Thursday, July 9, 2009

Jr.'s birthday cake derails the Unicorns

In case you did not hear the story, a fellow server at Big Bowl on Monday night had a birthday. Paige graciously brought an incredible ice cream cake from Jewel. Unbeknown to Ichiro, Jr. (the birthday boy) had a tooth ache and could not completely appreciate the delicacy. This is where coach T-Bear stepped in and generously donated his bottomless stomach and picked up the slack for Jr. and the rest of the staff and ate half the cake by himself.

There is an old saying in baseball that a team takes on the personality of it's coach and this was definitely evident in the game yesterday. The Unicorns played collectively as if they were in a food coma. The unicorns looked like they would rather be napping on a couch than playing ball yesterday.

Confusion reigned from the beginning as we were playing a double header at field 3, then a triple header at Wrigley Field, then half a game at field 3 and the other half at field 10, then four innings at Fenway Park in Boston and then getting on a concord jet back to Chicago to play the final 3 innnings at field 3. The situation was completely fluid and changing by the hour. Finally, they settled on a single game at field 10 and an email was sent that no one got at 5:29 pm. Fortunately, T-Bear had to relieve himself of some of Jr.'s cake and had to take a dump before the game and stumbled upon the Unicorns "in the know" at field 10 and was able to correspond to other in the dark ones of the change. Somehow, in the confusion, JIT got an email completely different than anyone else that said "come two hours late and help finish beer." Sorry about the craziness JIT. I think the email that no one got also said "let's look alive out there." We definitely did not get that memo.

Since we were playing an undefeated team, I was hoping that they might be rusty too for not having played for a month and we could surprise them early. Well, we did surprise them early by really sucking. We surprised them to the tune of four gift runs in the first thanks to four errors by our comatose defense. Another gift run was given in the next inning thanks to Legend who actually pulled a reclining comfy chair to 3B and could not unrecline in time and beat a runner to the bag who had three times the space to make up. Was Legend secretly at Big Bowl last night and helping me eat that cake?

Ironically, the best player in the field last night was the one directly responsible for our collective slumber. Paige played like a star at 2B. Mary also played well. She was not as sharp as we are used too, but still pitched good enough to win on a team that could hit worth a damn. We also surprised CNA by trying to hit high pitch after high pitch and grounding out and popping out all game. I put myself at 9th place because I thought having me near Habby would pay big benefits as we have reliably got on base. Not tonight, as king sleepy grounded out to 2nd, hit a ball Shaquille O'Neal would have had trouble with for the only Unicorn RBI, and popped out his last time only to be miraculously not pop out as somehow the ball landed. The pop out would have been the last out of the game. I gave CNA a 20$ gift to make an error or not try and catch a ball by me if it was going to be the last out. This is because I cry when I make the last out and did not want to make a fool out of myself in front of the team (at least anymore than I already have). This greasing of CNA by the Coach allowed me to reach 1st and allowed a more mature person to make the last out.

It was good to see Mr. Brady starting his usual shenanigans last night. We know with him that once he starts thing just snowball. Big Red and Legend will be making out by next week, just you wait. Teams playing us in the future have taken notice of our poor performance last night. Their message to the Unicorns is let Coach T-Bear eat cake.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Unicorns lose 6-5 and T-Bear hits the Old Grandad with ugly results

I was thinking about not writing anything this week because a softball team that can only muster up five runs is not worth my creative output. Actually, the real reason is I am incredibly hung over. However, as the iron fist that is a hangover slowly releases it's grip on my body and I begin to feel like myself again and funny thoughts and voices fill my head about last night's game I have no choice but to either let them continue to rattle around my mind or to release them here. Plus, I know Bauer would be sad, and I don't like to make our shining star sad.

It is clear that every male unicorn wishes to be just like Todd. Who would not want to be like our southpaw slugger? A beautiful wife, three cute sweet girls, a six figure salary, boyish good lucks and charm, penthouse condo on the 100th floor, huge office at work with leather seats. It is obvious that Todd's life is a dream. To top it off he is the star of the championship Oz park volley ball team. All male unicorns looked on in envy at Todd's facebook pics as he was beaming after his triumph leading his volleyball team to victory.

The reason I bring this up is that this fact speaks volumes for some of the play last night and some of the after game festivities. For instance a fly ball was hit to Turk that normally the big guy corals with ease. On this day though instead of catching it, Turk decided to be like Todd and he did a perfect set of the ball trying to imitate the Oz park champion. Turk then shook his head in disbelief not because he missed the catch, but because Todd missed the spike on his perfect set. Later in the game a somewhat easy pop fly was hit to yours truly and instead of catching it I did the same thing and once again Brady missed the spike. Turk and I were in bewilderment wondering how Todd's team could have won with two missed spikes like that. After that inning Todd took both me and Turk aside. He gave us a grilling. He told us that we are playing softball here and you two losers will never be like me. Well, naturally, we were both crushed.

