Friday, April 29, 2011

I Annoy Them and They Annoy Me...That's Just the Way we Roll Around Here

So the other day I was whining about how sad I am that my kids are getting older and that my Easter bunny days are now firmly behind me.  Blah, blah, blah, wah, wah, wah, I know!

In all seriousness, I must confess that sadness is just one of the many emotions I might be feeling on any given day with these teenagers o’ mine.  Let’s see…there’s frustration, anger, exasperation, oh, yeah, and confusion…let’s go with that one today.

What is most confusing to me is how it is that I have teenagers in the first place.  I mean, how did they get here?  Oh, I know technically how they got here…two Midori daiquiris at El Torito 16 years ago…with a repeat performance 2 years later.  Believe me; I totally know how they got here!  What I don’t get is how I am old enough to even have teenagers.  I know what you’re thinking:  Get over yourself already; you’re 43 years old, just deal with it. 

But it’s not my own age that bothers me…really, it’s not…it’s more the fact that I can so vividly remember being 14 and 16 myself that it makes it so very hard for me to fathom that I, in fact, have children who are 14 and 16.  My parents were a smidge older when they had kids, which means they were a little bit older when my sister and I were teenagers, but not by much, and I totally remember how old they seemed… when they were, in fact, basically my age!  Oh, the irony!

Another thing about my teenagers that is so confusing to me is how much I annoy them.  I mean, the very fact that I draw breath causes them great consternation.  It’s funny, because I thought that because my relationship with my own mother was so fractured, which has caused me to really try and be an involved mom to ensure that my relationship with my own kids is rock solid, I somehow deluded myself into thinking that this great, involved  relationship would somehow be immune to the teenage years.  Well, guess what, folks?  It’s not!  If I had the proverbial nickel for every time one of my kids called me annoying, well, I’d be rich, rich, rich! 

Yet another thing I find so confusing about my teenagers is, like, when did they find the time to get all these advanced degrees that they suddenly posses?  For example, my son is now a dermatologist who says that he doesn’t need sunscreen.  That, in fact, sunscreen doesn’t even work!  (He’s got the fairest skin in all the land, plus a family history of cancer…of course he needs sunscreen!)

Oh, and my daughter apparently has a PhD in nutrition as just last night at the dinner table she declared that breakfast was not one bit important and that is was, in fact, not even necessary at all.  I mean, I know they stay up later than my husband and I do some nights (well, most nights, really), but we thought they were just lying in bed reading…little did we know that the late nights were due to all of this groundbreaking research they have clearly been doing!

This is just the tip of the iceberg here, folks.  Once my kids hit teenagerdom they were all of a sudden experts on EVERYTHING!  Dermatology, nutrition, ophthalmology, hair care, lawn care, automotive care, animal care…you name it…they know it ALL.

And guess what?  It’s REALLY annoying.  So, this is my life…I annoy my teenagers and they annoy me right back.  Fair trade off?  Not really, but I’m told this is how it’s going to be until they hit 21 or so and realize how right my husband and I have been all along, and how completely and totally and utterly wrong they have been all along.  I would say I can’t wait for that day, but then that would mean wishing they were grown and gone faster than it feels like they are already growing up and slipping away, and, quite frankly, I’ll take annoying and under my roof any day of the week!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You Say Faux Pas…I Say Learning Experience

In any given class you will have nice kids and not-so-nice kids, hard-working kids and not-so-hardworking kids, funny kids, serious kids, smart kids and not-so smart kids, and everything in between (and above and below).  (The thing about public education that a lot of people don’t understand is that we take whatever walks through that door…for better or for worse.)

In the category of smart kids you have the sub-category of really smart kids.  And by really smart, I mean really, really, really smart.  Now these kids may not appear smart if you were to walk in on them in their classroom environment at any given moment.  In fact, one the smartest kids I’ve ever had in my life had pretty much no fine motor skills, which meant that all of his written work, which is what gets presented to the world, was a complete and total mess.  Yet, that kid could tell you the difference between the War of 1812 and the Civil War…I’m guessing better than most adults could…including moi!  That kid could also problem solve like nobody’s business.  Once his wheels started turning, watch out, ‘cuz great things were going on up there!

