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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Summer lovin'

Way back in December, my fiance attended my staff Christmas party with me, and got to select a prize while there. Her prize was to choose a day in March to take off at 1:00.

Since her school would hardly honor this prize, it fell to me, and I happily took that day today.

Leaving 2 hours early -- really more like 3 or 4, since I rarely leave before 4:30 -- felt like playing hooky, and I liked it! Driving home with the radio blaring and the window open -- which it had to be, because my A/C is currently not working -- stopping at Lowes to pick up some mulch and flowers for my house. THIS is the life!!

Putting my house on the market next week, so I was able to get a bit of work done outside today in daylight hours. Here's hoping it sells fast!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Crunchy Time

3rd grade math TAKS test is on April 27th. That doesn't leave us with too much time left.

Aside from kids still struggling with the concepts, we have at least covered a lot of the material. Operations, patterns, rounding, measurement, fractions, geometry, etc.

The past few weeks and the next few weeks have been and will be over tougher stuff: The Word Problems.

Most word problems follow some sort of logical path. Most 3rd graders do not. So while it might make perfect sense that if somebody gives away 5 pencils, they should then have LESS pencils than they started with... prompting subtraction...that's not always the way it works out.

Last week, we focused on Two-Step Word Problems. Talk about your basic whipping. There are THREE numbers in the problem now?? We HAVE to add/subtract them all at the same time!!

Usually, when we walk through a problem together, logic prevails. The kids, even the low ones, can tell me when they should add, when they should subtract. The problem arises when the kids face the questions on their own. The main problem being that many of the kids don't actually read the problem or think about what the words mean.

Remember that Far Side cartoon captioned, "What dogs hear?" where the owner said, "Spot, fetch my slippers! Good boy, Spot, that's a good boy, Spot!" and the dog hears, "Spot, blah blah blah blah blah blah, Spot, blah blah blah blah Spot!"

Word problems act in much the same way for a lot of kids.

Blah blah blah blah blah blah 15 blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah 3 blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah?

Ooooooh, I spy, with my tiny little eye, two numbers!! The magic 8 ball in my head says to.... ADD them!

Then the teacher, ME, reads their answer and wonders why the heck each friend has 18 hotdogs, if Alex started with 15 hotdogs and split them up evenly among 3 friends. (Nevermind the fact that they added hotdogs and friends and magically turned them all to hotdogs.)

We start "Reasonableness"-type questions tomorrow. A bit too unreasonable, if you ask me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not the answers I am looking for

Does anyone else experience this?

We're looking at a word problem, for instance one that goes like this: "Timmy has 18 marbles. He gives 5 to Fred and 6 to Becky. How many marbles does Timmy have left?"

I walk around the room to see how the kids are doing. I notice one of them has subtracted 6-5. I ask him, "Please tell me why you have subtracted 6 minus 5 here."

He replies, "So that I could get the right answer."

Undeterred (I've heard this one before, after all), I persist: "But how do you know you were supposed to subtract these numbers?"

He responds, "Because it says, 'Timmy has 18 marbles. He gives 5 to Fred and 6 to Becky. How many marbles does Timmy have left?'"

Ironically, I will get these exact same answers from a child in the next class who has ADDED all three numbers.

No matter how many times I try to tell the kids that reciting the word problem in its entirety does NOT explain how they got their answer -- kids still try it.

Unfortunately, sarcasm is often lost of them, so me trying to turn this around on them usually fails miserably.

"Mister Teacher, why haven't we gone to the computer lab lately?"

"Because we had fried chicken for lunch today."

"Mister Teacher, why can't we go outside for recess today?"

"Because the Pledge says, 'I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America...'"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Narrowing the field

Last month, I posted about the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and making the first cut, from 5,000 entrants down to 1,000.

Today (finally!), the second critical date has arrived, the one where the remaining 1,000 were winnowed to the top 250.

Drum roll, please...

I am overwhelmed, excited, astounded, and just a bit gassy to announce...


At this stage of the game, the ENTIRE book is read by Publishers Weekly, and they rate and review it. The next cut comes on April 27th, when they narrow it down to 50 entries.

Man, I might not be able to sleep tonight!

