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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Time for an update!

The in thing nowadays seems to be sending out a mass mailing with a personal update for the entire year, so I have officially jumped on the bandwagon and gotten with the program! Just in time for the year 2009, I present to you, friends, family, and random surfers:

The year 2008 in review -- Mister Teacher Style!

January -- The year 2008 began with a bang, as I watched a beaten, bloodied man single-handedly kill four criminals. Of course that's because we stopped Die Hard with a Vengeance at midnight to watch the ball drop and then finished the movie a few minutes later.

Texas's bizarre weather patterns held true to form in January as one morning saw us throwing snowballs at kids as they were dropped off at school, while the afternoon found us baking in 80° heat.

February -- On the 21st of this greatest of months, I turned the big 3-5. Par the course, I lost two toes, my waist increased 8 inches, and my kidneys fell out. That's normal, right?

On February 29 of this very special Leap Year, while using my Fisher-Price "My First Microscope," I discovered a new subatomic particle and named it the "Dude." Time to loosen up, Cal Tech nerds.

March -- As we bewore the Ides of March, my nephew Josh turned one and spoke his first word. We were all sitting around the TV, watching the March Madness tourney when Josh crawled over to the center of the room, pointed at the screen, and said, "Krzyzewski!" I love that kid.

March was the month I got rich, as I received e-mails informing me that I had won, in succession, the Irish National Lottery, the UK Lottery, AND pills to make part of me much larger! I have yet to actually see any money (or growth), but I remain an eternal optimist.

April -- During the first weekend of April, my dad and I drove down to San Antonio to attend the men's college basketball Final Four. Our seats were roughly a mile from the court; nevertheless, we were treated to the most beautiful sight of Kansas outrightly SPANKING the University of North Carolina. (Not to mention the beautiful sight of a certain redheaded cheerleader.) Kansas would go on to win the whole shebang -- in overtime no less -- so we really got the most for our ticket price.

Easter came, and with it the end of Lent. I had given up soft drinks, so after Mass on Easter Sunday, I drank approximately 10 gallons of Mountain Dew.

May -- On a particularly memorable Memorial Day, I wound up getting trapped in the bathroom at my parents' house! My nephew Ethan is the founding member of the local "Pee Pee Patrol," whose duties include waiting until someone is in the restroom and then banging on the door, rattling the doorknob, and shouting, "You Finished??" every three seconds.

On this special occasion, his efforts actually jammed the door shut, and I was locked in the bathroom for what seemed like six hours. I eventually wound up having to take the door off its hinges (with the aid of some tools passed to me under the door), but not before gnawing my elbows off from the hunger.

June -- In early June, a very long school year finally ended, and there was much rejoicing. As the final school bus rolled, some teachers were shooting off pistols into the air, while others loudly chanted, "NANANANA, NANANANA, HEYHEYHEY, GOODBYE!!"

A week later, I was a contestant on a brand new game show called Whatta Ya Think? a show combining memory skills, math reasoning, and logical deduction. Needless to say, I totally rocked the competition and won myself a year of free massages and vitamins. Unfortunately, this game show has yet to actually be televised, so no one can witness my mental domination.

My eyes remain on the ultimate goal. Jeopardy! You WILL be mine!!

July -- A very busy month! First, the family and I made a road trip to Destin, Florida to enjoy the sandy beaches, cool water, and orange Speedos. A few days after returning from Florida, I flew out to California with a buddy to attend San Diego's Comic-Con 2008. That was a lot of fun, as we got to see Stan Lee, the cast of Heroes, and about 25 Princess Leias in gold bikinis.

In the midst of all this chaos, I tried a new shampoo, and the right side tingled. That means it's working!

August -- In August, the unheard of was actually heard of! I met a good-looking girl my age at a staff development workshop! Well, the workshop was actually at the end of July, but we started dating in August. As I write this, it's almost January, and we're still going strong. I have yet to find the chance to sit her down and force her to watch any of the Star Wars movies, but the day will come. Watch them intently, she shall.

At the end of the month, the new school year began. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself with two classes of only 12 students each. Good thing, since my new classroom is roughly the size of an airport men's room (but smells slightly better).

September -- In August, fresh off my return from Comic-Con and facing an imminent return to academia, I decided to combine the two. The result was a YouTube video titled, "Darth Vader Explains the Pythagorean Theorem." In September, a writer at the online version of The London Times got a whiff of my project and began spreading the word around her tiny island. Almost overnight, the video went from 300 views to 30,000 views.

With results like that, I am almost forced to continue the streak with videos such as, "Han Solo Demonstrates a Fourier Transform" and, "Boba Fett Discusses Unified String Theory."

October -- October proved to be a crazy month as my employer, DISD, empirically showed the value of having a math education, or rather the consequences of NOT having one. Turns out, they had hired 700-some new teachers but neglected to include 700-some new salaries in the budget. Low and behold, they found themselves over $40 million in the hole! Their solution? Why, fire teachers, of course!

Thankfully, I survived the layoffs, but eight weeks into the school year, I found myself in a new class, with 41 new kids (including three who don't speak English), a new partner, and a new subject to teach. At least I didn't get moved to kindergarten! (It's not a tumor!)

This month also saw the one-year mile-marker for me as a columnist for As a special surprise honor to commemorate the event, I treated myself to a Slurpee. Cherry!

November -- In November, my nephew Ethan turned four, and we were all invited to his themed birthday party. Adding the honorific, "Indiana Jones" to his name now brings it to, "Ethan Steele Pearson Spiderman Indiana Jones." Good luck, future teachers.

We opted not to do the Turkey Trot 5K this year, instead preferring to participate in the Turkey Sleep-in of '08. It was an overwhelming success.

November was a very good month for my book, Learn Me Good, as it sold 30 copies online and 40 or so copies off-line! We're still not as successful as Everybody Poops, but we're getting there!

December -- After having just been there in September, Mom and Dad got the urge to go back to Disney World and take the whole family. So I took three days off from school on the week before Christmas break, claiming temporary leprosy, and I went to the Happiest Place on Earth!

My two nephews had a blast meeting the costumed characters, and we had a blast watching their reactions. But I think we all know who the Little Mermaid was REALLY winking at.

Later in the month, we followed the usual -- the wildly popular Christmas movie marathon, a rousing midnight Mass (still at midnight!), and waking up Christmas afternoon to greet the day.

And that brings us up to speed! 2009 is right around the corner, with new adventures and experiences awaiting all of us!

Happy New Year to everyone!

Remember Zork?

If you do remember Zork, check out this ebay page and pass it on to anyone else you think might have an interest.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wanna write for me?

Can you believe 2008 is almost over? It seems like only yesterday that I was drinking champagne at midnight and changing the calendar. Oh yeah, that WAS yesterday.

But hey, in just a couple more days, we'll be doing it again, and this time with good reason!!

Since it will be January 2009 in just a few short days, I thought I'd lay out the invitation for an idea I'd like to try. I would like for January 2009 to be a month of guest blogging from FoLMeGs (Friends of Learn Me Good). I'm not trying to be lazy here, letting other people do the work for me. I'll still write my own posts from time to time. But I think it would be a neat way to let people read other writers' material as well as having other blogs link here to see the original author's posts.

Joel of So You Want to Teach? has already sent in a great post that I will be running during the first week of January, is anyone else interested? If so, please just drop me an email -- and let me know that you want to do it, pick a date if you have a specific one in mind, and if you already have a post in mind, sent it too. Otherwise, you can send it to me as your date approaches.

I hope that everyone who is a "regular" reader of Learn Me Good will take up the challenge, but I also hope that new readers or people who have stumbled onto this site will contribute as well. I look forward to the flood of emails starting...


Friday, December 26, 2008

Warm holiday wishes

After gorging myself with meats and sweets for the past 3 days, I have returned to my own home today, and believe it or not, it's 80 degrees outside! On the day after Christmas! This is of course after it was in the mid-twenties last Tuesday...

Nutty Texas weather.

This week's Mr. Teacher column on was again Christmas-themed, as it fell right on the holiday. It is titled, "New Holiday Classics." Enjoy my rewriting of a few favorite Christmas carols.

I hope everyone got what they wanted for Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's the best Christmas gift EVER, Charlie Brown!!

On Friday, one of my kids presented me with a Christmas gift. It was very festively wrapped in green and red paper, with a sweet little note attached that wished me a happy holiday and thanked me for teaching.

I unwrapped the gift and found a blue and white box that said, "Albuterol Sulfate Inhalation Solution, 0.083% -- For oral inhalation only."

