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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.