Monday, September 29, 2008

Am I write?

Me: What does kindness have to do with friendship?
Student: Bananas?!

I went to a writing workshop where the presenter said something interesting - go figure.  He pointed out that a lot of times teachers receive notes or pictures from their children, but never write back to them.  So I started to.  My little attitude problem noticed that I had written a note back to a student, so she promptly wrote one to me.  This was on the cover:

The contents were as follows:

"Dear Mr. B,
I do think you are in love how old are you.  and you're sometimes mean could you be a lot eacy on us?  oh on sometimes you're funny when you dance it Funny when you do have a nice day By.

Sweet Mother of Mary*"

I think I'm going to start a class post office so my students can write notes to me and to each other.  This should prove HIGHLY entertaining.

As a teacher, one takes every available opportunity for an ego boost. Example: I made up an activity where the kids had to use a dictionary and thesaurus. Question 5 said, "Complete this sentence using a fun word: "Mr. B is such a (an) _______ teacher." (PS a "fun" word is something other than good, bad, mean, nice, etc.) Words the kids found to describe me:


I have some interesting aspiring authors in my class. A sampling:

mydogisHappyall the
caNt cotchHiM theNHe
gettierd. INSidtheHouseHe
RuNSarouNdHeBrakes stuf

And the future poet laureat of the United States (formatting of text has been preserved from the original.):

I like to Play video games
    and i playing outside
        and Inside
            and play Games

*names have been changed.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Determining your Altitude...

I love my kids, ya know?  But sometimes they just aren't the brightest.  For some reason they haven't really developed those ultra-important problem-solving skills that they should posses.  I don't expect my class of 8-yr-olds to solve world hunger, I just think they should be able figure out how much time is left between now and lunch, or know that when you look in your book an page 19 is finished, instead of rushing to Mr. B in a panic, just move on to the next page that isn't finished, or figure out that question 1 in the test book goes with question 1 on the answer sheet.  This isn't rocket science!

One particularly aggravating moment came when, during a standardized test (prepare yourself for a ranting post about this sometime in the future) one girl was confused about the word "punctuation."  I'm not really allowed to clarify anything on a test's a test.  All she really had to do was figure out which sentence had the incorrect punctuation - which you can do without knowing what punctuation is, and which we do every single day in class - but she was so caught up on the word "punctuation" that it was totally hindering her progress.  

And speaking of this girl, she's been giving me LOADS of attitude lately.  Today, during our test, she wanted a drink, but it's a timed test, so I said, "No."  She pouted and said she wouldn't finish her test unless I let her get a drink.  I told her I'd let her get a drink when she finished her test.  After that section, we were moving onto a different section and I noticed her desk was clear.  I asked where her book was, she said it was on the floor, I asked why and she said, "because you wouldn't let me get a drink."  I looked at her - a bit shocked and bewildered by this latest in a string of manipulative attempts - and said, rather forcefully, "So?!"  When lunch came around I said, "I'm tempted to take away your recess today.  Go ahead and go, but if I don't see some serious attitude changes by Monday, you're going to have some problems."  She said, "I just won't come to school Monday."  I said, "Fine.  Don't come."  I can see that we may be butting heads for a while.  She's used to being able to manipulate people that way, but I won't take it from her.  I think it's throwing her off - which honestly kind of makes me laugh. 

On a more positive note, and as an ending to this rather long diatribe - 

Today we were doing a comparison activity.  As an example we were comparing Barbies with casserole and I asked what they had in common to try and get my kids to think outside the box a little.  One kid said, "They both have bad taste."  Yes, one of my very own students made that up.  They may not always be the brightest, but sometimes they surprise me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

High on Life

DOL geography question:

What is the name given to the group of five large lakes in the northern part of the United States?

I indicate the lakes on a map and ask, “What are those lakes called?”

Bear Lake?
The Indian Ocean?

Sometimes I have my students use individual white boards so they stay engaged in the lesson. Today I noticed one young man sniffing his marker as he walked back to his seat. I dunno…maybe it’ll help.