Wow, somebody got me an asthma inhaler! SCORE!!! :)

Of course, (thankfully) they had only used the box as a carrier for the true gift, which turned out to be a bottle of Guess cologne.

Merry Christmas, everyone!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reason 7 to learn how to spell

Last night, one of my friends called and said he had an extra ticket to see the Cowboys-Ravens game. Since I hadn't seen my friends in a while, AND since I hadn't been to a Cowboys game in forever, AND since this was the very last Cowboys game ever to be played in Texas Stadium, I jumped at the chance to go.

I had a great time with my friends, we froze our butts off (high 30s outside), and the Cowboys let everyone down by losing miserably to the Ravens. But the real fun began afterwards.

We left a little early to avoid the rush, and we stopped at a restaraunt to get a bite to eat. We decided to sit in the bar area so we could see what was going on in the sporting world while we ate and talked.

Since it was the last game at Texas Stadium, there was a long ceremony going on after the game, with lots and lots of old Cowboys players and coaches and a lot of nostalgia. Well, the bar had close captioning turned on, and whoever was running the teletype machine was either drunk or Indian.

When the announcer talked about the great Mohammed Ali, it came up on the screen as "Mohammed Alley." The legendary coach Tom Landry was typed as "Tom Lan Dri." Emmitt Smith became "Em Met."

Some of the funniest were "Deks Ter Copely," "Jay Noef Chek," and "Rockyish Mel." (Dexter Coakley, Jay Novecek, and Rocket Ismail)

But the funniest of all was when the announcer started talking about the Cowboy's rusher of the 90s, Tony Dorsett, and he came up on the screen as "Tony Doorstep."

The Cowboys may have lost the game, but the evening sure had its entertainment.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Back and tired!

Home, home at last! Did anybody miss me?

Yes, I've been on vacation since Sunday; my family and I went to lovely Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. As you might expect, we had a complete blast, but getting up every morning at 7 and being in the parks from 9 to almost midnight makes me need a vacation from my vacation!!

Thankfully, I only had to come back and go to school two more days (tomorrow being the second) before a nice long two week break!!! YEAH!!!

This week's Mr. Teacher column on is titled, "Happy Holidays! Keep Studying!" It is a few tips for parents to keep their kids' brains from leaking information over the break. Check it out!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Get your vote on!

Ladies and gentlemen, presented for your approval, I would like to direct your attention to the ongoing voting for the 2008 Edublog Awards, where a couple of FOLMeGs (Friends Of Learn Me Good, I just thought of that. Again, I'm a genius) are on the ballot and worthy of selection.

First up, in the category of Best Teacher Blog is Carol from Bellringers!! Carol is a journalism teacher in the great state of Texas, and her postings are always witty, zany, and well-delivered.

Carol also has been writing a book, which will be coming out sometime early next year. Please go and read her stuff, and then go and vote for her for Best Teacher Blog 2008!

The second person on our list today is also a journalism teacher -- The Scholastic Scribe! The Scribe is up for the Best Individual Blog award.

The Scribe is a Very Prolific Writer, and she Loves her Capitalization, I've Noticed! :) Check out her stuff, and then place your vote!!

Behold the human calculator

I am smart. I mean REALLY smart. We're talking Earth-shattering GENIUS here!

Well, at least according to my kids.

The other day, I had picked my class up from art where Anonymous Joe was waiting at the door. I reminded them that they should thank him for getting them all copies of a multiplication song CD.

The kids thanked him and then started saying their 3s, with AJ singing right along.

3,6,9,12,15,18,21,24,27, 30.

By then, I was walking the kids down the hallway, and I added, "And don't forget 33 and 36!" since we learn the tables through 12 times, even though the songs stop at 10 times the number.

One of the little boys in line said, "Mister Teacher, do you know 3 times one million?"

I said, "Yes, it's 3 million."

About 5 kids in the line gave an awed, "WHOAAAAA" -- the same sound uttered by a crowded stadium when Lebron James jumps from the 3-point line and delivers a tomahawk dunk.

Another child asked, "Do you know SIX times one million??"

I replied, "But of course -- 6 million!"

By now there were murmerings in the line that I might be the second coming.

Another boy tested me, "Mister Teacher, do you know what is four. . . plus. . . three?"

"Um, seven."

"Oh yeah!!" said the boy, with a beatific smile on his face, as if I had just told him the meaning of life.

Genius. I like the sound of that.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sure enough, it's a full moon

Today was just one of those crazy days. One of those days where the kids got on my nerves, and where I wanted to throw my book across the room and scream, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME????" after every ridiculous answer. One of those days where I could actually count my blood pressure points rising, one by one, as I sat and stubbornly waited for a little girl to read the number 13,000 (took her about 5 minutes).

And that's not even counting the "groin" story!

After I had dropped my kids off at PE, I walked up to the office to check my box. As I passed the cafeteria, where all of the kindergarten kids were filing in to have their lunch, I heard a sudden wailing. In the space of one footstep, I held a mighty internal debate:

Do I stop and render assistance?

No, it's kindergarten, let them handle it, don't get involved.

Well, you've already looked at the scene of the crime, you shouldn't just walk past.

Oh hey, it's the little kid who sneezed and blew himself down in the bathroom, I wonder why he continues to scream like someone's attached electrodes to his tongue?

In the end, I applied the "Good Samaritan" law (you can't witness an accident and drive on past without checking on the situation), and I went over to see what was going on. I asked what happened, and one little boy calmly told me that the boy on the ground had hit him.

Yeah, that's usually the response when you hit someone, you keel over and scream incessantly. After a few minutes of interrogation, I discovered that the boy on the ground had hit the other boy in the butt, so THAT boy turned around and kicked the little kid in the junk. Hard, judging by his screams.

So glad I don't teach kindergarten.

By the way, this week's Mr. Teacher column is up at, and it's titled, "Stay Away from the Nog!" Just a few tips to keep your reputation intact during the company Christmas party.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, I was looking for blogs that reviewed books, and I came across a site called Reading Adventures. Marg, the author, was promoting an Advent Blog Tour, sort of along the lines of the Carnival of Education (this week's edition is currently running at Mamacita's place, by the way).

Every day, Marg posts links to a blog where the author shares a Christmas memory or tradition. Well, I'm just full of it -- tradition, that is -- so I promptly signed up for December 11th.

And here we are. I've read a couple of other stops on the Advent Blog Tour, so I know I won't be the first to talk about Christmas movies, but that is my family's major Christmas tradition. Every year, on December 23rd (which I call Christmas Eve Eve, but my sister-in-law insists on calling Christmas Adam), we have our family Christmas movie marathon.

Beginning around 5, we screen movie after movie after movie, until everyone decides it's just time to crash and go home. This usually happens around 4 or 5 in the morning, though people doze throughout the evening.

It's a Wonderful Life is always run during dinner, because we all know it by heart and there's really no reason to have to SEE Zuzu's petals or Clarence jumping into the river.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Bill Murray's Scrooged are ALWAYS shown, but the other movies rotate in and out from year to year. We've watched all the incarnations of A Christmas Carol, all 3 Santa Clauses, Jingle All the Way, The Preacher's Wife, Elf, Serendipity, A Christmas Story, Deck the Halls, Christmas with the Cranks, The Holiday, The Family Man, and many others I've forgotten over the years.

I think we put up Trading Places one year, but once we remembered that there is a lot of language and a few boobs (and there are several little kids at movie night), we decided to save that one for another evening.

As a tradition-within-a-tradition, my brother and I used to wait until most of the others had fallen asleep, usually around 3AM, and then put Die Hard into the VCR. After all, it IS a Christmas party at Nakatomi Tower!

I want to thank Marg for letting me part of the Advent Blog Tour, and thanks to everyone stopping by to read!

Monday, December 08, 2008

I hate it when that happens

Hey, I'm just brainstorming here, but I've come up with a list of things that you should try really really hard never to poke yourself in the eye with:
A pencil
Your elbow
A GI Joe action figure
A Slurpee straw
A lit cigarette
The top of a Christmas tree

Oh, and here's one... You know those pieces of wire that hold spiral notebooks together? You know how they can sometimes be manipulated by kids so that about 3 inches of the wire is protruding out the bottom hole of the spiral notebook? You know how you always tell the kids to be careful when that happens, and you usually loop it under another spiral or cut it off?

Well, I got a text from my girlfriend today that a kid at her school had gotten the wire from a spiral notebook stuck in his eye, and that the notebook was still attached!

I had visions of this wire going directly from the notebook to the center of some kids' pupil in the middle of his eyeball. YUCK!!

