Thursday, January 31, 2008

Welcome JEA & Dallas Morning News bloggers!

A big hideeho welcome to all my Journalism Education Association & Dallas Morning News Education blog surfers who decided to test the waters and venture here after reading my column in Journalism Today or hitting the DMN link. To help get you started, here are a few of my favorite posts– “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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

156 Carnival of Education

Step right up and drop on in to the 156 Carnival of Education hosted by Creating Lifelong Learners for all that’s new and interesting in the EduSphere. My submission “Afghanistan, Channeling Forrest Gump and Uh-Oh” was included, but you don’t have to go there to read it here. But you really should check out the Carnival–it’s guaranteed to have something to grab your interest.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Afghanistan, Channeling Forrest Gump & Uh-Oh

I believe Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby coined the phrase “Kids say the darndest things” and that pretty much has been my week. Let’s just hit the high points (or low points) depending upon whether you’re one of those people who look at the glass as half full or half empty. I’ve got to warn you, though, you probably ought to sit down for this. I guess in our crisis rating scale we can call these “situations.”

Situation #1…
I was showing photograph #15 from the Washington Post to my photojournalism class, and I was pointing out composition elements (yes, with my rubber chicken) and reading the caption, “A boy carries jars of water in Kabul, Afghanistan…”

In the background were three women wearing burkas.

“What are those women wearing?” one student asked.

“I think they’re called burkas,” I said.

“Why are they wearing them?” the student asked.

“Because they have to. It’s part of their culture…” I said.

“Well, I wouldn’t,” the student said.

“Yeah, you would,” someone else piped in.

“No, I wouldn’t,” the student said.

“You’d have to…” I said.

“They’d probably kill you if you didn’t,” someone else chimed in.

“Well, I’d just leave then,” the student said.

“You can’t,” I said trying desperately to turn this into one of those “teachable moments” that we all hear/read about.

“It’s not like in this country where you can just move out of state,” I continued.

“I’d leave any way,” the student said.

“There’s no place to go,” I said.

“I’d go to Iraq,” the student said.

There are lots of things I could have said. All of which I’m pretty sure would fit rather nicely in my “Things That Will Get You Fired” folder. So instead, I was thankful that the room was semi-dark because I think (OK, OK, I’m pretty sure), I reflexively rolled my eyes (something I’ve perfected by hangin’ with my teen-angst peeps), sighed and thought it best to just change the slide and move on.

Situation #2
And speaking of moving on, I just wanted everyone to know that I attended a meeting (one of many this past week) in which the concept of self esteem (or self of steam as love to call it) reared its ugly head. And, to my credit, not once did I launch into my YMCA-Yoda-speech. (Now that could be because it’s all a part of that kinder, gentler me, or perhaps it was because my “Things That Will Get You Fired” folder is getting bigger. You decide.) Of course all this pent-up stress, according to my publications staffers, has caused me to sporadically channel Forrest Gump’s voice while on newspaper deadline this week. I’m not quite sure how that happened.

But somehow, just somehow, I don’t think that’s a very good thing. Makes me wonder how long my counter (located on the right sidebar) will keep ticking.

Situation #3
Now that I’m through with our Issue #4 deadline, I tried to get caught up on the goings on in the real world.

I had an “Uh-Oh” moment.

The Lewisville district attorney’s office decided not to prosecute a 7th grader who got in all kinds of trouble for picking up his teacher’s bottle of hand sanitizer, rubbing the gel on this hands and smelling it–or rather apparently inhaling it “heavily.” (You can read the story here.) Apparently there are dimwits out there beyond my little world that think drinking hand sanitizer is f-u-n. (“Hey, bro, forget the tequila, how about a shot of that Black Raspberry Vanilla Hand Sanitizer? Or that Brown Sugar Fig?” Jeez, Louise, what’s next?)

It was an Uh-Oh moment because I have some rather nice smelling Bath & Body Works lotion on my desk for kids to use. And, I must say, the kids do smell it. Hails Bails, they probably inhale it heavily. But that’s lotion, so I guess it doesn’t count.

It was also an Uh-Oh moment because there is that cute little bottle of Aveda blue oil. You know, the one I have in my top drawer, just above and to the left of the drawer that houses the “Things That Will Get You Fired” folder.

The $12.50 blue oil is one of those natural stress-relieving oils that, as the Aveda site says, helps “dissolve tension and raise energy levels with the balancing aromas of refreshing peppermint and soothing blue camomile.” The site also says to “breathe in the aroma deeply.”


My news editor and editor-in-chief became instant fans–or addicts.

See what I mean.


