Jen and Kim discuss podcast reviews. Kim interviews her former AP, Jennifer Bailey, about her decision to leave education to travel the world. We aren’t envious..it’s fine, really, everything is fine…
Jen and Kim retell a spermy squid tale they heard on Night Classy that will make you rethink what to swallow. They give new teachers a few tips, and they delve into some Twisted Irish Lit. Just know that you will have a new understanding of Tit for Tat and appreciate the nuances of dirty limericks.
Jen and Kim discuss FAFSA hell, and who you shouldn’t piss off at the school. In TWISTED LIT, they take a deep dive into, The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage. They talk about why you shouldn’t name your dog SEAMAN and review some adorable picture books.
Jen and Kim delve into teacher life on social media. They give good advice, such as turning your spirit wear inside out to get drinks after school. In Twisted Lit, they talk about the grimmer version of Snow White and ask the questions, “Why was Snow White so Stupid?” , “Would the Stepmother have been nicer with a little Botox?”, and “Why did the Prince like Dead Girls?”.
Full Transcript Below
Kim and Jen talk about why you shouldn’t use the word pussy in class, no matter what the circumstances. They review their neighborhood pool rules, errant snake worms, and how “those parents” can make or break your day.
The Owl and the Pussy Cat-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43188/the-owl-and-the-pussy-cat
Hammerhead Worms: https://www.thoughtco.com/hammerhead-worm-facts-4178101
Preservatives slow body decomposition: https://iheartintelligence.com/bodies-have-not-been-decomposing/
Kim retells her harrowing experience at a hunting camp. Jen talks about how many conference cakes she once received. Kim realizes that she never got a conference cake. Jen seems to rub that in with the extreme detail in which she describes these elusive cakes. They also discuss personality inventory shaming at staff meetings.
Today is the last day of school. It is also the last year I will have a classroom to pack up. I’ll be moving into an office. I have a new opportunity as the instructional coach for our school. I’m honored that my admin thinks I can do the job. But, isn’t there always a ‘but’? Is it me, or is it every time something new and positive happens, that little nasty “you can’t do it” voice jumps out every chance she can get. I mean can’t she take a day off? For the love..
I’ve been a teacher for almost 20 years. Although I’ve had many roles as an educator, I’ve never gone a year without teaching students. I will be working with teachers. I went back for my specialist degree to torture myself since I’m a graduate-school masochist. No, really, I went back to get my degree in teacher leadership. My goal was to make a difference and to advocate for teachers and to end war and famine. The latter objectives weren’t on the description of the degree, but they were implied.
As a new teacher, back in 2000, I didn’t even know where I needed support. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. My first year of teaching, colleagues would stop by, look around my room, and see sheer dread and utter confusion on my face. Students may or may not have been hiding from me. I have blocked some of that year out.
I was drowning in a sea of SSTs, poorly distributed desks, and holiday parties. I was previously a personal trainer and aerobics instructor. I taught, in a way, but those folks paid me then drove themselves home. I didn’t need to walk them everywhere or make sure they got on the right bus or in the right car. None of them pooped themselves or needed me to open ketchup packets.
My first day of teaching was the winter holiday party in a second-grade classroom. There were so many little people, all doing different things and needing me for various reasons. Mostly, there was glitter….everywhere. I can’t think of a time where I was more unsure of myself or when I felt more like a failure.
One day, my friend Jen came to my room and said, “It looks like your desks fell from out of the sky and randomly landed. Would you like some help in putting the desks into cooperative groups?” I had no idea what cooperative grouping of desks was, but it sounded really good-like kids would suddenly cooperate once the desks were in fancy research-based groups. Just seeing my classroom more organized made my brain more organized. The dynamics of my class drastically changed. What Jen did, changed my mindset. I had some control. I didn’t know a damn thing about instruction, but I had a starting point. Those few minutes, she gave me changed the orbit of my teaching career.
Have you ever been so lost that an infinitesimal altering of perspective changes everything? I wanted to do for teachers what Jen and so many friends did for me. I was in a safe place, and people were kind and gracious. I grew in my craft. I wanted more. I was bitten by the education bug.
