Friday, November 15, 2013

Social Studies Test

            Man, I’m just giving this question away.

            I stared down at my revision to the Social Studies test.  The original question  read:

Write a paragraph comparing Socialism and Capitalism.  Be sure to include at least two points of comparison.

            "They'll never get that," I thought.  I crossed out the problems and wrote:

Put a “C” if the statement refers to Capitalism or an “S” if the statement refers to Socialism.

            _____The government owns most of the businesses.

            _____Competition determines the price of products.

            _____The government determines the price of products.

            _____The government is very powerful.

            _____Private citizens own the businesses.

Use the statements above and write a paragraph comparing Capitalism and Socialism.

            Yeah.  I really am giving this question away.

            Three hours later Mrs. Holzworth, the Social Studies teacher, marched into my room and  slapped a test on my desk.

            “You gotta see this.”

            I stared down at Caitlyn’s Social Studies test.

            “Last page,” directed Mrs. Holzworth.

            I flipped to the back and quickly scanned the list of Capitalism/Socialism statements.  Caitlyn had labeled every one correctly.

            “This is great,” I said looking up smiling.  “She got them all right.”

            “Read what she wrote.”

            Under the statements Caitlyn’s round, fat cursive letters read:

            “Capitalism is a company owned by the government.  Everyone has to buy what they sell.  Socialism is a company like Facebook.  The government wants to buy this company because they are very powerful and they want to see what everyone is saying, but Facebook will not sell their Socialism company because they can tell people what the price is.  Capitalism is a good company, but my dad says their web site isn’t working.”

            Nailed it.

Friday, November 8, 2013


            “You know what the bad thing about Friday is?”

            I turned and looked at Leroy, our Science teacher.  We had hall duty and were standing by the student lockers in the middle of the end of the school day chaos.  The final bell had just rung.  Kids were milling around everywhere, pulling lockers open, stuffing backpacks, and jostling each other.   

            Teachers have to stand in the halls a lot.  The theory is that if we stand among them, the kids won’t misbehave as much.

            It cuts into a lot of my time.

            It’s irritating.

            But it works.  So I stand in the hall a lot.

            “Leroy is strange,” I thought.  “There is no bad thing about Fridays.”  But he had me curious.

            “OK,” I said taking the bait.  “What’s bad about Fridays?”

            Leroy’s face was thoughtful as he continued to scan the chaos.  “We have to go two days without the kids.”

            I narrowed my eyes and stared at him, waiting for a smile, but he was dead serious.

            “Yeah,” I deadpanned, “Two whole days.”

            Leroy studied the hall while I squinted at him, waiting for the smile that never came.  Suddenly he stepped out and announced, “Listen up!  Mrs. Jones says you need to get moving.  Let’s go.  You’ll miss your buses.”

            “Hey!” I called, “I never . . . ”

            “And Mrs. Jones is an excellent teacher,” Leroy added, “So let’s obey her.”

Friday, November 1, 2013

Trick or Treaters

            At 6:30 Thursday night I saw my first Trick or Treater through the glass storm door.  She was about three feet tall and had blond curls.  She was wearing a pink frothy princess dress and had pink wings attached to her shoulders.  Her dad rang the doorbell then stepped down a few steps so only his little girl was on the top stoop when I looked out. 

            “Hi there!” I said pushing the storm door open.

            The pink princess stared past me into my living room.  I think she wanted to come in.  I dropped a Twix and a Hershey bar into her orange plastic pumpkin, waved to her dad, and stepped back inside. The princess continued to stare into the house through the glass storm door, so I waved at her again.  After a few minutes dad stepped up and carried her down the stairs.

            At 7:30 as I plopped Twixes into five different bags, a small voice interrupted me.

            “Could you give me a Hershey bar instead?”

            I stopped and looked at the Court Jester requesting a different candy bar.


            “I have braces and my dentist doesn’t like me eating Twixes,” he explained.

            But your dentist is fine with Hersheys?

            At 8:45 I decided to close up for the night.  I was getting ready to shut the porch light off and close the main door when I saw three taller kids walking up my driveway.  As they came closer, I could see they were all girls.  One was looking down at her phone and tapping with both thumbs.

            I picked up the bowl of candy. They would be the last for the night, and I planned to empty the bowl into their bags.  They would love and honor me.

            I stood with my bowl and waited.  Miss Two-Thumbs Texter paused at the bottom of the steps and bent her head lower. Serious texting going on.

            I waited.  And waited some more. 

            Her friends looked up at me in the lighted doorway.  They walked up one step, looked back at her, and stopped.  She was clearly the alpha Trick or Treater.

            Four of us waited, watching.  The Trick or Treater Texter paused a moment and walked up the five steps to the door.  I pushed it open and leaned out with my bowl of candy bars.

            “Hi guys!”