I’m thinking I might need to move that bottle down and to the right…

Yep, right into that “Things” folder.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

155 Carnival of Education

The 155 Carnival of Education is up on the midway and ready for you to sample offerings from the EduSphere. This carnival is hosted by The Median Sib. My submission “Semester Exemptions, Counting Computers & Singing Kanye West (Again)” was included, but you don’t have to go there to read it here.

I really don’t have time to chat about the carnival because–yes, you guessed it–we are in the midst of newspaper deadline so I’ve gotta go before someone (that would be me) sets their hair on fire.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Semester Exemptions, Counting Computers & Singing Kanye West (Again)

The semester ended this week, and with it, came all the frenzy drama you would expect–trying to figure out test exemptions: exempt if passing and only one unexcused absence or with an 85 average and two unexcused absences or no more than six tardies because two tardies count as an unexcused absence and don’t forget the 5 point deduction for each tardy on the high school participation grade, then do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around.

Do you see why my head still hurts? I think it exploded and some of the important gray matter stuff leaked out–especially the part in the brain cortex that deals with patience.

Jeez Louise. I swear I started singing, “…Take this hatersN-n-now th-that that don't kill me Can only make me stronger…” I would have sang all of that Kanye West song, but those of you who have been following my blog know that that particular song is filed in my “Things that will get you fired” folder.

Of course, all of this was mixed in with the steady stream of yearbook pages that came due. And naturally, we’re in the midst of another newspaper deadline, plus we have to start recruiting for next year’s staff, and then, why not throw in an evaluation walk-through… but, OMG, I’m starting to whine.

So let’s just sum up my week with this little narrative, anecdotal ditty…

I’m on the phone talking to the head of the technology department about upgrading our software when he asked how many computers we needed licensing for. About that time, one of the yearbook section editors walked in so I asked him to go into the publications room and the photo lab to count the computers.

“Do you want me to count all of them,” he shouted from the adjoining room.

“Oh my gosh,” I yelled back, “No, just count half of them, or better yet, why not just count all the ones on the right side. Jeez Louise.”

Of course, the technology director tried unsuccessfully to muffle his laughter.

“You see now why my world is like the Amelia Bedelia of teaching? Do ya see now?” I asked somewhat exasperated.

After that little incident, I thought I’d try something that guaranteed some level of success and a mild feeling of accomplishment–I started to print all of next semester’s rosters so I would be ready to go next week. (OK, OK, so it was a vain attempt to appear somewhat organized.) And, oh dear, there it was on my class rolls, right there, out of nowhere, sandwiched between my sections of yearbook and newspaper–Technical Theater I.

Hmmmm. Well, hails bails, I’ve never taught theater before although I do act out from time to time.

I must admit for just a fleeting moment or two I did think about how much fun I could have parading around in all those costumes. (Come on now, is that such a stretch? Geewillikers, have you forgotten I have the tiara? Still, I don’t think the wearing of a tiara qualifies one as a “highly qualified” teacher, do you? And, I’m pretty sure I have a hammer stashed around here somewhere.)

For a second (OK, OK, maybe a minute or so), I gave it some thought before I emailed our counselors about the scheduling glitch.

Perhaps, I was a bit hasty. Once we get off newspaper deadline next week, I’ll let you know if maybe, just maybe, I should have kept that costume option. I think running around the building incognito could actually have had some advantages. Now, if I can just find that hammer…

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Update on Code K and Porn In The Printer

Special thanks to everyone who left comments about “Nightmares, Bad Things & Code K” both on-site and off-site. Some of them were hilarious.

Quick update… my district’s crackerjack tech department identified the porn printer perpetrator (don’t ya just love alliteration?), and he will be duly punished and my kiddos have been duly vindicated. I knew the porn printer perpetrator (try saying that fast five times) could not have been one of my students (although there were some naysayingsheswhoshallnotbenamedtypes who insinuated otherwise).

The said porn printer perpetrator (I’m on a roll now) was a student I never, ever had and the crime was committed elsewhere in the school building where my networked printer could be accessed.

The tech guys tracked down the porn printer perpetrator in less than 24 hours. Kudos. Kudos. Kudos. Dance of Joy. Dance of Joy. Dance of Joy.

Now the administrators have the icky task of sorting through the porn for the disciplinary case. Perhaps that task needs to be added to my “Why It Sucks To Be Me (Or You)” List. (And, yes, I do have such a list. Perhaps I will post it soon.)

Tip of the Day… At this point, I believe I am the only person who has ever baked cookies for the tech people and said thank you for their thankless jobs. After all, most of us are frustrated with technology by the time we need the tech guys and aren’t very pleasant or polite (go figure). But I, well, I have found my cookies and niceness (oh, is that really so hard to believe? Jeez) tends to get me a speedy quick response…especially chocolate chip cookies… homemade, not those frozen things… with pecans… ummmmm… well, that, and porn in the printer will get a quick response every time.

