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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Quick hits

Just a list of disjointed quick hits today:

TAKS reading today -- long and boring for teachers and students alike. Some of my kids found it to be too much and started acting like idiots, getting out of their seats, talking, passing things to each other when they thought the teacher wasn't looking...

That song by Kris Allen called Live Like We're Dying annoys my mathematical sensibilities. The key line in the song is "We only got eighteen, four hundred seconds in the day..." Forgetting the poor grammar, the fact that he leaves the word THOUSAND out ticks me off to no end. That's only the most important word in the number!!

My school was highlighted on the news last night. Not really a good thing.

Read most of a funny book my friend Stacy got me for my birthday. Posted about it over on the wedding blog.

I can never tell the difference between allergies and a cold. I have one or the other right now, and either way, it doesn't make me happy.

I truly enjoy my friends at school and their wittyness.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

TAKS Math is down

Today really seemed like the longest TAKS day ever. Maybe it was because I feel sick. Maybe it was because the kids I was watching were all done by 11:15. Maybe it was because I knew I'd be finding out if my book made the next cut in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

At any rate, the first day is down. According to the teachers watching MY kids, they really tried their best. We'll see in a few weeks.

Oh, and Learn Me Good unfortunately did NOT make the top 50. Hey, we started with 5,000, and I made it down to the top 250. So that's an honor in itself. I get a Publisher's Weekly full manuscript review out of it too, so that should be appearing in the next week or so.

Plus, I have another long day tomorrow to look forward to!

Monday, April 26, 2010

T Minus 1

To paraphrase Jack Bauer -- this week is going to be the longest week of my life...

TAKS week is finally upon us. Today was actually the easy day. Tomorrow and Wednesday are all day testing -- standing and walking around the room, watching kids take a test. Thursday will be something new for me. I am giving a test one-on-one to a kid. This kid is special ed and requires the test to be read to him, and I volunteered to do it because this kid also comes from a culture that does not promote respect to women. He is HORRIBLE for his 3 teachers (all women), but when he gets put in my room for time-out or to finish a test, he is usually no problem for me. So I stepped up to administer this test. At least I'll get to sit down.

Today was pretty nice. After full-on review all of last week, today we just did a few morning math problems and then some fun and relaxing stuff. We measured how tall everybody was, for a reference point to help with any height questions that may arise. Everybody stood on a scale to get a reference point for any weight problem that may arise. Then we had a bull session about the test. The kids asked questions and I answered. All capped off with the fan favorite -- Math Quiz Game Show.

Now I can only keep my fingers crossed that they play the way we've practiced.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Covering up the mess

It seemed to take forever this year to get to the point of TAKS testing. Possibly because this is the first year that we haven't done the reading TAKS first (in March). I think that my kids are as ready as they are going to be, though. I estimate about 7 will not pass, but the others should do well, and hopefully some of those 7 will surprise me.

Of course, we still have to jump through the usual hoops of covering up everything in our rooms, etc. Figured now was as good a time as any to revisit this gem. My (never sent and never to be sent) letter to downtown...

Dear District Personnel:

I began covering aspects of my room today, per instructions for TAKS administrations, but I have begun to realize how futile my efforts are. You see, if I am to remove all the visual aids that might unfairly help my kids during the test, it's not enough for me to merely place construction paper over my number line (so that the kids will not be able to look up and see what number comes after 42) or over my Word Wall (so that the kids will not be reminded of the proper spelling of the word "cylinder" -- even though any question relating to a cylinder will already have the word right there).

Verily, even covering up my Classroom Rules, which, granted, ARE mathematically numbered from one to five, or covering up my cursive alphabet strips (I guess so that kids will remember to PRINT their extra work, instead of handwriting it?) is not sufficient!

You see, there are many more things in the classroom environment that might help them on the test. For instance, a child may glance up from his/her exam and notice the shades on the windows. The shades can be pulled up or pulled down, and thinking about these options might remind the child of estimation, where they are required to round up and round down. These shades will need to be removed immediately. Also, the ceiling tiles in my classroom are square in shape AND are arranged in a geometric pattern. I would absolutely hate for a test monitor to enter my room and see how easily a student could be reminded of such topics by simply looking up. I would like to request that my ceiling be removed before the test tomorrow, or at the very least, that a large tarp is provided to cover the tiles.

My third graders go to lunch every day at the same time. They already know when lunch will be served, and they will be constantly thinking throughout the day about how much time they have left until lunch! Do you agree with me that this is a constant reminder of elapsed time? I suggest that no lunch is served on TAKS days, or if that is not possible, that the time to eat is chosen completely at random. Maybe they'll eat at 8:43, maybe they'll eat at 1:59. Oh, and we should also send the kids home at separate times; perhaps some sort of lottery system could be put into play?

