Friday, July 4, 2014

Summer School Special Edition: July 7, 2014

Greetings from Fuddle River Schools. The board met this week to discuss the district office's celebration last week of "Bring your Inner Child to Work Day."

The idea behind "Bring your Inner Child to Work Day" was to rejuvenate the sometimes boring and staid atmosphere of the district office during the slower and quieter summer weeks. The day also promised to provide perspective about the young people whose educations we are helping to facilitate.

There were several memorable highlights to the day. District director of curriculum Thomas Harrison instigated a paper wad fight at a morning meeting that ended with a raucous round of name-calling.

Heather Lemke, administrative assistant to the superintendent, spent most of her day applying make-up and looking in her mirror. She tattled several times and cried about how her hair looked all afternoon.

Technology specialist Phillip Berger engaged buildings and grounds supervisor Hal Breske in a playfight over coffee and both enjoyed themselves until Berger accidentally caught Breske with a hard right hand to the ear. Breske then chased Berger through the building for over twenty minutes until he finally cornered him near the copy room and dropped him with a shot to the abdomen.

Rose Merchant, the district's assistant superintendent in charge of testing and data, spent most of the day writing and passing notes. She was busy penning nasty messages about everyone on the administrative team until she discovered that her assistant had folded the entire set of last year's test score printouts into origami animal shapes. Strong words were exchanged, followed by a threat from Merchant that she would get the assistant after lunch. Her assistant then rallied the janitorial team to her side and the lunchtime confrontation was averted.

Merchant resumed her threats later when she discovered that her purse was being used for a football game in the second floor hallway. She jumped into the game and did manage to recover her purse, but was sent home early with a bad rug burn.

Tom Timken, the director of human resources, spent most of the morning playing with toys he brought from home. He was visibly shaken when, upon returning from a bathroom break, found several of his action figures missing heads and limbs. He ran about the building hurling accusations until lunch, when he discovered most of the missing parts in the lounge refrigerator. He reassembled his toys, but refused to share for the rest of the day.

Henry Polson, director of staff development, spent most of the morning picking his nose, and then wet his pants in the afternoon.

Mindy Richart's lunchtime tantrum was enjoyed by all. She received special kudos for writhing on the floor and repeating the same statement over and over with coordinated foot stomps and dramatic head shakes.

Jeffrey Hodgeson, tired from a morning of saying "I know you are, but what am I?" rallied in the afternoon by singing a number of off-color songs and telling a series of potty jokes.

Richard Chambers skateboarded through the building all morning, and enjoyed an afternoon of quieter play until he got a small Lego piece stuck in his right ear and had to be taken to the local urgent care clinic.

The transportation office staff spent the morning complaining to anyone who would listen that they were bored. The complaining abated in the afternoon when they discovered the play value offered by a bag of rubber bands and a box of paper clips.

An afternoon dodgeball game was marred early by a series of arguments regarding head shots and then seemed to go smoothly until a kicked ball instigated a soccer game and several players dropped out.

A flushed cell phone on the second floor resulted in a round of blaming and tattling that lasted the entire day.

Parent involvement coordinator Patricia Witton spent most of the day making crank calls from her office phone. She missed the end of the day party because, according to her, there were still a few parents she had been unable to reach.

The cake throwing incident at the end of the day party was actually instigated by the superintendent who took offense at someone remarking that he really didn't look like he needed any more cake. Most reported enjoying the cake fight, except for Frances Jordan who was bruised when hit with one of the hard sugar roses from the cake. After a bout of crying, name-calling, and tattling, she reported that she was feeling much better.

The board is now planning for a fall "Bring your Inner Child to Work Day" for staff and faculty for each of the schools.

And that's it this week from Fuddle River Schools.

Top Ten Signs a Summer School Student is "Off-Task"
10. When you stop by her desk to check her work, she covers her computer and says, "What I'm writing is none of your business."

9. Every time you walk by, she uses her reflection in your eyeglasses to adjust her make-up.

8. His computer home page is a site that sneaks around the district filter to youtube.

7. The student in front of her has had the back of her shirt stapled to her chair.

6. He straps on a Breathe Right nasal strip, leans back, and closes his eyes.

5. After scanning The Daily Racing Form website, she asks to use your phone.

4. The only sheet of paper on his desk has been neatly folded into a triangular football.

3. You hear him ask around, "Hey, does the dealer have to hit on seventeen?"

2. She returns your whiteboard markers, and you notice that her finger and toenails now feature the colors of the rainbow.

1. Your classroom furniture is falling apart and you keep hearing the sound of a cordless screwdriver coming from his desk.

Signs Students are Eating in Your Classroom
- They show up for class with napkins tucked under their chins.

- You know they won't talk with their mouths full, and they've been very quiet all week.

- They keep asking you to replace the classroom box of facial tissues with a box of wet wipes.

