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Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Greetings

Hello readers!

It's 2008! Or at least, as I'm writing this, it WILL be 2008 in just a few hours. So like they say in the song, "May old acquaintance be forgot..." and let's make some new acquaintances!

As I like to do at the beginning of a new year, I'm going to throw open the guest book once again!

Here's how this works -- if you are reading this, please leave a comment listing your name, your location, and one interesting fact about yourself.

I look forward to hearing from all of you in the new year!

Be safe!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Oprah drops the ball

As astute viewers of this blog may have noticed, I have taken down the graphic that displays how long it has been since I sent my book, Learn Me Good, to Oprah.

That's right, it was a year ago today that I dropped a copy of my novel in the mail, with dreams of stardom dancing through my head. 365 days later, not even a rejection letter rubber stamped by the big woman herself.

Sure, I can naïvely hope that my book is packaged away somewhere, misplaced in a large crate in some anonymous warehouse, right next to the Ark of the Covenant. And that someday soon, Oprah or some member of her team will happen upon it and declare it the next Great American Novel.

More likely, however, pages 135 through 142 are lining the bottom of her parrot's birdcage.

Oprah, if you're reading this, please at least take a glance at the content before Polly does her business??

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Juicy attire

Merry Christmas, everyone! It's a day late, but here is the weekly reminder about Tuesday's Mr. Teacher column on

This week, I advise parents to be aware of what their kids are wearing to school. For instance, anything with the word "juicy" stitched across the butt is a general fashion no-no...

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas update

I don't normally write a form letter at the end of the year. But I get plenty of them, so I figured, why not? Here is what I sent out this year...

Merry Christmas, everyone! It's that time of year for rum-heavy eggnog, recycled fruitcakes, and long form letters to friends and family, recapping the entire year!

I normally don't do this sort of thing, but since I am supposedly an actual "writer" now, and since everyone else does it, I figured now would be as good a time as any to begin. So without any further ado, here was my 2007 in a nutshell.

In January, the new year started off with a bang as I woke up at 12:30 p.m. Sleeping in rocks! On the 27th, I walked around my neighborhood for an hour, thus fulfilling my resolution to exercise more in the new year.

February was a time for new love, and shortly after Valentine's Day, I met a wonderful, beautiful young lady who touched me in ways I had never been touched before. I have to say, I didn't really like being touched with the cattle prods, but the wet rigatoni was strangely comforting.

March came with its usual madness, but this time I had the prescription anti-psychotic medication ready. Spring Break, always a joyous occasion, was even joyouser this year as I fathered a beautiful baby boy! Wait, I meant that I UNCLED a beautiful baby boy! The proud parents aren't exactly sure of where the red hair and blue eyes came from, but young Josh is a fantastic new addition to the family. On a completely unrelated note, in the month of March, for some reason, the milkman started wearing a hat and sunglasses. Weirdo.

April showers brought... a complete home makeover! Well, more specifically, I remodeled the master bathroom! Not all of it, mind you, but rather the part that interfaces between the bathing area and the general space of the room. To be concise, I got a new shower curtain. It was blue!

In May, the school year ended, and I made a decision that would forever change my life. I switched from dial-up to high speed internet. E-mails with attachments no longer take half an hour to download, and I don't have to devote hours to YouTube just to watch a 15-second monkey clip.

June began the long summer vacation, and I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. To keep busy, I began a little research project, and I'm proud to say that I discovered three new uses for the peanut! Suck it, George Washington Carver!

In July, I took a trip up to Virginia and DC, where I saw many spectacular things, including Die Hard 4, Transformers, and Knocked Up. I also got to visit with several friends in the area, and I'm happy to report that they are still my friends!

August brought a distinct honor, when an anonymous philanderer named a star after me. I'm not sure exactly where my star is located, but I do know it's somewhere in the vicinity of Uranus.

September threw me right back into the swing of school days, but another awesome opportunity presented itself. Citing the wild success of my groundbreaking novel, Learn Me Good (available online at, the good folks at invited me to join their staff of weekly columnists. I agreed, and the Mr. Teacher column has appeared every Tuesday since. For anyone wondering, has NOT gone under as a result.

October I was a bit of a downer, as my girlfriend of eight months and I parted ways. Unfortunately, she felt forced to choose between her love for me and her love for cheese in wheel form, and I regretfully beheld the power of cheese.

Unseasonably warm, November arrived and set up house. Despite nagging foot, back, and navel problems, I agreed to participate in the annual Turkey Trot with my brother and sister-in-law. Having sufficiently burned off a buttload of calories, I ate until I couldn't feel my lower extremities later that night.

Which brings us to December, the month where I decided to write a lengthy first-person account, chronicling my life in 2007. Beyond that, I got nothing.

I hope that everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Be safe, and we will talk again soon.

A good test to pass

As part of my continuing effort to teach my students their multiplication facts, we tackle one new number every week. For instance, we might be focusing on the FOURS one week, in which case the kids would take a test on Friday that quizzes them on all of the facts from 1X4 to 12X4. We would refer to this test as the "fours test." Similarly, there is a twos test, threes tests, etc.

Yesterday, we finished up the week with the number eight. After lunch, someone who used to teach at the school visited, and all of the kids swarmed around her to give her some love and attention. Many of them were very proud of their multiplication prowess, and they told her with glee, "I passed my eights test!"

Now I want you to stop for a moment, and say that phrase out loud, and kind of quickly. You will notice that it sounds like something else entirely to many adults.

I'm just sayin'...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

So where do they go after the dryer?

Today, I heard a very interesting declaration from one of my students. We watched a short online video called, "Sock Seeds." Two kids put socks over their shoes then went outside and walked around for awhile in an open field. When they took their socks off, they observed all of the seeds that their socks had picked up. The kids then "planted" the sock in a shoe box filled with potting soil, watered it, and declared that in a few short weeks, they would have a small garden sprouting from the sock seeds.

At the point in the video where the little girl started to bury the sock in the soil, one of my boys realized what was happening and enthusiastically told the child next to him, "That's where they get socks from!"

Off on another tangent, I called the house of one of my students who has not shown up all of this week. Her mother answered the phone, and when I asked about my student, the mother replied, "I thought she was on vacation?"

Um, no.

Ironically, this is one of my best behaved students. So I don't think that she lied to her mother maliciously. However, it does strike me as kind of odd that her mother would just take her word for it, without receiving any kind of notification from the school to verify. Not to mention the fact that she MUST have noticed the school buses continuing to pickup and drop off kids at the apartment complex.

Oh well, maybe she was too busy planting dollar bills.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Lunch Bunch Crunch

Today, Ms. Jenn Ed and I held our very first lunch bunch rewards party.

Tired of too many kids not doing their homework, we made a big announcement at the beginning of this six weeks period. We wrote all 41 of our kids' names on whiteboards, and told them that every time someone didn't hand in their homework when it was due, their name would be erased from the board. We told them that after three weeks, whoever's name was still on the board would get to come to a very special lunch bunch with their teachers. There would be ice cream, juice boxes, Turkish delight (no wait, that's Narnia).

We kind of figured that at the end of three weeks, there wouldn't be that many kids left on the board. However, we also figured that if we really pulled out all the stops and made this first lunch bunch truly legendary, that the kids involved would go back and hype it up to the other kids, and that we might have a lot more homework being turned in after that.

That last supposition remains to be seen. But the lunch bunch today seemed to be a success. There were 11 kids (yes, out of 41). Those kids got to bring their lunch back to my room, where we gave them chips, candy, juice boxes, and ice cream. We ate with the kids and joked around with them.

I had made up a Christmas-themed CD for us to listen to. Interestingly enough, the song that really fired the kids up was Feliz Navidad (I want to wish you a Merry Christmas). I started singing "I want to wish ____a Merry Christmas," inserting the names of some of the kids in the room, and much hilarity ensued.

Now will just have to see how this success translates to the other kids turning their homework in.

Maybe we'll have 12 kids next time...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Go figure, he didn't do his homework

Today's Mr. Teacher column (now up on is all about homework excuses. At least the kids aren't blaming the dog anymore, but there are quite a few doozies out there. From the ridiculous to the sublime, teachers have heard them all.

Go check it out and leave a comment!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Learning walks--no stroll in the park

The new big thing this year -- Learning Walks.

The concept behind learning walks is that a group of teachers will invade another teacher's classroom, presumably while said teacher is actually conducting a lesson. This unruly mob of educators will question the students about what they are learning and what tools they have to help them. They will also examine the classroom walls for evidence of the principles of learning. Perhaps at the same time, they will check to ensure that no more than 10% of the surface area is covered by paper products.

OK, so I paint a bit of a sarcastic picture. Ideally, the mob of teachers will not be unruly. Not even a mob, even. A handful of teachers will observe another teacher in his/her own setting, to see another teacher's style and methods.

Last Monday, I was one of three lucky teachers chosen to have a group of principals and teachers from other local schools come through my classroom during a science lesson. To put it mildly, this sort of thing makes me feel very self-conscious. I think that the walk-through went well, and my principal said that the other teachers enjoyed it, but it was a pretty nerve-racking process for me.

Especially when I saw one of the other teachers (principals?) asking my lowest group of kids who normally writes for their group when Mister Teacher doesn't tell them who should write. I'm sure she felt the need to ask them this, since they were busy arguing over who was going to write, instead of actually doing the activity. Not much accountable talk coming from that group.

Tomorrow, I get to be a walkER instead of a walkEE. The third-grade teachers will be doing learning walks through the OTHER two science classrooms that were observed last Monday.

Can't wait!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cafepress biz

Hey everyone,

I am getting ready to send out another edition of my newsletter from Cafepress, where I feature items such as the T-shirts and such seen in the side-bar.