Did you know I'm part of a club?  That's right, a club.  The "Say Uncle" Club, to be precise.  It's very elite.  Only 1/3 of the students in my class made it in.  I'm not sure about the nature, or mission of the club, it's all very mysterious.  All I know is that the secret phrase is "say uncle." ...woops, I think that was supposed to be a secret.

I'm always entertained when I have to say, "Get your hand out of there."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Now and Then

The last time I cut my hair was in February.  Consequently I looked like this: 

Add a razor, some shears, a painted chair, a faded towel, a popped collar, and the mad skills of one amazing sister and 45 minutes later you get this: 

Not bad eh?

Hip hoppin'

Every day in class we do what we call a "D.O.L."  I think that's suppose to stand for "Daily Oral Language," but there's not really anything oral about it.  Today I'm calling it "Daily Obsolete Language."  On each page the students have two sentences to fix, two analogies (a la teacher : student :: coach : ____ ) then there will sometimes be a geography question, and a math question.  Today's analogy read:

book : read :: record : _____

We go over our DOL's together as a class, so when we got to this, we discussed the relationship between books and reading, then I began the next phase by saying, "A record is what we had before tapes...which are was we had before CD's...which are what we had before MP3's.  Does everyone know what an MP3 is?"  I received a resounding affirmative response and so continued, "Ok, so if you read a book, what do you do with an MP3?" Most of my students said - appropriately - "listen" but one very bright young woman said, "rock out!"  And that immediately became the correct answer.  It was fun to look over their DOL's today and see "rock out" written on the page.  I love being the teacher.

Friday we had our end-of-lesson test for the story we were reading.  Our current unit in reading is about friendship, so there's always a general question about friendship in the test.  Their personal response question from this one was "Write about a time when you made a new friend."  My favorite response was, "When I moved to America from Californya." We're still working on geography...

The last three minutes of my school-day on Friday consisted of a dance party.  I think I might make that a weekly occurrence.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

run, jump, play

I think I like teaching verbs.  I can be crazy, my kids can be crazy, and they learn without knowing they're learning!

Speaking of engaging learning, I'm in yet another boring graduate level course where a slightly aged, butch-y, poorly dressed woman is flapping her jaw and expecting me to learn something from it all.  On top of it, she doesn't like elementary school teachers much.  Where do they come up with these people?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Writing Center

My little non-English speaking girl is at it again with trying to get me married off.  Today her advice was to go on the internet and find a bride.  I laughed out loud.

In one of my small groups the topic of my mustache came up and various opinions regarding how ugly it was were shared.  I told my students that I would shave it when the moment was right, but that now wasn't the time.  One young man tried to console me by saying, "You sure look cute with a mustache though."

A lot of the kids at my school come from rough home lives.  It's so heartwarming to see them during recess when they can just be kids.

Recess is just as much for the teacher as it is for the kids...if not more so.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


A teacher's thinking-out-loud dialogue:

"Alright, let's look at our next analogy.  We see 'teacher : student :: coach : _____' so what would go in the blank?

(Looks of slight confusion)

"Well, I'm the teacher, and you're the students.  So if I was the coach, what would you be?


"Exactly.  See, when you're looking at one of these you need to think, 'hmmm, let's see Mr. B is my teacher and I'm the student, of if Mr. B was my coach...I'd be a player!"

And how right they would be. ;)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Teacher's Rant

I can't count the number of times I couldn't count the number of times I've had to repeat instructions to my class - and we've only been in school two weeks.  I guess I should get used to it.  They're 25 8/9-yr.-olds.  Their attention is easily pulled away from the current most important figure in their lives aside from their parents - namely me.  Having a constantly engaging environment is hard - not unattainable - just hard.  And perhaps not attainable for me at this moment.  One day, perhaps - and I hope that day arrives.  Right now I think God is trying to teach me a lesson.  It's as if He's saying, "See how aggravating it is when I have to repeat something?!  Can't you just do it the first time I say it?"  I guess I'm a little slow to learn myself.

