Monday, December 31, 2007

Guidelines for Gift-Giving

Like all years, many of my students gave me Christmas gifts. While I appreciate all the gifts since they are acts of kindness, I must admit that some gifts are more, uh, liked than others. (I'm just being honest here).

I know that not all the children I've taught could afford to buy me nice things, and I truly don't expect any presents at all, but if you're going to buy your child's teacher a present, try to make it something useful. Oh, and try to make it new. I once received a used candle accompanied by a used bottle of nail polish. (This is a true story).

I've also received a........get ready for it..... fiber-optic bonsai tree. What does one do with a fiber-optic bonsai tree except turn it on, watch the pretty colors, and listen to it whir?

I also received a "crystal ball" containing a rose suspended in some sort of strange-smelling liquid (I only know that the liquid was strange-smelling because I broke it - accidentally, I swear!).

I've gotten god-knows-how-many "World's Greatest Teacher" ornaments, pins, earrings, etc. I shoulda saved all of them and opened my own store.

Then there are the useful presents. The most popular are gift cards (Borders, restaurants, etc.), socks (I would never have thought to get my teacher socks, but who doesn't need socks?), and body lotion/soaps/scrubs. This year, however, for the first time in my career, I did not receive any of the latter (soaps/lotion/scrubs). This is a good thing because I'm still working on depleting my accumulated stock from years past. I'm not kidding. In the past 1o years, I don't think I've ever been without some kind of specialty shower gel and I have never EVER bought any for myself. Hmmm...I hope I get some next year! I don't want to have to break my streak of never having bought shower gel!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Winter Break Announcement

It's officially Winter Break. It's Monday morning and I'm not at work. (Okay, so most people aren't today, but whatever...I won't be at work until January 7th). My posts will be sparse seeing as though I won't have much school stuff to talk about....or will I?

I've already received a couple of emails from parents. Seriously. The most annoying one is that I gave my students 2 assignments over the break and one of the students forgot them at school. Are you kidding me? You had to bring ONE thing home (your homework folder) over break, and you forgot it? Grrrrr...

The parent wanted to know if the principal or assistant principal would be back in the building the day after Christmas so they could go in and get the homework folder. I was like, "" They must think a lot goes on over break, but I know for a fact that NO ONE, with the exception of the janitorial staff, is going to step foot into the school until January 7th. (Although I admit in my rookie days I would spend one day over break in my classroom getting ready...what a nerd.)

I also got some emails from parents congratulating me on my PREGNANCY!!! I told my kids on Friday I was pregnant (pg). I've known for months, but I wanted to wait until my 13th week to tell them...y'know, just in case. They were so cute when they found out, lots of hugs and congratulations. To tell them the news, I played hangman with them on the board: the message was "Ms. M___ is expecting a baby!!!" I was worried they'd guess it quickly, but boy was I wrong! They didn't guess it until the only letter missing was the "y" in "baby." We've got a lot of word study to do, don't we?

So this blog may start taking a bit of a turn. While I plan to still focus on teaching, a little bit of teaching while pg will start creeping in. I won't be able to help it, so hopefully you'll stay on as a reader.

Merry Christmas tomorrow!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dear Staff:

This is the beginning of a memo I got today. With the exception of the last name, which I changed to protect privacy, this is exactly what it reads:


One of our parents, Mrs. Johnson, who have 2 children at our school, was burned out on Monday of this week. The family lost everything...

I am not trying to minimize this family's terrible situation, but who the hell wrote this thing? I really hope it's not someone who is a teaching position because this is just sad.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What's So Funny?

I've written before about how one of the things I love about kids is their randomness. They're kind of "all over the place," make funny mistakes because they don't have all the information put together right yet, and also have this insatiable curiosity to know things most adults gave up wondering about a long time ago.

The other day, one of my kids asked me (out of the blue, mind you): "Ms. M, if there were triplets and one of them died, would they be twins?" What? Uh, I don't know. No? Maybe? These kinds of things I'm amused by.

However, kids have to realize that they don't have to share every thought that pops into their head...especially in the middle of a lesson.

Today during math (which I'm kind of freaking out about because I feel we're behind and the ISATs are MARCH 3rd!), we were going over our homework. At the end I asked if there were any questions. Some kids asked smart questions like, "I don' t understand why #8 is 3.5." (Okay, technically not a question, but...). Some asked annoying questions like, "Can you repeat the answers to #4, 5, 6, and 7?" (Grrrrrr!). I felt like I was becoming visibly annoyed with all the (annoying-type) questions, but apparently I wasn't, because a student raised her hand and said, "I think it's funny that the answer to #4 is 5 and the answer to #5 is 4."

