Sunday, March 30, 2008

Weasely Puns, Mandarin Chinese & Mushrooms

It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.” –Alice in Alice in Wonderland

I decided a long time ago (OK, OK, OK, let’s make that Aug. 22 when I launched my blog) that I would not be a whiner. Of course, that meant I had to give up eating cheese… no wait… different wine, different story… Now, if my VP of HC (Humor Control) weren’t still semi-fired, that sort of weasely pun would never, ever, ever have seen daylight. No siree, not on her watch, but it took her 26 days (not the 11 that I predicted) before she noticed she was fired, and that was only after I had dropped subtle hints all week.

You know, hints like, “Hmmmm, isn’t there something you forgot to do?” or “Don’t you miss doing something weekly?” Or, my personal guilt-laden favorite: “Why do you want to break your mother’s heart?” You know, those kinds of things…Or, just maybe it was the “You’re not going out this weekend unless you figure out what it is you didn’t do.” But again, I digress…

Back to the no-whining policy. I’m going to have to add to it. Now didn’t we all learn in English class that if you have a Numero Uno, you have to have a Numero Two-oh, and if you have an “A,” then by-golly you better have a “B” and so forth and so on, but now I’m making my head hurt…

So here’s the beginnings of…

Richie’s Official Stumbling Through Life Policies

#1… No whining. Anywhere at anytime (but especially fields trips), and trust me if you’ve ever taken a gaggle of teens anywhere for any amount of time, well, you know what I’m talking about.

#2…No talking to mushrooms. It makes you look silly.

My BFF Jennifer made me write that one down after I almost violated Policy #1 when I was providing her an account of a “situation” that happened to me recently regarding a discussion I had with an adult. You know the type of conversation where you logically present your viewpoint, but midway through it, you realize that you might as well have been speaking Mandarin Chinese?

So Jennifer asks: “Why do you keep talking to mushrooms?”

“What?” I asked.

“You know, mushrooms,” she said.

“Mushrooms?” I asked.

“Mushrooms never understand,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what you tell a mushroom, the mushroom never gets it, so quit talking to mushrooms.”

“Oh,” I said.

“And besides,” she said. “It just makes you look silly. Do you like looking silly?”

“Oh,” I said a bit uneasy because I don’t particularly like looking silly.

But then a few days later I did it again anyway. Yep, I tried to talk to that same adult, but then realized, oh my goodness, I must have lapsed into Mandarin Chinese (again), and I don’t even speak Mandarin Chinese.

Images of mushrooms popped into my head. I rather felt like Alice in Alice in Wonderland.

This time I vowed never, ever to talk to a mushroom.

It does make me look rather silly.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

164 Carnival of Education–Teachers Gone Wild Spring Break Edition

Welcome to “The Teachers Gone Wild Spring Break Edition” of the 164th Carnival of Education. (You were expecting something less? Something a bit more staid? Something a bit more, well, professional? Oh, pah-leese…Loosen up, grab some suntan lotion (or if you’re old like me, make that some SPF 50+), a beach towel and a beverage of your choosing, but for heaven’s sake, leave those speedos at home.

Hmmmm…Let’s look and see who’s already here. Ah, there’s Mr. Teacher hawking his t-shirts over there by the cabana. He’s talking about the pitfalls of third grade geometry. Maybe I can sneak by him before he makes me buy a t-shirt and asks me about polygons.

Has anyone seen Edna Lee from Regurgitated Alpha Bits? Sadly I think she’s stuck in the conference room at the hotel at some professional development seminar because after all, she must be a very, very, very terrible teacher. You should check out her recent parent conference (OMG, haven’t all of us been there, done that, and didn’t even get a t-shirt?). And, of course, you remember what happened when she went on that field trip and Billy Fell Off the Cliff… I guess we’ll have to send a rescue team to spring her. Otherwise, I think she’ll be stuck in there all day.

What’s Larry Ferlazzo’s trying to do over there? Oh, he’s getting a group together to surf––the web that is by checking out something called Digital Vaults. And there’s sunglass-wearing Nancy Flanagan (fresh off the plane from Teacher in a Strange Land). She doesn’t seem too impressed with all these new gadgets she saw at a recent technology conference. It’s “new tools, old thinking” in Luddite Lite. Whether you’re a techie or not, it’s worth wandering over there just to sing the Timbuk3 song. (Ya know ya wanna.)

And speaking of bright–as in bright and early–it looks like Frugaldad’s trying to rustle up a group to catch the early bird parasailing special. Ask him about those schools that are paying kids to learn. (Hey, I wish they would pay me to teach. Oh, yeah right, I guess they do.) Frugaldad wonders whatever happened to that innate drive to learn. (But hey, I’m wondering whatever happened to Timbuk3 and those bright futures.) Now, where did I put my sunglasses?

