Monday, June 15, 2009


We were discussing the speed of sound in math today. My students were having problems with the idea that sound had a speed (after all, sound is pretty fast and it seems like, when you say something, the other person hears it instantaneously). So I used the example of thunder. Most people know that, the longer it takes for you to hear the thunder after a flash of lightning, the farther away the storm. Sound travels at around 750 miles per hour (light is significantly faster, at around 180,000 miles per second), so each 5 seconds or so between the flash and the crash translates to one mile away.

One of my boys appeared to wake up at that moment. "Wait a minute! You mean thunder is the sound of lightning?"

It never occurred to me that some of them hadn't made that connection. "Well, yes."

He looked at me stunned for a second or so (meaning his thoughts were 0.2 miles away), then said. "Huh. I never knew that."

Friday, June 12, 2009

How the hell do you take care of tadpoles?

One of my students brought me a bunch of tadpoles, which irritated me at first but darn it, the little squirmers are just so cute! I bought a great terrarium for them and everything, made sure to have the student bring in pond water so they lived in their natural environment and changed it regularly. I even bought them special tadpole food (I'm such a softie). Unfortunately, they'd grow their back legs, then their front legs, then they go belly-up in their artificial pond. The last of them died today, having ignored all the tadpole food I gave them. Any ideas what I did wrong?

It's fun to make them worry from time to time

As I mentioned in my last post, behavior at this time of the year is certainly lacking. One of the things I have to put up with is sassiness and impudence. Andrew came up to me today and asked, "Why do we have to learn anything now? Don't statistics show that we'll forget most of what we've learned over the summer?"

One of the things I've learned from my students is how to lie convincingly. So I turned to Andrew and responded, "That's why they're moving to a year-long school year next year."

He paled slightly. "What?"

"Oh yes. It is true that you forget most of the stuff you learn over the summer, so they're moving to year-long schooling. You go to school for three weeks and get one week off for the entire year. There's no more summer vacation starting next year."

He hurried off and I overheard him passing the news on to another student in hushed yet urgent tones. By tomorrow morning, the whole school will believe there is no summer vacation next year. I'm waiting to see if the superintendent has to make an announcement to stem he flood of chaos I've unleashed.

Geeky science news

it has been announced that element 112, currently known as Ununbium, is set to get a name from the supercollider staff that invented it. The reason why it is named ununbium is because un means 1 and bi means 2 in Latin (The Official Language of Science tm). Goofy facts like this are cool to me. I told this to my kids because they had asked about the unnamed elements, who, unlike the other discovered elements on the table, have three letters in their chemical symbol instead of one or two (here's a copy of the Periodic Table of Elements for those of you who haven't seen one since school).

My kids thought it was cool too, which does a lot to reform the opinion I've recently made about them at the end of the school year (behavior at this time of the year is not pretty).

Friday, June 5, 2009

Coin wars

Alas, my class didn't win the coin wars. However, my class did drop 40 dollars of bills in the top teacher's jar, reducing his score by 4000 points. Turns out Pat's class won (she deserves to win something for once: her kids are shits). We are so getting our sno-cone machine.

The truth about that two month vacation

One of the things that drives me (in fact, al teachers) batshit crazy is this: "Boy, I wish I got two months off. I have to work year-round!"

First, you're lucky I get two months off. There's a reason why humans don't whelp like dogs: most of us can handle 1,2, maybe as many as 4 or 5 kids before it's too much to handle. I deal with an average of 32 students at any one time for 7 hours a day. Most parents deal with their own children 6 hours a day on average if you don't count the amount of time they spend at work and even they get tired of the kids from time to time.

Second, ask a teacher how long they work during the school year. I bet you'll be surprised just how many hours we put in. For example, on average I work 10 hours a day during the working week, and between 6-8 hours on Sunday. Every Sunday. Teaching is only part of what I do. I also have to grade, contact parents about grades, go to parent/staff meetings, develop curriculum, plan day to day lessons, program my digital whiteboard with the next day's lesson, update my homework calendar, respond to parent e-mails, go to cross-curricular and cross-grade planning meetings for three different subjects, go to staff development, go to special education meetings, and do a hundred other things that come up from time to time like band concerts, sporting events, back to school night, parent conferences, incoming 6th grade parent night, academic recognition ceremonies, etc.

Here's the math on what my year is like as a teacher:

My work-week:
6:30-4:30 = 10 hours per day x 5 days + 6 hours on Sunday = 56 hours worked per week

My work year-
52 weeks per year - 12 weeks (vacations) = 40 weeks X 56 hours per week = 2240 hours per year

Now, here's the break-down on a person working a 40 hour work week year-round, including working on Christmas

52 weeks per year x 40 hours per week = 2080 hours per year (40 hour work week).

Now, you might say, "Who works a 40 hour work week anymore? I'm pulling 50 hours myself. Here's what it looks like:

52 weeks per year x 50 hours per week = 2600 hours per year (50 hour work week).

Oh, by the way, do you get lunch? I work through my lunch every day so I don't have to stay later in the day. If you work a 40 or 50 hour work week but you get lunch, here's how it breaks down (by a half-hour lunch and by an hour lunch)

.5 hours x 5 days = 2.5 hours per week x 52 weeks per year = 130 hours
2080 hours (40 hr week) - 130 hrs (lunch) = 1950 hours per year (40 hour week, 1/2 hour lunch)
2600 hours (50 hr week) - 130 hrs (lunch) = 2470 hours per year (50 hour week, 1/2 hour lunch)
2080 hours (40 hour week) - 260 hrs (lunch) = 1820 hours per year (40 hour week, hour lunch)
2600 hours (50 hour week) - 260 hrs (lunch) = 2370 hours per year (50 hour week, hour lunch)

Now, here's an interesting piece of math. I make about $40,000 per year for what I do. If I got an hourly wage rather than a salary, here's what I would be making an hour.

40000 / 2240 hours per year = $17.85 per hour

I had to go to 6 years of college to learn to do what I do. And I get half of what my husband makes, who didn't. Believe me, we aren't doing it for the money. Until you allow teachers to bring a small flask of whiskey to school to help us get through the day, be glad we have our summers off. We'd invent games like "throw the scissors hard" (thanks, Dennis Miller, for this joke) otherwise.

Update: my husband reminded me that the average US worker gets two weeks off. So, here's the totals including vacation time:

Teacher: 2240 hrs/yr
40 hr week (1/2 hour lunch): 1875 hrs/yr
50 hr week (1/2 hour lunch): 2375 hrs/yr

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The tadpoles

So Stephan brought in a coffee can of tadpoles the other day. At first, I was pretty annoyed: he hadn't said a word to me and I was completely unprepared for the little squirmers. Still, I found a mason jar to keep them in (the can was already starting to rust) and I put them out on display for the other students to see.

The problem is, tadpoles need to eat something, and Stephan kept forgetting to bring in pond yuck for them. The poor things were starting to starve: I found a dead one floating on the top of the water. I was going to skim him out when I noticed the other tadpoles eating him. I was kind of grossed out by this, but I left the corpse in the water. Hey, at least it was food.

Stephan finally remembered to bring in some pond grasses yesterday and I put them in the water. The tadpoles perked up by the end of the day, so I guess it was the right thing to do.

Finally, I decided to google up how to take care of them. Turns out, the young tadpoles love to eat the gunk growing on the pond grasses but the ones with little legs are carnivorous (When you put it that way, it sounds almost scary, like that Steven King story about the rain of frogs with razor teeth). So now I have to find tiny bugs to feed to them. The website mentioned aphids, but I'm not quite sure where to find aphids. It's not like Petco sells them.

