Wednesday, February 27, 2008

160 Carnival of Education, My Birthday & Irrelevancy

The street is a sideshow from the peddler to the corner girl
Life is a carnival--it’s in the book
Life is a carnival--take another look"

–from Life is a Carnival
the Band

The 160 Carnival of Education is out. You can go there to see what’s been posted elsewhere in the EduSphere this week.

But wait a minute a darn tootin’ minute!

… I want you to stay right here and post a Happy Birthday message to yours truly and read my bonus post below. Yep, another b-day is here and it’s today! You can post your messages by clicking on “comments” at the end of this post, or you can just email me off site at And, be nice. No spamming me with anti-wrinkle cream ads or AARP propaganda. ;-)

And, if you haven’t read my most recent post, well, geewillikers, it’s right below--Biggest Loser, Saving the Titantic & Me. I don’t say anything when my submissions to the carnival are rejected, but since it’s my birthday, I can say anything I want to. I found it rather humorous and ironic that my Biggest Loser post was rejected by a Yale student because he said, “Things that didn’t make the grade: completely irrelevant and off-topic submissions!”

Now, neighbors, I’ve been called a lot of things (and usually they rhyme with my last name and start towards the beginning of the alphabet or the end of the alphabet–you figure it out)…

But Irrelevant?

And on my 51st birthday?

And with an exclamation point?!?!

My staffers are going to have some kind of fun with this one… I think I feel a blog coming on…

And an irrelevant one at that.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Biggest Loser, Saving the Titanic & Me

My school started a Biggest Loser program so it shouldn’t be a big surprise that I can so relate to that on so many, many levels. And, it shouldn’t come as a shock either to anyone that I immediately made a beeline to the nurse’s office, promptly signed up and immediately weighed in after, of course, receiving the necessary assurances that no one could hack into the nurse’s computer to retrieve my weight or BMI.

Sadly, I have enough body fat that I’m pretty sure if I had been a passenger on the Titanic I could have singlehandedly kept it afloat–at least long enough for a rescue. And that’s not because I’m fat either. OK, well maybe, but I’ve always been a floater even when I was skinny. OK, so maybe I’ve never been skinny… How about thin? OK, so maybe not thin. How about not-fat? Let’s go with that.

At any rate, this Biggest Loser nomenclature got me thinking. And, we all know what that means. Aiyeyeyeye. I was going to do a list of “You know you’re the Biggest Loser when…” but that just made my head hurt and damaged my self of steam. So instead, I thought I should hop into the confessional and tell you why I earned–hands down, no competition–the Biggest Loser title this week. (And, oh my goodness, note that it was only Tuesday.) I wish I could say earning the title had something to do with shedding pounds, but alas, that would be a lie (and a big, fat one at that).

Let’s just say that once again some moron–that would be me–somehow managed to schedule both newspaper and yearbook deadlines at the same time. Needless to say, I’ve been a little frenzied. OK, make that frenzied times two squared with a few crazies thrown in. Before I left school Monday. I checked the yearbook tray and noted–rather disgustedly–that there were no, nadda, zippo, zilch yearbook pages turned in. I walked out the door about 5:30 p.m. with my angry face on.

Tuesday morning wasn’t much better. A yearbook disaster here, there, everywhere. I couldn’t even muster up the energy to do the hokey-pokey. Instead, I snapped at no fewer than four yearbook staffers even before the tardy bell rang–all while pounding out a you-better-fix-this-problem-or-your-liver-is-coming-out-your-nose-nasty-email to the photo company rep. Once the bell rang, I turned my wrath on my yearbook staffers all sitting dutifully in their uncomfortable desks, and all mustering their best serious faces.

“I can’t believe none of you turned in any of your pages for deadline,” I scolded. “And, I was here until 5:30.”

But before I could really get going, a somewhat timid hand went up over on the right side of the room.

“What is it,” I bellowed.

“Uh, Richie, the deadline isn’t until today,” the staffer said amidst a sea of nods.

“What?” I barked, or maybe I hissed. I kind of like it when I get to hiss.

“Yeah, it’s today,” my always-unruffled editor announced.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s today,” they said in unison. “Today’s Tuesday.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Well, never mind then,” I added, feeling a bit like Gilda Radner’s character Miss Litella in those old Saturday Night Live skits.


Big Loser.

Big Fat Loser.

Well, maybe not entirely a big fat loser.

At least I could have saved the Titanic. Now that’s got to count for something.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

159 Carnival of Education

Wow… another Carnival of Education and this time it’s over at SharpBrains. (Hey, maybe I need to get me one of those.)

