Wednesday, May 28, 2008

173rd Carnival of Education

Today’s the day (Wednesday)… and not just the day for handing out yearbooks… The 173rd Carnival of Education is out and hosted by Mrs. Bluebird. As always, it’s a smorgasbord of all the goings on in the EduSphere. Lots of good stuff. My post on “Spellings Bees, Yearbook Fumes & Livin’ Large” made the cut, but you don’t have to go there to read it here.

Once--or should I say IF--I get through yearbook distribution today, I’ll try to list some of my favorite reads over at the carnival. Until then, hop on over there and read a post or two or three.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Spelling Bees, Yearbook Fumes & Livin’ Large

As we speedy quick approach the end of the school year, I glanced through my half-finished, half-baked drafts of posts I started but got sidetracked and didn’t complete. (Kind of like all those lists I keep starting and losing and starting). So I’ve pieced together a montage for you to peruse. Hopefully, one of these little tidbits will spark a smile or two at a time of the year when things are so hectic.

Newspaper Deadlines & the Synchronized Spelling Bees

A conversation during our final newspaper deadline…

“Hey, quick, someone spell ‘competition’ for me. It just doesn’t look right.”

Pizza Andy & Jessica simultaneously & in perfect harmony… “Competition. C-O-M-P-E-T-I-T-I-O-N. Competition.”

One of them… “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if they had a synchronized spelling bee contest? You know, like synchronized swimming?”

Me… “What?”

Pizza Andy & Jessica simultaneously and in perfect harmony “Booger. B-O-O-G-E-R. Booger.”

Me & My Newspaper Editor Katelyn… simultaneously and in perfect harmony rolling our eyes.

Yearbook update…

So-o-o-o my 1,200 plus yearbooks arrived right on time––all 70+some gazillion boxes packed full of student greatness. I spent the entire week sorting them and threatening children. (I think the print fumes got to me.)

I even snapped at my unbelievably fab-u-lous newspaper editor Katelyn. I don’t think I’ve ever snapped at her. Yelled at, maybe, but snapped at? I don’t think so. Sigh. Print fumes.

We had only one little glitch where some guy or gal manning the presses didn’t quite get the trimline right so the printer instructions remained along the bottom of the page in some of the books. I told my amazing yearbook rep that it wouldn’t have bothered me… except it was Page 1… you know, the title page… and well, the printer instructions also said, “DESTROY.”

Let’s synchronize spell that…all together now…simultaneously and in perfect harmony…

“Destroy. D-E-S-T-R-O-Y. Destroy.”

Not exactly the kind of message one wants one to have when one opens one’s yearbook.

Well, needless to say, the problem got fixed speedy quick, but all that got me to thinking (never a good thing), and I suggested to my rep that maybe those little printer instructions should be written in some sort of code so that if it happens again, it won’t matter--especially if it says things like…
No wait… we probably ought to leave that last one out.

My California Trip & Livin’ Large

OK, OK, OK so I know I didn’t have to fly the 1400 or so miles to California to be living large. (Actually all I have to do is turn around and see my backside.) Nevertheless, most of you know that I recently went to the west coast for a few fun-filled days celebrating the turning 50 milestone for my two BFFs. (My third BFF was stuck on the east coast mumbling something about having to administer AP tests. Sheesh.)

At any rate, we had a fab-u-lous time pretending to be rich old ladies at the spa on the beach at Monterey and then later knocking around San Francisco. I decided that my overall disposition would improve exponentially if only I could begin each and every day with a walk on this beach…
…and, of course, have an hour massage.

One final note… I traveled first class, and on the way back, I sipped my complimentary Mimosa and played with the controls on my nifty seat that adjusted everywhere…legs, back, head. Heck, I could even recline to a sleeping position if I were so inclined.

But I’m sad to report I was afraid to because, as I said before, I started messing with all those controls (and you were expecting more of me? Oh, come now), and somehow I managed to get my legs too high and the back of my seat so askew that I had to put my nifty sanitized little airline pillow behind me.

And speaking of sanitized pillows, I even had my own sanitized blanket (shrink-wrapped in plastic no less) assuring me that no germs lived there. No Siree buddy, all those germs were in the back of the plane jumping around on those non-sanitized, unwrapped red blankets. You know the ones I’m talkin’ about. Can I get an “Amen” brothers and sisters?

