Saturday, July 09, 2011


Olivia was sitting next to me at the table saying out names of her kindergarten classmates. She was saying them slowly and pointedly, and I realized that she needed a playdate with them and I was being very remiss as a mother.

My school and student teaching ate up time voraciously, and I know that Olivia could use some good old-fashioned, stay-at-home momming. You know, the kind where you obsess over cupcake color and stacking the towels perfectly in alternating colors in the closet. I know how she feels: I am juuuuust beginning to reach out to old friends I have dearly missed, and throw away piles of unnecessary papers, and get life in some kind of order that doesn't include hours of studying a day. And, blinking from the bright light as an emerging hermit must do, I now realize with Olivia's chanting of long-lost names from May that I must make some school-friend calls for my daughter.

"Honey," I say to her. "Are you naming all the friends you are missing?"

"No," she said. "I am going through all the people in my class who have been to Sea World, and you can see my name is not on that list."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tomorrow I Will Be Sporting Some Obnoxious Bumper Sticker

I have been reveling in my kindergarten experience with Olivia: mainly, she doesn't despise it and every night is not spent in a horrific fight about homework. I have to admit, selfishly, that it is a great feeling.

Olivia does her homework without prompting and I consequently get to relax about what's due or upcoming tests. Case in point, this evening, as I cleaned out her backpack (because it always looks like an episode of the "Hoarders") I found an award for the spelling bee today in her class. I had forgotten that today was the big event; she had been looking over her words during the last few days.

I asked her if this award meant she had done well in the bee. Sure she shrugged, she had won.

Won? Won? Okay, you need to picture this--me, alone, in my room, having excused myself under the pretense of going to the bathroom--doing a simple dance that could let out my joy at having a child that seems to be a naturally-driven student that brings home awards!

Infantile? Certainly. Try to indulge me however; I have a lot of years of reaching into backpacks and pulling out detention slips.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Blinding Sunlight, and, But This is Why I Had Her

Update: I emerge from my cave of two years of school, dazed, and wondering if some of my friends' phone numbers are still reliable. I cannot believe I am finally educationally "whole", teaching certificate in hand, ready to--stop the presses! I have managed to come out into the teaching world at the only time in history when school districts aren't hiring! Oh tee-hee, isn't it hilarious?

Olivia, while I have been lost in kids student teaching, has been lost in ballet. She just had her Swan Lake "recital". She has been rather flippant about dancing and cannot figure out just exactly why ballet makes her mother wipe tears from her eyes, but I think she has had a change of heart due to limelight.

Her classes have been fun enough, but I think my daughter was struggling with visualizing a "pay off". Until Sunday, when she came skittering out to see an audience. And at class two days later I saw a new Olivia. She was practicing her positions prior to class, rather than needling me to buy her something from the vending machine. Not that I am a stage mom or anything. And I feel a LOT better even if I am, because I had a conversation about motivation with a mother there yesterday that is more blatant than I, what with naming her daughter Giselle and all.

Saturday, March 05, 2011


I took a sabbatical from blogging on "Lost In Kids" from November, 2009 to June 2010. I needed some time to practice the piano and compose songs, do more Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and Chi Gung, and take a break from writing a blog entry on a daily basis.

This is not another sabbatical. I am taking my leave of blogging and focusing my efforts on other endeavors. I will continue to teach for a few more years, but my experiences and cherished memories in the classroom with children of whatever age will be private and not shared on the Internet. My writing efforts on this blog site lasted five years, and it has been very rewarding for me personally.

I am aware that this "Lost In Kids" doesn't receive a lot "hits," but to those of you who were frequent or occasional readers, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to read my stories of childhood memories, classroom escapades, and my deliberations and feelings of foreboding, anxiety and revelling I have attempted to convey when I am around children.

I send you my thoughts and prayers in all matters, especially those involving kids.

Thank you very much for listening by reading.

"Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from you heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." Deuteronomy 4:9

"Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children." Proverbs 17:6

".........Jesus said, 'I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children." Matthew 11:25

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?'

"He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said, 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.' " Matthew 18: 1-6

How easy it is to forget we were once children and how hard it is to remain one.


Friday, March 04, 2011


I am getting older - there's no doubt about it. I had something happen to me today that is a little disturbing, and I will mention it to my wife because it may warrant a medical diagnosis if it reoccurs.

I was teaching a math class how to calculate the percent of increase from one number to another. Suddenly, without warning, I started having unusual, dissociative thoughts. I never became frightened or emotional in any way, but it was just peculiar to have the strange thoughts enter my head at such an unusual time when I was so focused. The students may have noticed, for I stopped for a moment, but it was not disruptive to the flow of the learning process. Here are some of those strange, dissociative thoughts:

My name is Chuck. Chuck Wagon.

There are people dying in the world right now and their souls are leaving their bodies.

I don't want to see when I cry.

Tears going up my cheeks.

The last thought, "tears going up my cheeks," was a recurring dream I had about a year ago. In my dream I would be crying and tears would be flowing up my cheeks and back into my eyes. I asked a lot of people about it and no one could explain the meaning of such an odd dream, and now I'm having a thought about it right in the middle of class? And why Chuck Waggon (sp)?

Odd. I wonder what happened to my brain? I look back on the incident and think it's cool, which is a strange reaction to a slightly unsettling "brain fart," which is what a friend of mine, Dave, would call it.

This is also an unsettling way to end the "Lost in Kids" blog, for I am about to go on more than just a sabbatical. But that's the way it is.

Thursday, March 03, 2011


I was talking to a mother of one of my piano students today, and she informed me that her son, Dylan, did something pretty stupid. Dylan was in PE class at a local middle school here in our town, and one of the boys in a group of guys that were gathered around in a huddle had a cell phone with Internet hook-up which was being put to high tech usage by surfing for pornography, and having successfully found a website with some great photos, the owner of this cell phone was proudly and generously sharing it with his buddies.

The cell phone finally made its rounds and was passed to Dylan, who took a good hard look at the image of a woman that I am sure was naked and quite tantalizing for a young boy in the sixth grade, but Dylan, being a well-raised, proper young man, screamed out, "My God in Heaven! This is porn! Johnny has porn on his cell phone!"

Then he started running around screaming, "My eyes! My eyes! They just saw porno! My God in Heaven! Johnny has porno on his phone!"

The other boys tried to shush Dylan, who being either low on testosterone, more moral than the other boys, or wired in the brain very differently than the others, saw this as an affront to the school rules. (I choose the latter.)

The owner of the cell phone with the offensive site was severely punished, as he should be. However, Dylan's mother believes she has as serious a problem as the mother of the boy who is in trouble, and she is now concerned not only for Dylan's reputation as a normal, healthy boy, but for his safety as well. There is nothing more frustrated than a curious boy deprived of his visual, carnal knowledge. As any elementary teacher worth their salt can tell you, many boys are visual learners.

I think it is a wonderful story and reveals the private stupidity of boys that is not the common, public perspective. Dylan's mistake was a double-edged sword. He said the truth. That's good. On the other hand, he is now the Porno Narc of his middle school and will never be shown any dirty pictures in secret again. His eyes will only gaze at math problems, social studies dilemmas, progress reports, and cafeteria food trays. He will pay for his stupidity for years. First as a geek. Then as a shunned butt of jokes. Last, and worst of all, the bottom dredges of society's outcast, a morally upright young man.

However, the mother of my piano student has no idea what stupid is. Stupid is as stupid does, and your truly, namely me, can top that easily.

My first piece of evidence in the case of Me vs. Common Sense is as follows:

I was in the eighth grade, and one of the boys had a photograph and a real snapshot of a woman's vagina. I knew it was a vagina because everyone said so, and the boys in the huddle made racy comments as it was passed from eager face to eager face.

"Yep. There she is. Wow!"

"I'm roundin' third and headin' fer home plate, and there it is!"

"You got dat right! It's a beautiful sight."

"Wow! Who is this? I'm in love."

"Who cares? Look at that. Whoa baby."

