Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Shoe tying service: $10 for double knots

Last night on the plane there was kid behind us trying to learn to tie a bow.

"Make the bunny ears... go around the loop... through the hole...."

I smiled to myself because I immediately started thinking about differentiation. I wondered if there were any other teachers out there who can't get through normal life without seeing things through the lens of a learner. Take shoe tying, for example. This kid obviously the kind of learner that needed the classic "bunny ear" metaphor in order to learn to tie shoes. If you've ever had an engineer in your family, then you know that some kids won't learn to tie their shoes until they understand how it works. Or if you've ever had a five year old with more fashion sense than you do, then you know than some kids won't learn until they see the cutest pair of shoes with laces and mommy I need those and then suddenly they have taught themselves to tie.

The kid on the plane apparently, was neither an engineer or budding fashion prince. After a few minutes frustration he whined "Why do I even have to learn to tie?"

The mom, clearly suffering from flight anxiety, answered "because it's important". Ouch, I hate that answer and so do all the other parents and teachers and kids. But as someone who also suffers from flight anxiety, no judgement.

Then the kid gave the best answer ever:

"Shoes are NOT important. They are dirty because they go on the ground and we walk on them. Actually they are kind of gross. Tying them is not important because shoes are not important. So how can shoe tying even be that important."

Smart kid.

In my classes, I will always tie shoes if needed. I think it's absolutely ridiculous that kids come to school and can't tie their own shoes, but I'll tie them, nonetheless. After all, I understand that a teacher-tie can last so much longer than a kid-tie and often longer than hastily done parent-tie. I also understand that sometimes kids just want an adult to show them 30 seconds of attention. I know this because I've caught kids untying their shoes seconds before asking me to tie their shoes.

Still, I can't help but give the kids a tiny bit of hard time. I tell them I charge. I can tie a mean double knot thanks to my dad, the runner, who taught me how to tie a shoe so it won't come untied. So my shoe ties are expensive.

"Mrs. Awesome, will you tie my shoes?"

"Sure, but it'll cost you ten bucks."

They have to decide if I'm joking or not before they'll put out a willing foot for tying service.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

how to travel with small children, or at least your pesky wife

I have often accused myself of marrying the equivalent of an eight year old. Picky eater, short attention span, loves cookies...the list goes on. But the truth is, if I'm honest with myself, that when it comes to traveling, Mr. Awesome puts up with more than his fair share by traveling with me. 

I need constant attention. I'm nervous. I want a drink of water. I'm hungry. I have to go potty. When do we get there? Is that noise normal on planes? I'm tired. I'm bored. What are you doing? I don't feel good. What's that? Can I play with your iPhone? I'm bored. 

However, a few trips ago, Mr. Awesome discovered something amazing. It turns out, if you get me a brand new book, I'll leave him and everyone else on the plane alone for the entire trip. Magic. Now when we fly I get a new book and Mr. Awesome gets a few hours peace to cram in more work before our trip. 

So I think this trick must surely work with young children. Parents, listen up! If you want your children to be good travelers, step one is to help them become avid readers. I know of course you're all fabulous parents and doing this already. Step two is get them a never before read book from the library and don't let them read it until they get on the plane. Step three... enjoy your flight!

...Something tells me I'll be in for a shock when I get my own set of kids. For now though, I'm happy thinking all of my kids will sit quietly and read on every plane ride and that I will also be able to afford those plane rides. 

In the meantime, happy spring break! Mr. Awesome and I are off to our favorite city!! 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Caution: School Zone Ahead

You know how there are special speed limits around schools when children are present? 

Wait, you do? And you actually slow down because there are kids around who don't pay attention (not your kids of course...)

Then you must not be one of the parents at my school. 

You see, several times a week we have a cop who parks himself right in front of the school and zaps people with his fancy radar gun. Inevitably, he can catch two or three parents every morning zipping into school going much faster than the posted "25m.p.h. when children are present" speed limit. 

Then he goes a step farther and pulls them over in the school parking lot. Right in the same line of cars where all the other parents are dropping off kids. Right where all the kids watch and point. Sometimes he quite unnecessarily whirls his lights and beeps his siren. Cops trump teachers for celebrity power in the eyes of a grade schooler. 