- They arrange themselves in class according to dietary restrictions.

- They don't pass notes. They exchange recipes.

- They never hurry off at lunch time because they're already full.

- You can't get up and down the aisles because of the beverage carts.

- You've had to employ the Heimlich maneuver three times this week.

- No one ever has an extra pen or pencil to loan, but there are always plenty of plastic sporks.

- You keep getting requests for hall passes to the school nurse's office for Tums.

- At the end of the period, they all stand and brush themselves off.

- On their way out of the classroom, they all pass by your desk looking for toothpicks and breath mints.

Top Ten Reasons the Copy Machine Jammed on Your Job
10. Blue paper makes it sad.

9. It heard about how you talked to your computer.

8. It's trying to save you from the three embarrassing typos on your original.

7. Collating on a nearly empty paper tray made it dizzy.

6. It wants a long extension cord and a chance to work outside today.

5. It can't remember if you said "sort," "stack," or "shred."

4. It would prefer to produce only original works.

3. The new toner gives it gas.

2. It's developed an allergy to goldenrod.

1. It has an itch at location F3 and it wants you to scratch it.

The Brown Pelican

Ms. Harper - I have revised my short animal report as instructed. I added the footnotes you told me that I had to have. I hope that this report is finally done. Jeremy

The Brown Pelican

The Brown Pelican is the smallest of the pelicans, but it is still a large bird. Brown Pelicans weigh between 6-12 lbs. To be fully cooked at that weight, each pelican would need to cook for at least three hours in a 350 degree oven.(1) And they taste just like chicken.(2)

A wonderful bird is the pelican. His beak can hold more than his belly can. He can hold in his beak food enough for a week.(3)

Brown Pelicans often travel in single file, flying low over the water's surface to avoid radar.(4) All Brown Pelicans speak Pelicanese, but some speak English with a salty British accent.(5)

The Brown Pelican dives for fish from the air and sometimes spends hours underwater visiting with square sponges, sea stars, and squids.(6)

Brown Pelicans nest on the ground on in low trees. They usually live in groups and the peer pressure of the group sometimes gets them in trouble. Some pelicans have been known to walk into bars and to order drinks.(7)

Live pelicans have been netted by overall-wearing men with facial hair until a heroic man from Lost Forest freed himself from his ropes and surprised the bad men into saying "What th-?!" and then punched them in their faces.(8) The bad men should have known that Pelicans are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.(9)

The Brown Pelican is the state bird of Louisiana but pelicans do not play baseball there. A group of pelicans play baseball in the professional baseball's Carolina League. Their team is a Class A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves.(10) They lead the league in fielding (11) and it is probably because of their voluminous (12) beaks.

I like Brown Pelicans and I hope someday to fly with them over the waves when I get my pilot's license and if I ever pass this assignment and graduate from school.(13) The End.

1. Joy of Cooking.
2. Everything tastes just like chicken.
3. My dad told me that.
4. I made that up.
5. Ibid.
6. "Spongebob Squarepants."
7. Part of a long joke told to me by my friend Donnie.
8. "Mark Trail" comic strip.
9. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
12. Roget's Thesaurus.
13. In my dreams.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Week of May 26, 2014

Greetings from Fuddle River Schools. The board held its regular monthly meeting this week.

The board heard from students who are protesting what they call "The expanded intrusion of state standardized testing." The students feel that so much time is spent preparing for tests and testing that there is little time left for real learning. In response, a large group of students organized to purposefully fail state tests last month. Board members thanked the students for sharing their concerns and expressed their relief to hear that there were planned failures. "Well, there you have it then," stated Fred Furnley. "That's why our district scores are so doggone low. And all the time we thought it was our fault. I feel much better now."

District officials were warned of a new inhalant abuse issue in the district. According to Mrs. Pinkel from the high school health office, some students have been snorting copy machine toner.

"It really doesn't make you feel anything," said Mrs. Pinkel. "It's just toner. What we're really concerned about is the waste of toner. It's expensive, and a big budget concern." When board members asked how to identify a toner-sniffer, Mrs. Pinkel replied, "Oh, it's so hard to tell. It really takes a trained eye. Except for the fine black powder all over their faces, clothes, and shoes, they look just like you or me."

The district's long-range planning committee reported that this month's meeting has been postponed. The committee will next meet on Wednesday, February 17, 2019.

The board had planned a celebratory tournament send-off for the Fuddle River High School knowledge bowl team. Unfortunately, half the team didn't know about the meeting, and the others got lost on the way.

And that's it this week from Fuddle River Schools.

Top Ten Statements Never Made by a Retiring Teacher
10. "I'm going to miss the school lunches."

9. "I'm worried sick about what retirement will do to my professional development."

8. "I wish we hadn't wasted so much time on recess."

