Sunday, November 11, 2012

Counting Crows & Things That Matter

Me & Counting Crows front man Adam Duritz
Like most folks, I keep a bucket list in my head of things I want to do.

Sadly, very few items get checked off, so I've resorted to two bucket lists. The first list I call my "champagne-pie-in-the-sky-this-will-only-happen-when pigs-fly-or-Oprah/Ellen DeGeneris-discovers-my-book" list. For brevity, let's just call it the "When-Pigs-Fly" or "WPF" list. My second list I've aptly named the "Ozarka-peanut-butter-and-jelly-this-could-possibly-happen-without-pigs-flying" list which we'll simply call the PB&J list.

Call me pathetic, I know, but I did manage to put two big checks on my PB&J list a few days ago. Both lists contained gamblin, and one day meeting Counting Crows front man Adam Duritz. My WPF list envisioned a James Bond sort of gambling excursion to exotic places like Monte-Carlo or even pseudo-exotic places like Las Vegas.

Now my bucket list thing only happened because there was a Counting Crows concert I wanted to attend at a casino. I managed to con Jennifer, my BFF, to go with me.  "We could kill two birds with one stone," I rationalized. (Don't you just love cliche humor?) "Not only will I finally get to gamble,  I'll get to see one of my favorite bands again."

Reluctantly she agreed, and we did have fun in a twisted sort of way as we made the 100 mile PB&J trek to the Chickasaw WinStar Casino in Oklahoma (which despite its claim that a "world of luxury" awaited us, this is the same destination that also offered an RV park in which to stay. (I don't think they offer those type of accommodations in Monte-Carlo. No siree, Missy.) We couldn't afford the hotel casino rates, but we could afford the level II accommodations located within walking distance.

Here's the ferrets-on-crack review of our trip:
  • Counting Crows Concert: fab-u-lous
  • Gambling: not
  • Wheel of Fortune spin: fun
  • Food: mediocre
  • People: odd
  • Best part: Snagged the nifty photo shown above with Adam Duritz outside the hotel casino Starbucks. (Who needs to gamble or win to have fun?  Just hand me a nonfat, three raw sugar latte and a photo op with Adam, and it's better than good.)

This gambling junket got me to thinking, though, which y'all know can be problematic for me. Initially, my foray into Chickasaw Country made me realize that I'm not really a gambling kind of gal. But the more I pondered that, the more I got to really thinking and realized that perhaps that's not really true.

I am a gambling gal, but not with chips or slots or cards.

I, like many other teachers, gamble every day. I gamble on kids, placing my chips there hoping for the best. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose.

When I lose, well, it just sucks the life right out of me.

But when I win? Oh how the lights flash, the bells clang and the adrenaline flows.

I think I'm ready for Monday morning again because it doesn't really matter if I win or lose.  As Adam would say, "It's the heart that matters more."

Friday, November 2, 2012

Reminders, Siri & Maggieisms

Sometimes I have so much to write about, I spend too much time thinking about what to write, and then it all slips away like rays of sunshine on a cloudy day.

Already my school is two grading periods into this academic year and I have yet to share any  interesting tidbits from my DIs (Darling Inspirations). It's not because I don't have some interesting items. Rather, the ones I do have are so off the charts or off the chain (depending upon your age demographics) that I would be embarrassed (for those DIs) to write anything about it.

I have been trying, though. I keep a list of items I find amusing hoping to fashion them into funny posts. I make my list with the help of my new pal Siri. Yep,  I finally joined the ranks of the rest of the planet with my recent purchase of my very, very first smart phone–the iPhone 5. I think it's the neatest thing since sliced bread and dark chocolate. 

But even my new pal Siri can't save me from all these cryptic notes she jots down for me in my "reminders." Things like "Maggie is to do homework" and "number 13."

"Siri," I ask just a tad exasperated, "what does all that mean?"
"Sorry, Richie," she says, "I don't understand what you mean. Shall I search the web for you?"

Sorry, Siri, not even an all out web search or a fancy, schmancy decoder ring can help me decipher those notes.

I finally did remember what that Maggie thing was all about. One of my good friends has a granddaughter who says the funniest things which, of course, my friend duly posts on Facebook. (She refers to them as "Maggieisms). 

