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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Back to school blahs

Sunday has finally arrived. I know that I should be happy, grateful, THANKful to have just had a nice, long, relaxing break from school. Still, that doesn't change the fact that it is now the day before I have to go back to school (and have morning duty this week to make getting up even earlier!), and I'm wishing the break was longer.

Before break, we were studying geometry, creating and identifying 2- and 3-dimensional shapes. We made a flip book for logging 3-D shapes and did a little scavenger hunt around the room for examples. ie, a whiteboard eraser is a rectangular prism, a chair leg is a cylinder, etc.

I sent these flip books home with the kids over break and told them that their homework was to cut out pictures from newspapers, magazines, store fliers, whatever that showed examples of 3-D shapes in real life. They were to glue these pictures inside their flip books and then bring them back for display.

It will be very interesting to see how many flip books I get back tomorrow. I have to say, I'm really not expecting much. A lot of my kids have trouble bringing back homework or signed papers from the night before, much less from 10 days before, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if I only get about half of them back, and of those half, several are half-assed.

Oh well, in the meantime, if anyone is interested, I have set up a blog for my bride-to-be and me. It's got a little slide show and that's about it right now, but you might just see a softer side of Mister Teacher.

I hope everyone had a great break, and good luck in getting back to the grind tomorrow!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A few simple gift ideas

My girlfriend, er, I mean FIANCE and I are travelling to her folks' house for Thanksgiving this year. Her parents do have internet, but it runs at roughly the same speed as Rosie O'Donnell. So I won't be blogging for a while.

In the meantime, though, I wanted to put forth a couple of suggestions for anyone looking for some fun gifts for loved ones or co-workers this year.

Readers on your list? Why not start by giving the gift of humor in book form? Check out my own Learn Me Good, the more recent It's Not All Flowers and Sausages by Mrs. Mimi, or the hot-off-the-presses How to Lose Your Self of Steam by Carol at Bellringers! (I just got my copy of Self of Steam in the mail and will be reading it at the future in-law's!)

Seen enough books at school? How about a T-shirt or 2? Good news -- you're in luck! Check out the wide assortment of funny and witty shirts at my Speadshirt store. Here are a few of the designs:

Savings available for the thrifty shopper! Take advantage of these deals from Spreadshirt!

Want mugs? Tree ornaments? Magnets? Check out my Cafepress store!

Safe shopping as always, and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Things to be Thankful for

Hey everybody, welcome to the first day of Thanksgiving break!!

I know that some schools are still in session through Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, but the Dallas school district for the past few years has combined the Thanksgiving holiday with a couple of staff development days so that if you got your mandatory training done over the summer, you get the whole week off!

So I thought I'd be a little interactive here. I want to know, what are you thankful for this year? Please leave your response in the comment section and/or post to your own site.

Personally, I am thankful for the following things:

  • Well of course, the fact that the 10 day break from school and the kids is finally here!! (Can I get a "Whup whup!!")
  • A beautiful, loving, wonderfully bubbly fiance
  • A new wallpaper picture on my phone of Nutcracker Darth Vader
  • Incredible friends and family
  • The fact that I've returned to playing volleyball without my back breaking in two
  • The 2 most awesome sci-fi schows on TV right now -- Flashforward and Fringe
  • Turkey and stuffing
  • SOME students in my class that actually listen to what I say and apply it
  • Black cherry vodka and Mountain Dew (I call it a "Black Mountain")
  • My health and job security

I look forward to seeing what YOU are thankful for this year!!

Friday, November 20, 2009


My day (the Friday before break! WOOHOO!!) was bookended by a very rude parent, and it's a woman I can't even remember seeing before today.

It was raining pretty hard when I arrived at school this morning, but I have no doubt that this woman didn't need that as an excuse to pull into our assistant principal's parking spot in the staff parking lot. I would be very surprised if this wasn't a regular occurrence.