            She held up her hand to silence me and bent back to her texting.  We all waited again.  After 20 seconds her thumbs paused.  She held out her pillowcase, but kept her eyes on her phone. 

            I stood for five seconds looking back at her then picked up three small Twixes and put one in each of their pillowcases.   Alpha girl’s thumbs resumed tapping.

            She was still on the stoop texting as I stepped back inside, shut the door, and turned off the light, leaving her in the dark.

            I looked out this morning, expecting to see her still there, tapping away with her thumbs, but the front stoop was empty. 

            It’s her fault I ate the rest of the candy.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


            “Would you like a refreshing beverage, or tasty snack?”

            I looked up waiting for the joke.  Instead I saw Leroy, our 64 year old Science teacher, holding a basket of Halloween candy bars and small pretzel snacks.  He was dead serious.

            “Uh . . . I guess I’ll take something to drink.

            He gestured towards a small refrigerator behind him.  “I have Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, or Diet Coke.  Which would you like?”

            My mouth was hanging open a little bit.  I kept glancing around at the other teachers sitting at the table.  No one seemed the least bit fazed at Leroy’s behavior.  I said slowly, “Diet Coke would be good.”

            Leroy set the basket down and walked over to the fridge.  He returned with a Coke Zero.

            “I hope you find it refreshing,” he said setting the can in from of me.

            Everyone around me was busy opening up their laptops and searching through their planners getting ready for the grade level meeting.  Leroy continued around the table offering “tasty” snacks and “refreshing” beverages to everyone. 

            We were having our monthly grade level meeting in Leroy’s Science classroom.  We rotated rooms each month, and it was Leroy’s turn.  I didn’t have any students in Leroy’s classes, so this was my first time in his classroom.

            While Leroy played flight attendant to the teachers seated at the table, I looked around at his classroom.  Science posters covered almost all the walls, but an announcement on his whiteboard caught my attention.  “Authorized items for today:  textbook, spiral, pencil.”  As I logged in to my laptop, Leroy sat down in the chair next to me.

            “Authorized items?” I asked smiling at him and tilting my head towards his board.

            “Yes,” he replied solemnly.  “Students are always trying to play with unauthorized items during class.  They get a ticket if they have any unauthorized items out during classtime.”

            “Oh.” Clever idea. “What does a ticket get them?”
            Leroy looked at me, surprised.  “A ticket is very bad.  You don’t want to get a ticket in my class.”

            I’m a slow learner, so I continued, “Yeah, but what happens when kids get a bunch of tickets?”

            Leroy was looking at me now like I was an odd bug that had crawled on to his desk.

            “No one has ever gotten more than one ticket in my classroom,” he said firmly.  He looked around at the other teachers and primly announced, “Let’s begin our meeting.”

            I popped open my Coke Zero and took a swig. 

          Ahhh.  Refreshing!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Parent Teacher Conferences

“Who do I talk to about having my daughter tested for a Learning Disability?”

            I looked up as a beautifully dressed woman sat down at my table.  A Michael Kors handbag was slung over her shoulder.  She looked like a walking jewelry store as she held out her hand.  On her wrist was an oversize Michael Kors watch.

“Hello," she said.  "Casandra’s math teacher, Mrs. Jenkins, said I should talk to you about Learning Disabilities.”

            My mind tumbled as I reached out and shook her decorated hand.  Casandra Talbot was on my caseload, and I had a scheduled conference with her mother today.

            “Uh, Casandra has been tested for a Learning Disability,” I carefully replied.

            Mrs. Talbot glanced around, leaned towards me, and whispered, “I think she has a math disability.” Her eyes widened. “It’s called decalculated.”

            “Dyscalculia,” I said helpfully.

            “Yes.  The math disability.  I think Casandra has it.”

            I slowly nodded my head.  “Casandra has an IEP.”

            Mrs. Talbot leaned in even closer.  “I think she has a Learning Disability too.”

            Now I leaned in and pulled in a long breath through my nose.  No alcohol.

            I slowly replied, “Mrs. Talbot, Casandra has been tested for a Learning Disability.  She has a disability in math, and she receives special education help in her math class.”

            Mrs. Talbot straightened back up and furrowed her brow. “If she can’t do math,” she tilted her head forward and raised her eyebrows, “Should she be taking a math class at all? That just doesn’t seem right.”


            I leaned back in my chair and frowned.  I squinted my eyes, tilted my head, and stared up left concentrating.  The solution circled, then landed.

“No,” I said firmly.  “Casandra probably shouldn’t take math.”
            Mrs. Talbot began nodding and smiled.  “So we can have her drop Mrs. Jenkins’ Algebra class?”
            I stared back counting to five.  “Sure.  I’ll send the registrar an email tonight.”
            Mrs. Talbot stood and smiled.  She held out her bejeweled hand.  “Thank you so much. These conferences are really helpful.”
            Yes they are!
            (I made up the last part.)