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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Teacherdo List

Tomorrow is August 1st, which means I have a little less than a month to go before the new school year gets underway. So I've put together a little To Do list of things that need to be accomplished before August 27th.

1) Brush up on my times tables -- 6 X 9 is close to 60, but since I teach math, I need to relearn my multiplication facts.

2) Give blood -- the 2nd-grade teachers have already informed me that I will have "the class from hell" this year, so when the vein in my temple bursts, I want to be sure I have a replacement supply on hand.

3) Fix the pencil sharpener -- one of my angels broke it last year when I wasn't around, and now when you put a pencil into it, it makes a horrible sound that makes me think that somewhere, a unicorn is dying.

4) Continue my attempts to conjure paper out of thin air -- since my school has been cutting the number of copies we can make every year, I expect we'll be able to give every student one half-page assignment every six weeks.

5) Get all of my shots -- to protect against influenza, scarlet fever, pink eye, SARS, mad cow disease, Asian bird flu, Alabama armadillo affliction, and Dutch elm disease.

Doubtlessly, more tasks will be added before the 27th. But this will at least get me started. Feel free to suggest any on YOUR To Do list...

Monday, July 30, 2007

The 300 -- a review

Can you believe it, this is my 300th post!!! It seems like only yesterday, I was posting good old number 297...

A couple of weeks ago, I sent out my book, Learn Me Good, to a company called Apex Book Reviews. As you may guess, this company reviews books. A few days ago, they e-mailed me a copy of the final review, and I was very pleased. This is supposed to be going up on Amazon and other sites (and possibly even in selected newspapers) soon, but I wanted to go ahead and post it here, because it is pretty awesome!

So without further ado...

Learn Me Good
John Pearson
ISBN: 9781411665897
Reviewed By Janet Pearson

Learn Me Good tracks the weekly correspondence sent between Jack Woodson and his former co-worker, Fred Bommerson. Having been laid off by Heat Pumps Unlimited, a thermal design firm in Texas, Jack pursues a new career path, spurred mainly by the enjoyment he's always derived from working with kids. With a natural knack for math & science, he becomes a third-grade teacher, embarking upon new adventures in the field of public education - the magnitude of which he can only imagine.

Jack quickly adapts to his new responsibilities, even quipping to Fred about the status report
he'll soon send to the Alumni Office at his alma mater, Duke University:

"Jack M. Woodson (Duke engineering, class of .95) is currently living and working in Dallas,
TX. He has forty children, and all of them have different mothers."

Thus begins Pearson's tale, an engaging study in the real education that goes on in the classroom, outside of textbooks, hall passes, and morning announcements. With its subtle cynicism, biting wit, and endless allusions to pop culture, Learn Me Good draws you in with just how easily Jack's everyday experiences with eight. and nine-year-old children parallels that which we experience with fullgrown adults on the job, at home, and everywhere else.

Without apology, Pearson takes jabs at every aspect of what passes for normalcy among today's
childrearing practices. He even pulls off this commentary on the conduct of a school district representative assigned to check the students' eyesight with sardonic aplomb:

"She felt that some kids may not WANT to wear glasses, so she made her pitch, and I
quote: 'I think glasses are SEXY!...' Should you really use the word 'sexy' around eight- and nineyear-olds? It's like airing a commercial for Bacardi rum in the middle of an episode of Sesame Street (Today's episode is brought to you by the letter B and the number 151!)"

And consider this assessment of the real priorities of today's youth:

"Chassity had been caught writing a note to one of the other girls. The gist of the note was
basically 'You're a witch. Who's a witch? You are, you witch.' And on, and on. Only, she didn't use the word 'witch,' instead preferring a more socially unacceptable rhyming word. Kelly and I had joked about the fact that nearly all of the words in the note were misspelled EXCEPT for that one word."

Pearson tramps the hallowed ground of public education with piercing wit and unrelenting irreverence, giving it a not-so-good-natured - but much needed - ribbing. He even takes a fair swipe at the current presidential approach to education:

"No Child Left Behind? No Child Left Untested Till He's Blue In The Face is more like it."

It's not always fun and games, though. Throughout his narrative, Pearson does an effective job of pointing out the various nuances of public education that rarely bring about smiles and laughter. Chief among these is the concept of mobility rate: the tendency of students to enroll and withdraw at the school at an alarming frequency. He even goes so far as to make the point that merely weeks into the new school year some teachers could have an entirely different class of students, which often makes them ruefully aware of the attachments that come and go:

"Why can't the good ones stay?? I know, I'm being selfish, I'll admit it. I'm just afraid when a
good kid leaves, because it just opens a hole for another Mark Peter to come in."