If you are interested in receiving this newsletter, please put your email into the yellow box in the side-bar. The newsletter will be sent tomorrow night (Sunday), so if you enter it afterwards, you'll have to wait until next time.



Thursday, December 13, 2007

Somebody has some time on their hands

The Sunshine Committee at my school started a program about 3 months ago called the "Rays of Sunshine Wall." Anyone can write a nice little note to someone else, thanking them or complimenting them on something, and that note will go up on the wall for all to see. Also, both the sender and the recipient get entered into a monthly drawing for a gift certificate.

Apparently, someone has been buying their rays of sunshine at Sam's, because they've been putting them up in bulk.

This month, out of 26 rays of sunshine up on the board (and they're all cute little gingerbread men-shaped notes), EIGHTEEN of them are from one person!!

This person must have had a lot of time on her hands after she stopped terrorizing our first grade teachers...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Future roadkill

Anonymous Joe and I have really gotten the morning unloading procedure down to a science. Which is a good thing, because ever since the Classroom Breakfast Club began, we've got more cars arriving at once. But we are very efficient, we get them lined up by the curb pretty quickly and moved on so the next wave of cars can drop the kids off. We still have a few people who try to line jump, but we've done a pretty good job of stopping them when we can and getting everybody in and out in a timely fashion.

Recently, though, we've encountered one lady with a serious attitude problem. Early last week, there was a car parked directly in front of the school, right underneath the sign that says clearly, "No Parking." Besides being illegal, this car was making the whole drop-off process VERY difficult.

So I went back inside and asked the lady in the office to make an announcement over the loudspeaker, asking this person to move their car. A few minutes later, this lady comes plodding outside, totally ignores AJ when he asks her not to park there anymore and points out the sign, and moves her car over to the other side of the street.

Being the gentleman that I am (snicker), I walked across the street, ready to hold up the stop sign and allow her to cross back over. She had parked about 15 feet away from the crossing area, and she was just standing by her car (in the street, of course), waiting for the traffic to go past. When I called out to her and told her that she should come down to where I was so I could get her across safely, she just stared at me like I was some weird alien fungus. And then she proceeded to walk across the street from the spot where she was.


This morning, she and her daughter must have crossed the street when we weren't looking, because the first time I saw her was when she was trying to cross back over to her car on the other side. She had walked out of the school, straight down the path to the sidewalk, made a 90° turn, and then walked down about 15 feet so she was even with her car. Again, she was standing there, waiting for the heavy traffic to pass her by.

Foolishly, I again tried to use reason with her. I said, "Ma'am, it's safer if you cross down here, where we can get you across."

She replied by yelling, "I'll cross where I want to cross!"

Boy, she sure showed me!

To be honest, I really don't care about her. If a car hits her, I have a feeling the car is going to sustain more damage than she will. I'm more concerned about her poor daughter, who has no choice but to cross the street where her mother dictates. Hopefully nothing bad will happen to her just because of a parent with pride issues.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Incredible feat, or lucky guess?

Breaking news from London --

A 27 year old French dude has broken a "human calculator" record by calculating the 13th root of a 200 digit number.

Just let that sink in.

200 digits!

The 13th root!!


Personally, I'm not sure I would be able to calculate the 13th root of any number even if I had a calculator. Unless the number was 10 to the 13th power, then I might be able to beat someone from France.

According to the article from Yahoo, "Like an athlete, he trains his brain daily for the far harder task of finding the 13th root of 200-digit numbers."

Is anybody else out there fearing world domination if this guy were ever to team up with hotdog eating champion Kobayashi???

I can't see your SUV--one of my kids is blocking my view

Today's Mr. Teacher column over on is all about the obesity crisis that is affecting American kids. I have had classes before where I can actually feel a difference in gravity when I'm around them.

Head over to the site, and weigh in with your opinion. Pun intended.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What, no ligers?

I should state up front that I'm really not a big fan of the movie Napoleon Dynamite. I will admit that it has about five laugh out loud hilarious moments, but in my ever so humble opinion, those moments are strung out across an incredibly boring two hour movie.

Nevertheless, I had a Napoleon Dynamite moment in class today.

The kids were in groups discussing animal traits, and I was walking around listening to them and observing. At one of the groups, one child told another group member, "It's in the book." That student responded, "It's in the book, gosh!"

It also occurred to me that my science homework assignment from Friday was very Napoleon Dynamite-esque. It was titled Mixed up Animal Traits, and the kids had to choose a mammal and draw what it would look like if it had traits of a bird, a fish, or a reptile. So I had some drawings of little kids with scales and fins, a whale with wings, and a bear with gills.

But thankfully, no ligers.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The most important meal of the day

This past Monday, we began serving our students breakfast in the classroom. Before this, kids had gone to the cafeteria to eat before school, so that when they arrived at our rooms at 7:45, we could begin the instructional day.

Now, when the kids get to school, they go to the gym and wait until 7:45. At that point, we pick them up, take them to our rooms, and begin serving the grub. The idea is that this is supposed to curb or terminate tardiness issues. I mean, who doesn't want to eat in the classroom???

After a week of trying it out, I have to say it's not as horrible as I had anticipated. At the very least, I haven't noticed any bugs in my room as a result. I am, however, losing at least 15 minutes of instructional time every day. I used to get the kids started on their opening word problem the instant they walked in the door. Now, we don't begin our day until around 8:05.

One perk is that teachers get to eat what the kids are eating. So I have enjoyed eating the yogurt/Pop Tart/honey roll/fruit loops along with a milk and juice.

I do feel like we're throwing away a lot of good food, though. Every kid has to take a breakfast, because that's how we get our Title I funding, but a lot of them don't finish it, and some of them don't even start it! It's the same way with lunch, though, so I guess that's par the course.

Also, since I have crosswalk duty every morning until 7:45, and then I have to go into the front office to use the usually-functioning biometric clock, I am frequently one of the last teachers to pick his kids up from the gym. Add to this the fact that I am unwilling to spend any more time than I have to on breakfast. So my kids have to eat pretty darn fast!

The most annoying thing about it is that I have one student who always makes a mess at his desk. His napkin always remains neatly folded inside the plastic package, while a puddle of chocolate milk and/or enough graham cracker crumbs to choke a zebra sit on his desk. When it's time to throw the trash away, he just throws it all away and makes no attempt whatsoever to clean up his mess. I always have to get on his case about it. Maybe I should start bringing in a rubber baby mat with the Teletubbies' picture on it until he gets the point.

Anybody else going through the breakfast in the room program? My understanding is that all of Dallas ISD is going to be trying it. Share your comments if you can.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sponsored by Campbells??

In the latest example of poor filtering by the Dallas Independent School District e-mail system, our inboxes have been flooded with messages that have the subject, "I need pantyhose and soup cans for fabulous Friday."

My first reaction was, "Well, who doesn't?" But then when I realized that I didn't recognize a single name of the 30-odd messages with that subject line, I decided not to open any of them and see what it was all about.

This new strategy by spammers and pranksters almost makes me more tolerant of the bogus e-mails that we typically get. I mean, as I was the leading all of those pantyhose messages, I was almost tempted to actually open up the e-mail that said, "Santa will bring more length and strength to your Willy!"

Almost, I said.

Has anyone else been contacted about "Fabulous Friday??"

In other news, this week's Carnival of Education is being hosted by Joel over at So You Want to Teach. Surf on over and check out the great links.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

It's almost Christmas time!!!!

Howdy folks! Once again, Tuesday is upon us, and you know what that means! Another Mr. Teacher column on!

This week, I go over some things that might be considered appropriate and inappropriate when it comes to gifts for teachers. This is mainly referring to gifts that come from the students, but it certainly could apply to gifts from adults as well.

On the topic of great teacher gifts, don't forget to check out the following sites as well (although I'll be honest, the descriptions might be a tad misleading)

The Cure for Cancer!

Millions of Dollars per second!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A 10% solution

According to our head custodian, the local fire marshal visited our school over Thanksgiving break. And she seemed to be celebrating Festivus rather than Thanksgiving, because her List of Grievances was a mile long.

The list of complaints ranged from the small -- my room was not highlighted on the campus map in my classroom -- to the largely annoying -- the mandate that there can be absolutely nothing 18 inches from the ceiling.

This is going to be tricky, because I like to try and use space effectively. So when I see that there is about 2 feet of space between the top of my cabinets and ceiling, I tend to think that that's a great place to store the 14 FOSS kits that I am required to keep in my room. For anyone unfamiliar with FOSS kits, they are large rectangular storage drawers, which measure approximately 8"X12"X18".

So now I'll have to find someplace else to keep those large, bulky, almost entirely unused items. And because of my bad back, I'll have to ask the custodians to take them down for me. Which means that most likely the kids will be treated to the site of a 6'4" man standing idly by, watching as two petite women climb a ladder to do the dirty work.

So that's very annoying. But there was one other complaint from the fire marshal. This one didn't affect my classroom, thankfully, but even just hearing about it made me wonder exactly how we're supposed to follow it.

She said that no more than 10% of our walls could be covered with paper. Never mind the obvious question of "WTF???!? This is a classroom, you nitwit, there should be paper all over the walls!"

But more pressing, how are we supposed to know when we've reached that 10% mark? It's not like the walls are painted in 10 color-coded zones, and we can see exactly when we've filled up that Green zone.

Like I said, my room wasn't cited for this particular violation, but I'm going to go ahead and assume that I'm sitting right at the 9.9% mark, and therefore I can't put anything else up on my walls. If I'm asked to put another rubric up -- "Sorry, that would put me over 10%."

On a completely unrelated note, I got on to one of my little girls yesterday for wasting Kleenex. I was already annoyed at her for her over-the-top antics of covering her entire face to impress upon me the fact that she really needed a Kleenex. But then when I saw her grab one tissue, touch it to the tip of her nose and then immediately grab another tissue, I told her that she owed me a quarter. "Kleenex cost money, don't you know, so you need to bring a quarter tomorrow for that extra Kleenex you wasted."

