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Saturday, April 28, 2007

A very special rose ceremony

An article in Wednesday's paper reported that a teacher from the Houston area is under fire from parents of her 4th graders. The reason? Her appearance (and subsequent actions) on the currently running incarnation of ABC's The Bachelor.

23-year-old Amber Alchalabi (not to be confused with Prince Ali Ababwa) is 1 of 6 remaining gold diggers contestants on the show -- at least, that's what the article says. I sure as heck don't watch the show.

One parent wrote a letter to the Sugar Land school district saying The Bachelor "does not promote family values, moral values or appreciation of the normal ‘dating’ process."

True dat. Normally, after a bad date or a humiliating breakup, one does not have to check local listings to see when said incident will be aired for the nation's viewing pleasure.

Still, it IS fun to contemplate the actions of a teacher on a show like The Bachelor. I don't know if any of the following has actually happened, but then I also don't know that it hasn't…

· When Ms. Alchalabi told Lt. Baldwin, "I would give you an A," he replied smugly, "I would give you a Double D.”

· Ms. A narrowly avoided an early dismissal after commanding the show's host, Tooly McSpare, to spit out his gum.

· After a romantic candlelight dinner and dancing under the moonlight, Amber assigned Andy homework, instructing him to write a 2-page essay on James Buchanan, "the Bachelor President."

All in all, things could be much worse for Ms. Alchalabi’s kids and their parents. I mean, it's not like she went on Elimidate or Flavor of Love. And after seeing so many fellow competitors sent home, she should have some wicked ideas for lesson plans about fractions.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gimme an EWWWWWWW!!

Today, I was sitting up in front of the class posing some fractional problems. What is one half of 16, what is one fourth of 20, etc.

After a couple of these, I happened to notice that one of the girls in my class had a big binder with a couple of pictures on the covers. On one side, there was a team photo of the Dallas Cowboys. On the other side (what I like to call the GOOD side), there was a team photo of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

So nonchalantly, I asked the class for 1/6 of 84, and then I said while YOU look at THAT, I will look at THIS. And I picked up the binder.

As you would expect, the fraction of kids actually doing the problem after that was roughly 0/18. They all preferred to say in unison, "EWWWWWWWWWWW!”

Made me wonder if somebody had smelled some old strawberry milk…

But at first, I pretended not to notice that they weren't doing their work. I pretended to stare at the picture in rapture, moving it closer to my eyes than far away. Again, for some reason, this was met with a resounding, "EWWWWWWWW!!”

I jabbed with a finger at the picture a couple of times while saying, "I know her, I know her, yeah -- talk to her on the phone last night…”

This time, when I got the now- expected “EWWWWWWW!!” I asked, "Why are you EWWWW-ing about talking to someone on the phone?”

One of my kids blurted out, "and all the kissing and stuff…” in this really strained, hoarse voice, that sounded like someone having an especially difficult time on the toilet.

By this time, I was really warming to my audience, so I put a little word problem up on the board.

There are 84 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.
1/6 of them like Mister Teacher.
How many cheerleaders like me?

Inside my head, answer choices were:
A) 16
B) 14
C) 504

And of course, all of the kids chose answer D.

I love math.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Alas, poor Pluto -- we knew you well

I started to read with the kids today at about the solar system from our science textbooks. I'm not sure how old these science textbooks are, but I know they're old enough to be outdated in terms of the current planetary lineup.

When we came across the sentence that said "there are nine planets in the solar system, including Earth," I had to stop for a second and explain why this was no longer the case.

All of the kids seemed dumbfounded that Pluto was no longer considered a planet. One student even blurted out, "Pluto got blowed up?"

No, it was more like being voted off the island. Maybe I should tell the kids that there was one big episode of Solar System Idol, and Pluto's performance just wasn't up to snuff. Some experts questioned its choice of "I Can't Go for That" by Hall and Oates, and the gold lame outfit really had people wondering. Here's what the judges had to say:

Randy: You rock, dawg! Really! You're a rock, and you're named after a Disney dawg!