Considering the fact that Mark Peter routinely steals teachers' items and physically terrorizes other students, one can hardly blame Jack for this sentiment.

Timely, insightful, and absolutely hilarious, Learn Me Good needs to be required reading for anyone considering teaching as a profession. Much like the crip notes for War & Peace, it's an indispensable guide to all the real training you'll never formally get.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Midway is open

Once again, Mike in Texas is hosting the Carnival of Education!

There, you will not encounter any NFL quarterbacks betting on dogfights, immature starlets arrested on DUIs, or jerks posting spoilers to The Deathly Hallows...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Attack of the Easy Bake Oven

Growing up as a boy, as I did, I never had any experience with toys like Hasbro's Easy Bake Oven. However, a story in the paper the other day caught my eye. It seems that the hot pink, miniature provider of quarter-sized cupcakes is being recalled from stores everywhere. And this is the second time in less than a year!

Back in February, Hasbro was getting loads of complaints from parents whose kids were actually getting injured while attempting to bake. Second and third degree burns were reported, and one five-year-old girl even had to have a finger partially amputated! Poor "Pinky" Patterson has been scarred for life, one would suppose.

My guess would be that the decision in the early 80s to replace the Easy Bake's heating filament with a small ingot of nuclear-grade plutonium has come back to bite them. I mean, to cupcakes really need 2,550ºF temperatures to rise??

This story only opens the door for many more classic childhood icons to be recalled.

Rubik's Cube: Reports are that it causes carpal tunnel syndrome and color blindness.

Monopoly: The "iron" game piece does not actually reach temperatures necessary to create crisp creases on dress shirts.

Stretch Armstrong: Stretches, yes. But arms are not very strong.

GI Joe: Kung-Fu Grip causing numbness and tingling of fingers and other body parts.

Strawberry Shortcake: Not edible or fit for human consumption, as name would suggest.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Quien es muy macho?

Hello, my name is Mister Teacher, and I am a male teacher.

(Hi, Mister Teacher!)

Ms. Longhorn over at Fractions Speak Louder Than Nerds (funny name!!) has posted about the dearth of the XY chromosome within the education career path. She suggests that kids in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades are actually being done a disservice by having nothing but female teachers. If she were an ad-writer for the profession, this would appear in newspapers all across the country:

Seeking educated male with BA/BS and TeXes certification to work with 5-150 women daily who all eye you like a T-Bone steak anytime you walk into the room. Oh right, and you can change the world by teaching some little'uns too.

I honestly haven't felt like a piece of meat too often over the past four years. At least, not like it was during the teacher certification process, when I was the one guy among 30 girls.

I think that the trend has actually changed a lot in the last 10 years or so. I certainly never had any male teachers in elementary school; the first dude to teach me was my freshman algebra teacher in high school. But I actually teach at an elementary school where there are a lot of males.

When I first started there, there were only 5 or 6 of us that taught a grade level. The PE coach, the music teacher, the computer teacher, and the art teacher were all men, but as for K-6 teachers, there were only a handful. Over the past few years, there has been a lot of turnover at my school, and a lot more men have been hired. If Ms. Longhorn is correct, then this trend is very beneficial to the students at my school. However, I personally had mixed feelings about it, seeing as how each new man was one less possibility for a hot, single girl to fill a spot.

Personal feelings aside, most of the parents, and a lot of the kids are certainly more accustomed to having female teachers. On the very first day of my very first year, I got a couple of comments from parents, telling me, "My child has never had a man teacher before." I really couldn't tell whether they thought this was a good thing or a bad thing. I mean, I'm sure their child had also never had a three-headed Martian teacher with no ears before.

I've also had a few students over the years refuse to come into my classroom because they are downright terrified of me. I'm guessing this doesn't happen too often with female teachers.

At any rate, there are certainly a lot of male teachers in the blogging world. For anyone interested, here is a short list:

Ed U. Cater (who actually works with me)
Mike in Texas
Mr. Chips
California Teacher Guy
The Smithie

Let's hear it for the men!!

Also, an update on the YouTube Challenge:
A big thank you to Redkudu for getting the ball rolling, but she no longer "pwns" me, which my girlfriend will no doubt be thankful to hear...
Don't miss out on your chance to win a T-shirt!