Anyways, it sounds like it won't be too much of a problem if I can't find aphids. In the event that there is no food, the largest tadpole will consume his brothers. The students will get an education (in a macabre way), and I get at least one frog out of it. Win.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Coin wars

We're in the middle of my favorite fundraiser-Coin Wars. I love coin wars. They raise a metric buttload of money, I don't have to do anything other than be enthusiastic, and the kids love the competition. Here's how a coin war works. Every teacher gets a large jar to collect funds. Any coin put in a jar earns one point per cent for that class. For example, a penny is 1 point, a quarter is 25 points, etc. But here's the fun part: bills count as negative points per cent against a class. For example, one dollar bill removes 100 points from your total, a five-dollar bill removes 500 points, etc. The idea is to boost your own class' points by dropping coins in your own jar while dumping bills in the jars of other classes. The class with the highest score at the end of a week gets a (insert your favorite cheap prize here).

Now, my class started off pitifully. For the last 2 days, we've has a measly 1 point. But it turns out, they have a plan. You see, the other classes aren't dropping bills into our jar because, with 1 point, we're not a threat. On Friday, they're all planning on dumping a large number of coins in our jar at the end of the day, after everyone else has already dropped their bills in other jars.

It almost makes me proud that they've learned to behave so deviously. Finally, I taught them something!

Is that why I'm sweating?

I've heard it said that our school is a green school. I know academically what that means, but it took me a long time to figure out how we got the title. After all, our cafeteria still hands out plastic spoons and forks, and the teachers still make 145 double-sided copies for class the next day. This week, I discovered another reason why we're called a green school.

First, our beautiful, brand new grass lawn is turning a sad shade of yellow. Since the heat wave started, our school has elected to stop watering the lawn because it wastes water.

Next, we have this piss-yellow desk cleaning spray that doesn't disinfect (remember, they wanted us to use it to use it daily to help counteract the spread of swine flu until someone reminded them of that fact). In fact, it doesn't really clean either, now that I think of it. I have two nearly full bottles of it under my sink, one of the few items in my classroom that isn't grimy.

Here's another big oversight: our school has no air conditioning.

Sure, we have heating (it does snow up here every year), but this is Washington. Land of the perpetual rain. Heat waves tend to be rare (though we have record-breaking heat waves more and more often it seems. Is that global warming in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?). The district thought air conditioning was a luxury. But we've had a week and a half of sun and our uninsulated, steel roofs are absorbing all the heat from the black roofing material on top. Tom Warring has the hottest room in the building, a record-breaking 88 degrees at 2:00pm. With only one tiny window to provide a breeze.

So now, no one's learning anything. To alleviate the suffering, the district gave us some fans. Some Hepa-filtered, motorized, rotating, weak as hell floor fans that look better than they work. I'd give my eye teeth for one of the ugly steel floor fans that look like they'd chop a finger off but are powerful enough to flatten your hair at 20 feet away.

15 more days. Dear God, let me make it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Motivation can often be hard for a teacher. Abstract concepts like letter grades often slip right past most students. They understand much more concrete motivators, like "If I don't see an A, B or C, you don't see your PS3 until I do". Thankfully, most parents come through wonderfully with concrete motivators to match our abstract ones. Occasionally, however, other motivators need to be found. Sometimes it's even the child that hopefully motivates the parent to do something.

Take, for example, this conversation I had today with Andrea:
"Andrea," I said, "you haven't done anything in the last 2 weeks. If you don't make up the work soon, you'll end up failing this trimester too and you might have to be a 6th grader again next year."

"I don't care. I'll just learn the same things again." Andrea continues to doodle in her notebook.

"You don't mind being a 6th grader again? But you won't be able to talk to any of your friends."

"I'll see them after school."

(long pause) "Once you get kept back, you usually don't get caught back up again. You probably won't even graduate high school with your friends. They'll be talking about jobs and cars and you'll still be stuck in school."

"Oh, I'm not graduating."

I'm confused now. "But what are you planning to do when you grow up? Most jobs want a high school diploma."

"I'm not going to do anything". Andrea continues to doodle.

(very long pause now. Apparently only one of us has thought this plan through to its logical conclusion) "You need food to eat and a place to live. You want a car? (Andrea nods) Well, that all takes money. How will you get what you want without a job to pay for it?"

"I'm going to live with my mom."

"Until when? 20? (Andrea nods) 30? (Andrea nods) 40? (Andrea nods) You know, your mom probably won't let you live with her when your 40. Most parents expect their children to move out when they're not going to school."

Andrea shakes her head. "No, my mom will let me live with her. She can pay for everything."




................. and then I walked away.

No matter what Andrea says, I'm pretty sure mom won't be happy with Andrea's "mommie will support me" plan for life. And I sent her an e-mail detailing this conversation, just to be sure.


After school today, I walked by a student. He smelled exactly like a freshly-fried doughnut. I'm still not sure why.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Teacher Types

It's been a while since I've done an informational, not an anecdotal, post, so here it goes. I'm sure you know that there are different categories of workers in any job. From Mr. "Knock off 10 minutes early everyday" to Mrs. "That's not how we do things here", each person brings their own brand of.....character to the workplace. Here are the most common teacher collaborating personalities:

"The Uniter"- As the name describes, The Uniter will try to get everyone to reach consensus. Cajoling, compromising, sometimes even begging and pleading, The Uniter will do whatever it takes to get everyone on board They may actually succeed from time to time. The problem is, sometimes the ideas The Uniter pushes are, well, unreasonable. Our Uniter tried to get everyone to agree that we would all get parent signatures on all study guides for every chapter in our book. We go through a chapter a week. That's a lot of freaking signatures, not to mention the time and effort required to track down who didn't get a signature and call mom or dad to remind them to sign the study guides. Occasionally, The Uniter will drift to the dark side, outright lying by saying, "Liz thought it was a great idea" when Liz merely mumbled noncommittally to get The Uniter to go away. Once the rest of the staff agrees to The Uniter's plan (because they thought Liz wanted to do it), The Uniter will return to Liz and use the group's agreement to pressure Liz. Luckily, getting teachers to agree to anything is like herding cats, so The Uniter often doesn't have much to work with.

Mr. "That's not in my contract"- Every staff needs one of these, but only one. Mr. TNIMC can be a benefit or a detriment depending on the situation. For example: the principal has a great idea. Every other week, we'll have a field day on Friday and all the kids can play sports on the field after school. Who's going to supervise this? Why, the teachers, of course! At this point, Mr. TNIMC stands up and asks how much he's going to be paid for giving up two hours of his time on a Friday. The principal looks surprised: "Paid? We don't have money in the budget for this, I just kind of thought you'd do it for the enrichment of the kids". Mr. TNIMC snorts, says "That's not in my contract", and poof! The idea is killed. Mind you, Mr. TNIMC can be a real pain in the ass when you have a problem that you're trying to fix. For example: you have a student who owes you detention but you have a special education meeting you have to be at. Don't ask Mr. TNIMC to watch your student in exchange for doing the same for him later. Mr. TNIMC doesn't give detentions, because that would extend his workday past the contractual time. Incidentally, Mr. TNIMC gets to school at the contracted time and leaves at the contracted time, not staying a minute extra. I don't know how the bastard does it.

The Restater- Restaters restate what you just said, until it's enough to drive you batty. They use such phrases as, "so what I'm hearing you say is..." or "In other words, it sounds like you want to (fill in the blank here), am I right?" Restaters are at their worst after having gone to teacher training courses about building consensus or increasing communication amongst your staff. During these courses, The Restater's position is validated as essential for reaching all members of a team. After such trainings, Restaters are often compelled to restate each opinion as it's given, slowing any meeting to a shambling crawl.