Is this not a thought that one could keep to themselves? I mean, really! Didn't I JUST get done saying how I felt we were moving too slowly in math and we need to speed things up? Oh, and how come you weren't amused that the answer to #3 was 3? Now, THAT'S funny!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Is It Too Much to Ask?

I'm not in a very good mood today. The main reason is because I didn't get enough sleep last night, but a lot of little things that happened today added to my bad mood. It's the little things in life that matter, so I must ask the question:

Is it too much to ask...

1. to have the street our school is on plowed? I mean, a school is a pretty important city building, right? Hundreds of people go in and out of it daily; cars, buses, and pedestrians are a given. So why the hell wouldn't the city make it a priority to plow around a school? I'd bet if an ambulance had to come to our school, it'd get stuck there's that much snow. Cars, including mine, were sliding all over the place.

2. for the French teacher to actually BE AT SCHOOL on the days that my kids have French? I mean, how many f'ing preps can I have cancelled?

3. have paper towels in the teacher's bathroom? I mean, it's bad enough that I bring toilet paper.

4. have my administrators actually answer my emails in a timely fashion? My principal and assistant principal are hard people to find. They're never stay in one place, so email is a perfect form of communication. However, I NEVER get a response from them. Grrrrr.

There's actually a lot more on my list, but thinking about all this stuff again is making my bad mood worse. So I'm going to stop now, take some deep breaths, and just let it go.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Not Enough Information

Something I love about kids is that they haven't acquired a lot of information yet. This leads them to say things that don't make sense or aren't entirely true. However, they think it's true because it falls in line with the information they do have (known as "schema" in the education world).

Now I'm not saying that I make fun of them when they make mistakes like this. I don't. They can't be expected to know as much as an adult. They're still "works in progress" (hell, we're all "works in progress!"), but when they say something that is nonsensical or just plain wrong, I can't help but be amused.

Today, one of my boys complained that another boy called him something homosexual. (Yes, this is the kind of crap I deal with daily). I called the other boy to me and asked him if this was true. The boy admitted that, yes, he did call him something homosexual. I asked him what he called him. His reply: "masturbator."

Hee-hee...I guess there are a LOT of homosexuals then!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


What I really want to write today:


But I will actually post something "worthwhile" since I haven't posted for several days. I feel like writing "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz" because being a teacher is CRAZY sometimes. At some points during the day, I literally have 5 people talking to me: 5 people who don't understand that I cannot understand one thing they're saying so they just stare at me when they're done asking their question as if they're waiting for a response. Sometimes I have them form a line so I can hear their questions one at a time (like normal people). Sometimes I just give them all a blanket answer like, "Go sit down." I think the latter is best because my kids tell me the stupidest things. Like today we were talking about the "Twelve Days of Christmas" because that is the song that they are performing at our holiday assembly. I told them about how the 12 days of Christmas were actually the 12 days following Christmas leading up to the Epiphany on January 6. One of my girls was practically jumping out of her seat, waving her arm in a frenzy so I would call on her. When kids behave that way, I won't call on them and I let her know that. She put her hand down and pouted.

Later, when we were doing something else, I was standing by her desk working with another student and she interrupted (out of the blue) to tell me what she had wanted to share earlier. I told her it was neither the time nor the place to tell me something. So the poor thing waited until after dismissal to finally come up to me and tell me the EXTREMELY IMPORTANT information that had her jumping out of her chair: Her little sister's birthday is on January 5th, the day before Epiphany. Wow. What the hell am I supposed to say to that?

Sometimes I feel like my classroom is the chaos of the trading floor at the stock exchange: too many things going on at once. In fact, my dentist tells me that he sees people in 2 professions come in with a glazed look on their face after a day of work: stockbrokers and teachers.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Career Day

Today was career day at school. This is when parents with (hopefully) interesting careers come into the classrooms to talk about what their job entails, the skills needed for their job, and to encourage students to stay in school. A great idea, yes? Unfortunately, not everybody knows how to talk to children. You'd assume that since they have children, they would know how to talk to them, but this is not the case.

The first parent that came in was actually the parent of one of my students. She works for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Specifically she works for the "Federal Supply Schedule Service of the National Acquisition Center." She kept using terms like "schedule programs," "blanket purchase agreements," and "contractors." By the end of it, I barely understood what she did, let alone the kids. She meant well, but you really have to learn to speak in kid-friendly language if you want kids to understand what you're saying.

The next speaker was a little better. She was in marketing. Her first question, though, was "Who can name a type of marketing?" She got answers like, "banking," "accounting," and "law." Uhhhh, no. I had to tell her that the kids don't know what marketing is, so she would need to explain it first, then ask the question again. That worked a little better. She was smart and gave stuff away to the kids, like pens and bags with her company's name on them. They were thrilled! However, she went on to say that she didn't really like marketing so she was in school to get her master's in elementary education. I'd say she's got a long way to go.

