Monday, February 28, 2011


I had mentioned earlier that when the documentary "Waiting for Superman" was released and inexpensively available, I would watch it and give my opinion. Last weekend it was at a Redbox in front of the the drugstore in my neighborhood and I paid my dollar, got a piece of paper and pencil to take notes, and watched this talked about film.

The entire premise of the documentary is built into the title, "Waiting for Superman," and that children and the schools in our country are waiting for someone, anyone, some group, or any group, to take control of our country's school system that is failing to educate children, make it succeed, and be proclaimed a hero as they fly away into the sky faster than a speeding bullet. We are waiting. And waiting. And waiting so long we get the feeling Superman isn't going to arrive in time to save the school bus from careening off the road and over the cliff.

The documentary maintains that the main reason for this inability of anyone or any group to fix the educational system is that they are ultimately faced with the inability to fire lousy teachers. This inability to fire teachers who fail to challenge their students, raise the expectations for all of them, and teach all the children is one of the main reasons our school systems are failing. The bottom ten percent of the teachers who are failing to raise test scores are dragging the entire system down, and yet they can't be fired.

The blame is then placed on teachers' unions, the National Educators' Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for fighting the firing of incompetent teachers, resisting any elimination of tenure which makes it difficult if not impossible to fire teachers, and providing legal protection for teachers who never show up on time, sit and read newspapers and magazines instead of leading a learning community, or worse, molest children.

Successful charter schools are shown holding lottery drawings to allow public school students stuck in failing schools in another neighborhood to be allowed enrollment. Those whose names are not drawn are relegated to the failing school where their child will supposedly fall between the cracks of a crumbling, bureaucratic educational structure, be left behind, and ultimately fail to secure a good job. The entire neighborhood will fail because the school fails the children. In addition, our country's future is in jeopardy because the the future workers of our country are not being educated properly by a school system that is a bureaucratic mess controlled by unions who concern themselves only with adult affairs.

I agree with many of the facts. Students in the United States are behind other countries in reading, math, and science. Teachers who fail to improve their students' test scores and have poor classroom management skills (behavior control), or worse, are rarely fired. Tenure, originally intended to protect the freedom of speech of professors at the university level has degenerated into guaranteed jobs for under performing educators.

The unions are to blame. I am in a state where the unions are very weak, and I have stated before the fact that I make a decent wage due to a politician, rather than a union standing up to one of them. The unions are weak, and people are terminated if something tragic happens in the classroom. Otherwise, incompetence abounds. John Stossel has done television specials on strong teachers' unions, and I agree with his disapproval.

I can assure you that my students' test scores have always been high, and I would be rewarded by accountability for teachers and salaries based on my students' performance on tests. The few teachers whose students' test scores are as high as mine get a congratulatory remark from me and an acknowledgment for their effort. Many administrators fail to do so. I know. It's not a part of their job description to "label" teachers as "good" or "bad." I have had principals compliment me, and I once had a principal who would have done anything to get rid of, did do anything, and succeeded. If this principal had any influence or power over my salary, I would have lost thousands and taken a decade to get it all back. But that's life, and that's something teachers' unions do not want their constituents to undergo.

I completely disagree with the documentary's philosophy. I find it appalling that not once, not one single time, did the documentary mention one factor that affects students learning: the student themselves. There was not one mention of the importance of desire, dedication, or determination on the part of a student. Not not once did they mention a child's attentiveness in class, their work habits, their behavior, or their ambition and goal to distract. Not once was the thoroughness of their work turned in ever mentioned. I never heard the words "work completed promptly and neatly." Their attendance, tardiness, or attitude toward learning was never discussed. The student was not even considered as a factor in the outcome of their grades. What a shame that our country has declined so far that we can't hold a student responsible for their own learning, and their accomplishments are supposedly determined by which school they attend. Poor Abraham Lincoln. Based on this documentary, he should never have become a lawyer. He should have become stuck working in that general store and walking miles to return change.

We are afraid to hold our children accountable. We have become so dysfunctional as a nation that we believe a child who gets an F was given that grade rather than earned it. I never gave a child an F. The child earned it, and that's all they earned.

There were some wonderful quotes, and a few dynamic individuals were interviewed who have dedicated their lives to making a change and improving the system. Otherwise, the documentary was just as I expected, selling consumers the philosophy of fear and decline.