Jeepers, look over there. I swear that’s Bill Ferriter from the Tempered Radical on the jetty screaming at those fishing boats. Whoa, it is Bill and he sure is just a bit testy over how testing has changed his teaching. He’s got this metaphor/analogy thing going about how teaching is like fishing… (Maybe we should sign him up for one of those deep sea fishing cruises?)… Bill’s tirade got me to thinking that if teaching is like fishing then those starfish are like…but all that analogy stuff just made my brain hurt so our friends over at thought I should do a nifty little exercise to–what else?–sharpen my brain by stimulating my mental rotation skill. Now, that really made my head explode. See what happens to yours.

OK, so the mental agility thing isn’t working for me. (Lots of things aren’t working for me any more, but we’ll save that list for later.) Hey, do you hear that sound? Not the ocean, silly, the music. It’s the Conga line! As a fan of the hokey pokey and Sponge Bob Dancing to “Crank Dat” by Soulja Boy, count me in. MusicMakesSense provides a dancing activity for the special education classroom… or just for fun. EHT at History is Elementary also has some tips for waking up kids and it involves dance moves too. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

But that’s not what Lorem Ipsum’s talking about. He provided an interesting take on why an English teacher didn’t get his teacher’s National Board Certification in “Um, You’re an English Teacher.” News Alert: He really didn’t teach much English. I wanted to ask my buddy Clix at Epic Adventures are Often Uncomfortable about that whole canoe thing, but she wanted to chat about about teaching the Odyssey (Which, of course, begs the question, can you really ever chat about that?)

Well Darren finally arrived from Right on the Left Coast. He’s got a few things to say about euphemisms in “First you have to admit you have a problem…” After you talk to him, you really should go see why Henry Cate from Why Home School asks the question “Is Less More?” And while we’re asking questions, Miss Profe questions “Who Is At Risk?” while the Education Wonks wants to know why taxpayers should be made to pay for the rampage at Virginia Tech.

All interesting questions, but I wanted to soften the banter and turn to more mindless, less stressful stuff so I tried to get a group to watch Where the Boys Are or Beach Blanket Bingo so we could forget about work. But you know what happens when you get a bunch of educators together. Jeez Louise, I had to put away the popcorn because they preferred to have Trade Tips for Teachers instead with Pat at Successful Teaching offering up some great advice for using Web 2.0 with special education students. Then Mamacita at Scheiss Weekly offered some sage advice for mid-term exams takers in “Frazzed Catfish Balls.” But then came a woman after my own heart– Mrs. Bluebird. It’s all about the pencils, she says, and not just any ole pencils. No siree, we’re talkin’ brand new, bright yellow, Dixon Ticonderoga pencils. Ya, gotta love that.

Now, ladies and gents, before we get too misty-eyed over those pencils, we better listen to what Colleen Palat at has to say about assisting students who are visually impaired. And while you’re at it, you better hand me one of those yellow pencils so I can jot down some notes. Brian from was explaining what high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors should have been doing over spring break–and it definitely was NOT catching some rays. Then there’s that young upstart at Realm of Prosperity who had some worthwhile financial advice for college bound kiddos.

Oh by the way, while we’re being careful to avoid unpleasant things like money or the lack thereof, watch who you talk to poolside. I think some politicians slipped in pretending to know what it’s like to be a teacher, but Woodlass at Under Assault: Teaching in NYC thinks they often don’t know what their talking about. (While you’re over there make sure you check out her Terror Alert on the side.)

And speaking of terror… Stay away from the Parents and Kids Gone Wild tent. The Collosus of Rhody ran into the poster child for those folks over there providing yet another shining example of lack of parenting. I think Old Andrew from Scenes from the Battleground stumbled over there too. He knows exactly what’s wrong with the “Appeasers” while SwitchedOnMom talks about a parent who was arrested and banned from his child’s school for one year. Jeez, we couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried.

Now, I told you to slather on some of that SPF 50. You’re looking a bit red. Did you fall asleep while catching up on some mindless reading? Did you turn off your cell phone and actually relax? Did you stay clear of anyone with a video camera and hide when you heard the words “wet” and “t-shirt” in the same sentence? Golly gee, I hope so.

Well, it’s just about time to close this show down, but wait, I heard there’s a group leaving at 9 to go and get matching tattoos. Should we save you a seat?

While you’re thinking about that, make sure you meet us at the next carnival hosted by I want to teach forever. You can use this handy, dandy form.

