Friday, January 31, 2014


I wrote about Toof in the book, but we're a few weeks into doing Toof Telling in class now so I thought I'd share a video or two my kids have done.
Yes, I've got permission from every parent to post these online. Really, they are impossible to find because they are Public But Unlisted, so the videos will only be linked to the class blog I keep.
First, an overview from the homework blog about Toof:
We have a new student in our class. Its name is Toof and it’s a monster (puppet). Toof lives in the classroom, but wants a change of scenery. Toof asked to go out and I’ve agreed. So it will be heading to the homes of the students of P5 for sleepovers for the rest of the year.
When Toof visits your home your student will need to write at least one page describing what they did together in Toof’s voice. This will help them write in first person, which is a challenge. (i.e. First person Toof-“ I got to go to Stu’s house this weekend. It was fun. We…”) They will then present this information to the class during Toof Telling Time, presenting using the puppet and whatever voice they feel Toof has.
Students will need to either bring in a photograph or a drawing of themselves with Toof doing something they talk about. With these plus the write-ups we will be able to make a Toof Telling memory book.
I think that this will be a fun way to get the students to write in the first person and to work on presentation and oral communication skills. By taking Toof home and having to remember to bring it back our students will also practice responsibility.
I will be choosing which student Toof goes home with and when. My choice will be based on responsibility displayed in class, completed homework, and behavior. Toof will travel with every student once. Trips will normally happen Friday to Monday and Monday to Weds. Please help your student remember to return Toof on the correct day so that it can go home with another student. Please, when Toof comes to your home, protect our small monster friend from curious pets and baby brothers and sisters. It would be a shame if Toof gets lost or damaged before all of our students are able to hang out with it.
Thank you for your help and for welcoming Toof into your home. If for some reason you would not like Toof to visit please let me know.
 Below is an example of a picture/caption-

Toof loves cake, because monsters love cake. Mmmm, cake cake cake

So that's what the deal with Toof Telling is. Now here's a few of the videos my kids are making. Note- they are simple sit and talk videos. No fancy editing. The purpose right now is just to get used to talking. Maybe when I get more time I'll teach them to use some of YouTube's tools. Again, yes I have permission to post these. Please be cool and don't spread the links around.

If you haven't left a review on amazon, Barnes and Noble, or iTunes please do that. It helps. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Classcast Lesson 4- If You Want to be a Teacher...TEACH

I'm back after a holiday break and I've made a new classcast. This is me reading the response I wrote to the teacher featured in the Washington Post's "I would love to teach but..." article. Yes, I'm double dipping, but sometimes an audio and visual element help to make the point.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Barnes and Noble Readings (Yes! Plural!)

Backstory: A few weeks ago I swung by the local Barnes and Noble to see if they did local author readings. They technically stock my book, though just on Nook. If you ask for it in paperback in store (no I didn't...Angela did) they tell you it's order only and they'll send it to you. Makes sense, I can't imagine a giant chain trying to keep a bunch of self-published books in stock. Still, I'm doing everything I can to promote the book and I live by, "It never hurts to ask."* The dude I talked to said they do author nights sometimes and he took my contact info and promised to give it to the proper person. I never heard from that person and figured I got lost in the big business shuffle or they weren't interested and didn't sweat it.

Today, while I was teaching a very nice lady from Barnes and Noble left me a voice mail. She did have my contact information and was I willing to do some readings at the store. Not one reading, but TWO! Checking that voicemail made the end of the day go by quick and happy and I called her back as soon as I could.

Next week is Educator Appreciate Week and B&N is always good about teacher discounts and stuff that week. The Medford B&N hosts a Teacher Appreciation Event and she wanted to know if I'd be interested in basically being the entertainment. Come, read, do a Q&A, talk to teachers, try to sell the book. WHAT!? YES! Yes, I very much would! I'm in from 4:30 until I'm done. Event ends at 6:00.

And- AND- they are doing their Local Author Winter Readings Feb. 1st and would I be interested in participating in that? They give me an hour block and I do with it what I want. Of course I'm in. Noon to one.

Not only are these awesome chances to spread the Weird Teacher name and sell some books, they are also great chances to wake the B&N computers up to the book. Here's how sales for these events works- I bring in my own stock. Since the books are printed through they are print on demand for B&N. That means non-refundable, which means if they order a bunch of books and don't sell them they are stuck with them. I understand. But when I sell a book at the reading it is sold through the B&N register. That means the computers see He's the Weird Teacher moving through their system, which means it lights up things which could eventually lead to carrying books in-store if it looks like the demand is there. And when I sell a book through B&N, createspace pays me for the sale and sends me a hard copy to replace the one I sold. So if I sell five book Tuesday, I get paid for five books, B&N sees that He's the Weird Teacher spike in sales, and I get five free books in the mail. Short version- That doesn't suck.