I have a student in my class this year who also qualifies as really, really, really smart.  IQ-wise he’s probably the smartest kid in the class.  However, similar to my friend above with no fine motor skills, my student this year has major, major focusing issues…meaning he can’t stay on task to save his life.  Meaning the smartest kid in the class is on a daily behavior contract because he doesn’t finish his work!  He’s beyond capable, but for whatever reason he finds his pencil, eraser, seat partner…pretty much anything…to be more compelling than the assignment at hand.  But make no mistake, the kid’s smart!

For our 100’s Day Collections earlier this year…while the rest of the class was collecting 100 Cheerios, pennies, stickers, and…UGH…silly bandz…this kid was collecting capitals.  No, not capital letters, silly, state capitals…and since he ran out of USA state capitals he added the capitals of foreign countries…because really, what 6-year old doesn’t find capitals fascinating?!  This little foray of his into world geography paid off just this very morning.

The first thing we do every day is Calendar, and the last part of Calendar includes a question strip from Brain Quest.  Each strip has five questions that cover a variety of topics (math, spelling, grammar, etc.).  One of the questions today was:  What two letters begin the words “queen” and “quiz”?  A student raised his hand and said, “Q.” 

“Hmm,” I said, “doesn’t Q have a very best friend that he is always, always, always with?  Do you remember what letter Q never leaves home without?”  I know, I know, gag me, but hey, First Grade is all about these cute little sayings. 

The student remembered that ahh, yes, Q is always with U. 

Well, my little world history buff’s hand immediately shot up and he said, “Um, Mrs. J., that’s not right, there’s a country on the map that starts with a Q but doesn’t have a U.” 

“Oh, do you mean Qatar?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, “that’s the country that has a Q but no U.”

The fact that he even knows about countries is pretty amazing…most First Graders barely know what city they live in!  But the fact that he remembered there is a country on the map that breaks the QU “rule” is quite impressive, indeed.  Beyond impressive, if you ask me.   

Speaking of impressive, aren’t you impressed that I know there is a county named Qatar?  Well, don’t be, ‘cuz here’s how I know…

A few years back some friends of friends had been relocated for the husband’s work.  He was (and still is) an engineer in the oil industry, and the last we had heard at that time was that they were living in Texas.  We were asking about them one night because they got moved around quite a bit, and our friends said they were feeling a bit worried for them because they had been relocated yet again…this time to Qatar. 

Now, I’m a small-town girl who was raised in Nowhere, USA.  I’ve never been out of the country, unless you count Baja, California, which, quite frankly, I don’t, or unless you count the time my dad was on a Fulbright Scholarship in Lima, Peru, when I was an infant, which, again, I don't.  So I assumed Qatar was in Texas…and I said so.  Qatar, huh, so what part of Texas is that in?”  I stupidly asked. 

My husband looked at me like the moron that I was (and still am), my friends looked at me like, Is she serious, and someone, thankfully, took pity on me and very kindly said, “Um, Jane, Qatar is in the Middle East…you know…near Iran and Iraq.”  Ahh…so that’s why they were worried.  I was kind of wondering why they were worried about Texas…I mean, I know the big hair is scary and all, but really, Texas seems harmless enough! 

So that’s how I know about Qatar…and that’s how I was able to keep up with my student today…my 6-year old student!  Good grief, I hate to think what would have happened if I hadn’t have had my little Qatar gaffe all those years ago.  So you see, my friends, sometimes a little faux pas every now and again isn’t such a bad thing…unless, of course, you’re the unfortunate soul who married me! 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pity Party/Happy Easter

7:50am Easter morning and my house is silent.  The husband is on the couch in the living room with his coffee reading a book, and I am on the stool at the kitchen bar with my coffee reading the paper.  Dead silence. 

