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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Extra Credit... or too much credit?

My buddy Ed U Cater has once again written up an excellent piece for the Dallas Morning News. This time, it's about giving credit where credit is due. Which is usually NOT at the top.

Check it out and see if you don't agree.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

If you're bored, then you're boring

I had a moment in class today where I totally busted out laughing. I just couldn't hold it in.

I was having the kids go up to the board to show how they had done long division homework problems from last night. When they go up to the board, I insist that they talk as they do the problem, telling everyone what they are doing.

[I'm going to change the names here so I don't get anyone in trouble.]

When I called one of my quieter girls, Amanda, up to the board, I told her that she needed to be "Loud Amanda, or L'Amanda." I then referenced the other kids that had already been up to the board, "L'Henry," "L'Wally," etc. Then I told Amanda that she needed to talk loudly enough for Ethan, sitting far from the board, to hear her. I said, "I'll call HIM Sl'Ethan, because he looks like he's about to fall asleep."

The kids all laughed at this and started adding a "L' " to the front of their names. Except for Allen, who announced loudly, "You can call me B'Allen, because I am boring!"

He obviously meant that he was bored, and his wrong choice of words completely cracked me up. That, coupled with the reaction to his announcement from the other kids. I think they too realized that he hadn't quite said what he had meant to say, and they looked at him like he had grasshopper legs growing out of his ears.

While "L'Amanda" worked her problem on the board, I just covered my face with the copy of the homework I was holding and tried to keep my laughter as silent as possible.

Gotta love laughable moments like that.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Things I would have missed if the world HAD ended on Saturday

Hey, even us stupid Catholics knew that nobody could actually predict Armaggedon Day! Still, there was a small sigh of relief when 6PM (arbitrary time zone, anyone?) rolled around and the globe kept on spinning.

Here are a few things I would really have missed out on if the word HAD ended this weekend:

1) The finale of The Event -- I know that this show has already been cancelled and will not be back next year, but I've stuck with it for this long, I'm going to see it through to the bitter end!

2) Mr. Jim's pizza for dinner tonight -- Mmmmmmm, Mr. Jim's is the best!

3) The Avengers -- by the time this movie comes out, in summer 2012, it will almost be time for the MAYAN prediction of the end of the world, but if I go see The Avengers on opening day, I'll at least get that thrill before dying horribly.

4) Receiving my TAKS scores -- The scores came in today (Finally!), and while I don't think I'm supposed to say what they are just yet, I will say that they were restaurant quality. I'm very happy.

5) Finishing Learn Me Gooder -- I'd hate for the world to end without me even getting a chance to show off such lines as "The Lion King 3 and 7/8: Simba Swallows His Pride."

6) March Madness -- I know it's still a ways away, but without the NCAA basketball tournament, the world may as WELL end!!

7) Having a kid -- I'm still a newlywed, technically, and I'd like to be able to have a kid (or 2). My wife and I have recently started trying. We've put in a lot of quarters, but so far, the claw keeps coming up empty. Maybe we're doing something wrong.

8) Jeopardy -- I still want to be a contestant on Jeopardy before the world ends. Of course, once I'm on, I'd like the chance to spend my winnings before the world ends as well.

9) Mountain Dew -- No more world = no more Mountain Dew. Did anybody else just shed a tear?

Anything else I should add to the list?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The kids took a test, and they really tested me

Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, I had to venture back into the valley of the shadow of death (aka, the 5th grade hallway) to administer the second round of TAKS tests. The kids who didn't pass their reading and/or math tests the first time around "get" another chance to pass. I had a group of 13 each day (9 were the same both days, 4 swapped out since they only failed one of the tests), and my class had a sub.

I'll state right up front that a few of these kids really DID seem to care that they hadn't passed, and these kids looked like they were making a valiant effort to pass this second time around. More than a handful of them, though, obviously didn't care one bit that they hadn't passed the first time, and this was just another day to be lazy for them.

Here are a few highlights:

-- One kid kept falling asleep, before 10 am even, and when I asked him what time he had gone to bed the night before, he had no idea. Not a good sign for the math test if you can't even read a clock.

-- Any time two molecules bumped against each other, there was apparently enough noise generated for all of the kids to stop working and look around the room.

-- There was no bathroom monitor on the hallway, so the kids were even more prone than ever to want to go to the bathroom 6-10 times an hour.

-- One kid broke 3 pencils in the first 2 hours, before I threatened that he'd have to use a crayon on his test if he broke another.

-- One boy asked to use the bathroom, and I told him yes, but he needed to be back in his seat in 2 minutes. He was able to do this. 15 minutes later, he asked to use the restroom again. I said, "No, you just went 15 minutes ago!" He answered, "I gotta do something else now!" I still said no, and he spent the next 2o minutes bent over in his chair, grabbing his ankles.

-- After lunch, I passed the tests back out to the kids. One kid's test had barely touched his desk when he was already raising his hand to tell me he was done. Way to take the advice, "Don't turn in your test before lunch" to the absolute letter!! (Turns out he had forgotten to fill in one answer on his bubble sheet, and it took him another hour -- and 3 more attempts to turn it in -- before he finally found it.)