“I’ve got this feeling that there’s something that I missed…”
–Snow Patrol

And, if I did, my apologies. Until next time…

Friday, March 21, 2008

Carnival Submissions & Other Odds & Ends

News flash…news flash…news flash…

Just a few things--three things to be exact--I just know you want to know…

No. 1…Don’t forget to submit your stuff for the next Carnival of Education… Yes, siree, I’m hosting it and the deadline is 6 p.m. sharp, Tuesday, March 25. Did I say 6 p.m. sharp, Tuesday, March 25? Remember, us journalism types don’t waiver on deadlines. Ask my kiddos. You can send your submissions using this handy, dandy form or by emailing me at

No. 2…For my Pizza Andy fans, Andy did not receive the $50,000 Al Neuharth Free Spirit Journalism Scholar Award, but he still has the $1,000 plus his fab-u-lous trip to Washington, D.C. What a wonderful adventure and what a terrific kid. (Sorry, can’t use an exclamation point because we have a rule: No exclamation points unless there is a nuclear explosion or your hair is on fire.)

No. 3…And speaking of fab-u-lous… My incredibly fab-u-lous newspaper editor-in-chief Katelyn will receive a summer journalism internship at the Dallas Morning News. They made the announcement this week after interviewing area high school journalism finalists. Now that news definitely deserves a Woo-hoo. And hails bails, while we’re at it, let’s just toss in an exclamation point too-- Woo-hoo, Katelyn!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

163th Carnival of Education

The 164 Carnival of Education is out hosted by Joel over at So You Want to Teach? As always, there’s a number of fantastic submissions to keep you occupied over your spring break. My submission, “Diets, Mini Monkey Mints & Floral Print Shoes” was included, but you don’t have to go there to read it here.

Still make sure you check it out so you know what’s happening in the EduSphere.

Now before I go, I have two random Floral Print Shoes ramblings…

#1…For my Pizza Andy fans, you will be pleased to know that he is in Washington, D.C. for the Al Neuharth Free Spirit Journalism Scholar Award. He sent me an email telling me he was one of seven boys who were finalists for the $50,000 scholarship. I can’t tell you how proud and excited I am for him. (The winner will be announced Wednesday, March 19.)

#2…For reasons I can’t quite articulate…but probably has something to do with my craziness and floral print shoes… I will be hosting the next Carnival of Education. Submissions will be due by 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 25 and hopefully (barring any major disasters which seem to occur with some level of frequency in my life), the 165 Carnival of Education will appear right here on Wednesday morning. Send your submissions to me using this handy, dandy form or you can email me at Ahhhhhh, what was I thinking? Let the games begin!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Diets, Mini Monkey Mints & Floral Print Shoes

The week before Spring Break was, well, “interesting.”

That’s my fill-in-the-blank word. You know those words–words you use when someone or something renders you speechless.

“Hmmm, that’s very interesting,” I’ll say when one of my students provides an answer or observation that makes no sense. And, as an added bonus, “very interesting” doesn’t diminish anyone’s self-of-steam.

“Interesting” also provides the perfect response when someone offers a suggestion or idea that makes me want to scream, “You big, fat, stupidhead!”

Instead, I can play nice and merely and politely say, “Why, how very interesting.”

It’s also a great answer to those no-win-are-you-still-beating-your- spouse-type questions. Just merely answer with, “My, now that’s an interesting question.”

And all of this interesting stuff brings me to my entertainment editor’s random, interesting outbursts.

Situation #1–A conversation about food and dieting
Jessica: “I need to eat healthy and lose weight.”
Me: “No, you don’t. You’re the size of a toothpick.”
Jessica: "You don’t know what’s going on under this shirt.”

See how my comment, “Hmmm, how interesting…” would fit in perfectly?

Situation #2–Working on stories
Jessica: “Mini Monkey Mints…”
Pizza Andy & Katelyn: “Alliteration…”
Me: “What?”
Jessica: “I couldn’t remember that word.”
Me: “Mini Monkey Mints?”
Jessica: “No, alliteration…”
Me: “Why are you writing about Mini Monkey Mints?”

See, I should have just said, “Hmmm, interesting” and moved on…

Situation #3–Jessica was working on her fashion critiques. I had asked her earlier to check on a student for me.
Me: “What did she say?”
Jessica: “Floral print shoes.”
Me: Silence. (I’ve got nothing here.)
Allison: “You know, like the shoes with the flowers on them.”
Me: “Yes, I know what floral print shoes are, but what does that have to do with Courtney? Is she wearing them? What did she say about the Andy’s tape?”
Jessica: “Ohhhhh, the tape. Courtney. I didn’t go yet.”

Me thinking about big, fat…Oh, you know the rest…but try as they might they are not going to make me say it…

Floral print shoes

Me saying, “Oh my goodness…”

Floral print shoes

Me thinking next time: “Hmmm…That’s very interesting…”

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

162 Carnival of Education

The long-awaited for March Mathness edition of the 162 Carnival of Education hosted by Mr. Teacher at Learn Me Good is out. It’s well worth heading over there to read the promo/previews even if you don’t read the submissions (which you should because there are lots of excellent choices).

My submission “TAKS Testers, Ninth Graders & Lions” was included, but you don’t have to go there to read it here.