I am reminded of the song on the old television show, "Hee Haw" :

"Gloom, Despair, and Agony on me! Ahh!
Deep, Dark Depression. Excessive Misery! Aghh!
If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all! Aww!
Gloom, Despair, and Agony on me!"

I don't want to hear it, especially from educators who are never, absolutely ever, willing to suggest that our students need to do at least one fourth of their homework. If you told them they were doing a quarter-ass job, they'd look at you and say, "Huh?"

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I was about twenty-two or twenty-three when my cousin Mary Ann had her first child. A celebration and family gathering was held and I went to visit with all my cousins, and the first family members I talked to were my Aunt Marian and Mary Ann. They were standing in the living room and talking, and I asked about the baby. It was a girl and had been named Tess. I asked where Tess was, and my aunt and cousin pointed to a crib they had been facing the whole time. I immediately went over to the crib and saw Tess for the first time.

Tess was a beautiful baby with large, shockingly beautiful eyes that were looking right at me. I felt this was a wonderful sign. My younger brother Jack had been the same way. Even as a baby Jack was looking right at you as if he was already starting to learn. He grew up a genius, a brilliant man. Immediately I felt the same way about Tess. Here was someone special and blessed.

I picked Tess up carefully for I had little experience picking up newborns, talked baby talk to her, then turned around to face the living room. Everyone had stopped their conversations and was staring at me, not in horror, but in dismay as if I had done something wrong. It was unsettling, but I am at times a hardy soul, so I swayed over to Aunt Marian and Mary Ann and asked what was the matter. Had I done something wrong?

Aunt Marian explained that Tess was having difficulties and would cry all the time. She had been crying all morning and had finally settled down, and if anyone held her, even her mother or her aunt, she would start crying again. I remember my Aunt Marian adding that she didn't like to be held. I replied, "Well, she's not crying for me," and probably sounded a little arrogant when I said it. I held Tess for a short while until I realized everyone was quiet. It must have been a long morning listening to Tess cry, so I put her back in her crib and she didn't make any sounds. Everyone slowly began talking again.

I will never forget holding Tess. It was at that moment I realized I wanted to have children, and now, because of Tess, I especially wanted a baby girl. It wasn't meant to be.

Shortly after holding her I composed a song on the guitar titled, "Tess."


Wiping the sleep from her eyes,
Daddy's little girl starts to cry.
A bottle of milk and she's fine.

Crawling on her hands and knees
all around,
trying to stand but she can't.
Her seat keeps a slappin' the ground.

Diapers to change day and night.
Mommy and I are a sight.
We barely have time for a fight.

A friend o' mine said,
"Hey man, don't you miss havin' fun?
Don't you wish that you'd looked out for ol' number one?"

And I said, "Look.

Tess is asleep in my arms."

Friday, February 25, 2011


As a celebration of the fifth anniversary of LOST IN KIDS, I will be spewing forth an explosively immense amount of material. Here is the first of many.

There is a contest held by Bulwer-Lytton that gives awards to the worst first sentence of a novel. The novel does not have to written.........just the first sentence, and it needs to be a hideous foretaste of what is to come. I entered the contest one year and quickly lost interest, mainly because of my indifference to the rules which clearly stated that bad sentences purely for humor's sake would not be tolerated. However, there was a category that allowed humor to be generated by grammatical error. I piddled around with that for a little while. Here are a few of my efforts at pitiful writing:

Humor cause by grammatical error:

Seven seconds after Frank entered the restaurant he knew there were two men packing heat in the booth to his left, a drunk having an argument with what would surely be his last date with a foxy brunette near the door leading into the kitchen, and a mechanic who recently had sex with his wife in the table near the front window.

Loretta was feeling great after hitting the three hundred dollar jackpot on the quarter slot, but while she served herself another helping of shrimp scampi from the casino buffet, she noticed a burly man staring at her in the dessert section.

The lonely, deserted stretch of road looked forbidding in the faint moonlight, especially with her car low on gas, and Brenda was aware that Jeffrey, a hitchhiker she had picked up just east of Texarkana, had awakened from his sleep and was staring at her gauges.

