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Showing posts from April, 2011

Equity Sticks

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 What's In a Name? Many elementary school teachers have a jar or cup of popsicle sticks, with one student's name written on each stick.  This enables you to eliminate all bias in calling on kids, or just not have to think as much. Instead of calling on the kid who always has her hand up or who sits in the front, you pick the name and there you go.  It's a common practice and I thought nothing of it when I started at this new school. Then one of the teachers asked me if I had "equity sticks" in my classroom.  Equity sticks?  Really?  I didn't know what she meant at first but it soon became obvious.  Actually, they're just popsicle sticks.  Maybe name sticks.  Craft sticks.  Wooden sticks. I can't say equity sticks without sounding ridiculous.  Actually, I don't think anyone can call popsicle sticks "equity sticks" without sounding ridiculously pompous. One year ago: What's in a Name? Four

Why We Don't Like Standardized Tests

People always ask me why teachers don't like standardized tests.  They seem surprised that we "don't want accountability.  That's not it.  Here's an excellent example of why many teachers do not like standardized tests. It's well worth a read. Three years ago: A Tip for New Parents Four years ago: Scientific Proof for my Burnout                         Too Many Children Five years ago: Move Over, George Washington!

Today My Students Said...

"My birthday is May 35th." (5-year old) "I would like to build a house out of poison crayons.   The crayons would have spikes and when they embedded in your skin, your flesh would turn black and you'd die." (10-year old) "I know we're talking about the solar system, but do you think that a man sitting in his prison cell who had taken someone else's life could still go to heaven if he died there in his cell?" (15-year old) and, my favorite line of the day, which I actually had to say: "I'm not joking.  The answer to number three really is "There are rings around Uranus." Wow.  Wow. Five years ago: Frustrations

I Really Don't Know What You're Going to Do

One of the many, many principals that we had (mostly bad), Principal Five was one of the special ones.  She wasn't outright racist like Principle Four, but she was completely usless.  This is what I wrote about Principal Five a few years ago: Principal Five: After the disastrous P4, we thought that maybe the district would get a clue. They picked someone who was not bad in any of the same ways as P4, but was still bad. Example: My classroom wasn't cleaned and it was the last day that we had before school started, as P5 lived almost two hours away and wasn't coming in on the weekend. I told her that my classroom was still messy and dirty and there was no way it would be ready for kids on the first day of school. She looked at a space right past my head so that she wasn't looking me in the eye and said, "I really don't know what you're going to do," and walked off. She also had a limp-fish kind of handshake and a tendency to walk away when

If You Don'/t Start Working on Your Fractions...

Saturday, April 22, 2006 Lockdowns and Fractions We've had a lockdown at least once a year since I've been at this school, for various reasons. A lockdown is when something dangerous is going on outside the school or in the school, so all the teachers lock the doors, pull down the blinds, get the kids away from the door, and wait for instructions. Depending on the principal, some of them have tried different codes so the kids won't be scared: the most popular is "Mr. Keys is in the building." Aside from the kids who thought that must be Alicia Keys' father, they wouldn't have caught on, except that there are always so many new teachers that this has to be followed with, "So please lock your doors, don't let children out, move them away from the doors and windows..." Most of them don't last that long. I think my first lockdown was because some bank robbers from San Francisco led police on a high speed chase which ended in

Service Day

This is a teachers' workroom/conference room- how it looked BEFORE a group of us volunteered (through my church) to fix it up.  It took about 7 hours, a lot of IKEA furniture and trips to the dumpster, and some careful planning of how things could fit, but this is what we ended up with: I hope they liked it.  Teachers really should have nice spaces to work in and children should have nice places to learn in.  It makes a big difference. Five years ago: Strike Aftermath and Fallout                         Off Topic: My Art

My Feelings on Guns

  Friday, April 20, 2007 Guns I hate guns. I hate them. I know that we have the Second Amendment in this country, and that there are many people who would shoot me for their freedom to carry guns. I don't know the statistics to argue for gun control or tougher background checks. I don't know why the US has such a high percentage of homicides by firearms compared to other developed nations. I just know that I hate them. With all this talk about the shooting at Virginia Tech, it's been interesting - and disheartening - to hear what the kids have to say. None of them seem shocked. Instead of shock, their reaction seemed to be a deep empathy and sadness. In fact, one little girl told me in the same sentence that she had seen the VT shooting on the news and that her neighbors (other kids at the school) almost got caught in a shooting that injured another student's cousin. (The cousin, who is about 15 years old, was shot in the stomach but is rec

Sad Reality

Today I was taking my Little Sister to the library and I had another realization that her life is much different than it should be at 7 years old.  I had gotten a bunch of cute polar bear cards in the mail from some wildlife group and asked if she wanted them.  She said, "Yes.  I can send them to my daddy in prison because I don't know when I'll ever see him again." Very matter-of-fact.  She has no idea there's something drastically wrong with that statement. Four years ago: Thing Number 47 I Won't Miss About Teaching Here                          Stuck in My Head                          Blackie the Horse

