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Monday, February 27, 2006

Weather changes and resulting classes

Several comments about the Willy Wonka post from last week. I kind of think a crush on Gene Wilder is even more disturbing than those Oompa Loompas, but that's just me (Sorry, Bonnie). I feel I should revise my earlier description of my kids. They're not really Oompa Loompas. Actually, I'd call some of them Loompas, because they're lacking that certain sense of. . . "Oompa!"
Even though the weather has grown warmer, something must be in the air (or in the food), because kids were barfing left and right today. Three kids from my class alone went home sick today! One of them kept coughing in a way that reminded me of Snots the dog from the movie Christmas Vacation. "Oh, he's just yakkin' on a bone."
Tomorrow will be a VERY long day. Parent-teacher conferences are tomorrow night, running until 8 o'clock. Can't wait! But I should have some interesting stories for Wednesday. . .

Sunday, February 26, 2006

WoW, it's a new week!

Sunday evening as I write this, and I've returned from a weekend with the family. My mom made her famous lasagna (droooooool), and I got to play with my year-old nephew, which is always nice. My brother has really taught him well how to imitate the sounds a monkey makes. Phin always DID want a monkey, so it's great to see him achieve his goals in life.

This week's Word of the Week comes to us courtesy of Reader1107:

Disclude (v) -- The opposite of include. "Ms. Instructor, the other kids
are discluding me from their games!

Remember, to submit an entry for Word of the Week, drop me an email (link in side-panel) with the word, definition, and use in a sentence. Keep 'em coming!
Oh, and to everyone who has bought anything from my CafePress store, THANK YOU!!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Mister Teacher and the Chocolate Factory

Tomorrow, Mrs. Educator and I plan on having our reward party for the kids that did their best on the TAKS test. Of course,we don't have scores back yet, and we weren't allowed to look at their answers during the test, so we don't know for SURE who did their best, and who faked it, but we could tell from who was actively engaged with the test the whole time, and who kept watching the door, watching the clock, watching the pencil sharpener. . .
Right before Christmas break, we started a viewing of the Johnny-Depp remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with the kids. Since they didn't finish watching it, the plan is to finish that one and watch the original version tomorrow. Personally, I liked the remake much better, as the first one freaked me out. Those Oompa-Loompas struck me as being psychedelic, homicidal lunatics out for children's blood, and perhaps their flesh as well! But in the remake, the OL Clan cracked me up. Good Oompa-Loompas are much better that their evil counterparts. It's like Stripe in Gremlins. Don't feed them after midnight, or they'll hunt you down and kill you. That's a good piece of advice that I follow with my students as well. Sometimes they remind me of Gremlins, but more often, they remind me of Oompa-Loompas. Except for the singing in harmony and not actually EATING the chocolate parts. . .

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

New kids on the clock

I got a new kid in my class last Friday. Thankfully, he did not have to take the TAKS test yesterday, because he can hardly write his own name, much less read a story and answer questions about it. Come to find out, his reputation precededs him. Big time. I had wondered why he didn't show up in my room on Friday until 10:00, but I later found out that it was because those first two hours were spent down in the principal's office, where he was read the riot act upon first entering the building. Apparently, his old school couldn't get him out the door fast enough. From what I've heard, his ultimate transgression at his old school was breaking a toilet.
Now I've heard of/seen several different ways to break a toilet. These include:
  • Dropping a shot put from a height of six feet into the porcelein bowl.
  • Standing on the rim and jumping up and down (usually lid up for boys, lid down for girls).
  • Stuffing the pipe so full of stuff (toilet paper, cardboard tubes, jump ropes, school uniforms) that the toilet just explodes.

I think that D, my new kid, said something about using a screwdriver. My initial thought is NOT that he actually unscrewed all of the bolts, but rather that he probably just did a "Psycho" number on the bowl and pipes with the tool. Slash and chip, baby.

So today he comes in and won't do any work for me. He keeps putting his head down and looking to the world like he's taking a nap. So I told him my rule of "Sleep in your bed, not in my classroom." He immediately responds, "I stayed up all night watching a movie!" Hmmm. . .well, D, that would certainly explain the need for sleep, but here's an idea. Maybe, and this is just me thinking out loud here, you SHOULDN'T watch late-night movies when you have to go to school the next morning. Make sense?

Turns out he'll be able to watch all the Cinemax he wants tonight and tomorrow night. Mrs. Educator had him suspended today for the rest of the week. (You GO, girl!) No sewage disruption yet at our school (at least, not due to him), but he's been throwing out insults like they were Homeworks with no names on them. He dropped an F-bomb over in her room, called several kids' mothers an unsavory word that rhymes with "witch," and told one boy, "That is the Mother F-ing biggest stomach I have ever seen!" Now D is no Olive Oyl himself, so really this is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle fat.