Anyway, as I was nearing the building, this lady was walking her kindergarten daughter up to the same door. I said to her -- very politely, I thought -- that since it was raining, her daughter could come inside today through those doors, but that the signs on the door very clearly announced to parents that those doors were for staff only and that children and parents needed to enter through the front doors.

Of course, at right around the point where I was pointing to the large signs, she turned her back on me and walked away. I wonder if she heard me.

I had kind of forgotten about her until the very END of the day, when all of the kids were on the bus, and I was standing on the sidewalk waiting for my bus to leave. I noticed that about 5o feet away, a familiar looking blue car had parked across the street, with its rear end angled out into the street. The driver's side door was wide open, and a familiar looking parent was walking across the street and in front of the bus. I wondered why there were no teachers at that bus to stop this woman from taking her daughter off of the bus -- if not illegal, I'm pretty sure that's at least against school policy -- but I guess since the bus doors HAD been closed, the teachers had left already. I then saw the woman walk her daughter right out into traffic again and across the street before doing a 3 point turn and speeding off.

Now I'm no Nostradamus, but I just have a feeling that by the time that girl gets to us in the 3rd grade, she might just have a hard time following the rules.

Judging by her role model at home, anyway...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The shape of things to come

Today was truly an exercise in patience. As usual, I found myself wanting...

Since we discussed and classified 2-dimensional shapes yesterday -- and the explanation for yesterday's debacle was merely, "I sat on it" -- today we talked about 3-dimensional shapes. Not only did we talk about them, I gave each student a net to cut out and paste together to create a geometric figure.

My morning class (MUCH easier to handle) did pretty well. The only real problem was convincing the kids that their finished product should look like one of the pre-made shapes on my counter, and NOT like a wadded up Kleenex. Sure, a wadded up Kleenex is, technically, three-dimensional, but that's not the point of the lesson.

Then came the afternoon class. Before I could even get the kids started on cutting out the nets, I had to stop several times to review scissor safety and how you do NOT clip the shears back and forth in front of your face. I then had to place not one, but TWO kids in time out for immediately clipping the shears back and forth in front of their faces.

After the kids had created their figures, I began the unenviable task of coaxing them to explore the attributes. How many faces? What 2-D shapes are the faces? How many edges? How many vertices?

As usual, I had about 4 kids that were actively participating and trying to answer the questions while the others did their best showroom window mannequin impersonation.

Finally, the end of the day came around and it was time to dismiss the kids. As I called them to line up, the first boy in line held out the metal part of a pen that holds the tip in place. He said, "Look, this is a cone."

I tend to be a very impatient person and I will be the first to declare that I am SOO ready for a break from this year, this school, these kids.

However, in that moment right before dismissal, one child demonstrated that he HAD learned something today and that he could apply that knowledge to a real-world object.

It's always nice to be reassured that SOMETHING is working...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's all fun and games until somebody gets a toothpick stuck in their ass

Today's activity was creating 2-dimensional shapes using marshmallows and toothpicks. The marshmallows were the points and the toothpicks were the line segments.

Things were going swimmingly, we had covered angles, lines, rays, quadrilaterals, all sorts of shapes. We were nearing the end of the lesson, creating the final shape of the day, when disaster struck.

I had just asked the kids to make an 8-sided figure. Suddenly, this little boy was standing and howling. He was crying so hard the tears were shooting out of his eyes. My first thought was that he had EATEN one of the marshmallows and that it had still had a toothpick in it or something.

I asked him what was wrong, and as I scanned him up and down, I noticed a toothpick protruding from the side (towards the rear) of the boy's pants. It kind of looked like an Amazon native had shot a blow-dart at him.

I so badly wanted to ask how the toothpick had gotten there -- I mean, after all, they are flimsy little things. I would have thought the toothpick would break or lay flat even if sat upon -- kind of like a straw can't go through a tree unless driven by hurricane-force winds.

But more pressing was the fact that the toothpick was still stuck in his ass. Since he was making no move whatsoever to remove the problem himself, I pulled it out myself. I was amazed by how hard I had to pull to actually dislodge it.