Our teacher's lounge has windows that face the parking lot. Sometimes in the mornings teachers like to linger for a few minutes after stashing their lunches and watch to see who gets pulled over. 

"Ooooh he got Justin's mom!" 
"2nd grade Justin or 6th grade Justin?"
"6th grade" 
"Oh good! She was so mean to me at open house! Wouldn't leave me alone about homework." 
"Oh look he got Mrs. PTA!!!!"
"Haha... sucker"

"Nice, he got Soandso AND Soandso this time!"

"Did you see if he got anyone today?"
"Oh dear, I'm afraid so. Suzy's mom and Jared's mom. Two right in a row again." 

So if running over a stray child isn't enough to scare you into slowing down, this cop has it figured out. In small town USA, the double whammy of a ticket AND public humiliation ought to. Because if your neighbors aren't gossiping about you, surely your teachers are. 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

practically famous

Being a teacher (or kinda of like one, as I am...) is practically like being a celebrity. This is especially true in the eyes of kindergartners, who seem to function as my own personal paparazzi. If I ever sub for them, they scream a lot and need lots of time to calm down before our day can begin.

Every morning, many of the kinders walk through the MPR (that's multi-purpose room, AKA glorified cafeteria with a stage) on their way to their classroom. They wave frantically and smile and say good morning to me.

Inevitably, I wave back, say good morning to them and to their moms, dads, grandmas, etc. Sometimes I let them try pouring my rainstick that I use as my "shhh" stick. Sometimes I'll let them peek into the music closet. Most days they just walk by with a friendly "Good morning, Mrs. Awesome!"

Then three hours go by during which time I'll teach four or five classes which may or may not include a kinder class. Then lunch will start and while I'm tidying up and preparing for my afternoon classes, I'll also chat with the kinders and maybe help remind them to carry their trays with two hands, coach a kid through opening their milk, or remind someone that I saw him eating carrots yesterday so yes, indeed, he does like carrots.

Usually around this time they'll start saying things like this:

"Remember that time when I saw you???? YOU SAID HI TO ME!!!"
"I saw you toooo!"
"Remember when you saw me and my Tia and we said hi?"
"Member when I saw you?"
"Did you see me wave to you?"
"And me??"

I always respond with a smile and I say:

"I DO remember! I love seeing you in the mornings. Do you remember that I said hi back?"

Sometimes I have to stop myself from saying "Do you remember twenty minutes ago when I taught your whole class music?" I'm told five year olds don't get sarcasm. Something about developmental readiness. But someday when I have PTSD I will say something like that. Watch out, I will!

One time when Mr. Awesome and I were out on a date at Taco Bell and I had messy hair and a frumpy sweatshirt on (it may have been a date but it was Taco Bell!) I saw one of the families from my school. Their middle kid was one of my kinders. He recognized me and nearly spit out his taco. I winked and ducked around the corner. I whispered to Mr. Awesome what was going on. He laughed. We picked a booth on the other side of the restaurant. Rule #1 of small town USA: if you leave your home, you will run into someone you know. Rule #1.5: If you're not dressed well, it will be someone from your work world.

On their way out, the family stopped by and we made introductions. The kindergartner was speechless but the other two kids couldn't stop talking. The mom seemed happy to see that a teacher did such normal things as eat at cheap fast food places and have an awesome husband. The kindergartner though was clearly star-struck. I didn't blame him.

After all, he got to see a celebrity.

Friday, March 26, 2010


One of the joys of teaching music at the elementary school level is that I get to teach recorders. Please note: I use the word "get" loosely. Also I think the word "joy" is used sarcastically.

I remember playing the flutophone in the 3rd grade. I had a recorder of my own starting in the first grade, which I used to pretend like I was playing the saxophone (the instrument my oldest brother played.) One time I tried to play my recorder with my next door neighbor who played the piano, but she told me it wasn't a real instrument. By the fourth grade, I started playing the clarinet. (Unfortunately that didn't work with piano either and it wasn't in C and no one told me I had to transpose the notes...)