Earlier in the year, when we talked about measurement and units of length, we associated each unit of length with a part of the body. An inch is about the length from the tip of the thumb to the first knuckle. A foot is about the length from the elbow to the wrist. I am sad to report that all of the children in my class this year are in possession of thumbs, elbows, and wrists, and this will undoubtedly assist these children in any measurement questions that might arise on the TAKS. I feel that the child's OWN body parts are acceptable help, but other children in the room will be unacceptable visual reminders. Therefore, we will need to administer the TAKS to each child separately, with no other human beings in the room.

Actually, it occurs to me that the classroom itself is a rectangular prism. What can we do about putting each child into an amorphous physical structure?

Thanks for taking all of these things into consideration. If you could have some answers back to me by tomorrow morning, I would greatly appreciate it. Otherwise, will have to implement these things next year.

Your loyal servant,

Mister Teacher

Well that's just great

I don't want to go into any details here, but the sad fact is that I am directly involved in my district's latest financial snafu. Through absolutely no fault of my own, things have happened with my paycheck that now need to be fixed, despite being a colossal mess.

I got a letter yesterday that had the superintendent's seal, that basically said, you need to contact payroll to get this resolved. Way to put the ball in MY court instead of taking responsibility. In addition, I apparently have to look up payroll's contact information myself, since no phone number, email address, fax, etc was included.

Gotta love the personal touch.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Top 10 Rejected Meanings of TAKS

This is an excerpt from a guest post that originally appeared on So You Want to Teach on January 25, 2008.

The timing seems just about right.

TAKS stands for the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, but my understanding is that that was not the original acronym.

Without further ado, here are The Top Ten Rejected Meanings of TAKS:

10) Texas Accepts Kids’ Suffering
9) That Aggravating Kidney Stone
8) Teachers against Knuckle Sandwiches
7) This Ain’t Kansas, Scarecrow
6) Talking About Kama Sutra
5) Testing All Kids Simultaneously
4) Throw Away Knowledge, Sonny
3) Think Again, Kindergarten Students
2) Take Another Kid’s Sanity
1) This Assessment Kinda Sucks

Monday, April 19, 2010

hot and cold

Today, I walked into my classroom and immediately noticed that it was hot and stuffy. So, since the maintenance men came in and fixed the A/C unit last Friday, I went to turn it on to provide a blast of cool air for the room.

Instead, I nearly suffocated as a furnace of hot air erupted out of the vents. Having actually moved the temperature in my room UP a few degrees, I stopped our head custodian as soon as I saw him walk by my room.

I told him what had happened, and he said yeah, they turned the heat on downtown instead of the a/c. "Downtown" controls what comes out of my vents, and since it was 52 degrees outside, they decided that the heat should be on. Nevermind the fact that my room is not OUTside...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Free shipping!

I have just been presented with a coupon code that reduces shipping on orders of Learn Me Good from -- from $3.99 to $0.00!!

Just enter coupon code FREEMAIL305. This coupon is good for the month of April.

Also, if you haven't already joined the Learn Me Good fan page on Facebook, now's your chance!

Big fat cheater

Yesterday, one of my little girls made me so mad. This is a girl that has been a headache all year long. She bullies other kids, she copies, she tattles, she disobeys, she talks when she shouldn't, she pretends to read when she should be reading, and she is way more concerned with what the people around her are doing than what SHE should be doing.

Yesterday after lunch, I sat in on an SST (Student Support Team) meeting where the focus was this girl. Her mom was even there, talking about the problems the girl is having.

When I got back to class, the TA had gotten the kids started on their math test. Shortly after I had returned, I caught this same little girl cheating!!! She was trying to sneak glances at her multiplication tables inside her desk!!

This little girl is no lightweight, and it took every ounce of my willpower NOT to call her a big fat cheater (though all 3 parts definitely apply). Instead, I left out the word "fat" as I sent her to the corner.

UGH!! Makes me so mad that the adults in her life are trying to help her, and she doesn't want to put any effort into anything other than trying to be sneaky.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's in the bag

Loyal FoLMeG Katie recently brought my attention to the fact that she has entered a design in Kroger's "Design a Reusable Bag" contest, and she needs votes!

So I'm asking everyone to go over, check out her bag -- pretty cool, eh? -- and cast a vote! And then go back again the next day and vote again!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

B is for Bribery

Just under 2 weeks till TAKS. I wonder if it's too late to start the bribery.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I've been attempting bribery for months, but I wonder if it's too late to actually start promising to write blank checks to kids who otherwise seem to have no chance of passing. Kids that just MIGHT (on the very mightest edge of the might scale) pass if they took all 7 hours and perused carefully over every question, but who more probably will grab numbers out of word problems and do ungodly things with them. Kids who will say that 8/3 of the balloons are shaded. Kids who will choose "Not here" any and every time that option is presented.