-- One kid, after turning in his test, zipped his jacket up over his head and began swaying and rocking, at one point, hitting himself in the face several times. I didn't stop him because I didn't see how it was possible for him to actually lower his intellect that way.

Today, by comparison, was heavenly. I was back with my own kids, and they were happy to see me, and the feeling was mutual.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Paging customer Jones...

To Amanda C and Iamjusttiff (if those ARE your real names), don't forget to drop me a line at to claim your business cards!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

We won!!

Last weekend, when the local store had their Free Comic Book Day contest, I encouraged as many of my kids to go and participate. Friday, when I asked who thought they could go, all 31 hands were raised. Monday, when I asked who had ACTUALLY gone, 5 hands were raised.

OK, so my own kids didn't help out too much. Most of them said that they had their First Communion on Saturday. My response was, "And did it last until 10PM?? You couldn't have gone then???" (Not really)

But kids from other grades must have really helped, because we learned yesterday that my school won! We get $250 worth of graphic novels for our library! And our librarian has let ME be the one to go and pick them out!!

This is a comic-junkie's dream come true.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Multiplication Mania!

We’ve been doing advanced multiplication (mostly 2-digit X 2-digit numbers) this week, and I’ve taught the kids two different ways to do it. The first is the way that I learned it when I was in school. I call it the “stair-step.” It’s the more traditional method where you multiply by the Ones place digit, then put a 0 or an X or NOTHING under the ones place for the answer with the Tens place digit. The second way is the Lattice, where you set up an array and multiply digits that meet up in each box.

The kids have taken to both methods pretty well. They seem to understand the strategies, and the only errors are coming from mistakes in multiplication facts – ie, 7X9 =53.

Because of the hustle and bustle to get our science projects done by today, this morning was really the first time that I got to introduce the lattice method to my classes. We had already done a problem using the stair-step method, and so we did a lattice together with the exact same problem. Once again, I got to see the night-and-day difference between my two classes.

When we arrived at the same answer using the lattice that we had gotten with the stair-step, my morning class yawned and said, “Do we have to do more problems like that?” Whereas my afternoon class gasped excitedly and said things like, “WOW! You’re awesome, Mr. Teacher!” and “You are the genius of math!”

On another note entirely, I had to give a behavior code to one of my better-behaved students this morning during our restroom break. The restroom helper (NOT one of my better-behaved students) came out and told me that E had said a bad word to another boy. When I asked the recipient what word E had said, the boy told me that E had shown him his middle finger.

Definitely a no-no, but a bad word? Come on. Anyway, I asked E why he had flipped the bird, and he told me, “My dad said that it’s not bad, and that it means God.”

That’s a new one.

I asked E if he went to church, and he said that he did. So I asked him if he often saw a lot of people at church raising up their middle fingers. Not so much.

Lastly, a friend and colleague posted a link on Facebook last night about House Bill 400 that I found interesting. Here’s what it said:

Mandate Relief” Bill Still Stalled: HB 400, the bill to gut class-size caps, authorize teacher pay cuts and unpaid furloughs, and undercut contract protections, was knocked off the House agenda again today because of a procedural error. That’s the third time this ill-conceived bill has been forced back to committee for correction of errors. But it still has a chance to come up again on Thursday—which is the last day that House bills are eligible for initial passage on the House floor. Keep your calls and letters against HB 400 coming! They are causing many House members to have second thoughts about this bill.“

In my opinion, I find it VERY ironic that a bill to cut funding for education has been delayed THREE times, because the people who wrote it have made errors that a better education might have helped them avoid.

EDIT: Since Blogger was down yesterday (Thursday), I couldn't actually post this then, and today my kids took a test on the 2 methods of "4th grade multiplication." OK, so maybe they didn't quite have the handle on it that I thought they had. The grades weren't so hot. Almost all of the mistakes, however, were due to basic multiplication factual errors or adding errors. Still, I think we will continue to practice this skill throughout the month of May.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Duh, winners!

And the poll is closed!

Congratulations to the following 3 people for their winningness --

"Janet" -- For the top TWO entries, Mike Untrymann (nearly half the votes!) and Hiram N Firam

"Amanda C" -- For Justin Tyme

"iamjusttiff" -- For Shelby Missed

Congratulations again!

Janet, Amanda, and Tiff, please send me an email at with your contact info (emails, please), and I'll hook you up with the business cards!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The poll is open

Thank you to everyone who entered the names for the 500 free business cards from! I have taken the top entries and put them in a poll up on the top of this page. The top 3 vote getters will win the business cards!

The poll closes on Wednesday, May 11, at 6:00.

Tell your friends! Tell your family! Tell your rabid raccoon!

Free comic book day!

Today is Free Comic Book Day, and I learned this week that the Lone Star Comics near my school is not only giving away a free comic book to everyone who shows up, but that they are also donating $250 worth of graphic novels to the library of the school that has the most students show up. So I was promoting the event big time with my two classes.

