My wife sells jewelry! Treat yourself to some bling!Treat yourself to some bling!
I am an Affiliate, and I warmly invite you to shop using my store!

Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial
Join HBO Free Trial

Friday, March 31, 2006

Which hurts more, Brick Red or Burnt Sienna?

Can it be possible to have a full moon in the middle of the afternoon? My kids were absolutely, off-the-wall INSANE today! No, no, I take that back. It actually started yesterday. At least the two third graders who had to go home suspended because they brought toy guns to school weren't in either of my classes. But I was one of the teachers who had to confront one of them about it. Then, after school, just as they were about to get on the school buses and go home, two of my kids got into a fistfight.
So my day today started with me dealing with these two wannabe pugilists. One of them, to absolutely no one's surprise, was D. I don't think this kid could walk by a cloister of nuns without saying something horrid and provoking at least one of them to attack him. The other student is certainly not my best behaved, but usually not prone to actual physical violence. However, according to all eyewitness accounts, the two of them were out there punching each other in the face. In fact, the way that it was described to me, I couldn't help but reminisce about the Nolan Ryan-Robin Ventura debacle from many years ago. E, who is about as tall as, but much scrawnier than D, actually had the much larger D in a headlock, and was jabbing him in the nose. D, meanwhile, was pulling some sort of Matrix-like contortions, and reaching back over his shoulder to punch E.
Anyway, they've both been suspended for the first three days of next week, and they were in different rooms for today. That brings us up to about 8:10 a.m. A wonderful time of the morning to regurgitate your breakfast all over the floor. Or at least that's what one of my students thought. Not really wanting a reenactment of the dinner scene from Monty Python's the Meaning of Life ("Better get a bucket"), I decided to take the rest of my class for a walk around the school while the custodian came to clean up the mess.
At 10:40, Mrs. Educator and I switched classes. As of yesterday, we have a new student in that class. This little girl, G, has been at the school all year long, and has been a real headache for two of the other third grade teachers. Last week, she upped the ante a bit, throwing a crayon at one of her teachers, and punching the other one in the arm. That's right, she punched a teacher. So, after three days of suspension, she returns to school, displaced into another third-grade classroom. She was relatively well behaved for both of us yesterday, and she didn't have any major flareups today, but I have had interactions with this girl before, and I know her temperament. What's worse, is she seems to have developed a real bond with DJ Clueless. Maybe it's the head inscription, maybe it's the complete illiteracy, but whatever the reason, they're tight.
Lord help us all.
Good news: tomorrow is the Final Four. Bad news: tomorrow I have to do Saturday School. Saturday school is not a time for the kids to learn about the Bible. That would be Sunday School. It’s not a time for the kids to learn about beer. That would be middle school. Saturday School is basically an extra tutoring session for the kids that are still really struggling. At least it's only from 9 till 12, and there will only be a handful of kids there. So I should be home in plenty of time to catch the round ball action.
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Time to sue the barber

This morning, as I was standing by my door greeting the students, I couldn't help but notice the top of r's head. He's about half my height, so I had no problem getting a full view of his noggin. He's got really short hair to begin with, not quite shaved but almost, but carved into what little hair there was, right on the top of the sphere, were the letters J.D.
Please keep in mind that this kid's name starts with an r, which is neither a J nor a D. When I asked him who had written on top of his head, he immediately said, "Nobody." Not believing for an instant that his hair naturally grows like that, I tried to press him for more information, but, as usual, he wouldn't tell me anything. Mrs. Educator apparently had a little more luck later in the day. She told me that when she had asked r about his newest 'do, he told her that a friend had done it to express his nickname.
You may be wondering what r's nickname is?
DJ Cool.
In my opinion, DJ Dyslexic would be more like it. Here I thought he was selling out his melon as a JD Powers billboard. But no, it was intended to be DJ, not JD. Go figure.
Just can't wait to see what DJ Clueless gets up to next. I'm pretty sure it won't be excelling at anything remotely related to math.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Card sharks