On the other end of the spectrum, I witnessed the worst reaction to a suggestion for eyeglasses ever. A lot of my kids were tested for vision problems this morning, and about 8 notes went home to parents suggesting that their child needs glasses (including one to a boy who already WEARS them!) One of my girls, S, got such a letter, and burst into tears. S is a smart, sweet, angel of a child, and her reaction really surprised me. She kept sobbing, "I don't WANT glasses! My mom doesn't WANT me to have glasses!" When I asked her why, she said, "Because they can get broken!" Harry Potter fans would probably bring up the "Reparo" spell, but I just told her that glasses have to be taken care of, and if they get broken by accident, they can be replaced. But she acted as if someone had told her she was going up against the Blue Teabagger on Most Extreme Elimination Challenge! (Sorry, I needed a link to something)

Maybe I need to bring that lady from the district back who walked into my room 2 years ago and told the kids, "I think glasses are SEXY" Yeah, that would be as appropriate now as it was then. . . So maybe not.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Happy TAKS-Day to me!

Well, today was my birthday, and I got to celebrate in excessive fashion by. . .um. . .monitoring an all-day state-mandated TAKS reading test! WOOHOO!! Thanks State of Texas, and former Texas Governor Bush for making this such a special occasion!!
My wonderful students serenaded me with a lovely rendition of. . .oh wait, they were required to be silent the whole day. Well, the Assistant Principal DID give me an individually wrapped Ding-Dong, which I thought was very thoughtful of her. And yesterday, the other 3rd grade teachers presented me with my own bottle of Heinz ketchup, to show their love and appreciation. I almost cried, I was so happy.
Last year, my birthday fell right on President's Day, and (unlike this year), we had that day off as a school holiday. In the weeks leading up to the 21st, my kids kept asking me, "YOU are the President??" To which I did my best Dub-ya impersonation (a bit wasted on the kids, if you ask me--they just thought it was a funny voice). One boy, H, even started chanting, "Vote for Mister Teacher!" And hey, wouldn't that make a great slogan on a T-shirt? Forget Pedro!

So for anyone who still doesn't know, the TAKS is the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. But I like to call it by other names, such as:
  • That Aggravating Kidney Stone
  • Tabitha's Annoying Kid Sister
  • Tomorrow's Artificial Knee Surgery
  • Tough Armadillos Kill Skunks

Feel free to add your own mneumonic (Greek for "Fun with Letters").

And those entries for Word of the Week are starting to pour in! Well, pour might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the trickle has begun! Thanks to Bonnie4T for getting the games started! Tell your friends! Tell your sister-in-law! Tell your crazy hairstylist's grandfather!

Monday, February 20, 2006

WoW! What a great idea!

All right, let's get those vocabulary juices flowing! I'd like to introduce what I hope will become a regular weekly feature:
the Word of the Week!
Unlike those stuffed shirts that use a dictionary (Ivory Tower Monkeys!), the Learn Me Good Word of the Week should be a unique, unfamiliar word -- something that will provide everyone with a nice learning experience. This can be something that you have heard from a child, a crazy relative, or a trigger-happy national leader. Or even something that you have made up and want to introduce into the American vernacular!
Shoot me an email (see sidebar for the addy) that contains your word, its definition, and its use in a sentence. I'll choose the best one each week and post it right up top on the blog. In fact, it'll be right above the Google search bar, so anyone who wants to look it up and see if it actually EXISTS can do so with ease.
OK, class, since you raised your hands and asked so politely, I'll throw out the first Word of the Week.
Ensmall (v) -- to reduce in size. Opposite of enlarge. "That
picture is too big to fit in my book unless we ensmall it!"
Looking forward to seeing all the great entries!

Throw the book at 'em!

Over the weekend, I shared something in common with J.J. Redick, Duke's stellar point guard. OK, so I didn't set the new school record for points scored (I wasn't even close), but I did accomplish a major goal, as did he.
I finished the final rewrite of my great American novel -- Learn Me Good!! This sucker might not be the best piece of writing on the market, but it just ain't gonna get any better than it is now. So now I'm ready to start shopping it out to agents.
Any agents out there reading this, feel free to drop a nice hefty contract in my lap. Any experienced writers out there, please feel free to explain to me just how exactly one writes a good synopsis. . .
The book follows the life of a new teacher in his first school year. Though almost all of the stories and events truly happened, enough details have been tweaked and embellished to rule out the non-fiction category. I don't want to push this as a memoir and have it turn into A Million School Kids and have to face the Wrath of Oprah. By the way, Oprah, if you're reading this, Learn Me Good (available soon--one way or the other) would make a great addition to your much-ballyhooed book club! And if she's NOT reading this, doggonit, Steadman! What are you waiting for? Send her the link!!
No doubt, as soon as this baby hits the presses, Hollywood will come calling faster than Bobby Knight can get a Technical foul. I only hope Carrot Top is available to play me in the theatrical version.
For anyone interested, here's a short blurb that might appear on the back cover.