In fact, I was so sad I was just glad my Dad was there. I went over and had a cry on his shoulder. Then my dad said, "I have just the thing for you son." Then with a devilish grin he pulled out a blue fuel bottle with Old Grandad whiskey in it. This was just the pacifier I needed to stop crying and I suckled on this the rest of the night to cure the crushing realism that I was not Todd. Then, with an equally devilish grin, my dad's sidekick, Pawel, pointed to the magical blue cooler where a tall boy of Polish beer was waiting for me. Many psychologists say you cannot drink your troubles away, but I call horse crap as I and the Unicorns are living proof that you can.

I did make amends for my horrible miss plays at short by running up on a little pop and jumping for it. Somehow my 38 year old body spun around like I was 21 again and was able to right myself and fire to first for the double play. It was my parachute roll, and I dedicate that to my dear departed Uncle Richard who was an Air Force Veteran. One time camping with my Uncle he fell down a small rock face and flipped completely over and on his back. Obviously concerned, we rushed to him to see if he was alright. He smiled and said he was fine and that it was his parachute roll.

What can I say about Mary that I have not already said. She rocks. She gave up two earned runs last night. That is freaking awesome. The rest scored on errors. Despite the errors, our defense as stout. Turk finally realized we were playing softball and made some nice catches and JIT was fantastic at first. Our offense lost the game. I have not played in many softball games where five runs won it. I think people are putting too much pressure on themselves to succeed to match or better what we did last year. Who gives a crap if we make the playoffs. What is important is we have a great time and enjoy each other's company. I for one look forward to each Tuesday laying with each and every one of you and could really care less if we win. Winning is more fun, but I have no problem losing with this bunch (tears are streaming down my cheek).

After the beer was gone we made the epic trip to Cactus, and I really think someone else should take over as my memory is rather fuzzy at this point as my Old Grandad was having his way with me. I remember food, beer, shots, Pawel playing pool, Old Grandad, and Crash saying my Dad was adorable. All I know is that my Old Grandad was anything but adorable. We then hit another bar. What bar that is I have no idea. All I remember from this unknown unnamed bar is that Paige and Javi with Javi's brother or some relative (all I am certain here was that it was not his Old Grandad) magically appeared into my consciousness and then isappeared as they put my drunken self in a cab and home.

I woke up this morning with many questions. One thing I am sure of is that despite all my hopes and dreams I am not Todd, and I am okay with that. I am just your lovable, fun loving, witty, sometimes too much Old Grandad drinking, Chicago Adventure traveler (hey have you guys clicked on my website today?), error prone shortstop, slightly twisted, happy T-Bear.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Case of Ms. Taschini's murdered goldfish

The other day I was subbing for a Biology class for two consecutive days at Uplift High School in Chicago. For the first two periods I had as special education instructor helping me. He made a comment that the goldfish in the room was a pretty hardy speciman as he had survived most of the school year. I had subbed for this teacher before, and I had to protect him as a few students wanted to go over and mess with the fish.

On the second day, the special education teacher left the room and I was busy helping a few students with the assignment for the day. A few students wandered over to the fish tank and started screwing with the goldfish. I tried to get them away from the fish, but I was distracted by the students that were looking for help. A few minutes later the students had left and the fish was floating at the top of the aquarium.

I sarcastically congratulated the students on the murder of the goldfish. One of the students started doing a little dance and yelled "yes, no more goldfish." Wow, I thought, here is someone with no regard for life. I know that a goldfish is very low on the ecological scale, but I think it is pretty much proven that young people that torment animals are the ones you really have to be wary of. I have no doubt that these students have as little regard for human life as they do for the lives of goldfishes. I just hope to not meet these turkeys in a dark alley or on a deserted train platform in a few years when they are adults and are even more hardened and uncaring. If I do, I will run.

One thing I will never forget is there was this one girl in the class that is an absolute sweetheart. Every time I sub for her she comes into the class and smiles and says "hello, Mr. Nelson." Most of the students regard me with almost complete indifference. When the goldfish murderer was doing his little victory dance she gave me a look of such disgust that I will never forget. I am not sure what this look implied, but I think it was one of contempt and embarrassment toward her fellow classmates.

It reminds me that there are certain students that we just cannot help. They are already too damaged from their personal life for us to make a difference. Our job as educators is to protect the sweethearts and make sure they can circumnavigate the system, so that they lose the look of disgust and can continue to smile and say hello to Mr. Nelson.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Unicorns win 10-2, but lose to 3rd base

The Unicorns got off to a fast start thanks to Habby with his team leading 2nd home run to lead off the game. The advantage was short lived as the Alzheimer's pros tied it in the bottom of the frame thanks to a bad hop grounder that just about guillotined the head of the Unicorn lovable short stop. T-Bear got his head back straight and the men and women in pink stopped the bleeding.

