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Teachery Tidbits from Subland

December 6, 2013

I have a K-12 license to teach Theatre and Reading here in the great state of Minnesota.  So naturally I sub.  On the up side, I don’t have lots of lesson plans to do or conferences or the extra 38 hours per week of stuff teachers do above and beyond the normal 45 hours per week.  I also don’t have to subsidise my own classroom with a meager income nor do I engage in verbal fisticuffs with administrative types.  It does really stink at CEU time and I have to pay for all of that.  And I don’t get any insurance…..blah, blah, blah.

How you benefit is I do get to run around to a ton of different schools and do some research on what’s cool.  Here is a list of some cool things I found in the last two weeks.

The room I was in today had the most cool sub folder.  It was a pocket folder with an attached set of reproducibles.  It’s manufactured by Teacher’s Friend at  I went to the website, but it’s a bit convoluted and my search engine had some difficulties.  The ISBN number is 13 978-0-439-50393-8.  I really like this little deal.  I think if this were included as a part of a binder that had all the other information in it (contact information, school rules, discipline items, lesson plans, other games), it would be a super cool thing.

A class I was in last week had some really awesome stick games for spelling.  She had a writing station set up with a bin that had craft sticks with that week’s spelling words on them, a packet for each student, and a few pencils.  What the packets included were about 5 pages of different stick configurations.  As students matched spelling sticks with the outline of the printed shapes, they had to write the words in the spaces provided.  Each student should, by the end of the week, complete all the pages and have written all of the spelling words at least 8 times.

Another class had a writer’s workshop activity called Letters To My Friends.   Students had to use a list of spelling words to write a letter to a friend in class.  Right by the door was a big mailbox just like the one at the end of my Mom’s driveway.  At the end of the week, all the letters are “mailed” to the cubbies by  assigned “mail persons”.    I thought that was really cool.  Then I thought of Flat Stanley and got some good ideas…..


We have snow sign

December 3, 2013

snow sign

It’s that time of year, Minnesotans.  Well, really anyone who has to negotiate icy, snowy, poorly visible roads populated with drivers who are panicky.  I have some tips for you.

  1. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CAR!  If you get stuck somewhere, STAY IN YOUR CAR!  It’s warm in there.  It’s cold and wet out side.  The car has lights.  And a horn.
  2. Don’t ever let your gas gauge get below half.  This is key.  If you get stuck somewhere and help is on the way but not soon, you will need the fuel to keep your car running and warm and your lights on.  Even if you spin out on 94W and get stuck in the median ditch area right off Radio Drive, you don’t know how long it will take to get the truck there.  Think about it; traffic, weather, super busy truck guys, plows, and panicky freaked out drivers.  Relax.  You’ve been given a break time by the universe.  Pick up your phone and play Angry Birds or call your Mom.
  3. By now you should have a winter survival kit in your trunk.  Your kit should be packed in one duffel that stays in your car.
  • up to date first aid kit including any medications you might need
  • 2 WOOL blankets per person riding in the car.  Each set should be packed in two large garbage bags
  • extra WOOL socks and mittens (not gloves)
  • up to date flashlights
  • glow sticks
  • high protein energy bars (replace them yearly) or enough non-perishable food for a few days
  • 12 bottles of water (can be stored separately)
  • 1 bag of kitty litter
  • 1 good hunting knife
  • 6 road flares
  • matches
  • 12 tea light candles
  • 1 clean tin can for said candles (I like tuna cans)
  • roll of toilet paper in it’s own zippy


I also keep an extra set of winter clothes in my kit and a can opener and canned soups.  I have a pair of heavy leather gloves as well.  Keep the items you pick small and self contained in zippy bags.  My dearest hubby also got me an entrenching tool which has worked very well indeed on deep drifts.

The reason you want wool is that if it gets wet, it will still work to keep you warmer than any fiber.  Cotton will actually wick away warmth.  Cotton is good next to the skin, but to keep the warm in, use wool.  All wool.  100%.  No skimping on this.

4.  Now the driving tips.   Don’t lose control.  You do this by locking up your brakes.  Don’t do that.  The link as a lot of good tips. My Dad was the best.  Here are some of his:

  • If you have to get tires, get them now.  Give yourself an early holiday gift.  If tires usurps getting others gifts, do so.  This is your life.  You deserve new tires.
  • Find an empty parking lot and whip some donuts.  Really.   Learn how your car responds then figure out how to react.  I like shopping center lots at about 6am.   I usually wait for a really slippery situation.  Do this for about an hour.  Then get gas and go for breakfast.
  • Practice how to steer into and out of a spin.
  • Practice how to use your shifter to maintain control of your speed without losing control of your tires. NEVER SHIFT WITH YOUR FOOT ON THE GAS!  You can do this with an automatic as well as manual.
  • Practice how to use the gas pedal to get greater torque and control of your speed.
  • Increase following distance and travel time.  Give yourself the time and space to control yourself.  Thor knows there are enough out there who won’t.  Compensate.
  • Never let your gas tank get below half.


