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Monday, March 31, 2008

Playing favorites

Monday Monday, you know the rest...

But the good thing is that it's time for another INTERACTIVE MONDAY!!!

This is the last Interactive Monday for the March Monday Madness Contest. Next week, I will draw the two names for prizes from the pool of everyone who has submitted a witty rejoinder to an Interactive Monday question.

This week's question is, Who was your favorite student of all time, and why?

I know that lots of kids come through our doors that we enjoy, adore, and love. But most of us can pick one or two that stand out even from all the rest. For me, it was a little girl that I had my second year of teaching. I've made it a policy not to use names on my blog, so I'll continue that tradition by calling her A.

A was the sweetest, friendliest, brightest little girl I've ever known. And by brightest, I don't mean most intelligent. She was bright enough in that sense, but I mean brightest as in vibrant and joyous. She always had a smile on her face and was cheerful about everything. I can remember several times when I would be at the back of the classroom watching the kids do their independent work, and A would look up from her work, flash me a brilliant smile, and then get back to work. This would just make my day, even if I was already in a bad mood.

A moved to another state the next year, when she was in fourth grade, but the day she left, she stopped by my classroom to say goodbye. She gave me a big hug, her new address, and a cute little ceramic football bank.

I do miss that little girl.

Now let's hear from you! I want to hear all about your favorite student, or students, if you really can't choose just one.

Should I really be on this list??

Most of the contact that I have with parents of my students is either in person or over the phone. However, I have one student whose mother asked me to e-mail her when her son was having issues. So throughout the year, I have sent and received three or four e-mails, mostly when he was not doing his homework.

Today, I got an e-mail from this mother with the subject line "FWD: talking photo booth." This e-mail had been sent to about 12 other people besides myself, and the only thing it contained was a movie file.

To be honest, the video clip itself WAS very funny. But what I don't get is what on earth would possess this lady to think that I want to be part of an e-mail forwarding group?? Now I have to worry about her sending me jokes of the day, top 10 lists, and messages directly from Bill Gates??

Has this ever happened to any of you?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The end is near!

I was surfing around on the Education in Texas blog today, and I came across this very interesting post by Mike. According to a post in the Houston Chronicle, a middle school principal in the town of New Braunfels, TX threatened to kill himself AND the science teachers at his school if their students' test scores did not significantly improve on the science TAKS.

Perhaps even more disturbing than the psychoticness of this principal is a common theme running through many of the comments online on the Chronicle story. Even though the story clearly states that the principal did not make his comments in a a joking manner, many of the commenters seem to think that the teachers at the school have blown this all out of proportion.

Just to take a sampling of a few comments:

sounds to me like the teachers are nothing but a bunch of babies who cant be serious when they think he really meant he was actually gonna kill them then himself. he was not joking about the serious nature of the TAKS tests but used the "killing" as a way of getting his point across. some people have no common sense. that is who is teaching our kids! what a disgrace! bunch of whiny babies!

oh yes, and I am sure he was serious, please, we need to get rid of all of these whiney teachers and get some that have some balls.

The only question I have is whether or not the grades improved.

At any rate, it may not matter if this principle was serious or not, if we can believe a story run yesterday in the Dallas Morning News. Just outside of Geneva, Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider is set to begin smashing protons together later this summer. Many folks are worried that these proton collisions will actually create a black hole that will swallow the earth.

With the help of Google, I came across this site that may allay our fears a bit. In addition to a really cool graphic at the top of the page, this article stated definitively that, "the chance of planetary annihilation by this means 'is totally minuscule.'"

So don't worry about it, folks! It sounds like the chances of you being swallowed up by a black hole are MUCH MUCH smaller than the chances of you being killed by a sociopathic middle school principal.

Sleep tight!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

March Sickness

Well, we started the official March Mathness tournament in my classroom a couple of weeks ago, and as of yesterday, we are down to the Great Eight. The kids do seem to be enjoying it, and I think more than anything, they really get a kick out of seeing their names in the brackets up on the front wall.

All of this week though, I didn't have the Madness as much as the Sickness. I woke up Tuesday morning with a really bad cough that only got worse the next couple of days. We're talking that kind of cough that makes you feel like you're going to throw out your back. The cough that actually noticeably rattles your brain. Then yesterday morning, I woke up, took my temperature, and read 100° on the dot.

I always feel a little guilty taking a day off from school, so I downed some Tylenol and slogged through the day anyway. Hopefully, I didn't pass on whatever I have to anyone else. I got up and went to the doctor this morning, and he prescribed some antibiotics. Hopefully this will clear things up soon.