Jack Woodson (Duke Engineering, class of ’95) is currently living and working in Dallas, TX. He has forty children, and all of them have different mothers.
Jack Woodson was a thermal design engineer for four years until he was laid off from his job. Now, as a teacher (dealing with those forty children), he faces new challenges. Conference calls have been replaced with parent conferences. Product testing has given way to standardized testing. Instead of business cards, Jack now passes out report cards. The only thing that hasn’t changed noticeably is the maturity level of the people surrounding him all day.
Learn Me Good is a hilarious first-person account, inspired by real life experiences. Through a series of emails to Fred Bommerson, his buddy who still works at Heat Pumps Unlimited, Jack chronicles a year-in-the-life of a brand new teacher. He holds a March Mathness tournament, faces a child’s urgent declaration of “My bowels be runnin’!” and mistakenly asks one girl’s mother if she is her brother. With subject lines such as “Irritable Vowel Syndrome,” “In math class, no one can hear you scream,” and “I love the smell of Lysol in the morning,” Jack writes each email with a dash of sarcasm and plenty of irreverent wit.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

I'll buy THAT for a dollar!

Saw a story in the news last night, coming out of Miami, I believe, about a P.E. teacher who has been accepting "bribes" from his students. For a paltry sum of one dollar, Terrence Braxton would let the middle school student skip gym class while still giving the child an A.
I can think of only one word for this kind of conniving, money-hungry, morally questionable scheme -- GENIUS.
I mean, here's this teacher, probably only getting paid about $400 a month, and according to news reports, he scoring an extra THOUSAND dollars with his little plan! I'd call it a pyramid scheme, but since the kids were skipping gym class, maybe I should call it a sphere plan, since that's what these kids will probably wind up looking like.
Personally, I charge my kids $20 in order to skip a weekly math test. Unfortunately, I haven't had any takers yet, so I'm still waiting for my first big score.

Friday, February 17, 2006


Today, we had our deferred Valentine's Day party at the end of the day, and it was a sugar-filled free-for-all. Actually, the kids weren't that bad, and there were a ton of goodies to be had. I needed a shopping cart to take all of the chocolate out to my car, and I also got a nice new mug and a cute little teddy bear.
When I went across the hall to Mrs. Educator's room to pass out cards, I overheard something that made me stop and wonder. One of the girls had brought cupcakes, and as she offered one to one of the boys, he told her, "I can only eat things that are sugar-free." First, it was odd to hear the word "sugar-free" coming from ANY child at my school, but even odder to hear it coming from this kid, whom my brother once described as "the spitting image of Tattoo from Fantasy Island," and whom I've lovingly dubbed "The Round Mound of Sound."
After I went back to my room, Mrs. Educator brought over a cupcake for me from C, the girl who had been told No Thanks by Tattoo.
Mrs. E told me, "Read the candy heart on top." The heart said, "Marry Me."
I asked, "Well she didn't specifically pick that one out, did she?"
Mrs. E replied, "Yes, she did," then walked back out with a wicked grin.
I took the heart off the top of the cupcake and followed her over to her room. All of the kids over there were giggling, and I popped the heart into my mouth and exclaimed, "Mmmmmm, tastes like. . ."
All of the kids yelled, "Ketchup??"
"Um, no. . .Tastes a lot like 'Marry Me!' Yummm-may!!"
C informed me that she had not looked at the hearts before putting them on the cupcakes. And I believe her. I think Mrs. E was just giving her a hard time.
But as you can tell, the kids have recently learned of my affinity for ketchup. Earlier in the week, M, a little girl in Mrs. E's homeroom, asked me, "Is it true that you love (*)?" The * is for something that I couldn't understand because it sounded like "cupchup." I thought I was talking to an Ewok or something (Yub nub!). After she repeated the question several times, one of the other kids finally chimed in with "ketchup." Mrs. Educator had apparently used me in an example of Main Idea/Details. Mister Teacher -- tall; math teacher; loves ketchup on mac&cheese.
Maybe for my birthday next week, some of the kids will give me ketchup. I'll probably get a handful of squeeze packets from the cafeteria as gifts.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

(Not so) Future Teacher Attire?

