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Sunday, May 30, 2010

You have a friend request

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email informing me that the Dallas Independent School District now has a Facebook page. The email ended with this statement -- "Staff are encouraged to become a fan of the official Dallas ISD Facebook page and encourage other Facebook users who may be interested to do the same."

OK, first of all, THAT'S just not gonna happen. Second of all, that email was almost immediately followed by another email reminding us that Facebook was on the banned web address list for DISD, so we would not be able to access the DISD FB page from school. We were encouraged to enjoy the page and its contents from home or a library.

However, over the past week, I have been having a bit of fun imagining what I could expect to see if I DID become a fan of DISD's Facebook page.

  • DISD needs help defeating Don Ramiro in Mafia Wars! Please help by sending grenades.
  • DISD is playing Fishworld and discovered this rainbow jewel-encrusted seahorse egg!
  • DISD has just let 23 teachers go" (I wonder if any followers would have the balls to "like" that one).
  • DISD is friends with RISD, FWISD, and LVISD -- See 148 similar stories
  • DISD has sent you 1,500 poker chips!
  • DISD hates TAKS!
  • DISD has reached Level 15 in Farmworld! Send them a free chicken egg!

And so many, many more.

Hmmm... maybe I should become a fan after all.


Monday, May 24, 2010

The Final Monday!

Yes indeedy, today was our final Monday of classes in the 2009-2010 school year. Of course, that is because we have a holiday next Monday -- Memorial Day. We unfortunately still have TWO more Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and for us teachers, Fridays.

But they should just fly right by! (insert choruses of "Yeah, right.") Tomorrow is Career Day -- which my kids see on the calendar and pronounce as one who cars -- a carrer. Wednesday is Field Day, at least the latter half of the day is. Next week is an awards day.

I was incorrect about one of my comments on the last post. I did not have 3 kids who scored a perfect 100 on their math tests. Those 3 actually missed one. Always hard to tell when the scaled score is out of like 832, and it's not liner, so each question doesn't count for the same amount of points. Oh, and apparently one only needed a 58 or so to pass the reading test this year. Wow.

We will spend a lot of our class time this week decorating our hallway for the International Festival on Friday. My kids have made hockey players (for Canada) and palace guards and bobbies for England. Currently, we're working on bulls for Spain. I showed one class a video on youtube of the running of the bulls, and they laughed and laughed whenever someone got trampled or flipped by a bull. Kids these days.

Still, as little time as we have left, I find myself jealous of teachers who are already out...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Quick hits time

Ah, so very nice to have a day off from school. Not exactly a restful day, as I spent it moving boxes and furniture out of my house and into storage and my fiance's condo. But still, nice to have the time to do that.

I played volleyball on Wednesday for the first time in months, and it was a doubleheader at that. Naturally, my whole body now feels like it's on fire. Every time I sit down, it's a struggle to stand back up. Makes moving boxes even MORE fun!

TAKS scores came in today, and they were exactly what I had been expecting. I had 8 kids that didn't pass. They weren't exactly the 8 kids that I had expected, though. 2 kids that I didn't think would pass did (nice surprise), and 2 kids that I thought WOULD pass, did not (not so nice surprise). Those 2 kids who I thought would pass, one missed passing by one question, the other missed it by two. I did have 3 kids who got a perfect score, so that's nice.

One of my favorite shows of all time ends this weekend. Lost has just had a fantastic run, full of mystery, adventure, and jaw-dropping awesomeness. I will totally be glued to the tv this Sunday. One of my favorite NEW shows, Flashforward, has already been cancelled. I honestly don't get how people don't love this show. It has a great premise, great writing, nice twists, and plenty of jaw-dropping awesomeness. Oh well, if only I could be a Nielson family.

The Learn Me Good Facebook fan page is only 5 members away from 200! Come and "Like" it if you haven't already!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Finally, we've found her calling

Last month, I posted about the Big Fat Cheater in my class -- a girl who just may as well be a piece of furniture in the room, for as much as she learns, except that a piece of furniture isn't nearly as annoying and aggravating.

This week, I've been teaching the kids long division. This is part of my "Get them introduced to a few 4th grade topics" initiatives. Some kids have really picked up on it, some kids have struggled a bit, and some kids just haven't gotten the concept at all.

Yesterday, I sat down in small groups with the kids who weren't getting it. We did lots of problems on whiteboards, first working them together, and then with me just watching and prompting. This girl, A, seemed to be catching on at the end of our time.

However, her mind is apparently like the Hatch on Lost, and nobody is there to press the button every 108 minutes to prevent memory loss (Sorry, I'm REALLY gonna miss my favorite show).

So she totally bombed the test today. 456 divided by 3 is 9,976? 381 divided by 5 is 002 with a remainder of 140?

No great surprise there.