Mrs. Anecdote. As you can probably guess, I have to control my Mrs. Anecdote gene. Mrs. Anecdote likes to derail boring meetings by spicing things up with a funny kid story or whatever random thought flitted through her head. Mrs. Anecdote is fine as a distraction, but often sends staff members off on a tangent that will drive The Uniter crazy. This type of person can make a 15 minute meeting go longer than a cricket game. If you're busy, don't let Mrs. A get started: she won't shut up.

The Domiator- You know this person, no matter where you work. The Alpha Personality. The Bulldog. This person will inevitably take over a meeting to air their own personal needs. And you're not getting your meeting back until they get their way. Whether it's dress code, lunch room behavior, or who's using too much paper, The Dominator will make sure you're on top of it (even if you don't care that Sarah's bra-straps were peeking out from under her tank top). Not even Mrs. Anecdote can turn a conversation for long with this type of personality holding the reins.

Mrs. Fucking Sunshine- this is the person who got into teaching because she just loooooooves kids. Mrs. Fucking Sunshine inevitably is up at 4 in the morning for her daily jog before eating a healthy breakfast and getting to work an hour early to tutor underprivileged children in math because she's a morning person. Incidentally, only morning people like other morning people. Mrs. F S always has all her papers graded and her desk organized. Her files are organized, color coded based on ability levels with a secondary index based on test scores. She acts surprised that you haven't taught your students triangles yet: she finished Chapter 7 weeks ago. In fact, her kids are working on an interactive project where they are making scale models of their bedrooms to reinforce their learning on proportions while you catch up. How nice.

I'll add more as they come to me.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The hell of the magazine drive

So we're right in the middle of our magazine drive and I'm ready to kill. For those of you who haven't been exposed to the yearly hell that is the magazine drive, here's how it works. Students sell magazines to their family and neighbors. Unfortunately, the ordering process is so complicated that so many students make mistakes and people don't get their magazines. That isn't the part I hate. In return, students earn cool prizes for how many magazines they sell. 10 magazines get you a limo lunch. 5 orders gets you a tiny iPOD speaker. 2 orders gets you a 5 pound bag of Gummie Bears. 1 order gets you a squishy-ball pen.

That's the part I hate.

Nothing says hyper like a 6th grader with a FIVE FREAKING POUND BAG OF GELATINIZED SUGAR. And don't get me started on the pens. The kids liked the squishy ball pen until someone figured out how to remove the squishy ball from it's mesh prison. Then they used the squishy ball as a stress ball. Until the first one exploded. I'm so not joking. Exploded a orange mess of what felt like slime. That of course was the coolest so I had exploding squishy balls all day. I can't wait until they get to the locker toy that makes dripping noises so your locker sounds like it is actually a deep cave. No one's going to be able to walk down the hallway without getting the urge to urinate. Or how about the howling monkey toy? I still remember hearing AROOOOOO! AROOO AROOOOOOOOOO! until I was about to rip that fucking monkey's plush head right off.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Substituting Videos

So I was out of town from Thursday until Saturday, helping out at a new teacher retreat. Our local union every year pays for 15-20 new teachers to spend 3 days at a secluded location and they learn techniques about classroom management, dealing with trouble parents, managing stress, planning for retirement, that sort of stuff. Along the way, they get to bond and talk about how they're feeling doing, etc. It's a great opportunity to shake off the stress of the year and realize that everyone else hates their job at this time of the year about as much as you do.

Since we left Thursday night, I needed a sub for Friday. I figured my social studies kids could watch a movie on something they were studying or had studied. Since I had a new mummy video and we had studied Egypt, I thought maybe I would show that.

But I'm no dummy. Remember the pornographic Pompeii video I mentioned in an earlier post? I never show any movie without previewing it first. In this case, I'm glad I did: the movie was waaaay not appropriate for 6th graders (there goes another 15 dollars down the drain, sigh). In the video, they mummify a corpse. Amongst other things, they show the doctors ramming a hook into the corpse's nose, scrambling the brains, and allowing the resulting mess to leak out the nose. I was grossed out, and I usually like gross things. Way over the top.

So I found a video online on the silk road, which we're studying now. I left careful directions for the sub on how and where to find the movie on my computer desktop, what video player to use, and anything else I thought could go wrong.

The one thing I forgot to do was take the mummy video out of the VCR.

You can probably see where I'm going from here. When I returned today, my instructional aide pulled me aside and asked, "Did you preview the movie you asked the sub to show?"

Of course I had previewed the silk road movie! Like I said, I'm no dummy. Then she explained that the substitute had not shown the movie on the computer like I'd asked, she showed the mummy video in the VCR. Aghast, I asked what the student reaction was.

"Traumatized," she responded.

This is why most teachers don't take days off. It's hard to predict what's going to happen when you let someone else in your classroom unsupervised. Hopefully I'll get off light: the movie was a bit graphic but very scientific in nature.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sundresses and the multiple uses of

When I was a student teacher, I taught a mixed 1st and 2nd grade class (this was when I discovered that I never wanted to teach little kids). At the time, I always wondered why elementary school teachers wore stretch pants under their sun dresses. I mean, the dresses weren't transparent and the stretch pants turned what would have been simply elegant summer attire into something mommy-like. Mind you, they might be mommies, but stretch pants under sun dresses always looks silly.

I discovered why when I taught the first and second graders. On that day, I wore a beautiful blue sundress with a black dappled pattern that reminded me of what the world underwater looks like. And of course, I wore it without black stretch pants.

Have you ever seen elementary school students playing with a parachute? It's fairly common: everyone takes a piece of the edge and you all raise your hands high, letting air fill the parachute. Then, when the chute is at its highest, you rotate so that you're holding the edge still but your body is on the inside of the chute. Pull the edge quickly down to the ground to trap the air inside, and it's like everyone is inside a giant silk house.

The students took one look at the folds of my sundress and thought, "PARACHUTE"!

Three students ran to me, grabbed the edge of my dress and flung it high into the air. Then, they stepped underneath and tried to pull the dress to the ground, nearly pulling me off my feet. Far more worrisome to me was the fact that everyone had seen my underwear and I now had three small children on the inside of my clothes. People have been arrested for less shit than that.

So that's why elementary school teachers wear stretch pants under their dresses. You can't stop them from playing parachute with a dress. The best you can do is avoid child molestation charges.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Swine Flu

The swine flu has come at last to Seattle, and the entire school is in a panic. Me, I'm not terribly worried about it. There's been one US death so far: all other suspected cases appear to be progressing fine (probably due to the benefits of health care). Our biggest problem is going to be when it hits the Seattle homeless population, a group with no access to healthcare and a healthy suspicion of city services.

In the mean time, schools are closing down and other schools are enacting quarantine rules for students with a fever and aches or a cough. These students will be required to call home and will sit in the office with a mask until picked up. They will also be physically separated in different rooms from students who come to the nurse for different reasons. Teachers in our district are now required to have students wash their hands before eating. The school has ordered a large supply of hand sanitizer for each classroom with money we don't have. All desks, chairs and door handles must be wiped down with antibacterial wipes each day. Communal items such as tape, staplers, the salad dressing pumps in the cafeteria, etc should be wiped down with wipes as regularly as possible.

I didn't even think about it at the time, but the 8th grade science teacher Daniel brought up that viruses laugh at antibacterials. Antibacterials kill bacteria admirably, but not viruses.

