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Friday, December 31, 2010

Learn Me Good made a top list!

My explicit thanks to Dawn Judd of Breakout Books Review. She posted a Top 5 list of the best books that she reviewed in 2010, and Learn Me Good made the cut!

Please check out her list, as well as the rest of her site, and be safe tonight!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 in Review

Hey everyone,

As the final days of 2010 are upon us, I am upholding my tradition of electronically sending out my review of the year we've just had. As always, I hope that all of you are safe and sound and have had a great year.


Tamara and I rang in the new year with my family at the church’s New Year’s Eve bash. Thankfully, we all had each other to commiserate with at just how terrible the DJ was. Maybe it’s just me, but when the guy pleads for 5 minutes with the crowd to take the dance floor before he’ll start playing any music, and when he finally DOES start the music, it’s the Macarena… I tend to lose faith in the guy. The party ended with a homemade quote montage that put us 2 minutes past midnight before he started the 10 second countdown. Thanks, dude, you already ruined 2010.

The next week, though, 2010 was un-ruined when I received an email from a Mrs. Mellissa Lewis, who told me that she was dying of cancer and wished to will me $14,258,000 American dollars, if I would only contact her lawyer. I declined the money but did write back to correct her spelling and grammar, figuring she was entitled to that before she kicked the bucket.

Later that month, a marathon WII session proved, without a doubt, that I truly am THE Guitar Hero. Next goal: to prove that I am also THE Accordion Hero.


The tough decision was made to sell my house. It was an awesome house, but it was just too far away from Tamara’s work. And since teleporters have yet to be invented (COME ON!!), we knew Mesquite could not be our permanent living place. So the long, arduous process of painting began, and that started a serious love-hate relationship with Home Depot latex-based paint.

Midway through the month, a couple of amazing things happened. Number 1, the Dallas area received over a foot of snow in one day. Number 2, DISD actually declared a day off because of the snow. Mind you, these two things did not actually happen on the same day. School was fully in session on the day that all the snowing occurred. My school lost power for about an hour and a half that morning, and the principal wouldn’t let anybody go outside to play in the snow. School was officially cancelled the NEXT day. That’s my DISD.

On February 28th, I sadly had to say goodbye to my loyal helper monkey, Meego. He had been by my side for an incredible 10 years, but his language and actions had grown increasingly erratic and inappropriate. Even by monkey standards. Rather than having him put to sleep, I just gave him to my 3-year old nephew. Now there can be TWO poo-flingers in that household.


Seeing the success of other independent authors on Facebook, I decided to start my own fan page for Learn Me Good. Many of my friends immediately “liked” it, and others added on later. It is currently up to just over 400 fans. Only 2,435,201 more to go to catch up to the stupid cat playing the piano!

Tamara and I got some culture by going to see The Phantom of the Opera early in March. I thought that their “progressive” approach was a bit odd, as everyone had on clown makeup, and the Phantom was wearing a T-shirt that said, “I’m with stupid.”

Bored one day, I tried my hand at culinary invention and came up with a snack food that is combination potato chip, ice cream, peanut butter, and calamari. I am considering marketing it under the brand name “I-squips” in medium, large, and ginourmous.


Duke wins the title again!! In a thrilling Monday night final, Duke squeaked past the Butler Bulldogs, who were basically playing a home game in Indianapolis. I watched the game with a friend at a local bar where I was the only one in the building rooting for the Blue Devils. The crowd of bandwagon Butler fans kept trying to taunt/impress me with their clever bon mots such as, “FU%# Duke!!” and “Yeah! FU%# Duke!!”

Having completed the painting and repairs on my house, I put it on the market a day after Easter. That very day, someone came to look at it, and the next day, they made an offer. I’ve never had 3 magic beans before, so I quickly accepted their offer.

Towards the end of the month, I had a minor career crisis when I saw a headline on Yahoo that said Male Nurses were earning $77,000 per year. I figured, I already had the “Male” part under my belt, so to speak, and I’ve been taking care of kids’ crap for years. But then I thought I’d have to legally change my name to John Pearson: Male Nurse, and that’s just not worth it.


I rented a storage unit and put nearly all of my earthly possessions into it so that I could move into Tamara’s tiny condo. Some people said we were living in sin, but we were actually still living in Dallas.

We also started registering for wedding gifts. Tamara was content to take care of things online, but I was happiest when we went to a store and used the Magic Price Gun. I may have been a bit trigger happy, though, as we got all 147 Chia Pets that we apparently registered for.

This was also the month that DISD asked me and 41 others at my school to pay back bonus monies that they had been depositing in our accounts over the prior 9 months. Bonus money that DISD had previously insisted belonged to us and that we should “spend in good health.” Fortunately, my paranoid streak kept telling me that they would come asking for it back, so it was a mild inconvenience for me, but for others, who HAD spent it, it was a major nightmare. That’s my DISD.


As always, one of the most joyous events of the year – the last day of school – came and went, and there was much rejoicing. I had to get rather creative in the end-of-year awards ceremony, giving one kid an award for “Most consistent conversion of oxygen to carbon dioxide.”

Later in the month, Tamara and I cemented our commitment to each other by joining a “Family Phone Plan” and trading in our old phones for iphones! I was immediately addicted to something called Angry Birds, while Tamara still hasn’t shaken her Words with Friends habit.

It was also the end of an era, as I decided to look snazzy for the wedding with a nice new analog watch. The digital calculator watch (with Wavecepter for atomic clock precision) was permanently put out to pasture. It had served its purpose, after all, netting me a wife, and I figured I shouldn’t take the risk of continuing to attract hot babes with my wrist wear.


On the 2nd day of the month, I tied the knot! Then, after having my knotted necktie securely in place, I got married! It was a beautiful ceremony that included no line dancing or country music whatsoever. My suggestion of reciting my vows in “Whataburger Guy” voice was promptly shot down.

