Sunday, November 30, 2008

Black Friday, Hand Clappers & Paint Balls

Like the other gajillion people across the country, I ventured out on Black Friday to do my part to stimulate the economy. I must have had a post-it note stuck to me that read, “Run Into Me.” Despite walking on the right side and walking in a reasonable facsimile of a straight line, people continually veered into me. I almost defensively backhanded one guy when he ran into me while looking the other way. Jeez Louise. (At least I didn’t get trampled like that poor guy at Wal-Mart.)

And if all that wasn’t bad enough, people randomly stopped.

Right in the middle of the walkway traffic flow.

So no one could get around them.

Creating a bottleneck.

Just like in the hallways at school.

Jeez Louise, I felt like I was back at work. But if I had been back at work, I would have had my hand clappers with me and all would have been all right.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why in the Sam Hill I needed my hand clappers. Betcha didn’t realize these nifty little gadgets double not only as an applause maker, but work great as a disciplinary tool. (And, no, I’m not talking about smacking people upside the head with them. Although I must admit, the thought has crossed my mind a time or two.)

Because we all know how dicey the time between Thanksgiving break and Christmas break can be, I’m going to give you two nifty ideas to help you make it to Christmas. (And, no, you won’t ever get this nifty bit of advice from any teacher professional development day either.) Just a word of caution, though, and a disclaimer of sorts: The Hand Clapper Clearing Method is tried and true and field tested by me. The second idea, although pretty darn tootin’ nifty, probably would require at least a gaggle of attorneys, a Get Out of Jail Free card and an early retirement plan. (I have yet to try the second idea.)

The Hand Clapper Clearing Method

The week before Thanksgiving break, Rhonda, my hallway monitoring compadre, and I finally tired of the logjam in our hallway during each passing period. The area we supervise is a huge common hallway with a vaulted ceiling (at least two-stories of openness). Although the design provides some rather nice architectural aesthetics, you’ve got to wonder what kind of crack these guys were smoking when they decided what a nifty neat-o idea it would be to elevate the ceiling so that the sounds of hundreds of teenagers would echo and reverberate through the hallway like the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

Of course, those sounds become more magnified when clusters of these darlings randomly stop, you know, right in the middle of the traffic flow.

So no one can get around them.

Creating a bottleneck.

We tried everything. Asking politely for them to move on. Yelling at them to move on. Going up to them and personally requesting them to move on. Handing out detentions if they didn’t move on.

But nothing in our disciplinary arsenal seemed to work. Nothing. Nadda. Zip.

Enter the Hand Clappers.

The week before Thanksgiving break, Rhonda and I entered the hallway armed with hand clappers. We clapped incessantly. We walked up to the hallstoppers and said nary a word. We just clapped and clapped and clapped some more.


The clapping noise echoed and reverberated. We stood next to the hallstoppers and clapped and clapped and clapped. The Little Darlings couldn’t hear themselves chat above the clapping. Our hallway emptied quickly.

With just a clap, clap, clap, we had became more annoying than the hallstoppers. Between every passing period, we stood and clapped. I even added my maracas for a little variety–a clapper in one hand, a maraca in the other.

Paint Ball Tagging Method

I wish I could claim this idea as my own, but sadly, this moment of brilliance goes to another of my hallway monitoring compadres. We all know kids who act up all day, but manage to stay just under the administrative radar because they always act up just enough to annoy the bejeebers out of their teachers and classmates, but not enough for an office referral.

Well, my peeps, those days are gone with our Paint Ball Tagging Method.

Here’s how it works…Every teacher gets issued a paint ball gun with yellow, green and red bullets. Little Johnny acts up in first period. Teacher splats him with a yellow pellet. Johnny has been warned. Class over. In second period, Little Johnny acts up. Teacher sees the yellow warning. Splat! Teacher nails him with a green pellet. That’s his second infraction. Bell rings. Johnny moves on to third period where he acts up again. Splat! Teacher nails him with a red pellet. If he acts up again at any point the rest of the day--in class, in the hallway, at lunch--Johnny automatically goes to the office because everyone sees the red splat and knows he’s used up all his warnings.

Of course, we’d probably have to devote some professional development time to practice our aim and accuracy of our splats, and we’d probably also have to update our disciplinary management code to outline splat-worthy infractions.

Pretty darn tootin’ nifty, don’t ya think?

But like I said before, you probably want to have at least a gaggle of attorneys on your speed dial.

And probably a Get Out of Jail Free card.

And oh yeah, an early retirement plan, too.

OK, OK, OK. Perhaps we should just stick with the Hand Clapper plan.