"Bada bing. Bada boom!"

"Ooh-eee. Ooh la la. Bing bang, walla walla bing bang!"


I was then handed the warm, wet photo and took a look at it. To tell you the honest truth, I hadn't envisioned the vagina in its explicit state of reality. To me it was more of an unspoken, secret treasure of pleasure that I would eventually wait impatiently for for many, many, many more years. Then, when suddenly presented to me, I took a look at it and thought, "What in the hell is this? I can't tell what this is. Which end is up?"

That is when I made the terrible mistake of turning the photo upside down and taking a different view, a perspective if you will. That didn't make sense either, and I wondered if perhaps the cameraman had made a terrible mistake. "Was this a close-up? Yes, that's what it was. Wait a minute. This is a real, real close-up. Maybe it's upside down."

I turned the photo over again to take a different peek, and I was still confused. That's when the laughter and the hooting and hollering began. I realized that by turning the photo over and over again, I had exposed myself as the only one in the group who did not recognize the view.

To this day I blame the cameraman and his awful lens and his out of focus, close-up distortion of beauty. I learned that when I'm not sure about anything, it's best to just exclaim, "Sweet mother of pearl!" You''ll hear me say it a lot.


Many teachers copied a comedy skit I wrote based on lots of dumb jokes with all the humor and punch lines aimed at the teacher. My fourth grade class performed it at an all school event, the "Celebration of Children" assembly. It got a great reception.

Here it is again for all teachers to plagiarize. Plagiarism welcome.

Click on the link below:

Comedy Skit

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


Yesterday my wife commented that her one of her clients was a hen-pecked husband. The wife was a formidable, overly-demanding woman, and she added, "I am a rank amateur compared to Delores."

I said, "No way. That's impossible."

"Way," Peggy replied. "Frank is so hen-pecked he has to call Delores on her cell phone to get permission to pass gas.


I was conferencing with one of my students and told them they could raise their grade and pass the course if they chose to do so. She asked, "How do I do that?"

"Do everything I have told you. Complete all homework and do it all as carefully as possible. Pay attention in class. Ask questions."

There was a pause. "What if I don't want to do those things? Is there another way?"

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Pants that are hanging down far below the normally accepted level of belt height are referred to at our middle school as "saggies." I have written about saggies before and find it an amazing phenomenon. I always wondered what young people would do to be different in their attire and fashion when I became older. Who would have known the longest running fashion statement was britches pulled down so low that it appeared you had dumped in your pants? There are a lot of things I would do if I was a teenager today and wearing saggies would never be one of them. Weird hair? You bet! Saggies? No way.

Yesterday as I was leaving school I witnessed the worst case of saggies I have ever witnessed, except for that time that my good friend Karl's son and I had a saggie contest in front of his house and we both wound up waddling around in the street with our pants at our ankles. I was willing to "cooperate" in such a foolish endeavor because at the time I was slightly inebriated, was in excellent shape, and was wearing some brand new underwear that my sweet wife, Peggy, referred to as "sexy and hot." It was a tie with both of us shuffling around with our pants gathered at the shoes. No arrests were made and Karl thought it was funny as hell, and that's one of the reasons he is my friend. I also think it is quite peculiar that I use the expression, "funny as hell." Surely there is no other expression that is inaccurate as that.

This eighth grade student was outside the building in the grassy area under some beautiful pine trees. They are Ponderosa pines, and they grow immense and beautiful here in New Mexico. The Ponderosa pine holds a secret. It smells like vanilla and if you sniff the bark, that's the fragrance that will come to mind. The sky was a deep blue, there was a gentle breeze, the temperature a wonderful 62 degrees, one of those days that makes the climate here what many consider perfect, and there, right in the middle of nature's splendor, was a boy's ass covered in very sheer underwear with the crack on display for all to see, and it was the entire crack, all the way from the top of the refrigerator repair man's peek-a-boo spot to the sea bottom cavity, and the owner of this unpleasant sight was teasing some girls who were giggling far more than normal due to the fact that this boy was bent over to accentuate this disgusting sight. I never thought I'd transfer to middle school and see a boy's sheer underwear and his bare ass underneath it, and as I look back on it, I can honestly say that if I had thought about it, I would have hoped I never would.

I was giving him a stern talking to and saying things like, "I don't want to come to school and see your butt!" and every kid in the school wanted to come by and say hello to this fellow. That was quite a distraction, and an irritating one too. No one came over to talk to me! Of course, I don't wear saggies.

When I asked him if he had noticed that I had warned him about his saggies twice that day in the hall, he amateurishly said too much and confessed, "Oh sure I know about the saggie rule. The assistant principal was talking about it to me just this morning."

That was all I needed to know. I have not written a referral before, but when I mentioned the incident to the assistant principal, he asked me to please write a referral for the boy. I'll have to find out what a referral means. It's all paperwork to me at this time.

Saggies. I can't wait until that fashion statement comes to an end and is replaced with something new. With just a little more effort and the right clown shoes, kids could dress like Emmett Kelly.

Or how about bras for boys? Manssiers or Bros.........take your choice of brands. How about ear flares? Ear flares would make your ears stick out like Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Newman.

From the back you'd look like a taxicab with the back doors open.

I can only hope for such change. It's got to be better than knowing first hand that a boy's underwear is gray in color.


I have two students in my math classes that are brilliant boys, but both have serious issues and are infamous around the school with poor reputations that precede them.

One of them had been recently suspended for quite some time. Prior to his recent "conviction," he had brought a knife to school. Because of his horrendously disrespectful attitude towards authority and even his fellow classmates, a serious suspension followed. His most recent offense included "tagging" the school buildings and football goalposts. He was caught, "convicted," and the hearing/sentencing was held today at the main office in the Chief Muckity-Muck's palatial palace, and it was there that this hooligan was expelled and ordered to attend an "alternative" school.

I spoke to the boy's father prior to the hearing and told him that lawyers, rules, regulations, and fear of reprisals if no punitive measures were taken were going to make it very difficult for his son to get out of the situation.

I also added that we are more frightened of children than we used to be, and I believe it is because of our fear. What would happen to ME if this student repeats the assault on Columbine High School? What would happen to ME if someone was actually hurt because I failed to do anything? What would happen to ME if I didn't take precautions? What would happen to ME if I didn't do this or that?

We take care of ourselves, don't we. But do we take care of others? I didn't speak up for that boy, and I am condemning myself for failing to do so. I didn't call in sick and show up at the hearing to beg clemency and mercy for that boy. I didn't prevent his being expelled and his parents forced to drive him across town to an alternative school.

I am also being overly harsh on myself, because this boy and I once had this conversation:

"Elliot, you treat me very disrespectfully. You talk to me as if I am nothing, a worthless human being. Am I ever going to earn your respect and will you ever treat me respectfully?"

"Nah. I don't see any reason that I should." I will never forget the look on his face. I excel at poker; I would never call his bluff.

I didn't go to the hearing. I didn't help plead his case, but I don't think I would have made a difference. Did I do wrong?

There were two boys mentioned earlier. The other boy is also getting himself into trouble, but his offenses aren't as severe. He treats me with respect and listens to me. If he gets in over his head, I will call in sick and be there for his hearing/sentencing. I will fight the good fight for this boy. I will do anything to help this young man. He has recently been suspended. I must get ready for battle, and begin putting on my armor. I don't even want to go to battle in the Muckity-Muck's palatial palace. I want to win the war. I want this boy to turn around. He is in my sights and I am focused. He and I will win this battle.

Monday, February 28, 2011


I had mentioned earlier that when the documentary "Waiting for Superman" was released and inexpensively available, I would watch it and give my opinion. Last weekend it was at a Redbox in front of the the drugstore in my neighborhood and I paid my dollar, got a piece of paper and pencil to take notes, and watched this talked about film.

