Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dominique and the Cow

Ethan, one of the boys in my new class, is not very impressed with the cafeteria. He will eat all the fresh fruit but often examines the entree and decides to leave well-enough alone.

One day last week he asked me about the origin of cafeteria food. I told him it comes to school on a truck. He then asked where the truck gets the food. (The way he said 'food' gives a good indication how he feels about the daily fare.) I told him they get it from the market.

A couple days later, Ethan asks me HOW the 'food' gets to the market. I told him about farms. AND.. seizing the teachable moment, I grabbed the Gail Gibbons Farming book and set the class down for an informative read-aloud session.

Now, these kids are real talkers and getting them settled down for a story takes an Act of Congress and a LOT of elegant body language on my part. Often, I experience success - and the kids tune in to the book. All at the same time.

The Farming book was a huge hit. Background information sprung forth as we discussed harrowing the fields and planting the crops and milking the cows.

COWS? Oh my goodness. If the Wilsona Kindergarten owned a cow it would be treated like the cows of India. The kids really, really, loved the discussion of the cows and their roles in bringing us milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter. You would think some of these kids actually OWNED cows, they were so enamored and so interested. (Eliza informed me that her family has "sheeps," not cows, unfortunately.)

The kids FINALLY settled down so I could continue my read-aloud. It was almost a perfect teaching moment, the kids were SO engaged.

All of the sudden a giant caterwaul of sound emerged from the rug. Since I was really into the book and the kids' responses to it, I was more than a bit annoyed to look up and see Dominique up on her knees, swaying around, making a long and dreadful "ooooooooooooo" sound.

"Dominique! WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING?" I asked in my most controlled teacher voice.

She looked at me like I was crazy. Like I hadn't been there the whole time.

"I'm being a cow!"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How to Lose Your Mind in 11 Easy Steps

1. Type letter to parents and send it to print.

2. Walk to staff lounge to pick up letter and fill water bottle.

3. Fill water bottle from principal's private supply stashed in her office (but paid for by the school).

4. Leave water bottle on table while checking mailbox.

5. Leave cr*P in mailbox until tomorrow. Leave staff lounge.

6. Return to classroom door only to realize that water bottle is still on table.

7. Grumble to coworker about losing your mind and then go back to retrieve water bottle.

8. Return to classroom door and smack head in perfect "HEY I COULDA HAD A V-8!" motion. Grumble to different coworker about lost mind and return to staff lounge to retrieve the printed letter.

9. Search for paper to put in the empty paper tray so that letter can print. Wait patiently. When no letter appears, grumble to coworker about stupid computer, stupid printer, and inefficient, stupid networking system.

10. Find letter stashed in mailbox.

11. Return to classroom with letter, water bottle, and a look of complete chagrin upon face.

:-)Kim (who is bravely signing her name here.)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Little Beans and Mom

My 71 year old mother has never been fond of animals. She put up with the occasional cat but always had this slight aversion to dogs. Dogs are messy and slobbery and mom abhors messes and slobberyness.

To her credit, she has tolerated my dogs very well. In keeping with dogly tradition everywhere, they adore her. When gramma comes to visit they bark greetings and then attempt to cover her with doggy smooches. She is a good sport about this. Then they sit on her and around her and gaze at her with pure canine devotion. If they are lucky, she MIGHT toss a ball or a squeaky toy.

What mom is never ready for is the rambunctious puppy. Luckily for her, Duke and Seamus were full-grown when they were adopted and Augie was such a mellow puppy there are times I am convinced that puppyhood just passed him by. She was with me when I picked up Max from a breeder in Canyon Country. But Max was neurotic from Day 1 - so that doesn't count. When Mom visited, Max hid behind the couch.

Little Beans was introduced to Mom while still in the holding stage - Shannon was holding him and Beans cowered and shot hateful glances at anyone and everyone who wasn't Shannon or Dustin. It took Beans almost a month to figure out that I was not an axe murderer and that I did, indeed, truly belong in my own house.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Little Beans is unfriendly. He just doesn't like people. This goes for most people. So when Mom came for a visit I figured Little Beans would stay out of sight. In true dogly fashion, however, Beans figured out that his mere puppyness would make Mom frantic and he used it to his advantage. He LOVED Mom right away. He bounced right up to her and began the process of Dogly Devotion. Puppy smooches gave way to puppy bites all along the hair line. Since mom values her hair and hates puppy smooches you can imagine she wasn't thrilled.

"I will pet you if you just sit there," Mom intoned in her best Great-Gramma voice. I had to laugh. Beans has many positions: Jump, Bounce, Leap, Run, Canter, Crawl, and Backstep - but SIT? No way. It never happens.

When Little Beans finally settled down a BIT - there are gradients of Puppy Serenity - Dustin came into the room. Beans LIVES for Dustin. (Well, Dustin, Shannon, and Augie - in order of preference.) Dustin is a 21-year old college student. He is very mature. Most of the time.