Teaching is a vast freaking task. It is difficult and can be ugly and disappointing. There have been days where I sat in my car, before school, contemplating the day and hoping not to screw something up, upset parents, or disappoint those who (at one point ) thought I was a good teacher.
When teachers make mistakes, we make them in front of a bunch of people-students, teachers, parents, and/or administrators. It’s not like you accidentally put salt in cake batter instead of sugar. Hell, you just throw out that lousy batter. You can do this alone, with no one looking or judging. There was a time I attempted to make a Bundt cake, but I was supposed to snap or connect the pan to itself, and the batter drained out of the oven and on to the floor. I did clean it up and bought a less complicated pan. But when a long division or a The Crucible allegory to McCarthyism lesson is tanking, and students are cross-eyed with confusion, you can’t throw that out, but you can try to clean it up.
Today, I was doing the annual scavenger hunt for the folks on the end of year check out list. As I was avoiding death or severe injury rolling my Chrome Book cart out of the trailer, down the ramp, and cumbersomely into the building (A colleague came to help me. Otherwise, I would have been cursing under my breath trying to roll the cart over the threshold of the door whilst avoiding smashing my toes with it.) I thought, “I am so glad I’m not one of the people on the check out list for whom everyone is looking.” That job kind of sucks. I would want to hide or scurry away from everyone. I was proud of my moment of gratitude. This is an aside since I’m attempting to be grateful for stuff every day. I was also thankful to Amber for rescuing me from the Chrome book cart. The voice of unreason began speaking, and she said, “Dude, I bet you will be someone who has to check off crap next year.” She may be right.
At 50, the doubt doesn’t dissipate. It still reaches out and tells me the bad stuff that could happen. But, risk-taking is what keeps us alive and striving for a better life. At 50, I know how to tell doubt off. Sometimes it rolls its eyes at me or gives me the finger. I’m not scared of it anymore. It’s there and I know it exists, but I also know that hope exists. I’ve accomplished some cool stuff. I’m not an extreme expert on anything, but I have fought the doubt and focused on the end goal with some success. Doubt never apologizes, it’s just happy to have sucked the life out of us for a bit. I hope to do a good job next year. I hope to develop relationships with my colleagues. I hope to kick doubt’s ass.
Thank you JEN ROBERTS for taking the time to help me. I think of you always and with much love and appreciation.
I was obsessed with evil Madeline from Revenge. She can smile through the most horrendous comments, and evil doings. Plus, she has that cool chair where she sips her coffee while plotting against everyone. Her dresses are flawless, and she always has good hair. I told my colleague that I kind of wish I could smile and be evil simultaneously. She reminded me that was not a normal goal.
I have put my energy into refining my 3rd grade guided math. The other day, I looked up from my “meet with teacher” group, and saw an amazing thing: Children were engaged, on task, and collaborating about math. No one fell out of his chair, or asked me to sharpen a pencil the 567th time. This class has a thing about sharp pencils. I’ve purchased two pencil sharpeners from Amazon; one already broke.
The following type of conversation happens daily:
Me: “We are going to do math journal, Number Talks, and then guided math.”
Student “Are we doing Number Talks today?”
Me: “Yes, we are doing Number Talks today.”
Me: “When you are done with your assessment, put it in the basket under the white board.”
Student 1:”Where do I put my work?”
Me:”In the basket under the white board.”
Student 2:-“Where do I put my test?”
Me: “In the basket under the white board.”
Student 3:”Do we give you our tests when we are done?”
Me: “No, put it in the basket under the white board.”
Then there is the stop everything, look at me, listen carefully classroom intermission.
“Everyone, hands on your heads. Look at me. The assessment goes in the basket under the white board. Thumbs up if you understand where the assessment goes.”
I’m working with my students to think outside the math box, or at least open the box and peek outside.
Student: “There is no math in this picture.”
Me: “Yes, there is math in this picture.”
Student: “I don’t see numbers.”
Me: “Is math always numbers?”
Me: “What about geometry?”
Me: “There isn’t one right answer. Look for the math.”