Later, she said that the wire had gotten stuck in the skin BELOW the eyeball, which is not quite as bad, but still pretty disgusting.

I'm still very curious as to how exactly something like this could happen. If the kid stooped over, peering into his desk, looking for the spiral, and it suddenly came to life and jumped out at him, protecting itself with the end of its spiral wire, then ok, I could see that. But otherwise, I got nothin.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Word Problem mania

Happy weekend, people! I don't know about everyone's schedule across the nation, but I think it's safe to say most of us only have TWO more weeks of school before a nice long Christmas break! And for yours truly, it's only ONE more week before I get to take a nice long trip to Disney World with the family, and then only TWO more DAYS when I get back!!! As Mickey Mouse would say, "YIPPPEEEE!"

In other news worth of a "YIPPPEEEE!!" Learn Me Good has passed the 100,000 mark! This happened sometime about 2 days ago, thanks to majorly increased traffic from the Christmas Carnival! What can I say, I'm a numbers guy, so this is exciting to me.

This week's Mr. Teacher column on is titled, "No More Field Trips," and it is a bit of a lament, seeing as how we were told at the beginning of the year that there was no money to pay for buses to take us anywhere. We're going to have a few people come to us, though, so all is not as Dickensian as it may seem...

A question for everyone reading this: Have you ever read Joel's blog -- So You Want to Teach? If so, you know what an incredibly insightful look at the teaching profession it is. Joel is a music teacher in South Texas, and (unlike SOME people attached to my head) his posts are not just feeble attempts to garner laughter, but rather deeply thoughtful musings about ways teachers can improve themselves, things to destress, and strategies to be more effective with kids and colleagues.

Currently, Joel seems to be concerned that his blog has shown up on some "marketing" searches, but I think that anybody who reads it on a regular basis (which I certainly do) knows where the meat of the matter is. The guy's really good. If you have NOT ever read So You Want to Teach? for whatever reason, stop what you are doing and go peruse the archives! You'll enjoy it, I guarantee!

Another great blogger, the Educat (she's ramblin! and quite possibly gamblin!) has tagged me with a meme she made up herself. I don't particularly enjoy memes (especially having to tag other people, as I always feel like I'm passing on a chain letter), but since the Educat broke her own rule not to meme I feel I can do the same for her.

Her meme is called Seven Posts about the Same Topic. Her directions are as follows:

Find old entries on your blog that center around the same topic and give us the links to them. We'll get to know your back catalog and your hits will shoot up (even if it's false inflation and only for a short time).

She chose the topic of State Testing. I probably have at least 7 posts about that topic as well (including one of my favorites, with the Six Flags height stick analogy here), but I think I'll choose a different topic.

My topic will be WORD PROBLEMS!! (I am, after all, a math teacher)

We'll start with the most recent example, which was relayed to me by another teacher at the school. That of a word problem which showed up written on the inside of a playground slide. When she first told me there was some grafitti I was a bit worried, but as long as all the computation is shown, I'm ok.

Next is a selection from last year, where I was big into suggesting the my students make the problems relative to their own lives. Who cares if Larry bought 14 cupcakes! Let's say YOU bought 14 cupcakes! Or someone you KNOW bought 14 cupcakes! My kids worked one of my teaching buddies into a problem with great results.

A short post here, where one of our math tutors came and told me about a rather frugal comment made to her by one of my kids.

Here's a post about some creative thinking from one of my new kids when it came to a word problem where the answer seemed mathematically obvious. Way to think outside the box!

Almost 2 years ago, I thought I had discovered that the 4 Gospel writers might very well have been poor math students.

Here's one from way back when, from a time I had my kids write their own word problems and share them with the class. Some were good, some not so much.

And to wrap things up, here's an idea I had for a brand new game show called Are You More Cynical Than a 3rd Grade Teacher? Word problems of a different sort.

OK, I think that's 7! Now comes the crappy part of memes, when I need to tag other people to continue the wave. I think I'll start with my "ghosts" from the recent Scrooge Carnival and tag:

Elementary History Teacher
Mrs. Bluebird

PS Don't forget to sign my guestbook at the bottom of the page!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Christmas Carnival

Hello everyone, and welcome to the 200th edition of the Carnival of Education! I am very honored to be hosting this round number of honored tradition, so I thought I would add a bit of holiday tradition to the festivities.

So without any further ado, I present A Blogger Carol:

It was a cold, bleak day in the classroom. The kids had gone home for Christmas vacation; Mister Teacher was, as usual, in a crotchety mood.

Suddenly, Mathew Needleman poked his head in through the door.

Mathew: “Merry Christmas, Mister Teacher!”

Mister Teacher: “What’s so merry about it? Merry for the kids, sure, they get to sleep and eat for two weeks, leaving us with papers to grade, lessons to plan, and – yuck – used Kleenex to fish out of their desks!”

Mathew: “Aw, don’t be such a scrooge. You know what would cheer you up? For one thing, how about adding some spice to your math class by using fantasy basketball stats like Mr. D does? And here’s an idea -- come have Christmas dinner with us this year! We’ll be celebrating Clix’s proposal which has qualified for a match by the Gates Foundation! We’ll even put ketchup on the table, just for you! It’ll be good for you! You can’t just sit at home on the internet again like last year. The Therapy Doc has a very interesting point of view about the vulnerability of bloggers.”

Mister Teacher: “Hmmm… Let me think about it. I’ll send you a text.”

Mathew: “OK, I’ll get… oh, you’re texting me now. All right, ok, I got it, let’s see here… 1 new message from Mister Teacher: ‘Bah Humbug.’ Very clever. See you in January, then. One more thing, though. You really should think about changing your classroom rules. They’re all so negative!”

Mister Teacher locked the classroom door and drove home, muttering all the way. Upon entering his house, he promptly sat down in front of his computer and logged in to As always, he was the only user online.

Suddenly, a loud wailing began emanating from the computer speakers. “EBENEACHER!! EBENEACHER!!!”

Slowly removing his hands from his ears and prying open his eyes, Mister Teacher beheld a wonderous sight. Poking out of his computer monitor was the entire head of Joel from So You Want to Teach?

Mister Teacher: “Joel!! My old partner!! But, but, you’re…”

Joel: “Dead?”

Mister Teacher: “Archived. How are you doing this? And why are you wearing that ridiculous scarf around your head?”

Joel: “Oh, that’s just my spooky avatar. Would you prefer it if I looked like Heather Locklear?”

Mister Teacher: “ Well, duh!”

Joel: “Get used to disappointment. And speaking of, I’m very disappointed in you, Ebeneacher!”

Mister Teacher: “Why do you keep calling me ‘Ebeneacher?’”

Joel: “Ebeneezer, Mister Teacher… Roll with me here. I’m working on a theme. Anyway, have you learned nothing from what happened to me??”

Mister Teacher: “What are you talking about? You were a legend in the teaching field! You made thousands from all the books on differentiated learning! You charged schools loads of money for public speaking appearances! You went unchallenged on everything you said, much like NYCEducator’s girl, DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee! You had the greatest business going!”

Joel: “MANKIND should have been my business!!”

Mister Teacher: “Um, ooooo-kay… I don’t even know what that means.”

Joel: “Me neither. (And by the way, over at the Core Knowledge Blog, they’re a little scared of Michelle Rhee, also.) But I don’t want you to go down the same path and wind up trapped in cyberspace, like me. Good will takes practice and repetition, much like learning a new musical instrument, according to Thomas J West!”

Mister Teacher: “Practice and repetition, eh? As I recall, you were never much on homework, even though you always said you agreed with Bogusia of Nucleus Learning on the purpose of homework!

Joel: “Only one of MANY mistakes before my untimely demise! I should have read rambunctiously, like Mr. McGuire suggests! I should have made a 2 year commitment! But enough about my missteps. I’m doing you a favor here, Ebeneacher. I’ve arranged for you to be visited by three Bloggers.”

Mister Teacher: “3 bloggers? I dunno, I’m kind of busy. Can’t they just add me as Facebook buddies?”

Joel: “Heed their words, Ebeneacher!! Or be forever DOOMED!!”

With that, the 3-D avatar faded from the screen and Mister Teacher found himself staring at a screen full of headlines.

Mister Teacher: “What a drama queen. OK, I’ll bite. Let’s see here, Joel hasn’t lost his predilection for lists. Here’s a link to Larry Ferlazzo’s choice for the 5 “Best” articles about education from this year, and One Family Blog presents a list of elementary school guides, workbooks, and assessment resources.

