Saturday, September 29, 2007

Einstein, Nick and I

When I was a child, I heard or read somewhere that Albert Einstein once checked out a library book, used a fifty dollar bill as a bookmark, and then returned the book to the library with the fifty dollar bill still in it. The honest person who later checked out the book returned it to the library, informed the library of the mistake made by the previous borrower, and the library used their card system to find out who had last used the book. It turned out to be the absent-minded professor, Albert Einstein.

I loved that story and clung to it as the absolute truth, thus easing myself of much guilt and ensuring myself of an almost tiny pleasure in any evidence that might suggest I am a little forgetful.

I am happy to announce that I may have a little genius in my class. He came into the classroom on Thursday wearing only socks, and I inquired, "Nick, where are your shoes?" Nick looks down at his feet, looks up at me and says, "I don't know. Oh! Wait a minute! I must have left them on the bus."

I buzzed the office, the bus driver was contacted, held onto Nick's shoes for the rest of the day, and Nick got his shoes back. I'm hoping that he has not only Einstein's absent-mindedness, but his mathematical skills as well. I will be teaching Nick differential equations by the end of the year.

Uh-oh. Wait a minute. I forgot how to do differential equations. That's kinda like shoes, isn't it?

Friday, September 28, 2007


I have been pretty busy lately. Besides teaching a great class of fourth graders, I have been overseeing what I believe is the largest, elementary, public school chorus in the United States.

The local newspaper, the Albuquerque Tribune, recently did a front page, five column, lead-in photo of the chorus, and a front page of the second section article on our chorus, with two additional, five column photos, one in color and one in black and white.

I made a claim to the paper that we had the largest public school chorus in the nation right here in our city, and they checked it out. Turns out they believe I'm correct. I think that impressed them, and they went with the story.

For the article and a video, check out these two websites:


I've been so busy I've haven't had time to complain about NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and its negative impact on teachers at our school. Lucky me. Lucky you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Red Glitter Shoes

One of my favorite human beings on the planet Earth is Emma. Emma is the five year old daughter of Mary Catherine, a third grade teacher in the classroom next door to mine. Emma is a precocious, darling, kindergarten charmer who first won my heart when I held her as a baby during teachers' meetings.

I saw Emma recently and saw that she had on Red Glitter Shoes. I told her, "Oh, Emma! Those shoes are so wonderful and sparkly. Wow!"

Emma looked so proud in her Red Glitter Shoes.

Then Mary Catherine said, Mr. R., those are special shoes. Those are her Red Glitter Shoes. I bought a pair of Red Glitter Shoes many years ago when it looked like George and I weren't going to be able to have children. We had tried and tried, but it was pretty obvious that we weren't going to have any children, and I was so upset and depressed about it. Then, one day in the Wal-Mart I saw a pair of Red Glitter Shoes. My heart just sank thinking about how I would never be able to buy shoes like that for my real daughter, so I bought them anyway. I don't know why. I just wanted to be able to buy them, even if they were for a little girl I would never have. I put them in the closet and they sat in there for a few years. Then Emma was born, and I was so happy I bought those shoes!"

I looked at Emma's shoes and said, "Are these the pair you bought and put in the closet?"

She laughed and said, "Oh no! She wore out those shoes long ago. These are her third pair of Red Glitter Shoes!"

Emma looked so proud of her Red Glitter Shoes. Almost as proud as her mother.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Kids' Comments

These are some comments my fourth grade students made this week:

Me: "Most of the candidates have already started
running for President of the United States."
Thomas: "How fast do they have to run?"
(Some faster than others.)

Me: (during a life science class studying flower parts)
"What is a gymnosperm?"
Alex: "Isn't that a boy's body part?"
(Fill in your own cute remark here.)

Me: "Why do you think Little Willy
didn't tell everyone that Stone Fox
hit him in the face? (Pause)
Yes. Samantha."
Samantha: "My mother and I went to visit a
friend who lives in Rio Rancho, and she
doesn't have a kitchen. She told her husband
to build the house without a kitchen because
she didn't ever want to cook again, and so he
built the house without a kitchen."
Me: "Huh? What?"

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Communication Skills

I just love teaching. Teaching is one of the few careers that you start at the top and work your way down.

I get to be in the classroom with a brand new group of fourth graders, and I am already having a great time. Lots of funny little things are said each day due to their unique communication skills.

On Friday I sent a student to the cafeteria to see if it was available for our class to use.

Damian came back and I asked him, "Damian, what's going on in the cafeteria?"

He replied, "Well, there are some kindergarteners or first graders in there."

"What are they doing in there, Damian?"

"Well, they're in there playing with each others' elbows."

I never did find out exactly what was going on in the cafeteria. By the time we got there, the kindergarteners of first graders had finished playing with each others' elbows and had already left.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

I Want To Be A Mysterious Woman

I have a friend named Neal who thinks Christine Lavin is one of America's greatest songwriters. I don't exactly agree with that assessment, but I know that I sure appreciate almost every musical effort ever made by a human being, and Christine Lavin's music is unusually clever and enjoyable. One of her songs is titled, "I Want To be A Mysterious Woman." I thought of Christine Lavin's song when I was giving advice to an ex-student.

I keep in touch with one of my ex-students who is now in the ninth grade, and in our email correspondence, she told me that she went to Disneyland and had a horrible time because she was on her period.

Now I don't mind having a girl feel so comfortable with me that she can tell me this very personal information, but I also have a lot of reservations about knowing it. So I replied to her, and here is what I said.

"I am flattered that you feel so comfortable with me that you would tell me that you were on your period. I also feel concerned that you may be telling other people that information. It is none of your boyfriends' business when you are menstruating, and it isn't any of mine, either.

I want you to keep your menstrual cycle to yourself. Don't even tell me. And certainly don't tell any boys! In the matter of your menstrual periods, I want you to be a Mysterious Woman. I want the boys to wonder about you, but to have no idea what is going on. And that includes what you look like when you are naked. Keep your clothes on, and keep your periods to yourself. Be a Mysterious Woman. Keep boys and men wondering about your sexuality but don't let them find out anything, ever, because as soon as they find out, the mystery is over. Case closed. The "Mystery of You" will have been solved. Don't tell them anything. Don't show them anything. Remain Mysterious."

Some would say my advice doesn't actually fit the meaning of the lyrics of Christine Lavin's song, but on a simple level I think it certainly does. I hope it was good advice. It was advice to a girl whose father and mother don't talk to her properly, and certainly not about such etiquettte, and it was advice from a man who has never had a daughter.

I also have some alarm bells going off about our email correspondence. I am not sure anymore about the legality nor the safety and security of common sense truth.