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Thursday, November 30, 2006

A snowball's chance

Last night, when I got home from school, it was almost 80° outside. This afternoon, at 3:30 out in the school parking lot, I threw a snowball at our wacky, bowtie-wearing art teacher (excessively adjectived because I know he'll read this).

Yes, the temperature dropped that far in less than 24 hours. While it didn't start snowing until around 11 o'clock, it was 34° on my drive in to the school. And for that half an hour that I had to stand out in front of the school on crosswalk duty -- yeah, it didn't get any warmer. I had on my ski cap, gloves, scarf, and I was still miserable. My crosswalk partner was bundled up like a Tusken Raider from Star Wars -- with better conversational skills, of course.

After the morning announcements and after I had regained feeling in my extremities around 8:30, the principal came on the speaker again and asked for a head count so that the cafeteria would know how many lunches to have ready. As acting grade chair (I say acting, because it is no longer a paying position), I sent a few kids out to collect up numbers from the other third-grade teachers, and the results came back looking like Mike Vanderjagt’s field-goal record as a Dallas cowboy. 10/17, 14/17, 18/25, etc.

I had 3 kids missing out of 18, but Mrs. Educator only had 11 out of her 17 present. So in the afternoon, after we had switched classes -- and after two parents had come to pick up their children -- I had a ridiculously small class. It was actually quite pleasant.

Two of the boys in the class had caused a lot of trouble yesterday for the substitute teacher while I was at a training. So today, I had both of them sitting at their seats repeatedly copying the phrase, "I will not misbehave and act like a fool." It would be SO very nice if that message would stick!

At 2:30, two of the kids went to their resource class, and one more child was picked up by her mother. I started to feel like I was stuck in an Agatha Christie novel -- And Then There Were Six.

I'm pretty sure this is the first time in my teaching career (an extensive 4 years) that I have had less than 10 kids at the end of the day. Even on the last day of school, I've never had this few.

It will be very interesting to see how tomorrow goes. The forecast calls for highs in the mid-40s, and as far as I know, there are no plans to close the schools. However, it is supposed to be in the 20s tomorrow MORNING, and seeing as how that is when parents decide whether or not to send their kids out the door, I would not be surprised to have only a handful of kids again. Unfortunately, I can almost guarantee that the misbehaving fools will be first in line at my doorway.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Parking is free

It's Wednesday, which means it's time for the weekly Carnival of Education! This week marks the 95th incarnation, and it's being posted over at A History Teacher's blog. Float on over there, check out all of the midway attractions, ogle the sideshow denizens, and have whatever the latest fried edible is.
Just tell 'em Darth Grader sent you.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Christmas in November??! BRILLIANT!!!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Or, excuse me, I should say it's beginning to look a lot like Holiday Season. I've never particularly been one for euphemisms (despite the cruel joke my parents played on me by giving me the middle name, "Euphemism"), and that one especially chaps my hide. Why isn't February the "Holiday Season?" I mean, you've got Valentine's Day, Presidents' Day, Groundhog Day, MY birthday... talk about a holiday bonanza!

But no, we can't officially talk about Christmas in school anymore -- Heaven forbid! (Wait, can I say the word heaven?) During the morning announcements today, my principal capped things off with, "And remember, there are only 15 school days left until Chri-- Winter Break!"
I could practically hear her larynx split down the middle as it attempted to do a 180 and avoid say the C-word.

But no matter what you call it, there are already decorations galore in anticipation of it. Thanksgiving apparently couldn't end fast enough for some people, as lights, signs, and lawn displays seemed to go up overnight. Now this will be the first year that I am even THINKING about putting up lights on my house, and if I do in fact get around to that, it definitely will not be before this weekend. However, I just got back from a walk around my neighborhood, and I already feel that my house will be the domicile equivalent of Charley Brown's Christmas tree.