I'l still comply with the rules because I understand our district has to do this. If a student transmitted swine flu to even one other student in our school and it came out we had taken no precautions, we'd get our knickers sued off. Still, it seems like an overreaction to me: kids are called "germ wagons" for a reason. If swine flu makes it to our school and it turns out that it has the normal flu's human-human transmission rate, most of us are going to get it.

Practice random acts of coerced kindness....

We finished spirit week yesterday (it's a week where you dress up differently each day according to the theme of the day, participate in contests, etc) and Thursday was "random act of kindness day". Each class got a partner class and you had to do something nice for the class, like make origami or perform a silly song. My class decided to bake a giant cookie for the other class. Now here's what strikes me as funny: "random act of kindness day" = "you have to do something nice for the class". Had we not been strongly encouraged to do something, my class probably wouldn't have baked the giant cookie for the other class (or worse, would have kept the cookie for themselves). Therefore, it's more of a "heavily sponsored act of kindness day". Our class got candy from Mrs. Ima's class, but I don't think my students even connected that the windfall candy was the result of the efforts of another class.

So, in conclusion, our "random acts of kindness" day was in actuality a "forced act of kindness resulting in the expectation of gifts" day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Puppy Training

Students come up to me all the time having to go to the bathroom. I get like 10 a day. I wish they'd go during lunch or something (I have to) but I guess when the teacher lets you go to the bathroom, you don't waste precious socializing time going when you could be spending precious instructional time instead. However, I usually don't deny the students the right to go, though I may make them wait until I'm done teaching: the last thing I need is to have some kid pee on my floor!

Anyways, I had a student ask if he could go to the bathroom. "It's an emergency!" I hear this all the time from students who forget their hall pass. This student had his hall pass though, so I told him to fill out the date, location and time and bring it up to me for a signature. 5 minutes later, I noticed that he hadn't come up yet. So I walk over to him.

"You didn't get your hall pass signed. Didn't you want to go to the bathroom?"

"No, I don't need to go anymore."

This line always cracks me up. When you think about it, it's a funny statement coming from someone who swore it was an emergency. It's not like the urge suddenly goes away or anything. I laughed, told him that saying that was scary and left.

It never occurred to me that there is one time when you don't need to go anymore. When you've already gone.

Since I was cruising the opposite side of the room for most of the period, I didn't notice the large puddle that had formed under the boy. And he never raised his hand or said anything else. Until 20 minutes later. At the end of the period. He'd been sitting in a pair of soggy pants waiting for the end of class. Ugh. Needless to say, I sent him to the office and I'll think twice when the student swears it's an emergency.

WASL fun

So we are taking the WASL )it's our excuse for a state standardized test) for the next two weeks and it's got its good and bad side. On the good side, I get three hours of proctoring a test that requires me to do next to nothing, so I get all my other work done. On the bad side, three hours of silence is too much for a middle school kid, and they go nuts the rest of the day.

The teachers have been sharing their humorous WASL stories. One teacher noticed a student covering his eyes and wandered over to see what he was doing. He covered his eyes, poked his pencil on the test booklet and bubbled whatever bubble was closest to his pencil. Yeah, that one's not going to pass.

A different teacher walked past a teacher and noticed that they were drawing all sorts of pictures in their booklet. The teacher told the student, "You can't draw in the booklet, you're supposed to be answering the questions!" The confused student replied, "But the book told me to read the story and draw a conclusion!"

Friday, April 3, 2009

I see London, I see France.....

As students bend over or crouch, I see a lot of underwear. Believe me, I don't want to! It's hard not to see it when someone's got a pair of droopy drawers.

Today, I saw an interesting pair of baby blue plaid underwear. To be honest, it looked like a pair I would wear because it's cute and trendy. Too bad it was a boy wearing it.... o.0

Monday, March 30, 2009

How to gross out a 6th grader

Did you know that 23% of Americans secretly bite their toenails? It's one of my favorite statistics and one I share with almost everyone I meet. Oddly enough, the #1 question that comes out of every adult's mouth is, "How do you get your foot inside your mouth?" Kids don't ask this questions, mostly because most kids can easily get their foot into their mouth, as several of my students proved today (don't ask).

However, the #1 question most kids ask is "How many Americans openly bite their toenails?" I still crack up laughing when they ask me this, even though it comes up regularly. I keep getting this image in my head of a couple at a restaurant, talking. One person says, "Hold on a moment", pulls their sock off and proceeds to chew off a hangnail on their big toe. It's an image that brings me several minutes of humor every time I contemplate it.

Here are some other facts I like to gross out 6th graders with:

Did you ever notice that even a warm McDonald's shake is still thick? That's because traditional McDonalds shakes used to be thickened with a clay substance that humans could safely consume. Unfortunately, two things caused McDonalds to change their formula. First, the clay substance had a tendency to expand when heated, which was a problem if it happened to be in your stomach. Bloating and pain could be a common symptom. Second, the public found out about the clay and threw a fit about it. Last I checked, McDonalds uses seaweed to thicken their shakes (look for the difference between "shake" and "milkshake". You cannot call a shake a milkshake if it doesn't actually have any milk in it)

Your sense of smell works when tiny airborne particles of a substance come in contact with smell receptors in your nose. Your brain interprets the chemical signal sent by the receptors as belonging to a particular smell. Your brain knows the chemical signatures of thousands of substances. You literally have pieces of that substance in your nose, so think about that the next time you catch a whiff of dog poop or someone's BO.

Snapple's Strawberry Kiwi fruit drink used to have an ingredient called Carmine, which consisted of the ground up Cochineal Beetle shells. Like McDonalds and it's clay derivatives, Snapple stopped using the ingredient when the public discovered the source, but carmine is still used in some pink-colored yogurts and pink grapefruit juices.

Flowers are how plants have sex.

Honey is largely made of masticated pollen and bee spit.

Humans pass an average of a pint of gas daily.

On average, you consume 8 spiders each year, mostly in your sleep.

You swallow one quart of snot every day.

Ancient Greeks used urine to clean their clothes. It was considered so valuable that Greeks paid part of their taxes in urine.

See why I like teaching middle schoolers? They love being grossed out.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cat Blogging

I bought a new reading chair a few weeks ago and we have discovered a problem. Pucker, our boy cat, has developed an unusual compulsion to groom the chair bald. I have no idea where this came from: he's never groomed furniture before. I'll sit down in the chair and realize that I've just planted my ass on a 3 inch circle of cat spit. It's not as gross as cleaning up cat puke (why do they eat grass anyways if they know they're just going to throw it back up again half an hour later?!) but it's up there.

Tallie recently decided that she doesn't like singing. Whenever I sing, she goes nuts trying to figure out what's wrong with me.

And Toki is, of course, Toki. Meaning, she tries to crawl on me whenever I stop moving.

It's like I have no life...

I went to a production of the Music Man the other day (I'm a sucker for musicals) and, as chance would have it, Dave and his parents were there. Dave is one of my more vocal students: I had a conversation with mom about how demanding to see my teaching credential in the middle of class is beyond rude and would she please have a talk with Dave about doing this.

Of course I went over to say hi! It would have been rude not to. As I greeted mom and dad, Dave turned and noticed me. His jaw dropped, like past the bottom of his chin. I said hi to him but he continued to stare at me with these huge eyes and wide-open mouth. It reminded me a lot of coming face to face with a sunfish at the aquarium once. The whole time, he never said a word to me.......just........stared.

This is not as unusual as you might think. Most students respond with shock when they see their teacher in a mundane location like the grocery store (one of my students actually asked me what I was doing there). I call it "teacher in a box" syndrome. Academically, they know that we are humans with real lives, but on a more primitive level, their id thinks differently. Their id tells them that their teachers never actually leave the classroom. We have cots that are stored in a storage room during the day and we pull them out at night. The cafeteria feeds us our dinner, or even better, we have a plug (stored in our left foot) that we use to recharge our batteries overnight.