Students are looking for the one right answer. I want them to see math as a part of their worlds that cannot always be defined with one correct response. I ask them if there are other ways to solve a problem, and they give me blank stares. It has taken me a couple of months to show students that the process in which they are doing math is very important. Just because they know that 3×3 is 9, doesn’t mean that they understand the many ways this multiplication fact can be represented, or what multiplication means.
I am on a math committee for my county. We discussed how the traditional algorithms, we have always taught, are causing students to have little to no understanding of number sense. For example, if we are dividing 45 by 3, we ask the kids how many times 3 can ‘go into’ 4; place value isn’t considered in this standard algorithm. What we are really asking is, ‘How many groups of four are there in 40?’. Students have to explain their reasoning more than ever now. So how do we balance the right answer with the process?
I have tried to show students a standard in every possible form. I say it is the same standard, but in a different outfit. They need to apply the skills to various situations, which may or may not be the examples used and practiced in class. I have changed much of what I do as a math teacher, and it hasn’t been comfortable or easy.
I have been personally challenged this year. As the literacy coach, I have had less time in classrooms, and spent more time in meetings and out of the building. I begin teaching the gifted endorsement Monday. I’m in a small panic, because now I’m teaching a class to teachers. I am driving myself a little nuts. Should I bring cookies? Candy? Tell a joke? Do a little dance?
We have a new evaluation system. It’s amazing that I’ve taught fourteen years, but at the end of the day, I am reduced to a number between 1 and 4. I do understand the efficacy of a standardized evaluation system for teachers. But, sometimes I don’t want to worry about it. I realized that my expectations for myself are, at times, unrealistically high. Some days, we just feel like a 3. And that’s ok. Isn’t that what we tell our students, and better yet, their parents?
I remember my early years of teaching, where I felt invincible and that I could affect change. I hope that I inspired or encouraged a few students along the way. In those early years, I was able to advocate for children without meetings, emails, or glaciers of paperwork. I just did it. I’m sure there was protocol; I just didn’t think about it.
Now, I advocate for students in different ways. A test score doesn’t fully give the scope of a child’s potential. And if a child doesn’t qualify for the gifted program, that doesn’t mean he or she isn’t brilliant. Children cannot be reduced to numbers and percentiles. There is so much pressure on everyone to perform. What happened to the utter joy of learning something new? What about taking risks in learning?
I believe that Drama Club has given students a chance to take risks without the fear of grades. I promised myself that I would only direct one play this year. We have ten boys in drama, and they requested Shakespeare. So, we are doing Macbeth. I really wanted to do Romeo and Juliet, but the suicide aspect is too heavy for elementary kids. So, I thought if I made them zombies, they couldn’t die. Yes, I’ve been watching The Walking Dead. Zombie Romeo and Juliet is a future project. It has to be written…
Teaching is very much like impressionistic art. The further away we get, the clearer the picture. When we are too close, everything is a blur, and unrecognizable. None of the parts are logical, and everything seems disconnected. We often get lost in the blur. I am thankful that sometimes, I have the awareness to step back and see the intended beauty of being an educator.
I have waited to post my final paper on my philosophy of education. If you are a philosophy geek, and an educator, you may enjoy the post. If not, don’t bother reading it, because it is weird.
The first day of class, my professor talked about the Allegory of the Cave. I was drawn to the story, partly because it is an extended metaphor, but mostly because it captures the essence of the human condition. I began writing a generic regurgitation of my personal educational philosophy. But, the images of the cave in reference to our current educational predicament inundated me. I often call my home office, my cave, because there are no windows, and I spend much of my time in there, writing and planning for instruction. So, from my cave, I wrote about the educational cave.
Thanks Daniel for the awesome sketches. Somehow, you captured what was in my mind. Wow.
Allegory of the Educator
Long ago, there was a school, nestled between a mountain and a river. On the side of the river, the sun shone directly into the library. The view from the mountainside of the school was solid rock. The teachers on the mountainside lived in the school. The inside of the school was the only world they knew. Nothing else existed. And if anyone talked about a world outside of the school, they would create a new philosophy representing the idea of that made-up world. For ideas could exist without matter, and matter only existed because of ideas. Sometimes, the stories of the other place became myth and were re-told as fictional accounts.