In the second inning the Unicorns welcomed back their home run hitting lefty from the hinterland of Oz Park volleyball. As soon as he got up the Az pros backed way up in the outfield in deference to his home run hitting abilities. Mr. Brady had a plan for this though. He intentionally took a nasty cut on the very bottom of the ball sending it spinning straight to the pitcher. Of course, no human being could harness a ball like that with so much spin and as soon as it hit the pitcher's hand it spun right off her hands into foul territory giving Mr. Brady a swinging bunt double. It is good to have him back.

The game stayed close despite Turk's 2nd home run of the season tying him for team lead. By the way, Mr. Brady leads the team in swinging bunt doubles at 1. Stellar defense was shown all around the diamond except for the Matador defense by Turk on a fly ball. He went running back on the ball and instead of catching it swung a red cape and yelled olay as the ball landed for a double. I had to have a word with Turk and show him the ball was a softball and not a bull and this was not bullfighting and after that he caught the next couple fly outs that came his way.

I was impressed with the smashes that the ladies hit. The biggest one was Ichiro's clutch hit with someone at third with two outs. The South Koreans lost to Japan in the World Baseball Classic because they pitched to Ichiro with two men in scoring position and a base open. When will the rest of the world know that you do not pitch to Ichiro with two a base open and Unicorns in scoring position.

Mr. Clean came in and cleaned up at shortstop. We did not miss a beat defensively, and T-Bear watched from the sidelines and thought he saw his alter ego out there at short albeit less hair. Bauer was an all star at first base as well. Amazingly, we actually threw accurately to her.

The Unicorns then took control of the game thanks to a big bases loaded chop hit by Habby. Habby is quite gifted with the bat. If I did that maneuver I would pop up to the pitcher. On second thought, may be I should try that as I might get a double and tie Mr. Brady for team lead in that category.

The Unicorns would have really creamed the Az pros if not for a break down at third base. First it was Big Red, then Bauer, then Big Red again. I think we are going to meet an hour early next week and practice running into third and stopping there. I think may be the base is trying to get back at us for last year when Squirrel unceremoniously flicked it off. When running into third base only listen to your third base coach. Not the ump, not the other players, not a bird that swoops down and yells "out." If you are confused about what is going on then run to third base and stay there and then ask the coach. Famous last words from Big Red after over running the bag was "I always have had trouble with third base." Insert your own joke here on that one.

I will take some of the blame on the pick off as I should have saw that coming. I was trying to get Katie into foul territory in case she was hit by a grounder or liner by Legend. Although she did not even move from fair territory, so if I would have yelled "get back to the bag they are picking you off," I doubt it would have made a difference. No big deal though as a lesson was learned, we won, and a nickname was born.

It is really not necessary to lead off altogether when the pitcher has the ball. As soon as the ball is released by the pitcher then take a running lead, but not too far where you are vulnerable of getting doubled up on a liner. I stay on the bag until the pitch is thrown and I usually can make it to second on a grounder even if the ball is hit to short.

Pitch wins career win 546. She struck out at least two and I can remember at least one foul out. Pitch also excelled with her patented move of vacuuming any grounder near her and tossing it to Bauer and this time no throws to basketball centers. I think at least three players got out on this play.

The after game turnout was good, but it could have been better. It was fun to celebrate the victory shot gun style, which seems to be the new Unicorn trademark, win or lose. I need to improve my shot gun style as a third of my beer ended all over me. It is all about improvement.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I will not sin again in Richland County

The Friday before Memorial Day I was driving up to join my Dad and a friend on the Wisconsin River to enjoy a canoe camping weekend. I was excited to get out of Chicago and it showed on my speedometer. I actually could not speed on I-90 as it was near gridlock even as far as Janesville. Rockford was particularly crowded through the construction zones. These set backs made me even more anxious to get to my destination.

Once I hit U.S. 14, I was ready to roll, and I was passing cars with reckless abandon. Actually, I was not as I am a safe driver, but I was definitely in more of a hurry than anyone else on the road. I then hit Highway 60 at Gotham and was in the home stretch. I sped down a hill and a car was lolly gagging at the bottom of it. I easily put this pokey car in my rear view window and continued on. It was kind of raining at this point, but this did not deter me as I was almost there.

Suddenly, as I was approaching the turn off to my destination a car came up behind me in my rear view mirror. I was confused because I could not imagine it being the car I just passed. I felt like kind of a jerk because I thought I had passed someone and was now going to be rude and turn left causing the car behind me to have to slow. I hate that when people pass me or cut in front of me and then immediately turn left.