Sometimes, I almost wish it were true. I went to my local pharmacist once to pick up some prescription birth control, and discovered that her daughter, one of my students, was sitting behind the counter.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

3.5 million?!

Finally! I'm done with the worst of the National Board crap. I'll post later about this, but let me tell you, that was the most annoying thing I have ever had to do. But enough about that for now. Let's talk about the 3.5 million dollars the district has to cut by next year.

This has most of our teachers in a fury. I know it's a recession and all, but it's not exactly like we were wasting the money. Contrary to what most people think, schools run fairly efficiently (district offices may be another matter). We have to. The No Child Left law requires us to move heaven and earth to make sure all our students pass the WASL but gives us no money to do it with, so we're used pinching pennies so hard they squeak in protest.

Anyways, our district is turning to us to figure out where that 3.5 million is going to come from. There's a few solutions, none of them good.
1. Cut teachers. This isn't a really feasible solution, since less teachers mean larger class sized. Our class sizes are around 32-40 as it is. Most classrooms are built to accommodate 30 students, so there isn't room for any more students. Unless we knock out a few walls. Which costs more money.
2. Cut team planning time so we can cut teachers. This, unfortunately, is the one the district would like. I currently teach 5 classes and I have one personal prep (for copying, lesson planning, grading, cleaning, etc) and one team planning prep so I can meet with the other teachers to talk about students in trouble, where everyone is in science and what sections we can cut to get everything in by the end of the year, what occurred in all the various meetings, etc. I've worked in a district without team preps and I can tell you, there's nothing frivolous about them. A lot of communication that has to occur can happen at this time instead of in the halls after school, when only half the teachers have the time to talk. If we cut this time, we can all teach one more class and we can get rid of one more teacher.
3. Get rid of any extra stuff such as copy machines (which won't cover the 3.5 million, so we'll still need to cut teachers). You can see the trend by now. No matter what we do, someone's gonna be without a job.

Our population is growing and there's really no way we can afford to get rid of teachers, but there's also no way we can afford to keep them all. Our district currently gets 50 million a year to service our area. We need to get rid of roughly 7%. When 85% of your money is tied into personnel, there's no way around it. Someone's gonna get axed.

Chances are, your district is cutting too. Do you know how much? You might be surprised to find out what is being removed to accommodate the cuts. Or who.

What can you do? Well, the federal stimulus may save us a few people, so you might want to make sure your state is accepting stimulus monies. And if not, let loose a bee in your governor's bonnet. Other than that, find out in May who's getting cut (usually new teachers) and help them out however you can. Hopefully they'll find another job. But in areas where other districts have to cut teachers too? Some of these teachers may be moving out of their homes in the near future.

Give us a hand if you can. Support stimulus money. Support legislation that gives money to schools. And bake your child's teacher something. You'd be surprised how much a chewy chocolate brownie helps.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

That's what you'd call ironic....

So I'm sitting here, not particularly minding my own business, when I hear this woman sitting at a table near me. I'm at the brewery again, you see, grading papers, working on my lesson plan, and doing all the general shit I have to do when I'm not, you know, teaching. Anyways, I listen to this person talking about the ills of allowing servers to put lemon in your water. Apparently, they don't wash their hands beforehand and they could have been handling turkey or other contaminants that might get on your lemon and into your water. Mind you, she's still eating here but she's worried about the highly-acidic lemon getting contaminated with harmful bacteria. Less than two minutes later, she allows her young daughter to order a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (remember the peanut butter salmonella problem we've had recently?). She also admitted to driving while talking nearly 8000 minutes on her cell phone a month (how many minutes are there in a month anyways? How many minutes a day would you have to talk to total 8000 freaking minutes a day? Good math question for my students.) and allowed her daughter to run into the brewing room (don't worry, I let her know and she caught the little munchkin).

Reminds me a lot of the people who drive to work everyday yet go on for hours about how they won't step foot in a plane because of the whole Hudson river thing. I keep reminding myself that things like this are supposed to be funny.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

pardon my absence.....

I'm in my last month for National Boards and my workload has increased exponentially. I'm working on a good case of carpal tunnel syndrome right now and I think my face is getting that unnatural monitor glow to it. So please forgive me if you don't hear from me until April: I'll try to post, but right now, I'm so focused on getting this shit together that I doubt I'd notice my nose had fallen off my face until a few days later, when I wondered why my glasses kept falling off.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Always preview your videos

I should have known this from the National Geographic Hyena Video Incident (did you know that hyena females have mock penises and mount each other to demonstrate dominance? I do now), but sometimes, I need a refresher on this point.

Today's lesson comes via a naughty Pompeii video. Students love Pompeii, with it's perfectly preserved artifacts and plaster-of-paris casts of victims that died nearly 2000 years ago. I was planning on previewing a new video I had acquired on the subject when i was accosted by one of the teachers as I walked in the door on Monday.

Her daughter works as a sub in our building, you see. And the teacher she was subbing for left her with no lesson plan, so she was high and dry on what to teach with the kids walking in the door in less than half an hour. This is a horrible situation for a sub to be in: the kids would have eaten her alive.

"Please, do you have a video? We need a science video to show them," Karen pleaded.

Now, I had this Pompeii video in my hand, but I haven't previewed it. I dithered for a moment, but seeing the panic in her eyes, I made what I know now was a horrible decision. I gave her the unpreviewed video and let her know that it hadn't been watched but it should be ok.

I heard nothing else about it yesterday, but quickly realized my error when i previewed the video today. It started off innocently enough describing the tragedy of those buried on that fateful day, but started getting a little racy when they started discussing the brothels. Apparently, tile mosaics in each room indicated the "services" that each woman provided. Still, the video did this flashlight thing that made most of the mosaics hard to make out, so I thought it would be mostly ok. Then, they showed the artifacts recovered from the brothel, and that's when the wheels really came off the wagon. There were statues with phalluses longer than they were tall. Wind chimes with penises instead of chimes. Labia lamps. I couldn't believe it!

I ran into Karen's room and apologized profusely for what I put her daughter through. I'm imagining the phone calls the school is going to get!

But Karen was confused. What was I talking about?

I quickly described the movie's more saucy points, and unbelievably, Karen started to laugh. "She didn't even watch it!" Karen crowed. "She said she sat at the teacher's desk and read a book. The kids were super quiet so she didn't think anything about it. Now I know why: they were trying not to draw her attention to what they were watching!"

I've already thrown away the Great Honking Penises of Pompeii video in the trash and if anyone asks, "I know nothing about this video, I have never heard of it." Remember that.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wanna get away?

Vacation is winding down (technically, today is a work day for me. I'll tell you about that in a later post), so I figured I'd share one more humorous story from the past before I start back.

One of the teachers came into the staff lounge with a quarter and an interesting story. Turns out, the students had created a new game. They draw circles on a sheet of binder paper with point scores (smaller circles have bigger points). Then, you color one side of a quarter with a marker. You slap the quarter on your forehead, color side against your head, and lean over the paper. if the quarter lands inside any circle, you earn that many points (but the entire quarter has to be inside). If the color side landed up, you double the points in the circle. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins.

"But here's the catch:," she said, "the game is actually a practical joke. By slapping the color side on your forehead, you transfer the marker to your skin, and that means you have a big, colorful circle on your forehead until you realize this and wash it off."

We all laughed, and I asked the teacher if the students had found anyone stupid enough to pull the prank on yet.