One of her most recent Maggieism was a conversation Maggie had with her mom. It went like this…
Mom: "Maggie, did you do your homework?"
Maggie: "I don't have to. It's 'do' tomorrow."
Mom: "That means you need to do it tonight."
Maggie: "I thought that meant 'do' it tomorrow."
I think I'm on Team Maggie.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hall Monitoring, Technology & Smoke and Mirrors

My brief hiatus from blogging over the summer turned into a full-blown slump when school started followed by a a sudden penchant to spend whatever free time time I managed to squirrel away to do stuff like sleep, eat and watch mindless television.

And, as if that weren't bad enough, I sort of lost my sense of humor as I toiled away at other obligations and responsibilities. I noticed this rather bleak trend as I was standing in the hallway doing my hall monitoring thing and bemoaning the loss of my hall monitoring buddy Rhonda who retired at the end of last year.

It's not that I don't like my other hall monitoring buddies. I do, but they are quite a bit more serious than Rhonda and me. Rhonda and I had cabinets and drawers filled with puppets, rubber chickens, wands, hats and other important teacher tools. The other two monitors probably have some stuff stashed away, but they're theater teachers. I think they're suppose to have that stuff, you know, for props. My stuff, well, is just for fun.

So now more than seven weeks into the school year, I'm back on track breaking out the puppets, creepy octopus finger and magic wand. I hope this helps me get my funnyback because after a recent teacher professional development I need all the help I can get.

I'm 99 percent certain that most teachers spend quite a bit of professional development focused on technology and how technology will solve all our educational problems. 

While there's a lot of wonderful whiz bang contraptions out there, there's a lot of stuff that doesn't really work, and much of it really amounts to nothing more than smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors with perhaps a bit of snake oil thrown into the mix.

I recently sat in one session that showed a bunch of cool user-friendly Internet sites that teachers could use and implement in a relatively short span of time.
With this Bring Your Own Device bandwagon circling the country, the presenter showed a site where you could create a poll and have students vote and get real-time results as you lectured on this or that. I admit I initially got sucked into the glitziness of it all and did a few ooohs and aaahs.

Then I remembered about a very low tech method of ascertaining student opinion and understanding. Jeepers creepers, why not raise your hand for crying out loud? That's pretty quick and efficient, requires no preparation and actually allows you to spontaneously get a litmus test of your lesson. 

Raise your hand if you agree with me.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Things I Learned Over My Summer Vacation

Once again my summer swirled by faster than the blink of Ernesto's eye, leaving me somewhat misty-eyed and wondering as I always do: Just where in the Sam Hill did my summer go?

This time, however, I didn't even pretend to sort through the stuff I brought home for the summer. In fact, I even drove to school after one journalism workshop and unceremoniously dumped an array of stuff back into a pile I loosely designate as a pile of "stuff to deal with later."

In fairness, I did return to school again at the beginning of August  to tackle my "stuff to deal with later" pile and to make an effort to "take care of a few things." That significant attempt failed miserably--thwarted by newly waxed floors, blazing yellow caution tape and DO NOT ENTER signs.

How's a girl suppose to get anything done when the cosmic universe aligns and conspires against her?

So I decided to give up.


Without reservation.

Originally I planned to kick off my back-to-school blogging by writing some sort of sage advice or intelligent banter as I start my 26th year of teaching.

Instead, I think I'd rather write about my nifty little rafting adventure. I think there's a lesson in here somewhere. 

At the end of July, my husband and I traveled to Colorado and managed to squeeze in a nifty little rafting adventure along the way. Since I am not overly fond of roller coasters, heart palpitations or drowning, I signed us up for what probably could be categorized in the river rafting world as the WRR (Weenie Raft Ride) with Class II rapids.

But once we got to the rafting place, the nice people at Scenic River Tours asked if we wanted to "upgrade" our nifty little rafting adventure to a Class III rafting extravaganza of the Upper Taylor River since we were the only ones slated for the WRR.

After Josh, our 25-year-old guide and all-around nice guy, assured me that he would make every effort to (a) not toss me into the chilly 40-ish to 50-ish degree water or (b) bounce my head off a boulder or (c) in any way leave my children missing a parental unit, I agreed to the "upgrade." 

So-o-o-o my dears, here are the…

 5 Things Richie Learned 
On Her Rafting Trip 
That Can Be Applied To The Classroom

#5…Provide Essential Equipment… 
Despite duly specifying proper attire, rafters still manage to show up ill prepared wearing the wrong shoes or clothing. When school starts, we all know we will have students who appear on the first day of class without a pencil, pen, paper or clue. (Jeez Louise, I'll never understand how it can be a surprise that one needs something to write with and something to write on when attending school.)

