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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sometimes We Could All Use an Extra Hand

We are in countdown mode these days at school, and in a constant state of bitter-sweetness. We'll jump for joy that days of sleeping in and poolside fun are close enough to taste, and then sadly proclaim that "this is the last chapter book that we'll read together as a class". We'll get excited about an upcoming vacation, then experience apprehension at what next year will bring for all of us. Today was a landmark day for another reason, though. And it was all good!  It was our VERY LAST STANDARDIZED ASSESSMENT! And if you think that isn't reason to cheer loudly,  just ask any teacher, student, or administrator who's been involved in the testing process this year.  They. Are. Not. Fun. So today we celebrated,  even in the wake of the upcoming science benchmark. One of my students couldn't help voicing his concern, however.

Student (right before receiving his exam from me): "Mrs. Butler? I don't think I'm gonna do so well on this test."
Me: "Just take a deep breath, relax, and think about all the great stuff we learned this year. You'll do great!"
Student: "Well, I remember stuff about the body--like about the blood,  and PLATES, and PLAZA, but I don't remember anything about the LEGS and TENTACLES. (Yes, he really said tentacles)."

I will spend at least a week (poolside) this summer revamping my human body unit. I will of course pay very close attention to detail concerning the tentacles.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Devil in the Details!

Once in a while as a teacher or parent, you hear your well thought out, sage advice echoed back from a student or your own child. And it doesn't sound so well thought out.  Or sage. Today was yet another day in a string of testing days. One of my students in particular has the most uncanny reaction to any kind of testing situation...he gets attacked by a horrible bout of stomach sickness,  or as in today's case, a blinding headache. It's as if he's allergic.  Anyway, as I am getting the class settled in for the fun,  he approached,  as I knew he would.

Student: Mrs. Butler? My head is KILLING me! I can't even THINK!
Me: I know what you mean.  I have a headache today too! Remember what I always tell you I do when I have a headache?
Student (rolling eyes): Yes, you DRINK A LOT and put your head down on your desk.
Me: Ummm...yeah. Something like that.

H2O-boy. Stay hydrated,  friends! And if you are a teacher, may your students always THIRST for knowledge! Somebody stop me!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Play Ball!

After recess today, we had the usual debriefing conversations as the kids walked back into the classroom.  I'm pretty sure it was the sound of my last nerve twanging in my head while listening to a slew of tattles that caused me call them to gather together with me and have a real heart-to-heart about recess strife. I asked them if they thought it was good or bad to always get what you deserve. Lots of comments ensued,  among them, one from a little boy who said that sometimes you got lucky and DIDN'T get what you deserved. I then talked about turning that good fortune into mercy for another. I was really feeling the mojo--we were in sync! At least right up until another student replied, "Well I sure didn't get what I deserved at recess. I got kicked in the balls. And I totally didn't DESERVE that."

And the magic ended. Poof. Carriage back into a pumpkin.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Foreign Affairs on Friday--Now That's Alliteration

Happy Friday! I had a rather accomplished day,  if I do say so myself.  Before lunch at noon, I had answered approximately 500 questions,  dispelled the rumor that spiders lay eggs with their butts, read individually with 8 or 9 kids, taught two fighting friends what a myth was, heard about someone's throw-up experience,  sent 2 off to see the nurse, wrangled a water bottle into an ice pack, read 2 chapters out loud from a very cool book about a mouse named Fredle, solved an issue about which marker was a redder red, unjammed the stapler, reorganized someone's reading binder that had fallen apart, told my OPINION about mermaids being fantasy (back to the myth discussion), heard every possible detail about a little league baseball game in which someone's team lost 14 to 2, identified a hang nail AND a rash both as non life-threatening, put to rest the rumor that so-n-so was saving so-n-so a beanbag chair because they are dating, found a word definition on, collected reading and writing work for the week, guilted several friends for not having their reading and writing work for the week finished, explained what a charlie horse was, counted the remaining fish swimming in the turtle tank (it was a request, as she couldn't BELIEVE they were still alive), and taught a room full of third graders how to write in a foreign language. Or at least I guess I did. One of them quite loudly protested our cursive writing practice, insisting he'd rather write in English.

Enjoy the weekend, and revel in your accomplishments,  big and small!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Shapely Discussion

Our math lesson today was on translations, reflections, and rotations. For those of you who aren't already asleep after that first sentence, what that means in English is how a shape is manipulated to change its direction or the space it occupies.  I asked the kids what they thought the "real life" applications of this math concept about shapes might be. I got some pretty well thought out answers--everything from architect to landscaper. One little boy's answer got the grand prize, though. He said, "I think if you are going to be a kindergarten teacher you should know this, because if you are going to teach those little kids about shapes,  you'd better know what you're talking about ahead of time! "

Friday, April 19, 2013

Free at Last!