The last woman was really good. She owned a computer company. She was fun and had a job the kids could relate to. Thank goodness she came in because I was beginning to think every job (but mine) is totally boring.

When I saw the master list of career day volunteers, most of them were pretty standard jobs. One, however, struck me. She had a single name, no last name: Mystery (or something like that). Her job title was "entertainer/diva." I really hope that doesn't mean stripper, but with these parents, you NEVER know. I'll try to find out who she was and report back.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

There's Always One

Can I ever have a year without a parent who is constantly on my ass? I mean, I know parents mean well, but, really, do you have to email me 7 times a day? Do you really have to come in and sit in the classroom to "observe your son's learning environment?" I guess you do, because you did. Lemme 'splain.

I have a boy in my class who is new to our school this year. This kid is by no means "bad." He can have his annoying moments and he doesn't always listen, but he doesn't fight, he isn't mean, and he pretty much does his work. Well, last month, he neglected to tell his parents that he had to complete a science fair project. He didn't bring home any of the information I had given him and he didn't write down any of the assignments and due dates associated with the project in his homework journal. This started the whole thing. His father emailed me concerned that he (the father) and I were not communicating enough. Fine. We had a long phone conversation and many emails were exchanged about what we were going to do to make sure this "science fair fiasco" did not happen again. I now check the kid's homework journal every day to make sure he is writing down every assignment.

Then the kid did something else. Instead of taking all his graded papers home last Friday, he hid them in the classroom. He did this because he had some papers in there that he did not do well on. I gave the papers to the kid, told him to take them home today, emailed the father about what happened, and left it at that.

Of course I get an email from the dad asking me if it would be okay to attend class the next morning to help him get control of this situation. He said he felt he may be able to gain some insight by watching his son's behavior and environment. Oh, did I mention the father is some kind of child behavioralist or something? I told him fine. Come on in.

He came in for about 2 hours. I pretty much ignored him (I mean, of course I said hello and told him where to sit) and went on with things as normal. Everything went well. Nobody got in a fight, there was no fire alarm pulled, nothing out of the ordinary...thank god.

That night, I get an email from the dad thanking me for letting him into the classroom and that he thinks he thinks that some of the issues with his son is that "he is really accustomed to highly structured classroom settings." Uh...excuse me? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Did you take my classroom as a free-for-all? I find my classroom to be very well-structured. No, I don't make my kids stay in their seats for 2 hours at a time, I allow them choice in their activities, and I don't expect everyone to be doing the exact same thing at the same exact time, but my classroom is STRUCTURED! The dad went on to write that this is by no means judgment on me. Uh, okay...but it kind of is. Now he wants to get together so we can work on a plan to help his son become more consistent with his work and his responsibilities. That sounds fun. I hope you send me a nice Christmas present.

My last complaint is that this man addresses me by my first name. If you're a civilian (a.k.a. not a teacher), this may sound normal to you, but in the teaching world, you are ALWAYS known by your last name. In my 10+ years of teaching, no parent has EVER called me by my first name. Hell, no boss has ever called me by my first name. It's just the way it goes. So where does this guy get off on calling me by my first name? I guess he thinks we're friends. Friends get nice Christmas presents.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Evolution of Fruit Roll-Ups

If you are around my age (early 30s), you remember when Fruit Roll-Ups were invented. I'd like to guess it was around 1982-1984. If you're like me, you remember that Fruit Roll-Ups came in limited colors/flavors (red, orange, purple) and were square or rectangular and came, well, rolled-up in cellophane. If you're like me, you have not had a Rruit Roll-Up in 20+ years.

Well, times and Fruit Roll-Ups have changed! They now come in 10 flavors, crazy colors and patterns (including tiger stripes and tie-dye), and funny character shapes that you can peel off. To make it even CRAZIER, some are even printed with "tongue tattoos!" The Fruit Roll-Up has pictures on which you press your tongue, and the picture transfers onto your tongue! Then you stick your tongue out at all your friends and they exclaim, "Ohhhh, Spongebob!" It makes lunchtime great fun.

There are also "stackable" Fruit Roll-Ups, but the concept was lost on me. Why would you want to stack your food? Why not just eat it? Oh, yeah, I remember. Because you're 9 and stacking your food and putting pictures on your tongue before actually eating the food is great fun!
My students couldn't believe that "back in the day" (this is the term used when referring to any teacher's childhood), we only had, like, 3 options when it came to Fruit Roll-Ups. "That's too bad," they tell me. I can't get myself to eat a Fruit Roll-Up (ewww), so I don't know what I'm missing.