Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jordan's Bad Day~

There comes a time in each teacher's life for writing a letter home to parents. Today, I had to write a letter to Jordan's parents. Below is a copy.

Dear Jordan's Parents,

Jordan had a bad day today. I am writing because this was a really bad day. Normally, I would have sent Jordan to the office and the principal would have contacted you, but I have reached the point in the school year with Jordan that I need to try something different.

During Group Time we have 4-5 activities. Today, one of those choices was the completion of a May calendar. The children were asked to fill in the dates, which they could copy from our class calendar. They had to mark two upcoming events and then color the flowers if they wished. This is good numeral practice and good for vocabulary development. We also practice patterning because the students color the date boxes to match the pattern for the current month.

Jordan didn’t want to do it. He made this perfectly clear from the minute he ran from the bathroom and did a perfect slide into home base. He flipped around on the floor, did a headstand and a back flip. Had I been grading for P.E., I’d give those maneuvers an 8.1. Then played with his friends – who somehow managed to finish.

Jordan chose not to complete the work during recess or lunchtime. He managed to bang his head against the wall (check for bruises), roll on the floor, visit the restroom several times, fall of his chair, and sit in the recycling bin.

None of this helped him to finish the calendar.

He stabbed his shoes repeatedly with classroom pencils. Luckily for me, we have a pencil sharpener.

Jordan is fine example of stubbornness in action. Hopefully this will pay off in the future when he goes to college. In the meantime, please help him complete the calendar. I am enclosing the original work for you to admire.

Please sign the completed calendar and return it to me.

Thank you for your continued support. School is out in 11 days. I send my condolences.


Jordan's Kindergarten Teacher

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Slow Fall~

During recess today, Andrew ran up to me, upset because Diego had pushed him down. Not only did Diego push him down, he added to the indignity of the whole thing by pushing him down OFF the swing.

Diego was on Andrew's heels, coming to defend himself, at all costs.

"Diego," I said, "Andrew tells me you pushed him down."

"Off the swing," added Andrew.

"NO," said Diego, shaking his head. "I didn't! I didn't!"

"He pushed me down off the swing. It hurt me," said Andrew, rubbing his rear end for added emphasis.

"No, no, no.........." argued Diego, "I didn't push him down! I didn't!"

"Yes. Yes. He pushed me down," said Andrew.

"No," said Diego. "I didn't. I didn't."

"Okay," I said, mustering up some patience. "Diego. Why did you push Andrew down?"

Diego is silent for a few seconds, considering whether to lawyer-up. Then he says quietly, "I didn't."

"Diego. If you didn't push Andrew down, how did he fall off the swing and land on the ground?"

Diego pauses to think. Then he says, "Verrrrry slowwwwly."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bicycle Ruminations

Today, I bought a new bicycle. This was not an impulsive purchase - I have been thinking about bike riding for a long time.

Influencing my decision was my dear friend, Ann, who used to ride fanatically but now rides regularly. She has an almost vintage racing bicycle that has logged many miles. She is very attached to it and lifts her eyebrow at the mere mention by Jim, her bicycling spouse, that the trusty steed could use some updating.

The new bike is a Scott racing model. I like it for many reasons. It is lightweight, white like my favorite car color, and damn good-looking. There are other, technical reasons, but I am reluctant to go into them here. When I know what those technical reasons are, I will pontificate accordingly.

I took it out for a ride this afternoon and noticed a few things that I never really considered before. I will list them since I am a good list-maker:

1. Bicycle shorts are not merely an affectation used by cyclists to look professional. That extra padding around tender areas comes in handy after about 4 minutes.

2. Brakes need to be at the top of the handlebars, not in front of the bike. Aerodynamics, shmerodynamics - when I want to stop, I want to stop, not give my hand ligaments a good stretching.

3. Bike lanes shouldn't be politically correct after-thoughts. Bike lanes should be mandatory on all roads.

4. Bike lanes are for bikes. They are not right turn lanes for cars.

5. There is an abundance of crap all over the road. Isn't somebody in charge of clearing crap from the road? SHOULDN'T somebody be in charge of clearing crap from the road?