As a friend pointed out this week, it's good that I got sick THIS weekend, rather than NEXT weekend. THIS weekend, I can lounge around on my couch and watch basketball on TV with a glass of water and a box of Kleenex by my side. I can rest my voice. NEXT weekend, I will be up in the rafters of the Alamodome, screaming my lungs out against the University of North Carolina and for whichever team they happen to be playing. The Final Four doesn't really care about my sickness, so I really need to get my health back.

Speaking of college basketball, I have the TV on in the background, and I just heard Clark Kellogg (commentator extraordinaire and non sequitur majestic) say that UCLA's Kevin Love is a lot like baking soda because he can make any situation seem fresh again. Yeah, Clark, just what every aspiring athlete wants to hear. Themselves being compared to a water-soluble Arm and Hammer household product.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Oh, the Corners You'll See!

One of the little girls in my class, we'll call her A, seems to have a particular fondness for corners. She must like spending time in the corner in my room, because she's constantly doing things that make her wind up there. When I go to pick her up in the cafeteria after lunch, she's got her nose in THAT corner. When I pick her up from PE, she's closely examining the corner of the gym.

Today when I saw her in the gym corner, I told the teacher there that I might need to help A write a brand new book that would express her obvious loves and interests. I suggested a Fodor's-style travel guide, something like, 200 Classroom Corners in 185 Days.

I'm thinking, who knows these corners better than someone who has spent so much time standing in them? I'm sure that A would have some very useful insight about which corners smell the best, which corners are most likely to provide habitat for spiders, and which corners are most aesthetically pleasing.

A told me about a month ago that her birthday was on April 1. Need I say any more?

In other news, the most current edition of the Carnival of Education is running over at Bellringers, so go check it out! And bring your sunscreen!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Geometry getting you down?

This week's Mr. Teacher column on is all about the perils and pitfalls of third grade geometry. I'm not even talking about proofs and theorems and complementary angles or insulting angles! Just the ability to name two and three dimensional shapes often escapes my students.

I especially love it when I ask a child, "What shape is this?" and they reply, "polygon." Sure, in the Cliff Claven, Who are three people that have never been in my kitchen before sense of the question -- it's technically correct. But that's like someone pointing at Lassie and asking, "What kind of dog is she?" and you replying, "mammal."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Busted Brackets and other Easter traditions

Well, if you know ANYTHING about college basketball, then you will understand what I mean when I say that my bracket is completely busted. My picks were perfect after the first day (even though my own alma mater, Duke, deserved to lose), and after the first two days, I was looking really good. Not to mention that I had Friday off from school, so I got to watch basketball all day long. You would have thought that I graduated from Western Kentucky, what with the way that I was screaming and running circles in my living room when that kid hit the buzzer beater in overtime.

Then we got to the round of 32, and things started to go sour. Duke once again played like they deserve to lose, and this time they did! Many expletives were flying on Saturday morning, but here on this family-friendly blog, I'll just say that Duke did not play optimally and their performance left much to be desired. Texas A&M, my secondary school if you will, played a much better game, and almost knocked off number one seed UCLA! Many of the other teams that I had chosen in the second round also did not make it through the weekend. But the biggest blow came today when I lost one of the pieces to my final four. In a classic Davidson versus Goliath matchup, Davidson took down the mighty Georgetown. Oh well, it's been an awesome weekend for a basketball junkie like me.

Now it's true that Easter has fallen incredibly early this year, and normally the tournament is well underway. So making the wrong picks is not truly an Easter tradition. But it got me thinking that that would make for a good question for this week's Interactive Monday!!!

This week's question is: What are your Easter traditions? If you do not celebrate Easter, and you still want to answer, then you can just tell me what you normally do around this time of the year. But for those of you who celebrate Easter, let's hear it!

As for me, I always meet up with the family for Easter dinner, which is usually pork roast. When my grandmother was still alive and fixing the family meal, she used to prepare a ham, cut into thin slices, and then serve the slices in a large dish full of water. We affectionately nicknamed this meal "drowned ham" (outside of my grandmother's earshot, of course).

Also, seeing as how Easter is the end of Lent, I get to resume any vices that I have forsaken over the past 40 days and nights. So today, immediately after Mass, I drove straight to my local 7-11 and got myself a sweet sweet 64 oz. Double Gulp of Mountain Dew. Aaaah, caffeine and sugar, my old friends, I've missed you so!!

OK, your turn! Remember, this is another chance to enter the March Monday Madness Contest for a chance to win a copy of Learn Me Good or a super fun T-shirt!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Heimlich Maneuver

IMC guy will probably agree with me when I say that Duke's Gerald Henderson should be nicknamed "Heimlich." Because he certainly saved the Blue Devils from choking tonight. Number 2 seed Duke beat number 15 seed Belmont by a point, thanks to a last-minute layup from Heimlich Henderson.