When this little girl came into my class at 10:30 this morning and kept holding out a quarter to me, I had completely forgotten about my little tirade. When she finally told me it was for the Kleenex, I said thank you and took it. Later in the day, I told her that she could have the quarter back if she promised to only use one Kleenex at a time, to which she agreed.

I think I'm OK as long as none of her used Kleenex wind up on my classroom walls...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Teaching Suri

Another Tuesday, another column!

This week's Mr. Teacher column, now up at, is an imagining of what might be overheard at a parent-teacher conference if the parents involved were celebrities. Bruce Willis, David Letterman, Martha Stewart and Tom Cruise are among the guest list.

Check it out, and let me know what you think!

We've got a bleeder!

My partner from last year, Mrs. Educator, is a fourth-grade teacher this year, and she told me a great story yesterday. It involved one of our kids from last year, who is now in her class this year. For anyone who keeps track of such things, this is the kid who thought George Bush was on the back of a nickel, and who ended his summary of what he liked about math class with, "Have a great day."

Apparently, his behavior has gotten much worse since last year, and it wasn't that great to begin with. But on with the story.

This young man went to use the restroom and then came back to Mrs. Educator's classroom holding himself in a sensitive area and complaining of pain. His claim was that he "zipped up too fast."

Mrs. Educator sent him down to the nurse's office, and he returned a while later, limping, and with an ice pack applied to his groin.

Now I'm sure that there are many questions that could be asked about this story, but I'm just a little amazed that Mrs. Educator refrained from asking him, "How did you get the beans above the frank???"

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Another rerun

Darnit, Thanksgiving Break will officially be over in just a few hours. Another workweek will begin, and there will be four more straight weeks of school before Christmas Break.

So since I have nothing original to write about tonight, AND with a disgraced and disbarred professional football player coming back into the fold, I thought I would repost a somewhat popular post from this past May.

Something occurred to me. I started thinking about athletes’ salaries. They are usually fixed when the contract is signed, but several years back, Ricky Williams -- running back out of the University of Texas -- made news by signing a very detailed agreement. He would effectively get paid by the carry, by the catch, by the touchdown, etc.

More recently, poor Ricky has made news for other things, but at the time, I thought the idea of his contract was pretty darn cool.

So let's apply it to teachers.

Sign us on at some base salary -- let's say $25,000. But we can increase our take-home by documenting events from the following list. Teachers would get paid for every occurrence of the event, not just one time.

Staff meeting .........................................................................................$200
Fire drill .................................................................................................$150
Being pulled out of class to
attend a meeting ..................................................................................$500
Receiving a new child any day
after the first day of class ....................................................................$1,000
-- if they don't speak English ..............................................................$2,500
Parent conference -- on the phone ...................................................$100
Parent conference -- in person ..........................................................$300
Parent conference – w/ irate orirrational parent ..................................................................................$750
Administering a standardized test ...................................................$250 per child
Child talking back ...............................................................................$25
Child cussing at you ............................................................................$75
Child flipping you the bird .................................................................$50
Child giving you the RING fingerand then saying, "What?!?
It's not the middle finger!
I never flipped the bird at you!!” .....................................................$49.50
Child whining, "They're skipping!”.................................................. $25
Child disrespecting your clothes ......................................................$10
Child disrespecting your hair ............................................................$15
Child disrespecting your car .............................................................$20
Child disrespecting yo momma ........................................................$150
Child threatening to harm you .........................................................$500
Child throwing and hitting you with:
an eraser .............................................................................................$100
a crayon ...............................................................................................$200
a pencil/pen ........................................................................................$500
a book ..................................................................................................$1,200
the student next to them .................................................................$7,500
Child slapping you .............................................................................$2,000
Child punching you ............................................................................$5,000
Child kicking you ...............................................................................$4,000
-- in the nads .....................................................................................$15,000

I'm sure that there are many other things they could be added to this contract. But I think that many teachers would agree to something that followed this kind of format. Heck, if I got paid $25 every time one of my kids cried, "They're skipping!" I'd be able to retire to the Caymans from this year alone!

So kudos to Ricky Williams for leading the way in performance-based contracts. Here's hoping it doesn't lead all of us teachers to smoking joints…

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tickets wanted!

Hey everyone, this post really has nothing to do with teaching or education. But I'm wondering if anyone out there happens to have, or know how they could get, a pair of tickets to the NCAA men's basketball Final Four in San Antonio this season?

I entered the lottery selection to get a couple of tickets back in August, but I was not among the fortunate who were selected. I know that I could buy a pair of tickets off of or Ebay, but those are hardly reasonably priced.

So if anyone has any alternatives, I'm all ears!

Thanks in advance.

Happy Spamsgiving

I just got back to my house after a lovely Thanksgiving with my family, and I thought I would give my school e-mail a look see. Apparently, someone flipped the "Spam blocker" switch from OFF (where it has been for the past year or so) to PLEASE SEND MORE.

Here are some of the subject lines that I found waiting for me:



Space Shuttle Post-Office Insect Child Bee Gate Library

Telescope Sun Pepper Tapestry Robot Nail Fan

best offers on luxury items

Be in style

your baby-maker needs to be bigger to perform its functions well

Pillow Typewriter Tongue Crystal Wheelchair Bridge Fire


Special Offer! Women Attracting Pheromones is only for $41.66

Tuesday will be huge

I didn't get THIS much spam when I had a Hotmail account!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Come On People

About a month ago, I got an e-mail from a lady who works at asking if I would be interested in receiving, reading, and reviewing a new book co-written by The Cos. Being a big fan of Dr. Theodore Huxtable (I mean, my parents even videotaped and saved every episode of the Cosby show), I readily agreed.

A few days later, I received Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors, by Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint. I have just finished reading it, and I found it very poignant and powerful.

The main focus of the book is on the American black family -- its problems, its struggles, and its possible solutions. For young black males especially, there is an overwhelming feeling of victimhood that just continues to build and build with every passing day. Too many of these kids accept this with a sense of fatalism and do absolutely nothing to try to dig themselves out of the hole that they find themselves in. Instead of strengthening family bonds, they reach out to false surrogate families such as gangs and drug dealers, and they get themselves involved in lives that have no worth or meaning.

The authors bemoan the erosion of the family values that used to exist with a father and a mother bringing up the children, lovingly disciplining them, and modeling right and wrong. Heartbreaking statistics reveal that so many young black men are growing up in families where there is no father figure present to demonstrate how a man should act. And without that role model, the cycle perpetuates itself. These young black men might get a young black girl pregnant, and then their instinct is to run from the issue, rather than staying to support the baby. The statistics are also overwhelmingly high for these kids to drop out of school early and to be in jail for some portion of their life.

Cosby and Poussaint have traveled the country, discussing these issues in community call-outs. In these call-outs, various people have shared their own personal stories of adversity, despair, and triumph. Many of these stories are contained within the chapters of Come on People, and they are inspiring to behold.

Come on People should be read by everyone, regardless of age, race, or class status. The only way any of this is ever going to change is if we decide to change things for ourselves.

Turkey Day Carnival

Today's Carnival of Education is hosted by NYC Educator. After being snubbed for the past two weeks, I am so happy to finally see my entry included! :)

Head on over, but don't just fill up on the mashed potatoes and stuffing. Save some room for the bird!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sick Days and Big Gulps

Happy Tuesday before Thanksgiving, everyone!

This has not been a good year for me in terms of health and non-sickness, as I am currently midway through what seems like my 10th cold of the school year. Fittingly, my column on this week (up today!) is about teachers and sick days.

Maybe it's just me, but I have found that taking a day off as a teacher is MUCH more difficult than taking a day off in the corporate world ever was. Does anyone else have any opinions about this?

If so, please leave some comments over on

Monday, November 19, 2007

Something to be thankful for

Anybody have this whole week off -- raise your hands!

I thought I'd kick start the week by posting about something to give thanks for. One aspect of my daily job that I truly enjoy.

I LOVE the very end of the school day, when the kids get on the buses. OK, at first glance that's going to seem very cynical, but let me explain a little further.

Between us, my partner -- Ms. Jenn Ed -- and I have 42 kids. We are required to walk them all individually to their buses. Since there are 12 buses, as well as day care buses and parent pick up on the other side of the building, we decided to divide and conquer. We chose one of the buses, and I take all of the kids who ride that bus and all of the ones in front of it, and she takes all the kids who ride the buses behind it and the parent pick up kids. As it turns out, my group has about 30 kids in it, and hers has about 12. So actually getting the kids out of our classrooms and all the way down the hall to the outside can be somewhat of a hassle each day. But once we are outside, that's when it gets fun.

To make sure everyone gets on the correct bus, I use a system that I blatantly stole from Ed U Cater. As my shapeless, pulsating blob of students trudges past each bus, I call out the name of the bus, and then hold out my hand, like I'm asking for money. The kids who ride that bus aren't allowed to go get in line until they have slapped my hand. I am able to count how many times my hand gets slapped at each bus, so I know for sure whether or not the correct number of kids got on that bus.

The kids love this, as they're clamoring over each other, waiting to hear their bus called out. When they hear it, they come charging towards me, ready to give me a high five. Sometimes I hold my hand up over my head (I'm 6'4"), and they jump at it, trying to reach it. Sometimes, if they're getting too far out in front of the pack, I turn around and face the other way before holding out my hand, so that they have to come back to slap it.

Several of the kids that I drop off have brothers or sisters who are already at the buses waiting for them. When they see me coming, they often run over and want to give me five also. I have to really be mindful of my counting at those points, but it makes dropping the kids off highly enjoyable.