7. "My life will be so empty without regular state test practices."

6. "I'm afraid I won't feel important unless I'm supervising passing time and guarding the lunch room."

5. "I'd kill for another ten years of paperwork."

4. "They always paid me too much."

3. "I'm concerned about what rest, relaxation, and free time will do to my mental health."

2. "I will miss the helpful feedback from angry parents."

1. "I wish I had attended more meetings."

Last week, the producers of a television program offered to do a makeover of my classroom. You should see my classroom. How could I decline? I have a crummy old desk, a broken desk chair, and student desks older than the students. There are ceiling tiles missing, floor tiles missing, walls that were last painted during the first Nixon administration, and window blinds that have never worked. My file cabinet has one working drawer. The screen at the front of the room has been torn and repaired with duct tape on at least two occasions. My pencil sharpener has lost its cover and now drops its shavings directly on the floor. Electrical conduits hang perilously from several walls, and the wobbly fluorescent lights seem ready to lose their grip on the ceiling at any moment.

It didn't take much to convince me that my classroom needed a makeover. I gave my consent and left the team a key to my classroom so they could do their magic over the weekend. I couldn't wait to see the results.

Apparently influenced by our recent geography unit on mountains, the makeover team adopted a mountain lodge motif. Wooden beams now crossed the ceiling. A Huge stone fireplace replaced the board at the front of the room. A mountain waterfall bubbled in the back of the room. Pillows were strewn everywhere and giant rugs covered the new ceramic tile floor.

Woven blankets replaced the old broken blinds as window coverings. The walls were painted a color that I have since come to know as "black bean." The ceiling lights had been removed and replaced with wall sconces resembling kerosene lamps.

Early American art graced the walls. My desk was a beautiful piece of oak furniture done in a Shaker design. My new file cabinet was made of cherry wood and my new desk chair was leather. There were no student desks. They were to use the pillows to sit on the floor near the fire.

My students were so happy and I was thrilled about the opportunity to teach in such a beautiful room. But the more I thought about it, the more worried I was that the makeover team had just gone too far.

If you've spent any time in a middle school classroom, you know what happened. At first the students kept their mess and their damage to a minimum. But that was just at first. Go ahead, guess. Guess what happened.

Yes, pillows in the fireplace. Yes, paper wads in the sconces. Yes, water from the fountain, blankets from the windows, and rugs from the floor used to put out the resulting fires. Yes, ceramic tiles through the windows to clear the smoke. And, yes, the complete loss of my new desk, beautiful file cabinet, and comfy chair. When the smoke cleared - literally - there was virtually nothing left of the fantastic makeover and I ended up with a classroom that is now entirely unusable.

But I've heard that some of the other networks are now doing makeover shows too. One network is calling theirs "Extreme Mistakeover." That's what I need. I've already called. They should be able to get my classroom right back to the way it was originally.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Week of May 19, 2014

Greetings from Fuddle River Schools. The board met this week to continue discussions on the current teacher shortage in the district. The district has lost over a dozen teachers since the school year started in August.

"The biggest problem is that we're losing the teachers we have," board member Shirley Hanover said last month. "We have to do more than just recruit new teachers."

Many on the board were convinced that the loss of teachers is due to the demanding working conditions in the district. According to a recent poll, more than 70% of the teachers said they were dissatisfied with their jobs and 90% of those identified non-teaching duties, distractions, and large class sizes as the main reasons.

Despite the survey, building administrators were at a loss to explain why the district is losing teachers. The high school alone has lost six teachers this year. At last month's meeting, the board asked building principals to investigate the loss of faculty members.

High school principal Hugh Batson was happy to announce at this week's meeting that he found all of his lost teachers. A search of the high school turned up four of the missing teachers in the teachers' lounge. Two more were found hiding in the storage closet in the art room.

At the middle school, the three lost teachers were all found in the school's media center, in front of a computer, waiting for a web page to load. And the five lost elementary school teachers were found on the playground. They claimed that they never heard the bell and didn't know it was time to come in.

The board praised the principals for their fine investigative work.

In other business, the board voted to increase class sizes and approved a new paperwork regimen for district teachers.

And that's it this week from Fuddle River Schools.

Life Rubrics: Assess Your Weekend!
4 Exemplary: The weekend was long enough to allow you to forget about the upcoming workweek.
3 Acceptable: The weekend was long enough to allow you to forget about the past workweek.
2 Substandard: Wow - those two days went really fast.
1 Inadequate: What weekend?

4 Exemplary: You spent every waking minute of the weekend outdoors.
3 Acceptable: You got outside enough to make you feel better.
2 Substandard: Who ever heard of a snow day on a weekend?
1 Unapparent: With all your homework you didn't even notice that there was weather.

4 Exemplary: You ate well and you ate healthy.
3 Acceptable: You ate well.
2 Substandard: You ate healthy.
1 Nauseous: You ate things one shouldn't eat.

