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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Control in the Classroom

Today we feature a guest post from Nancy Simmons of Online Science Degrees entitled "Controlling a Classroom -- Are Teachers up for It?" This is a post that hits somewhat close to home for many or most of us.

Controlling a Classroom – Are Teachers up to It?

Back in the days when I was in school, I used to look up to my teachers as if they were demigods who could do no wrong. In my eyes, they were perfect and I strived to do my best for them because I wanted to please them in every possible way. It was only as I grew older that the sheen lifted from my eyes and I realized that teachers were human as well. But within the confines of a classroom, any teacher worth his salt has a demeanor to uphold, one that portrays dignity and knowledge. They come across as learned in their subject and wise in other areas as well.

For example, teachers who handle younger students are often able to read children even though they are not trained psychologists. They have a knack for picking out trouble makers and isolating them from the rest of the class so that any impending chaos is nipped in the bud. And professors in college know that they’re not really responsible for the moral behavior of their students and as long as their classes are not disturbed or interrupted, they don’t really worry about their students’ performance.

But even though the best of teachers appear to be unflappable most of the time and seem in control of any situation, there are times when their human nature tends to come out and affect the way they control their classroom:

· When their personal lives are affected: My fifth grade teacher was the best in the business, so when she broke down in the middle of a lesson on the first day of a new term, we were all stunned to say the least. She had always seemed so cool and controlled, never exceeding her limits of friendliness that were couched in a teacher’s veneer. We later learned that her husband had passed away during the vacation, in a boating accident. That was the day I realized that personal tragedy can overcome even the staunchest of us in any situation.

· When they cannot regain control of a classroom: Most teachers know how to control their classes, but when one or two rogue elements succeed in creating havoc and causing a ruckus, things get out of hand and the teacher does not really know what to do. So they resort to shouting and screaming, all of which is to no avail. Then comes the loss of temper and the total helplessness which forces them to sit back and do nothing other than wait for the class to settle down on its own. The only way they can regain control is if they appeal to a higher authority or use their powers to threaten the students in some way.

· When they don’t have the support of the school management: And finally, teachers who do not have the backing of the school management always find themselves at the receiving end in class, no matter how good they are at their job. Troublemakers know that they are helpless, and so take great pleasure in disrupting their classes and causing mayhem.

The bottom line - a teacher must be knowledgeable in much more than the subject – only then can he or she be king/queen of the classroom.


This guest post is contributed by Nancy Simmons, who writes on the topic of online science degrees . She welcomes your comments at her email address: .

Another candle on the cupcake

It almost passed me by without me realizing it, but today (actually yesterday now) is Learn Me Good's blogiversary!

I started this little thing on January 30, 2006. Hard to believe it's been around for 4 solid years.

Thanks to everyone who has read, followed, tweeted, passed on, etc!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Movie potential?

I was feeling rather vain today, so I Googled my book. I put in "Learn Me Good" and Kindle together to see what would come up that I wasn't already aware of.

On the first page, I found a link here. The title is 3 Kindle Indie authors deserving book deals.

The author of the post, one Switch11, states that there is potential for a movie.

So ya hear that, Hollywood?? Let's get it together, people!!

The new sensation that's sweeping the nation

Today, I overheard one of the other 3rd grade teachers talking about one of her kids trying to smuggle food out of the cafeteria. This juvie wannabe was putting bags of Hot Cheetoes down his pants to sneak them out into the classroom.

I suggested that we had a new viral hit on our hands, along the lines of "Pants on the Ground."

"Chips in your pants, chips in your pants! Lookin' like a fool with your chips in your pants!"

Video to follow soon.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Story time

This week, as part of ELA class, I've been reading aloud a story each day and having the kids complete a small literary element chart. Characters, Setting, Problem, Solution, and Summary.

Today, I read them MY story from last year -- The Million Dollar Test (which can be found here).
I needed another story, AND I figured it wasn't too early for them to hear a story about the importance of showing their work on tests.

They really enjoyed it! In fact, my afternoon class was asking for copies of it, and asking if I could write another story!

I'm thinking maybe I could charge a buck a copy and pay off my mortgage!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Paging Mr. Noodle

I have decided that I shall henceforth teach in the style of Mr. Noodle, from Elmo's World via Sesame Street.

For anyone unfamiliar with Mr. Noodle, he is a character that (apparently) lives in Elmo's window and has a very unique style of interpreting questions. Allow me to give you an example...

Elmo will roll up the shade, "waking" Mr. Noodle (the similarities to a peep show booth stop -- for the most part -- there.) Elmo will then ask Mr. Noodle about whatever the topic of the day is. Swimming, cows, lightbulbs, whatever. Elmo may say, "Mr. Noodle, how do you put on your shoes?"

Mr. Noodle will then do something outrageously stupid, ie, put a shoe in his mouth, making Elmo wonder if he has an IQ below 30.

At this point, unseen kids will join the fray, shouting, "NOOOOO, that's not right, Mr. Noodle!!"