Friday, March 7, 2008

TAKS Testing, Ninth Graders & Lions

Somehow I’ve got to get my FunnyBack. If you find it, let me know.

I lost it sometime after my Austin trip, but definitely before the great March blizzard of 2008 that forced (much to the delight of everyone involved) a two-hour delay of school on Friday–and all for a picturesque dusting of snow. Ah, just another reason to love Texas.

I guess I probably lost it–my FunnyBack that is, not my mind nor the snow–somewhere in the vicinity of administering the state mandated ELA TAKS test. (Don’t you just hate it when your conversation starts to sound rather alphabet-soupish?)

OK, so let’s get back to the administration of the test.

I had ninth graders.

They finished way before the 10th graders.

And they finished way, way, way–did I say way?– before the 11th graders.

Our lucky 12th graders and their homeroom teachers got to spend the day noshing and reminiscing at the senior breakfast.

Did I mention I had ninth graders?

They finished way before 10th graders.

And they finished way, way, way, way before those 11th graders.

Ninth graders.

I felt much like Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible when he receives his assignment…

“Your mission, should you decide to accept it…”

Except I don’t recall this mission being optional.

And, I’m pretty sure Mr. Super Spy Ethan Hunt, once he discovered the mission was to keep a room full of beady-eyed ninth graders quiet for no less than three hours after they finished their test, would have said, “No siree” and high-tailed it out of there. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure he never would have survived for M:I2 or M:I3.

In Mission Impossible, the powers-that-be say they will “disavow any knowledge,” and of course, all evidence self-destructs in seconds.

Did I mention I had ninth graders?

And I had to keep them quiet for no less than three hours?

Next time just throw me to the lions and let’s call it a day.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

161 Carnival of Education

Grab your tickets and hitch a ride the 161 Carnival of Education is over at the Education Wonks. Lots of good stuff to look at. I particularly liked NYC Educator’s submission. Even if you don’t teach, the corporate world has this problem too. I wanted to head on over to our friend in the UK and see what was going on there, but I couldn’t access the video (blocked for my own good I’m sure) from Scenes from the Battleground, so I looked at this other post from him instead–“10 things you never hear in teaching.” I guess I particularly liked: “Remember children, if you fail your GCSEs you are a loser and you will have a rubbish life.” I just think it would be fun to say, “a rubbish life.”

My submission “Campus Visits, More Irrelevancy & Nincompoops” was included, but you don’t have to go there to read it here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Blame it on Pizza Andy…

News flash…

We knew it was bound to happen soon especially if you have followed this blog closely. With spring break just around the corner, cold northerly winds clocking at a minimum of 30 mph inside my classroom (a recurring problem) and an overall drop in common sense (another recurring problem), it didn’t take much prodding from Pizza Andy for me to stand in the middle of my classroom, arms outstretched in martyr fashion and proclaim…

after exactly 63 days, 11 hours and 16 seconds…

“They truly are all BIG FAT STUPID HEADS.”

And, nincompoops.

So there.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Campus Visits, More Irrelevancy & Nincompoops

Over the weekend, I fired my VP of Humor Control (but I didn’t tell her), but don’t worry about her. I figure it will take her at least a good 11 days before she notices, and by that time, I probably would have rehired her anyway. That’s what happens when one stumbles into the realm of irrelevancy.

I seem to be doing that a lot lately…the stumbling, so I thought perhaps we could stumble together through my Top 5 List of Things That Make Me Irrelevant.

#5… I took my fired VP to Austin for a college day at the University of Texas campus. While there, we visited the drag–Guadalupe Street. While all the shops oozed cuteness and beckoned us shopaholics, I must admit that there probably was not one thing I could squeeze into (so much for the Biggest Loser program), but more importantly, even if I could have, I most definitely should not have.

#4… Recently, I discovered that anything that I might suggest has as much of a chance of eliciting a positive response from those who fit into the demographics of being able to squeeze into that clothing on Guadalupe Street as Ralph Nader does of winning a run at the White House. (In case you were wondering, those demographics pretty much include all the children in all my classes as well as my former VP.)

#3… After 22 years of teaching and surviving (thus far) nine principals, seven superintendents and four school districts (if you count my student teaching a gazillion years ago), I finally have allowed myself to be annoyed by the moronic musings of lilly-livered nincompoops.

#2… The fact that I can readily amuse myself with alliterations and by using the word “nincompoop” just underscores my irrelevantness.

And finally…can anyone anywhere give us a drum roll pah-leese…

The No. 1 Thing That Makes Me Irrelevant… I’ve pretty much given up on playing Classic Rock songs for my Journalism I class while they write their daily journal entries after I put on “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” by the Rolling Stones and the kids thought we were going to play Guitar Hero.

Jeez Louise as if I’ve ever played.