Thursday, February 24, 2011

What's THAT Smell???

I just had to share this. It's one of those reasons that I wrote about the other day - moments in the classroom where I just laugh and enjoy those precious kiddos.

A classroom can get pretty stinky. Make that really stinky. Especially in the spring, when kids wear jackets all day. It gets warm enough that the kids could take off the jackets and be warm, but we are creatures of habit. We wear the same jacket over and over again. Students might play chase at lunch, but that jacket doesn't come off. They might race during P.E., but that jacket doesn't come off. Add some weight lifting during athletics, rushing across campus to beat the tardy bell, and throw in some rushing hormones; multiply that by 19 or 17, 20, or 26. And it makes a stinky situation at times.

That was not the problem today. It was MUCH worse! When I opened my classroom door, the stench almost knocked me over. It was B.A.D. Like something had died. I got out the "clean linen" air freshener, kicked up the A/C, and sprayed and sprayed and sprayed. I would like to say the room got better; instead it got smellier. Now it smelled like something had died in a laundry room, but it was still dead.

I had to get past the horrible smell and start class. My kids, 7th and 8th grades, have been working on regular and irregular verbs.  Digging around on the 'net, I found some printable worksheets for practicing base form, past, and past participle irregular verb forms. I knew the worksheets had some verbs that my students do not often use.  This would be great practice, but they would probably need some help. I decided to make it a small game.  Partners were chosen. On the board across the front of the room hung twenty or so sheets containing an alphabetical list of an irregular verb dictionary which came from the same site as the worksheets. Students were told to fill in the missing blanks on the worksheets. Teams could go to the board to get help if they needed it. At the end, we would see which team had the most correct answers with the least trips to the board. Sounds simple doesn't it?

First period went smoothly. After everyone stopped complaining about the stink. Second period (7th graders) again settled in and worked quietly. A little more slowly than first period, but getting there. Third period is my conference period. Fourth period came in, and it was all about the stink again! I had gotten almost immune to the smell by this time, but they were a new group and smelling it for the first time. They eventually settled in and started on the worksheets. Now, two other classes had done this very same activity - choose a partner, fill in the blanks, go to the board if you need some help. Why was the principal's daughter the one to notice?

"Mrs. Mer, there's a dirty word on the board."

"What?" (Meaning "What did you say?" or "What do you mean a dirty word?")

"S-H-I-T! It says s-h-i-t. Did you know it said that?"

Had I read all 22 pages of irregular verbs? No.

I did read several pages. I clicked through the other pages and didn't noticed anything bad, but right there smackdabbed in the middle of the S's it sat. Base form: shit, Past: shitted, Past Participle: shat.

Well, after that there was an increase in the number of students needing help from the board. Even in the afternoon classes. They all had to go see for themselves that I had posted a "dirty word" on the board. One boy in eighth period went to the board at least seven times. Like it really wasn't there the first six times he read it. Like he had never seen the word written down before. Like he never had a teacher post a "dirty word" on the board before.

Wonder what they told their parents tonight. Did they talk about the awful smell in my room and the dirty word on the board? Did anybody even remember we were practicing irregular verbs?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Top 10 Reasons for Being a Teacher

I don't know how it happens, but it usually does. I can be having a day that makes me want to scream, a day that makes my blood boil and my blood pressure rise. And then at the most unexpected times, something happens, sometimes it's something that would only matter to me, but something happens to turn it all around.

It is these times that make all of the stress inducing, sleep stealing, patience testing issues that come with being a teacher just disappear. And so I now give you my top 10 list.

10. Back to school shopping. Nothing is better than new school supplies. There is just something about a few new notebooks. Such possibility! And new school clothes? I am 46 years old , and every year I look forward to deciding on what to wear on the first day of school. Is that sad?

9. Writing utensils. Number 2 pencils. Ink pens. And possibly my favorite - Sharpie markers. I just can't get enough! I love a good ink pen, but they are hard to find. My writing utensil of choice is the number two pencil. And I don't mean the clicky kind - I hate those. I mean regular pencils. That have to be sharpened. That have an eraser. And if I'm really lucky, that are cute. I think Halloween pencils are the cutest. But I just love a Sharpie. I have never really worked much in other businesses, but I just don't see other professionals working with cute Halloween pencils and colorful Sharpies. Just saying - I may be wrong.

8. This may seem obvious, but it must be said. The schedule. Christmas vacation, spring break, summer vacation. It is a great schedule for moms. There is nothing better than being off when your kids are out of school.

7.  The good workshops - emphasis on good. Nothing recharges the teacher batteries like a good workshop. Makes you want to run to the classroom and immediately begin teaching.

