Monday, April 21, 2008

US History

How well do you know the History of the US? I recently found these online quizes that the state of Texas gives to all high school students before they graduate. Thought you might want to see how you do! Each quiz has 40 questions......

US History Quiz 1

US History Quiz 2

US History Quiz 3

Have fun!


I admit that I am a nerd. (Although I am a COOL NERD!) And I love puzzles!! Do any of you like rebus picture puzzles?? Here are a couple easy ones. My students LOVE these things!

How about Logic puzzles?? I LOVE doing these things! They drive me NUTS, but they are a fun challenge. Try this puzzle! If you like that one, check out this Logic Puzzle site.

And then there are always crossword puzzles! Here is a site of The best crosswords.

Have fun with these puzzles today!

Thanks, MLK Jr.

January 16, 2006.
Today was a holiday from school, in honor of the great Civil Rights movement leader, Martin Luther King Jr. I sit here thinking about his "dream" and can't help but feel proud of the progress our country has made. I know we still have a LONG way to go in the fight for racial equality and the end of hatred, but I appreciate every single day that I can go to work at my inner-city school and see the positive relationships and attitudes among our diverse student population. My students get so angry about the injustice and racial attitudes that many of our citizens faced prior to the Civil Rights movement, they cannot even imagine it. Their positive attitudes give me hope that each generation will become more and more united and less hateful. It is a beautiful dream.......

Nature Center Fieldtrip

Another back-dated post.
November 14, 2007
Got up this morning and was, running slightly late to work, which is very out of character for me. Since I was running late I didn't have time to get breakfast and as soon as I walked into school, the power went out! That hasn't ever happened to me in my 9 years of teaching! The whole school was completely dark and hard to get classes started without any light or power or even access to the PA system.
Well it just so happens that today I was scheduled to go on a trip with the 3rd graders as soon as school started. The power was out for about 40 minutes before it came on. We went to Valley Branch Nature Center, near the St Croix river, which serves as the border between MN and WI. Its a great way to introduce the city kids to "the great outdoors", so most of the time is spent outside. This was my first field trip in probably 4 years....when I agreed to go a few weeks ago I wasn't thinking about how cold it might be this time of year up here in MN. Today was COLD and WINDY!!! I had on a pair of warm pajama pants under my jeans, warm boots, winter jacket hat and gloves!

Check me out, forest woman.


We saw many cool things on the field trip, including some taxidermied animals that live in our state. Have you ever seen a beaver???!! (LOL) These bad-boys are BIG.

Some squirrels. The white ones are very rare. We see them all the time where my parents live.


And a group of wild turkeys. These guys were huge too! Valleybranchvento07_010

Is this a RAISE???

Another previous post from earlier this school year.
September 13, 2007.

Today I got my first official two-week paycheck as a 9th-year teacher. (For every year of service, teachers make more money....)

I was somewhat excited to see my paycheck and see if this would be the year I would finally be making decent money, or at least make a significant jump on the salary schedule.

Apparently this is NOT the year.

Comparing this year's salary to last's:

$30 more per two week payperiod.

WOW!! Big money, huh??

You find yourself looking at that $30 jump in pay and think, "I went through all THAT for THIS?"

Teachers face many challenges on a daily basis and are held accountable for student achievement (despite the needs of such diverse learners). We earn our salaries and then some, ya'll! Especially those of us who work in the inner city

I am not bitter that everyone else in the private sector get such high percentage raises, its just that in my field I will probably never see more than a maximum of 3% raise from year to year. Closer to 1-2%. And no bonuses, ever.

Good thing I really love what I do!

School has been going great, by the way. I am finally working in the classrooms and I am very excited about what I will be doing this year. So far I love my new school and think I made a good choice by accepting their offer :)

Can you pass an 8th grade science test?!

JustSayHi - Science Quiz

Free Online Dating from JustSayHi

Good thing I can ;) I am learning in my science methods class that although content is important, the process to acquire knowledge is even more important.

**PS I neglected to mention I got a C- the first time I took this. It was NOT EASY. I knew which ones I guessed on and got an A the 2nd time around!