Twas the eve of the AIMS test,
All testing complete
Save for a few make-ups,
This round's obsolete
Collective sighs could be heard
From every classroom
From both teachers and students
As they rose from its gloom
Then the questions began,
Kids were called on by name
Can we read now? Do science?
Can we please play a game?
And suddenly, they realized
These things for which they were yearning
Each shared the same name--
These kids had missed learning!!

So glad to get back to "normal" on Monday!
Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Leapin' Lizards! (or not)

After watching a Magic School Bus episode about reptiles this afternoon:

Student: Mrs. Butler? I have a joke for you. What do you call it if your lizard has a broken tail?
Me: I don't know...tell me.
Student: A reptile dysfunction.
Me: (sweating) Um, I don't get it...what makes that funny?
Student: I don't know. My mom's boyfriend knows a lot of lizard jokes. He loves lizards!
Me: Well super! (was checking for the sheepish grin, but happily there wasn't one!)

Maybe he'll come back in a few years and explain it to me!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

An Open Letter to a Standardized Test

Dear standardized test:

I am not usually the kind of person to go around pointing out faults in others;  God knows I have more than a few of my own.  I feel that there are a few discrepancies though, that I'd be remiss in not pointing out. I will list them next to letters of the alphabet,  since you seem to be familiar with the format.

A) You have failed to include a measure to showcase Jimmy and Johnny's recent ability to get along at recess. They both come from broken and abusive  homes, you know, and the gains they've made in sustaining a friendship built on trust is remarkable. It will serve them always.

B) I may have missed it, but was there a question asking about who is a student's favorite author?  Because little Susie now has three! Remember in August,  it was Susie who cried every time she tried to read because she only knew a handful of words? By your numbers, she's still not good enough, but I have to respectfully disagree. She now reads at a beginning 2nd grade level, and her smile extends from ear to ear on library day!

C)  I haven't been able to locate the section with the question about our special needs population, and some of the strides they have made toward life skills they have worked on all year!  Surely that was an oversight, because I know that you would be as proud as our school family is that little Ernie no longer bites his classmates when he wants their attention! In fact, you should see him working side by side with a classmate in a mainstream class on a science project! It's AMAZING!

D) I hope that next year's test will take into account that Jane has been at 4 schools this year, because her parents have to keep moving to find better jobs to support their family. She may not have exceeded your standards, but she's made a few friends and has joined the Girl Scout Troop here at school, so things are looking up for her.

I hope to see these changes made on upcoming copies of your tests. You know how we lazy educators can be sometimes, leaving children behind and whatnot, so we would be appreciative of any help you are able to give.  It will more than make up for the "dryspell" we seem to be experiencing in the salary department over the past 7-10 years. Thank you in advance for all you do!

Mrs. B.

P.S. Could you kindly send a box of tissues with next year's tests? The students and teachers seem to need a lot of them while testing, and there's no money in the budget for any paper products after October.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Common Sense is on an Extended Spring Break

I stopped one of my students just seconds before watering the plant.  His reason?  Plants need water to survive.  So much for applied science,  people.  Back to the drawing board.  And good news!  AIMS tests are this week!! (Insert sarcasm font here)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tender Loin

No matter what, when pitted against each other, Wolf trumps Loin. Everytime. Always. It's the law of nature.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Gusty and Dusty

Wind does strange things to children. It makes them absolutely crazy.  I have long felt that we in the hotter climates have been slighted because we don't get those snow days that some people get. I mean, why no heat days?  What's not fun? are classrooms full of hot, sweaty,  whiny people.  But enough about the teachers. The students are a mess here until Halloween, when we can no longer smell burning flesh on the playground slide and the students don't need to drink their body weight in water daily. After today with gale-force winds, I'm also in favor of "wind days". During our math class after lunch, we had what I like to call a C.B.P.-- Contagious Bathroom Party. It turns out, they were taking turns seeing if anyone would blow away in the wind. Luckily, no one did.

In other news, one little girl is suffering from "pimples" on her feet. ..she got new shoes this weekend. And upon trying (for the four-hundreth time) to manage some semblance of a line with little success, one of my students asked me if I was at my "twits end".

Wind = 1, Teacher = 0.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Wednesday Wisdom

Here are some things I learned on Wednesday. Sure, they may seem trivial now, but I know you'll be glad you took the time to read them, you know, just in case.