Here are some more blog sites run by male teachers.

Teaching in the 408
Secondhand Thoughts
So You Want to Teach

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

We're just wild about Harry

Book 7 in the Harry Potter series -- The Deathly Hallows -- goes on sale this weekend. While many look forward to it with a sense of anticipation, it is also with a sense of dread, as this is the end of the line. There will be no more Quidditch, no more Order of the Phoenix, no more brushes with child abuse at Number 4 Privet Drive.

First things first, this post is a discussion about Harry Potter which contains summaries and speculations. There are no spoilers here, assuming you have read the first six books. Anything that I suggest is based on my own thoughts, and not leaked secrets that I have heard about. If you have not read all six books that are currently available, there may in fact be some spoilers. Read at your own peril.

Due to the set up, especially from book 6 -- The Half-Blood Prince -- book 7 will undoubtedly be a ginourmous tome. Harry and his pals have so much ground to cover. There are Horcruxes to be rounded up and destroyed, Death Eaters to be rounded up and imprisoned, and a certain Dark Lord to be rounded up and sent to oblivion. (Or Bolivia, if you're Mike Tyson.)

So let's take a look at the matter of these Horcruxes. Physical objects into which Voldemort has placed pieces of his own soul. We know that two of these have already been destroyed. Tom Riddle's diary was demolished in The Chamber of Secrets, and Dumbledore himself took care of a ring -- at the cost of one of his arms -- towards the beginning of The Half-Blood Prince.

The other Horcruxes (of which I believe there are 5) could probably be spun off into their own series, with the Junior Order of the Phoenix tracking them down and having adventures along the way. However, we know that Rowling has to wrap this thing up in one final book. Therefore, the gang must not need to take too long to find them.

My feeling is that we have already seen three of these Horcruxes. Voldemort's snake is almost certainly a Horcrux. There has also been a lot of speculation on line that Harry himself is a Horcrux. I have slowly started to agree with this myself. It makes a lot of sense. It would go a long way to explaining why Voldemort disappeared after attacking Harry -- losing that last piece of his soul weakened him too much. It would also explain why Harry can speak Parseltongue, why he and Voldemort have practically the same wand, why Harry can so often see through the eyes of Voldemort and his snake, AND why the Sorting Hat in book 1 suggested putting Harry in Slytherin House, saying, "It's all right here, in your head."

The third Horcrux that we have already seen is the locket. Remember the locket that Dumbledore practically killed himself to get in The Half-Blood Prince? Yeah, that wasn't it. The TRUE locket Horcrux is in The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black. There are two clues to support this claim. First, there is a scene in The Order of the Phoenix where Harry and the kids are cleaning and sorting things in the headquarters at 12 Grimmaud Place. An enchanted music box almost puts them to sleep, some doxies try to sting them, and they find a heavy locket which no one can open. Seemingly a throwaway line in book 5, which gains much greater importance upon reading the end of book 6. The other clue is what is actually found in the locket that Dumbledore retrieves from the bottom of the poison. There is a note from someone saying that they have already destroyed the locket. This note is signed "R.A.B.” Who else could R.A.B. be but Sirius’s brother, Regulus Black? (And really, don't you just love how they're all named after stars? Sirius, Regulus, Andromeda, Nymphadora, Bellatrix...) Regulus, a former Death Eater who tried to leave the fold, got the locket, and it would not surprise me at all to find that he already has the other Horcruxes stashed away at The House of Black as well.

Snape. Severus Snape. The teacher we love to hate. Don't even get me started on Alan Rickman, who plays Snape in the movies. He is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO incredibly good at what he does. It's such a shame that they've had to cut so many Snape scenes from the movies due to time limitations. That will NOT be the case with the next movie.

Back to the character. Is he good, or is evil? Lots of evidence to support either side. Personally, I have always been convinced that he is on the side of the right. I tend to refrain from outrightly calling him "good" because let's face it, the guy's a jerk. But jerks aren't necessarily evil. Anyone who has ever watched the new version of Battlestar Galactica knows that Col. Tigh, the XO, is a supreme a-hole. But if you need someone in a pinch to have your back, he's there. No doubt about which side he's on. (Yes, even in the last episode.) Same for Snape. He's got pronounced issues with Harry, stemming from his father, and he's not a nice person. But he IS a member of the Order of the Phoenix, and he IS working against Voldemort.

