Archive for February, 2008

People have accused me of being a 4th grader. Why you ask? It mainly has to do with my lunch habits. Most of the people that I work with/talk to make fun of me for the things that I eat. I’ll let you make your own judgements.

My lunch generally consists of:

1 peanut butter and jelly sandwich
1 small pile of sliced pepperoni
1 string cheese
1 snack pack milk chocolate pudding
1 sugar-free apple sauce
1 chocolate chip kudo’s granola bar
1 betty crocker brand fruit snack (care bears at the moment)
1 piece of fresh fruit
1 small container of nut harvest nut and fruit snack

It is pretty consistent. Occasionally I will trade out my peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some leftover soup or rice. Other than that the only reason that something doesn’t make it in the lunch bag, is because I have either a) forgotten it or b) forgotten to restock.

It’s nice because it is really quite easy to go shopping for food. I can just buy loads of snack packs and apple sauce. Others make fun of me, I claim rather to be simple, consistent and healthy. I have to have some sort of stability in my life right? I also end up giving up some of my stuff to my kids, so I need a plethora of options to get enough calories myself.

What are your thoughts? Am I a 4th grader? A Billy Madison/ Dude Where’s My Car follower with my supply of snack packs.

In closing, I would like to point out that it takes approximately 2 minutes to make my lunch in the morning because I don’t actually make anything. I just grabbed prepackaged things and put them in my lunch-box. I feel bad about the whole prepackaged thing, but I did start using tuber-ware on a daily basis so hopefully I can reduce my carbon print and tread lightly wherever I go.



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Main Idea

Python eats dog. So I am teaching my kids how to identify the main idea in reading. During planning out my lesson for this reading comprehension strategy I also came upon the wonderful news article that I linked above.

What better way to get my kids excited about reading? This is why they need to be able to read. There are ridiculous, strange and exciting things in the news every day and without such skills they would never be exposed to the dog eating snakes of the world.

We’ll see how this goes. It could be good. I feel like there are absurd articles in the news every day. If that serves as a venue to get my kids excited to read. It could do a lot to not only start my kids reading, but also educate them about current events and different science/social studies topics.


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Theory of Choices

Also known as the William Glasser Institute. Choice Theory tries to explain the reasons behind specific behaviors. It first assumes that all behavior is chosen and that we have control over choosing how we are going to act.

This idea is very important for teaching, because I am constantly dealing with behaviors. When my kids are throwing books I need to know what got them to that point. When my kids are sitting down and learning I need to know what got them to that point. Glasser says that we are motivated to satisfy our five basic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun.

In the classroom and in life we are constantly being challenged on all of these fronts. Immediately the classroom takes away freedom and power, because the kids are not in charge as they are told what they must be doing and must be working on. Shortly after this you quickly see fun fall to the wayside as students don’t enjoy most of the things that they are doing inside of class. Glasser would say students throwing books is a result of one of the 5 basic need not being met. I would tend to agree with him. Kids are bored or angry that they are being told what to do, so they resort to entertaining themselves by heaving their papers into the air.
People are always perplexed by the fact that gangs develop on the reservation. But think about it.

Survival. You have your fellow gang members who protect and look out for you. They keep you safe from others and secure.

Love. They are like a family, they care about you, they want to make sure that you are doing well. Belonging. What better way to belong. You have colors, symbols, signs, signals. Who wouldn’t want to join it’s like having your own secret code.

Power. What better way to gain power than to claim territory and claim dominance over the nearby gangs.

Freedom. You can do whatever you want to. Gangs supposedly aren’t afraid of the law. They are free to act in whichever way they wish. Sure the law gets in the way, but they feel free to act as they wish.

Fun. Hanging out with friends and doing whatever you want to. Sounds like a good time to me.

The policy in our schools is that kids can’t be in gangs, they can’t wear or show gang paraphernalia, and they can’t write/draw anything related to gangs. This immediately takes the ball out of the schools court in trying to convince them to not get involved with the gang lifestyles. When the school imposes these restrictions it inhibits the power, fun and freedom of students. That only increases the support and draw of gangs as they become a forbidden fruit just waiting to be picked, plucked and eaten.

It’s odd, because implementing choice theory is what I feel is important to my classroom, but I don’t know exactly how to do it. Basically, it’s like saying that you’re kids aren’t behaving because their basic needs aren’t being met, and until the time that these needs can be met they will continue to act in whichever way makes them happiest. Which is often frustrating for me to deal with.

I heard even more frustrating news for trying to implement choice theory in my classroom. Rules. Regulation. Do as I say. To best explain this, let me start with a story. My students were listening to music and I heard a cuss word on one of the songs and asked them to switch songs. In the grand scheme of things, not a big deal, but I have to enforce it. One of my guys happened to really like the song and was incredibly angry with me for the rest of the day. This included swearing at me, throwing stuff, refusing to do work, refusing to leave the computer lab.