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Travesty

A shocker awaited me at lunchtime on the first day back from Spring Break today. So much so that I felt compelled to write an email to the entire staff of my school, something I don't often do. Here was my letter:

"Hello all,

For my birthday back in February, my team members got together and bought me a present that was near and dear to my heart -- a giant bottle of ketchup. This bottle had my name written on it, and it was placed in the door of the refrigerator in the teacher's lounge, to be used as needed at lunch time. When we left for Spring Break, less than 1/3 of the bottle had been used.

Today, with four very tomato-friendly chicken strips waiting on my tray, I opened the fridge, expecting to find my beloved condiment, but instead discovered that the bottle was gone.

The fridge was full of other things -- plastic bags with food, bottles of water and soda, etc -- so I don't believe that this is a matter of the refrigerator being cleaned out over break (and if it was, there needs to be an announcement next time). Rather, this seems to be a straightforward case of Heinz-jacking.

This is just wrong on so many levels.

To whomever stole my ketchup, all I ask is that you place it back inside the door of the fridge. No questions will be asked, no charges pressed.

Thank you,


While in the lunchroom, still reeling from the theft, several other teachers mentioned that things have gone missing from their rooms. A CD from our coach's office, candy from several classrooms, pencils, etc.

Hopefully whoever it was (and really, there were only a handful of people around during Spring Break) will get the message and knock it off...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

An open letter to Coach K

Dear Coach K (rzyzewski),

First, let me offer my congratulations on once again getting your team into the NCAA tournament -- something that your biggest rival, the Tarholes, were unable to do. Your team this year has shown inconsistency at times, but they have pulled together when it has counted, holding everyone off to win the ACC championship. Singler, Scheyer, and Smith have been awesome, and it has been great to see the emergence of Brian Zoubek as a presence in the paint.

Let me get to the point of my letter. As you may or may not know, I am getting married in July, and while that is still a ways off, I would like to request my wedding gift from you now. While you have not actually received a Save the Date or an invitation, please know that, if you are available, you are certainly invited.

As a gift for our special day, I would love to ask that you win the NCAA Championship this year. But that seems a little much. So instead, I'll merely ask that you take it to the Final Four. No embarrassing losses to Louisville, Purdue, or A&M. If there is a rematch against Villanova, please take your rightful revenge and knock them out of the tourney.

So to sum up, early wedding gift -- Final Four. Oh, and if you DO make it, and could swing courtside TICKETS to your games? That would be spectacular as well.

Good luck and God bless.


John Pearson

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bards and Sages review

Thanks to Julie over at Bards and Sages for the latest review of Learn Me Good.

"Having a female in your workplace ask you how long you are is awkward. When the female is your 3rd grade student, it becomes surprisingly hilarious."

"Pearson presents the children in his class with all of their foibles, but does so in a way that is endearing and witty without being mean-spirited. You may think it was not possible to nickname one of your students Lucifer and not be mean-spirited, but Pearson manages it surprisingly well. Of course, when you have children in your class named Samsonite and Baby Boy, Lucifer doesn’t strike anyone as all that odd."

Check out the full review here!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Time for March Mathness, Bay-bee!!

It's almost time for the NCAA men's college basketball tournament to get underway again, so as usual, I've created a pool over at The name of the pool is March Mathness, and all are invited to enter.

You can create your entry now, but you have to wait until after the pairings are announced to actually make your picks. This will happen late Sunday evening. Picks must be made by early Thursday morning, before the first game starts (the "play-in" game doesn't count towards the bracket choices).

Good luck to all, and I hope to see you there!

Very intolerant...

DISD seems to be sending out a message to Catholics this Lenten season -- Screw you!!

In the past, on Fridays - when Catholics are not supposed to eat meat - the cafeteria has regularly served fish sticks, shrimp, or other acceptable choices. This year, however, there have been chicken nuggets, pizza pockets, and today, some kind of breakfast weiners...

Sure, there have been cheese sticks, but I just refuse to accept that as an entree on ANY day.

What is up, DISD??? Whatever happened to fishstick Friday?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Unaccountable talk

Last week, I assigned a homework over missing information that some of the kids did great on and some didn't get at all. The sort of question like "Sherri has 7 bookshelves. She wants to find the total number of books that she has. What information does she need to find the total number of books? (The answer being: what color her shirt is. Just kidding. She needs to know how many books are on each shelf.)

So I paired up the kids who had gotten all 3 questions right with the kids who had not and had them go over their answers and their reasoning. As they did this, I walked around and listened in.