I saw plenty of lights and displays, and even a few with a Texas twist. "Merry Christmas, y'all," inside an illuminated outline of the state of Texas -- adjacent to Santa on a Harley. Several Christmas cacti. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Longhorn (okay, I didn't really see that one -- but it might be kind of cool).

And a lot of people have gone to those inflatable front yard displays. Which apparently only get inflated in the evening. I passed by one or two empty Santa husks, lying face down in the grass. I'd love to see the housewives out there inflating them sometime. I'm picturing Julie Hagerty and the autopilot from Airplane.

Oh, and while we're on the subject, I have an excellent gift request. I would really love for someone to give me a little box with a button on it that would say one word whenever the button was pressed. That one word would be the catchphrase of the black and white animated professors from the Guinness Genuine Stout commercials.

That way, whenever I'm in class, and one of my kids tells me that it must be lunchtime because the clock says 5:83 -- I can just push the button.

When one of my students tells me that there are 10 boxes of crayons, with 5 crayons in each box, so there are 15 crayons total -- I can just push the button.

When one of my little cherubs informs me that he is about to wet himself because he chose NOT to use the facilities during our class bathroom break (which we returned from 10 minutes prior) -- I can just push the button.

When one of my future rocket scientists says to me, "Mister Teacher, I didn't bring my homework because I put it in my backpack, but then my little brother was playing with my dog, and I saw their heads inside my bag, but now my pencil is there, but my brother was sick last night, and so I didn't sleep, and now I have my homework, but it's not done,” -- well, I might need TWO buttons on that box, so I can push THIS one.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Things I am thankful for

In the spirit of the season, I thought I would write a post listing some things that I am thankful for. So here goes:

10) I am thankful that despite what my kids say, when the temperature goes from 55ºF to 50ºF, it does NOT in fact represent a 105 degree swing.

9) I am thankful for mandatory weekly staff meetings, every Monday. Without them, I don't know how I would spend that extra hour after school.

8) I am thankful that my kids are finally starting to understand fractions. We are done with 1/2 of the school year, with 2/3 left to go, and my kids are about 12/9 prepared.

7) I am thankful that the Turducken is finally getting its due. Can the emergence of the Tacsagnchilada be far behind?

6) I am thankful for the sheer genius that went into deciding NOT to order a particularly helpful workbook for our kids, but instead purchasing an online license so we can print off our own copies -- without stopping to consider that we can only make about four copies a week.

5) I am thankful that it is finally college basketball season once again! GO DUKE!!

4) I am thankful that only THREE kids in my class have peed in their pants so far this year. FOUR by Thanksgiving is the mark you never want to hit.

3) I am thankful for a class full of polite, well-behaved, respectful children who always put forth their best effort. Well, I'm thankful that I had a dream last night about such a class.

2) I am thankful for the fact that Absolut Vodka looks exactly like water when placed in a used Evian bottle.

1) I am thankful for a full week of no tattling!! Except of course for when my sister-in-law will be tattling on my brother for eating too much turkey and taters.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and have a great, relaxing break!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Do we get to raid the fridge, too?

I got this email from a friend this week, comparing teacher salaries to babysitters' wages (and we all know the reponsibilities are very similar). I thought it was Superfantastic. So I bring it to you, the loyal reader...

"I, for one, am sick and tired of those highly paid teachers. Their hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! Its time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do, baby sit! We can get that for less than minimum wage. That's right! I would give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked, not any silly planning time. That would be $15.00 a day. Each parent should pay $15.00 a day for these teachers to baby-sit theirchildren.

Now, how many do they teach in a day? maybe 25. Then that's 15 x 25 = $375.00 a day.But remember they only work 200 days a year! I'm not going to pay them for any vacations. Let's see? That's 375 x 200 = $75,000.00. (Hold on, my calculator must need batteries!)

What about those Leading Teachers or the ones with Masters Degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage just to be that fair. Let's round it off to $6.00 an hour. That would be $6.00 times five hours times 25 children times 200 days = $150,000.00 per year. Wait a minute, there is something wrong here! THERE SURE IS, HUH?"