Choice Theory would say let them listen to the music. If they want to hear it and it helps them get their work done then do it. It would even support what I let my students do in letting them bring MP3 players to school to listen to while doing work. Sometimes we have issues of turning them off when we are doing other work, but overall it gives them an outlet to listen to music they like, focus and not disturb other students. I just found out today that I have to start telling my students that they can’t bring their MP3’s to school at all and that I have to be more strict with the music that I let them listen to. In other words, more battles, more angry students, more confrontation and less fulfillment of basic needs. Cheers to that.


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Apocalypse Monday

Everyone loves Monday. Today I got up about 10 minutes later than usual, which only makes the morning more stressful and annoying as I have to double time everything to get out the door.

As I drive to school I am secretly hoping that they will delay school for at least an hour. The roads were pretty icy, so I kept switching radio stations to see if I could find updates. There was of course no such hope…school was scheduled to start at the same time. That is until I got into the school.

Our bus is out of commission. That means we are relying on two suburbans to transport all of our kids to school. One of those broke down on the road and the 2nd one was unable to be used, because the guy who has the key was no where to be found in the morning. How does that happen? I suppose I take the basics for granted often. I never imagined one could be in a situation that they would have to delay school, because we were unable to transport the kids to school. We had to then call the schools near us and ask if we could borrow their bus after they finished dropping the kids off.

I finally got the call around 10am from our secretary that all kids should be there and that I could take attendance. My students refused to do work until this call happened, because somehow to them school had technically not started. Wonderful. Although they did volunteer to read independently for 20 minutes but that was only because they had to do so to earn their computer lab time.

In addition to the ice and transportation issues I found my first life animal in my classroom. Recently my trash bags have not been replaced so I just have the trash can sans bag. I went to throw away a piece of paper and saw something moving in the bottom of the can. WTF? I look closer and see a small beady eyed mouse looking around. Wow. He must have fallen off the counter and fallen into the trashcan. Luckily I didn’t have students there or I’m sure that it would have been far more disruptive, but it was quite easy to take care of. Walk outside and turn trashcan upside down. Little mousie looked around for a bit and then proceeded to hop away.

The classroom was the usual shitshow. People did work for most of the time, but I had the usual defiance, anger and frustration. I don’t know how to help people that absolutely refuse to do work. It is party a motivational issue, and partly an issue of needing a lot of academic support, but when a kid refuses to do one problem on a subtraction worksheet for half an hour what do you do? I’m not going to bribe them with soda. Not only because of the diabetes issue, but also because that isn’t how the world works, at least it shouldn’t.


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Nemo Outhouse Race

This weekend I took part in what can only be described as one of the most glorious sporting events known to man. As the title states it was an outhouse race.

Before you start making some awkward guesses as to what that means,  let me explain. You build a portable outhouse that can be powered and moved by people and then race it around an icy/slushy/snowy track. There are many options really. Skis or wheels. Wood or cardboard. There were 7 entries this year, so we got to see a good mix of all the different options available.

We raced in this little town called Nemo which is about 30 minutes outside of Rapid City and can really best be described not as a town, but as a couple cabins and a bar. The main method of transportation seems to be 4-wheeler, as about 20 of them pulled up to watch right before the competition began.

The competition is a timed race, so you don’t have 7 outhouses on the track at once, which would be amazing. But basically, you have to have one person riding in the vehicle at all times. Half way through the course you have to do a fire drill where everyone runs around stacking toilet paper on plungers before returning to the portable toilet to push/pull it back around. It involves uphills, downhills, massive ice patches.

Our theme this year was Cool Runnings. Which has several meanings as I hope you can imagine. We even had a chant.

Feel the rhythm. Feel the rhyme. Get on up. It’s outhouse time.

We painted the Jamaican flag on the sides of it…pictures will surely follow at some point…and it was mounted on two huge skis my roommate acquired from goodwill. We were actually the only outhouse that was mounted on skis, all the others were supported by wheels. All of the construction happened in less than 5 days, so it was pretty amazing that we even had something to race in.

Out of the 7 teams racing we finished a very respectable 3rd place. Just 6 seconds away from the first place finisher and 1 second from 2nd. The other teams were pretty hilarious as well. One was a Hamm’s Beer Can, another one was made completely out of cardboard and supported by pvc pipe and bike wheels. It broke. Cheap fools. One of the other ones we saw pull up had painted Confederate flags on it. We were kind of worried by this, until we saw that it was named General Pee.

We have already begun our plans for the coming year, although it is likely that they will change. I’m personally supporting, Butt, Sweat and Beers. Modeled after Blood, Sweat and Tears. Keep in mind that this entire event is supported by the one bar in Nemo. Although it was kind of hilarious to see the news team interview the guy who organized the race and asked what this event was going to raise money for. He looked at her with a very confused face and just said we were doing it for fun. Although, hopefully we can possible get some sponsors up and hopefully line up some humanitarian efforts in addition to racing poo decks around in the snow.


