Monday, December 31, 2007

Slackers, Inspirations & New Year’s Resolutions

Just a brief note to wish everyone a Happy New Year… Something tells me that I should have been less of a slacker and had some profound epiphany in which to usher in the new year and post. But, alas, I am at somewhat at a disadvantage since I have been away from my DIs–that’s Darling Inspirations not Divine Inspirations (although I suppose that is a debatable point)–for 11 days, 9 hours, 4 minutes and 20 seconds…but hey, who’s counting?

So, yes, I have been somewhat of a slacker and not touched one yearbook page, one lesson plan, one paper, one red pen…although a purple politically correct grading pen did sort of blow up in my hand en route to the Colorado mountains. At which point, I considered that a divine sign not to think about school for the entire duration of my holiday trip.

But now that the re-start of school looms ominously less than 48 hours away, I face two choices… Choice #1–Begin a frantic frenzy of grading, yearbook page proofing, lesson planning and school organization or Choice #2 –Procrastinate a bit longer and devise a New Year’s Resolution list.

I pick Choice #2.

So here it is… drum roll pah-leese… my Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions…

#5…The perennial favorite… Lose Some Weight… Of course this goal isn’t helped by the fact that I just purchased four bags of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate with Caramel for a mere 74 cents a bag. Sigh.

#4…Stress less about deadlines (which should be helped by those four bags of chocolate mentioned in #5). Those deadlines hang heavy like an albatross around my neck…

#3…Banish cliches from writing… although I’m not willing to abandon the cliche finder. It’s just too much f-u-n.

#2…OK, after reading #3, perhaps I should work at finding a life.

And here, my friends, is my #1 New Year’s resolution…Can we have a drum roll pah-leese?…

#1…Work at a kinder, gentler me… but wait a minute… where’s the fun in that? OK… so let’s inject a bit of realism here. Let’s see how many days I can go this year without calling anyone a big fat stupid head. Ladies and gentlemen, start your counters!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Take a ride on the Education Carnival

Sorry for the delay in reminding you that the education carnival is up and hosted at History is Elementary. I seem to lose all track of time and days on vacation without any bells to prod me along. ;-) My submission “From Podless to Podness” can be read right here, but if you get a chance, please head on over there. As always, there’s great stuff to read. I particularly enjoyed the Rightwingprof'’s submission about creativity vs content. (He says, “teacher creativity is overrated,” which I have to agree is true in way too many cases although not with the journalism advisers I know. Most journalism advisers never sacrifice content for creativity. Having said that little disclaimer, his thoughts ring true.)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

From Podless to Podness

With all the other stresses that come with the holiday season, I just wanted Steve Jobs to know that he no longer has to worry about my iPod status. I’m sure it was keeping him up at night worrying that I would be the last teacher standing sans iPod.

Worry no more for I have gone from iPodless to iPodness. Ah, isn’t life grand?

So what if my iPod isn’t a new one.

Or that it’s a third hand-me-down (silly me thinking that children should be at the end of the hand-me-down chain).

You see my VP of Humor Control was the first one in our family to own an iPod. Within a year, though, she was grousing about no memory (and she wasn’t talking about my forgetfulness either). So Santa gave her a new iPod for Christmas last year and she handed down her old one to her sister. Now that Christmas is rolling around again, my VP of HC provided a rather lengthy argument as to why she just had to have a new, improved touch screen iPod. (I think she’s secretly on Steve Job’s payroll).

Once again Santa sent a nifty new iPod to little Ms. VP of HC who then promptly handed down her old iPod to her sister, who then handed down the original iPod to yours truly who promptly started this and that play list.

Now, my iPod may not be the greatest or the latest, but Hails Bails, it is engraved. Flip it over and there it is… “What’s cookin, good lookin?”

Now, what’s not to love about that?

Merry Christmas to everyone and wishes for love and laughter throughout the new year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Carnival Of Education: Week 150

The Carnival of Education is out and hosted by The Education Wonks, so if you want to know what’s happening in the EduSphere head on over there for some interesting reading material. My submission, “‘Interesting Situations,’ Discipline Forms & Capital Murder” was included, but you don’t have to go there to read it here.

Friday, December 14, 2007

“Interesting Situations,” Discipline Forms & Capital Murder

Jennifer, my BFF who teaches over yonder on the east coast, and I battle weekly over who has the most “interesting situation.” (In my mind, “interesting” translates as CRAZY and “situation” roughly translates in varying degrees of one, two, three and four-alarm calamities.)

I think I won this week.

I went to the office to grab a disciplinary referral form because I used the only one I had, and it was left over from last year which shows you just how often I write referrals. Kids just tend to behave in my classroom. If I have a problem, I'll mention the liver thing (“Don’t make me pull your liver out your nose”), or the glass thing (“I really don’t want to have to talk to my children through glass”). Those two statements pretty much stop them. The liver one because it grosses them out, and while they’re trying to decide if it’s possible, they stop their bad behavior. The glass thing stops them because it takes them awhile to figure out that I’m talking about prison glass. Either way, in both cases, they wonder if I’m crazy enough to do either one, and well, in the meantime, the problem just disappears.

But let’s get back to the “interesting situation.”

So I grabbed the new-and-improved disciplinary form, and as I’m walking back to my classroom, the words in the lower left hand corner of the 5-part form grab my attention…

Item No. 17–“Murder or capital murder…”

[You can click on the image below to see a readable document. Proof in quintuplicate that I’m not making this stuff up.]

Well, alrighty then… How amazing is that? Does anyone else find that mildly disconcerting? I have in my possession a form–a 5-part form no less–that has a little spot to check capital murder (as well as all other kinds of penal code violations). Needless to say, I trotted speedy quick back to my room and grabbed my newspaper editor who is constantly threatening to slay slothful staffers.

“Katelyn,” I said, “you can’t kill anyone.”

“What? Why not,” she said a bit exasperated because she hadn’t fully recovered from our most recent newspaper deadline.

“Because,” I said with a bit of drama and emphasis, “I’ll have to write a disciplinary referral.”

“What?” she said.

And, then I whipped out the form and pointed to Item No. 17.

“No way,” she said. “Well then, you can’t set your hair on fire either."

“What?” I said.

“Yep,” she said with a bit of smugness. “I’m pretty sure it’s arson. Look at No. 16.”

“Oh,” I said, reviewing the form again. “But is it really arson if you set your own hair on fire? Does it count if you’re the teacher?”

Interestingly enough, my BFF’s “interesting situation” involved smoke and fire, but that’s a story for another day.

I think a check off spot for capital murder sort of trumps that.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hot off the presses & Hot under the collar

Every once in while I get a glimmer–and not the good kind of glimmer–of the type of stuff administrators deal with concerning the teaching staff. This usually occurs when the school newspaper comes out and someONE isn’t happy about someTHING.

This time the someONE happens to be the Ag department and the someTHING happens to be Pizza Andy’s column. His column concerned a recent election in which voters approved a bond to build a new facility for the Ag department, but nixed money to build a new high school and to buy more school land. In that same election, the community also went from dry to wet allowing beer and wine sales.

So enter Pizza Andy writing a satirical column about the entire matter. In his column, he referred to the new facility as an Ag Barn.

Yes, Ag Barn.

I heard that the peeps over at the Ag Department were not happy campers. “It’s not an Ag Barn,” they say. “It’s an ‘Agricultural Science and Education Facility.’”

And to that, all I’ve got to say is, “An Ag Barn by any other name would smell as…”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tag! You’re It!

OK, OK, OK I’m new at this and I’ve been tagged and I’m assuming that’s a good thing. Got tagged by my new buddy Clix over at Epic Adventures Are Often Uncomfortable. So if I mess this up, cut me some slack. Hmmm, I’m, supposed to post the rules so here you go…

The rules are:

- Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
- Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
- Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
- Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Seven weird or random things about me...

#1… I camped outside the Cotton Bowl in Dallas to see the Rolling Stones. (I’ve seen them three times.)
#2… I actually saw Led Zeppelin in the 70s when we were all quite a bit younger.
#3… I knew my husband of almost 25 years about two weeks before we got engaged. We got married six months later.
#4… I have a tiara in my classroom (which I wear from time to time), then there’s Stevie the Penguin (and no, Clix you may not add him to your collection). Then, of course, there’s the chicken I use as a pointer…
#5… At journalism competitions, I compulsively add up the number of awards we win and compare them against the number our competition wins. Twisted, I know.
#6… I’m half-Italian and half-Polish. My mom’s parents immigrated from Italy and my dad’s parents immigrated from Poland in the 1920s. I make a mean lasagna.
#7… I am cosmetology-impaired. Much to my daughters’ horror, I cannot fix hair neither theirs when they were little nor mine now. Never have been able to. Never really cared (about mine), but apparently I’m supposed to. Sigh.