The rafting company solves its little clueless problem by providing the proper shoes for those who show up in flip flops or expensive shoes. As an added bonus, the company also provides wetsocks to their customers so their feet don't get cold. Not having to worry about those kind of things, allowed us rafters to focus on the important things, you know, like paddling properly so you aren't tossed willy-nilly out into the river.

So perhaps on the first day of school instead of complaining about our students and their lack of preparation, we should provide some writing utensils and paper. You know, just to get everyone started on sure footing.

#4…Tell, Show, Do… 
I can unequivocally state that the ever-spectacular Josh would make a great classroom teacher. Even in the great outdoors, the educational mantra of "Tell, Show, Do" works.

You can tell me all you want how you want me to paddle, but I doubt that I will be able to replicate it. If you tell and show me, I might be able to paddle the way you want me to. But if you tell me, show me and let me practice it, well then, I just might make it to the end of our little Class III adventure without being tossed into the water and without my ever-patient-guide Josh popping me upside the head with his paddle.

#3 Practice Makes Perfect…
As we journeyed down the stream, I noticed one guide struggled with his rafters to get them to paddle correctly, so he moved his raft off to the bank of the river for his own paddle remediation. According to Josh, guides will keep their rafters there practicing until they finally get it. Meanwhile, the rest of us weren't penalized for the ineptness/ignorance/stupidity of others.  Instead, we were able to continue on with our journey.

As our school year progresses, we should remember to allot enough practice time for mastery and to remember not to penalize those students who do get it by forcing them to suffer through the remediation process. Let those kiddos continue on their journey.

#2 Leave well enough alone…
In our journey down the Taylor River, there were moments when Josh commanded that both my husband and I paddle in the same direction. There were other times when Josh commanded that my husband paddle one direction while I paddled in another. Both of those were moments where synchronization and group collaboration was not just important, but essential.

But there were also other times, when only one of us was instructed to paddle. Alone. By oneself. Without anyone else. Those times were equally important and critical.

Sometimes working alone is better and essential. As educators, we need to remember which serves us better. Otherwise, we'll end up with a class confused, headed in the wrong direction and drowning in educational flotsam.

And drum roll pah-leese, the #1 thing Richie learned on her rafting trip…

#1 Push Your Comfort Zone… 
OK, OK, OK so maybe it took a little bit of prodding and some assurances by both Josh and my husband, before I agreed to step outside my comfort zone. But stepping outside the predictable and venturing into the unknown did provide the "miles of smiles" promised for my rafting adventure as well as a new level of confidence--something difficult to achieve once you cross over the other side of 50.

So often our students fail in the classroom simply because they fear trying something new or fear moving beyond their own education comfort zone. We must remember to provide the necessary assurances for our kiddos to take the leap into uncharted waters and stretch themselves academically.

And perhaps more importantly, we should remember to step outside our own pedagogical comfort zone and take a risk with new methods, new materials and maybe even a new vision.

So that pretty much wraps up what I learned over my summer vacation. The next day as we headed back to the 100-plus temperatures wilting the great state of Texas, my husband and I groused about how we missed Josh and our river rafting adventure already.

In addition to referring to him as "a great/extraordinary guide,"  "the ever-patient Josh" and "all-around nice guy," we also added with a certain measure of sadness the following nomenclature: "Josh-the-son-in-law-we'll-never-have."

But that, my friends, is a story for another time and place. And yes, if my daughters ever read this post, they would be screaming, "OH MOM!" right about now.

But I don't care, I'm a Class III River Rafting fool.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Education Buzz: Life's a Carnival Taking a Break

I hope everyone had a terrific July 4th, and, in between celebrations with family and friends, I hope you also took a moment to be thankful for America. 

Today I was going to post the Independence Day Edition of the  Education Buzz: Life's a Carnival, but most of you have apparently taken the summer off. Most of the submissions were spam ranging from how to find a proper nanny to how to house train a puppy. All worthy topics, I'm sure, but not for here. No siree, Missy.

So after some thought and noticing that my summer is rapidly dwindling away, I decided to declare an Independence Day of my own and am taking a break. We'll regroup back here August 16 for our Back to School edition of the Education Buzz. I know most of you will have some sage words by then. 

Our deadline for our Back To School Edition will be Sunday, August 12. Obviously, please have your submissions loosely stick with the Back-to-School theme. I will post the link for the handy, dandy form as we get closer to the carnival time. (That way the spam may dwindle a bit, and besides, the site with the handy, dandy form was down.)

