Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rocket Scientists, Testing Schedules & Explosions

testing schedule
So maybe it's just me.

Maybe the longer I do this teaching thing, the more I become aggravated when seemingly simple tasks like testing somehow evolves into something more and more complex and difficult to understand.

I think it would be easier to learn Mandarin Chinese.

Or, memorize and play all of Bach's Inventions and Sifonias.

Or, become a rocket scientist. (OK, OK, OK, so maybe not a rocket scientist, but at least then I would be able to blow things up. Where's Steve Spangler the Science Guy when I need him?)

Instead, I must deal with this testing schedule for next week. Since it almost made my head explode, I had to write it all out. I just couldn't wrap my brain (what's left of it) around it.

It might as well been something like this… On odd days you'll have even day classes, and only lunch on every third day and then for 23.4 minutes you'll be able to eat your sandwich and go to the restroom all the while watching 25 kids except the ones who aren't testing who will go to the auditorium for an assembly and…and do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around…

Well, you get the picture of the chaos and madness especially for those of us who teach mixed grade level courses. I don't envy those who are forced to coordinate all this testing stuff mandated by the state and figure out a schedule.

But really? Whatever happened to a simple test on one simple day?

Instead, on Thursday we have 9th graders in an assembly, 10th and 11th graders taking the science test while seniors attend a separate assembly and then released for the day. I'm not sure what we're doing about lunch that date because when testing is over, we begin fourth period without lunch and then a backwards schedule of third period, second period and first period for 9th, 10th and 11th graders, but not seniors who were released earlier.

Jeepers creepers, welcome to my world…

Close up of testing schedule

Monday, April 16, 2012

Leon Russell, Kirby Brown & Younger Days

Defining moments. They occur every day, every where. Most of the time we just ignore them and blindly stumble forward.

Mine occur in weird places always with an ironic twist.

Such was the case Sunday night. I along with Karen, my BFF of 37 years, went to go see Leon Russell at a the Granada Theater, a small music venue in Dallas. Some of you may recall our last incident involving Leon.

This time I had secured front row seats, but sadly, when we entered the parking lot, Leon was nowhere to be found–probably still scarred and/or scared from last year.
Kirby Brown

OK, so back to defining moments. I was particularly excited to hear Kirby Brown. My favorite tech guy at school (who incidentally is young enough to be a child of mine) told me a buddy of his played in the band.

I did what all good teachers and moms do. I googled and discovered I really liked the band. While I loved the music (purchasing a half dozen songs on iTunes), I loved the fact that Kirby apparently can read. 

According to the bio on his web site, Kirby said he was "weaned on Twain and Whitman, became a man with The Stones on the radio."
(So for all you English teachers out there reading this, the Twain and Whitman thing should be enough to make you run speedy quick to purchase at least one song.)

This is someone you could actually carry on a conversation with–in complete sentences (which btw, I did). And if that's not enough to make you go buy his music (and don't you think it ought to be?), his CD, Child of Calamity, takes its name from Twain's Huckleberry Finn.

So I'm sitting on the front row with the rest of the older set listening to Kirby Brown while waiting for Leon (a tough crowd for any young band–picture all these old people just waiting and waiting and waiting and drinking and drinking and drinking). Seated to the right of me was a woman claiming to be "a Leon Russell fan for life" who followed him from a show in Tulsa. (I decided NOT to tell her about the parking lot incident of last year fearing it might result in fisticuffs.)

When Kirby was finished, I commented to the safer woman sitting to the left of Karen how great the "kid" was as well as the rest of the "boys" in the band, and how I hoped they would be successful.
She, too, commented about how great the "kids" were and said that anyone of "those boys" could be her son who was somewhere in New Mexico pursuing his dream of being a musician. Taos, I think she said.

I later told my BFF how ironic it was that 37 years ago, these "boys" would have been hot musicians to us, and we wouldn't have needed any encouragement to get up and dance. (Hails bails, I would have gotten up on the table in my younger years, but at 55 years old, there's just something inherently icky about dancing in front of someone who's young enough to be your son.)

