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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Identity Crisis

The second week of school is off with a bang. A kid fell down in front of me today and somehow lost his pants -- seriously, there was suddenly a full butt staring us all in the face. Another kid told me that it's probably ok to inhale strange chemicals in science class because you might get super powers. One of my little girls who can barely be heard when she speaks in class was the one yelling at the top of her lungs in the bathroom after lunch.

A relatively short post today, so I thought I'd supplement it with a freebie chapter from Learn Me Gooder (available now!). Thankfully, I haven't had anyone this year that doesn't seem to know their own name, but I certainly did once...

Date: Monday, September 14, 2009

To: Fred Bommerson

From: Jack Woodson

Subject: Identity Crisis

Hey bud,

That’s right, I called Priya a time sink. Heat sinks, which we are intimately familiar with, draw away heat from a source. Time sinks, like certain children I know, draw away valuable min-utes from a lesson, dispersing them to the four winds, never to be reclaimed again. My time sinks are highly efficient, too!

Once again, it’s Monday, and as some people my parents’ age once sang – Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day. As opposed to Friday, which I would trust with my life, my banking password, and my vintage Star Wars action figure collection.

Still, the Mondays of this year, as well as most every day, have been made brighter by a certain ray of sunshine in my class. Her name is Katie, and she always seems to have a smile on her face. There have been several mornings when I have been ticked off well before 8:15 am – kids not having their homework, kids somehow needing to trade pencils ten times in ten minutes, kids insisting a triangle has four sides – and when I’ve walked around the room like a sourpuss. On these occasions, Katie always has a way of looking up from her morning work, catching my eye, flashing her brilliant smile, and then going right back to work.

After that, there’s just no way I can remain angry. At least not until Lakeisha opens her mouth again.

If Katie is the ray of sunshine, then the new kid I got today is the flashlight beam through murky water.

Ever since school started, I’ve been hearing about this new kid that I was supposed to get named Kevin. He’s a special ed kid, so Ms. Hamm and Miss Knox have been coordinating things and heralding his arrival.

First, it was, “Kev will be here on Thursday.” Then, “Kevin will be here next Tuesday.” Finally, “We’re really not sure why Kev isn’t here yet.”

At long last, Kevin showed up today. I saw the new kid in my line this morning, and I greeted him warmly with the name I had heard most often. “Hi! You must be Kev!”

DaQuayvius immediately corrected me – “It’s Kevin!”

I sometimes think DaQuayvius must have thirty fingers, because he seems to have a finger in everyone’s business. I have no doubt he knows Kevin’s entire life story after spending a mere twenty minutes with him in the gym.

I gave DaQuayvius a quick stink eye then asked the new boy, “What do you prefer to be called, Kevin or Kev?”

He mulled it over then answered, “Well, sometimes people call me Kevin, and some people call me Kev. But my real name is Anferny. My mom just likes how Kevin sounds.”

Not once had I heard the name “Anferny” mentioned in any discussions about this kid, so I had my suspicions. I asked him, “So what should I call you – Kevin or Kev?”

He replied, “Anferny.”

OK, we have a winner. For the next thirty minutes, I called him Anferny. “Anferny, do you have a pencil?” “Anferny, come and get a math journal.” “Did you learn how many cents are in a dollar at your old school, Anferny?”

At about half past eight, Miss Knox dropped by to see how the new kid was doing. When I told her about the name change, her mouth dropped, and she took “Anferny” out into the hallway to speak with him. A couple of minutes later, they came back into my classroom, and the little boy said to me with a sheepish grin, “You can call me Kev now.”


If this happens again tomorrow, I’m going to make an executive decision and start calling him Doofenshmirtz.

After helping “Kev” with his identity crisis this morning, it seemed a little anti-climactic that our after school staff meeting would be all about the Campus Crisis Plan. Back in mid-August, we were each given a document roughly the size of the Greater Chicago Area phone directory and told to memorize it. This document was the Crisis Plan, and in brief, it tells us what to do in the case that a crazed gunman or bomb-toting maniac wanders into our school. Basically, we lock the doors, pull the blinds, and cower beneath our desks. Oh, and we are also supposed to slide a special green laminated card under our door into the hallway, telling everyone that we are A-OK.

Not surprisingly, many of us were wondering just who was going to see that sign, if we were all locked in our rooms. Are we putting out the sign for the benefit of the maniac stalking the halls? If so, should it really be the green sign, or the red “All is NOT OK” card? Or do we slide out the green one, and then once the maniac starts trying to break down our door, slide out the red one – real subtle-like?