There were quite a few stellar posts. My favorite has to be Joanne Jacobs who writes that the first step toward success is failure, but more importantly she talks about self of steam–make that self-esteem. (And, we all know how I feel about that.) There also was an interesting piece on research by Jeff Henig. Another post from Bill at the Tempered Radical discussed raising awareness about genocide in Darfur and also included some nifty tips about leaving good blog comments. This Carnival also included my submission, “Fuzzies, Recruiting and Hair Bows," but you don’t have to go there to read it here.

And while I’ve got your attention, get your instant fix of Bellringers every time I update by subscribing to the RSS feed or by email. The RSS feed is easy. Check out this fun, quick video that walks you through it. Hails bails, if I can do it, so can you.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Fuzzies, Recruiting and Hair Bows

We might as well clear the air here. I never have nor will I ever be one of those warm fuzzy teachers. It’s not something I’m terribly proud of, but it’s something I’m honest about. It is what it is, and I am what I am, and no, I’m not going to start my recitation of that Sam-I-am-that-Sam-I-am- Green-Eggs-And-Ham-thing (although I could).

At any rate, be thankful that my calling places me squarely at the high school level, not at the elementary school level where such things as warm fuzzies are required as well as perfectly coiffed hair complete with hair bows, an array of matching themed outfits and those really, really cute bulletin boards with laminated stuff and stickers. –All of which I am 100 percent absolutely no good at–particularly the hair thing.

And, no, this post isn’t going to turn into a confessional of my many shortcomings, but rather, a way to introduce you to this thing we call “recruiting.” Yep, we’re smack dab in the midst of recruiting and we’re not talking sports here. Counselors are running around, corralling kids and branding–no wait, make that signing them up for their courses for next year. In the mix, stand all the electives competing for those paltry few hours of openings. (Don’t ya just hate it when all that math, science and English nonsense gets in the way of a good elective? Sigh.)

All this recruiting stuff just reminds me how unfuzzy I really am–except maybe my brain which seems to get a bit more fuzzy as the years advance (and, yes, I am rapidly approaching my 51st birthday). Oh Jeez, I’m off task again. Sorry. Back to recruiting…

To be on the newspaper or yearbook staff, the kids must fill out an application, be interviewed and have their references checked. As you know from reading this blog, student publications definitely are not for the weak of heart or spirit. It takes a special kind, a specific mix. I’m always honest with them about my unfuzziness and I expect for potential staffers to be honest about themselves. I also expect their references to be honest, too.

I thought you might appreciate my teacher reference questionnaire. It’s a 10 item/10 point scale. Of course, my favorite is No. 9. (Now, is that really any surprise?)

Here it goes…

Richie’s Teacher Evaluation Sheet

Directions: The student listed above has applied for either newspaper or yearbook publications staff. We take our publications seriously and only want the best staff members. These staff members must be reliable, responsible and honest. Integrity is extremely important. Of course, we expect for them to talk and write in complete sentences, not to pick their nose in public or otherwise act in a manner that would cast dispersions upon our fine student newspaper or yearbook. With all that in mind, please fill out the rating sheet below. Rankings range from 1 to 10 with 10 being the best possible score.

1. Trustworthy…I could leave a $5 bill on my desk and it would still be there when I returned.

2. Dependable…Would rather walk barefoot over hot coals than miss a deadline.

3. Communication…For the most part can like talk in complete sentences like without saying like ya know a whole lot or with alotta likes and stuff.

4. Angelic…This kid is right up there with Mother Teresa. Never, ever in trouble.

5. Boy Scout…This kid is always prepared for class and ready to go.

6. Quality of work…This kid produces some of the best work I have ever seen.

7. Interpersonal skills…This kid gets along well with their peers.

8. Self-motivated…You will not have to personally adopt this child to ensure that they complete their work.

9. Annoying factor…This kid will not put rubber cement boogers up his/her nose or do anything else that will make you want to set your hair on fire and run screaming from the building.

10. Overall, how would you rate this kid?

So, there you have my teacher evaluation sheet. And, yes, I really do use it, and yes, it does work.

And now, do you see why I don’t own any hair bows?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Welcome (again) my JEA friends!

OK, I apparently jumped the gun on welcoming all my Journalism Education Association buddies who decided to test the waters and venture here after reading my column in Journalism Today. (The copy I received earlier was a promo copy that Bradley sent me before my regular subscription copy hit my mailbox yesterday.)

So if you’re new to my site, here are a few of my favorite posts to get you started– “Nightmares, Bad Things & Code K,” “Kanye West, F-words & Me,” & “Deadlines, Dumbledore & Hail.”