Somewhere along the way, I got old. But that's OK. I may not dance on the table, but 37 years later, I can look at those kids with a sense of school teacher pride, inwardly cheering them on. Yes, I am hoping they will be successful, but it will not be the success that defines them.

Those of us who have jumped over the 50 mile marker of our lives know the importance of pursuing dreams. It's not the outcome that defines us; it's the pursuit that changes us, and ultimately, defines our success in life.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

If bad writing somehow becomes transferable, I fear my blog posts will go something like this…
See Richie. See Richie run. See Richie run screaming. See Richie run screaming with her hair on fire.

Or, maybe it would go something like this…

Like, see Richie, like run far. Like fast, you know. Like really, really fast.

But I think I'm more concerned about stupid things being contagious. These are just a few things that crossed my path recently and that no one caught but me…

•Like, did you know that famed composer Debussy's first name is Prelude? Me either.

•And apparently, "surprise" is spelled "suprise." I change it to surprise on the newspaper page, and the next time I read the page, it says suprise. I change it back to surprise. And, you know, you guessed it, SURPRISE! It's changed back to suprise. Wow, what a big surprise or suprise. I'd blame Gomer Pyle for his drawl on his famous, "Surprise, surprise, surprise…" line, but but these kids have no clue who that is.

(Years and years ago, I had a kid who was so convinced that a lot was one word, not two, that he added alot to the spell checker dictionary.)

•And then, of course, I got this little ditty the other day when we were working on feature writing in one of my classes. I told the kids to write a lead (first paragraph of a story) that "set the stage." Here was one of those attempts…

"Camping.The wonderful sense of the great outdoors. Getting to laugh and spend time with friends. Not to mention all the great wildlife. All the way from squirrels to giant black bears, mauling the face of Leaguetown's own Cooper Black."

I emailed it to my BFF and fellow teacher.

Her only reply: "Just one question. Were the squirrels mauling him, too? Those are some vicious squirrels!"

To which, I replied that I do believe I would rather be mauled by a pack of vicious squirrels than to continue reading all this bad writing.

See Richie. See pack of vicious squirrels. See squirrels maul Richie… The End

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Is this the day to set one's hair on fire?

While this may not have been the day that I set my hair on fire and ran screaming from the building, I thought about it.

Quite a bit.

In fact, a lot.

But that doesn’t really tell you much, so let’s quantify that.

This flaming thought whooshed through my mind faster than a west Texas grassfire. It was enough to make me crank up the volume on my latest favorite song by Kirby Brown, “No…My Generation” in order to drown out the voices of the those kiddos not working in the next room.

My sticker
It was enough to make me half-smile at the irony of this particular sticker affixed to my computer.

And it was more than enough to ponder the sanity of keeping a box of matches in my top left drawer.

And it was certainly enough to make me search for that letter I received from the University of Alabama in a last ditch effort to reminded me once again why I do this teaching thing.

But sadly I’m not sure that’s even enough any more.

I almost didn’t open the packet, thinking it was just another batch of recruiting stuff that I really didn’t want to clutter my desk. But I did open the package because I never throw away something without taking at least a tiny peekeroo.

The packet had some nifty cards with interesting photographs and envelopes that I could use. The tossed the cards into the clutter on my desk, and the letter was headed for the trash can, but I decided to quickly scan it before tossing it away. You just never know when there might be a prize for a free trip to Barbados hidden in there.

The beginning of the letter was a bit unusual, so I read the rest and discovered that my newspaper editor from last year named me as a teacher who contributed the most to her success.

That letter stopped me from setting my hair on fire. It was enough to make me come back to teach another day. And, hopefully it will be enough to provide a bridge to cross through the rest of the semester into the summer.

Unfortunately, it didn’t solve the gajillion problems I have had with this year’s newspaper and yearbook staffs and other "things."

And no, it didn’t fix the craziness that surrounds me or filters out what those in my wing fondly refer to as the “stupid air” that seems to swirl around us. 
My top left desk drawer

And no, it didn’t stop my latest flurry of detentions and office referrals. And no, it didn’t make me throw away my box of matches. They remain tucked not-so-neatly in my top left hand desk drawer.