Our official honeymoon was in Turks and Caicos, at a lovely resort where my new wife and I enjoyed some alone time, some incredible scenery, and more rum than a pirates convention. After we got back to the states, the unofficial honeymoon began, as the family took a 2-week long trip to Disney World, the happiest place on Earth. Our matrimony was put to the test, as Minnie threw herself at me, and Goofy tried to muscle in on Tamara, but a singing Candelabra got us all back on track.

While we were in Orlando, the news broke internationally that Sumo wrestling matches in Japan were being rigged. Disillusioned, I immediately called my bookie and put a hold on all bets. I also sold all my stock in giant adult diapers.


Finally, after 2 years in limbo, Whatta Ya Think, the game show that I was a contestant on was finally aired on Veria TV. As a result, I was able to obtain a DVD copy of my episode. Apparently, the camera really DOES add 10 pounds; I looked like Chris Farley sitting behind my podium. My life-long dream to be on Jeopardy remains intact.

Before the summer ended, I tried my hand as a modern-day Stan Lee, inventing and drawing my own superhero. My creation: Carrotman, who can see really well in the dark. He wages a never-ending battle against his arch-enemy, Admiral Asparagus, whose pee smells foul. I am still waiting to hear back from Marvel, DC, AND Dark Horse Comics…

Towards the end of the month, the new school year began, and I got to meet my newest batch of moldable minds. On my annual teacher self-assessment, I wrote that I am tired of the old standards of progress. Forget Academically Acceptable, Recognized, and Exemplary. This year, I am shooting for Effing Outrageous!


This year, I set a new personal record by making it 5 full weeks into the school year before getting sick. This beat last year by 4 weeks and 2 days. I hit every Walgreens in the DFW area up for a dose of Armadillo-Flu vaccine, but nobody was amused. They also didn’t like the trail of slime I left behind.

Mid-month, Tamara and I met up with my brother and sister-in-law for our newest annual tradition, the Grapevine Grapefest, where we each sampled about 100 different kinds of wine. It’s a thankless job, but somebody’s gotta do it. Lesson learned this year: the vendors do NOT get flattered when you ask them to just give you the whole bottle.

Over a long weekend, I made some modifications to the washing machine in our condo. Now it does half the work in twice the time. I am hanging up my toolbelt for a while.


At the beginning of the month, we bought a new house! I would finally be able to stop living out of ¼ of a closet! Even though we weren’t fully mode in yet, we decided to be there on Halloween night to pass out candy to trick-or-treaters. Tamara and I dressed up as Penny and Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. I tried to get my brother and sister-in-law in on the act, but they had other plans. A shame, because my brother is the spitting image of Raj.

Midway through the month, I did an overhaul on the cover of Learn Me Good, replacing the old amateurish graphic with a much more professional looking cover. I was hoping to use a photo of myself bashing my head against the wall to set the tone of the novel, but instead wound up using an arm that looks very much like my own, writing funny things on a chalk board. Sales immediately skyrocketed, from 20 to 22.

Always looking to further my personal knowledge, I made a move to learn Klingon. As with all languages, you learn the curse words first. Boy, were my neighbors shocked to hear me pepper them with chants of , “hab sosli’ Quch!” and, “DenIb Qatlh!”


We finally had the big move from the condo to the new house and officially moved in. My possessions were rescued from storage and restored to full time usage status. On our first night there, we had the pleasure of hearing one of our neighbors screaming obscenities at her boyfriend on the phone at 1in the morning.

On Thanksgiving day, Tamara and I ran in the inaugural Arlington Turkey Tro 5K. And by “ran,” I mean, “strolled at a near-geriatric pace.” I am fairly confident that I finished first in my age group. My VERY specific, to the half-second, age group.

A few days after Thanksgiving, high on tryptophan, I wrote out the script to Spinal Tap in Binary Code. My favorite line – “This one goes to 1101.”


With some time off from school, and a condo in need of selling, I buckled down and started to prep it for sale. Behr Ultra Premium Cotton Whisper latex-based paint, my old nemesis, we meet again. This time, I’m pretty sure I got more paint on the walls than on myself.

A few days before Christmas, there was a big hubbub about a lunar eclipse. Realizing that nobody in our neighborhood had any interest in staying up until 3 in the morning to witness it, I quickly improvised. Standing behind the living room window, I turned around and dropped trou, while Tamara slowly obscured my moon with a table cloth. I think the neighbors were appreciative. The arresting officers certainly found it hilarious.

For our first Christmas together as a married couple, Tamara and I split Christmas with our families. We did the annual movie marathon and Christmas Eve with my family in Arlington and then drove down to Blanco to have Christmas dinner with Tamara’s folks. We spent a few days in Blanco, and the highlight was meeting Sendhil Ramamurthy (Mohinder Suresh) from Heroes in San Antonio. I briefly considered asking him to give me Hayden Panettiere’s number, but I decided against. I DID want to make it through the first year of marriage, after all.

And that was 2010! Here's hoping everyone has a very happy New Year, and we all have a very exciting 2011! You can't touch ME, Mayans!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tip o' the Hat Tuesday

My buddy Ed U Cater posted this link about replacing the entire student body on Facebook the other day, and it was fantastic! I had to give it a shout out here today. Plus, the author's name, "Mr. Teachbad," makes me feel like I have an evil twin out there...

Also, a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good flight! (If you're flying somewhere. Otherwise, drive safe.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Not very likely!

Today we started talking about probability. I asked the kids what this word sort of sounded like, and instead of "probably" -- the springboard I was hoping for -- they all said "problem." Yep, this is a problem.

Our exploration today did go pretty well though, once we gave up on certainty. The concept of something that is ALWAYS true or ALWAYS happens eluded them a bit. To them, going to bed at 9 o'clock is certain, and me being a teacher is certain. I asked them, "What if I decided tomorrow that I wanted to be a famous actor?" and one little girl immediately shot back, "You're not a famous actor!"

Certainly rude!

