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YMCA? Why Is It Fun to Stay?

March 23, 2015
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YMCA? Why Is It Fun to Stay?

A good majority of my kids just finished up the dance unit in their pe classes. Homie Base has been especially entertaining during that time as we: Witness reenactments of instructions from the teacher. “Chase the butterfly! Catch the butterfly.” “He says, ‘Doy si doy’ instead of do si do!” My room used to be the typing room back in the day, so it has a raised platform where the teacher’s desk used to be. When stuff like this breaks out I always say, “I have a stage over there. Bust a move.” It usually takes a bit of coaxing from the studio audience, but for the past week, we’ve had a show almost every day. My fave line from the crowd: “The catch-the-butterfly move seems so mean. If you clap your hands like that you would kill the butterfly. Maybe he should say, ‘Kill the butterfly!'” Hear of fake handholding. “OMG. We were supposed to doy si doy, and my partner just pretended to take my hand. Mr. P even said not to do that!” Are told how “weird” everything was. Square dancing, disco line dancing, “freestyle.” All weird. They might have a point actually. But one day during this unit,

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Is Your Child Ready for 7th, Oops I Mean First, Grade? (1979 Edition)

March 19, 2015
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Over at Slate there was a post about another blog post somewhere else where the author was reading an old series of books called, Your ___ Year Old. The subtitle for Six was, Loving and Defiant. Hmmm. That ain’t no different from Your 12-13 year old, is it?  That would probably cover 11-18 too.  And 10-25. Do I hear 6-53? This volume though, had a checklist to help you see if your six year old had the chops for first grade. In 1979. 1. Will your child be six years, six months or older when he begins first grade and starts receiving reading instruction? 2. Does your child have two to five permanent or second teeth? 3. Can you child tell, in such a way that his speech is understood by a school crossing guard or policeman, where he lives? 4. Can he draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored? 5. Can he stand on one foot with eyes closed for five to ten seconds? 6. Can he ride a small two-wheeled bicycle without helper wheels? 7. Can he tell left hand from right? 8. Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to store, school, playground,

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SPAM Attack!

March 5, 2015
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I was attacked by Spambots. On January 28, I get this from my pathetic excuse for a web host: Hello, Your account is utilizing excessive resources on the shared server named DENEB . This is a shared environment and we cannot allow one user to utilize a high percent of the resources on a server as it affects all users adversely. Because of this, we were forced to create the current ticket for you. Three days later I get this: Investigating further, I noticed that your website is getting a lot of hits from some Bots and IP addresses, which you might want to take a look at. Below is a copy of your web stats for your inspection. They also tell me to try blocking the addresses on the list they sent. So I just copy and paste and block them all from anything to do with mrcoward.com. The next day at school, I try to head to my website archives to get ready for the day. Loooong delay. And then… not found. What the…? I immediately contact our district IST department and inquire why they might be suddenly blocking my website again. Yes, it has happened in the

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Victory Lap

January 22, 2015
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Yeah, yeah, I know. Long time no see and all that… Our first period classes are 10 minutes longer than the other periods. That extra 10 minutes is quaintly called “Home Base.” (I know I’ve probably mentioned that here before, but with almost 450 posts up to now, I don’t have the energy to check when the last time was. You can probably cope with a “previously on…”) Home Base is just too dorky, so we call it “Homies.” It’s when they read the bulletin (mostly basketball players reading sports cliches about how awesome every…single…player…is) and suchlike, and whatever time is left is supposed to be like circle time I guess. A few of my homies each year usually come in early and hang out in the room beforehand. Mostly because I have the warmest room in the school in cold weather. Always 68 degrees. Always. Last year there were several homies who would come in early and hang out. Very early on, I noticed that Andrea didn’t exactly hang out like the rest of us. She did laps. She would walk around and around the perimeter of the room while she talked to us. Her cowgirl boots would click and clack as she continuously walked around

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Yeah, It’s Sort of a New Thing

December 11, 2014
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It’s called The Curse of Knowledge. When you have known something for so long that it’s automatic, it’s difficult to imagine somebody not knowing it automatically. This is one of the big things to remember and avoid when one is teaching junior high, and I think I do a pretty good job of it most of the time. But I do still have trouble remembering that kids of this age will misinterpret or misunderstand directions 40% of the time. “Do we have to copy the warm up?” “#*$#@*! Did you read the directions? What does ‘Copy’ mean?” “I was just asking.” I’m thinking it’s really more about inattention. But that might just be cranky ol’ me. Anyway, today I had a first. Never could I shed the Curse of Knowledge enough to anticipate the question I got today from one of my li’l scholars. We are reading The Midwife’s Apprentice right now.  The kids and I love this book. It has the word fart right in the first couple of pages. Plus, I have lost count of how many giggles I have had to shut down because there’s somebody named Dick. I also can’t believe we haven’t seen a movie made

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Quiz Show!