No 5:00am wake up to hide Easter eggs before the kids get up.  No giggles outside our bedroom door at 6:00am.  No little voices debating who is going to be brave enough to come in and wake us up.   No tentative opening of the door as they both walk into our room.  No child tiptoeing over to my side of the bed, and no child tiptoeing over to the husband’s side of the bed.   No pretending to be asleep to prolong their anticipation.  Just silence.
What’s that?  A bedroom door opens upstairs.  I leap off the stool, peer up the hallway in anticipation; I am eager to wish whichever child this is a Happy Easter.  This year I am the one oozing with anticipation.  Too late...the bathroom door closes.  That’s okay, I’ll wait.   I return to my coffee and a moment or two later I hear the bathroom door open.  Once again I leap off the stool, once again I peer up the hallway, and once again I am too late; whoever it was has simply returned to their room. 
8:25am and the house is still silent.  In years’ past, the kids would have been halfway into their chocolate bunnies by now, there would be strings of Easter basket filling all over the house, and the husband and I would be on our third round of hiding eggs.   Instead, this year one of my kids is clearly up but is likely reading in bed, the other is still asleep, the husband is reading on the couch, and I am down here in the office writing this blog entry feeling sorry for myself and ready to throw myself a big ol’ fat pity party.
Having teenagers is, well, quite frankly, it’s just plain weird.  On the one hand, I love having these helpful, independent people around, on the other hand, though, I hate having these helpful, independent people around.   Is it too much to ask that they be independent and need me at the same time?   Is it too much to ask that they still get excited over little kid holidays like Easter?
8:30am and a child finally ventures downstairs.  It’s my son and, poor kid, my husband and I practically tackle him to give him a hug and wish him a Happy Easter.  There are no eggs to hunt this year, though I refused to give up at least the pretense of the Easter Bunny and so there are Easter baskets, though at 14 and 16 my kids could really care less.  Not that they’re not grateful, but they’re long past the age of even humoring me and pretending that they still believe.   They are courteous and they give appropriate thanks, but they’re just not that into it.
I spend the rest of the day in a weird tug of war of emotions...sad that my kids are getting older, glad that they are so helpful.  In getting ready for company my son mowed the lawn and my daughter helped me endlessly in the kitchen.  At times like this they really do help lighten the load.  But the fact that they are so capable of lighting the load makes me really feel their days here are numbered. 
I’m sure I’m being melodramatic, but with each holiday tradition that we give up I feel them one step closer to leaving.  I know there will come a day in the not too distant future that I will wake up on Easter Sunday and there will be no children in the house at all and I will be heartbroken.  When that day comes, all I can say is that the husband better buy me an extra large chocolate bunny that year...solid too, none of that cheap hollow crap!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Snack Time

Call me Pollyanna, but I love almost everything about my job…I know, don’t you just hate people like that?

If it makes you feel any better, the things that I don’t like about my job I really don’t like.  For example…yard duty.  I hate, hate, H-A-T-E yard duty.  Well, actually that’s not entirely true (sorry)…it’s more of a love-hate thing that I have with yard duty.

I love watching and listening to the interactions the kids have with each other…that stuff is priceless.  But I hate that I don’t get to spend that time doing something constructive… like grading papers, copying stuff, and/or, well, peeing!

So this week it’s my turn for morning yard duty and I’m walking around looking all large and in charge, whistle at the ready, just trying to catch someone doing something wrong.  Ha!  Just kidding…I’m really just pretending to be doing all of those things in case my principal’s watching!  Ha!  Just kidding again…I basically spend my time walking around making sure everyone stays safe…Honest Abe, I do!

We’re a few minutes into my morning sentence, er, I mean, into my morning yard duty and a cutie pie walks up to me and asks if I’ll open her snack.  This happens all the time…easy enough you think…but wait, not so fast…if a snack has anything that even resembles teeth marks and/or slobber from a kid trying to rip it open with his/her teeth then I’m not touching it!

Lucky for this kid, her snack still looks pretty much intact.  She hands it to me and I proceed to open it for her.  I glance at what it was and…you ready for this?  She, a second grader mind you, had brought dried seaweed for her morning snack.  My husband brought that stuff home one day and it was nasty!  Whatever though…what she brings for snack is certainly none of my business, so I open it for her and send her on her merry way.

