On the Subject of Eggs, Pornos, and Tech Not Replacing Teachers

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 6.13.37 AMMy son is walking around talking to eggs. He takes one from the carton and introduces it to me. “This is my son, Steve. I’m finally a dad.” I tell him to put the egg back.

“It’s my son.”

“It’s not your son…” We argue.

“Kids come from eggs.” I don’t want to discuss this now. I want to bake cookies. I tell him to choose between his son and the cookies. I need the egg. After a heart wrenching moment, he chooses cookies.

“Goodbye, dear son. I love you. I’ll miss you.” He caresses the egg, a tear coming to his little eye. He kisses the egg goodbye.

“It is not your son.” I crack the egg.

He waves a sad little wave as the yolk membrane crushes and the egg blends into the batter. “Take care of yourself in there….”

I feel like a real jerk, making the kid kill his son so we can eat cookies…Is this what every mother chicken and cow feels before humans eat dinner?

No. He will not draw me into his insanity. It’s an egg…I wipe his tear. We make cookies. We eat cookies. A person can really question their sanity raising a six-year old. I start to see, talk to, and put plates out for imaginary friends

He takes another “son” while I’m not looking.

“Put that back before it…”


Too late. Eggs are impossible to get off the floor. I’m unhappy. Declan’s devastated. I clean the floor and plan a funeral at the same time–good thing I baked cookies for it.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 6.12.58 AMOne day, my boiled eggs went missing. “Look, Mom, twins!” I was hungry, but at least boiled eggs don’t splat all over the ground. Turns out, they crumble. “This is Steve’s heart.”

Back to cleaning floors…

I still need to eat so I attempt a frittata . As soon as the carton comes out, there’s Declan, reaching in…

“I’m having another child. I’m a good Dad.” If that were true, Steve wouldn’t be on his fourth life.

“No more children!” I say. “Dinner!” His little lip quivers. He wants to be a dad.

“But eggs are where children come from.” This question’s not new. I’ve answered it–we watched medical videos on YouTube. YouTube is where every parent turns when they don’t want to answer. If I don’t answer, he’ll just ask Siri or Google. He thinks they’re real people. I think they’re jokesters–they sometimes show inappropriate things.

When Declan has something on his mind, he’s all in. He’s focused. He gets the answer. If he’s not interested, there’s nothing I can do to keep him on task. It’s no different in my classroom. We’re so busy standardizing curricula, we don’t see the tree through the forest. Each individual tree is a beautiful thing to behold.

People ask me if technology will replace teachers. No, it won’t. Technology won’t replace teachers because not all teachers have technology that works. Mostly, it’s broken, blocked, and banned. But when it isn’t, kids still need a guide–someone to help process the information. Someone to who will clap, say “great job,” guide them to the next level, and tell them the amazing things they can be.

There are many paths to the top of the mountain. Tech allows kids to meander around looking at the flowers and trees on the way. They’re engaged. They learn. And sometimes parents get a moment of rest.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 6.13.22 AMDeclan still wants eggs. I try something different. Plastic Easter eggs.

“Here’s your egg.” I pick a shiny blue one.

“Thanks, Mom!” He hugs the egg, “I missed you, Steve.” He turns to me. “I need four more. We’re going to school.” I get them. Soon, the egg-kids are lined up efficiently in school. Steve gets broken. I explain we can’t keep replacing Steve. Good moms and dads take care of their kids. Declan cries. I get him a new Steve.

Steve’s the troublemaker at school. He stays in for recess.  He’s a lot like his “dad.”

“Hey, Mom,” Declan says. “Kids come from eggs. Let’s watch those videos again!” We watch medical videos that speed up nine months of pregnancy. We skip the ones that show how the baby got in there and how it gets out. No pornos here! Nothing to see!

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 5.13.17 AM“Hey Mom,” he says. “Can we watch a video about how the baby gets in? And how it gets out?” Kids don’t miss a thing.

“No. And don’t ask Siri or Google.” I pick another plastic egg out of my pocket and tell him Steve’s friend is here to play.

“Come on, Steve, you can get out of time out. Hondo’s here to play…”

Steve and Hondo play, I eat my frittata sans guilt, and I hide Siri…so she can’t make trouble later on.


I Do Dumb Things. Ban Technology.

A video posted to my Google+ profile. I didn’t notice. It’s gone now, no use looking. It was me staring down my webcam for about 20 seconds. No makeup, terrible hair, stained shirt–frightening. I was playing with settings for a Google Air hangout. Apparently I sent it live…happens to the best of us. Good thing I was behaving, even if I was looking Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 6.55.42 AMpretty ragged.