Remember commenting is encouraged (but please keep it PG as I have a number of students who read my blog). You can post comments anonymously if you wish. You can also always email me off site at

Thanks so much for dropping in… I hope you laugh and please come back again! There’s always a new post by Monday.

158 Carnival of Education

“I have dreamed of a black car that shimmers and drives
Down the length of the evening to the
carnival side
In a house where regret is a
carousel ride
We are spinning and spinning and spinning…”

–St. Robinson In His Cadillac Dream by Counting Crows

The 158 Carnival of Education hosted by Instructify is out. You can go here to read the submissions and see what’s up in the EduSphere. In particular, you might want to send a Valentine’s Day poem to the Eduwonkette.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Losing Lists, Dante’s Circles & Emergency Supplies

Since last week was crazy-crazy–that’s crazy-times-two-squared–I made a list of all the things I could write about, but then promptly lost it. No surprise there, but then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if my list didn’t inadvertently get stuck in that last batch of pages I sent off to Dante’s inner circle of hell–known by non-publications advisers as The Yearbook Plant.

Maybe my list will so amuse them, they won’t notice I’m seven pages short. Yeah right, when pigs fly.

But let’s get on with the important stuff.

I could try to remember and then reconstruct my list, but the thought of that, quite frankly, makes my head explode. So since we’re sort of on a Pizza Andy roll with his fan-tab-u-lous scholarship and 15 minutes of fame with the Dallas Morning News story, let’s see if we can stand one more Pizza Andy story…

When the Dallas Morning News came to shoot him–I guess we should say “came to take his photograph”–we all were chatting it up with the photographer and one thing led to another and then another until we arrived on a discussion of “Things that could be found in Andy’s backpack.” (You know how fond I am of things.)

Now, you really didn’t think his backpack contained normal things like pens, paper, map colors, did you?

Here’s just a glimpse…

  • a pocket U.S. Constitution “just in case” –And, no, I’m not exactly sure when one would need to whip out one’s pocket Constitution, but I can only assume that if one really needed a copy of the Constitution, one would really, really, really need a copy. And then, that day would be a crazy-crazy-crazy-times-a gajillion-squared-kind-of-day. I’m thinking we’d have to create a 10th circle of hell.
  • an “emergency” complete Star Wars DVD set minus Episode 6 which he lent to a teacher who also apparently has Andy’s life-size cut-out of Princess Leia (and, no, you really don’t want to know), and no, I’m not exactly sure what constitutes a “Star Wars Emergency” either.
  • a Fred Thompson campaign flyer.
  • a Yoda key chain
Now, if you think all of that borders on the bizarre, I have another kid in my photo class who–no matter what you ask for–can whip it out of her purse. I call it the Mary Poppins bag.

She wants to be on staff next year.

Something tells me she’ll fit right in.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Dance of Joy, Pizza Andy & Free Spirits

Time to do the dance of joy.

For those of you who are fans of this blog–pah-leese tell me you’re fans aren’t you?– and have enjoyed stories about Pizza Andy which can be found here and here and well here plus don’t forget the photo which used to be on my blog but has since moved to my website.

OK sorry about all that…back to why you should do the dance of joy… Andy won a special scholarship–the Al Neuharth Free Spirit Journalism Scholar Award. You can read about it here on the Dallas Morning News website.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Pulling a Knight, Looking for Matches & Making it a Night

It’s exactly 11:31 a.m. and I have exactly six minutes left of my you’ve-gotta-be-kiddin’-me 20 minute “duty-free” lunch and I am seriously thinking of pulling a Bobby Knight. I mean, how great would that be to say, “Hey, I’m tired…I give up.”

But then what would happen to those 34 yearbook pages due in exactly four days?

Or, those gazillion page proofs sitting on the large table in that other room?

Or the kid in class who asked, “What’s a textbook?”

I know, I know, I know. Welcome to my world. I was going to slam my head in the door, but instead, I started looking for those matches. You remember those matches, don’t ya?

I’m just three steps from the emergency exit, a heart beat away from insanity and one matchstick strike from setting my hair on fire.

Now, if I could just find where I put those matches, we could all run screaming from the building and call it a day… Or better yet, make that a night.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

157 Carnival of Education

It’s that time again! Get on the midway and pick your ride through the EduSphere. The 157 Carnival of Education is up and running at the Colossus of Rhody. With all that’s going on, you’ll want to be sure to take time out and peruse the selections. Here are just a few of the submissions I found particularly interesting… The Tempered Radical on grading policies, the Eduwonkette on teacher effectiveness, The Colossus of Rhody on mandatory 50s, and, of course, Mr. Teacher’s post on setting up a parent conference. There’s plenty more noteworthy reads, but that will get you started.

