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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

You had me at "Long Division"

I have a new product up over at my store at Cafepress. The idea came up during a discussion with friends at happy hour, er I mean book club one day...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How will this effect/affect you?

Someone recently brought to my attention that I had a post with multiple misspellings. In light of that, AND a great link I saw on Twitter today, I am forwarding this link. It is from a site called "The Oatmeal," and it is really quite hilarious.

Not sure of when to use effect or affect? It's covered, with hilarious example sentences. Unsure of the difference between their, they're, and there? The Oatmeal helps you there too. Oh yeah, and alot is not even a real word...

Check it out, and laff you're but of. Or rather, laugh your butt off.

Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 in review

It's that time of year again -- the old year is ending, the new year is fast approaching. Once again, I have eschewed traditional Christmas cards, instead preferring to spread my Year in Review across the internet.

I hope that everyone has had a very happy holiday season and that you are with or have been with loved ones. Here is what I was up to this past year:

2009 began with my girlfriend Tamara and me playing Wii until five in the morning and then sleeping until around four the next day. We were subsequently treated to a fresh start, as we watched a new president sworn into office, and I managed to obtain a valuable comic book featuring said president and a certain friendly neighborhood wall crawler.

A few weeks into the year, Dallas ISD actually closed for an incredibly rare snow day -- of course, by 10 a.m., it was 70° outside.


In addition to the usual greatness of February -- Valentine's Day, MY birthday, Duke vs. Carolina -- 2009 brought an extra bonus. I was able to lay claim to my very own domain name! just sort of rolls off the tongue, much more so than my second choice –

February was also the month that I went ahead and finished Franz Schubert's Symphony Number 8. It had been bugging me for a while that it had been left unfinished, so I broke out the harmonica, the pan flute, and the sitar and completed it with pizzazz.


March began on a sad note as the good folks at told me my services as a columnist would no longer be needed. Fortunately, the reason for this was their discontinuation of all columns, and NOT anything I had said about their webmaster's taste in interior decoration.

Towards the end of the month, I experienced a parent-teacher conference night like none before -- parents actually showed up! LOTS of them! One more difference between teaching Gen Ed and Dual-Language. Thankfully, some of the parents DID speak English, so I didn't have to resort to clicks and whistles all night.


According to news reports at the time, the H1N1 virus, formerly known as swine flu, formerly known as Porky's Dilemma, was contracted by approximately 98.5% of the population, yet I somehow managed to stave it off. I credit my immunity to an inbred affiliation with the Washington Redskins, providing the necessary antibodies to all pig-related diseases.

With schools (and an entire districts!) closing down all around us, I bought stock in Purell and sold it a week later for a profit of $250,000.


As the school year of approach to its cyclical end, we threw our traditional International Festival. This year, the third grade chose to represent China and Ireland. Our contribution of food in the cafeteria consisted of egg rolls and Lucky Charms, and our hall was decorated with pictures of Oriental-looking leprechauns.

On the last day of May, I received an email from a Dr. Clement Okon, the former prince of Nigeria. I don't want to go into details here, but suffice it to say, I will soon be a very rich man…


What was quite possibly my greatest year as a teacher -- definitely my best group of kids -- wrapped up nicely, and our long summer vacation began. I figured it was time to look Blanco up on a map and visit Tamara at her parents' home. She gave me good driving directions, and sure enough when I took a right turn at THE light in town (no kidding -- one street light in Blanco!), I was almost there. It was my first time to meet Tamara's dad, and when I left, he lovingly welcomed me into the family by calling me, "just another bozo."


With Independence Month kicking off, Tamara and I took a trip up north to the Birthplace of Freedom -- Boston, Massachusetts. We walked the Freedom Trail (all 3 miles!), visited Cheers, and had baked beans. We then took a train down to New York City where we got to see David Letterman BEFORE his scandal. I was also able to score a major public relations coup at the Statue of Liberty by thanking a 17 year-old French girl for her country's gift to mine.

With my days off, I was also able to complete my time machine project. My first usage took me back to Guatemala in the year 888 where I befriended some top Mayan officials who were working on a stone calendar. I told them about the show in our time called "Punk'd" and suggested that they Punk the rest of the world by halting their calendar at the year 2012. When I returned, I observed that our little prank had been highly successful.


