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Ooooh, He’s Hawt!

February 13, 2014
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Ooooh, He’s Hawt!

I know I am probably behind the curve on this one, but since we just finished The Giver, it was big news for my classes and me. The long-awaited movie version will actually be a reality. August 15th is the date it is scheduled to hit a theater near you. Jeff Bridges, who was the one who bought the movie rights 20 years ago and has been trying to get it made ever since, will play The Giver. The good news is that Lois Lowry is on board, and has approved of the changes to the story: Jonas will be 16 instead of 12, and his crush on Fiona will be more of a lovey-dovey thing as required by modern movie making standards. The Chief Elder, who will be played by Meryl Streep, will have a bigger role in the story, probably to justify having Meryl Streep in the movie. (The kids said, “Who’s that?”) Another character  who looks like she’s going to have a larger role in the story is The Giver’s daughter, Rosemary. How do we know? She’s played by Taylor Swift. Half of them screamed in delight at the news, half of them groaned. I comforted those with

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Jonas = Harry Potter?

February 5, 2014
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You thought I was dun fer, as ol’ Huck might have said. But as the late, lamented Mrs. Krabapple used to say, HA!  To paraphrase Sir Mixalot… Baby, I’m back. As you can probably tell from the title, we are reading The Giver right now. And they are digging it. You know how it goes with this one: “This is weird.” Yes. It is. I told you it would be. “What do they do all day?” Work. Go to school. Eat. Etc. Talk about feelings. Haha. “But there’s no shoooooopping!” But even the ones who have read it… (Aside: I HATE THAT. When some stoopid elementary teacher thinks that their kids “can handle that book now” or “I have a great unit on that” and blithely hijacks your book. Sorry…but one year I even had a kid who had read Outsiders in 6th grade and the teacher had used all my shtuff for the unit. “I already did all that!” AAAAARGH!) …are still asking all kinds of questions during the daily Q/A that I have before the quiz on the night’s reading. Most of the questions are the same as the ones I get every year. See if you can

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Maybe Someone Will Listen to the Rocket Scientist (Nah.)

December 18, 2013
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One of my standard lines when the kids are being particularly thick-headed about something that we’ve already covered about fitty times is, “It ain’t rocket science people.” Turns out it is. At least for me. Check this headline: Teaching Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Harder. And the best part is that it’s written by an actual rocket scientist. He quit working for NASA to join TFA and is now teaching math and robotics in Colorado Springs. I won’t summarize the piece too much, because I want you to read it, but the part of it that told me that he actually understands what it takes to be a teacher was this (emphasis mine): One of the biggest misconceptions about teaching is that it is a single job. Teaching is actually two jobs. The first job is the one that teachers are familiar with; people who have not taught can pretend it doesn’t exist. The tasks involved in this first job include lesson planning, grading, calling parents, writing emails, filling out paperwork, going to meetings, attending training, tutoring, and occasionally sponsoring a club or coaching a sport. The time allotted to teachers for this work is usually one hour per workday. But

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Were There Also Yessies?

December 10, 2013
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We have a new candidate for greatest misspelling ever. And the sweet irony of it is that it surfaced during a spelling test. Plus, I think I came up with a new catch phrase (for that class anyway). I have them reading non-fiction for their independent KBAR book. That’s sort of one of the “big” changes coming with the advent of the Common Corporate. There is supposed to be more of an emphasis on non-fiction and “useful” reading. Oh, did I give away a bias there? So sorry. We’ll get back to that another time. Anyway, a lad in my one class mostly filled with “challenging” lads such as himself… (Wait. Why are classes like this almost always at the end of the day?) …is reading a book about WWII. I am standing there reading his response for the week while they work on their Friday test, when I come across the word for Hitler’s fascist party. Now we get to the part I don’t understand. He’s reading a book about WWII and yet he can’t seem to spell the most basic four-letter word from that era. Picture in your mind what the phonetic spelling might look like, but still

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Is That Good? Or Bad?

