The first rule of write club…


Must give credit to John Spencer once again for this idea. He tweeted:


Now the thought of Chuck Palahniuk writing the back story for a cartoon intrigues me, and I began to think of multiple mash-ups of writers and stories. This morning I envisioned a complete Nathanial Hawthorne Scarlet Letter version of Rugrats, whereas every time Angelica attempts to bully the babies she must wear her insignia “A” embroidered on her chest, serving multiple purposes. The adults are the villagers, of course, standing firm in judgment. Well, it played out better before I had coffee. Now I’m not so sure.

But what about Stephen King and a treatment of Roadrunner? I think Kurt Vonnegut could do justice to Bugs Bunny. Or as John quoted, ‘create sad backstories to all the Animaniacs.’ Brilliant. This, of course, is the essence of fan fiction, with a hefty side of writer’s craft, style, and voice for good measure.


Allow me to meander a bit:

Ayn Rand takes over an episode of Invader Zim.

Neil Gaiman rewrites a ‘Hey, Arnold’ episode.

J.K. Rowling takes on Powerpuff Girls.

G.R.R. Martin rewrites Dexter’s Laboratory.

Dr. Seuss: Ren and Stimpy, of course.

Suzanne Collins and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.

Okay, I could go on all day. I am seeing a really fun lesson idea here: D&D dice with each number associated with an author and then a second roll for the cartoon episode. 

What other ideas come to mind?



Now–parents–think for a second. When I was growing up Bugs Bunny and his ilk alluded to operas, literature, film, etc. I know there are ‘jokes for grownups’ in current children’s media, today, too, but I am a bit out of touch with the ten and under crowd these days. My sons are 18 and 21, and they share gritty, funny binge-worthy media. We are long past the Rugrats days. If you’re a parent of kids under 10-11 and let them watch tv, what do they watch?



Language, people!

As our culture’s norms and protocols shred and tear, an issue I’ve noticed is amazing content laced with profanity. Now, most who know me know I can have a bit of a salty tongue myself. I’m sure it’s from a past life when I was a pirate. Or perhaps it’s just a stress-reliever, kind of verbal punching bag. Maybe it’s when I was a pirate in therapy. Who knows? Regardless, there have been many times I’ve wished to use the perfect clip or content to relate a concept, yet it’s laced with vulgarities. What’s a teacher to do?

Case in point: John Oliver’s latest post about the primary and caucus rules, state by state, was amazing. I won’t link it in case there are children present. There have been multiple Daily Shows, clips from R-rated movies (as long and as bad as it is, Troy with Brad Pitt shows his naked hiney, so I can’t show that….). Glory with Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick, also fantastic, but says the “f” word, contains war violence, and uses the ‘n’ word; however, a case is made to understanding the context of the ‘n’ word. Years ago when a publisher switched out the ‘n’ word for ‘slave’ in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is wrong for so many reasons.

Here’s my wish: if there is some content that could be easily edited, or comes edited with the language ‘gone.’ There are some programs that allow for this:

I haven’t looked into VidAngel, but it might be worth a shot.

Look, I realize I’m beginning to sound a bit Ned Flanders about the whole thing. I would no more censor The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian than Huckleberry Finn, so how is it that content in visual formats more shocking?

So — teacher friends — how do you decide what’s worth showing? I know one that is always a hit:

Into the maw…

Look how cute! A baby leatherback turtle!

Exhibit A: Leatherback turtle

Just like my i-Pod from years ago:


So sweet. So innocent. But yet, they grow:

Three external hard drives...
Three external hard drives…

But my digital life has turned into this:

Inside the mouth of a leatherback turtle (See Exhibit A)

Yes, this is how I currently feel about my digital hoarding. See that external hard drive with my name on it? That has ten years’ of lessons, plans, photos, videos, etc. on it. And the other day I found it in the laundry room garbage.


There were other terrible, unmentionable things in that garbage, too, and it was on its way out the door when I spotted it.

I have no idea how it got there; lately, I’m believing in house gremlins because my Apple watch, a  gift from my husband last fall, has gone missing. I have looked high and low. It’s gone. No, it wasn’t in the laundry room garbage pail, or under my bed, or stuff on a shelf. It’s gone. Will I replace it? Probably not. It was pretty cool, though. And now I’m sad.

But what would I have done if I hadn’t noticed, and rescued, the Holy Grail of Hard Drives from the bucket? Would I have missed it? Felt this strange sense of grief without being able to place it? I’ll never know. What I do know is I’ve tried to curate, delete, organize, and consolidate my digital tomes many times, and have met with odd and undermining obstacles.

Here are the storage sheds in my virtual world:

  • Google Drive
  • i-Cloud
  • The district’s personal server drives (H)
  • The district’s switch to Microsoft’s OneDrive/Office 365
  • My personal Dropbox account
  • My personal computer (Mac)
  • My school-issued computer (PC)
  • My old Macs
  • My old Dell (who knows what treasures still exist on that one?!)
  • Three external hard drives, including the rescued one.

And this digital list doesn’t include the binders I organized last summer, with labeled tabs, of many years worth of lessons, ideas, and curriculum maps.

Don’t think I’m not aware of my hoarding problem. Wait a damn minute, that’s not fair! I’m not a hoarder, I’m a saver! This has potential! And so does this! And if I don’t save the same thing in multiple places, what if it gets lost? ONLY PROVEN BY THE TRASH CAN CONSPIRACY OF ’16! The fact is my tendencies not to delete lessons has only been reinforced by multiple times when a colleague has needed a lesson or a file. This is the truth. But that doesn’t give me an excuse for not organizing this stuff better because it’s gotten completely out of hand.


