A Simple Assignment a Teacher Uses to Help Her Students Socially

The bully in calvin & hobbes comic stripNews story after news story about today’s children will talk about one of two things: obesity and bullying. Very often an obese or bullied child is a lonely child.

Until fourth grade I was one of those lonely and bullied children. Then when my family moved to a new neighborhood, another new kid my age saved me because he knew how to be popular and he took me along. Perhaps I could have been saved from my torment earlier if I had a teacher like the math teacher Glennon Doyle Melton wrote about in her blog, at momastery.com.

Even though the story was retold at the Huffington Post site and in Reader’s digest, I was so impressed with what that teacher did that I have to repost it. Here’s the core of the story:

Every Friday afternoon, she asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student who they believe has been an 
exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.

And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, she takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her, and studies them. 
She looks for patterns.

Who is not getting requested by anyone else?

Who can’t think of anyone to 

Who never gets noticed enough 
to be nominated?

Who had a million friends last week and none this week?

You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed 
by their peers. And she’s pinning down—right away—who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.

This should be done at every elementary, middle, and high school. At the beginning of every school year the school administration and teachers meet. I’d love to see this put on the agenda so that the teachers can work out how best to do this.
During the short time I was a teacher (student teaching and substitute), I could tell which kids were lonely, depressed, and probably being bullied. I just didn’t know how to do anything about it. I love that Glennon Melton’s son’s teacher found a way to do something about it.

Originally written by Glennon Doyle Melton on her blog at Momastery.com



A Silly Little Thrill Is Sometimes the Best

Inside a car washThis is really stupid, but I love taking my car to the car wash, the kind where you drive in and the machinery around you washes your car.

Maybe it comes from sitting inside the car when I was probably five or six while my father hosed it down and washed it. I think I liked seeing the soap slide off the windows.

Now, while I still like seeing the soap slide off the car, it’s something else that excites me, something my father could never accomplish. It’s the very eerie feeling that the car is moving even though I have the brake on and the engine turned off.

I guess I’m easily amused, but there is something very surreal about that sensation that I look forward to more than having a shiny car.

I’ve never seen “The Silence of the Lambs” or any of the “Freddie” or “Friday the 13th” movies. I feel I don’t need that kind of terror in my life. And why should I, especially when I can get a similar thrill just by going to the car wash?


Report Cards Meet the Electronic Age in a Most Unsettling Way

Report cards are about to become electronic to the extent that parents will be receiving them on their cell phones. A man in Africa of all places, Boniface Githinji, has created a service there (Kenya) to help schools send report cards directly to the parents on their phones.

It’s just a matter of time before the idea gets picked up here. In fact, I’m surprised it hasn’t already happened. Gone will be the days of dogs eating report cards, the things being dropped in mud puddles, trash cans, garbage disposals, toilets. Gone will be the days of kids checking their mailboxes, trying to get there and pull out the report card before anyone else gets a chance to see that ‘D’ or ‘F.’

When I was in elementary school our report cardsgrade school report card looked much like this. Our grades ranged from a high of ‘VG’ Very Good to a low of ‘U’ Unsatisfactory. In between were ‘G’ Good, ‘S’ Satisfactory, and ‘P’ Poor. Of course, you didn’t want a P or U, just like kids today don’t want a D or F.

Our report cards were given to us and we were expected to return them within five days signed by one of our parents. Not getting it back signed and in time resulted in a call by the Principal to the parents.

Now, you might be thinking that means the easiest way to get by with a bad report card would be to forge a parent’s signature. That’s what I would have thought until I found out in a painful way that it could be very dangerous to try. My report cards were almost always good and I always got one of my parents to sign without much trouble. However, I was in fifth grade when I found that the teachers made spot checks.

It was one of those Winter days when the sun sets around four o’clock. That meant there were no sandlot baseball, football or basketball games after school. Because of that my best friend and I often spent twenty minutes or so talking about ‘stuff.’ That day the call was interrupted on his end by his mom. He said, “I’ll call you right back.”

So, I stood by the phone waiting. About five minutes later the phone rang. I picked it up and said, “Hello asshole!”

The voice on the other end of the line said, “Is this Robert?” I recognized it immediately, my teacher.

“Yes,” I said tentatively said, wanting to say no because I knew I was in big trouble.

“May I speak to your mother or father, please?”

My mother hardly had time to say more than, that was your teacher making sure I was the one who signed your report card, when the phone rang again. She answered it and said, “I’m sorry, Jack, Robbie’s been grounded.”

Needless to say, my mother couldn’t understand how, under any circumstances, I would have answered the phone like that.

If report cards then had been sent directly to my mom’s cell phone (of course, cell phones hadn’t been invented yet), it would have made my young life so much more pleasant and I wouldn’t have been grounded for a month.