This has been a miserable cold and flu season. Kids have been absent left and right, and when they're NOT absent, half the time they sound like they're about to hack up their left lung. My partner was out for 3 weeks because her son caught something at a day care; the teacher next door to me has been out for 3 days because she caught something from one of her kids. And with today being 80 degrees, and tomorrow predicted to drop to 40 degrees, we're bound to have another wave of illness rock the schoolhouse.
This topic got a nice discussion going in the breakroom today during lunch. Someone mentioned that teaching had made the top of the list for "germy jobs." (like that took a brain scientist to figure out) And it is so totally true. When I was in engineering, I NEVER got sick. Since I've been a teacher, I've become a regular at the local Primacare center. "Oh, hello Mister Teacher, what is it this time? Strep Throat? Sinus Infection? Ebola?"
So I suggested that we might all want to start wearing full-body radiation suits or at least the protective covering of a clean room suit you might see in a chip manufacturing plant. (I refer you to the picture for a quick modeling of the suit by yours truly.) This would prevent any unwanted germs, viruses, or bacteria from being transferred from the kids.
We would of course need nice sturdy iron tongs to handle tests and classwork, and anything else that needed to be picked up from the kids each day. A sharps disposal box (labeled "Biohazard") would be provided for each classroom.
Can't you just picture the classroom of the future?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Searching for the words

Ugh, what a long day. I was all by myself in the gym with 200 kids during morning duty (usually there are 3 of us), tutoring after school, AND no planning period today because the third grade team had to meet with the principal. And it was truly a beating of a meeting. Some of us (yours truly) were chastised for not having our desks in the correct new arrangement (they're all facing the same way now, baby, just call me Mister Conformist). Though the principal kept saying that we had been out of compliance for the past 2 weeks. Last Friday was the first I had ever heard of this new directive. Now I'm no math teacher, but. . .oh wait, I AM a math teacher! I'm pretty sure 2 weeks haven't wedged themselves in between Friday and today.
But enough about that. Somebody left a comment on my blog the other day about teaching in junior high and seeing suspiciously similar behavior between HIS kids and MY kids. The reference to jr. high made me think back to my VERY first day of teaching. Before I joined the Dallas ISD full time, I subbed for about a month in another district. My very first assignment was a 7th grade science class. To make a long story short, I will never teach 7th grade again. To lengthen the story, I'll give you a few details.
The guy I was subbing for had 5 classes, all full of hormonally charged, raving lunatics posing in the guise of children. About 10 minutes into the first period, I was practically choking on the pheromones. Loud, boisterous, pushing and shoving -- and that was the GOOD ones!
So the lesson plan had me giving a test to all of the kids. Nice and easy, right? Any kids who finished early could read a magazine, but the note said that most of the kids should take the whole 50 minute period. As you might guess, everyone was done in that first period in about 10 minutes. The teacher had no magazines in the room, and most of the kids had not brought one, or any books for that matter, so the rest of the period pretty much resembled the pit of the New York Stock Exchange.
Thankfully, the planning period was immediately after the first period. And I was bound and determined NOT to go through that ordeal four more times. So I looked through the guy's cabinets for any kind of activities or worksheets related to the test subject -- the respiratory system. I hit upon a word search page, which seemed ideal, so I quickly ran off a passle of copies.
I was so proud of myself when I had something to offer to the early finishers in the next period. Until the giggling started. That was when I really took a good look at the word search for the first time. I had seen that the worksheet actually covered the respiratory system, the digestive system, AND the reproductive system. But I hadn't looked at the words being hunted.
The very first word on the list was "anus." Down the list, "sphinctor" reared its ugly head. I'm not sure if these words represented aspects of the digestive system or the reproductive system, but I'm praying it was the former. At any rate, I figured the science teacher would have some fun stories for when he got back the next day, AND it kept the kids quiet enough (except for the giggling and the constant whispers of "Have you found ANUS yet?"), so I continued to use the worksheets for the remainder of the day.
I'm so glad I don't have to teach health to my 3rd graders. . .

Best caption

Who can come up with the best caption for this picture? Mine is below.

We brought our cameras because we heard Paris Hilton was shooting a new video. . .

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Hearts Day!

Happy Valentine's Day, all you little particles in the blogosphere! Having such a popular holiday smack dab in the middle of the week makes things a bit awkward for a grade school teacher. Do you have a sugar-coated party on Tuesday and then face the hyperactive consequences for the rest of the week? Or do you defer the holiday and have your party on Friday, when you can send the kids home to their parents for the weekend, hopped up on goofballs?
Well, my partner and I decided to go with the latter choice. Though all of the other 3rd grade classes (and I assume the rest of the school) passed out cards and candy today (HAHA! The suckers!), my partner (from now on, we'll call her Mrs. Education) really wanted to wait until Friday, so I obliged her. Yesterday, I sent home a flier with the kids that included a class list, so that they would be able to bring a card and/or goodies for everyone, and no one would feel left out. There's nothing worse than to be sitting at a desk with one lowly Snickers bar, while the kid next to you can't see over the pile of mushy cards. Before the kids left my room, though, I had them write in big letters, "PARTY ON FRIDAY." I told them repeatedly that we would NOT be passing out cards today, and not to bring snacks until Friday.
Lo and behold, 7:20 this morning, and the first kid through the door to the gym is Q, carrying a big box of homemade cupcakes. Q is not exactly the crispest Yugi-Oh card in the deck. When I reminded him that the party was on Friday, and that he himself had written that note on his flier, he said, "I know! But my grandma said I had to bring them today!"
The cupcakes were in a shallow cardboard box, covered with a sheet of tinfoil. I was very tempted to start a class science project this morning, to examine the effects of oxidation on yeast, as in cupcakes left out on a shelf. I did go to the cafeteria, though, and get some plastic wrap, so hopefully that will seal in the flavor a little bit better and help the snacks survive until Friday.
Q wasn't alone. He was the only one who brought edible foodstuffs, but several other boys brought cards. Their listening skills just never cease to amaze me.
A few kids from other classes gave me candy throughout the day, and one of the girls in my class even brought a little mug/beanie baby gift bag. Very thoughtful of her. I'll never forget, though, the handmade card I received my first year of teaching from one of my favorite students ever. She wrote on the inside,