6. Speaking of crap, what is with all the broken glass? Do people just go outside and fling glass for the hell of it? I don't get it.

7. Road surfaces are not even-steven. They should be even-steven. In Spanish-speaking neighborhoods, they should be equal-pasqual. This is not a mountain bike.

8. Driveways are rarely flush with the street. Why IS that? It makes no sense. Aren't these things generally done with an eye on meeting up at some point?

9. Some cars are too quiet. They sneak up on you. Cars shouldn't be sneaky. It hurts the neck to look back on the left side.

10. Dogs are more interested in chasing a cyclist than a walker with 3 loud and energetic weinie dogs. Does that chihuahua down on Argyle Lane really think he can catch me?

11. Does the bicycle seat make my butt look fat?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Diego and the Duck Joke

There is a joke I like to tell my students towards the end of the school year. Kindergarten kids, for the most part, don't understand jokes unless they have something to do with "underwear" "the bathroom," or "naked."

If the kids can retell the joke, it is always a good laugh and I often hear from parents later that they "loved the duck joke."

Okay. So the joke goes like this:

Duck walks into a supermarket and looks around for the manager. When he finds the manager he waddles up and says, "Hey! You got any gwapes?"

The manager says, "No. I don't got any gwapes."

Next day, the duck walks into the supermarket and looks around for the manager. When he finds the manager, he waddles up and says, "Hey! You got any gwapes?"

The manager answers, "NO! I don't got any gwapes!"

Next day, duck walks into the supermarket and looks around for the manager. When he finds the manager, he waddles up to him and says, "HEY! You got any gwapes?"

The manager stops what he is doing and yells at the duck. "NO! I don't got any gwapes. You come in here tomorrow and ask me for gwapes, I'm gonna staple your feet to the floor!"

Next day, the duck walks into the supermarket. He looks around for the manager. When he finds the manager, he waddles up to him and says, "HEY! You got any staples?"

The manager says, "No. I don't got any staples."

Duck says, "Good! You got any gwapes?"


Sometimes the kids get the joke and sometimes they don't. This is a "don't" year but that didn't prevent them from asking me to tell the joke again at lunch today.

Diego stops eating and excitedly tells the class that HE knows the joke and will tell it.

"Duck walks into the market. He says, 'hey, you got any grapes?'"

Then Diego stops. He is clearly thinking.

"What happened next, Diego?" I asked.

"Oh yeah!" he yells, getting up on his knees, arms waving wildly.

"Duck looks for the manager. He finds the manager."

"What did the manager say," I prompt.

Diego doesn't miss a beat.

"Manager says... GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!"

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Bad Words

Upon returning from the computer lab last Thursday, they just couldn't wait to descend upon me, one after the other, to share the news that "Alyssa said a bad word!" I half-ignored them in my attempts to hurry them along so they don't miss the bus. "A bad word? Really? Alyssa?" I say incredulously, when several more approach me to share the exciting news.

Alyssa vigorously shakes her head. "NO!" she says with vehemence. "I did not!"

"Yes she did!" shouts Raymond and Brandy gleefully. "In the computer lab!"

Alyssa keeps shaking her head and contorting her face in a wild attempt to stem the tide of eager tattling over her newly-discovered truck-driver mouth. Figuring that, since Alyssa was relatively new to our classroom, she didn't know about the "shut up" admonition, I did what all harried teachers do while trying to hurry an excited group of kindergarten children out a doorway that is suddenly much too small.

"What did she say," I asked Jessica, lowering my voice in case it was "stupid" or worse, like "idiot."

"She said F*#k!" reports Jessica dutifully. The kids unanimously agreed.

"I did not say f&^k!," yells Alyssa, folding her arms and sticking her head out and bobbing it in front of Jessica's face.

"You did! She did, teacher," says Brandy, eyes wide and flashing, "she said f^&k!"

"I did not! No, I didn't say f&^*!" Alyssa shouts, whirling around to face down each of her accusers.

Raymond approaches me seriously and tugs on my shirt. I lean down, while putting my hand out in a vague attempt to stop the yelling of "f%$k" each time Alyssa denies it. "Teacher. She did. She said "f&%k," intones Raymond. "I heard her."