The walls were always walls, and only ever walls. The floor could only be floor, and made only of floor. There was something they breathed in and out, but the true nature of that was somewhere in a book, found on the riverside of the school. It wasn’t important because the thing they breathed in and out would never run out, according to a story they re-told one another.
Many of the teachers had been chained to the walls of the school, because they thought that was what they were supposed to do as inhabitants of a school. They didn’t need mobility of mind nor body.
Seldom did anyone venture to the riverside of the school. The chains kept teachers in their respective rooms, and there was no need for books since everyone had memorized the curriculum.
The students had lost two and a half dimensions, and they became a generation of shadow students. The shadow students had smoke and mirror thoughts. All student thoughts conglomerated into one mass thought. At the end of the school day (when the lights were turned off) all thoughts evaporated. They turned into thought vapor, and when the new day began (when the lights were turned on) the thoughts would trickle down and return to the dim brains of the shadow students. The same thoughts were recycled daily. If there was a new thought, where would it go, and what would the teachers and students do with it? It wouldn’t fit anywhere, so why have it?
The atomic make-up of a shadow student consisted of percentiles, rankings, and standardized test scores. When shadow students were injured, numbers would leak from their bodies. The school nurse would scoop up the lost percentiles, and attempt to put them back into the shadow students. Unfortunately, once a student lost a percentile or a ranking, it was almost impossible to put it back. In order for the percentile to be valid again, there was extensive paperwork that had to be completed. It had to be stapled three times (one millimeter apart) in the upper right hand corner, be signed by fourteen school dignitaries, and be put in a red folder, with a tab in the middle (not on the left or on the right). As each number bled from the shadowy bodies, the students began to further fade. So, it was in their best interest to keep still, sit in seats, and stare vacuously at the stone walls.
On murky school day, after students learned about the philosophy of penumbra, took three hundred forty-five assessments, filled out sixty-two scantron sheets, and watched the nurse sweep up the numbers left by a faded shadow student (who met his demise with an errant pencil) a teacher realized her chains were broken.
She stood up and balanced herself on the cinderblock wall. She felt dizzy and unstable. She had been chained to the wall since the beginning. The beginning of something important. Long ago.
No one noticed as she stood up. They continued to sit; they remained chained to the walls and watched the shadow thoughts move through the thought cycle. The only noise in the classroom was the clanking of the chains when a teacher would re-position him or herself.
She looked beyond the classroom and saw a light curving its way into the thing outside the room. Later, she would learn the words hall, brick, mountain, block, learn, books, brain, chain, teach, learn, walk, ask, breathe, and choice. She limped to the door and peered to the left. She glanced to the right. She gazed straight ahead. She closed her eyes and felt that thing in her chest pound. She stepped outside of the room.
Her gait was unstable for she had been chained since the beginning. As she walked, the thought dust obscured her sight. She had only seen the classroom to which she was chained. Her brain couldn’t assimilate the new images bombarding her consciousness. Eventually, she found the room with the books and light. Beyond that room was a door. She could see outside the door and the stone was gone. She remembered the myth of the outside place. She was instructed to teach the shadow students that the pictures of the things in books were only a product of someone’s mind. They weren’t real. But, now she was looking at trees, sun, river, squirrels, and grass. The invisible thing (later she would know it as wind) was blowing in her face, and it moved through her hair. Had she found the truth? How could she trust what she saw? If she left, would those things still be there? What was REAL?
She ventured outside to see students with all dimensions intact. Each student had a thought bubble attached to his or her head. Instead of smoke and mirror thoughts, each child’s thought bubble was full of images of concepts they were learning. Some students were playing musical instruments, and others where playing soccer. The teacher with the students was wearing a shirt that read, I Heart Socrates.
The mountainside teacher heard the students’ conversations. They were working in groups to solve various problems. The students shared new thoughts. And the thoughts were original, unlike those of the shadow student back in the school. There was a sign on the grass that read: “Please frolic and play on the Dewey grass.”