Who knew flying first class was so much fun?

Now, least you think that my school district pays me way too much in my little southern suburb south of the big D, rest assured that this little flight cost me all my airline mileage points. Points racked up–not because I’m a jet set traveler–but because of the year’s worth of groceries I ate and charged to my credit card in order to get those airline miles. It’s no wonder I have a livin’ large backside.

Oh yeah, baby, I’m Mrs. Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous… no wait, that’s Brittany Spears


OK, so enough of that nonsense…Here’s looking forward to summer.

Let’s synchronize spell that…all together now…simultaneously and in perfect harmony…


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

172 Carnival of Education

The 172 Carnival of Education, hosted by Teacher in a Strange Land, is out. You can go there to see what’s buzzing around in the EduSphere. Since I am up to my elbows in sorting my 1200 yearbooks for distribution, you’ll just have to go there yourself and see what interests you. My submission, “Spring Yearbooks, the 6 o’clock News and Not It,” was included. But you don’t have to go there, to read it here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Spring Yearbooks, the 6 o’clock News & Not It

You would think that after completing our last newspaper deadline, I could breathe a sigh of relief, kick my shoes off, sit on the couch, eat some bon-bons and watch mindless television.

Instead, I live in fear.

It’s May.

And, that means only one thing…

Yearbook delivery for spring yearbooks--and newscasters regaling yearbook disasters and mishaps across the country with live news reports at 5 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 10 o’clock. And, of course, just in case you missed it, stories posted at nano-speed across the internet.

It’s enough to make your head spin around faster than Linda Blair in the Exorcist.

“NOT IT, NOT IT, NOT IT!” I find myself screaming (like my students often do when I ask someone to do something), hoping that that little mantra will somehow save me from a yearbook catastrophe.

Every year it’s always something, somewhere. One high school located nearby was IT for two consecutive years--once for some inappropriate ad copy and once for inappropriate placeholder text. Other yearbook advisers have been chastised for allowing inappropriate content and/or photographs. Of course, that’s just the stuff that makes the news.

So far in my area this year, McKinney High School got to be IT and not in a very fun way with almost 600 of its yearbook photos altered by the photography company--with girls’ heads over there on boys’ bodies and boys’ heads on girls’ bodies and necks stretched, arms missing and outfits altered--all like a bad version of Scarecrow Gone Wild in the Wizard of Oz (“First they took my legs off and they threw them over there! Then they took my chest out and they threw it over there!”)

I’m still a bit foggy as to how almost 600 photos get altered and no one in the production/proof process notices it. Scary, huh? It certainly scares the bejeebers out of me.

Here’s a few tips I have for keeping under the radar and off the 6 o’clock news…

Richie’s Tips For Staying Out Of The News

Tip #5…
Anytime a staffer thinks it’s a great idea to put some sort of background as a graphic element to a page, warning bells should ring (and not the Bells of St. Mary’s either). Read all words and look at the background with a magnifying glass. They’re counting on your poor, aging eye sight or lack of street sense to run something by you…And it’s exactly the kind of thing that belongs in my “Things That Will Get You Fired” folder. (You know, the one located in my right hand desk drawer.)

Tip #4…
Beware of drop caps or big Initial letters. They probably spell something (and not a very Good something either). For instance, A student oftentimes Tries to write Something They Usually find Pretty funny but Inappropriate. Your Principal, of course, will fail to Have any sense of humor regarding this matter. Everyone, of course, will blame you, And want to Deliver and sacrifice you to the journalism gods.

Tip #3…
Avoid slang wherever possible… unless of course, is your new BFF, but that would mean that you would have to be able to access it. Otherwise, I can guarantee that your day will be worse than a really bad fuel day.

Tip #2…
When proofing pages, always read all names out loud to avoid the inclusion of bogus names that phonetically sound like bad words when combined with regular names. I’ll just give you one example–and only partially, after all, this is a PG site–that happened to a veteran adviser friend of mine years ago–Meoffe. Enough said.

And finally, drum roll-pah-leese, my No. 1 recommendation is…

Tip #1…
Remind your staffers that when they’re proofing pages if they notice someone’s arm missing or a guy’s head on a girl’s body, well, they just might want to say something to someone.