Student: Mrs. Butler? NEVER push a red button! EVER! Nothing good ever happens when somebody pushes the red button! (You mean like the "on" button on the t.v. remote?)
It is almost ALWAYS going to lead  to DISASTER! (The capitalized words are for the very excited way in which he shared...there may have even been a tiny bit of spittle)
I mean, you never hear somebody say, "Oh look! I just pushed a red button, and now there's a BEAUTIFUL RAINBOW in the sky!"
Me: You know? You are right. I'm fairly certain I've never heard anyone say that.

Student: In some countries, they do math different than we do. Like, over there? 3 + 3 might equal seven instead of six.
Me: Hmmm. What countries were you thinking of?
Student: Like far away places where they speak Chinese, and probably Florida.

So, the obvious take away messages on Wednesday were:
1.  Red button pushing does not result in rainbows.
2.  Make sure your Floridian currency is exchanged properly, they don't know their addition facts.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pine and All That Sap

Today was SO beautiful, we spent a good part of it outdoors!  We read and did some of our math outside--one of the perks of an older school--classroom doors that open to the world!  Even with the glorious weather going for us, we had a few temper flare-ups:
Student:  Mrs. Butler?  So-and-so said I couldn't play with her or her club members!  Now I can't catch any ladybugs!
Me:  What club?  Who? (Always trying to get pertinent info...)  Let's go talk to her.
Me:  Hi So-and so!  Whatcha doin?
So-and-so #1:  Nothing.  (You'd be amazed how common this answer is!)  Just catching ladybugs with my friends.
Me:  So-and-so #2 (stay with me here) would love to join you guys, but said that you told her she couldn't play with you.  Did something happen?
So-and-so #1:  YES.  IT DID.  While we were at lunch, she told me to "shut my PINE HOLE".
Me:  (Turning to So-and-so #2):  Is that true?  Did you say....that?
So-and-so #2:  Yeah, but it was only because she was being SO ANNOYING! (We get that a lot)
Me:  Do you girls think we can move past this and get on with the fun of recess?  All it will probably take is an apology from each of you to the other.
So-and-so #1:  I'm sorry.
So-and-so #2:  Sorry about the PINE HOLE thing.
So-and-so #1:  S'okay.

And they rode off into the sunset with ladybugs on their minds.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Isn't She Lovely?

Oh. My. Goodness! I would like to sincerely thank Spring Break for finally showing up! This week seemed about twice as long as usual. Adding to the impending break was Field Day, temperatures in the mid 90's, and the end of the grading period, and I know I saw about 20 grateful teachers racing ahead of me to the parking lot this afternoon!
My funny for the day was when one of my students grabbed me by the hand and excitedly pulled me over to look at something wonderful framed on the library wall. "Look, Mrs. Butler! Do you know what THAT is? It's the DECORATION of Independence! Isn't it beautiful?!?!"

Indeed it is, little one, indeed it is!
In fact, it's SO beautiful, I think we should dust it off and USE it!!

Happy Friday to all, and to all a great weekend (and Spring Break, if it applies)!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The World We Live In

We read a story last week called My Very Own Room.  This week, the students have been designing their own Dream Rooms--no limitations except their own imaginations--no financial or logistical constraints.  They are having a blast with it, and some shared them with the class today. The following is an excerpt from one of the student's presentations:

Student:  Here's my dream room.  It's actually a total of three rooms up in a tree.  This room (pointing) is mine and my brother's, this room is a kitchen, and this room is my mom and dad's.  Here they are in their room together.
(Snickers from the crowd...boys).
Boy:  Ew, they sleep in the SAME BED?!?!
Student:  (Rolling eyes).  Of COURSE.  When you're married, that's the rule.  You sleep in the same bed.
Another student to a friend:  That's not true, my mom's not married, and she sleeps in the same bed with lots of people.

Needless to say, a song and dance may have occurred then to change the subject...

And another one on the playground this morning:

I notice a group of 3rd/4th grade boys watching a little girl who had just run by them.  The little girl is probably pushing a whopping 45 pounds, and is sporting a pair of denim shorts with leggings underneath.  As she leaves earshot range, one of the boys says, "She's just showing off the junk in her trunk".  Seriously?  More like a glove box than a trunk, boys.

So, it would appear that SPRING is actively least at school!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tricky Susie B.