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Two pretty frustrating things happened today.  Gym and Testing.

First of all, gym is the only planning time that I have during the week. So it is two 45 minute periods of solace where I can relax, hope to get something done and just take a breather doing school. That being said it is absolutely unproductive. My kids do nothing in gym. Absolutely nothing. The teacher puts basketballs out and then expects the kids to play basketball while he lifts weights on the side. They of course don’t do anything because there are only like 5 of them at gym on any given day. Today the counselor at my school offered to take the kids to the computer lab instead of gym.

It was a decidedly kind gesture. The problem is that kids need to go to gym and run around and get in shape. Taking them out of gym does not support the healthy lifestyle that my kids need it breaks it down. Instead of having low expectations during gym we should raise those expectations of the students and the teacher as well. If he just tosses out two basketballs and then does nothing then we need to address that issue. I hope that this doesn’t come off as pointing the finger. I realize that I am not a great teacher and that I don’t do everything that I should be doing. But there is complete and total negligence on behalf of the administration on upholding standards of teaching and performance in the classroom. If our kids are doing nothing in gym, then observe the teacher who teaches gym, and provide suggestions on how to make  it more productive. By taking my kids to the computer lab they now have the expectation that it is something that they not only deserve, but it is something that they are owed and are slighted if they don’t get it.

On a slightly related note. I have been giving my students part of my lunch. I give some of my guys string cheese and another guy a granola bar. Somehow I have created this expectation that they should get these things every day. I normally just did it as a courtesy if they asked nicely. Now if I don’t bring it in they get pissy and throw a mini temper tantrum. It’s ridiculous. I feel like I am getting played and they are totally working me to get what they want, but it’s absurd that they act in such a way. Have to be careful about the expectations that you set.

Another thing that absolutely frustrated me today was testing. We had to finish our Dakota ELP and SELP testing, which is basically a language proficiency exam. I had 3 students who hadn’t finished everything. One of them didn’t show up to school. Since testing is so important, they called the house, and tracked the student down. This, keep in mind, is a student that is failing every subject that I teach because of their 55% attendance. How is it that we can track this student down when we ‘need’ them for testing? But we can’t track them down to show up for regular school. The reason my kids are super far behind is because they never come to school. When we create the expectation that they can graduate without coming to school and without doing their work then we create the expectation that they can stay at home.

Let’s be honest. If you were in middle school and you were going to get passed if you showed up to 60% of the days, would you go to school? Or would you stay up all night playing video games, sleeping late and skipping school. How can we hold kids accountable on some days and not on others? It’s crazy. School may not be fun, but it is important.  It’s incredibly sad when we let people get away with such things. Accountability is important. When people aren’t held to standards and are allowed to do as they please. And that they do.

Along with testing I also realized that my students are tested all the time. It was to the point one of my students asked me why they had to keep taking such tests. My only reply is that the state is making us do it. I always see school as preparation, in its ideal form, for the future. While I support and see the importance of testing to benchmark and assess our students. Does all of these testing help prepare our students for the future. In the coming years, we will see education become more nationalized. We will see power usurped from the states and taken into the hands of the federal government, I don’t know if this will be good or bad. But I do know that we need to make sure that we are preparing our students to compete in a global world. Testing helps benchmark, but we need to make sure that we are using those results in a way that can best help our students. I’m thinking individualized education plans (IEP’s) for every student, but I’ll talk about that tomorrow. This has been quite enough ranting for one evening.


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“Tomorrow I want you all to come.” As you know tomorrow is another edition of boring Wednesday at my house. Last week I started taking a Lakota language class so slowly, every so slowly I am learning how to speak and write in Lakota. Our homework was to make 4 sentences using the verbs to come and to want. It worked out quite well considering that we invite people to our house for dinner Wednesday nights.

It will probably be a little hectic tomorrow. Class runs from 4:30pm-7:30pm. So somehow we will have to scurry, not like rats, home and cook dinner. I have promised to create Pasta la bella. This entry is just riddled with other languages so far, I’ve already thrown in three. Perhaps I should continue and extend my personal record. Either way, pasta la bella will hopefully be a glorious combination of roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, mushrooms, kalamata olives over some ravoli and tortellini.

Right now I’m pondering the idea of a white wine/garlic/butter sauce, but have absolutely no experience making such things. Clearly this will be done on the side so that people will not be forced to ruin their meals if it is unfit for human consumption. Any suggestions? If you happen to be in the area you should join us for dinner it is shaping up to be quite glorious. We will even teach you some Lakota.

Au revoir. (I didn’t forget about the language thing. I just didn’t want to go over the top. Now I have saved the opportunity to beat myself in another entry, although 4 isn’t too bad.)


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