Does anybody else have any stories to share about things they really enjoy about their job?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

New swag

Hey everyone, I've been holed up in the house today (sick, again), and so I've added some new products to my CafePress store. Several new slogans, some new designs, etc.

Please check it out, and tell all those teachers you know where they can get some great stuff!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

me read pretty one day

I found this site today that ranks blogs by their reading level. You type in the name of the blog, and it tells you whether the writing level is at an elementary level, jr high, high school, etc.

I'm pleased to say that my blog is the O-positive of blogs in that it can be universally read by anyone with an elementary reading level. And it makes sense -- I write at the level I teach. I shall have to commence articulating my thoughts at a plateau of more altitude.

Here's the link, so you can check out other blogs. I typed in a few others, and wouldn't you know Mike in Texas and Ms. Cornelius are writing at a High School level. But you DO have to type in the correct blog address. Note the difference in level between (NOT Ed U Cater's blog) and (Ed U Cater's blog).

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Buzzword Bingo

Hey everyone, the new column is up at This week, the topic is buzz words, catchphrases, and overused verbiage in general. I thought I had escaped that when I left the engineering world, but it's still there, just different words and phrases.

Leave comments, e-mail it to friends, let me know what you think!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Helpful or Harmful

Friday, I had the kids do an assignment in science called, "Helpful or Harmful?" There were given a list of events that could happen to an environment, and they had to decide whether it was helpful or harmful to the environment. They also had to write down some way that that event would change the environment.

For instance, the first event was, "Trees cut down to build new houses." For the most part, the kids agreed that this would be harmful to the environment. I was very impressed with some of my students who said that one effect this would have on the environment would be to reduce the amount of oxygen available. Some of the other responses were not quite as impressive, but still memorable. Here are a few.

Event: Filling up a pond to make a parking lot.

"Harmful, because the frogs would have no place to swim the fish would die and turn into fossils."

"Armful, because the fish live there and they wanted their home."

"Helpful -- putting cement is helpful because it's making the water clean."

Event: A flood brings fertile soil to a river bank.

"Harmful -- it's bad to spill soil to the river because it makes the fishes die."

"Harmful -- the river bank will look gross."

"Harmful -- a flood is bad, it mostly comes from the toilet and it can be very nasty n-a-ste and it can ruin the soil on the land."

[My favorite response]
"Harmful -- no one would be able to pay money at the river bank."

Event: An oil spill in the ocean.

"Harmful -- the oil will turn the ocean green, yellow, orange, black or white."

"Harmful -- no one will swim in the ocean."

"Harmful because like if one of the sharks in the ocean it can have its mouth open and the oil drops it can go in its mouth and the shark can swallow it and it can go in the sharks mouth and the shark can die from it."

Event: Collecting old newspapers in the neighborhood for recycling.

"Helpful because it will make less trash on the floor."

"Helpful -- so people can't read them any more."

Event: Building a bird house and feeder in your backyard.

"Harmful -- garden will be destroyed."

There was definitely some thought put into these answers. And that thought was very interesting indeed...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Secret Santa time already??

I have noticed via my stat tracker that my page has been getting a lot of hits coming from the search string, "Secret Santa Questionnaire."

So, in honor of that, I thought I would repost the "My Secret Santa Is a Genius" post from December 6, 2006:

We are doing a secret Santa program at my school, and the gift exchanges began today. I won't find out who MY secret Santa is until next Monday afternoon, but I am already looking forward to finding out. Today, I got possibly the greatest secret Santa gift ever.

I was in a fifth-grade classroom this morning, monitoring their social studies benchmark test. Do to an infinitesimal percentage of teachers cheating on the TAKS test, none of us are allowed to administer important tests to our own students anymore. So the fifth-grade teachers were in our rooms, and vice versa. This in itself is the subject for a rant at another time.

So there I was, standing sternly at the back of this classroom, when one of our substitute office personnel walked by and motioned me out into the hallway. She asked if I was Mister Teacher, which of course, I was. She handed me a bulging US Post Office express mail package. It was addressed to me in, allegedly having been sent from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. Originally being from DC myself, I was a bit suspicious that the ZIP code did not look correct, but other than that, it looked very official. So of course, I was wondering what the heck was going on.

I waited until the test was over and I had gotten back to my classroom before opening the package. There were three things inside. One was a small note. A second item was a small baggy containing three lottery tickets. The third item was shrouded in a large piece of brown paper.

I read the note. It said, "Mister Teacher, this is the best we could part with from Julius Caesar. Hope it will fit with your collection. Thanks."

As far as secret Santa gifts go, this was shaping up to be a most bizarre example. It was soon to get even stranger. I unwrapped the large bulky item, and I found a large bone with a few shreds of meat still hanging determinedly from it. For about 10 seconds, my mind cycled through all of the possible third words for the phrase, "What the--?”Then I remembered. This was exactly what I had asked for.

Every year, before we select each other and find who we will be giving gifts to, we fill out a short questionnaire. Favorite color, food, music, etc. Needless to say, I very rarely take that questionnaire seriously. My answers are almost always of the facetious variety. So this year, when asked for hobbies, my response was, "Collecting the bones of ancient Roman emperors.

"Can I just say one more time -- my secret Santa is a freakin’ GENIUS!!!

Now I feel kind of bad for the person I have. I just got them a lousy iPod…

Oh, I should also mention that I think I won $10 off of one of the lottery cards...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Is today Monday????

Today was such a freaking long day. And I hadn't planned on it being that way.

When I pulled into the school parking lot this morning, I began to hear a weird thumping noise from under my car. I pulled into a parking space, and looked under my front tires, and it looked like a little plastic piece was bumping against my tire. I didn't think about it again all day long.

Until I got ready to leave (was going to join some friends for a colleague
s birthday celebration). As I started to pull out of my parking space, I immediately knew I had a flat tire. Sure enough, there was a piece of metal wire about 2 feet long and about half a centimeter (we're doing measurement this week) in diameter sticking out of my tire. Where the hell it came from, who knows?

I broke out the jack and spare tire (never been used) from my trunk and proceeded to take the lug nuts off. About that time, this guy who is the father of one of my students from last year (take a moment and digest that) came over to help. Thanks to him, the job went a LOT faster. Afterwards, when I shook his hand and thanked him profusely, he said, "No problem. You taught my son last year."

Hmmmm. . .

I guess there's some tangible reward to being a teacher after all!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Just another Tuesday

Hey everyone,
For some reason, it went up late today, but the new column is up and running over at! This week, it's all about Do's and Dont's for dropping kids off at school (as opposed to them riding the bus).

Unfortunately, I'm not supposed to copy anything from that site, not even the title, but I can tell you that if you like the TV show, Heros, you'll appreciate this week's title.

Thanks to everyone who checks it out, rates it, and leaves a comment!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Monkey, it's what's for dinner

A few weeks ago, we studied food chains in science class. At the end of the week, I gave a homework assignment, which was for the kids to write and illustrate at least one example of a three-part food chain. I even gave them an example: Corn ---> Chicken ---> Person

I got back some very interesting responses. It goes without saying that for some of these kids, I did not learn them good about food chains. But I enjoyed seeing some of the chains, so here are a few of my favorite bloopers...

Tree ---> Giraffe ---> Wolf
[The Duran Duran song, "Hungry Like the Wolf" takes on whole new meaning now.]

Apples ---> Horse ---> Me
[At first, I thought she was just saying she was hungry enough to eat a horse, but maybe she was thinking of Jello??]

Bananas ---> Monkey ---> Ape
[I think that's called cannibalism]

Some kids didn't remember that food chains have to begin with a plant...

Mud ---> Ant ---> Bee
[I'm pretty sure ants don't eat mud, and I know bees don't eat ants. Horses maybe...]

Banana ---> Monkey ---> Black Monkey
[DEFINITELY cannibalism]

Dog ---> Food ---> Pedigree ---> Flea Spray
[Um, FOOD chain, my dear girl, not PRODUCT line]

Dog Food ---> Dog ---> Car
[When asked, he told me it was because cars hit dogs sometimes]

Fan ---> Air ---> Energy
[Metaphysical food chain???]

And finally, the winner of the "I REALLY didn't get the concept" award...

Banana ---> Corn ---> Soup ---> Tomato ---> Apple ---> Popcorn chicken
[This was accompanied by a picture with the caption, "This is A eating corn and tomato and banana."]

Friday, November 02, 2007

No TPing!

Was it just me, or were there not nearly as many trick or treaters out this year as last? I have SO much candy left over, and the number of door knockers was way down this year.

So I did go ahead with my plan for selective candy giving. I had a big plastic bowl filled with Twix and Nestle Crunch bars, and inside that, a tiny little cup with candy corn inside it. To answer one person's question, I had no problem giving good candy to the older kids, as long as they were in costume. Though I felt a bit awkward seeing the kid in the orange m&m costume who appeared to be 18, who came up to my door alone and said, "Twick o tweat!"

One group of about 7 kids approached, and I gave out Twix, Nestle Crunch, Nestle Crunch, Twix, Twix, Nestle Crunch, one candy corn. Six little kids in costume and one teenager in street clothes with a plastic grocery sack. When I put the single piece of craptastic candy into his bag, he glared at me and said, "Man, that's all I get??"

I replied, "Yep, that's all you're dressed for."

On the radio this morning, I heard a story about a high school social studies teacher who would ask the kids geography and government questions when they came to his door on Halloween. The kids who answered correctly walked away with candy. The kids who said Ronald Reagan was our first president walked away empty handed.

I might have to break out the spooky multiplication tables next Halloween...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

'Twas the night before Halloween

Tomorrow night is Halloween, which means a lot more to me now as a homeowner than it ever did as an apartment dweller. Don't get me wrong, I've always loved Halloween -- dressing up, going to haunted houses, eating so much candy that you beg someone to kill you -- but I never got any trick or treaters at my apartment, whereas I get a ton of them at my house.