I happened to overhear one boy asking the girl he was paired with, "So you probably didn't even read this problem, did you? You weren't paying attention, and that's why you got it wrong!" The girl replied, "Yes, I was paying attention," to which the boy responded, "Come on, you weren't, were you?

I had to ask the boy to be just a bit nicer in his "help."

Today, we were looking at word problems. I've been trying to help the kids decide what operation they should use by looking at the units. If the units are the same (ie, 10 bears and 5 more bears), they can add or subtract. If the units are different (ie, 10 bears and 5 cages), they should multiply or divide.

The problem I had tasked them with talked about M&Ms and Skittles and asked how many more M&Ms there were than Skittles. They were discussing what to do in pairs. One little girl (NOT my brightest) was telling her partner that they should multiply or divide because M&Ms and Skittles are different things. The boy, instead of just telling her she was wrong was asking probing questions. "What are they?" he asked. "They are the units," she said. He answered, "But what ARE they? Are they nails and boxes? How are they different?"

He was (correctly) trying to get her to see that they were both types of candy and thus the same, but I had to walk away or risk laughing out loud at their conversation.

Finally, on our way out to the buses today, one of my little girls told me that when her dad got out of jail (!) they were going to move away from the United States. I figured she meant to Mexico, so I was being facetious when I asked, "You will move to Japan?" "No!" she answered. "The moon?" I asked. "No!" again. When I asked her where, she replied, "To Miami."

Geography just is not her strong suit.

Monday, March 08, 2010

What a spork!

Mrs. Math, another 3rd grade teacher, was sitting next to me at a meeting in the cafeteria the other day, and she directed my attention to a box of supplies sitting over in the corner. She said, "See if you can guess what my kids were calling each other today."

I scanned the printing on the box -- Napkins, cups, black sporks, trays.

Would you believe I guessed correctly? The kids were calling each other "black sporks!"

These kids will grab at anything to put each other down!

Well kids, if you are reading, here are a couple more suggestions of nasty names to call each other to REALLY burn:

Late Homework
Yellow Highlighter
Sticky Note
Dirty Overhead Transparancy
Adopted Curriculum
Cum Folder

Friday, March 05, 2010

Read an e-book week

Smashwords is holding a "Read an e-book" promotion for a week, in which many books can be downloaded electronically for a large discount.

I've enrolled Learn Me Good in the program, so from March 7-13, you can get a copy for only $1.00. Just enter coupon code RAE50 at checkout.

While you're there, check out all of the other discounted ebooks, and enjoy the week!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Facebook Fellows, Unite

Well, I've gone and done it. Something so incredibly immodest, it's not even funny. But hey, everyone's doing it, right?

I've created a Facebook fan page for Learn Me Good. So if you're a Facebook-type guy or gal, please join as a fan!

A little light TAKS practice

I have not been blogging with my regular frequency, as I have been incredibly busy. I am trying to get my house ready to sell, so I've been painting and prepping; I'm (marginally) involved with the wedding planning; and I'm jumping through all the TAKS hoops that my school is putting up in front of me.

So if you've said to yourself, "Dang, Mister Teacher hasn't said anything funny in a while!" well you're right.

But I'm here writing now. 4th grade took their Writing TAKS test today, and thankfully 3rd grade did not have one, but we gave practice TAKS tests on Monday and Tuesday. The results are both hopeful and depressing at once.

Within my classes, I had some very high scores. Even 2 kids who got a perfect score and several who missed less than 3. By far, the majority of my kids passed with above a 70. But I also had some very low kids -- 30s and 40s -- and I honestly don't see how I'm going to get them to pass.

So much of it seems to be attitude with these kids too. They know how to do the problems that they are missing, but when it's a test and/or I am not in the room, they don't show any work, they don't do the steps, and so they get the answers wrong.

The ones that REALLY bug me are the questions that ask what is 30,000+2,000+70+3, and some kids are too lazy to just frakkin ADD IT UP AND SEE WHAT YOU GET!!! They would rather just pick the first answer they see that has a 3 at the front.

Anyway, most of you are probably saying, "Dang, Mister Teacher STILL hasn't said anything funny in a while!" and you're right.

So this is for you -- some funny things to say.

Egg McMuffin
Studs Terkel
Dick Trickle
Pound Puppies Posed Provocatively
Expired Vienna Sausages
My bowels be runnin'
West Virgina