Monday, May 28, 2007

How Not to Have a Garage Sale

Standard garage sale ad: Moving, books, clothes, furniture, household items and so on and so forth.

Location: Very up scale part of town where the cute bungalows are losing the battle to the brick MacMansions. Large corner lot, where it is apparent brick had triumphed over wood shingles.

A favorite haunt of serious garage sale shoppers who are not to be trifled with

We pull up at 7:45. The doors to the triple (told you brick was triumphant) garage door are shut tight. A crowd has already gathered and we recognize several folks we’d seen at earlier garage sales. At 7:55 a car pulls into the driveway, almost mowing down a few of the early birds, and a woman gets out.

“It doesn’t start till 9, I made a mistake in the ad”.

Incredulous looks from the masses – garage sale rules are such that 8 means 7 and if the ad lists the wrong time you go with the flow. Etiquette also says that you don’t park in your own driveway if you are hosting the sale. Nor run over your customers.

“Let me get things organized and I”ll start the sale”

The throng is stunned into silence.

She opens the garage door and the horde, not believing her streams on in. She closes it, almost decapitating a few of them in the process.

After about 10 minutes the doors open up again. The teaming masses; who are by now whipped into a frenzy once again rushthe doors and start to grab at everthing they see. Again, garage sale rules are that if it’s in the front of the garage it must be for sale. Rejects litter the driveway and people start to squirrel little heaps here and there.

“Get out”
“Put that down”
“That’s not for sale”
“I’m not ready to start the sale”
“I need to close the doors and get ready”
“I need to ask you to get out of the garage”

Everyone ignores her. Finally, she once again lowers the doors and people scramble for safety.
We; by the way are standing to the side, not quite believing what we’re seeing.
It’s like watching a very bad Fellini film.

The doors open again. It’s apparent she has nothing sorted nor are things priced. For sale items are right next to not for sale items and there isn’t any way to tell them apart. Stuff is strewn all about the driveway, which is also sprinkled with broken grass from toppled vases.
We shake our heads and depart, leaving the women to her customers – or perhaps her vultures.

I suspect Marie Antoinette felt much the same way when the Paris mob stormed the palace.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Random Musings on the First Day of Summer Vacation

Well, it’s Saturday which would be a day off anyway; however yesterday was THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL, which makes today the first day of summer vacation. It is every teacher’s goal to make it through the year to this particular nirvana.

Garage Sales were pathetic today. Last week The Goddess of Garage Sales and the Diva of Thrift Stores rewarded my sacrifice of the Library Lock In and sent wonderful finds my way. This weekend they took them all back. I came home 3 books and some books for school. Hopefully the Goddess and the Diva noted that I spent $10 on 12 books for the library and will reward me next weekend. Garage sale shoppers are perpetual optimists.

It rained all over the state of Texas today, including here and in Dallas which was hosting a major golf tournament. The commentators on the Golf Channel can blather on for 30 minutes on the arcane topic of water in the bunkers. Who knew it was a topic of such fascination? Yawn

I dusted off my blog & cleaned up my Blog Roll. Deleted inert blogs. Wrote some posts. Caught up and commented on some of my favorites. Need to find some more favorites. Productive

Cooked a real dinner! Oven roasted potatoes, carrots and onions with fresh rosemary, sausage and blueberry muffins. Yum.

Sold some books. In fact; I sold a record number of books this week. That’s a good thing – there is a wedding in daughter #2’s future. $$$$$

Of course that means I get to spend tomorrow packing up said books. Boring.

Best of all, for the next 60 days I don’t have to pack a lunch! Celebration!

Everything was Stirring.....Even the Mouse

Last Friday was my 6th annual Library Lock-In. Every year I dread it & every year I end up thoroughly enjoying it. Of course I feel like a walking zombie the next day but such are the wages for indulging in educational insanity.

The Library Lock In is the culmination of our Accelerated Reader Program. Earning a ticket in takes 300 AR points, which is the equivalent of reading all 6 Harry Potter books, plus Little Woman and the entire Little House series. That’s some serious reading. This year 4 kids made it - a 5th grade boy & girl, a 4th grade girl and a 3rd grade girl. In the interests of a good time being had by all I told each child they could invite a friend, providing the friend had at least earned an AR T-shirt.

There really was a method to my madness in doubling the number of children – the 4 kids weren’t particularly good friends with each other and I knew they would have a much better time if they had a companion. Most importantly, my fellow teacher chaperone and I would also have a much better time.