I then glance around the snack tables and notice kids eating apples and oranges and cheese sticks and all kinds of other healthy snacks that I never ate as a kid.  Nope, no healthy food for me!  If I did get sent to school with a snack, and I’m guessing that I didn’t, but if I did, I’m sure it was something along the lines of a Ding Dong and a Pepsi!  (This, of course, totally explains why I have more cavities than I have teeth and why I have a sweet tooth the size of Texas!)

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm trying to say anything bad about my parents...really, I'm not.  It's just that this was back in the 70's...back in the days of Wonder Bread and Kool-Aid, baby!  We didn't have 2% reduced-fat milk, we didn't have 100% whole wheat bread, and we most certainly didn't have snack-sized packages of dried seaweed!  Dried seaweed for snack...who knew?!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Laundry Woes…Here We Go Again!

So I’m doing laundry one night last week…riveting, I know…and can I just say one thing about laundry, and, um, pardon my French, but that sh*t’s never done, is it?

Anyway, I’m doing laundry and I’m starting to get tired so I decide to put the last load in the dryer.  (The last load, by the way, was a load of my dark clothes, which, by the way, I dry on gentle.)  I lovingly place this last load of clothes in the dryer and lovingly set the dial to gentle and lovingly push the start button.  I then decide to throw a load of towels into the washer to be ready to wash the next day after work.  I’m very efficient that way!  (I didn’t actually start the washer because it’s kind of noisy and it’s getting late and I didn’t want to hear it.)

The next day arrives and it’s after work and so I go to grab my load of dark clothes from the dryer and to start the load of towels that I had placed in the washer the night before because that was my plan, right?  Are you still with me?

Only guess what?  My clothes aren’t there…or at least they don’t appear to be there.  Instead I reach in the dryer and find the unwashed towels…on top of my clothes!  Apparently someone, who shall remain nameless, but who happens to be a teenager and who happens to be male and who happens to be my son, decided he couldn’t be bothered to actually unload the dryer so he decided to just put whatever was in the washer on top of what was in the dryer…and then start the dryer…on high! 

Remember, the towels were never even washed…so my gentle clothes (that have already been dried) got dried again…only this time on high and with dirty towels…nice!  And the kicker is that he wasn’t even home when I made this little discovery so I wasn’t able to have the satisfaction of giving him a good old-fashioned piece of my mind. 

I resorted to doing what all moms in 2011 do…I texted him!  And my text may have included the phrase, “What were you thinking?”  But you know what?  A text is just not as satisfying as an in-your-face rant.  To add insult to injury, by the time he got home I couldn’t give him said in-your-face rant because I was totally over it and totally realizing it wasn’t such a big deal after all.  Don’t you just hate when that happens?!

Only it is kind of a big deal, and here’s why.  My son is very smart.  And no, I’m not just saying that because he’s my son.  He really and truly is, well, smart.  Very smart.  As in, gifted…as in, he gets A’s in classes like Honors Chemistry and Honors Math and all kinds of classes I wouldn’t last two minutes in...oh yeah, and he gets these A's with very little effort...just take my word for it...he's smart! 

So he’s a smart kid…yet he can’t tell that bone dry towels in the washer mean that they haven’t been washed yet (come on, even a load left overnight will still be damp) and he can’t tell that dry clothes in the dryer mean they have already been dried and that they need to be REMOVED.  I mean, I appreciate that on some level he was trying to be helpful by doing some laundry in the first place, but seriously…what was he thinking...and what good are all those smarts if you don't have a lick of common sense?! 

Kids!  Gotta love 'em...even when they drive you nuts...or should I say, especially when they drive you nuts!

Friday, April 15, 2011

My World…Road Trippin’ Part 2

As I mentioned on Monday, we are back from a road trip, the destination of which was Arizona and the goal of which was to see the abundant, and awe inspiring, Indian Ruins in that beautiful state.