So I've made all the preparations for this year. By that, I mean I've gone to the store and bought candy. Name brand candy, thank you very much, none of this knockoff stuff. One of my colleagues was talking about how she went to the dollar store to get candy and came away with a bunch of really cheap, imitator brands. I can just imagine kids coming to her door and receiving packages of n&n's, Smickers, and Swete Tarts.

None of that for me! I've got Twix, Nestle Crunch Bars, and Jolly Ranchers at my disposal. Of course, my plan is to give these precious candies ONLY to the little kids who come dressed in costume this year.

For the past two years, I've enjoyed seeing all of the little tykes in their Halloween getups. What I have NOT enjoyed is the roving bands of teenagers who come -- in no perceivable disguise -- knock on the door, and mutely hold out a pillow case. They're not even going to the effort of saying the words, "Trick or Treat!!!"

So this year, I have a plan for that. And I love it when a plan comes together. Along with my tasty goodies, I bought a single bag of candy corn. I know there are some people out there who love candy corn, but personally, I think it is one of the most disgusting candies ever, second only to those really nasty orange circus peanuts that have the look, feel, and taste of Styrofoam packing peanuts. I'm pretty sure that's what they are, just spray-painted radioactive orange.

So tomorrow night, when I open my door, if it's a group of little kids in costume, I will happily place a Twix bar or other delicious treat into their bag. But when I open the door to find some punk, trying to capitalize on October 31, he/she will receive one single candy corn.

Eat up, bucko, that's all you're getting from me. Be glad it's not a toothbrush or a walnut.

On a completely unrelated note, if anyone has any recommendations for de-toilet papering trees, please let me know...

Mr. Teacher is back!

Hey everyone, it's Tuesday again, which means it's time once again for my weekly column over at!

This week, my column is about the dreaded Parent-Teacher Conference Night. Something I'm sure you're all very familiar with.

Please go check it out and share it with your friends, family, convenience store clerks, and bus seat companions.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Let me tell ya, I got boxes

For the past couple of weeks, my classroom has had a most annoying habit of accumulating boxes. These boxes are delivered to me, usually via trolley by the custodians, at all times of the day. It's gotten to a point that I'm afraid to go into the office in the morning, because I see the boxes THERE, and I know they're going to wind up in my classroom!

Now if these boxes were full of money, chocolate, or vintage comic books, I wouldn't be complaining. Unfortunately, these boxes always contain math products. And when I say math products, I don't even mean the cool stuff, like laser pointers to help you figure out symmetry, or transforming robots that quiz you on basic multiplication facts.

The math products that these ubiquitous boxes contain are just samples -- one textbook, one workbook, some promotional material, a handful of flyers, and a smattering of manipulatives.

From what I can gather, the program that my school district has used as a large part of its math curriculum for the past several years is going to be up for adoption again this year. So I guess that all of the other wannabe programs are trying to win my vote.

Here's the problem though -- No one has told me (or anyone else at my school whose classroom is slowly but surely disappearing under the growing volume of boxes) how exactly we are supposed to express our vote. I mean, I can take a look at these products with my third-grade math team, but what then?

Do we stand up, spin in a circle three times, throw some salt over our shoulders, and declare at the top of our lungs, "I choose THIS curriculum program over all others!!!"

Or, like in the movie Gladiator, do we lift up one hand, thumb extended, wavering between thumbs up and thumbs down to decide a program's fate, while the box in question shouts, "Are you not entertained???"

Or (boring) are we supposed to go some place online to cast our vote?

Whatever we're supposed to do, I just wish someone would tell us! Because the quicker I can get those boxes out of my room, the sooner I'll have room for all that money, chocolate, and comic books.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bathroom browsing?

Yesterday was my first day back to school since last Friday, as I woke up Monday morning and started vomiting. Vomiting is really a big deal for me, and when it happens, which is incredibly rare, it means I'm really sick. So I stayed home on Monday and Tuesday.

Which of course means that I got to behold all of the wonders that await a teacher when he or she returns from an absence. The missing pencils, the overhead markers in random locations, the page full of notes from the substitute teacher detailing exactly how poorly behaved my class was.

And why do my kids always ask me, "Where were you???" Like I took two days off to attend a Dixie Chicks concert in Tuscaloosa.

But enough about that. My topic today is the odd behavioral patterns of the little girls in my classes when we take a restroom break. Not just the girls in this year's classes, either. The girls have always done this, and it makes me wonder what is going on in their heads.

Here's how it looks to me: I'm standing outside of the bathroom doors, and through the doorway, I can see two of the mirrors hanging above the sinks. Reflected in those mirrors, I can see two or three of the stall doors in the bathroom. What I see is a girl pushing open one of the stall doors and then giving a long, lingering look at whatever is inside. Then that girl will move to the next stall door and repeat the process.

It's like they're comparison shopping!!

I always have to shout in at them, "Just pick one and go! Stop window shopping!"

What is up with that???

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

And so it begins

My career as an online columnist has officially begun!

I few months ago, I was offered a weekly spot for a humor column on Of course, I jumped at this chance. And now, my first column is up and running!

This first column is all about the frustrations involved from a teacher's standpoint when kids come to school unprepared to do their work. In particular, that frequently asked, yet always groan-inducing question, "Can I have a pencil?"

Please, please, please -- Go and check out my column! Rank it! Leave comments! And forward it on to your friends and fellow educators!

Thanks in advance for all your support.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Does this make cents to you?

Last Thursday, I spent about 10 minutes with one of my students on what I thought started out as a simple question.

She had written, "200 cents" as an answer for one of her questions. I asked her, "What is it another way we could say that?"

She stared at me uncomprehendingly. I tried to clarify. I said, "That answer is not wrong, but usually, when the number is that high, we use a different unit for money. Can you say 200 cents a different way, using that other unit?"

She thought for a moment and then responded, "200 dollars?"

Since cents and dollars are not the exact same thing, her response began the long, complicated discussion of how many cents are in one dollar. Getting that answer out of her was like pulling teeth. Teeth that apparently would have wildly fluctuating values for the tooth fairy.

I asked her to imagine that she had one dollar in her pocket, and I asked how many cents that would equal to. She corrected me, and informed me that she actually had seven dollars in her pocket. My mistake.

I tried a different tact. If she were to give me one of her dollars, how many cents what I give her for it to be a fair trade? One cent was her answer. I questioned that logic.

"So you could give me one dollar bill, and I could give you one penny, and that would be fair?"

Her head said no, but her eyes said she didn't know.

Her next guess was that one dollar was equal to twenty five cents. So I took a quarter out of my pocket, placed it on her desk, and asked, "This equals one dollar?"

"Four cents?" was her reply. Although she was grossly wrong, I thought I understood where that answer had come from, and that it meant she was at least stumbling towards the right path. Sure enough, when pressed further, she confirmed that she had gotten that last answer by adding the quarter four times.

So I asked her to write down twenty five cents four times on her paper and add them up. She did that and came up with -- gasp -- 100 cents.

"Yes, one dollar equals 100 cents," I confirmed. "So how many dollars with 200 cents be worth?"

"Seven dollars?"

At that moment, I honestly felt like I was stuck in the middle of a MasterCard commercial.

"Everyday Math Journal -- $1.50

Demonstration Quarter -- $.25

Incomprehensible Mathematics Conceptual Error -- $7.00

Bleeding Head Wound, Caused by Pounding My Head on the Surface of the Desk -- Priceless"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's nice to have friends

Our Problem of the Day this morning read as follows:

Mister Teacher scored 148 points playing basketball. His friend scored 99 points playing basketball. How many more points did Mister Teacher score?

When solving a problem such as this, my kids know that they need to draw a picture to show what is happening in the story. This can be done by putting the large numbers into circles and either putting the circles into a box to show that they are being put together, or by drawing an arrow from one number to the next to show that something is being taken away. The kids are also supposed to label the circles with something that will make them stand apart.

So for the circle with the number 148 in it, the kids wrote, "Mister Teacher" above it. But instead of writing, "friend" above the 99 point circle, several of my kids called me over to ask, "Instead of writing 'friend,' can we write 'Ed U Cater?'"

Ed is of course a fellow teacher at my school. Obviously these kids recognize that he and I are friends.

Now if they would only realize that Mrs. Math and I are NOT married to each other...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Um, I don't think you're doing that right

A couple of weeks ago, my partner, Ms. Jenn Ed, told me a pretty funny story about her conversation with my homeroom kids. One of the kids had mentioned one of her dad's bad habits, and so of course, that sparked a battle of oneupsmanship.

The verbal skirmish culminated with one kid declaring, "Sometimes, my parents drink pot!"

At least nobody mentioned snorting vodka, injecting cigarettes, or smoking Michelob.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Yo, Joe!

Today is Anonymous Joe's birthday! So let's all sing a rousing round of Feliz Cumpleanos to our crazy art teacher!!

And speaking of Joe, my brother sent me this link today:

It takes you to a pretty funny Family Feud-style game show that will strike a chord if your childhood was anything like mine.

Monday, October 15, 2007

And the winners are...

OK, the day has arrived, and it's time to pick some names for T-shirts! Thank you to everyone who participated!

Remember, even if your name wasn't chosen, you can STILL wear one of these stylish shirts by checking out my stores and clicking the cute little cart.

And so, without further ado, let me reach into the hat and pull out the two names. If your name is listed here, please send me an email at and let me know which type of shirt you would like and an address that I can direct it towards. Don't worry, I won't put you on a mailing list for Ronco products or Leapin' Lizards Dogfood. Or maybe I will, you just never know.

And the winners are....................................................



Simply Sublime!!

Congratulations to you both! I look forward to your emails.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Have gun, will lecture

There was a story in the paper today about an Oregon high school teacher who is fighting for her right to carry a concealed handgun in her classroom.

