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Monday, January 31, 2011

Cheating done wrong

In no way whatsoever do I condone cheating. I think it's a horrible, dishonest thing to do -- when it counts for something. Cheating on Super Mario Brothers? Who cares. Cheating on your taxes, cheating on a test, cheating on official results? Something should be done about it.

Now having said that I find cheating reprehensible, let me go on to say however, that if you MUST cheat, at least do it right!!

I noticed last Friday that one of my kids had cheated in the stupidest, most obvious way possible. I had given a homework assignment on Thursday night that was an array of 16 clocks, and the kids had to write the time that each clock was showing. After school, as I was looking through the homeworks that the kids had turned in, I noticed that this dumb cheater had all of the correct answers, but every one of his answers was exactly one clock off from where it should be. The third clock should have been 4:02, but his FOURTH clock said 4:02. The eighth clock should have said 6:37, but his NINTH clock said 6:37.


I called him into my room before class started this morning and asked him very casually, "So why did you cheat on the clock homework last week?" I then went on sorting papers as he stood there gasping like a fish out of water. I never did get a satisfactory answer from him, other than a flood of tears. He doesn't care about cheating, but it matters to him that he got caught.

So my INTERACTIVE MONDAY question this week is. . . What is the worst case of cheating that you have experienced in your career? Student-wise, I mean. We don't need to get into the Houston ISD cheating on TAKS results...

The dumber, the better!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

We get mail!

Out of the blue, I got an email from Michelle, telling me how much she enjoyed Learn Me Good, and how impressed she was by my imagination and my teaching skills. Flattered beyond belief, I wrote back that I am not always quite as jovial and patient as my alter ego, Jack Woodson, and that in reality, I often want to bang my head against the nearest desk in frustration.

Her reply was a personal anecdote about a former teacher that was very moving. I asked her if I could share it here on my blog and received her permission.

Here is what she wrote:

I know you’re probably busy as can be but I want to tell you a quick story that I think when times are overwhelming you can use to get you through. I grew up in a small town of Irvington, New Jersey. As I got closer to secondary school, the town started to take a turn for the worse with violence, drugs, etc. Each year that we came back from summer break we would find out that a large amount of friends had moved away with no idea where they went. Thanks to the internet, Facebook, etc. we were able to actually find a vast number of people who turned out MIA from elementary school. This past October we had a reunion, and it was not for high school but for all the kids that went to the same grammar school through the years. One of the biggest surprises was my fifth grade math teacher showed up. Here I am a 44 year old woman standing in the midst of a crowd and the second I heard “MICHELLE MILLER” coming from behind me, I about wet myself because my brain associated my name being said in that voice, with the next sentence being, “GO TO THE OFFICE”. I spun around and about died, my heart went wild. We all gathered around Mr. Knisch and listened to stories of “us” most of the night. He remembered every single one of us and where we sat, and who we sat near, and some of the funniest stories ever. Don’t worry; I’m wrapping this up (LOL). When he went to leave, it hit me!!! I grabbed his arm, spun him to me and through tears and sobs, I THANKED him. I went on to explain to him that through the years if anyone may have complimented me on being a kind person or another positive attribute, that so much of it had to do with him and all my other grammar school teachers who honestly instilled sooooo much in me. I went on to tell him how I carry him and the others in my heart and because of who they were and what they gave I’m a better person (and at 44 years old, I didn’t have to do it for a better grade). J The next thing I knew, me and about 20 others (guys and girls) were standing there looking at one our first heroes and we all had tears in our eyes.

John, when it gets so tough you question what you’re doing………stop!!!! This world is not like it was when we were young and these kids have sooooooo much more against them; with gangs, violence, drugs, etc…. Remember, you may not feel it now but you are a “first hero.”

My thanks to Michelle for sharing this with me (and now you) and for shining a ray of sunshine into what was an INCREDIBLY long and difficult work week.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I never thought I was this flexible!

When I used to take fitness tests in school, I was never very flexible. I tend to be "tall stiff white guy" -- we were going over adjectives today -- and my results were always poor. There's that test where you sit on the ground with your legs out straight and your feet up against a board, and you bend forward as far as you can. I never did well on that.

However, in these past few years, I have discovered that while I might not be able to lick the backs of my knees, I am actually VERY flexible after all! I am constantly being asked to contort myself symbolically at school and then being thanked for my extreme flexibility. ALL of us are, actually.

Here are a few examples of my (and my colleague's) flexibility:

1) Receiving no planning period for 4 out of the 5 days of this week.

2) Allowing random construction workers to come into my room at all times to examine/fix/eff-up the new HVAC unit.

3) Moving out into the hallway and then an upstairs classroom when the HVAC unit goes all "Lost Smoke Monster" on us.