The entire premise of the documentary is built into the title, "Waiting for Superman," and that children and the schools in our country are waiting for someone, anyone, some group, or any group, to take control of our country's school system that is failing to educate children, make it succeed, and be proclaimed a hero as they fly away into the sky faster than a speeding bullet. We are waiting. And waiting. And waiting so long we get the feeling Superman isn't going to arrive in time to save the school bus from careening off the road and over the cliff.

The documentary maintains that the main reason for this inability of anyone or any group to fix the educational system is that they are ultimately faced with the inability to fire lousy teachers. This inability to fire teachers who fail to challenge their students, raise the expectations for all of them, and teach all the children is one of the main reasons our school systems are failing. The bottom ten percent of the teachers who are failing to raise test scores are dragging the entire system down, and yet they can't be fired.

The blame is then placed on teachers' unions, the National Educators' Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for fighting the firing of incompetent teachers, resisting any elimination of tenure which makes it difficult if not impossible to fire teachers, and providing legal protection for teachers who never show up on time, sit and read newspapers and magazines instead of leading a learning community, or worse, molest children.

Successful charter schools are shown holding lottery drawings to allow public school students stuck in failing schools in another neighborhood to be allowed enrollment. Those whose names are not drawn are relegated to the failing school where their child will supposedly fall between the cracks of a crumbling, bureaucratic educational structure, be left behind, and ultimately fail to secure a good job. The entire neighborhood will fail because the school fails the children. In addition, our country's future is in jeopardy because the the future workers of our country are not being educated properly by a school system that is a bureaucratic mess controlled by unions who concern themselves only with adult affairs.

I agree with many of the facts. Students in the United States are behind other countries in reading, math, and science. Teachers who fail to improve their students' test scores and have poor classroom management skills (behavior control), or worse, are rarely fired. Tenure, originally intended to protect the freedom of speech of professors at the university level has degenerated into guaranteed jobs for under performing educators.

The unions are to blame. I am in a state where the unions are very weak, and I have stated before the fact that I make a decent wage due to a politician, rather than a union standing up to one of them. The unions are weak, and people are terminated if something tragic happens in the classroom. Otherwise, incompetence abounds. John Stossel has done television specials on strong teachers' unions, and I agree with his disapproval.

I can assure you that my students' test scores have always been high, and I would be rewarded by accountability for teachers and salaries based on my students' performance on tests. The few teachers whose students' test scores are as high as mine get a congratulatory remark from me and an acknowledgment for their effort. Many administrators fail to do so. I know. It's not a part of their job description to "label" teachers as "good" or "bad." I have had principals compliment me, and I once had a principal who would have done anything to get rid of, did do anything, and succeeded. If this principal had any influence or power over my salary, I would have lost thousands and taken a decade to get it all back. But that's life, and that's something teachers' unions do not want their constituents to undergo.

I completely disagree with the documentary's philosophy. I find it appalling that not once, not one single time, did the documentary mention one factor that affects students learning: the student themselves. There was not one mention of the importance of desire, dedication, or determination on the part of a student. Not not once did they mention a child's attentiveness in class, their work habits, their behavior, or their ambition and goal to distract. Not once was the thoroughness of their work turned in ever mentioned. I never heard the words "work completed promptly and neatly." Their attendance, tardiness, or attitude toward learning was never discussed. The student was not even considered as a factor in the outcome of their grades. What a shame that our country has declined so far that we can't hold a student responsible for their own learning, and their accomplishments are supposedly determined by which school they attend. Poor Abraham Lincoln. Based on this documentary, he should never have become a lawyer. He should have become stuck working in that general store and walking miles to return change.

We are afraid to hold our children accountable. We have become so dysfunctional as a nation that we believe a child who gets an F was given that grade rather than earned it. I never gave a child an F. The child earned it, and that's all they earned.

There were some wonderful quotes, and a few dynamic individuals were interviewed who have dedicated their lives to making a change and improving the system. Otherwise, the documentary was just as I expected, selling consumers the philosophy of fear and decline.

I am reminded of the song on the old television show, "Hee Haw" :

"Gloom, Despair, and Agony on me! Ahh!
Deep, Dark Depression. Excessive Misery! Aghh!
If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all! Aww!
Gloom, Despair, and Agony on me!"

I don't want to hear it, especially from educators who are never, absolutely ever, willing to suggest that our students need to do at least one fourth of their homework. If you told them they were doing a quarter-ass job, they'd look at you and say, "Huh?"

Sunday, February 27, 2011


I was about twenty-two or twenty-three when my cousin Mary Ann had her first child. A celebration and family gathering was held and I went to visit with all my cousins, and the first family members I talked to were my Aunt Marian and Mary Ann. They were standing in the living room and talking, and I asked about the baby. It was a girl and had been named Tess. I asked where Tess was, and my aunt and cousin pointed to a crib they had been facing the whole time. I immediately went over to the crib and saw Tess for the first time.

Tess was a beautiful baby with large, shockingly beautiful eyes that were looking right at me. I felt this was a wonderful sign. My younger brother Jack had been the same way. Even as a baby Jack was looking right at you as if he was already starting to learn. He grew up a genius, a brilliant man. Immediately I felt the same way about Tess. Here was someone special and blessed.

I picked Tess up carefully for I had little experience picking up newborns, talked baby talk to her, then turned around to face the living room. Everyone had stopped their conversations and was staring at me, not in horror, but in dismay as if I had done something wrong. It was unsettling, but I am at times a hardy soul, so I swayed over to Aunt Marian and Mary Ann and asked what was the matter. Had I done something wrong?

Aunt Marian explained that Tess was having difficulties and would cry all the time. She had been crying all morning and had finally settled down, and if anyone held her, even her mother or her aunt, she would start crying again. I remember my Aunt Marian adding that she didn't like to be held. I replied, "Well, she's not crying for me," and probably sounded a little arrogant when I said it. I held Tess for a short while until I realized everyone was quiet. It must have been a long morning listening to Tess cry, so I put her back in her crib and she didn't make any sounds. Everyone slowly began talking again.

I will never forget holding Tess. It was at that moment I realized I wanted to have children, and now, because of Tess, I especially wanted a baby girl. It wasn't meant to be.

Shortly after holding her I composed a song on the guitar titled, "Tess."


Wiping the sleep from her eyes,
Daddy's little girl starts to cry.
A bottle of milk and she's fine.

Crawling on her hands and knees
all around,
trying to stand but she can't.
Her seat keeps a slappin' the ground.

Diapers to change day and night.
Mommy and I are a sight.
We barely have time for a fight.

A friend o' mine said,
"Hey man, don't you miss havin' fun?
Don't you wish that you'd looked out for ol' number one?"

And I said, "Look.

Tess is asleep in my arms."

Friday, February 25, 2011


As a celebration of the fifth anniversary of LOST IN KIDS, I will be spewing forth an explosively immense amount of material. Here is the first of many.

There is a contest held by Bulwer-Lytton that gives awards to the worst first sentence of a novel. The novel does not have to written.........just the first sentence, and it needs to be a hideous foretaste of what is to come. I entered the contest one year and quickly lost interest, mainly because of my indifference to the rules which clearly stated that bad sentences purely for humor's sake would not be tolerated. However, there was a category that allowed humor to be generated by grammatical error. I piddled around with that for a little while. Here are a few of my efforts at pitiful writing:

Humor cause by grammatical error:

Seven seconds after Frank entered the restaurant he knew there were two men packing heat in the booth to his left, a drunk having an argument with what would surely be his last date with a foxy brunette near the door leading into the kitchen, and a mechanic who recently had sex with his wife in the table near the front window.

Loretta was feeling great after hitting the three hundred dollar jackpot on the quarter slot, but while she served herself another helping of shrimp scampi from the casino buffet, she noticed a burly man staring at her in the dessert section.

The lonely, deserted stretch of road looked forbidding in the faint moonlight, especially with her car low on gas, and Brenda was aware that Jeffrey, a hitchhiker she had picked up just east of Texarkana, had awakened from his sleep and was staring at her gauges.