However, in my school now and in schools across much of the U.S., many school bands don't start kids on instruments until the fifth grade now. The only logical reason I've been able to find for this is that this way they can torture fourth grade teachers and music teachers by having them make fourth graders learn recorder. The kids are a year older and a year more beyond the best fit for recorders.

Here are all the things I HATE about recorder.

1) Recorders teach children crappy embouchure. Regardless of how a kid frames their lips around the mouthpiece, the thing still sounds terrible.

2) Recorders teach children wimpy breath support. Most recorder instruction books even teach "warm air" which is actually the proper way to play a recorder. But it really doesn't help the transition into a wind instrument. Do you know how much it kills me to actually tell a child they have too much air going through their horn?

3) Recorders UNteach children their natural instinct for good intonation. Most people have a good "feeling" for what sounds in tune or even just what sounds good or bad. After four months of listening to 26 recorders, I promise at least some of those kids have lost that intuition as now it all sounds awful and no one can tell.

4) Recorders are (almost) unbreakable. Despite my best efforts to prevent such behavior, I've caught kids sliding their recorders across the MPR, hitting each other with recorders, dragging their recorders against the wall like a stick as they're walking home, and using their recorders as toy swords, guns, baseball bats, or batons. Of course, they are sneaky and most are smart enough to never get caught doing these things in my class. Nevertheless, I've seen them at it! Recorders teach kids that musical instruments are toys and not fragile. It's hard to make the argument "it's not a toy and it could break" when I remember using my own recorder to lead a parade of dolls I once had when I was six.

So there you have it. I hate recorders.

....Ok, sure, they introduce kids to music who would never otherwise consider playing an instrument. But I still hate them.

....Ok, sure, I get 100% participation and they kids love them and are really learning about the elements of music in a way that is accessible even during budget cuts. But I still hate them.

....Ok, sure, I sort of pretend like I'm Mr. Holland every time I make a special connection with a kid through recorders and I think I've changed a life (I haven't). It's like having my own little orchestra of terribly tuned horrific sounding toys. That's doesn't mean I don't hate them!

Just to prove my point that I don't like them, I'll write you a haiku. Haikus are poetry's highest form of hatred.

Stupid recorders

Performing really tuneless

Oh, I hate them, boo.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Subbing Tales

I've mentioned that I have half a job. Really a more accurate statement would be that I have one whole part time job and another on-call job. I work three days a week as a music teacher and the other two days a week I work as a substitute teacher. Neither job is glorious, both have terrible pay and no benefits, but both have moments that are awesome.

Occasionally, and more often lately, my two jobs intersect. Yesterday and today I subbed at the school where I also teach music. There are many things I love about working with kids, but their honesty and transparency has to be one of my favorite things about them.

For example, if an adult found out they had to have to have a sub for a hairstylist, mechanic, masseuse, etc., they might pretend it was all ok and then complain to the manager or whine to their friends. But not a kid. If a kid sees they have you as a sub, you'll know right away what they think.

A kid will roll their eyes and scream AWW MAN A SUB AGAIN!!!!!! I HATE SUBS!!!!!

A kid will see you in their room in the morning and scream "Mrs. Awesome* is here!!! SHE'S OUR SUB" and then run to the playground to tell anyone who will listen to this newest piece of gossip.

A kid will act so shocked to see you away from the multi purpose room that he'll pretend faint and roll around on the floor.

A kid will play along with you when you tell him that there are TWO Mrs. Awesomes*. One teaches music, one is a sub. We both look alike. We sound alike. We even teach at the same school sometimes. But we never come on the same day.

A kid will just tell you simply "I'm glad you're our sub today." And then when their teacher comes back, they'll cheer and scream for her return as if you've been making them write lines with a cursed quill.

And if a kid really likes you, they might just high five you on the way out the door.

Phooey. Those kids. They'll get you every time.

*Obviously (or maybe not) the kids don't call me Mrs. Awesome. They call me by my last name. But for fun I'm writing under a pseudonym. This way I can pretend to be like Stephen King!

Monday, March 22, 2010

5 things you shouldn't do to your kids... EVER.

I don't have kids. That doesn't mean I don't want them. Anyone who saw me gaga eyed over my niece last weekend knows that I am just as baby crazy as the next married gal my age who has a propensity for such things. But I don't have my own yet.