It seemed like only a four-day weekend, but the 2 1/2 month vacation came to an end mid-August. My question of "would all Dual-Language classes be as wonderful as last year's -- full of hard-working students who really want to learn and do their best" was quickly answered. Not so much.

With many school nights on the horizon, we sadly ended our new summer tradition of Wednesday night trivia at the local pub. No doubt, the regulars there toasted our absence with a hearty chorus of, "Where are those people that never get anything right?"


9/9/09 was a major milestone as my debut single dropped and the music industry would never be the same. Combining country and rap, C-RAP is a fresh new innovation and "All up in da pickup" is projected to be CD of the year.

In the latest home improvement project, I had a new fence put in around my back yard. I can now sunbathe nude in peace, though I am starting to question my choice of rod iron instead of wood plank.


After nearly 3 years of paranoia-inducing back pain, I finally mustered up the courage to rejoin my beloved volleyball team. Forget going out a few times to lightly bump the ball around; I jumped right back into A League competition. Amazingly and happily, my back did NOT snap in half after the first point.

A few weeks before Halloween, I succumbed to peer pressure and joined Twitter. Almost 200 tweets of 140 characters or less later, my world has not exactly been rocked.


In early November, I took the biggest step in my life since switching from 2% milk to whole. On the warm evening of 11/11, I asked Tamara to marry me. Amazingly and happily, she said yes... and my back did NOT snap in half.

A few weeks later, I spent my first Thanksgiving away from the family since college, choosing to spend it down in Blanco with my future in-laws. Away from home, I didn't dare stuff myself as much as usual, so I went the whole day without suffering from tryptophan overload or the dreaded "Turkey sweats."


Dad and I got tickets to the inaugural college basketball game at the new Cowboys Stadium, AKA Jerry world, AKA The Death Star, AKA The Hall of Doom. We were treated to the always lovely sight of Carolina being handed a loss. Wearing our Duke T-shirts with pride, we overheard several people say, "Wow, those guys came a long way to see this game!" Yeah, all the way from the other side of Arlington, buddy!

Once again proving itself to be totally insane, the Texas weather went from 75° at four o'clock on December 23 -- Christmas Movie Marathon Night -- to 28° at 11 o'clock the next morning. Complete with snowfall that turned the ground white. There's a Bing Crosby joke in there somewhere, but needless to say, our white Christmas was a wonderful one, complete with Mom's surprise gift of a Wii to the grandkids.

So 2009 came full circle, beginning AND ending with much playing of the Wii. Of course, my fake bowling improved quite a bit in the year between.

Here's to a very merry 2010!! Go Blue Devils!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A post for new teachers

Christmas Break is here!! WOOHOO!! I'm sorry, but I just refuse to call it Winter Break, Holiday Break, December Break, or "2-weeks-off-for-sanity's-sake Break.

2 whole weeks of good food, good rest, a few papers to grade, good relaxation, and good visiting.

Plus, I'm in the final four in my fantasy football league, and I'm visiting the new Cowboys Stadium today to watch the Texas Longhorns beat the Tar out of the Carolina Tar Holes. (Sorry, Chad.)

What better way to start off the blogging aspect of Christmas Break than another wonderful guest post by our good friend Karen Schweitzer? Karen has written so many guest posts here at Learn Me Good (as well as other places), that I've lost count. But every one has been full of useful information and valuable tips and links.

Today, her post is designed especially for new teachers or folks considering going into education.

15 Resources for First Year Teachers

The first year of teaching can be a very rewarding experience, but it can also be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are a number of sites online that offer free resources and practical information for the novice teacher. Here are 15 sites to explore in your spare time.

First Year Teacher Program - The Reading Rockets First Year Teaching Program is a free online course for new K-3 teachers. The self-paced course includes ten modules that cover effective strategies and techniques for the classroom.

New Teacher Survival Guide - Scholastic provides a New Teacher Survival Guide to novice teachers who are looking for resources, tools, and tips for the classroom. The guide also offers a newsletter and a new teacher helpline. Survival Guide - The Department of Education Survival Guide for New Teachers offers tips on communicating and working with veteran teachers, parents, principals, and teacher educators. The guide also links to helpful resources around the web.

