Monday, June 30, 2008

Cover to...

I'm writing a book.  Some might think that's crazy.  I like to think of it as ambitious.  As much as I love my career, I don't want to be a penniless teacher for the rest of my days.  I'd rather be a ridiculously wealthy teacher - thus...

Here is a rough draft of the first two chapters, let me know what you think!  Presenting, Mr. B. and the Double-Wide:

Chapter 1

Every city, every town, every village, metropolis, hamlet, suburb, and burg in the world is famous for something. Venice, Italy, for example, is famous for having streets made of water where people glide around in long boats and live lives of mystery and intrigue. Wenzhaun, Tibet, is famous for having the highest elevation in the world – 16,730 ft. above sea level. And the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is famous for being the home of Groundhog’s Day’s official groundhog – Punxsutawney Phil.
But the small outcropping of people known as Mackinack was famous for an entirely different reason. To explain Mackinack’s claim to fame we must travel 17 and one half years into the past – the year they split the school.
Mackinack had, at that time, a population of 59 people, 23 dogs, 16 cats, 2 gerbils and a parakeet named Mo. Mo lived in a cage that hung in the window of the local convenience store; which was located – conveniently – across the street from the one-room Mackinack Elementary School. He was a dusty shade of green, had only one eye (the result of a run-in with cat number 12), could talk, but only to give non-existant sale prices for dairy products, and had been a witness to everything that went on at the school from the day little Polly Perkins was hit in the face with a water balloon during the school carnival, to the great swing-set caper in the winter of ’24, to what has become known amongst the locals as “The year of the double-wide.”
Which is exactly where our story begins. That also happened to be the year the elementary went from having 13 students to having 18 students. The schoolhouse was only big enough to house 14 people comfortably, and with 18 students, a teacher and a class pet (one of the town’s gerbils), there just wasn’t enough room. Unfortunately there also wasn’t enough money to build a new school, and there were no portable classrooms available, so they had to use an old dilapidated double-wide trailer that someone had abandoned on the outskirts of town. They hauled it up next to the schoolhouse and put a sign on the door that read, “Room 8.”

Chapter 2

The first day of school dawned hot and dusty – which was somewhat remarkable considering Mackinack was located in a temperate zone.  Nevertheless, the 7 students who would be using “Room 8” stood outside the door of the trailer waiting. The looks on their faces resembled one you might find on a person alone in the woods facing a pack of rabid wolves, or clowns.
These seven students were known as “The Smart Kids” – and they were. The un-smart kids, who had given the nickname, were also not very creative.
Hank Spackert was the oldest – 16. He stood 6 feet, 10 inches tall, had flaming red hair, too many freckles for his small face, and a constant look of surprise like he was seeing the world for the first time every day. He was somewhat clumsy, but never let that stand in his way.
Next came the triplets Mariana, Mariella, and Butch Van Pandeller at 15 years, 3 months, 4 days, and 1 minute, 4 minutes, and 7 minutes respectively. They stood about 5 feet tall, all had hair the color of graham crackers, bright blue eyes, and looked like they were always about to get into trouble – and usually they were. They told everyone they were identical triplets, though that was clearly impossible.
Tara Osgood and Victor de la Cruz were 13 and had been best friends since their first day in school when they’d discovered they shared a love of play-do, origami, and David Hasselhoff – which made for some interesting arts and crafts sessions over the years. Tara was short, about as big around as the pencil she kept in her ear, and had a head full of curly hair that looked like it might attack you if you said the wrong thing. She was spunky, had a witty comeback for everything, and was never seen without a book in her hand. Victor was equally witty and well-read, though he liked to conceal that fact to preserve his pretty-boy image. Victor was nothing short of beautiful – perfect olive skin, silky black hair, and eyes that gazed straight into your soul. It was rumored that he had once gotten a free meal at the local diner by just winking at the waitress. He was one of those young men destined to end up in a cologne commercial, or on the cover of a dime-store romance novel.
Then there was Greg Eggleman, an exceptionally bright 9-year old. A natural-born leader who the other kids looked up to, despite his small stature – he was even short for his age. His blond hair stood straight on end making him constantly look like he’d just been electrocuted. He had sharp eyes and wore glasses – which he always removed and polished when he was explaining something to someone older than himself.
So there they stood – a motley crew of mismatched youth united in a common dread of what lurked behind the thin screen door now hanging innocently in front of them.
That same door abruptly swung open and a happy-sounding voice said, “Come on in!”
The kids cautiously entered the trailer, which would probably be more accurately described as a double-long trailer, and were faced with a somewhat dismal scene. The classroom only took up one side of the trailer and half an old billboard declaring, “$29 a ni” had been propped up against the wall at the far end as a makeshift blackboard. The desks consisted of three garbage cans, a toilet, two old engine blocks, and an upside-down shopping cart. There wasn’t so much as a book, pencil, or sheet of paper to be found anywhere. Light shown through the one window illuminating the dust, the make-shift desks, and a lone figure standing in the corner smiling like he’d just baked the most delicious cookies in the history of the world and wanted to share them, which he had, and did.
“Good morning class, my name is Mr. B.” Said Mr. B, passing around the plate of cookies.
He was a young, average looking man with slightly unkempt hair that seemed to be fighting a losing battle against an encroaching forehead. He had straight teeth, a freckle just to the left of his nose, and a twinkle in his deep brown eyes that seemed to hint at more wisdom than his youthful appearance would indicate.
“Go ahead and choose your own seats and we’ll jump right into things.” He said cheerily, not seeming to notice the bleak nature of his surroundings.
“You’ll notice we don’t seem to have real desks, and no supplies to speak of, but we’ll have to make due. Also, the other half of the trailer is inaccessible at the moment, no one gave me a key to that door."
He pointed to a door which stood in the left-hand side of the wall separating the two sides of the trailer.
“So, you’ll have to run to the schoolhouse if you need to use the restroom, I’m afraid that toilet doesn’t work.” He half-lamented, indicating the seat Hank had chosen. “Other than that little hitch,” he continued with a strange sparkle in his eye, “this should be the most amazing school year of your lives.”
Little did The Smart Kids know, he wasn’t exaggerating.

