Saturday, February 26, 2011

Camp Reunion Through Kid Pix

Last weekend Lee and I went to Chico for our camp reunion.  It's one of the most fun days of the year, and I was DEVASTATED when we were half way there and I realized that I had forgotten my camera.

But then: TADA! I had a great idea inspired by the hilarious genius at (Seriously.  Read this blog. She is a comedian/magician)

I spent this last week trying to recreate the events of the weekend using Kid Pix.
And so, without further ado:

Camp Reunion 2011

The trip began with Lee and me driving 3,000,000 miles to Chico because that is how far it is from Sacramento.  
Also, there were some silos and rice buildings (official name)

We met some of our friends at the Bear.  They have hamburgers and various libations.  I was the only girl, so I later bailed for Starbucks.

 We checked into the Hotel Diamond.  It was SUPER nice.  I loved it.  I wish I lived there.

 Then it was time for dinner!  It was delicious, and there were even prizes.  This is a picture of when Stephanie won some bacon bandaids.

 The celebration continued at a place called LaSalle's.  They had 80s music and an awkward man who was lip syncing the whole time.

 Then we went back to the Bear.  There were less hamburgers, but more empty cups.

When we got back to the hotel Lee found a broken soda machine.  He was convinced that I had secretly placed the sign there to toy with his soda-wanting emotions.  I had to whisper yell at him to get into our room before we were escorted out of the hotel.

 The next day we all went out for brunch at Breakfast Buzz.
Rachel came a little later.

I love camp.

The Egg Business Circa 1992

My brother and I had various money making schemes growing up. They originated with us trying to sell our toys to each other, or food out of the refrigerator to my parents claiming we were a "toy store," or "restaurant" respectively.  We quickly learned that trying to sell people their own property was not only questionably unethical, but not all that lucrative.  We were looking for the big score, and we knew we had to expand our horizons in order to make any real cash.

Enter the chickens.  My parents were kind enough to give us a 4H-ish experience growing up that included chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs, and cats.  We had a chicken coop at the end of our property that my father spent HOURS trying to wild-animal proof (It took a couple of tries and we lost a few fowl in the process).  Once the Taj Mahal/ Fort Knox of chicken coops was completed those chickens must have felt a knew-found sense of security because the eggs started flowing.  I mean, A LOT of eggs.  Sometimes several dozen every week depending on the rotation of live chickens at any given time.

After hearing my parents complain about us having too many eggs my seven year old business savvy was alerted, and I realized we (the chickens?) were sitting on brown and white gold mine.  (Not all eggs are white, for those of you who didn't grow up in the sticks).

My business plan was as follows: My brother and I would take our red wagon, fill it full of eggs, pull it up and down our street where we would go door to door selling the eggs for 50 cents a piece.

Well, the plan was doomed from the beginning.  Observe:

We didn't live on a street.  
We lived on a dirt road.  We didn't take into account the forces of physics involved in dragging the rickety wheels of a little red wagon over the rocks and pot holes of a back-country road, coupled with the fragility of an eggs shell and the cold, hard metal of the inside of the wagon.  Not to mention, our "neighbors" were neighbors in that their homes were also on the dirt road, but they weren't RIGHT next door.  There was a lot of ground to cover between the houses.  Predictably, the first day of the egg business resulted in our product lying in a scrambled mess at the bottom of the red wagon.

My Brother
Brennan's involvement in the business was more of a PR stunt than anything else.   He was SUPER cute, and he had several speech impediments, which I knew would endear any would-be egg buyers.  However, at only four, there was no way he could deal with the difficult addition that was necessary for the egg business, plus he didn't have any knowledge concerning the value of US coins.  He just knew that they were "money" but that was about as far as it went.   Several times I caught him putting the "money" in his pocket, and not in the predesignated corner of the wagon that would serve as our "bank" because he liked money, and he knew that having it in your pocket was a good idea.  This enraged me, and caused me to accuse him of being a thief.

The Price of the Eggs
As someone who, almost twenty years later, buys eggs on a semi-regular basis it's now obvious to me that my price of 50 cents an egg was ludicrous.  Especially because they had zero quality control, and, especially during the summer months, there really was no telling weather or not those eggs were edible.  I was essentially taking advantage of the egg monopoly I had created, and I got too greedy.

Eventually we scrapped the egg business.  We were overcharging, and let's face it: It was a pain to haul those eggs up and down that dirt road.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blogging and Teaching

When I came home today Lee asked me if I had heard about the teacher who was on paid leave from her school for things she said about her students on her blog.  I panicked a little and told him, no, I hadn't heard about her, but that I was going to seek out more information.

As someone who always blogs about her students, it's a little unsettling to hear that another educator is being punished for doing the same.  I was seriously worried, and I found an article on that gave a brief explanation of what all the drama is about: article

So in an effort to deter some of the heat her blog has since been blocked, but being that it is the internet, the entries have been cached and the posts are still available.  She went on the Today Show this morning in an effort to defend her position.  She claims that the blog was only intended for her friends and, "taken out of context."