Simon: That was really pathetic. You call yourself a planet -- but where's the warmth? I've seen more personality and spirit from an errant comet. Next you'll be claiming planethood for that so-called "moon" of yours.

Paula: Our mystic fathers joined together to drink from the river of the galaxy. I feel like the ultimate bingo winner in a high-stakes universe with multiple realities. Meet me in my dressing room.

And then, ultimately a big group of scientists banded together to kick Pluto to the curb.

I did tell the kids that one of the reasons for Pluto's exile was that it did not meet size requirements. It was just too small to be a planet. So one of the kids asked me, "So Pluto is so small it would fit in this room?" Um, noooo, not quite THAT small. "But it would fit inside the school, right?"

To them, small means a cat, and big means an elephant. Anything beyond that, and they have a very hard time comprehending. So telling them Pluto is small is kind of like telling them that Pinot Noir from 1857 is overrated -- they're just not going to grasp it.

But maybe that shouldn't be a problem, seeing as how Pluto is not on the approved list any longer...

Monday, April 23, 2007

It was the best of blogs, it was the worst of blogs

Hey, I just noticed that the best of blogs awards for 2007 has wrapped up. Congratulations to the winner, NYC Educator!

It was an honor just to be nominated. And a very special thank you to the 18 people who voted for me. I know that they can't ALL have been my mother...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

These dudes are funny

I was surfing over to The Teacher's Blogboard this evening, and I saw this video, posted from a site called TeacherTube-- and educator's equivalent of YouTube. Check it out, because it is hilarious...

Here is the page -- look for the video in the center of the page.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cleanup on aisle three

This past week was an incredibly long one. On Monday, I was already tired from a lack of sleep, and then it just so happened to be the last instructional day before the math TAKS, so there was that pressure of trying to squeeze in as much knowledge as possible around the cracks in my students' brains.

Tuesday, while my kids were scratching their heads and racking their brains for the test, I was in Ms. Five's fifth-grade classroom all day long, working with her kids, since they weren't taking a TAKS that day.

On Wednesday, eight fifth-graders came down to my classroom to take the reading TAKS retest, since they didn't pass the first time. Mrs. Educator also had eight students in her room. The third graders who hadn't passed the first time were taking the retest in other rooms down the hall. So Wednesday was a day of being on my feet all day long, doing nothing but watching the kids work on their tests.

On Thursday, I was back in Ms. Five's room to monitor her class while they took the science TAKS. They are a well behaved group, but it certainly made for another long day.

As long as my week was, it could have been a lot worse. Poor Mrs. Educator had a MUCH worse week in her classroom. Three days out of five this week, somebody barfed in her room.

One of our little girls had leg surgery a couple of weeks ago and came to school on Monday in a wheelchair. She also had some brand new medication that she needed to take; medication that apparently did not sit well with her. Sometime before nine o'clock on Monday morning, Mrs. Educator came over to tell me the news that her class had been evacuated due to massive hurling. Not a pretty thought.

On Wednesday, one of the fifth-graders taking the TAKS in her room clearly had a bad case of the nerves, and he spewed chunks all over his test booklet, desk, and the surrounding floor. She had to move her testing group into the vacant room next to mine. And if you happened to read my brother's comment on my last posting, he wasn't exaggerating about the procedure involved when a kid pukes on his test. In addition to cleaning up the mess in the room, someone had to come in and clean off the test booklet as much as possible, and secure the test booklet in a plastic baggie to be sent back down to Austin with the rest of the test materials. CSI-style, as Phin says. I guess they did everything except dust the vomit for prints.

On Friday, our sweet little ralfer from Monday returned to school, this time with a walker instead of a wheelchair. She took the TAKS in the morning with a couple of other kids that had missed test day, and she was with us in Mrs. Educator's room in the afternoon when we were having our popcorn party and watching Aladdin. She was actually sleeping in the back of the room. I was sitting in the back enjoying the antics of Genie, Carpet, and Abu when I suddenly heard a sound that made me think someone had knocked a drink over on the table. I looked over, only to see that poor little A had completed the hat trick for the week (the Vom-hat trick, if you will).