Email me if you have any questions or wish to host a carnival once we get back up and running. You can reach me at Until then, enjoy what is left of your summer!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Education Buzz: Life's a Carnival Hotter-Than-A-Habanero-Edition

Welcome to the Education Buzz: Life's a Carnival Hotter-Than-A Habanero-Edition, an eclectic smattering of educational type stuff buzzing about the EduSphere.

This little carnival is a hodge-podge of stuff with no real theme other than it's summer, it's hot, and I'm afraid if I think too much, my brain just might overheat. Besides, I've been too busy preparing for two summer workshops that will be here before you can say, "Wowie, zowie! It's a real scorcher today!"

So in no apparent order and with no apparent theme, I give you…

"The Insanity of Allowing Phones In Class" posted by our friend Old Andrew over at Scenes from the Battleground. It's definitely a must read.

•According to recent research, education guru Joanne Jacobs says children's imaginations are still soaring even though kids have less play time.

•Before you hit the drive thru, you better know the rules. Check out Jane Goodwin's "Things Nice People Already Know: Drive Through Etiquette" over at Scheiss Weekly.

•For those of you interested in technology, Chris gives us "7 Cool Things To Do With Your USB Drive."

Pat over at Successful Teaching gives us "Unveiling the Mystery of Project Based Learning" in a  webinar she gave at a seminar in South Carolina.

•If you're looking for some summer reading, Philip over at Writing to Comprehend, rather than to Express posts a with a book review of the Pulitzer Prize winning book, A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Laura Weldon offers "ingenious and collaborative ways to flourish, with or without a degree."

•And for those of you science types, here's a list of 30 Twitter Hashtags for Science teachers.

•And finally, for those of you who practice yoga, you might be interested in reading Solstice Savasana written by Christina Bryza, a former student of mine.

Well, that's about it for the Education Buzz: Life's a Carnival Hotter-Than-A Habanero-Edition. Don't forget to join us again back here for the next edition of the Education Buzz: Life's A Carnival on July 5. The submission deadline is July 1. Use this handy, dandy form for your submissions.

If you find a broken link or have trouble with the submission form, please let me know at

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.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Education Buzz--Life's a Carnival coming soon!

OK, so I forgot that I said we would have another carnival on June 21. Things got away from me. So instead, the carnival will be here Thursday, June 28. 

If you already submitted, fear not I have your submission. If you still would like to submit, the window of opportunity closes tomorrow, Tuesday, June 26. If you would like to submit, use this handy, dandy form.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The "Wish Life Were A Beach" Edition of the Education Buzz: Life's A Carnival

Welcome to the "Wish Life Were A Beach" Edition of the Education Buzz: Life's A Carnival, an eclectic smattering of educational type stuff buzzing about the EduSphere.

But before we get this party started, indulge me a bit and let me provide a brief update about me, me, me. I must confess I've been sort of a slug lately. That whole yearbook, newspaper, teaching thing just sucked the life right out of me this school year. So much so that I just noticed that my last post was on May 24. So-o-o-o, for those of you who care, here's the short version of my year. It went something like this…



As you can see, all of that necessitated a trip to South Padre Island which brought me back to this…
Which we can all sigh now and say, thank heavens for that!

So put on your swim suit, don your sunglasses, slather on that sunscreen, fix yourself a drink, grab a bag of chips and some salsa and listen to those ocean waves while you peruse these end of the year posts and musings and rantings…

Old Andrew over at Scenes From the Battlefield ends the year with a Teacher's Oath --something we should all think about over the summer and re-read at the start of the next school year.

Philip over at Writing to Comprehend Rather Than to Express wrestles with whether teachers should provide a reality check or be a dream crusher.

Raise your hand if you ever had high school graduation duty or ever had to sit through a high school graduation ceremony. Yep, just like I thought, most of you have. So make sure you read Darren on Right on the Left Coast. You'll be nodding your head and saying a few, "Amens!" while reading his post.

You don't need one of those beach metal detectors to know what Pat over a Successful Teaching is talking about when she asks, "Do you have a virtual landfill or a collection of hidden treasures?" 

If the sunshine isn't enough to warm your heart, read "Sam Alito Thinks I'm Funny" from Sarah Garb over at Dead Class Pets.

And those you who are fans of Mr. Teacher over at Learn Me Good know about the recent addition to his family. See what his kiddos at school think about the baby's name.

