“Oh Yeah? Great!”

Posted on August 29, 2016
Filed Under Back to School | Leave a Comment

Back to School Night was the earliest ever this year. First week, only four days in. The subtitle of this blog is, “Five Shows a Day, 180 Days a Year.” But that’s not quite accurate. On BTSN day, we do TEN shows. The parental units walk through the kids’ schedules with 10-minute periods, which I try to fill up as much as I can so as to avoid a Q/A session. So I gotta do five more shows that day.

All part of the gig, baby.

Anyway, usually by the time BTSN rolls around, I have them in the KBARR groove, and I know probably at least half the names, especially those of the “issuey” ones.

In my class, the independent reading program I call KBARR (the extra R is so I can talk like a pirate, and stands for respond) is the cornerstone of my class. It’s part habit formation, and a whole lot of reading, thinking, writing practice/instruction. The habit formation part involves documenting your minutes reading by getting your KBARR chart signed. Usually by the time I see the parents at BTSN, they have already been being hounded by their kids to “Sign my KBARR!”

This year I had to prep them for something they hadn’t seen yet. I even walked around like an OCD 7th grader, and squawked, “Sign my KBARR, sign my KBARR,” and told them that I was telling their kids to do that to them every Monday through Thursday night.

“If Dad’s out back, or Mom’s doing whatever, it’s on you to track them down and get that signature. Because it’s your grade, not Mom’s. She already did seventh grade. It’s your turn now.”

Most years, the parents have been experiencing that for awhile, and I get to thank them for their patience. I also get to chide the ones who have been signing off on all four nights on Thursday, instead of a giving a signature each day.

“It’s not like I can’t tell. At least use a different pen for each line. I mean, really? I was in seventh grade once too, you know.”

This year at least,  I got to tell them up front not to do that.

The other advantage of BTSN being this early is that I didn’t have to pretend I knew any of the kids yet this year!

One of our vocab lessons last week involved the expression, “Ignorance is bliss.”

“Hi, I’m So-and-So’s mom.”

“Oh yeah? That’s great.”

I have no idea who that is.



“Running” a Family

Posted on August 24, 2016
Filed Under Old Timer | Leave a Comment

Since I have been here at the same school for so long, it is inevitable that I get multiple kids from the same family. My record is five kids from the same clan. I’ve done that twice. Once, five was all the kids in that family. For years, I would hear at Back-to-School-Nights and Open Houses about how I was the topic of many a dinner conversation or big brother advice session or family reminiscing.

Great. Just great.

The other family I had five of…well, that wasn’t really everybody. I batted .625 with that family. You can do the math yourselves. But I should be due to see a kid of a kid from that family soon.

When I get all the kids from the same family, I call it “running” a family. I have run many, many two child households. That’s easy.

“Do you remember my brother?”

“I am still trying to forget him.”

Three and four kid fams are a little harder to run, obviously, but more satisfying.

Half the time I don’t even realize that I am on the second or third one until halfway through the year or more. Unless there’s a strong family resemblance, I am often oblivious. Sometimes it takes until Open House in the spring when the former student tags along to say hi, and then I go…

“Wait…You? Wait. This is your sister? Really? Wait.”

I actually think that is a good thing from the kids’ standpoint. I know my younger brothers hated being compared to me (and vice versa, the few times it happened), and I have always really gone out of my way to judge each kid as he/she is in my class and that’s it. I consciously avoid cumulative folders (your permanent record!) like the plague–never even peeked once in all these years! So I figure that it’s all to the good that I don’t usually know I am running a family until I am most of the way through it.

Like today, for instance. At the end of a class, while I was resting in my rocking chair and watching them leave, a kid comes up to me and says,

“I’m a legacy in your class!”


“My older sister and brother both had you!”

“Oh yeah? Are you the last one, or are there more of you coming?”

“My twin brother has Mr. Blah for English.”

D’oh! Missed it by that much.



We’ll Get to Know Each Other Plenty, Believe Me

Posted on August 22, 2016
Filed Under First Day, routine | Leave a Comment

Day One. Year 24. Really? Already?

As I said awhile back, we have a lot of noob and semi-noob teachers this year. ALSO one of the things our management wants to emphasize this year is that ever-popular student/school “connection.” So it seems we have a lot of people beginning the year with “team-building activities” and “getting-to-know-you exercises” and “interest surveys.” I even saw one of those pernicious “what-kind-of-learner-are-you” questionnaires in the left-in-the-copier pile.

Really? Really?

I am glad nobody asked the new English department head (more on that later!) because I would have had nothing for them. As I told the new batch of kids today:

“I don’t really do that sort of thing. I’d rather start the year by demonstrating the routine of the class and showing you what you’re in for. We’re going to be together for 180 days. We’ll get to know each other just fine. It might take me a while to learn names though; you guys only have 6 or 8 or 10 of us to learn, I have 150 of you. I will give you a dollar if I get your name wrong after Halloween.”

And we’re off. It’s Monday, so we copy the homework. We pass out the vocab list and go over it. Then we have a warm up. We collaborate on it in our groups. We correct it. Just like every other day. The sooner we get into the routine the better.

It turns out, some of the kids appreciate that. At the end of the day I had several kids do the mechanical “thank you” as they were leaving. It’s been a fad around here the last couple of years. At the end of the period, as people are leaving,  I’ll get this chorus of :

“Thank you. Thank you Mr. Coward.”