4) Accepting the new door that is supposed to (someday maybe?) be put on my classroom which will not be lockable, probably for the rest of the year. Also, having every single child and transient within earshot KNOWING that my room won't lock, courtesy of that fact being stated on the public address system.

5) Making sub plans for emergency half-day planning periods that are announced the day before.

6) Kudos to my colleague down the hall for smoothly course correcting when she sent students to the cafeteria at 1:45 to pick up today's fruit samples (as we were told to do), and when a fire drill was then run at precisely 1:45.

7) Flexibility from the 1st grade teachers who will implement departmentalization starting tomorrow...

I'm learning a lot about myself this year, and I'm proud to say that I'm 34% more flexible than ever!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Practice testing

Hey everyone,

Welcome to the work week. Monday Monday, can't trust that day. Which is why I will NEVER name my son or daughter, "Monday."

Today my school gave a practice TAKS test. It was a math TAKS release. Tomorrow will be a reading TAKS release. I won't even go into the fuster-cluck that was the organization of this practice test. But the procedure itself is just extremely long and boring for us teachers. It's no doubt long and boring for the students as well, but at least they have something to do for that whole time. All we have is to stay vigilant and monitor.

Here's basically what my day looked like:

7:30 -- Pick up tests and iron out confusion with the test process.

7:50 -- Pick up my homeroom and tell them where to sit in our out-of-the-ordinary desk arrangement.

8:10 -- Take homeroom for a bathroom break to get that out of the way before the test starts.

8:30 -- Go upstairs to 5th grade hallway, to the classroom I would be monitoring.

8:35 -- Pass out tests and measurement charts.

8:45 -- Grudgingly allow one child to use the bathroom, wondering why he is having a "potty emergency" after just going to the bathroom at 8:10.

9:00 -- Ask 3 kids to focus on their tests instead of looking around the room every 10 seconds.

9:30 -- Take a picture of the little guinea pig in the classroom and wonder what HIS TAKS score would be like.

10:00 -- Pick up tests and pass out snacks for a break. Muffins were delivered to the rooms, but no water. I'm wondering why they didn't go with peanut butter.

10:10 -- Take class for another bathroom break. Speak the words, "Stop talking," about 25 times.

10:30 -- Notice that one kid is done with his test. Inform him that I will not pick it up until he shows how he got his answers.

11:00 -- Field the "What are millimeters?" question for the 3rd time.

11:30 -- Yes, student who so desperately wants me to think that you are actually checking your work, I DO see you deliberately counting on your fingers! Now stop looking back at me every 5 seconds to see if I am watching you!

11:45 -- Pick up the tests again and herd the kids out the door for lunch.

11:50-12:10 -- relaxing lunch break with other teachers in the lounge.

12:10 -- Pick kids up and take them for a bathroom break. I am handed proof that there has been little to no maturation in these kids since I had them in 3rd grade.

12:20 -- Resume testing

12:25 -- A child hands me a broken pencil and asks for a replacement.

12:25:04 -- Something causes about 12 pencils to spontaneously implode, and more replacements are necessary.

12:50 -- I accept the first test handed in.

12:51 -- I point out to one overachiever that he has spelled his name wrong on the test.

12:55 -- I accept the fifteenth test handed in.

1:46 -- One minute later than scheduled (??), the principal comes on the speaker to announce that the fruit is ready to be picked up in the cafeteria. She says this as though it is the most normal thing in the world, even though we usually do fruit on Fridays, and it is patently ridiculous to do it during a scheduled practice test.

2:05 -- The last child turns in his test.

2:07 -- The fruit of the day -- blueberries -- are passed out to the awe of some and the disgust of others. I mention that some people think that blueberries keep cancer away, and they are suddenly a lot more appealing to some kids. One other boy decides that he doesn't like the first bite, so he spits it back into the bag, rendering that bag spoiled for everyone else.

2:40 -- I turn in my Scantron forms and return to my homeroom.

So what is a practice test day like for YOU? Bet you didn't see INTERACTIVE MONDAY sneaking up on you, eh? :)

Or, if you don't practice this way, what are actual TEST days like for you? Other than major headaches, of course...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Next stop in the William Meikle Blog Stop

Hello, voracious readers! Today, we have indie author William (Willie) Meikle stopping by the blog to plug his novel, The Invasion. Willie actually has written a plethora of novels, but The Invasion is definitely his biggie. In fact, as he posted yesterday, it's a bit prophetic! Things that he wrote about seem to be happening for real!

Willie submitted a short story for the Learn Me Good blog to feature. If you're a lover of puns and wordplay, then be sure to look sharp at the end of the story.

