Monday, March 17, 2014

My Biggest Teaching Mistake

Homework.  I cringe when I hear the word.  When I first started teaching 3rd grade ten years ago,  I gave a lot of homework to my little eight year olds.  There was a packet, a reading log, nightly math assignments, not to mention the projects... the list goes on. Homework was what I thought the parents wanted.  I thought it would make my students smarter and ready for 4th grade.  I thought I was helping my students achieve greatness, but I thought wrong.

 I was putting a strain on their already way-over scheduled little lives, more stress on their families, and sucking the soul out of their creativity, and I didn't even realize it.  I also couldn't take grades on the homework because half of the time I could tell that the parents were completing the projects rather than the kids.  It was helping no one.

I would have been far better off giving my kids time to be kids.  They needed to be riding bikes around the neighborhood, playing house, and having robot wars in their backyards.  I cannot stress the importance of small ones becoming veterinarians, making forts in the woods, and pretending to be singers while having dance contests on their balconies.

The reason this free play is so important is because it allows the kids to learn life lessons of kindness, compassion, empathy, and imagination.  This is when kids learn how to share, include others, and how to think outside of the box.  If students are so bogged down with homework, or activity after activity like ballet, piano, baseball, soccer, tutoring, swim, and chess club back to back, then when do they learn how to relax, imagine, and create or just kick back and have fun? 

So, what do I do about homework now? I have not abolished it all together.  I give my students time to work on the math link at school before the day is out.  And I still do assign 20 minutes of nightly reading and have a parent verify that it was completed. But that is where I stop.  My kids need to be kids.  What is your stance?

Here is another article on the subject in case you are interested:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Jungs Personality Test: I am an INFJ. What are you?

I was feeling narcissistic and bored Saturday night since Gerardo was on the soccer field and a sitter could not be found this side of the Cascade Mountains.  So I thought, what better way to spend a Saturday night than taking personality inventory quizzes that were created by psychologists a long time ago?  

I found this website: and took the Jung's personality inventory thingy, and basically it pegged me dead on and said I was an INFJ. According to the website, I am an Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeling, and Judgemental.  I began reading about my personality type and it pretty much described me to a "T." 

It also gives you careers that your personality type gravitates towards and the first five careers on my list were 1.) social worker 2.) teacher 3.) librarian 4.) lawyer and 5.) designer.  This is the part that really freaked me out, because to tell you the truth, I have definitely thought seriously about each of those career opportunities.  I almost applied for law school. I am a teacher. I wanted to be a social worker when I started college, and in the future, career change ideas are librarian and graphic designer.  I know. Totally nuts, huh?

Well, if you want to read my description, you can go here: .  Oh, and it also says, I am like Mother Teresa.  Except, I swear too much, have half the patience of that saint, and enjoy jello shots more than her.  (This is my own analysis. The test wasn't able to tell me that.)

So, what personality type are you? 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Things I Say at School

Tomorrow is report card day and in honor of the classroom stress and craziness, I have put together a list of some fun things that I have said at school. Enjoy.

1.) Please get your head out of the garbage.  It is dirty in there.

2.) Is it a good idea to staple that ribbon to your thumb?

3.) Please take the ten Mr. Sketch Markers off of each other so you can complete the art project.

4.) Is it a good choice to draw freckles on your face during break?

5.) I have decided that I need to decide about our commitee decision.

6.) I got an email asking to cut your apples into bite size pieces. (Pause.) Why do your apples need to be in bite sized pieces?

7.) Please don't use lice in your math story problem.  The thought makes my head itch.

8.) Is it a good idea to bop everyone's head as you line up at the door?

9.) Please come down from the top of the door frame.  The bell just rang and school is out.

10.) The teacher assistant did not murder these bird science specimens.  They died of natural causes.

11.) If we are mad at our friends, it is best to use our words and not poke them in the eye.

12.) Please just write your first name on your paper and leave out, "Boy of Brains and Destiny."