Bad first sentences that are awkward or confusing:

Gazing grimly at the sky, Lt. Forrester, the aging detective, shook his head at his rotten luck, while his open umbrella, which had come loose from his grip, alternated between bounding like half of a giant bowling ball (except a lot lighter) and taking off for short flights kind of like a black parachute with a really skinny woman hanging from it trying to land in a hurricane down Dover Drive.

Charles was not used to such accommodations, and he held the menu, a greasy piece of plastic peddling greasy fried foods, grimly.

These sentences were purely for the fun of it:

"One more sip," he thought, and as the bottle of Maalox brushed his lips, he felt a sharp stabbing pain in his back and a quick, sure movement in his right hip pocket, and he thought to himself, "I'm gonna die right her, right now, in this parking lot for a measly twenty dollars, or maybe I broke that twenty when I ordered that Long Island Iced Tea, but I don't remember getting any change."

Every hospital has its idiot employees, and the fates usually prevented them all from descending all at once on one hapless patient, but Donnie wasn't feeling lucky after his unfortunate mishap with the garbage disposal, and now, to top it all off, this was the fourth time someone had entered his room and tried to give him the wrong medication, and he knew, deep down inside, that his life depended on staying alert for the next forty-eight hours.

Short ones:

Jane was a hot bombshell waiting to be defused, and Charles was a hot bombshell defusing kind of Tarzan.

Jack was the king of his bachelor pad still on a quest for his queen, but in reality he was only a deuce, or a six or seven at best, a worthless card in the great deck of life, but he had an ace up his sleeve, and her name was Lady Luck.

The needle tracks were beginning to show, and Frank applied some more self-darkening suntan lotion to his arm in preparation for what would be his last successful job interview.

"I'm going into the car wash business," announced Ralph to his new bride, "and I am calling it "The Immaculate InCarNation."

Loretta's sobbing could stop sparrow's singing in spring as well as sink ships like loose lips during World War II, but fortunately for her boyfriend Dave, she was in a good mood.

Knowing that he was alive and the other guy wasn't relieved and saddened Jeremy Scott Fleisher at the same time.

Here is a comma filled favorite of someone whose opinion I respect:

This is a tale that can only be understood, if at all, by believing, even if only in a lukewarm manner, in miracles, though modern man, in his post-biblical neurosis, fails to entertain the notion of their existence, and the wondrous things that can happen, and happen they will, when they manifest themselves, like a pinata that bursts open to spill out its candy reward, in our lives.

I like the word "again." Here is an again-filled beauty:

This time Gene's 38 revolver had finally accomplished its handiwork, the smoke never to languidly ooze its way out of the slightly rusted barrel again, the chamber never again to spin like a carousel of chaos again, the grip never again to slip out of a drunken hand and fall to the floor again, the safety never to be left off, and the firing mechanism never to fail and allow a bullet to come out when it wasn't supposed to again.

Here are my favorites:

If women were dances, Carla was a fox-trotting, Rhumbanesque, striptease pole dancer of a flamenco with flamingo legs tap dancing across the dance cards and the hearts of the flat-footed men who dreamed of Fred Astairing their way into her panties.

Live Oak Terrace was a brand new neighborhood, somewhat like a virgin, with fresh, white curbs, little tiny trees protruding from the ground, the first signs of grass seedlings in each yard, and a garage that had never had a car enter its garage and then back out again.

It seemed like a plain, old, ordinary day, a day like any other, and he felt the same as he would on any other day, except this day wasn't going to be a plain, old, ordinary day, a day not like any other, and he wasn't going to feel the same at the end of it like he would on any other plain, old, ordinary day, and it all started with the alarm clock just like it usually did.

Disturbing sentences:

A steamy mist hissed from the sewers and gutters of Central Boulevard as if the secret doings unfolding in all the clapboard houses and moldy motels lined up on either side of the dirty concrete street were escaping in the only way possible - as putrid, seething gases belching from the nasty underbelly of lost souls housed in each despicable, deplorable, and dilapidated dump.

Gorgon, a Zola leader of the Expulsion Team on Arbutus-3, lifted a skulltainer to his lips and sipped warm liquid extractions as smoke wafted thought the containment flaps, and he flared his nostrils and growled, "I love the smell of burning human flesh in the morning."

Charles H. Langford was the therapist to some of Chicago's richest and most famous personalities, his offices snobbishly gazing down at the windy city below, his Clark and Hydesbury suits perfectly tailored to his well-maintained physique, but his latest patient, Bud Clouf, was troubling him, and he squirmed in his seat when Bud muttered, "I got the dough to buy a tie like yours, but what the hell kind of morphodite would want to?

Manny's eyes flickered, his chin rose ever so slightly as his nostrils flared, he gritted his teeth, and he clinched his massive fists when he realized the Ace Hardware store was out of quarts of Tuscan White interior wall paint, and he thought about getting a portable drill with a 9/16" bit and taking a trip down the aisle drilling holes into all the Dutch Boy's foreheads until somebody could stop him with an ax, or maybe a shovel if they got lucky.

"I hate soccer," Bill Joe muttered to himself, and he drove several blocks thinking only of machine-gunning all the little soccer players and their parents for having the baseball fields converted into Brazilian battlefields of boredom until he caught sight of the beauty parlor in the strip shopping center where he had scheduled a manicure and a pedicure.

One that I thought would win:

Barrels came loose, cannons broke free and were, as in the old expression, "loose cannons," and they smashed the poor sailors who found themselves in the lower part of the ship as the front part of the mighty schooner "The Tempest" crashed into another dark and stormy wave, causing the main sail pole to moan and groan like a nauseous drunkard struggling to stay standing.


This blog was started by Laura on March 5, 2006. I was invited to join her in a discussion of children as witnessed by a parent (Laura) and a teacher (Walter). This blog will soon be celebrating five years of dedication to, the celebration of, and the bedlam and merriment generated by kids.

This blog is pure literature. Raw writing. Few pictures. No sounds. No other purpose than to chronicle children and their impact on our daily lives, and with grace, perhaps reflect on the joy and agony of life we all have witnessed by being young.

I never thought of myself as a writer. I was a writer of lyrics to songs, songs sung by me and thus never appreciated by loving family members, much less by the masses.

Thank you to everyone who has ever read for themselves or shared this blog site with others. The five years have roared by like an ice cream truck when you're digging for a Saturday at an amusement the first birthday party you art class compared to math the last hour before a life period

Thanks again.


It has been noted that famous people die in groups of three. This myth supposedly began with the simultaneous deaths of Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and "The Big Bopper" in a plane crash in 1959, and their deaths were memorialized by Don McLean in his song titled, "American Pie."
I mentioned to someone at work that there was a myth fueled by confirmation bias that famous people always died in groups of three, and she asked me to give another example. I said, "Well, for example, first there was Farrah Fawcett. Then there was Michael Jackson. I paused.

"Who is the third one? she asked.

"Tony the Tiger. He was murdered by a cereal killer."

I got a nasty look from her, so I tried it differently with a different person.

I set the joke up just like before, except when she asked, "Who is the third one?" I replied, "The Pillsbury Dough Boy. He died of a yeast infection."

It got a much bigger laugh.

If you can't laugh at death, you probably take it too seriously.


March 5, 2006 was Laura's first entry on the "Lost in Kids" blog site. She and I took turns with blog entries for many years until recently when she took some time off to return to college for her teaching credentials and licensing. I miss her challenging writing style and have done my best to maintain the quality without her.

I will be contacting her to ask for a fifth anniversary blog entry.

Please visit our site any time, but this is a special invitation to see what's coming on March 5, 2011, the fifth anniversary of "Lost In Kids."

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Art Linkletter hosted a television show in the 1950's called "House Party" and the most popular segment on the show was his interview of pre-schoolers and the embarrassing and overly honest things they would say.

Middle schoolers don't want to embarrass anyone except maybe a teacher or two and that only gets them into trouble. Their parents are fair game, though, and I do hear weird things.