Of course, it's not like I actually got to WATCH the game. I was stuck at the school for parent conference night! And I do mean stuck, since my last conference ended around five after seven, but I couldn't leave until 10 till eight. All I could do was pace back and forth in front of my computer as the ESPN scoreboard automatically reset itself every 60 seconds. I'm pretty sure that's how Jean Paul Sartre defined hell.

At least we have tomorrow off, thanks to the inclement weather day and the fact that DISD never closes due to weather. So I will be set firmly in front of my television set disagreeing with every word that comes out of Billy Packer.

In other news, we began the first round of our classroom March Mathness tournament today. It will be interesting to see how the kids do as they move forward in the brackets. We found out that our kids did very well on the TAKS reading test from a couple of weeks ago! Many of the kids that we were really concerned about crested that hill and passed the test, and nine of our kids got a commended score!!

Enjoy the round ball! And while you're at it, swing on over to So You Think You Can Teach and check out the Carnival of Education! Joel's on spring break, so feel free to TP his blog.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cell phones and downpours

This week's Mr. Teacher column on is all about the issues of cell phones in school. Thankfully, I don't have to deal with that too much, at least not as much as many high school and middle school teachers do. I still just can't get over the images from those videos in Dangerously Irrelevant's entry to last week's Carnival of Education.

It rained all day long today. And by rain, I mean unleashed a monsoon. Ironically, it was hot and stuffy in my classroom because the air-conditioning is not working. It was the same way yesterday. I had my windows open for a little bit, but when the windowsill started getting wet, I had to close them most of the way.

One of the other teachers who goes home via the same route that I do came in at the end of the day and told me that a nearby road on our route was flooded. So we spent about 10 minutes online trying to map out an alternate route. That task took us right past White Rock Lake, and it was a little bit scary to drive past it because it looked like it was about an inch and a half away from overflowing and flooding the road we were on. Which may very well have happened by now, since we were driving through a deluge as we passed by.

Closer to my house, there are some soccer fields and a tiny little park area on either side of the road. These areas are now under about 10 feet of water.

If it doesn't stop raining soon, I might have to rent a Skidoo to get to school tomorrow!!

I also wanted to say that since hosting last week's Carnival, I've seen a bump in traffic, and it's awesome. If you haven't already done so, I invite you all to subscribe to the Learn Me Good feed either by e-mail here, or by RSS here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My crazy is crazier than your crazy

I just learned today that parent conference night is this Thursday. Of course, I'm sure it's been on the official school calendar all year long, but I'll admit right now, I very rarely look at that thing. So, I've allowed it to creep up on me...

I was about to write something else, when a really really nasty thought broke into my mind. It only at this very moment occurred to me that parent conference night on Thursday means I don't get to watch ANY basketball that day. I already knew I was going to be missing the early games because of the school day, but I was looking forward to going home and having an evening full of basketball, followed by an entire day of basketball, since we have Good Friday off. Now I'm going to miss ALL of Thursday!!!


Anyway, moving past that little detail (which really SUCKS!!), let's get back on the theme of conference night. And while we're at it, let's tie that into this week's


OK, here's this week's question: What is your worst parent conference? This could be during parent-teacher conference night, a conference over the phone, or just a random conference at any time with the parent.

If we're talking worst foot in the mouth moment ever, I'd probably have to go with the time that I asked a little girl's mother if she was her BROTHER. That certainly didn't earn me any brownie points.

But I had a phone conference last year that literally left me in tears. My hands were shaking, and my eyes were watering, because I was so angry after talking with this mother. I had called her after recess to tell her that her son was going to be suspended for cussing out on the playground. (The cussing was the last in a long line of transgressions.) Right off the bat, the mother asks me, "Well, did you tell him not to cuss?" Admirably, I bit back my first response of, "No, but I also never told him not to swallow a mountain goat whole, yet he seems to understand that he shouldn't do that."

Her next argument was, "Kids cuss at school all day long." I replied, "Not in my class, they don't." She immediately responded, "Well, was he IN your class, or was he on the playground?"

Later, when I told her that he was going to have to stay home for one day, she declared, "I really don't think it's going to teach him any kind of lesson if he just gets to stay home and watch cartoons and eat ice cream all day." Yeah, I think we can finally agree on something.


Anyway, now it's your turn. Tell me all about your worst conversation or actions with a parent. This is week three of the March Monday Madness Contest, so when you respond, you're entering yourself into the drawing for a great book or a fun T-shirt!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Duke's a 2 seed, Learn Me Good's a best of blogs nominee!

The college basketball tournament brackets came out tonight, and the Duke Blue Devils have a number two seed in the West bracket. Now that the brackets are live, you only have until Wednesday night to make your picks if you plan on participating in this year's March Mathness. Make your picks, and see if you can beat Mister Teacher!

