Archive for October, 2011

October 26, 2011

Reality Check: Candy Corn Edition

by stryson

This morning, I took a new pair of Halloween earrings off of their cardboard card from the store. The earrings are metal; they’re in the shape of candy corns, but they function as bells. They also are sparkly and have bows at the top.

I shook my head in bemusement when I noted a sticker on the card: “Not candy. Not edible. Do not eat.”

Really? I thought to myself. Who in the world would mistake these for something edible?
Sure enough, my sixth graders came in this morning, and one of them asked me if my earrings were real candy.

October 25, 2011

Technology and Life in General

by stryson

I have a major love/hate relationship with the role that technology seems to consistently take in my life, as well as the lives of others. I’ve been reminded of this profoundly on several fronts recently.

The first came in the form of a blog post that can be found here. The short version of this post is that a teacher in England was targeted by local media and portrayed as inappropriate to the extent of being a creep, entirely based on tweets that were taken entirely out of context, apparently. Provided I’ve gotten a well-rounded enough picture of the situation from what I’ve read, her plight is deeply disturbing to me. We now live in a world where it’s very hard to keep anything private, particularly when the internet is involved. There’s some degree of common sense that must be followed in regard to one’s own conduct on the internet, but it appears that this teacher did, in fact, take precautions to make these tweets private, which should have theoretically made them inaccessible to outside parties. However, these news sources got wind of them and found ways to obtain (and exploit) what they managed to dig up. This is absolutely infuriating to me! The complacency with which many people now handle blatant breaches to one’s privacy completely baffles me.

A parallel concern of mine in regard to this situation is that teachers are not saints. The expectation that just because one has a certain profession they’ll never swear or say things in an uncensored manner is just completely unreasonable. Yet, in the age of Google, our lives outside of school are easily on display, not just for our coworkers, but also for the parents of our students… and our students, themselves. I caught a fifth grader searching my name on Google – during a class that I was teaching at the time – a couple of years ago, and I completely read him the riot act about privacy. I was mortified! There’s nothing terrible that comes up with a search of my name (I check on this now and then to be sure), but the principle of it bothered me deeply. Growing up, I lived up the street from my first grade teacher. I didn’t go snooping through her yard or peering in her windows. This feels like the modern and remote equivalent.

A key difference may be the lack of consequences. People are almost encouraged to have inappropriate curiosity. There’s no way for someone to “catch” you looking at their information, so why not? That same invincible attitude fuels the barrage of emails that I (and teachers in general, from what I can tell) get daily. As a general rule, people are way more willing to say things that might be considered rude, harsh, or irrational in an email than over the phone or in person. There’s no risk for the sender to get immediate negative feedback, which they might receive in the form of a verbal retaliation or a more subtle reaction through body language if they were communicating in person. Sending an email also takes less effort than the former ways in which parents contacted teachers. They’re no longer obliged to leave a message with the school secretary, or to hand-write a note and hope their child gets it to its destination. This is not always a bad thing! I can think of many instances where I’ve been able to help a child who struggled with his or her homework because a mother has sent me a quick note via email, or I’ve been made aware of a social problem going on among students in my class that I might not otherwise see. However, the dark side to this is that there are people who take advantage, sending an abundance of emails about issues that may not be important, or that might be better dealt with in person. Emails are also often sent impulsively; I get many “while I’m thinking of it” emails – sometimes even from Blakberries or iPhones while they are waiting to pick up their children outside of the school.

Today was a light email day; I count 9 message threads in my Outlook box. Yesterday, I had 20. Friday was 17, Thursday was 16. I counted 7 emails in the first hour of the school day on one day last week.

It’s a double-edged sword; the ease of communication can absolutely be used for good. It’s incredibly frustrating to realize how much of my planning and reflection time is consumed by reading and writing emails, though.

Anyway – I digress.

I’m not the only one ruminating on the effects of technology in a social context this week. Sarah Weaver’s sermon this week, which she posted here, dealt partly with the divisive nature of our technologically heavy lives and the basic notion of loving one’s neighbor. Much of the text struck home with me, and I would encourage anyone to give it a read, even if you’re not Christian or religious at all, because I feel she’s definitely got her finger on the pulse of this same issue I’ve been grappling with. I particularly like this quote:

And it is so easy for us to stand behind the mask of anonymity that the Internet gives to us when we disagree with someone.  It is easy to strike back without thinking or even being prayerful when all we have to do is type a few words on a keyboard and hit enter without seeing the reaction our response might elicit.

I’m certainly no Luddite, and this should not be construed as a rally against all technology. It’s a lament for the fading of common sense, manners, and basic interpersonal communication. There must be a way to use this technology mindfully.

October 19, 2011

Wisdom from the Mouths of Babes

by stryson

“A real man likes all colors.” – One of my fourth graders, on even liking “unmanly” colors.

