promoting his RSS feed and explaining it in a way that everyone can understand it. I have attempted to explain it, but you might want to check out his version all the same.

So why am I even talking about RSS feeds, TiVo, and the sci-fi channel? Well because I want more subscribers, of course! Those of you who are regular readers of Learn Me Good, I certainly appreciate your business, and I hope that you keep coming back. I know there are some times, though, that I go for days without making a post. Subscribing to the Learn Me Good feed would keep you updated on when I've posted something new. Since many of you are already subscribers, I'll even go one step farther and make a request. I would be eternally grateful if you could think of just one person that you could recommend Learn Me Good to as a new subscriber. Just think about all of the fun conversations you could have over lunch! Who will Kate choose on Lost? What will Simon's next snarky comment be on American Idol? Can you believe what Mister Teacher said yesterday on Learn Me Good?

And for those of you who are new or visiting here at Learn Me Good, why not give me a chance to win you over? Put me into your feed reader and read a few posts. I guarantee, if your acne hasn't cleared up after three weeks, I'll give you your money back.

Here's the link you need to click to get things going: http://feeds.feedburner.com/learnmegood

I'm looking forward to RSSing all of you real good in the near future!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Egg rolls and Lucky Charms

My school always has an International Festival in late may, partially as a delayed celebration of Cinco de Mayo and partially as a way of acknowledging that our kids come from.a wide array of nations.

Typically, each grade will choose two countries to represent at the festival. The kids then decorate the halls with those countries as their theme, we get parents to bring food that is representative of those countries, and sometimes we have kids dress in traditional attire during a fashion show.

This year, 3rd grade has selected China and Ireland as the countries. We've done China in the past, so that is nothing new to us. We have depicted the Great Wall on our hallway wall, we've put Chinese symbols around the classrooms, we've hung paper lanterns from the ceiling, and we've made fireworks posters with glue and glitter. Oh, and dragons, we've got dragons.

We've never done Ireland before, though. And though I'm part Irish myself, I really don't know what would be considered Irish food, not counting Lucky Charms. And potatoes are too generic.

So I throw it out to the audience for suggestions. Can any of you suggest some sort of food that is traditionally Irish? Or some sort of craft that would represent Ireland? I mean, we are already gearing up for shamrocks, leprachauns, and pots o' gold, me wee laddies, but can you think of anything that Ireland has given to the world? Like, Hey, it was an Irish guy who invented the picture frame!

BTW, alcohol doesn't count. We will NOT (because we CAN not) be bringing Bailey's or Guiness to school.

I'm thinking I might just go around getting really really mad at the kids every day and telling them it's my Irish temper flaring.

Monday, May 04, 2009

stepping it up

Since we are finally finished with TAKS testing for the week, my class got back to (somewhat) normal routine today. Usually, during the few weeks after testing, we preview 4th grade for the kids by introducing them to some things that aren't on the 3rd grade curriculum, but which they'll need to know for the next year.

Today, we started 2-digit by 2-digit multiplication. And it actually went quite well. I introduced the "stair-step" method, which is the traditional method, and though there was some confusion, most kids started getting the hang of it rather quickly.

We'll practice this more tomorrow, then on Wednesday, I'll show them the Lattice method, which I've noticed most kids prefer.

We've also started division with remainders. I'm not quite ready to start long division -- that always throws them for a loop -- but we're using circles and tally marks, and they've done quite well with the remainders as well.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sick days and swine flu

It would seem that the H1N1 virus, formerly known as Swine Flu, formerly known as Porky's Dilemma, has caused several entire school districts around the area to shut down for a week or more.

Teachers and students really didn't have a choice of taking these days off or going to school, but I thought it would still be an appropriate time to run an old Mr. Teacher article about teachers and sick days, according to the NORMAL procedures.

This article about the difficulties of taking a day off is titled "Does This Look Infected to You?" and it originally ran at education.com on November 20, 2007.


For most people in most professions, taking a sick day isn't too tricky. If you feel stuffy sinuses or that tell-tale tickle in the back of the throat, you just call your boss from the luxury of your soft, warm bed and let him know you won't be in. As long as you didn't have any important meetings or deadlines that day, it probably won't be that big of a deal.

When I was an engineer and had to take a sick day, people hardly even noticed my absence. This may have been thanks to the life-sized mannequin I kept around for just such occasions -- its productivity wasn't much less than mine.

But I have discovered (much to my dismay) that things are very different in the world of teaching.

First of all, it's far easier to get sick. Four years of teaching have brought more illnesses than four hundred years of engineering ever could. I had a stomach flu once in college, but aside from that, only the common cold and the obligatory childhood chickenpox had marred my otherwise healthy life.

As a teacher, I've already had strep throat, sinusitis, laryngitis, ringworm, mad cow disease, and Dutch elm disease. There have also been cases of pneumonia, pinkeye, scarlet fever, and meningitis at my school, which thankfully, I haven't had to mark off on my Yahtzee card just yet.

For another thing, taking a sick day as a teacher is often much more work than it's worth. The reason for that basically boils down to those pesky kids. Unlike a computer, which will just sit on your desk, happily doing nothing while you're gone, students actually need someone there to give them direction. Since the other teachers have their own kids to worry about, an absence necessitates a substitute teacher.

And this is why many teachers would just as soon come to school with a full-blown case of Asian bird flu than go through the hassle of preparing for a sub.

Now I don't mean this as a criticism of substitute teachers. There are some fantastic subs out there. Unfortunately, there are also some less than fantastic subs, and you very rarely know whom you're going to get on such short notice. I once came back from a sick day to find my desk raided and all of my cough drops gone (I guess the sub was sick too!). Another teacher found that a sub had let her kids cut up all of her construction paper. Believe it or not, this was NOT on the lesson plan!

Even just one experience like that can make a teacher leery of staying home sick.

There's also the small matter of actually having materials prepared and ready for a substitute to come in and find. Personally, I haven't quite mastered that nuance, and I know I'm not alone in that regard.

So the next time your child comes home and tells you about their substitute teacher, you might want to light a candle and say a prayer. Because more than likely, that poor regular teacher is REALLY sick.

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