Bad first sentences that are awkward or confusing:

Gazing grimly at the sky, Lt. Forrester, the aging detective, shook his head at his rotten luck, while his open umbrella, which had come loose from his grip, alternated between bounding like half of a giant bowling ball (except a lot lighter) and taking off for short flights kind of like a black parachute with a really skinny woman hanging from it trying to land in a hurricane down Dover Drive.

Charles was not used to such accommodations, and he held the menu, a greasy piece of plastic peddling greasy fried foods, grimly.

These sentences were purely for the fun of it:

"One more sip," he thought, and as the bottle of Maalox brushed his lips, he felt a sharp stabbing pain in his back and a quick, sure movement in his right hip pocket, and he thought to himself, "I'm gonna die right her, right now, in this parking lot for a measly twenty dollars, or maybe I broke that twenty when I ordered that Long Island Iced Tea, but I don't remember getting any change."

Every hospital has its idiot employees, and the fates usually prevented them all from descending all at once on one hapless patient, but Donnie wasn't feeling lucky after his unfortunate mishap with the garbage disposal, and now, to top it all off, this was the fourth time someone had entered his room and tried to give him the wrong medication, and he knew, deep down inside, that his life depended on staying alert for the next forty-eight hours.

Short ones:

Jane was a hot bombshell waiting to be defused, and Charles was a hot bombshell defusing kind of Tarzan.

Jack was the king of his bachelor pad still on a quest for his queen, but in reality he was only a deuce, or a six or seven at best, a worthless card in the great deck of life, but he had an ace up his sleeve, and her name was Lady Luck.

The needle tracks were beginning to show, and Frank applied some more self-darkening suntan lotion to his arm in preparation for what would be his last successful job interview.

"I'm going into the car wash business," announced Ralph to his new bride, "and I am calling it "The Immaculate InCarNation."

Loretta's sobbing could stop sparrow's singing in spring as well as sink ships like loose lips during World War II, but fortunately for her boyfriend Dave, she was in a good mood.

Knowing that he was alive and the other guy wasn't relieved and saddened Jeremy Scott Fleisher at the same time.

Here is a comma filled favorite of someone whose opinion I respect:

This is a tale that can only be understood, if at all, by believing, even if only in a lukewarm manner, in miracles, though modern man, in his post-biblical neurosis, fails to entertain the notion of their existence, and the wondrous things that can happen, and happen they will, when they manifest themselves, like a pinata that bursts open to spill out its candy reward, in our lives.

I like the word "again." Here is an again-filled beauty:

This time Gene's 38 revolver had finally accomplished its handiwork, the smoke never to languidly ooze its way out of the slightly rusted barrel again, the chamber never again to spin like a carousel of chaos again, the grip never again to slip out of a drunken hand and fall to the floor again, the safety never to be left off, and the firing mechanism never to fail and allow a bullet to come out when it wasn't supposed to again.

Here are my favorites:

If women were dances, Carla was a fox-trotting, Rhumbanesque, striptease pole dancer of a flamenco with flamingo legs tap dancing across the dance cards and the hearts of the flat-footed men who dreamed of Fred Astairing their way into her panties.

Live Oak Terrace was a brand new neighborhood, somewhat like a virgin, with fresh, white curbs, little tiny trees protruding from the ground, the first signs of grass seedlings in each yard, and a garage that had never had a car enter its garage and then back out again.

It seemed like a plain, old, ordinary day, a day like any other, and he felt the same as he would on any other day, except this day wasn't going to be a plain, old, ordinary day, a day not like any other, and he wasn't going to feel the same at the end of it like he would on any other plain, old, ordinary day, and it all started with the alarm clock just like it usually did.

Disturbing sentences:

A steamy mist hissed from the sewers and gutters of Central Boulevard as if the secret doings unfolding in all the clapboard houses and moldy motels lined up on either side of the dirty concrete street were escaping in the only way possible - as putrid, seething gases belching from the nasty underbelly of lost souls housed in each despicable, deplorable, and dilapidated dump.

Gorgon, a Zola leader of the Expulsion Team on Arbutus-3, lifted a skulltainer to his lips and sipped warm liquid extractions as smoke wafted thought the containment flaps, and he flared his nostrils and growled, "I love the smell of burning human flesh in the morning."