Okay kids lookout, you know those report cards you’ve lost, destroyed, or damaged by attempting to change them? Well, the day is coming when there will be no way for you to keep your parents from seeing the things the day their sent out. Most likely one or both of your parents has a cell phone. That’s how they’re going to be getting your report cards.

You see, a guy in Africa of all places, created a service that gives schools a way to send your grades right to your parents. Now what? Well, perhaps the day before report cards are due you could try sneaking the battery our of those cell phones in question. Perhaps you could try sneaking an App onto those phones that would delete the offending message the moment it arrived. Good luck with that.

You could simply borrow the phone “for a second,” and accidentally drop it into the fish tank or toilet. Will cell phones flush down the drain?


It was only a matter of time, wasn’t it, until schools and parents found a way to cut out the middle man where report cards are concerned. For ages and ages, probably since the first stone age kid sat in the first school-cave, report cards have been delivered to parents by the students or by the post office. Either way, it was possible for the child to get hold of a reprobate report card and hide it.

Now that’s all changing. A guy in Africa, of all places, has made it possible for report cards to be delivered directly to a parent’s phone. What is a child to do?

When I was in grade school our report cards were handed to us. The report cards had to be back in the teacher’s hand within five days after having been signed by a parent (or in one case in my class, a guardian). If our grades were all VG’s (Very Good), And G’s (Good), for most of us it was usually a simple process to get the card signed and returned. If, however, we had some S’s (Satisfactory) or, heaven forbid, some P’s (Poor) or U’s (Unsatisfactory), then getting that card signed was a torturous process.

An S, P, or U meant days of working on stories, excuses, sometimes lies to explain those grades. I remember once studying a teacher’s “P,” trying to figure out if there was a possible way to turn it into a “G” or at least an “S.” It was much easier to come up with excuses and promises for improvement for an S than it was for a P.

I remember seeing a kid drop his card into a mud puddle, but to his chagrin even though the thing got a little muddy, none of the ink ran. Each irritating little P and U stayed right there, looking exactly like the P’s and U’s they were intended to look like.



Kids Wo Poisoned Teacher’s Water Are Still Just Kids

I just read the story about two nine-year old boys who mixed some rat poison into rat poisontheir teacher’s water because they wanted to see how she would react. My favorite line in the story: NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, “It’s unfortunate where kids get these ideas. Fortunately we’ve got it handled. But God knows where kids get these ideas (italics mine).”

Come on Bill, you were a nine-year old once; you should know where kids get those ideas. Of course, the ideas kids get today may not be quite the same as the ideas kids got when you were a kid, but they’re similar.

The boys weren’t thinking about the rat poison hurting their teacher, Good chance they thought the stuff only killed rats, and certainly their teacher wasn’t a rat. I imagine they just wanted to see the expression on her face when she tasted the stuff. Maybe they wanted to see if she’d twitch a little or, best of all, maybe she’d throw up. It’s a lot of fun for a nine-year old to see his teacher throw up.

When I was in college we sat around one afternoon talking about the pranks we (or our classmates played on our teachers. Among those I remember…

  • The ringer was removed from a bell a teacher used to get her student’s attention.
  • The jelly side of a PB&J was smeared along the edge of a teacher’s desk.
  • Honey was smeared on a teacher’s desk chair.
  • The chalk in the tray of her chalk board was glued together.
  • The desk drawers of a teacher’s desk were glued shut.
  • The pictures a teacher tacked to her bulletin boards were all turned so the back showed.
  • A teacher’s desk was set on roller skates.

These were all done by boys, but a couple girls committed my favorite of the pranks. At a Catholic school their teacher, a nun, was responsible for keeping the holy water trays filled by the church doors. The girls emptied the holy water from each tray into a bottle and replaced it with jelly beans. I didn’t think they should have been punished for that, but they were.

I don’t remember anyone saying anything  about a teacher’s water, or coffee, or food being messed with, but the two boys who wanted to see how their teacher would react reminded me of a boy who put just a pinch of salt, not more than ten grains, in his mother’s coffee just to see how she would react.

She did not react well. She spit the coffee back in her cup, and then poured it down the drain. The boy who was giggling stopped when he was sent to his room and told to think about why what he’d done was really a terrible thing.

I still don’t think it was all that terrible, but when I was older I once sprinkled a few grains of salt in my coffee. Then I knew what a terrible thing I had done.

Nine and ten and even twenty year old boys are likely to be mischievous. It’s just very unfortunate that a couple boys did not know that poison is poison and even though it might be intended for rats, or ants, or cockroaches it can be harmful to anything, even teachers. I would expect that’s something those boys should now know.