I can only hope that next week puts people back in better health. And barring that, that they continue to review their stomach contents somewhere OTHER than my room...

Monday, April 16, 2007

A massive cover-up

Since the math TAKS is tomorrow, I was scurrying around like a buzzing bee trying to cover up everything that needed to be covered up in my classroom. Normally, I would have to do the bulletin boards outside in the hallway as well, but I came to a mutually valuable agreement with my coworker, Mrs. Math. She would cover my bulletin boards if I would cover the number line in her room.

The reason that we are always given as to why we have to cover up all "text and numbers" in our rooms before the math test is so that the kids can't see anything that might help them or give them an unfair advantage with a problem on the test.

That got me thinking that perhaps I should send a letter to the Powers That Be expressing my room's unreadiness.

Dear District Personnel:

I began covering aspects of my room today, per instructions for TAKS administrations, but I have begun to realize how futile my efforts are. You see, if I am to remove all the visual aids that might unfairly help my kids during the test, it's not enough for me to merely place construction paper over my number line (so that the kids will not be able to look up and see what number comes after 42) or over my Word Wall (so that the kids will not be reminded of the proper spelling of the word "cylinder" -- even though any question relating to a cylinder will already have the word right there).

Verily, even covering up my Classroom Rules, which, granted, ARE mathematically numbered from one to five, or covering up my cursive alphabet strips (I guess so that kids will remember to PRINT their extra work, instead of handwriting it?) is not sufficient!

You see, there are many more things in the classroom environment that might help them on the test. For instance, a child may glance up from his/her exam and notice the shades on the windows. The shades can be pulled up or pulled down, and thinking about these options might remind the child of estimation, where they are required to round up and round down. These shades will need to be removed immediately. Also, the ceiling tiles in my classroom are square in shape AND are arranged in a geometric pattern. I would absolutely hate for a test monitor to enter my room and see how easily a student could be reminded of such topics by simply looking up. I would like to request that my ceiling be removed before the test tomorrow, or at the very least, that a large tarp is provided to cover the tiles.

My third graders go to lunch every day at the same time. They already know when lunch will be served, and they will be constantly thinking throughout the day about how much time they have left until lunch! Do you agree with me that this is a constant reminder of elapsed time? I suggest that no lunch is served on TAKS days, or if that is not possible, that the time to eat is chosen completely at random. Maybe they'll eat at 8:43, maybe they'll eat at 1:59. Oh, and we should also send the kids home at separate times; perhaps some sort of lottery system could be put into play?

Earlier in the year, when we talked about measurement and units of length, we associated each unit of length with a part of the body. An inch is about the length from the tip of the thumb to the first knuckle. A foot is about the length from the elbow to the wrist. I am sad to report that all of the children in my class this year are in possession of thumbs, elbows, and wrists, and this will undoubtedly assist these children in any measurement questions that might arise on the TAKS. I feel that the child's OWN body parts are acceptable help, but other children in the room will be unacceptable visual reminders. Therefore, we will need to administer the TAKS to each child separately, with no other human beings in the room.

Actually, it occurs to me that the classroom itself is a rectangular prism. What can we do about putting each child into an amorphous physical structure?

Thanks for taking all of these things into consideration. If you could have some answers back to me by tomorrow morning, I would greatly appreciate it. Otherwise, will have to implement these things next year.

Your loyal servant,

Mister Teacher

Friday, April 13, 2007

What an incredible smell you've discovered!

Continuing in my attempt to wrap up the actual PROJECT part of the kids' science projects before TAKS, three of my boys did their experiment today -- "Can you identify an object by its smell?"

To give them their due, these boys had brought in their materials several weeks ago. That fact will come into play later.

The project involves bringing in an unsuspecting test subject, blindfolding him or her, and then holding objects in front of that person's nose and asking them to identify the object by its smell.

The items that they chose to use were:

a bag of Hot Cheetos
a dirty sock
an old tennis shoe
a lime
a small thermos filled with strawberry milk

Sitting in my room for two weeks didn't much affect the cheetos, the sock, the shoe, or the lime. However, it didn't do too much good for the strawberry milk.