There was a photo of a pig in our math book and I wasn't sure if the pig was from the movie "Babe" or from the movie "Charlotte's Web." I asked the students which one it was and they all quickly responded with an inappropriately loud, "Babe!!"

Then one of the students distinctly mumbled, "Babe. That was a scary movie."


I mentioned to one of my students that it was apparent that he was having trouble with fractions, and I asked him to be honest and tell me if I was correct. He replied, "Yeah. I have trouble with fractions. My dad says I always do an eighth-ass job on them and then he laughs as if something is funny."


One of my students told me with a very straight face, "Mr. Rich, I flunked my science test because of Jenny."

"Why is it Jenny's fault that you flunked your science test?" I asked.

With all seriousness she replied, "Just before the test she told me that the 'greenhouse effect' was caused by some people voting for the Dixie Chicks to win an Oscar."


Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I am relieved to know that so many politicians understand the best methods to raise low student achievement in our country's schools. I am also overwhelmed at their confidence in their political party's ideas on the subject compared to their opponent's. As a middle school teacher I am reassured and thankful to know that the future of our educational system is so clearly defined and envisioned by the politicians whose solutions are being imposed on our schools.

I do have a few questions, though. Why is the solution in the instructional strategies of the teacher as if homogeneity will ultimately prevail and cure the ills? Why is the "fix" in the curriculum provided by corporations and sold to each school district? How can students be helped by having lower class sizes set by state laws as if individual tutoring is the ultimate goal for each student? Why is the way out of the students' low scores the amount of money provided to a school? Why is the problem solved by experienced teachers receiving further training in meetings devoid of real classroom situations and the topics of those "professional development seminars" set by school superintendents?

One more question. Why isn't the lack of completed homework by 40% of my students considered in any one's "formula for success?"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I want to dump all the world's problems in a pile, set fire to them and watch them reduced to ashes. All the dirty looks, the grumpy dispositions, the blank stares induced by grief or trauma, the rude comments, treatable diseases that go untreated, the ravages of untreatable diseases, hunger, anger, bitterness and greed. The bonfire would destroy anxiety, depression, poverty, wars, threats and rumors of wars, and the damned military forces we so dearly treasure that thrive on weapons and bloodshed.

Flames would melt cold and remorseless hearts, sear laziness into ashes, and change foolishness and the ensuing criminal activities into mere smoke that dissipates with the fresh breeze.

Injustice would burn while cool drinks are dispensed to those falsely accused and false witness borne against them, and the flames would shed light on those hiding in the darkness who have failed to pay for their crimes.

Forgiveness will put out the fiery inferno of resentment and blame, and restitution will be fertilized by and flourish in the ashes of retribution.

This world will not be sanctified by flames or healed by fire, nor will it be saved by the works of our own hands. What does this world have to offer? What is the greatest gift we own and hold dear to our hearts? What if we did travel to the stars and discovered life on other worlds? What is our most exalted and magnificent idea, thought, concept, or material possession we have in our minds and hearts? What is the one treasure this world has that humans should share with the universe?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Censorship of Teachers: Making Our Children Feel Safe

Each teacher has a few, or in some cases, many peculiarities. One of mine is a statement I make to any student who sits and stares off into space. I get their attention, which sometimes takes considerable effort, and tell them, "Don't just sit there and look handsome/cute. Get to work."

Two girls went to the principal and complained that I was calling them "cute." Guilty as charged. I didn't deny it. When I told the principal the context of the comments, he just rolled his eyes and laughed at the silliness. However, he is not the boss. Lawyers are, and I was told never to say that again. If I do it again, I will be "written up." If you are "written up" three times you have a problem.........teacher probation. Today I told a kid, "Don't just sit there. Get to work." It lacks that little complimentary pizazz, but it's just as ineffective, if not more so.

The principal also mentioned that I had told the girls that I was a handsome devil. Guilty as charged. Also true. When I am explaining math to a student, I want them looking at the math problem, not me. If they keep it up, I tell them, "Quit staring at me. Look at the math problem." If they do it again, I say, "I know I am a handsome devil and it is hard to take your eyes off me, but you must focus on the math. Look at the math problem." Today I merely, said, "Look at the math problem." I had to repeat it two times, but it's as effective.

There are children that have been terrorized and their sexuality severely damaged by predatory adults, and they will be judged not by me, but by the Almighty Creator. I would sacrifice myself to prevent it from happening again to even one child.

I wish that our society would do more to solve this horrible problem than censor teachers for trivialities and control our vocabulary with political correctness.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I have a seventh grade math student who is trying his best to engage me in a downward spiraling relationship. He does everything he can to push my buttons, which is quite easy if you think about it. He has chosen the path of greatest disagreement and argues with every thing I tell him.

If I tell him to pay attention when he is not paying attention, he looks up at his book and says, "I am paying attention." If I tell him to quit laying his head on his desk, he'll lift his head up and wearily and exasperatingly reply, "I am not laying on my desk." Today we reached the bottom of our descent; we had an argument whether he was arguing with me or not. It's an important issue and a battle I choose to fight because no student can make improvement if they are in denial about their behavior or work habits and turn any suggestion or criticism I make into a debate.

I have sent him to the office several times, and he now has after school detention and a required meeting with his parents and the Principal. The parents know about this issue because I called them, and they informed me that their son was doing the same thing to them. It was driving them crazy. Ditto.

I went to the Principal today and told him what was happening between this student and me, and he suggested that it's a fairly common occurrence in middle school. He told me to send the boy to the office and he would fix the problem I am sending the student to the Principal's office tomorrow. It is wonderful to have an administrator/principal that supports teachers and understands the issues they confront.

It is a weary and dangerous path you traverse when your guide is an incompetent fool, and how wonderful is the journey when you are led by a knowledgeable and considerate person.


Read the blog below this one. Then forget what I wrote. I must have been dreaming.

I had a conversation with my two brothers last night that almost brought me to tears. Forget what I wrote. At least when it comes to family, I am a still a cry-babe-in- the woods.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I was a student of Chong Wei Lin (Charles Lin) at the Chinese Culture Center and Lin's Martial Arts Academy for over twelve years. During that time, I learned to push my body and mind over and over again, relentlessly, far beyond what I ever thought was possible. I learned that the supposed ancient "secrets" contained in the Chinese martial arts system really exist. I am thankful to Mr. Lin for pushing me as hard as he did and passing on to me that call for excellence through hard work in every endeavor. However, I was not quite prepared for the harsh and cruel world of middle school.

I am beginning to believe that after teaching seventh grade math at a middle school, I am now truly, formidably tough. I am now ready for anything. It will be a grueling year, and most people could not last that long. It takes a thick and tough skin. I thought my skin was thick and tough before, but I have been toughened by the best......... seventh grade math students. After dealing with them for half a year and realizing that I am going to make it and am succeeding, I am now one tough dude.

My skin is now so thick and tough it can be blow torched. Welders can now weld my arms together without it burning. I stare at hypodermic needles while they are being shoved into my body and I laugh.

I can be mocked by professional mockers and not shed a tear. I can have Don Rickles ridicule me in front of a world wide audience and laugh along with everyone. Snicker behind my back? That's so ineffective it's humorous.

I can handle verbal and psychological abuse while keeping a smile on my face. I can laugh while being disdained and keep a straight face while a babe-in-the-woods pre-teen mocks me. I can discover cruel notes about me being secretly passed from one person in the room to another and not even raise an eyebrow. I can look Evil in the eye and give it a lunch detention.

I can eat's tasty! I can eat toasters for breakfast and iron skillets for supper. I can discover the Grim Reaper standing on the hood of my car in fast, rush hour traffic and just yank the wheel hoping to shake him off while turning up the car stereo.

I can dismantle human time bombs, warm cold shoulders and ignore frozen ones. I can keep my mouth shut when one word could destroy some one's buoyant spirits, and I can open my mouth and make some one's day. I can dodge tripping feet, trip up liars, and trip the Light Fantastic.