I'm crazy excited to be able to do this. I've got three readings booked now, these two and one at my alma mater, University of the Pacific, which I haven't written about yet but need to. I'm also working on getting another lined up at Bloomsbury in May.

Thank you for reading the blog and the book and telling your friends. It's been an unreal experience hearing from random corners of the internet and seeing messages and pictures pop up on the He's the Weird Teacher facebook page.

*Bonus example- I just sent the necessary paperwork to Heaven (aka Powell's Books in Portland) so that they'll consider stocking He's the Weird Teacher. They are an independent bookstore and do stuff like that. It might work. Couldn't hurt.

Monday, January 6, 2014

One Teacher's Response to "I would love to teach but..." from the Washington Post

Here is the article to which I'm responding. Read it first for context.

A lot of teachers feel this way and I've seen this article in a few places now. I think it's true that a lot of the problems in the system are hurting our ability to do our jobs, but if you're that upset by it then you need to either A) get out or B) decide forget all that noise and teach how you think you should teach. Let them fire me for being great at my job, because I will be as great as I can be in whatever situation you put me in.
I'm going to be as in control of my little universe as I possibly can. I'm going to get loud politically to be a force for change. I'm going to be involved in the decision making process at my school and go to district meetings. They will hear my voice.
Got a terrible admin? Move. Find someone better, because there are better admins out there. Be brave and take control of your life and your job. Remove an excuse. If you have the teaching gene you'll find a way to teach.
This teacher became the problem. She became a bad teacher. She let that happen. Look- " In the time to follow, I gave up. I taught the bare minimum and didn’t feel like my students learned anything of value, but they all got good grades." Wahhh, the grades I gave didn't change, so why try to teach? GRADES DON'T MATTER THAT MUCH! YOU'RE HURTING THE KIDS BECAUSE YOU FEEL SORRY FOR YOURSELF. An administrator dictating final grades does not remove your ability to do your whole job, just a part. Frankly, a less important part. You can still teach. You can still assess. You can still modify instruction based on assessment. You know, the point of assessments.
Wahhh, parents make the job hard and they complain and don't support me. Maybe. Some of them. NOT all of them. I've had plenty- plenty- of rock star parents. Dwell on the awful ones or rejoice in the great ones. Do what you can for the parents but at the end of the day you have that child for eight hours. Make the most of it despite the homelife. Stop finding the negative and focusing myopically on it.
She's part of the problem and this makes it worse, not better. She admits as much- "Could I be part of the solution? Of course." Then she makes excuses about how useless it is to even try to be part of the solution when no one listens to teachers. Meanwhile her letter goes viral. This only gives teachers more excuses, a greater feeling of institutional helplessness. I can't make a difference so why try because when someone else did try they couldn't. Like one person can't create change in the face of institutional distress. Teach that lesson during Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This attitude lets those above us feel like they are winning. Unions are broken and contracts are terrible because so many feel helpless because they bought the hype.
You teach because you have to. Because no matter the bull from above and below, no matter all the idiotic policy changes and political posturing, you have to teach. No matter the ignorant things people say about the job, you know they have no idea, and you have to teach. Take the opinions of morons personally at your peril. These opinions aren't new, you can just hear them better now. Focusing on the negative is a choice. But you won't, because you have to teach and you're too strong for the voices of the loud angry few to bring you down.

This is Not the way The Education System In This Country Is Now. It's not. That's the narrative you're being sold and helping to contribute to, but it's not it all. It's a narrow view of the ugliest things in education. 
She sounds like she was a great teacher until she gave up. We are stronger for losing her. We are weaker for her spreading her poison of helplessness. I'm not saying the problems she outlines aren't real. They are. I'm saying we all need to step up and fight to fix them, not lay down and complain. At every turn, every time this teacher was confronted with an obstacle, according to what she wrote, she gave up and got weaker and hurt her students and her school and her profession. 

Step forward. Teach because you have the gene, but fight and rally and push back and create change and find new avenues and impact policy and refuse to roll over when things get hard. Or get out. Because letters like this don't make our situation better. They make it worse. It creates nodding heads and grumbles and deeper helplessness, allowing us to be pushed around even more. 
Teachers, we need to recognize the problems. Then we need to get active to fix them. In our classrooms. In our schools. In our districts. In our states. In our country. 
We can. It's not easy. It's not fun. It won't be quick. But the bigger the groundswell, the better we can be. For our profession. And for our kids. 
In the end, we have to find a way for it all to be about the kids.