November 7, 2014
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Quiz Show!

We finished The Outsiders on Wednesday and today was Outsiders Jeopardy day. I have a webpage with a grid of 12 categories, each with 7 questions, that I use as a fun finale/review/recap before we move on to the next book. The kids are in groups, and most years I just rotate clockwise through the groups, and they get to pick the category and answer the question. There’s no element of speed or reflexes or your fingers being faster than your brain. The clicker software has a couple of games that are sorta kinda like that, but they have to be multiple choice questions and there’s still no speed aspect. Today I busted out some old school technology that I haven’t used since the days I set up Jeopardy with index cards taped in a grid on the whiteboard. The last time I used this baby was 10 years ago easy. We still have The Quizzer in our library storage! I didn’t look at the copyright date, but judging from the technology, I would date the device around 1979. It takes eight (8) D-size batteries. I had six groups going, so there were six 30 foot long cables running from their boxes to

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Blog It Baby! (Proud to be a “Thief”)

November 3, 2014
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OK, I stole this one. But as all of you know, in this profession, good thieves are almost as valuable as innovators. In fact, I would posit (you see how I just dropped that one in there, getting all debatey on you?) that the thieves are the ones who really spread the good ideas to the masses. They are the ones who mutate and translate the cutting (bleeding?) edge ideas into the vernacular/Vulgate that everybody and his mom can understand and use. (My boy is taking Latin, so I am feeling the need to bust out my Jesuit education now and then.) At a teacher training two days before school started, I met David Preston. I was the only one at his spiel, I think mostly because nobody knew what he meant by an “open source” classroom, which was the main description of his presentation. (Aside: This training had an interesting format. It was more like a conference with different presenters and time slots, and we could choose which sessions to attend. Kinda groovy actually. I have a half-finished post about the day. Maybe I will actually finish and post it some day.) I won’t try to give his spiel, but I liked what

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Old Guy Alert

October 23, 2014
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OK. All of a sudden this year, as we are reading The Outsiders, I am having to explain (or GoogleUp-on-the-big-screen*), all kinds of things I have never had to explain before. Up until this year, the references I had to stop and talk about were always pretty much the same ones. You know, the ones they put into all those lame novel units for this book. Things like… madras shirt. After we look at pics, the kids are all, “Why would Ponyboy be jealous of those?” These kids can’t wear anything without a logo or a message on it. Corvair. They like the look of that. Until we start talking about it being the most dangerous car ever built. Actually, they like that too. heaters. The guesses on this one are great. Lighters. Actual heaters. Knives heated up on the stove. Tasers — me: “They didn’t have those back then” them: “They could have.” Gawd I hate when they say that. fuzz. I actually looked this one up. Nobody really knows how this one got started, but Ponyboy probably would have used it because he heard it on Dragnet. “know the score.” I love this one because I always connect to our vocab

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Penguin Watching

October 20, 2014
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Penguin Watching

 I had another observer the other day. Cal Poly, the local state college (and my alma mater), sends us quite a few. In order to get into the credential program these days, you have to have an ungodly number of hours of observation under your belt. I guess they want to make sure that you really know what you’re getting yourself into. The ones who want to be English teachers always come in thinking they want to teach high school… and leave thinking junior high kids are the cutest things ever, and omg I think I want to teach middle school now. hahaha That’s all well and good if you are an Alpha dawg and can put the pups in their place. But most of these noobs just want to hug them. hahaha Anyway, the latest young ‘un was there bright and early the other morning. Our VP brought her out to me while I was patrolling the yard. Our school has two outdoor quads, and in the mornings the seventh graders congregate in one and the eighth graders in the other. (They have separate lunches because our cafeteria won’t hold ‘em all.) There is some intermingling and some kids hang

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ITS!

