Sunday, July 7, 2013

Wanted: Summer Entertainment Director. You're IT!

It's summer.

And you're a teacher.

You don't know whether to jump for utter joy or collapse somewhere in a corner.

Hold up here.  There will be NO collapsing.  And every corner in your house is a heap of  a long lost school day. You might have just said your goodbyes to twenty-five classroom kids, but you got two of your own looking right at you who have nominated you: Julie McCoy, Summer Entertainment Director. 

Before you begin this endeavor, know first this is a volunteer position and you aren't going to be cruising into no sunset. You only get paid in little kid paintings and leftover goldfish while some days you might even feel like jumping ship.  And your husband is no director's assistant neither.  In fact, he's enlisted you as well.  To be full-time cook, housekeeper, and maintenance manager since it's summer and you got the next two months off.

Nevertheless, you're going to need some ideas.  And if you're a teacher of the elementary kind, you got one paycheck to last you for the next two months or less you'll be selling your garage on

Let me share my wisdom with you.  I got ten summers of summer entertainment for kids locked down, loaded up, and out on the line!

Here are my TOP 10 Daytrips with No Money and Limited Sanity

10.  The local library.  This is your summer savior.  You will become instant BFFs with the children's librarian the moment she presents your kids with some super creative incentive to get them to read.  Folks, if you go this alone, your children will claim  English as a second language in a matter of minutos.  Fortunately for you, the local library has every Dr. Suess and Eric Carle book in Spanish and even have them on cassette.  Just report to your new BFF and ask, "dónde están uno libro?" and she will direct you to that section and offer your kids a glow-in-the-dark sticker bookmark if they read 2,500 pages in the next 12 days.   Bonus! Some libraries have free presentations and special guest stars.   In no time, you'll be watching some one man banjo band guy on a picnic blanket with your kids FOR FREE and you won't hear those words "I'm bored" for at least one hour and five minutes.

9. The school or town park.  Totally free and you get to make up the playground rules.  So if you declare no yelling, tattling or fighting with your sister on the playground, you can just say, "those are the rules.  I didn't make them up and if you don't follow them, they make you go back in  there.  Even if it's summer."  Plus, school parks are great to introduce them to if your child is entering that school this year.  You can even make some observations while you're there, maybe even role play a few scenarios to see which piece of equipment will have you in the emergency room with a broken growth plate or a full leg cast first. If your kids are getting "too old" for the park, try this. Take 10 pictures while at the park.  Your cell phone is fine.  Pick some shots that are not so easy to recognize and be sure your kid isn't spying on you like they do when they hear you unwrap a miniature chocolate bar in the front seat and you've claimed they are all gone.  Next, give that phone to your kid or show them the pictures in order. Dare them to find all 10 objects in the picture; a certain hinge on a swing,  a handle to a monkey bar, a caution sign.  You can time this or go along with them at their own pace.  You might repeat but have them take the next round of pics.  Don't be surprised if they take photos up their own noses or your backside because it's summer and you're the entertainment director. 

8. The beach.  You just need that tank of gas, sunblock with 2000 SPF, and a bag lunch.  You got your seashell hunt, your waves to ride, and all that sand you can bury them up to their neck in when Mommy needs some quiet time.

7.  Schedule a playdate.  Once you pick up every living corner of school piles that is.  A playdate might make you anxious at first, with all that planning, making sure your cabinets have more than a ream of saltine crackers and a can of olives, and that awkward moment at the door when the playdate's mom is dropping her kid off, pretending to give you contact information but what she's really doing is looking for any morsel of clean counter space you might have.  Fortunately for you, that playdate is a playdate for Mommy.  That other lady's kid is going to play Entertainment Director for the day.  She's going to set your kid up with Barbies, playdough, or a day long playing house event, equipped with props and and a costume ensemble so you can actually clean off a counter or do that thing called Laundry you neglected for the last 180 school days.

6. Pet store.  One of the furriest, but definitely one of my favorites.  You don't even have to own a pet to visit this place for less than 2 pennies.  They got walls full of fish and tanks full of turtles, your gerbils, your hamsters, and plenty of parrots to talk to.  You can spend almost two hours in there and the entertainment is non-stop and educational.  If you must make a purchase, I'd bet on the beta fish.  They are easy to maintain and next time you set up that playdate you can send her home with it as a consolation prize for being such a superb substitute Entertainment Director for a day! This might anger the playdate's mom a bit, but no worry, you already got a BFF at the local library.