We were in Canyon De Chelly and we were hiking along a trail that allowed us a spectacular view of Spider Rock.  It was a very easy walk (my favorite kind) and I must confess to feeling a wee bit guilty about enjoying all that view for so very little effort.  Typically, we have to hike uphill for miles and miles (in the snow…while carrying our brothers and sisters on our backs) for a view of that caliber!

I quickly made peace with this guilt knowing that I had “done my time” on countless other hikes, and as I looked out at the majesty that surrounded me, the term “small world” instantly came to mind.  At that moment, however, what I was feeling was that the world was anything but small.  In fact, what I felt more than anything was just how overwhelmingly big the world really is.  Words like expansive and vast came to mind…but most certainly not a word like small.     

As I was contemplating the vastness of it all, a moment of sadness overtook me as I came to the realization that no matter how long I lived it would not be long enough to see it all.  The world is simply too big, and even if time and money were in endless supply, which they are not, but even if they were, I would never experience all the beauty in this world.  (I’m not trying to be all “woe is me” here, but it’s a simple fact that there are many, many, many parts of this beautiful world that I will never see.)

At the exact moment that this realization cemented itself into my brain, and at the exact moment that I accepted this as fact (and, indeed, as my destiny), my family came into my view.  On the path before me walked my husband, my son, and my daughter, side by side, taking up the narrow path. 

Peace washed over me…for right there, right before me, was my world.  There is beauty in those three people…beauty in the past that we have shared together, beauty in that very moment that we were sharing, and beauty in the wondering of what the future might hold for each of us...and that is all I need; indeed, it is all I will ever need.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Did You Know that In First Grade…?

Here’s a little game I like to call Did You Know that In First Grade…? 
You ready?

Okay, here goes…

 *Did you know that in First Grade there is a new movie called Diarrhea of a Wimpy Kid?
 *Did you know that in First Grade some kids have em  p  three players?
 *Did you know that in First Grade you can wrap your leftovers in tin foyole?
 *Did you know…you can visit a city called elaye?  (LA)
 *Did you know…veterinarian and vegetarian are interchangeable…even when reading a  book called Pets at the VET…even when every picture in said book shows an adult wearing a lab coat…and even when said adults are taking care of ANIMALS?
 *Did you know…you can help your parents by dusting the driveway?
 *Did you know…you can go to the maul and by a knew pear of Vans?
 *Did you know…before you have a play date with a friend you must first decide whose hose you will be going to?  Similarly, when playing soccer, you must first decide who is going to be the goaler.
 *Did you know…there is a new subspecies of tiger called the Bangled Tiger?
 *And, my personal favorite…Did you know that if you get a new playground ball and you don’t want to get it dirty you can carry it around like a baby for the entire recess?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Road Trippin’

