Friday, January 30 - Snow Days - Walk Like a Penguin

Snow days - gotta love em! We had one this week (well they did, I'm still home recuperating). I remember when my kids were still in school these were the days that became opportunities. They were the days for the lessons learned at home.

There was a letter to the editor of our newspaper that appeared back then after a particularly icy winter that had caused most of our local school districts to surpass their days put aside for weather. Some mother was complaining that the schools were not being responsible enough with her children's education because they didn't provide materials or work for them to do at home should there be a snow day. I had to laugh out loud at this. Why should it be the responsibility of the school to provide materials or work for a student when they are home for a snow day!

Like I said before, these were the days for lessons learned at home. I always kept the ingredients on hand for making chocolate chip cookies. The ones from scratch, not in the tube. And when they were younger, I would supervise, but as they got older, they were responsible for making them on their own. In that you have a science, math, and reading lesson.

There was always a stash of craft supplies on hand. There was no limit to how they might choose to use them. And you can do this even if you only have the barest minimum of things on hand. Newspapers, glue, crayons or markers and an imagination will go very far. There's an art lesson there. Building things with the pillows and cushions from the furniture is a lesson in engineering. No need to park your child in front of the TV or computer.

Snow days are the precursor to Take Your Child to Work Day for every stay at home mom. Let them help with sorting laundry (before and after), putting dishes away, planning meals, cleaning up after the outside snowball fight comes back inside.

Enjoy them. The days and your children. There'll be times down the road when you will be home on your own on snow days and go to reach for the chocolate chip cookie ingredients and, if you even have them, have to make the cookies yourself.

I've included a link to a notice that my daughter received from her school district. It's meant to help you avoid becoming a victim of the ice and snow. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, January 23 - Walkie Talkie 101

Pop Quiz - If someone put a walkie talkie in your hands, would you know how to work it?

We have several pairs of walkie talkies in our office. They are there for a number of reasons. Mainly they are there because the lunch aides must take one out with them during recess so they will be able to call for help should a someone become injured enough on the playground and can't be moved. But we also send out a walkie talkie with any teacher who is taking their class outside, including the gym teacher, and to keep contact with the principal during fire drills.

I have often wanted to put together a short video for the staff to view at the beginning of the school year because, as walkie talkies fall into the technology category, many of our staff are walkie talkie challenged. Really.

The first thing that I would tell them is that you must turn the walkie talkie on. It doesn't do anyone any good to have you take the walkie talkie outside with you if it is not turned on. This has happened many times.

The second thing would be that you should keep the walkie talkie on or near you at all times. It doesn't do anyone any good to have the walkie talkie on the bench by the swings when your class is over by the kickball field. This has happened many times. It's a little annoying when you have a parent in front of you who is there to pick up their child for some reason and you cannot get the attention of the teacher with the walkie talkie because the walkie talkie is either not on or it's in the equipment bag on the bench.

Third, use the ring key on the walkie talkie to get our attention in the office. Clicking the walkie talkie on and off doesn't do anyone any good. There are many other noises in the office at any given time and the clicking sound might not be heard. This has happened many times.

Fourth, HOLD THE BUTTON DOWN WHEN YOU ARE TALKING. This is a big faux pas. They will press the button down - we hear the beginning of the message and then dead air. I can't begin to tell you how many times this has happened.

Fifth - please speak in a normal voice and hold the walkie talkie several inches away from your face. There are those that think they are secret service agents and must hold the walkie talkie right up to their mouth and whisper, while there are others who think they need to yell. This doesn't do anyone any good if you can't understand a freaking word they're saying.

Sixth - if we call you, please confirm that you have received the message. Some days I do my best parrot imitation trying to get a message to a class who is outside with the walkie talkie. Repeat, repeat, repeat. I'm not signalling planes flying overhead - do you hear me?????

Seven - you do not have to hold the walkie talkie up to your ear to hear - it's not a cell phone. Really.

Pretty basic don't you think? Easy to follow instructions. I could even do it without the sarcasm - it would kill me, but I could. Not going to happen though.

Friday, January 16 - Tardy

Well, that wasn't exactly the post that I had intended for yesterday, but seeing as today is actually Saturday I thought it would be fitting. Of course, I can hear some of you saying - not showing up on the day you're supposed to is more than just tardy, but let's not go there.

When students come into our school late they have to sign in in the front office, get a late pass and report to class. Probably, a pretty standard procedure for any school.

The doorbell will ring, the student comes into the lobby and, god-willing they will remember that they are supposed to report to the office first. In our office I sit behind a counter that while it allows me to see who is passing by does not allow for quick access to the office door should a student forget to come into the office.

Many is the time that I have had to jump up, circle the counter, and run down the hall to have a student come back and sign in. This is especially of comedic value when the morning announcements have started at the microphone adjacent to my desk. But, I have managed to manuever between the two teachers and one or two students doing the broadcast, around the desk, out the door and down the hall, all without having them miss a beat.

Once in the office the student (or parent who has accompanied them) signs into the tardy book.
Name. Homeroom. Time In. Reason. Simple right?

Well, don't forget that we're dealing with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. If a 3rd grader is the first late student, they usually need prompting for I've found that once the pattern is begun and you don't correct it - you're screwed.

Name. That would include first and last name. One morning I neglected to reinforce this rule and got a list of seven students by first name only.

Homeroom. Most students know this as it differentiates them from every other class in the school.

Time. Aha, another difficult one. First they must find the clock on the wall behind me. Then, they must be able to read time (yes, there are children of this age who still have difficulty telling time - sigh!). When they're completely lost, or there is a line of students behind them waiting to sign in, I'll throw in a save for them and give them the time.