5. The local farm.  Preferably one with a petting farm and at least one baby goat.  I live in Farmland, USA so I can take my pick, but if you don't, hit the nearest back road and you're bound to see one.  Bring along a few bucks to buy a few apples or a bag of mini-carrots.  The object here is to keep those kids chewing so there's no time to tattle or tell you they have to go the bathroom fourteen times.  Watch a tractor lift some fresh manure, a plow plug at a few rows, and enjoy watching the farmer's kid clean out that pigsty of a pen for a while, but not too long, or it'll have you reminded of that kitchen counter and those school piles in the corners and that playdate's mom that saw it all and returned that beta fish in your mailbox with a note attached saying they moved to Eastern Quebec.

4. The recreational fields.  Bring along the necessities, not so much the bugspray and tick repellant, but a frisbee, a couple of tennis balls, a kickball, a butterfly net, a whiffleball bat.  An entertainment director needs to be prepared with the most essential supplies. You can play for hours and if they do that tattling thing, it is not considered a foul if you nail them in the butt with that kickball if it's within the parameter of the stadium.

3. Daddy's work.  You know, the same kid that enlisted you as the sole Entertainment Director and is claiming he is on vacation, too because you're on vacation even though he still has to go to work.  Bring along lunch and take a tour around to remind all those other worker friends of Daddy's that he is one special guy to have to deal with all that not keeping hands off stuff and going it alone while Mommy visits with the nearest pedicure salon because whoops, she forgot to make that fourth sandwich for herself and it's a great time for Daddy bonding anyhow while Mommy sits in a reclining chair with the most recent issue of PEOPLE Who Have their Own Housekeepers.

2. Skip the museums.  Unless you want to practice your shushing and 100 different ways to apologize.  Skip the mall.  Unless you want to clean out your summer teaching pay which will take you exactly 5.7 seconds in the food court.  And most importantly, skip the garage.  I know by now, you are looking for a Craigslist item, but it's just work in there.  There's always something to organize or clean or declutter in there so just look away.  In fact, don't even park your car in there because you'll just be reminded of it.  Don't however, skip out on the grandparents' house.   They have had peace and quiet all day and they will be so happy to see your kids, tattling and all, you can sit the bench for a while from being Entertainment Director.

and 1. Hit the fairgrounds! You hardly need to spend a penny.   Hardly an entrance fee and who says you can't watch other people play the $5 games for a deranged looking purple and orange unicorn bear.   Besides, you have your own toilet paper at home to try and throw through the seat, and spray bottles to aim at Daddy with.  Stuff your face with fried dough - it feeds a family of three at least. Put the kids on a few rides for a few tickets and if you wait around long enough, someone's even going to give you their leftovers and lookie here, you got another round on that carousel of farmyard ducks for free.  Watch the shows, the exhibitions, and don't be afraid to smile when you see another Mommy deal with cotton candy tantrums, because you are a teacher.  And it's summer.  And you can finally jump for joy because even though you love your own kids more than fried dough itself,  that Entertainment Director job thing you did for two months straight, is almost over.  And so is that BFF thing you had going with the librarian until next July or at least til your children claim English as a second language come their first homework assignment. 

In and Out of an Eggshell


It's Chick Season round here. Every year in May our third grade hatches chicks to experience LIFE CYCLES. Course there ain't no better way to EXPERIENCE science than to EXPERIMENT. Get our hands dirty! Sink our minds into it! No EGG left behind!

I always begin the unit with an experiment titled "how strong IS an egg?" We host a STRONG MAN contest to see who, just WHO in our classroom, can break an egg with one hand?

I line all miniature scientists up. Over a trash can just in case. I play cheerleader as a gaggle of little muscle men and little ladies try to crack the egg. This year I even had the quarterback of the pop warner football team and a junior Olympic gymnastic star compete in our MAN VS. EGG triathlon!

It's pure delight watching them squeeze and squash and jam those little fingers round those eggs, and year after year, they are defeated. Their dreams crushed. But not one egg.

I always announce, “boys and girls, SOMEONE in this school MUST be able to crack this egg!”  I begin by taking requests.  As tradition, I like to call upon some of my own special GUEST STARS as well.  A principal, a dad, even a local muscle man if need be! Still, no one can compete with the Great and Powerful EGG!

This year I summoned a custodian: Mister Clean Himself. He even rolled up his sleeves for the event; counting on qualifying for this year's  Poultry Olympics! He squeezed. He squashed. He flexed every muscle in that arm of his. Even his veins seared through his flesh! The kids were astounded! But alas, even Mister Clean was no match!

Next up, I selected a NEW teacher to our building. Mister Newbie. He just happens to be the local varsity hockey coach, too, so the kids put all their money, all their two hundred and ten plastic coins, on HIM!

Mister Newbie stretches, shrugs his shoulders, rolls up a little sleeve and I place the egg in the palm of his hand.