School Crisis Simulation

Another from my personal blog.
October 13, 2006
I have to say I got pretty freaked out yesterday morning on my way to work when I drove by a local middle school. There were about 4 fire trucks, several ambulances, 10-12 squad cars and SWAT team members set up all around the school. I was like, OMG!!!! This can't be happening here! With all the horrific school shootings in the past month, I immediately jumped to conclusions. If you had seen the way it looked, you would have thought the same thing. When I got to my elementary school two miles away, I rushed into my school office to see if anyone knew what was going on. Apparently it was a School Crisis Drill that had been planned for about 9 months. The simulation lasted for 3 hours, involved like 90 students and several emergency response agencies. Sounds like the most in-depth simulation like this that I have ever heard about! Here is more information on what took place:

Native Reflections

Another past post from my personal journal.
October 6, 2006

Wow, is it a full moon out or what???!!

I have been really irritated the past couple of days...the kids at work are seriously driving me loco! And I am not referring to my darling groups of GT kids. I am talking about the 3rd grade regular-ed prep class of 30 students that I am teaching at each school. I love the topics I am teaching....social studies at one school and enrichment/creativity at the other. Its just that the groups are so big and there are a handful of naughty kids in both classes.

I don't usually talk too much about what I do at work, but on Fridays I offer really cool special topic classes and open them to interested students who might get to see me Mon-Thurs. The classes and the students who take them change each month. This month my Friday class is poetry!! I have been teaching poetry for about 5-6 years now, and I always have my students submit their original poems to the Anthology of Poetry competition and every year now I have had students who get published in this national publication. Its pretty cool. I love to see how excited they are about poetry....this week I taught them how to write a limerick and another rhyming-patterned poem. I can't wait to see some of the final drafts!

My class for next month is Ojibwe culture. I have always had a fascination with native americans and think it is important to teach my students about the way of life and also the injustices. Not that I am an expert or anything, but I used to live and teach on the Tohono O'Odham reservation in AZ and have always loved studying about the culture. My first real hands-on experience was in 4th grade when my elementary class stayed on an Ojibwe reservation. We learned to weave, visited the wild rice patties, went to the sugar maple orchards to see the process from taping the trees to boiling the sap into syrup and then into sugar. I have attended pow-wows and smoked the peace pipe. All sorts of fun stuff. Did tons of cool stuff while I lived in AZ that I will explain another time. Anyway.......

Last week that I was reading a historical fiction book about the Ojibwe, set a few hundred years ago? A few nights ago I dreamt that I was staying in an old-time Ojibwe camp, living the native way of life. It was so natural and realistic, I could've sworn I was really there!!! Is that weird? My boyfriend thinks I am crazy, but I happen to have an ojibwe student in one of my classes and he made a comment about all the Ojibwe books I have displayed in my classroom about them being "his people". I recounted my little dream to him and he says in all honesty that it wasn't a dream, it was a vision. Whatever it was, it was pretty realistic.

2006 Student Projects

May 26, 2006

Most of the time I really love my job :) One of my favorite things about working with high-ability students is helping them research various non-fiction topics every spring. I provide guidance and model them through the process of putting together a display board, showcasing what they learned about their topic. I offered the research class on Fridays for the past few months, where students did all of the leg-work. They then took them home to put it all together. It is always fun to see what they come up with! Here are some of the cool ones I have seen this year :) These are made by 3rd-6th grade students.







I have about 50 of these to grade, but I don't mind at all! Its fun to read them....I learn from my students :) I believe it is sooooo important to keep these kids challenged. Budget cuts are a huge bummer on our gifted programs, though. As I have mentioned before, my position has been reduced to half-time next year. I keep praying every day that I will find something else soon.

Another lockdown...