It reminds me of a time long before Google. I was at work in my first cube-based career. We had a ten-line Simplex system which allowed transferring calls from cube to cube without identifiers. This created a ton of crank calls. Three of us were new. One co-worker always cranked called us in an outrageous foreign accent. I think he thought it was Indian. I thought he needed to take a couple more engineering classes to get it right.

“Hello, I would like to report a claim,” he’d say. We, the new people, would get sucked in every time, and answer fake accent guy. Finally, I learned. I’m good at languages, dialects, and accents. I can spot a fake from four cubes away. My phone rang.

“Hello, I would like to report a claim,” the voice said.

Fool me once, forgivable. Fool me ten times–I just wasted a lot of money on college. “You have to talk to Steve about that,” I said. A couple of people noticed my not usually assertive tone, stopping behind me.

“Okay,” said the voice. I paused, waiting for the usual burst of laughter and the loud slam from across the office.

“Hello?” said the voice on the other end of the phone.  The crowd behind me grew.

“Yes, I’m going to transfer your call.” I smiled. Steve was getting good. Very, very good. Not a single guffaw or snicker. He was really polishing the accent.

Long pause.

“Okay, I am ready for you to transfer my call.” Soon, everyone was behind me, waiting for the end of the joke. Including Steve. I threw the receiver and ran to the bathroom. I never knew what happened to the man on the other end of the call. I hope Steve helped him. I felt guilty. I want to teach this man’s kids so I can make it up to him in the cycle of life.

I was recently asked about digital citizenship. It’s an area of concern for teachers, IT people, and educational leaders, many of whom block, ban, or avoid technology in the classroom because it might not be used appropriately. It’s a problem I’d like to solve.

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 6.56.47 AMHow do we make students responsible citizens so we don’t have cyberbullying, crime, hate, cruelty, bad grammar, pranks, and general negative vibes in the universe?  Tech definitely gets a bad rap on this one. “Bad” occurred before the Internet. It will occur long after something better’s invented. We all make mistakes–case in point that Google Air video. We can be rude with or without the Internet. That phone call is a fine example. Improperly used, technology can detract from classrooms, like devils advocates say. I think back to every teacher I ignored in favor of writing, folding, and passing notes in class when the only technology I had was a pencil.

If I teach kindness and good manners universally, paying attention to what I model, tech should be okay. I teach these lessons to my students. I show them a few profiles of mine on the spot. They’re always hoping for dirt.

“If you’re looking for a picture of me drinking a 40-o wrapped in a paper bag on a street corner singing a-capella, you won’t find it,” I say.

“Why?” asks a kid.

“Because it doesn’t exist.” It’s the punch line of the lesson. “You need to behave, in writing, on the Internet, and in life, like it’s being broadcast. Because one day, it might just be.”  If my life were broadcast, it’d be the cure for insomnia. I should patent it.

I found a picture of Declan piling blocks on me. It self-posted to my Vizify. Then, of course, that video of me staring down the world on Googe+. I look like someone who’s applying for a makeover show, in need of rehab, or a costume designer for a horror set. Hideous, but harmless.

That’s the risk you take, I guess, in the 21st century.

Bottom line is this…we misbehaved before we had tech. Good teachers mitigated misbehavior with motivation. I didn’t pass notes while sitting on the edge of my seat. It’s our responsibility to get students ready for real life. Real life includes technology. If I leave that part out, I’m not doing my job.


[images: shutterstock.com and acclaimimages.com]

Google Can Get Peach Salsa Out of Your MacBook Pro

The phone rang. I don’t use the phone for calling much anymore–it’s sort of a mini dictator that chimes and pings, commanding me to do certain things–answer you, be amused by your blog post, watch a video, work, attend something, look at photos of your kid, submit something…As I get sucked over to the dark side of tech and more and more dog-trained, I use the phone part of the iPhone less and less. Eventually, Apple will name it the “iCommandCenter,” or the iBigBrother because it knows what I’m doing before I do.

Which is why I wish iBigBrother could have predicted that I’d be startled when the actual phone app rang at the exact moment I was testing out a bowl of my freshly made peach salsa, sending salsa sailing out of my hand onto the right side of my keyboard. I swished it off immediately, but it was liquidy salsa–salsa needs to set awhile after it’s made.  Peach salsa and electronics are bitter enemies.

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 2.36.37 PMI started to Google “spilled peach salsa on Mac.” Google knows everything. Google is my friend.

“Wait!” I thought. “Won’t typing squish salsa into the keys more?” I reached for my iBigBrother who’d predicted this all along.

“How can I help you?” asked Siri.

“I spilled peach salsa on my MacBook Pro.”

“You’re stupid,” she replied.

“No, Siri, I need to clean it, what do I do?” This is important!

“Cry. You just fried it, idiot.”

“Isn’t there anything I can do?” This is SERIOUS! School starts MONDAY!!! Answer!!!!!

