Good Morning, Boys and Girls!

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In early 2016, I retired from teaching and consulting after working for 45 years, thirty as an elementary school teacher, and fifteen more as an educational consultant. I posted occasionally to The Nothing Expert, but I was not focused; I wrote about Everything and Nothing.

Perhaps I was afraid to write about education.

I’m not afraid anymore.

To warm up for my new focus on education, I wrote a list of my best days in schools.  When I say best, I mean the days you relive over and over and sit there smiling to yourself as you remember your pride, your absolute wonderfulness!

Take a minute, dear Reader, and remember one of your own wonderful work days. Savor it. Pleasure in it. Ahh!

To continue my pre-writing I made another list of my worst days in schools. When I say worst I mean the days you want to bury and forget—the days when you felt alone, stupid, worthless,  humiliated—the days when you got home from work and drank too much wine, slept too many hours, thought too many terrible thoughts, and were in a funk deeper than Hell.

Take another minute, dear Reader, and force yourself to relive one of those days.

Not fun.

Now, just to relieve your pain, pull up one of your silliest days—For me, I remember the kindergarten kid who walked the halls of our school smoking an empty applicator tube from a tampon, the way Groucho Marx (some of you won’t know him) smoked his cigar. Hilarious! The kind of stuff that makes lunch in the Teachers’ Room the best reality show there is.

After making my lists, I found my mission for The Nothing Expert’s new direction. I will write about education and my mission will be to:

  • empathize, entertain, comfort, and occasionally offer an old-timer’s tip.
  • write with seriousness, humor and compassion. I will frequently reread my lists of best, worst and silliest days and remember my feelings.
  • reach you and assure you that “We all went through this, and we survived and thrived!”
  • write as honestly as I can, grateful and mindful of the hand that feeds me my pension as well as the hand that has fought for my rights.
  • connect the trends of today with the trends of when I started…so long ago.

A heads-up before we start—If you expect state-of-the-art info on technology, do not waste your time reading this blog. I miss my chalk, the smell of it, the feel of it, the potential of it.

The Meaning of “Existential”: An Empirical Study of the Pragmatic Use of Big Words in English Language Arts, aka ELA.

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Students, try to use big words to sound smart.  One of my favorite big words is existential.  I can write or say stuff like, “The existential purpose of blah blah is blah blah,” and people will nod their heads in serious agreement, or squint their eyes in serious disagreement. Using words like existential in conversations makes people feel flattered that you have shared deep thoughts with them.

I do not know what “existential” means. This is a minor point.

My real concern is that there might be a list out there of “Teachers Whose Students Do Not Know the Word, Existential.” These days, you just never know!

Therefore,  all students who will be taking the College Board SAT’s ,  ACT’s,  KAT’s (Kindergarten Assessment Tests)and PNVEE Tests,  (Pre-Natal Vocabulary Enrichment Exams), please thank me in advance for giving you one of the  definitions of existential.

Courtesy of dictionary.com, one of the definitions of existential is:

  • Logic: denoting or relating to a formula or proposition asserting the existence of at least one object fulfilling a given condition: containing an existential quantifier.

Why are you cranky?

Here’s another dictionary.com definition of existential:

  • Of or related to existence, esp. human existence

I made up this sentence for you to clarify the definition of existential:

  • I eat because I am existential, and I need Rum Raisin ice cream to continue existing.

Now, my loyal readers, as an added bonus, I am going to share two new words that have always been problematic for me.  Common Core Standards expect you to use high level academic language. These two words qualify. According to dictionary.com, both of these words are synonyms for existential! Who knew?

The two new words are empirical and pragmatic.

Students, try substituting the word, empirical for the word, factual.

  • Example: If I write the word empirical in my essays instead of the word factual, my test scores may jump from a score of one to a score of five!

Now students, let’s take the word, pragmatic. Use pragmatic, students, every time you are tempted to use the word, practical. This is easy to remember because both words start with the letters, pr.

  • It was pragmatic for me to use the word, existential, because I had read many empirical essays about humans who existed.

Comments? Questions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School’s Starting! Let’s Go to the Pool!

When I’m not writing about stuff, I help teachers, teach. Uh-oh! So now that part of me is out of the closet on this blog. Yikes!