  • Stay clear of the plows.  Snug in behind them with enough distance so they can see you in their mirrors.  Don’t pass them!  Those guys are working doubles and visibility is hideous.  Give them a break.  They are working to keep you alive.  Don’t get huffy about being stuck behind one.
  • If the roads are closed, go home or go back where you were.  Unless he wants you to put lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again.  The roads are closed for a very good reason:  emergency crews don’t need to risk their lives to save yours because you really need another can of cranberry sauce or you have a hot date some burning hunk of lovin’.  In some cases law enforcement can write you a really expensive ticket for  your choice to endanger your life, the lives of people in your car, and those who have to come and rescue your idiotic self from freezing to death.
  • Check your local 511 road conditions before you go.  Whatever state you live in as a Department of Transportation that will hook you up with road conditions.

This is all good stuff that will keep you alive.  Many people think that just because you live in a city or  large town you won’t need this.  Freezing weather is freezing weather.  If you are dressed for an office, you really do need those blankets, socks, and any other warming assistance you can get. 

Most of all, think before you act.

I’ve got my kit in the car, is yours?


November 29, 2013

Today is a sad day.  Yesterday was a bit sad, too.

Why, do you ask?  Well, it has to do with this:



I’m a bit torqued, as I always am at this time of year, at how much we have to be thankful for and yet we go on bestial rampages for MORE stuff.  How much of today’s shopping really was for a gift for someone else?  Does that person really need that item?  Do you really need to get them a gift?

And here’s the big question of the day: CAN YOU AFFORD TO GO INTO DEBT?  Over a holiday??????   Really?????  Last year I worked in a low income school.  Folks were struggling day to day yet were talking about spending vast sums on gifts???????   You would gladly go further into debt with credit cards and other forms of credit just for a few video games and assorted toys that will be broken and forgotten by Valentine’s Day?  For some fantastically expensive clothes that won’t fit in a few months?  For totchkeys that have to be cleaned and admired and stored? Stuff for people you hardly know or care for?

What if we re-created the holiday season to include less junk and more funk?  How about throwing some parties?  If  you throw them at local bars and restaurants, the money stays in the community.  If you buy local foods for your gatherings, the money stays in the community.  If you give the gift of food, it doesn’t have to be dusted or cleaned.  If you buy tickets to local shows, you employ local artists.

See where I’m going with this?  Spend your money this holiday season, but change your focus from stuff to relationships.  Invest in your relationships, not storage space.

I’ve got tickets already for some shows around here.  I’ve canned quite a bit of apple goodness and I have over 5 gallons of mead ready to go to parties.  The magnificent husband made some cool things out of wood and brewed some beer.

What are you going to do?

Tipping is not a city in a forigen country

November 21, 2013


If you can’t afford to tip, you can’t afford to go out. It’s that simple. I was a server. Many people I know were servers. We got a sucktastic paycheck every few weeks, but if you didn’t make tips, you didn’t pay bills. It was that simple. If you were lucky, meals would be thrown in and you could drink as much coffee or soda as you could hold. Many places I worked did not include those things.


While I struggled to make ends meet and would go days without eating anything more than an apple, the owners or managers would be giving themselves a raise or fabulous vacation. While I worked 70 hours over two weeks cleverly switched around so I could work no other job or get the minimum for insurance, they went and had plastic surgery for trophy wives.


I was lucky. While working these kinds of jobs, I had a safety net and no children. Many do not have a safety net even now.


Whom do you tip? Anyone who is personally serving you. Wait staff of any kind include the beauty industry, massage therapists, nail salon techs, food servers that bring it to your table, entertainers that come table to table or street performers, and generally anyone who waits on you for any reason. Their wages suck, often they are not more than minimum wage or even below.


Your service was hideous?  Then leave a little less.  Those people work their tuckus off daily for many who won’t or don’t tip.  These workers must put on an ecstatically delighted face to show you even though their lives might be filled with frustration and sadness.  And for the love of chocolate, don’t ever stiff someone based on assumptions you make about your server’s politics, religion, or sexual orientation.  What concern is it of yours?  They are only bringing you a plate of food and few drinks.  Don’t be that person and don’t encourage that crassly rude behavior.


Here’s what I would like you to do: while your children are still young enough to have a safety net, have them work at tipped jobs for a year. On the weekends, and holidays. Especially the Sunday lunch rush and on the big high holy days. Believe it or not, most servers hate working those holidays because people think that God’s days should be some kind of freak situation where serving others becomes some sort of blessing. Well last time I checked, God or Yahweh or Allah or Thor or whomever is in charge wasn’t writing a check for the electricity.

Constitutionally speaking….

November 20, 2013

Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore our Constitution.   This fall I went to the Minnesota Educator’s Conference at the River Center over MEA weekend.  The ACLU always has a booth there and they always have pocket copies of the US Constitution.   Also included in the little book is a copy of the MN Constitution.  Thanks to the ACLU, I always have a copy handy.  Even usually one to hand out.

It’s why I’m excited about an email that I got today about the booth at MEA weekend; the lady who heads up the local chapter has a whole buncha good stuff available for your classrooms that’s FREE.   And she’s got a contest going.  I posted the whole thing here so you can read it at your leisure.