We’re just back from a road trip in which we put over 1,000 miles on the ol’ camper!
To me, the road trip is a great way to force your family to spend some time with you!  At home, it seems as if everyone is too busy and too dialed in to their own thing to really care too much about doing anything together.  (I’m exaggerating a bit here; we really are lucky in that our teenagers actually do spend quite a bit of time at home…it’s just that they’re usually doing something that doesn’t involve us!)
To have everyone in my sight, and during about 90% of a road trip in my reach (literally), is nice; this is especially true since the kids are getting older and we really do sense that our times together like this are numbered (sniff, sniff).
As with every family, there are a lot of things that happen that are really “you had to be there” things and that are really only funny when you are, well, right there when they happen.  Other things, however, are more universal. 
For example…We had been driving for a while when my husband decided it was time to pull off the road so that everyone could stretch their legs and grab a bite to eat.  We had been stopped for a good 20 minutes when we decided it was time to get back on the road.  My husband gives everyone a final, “Anybody need anything from the camper before I shut ‘er down?”  We grumble our replies and he shuts everything down and hops back in the driver’s seat.  He starts the truck and drives, no joke, about 10 feet when my son says, “Is there anything to eat?”  Hello!  We were just stopped for 20 minutes, dad just asked if anyone needed anything before he shut everything down, and now we are, like, two seconds back on the road and you want something to eat?!  Oye vay!
Probably not so universal are the funny things that happen as a result of being married to a geologist.  In a way, it’s like teaching First Grade in that, like my students, my husband sometimes speaks an entirely different language than the rest of us.
For example…We’re driving along out in the middle of nowhere and all of a sudden he swept his hand out, Vanna-style, and said, “Wow, there’s a slick roadcut.”  Huh?  Like the rest of us are supposed to know what that means?!  For the record…because I know you’re dying to know…a roadcut is “a cut through a hill or mountain for the purposes of building a road through it, rather than over it.”  Well, at least it makes sense!  So a slick roadcut, to the geologist husband, means some cool rock has been exposed as a result of a road being built through it.  Whew...I'm glad we got that all figured out!
Driving along further, he excitedly said, “How do you like that cap rock?”
My response…“Are you talking to me?” 
Him, “Yes, look at that nice cap rock.”
Again, I have no clue what he is talking about!  If you are interested in expanding your vocabulary and impressing everyone at your next cocktail party, cap rock means, “a relatively impermeable rock, commonly shale, anhydrite, or salt that forms a barrier or seal above and around reservoir rock so that fluids cannot migrate beyond the reservoir.”  (I bet you just totally fell asleep there, huh?)  Again, I guess it makes sense once you know what it means, but until then you’re like, “Cap rock…hmmm…is that anything like cap sleeves?”
And one more for the road…er, I mean, one more from the road…“Oh, look, they’re mining the scoria, babe, check it out.”  Again, huh?  And again, for your next party...scoria is “basaltic lava ejected as fragments from a volcano, typically with a frothy texture.”  I’m sorry, but that just sounds vulgar!   The second definition is “slag separated from molten metal during smelting.”  Okay, so that definition’s not quite so graphic, but now I have to look up slag, molten, and smelting!  Oh, never mind, let’s just say being married to a geologist is an adventure and leave it at that...and from now on, when he throws out fancy geologist terms I’ll just smile and nod my head and say, “Oh, look honey, rocks, pretty, pretty rocks!”

Friday, April 8, 2011

25 Random Things

I am a complete sucker for all of those Facebook-type, getting-to-know-you lists.  I love how random they are and how you get to know things about a person that would not normally come up in a regular conversation.  So…if you want to know a little bit more about me, and I just know you do, well, here you go!

  1. I am an avid reader and love all things to do with words, books, and reading. 
  2. I am grateful to my parents for exposing me to a variety of music.
  3. One of my fondest memories growing up is coming home after school and hearing my mom on the piano singing and playing her heart out.  Another great memory is her taking me to the Bookmobile (I know I am dating myself with that little gem).  Perhaps my all-time favorite is my 21st birthday when my dad flew me to Vegas on a private jet.     
  4. I am a first grade teacher and absolutely love it.  There’s something magical about helping a child learn how to read. 
  5. I admire my husband for his integrity, my son for his determination and focus, and my daughter for the fact that she can cook, bake, knit and bait her own hook. 
  6. I can’t go a day without chocolate.
  7. I am not a political person at all, but I do sometimes wish that I were more politically aware.
  8. I love America and am grateful every day for all of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed so that I can be sitting here at my computer right now typing all of this nonsense about myself.
  9. About 20 years ago I realized my mom’s mental illness was not my fault and was nothing to be ashamed of. 
  10. I think a great pair of jeans is well worth the price.
  11. I grew up in a town that is constantly mocked, but that also has bragging rights to the best bakery on the planet, and while I have not actually traveled the planet, I have been to enough bakeries to know that this is true! 
  12. I don’t like beer or wine.
  13. I have no first cousins.
  14. I had a crush on pretty much everyone in high school.
  15. My mom and sister have both battled breast cancer. 
  16. I never knew my mother-in-law.  Ditto for my dad’s dad and my mom’s dad.
  17. I think a man who is crazy about his wife and kid is sexy. 
  18. Petty people drive me nuts.
  19. I am punctual and reliable.
  20. It upsets me when people think teachers have it easy or that we are overpaid.  When you factor in all the time we work unpaid (weekends, breaks, etc.), plus all of our own money that we spend on our students/classrooms, I assure you we are so not overpaid. 
  21. I think all the big clich├ęs are true:  time really does fly, the best things in life really are free, time really does heal all wounds, children really are the future, a little kindness really does go a long way, and, of course, we all really should do onto others as we would have them do unto us.   
  22. I am a great baker, though strangely only a mediocre cook. 
  23. My dad is scary smart, and I am grateful that my kids have inherited some of this (though, unfortunately, I did not).   
  24. I love the fact that my son taught me how to play chess and that I still cannot beat him.
  25. I thank my lucky stars every day that at the ripe old age of 24 I somehow had my wits about me enough to marry a great man.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hey, that’s Not Fair!