New Teacher Center - This national organization is dedicated to supporting new teachers and improving student learning. Site offering include news, stories, and information about upcoming education events.

Teachers Network - The Teachers Network site offers a special section just for new teachers. The section includes lesson plans, new teacher how-to's, and web mentors who can offer more help.

The Teacher's Corner - The Teacher's Corner is a good place for new teachers to find lesson plans, worksheets, teaching tips, and other teaching resources. The site also provides a forum to connect with other educators and a job board.

The Educator's Reference Desk - The Educator's Reference Desk offers a wide range of dependable resources, including 2,000+ lesson plans and 3,000+ links to educational information around the web.

Education World - Education World provides lesson plans, practical information for new teachers, regular columns, employment listings, principal profiles, a search engine for educational sites, and many other useful resources.

Lesson Plans and Teaching Strategies - Created by California State University-Northridge, this web page links to hundreds of tested lesson plans and articles on teaching strategies and classroom management. - is a comprehensive teacher's resource. Site features include teacher chat boards and mail rings, lesson plans, classroom project ideas, articles from teachers around the world, and a job board.

TeacherTube - TeacherTube was created so that educators would have a place to share teacher videos, lesson plan videos, and other instructional materials. The site is a good place for new teachers to find teaching tips, classroom management strategies, and curriculum guidance.

Teacher Lingo - Teacher Lingo is an online community for educators who want to connect over the web. Community resources include lesson plans, a message board, and a place for teachers to share and publish blogs.

The Apple - This Monster site for teachers combines social networking with teacher's resources. New teachers can find lesson plans, sign up for a free newsletter, and chat with other teachers in The Apple forum.

TeachAde - TeachAde provides free articles, videos, lesson plans, and other teaching resources. The site also serves as a space for teachers to meet and network online.

Teachers First - The Teachers First site provides a long list of education-related professional associations and organizations that provide teacher resources and support.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the Guide to Business School. She also writes about online schools for

Friday, December 18, 2009

I had a bean?

Earlier this week, I graded my kids' language arts project, which was creating a "biography quilt" based on a short book they had read about a person of historical significance. They worked in groups of 4, and some kids read about Martin Luthor King, Jr, some about Amelia Earheart, some about Paul Revere, and some about Robert Fulton.

Nevermind the fact that I had more than one projects turned in on "Paul River," or that other kids thought Amelia Earheart's ambition to be a nurses aide was more significant than her mysterious disappearance...

When I got to the kids who had done Martin Luthor King Jr, I noticed something odd. One of the events that they had wanted to include was that he hoped to inspire Americans though his peaceful efforts.

One of my little girls miswrote this as "through his space full of farts."

Wonder what Paul River thinks about that...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Don't forget to vote!

A quick note:

Please don't forget to vote for Learn Me Good under the category Best Teacher Blog at the edublog awards!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Low Self of Steam

Over Thanksgiving break, I read Carol Richtsmeier (she of My Bellringers fame) 's new book -- How to Lose Your Self of Steam (& other teaching lessons I never learned from professional development).

This book was great, and you should definitely go straight to Amazon and order yourself a copy right now! Richie has put her sense of humor right out on display, and her stories about her Journalism students are fun, funny, and memorable.

First a word about the look of the book. My first thought was that it looked like a yearbook -- fitting, since Richie's class is in charge of putting the yearbook together each year. My fiance thought it looked like a composition notebook -- still fitting, as I'm sure the kids have gone through a ton of those writing assignments and reports. Either way, the look of the book is unique and really stands out on a shelf.

Something else that I really enjoyed was the little "inserts" on several pages, especially the "Chapter Terms." These small colored bubbles defined words and phrases used within the text -- including a dictionary-worthy definition and a tongue-in-cheek meaning. One of my favorites -- "In-service -- 1) another name for a professional development day. 2) another name for wasting a teacher's time."

These inserts made me think of another of my favorite books, America, by John Stewart and the Daily Show.

