I would like to move to a different table because the silivea on the hand, finger in the nose, I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!!!

from Joey

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If you have ever worked in a classroom or office that has has a phone extension matching the local area code--you know what I'm talking about. Last week was particularly bad for the 202/202 confusion, but in general it goes like this: The phone rings, I sprint across the room for the third time in ten minutes, a child either asks for her mother or just breathes into the phone, and I silently curse my classroom and its location between rooms 201 and 203. With after school tutoring canceled due to testing last week, several kids were not picked up after school and got on the phone to call home. Or, well, to call room 202. I gave many many tutorials last week on the dialing of 9 first.

I'm not the only one teaching kids about correct phone usage. One Saturday I received this 3-part parent-child phone tutorial led by Ka’Von’s mom on my home phone.

2:12 pm

Ka’Von: Mommy—how do I call?
Ka’Von’s Mom: Stop—wait a minute.
Ka’Von: What’s the button?
Ka’Von’s Mom: I said wait a minute.
Ka’Von: Yeah, but what’s the button?
Ka’Von’s Mom: Wait.
Ka’Von: No, but it’s—
Ka’Von’s Mom: Ok, wait a minute.

2:15 pm

Ka’Von: Huh?

2:18 pm

Ka’Von’s Mom: Leave a message. Leave your message—‘This is Ka’Von…’
Ka’Von: This is Ka’Von.
Ka’Von’s Mom: Please call me at 202
Ka’Von: Please call me at 202
Ka’Von’s Mom: 555-3297
Ka’Von: 555-3297 and again it’s 202 555-3297 and my mom’s number is 202 555-2035.
Ka’Von’s Mom: And the time is two eighteen.
Ka’Von: And the time is two
Ka’Von’s Mom: Two eighteen.
Ka’Von: Two eighteen pm. Thank you very much. I don’t know what to do now!

A Little Incident

“I had a little incident with Derrick….and Derrick had a little incident with me…we seemed to have been grabbing each other.”

Dead Class Pets

A few days ago, my husband, Nate, made his annual appearance in the third grade as a special visitor. He shared with the children all about his work in philosophy, as represented by a Wittgenstein finger puppet which the kids took turns waggling around from their pointer fingers. Even though the details of what Mr. Nate does for a job were greatly overshadowed by the philosopher puppet's cute little bow tie, I consider Nate's visit this year to have been quite successful because it was incident-free, an accomplishment which I do not take for granted. Two years ago, on a rather cold March morning, Nate paid a notably more incident-filled visit to the third grade.

As the guest of honor, he had many duties for the morning. He helped hang our new classroom clock, kept me company at the copier before school, and got to meet all of the little people he had heard so much about at the dinner table. He showed a picture of our trip to Australia during share time, participated in a group game of “Elf,” and killed our class pet. Yes, that’s right, my husband killed our class pet.

Well, it was actually our not-yet-class pet. This bluish purplish reddish little Betta fish never got to know the thrill of being overfed, underfed, poked, scared, teased, taunted, shaken, or any of the other things I can only assume would have constituted his constrained little life in the third grade. Instead of living to experience these and other joys of being a class pet, he never made it past the initial stage of being just the teacher’s pet.

I don’t like animals, I’ll just go ahead and put that out there. I’ve never owned any myself or had any desire to get one for my class. One student last year wrote a note and put it in my mailbox, asking if we could get a class pet. I told him I’d think about it. My careful “deliberation” carried us through June.

So when Kira approached me one day this year begging for us to get a fish, I told her I’d think about it. The next day she brought in several pages from the Internet detailing various aquatic setups. She persisted, and finally I had to admit that getting a class pet would be a very third-grade-teacher-ly thing to do, and of all the potential pets, a fish seemed the most tolerable. I figured we could “earn” the fish when we reached 100 class points, but the mystery prize pet remained a secret in case I opted out of adopting a living creature and just ordered pizzas instead.

The day we hit 99 and a half class points, I ventured into PetSmart. “Look,” I told the man in the fish department. “I want the lowest maintenance fish you’ve got. I don’t want to have to feed it a lot, clean its tank often, deal with a huge aquarium with a thermometer and water filter, or really spend much money either.” He led me to the Betta fish. “These only need to be fed once a week.” A few minutes later, I was out the door with my new pet.

The next morning before class began, I handed my special guest the bowl, the fish, some water softener, and two bottles of water, and let him get it all set up while I made a poster about reading comprehension. Now, it’s not particularly original to kill a class pet. Every third grade class has their obligatory dead pet story. But to kill one off within an hour of bringing it into the classroom, that’s got to be a record of some sort. “Oh no,” gasped Nate. I looked up from my block lettering to see him staring, shocked, at the fish bowl. The not-yet-class pet was an unmoving bluish purplish reddish ice-cold lump at the bottom of the bowl, submerged under two full bottles of thoroughly car-chilled spring water.

Heavy with guilt and still in disbelief, we stared again at the low-maintenance Betta fish, now gone to that big glass bowl in the sky.

The students began to file in, and I introduced them to our special guest as we got started with our day. “Children, this is Mr. Nate.”

He killed your fish.

Fortunately, for this year's introduction, I was able to present him with less finger pointing and more finger puppets. "Children, this is Mr. Nate. He brought Wittgenstein."


Elementary school students require a lot of advice. Sometimes the advice that students need relates to things like what to do if they run out of room on the front of their paper. Nobody said all of the advice requires much ingenuity, there are just vast quantities needed.

This week is standardized testing week here in D.C! Testing can cause much apprehension and can cause students to need lots of advice. Students’ letters around testing time when I taught in Louisiana would often start to sound like a “Dear Abby” column.

Ms. Garb I’m afraid that I’m not going to pass the leap test. Do you think I’m going to pass it? Sincerely, Trina asking for advice

Get a Prenup

Mr. Nate and I are coming up on our third wedding anniversary soon! The year that we got married, I asked my third graders how to know if someone is right for you to marry.

If they do stuff for you
If he’s cute and doesn’t argue.
Only if he never cheated you before.
If he comes home right after work that means it.
Think about the good times and bad times. If you had a lot of bad times, he is not your man.
You have to be in common. Try identifying him to find some things you have in common.
If he loves you for your money, no. But if he doesn’t, yes.

Fortunately, Nate is cute and also doesn’t argue, so he passed that test with flying colors. Next I asked what Mr. Nate and I should do to have a happy marriage. Much of it is actually very good advice. A strong relationship definitely requires honesty and asking personal questions. However, some of their responses suggest that the third graders seemed to be envisioning Mr. Nate’s role in our marriage as a weekend childcare provider or gold digger.

When you are on your honeymoon, ask some personal questions.
You should try not to fight and be happy.
Don’t lie to Mr. Nate.
Ask how your day was.
Don’t look at other men.
Be kind, but honest when your husband asks your opinion of something.
If you have a bad day, tell Mr. Nate.
Talk to him about anything. Don’t be scared
Buy him something. At the reception party give the present to him.
If you have a baby, Mr. Nate can always keep the baby on the weekend.
Get a prenup so if you have a divorce, you stick with your money.

Life Outside of School

It's hard to know exactly what kids think I do when I’m not at school. Perhaps some of them actually envision me out and about doing teacher-personal-time things such as hunting gems, riding unicorns, and then returning to take a nap in the little bedroom I’ve fashioned inside the classroom closet.

One morning, I observed another school’s all-school meeting and came in to school late, around 10:30. While the kids were in the hallway on their bathroom break, I came into the classroom, hung up my coat and put my bags into the closet. Michael came back into the room as I was coming out of the closet. “You were in there the whole time?” he asked, incredulous.

Little Baby Tampons

Third graders have fairly loose standards for word usage. Many of them seem to operate under the philosophy that if a word falls within a few letters of the word they’re looking for, it’ll suffice. Their filing system for unknown words defaults to alphabetical, so when we read the word “grungy” in a poem, they open up the mental file labeled, “Words Beginning with ‘GR,’ ” reach in, and pull out “grumpy.” Eh, close enough. While this system actually does work for related words some of the time, “close enough” can be quite far indeed.

One afternoon as we cleaned up from lunch, a group of about six kids gathered around the deep red blossom of our newly blooming amaryllis plant. The various plant parts fascinated them and Vanessa leaned in close to examine the pollen-bearing anthers inside the flower. “Aww--they look like little tampons!” she marveled. “Little baby tampons!” I did a double take at what I had heard as I walked by, and waved Vanessa over.

“What are you talking about?” I whispered urgently, shielding our conversation with a batch of paperclipped math tests, horrified and a little confused by her comparison of the amaryllis to feminine hygiene products, especially around a gaggle of eight-year-old boys. “That is a girl thing and a private bathroom-type topic! What are you talking about?”

Vanessa’s “Words That Begin With ‘TA’ And Then Later Have a ‘PO’” folder had let her down. She gasped and clapped her hand over her mouth, genuinely realizing her mistake. “I meant TADPOLES!”

We are NOT Joking Around, Here

This summer I have been getting lots of advice on the impending baby situation that will be happening this fall.   Highlights of this advi...