I could mop the floor with a cruel child or simply make them know that I disapprove, and I always choose the latter. I could destroy a child's reputation and spirit or try to lift them up on wings, and I always choose the latter. I can teach a child with their mind shut, I can make them hear when they don't want to listen, and I can teach them to say what's in their heart with no words.

I can go home each day with my head held high and a jaunty step despite all the depression, anxiety, fear, loneliness, and anger around me.

I am a middle school teacher. I can be knocked on my back by a virus and unable to work, rushed to a hospital by a car crash, and killed by too many cancer cells, but I can enjoy a day with kids that would wreck some people's spirits for an unreasonably long time.

Tough skin looks soft and old. Outside I look like glass. Inside I am iron.

Friday, February 11, 2011


If mal de mer is French for motion sickness or seasickness, would bowel de mer be French for diarrhea? Or how about mal de bowel?

If you ask a class of seventh grade math students how many grams are in a kilogram and one of the students sarcastically drawls the slow response, "A lot," should the teacher be given a medal for finding it humorous instead of strangling the kid a la Homer Simpson?

I have noticed that my wife and I don't "get" some commercials which are obviously aimed for the youth market. It is not a sign of old age because the younger generation doesn't understand commercials aimed at my generation. The time to worry about old age setting in is when you don't understand any commercials.

Every now and then I feel like a man in an Easter Parade wearing only a thong and a bowler. I can walk with style and grace and confidence, but sooner or later I am going to notice that people are snickering.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


I gave the District Based Assessment today to my students in first and second period, and I am delighted to say that they were focused and centered, working industriously and quietly for the entire class. It was heart warming.

There were a few occasions when I'd look up, see them furiously working away, and then I'd get the eeriest feeling, and the hairs on the back of my neck would stand up on end, and as I slowly realized that they were no pods in the back of the room or in the hallways, the feeling would slowly fade and I'd get that cozy little warmness in the cockles of me heart.

I hope the rest of my classes work as diligently.

Sunday, February 06, 2011


This February winter sure bit the global warming community in the butt. That ought to shut them up, and I don't think I'll be exposed to a global whining article about the greenhouse effect for another couple of weeks.

It also cancelled school in our city for four days. We had school Monday and I was all set to give my math students the District Based Assessment. They were primed and test ready. However, the best laid schemes of mice and men often go astray, and so did my plans. I will give the students the test but only after they sat around on their rears and watched TV for a week like I did.

Why were four days of school cancelled? It's unheard of in our city, but Tuesday the roads were horrible. Wednesday was too cold and the roads were slick. Thursday the school buses wouldn't start and some of the schools' plumbing and water pipes were frozen. On Friday the school superintendent complied with the Governor's state of emergency request to reduce natural gas consumption. Tens of thousands of homes and businesses had no heat, and gas lines needed to be restarted.

Personally, I got away with two frozen pipes that never burst and goldfish that survived a six inch layer of ice on the pond. I also was able to experience below zero weather. You go outside with a hot cup o' coffee, and you have about twelve seconds to drink it. By then, it's iced coffee, and who wants iced coffee in below zero weather?

I will return to the classroom tomorrow, Monday, February 7, 2011, in the hopes of getting seventh graders excited about a very important math test. I'd have better luck kick-starting a 1979 Kenworth.

Saturday, February 05, 2011


During the first week of teaching middle school I was approached by a girl in the hallway between third and fourth period who was selling what were unappetizing, homemade cupcakes. I asked her if they were a fundraising project, and she told me that she was raising money for her wedding dress.

At that time I was very new to middle school, and though I sometimes act as if I was born yesterday, I was not born last night, and so I did some quick arithmetic and decided that something was wrong. I asked her if she was getting married, and she said yes. She and a seventeen year old boy had fallen in love and wanted to get married. According to her story, her parents agreed to let her marry at the tender age of thirteen and had signed legal papers stating so if she raised money for her own wedding dress. I didn't question any of her statements. I told her that I wanted to think about it, but maybe I would purchase a cupcake the next day. I immediately went to the counselor and the principal to check this story out. Neither of them had heard anything about it, but the counselor was able to guess her name.

Sure enough, the next day she had a new batch of cupcakes, and by the way, they looked more appetizing. Selling them was a way of raising funds for her wedding dress. I never accused her of lying or, assuming she was telling the truth, informing her that her parents were cuckoo. I played it cool and just didn't buy any cupcakes because I didn't have any money on me.

This went on for some time until she quit carrying around cupcakes. I asked her why she didn't have any more cupcakes, and she sadly informed me that sales had tanked and there were no more takers.

When I asked her about it even later, she said that the wedding was planned to be celebrated over the Christmas Holidays. After the Holiday Season (This time I am politically correct) I asked the girl if she was now married.

"Yes, Mr. W. I got married over Christmas."

"Did you wear a nice wedding dress?"

"It was OK, but it was just an ordinary dress."

"Well, it's just a dress. The most important thing is to keep the love between you and your husband going."

She made no response and didn't look overjoyed, so I kept the conversation going. "Do you like marriage? Is it a big change?"

"It's about the same, really."

"Really? I would have thought it would be a big difference. Did you consummate the marriage?" "Uh oh," I thought. I just opened a can of worms.

"What does consummate mean?" she inquired.

"Oh, never mind. I just hope that this marriage works out great for you."

"Thanks," she replied. I don't see her anymore in the hallways. I need to find out if the matrimonial service actually took place. Call it professional curiosity.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I am not a psychologist, but I have heard that people isolated on desert islands or in solitary confinement lose some of their mental stability. At least Tom Hanks did when he sobbed over the loss of Wilson in the film, "Castaway."

When food and water are ingested, waste products must come out. When we have experiences and ideas arise, so should some waste product come out. That is why we all have a need to communicate.

That is why I write. My blogs are a release, something that helps prevent the mental constipation that comes when we can't or don't share our feelings and ideas. Some would say it's a great writing material as a waste product, and many times I feel like that's what it is, but writing keeps me writing. I call it writer's blog, and it is the antonym for "writer's block."

Wilson was Tom Hanks' only friend, his ear, his way to communicate and share his experiences and ideas, and ultimately, his escape.

You are my ears and thus my friends. Thank you for continuing to read.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Our middle school hosted the Rachel's Challenge program during two assemblies this week. Rachel Scott was the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999. The last few months of her life were spent telling everyone that she was not going to live a long life but somehow was going to make an impact on millions of others' lives.

Started by her father and her family, Rachel's Challenge is the program that carries on her wish for everyone to show more compassion and tolerance for others. A video was shown to all my math classes that introduced them to the Columbine massacre and the challenge that Rachel Scott made to us all after her death.

It is a powerful video that was edited by our counselor so that no dead bodies were shown. Students cried. Their treatment of me has been much nicer than before. Teachers and staff cried. We are all affected. I hope the challenge that was accepted by myself, our students and staff is carried on forever.

To view the video, click on this link: Rachel's Challenge

Friday, January 28, 2011


Our country is making an insidious decision. We have a choice between rewriting history or affirming that many of our ancestors' deeds were dishonorable. We have chosen to rewrite history.

I was raised in the south and saw drinking fountains marked "white" and "colored." The colored drinking fountains were always dirty because the white owners did not want to clean them, and besides, it served a purpose. That dirty drinking fountain marked "colored" proved the filthiness of the African-American race and the purity of the white race. The only problem was that I was fourteen years old and saw through the deception.

I watched the Civil Rights Movement take place under the inspired guidance of Martin Luther King, Jr., and I sat at the Newberry's counter in the old Gulfgate Shopping Mall a few weeks after blacks were hauled off to jail for having the audacity to sit at that "white" lunch counter. That Newsberry's went out of business. Good riddance.

I spent my formative years gazing up in admiration at huge statues of men in Confederate uniforms with one arm to the sky symbolizing that Almighty God was on their side. I was raised singing "Dixie" and watching Confederate flags flap in the thick and humid air of the South. I was told these were great things, honorable things, respected institutions. I discovered that it was all a fabrication. A lie.