This was the end of class so I never did find out exactly how the incident happened. I sent him to the bathroom to clean himself up and then it was about time to go. Maybe tomorrow when things have settled down and the wound has had a chance to heal, he might tell me.

I only hope it wasn't intentional...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bars, and Pictures, and Tallies, oh my!

We just ended the 2nd six weeks' grading period, and the last topic of research was graphs. Bar graphs, tally charts, pictographs, you name it.

It was a pretty fun topic to teach AND practice, and the kids seemed to be getting it pretty well. They really had no problem identifying the numbers that went with the bars, and little to no problem skip counting by whatever the key said on pictographs. Even early on, most seemed able to take some data and create their own graphs!

But then came the test yesterday. Despite the fact that we had looked at graph after graph, created graph after graph, made up question after question ABOUT said graphs, I still thought the results of the test were pretty disappointing.

Year after year, there is a question that merely asks "Sebastian had 16 of which type of coin?" Year after year, every single child correctly labels the bars on this graph -- 12 on the bar for quarters, 8 on the bar for dimes, 10 on the bar for nickels, and 16 on the bar for pennies. Year after year, more than a handful of kids choose quarters as their answer. Nevermind the fact that they themselves have written a "16" above the penny.


The last question of the test was a pictograph with pictures of boxes of pet food. The key stated that each picture represented 5 pets. Every child in my class correctly labelled the pictograph to show 45 dogs, 35 cats, etc, etc.

The question below asked "What is the total number of dogs that are pets in Juan and Carl's classroom?"

Almost 10 kids totally ignored the fact that they had written 45 next to the line for dogs and picked the answer "9" -- the number of pictures.


On the flip side, our 6-weeks' project was fun. The kids created a survey, polled other students, and then used that data to create charts and graphs. The end result was a large piece of construction paper divided into four sections. The first section was their original tally chart showing their topic ("Favorite _________") and the four choices, the second section was that data represented in bar graph form, the third section was the data in pictograph form, and the last section was three student-created questions about the data.

As per usual, the few kids who chose "Favorite Movies" as their topic chose 4 of the worst movies imaginable to survey fellow third-graders about. Movies like Saw IV, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc. But other topics were fun, such as "Favorite book we've read," "Favorite Food," and "Favorite Teacher."

The graphs were good for the most part. But I was impressed with a lot of the questions being generated. Things like, "What is the difference in the number of blue and red?" And "How many kids were surveyed in all?"

Then, there were some questions that weren't exactly what I was looking for. One boy who had chosen "Favorite Cars" had these 3 questions:
1) How come everybody chose lamborginis?
2) Why didn't they choose the mustangs?
3) Nobody likes Cadillacs.

Hey, at least he was commenting on the data, right?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What are they breathing on the bus?

I may have mentioned it before once or twice, but at my school, we all have bus duty at 3:00. Since about 90% of our kids ride a bus to get home, we have roughly 10 buses, and we all have to get the kids loaded up and shipped home.

Most of these kids have been riding a bus since kindergarten. You would think they would have gotten the routine down by now. Of course, you would think they would also know by now that they are not supposed to climb on toilets, talk during tests, or draw obscene pictures on their own faces. Go figure.

Anyway, I have duty on one of the "better" buses. By that, I mean that the kids aren't particularly violent or disrespectful. They don't hang out the windows cussing at everyone within 50 feet. They don't throw dense fruit (which the school now helpfully passes out every Tuesday) at each other on the bus.

However, they also seem to step onto the bus and lose all rationality. Which makes me wonder if perhaps the bus exhausts are actually pointed INTO the cabin of the bus somehow? Maybe my friend The Bus Driver can weigh in here...

I get on the bus to help get the kids in place. I see kids turned around, peering over the back of their seat. I have seen kids STANDING on the seat. Today, there was a kid rolling his (eaten) apple core across the floor. There are girls that come in and sit 3 to a seat, with the 3rd turned so her legs block the aisle, not allowing other kids to pass by.