Also, I learned that I have been nominated for a 2007 Best of Blogs Award! This is definitely a great honor, and I have the wonderful Mamacita to thank for nominating me!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

No baller left behind

I found this little gem over on Equity is not Optional, via So You Want to Teach?

It is a great basketball equivalent to what our kids and teachers are going through in public school nowadays. Also, it seemed to fit the theme of the month, baby! ;)

The basketball version of what is going on in education right now.

All teams must make the state playoffs and all MUST win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable. If after two years they have not won the championship their basketballs and equipment will be taken away UNTIL they do win the championship.

All kids will be expected to have the same basketball skills at the same time, even if they do not have the same conditions or opportunities to practice on their own. NO exceptions will be made for lack of interest in basketball, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities of themselves or their parents. ALL KIDS WILL PLAY BASKETBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL!

Talented players will be asked to workout on their own, without instruction. This is because the coaches will be using all their instructional time with the athletes who aren’t interested in basketball, have limited athletic ability or whose parents don’t like basketball!

Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in the 4th, 8th, and 11th games. This will create a New Age of Sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimum goals. If no child gets ahead, then no child gets left behind. If parents do not like this new law, they are encouraged to vote for vouchers and support private schools that can screen out the non-athletes and prevent their children from having to go to school with bad basketball players.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Set answers to stun

I've been meaning to write about this topic for a few weeks now. I think it's funny how my kids sometimes get stunned and go through a short period in a daze.

This happens most frequently when we are doing something in class that requires the kids to call out answers without raising their hands. For instance, we do something every day that I call Minute Math. I put an overhead transparency up on the board that has about 40 multiplication or division questions on it, and the kids get two minutes to write down the answers to as many as they can. When the two minutes are up, I call out the problems, and the kids call out the answers.

There are, of course, some kids in my class who call out these answers much louder than others. You know the type, I'm sure you have them in your class as well. Sometimes they don't even let me finish the question before yelling out an answer.

"Three time--"


So it's always funny when these kids call out the WRONG answer to a question. Because it totally throws them for a loop. I'll say something like, "four times eight," and they'll scream out, "THIRTY-SIX!!!" and I'll calmly say, "thirty-two, "in agreement with the soft-spoken answerers. The effect is like I set off a flash-bang grenade at their feet. Usually, we'll get through at least three more questions before the screeners pick back up where they left off.

During this lull, I'll look up to see what's going on with the screamers, and it's everything you would expect from someone who's been stunned. The dazed expression on their faces, the rapid pupil dilation, the drunken swaying in their seats. It's hilarious!

Just another perk to the job!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The 162nd Carnival of Education: March Mathness Edition

Mister Teacher: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the 162nd edition of the Carnival of Education. We're coming to you live, deep in the heart of March Mathness, and with the big tournament mere days away, we've got analysis on many of the top stories of the week. As always, I'm joined by my easily excitable colleague and friend, Dick Vitale.

Dick Vitale: Thank you, Mister Teach! I'm so excited to get things started, baby! But I have to say, the tournament directors have really made things weird by adding a 65th team! How do you get half of 65?? Somebody needs some Fractorix, baby!

MT: And somebody needs some Valium. Remember Dick, basketball is next week; today we're focusing on educational topics, like this post about integrated math at Wayzata High School, from Matt the Scholar.

DV: Oooh, higher mathematics? When it comes to math, I understand 2-point buckets and the deep 3, baby! The kind of math teams will be doing next week in the Big Dance! But speaking of dancing, you gotta check out NYC Educator's post about Tango class going on in the hallway right outside his classroom!

MT: In the words of Pink Floyd... Hey, Teacher! Leave those dancers alone! And in the words of Lead from the Start, let your kids play! If you don't let them play, it might lead to ADHD!

DV: That's what I always say! Let the kids play, ref! Stop calling so many fouls! But you know something that's really foul with a capital F? This post from Joanne Jacobs that says a court ruled that the strip search of a 13-year-old honor student (accused of hiding Advil!!) was reasonable!

MT: Disgusting indeed. As is the prevalence of cheating in schools today. The Science Goddess reports that "Everybody's doin’ it," but not everyone's definition of cheating is the same.

DV: Like Bill Belichick and the Patriots don't think that videotaping other teams' play calls is cheating!

MT: Stick with the sports you know, Dick. But while we're on the topic of secret videotaping, Scott at Dangerously Irrelevant offers up seven YouTube videos for your viewing pleasure. What do they have in common? They are all short videos of teachers, taken during class with cell phone cameras. These vids will make you sad, angry, and sick to your stomach.