6. The books. I love books. Text books, novels, workbooks. Not gradebooks - I don't like those.

5. Talking about the books. I love to hear students discuss the books that they are reading. It's great when they get excited about an assigned novel, story, or poem. But my favorite is when they are reading something of their choice and have discussions with me or other students about the book. And it is just the bomb-diggity when they read a book and come in telling me that it is so much better than the movie.

4. Students keep you young. It's the energy of youth. It rubs off on you.

3. Learning from the students. Students are constantly teaching me something. Just today I learned about the neatest website from one of my seventh grade girls. My students are working on independent reading projects and must complete a presentation using technology. She wanted to make sure that she was doing what I had asked her to and that this site would open at school, so she directed me to  for creating digital timelines.

2. Laughter. Very few days go by that I don't laugh with my students. And I mean laugh. Not smile, not giggle - laugh out loud. Sometimes to the point of crying.

And the best reason...

1.  Seeing the lightbulb turn on. Unless you have stood in front of a class, you might think I'm kidding. But sometimes you can just SEE that lightbulb click on. The entire expression changes. It's the best! I teach every day, but it doesn't matter what I do if my students aren't learning! I've got to see the lightbulbs to know that they are learning. I look for that lightbulb. Sometimes I would like to pretend that I see it so that I can move on, but that wouldn't get me or the students anywhere. Without these lightbulbs turning on, none of the other matters. Sometimes it frustrates me that the dang light just won't turn on. It can definitely add stress and raise the blood pressure when I can't present something in a way that students can learn it.

But rarely a day passes without some tiny thing that makes me just soak in the moment. Whether it's listening to a conversation about a book; a silly joke; a rough, but often practiced magic trick; or just finding a cute pencil on the floor, something happens to make all the stress and tension worth it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's Been One of Those Weeks

Have you ever had "one of those weeks"?  You know, the kind where everything that can go wrong does? Where all of your plans are shattered, repeatedly? Where you want to cuss, cry, and eat chocolate?

It has been THAT sort of week for me. There are papers piled on my desk, waiting to be graded; actually, they are stashed away in a drawer because I didn't want the sub to walk in on Friday and think that I do nothing. The house is a train wreck - who can clean when having a bad week? And my truck??? After several days of freezing and thawing on a gravel road and hauling things to various activities, it MUST be cleaned, inside and out, today! And even though Lovey gave them both a bath on Wednesday night, these two dogs smell like, well, stinky dogs.

But these are just side notes, not the reasons for a crazy week.

Last year, our gifted and talented program was monitored. Seems harmless right? My G/T coordinator, Reasa, came by with the monitor-lady, introduced us, and we commenced with small chit-chat. A short time later, the two moved on down the hall. After said monitoring was over, Reasa came back by and asked me to consider presenting at the AGATE conference (This is the yearly meeting where teachers and parents of gifted students from across the state gather to discuss and promote gifted education.). Next year always seems so far away doesn't it?  And anything seems possible next year.

Well, next year hit me right square in the jaw this week.

What's that line the best laid plans of mice and men? I had formatted the plan in my head, I had discussed the plan with Reasa, I had proposed the plan to AGATE, the committee had accepted the plan, but the plan just refused to come together this week. I had the best little computer guru's on campus working diligently to help me with my problems. It just wouldn't come together. Video clips could not be found, memory cards were misplace, video clips were discovered (but only a few), oh wait, more were located, but they wouldn't open in the editing program - it was a roller coaster ride all week. But I must say, those kids worked on it all week long. And I am eternally indebted to them for their dedication to the plan.

I walked away Thursday afternoon with several unedited video clips saved to my external hard drive, my laptop, and a mac borrowed from EAST lab (never having touched a  mac - I wasn't comforted much by this), and hopes that something would work out.

(This post seems to be growing rather long - imagine my week!)

We arrived at the Peabody, hauled everything up to the room, filled Reasa in on the whole the plan isn't going as planned idea, and (here's where things started to look up for me) met up with a dear, long-lost friend and went to dinner. Yep, I dumped the two computers and the video files and went to eat a yummy dinner and share a few hours of conversation with friends - it was great!

After dinner, we went back to the room, hauled out those computers and went to work. With Megan's help, I managed to put together a powerpoint on the mac which included those unedited video clips. I went to sleep knowing that we finally had something that resembled the earlier plan ready for the presentation at 9:00 am. Not to be redundant, but...the best laid plans of mice and men.... At about 8:50, Reasa and I went in to the conference room to set up; only to discover the projector cord for hooking up the computer was not mac compatible, go figure! Reasa went on a hunt and located a tech guy. He said he could get a converter. He did - it didn't fit! With only a few minutes before the presentation would start, I was back on that dang roller coaster! While Reasa was doing the introduction and lead-in, he came back with the correct converter. I am starting to have a very deep connection with computer gurus!