But I digress.  The real reason of my rant is the following:  I get that 8-yr-olds have trouble paying attention for an extended period of time, or even for a limited period of time.  When I'm in a group of adults and an instructor has to repeat something, that's a little annoying.  When that group of adults is composed entirely of educators it's downright inexcusable.  How can we possibly complain about our kids not paying attention if we can't to do it ourselves?!  

I was in an ESL class this afternoon and just going over the syllabus our poor instructor had to repeat things, not just once, but several times.  Granted, she doesn't have the best presentational skills and she was perhaps a bit flustered/frustrated with all of us barely-interested teachers.  Even so, If the teacher explains something, pay attention!  It's not that hard!

And another thing - in education "they" are always talking about making one's classroom an engaging environment.  The large majority of people on Earth are not auditory learners so giving a lecture is probably the least effective way there is to teach.  The powers that be want us to make lessons engaging and fun - that way kids learn.  And yet when one peers into higher education - and especially post-secondary education - everyone seems to have missed that memo.  Don't talk at me!  And can someone find a way to help me learn besides making me read weighty and verbose documents full of superfluous language and meaningless jargon?  Some of the stuff you're trying to teach me is interesting, but it's presented so poorly that I don't care!  Please, take a class on making your classes engaging!  It can be done, I promise!

*sigh* Ok, I feel better.  Thanks for tuning in.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Dear so and so

Friendly letters from my children:

"Dear Michuel Jackson,

yore gae and gae and stoupid and doume"

"Dear Vanessa Lungens,

I wan't to see you ackt and you and Zack efron to geler becuse peploe or said that Zack is dating Ashaly.  and you or dating Drak you are pritey.  how come you and Zack Brack up in The move.  

Sinerely,  Desert Bird*"

"Dear high School Musical,

I like High School musical because I like hou they al sing together and I like gabryella more than the other High School Musical because she looks so cute in tv because she is so so so so nice to everyone of there friends I like her because she is nice to everyone and I lik her voice in tv and I like her voice in real life and I lik her close and i like her shoes to and I like all her magezyns I like her hair and I like her Purse I like every thing she has."

I also received 4 letters to Chris Brown, 2 to Spongebob Squarepants, and one to Hannah Montana, among others.

*names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hitch Hikin' it.

Sunday morning dawned bright and delightful.  Thus I rode my bike to church.  After three hours of uplifting topics and awkward social opportunities it was time to return home for a nap.  I discovered that my bike tire was flat.  The institute - where I attend church - didn't seem to have a pump of any kind.  No problem, I live only a short distance away, so I'd walk.  Now, I'd prefer to have some charitable soul take me home in their car, thus allowing for more nap-time, but alas, this was not to be.  Between the institute at the back of the SLCC campus and Redwood Road I was passed by probably a dozen cars going out, and perhaps another dozen or so coming in.  None of them even stopped to ask if I wanted a ride.  Now don't get me wrong, it was a beautiful day, and I'm not opposed to walking.  It clears the head and promotes good cardiovascular health.  And my legs work fine, but it's the principle of the thing.  I think we Mormons can do a lot better at living our religion rather than just talking about it.

Cut to 8:30 that evening.

I had been to a gathering of friends downtown earlier and a friend had left her keys in my car.  I had to return them, so I, along with another friend, left my house in the pouring rain for a little jaunt back to SLC.  On the way we passed a woman walking down the road - soaking wet and hitchhiking for a lift to who knows where.  My experience from that morning - along with the current circumstances of weather etc. pricked my conscience a bit.  I stopped and picked her up.  She was headed only a short driving distance away, so we dropped her off and went about our merry way.

Two things:

1 - I had the opportunity to put into practice something that someone upstairs wanted me to learn that day, and in the process got an awesome - albeit sketchy - chance for service.

2 - I can now say that I've picked up a hitchhiker.  How cool is that?