Lauren from Life Without School wonders if children are becoming too compliant in school.

Rightwingprof gives proof that it doesn’t really matter whether you are a syntax guy or a phonology gal, you’ll arrive at the same answer through analysis.”

Exhausted from the first semester of school and the events of the evening, Mister Teacher fell asleep in front of his computer. He awoke to a persistent ‘ding’ coming from the speakers. Rubbing his eyes, he noticed an urgent message on the screen:

“The Blogger of Christmas Past would like to chat. Do you accept?”

Feeling a bit uneasy, Mister Teacher clicked, “No,” and the message box disappeared.
Mister Teacher: “Blogger of Christmas Past, my a—“

ElementaryHistoryTeacher: “I really think we SHOULD chat, Ebeneacher.”

Mister Teacher: “Holy crap!! How did you get in here??”

EHT: “Not important, silly. And I suppose you know that I am the Blogger of Christmas Past?”

Mister Teacher: “Well, I suppose that’s fitting, and it would explain the A-Team T-shirt and the afro-mullet. What’s with the old Atari joystick?”

EHT: “This icon of the past will be our guide on the information superhighway. You look doubtful, but you of all people should know that stories of historical fact and stories of fiction sometimes complement each other quite well.”

ElementaryHistoryTeacher began to work the joystick, and suddenly a new page appeared on the monitor.

EHT: “Ah, here’s dear old Toni from Wifely Steps. Poor girl.”

Mister Teacher: “What is she doing, Spirit?”

EHT: “Why hiding, of course. In her childhood awkwardness, she used to take solace among books instead of friends.”

Mister Teacher: “Well maybe she could hook up with Amy from Kids Love Learning who seems to be embracing books about ancient Egypt.”

EHT: “We have a lot to cover, Ebeneacher, and not a lot of time. Moving on, we find Greg Laden, who says that using race to classify people belongs in the past and that some new means of description is called for.

Here’s Tracy from Leading from the Heart sharing some stories from one typical day as a teacher in her past.

Mister Teacher: “Well, this is all interesting, but I don’t think – hey! Where did you go?”

The blogger had indeed disappeared, leaving Mister Teacher to wonder if it had all been a dream. His thoughts were interrupted by a voice declaring, “You’ve got mail!” Thinking it a very odd thing to hear, since he was not an AOL subscriber, nevertheless, Mister Teacher opened his inbox and clicked on the new message.

Mrs. Bluebird: “Hello, Ebeneacher!”

Mister Teacher: “Oh, you didn’t scare me as much this time. Who are you supposed to be?”

Mrs. Bluebird: “Why, the Blogger of Christmas Present, of course. And have I got some presents for you! Starting with this anecdote from my own site about a teacher at my school who really is making a difference with our basketball team!

Mister Teacher: “Two points for him. Now I see you’ve called up ESN’s comparison of CSI – real life vs television drama. I’ve often wondered how a real life Counter Terrorism Unit would compare to the wrecking ball that is Jack Bauer.”

Mrs. Bluebird: “Ebeneacher, just think of all the good you could do in your classroom if you knew more about Powerpoint. Take a few tips from Cliotech. And if you want to find great ideas for lessons, try a few of these semantic apps from Alisa Miller!”

Mister Teacher: “What’s this one here? Paul at Scripted Spontaneity is talking about the perfect substitute teacher? I can’t afford to take time off and let a sub have my pay check!!”

Mrs. Bluebird: “Here we are with Travis from Stories from School. He’s looking into how to take down a school system – tongue in cheek, of course.”

Mister Teacher: “Oh great blogger, I am glad I am not working in New York, forced to deal with the situation some tenured educators find themselves in, according to Woodlass!”

Mrs. Bluebird: “Many teachers and education folk across the land are gravely concerned about the situation they find themselves in. Norm Scott argues that teachers are not professionals, as professionals have some control over their professions.”

Mister Teacher: “Well that’s why they need unions, though, like Matt Johnston points out, unions don’t always speak in the best interest of the children.

Mamacita: “Well, that’s just common sense. Something that seems to be lacking in many of our institutions of finer learning.”

Mister Teacher: “Ms. Cornelius brings up something that doesn’t seem to be lacking – cheating. Hey wait a minute, Mrs. Bluebird, why do you look different?”

Mamacita: “Blogger is experiencing technical difficulties. Please pardon our progress. I’m still the Blogger of Christmas Present.”

Mister Teacher: “Ah, life’s a glitch, and then you die. OK, but look here. Surely there aren’t so many online students nowadays making so many critical mistakes!”

Mamacita: “There ARE, Ebeneacher. According to Darren, though, someone who is NOT making a mistake is the Obamas, in sending their children to private school.

Mister Teacher: “Hey, why is Penny talking about the end of the school year already??”

Mamacita: “Because she’s in Australia, where Christmas time IS the end of the school year! Heed her words about Christmas activities in the classroom!”

Mister Teacher: “Spirit, I almost feel my heart beginning to relent. But how could an old miser like myself ever learn to do something fun like Christina’s Teach In?”

Mamacita: “Ebeneacher, you are indeed making progress this eve. Uh-oh. Being spammed! I’m outta here!”

Suddenly pop-up windows filled the monitor and a low, ominous chuckle issued from the speakers. Mister Teacher’s blood ran cold with dread of this last and final spirit.

Mister Teacher: “I feel so depressed all of a sudden! Is this the Blogger of Christmas Future? Spamming and pop-ups? Here’s one for penny stocks and one for growing my… ok, here’s one of interest:

This doesn’t sound so bad. iPhones in every classroom? Educators better take note of all of the apps available to them, thanks to the Online Education Database!

Matthew Ladner guest posts on Jay Greene’s blog about the cost differential per student between UT Austin and a DC school with poor scores. This stands only to get worse as time goes by!

Dave wonders if some working teachers in Texas will just continue to take (and fail) their certification tests over, and over, and over, and over.

I don’t need hair growth therapy, thank you very much, but here’s one where Lori-Giovinco-Harte wonders if children are losing their empathy the more they use the internet?

This one has Joanne Jacobs’ name on it – is Thanksgiving no longer to be celebrated in the future?

OH NO!! Is this an omen of the future, or something I have time to change?? Carol of MyBellringers has been fired and incarcerated after putting into practice her new methods of hall clearing and discipline!!

Mister Teacher awakened to find himself frantically pounding on the keyboard and shouting, “I want to teach! I want to teach!!”

Mister Teacher: “HALLELUJAH!! It’s Christmas Day and I’m back in the real world! And, what’s this? Step by step instructions for making beautiful learning centers tags?? Thank you, Michaele, and God bless us everyone!!!”

As Mister Teacher reveled in his newfound compassion, Old Andrew’s voice slowly floated from the speakers:

Old Andrew: “Congratulations, Ebeneacher, you have avoided the consequences awaiting you, though just to be clear, here are the purposes of punishment. Also just to be clear – I KNEW Charles Dickens, and you, sir, are no Charles Dickens.”

Next week's Carnival will be hosted by the one, the only, Mamacita! Do you know her? Send her an email or use this handy submission form. And links to this week's carnival and Learn Me Good are greatly appreciated!!

Does dark have a short a?

What a crazy day! First, our otherwise sublime morning duty was marred by a former customer who, when Anonymous Joe told her NOT to walk out into the middle of traffic and gum up the works, told him to, "Shut up and go back to your job."

When I came back inside, I was informed that my colleague was out and so I would have to split up her class among the other 3rd grade teachers. Once again, I had 25 kids in a room with 21 desks-- always fun!

Then, around 11:30, the school lost power. I was right in the middle of a (very interesting) sentence about pictographs when the lights flickered, there was a strange alien sound outside, and the room was plunged into darkness. Thankfully, it was a relatively sunny day outside, so opening a few blinds provided us with enough light to continue our learning experiences.

As a result of the power outage, we had to go to lunch about 15 minutes earlier than usual or run the risk of the food being cold.

The power finally came back on around 2:40, but only to half of the school. I don't mean that half the rooms had light while the other half did not. Half of the lights in EACH room came back on, while the other half in EACH room stayed dark. Curiouser and curiouser.

Nevertheless, it was a pretty fun day. The kids enjoyed making their pictographs, but the most fun came when we started a language activity. I gave them each a piece of paper, which they then folded into a booklet. This was the "short a" book. Over the course of the week, they are to write down any word that they see, hear, or think of that has a short a.

To get them started, we talked about the sound a short a makes. It's basically the same sound I would make if I stepped on a hot coal. I introduced several short words, stretching the phonetics out each time.

