Tuesday, November 1, 2011

focusing on the funny

I have a boatload of very un-fun work to tackle before the end of the week and out departure for Washington DC! Feeling very not motivated and filled with fatigue, I have decided to focus my attentions on the funny.

First, mispronunciations have been rampant in my classroom this year. I often repeat new words or foreign names multiple times and have the kids repeat after me to ensure they to don;t sound ignorant later, but there always a few that slip through.

1. Clergy is sometimes pronounced cler-GIE as in rhymes with Fergie.

2. Magellan is pronounced MAG-a-lin almost like Mary Magdalene. That is rough for the first person to circumnavigate the globe.

2. Today, Richelieu, Louis XIII's infamous, Machiavellian Cardinal, was pronounced rick-a-loo as in rhymes with "get a clue". Ouch!

When talking about the students packing list and dress code for the DC trip today, I had a male student ask if he could "bedazzle" his uniform. I told him that he was allowed to but that no one else in the class was. It was a wonderfully hilarious moment.

I think that is all the funny that I can come up with for the moment. Alas, I guess I will have to get to work.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


In Texas, the temperature is mostly in the 70's and 80's which means that it is fall, finally! The other night I decided to make a favorite fall-ish meal: tomato soup and grilled cheese.

For the grilled cheese I took the traditional approach of using whatever kind of cheese I had in the refrigerator, but this time I added arugula because a life without arugula is a life half lived (lesson leaned in Italy). This is my favorite tomato soup recipe. It is simple to make and the flavor is perfect.

Grandma Belle's Tomato Soup
2 cups tomato juice
2 cups milk
4 T. butter
4 T. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/4 t. soda
1/4 cup finely chopped onion

Melt butter, add flour and stir. Add tomato juice, soda, and onions. Cook for 5 minutes. Add milk. WHen thoroughly heated, season and serve.

classroom for 1 just begun

One of the most exciting thoughts about having a baby is that it is like I am starting my own classroom complete with curriculum, books, and field trips. Our pal. Charlotte Mason, talks at length about the importance of a child's atmosphere or environment for growth so as a teacher, I have had a lot of fun planning this new space.
The room has a long way to go, but here is a start. I purchased the bedding a few years ago on super sale at Pottery Barn Kids with my mom. Now it is just a matter of filling in the blanks i.e. paint color, reupholstering the glider and ottoman (purchased on Craig's List for a steal of a deal), curtains, and piecing together the rest of the decor and artwork.

bedding fabric

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

things that ought not be said so many times

Below is a list of things that I find being said by me or a student way too many times. It should not be legal.

1. Me: "Stop grunting!"
I do not know what the deal is with middle schools boys and grunting/animal noises, but it is out of control. I do not like it. It is very unnerving.

2. Student: "I would _________ if Baby Freeman weren't here right now."
Usually the blank is filled with an action verb like "hit you" or "throw this." My response is usually something along the lines of "Baby Freeman thanks you, but let's just not do that in general."

3. Me: "I am sick of your pencil games!"
For some reason this year has brought with it much drama with writing utensils of all kinds--pens, pencils, mechanical pencil parts, lead, etc. There is swapping pencils, stealing pencils, more than I can keep up with honestly.

4. Student: "Mrs. Freeman, your stomach is so big. I think it just grew."
I don't quite know how to respond to these comments yet. For so long, comments about having a large stomach were strictly forbidden and offensive to the extreme, but now they are a fact of life. My, how one's perspective can change!

5. Me: "Start channeling the 9th grade, please!"
This is my response to any childish or foolish action that belongs in first or second grade yet has snuck into an eighth grader's repertoire. I have told my students that I am genuinely concerned for their well-being in high school if they cannot step up their game a little.

6. Me: "Sticking out your tongue? Are you serious right now?"
Ok, so I have only said this once, and it was today. But the fact that I had to say it even once to an eighth grader is too much, and therefore, makes the cut.

While funny from a distance, I would challenge anyone to find the humor in the moment.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

win win

Desperately searching through our redbox choices for entertainment, Barrett and I happened upon the movie Win Win with Paul Giamati. It is kind of about wrestling, kind of about family, and kind of about moral dilemmas. Win Win tells the story of a lawyer in New Jersey who doesn't quite have enough business to keep his practice open and support his family. He decides to become the guardian of an elderly client to earn some extra cash when the client's wayward grandson shows up and needs a place to stay.

The story is very interesting, and the characters are well acted. Paul Giamati is the quintessential normal guy, and in this movie he is not grumpy or cynical which is a lovely change of pace for him. His wife is played by Amy Ryan, who does a wonderful job.

