Monthly Archives: October 2012

A Timely Excerpt From Simmer Down, Mr. C

As a teacher, Halloween takes on a whole different meaning. It went from being something I used to anticipate to something I dreaded. As the kids walked in that day, I could feel the tension in the air. These kids were wound tighter than a guitar string. Trying to get and hold their attention was becoming more and more difficult with every slow-sweep of the minute hand. Six boys already had their faces painted like vampires. Two girls came in wearing see-through fairy costumes, leaving little to the imagination. “Go to the office, girls,” I said. “There’s no way you’re wearing that in here.” They both rolled their eyes and left in a huff. By lunch, I had collected four sets of vampire teeth, two fake cigarettes, one pipe, three containers of white make-up, and six sword-like weapons. “You’ll get these back in June,” I said, knowing full well I wasn’t planning to keep them that long. What kind of a cruel tyrant keeps kids’ toys until June? I really wanted to, but knowing some of their parents would be here later in the afternoon to help at the party made me realize I didn’t have the guts to follow through with it…

The party was supposed to start at exactly 2:00 with an all-school parade. Because this was a new experience for me, I told my kids to start getting into their costumes at 1:30. Huge mistake. It took exactly twelve seconds for most of them to get ready, leaving twenty-nine minutes of pure pandemonium. Even the most mild-mannered children were running around like they had hot coals in their pants. Kids screaming. Boys engaged in sword fights that involved gouging each other and trying to cut the other person’s head off with their plastic weapons. One kid took it upon himself to hide behind the door and try and scare everyone that walked through. The pinnacle of his success came as one of the classroom mothers came in carrying a tray of meat and cheese. As he jumped out, she dropped the whole thing.


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Posted by on October 30, 2012 in Writing



Book arrives Wednesday, October 31

My online store is open for business! Just click the sign.

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Posted by on October 27, 2012 in Writing



Favorite Read Alouds

Thought I’d share a couple of my favorite read alouds from the past few years:

The Magician’s Nephew-C.S. Lewis

The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis-Barbara O’Connor


The Twits-Roald Dahl

Holes-Louis Sachar

The Kid in the Red Jacket-Barbara Park

And my personal favorite: There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom-Louis Sachar

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Posted by on October 26, 2012 in Teaching Tips


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Don’t you hate it when that happens? I’m talking about computers and such. It’s hard to think of anything more challenging than being in a situation where you anticipate using the latest bit of technology, and for whatever reason things go haywire. You frantically begin pushing buttons and aiming remote control devices directly at the target, while flicking your arm like you’re involved in an imaginary fencing match and muttering unsuitable words under your breath. (This is the point in the lesson where the kids will inch forward and stop talking for a millisecond to see what you’re going to do.) If you’re anything like me, your first response is rarely any good. It’s tempting to shout obscenities or throw a few Expo markers at whatever is supposed to be working, but for some cruel and unusual reason is not. Like a lot of other areas in life, it’s good to be prepared. It’s time to reach into your bag of tricks and pull out something that will dazzle their minds, but most importantly kill some time while you think of what to do next.

-Learn a few magic tricks.

-Mad Libs were created for these moments.

-Take a really long time to tell them what they were scheduled to see or do. If you can take longer to explain the activity than the time it would have taken to do the actual activity, you are a very gifted individual.

-Always keep a filmstrip and filmstrip projector in the closet. So what if it has absolutely nothing to do with what you had planned.

-Say, “Class, go ahead and take out your math books…again.”

-And my personal favorite: Surprise a colleague by dropping off your class at their door and saying, “Something really important just came up, see you in forty-five minutes. I’ll explain later.”

Hope this helps,

Mr. B


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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Teaching Tips


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Standardized Testing Tips

M.E.A.P. testing has commenced here in Michigan, which means thousands of children will be filling-in little, tiny bubbles for the next several days. Teachers, on the other hand, will be spending a considerable amount of time e-mailing other staff members and looking at various blogs and websites that haven’t been blocked by their district.

Teachers, be sure to position your computer screen as not to distract students while they’re testing. Most importantly this will allow you to scan the World Wide Web, and all that it has to offer, while the kiddos are carrying out the dubious task of trying to make your school look good.

When your eyes begin to swaggle and your vision gets blurry, be sure to peruse around the room. Nothing motivates little kids like an adult breathing down their neck while they’re trying to stay focused.  Be sure to scowl at any student you catch filling-in an incorrect bubble. Technically, that’s not telling them the answer. It’s more like saying, “You may want to consider one of the other three choices.”

Hope this helps,

Mr. B

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Posted by on October 9, 2012 in Teaching Tips


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Better Than a Spankin’

Got your attention with that one, didn’t I? Do you realize that corporal punishment is still legal in several states? Yeah, I know. Hard to believe, right? Well, for most teachers it’s illegal to use the “Board of Education” as a means of manipulating student behavior.  Though I’m sure at times you’d like to, and there are certainly some kids that need it, it’s just not cool to whack somebody else’s kid. Therefore we must be creative in how we manage students and encourage them to comply with our standards and expectations. The key is to find something that will inconvenience offending students, but might very well be enjoyable for you.  I’ve compiled a list of several consequences that, in my opinion, are better than spanking.

  1. Stories from your own childhood. Always start by saying, “You know when I was a kid, we didn’t have…”
  2. More standardized testing practice.
  3. Any filmstrip related to adolescence health and/or puberty. (Beep)
  4. A twangy country music marathon (That might punish you too, though.)
  5. Read the entire No Child Left Behind legislation as a read aloud.
  6. Cursive worksheets stapled into an enormous packet. Back to back!!!
  7. Old, grainy black and white TV reruns (Think Honeymooners era)
  8. Invite the superintendent for a visit to share the minutes from the last board meeting. If that doesn’t work, threaten to send any unruly students to your next in-service. That’ll teach ‘em. (If they think you’re boring, wait ‘til they spend the whole day at an in-service.)

And if none of the above suggestions work, bring in a karaoke machine. You, however, are the only one allowed to sing. (Might I suggest singing “Islands in the Stream” as a duet with one of your teaching partners down the hall?)

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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Teaching Tips


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