A Hail Mary reading push landed 2 other kids a ticket and we were 10. Plus 2 teachers and 1 mouse.

Yes, we had a mouse. That morning; looking out of the corner of my eye, I saw something scamper across the library. Something small and scurrying.

I ask my assistant “Did you see what I just saw”?

“No, what did you see? “

“I think I saw a mouse”


“Good thing the nurse said we could borrow her cots, I don’t think I want to sleep on the floor tonight”.


The first class trooped in and we forgot all about in the general rush of the morning, especially since it was also AR T-Shirt Day.

Fast forward to the evening. We’ve eaten pizza, run the kids ragged on the playground, done a flashlight tour of the school, decorated and eaten a sugar cookie pizza, hauled out all my puppets and given each kid a laptop. It’s past midnight, the lights are dim and the place is pretty quiet other than the one corner of the computer area where a couple of kids are busy listening to music and playing SpongeBob and M&Ms.

The other teacher & I are sitting at the ciruculation desk with our own laptops and chatting and surfing. Suddenly she looks down.

“I just saw something move”

“You saw what?”

“Something move. It’s under my chair”

“Oh, that’s the mouse”.


“Shuuuushhh…do you want complete pandemonium ? “

“What should we do?”

“Roll your chair around a bit and let’s make some noise so we scare it away”.

We do and we see a small shape scuttle off toward the work room.

There really isn’t much one can do about a mouse at 1am in the morning.

Update: The mouse makes numerous appearances during the last week of school. It feasts happily on leftovers from assorted last week of school food fests. Mr. Mouse is seen scurrying from the lounge to the cabinets across the hall. The Assistant Principal chases him with a broom, the teachers start scaring each other by claiming to have seen him and kids take it all in stride. Our building is old with lots of cracks and crannies and we aren’t allowed to use rat poison. Glue traps are considered to traumatic for both children and mice.

If Mr. Mouse can score 90% or better on the TAKS test we’ll keep him.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

AR T-Shirt Day

AR is one of the major cogs of our reading program. While it is controversial in the library world, it’s a great motivator, especially with low income students who need lots of instant gratification. The culmination of our year is always AR T Shirt Day which comes round toward the middle of May.

It’s the day when every child who has earned a T-Shirt shows up wearing it and the day passes in a round of celebrations and general silliness & chaos. It takes either 50 or 100 points to earn a shirt, which means reading at least 50 books. I gave out 90 shirts this year – not to shabby a statistic for a school with 600 kids (K-5) that’s Title 1 and all that accompanies that Federal Moniker.

Among the many objectives of AR T-shirt day is that, the children who didn’t earn a shirt this year will be inspired to set that as their goal (goal setting is another objective) next year.

Luckily, the district always schedules a half day for teacher conferences. Nothing much ever gets done on a half day when there are only 5 days left in the school year so it’s a perfect time to schedule something that is totally disruptive.

We start the day by sticking stickers on every shirt we see. The goal quickly becomes ‘How many different stickers can I collect?”. Since only kids with T-shirts can have stickers, there is also an element of exclusivity. Human nature being what it is, there is something special about having something that someone else can’t have!

Every 30 minutes or so I get on the intercom and call the kids down to the library for a treat. This year I supplied Flaming Hot Cheetos, PowerAide, erasers, pencils, Snow cones and popcorn.

I had great fun with the popcorn. I spent the week prior to telling the kids that we were going to have something at AR T-Shirt day that everyone would want but only kids with T-Shirts could have. Told them that they would use one of their 5 senses to figure out what it was and that it wouldn’t be sight or hearing. It worked too, by the time the morning was over the irresistible scent of hot popcorn had wafted all the way to the back of the building.

Texas is the state where football is king. Schools halt classes to celebrate a championship team. Academics and the kids who shine at bookish endeavors almost always come in a poor second when compared to the mighty pigskin.

Not so, at my school –on one Friday in May the children who have done their reading homework all year are the center of attention, praised, and feted.

Oh, were that it was that way at every school.

Throw Away Children

No Child Left Behind seems to be based on the premise that all children are created equal. While that is what the Decoration of Independence says, it’s not really grounded in the reality that we see and deal with on a daily basis.

Case in point – a family of 3 children, A, B & C. A is 9, severely emotionally disturbed, academically very low and also possess a most unpleasant personality. His teacher, who has taught for 30 years proclaims him as one of the most dysfunctional students she’s ever encountered. B who is 6 & C who is 5 have the same mother as A but a different father. That fact is readily apparent since A is Caucasian while his half siblings are of mixed race. Both B & C are also very low academically and emotionally disturbed. They aren’t quite in as bad shape as A but then they are younger.

