Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Summer" School

Whoever thought of extending the school year into the middle of June was crazy. These kids are so antsy that work is becoming impossible. On a good day, it was hard to convince second graders that labeling words as R control is important. On a sunny June day? Forget it.

I now conduct half of my tutoring classes outside. We can bask in the sunlight while simultaneously learning the crazy, district required stuff (L control words, anyone?).

On the plus side, my students are caught up on their vitamin D. On the downside, every stray leaf and dog bark has them craning their necks for a better view of the commotion.

Summer can't get here soon enough.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pet Parades

For a minute, I could have sworn that I was back in my hometown. Someone had brought a large, black and white flecked chicken to the pet parade!

There were also countless dogs, a cat in a box (isn't it supposed to be a jack in the box?), and a toad. Unfortunately (!), one boy had to leave his garter snakes at home

I love pet parades. Schoolchildren just love to show off their wide assortment of pets. They're thrilled when their teachers want to know more about it each one. It's such a great break from the regular school day.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Very ADD Day

Today has been a very ADD day. This became abundantly clear when I realized that I was reading five books at once---five pages of The Great Gatsby, ten of Tenth Grade Bleeds, twelve of Free Range Kids, eighteen of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and two of House Rules. Perhaps this isn't the most effective way to read.

I kept getting sidetracked today---I'd walk over to the recycling bin with a few pieces of paper, only to see that someone forgot to mop up around the sink. I'd lay my papers down to remedy that, then see that a whole slew of papers needed to be filed. Eventually I'd remember my original task (taking the papers to the recycling bin) and complete it. Total time: twenty minutes.

Time to have my meds adjusted.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Tooth ith Looth!

I hate loose teeth. The wiggling, the wobbling...every bit of it. The sight of the blood, and children constantly yanking at their twisting tooth. When a child wants me to watch them twist their tooth 180 degrees---it's all I can do not to run away.

Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever worked with a line pushing third grader knows, the last thing you want to do is let on that you don't like loose teeth. All of a sudden, your whole day centers around them. Wiggling teeth pop up (or out) left and right. So you have to soldier on, pretending that you're amazed by these recalcitrant teeth. You have to ooh and ah when a tooth nearly pops out, and field requests to pull teeth ("Well, I'd love to, but don't you think your mother should pull that tooth?").

Just one of the many job hazards intrinsic to education.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gifts that Give More: June Edition

I love Gifts that Give More from the Hunger Site. It offers inexpensive ways to make a real difference in an individual's life. This month, I funded half the donor cost of a High-Efficiency Stove for a Mayan Family in Guatemala, one tenth of the cost of a wheelchair for a Guatemalan, and a prothesis for an individual in a developing country. All for just $77.70.

Just $28 funds half of the donor cost of a High-Efficiency Stove for a Mayan Family. These stoves reduce the need for Mayan women in the highland of Guatemala to search for hours each day for firewood. These stoves necessitate 70% less wood, which helps the "denuded environment of the highlands recover from severe wood overharvesting." With their extra free time, women can spend more time growing food for their family and caring for their children.

Additionally, these stoves also reduce the "number and gravity of pulmonary illnesses, and also burns among women and children" caused by cooking over open fires. These high-efficiency stoves burn wood more efficiently, reducing the amount of smoke released into the houses and the atmosphere. Best of all, these stoves are built in Guatemala, by Guatemalans.

I also provided 1/10 of the cost of a wheelchair for a Guatemalan ($29.70). These wheelchairs are also built in Guatemala from bicycle parts, which are easily replaced. They are durable, low-cost, and rugged, making them perfect for Guatemala. They are customized to fit the recipient, and are made locally.

A mere twenty dollars funded a prosthesis for an individual in a Third World country. This can literally transform a life---allowing a mother to care for her children with greater ease, or a father to go back to work. So little money can do such great things.

Where do you donate?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Call Me Gulliver

Today I stabbed a kid (with a pencil). Luckily it didn't pierce the skin---jeans are really thick!

It was an accident, of course. You have us tall, gangly twenty-somethings, amidst a classroom of tiny people. It's hard not to feel like Gulliver in Gulliver's Travels. A single misstep on our part crushes their whole foot. A carelessly placed knee catches them right in the stomach. And they just sneak up on you.

Even though the boy was adamant that he was okay, I reported the incident to his teacher. It's always better to be on the safe side where injuries and liability is concerned. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery (and no new injuries)!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Don't you just love the name of this lovely hairball reducing cream? As you've probably guessed, this is for cats.

I volunteer every week at a local animal shelter. My most recent duties? Feeding and weighing an elderly blind cat who loves to pace, and administering Catlax to a hairball prone, longhaired, white cat. Since he wouldn't just eat it, I had to spread it all over his front paw, staining it a lovely brown color. He'd then lick his paw clean, and ingest the Catlax. I quickly learned to really spread it in, as the first time he ended up flicking it everywhere: on the floor, on the other cats, and in my hair.

I'm a vegetarian. And Catlax's primary ingredient is cod liver oil. Talk about disgusting!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Police Blotter

You have to love small town newspapers. Whenever I get bored, I simply head on down to the library and read the police blotters in all of the old town newspapers.

A choice pick from last week: "Rifle found in dumpster. Call Police Dept. to claim." Frankly, if I found a rifle in a dumpster, I would be wondering what crime had been committed. Anyone crazy enough to try to claim that thing is liable to end up being questioned.

Another great quote: "Found: Three all black kittens. One mentally challenged. Three weeks old." How can you tell that a kitten is mentally challenged?

Oh, life is never dull in a small town.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mental Health and Visas

Apparently mental illness is one denying factor for work permits in South Korea. I applied with AskNow to teach English in South Korea for a year, but my application was denied due to government stipulations on the mental health of workers. Sigh.