"Cat -- Kuhh-aaaaaaa-tuhh"

"Man -- Muhh-aaaaaaa-nuhh"

The kids picked up and this and started stretching words out with me. And for the rest of the day, I couldn't help myself from stretching out words as they came to me, like a sheep turned teacher.

"OK, cl-aaaaaaaa-ss, take out your pl-aaaaaaaa-nner for your m-aaaaaaaa-th homework."

During my morning class, one of my sweet little girls called me over and asked, "What about ass?"

"Excuse me?"

"Ass!" (while the other 4 kids at the table looked on expectantly)

She continued, "You know, like cool AS ice?"


Monday, December 01, 2008

If you don't know Mamacita, where you been?

As you may have come to expect from me by now, I am shamelessly plugging something again today, but this time it's not myself or my book! Mamacita, who writes Scheiss Weekly, and is virtually the "Godmother" of blogging -- without the mumbling or the family-revenge-related mob hits -- has agreed to do a sort of December crossover with me where we talk each other up like there was no tomorrow.

So, without further ado...

When you hear someone called Mamacita, you instantly think wow, that person must be really cool, really laid back, and really stylish. (At least, that's what I think when I hear that.) Madam Scheiss certainly lives up to that. Her blog is a riot to read, she's personable (heck, she's even on my Facebook friends list!), and she knows what she's talking about when it comes to teaching! On top of that, she is what you would call a professional blogger as she writes for EcoSmart Plastics, One by One Media, and Steve Spangler Science, among others!

In addition to all of that sweet, chewy, bloggy goodness, she also is an online entrepreneur! If you're looking for something homemade to get your loved ones this Christmas, just check out the fireplace stocking at Mamacita's Etsy store!

I know that many people who happen by Learn Me Good are probably already readers of Scheiss Weekly, but if you've never checked it out, or if you haven't stopped by in a while, I hope that you will do yourself a favor and take a look.

You can thank me later.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's December, do you know where your shopping list is??

Welcome to the month of December! There are now less than 30 shopping days left till Christmas, so the time to get that shopping done is running out fast! Plus, electrolytes are killing the birds!

OK, enough dire verbage out of the way there...

I just wanted to send out a quick note to anyone who is interested in getting a fun, inexpensive gift for friends or family. I encourage everyone to check out my T-shirt store at SpreadShirt, and I've even added a couple of Christmas-themed shirts!

To sweeten the pot even further, Spreadshirt is running a sale from 12/1 - 12/5 celebrating "Cyber Monday" (the the whole cyber week!). Act fast and save 25%!

Also, if you'd like to get a copy of Learn Me Good for your loved ones, please act fast, as you don't want to be at the mercy of the post office! Remember that if you don't want to order through or you can get a discount by going through me! I'll knock the price down to $10 (plus postage), plus you'll get a free bookmark, and an author's signature!

No need to worry about being trampled, no need to worry about being shot, no need to worry about being scammed! The best of all worlds!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Post-turkey snoozing

I hope that everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving! I concentrated on the turkey this year, not eating as much stuffing or potatoes as in usual years. I was not disappointed!

Plus, I actually went to a store today, on Black Friday! Circuit City is going out of business, so I went and bought some movies for $.87 and such. Only took me 45 minutes to get to the store! Woohoo!!

It's a Thanksgiving miracle, the 199th Carnival of Education HAS shown up, and it's over at the founder of it all, The Education Wonks! Check out all (or most) of the posts, and I again invite everyone to submit their entries for NEXT week's carnival hosted right here at Learn Me Good. Send me an email, or use this handy submission form.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mid-week cleanout

Hey everyone, tomorrow is finally Turkey Day, and I will be away from the keyboard, stuffing massive amounts of, well, stuffing, into my pie hole, which is also going to be taking in a lot of pie! So very appropriately named articles today...

Today is normally Carnival of Education day, but I can't seem to find it anywhere. Might be the Thanksgiving lull, or it might be the "Christmas Creep" suggested by last week's host, I Want To Teach Forever. At any rate, if anybody discovers its double top secret probationary location, please let me know!

I do want you to know however that I know EXACTLY where NEXT week's Carnival of Education will be. That's because I'll be hosting it myself, right here at Learn Me Good. I was thinking I'd have the honor of hosting the 200th edition, but if nobody's doing it today, I might have to settle for 199. Everyone, please send your submissions to me (as long as they are education related -- I've already gotten one post about steel metallurgy) before next Tuesday so I can include you in my ramblings!

Since I'll be with the family tomorrow, I want to go ahead and plug this week's Mr. Teacher column on which is titled, "Things I am Thankful for." It pretty much speaks for itself.

Lastly, since I didn't have much else to offer today, I'd like to bring out some reruns and ask everyone to check out these "classics." A couple of vids I made earlier this year. They're the gifts that keep on giving!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tagging the playground

A couple of days ago, a teacher approached me in the hall and asked if I had a boy named "A" in my class. I replied that I did not, but that I knew who he was and which 3rd grade class he was in. The teacher told me that she thought he might be responsible for some graffiti out on the playground, as some writing had been found on the inside of one of the slides with "A's" name on it.

I asked her what it said, fully expecting her to say that someone had spelled "F-U-K" or "B-I-C-H-T." Instead, she said that the graffiti had said, "A has 25 hot wheels cars. His friend has 19 hot wheels cars. How many cars in all?"

"A" is a MATH graffiti artist!!! SCORE!!! Just kidding, nobody should be defacing the school property. But hey, if you've got to write something onto the side of a public facade, why not let it be something that is likely to stimulate brain cells??

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's almost break time!

Only one more day till Thanksgiving break!! I don't know about the rest of you, but my plans are to sleep in, take care of a few errands, sleep in, eat lots and lots of turkey, sleep in, eat some more turkey, and sleep in. In that order.

This week's Mr. Teacher column is titled, "da Teacher Code," and it was inspired by my recent bout of entering grades at the end of a 6-weeks period. Check it out, and see if you've ever used any of these codes.

The Carnival of Education is being hosted by I Want to Teach Forever this week, and my article about a 3rd grade forger is featured under the section "Something to make you laugh and cry (besides "A Christmas Story")." Lots of other good articles are there, along with a clever little holiday theme.

We got an email from the head custodian earlier this week that all of the student desks needed to be cleaned out this Friday so that the custodians could move the desks and clean the floors over the break. So obviously we can't take the stuff out of the desks and put it in stacks on the floor, as that would seem to defeat the purpose. One option is to have each kid take all of his folders, textbooks, etc home over break with a gentle request that they bring them back the following week. Yeah, I'm sure that would work.

I guess it's locker time...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tales of a 3rd grade forger

Our new 6 weeks grading period began today, and with it, we had a new lunch schedule. Whereas we had been going to lunch from 11 to 11:30, coming back to our rooms till 12:45 and then having our planning period from 12:45 to 1:30, the new schedule pushes lunch and planning together. So our lunch is now at 12:15.

Around 11:15, the office buzzed me and said there was a parent who wanted to talk to me. Being right in the middle of class, I asked if she would be willing to wait until lunch, which she was.

After I dropped the kids off at the cafeteria, I went up to the office to speak with the mother (with a translator, of course). She wanted to ask about her son's behavior folder because she had not seen it last week.

We use behavior folders with the kids to keep track of their, well, behavior. Every 3rd grader has one, and they're basically little calendars with pre-written codes on them. If Kid A talks in class on Nov. 12, that's code B7. If little C cusses at poor little G, that's code B3. If Z doesn't bring his homework, that's code W1. And so on and so forth.

On Thursdays, we send the folders home so the parents can see how their child has done during the week. They sign it, and the kid brings it back on Friday.

Regarding the mother this afternoon, I told her that I had checked her son's folder last Friday, and that it had been signed. She insisted that she had not signed it. So I went back to my room and got the folder. Indeed, looking at the signature from last Friday, it did look a bit suspicious, as it was messy, in crayon, and said "Mickey Mouse." Not really, but when I showed it to the mom, she affirmed the fact that even though it was her name, it was not her signature.

Before returning to show her the folder, I had stopped at the cafeteria to get her son so he could face the music. I feel it's safe to say he won't be committing this particular crime again any time soon. I also felt it was fitting to warn him against using the social security numbers of Pennsylvania residents while we had his attention.

I'm really impressed that this mother was on the ball. In the past, a lot of parents haven't paid that much attention to the comings and goings of the folders, but this one was keeping her eye on her wayward son.