December 9, 2013
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Where have you guys been? What? I’ve been here the whole time. What are you talking about? I’ve been a little distracted lately; the weather has been soooo good. Sorry to make you people who live in other places besides Paradise jealous, but it was 82 degrees on December 1st. I skated the empty streets on Thanksgiving day. In shorts. So much to share. I’ve missed circle time for a while. So I may will string this out over a couple several more posts to sort of, you know, make up the slack… I’ve had to miss a bunch of days (for me) this year. I can remember when I went a year or two without a sub. (I always have been a weasel when it comes to “professional development” days.) But this year, I have already had a sub–sorry, they’re called guest teachers hereabouts–at least four times that I can think of off the top of my head. As my long-suffering reader(s) may recall, the first line in my sub plan always says, “…the kids should be good, and have fun, but don’t be afraid to kick ass and take names on the seating chart.” I also tell the GT to

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I Just Remembered the Name of This Blog (Also: Vegas)

November 13, 2013
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I have a real excuse this time for the latest posting drought. I took myself to Vegas for four days for my birthday. Yup, just me. All by my own bad self. I know it sounds sort of weird, but I love Vegas. I got married in Vegas. On Halloween. Yes, it was at one of those chapels they use to have so many of back in the day. Our “limo” driver gave us a drive-by of Jerry Lewis’s compound, all the while talking about how his ex-wife was trying to kill him. Jerry had a fat guy in a lawn chair sitting out in front of the gate with a plastic pumpkin of candy and a ciggie in his mouth. The couple in front of us at the Silver Bell Wedding Chapel didn’t have a ring for the bride so the best man, with a seriously bad rug, splayed out his fingers displaying a huge rock on every finger said, “Pick one.” It was fun, but 22 years later the wife is kinda done with Vegas. So I went alone. It was MY birthday after all. I played a lot of pinball at the Pinball Hall of Fame,  played

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Feed Me, or I’ll Stop Doing What Little Thinking I’m Doing About What You Have to Say

November 4, 2013
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Feed Me, or I’ll Stop Doing What Little Thinking I’m Doing About What You Have to Say

My long-suffering, long-time readers know how I feel about the necessity of having (good) snacks at ANY function where you expect the faculty to function. The way I see it,  food at things like teacher trainings (didn’t they used to be called in-services?) and faculty meetings and management team meetings and basically any sort of teacher-type meeting serves three important purposes: 1. It gets people talking. So-called PLCs-professional learning communities–are all the rage these days. All it really means is giving teachers enough time and incentive to sit around and talk about teaching and lesson ideas and the kids they have in common and what to do to help them. I had a principal about 10 years ago who had been a home ec teacher. She was also the best principal I’ve had, and not just because she fed us well. But feed us she did. During the holidays, it wasn’t unusual for her to show up for a faculty meeting with a roast and pie! Mmmmm, pie. Anyway, every one of those meetings was a buzz of talking… and not just about the food. It was about kids and lessons and everything else about teaching and our school. Eating

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Professor Picanumba

October 21, 2013
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Professor Picanumba

Every Friday is test day. And like everything in my class, there’s a routine. First: They record their warm up scores, squiggles on handouts, and extra credit for the week in a form at the top of the test. Like this: Test 8. Name:                                                                       Date:                        Period: Sentence Combining:___/10   Spelling Crossword: ___/10 Warm Ups: 10/15:____/8,  10/16:___/7,  10/17: ___/10 Non-Clicker Extra Credit: Mental Floss:   The warm ups  (and everything else we do in class) are all in their notebooks so they can, God forbid, study for the test, since I basically just copy and paste them into the test. This is how they get into the gradebook. And of course there are always the gluey ones who, no matter how many times we’ve gone through the procedure, mange to leave everything blank. My slave student assistant, who enters most of the numbers, is trained to enter zero if anything is left blank. I get a lot of e-mails until the kids start to get that I mean it when I tell them that. I circulate and watch them fill in the paperwork and spot check when I’m feeling suspicious, but they are mostly all very honest. The

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Eight Things

October 10, 2013
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Eight Things