October 8, 2014
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Most middle schoolers have a love/hate relationship with questions. They love to ask questions. Especially self-centered, off-topic questions. (in the middle of a lesson on irony) “What’s my grade?” Or out-of-the-blue questions about stuff you talked about a month ago. (talking about Injun Joe in Tom Sawyer) “Why did Ponyboy run away too? He didn’t actually do anything.” They still sometimes have trouble actually formulating their questions. “This is confusing.” But when the tables are turned, they are more conflicted. They hate questions from their parents or teachers about the inner-workings of their decision-making. “Why on Earth did you (not) do that?” “mumble mumble…I was just…” They hate questions they don’t know the answer to right away. “This is confusing.” But they love to answer questions they think they have the right answer to. The problem is that in their quest to be correct they sometimes REformulate your question so their answer will fit. This week’s spelling list is 13 pairs of homophones, including who’s/whose, their/there/they’re and its/it’s. (OK, their/there/they’re isn’t technically a pair, but you know what I mean. Hey, that rhymes!) One of the warm up questions was looking for one of those for the answer to this: * 2. its,

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I’m a STEAMroller , Baby!

September 29, 2014
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I’m a STEAMroller , Baby!

This is just the first volley… There are surely more to follow. Our school has been informed that we WILL have some sort of STEAM program by next year. I don’t think they understand how crotchety our staff is. I have been foisting tech on them for most of the 20 years I have been here, and in their eyes, this might as well be a STEAMroller. Management sent several of us to beautiful San Diego for a STEM conference last week. Two days in sunny San Diego. You’ll notice that the conference we went to didn’t even bother to include the A for Arts. Our district sent three admins, a teacher mentor/trainer, two science teachers, one social studies teacher, and me, the token LA teacher. I did manage to find a few sessions that looked promising amid the sea of LEGOs and NGSS and Common Corporate, and learn to code and suchlike. More on that later. But the most entertaining of the sessions was the one out my hotel window the afternoon before the conference got rolling. I was directly across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel/Bar/Restaurant. Sunday is their all day pool party on the roof. The line on the

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The Wheel Has Already Been Invented (Rerun. Because I’ve Earned It.)

August 20, 2014
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Back in the day, before I started teaching, I worked for many years at the Ernie Ball Company. I made guitar strings on piecework, I made volume pedals, I worked in the woodshop and helped make electric guitars and basses. When I was in the woodshop, Ernie (his real name was Roland, and his grandson, who was in my 7th grade class now runs the company) would come through and watch us work. His favorite expression was, “The wheel has already been invented.” He hated wasted motion or time. “Can’t that cart have wheels so it can moved over there when it needs to be?” Or, “Why do you keep walking over there over and over instead of…?” (He also hated lateness and what he called “Monday sickers.” Pity the fool that was late on a Monday.) So. This here blog started back in August of 2008. So there’s a pretty good chance that I already covered “beginning of the year shtuff.” So I checked. Yup. Sho’ nuff. Here’s one from fall of 2010: OK. This time for real. Daily, baby. Well maybe… It seems like I wait longer and longer each year to get ready for school. We started

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Another Legacy (What Am I Going to Do – Part II)

August 14, 2014
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Ok so… Now (in the story, not literally) it’s a couple of weeks into the summer this year, and we are interviewing for a new full-time English teacher to replace a vet who bolted to Colorado in February and got married to her long-lost childhood sweetheart. Now (as a sentence starter, not as a statement of time) full-time English positions are as rare here as they were in the district I spoke of in the previous post. Rarer. I think the last one was almost 15 years ago.  This is a big deal and we need someone who kicks booty. We are probably going to have to live with them for a long time. We had five interviews that day. We liked Number One a lot. The rest had a tough act to follow. By the time we got to Number Five, all the doodles and talk balloons on my interview sheets indicated that Number One was going to be the one. Colleen and I were on the same page on this. Number Five was fresh. This would be his first full-time gig if he were to get it. We hadn’t seen fresh in awhile. Number Five liked junior high. My inner

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Random Featured Post

Open Mouth Democracy?

First off:  Ok, Ok. I’m starting to find my happy place with research. Thank you for the comments and suggestions; I think next year will be better. You guys gave me some good ideas. We’re working on outlines this week, prepping for research.  Among other activities, I  give them partially completed outlines and word banks to fill them in with. I strategically place a few clues in the outline, and they have to determine the hierarchy of the various entries I provide, and fill in the blanks. Like this (the stats are kinda dated, but it’s a topic near to my heart): Topic: The automobile has become the American Nightmare kills 265,000 and injures millions annually, road rage and reckless driving have increased, better city design to decrease auto dependence, leading source of air pollution,  alternatives to the automobile, main means of transportation, too many people dependent on the car, large SUV’s: rollovers and danger to smaller cars, more cars and more roads mean more traffic congestion, average car: 5 tons of carbon dioxide each year, contributes to acid rain and smog, leading cause of death and injury, new dangers with 2 recent developments, public transportation I. Main means of […]

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Mr. Coward has been teaching on the beautiful central coast of California since 1989. He sometimes tweets when he's in the right mood: @mrCinSLO.