"Happy Valentine's Day, Mister Teacher!
Even though you are a man, Valentine's
Day is for everyone to have love."

I was so happy that my Y chromosome wasn't going to prohibit me from participating in the spirit of love! Now, if only my lack of social skills wouldn't prohibit that same thing. . .

They're playing Batsketball

Today was Tuesday, and so we had our weekly after-school enrichment program again. Dick Cheney may like to shoot fellow hunters, but my group was shooting hoops.
I had a group of 17 kids at the outdoor baskets, and we played some fun games and shot the rock. At one point, when several kids had hit consecutive baskets, I made the comment, "I'm going to start calling you guys 'butter,' because you're on a roll!" This brought several "HUH???"s, and basically ended the streak. Note to self: 3rd graders not yet ready for SportsCenter. . .
Around 4:00, some girls from the Cheerleading Club came over and did some cheers for us. Several of these girls are in my class, and it was fun to see them do the "O. K. Ready?" and then belt out a few rhymes. Of course, most of the boys in my basketball club were rolling their eyes and making gagging motions the whole time, but they'll learn to appreciate cheerleaders in due time.
I came across this old photo, from about 7 years ago in my files. Thought it was at least somewhat applicable to today. Holiday + Sport = Batsketball. OK, so it's not exactly the right holiday, so sue me. . .

Monday, February 13, 2006

Passing the Olympic Torch

I just realized that the Winter Olympics started over the weekend, so I thought I might throw out a few medal winners of my own, from around the school. Judging is based on a ten-point scale, with any entries from French judges being thrown out.

Bronze -- Goes to H, in the 3rd grade, for his uncanny resemblance to C. Montgomery Burns from the Simpsons. We keep expecting him to wring his hands and declare, "Exxxxxxxcellent."

Silver -- A 20-way tie, going to my kids who act like Droopy, on Valium, immediately after a nap (think about it). Yeah, that's the kind of participation that really gets a teacher all fired up.

Gold -- Goes to J, in my class, for his dead-on impersonation of a stump. I can usually expect more accurate answers and a more animated expression from a blue crayon.

-- Goes to DISD, for outlawing any sort of Christian verbiage and symbols during the "Holiday Season," but then giving us Good Friday off. Sure, it's under the guise of an "inclement weather day," but c'mon -- it's an Easter holiday.

Silver -- Goes to DISD, for the whole "all desks must face Mecca" imperative I talked about on Friday (which, by the way, I have not complied with yet).

Gold -- Goes to DISD (A SWEEP!), for prohibiting my partner from teaching today, after a 2-week absence, because her scheduled return date was mistakenly entered as Feb. 17. She had to drive downtown to HR and petition to be allowed to return to work tomorrow.

-- goes to anyone who asks, "Do I have to show my work on this?"

Silver -- goes to anyone who asks, "Can I have an eraser?" (When they haven't even WRITTEN anything yet!)

Gold -- goes to anyone who asks, "What do we do when we're done?" (When they haven't even WRITTEN anything yet!)

Congratulations to all of our athletes and mathletes and wrathletes alike. Bring the gold home to Dallas in '16, baby!!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Corporate Sponsorship

As of tomorrow, there will be only 6 school days left until the 3rd grade TAKS reading test. This is the standardized assessment that all third graders have to pass in order to be promoted to the fourth grade. Part of President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" act, this high pressure test has been the cause of more stress than J-Lo's ample buttocks on her jeans. You know, Bush used to be the owner of the Texas Rangers, and look where THEY are. Too bad he never tried to implement a "No Major Leaguer Left Behind."
But here's my thinking. Since there's no escaping the TAKS, and such a huge deal is made of it, why not turn it into something truly productive? Everywhere you look, there are cries of despair over the lack of school funding. Why not kill two birds with one test? Let's get those upper administrators to get out there and drum up some corporate sponsorship!
Students in DISD have to wear school uniforms now. Why not use some of that design-free space to advertise product? Hey, if it works for NASCAR, why not grade school?
Here are some ideas for slogans:

McDonalds: You deserve a test today.