I'm all about free speech and, quite clearly, I'm all about sharing stories about my students, so I was a little put off that someone could be persecuted for what they say about their students in a personal blog.  That is, until I read some of her cached posts.

Please read the following post here:Crazy Lady Posts About Students
(The rants about her students start after the asterisk divider)

I'm in complete shock.  I just read her post out loud to Lee and he is in shock.  How in the world can she try and defend what she said?  She is a TERRIBLE person, to say nothing of her interaction with children, and that became evident after reading just ONE of her blog posts.  Seriously, I'm sick. Why in the world did this lady become a teacher?  Of course students are going to give you attitude, especially kids in high school, and ESPECIALLY if you treat them like you hate them.

Every teacher has moments of frustration.  It is inevitable. Teaching isn't easy, and kids are unpredictable. As far as I know, this information is not a secret, and hasn't been for awhile. 

My heart aches for her students.

Safe Touches

This week I am required to give my students lessons on Safe Touches, or as they are known in my class: "Yes Touches, No Touches, and Confusing Touches."

The touching curriculum comes in a special canvas bag (it's purple, if you must know) and includes a giant binder with old, yellowing pages and an even more ancient VHS tape that claim to have all the resources I need to teach my kids about keeping their bodies safe.

My trusty binder told me that the first Safe Touches lesson was to include the viewing of a fifteen minute video, followed by a brief discussion about types of touching and whether they make people feel happy, sad, or confused.

This seemed easy enough, and as I brought my students back in from recess I settled them all in for the video which was supposed to not only provide them with the necessary skills to protect their personal safety, but give them lots of insight regarding bullying, manipulation, and "stranger danger."  The lesson would, surely, be flawless.

Except for one tiny detail: Upon pressing the play button it became evident that I had committed one of the greatest errors a teacher can make.  I did not watch the video before I showed it to the kids, and boy, was it a doozy.

For starters, it was painfully obvious that the video was made in the late seventies/ early eighties.  The cinematography, the costumes, the haircuts, they all screamed of a time when shorts were shorter and they mustaches were plentiful.

Secondly, (and this further proves the aforementioned reference to the eighties) I'm pretty sure the same people that made the movie Laberinth made this "Safe Touches" video.  Laberinth, in case you grew up in a cave/ were born anytime after 1989, is a movie about a girl who somehow casts her baby brother into a world of goblins (puppets) and then she has to go through a laberinth to find him again.   It stars Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie.  Director? Jim Henson.  Seriously, it is the weirdest movie ever.

Anyway, the Safe Touches video features "Thadeus," a freckle faced boy who keeps getting picked on by a big kid at school.  Thadeus' special flashlight takes him into a magic world where two talking frogs, a CARP (yes, as in, strange fish) and a squid teach him lessons about "Saying No, Getting Away, and Telling Someone."

My students could not get past the weirdness of the video.  Here were a few of their questions:

"Why is his name Fatty-ass?" (Thadeus rhymes with...)
"Who is the fish?" (Professor enter name I don't remember here)
"Why does the fish have a square on his head?" (He is a professor)
"Why does the fish have a mustache?" (Carp have mustaches?)
"Why does that rocket have legs?" (Because it's a squid)
"Why is there smoke everywhere?" (Would be stalkers, strangers, and "no-touchers" creepily emerged from some unexplainable, near-by mist whenever they were referenced).

When the video had ended I spent the remainder of the lesson answering many of the above questions. 

No time to talk about personal safety when strange men with short shorts and large mustaches are approaching a young boy learning life-lessons from a fish sporting facial hair and a graduation hat while his friend, the rocket with legs, looks on.

I think I'll do the rest of the lessons without the videos.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

It Could Have Been a Hallmark Commercial

When I tell people that I teach Kindergarten I usually get mixed reactions.  The marks vary from, "Oh, that's so cute!" to, "WHY?  That would drive me crazy!" and, my personal (least) favorite: "That's just like glorified babysitting, right?"  (I always invite people who make the last comment to spend five minutes in my classroom. Fools.)

The truth is that Kindergarten is a little mixture of everything.  Cute?  Yes.  Crazy?  Sometimes.  And every so often there are these moments where my students completely blow me away with their kindness and love.  I was lucky enough to have one of those moments on Friday.

My students are required to participate in Writer's Workshop everyday.  During this time they can "write" about whatever they would like, but I try to get them to write personal narratives about past experiences.  I mean, in a perfect world my five year olds are writing personal narratives on past experiences.  In reality, I spend a lot of time saying things like, "Did you really go to the park with Spiderman?" and "You are copying the story that I gave as an example.  You didn't go to Grass Valley to visit my mom and dad.  That's what I did."  But, whatever, we try.