In the meantime…


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

171st Carnival of Education

The 171st Carnival of Education is up. You can check it out by going there. There’s a lot of good stuff for you to peruse if you choose and want to know what’s buzzing around the EduSphere.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Andy Warhol, My Pink Dress & MTV

Ever since Andy Warhol made his comment about 15 minutes of fame, people spend their lives grasping for that moment.

Me? Well, I run the other way. (OK so maybe I wouldn’t if Ed McMahon appeared at my front door and I probably wouldn’t skedaddle if Stacy and Clinton came waving that $5,000 Visa card to go shopping in the Big Apple—although I would hide my comfy clothes and that pink dress of mine.)

So you’re probably wondering what Andy Warhol and that dress have to do with anything. Well, a few months ago an email circulated from MTV producers offering newspaper staffs the thrill of applying for the second season of the music network’s new reality show aptly entitled, “The Paper.”

I made the mistake of wondering out loud about it. “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, MTV, blah, blah, blah,” I said.

The word “MTV” sure got their attention.

The kids begged.

“No,” I said.

The kids cajoled.

“Absolutely not,” I said.

The kids whined.

I wavered not.

I envisioned my 15 minutes involving my pink dress and a bad hair day.

Picture this…

Here’s me on deadline asking, “Did you wake up this morning and say to yourself, ‘Ohhhh, I think I want to be mediocre today?’ Did ya? No? Well, ya better go rewrite that story then.”

Over there would be an editor yelling something about stupidheads–big fat ones at that.

And someone else in the room would definitely be out of dress code—a heinous crime for the nine gajillion viewers times one supervising appraiser to see. (My appraiser, of course.)

And, the room? Well, you probably can guess what that looks like. Jeez Louise.

So I put that email in my “Things That Will Get You Fired” folder located in my bottom right-hand drawer and wondered what’s next? –A reality show called “The Yearbook”?

Psssst… I won’t tell the yearbook staffers if you don’t.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

170th Carnival of Education

Last week was our big test-taking TAKS week here in the Lone Star state, but wouldn’t you know it there was lots of buzz throughout the EduSphere over tests, cheating and testy teachers.

Lucky me, I got to babysit part of the time and then administer the test the other two days. I’d tell you about it, but this stuff is so supersecret even CIA supersleuthes can’t crack it, and if I divulged any of this, well, I’d have to pull your liver out your nose.

So since the world appears to be in a test-taking frenzy, let’s just go with the flow here and use the test-takers motif. (And, for those non-literary types, I semi-sort of have a serious alliteration thing going, too. See how easily amused I am? Oh, and yes, I ripped the test idea from Mr. Teacher’s last week’s post “Are You More Cynical Than A Third Grader.”)

OK, OK, OK, let’s cut out the shenanigans and seriously get this shebang underway.

Directions: Read each question carefully and select the response that best answers the question.

Questions that fall (loosey goosey)
in the political/religious/philosophical semi-serious musing category

1. Who decided to weigh in on the Carl Chew Controversy and brouhaha over Chew’s refusal to administer a standardized test?
a. Kinky Friedman
b. Larry Ferlazzo
c. Brouhaha? What’s a Brouhaha?!
d. Do you have a No. 2 pencil?

2. Attorney John Phillips offers his advice on…
(a) Teachers Gone Wild
(b) Mr. Teacher’s t-shirt sales
(c) Why Bellringers shouldn’t whack children with her rubber chicken
(d) Can I go to the bathroom?

3. Joanne Jacobs tells us about a successful San Diego school who implemented…
(a) the Webster Way
(b) My Way or the Highway
(c) What way?
(d) Can I sharpen my pencil?

4. On the political front, Matthew Tabor takes a peek at the Detroit City Council and the exchange between
(a) 8th grader Kierra Bell and Detroit City Council President pro tem Monica Conyers
(b) Shriek and Princess Fiona
(c) Can we write on the test?
(d) none of the above

5. The Columbus Education Association will commemorate the 25th anniversary of what event with a series of guest blogs:
(a) The Time Warp
(b) A Nation At Risk
(c) Did I mention I needed a pencil?
(d) None of the above

6. In case you forgot, this week is Teacher Appreciation week and in case you forgot why you teach, maybe you should…
(a) Eat an apple
(b) Read J.M. Holland’s “to the art of teaching”
(c) Sing Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” (sorry, couldn’t resist)
(d) Get matching tattoos with the teacher next door

7. According to I Want To Teach Forever, here’s what teachers really want for Teacher Appreciation Week…
(a) a new job
(b) more professional development/teacher inservice (yeah, right)
(c) summer
(d) this stuff

8. If a=b and c=z and Led Zeppelin sings “Stairway to Heaven," then why is Andrew so grumpy?
(a) Who’s Led Zeppelin?
(b) bx=170
(c) rubbish (just because it’s fun to say, sorry, Andrew)
(d) because if you had to listen to this conversation about God, you would be too.