If you didn't see who got tagged "it" in the annual yearbook spring delivery extravaganza, then check out my post "Words, Over Exposure & Not It!"

Joel over at Successful Teaching provides us  "10 Things I Have learned in 10 Years of Teaching"

Get a little loopy and see what NYC Educator has to say about keeping his group of kids for two years in a row in "Double, Double, Toil and Trouble (Sometimes)."

Before you go and pull some summer reading books, better read Jane Goodwin's That was Then and This, Sadly, is Now over at Scheiss Weekly.

Tim over at Assorted Stuff provides some interesting links of his own to read. So if you're yammering for more to read, check out some of his suggestions.

Education guru Joanne Jacobs discusses whether pre-k saves us money.

Well, that's about it for the "Wish Life Were A Beach" Edition of the Education Buzz: Life's A Carnival, but before you go back inside, go over to science guru Steve Spangler's site and read, "How to Say Thank You To That Special Teacher" and pat yourself on the back for a job well done and surviving the year.

Don't forget to join us again back here for the next edition of the Education Buzz: Life's A Carnival on Thursday, June 21. The submission deadline is Sunday, June 17. Use this handy, dandy form for your submissions.

If you find a broken link or have trouble with the submission form, please let me know at We can't blame Howard the Shelter Cat for that. He slept through the entire ordeal…

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.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Now taking Carnival Submissions for the Education Buzz!

Let's get this carnival going again!

Sorry for the delay. Too much happening on my midway (if you know what I mean). But things have calmed down just a tad and the carnival submission form seems to be working (again) so send me your end of the school year posts by Sunday, June 10 and I promise to post a carnival on Thursday, June 14. 

Send your submissions to the Education Buzz--Life's a Carnival using this handy, dandy form.

If you encounter problems, please let me know at

Before you submit, please keep in mind our rules…
  1. No spam
  2. Must be education related
  3. Since the carnival may be organized around themes, not all submissions may run.
  4. Please remember to post and link back to the carnival.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Words, Over Exposure & Not It!

I suppose it's now safe to scream it from the mountain tops, bellow it from the valleys and holler it across those amber waves of grain… NOT IT. 

Definitely, most certainly, absolutely, NOT IT!

My Things Folder
Those of you who are fans of this blog know that May brings out storms of the spring delivery yearbook kind with newscasters reporting the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it because of some yearbook debacle across the country.
So far, a nearby suburb made the news for not only using the incorrect term "mentally retarded" instead of the currently correct term "special needs," but also running photographs of said children without the necessary permission.
Despite Mesquite school officials scurrying about confiscating the offending yearbook, the damage, of course, was done.

A school official told the The Dallas Morning News that there "was an oversight in the editing approval process."

I can honestly tell you as a publications adviser with a rather chunky "Things-That-Will-Get-You-Fired" folder in her bottom left-hand drawer that I live in fear every May of finding myself smack dab in the middle of that "oversight in the editing approval process." (And if you are a publications adviser, you know exactly what I mean. Because that "oversight in the editing approval process" ends up being the publications adviser. That would be me or you.)
However, that yearbook fiasco pales in comparison to this little ditty coming out of North Carolina. In fact, it rivals the underwear-less girl from Florida back in 2009.

According to news reports, a girl exposed herself at Lake Norman High School’s 2011 graduation ceremony and was captured for all eternity on page 14 of the recently distributed $100 yearbooks.

But what really caught my attention was the school district's response. According to those news reports, it went like this…

"At the main office, the district’s public information officer, Dawn Creason, said Wednesday afternoon the photo was probably an accident.
She also suggested the bare genitals may just be an illusion created by the girl pushing her thighs together.
“Really looking at that image, we’re not sure that’s what it is at all. We think it was the way she was sitting and the angle of her gown,” Creason said. “We’re not convinced at all that you’re seeing what you think you are.”

My new folder
I don't know about you, but I'm stuffing that little ditty in my new file entitled, "Things To Say When You Print Things That Will Get You Fired" folder.

You know, just in case. 

Too bad that made the news after the Mesquite thing. Those officials there could have said something like this: "I'm not convinced at all that you're really reading what you think you are."

All I know is that I think I'm absolutely, positively, thankfully NOT IT!

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.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Woo-hoo Education Buzz Life's A Carnival Submissions Now Open!

Woo-hoo! It seems that the handy, dandy carnival submission form is back working! So-o-o-o-o let's carnival! 