OK, now here are my 7 random tags… I hope they all got “plays well with others” on their report cards and don’t mind playing… If they do mind, well, sorry… Shadowhelm’s Journal, Mr. Teacher, Mike, Matt-a-matical, Assorted Stuff, Joel at So You Want To Teach and HipTeacher

Education Carnival

Hey folks, the Carnival of Education is out and is over at the Colossus of Rhodey. Make sure you check it out. Always lots of great stuff to peruse.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Deadlines, Counting & Playlists

Well folks, I am, once again, a deadline survivor.

Newspaper deadline that is.

Yearbook, sadly, is still on-going. sigh.

I had a friend once. (OK, so I’ve had more than one friend. OK, maybe four. And, OK, it’s been more than once.)

So, I had a friend once who asked, “Just how many newspaper deadlines have you completed? Have you ever counted them up?”

“Well, mercy no,” I replied, “that might be way too depressing.”

At that point I pondered scratching him off my list of friends or at least moving him down on my MySpace hierarchy of friends–as if I had a MySpace page. As if.

Nonetheless, that thought (no, not the MySpace thing, the how many deadlines thing) has been banging around my head for quite a while now, but numbers make my head hurt, so I’ve never bothered to do the math. (You may recall that I consider myself somewhat math-challenged which is why I occasionally go and take a peek at Matt-a-matical Thinking’s blog just so I can pretend that numbers and me are tight. Yeah right.)

So let’s figure it out now… hmmm 21 years of teaching… an average of about 7 newspapers each year… between 12 and 16 pages, but none traveling on Train A that leaves the station at noon and heads north at 125 mph… Let’s see…the answer, of course, would be 147. Now, that doesn’t include all those marvelous yearbook deadlines… Just the thought of those nasty critters makes my head explode. (I’m going to quit counting now because I’ve developed a twitch in my right eye. Jeez.)

Let’s get back to the survivor thing. I am a deadline survivor (although I’m not sure I like this kind of survival). Having survived at least 147 deadlines, I got to wondering what the perfect deadline playlist would look like (as if I actually had an iPod in which to download one).

So, whomp, there it is–and if that doesn’t date me a bit, then what in tarnation will?

Here’s my Top 5 for the playlist…

#5 Loser 3:56 Beck Mellow Gold

#4 Deadline 4:27 Blue Oyster Cult Cultosaurus Erectus

#3 Hello Stupid 1:54 Slick Shoes Far from Nowhere

#2 Dazed & Confused 6:26 Led Zeppelin Mothership

And, of course, drum roll pah-leese, the No. 1 song (as if it’s a surprise)…

#1 Take This Job & Shove It 2:41 Johnny Paycheck All-time Greatest Hits

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

148th Carnival of Education

The new Carnival of Education is out. I haven’t had a chance to look through all the entries because it’s like zero past dark thirty in the morning (that’s 5:30 in the a.m.), but one caught my eye right away. You know how fond I am of stick figures so you must check out Scott Walker’s entry. (For those of you computer challenged, just click on the cartoons and they’ll pop up so you can read them.) I’ll get to all the others later today. In the meantime, pop over to So You Want To Teach and see the other carnival entries. It’s well worth the stop. I was lucky enough to be included in this week’s carnival with my post “Detoxing, eBay & Dumber Me,” but you don’t need to go there to read it here.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Mike, Proper Photos & Me

I must give props to my photo buddy and professional photographer Mike McLean who is a big fan of this blog. He decided I needed a “proper” portrait on my blog in my “About Me” section. (Geewillikers, I guess the feather boa photo was a bit much for him.) At any rate, Mike took some photos of me while listening to a gazillion “Am-I-Going-To-Break-Your-Camera jokes.” Still he managed to squeeze out a fan-ta-bu-lous photograph. (“It’s all in the lighting,” he says. And, I say, “Yeah, right.” But I must also say, that boy is a miracle worker.”) So flip on over to the About Me section for a brand new me and then go check out his home page. He’s unbelievable. [Note: I removed the photo from the About Me section because it keep following me around when I would post on someone’s blog, and I found that rather annoying. Now, it’s just on my blog below the boa photo.]

Detoxing, eBay and Dumber Me

I should be grading that stack of photo contact sheets stashed in my blue book bag.

I should be proofing yearbook pages, but I didn’t have the heart to cart them home.

I should be reading my journalism classes sad stack of editorials.

Instead, I’m drinking Long Life organic decaffeinated green tea and munching on organic ginger snaps in an effort to detox the stupid from me and prevent my head from exploding or my brain cells from dying.

Here’s a question I’ve always pondered: If you read enough stupid stuff, will brain cells start dying off?

You see, I wonder if I am becoming exponentially stupid.

Now, I really can’t remember what an exponent is much less remember what to do with one–so doesn’t that prove my point? All I know is that saying “exponentially stupid” sounds way better than asking, “Can you become more stupidier by reading stupid stuff?”

See what I mean?

Why just yesterday I was in the newspaper room grousing at the kids about how far behind we were on newspaper deadline. (Will we ever be ahead?) It was Pizza Andy’s birthday and he was huddled behind a computer with his birthday cupcake and iPhone in hand speaking in a somber, conspiratorial tone… “I’ve got to have it…”

“Andy,” I said, “please get off the phone. We have work to do.”

“Hold on,” he said to me. “I’ve got to have this Darth Vader tie on eBay.”

You would have thought he was discussing a stock split with his broker. Jeez.

The bidding was up to $40 by the time I pried him off of eBay and he delegated the auction watching task to his dad.

“Quit bidding on people,” I said.

“Uh, Richie,” he said in a tone better reserved for a 2 year old. “They don’t sell people on eBay…I think it’s against the law.”

“Ok, fine, whatever,” I said. “Then look for a couple of elves. We sure could use the help around here.”

See what I mean? Me. Exponentially more stupider.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Carnival of Education for the week of Nov. 26

This week’s Carnival of Education is out, hosted by Matt-a-matical Thinking, but don't let the math thingy scare you. As always there’s a lot of really good stuff linked there and all in a clever “Noble” Prize format–perfect for scan readers to pick and choose. While you’re looking about over there, check out Matt-a-matical’s post on Lessons on Lessons While Cooking Mashed Potatoes. (I liked his site so much I’ve decided to overcome that little math fear thing I have–You know, the one that makes me scream “Calculator!” every time I see a number–and added him to my favorite blogs list to broaden my horizons.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Lists, Parents & Paperwork

I'm a listoholic. I admit it. I make lists for everything, then promptly lose them, find them again, lose them again, say the St. Anthony prayer, find the list again and eventually wade through about half the tasks dutifully marking them off until, of course, I lose the list again.

Naturally I had my Christmas list at the ready for the after-Thanksgiving sales. It took me, oh, about 10 minutes before I lost, found, lost, found, lost–well, you see why me and St. Anthony are on a first name basis.

At any rate, it all got me to thinking about what to write for this week since I have been away from all my DIs (Darling Inspirations) for the Thanksgiving holidays. So, since I'm a listoholic, I thought it would be a good time to do a list of something. After reading about Hot Potato parents from the Thanksgiving carnival, I thought why not compile a list of the Top 5 Parent Incidents I have either had the privilege to hear myself or hear about in the teacher’s lounge. As a disclaimer of sorts, none of these occurred at my current school. However, all of these are true and occurred at my former school or at another school. So here they are…

Top 5 Parent Incidents

#5…Any story involving tackling.
One teacher told me about a parent who chased her down the hall yelling about her child’s grades until a principal tackled the parent. Another coach had a story about a mad mom who left the bleachers and chased a referee around the basketball court with an umbrella at a school game because she was unhappy with the officiating. Jeez, I wonder what she did when she didn’t like her child’s report card?

#4…Senior English teachers always have great stories about difficult parents because it is there that 12 years of unsupervised goofing off collides with parental concerns regarding graduation, leaving an ugly, ugly mess.