I wonder what the dress code is at her school, because I have a feeling that she's also petitioning for her Bad Idea Jeans.

This teacher claims that it's for protection against a vengeful ex-husband as well as being a preventive measure for a Columbine-like situation. I really don't think that arming teachers is the way to go. I'm thinking, if you HAVE to have guns at your school to deter would-be killers, you want those guns out in the open where everyone can see them! Therefore, armed security guards would be the way to go. School kids who can't even remember which hand is longer on the clock certainly aren't going to be deterred by the possibility that one of their teachers might be carrying a 9mm Glock in her Louis Vuitton.

Besides, can you imagine the lawsuits involved if one of the students got their hands on a gun that belonged to a teacher? It's not like this teacher in Oregon is wearing a shoulder holster; her gun is presumably kept in her purse, which I doubt she holds on to every second of the day. I can't imagine an effective teacher standing at the blackboard, chalk in one hand, purse in the other.

Hopefully, the Oregon courts will toss this lady's case out the window. Because personally, I don't want anything to do with an NTLU policy. Of course, that's No Teacher Left Unarmed.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Seven days!

Just one last reminder, there is only one week left to get those comments in over on YouTube to be entered into the drawing for a T-shirt.

Two names will be drawn next Monday. Winners will be announced sometime between Monday night and Thursday afternoon.

Get on over there and comment!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Accountable Counting

This year, the Dallas school district has made a really big point of stressing "accountable talk" among the children. This means that the kids are supposed to explain how they got their answers and discuss their strategies with the other students.

This is often quite difficult for many of my kids, since they are used to just saying a number when I ask a question or shouting NOOO! at another kid when they disagree with his or her answer.

Frequently, I will say, "Please raise your hand if you know the answer," and 15 hands will shoot up. But when I add, "and if you can explain to me how you got your answer," 12 of those hands go back down.

Anyway, the kids have lists of accountable talk prompts taped to their desks to help them remember how to begin.

These prompts include:

"I got my answer by ____________."

"To solve this problem, first I _______________, then I ______________."

"I'd like to add more to what __________ said."

To be honest, my kids very rarely begin their sentences any of these ways. However, the two prompts that they really DO seem to have latched on to are the ones that begin with, "I agree with __________" and, "I disagree with ______________."

So it was very funny to hear the way in which these prompts came into play on Wednesday of this past week.

We were completing a name graph in the Everyday Math journal. To construct this bar graph, we had to first create a tally chart that showed the number of letters in people's first names. I was standing at the center of the class asking the kids to raise their hands if they had 4 letters in their first name, 5 letters in their first name, etc.

When I got to the "10 or more" category, I had one little girl who raised her hand, saying she had 11 letters in her name.

With our tally chart completed, we moved on to the next step, but that's when a boy in my class raised his hand and said, "I disagree with her, because I counted the letters in her name, and there are only 10 letters in her name."

Immediately, the little girl raised her hand and retorted, "I disagree with him, because I know how to spell my name, and there are 11 letters in my name."

Let no one say that my kids aren't talking accountably...

Friday, October 05, 2007

This has gone too far

Call me a cheapskate, but I hate tipping. I WILL tip, for certain professions, but I still hate doing it. When I go out to eat, I try to tip between 20 and 30%, and when I get my hair cut, I always tip two bucks.

But now, I've noticed a tip jar in a place where a tip jar has absolutely no business whatsoever. Without getting into too many specifics, there is a lady at our school who performs a certain necessary function for all of the teachers. This is a function that teachers used to be able to do for themselves; however, a couple of years ago, our collective hand was slapped away from the cookie jar, and this woman was brought in to regulate things.

This week, she had a tip jar placed directly in front of her IN tray. Kind of hard not to notice it there, especially since it had been primed with a couple of bucks already.

Now maybe it's just me, and my crotchety old-fashioned ways, but I don't think it's right for someone in this position to be petitioning for tips. She does get a salary, after all. And you don't see ME holding my hand out to other teachers for money when I deliver new math materials to their classroom. Or shaking the jar at the children when I've taught a particularly well thought out lesson.

Maybe it's just a sign of the times.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mmmmmm... Traffic donut

As I was walking back into the school this morning at 7:45 (leaving poor Anonymous Joe all alone to fend for himself amongst the mad rush out on the street), one of my students came running up to me and handed me a donut!

How sweet is that!!

Oh, and also, one of my little girls handed me a ziploc bag with a nice big piece of cake in it. She had baked it for me in her Easy Bake Oven! She didn't look injured, and the cake tasted great!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Red letter dates

I just learned yesterday that my column online at will make its first appearance on Tuesday, October 23. I had petitioned to title the column "No Child Left Befuddled," but unfortunately, the editors thought that title might leave a few readers befuddled. So instead, the column will be titled "Mr. Teacher."

So mark your calendars! October 23, and every Tuesday after that for the first seeable future. Or until I just plain run out of ideas.

Also, there are less than two weeks left to get in on the free T-shirt offer that goes with my YouTube Challenge! Just leave a comment on one of my videos (or all four for more entries), and you will automatically be entered for a chance to win a shirt!

October 15 is when the drawing will be drawed... or something like that.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sharp dressed man

Just like September is now over, so too is our privilege of "summer dress code." As of today, we had to wear our OFFICIAL teacher dress code, which is pantyhose for women and ties for men.

Never before in years past do I remember getting so many comments and compliments from the kids! My homeroom class didn't say a lot when they saw me this morning, but at 10:30 when we switched classes, Mrs. Jenn Ed's class had a lot to say!

"Nice tie!"

"You look great today!"

"I like your shirt!"


"You look like a businessman!"

"Is that 10 pounds of crap in a 5 pound bag??"

I just threw that last one in as an example of the kind of thing that was NOT said to me today. Everything was very positive!

So here's to the new dress code! And here's to the temperatures staying below 100° while I have to wear a tie!!!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Future fender benders

Today on the way to the cafeteria, I ran into a stumbling block. Getting the kids to lunch this year has been a logistical nightmare. All of third-grade and all of second-grade go at exactly the same time. The third-grade classes walk down their hallway and make a left-hand turn into the main hallway, but then they're expected to be on the right hand side of the hall to enter the proper cafeteria door. The second-grade classes come into the main hallway from outside and are expected to be on the left-hand side of the hall to enter THEIR cafeteria door.

Somewhere in there, the lines have to cross, and as Egon said in Ghostbusters, "Crossing the streams would be bad."

So today, I find myself stuck at the corner, with a wall of second graders to somehow get through. So I thought I would suggest taking turns, in much the same way that cars (are supposed to) take turns at a four-way intersection.

I might as well have been speaking Klingon.

Even with me standing right there, trying to direct the kids to cross over, one at a time, NONE of them understood. Every time I told a second grader to cross over, three more would try to follow her. Every time I directed a third grader to cross over, three more would try to walk right past me.

When we had finally gotten past the mixmaster, one of my kids said, "We were kind of like cars in a traffic jam."

To which I had to reply, "If this had been with cars, there would be a huge wreck scene right now."

I am truly worried about the next generation of vehicle operators...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My biscuits are burnin!

Just a general note to everyone --

If you don't have a license to drive a school bus, don't assume that you can operate any of the controls on the school bus either.

When I had dropped off all of my kids at their buses this afternoon after school let out, I noticed that the driver was not present at the bus I monitor. One of the other monitors was inside the bus watching the kids, but she kept complaining about how hot it was. So I figured why have the kids sitting on a sweltering bus, when I could easily turn on the A/C?

So I flipped the knob, and we felt the air coming out of the vents. A couple of minutes later, the driver came back (she had been helping out on another bus), and the bus left.

About half an hour later, I passed the driver in the hall, and she informed me that I had actually turned the heater on.


From now on, I'm sticking to my trusty Toyota console...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Inside, outside, upside down

I've been having some back problems lately (OK, ever since summer vacation started back in June), and I've tried a lot of stuff to get rid of it. Not so much to get rid of my back -- I'm kind of going to need that. But to get rid of the back pain.

I had an MRI done in late August, right before the school year started, and it revealed a couple of bulging discs. Nothing requiring surgery, thankfully, but painful and annoying just the same.

I've been to chiropractors, I've tried heat, I've tried ice (I've seen fire, and I've seen rain), and I even tried yoga -- once. I think I might like to go back to that at some point, but my back just isn't ready for it.

But last week, Anonymous Joe let me have an old inversion chair that was cluttering up his back porch. This thing is pretty cool. You hook your knees behind these padded rollers and then swing yourself up and over the apex of the frame so that you're hanging upside down. It really feels kind of cool. You can't do it for too long, or else your eyes will explode (or maybe you'll just get a really bad head rush), but it's kind of soothing and relaxing.

I like to pretend that I'm Batman, or at least some alternate version of Batman who actually hangs upside down like a bat.

Has anyone else tried one of these things? I'd love to hear your story!

Friday, September 21, 2007

A bit of housekeeping

I am currently enjoying a three-day weekend, thanks to the fact that I got my professional development hours over and done with during the summer. So just a few things to blog about today:

1) A reminder that we there is less than one month remaining until the October 15 deadline in the YouTube challenge. If you'd like to win a free T-shirt -- as seen in the sidebar to the right -- all you have to do is leave a comment on one of my videos at YouTube. You can start with this one.

2) Another reminder, the Blogger's Choice Awards end on November 10. So if you have already voted for me, another big thank you, and if you have not yet voted, what are you waiting for? :) Seriously, I appreciate every vote that I receive.

3) I've discovered a new blog worth reading lately, so I thought I'd post a link here and direct traffic that way. Simply Sublime is a good read!