Charles H. Langford was the therapist to some of Chicago's richest and most famous personalities, his offices snobbishly gazing down at the windy city below, his Clark and Hydesbury suits perfectly tailored to his well-maintained physique, but his latest patient, Bud Clouf, was troubling him, and he squirmed in his seat when Bud muttered, "I got the dough to buy a tie like yours, but what the hell kind of morphodite would want to?

Manny's eyes flickered, his chin rose ever so slightly as his nostrils flared, he gritted his teeth, and he clinched his massive fists when he realized the Ace Hardware store was out of quarts of Tuscan White interior wall paint, and he thought about getting a portable drill with a 9/16" bit and taking a trip down the aisle drilling holes into all the Dutch Boy's foreheads until somebody could stop him with an ax, or maybe a shovel if they got lucky.

"I hate soccer," Bill Joe muttered to himself, and he drove several blocks thinking only of machine-gunning all the little soccer players and their parents for having the baseball fields converted into Brazilian battlefields of boredom until he caught sight of the beauty parlor in the strip shopping center where he had scheduled a manicure and a pedicure.

One that I thought would win:

Barrels came loose, cannons broke free and were, as in the old expression, "loose cannons," and they smashed the poor sailors who found themselves in the lower part of the ship as the front part of the mighty schooner "The Tempest" crashed into another dark and stormy wave, causing the main sail pole to moan and groan like a nauseous drunkard struggling to stay standing.


This blog was started by Laura on March 5, 2006. I was invited to join her in a discussion of children as witnessed by a parent (Laura) and a teacher (Walter). This blog will soon be celebrating five years of dedication to, the celebration of, and the bedlam and merriment generated by kids.

This blog is pure literature. Raw writing. Few pictures. No sounds. No other purpose than to chronicle children and their impact on our daily lives, and with grace, perhaps reflect on the joy and agony of life we all have witnessed by being young.

I never thought of myself as a writer. I was a writer of lyrics to songs, songs sung by me and thus never appreciated by loving family members, much less by the masses.

Thank you to everyone who has ever read for themselves or shared this blog site with others. The five years have roared by like an ice cream truck when you're digging for a Saturday at an amusement the first birthday party you art class compared to math the last hour before a life period

Thanks again.


It has been noted that famous people die in groups of three. This myth supposedly began with the simultaneous deaths of Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and "The Big Bopper" in a plane crash in 1959, and their deaths were memorialized by Don McLean in his song titled, "American Pie."
I mentioned to someone at work that there was a myth fueled by confirmation bias that famous people always died in groups of three, and she asked me to give another example. I said, "Well, for example, first there was Farrah Fawcett. Then there was Michael Jackson. I paused.

"Who is the third one? she asked.

"Tony the Tiger. He was murdered by a cereal killer."

I got a nasty look from her, so I tried it differently with a different person.

I set the joke up just like before, except when she asked, "Who is the third one?" I replied, "The Pillsbury Dough Boy. He died of a yeast infection."

It got a much bigger laugh.

If you can't laugh at death, you probably take it too seriously.


March 5, 2006 was Laura's first entry on the "Lost in Kids" blog site. She and I took turns with blog entries for many years until recently when she took some time off to return to college for her teaching credentials and licensing. I miss her challenging writing style and have done my best to maintain the quality without her.

I will be contacting her to ask for a fifth anniversary blog entry.

Please visit our site any time, but this is a special invitation to see what's coming on March 5, 2011, the fifth anniversary of "Lost In Kids."

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Art Linkletter hosted a television show in the 1950's called "House Party" and the most popular segment on the show was his interview of pre-schoolers and the embarrassing and overly honest things they would say.

Middle schoolers don't want to embarrass anyone except maybe a teacher or two and that only gets them into trouble. Their parents are fair game, though, and I do hear weird things.


There was a photo of a pig in our math book and I wasn't sure if the pig was from the movie "Babe" or from the movie "Charlotte's Web." I asked the students which one it was and they all quickly responded with an inappropriately loud, "Babe!!"

Then one of the students distinctly mumbled, "Babe. That was a scary movie."


I mentioned to one of my students that it was apparent that he was having trouble with fractions, and I asked him to be honest and tell me if I was correct. He replied, "Yeah. I have trouble with fractions. My dad says I always do an eighth-ass job on them and then he laughs as if something is funny."


One of my students told me with a very straight face, "Mr. Rich, I flunked my science test because of Jenny."

"Why is it Jenny's fault that you flunked your science test?" I asked.