The presentation flew by. I hope that something I said made sense.  No matter what I did, I was very proud to show off my students' work. They are an impressive bunch and made me look good. I'll have to do something nice for them next week - maybe a week of no homework.

After the presentation was over I had a few minutes to update my facebook status and was surprised to have another dear and long-lost friend comment that she too was at the conference.  We met for a quick visit just before lunch.

The luncheon brought the conference to a close and also brought about a happy end to a very stressful week. I had spent the last night at a swanky hotel with two very helpful co-workers, had the chance to catch up with friends from my past, and my dessert at the luncheon was the yummiest chocolate cake ever!

I already have next year's plan swirling around in my head! That really was some good chocolate cake.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Twelve Commandments

While looking for ideas for the Valentine's banquet today, I came across this suggestion. 
Ask people to answer the following question:

 If you could add two more commandments to the ten commandments, what would they be?

Here are mine.

11. Thou shalt not ask for extra credit when thou hast failed to do homework assignments and/or thou hast not made a grade higher than a C on any test or project.

12. When ask a question such as "What dost thou want for supper?" or "Where dost thou wisheth to go eat?" thou shall not answereth "I don't care".

What would you add??

Friday, February 4, 2011

Two Puppies and a Possum

Those tamales that I planned to make for Lovey were delayed.  They are now steaming - a little later than I had planned, but they'll be ready soon.

I had a small snafu that involved Lucy and Jake.

Can you tell that they are wet, muddy, and in trouble? You see, just last night I gave them both a bath.  They were so clean and smelled really nice (for a dog). They love the cold weather.  So I was surprised that they didn't get wet and muddy earlier today.  I let my guard down for just a few minutes this afternoon, just a few minutes.  I was gathering the supplies to start rolling the tamales. I heard barking and somehow just knew that I needed to go see what was happening. 

I found them. They were in the front yard chasing, barking, biting, and fighting with a possum, a big, fat possum. Where were those boys and their daddy again?? No where to be found!

I chased the dogs and the possum for about 20 minutes.  Got me a big ol' stick - not to hit the possum, but to try and separate the dogs from it enough that I could catch at least one dog. I quickly decided that this would not work because every time I got  Lucy headed away from the possum, the possum would come after me. Then Lucy would attack all over again.

After several minutes of this I came up with a much better plan.

Rubbermaid boxes are GREAT!  I trapped the possum, thinking I would just be able to catch the dogs after I had trapped the possum - I was wrong.  Neither dog would come close enough for me to catch. And if I let go of the box, Lucy would charge at it, trying to throw it off of the possum. I had trapped the possum, but also myself. I couldn't let go of the box.  Finally, I managed to get my hands on Lucy. Jake was easy to catch after that.  They are both in puppy prison (aka the laundry room) "thinking about what they have done" until they are dry - and it takes Jake a long time to dry.

And the possum? The boys and their daddy showed up moments after I had the dogs in custody. The boys helped with the release.

That possum was not at all happy that he had been in possum prison.  And the two puppies are not at all happy to be in puppy prison (aka the laundry room).

The tamales are almost ready.  I think I will release the puppies right after I eat a tamale.

Snow day, sorta

My morning started with a phone call from my sister. She had seen on TV that school was canceled but hadn't gotten the "official" call yet.  It came shortly afterwards. This is our third snow day for the 2010-11 school year. Quite unusual for Southeast Arkansas - quite unusual considering this is what I saw when I got out of bed.

Doesn't look like much, I know.  This bit of snow is not the reason we got a snow day; it is the threat of more to come and the teeny bits of sleet that are falling now and can't be seen in the picture.

I have cooked breakfast for Lovey and the boys. Bundled them up and sent them out to work.  Cold, wintery weather does not make for an easy day for farmers and their sons. Farmers' wives, who are school teachers and have had a rather crazy few days which included an out-of-town-overnight-stay workshop, another workshop, and parent/teacher conferences, tend to claim the said wintery weather as an excuse to not get out of PJs all day.

I may be feeling a little guilty for claiming a PJ day, but I think I'll go make Lovey some tamales. He'll enjoy the surprise!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My First Blog

Wow.  I've been thinking of blogging, or doing something, for quite some time now. Just thinking. Nothing but thinking. About blogging, or something.

How to start? Where to start? Even bigger - How to continue after starting?

So this is it - me getting my feet wet.