The movie is funny and the characters interesting and lovable. It has a great sports side plot as the grandson turns out to be a star wrestler and Giamati coaches the loosing high school wrestling team. But the moral dilemma in the movie is interesting. I laughed out loud and loved the ending.

the news

For a long time I considered how I was going to deliver some big news to my students. This is what I came up with. The response was surprised even me.

I started by telling the class that we desperately needed to review subjects and predicates because they did not do so hot hot on a quiz (which was true). So I told them I would write a few sentences on the board for us to practice. Then I wrote on the board:

"Today Mrs. Freeman told us that she was pregnant."

I moved to the side, waited a moment or two, then I saw their minds start to turn.

"Mrs. Freeman, are you trying to tell us something?!"

"Yes" was my reply.

At this point I expected about 3-5 minutes worth of excitement (mostly from the female side) and a few questions about how this would effect their lives.

Instead, I was bombarded 45 minutes worth of excitement from every angle of the classroom and one million questions. When is the baby due? How many months are you? Can we visit you in the hospital? Can we come to your house? Can you feel it moving? It is a boy or a girl? What are you going to name it? Are you excited? Is Mr. Freeman excited? How long have you known? Who else knows? Why aren't you going to find out if it is a boy or girl? Are we going to have a sub? Who will be our sub? Can it be someone nice? Does that mean we won't have any homework? Can we come to your baby shower? This is only a sample of the barrage I received.

But the prize comment of the whole day was: "I thought your stomach was getting round, but I just thought you weren't working out. Seriously, I saw you in the skirt yesterday, and it did not used to fit like that."


Seriously though, the excitement of my students over my expected little one rivaled that of our mothers, and that is saying something. I was so blessed by all of their comments and concerns and quandaries, and it helps to know that I have a group of kids that is so excited for their teacher. They even came up with some plans for me to bring in a play pen, strap the baby on, and keep teaching.

Since then, they love to comment on my growing stomach and give me name suggestions. Today's suggestion was Ro'Neesha. They have nicknamed the baby "Baby Freeman" (some even call it Morgan Freeman). Who knew a bunch of adolescents could be so sweet?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

exporting raymond

The other weekend, my husband and I rented Exporting Raymond and enjoyed every minute. It was light, smart, and fun, and those three things rarely meet in a single film.

The movie is a documentary about Philip Ronsenthal, the creator of the show Everybody Loves Raymond, and his struggles and success in trying to adapt and sell the American sitcom in Russia. Rosenthal, like Raymond, is rather dry but very likeable, relate-able, and funny. And his Russian colleagues are equally intriguing.

The most compelling parts of the film are watching Rosenthal try to explain humor that is at once uniquely American and universal to the Russians. Watching them try to cast the Russian version of these beloved American stereotypes was hilarious. And even if you don't like Everybody Loves Raymond, like my husband, I think this movie may surprise you.

funny quotes so far

We have only been back in class fro a few weeks so I only have a couple of share worthy quotes so far. But based on my limited experience with my current classes, I have a feeling that there will be many more to come.

Male Student A (using both hands to wipe down the lunch table after his friends): "I feel like a single mom."

Female student B to Female Student C after lunch in a state of panic-stricken alarm: "We forgot to brush our teeth!"
Female Student C feigning distress: "Oh man."
(I think I found this one humorous because it is so congruous with the vanity of middle schoolers. And you have to laugh at that sort of thing or else they will grow up believing that type of vanity is normal or even acceptable, and we simply cannot have that.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

winter in wartime

I feel like I have talked about a movie in a long time, and that is not because we haven't been watching movies, we have just had a long string of either bad or so-so ones. But last weekend, the streak was broken with Winter in Wartime.

Winter in Wartime is a Dutch movie about the young son of a small, Nazi-occupied town's mayor. He happens upon a wounded British soldier whose plane has crashed in the woods and decides to help this soldier escape no matter what the cost.

The movie is beautifully filmed in greys and blues. The characters are interesting and dynamic, and the movie is full of nuance and subtlety. This is a great coming of age story with a dramatic twist at the end. I highly recommend this movie!

happy first day of school!

I cannot believe it is that time of year again. I am convinced that summer 2011 was sucked away in some kind of time warp. But alas, the first day of school has arrived and with it the school supplies, hand sanitizer, boxes of kleenex, fresh binders, and dividers. Even with all of the rules, expectations, and me doing all the talking, the kids still said the day went by quickly so I am counting the day as a success.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Last night, Barrett and I returned from a beautiful two weeks in Italy. It was the trip of a lifetime, and I am so grateful we were able to do this. There will be many more posts about the trip, but here are a few snapshots.Lake Como: our first stop
Agriturismo outside of Venice: some of the best food and wine I have ever had!
Venice: so enchanting at night
Florence: definitely our favorite city. How could you not like the birthplace of the Renaissance or hanging out with friends in our favorite square eating pizza and drinking prosecco?
Siena/Tuscany: such a respite
Rome: the Sistine chapel, beautiful nightlife, fountains, and so much more

Friday, May 27, 2011

the countdown is over!

