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Showing posts from February, 2011

Teacher Tip #52

Hit the dollar store about three months before a particular holiday and you’ll find a great selection of decorative things for your classroom.In Janauary, I stocked up on heart pencils and erasers, a St. Patrick’s day lei and shamrocks and picked up some quality plastic Easter eggs, Easter crayons and play-do. OK, the Easter eggs were for my own kids. But the crayons and play-d0 would work well for a simple projects in the classroom or pre-school. Also, they had fourth of July Ribbon 50% off – great for President’s Day!If you wait until the month of the holiday, you will find the selection very limited if not already taken off the shelves.

Competition for Students

First we had the competition for funding. Now we have the competition for students. The number of school age children is going down in many, many areas. Even districts that couldn’t build schools fast enough a decade ago, are seeing the drop in numbers. Throw in a religious/cultural gap that no one seems want to bridge any more, a discipline or parenting entropy, a decline in anything not labeled “math” or “literacy” (Physical Education class are now using the computer labs more than the English teachers) and it’s becoming a free for all in what education means to people.  Some days it seems like the role of administrators, legislatures, “reformers”, etc. is throw something new at the wall and see what they can make stick.Even though WA state does not allow charter schools (unlike the federal government, WA citizens can vote down laws they don’t like – in this case twice!) it hasn’t stopped districts from trying to attract students with specialized schools. Online schools were the hot…

*Sniff* Do you smell sarcasm? Cause I think we really need a baseball bat…

Pennywise, Pound Foolish

Do you teach your kids idioms? Do you use them at home?I am continually surprised at how confused my students become at what seems to me to be common phrasing in America. Once, I had to explain the meaning of “it’s raining cats and dogs” and I live in an rainforest favored by vampires for it’s lack of sunny days. Piece of cake to explain? Not so much.The other day, while explaining yet another reason why English class is important, I said that those who couldn’t be bother to learn spelling, grammar, or reading critically were “pennywise, but pound foolish.” Granted, they didn’t know what a pound note was – is the UK still using them or did they decide to jump on the Euro bandwagon finally? – but no one had ever heard of the idiom either.Given the number of “pennywise, pound foolish” decisions being made these days by everyone, including students, it seems wise to bring back these old bromides. If no other reason than injecting some common sense into our society.

Best Tweets!

Have you been following the coverage in Wisconsin? Really, I have no chance to watch news any more - it's really hard to hear over the wailing for Hand*y  M*ann*y... so I'm reduced to face*B^k and T*witt*r.

So the best tweets I've seen:

"Let's just all give the nation's wealth to 1 old Republican white guy named Steve & stop pretending"

"CONFIRMED: Further violence in WI Capitol. A woman just entered hallway, unsolicited, and gave us all homemade cookies"

"HS Student responded: 'you're wrong. I am learning a lot here. I am learning about democracy'"

"Teachers of Wisconsin: Please being your red pens tomorrow to correct the Tea Partiers' signs"


"They underestimate a protest by people who are used to standing on their feet all day" (and I would also add... no bathroom breaks!)

"We're getting called a lot of names. Good thing educators taught us to ignore bullies."


Grabbing it all!

The other day, I received an email saying something along the lines of “our meeting will be at school X. There is a lot of old curriculum and supplies at this school, if you want to look around to find things you can use, please arrive 15 minutes early to take a look around.”Any guesses as to how early most people were? Remember it was a work day… if you said one hour, you are the winner.  By the time I arrived, (not being a principal capable of leaping out of my desk to rocket over to school X), HUGE piles of crap had been assembled. Art supplies, books, microscopes from 1953 (still good!), even a garbage can full of yard sticks. Kleenex boxes! One enterprising person raided for copy paper – something we are currently fighting for. It like a dress sale at Klien*felds.It’s not just the bad economic times, teachers have always had sticky fingers whenever anything is up for grabs. Otherwise it would be coming out of our own pockets.I grabbed a bookshelf, some very, very old reading cont…

Favorite Poems

What are your favorite poems to use in class? The ones that you can either sell really well or always connect with kids? Here are some of mine -Freeway 280 by Lorna Dee Cervantes – this poem has some great images, but also quite a bit spanish. It gives the hispanic students in the class a chance to explain the meaning of the words and the images created with much more authority. September 12, 2001 by X.J. Kennedy – I don’t know if the images are so stark or if I’m able to sell it really well having been there, but kids really get into the theme of the poem. It’s also a great example of enjambment and how it affects the tone and theme of the poem.Slam, Dunk, & Hook by Yuself Komunyakaa – my students always ask me why we can’t read more poems like this…  I guess it does seem a little more approachable than say, Dickinson.Saturday at the Canal by Gary Soto – given that I teach in an area where every single students is dying to graduate and get out, this one hits home quite a bit.

Left Behind

2011 is going to be interesting in education. In his State of the Union address, the President asked people to become teachers… apparently unaware that thousands will be laid off in the next six months. Good, bad, young, old – probably even yours truly – there just won’t places for them at their previous schools. Those daring have a life (home, family, children, spouse, etc.) will probably be hit the hardest, as they also will not be able to move to areas where jobs are available. Houses cannot be sold (we lost a principal last year because he/she could not sell the house in a timely manner without incurring a huge loss), Rental markets are all time highs (all those previous home owners gotta live somewhere) and who has the money to pay for moving anyway? Class sizes next year will rival the average African shanty school. And the amount of supplies available to teachers will be about the same… I’m predicting fewer consumables, like workbooks or handouts for students. Much asking paren…