Then we moved on to the probability demonstration. I gave each group of partners a paper sack with 6 red cubes, 3 blue cubes, and 1 green cube in it. The kids took turns pulling a cube out without looking, and then making a mark on the tally chart. Each group did this 20 times. At the end, most of the groups had a higher amount of tallies in the red column, as would be expected.

When we did it a second time, though, the cheerleading came out. I heard someone say, "This time, I'm going for green!" and whenever a green came out, there was cheering. Or if I walked by, someone would tell me, Red and Blue are tied!!

It always starts to turn into a contest, with the kids rooting for one color to "win." Poor orange. He didn't have any supporters today.

Tomorrow we do spinners. When I told the kids that, they got excited, thinking I meant the stupid little paper contraband things they make and pass in class. When I brought them back down to earth by telling them I meant the circle with the arrow that you flick, they seemed disappointed.

Maybe we'll have to play Twister.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I want my 2 dollars!

Well, I'm sorry to say that my district (or possibly my principal) has screwed up and once again, there are issues with my paycheck. Not just me, but many of the teachers at my school as well.

Back in April, teachers at my school were asked to return bonus money that had been deposited into our accounts -- even though the district payroll office had told us to "spend it in good health."

Now, we're finding that stipends and pay-for-performance bonuses, which were supposed to be included on this month's paycheck, are not on there.

So I have a few ideas for how the district can earn some money in order to pay us what they've promised us.

1) Charge bag fees.
I heard this morning that the airlines mad 2.5 billion dollars this year on bag fees alone. Just think, if every kid with a backpack is charged a quarter, every day -- we'll be rich by summer!

2) Mandatory nap time across the district: 1-2.
If all the lights are off for this one hour every day, the potential energy savings could be tremendous!

3) Selling Hot Cheetos
I don't pretend to understand it, but Hot Cheetos to my kids are equivalent to Crack Cocaine to Lindsey Lohan. We could buy bags of Hot Cheetos for 50 cents each and sell them at the apartments for $3 each. Heck, we could probably sell them for $10 each.

Whatever happens, I just hope the district gets it together and gives us the money they've promised us. I'm reminded of the final scene of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, where Clark W Griswold berates his boss with the line, "If you don't want to give out bonuses, fine! But when some of us are counting on them to make ends meet..." and the cop says, "That's pretty low, mister. If I had a rubber hose, I would beat you..."

Monday, December 13, 2010

A little Christmas plug!

Just for anyone looking for some last-minute Christmas gift ideas, here are a couple involving your friends at Learn Me Good...

1) the paperback version of Learn Me Good is available for only $9.99 from!

2) The Kindle version of Learn Me Good is on sale for only 99 cents through January 1, 2011! And now you can give a Kindle ebook to ANYONE, as long as they have an email address! They don't have to have a Kindle! Check out this page for more details.

3) T-shirts, T-shirts, and MORE T-shirts (plus some sweats, mugs, and mousepads!) are available either at my Cafepress store OR my Spreadshirt store!

Merry Christmas shopping!

Partying with the kids

I tend to be stubborn, so I'm just going to keep on plugging away with Interactive Monday, even though the "Interactive" aspect of it has been somewhat lacking...

My question today is, "What kind of Christmas (or Holiday) party (if any?) do you have with the kids?"

My partner and I are planning a little party for Friday afternoon. We will buy pizza, but we've sent a note home with the kids asking the parents to supply things like juice boxes, fruit, and chips. Cupcakes and cookies were expressly forbidden this year. Rum-heavy eggnog was not EXPRESSLY forbidden, but I think it is understood.

For most of the day, we will be doing things like writing winter-themed word problems, drawing winter-themed shape patterns, adding winter-themed numbers. I also have great aspirations for Christmas-themed stories that we started brainstorming for today. Mine will apparently include a scary robot named Chippy McFlatfoot. I am very interested to see what the kids come up with. They were scribbling furiously during our brainstorming time today. Hopefully, a lot of the kids will share their stories during the party on Friday.

So I open the floor to you -- yes YOU! What do YOU do with the kids?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Blame the dog

I have a story to tell, and it is not for the faint of heart. It involves an old man, bodily functions, and the defiling of an evil leprachaun. Well, change the old man to me and get rid of the leprachaun.

Let me start out by putting this oh so delicately. I was feeling a bit gassy today. Uncontrollably gassy, apparently. At one point, as I was walking around the classroom, I pulled a one cheek sneak. I broke wind. Audibly. Not Wrath of God audibly, but balloon-popping audibly.

When it happened, I glanced at the little girl who was sitting closest, who had a look of shock on her face. Before I could say anything, she exclaimed, "It wasn't me!"

I got away with it! If other kids had noticed, I totally could have blamed that little girl! After all, the universal rule is: she who smelt it, dealt it.

It reminds me of one of my favorite jokes of all time. (Keep in mind that I think "potty humor" is hilarious.)

A young man has been invited to have dinner with his girlfriend's parents for the first time. He is understandably nervous, and his nervousness has made him a bit gassy. About half an hour into dinner, the man is squirming uncomfortably, and a tiny audible fart escapes him. He stares in horror, but the girlfriend's mother, sitting across the table, looks at the family dog who is sitting behind the young man and says, "Spot!"

The young man can't believe his good luck. She blamed the dog! Ten minutes later, when he can't stand the pressure in his abdomen anymore, he's feeling a bit more daring. He lets out a longer and louder fart. Once again, the girlfriend's mother looks at the dog and shouts, "Spot!"

By this time, the young man feels he can do no wrong. The mother will blame the dog, so why not get rid of all his gas? He leans over and lets one rip, long and hard.

The mother looks at the dog one last time with horrified eyes and exclaims, "Spot! Get over here, before he s#!+s on you!!!"

You're welcome, and I apologize.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The proverbial holiday party

Our Interactive Monday posting is going out late today, but I'm hoping to get a lot of responses to it, as it's a pretty juicy topic.