At recess today, I brought the football outside again and the kids clamored to play catch. When my non-academician came to play, she actually blew everyone away. She caught every ball I threw to her (and I even started moving back to throw farther passes to her), AND when she threw it back to me, the ball had a perfect spiral!

The timing is actually pretty good here, because we had to turn in our requests for certificates for our end of year awards ceremony, and my partner teacher and I have been racking our brains trying to come up with the minimum 2 awards to select for this girl. Now we at least have 1, a "Teacher's Choice" award -- Most likely to be a Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker.

No, that needs to be reworded. Maybe Best Football Passer.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tossing the pigskin

Last Friday, I took my football outside. I haven't taken it outside at all this year. Over the past couple of years, I would take it out regularly during recess and throw it around with my kids. But last Friday was the first time I had played football with my kids this year.

It might be because I haven't felt like throwing it around with this year's students. It might be that I just haven't physically felt like throwing it around at all. It might be that I've felt the need to sit and keep an eye on the kids who have lost their recess privileges.

But I decided better late than never. And we had a lot of fun. We don't play actual football. Oh heavens no. Even "touch" football always seems to lead to the kids fighting and hitting. So basically the kids take turns trying to catch the ball when I throw it.

The thing is, they all expect me to be Tony Romo. If I don't place that throw exactly on the palms of their hands, they are most likely not going to catch it. Few of them move in any direction to get closer, and some of them even complain when it goes a little over their head or lands at their feet.

For an almost-40 year old guy who hardly ever throws a football, I think I do all right!

Friday, almost my entire class -- boys and girls -- wanted to play catch. I think that's pretty cool.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Behold the power of math

When I picked up the kids from the playground today, we had a little time on our hands as my helper ran around to open the door so we could go inside. So naturally, the kids took that opportunity to loudly pester me for my age. I refrained from answering.

Suddenly, though, one of my girls announced that she had a 36 year old sister. Seeing as how my student is 9 years old, I thought it odd that she would have a sister that old. Not entirely within the realm of impossibility, but very unlikely. So I asked her how old her mother was. She told me that her mother was 43.

I didn't want to jump to any immediate conclusions, so I asked her if she had the SAME mother as her sister, and she affirmed. I told her that her mother would have had to have had her sister at age 7 if that was the case.

Apparently, judging by her red face and her sheepish grin, she was a bit mistaken on one age or the other, I never found out which.

Ain't math great?

On another note, the Carnival of Educators is up and running (with a Mother's Day theme!) at I Want to Teach Forever. Go over and check out all the great posts!

A Lump Update

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you may remember the story of "Lump," a student that was put in my class for the last month of school two years ago. Lump had made his other teacher feel physically threatened, so he got put into my class. He then proceeded to bang his desk on the ground, whistle during class, sleep, and sometimes spontaneously leave the classroom.

It was a pretty rough month, but somehow we both made it through.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard that Lump, who is now in the 5th grade, not only passed his math TAKS, but achieved a Commended score.

I of course can't take credit for that; he's had some terrific teachers since 3rd grade. Still, it's pretty awesome to hear about a turn-around like that.

I finally saw Lump in the hallway the other day, and I stopped him to congratulate him, pump his hand, and tell him how proud I was.

Chalk that up as a success!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Top 10 ways to close out the school year

Down here in Texas, we have crested the hill as it pertains to standardized testing. Yes, there are still some kids who need to RE-take the TAKS, if they are at a grade level that requires passing. And the lower grades are taking ITBS this week. But if not now, then very soon, all teachers will be wondering the same thing -- what do I do for the rest of the year?

Allow me to make a few suggestions. Here are ten ideas for things to do for the next few weeks to keep you and your kids occupied from the morning bell till the afternoon buses leave.

10) Teach your kids Advanced Quantum Mechanics. If the kids' jaws hang open in disbelief, comment that they will comprehend THIS lesson equally as well as they have comprehended everything else this year. (Note: this requires a level of sarcasm that may elude some teachers.)

9) Ask the kids to measure the perimeter of the school -- in millimeters.

8) Have a Bill Nye the Science Guy video marathon. After that, have a Magic School Bus marathon. Then show every episode of Reading Rainbow you can get your hands on. Time allowing, screen old episodes of 3-2-1 Contact. Bonus points if your kids learn the theme song to the Bloodhound Gang before the end of the year.

7) Commit fully to physical education -- OK kids, let's see how many times we can walk around the school in 2 and a half hours! Ready? Go!

6) Give each child one volume of the encyclopedia and a spiral notebook. Ask him/her to transfer everything to the spiral notebook, including pictures. Take off points for spelling.

5) Give kids a clipboard with a new survey every morning. Their job is to survey the entire faculty and student population. Once the complaints start (from other faculty members), task the kids with creating visual presentations of the acquired data.

4) Napping contests. Whoever sleeps the longest and most silently wins a prize each day.