Since today is Tuesday, we had our after-school enrichment program. I run the Basketball Club, but this is the first time in about three or four weeks that we've actually gone outside to play basketball. Before today, the previous weeks had been cold or rainy, so my group had stayed inside in Mrs. Educator's room and played games. Two favorites of the kids: Connect Four and Uno.
Playing Uno with the kids is hilarious. They spend most of the time peering over the tops of their cards, looking like the poodles from that famous painting, and they almost never know when it's actually their turn. The play will come to them, I'll look at them, and they get all squinty eyed, like I'm about to call their bluff. And I can inevitably count on one kid to try to play a red three on top of a blue seven. I always hate to be the one to burst his bubble when he has one card left, there's a green four on top of the discard pile, and he giddily lays down his last card with a look of triumph on his face.
"Ummm, C, you can't play that yellow skip card now..."
It's a really good thing that we are not playing poker, or anything for money for that matter, because these kids can't hide their cards for one thing, and they don't conceal their emotions either. They're about as subtle as an eighty-foot tall lizard in downtown Tokyo. As the cards are dealt out one by one to begin the game, the kids greet each card with a cry of, "YES!" or, "I got my favorite card!" Whenever I play a wild card and change the color, I'm serenaded with either, "THANK YOU MISTER TEACHER!!" or, "NOOOOOOO!! NOT RED!!!"
But really and truly, despite the fact that it makes for a longer day, I do enjoy seeing these kids out of the context of my classroom, where I tend to get frustrated with them easily. I like being able to take a step back and play games with them, instead of chastising them for adding two monetary amounts together to find the amount of change someone should receive.
Plus, I can totally kick their butts at Connect Four.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


Well, my beloved Blue Devils may be out of the tournament, and my bracket is busted -- big-time -- but in my class, the tourney is just starting. Over Spring Break, I drew up brackets of my own on a big piece of white poster board. Last week, I had my students draw numbers to decide which slot their names would go on in the opening round of our little classroom tournament.
When I first asked the kids if any of them ever watched college basketball or had heard of March Madness, most of them looked at me as blankly as they do when I ask who knows what a line of symmetry is. But when I held up the brackets and announced that we would be having "March Mathness," there were a lot of gasps of excitement. When I called the first child up, and he selected his number, there was a general, "OOOOOH!!" from the rest of the class (Even though his opponent had not yet been decided, mind you). The rest of the slots were gradually filled in, and we had our first-round matchups set. Excitement was in the air! I felt a little bit like Dickey V. (except that I'm not bald, blind in one eye, or certifiably insane).
Friday's test scores got us down to the Sweet Sixteen. Winners were based on test scores, with ties being broken by a short round of multiplication and division questions. Now the challenge will be to keep those kids that did not win their matchups interested. In years past, this has not been a problem, as I've implemented a "Second Chance Contest." Anyone whose name is not still on the brackets is playing for a different reward. This keeps them motivated and still trying their best (ideally at least).
Anyone else out there celebrating this fine time of year? Please share!
PS There is nobody in my class named Cinderella...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Verr-Chin-ya Teecha in da howzzz

Have you seen those recent Volkswagen commercials? You know the ones, with that weird, kind of funny, kind of scary guy, saying, “Vee-Dub in da howz, ya.”
I thought it might be kind of funny if I talked like that in my class today. How bizarre would the kids think I was if I suddenly said, “Time to complete da verd prop-lum, ya!” Holding my hands at chest level, with three fingers up on each one.
Then I remembered that there are less than 20 days left until the big math test, and how I probably shouldn’t confuse the students now. I’ll stick with the familiar Mister Teacher persona for the time being.
But I might just keep Mista Teacha in my back pocket

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Return of the Ding

Hallelujah!! What once was lost, now is found! My prize student, D (the scourge of public school toilets everywhere), has returned from…wherever the hell he went after he got kicked out of our school three weeks ago. And, true to form, he picked up right where he had left off. Calling kids names, trying to start fights, and spouting nonsense in the middle of class.
At recess yesterday, D said something that actually had me at a loss for words, and that just doesn’t happen very often. After several of the kids had accused him of cursing at them, I was busy giving him a piece of my mind. I had just finished saying, “Why on earth would you come back and start doing exactly the sort of thing that got you kicked out of here in the first place?” when D suddenly exclaims, “My birthday coming up soon!”
I just really had no answer for that one.
In much sadder news, I also lost a student yesterday, and she was one of my favorites. Little S, who is a very friendly and bright girl, brought in withdrawal papers yesterday. At first, I told her I wouldn’t sign them, but of course I had no choice. Her family is moving to Lancaster, which isn’t all that far from here, but it’s far enough to put her in another school. Maybe once she gets to her new school, her mother will allow her to obtain a pair of forbidden glasses.
Losing a sweetheart, and regaining a headache – what a great way to start the week!!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

