Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Shakespeare and Doc Brown?

Yesterday I was wearing my English department tee shirt which depicts William Shakespeare and a quote from Julius Caesar. Tucker has seen this shirt many times before, but for some reason he was studying it in great detail yesterday.

Tucker: Who is that on your shirt again?
Me: William Shakespeare. He's a brilliant author.
Tucker: And what does it say again? (the font is really scripty)
Me: "He think too much, such men are dangerous." Do you know what that means?
Tucker: Yes! Wait. I mean, no.
Me: It means that the way you become powerful and strong and can do whatever you want in life is to think! To use your brain! Isn't that great?
Tucker (ponders my words for a moment): You mean like the doctor in Back to the Future?

Um. I didn't see this coming. Back to the Future? Really? It took me a second to realize that Doc did make a car that was able to time travel. I suppose he had to use his brain a great deal to make that happen.

Me: Yes, Tuck, just like the doctor in Back to the Future.
Tucker: Sweet.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My KeKe

This is the most adorable four year old on the planet (holding his first crawfish at his first crawfish boil at Aunt Carol and Uncle Mike's).

When he's mad, he's satan's little spawn, but when he's happy, he radiates joy to everyone lucky enough to be around him.

Spring break has made him pretty happy. He got to spend the first three days with his Grandma and Pop, and I think he's still giddy about it. When I talked to him on the phone Monday night, I asked what he had been doing all day. "Well, I just been farmin' and fishin' and bike ridin'." That's pretty much Keaton's perfect day.

There are two new calves at my parent's house, one male and one female. According to him, all the cows have names, but I'm pretty sure he's the only one who knows which cow is which. He thinks it's hysterical that he named the new baby cow "Bull Calf" instead of naming the bull calf "Bull Calf." It's especially funny when he confuses himself while trying to explain this hilarity to others.

The older boys all have bb guns, but poor little Keaton was gun-less. Nonetheless, there is a story that we keep hearing from Tucker and Keaton about Keaton borrowing Tucker's bb gun to shoot at a chicken. As Keaton tells it: "I didn't hurt that chicken, I just shot his feathers off." I'm not entirely certain that this actually happened, so it may be the fish tale of the trip. I do know he coaxed his Pop into letting him shoot the .22 pistol (with help and close supervision, of course).

Friday morning I took my little story teller to get his allergy shot, and there were three nurses doting over him (as usual). Out of the blue he announced "I got hurt!" Of course the nurses were concerned and asked what happened. Here's what they learned:

"Well, I was goin' into the woods to see that dead cow, and I got hurt on the wires of the fence. That bob wire just got me right on the back when I was crawlin' under it!"

I shook my head and told them I wished he was making this one up, but there really is a dead cow off in the woods, and the boys really did make several trips to check it out. Of course they took their bb guns in case they saw a bobcat.

(Tucker asked before they left, "Mom, do bb guns kill bobcats or just people?")

One of the nurses really got into Keaton's story, so she asked if there were bugs on the dead cow.

Keaton loves the opportunity to expand a story, so he told her all about it: "Well, there was ants all over that cow's skin. And we could see the meat the ants were eatin'. We couldn't see any bones yet, though. Nope, it didn't have any bones." All of this coincided with his elaborate hand motions, pantomiming looking at the cow and the ants crawling all over the dead carcass. It cracks me up the way his eyes light up when talking about a dead cow. Maybe I should be more concerned.

Besides storytelling, Keaton has many other skills. For one, he plays the guitar and the piano. One day as he banged away on the piano I asked if he'd like to take lessons. He rolled his eyes at me and responded, "I don't need lessons! I can already play. Didn't you just hear me?"

He also plays great tricks on others. As I washed my face tonight, he turned off the light, starting giggling, and shouted, "You can't see anymore! The Lucktricity is out!"

This kid is a wild mess, but he entertains me more than anyone in the whole world.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Contest

It seems that I'm really falling off the blogging wagon. This is sad because I love to write, and I know that writing more makes me better (see there, students), but I just haven't had the time/inspiration. I have made many excuses in my head, some of which are:

1) Sometimes my job can be really stressful. I have this problem of taking on more than I should. I don't mean "biting off more than I can chew" because I am pretty good at not taking on more assignments than I can do. What I mean is that I mentally take on more than I should. Somehow I find myself feeling personally responsible for every student at my school passing the ELA TAKS. Recently, I've also been overwhelmed by the apathy some of my students feel toward education, and I feel personally responsible for showing them that education is the only way to the future they dream of. This has consumed me a little in recent weeks.

2) Grad school is a lot of work, and I like to make 100s. Don't get me wrong, it should be a lot of work, but I should let go of the idea that 100s on everything are essential. I made a 98 in my last class, and it didn't kill me.

Eh. These are just excuses. I shall make it my goal to post at least once each week, both for the therapeutic element and for the fun of it.

Today I would like to post about burps. That's right. Burps.