In order to test our new knowledge, we played a mock version of Jeopardy. Hopefully, I am not the only one who saw the irony in this.

Not that it’s a bad idea to have a crisis plan on hand. It might have been nice to have one at HPU that time the guy crashed his cocaine-laden SUV into the corner of our offices and then ran off into the sand pit next door. Though it was exciting for all of us to stand around on the delivery dock in back watching the police search the area with dogs and helicopters, I think that if there had been a crisis plan in place, you never would have dared me to rip my shirt off and run wildly across the parking lot. Of course, if I had taken your dare, I doubt I would be here writing you this email right now.

I might instead be trying to convince some scary person that my name really is Anferny as I subtly slide a red laminated card under the door.

See ya later,

Dan Jerzone

Friday, August 26, 2011

Carnival time

I'm a few days late on this, but the current incarnation of the Carnival of Education is up and running this week over at I Want to Teach Forever (Why do I want to shout, "FAME!" after that?).

Check out all the great posts and articles that Tom compiled from the interwebs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sounds about right

My room is cold. I'm sure I've said that before, but let me just say it again. It's cold. Pretty nearly everyone who walks in there immediately comments that it's freezing in there. I happen to like it. But today, when I noticed that several short-sleeved kids were shivering, I felt compelled to comment that this was the THIRD day of school and that it really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that my room is still cold. Many of the kids have brought a sweater or coat, but a few haven't seemed to catch on.

So I asked the class, "You've been here 3 days now; how many days is it going to take before you realize that it's cold and that you need to bring a sweater?"

The boy closest to me immediately replied, "About 100 days."

And that just about sums up the thinking skills of my kids this year.

I did have another funny moment today at lunchtime. I was sitting next to one of my kids and we started talking about the new Wal-Mart that opened near his apartment. He told me that he loved to go there to buy chips and soda. When I asked him where he had gotten all of the money to buy these things, he told me that he does chores and his parents pay him.

"I've been working for money all my life," he told me.

Impressive. Most impressive.

Monday, August 22, 2011

First day wrap-up


THAT happened.

Yes, the first day is over, and as usual, nothing was usual. Here are a few quick hits from the first day.

1) Our morning announcements are now at 9:00, at which time a couple of 5th graders who apparently had just drunk 15 cups of coffee tore through the pledges, and then we were given permission to begin our instructional day. I love how 8:15-9:00 is considered separate from the "instructional day."

2) We have the last lunch this year (12:45) and the cafeteria actually RAN. OUT. OF. FOOD. While some would see it as a blessing not to be given a "burrito," it was really sad to see the last 10 or so kids in line standing there forever while the cafeteria staff scrambled to find a few peanut butter sandwiches and carrot and humus platters.

2.5) When another teacher and I began asking kids who had not touched their burritos if they would give them up, the surrounding kids (who had already eaten one death bomb burrito) started waving and shouting that they wanted another.

3) One kid in my class can barely write his name. He couldn't do much else.

4) It's cold in my room. I know this. I accept this. The kids, however, seem to think that if they say, "It's very cold in here" enough times, the temperature will magically adjust to their desire. One girl must have muttered that phrase 15 times.

5) At 1:53, we were asked by PA to "write all of your students' names on a piece of paper" to send to the office. Somehow, the technology used to print off class rosters for teachers this morning vanished or was made unavailable for office use later in the day. Oh, and we were asked to send it to the office by 2:00.

6) After passing out glue sticks to the kids, I noticed one kid putting the glue under his nose and inhaling deeply. After redirecting him, I quietly added, "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue."

7) If it's possible, the bus situation is even more screwed up than last year. There are two "blue" buses, and they were in the wrong order this afternoon. In addition, they both thought they were going to the same apartments and kept sending kids back and forth to each other.

8) In the beginning, not a single kid in either class could tell me what odd and even meant. After a few examples, and discussions with their partner, almost all of them could tell me if a number was odd or even. *

*8.5) This was the one hopeful sign of the day, as most of the rest of it makes me feel that most of these kids are VERY low. We're talking sixth-round-limbo-stick low.

9) After PE, my second class came into the room and ALL needed to use the bathroom. But we can't take whole-class bathroom breaks anymore this year, so I had to send them a few at a time and work around the gaps.

10) One boy looked at my picture ID badge and said, "Is that a picture of you when you were young?"

Can't wait for day 2!

The day is here!