V for Vacation

Unfortunately, Spring Break is now over, and it’s time to return to the ways of the Western World. This means it’s back to work for poor slobs like me. I had a nice break, and it was great to have the time off to watch basketball (Go Duke!), but seeing as how there are only 22 school days left until the big math test, I guess it’s time to get back into the swing of things.
For anyone who wondered, Field Day was a lot of fun, and yes, I did race against the kids. The good news is none of them beat me. The not so good news is I’m getting older. In terms of speed, I am almost certainly still faster than all of them. Unfortunately, endurance, or, more accurately, the lack thereof, had to go and rear its ugly head. When we got to the sprinting event, I raced against several of the fastest kids from Mrs. Educator’s class. I even gave them about a 15-foot head start, twice, and I still beat them. However, those two sprints just about wore me out. At 2:30, my homeroom kids came running over, wanting to race against me. I had been telling them all year long that I would race against them on Field Day, so I felt somewhat obligated. I lined up alongside about 25 of the kids, and foolishly gave them a head start once again. This time, it was only about a 7 ft. head start, but I didn’t start as soon as they said go. I was able to beat all of them except one. I tied with K, who is a big girl who should be in the fourth grade but was retained. She was about 10 kids down the line from me, and some people started saying that she had won. Mrs. Educator insisted that the two of us race one more time, one on one, to determine the winner once and for all. My gas tank was completely on the E, but I could hardly back down at that point.
K and I raced one last time, this time with no head start. I’m sad to say that my legs were weaker than Carson Daly’s charisma by that time. I was pumping my arms and legs as fast as they would pump, and we crossed the finish line dead even. Oh well, at least none of them beat me. I never would have heard the end of it if they had.
I hope that everyone who filled out a March Madness bracket is enjoying some success. Unless of course you picked against Duke, in which case I wish you to leave right now. While I was home with my family over the break, my mom even tried to get my 16 month old nephew to make some picks. I didn’t stick around long enough to see him fill out the entire bracket, but I was there to witness his “upset special” of Oral Roberts over Memphis. The boy’s got onions, I’ll give him that. Had he been correct, I would have had to forget all about teaching, and taken the kid to Vegas.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Field Day!

Tomorrow is the last day before Spring Break (YES!!!), so we're having our Field Day activities. We've been testing the little munchkins all week long (first benchmarks, today practice math TAKS), so I suppose they've earned a bit of frivolity.
All of the kids have been clamoring to race me since the year began, and I have repeatedly told them, "I'll race all challengers on Field Day." So tomorrow will be the showdown. Of course, last year, I raced against the fastest third grader, gave him a 30 foot headstart and still beat him. So I'm not worried about anything other than stepping in a hole out on the field and turning an ankle. THAT would not be good. Soon, the kids will be calling me "Mister Flash."
More good news today, we received the results of the TAKS reading test. 78% of our third graders passed the test! This might not seem like a lot, but it is MUCH higher than we expected, with this group. Several surprises in there, as kids that we figured didn't have an ice cube's chance in Ecuador actually passed. K, in my class, who took the test 3 times last year (and was thus retained because she didn't pass any of the aforementioned times) can now move on to the 4th grade! Mrs. Educator and I had 7 kids that didn't pass. They'll get 2 more chances -- and most of them will probably need both tries. . . But still, the results were very encouraging.
Here's hoping it doesn't rain tomorrow!
Oh, and not sure how often I'll post during Spring Break. Probably not very. So don't expect anything till the week of the 20th!
Have a great break!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Once more, my classroom has become the revolving door. My latest ward, D, has left my fine school for better and brighter things (and toilets everywhere feared). I'm sure he'll be all right -- after all, there are kids everywhere for him to call, "fat a$$es." However, his replacement, who arrived yesterday, makes D look like "the Beave."
This new kid showed up around 10:30 yesterday morning. He literally looked like something the cat had dragged in. He had on a T-shirt that looked like it had been turned inside out, his whole face looked filthy, and the "whites" of his eyes were much more yellowish than white.
His name is r. Normally, I would capitalize initials, but since r doesn't know his capital letters from his lower case letters, I think r will be quite fitting.
While my other kids were starting their opening activity, I took r aside, to ask him a few questions. I first asked him how he did at his old school, what kinds of grades he got. He told me he got all A's. Than I asked him how he had done on the TAKS reading test. He told me fine. I wasn't getting a whole lot of input from the lad, so I told him to go back into the room and finish working the word problem up on the board. Suddenly, he tells me that he can't do word problems, because he can't read.
More than a little confused, I asked him how he had done fine on the reading test if he couldn't read. He replied, "My teacher helped me." Incredulously, I asked, "Your teacher helped you on the TAKS test?" He rolled his eyes and said, "My teacher KIND OF helped me."
Later, when I mentioned this to the vice principle, she told me that the story that she had heard was that r and his family (there are five other kids) haven't attended school at all for the last month. I have since heard that they haven't been in school for one month, one year, two years. I'm really not sure which to believe. But after spending an entire day with my new charge, I know what NOT to believe. This kid is a liar, a thief, and a bully. In other words, all of the admirable trades that I've come to expect from most of my third graders.
Is it Spring Break yet?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Bad Hair Daze

Today, one of my boys was very proud of his growth in the classroom. Unfortunately, he wasn’t talking about academic growth. He informed me, with great pleasure, that he was growing a mustache. It took a superheroic amount of willpower on my part to bite my tongue.
What I really wanted to say was, “ That’s great, J! At this rate, you’ll be the only third grader with a mustache AND your own car!”
While J revels in his overabundant facial hair, one of my girls is facing the opposite problem. Last week, I noticed that J (no relation to the mustachioed) had a bald spot on the top of her head about the size of a fifty cent piece. Poor girl, it’s probably because she’s always pulling on her hair. Do they make Kiddie Rogaine??
Meanwhile, I find more and more of my own hairs turning from their original lustrous brown. I’m not going gray, mind you. These are silver hairs I find myself plucking at night. Pretty soon, the kids will start to call me “Mister Cloud Head.”After all, I will have the proverbial silver lining.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Word to your third grader

New week, and that means new Word of the Week!
This week's word comes to us from Bonnie (she of the Gene Wilder crush...).