Keaton strongly believes that burps are the funniest thing on the planet. He burps as often as possible, and after each burp he laughs his "I just did something hysterical" laugh. If no one else responds, he announces, "Did you hear that? I just went 'BBUUUUURRRPPPP' and it was really loud." He repeats this until he gets some sort of response from whomever is nearby.

One child burping all the time is bad enough, but then Keaton did the only thing he could do to get Tucker involved in the shenanigans. He made it a contest.

One random day about two weeks ago:
Keaton: Tucker, I burped seventeen times today. How many times did you burp?

Tucker (concerned that he was losing this impromptu contest): Um. Uh. Um. BBUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRPPPPPPP. I can burp louder than you.

Keaton: BUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRPPPPP. Now I burped eighteen times.

And so the contest began. It continued on and on with entries like these.

Tucker: Keaton, today I burped twenty times at lunch. That's a lot of burps!

Keaton: When we were outside I could burp so loud you could hear it in the back yard!

Of course there were also the entries we got to witness first person -- random, repetitive belching in all sorts of voices and all volume levels, always followed by raucous laughter. It was getting out of control.

Finally, Saturday morning, Trey put his foot down.

Trey: It is very rude to just burp all the time. I certainly hope you boys don't burp like that at school or when you're with other people. I've had enough.

Tucker: But it's a contest!

Keaton: And it's funny!

Trey: The contest is over. The next person who burps gets a spanking!

A somber mood passed over the boys as they realized their beloved two-week old contest was over. At least it was over until that afternoon.

They had cokes with lunch.

Before his first big burp, Keaton announced, "If I burp, it's not my fault. It's the coke's fault."

And so the belching began again, always followed by an announcement about it being the coke's fault, or the cereal's fault, or the chicken nugget's fault. Always followed by laughter.

Honestly, I don't want them out in the world burping all the time, but I'm kind of glad to see the contest come back. They're just boys, after all, and they were having so much fun.

And when Trey wasn't looking, I was winning. :)

Monday, March 1, 2010


I was reminded today that apathy is contagious. I say reminded because I know that I've known this before, but I guess I forgot.

Students and teachers are huge carriers of the apathy bug. Classic symptoms include:

1) making something out to be harder than it is
2) uncontrollable whining
3) completing intermediate steps at an incredibly slow pace with the hopes that you won't have to actually complete the entire task if it takes you forever to do just one part
4) pretending not to be smart to avoid work
5) uncontrollable whining

You see, today we began the research process in my English class, and you would think I had asked students to tie down a rabid monkey and pull its teeth one by one using only their bare hands and floss. It's just research, for goodness sakes, and you know that you can do some research when you can't quite figure out the second word in the fourth line of the newest Lil' Wayne song, but when it's assigned, when it's for school, then it's rabid-monkey-tooth-pulling.

Each year I go into the research paper knowing full well that all you have to do is say the words "research paper" and students all over the world roll their eyes and let out a whimpering sigh, but this year I decided to do something about it. I totally reinvented the research project to make it something students can enjoy and invest in. This year we're finding information about careers - education needed, salary schedules, entry-level positions and what you can be promoted to -- all really good stuff for seventeen year olds to think about.

I worked all day last Sunday putting it together. I pictured one of my students ten years from now opening her own child care center or being promoted to senior partner and remembering that if it weren't for the research done in Mrs. Hickman's English III class she never would have thought to become an accountant/lawyer/policeman in the first place. I was excited.

The kids, however, were not excited. They were mostly just plain apathetic. Probably the most passionate comment I heard all day was when student #1 said, "This is stupid," and student #2 responded, "Don't call Mrs. Hickman's assignment stupid." I"m not convinced that student #2 thought the assignment was the most fun she'd had in years, but I still wanted to run across the room and hug her. Bonus points for student #2.

By third period (I don't have a first, so this only after one class), I had caught the disease of apathy. When I was giving directions at the beginning of class, I actually heard myself saying "Bueller. Bueller. Bueller." in my head. Then, when a group of students just sat there instead of working, I walked up to their table and told them that I was in a bad mood, and that I had no patience for their sitting around. Then I told them they had two minutes to get busy or they were all getting zeros for the day, and I actually looked at my watch for effect. Seriously.

Now folks, I don't know what kind of experiences you have with school, but that's just not good teaching. In fact, it's borderline horrible teaching and I should be punished with 50 lashes or something like that except we don't allow corporal punishment in school. I spent most of the day being mad at my whining/lazy/grumpy students when I should have been mad at their whining/lazy/grumpy teacher.

  • I should have been more excited to introduce the project to them. Excitement is contagious, too.
  • I should have worn more sensible shoes to spend the day running around the library while keeping a smile on my face.
  • I should have encouraged those students who were slow to get started with a pat on the back and a smile -- I know they respond better to that.
  • I should have said "good job" and "you're doing great" many, many more times, even for small things.
But I didn't. I scowled and complained and finally just sat down, too tired to continue begging students to do work they obviously didn't want to do.

Tonight I wonder how they ever could have figured out that I actually wanted them to do it.

I suppose tomorrow is another day. I just need to make sure it's a day with the right shoes and the right attitude.