Thursday, November 16, 2006

School me good!

Hey, I just saw that I've been featured over on the L.A.Times blog -- School Me!

Thanks for the pub, guys! Keep up the good work!

The last straw for O.J.

Yesterday, I wrote a post about how I am feeling sick. Today, I write a post about being sickened.

O.J. Simpson has written a book called, "If I Did It, Here's How It Happened." Apparently, some big publishing house felt the need to pay him $3.5 million (or thereabouts) to make up a completely theoretical, entirely hypothetical, undoubtedly purely make-believe, what-if type story to detail how he would have murdered Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.

If I did it… yeah, that's kind of like Hitler saying, “Hey, you know I didn't really kill all those Jews, but if I did, here's how I would've done it."

This is completely and utterly disgusting to me. I guess that I can believe that there are lots of people in this world who would get some pleasure out of reading this book or watching the interview that Simpson is going to do at some point, but I can guarantee you that I will not be part of that audience.

I'll actually be working hard on my own book, "I didn't eat that last slice of pizza, but if I did, here's how it happened."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Welcome to the petri dish

Well, I suppose I should have known that I couldn't outrun it for long...

You know that song that goes, "come on, come on, get down with the sickness?" Well, consider me officially… down with the sickness.

Me getting sick at around this time of year is not the odd thing. Actually, it's sort of a moral victory that I've lasted this long into the school year without catching anything. What IS odd, however, is that almost all of the third-grade teachers have gotten sick at the same time. So I am not alone in my misery.

Usually, the colds that I catch at the school last longer than Paris Hilton boyfriends. My first year, I basically was sick from Thanksgiving until spring break. But then, I learned that it was not a good idea to rub my eyes, pick my nose, or put my mouth right on top of the water fountain, and things got slightly better.

If there are any doctors out there, maybe you can help me figure out exactly what I have this time around. At first, I was thinking maybe it was just a touch of the ebolla, or perhaps some over-achieving strain of Dutch elm disease, but take a look at these symptoms and see what you think.

Runny nose
Stuffed up nose
Leaky brake fluid
Sore throat
The ability to control and command small groups of ants (maximum 30) for limited tasks
Phlegm out the wazoo
Severe menstrual cramping

Any ideas? Please get back to me. In the meantime, I'm going to climb into bed and enjoy my 12 hours of sleep before the alarm rings at 5:30.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What's eating you?

For the past couple of weeks in science, the topic of discussion has been producers, consumers, and food chains. Not to be confused with FAST food chains, the regular run-of-the-mill type of food chains are those fun little paths that lead from producer to consumer -- from plant to animal.

Actually, that's been a very difficult point to get across -- the fact that animals cannot make their own food. Whenever I bring this up and tell the kids that as animals, they cannot make their own food, I always get a chorus of arguments.

"I can TOO make my own food! I can make a turkey sandwich, and sometimes my mommy lets me make macaroni and cheese!"

Maybe we should start watching the Food Network in class, to determine the difference between MAKING your food and PREPARING your food.

Anyway, over the weekend, I gave an extra credit homework assignment which was to illustrate your own food chain. I got some very interesting submissions. Here are a few of the proposed chains that we will probably not be seeing in nature anytime soon:

Corn --> Lion --> Shark

Beans --> Birds --> Fish --> Shark --> Whale

Plant --> Person --> Tiger

Strawberry --> Ferret --> Fox --> Alligator

These were all pretty amusing, but none of my kids this year included dinosaurs, as in years past. And I think that my favorite of all time, just because it was so strange to receive such an entry from one of my smarter kids:

Strawberry --> Squirrel --> Snake --> Chinese Person

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Second Hand Road Rage

This year, my before-school duty is monitoring the crosswalk out in front of the school. I get to make sure that the kids don't get run over before they can enter our halls of higher learning. This is a relatively easy and pleasant morning job. I get to say good morning to a lot of children, talk to some of the parents, and smile and wave at most of the teachers as they pull into the parking lot (ironically, the one teacher who never waves is someone on my grade level).