Way to go, mom!!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

One nation, under fraud

Big story in the paper late last week. Scandal rocks the Dallas ISD!!! For those of you thinking, um, you're going to have to be a bit more specific, seeing as how scandal seems to rock the Dallas ISD as often as Angelina Jolie adopts a baby. . .

It would seem that the district has been following a policy of assigning social security numbers to immigrant teachers so as to fast-track them into the bilingual program. The problem is that these SSNs are either made up or already belong to somebody else.

So Joe the Plumber in rural Pennsylvania is probably wondering why his ID # is showing up on a report in Podunk, Texas. Meanwhile, I'm thinking I might need to take a look at my own social security number. I always was suspicious of the fact that it was so easy to remember, but now I'm guessing 555-55-5555 is probably fake as well...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Carnival of Symmetrical Democracy

First, a couple of links of the week:

This week's Mr. Teacher column on is titled "Democracy in Action" (my apologies to John Stewart). I asked my kids to explain to me who they voted for and why in our recent mock election, and their answers are definitely worth reading.

This week's Carnival of Education is hosted by the Core Knowledge Blog, and the dude's got a nifty little theme going. All of us who contributed were (theoretically) tapped for cabinet posts in Obama's new government! Since there is no Secretary of Ketchup, I've been shortlisted for Secretary of Energy!

Today, I handed out piles of rubber bands to my kids during class. You may be asking yourself why on earth I would do something that is akin to shouting FIRE in a crowded theater or entrusting foxes to guard a chicken coop. Because we're working on symmetry, of course, and the rubber bands were for use with the geoboards.

I'm quite pleased because not once did I hear any of my kids use the phrase, "Line of Cemetery," as I often have in the past. And after a very stern warning that they would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law if they should even THINK about snapping the rubber bands at each other, they loved making shapes and finding lines of symmetry with the equipment.

We had 2 teachers absent today. One had a scheduled sub who called in sick, and the other was last-minute so no sub could be obtained. That left us with 4 teachers and 125 kids. At first, the office wanted me to split both classes up amongst the 4 of us. I balked at that, and thankfully someone else stepped in to cover one class. Still, we had to split up one class, giving each of us 24-26 kids in rooms that are roughly the size of a gas station restroom. I had to go into one of the other rooms to get some more chairs, as I didn't have enough desks for all of the kids to sit at.

I understand we'll be going through the same dance tomorrow as well. Maybe I should get rid of all of the desks in my room and just let the kids sit on the floor.

Except then the kids wouldn't have anyplace to stick their gum...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Squidly Diddly Squidoo

Quick post -- I've found something called a Squidoo Lens. Some of you may know what this is, some may not. I think it's basically a promo page for whatever you choose. I have of course chosen to promo my book.

Here's the link:

Getting to know me

I've been with my new kids for 3 weeks now, and I can tell that they are still feeling me out, still learning how I operate and what to expect from day to day. I know that I tend to flip between serious and joking sometimes, and it's obvious that some of my kids can't tell the difference yet.

The other day, we were going over a homework question. It was a word problem that said something about someone's garden. We had just finished reading a story called "Ugly Vegetables," so as I was reading the word problem, I said, "Tim's garden is 5 feet wide. Oh, maybe Tim is planting some UGLY VEGETABLES!"

Dead silence. I looked out into a sea of blank faces, as a tumbleweed slowly drifted across the room. I tapped on the end of my vis-a-vis marker and spoke into it -- "Is this thing on?"

After lunch, with my second class, I tried the exact same bit. Maybe it's just the personalities of the different kids, maybe I improved the timing in my comedy act, or maybe the pizza pockets had nitrous oxide in them, but the results were decidedly different.

"Tim's garden is 5 feet wide. Oh, hey, I'll bet Tim is planting some UGLY VEGETABLES!"

The room exploded into laughter and applause like Showtime at the Apollo Theater. Kids were shouting "WOO WOO!" and making the "raise the roof" gesture.

Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

On a different note, I received an INCREDIBLY pleasant surprise last week when I checked my Lulu sales report for the month of October. My book, Learn Me Good, has been selling 2-5 copies per month, but in October, almost THIRTY copies were sold!

So I want to say a very warm THANK YOU to everyone who purchased a copy of Learn Me Good last month! I hope you enjoy it, and I greatly appreciate your support!!!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Playing for the wrong team

I had one of those Oh.My.Gosh. moments today.

As my class was taking their morning restroom break, one of my students from last year walked by and said hi. He told me that he had a football game tonight, so I asked him about how long he had been playing and what position he played. He then told me that they were playing a team called "The Dragons."

I said, "Ooooh, they sound dangerous. What's the name of YOUR team?"

He replied, "The Mancocks."

While a circuit within my brain suddenly burst into flame and began to smoke, my mouth filled in as best as it could. Trying to relate it to another unfortunately named South Carolina team, I asked, "Oh, is that a type of bird?"

A responded, "No, it's just some name that my coach made."

I admirably refrained from asking, "And is your coach, say, a raging pedophile??"

When I got home, I looked up the word, to see if it really was some kind of animal. After skimming past about 40 adult sites of questionable content, I found one that said a mancock is a type of birch bark container that some villagers use to store rice.

I'm sure that's what the coach had in mind...

In other news, this week's Mr. Teacher column over on is titled, "What Was That Middle One Again?" It's all about my learning curve as a brand new language arts teacher.

Check it out while you're eating your leftover rice!!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Let them have cake!!

I gave a math test on Friday that was taken from the students' text books. These chapter tests often have one or more questions that require a written explanation in addition to, or in place of, a numerical answer. Since the Gen Ed kids I used to teach were always hardly able to express themselves through writing, and since I now teach English Language Learners who REALLY have trouble expressing themselves in written English, I usually make these questions Extra Credit questions.

One such question on Friday's test read as follows," A cake has been cut into 40 pieces. Is it reasonable to say that this is enough cake for 32 people? Explain."

If the kids said anything to the extent that yes, it is reasonable because there are more pieces of cake than there are people, I gave them 1 point extra credit. If they expressed things even more clearly, I gave them 2 points.

One boy wrote this, "No, it doesn't make sense because sometimes people want to eat 2 pieces of cake or three."

I gave him 2 extra credit points. It wasn't really the answer I was looking for, but he explained his thinking quite clearly, and being a man with a large appetite myself, I can't disagree with him...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Barack the vote

What a crazy week. Did you know that there were 2 earthquakes in Texas this week? As incredibly bizarre and inconceivable as that sounds, it's true. Pretty minor ones, but earthquakes nonetheless.

There was a 2.5 magnitude quake in Grand Prairie around 11:30 on Thursday night, then a 3.0 magnitude tremor in Irving around midnight. GP and Irving are very close to where I live, but not close enough for me to have felt anything. I heard about it the next morning and wondered if someone had mistaken Halloween for April Fool's Day.

Earlier this week, my school had a mock election. All of the kids received ballots that had names and pictures of the 3 candidates and their running mates. I don't even remember the names of the 3rd party contenders, except that one was Barr. There was also a line for write-in votes. I was kind of hoping someone would vote for Mr. Teacher.

Walking around the room while the kids were voting, I noticed that one child had put a check in the box for McCain, and he was writing in Obama's name on the write-in line. I had to explain to him how this was not proper procedure.

Later in the afternoon, when the votes had been tallied, it was announced on the loudspeaker that the results were in. McCain had 120 votes, Obama had 640 votes, Barr had 1 vote, and there had been 1 write-in vote for Martin Luther King, Jr.

When the kids heard that Obama had won, they went nuts cheering. I had no idea that 3rd graders were so into the political fray, or that they were such big supporters of Barack Obama.

The cynical side of me kind of has a feeling that many of them thought they were voting for THE Rock, instead of BA-rack, which would go a long way towards explaining their joy in the results.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Well, blow me down!

The funniest thing happened yesterday morning. I had come inside from my morning crosswalk duty, and I had stopped off to use the restroom before picking my kids up. I used a general bathroom, which is usually empty at that time of the morning, but on this day, there was a little kindergartener in there.

This kid stands at about two foot nothing, and he's standing there at the second urinal, with his pants down to about mid-leg. I walk in and start to do my business.

This little kid finishes, takes a step back, and sneezes. Some combination of the sneeze, the lowered pants, and the simultaneous fart, knocks the kid down. He actually fell to the floor, sort of backwards and sideways.

As he's trying to right himself like a turtle that's been flipped over, I'm trying not to bust a gut from laughing.

