Monday, January 31, 2011

Senior Superlatives, Bart Simpson & Chalkboards

With sunshine and temperatures close to 70 degrees, I wonder why I'm sitting here slumped in this papasan chair more interested in watching Howard the shelter cat than reviewing my week and trying to figure out anything blog-worthy.

My DIs (Darling Inspirations) haven't provided much fodder lately, and we were even on newspaper deadline last week. I don't even want to talk about yearbook--once again I'm so far behind, I'm not exactly sure how far behind I am. The only thing I'm fairly certain of is that  if yearbook were a race, I'd still be in the locker room searching for my shoes. Yep, that pretty much describes how far behind I am--no hyperbole there.

We finally started taking pictures for senior superlatives, though. (You know, where seniors vote best smile, best dressed, class clown etc.) Shannon, newspaper editor and photographer extraordinaire, agreed to shoot them for yearbook. For the class clown photograph, she wanted to use a chalkboard a la Bart Simpson as a backdrop.

The first big hurdle was actually finding a chalkboard. In an era of computers, whiteboards and smart boards finding a chalkboard proved to be somewhat of a difficult task. We managed to borrow a broken one we located in the band hall. The second big hurdle was finding some chalk. Thank goodness for the art department.

In Bart Simpson fashion, Shannon then meticulously wrote: "I will not stop clowning around" over and over and over again on the chalkboard for the photo shoot.

Even though it said "I will not stop clowning around," I still spent the rest of the day trying to convince my classes that I didn't actually make someone write that. (Although I did once make my newspaper staff write sophomore over and over and over again. (I figured you shouldn't be able to be a sophomore or graduate if you couldn't spell sophomore.)

For a brief moment, I thought about keeping the chalkboard as a deterrent.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Education Buzz Life's A Carnival--State of the Union Edition

Welcome to the 2011 State of the Union Edition of the Education Buzz--an eclectic smattering of educational type things buzzing around the EduSphere. Education Buzz President has just completed her State of the Carnival. Our speech pundits counted no less than 13 gazillion standing ovations, 17 gajillion random bursts of applause and 28 gabillion spontaneous Woo-Hoos.  Let's check in with our panel of experts and see what they have to say.

Our first expert–and one of the Buzz' personal favorites–is Tim from Assorted Stuff who very eloquently discusses how this obsession with data may very well lead us further away from what we need to really know.

The State of the Carnival speech outlined several ways to improve our schools.  Pat over at Successful Teaching believes schools would be better if we invited more parents into our schools instead of discouraging them. David Wees at 21st Century Educator thinks we should rethink traditional schedules and bells. Liam Goldrick over at The Education Optimist points out that with many of these education reforms we're "Sailing A Ship With Half A Crew." 

Joanne Jacobs tosses in some interesting information about Chinese schools with her post "It's the Confucianism, stupid"

While we're on the subject of the Chinese, Dan from My Dad's Blog Chinese moms are superior while Mary Elliott over at Orphaned: The Abandoned Teacher talks about the "Hell in Helicopter Parents."

Although we, as Americans, certainly enjoy our pursuit of happiness, the president clearly agreed with Old Andrew, our friend from across the pond, about the "unhappy turn to happiness."

Of course, it wouldn't be much of a State of the Carnival speech if the environment wasn't included in there. Anyone who has ever traveled to Denver and seen its brown cloud will want to check out science guru Steve Spangler and his post on the "Science Behind the Denver's Brown Cloud."

Let's not forget to mention our distinguished visitors sitting in the balcony. On the front row is Jane Goodwin whose talking about people with small vocabularies and, ahem, small brains, sitting next to her is A Teacher's View who asks who the heck cares who Samuel Gompers is, and seated on the right side of Jane is Darren from Right on the Left Coast who wonders about the necessity of providing a food bank for college students. On the second row sits Dead Class Pets who noticed the empowering nature of a lost blazer. And then there's that group over at SharpBrains who wants to discuss the merits of exercise for kiddos with ADHD

Over in the nursery watching everyone's kiddos is Michaele Sommerville. She's whipping out some construction paper and drawing a spider. Check out her lesson over at Kindergarten's 3R's: Respect, Resources & Rants.

If the State of the Carnival rambled and didn't make sense, my apologies. Just blame it on Howard.

I think that wraps up this edition of the Education Buzz. If you are interested in hosting an edition, please let me know by emailing me at If you find any broken links or problems with this edition of the Ed Buzz, please let me know. 
As always…
“I’ve got this feeling that there’s something that I missed…”
–Snow Patrol

And, if I did, my apologies.

Our next Carnival will be Wednesday, February 9. Please send your submissions using this handy dandy form. Deadline for submissions will be at 6 p.m. central time on Saturday, February 5.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Teachers, Distractions & Howard

Most teachers agree it's easy to get distracted.

It's not because teachers are ADD or ADHD either.

I think it's because we have to do a lot of things–yep, those darn tootin' things again–we'd rather not be doing. Usually those things involve papers, grading, meetings, paperwork, duties, blah blah blah blah blah. And, we all know it most definitely involves all things yearbook.

