Monday, April 28, 2008

The wrong syl-LA-ble

Ms. J's class - "Hey, you're not supposed to be in here," "What are you doing here?" etc. etc. etc.
Ms. J - Mr B's always invited here.
3rd grader - And you're invited to my party!
Other 3rd grader - Your invited to my party too!
3G - My party's better
O3G - nuh uh!
(a fight ensues over which party will be better)

In 3rd grade power hour (insert fanfare/varied superhero themes/music composed by John Williams etc.) we were doing multi-syllabic words.  One was emphasis.  I told the kids to sound out the word to themselves, then on the cue to say the word I got six happy students saying "Em-PHA-sis"...

In 1st grade power hour (insert appropriate accompaniments) I looked over to see the basket-head girl whacking her head on the table and laughing.  I worry about her.

While in the first grade classroom I noticed a bunch of cups filled with dirt sitting by the window.  This class was growing plants.  I must have been having a weird day because it really almost brought a tear to my eye seeing the little sprouting leaves.  It's something so simple and yet so completely amazing.

If they have to do an autopsy on my body when I die, I think they're going to find an inordinate amount of dry-erase marker ink dust.  I think it's seeping into my system.  I may one day be various shades of black, blue, green, and red.

I played kick ball with the 3rd grade.  They had me be the pitcher so that all the kids got a fair shot at kicking the ball.  It was a blast.  Let me just reiterate the fact that I love playing games with kids who don't really get the rules.  At one point we somehow ended up with three kids on one base.  We just laughed.

Soap Box

I love kids, I think that's evident.  I love teaching kids, also fairly apparent.  I think everything else about the educational system in America sucks.

I started my application for the ARL program (Alternative Route to Licensure - this is a program in Utah where one can receive a teaching license while teaching, after having obtained a Bachelor's Degree).  An exciting day in the life of any young aspiring teacher taking a non-traditional route to certification.

To become a teacher one has to get a background check - totally understandable.  There's a fee involved - that's to be expected, I suppose.  The breakdown of the fee is as follows, and I quote, "$69 fee for criminal background check ($49 fingerprint fee plus $20 UPPAC fee)."  Ok, I'm fine with that...I guess.  What I'm not fine with is the fact that I have to pay an additional $10 to get fingerprinted - WHAT?!  Then what's the *&^#@ $49 fee for?!  On top of that, Granite district already has my electronic fingerprints on file from when I got a job as a substitute.  Do you think they could just send those in?  Oh no, I have to get fingerprinted again.  They even used the same machine!

And that's only the beginning of the fees.  There's a non-refundable $50 application/evaulation fee.  I guess that's so that some old decrepit white guy up at the state office can look at my application and say yes or no - regardless of whether or not I'd actually be a good teacher.  And if he says no - I'm out $120!

Then, if I make the program, there's a Program Development and Tracking Fee.  That's so they can tell me what classes/tests to take to get my license.  They review my transcripts (which I have to pay a fee to get sent.  $4 so they can print a piece of paper!) and figure out what areas I'm lacking.  And by the by, my 6 semesters of dance don't count for physical education.  However if I'd had a semester of golf it would.  Go figure.  I think I'm riled up enough by that to bust into the ARL office and fight it out.  I go to the gym regularly, watch what I eat, and am a healthy happy person.  I guarantee dance is more physically educational than a lot of sports and just as educational as any sport.  What am I gonna teach 2nd graders that I don't already know?  All they do for PE is run around the gym!

Once they've determined the classes I need to take, I subsequently have to take those classes - and pay for them.  And there's the delightful Praxis test which determines whether or not I am, in fact, smarter than a 5th grader.  And you guessed it - more fees - that's right, plural fees.  Registration fee, a fee for each individual test, a fee for the test supplies, proctor's snack fee, emergency pencil supply fee, a fee for the possibility of rain, a fee for the Shaman to bring us peace...  I looked, and one fee is called the Score Verification Fee, a fee to double check?!  A ray of hope - depending on when I take the Praxis, I might be able to get some of the fees waived...

Then comes the glorious day when I've completed the program.  And now, my beloved brethren, I would ask if all is done.  Behold I say unto you - Nay!  I have to pay a licensing fee!  Like I haven't given them enough money!  This reminds me of when I graduated college and there was a fee for the diploma, I felt like walking into the President's office and saying, "I just pumped nigh unto $20,000 into this institution and now you want me to pay for my diploma!?!?  WTF?!"