One senior English teacher was returning parent phone calls during her conference period when one parent blamed the teacher for her child’s failing report card. When the parent complained that she hadn’t been notified about the failing grade, the teacher said she had mailed a letter home notifying the parent of the child’s failure and included a calendar of assignments. At that point, in a feeble attempt to ignore her child’s laziness, the parent screeched about the teacher’s penmanship (trust me, her writing is legible and better than most). Since the mother continued to rant about the teacher’s illegible handwriting, the teacher volunteered to read the assignments so the mom could jot them down. At which point the huffy parent claimed, “I can’t. I’m in the car driving.”

The teacher didn’t bother to remind the parent that she had called the parent at work.

#3…In my early years as a publications adviser, a parent called to ask what hotel her daughter was staying at while she attended the journalism convention. “Convention?” I asked perplexed. At which point the mom berated me for not knowing who her daughter was (I did), where the convention was (there wasn’t) and for being stupid (I’m not). Turns out her daughter decided she wanted to go to New York City for a few days—on her own—so she concocted a school trip, and off she went by bus.

#2…Any parent conference involving issues of self-esteem (or self-of-steam as one of my students used to say). I remember one conference where the parent blamed me for the child’s low self-esteem because I supposedly never complimented the child.

“Well,” I said, “I can’t very well compliment your child when he hasn’t turned in any of his work. You have to have something to compliment.”

“You’re tearing down his self-esteem,” she insisted.

“He needs to do the work,” I said. “He needs to turn in something, anything.”

“But you never tell him he’s doing anything good,” she said.

“I can’t tell him anything good because he’s not doing anything,” I said.

“Well,” she said, “you should be building up his self-esteem.”

Just what do you think would have happened if I had said, “Ok, how about, ‘Great job on doing nothing!’ or ‘Wow, isn’t it great, you have the most zeroes of anyone! Way to go.’”

Sigh. I was just wondering.

#1…But my hands down, drum roll pah-leese, No. 1 all-time favorite (and please let me know if you have a better story)…In an effort to calm down a teacher who was so frustrated by a parent who tried to attack her, the principal asked “What would you like done?”

The teacher responded, “I want her dead.”

To which the always calm and wonderful principal’s secretary, in a valiant effort to diffuse the situation, opened her file drawer and said, “Well, let me get the paperwork for that.”

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gobble it up

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! I hope you are blessed with great food, family and friends today. If you get a chance and want some excellent reading, head on over to the Turkey Carnival hosted by the NYC Educator. Most of you have already read my submission (Lime green boxes, Dove chocolates and messages, but I know you’ll want to read other postings. I guarantee you won’t find a turkey among the bunch. Again, Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Lime green boxes, Dove chocolates & messages

I was sorting through the inch and half high stack of yearbook pages that were supposed to have been finished when I caught sight of the lime green-filled box. For those of you blessed to not be a yearbook or newspaper adviser or have the nomenclature “adviser” anywhere near your name, the lime green-filled box on a yearbook page is synonymous with ground zero of a nuclear explosion.

Ok, so maybe that’s a tad bit of a hyperbole, but that little lime green-filled box might as well say, “I-know-a-photograph-goes-here-but-I-don’t-have-one-


So there I sat staring at the lime green-filled box on the panel pages–pages that contained the class mugshots, and therefore, must be turned in all together…in sequence.

Did I say “together”? …Did I mention the phrase “in sequence”?… Yes, these pages must be turned in together because the publishing plant flows the mugs, well, sequentially. You know, one page after the other. Go figure. So you can’t turn in pages 101, 102, 103, 104, but skip 105 and turn in 106. Nope. No can do. Can we say, “all together” all together?

So there I sat staring. Ok, make that glaring, at the page with the offending lime green-filled box, saying to no one in particular, but everyone in general, “Y’all are wearing me thin.”

I then popped a Dove chocolate in my mouth, you know, one of those tasty, heart-shaped candies with gooey caramel inside and a nifty little message on the foil that says things like “There’s no excuse not to dream” and “Keep the promises you make to yourself.”

“Hey,” I sort of yelled, “make that ‘Y’all are wearing me fat…’”

“Get it?” I asked. “Or, it could be ‘Y’all are wearing me phat?’ You know, with a ‘P’ as in ‘I’m cool…’”

To be honest, there was a lot of eye rolling at that point, a few groans and some others who opted to hide behind their computer screens and pretend not to hear anything.

“Well, you are,” I said to no one in particular. “All this stress is making me eat chocolate, and, uh, making me fat.”

Three Dove chocolates and messages later got me to thinking that perhaps I should go ahead and splurge for my own “four unique” three line tin foil Dove messages. With 17 characters per line, well, just imagine the things I could do. And all for only $59.99. What a deal.

Mine would go something like this…

Message #1…

This is not the
YMCA I don’t have
to be your friend

Message #2…
Quit making
my head

Message #3…
Don’t bother me
unless your hair
is on fire

And, of course, message #4…
You’re wearing
me fat!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Carnival of Education Is Out

The latest Carnival of Education is out. Apparently my children slipped a few bucks under the table to make sure the FunnyBack post (Mom, IT’S EMBARRASSING!) didn’t get more play because it wasn’t accepted. Ah, well, there’s plenty of interesting things there for you to read. And, hey, you can always sing the FunnyBack song while you read.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Kanye West, F-words & Me

I just don’t know when it happened.

Somewhere along the way I went from somewhat of a free-spirit-anything-goes type of person to a harrumphing schoolmarm. And let me just say I’m about as comfortable with that characterization as I am with wearing black spandex. (Trust me, my friends, that is an image we can all do without.)

I arrived at this epiphany when I was searching for music to play during my classroom bellringer activity. Although I gravitate toward what’s commonly referred to as alternative music or good ol’ fashion rock’n’roll, I do like to mix it up a bit and throw in other kinds of music. But the more I surfed the music spectrum, the more lost I felt. And the more I listened, the more appalled I became–and this from someone who camped out for the Rolling Stones and actually shed a tear when Abbie Hoffman and Hunter S. Thompson died.

CONFESSION: I was wanting to play my I’m-Still-Hip-card by putting on “Stronger” by Kanye West. After all, the song gets loads of air play on mainstream radio…

“N-n-now th-that that don't kill me Can only make me stronger I need you to hurry up now Cause I can't wait much longer I know I got to be right now Cause I can't get much wronger Man I been waitin' all night now That's how long I've been on ya…”

It’s a catchy little ditty…And when the song comes on the radio, I, my friends, can belt the words out as I fly down the freeway in my Maserati. OK, OK… so it’s really a trusty blue mini-van, but I do know the words… Are you happy now? That little revelation has probably ruined the song forever among the teen angst crowd…

OK back to the issue here…Even if you don’t dismiss almost an entire genre of songs because of their misogynistic nature, you’ve got to rule them out because of those special little words that will get you fired if you say–or sing–them in a public classroom–“Hails Bails” as my students would say– make that in any classroom. And trust me, the Kanye song has quite a few of those special words. (In fact, I’m stashing those lyrics in my “Things that will get you fired” folder.

And, yes, I’ve considered playing the “clean” radio versions, but does that make them safe? Can we excuse the overall content of the song? Some of the lyrics are so suggestive, I’m not sure exactly what it is they’re suggesting. I know, pathetic, isn’t it? (Me and have spent a lot of quality time together lately.)

So after stashing Kanye in my Things folder, I thought I was safe with Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack.

No…There go those words again and there they go into the Things folder.

OK, so then, I thought I was safe with Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” but no.

Keying cars, smashing headlights and slashing tires…not a good idea in a zero tolerance society.

So…OK…I thought let’s just go way back and find a classic…Hmmmmm, how ’bout those Rolling Stones?… “Start Me Up…” Don’t they play that at practically every sporting event? “If you start me up, I’ll never stop. I’ve been running hot…You make…"

Oh but there’s that line… Jeez Louise…… another good idea gone bad and into the Things folder…but wait… there’s hope… I’ll just make up my own version…

Justin may have brought SexyBack, but I’ll just bring the f-word back…

…as in F-U-N-N-Y…Hails Bails, did you really thing I meant the other word?

We’re talking funny as in FunnyBack…So take this haters…drum roll pah-leese… To the tune of SexyBack… (Do you think they’ll pull my I’m-Still-Hip card?)

(Warning: My daughter did run screaming from the room at this point. But she did not, I repeat, set her hair on fire.)