The Southern whites bought human beings. They sold them. They bred them. It was a simple business decision to sell or keep the children of slaves. The Confederate flag was designed to represent the Confederate States of America when they broke away from the Union and formed their own country in order to keep their precious slaves and ensure that any new territories that became states would allow whites to own human beings from Africa. The statues were of men who fought to keep the institutution of slavery in the South and killed Union soldiers. I remember my brother moving to Boston and telling me that one of the culture shocks was seeing statues built in honor of Union soldiers who fought against slavery and the preservation of the Union.

I have watched propaganda films that have been fairly recently released that sell the deception that the Southern soldiers were gentlemen and the Northern soldiers were crude and despicable. One of those films even stated that many Confederate Generals were fighting with the intention of setting slaves free at the end of the war. Lies.

Instead of facing the hard truth which will set us free, we believe the deception. Any of my ancestors who fought for the Confederacy fought to maintain slavery. Should it be a surprise that one hundred years later I was a teenager and staring at "colored" drinking fountains? We were still fighting a war in the South. The Confederacy had lost the Civil War but was still fighting the dishonorable cause.

The war continued until Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He is one of the casualties of the continued battle with the last remnants of the shameful Confederacy.

Abraham Lincoln did a great service to the South by including the Confederate soldiers with the Union soldiers while honoring all their deaths in National Monuments such as Gettysburg. Lincoln is a greater man than I. I can't and won't pay homage to the Confederacy, and I hate to see the rewriting of history. Many blacks do not seem to comprehend the honesty and true vision of Huckleberry Finn, and the nation is blinded to the deception in our latest revisions of the Civil War.

There is no honor in a dishonorable cause.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Beavers are industrious creatures, and if you stroll by a stream while hiking, upon your next day's return you might see a completely new dam built as their needs arise.

Bees have a society maintained by worker bees, and the workers work in a furious flurry of activity all predicated upon the continued survival of the species.

Americans picture themselves as beavers. Our children are busy. Everyone is busy. Busy as beavers and bees.

Curmudgeons, as they are sometimes labeled, complain that everyone and especially children are too busy.

"Our children's schedules are overloaded. Take your children out of some of the organized activities and let them enjoy life," they whine. "We're draining the childhood out of our kids with all these frantic activities," they moan. I have to agree with the curmudgeons.

I have had piano students for over twenty years, and I have watched the amount of their practice time slowly dwindle over the decades as more and more activities are squeezed into their schedules. The students don't have to lie; the parents will back them up. They truly are too busy to practice. I hear their schedules and inwardly groan, and I know they will never learn the piano because they have no practice time. If I tripled my rates, the parents might ensure their child would practice in order to warrant the expense, but more likely, I would probably lose them as clients.

Children are not beavers and bees. When they get too busy, they are no longer productive. All they do is buzz around and accomplish more with less excellence. Many of us are as busy as beavers and bees, but we are sacrificing a quality of excellence in our accomplishments.

Being busy as beavers and bees should not be a goal but a schedule that enables us to achieve excellence in our endeavors. When we squeeze in too many activities in too little time, we aren't as busy as bees and beavers; we become as busy as a couple of nerds in a never ending dodge ball game.

We should not strive for quantity of activities, but excellence in the quality of those we perform.

Of course, I could be wrong. We could be raising a new generation of Renaissance People, excelling at many activities and creating an explosion of amazing accomplishments that will mystify all.

I hope I'm a curmudgeon and wrong.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


At the beginning of the day an announcement was made over the PA at our school for all geography students to immediately go to the atrium. I didn't know where the atrium was, so I asked the students, "Is the atrium that place at the end of the hallway where the big Jet is hanging from the ceiling?" (Our mascot is a Jet.)

"Oh no! yelled lots of students. "No! that's not where the atrium is. No! No!

"Then one student yelled out, "The atrium is where the Jet is hanging from the ceiling!


I met a student who was entering the classroom. She saw me and said, "Oh, Mr. W., I'm not here today!"


I told the class that their homework was not in the textbook but was a problem on the board. "Please copy it down," I said.

A student raised their hand and asked if we had any homework.


Another student was tardy to class, and he was wearing one shoe with the other shoe tied to it and flopping along as he walked. I asked him why he was late, and he said, "I got into trouble with a cop."

"An Albuquerque Police Department officer or an Albuquerque School security guard?"

"A security guard guy."

"OK, so it wasn't a cop. It was one of our security guards. What did you do?"

"Me and a friend were walking down the hall with our shoes tied together like this."

"Why did you and your friend do this?"

"The cop told me to do it."

"The security guard told you to tie your shoes like that?"

"No, but to walk to class like that."

"So you're trying to say that the security guard told you to continue on to class and not stop to tie your shoes correctly, is that right?"


"So that's why you were late?"




There is a girl in one of my math classes who is inattentive, easily distracted, and is perpetually tending to the upkeep of a facial feature or alertly adjusting a fashion accessory with far more attention to the task than Martha Stewart would put into a centerpiece at a dinner for Chinese emissaries at the White House.

Several months ago I caught her passing a secret note. She was mortified and distraught about my confiscation of the said note, and she begged to have it back. I kept it with no punishment or consequences.

I placed the note in a "secret compartment" in my wallet, and found it recently. Here is the secret note and its exact contents:

Haha ya! Uhh...Something that makes
and algabreak equasionss
Wat does tht?... Magic wand?!?
Oh ya! But where tofindit?.. ??
No idea??
Haha maybe the creepy lil nose picker
that claims hesawitch that lives nextdoor to me mite
have one I can rent. lol! Ha ha!!

I thought it was of some significance or importance for the sole reason that its contents were of no significance or importance whatsoever. It is quite revealing, and I wonder about the inanities I passed around the class when I was twelve.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Teachers learn with their students, and unfortunately some of those lessons are grim. We learn that some students will not reach proficiency, much less mastery of the lesson, even under the best of classroom conditions. A society may attempt to eliminate social and educational ills that present valid excuses for a student's failure, but inevitably, they are excuses and nothing more.

I have seen many human lives and bits of lives play out on the stage. The events and results of a person's life unfolding can be fascinating and very enlightening. At times, the light is nothing more than a perspective, and conflicting philosophies based on those events may arise. Here is one life played out in front of me to see and to learn from, and it applies to a student's failure.

Years ago I attended an elementary school that had a family of two boys. The older boy was about the age of my older brother and sister, and I heard lots of stories about this older boy who I shall dub, "Fred." Fred was a tall, handsome, popular, high schooler, and all the stories about him were favorable and luscious. Girls fawned and boys admired. Fred was a charmer. Smart. Cool. Handsome.

His younger brother, "Frank," was also tall and handsome but not as smart. The girls liked Frank but no more than any of the other boys because we were only fifth graders and too innocent at the time to base our affections on society's idea of appearances. Girls thought I was as handsome as Frank until they reached the age of eighteen and decided they didn't want to face the possibility of having a red-headed, freckled-faced, short, mesomorphic child.

Frank flunked the fifth grade. No one spoke of it. It was never brought up in conversation. It was hush-hush and taboo to discuss what happened to Frank, but it was a big deal. Frank suddenly became a lowly fifth grader while the rest of us were promoted to the sixth grade. Frank lost his coolness, at least to some of us. Poor Frank. I felt sorry for Frank and thought, "What will become of poor Frank? Thank heavens I make straight A's."

Fast forward about twelve years. I am driving down the freeway in a worn out Chevy Nova, blue smoke billowing out of my rattling tailpipe as drivers behind me frantically change lanes, the car windows are up in summer so the wind pressure inside the car won't blow the rear windshield out because of all the rust, I have eight dollars to my name, my parents aren't happy with me as usual, I am jobless again, I haven't had a date in two years, and the only good thing in my life is that my last thoughts of suicide didn't "pan out," so to speak, and I am still alive to cry in a beer.