The vignettes, everything from a young talented artist who didn't want to give up his black fingernail polish, to the kids who caught the porn JUST before it made it into the yearbook, are touching, and show how much Richie cares about the kids who have been in her classes over the year.

Check out How to Lose Your Self of Steam, and see what all the fuss is regarding Big Fat Stupid Heads, heads in freezers, and rubber chickens.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Twas a week before Christmas (break)

I haven't posted an excerpt from Learn Me Good in quite a while, so I thought now would be a good time.

This chapter is from right before Christmas Break of Jack Woodson's first year.

I’m sorry sir, but I refuse to fill in your “adult-themed” Mad Libs. I’ll give you a verb or a place name, but the slots are not supposed to be labeled “body parts that rhyme with rubies.”

Unless I’m mistaken, we have something in common – we both have some time off coming! You still have to work next week, but the plant still shuts down between Christmas and New Year’s, right? That hasn’t changed, has it? First day of school in the new year is January 6th, so all of my little Whos will have a nice two-week break in which to forget everything they’ve learned so far.

Today was fun, with a tint of sadness. The sad part is that today was Ariel’s last day here. She and her family are moving to some small town I’ve never heard of, about two hours east of here. As I’m sure I’ve told you before, Ariel is one of my favorite students, and I am really going to miss her.

But as I said, the day was fun, because we did Christmas activities. Mrs. Swanson made ornaments with the class over in her room. They were little construction paper cutouts with glitter and a picture of the kid glued to them. They even made one for me. My tree can be complete now!

Meanwhile, I made stockings (or attempted to make stockings) in my room. Each child cut a couple of stocking shapes out of brown paper lunch sacks using templates I made last night. Then they punched holes along the edges and used red yarn to hold them together. Sounds easy, right. Well, it WAS easy – up until the point when we actually began.

By the time the day was done, a few of the kids had beautiful stockings and were decorating them with crayons and stickers. Kari, Xander, and Maria all had stockings that looked fantastic. Others had tried to punch holes in their two cutouts separately, and the holes weren’t lining up. And then there was Plakton, who was still trying to figure out how to use the scissors. Don’t worry, I kept a close watch to make sure he didn’t poke himself in the eye with them.

My own big problem was with the yarn. I will freely admit that I use yarn about as frequently as I use hair extensions – not often – so I had a rough time. I would start pulling on a strand and get it a ways out, but then it would start knotting up, and I was stuck untangling knots for much of the day. A couple of times, I had to send a kid with the skein over to Mrs. Swanson’s room, and she would send it back straightened out (the yarn, not the student).

I even had my own little Tiny Tim moment. I got a Santa hat from one of the teachers (my Secret Santa) earlier in the week, and I wore it for most of today. When I put it on with 3F, Marvin exclaimed, “Yay! Mr. Woodson is cool now!” Did you catch that? Marvin finally thinks I’m cool –not quite the same as throwing away crutches and walking, but a Christmas miracle all the same.

Some of the kids even brought me gifts. Not one hundred dollar bills, as I had hoped for, but sweet gestures nonetheless. Kari and Susan gave me candy with decorative holders, Juan gave me a nice little picture frame, and Alex gave me a card. I think at some point Thomson may have even given me the finger.

Well, in case I don’t see you before then, have a very merry Christmas. Tell all the good gentiles there the same from me. Oh, and feel free to drop by on the 23rd. We’ll be having our annual “Good Ol’ Fashion Woodson Family Christmas Movie Marathon.” ™ This is the night we watch as many Christmas-themed movies as we can stomach. We always watch It’s a Wonderful Life, Scrooged, and Christmas Vacation; the others are rotated in and out. Round about 3 or 4 AM, when everyone else is passed out on the floor, my brother and I usually put up Die Hard. Hey, it’s a Christmas movie!

Ho ho ho! (Now I have a machine gun)

Good King Wenceslaus

Saturday, December 12, 2009

An open letter

I would like to take this opportunity to send out an open letter to the gentleman who has chosen to drive his pimped-out "hoopty" along bus row at 3:05 for the past few school days:

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your good intentions. I know that you probably think you are giving teachers and students the rare opportunity to witness the combination of an off-mustard yellow primer paint job AND tires that are 8 inches larger than standard. Since most kids are focused on their friends and/or getting onto the bus, you have done what you need to in order to draw their attention to your vehicle -- blast your bass-intensive stereo system at levels harmful to most mammalian ears.