DV: Mister Teach, you're dragging us down, baby! Let's get back into the spirit of March Mathness! Here's something that will take us off the bubble, baby! Just look at these ideas from Music Makes Sense and Day by Day Discoveries about using parachutes and comic books in school! That's Awesome with a capital A, baby!

MT: You're right Dick, and here's another fun post from The Elementary Educator, where he asked his kids outright, "What do you really want to know?" He got some excellent inquiries, including "What does God look like?" "What is the Bermuda Triangle?" and "Does life exist off Earth?"

DV: Life HAS to exist on other planets, because how else can you explain Billy Packer? Life also goes on in other countries, and Mom Is Teaching has a few comments about how Finnish kids are outperforming American kids.

MT: Yeah, well, my guess is that the teachers over there don't have to worry about their students putting nasty videos up on FinTube. Dave on Ed might have something to say about Finland's success. In his Management by Fad he complains (rightfully so!) that when something works in another country, schools over here jump all over it and try to push it into play -- but they don't train the school personnel on how to implement it!

DV: Sounds like those guys need a T.O. baby! Hey, while we're still talking about other countries, I should mention The Tempered Radical’s success stories with using digital applications like VoiceThread and Ustream. His students even Skyped students in Denmark!

MT: Oooh, that sounds dirty! But Mark at elearning would be proud to know that he's not alone in considering the technological world that kids live in nowadays. And this should please Loonyhiker that some teachers at least are ready for 21st-century learning. China is part of the 21st century, but Mama Scheiss can't seem to decide is China purple or is it orange?

DV: When I was in school, we called it RED China! Sometimes Oklahoma seems like a foreign country too, baby! Check out this House bill that proposes to make opinions based on religious beliefs just as valid on tests as opinions based on science.

MT: That's from VJack, and while I don't agree with the theme of his blog, he certainly has a point with this post. You know, Oklahoma's definitely not the only state with some questionable practices. There's quite a brouhaha going on in California, due to a recent court ruling that basically outlaws homeschooling.

DV: Henry at Why Homeschool sounded off about that ruling, and Ms. Cornelius shared her thoughts as well. Also, in light of the recent uproar, Rose ponders whether a teaching credential is really necessary. I wonder what Governor Schwarzenegger says about all this, baby!

MT: Probably something like, "My kids will be tutored by the T-2000. Come with me if you want to learn..." before we leave Cali, Darren of Right on the Left Coast takes a few potshots at the latest issue of California Educator Magazine. Closer to home, here in Texas, we gave out the first round of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills last week.

DV: That's right! A lot of Texas teachers weighed in with thoughts and stories about the TAKS! Diaper Dandy Bellringers had ninth graders that day, and when they finished early, she had a hard time keeping them quiet! Also, Nun of the Above shares her thoughts on the TAKS.

MT: Being a Texas teacher myself, I had some Panic a-TAKS as well, and the always unbiased Mike in Texas writes about State Sponsored Torture.

DV: Mike in TX is on my all-Renaissance Team, baby! Just check out his medieval video!

MT: Texas isn't the only one with tests, though. NYC Student has a few Hot Sports Opinions about the Weighted Regents Tests in New York.

DV: You know, Mister Teach, I probably couldn't pass the TAKS or any of those tests even if I had a dictionary and an encyclopedia in front of me!

MT: I'm not going to disagree with you there, Dick. But if you ever have to take the SAT, the good folks at Accepted to College have a few tips on how to optimize your score.

DV: No way, baby! Me and the SAT are a mismatch! A big-time MNMer! You'd have to pay me some serious moolah to get me to take that test again!

MT: Well, no one's going to pay you to take the SAT, Dick. But Out in Left Field reports on a new charter school in New York City that's offering over $125K per year to prospective teachers. Lefty's question is, will money alone attract teachers if there's no assurance of quality?

DV: Sign me up, baby! Right now, I can barely afford lunch at Dairy Queen! But seriously, all that extra money makes me think of the Colossus of Rhodey’s post "I agree with Heather MacDonald." Ms. MacDonald is slamming a proposed incentive program to pay parents to care about their kids.

MT: Hmm… I went to high school with a girl named Heather MacDonald. I often agreed with her, especially whenever she wore those tight sweaters... But I digress. At least sweaters don't need to be tucked in, unlike most shirts at schools with a uniform policy, like mine.

DV: What about the kids who CAN'T tuck their shirts in? That will be more than ever, if Robman’s comments about the state of nutrition and selection in school cafeterias have any merit!

MT: You know who doesn't need to worry about school cafeterias? Homeschooled kids! Becky asks if homeschooled kids are still "real kids" since they don't follow the traditional path.

DV: They are as real as my overuse of the word baby, baby!! Sarah, another homeschooler, points out that we should be wary of relying on Google.

