Thursday, March 31, 2011

English Teacher Math

My students are smarter than me.

Or is it "than I"?  I think I've made my point.

This is not a self-deprecating post, as I believe I am a reasonably intelligent person. Smart, even. It just so happens that I spend a pretty significant portion of my life with students who are, quite literally, geniuses. Case in point: one of my students from last year is one of only 588 people out of 1.6 million who scored a perfect 36 on the ACT. That's not about me. I didn't teach him that. He's just incredibly, amazingly smart. He's a great kid, too, so that makes it even better. I'm so in awe that I think I've bragged on him to everyone I know.

Nope. This isn't a "poor me" post. It's simply another time that I made a fool of myself in front of a room full of people.

As I introduced the research paper to one of my classes, I reviewed the rubric with them carefully. I attempted to point out that at least half of the points on this particular paper come from following directions, and that I've taught the research process upwards of 30 times, and if they stick with me and follow my plan they'll have a great grade and be really good at research papers. In fact, I told them, the research paper grades are usually the best essay grades all year. I was selling this project like no other.

Then came to the part about the way the points add up.

I explained it this way: The rubric adds up to 200 points, and the paper is for two major grades. But the computer likes grades on a scale of 100, so to get your score I will add up the points on the rubric, divide by half (to get to the 100 point scale), and then enter the grade twice. It made perfect sense to me.

Unfortunately, my explanation was met with confused stares, and then a few brave souls raised their hands.

"That doesn't make sense," one girl said, "If you divide by half the math doesn't work. Is that what you meant?"

The confused faces turned to me, waiting for my response to the question that was obviously on all of their minds. But I could only respond by returning their confusion.

I explained the whole thing again, but I guess I talked slower or something in an attempt to have it make more sense. Finally, when the heads continued to shake and the confusion became too much for me to bear, I just said, "Trust me. It all works out mathematically."

Confusion turned to suspicion, until someone eventually said (slightly under his breath), "Maybe that's why the research paper grades are always the highest."

The room erupted in laughter, including mine, and we moved on. Only I didn't get the joke. I didn't know why they were so confused. I didn't even really know what was going on. I had a feeling, however, that it was my fault.

Five minutes after the bell, I walked to the water fountain and it hit me. After I add the 200 possible points, I need to multiply by half or divide in half, not "divide by half" as I said over and over and over again. I knew what I meant, but it was quite obviously not what I said.

And the Crazy English Teachers Can't Do Math stereotype lives on.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Getting Rid of Gargamel

Trey and Tucker are at baseball practice, so Keaton and I played a few games of Uno and then we watched an awesome episode of The Cosby Show (where he laughed in all the right places). Then, as we flipped channels to find something else to watch, I noticed that The Smurfs were coming on Boomerang. We just saw a preview for the new Smurfs movie, so I thought it would be fun to watch the old-school cartoon. I explained to Keaton how his Aunt Wendy used to love the smurfs and she watched them all the time. As the show started I told him all about Gargamel and how he's the bad guy, and then I pointed out some of the other characters -- Smurfette, Pappa Smurf, etc.

Grouchy Smurf immediately began his signature "I hate swimming!" and "I hate summer!" and "I hate ___!" I thought to myself how much cartoons have changed and how much life has changed because I don't let my kids say "hate" and the cartoons they watch are so politically correct and I waited for Keaton to remark on the ugly word that Grouchy kept saying.

After we watched for about five minutes in silence, he finally piped up:

"You know if those Smurfs would just get a gun and shoot that bad guy then he would be dead."

I guess the ugly words are the least of my concerns.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Taking Care of Mom

Earlier this week the boys and I took a little trip with my family. Trey couldn't go because he had to work Monday and Tuesday, but he encouraged us to enjoy our spring break and have a good time. I certainly didn't love the idea of going without Trey (face it - everything is better when he's around), but I decided I'm a real-live grown up who can drive the kids to Lake Conroe to hang out for a few days all by myself. It's too bad my boys didn't have so much confidence in me. 