I am lagging in so many areas lately, so don’t take it personally that this blog is one of them. Here’s the latest… 1. I had been thinking that this year’s crew was too nice and gentle and friendly to offer much comedy relief/material, but I was wrong. They are still seventh graders after all. The other day I was berating a kid who was trying out random answers to a warm up question. After he tries out a third non-sequitur on his partner, I can’t cope. I ask him if he needs some help with the question. His response? “Oh. I guess I should read it.” 2. The first question on the vocabulary pretest this week was, “Many rappers “sing” the praises of “bling” and _____ consumption.” The word we were looking for was conspicuous. I gave them a visual hint with a picture of a diamond encrusted, 1.27 million dollah cell phone, asking why anyone would want such an item. Half of them spent the next five minutes jabbering about how it looked like a banana. One Latino kid was very quietly reading the question over and over and finally raised his hand, rather concerned. “Umm. About the

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Near As I Can Figure, TFA Sucks

September 23, 2013
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Today, some geniuses in one class were doing the old “what if I” game with me, trying to dream up scenarios where they might be able to circumvent the rules/regulations in my class. “What if I had my friend… What if my mom…” and etc. God forbid they were surprised to find that I not only predicted most of their excuses and work-arounds, but that I had a few they hadn’t even thought of. As I tell them every year, “Remember I was in seventh grade once too, you know. And I was still me, even then. Anything you can even imagine doing around here, I’ve already been whacked with a ruler for. Or yelled at by my principal for. So don’t even go there.” What goes unsaid, but should be understood by those outside the profession, is that it also takes a lot of experience. Only those of us who have been doing it awhile have the radar tuned to the junior high frequency. Even though I could probably recall all my tricks from seventh grade when I started teaching, I wasn’t able to CALL upon them. Only after seeing the patterns of students’ behaviors over the years was

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Survivor is Back! Time for a Rerun.

September 18, 2013
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It’s season #27 for Survivor. I have to admit I have seen pretty much every episode of every season. At two seasons a year, this is year 14.  About 14 years ago, I remember reading a blurb in the paper (back when we still got a physical paper on the porch) about this new survival show that was going to put a bunch of people on an island and see who could outlast the rest. I immediately thought to myself, “I’m all over this, baby. Bring it on.” Then I kept reading. And I got to the part where there was a social aspect, and you had to deal with the other people, and they got to vote you off. Oh baby. That’s a whole ‘nother deal. I was out. But still, every now and then I am tempted to take a shot. I am sorta sick of seeing so many rerun people. The new season is only 15 minutes away, and I hate watching things after original air date. I am an old school tv watcher in that way. I only watch shtuff on the net when I have to. Anyway here’s a blast from the recent past, when

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Looking Out for Number One

September 16, 2013
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I am not a big fan of buzzwords… unless I invent them. But this year at BTSN, I did steal one that I have been hearing quite a bit of  lately. And for me, it’s from sort of an unlikely source. Special ed. To tell you the truth, I don’t even know if we’re supposed to say that any more, or if it is now officially “Resource.” Anyway… The phrase I used was “self advocate.” During all my years of schoolin’, it pretty much went without saying that it was you and the school. You handled things yourself. Mom didn’t call the office except to say you were sick or going on vacation. You didn’t tell Dad about the moron bugging you in English. You bugged right back. Or you dealt with it somehow. If Sr. Enda gave you an unfair grade, you hounded her about it or made her at least explain it until she called you “bold as brass” but remembered next time that you cared enough about your own grade to hound her about it. You didn’t get Mom to call her to change it. (Sr. Enda would have scoffed at her in Gaelic.) You got caught,

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Just the Right Balance

September 4, 2013
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As I have said, I think that so far this is the politest bunch…EVER. I know there is (almost) always a honeymoon period, but this feels like more than that. Half of them still say, “Thank you Mr. Coward” as they leave the class, and most of those actually mean it. I have the cutest pair of girls in video class. EVERY TIME I come over and answer one of their questions, they smile big and say, “Okay! Thank you!” They are just so excited to get their question answered, and they immediately turn around and discuss the answer. I almost mist up every time. They are a little sensitive this year though. The timer sends most of them either through the roof or to the floor. A few still look pretty “deer in the headlights” when I make the crabby face at them for forgetting their notebook in their lockers. “You can take a tardy and go get it.” A tardy (at least the first couple) means they have to spend their 10-minute morning break in my room. They pick up red pens and put them away, tidy up, etc. Sometimes, if I have no chores for them or

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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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