Also, Willie is giving away a FREE KINDLE!! See his website for all the details, but in short, he will pick one name at the end of February to receive a free Kindle, already loaded with several of his works. All you have to do to be entered is leave a comment here on this blog post.

At the Trial of the Loathsome Slime
by William Meikle

The slime was truly ugly, the ugliest thing ever seen on Earth, uglier even than a bowl of rhubarb and custard left to congeal for a few days then coated with chocolate sauce, which it resembled most.

That afternoon it was held in a box of clear plastic, a six foot cube against whose walls it slithered and splattered with dismaying regularity. The trails of yellow mucous left behind when it retracted boiled violently before finally hardening into brown crayons etched on the inside walls. It had been calculated that the plastic would last fifteen minutes, more than enough for the court to reach a verdict.

Scenes were flashed across the holo-vid in heart-stopping sharpness: the return of the deep space probe, the sudden growth of jelly on its surface as the slime discovered it liked oxygen, the slime escaping from the research lab by the simple expedient of melting its way through everything in its path, the slime snuggling up to a dog and devouring half of it before moving on, the slime melting its way into and through a the servo-motors of a cross-town aerobus, and, finally, the high point of the prosecutor’s case, the slime pouring over the Multivac port, the casing and chips and melted copper fusing into a blob before themselves being consumed. The camera drew back to show the slime sitting contentedly at an intersection, small pustules bubbling on what passed for its skin.

The jury gave a long sigh as the prosecutor rumbled back to the niche with the parting words, “The prosecution rests, M’Lord.”

The room was hushed, a quiet broken only by the splashing of new ridges on the walls of the slime’s cage.

An aperture opened beside the vocalizer and a lack rectangle of cloth was placed on top of a weary grey wig.

The vocaliser adopted a stern bass register as it intoned the verdict. This menace to Earth’s security was to be destroyed. Analysis had shown that only by breaking the slime into its constituent cells could its effects be neutralised.

Therefore the court judged that the slime was to be taken from the courtroom to the Virginia Mountains on the planet Blue Ridge, where it would be poured through a micropore sieve until it was dead.

“And may Multivac have mercy on its circuits.”

There was no one present at the demise of the slime, which was a pity, because proof of its great intelligence emerged at the last second as its cells communicated with each other in one last message in an attempt to cheer itself up on the way to oblivion…

“Well! This is another fine mesh you’ve gotten us into.”


William Meikle is a Scottish writer with ten novels published in the genre press and over 200 short story credits in thirteen countries. He is the author of the ongoing Midnight Eye series among others, and his work appears in a number of professional anthologies. His ebook THE INVASION has been as high as #2 in the Kindle SF charts. He lives in a remote corner of Newfoundland with icebergs, whales and bald eagles for company. In the winters he gets warm vicariously through the lives of others in cyberspace, so please check him out at

Thursday, January 20, 2011

That word you keep using? I do not think it means what you think it means.

For some reason today, I got an urge to make a list of words that I have heard or overheard being misused or abused at my school over the years. Without any further ado, I present:

1) Assimilation -- We received a note today asking for a seating chart for next week's "TAKS Assimilation." Um, I think you mean SIMULATION. Someone texted me and asked if The Borg was going to be giving the test. I said I wanted my room monitor to be Locucious. We enjoyed a shared asthmatic geeky laugh.

2) Segue -- My old principal used to mispronounce this word on a near daily basis. It should be pronounced SEG-WAY, but she would always say SEG-YOO. In staff meetings, we loved to hear when it was time to segyoo into the next topic.

3) Halcyon -- Another Michael Scott mispronuncification by our old principal. She made reference to the school's "hally-con" days, when kids got to have recess, and teachers could make their own copies.

4) On -- This tiny preposition should NOT preface times and dates, yet it does. We had a meeting ON yesterday. We can wear jeans ON tomorrow. ON tonight, I will be going to bed early.

5) Flexible -- This word is not mispronounced, it's just mutilated, folded, and spindled. It's become a catch-all word for anything and everything that is asked of us. Please fill out this data-intensive form by 9am today -- and thank you for being flexible. Please come to this meeting during your planning period -- and thank you for being flexible. Please continue to teach in this gas-filled classroom -- and thank you for being flexible. I am often tempted to write a note that says, "I will be leaving at 2 today, so please find something for the kids to do while I'm gone -- and thank you for being flexible.

Anybody got anything to add?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Differentiation, anyone?

I was just surfing around at one of my new favoritest websites -- Mr. Teachbad -- and found this little gem of a video.

I love these little videos, ever since first seeing the one about iphones.

Kudos to Mr. Teachbad!

As a double Tuesday Tip o' the Hat, here is a link to the latest post on Regurgitated Alpha Bits, where Edna Lee shares some unfortunate (yet hilarious) ecological names from her students.