The riverside teacher introduced himself to the mountainside teacher.
“Hello, I’m UTO P. IA. You can call me UTO. Are you a new hire? What is your name?”
The mountainside teacher stared at UTO. She had never needed her name before, but she knew she had one. She reached into her frontal lobe and pulled out her name.
“Hello. I’m..well. I’m PAV L. OV You can call me PAV.”
She touched UTO’s shoulder and flinched when she realized that he was not smoke and mirrors. She longed for the safety of the cave. As she wandered back inside, she pondered the term, ‘new hire’. The sounds of the multi-dimensional students faded and the light dissipated.
She knew she had to go back and tell everyone that they had been wrong about the ideas. The ideas were real. Or the things were real. Maybe they were both real.
On her way back into the school, she saw a small, plump man sitting in the middle of the hallway. He was bald and effortlessly smiling. His t-shirt read, I’m Siddhartha. Just call me Buddah. She walked close to him and he said, “You have desired nothing, therefore you haven’t suffered. Now, you are experiencing the desire to learn about life, and share that knowledge. Well, now you will suffer.” He smiled and then he began to laugh. As he laughed, the word truth flew out of his mouth. With each breath, a new version of truth came out. Some truths were small, some were large, some had fancy fonts, and others were looked as if a child scribbled them. Pav didn’t see any of the truths as they few over her, under her, and around her.
She walked past the little man, because she didn’t know how to respond. She was never taught what to do when a new sentence was uttered. And in this case, a new sentence with a new thought.
She found her way back to the classroom where she had been chained. The teacher in charge introduced herself.
“Hello. I’m UT O. PIA. You can call me UT.”
Pav had known UT since the beginning. UT ignored the faint bouts of recognition and decided that she didn’t know Pav. The thoughts weren’t real without words to support them. Pav realized that UTO and UT had the same names. But the two teachers were polarized, yet very content. This confused Pav because she only knew one form of contentment, and that was the classroom cave.
Pav knew that she had to tell everyone about the outside place.
“UT, I need to tell you about something. It will change everything we do here on the mountainside.”
“Well, okay-go on. The thoughts have not completed their cycle yet. I don’t need to clean the empty thoughts off the floor yet.”
Pav was nervous for the first time.
“UT, I found the outside place. There were children, who were different from the ones here.” She pointed to the shadow students and they were still and staring.
“They didn’t just sit. They talked about the things they were learning.”
UT was noticeably shaken.
“Pav, stop there. You of all people should know that those alleged children out there are behaving as they were told. This is what we know: It is our truth.
Pav thought of her words before speaking. She tried using her common sense to talk to UT, but it didn’t seem to be working. Their words were different now. Pav’s words didn’t mean what they used to (before she visited the outside place).
Pav wondered what was real. Was UT really there, or was she experiencing the idea of UT? Then, she began wondering if she was real. She wondered if anyone else saw her. Did she really teach?
“UT, don’t you want to know what is out there? Aren’t you curious? It’s real! We don’t have to continue to teach like this!”
UT looked at Pav, and she hesitated before she began to vacuum the empty thoughts from the stone floor. The empty thoughts looked like giant dust clouds as they retreated to the guts of the vacuum.
Pav had some decisions to make. Familiar things are easy. She could go back to teaching the shadow students, and perpetuating the smoke and mirror thoughts. But, the more she thought about the outside place, the more curious she became. What if she ventured to the riverside and learned that all that she knew was wrong? What would happen?
We run the course of philosophies during a teaching career. There is no one, set philosophy that lays the foundation for my instruction. Every day, I strive to be the teacher that students can count on. I want to be mentally aware, as I teach, not on autopilot.
I may have lost the idealism I had when I began teaching. The invincibility shield has been tarnished. It isn’t the kids: It never is. It’s the quagmire through which we sift in order bring us close to the place where we felt we could change the world. That place is not lost; it is hidden beneath the years.
So, hopefully Pav will take the road less traveled and take a few risks to make that difference.