4) And finally, a first-time announcement, rather than a reminder. I have been offered a position as weekly columnist for! I won't start for about another month, so I will certainly have the chance to send out reminders, but I just thought I'd give everyone a heads-up. I'm pretty excited, as they have a rather large readership!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

World Series of Taboo

To put it quite simply, I am a Taboo genius. For anyone unfamiliar with Taboo, it's an incredibly fun and addictive party game where one person tries to get his/her teammates to guess a word or phrase while NOT using certain helpful words. I've played this game a lot, and I'm a really good clue giver and also a really good guesser.

And after today, I feel like there should be some venue for me to win large amounts of cash and fabulous prizes with my great guessing ability.

While reading the chapter about the water cycle with my afternoon class, we started discussing one of the vocabulary words -- precipitation. Precipitation is water that falls from the sky in the form of rain, snow, hail, or sleet. The kids didn't know what hail was, so I explained it to them.

Later, while the kids were busy making a little water cycle representation, one of the girls called me over to ask me about something.

"What's that big circle in the sky?" was her leadoff.

"Um, the sun??" I ventured.

"No," she replied. "You know, that big circle in the sky!"

"The moon???"

"No, it kind of spins," she offered helpfully.

Perplexed, I asked, "Is this something that is always in the sky? It's always there?"

"It kind of spins," she reiterated, not so helpfully this time. "I think it starts with an H. Not hailstones... not hailstones..."


"Yeah!!! That's it! Hurricane!!"

And that was that.

I hereby declare myself Master of the Taboo Universe.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I blinded her -- with SCIENCE!!!

Last week, one of my little girls presented me with a very odd statement. We had just returned to my classroom after the restroom break that follows our P.E. period (or, if you prefer, the time formerly known as recess). Which means that it was around 12:45, and this class had already been in my room for an hour before lunch and P.E.

Yet it wasn't until that moment that my student, A, chose to inform me, "Last night, I was watching TV, and it blinded me. I can't see my paper." Her paper, of course, being her piece of scrap paper on her desk, a foot and a half from her face.

As you might imagine, I was a bit skeptical. I mean, when MY television blinds ME late at night, I don't get my vision back temporarily in the morning and then lose it again after lunch. Heck, even Han Solo didn't come out of his Carbonite suspension just fine and then go blind a day later.

So when A persisted and wouldn't do any of her work, I finally took her across the hall to my partner's room and asked if A had done any of her reading and social studies work that morning, or if she had been too blind. Ms. Jenn Ed hadn't noticed any blindness that morning, as I suspected.

In the hallway, before we reentered my classroom, I told A that one of the other third-grade teachers had commented on how nice it was that A had picked some flowers for her during recess... er, I mean P.E. I added that it would be very difficult to pick flowers for someone and give them a nice little bouquet if that someone was vision impaired.

A stared at me blankly (yes, this IS the same girl who calls me Miss Teacher) and finally said, "But some of the flowers were upside down."

Is that one of the sure signs of blindness or something? "Flowers were upside down -- driver's license denied!"

I had a talk with her parent that night, and thankfully, I haven't heard any more claims of blindness...


The very next day, however, most of our kids went outside for used-to-be-recess, but I kept a small group of misbehaviors inside. When my class came back inside, another little girl -- we'll call her A -- approached me and said, "Mister Teacher, I got pushed down outside on the playground and now I can't see. The nurse said I need to have someone in the classroom to lead me around."

Have I mentioned my kids aren't very original?

Strangely, A had no note from the nurse giving me the aforementioned instructions. And our school nurse ALWAYS sends the kids back with detailed notes to teachers. So I found her claim lacking a bit in an area I like to call "FACT."

Ms. Jenn Ed told me a few moments later that the nurse had indeed sent back a note that said that A was perfectly fine. In fact, I believe her note might have actually said, "No blindness detected whatsoever."

This week, thankfully, there have been no claims of sensory loss. I do wonder about their hearing sometimes though, as so many of them just don't ever listen...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Kill and drill

Apparently, we had a quota to fill today. Three weeks into the school year, and we hadn't done any sorts of drills as a school community.

So today, to make up for that, first we had a fire drill, then we had a lockdown drill. Thankfully, I had some advance warning on the fire drill, so I was able to make my expectations very clear to my class and even have a trial run before the siren went off. During the drill, my class behaved very well.

The lockdown came as a surprise. I hadn't gone over the procedure with my kids, so I had to quickly bark at them, "Get on the floor, under your desks -- no talking!" as I turned the lights off, closed the shades, and locked my door. Some of the kids thought it was a blast to huddle together under their desks, so keeping them quiet was a bit tougher this time around.

After that, I was expecting a tornado drill or a duck and cover or SOMETHING!

Hey, it's not like we were doing much today anyway, right?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A bad seed?

Yesterday, for my science test, I gave the kids a blank sheet of notebook paper and asked them to write down the answers for five review questions at the end of the chapter we had read this week. The chapter was mostly about seeds -- what they contain and how they are spread.

Most of my kids did not understand the whole concept of an open book test. I told them that they could use their book to find the answers by looking back in the chapter we read. While some began flipping back pages to look for the answers, I saw one little girl looking forward into the chapter about lizards and birds. I'm pretty sure that chapter doesn't contain any information about germination or seedlings.

Yet I still saw many of them just making completely random guesses at the answers without using the book. Often, what they wrote didn't even make any sense or did not answer the question. For example, question one was, "What is a seedling?" Roughly twelve kids wrote, "A seedling lives inside every seed." That's nice, but it doesn't tell me what a seedling IS. Just finding a sentence with the word in it does not always answer the question. If I ask someone, "Did the Cowboys win this weekend?" hopefully they will not respond, "The Dallas Cowboys are a professional football organization, located in Irving, Texas."

But my favorite part of grading the tests came with question 3. The question was, "What are some ways that seeds can be spread from one place to another?" Some of the answers to this one really showed that the kids were listening when we were talking about this part. A lot of them copied the caption from the book about cockleburrs latching onto a dogs fur. But one girl took the idea of an animal carrying seeds, and applied it to an animal that isn't listed anywhere in our science book.

"If a jaguar finds an apple and he does not know what it is and he carries it to somewhere else."

Helpful jaguar!!

Another girl wrote, "Some animals can help people carry things." I went ahead and gave her credit for this answer, assuming that by "things," she meant "seeds."

But the best answers came from the kids who remembers our discussion of how birds help spread seeds. There was a picture of a bird standing on a branch that ended in a group of berries. The caption explained that birds eat the berries, swallow the seeds, and the seeds passed through the digestive system unharmed. And thus the bird drops the seeds in a faraway location.

So I got a couple of priceless answers to question 3:

"A bird can eat the seed and can poopoo in another place."


"A bird eats the seed and they did their business and the seed falls."

These kids clearly understood the concept! Mr. Bloom, you might need to add another level to your Taxonomy, because these kids are marching up the ladder!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Carnivals are elementary

If it's Wednesday, it must be Carnival Day! This week, the Carnival of Education is hosted over at History Is Elementary.

Don't be a cipher... Go check out the Carnival!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Cipher on the go

Yesterday after school, we had a lengthy staff meeting which consisted of watching three videos in the auditorium. No doubt, after reading that sentence, you are envisioning me sitting strapped to a chair, with my eyelids taped open -- and that's sort of how it felt, seeing as how they are the same three videos we always have to watch, year after year after year.

But I'm not here to talk about those videos. At least not today -- I may have something to say about them in the next couple of days. And I'm not even here to shamelessly plug my OWN videos.

Today, I'm interested in discussing a film that one of those videos reminded me of; a short film that I saw all the way back when I was in grade school. It was called Cipher in the Snow.

If you have ever seen this movie -- Cipher in the Snow -- PLEASE leave a comment and let me know that I am not the only one who was traumatized thusly as a child!

It was so long ago, that I don't remember ALL of the details of the movie, but the opening scene is really what stands out. A school bus drives down a deserted country lane, surrounded by snow-covered fields. The bus comes to a stop, and the doors open. A kid, around 10 years old, slowly trudges down the steps and out of the bus. He takes a couple of steps away from the bus and then falls on his face in the snow, dead as a door nail.

(Cue the Law and Order sound effect: DUN DUNN!!)

The rest of the movie is a flashback, as I recall, showing the events that led to this nerd's tragic demise. Excuse me, this CIPHER'S tragic demise. You see, the poor, doomed lad was a social outcast -- friend to no one -- and his lack of self-esteem eventually manifested itself as a blood clot the size of an ostrich egg. Or at least, it led to his death.

Yeah, we watched some strange movies at my tiny little elementary school. Between Cipher in the Snow, with its foreboding existentialism, and Peege, with its gratuitous scenes of the old grandmother slowly gumming her chocolate pudding, it's a wonder I can even set foot into a darkened auditorium.

But I really am getting tired of that stupid sexual-harassment video...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Measurable growth

I have decided that one way or the other, my students this year will have some sort of measurable growth. So far, here in the third week of the school year, many of them are choosing NOT to exercise their "brain muscle," and so I'm not sure how much mental growth they'll be displaying.

However, for these kids especially, there will definitely be physical growth -- I decided last week to begin implementing push-ups in the classroom. Already I could tell that taking away minutes from recess or taking away prize potential wasn't having much of an effect on some of these kids. So I've adopted the mentality of "drop and give me ten."

I have a feeling that a few of these kids might be resembling Conan the Third-Grader before the school year is over, if they keep on their current pace.

Today turned out to be a push-up bonanza when we graded our place value test from last week. I have my own policy for test grading. Really early in my teaching career, I got tired of handing tests back with grades on them and then seeing hardly any kids paying attention as we went over the questions together. So I decided to do things slightly differently. When I grade the tests, I don't put any marks on them -- I just record the grade in my gradebook. So when I hand the tests back to the kids, I tell them that I already know the grades. We're going to grade them together, and when we're done, I'm going to ask them what grade they got. If their grade matches my grade, then I'll know that they were paying attention. If their grade DOESN'T match my grade, then I'll know they were NOT paying attention -- and they'll owe me 25 push-ups.