If I had a nickel for every time I told a kid to sit down on the bus, I would never want for ketchup again.

Friday, November 06, 2009

rags and riches

Fate can be a fickle thing. Sometimes it showers you with money, sometimes it drenches you in... well, let me take a step back.

Today was an average Friday. One kid out for truly bizarre reasons, one kid tattling on another for something he didn't even witness, one horribly written math common assessment.

First of all, when a question says, "How many miles do Mr. Pride still need to drive?" somebody needs to call out the grammar police. But when the very first question doesn't even have a correct answer choice to go with it, I just get really upset for even having to waste my time giving the test.

The question read, "Donna invited 20 friends and 6 relatives to her birthday party. Only 13 of her friends could come to the party. Which is the best way to find the total number of people who came to Donna's party?"
A) 20+6-13
B) 20-6-13
C) 20-+6+13
D) 20-6+13

Nevermind the fact that Donna herself would be at the party, the correct answer should have been 13+6. To get answer A, which is undoubtedly the answer the writer was going for, the question should have said that 13 of her friend could NOT come to the party.


Anyway, after the school day was over, I was treated to the discovery of two quite opposite findings.

First, as I reached the bus that I have duty at, I noticed an election sign lying on the grass. Several kids were standing around it, pointing and gibbering, and some of them were stomping on it. I went over to move it, but as I grabbed it and picked it up by the paper portion, one kid started shouting, "NO NO NO!!" I thought, ooh, maybe somebody put it there to mark an ant mound, I better watch out. But no, as I looked down, there were no ants. Merely 4 of the biggest, beefiest dog turds I had ever seen. Apparently, the sign had been holding back the smell as well as the sight of these cylinders, so I carefully put the sign back in place.

Later though, on my way out of the school, I found a dollar bill lying in the middle of the hallway. The only teacher nearby laid no claim on it, so I seized it as my own!

From dog poop to greenbacks, all in the course of a school day. What a life.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Brand new carnival

This week's Carnival of Education is being hosted at I'm a Dreamer, and the host was gracious enough to include a last minute entry by yours truly. My post of What's the Difference is part of the midway. But not only that, the entry by Mr. D of I Want to Teach Forever also references me -- along with a great game to play with kids of low number sense (LNS).

Check it out!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Feeling the Monday blahs

At least I hope it is just the Monday blahs. I have felt really down today. Maybe it is partly because I am recovering from a cold. Maybe it is partly because I feel sore all over (either from volleyball or pulling weeds?). Maybe it is because I didn't sleep well last night.

But I think it is mostly due to the fact that I came into my classroom - after being absent on Friday - to find chairs in disarray, desks with papers falling out, a whole box of kleenex gone, a bottle of hand sanitizer broken and empty...

And then I have the kids that just beat me down this year. The kids who fail the tests, who don't do their homework, who don't pay attention, and who just don't care. I know that there are always kids who struggle, but I think part of my mini-depression is that we have spent a solid 2 weeks on subtraction and regrouping, and I had 6 kids who absolutely BOMBED the test. Despite the fact that I worked extensively with these kids in small groups, and they could do it when they were with me, they just didn't care enough to do it the right way on the test!

I feel like the average to high kids in my class are really getting gypped because I am always having to slow down to get one of these lower kids back on track, or just onto the track in the first place. Yet I am not quite at a point where I just want to leave these low kids to totally fall behind.

I'm just frustrated. Incredibly frustrated. And unlike previous years, I am having a lot of trouble finding the humor in daily activities with this group.

I also saw the future of some of my kids today after work. I stopped by Subway, and the guy making my sandwich made me think of how some of my kids are going to be in about 10 years. This guy didn't have a clue as to what he was doing. I had to point out that he hadn't put enough slices of turkey on the bread, and he seemed to be having trouble counting out the tomatoes. Thankfully, someone else was working the cash register.

Maybe Tuesday will be kinder and gentler...