2 more weeks. Are there enough Hot Cheetos in the world to bribe these kids?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Acts of Vengucation

Back in the day, I used to be an avid comic book collector. Last week? No, I'm talking about when I was in high school. Instead of dating, I had my superhero stories. Worked out ok in the end.

One of the cross-over storylines that I remember most was called Acts of Vengeance. This mult-part event involved Spiderman, Iron Man, The Avengers, and many other of Marvel's heroes. In a nutshell, 5 or 6 of the top villains got together and decided that they were tired of constantly getting beaten up by their archnemeses. Spidey knew all of Green Goblin's moves, so he could always defeat him. The Fantastic Four had faced Dr. Doom so often, they could handle him without issue.

So the villains decided that they should swap dance partners to defeat the heroes. Magneto would pick a fight with Ironman, who had never fought him before. And why they never thought of THAT one before, who knows. etc, etc

Did I lose you yet? Thankfully, I know Joel, Chad, and Ed u Cater sometimes read this blog and at least know what I'm talking about...

I was thinking a few weeks ago how possibly this strategy might work for us at school. One of my teaching partners is having trouble with some of her kids. They are used to her, but what if I came in and worked with them? Basically doing the same things they've already heard in class, but coming from a different voice.

A 4th grade teacher comes occasionally to MY room to work with a couple of my lower kids with the same intent.

The problem seems to be that these kids, who seem totally clueless, in class and on tests, seem to know what they're doing with the new tutor.

I have worked with Mrs. Math's kids a couple of times now. She told me that these kids do not know how to regroup when they subtract. That they always forget to regroup, or that they do it the wrong way. Yet when I sit them down and give them a few problems to work, they do it just fine with no prompting from me!

I mean, there are slight issues, but overall, if I didn't know any better, I would say these kids know how to regroup!

Sounds like good news on the surface -- these kids HAVE been listening! They DO know how to subtract! But the fact is that they still are not doing it when it counts -- in class, on homeworks, on tests.

That can be very frustrating for the teacher of record.

Maybe I just need to sic Dr. Doom on them and see how they regroup...

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Not your usual Easter plans

Last Thursday, I gave my kids a Quick Write assignment where the prompt was "What are your plans for this Sunday?" We talked about how Sunday was Easter, so if they had Easter plans, that was what I wanted them to write about, and if they didn't celebrate Easter, then they should just write about what they would do on a normal Sunday.

Some of the results were pretty amusing.

From one kid saying that, as usual, he would top the day by seeing a scary movie, to a girl talking about Easter dinner at the Chinese food restaraunt, one stood head and shoulders above the rest.

One of my really good writers, very articulate, wrote about how he would be going to his cousins' house, and they had asked him to be the bunny rabbit. He hoped that they would not beat him with a stick. Last year, when he was Santa Claus, he got beat up by some 1st graders, and got away just before they started throwing rocks at him.

Not really sure how much of that is fact and how much is fiction, but I found it a very interesting tale nonetheless.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Thank you, Coach K!

In regards, to my early posting from about a month ago...

Coach K, you have come through in stellar fashion. Going above and beyond my request (I did, after all, only ask that you make it to the Final Four), you have given us our 4th National Championship.

Thank you!!

And Chad, who posted this:

"Don't you think you're asking a bit too much here? Dook to get to the Final Four? Why not ask for mandatory state testing to go away or for all of your students to enter you classroom each year reading at grade level. I'm trying to remember the last team from Tobacco Road to win a title? Oh yeah, Carolina last year. How about the team before that? Oh yeah, The Heels again in 2005. Perhaps Duke will someday regain their glory and you will be happy. I just hope it's not this year...or next....or next..."

Now it will be much easier for you to remember the Tobacco Road champion. Duke.

All of my kids at grade level... don't be ridiculous...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

"Reasonable" Math Problems

Here is the post that showed up on I Want to Teach Forever on April Fool's Day, reposted in its entirety here:

As I mentioned the other day, we have dived in headfirst to the "tough stuff" of the 3rd grade curriculum. Word problems, 2-step problems, and now, "Reasonable" problems. It's pretty ironic, but even with 4 years of high school math under my belt, 3 ½ years of college math and engineering, and 2 years of graduate school math and engineering, I had NEVER come across this type of math problem in my life until I started teaching 3rd grade.

Here's a typical problem:

Mr. Sutton buys 4 tools at the hardware store. The least expensive tool is $10, and the most expensive tool is $20. What is a reasonable total for all 4 tools?