Yes, and summer is here! This year, my colleagues found some really creative and fun ways to countdown to the end of school. One fellow teacher gave me post-it notes numbered from 50 all the way down to 1 to countdown the last days of school. Today's post-it read, "WooHoo!"
Another fellow teacher helped me count down the last days of school with a line from one of our favorite shows each day--Sister Wives! Today's line was absolutely classic: Kody (the husband of 4 wives, for those of you who do not watch the show) on his daughters playing with Barbies, "The girls fight over the mommy dolls because they have four moms. [To Girls] Now girls, take turns playing with the daddy doll."

These creative countdowns made the end of the year come much more swiftly. And now, we can rejoice that summer is here!!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

the park revisited

Rumors of a time when the art teacher told the eighth graders she was taking them to the park to pick up trash then took them out to lunch at Dickie's BBQ Pit instead spread down from last year's eighth grade to the current eighth grade class. In the spirit of equity and justice, 8th grade students pleaded all year for a time when they too could go to "the park." But it couldn't be that easy. There needed to be a little bit of trickery involved.

This year, the art teacher and I coordinated. I came in with my mean face and insinuated that I needed to talk with the 8th graders. Then the art teacher stormed into the classroom on a rampage about how every year it was the same problems with eighth grade students thinking they were above the rules because they were the oldest. She even broke out the faltering voice/fake cry. Then we marched the whole class down to the principal's office. After a telling them that we were sick of their shenanigans and the fact that they probably couldn't even spell shenanigans, we told them we were taking them to the famed "Park." It was truly a remarkable ruse. All the performances were Oscar-worthy, except my own--I almost started laughing much to my chagrin because the kids were totally buying it.

It was a wonderfully carnivorous afternoon at "The Park."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

culinary art

While I never condone children playing with their food, I must admit that I was impressed to find these two unique and creative pieces of edible art in our dining hall.
I call this one Two Paths Diverging in a Yellow Wood.
Media: mashed potatoes, broccoli, breading

I call this one The Man with the Chocolate Earring. I think the hi-lights in his hair really set this piece apart.
Media: Chicken patty, spinach, gravy, potatoes, maraschino cherry, and chocolate pudding accents

Monday, May 16, 2011

Texas history = mirth

"On the Texas History trip, there was a lot of mirth."
- Seventh grader's vocabulary sentence after Texas History Trip

The sentences my students write for their vocabulary homework never lie. (Seriously, they are surprisingly candid in those assignments.) Our annual Texas History Trip was 2 weeks ago and was full of mirth and merriment, as usual. Here are a few of funny pics I am submitting as evidence of mirth and the good times had by all.

iPhone on the Battleship Texas--just like in World War I

State Congressman's office
Like my hair?

malcolm is in the building

After studying the Civil Rights movement this year (always a hi-lite), I was reminded of one of my most hilarious classroom moments:

Last year when we got to this lesson in our history text, we were talking about Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and their differing ideas on integration and how racial equality should be achieved. Our book featured this very well-known picture of the leader of the Black Panthers:
Sure enough, I look up from the text and this is what mine eyes see:
Borrowing one of his female classmates' glasses, this student was able to recreate Malcolm X's look very convincingly. I laughed out loud. Who says middle schoolers are too old for costumes in history class? And to my great surprise and merriment, Malcolm even came back to visit at a later date.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Of all the playground equipment available, swings are clearly superior. I love to join my kids on the swings when my shoes permit. Here are some recent swinging shenanigans:

"Who is going higher?"
"Take a picture of us, Mrs. Freeman!"
"Wha' happen'd?"

teacher accessories

Above are some of the tools of a teacher's trade which I do not think are employed in any other professions.

1. A Whistle: This is used mostly in the physical education department. I resisted acquiring one of these for many years under the misconception that whistles were for lower school teachers, coaches, and animals. Boy was I wrong! The whistle is an essential part of getting the attention of many students especially out of doors. I I only use mine when we go outside after lunch but have frequently been caught wearing it around long after it is needed. I have even made it all the way to Target with it on after work. Not a good look outside of the classroom.

2. Red Pencils/Pens: I have these on me at all times when an editing hand is needed or in case some papers in need of grading come to the surface. I rely on them daily and love it.

3. An Attendance book: We are still old school and fill out and turn in these little green books everyday. I secretly love this no-nonsense activity. I wish that other professional could share this small joy.