Monday, January 17, 2011

No libraries?

Where is Colonel Mustard going to kill Mr. Body with the Lead Pipe??

Wait, no, we're not talking about THAT kind of library. Recent articles, including this one from, bemoan the impending demise of the school library. A lot of schools are deciding that budget cuts have to be made, and the library and librarians are the place to start.

This becomes today's INTERACTIVE MONDAY topic. How valuable is your school's library/librarian? How much of a loss would it be to lose it/them?

We have had several librarians at my school since I began teaching. The one we have currently is AWESOME. She reads to the kids. She points out interesting new books. She instantly knows where a book is when a child asks for it, and she has the patience of a saint when checking books in and out.

The rise of ereaders like the Kindle and the Nook are, according to many, the heralds of the end of the paper book era. In these circles, traditional books are called DTBs -- Dead Tree Books.

Personally, I LOVE the advent of these ereaders, because it has allowed me to get my own book out to literally thousands more people than I would have otherwise. Yet I remain a DTB loyalist. I've read a few books on my iphone, and it's pretty neat and convenient. Yet I still enjoy turning a page, inserting a physical bookmark, and admiring the 3-dimensional cover of a "real" book.

I can't imagine a world without libraries. Yet that may be where we're going. What are your thoughts?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Author spotlight on Judi Coltman

Happy Saturday, everyone! I don't know about you, but this has been the longest week ever! It's pretty pathetic, really, too, because it was our first FULL week back since the 2-week break, and now we have a 3-day weekend! But we NEED it!

Today, I turn your attention to Judi Coltman, whose book, Is it Just Me, or is Everyone a Little Nuts? is a humorous look at marriage, parenting and aging. Short chapters written in an Erma Bombeck style look at the day to day occurrences in life through the quirky filter of a peri-menopausal woman. What happens when a simple Halloween costume morphs into a nationwide movement? Why does "look" mean different things to different genders and who's right? Was it wrong to offer to bring popcorn to the 4th grade puberty movie?

Judi's bio reads:Raised in an affluent suburb of Detroit, Judi Coltman grew up in a female heavy household with an urban sense of "normal."

Coltman attended Michigan State University, majoring in Journalism until a professor requested she switch majors - "Apparently making a story better with added features isn't acceptable in the news world," Coltman laments.

With a BA in English from Northern Illinois University, Coltman has written for local, regional and national publications.

Most recently, Coltman has been writing a weekly blog called, "My Life in a Nutshell," from where her book material was born.

Coltman lives in northern Illinois and is working on her second book.

Judi provided me with an excerpt from her book and asked that I share it here.

One Word is Worth a Thousand Meanings

The English language is one of the most difficult languages for anyone not raised speaking the language to fully comprehend. What with words that are spelled the same, pronounced the same yet have vastly different meanings. . .words like, well “Like,” it’s a wonder we can understand each other at all. I can like (as in enjoy) something (Facebook encourages me to like lots of things) or something can be like. . .as in math: Are the amounts like? We've all seen the homonyms like (meaning, "as in") read and read. Or lie and lie. However, it has been my experience that perhaps the complicated meaning surrounding the simplest words is more of a problem for the average American - specifically the average American male. . .with the name Moondoggy.

I learned early in my marriage that the male of my particular family species tend toward the extremely literal when they speak and are not capable of stepping back to see the deeper meaning of even simple words unless prodded and, yes sometimes even shamed. It's not a fault exactly, it's more like (meaning, "comparable to") a handicap. The sad part is that they don't seem to understand WHY the entire population of females in their lives think it's a problem. Pity. Take, for example, the word LOOK.

My sister-in-law, who likes to be thought of as Queen of the Universe (and we allow her that moniker only because she can dispense professional medical advice to us for free) lost her beloved Portuguese Water Dog, Kelsey, last summer after a long and love-filled life. My brother-in-law, her husband, would rather chew broken glass than to have a pet but tolerated having a dog all of those years for his daughters. Tolerated. Rarely did he refer to Kelsey as anything more than, "dog" and "it." The truth is, he believes the best pets are ceramic (an opinion held by my own Moondoggy as well.). So, when Kelsey died, in deference to his heartbroken women, my brother-in-law didn't say much and reserved his "Happy Dance" for private moments in his man cave.

Several weeks after Kelsey was gone, Queen of the Universe announced that she was going to look at Golden-doodle puppies. Brother-in-law grunted but didn't say much. Queen made this trek to "look" at the puppies four times. FOUR TIMES! When she announced that she had, in fact, fallen in love with a puppy and made a deposit - Brother-in-law’s head spun around three times and he spat," I thought you were only going to LOOK!" Now I ask you, if you are looking, (meaning, "observing") at your better half going to look (meaning, "bond") at something four times, do you think she WON'T eventually come home with a something? How many times did he "look" at a 2009 Corvette before ordering one and do you think for one moment that the Queen of the Universe thought he was "just looking" without the intent to purchase?

