Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Meme of Five

I found this meme over on Chalkdust’s blog – and since it’s been a long day I’m letting myself get tagged!

5 items in my fridge
1. Raspberries
2. Blueberries
3. 1 lb of Starbucks Espresso Freshly ground
4. Yogurt – to go with the raspberries and blueberries
5. Leftover mushroom pizza.

5 items in my closet
1. Golf shirts
2. Jeans
3. Shoes I won’t ever wear and should get rid of
4. Kitty fur dust bunnies
5. Suitcases

5 items in my car
1. An umbrella
2. Boxes of books heading toward a garage sale or Half Price Books
3. CDs to listen too when Morning Edition / All Things Considered isn’t on
4. Couple of boxes of kitchen stuff- I downsized and they are headed for a garage sale I’m having this weekend
5. Key map – for finding garage sales I want to check out.

5 items in my purse, don’t have a purse, have a backpack
1. Cell Phone
2. PDA
3. Keys
4. Pens
5. Wallet

And like Chalkdust, I’m not going to tag anyone – take and run with it if you come down with a case of writers block! That’s what I like about meme’s – they are perfect for the days you are to tired to write a coherent post! I shifted books all day today at work and I'm beat!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I seem to quite a varied collection these days! One of my "schools out" chores to gather up all my puppets and stuffed animals and pack them away for summer. I buy them throughout the year so one of the things I do is cull the duplicates - which are recycled at our carnival in the Spring. I now seem to have a puppet for almost every story imaginable - except a pigeon puppet. And I really need one -Don't Let the Pigeon Ride the Bus is one of my favorite stories!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Guilty Guilty Guilty

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

The verdict is on the Enron Trial and for once the rich white guys got what they deserved – A Guilty Verdict.  The general feeling in Houston is a resounding “Yes”.
When the news broke that, the jury was in the office drones fled their cubicles and flocked to the Federal Courthouse.  The peasants came could barely restrain from dancing in the streets as they watched their masters head off to jail (though of course there will be expensive and lengthy appeals).

Even those of us who didn’t work for Enron were affected by the company’s fall from grace.  The most visible is that the Astros no longer play in Enron Field; the name was` changed to Minute Maid Park.   I’ve had most of our feral cat colony spayed and neutered thanks to S.N.A.P who took a tremendous financial hit when Enron collaspaed, and they only one of the many local charities and social groups who suffered.  

Be interesting to see what their sentences will be.  Let’s hope they aren’t sent to “Club Fed” but get to do some real hard time.

The news even pushed the real news – that TODAY WAS THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL…onto the back burner!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Something Completely

I’ve been incorporating puppets into my story times and library lessons for quite some time. Not only do the students respond to them, they are also perfect when working with ESL children since they provide a visual prop to reinforce the spoken word. The children help me out the stories, which gives them an opportunity to practice their English.

The folks in charge of the Gifted and Talented department decided to hold a special event for the GT students on the “north side”. Interstate 10 bisects our school district and it’s just as effective as a railroad track for dividing the haves and the have nots. The have nots live north of the freeway, and that’s where I teach.

They wanted someone who could work with the kids on using puppets and somehow my name came up (the fact that I work for the district and wouldn’t have to be “paid” helped too!). I have done many a lesson with puppets but they only last 20 – 30 minutes. This was the first time I’d ever had to plan an hour long program and present it 3x to children whom I didn’t know.

I gathered up some of my favorite stories and puppets and in my uncertainty I brought more than I could use. That turned out to be a good thing since someone an extra 15-20 minutes tacked themselves on to the 2nd and the 3rd programs.

I did Cook-A-Doodle-Doo, complete with all the props – ESL children don’t get the puns without a visual.
My wombat puppet debuted in Diary of a Wombat, we all went on a Bear Hunt and the Spider shared his Diary. Little Bunny Foo-Foo bopped the field mice on the head and the old lady swallowed a fly and many other assorted other creatures.

