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.