This week's Mr. Teacher column on is titled "No, put THAT one THERE!" It's about a familiar topic for those of you who read this blog, which is what's been going on in my district, with the Reduction in Force and all the transition.

Check it out!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fuzzy math

I got a new kid in my class last week who really can't read, and I'm still a little iffy on his math skills. The first day he was with me, we took a test, and looking at his answers made me really question his methods.

The thing is, it's true when they say that there are multiple correct methods to get to the correct answer. I just don't think I had ever seen the method that this kid utilizes. He apparently does a math problem the same way Billy from Family Circus runs all over the neighborhood, following that convoluted dashed line.

An example problem:

The test was mostly over simple subtraction. One of the questions was 99-69. The good thing is that this boy shows his work on his paper, so I was able to CSI it and do a little forensic math investigation to track back how he solved the problem. As near as I can tell, here is how he solved 99-69:

First, he stacked the numbers up, as he should:

Next, he looked at the Ones place, saw 9-9 and decided to regroup (or borrow). So he crossed off the 9 in the Tens place and made it an 8. Then he crossed off the 9 in the Ones place and made it a 19.

He subtracted 19 - 9 and got 10. So he put the 0 in the Ones place of the answer space and regrouped again (carrying the one this time). Now, he had an 8 AND a 1 up above the Tens place, so he added them and got 9. He then subtracted 9 - 6 and got 3, which he put in the Tens place.

Voila, his answer was 30, the correct answer.

Oh, and did I mention little "sticks" were everywhere, enabling him to do the actual subtraction and adding of each step?

I think if I give this kid 9 hours for each test, he will do OK...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

No more TAKS?

So let me tell you this story about this CRAZY bus driver/TA we have at my school...

Just kidding. Inside joke. :)

I'm a little behind on my newspaper reading for the week, but one of the last stories I read in the Dallas Morning News suggested that the TAKS test may be going away!! Well, no, I don't think the news is quite THAT good, but it did suggest that the TAKS may not be so influential in deciding kids' fates.

They may do away with the requirement that 3rd graders and 5th graders HAVE to pass TAKS to be promoted to the next grade level. Also, a school's performance rating would be based on a 3-year average, instead of only one year of data.

I just hope it's not replaced with something even more ridiculous!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Save a forest, use the back of the paper!

The good folks at have moved my Mr. Teacher column to Thursday, beginning this week! So if you were wondering why it wasn't up on Tuesday, now you know! This week's column is titled, "Roughing It in the Woods," and it's a summarization of some writing assignments I did with my former students. We had been talking about forest ecosystems, and they wrote some pretty funny things about their imaginary forest homes.

On the same topic, what is up with kids not understanding that they can and should use the BACK of a piece of paper?? Every day, I have to struggle with the kids to make them use the back of the page! Yesterday, a girl turned in her homework with THREE extra sheets of notebook paper that she had done her work on. The back of the original homework sheet was completely blank, there were about 5 problems on the front of each sheet of paper, except for the third, which had 2. What a waste!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Names and carnivals

3rd day of dual language instruction with my new classes, and I don't think I called anybody by the wrong name today!

This week's Carnival of Education is up and running over at The Infamous J's place. J starts things off with a poem about moles. Not the member of the rodent family, but rather the chemistry term for a quantity of matter. Yeah.

But hey, don't let that throw you! I mean, some people are into moles, some people are into Darth Vader and math...

Check out the Carnival and leave some comments!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When you plan to fail, you fail to plan

You know, as a brand new English language arts teacher, I'm looking for all of the tips and guidance I can get on how to put my lessons together and what to do for my kids. So it sure would be nice if the vaunted Curriculum Planning Guides (CPGs) that the district tells us to follow were actually UP TO DATE!!!

It's Tuesday of the 9th week of school, and the plans for the 10th week aren't even online yet!!!

As Cliff Claven would say, "What's up with that??"

I'm thinking the people in charge of writing these things, DEFINTELY need to buy this shirt...

Monday, October 20, 2008

New school year -- day 1

That's right, it's like a brand new school year! OK, so I didn't have to worry or fret TOO much about moving to a new room or decorating it (though I'm sure that I'm supposed to have more up for my bilingual students now). But 40 brand new kids, along with all of their brand new names??!! Come on, it's completely like starting over!

Thankfully, I have just enough room in my cupboard classroom under the staircase (thank you Harry Potter) to squeeze in 20 students per class, and thankfully, the kids seem to be pretty sweet. It's entirely possible they're really little monsters who are still scared of me and are waiting to show their true colors, but I really don't think that's the case. I think they worst I'll have to deal with is some chatty cathys. Or, given the makeup of my class now, some chatty carlottas.

I think I spoke more Spanish today than I have cumulatively in the past 2 years. I know all of my numbers pretty well, so any time I said a number in English, I would try to say it in Spanish. Also, a few phrases came back, so I would say them.

In one class, I have a little boy who speaks no English at all. During the morning activities, I noticed that he was moving along at a VERY slow pace. The first question on the board for the day was 79 + 231. This boy had written "79 + 231 = _______" Then he had skipped a line, and was midway through writing out the second problem. Yep, without even solving the first one.

I had told all of the kids earlier NOT to try to solve a problem like that horizontally (I used more words, but simpler words, but hopefully we're all adults reading this blog) because that's the "baby (ie, First Grade) way." I told them they need to "stack it up" so they can align the proper place values.

So when I saw this boy hadn't even solved number one, I went over, and told him, "Escribe dos cientos trienta uno aqui." The other kids at the table immediately looked at each other in amazement that this white-bread teacher could throw down a little es-pan-yole. (also, the kid solved the problem in about 45 seconds. Maybe he just needs a Spanish-language kick in the culo each morning.)

My former class went crazy whenever they saw me this morning. Which was kind of nice. They like me, they really like me.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Where's Joe the Plumber when you need him?

Just a quick example of exactly how UN-polically savvy I really am...

Yesterday was an early release day, as well as being my last day with the kids I've taught for the past 8 weeks. Because of the schedule, there wasn't time to have every class sit in the cafeteria and eat for the usual 30 minutes, so on our shortened itinerary, we had to go to the cafeteria, get the food, and bring it back to the classroom to eat.

The kids sat at their desks and ate, and I sat down at one of the tables with a few kids. The boy next to me, we'll call him A, is extremely bright, extremely friendly, just a great all-around kid, and one of my favorites. To my great amusement all year long, though, when he talks, he sounds exactly like Ralph Wiggums from the Simpsons. "I bent my Wookiee!!"

As I'm chewing on my hamburger, A says in his high-pitched voice, "I wonder who Obama's running mate is?"

OK, first, I should say, that is the sort of question that has NEVER EVER been asked in my classroom, and I showed my true colors in my answer.

I told him, "That person's name is Sarah Palin."

He immediately replied, "Nuh-uh! That's John McCain's running mate!"

Holy crap, he's right!! I am such an idiot when it comes to politics...

On Monday, I'll have 2 brand new groups of kids. One of these kids was in my class last year, and he seemed to be going through cold sweats when I walked into his room yesterday. Another is a boy I've referenced before because he tells me everyday "You're tall." 3 of the kids in the new 40 I'll have don't speak any English and need to have a peer translator. I'll try to use my rudimentary Spanish to help them out.

"Me gusta pollo y arroz!!"
"Yo soy maestro grande!"
"Por favor, no hablando en el bano!"

These kids are in for quite a year...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'm still standing

First of all, let me say thank you so very much to everyone who's been keeping me and all of the DISD teachers in your thoughts and prayers. I really appreciate all of the support and kind words that you've offered.

Today was a day unlike any others. Filled with more turns and surprise twists than M Night Shyalaman's small intestine, it didn't end until 8 o'clock, thanks to parent-teacher conferences.

I began the day thinking that I most likely wasn't going to get reassigned to another campus, but that I would no longer be a 3rd grade teacher. More like CONVINCED I was not going to teach 3rd grade anymore. Of our 8 3rd grade sections, 4 are dual language (a bilingual teacher paired with an ESL teacher) and 4 are Gen Ed. Put together, the 4 Gen Ed classes have 43 kids total, so I figured the odds were very high that 4 classes would become 2 by the end of the day. Mrs. Math has more experience than I do, and Ms. Jenn Ed teaches reading (which I never have), so I figured they would be the 2 teachers remaining in the Gen Ed wing. My espanol is not so bueno, so I couldn't slide over to the vacant bilingual spot, and I was all but sure that the ESL spot had been filled by a 2nd grade teacher moving up.