With all seriousness she replied, "Just before the test she told me that the 'greenhouse effect' was caused by some people voting for the Dixie Chicks to win an Oscar."


Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I am relieved to know that so many politicians understand the best methods to raise low student achievement in our country's schools. I am also overwhelmed at their confidence in their political party's ideas on the subject compared to their opponent's. As a middle school teacher I am reassured and thankful to know that the future of our educational system is so clearly defined and envisioned by the politicians whose solutions are being imposed on our schools.

I do have a few questions, though. Why is the solution in the instructional strategies of the teacher as if homogeneity will ultimately prevail and cure the ills? Why is the "fix" in the curriculum provided by corporations and sold to each school district? How can students be helped by having lower class sizes set by state laws as if individual tutoring is the ultimate goal for each student? Why is the way out of the students' low scores the amount of money provided to a school? Why is the problem solved by experienced teachers receiving further training in meetings devoid of real classroom situations and the topics of those "professional development seminars" set by school superintendents?

One more question. Why isn't the lack of completed homework by 40% of my students considered in any one's "formula for success?"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I want to dump all the world's problems in a pile, set fire to them and watch them reduced to ashes. All the dirty looks, the grumpy dispositions, the blank stares induced by grief or trauma, the rude comments, treatable diseases that go untreated, the ravages of untreatable diseases, hunger, anger, bitterness and greed. The bonfire would destroy anxiety, depression, poverty, wars, threats and rumors of wars, and the damned military forces we so dearly treasure that thrive on weapons and bloodshed.

Flames would melt cold and remorseless hearts, sear laziness into ashes, and change foolishness and the ensuing criminal activities into mere smoke that dissipates with the fresh breeze.

Injustice would burn while cool drinks are dispensed to those falsely accused and false witness borne against them, and the flames would shed light on those hiding in the darkness who have failed to pay for their crimes.

Forgiveness will put out the fiery inferno of resentment and blame, and restitution will be fertilized by and flourish in the ashes of retribution.

This world will not be sanctified by flames or healed by fire, nor will it be saved by the works of our own hands. What does this world have to offer? What is the greatest gift we own and hold dear to our hearts? What if we did travel to the stars and discovered life on other worlds? What is our most exalted and magnificent idea, thought, concept, or material possession we have in our minds and hearts? What is the one treasure this world has that humans should share with the universe?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Censorship of Teachers: Making Our Children Feel Safe

Each teacher has a few, or in some cases, many peculiarities. One of mine is a statement I make to any student who sits and stares off into space. I get their attention, which sometimes takes considerable effort, and tell them, "Don't just sit there and look handsome/cute. Get to work."

Two girls went to the principal and complained that I was calling them "cute." Guilty as charged. I didn't deny it. When I told the principal the context of the comments, he just rolled his eyes and laughed at the silliness. However, he is not the boss. Lawyers are, and I was told never to say that again. If I do it again, I will be "written up." If you are "written up" three times you have a problem.........teacher probation. Today I told a kid, "Don't just sit there. Get to work." It lacks that little complimentary pizazz, but it's just as ineffective, if not more so.

The principal also mentioned that I had told the girls that I was a handsome devil. Guilty as charged. Also true. When I am explaining math to a student, I want them looking at the math problem, not me. If they keep it up, I tell them, "Quit staring at me. Look at the math problem." If they do it again, I say, "I know I am a handsome devil and it is hard to take your eyes off me, but you must focus on the math. Look at the math problem." Today I merely, said, "Look at the math problem." I had to repeat it two times, but it's as effective.

There are children that have been terrorized and their sexuality severely damaged by predatory adults, and they will be judged not by me, but by the Almighty Creator. I would sacrifice myself to prevent it from happening again to even one child.

I wish that our society would do more to solve this horrible problem than censor teachers for trivialities and control our vocabulary with political correctness.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I have a seventh grade math student who is trying his best to engage me in a downward spiraling relationship. He does everything he can to push my buttons, which is quite easy if you think about it. He has chosen the path of greatest disagreement and argues with every thing I tell him.