So it should come as no shock that I witnessed the following story unfold at the annual family Christmas last weekend.

My sainted, cat-loving other sister-in-law had just recovered from a fairly traumatic fall fraught with invasive surgeries, obstructions, nose tubes and other horrors not for the faint of heart. And stoically, she made it through. Sainted Sister-in-Law did all of this without the comfort of her two beloved cats who had both passed on to the great scratching post in the sky within the past two years. Now, my other brother-in-law, is not a fan of cats, but had been a good sport with Sainted Sister-in-Law’s cats. After all, Sainted Sister-in-Law and the cats were a package deal. As her recovery progressed, Sainted Sister found herself yearning to get out and about. Other Brother-in-Law suggested it might cheer Sainted Sister up if she were to go to the SPCA and look at cats. She thought that was both thoughtful and sensitive of Other Brother (and, I might add, worth several hundred valuable Husband Points redeemable at moments of poor judgment) and took him up on the suggestion.

Over dinner that evening, an excited and re-energized Sainted Sister informed Other Brother that she had found three cats and one dog that she connected with and even asked if he would care to go back and help her select a pet. Other Brother’s eyes bulged out of his head meeting the lenses of his glasses and he spat, "I thought you were just going to LOOK, not bring one home!"

Can you imagine? I mean really, why not just offer a chocoholic a Godiva and then take it away, risking certain maiming? I am pretty sure that when Other Brother decided to look at SLR cameras, Sainted Sister knew it meant he was going to BUY one (which he did - a really expensive one!)

Funny thing about the simple words like (meaning, "for example") Look-- you can take them at face value or you just might find yourself looking (meaning, "eating your words") into the furry face of a brand new family member and it might be a smart move to like (meaning, "pretend to be thrilled by") it.

Visit Judi Coltman's website here:
Her blog can be found here:

And look for Is it Me, or is Everyone a Little Nuts? in paperback and on the Kindle.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2011 Carnival!

It's the year of the double uno, and Carol at Bellringers is up to her usual Carnival-posting tricks! Go browse the midway and see some excellent articles, including two from yours truly!

Resolutions from the kids

Last week, our first week back to school from Holiday break, I asked the kids to write some New Year's Resolutions in their writing journals. I explained what a New Year's Resolution was first, and gave a few examples, such as exercising more or not watching so much TV.

Looking through the journals to see what the kids wrote was great. Some resolutions were very specific -- "To clean my room on Wednesday and Friday" -- while some were very generic -- "Learn so much things."

Here are some of the others that stood out to me:

"I need to play my games." -- technically, a resolution, but not exactly a life-changing decision.

"I would like my mom and dad to help me study more." -- Leave it to this kid to be making resolutions for other people.

"I have to stop eating stuff that makes me fat." -- This was a good one, along with the following resolution that made me laugh out loud...

"I not going to eat taco."

"Do the homework of my brother." -- I wrote back to him, "HELP him with his homework, but don't DO it for him!"

"Be good at basketball, baseball, tennis, and foosball." -- I was never very good at foosball.

"I going to watch tv at 3:00 to 3:50." -- Wapner's on. Definitely Wapner. Definitely.

This was from a model student: "I will not run and scream in the classroom." -- This is kind of like me giving up flying into space for Lent.

"Be god at the school." -- I am assuming that this was a misspelling, and not the beginnings of a superiority complex.

And finally, from one of my best students came a list of goals, beginning with "Get a girlfriend," and closing with "Get a dog." All he needed was "Get a pickup," and he'd have the makings for a killer Country-Western song.

I was kind of hoping to see more resolutions along the lines of, "I will pay attention in class," "I will show my work on math problems," or "I will not play in class so much." Oh well, I can only hope that the kids who DID write resolutions like that will actually hold to them. And that the others really WILL be good at foosball.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Got snow days?

Well, as I figured, school is in session today. As I write this, I am looking at weather reports saying that it is 28 degrees outside, there is drizzling freezing rain, and there are ice spots all over the major Dallas roads. All traffic camera shots show accidents and wrecks and backups many miles long.

But none of that matters to my district. They don't seem to care that most of their employees have a pretty good drive to get to their school. At least I don't live in Mesquite any more, where I had no choice but to be on a couple of highways for a while. Now my trip uses surface roads that (hopefully) shouldn't have frozen up over night.

What does really surprise me this morning is that the other school districts around mine are not closed. Usually Dallas is the only one that stays open during horrible weather like this. But today, Plano, Ft. Worth (which in the past has seemed to close down if somebody sneezes), Arlington -- they're all open.