There's no denying that he killed Dumbledore. However, there are so many clues throughout the book to suggest that Dumbledore MADE him do that. First of all, Hagrid told the kids that he overheard a conversation between Dumbledore and Snape where Snape was trying to get out of doing something, but Dumbledore wouldn't let him. Second, Snape was not actually in on the attack against Hogwarts. He was in his office, unaware, until Professor Flitwick ran in to tell him what was going on. This was well after the attack had begun. Furthermore, Snape could very easily have killed Flitwick AND Hermione and Luna (who were standing outside of his door). Instead, he merely sent the two girls back into his office to look after the professor, whom he had stunned. He may very well have saved Flitwick's life by keeping him out of the fight with the Death Eaters. Third, when Snape does show up at the top of the tower, Dumbledore says pleasingly, "Severus... please..." I don't think he was begging for his life. I think he was pleading with Snape to follow through on their agreement.

If you recall, Harry himself nearly killed Dumbledore earlier in the story. Dumbledore made Harry swear to him that he would make him drink all of the poison in the cavern, no matter what happened. So as Dumbledore began to drink, Harry encouraged him to continue. Dumbledore actually reached a point at which he was shouting, "I want to die!" and "KILL ME!" Yet Harry, hating himself, and repulsed by what he was doing, continued to encourage Dumbledore to drink. Hating himself, and repulsed. How interesting then, that right before Snape kills Dumbledore, he is described as having a face etched with hatred and revulsion. Methinks Snape and Harry are not quite as different as they would like to believe.

Snape actually protects Harry at the end of the story. While chasing Snape across the school grounds, Harry keeps attempting to throw unforgivable curses at Snape. Yet each time, Snape stops him before Harry has even completed the word. He also throws back what seems to be a taunt, but what is actually a rather good piece of advice -- "Blocked again and again and again until you learn to keep your mouth shut and your mind closed, Potter!" Harry really needs to pick back up on his Occlumency lessons.

OK, now for the theories.

I think that Dumbledore's brother, who is the bartender of the Hog's Head Tavern in Hogsmeade, will come forth to help The Order of the Phoenix.

I think that Neville will survive and go on to be either the Defense against the Dark Arts professor, or the Herbology professor.

I think that people will more closely examine Snape’s pensieve and learn why exactly Dumbledore has always trust him.

I think there may be a chance for Draco Malfoy's redemption. I know it's a very small chance, but he DID falter when he had the chance to kill Dumbledore, and now that he's seen death (Hey! He can see Thestrals now!), he may not be so keen on following in his father's footsteps.

I think that the kids will find the locket and possibly a couple of other Horcruxes in Kreacher’s closet at 12 Grimmaud Place. Perhaps there will even be a Matrix-style Kung-Fu battle to the death between Kreacher and Dobby.

And as for the deaths.

I am almost certain that Snape will die. I think he will die saving Harry though. It will be a very heroic death, and Harry will have to live with the knowledge that Snape was not the person he always accused him of being. Come to think of it, it might actually be kind of cool if Snape died defending Hermione, whom he had always snubbed as being a "Mudblood.”

I really, really, really hope I'm wrong about this one, but I have always felt that Ron Weasley is a marked man. The best friend always bites the dust. I would love for Ron and Hermione to be a happy couple at the end of the story and walk off into the enchanted sunset, but I have a very bad feeling about this.

I also fear for the safety of my favorite teacher in the entire series – Remus Lupin. He has pretty much lost all of his best friends at this point. And though there is the romantic possibility with Tonks, he's bound to be right at the center of the final battle and right in harm's way.

My mom is convinced that one of the Weasley twins -- Fred or George -- will be killed. This would of course completely change the personality of the surviving twin, as there would likely be no more joke shop or frivolity.

Percy Weasley will die in his office at the Ministry of Magic, victim of a freak quill accident.

Thoughts? Theories? Suggestions? Get them out now! Just no spoilers please!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Reposting, number 1

I've noticed that over at Rookie Teacher's blog, she has been reposting some of her earlier blog entries. I think that's a pretty nifty idea, especially during these dog days of summer, when I really don't have anything new to post about.

So I'm digging back into the early days of Learn Me Good the blog. Back to a time when I didn't have so many readers (only 2 as opposed to my whopping 15 now). So a lot of people might not have even gotten to see this originally. So enjoy.

This was originally published on February 12, 2006.