May I humbly suggest, however, that your choice of songs and/or lyrics may not be the most appropriate in an elementary school setting? Given the timing, perhaps some classic holiday tunes would be more in order? At a slightly lower volume?

I would also like to point out that there IS a stop sign posted at the corner where you turn, so I think I speak for everyone when I say that we would rather not see your continued attempts to hang 2 wheels going around the bend.

Thank you, and have a nice weekend.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm gonna need...

I was just looking through some of my students' work this evening. I had them choose animals for the hero and villain and write and illustrate a fantasy story with those characters.

One of the first ones I looked at had a drawing of "Little Bad Fox" saying (via speech bubble), "I am going to destroy the world!" "Super Puppy"'s bubbled response was, "I need you to stop destroying the world."

This just gave me a giggle and reminded me of the boss in Office Space. "Yeah, I'm gonna need you to stop destroying the world. That'd be great..."

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Multiplication Idol

Since we've started teaching multiplication, we have a series of songs that we listen to and sing along with in class. We made CDs for all of the kids that have times tables song that are of a more rap/R&B nature, and then a tape that has skip counting songs.

This week, we are focused on the 3's. So every morning, we listen to both 3's songs and then do our minute math practice.

One of my most troublesome little girls -- who is nearly 50 years old, bullies everyone, doesn't do her work, plays, lies, doesn't pay attention, etc, etc etc -- has, amazingly, been singing the songs correctly.

Now, of course, they have a times table reference sheet that they take out to help them sing along, but still, she is actively participating and singing the words and numbers correctly.

Here's the thing, though. Her singing makes Rosanne Barr's rendition of the National Anthem sound like a choir of angels.

My little girl is loud, off key, off rhythm, and off tempo. It's almost painful to listen to her sing the songs. But by golly, she's actually doing something, and seems to be learning her facts, so I'm certainly not going to stop the nails on the chalkboard!

In Edublog Award news, the voting has begun! I was nominated for Best Teacher Blog, and if you so choice, you can follow that link to cast your vote! For some reason, most of the nominations that I made last week don't seem to have been accepted. So I apologize to Bell Ringers, Mrs. Bluebird, Joel, and Mamacita. I don't know why they didn't stick! My Happy Rainbow IS listed, so I can only assume that someone else nominated his blog as well.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Carnivals and awards

I want to send a shout out to Clix over at Epic Adventures are Often Uncomfortable. She has been keeping the current Carnival of Education running at her site, and sometimes she even includes one of my posts when I've forgotten to submit! She hosted it this past week, so you need to go over and check out all of the great posts!

Also, it's time for nominations for this year's EduBlog Awards! So without any further ado, here are my nominations:

Best individual blog: Bellringers

Best teacher blog: Bluebird's Classroom

Best new blog: Look at my Happy Rainbow!

Lifetime achievement: Mamacita of Scheiss Weekly

Best resource sharing blog: So You Want to Teach (possibly not the greatest category for him, but his blog deserves to be nominated one way or the other.)

Be sure to visit these blogs, and vote for them (and me!) from 12/08 - 12/16.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I hope they have cheeseburgers in heaven

Before we left for break a couple of weeks ago, one of the girls in my class told me that her family was moving to Garland and that she wouldn't be coming back to our school. This is a shame because she is a very sweet girl and I'll miss her.

But yesterday, I was surprised to find that she was not the only student from that class who had withdrawn. Also withdrawing was the boy that I was able to motivate with the prospect of free food.

This boy didn't seem to be able to put 2 and 2 together for the first 6 weeks of school, but when I waved a Golden Corral coupon under his nose, suddenly he was raising his hand, adding and subtracting like a madman, and paying much more attention.

He had started to revert back to his lazy ways in the past few weeks, and I was just thinking about how I needed to dig out the stack of Denny's coupons, when I found his withdrawal papers.

Well, all I can say is, I hope his new school catches on quickly that they need to, quite literally, FEED his knowledge...