I've always said this job wouldn't be a bad gig if it only involved teaching. It's the teaching part that we teachers love. That's probably why we're called teachers instead of graders, meeters, paperworkers, yearbookers, blah, blah blah blah blah-ers.

So if you are an actual teacher you'll understand why there's a stack of papers to grade on my left and a rather large orange tabby cat on my right.

Meet Howard.

Howard, the latest addition to our household.

Howard, who has spent 40 percent of his 1-year-old life living in shelters.

Howard, the distraction.

As if, I really needed one.

A distraction that is.

Or a cat for that matter.

I met Howard about a month ago during one of our volunteer days at the local animal shelter (remember I'm a sponsor of a student animal loving group). I won't bore you with the  back story to all of that. Let's just say that I thought we had the need for a cat. After a month, I finally picked up Howard and brought him home.

So instead of grading, laundry or yearbook, I've been busy with all things Howard.

I wonder how my Mr. Number-9-On-My-Speed-Dial will feel about all of that when I tell him I didn't quite get to all those yearbook pages over the weekend.

"Geewillikers!  So-o-o-o sorry I didn't get those yearbook pages out," I'll say. "Too busy trying to spring Howie from the hoosegow."

You've got to admit. It has a rather nice ring to it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Teacher In-Service, King of the Forest & ENP Training

While most people are off celebrating Martin Luther King Day, I will be at work--at teacher in-service (which if you're a fan of this blog or if you've read my book, you know how much I just love professional development days).

Still, it's nice having a day to re-group, and from looking over the itinerary, I think I can survive the day especially since a nice little lunch was carved into the schedule. (What's not to like about that?) Plus, as an added bonus, we were able to sign up for professional development sessions we wanted to attend. 

If I were King of the Forest or King of Professional Development, here would be…

Richie's Top 5 Professional Development Offerings

#5…Cheater Cheater Pumpkin Eaters–What are the latest cheating methods used by kiddos these days? Show me. By now, we all know the water bottle method, but isn't that a bit old school now? Show me some new stuff.

#4…101 Ways to Text in Class Without Your Teacher Knowing It– With more than 40 percent of teens saying they text in class, show us how they do that–above and beyond the sweatshirt, purse and book tricks.

#3…Virtual Jammie Teaching–Can we have a class, pah-leese where I can teach by slapping up a life-size stand up of myself complete with a camera and microphone while I'm in the comfort of my home in my jammies?

#2…Top 10 Things NOT To Say at a Parent Conference–This could be a really cathartic session where we speak the bubble above our heads and talk about the stuff we wanted to say at some of those interesting parent conferences, but never did, or the things we actually blurted out, but probably shouldn't have.

#1…How To Remain Positive When You're Really Negative– I've got this one covered, and I'll even share this one with you. It works in any situation and with any age group. It's perfect because you (1) ooze empathy (2) manage the correct negative response while (3) providing a positive  boost to self of steam.  It goes like this: Someone asks you something, and you merely respond this way: "I'm so-o-o-o-o sorry. No. Your hair looks lovely today."

Empathy. Negative. Positive.

We could call it ENP training.

Ah, if only I were King of the Forest.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Education Buzz--Life's a Carnival New Year's Edition

Welcome to the 2011 New Year's Edition of the Education Buzz--an eclectic smattering of educational type things buzzing around.  Get those party hats on and get ready to toast in a New Year in the EduSphere!

But first go hang up your coat in the Education Closet and while you're there check out the post on "Year Round Schooling--Is It Time to Bite the Bullet?"

Now before you start commenting, better check out Pat over at Successful Teaching and see what makes a good, quality comment. Trust me, "Big Fat Stupid Head" isn't one of them.
Well, are we ready to  get this party started?…What better way then with the Ghost of Schooling Past from our buddy Nancy Flanagan from Teacher in a Strange Land and Barry Garelick chatting it up about why Shanghai students garnered the top scores in a math in his post, "It isn't the culture, stupid."

And speaking of stupid, you might want to see how Jane Goodwin's final exam week went  and hear what Darren from Right on the Left Coast has to say about his cheater cheater pumpkin eaters.  

Old Andrew gives us his take on why it is annoying to discuss teaching methods while Darren from Right on the Left Coast also talks about wasting money on AP classes for kids who are unprepared--now that's sure to spark some debate.

And if that doesn't get the New Year conversation rolling, Joanne Jacobs weighs in on the controversy surrounding Huck Finn and its newly edited version.

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to incorporate more technology in your classroom, see what Digitalteach has to say about "Using Poll Everywhere in the Classroom" and using cellphones and  QR codes in the classroom.

Oh, so you got a new little smart android phone for Christmas. Here are 19 "awesome" apps you might want to look at.

Well, midnight is upon us. Let's make sure we bring in the New Year with lots of cheer.