We wound up pretty much reenacting that old Saturday Night Live skit where one guy says, "YUUCCCKKKKKK!! This milk is rancid!!!" And his buddy says, "EWWWWW... Let me try!!"

All of the kids had to smell the milk, whether they were involved with the project or not. I even watched as one kid recoiled in disgust and then 30 seconds later shouted, "let me smell that again!"

And to answer the question that I know you're curious about:

Of COURSE I smelled the milk myself...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

If a third grader falls in the forest...

Earlier this week, all of the kids in my homeroom helped out with one of the group's science projects. The project was titled, "Can you tell where sound is coming from if you're blindfolded?"

(Their original title was "Can you hear a sound when you're blindfolded?" but I convinced them that trying to pinpoint the direction might be a better idea."

The experiment involves having one person stand in the center of the room, wearing a blindfold, while one member of the experimenting group moved somewhere else in the room and tapped on a book's cover with a pencil. The blindfolded person was then supposed to point in the direction they thought the sound was coming from.

So I went first. I put the blindfold (an old headband really) over my eyes in the center of the room, and when I heard the tapping, I pointed to where I felt I was coming from. I was relieved to hear the boy say, "Yes."

Then one at a time, the other 14 kids not performing the experiment were blindfolded and subjected to the same rigor. One at a time, they all pointed in the correct direction.

Then the three kids who are doing the project took their turns. And one by one, all three of them pointed in the wrong direction when the tapping began. I'm not sure if they were just REALLY disappointed that no one had gotten it wrong so far and they wanted to spice up the data, or if they just have really poor hearing. But I think we can rest assured, if the world ever sees true superheroes, Daredevil will not be coming from this group of three...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Can I get a side of larceny with that?

Yesterday, I guess I was still sleepwalking after the four-day Easter holiday. I did something that I'm quite frankly ashamed to admit.

I'm not normally a kleptomaniac, and I really DO believe the commandment Thou shall not steal, but I actually walked out of the school cafeteria yesterday without paying for my lunch.

I didn't even realize what I had done until after lunch, and after recess, when I discovered that I still had the two dollars in my pocket. So I thought back to what had actually happened in the cafeteria...

I was watching my kids go through the lunch line, and the cafeteria lady asked what I'd like, and I got my tray from her with chicken nuggets and green beans. I continued to watch my kids go through the lunch line. Then I looked up at the clock and noticed it was past 11:30, so I headed out of the cafeteria. Sure enough, I never stopped to pay.


For some people, a buck seventy-five wouldn't even register on their guilt-o-meter. They have to pilfer at LEAST $30 worth of stuff before they even felt a twinge of remorse. But I've always been the class nerd who stresses out if he owes a nickel for a day-late library book.

So I threw myself on the mercy of the cafeteria staff first thing this morning. And today at lunch, I made sure to pay for yesterday's AND today's meals.

I feel relatively confident that no charges will be pressed and that I will continue to live a free man.

And while we're on the subject of completely bone-headed moves, I pulled another doozy today.

It's something that, as a teacher, really needed to be done. But as a human being, I realized how utterly stupid I was being as soon as the words were out of my mouth.

My little girl who got suspended by the fifth-grade teachers last week has not come back to school. Her suspension is over, and she was supposed to be back yesterday. I happened to see her brother this afternoon. I asked him where his sister was and why she wasn't at school. He said something about her not being able to find her suspension note and not knowing if she could come back without it.

So, like the chicken nugget thieving fool that I am, I said, "Tell her she doesn't need that note -- she supposed to be at school."


So stupid. So stupid. So stupid. So stupid. So stupid. So stupid. So stupid. So stupid.

Maybe her brother will forget to mention it to her. Yeah, and maybe I'll forget to pay for my lunch again tomorrow…

Monday, April 09, 2007

Can we fix the thermostat or something???

Last week started off quite nicely. It was warm in the mornings, and nice and sunny for recess, and on Tuesday, it had even gotten up to the high 80s and in some places, low 90s!

The bluebonnets are out in full bloom, and one of these days, I will take a picture and post it on here.