"Me, too," says Tabatha, thrilled that it is somebody else getting in trouble over the uttering of bad words.

I send the other kids to the bus line and signal for Julie to take my kids with hers, holding on to Alyssa's backpack as she attempts to skitter away towards her dad, who is waiting outside. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and Alyssa senses it as I lean down and whisper into her face.

"Tell me the truth. What happened?" I ask in my best no-nonsense teacher voice. She caves and looks down. "Okay, I said it."

"Were you mad?" I ask.

"No," responds Alyssa, shrugging at me and smiling.

"Were you annoyed?" I ask.

"No," she replies, kicking at the cement with her shoe and watching her dad out of the corner of her eye. As he comes closer, she whispers, "I made a mistake. I was just talking to myself."

Still wanting a reason for such uncharacteristic behavior, I ask if she was wearing the headphones and didn't realize other people could hear her.

"No!" she laughs, finding that notion clearly ridiculous.

"Well then, WHY, for heaven's sake? That is an awful word and it doesn't sound right coming from your mouth," I say.

Alyssa nods solemnly. "Okay, teacher. I won't say it anymore."

"What's going on?" asks Dad.

"Alyssa said a bad word. But she won't be doing that anymore, will you, Alyssa?" I say, raising my eyebrows.

Dad looks surprised. "What?" he says, peering down at his daughter, folding his arms.

"I won't anymore," she promises, grabbing her dad's hand in an attempt to stop this conversation from going any further.

"What did she say?" asks Dad, falling into the same trap I did, but sensing that we aren't having a face-to-face over "stupid," "idiot," or "shut up."

"Um... it rhymes with truck," I say, "And she won't be doing it again."

"Oh," says Dad, putting his hand over his eyes. "I'm sorry. I let that one slip now and again."

"Yes well.....," I begin, but Alyssa is dragging at his hand, clearly embarrassed for both of them.

"He won't say it again," the child assures me, leading her mortified father down the sidewalk towards the parking lot, pausing only to turn around and yell back to me.

"If he does," Alyssa shouts, "I'll tell you, teacher!"

Laundry Day

Last week the PTO sponsored a Pioneer Days assembly. It was an interactive activity that the children adored because they could go from station to station, experiencing life just like 19th century pioneers.

Well, not exactly like the pioneers. It was as close as you can get when housed in the cafeteria of a somewhat rural school in the middle of the Mojave Desert, with air conditioning and plenty of adult help for the more difficult tasks, like carding wool. And there and no wild animals, infectious diseases, or sod houses close by.

For 45 minutes, three classrooms of children worked side by side, playing with authentic wood toys, making authentic dyed-pasta bead necklaces, shaving with authentic shaving brushes and real butter knives, panning for real fool's gold, and grinding real corn in an authentic grinder. There were no behavior problems the entire time. They waited patiently for turns at the grinder, yielding enough corn meal to make a mini-muffin, after much hard work. They gladly sifted their fruits of their efforts, over and over again.

The biggest hit, without a doubt, was the washboard and wringer. The kids took turns washing a towel and then putting it carefully through the wringer, only to wash it again. And again. If they weren't involved with the washing, they watched, eyes round and mouths agape - fully entranced by the whole process.

So, the next day I brought in a vintage washboard that has decorated my laundry room for several years, serving as a reminder that I must always be grateful for Maytag and Sears & Roebuck. I put the washboard in a plastic tub filled with soapy water and scrounged around for the one and only towel in the classroom.

I wasn't sure how they would react when faced with this little set-up, which I'd placed on an old wood table that was abandoned in the kindergarten yard years ago. The fact that they were enamored is putting it mildly. They vigorously scrubbed the towel against the rusty washboard, rocking the rickety table in the process.

Tricycles gleamed in the sun, unridden, while the children lined up to "wash" the towel. Jump ropes were forgotten and the play equipment sat abandoned once Raymond realized that his attempts to coax his buddies onto the slide was for naught. "Come on, guys!" he shouted hopefully. "I'm a superhero!"