199th Carnival of Education

The Education Wonks came through again and hosted the 199th Carnival of Education while everyone else was scarfing down mass quantities of food. Head on over there to see what was new in the EduSphere. My post “Thanksgiving Break, Magic Things & Miracles” was included, but you don’t have to go there to read it here.

The next carnival will be hosted by Mr. Teacher. If you want to submit, you can use this handy, dandy form.

Hope everyone had a fan-tab-u-lous Thanksgiving break!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving Break, Magic Things & Miracles

With the Thanksgiving Break upon us and an entire week week off, I thought I should write about “Richie’s 5 things to be thankful for,” but that list sounded too much like some sappy Oprah gratitude show, and, as you know, I just don’t sap well.

Then, after that idea, I got rather sidetracked thinking about how I needed to clarify that whole “aren’t-you-lucky-to-be-a-teacher-and-have-an-entire-week-off” thing.

I don’t know about you, but quite a big chunk of my “aren’t-you-lucky-to-be-a-teacher-and-have-an-entire-week-off” thing will be filled with that whole “fix-and-mail-those-56-yearbook-pages” thing followed closely by the “fix-and-mail-those-gazillion-photo-proof-pages” thing, and then, just in case I actually thought I might enjoy some of that “aren’t-you-lucky-to-be-a-teacher-and-have-an-entire-week-off” free time thing, there still are those four sets of lesson plans that need to be done. At least, all I need to do there is transcribe those lessons from my brain to the appropriate lesson plan form.

The lesson plan thing, though, really got me to thinking about things. (I know, I know, I know. We all know what happens when that happens.) Still, I got to thinking about things that would make my life (and probably yours, too) easier and better. Here’s my list in no particular order…

Random Things Richie Believes
Would Make Our Lives Easier and Better

  • The Magic Copy Machine…Since most of us seem to store our lesson plans in our brains, wouldn’t it be great if we could just xerox our brains? How fabulous would that be? Unless, of course, Mr. Xerox machine spewed out blank pages… then that would be rather un-fab-u-lous. Still, the possibilities…
  • Magic Classroom Clappers…Most of you probably remember those cheesy clapper commercials. (Clap On! Clap Off! And your lights automatically go on or off. You can watch the commercial here.) Think how wonderful it would be if we could clap once and students would be quiet. Clap twice and they could talk again. Clap once. Quiet. Clap twice. Talk. Clap once… Well, you get the picture.
  • Magic Grading Stairs…I often find myself saying, “This job would be great if it weren’t for the grading.” (Can I at least get an “Amen!” brothers and sisters?) What if you could just toss your papers up the Magic Grading Stairs and they would fall magically where they belonged? You know, the “A” papers would land on the “A” stairs, the “B” papers on the “B” stairs and so forth and so on? As an added bonus, if anyone complained about their grade, why you could just refer them to the manufacturer’s Customer Service Hotline at 1-800-WHINERS. How nifty neat-o would that be?
  • The Magic PhotoShop Filter…Now this one may be lost on those of you not familiar with the publications industry, but most of you are at least familiar with re-touching photographs. I often find myself wishing I could walk about with my own invisible PhotoShop filter. You know, so that when people saw me, age lines were removed, pounds gone and muscles toned. You know, so that I would look younger, thinner and taller. Maybe like, oh perhaps, Angelina Jolie.
OK, OK, OK, so I’d probably need more than just a PhotoShop filter for that.

I think they call that a miracle, but ’tis the season, isn’t it?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

198th Carnival of Education

Jeepers Creepers! It’s the 198th Carnival of Education Christmas Creep Edition. Yep, it’s out and hosted over at I want to Teach Forever.

My post “More Stupider, FERPA-ized & Conspiracy Theories” was included, but you don’t have to go there to read it here. Still, if you want to be in the loop on the the poop going on in the EduSphere, then you really need go over there. I’d give you some recs on what to read, but my eyes are glazed over from trying to finish up some yearbook pages last night. (Can’t you just hear my yearbook rep in the background launching into the Hallelujah chorus?)

So what are you waiting for? Go over there and give it a look.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More Stupider, FERPA-ized & Conspiracy Theories

Is it all in my head?
Is it all in my head?
Could everything be all right without me knowing?
Is it all just some game
Where everything stays the same
Is it all in my head....?

Stress has made me exponentially more stupider.

I know I’ve discussed this topic before, but I think I’ve cross the threshold this time. Let’s back up and start near the beginning…

Somewhere the architects of FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act) secretly sneer at the havoc this little piece of legislation has wrought for high school publications advisers from coast-to-coast.