During Friday's Writer's Workshop one of my students came up to me and told me she really needed to share her story with me.  I looked down at her picture, which was kind of hard to decipher (remember, five years old) But I could make out a person lying on the ground with Xs on her eyes, and three other characters with sad faces standing over her and yelling, indicated by some crude attempts at speech bubbles.

She started to tell me the story of her mother's death, one that I had heard before.  She periodically brings it up, usually out of nowhere, and she and I share a hug and I remind her that is OK to be sad about it, and that she is so lucky to have a dad and a brother who love her so much.

When she was finished describing her picture to me she said, "I think I need to tell everyone about this."  I asked if she meant all of the other kids, and she told me she did.  It's not typical to share at the end of Writer's Workshop, but I made everyone stop what they were doing and come to the carpet so that she could tell them her story.

I told the students that *Katie (*different name) wanted to share a difficult story with everyone, and that it was really important that everyone listen because it was a hard story to tell.  Sensing the seriousness of my voice, everyone sat down without a peep (UNHEARD OF) and gave all their attention to their classmate.

They curiously looked at her as she held up her picture and began to recount how her mother had a blood clot that traveled to her heart and gave her a heart attack.  *Katie had found her on the ground, and called for her brother, who started screaming for her dad.  Her dad called and ambulance and they took her away on the "laying down thing."  She never saw her again.  It was Christmas Eve.

There was a moment of stunned silence when she was finished.  The rest of the kids sat and considered what their lives would be like if their moms died.  For a five year old, there is nothing more horrific than the thought of losing your mother.  What does someone do without a mom?

I desperately searched for something comforting to say.  As I looked at all of the concerned little faces sitting before me I noticed one of my students slowly getting up from her space on the carpet.  She walked towards Katie, and without saying a word, she threw her arms around her and gave her one of the biggest, most sincere embraces I have ever seen.  As she went to sit back down, another student stood up to hug Katie, and then another.  One by one, every student in my class stood up to put their arms around Katie, and no one said a single word.

There was no reason to say anything.  They completely understood the gravity of what she said, and the pain that she was in.  Again, how does anyone, let alone a five year old little girl, cope without her mom?

As I blinked back tears I thanked the class for being so nice to Katie and for listening to her while she shared something that was so difficult to say.

Of course, moments like this are always fleeting, and as the last hugger took his seat back on the carpet Katie held up her picture again and said, "Hey, did you see how funny my dad's beard is!?" and all the kids howled with laughter.  Facial hair is really funny in Kindergarten.

The moment continued to diffuse as another student raised her hand and wanted to share a (I'm pretty sure) made up story about her pet chicken that fell off of a curb and died while trying to lay an egg.

Cute? Yes.
Crazy? Sometimes
Sweet moments? Every so often.
Hilarious?  Always.

And then on the drive home I cried in my car.  
I can't believe what good kids they are.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I Love Teaching

I had to spend all day in a meeting at work. I hate leaving my kids with subs; I feel like I'm abandoning them, and it doesn't help that if I do have to sneak into my room to grab something they all swarm me and grab my legs and cry, "DON'T LEAVE US!  WHY DO YOU HAVE MEETINGS!?  CAN I GO TO THE BATHROOM?"

What's even worse is that today was the 100th Day of School, the veritable Mardi Gras of Kindergarten, and I had to miss it.  I knew ahead of time that I wouldn't be with the class for the big celebration, so we made our 100 Day snacks yesterday (which consist of 10 pieces of 10 different snacks in one baggie. Get it? 100 pieces of snack!) and I saved their snacks for today, when they would make their 100 Day Crowns and have their 100 Day snacks without me.

As I walked back to my classroom after the meeting I passed one of my students leaving with her mom. "I left you a note about the day on your desk!" she told me. When I checked my desk this is what I found:

My job is freaking awesome.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Railroad Museum

It's taken me awhile to get around to posting about the Kee's visit.  It's all my fault because my camera died and I couldn't find the battery charger, but I had a break through today while looking for another lost item.  Ah, such is life.

I love the Kees.  They are my adopted San Francisco family.  I spent many a night eating dinner with them, I taught with Rebecca, and we even went to Disneyland dressed as some of the characters.  The Kees are always a good time.

Here are some pictures of our (mis)adventures at the California Railroad Museum

 Lee's Dream/My Nightmare

And now, a little game I like to call:
Real Person, or Railroad Museum Manikin?:



 Real Person


 Real People

 The Railroad Museum's two biggest fans!
Good News:

 The Railroad Museum is no stranger to puns or double entendres
And how photogenic is Mr. James Kee?
 Really photogenic

Later, Rebecca and I went to Rick's Dessert Diner.

The dessert choices are almost as overwhelming as the manikins at the Railroad Museum
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