So imagine my surprise to walk outside on Saturday and find it snowing. Sure, it was Texas snow, so it didn't actually hit the ground or accumulate anywhere (at least not in Arlington), but still -- snowflakes in the sky, IN APRIL???

Curse you and your inconvenient truth, Al Gore!!!

Bargain hunters

On Thursday, which was basically our Friday last week, one of the math tutors who works next door to me came over and told me a funny story.

She had been working on a word problem with some of my kids that read, "Mary went to the store and bought 2 pairs of shoes. Each pair of shoes cost $25. How much money did Mary spend at the store?"

One of my kids, A, leaned over to the tutor and said, "Mary should have gone to the Family Dollar store."

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Another worthless (?) Mnemonic

OK, so maybe I'm just spinning my wheels here, but I tried another silly memory device out on the kids today.

First I asked who liked the movie Toy Story. Of course, everyone raised their hands (including me). So then I made sure that they knew who Buzz Lightyear was. Which they did.

Then I said, "And you remember that part in the movie where he shouts…

‘To the SYMMETRY and beyond!’

And then he hits the little red button on his chest, and his wings pop up, exactly the same on both sides, just like he has a line of symmetry?”

Of course the kids’ first reaction was to argue with me -- "THAT'S not what he says!!!”

But they still thought it was pretty funny and were repeating it a few times.

So during our after school tutoring session, I asked my kids if they could show Mrs. Educator our new way of remembering symmetry, what we could say, and nearly everyone of them busts out with, "May the fourths be with you!”


I had to bite my tongue not to utter another Buzz Lightyear-ism—

“You are a sad, strange, little man, and you have my pity.”

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

One Shining Moment

Congratulations to the University of Florida for winning the national basketball championship and becoming the most recent team to repeat as back-to-back champions. But I'm not talking about THAT shining moment.

I'm talking about the Stephen King novel, The Shining. As in, I feel like chopping a hole in my classroom door with an axe and yelling, "HEEEEERRRRRRE’S JOHNNY!!!”

Today I administered the fifth-grade math TAKS. The eight kids that were in my classroom were very well behaved, and seemed to take the test seriously.

Meanwhile, my out-of-control third-graders continued to be out-of-control. Remember Forced Tears Girl from yesterday? This is a girl whom Mrs. Educator and I could write discipline referrals on any day we chose, but we usually let things slide. Yeah, her.

BOTH the fifth-grade teachers replacing Mrs. Educator and me wrote her up today. It's really saying something to have someone who has just met you be so upset at you. But somehow this girl manages. Just last week, she ticked off the visiting audiologist who was giving my class hearing checks. Apparently, A in my class was not raising her hand whenever she heard the beep. Things did not correlate the way they should. And the lady got very upset.

And she doesn't even have to deal with this girl every day!!

At least I know it's not just kids from my class. Two of the other third-grade teachers told me that they suspended two of THEIR kids today as well.

So over the course of a week, 4 third-graders have been suspended, with less than 10 school days left until our math TAKS.

What the HELL is going on here???

Monday, April 02, 2007

Jane, stop this crazy thing!

At what point exactly do you begin to think that your students might be out of control? Is it when you find headless chicken and other fowl scattered around your classroom? If so, then my class hasn't quite reached THAT point yet. Emphasis on "yet."

My partner, Mrs. Educator, took last Friday off. When she came back today, she discovered that her pencil sharpener had been ripped off of the shelf. This is one of those little crappy crank-driven sharpeners that mounts to any surface with four screws. The mount itself is still fastened to her shelf. Somehow, the kids actually tore the metal, snapping the body of the sharpener off of the mount.

Think goodness there weren't any poor defenseless chickens nearby to suffer the same fate!

And while we're on the topic of out-of-control -- when I went to pick my class up from the cafeteria today, I noticed that it was a much smaller group than I had delivered TO the cafeteria. Typically, I follow the “quantity in must match quantity out” rule of thumb, but there were five kids who had been taken to the Assistant Principal's office.