I couldn't think of just one way to pose the question, so I will present you with a flurry of them, all around a central topic, the office holiday party. Do you have them? Have you gone? Has anything wild ever happened? Have you ever done anything truly embarrassing that you probably shouldn't share with random people on a blog, but you're going to anyway because you're that starved for love and attention?

The topic comes up because my school's Christmas, excuse me, HOLIDAY party is being held this Wednesday. Last year's party wasn't too bad, but nobody did anything any more embarrassing than some ill-advised karaoke. It was a far cry from the office parties of lore, where everyone gets smashed, co-workers hook up, and lowly peons have to sneak into their boss' office late at night to delete an incriminating email.

Even back when I worked for "Heat Pumps Unlimited," (with my vaunted Mechanical Engineering Degree), our parties were relatively tame. I DID see a few more people drink a bit more than they should have back then, but still nothing wild.

So I'm sure somebody reading this has a great story to share. Just don't make it about someone hanging Mistletoe from their belt buckle.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Mirror images

This past week, we studied congruency and symmetry. Congruency tends to be relatively simple for the kids. Same size, same shape. That's pretty easy to remember. What often throws them is when the shapes are rotated. Especially when the shapes are triangles.

But symmetry really throws them for a loop. When I would draw a shape and ask how many lines of symmetry it had, several of them would just count the sides and give me that answer. Several would always say 2 (vertical and horizontal). And several would find lines that weren't symmetrical at all.

Diagonal lines are especially hard for the kids to judge. Though I've emphasized to them that they can and should TURN their paper, to make the line look vertical, they usually don't. Also, they confuse it with congruency, so if the two sides of the line are the same size and same shape, they go with symmetry. Even if the two sides aren't mirror images. For instance, the diagonal line of a rectangle DOES split the rectangle into two congruent triangles. However, this line is not a line of symmetry, because folding the shape on the line would not yield a perfect matchup.

Friday's test results weren't too bad, but there is clearly still a lot of work to be done, especially in some dire cases. (Where kids still don't even know their basic shapes.)

At least I haven't had anyone yet this year call it a "line of cemetery."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 revisited

This week's Tuesday Tip o' the Hat goes towards my old online employer, Some of you may recall I was a weekly columnist there, until they decided to do away with their regular columns, and I was out on the proverbial interweb street. I'm not bitter though. :)

Anyway, I got an email from Kat, their community outreach director, about some pretty cool things brewing at for the holidays. One of them is a Holiday Gift Guide. Here's what Kat says about the Guide:

"Our team of editors, teachers, parents, and of course kids spent the summer testing thousands of toys, games, and books. The products that made the final list had to be fun, well made, and fairly priced – and they also had to sneak in some learning. We ended up with about 12 choices for each grade level including at least one “splurge” and at least five “Under $10” items (you won’t believe the awesome stuff we found in this stocking stuffer category!) Unlike many other gift guides, no one pays to be part of our list. These are items that we found on our own and fell in love with!"

Kat then goes on to say that they even have a customizable widget for the guide, so I thought I'd check that out and tailor it to the grade that I teach, 3rd. Here's what I found:

Finally, Kat talks about a brand new Winter Activities Challenge:

"Many of you participated in our 2009 and 2010 Summer Activities Challenges. With generous support from the folks at Campbell’s we’re going to help parents survive the holiday break with a Winter Activities Challenge. It will run from 12/6 through 2/28. In that time, participants just have to sign up and complete at least five activities. Everyone who completes the challenge will be entered to win one of 101 prizes. We’re giving away 100 LEGO creator sets and our grand prize winner will receive an iPad! Unfortunately, you can’t sneak a peek at the Challenge until it’s live on our site (12/6) but here’s the link to use at that time: If you’d like an email reminder when the challenge is live, just shoot a note to I can also send you the Winter Activities Challenge logo or other visual assets if you need them. "

I don't know if this is ONLY for parents, or if teachers can be included, but it's worth checking into.

Monday, November 29, 2010

How do you attain participation?

Howdy folks, and welcome back from Thanksgiving break. I hope all of you had a great one and didn't just stuff yourself with stuffing.

I think that one of my little girls indulged a bit too much over the holidays. As I was right in the middle of a fantastic demonstration on arrays, I suddenly heard the sound of 500 wet paperclips hitting the floor. I looked over to see a big splotch of turkey-colored vomit on the ground.

"Go to the bathroom!" I shouted at her. She replied by standing up, turning towards the door -- and then retching a fresh batch of puke onto the ground.

Anyway, this Interactive Monday post is NOT how do you feel about vomit, so we'll end THAT topic here.

Instead, my question is, How do you attain participation in class? We always seem to have those kids that come in day after day with nothing better to do than try to impersonate a brick. Sometimes these are kids who do fantastic on tests, but they never talk in class. Sometimes they are kids who fail horribly in class and never raise their hands in class. Sometimes it's the vast majority of the class!

I am finally getting to a point this year where most of my kids are participating. There are still a few who very rarely volunteer anything in class, but something is a big improvement over nothing. To get to this point, I have used a combination of bribery, parent conferences, student conferences, threatening to give them a failing "participation grade" -- which is about as existent as the "wardrobe selection grade" -- and, in some cases, what borders on badgering.

So any other strategies out there? How do you get participation from your "bricks?"

Monday, November 22, 2010

Getting back into shape

Last week, we went over 2 and 3-dimensional shapes in class. This is usually a fun, though confusing topic for the kids. They enjoy identifying shapes -- they just tend to identify them incorrectly for quite a while. For instance, anything that is round, they want to call either a circle or a sphere. Clocks, tires, pennies. If it's a long skinny cylinder, they know it's a cylinder. But the short and squat cylinders, like the aforementioned clock et al, they see round and think sphere.

But we're getting there. Even though Thursday was the coldest day of the year so far, we took our designated "shapes walk" outside. The kids had made flip books with doors for 6 of the major 3-dimensional shapes, and we walked around the sidewalk outside of the school, looking for real-life objects that met those shapes.