Then the cherries came on behind me, and the mystery of the car behind me was solved. My spirits immediately sank. The policeman identified himself as a member of the Richland County Sheriff's department and informed me I was speeding and I passed in a no passing zone. "Crap," I thought. I am going to get two tickets. Crazy numbers filled my head as I have heard horror stories of getting tickets in Wisconsin.

I meekly gave him my driver's license and merely said, "O.K." I had no excuse. I was just in a hurry for really no reason. After about ten minutes my dread started to increase. He finally returned and announced a figure of $360. It was actually not as bad as I feared although still a substantial amount. He asked if I had it. I fished in my wallet to start counting. He then said, "I don't want your money." I looked at him and he said, "I am giving you a warning. SLOW DOWN." With that he told me to sign the warning ticket, and told me to take my Dad out to dinner with the money I had saved and was gone.

I of course thanked him profusely, but how do you thank a police officer? I was thinking of writing a letter to his superior officer telling his superior how great this cop was and how lucky Richland County was to have him as an officer. Then I thought a letter like that might land him in hot water for letting me off and not gathering funds for Richland County. I of course could not offer any payment or gift of any sort. So, what to do?

It occurred to me that what a policeman wants more than anything else is peace and quiet in his community. Therefore, I will never break the law in any way in Richland County again. In fact, I am so grateful I am going to take this vow further and apply it to moral behavior as well. I will not sin in Richland County. I will not look for loose women (only in Richland County), I will not drink, I will not fart, and I will not swear in Richland County. I will never go to a strip club in Richland County. I will not talk behind people's back in Richland County. I will not make a mean face at anyone in Richland County and I certainly will never give anyone the bird in Richland County. This means that I have a lot of sinning to do in other areas to make up for my church like behaviour in Richland County.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Unicorns win 18-10

There were some snickers and jokes about the quantity of long emails sent by yours truly last night. Well, you have not seen anything yet until you have read the weekly recap. Enjoy!!!!!!!

Mary (aka cy young mary, or pitch) recorded career softball win 545 last night adding on to her already stellar hall of fame softball career. The only bump in the road in this game for Pitch was due to too many emails on my part. She got confused about the new players on the team. She knew there was a new first baseman, and she also knew that I had recruited an Asian girl from the hinterland of northern South Korea that had a nickname borrowed from a famous Asian athlete. She thought that the new Asian girl's nickname was Yao Ming and not Ichiro and thought she was playing first base. My bad on that one. Sometimes I pound you guys with so much information that it is easy to misremember. Thinking that our first baseman was a 7 foot Asian, Mary kept making awesome plays, twirling and throwing the ball 7 feet in the air over poor JIT's head. I finally realized what was going on and yelled at Pitch saying, "for chrissakes Pitch, it is Ichiro not Yao and anyways it is JIT at 1B." Her face cleared like she had just figured out the cure for cancer. Next inning she went out and stabbed two line shots destined for center field and delivered them perfectly to JIT's glove the way we veterans have seen a thousand times.

If we needed proof of how valuable Mary is to the team, the Cobra's showed this in the first inning as their pitcher was the worst excuse for a softball pitcher I have ever seen. Unicorns are not known for their patience at the plate, but these balls were unhittable. There was no pattern to them either. She would deliver one three feet from the plate, then the next would almost hit the umpire, then the next would be on a line drive with absolutely no arc. In fact, the word arc was not in her vocabulary. She was the Rick Ankiel of Grant Park softball. May be after some time in the minors she will emerge as a slugging center fielder. After spotting the Unicorns five runs, they put a guy in who could actually find the strike zone. Five runs and no outs for their starting pitcher = an ERA of infinity.

Speaking of the Cobra's, if Marie did not hate me, I would petition the league for a new name for them. The Garter snakes would be a good one since they are the most impotent of all the snakes in the snake world. The douche bags would also do. They had one jerk on 3rd base that thought he joined a softball/hockey league and kept checking unicorns in the corner rounding 3rd. They also had one really intense dude that almost got thrown out of the game for being such an ass to the ump. In fact, their coach and one of their players apologized for their behavior after the game.

Not only were the Garter snakes impotent at the plate, but their outfield positioning was the worst I have ever seen. Someone said they had some big gaps out there after the game, and I questioned the word gap because gap implies space between two objects. I looked out into right field and saw the Pacific ocean. Too bad Mr. Brady was not at the game to exploit that defense as he would have gone 4-4 with at least three homers.