Student Writing

I love seeing improvement in students, so h ere's one of my favorites: Sunday, April 16, 2006 Writing Improvement! I thought I'd share a success story - this is about a kid who got held back in first grade and convinced himself he was stupid (his word) and fairly worthless. He's actually very smart (one of those who is too smart for his own good) and understands higher-level concepts than most third graders, but I think he may have some sort of processing problem that makes it harder for him to read and write. Anyway, he finally started believing that he could do the work and working at it and after much hard work and patience, he got the most improved writer award for the last trimester! Here are samples of his writing from October, January, and March. Look at the picture, even the handwriting is like it's from a different child. Each writing sample was supposed to be a paragraph. October : to mack a friend isto be nice and to shar and to play

In Praise of a Middle School

I wanted to re-post this in honor of the great teachers at Urban Promise Middle School.  I haven't been back since this post, but it was just so wonderful... Tuesday, April 14, 2009 The Difference a School Makes Wow. I've talked before about the two kids that a friend and I hang out with, or I guess you could say "mentor" in a way. I'm forgetting the pseudonyms I have them so I'll call them Jorge (the older one) and Luis (the younger). I had Jorge in my class in third grade and he has had it rough. He's the oldest of six children and was born when his mother was 14. His mom is frequently in rehab or jail, although she seems to have been out for the last couple of years. If she's clean or not is anyone's guess. Jorge helped raise Luis, at their grandmother's house (the rest of the kids live with other relatives). He's always been super over-responsible, stressed out, and had way too many adult responsibilities. About a y

The Highest Compliment

From my 10-year old student: "My friend says that tutors are horrible but he obviously hasn't met you yet." (It's because I let him write about poisonous flowers and barfing turtles.) Three years ago: Solomon the Hero Dog Four years ago: Post from Lindsay Five years ago: Imminent Strike


When we go into teaching, we all know that we're not going to be working in shiny state-of-the art facilities.  We know that we're working with children and that things will get broken and dirty.  I was, however, under the impression that the custodians cleaned up and that basic supplies were provided.  Silly of me, I know. The kids' bathrooms didn't have hot or even warm water.  They usually didn't have soap or paper towels.  Every year or so someone medical would come and do a big presentation for the kids about how to stay healthy by washing your hands in hot water with soap and drying them with paper towels.  The kids wouldn't listen, and it was hard to blame them - they had none of those supplies.  It's a little crazy-making to be told what to do and not be able to do it.  These same people had mandatory trainings for the adults, to tell us how to avoid bloodborne pathogens.  Of course, it involved some of the same tips, but here was another good on

They're Still My Kids

It never gets easier to hear about the students and their difficult lives.  When I first started teaching, I had never lived or worked in an area where kids had to sleep in the bathtub or the closet because the "gangs was shooting."  I never knew kids who had seen their cousin shot and killed or their dad stabbed to death.  There were a couple of kids who i forced to memorize my phone number and promise to call me if they were in situations that were physically dangerous. I've been extremely fortunate to reconnect with some of my old students recently and some, like this kid, have been incredibly encouraging.  But others worry me, just like they did when they were in third grade. One of them has dropped out of school at 15 and has gotten into drugs.  No surprise, really, seeing that his mom has had a drug problem for decades.  One of them messaged me on facebook and sounded incredibly depressed and discouraged "I don't think there's any way for you to he

A Problem with Tardies

You know a student has an issue with being late when he tells you this: But I only have 128 tardies! (disbelieving look from me, so he tries to clarify) That's for the whole year! Oh dear... Four years ago: No Caption Needed Five years ago: I Heart My Students                         History for Children

Meeting Mr. Obama

A former student of mine, who talks here about how he "won't make a pout" in fourth grade when he has work to do, got to meet the president.  Like any 12-year old boy, he's a little unclear about how it happened "I got good grades so I got to meet the president," and which actual program it was.  What is not unclear is that he is an amazing kid who has grown and matured and is working very hard.  And he got to meet the president!  I'm so jealous.  Here he is: Before I talk about my trip, I want to ask this question. The question is if you had one shot, or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted, one moment, would you capture it or let it slip? (Eminem, "Lose Yourself")  Well, I took my opportunity.  It took a lot of hard work, but I got it done.  Now it's time to tell you about my trip to D.C. It all started one day in class.  I was in advisory when this man came up to me named Mr. M.  He came and took me out of class to t

Teaching Money Management

Today, the 15-year old I work with asked me why I didn't have a nicer car.  My car is a 2000 Corolaa with a bad paint job.  It gets me where I'm going but it isn't pretty.  Him: So, I don't mean to be rude or anything... I mean, your car is fine, and I'm just wondering... if you can afford a car, why don't you get a nicer one? Me: Well, I could get a newer car, but I don't really want to make car payments when I own this one.  I don't want to have to pay every month for a new one. Him: But you have a car so I know you can afford one.  Why don't you want a better one? Me: This one works and I don't have the money to buy another car all at once, so I'd have to make payments.  That means for years, I'd be paying money each month for the car and if I don't have to, I'd rather not spend that money.  I still have some student loans I'm paying off so I don't want another payment. Him: OH!  It would be like you were digg