Nike: Just pass it.

Trix: Silly rabbit, tests are for kids!

Guiness Genuine Draft: Multiple choice test questions?? BRILLIANT!!!

Cialis: In the rare case of corrections lasting longer than 4 hours, consult your doctor.

Note to sponsors: If any of these slogans are deemed worthy, I would ask for a mere 3% of all resulting profits. Thank you.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Illegal aliens to invade DISD?

Big news coming out of the Dallas ISD is that one of the trustees has suggested hiring up a bunch of illegal aliens to teach bilingual classes at our schools. I'm not sure exactly what this guy was smoking, but I have a feeling that it contains little to no nicotine. Let's examine the pros and cons for this out-of-the-box (or at least the gourd) suggestion:

Our kids would learn a lot by observing a teacher from another culture.
Do we really want our kids emulating an alien? It's bad enough when they roar like Chewbacca or say "OWWWWWWWWCH" like E.T. -- who knows WHAT kind of behavior they'd pick up from Miss Zebulon?

Since they're illegal, they can't complain to the government if they don't get paid fair wages.
Since they can't complain to the government, they would probably have to go to "Uncle Marco" to complain, and the last guy who had dealings with Uncle Marco is currently hanging from his boxers at the top of the Texas Cliffhanger.

This hiring would provide a solution to the teacher shortage crisis, at least in Texas.
If there is no teacher shortage crisis, people might no longer think teachers deserve to be paid extra for their long hours, infinite patience, and stressful working conditions. Oh wait. I guess that's really not an issue.

Only college-educated illegal aliens would be considered.
Acceptable "colleges" include Tony Roberts College, the Brownsville Institute of Culinary Tastes and Health, Que U., and the University of North Carolina.

Will the pros outweigh the cons? Only time will tell.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Are you kidding me?

I'm afraid the term "Jumping through hoops" has taken on a whole new meaning. In any job, one is expected to make certain accomodations, some utterly ridiculous, yet always required by upper management. This is certainly not unusual in the teaching field. However, the one that was passed down to us today takes the cake.
With the TAKS reading test just over a week away, we have been told that all desks must be in row, with all students facing the same direction. Now this might not seem like such a big deal to the casual observer, but I think that most teachers would throw out comments ranging from "absurd" to "unfeasible" to "@%#("
I know a lot of teachers who use a horse-shoe pattern of desks in their rooms. I myself have a pattern that resembles two mirror-image "E"s (the desks on the long side of the E are perpendicular to the short sides). Heck, my partner has round tables in her room! How are all of the kids going to face the same way over there??
I think that the idea behind this innovative thought is that it will reduce cheating on test day. It won't. When we take tests, we spread the desks all around the room, up against walls, facing different ways, and well apart from each other. Moving them all into neat, tight little rows will give the kids an even clearer view of the person in front of them, and probably the person next to them too.
But let the games begin! This is supposed to go into effect on Monday, so we'll see just how darn effective it is for the week leading up to the exam.

On a side note: I saw a movie last night called Lord of War. It's about an illegal arms dealer who sells guns to violent dictators of small countries, allowing them to wipe out their enemies and rival cultures. Unfortunately, the movie was not nearly as hilarious as the premise suggested. My rating: Two middle fingers up.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The kid who cried "Bathroom!"

The other day we read "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" as part of a reading packet. I told my kids my own version of the story -- The Kid Who Cried Bathroom.
For some reason, whenever my students ask if they can use the bathroom, they feel the need to accompany the request with an exaggerated version of the Pee Pee Dance. Like if I don't say yes, the room is going to suddenly be flooded. So far, that's never happened. Well, if you don't count the kid last year who crapped in his pants. Or the kid they year before who told me "My bowels be runnin!'"
Usually, I tell the kid that they can choose to use the bathroom, but miss 5 minutes of recess OR they can hold it until our regularly scheduled break. Almost always, this little choice seems to soothe their bladder enough so they can resume their classwork with ease.
Now I just need to deal with the kid who still screams WOLF!! while IN the bathroom. . .