The room suddenly became silent, and nervous eyes turned to the side of the room. I followed their gaze and saw the vice principal, mercifully oblivious to our conversation, furiously scrubbing a large, red circle off his forehead.

Book Blogging

I'm currently reading a really funny book called Tales From the Teacher's Lounge. The guy who wrote it is pretty much like me: saucy, salty, and still not quite sure why he got into teaching. Take a look if you happen to be wandering through a Borders or a Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Since I'm on vacation...

I'm currently out on mid-winter break (often referred by teachers as "ski week"), so the posts may be a bit thin this week. Since I won't have any new stories to share for a while, let me relate an old one that I haven't yet gotten to.

We were doing an experiment based on bubble gum. The students weigh several pieces of bubble gum, then chew the gum for 10-15 minutes, or until the gum loses its flavor, then weigh it again to see how much sugar was in the gum before. Yes, spit does add some mass, but gums like Fruit Stripe and Hubba Bubba lose up to 75% of their mass, which surprises most people. You see what a fun teacher I am?

Anyways, part of the unit requires students to research the history of gum, and I allowed my students access to a computer to do this. I had a couple of students on the computer, when one of them came up to me with a funny expression on his face. Like he was nervous.

"Mrs. W, could you come see our computer? We didn't mean to go there, but I don't want the school getting mad at us."

Mystified, I followed the student.

"We typed in 'bubble gum' and this picture popped up."

Apparently, our pornography filter doesn't work on images. The title of the picture was "bubble gum" and the woman in the picture, blowing a bubble, was stark naked. All the boys looked really nervous now.

"Ok guys, I understand," I replied. "Turn it off and I'll be sure the office knows it was a mistake."

Relieved, they closed the picture and moved on to more legitimate sites. Proof positive that the internet is mainly used for porn, methinks.

Now I know the district checks on less than 1% of the sites viewed in schools, and they're usually looking for sites with obvious porn names, like "hot asian sex" or "lesbians" not "bubble gum", but I did let them know, just in case.

At least I know now that they got an education in my class that day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How about this weather we're having?

It's currently 33 degrees outside and I freeze my butt off everytime I walk out the door. So what do I see my students getting off the bus in? Shorts and T-shirts. One girl was even wearing flip-flops and a pair of tights.

Fucking crazy, that's what that is.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I have cool eyeliner

I was in Deanna's classroom today observing her class (she has several of my students and I like to see what goes on when I'm not teaching them) when one of her students gestured me to come over. Since it wasn't even one of my students, I was confused, but I went to see what she wanted. She waved her hand to indicate I should come closer so she could whisper something. I came closer and leaned over.

"I wish I could be in your class," she said. "You have cool eyeliner".


I double-checked to make sure that was what she said. She waved a finger back and forth over her eyelids. Yep, she said I had cool eyeliner. Now thankfully, I was wearing eyeliner today, or else I would be completely baffled. Instead of only confounded.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Oh, the places your chicken nugget will go....

I am in awe of the creativity of our cafeteria staff. Well, to be honest, I'm just glad we have a school cafeteria that cooks. I've worked in schools where being the chef consisted of warming hundreds of individually-packaged packets of corn, rice, spaghetti, all created in some factory no doubt in New Jersey. These cretins used to freeze shaker salads to make them last longer, and couldn't understand why no one wanted to eat them. You ever seen what happens to lettuce when it freezes? It turns into green slime.

So it's nice to be in a school where the know, cook. And the versatility of the chicken nugget in their hands is something to behold.

Chicken nuggets with barbeque sauce
Orange chicken with rice
Chicken lo mein
Chicken Chunk Stew (I know: doesn't sound appetizing)
Teriyaki chicken with rice
Chicken nugget alfredo

The only thing that scares me is when we have chicken nugget entrees three days in a row. Did they create way more lunches than they needed one day? Or did they accidentally order too much and they're pushing it as fast as they can? Did the chicken lo mein today contain three-day-old chicken nuggets? And what exactly is in a chicken nugget? I've always been told "beaks and butts". I hear some cultures consider chicken asses a delicacy. Or so I keep telling myself.

not as many kids get the main entree, which I find disappointing. All they want is pizza every day. Me, I'd get so fucking tired of pizza I couldn't stand it. It's delivery, so at least it's not the cardboard crust Chucky Cheese shit they used to push at my old school. But still: pizza every day? Their little hearts are going to explode.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Random notes

He was doing it again today.


Things you can't plan for

So I was doing an experiment in my class where my students discovered air pressure. You take two syringes (needle-less, of course), fill one with air, then connect them with a piece of plastic tubing. When you push on the plunger of the syringe filled with air, there's a bit of give, then the other plunger pops up. Voila! Air pressure! This experiment has all sorts of other uses too: fill up the syringes with water instead of air, and you discover quickly that water isn't compressible. It's the reason why we fill brake lines with fluid instead of air, and why air in your brake line results in your brakes not working anymore.

Oh how was I supposed to know what my students would do with this?

Someone in class figured out that, if you take one of the plungers out, you create a mini-vacuum chamber. They experimented with picking up papers, books, and eventually discovered that creating a vacuum on your arm leaves a perfectly circular red spot (see: hickey) on your skin. Next thing I know, several of my students have given themselves perfectly circular hickeys on their arms, necks, and even one particularly red on on the center of a forehead.

So that's why I'm sitting in a bar right now, drinking. Because I need to write a letter to my parents about how their child got a hickey in science class. And because days like this require a drink. There ought to be a law saying that.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A word on tattoo addiction

(please put up with my tattoo conversations: I'm obnoxiously proud of it)

So the ex-Catholic school teacher showed me her new tattoo today. It's the word "Grace" written in beautiful script. I remember talking to her when I got my tattoo and she said something that really resonated with me. "it's going to sound really bad," she started, "but you really learn to love the needle."

I can totally understand that now.

I never understood up until I got my own exactly why people tattooed themselves until they looked like a circus-show freak. Or, for that matter, people who were into sado-masochism. Now I understand the fascination with it.

You see, the needle hurts, not enough to make you yell but it hurts for a long time (in my case, an hour and a half). Your body releases endorphins as a result to counteract the pain. In case you don't know this, endorphins are the Party Animal of the hormone world. They give you that nice rush you get on a roller coaster, or the sudden urge to have wild, crazy monkey sex after a brush with death. Imagine that your endorphins are constantly being released starting 15 minutes or so after the tattooing starts.

I was on an endorphin high for an entire day. You have no idea how distracting that is.

When they say tattoos are addictive, that statement isn't figurative. Tattoos are literally addictive, as in I went through endorphin withdrawal. I don't know if my husband Chris could stand me for about 3 days afterwards: I was one crabby human being. That being said, I still can't wait to get my next one. I've told myself I have to wait at least 6 months, to be sure it isn't withdrawal speaking.

6 months.....ok, I suppose 4 would still work.......maybe a couple of months. At least until this one heals. Or at least maybe on a spot not near my currently healing tattoo. That would work. Damn.


Four words I wanted to say to Devin all day.


On a more serious (sorta) note, why is nose-picking considered so nasty? No one complains when I rub my eyes or suck Cheetos dust off of my fingers. Why is ramming a finger to the first knuckle in your nostril so gross? Is it because we see primates do the same thing? Is it because so many people pick their nose and eat the boogers in public? What is it?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mission Accomplished

I got the tattoo, btw, and it looks beautiful! I'd show it off, but I don't want any of my teacher friends who find this site to recognize it (it's distinctive). I can tell you I got the design from tattoo tribes and that the guy who tattooed me (he inks himself, btw. Talk about faith in your skills) had two kids in my class. And yes, he recognized me. Hilarious.

