Talk Faster

Posted on September 21, 2016
Filed Under meetings | Leave a Comment

Faculty Meeting day. My new name is Faculty Bleating. That’s mine. I have proof in a text to the wife. So don’t even go trying to make it viral and claim credit.

Every faculty meeting reminds me of Dr. K.

I was “diagnosed” with ADHD back when it was called being hyper, and the Ritalin dosages were, let’s just say, experimentally high. One of the things I remember that would manifest symptoms quicker than anything was “The Chat” with the doc who claimed I needed the meds.

It was almost as if these meetings were designed to prove the claim. There was a lot of what-do-you-think” (without really caring), ample opportunities for me to share my feelings (but the negative ones about the process were somehow not as legit), and a lot of repetition. Gawd, the repetition. Of course I am squirming and getting sullen and resentful (S&R). What am I an idiot, who has to hear everything repeated six different ways?

“So again…”

“As I said before…”

“Like we were talking about…”

“In short…” (It never is… ever!)

I think every admin must go to some secret school like Hogwart’s or something to learn this art of extending the meeting. Stuff that should take 10 minutes inevitably takes 40. We see the info on the Powerpoint (Gawd!), we get it in a handout, and then we hear it six ways from Sunday, as they used to say. And then the Q/A starts, and we get questions that were answered at least twice already, because nobody was paying attention, because they figured they’d hear it another six times anyway.

My current principal, while ranking #2 of 9 or 10 whom I have had, merrily continues this tradition. He seems to relish it actually. If given a choice of communicating an idea in 100 words or communicating that same idea just as effectively in 25 words, I do believe he would ask for both… and go over anyway.

So I squirm. And fidget. And doodle. I squat on my chair. I stretch my legs. I mutter. And sigh. (Ouch. I know that can be annoying.) I become a junior high teacher’s nightmare. Say hello to the world’s oldest seventh grader.

So I was reading the other day about this remarkable guy who is one of Google’s lead lawyers. He does triathlons, has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, has like three degrees, takes the subway to work every day… and is blind. But one of the other things about him, probably impressed me the most was this:

“…Chen reads by listening: he uses a screen reader at his desk, where he’s usually standing (when he’s not working on a nearby treadmill desk), and the VoiceOver function on his iPhone. Typically, Chen has the speed set at around 620 words a minute, a speed that is, to the untrained ear, incomprehensible.”

Six. Hundred. And. Twenty. Words. Per. Minute.

Through your ears.

My boy likes to listen to audiobooks at 2x, but 620 wpm? Really?

I wonder if we can somehow put faculty meetings on fast forward like that.

The New Fad

Posted on September 19, 2016
Filed Under fad | Leave a Comment







It’s before school, and I am trying to get a little last-minute shuteye before the hordes descend.

Thunk! Thunk!


My room is close to the “activity” quad, and it was quiet out there a couple of minutes ago, but now…

Crinkle, crinkle. Thunk!


What the…?

Finally, I have to climb out of my comfy chair and poke my head out.

I see a group of kids half-surrounding another kid, who is crinkling a small plastic water bottle and doing some sort of mental prep. Then he flips his water bottle.


This is what they are all trying to do:

I am suddenly seeing it everywhere. This crew was trying to get theirs to land on the top of these pillars we have surrounding the quad, but now I see them trying to land bottles on cafeteria tables, desks, chairs, the ground, binders, and each other.

Most of the time, whether they land it clean or not, the bottle makes a THUNK which echoes through the halls. Add to that the inevitable crinkling sound as they get just the right motion and gription, and the cheers, groans, and taunts that accompany every toss, and you’ve got all fixin’s for a major annoyance.


I kinda like it. It at least involves practice and a “skill” of some kind. And it sure beats them poking at their phones or each other in the mornings during my yard duty. It’s pretty entertaining to watch.

If only there were a mute button.

Back in my day, we probably would have gambled on it, but there wasn’t really any such thing as small plastic water bottles. So we actually pitched dimes and quarters against the wall, and played “Odds or Evens” flipping quarters against a buddy and predicting if they were the same or different.

There were also yoyos. Every 10 months or so… there were yoyos.

I guess like most fads these days, this new one is a YouTube thing:

I just wish they would stop crinkling the stupid bottles in class.

I Get Paid the Same…

Posted on August 31, 2016
Filed Under Seventh Grade Behavior, Teaching | 2 Comments

Today I was giving every kid a drive-by, checking vocabulary homework. I am all about the vocabulary, baby. As (I think) Ray Bradbury said, “You can’t think the thoughts if you don’t know the words.” The big-haired consultant lady we were subjected to for over a year even finally admitted, after months of jabbering about other shtuff, that the number one predictor of college success is vocabulary.

Which is what have been saying for 25 years. Where’s my fee?

Anyway, as I approach one girl for her “Show-Me-You-Know” sentences, she starts giving me the booboo lip right away. The auto-tears are forming in the corners of the eyes.

“I…I’m sorry.”

“For what?”

“I for… forgot to do my vocab…sniff…”

This is what they call a teachable moment, so I have to go public.

“You don’t have to apologize to me! All you’re doing is making my job easier, actually. I get paid the same whether you get an A or an F. If none of you did your homework, I could get a lot more napping in.”

Now she really doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but I’m still talking to the room.

“The homework isn’t about me. It’s about you. You’re the one who has to pass to get to 8th grade. You’re the one who has to do the work, and you’re the one who will get the credit. I don’t assign homework and essays and such because I like reading them. So don’t apologize to me. Just kick yourself in the butt, and get back to work.”

I accompanied the butt line with a demo of how that might look.

The word butt gets them every time.

She’s going to bring that vocab tomorrow.


“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.



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