9. Who ends up working for free?
(a) Tween Teacher
(b) All teachers
(c) No teachers
(d) A & B

10. Who ends up serving at the pleasure of administrators?
(a) Why we all do, silly.
(b) Ms. Cornelius
(c) Alice Cooper
(d) Loosey-goosey?

11. Who went to the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism conference?
(a) Alice Cooper
(b) Darren from Right on the Left Coast
(c) Loosey-goosey
(d) Willy-Nilly

12. The Eduwonkette takes a gander at the “New Teacher Project Report” and decides…
(a) You better read the fine print
(b) You better learn Mandarin Chinese
(c) Jeez Louise
(d) Where’s my pencil?

13. Bill Ferriter over at the Tempered Radical picks up the discussion over retaining good teachers in the classroom through…
(a) Teacher appreciation gifts & chocolate
(b) An Alice Cooper sing-a-long
(c) Something Loosey-Goosey
(d) re-designing compensation

14. And, Going to the Mat, opens this can of worms by talking about…
(a) Boat charters
(b) Map charters
(c) Charter Schools
(d) Charter buses

Questions that fall (rather willy-nilly)
in the inside the classroom genre

15. And speaking of Mr. Teacher, this week he delves into
(a) promoting his book
(b) promoting his t-shirts
(c) responsibility
(d) all of the above

16. According to NYC Educator (who btw hopes you disagree), what is the best to teach…
(a) Penguins
(b) ESL
(c) Willy-Nilly
(d) A & C

17. Jim McGuire at the Reading Workshop asks what interesting question…
(a) Who am I and why am I here?
(b) Can I sharpen my pencil?
(c) Are texting, IM’ing, MySpace, Facebook, blogging and email ruining the next generation of writers, or will they make them the best ever?
(d) Just how many t-shirts has Mr. Teacher sold and why hasn’t he sent me one?

18. Should the Scholastic Scribe slap some serious punishment on little Miss Sophomore for
(a)putting on make up in class
(b) using words off the Yuck list
(c) attempting to cheat
(d) Who me? I wasn’t talkin’ Miss.

19. Need some pointers on how to how to teach speaking, then
(a) Eat some chocolate (sorry I was hungry)
(b) Go see Eric at Teachers Call
(c) Miss, why can’t we talk?
(d) Where’s Willy and why is he nilly?

20. How is logic like whiskey?
(a) You can set them both on fire.
(b) Ask Humpty Dumpty
(c) Check out Let’s Play Math
(d) 1+1x2x1 gajillion

21. If you need some info on open source tools math, then you should
(a) Check out Teaching College math
(b)Run away before your head explodes
(c)Can you give me another eraser?
(d) x+yamisostupid

22. And keeping with the math and I’m-so-stupid theme, I included IB a Math Teacher’s math bingo because…
(a) I pretend to know math
(b) I pretend to like math
(c) I pretend to understand math humor
(d) all of the above

23. Did the Middle School Monkeys survive the China experiment?
(a) yes, but barely
(b) where’s China?
(c) No one told me I had to learn geography
(d) Where’s the rubber chicken?

24. What is the purpose of going to school?
(a) to drive your teacher crazy
(b) to borrow as many #2 pencils as possible
(c) to get an education
(d) to learn to…

25. Who am I, why am I here and can I really remember 90 percent of what I’ve taught?
(a) maybe
(b) not sure
(c) what was the question?
(d) See what Mathew Needleman has to say

26. According to Ms. M, the lunches in Mississippi are…
(a) so delicious & fan-tab-u-lous
(b) mediocre
(c) rather disgusting
(d) lunch? did someone mention lunch?

27. The Science Goddess…
(a) finally “gets it” when it comes to technology
(b) encourages a revolution of sorts
(c) A & B
(d) Whoa, what about that lunch thing?