Senor Noodle will then do something only slightly less "touched," such as put the shoes down his pants. Again, the kids will patiently yell, "NOOOOO, Mr. Noodle! Shoes don't go there!"

Typically, Mr. Noodle will perform a third troglodytic act, maybe balance a shoe on his head. At this point, we're all waiting to hear the kids shout, "Are you EFFING SH!TTING me???" but they always seem to be inhumanly restrained.

Anyway, enough of the wikipedia article about Elmo's World. The point I am getting at is that I am going to reverse my whole teaching style and try to Noodle it up a bit more. No more probing questions and accurate answers. Instead, when we talk about Perimeter, I am going to randomly make tally marks and wait for the kids to realize that I'm doing the wrong thing and shout, "NOOOOO!" at me. Then I will start dividing a circle into wedges until they again shout at me.

Maybe I will have more success with this technique than ever before.

I'll let you know. For now, I'm going to post this by touching my monitor. If that doesn't work, I'll turn around 3 times in my swivel chair and hoot like an owl.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

You have GOT to be kidding me

Yesterday, we gave an Objective 1 math test. Objective 1 covers most of the basics of mathematics -- all 4 operations, place value, putting numbers in order, rounding, counting money, and fractions.

There were 21 questions on the test. We did absolutely nothing else during class all day. We started the test as soon as the kids sat down. Some kids even worked on the test outside during our Friday recess time.

Still, I had 7 kids who did not finish the test. 2 of them only completed the first 14 questions.

I certainly do not want my kids to race recklessly through a test, answering without thinking, and trying to get done as quickly as possible. However, 2 and a half hours is more than enough time to complete 21 rather basic math questions. In each class, after 1 hour, I made an announcement that people not on at least question 10 were working too slowly and spending too much time on problems, and that they needed to work a little faster to finish on time. I then went around and cajoled individuals who were still on question 4 or 5. I announced a half hour remaining. I announced 20 minutes and then 10 minutes remaining. Did it speed these kids up? No, of course not.

Now, I find myself very torn on what to do. I am sorely tempted to count the unfinished problems incorrect and move on with Monday's plans. However, in addition to making for extremely low grades for those kids who did not finish, I also don't get a true feel for whether or not they actually CAN answer some of those later questions. But, if I devote class time on Monday to finishing, I have no doubt that the kids who only did 14 questions in 2 and a half hours will take the entire class time on Monday to finish -- if then!!

Anybody ever have this kind of experience? What do you do??

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book trailers anonymous

My "infomercial" for Learn Me Good is currently running in a contest over at this site. Voting runs from today through next Tuesday, the 26th.

Please vote for Learn Me Good!

Note: The link has been fixed to go straight to the page that features my trailer. Thanks, Ginger!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Crying? Good!

I love to make kids cry.

OK, I don't really, but I just HAD to write that first sentence. Occasionally, though, I do get a small sense of satisfaction when kids in my class cry. Because it tells me that something has finally mattered enough to them to get some kind of reaction.

On Friday, several kids in both classes did not bring their conduct folders back signed. These folders go home every Thursday, and they tell the parents how their kids have behaved, if they have not done their homework, etc. It is the kids' responsibility to get their parents to sign the calendar page.

When 5 kids in my morning class (and later 4 in my afternoon class) either did not have their folder at all or had brought it back with no signature, I was a bit ticked. So I took those kids down to the faculty phone in our hall, and I had them call their parents and tell them that they (the kids) had not done their jobs and that they were in trouble.

During the course of this, several kids had tearful conversations with their parents, and during the course of THESE, I will admit that my internal voice shouted, "GOOD!! Now maybe this won't happen again!"

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Top 10 Reasons I Love Benchmark Week

10) Standing around, with nothing to do but watch kids quietly take a test, is practically another mini-Christmas.

9) Gives me a chance to see how students other than my own can do on difficult, tricked-up, culturally-biased questions.

8) My psychic ability gets a workout when I predict who will be next to ask to use the restroom.

7) I enjoy witnessing Einstein's Theory of Relativity in action, where every 5 minutes seems like 2 hours.

6) It's just about the only chance I get the time to quietly count pi out to 254,000 places.

5) As an army of one, I do less all morning than most people do before 9 AM.

4) I swell up with pride every time I hear that one of my students finished their test in 30 minutes without showing any work -- that's like doing a crossword puzzle in ink!

3) Sometimes I fall asleep and wake to find that I'm a giant blue creature on another world -- watching giant blue kids quietly working on a test.

2) With half the day devoted to testing, and shortened periods with my classes, there's not as much time for the kids to waste each day.

1) There is always the knowledge that next week will NOT be a benchmark week.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reason and mind = success?

Tomorrow will be the first day I've reported to my school this week. It's not because I've been sick or even that I haven't wanted to go. It IS Benchmark week after all, and who doesn't love a good BM?

Instead, I have been off-site at a training with the other 3rd and 4th grade math teachers for a computer program that is supposed to revolutionize the way math is taught and turn all of our students into geniuses.

We'll see.