My INTERACTIVE MONDAY question today is a simple one -- What are snow days like in YOUR district? Do you get many? What has to happen for you to get one? When are they made up?

Have a good one, and be safe!!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Snow day!!

I am sitting at home today, enjoying my snow day, not having to go in and teach the kids.

You may have noticed that today is Sunday, so I would be sitting at home, watching football, not having to go in and teach the kids anyway. But today it's SNOWING!! :)

Given my district's former tendencies, it is extremely unlikely that school will be cancelled tomorrow, but there's always that 0.0001% chance...

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Book spotlight! The Crystal Facade

This weekend, I am turning the spotlight on another indie author -- Debra Martin. Debra has co-written a book called The Crystal Facade, which is available on the Kindle and other electronic book readers.

The Crystal Facade is Book 2 in the Rule of Otharia series. Royal Otharian twins Darius and Dyla Telkur have a big problem: they know too much. While fleeing from a telekinetic assassin in a failed coup to seize the Telkur throne, they defied a centuries old quarantine order and traveled to the strange planet called Earth where they made a shocking discovery that native Otharians are living and working on the forbidden planet. While there, the twins run afoul of a criminal overlord who bears a striking resemblance to their own beloved Grand Duke, the most powerful man on Otharia. Simply returning to their home world doesn't end the twins’ troubles, because there are people at home who know the secret too, a secret so powerful it could topple the hierarchy of the royalty itself.

When Dyla's dream visions of the London crime boss portend an imminent threat to her family, she has no choice but to secretly return to Earth and seek answers. Who is this crime boss, what’s his connection to Otharia and why does he look like the Grand Duke? What the twins don't realize is that they're walking into a conspiracy that involves a centuries old interplanetary diamond smuggling operation between the two planets. Crystals as they are called on Otharia fuel their PSI powers and controlling the flow of crystals is the ultimate power.

Assassins on both planets are on the move, and their target is the elimination of the Telkur twins. Everything is connected, but time is running out. Darius and Dyla must unravel the mystery and discover the identity of the malevolent mastermind trying to destroy them before Dyla's worst nightmare comes true.

Debra Martin is a science fiction and fantasy author who started writing with co-author, David W Small in 2006. Writing with a co-author is challenging in itself, but when 1 author lives on the East Coast and 1 lives on the West Coast, the challenges are a bit more daunting, but because we live in an electronic world of email, Instant Messenger and Skype, the partnership is totally workable.

They have 2 science fiction novels, "Quest for Nobility" and "Crystal Facade" of the RULE OF OTHARIA trilogy available for sale as well as two novellas "The Right Path" and "Path to War" in the DARK FUTURE series.

You can read more about and by Debra at her Amazon Author page.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Poltergeist XV

This afternoon, around 2:40, I was forced to flee my classroom in fear for my life. Well, that may be just a TOUCH melodramatic, but at the time, it certainly didn't seem like it.

The cause of my angst? The brand new HVAC unit in my classroom.

The 3rd grade hallway in my school is like 600 years old. We were told that there would be new units put into each classroom, which we took to be a pretty good thing, seeing as how the old units were cobbled together by drunk baby pandas in the 1950s. Mine was one of the few in the hallway that actually had an external on/off switch, which meant that when I was sweating like a pig in my classroom, I had the option of turning the unit on and then feeling it not cool the room. Sure, if you were sitting within 4 feet of the unit, you would freeze your extremities off, but beyond that, it fizzled faster than New Coke.

When the old unit operated in heating mode though, it worked a little TOO well. I couldn't have it on for more than 30 seconds without feeling like a microwaved poodle.

Of course, the central office downtown gets to decide when it's a heater day and when it's an A/C day. There were days when it was already 80 degrees in my classroom, and I turned on the HVAC unit, only to make the oven even hotter.

So we were told that the old units would be removed and replaced with new ones over Christmas break. Technically, what we were told was correct. The physical removal and replacement did occur. Clearly, the units were never run or tested until this week, though.

I came in on Monday morning to find a brand spanking new unit -- pretty nice looking on the exterior -- blowing cold air. My room was freezing. Oh, and there was a gap between the unit and the wall big enough to fit a 3rd grader into. Can't wait to see what falls down there by June. When I came back to my room in the afternoon, the hot air was blowing, and it was like a furnace. Also, it was burning up all the dust or rat turds or asbestos inside of it -- as were all of the units in the hallways -- turning the 3rd grade hall into a hazy nightmare. Thankfully, by the next day, the day the kids arrived, the haziness was gone.