I’m bringin’ funny back
Them other teachers don’t know how to laugh
They think I’m funny, glad you got my back
Let’s laugh aloud… No, I’m not smokin’ crack

Take ’em to the blog

Giggle, babe
You see the humor
Baby, laugh your way
It’s mybellringers and I’m here to stay
It’s just that no one makes us laugh this way

Take it to the chorus

Come here now, go ’head be bloggin’ it
Come to the site, go ’head be bloggin’ it
Go ’head be bloggin’ it
Blogs on me
Go ’head be bloggin’ it
Lemme see what you’re laughin’ with
Go ’head be bloggin’ it
Look at those posts
Go ’head be bloggin’ it
Ya make me smile
Go ’head be bloggin’ it
Get your funny on
Go ’head be bloggin’ it
Get your funny on
Go ’head be bloggin’ it
Get your funny on
Go ’head be bloggin’ it
Get your funny on
Go ’head be bloggin’ it
Get your funny on
Go ’head be bloggin’ it
Get your funny on
Go ’head be bloggin’ it
Get your funny on

I’m bringin’ funny back
Them other teachers don’t know how to act
Come on and giggle bout the things you lack
You’re laughin’ it up and we gotta post it fast

Take it to the blog

Giggle babe
You see the humor
Baby, laugh your way
It’s mybellringers and I’m here to stay
It’s just that no one makes us laugh this way

Take it to the chorus

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Carnival of Education

Sorry for the delay but I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather so I neglected to let everyone know this week’s Carnival of Education, hosted by the Rightwing Nation, is up and running There are quite a few interesting things there. I particularly liked the ones on the Ranting Roundtable–and not just because I was included there either ;-)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

YMCA, Kumbaya & Yoda

Let’s hope my VP of HC (that’s Vice President of Humor Control, and yes, I have one) gives this post a thumbs up. She’s been a bit cranky lately and not easily amused, but I just can’t allow another day to go by without my YMCA speech.

Something set me off.

OK, perhaps four somethings. I won’t bore you with the details because, quite frankly, what fires me up ignites as easily as tossing a lit match match into a puddle of gasoline. Kaboom!

I am not sure how we got to this point, but apparently everyone (don’t ya just love generalizations?) thinks we live at the Y and that we should all hold hands, sit in a circle and sing–no, not Y-M-C-A but– “Kumbaya.” It’s part of the whole Can’t-We-All-Just-Get-Along mindset that permeates our culture.

Without fail at some point during every year, I feel compelled to haul out my YMCA speech. It usually comes during some deadline after someone mistakenly says, “I know I didn’t turn in all my stuff, but at least I tried.” Or, someone says, “I have some of it done, just not all of it.” Or, I look at a yearbook page and half the stuff’s missing.

Instead of granting absolution, I usually whip out the pregnancy analogy before the YMCA speech. It goes something like this… “Deadlines are a lot like being pregnant. You can’t be a little bit pregnant. You either are or aren’t. You either have your story or you don’t. Your page is either finished or it isn’t. So what is it? Done or not done?”

…So-o-o-o-o go ahead and make my day. No wait, wrong allusion. (How’d ol’ Clint weasel his way in here?)

Of course, at this point I’ve worked myself into a bit of a frenzy, so I launch full-tilt into my Maybe-You-Hadn’t-Noticed-But-This-Isn’t-The-YMCA speech. It’s my favorite and this one goes something like this…

“This is not the YMCA. We are not in the business of building your self-esteem or making sure everyone feels good about themselves. Prisons are full of people with high self-esteem. We are a PUBLICATION. Our goal is to put out the best publication we can. We compete. We can’t do that if we only TRY. We have to DO. We have to PUBLISH. When you don’t do your story, are we supposed to run, ‘At least she TRIED to write her story’? Forget the trying part; it’s the doing part that matters. Jeez Louise….”

Echoes of Shenandoah, my mother’s favorite movie, reverberate somewhere in the back of my brain. There’s a part where James Stewart says, “If you don’t try, you don’t do, and if you don’t do, then what’s the sense of living?”

I guess he was the prequel to our little Star Wars buddy, Yoda, who admonishes, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

I bet Yoda never sat around singing

I guess all I need now is a lightsaber.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lots of Treats

The Haunted School House Carnival hosted by What It’s Like From The Inside is out and there are lots of things worth reading–too many good ones to list them all. A few of my favorites included EduGuru about lessons learned from dead CEOs, Joanne Jacobs’ No pitchfork, no underwear entry on Halloween costumes and Matthew Tabor’s comments on the Bill O’Reilly thing. Of course, you’ve read my entry Deadlines, Dumbledore & Hail. :-)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Deadlines, Dumbledore & Hail

I know you’re dying to know how last week’s double whammy deadline went. (Remember, some deranged person who skipped out of town the previous week, decided to have newspaper and yearbook deadline the same week?)

Well, newspaper made it out, but the jury’s still out on yearbook because I still have to sort through those pages right after I sort through 140 project pieces from a photography portrait assignment that some crackhead teacher (Oh, wait, that would be me… Now, before the rumors fly, let me just say I am not nor have I ever been a crackhead… Jeez, I’m starting to sound like Richard Nixon)… Rather, it’s simply my favorite hyperbole–no, not the Nixon thing, but the crackhead thing…

Ok, enough of my whining, let’s get back to the subject at hand… Deadlines always bring up a wealth of material for the Blogosphere. Some, sad to say, simply is not printable. For instance, the kids were all a bit discombobulated after J.K. Rowling outed Dumbledore. But I couldn’t discuss the matter with them at that moment because I had another urgent matter to attend to–dance practice for the Rock Star Pep Rally (and yes, that’s an entirely different story). So after admonishing them to remain focused, I left.

I’m sure it took all of, oh, about 10 seconds before the staff unanimously decided the Dumbledore revelation was more pressing then getting the newspaper to press. From what I've been able to piece together, the following occurred during my brief absence…

•Some sort of dancing was involved. On top of the table.

Pizza Andy and British accents were involved. Repeat After Me: When British accents are involved, No Good Can Come Of This.

•In a burst of sudden creativity, the staff decided J.K. Rowling should re-release the Harry Potter series, but from Dumbledore’s perspective. Naturally, this meant that instead of writing headlines for their newspaper articles, the staff had to rename all the Harry Potter books. (After all, why should they work on their newspaper pages?) Of course, political correctness flew right out the door. The tamest one, I believe, was Harry Potter and the Closet of Secrets.

When I returned, I duly chastised the children and settled down to proof what little work had been done.

And there it was… “hail bails.”

So I said, “Hmmm, I’ve always been a city girl, but even I know that ‘hail bails’ should be h-a-y b-a-l-e-s… Unless, of course, we are bonding out frozen pellets from the hoosegow.”

Don’t even get me started on the time (years ago and at another school) when self-of-steam reared its ugly head.

Yes, that’s right.


Or, softmore.

And, with that in mind, I thought it best for everyone involved for us to call it a night before Pizza Andy started talking British again and bad things happened.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Carnival of Education 142

The Carnival of Education 142 is here! Although I did not submit an entry this time (too busy having fun in Annapolis–aren’t you tired of me saying that?), there are lots of interesting posts regarding all things education.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Leave-No-Richie-Behind Law & Kodak Moments

I returned from my fab-u-lous trip where I saw my BFF. I suppose at some point I should chronicle that expedition, but right now I am so far behind in all my school-related work that will just have to wait.

I wish someone would pass the Leave-No-Richie-Behind law (not Nicole Richie, you silly, Richie me) and assign a highly qualified teacher to help me because, quite frankly, I’m sinking here and Nicole Richie doesn't need that kind of help. Whatever idiot decided to go out of town and come back right before progress reports were due and schedule a yearbook deadline and a newspaper deadline simultaneously should have her head examined (or put in the freezer). Yo, Dr. Phil, are you feelin’ it? Got any openings?

One interesting note… my school district managed to install about 70 security cameras at $1,000 a pop while I was gone. One hangs in the corridor by my room. So, you see, it captures everything: Why, there’s Richie doing her hall duty, there’s Richie coming back from the mailroom, there’s Richie chatting with the health teacher. Oh, my, is that Richie running out the emergency exit? Is that her hair on fire?

So you see, now, if I really do set my hair on fire and run screaming from the building, it’ll be captured…on film… Can't you just see it? Hear it?… “We have a breaking story,” the television anchor will interrupt and in a somber tone say, “Crazed teacher sets her hair on fire and runs screaming from the building. Film at 10.”

And, Holy Guacamole, it’ll be true.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Folders & Thing 1 & Thing 2

As I told you before, I have a folder in my right-hand desk drawer called, "Things that will get you fired." What I didn't tell you is, I also have a folder on my school email that says, "Things that suck." And after an interesting little conversation with She Who Shall Not Be Named (don't ya just love Harry Potter allusions?), I probably need to stuff that little electronic ditty into my "Things that will get you fired" folder.