October 18, 2011

Our Imprecise Language

by stryson

I just spent fifteen minutes debating with my fourth graders, who insisted that you can see X-Rays. (An answer on their homework was that x-rays are invisible.) Never mind that the story mentions that X-Rays are invisible at least twice; the kids are so used to the actual pictures being called X-Rays that they couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that the actual beam being shot from the camera is what an X-Ray is.

Oh yeah, and don’t even get me started on the conversation we had about organs, and about explaining to one girl that a real heart is not shaped like a Valentine’s Day style heart. Yes, that conversation ended with looking up pictures on the smart board… and the boys insisting that I find a real picture, not a drawing.

Are we sure today isn’t a Monday?

October 14, 2011

Eisenhower’s Birthday

by stryson

Today is President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s birthday. Eisenhower’s famous for many things, clearly, but one interesting point of note is that he was the earliest candidate to really start advertising via television. The ads are archived and still available online, along with the others from 1952 forward, on The Living Room Candidate. I’m going to show some of Ike’s ads to my classes today; I’ll be interested to see how they react. They look hokey by our standards, but they were groundbreaking for their time.

October 13, 2011

Molly Pitcher

by stryson

Good morning!

It’s Molly Pitcher’s birthday today. I searched Discovery Education Streaming, but the only Molly Pitcher information they had was geared toward older kids. Thus, I went searching elsewhere, and found this brief video. I’ll be starting my classes off with it today. I’m continuing my quest to build their background knowledge through holidays and special events each day, as I mentioned here.

Enjoy your Thursday!

October 12, 2011

From Electricity to Smells: another funny student quote

by stryson

What a day!

After explaining the concept of turbulence to my fifth graders, one of my students told me today that she was on a plane when the wing caught fire. Suspiciously, I asked her if what she meant was that there were sparks. Of course, she said yes, and we got into a side conversation about static electricity. The girl mentioned that she has a blanket that often gets static electricity, and that it hurts when you get zapped. I agreed and noted that it hurts because you really are getting a tiny electrical zap. Of course…. it degenerated from here.

She informed me that she’s never put her finger in an electrical outlet, but her brother has. She says she told him not to and that she was screaming, “YOU’RE GONNA DIEEEEE!”

I smiled and simply said, “Your house must be very interesting.”

Her reply was, “Yeah, it’s really big…. and has many interesting…. smells.”

October 8, 2011

Cory Booker on Education Reform

by stryson

Good Saturday morning!

What better way to start the day than a hot cup of coffee and Newark Mayor Cory Booker discussing education reform?
Mayor Booker’s Passionate Plea for Education… by FORAtv

Edit: That link was supposed to be an embedded video, but I’m having technical difficulties. It should bring you to the proper video, though.



October 5, 2011


by stryson

Oh, the conundrums with which we are faced because of certain students!

There is a girl in my sixth grade reading class that has multiple learning difficulties. Among her habits (if you’d call it that) is writing all over everything, often just her name, over and over. Today, I’d passed out a story that was photocopied. I intended to just re-collect the papers and reuse them another year. Well, this young lady wrote all over hers, of course. However, I feel strange about following through to reinforce that it was a poor choice, since what she wrote was a note to me. It said the following:

[It began with a drawing of a peace sign, a heart, and a smiley face, with the label “Peace, Love, Happiness.”]

Dear Mrs. Tryson,

You are the best teacher ever!!!

From: Her Name

To: Mrs. Tryson

[peace sign] out.

Then, underneath, an arrow drawn to the illustration for the story, and a note that reads:

This is Pocahontas and she is a Native American girl. 12 years old.

So… she complimented me, and then she added a caption to the illustration that was accurate. Knowing her processing abilities and her issues with perception, I may not even bother following through.

Until I worked with children, I don’t think I ever truly understood what it meant to be exasperated by and pleased with someone all at the same time.

October 4, 2011

Quotes from Fourth Grade Reading

by stryson

My students get into interesting trains of thought while we’re reading.

This morning, I was reading The Keeping Quilt, by Patricia Polacco, with my fourth graders. I was fishing for the word immigrant, asking them, “what do they call it when someone’s moved from one country to another?” I prompted them with the first letter, an “i,” and one child began rambling out various words that started with “i.” All of a sudden, he gets an “a-ha!” moment and yells out, “Instigator!!!!!” When I began to correct him, he began jumping in over me: “Instigator! Alligator! Eaten by a gator!”


In this same class on Friday, we were reading The Witches. When we got to a part that detailed a girl’s transformation into a chicken, the exchange that ensued went like this:

Student 1: “How did they know it was a witch?”

Me: “How else would she turn into a chicken?”

Student 1: “Chicken pox?”

Student 2:“Maybe she crashed into a pillow factory.”

This is what keeps my job interesting.