I wonder what I will say tomorrow...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dan the "Pappy Log" Man


"Cool!" was the first word that Carlo yelled when I met him at work on Monday.  No, he didn't think his mom was "epic" or "amazing" or "awesome."  He basically saw the new toys that I was carrying and was super excited about them.  The toys were Pappy Logs (or Lincoln Log blocks) as Carlo called them, and they were new and ready to use.  Carlo was so excited to see them that he wanted to hold them the whole way home.

As it turns out, Dan Howard, our amazing IT guy at Newcastle, is also an extraordinary Pappy Log maker;   Dan has multiple talents. He builds stuff and knows computers. At Newcastle, Dan calmly enters my room when I send him frantic emails because I forgot to plug in my computer and have no idea why it is not functioning;  when special friends decide to be sneaky and stick the lens cap back on my document camera so I think it is broken, Dan's always there to come and remove it.  However, in addition to all that at work, Dan has hidden builder's talents.  He makes Pappy Logs and builds fantastic real cabins up in the mountains.

Pappy Logs are Dan's newest and best invention in my opinion, because they keep my children occupied for extended amounts of time.  They are basically gigantic Lincoln Logs that are ten times more fun than normal Lincoln Logs. He makes them himself and gives them as gifts to the grand kids.  Check out his blog here to see how they are made:

In the pictures below, you will find my boys playing a nice and relaxing game with their cars and new favorite toys.

 In this picture Carlo is hoarding the Pappy Logs and shoving Eli so he can't get near them.

Here Eli is not taking any of his brother's crap, and he decides to play with the Pappy Logs any way.

Don't be fooled by the innocent exterior.  Eli just whacked Carlo with a Pappy Log and is now pleased with himself because he gets to play with the toys too.
Now Carlo is an alien.

Here Carlo has decided to reenact the Cars movie by building a race track with the Pappy Logs; You will notice that he is placing the announcers with their headsets on top of the track, creating an audience of "slow cars" that are not allowed on the race track to the right, and setting up a very fast race within the course. (No slow cars allowed.) 
Eli tries to partake in the fun, but big brother banishes him to the other side of the couch.
Love, love, love these Pappy Logs Dan!  Thanks for the amazing set!  They are being put to good use already.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Chance to Live the American Dream by Andy De Jesus

My stepdaughter Andy is applying to colleges now.  I can hardly believe that she is already a senior in high school and about to turn 18.  When I think of her, the shy, polite, and thoughtful grade school girl peers back at me, but when I look again, I see that she is gone.  A strong, smart, and determined woman is in her place.  I am proud of you Andy, and I know you will go far in life.  Here is an example of one of her essays for a college scholarship.

Discuss your short and long-term goals. Are some of them related? Which are priorities?

A Chance to Live the American Dream

My uncle and I were walking to my grandma’s place with groceries in hand when he broke our silence, “Until now, I never understood what Mom meant when she said she didn’t have a big chance since the beginning.”

            I looked at my Uncle Juan, puzzled, “What do you mean?” I asked. He met my gaze for a moment before gesturing all around him. I followed his gesture, and looked around us as we walked along Villa Madero’s streets back to my grandma’s place. Since my great grandpa died, my grandma tried to visit as much as possible to help with his farmland.   

It was my third time in Mexico, but this was the first time I realized the cultural differences when compared to Seattle. The other two times visiting I was four and eight years old, so the only difference I saw was that every relative I visited didn’t have a running toilet. Now at seventeen and a year away from college, I noticed the uneven bricks of cement that were supposed to be a street. I noticed the dogs that walked freely without owners. I saw old trucks pass that always contained at least four people in the back. I saw children as young as five years old selling fruits alongside their families. I watched men walk around, after working on their farmland, with dirt covered t-shirts and jeans with either a cowboy hat or baseball cap to protect them from the sun.

At the time, I didn’t understand my Uncle Juan’s statement because I had never questioned my grandma’s choices: I knew how much she had strived for something different. She had brought my mother to the United States with the “American Dream” to make something of herself and her family. That is as daring as it gets. I was raised alongside my four uncles, aunt and mother. I’ve grown up calling my grandma, “Mom.” When I was a baby, my grandma worked as a maid, went to community college for criminal justice and put dinner on the table.  The hard work she put herself through so that we could have a better chance of success inspires me. My grandma is the reason why I plan on becoming successful to share a comfortable living with my family. I will further achieve her American Dream.