For a state with a teacher shortage, Utah sure does its best to discourage people from signing up.  And this is just the beginning of the asinine bureaucracy that is the American Educational system.  Stay tuned for more rants, they are sure to come.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What about me?

I remember being in elementary school and being the VIP. You got to fill out one of those giant "All about me" sheets and be special for a week or so. In the first grade everyone in the class got to fill one out. They were kind of fun, so I thought I'd answer the questions - with pictures where the first graders had to put them - here and let you all know a little bit more about me. Fun huh?

All About Mr. B

I am 25 years old.

My favorite color is yellow

My favorite animal is a tossup between the Golden Lion Tamarin, and the Tarsier

My favorite food is Italian

This is what I look like:

My Family...well...sans the padres:

___ is my favorite place. This one's a tossup between:


The Stage,

and my lovesac...

When I grow up I want to be:

inordinately famous,

or exhorbitantly wealthy

but I'd settle for outlandishly happy.

My favorite thing to do is Travel:

If I had one wish I would wish for:

never having to worry about money,

Free love (but only if it didn't involve any of the usual consequences/repercussions),

or perhaps just the power of flight...

Well $#!%

Maybe it's just the spring fever, but lately the kids have taken to chasing me around the playground and trying their darnedest to tackle me. Sometimes it works. I know I should probably discourage this behavior, but I just can't help laughing, and thus no discouragement takes place.

There's a teacher at our school that is sort of the joke. I guess there's gotta be one at every school eh? Anyway, he wears a suit to school every day. Every Day. (That's not the only reason he's the joke of the faculty, but that'll perhaps be another post for another day.) And it's not a DI special, oh no. We're talking tailored 3-piece goodness. So, in honor of our special co-worker, next year Ms. J, Ms. L, and I will be instituting a monthly dress-up day. We're gonna pick one day a month and dress to the nines. It'll be good times.

It rained. The third grade stayed in from recess because, as Ms. J put it, "My kids smell when they get wet."

I've heard quite a few children swearing lately. I'm not naive enough to think this doesn't happen at our school, I mean - hello. But I'm standing right by them...most of the time within their line of vision. That, I don't understand.

And the youngsters have developed a fascination with my pockets.  I keep having to say, "Hands out of Mr. B's pockets!"  This is can be difficult to do when one is surrounded by dozens of inquisitive kindergarteners.  But I battle on.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tender moments

Every once in a great while I come across something that isn't so much funny or depressing as tender. There's a little 1st grade boy who's dad died a while ago. His teacher said he had a really hard time with it at first, but is getting better. While filling out his "All About Me" poster he filled in the question "If I could have one wish I would wish for..." with "My Dad." He also drew a picture of his family and included his Dad in the clouds. Adorable.

Another 1st grade boy has a girlfriend in the kindergarten. In one of their centers they were doing character studies. So they'd pick two people, write something that was unique to each individual, and then something they had in common. His consisted of their two names with the following information for each category:

Jack*: Jack is a boy.
Jill: Jill is a girl
Both: We both love each other

While in the first grade I looked over at one of the tables to see a delightful young girl with a basket placed resolutely over her head.

3rd grade girl: Here Miss Jackson (hands her a stick)
Miss J: (blank look)

-3 hours later-

Different 3rd grade girl: Here Miss Jackson (hands her a stick)
Miss J: (dumbfounded look)

Still another 3rd grade girl: Miss Jackson, you know how it itches when you get hit in the head with a BB?
Miss J: (bewildered)
3rd grade girl: Well, that's what happened to me this weekend and it really itches!

And I've finally become official. Today I got my Granite School District ID/Security Card/Superfluous Electronic Door Key Badge. I feel so cool.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Batman Returns

A second grader was informed that our reading specialist (who is working in their class) is my aunt. She was a bit incredulous, but took it for what it was. Later that day at after school tutoring she drilled me on whether Mrs. Hatch really is my aunt. I told her she was, but she was still unbelieving - even after further confirmation from a 3rd grade teacher. She backed slowly away and gave me the "I'm watching you" fingers. I just laughed.

Response by a first grader to a question on a worksheet about astronauts: "I not no but I will chiye my best."

One of the most entertaining/frustrating things about my job is when kids just don't pay attention to what they're doing. There are many times when they're supposed to combine words to from a sentence, or fill in the blank in a sentence, and rather than checking to see if the sentences make sense, they just guess and move on. This creates some highly laughable phrases:

I grow a doctor.
They ate toasted soup and milk.
Pam's right he was lost.