After having explained all of that up front, I was amazed this morning at how many kids received a workout for their pecs. In my second class, THIRTEEN OUT OF TWENTY-ONE did not have the correct grade on their paper!! And what's worse, half of them got up laughing and talking about how much they love to do push-ups.

Maybe it's time to introduce push-up's twin brother, sit-up. And if that doesn't work, it'll be time for push-up's redheaded step cousin, leg lifts...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

They call me Mister Teacher

I have a little girl in my class this year, I'll call her A, who doesn't quite seem all there. She's a sweet enough little girl, and in the first two weeks, she appears to be doing all right academically. However, there are frequently times when I talk to her face to face, and I can tell that there is just no comprehension there whatsoever.

Case in point, she ALWAYS calls me "Miss Teacher." She's not being malicious or trying to cut me down, she just feels for some reason that that's what she should be calling me. When I try to explain to her that I am a man, and therefore I should be addressed as "Mister," she gets a puzzled look on her face, as if I was telling her that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy were not real.

I thought for a while that perhaps she just called everyone Miss, and was completely unfamiliar with any other prefix. But that was disproven a couple of days into the school year when her aunt dropped her off in the morning in front of the school, and she ran by us yelling, "Good morning, Mister Anonymous! Good morning, Miss Teacher!!"

Maybe it's just me. I do consider myself to be somewhat manly looking, though. I don't think that she actually views me as a female. So I'm just at a loss as to why she can't understand why I would be MISTER Teacher.

I just can't shake the image running through my head of what would happen if I lined up a bunch of people and let her to greet all of them.

"Good morning, Mister Bilingual!

Good morning, Doctor Cheesy!

Good morning, Professor Plum!

Good morning, Monsignor Cross!

Good morning, Special Agent Johnson!

Good morning, Second Leftenant Fielder!

Good morning, Miss Teacher!"

Ugh. In another instance of school policy that A didn't seem to understand, I noticed that she was writing notes at her desk while we were going over the homework. When I told her that she needed to be paying attention and grading along with us, she looked shocked, and replied, "But I was writing a note to YOU!" I told her that that was very sweet of her, but that she needed to do that at home, not during math class. Still affronted, she continued, "It's a note about how you're my favorite teacher!"

I finally convinced her to stop writing notes and to pay attention in class, but I still get the feeling that she didn't understand the reasoning behind her actions.

Oh well, at any rate, I'll probably be getting a very lovely note tomorrow morning along the lines of,

"You're the best ever, Miss Teacher!!"

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Rainman cometh

Cloud break.

Gully washer.

Torrential downpour.

All of these terms could have been used to describe the rainfall this morning. After an incredibly soggy Texas summer, we had a couple of weeks with nary a drop of H2O falling from the sky. But that was broken over the past 24 hours, as many of us had an inkling to look up cubits and start building an ark.

My drive into work this morning wasn't that bad, but I am incredibly thankful that God invented golf umbrellas, because if I hadn't had mine, I think I would STILL be soaked and shivering.

Between 7:15 and 7:45 this morning, the rain fell down harder and faster than Michigan football in the polls. The street out in front of the school was practically a river (or as people down here say, a "crick"), and at times, I almost invoked the good name of the Gorton's fisherman to come and loan me his trademark outfit.

And for some reason, the heavy rain did NOT in the least cause a decline in the crazy driving out there. One guy parked his car in the middle of the street, and got out to walk his daughter across the other lane and onto the sidewalk. Even with me shouting, "Sir, you need to move your car -- there are six cars behind you!" he just nodded at me and said, "I know," and then proceeded to do exactly what he was already doing.

Oh well, I'd still take that crosswalk job over the gym monitoring job any day of the week. It might be wetter, but it's still a lot more fun.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Popular Page

Wow, it would seem that my "Welcome to school" letter post from last week is quite the attention getter! The number of hits to my blog has risen dramatically over the past week, and over half of them are as a result of search engine queries looking specifically for such a letter. Well, perhaps those people were looking for a more serious welcome letter, but they served on in to my version.

At least I finally have a search string that is beating out the infamous "kids go pee pee" related searches...

Just as a reminder, you can still enter to win a free T-shirt (selections seen in the sidebar) by checking out my Learn Me Good YouTube videos, and posting a comment. You can get up to four entries by posting a comment on each of the four videos. The deadline for entry is October 15, but don't wait until the last minute!

Also, please vote for Learn Me Good at the Blogger's Choice Awards!!!

Monday, September 03, 2007

I chew-chew-chews you

Last week, I did an introductory science experiment with my classes. It was called the Bubble Gum Lab. In addition to the fact that it was listed on our curriculum planning guide, I thought it was important to conduct this experiment because of a question that popped up on last year's science benchmark test.

"Mrs. Flower's class was conducting a bubble gum experiment. They wanted to see what would happen to the mass of a piece of bubble gum when it is chewed. What is the best hypothesis for this experiment?

A) the mass of the bubble gum will increase.
B) the mass of the bubble gum will decrease.
C) the mass of the bubble gum will stay the same.
D) the mass of the bubble gum will change color."

I might not have gotten the wording of the question exactly right, but it did basically boil down to, "Which would be the best hypothesis?" Now my fellow science teachers can help me out here, but I'm pretty sure that when it comes to hypotheses, there really are no better or worse. A hypothesis is merely a prediction that you hope to prove or disprove over the course of your experiment. If you already knew what was going to happen, you wouldn't be making a hypothesis -- you would be stating a conclusion or a fact.

So it seems to me that this is a horrendous question. But since I am merely a commonplace third-grade teacher (ie, lowly peon), no one who actually writes these tests listens or responds when I bring this up.

SO, when I saw the Bubble Gum Lab listed as an opening week activity, I decided that my kids should definitely have the experience and know the conclusion, just in case this awful question rears its head once again on the benchmark.

On Thursday, I passed out spiral notebooks to be used as science journals, and together, we wrote out all of the introductory steps. Problem, hypothesis, materials, procedure. The hypothesis was, "I think that the mass of the bubble gum will _____________ when it is chewed." I let each kid fill in their own blank with their own opinion, with the choices being increase, decrease, or stay the same. Thankfully, no one even suggested "change color" as an option. When I took a quick poll in each class, the three options all had takers, and there was no overwhelming favorite.

On Friday, we actually carried out the experiment. I'm sure that the intention of the original writers of this lab was to have each individual child weigh their unchewed piece of gum, then again weigh their piece of gum after each minute of chewing, but I calculated that if we did it that way, it would take us roughly 217,089 minutes of class time. I figured we didn't really have that much time, so I decided that all of the kids would be able to do the chewing part, but that everyone could watch as I weighed my piece of gum each time.

So I borrowed a triple-beam balance from the fifth-grade science lab (yes, for our THIRD grade experiment, a triple-beam balance was indeed specified). And I went out and bought a few packs of Orbitz chewing gum.

When I pulled the packs out of my desk and started to unwrap the container, several kids called out, "What flavor did you get?" I replied, "Lemon-lime," and suddenly there was a unified chorus going, "OOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHH!"

You would have thought that I had just parachuted out of a helicopter and into the classroom, holding a ginormous bag of cash in one hand and a PlayStation 3 in the other.

I had somebody pass out a piece of gum to everyone, while I set the balance up on a table in front of everyone. The first step of our procedure was to unwrap the piece of gum, so we all did that, and no less than eight kids in each class held the wrapper up to their nose, inhaled deeply, and then shuddered with satisfaction. I know it sounds vulgar, but it really did remind me of Booger from Revenge of the Nerds, sniffing a pair of unmentionables after the panty raid on the girls' dormitory.

Moving on from that disturbing image, the kids held onto their gum while I weighed my piece on the balance in front of them. I called out the measurement, and everybody wrote the number down into their Results table in their science journals.

Then we started chewing. We used the red second hand on the wall clock to chew for exactly one minute. At the end of one minute, everyone took the piece back out of their mouth, and the kids held their own pieces of gum while I weighed mine.

During this time, many of the kids commented on the flavor of the gum. There was one or two comments along the lines of, "Thanks, Mister Teacher -- this gum tastes great!" But most of the comments were more like, "This tastes SOOOOOOO good...." -- spoken in a tone of voice that I would more commonly relate to a nicotine addict who has involuntarily gone an entire weekend without access to their smokes.

After the first minute, we chewed for another minute and weighed again. Chew, weigh, record. Chew, weigh, record. Lather, rinse, repeat. We did this until we had officially chewed the gum for five minutes.

And you know what our conclusion was? It certainly wasn't what I was expecting. The mass of the gum DECREASED -- by about half of its original mass!

With my morning class, I let the kids continue to chew their gum until it was time to switch to their other teacher. Then I held the trash can for them to spit out their gum as they filed past me out the door. However, my afternoon class and I finished the experiment at about 2:55, so we really hustled to get everything ready to get out to the buses to go home, and I forgot to have them spit out their gum before they left.

As we were walking down the hall to get outside, the PE coach noticed, and asked one of the kids, "So they're letting you chew gum now?" I heard him and replied, "Yeah, it's for science."

Like that's just the world's greatest blanket explanation for everything.

If my kids picked up on that, I can imagine hearing about this conversation next week:

Teacher: Did you just kick him in the privates??
Student: Yeah, it's for science.
Teacher: Oh, OK then. Carry on.

At any rate, it was a nice way to end what had been a very frustrating first week of school. And who knows, maybe my kids even learn something -- I know I did. Now we'll just see if that awful question pops up once again on the benchmark test, or if someone with sense has actually changed it.