First attempt he was cautious. He'd seen the kind of science stunts that go down in our classroom before. That first try he played it cool and the egg stayed intact.

Next attempt, he went for a Golden Globe. There he was, collared shirt and tie, pretending to squeeze the life out of the egg, moaning, groaning, twisting, and writhing. The kids ate it up like white cheddar cheese popcorn!

Here's where I need to remind you that Mister Newbie is a HOCKEY MAN. If you've seen anyone on the ice, they are out to WIN.  No “yolk,” no glory! There ain't no penalty box for ballerinas you know.


He winds up the pitch, the sleeve a bit further up the arm, even his jaw was clenched. All the  kids are leaning in to see if finally, FINALLY we have found THE ONE. The ALMIGHTY  ONE that could CRACK the Great and Powerful Egg with a single squeeze! I was even excited! I had done this trick for years on end, and NO ONE, I mean NO ONE within four hundred feet of Room 268 could EVER crack that egg!

That's when things went south. Or should I say NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, and WEST. With one clamped hand, Mister Newbie cracked the EGG!!!

It didn't matter that there was a colossal-size trashcan beneath his MISTER UNIVERSE grip! That egg literally TORPEDOed in every direction but. It was like an EGG MISSILE, a YOLK SLINGSHOT! I’ll take one SUPERSIZED OMELET to go!


In the aftermath, Mister Newbie was soaked in yellow yolk from his tie buckle to his loafers! Behind him, about TWELVE feet away, the wall was SATURATED of it! It dripped and oozed on the clock at about half past two, and dribbled into each and every crevice. Mister Clean was sweating it out! He hadn't even brought a single sponge or mop with him.

There was yolk on me. Yolk on Mister Clean. Yolk on the rug, the floor, and the whole front row's lab papers! The only place we did not see yolk was IN THE TRASHCAN!  I tell you, this egg, this ONE LITTLE CHICKEN EGG, had the strength of a dozen roosters!

Suddenly, I look out at the hooting and hollering third graders! There, directly in front of me, in the first seat in the front row, was a little eight year old boy. COVERED IN EGG. His poor little face had shielded the egg from other innocent bystanders!  It was like Kids’ Choice Awards Gone Superbad.

He had yolk in his eyeball, dripping from his lashes. He had yolk up his nose and in each nostril. He even had yolk, and most of it, IN HIS MOUTH!!!

That little boy only had one defense: To gag. Next thing I know he is regurgitating like an owl in heat. He must have tasted the first swallow. He starts gagging something awful and clutches his throat. Mister Clean fumbled for a bucket, Mister Newbie sopping yolk from his finger tips while the kids ask for his autograph.

At this moment, I am reminded of the DREAM SCENE in the classic movie 'Stand By Me.' If you're a fan, you remember the blueberry pie eating contest, triggering a series of innocent bystanders vomiting one after another in haste. I watch in horror as the little boy gags away, thrusting his neck, his eyes pulsing.

And just like the movie, little girls in his vicinity witness the wretching of the egg and they, too start gagging!!! They headed toward the trash can and the nearest box of tissues crying, "that's gross!"

The boy gasped for air, his mouth cavity full of egg white and albumen. Let me note here that yesterday we learned about the EGG PARTS, so he knew in EXPLICIT DETAIL what he was choking on.
Next, he made a break for the sink, Mister Clean, Mister Newbie fall in line behind the boy and I'm left with the icky, sticky explosion on the floor and walls of our classroom.

After a cleanup with soap, bleach, and an emergency fumigation, all three contestants exit the room, heading toward the nurse's office. The same nurse that I had attacked with Pam Cooking spray posing as an Indian girl last Thanksgiving.  When the victim arrived, she was not surprised in the least to learn he was a citizen of Room 268.

There you have it. This story will soon go down in history at school and probably round the community. I won’t be recognized as a science teacher or a weaver of dreams.  Instead, there will be talk of the method of YOLKING I use in the classroom, especially of those poor innocent children that sit in the front row of Room 268. (:

For Moms Everywhere

This is for moms everywhere.

The kinds of moms that break their BACKS and their BANKS just to make their kids happy and the same moms that break their little hearts when they tell them it's time for bed so mommy can enjoy the last of the mint chocolate chip ice cream.

The kinds of moms that match socks.  And somehow end up with one hundred and twelve leftover.

This is for the moms that listen to KidsBop and RadioDisney all the way to the beach.  And for the same moms that tell them the radio is broken on the way back. 

The kind of moms that dig made-for-tv Disney movies and find themselves replaying them when no one is around because you secretly fantasize about being that lead girl that finally gets over her stagefright, rocks out on center stage and wins over her BFF's crush.