But maybe, just maybe, I just need a folder called, "Things."

Wow, then I could have not one folder, but TWO folders. And, gollygeewillikers, I could call them Thing 1 and Thing 2.

I think I'm on to some thing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Woo-hoo! Carnival of Education Week 141 is here

The Carnival of Education: Week 141 is out. I am honored to be included among so many great posts. You can check them all out at the Education Wonks. But here are just a few of my favorites…

First and foremost, you’ve got to check out the Rightwing Prof. I had no idea professors had to suffer through inane professional development. Read this one and see if you don’t find yourself yelling, “Amen, amen, amen!” (I know I did.) The Rightwing Prof is my new hero.

I also found Ms. Cornelius’ entry interesting. She shares the feelings of a lot of teachers I know. See what you think. I could say more about the other posts, but Jeez Louise, check it out yourself. Do I hafta do everything?!

All my bags are packed

“Well my bags are packed and I’m ready to go…”

Oh Jeez, if you didn’t want me rapping, you really don’t want me singing. Just a brief note to let you know I am headed north of the Red River and over yonder to the east coast for fun and frivolity to visit my BFF who teaches somewhere around Annapolis. I have not been back to the Washington, D.C. area in more than, ahem, 30 years. She moved there three years ago and has been unrelenting in badgering me to visit. Ok, Ok, Ok, so she's visited here a few times. All right, all right, so she's returned numerous times and pointed out that a true BFF would hop on a plane and come visit.

So I’m hopping on the plane to see her and I also get to see my former high school journalism teacher who is now retired. It’s going to be a great trip.

But anywho, I’ve got my check list… bags packed, camera, printed boarding pass, sunglasses, Mr. Teacher’s book to review on the plane, passport… oh, wait, I guess I don't need my passport since the Great Republic of Texas joined the union in 1845…

Well, I'm off.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mark Cuban, Dancing with the Stars & Pocket Change

I was flipping through my 300-plus channels of television satellite nothingness when I stopped at “Dancing with the Stars” to watch Maverick’s owner gajillionare Mark Cuban do some jive dancing. I just love it when the “Cubinator” (as the television host called him) pops up in the media. Mr. Cuban always makes me laugh.

I remember when he was fined $500,000 in 2002 for his now-famous comments about referees. Just in case you missed it, he told the Dallas Morning News, “Ed Rush (head of officiating) might have been a great ref, but I wouldn’t hire him to manage a Dairy Queen.”

Not only did that remark earn him the record-breaking fine, but it also spawned a media frenzy and a trip to a local Dairy Queen where Cuban served up Blizzards and such. Sometimes free speech isn’t exactly free. Cuban took it with a shrug.

Pocket change, I guess.

But that kind of change would, well, change my world.

Stuff like that always gets me thinking: If only I didn’t have (fill in the blank), I could…

Sometimes I amuse myself by drafting letters to the likes of Mark Cuban, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates.

“Dear Mr. Cuban…Since you seem to have some spare change lying around, perhaps you could pick up my daughter’s college loans? We only owe about $40,000—that’s less than 10 percent of the fine for speaking your mind about those nasty refs…”

Or, “Dear Ms. Winfrey…Did I tell you about this little book I wrote that’s just guaranteed to fly off the shelves if you’d only help me get it published and make just a teensy, weensy mention of it to your book club…”

Or, Dear Mr. Gates…

Well, you get the picture…Twisted, I know. Needless to say, those letters never made it to the post office.

Still, the thought of what life would be like with the Cubinator’s pocket change gnaws at me on a fairly regular basis. It’s usually exacerbated by some dimwitted teacher in-service, or an unusually vitriolic parent phone call or even some Oprah giveaway. At this point, I’m probably on my “Get Rich Quick Scheme No. 782” to supplement my income or “How To Find That Corporate Sponsor No. 632 to help offset the costs of this or that publication expense.

Now, my “I-grew-up-in-the-depression” parents whose parents immigrated to this country in the 1920s always told me that no one gets rich without hard work. But if hard work and long hours were the main criteria for getting rich, Mark Cuban and I would be sipping drinks at dinner parties together and discussing the state of teens today. But we’re not because those of us on the front lines of public education cannot parlay our hard work into that kind of dollars and cents.

The best I can bank on is for one of my students to grab the American dream and become rich and famous, which would then allow me to sell something of theirs on eBay: Why here is the pencil Spencer used once when he was drawing his masterpiece, bidding starts at $1,000; here’s a notebook Eric used when he jotted down notes for his Great American Novel, a steal at a mere $2,500; there’s a sketch Carly made before she won the Nobel prize for her research, a real charmer at $800.

That, my friends, is what I fondly refer to as my “teacher retirement plan,” but quite frankly, I’m none too hopeful that I’m going to capitalize that way. Instead, I’ve started to think of other opportunities and am resigned that maybe I won’t look so bad in one of those Wal-Mart greeter vests.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Step Right Up & Drop Right In…New Carnival Is Out

That's right folks…The new Education Carnival (Week 140) is out hosted on The Tempered Radical site.There's quite an interesting collection of all matters, well, educational. Drop by there for a wide range of stuff (which btw includes one of my posts, “Clock Hours and Bong Hits for Jesus.”)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Pep Rallies, Pope Reagan the Jedi Master & Soulja Boy

Students filled the halls in Spiderman, Superman and other comic book hero costumes. Pretty standard fare. It’s Friday in Texas (where we take our high school football games seriously), Pep Rally Day and, as with all Friday Spirit Days, we had a theme, and this one was, obviously, Super Heroes.

Andy (of the weekend old pizza fame) dressed himself as Pope Reagan the Jedi Master wearing a Pope hat fashioned out of construction paper that he just happened to have in the backseat of his car (makes you wonder about the boy, doesn’t it?), a Ronald Reagan face he ripped from Wikipedia and a black robe (which he pointed out wasn’t exactly a real Jedi robe, but would suffice in a pinch). And, of course, what ensemble wouldn’t be complete, I ask you, without an official Star Wars light saber? Yep, he had one of those too.

The entertainment editor who was accompanying Pope Reagan the Jedi Master just shook her head and said, “Don’t ask. Please don’t ask. You don’t want to know.”

And my editor, well, she just giggled and said, “Don’t ya just feel a blog coming on?”

Looking at the Pope Reagan the Jedi Master Super Hero creation just illustrates a point I’ve known all along…We certainly can produce creative thinkers and not squelch independent thinking in public schools.

Later that afternoon at the pep rally, the kids performed a skit and dance to “Crank Dat” by Soulja Boy…a catchy little ditty and dance. I marveled at all those Super Heroes dancing in perfect synchronization on the gym floor.

“Why didn’t I know about this?” I shouted to my Spanish teacher friend above the blaring music. “Wouldn’t it be fun to do this?”

She just rolled her eyes and sighed.

But even her less-than-tepid response couldn’t dampen my new-found enthusiasm. After a little googling here and a little googling there, I discovered an instructional video on YouTube on how to do the dance. (Shows you just how far I've ventured from the Coolness Loop.)

Confession #1: I added myself to the more than 9 million hits for the instructional dance video.

Confession #2: “My name is Richie and I'm a terminally old geek…” Yes, I admit it. I tried the dance at home and it wasn’t pretty. In fact, my daughter, I think, used the term “disturbing.” (She never lets me have any fun.)

There’s even a clever little Sponge Bob version with more than 8 million hits and the Barney version with more than 4 million hits. Can you believe even the purple dinosaur can dance the dance? I was crushed–even a fat dinosaur is cooler than me.

Confession #3: Not only did I watch the videos, but shhhhhhhh, don’t tell anyone, I, ah, well I ah, rapped it. (Ok, so I tried to rap it as much as any old white woman can rap… “watch me crank it, watch me roll, watch me crank dat….” Ok, ok, so maybe, just maybe that’s an image you don’t want.)

This morning, when I was a bit morose about the whole I-am-so-out-of-the-Coolness-Loop as well as the I-feel-like-dancing-but-don’t-know-how-to-anymore syndrome, the Dallas Morning News had a story about Soulja Boy and “Crank Dat.” He talks about the clever videos his fans have made and notes that it takes a lot of time and effort to edit a video to make it look like Sponge Bob is saying the words to the song.