My submission, “Frozen Tongues, Reenactments & My Super Bowl List” was included, but you don’t have to go there to read it here.

And while I’ve got your attention, get your instant fix of Bellringers every time I update by subscribing to the RSS feed or by email. The RSS feed is easy. Check out this fun, quick video that walks you through it. Hails bails, if I can do it, so can you.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Frozen Tongues, Reenactments & My Super Bowl List

About a week ago, two fourth graders decided to reenact a scene from “A Christmas Story” to see if their tongues would actually stick to a frozen flagpole. Surprise, surprise surprise, the tongues stuck to the pole. (You can read the full story here. )

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to reenactments. In fact, my BFF Jennifer who lives up in Yankeeland can claim the title as the Queen of Reenactment. We have reenactment photos of when she passed out at a rather nice, hoity-toity California spa. We also possess digital images re-enacting her throwing up outside a rather nice historical home in Annapolis (much to the consternation of the rather nice docent who gave us a tour. (Oh come on now, as if John Paul Jones never upchucked anywhere. As if.)

Currently rounding out her reenactment portfolio would be a similar incident on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy. (In her defense, she had developed a rather nasty stomach virus while we were sightseeing. Still, I’m absolutely sure Homeland Security now possesses 8x10 glossy flyers with her mugshot on it.)

But back to the point…I’m sure you’re wondering if there’s a point to all this…You see, I’m really not opposed to this reenactment thing. In fact, it got me thinking (sometimes not a very good thing). Still, I got to thinking about how often common sense just disappears, disintegrates or dissolves and not just with that tongue-sticking-to-the-pole thing. So I got to thinking some more, and with this being Super Bowl weekend, it
really got me to thinking, and I thought perhaps now was a good time to compile a Super Bowl list of some sort…

You know, like a Super Bowl List of Dumb things. But Dumb is about a gazillion miles away from politically correct and would probably hurt someone’s self-of-steam somewhere, so perhaps we should just call it “A Super Bowl List of Less Than Smart Things.”

So, here it goes…

“Top 5 Super Bowl List of Less Than Smart Things.”

#5…Back in the day of real darkrooms, I heard a small explosion. When I ran to the supply room, there sat one of the newspaper photographers with a sheepish grin. “I just wanted to see if it was, ya know, like flammable, you know, like the package said,” he said, pointing to the label on one of the yellow packets of developing chemicals.

#4…Back in the day again when teachers didn’t have to worry about students huffing correction fluid, rubber cement or permanent markers, you still had to worry about creative uses for the aforementioned items. The salutatorian who was on my newspaper staff decided he wanted to experience being bad before he graduated–not really bad, just In-School Suspension bad. So he did what all salutatorian-types do, he did a bit of research and read the Student Code of Conduct to see what specific infraction would land him one day of ISS. He then dipped a pencil in rubber cement and lit a match.

Instant flame thrower.

Instant office referral.

And it would have been instant one day in ISS except since that’s what he wanted, I thought better and talked the assistant principal into making the staffer wash dishes in the cafeteria instead. [Oh, and let’s just add a word of warning: Those of you currently on newspaper staff reading this best not get any ideas… or really bad things will happen…]

#3… One day when the Queen of Reenactment was attending a seminar, she had a sub that her darlings didn’t particularly like. When the sub stepped out of the room to scold one of the students, the remaining students (I believe they were either freshmen or sophomores) quietly locked the door, pretended they didn’t understand the sub through the locked door, and of course, wouldn’t open the locked door. Guess they forgot that administrators had a key. It did take almost all the class period, though, before they were able to find the key to unlock the door.

#2… Once on a trip to a convention, my little darlings decided to suds the hotel fountain. They, of course, denied it. Once back at school, 8x10 glossy black and white photos surfaced–and not exactly a reenactment either.

And, now, drum roll pah-leese, let’s get to our No. 1 winner… This little ditty comes–not from my DIs (Darling Inspirations) but from a fellow teacher who stands out in the hall with me during passing period…

#1… My hall buddy said one of her students asked for a pass to see the school nurse because his eye was hurting him and his vision was, well, just a tad bit blurry. Immediately concerned, she asked, “What’s wrong?” He told her he had wanted to see what would happen if he copied his eye.

On the photo copier.

With his eyes opened.

Well, at least it wasn’t his behind because then, of course, we would all be screaming, “Code K, Code K, Code K!”