Weighing my options outside of 3rd grade, I knew nothing was open in 4th grade, 2nd grade has had the same low numbers that we've had all year, so there would be no new spots there, and 5th grade is beyond my certification.

That left 1st grade and Kindergarten.

I LOVE the movie Kindergarten Cop. However, in reality, I wouldn't wish the sight of a large man blowing a whistle frantically while chasing rowdy kids around the room on anyone. And that is exactly what I would be in either of those spots. "It IS a tumor!!!"

But there was one other possibility. It would involve a radical change, and be totally different than anything I had done before. Not quite as radical as joining the cafeteria staff, but close.

Our technology specialist has taken the retirement option. His spot is vacant. My choice seemed to boil down to becoming the school's IT guy or becoming the school's worst 1st grade teacher.

This whole debate was raging in my head last night. So all day today I was completely convinced that I was going to be the new IT guy. So why wasn't my principal calling me down to her office to reassign me?

At 8:50, all of the 2nd graders and 3rd graders had to go down to the auditorium for an assembly in which our principal told the kids that many of them were going to have new teachers, though they would be teachers they already knew. She confirmed the fact that the 2nd grade teacher was moving up to the vacant dual-language ESL spot. She also told the kids that she, the principal, was retiring and that Friday would be her last day. We the staff had learned that bombshell yesterday afternoon.

By 9:30, I still knew nothing.

By lunch time, I still knew nothing.

Around 12:30, I learned of another big surprise. The OTHER dual-language ESL teacher had been reassigned to another campus. Suddenly, there seemed to be potential room for both Mrs. Math AND me to stay in 3rd grade spots.

12:45-1:30 is our planning period, and most of my grade team sat in my room and talked about what was happening. The teacher who had just learned she was leaving was very gracious and accepting of the change. She also mentioned that in her meeting, our principal had told her to ask me if I wanted her position (the teacher position, not the principal position).

Uh, yeah, but she still hasn't come to talk to me!

School ends, and I still haven't heard anything officially.

(Had I mentioned tonight was also parent-teacher conference night?)

Conferences -- which I won't even spend any time on except to say that of my group of 20-some kids who said they were going to come, FOUR showed up with their parents -- began at 4:00, and I still knew nothing.

FINALLY, sweet relief at 4:30! After a meeting of the campus leadership team, I got the official word that I could accept the dual-language ESL position if I so desired.

I so desired.

So, to sum up, after a nerve-wracking, heart-pounding, DISD-induced day of stress, the final verdict is that I am now a 3rd grade dual-language ESL teacher, responsible for teaching math and language arts in English to a group of kids who also get reading, science, and social studies in Spanish.

The nervous tension is over; let the controlled chaos begin.

I have never taught reading before, so that's a bit daunting. But I need the skill, so that's a plus. I'll miss having my kids in class, but I'll still be just a few doors down, so I can still see them. I also think that the classes I'm inheriting are a pretty good group of kids, which is not something I've been able to say about a lot of years.

Monday is going to be VERRRRRRY interesting...

In related news, a DISD teacher has had an essay published in Newsweek, and it's worth a read. Check it out here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wednesday's teacher is full of woe

Ah, precious Tuesday... Enjoy it while you can, Dallas teachers. May I humbly suggest that you check out this week's Mr. Teacher column on, titled "Benchmark This!!" It is of course all about the frustrations of district benchmark testing, which we underwent last week.

Also, for anyone who has not yet signed it, I've got a really nifty piece of gadgety Guestbook down at the bottom of my page. All you folks coasting in to read, please sign it before you head out!

Now down to brass tacks...

Tomorrow is going to SUCK. It is going to be atrocious. Hellacious. God-awful. Battlefield Earth-esque.

Tomorrow is the day that the news comes down about who stays, who moves, and who loses their job.

The other day, one of the kids in Mrs. Math's class asked her what was going on, since his parents had been talking about the news. So Mrs. Math explained how the district had made some mathematical mistakes when adding money. The student said, "But we've been adding money all week! Why can't THEY add money??"

There's been a lot of speculation and rumors about how things are going to play out. They range from the wildly fanciful --

"I heard that teachers will be taken down to the principal's office, told they're out of a job, and then beheaded right there!!!"

"I heard they're breaking out the tar and feathers!"

"I heard that they would be fired and then forced to eat those Halloween Circus Peanut candies, which I swear are just orange spray painted styrofoam!"

To the mundane --

"Teachers will be told and then they have to go right back to their class and keep teaching."

To the utterly ridiculous --

"Teachers that are reassigned to another school are expected to be at that school, teaching their new class, on Thursday."

I know someone at another school who says that teachers who are let go will be escorted from the building right then and there, subs will cover those classes, and the teachers will not be allowed back until after school.

I hate to think that these poor teachers (who have done absolutely nothing wrong other than to work for a district that can't handle money properly) would be shown such little dignity or respect, but it may just happen.

For anyone NOT going through this right now, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers...



Tuesday night: 7:30

Got an email through the district server that says they've decided to push the layoffs back a day to Thursday. So all that stuff I said above? Yeah, just take it and reapply it to Thursday. Only throw in Parent-Teacher Conference Night for good measure.

As Seth Meyers and Amy Poehller would say, "REALLY, DISD?? REALLY??"

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Design most foul

My brother sent me an email the other day that listed the "2008 Construction Awards." There was a hilarious list of architectural blunders, including a balcony off a solid wall, a staircase leading to a ceiling, and others. Here was one of my favorites:

And another wonderful example of construction at work:

But here's my absolute favorite. Maybe just because I'm a guy, or maybe it's because we have something that's ALMOST just like this at my school...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

That's just cruel

Today around 3:15, I was in my room planning out next Thursday night's parent conference schedule with my partner, Ms. Jen Ed. An announcement came on over the loudspeaker. "The following people need to come to the office immediately..." Accompanied by a list of names which included Ms. Jen Ed's.

She looked at me and said, "Well, that's it, I'm being cut!" Actually, hers was the first name called, so she said that and then gasped after each successive name, especially when a long-term teacher's name was spoken.

About 15 minutes later, I saw her in her room again, and I asked what had happened. Those people had been called to the office to pick up a school T-shirt.

I guarantee that never before in the history of ever has a teacher gone to pick up a T-shirt, completely in tears. (Not Jen Ed, but one or two of the others who feared the worst)

That's just cruel...

Kind of reminds me of the joke about the general who can't decide the best way to tell one of his soldiers that his mom has died. So he lines his men up and says, "Will everyone who's mother is alive please take one step forward. Not so fast, Private Johnson!"

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Refrain from refraining

This week's Mr. Teacher column over on is titled "Yes, I am a veritable giant." It refers to an oft-repeated phrase that I hear directed my way at the school. Check it out and feel free to add your own often heard comments...

I looked at a few of my kids' science benchmarks today. Yes, most of them really do believe that the best attire for an outdoor investigation is shorts and sandals...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Bubbles are fun!!!

Benchmark tests started today! Let the celebration begin!!

Oh wait, we don't normally celebrate things we absolutely despise, now do we? Yes, I absolutely DESPISE the benchmark tests. Why? Well, let's see... They're usually not aligned with what we've been teaching, the questions are often quite difficult, the kids aren't allowed any reading assistance whatsoever, and they only have one hour to take the test.

Today, we gave the science benchmark, so the one hour time limit wasn't a bad thing. The math and reading tests though are going to be a bummer, because one hour simply is not enough time for my kids to do their best on those two subjects.

And speaking of doing their best, one of my kids received his science benchmark test booklet and his answer document, and he just did what came naturally. If you're thinking he opened the booklet, selected the best answer for question number one, and then carefully bubbled in the corresponding letter on the answer document -- Well that's just ridiculous!

No, he put his booklet off to the side and proceeded to randomly fill in bubbles on the answer sheet. Despite the fact that there were only 20 questions on the test, this boy filled in choices for all 50 possible answers. I have no earthly idea what he thought he was doing. However, since this is also my young man who has absolutely no letter-sound recognition, perhaps he just didn't feel like reading.

It's really quite bizarre. This boy is a very good at math, but he can hardly read, and his writing is atrocious. Last week, he was making a poster of the water cycle, and I questioned him about some of his labels. I asked him what he meant when he had written "Coton." He told me that was clouds. Rain was labeled as "ruid."

We're not talking sloppy, illegible handwriting here (although his handwriting IS sloppy and often illegible). These words were distinctly misspelled, and not even close to being correct.

Tomorrow is the reading benchmark test. I can't wait to see if my boy decides to actually read the test first this time!!