In the short term, I plan to graduate high school and volunteer during summer vacation. I will work a summer job to save money for my freshman year of college, which I hope will be, at Seattle University. Because Seattle University’s Jesuit values follow some of my own values such as diversity, dedication to the community, justice and faith, it has become my dream school. In the long term, I plan to become my own boss of a company. I also plan to become more fluent in Spanish for more business opportunities and to connect to my family members who don’t speak English.

My newfound understanding of the hard work my grandma accomplished solidified my determination to go to college and get a good job. Like my grandma, I will follow through with my goals or continue to make new goals when circumstances change but I won’t stop to give up. Her actions taught me that every goal I make is a priority because each goal will lead to the next. I finally rested my gaze on him and replied, “Yeah, Mom did pretty well, didn’t she?” We stepped inside my grandma’s place with that day’s groceries in hand.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Half-white People Problems

Gerardo is Mexican.  I am a white American mutt.  Therefore, our sons are half Mexican and half American mutt, so we sometimes run into scenarios that the typical unblended family may not run into. 

For example, tonight we were at Red Robin having dinner.  Gerardo and I ordered wraps and Carlo and Eli split an order of spaghetti and broccoli.  The grown ups got fries however, and we promised to share some with the crazies.  But, the fries came at a price.  Carlo needed to use his Spanish in order to get them.  This is how the conversation unfolded.

Carlo: Can I have some fries please?
Gerardo: Por que? (What do you say?)
Carlo: Por favor. (Please)
Gerardo: Can you say the whole thing in Spanish?
Carlo: No. I forget.
Gerardo: Si mi da una papa por favor.
Carlo: Si mi da una papa por favor. (Repeated.)
Carlo gets a fry.

Every ten seconds thereafter, the same conversation was repeated until the end of dinner.  As Carlo and Gerardo were getting up to meet Eli and me in the parking lot, this was said:

Carlo: Dad, I forget.
Gerardo: What did you forget?
Carlo: I forget the password for fries. Can you tell me the password again?

Hmmmm.... I think we need to get on this whole bilingual thing a little more in the De Jesus household. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Part One: Can Lulu and Linen and Liza Transform Me into All Things Fashion???

I read the blog Lulu and Linen weekly. It is fun, super cute, and the fonts are superb.  Lulu does an excellent job with "all things home" and creates a chalk board wall complete with adorable words. But, to be honest, my favorite blog posts of hers are the ones about fashion.  Lulu finds the best outfit combinations, which are complete with matching shoes and jewelry.  I heart them, and in my pretend fantasy life, I dress like Lulu.  This is one of Lulu's outfits.  Check out her blog to see Lulu go Vegas Style!

Much like Lulu, my coworker Liza Rickey, stays up to date on the current trends.  Liza has the perfect boot for every occasion.  She knows what the current trends are and sports them well. For example, Liza had pink hair highlights when they were in.  I thought she was awesome for doing it and I secretly wanted to have red highlights at the time. I totally wussed out though, and now they are not so cool anymore.  She also sports studded jewelry and leather in appropriate ways. Amazing.  I would look like a biker lady on her way to Sturgis if I tried it.  Here are some sexy outfits Liza wears out on the town.

 She even looks adorable in sweats and finds the perfect top for the first day of school. 

Liza says that the best accessory to any outfit is confidence.  This happens to be lucky for me because when I get home from work, I tend to sport these trends:

Trend 1: The dishelved knee sock from Gerardo's drawer. Yes, the heel part is no longer on the heel.

Trend 2: The sweatpants with paint on the bottom from my DIY project.

Trend 3: Gerardo's grey undershirt/wifebeater. 