I may not know much about science stuff, but I know lots about funny. For those of you serious science types, you might find some useful videos listed in these "21 Excellent YouTube Videos to Learn About Chemistry." For the rest of us, who just enjoy humor at least check out #2 on the list…

Mr Teacher began his year with a bang--and not a good one either, and my return, of course, wasn't exactly perfect either. After reading about "Mayans, Doomsday & Vanilla," make sure you also check out Mr. Teacher's hilarious year in review and my other post, "New Year's Resolution, Yearbook Disasters & Flying Pigs" for a little added humor.

I think that wraps up this edition of the Education Buzz. If you are interested in hosting an edition, please let me know by emailing me at If you find any broken links or problems with this edition of the Ed Buzz, please let me know. 
As always…
“I’ve got this feeling that there’s something that I missed…”
–Snow Patrol

And, if I did, my apologies.

Our next Carnival will be Wednesday, January 26. Please send your submissions using this handy dandy form. Deadline for submissions will be at 6 p.m. central time on Saturday, January 22.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mayans, Doomsday & Vanilla

Hopefully, your first week back went better than mine did–what with my computer issues, yearbook issues and a few other bad thing issues–pining away for summer moved rather speedy quick onto my radar.

My week could have been really, really, really amusing--amusing like perhaps in the year 2020.

Let's use say that I don't have to wait until Dec. 21, 2012 to think that sometimes Doomsday is already upon us. If the ancient Mayans were still around, they probably would have erected a temple to ward off Big Fat Stupid Heads. I bet that golden shrine would have encompassed the entire lost city of El Dorado.

So you can see why I read with more than just passing interest a little piece about how some education schools are using virtual classrooms to train aspiring teachers. These programs allow teacher candidates to practice classroom management skills in a simulated, real-time classroom with avatars that have, according to the article in Education Week, "distinct abilities, personalities, and psychological profiles."

An "actor" who is familiar with the teacher's lesson and each avatar's story moves and directors the student avatars' responses.

One Florida professor said that it provided a teacher candidate to "fail in a safe environment." She went on to say, "Real kids, trust me, will remember in May what you said to them in August. You can't reset children."

While most of us agree you can't "reset" children, I keep getting stuck on the comment that kids will remember in May what you said to them in August.

Raise your hand if you have problems with kids remembering what you said last month.

Keep your hand up if you have problems with kids remembering what you said last week.

Keep your hand up if you have problems with kids remembering what you said yesterday.

Keep your hand up if you have problems with kids remembering what you said at the beginning of class.

Keep your hand up if you have problems with kids remembering what you said five minutes ago.

I bet your hand is getting a mite bit tired.

Of particular interest--and just a tad bit insulting--was a comment made by Jacqueline Rodriguez who serves as the program director for one of these simulated programs and who also is a doctoral student at a Florida university. She also is a former Teach For America veteran.

"My question was," Ms. Rodriguez said, "were they (the program's avatars) going to respond like students I've taught before, or were they going to be like kids in suburbia--very vanilla and easygoing? They weren't," she said.

Hmmmmmm. "Vanilla and easygoing?"

As a veteran teacher who has taught in a variety of schools including Ms. Rodriguez' "vanilla" ones, I just have one observation to make:

With comments like that, we don't need the Mayans to ring the doomsday bell for public education.

Check back here on Wednesday, January 12 for the Education Buzz Carnival.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year's Resolutions, Yearbook Disasters & Flying Pigs

Only a few days into the New Year and already I lack the energy to come up with my annual list of lies that I euphemistically call "Richie's New Year's Resolutions."

I looked at my post from last year, and sadly, I apparently failed at just about each and every one.

Lose that extra weight? Nope.

Stress less? Nope.

Become more of an optimistic naysayer?

Well, let's just say that one is a work-in-progress, which is just another creative way for me to spell f-a-i-l-u-r-e.

I suppose at some point I should just give up this attempt at self-improvement and optimisim and quit trying to be that something I'm not. I'll never be Miss Susie Sunshine with rose colored glasses. You'll never find me sitting around the ol' camp fire, holding hands with strangers and singing "Kumbaya." All of that stands about as much of a chance of happening as dear ol' Oprah reading my book and asking me to appear on her new network.
When pigs fly, my dear, when pigs fly.

However, for a fleeting nano-second, I did take a stab at optimism. What few warm fuzzy feelings I had vaporized when, after only a few days into the New Year, we continued to remain weeks behind on our yearbook pages. As if that wasn't bad enough, the computer program we use opted to flash those nifty little "fatal error" messages which pretty much stopped all work.

Good thing I have my yearbook rep on speed dial--the number 6. (I'll let you ponder the significance of equating yearbook with that number.)

After a brief conversation where we established (1) I wasn't happy and (2) the software developers were morons, Mr. No. 6-On-My-Speed-Dial said he would send out their new technology whiz kid speedy quick to fix my problem.

Mr. No. 6-On-My-Speed-Dial (whom I've known 20-something years) made me promise to be nice to the new guy.

I'll just add that to my New Year's laundry list of hopes, promises and lies.

And while we're waiting to see how that goes, I think I'll just start back up my Big Fat Stupid Head timer.