Now I know that FERPA supposedly was never intended to apply to student publications. (You can go here and here to read about that.) But that never stopped school attorneys from telling school districts to FERPA-ize everything, and while some may call me crazy, I have chosen not to meet Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity and keep bashing my head against the same brick wall by fighting it. It’s a losing proposition to argue otherwise. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Still, I’m convinced that those FERPA writers and school attorneys must harbor a secret grudge against yearbooks and publications advisers. Maybe their names were misspelled, or perhaps a pimple was photoshopped onto their noses, or maybe those “theys” are just humorless-naysaying-mean-spirited-Richie-hata-types who plot in little backrooms on how to make hardworking-emergency-chocolate-eating-poor people like me miserable. Sometimes (OK, it’s probably more like all the time), I just want to pinch their pointy little heads off.

Now, you non-advisers probably are clueless as to what all this ranting is about. Let me bring you up-to-date speedy quick. At the beginning of the school year, school districts send home a nifty little form (ours is Christmas-green in color). Parental units check a block granting or denying permission for their kiddos picture/work,/name to be published online, in the school newspaper, in the school yearbook, on the bathroom wall. (OK, perhaps maybe not that last one). Our form gives them several choices. It goes something like this…

  • Choice #1–Yes for giving permission for everything (including the yearbook), but not for directory information
  • Choice #2–Yes for giving permission for publishing information in a directory
  • Choice #3–No for leave my kid out of everything
  • Choice #4–And then there’s some other choice, but I can’t remember because I’m old.
Admittedly, it can be confusing. And confusing it was, when I got a rather nice email from one of our very, very nice keepers of the FERPA list telling me to take a kid out of the NOs and move him into the YES list.

So I looked at my NO list and his name wasn’t there and this is how FERPA crumbled my world in one afternoon. Here’s a synopsis…

Me…I’m really confused now. If they are on the “Yes to directory,” then they can be in the yearbook right? I was only taking out the NOs.

FERPA keeper…There are 5 categories…“NO” equals NO, do not release any information. “YES SCHOOL” equals YES to anything and everything school related. “YES DIRECTORY” equals name, address, phone number can be added in a phone book directory, but this was for the elementary schools and should have never been on the High School FERPA form. They just like to make one district form. “NO RESPONSE” equals YES to everything because they never turned in a form.

Me (After I read that last email about a gazillion times, I decided it was time to throw pride down the drain and admit the obvious)…OK. I’m stupid. Just tell me this… does “YES DIRECTORY” mean YES to the yearbook?

FERPA keeper …“YES DIRECTORY” means NO to the yearbook.

I sort of felt like Liza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. (“I think I’ve got it!. I think I’ve got it!” “By George! I think she’s got it!”)

So-o-o-o-o-o NO really means NO, and YES means YES, except when YES really means NO.

See what I mean? I think I’m officially the most dumbest. I think I need to buy the FERPA keeper some emergency chocolate. Her job is crazier than mine because not only does she have to put up with the humorless-naysaying-mean-spirited-Richie-hata-types who plot in little backrooms on how to make hardworking-emergency-chocolate-eating-poor people like us miserable, she also has to put up with me.

So I did what any self-respecting, bat-crack crazy publications adviser would do––I took the four page list and cornered my principal in the cafeteria.

While I explained the whole shebang, one of the assistant principals who was standing nearby sort of took a giant step back. I think it had something to do with the fact that my eyes were a tad crazy-glazed and my voice was about an octave higher (and maybe even a bit screechier), and well, maybe, just maybe, my hands were animated just a smidge more than usual. Oh, and I think I might have had my scary-face on, too, but I was not holding any sharp objects.

At that point, my principal just gently pried the list from my fingers and told me he’d take care of it.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him about that whole Richie-hata conspiracy theory or those “theys” who congregate in backrooms.

Well, maybe next time.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Carnival of Education--Transition Team Edition

It’s Wednesday and we all know what that means… Not only is it time to Woo-hoo, it’s Carnival of Education time hosted over at the Core Knowledge Blog. And what a nifty theme we have this week--it’s the Transition Team Edition. My post “Blogging, Planes & Teachers in the Skies” made the cut and earned me the nomination for Secretary of Transportation. Woo-hoo! But you don’t have to go there to read it here, but you certainly should go there to see what’s going on the EduSphere.

So, hey, what are you waiting for?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Blogging, Planes & Teachers in the Skies

When I started blogging, I wasn’t quite sure what that would look like. OK, perhaps that isn’t exactly true. I had a vision. A vision of me lounging around in my jammies, drinking green tea, eating ginger snaps, being uproariously funny and making lots of money for my wittiness.