I've noticed that in the first grade a lot of things involve large dice...or something similar. I think it's hilarious to watch kids shake dice before they roll them. Mostly because the dice are often too big for the kids to fit their hands around, so rather than the dice rolling freely around inside the hollow of their hands, they stay firmly gripped in their tiny grasp, thus defeating the purpose of the shaking. But being that the kids are only 7, they don't realize that. All they know is that they're supposed to shake the dice before they roll them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Birthday Fun!

So, last Saturday was my birthday. I'm now a whopping 25 years old. One quarter of a century. A menace to society, and just one short year away from turning gay. It was a super fun birthday. Here was my schedule:

9 AM-5 PM: Hale Centre Theatre for final dress rehearsal. (Come see my show!) We ate cake, and I got the birthday song it at least 6 part harmony. An experience I think everyone should get at least once.

5:13-7:14: Driving home to Richfield. Those who've made the journey know it takes about 2 and a half hours to get from Salt Lake to Richfield, but I was cruisin'. I left the gas station on 33rd and Redwood at 5:13 and walked into the door of the SVC at 7:14. Record time.

7:14-9ish: One Voice Ten Year Anniversary Concert. Good times were had by all. The alumni sang 4 songs. They rehearsed for about 6 hours earlier in the day, but I got up on stage with them all and faked my way through. I did alright all things considered.

9ish to 10:30ish: Birthday dinner with the fam, Joe, and Lindsey at Pepperbelly's. Good times were, again, had by all. And dinner was delightful. As was the "Over the Hill" hat I got to sport while they sang me their birthday jingle.

Then I went home and went to bed. It really was a great birthday. I got to spend it with most of my favorite people.

On Friday Andrea and I made a cake. Her birthday is on the 9th and we have a tradition of making outlandish cakes to celebrate our birthdays. Here's this year's. In case you can't tell, it's a volcano with lava, and action figure men. One of them has been mowed over by the lava, and one is doing splits across the caldera. It was made from red velvet and triple chocolate fudge cake. I know it looks weird, but it was actually quite tasty:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Westward Ho!

I went on a fieldtrip.  Let's talk about how much fun that is!  I haven't been on a fieldtrip since elementary school. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, it was just 120 3rd graders creating total and utter chaos for about 3 hours.  But it was sensational, and can I just say that Discovery Gateway totally ROCKS!

Endorphin boosting tip of the day - play tag with a bunch of kids who don't really get the rules.

Situation diffusing strategy of the day - group hug.  I turned a crying, drooling, snotting emotional wreck of a kindergartener into a clean, happy, giggly kindergartener with a simple group hug.  In fact they asked if we could do another group hug, so we did.  Maybe that would solve all the world's problems.  Just have a group hug followed by a pan of brownies.

My marriage-prone 2nd grader (This is the same girl who asked if I was a woman, thought I was turning into a wolf, asked why I was born so handsome etc.  I think I'll give her a nickname since a great deal of my stories come from her.  Let's see...I think I'll call her the abuelita - which means little grandma.  She acts like a grandma, so I like that.) said that I need to get married because she's going to be the godmother of my children.  *sigh*

I was chatting with my third graders today during power hour (this is the hour of the day when they split up the kids in the grade according to their reading levels so they can give more specific instruction etc.) and one mentioned that her sister was pregnant.  I said, "Oh how exciting!" then remembered where I was and asked how old her sister was.  Turns out she's only 16.  I said that wasn't a good thing at all and that one shouldn't have children until one is married.  One girl said, "nuh uh!  My mom isn't married and she has kids!"  She then proceeded to tell me that if you're over 25 and not married, you're gay.  Punctuated with, "So my mom's gay! *giggle giggle*"  Looks like I've only got a year left...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


On Monday morning we were greeted at school with some saddening news.  One of the Title 1 aides had passed away over the weekend.

I didn't know her well, but I know that she was an amazing woman.  She lived through the civil rights movement in the south, even marching with Dr. King.

She came to school every day dressed to the nines and with an unrivaled devotion to our kids.  She never raised her voice or spoke hurriedly.  She was quiet, composed, dignified, elegant.