I do however have a cohort of 450 kids that I teach every week. And if you count the kids I sub for that's at least another 1000 I've seen throughout the year. I'm not really an expert, but I've learned a thing or two about what not to do to your kids. Here is my list of things you should NEVER do your kids.

1. Send them to school wearing socks, sandals, and sweatpants. Any combination of two out of the three is still off limits.
2. Buy them a cartoon or character backpack. No matter how cool the backpack is during the summer or during the back to school sale, I promise your child will be mortified they are carrying a High School Musical 3 backpack by June.
3. Let them start school before they are ::really:: potty trained. I know it's embarrassing, but if your five year old can't pee and poop in the big kid potty, keep him in preschool another year and read Everybody Poops a few more times.
4. Dress them in clothes they can't operate. Can't tie their shoes? Make them wear velcro or slip-ons. Can't do buttons on their jeans? Make them wear elastic waist pants. And make them practice at home for homework. And play with playdough until they get better fine motor skills.
5. Carry your elementary aged child on your hip like she's a baby. Really? I have to even say this?

Well I hope you've never done those things. And if you have, let me know why! I just don't get it. And when I have kids, I'll probably be screw everything else up, but at least I'll have five things I'll try to get right!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Nights

I've been told normal people don't work on Sunday nights. Normal people make nice dinners, finish up weekend projects, maybe go out to a movie... but they don't work on projects while they're off the clock.

I'm not really normal and I don't have a normal job. Also I LOVE to procrastinate. In fact, I am pretty sure I created this little blog just so I can procrastinate better! Sure enough, I was almost being productive when I remembered I could be writing an awesome post instead.

Tonight I am working on finalizing the recorder performance piece for our spring sing. I've chosen "Louie Louie" because 1) it's a crowd pleaser and 2) it's easy and 3) it fits our theme of Rock N Roll.

Well it turns out that you can't just Google "recorder music for Louie Louie" and press print. I want the kids to perform to the original track and I also want them to have more than two repeating notes. Actually I really want two or even three part harmony with choreography and singing too mixed in with recorder playing. So now I'm making things a million times harder on myself than I need to by writing out the notes to it myself. I think I might have a problem.

Note to self: try to stop getting in over your head.

So while the rest of you normal people are doing nice, normal things... I'm frantically trying to get my spring performance in order.

Of course, I could have done this several weeks ago.

So normal people don't work on Sunday evenings. But procrastinators do!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Teacher Sweater

Hello my faithful blog readers! All two of you!! Today I have to tell you about something very important: the teacher sweater. It is my professional opinion that the teacher sweater is visible evidence of a syndrome known as Post Teaching Stress Disorder, or PTSD. By the time someone with PTSD gets to the stage where they wear a teacher sweater (or vest) there is very little hope for treatment. Once you have it you have to retire.

Allow me to illustrate.

Two days ago we celebrated St. Patrick's day. The day started off with an intercom announcement from our faithful principal...

"Good morning boys and girls! We have a NEW school rule today! There is NO PINCHING at Butterfly School. We are not allowed to pinch. There is NO PINCHING allowed at Butterfly School."

That's good for me, since I wasn't wearing green. The only green I had in my closet was a sweater and it was a hot day! So no green for me. I wasn't too worried though, as I made it through Christmas without Christmas tree shirts and Hanukkah without dreidel socks and Valentine's day without pink or red hearts. I mean, it may be cool for other teachers to compare holiday themed brooches and earrings and stuff... but I find I feel like a big enough dork without all the extra props.

As St. Patrick's Day went by I saw lots of children wearing green. Many children were wearing things that were obviously class projects, like tissue paper shamrocks, construction paper hats and beards, and pots of gold made of felt with pipe cleaner handles around their wrists. Awww, isn't it good to know that teachers who complain that they don't have time to read real literature or use real math curriculum still manage the time to find, prep, do, and clean up from such important holidays like St. Patrick's Day? But I don't judge. I don't have a real job yet.

But those are the kids. And it's forgivable for a kid to wear so much green considering that no amount of school rules or announcements from the principal can prevent pinching behind teacher's backs. Also it's forgivable when you're five and it's just so damn cute to put a paper beard on you and make you go chase leprechauns.