So we switched seats last Friday, like we do on the first day of every month.  The kids basically get to pick where they want to sit, BUT…they can’t sit next to someone in their color group (guided reading group), they can’t sit next to someone they have sat next to before, they can’t sit in the same row they were just sitting in, and…I have FINAL say. 

This system evolved this year primarily out of my laziness to make a new seating chart every month, but also out of my curiosity to see where they would sit if they were allowed to choose.  It’s actually a great system because they have to figure out where they can sit based on where they can’t sit.  It’s a little thing I like to call problem solving, and I just love to see those wheels turning as they try to figure it out.

Anyway, that’s not really the point of this post…

So the kids are all settled in their new spots and not one, not two, but three of them discover that the previous inhabitant had written his name in the desk…in permanent marker…which, in my book, is not okay.

I give them my best, “I’m shocked.  I don’t know what to say.  Did you know that writing on someone else’s property is called vandalism and that vandalism is illegal?”  I try not to go overboard, but I want them to know how disappointed I am. 

As luck would have it, prior to this little discovery I had told the kids I would give them some Free Choice Friday time (you know, 20 minutes of puzzles, blocks, free coloring… kids live for times like this).  And there was no way I was going to let my little trio of vandals have free choice time, so I handed them each a piece of paper, told them to go grab their pencils, and I put them at the back table to write a letter to their parents explaining what they had done…while the rest of the class had free choice. 

After the free choice time was up, it was time to go.  I stapled a note to the letters the kids had written explaining what had happened and then dismissed everyone.  (At my school, I walk the kids up to the front and I have to wait until everyone gets picked up.  This typically takes about 15 minutes.)

I return to my classroom and there, with his mom, is one of the boys and she is making him wash his name off the desk.  She is very calm about it, not at all berating him or anything like that…just very matter of fact…I think she handled it beautifully.

After he finishes his desk he asks if he can clean the two other names off of the two other desks, to which she replies, “Fine.”  So he proceeds to clean those desks as well, and as he’s working on the third desk he says, “Momma, this is fun.  When we get home, can you find some stuff at our house to clean?”  She says, “Sure!”  And while this beautiful little mother/son exchange is happening I’m thinking, “Wait a minute.  That’s not fair!  Shouldn’t he have to come to my house and clean something?!”

Monday, April 4, 2011

First Grade vs. Fourth Grade: A Tooth Story

This story is based on a conversation between, well, first grade teachers and fourth grade teachers, thus the title (I’m very clever that way, aren’t I?).  However, the author…that’d be me, has taken some liberties. 

First Grade Classroom

Student:  Teacher, I lost a tooth.