The next Education Buzz: Life's a Carnival will be right here on April 4. Please submit your posts no later than 5 p.m. Saturday, March 31. Use this handy, dandy form. If you encounter problems, please let me know at

Before you submit, please keep in mind our rules…
  1. No spam
  2. Must be education related
  3. Since the carnival may be organized around themes, not all submissions may run.
  4. Please remember to post and link back to the carnival.
If you would like to host a carnival, pah-leese let me know by emailing me at 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Spring Break, Yearbooks & Floods

Spring break provided no break from the unrelenting, unforgiving, unfortunate thing we call yearbook.

As I said in my exercise blog, if being a yearbook adviser were a diet or an exercise program, I would be one Skinny Minnie. Instead, I pretty much single-handedly polished off my stash of emergency chocolate in one sitting.

Naturally, I felt a bit queasy afterwards, but I'm not entirely certain that was from inhaling that tasty box of Caramel Chocolate Batons or the fact that I had a gazillion yearbook pages left to do, no photos to pop into those lovely lime-green boxes that denote where a photo is suppose to go, and no one on my current yearbook staff who appeared to give a chocolate baton flip whether we made our deadline.

Yes, it's been one of those years. Yep, a year for the record books, and not in a good way either. No siree, Missy.

So I spent at least half of my spring break working solo on the yearbook, so that the book could final and ensure delivery before the kiddos go home for the summer. 

And, when I finally sat on the couch to relax and drink some coffee with my husband and discuss how we could salvage the rest of my spring break and do something fun, I heard a noise (and not a good one either) and asked, "Do you hear that?" 

He didn't, but I still did, and it was coming from upstairs. I ran up there speedy quick and hot water was gushing out the upstairs bathroom and down the hallway. Although we shut it off pretty quick, well, the damage was done to the hallway, and the water had also seep below through the ceiling into the master bedroom.
Ceiling removed from water damage

Obviously, none of this was my idea of injecting fun into the remainder of my spring break.

Sadly, though, the water disaster and subsequent clean up was better than working 24/7 on the yearbook debacle from earlier in the week. And, I must say I'm not looking forward to the impending doom that awaits me next week in the form of a gazillion page proofs that have to be fixed and turned around speedy quick, or the 40 something photo projects and journalism ad projects I left there to be graded upon my return, or the newspaper deadline scheduled to kick off the week.

And for those of you wondering, Howard the Shelter Cat pretty much remained fairly lackadaisical through it all.

Jeepers Creepers, here's hoping your spring break was more like Howard's than mine.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The "I-can't-believe-we-finally-have-another-edition" of the Education Buzz: Life's a Carnival

The "I-can't-believe-we-finally-have-another-edition" of the Education Buzz: Life's a Carnival. Unbelievable because I've been swamped with a wide range of yearbook disasters that have required a gajillion hours squinting at a computer screen.

I'm surprised that I could see my way home much less actually read everyone's posts.

Now my vision may be a tad blurry, but education guru Joanne Jacobs  has a clear vision on The American Way to Self Control.

Pat over at Successful teachers offers up "Things That Should Kick The Bucket Before I do." There's some interesting things on that list. In fact, it made me think about what I would put on my list. I'd share my list with you, but I probably should just stash them in my "Things That Will Get You Fired" folder.

And speaking of things, Darren at Right on the Left Coast had a few interesting things happen before his school took a week off  for their  "President's Week."

If you've ever had kiddos manipulate you into writing part of their paper, check out Melete's post, "Loafers and Doofuses of the Scheming Kind." 

The Education Optimists gives us "Baking Bread Without the Yeast," but don't be fooled, this post has nothing to do with yummy bread but a lot to do with policies regarding teacher effectiveness.

While my vision remains a tad bit blurry, Jane Goodwin over at Scheiss Weekly has some sharp observations about Oscar night.

If you're a fan of science whiz Steve Spangler, then make sure you check out his appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

If you are into twitter, Sean gives us his list of the Top 10 twitter feeds for teachers and principals.

Emily over at A Word To The Educators provides strategies for struggling students. 

That's about it unless, of course, you haven't read my latest post,  "Early Release, Patience & Snipers."


This concludes our "I-can't-believe-we-finally-have-another-edition" of the Education Buzz: Life's a Carnival. Check back to see when the next edition will be posted. I'll have submission information and exactly date, but the plan is to have one in about two weeks. Hopefully, our handy, dandy form will be working by then.