In addition to being cold, Thursday was also a short day, because teachers had extended horizontal planning in the afternoon, so we didn't get to walk a complete circuit around the school. It's a shame, because there's a perfectly cone-shaped tree on one side, and pyramids on the playground.

Nevertheless, the kids got a thrill from seeing telephone poles, roofs, fire hydrants, stop signs, etc, and shouting out what shape they were.

At first, some of them wanted to spend more time complaining about how cold it was rather than looking for shapes. I told them to suck it up. OK, well, not in those words.

I asked if they would rather freeze their spheres off looking for shapes or slink our sorry cylinders back into the rectangular prism and sit on our butts til they were 2-dimensional.

OK, so I didn't use THOSE words either. But ultimately, it was agreed upon that a bit of cold was a fair trade off for the great outdoors.

And the really great thing about the week? Nobody got any toothpicks stuck in their ass!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In my ever so humble opinion

I was banging my head against the wall today while trying to teach a lesson about Fact and Opinion. And that's a fact.

When I first started teaching, my first lesson was on place value. Ones, Tens, and Hundreds. I had to stop myself from exclaiming, "How can you not get this??!???" to a couple of the kids that didn't comprehend. But I learned to take it down a level and teach it to their level, and in different ways.

With fact and opinion, I still haven't figured out how to teach it to the lower levels. Yet I still find myself struggling mightily not to just scream, "What about this is so difficult??!!???"

I started by talking about how a fact was something that could be proven right or wrong. I used a student's shirt as an example. "A has a gray shirt on. Can we prove this?" The kids told me that we could look at the shirt to prove it. Excellent. Gold star. We proved that it's gray. "A's shirt is awesome. Can we prove this?" The kids told me that we could look at the shirt to see that it was awesome, and that proved it.

OK, clearly I'm doing something wrong. How about this one? "Spaghetti tastes delicious! Is that a fact or opinion?" "FACT!" the kids shout. "We can prove it by tasting it!!"

I tried to differentiate the two by saying that opinions are merely how someone feels or what they think -- something that not everyone in the world might agree with. But they just didn't get it.

At one point, I sat down in my chair and asked, "I am sitting in a chair. Fact or opinion?" At least 5 kids shouted, "OPINION!!"

1 or 2 kids may have even shouted, "ESTIMATE!" just because they like to shout random vocabulary words in the hopes they are right.

Teaching fact vs opinion is very hard. And I'm pretty sure that's an opinion, even though all of my kids would say it is a fact.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Holiday Giveaway!

Hey everyone,

We're getting very close to December, and that can mean only one thing -- we're already looking forward to having time off from school!

Oh yeah, and getting gifts for and from loved ones as well...

So anyway, I thought it would be a great time for a little Learn Me Good holiday cheer.

Here's the deal -- I am going to give away 2 copies of Learn Me Good (paperback OR e-version) and a funny T-shirt from my spreadshirt shop . To win one of these 3 prizes, all you have to do is get somebody to "like" Learn Me Good on Facebook.

Tell your friends and family to like Learn Me Good and to put a comment on the page saying that you referred them. Each time I see that you referred someone, your name goes into the drawing. The more you refer, the more chances you have to win!

I will choose the 3 winners on December 15th. That will give me time to send things in time for Christmas and/or New Year and/or Festivus.

Good luck, and happy referring!

Interactive Monday -- Check your work

This is always a sore point for us teachers every year -- how to get the kids to actually check their work after a test. They know they're supposed to. They know that they should. They just don't want to. It's a lot like getting them to SHOW their work at the beginning of the year, but the struggle lasts a lot longer.

Before we take a test, I always ask the kids, "And what do you do when you're finished?" And they all respond, in full-on zombie mode, "Check your work." All this means to them is that when they raise their hand to tell me that they are done, that they need to add the phrase, "and I checked it,"-- in much the same way they feel the need to cover their nose with both hands when asking for a kleenex, or start doing the pee pee dance when asking to use the restroom.

This past week, I had kids insisting that they had checked their work carefully, yet when I glanced at it, not only were blatant errors obvious, but in some cases, there were whole problems that had not even been done!!

I'm tempted to tell the kid that Stevie Wonder could have done a better job of checking this test -- but then I realize that these kids have no idea who Stevie Wonder is.

Anyway, I'm trying something new this week. I have graded their tests from Friday, but I haven't put any marks on it. I am going to give the tests back to the kids and tell them that there are mistakes. I will not tell them which problems they got wrong. They are responsible for checking carefully and finding those mistakes, and then circling the problem number that they corrected.

It should be very interesting to see what this experiment yields. My HOPE is that the kids will find their mistakes and realize that this is what checking your work is really all about -- finding the mistakes and fixing them BEFORE turning the test in to be graded.

My FEAR is that I will get papers back where the student has changed a formerly correct answer to an incorrect one.

So my question to you is, what do YOU do to convince your kids to check their work carefully?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Tuesday's tip -- a little quip

I got this email from The Scholastic Scribe this weekend:

Hey, y'all!

Those of you who've followed me for a while know that I'm an eclectic chica. A little opinion here, a little prose there, a funky photo or two and an occasional piece of verse. It's the poetry that I'd like to address today.

We have a poetry community of sorts, at the high school where I teach. Every so often, they hold what they call a "Poetry Slam." Contrary to the competition that the name implies, these slams are meant to challenge the creative among us, and get those creative juices flowing. Many of our students rise to the challenge, and a good time is always had by all.

So, this is what I propose, only for our little corner of the blogosphere.

I was daydreaming this afternoon, and conjured a couple of verses. I wondered if my friends out in Blog Lang ever had these introspective moments themselves. I figure that enough of us are alike that this could very well be the case.

Here is my proposal:

I want to write a poem every week (make it Tuesday...I have nothing better to do on Tuesdays, do you?). I'll post my poem, and perhaps a neat photo or two, on my blog. I hope then that some of y'all will follow suit, posting a bit of poetry on your blogs, or a photo for thought, as well. Doesn't have to be anything epic. A limerick, a couple of lines of open verse. Anything that moves you will do the trick! And if you don't feel like writing that particular day, don't. Just have fun flitting around the blogosphere to see what others have come up with for your reading pleasure.