But my hair isn’t on fire and I showed up for work today and that ought to count for something.

We know for the most part teachers have a thankless job and that’s OK. But sometimes it’s nice to get that thanks especially on those set-your-hair-on-fire kind of days, or in my case, those set-your-hair-on-fire kind of years.

So even though it was a form letter probably sent to a gajillion teachers, I think much of what was written in it applies to so many teachers. So let’s assume your letter got lost in the mail (along with that free trip to Barbados we’re all still waiting for). So, if you have been struggling to find a reason to finish out the year, this is for you…

 “Such is the work of the great teacher, to bring coherence and the perception of beauty out of it, if not chaos, yet the fragmentation that is common reality. This is the application of insight to outsight. Again and again students coming to our Honors College speak of the high school teachers who have changed their lives by enabling them to change a view of the world. They say they could always understand the poems, complete the experiments, solve the problems, but those great teachers brought them to possession of the coherent beauty of literature, science or, especially, mathematics. These are the teachers who have provided the “Aha!,” the “Voila!,” the “Eureka!,” the [light bulb moment]! Teachers such as you.”

So put down that match and live to keep your hair another day.   

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Un-April Fool's Edition of the Education Buzz--Life's a Carnival

Welcome to the Un-April Fool's Edition of the Education Buzz–Life's a Carnival, an eclectic smattering of things buzzing about the EduSphere. This ain't no joke. No siree, Missy. 

Howie chomping on erasers
Howard the Shelter Cat wasn't much help with putting together this carnival edition unless, of course, you count chewing off the erasers on all the pencils in my pencil box or smacking my hand every once in while as I typed.

Thank goodness the carnival submission form was back up and running (finally). So step on in and see what's been buzzing about in the EduSphere…

Even if you don't teach English, you should read Mazenko's post on "Fear the Use of No Fear Shakespeare" over at Mazenglish.  The main point crosses the curriculum: Teachers should be the study guide.

Is there a test student's need to fail? See what Joanne Jacobs says about that.

Larry Cuban  takes on a big challenge tackling the question of whether technology in schools actually work. And, in spite of the sales pitch, this post about how technology "cannot replace student or teacher teamwork" is worth looking at because it sort of willy-nilly fits with Cuban's post and the next one from Old Andrew.

Our buddy from across the pond, Old Andrew from Scenes From the Battleground takes exception to another post that believes students should have more of a say in education. Find out why Old Andrew views himself as more of a teacher, instead of a butler.

Phillip at Writing to Comprehend addresses the brouhaha (gotta love that word) over the Hunger Games and charges of racism among fans. Hmmmmm, interesting.

OMG, Darren over at Right on the Left Coast shares a secret with us. My head almost exploded, but it's worth sorting through such words as hyperbolas, eigenvalues and antiderivative. (Personal comment here: Am I the only person on the planet that doesn't know what those things are? Did I ever know what they were? Or, is that the part of my brain that erased when I crammed too much stuff in there.) Well, hop on over there and see what he has to say.

Pat over at Successful Teaching has come to the unscientific conclusion that nice people live longer and mean people get their comeuppance earlier. 

You better read "If You Didn't Earn It, You Don't Deserve It" before you ask Jane Goodwin over at Scheiss Weekly to give you a trophy just for showing up.

Need a little humor? Head on over to Mr. Teacher over at Learn Me Good finds out about the No Stray Marks incident. No joke.

And be sure you read my latest post, "Spring Break, Yearbooks & Floods." Or, if you've been following my "Frying In My Own Fat Weight Loss Challenge" head on over to my fitness blog

Well, that's it for this edition of the Un-April Fool's Edition of the Education Buzz–Life's a Carnival. If you find a broken link, please let me know at We'll blame Howard and all his "help" for that. If you would like to host an edition of the Education Buzz, let me know that as well.

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

And, if I did, my apologies.