Siri mocked me. “Nope,” she said, “You’re screwed.”

Google. Google won’t let me down!

Google is your friend,” said the voice in my head. If Siri isn’t my friend, kiss up to Google. I hold no malice toward Google for being a mind-reading megabrain selling my information to the highest bidder. Google’s free. I use it in my classroom. I’ll sell my soul to anything that’s free and not blocked in the classroom. That’s the truth.

I had to act fast. I could hear the computer translating the salsa into Spanish, playing Mariachi music on the way to circuits frying.

Time to learn a new skill. I picked up iBigBrother and Googled. “Unplug your Mac IMMEDIATELY.” Immediately had passed. I went for ASAP. Unplugging complete. Salsa seeping through the keyboard. “Invert your Mac.” Despite the fact I didn’t have enough common sense to unplug a liquid-deluged electronic device, I had turned it upside down until salsa stopped dripping. I sopped up the keys.

“Clean the keyboard.” Every time I wiped the keyboard I felt the sticky ooze under the letters and numbers.  The speakers crinkled. Turns out it wasn’t fried speakers, just an old “I get chicks” Barry White song popping into R’dio unsolicited. Phew. Not frying yet.  Turning off the computer–good idea. Easier said than done when there are eighty apps  open. A week’s worth of WIP (works in progress) leading my machine toward RIP. It finally went black.

“Take off the keyboard. If possible, take out the battery.” More Google. Praise God for the half-hour video teaching how to rip off keys with parts smaller than the IQ of someone who dumps salsa on the keyboard in the first place.

A couple of keys were different. Panic. Deep breath. There was no one around but me–and Google. It was my moment of truth. Dive in–if underpaid children in China can do this, so can I.  Two swears and an “I wonder if I need my F-12 key” later, the keyboard was reassembled, any remaining liquid deep in the recesses of the machine. Time for prayer. And more Google.

“A classic newbie mistake is trying to turn the machine on after an hour or two. Leave it for 24 hours minimum. 48 or 72 is better.”

I had a premonition about this last week, “I’m not properly backed up.” Backup was last week’s project. This week’s–to spill salsa on it, making the backup worthwhile.

I’ve finished canning the salsa and peaches. If the computer works, I’ve learned a new skill, thanks be to Google. If not, this is the most expensive peach salsa I’ve ever made. Sixteen jars divided by the cost of a new computer breaks down to a total cost of $93.75 per jar.

Put in your orders now.

Pick Your Nose–We’re Out of Tissues

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 7.20.26 AMI’m out of tissues and hand sanitizer. Students are mad. I see this.

“Miss, got any tissues?” I keep forgetting to bring in a new box–I have my stockpile on my homesteading shelf in my basement. Someone needs to text me at 5AM when I plan such things.

“No, sorry.” Huff. Stomp.

I share. I’m generous. But sometimes I wonder why it’s my job to provide things for…my job. I can afford tissues. There was a time when I couldn’t. There was a time, teaching, when I ran my household on a $30 grocery budget for a household of four and still had to have supplies for my class. For two years in the middle of the biggest recession I’ll ever see, a few years after taking out 25K in graduate loans and cutting my salary in half for the privilege.

Thankfully, those days are gone, but not for every teacher–I see the newest teachers stocking their classrooms because they want them to be the utopias students deserve–I see when they put themselves in debt. Balance is important, teacher burnout is the highest out of any career. Teachers need balance. That extends to financial balance as well. It’s something that’s tough for teachers. But I have well over two hundred students–some years as few as 150–and most days several of them sound like this:

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 7.19.58 AM“Miss, got a band-aid?”

“Miss, I don’t have a pencil.”

“Miss, got any tissues?”

“Where’s the paper?”

“Miss, got any hand sanitizer?”

Sometimes, when I am well supplied, I share. Other times not so much. If I gave every student who asked me for a pencil a pencil each time they asked, I’d be giving out a lot of pencils. Hundreds of pencils. I knew of a teacher who marked down on her teacher evaluation because a student didn’t have a pencil. This is serious.The fact that students don’t have a pencil–and maybe that I forgot the tissues–can now affect my career. I literally give out thousands of pencils. Sometimes I feel like a game show.

“You’re awake, you win a pencil!!!”  I needed to reduce this amount. I feel strongly about not killing the rainforest, but also about personal responsibility. I’ve worked for twenty years, coming prepared every day. It’s important. I try to teach this to students. I got an idea.