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Recent Comments

  • Mrs. M~ commented on SPAM Attack!Well, thank the lord! My feed reader was not showing your new posts, and in fact said there was an error with your website. I was afraid you had given up the ship. I finally went to your actual website and saw the latest posts (and breathed a sigh of relief!)
  • Meg commented on Is Your Child Ready for 7th, Oops I Mean First, Grade? (1979 Edition)Good golly Miss Molly, if #8 is freaking them out, I'd love to see how those parents would react knowing that my school here in Japan has first graders who walk to and ride the subway for 40 minutes both ways by themselves. #10, I'd say most of my 12th graders couldn't pass that one either!
  • mrC commented on Victory LapHaha. We like to think that don't we? "I think back on my success and I attribute it all to my 7th grade English teacher." I even use that sentence on the test when we have the vocabulary word attribute. She did great didn't she? The funny thing is--and I forgot to include this in the
  • Mrs. M commented on Victory LapThat is AMAZING! What an incredible young lady. So well-spoken for a teenager--must be because of her English teacher. ;-) I hope things work out for her company.
  • Kara commented on Blog It Baby! (Proud to be a “Thief”)Love the student blogs! I am reading some of them and making comments while my students are in the computer lab. I am reading some things from your students' posts to my kids too. They love hearing how your kids are reading pretty much the same books as we are!
  • Anika Knox commented on TimerThis idea is BRILLIANT! However, it won't load. Can ye help thee?
  • Mrs. M~ commented on Old Guy AlertI am SO glad you go through this same thing with your students! The big one for my students is Paul Newman. They always think he is one of the greasers. The only way I can get them to understand who he is is to tell them he is the salad dressing
  • Peter Pfister commented on “There’s already something on the back of mine.” (Also: Racial Harmony.)Writing you from Indonesia! From your blog I know you to be a classically awesome JH English teacher- the kind kids never forget. Thanks to a variety of problems with internet over the years, I always use YTD (YouTubeDownloader) which captures any file from youtube and allows me to show it from my computer
  • Mrs. M~ commented on Another Legacy (What Am I Going to Do – Part II)My recovery took longer than expected, but I have been back full-time for about three weeks now. I still don't know a lot of names (or even faces!) but I am getting there. It was kind of a blow to my ego to see how smoothly things ran without me, although I had
  • mrC commented on Another Legacy (What Am I Going to Do – Part II)@ Heather and Mrs. M: D'oh! I have been so busy lately, I didn't even see these. The old Wordpress used to send me an email when somebody commented, but I guess the new one don't...doesn't. @ Mrs. M: Wotta bummer. By now you must be back. It must have driven you crazy! I hope all
  • SewCute63 commented on Oh Raffle King, Oh Raffle King…I love it!!
  • Heather commented on Another Legacy (What Am I Going to Do – Part II)Yay! You're back! My department has been solid since my second year teaching, and this is our most veteran teacher's last year. I really like the way your district does interviews with the department getting a say in who is hired! Now that I'm on our super-fancy "planning committee" I may have to
  • Mrs. M commented on Another Legacy (What Am I Going to Do – Part II)Thanks to my feed reader, I can keep up with your posts no matter how far apart. :-) Congrats on the milestone! Here is a first . . . I missed the first day of school for the first time in 24 years. Instead of being at school yesterday, I was in surgery
  • mrC commented on Another Legacy (What Am I Going to Do – Part II)Thank goodness YOU are back! I figured I had lagged so much even the die-hard(s) was(were) gone. My noob principal has been "encouraging" me to "share" my "experience" more often. I am thinking that a little blog renaissance might be a significant part of that. Got my 20-Years-in-the-District pin today. Yay! Only 22 more to catch
  • Mrs. M commented on Another Legacy (What Am I Going to Do – Part II)Thank goodness you are back! I was starting to wonder . . . My "Colleen" retired two years ago, and it was incredibly hard. Mostly because I have had to admit that *I* am one of the "old ones" now. We had one newbie start in our dept. last year and another one