Reason. Most of them generally put "late" as their reason. But there have been those that have come up with some colorful excuses. "My sister threw up on my homework." "We didn't get one green light this morning." "I was watching the World Series last night." "My alarm clock broked."

When writing out the late passes, I usually refrain from the lengthy reasons. I'm sure the teacher will be hearing about it anyway.

So as I sit here hoping that you are filling out my late pass here is my info:
Name: Lorraine HR: N/A Time: 6:00 p.m. Reason: Medical .

Without going into details, I am going to be home for the next 6-8 weeks recovering from surgery. I have asked some of my buddies at school (who know about this blog) to keep me primed with their observations about life in the school office which I'm hoping will keep me in material for that time. But, if there's anyone out there who would like to guest a Friday between now and March, just let me know.

Friday, January 9 - Regifting

We've just been through the Christmas holidays and with that comes the inevitable teacher gift season. At least if you work in an elementary school. Once you get to the middle school level the gift-giving is usually not of the good kind.

I was lucky? enough over the course of years when I substituted to have been on some long-term assignments right before the holidays and received some gifts myself. I have a few teacher mugs, tree ornaments, candles, boxes of candy, etc. The last year that I actually worked in the classroom as an aide with a SPED teacher and a 3rd grade teacher, we all were privileged to get a lovely gift of a framed pink flamingo - complete with feathers, in a white lattice frame.

Of course when you open up these gifts in front of the students you give them the look of awe and say that it's beautiful. Because you never really know if the child has done the shopping or the parent. I've found the prouder the child is of the gift, the more likely they were the one who picked it out. Then you put it aside and think to yourself "what in the world were they thinking?" or "what the hell am I going to do with that?"

A teacher once told me she calls those kind of gifts "gosunders" - the ones that go under the bed until you find someone else to regift it too. You never want to put them up for sale in a garage sale you're having if you live in the town you teach in. And you don't want to put them in the holiday gift collection box around the holidays just in case the parents are on the wrapping committee. So you save them for donations to white elephant or penny sales that your mother, or grandmother or great aunt's "club" is having. Of course, you're doomed to keep it if it has your name on it.

Now not all gifts are worthy of regifting. There are those that you just have to keep as a gag gift for someone (the pink flamingo worked well in this category), or as a conversation piece. And usually, it's pretty tacky to try to pass off baked goods to someone else as something you've baked yourself. Boxed candy is okay though - that is, unopened boxed candy.

In our district parents are encouraged to make a donation to the education foundation in the teacher's name and the donations go to assembly programs and school grants. It's a nice idea and keeps the chocki's off your desk. But I've gotten off track.

What I wanted to share was a story of a regifting incident from this week.

I was approached by one of our teachers with an inquisitive look and the question

"You collect birds don't you?"

"I have a bird, and I like birds, but I don't collect them. Why do you ask?"

"Well, I got this gift from a student. It's really cute, but I just don't have a place for it and I thought you might like it. Would you like to see it?"


And she ran back to her classroom to get it. It was really quite nice. A little ceramic bird in a cushioned box. As I took it out I said

"It's nice. It looks like a lovebird. What kind of bird is it?"

"Well, that's the funny part. The students asked the same thing. Turn it over."

"It's a Blue" and I burst out laughing.

"Yes, that's exactly what I said. It's a Blue"

"Oh my God, it's a Blue Tit."

What were they thinking!

Friday, January 2 – Death in the Faculty Room

In last week's post I talked about sending an e-mail to the staff that might have had some negative reactions. It doesn't always happen that way. I try to interject a little humor, usually disguised as sarcasm in my e-mails. Since it was a slow week at work (only us 12-month workers had to be there and most of us used vacation time) I dug this one up from last spring.

It all started with this e-mail from a 3rd grade teacher:

"Lorraine, I don't know if you're aware of this, and I can't imagine how it happened, but the large paper cutter in the lower faculty room is broken."

No I was not aware and, oh yes, it was broken all right. We're talking about one of the guillotine-type paper cutters. The metal hinge that attached the 30" blade to the wooden base was snapped off, and the blade, which is a pretty dangerous thing while attached to the base if not used properly, had become a lethal weapon just sitting there. It's not really the kind of thing that spontaneously happens, but I couldn't imagine how someone could do this and not let anyone know about it. So, here is what I sent out to the staff:

"Subject: Death In the Faculty Room

I am sad to report that the large paper cutter in the lower faculty room has been murdered. The arm is completely broken off – unrepairable – dead. There were no witnesses and there hasn't been a confession, in fact, we were only made aware of this dastardly deed today. Who knows how long the poor thing lie there unattended.

I'm thinking that we might have a serial killer at large. I don't know for sure if it was the same person that broke the laminator earlier this year (and we do know who that was by the way – thanks for your honesty (not!)), but I'm pretty sure that we'll find out that the perpetrator is "It Wasn't Me" or perhaps "I Didn't Do It".

Thank you for reading this and allowing me to vent – there will be a moment of silence today at 3:05.

BTW – I will be adding this to the book I'm writing as Chapter 6 – Honesty in the Workplace."

And the responses that I got included:

"My family always has a gathering after the services….

I will bring a Mississippi Mud Pie (traditional celebrations (good or bad) food…

Who is bringing the keg?"


"I hope you are writing a book. You're a good writer.


"It Wasn't Me" and "I Didn't Do It""


"HAHA! You are funny!"


"You are funny. You are not going to pick us off one by one with the blade…. Right? Are you?"


"that's awful: (But very funny, I can't wait to get my signed copy of your book!"


"Oh well, please make sure the sunshine fund sends flowers."


But the phone call I got was priceless:

"Geez, you scared the shit out of us!"

"What are you talking about?"

"The e-mail you sent! We thought someone really was killed in the faculty room and we got worried!"

"And you really think that we would notify you by e-mail?!?!?!?"