Soulja Boy who is 17 also said something about still dreaming of becoming a computer animator. Image that, him with his gajillion bucks for a dance I can’t dance and a song I can’t rap (or understand for that matter), still has a dream of being a computer animator.

All of that got me thinking (never a good thing) about those YouTube videos. And then, of course, I got to wondering just how old those creators are who made those videos. And then naturally I got to wondering if they were like Pizza Andy–creative, independent products of our public school system or whether they were mere anomalies–self-taught products of a media saturated society?

And while I pondered the educational value of all of that, my daughter informed me she learned how to spell bananas from Gwen Stefani (you know, “Hollaback Girl”… And no, I’m not going to sing it to you.)

Bananas? B-a-n-a-n-a-s…

I’ll let you decide what that says about public education because the whole thing quite frankly just makes my head explode.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Clock hours & Bong Hits For Jesus

No wonder I'm so-o-o-o tired.

I decided to use my higher level math skills and added up the number of hours I worked for the month of September. Once I factored in (notice the math terminology to make me sound smart) Labor Day–a holiday for most people, I figure that the "average" person worked 192 hours. (Notice I am not going to step into the quagmire of defining "average" person.)

Somehow I managed to clock in 265.5 hours–that's 73.5 more hours than the "average" person. It's that yearbook newspaper thing, and then there's that planning preparation thing…oh yeah, and don't forget about that grading thing…

I think I need a nap–this sudden realization sent me from tired to exhausted–and all that math didn't help either. Sigh.

But, in the spirit of my promise to myself to be more upbeat and think happy, positive thoughts… Well, let's see… Oh yeah… Ya gotta love a job that let's you write: "Bong Hits For Jesus" on the board.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

My Top 10 No-Good-Can-Come- Out-Of-Any-Conversation-That-Starts-With…

Certain conversation starters make me push the panic button. They send up red flags and a chill down my spine. We all dread them. You know the ones. I have some personal favorites. Most of mine are tied to yearbook and newspaper deadlines because that's what I do 24/7.

So here's my Top 10…

#10… "Before you get mad, I've got it under control…no one shot the freshman football games and there aren't any more games left so…"

#9… "We have a situation… the server's down and I didn't save…"

#8… "Ok…so…uh…so… Andy ate that old pizza that's been sitting out all weekend and it had green stuff on the pepperoni…"

#7… "If you promise not to kill me, I need to tell you something… Remember when we were PDF-ing files? Well, I accidentally deleted page 10…"

#6… "Don't kill the messenger… but did anyone tell you the date on the front page is wrong…"

#5… "Now, don't worry, but… I lost the lens bag along with…"

#4… "Before you start, let me finish… I don't have my story, but I do have my notes…"

#3… "Shnikeys!…
Has anyone seen my notebook? You know the one that had all my interview notes…"

#2… "Oh no, she's coming… Quick, hurry. The backroom smells like onion rings and there's styrafoam cups all over the place…"

And, my #1 (drum roll pah-leese) No-Good-Can-Come-Out-Of-Any-Conversation-That-Starts With…

"Do you have any paper towels?… I just spilled coffee all over my desk and, uh, the laptop…"

Thursday, September 27, 2007

iPods, Chinese fire drills and trucks



There I said it. I am Podless.

"Hello, my name is Richie and I am podless…"

Yes, podless.

I am sure Steve Jobs would roll his eyes to know that.

Podless. Podless. Podless. (Sort of cathartic to do that like a third-grader in a school yard.)

I am not podless by choice. My two children, of course, have them as well as just about everyone above three feet tall and below the age of 86 who resides on the planet. But alas, it is one of those if-only-Oprah-would-discover-me type purchases. I can't justify the cost. And quite frankly, I'm a bit fuzzy as to all the reasons I should have one (because if you can't wear it or eat it, I'm not sure I need it).

But for a brief moment I needed it, wanted it… coveted it.

I was sitting with my editor going over editor things and needed to check the accuracy of an infographic. Since my editor is above three feet tall and definitely under the 86-year-old range, I asked her, "Hey, do you have an iPod?"

"No," she said, with a hint of sadness in her voice.

"Oh," I said, thinking that perhaps she was experiencing the same if-only-Oprah-would-discover-me financial pinch.

"I'm sorry," I said mustering my most somber tone while making my best sad face (which btw needs a tad bit more work).

"I used to have one," she said somewhat wistfully.

"What happened?"

"It got run over."


"Yeah, a truck ran over it."

"No way… what happened?"

"Chinese fire drill."

"Uh, that's unfortunate."

Shortly after that, our artist walked in.

"I need an iPod," I told her. "She doesn't have one. It got run over by a truck."

"No way! Mine got run over too."

"Chinese fire drill?" my editor asked somewhat hopefully.

"Mom," the artist said. "Ran over my phone and my iPod."

"Truck?" I asked.

"Yeah, how'd you know?" she asked.

"Conspiracy theory," I said.

And with that, I thought, perhaps it was better not to covet the things we don't have.

Still, I was iPodless.

But it's OK. It'd probably just get run over any way…

…by a big truck

…during a Chinese fire drill

…on deadline.

It could happen.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Deadlines, Al Sharpton & Dress Codes

Glazed eyes. Frazzled nerves. Testy tempers. Ah, the horrors of deadline days. Advising student-produced publications is not for the weak, and honestly, I’m not sure it’s even for the strong. Perhaps, it’s strictly for maniacs… which offers an interesting transition into how Al Sharpton nearly became the head of a small Texas school district. (Geewillikers, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.)

The Scene… After school. 4:25 p.m. Fourth deadline day. I think I had just given my “Why Children Suck The Life Right Out of You” speech. If I didn’t, then I was sure thinking about it.

What Happened… We needed a few quotes from surrounding school districts about why those districts had gone to school uniforms. I got one of the new staffers to call a nearby district. Even though it wasn’t his story, he got a great quote. Our news editor was typing in the information. I was standing behind her reading over her shoulder as she typed… “We wanted to standardize our dress among our students and make them more cohesive…"

“Who did you talk to?” she asked.

“I think it was Al Sharpton,” he said.

"How do you spell that?" she asked as she started typing, "S…h…a…r…"

“Wait a minute,” I gasped. “That’s not right.”

“No, I think that’s what he said,” the staffer told me.

I yelled for our opinion editor who poked his head in from the other room, not sure if it was safe to enter.

“Al Sharpton,” I said. “Do you know who he is?”

“Isn’t he one of those black activists,” he asked.

“Yeah, isn’t he the rhyming one?” asked our entertainment editor.

“No, I think that’s Jesse Jackson,” the opinion editor said.

“They both rhyme,” someone else said.

“You see,” I said trying to get control of the situation. “You didn’t talk to Al Sharpton.”

“Well, I think that’s what he said,” the staffer told me.

“Well, that would be rather interesting," I said, "if he were superintendent, but he’s not. I think, you know, he’s probably been a little busy with the Jena Six thing.”

“Oh,” he said with sudden realization, “that’s where I must have heard the name. We must have talked about him in my AP government class.”

“That’s nice dear,” I said trying very hard to be positive. “I’m glad you were listening in that class, but Al Sharpton is still not the Red Oak superintendent– although that would be pretty interesting.”

“Yeah,” said the entertainment editor, “and what if Malcolm X were the principal?”

"Hey,” said the opinion editor, “and what if Jesse Jackson was the assistant principal?”

“And Don King could be the speech teacher…” the entertainment editor said.

I'm not sure how we went from black activists to Don King, but so it went…

“You need to call Red Oak back tomorrow and see who you really talked to,” I said, trying very hard not to think about the file in my bottom righthand drawer simply labeled, "Things That Will Get You Fired." (And, yes, I really do have such a file.)

And with that, it was time to call it a day, but I couldn't help but think it was probably one of the first times ol’ Al didn't make it in to print.

And, at least in this case, thank goodness for that.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Other Duties As Assigned…

As I sat outside in 90-degree or so heat (this is Texas remember) supervising my one hour and 45 minute Homecoming Float Duty, it just made me run through that mental list of “Things We Didn’t Go to College For” that bounces around the back of my brain from time to time. But with teachers flanking both sides of me sitting in those “Soccer Mom” folding chairs and grading papers, my friend the Spanish teacher glanced over my shoulder as I compiled my list and duly noted that a better title would be: “What they really mean when they say, ‘Other duties as assigned…’”

And, as usual she’s right, so there it is, and here we are with a list culled from years of experience, a number of teachers and from a variety of school districts.