You know that old saw of “preparing kids for a future that doesn’t exist yet?” I can think of something right now. I would pay a kid to curate my files/computers. Right now. I would outline the most important things/categories and have them save to two places: a hard drive and a cloud.

But how to label and categorize? Is it by medium, standard, theme, unit, or what?


  • Power Points
  • Prezi links*
  • Smartnotebooks
  • Lessons
  • Letters/Teacher Files
  • Photographs/images
  • How-to flip/blended classroom videos


  • Go through every lesson and label by CCSS? Oh no…but…


  • Files by thematic (units)
  • Files by Lesson overview:
    • Literary elements
    • Short stories
    • Grammar lessons
    • Writing workshop
    • Reading workshop


  • This would be fairly simple to do…right?

*So the Prezi thing — this made me realize how much of my work is already saved somewhere to some digital cloud, some other place, where it’s not located in one of my accessible hard drives. Dang, do we just gather all the links? The embed codes, and put it together?


Oh look...another image for my files.
Oh look…another image for my files.

The other day during testing, I set up a way to port files from the rescued hard drive to my Dropbox. When I check in after twenty minutes, it had over 2,800 files to go. It would take things off the hard drive as direct file folders: I had to unpack everything and try. This led to falling down the rabbit hole: looking at old video clips, reviewing former students’ work, reminiscing about times of yore. Okay, that is hoarding, I admit. Or is it?

Finding photographs of my sons from when they were younger? Being able to send a student a video of when he was in 7th grade (he’s now in the Navy), and having his mom be so happy to see it? Are we so burdened by our own narrative digital information we freely and capriciously trash it?

There’s got to be a better way.

Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?


Noblesse oblige, teacher

Heck, even Ichabod Crane took free meals from the farmers’ wives. I wonder what his version of “What Teachers Make” would sound like?!

Well, nice! “President Obama to Finalize Overhaul of Overtime Rule, Boosting Pay for 4.2M Workers.”

As much as I see the $15/hour minimum wage being hugely beneficial, it does concern me: the priority of being paid for (overtime) work proves the better deal. Getting paid for your work? Ingenious!

“The middle class is getting clobbered, although I think we’re making some real progress here,” Vice President Joe Biden said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon. “If you work overtime, you should actually get paid for working overtime.”

The final rule, which takes effect on Dec. 1, 2016, doubles the salary threshold — from $23,660 to $47,476 per year — under which most salaried workers are guaranteed overtime (hourly workers are generally guaranteed overtime pay regardless of their earnings level).

But ah, yes: here come the comments about teachers. Teachers are in a ‘noble’ profession, and don’t do it for the money, are there to sacrifice time, personal money, and yes, mental health. Now I don’t know if this is going to help teachers at all. It’s clear we have no room for complaining. Heck, even Taylor Mali set the stage, creating a legendary mythos of teachers being amazing at dinner parties with snappy retorts to rude guests! I mean, he’s lucky — at least he has friends who have dinner parties so he can get some decent grub once in awhile. A modern Ichabod, sans losing head thing.

It seems, however, if teachers speak up, we’re shouted back down. Talk to teachers in Chicago, Detroit, and Colorado. We need students to stick up for us because until parents (aka taxpayers) sign in and their children, we’re ancillary. Read this story about Grace Davis who made a difference. And while I can’t take anything from her ‘stubborn protest’ –why is it we teachers need outside forces to save us? Last time I check the credit card company doesn’t take payment in ‘noble’ dollars, and they don’t give a toot if I can teach them to spell D E F I N I T E L Y.

What do teachers want? They want to know they can support themselves and their families on their salary. They want to know their healthcare is there. They would like to travel a little bit. They would like opportunities to be compensated for their time, talent, and leadership. I heard a question the other day from the grapevine of someone questioning my motivation in staying at a  high-poverty school and getting a Board’s stipend that is larger than if I were to teach at a low-impact school. Oh, and the question of my race came into the discussion, too. So we have other teachers who tear us down, too and undermine each others’ abilities to grow. I say check yourself before you wreck yourself. We all do what we can to do the jobs we love and make sure we can live commiserate with our degrees.

Yes, did I know what I was getting into when I started? Yes, as much as anyone can. I liken it to having children: you think you know, but you don’t know. I did not anticipate job loss, how expensive college would be, my own student loans, health/medical bills, etc. Many Americans are in the same predicament.

And as sweeping as Obama’s changes will be, some simple things need to happen outside and inside the educational financial system:

  1. No crediting reporting for medical bills–we’ve had some that were inaccurate and it’s gone on our credit report. And once something wrong is on a credit report, backing it out of the steel treadles is damn near impossible.
  2. Teacher student loans are covered. I know there is a program I need to fill out paperwork for, but it’s not advertised or transparent. It should be simple. I write Sallie Mae, er, Navient, because it’s in private hands now, and prove I’m a teacher and it’s done.
  3. Overtime work is paid for.
  4. Matching retirement program: for every 5% we put in, the district/state/feds match it, up to a cap if need be.

We’ll see what happens next. Meanwhile, I told the milkman I would be paying in pencil shavings and paperclips. He said that’d be fine.