However, once I started looking at the staff, I realized that this holiday was just like all the others at my school. The teachers REALLY brought it.

Ms. Kindergarten wore a green dress and heels.
Ms. First Grade wore green tights, boots, a black skirt, a green shirt with shamrocks on it, and a shamrock brooch.
Two of the Miss. Second Grades, BFFs and in their second year of teaching so they know EVERYTHING, wore clothes that could have been an ad for Abercrombie. They had boots, tights, a skirt, and a top. Just a touch of green and totally stylin.
Mrs. Third Grade wore a green patterned moo moo dress and sandals and socks.
Miss. Fourth Grade donned the boots, tights, and green top ensemble (seriously did I MISS A MEMO???)
Miss Fifth Grade wore jeans. Whew.... wait... and a sweater. A green sweater. With shamrocks and little leprechauns on it.
Mrs. Sixth Grade wore black slacks. And a sweater vest that had leprechauns and a pot of gold and shamrocks on it. She had shamrock earrings and a shamrock brooch. And she wore a green hat (not made out of construction paper).

But the best was one of the Mrs. Second Grades. This Mrs. Second Grade threw shame out the window and wore a similar outfit to Mrs. First Grade. She had boots, except they had little bells on them. She had green tights, except they had little gold coins in the pattern. She had a black skirt on, except it came to her ankles and was way too frumpy even for her age. She had a green shirt with shamrocks on it, except she topped it with a vest (also green, also adorned with leprechauns and shamrocks etc). And on her head she donned a headband claiming "lucky irish" as well as a headband that was decorated with a mini hat. Only a very seasoned teacher could pull off two headbands.

Clearly, all of the teachers at my school are suffering from post teaching stress disorder (PTSD) to some degree or another! But Mrs. Second Grade has it bad!!

The only cure for PTSD is to retire and give me your job. That way, I can have 25 children of my own to dress up for and then I won't care how much of a dork I am because I'll have that many kids who will completely love the fact that I dress up just for them and make one day of the year fun even if all the others totally suck because of testing and standards and mean people.

Until then, I won't judge. Really, I won't.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How did I get here?

Hello! Thanks for stopping by my brand new procrastination tool. I do just want to say that I don't actually think I'm awesome (though I am a Mrs.) and I have to have daily pep talks with myself to get up enough courage to stand in front of 25 kids and attempt to teach them. But I like to call myself awesome and I like to pretend like I'm confident, in the hopes that someday I really will be.

So last fall I was a freshly minted M.Ed. (Master's of Education) with a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential. In this economy, that meant I was worthless. Ok, not worthless. It meant I was worth $110/day on the days they felt like calling me. That's right, before I was Mrs. Awesome, I was Mrs. L., the substitute because I couldn't find a teaching job. I was Mrs. L with her expensive degree and expensive job change and expensive quarter life crisis and expensive credential. But cheap clothes. I always teach in cheap clothes because I get paint and markers and kid goobers on them.

So there I am, Mrs. L. with cheap clothes and an expensive degree and a crappy paying crappy job. And even though I wrote my master's thesis on behavior management, the kids walked all over me those first few weeks. Then one day, some sixth grade girls decided to make fun of my name. Mrs. Liquid, Mrs. Linguine, Mrs. Langquid, Mrs. Squid.... on and on it went until I felt like I WAS in sixth grade all over again and my name was once again the source of all things funny. I wanted to crawl into a hole a die. Or cry. Or yell a lot. Or make the girls write "Substitutes are people and children are not" 100 times on the blackboard, Bart Simpson style.

But instead I realized... that actually my name is kinda funny. So I interrupted them (in front of the whole class) and asked if they had any more ideas? Because I hadn't heard those before. Then I told about my maiden name and all the different ways people used to tease me about it. I ended with saying... "So call me Mrs. Liquid, Mrs. Linguine, Mrs. L., or Mrs. L____ just please call me nicely." I remembered Barney Stinson, and I thought silently, "You should just call me Mrs. Awesome."

No one in the real world calls me Mrs. Awesome, but I thought it'd be a funny bloggy name!