I meant to get gas at HEB before we left town, but the air conditioner in my car works only sporadically and I was so intent on figuring out how to trick the air conditioner into working that I forgot to stop. As we drove down highway 6 the ensuing car talk went something like this:

Me: Aw, man, I forgot to get gas as HEB.
Tucker: Should we turn around?
Me: No, we can get gas later.
Keaton: I think we should turn around, Mom. 
Me: It's fine. We'll just get gas in Navasota.
Tucker: Do we have enough gas to get to Navasota?
Me: Yes.
Keaton: How many miles is it to Navasota?
Me: Like 16, I think.
Keaton: We should turn around and go to HEB for gas.
Tucker: Maybe not. We should calculate it. How many gallons of gas do you have left, Mom?
Me: enough to get to Navasota.
Tucker: Are you sure?
Me: Yes. I am certain. My light hasn't even come on yet. I can go like 50 more miles. I've been driving for almost 20 years. I know I can make it Navasota to get gas!

This brought a few moments of silence while they no doubt pondered my driving expertise and whether or not I am a good judge of how much gas is in my car. Then it started again.

Tucker: Which gas station will you stop at in Navasota?
Me: The Hi-Ho. At least it used to be Hi-Ho. It might be something else now.
Keaton: Are you sure it's still there?
Me: Yes. I'm absolutely certain! It's a Shell station on 105. Look, we're exiting now.
Tucker: Mom. I only see a Texaco and you're about to pass it.
Me: The Shell is on the other side of the highway. I know what I'm doing!

Finally, the Hi-Ho Shell station came into sight and I pulled in to get gas. I answered several questions about how much gas I chose to get and how far we could drive on that and whether or not we would need to get more gas on our 45 mile trip. I got back into the car and headed down 105.

Keaton (alarmed): Mom!  You're on the wrong road!  We were going on that road over there!
Me: We turned. We have to go on THIS road to get to Lake Conroe.
Tucker: Are you sure?
Keaton: Should we call Dad?

And, in defeat, I just ignored them.

I realized a several things that day.

One, the kids have us figured out. Trey always knows what he's doing and often I just choose to wing it, and our kids are well aware of these differences. I think they may prefer less of my "winging it" and more of his "knowing what on earth is going on."

Second, my boys think I need to be taken care of. I certainly understand that on some level it's a little insulting, and I have laughed a lot about an eight year old and a five year old giving me driving advice like they've been doing it for years. But they seemed so grown up just trying to make sure Mom had it together. I hope they are always so willing to take care of their crazy old mom.

Third, trips without Trey, even if they include fishing and games and family and a great book, just aren't as fun. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Where have I been????

I did not post anything for the entire month of February. That makes me a little sad because I KNOW stuff happened, but now I can't remember it because I didn't write it down. Bummer. Here's my solution:

#1: Keaton's class has a student teacher who has started a blog for other kindergarten teachers. I realize it wasn't made for the parents, but I am so happy that she gave us the link to it. It makes me happy, and you should all look it over. The link is

#2: While I haven't logged into blogger, I have updated my facebook with random kid stories. It includes this little note about Tucker that most of you have probably seen. I think it's Tucker-like enough that I have to add it here:

I was going through his Monday folder and discovered a worksheet on which he had to estimate how long it takes to say the pledge of allegiance. His choices were one second, one minute, and one hour. He chose one second and got it counted wrong, so I was giving him a very hard time about how it is impossible to say the pledge in one second. He told me I was wrong and he was right, so we bantered back and forth until finally we decided to time it. I made the boys say it slowly like in school. It took 14.5 seconds, and Tucker said, "See, it's closest to one second, so that's the best estimation."

And the literal child wins again.

#3: Trey is working a lot. I'm very thankful that he has a great job and stuff, but I realize how spoiled I've been for the first ten years of our marriage because he's been so available. On a side note, I usually do the laundry on weekends but he's decided that I'm no longer allowed to fold the socks and put them away because I can't ever tell which socks belong to which kid, and I think it annoys him. Trey is now the official sock-folder.

Other than that, I should note that the ELA TAKS test is over, I have finished my Instructional Leadership Development training required for my principal certification and passed my practice TEXES, I am two weeks away from finishing my last "official" grad school class, and it is spring break. The boys and I are going with my parents to spend a couple of days at a house on Lake Conroe (Trey has to work), and when I get back on Tuesday I'm going to begin tackling this grading that I need to finish by the end of spring break (don't feel sorry for me - just don't ever complain that teachers get a week off in the spring for no reason):

And so, I am resolved to blog more often, recording the crazy things my kids do and my no doubt hilarious mom-fails that probably won't completely screw them up. 

I think I'm back, people. Happy Spring Break!