If I tell him to pay attention when he is not paying attention, he looks up at his book and says, "I am paying attention." If I tell him to quit laying his head on his desk, he'll lift his head up and wearily and exasperatingly reply, "I am not laying on my desk." Today we reached the bottom of our descent; we had an argument whether he was arguing with me or not. It's an important issue and a battle I choose to fight because no student can make improvement if they are in denial about their behavior or work habits and turn any suggestion or criticism I make into a debate.

I have sent him to the office several times, and he now has after school detention and a required meeting with his parents and the Principal. The parents know about this issue because I called them, and they informed me that their son was doing the same thing to them. It was driving them crazy. Ditto.

I went to the Principal today and told him what was happening between this student and me, and he suggested that it's a fairly common occurrence in middle school. He told me to send the boy to the office and he would fix the problem I am sending the student to the Principal's office tomorrow. It is wonderful to have an administrator/principal that supports teachers and understands the issues they confront.

It is a weary and dangerous path you traverse when your guide is an incompetent fool, and how wonderful is the journey when you are led by a knowledgeable and considerate person.


Read the blog below this one. Then forget what I wrote. I must have been dreaming.

I had a conversation with my two brothers last night that almost brought me to tears. Forget what I wrote. At least when it comes to family, I am a still a cry-babe-in- the woods.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I was a student of Chong Wei Lin (Charles Lin) at the Chinese Culture Center and Lin's Martial Arts Academy for over twelve years. During that time, I learned to push my body and mind over and over again, relentlessly, far beyond what I ever thought was possible. I learned that the supposed ancient "secrets" contained in the Chinese martial arts system really exist. I am thankful to Mr. Lin for pushing me as hard as he did and passing on to me that call for excellence through hard work in every endeavor. However, I was not quite prepared for the harsh and cruel world of middle school.

I am beginning to believe that after teaching seventh grade math at a middle school, I am now truly, formidably tough. I am now ready for anything. It will be a grueling year, and most people could not last that long. It takes a thick and tough skin. I thought my skin was thick and tough before, but I have been toughened by the best......... seventh grade math students. After dealing with them for half a year and realizing that I am going to make it and am succeeding, I am now one tough dude.

My skin is now so thick and tough it can be blow torched. Welders can now weld my arms together without it burning. I stare at hypodermic needles while they are being shoved into my body and I laugh.

I can be mocked by professional mockers and not shed a tear. I can have Don Rickles ridicule me in front of a world wide audience and laugh along with everyone. Snicker behind my back? That's so ineffective it's humorous.

I can handle verbal and psychological abuse while keeping a smile on my face. I can laugh while being disdained and keep a straight face while a babe-in-the-woods pre-teen mocks me. I can discover cruel notes about me being secretly passed from one person in the room to another and not even raise an eyebrow. I can look Evil in the eye and give it a lunch detention.

I can eat's tasty! I can eat toasters for breakfast and iron skillets for supper. I can discover the Grim Reaper standing on the hood of my car in fast, rush hour traffic and just yank the wheel hoping to shake him off while turning up the car stereo.

I can dismantle human time bombs, warm cold shoulders and ignore frozen ones. I can keep my mouth shut when one word could destroy some one's buoyant spirits, and I can open my mouth and make some one's day. I can dodge tripping feet, trip up liars, and trip the Light Fantastic.

I could mop the floor with a cruel child or simply make them know that I disapprove, and I always choose the latter. I could destroy a child's reputation and spirit or try to lift them up on wings, and I always choose the latter. I can teach a child with their mind shut, I can make them hear when they don't want to listen, and I can teach them to say what's in their heart with no words.

I can go home each day with my head held high and a jaunty step despite all the depression, anxiety, fear, loneliness, and anger around me.

I am a middle school teacher. I can be knocked on my back by a virus and unable to work, rushed to a hospital by a car crash, and killed by too many cancer cells, but I can enjoy a day with kids that would wreck some people's spirits for an unreasonably long time.

Tough skin looks soft and old. Outside I look like glass. Inside I am iron.

Friday, February 11, 2011


If mal de mer is French for motion sickness or seasickness, would bowel de mer be French for diarrhea? Or how about mal de bowel?

If you ask a class of seventh grade math students how many grams are in a kilogram and one of the students sarcastically drawls the slow response, "A lot," should the teacher be given a medal for finding it humorous instead of strangling the kid a la Homer Simpson?

I have noticed that my wife and I don't "get" some commercials which are obviously aimed for the youth market. It is not a sign of old age because the younger generation doesn't understand commercials aimed at my generation. The time to worry about old age setting in is when you don't understand any commercials.