Yes, the is last-minute, and no, I didn't set up a Mr. Linky thingy to keep track of everyone. I was just hoping that perhaps you'd visit my place tomorrow, and leave a comment. And if you've penned something yourselves, please let us know in your comment. I think we'll start out simple this time, and see where this goes.

If you have any ideas to throw into the mix, I'd sure appreciate them. I'm just looking for another way to "share," I guess. Thanks, in advance, for all you've given me on my almost three-year journey down this cyber-path.


This request from my good friend, The Scribe,
Made me put out my very best vibe.
I'll just think up a rhyme,
And be done in no time,
And now I'll have more to imbibe.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Interactive Monday -- off-site meetings

No big hoopla today. Just straight to the question. How do you feel about off-site meetings and trainings? And as a secondary question -- do you have to go to them often?

I ask, because I am at one today. And I had a series of them last year. On the one hand, it is good to speak to other teachers that you don't work with and share ideas. On the other hand, it's a loss of instructional time with the kids. Time that often seems to be so important that other things are taken away, like recess.

So, let's hear your thoughts.

Operators are standing by.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Daylight Saving Time

Last night, we fell back an hour for Daylight Saving Time (in your FACE, Arizona and Hawaii readers!!). And while it's always nice to feel like we've received an extra hour for sleeping, I agree with those that say a change needs to be made.

DST was originally conceived as a means of allowing afternoons and evenings to have more daylight, while mornings have less. This helped with gaslit buildings and such, but it has become a bit quaint over the years.

Many argue that it should be done away with completely. I'm not here to argue that. I would instead propose that we change the timing of it.

Currently, we change our clocks at 2:00 am on Saturday night -- technically, Sunday morning. But why is that? Nobody except college sorority girls and chronic drunks actually benefit from an extra hour on wee Sunday morning.

I think Saturday night is fine for the spring, when we LOSE an hour to Daylight Saving Time. But in the fall, when we GAIN an hour, I think we should gain that hour on SUNDAY night/Monday morning. Just about everyone who works a 40-hour job could do with an extra hour of sleep on Sunday night before Monday begins. Now THAT would be a savings!

In fact, I think I'll set my clock back an hour again tonight, just to test that theory...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Tally ho!

Today began the annual "Survey your Neighbor" portion of 3rd grade math. We've been going over bar graphs, and we will soon begin pictographs, so the kids started their 6-weeks project, the first part of which involved collecting data.

The kids had to fill in the blank on this prompt, "Which ____________ do you like best?" and then supply 4 choices that fit the topic. The kids then used that question to make a tally chart, surveying their classmates as well as a class from across the hall.

I didn't have as many interesting topics this year as I have in the past. There were plenty of "favorite color," "favorite animal," and "favorite food." There were lots of "favorite shoes" as well as a couple of "favorite cartoons."

Then there are the scary movies. Whenever a kid pics, "Which movie (muvi [sic]) do you like best?" the choices almost always seem to be the most horrific, un-kid-friendly movies possible. Saw 6. Chucky. Paranormal Activity 2. One little girl's survey had these 3 movies plus Snow White. I told her that since I hadn't seen any of the others, I would have to choose Snow White.

I only heard one kid -- in one of the other classes -- asking people, "Which teacher do you like best?" I figured it was a no-brainer to vote for myself.

My colleague told me that one of her girls had a survey for favorite season where the choices were Summer, Winter, Fall, and Snow.

Now that the data has been collected, the next step will be to convert that information into a bar graph. So far, the graphing has been pretty good -- we'll see how they do when it's their own pet project.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Tuesday Tip o' the Hat

Today, my tip o' the hat goes to Edna Lee at Regurgitated Alphabits, for her story about an obnoxious child and the adult who dared to stoop to his level.

You might notice my own personal take on the matter in the comments section at the end of her post...

Monday, November 01, 2010

Interactive Monday -- Field Trips

Hey all,

Thanks to everyone who participated last week during Interactive Monday. Now let's see if we can increase that number this week. Please invite your friends to come contribute as well!

This week, my question is What is your favorite place to take the kids on a field trip? OR, barring that, what place do you WISH you could take your kids?

We have recently been asked to come up with a list of possible places to take the kids this year, and several were immediately axed as soon as they were brought up. Who knew that EVERYONE and their brother had already been to the Dallas Aquarium? We've certainly never taken the THIRD grade there!

We passed an idea sheet around last week, and the 3rd grade team wrote ideas on it. My teammates suggested the Dallas (and Ft Worth) Zoo, the Imax theater, the Dallas Children's Theater, and a few other places. I contributed by writing the Home Depot loading dock and the local McDonald's Playland.

I tend to think frugally.

So where are some places that you like to go? And what do you do there?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Carnival time!

Hey all,

Carol has the new Education Carnival up and running this week over at her place at Bellringers! My post, League Parity, is up, along with several other fun fall festival-ly posts!

Check it out!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sticky Widget

Recently, George Landes at Texas Teachers contacted me to ask if I would be interested in showing off a widget on my blog that showed salary grades for new and current teachers in Texas. I said sure, show me what ya got.

Here's some literature that he sent me, along with the widget itself. Go ahead and play with it. It's pretty neat.

A New Salary Tool for Texas Teachers
By: Texas Teachers

Texas Teachers, the state’s largest alternative certification program, has just launched a new online salary tool that can be embedded on any website, blog, or Facebook page. The free tool provides the latest salary information for Texas school districts and allows Texas teachers to easily access salary information that was once located in multiple locations on the Internet.
To make this information more accessible, Texas Teachers consolidated salary schedule information and spent several months developing the tool, which is available for public download via embeddable HTML code. The tool currently has approximately 316 ISDs represented in the tool’s database. Texas Teachers will be adding salary information throughout the year and welcomes districts to submit their salary schedule to be included.