154 Carnival of Education

Roll out the red carpet… Lights, Action, Camera… the 154 Carnival of Education has arrived hosted by the charming Eduwonkette. This one promises to deliver spec-ta-cu-lar musings from around the EduSphere. My submission “Nightmares, Bad Things & Code K” received the “Saturday Night Live Would Be Proud” award. But you don’t have to go there, to read it here. Sharing the stage with me is Ms. Frizzle for her post, “That’s My Pen! A play in three acts…”

There’s lots of other good stuff to read, but don’t just take my word, head on over there.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Nightmares, Bad Things & Code K

This probably will make my yearbook rep shriek, but I have decided that most of the bad things that happen to me can somehow be connected to yearbook.

Ask any yearbook adviser and they will tell you that they have awaken in a cold sweat, in the middle of the night, gasping for air and none of it had anything to do with hot flashes, but rather some twisted nightmare regarding page 132, a correction or placeholder text.

Jeez, I get all queasy just thinking about it. I even went into labor while on a yearbook deadline (Oh stop it now, my daughter was a good thing, but the labor was a bad thing.) I could go on and on about this theory of mine, but let’s just fast forward to the most recent incident. It offers, perhaps, the best example.

I stayed after school (again) with one of the yearbook editors to correct page proofs and get them ready to send to the plant. I was just putting the finishing touches on page 211 while the section editor went to retrieve the corrected versions from our fancy, schmancy beloved $4,000 networked printer.

“Hey, Mrs. Richtsmeier,” he said, “There’s something bad in the printer.”

Now, by bad, I’m thinking things like…

•Oh, the printer finally ran out of cyan and is only printing in MYK.
•Or, some idiot (that would be me) forgot to change the percentage to 75 so the page ran off the paper.

But then I heard him say… “It’s something really bad…”

OK, so that got my attention. Anytime a child tosses an adverb in with an adjective, well, that’s worth checking out. So I got up to have a look-see.

Now, by really bad, I’m thinking things like…

•Oh, there’s a dead cockroach, or perhaps a mouse, in the printer.

•Or, the magenta ink cartridge blew up and there’s pink ink everywhere.

I took the stack of papers from his hand and flipped through them… yearbook page, yearbook page, yearbook page, yearbook page, email, porn, porn…

Yep, there in CMYK color was Porn 1 and Porn 2.

Now, I’d like to point out there’s never been an in-service that quite prepares you for that sort of thing. Most normal people (non-educators) would have shrieked out a few expletives, but I rather calmly said, “Oh my goodness, hurry up and get an adminstrator.”

While I waited for him to return with an administrator in tow, I wondered how long it would take the tech guys to trace the offending items back through the district network maze to its point of origin. In the meantime, though, I realized I really needed to devise some type of warning hierarchy because “really bad” really didn’t cut it. So I’ve developed a color-coded, user friendly warning plan–the CMYK early warning system. Now, remember boys and girls, hold regular drills, be at the ready and don’t forget to practice those emergency voices…

The CMYK Early Warning System
Code Cyan…Since it’s blue, this deals only with sad things like a yearbook page is torn, a typo was discovered, an ad wasn’t sold.

Code Magenta…A pinkish code should cover only embarrassing things such as bad hair day photos, photos that make someone look fat or a quote that makes someone sound, uh well, dumb.

Code Yellow…This one deals with queasy things such as when pages 40 and 41 won’t open because the file has been corrupted or no one photographed the last game of the season or pages 252 to 264 are missing.

Code K…A code with only an initial should be reserved for things so bad, so heinous, we’re talking meltdown mode. Only three things merit a Code K designation: (1) acts of murder (2) a biohazard where hazmat appears on the scene or (3) porn in the printer.

I guess we’ll start practicing tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The 153 Education Carnival is Up

The new Carnival of Education is out hosted at a new blog site by the Columbus Education Association. I had a chance to take a peek a few submissions before I had to dash to get ready for work. I particularly liked Mr. Teacher’s suggestions for shows to fill in the gaps created by the writer’s strike especially the Counter Plagiarism Unit. The Eduwonkette had an insightful piece about “Do Schools Matter?” My submission on “Weather Forecasters, Climate Control & Emails” was also featured, but you don’t have to go there to read it here.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Weather forecasters, climate control & emails

Unlike most schools, mine started back Wednesday, Jan. 2 on a day that was cold by Texas standards–I awoke a frosty 23 degrees with the high topping out at an official 43 degrees. The next day offered little relief with a chilly 46 degrees.