Other duties as assigned…

• Playing yearbook "bingo" in order to sort through 1,000-plus books by teacher name and an assorted array of customized extras in order to distribute the book. Trust me on this one, you don't want to know the rules. There's never a winner.

• Stuffing tootsie rolls in empty rolls of toilet paper and wrapping them up for cheerleaders to throw to fans at football games.

• “Designing” receipts through all manner and forms of technology for items purchased for kids after misplacing the original receipts.

• Ascertaining whether “Lick Lamar” was too graphic to put on a lollipop when trying to come up with a theme for the Friday night football game against Arlington Lamar High School.

• Luring kangaroo mice with sunflower seeds and popping trashcans over them because we legally couldn’t set mouse traps or bait.

• Taking the temperature of vents throughout the school because no one in maintenance (located in a separate building, on a different street, with working temperature controls) actually believed the air blows at a frigid 53 degrees. Instead, the infamous “they” believed the teaching staff was comprised of menopausal, hormonally whacked-out females suffering from faulty temperature sensations.

• Chasing chickens (yes, real ones, not the wacky rubber ones) down the hallway after some end-of-the-year prankster put them in the girls’ bathroom.

• Arranging cookies on cocktail napkins for parents at the end of an assembly just so we could thieve a snickerdoodle or two.

• Rewriting about 100 statistics from the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test results on a blank sheet of paper during teacher in-service (staff development) to prove we can (a) find the data (b) accurately record the information and (c) waste all morning doing it.

• Trying to teach a computer class for six weeks without computers. Unless that was part of the “monitor and adjust” curriculum of Education 101.

• Being issued not red pens, whiteboard markers or paper clips but a yellow and black flashlight as the only piece of official equipment to cope with the anticipated power outages from low-bid construction crews hired to renovate the school. And, yes, of course, they were used.

• Painting [substitute your mascot’s name here] paws for a mile in preparation for the Homecoming Parade.

• Being assigned to the Noise Patrol to confiscate air horns and other noisemakers at graduation. Or, better yet, being pressed into duty as part of the Gum Squad–that’s G-U-M not G-U-N–to make would-be graduates spit out their chewy blobs before being allowed to bebop down the aisles to “Pomp and Circumstance.”

I swear all this is true…I couldn’t make this stuff up even if I tried. Sure would like to hear some of your stories. You can post them here or you can email me at

Sunday, September 16, 2007

No Child Left Behind & My Rather Large Behind

Three weeks into school and already I feel as pressed as a dried flower squashed and forgotten in one of those classic-looking books. (You know, the ones that adorn bookshelves, not necessarily for reading pleasure, but strictly for looks?) This whole pressed and squashed thing got me thinking about the similarities between the No Child Left Behind law and my rather large behind–which, by the way, I truly would like to leave behind.

Now, I hope this will be blessedly short and sweet because progress reports loom ominously on the horizon. For you non-educators and non-Texans, that means papers have to be graded and those grades duly recorded by law at the three-week mark. At this moment in my frazzled existence, neither the jolly red grading giant nor the ruby-red rubric fairy has yet to darken my classroom door with an offer of assistance. Sigh.

But before we tackle this behind-thing, here’s a big disclaimer… This is not a political rant and I am not a political pundit. Rather, it’s an observation of similarities and coincidences…

Point #1…Let me say that I have never read the 670 page 1.8-MB file that contains the law, but trust me, I don’t need to see it to know it’s huge–just like I don’t need to dust off the bathroom scale hidden in the back of my closet to weigh in on my back side.

Point #2…
Sadly, despite our most valiant efforts as teachers, realistically there is no way to save every school and every child. School administrators and politicos must have all attended the same seminar somewhere and heard the “Starfish” story, got teary-eyed and vowed to save each and every washed up urchin, thus sparking the birth of EUs (Educational Utopians). I must admit that I, too, have succumbed and spent hours tossing the creatures back in only to look up and realize that for every one returned safely another 10 washed back up. Which, in some twisted way, all oddly parallels the hours expended in my aerobics class. For every calorie I burn, I probably eat two more when I return home famished.

Point #3…Accountability is important in every facet of life. Education shouldn’t be an exception. Apparently accountability provides the cornerstone for the hundreds of pages devoted to this law. At the risk of sounding callous, don’t we need to factor in personal responsibility at some point? It’s easy to play the blame game and cry victim. I do the same thing. It’s those evil marketing ploys that make me grab the chocolate, shout supersize, gulp lattes and want more, more, more.

I swear sometimes I should just slap myself silly.

Point #4…Despite all the rumblings and grumblings, No Child Left Behind will be here awhile–as will my, ahem, wide load.

But let’s end this on a positive note, I’ve traveled frequently with kids, and never once left one behind. ;-)

So, it’s all good after all.

Unless, of course, I start beeping when I back up.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Maladjusted hamsters, face creams & rubber chickens

Call me crazy, but life needs just a tad bit more humor to it.

We spend much of our time scurrying like maladjusted hamsters in a cage–serious and intent on whatever task presents itself. I have the lines on my face to prove it, and trust me, no amount of Elizabeth Arden magic face cream at $150 a pop is ever going to fix that. Perhaps a trip to one of those fancy, schmancy nip and tuck doctors would do the trick, but hey, I’m a public school teacher, so that stands about as much of a chance of happening as stopping kids from gawking at a full-fledged brawl in the hall.

So enter the chicken. Yep, the yellow, rubber chicken.

Probably about eight years ago, I discovered (without the benefit of an educational grant or the Bill Gates foundation) that kids learn more if you humor them a bit. I wish I could say I conducted a scientific study, extrapolated this, surveyed a little bit of that, did the hokey, pokey and…

But I didn’t. (Ok, maybe the hokey, pokey once or twice, but we can always save that story for another day.) Instead, I was presenting something insightful–probably a lecture about photo composition–and needed to point at something on the screen. I grabbed the first thing handy which just happened to be a rubber chicken (a recent acquisition from a high school journalism workshop).

“No, she didn’t,” someone said from the back of the room.

I looked up. Smiles everywhere.

The next day the class remembered everything. It hit me then that throughout our lives we remember best those moments either wrapped around laughter and fun or those touched with sadness and pain.

Given the choice, shouldn’t we package those lessons–those "teachable moments" as we call them in educational jargon–in humor?

I vote humor.


In case you were wondering (and I know you were), in addition to being a rather excellent pointer, here are some other uses for a rubber chicken (all tried, true and tested by my students)…

•As a blinker…Ever travel with kids in rush hour traffic and no one will let the school’s humongous van into the next lane? Well, roll down that window and stick the rubber chicken out. Cars will part as if Moses himself was there. (Not sure if it’s because the other driver’s are laughing so hard, or they’re giving wide berth to that crazy driver.)

•As a scare tactic… Our rubber chicken also squawks. Give the chicken a squeeze to scare panhandlers and other undesirables away from the kids when you’re on school trips. Trust me, it works.

•As a clearance detector… If you’re spatially impaired and if driving through underground garages makes you wonder if that rental vehicle with the luggage rack will make the clearance without shaving off the top, well then, stick the rubber chicken out the sunroof or window. If the chicken whacks its head on the ceiling, you probably ought to turn around.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Climbing the Great Wall & Heads in the Freezer

Although I have never been out of the country, yesterday I sat atop the Great Wall of China and felt the exhilaration that comes from being 24 years old again.

You see, I live vicariously. While some parents live their lives through their children, I experience life through my former students. Not only do I revel in those experiences, I can honestly say I've learned more from my students than I have ever learned from any professional development session or teacher inservice.

Yesterday, I just happened to get an e-mail from one of my favorite former students, Jonathan Magee, and with it was a photograph of him sitting atop the Great Wall of China. What a thrill.

Of course, hearing from Jonathan sent me down a memory lane of former newspaper deadlines and threats of heads in the freezer, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s start with an advanced organizer (don't you love that teacher lingo?) to keep you focused on the topics at hand…

•Teachers say the darnest things
•Kids repeat the darnest things
•I am not Jeffrey Dahmer

When Jonathan was on newspaper staff, we had a particularly rough deadline. I was exasperated and teetering on the outward edges of my sanity when I shouted at the newspaper staff: “If you don’t get this paper done, I’m going to cut off your heads and put them in the freezer and you won’t like it, not one bit.”


A few smirks.

“Well, you won’t,” I said, slightly faltering, “like it.”

“Eewww,” one girl said. “That’s just nasty.”