Another old post I found in my personal blog.
January 12, 2006

The school day ended kind of crazy today......right before dismissal we had a call over the intercom for the school bouncer to get to the 1st floor NOW and then seconds later another announcement telling us that we were going on "lockdown" and that everyone must follow the lockdown procedures....for all the teachers that means to lock the doors QUICK, and get all the students out of the view of any windows. It took me longer than it should have to find me keys and lock the door. We remained like this for what seemed like forever, but it was probably only 5-10 minutes until the intercom told us we were once again safe to return to normal. I had a large class of 5th graders at the time, asking me if it was real, and I had to tell them that I honestly didn't know, but that it probably was, since we would NEVER have a drill of this nature at dismissal time...because it means CHAOS! Well we leave our classroom and are told we have to route all of the students out the side door of the school....there were four police squads in the parking lot blocking the exit and a bunch of little kids all excited and scared, talking about the "guy who came in the school" and this and that. I had no idea what was going on because we were all trying to keep the students calm and help them to their bus, parent, etc, so I couldn't get the scoop. Once we got all the kids off safely, I found out what really happened....the father of one of our 6th graders came into the school, apparently very intoxicated or "on" something and went looking for a specific male teacher at our school.....he found this teacher (who happened to be walking down the with a class of 1st graders) and falselyaccused him of sleeping with his wife. The teacher calmly responded that the man was obviously in no shape to be talking to him and to please leave the building. The man walked away and then a minute later starts coming at the teacher and swung at him. Our teacher wrestled the guy to the ground in self-defense and held him down until our bouncer and another male teacher could get there to help him. I think the cops arrived a few minutes later and arrested the guy for assault. My poor teacher friend got his necked clawed pretty good...the perpetrator was holding him by the collar for awhile. He is filing a restraining order and I think the school is taking some kind of action that he cannot enter the building. The poor estranged wife of this psycho is a regular at our school and we all know her well.....we all felt pretty bad that that happened. Not too mention their poor innocent 6th grade daughter who has to come back to school tomorrow and hear everyone talking about it. And who knows what those little first graders are thinking after seeing this happen!

Isn't that nuts??? Well, it is one dismissal I'll probably not forget anytime soon!

Friday, April 18, 2008


One thing that I have observed many times in my career is that many little girls love to play with and "do" their hair or the hair of their friends. This may include teachers, especially if the teacher has hair that is different than theirs.
My hair has always been long and fine and many of these little girls just can't seem to resist themselves from touching my hair. It doesn't usually bother me, but of course doing a teacher's hair at school is quite inappropriate, so I always put a stop to it.
During one of my first couple of years teaching, I had really long, curly hair (perm). I will never forget the time that a little girl started touching my hair and straight up asked me,
"Where'd you buy your hair?"
I was taken aback...could she be SERIOUS??
Oh yes, indeed she was. Many girls had extensions or hair pieces woven into their braids, so she assumed that maybe all hair was fake???!!!!
Not sure, but I told her "God gave it to me" :)

Kid Genius.....

I work with a bunch of smart little kids, but sometimes I come across a kid who will do or say something incredible.
For example, I like to play a game called Wiz Kids with my students from time to time. There are two decks of cards in the game, letter cards and category cards. You randomly pull one of each and students need to think of something in that category that starts with the letter you pulled.

So what do you think most 1st graders say when you ask them to name "Something Gross" that starts with the letter "I"????
Here are the typical 1st grade responses.....
"Ice cream"

Imagine my surprise the day the little toothless R says, "Industrial Waste!!"

Are you kidding me?
What do 1st graders know about industrial waste???!!!!
But somehow R knew, and he knew it was gross :)

A little concern.........

A few weeks ago, one of my male-teacher-friends who works at another school told me about his lovely afternoon teaching a group of 4th grade boys about the human body (perhaps about the reproductive system?). He told his students that if anyone had any questions or concerns, they could talk to him privately after class.
So after class, one of the really shy 4th grade boys came up to him.
Here is a transcript of the conversation.....
"Mr. W, I have a concern"
"Whats up?"
"I heard that your penis is supposed to grow one inch per year. And I am not 10 inches!!!!"
"Hmmmm. Here is a yardstick. How long is a yard?"
"36 inches"
"So if what you heard was true, where would you put all of THAT when you are 36 years old???"
"Don't worry, it isn't true!"

Sometimes Kids can be Inappropriate.....

A few months ago I was in a 3rd grade classroom, teaching a mini-lesson for writing. The topic of the mini lesson was on adjectives......you know, descriptive words.
To get the kids thinking about what adjectives are, I had them give me some words to describe kids... they said things like:
Next I had them give me some words to help describe animals. They said things like:
And then I call on D, a child who at times can be inappropriate. His comment?
"Those gorillas have big ole' titties!"
I watched the mouth of his classroom teacher drop, and tried quick to compose myself.
My response:
"One thing that makes mammals so special is their ability to feed their babies milk, but we should refer to those body parts as the mammary glands".

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I look "tight" today....

I wore an old outfit today that I haven't worn in quite some time....
Not sure if it is the bright color or just the fact that my shoes perfectly match my shirt, but I always get a ton of compliments when I wear this outfit.
In fact, one kid that I have never spoken to before came up to me today to tell me that I "looked tight in that outfit".
I guess that is a pretty big compliment, huh!?