They arrive at mid year, and we are their 3rd school. They quickly become legends in their time and after a couple of months their mother withdraws them. Two months later, much to the dismay of all they return. By now they are on their 5th school in the space of one school year

Little by little, the story unfolds. Mother has a new man who has a criminal record and uses drugs. Mother and Man have left the city, leaving the children with the paternal grandparents of A. Paternal grandparents have no blood ties to B & C.

Grandparents try to cope and can’t so they insist their son take A. Son of course wants nothing to do with B & C since they aren’t his children. A is withdrawn and goes on to school # 6. B & C enter the wasteland known as the Texas Foster Care System. They too will go on to school #6 and possibly #7.

The chances of B & C being adopted or finding a permanent foster family are slim. They aren’t particularly attractive children (that does make a difference) nor are they particularly pleasant or enjoyable to be around. They just don’t have that “spark” that makes one mongrel puppy stand out from the rest of the litter. There are so many holes in their souls that they drain everyone around them dry trying to fill them up.

And some how the Shrub that is our President holds these children, the teachers who teach them and the schools they attend to the very same standard as schools where the children come from a stable family and with every advantage money can buy.

You’d think that his wife, who is a former teacher would have explained this to him. But perhaps she only taught at schools whose children were just like hers so she has no more clue that he has about the “other world” that is out there.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wonder What He'll Say..

Jerry Falwell died today. While I am sorry for his family who I assume loved him and will miss him I must admit I'm not sorry and I won't miss him. Well, I'll miss his absurd statements and his insistence that he had a private phone line to God but I think the world can do without his bigotry and small minded opinions.

I am quite sure he was convinced that not only did he have a private line to God, he also had a one way ticket to heaven.

What do you think his reaction will be when he finds that heaven is populated with Gays, Feminists, People who died of AIDs, People of Color, Democrats, Divorced Women, Jews, and many other represenatives of the groups that he blamed for all of America's ills.

Do you think he'll request a transfer?

P.S. My favorite quote on his death "Praise the Lard".

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Best Mother's Day Present Ever

I received two of the best possible Mother’s Day presents ever this weekend.

Daughter #1 has a new job complete with a large increase in salary. In fact, Daughter #1, at the age of almost 25 will be earning as much as her mother. That’s both exciting and depressing considering that I have 30 years of experience in my chosen but underpaid profession of teaching. She wasn’t even looking, a friend who went to work for the new employer recommended her.

Those are the best sort of job changes. She a web site graphics designer – not exactly, what she studied in college but she’s obviously very good at it.

Daughter #2 is engaged to the young man she brought home at Christmas. We found him delightful and we’re all very, very happy with the news. It was a romantic proposal - on the beach and he got down on one knee. He really is a keeper. No wedding date or place yet but I wonder if Disneyworld won’t be factored into the equation sometime in the near future.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Feed Them & They Will Wear Their Glasses..

....for a little while.

I had glasses as a child (still do) as do my own children. We were obsessed with those glasses, I made sure they wore them every day and I had a spare pair for each child. Wearing glasses meant they could see the board and that meant good grades. It was simple. They would have no more not worn their glasses to school than they would have attended school barefoot.

I used to think all parents thought the same way. Wrong. Not all parents do.
We struggle daily to ensure our kids have glasses and once they get them, wear them. Sometimes we get parental cooperation and oftentimes we don’t.

So we resort to nagging, asking, clinic referrals and bribery. Yes, I admit it, we bribe kids to wear their glasses- brownies are the current bribe of choice.

We sprung a surprise 20/20 Day on the kids. I dreamed up 20/20 day last year – children who wore their glasses to school were invited to bring their lunch to the library. We papered the school with signs and talked it up big time. God Bless Barbara Parks for giving Junie B. Jones glasses too. It was such a success we did it again last fall.

Last week we did it for a 3rd time – with a sneaky twist. No advance notice. I got on the intercom and announced that today was 20/20 Day. Glasses were whipped from the backpacks and flew onto noses. Of course, once lunch was over they went right back into the backpacks.

So next year we are going to take sneaky to another level. No prior notice, no morning announcement. We’re going to stand in the cafeteria and catch the kids coming out of the lunch lines.

Are we masters at covert operations or what?