MT: That's good advice! Here's some more! Marc offers "The advice every teacher should give their students" and at Lifelong Learners, Mr. Needleman advises us on the right "Teacher's voice" to use when disciplining students.

DV: Lots of teachers giving advice, but at 3 Standard Deviations to the Left, IB a Math Teacher is seeking it! What do you do when students ask why you're treating other students differently?

MT: A good matchup would be IB and Old Andrew, who has a lot of kids who need to be treated differently in his current "good class." And guest poster Daniel Goleman at SharpBrains can perhaps shed some light, or at least some "Mindsight" on the thoughts behind some childhood feelings.

DV: My feeling right now is I want some sports, baby! Matthew K Tabor compares baseball analysis to educational analysis in "Baseball and Education are Kissing Cousins." That guy can flat out write, I'm tellin’ you!

MT: Well, Dick, speaking of flat, Pass the Torch regales us with the most recent exploits of Flat Stanley (in Europe!). And from the flat to the small, José Vilson imagines what Biggie Smalls might say about school today, were he still alive.

DV: I never followed the rappers, but if we're talking about people no longer with us, how about a crusty old president and a snack cake diva? Elementary History Teacher is making us learn history, baby!

MT: She's very creative, though the folks at Our Educational Books advise parents NOT to put the onus of teaching creative thinking on the teachers -- take on that responsibility yourself!

DV: For a second there, I thought you said anus, not onus, baby! Almost like Terrell at Alone on a Lamb who got too caught up in telling a story and didn't pay attention to how he was misspelling the word "Peninsula!"

MT: I'm sure he would have liked to have spellcheck at that moment. And since computers do so much for us nowadays, Happy Chyck wonders if her kids really need to spend time practicing writing bibliographies.

DV: Bibliographies! Don't they have something to do with books? The Median Sib talks about the advantages of using "Touchstone Texts," or books that the kids read many times over the course of a year so they become very familiar with them.

MT: My Touchstone Text is Learn Me Good, by John Pearson.

DV: Oooooh, blatant self-promotion, baby! You're like the presidential candidates, sneaking in your name wherever you can! John McCain's recent comments on autism and child vaccines led the Eduwonkette to ask if McCain was vaccinated against logic!

MT: I can't speak for McCain, but a few other contributors have made logical claims about the system in general. The English Teacher shares an opinion of why differentiation is necessary, while DaytonOS states public schools need radical reform but asks the question HOW do we as teachers and administrators achieve these goals?

DV: Bring in the Billionaires, baby! David Quintana shares a lengthy, in-depth conversation between the reporter and "five interested parties" discussing "the new world of educational philanthropy."

MT: There you go with the money talk again. You know, sometimes money takes a backseat to free coffee and bagels from the PTA. Though, as Miss Profe points out, some extra time in the workday would be nice, too. Just be sure not to give Edna Lee of Regurgitated Alpha Bits crappy gifts. Especially not tote bags.

DV: Gifts? How about Me-ander’s wish for a day WITHOUT a stink bomb going off in class? Or the concern for Dragonlady when her obvious illness causes a PITA (and you'll have to go there to see what THAT means) to take note?

MT: Let’s also take note of Allison's comment that it's not enough for youths to be mentored and "kept off the streets." She offers a few suggestions for what might be more effective.

DV: Veteran teacher Susan Graham is effective, and she has a few comments on education guru "Checker" Finn’s commentary on Education Week.

MT: On another note, Dr. Homeslice warns of print and media ads, hardly fair and unbiased, targeting teacher’s unions. The Columbus Education Agency has already responded.

DV: Regardless of those attacks, Matt Johnston hopes that Baltimore principals will live by the credo, "With great power comes great responsibility."

MT: And finally, our good friend Joel submits "Around the Blogosphere: NCLB,” a collection of links to posts regarding No Child Left Behind. And that just about does it. Dicky V, I'd like to thank you for being a character, as always.

DV: One more link, baby! M. Cruz of Lesson Plans shows us how to write a paragraph about a character!

MT: Very fitting, my friend. On behalf of all of us at Learn Me Good, I'd like to say it was an honor and a privilege to host the March Mathness Carnival of Education. I hope you've enjoyed it. A link to my post would be greatly appreciated, and I hope that everyone joins in on both the March Mathness Challenge as well as the March Monday Madness Contest. Next week's Carnival will be hosted by Joel at So You Want to Teach? E-mail him or use the handy dandy submission form.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bring out your Newcomers

Do you have any Newcomer classes at your school? In Dallas, we get so many kids from out of the country who speak a language OTHER than Spanish that we had to form new classes specifically for them. Thus was born the Newcomer class.

In today's Mr. Teacher column on, I talk a little bit about the Newcomer classes at my school. It's a little bit of a change of pace from my usual humorous banter, but I think still an interesting read.