Every now and then I feel like a man in an Easter Parade wearing only a thong and a bowler. I can walk with style and grace and confidence, but sooner or later I am going to notice that people are snickering.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


I gave the District Based Assessment today to my students in first and second period, and I am delighted to say that they were focused and centered, working industriously and quietly for the entire class. It was heart warming.

There were a few occasions when I'd look up, see them furiously working away, and then I'd get the eeriest feeling, and the hairs on the back of my neck would stand up on end, and as I slowly realized that they were no pods in the back of the room or in the hallways, the feeling would slowly fade and I'd get that cozy little warmness in the cockles of me heart.

I hope the rest of my classes work as diligently.

Sunday, February 06, 2011


This February winter sure bit the global warming community in the butt. That ought to shut them up, and I don't think I'll be exposed to a global whining article about the greenhouse effect for another couple of weeks.

It also cancelled school in our city for four days. We had school Monday and I was all set to give my math students the District Based Assessment. They were primed and test ready. However, the best laid schemes of mice and men often go astray, and so did my plans. I will give the students the test but only after they sat around on their rears and watched TV for a week like I did.

Why were four days of school cancelled? It's unheard of in our city, but Tuesday the roads were horrible. Wednesday was too cold and the roads were slick. Thursday the school buses wouldn't start and some of the schools' plumbing and water pipes were frozen. On Friday the school superintendent complied with the Governor's state of emergency request to reduce natural gas consumption. Tens of thousands of homes and businesses had no heat, and gas lines needed to be restarted.

Personally, I got away with two frozen pipes that never burst and goldfish that survived a six inch layer of ice on the pond. I also was able to experience below zero weather. You go outside with a hot cup o' coffee, and you have about twelve seconds to drink it. By then, it's iced coffee, and who wants iced coffee in below zero weather?

I will return to the classroom tomorrow, Monday, February 7, 2011, in the hopes of getting seventh graders excited about a very important math test. I'd have better luck kick-starting a 1979 Kenworth.

Saturday, February 05, 2011


During the first week of teaching middle school I was approached by a girl in the hallway between third and fourth period who was selling what were unappetizing, homemade cupcakes. I asked her if they were a fundraising project, and she told me that she was raising money for her wedding dress.

At that time I was very new to middle school, and though I sometimes act as if I was born yesterday, I was not born last night, and so I did some quick arithmetic and decided that something was wrong. I asked her if she was getting married, and she said yes. She and a seventeen year old boy had fallen in love and wanted to get married. According to her story, her parents agreed to let her marry at the tender age of thirteen and had signed legal papers stating so if she raised money for her own wedding dress. I didn't question any of her statements. I told her that I wanted to think about it, but maybe I would purchase a cupcake the next day. I immediately went to the counselor and the principal to check this story out. Neither of them had heard anything about it, but the counselor was able to guess her name.

Sure enough, the next day she had a new batch of cupcakes, and by the way, they looked more appetizing. Selling them was a way of raising funds for her wedding dress. I never accused her of lying or, assuming she was telling the truth, informing her that her parents were cuckoo. I played it cool and just didn't buy any cupcakes because I didn't have any money on me.

This went on for some time until she quit carrying around cupcakes. I asked her why she didn't have any more cupcakes, and she sadly informed me that sales had tanked and there were no more takers.

When I asked her about it even later, she said that the wedding was planned to be celebrated over the Christmas Holidays. After the Holiday Season (This time I am politically correct) I asked the girl if she was now married.

"Yes, Mr. W. I got married over Christmas."

"Did you wear a nice wedding dress?"

"It was OK, but it was just an ordinary dress."

"Well, it's just a dress. The most important thing is to keep the love between you and your husband going."

She made no response and didn't look overjoyed, so I kept the conversation going. "Do you like marriage? Is it a big change?"

"It's about the same, really."

"Really? I would have thought it would be a big difference. Did you consummate the marriage?" "Uh oh," I thought. I just opened a can of worms.

"What does consummate mean?" she inquired.

"Oh, never mind. I just hope that this marriage works out great for you."

"Thanks," she replied. I don't see her anymore in the hallways. I need to find out if the matrimonial service actually took place. Call it professional curiosity.