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A classic, revisited

I know that my brother will appreciate this one.
The very last activity that we did today during after-school tutoring was a writing exercise. I passed out some Spider-man valentine cards to the kids and told them to write a story based on the card's picture. Misspelling aside, it was entertaining to read some of the kids' stories and find that Spidey could fly, he can roundhouse kick people in the face ala Chuck Norris, and he likes to go around yelling, "I AM SPIDER-MAN!" Kind of makes me think of The Tick with his "I AM MIGHTY BLUE JUSTICE!"
But one little boy had written a story about Spidey fighting a handful of "badgiis." Badgiis (pronounced by the author "Bad Guys" -- pronounced by all others "Badgies") were a staple of my brother's elementary school writing period. All stories followed a specific formula. Goodgiis fight badgiis. Badgiis go to jail. End of story. Sometimes the setting changed (castle, big castle, red castle), but the story elements always remained the same.
And really, Hollywood has followed suit. Die Hard on a plane. Die Hard on a mountain. Die Hard on a boat. Die Hard on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
This was the first time I've seen my student writing about badgiis. I won't make any comments like "Please stop writing the same story!" (actual note on my brother's 7th or 8th paper) unless he recycles the plot a few times.

The Rolling Stones ain't got nothin' on me

I discovered today that I have groupies. Or at least, that's the way it would seem. There are a few girls at the school that always seem to get a little giggly when I pass by, but this morning was just downright ridiculous.
At around quarter till 8 this morning, I was headed up the hallway to sign in on the ultra-sleek revolutionary biometric clock. This piece of miraculous technology has supplanted the old system of pen and paper for signing in and signing out. We punch in our ID number on the on-screen display, and then a laser scans our thumbprint. For some people, this is a real hassle, because the scanner never seems to be able to read their thumb. For me, if I'm anywhere within 20 feet, the computer gives me a hearty greeting by name.
So I'm walking up the hall to sign in when I pass these (5th grade? 6th grade? Not really sure) girls who bat their eyes and say, "Hiiiiii, Mister Teacher!" (on the off chance anyone I DON'T know is reading this blog, I'll preserve the illusion of anonymity)
I raise my hand to shoulder height to wave at them, and one of them reaches out and gives me a very weak high five. After that, you would have thought someone had seen Elvis. Elvis BEFORE he was doing ads for Subway. I just kept walking, but behind me, there was a shriek and a cry of "OOOOOO I TOUCHED HIS HAND!!!!" followed by the loudest, most out of control jag of giggling since Frank Gorshin taunted Batman with stupid riddles.
I guess I could be flattered, but frankly, I'm a little more weirded out. Here's hoping I can survive past Valentine's Day without having the class rabbit boiled. I think my chances are good, seeing as how I don't have a class rabbit. . .

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Good fashion sense

I had to ask one of the other teachers today why she clearly had not yet had discussions with her students about acceptable and unacceptable attire. One of her kids was wearing a University of North Carolina sweatshirt.
I'm not really sure why UNC gear is so universally popular. Maybe it's because Michael Jordan went there? Or Vince Carter for the younger generation? I'm guessing it's not for love of Ed Cota or Serge Zwikker. But whatever the reason, I used to see kids wearing UNC colors all the time last year and the year before. That was before the district implemented a uniform policy. The blue or khaki slacks with a white polo shirt. The white shirt of course winds up looking like a Twister mat after lunch, with Hot Cheetos stains, fruit juice spills, and nacho cheese flavor-pockets.
I've never been like that high school teacher (middle school? Whatever) in Pittsburgh who told his class to throw spitballs at a student wearing a Broncos jersey. No, I've always advocated throwing books instead of wadded up paper. Just kidding. Whenever I have seen a child wearing UNC apparel, I say a silent prayer for the child's soul, but I generally let it go at that. I don't want to scar any kids' psyches here. I remember all too well an incident when I was a child.
I'm originally from the DC area, so I was raised to be a Redskins fan. When I was about 7 years old, I was at a bowling alley with my parents, proudly wearing my burgundy Redskins jacket (vintage, man!). I still remember this big guy walking by and saying, "Hey kid! Com'ere and gimme that jacket so I can flush it down the toilet!" If I had been 2 or 3 years older, I might have pointed out to him the finer points of fluid dynamics and plumbing, in order to make him aware that his proposed action was not completely practical. However, as a seven-year-old, I was too concerned with the size, the threat of the statement, and the odd aroma of old bread and raisins arising from this man's personage.
To this day, I can proudly say that I have never threatened to flush a child's North Carolina clothes down the toilet. Now Maryland? That's a different story. . .

Monday, February 06, 2006

Have you hugged your counselor today?

Today kicks off National School Counselor Week (as opposed to 7 days honoring Deanna Troi from Star Trek). We have two counselors at the school, and they talk with the kids when there are emotional problems, they show anti-bullying videos, run the anti-drug campaigns, etc. I had my two classes make big cards today for both ladies. After school, I checked out some of what the kids had written.
Three of the kids had written, "Thanks for showing us your videos." (direct and to the point, though possibly missing the point)
One wrote, "Thanks for letting us watch TV." (yeah, that would be the anti-bullying tapes, not like she came in and said, "Let's watch Sponge Bob!")
One little girl asked me over and over, "Who is Ms. so-and-so? I don't remember her." I described her, told her what she sounds like, finally told her where her office was, but she didn't look like she knew who I was talking about. On the card, she wrote, "Thank you for helping me solve my big problem last week." (perhaps the problem was Youth Alzheimers?)
And the one that takes the cake, and she probably didn't really even mean it the way it sounds, but one little darling wrote, "I hope that you become a good counselor." (and I hope that one day you grow a brain.)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