Monday, April 14, 2008


Another old post from my personal blog.
May 20, 2005

Ahhhh, its that time of year again...Spring! All the little animal babies are being born are so sweet! I thought I would share some pictures that I took of some hatching chicks. A 2nd grade teacher that I work with has been working with a program through the University of MN that allows inner-city schools to observe and witness the "miracle of life. It was Dscf5846 pretty cool to watch the eggs hatch from the incubator. The kids were so excited, as were the little chicks!! I can hear peeping out in the hallway when I walk into my room, it is so cute! Just look at these little fluff balls!Dscf5842

Anyway, I think this is a great program that is set up, otherwise these kids would probably NEVER get to see it happen. The chicks will be going back to the farm later this afternoon. I am not sure about their fate, but I do hope they will not become chicken nuggets!! Its very different to see animals after raising them, so I do hope the kids don't become vegetarians because of this little project!!

The Wandering Bear.....

Another old post I found from my personal blog.
May 17, 2005

Okay, can things get any weirder in the neighborhood in which I work?? Today the news choppers, cops and the DNR were out looking for a Black Bear who has wandered into the Big City. This is the news as I hear it from my students as I walk in to work today,

"Ms. S, did you hear about the bear?"

"I saw it in my back yard!!"

"The cops are going to find it and put it to sleep, but not kill it"

Okay, last week they are looking for a cop-killer and today they are back at it again...but looking for a bear. I feel bad for the poor thing!! We had a bear loose a few weeks ago too, and that one was shot and killed when it made its way to the freeway.

I don't know what this means, but it is probably not a good sign if beras are moving into the city...disappearing territories and the smell of Krispy Kreme....

Saturday, April 12, 2008


A common practice in schools across America these days is the lockdown drill. With all the incidents of mass violence and school shootings that we have seen over the past nine years or so (pretty much since Columbine), it is something that must be practiced.

So we have practiced.
There have actually been a couple of incidents in the past couple of years in which the schools I worked at had to go into lockdown- for real. Below are a couple of entires from my personal blog that recount specific lockdown encounters.

May 6, 2005

My drive to work this morning started out like normal, but as I got closer and closer to work, I knew something out of the ordinary was going on... you see, every corner on the main street that I drive down had a police officer parked with its lights on. So what could this be all about???

Was the President of The United States visiting today and I somehow didn't know about it? What else could cause police from all neighboring cities as well as the St Paul Police to be out full-force on a Friday morning at 7 am??

As soon as I got to the school I was informed that we were on lock-down because a St Paul police officer was killed a few blocks away from the school at like 2am. Apparently he was working undercover when he was shot 10-12 times and the suspects fled. So now they are doing a thorough search of the neighborhood in which I teach.

So how am I going to get through this already-hectic Friday, with kids that are scared to walk down their own streets??? This neighborhood that I work in is one that I am glad I do not also reside. Too much crap like this happening all the time. I am fortunate that I will only have to work another 30 days or so before school is out and I move to a new school. Scary!!

PS I have to keep looking through my old archives to find the other lockdown stories....

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Made me laugh!

School #2 has an autism program for grades k-3. This is the school I am at in the afternoon and when I was walking into the building yesterday, I was carrying my lunch.....a clear container with cooked asparagus and a piece of chicken. Well anyway, as I was walking in the door, one of the little practically non-verbal autistic kids was walking by. He looked right at my lunch and without sensoring himself (do kids with autism ever sensor themselves?!) he yells out really loud, "GROSS"!!!!!!!
I seriously laughed all the way to my classroom!

Kids like to tell it like it is! LOL

Monday, April 7, 2008

Ghetto Fabulous Names

So by now it is no secret that I work at neighborhood schools in really tough, poor neighborhoods in the inner city. I absolutely LOVE what I do, and wouldn't ever dream of trading my poor, needy, diverse students for the more well-off white kids in the suburbs. This is my niche.

So that being said, I do have to tell you that I have come across some very interesting names throughout my career and have started to make a list of the ones I remember. I wanted to share with you some of the unusual "names" of students I have personally known. (I am not even going to go there with some of the ethnic names I've come across!) The following names span all races....







Precious (I've known at least four girls with this name)



Diamond (again, 5-6 girls with this name)




Star or Estrella











Green (whose last name also happened to be a shade of green)







Long time coming.....

I am just 8 weeks shy of completing my 9th year of teaching in the Inner-City. I have come across so many unique situations that I have contemplated writing a book of my stories. Hopefully this blog will be a place I can document and share the experiences I have :)