“I think it’s illegal,” another said.

Sleep-deprived and stress-depraved, we all laughed, but from that point on, the staff was not rated by who was in the doghouse, but rather whose head was in the freezer. We even had levels. The higher up you were on the shelf, the more trouble you were in.

Jonathan was so enamored by the entire freezer motif that he actually wanted to shoot mug shots of all staff members, make cut-outs of their heads, fashion a makeshift facsimile of the inside of a freezer and move people’s heads around according to their standing on deadline.

I should have known the freezer thing would come back to haunt me, though. The school had a tradition during football season of honoring the top five seniors in class rank before a home game. The senior selected his or her most influential teacher who then accompanied the student out to the 50-yard line. The announcer would say something nice about the student and read something that the student wrote about the teacher.

Jonathan picked me so there we stood on the 50-yard line with the superintendent of schools standing on one side and a school board member standing on the other.

Throughout the stadium, the announcer’s voice boomed: “Jonathan says that, ‘Richie pushes everyone to do their work to the best of their abilities with an odd combination of friendly coercion and blunt threats of having their head put into a freezer. However….”

My students in the stands laughed; others gasped; Jonathan giggled. After catching a nervous glance from my superintendent, I assured him that he was welcome to come and inspect the freezer in the journalism room, that I hadn’t yet lopped off any heads nor had I stashed any in the freezer.

I dreaded the day when Jonathan graduated.

You see, I had him programmed into my speed dial. Jonathan was one of only two students who I have religiously and regularly baked a cheesecake for from scratch. Really and truly from scratch—not a box in sight. Call it the barter system. I bake you a cheesecake; you fix my computer. I bake you a cheesecake; you tell me why this software program went batty. I bake you a cheesecake; you tell me how to make the printer actually print. I bake you…well, you get the picture.

Jonathan went off to college and later went to study abroad. So much for speed dial. His current e-mail places him in Hong Kong working for the International Herald Tribune and doing—as always—exceptionally well.

While I’m happy for him, there still isn’t a school year that goes by that I don’t miss something about Jonathan. Here’s a short list of things I learned from Jonathan…

•It’s important not to take yourself so seriously. Take time to laugh at yourself.
•Never say anything you wouldn’t want to have repeated on a football field.
•You should probably stay away from sentences that mention any body parts.
• It’s good to occasionally feel that edge of panic and to depend on a kid. It develops a certain sense of empathy since children depend so much on adults.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Snake oil & motivational speakers

Snake oil.

Sadly that’s what first pops into my mind as I sit through yet another motivational speaker on the Welcome Back Day for teachers. Now mind you, I have nothing against motivational speakers. In fact, this one rates pretty high on my rating scale of smiley faces–probably worth eight smileys. (He was much better than the handshaking guy I listened to a few years back, but that’s an entirely different story.)

Still, sadly the fact remains, that I can’t shake that snake oil image. I like a good yarn as much as the next person, but I tend to wonder if we don’t have a bit of the Janet Cooke’s Jimmy working here. (Remember her? The Washington Post journalist who had to return her Pulitzer Prize once it was discovered that the main character–an 8-year-old heroin addict named Jimmy –was not a real person. It made for a great story, but that’s all it was–a story. It was a sad day for journalism and marked the beginning of a series of fourth estate betrayals.

But let’s get back to the issue here. While listening to yet another sad story about how a teacher ripped the heart out of her fifth grade student, I marveled at my own educational history. I must be some sort of anomaly because I never had a teacher tell me I was a failure at life and would never amount to anything. Did I face mean teachers? Yes. Insensitive ones? Sure. Incompetent ones? Of course. But don’t you pretty much find those types of people in all kinds of professions? That’s just life, isn’t it?

So, let’s raise our hands and ask…Where exactly are these teachers and how come every motivational speaker had a teacher who channeled the Wicked Witch of the West? And then let’s ponder how come that teacher was always followed by Glinda the Good Witch of the North who inspired them to be all they can be? (And while we’re at it, just where in the Sam Hill are those ruby slippers anyway?…Sorry, got off track.)

But you see what I mean? It’s a bad version of good cop/bad cop. In the gazillion years–ok make that 22 years of teaching–I’ve never run across a peer who face-to-face, toe-to-toe told a kid, “I don’t like you. You’ll never amount to anything.” Now that is not to say that teachers (sadly again, myself included) from time to time haven’t thought, “Geez, you’re such a big, fat stupidhead.”

But that really shouldn’t be much of a shocker either. I think those thoughts can pop into your head regardless of your profession. In fact, I often think that about other drivers while maneuvering through rush hour traffic. (I have patience issues.) But to actually have those words reverberate across my vocal chords or any of my teacher friends, well, I don’t think so. Otherwise, I might encounter a nasty bit of road rage involving Mr. Smith & Wesson in the traffic “situation.” In a classroom “situation,” I’m sure my rather large behind would be sitting in the principal’s office. And, it wouldn’t be pretty, and I’m not just talking about my backside either.

It all just makes me wonder why we listen and gasp mesmerized by these witchy teacher stories. This doesn’t mean that these incidents haven’t occurred. I’m just saying that apparently these happen disproportionately to motivational speakers. Sort of a badge of the trade, I guess. So now that I’ve reached this epiphany, I’ll have to cross that field off my “Potential Things I Could Do If I Didn’t Teach” list.

Regardless of this new insight, I still joined in the laughter and felt a few tingly sensations once or twice as I listened to our speaker. I applauded, nodded in agreement, smiled and even stood for the ovation.

Snake oil. Not a cure, but it sure feels good.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

In the beginning…my first blog entry

I doubt that I would have survived these 20-plus years as a public high school teacher if each and every day I didn’t ponder, “Is this the day?” You know that day–The Day to actually set your hair on fire and run screaming from the classroom. That day.

And now that I am just about to start my third year at my still-new-to-me school district in my new facilities, the irony is not lost on me that my classroom door is just mere feet from the emergency exit to the parking lot. So, you see, I really could set my hair on fire, run out the door, hop in my trusty blue mini-van and leave in a puff of smoke. If you love that kind of twisted humor, then I think you’ll like reading this blog.

Now that school is gearing up, I’m trying to shift my focus back to the classroom and my incoming students. I must say this focusing thing seems to get a bit more difficult each year. I know I’m not the only one. Kids have problems, too. Can’t you just hear the pens scribbling across prescription pads dispensing medication to treat ADD and ADHD in an attempt to find a magic pill to focus kids back on education? While I have no quick fix solution, sometimes I believe we should remember a simpler time when all a teacher had to do to focus students was to pop a bell ringer – an instructive little ditty that required no hands-on teaching from the instructor–on the overhead. Ah, those were the days, when kids labored over the day’s journal entry, math problem or some other bell ringer, while teachers throughout the school had a small, but important block of time to take care of things from attendance to handing back papers to recording grades.

My bell ringers always provide a small window of opportunity for me to exhale or inhale (depending on whether hyperventilation was in order for the day). Bell ringers also gave me a chance to survey the classroom scene and ponder whether this was, you know, “The Day.

Educational experts (defined as anyone and everyone who has ever sat in a classroom) like to ponder, too, and whine about the problems facing our public school system. They offer a wide array of this and that, believing they have the perfect solution to the problem du jour.

But I have a secret: perhaps instead of dissecting our educational system, we should just celebrate our successes, laugh at our shortcomings and learn from our mistakes and failures. This blog, Bell Ringers, is intended to provide stories from the trenches of more than two decades of classroom experience, three school districts, eight principals, four superintendents and hundreds of children. I’d also like to hear your stories, too, because we all need to celebrate, laugh and learn together.

To get us started, here’s one of my favorites: In my old school, I had just completed my allotted 20-minute lunch block with my lunch-bunch buddies when one of them — a social studies teacher — started talking about her morning class. She was lecturing about how prices have increased over the years. She used stockings as an example, except she used the word “hose.”

“I was telling the class about how the cost of hose had risen over the years, and I didn’t understand why most of the class was giggling,” she told us, “until my student teacher told me the class thought I was saying ‘ho’s’ as in prostitutes instead of nylons.”

Unfazed, she told the class it didn’t really matter which ones she was talking about — the point being that both have increased in price through the years.

Now, there’s a teacher for you, as well as a mini-lesson plan for laughter and learning – two things we certainly could use more of. Hopefully, you will find both here, and we can all survive another day.

And, should we fail? Well, we can always set our hair on fire and run screaming from the building.