Student: Mrs. Butler? Look at this picture of Susan B. Anthony. It says it was taken in 1898.
Me: Yes, it does say that...
Student: But I think she died before then.
Me: Well, let's look. Oh, look here. It says she died in 1906.
Student: But I think she may actually be dead in this picture.
Me: I don't think they would do that. Besides, she looks pretty alive to me?!
Student: I think they just propped her up and opened her eyes. You know, trick photography.

It may not have been her most flattering picture, for sure, but I'm pretty sure I've looked worse.  It could've been a Monday morning!

Happy Thursday--sliding into the home stretch!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

More Than a Number

More Than a Number
by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

Oh, this just made me cry!  Grab a tissue and watch.  I try to remember every day, that THIS is why I teach.  It is a calling.  A service.  It is not, should not, be solely about putting kids in terms of something as simplistic and sterile as a test score.  Do I get excited and happy when the students in my class perform well on tests?  Of course!  We celebrate the victories!  But in the end, there is SO much more than that.  At the end of the year, if I've helped a child have self confidence that had little before, if I've helped someone discover the magic of books, or friendships, or if I've played a part in a child's realization that boundaries set by adults are a good and expected thing and that games have rules and we all take turns?  Then I know I've done well.  I know it was a job well done.  I wish that back to basics meant that we could once again say that we teach CHILDREN, not TESTS.  Not CURRICULUM.  That those are simply part of a means to an end.

On a lighter note, I brought a salad in a jar again for lunch today (thank you, Pinterest, for bringing back the salad magic!).  My kids love to look at all of the veggies and stuff through the glass.  One of my students asked me if my lunch was a "seizure" salad again.  I dare you to order one at your next dinner out.  I know I'm going to!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pringle Pox


Today while reading "Henry and the Paper Route" (an oldie but a goodie, by Beverly Cleary), we were doing a lesson on predicting, or inferring, what will happen next in the story.  Here is how the conversation went:
Me:  Why do you think Mrs. McCarthy called Mrs. Huggins to talk about Scooter's paper route?
Turn to your partner and discuss what could have happened.
**Classroom discussion ensues.**
Student:  Well, he might be sick.
Me:  Great inference!  Who agrees?  Who disagrees?
**Classroom discussion ensues...some more.**  After reading more of the text:
Me:  It turns out that you were right!  Scooter has the chicken pox, and his mom called Henry's mom to see if Henry could take over his paper route until he gets better!
Student:  I had the chicken pox when I was three, and it lasted for about 10 weeks!
Me:  It probably seemed like 10 weeks, but usually kids feel better after about 2 weeks.
Student:  Yeah, but I caught my chicken pox in a VERY BIZARRE way!  My dad was eating a lot of Pringles at the time, and no one in my family knew that he had them? And so he passed them on to me!  Only I didn't get Pringles, I got chicken pox instead.
Me:  Check with your mom, I'll bet your dad had SHINGLES, and gave you chicken pox that way.
Student:  What would SHINGLES have to do with potato chips? 
Me:  Right.  Well, talk to her this evening and see what she says...

Sheesh.  Who knew?  Just a lesson for us all--eat clean, you never know what's in that processed stuff!
H A P P Y     M O N D A Y!!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

In the beginning...

Well, here it goes!  In my incredible abundance of spare time, I have decided to create a teaching blog!  I am doing this because, quite frankly, the funny (and a lot of times sweet) moments of teaching are the reason I keep showing up every day!  Just kidding.  Sort of. 
My Assistant Principal is the one who came up with the blog title (he suggested The Third Degree, but it was already taken), and I loved it!  Also, now?  I can blame the content on him if I get in trouble.  Right?! 
Seriously though, a reoccurring life lesson for me, and something that I do really well now, is to see the FUNNY in everyday situations.  Sometimes, all we can do is laugh at the circumstances, and move on.  That holds true for anybody, in any profession--from stay at home mom to CEO of an equally important company (you know, equally important as the family homestead). A lot of times people ask me how I end up with all of the "funny" kids, and I don't think I do.  I just LISTEN for the funny.  It's all around you, and if you're lucky, you won't hear it when you have a mouthful of soda.  Because that stuff shoots right out your nose, trust me on this.
To all my Facebook friends who enjoy the weekly funnies I share, I hope you will come here too!  One of my life goals is to write a book.  Actually, lots of books.  I'm a little (okay, a lot) ADHD in that I have started about 25 books and have finished none.  I call it completion anxiety, but my closest friends call it crap.  They are probably right.  Maybe, just maybe, this blog will somehow morph into (one of) the book(s) I want to write!  And if not, then hopefully it will at least make you laugh.