My favorite play of the game came with me on second and Pitch at the plate. Seeing a weak hitting girl up the defense sauntered all the way into the infield. I thought they might actually hold hands with the infield for a second. The ump told the outfielders that they must all be on the grass. I told the ump that was okay. I said we liked them where they were. Mary cranked one way over their heads clearing the bases with a big multiple RBI double. Later in the inning, Ichiro induced a key walk with two outs that really opened the flood gates. Habby followed by hitting the ball into the ocean in right and ran around the bases twice before one of the fielders got to the ball. This inning broke open a close 9-6 game to an 18-6 affair.

Speaking of home runs, Habby, T-Bear, and Turk all are tied for the team lead in that category with 1 a piece. Too bad Karch Kiraly (aka Mr. Brady) was accumulating to his spike and set total instead of getting an early lead in the home run category for our team. T-Bear was about to take the HR lead in the bottom of the 6th when fate got in his way. Habby, fearing that I was going to over take him in that category, purposely lined the ball as hard as he could into the mitt of the second basewoman. Then on his way back to the sidelines I saw him whisper something to agent Bauer and give her something. I was not sure what was said or given until later. Watching a replay of the game on Youtube I kept rewinding and focusing in on this part of the game until I could clearly see Habby mouth the words "foul out" to Crystal and I also could see him slip her a twenty. This explains why Bauer fouled out as I knew she could not do this on her own accord. These two outs ended the inning and denied your lovable coach a 2nd dinger.

Thank you Nate for filling in at 3rd base. He contributed with a hit and a couple of force outs at third. He also contributed by giving the coach a couple of after game smokes. It is very difficult to come in cold and play 16' softball. Speaking of cold, I really admired the after game stamina displayed by our sub. For some reason, Nate only showed up in a tank top and G-string. I think when I told him our team was the Magical Flying Unicorns and we wear pink that he was subbing for some gay near nudist softball team, so he dressed accordingly. Most players would have gotten the hell out of there with that wardrobe (or lack thereof) ASAP. Not Nate though, as he hung on to the bitter end. It must be his Rocky Mountain upbringing drinking Coors while swimming in mountain lakes that gives him the endurance to the cold.

I was really proud of the after game attendance as once again even without Legend and Mr. Brady we had a decent size contingent to be the last team in Grant Park drinking. The sour apples tried, but being sour apples they only stay ripe for drinking for so long and could not outlast the Unicorns. I was also proud of the play of our new recruits. JIT played great at first base. In fact, she played so well that one of the other players hugged her and squeezed her after being rung up on a grounder that JIT corralled. So full of admiration was this opponent that he could not control himself and he wanted a handful of JIT (JIT stands for Junk In the Trunk for those not aware) and a handful of JIT is what he got. Crash had a nicely placed liner down the line that looked foul, but hit up some chalk. What is encouraging is JIT and T-Bear's Angels (Katie, Paige, and Jackie) will only get better.

Next week we go 2-0. Go Unicorns!!!!!!

Coach T-Bear

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Notes from my students to Mr. Nelson

When I was student teaching back in the Spring of 2004 I had this very difficult Junior U.S. History class. Our class was located in the band room on the 3rd floor of Prosser high school with no air conditioning and the heat was oppressive. It was also 7th period when they were getting ready to go home. I had to deal with an ornery group of unhappy students looking forward to summer break. I did my best in a not very good situation.

On one of my final day of classes my cooperating teacher, Mr. Sanders, told the students to get out a sheet of paper and write a note to me. The note could say anything. It could be a critique good or bad, advice, or just a note wishing me good luck. Unfortunately, no students that I gave a D or worse took up the offer. Here is what they said to me:

Marisol wrote: Mr. Nelson you were ok, but in the future you should try not to give so much homework. It was great having you in our class.

Anthony wrote: To tell you the truth I enjoy you! You may have talked a lot but I enjoyed you. I hope you make it. Stop being so nervous.

Zane wrote: You are a good teacher. Before you came I didn't know nothing about WWI and WWII. Now I know a lot of things about both wars. The most interesting was WWII. I hope you teach next year. Good luck.

Isaiah wrote: Mr. Nelson. . . I'd just like to say that your a kick-ass teacher! I'm not saying that to be a suck-up. I mean Mr. Sanders sucks! Your a hell of a better teacher then he is. You actually taught me something and I wasn't bored to tears. When you came into power I actually looked forward to coming to this class. Best of all your fair! Sanders is unfair, boring, and lazy. Keep up the gtood work. Thanks for rescuing me from Sanders reign of terror for the last 2 months or so. The next class will be luck to have you!

P.S. this what part of the alphabet wout look like if Q & R were elimintated.

Also, you have a great attitude and your are slow to anger. Thats awesome about you!

Oh, and don't listen to those jack asses that yelled at you. . . their just stupid!