On the spur of the moment, I got off the freeway and drove into Bob Robertson Chevrolet, not to shop but to dream and gaze wistfully at the treasures a good life could bring to someone more fortunate than myself. A couple of salesmen approached me, but I told them they were wasting their time. I didn't have a dime to my name, no job, and I was just dreaming.

A third salesman approached and I told him the same story. He replied, "You might be surprised. I can talk to our Sales Manager and maybe we could work out a trade-in. You could apply here for credit with GMAC, and if you qualify, the car of your choice is yours."

"I don't think it's gonna happen, man. My car isn't worth a hundred dollars."

"You might be surprised. We have a new Sales Manager, Fred Julep, and he makes things happen. Let's go talk to him."

I immediately recognized the name. It couldn't be the same Fred. How could he be the Sales Manager at one of the biggest dealerships in Houston, Texas? He was my age, about twenty-three.

"Is this Fred Julep kind of young, like maybe 23 or 24?"

"Yeah, he is. He's a lot younger than me."

"Is he tall with dark hair?"

"Yup. That's him."

I made up some excuse, turned on my heels, and left. I didn't want Fred to see me in that condition.

It turns out that the Sales Manager, Fred, was my old classmate. He was the Sales Manager, drove a Corvette, was married, and had a pregnant wife. He eventually became a regional Sales Manager for the Chevrolet Division of General Motors.

I don't know the rest of his story, and I don't know how his life turned out, but that's the beauty and mystery of life. Our story always reminds me that when a student is failing, the school system and the politicians and the parents and all of our society gets all frazzled and worked up and everyone tries to fix the social ills that caused it to happen so that a child's life is spared the humiliation and poverty that comes with failure.

Inner Peace. That's what we need. A stillness inside us that tells us everything will be fine. Life is not an emergency. Education is not an emergency.

I hope that Fred still prospers, partly because I liked Fred, but also because I want to believe that our frazzled selves do not comprehend life's complexity, and we have no idea how a life story will play out. All we do is fret and worry, cringe and fear.

Fred did just fine, and I pulled out of my dive just before I would have crashed and burned. I drive a wonderful car, and I hope Fred still does, too.

Friday, January 14, 2011


I am not a member of a teachers' union and have no intention of joining one. I paid my dues for years to watch my precious little pay slowly decrease. When I became a teacher, my state was ranked 38th out of 50 in teacher pay. Not bad. However, after ten years, our state had dropped in rank to become 49th out of 50. That's awful.

I began email communications with our new union President, a woman whose name shall remain anonymous. I wrote to her specifically regarding our abysmal pay rate. After many emails, it finally came out: pay increases were not her biggest objective. Her pet projects were site-based management and professional development.

Site-based management means that a teacher can be on a committee that "runs the school." What a crock of malarkey. Any principal who so chooses can ignore the recommendations of any teacher committee. It's a bag full of air, an empty promise, and even if it wasn't, if I wanted to run a school, I would have obtained my administrative license and become a principal. I don't want to run the school; I choose to be in the classroom. I believe that teaching is one of the few professions in which you start at the top and work your way down to the bottom.

Professional development is a cutesy word that refers to pitifully boring meetings that allegedly enrich your teaching abilities. How could any meeting help a teacher? I would never want to oversee or run such a meeting. What could I say or do in such an environment that would really impact teachers and the manner in which they provide instruction? There isn't a whole lot.

I emailed our new union President that I believed she was heading the union in the wrong direction. She disagreed, and after quite a few written debates, our email communication stopped abruptly. I quickly dropped out of the union and sent her an email explaining why I disagreed with the union's emphasis and direction and made sure she understood that money and the union's direction were the motivating factors.

Money is no longer an issue. A new Governor of our state promptly raised teacher pay, and my pay started to climb substantially after his first term. Despite my finances being much better off, I still consider union dues money spent wastefully. Our union is cantankerous in meetings with administration, doesn't speak the truth, doesn't want the truth spoken, and is a mamby-pamby political tool of the liberal politicians it endorses and the lousy teachers it protects.

There are two large teacher unions in this country, and I don't want to have a part of either. Most teachers in my state agree. Most teachers have their noses to the grindstone, concentrate on the classroom and the students they encounter, and have no time or inclination to ponder the bull noodles coughed up in the political arena. We just wish that lawmakers and lawyers would stay our of our way and let us teach.

Teachers' biggest complaint is that we now spend far too much time gathering data, and on occasion even having to input it into computer programs. We are slowly becoming data operators. This data is tests scores, and that is where huge amounts of money are being spent by school districts. Trust me, they won't cut that expense when they reduce the schools' budget. It should be noted that the data is mandated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

My complaints about teachers' unions run deep. The last president of the local teachers' union "went to the Dark Side" and had a highly paid position with the school district as a coordinator and an interfacer. Everyone knows our present president is headed for the same high paid position upon her retirement. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Marshall McLuhan, in his revolutionary book, "Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man" (1964), proposed that our electronic media was taking the place of the printing press as our mode of communication, and this electronic media would change our society more than the content of the communication itself. We have created an electronic "global village." This global village would have its own characteristics that were vastly different from the "linear" world of the printing press. Among many changes would be a shift to "process rather than product." Sound familiar?

McLuhan would be amused to discover that in the United States, the village is considered insane by the parents of its children, and the parents want no part of someone else having any say-so in the raising of their child. Parents believe everyone else in the village is nuts.

I have switched from elementary school to middle school, but I am amazed to discover that many parents of middle schoolers are completely oblivious to any input from their child's teacher, and quite frankly only listen to the child's side of the "story." They believe everyone else is lying and can't be trusted.

Students are being pulled from classes and "promoted" into "Accelerated" classes because their parents are "squeaky wheels" and frighteningly vocal complainers. The village is being run not by its members, but by its legal community that has a tight grip on the villagers' privates.

Students who don't like the amount of homework teachers give complain to their parents that their teacher is mean. Their parents complain vehemently without ever talking to any of the teachers first, and they are able to frighten administration into switching their child to another class. Then the child discovers that there is a little more homework in the new class or maybe it's not as much fun, informs their parents that the new teacher is much meaner than the old teacher, so they get switched back to their original class. The village is not being run by the villagers.

It is not accurate to say, "It takes a village to raise a child." It should be, "It takes a lawyer and threats of lawsuits to control the villagers so I can raise my child the way I want."

Some parents squeeze their children so much that teachers just stand back and wait to see when and where they'll pop.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The holidays were like a near-death experience except there was no light at the end of the tunnel and there was no sense of peace and love as I didn't approach it.

My health took a nosedive. If I was a car I would have been diagnosed with a blockage of and a serious leakage in the rear exhaust system which affected the power train. I also had a malfunctioning fuel system and two broken rear suspension parts. All in all, it was a pitiful sight to see a robust, masculine work of virile manhood such as myself reduced to a decrepit geezer.

The reason I don't actually give specific diagnoses of my health is due to a singular devotion to maintaining a youthful attitude. I may have already informed you of my efforts to maintain that attitude, and here is how I do it.

I classify people in two categories: the young and the elderly. The biggest difference between them is that the young concentrate on and limit their discussion of the human body to exterior body parts. The elderly, meaning a lot of my friends, discuss interior body parts. I can't stand listening to them talk about blood pressure and pharmaceuticals and organs and organ removals and diseases and such. It is all so depressing. I want to focus on exterior body parts such as hair, lips, rear-ends, hips, pokey-outey parts, and stuff like that. That will keep you young.

So I suffered from some pretty serious afflictions, but relating them to automotive problems relieves me of having to go into disgusting, elderly conversational mode.

I had two weeks off due to the holidays (teachers have a great vacation schedule!) and then I had to call in sick five more days right after that because of my exhaust, fuel and suspension systems. It was horrible!

I was so glad to see the students when I finally returned that I could have hugged them. Instead, I just returned to making their lives a little miserable and knowing that I am NOT ready for retirement, at least not under such painful and decrepit conditions.