OK, so now 14 months later, three out of five isn’t too bad.

I’m not in my jammies although I wish I were. Instead, I’m sitting here at the airport waiting on a flight, listening to some CNN idiot on the flat screen, getting nauseated by the couple eating about 2,000 calories of Wendy’s fast food and hoping that no one invades my personal space. (I don’t hold much promise for that last one.)

But back to the blog thing. I usually do drink green tea and munch on gingersnaps—although I never needed the blog as an excuse to do that.

I’m pretty sure for the most part I’m hilarious. OK, OK, OK, so maybe not hilarious, perhaps funny.

Alright, so maybe not funny, but perhaps mildly amusing. (At least to me, in my little world, I crack me up.) Apparently, though, not everyone appreciates my keen sense of humor or my AC/DC reference from my last post. (Ah, the travails of being a rocker at heart.)

But let’s not get in a dither about that. Let’s get back to the my trip. While I was waiting to de-plane, I got to thinking about things, and you know what happens when that happens… But I got to thinking that perhaps being a teacher should be a prerequisite for being a flight attendant. Can’t you see how easy this whole flight thing would work if we just put former teachers in charge? I think it would go something like this…

Before the flight…

Flight attendant…Hey Missy over there by 14A, did you not pass any math classes? Can’t you see that the mass of your overstuffed bag cannot fit into the overhead space. Hey, figure it out-- length times width equals the space. Now, go sit in the remedial math section in the back of the plane.

During the flight…

Flight attendant…Mister 19E, if you don’t quit tapping to the music on your iPod, we’re going to confiscate it! And, you over there in Seat 18D, do ya think the rules don’t apply to you? Can’t you see the seatbelt sign is on? On means on, Mister! Now get your carcass back in that seat, and if I see you get up one more time, bad things are gonna happen to you. And, you in seat 11A, please use your inside voice. Do ya think we want to know what you’re going to do when you get back home? Jeez Louise!

Waiting to de-plane

Flight attendant…Whoa, hold it right there, Row 15! Every one in row 15 will have to wait to de-plane because Missy in Seat 13C did not follow instructions and failed to gather her belongings as instructed. Now, everyone remain quiet and seated until your row is dismissed. OK, everyone look at Row 5. See how quiet they are? Row 5 can leave… OK, now Row 9…

Can’t you just see it? A cadre of former teachers taking over the skies?

Of course, they’d probably pay us less.

And blame us for flight delays.

And hold us accountable for any luggage left behind.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Newspaper Deadlines, Bat-Crack-Crazy & AC/DC’s Highway to…

Against all odds, I survived another newspaper deadline.


I think I was screeching or squawking about something when one of the yearbook photographers thought he was being helpful by saying,“You couldn’t pay me enough money to do your job.”

I started to say, “Well, you couldn’t pay me enough either,” but you can see how ridiculously stupid that sounds and how it makes zero sense –which all goes to point out exactly how bat-crack-crazy things were and how sometimes even crazy things for a nano-second seem to make sense.

So, my friends, I give you just a small smidgen of…

The Bat-Crack-Crazy Things
(That Appear To Make Sense For A Nano-Second)
on newspaper deadline…

People’s Exhibit #1…I know we love our guns here in the Lone Star state, but did the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department really issue 12.5 million hunting licenses in 2008? Sadly, none of our proofreaders caught it and 24 hours went by before I said to myself, “OMG, self, that’s bat-crack-crazy! That can’t possibly be right. That would mean roughly one hunter for every two Texans. Jeez Louise! Go change it speedy quick.”

People’s Exhibit #2…What do you do when you need a kid for a photo illustration? Why just grab some random elementary school kiddo from the Halloween Carnival at school, of course. At least we didn’t trigger an Amber alert.

People’s Exhibit #3…My newspaper editor came rushing in breathless Halloween morning. Never mind that those four pages were still undone and the final printer deadline loomed a mere eight hours away. Never mind that she almost got hit by a mini-van (and, no, it wasn’t me) in the parking lot. Never mind that she had three hours of sleep, no breakfast and forgot her lunch. Never mind all that, Missy. The biggest calamity? In her rush to get to school, she forgot her new Halloween socks…oh, and her shoes, too.

People’s Exhibit #4…What do we do when we need statistical data for an infographic? Why, my friends, just take it from Wikipedia, of course. Akuracy? Who cares about ackuracy? We don’t need no stinkin’ ackyersee.

So after a week like that, is it really a coincidence that AC/DC’s new release “Black Ice” topped the charts this week? It rather coincided with that feeling I had about being on that Highway to… Well, all you rockers out there know the one I’m talkin’ about.