Carlos wrote: I know we di not give you the attention you needed. Everyone did not care what you said or did. They blamed you for their mistakes. Saying that it was your fault for the h.w. when it was theirs. You assigned the h.w. and gave us time. I am sorry that I fell asleep many times in your class. The reason was tha I work and I get home at 12:00 am I get really tired out your an o.k. teacher. I was very interested when it came to war. I love learning about the war. I also loved the 2 movies you brought. Sorry for not paying attention to you and I wish you the best in your career.

Melissa wrote: It was nice having you as a student teacher sike! No for real I'm just playing. I hope you have fun being a teacher.

P.S. Don't let the students walk over you and listen to them when they ask 4 help. HOLLA

Fabiola wrote: Dear Mr. Nelson You will be a good teacher. You taught well to the students who listen. I know at times I didn't listen but that was only a couple of times not the whole time you were here

From your favote student

Maira wrote: First of all I want to wish you the best of luck. I know you will mak a great teacher. My advice to you is just to be nice but not too nice because some students take advantage & well be cool. Good luck again & I had fun having you as a teacher.

Steven wrote: In a grading scale from 1-5 you were a three. The reason is that your a good teacher but some of the things you do are bad, for example: your grading scale should change and use the other scale. But you do have a lot of knowledge conscerning history so thats why you are a three.

Krystal wrote: I'll be honest with you, you've done a pretty good job as a student teacher. I hope everything works out the way you want them to and become a great teacher. Just a word of advice, ty not to flood your students with so much work. Make your class interesting with games and other stuff to help them learn the material. Good luck and keep up the good work. I enjoyed the time you spent here. Take care and may God bless you!

Yours Truly,

Daniel wrote:

First off I would like to apologize for being a lazy student. It wasn't the lack of interest in the class. It was me being lazy. Secondly, I would like to congratulate you for your teaching skils. By all honesty, I learned more with you in about 2 months then with Mr. Sanders all year. Finally, I hope your proffessor agrees, and you come back to our schoold to teach as a permanent teacher. Good luck! Thanks!

Jasmine wrote: Good luck in becoming a teacher. It was fun to have you in class even though you always gave us homework. I wish you the best of luck in the future. I hope you do well as a teacher. Thank you for sharing your knowledge about U.S. history with us.

David "Big D" wrote: You've been a great teacher and a good friend to all of us. Only thing I can say is thanks for everything you taught me from yellow-journalism to the World Wars. So all I can say good luck and keep doing what your ding and you will be O.K.

Shanita wrote: I hope you enjoyed teaching us because I enjoyed you teaching me. I know some days I may not have been on my best behavior and I am sorry but everyone have their days. Even though you gave a lot of work you were still a cool teacher. I wish you the best of luck with your career and who ever you end up teaching they will be lucky to have you as a teacher. Good luck and never give up.

Your student,

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Inner city romper room

I see Marquese, I see Rubylize, I see Jesus, I see Jovanie

I got the call on Wednesday from one of my schools for a two day assignment for Friday and Monday. Before the secretary hung up she said, "oh, it is kindergarten." "That is okay," I said. I needed the work, and I like the little ones anyways. At least they are usually not disrespectful. I new it would be a grueling day as you have to be constantly doing something with them to keep their attention and they are just little bundles of energy, so you have to be continually breaking up little altercations and getting the students back into their seats.

I got to school and was immediately hit with really bad news. The secretary informed me there would be no preps today. Preps are when the kids are taken to either library, art, computer, or gym for forty minutes giving the teacher a prep time to make assignments. For subs they are an oasis of calm for forty minutes and a much needed break. This would mean forty minutes more of dealing with out of control little kids.

I got to class early and tried to figure out the lesson plan that the teacher had for them. One good thing about kindergarten is you do not need to be a genius to find something for them to do. If all else fails give them a sheet and tell them to draw and color. In kindergarten, their biggest pleasure is free time. The only problem with lesson planning is to give them enough things to keep them occupied, so as to limit free time. Once free time is initiated it is hard to go back to get them to work. They try to derail lesson plans by finishing early in hopes of lobbying for more free time. The smart kids will finish their lessons and then ask for free time. I made the mistake in other classes of allowing this, then the ones that were still working saw the smart ones playing and that was the end of all work being done in the class. You have to be ready for the smart ones and keep them occupied. Either give them another piece of work or make them color or something. The key is to not allow any student free time until you are ready for free time and free time must be the half hour before lunch or before the end of the day because as I stated earlier once you reach the realm of free time you cannot go back.

The first thing I did with the students is bring them over to the carpet and read to them a story about a snowman. This was kind of ironic since the day was 60 degrees and it was absolutely boiling inside. Schools always have a difficult time adjusting to that first warm day of the year, so I was reading a story about snowmen while all the kids were sweltering. They were all asking for water breaks, but I said no. Fortunately, there was a bathroom attached to the class, so the children could use the restroom.