As of tomorrow, there will be only 6 school days left until the 3rd grade TAKS reading test. This is the standardized assessment that all third graders have to pass in order to be promoted to the fourth grade. Part of President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" act, this high pressure test has been the cause of more stress than J-Lo's ample buttocks on her jeans. You know, Bush used to be the owner of the Texas Rangers, and look where THEY are. Too bad he never tried to implement a "No Major Leaguer Left Behind."

But here's my thinking. Since there's no escaping the TAKS, and such a huge deal is made of it, why not turn it into something truly productive? Everywhere you look, there are cries of despair over the lack of school funding. Why not kill two birds with one test? Let's get those upper administrators to get out there and drum up some corporate sponsorship!Students in DISD have to wear school uniforms now. Why not use some of that design-free space to advertise product? Hey, if it works for NASCAR, why not grade school?

Here are some ideas for slogans:

McDonalds: You deserve a test today.

Nike: Just pass it.

Trix: Silly rabbit, tests are for kids!

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

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

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

Monday, July 16, 2007

Texan in the lead

So far, the response to my YouTube Challenge has been overwhelming! OK, that would be an outright lie. But we do have a clear-cut leader!

RedKudu has posted a comment on each of the four Learn Me Good videos, so if the drawing were to be held today, she would be a clear favorite. However, the drawing is NOT being held today -- you have until September 1, so there is still a chance!

Check out the videos, post comments, and ratings and links are always appreciated!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Win a free T-shirt!!

My girlfriend is the greatest. Yesterday, out of the blue, she sent me a Word document that contained her idea for a new T-shirt. It consisted of a picture of the cover of Learn Me Good, above the words, "Read to me, Mister Teacher."

It would definitely be a vanity item, but how sweet is she to put that together?!

I went out to Best Buy yesterday and bought a brand new toy. It's a Canon digital camera, and it shoots small movies as well. So today, I filmed myself reading a few chapters out of Learn Me Good. And I just got done posting them to YouTube.

For those of you familiar with the book, the chapters that I read were 3rd and inches, flip-flops and a simple science lesson, an athletic supporter, and the eyes have it.

For those of you NOT familiar with the book, I'm hoping that my reading will give you a flavor for what the book is like.

I'm also going to run a little contest. It won't even require you to spend any money, though you will need to register with YouTube. All you need to do is view one of the above videos, rate it, and post a comment (on YouTube, not here). For every comment that you post (legitimate comment, not the same thing a hundred times), your name will be entered in a drawing. Post a comment on all four videos, get your name into the drawing four times.

On September 1, 2007, I will draw TWO names from the list of entrants, and those two people will each win a free T-shirt with one of the designs seen in my sidebar (I teach, therefore... or one of the others).

I hope that you will all check out my videos, and pass on the news of this contest to all of your friends and/or blog readers.

Again, thanks for your support.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Avoiding the NC-17

I found a site that rates blogs, according to the standards of the movie industry. I am very pleased to say that my blog, Learn Me Good, is family-friendly, receiving a PG rating. Apparently, the only reason I didn't get a G was because of two occurrences of the word "death," and a one-time "cocaine" reference. I must have done a review on Scarface or something...

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Back in Black

Hello, kiddies!

It is I, Mister Teacher, back from my vacation to Washington, DC! It was a great trip. I got to see several friends, and I stayed for most of the week with my old college roommate, Dr. McCheesy.

We saw several really good movies:

Live Free or Die Hard: Fantastic!

Transformers: Awesome!

Knocked up: Hilarious!

Also, as is our tradition, we had a night of “tasty beverages” and terrible movies. Crank, Breeders, Life Force. All of them atrocious, but at least Life Force had the added benefit of a hot chick who walked around naked for most of the movie.

While in DC, I got some walking in, played some hoops, watched a youth rugby game, had a very fun games night, and got snookered into paying almost 20 bucks for a salad. Needless to say, I shall not ever be eating at Whole Foods again, what with their cleverly obfuscated $9 per pound pricing policy.

Great trip, but it's good to be home. And in just a couple weeks, I get to experience the joy that is staff development continuing education!!


In other news, Learn Me Good seems to have hit a wall in the Blogger's Choice Awards. It has sat at 15 votes for about 3 weeks now. Seeing as how the top vote getter in the Education category has 145 votes, I certainly have my work cut out for me.

If you have not yet cast your vote, please do so here! And thanks to everyone who has already voted!