The program is called Reasoning Minds, and their data shows major success in the Houston ISD and a couple of California and St. Louis schools. If there is anybody reading this who has actually USED this program, I would love for you to weigh in and let me know what you think of it.

Though it seems like something my district has jumped on in a fit of impulse (and midway through the school year!), I am trying to be optimistic about it. Maybe it really WILL help some of my lower kids with their number sense issues. It will certainly keep my higher kids occupied and hopefully give them some harder extension questions, giving me time to work with those lower kids.

Again, we'll see.

From academic fitness news to body fitness news, Joel of So You Want to Teach and Carol of Bellringers have begun a new blog about a fitness challenge they have begun with one another. If you've ever wanted to participate in or just observe the trials and tribulations of people trying to whip themselves into shape, be sure to head over to their fitness blog!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Yesterday at the end of my morning class session, I did prize basket drawing as I usually do on Fridays. I have a little plastic bucket that the kids put blue tickets that they have earned into, and I draw out 4 or 5 names for pencils and prizes.

As the kids were running up to throw their tickets into the bucket, I said, "Time to play the probability game! Let's see who's most likely and least likely to win!" Pleased with myself for referencing a topic we had covered right before break.

I then asked, "Who would be IMPOSSIBLE for me to choose?" -- thinking that good responses might include the principal, President Obama, Hannah Montana, etc, since they would never have any tickets in the bucket.

Instead, the kids yelled in unison the name of one of the kids in the class. A kid who, in turn, grinned sheepishly and said, "Oh yeah, I don't have any tickets in there."

Hey, he doesn't earn prizes, but at least he understands the concept of impossible.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

ratings and drills

We have been back at school for 2 days now, and I have to say, they have been 2 pretty good days. One of the things that has made them really great -- and I know, it's horrible, I'm going someplace in a handbasket, it's very un-teacherly of me to say, yada yada yada -- is that my biggest problem child has left the building. "Timmy" didn't come to school yesterday (and there was much rejoicing), and his mom arrived this morning with the withdrawal papers. Having Timmy in class was like having 5 ADHD rabid wolverines in class, but with worse social skills. I wish him well in life, but I would be lying if I said I was sorry to see him go.

Tomorrow, the meterologists are predicting snow and temperatures in the teens. Today was right around 33 degrees. Today we had a fire drill. I remembered to grab all the stuff they make us grab -- grade book, information sheets, routes -- but I didn't remember to grab my coat. It was NOT a pleasant 6 minutes outside.

At our staff meeting on Monday, we were told about "S.M.A.R.T. Goals" and asked to create a few. I don't remember what all of the initials in the acronym stand for, except that the R stands for "realistic." My school district expects us to have a 90% passing rate on all subjects from all children by the end of this year on the TAKS. I propose that this is a S.M.A.T. Goal -- with apologies to my Boston readers.

Our math coach gave us a list of school ratings and the passing rates required to meet each rating. 60% passing will get us labeled "Acceptable." 80% gets us "Recognized." 90% gets us the coveted "Exemplary."

I say why not shoot for the moon? Is even Exemplary really what we want to aim for? I have crafted my own SMAT Goal -- I will get us a rating of "Effing Outrageous" by having 115% of my kids pass every subject.

Check back in June...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Time to make the donuts...

I SO understand how that Dunkin' Donuts Drone felt for all those years... :)

Tomorrow, we have to go back to school. It's an in-service day, so we will be listening to our peers, talking about articles on education, etc. Of course, since the custodians were already moving everything from my room out into the hallway to clean the floor at 3:02 on 12/18, I think it would be really nice to have some time to put everything back the way I want it to be. But there will be very little time for that tomorrow. Tomorrow is a meeting day, whereas January 19th will be the teacher prep day. That doesn't make a lot of sense, but that is the time that the 3rd 6-weeks grading period actually ends, so that's where the teacher prep day falls.

Thankfully, it has been a super fantastic Christmas Break. It has seemed really long, I feel relaxed -- of course, my sleep cycle is, as always, screwed up after spending two weeks staying up past midnight and then sleeping past 11. I got grading and paperwork done, but I also plenty of opportunity to be a lazy bum. My fiance and I got a lot of stuff done in regards to wedding planning.

So overall, I'm happy with the break. Now my wish is that my kids come back to school ready and willing to work hard and learn much.

I also wish that we didn't have to report until 11AM tomorrow morning, just to ease back into things...

Saturday, January 02, 2010

My first call for help... in 2010

Hello and happy new year!

Once again, I am requesting your help for promotion with my book Learn Me Good -- but don't worry, it doesn't cost anything other than a couple of minutes!

There is a site called Authonomy that actually places manuscripts on book publishers desks (e-desks, anyway) if the book is ranked highly enough by users. I have uploaded a portion of Learn Me Good to Authonomy, and already it is getting reviews and followers, but I need all the help I can get!

Please, if and when you are available, join authonomy (takes like 5 seconds, and registration is free), find Learn Me Good, and click the link that says "Back the book."

That's all there is to it, and I appreciate your help so much!

Thank you very much in advance!