For moms that clean up lunchboxes day after day and enjoy eating the leftover goldfish not because you don't want to waste food but because they are just so cheesy delicious.  And it's way more convenient than walking all the way over to the trashcan.

For the moms that let them sleep with Daddy now and then.  And then end up spending the night on the bottom bunk with three dogs and a pillow pet. 

This is for the moms that love bike rides and nature walks and climbing 600 foot steps to a waterslide.  Only to find out you've actually GAINED seven pounds and a cramp in your spleen.

This is for moms of athletes.  You ride them to so many games and practices, tournaments and clinics, that you could actually be ON the team if it not for your spleen and all those leftover goldfish.

For moms of whiners, tattlers, and complainers and all the patience they have for not jumping out a window or just dropping them off with Nana for the day.

This is for moms that sit through homework, projects, and chapter reviews.  And the same moms on a Friday that can't wait for that school folder to come home to see how YOU did. 

This is for moms that are woken up with the sun, not  because you live on a farm but because you live with several little thieves that announce things like "Mommy, it's time to get up!" and "Mommy, I'm going to go downstairs and consume myself with all things chocolate and a bag of chips if you don't come with me."

This is for moms that taught their children to read and yet cannot seem to find a MOMENT to read anything more sophisticated than Dr. Suess and a llama with a mama in pin-striped pajamas.

For moms that cook dinners from scratch.  And the same moms that when the cabinets are bare she can whip up a meal with a block of cheese, a grape and a can of olives. 

For moms that host dance parties in the kitchen, sculpt playdough zoos in the living room, and build tents of pillows and sheets.  And the same moms that lock themselves in their car.  Out in the driveway. Listening to Phil Colllin's Greatest Hits just to find a moment of peace.

And let's not forgot those moms whose children make mistakes.  Humiliate them in public when they announce their REAL age at the ticket booth when four and under are free and burp in public just because they can.  Because no matter how big the mistake or how terrible it might just be, it is absolutely, positively Daddy's fault.  

This one is for moms everywhere.  On Mother's Day.  On ANY day. And know that you make special EVERY day for the life of a child.  Even it takes all your energy, your sanity, and an extra-large bag of miniature hershey chocolates.

I am Teacher

I am Teacher.

I can wear fifteen different hats on my head and not one of them from the same ‘dress shop.’
I am Teacher.

My desk is buried with pages of yesterday, today and tomorrow.  You'd think me careless, but it's only because I want to hold onto each memory and not miss one single opportunity.  

I am Teacher.

I will prepare a lesson built for an entire population and design it specifically for each citizen.  No child left behind.  Only little footprints leading to a future.

I am Teacher.

I can balance a carton of eggs, a bowl of fish, and a stack of books.  Up a staircase, down a hall, and still open a door with my big toe.

I am Teacher.

I have my own problems.  I’ll still listen to yours.  I’ll just wear mine upon my shoulders and make room in my arms for your solace.

I am Teacher.

I spend each day giving praise.  And yet when I open the pages of a newspaper,  there will be blame and injury against educators.  I will still report to work on Monday and be proud to be who I am.

I am Teacher.

I am master of a dozen domains.  Reading, writing, spelling, math, science, social studies, art, music, physical education, language, grammar, and citizenship.   As skilled as an emergency room physician here to fulfill your prescription.  Minus the PHD.

I am Teacher.

I have my own family.   But as long as you are within these walls, you are a part of it.  You are part of my grocery list, you are part of my afterschool plans, and you are always present at the dinner table.

I am Teacher. 

I wear no cape or possess any superhuman capabilities.  But I can LIFT a child so HIGH and   CARRY a community so FAR, you'd think me Wonder Woman.

I am Teacher.

I hold a plate just like you.  You'd think I filled it at an all night buffet and most of it wasn't what I ordered.   But I'll continue to balance it, one serving at a time and still want dessert.

I am Teacher.

I keep the oddest of  hours.  Forty on the job and twenty more at home.  It's like being ON CALL until you collect pension.

I am Teacher.

I will listen to fairytale stories.  And the same poem  from last week or last year.  I might be your worst critic but I am still your number one fan.

I am Teacher.

In a given day, I hear a hundred tattle tales and a million thousand excuses.  I’ll still hear you out tomorrow because that’s how much I love you.

I am Teacher.

I can call your bluff before you even blink.

I will read your thoughts.

Your fears.

Your collage of dreams.

I am Teacher.

I am Philospher.  I am Learner, Inventor, and the highest of all achievers.  I will get pushed down and moved around, but I’ll persevere.  My marathon is more than a race.  My Everest is ten times higher.   But I’ll make it and you’re coming with me.

I am Teacher.   Take of me what you NEED.  

Just remember to GIVE back to the future that you will be.