Also, this is the very last call for submissions for tomorrow's Carnival of Education. I'm still waiting for entries from a lot of you -- Mrs. T., Happychyk, Ms. C, Simply Sublime, Mrs. Bluebird -- let's get 'em in for the nine o'clock CST deadline tonight!

Monday, March 10, 2008

What are your Spring Break plans?

Don't you just hate losing an hour over the weekend? Well, the good thing for me is that this week is my Spring Break, so I was able to sleep in for that extra hour and make it up this morning.

And since it's Monday, it's time for another INTERACTIVE MONDAY!!!!

This is your second chance to get in on the March Monday Madness contest, for the chance to win a book or a T-shirt! Just leave a response to this post, and you're in!

This week's question is, What will you do over your Spring Break this year?

Normally, my Spring Break is a week later, and it's the week when the college basketball tournament starts. The first round of the tournament is always during the day on a Thursday and a Friday, so in the past few years, I've been able to watch it all. Unfortunately, the tournament starts NEXT week, and I'm off THIS week. So this year, my plans for Spring Break are mostly to relax, catch up on my sleep, and do some writing. I'll be hosting the Carnival of Education this Wednesday, and that involves some writing. I'd also like to get a few weeks ahead on my columns. Oh, and my nephew turns one year old on Thursday, so we'll be celebrating his birthday in style.

OK, whether you're Spring Break is this week or sometime in the future, leave a witty rejoinder and let me know what your plans are!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Send 'em in!

Be sure to get those Carnival of Education submissions in soon! I'm hosting it this Wednesday, so you need to get my your entries by Tuesday 9PM CST.

Saturday, March 08, 2008 reviews Learn Me Good

The good folks at have put up a review of my novel, Learn Me Good on their site, and it's a great one!

Please check it out, and tell all your pets, I mean friends to check it out as well!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

March Mathness, bay-bee!

Hello, sports fans! The NCAA men's basketball tournament is still a couple of weeks away, but ESPN has opened up their Tournament Challenge, and so I've jumped on that baby like a flea on a dog.

I'm inviting everyone who reads this to join my ESPN group and to make your bracket picks when they become available. It doesn't matter if you're a college basketball fan or not, it's still lots of fun.

Once the tournament starts, you will be locked out, so you want to go and set up your entry right now. First go here to register, then look for the group called March Mathness.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I got nothin'

This is what one of my kids actually said the other day in class. We were having a class discussion, and he had raised his hand. Typically, with my kids, they raise their hands and consider being called on their cue to begin THINKING about what their answer might be. As opposed to me calling on them being their cue to STATE their already thought of answer.

So I call on A, and he gets that look like the gears have begun slowly turning -- eyes rolled back in the head, soul has left the body -- but no answer comes out. Just as I'm about to call on the child in front of him, A says, "I got nothin'."

One of those times I had to just stifle the laughter.

Got a few "quick hits" here, as the local sports station would call them.

Someone pointed out to me that there have only been a few entries to the March Monday Madness Contest, and that therefore their chances of winning were tremendous. Since third grade probability is fresh in my mind, as we covered it last week, I have to admit that this statement is true. Let's change that! All you have to do is leave a comment and you're in the running!

Speaking of contests, I won one!!! Bill over at Instructify ran a contest asking teachers to submit their best mnemonic device (QUITE different from their best pneumatic device) for helping kids remember something academically. I submitted the "Punch It up" method of estimation. And it was deemed the best of the bunch! Sometime over spring break, I should be receiving my prize, which is a very awesome sounding MP3 player!

The 161st Carnival of Education is up and running, this week over at The Education Wonks. I haven't completely sifted through it yet, but it looks like there are a lot of really good entries this week.

Even more pertinent is that the 162nd Carnival of Education will be hosted right HERE at Learn Me Good! I've been watching my number of subscribers climb recently, and I hope that all of you who read my blog on a regular basis will contribute to next week's Carnival. It's really a great way to get extra readers and more exposure. If you have a post that you'd like to contribute, send me an e-mail with the link, or use this handy dandy submission form.

Last but not least -- TAKS is over!!! (At least until April)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

TAKS and the cover-up

Tomorrow is TAKS day, and today's Mr. Teacher column over on is all about the rigamorale that everyone has to go through to get ready and administer the test.

'Nuff said.

Thought I might rerun a column from last year where I sent an imaginary letter to the district about our pre-test prep. Enjoy.

