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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Newtown, Connecticut

As I left for school yesterday morning, I heard only a short report of a possible shooting at a school in Connecticut before I left. I didn't really hear anything more until I returned home to find Claudette sobbing and watching the news reports of the murder of twenty kids and six adults in the small town of Newton, Conn.

On her laptop was a list of names and ages of the victims. It was then she explained that all the kids were the same age as three of our grandkids and she couldn't help bear the thought of the pain and loss those parents and grandparents must be going through when they were informed.

"That could have been Paige, Elle and Nathan...."

 (It's too close to think about even as I write this)

It was then she realized and said, "...and YOU were at school today TOO!"

...I hadn't even thought about that.

Friday, December 07, 2012

We did ALL this stuff as a kid....

I grew up in the 50's and 60's and we DID ALL this stuff...and we SURVIVED!!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

30 Days (...and one week) of Friends ...

And the Blu-Ray box set drawing winner IS....(drum roll)...Steve Weber!!!
(IMPORTANT: Steve!! You need to email me your mailing address where to send it!)

And the Prize Pack Winner IS: Mike from San Jose, CA
Congratulations Mike!!!

Important Announcement: ONE WEEK SECOND CHANCE DRAWING!!
MORE Friends!!!
Warner Bros. was so excited about the response to the Friends prize pack giveaway, that they are allowing me the opportunity to give away ONE Complete Series Blu-Ray Box Set to a lucky JAST reader in a random drawing to be held on DECEMBER 6, 2012

Simply take the "Which Friend Are You Most Like" quiz and post your results in the comments section and send a contact email address to

(Sorry Mike, previous winners are ineligible...)

How well do you know "Friends"? 

Warner Bros. Pictures has announce the release of Friends: The Complete Series Blu-Ray Box Set November 13th 2012; along with the 30 Days of Friends: Trivia Challenge Blog App and Video Player

In conjunction with the release, WB is providing a Friends prize pack with two over-sized cappuccino mugs and a picture frame just like the one on Monica’s door to be awarded in a random giveaway hosted here on JAST!

Enter each week by posting, in the comments section, your favorite moments from the Mashup Clip Countdown as the new videos get unlocked!

The drawing will be held on Nov 29th and I'll need the winner's name/shipping address before December 1.

The prize pack will be sent directly via FedEx or UPS. No P.O. Boxes please.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Fixing the Coffee Maker

My son made this video about how to fix a Keurig Coffee machine...
...Now I know what not to get him for Christmas

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mice Ate My Lesson Plan...

The "overhead projector" has long since been retired in favor of the document camera/video projector combo.

It is easy to use and even if you are not sure how to operate it, more than one kid in the classroom should be able to help sort it out. The most common problem is selecting the DocCam as the source for the projector.

Three years since they started arriving in the classroom, even I can usually sort out any connectivity problems and get it working. It is usually the first thing I do after reviewing the lesson plan to see if I'm going to need it for the days lesson.

So, here I am in a 2nd grade classroom on the first Monday after the Thanksgiving week with only 20mins before class and I'm in totally stumped trying to get the stupid thing to work.

The projector is on, the doc/cam is on, the cables are connected and nothing is working. The video projector is "searching", without success, for an active display source. The old standby reset solution of power off/on did not help. The tech-savvy teacher next door couldn't get it to work either.

We made do with the old-fashioned whiteboard and dry-erase markers for math lesson.

It wasn't until after lunch that the school custodian suggested an answer -- mice!

It seems that mice have recently developed a taste for plastic cable sheathing and are gnawing on some of the computer cables in the ceiling and under the classroom floors.

One teacher even reported, with some irony, that she came in one morning to find her computer mouse cable chewed on, presumably, by one of its real world cousins.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Slow Week...

After working 3-4 days a week since start of the new school year, it is nice to have a little time off but...

After two weekends, two self-imposed "not available due to personal commitment" days, three available but no-call days last week and one national vacation day this week, I am ready to get back to class.

In checking the assignment system, it appears that my "ten day vacation" might just stretch the rest of this week also.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Roll Call...

 I've had my problems with roll call, but not like this guy...

Credit: Key & Peele: Substitute Teacher on Comedy Central
 Description: A substitute teacher from the inner city refuses to be messed with while taking attendance.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Can You Hear Me Now?...

The lesson plan indicated..."If you wouldn't mind wearing the wireless microphone, just be sure to turn it off when answering the phone or when talking privately to students or visitors."

The lesson plan indicated it was to help "Jimmy" pay attention to do his work. Otherwise, he tends to be out of his seat wandering. I think the plan mentioned something about some kind of attention disorder that this device was supposed to help with.

This is not the first time I've encountered students with varying levels of hearing impairment. I wore a wireless microphone in a 1st grade class with a boy who had hearing aids in both ears. The only problem I had was remembering that I needed to switch it off when I wasn't addressing the class during the day. When that happened, he would raise his hand and "remind me" by pointing to his ear.

I didn't think much about the "if you wouldn't mind" phrasing about wearing a wireless mic in today's 3rd grade classroom until the class was settled and I started to introduce myself.

Suddenly, I'm hearing myself on the other side of the room next to the teacher's desk.

"What the..??"

I stopped talking when I almost heard myself say something I'd regret if I finished that thought REALLY out loud. It seems that THIS system, a "Phonak Dynamic Soundfield" is a loud speaker

Jimmy, sans any kind of ear aids, informs me that it helps him concentrate. His desk is right next to the five-foot tall pole speaker system.

With the system switched off, Jimmy can hear me just fine from where I'm standing in front of the class. The rest of the class must be used to this system as the regular teacher uses it daily. 

While it may help Jimmy to concentrate on his class work, it is very distracting to me as I hear myself inside my head vs. outside my head at the same time and slightly delayed.

So, we did without the hi-tech classroom boom box while redirecting Jimmy one-on-one as needed.

Friday, November 02, 2012

No Excuses...

No excuses for what went wrong in 6th grade today. It was my fault.

The class was great, the daily agenda was on the board, the matching lesson plan was clear, the materials and teachers edition books stacked exactly in the order needed.

I gave out the four part, three page reading assessment test with some 90 multiple-choice questions that the lesson plan indicated should take only about 15 minutes to complete before lunch.

Given the short amount of time and the number of pages/questions to work through, I had a lingering doubt that even this intelligent class as a whole could complete it. It turned out that only a handful actually completed the entire assignment in 15min.

After lunch, I checked the next item on the lesson plan. It listed a one-page literacy quiz with three questions to answer.

The allotted time was an hour!

I had somehow confused the "reading test" handouts with "literature quiz" handouts. They were in the right order when I reviewed the lesson plan that morning but somehow I had switched the handouts. There IS no one else to blame.

When I told the class what I must have done and it was my fault, some of the kids thought that's what might have happened but didn't say anything because...I'm the TEACHER!

As I'm passing back the incomplete assessment tests for additional time to finish, I gently suggested that THEY know the classroom routine and materials better than I do. It is perfectly acceptable to question any lesson plan assignment for clarification if it seems oddly out of the routine.

If someone had, I would have had less to apologize for.