3) Science experiment -- How many pieces of blank white paper can you completely darken using a single crayon? Do different colors give different results?

2) If you teach a bilingual class, spend the next few weeks having THEM teach YOU their native language. Appear to grasp the vocabulary or pronunciation perfectly one day, but then forget it completely the next. EX: on Tuesday, say the Spanish word for red as "rojo." On Wednesday, insist that the Spanish word for red is "eplok."

1) Make a flier that says, "Last day of school -- May 14." Send home.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Sheer craziness

So this "plan" came down the pipeline yesterday, and was (sort of) put into effect this morning.

4 of the 3rd grade teachers were conscripted to become tutors for small groups of 5th grade students who did not pass their TAKS tests and will be making a 2nd attempt in a couple of weeks. These teachers will be upstairs with the 5th grade all day, every day, until the next TAKS.

I was in the computer lab with my class when the principal came by to announce this. I don't know if that is the reason I was not chosen to be a tutor, or if the list was already set.

This morning, 2 of the teachers began the tutoring. There were no subs to be found for the other 2 teachers, so they were still in the 3rd grade hall with us.

At around 9:10 am, one of the subs ran into my room to tell me that someone had just thrown a chair in her room. I went over, and sure enough, it was the young man I had tested one-on-one last Thursday. He assured me he had not "thrown" the chair, but rather "pushed" it. (Nevermind that he has a history of chair throwing that would make Bobby Knight proud.)

I LOVE March Madness.

May Madness, I'm not so sure about...

Monday, May 03, 2010

Ah, so THIS is why...

Let it never be said that I cannot take constructive criticism. My Publisher's Weekly review -- the one that I "earned" by making the top 250 in this year's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award -- arrived by owl post today, and I think it just about sums up why I did not advance through to the next round.

Here it is, in its entirety:

This amusing epistolary manuscript lacks shape and any semblance of dramatic trajectory. It consists entirely of a series of emails from rookie teacher Jack Woodson to a former colleague of Jack's at Heat Pumps Unlimited, where Jack had worked as an engineer. The emails document Jack's first year teaching third grade at a public school in a low-income neighborhood in Dallas--an experience that is hilarious, frustrating, and disturbing. Among the anecdotes, a little girl asks Jack how big he is, and it turns out she is referring to his genitals; Esteban screams out his answers to questions and changes his answer every time he's asked, even if he was right the first time; precocious Ariel not only does great work, she critiques Jack's classroom management; and scary kids like Jun'tober have even scarier parents. Jack's emails are entertaining, but about a third of the way through, his relentless joking and constant pop culture references start to grate, and the reader wishes the missive would start to take a direction. Instead, he just keeps joking his way through the school year. The book gets an A for amusement, but when it comes to story or emotional resonance, it gets an "incomplete."

Hey, I never claimed that Learn Me Good had a plot. It really IS just a chronicle of a school year. There is no murder, espionage, low cunning, or even mistaken identity discovered too late. However, in my (its) defense, it was never PROVEN that Jessica actually was referring to my genitals. I'd still like to give her the benefit of that doubt.

Honestly, having written the book and knowing full well that it doesn't really have a plot, I'm quite happy to have received an A for amusement, since that was what I was really after.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world

Now that the stress of TAKS is over, we can forget all about academic instruction for the last month.

OK, not REALLY. But with testing done, we have already been tasked to start decorating our hallway for this year's International Festival which will happen later this month.

This year, the countries we are representing are Mexico, Spain, Canada, and England. Mexico is not tough. We have a TON of kids who are either from Mexico themselves or whose parents are from there. There should be no shortage of decorative ideas to represent Mexico.

But I throw it out there to my readers for any ideas as to how to represent the other countries on our list. Flags are always easy. Coloring book pictures of Dudley Do-right for Canada? Big Maple Leafs? Crooked teeth for England? (I kid, of course.)

Please leave me a comment and tell me what you think my kids should put up out in the hallway to represent these countries.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Time to exhale

Finally, I can come up and take a breath of air. Which, ironically, is a bit tougher than normal, as I am suffering from either allergies or a cold.

But the TAKS testing is over for my kids for the year, and I think (and hope!) that they did well. They told me the next day that there were a lot of questions on the test that they knew how to do, so I take that as a good sign.

My house is sold, and I have a month to move out. Ideally, I will find a new place before then, but if not, I will just put my stuff in storage and stay with my fiance until we find a house. Selling my place was really the biggest hurdle on our list.

The wedding invitations are done and almost ready to be sent out. Thankfully, they make a nice, tasteful 61 cent stamp, and I didn't have to supplement the Forever stamp with a 17 cent goat head stamp.

The last month of the school year should be a bit more relaxing. We will introduce the kids to things they will be seeing in 4th grade, like comparing fractions, long division, and common sense.