The Crazy Teacher’s Advice Book


In honor of summer vacation, Crazy Teacher, my alter ego, will be posting to this blog. Crazy’s advice for dealing with difficult people and situations is, “Show them that you are crazier than they are.”   Here is an excerpt from The Crazy Teacher’s Advice Book.

Question to Crazy Teacher

When two sixth graders get into a fight in a school hallway and there is no one else around, what do I do to break it up?

Answer Provided by Crazy Teacher

Blink your eyes three times, and transform into that legendary crazy teacher, able to end fights, make students laugh, and turn moody adolescents into sweet little boys—Grandma Edna Cohen!

Read on to learn Grandma Edna Cohen’s trade secrets…

“Oy! Oy! Oy! This is not good. How can you do this to me. Oy! Oy! Oy!” Edna holds her head in her hands and rocks back and forth, back and forth. She waits.

The boys stop fighting.

“Do you know where most of my friends are now?”

The boys stop fighting and look at Edna.

“My friends are in Miami Beach, in Florida.  Do you know what most of my friends are doing in Miami Beach, Florida now?” Edna waits a second or two. “They are lying on lounge chairs by a pool, drinking pina coladas.”

The IS-SHE-FOR-REAL?  look on the young boys’ faces warms Grandma Edna Cohen’s old teacher soul. “Do I look like I’m lying on a lounge chair at a pool in Miami Beach?  Do you see a pina colada in my hand?”

The boys try to maintain their fury, but alas, they fail.

“So, dahlinks, listen to me, bubalas! Be good little boys and go back to class and be nice. OK?”


Application and Follow-Up by The Crazy Teacher

I excel at doing Grandma Edna Cohen, but that doesn’t mean I can’t transform myself into another character in my repertoire. Another favorite of mine is celebrity pole dancer, Lola La La La Lampert.  When Lola sizzles out “Hi boys,” her low-pitched guttural voice coming from the body of an elderly woman wearing a blousy top,  wide pants, teacher cardigan and thick soled, brown, sensible shoes is guaranteed to make perps stop whatever bad stuff they are doing. (By the way, I don’t share Lola’s pole dancer moves, I just use them in my mind to get into my character.)

If you’re a new teacher, you might want to use part of this summer vacation to develop your own repertoire of characters. If you’re a veteran, you might want to share one of your own creations.

Thank you and best wishes for a great summer!

Crazy Teacher.

Retired from Teaching? Yes and No


I stole this chalk from my elementary school  on the day I retired from teaching. That was in August of 2000.  At this time of year I like to hold my chalk, and remember.

I retired from 30 years of  teaching elementary school in August 2000.  By  October,  I was working again, part time, in elementary, middle and high schools as a literacy consultant.  I’m still doing that.

Consulting is like teaching, but without the lunch duty, hall duty, attendance taking and money collection.

Consulting teachers can get away with stuff that regular teachers can’t. Sometimes, for my own self-preservation, I put on my “old grandma hat. ” I can say to a potty mouth student, “If I were your grandma, I would wash out your mouth with soap.”

The kids laugh, and then they behave. They say, “Yes, Miss. Sorry, Miss.”

All teachers have golden academic moments with their students.  The real art of good teaching is to take those  serendipitous  moments and make them happen routinely. That’s happening. It will take time, but it’s happening.

Kids are kids.  Kindergarteners and high schoolers have the same needs.  All kids can think. I have learned that often the kids with the worst grades can think at a higher level than the rest of the gang. They just haven’t learned how to apply their high levels of thinking to school. Maybe it’s the fault of the school.  That’s why change is in the air. That’s good.

All teachers have moments of great poignancy  with their students.  Probably those are the moments that students and teachers will remember most. Many of my fourth (or was it fifth?) grade students remember how I cried when I read Bridge to Terabithia to them.

All teachers have moments of great comedy with students. The art of good teaching is to take those comedic moments and enjoy the humor. Even in semi-retirement now, as I  work with a new generation of teachers, the moments continue. The story below happened in one of my high schools last year.

A first year biology teacher was doing an experiment on enzymes.  I met with him before the lesson and suggested he probe the students’ background knowledge to set the stage for the lesson. Recalling  my days as an elementary school teacher, I suggested he  “Ask the kids what they know about yeast.” I knew many teachers in elementary school had baked bread with kids at one time or another.

The lesson began and my eager protégé, asked his high school students, “So tell me what you already know about yeast.”

Instantly, the one student who always calls out, described, in graphic detail, yeast infections and where they are found. Using the feline word for female genitalia, he was indeed proud of his contribution.

I clearly remember the “deer in the head light” look of my young teacher as the class gasped and laughed.  Up until this moment, Mr. C. had trusted me.

Stepping in, I said to the eager student, “Thank you for your contribution. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I may have an extra sip of wine as I share this story with my husband. Let’s try to use more academic language in the future, and now let’s move on.” The teacher continued with his wonderful lesson, and  the class moved on.

So newly retired teachers, as you move on, take time to savor your remembrances . Also, you might want to also steal a piece of chalk…if you can find one.  It may be a valuable artifact someday.