After recess, the Assistant Principal, Mrs. Senorita, came by to deliver the gang of five. It turns out that they had taken an empty Cheetos bag and started stuffing it with random food. Jell-O, milk, taco meat runoff, etc. And then they started passing it around. Maybe they were trying to create their own version of Cheese, I don't know.

But rather than just throwing the darn thing away, some of them started screaming loudly, which is just never a good thing to do in the cafeteria, or really inside anywhere.

When Mrs. Senorita came by with the kids, a couple of them were already crying. One of the girls in trouble, a girl who is ALWAYS involved when trouble is to be found, started blinking really hard, clearly trying to force herself to cry. I was tempted to say, "You might want to try plucking a leg hair or two,” but I really didn't want to encourage her.

And after spending about 15 minutes away from my class, out in the hall with the miscreants, I had about 30 minutes back in the room with the kids before I had to leave to go to a meeting about one of my other new kids. A meeting that lasted for the rest of the day.

Before I left, I told the TA who was watching my class that the kids should finish the last two problems on the page we were working on. After everyone was done, he could pick a few kids to go up to the board and show how they solved those two problems.

When I saw him later, at around 3:30, he told me that they had done that page and that it had taken them the entire day (a little over an hour from when I had left). Oh, and that Forced Tears Girl had refused to do anything, even resorting to lying on the floor and having a tantrum. Which I have to admit, really doesn't surprise me at all, coming from this girl.

But when I got back to my room, I pulled out all of the kids' folders, one at a time, and I looked at the page they were supposed to have done. Even after having over an hour to work on them, AND having had people solve these problems up on the board, there were still five kids who had not done those two problems! Thankfully, only one of those kids was also one of the cafeteria troublemakers (and I'm not even counting FTG).

But this just really ticks me off. A day of stupidity, and third-graders gone wild. Oh, and I never even mentioned the behavior of my Behavior Program Exchange Student.

Forget timeouts and losing recess... It's time to start taking field trips away.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Best of Blogs, Take 2!

I wandered over to The Best of Blogs page again today, and I see that the voting is now live. I'm still not sure exactly why the blog that I nominated, Education in Texas, is not listed among the finalists, but it should be.

But I am very honored to have been nominated myself, so if you like this blog, Learn Me Good, please feel free to head on over to the voting page and cast your ballot for me! Just don't forget to completely punch out your chad...

Worst Assembly Ever!

We ended last week with a flurry of assemblies, at least that's the way it seemed. We had the "Cheese" assembly on Thursday, which actually went very well, thanks in large part to the third-grade teacher who presented. She kept the kids' attention, and I think she really got the point across.

On Friday, we had ANOTHER assembly, this time for a PTA fundraiser. And the difference between the two assemblies was like night and day. How to run an assembly and how NOT to run an assembly.

This lady on Friday actually started off her presentation by telling the kids how unprepared she was.

"I didn't know there would be so many people here, so I didn't bring a microphone."

Yeah, next you'll be telling us how you were out of deodorant and didn't have the time to go to the local Walgreens.

Then she attempted to make some joke, at least I assume she thought it was a joke because right afterwards, she followed it with, "I'm dying up here." We're not even a minute into her presentation, folks.

For the past three years, the fundraiser has been for the kids to sell World's Finest Chocolate. It was always the same guy who would come and talk to the kids about it, and he was a really good speaker. He would do really cheesy magic tricks, but they got the kids excited and kept their attention.

This lady was like the Anti-Chocolate. I think she had most of the kids wanting to try Cheese to pep themselves up after being bored to death.

After talking about selling coupon books (or something; I'm still not sure exactly what the kids are supposed to be doing), she made the fatal mistake of taking questions from the audience. Because once one or two kids get to ask questions, they ALL want to ask questions, or sometimes just say something that's on their mind.

"I was just going to tell you, I went to the store last night and I saw green toothpaste AND red toothpaste!"

OOOOOkay, and WHAT does that have to do with selling coupon books?!?

I'd really like to have those 30 minutes back, but alas, I know they are forever gone. Maybe next year, they'll bring back the magic chocolate guy, and Droopy can take some lessons from him...