Thank you Publix for fixing all of your lessess to fewers. It is a step forward for all grammar kind. I felt pure joy when I saw these new signs. I looked at the people around me, and they were just counting their items to make sure they didn’t go over quota. I count mine too, and even have guilt when the eleventh item makes its way into my cart. Then there is always that poor soul who didn’t see the sign, and has placed sixty-five items on the conveyor belt thingy. We all know because not only do we count our items, but we also count the items in the cart in front of us. Again, this brings me to my thoughts on inquiry science and the manner in which instruction is changing. It happens, over time-even if it looks and sounds unfamiliar, like the cadence of fewer versus less.
One of the last classes I took to complete my specialist degree was physical science. The class was inquiry based-or what I call McGyiver science.
My professor insisted that we never give students the exact materials for an experiment that will guarantee the desired outcome. Science is about trial and error, acknowledging variables, and persevering. She asked us if we were expecting perfect results, or encouraging students to re-work hypotheses, collaborate, and discuss the work? It may turn out that the growth is in the mistake.
That summer was complete with my ill constructed foam roller coaster that had neither a loop nor a hill, a defunct lemon battery, and toy cars breaking down because the load was too heavy. It reminded me of my home economics class where my decorated cake looked like abstract art, and my A-line skirt was used as an example of what can go wrong in sewing. The other day, I was faced with a vacuum cleaner and a bag. The vacuum mocks my inability to get the bag to ‘snap’ in. However, I did use that vacuum cleaner to fight a snake in my house-so I used what I had available.
This year as a gifted teacher, I have focused on inquiry science with my 3rd graders. Part of teaching inquiry is letting your personal control freak go. The first step is to admit you are a control freak teacher. Then it is time to let go a little, and let the kids do the learning.
Things are messy. Stuff spills. Students have odd ideas of what will and won’t work. They are determined that a pound of bricks weighs more than a pound of feathers.
I asked them what they thought about inquiry labs:
“You never know what is going to happen.”
“We can do things on our own.”
“We have to figure things out.”
“We got to use duct tape.”
I will say that if you add duct tape to any classroom activity, you will have the undivided attention of your class. I don’t know why, but it is true. Of course, we had the discussion about DUCT tape vs DUCK tape.
“How do they use this tape on ducks?”
Asking questions is an art of sorts. I have been asking questions my entire life, and I now find myself teaching my students how to ask questions. If I were to get philosophical, I would say that we could use the Inquiry method to drive all our life choices. We are given some random supplies and a task to complete. We try to figure it out. If it doesn’t work, we change something and try again. Getting upset over a failed outcome doesn’t help anything. We have to figure out what went wrong. Sound familiar? We are challenged daily. The results of our efforts don’t always come out the way we expect, even if we use all of our supplies.
The 100 penny lab was a great one to start with. Kids were given duct tape, tin foil, 100 pennies, a pan full of water, and a task to design a boat that would float with all 100 pennies in it.
I asked about the variables and the answers I got were very interesting:
“The design on the duct tape. The ink may weigh differently depending on how many colors are in the tape you choose.”
“How fast or slow you put the pennies in.”
“How smart the people in your group are.” (I admit, this was one of my favorites. )
I loved how these kids persevered until their boats floated. They were so excited, because THEY figured it out.
So, I became a little zealous. The made duct-taped boats float, so they can build a bridge out of pasta!
“This isn’t working.”
“Are you sure you got the right pasta?”
We will be revisiting that activity with stronger pasta. The kids did their own research on bridges that day. They told me what structures and shapes are stronger than others. They are re-designing the bridges for next week. To think-I was ready to scrap the entire thing because it didn’t work out the first time. The kids assumed we would be doing the pasta activity again.
My students taught me my own lesson. Then I began to wonder how often I have scrapped something because it wasn’t turning out the way I wanted it to? We cannot teach without bringing these lessons home, because ultimately that is what we want our students to do. It is unlikely that a potential college or job will ask a candidate to build a pasta bridge. But, isn’t it about the perspectives in which we perceive our obstacles? And isn’t it great that eighteen third graders reminded me of this with their perseverance?
Here’s to using all the materials available to me (even if they aren’t the ones I wanted).