Here comes the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo......

There's a period in the deep winter where teachers don't see the sun. We get to work before the sun rises, and leave after it has set. But this past week, I've been gifted with the sunrise on my way to work. It's not much sun, but it's enough to perk my mood. Speaking of mood, an interesting thing happened on Friday that really made me laugh.

We have several students who wear cute slippers to school. I've brought it up as a safety concern (I am a science teacher and broken glass happens), but was shot down. Picking battles and all that. Well, Alexa and her friend came up to show me their goofy kitty cat slippers. I mentioned to them that they were adorable, but I worried that one day they were going to wear these slippers on a day when we had a fire drill (remember from my earlier post? Sprinklers? Wet lawn? 40 degrees right now?). They laughed and went to their first period class.

I bet you can see where I'm going with this. Because we had an earthquake that very morning, the principal decided to hold a surprise earthquake drill. I shit you not, I had no idea it was going to happen. I ran into Alexa as she was walking in her socks to the football field (she didn't want to ruin the slippers), shivering and hopping from one frozen foot to the other).

Talk about learning a lesson the hard way.

I made sure to mention it to Alexa when I saw her later: "Oh Alexa, are you feeling better? Your feet must have been half-frozen! I was thinking about you the whole time we were out there and how cold and wet you must have been....."

I was thinking about her the whole time because her predicament gave me such a sense of schadenfreude.

One of the little tricks in middle school is this: you can't tell them "I told you so!" It only breeds resentment and it would have guaranteed that Alexa continued to wear her slippers just to get to me. By fawning all over her to the point of embarrassment (now EVERYONE knows about it), it's guaranteed she won't wear them again, at least for a while. I'll be sure to post as soon as I see them.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A teacher with a tattoo?

So I'm thinking about getting a tattoo on the side of my calf. I absolutely love it: it's a total scuba diver's tattoo so it'll be a reminder of all the things I love about scuba diving. These are all animals that are threatened or near threatened (in the case of the manta ray) by human activity, so it reminds me to always be mindful of my choices and what effect they have on the world around me. Finally, it reminds me of Maui, my little piece of Heaven On Earth.

The thing is, I've always been told "Never get a tattoo: no one will hire a teacher with a tattoo". Okay, it was usually mom telling me this and she's understandably biased to keeping her daughter tattoo-free, but she's a teacher too. On the other hand, we have several teachers with tribal bands or anklet tattoos and stuff and someone felt it was okay to hire them. Even the former Catholic school teacher has an anklet tattoo with a cross (appropriate in ironic ways). So I figure: why can't I?

What do you think? Is it okay for a teacher to have a tattoo? Mine won't be visible unless I wear a pair of shorts, unlikely for me at school. But does a tattoo on a teacher diminish the respect you have for them? I'm dying to know: my appointment is next Saturday and I'm as nervous as a cat in a room-full of rocking chairs.


So I was walking around the class today, minding my own business, when one of my good kids suddenly explodes.  You know the type: always helpful, gets A's without trying most of the time, and usually is the calmest kid in the bunch.  So it's always pretty weird when that kind of kid goes bat-shit bonkers.  He just looked at the boy sitting next to him and told him in that freaky I'm-not-taking-any-more-shit-from-you-so-shut-the-fuck-up voice to ""

I went over to see what caused the entire commotion and got this baffling story.  Apparently, Paul was trying to focus his microscope while Ben, sitting next to him, started to violently and noisily choke himself around the neck with his own hands.  Paul tolerated this behavior as long as he could before exploding.  

Why the hell do I always get the weird ones?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ah, the joys of young love

Can I just say right now that I hate Axe body spray?

Puberty has officially hit the 6th graders and the smell of love is in the air.  By the smell of love, I mean the hideous reek of old body odor unsuccessfully covered by the hideous reek of body spray.  I swear, there are some places I can no longer go in my classroom because the stench of Axe hovers like a cloud of poison gas.

And then there are the girls.  Perfume marketed to girls are made to attract girls, not boys (colognes are the same for boys.  Please take note: when buying cologne, bring a girl along.  What smells good to you might be female repellent)  As such, they are the most godawful mix of sweet that it gives you cavities from 5 feet away.  

And none of it takes the place of a bar of soap or a stick of deodorant.  Around this time, we have to have the Conversation.  The Conversation goes something like this: "your armpits have turned on, so you can't go 4 days without showering anymore.  And please buy deodorant: you could knock a horse down."

And there's the flirting.  Girls and boys haven't figured out how to flirt properly yet, so you get some pretty amusing results.  I had a boy who went to sharpen his pencil and, on the way back, he suddenly stopped, stroked the hair of one of the girls in class, then returned to his seat.  She looked really confused, so I asked him later why he did it.  He looked at his hand, looked at me, and said, "......I don't know?"

Most boys don't know what to do, so they flirt with the girls the same way they'd complement a friend: by hitting them or stealing their stuff.  Binders and pencils go missing, then the girl has to wrestle the guy to get them back.  Oh, I'm sure he liked it, but she gets pissed off and smacks him one.  To a boy however, this is the highest compliment and he thinks she's flirting back.  So then we have to have the Conversation about "Most people don't hit each other because they like them.  Cut it out before she scratches your eyes out."

Girls flirt differently.  First, out comes the flirty clothes.  Tube tops and string tops, short shorts and tights, bra straps hanging out, tight T-shirts tied in the back with a hair band so every fold and breast is outlined.  Cleavage (is it fair that some of them have more cleavage than me?  God is cruel.)  popping out of too-small bras.  When they laugh, they lean forward, giving the boys a view straight down their top.  School dances are worse!  They'll gang up on a cute boy, one in the back, one in the front, and one on each arm.  Then they shimmy up and down , rubbing all over them.  He's got a goofy grin on his face, unaware of the splendid case of blue balls he's going to have in a few hours.  So the girls get a conversation too: "Save the skimpy clothes for when you're not in school and when it's not 35 degrees or we're going to make you wear the ugliest pair of pants and shirt you've ever seen.  I'm not joking.  We'll stick you in a painter's jumper for the rest of the day."  If we could possibly get away with writing "loaner" on the back with a sharpie, we'd do it.

Looks like nobody's going to get any work done until 9th grade.

Dogs and Cats: Elementary and Middle school teachers

(note: the analogy of dogs and cats comes from Michael Grinder, who presents wonderful seminars to both teachers and business leaders on how to communicate with others.

Elementary teachers and middle school teachers are as different as night and day, I've noticed.  Me, I teach middle school but I taught first and second graders for a year and let me tell you, the little ones are cute but I can't teach them.  The drool and snot and "help me in the bathroom" gave me the heebie jeebies.  Elementary teachers tell me all the time that they couldn't teach middle school because puberty turns kids into raging, disrespectful monsters.  Middle school teachers tend to be saltier too.  I was at a conference and the presenter asked the inevitable question "Why did you get into teaching".  I hate that question, mostly because I'm not entirely sure why I started teaching, I just did.  As they went around the room, the elementary teachers gave answers like "I love children" or "I couldn't have a child of my own so now I have 20".  When they asked me why I started teaching, I responded, "I became a teacher because I'm good at working with animals".  There was a gasp from the elementary crowd, but the middle school teachers in the room broke into raucous laughter.  See?  Like cats and dogs.  