One student named Jesus was not looking too happy and said he was not feeling well. I asked if he wanted to go to the nurse's office and he shook his head no, but he was crying. I was not sure what to do here. In one class I had earlier in the year I let one student go to the nurse's office and then six others said they were going to throw up. Finally the nurse sent an administrator into the classroom to yell at the kids to stop faking sickness. After that experience, I was leery to let students go to the nurse's office unless they really looked bad. I decided to keep reading and ignore the problem for now. I finished the article and then sent the students back to their tables and told them to draw a snowman.

During the snowman exercise Jesus threw up all over the table. Oops, should have let him go to the nurse. I called the office and the janitor came to clean it up. Fortunately, it was contained to on top of the table and he did not throw up on his clothes, any other students, or any other papers etc. . , so no collateral damage and it was an easy clean for the janitor. The other students at the tables were assigned to other tables.

Sometimes when a problem occurs the next time it happens you make a knee jerk reaction to the exact opposite solution and then you fail a second time for the opposite reason. Then when it happens a third and fourth time you then are really seasoned and take a more moderate approach. If this happens again, I will know to have the student sent to the nurse's office. If others after that ask to go their I will know they are malingerers and deny them. With experience comes wisdom.

Kindergarten kids are so into their routines and if you do something to break it then all hell can break lose. Several times during the day I did something different than Ms. Valentine's routine and I had ten raised hands informing me how Ms. Valentine does things. This can be very informative, but sometimes it can be down right annoying. Especially when the difference that you employ is relatively minor to the routine. When the students came in in the morning I pointed to a table and told the table to put their things away. Stephanie ran up to me and said the tables are called by color. I then noticed that every table had a different color except that there were two yellow tables. I told the yellow table to put their things away. Stephanie jumped up and said "that is yellow table number 1."

At 10:30 it was time to hand out snacks. Somehow a couple of students were able to get two snacks. How did I know this? I knew this because in kindergarten everyone is a snitch. The brotherhood of arms that exists in high school of never tell on your friend is not in place in kindergarten. In fact, it is the completel opposite. Every student wants the honor of helping the teacher bust their classmate. "Marquese and Anthony have two snacks," shouted more than one student. I told them I only see one. "It is in their pockets," the little snitches cried. Since I was not going to shake down Marquese and Anthony or call security and have them do it over a stolen package of animal crackers I tried to ignore them.

My prep was supposed to be scheduled for 11am right before lunch. Another kindergarten teacher said that since prep was canceled that I could give them free time during that time. As 11am approached the kids started asking about prep since their little routine clock told them it was near that time. I told them that prep was canceled today, but they would get free time. A look of pure exctasy befell twenty students when I uttered the words "free time." They smiled the biggest smiles you could imagine and several students threw their hands in the air like they just won and olympic medal. A couple of tables actually started a chant of "free time, free time, free time" while pounding their desks at the same time in unison.

After this reaction a light bulb flashed in my brain. One problem with being a sub, especially over older students, is you have no power over students because you do not grade them and you have little access to their parents. No sub is going to call a student's parent over misbehavior unless it is really really bad. The students know that and they do not act really really bad, just really bad. The idea that formed in my brain is here I actually held a lot of power. I held the power over 20 kindergartner's free time. I was going to use this power to its utmost advantage. I was going to be the free time police, the free time czar, the free time NAZI, the free time Politburo, the head of the committee over room 403's free time, the CEO of free time, the GM of free time, whatever power group you can think of I was going to be and use this advantage to make it through the day with my sanity intact.

I immediately went to work over my newly self-deputized position or positions. I explained the next lesson to the students. Of course the students were not listening and not in their seats. I told the students that every time I had to repeat myself or students acted bad that they were cutting into their free time. I told them that they controlled their own free time. This was complete horse crap of course because I had that power.

I dismissed everyone table by table to get their practice books out of their cubbies and had them return to their tables. This simple task took surprisingly long as some students found it necessary to visit other tables on the way to get their books. I told them this behavior was fine with me, but it was cutting into their free time.

When this was completed I had flash cards of individual letters. As I flashed them I had them tell me what letter it was, make the sound the letter produces, and then write the letter in their practice books. Some students continued to misbehave despite numerous warnings of restrictions on free time privileges. It was time for a manifesto from the free time czar. I told the students that every time a student got out of his desk without raising his hand or punched his neighbor it would be a violation that would be met with the most severest of consequences. I told them that each offense would take two minutes off of their free time. I continued with the lesson, but then Jovanie got up and went over to another table. I told them that this first offense would be only a one minute infraction as the free time prime minister was in a charitable mood. I sat down and told the students to be quiet and we watched the clock as the minute expired. I continued with the lesson when Marquese for some inexplicable reason ventured from his yellow table #1 over to the red table. I told the class the two minute penalty was now in affect.