Seeing that his friends would have none of it, Raymond got in line for a turn, only to become exasperated when the current washerwoman wouldn't relinquish the coveted spot. Calls of "hurry up!" soon became screeches, as each launderer pushed the bounds of kindergarten reason and washed until anarchy and chaos was threatening. I suggested that they count to 50. Might as well make it academic.

I don't know why I was so surprised at the popularity of the old washboard. These are the same kids who yawn at carefully constructed phonics lessons but "oooh" and "ahhhh" over my cleaning of the whiteboard. "Look! A rainbow!" they exclaim, as the dark ink drips down the board and changes into a plethora of inky paints and blend again to create more color spectacles. "Do it again!" they shout, convinced that one MORE squirt of the noxious whiteboard cleaner will yield another batch of drippy rainbow colors.

"Hurry UP!" they shout at each other, becoming impatient with the current washer person. "Hurry UP! TEACHER! Raymond is taking too long!"

"Count to 50," I reply serenely, thrilled with the spectacle of Raymond's look of complete wonderment and concentration as he vigorously rubs the soapy water along the old ridges of the washboard. I am secretly pleased with myself for thinking of this and happy that the accumulated dust is now swirling around in the tub.

More pushing ensues and Raymond flounces off when he can't convince his buddies to extend his turn to the count of 60. I am pleased that Raymond understands that 60 is ten more than 50.

This is the same group that laughs when I drop something and snickers at words like "underwear," "snot," "poop," and "naked."

They are belligerent with turn-takers who keep scrubbing after the count of 50. Almost as appalled as the saying of "bad words," which usually elicits repeated rounds of breathlessly excited tattling. For Kindergarten kids, "bad words" include "shut-up," which I declared off-limits early in the year, and "stupid," which loses its shock value around second grade.

When they reluctantly leave the washboard to return to the classroom, I notice there is a fringe benefit to all this scrubbing. For the first time all school year, my kids will go to the cafeteria with sparkling clean hands.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Is it today?

Below is a transcript of a phone conversation I had this morning with Tabatha's grandmother.

The phone rings. I pick it up and answer in my usual manner.

Me: "Lengning."

Gramma: "Hi Mrs. Lengning. This is ____ _____, Tabatha's gramma."

Me: "Good morning, Mrs. ________."

Gramma: "What time is Tabatha coming back from the field trip today?"

Me: "Today?"

Gramma: "Yeah. The field trip. What time is she coming back?"

Me: "The field trip to Placerita Canyon is on Monday, Mrs. _______."

Gramma: "No. It's today. I need to know what time she comes back 'cause I have to go to the valley."

Me: "The field trip is Monday, May 5, Mrs. _________."

Gramma: "SHE thinks it's today! She keeps telling me it's today!"

Me: "Mrs. ________, SHE also thinks Diego is going to marry Hannah Montana."

Gramma: "It's supposed to be today!"

Me: "Every homework packet since early April has said that our Placerita field trip is on MONDAY, MAY 5, Mrs. ______. We also sent home a reminder, and Tabatha got TWO permission slips, which you signed. They all said Monday, May 5. Cinco de Mayo."

Gramma: (sounds of exasperation)

Me: "I will be sending home a paper today with the afternoon drop-off time on it. She will be coming home with the big kids on MONDAY AFTERNOON."

Gramma: (More exasperation.)

Me (deciding to take the high road): "I am sorry for any confusion, Mrs. ____________. "

Gramma: "Yeah. Well. I'm just glad I CALLED."

I resisted the urge to retort something that would underscore how ludicrous this entire conversation was, given that the woman obviously doesn't READ what we send home.

When Tabatha arrived at school, I said, "Hey, dippity doodle, WHEN is our field trip?"

Tabatha paused and looked at me like I was only employed because the district gives equal employment opportunities to middle-aged Boneheads. "TODAY," she says, rolling large brown eyes.

"When is our field trip boys and girls?" I called to the children, who were gathering on the rug for our Morning Meeting.

"MONDAY!" they shouted, "3 more days!"

Tabatha looked disgusted. Then she mumbled something under her breath.

"What was that?" I asked her, "I didn't quite hear you."

The child folded her arms and flounced down to the floor. Then she said, rather loudly, "I wanted it to be today!"