Now, just in case you’re wondering why I’m turning in to the educational version of meteorologist Kristine Kahanek, hang with me a moment. It’s important to understand that it was, well, cold outside. So when I parked my trusty blue mini-van into my parking spot, gathered up all the stuff I didn’t work on over the Christmas break and dashed (OK, maybe not dashed, but at least speed-walked) into the building, the expectation was for some semblance of warmth.

Silly me.

Baby, it was cold inside. I complained several times during the day, and when I left for the evening, all I could do was hope for the best the next day.

Silly me.

When I arrived Thursday, it was really cold inside–as in coat-wearing cold. Keep those mittens on cold. Rudolph-my-nose-is-red cold.

And, not only was it cold, the blower was blowing. And, it was blowing in cold air (You were expecting something different?).

Now, please understand, that I have an optimum productivity temperature window. It’s somewhere between 70 and 75. Anything else, well, makes me a bit grumpy. OK, maybe lots grumpity. After all, it’s really difficult to perform a variety of teacher tasks with gloves on. (You try it.) Typing doesn’t work well… so that pretty much eliminates taking roll and entering grades. Passing out papers becomes a monumental task.

Never one to suffer in silence, I did what any self-respecting journalism adviser would do. I tossed off the gloves, whipped out an e-mail and hit “send all.”

Here’s what I sent (and yes, it’s word-for-word)…

I’m really not sure what I’ve done or who I have offended, but I just wanted everyone to know that it shouldn’t have been a surprise that I showed up for work yesterday (it was on the district calendar after all), so I don’t really understand why the rooms in the 400 wing were so cold we had to wear coats and gloves. Didn’t Hal the computer brain not know that we were here?

Ok, so I complained yesterday. I arrive today. Room 420 has blowing air. And I do mean BLOWING–as in my hair actually is wind blown INSIDE. I wouldn’t really care except the air is COLD. It’s JANUARY. I was hoping for some heat. The air is also blowing in room 421. It’s COLD too. Room 424 seems OK. I’m not entirely sure about the art rooms. I’m stuck frozen to my seat so I’m hoping my buddies are OK there. At least they have chisels.

So, back to the problem at hand… If I have offended Hal the computer god, I am so sorry and will sacrifice whatever I need to. Although I am fond of them, just let me know how many students are required. I’m basically a good person. I show up for work on time, pay my taxes, I love animals and I’m a good cook. I’ve even made a few more friends this year. To my knowledge, there’s only about four–OK maybe five–grumpy pants here that hate me. And, as far as I know, they are not in cohoots with Hal.

Will someone save me?


Of course, not much was done although someone somewhere did stop the blower from blowing about five hours after my email, but only after my not-so-coiffed hair resembled Medusa. I did, however, get quite a few responses from other teachers. Here’s a sampling…

From the Helpful advice category…
Hal is trying to flush you out of the airlock. That was not “blowing” air; it was air being sucked into the vacuum of space. Tie yourself to something and hope for the best.

From the We’re-Worse-Off-Than-You category…
Our thermometer in the BAC room is reading 54 degrees.

From the Let’s-Struggle-Through-This category…
The air is cold in the 400 wing and makes working with coats and gloves difficult…Does anyone have an extra pair of thick wool socks, and a blanket or two?

From the Nonny-Nonny-Boo-Boo category…
Crazy–right across the hall in the hidden computer lab it’s Hot, Hot, Hot–we are all wearing our fruit hats and dancing in a conga line! But the kids do seem quite relieved when they come in here to thaw out. Thank you, Hal! Guess he liked my Christmas present!

My students–ever the keen observationists–entered the room asking, “Are you cold?”

Which to my credit and in keeping with my New Year’s resolution, never once did I reply using the phrase, “you big fat stupid head.”

I can hardly wait until Monday. Temperatures are forecasted to be in the mid-70s.

But, you know what that means.

Yep, the heat will be fixed and blowing full-forced, and sadly, my make-up will be pooled on the floor (having melted off my face). And as I jump into the conga line, I will once again ponder how we can put a man on the moon or make a computer chip the size of a white blood cell, but can’t make thermostats work in old, new or gently used public schools anywhere in the country.

It’s not rocket science, but I know my thermostat stands about as much a chance of working as a snowball’s chance in…

Well, you get the picture.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

152 Carnival of Education is Out

Joel over at So You Want to Teach graciously hosted the 152 Carnival of Education. Since I had to go back to work today, sigh, I haven’t had a chance to peruse very many of the submissions, but there’s a lot there that sound really good and I am looking forward to reading them this evening. My submission “Slackers, Inspirations & New Year’s Resolutions” was included, but you don’t have to go there to read it here.