Mrs. Lilly, we will miss you.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Tichonderoga Dreams

For some reason my elementary students are especially zealous about getting me married off.  This is eveidenced by their obsession with my relationship with Ms. J.  It can also be seen in the daily strivings of my second grader who constantly asks why I'm not married and why I'm not dating any of the various single women at our school.  Today she said to me, "Listen to me, I'm a woman, I know about these things."  She's 8.  This same girl commented that all the women at our school are "bien puercos."  The best translation I can think of for that is "real pigs."  Though I don't really know what she was trying to say there.

I also had a third grader offer her mom for marriage - though the mother is already married.

I had the most interesting conversation in the 3rd grade.  It involved only white boards.  The kids would write things and I would respond.  Mostly it was "Hi Mr. B."  "You rock." etc.  But then one kid wrote, "weirdo," and I responded with, "punk," then he proceeded to explain how I was in love with Ms. J and we should get married.  What is it with these kids?

At lunch today Erik had a roll in his pocket.  Food is not allowed on the playground, but we let this one slide by telling him that he had to eat it right then - which he did.  He shoved the entire roll - dry as cafeteria rolls are - in his mouth and ran away chewing.  He stopped and sat down when he realized what a challenge that would be, and looked, for a moment, as though he might throw up - but he survived.

Elementary kids are very talented at many things.  One of those things is completely destroying the erasers on the ends of pencils.  They chew, tear, break, rip, bite, and dismember them at an alarming rate.  It's really quite remarkable.

At my school I know at least 4 boys named Ethan.  All of them are on the plump side.  It's an interesting phenomenon.

In first grade I played an intense game of Go Fish!  It was about to get dirty, but then the bell rang.

For the first time in probably 15 years, I saw a slap-bracelet today. Unfortunately it was made of plastic so it didn't work as well as the skin-piercing metal ones from my childhood.  Even so, it brought back some good memories.

3rd Grader:  Mr. B, do you wear underwear.
Me: Yes
3rd Graders: (insert 8-yr.-old giggling)
Me: Um...everybody wears underwear
3rd Grader: I don't.
Me: (insert looked of awkward stunned silence)

Hey! A Movie!

Another Tag.  This time it's a movie survey, here goes...

Favorite movies you have to be "in the mood" for in order to enjoy:
1. Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail
2. Annie

Favorite movies that make you laugh out loud no matter how many times you have watched them
1. Clue
2. Ellen DeGeneres

Your favorite "Guilty Pleasures"
1. To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar
2. Connie and Carla

Favorite movies you have seen so many times, you can recite all the lines
1. Clue
2. Too Wong Foo...

Movies that "Opened your eyes."
1. Muppet Treasure Island
2. Heman - Season 1

Most Overrated
1. Moulin Rouge
2. Shrek 3

What were the last 2 movies you watched
1. 27 Dresses
2. Freedom Writers

Favorite "smart" movies
1. Ocean's 13
2. Clue

Your spouse's/significant other's favorites
1. This one doesn't really apply to me...
2. ...

Your all time favorites:
1. Princess Bride
2. Wizard of Oz

And I tag Lindsay B, Tara, Andrea, Andrew, and...Amanda

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Local Listings

I work on the West Side.  For those not familiar with Salt Lake County territorial boundaries, that equates to "the wrong side of the tracks."  And I love every minute of it...though sometimes it's frightening/saddening/disheartening.

The kids at my school - despite the boundless resources available to them - kind of have the cards stacked against them.  Many of them come from poor immigrant families.  Some have one - or both - parents in prison.  Some have been made to believe that mullets and wife-beaters are ok.  And as hard as we try to counteract all of this, some of them just aren't going to make it:

-The boy who drew pictures of guns on his paper and threatened to shoot one of his friends

-The student who changed a screensaver in the computer lab to say "school sucks tits"

-The overly-emotional first-grader who lives with her psychotic grandmother.

And yet, I still find countless moments throughout my day to smile:

-The 3rd grade prom queen.  Complete with a ringletted half-up-do, dangly pearl earrings, and a Zac Efron locket (though she'd rather marry 50 Cent).  She was seen only moments later on the playground bending down and revealing a full two inches of prom-queen crack.

-The tiny blond first grade boy with superbly long eyelashes who burst into fits of giggles while telling me a story about I don't know what because he was giggling too hard.

-"Oh, you're Mr. B!"

-Breakfast for lunch in the cafeteria.

Now, I was talking to Ms. J the other day as she was handling some book order money from her kids.  She made a comment about one of their mother's being a stripper and how the stack of 1's she got from the child could have been acquired in such a fashion.  It got me to thinking - what percentage of dollar bills currently in circulation actually has been inside someone's underpants?