But after being out there for even only a couple of minutes, I have to wonder if some of these people got their driver's license from the bottom of a box of Count Chocula.

Don't get me wrong, for the most part, the parent who drop their kids off are definitely excellent drivers, following all of the standard laws of traffic and vehicle operation. However, there are those select few who seem to be auditioning for a role in Mad Max Road Warrior Part 2.

I'm not a traffic cop; I'm not supposed to even act like a traffic cop, I'm just supposed to help kids get across the street. So oftentimes, all I can do is watch as someone drives maniacally, and hope that I don't witness any fender benders or worse.

If I carried a radar gun with me, I am certain that I would be able to track some people going upwards of 40 mph.

It is routine for people to pull up to the curb, turn off the car’s engine, get out of the car, and help their kids out of the backseat. Unfortunately, it is almost just as common for people to do these things WITHOUT having pulled to the curb first. They just stop right in the middle of the street.

Some people don't seem to understand that the broken yellow line in the middle of the street indicates traffic flowing in TWO directions. Instead, they merely see it as another lane that they can pull into to pass a slower moving vehicle. I have even seen one or two of the school bus drivers do this!

My favorite was the lady who pulled up to the curb to drop her kids off, but who did so while facing oncoming traffic. In other words, all of the drop-offs HAD been passing me from left to right, but this lady pulled in from right to left. BRILLIANT!

Even though it is quite easy to complete a full circuit around my school in order to drive back out the way you came in, some people insist on showing off their driving skills, I guess. Completely oblivious of all other cars, these people will perform a 3-point turn in order to turn around. While my partner sometimes goes the "Paula" route and says, "wow, that was a perfectly executed maneuver!" I am often more tempted to play “Simon” with, "I always wondered what it would be like to see Ray Charles driving..."

I'm thinking about possibly carrying around some certificates in the morning. You've heard of the Darwin Awards? I'll have to start passing out some Learn Me Good awards.

And heck, while I'm ranting, I may as well express my dismay with one particular white Mazda sports car. The great thing about this car, which passes by my school almost every morning, is the totally hot babe that it contains. The bad thing about this car was that this morning, the babe was sitting in the passenger seat…

Monday, November 06, 2006

Reader's Digestion

Back around the beginning of October, I made my book, Learn Me Good, available as a free electronic download -- and several people took me up on my offer. One of the stipulations though was that they agreed to post a review on Barnes & Noble's web site and
So far, only one person has posted a review (Thanks Ruth!)
Which leads me to one of the following conclusions regarding the other copies I sent out:

1) the e-book got lost in the cyber mail and somehow got posted mistakenly on the "Bring back Simon and Simon" message board.

2) after reading three pages, the recipient keeled over onto his/her keyboard, subject to a massive heart attack, stroke, and really nasty hang nail (what we in the medical business term the trifecta).

3) the recipient attempted to post a review, but received an error message from stating, "we done be all fulled up. Try next door."

4) the recipient just has not had time to read Learn Me Good yet, as he/she has been too busy dealing with troubled youths, wild animals, or impending alien invasions.

Whatever the reason, I would still definitely appreciate some feedback whenever the chance presents itself.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Nightmare after Halloween

Last week, on the day after Halloween, one of my kids raised his hand with an urgency implying he had something really important to tell me. When I called on him, he told me the following:

"Last night, after trick-or-treating, we went home, and my mom was real tired, and she fell asleep on the couch, and she didn't cook us dinner, and I was hungry, and so I had no choice but to eat all of my candy. It was good!"

I do so love the fact that the kids apparently think they DO have a choice -- not to do their nightly homework -- yet they have NO choice on whether or not to stuff themselves full of sugar before they go to bed...