It's finally August 22, 2011!! This is a red-letter day for two reasons. Number 1, it's the first day of the new school year, and I have either:

a) met my new kids and had a great day getting to know them.
b) flopped through my lesson plans and barely survived the day.
c) gone stark raving mad and run, mouth foaming, up and down the hallways shouting, "The British are coming!"
d) all of the above.

Ideally, the first day will go smoothly with few or no issues. I'll report back on that tomorrow.

The other reason this is a big day is that Learn Me Good is (OFFICIALLY) released! Some astute readers actually noticed that it was released on Saturday (wanted to be sure it was released on time), but today is the OFFICIAL publication date. Here are a few links:

To get a paperback copy, go here.
To get a Kindle copy, go here.
If you're in the UK, go here.
To get the Nook copy, go here.
To see a funny Batman dog video, go here.

Big thanks to Candy of Candy's Raves for already putting up the first (and unarguably the best so far) review already! :)

And thank you to everyone else who has or who will spread the word about the new book release!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Meet the Teacher night

Only 4 more days till Learn Me Gooder hits the (virtual) shelves!! YAY!! My principal never did give me approval to post my flier above the sign-in clock in the office, so I taped it to the refrigerator door in the teacher's lounge. I'm not sure that many people have seen it, because not a lot of my coworkers have mentioned that they'd like to order a copy (not that they necessarily would even if the flier was staring them in the face). Still, I'm excited that it'll only be a few more days!

In the meantime, my classroom still is nowhere near ready (though I am LOVING the "freezer room"). I have all day tomorrow to get things in shape, and I'll probably need the whole day.

Tonight, I was at the school till 7, with the last 3 hours being Meet the Teacher Night. Last year, we didn't have much of a turnout, so I was able to use most of that time to continue working on my room. This year, though, we had a near-steady flow of parents and kids come talk to us. My new partner taught 2nd grade last year, so he knows a lot of these kids, and he said that we have a whole lot of low academic students. Oh well. Nowhere to go but up, right?

Monday, August 15, 2011

It's the final countdown

OK, it's really just one of many countdowns, but there's no cool techno-cheesy song with that title.

We're only ONE WEEK away from the release date of Learn Me Gooder!! Can I get a WHOOP, WHOOP?

Of course, we're only one week away from the first day of school, as well. Can I get a D'OH, D'OH?

The kids don't show up for another week, but today is actually the first day back to school for most of us, as our week of staff development begins. Here's hoping I will have plenty of time to work in my classroom, as I've been moved (along with most of the rest of the school). This will be my 5th classroom in 9 years, and I will be working with my 7th partner in that time. Geez, do I stink or something?

In hindsight, I probably should have started weaning myself off of the 2am bedtimes a few weeks ago, but it's too late for that now.

Here's to a great beginning of the 2011-2012 school year to everybody out there!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cover me!

Here it is! The final cover, front and back! My special effects wizard was able to turn the chalkboard green!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Time keeps on slipping...

Slipping, slipping... Into the future...

Only 3 more free weekdays before I have to return to school and face the music. Then, after being asked forcibly to move away from the music classroom doorway, I will have to face my own classroom. The "Freezing Room" this year. I love it! :)

I have been very lax in posting this summer, and as such, I have not participated in any Carnivals of Education. However, that hasn't stopped Carol of Bellringers from posting them anyway. Check out the latest one here.

Hopefully, I'll have something to contribute for the next one.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Teacher Wishlist

I received the following email the other day from Mary Richman of School Family Media. I think it's a great idea, and I've signed up for it myself. I invite all teachers reading this to sign up as well.


Hi There,

Even though we’re in a summer state of mind, ‘back to school’ season will be here soon! As you may know, school budgets across the country are being cut, and a recent Bounty survey found that 71% of teachers report bringing cleaning and learning supplies from home, and are each spending an average of $462 a year for their classrooms out of their own pockets.

So, what can parents do to help ease teachers’ financial burdens?

School Family Media is partnering with Bounty to launch, a new, free service that provides an opportunity for parents to give teachers in their communities the essential supplies they need for the classroom. launches this week – just in time for back-to-school - and now teachers can easily customize and share their class supply wish lists with a few simple clicks. Those who register will be eligible for:

· The chance to win one of 100 $462 school supply grants from Bounty

· The chance to win a $25,000 art classroom makeover (for schools with five + registered teachers)

· Bounty coupons by mail

To find out more about and to check out the engaging chatter about teachers’ spending visit

Please contact Kelsey Bailey at MSL if you have any questions about or would like additional registration information to share with teachers in your community.

She can be reached at or 646-557-7287.

Thanks for your consideration.