Elementary teachers are total dogs (this doesn't mean that they're worse than middle school teachers, just different.  Dogs are loyal and friendly.  They're helpful, they love without prejudice, and they're just so darned sweet.  Middle school teachers, on the other hand, are total cats.  We're aloof and proud.  Sure, we have a sweet side too, usually when we want something.  Treat us poorly, and we're just as likely to scratch.  We can be loyal too, and good natured and friendly.  But we demand the same in return (in case you're curious, high school teachers are like the moon: distant and remote.  You see them all the time, but you don't know what they're really like and you're not really sure what they do.)

So, presented below is a comparison chart of elementary teachers and middle school teachers.  With a little humor thrown in for good measure.

Elementary school teachers:
- wear clothing that has "ABC 123" and has cute pictures of children and chalkboards on it"
- talk in a sing-song voice
- are so darned sweet to everyone it makes your teeth ache.
- like stickers
- decorate their houses with stuff that remind them of school
- love all their children, no matter who they are
- put comments on report cards like "Jimmy is a wonderful boy who loves to paint and draw"
- refer to their children as "adorable" or "cute" or "sweetie"
- miss their school during the summer
- will happily leave older students to middle school teachers
- buy books with bright pictures and cute stories so their children will like them
- don't mind wiping noses or butts
- will hold hands and give hugs all day
- give complements all the time because a student likes it

Middle school teachers:
- look forward to casual Friday with a passion because we can wear jeans and a T-shirt.
- talk in a gruff "Piss me off and you'll regret it" kind of voice.
- are so darned unpredictable to keep their students on their toes
- don't give a shit about stickers
- decorate their houses with things that help them forget about school
- say they love all their students but secretly hate some of them
- wish they could put comments like this on their report cards.
- refer to some of their kids as "fucko" or "The Jellyfish" or "passive aggressive"
- miss their summer during school.
- will happily leave younger kids to elementary teachers
- buy gross books about nose picking and freaky disfigurements so their kids will like them
- would rather juggle Ebola vials than have anything to do with your orifices
- don't give hugs, but will give you a high-five or a handshake
- tease their kids because their kids like it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cat Blogging

I haven't done a cat blog post in a while, mostly because my cats have been behaving like, well.....cats.  But Toki today did something so unusual, I felt I had to mention it: my cat was huffing my shoes. 

Yes, you heard that right the first time.  My cat Toki was getting high off my footwear.

It flooded here last week and I spent a day helping sandbag the neighborhood.  Unfortunately, that mean that I was standing ankle-deep in water and it leaked into my boots.  I tried to dry them out, but by Monday, my boots had developed a distinctive corn chip-y smell and I finally decided to do something about it today.

I found some anti-fungal cream and smeared it on my feet.  Then, I put my feet in my boots and walked around for a little while (to hopefully smear the cream inside my boot and kill the stuff growing inside it).  Then I took my boots off and left them on the floor.

I came back several minutes later to find Toki buried head-first in my boot.  Seriously, I couldn't even see her ears.  I pulled her out of the boot but she proceeded to nuzzle it to death like it had been dipped in catnip.  Finally, I put the boots up on a table so she couldn't get in them.  She spent the next 10 minutes glaring at me out of the corner of her right eye, then the corner of her left, like some demented parrot!

Since she can't get at my boots, she is currently rolling around on the rug that I stepped on after I put on the anti-fungal cream.  Cats are so weird.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Snow Days

Between the floods and the snow storms that have plagued Western Washington, it's been a very long time since I've seen the inside of my classroom.  I hope my potted plants are ok!

One year, the school district decided not to schedule a snow day on a day when they obviously should have.  I mean, there was like a half-foot of snow on the ground and the roads were hellish!  Most of the teachers made it in ok (we've been up here long enough to have cars that can handle the snow), but the real problem is the buses: they can't.

One poor bus tried to make it down the twisty mountain road to try to get to our school.  Unfortunately, the driver lost control and plowed into a guard rail.  The rule is: if a bus driver gets in an accident, they are required to park the bus immediately and radio for a replacement driver.  The original driver is taken in for mandatory drug testing.  It took a while (with the messy roads and all) for the replacement bus driver to show up, and in the meantime, the students are sitting in a cold school bus.  The second bus driver made it perhaps another quarter of a mile down the road before losing control and plowing into oncoming traffic (no one was hurt, thankfully).

The students finally showed up to school, an hour and a half after class started and mad as hell.  The next day, the district called a snow day and we all stayed home.

Experience is the best teacher, I've heard.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why don't adults eat frosting?

You remember when you were a kid and you always wanted the corner piece of the cake because it meant you got frosting on three sides of your cake instead of two? Or when you got the cupcakes with the huge cap of frosting on the top?  I keep watching teachers scraping frosting off of Costco sheet cake, and I wondered:  Why do adults hate frosting?  Don't get me wrong: if I get the piece with the rose on it, I scrape the thing off too.  I just wondered why our love of frosting stops when we become adults.  Maybe it's all the shortening?  That stuff coats your mouth like motor oil.

Teachers will eat anything!

No school today due to flooding (one of the few times a phone call at 5 in the morning is a welcomed event).  So let's talk about what teachers like to eat.

If teachers were wild animals, we'd be the scavengers of the animal kingdom.  There is almost nothing that we won't eat (except that child's dinosaur birthday cake that someone left in the staff room.  Admittedly, it looked like a green, scaly dog turd with a head, so that might have affected the results).  Here is a short list of the interesting things I've seen teachers eat that were left in a staff room.
  • burnt brownies
  • frozen shaker salads (have you seen what lettuce does when it freezes?  It gets slimy)
  • Necco wafers
  • week old vegetables with ranch dip that had been left out over the weekend (they justified that, since the fakey-ranch had no milk products in it , it should still be okay)
  • year-old M and M's.  The candy coating was coming off, it was so old.
  • Ex-lax brownies.  Okay, he didn't know the brownies had ex-lax in them, but he had it coming for stealing desserts out of other people's lunches.
This is why, if you want to give your child's teacher a gift and you're not sure what would work best, food is always a safe gift.  Whether it's lemon bars (mmmm....lemon bars....), Starbucks gift cards, See's candy or even a 12-pack of soda, believe me, it's appreciated!  Just please: no Ferrero Rocher.  The one thing I can't eat is hazelnut chocolates.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Name Game

One problem with being a teacher is there are so many names I can no longer name my children now.  All it takes is one knucklehead to ruin the name for you forever.  And unfortunately, because most humans cannot go through life without gaining a few biases, we sometimes groan if we see a child with this name joining our class.  So here is a brief list of names that most teachers have been burned by.

Mike- Michael's are usually fine, Mikey's can be questionable, but Mike is a kiss of death
Jesus- Why is it no Jesus can live up to his namesake?
Adam- Unlike Jesus, Adam's do live up to their namesake: often naive and dim humans easily led into trouble by girls.
Most boys' J names- Jeremy, Justin, Jake, Jordan: I'm not sure what it is about the J that makes a boy a pain, but most J's do that (Jose's are exempt.  I don't know why).

And for the girls?
Any flower name- please, no more Lily, Jasmine or Daisy, though I've had good luck with Rose and Rosa.
Angel- Like Jesus, Angel's don't live up to their namesakes (Angela's, however, are fine)
Names with overly inventive spellings- Mickaeyla, Jaeszerae, Naetalya- First, we get off on a bad foot because I have no idea how to pronounce your name on day 1.  It just goes downhill from there.

What names fill me with bliss?  I've liked every Jose I ever had.  Lena was my best student ever.  Natalie.  Chris.  Mitchell Oh, and a good student with a bad name can unpoison a bad name.  So if your child has one of the names mentioned above, all is not lost.  Just make sure they bring gifts (that's how Mitchell got on the good list.  Mmmmm.....lemon bars.......).