4 Exemplary: You really had fun over the weekend.
3 Acceptable: You experienced moments of happiness.
2 Substandard: You observed people experiencing moments of happiness on TV.
1 Pitiful: You spent most of the weekend worrying about Monday.

4 Exemplary: You slept late each day and you slept well.
3 Acceptable: You slept late each day, but you made a few mistakes.
2 Substandard: You slept, but in strange places and at strange times.
1 Deficient: You're planning a nap during your prep time tomorrow.

4 Exemplary: You did not do any school work at all.
3 Acceptable: You did just a little school work.
2 Substandard: You did enough school work to prevent Sunday night anxiety.
1 Lousy: You did school work all weekend and you still had Sunday night anxiety.

I was frustrated. I begged, I threatened, I cajoled, and I just couldn't get my students to behave and do their work. They just wouldn't listen to me. They listened to each other, they listened to their iPods, and they listened on their telephones, but they wouldn't listen to me. That is, until I came up with my great idea.

I bought a bunch of cheap, old telephones from a business supply store that was going out of business. I mounted a phone on each student desk and then I did a little research and figured out how to set up my own classroom telephone exchange. I made sure the students could not call out on their phones, and I set it up so they could only receive calls from me.

So, during class, I call them. None of these kids can resist a ringing phone. They answer in a snap, and knowing that they would do anything to talk on the phone, I have a captive audience. I call them to tell them to behave or to get to work, but they would never listen if I said just that. Instead, I've developed and refined my own telemarketing approach. It goes something like this:

Me: "Hello, may I speak to Susan Hughes?"

Susan: "This is Susan."

Me: "Hello, Susan, I'm Samuel Adams and I'm calling on behalf of American history. You are taking an American history course now, aren't you, Susan?"

Susan: "Yeah, I guess."

Me: "How long have you been studying history, Susan?"

Susan: "Oh, a few years…"

Me: "Wow! And do you do your own work in history, or do you contract the work out to others?"

Susan: "I sometimes do my own work."

Me: "Great! Well, the people at American history have a one-time offer that you won't want to miss. What grade are you currently earning in your history class?"

Susan: "Um, about a 'C.'"

Me: "A 'C,' Susan? Is it a 'C' or is 'C' the kind of grade you'd like to earn?"

Susan: "Well, actually, a 'C' would be great for me. I mean, I usually get 'D's and 'F's, and an occasional 'C' would look good on my transcript."

Me: "Fantastic! Here's how we can help. Do you have a history text book, Susan? Do you have one handy there? Try turning to page 435."

Susan: "Um, yeah, page 435. How are these things numbered? Do you know how I find that page?"

Me: "Well, Susan, that page is typically found in the 400's. Most books have page numbers near the bottom of each page, and…"

Susan: "Wait. I found it. Okay. Page 324."

Me: "No, Susan, we're looking for page 435."

Susan: "435? Oh. Okay. I have it."

Me: "Super! Now, there are a series of questions on that page. We can tell you how to find the answers to those questions if you want to sign up for our monthly service plan for only $14.95 a month. Do you have a credit card, Susan?"

Susan: "No. My parents won't let me have a credit card. They think that I would…"

Me: "That's fine, Susan. You don't need a credit card right now to take advantage of our extra special, one-time, free trial offer. All you have to do is read Chapter 16 and answer the questions on page 435. If you can do that today and send it to us at American history, we'll be able to enter you in our drawing for an all-expense-paid trip to the Caribbean. Did you hear that, Susan? The Caribbean!"

Susan: "Is that in California?"

Me: "Of course it is! One of our representatives will be picking up your entry from your teacher today. So if you want to be in the drawing, you must get your entry in today."

Susan: "That sounds great!"

Me: "It is great! Now, let me just verify some information. Your name is Susan Hughes, you are a student in American history, and you currently have a less-than-'C' average in class."

Susan: "Yep. That's right."

Me: "Okay, Susan, I will forward this information to our claims verification department and you will be all set to go. Remember, you must enter to win. Can we expect an entry from you today?"

Susan: "Yeah, for sure! Wow, California!"

Me: "Okay, Susan. Good luck!"

It worked. Susan did her work. Actually, it was the best work she did all quarter. I have to admit, though, I feel guilty about lying about the Caribbean trip. But, the important thing is to convince the students that there is no chance to win if they don't do the work. Most kids do the work. They truly believe that they have a chance to win - not because I said it, but because they heard it on the phone.

I also feel guilty about not straightening her out about where the Caribbean is, but that would have taken me off the script, and one thing you never, never want to do as a telemarketer is get off the script.

I have other calls to make. Did you know that Phillip Jenkins has a chance to win a trip to the Super Bowl? Well, neither does Phillip - yet.