Dear District Personnel:

I began covering aspects of my room today, per instructions for TAKS administrations, but I have begun to realize how futile my efforts are. You see, if I am to remove all the visual aids that might unfairly help my kids during the test, it's not enough for me to merely place construction paper over my number line (so that the kids will not be able to look up and see what number comes after 42) or over my Word Wall (so that the kids will not be reminded of the proper spelling of the word "cylinder" -- even though any question relating to a cylinder will already have the word right there).Verily, even covering up my Classroom Rules, which, granted, ARE mathematically numbered from one to five, or covering up my cursive alphabet strips (I guess so that kids will remember to PRINT their extra work, instead of handwriting it?) is not sufficient!

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

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

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

Actually, it occurs to me that the classroom itself is a rectangular prism. What can we do about putting each child into an amorphous physical structure?Thanks for taking all of these things into consideration. If you could have some answers back to me by tomorrow morning, I would greatly appreciate it. Otherwise, will have to implement these things next year.

Your loyal servant,

Mister Teacher

Monday, March 03, 2008

March Monday Madness

Hey everyone, it's March! And as we all know, we can't have March without a little Madness! So to celebrate, let's have ourselves a little contest! (And possibly use a few more exclamation points!!!)

This contest will run through the month of March, and it will tie in to the Interactive Mondays that occur during the month. It's quite simple to enter. All you have to do is leave a comment, answering whatever the question of the week is. Leave a witty rejoinder, and you get one entry. You can only get one entry per week, but you can get multiple entries by participating each week. If I've done my math correctly, there will be FIVE Interactive Mondays in March this year, so if you respond every week, you can have five entries in the March Monday Madness Contest!

I will select two winners once we are in April, and those winners can take their pick of two prize options. Option one is a copy of the heralded, acclaimed, prize-winning novel, Learn Me Good. Option two is a stylish, classy, fashionable T-shirt from the Mister Teacher's Store. There are many designs to choose from, but I'd like to highlight this one, as it goes with the theme of the contest.

So that's it! Simple, right? So let's get on to the question for this week's


If you could not be a teacher, what would your dream job be?

I think that my dream job would be color analyst for men's college basketball games. I'd like to be Dick Vitale, only WITH hair and WITHOUT the screeching. I just can't imagine a better job than one that pays you to travel around and watch the most fantastic sport on the planet. ESPN, look me up, baby!!!

Your turn now, what would you love to do? Leave a witty rejoinder, and then tell all of your friends (or blog readers, as the case may be) about the March Monday Madness Contest!

The lights are off, and nobody's home

This morning, the Dallas area had a major storm. When I got to the school at around 7 a.m. the power had gone out and there were no lights in the building. It's a pretty good thing I don't scare too easily, because otherwise I would have been freaking out being the first person to walk down the pitch black third-grade hallway.

Once I used my bat-like sonar and gained access to my classroom, I was able to pull up the shades and let a little bit of light into the room. Then I went back outside and did my usual morning crosswalk duty.

The power was still not back on by the time I picked up my kids, so we ate breakfast in darkness. The kids of course kept asking, "What happens if the lights don't come on on Wednesday?" Referring to Wednesday's TAKS test. I told them they'd have to take it in the dark. Evil, I know. Sorry.

At around 8:10, the power came back on in a very strange fashion. The lights out in the hallway came on, but when I flipped the switches in my classroom, those lights remained off. On a whim, I tried the pencil sharpener, and it worked just fine. I went and turned my computer on. Not sure why all of the electrical outlets worked while the overhead lights did not, but that was the case until around 8:30, when the lights finally came on.

An odd start to the week, and tomorrow is going to be even crazier. Tomorrow is Stupendous Tuesday or Fabulous Tuesday or some such, so there will be voters galore at my school. Stranger danger everywhere you look, and I have a feeling Anonymous Joe and high will have a very hard time keeping them from parking in the student drop-off zone.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The shirt tail vigilante

Now that Dallas ISD has a student dress code, teachers have become the unofficial enforcers of that code. Most of the kids do wear the collared shirts like they're supposed to, but many if not most of them have a huge problem with tucking their shirts in.

Every year, I tell myself that that is a battle I'm not going to fight because it's just not worth the time and effort. And every year, I get annoyed when I see someone's shirt untucked five seconds after I have just watched them tuck it in.

This year, instead of just ordering the kids to tuck their shirts in every time I see a violation, I have taken to calling names. I tell the kids, "Please don't be a Slobby McSlopslop with your shirt untucked. I'd like to see Spiffy McNeato with the shirt tucked in!"

So whenever I see one of my kids with his/her shirt tail out, I just say, "Hi, Slobby." They instantly know what this means, and tuck their shirt in. When my kids come in with their shirts tucked in, I say, "Look at all of these Spiffy McNeatos I have!"

Truth be told, I can't say that this has caused the kids to uphold the dress code anymore than they did before. But it does add a little humor to the situation. Now I just have to deal with the Talky McBlabbermouths, Snitchy McTattletales, and Burpy McFlatuents...