To use the tool on your website or blog, visit Simply copy and paste the embeddable HTML code into your blog or website.

Note: Texas Teachers will be adding functionality to the tool that allows for custom sizing of the tool.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Tip o' the Hat

As part of my initiative to get back into being more involved with this blog, I am instituting "Tuesday Tip o' the Hat" -- a feature where I will link to a particularly relevant or inspiring post from somewhere else on the web.

Today's inaugural web link comes courtesy of Ed U Cater, who is one of this semester's Teacher Voices contributors for the Dallas Morning News. His column this week is about the importance of recess, and the detriments of not having it.

If your school still gives kids their recess then consider yourself lucky, because many school have taken it away altogether. Ed's column is definitely worth a read, and feel free to leave a comment either there or here. I'll be sure he gets it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Interactive Monday is back!!

I've been feeling lately like I haven't been contributing enough to this blog. Or that when I HAVE, it's mostly been about Learn Me Good the book. Not that there's anything wrong with touting the book. That IS, after all, why this blog was started in the first place. However, I feel I haven't been balancing that enough with actual school and teacher related "stuff."

So I'm ready to remedy that. To get back into a regular routine, I am bringing back an old favorite -- Interactive Mondays! Every Monday, I will pose a question, and I hope that you the reader will contribute your answers, thoughts, and ponderings.

This week, the question is What mnemonic, or memory trick, have you found helpful in the classroom?

This can be helpful as a teacher, OR helpful to you yourself when you were a student.

I posted recently about a new little ditty I had learned to help the kids remember when to regroup during subtraction. The more we use it, the better it gets. The kids are remembering to use it, they're remembering how to regroup, and they're even (gasp) remembering the rhyme!

I've also had a lot of success with the "Punch it up" strategy for rounding. If you have 5 or more fingers, you can punch it up to the next nearest 10 or 100 or whatever. If you have less than 5, you can't make a fist, so you have to drop it down to the lower nearest 10 or 100 or whatever.

For symmetry, I like to get a bit goofy and use a Toy Story reference. I have the kids imagine Buzz Lightyear, and how he has the same costume parts on both sides of his body -- wings, helmet, boots, etc. Then we practice the mantra -- "To the Symmetry, and Beyond!" -- and I get to do my best Tim Allen impersonation.

So now I turn it over to you. What memory tricks have worked for YOU?

And now a word from today's sponsor

Learn Me Good is today's sponsor for the Free Book Alert at Kindle Nation Daily!

"Kindle Nation Daily Free Book Alert, Monday, October 25: Four Free "Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith" Books to Get You Ready for Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith #5: Purgatory, plus an undiscovered gem: John Pearson's Learn Me Good (Today's Sponsor), and over 100 other fully updated free Kindle ebook listings"

Hopefully, this will help to boost sales, at least for a bit. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tutoring Tuesday

Tutoring began today, and much like the beginning of the universe, there was a great ball of chaos.

I got my paperwork taken care of yesterday. Got the names turned in, my lesson plans, their bus assignments. Of course, I didn't get them turned in on time, per se, but that's what happens when the email request comes at 8:34 am, and the deadline is set for end of the school day. I felt like sending an email back saying, "I was TRYING to read and send emails, but these pesky kids kept bothering me with questions!"

But at any rate, I got all that turned in. Then today, right before 3:00, we got an announcement over the loudspeaker: we could NOT clock out and log in for tutoring right after school, like we've always done. We would have to wait until 3:45 to clock in. This would necessitate leaving the tutorees unattended mid-stream in the room while we walked down the lengthy corridors to scan in our thumbprints, but we were advised that our neighbor would probably be happy to watch our kids for us while we did that.

Oh, and there would be no snacks. Actually, I managed a loophole around that one. I just so happened to have a few bags of chips left from a homework reward celebration last week, and a couple of the kids had their own bags of chips in their backpacks. So everyone DID get a snack during tutoring, at least in MY group.

The actual tutoring session was great. I only had 5 kids, and they were wonderful. They were doing all of the work correctly and with the right steps, and really getting into it.

Getting them out to the buses resumed the chaos. The kids had been divided into 3 buses. But only 2 buses showed up. The 3rd was rumored to be making a high school run and might be 15 or so minutes late. I brought my kids from that 3rd bus back into the building to wait, only to discover that the school's power had gone out and all the lights were off.

The last bus finally came. Or maybe it was the 2nd bus discovering they had more room, I didn't really notice. At any rate, all of the kids got home safely, and I was able to go home.

And thus began tutoring for the 2010-2011 school year. Maybe Thursday, we'll throw a helicopter into the mix.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A few quick links

Joel, over at So You Want to Teach, has put together a list of 50 Teaching Tips. Some are pretty universal -- "Choose your battles," "Establish a constant routine" -- and some are much more specific -- "You need to teach fundamental technique before you can presume to teach musicality." But all of them are worth a perusal and possibly a usal.

Also, I'm a bit late on this one, but the newest Carnival of Education is up (and has been since Wednesday) at Bellringers! I forgot to submit anything for inclusion, but there are still lots of great articles there, worth your perusal. (and possibly usal)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

League parity

Today before I left my classroom, I took care of my kids' Thursday folders. Thursday folders are these folders that we send home on... you guessed it, Thursday. This is when we send home graded homework, old tests, fliers from the school, etc.

The kids are supposed to bring back their folders on Friday so that the teachers have them for the following week. It has been my experience that many kids often do NOT bring them back, so I devised a motivational system long ago that has worked pretty well. I can sum it up in one word -- Stickers.

If a child brings back their folder the next day, with all of the old papers taken out and left at home -- as they are supposed to -- I put a sticker on their folder that they can either leave as decoration, or take and put somewhere else at home. The kids love stickers, and their faces light up on Thursdays as they see what new sticker they got.