28. Clix over at Epic Adventures Are Often Uncomfortable…
(a) had such an easy week she sat around and ate bon-bons
(b) had such a difficult week that me-myself-and-I actually felt sorry for her
(c) wants to know where the appreciation is in Teacher Appreciation
(d) Jeez Louise

29. Homeschooler Missy talks about…
(a) witnessing history
(b) life in the middle
(c) the importance of witnessing her children’s milestones
(d) all of the above

Well, Jeez Louise, I’m about red-eyed and just about cross-eyed from reading a gajillion submissions this time. I hope you did well on this little test, and if not, well, just blame a teacher…and next time make sure they teach to the test.

Now don’t forget to send next week’s submissions to the Education Carnival which will be hosted by Instructify. You can use this handy, dandy form.

And as usual…

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

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

Monday, May 5, 2008

Blame it on the teacher… Mister Teacher that is…

Of course, by all means, let’s blame it on the teacher–Mister Teacher that is for starting this meme and who tagged Edna Lee who then tagged me. I wasn’t going to play, but I didn’t want to fall out of grace with my new friend Edna Lee or get on Mister Teacher’s bad list (Did I mention he started this whole thing).

I’d hate to get “doesn’t play well with others” in my permanent file. Or worse yet, I didn’t want to have to add Edna Lee and Mister Teacher to the “Richie’s Haters Club,” and yes, I’m convinced there is a such a thing. I think there are five charter members and one who sort of waivers in and out.

And I thought to know me was to love me. Sigh.

Well, let’s get this show on the road…or at least on the path…

First things first:

The Rules…

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.

2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.

3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.


1. What was I doing 10 years ago?

I was teaching at another school district advising the newspaper and teaching photojournalism (at that time running a black & white lab) and a Journalism I class. I loved it there, but left three years ago after causing and brouhaha and picking my hill to die on. And yes, it was worth it because it was the right thing to do. You can read about that here if you like.

2. What are my 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

  • Go to the post office
  • Work on the education carnival
  • Write my substitute instruction (because I am headed to California on Thursday for F-U-N… Yippee!)
  • Find my last to-do list
  • Go out for Mexican food tonight in celebration of Cinco de Mayo.
3. Snacks I enjoy…
  • Ginger snaps & green tea
  • Popcorn with Virgil’s root beer (the absolute best on the planet)
  • Anything remotely resembling hor d’oeuvres.

4. Things I would do if I were a billionaire
  • Hire a personal trainer, masseuse and hair dresser who would be available 24/7
  • Hire someone to clean my house.
  • Buy a house on the beach at South Padre Island in the fab-u-lous Lone Star state and a house in Crested Butte, Colorado
  • Give more money to the Student Press Law Center & the Padre Pio foundation
5. Three of my bad habits:
  • Lack of patience
  • Eating too much
  • Holding grudges
6. 5 places I have lived:
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Fort Worth, TX
  • Amarillo, TX
  • Dallas, TX
  • West Springfield, Virginia
7. 5 jobs I have had:
  • Babysitter
  • Life Guard
  • Pool Manager
  • Reporter
  • Teacher
8. 5 people I want to know more about…but who probably won’t respond…

  • Joanne Jacobs because she is the Queen of the EduSphere. Who hasn’t heard of her? What doesn’t she know? I’d like to have a latte with her and discuss stuff.
  • The Scholastic Scribe because we just recently started corresponding and not only is she another high school journalism teacher, but she’s the high school journalism teacher at the high school I graduated from. Now, what are the odds of that? A gajillion to one? Now isn’t that all just too serendipitous?
  • Old Andrew at Scenes from the Battleground because he can say things like “rubbish” and it’s a bit comforting (as well as disconcerting) that he faces similar challenges as an educator even though he’s an ocean away.
Well, that’s it…Gotta go and work on my to-do list… if I could just find it…

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Calling all entries!

Get ready folks, the 170th Carnival of Education will be hosted right here on Wednesday, May 7 if all is right with the world and my buddy Jack doesn’t interfer.

Please send your submissions no later than 6 p.m. (that’s CST) on Tuesday, May 6. Now, remember, us journalism types are strict about deadlines so don’t be late. (I’d sure hate to get the flying monkeys out, but you know I will.)

Use this handy, dandy form or you can email your submission to