In my opinion, Mr. Sutton should look at his receipt and find the exact prices of each tool and add them, or at least round them and add. This lowest and highest deal is silly. Yet teach it we must.

Oh, and there's also a second kind of reasonable question.

Suzy the Squirrel can bury 3 to 5 nuts every day. How many days will it take her to bury 40 nuts?

Nevermind the fact that I always have to stop and deal with giggle fits every year when we do this problem in class (the kids giggle, too. NUTS!), but I think this kind is more difficult than the first because it requires something beyond just adding to find a total.

Speaking of unreasonableness, I have been working on getting my honeymoon booked. My fiancé and I have decided upon Turks and Caicos (mostly just because it is incredibly fun to say), and a 5 night stay at an all-inclusive resort there. However, the airfare is redonkulous!! Almost 700 bucks per person! Of course, if it was some of my kids charging me airfare, it wouldn't be so bad, because 2 people at 700 dollars each would only be 702 dollars. Possibly even 698 dollars. However, in the real world, it's so much more than that.

Ideally, my book would win the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest and the $15,000 prize that goes along with it. Realistically, though, that's probably not going to happen. Any chance everyone could encourage their friends and neighbors to buy a couple of copies of Learn Me Good? On the Kindle even?

Coach K has already come through and delivered on my request. Somehow I doubt he's going to come to the wedding, but at least he gave me my early present.

Is it still "reasonable" to think that Duke can win it all?

Friday, April 02, 2010

OK, so I don't teach Kindergarten

OK, ok, so a few of you caught on (those of you actually reading this blog, that is) to my little April Fool's prank. And ok, ok, so it's pretty much the same thing I did last year. But it seemed fun last year, so why not try it again?

Several years ago, artists of various comic strips in the newspaper switched places and drew each other's strips on April 1st. The Dilbert guy drew Garfield. The Garfield guy drew Rose is Rose. The Rose is Rose guy drew Foxtrot. Etc. I loved it. I wish they would do it every year.

It inspired me to try the same thing here with a few blogs. So a few of us switched places for the day. If you read my post yesterday and were wondering why I seemed so chippy and talking about kindergarteners--ACTUAL kindergarteners, not just kids who ACT like kindergarteners--then know this. It weren't me! Yesterday's post was written by Halpey of Look at my Happy Rainbow!

MY post, continuing the topic of Reasonableness (and un) can be found at Mr. D's blog, I Want to Teach Forever (FAME!) Definitely worth checking out! You can also read my honeymoon plea!

Here's the entire list of April Fools:

I posted "Reasonable" Math Problems at I Want to Teach Forever.

Mr. D posted Use a Dartboard to Review Geometry and Probability at Mrs. Bluebird's Classroom.

Mrs. Bluebird posted Molly the Manager at Successful Teaching.

Loonyhiker posted Looks aren't Everything at Scheiss Weekly.

Mamacita posted "Adult" means "Dirty" at Look at My Happy Rainbow!

Halpey posted Q is for Quickie Mart Clerk? here on Learn Me Good.

Hope you enjoyed this fun little activity! If you did, please leave a comment or two!

Oh, and in honor of the month of April and the Fools that go with it, I am offering the Kindle version of Learn Me Good for the (foolishly?) low price of $1.99! Download yours now!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Q is for... Quickie Mart Clerk?

One of our daily activities is drilling all the letters and sounds… in an effort to spice up this monotonous routine, I found some occupation cards to use. Each card has the letter of the alphabet prominently displayed and a picture of a corresponding profession. We say the letter, the sound, and finally the name of the occupation. “A, /a/, astronaut, B, /b/, baker, C, /k/, construction worker," etc.

In an effort to engage my sprouts, I have them sign ‘me too’ when we get to a job they think they might like when they grow up. I’m always amused at which jobs are most popular.

After explaining what an E, /e/, engineer was, many fancied that line of work. I have quite a few girls who thought nothing would be more fulfilling than H, /h/, hairdresser. I’m always happy that R, /r/ rock star isn’t all the rage… the media hasn’t influenced my kindergartners yet. Only one girl wanted to be a Q, /q/, queen… after the activity one day, she came up and whispered in my ear, “a princess gets to become a queen someday…”

When we get to T, /t/, teacher, they all point to me smiling. Naturally, most of them want to be a T, /t/ teacher and that is the greatest reward I could wish for. Who wouldn’t want to spend their day singing, be showered in hugs, practice magic, help children learn to zip their coats, or wear paper hats at work. Teaching kindergarten has made me a better man… I can’t think of anything I’d rather be… not even a K, /k/, karate instructor.