Teacher:  Oh, my goodness!  Class, look!  Susie lost a tooth.  Come on up here, Susie, let’s check that out.  Wow!  Okay, now we need to put you on our “Who Lost  a Tooth?” board.  Let’s see, if there were four kids who lost a tooth in December and now Susie has lost one, how many do we have now?  Yes, that’s right, five.  Okay, boys and girls, now, is five odd or even?  Good, odd.  Wow, you guys are so smart!  Now put on your thinking caps for this one:  How many total teeth have we lost this year.  (Fingers come out, eyes roll to the back of heads, etc., as the children try to add up all the numbers.)   That’s right, Sam, we have lost a total of 25 teeth.  Wow, let’s give Sam a round of applause!  Okay, now let’s tally 25.  Ooohhh, and who knows how to make 25 using money?  Great, that’s right, we could use 5 nickels.  Who has another way?  Fantastic, one quarter.   You guys are awesome!  Okay,  now Susie, hop on up to the office and show Ms. Mary your lost tooth.  (Susie skips gleefully down the hallway.  While she is gone, every student now exclaims that he/she has wiggly teeth and proceeds to try and show the teacher.  It’s a fingers-in-the-mouth fest like none other.  Susie returns proudly displaying her nifty little tooth box - or tooth coffin - as we teachers call them.  The class oohs and ahhs over Susie’s box and then proceeds to share stories of the boxes they have received.)   

(This could literally go on and on, but let’s just say a good 15 minutes was just spent on Susie’s tooth.)

Fourth Grade Classroom

Student:  Teacher, I lost a tooth.

Teacher:  Huh?

Student:  Teacher, I lost a tooth.

Teacher:  I heard you the first time.  I’m just wondering why you’re telling me.  It’s not like you’ve never lost a tooth before.  Stick it in a baggie and get back to work. 

(This exchange was probably 15 seconds, max.)

Later, during lunch…

First grade teacher glances at the clock (while grading papers in her classroom during lunch) and notices that her lunch “hour” is almost up.  She rushes into the lounge, grabs her lunch, and mutters, “Oh my goodness, no matter how hard I work, I just can’t seem to catch up.  We are so behind!”  Fourth grade teacher feigns sympathy but when the door closes says, “What’s with those primary teachers?  They are always rushing around complaining they can’t get anything done.  They have the same amount of hours in a day as we do.  What, exactly, do they do all day long?”

Friday, April 1, 2011

Writing 101...Part Two

It recently occurred to me that when I wrote the “Writing 101” post the other day, I stated that I would be sharing some of the exercises with you from my recent writing class.  Exercises, as in more than one…hey, I teach first grade, I know all about plurals! 

In an attempt to keep my word…as if anyone even cares…I crack myself up thinking that more than three people read this blog…I have this fantasy that, like, 10 people read it…I know, I know…that’s crazy talk! 

Anyhow, here is another (and final) exercise I wanted to share with you.

This one involves a poem.  I won’t put the poem here because, well, I don’t have the author’s permission, and well, I don’t want to, you know, get sued!  But, I will put the name of the poem and the author…I figure that’s no different than me calling you up and saying, “Hey, I read this great poem called such and such by so and so and I think you should check it out.” 

The poem is The Journey by Mary Oliver.  It’s a great poem, by the way, so whether or not you do this exercise I highly recommend you read it anyway.

Our instructor explained that she would read the poem to us two times.  The first time we were to close our eyes, relax, and just listen to it.  The second time we were to hone in on a line that spoke to us.  The assignment after the two readings (both with our eyes closed) was to spend 10 minutes writing about what moved us about the line we chose.  Ideally someone would read you the poem twice like our teacher did with us, but whatever…

The line I picked was “…determined to save the only life you could save…” and this is what I wrote:

This line reminds me of my dad’s justification for why he left my mom.  How many times had he said the following words to me…“It was too late for your sister.  She was already lost to me.  But you...I knew if I could get you out of that situation – I knew if I could somehow remove you from the chaos of her illness that you would be okay, you would not be lost to me like your sister is.  You would still have a shot at a decent life.  I worried I would be too late.  You were already becoming too reserved, too quiet, spending too much time in your head.  I could see your personality beginning to fade away…to disappear.  I knew the only way to save you would be to leave.  Yours was the only life I could save and I owed it to you to leave.  You didn’t want me to leave her.  You cried and cried and it broke my heart.  But I knew I would be a fool to stay.  You would have been lost if I had stayed and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice your life the way I had your sister’s.”

Okay, your turn now…have fun!