Prior to admitting that I teach teachers, (I did teach kids for 30 years first) I outed myself in this blog for being:

  • a fake foodie
  • a pear-shaped clothing shopper
  • an inept cook, social media user, hiker, dieter, etc. etc. blah blah.

Then I outed myself as a gephyrophobic. That’s a fancy word for a person who is afraid of being or driving on a bridge. I prefer to use my own made-up word, Brobic.

From my background as a phobic, I was hooked by The NY Times Article, “Terror Conquered, the Water’s Fine.” Written by N. R. Kleinfield, the article’s tag was “A New Yorker Faces His Phobia, One Stroke at a Time.” It was about a 33 year old guy, Attis Clopton, who was afraid of swimming. After suffering  with his aquaphobia  for years, Attis signed up for swimming lessons.

As I read  his story, I forgot that I was originally hooked by the phobia angle. I was caught up in the methods,  an old teacher word, that teacher, Lori Pailet, used  to help Attis learn to swim and overcome his fear.

The story showed a teacher at work, a damn fine teacher. Most teachers I know are damn fine teachers too. Some of you will look at the article and say the man in this story  was “ready to learn,” and that’s why it worked. I don’t know.

I do know that we, teachers get all kinds of kids. Some of those kids are “ready to learn,” and some of them are not. Good teachers do their very best to reach them all. Hats off to Lori Pailet, and to all great teachers!

Here’s the link to the story: http://nyti.ms/1pPOPYU

Four Women Drive Together for Eleven Years…Over a Bridge


In 1976, we four women going back to work were the outliers. Most of the other mothers were at home, with their children.

We had no cell phones. Between us, however, we did have husbands, bills to pay, monthly periods and nine kids. When we started our carpool, the oldest kid was seven; the youngest, was learning to walk.

We were returning to full time teaching from maternity leave. We did not know each other before we met on that September day in 1976.  I was the oldest at 31, and Ellen was the youngest at 29.

For the next eleven years, our merry carpool crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge from our homes on one side of the Hudson River to the school where we all taught on the other side. On a good day, it would take us 40 minutes. On a bad day, it could take two hours.

On our daily ride, when we weren’t sleeping, sulking or squabbling, we talked to each other. We became friends.

Things change. Our carpool ended in 1987, and then, we all drove to work separately until each of us retired.

I am writing this because I read that The New Tappan Zee Bridge when it is finished in 2018 is going to probably have only electronic tolls. What fun is that? In 1976, when we carpooled, we paid $1.50 to cross and we actually touched the hand of another human being at the toll!

Technology changed. You may be reading this, now, on your phone or pad or whatever. I can’t keep up. You may also have children, husbands, bills and monthly periods, or not, if you’re old like me.

It’s hard to be a working mother. I know. It’s also hard to be a stay-at-home mother. I know that too. Now, because of technology, some of you can do both at the same time.  How’s that for a change? I think it’s for the better, but I am sure there are those of you who will disagree. Let me know.

When they tear the Old Tap down and replace it with the New Tap, it will be a celebratory event.

I, however, will be remembering those eleven years when I rode to work with my friends…

…even that time when one of us, in a snit, drove over the bridge while furiously pounding her hands on the steering wheel, and screaming in exasperation at me, the one with the fear of driving over the edge into the Hudson below.

But, for now, that’s all water under the bridge.

A Nor’easter Valentine’s Day

Written from my cozy kitchen while drinking coffee, this Valentine is for:

  • You, the ones we make fun of with your hairnets, making and dishing out food to anybody who needs to be fed.
  • You, who scrambled to get your kids somewhere, so that you could go to school and take care of my kids.  I’m a grandma, but I’ve been there as a teacher and a parent.
  • You, food workers who are probably making minimum wage, but you showed up at work. Maybe I went in and had a hot coffee before my shift. Maybe I went in and bought truffle oil for my snow day recipe.
  • You, the ones, who care for the rest of us, and risk your own lives to get to work and do your job. How did you get to work? Who cleared the roads or rails for you? Did you leave your family alone during the storm while you slept at your hospital, firehouse or precinct? Maybe you spent the night up in the icy trees in a forklift, fixing wires.

Some of you probably “caught heat” from the complainers among us for not being “on the spot” with perfection. I am grateful that you were there.

Happy Valentine’s Day to You All!