Thank you for what?  I don’t know about you, but after awhile that sorta bugs. It sounds so perfunctory. Kind of like when they say “I’m sorry.”

So today after 6th period I actually said it.

“Thank you for what?”

After a pause, I actually got some answers.

“Thanks for being cool.” (Hahaha. That won’t last.)

“Thank you for being funny.” (You guys provide a lot of material.)

But my fave answer came from a group of four or five:

“This was the only class today where we actually did any work! Thank you! It wasn’t boring.”

You’re welcome!


Open Mouth Returns (Part One), but the Revolution Will NOT Be Televised

Posted on June 1, 2016
Filed Under open mouth quizzes, testing, Video | 1 Comment

Alas, MCTV is now defunct. Let’s just say this:

  1. Issues were raised.
  2. My free trial with uStream was about to run out.
  3. See #1.

Watch me go all passive voice here for a bit.
It was pointed out that certain objections might be raised, and that there were some parents (even those who might not have a student in my class anymore) who might object to the visibility of kids in the feed for various valid reasons. It was also pointed out that the district had not been in on the decision to go live, and that there were certain parties who might see fit to inform the district of my unilateral decision and to vociferously complain about said decision. It was found in my best interests to pull the plug. Thank you to all the fans who tuned in. There were actually quite a few of you, surprisingly enough. The most common comments were about my “expectations and enforcement” of conduct. I’ll take that as a compliment.

I also sorta accidentally played hooky from another district ELA confab (#729 I think) the other day. Coincidentally–NOT ironically–that day I had one of the best teaching days of the year. So there you go.

It was a test day, which is usually Friday, but this week we were going to practice/train for the SCRABBLE tourney next week, so the test was Thursday, and didn’t cover as much shtuff. This year I kinda had spare week, so I busted a teaser of Tom Sawyer in class. We only read the first two chapters, but they really seemed to like it. It was the first time in years I had even pulled the books out of the cabinet. So the test only covered vocabulary (duh) and those two chapters of Tom.

It’s near the end of the year, and they’re hanging by a thread and seemingly all taking their dumb pills together in the mornings. One kid in my genius period was doing the worm on the floor during the warm up the other day, and we were all just glad he wasn’t talking! And Gawd knows most of their grades could use a little goosing. So I decided to have a little mercy (and fun) and let them take the test collaboratively this time. Or as one of my classes years ago dubbed it: Open Mouth – Formerly Known as Quizzes for Dummies.

I hadn’t done a whole-class one in a long time. They were already in their 4×4 groups, but this time I told them they could collaborate class-wide. Just like usual with these things, each class was different in the way they approached it.

My first period homies had some Cal Poly teaching students doing their observation time. We’ve had a lot of that lately. I hope they took notes, because the homies were money.

At first they were all, “Jhoony! What did you get for number one? Two? What? Wait! What’s number three? Jhoony! What did you get for three?!”

So I quietly (snort) suggest, “Why don’t you guys just put Jhoony in charge?”

So they did. And it was beauty. See you tomorrow for part two.




MCTV is Live

Posted on April 27, 2016
Filed Under Presenting the Book | 2 Comments

“Yes, the camera is STILL streaming. Pretend you’re on Survivor and ignore it.”

Alas, that is rather impossible for the seventh grade animal.

The experiment continues apace. We’ve been live-streaming every period for about a week now. I even left the camera on a couple of times overnight. One of the kids wanted to watch the night-time stream to look for “paranormal activity.” His words. NO luck so far. I was hoping the little yellow doggie might come to life or something.

It’s been a lot of fun. I had one of the social studies teachers come visit live (HE liked the idea!) and he already knew to cover his ears when the timer was about to go off because he’d been watching the broadcast. Another history teacher sent two kids over to my room at the beginning of every period to prove to his classes that we were live. They wouldn’t believe until they saw the emissaries walk in. The other history teacher (that department REALLY liked the idea) devoted the last ten minutes of each of her classes to watching us one day.

I have kid who REALLY likes to soft-shoe dance around on my little stage before school. It used to be kind of awkward, but he’s a minor school celebrity lately because he got two or three eighth grade girls to join his dance one day, and it was seen “on the stream.”

One of my geniuses later in the day says mockingly, “I heard ‘Jason’ was dancing in front of the camera, and then some Leadership girls started dancing too, and yeah…”

“I don’t see eighth grade girls lining up to dance with you.”

Sometimes they make it too easy.

All I heard for the rest of the day was, “You totally burned ‘Stevie’ didn’t you?”

MCTV is live, baby.

Today during my prep, I took the camera to the ss teacher who had visited earlier. His kids were doing two minute presentations pretending they had visited historic sits in South America and trying to make it sound like they were actually there.

MCTV takes you to historic South America!

My next plan is to start holding court in my rocking chair (watch the stream and you’ll see it) before school and making it sort of like a show. I usually open my door at least 20 minutes before school actually starts. I sit in my chair, eating my second breakfast (the at-school one), and watching the kids draw on the big chalkboard I have (watch the stream and you’ll see it) and chatting and watching the parade (watch the stream and you’ll see it).

I’m thinking sort of a Johnny Carson type thing, where kids or teachers or other staff/adults can sit down for a 2 minute interview with mrC, and share a talent or interest or whatever. But we’d have to make it snappy.

“That’s very interesting. Next!”

This is going to be a lot of fun.

Here’s the link again. MCTV LIVE!

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