I already read my little constitution book regularly.  Do you?

Dear Educator:

It was great to meet you last month at the Teacher’s Convention. Sorry for the delay in getting this email to you, but I was waiting for a shipment of pocket-sized constitutions to arrive and they finally did! Please check out the list of our FREE resources below and let me know what you are interested in ordering.

There is currently a competition going on with $25,000 in prizes available for your school for creating a mural about the Bill of Rights The details are here: 

ž         Speaker for your classroom – if you live within one hour of the Twin Cities, Mankato or Bemidji we can provide a speaker to your classroom to talk about your rights as a student or other ACLU topics.

ž         Download and distribute our guide to privacy rights on social media sites such as facebook/twitter etc.  – It has lots of great information about what students rights are when they use those sites.

ž         Pocket-sized copies of the US & Minnesota Constitution

ž         Freedom Files DVDs

o   DVDS on topics such as Voting Rights & Immigrant Rights.  A full list of DVDs is available online

ž         Constitutional Rights CD

o   A CD that gives brief synopses of 50 famous legal cases such as Brown V Board of education

ž         Students Rights Newsletter

o   The ACLU has produced these newsletters that educate students about their rights in all different subject areas.  They are only a page long and can be handed out separately or altogether. They are all available for download online.

ž         Pocket-sized Know Your Rights Cards – What to do during police encounters

ž         Rights of Pregnant and Parenting Teens – a small brochure that educates pregnant and parenting teens about their rights in school.

ž         Sexual Health Rights of Minors Brochures – a brochure that educates minors about their rights if the are sexually active (i.e. can they buy birth control as a minor etc.)

ž         Also visit our new Constitution Day website which is full of great resources for teachers: – including a contest on the Wall of rights where you can win thousands of dollars for your school.

All of the resources are available at no cost to Minnesota Teachers. If you are interested in any of our resources please call Jana Kooren at 651-645-4097 ex. 123, or send an email to with the following information:

  1. Your Name
  2. Your School information (Name, Address, Email & Phone number)
  3. What class(es) you teach and at what grade level
  4. The number of students in your class(es)


Jana Kooren

Public Education and Communications Director

American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota

2300 Myrtle Ave, Suite 180, St. Paul, MN 55114

” 651.645.4097 x123 ”



November 11, 2013

Much like winter, the holidays are coming.  Frenzied buying, drama laden family politics, dietetic issues up the wazoo (don’t like, can’t eat….) and illness.  It would be fine by me if we could skip everything from 16 Dec (the hubby’s birthday) until 31 Dec, I’d be fine by that.

I detest this time of year.

  • Scrambling to create the perfect holiday for everyone 
  • working 16 different gigs because I know January will be slim pickens 
  • I’m drastically behind because I’ll be missing the over two weeks of work due to school being out
  • watching people shop and buy junk for people they hardly know (who will either re-gift it or donate it later)
  • seeing crass commercialism
  • watching humans turn into animals over a toy or clothing item or sale


Sigh.  That’s sooooo not the reason for the season.  It doesn’t matter what your spiritual path is, most of them have some sort of festival or holy day around 21 Dec.  Not all of them have gifting traditions or feasting traditions, but they do have meeting traditions.  Hook up with your family and friends.

So what if I came up with a list for you?  A “let’s keep the holidays simple and filled with good memories” list.  It’s going to be easy to do and won’t cost a lot.   For the entire month of December:

  1. Do one random act of kindness daily.
  2. Make a date with your family members to go out on an excursion of some kind.  One on one, not all together.  There’s tons of free museums and miles of walking paths and a bazillion coffee shops or little diners.  Or you could volounteer together.  Walk dogs at the humane society.
  3. Volounteer at least twice to help someone in need.
  4. Make a meal and bring it to your neighbour’s house.
  5. Pick up an assortment of fruits and keep a bowl in the break room for everyone.
  6. If you must buy a gift, buy local American.
  7. Read at the library once.
  8. Clean off your neighbour’s sidewalk or yard.
  9. At least twice a week go for a half hour walk outside by yourself.
  10. Daily express your gratitude for what you have right now.

With a list like this, granted you won’t have a ton of presents under the tree, but you will have memories.  Memories don’t need dusting, storage, or strategic political placement.  They last forever.   Besides, if you get your child that gazillion dollar toy and all those batteries, just think of the money you could be spending on that child’s college fund or putting that money towards something that will make a difference.  The toy will be broken and forgotten by Valentine’s day but I bet that child will remember the trip to a historic house that was filled with characters and had cookies at the end.

Stop making the holidays an emotional mess.  Find the fun and joy in your relationships, not the money.  I’m going to make sure I do my list up there.  It should take about a month.

What are you going to do?

To my followers

October 29, 2013

THANK YOU!  A big squishy thank you to all those who are reading and following my blog.  You are amazing!  I’m glad you take the time to read my musings and I sincerely hope you walk away with something good from them.


Have a most excellent day!