Understand (v) -- to position oneself beneath something or someone. "I can understand you while you are on the ladder!"

Thanks to Bonnie, and please keep sending those words in! Otherwise WoW go buh-bye!

Well, my beloved Blue Devils fell to the dreaded Tar Holes last night (and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth). It was actually a very good, exciting game, but JJ got REALLY cold in the 2nd half, and the Heels had more lift. But the tourney has not yet begun! We'll see who's still standing come April! (I just hope I am still standing come April)...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Shot down, in a blaze of fire

I am so glad that tomorrow is Friday. My carpal tunnel syndrome has really been aggravating me. For the past two days, I have been wearing one of those wrist braces – you know, the kind that makes it looks like I’m going on the professional bowling tour. Of course, the kids keep asking me, “Mister Teacher, what happened to your hand?” I just told them, “I’m just trying to be more like a super hero!” Now I am Mister Iron Fist. Well, I guess I’m really more like Mister Rigid Plastic and Polymer Blend (with Delicate Weave!) Right now, I am trying out one of those voice-recognition software systems. 52 were pretty well, oil fingers car city. (That was supposed to be, “It seems to be working pretty well, all things considered.) And hey, it’s only taken me 30 minutes to compose this paragraph!
Today, we practiced elapsed temperature problems in class. That’s right, ELAPSED temperature problems. When I was in school, I’m pretty sure we never did anything like this, certainly not in the third grade. In fact, I don’t even think I heard the word elapsed until after I had my master’s degree in engineering! But anyway, it’s on the curriculum, so it must be taught. The problems are all of this sort:

This morning, the temperature outside was 74ºF. By the afternoon, it had risen to 88ºF. What was the change in temperature?

After seeing this on the test my very first year teaching, and realizing what difficulty my kids were having with it, I’ve started practicing the skill with them much earlier in the year. So most of them have gotten pretty good at it, but a few of them always want to add the numbers, regardless of how high they are or what they mean. Yes, B, the temperature went up 162 degrees today! Let’s not stop to consider whether or not that makes any sense, let’s just add numbers, because adding is fun! Whenever I see a kid who has chosen such an answer, I always ask them, “Do you realize how hot that is? If it ever got that hot, we would all die! There would be fires! Earthquakes!! Dogs and cats living together!!! MASS HYSTERIA!!!!”
Sadly, they never seem to take the hint. We’ll just see how they do on the test tomorrow, and see who still thinks we’re living inside a furnace.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Happy Ash Humpday!

To any and all of you who acknowledge such things. Myself, I was a good Catholic boy and went to Mass this evening. Even if I WERE the type of person who could get up to go to a 6 AM mass (instead of oversleeping for 20 minutes like I did this morning), there’s no way I would ever go before school. I deal with enough during my day – bickering, arguing, general tomfoolery – I don’t need the added hassle of being asked, “Why you got dirt on your head?” every two minutes. And since I have a hard enough time trying to explain elapsed time to the kids, I don’t even attempt to explain Ash Wednesday. I know that I do have a few Catholic kids in my class, though. One little girl today asked, “Are chicken fingers meat?”
Yesterday was a super long day. The blank stares. . . the same questions over and over. . . the never-ending tattling – That’s right, last night was Parent-Teacher conference night! One over stimulating hour after another! At least our PTA provided us with pizza before the festivities began.
Last night followed the usual pattern for Parent-Teacher conferences. The parents of the really bad kids don’t show up, the parents who do show up are told that their kid needs to read more, and somebody down the hall is screaming the lyrics to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” at the top of their lungs. Okay, that last one is not usual. Oh, and since most of our parents don’t speak English, we had to keep buzzing the office to send a translator down.
A couple of times, when there was no translator available, we had to settle for one of our students’ older brothers. This made me wonder if they were really converting what we said, or pulling a Mouth from Goonies.
Us: H needs to read at home every night.
Translated as: H has been asking some very disturbing questions about monkeys.
Us: H did well on his last math test.
Translated as: H says there is a ring around Uranus.
Today was just boring by comparison. Please, administration, can we schedule something super fun for tomorrow night?