Back on the bus

I started a couple of classes today to get going on things toward my certification.  Of the 8 hours scheduled for mind-expanding intellectual experiences, I think we used maybe an hour in a productive manner.  I used the rest of the time to finish the homework assignments that are due tomorrow - which included 42 pages of reading, and 2 pages of typed responses, work on my book, and eat lunch.  And I was still on my way home a full 2 hours before the scheduled release time.  It's going to be an interesting couple of weeks.  Hopefully my eyes will still be in my sockets when all is said and done.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

What's a peck anyway?

I own the Viggetales 10 year anniversary CD (don't judge me, it's freaking awesome) I sometimes listen to the music from it on Sudnays...I think that's appropriate. This song popped up today and made me laugh. Especially the end.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The end of the beginning

This week brings about an end to certain things - summer school, the 2007/2008 school year, my life as a part-time worker.  It's all very exciting really.

It's also a beginning.  I began my life as an official teacher with a little training.  And so it begins.  I have more trainings, and I have some classes coming up, then more training, and school starts and it's all over but the singin'. 

I came up with a cool idea for measur
ements.  I'm gonna have my kids make paper airplanes, then we'll throw them and measure how far they go.  It'll be fun.

I'm worried about my kids.  I give them a worksheet to do every morning to start out the day.  Here's a question that most of my kids got wrong:
The question was, "At what temperature does water turn to ice?"  I just had to shake my head.  I went over the question with them.  I drew the diagram on the board, and read it out loud to them while indicating the temperatures, then asked the question and I got answers like, "Zero!", "One hundred!", "Winter!" *sigh*

Then I had a boy ask me, "What does 'before' mean?"

Nevertheless I'm excited to be a teacher.  I start some of my certification classes next week.  I have 8 hours of classes for two straight weeks.  I think I might be a bit overwhelmed when all is said and done, but it's gots to be did!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I had a parent call me Mr. B.  That was sort of a surreal experience.

I also signed my contract for next year. I'll be making more than I thought.  Woohoo!  But I had to pay more money in the process.  Boohoo.  But I get benefits - woot!

My level of love for children is sometimes equal to my level of annoyance, shock, and frustration with their parents.  One of my 2nd graders today asked us (us being me, and the 2 aides I have in my classroom) if we'd seen Freddy vs. Jason.  I was surprised (somewhat) to know that she even knew what that was, and utterly appalled to find out that she'd seen it.  SHE'S 8 YEARS OLD!!!!  Oh well, ya can't save 'em all.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Matters of size

Somehow a bird got trapped in my classroom over the weekend. So when I showed up to school Monday I found little presents smattered about the room. Delightful.

My corn blower is gone. Apparently their family is having some difficulties, so they won't be coming back to summer school, and they're going to a private school in the fall. Part of me is glad because he was a handful, but I'll miss him at the same time.

On the bus-ride to the zoo: "Let's see whose is bigger!" Don't worry, they were just talking about their name-tags.

One of them asked if we were going to the Hoagie zoo.
The zoo was awesome. We saw animals, climbed animal statues, contemplated buying animal souvenirs, ate ice cream - which has very little to do with animals at all, but is extremely delicious - and I ran into an old high school friend (Hi Jill!)
I love kids. I think I may have mentioned this before. I think we can learn a lot from them. Today my lesson was to recognize the wonder all around us. We took I-215 to the zoo for a fieldtrip today. I think about every other minute the kids were shouting, "Whoooaaahhh!!!" At some thing or another - the view of the valley, the big houses on the hill, the canyon we passed. Then they would do the arm-pump every time a big truck passed us and got the biggest kick when the driver would honk their horn. Love it.

In closing I'd like to say that I don't know if there's much of anything more adorable than a sleeping child. Too cute.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Summer...what's that?