But on this day, when Mom needed calm and tranquility after an hour of doggy greetings and doggy attention and hyper-attentions of Little Beans, Dustin began playing with his puppy. Balls were thrown. Chases ensued. More toys were strewn about. High-pitched, ecstatic barks filled the air. Mom looked a bit stressed.

Our conversation was constantly punctuated by the leaping and bouncing antics of Little Beans, who found it more than necessary to stop by and smooch Mom about 2.5 minutes - and then bite at her hairline. Each time Mom reacted the same way - shrieking and saying, "No, no, no" as if Little Beans understands English. Seamus decided to get into the act by defending Mom and this involved much posturing and growling. Mom didn't feel defended at all. She was convinced that Seamus would just as readily attack HER.

When Mom left, Dustin and I were embarking on a walk - to help Little Beans expend some of this energy.

I think Mom went home and showered.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Sharpener Boy

Let me tell you about Andrew. He had a possessive and obsessive relationship with the pencil sharpener - an electric one I bought at Staples when I noticed the classroom didn't have a sharpener. Andrew's affair make it necessary for me to buy a SECOND sharpener.

Brand new pencils became stubs within hours at the hands of dear Andrew, who would sharpen morning, noon, and night if I allowed it. Only dedication and tenacity on my part saved a grove of trees and reined in the unsated passions of dear, pencil-loving Andrew.

Andrew LOVED pencils and bought them constantly. He wheedled money from mom, dad, his grandparents, siblings, friends, neighbors, relatives, and perfect strangers. His collection was almost inspiring. And each morning, after arrival, Andrew began the long and loving routine of sharpening. And sharpening. And sharpening.

EACH pencil had to have a pinpoint, dagger-like sharpness. And EACH pencil he owned had to be sharpened. There was no rest or serenity for Andrew or any of us unless the entire collection was JUST SO.

I took to foraging in his desk at night for pencils in order to reduce his collection. I told him that only ____ pencils could be sharpened at a time and that he was hogging the sharpener. HE took to coming in earlier in order to use the sharpener while it was unattended and gloriously HIS alone. He took to counting his pencils because TOO MANY of them, in his opinion, ended up in the pencil basket and in the desk of classmates. He found this suspicious and unsettling.

His mother began coming into the classroom to reclaim the quarters Andrew liberated from her purse in order to feed his habit. She berated him, threatened him, grounded him, and even bought him a PEN. Andrew didn't miss a beat. Quarters, for a resilient and fixated kid like Andrew, were always obtainable.

I took to hiding the pencil machine, which was located in a nearby hallway. People complained. I didn't care. The PTO sent out a search party. I had to get devious. Several sympathetic teachers and I played "Musical Pencil Machine." Andrew began to get pale and shaky. He began foraging for pencils on the ground and in his classmates' desks. He lined them up by size and sorted them by color. The withdrawals were downright painful for him. But I was determined!

The day I caught him washing his pencils, I conceded defeat.

I bought a second sharpener and told everybody this was just for ANDREW. The class was relieved. I told Andrew he could sharpen before school, before recess, after lunch, and after school. He agreed that cutting down was a good thing. He also agreed to buy only one pencil a week. We shook on it.

When Andrew moved to 2nd grade, I sent the sharpener with him.

The teacher looked perplexed. She has NO idea.


Friday, September 01, 2006

My "Flex" Day

Today I decided to work at home. I brought home a TON of work to prep for next week. I also brought the book binding machine, my new RED plan book, and loads of good intentions. I've never had a RED plan book before. I feel very festive about this.

As you know, the classroom was packed to the gills with mostly-useless stuff and I spent a lot of time last summer cleaning it out. The end of last school year is a huge haze to me - so when I left the last day of school I expected that ML would take her stuff and leave.

Well.......she did LEAVE. The stuff ? Nooks, crannies, boxes, tubs, bags, shelves... full of STUFF. That giant 'windy' sound you heard in mid-August was ME realizing that YET AGAIN I have to clean out a room before preparing for a school year.

The good news is that it is almost done. The lone exception is the top of MY filing cabinet (who has time to file your own stuff when HER stuff is permeating the place?), and the tops of the storage cabinets in the workroom. And I'll get to those when I get to them. AND I have a new room partner, Lupita, who is about as organized as my mother - so I will be having stress dreams about MY messes from now on. I only hope that Lupe doesn't own any white gloves. From one extreme to the other, huh?

So today is what the district calls a "flex" day. For some reason, you don't HAVE to work today but if you don't come in you are supposed to tell Janice - for what reason, I don't know. Maybe she adds and subtracts points. I should get extra points because of all the extra cleaning and de-cluttering I am doing. So today I am "flexing" but I forgot to tell Janice. I wonder if she will notice I am not there today.

The lone holdout in the PackRat Crowd is poor Charles. His room looks like a dang bomb went off and I am living in FEAR that Janice will ask ME to go in and clean it out. I think Charles is worried too - when I came over to his side of the building yesterday, he ran inside and locked the door.