All In with a Flush

Friday ended a truly exhausting week. My partner is still out, and one of the other math teachers went home early with a case of spontaneous non-stop vomiting. We really should petition for hazard pay. . . Friday night was fun, though. I played several hours of poker with my dad, brother, and several of the guys. At the end of the night, I was only down a buck, so I did pretty well for myself. Others were a bit more interested in making random sounds. And I'm not just talking about those that come from the mouth. But then, what can you expect from a guy who labels himself "the Dirty Dangus?" Sounds like a name they would tag someone with on Spike TV's MXC (one of my favorite shows, by the way). "Right you are, Kenny!"
Saw The Wedding Crashers on Saturday night with some friends. Very funny movie. One of the best lines in the flick is one I'll have to use with my kids this week. "You shut your mouth when you talk to me!" Other than that line, there's not a whole lot from that film that I can use with (or within 10 miles of) my students.
Lastly, the Superbowl was so-so tonight. I was hoping for more out of the Seahawks, and more out of the sponsors. I thought the FedEx ad with the oppressed caveman was pretty funny, but who the heck was the AdWizard (heavy sarcasm here) who thought "Brown and Bubbly" was a nice selling angle for Diet Pepsi??? Brown and Bubbly makes me think of something they've scraped off the bottom of Jerome Bettis' feet after the game.
Off to bed. A new week awaits. I will rise to bearhug the life out of the morning and eat its heart for breakfast. HUH??

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Superbowl predictions

Hey all you loyal readers out there (yes, I'm talking to myself, and in the plural at that),
I will be away from the keyboard over the weekend, so this will be the last post before the big Xtra Large bash in Detroit on Sunday. Personally, I think the Steelers are on a tear, and they will probably win, so my prediction is Steelers 27, Seahawks 17. However, I will be rooting for the Hawks, and I hope that they will win 21 to 20.
I also predict that there will be 1 hilarious commercial, 4 pretty funny ones, and a whole lot of stinkers. In my opinion, Bud should never have steered away from the talking lizards, as they were consistently genius.
Since the whole cartoon thing went so well, I'll throw out another bone for audience participation. Give me the scenario for a Superbowl commercial that you would like to see.
OK, I'll go first -- thanks for asking.

I'd like to see a really aggressive campaign from McDonald's this year. Maybe have Ronald McDonald and Grimace travel abroad to Burger King Land and knock that stupid shake-eating grin right off of the King's plastic face. Ronnie McDonnie unveils his new slogan by shouting it right into the King's grill: "Over 25 billion served, BEEE-YOTCH!!"

Funny who ya run into

I was planning on stopping by Target after school today to get a few things, but I wound up staying at the school later than I planned. It did make me think of the last time I was at that Target, though, back a few months ago.
I had run in to grab a few things on the way to a friend's house-warming party. I took my items up to the cash register, said hi to the cashier, put my items on the conveyor belt, and started flipping through my wallet to pull out the ol' magic plastic money card. As I'm doing that, the cashier asks, "So how is my daughter doing at school?"
I totally hadn't recognized one of my students' mothers. Said hi to her and everything, and just didn't place the face. I tried to recover as best I could. "Oh, she's doing pretty well--yeah, put the booze in a separate bag, please -- though she hasn't been completing her homework."
Now I do most of my shopping much farther from the school. . .

Random thought of the day: On the drive home, the radio put up Jenny, by Tommy Tutone (which made the phone number 867-5309 famous). I got to thinking. In today's 10-digit dialing era, this song is seriously obsolete. If anybody can fit an area code into the lyrics, while maintaining the harmony, they'll be able to write their own checks.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Third rule of Fight Club

My partner has been out tending to her sick baby for the past week, and instead of getting a sub, the school has been requiring us to split up the class among the other third grade teachers. So for some reason, the kids have seen this as some sort of "full moon" portent and have decided to just go nuts. I've had to deal with more fights, name-calling, tattling, etc than ever before.
Two of the girls in my homeroom got into a fight yesterday after lunch (while still at recess with another teacher's class), and these are girls that are usually calm and reserved. One apparently was calling the other, "Shorty short short." So that was cause for Shorty to pull the other girl's hair.

My solution? Call them both over and tell them:
First rule of Fight Club -- there IS no Fight Club.
Second rule of Fight club -- go stand in the corner.

Sheesh. Meanwhile, I have a little boy in my room crying, saying it's because "That boy told me fat." Well, why don't you tell him mean, and maybe tell him drunk while you're at it?

2 more days till Friday. . .