Tuesday, my room was way too hot. Wednesday, my room was way too cold. I wouldn't have been surprised to see Goldilocks walk into my room today and declare it just right, but no, it was cold again. These units don't have external on/off switches. I opened up my unit and found the internal switch the first day, but I was told not to do that again.

So this brings us to today's wild panicked exodus. My class was going well. We had just read a Reader's Theater out of the book. We were mixing math and reading, discussing the fractions we had seen in the little play. Suddenly and without warning, one wall seemed to explode with a horrendous sound. It was like an elephant was right outside the classroom, hitting an extended G flat to warn its troop of danger from intruding poachers. At the same time -- and this sound lasted 15 or 20 seconds at least -- a huge cloud of white smoke billowed forth from the HVAC unit. It was like the Smoke Monster from Lost had come to attack, and it hadn't even appeared to me in the form of dead loved ones. I pray to God that it was just steam, and not some kind of toxic gas. Unless I wind up getting super powers out of it, and then it's ok.

I rushed to get the kids out of the room, but the image that remains etched into my brain is one of my little girls, wincing in terror, looking like the Statue of Liberty's head has just careened past her.

We went down to the end of the hallway to regroup, and one of my little girls started shouting another girl's name, "She's still in the room!" Not noticing that the girl she was calling was standing right behind her.

For the remainder of the day, we were out in the hallway. I had the kids go back into the room 4 at a time to get their backpacks, telling them to be in and out in under a minute. Even the boy who takes 7 minutes to get a pencil out of his backpack was able to fulfill his mission.

After the buses left and I returned to the building, I was kind of scared to return to the room. I don't think steam is supposed to have an odor, but there was a definite bad smell in my room; not from children's BO, and not from the chili I ate yesterday. There was also a bunch of fiberglass insulation that had been blown out of the unit.

My buddy, Ed U Cater, walked into the room to look at the unit. I told him he should hold his breath; advice which he ignored. He made it halfway across the room and then fell down to the floor. 99 percent of me was laughing along with the others; 1 percent of me feared I'd be writing a strange and tragic obituary tomorrow.

Before I left, I went down to the office to see if I could get some kind of assurance from the principal that this situation was under control and not going to be repeated. I was told not to worry, that the same thing had happened in one of the kindergarten rooms this week.

That doesn't reassure me. If my engine falls out of my car on the highway, I want to be told that it will be fixed and that this will never happen again. I don't want to be told not to worry because 3 other people also had their engine fall out.

I don't think there's much I can do about it (other than rant). Hopefully, this is the worst that will ever happen with this new unit.

And I can always print up T-shirts for the kids that say, "I survived the H-VAC-SPLOSION of '11!"

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Some posts I missed over the break

Today, for Tip o' the Hat Tuesday (remember that??), I am catching up by linking to a couple of posts that I saw over the break.

First up is Carol's 12 Days of Christmas blog carnival at My Bellringers. Carol is always great about including posts from yours truly, who seems to forget all the time now that it's not a weekly thing. Her very creative carnival post has some excellent links, worth checking out.

Secondly, my buddy Ed U Cater has gotten another editorial published in the Dallas Morning News. In this one, he bemoans the lack of gratitude some of his kids have towards incredibly generous gift-givers.

And that brings us up to date!

Monday, January 03, 2011

To tie, or not to tie

We now resume your regularly scheduled programming...

Welcome to the new year, everyone. The new part of the school year that is. Some of us went back to school today. Some of us did not have kids in our classroom today, but still, turn off the lights, the party's over.

Since today IS (technically) Monday, it's time for another INTERACTIVE MONDAY question.

Today, it is this: Does your school have a dress code for teachers, and how do you feel about that? Sort of 2 questions, but I used a comma and a conjunction, so it's only one sentence.

My district has always had a dress code for teachers in the past. From October 1st through around the first week in May, men were required to wear ties, and women to wear hose. Of course, slacks/dresses/button down shirts were the norm.

This year, however, that dress code has not been implemented. We've been on "summer dress code" -- polo shirt and slacks -- all year long. And I'm not complaining.

I really don't know if this is because my administrator is just way behind in directives or if the district just decided not to enforce the policy this year, but I kind of like it. I'd like it better if we got to wear jeans a lot more often, but at least I don't feel like I'm being choked to death by a neck tie every day.

What about where YOU work? Dress code or no? What do you think?

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A sneak peek at Learn Me Gooder

OK, I will admit that I have not done much work on my intended sequel to Learn Me Good over this holiday break. In my defense, I had PLENTY of other stuff to keep me busy. Grading, painting, cleaning, eating, sleeping, visiting (both!) families.

But, I did want to get at least a little bit done, so I buckled down and got some stuff down on paper today. And I thought as a nice little motivator for myself, and maybe even as a little treat for those who actually like my writing, that I would share.