11:30 am was when I promised free time, but due to numerous interruptions and penalties I had barely begun the practice book exercise at this time. I told the students that free time should have started now, but due to the penalties we had to finish the lesson. I painted a picture of fun and playing and told them that is what you would be doing, but since some students violated terms of the free time manifesto that they were forced to finish the lesson.

At 11:35 I let the students have their beloved free time. They scattered around the room and the room was soon a floury of little bodies having a great time. Legos were taken out, puzzles were constructed, a train was soon cruising around the room, and they were in their element. Unfortunately, the good times were soon marred as students could not share all the toys in the room, and I realized that my duties also consisted of monitor of free time. I could not even relax when they were playing.

I soon took the students to lunch and had a twenty minute break, which seemed to end in a blink of an eye. I got the students and returned them back to class. I had them get a work book and assigned four pages out of the work book. The students took their time settling down and getting to work. One student finished right away so I told him to color the picture of the cat on one of the pages. Since the free time power worked relatively well in the morning I used the same strategy in the afternoon. I told them that they would get free time at the end of the day if they could finish their assignments and act like good little students.

The blue table was living up to it's name and making me very blue. There was one student especially who was a whirlwind of misbehavior. He went into the closet area without permission. I went in there to see what he was doing and he was putting his pencil in his backpack. After assessing a two minute free time infraction on him I made him go back to his table. Ten minutes later when visiting the blue table I saw that he had done absolutely no work. I asked why the other students were done with at least one page yet he had done nothing. "I don't have a pencil," he said. I told him he did yet he put it away without permission. He told me "I am not going to do it," in a mocking tone. I hate to call security on a kindergartner, but I figure this type of disrespect and misbehavior had to be dealt with someone other than the President of free time. I called the office and soon the dean of students came in and dealt with the little rude whippersnapper. The student was even more sullen and disrespectful to the dean. He refused to leave his desk to talk to the dean. The dean threatened that he either come to the hallway and talk to him or he would call his parents. He finally begrudingly left the blue table and went out into the hallway.

At 1:30pm I took the students out for another bathroom break. The students were just a whirl of activity in the hallway chasing each other around and yelling. The other kindergarten teacher said "just one more hour." I was getting pretty exhausted at this time. All of a sudden a group of older students came around the corner and my kindergartners yelled "book buddies." The teacher leading these students said that her kids come into the class and read to the kindergartners. Yes, free time for me, I thought to myself. This was a much needed break. As the group of fourth graders entered the class and individually took each kindergarten student to each corner and read to them I looked at them like saviors.

They left at 2:00, which meant I had only fifteen more minutes until free time assuming no more free time infractions. I got out a math counting sheet and passed it around to each student. The sheet consisted of squares that counted from 1 to 100. I went to the front of the class and asked for a volunteer to come up and lead the counting. Fifteen excited hands shot up in the air as everyone wanted to help the teacher count. When I picked a student the less fortunate all let out a groan of disappointment. I counted down from 5 and then had every one count with me all the way to 100 while my volunteer used a pointer to go along with the squares. After that was done I then had another volunteer come up and we counted certain segments of the chart like from 15 to 22. Each time I counted down to five. The students liked the count down part better than the exercise. Soon I had the whole class excitedly yelling 5-4-3-2-1-0 before we counted the numbers I had chosen.

On the back of the sheet there was a chart like the one on the other side except with no numbers. I told the students to fill in the chart and write from 1 to 100. As soon as they were done they could have free time. The finished chart I informed them would be their ticket to free time. Unfortunately for them, I kind of overestimated their intelligence here and this was a lot harder for them than I thought. The best student finished with only 10 minutes of free time available. No one else finished. At 2:35 the students started to lose interest and wanted free time and began to give up. I told them there was no time for free time. They were not happy with this and they all wanted to play a few minutes before departure. Since school ended at 2:45 I knew if they started to play they would never get out before 2:45, and I had to work in the city at 4:00, so I needed to leave on time. I tried to reason that if they got their things together and left they would have free time all night at home. Some bought this idea others did not and started taking puzzles out. I had to take the puzzles away and tell them to get to their tables. "Blue table get their things," I yelled, but the class was chaos.

Fortunately, some parents started to show up at the door and started to take their kids. I soon had the students getting ready for home. Wow, what a day, and I was completely drained of all energy.

I see Stephanie, I see Pedro, I see Jovanie punching Julian, I see Trianny, I see Jesus throwing up, I see Marquese, I see Antonio out of his seat, I see Marceleidis going in the closet with out permission, "hey get out of there," I see Aaron, I see Carlos throwing a pencil at Anneilise, I see Diego getting puzzle without permission, "hey stop that it is not free time yet AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!"