I had a good time, the kids had a good time – they helped and I hope I’m asked to do it again. This is something I wouldn’t mind doing on a regular basis.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Up All Night

Last Friday was the 5th Annual Library Lock-In. It takes 300 AR (Accelerated Reader) points to earn an invite and that is a lot of reading for an elementary school student. It’s the equivalent of reading 15 Harry Potters, or 300 Junie B. Jones books. 5 students earned the Golden Ticket this year – 6 were veterans who’d been previous years and 3 were newbies.

It is an eagerly anticapted even - the kids who come are bright and motivated and I know them well since they spend lots of time in the library.
This year the guests hailed from Albania, Mexico, Viet-Nam, Pakistan and Shri-Lanka - we had our own Mini -United Nations. We took a poll and discovered every one of us spoke at least 2 languages!

We always have a lunch together to plan the event and settle the menu- not sure why I bother with the latter since pizza is always the hands down favorite. One boy me told this year that he planned to:

“Run around like a manic for an hour, play on the playground for an hour, eat for an hour, use the laptops for an hour and I haven’t planned the rest yet”. He proceeded to do just that!

For some reason the high point is a flashlight tour of the school and running & shouting in the halls (normally a serious no-no). That and unlimited use of the laptops and running amuck with my puppet collection. For some of the kids it’s their first sleepover.

Our new Assistant Principal stopped by to check out the fun and brought his dogs - I hope he realizes he'll have to come by again next year! Those dogs were the hight point of the evening.

The girls always fall sleep, the boys fight it to the very end and a couple never do. I spend the next day in a sleepy haze but it is worth it. Anything to get them to read!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Reading Madness

Today was our Third Annual AR (Accelerated Reader) T-Shirt Day. It is all great fun- total chaos with kids running to and fro – a total school wide celebration of reading. It is the reading equivalent of winning the state championship in football.

It takes either 50 or 100 points to earn the shirt – which means reading at least 100 books. Those books are really read, since the AR test has to be passed to earn the points.

This year 95 children reached that particular milestone – about 1/5 of our student body.

We started the day by slapping stickers on every T-shirt we saw. Every hour a faculty member got on the intercom and invited everyone wearing a shirt to come to their office for a treat or trinket. The kids “power walked “ – running was frowned on- from one end of the school to the other. Random pieces of candy dropped into their hands, not mention pencils, bookmarks and Hot Cheetoes. The kids giggled, laughed and thoroughly celebrated their accomplishment.

AR is not without controversy, but when it comes to motivating the low SES / ESL student, it is one of the best programs out there. Those sorts of children need the immediate positive reinforcement that AR provides. Our reading scores are rock solid – we always score in the 90% or better and our book circulation has soared.

One second grader summed it up “Today was the best day of school ever.”

The Welcome Mat is Worn Out

It’s been 9 months since Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans and the levies gushed forth and floated a goodly portion of the population toward Houston.

The city prides itself on being friendly and hospitable and Houston tossed out a Texas size welcome mat. The families got housing assistance, medical care; help with schools, jobs, clothes and food. The private charities did their best to circumvent the mismanagement of FEMA.

Turns out New Orleans had some very ugly little secrets, which the floodwaters also swept west to Texas. The school system didn’t seem to put much emphasis on reading, writn’ and arithmetic. Nor on school routines, discipline, manners or even regular attendance. Given that many of our new residents had never been traveled beyond the city limits many of the adults are products of the same school system. To call them barely literate is being generous.

Most of the children flunked the stated mandated TAKS test. This year their scores don’t count, next year they will. Principals and teachers are already shivering in their shoes.

All teachers are fagged out by this time of year, but many look down right beaten down.
The children are a challenge; they come complete with a great deal of emotional baggage massive chips on their shoulders. Bullying and intimidation are the standard mode of operation. As far as they are, concerned fists are the first and last solution to all problems. Considering how our crime rate has risen the adults take the same approach, only they use guns and knives.