Today, I was using a sheet of stickers that I got from a Sports Illustrated promotional mailing. It has square stickers with the image of a helmet from each team in the NFL. As I neared the end of my stack of folders, I happened to notice a correlation between the helmet I was about to affix and the girl whose name was on the folder. It was the San Francisco 49ers helmet. The 49ers are off to an 0-5 start this year, and they just can't seem to do anything right. Incidentally, the folder I put it on belongs to a girl who has been bombing her tests, has gotten off to an awful start, and (at least on tests and homeworks) just can't seem to get anything right.

Curiously, I looked back at the other folders to see if any other connections had been made. I was surprised to find several.

The girl who got the Green Bay Packers sticker started off the year very well and by all indications, looked like she would be one of my higher students. However, in recent weeks, she seems to have suffered a concussion, and her work has gone downhill.

The boy who got the Jacksonville Jaguars sticker is widely acknowledged by all teachers as one of the lower achieving students. Yet he has a lot of spirit, he puts a lot of effort forth, and he occasionally has moments of brilliance.

The boy who got the New York Jets sticker brags a lot about how great he is.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Let's hit the floor

Today, we began our unit on subtraction. It seems weird to even say that, as I (still) feel that 3rd graders should know how to subtract BEFORE entering 3rd grade. However, at my school, they often don't, and even when they know the basics, they don't regroup (borrow) correctly. Or in some cases, at all.

The kids often just invert things in their minds. If the ones place says 2-7, they turn it around and compute 7-2. If it says 0-4, well that's easy, it's 4. After all, 4-0 is 4.

But things went pretty well today, when I shared a rhyme with them that I heard at my session on Friday. This is a rhyme that I'm sure has been around forever, but for whatever reason, I had never heard it before. Last year, I had success with my own made-up, "Tiny Top vs Big Bottom," but that hasn't seemed to stick this year. However, the kids really liked the new rhyme.

If there's more on the top -- No need to stop.

If there's more on the floor -- Let's go next door -- and get ten more.

If the numbers are the same -- Then zero is the name.

The kids loved it when I said that. Now getting THEM to say it proved a bit challenging in some cases. When they would tell me I needed to regroup on a problem, and I asked why, some of them shouted, "The top is smaller!!" When I tried to get them to recite the rhyme to me, I heard a few mishmashes including, "If there's more on the bottom, let's go next door. And get another ten."

OK, so in the ELA block, we'll work on what makes a rhyme.

Still, once we got into it, things went pretty well. Hopefully, this will help the procedure stick for when we're not just focused on subtraction.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

It's finally here!!

My new cover is finished and up on the Kindle page for Learn Me Good! I am so stoked! It will be a couple of weeks before the paperback copies change over to the new cover, but I still just think this is so cool!!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Rounding the corner

This week has been, and will continue to be, pretty messy. We're giving Benchmark tests (or as I call them, the dreaded BMs) through Thursday, and that really throws a monkeywrench into our teaching time.

So I haven't had as much time to work with the kids as I normally would. However, I have been really pleasantly surprised by how well my kids are getting the concept of rounding, especially given the shorter class periods.

Yesterday, I introduced it to them, and, as is often the case, they acted as if they had never in their entire lives heard the words "Estimating," "Estimation," "Rounding," or "Math." (OK, Math they had heard of.) We started discussing why anyone would want to use numbers that weren't exact, as in the case of shopping. I read them a story about 2 kids using estimation to win a jelly bean counting contest. The story was called, "Betcha," and I had to carefully state up front that this was short for, "I'll bet you -- like they are making bets with each other." I didn't want the kids who hear me say the word, "Beach," and start giggling and oohing and aahing telling their parents I was cussing them out again.

Anyway, once we actually started talking about tens and how to find the closest ones in front and behind the numbers we were using, and then how to decide which of THOSE was actually closest -- things went INCREDIBLY smoothly! With only 1 or 2 exceptions, these kids got it! They were doing the steps, they were rounding correctly. They really got into the whole "Punch it up" strategy.

1 of the kids who struggled didn't understand that the rounded number needed to have a 0 in the ones place, and he was trying to round 27 to 37 or 81 to 71. But even he got the concept down today.

I tried to fool them by giving them tricky numbers to round, like 95. Typically, a lot of kids will tell me that 95 is between 90 and 10 (forgetting that other 0). Not a single one of them was fooled. I gave them 7 to round. They knew that the closest tens were 0 and 10 (usually the 0 hangs them up at first).

It was fantastic. So much so, that even in the short class period, I introduced rounding to hundreds yesterday. When we started practicing tens AND hundreds today, they remembered all of the steps and all of the strategy. It was great!

My homeroom still continues to waste a lot of time by playing and making noises and not listening when I talk, but that's another issue. At least I feel fairly confident that rounding is not going to hold them up. At least not until the big test, I estimate.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Cover model

Thank you to everyone who put in their 2 cents yesterday. I really appreciate all of the feedback! The voting turned out to be just a bit rigged though, because after I posted those initial 4 ideas, I found ANOTHER photo that screamed out to me even more. This new cover makes it feel like I'm almost there on the cover myself (hey, that IS what my arm looks like, after all), and I can write whatever I want on the chalkboard.

Here's a sneak peek.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Judging a book by its cover

Hello, Gentle Readers! (As Stephen King would say... Oh wait, I don't write horror. Usually.)

Reader AND Lurker alert! I need your feedback!

I am strongly considering changing the cover of Learn Me Good, at least for the Kindle version, and I have a few concepts that I have been playing with. All of them involve an actual, professional photograph, as opposed to the (very much self-admittedly) amateur cover that currently graces the book.

Below, you will see 4 possibilities for new cover designs. Please note that the rights still belong to the artists at istockphoto, that's why their logo is prominently stamped in the center. You'll have to imagine that gone.

I would really love to hear any and all feedback on these ideas. What do you like? What do you dislike? Which do you like best, if any? Why?

Thank you in advance!

Edit: I added one more to the mix. This one has a male teacher's arm, which could very well be MINE...

Double Edit:  Here are the two existing covers, as of July 2012: