The Day We've Been Waiting For!

Wanna know how to make a day incredibly special?  Clean.

I knew preparing for our dinner party tonight would involve some cleaning. husband woke up yesterday with ENORMOUS welts.  In a panic about what creature was living in our room and feasting on Nate, we launched into a cleaning spree, washing, spraying, vacuuming, wiping everything around.  Still on a roll from the spider (?) bite scare, we turned to the kitchen that was also overdue for some thorough cleaning.  After two solid days of cleaning, I hope there will be no more bites, and that we're finally all ready to have people over tonight.

The flurry of cleaning in anticipation of an event definitely heightens the seeming importance of that event.  I woke up this morning, ready to start cleaning, and thought of Jasmine's exclamation as we prepared one year for a publishing party in our classroom.  Parents were invited and we were working extra hard to get the room ready for the special event.  Cleaning mode is like no other time in the classroom--I don't really pay attention to kids' behavior, but just trust that the excitement of moving tables and chairs and sweeping will get everyone hyped enough that they won't have time to poke or tease anyone.  It takes all hands on deck to get the furniture where it needs to go--but if all hands are on deck, there aren't any hands free for mischief.  That's the hope.....

We were cleaning, lifting tables, arranging chairs, sweeping the floor, and straightening the marker boxes to get ready for the publishing party when Jasmine exclaimed, "I can't believe today's finally the day we've been waiting for!"  Tyler, too, was caught up in the moment.  "This is a really big deal!" 

Now, not that our publishing party wasn't a big deal, but you would have thought they were talking about something truly incredible.  In third grade it doesn't really take much to count as a "day we've been waiting for," but I think it's the cleaning that really seals the deal.  "If Ms. Sarah cares more about how the room looks than about if Emmanuel is flicking pencils in the library--this must be a special day!"

Other kids can be rather harsh critics, however.  On our daily schedule one day, I put in the "Special Event" card for a guest speaker we were having come in to talk about government.  After the talk, I saw Matthew look at the schedule and realize that the PowerPoint presentation we had just watched happened at half past ten.  Hmmm.  "But 10:30 was supposed to be...." I could see him thinking.  "That wasn't a special event" he said, fortunately out of earshot of the guest speaker.

After all that scrubbing (not to mention cooking), I'm definitely ready for tonight's special event!  They had BETTER comment on how clean our baseboards are.

All the News that's Fit to Print

 When arriving home today from summer trip # 1, I found a letter in the mail from one of my students.  It's so nice in between the bills and junk mail (and the renewal for that one thing I caved and signed up for one day on the street) to get a lovely little note from one of the kids.  In her letter, she wrote,

Thank you for teaching me stuff in second grade that I didn't know in first grade.

  And that, in a nutshell, is my job.  "Come to me in September, child, possessing only that limited knowledge of a first grader (have they ever even HEARD of silent letters?  Geez. ), and I will fill your head with the incredible wisdom of a second grader."  That's approximately how it works.  And clearly with Amber I have succeeded!

  In general, children do not seem to have much to report in their summer letters.  Factor one, perhaps, is that the lazy days of summer are filled with, well, laziness, which doesn't have much news value.  And I imagine that factor two must be that many kids have lots of important and interesting happenings in their lives--that just don't strike the average grown-up as important or interesting.   Here are some of the important and interesting summer happenings that have filled some of the kids' summer letters over the years.

Lacey, my 5 year old sister, has new pajamas.

The pool was too deep for me when I got in I felled in the water

My cousins birthday Just passed he turned 3 years old.

After we got threw swimming my mom and her brother's girl friend went to go get some pizza.

  Come the start of the year when my group returns for round two of our 2-grade relationship, I will be rather up to date on all of the sisters' new clothing, the cousins' new ages, and the details of exactly who all went to go get some pizza.

Catching a Turtle or Something

  By now, summer plans are well underway.   My summer plans have included working on my quilt (it's getting there), going zip-lining (fantastic), and whale-watching (saw several humpbacks doing their whale-y things).  My students are hopefully enjoying their summers, too!
  The sky's the limit when it comes to kids' summer plans.  At least--their ideal versions of summer plans.  At the end of the year, in between compliments and surveys, my students write about their plans for the summer.  Many of them have grand notions of daily amusement park trips--of effectively living at Six Flags--of staying in the pool for hour after prune-y hour, or of turning the summer into one gigantic sleepover.

On my summer I plan to stay at home or I might go to six flags or astro world.  Which ever one I do I know I'll still have fun.  I hope I'll be able to be with my friends the whole summer.  I also hoping that I be able to catch a turtle on the highway or something.  If I go to six flags I hope to ride every ride there.

  So...turtle-catching, eh?  I didn't realize that was a popular side-of-the-road activity these days.  The kids' plans sound pretty great, but of course the limit is usually not the sky, but rather the extent of parents' money, time, and roller coaster toleration, or the extent of the turtles' willingness to let themselves be captured at exit nine.  Another limiting factor in many kids' summer plans is summer school.  A month of reporting to class in the summer curtails many of these dream plans.  Andrea wrote one year:

My summer is summer school and summer school.

What summer plans have you been enjoying?
Have you caught any turtles (or anything else, for that matter) along the highway?
Or--what has been cramping your style this summer?
Gemini roller coaster image: Wikipedia

Soap--The New Dessert Craze

   It will not come as a surprise to anyone when I say that kids really like candy.  What's more--they like anything that tastes like candy, regardless of whether or not that thing they just put in their mouths actually belongs to the incredibly delicious family of candy products.
  Case in point--one year I found Darius, one of my third grade students, behind the cubbies squirting spray-able cherry candy down Isaiah's throat.  Oh wait--except that it was NOT spray-able cherry candy but rather cherry-flavored Chloraseptic.  Eh, candy / medicine.  Potato / potahto.  A technical distinction irrelevant to eight-year-olds.

  I, too, am a huge fan of candy.  I am also a fan of things that look like other things.  Pencils that look like drumsticks!  A coin purse passing as a cassette tape!  Imagine my delight when I happened upon this fantastically good idea:
  Yes, that's right.  It's SOAP that looks like Swedish Fish!  In fact, the makers have an Etsy store with a veritable candy store's worth of soap products!  (Now I'd like you to stop imagining my delight and start imagining my disappointment that I hadn't thought of this brilliant idea first.)
   I practically cleaned out the store of Swedish Fish, gummy bears, and Life Savers.  All soap.  The Swedish Fish looked great next to the sink in my bathroom and lasted about two days before I discovered their crucial flaw:  An incredible urge to eat candy every time I went to wash my hands.  Specifically, the urge to just pop those little red pieces right into my mouth.  I finally had to switch back to regular old bathroom soap that doesn't look like anything but what it is.  How boring.
  Regardless of its ultimate ineffectiveness as hand soap, I still just love the candy soap.  I've given it as gifts to a few people already and really want to bring some sudsy Life Savers to give to a friend I'm visiting later this week.  The only trouble is--she has three kids under six.  Is giving soap that looks like candy to someone with three young kids just asking for trouble?  Hmmmm.....

At any rate--I'll at least be sure to not leave my cherry-flavored Chloraseptic in plain view when I go to visit!
Life Savers Image: LoveLeeSoaps

I'm in!

I'm in!  I'm in!  I'm in!  I was voted in as a new Erma at An Army of Ermas!  Thanks to everyone who voted!  Now, let's not let the little issue of vote manipulation that I discussed in my last post get in the way of anyone thinking that this contest was not won fair and square..... 

At some point, look for some writing of mine to appear over there.  First, I suppose, I'll have to, you know, do some writing of mine.  Think funny thoughts!  Think funny thoughts!

Vote Rigging

  Voting is still open today for the Army of Ermas contest!  Check out my piece as entry # 8!  I'm assuming the winner will be determined based on, well, who had the most votes and that the election process is relatively manipulation-free.  Not so in the second grade.
  When I first started teaching, I chose a mascot for my class--the Gators.  It was alliterative (Garb's Gators), evocative of our location (South Louisiana) and held fantastic decorating potential (think faux alligator skin covering the classroom door).  After a few years, though, I decided to open up the process of choosing a class mascot for a vote.  Voting on a mascot in my classroom each year is a delicate balance between the following two considerations:
  • taking student input 
  • not ending up with a sucky mascot like Chipmunks
  Conducting a democratic, student-led selection of the class mascot requires careful guidance, as some of the initial suggestions might not be quite what you were envisioning.  For instance, Brian’s suggestion that we name ourselves the “Illegal Aliens.”  Not exactly what I had in mind for our new second grade persona.  If the decision were left up to the students, we would end up being called the Winged Immigrant Kittens, and really, we just can’t have that.
  I have found that following the vote-manipulation protocol outlined below ensures that we end up with the best mascot possible, given the constraint of having to include seven year-olds in the decision-making process.

First, acknowledge but ultimately ignore any undesirable suggestions.

Second, manipulate the first round votes until you have narrowed the field down to three acceptable possibilities for the final vote.

Third, suggest compromises if the final vote does not result in the ideal choice.

  "Compromising," for the purposes of elementary democracy, can mean either "combining part of each party's ideas" or it can mean, "teacher inserting an entirely new option when the existing ideas are terrible."  Usually, though, one of the children’s suggestions makes it through this rigorous vetting process without even having to resort to the insert-new-idea type of compromise.  
  Final choices for our class mascot have ranged from “Eagles” to “Snow Leopards” to “Tigers,” which later, during the compromise phase of the selection process became the “Hungry Tigers”, and ultimately the “Brave Hungry Tigers.”  This past year, the voting process was particularly precarious but we managed to avoid having to be called the Second Grade Chipmunks all year.  Phew!  Go Turtles.

  If democracy's not what you're going for (feigned though it may be), check out what happened when we kicked off our study of laws with a little dictatorship!

Let the Voting Begin!

The Army of Ermas writing contest voting is now open!  The site features various humor writers and 13 contest entrants are trying to win a spot to be a new writer on the site!  I'm entry # 8!

The online poll isn't working correctly for everyone, so votes can be emailed to

Yes...That Explains It....

Here in Washington, DC, we've just come off of a long heat wave and are....heading into another one with highs near 100 just in time for the Fourth of July (also known to DeMarcus as "when the Earth was created").
  The heat can explain many things happening around the city--the fountain packed with children cooling off in the water spurting up from tiles, the people carrying umbrellas for shade, the ice cream trucks doing a brisk business.
  High temperatures can't explain everything you might see around the city, though. One year, summer temperatures hadn't yet faded, but school had started for the year and we were walking back from the field. The field we use for outdoor PE is about four blocks away and across a very busy street. "Look where you're going!" I always caution as we approach the intersection. "Hurry up! Walk walk walk! We have SEVEN SECONDS LEFT TO CROSS!"

  After we had crossed the intersection that day, Tyrica noticed a man at the bus stop across the street. He was laying half on the ground and half on the bench in a drunken stupor while a couple of other people near him waited for the bus.

"Uh...why's that guy layin' on the ground like that?" Tyrica asked as we walked by.

"Hmmm..." I thought. "How to explain?" "Well....he's probably....passed out." I said.

"Yeah" Tyrica replied. "It is hot out!"

Yes, yes. We'll go with that.


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...