Fourth-grade crimes

Today one of my fourth-graders informed me that students are guaranteed 60 minutes of recess each day, and by detaining her to complete last night’s homework, I was, in fact, breaking the law.

It’s that kind of sass that’s going to land her a dreaded spot in recess detention until the end of June.

That, and my nomination for next year’s Union President.


A riveting match of decimals baseball was interrupted in my classroom today when Joseph, a dark, spirited boy with a thick French accent who can perform all operations of decimals in his head, leaped out of his seat and bolted to the window so fast I thought he’d shatter it.

“Miss! Miss! Is that snow?” he cried.

Before I had a chance to answer, he erupted into dance—a dance joyful enough to summon the snow gods—eyes wide, hands outstretched, as though he were chasing flurries through an imaginary snow globe.

“Yes, Joseph, of course it’s snow!” I answered. “Why are you so excited? Is it because it’s a half day?”

Before I even finished, it dawned on me. Joseph moved to New Britain from Ivory Coast last summer—meaning this was the very first time he’d set his eyes on snow. And while the rest of the kids carried on with decimal division, I stood and watched Joseph, his jubilance increasing with every flake, spinning around so ecstatically I thought he would drill himself right through the floor.

I decided I’m going to think of Joseph every morning at 6:30 when I realize I’d forgotten to park my car in the garage the night before, and I’m chiseling snow off my windshield with frost-bitten hands, snow clumping my eyelashes and soaking through my shoes. I’ll think of his blissful face, his singsong voice, and especially, the euphoric snow dance in the middle of my classroom.

Then I’ll stab my thought bubble with an elephant tusk. Either that, or the broken shovel that someone ran over in the driveway from the week before.

Here we go again, New England. Happy snow blowing.

Wondering what to get your child’s teacher this year?


…Having trouble thinking outside coffee mugs and ornaments?

I present to you the most inappropriate Christmas gift I’ve ever received from a student: a stuffed dog chewing up a pair of panties.

No, your eyes do not deceive you.  She had the panties monogrammed.

I forgot which kid gave me that $20 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble last year.  But I remember exactly who gave me this panty-mauling dog in 2004.

Merry Christmas out there to Maria…wherever you are.

Top 10 (OK, 20) Ways for a Teacher to Seriously Mess with Her Former Students

Recently I received an invitation to a Christmas party Coventry, where I survived my first three years teaching.  The description of the event is as follows:  “There will be amazing food, booze, a world class DJ and well dressed people. Come celebrate the birth of Jesus with the death of your liver and maybe an STD if you’re lucky.”

Assuming I work up the courage to put on my cougar hat and party with the best of them, I present to you the top 20 ways for a teacher to seriously mess with her former students at Joshua Barnett’s spectacular Christmas bash, 2013.  (Really, did you think I could narrow it down to ten?)

#20:  Find out which books they’ve been reading.  Arrange them in literature circles.  Refuse to let them choose their own groups.

#19:  Feed them a steady supply of Jolly Ranchers for answering your questions.

#18:  Arrive with a portfolio stocked with all their lost papers.  Issue a deadline for second drafts.

#17:  Each time a guest becomes rowdy, call his or her parents and put them on speaker phone.  Take pictures.  Send them.

#16:  Come prepared with a docket of missed homework clubs and detentions.  Assign new ones.

#15:  Bring VCR-compatible video tapes of their modern-day Edgar Allan Poe reenactments.  Make them watch.  If they can’t sit quietly, make them leave.

#14:  Repeatedly request the DJ play Hansen’s “Umm Bop.”  Do not take no for an answer.

#13:  Feed the remnants of all Halloween candy to your children and bring them to the party.  Find Brett Giglio.  Ask him to baby-sit.

#12:  With every sign of a potential hook-up, giggle, “Are you guys gonna get married?”

#11:  Bring your old grade book and attempt to collect their 13-year-late homework assignments.  Grumble that they’re only getting half credit.

#10:  Unleash a career’s worth of pent-up profanity in every conversation.  If they do the same, demand they write it 100 times.

#9:  Insist that they continue to address you by title and last name.  Do the same to them.

#8:  Throw finger food around the room.  Be sure the guests see you wind up and release.  As they become irritated, say “WHAT?! Why do you always assume it was me?!?” Keep doing it.

#7:  Giggle uncontrollably whenever you hear someone say “dangling participle.”

#6:  Arrive with your date, Ed Steinnagel, on one arm, a stack of office referrals under the other.  Wear matching Christmas hats.  Smile at no one.

#5:  Seek opportunities in conversation to correct their grammar.  Reword their comments with descriptive language and more extensive vocabulary.

#4:  Bring in the descendants of classroom mascots Hamlet and Lord Rodent.  Beg the guests to take them home over the weekend.

#3:  When asked why you look so tired at 3 in the afternoon, explain that you’re just winding down from a double shift at Hooter’s.

#2:  Two words:  keg stand

…and the #1 way for a teacher to mess with her former students at Joshua Barnett’s spectacular Christmas party, 2013…

#1:  Challenge all party-goers to a match of Mad Libs.  If they don’t know the difference between adverb and adjective, yell, “SEE? I TOLD YOU YOU WERE GOING TO NEED THIS IN REAL LIFE!