So here is a rough (ROUGH!) draft of a chapter from Learn Me Gooder that made ME giggle. Please don't count off for spelling, grammar, or the fact that it makes no reference to the Heat Pumps gang. All that will be taken care of later. But I WOULD love to hear feedback from anyone who has some.

Date: Wednesday, October 28, 2009

To: Fred Bommerson

From: Jack Woodson

Subject: A Jack of all grades

Hey Fred,

Ah, the blessings of ADHD. I'm speaking, of course, of Big Jack, and the wonderful world of Shangri-La-La he lives in. This is a boy who routinely asks me after tests, “Is a 50 good?” To which I have to routinely bite my tongue and NOT reply, “No, Jack, in fact, it’s so bad that I’m pretty sure it’s going to start raining soon because a 50 usually makes the angels cry.”

Today, I had to keep him and a couple of others in my room during PE because they did not finish their work during class time. As is so often the case, Big Jack weighed the options of labeling fractions vs. playing rocket ship with his pencils, and the fractions were found wanting.

Thus, we were both in my room when Mrs. Fitzgerald's voice suddenly boomed in from the PA system. She must not have realized that I had kids in the room, because she didn't Publicly Address me as "Mr. Woodson," but rather used my first name.

So when he heard, "Jack, are you there?" coming from on high, Big Jack immediately looked up and responded, "Yes!"

It wouldn't surprise me at all if he actually thought God was speaking directly to him, rescuing him from having to finish his work.

"Did I do good, God?"

Last Friday, I gave a test that was taken from the math textbook. These chapter tests often have a question or two that requires a written explanation in addition to, or in place of, a numerical answer. These questions usually just serve to show how poorly the kids can express themselves in written English. Because of this, I tend to make those extra credit questions.

On Friday’s test, the final question read, “A cake has been cut into 40 pieces. Is it reasonable to say that this is enough cake for 32 people?”

If the kids said anything to the extent that yes, it is reasonable because there are more pieces of cake than there are people, I gave them 1 point extra credit. If they expressed their rationale even more clearly, I gave them 2 points.

Big Jack wrote, “No, it does not make sense because the people would get 1 piece only and sometimes I want to eat 2 pieces of cake or 3.”

I gave the lad 2 extra credit points! It wasn’t at all the answer I was looking for, but he did explain his thinking quite clearly, and being a cake-lover myself, I can’t exactly disagree with him.

Maybe there IS a thread of logic somewhere in there after all!

Talk to you later,

High Jack

Blog Tour for J.C. Phelps

As many of you know, I am part of the "Independent Author" tour that is sweeping the nation. Well, if not sweeping, at least we are doing some light dusting.

Today, I am showing some support for my fellow indie by hosting one whistle-stop on her world-wide blog tour. J.C. Phelps is promoting her novel, Color Me Grey, which is the first in a series about a girl named Alexis Stanton.

Here is the back cover blurb:

Meet Alexis Stanton, a 5' 4" petite young woman with a yen for adventure. She grew up as a tomboy wishing she could have all the adventures boys could have. She has since decided that being a boy instead of a girl has its advantages, but being a woman is much better. Raised in a family with money, she was able to pick and choose her education. She had been schooled in everything from being a lady to courses with Special Forces instructors. Her desire for adventure and her boredom with her current employment and a strange 'HELP WANTED' ad causes her to quit. She finds that job she could "just die for"... and it looks like she just might!

Check out Color Me Grey, in both paperback, AND on the Kindle!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Welcome to 2011, everyone! So glad you could join us. There were a couple of you I am, quite frankly, surprised to see that you made it this far.

Since today is 1/1, I thought I might make and share a few resolutions for the bright new year. Here they are, in no particular order:

1) I vow to sleep in until at least noon on the first day of the year. (Even as I type this, I am setting this to auto-post at noon, so I don't have to get up and do it)

2) I vow to stop confusing my kids in class so much with references they don't understand, like, "I gotta have more cowbell," "Come on, no Whammy!" or "I'd buy THAT for a dollar!!"

3) I vow to exercise more. And not just my mouth and elbows.

4) I vow to finally shoot and publish the video for my Sexy Back parody -- "Chili Mac." I've had the audio recorded for over a year now and still haven't shot the video.

5) I vow to shave more often, if only for my wife's sake.

6) I vow to stay awake during staff development sessions. OK, MOSTLY awake, anyway.

7) I vow to never use the "Mighty Eagle" option on Angry Birds. Though I do think that's a stroke of fiscal genius on the part of the creators.

OK, I think lucky number 7 is going to do it! Anyone who would like to share their own resolutions, please feel free to do so in the comments!

Happy 2011 to everyone!