I was introduced this morning as the member of the summer school faculty - that's right, faculty - in charge of 2nd grade.  I have 26 kids registered in my class, but only about half of them show up, so it should be a fun three weeks.  We've got daily computer time, read naturally lab, small group time, lunch, and 3 planned field trips.  I don't think there's going to be much time for actual teaching, but I'm sure it'll be a blast.  

Because summer school is for the kids who need an extra boost, I think it'll be ripe with opportunities for "Is what I just heard really what you just said?" moments. Like this:

I have a rather special young man in my class for the summer who has the attention span of a small kitchen appliance. I let him leave to use the bathroom. I left the classroom several minutes later to see him walking out of another classroom. I just looked at him and didn't say anything, then the following short conversation occurred:

Boy: Well, sometimes I have diarrhea and corn comes out. I just had to tell my sister.
Mr. B: (confused look) Ok.

His sister happens to be the girl in 3rd grade who reads 16 words a minute.

Or this:

I was working on an example for our art project today and overheard a few of my kids who were working with one of the aides.  They were doing timings on groups of words.  One of their words was "milkshake."  After his timing on of my little cherubs innocently - or perhaps not so innocently - declared, "My milkshake's better than yours."

There are some kids I just don't get.  No matter how many times you tell them something they seem to end up doing their own thing.  Total space cadets.  Oh well, I guess the world needs cosmonauts too.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Last the best of all the game

Alright, recap of the last week of school.  Try not to be too jealous of my amazing life.

Field Day.  I manned the inflatable water slide which made me even more popular than before - if that's even possible.  I'm still waiting on pictures...

Talent show.  It started off with the 4th grade faculty playing rock band (this is a talent?).  They failed miserably, but the kids seemed to enjoy it.  There was some horrible lip-syncing, and then there were actually some pretty cool talents.  One 1st grader did some karate, another jumped around stage on a pogo stick, a couple students played instruments, and one completely adorable 2nd grader did a traditional Venezuelan folk dance.  I was coerced into a surprise musical number to tie everything together.  The gym went crazy when they heard I was up.  That's a good feeling.

6th grade breakfast.  I got free breakfast.  
6th grade vs. Faculty Softball (which turned into indoor volleyball because of rain.).  The faculty wasted the 6th graders.  It was our last opportunity to exercise our authority over them.

I did absolutely nothing productive.  I mostly signed kid's books, ate random snacks, and got SUPER excited about next year.  Then they fed us lunch.  It was a day filled with levity and mirth.

Just so you don't think I coasted the last week of school, I did have to take kids to the computer lab and supervise them for several hours each day.  One day my boss even assigned me to work with Mary.  She did give me a break though because in her words, she didn't want me to go to prison.  But still, I think this week pretty much rocked!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

And the winner is...

Ok, here are the answers to the brain teaser:

7 = Brides for Seven Brothers
76 = Trombones in the Big Parade
3 = Blind Mice (See How They Run)
12 = Signs of the Zodiac
29 = Day in February in a Leap Year
88 = Piano Keys
1001 = Arabian Nights
9 = Justices in the Supreme Court
18 = Holes on a Golf Course
50 = Ways to Leave Your Lover
24 = Hours in a Day
32 = Degrees Fahrenheit at which Water Freezes
99 = Bottles of Beer on the Wall
1000 = Words that a Picture is Worth
90 = Degrees in a Right Angle
9 = Planets in the Solar System (now there are only 8)
4 = Quarts in a Gallon
40 = Days and Nights of the Great Flood
54 = Cards in a Deck (With Jokers)
1 = Horn on a Unicorn
60 = Seconds in a Minute
57 = Heinz Varieties
7 = Days of the Week

I can just hear all of you going "Oh!"  Isn't it grand?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Room 8...

Room 8 of David Gourley Elementary is currently occupied by one Miss Jackson - a vivacious, attractive young woman with a zest for life and a flare for shoes.  But she's moving to the first grade next year which is located in a different wing of the school with classroom numbers like 24.  She's excited to have lesson plans that involve patterns, excessive art projects, and the basics of reading.  She's also leaving behind 3rd grade math manipulatives, a desk from the mid-70's, and a stool.

At this point you may be asking yourself several questions - Why the biography on Miss J?  What will happen to room 8?  Why are patterns so cool?  What does any of this have to do with Mr. B?  And what about Naomi?

Let me enlighten you.

Miss Jackson's biography is important as a subtle, yet gripping introduction to a very important, and in fact life-changing announcement.

Room 8 will obviously be occupied by another educator of the highest standard.

Patterns are cool because one can then create things like tessellations.

This has to do with Mr. B. because today Mr. B. officially became Mr. B. of room 8 at Gourley Elementary.  That's right y'all - I'm teaching 3rd grade next year!  Multiplication, cursive, DIBBELS scores of 110 or higher, Roald Dahl, Christmas Programs, gym time, computer lab, lunch at noon - it's all mine!  I'll be right at the bottom of the stairs if anyone cares to visit.  School starts Aug. 25.

As for Naomi...