Ed U Cater and I are going to see Thor later this evening, and we are going to stop by Lone Star as well. I have never taken advantage of Free Comic Book Day, AND maybe we can convince the good folks there to count teachers as 10 students for the giveaway...

This week was a heck of a lot better than last week (last week of course being the TAKS Week That Time Stood Still), but it was still kind of slow. It really is amazing how having lesson plans with TOO MUCH to cover -- while more stressful -- does make the day go by a lot quicker. As opposed to this week, where I didn't have much planned, and there was a lot less structure.

The only things really on my lesson plan this past week were "4th grade fractions" and science projects. 4th grade fractions go beyond what the kids needed to know for the 3rd grade test. So this week, I taught them how to add and subtract fractions, how to compare two fractions to see which is larger (my apologies to people who hate the butterfly method), and how to find fractions of actual numbers like 2/5 of 30.

The kids devoured these lessons and pretty much conquered them with ease. Even my struggling kids nearly aced the homeworks and the test. Maybe I should have been calling EVERYTHING "Fourth grade" this year!!

Science projects are underway, and it's been a bit of a challenge to get the kids to understand what it means to have a "testable" question. No, you can't just build a model of a volcano. No, you can't just draw a picture of the solar system.

Most of the groups have come up with pretty good ideas, but more than a few have been delinquent in bringing in necessary supplies. So only about 3 groups have actually begun the experiment portion of their projects.

Next week -- finishing up the science projects, and "4th grade multiplication" -- 2-digit X 2-digit. That should prove somewhat more challenging than the fractions.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

May sample post of Learn Me Gooder

Happy May, folks! There's barely a month of school left, and testing is over, so we are definitely in the home stretch!

Please don't forget to enter the Learn Me Gooder names contest, open till May 7. So far, there aren't many entries, so your chances of winning 500 free business cards are super!

Here is the latest advance screening sample chapter of Learn Me Gooder, coming soon to a store near you!

Date: Monday, October 5, 2009

To: Fred Bommerson

From: Jack Woodson

Subject: You are what you wear

Hey Fred,

Last Thursday marked the end of the first six-weeks grading period. Friday was Fair Day – State Fair, not “play impartially without cheating” – so there was no school. Preparing report cards would be SO much more fun if Nintendo would just hurry up and develop Gradebook Hero for the Playstation or Wii.

Today is the first Monday of October, and that means a big change in how we come to work. Summer dress code is officially over. Never mind the fact that it's still over 100 degrees outside, and even inside the classroom, I feel like a microwaved poodle. The HVAC units in our classrooms seem to have been cobbled together by drunk baby pandas in the 1950s, and they are just as likely to HEAT an already hot classroom as they are to cool it. Nevertheless, now that it's October, I'm required to wear a tie and a button down shirt. For me, this means a long-sleeve shirt, because I just can't bring myself to wear a short-sleeve shirt with a tie and look like I stepped out of the NASA Apollo program of the 1960s.

Our art teacher, Mr. Vann, decided a few years ago that he didn't like his tie hanging down into the clay/paint/whatever, so he started wearing a bow tie. This hasn't been challenged, so I'm thinking maybe I could start wearing a bolo and maybe be ok.

I know from experience that many other teachers around the district are not held to the dress code. I've been to plenty of off-site trainings and conferences where the other male teachers were wearing jeans and t-shirts. However, my principal is a stickler for the district dress code, so I have to follow suit.

Usually, the transition goes unnoticed, or at least uncommented on, by my students. This year, though, I received several compliments.

"Nice tie!"

"You look great today!"

"I like your shirt!"


"You look like a businessman!"

"Is that 10 pounds of crap in a 5 pound bag?"

Just so you know, I threw that last one in as an example of the kind of thing that was NOT said to me today. Everything was very positive!

We compared numbers today, deciding greater than, less than, or equal to. My kids seemed to grasp that pretty well for the most part. Of course, they really sank their teeth into the whole “alligator mouth eats the greater number” mnemonic. Literally. Almost all of them drew the inequality signs complete with jagged teeth, forked tongues, and in some cases, fiery breath.

Mrs. Fitzgerald told me at lunch that one of the kids in her class looked at a problem where the two numbers were equal and declared, “The alligator don’t know which side to eat!”

Mrs. Bird also shared a funny story at lunch. She has been fed up with the rote, wooden, zombie-like nature of the kids' Pledge of Allegiance recital in the mornings, so today she had them write out the Pledge on paper. In addition to a myriad of misspellings, one thing really stood out to her.

Q had written (and I assume has been saying), "One Asian, under God…"

He must have forgotten where he lives, though he wasn’t the only one geographically confused today. On our walk out to the buses, J told methat when her dad gets out of jail (!), they are going to move away from the United States. I figured she meant moving to Mexico, so I jokingly asked her, “Oh, so you’ll move to Japan?” “No!” she answered. “The moon?” I asked. “No!”

When I asked her where they were going to move to, she replied, “To Miami.”

Talk to you later,

Carmen Sandiego

Have you hugged a teacher today?

Happy teacher appreciation day!