I invented the Crayon of Shame. I got a little bucket, into which I put crayons, broken pencils, and the types of colored pencils that are really hard to write with. Then, I said, “No,” really loud, “I DON’T have a pencil. But you can have the crayon of shame.” That helped increase preparedness for a while–no one wants the crayon of shame, and I purposely picked things that didn’t write smoothly. That wouldn’t be a pleasure to use.  After a while, the crayon of shame became a badge of honor. So I tried something new. “I’ll rent you a pencil for ten points.” I don’t usually take the points, but I make a big theatrical deal about it, Shakespearian-style. All the world’s a stage…and a particularly big one when making fun of kids. Kids without pencils whining because they used the last handful of my tissues.

Sometimes there is a propensity, in student land, to waste resources. It’s true. Mr. I Took Eighty Kleenexes or Student Who Loses A Pencil a Day may not sound like a big deal until you realize half a rainforest and a week’s salary goes into replacing all this stuff. I feel strongly about sustainability. I don’t know the exact amount of trees I have to kill to make enough kleenexes for 250 students, but it’s a lot. In my personal household, I try not to waste resources. My son didn’t know what a paper towel or napkin was until recently, and he’s six.

I guess it’s hard to waste resources in schools because schools so seldom have resources, but it’s still something to be aware of either way. Maybe next year, I’ll embroider handkerchiefs as my gift to each student. I can make them slightly by tweaking this “How to Make Napkins” craft board on Learnist by Project Runway’s Melissa Fleis. Sure, it’s about napkins, but I bet it’d work for handkerchiefs, too.

But for now, I tell them to pick their nose, we’re out of tissues.

“What?” I say, “Okay, fine. Go to the lav. Remember to wash your hands. Research says 70% of people don’t wash their hands.” I always wreck a good time with research. It’s my job. But shopping for supplies for my job, I fear, is not.

I really hope, in all this ed reform, someone budgets for a box of tissues. Because not only do I have to blow my nose once in a while, but I often have to cry.


[images: artteachershateglitter.com and lifeofkaylen.blogspot.com]

Good Yogi, Bad Yogi

I’m tying myself in knots again. It’s fun.

After my yoga retreat, I tried to practice yoga daily, then lost focus–I forgot the moves.  So, I started watching yoga videos. I started with Claudia’s video. Claudia gives such good instructions for beginners, and if anyone asks who my yoga instructor is, I will say “Claudia Altucher” because I really only took a couple yoga classes in person, and they were with Claudia. She wins by default. She may ask me to stop crediting her after doing quality control appraising my routines. I still feel my sun salutation caused all this snow. I need better technique. But I don’t think Claudia will disown me. She is kind–she is a good yogi.

Next, I moved on to some other videos. There are no shortage of people on YouTube wanting to show me stuff I can’t do. I watched this video, because I liked the rhythm. Esther is a good yogi, too. Then, I remembered Dashama Gordon, whose material I worked with on Learnist a couple months before I could spell “yoga” correctly. Now that I have approximately one month of yoga experience, making me nearly a beginner, I felt qualified to watch her again. I put her on my list–I’m making a collection of my favorite yoga videos as we speak. I’ll learn from all these yogis. Apparently you can do that in yoga.

Screen Shot 2013-02-10 at 1.30.44 PM

Good Yogi

I tried this series under the guidance of Dashama–“Yoga Balance Poses for Beginners.” I’m not really sure what a beginner is in yoga–I wouldn’t have suspected it was someone who could invert their body while twisting it in directions previously reserved only for NASA flight simulators, but she couldn’t reach through the computer and tell me not to try. In fairness, she did say, “You should consider stopping right there if you feel your spine.” My spine is fine. My balance and coordination are not. But she didn’t issue any prohibitions in those categories. I like the way Dashama makes me feel–her voice is soothing, and she makes me want to try stuff I know could easily drop me on my head.

But she’s beautiful and elegant and graceful. So I try anyway. She is a good yogi.

And you know what happens when you try your hardest–when you put your entire heart and soul into something, and really, truly, believe in yourself–believe you can accomplish anything?

Screen Shot 2013-02-10 at 1.25.15 PM

Bad Yogi

Well, you drop yourself on your head. Sometimes it’s good to be realistic, too. But the moral is that you get up and try it again. Or, realizing that trying the same thing several times and expecting different results is insanity, you try something a little more reasonable and do not get dropped on your head, reserving the head drop for another day, when maybe–just maybe–your soul is in better balance, and the universe decides to cooperate.

I’m not ready to call myself a yogi yet.  If I had to, I’d be the “bad yogi.”

Maybe not. I’m trying my hardest. Yoga seems to be about transformation from the inside out–about patience, love, and letting the inner light shine. That’s what I see in these “good yogis”–a glowing beauty that projects from the soul…light that is contagious, that makes me want to be a better human being.

If I’m trying all that, then perhaps I can, in honestly, say, “Good yogi.”




[images: tvtropes via Warner Bros, learni.st via prweb.com]