Maybe it's for the best. I know my family wouldn't sleep too well at night with me so close to North Korea. Something about a crazy dictator...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

On eReaders and Toilets

Today I learned how to upload books from the library website onto my new Sony eReader, unclog a toilet (using a stick, strangely enough), and operate a Mac. It was a very productive day.

Maybe tomorrow I'll learn French.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Adventures in eReading

I just received my Sony eReader in the mail today, after it sat twenty-four hours just two hours from my home. For a "Pocket" eReader, it sure is big! Happily, it came preloaded with eight books, and two book excerpts. Now if I could only read German...

I am now trying to download free library ebooks, but curiously enough, the library won't let you do this on their computers. This is frustrating, to say the least. Does the library administration not consider that if I am coming to the library is to use the Internet, I might not have a reliable Internet connection at home? Why else trek miles to the library? Crazy!

Luckily, I was able to find a Mac to borrow (one time only, sadly!), and after two hours of technical jargon (at midnight, mind you), I finally had success! I can now read Committed, Racing in the Rain, Soulless, and This Book is Overdue! on my eReader!

Now if I can only figure out what I'm going to do after the books come due...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Today I broke up two fights and bandaged a bleeding finger. Where are the gloves when you need them?

At my Red Cross First Aid and CPR class, the instructor said that you should always carry gloves. Having taken an informal poll at my workplace, only the nurse had gloves on her. I suppose it's understandable when a first aid kit is just a hallway away, but when a little kid comes at you with a gushing finger, you don't exactly have time to run down to the office and find a pair of gloves. The best you can do is grab a handful of paper towels and show the child how to apply pressure to their own wound, while you find the nurse. If the nurse is off duty? Well, then you get to put your First Aid class to good use.

I'm off to buy a first aid kit (or assemble one for the classroom using all of the materials in the nurse's office)...

Monday, June 7, 2010


"But firemen can't do anything about vampires!"

This is one phrase you don't expect to hear when you walk into the classroom. Who would have thought when I applied for this job eight months ago that I would spend my mornings calming terrified kindergarteners? Who would have known that I would be dealt the task of verifying that while vampires are not real, I can't say anything about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny? Twilight has a lot to answer for.

Nothing beats the day, however, when I was asked by a sixth grader, in all seriousness, what a virgin was. Rather than having him Google it on the web and find who knows what, I gave him my simplest (though not entirely accurate) answer: "A woman who has never had children." Life is never dull.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sony PRS-300 eReader

Well, I just bought a Sony Pocket Edition eReader from I had my eye on these for a while, and when I found that the price dropped from $200 to $139.99 (with free shipping and no taxes), I sprung. I won't have it for two weeks (I was too cheap to do anything but budget shipping), but I am definitely looking forward to playing with this device.

I am a book addict. Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time has probably noticed my "Books Read This Month" gadget on the side of my blog. I average fifteen books a month (more in the summer, less in the winter).

I also love to travel. I recently spent eight months in Central America, teaching English and learning about Guatemala's Internal Armed Conflict. Getting books is not quite as easy abroad, or as cheap. Hitting up book exchanges at hostels helped, as did finding a good used bookstore. One used bookstore even let you rent books! However, the selection was definitely limited, and you couldn't expect to find any recent best sellers or books in a particular series. For me, there is nothing like being able to buy the latest best seller and read it when you're missing all of the comforts and conveniences of home.

Since I'm planning on working in remote places (rural Alaska) and foreign countries, the Sony eReader made sense for me. An alternative would have been purchasing a laptop, and then using the free eReader software offered by Barnes and Noble, Sony, or Kindle. However, laptops are expensive! Also, I really like visiting Internet cafes in foreign countries, rather than toting around a laptop that can be broken or stolen. Besides, Internet cafes are fun!

How do you do your reading on the road?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I've Mastered the Fine Art of Bribery

This year, I've been mastering the fine art of bribery. I work with a very ADHD kindergartener, and pretzels motivate him like nothing else. For each letter that he spells right in a word, he gets one pretzel. He's up to twenty words per session now---he'll even spell pretzel and robot.

This is the little boy who was so quick to spell "shut up" when I taught him the "sh" blend. He's quick as lightning when he feels like working! Knowing his propensity for less socially accepted words, I waited with bated breath when I taught him about "ch." How many swear words would he come up with? Luckily, a plane flew by and he was up and at the window before the full impact of his newly expanded vocabulary was upon him.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rent a Textbook

I have personally never rented a textbook, prefering instead to borrow mine from the college library or get them cheap through, but I recently came across a Yahoo article on strange things to rent.

Chegg is a textbook lender that charges just 10 to 30% of the purchase price of a textbook to borrow it for a quarter or semester. Though you have to pay to have the book shipped to you ($3.99 Standard is the cheapest option), you can return it for free through UPS after the borrowing period ends. To sweeten the deal, Chegg plants a tree for every book you rent.

They offer a 30-day "Any Reason" guarantee, which begins the day the book is shipped to you. This comes in particularly handy if you happen to drop a course, or discover that you don't really "need" the textbook. How many students have discovered that their professor only alludes to a particular book in passing, after having spent $50 on the book? Annoying, to say the least. This sidesteps the issue nicely.

They calculate that "A student, on average, will save over $500 a year by renting compared to buying textbooks." However, "the savings are calculated by subtracting each book's rental fee from the book's publisher suggested list price." Maybe I'm the exception rather than the rule, but I never pay the publisher's listed price. Talk about inflation! However, 10-30% of the list price is still a really good deal.

I'm definitely going to give this site a try for my next online class. Paired with isbndb, this could mean some real textbook savings!