I can really use a little  tons of help from the Lulu and Linen blog and Liza.  Makeover session in store for me??? We shall see.  (Gerardo is secretly praying for this to come to fruition.)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

MJ Keller is my "Great Teacher" this week

This Week's Great Teacher Award goes to: MJ Keller
MJ Keller is my "Great Teacher" this week because she is extremely dedicated, hardworking, technologically gifted, crafty, and thoughtful.  MJ will go out of her way on the first day of school, and every holiday thereafter, to make sure her teammates have an adorable crafty treat waiting at their doorstep.  One day it will be the perfect clipboard that you never knew you had to have, and the next day, it will be a quick snack that is packaged to perfection.  Additionally, MJ takes the time and effort to help bring on new teachers and mentor them in all things education.  She shares her work, creates new flip charts, and will spend hours helping others prepare for upcoming units and lessons.  MJ's class is well managed and she stays up to date on all the new teaching techniques and approaches that are thrown at us every year.  Finally, and most importantly, MJ makes a huge difference in the lives of her students.  She teaches with kindness, love, and expects the world from her kids, and she gets it. Bravo MJ! You should be proud of all you have accomplished at Newcastle Elementary!
Here is a sneak peak of a crafty project that MJ made for her nieces over the February break.
Valentine's Day Can Surprises
1.) Find a Can and peel off the wrapper

2.) Cut off the bottom of the cans with a can opener

 3.) Fill cans up with fun surprise.

4.) Use the hot glue gun to glue the bottom back on the can.

 5.) Create labels and glue them onto the can.

6.) Package and mail!

You thought I was going to try this with Carlo?  That boy is not getting anywhere near a hot glue gun for a while. I would like to keep all my skin, thank you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Green Eggs and Ham. Poem Disaster.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss!

At school, it is Read Across America Week, and Dr. Seuss's birthday, so obviously, I could not resist the chance to make green eggs and ham for the family. Let's face it; scrambled eggs are the easiest thing in the world to make, so it is kind of like a get-out-of-jail-free card to make them for dinner.

Therefore, in honor of the great rhyming king, I have created this wonderful poem to showcase my Safeway shopping spree and dinner escapades. It is dedicated to Lauren Engel because of all the crappy poems I made her listen to in high school.

Carlo and Eli came to school,
I picked them up because I am no fool.
To Safeway, to Safeway, did travel us three,
In the milk aisle, Carlo did have to go pee.
With Starbucks in hand and green dye on the mind
I came upon this interesting behind.
We bought some food and searched for green dye
Carlo saw this and went for a ride.
Eli did yell throughout the store
Screaming because he tasted sweet bread and wanted more
The screaming continued as we checked out with our money
The last descriptive word on my mind was "honey.."
Gerardo did call a few minutes after that
To tell me in his truck on the way home, he sat.
When asking about dinner tonight,
I told him green eggs and ham were out of sight.
Gerardo thought he misheard me on the line
Though, the cell reception was fine.
I told him about our dinner plans
But Carlo and Gerardo and Eli were not big fans.
Being from Mexico, he did not know Dr. Seuss,
Now, I will introduce them and they will be tight, not loose.
Thank you, thank you.  I will now keep my day job. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Carlo De Jesus's 10 Tips and Tricks to Going to Bed as Late as Possible

Step 1: Trick Mom into reading as many bedtime stories as possible and then pick the longest books you can think of.

Step 2: Tell Mom that you have to go to the bathroom but really play with your bath time toys.

Step 3: Get all wet while you are playing with your bath toys so you need to change into your pajamas again.

Step 4: Put your underwear on backwards on purpose to take up more time.

Step 5: Put your pajamas on as slowly as possible.

Step 6: Once you are in bed, ask Mom for a tiny bit of water.

Step 7: Now ask Mom to rub lotion all over your back.  You know she cannot resist because you have eczema

Step 8: Get out of bed to put the music on in the noise maker thingy.

Step 9: Leave your favorite bedtime stuffed animal in the bathroom on purpose.  Then call Mom to come and get him.

Step 9: Wait five minutes.  Call Mom again and say, "There is wax and dirt in my ear."

Step 10: Call Mom yet again because the hall light is not bright enough.

But then silence...... So Mom checks in on him 15 minutes later.....