A couple of teachers are giving serious thoughts to retiring.

As one said “I just can’t face the thought of another class like this one next year”.

Many of the New Orleans children are being retained so the teachers she will indeed, face a class “just like this one” again next year.

Working with the parents is difficult – they are quick to call the race card, and blame it for everything and anything that their children might do or do not do. Doesn’t really hold water in a school that is 85% Hispanic, with both Hispanic and African American administrators but they call it anyway.

One bit of fallout that nobody anticipated is that some of our better families, those who are hard working and who care about their kids and education are moving our of our neighborhood apartment complexs. .

One Mom told me “It was a decent apartment complex till the owner decided he wanted all that FEMA money. We’re moving as soon as school is out”.

We’ve worked so hard to improve the climate and the education at our school, it hurts to see us going backward through no fault of our own.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

2020 Day

"Hey, I want glasses too!"

How’s that for an unusual complaint from an elementary school child? Those plaintive wails were heard all over the halls of my school this past week.
Why? Because only students who had prescription glasses could come to 20/20 Day.

Our school is Title I, and when it comes to glasses, it is not like it is in middle glass schools. Parents do not have vision insurance and a charity fund supplies most of the eyewear. The students do not have their own room, many don’t have their own bed and the glasses are constantly getting broken or lost. It is a constant struggle to get the children to wear them. In these days of high stake testing you cannot afford to leave a child behind because they cannot see the board.

The school nurse and I dreamed up 20/20 Day. It was a day we all celebrated the fact that thanks to glasses we could see! We invited all the students who were wearing their glasses to bring their lunch to the library. We also supplied some special desserts and new glasses cases to decorate. 105 kids streamed into the library to eat and the place rang with excited chatter and laughter. Glasses that had been broken all year were magically fixed, lost glasses suddenly reappeared and children who hadn’t worn glasses all year turned up with them firmly on their nose.

We papered the halls with signs and I spent a week reading stories about glasses – thank goodness for Junie B. Jones and Arthur! Of course, being a teacher- librarian I couldn’t resist incorporating the books into a reading lesson on making connections! The nurse found herself doing some extra vision tests and some teachers who normally wore contact lenses got into the spirit of the day and wore their own glasses in honor of the occasion.

School Nurse and Librarian Collaboration – Who’d Thunk It?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Oscar the Grouch Would Love It Here

Just where does all this trash come from?

Tomorrow is 20/20 at school and I am doing the baking. I made:
A double batch of brownies
1 Chocolate Coconut Macaroon Brownie Pizza
1 Pina Coda Cake
1 Strawberry Trifle.

The debris and the flotsam and the jetsam filled up a 13 gallon trash bag.
Granted I was cooking from Pampered Chef recipes, which meant I started out with prepared brownie and cake mixes, but it was still rather unbelievable to see how quickly that bag filled up. With the exception of the mix boxes nothing was recycleable so that wasn’t an option. Houston isn’t noted for being a forefront in being green.
Land Fills R Not Us.

I’m sure there is some profound commentary on our society and how much stuff we dispose off needlessly but I’m tired and it escapes me at moment.

And just what is 20/20 Day? Check in tomorrow!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Pink Eye

Pink Eye!

I had all these wonderful blog posts rolling around in my head. Then one of the oh so generous children at school shared their pinkeye with me.   It may be a minor irritant to kids, but to adults it’s pain to 10th power.  Luckily, the folks at the Smithville Texas Regional Medical Center were most helpful.  There is not any other place to go when one is staying in Bastrop, Texas, which is to small a town to have a hospital.

For 48 hours, I couldn’t read or use my computer.   Not a fun way to end what started out as a most enjoyable weekend.  

Given a choice between my eyes and my ears, I think I’d opt to keep the eyes and loose the ears.  Only I hope I’m never in a position where I have to make such a horrendous decision.