Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Happy Birthday to Michelle!

This is where I lament the fact that I have only had a few days to get to know Michelle, but it makes me happy to let you know that she is a very positive force in 5-1. She is a hard worker, she loves to read, and she is an excellent helper.

Michelle has an adventurous spirit. I have loved reading her writing over the past week, and I can tell that she is quite the spirited individual. I can't wait to get to know her more throughout this school year.

She always comes to school looking very nice, as you can see in the picture above, taken this morning at recess. 

Michelle, I hope you have had an excellent birthday surrounded by loved ones. You deserve it!

From Never To Always

We had a good day today!

I have been trying to fine-tune my daily schedule to make sure that we have time in there for everything, and I think today was the most successful day we've had yet at doing that. It probably didn't help that yesterday was the big Eclipse Day which kind of threw everything off.

The only real homework for today was 3 times each for Spelling, and then my class had Math homework (a page I made and handed out). Starting next week, I will have the kids read 20 minutes each night, but those bookmarks will not go home until this Friday.

I look forward to seeing you all on Thursday night at 6:30. In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions.

Monday, August 21, 2017


All of the students at Woodbrook today had a pretty cool experience. The glasses worked great, and the kids who didn't go outside were able to remain in the library and watch live footage of the event, so nobody missed out on anything. We had some live footage in the classroom also today, also, but that didn't hold the kids' attention for very long (we went ahead and did some Social Studies for the end of the day).

Homework for tomorrow is Spelling definitions, my Math class has Home Link 1.3 due tomorrow, and that's it for today. We worked on a few things in class that will not be due until Friday.

Can't wait to hear the reports back from Kiarra and Wyatt, both of whom traveled down south to get a more "total" view of the event. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Full Week Frenzy

Well, the State Fair is over. Kids' football has begun. Pre-season NFL football has begun. The Little League World Series is narrowing down its remaining teams. While fall hasn't begun yet, I think it's safe to say we are at the end of summer now.

And yes, there are a few other things going on this week in addition to Monday's eclipse.

First, we will have a spelling list this week. I will go over the spelling schedule tomorrow with the class, but it will always be the same any time we have a full week of school.

Secondly, Thursday night is the fifth grade Meet the Teacher Night. It starts at 6:30. Be there! 

Finally, we will have a quiz on Wednesday on the positions of the sun, moon, and Earth in both a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse. I will make sure the kids all take home their notes tomorrow to study for it. 

Let's make Week Two another good one!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Music Of the Spheres

  • Do not forget that MONDAY is HAT DAY! I will try to have a couple extra hats in case anyone forgets. We want to keep those kiddos safe while getting them loaded onto the bus. Should be quite the cosmic experience, both literally and figuratively. 
  • At first I was going to wait until the speaker in the classroom sound system was fixed before introducing the class song that we sing every Friday before getting on the bus. The kids thought they had waited long enough, though, so after a quick consultation with a certain rock music expert, I revealed that the song this year is David Bowie's "Starman" from his album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. Of course, since our fancy equipment wasn't working, I had to just play it on my circa-1989 CD player after printing off the lyrics. I like this song, and it's a nice tribute to Bowie. 

So yeah. Make sure your kids are ready on Monday for some crazy cosmic jive. It's going to be a big day. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Blot Out the Sun

We had a good day today in getting used to our daily schedule--what a relief it was to actually have one, for one thing.

In Science today, we did a study on how the moon is able to block out the sun (and of course I forgot to take pictures of it). As your kids why the tiny moon is able to block out something that is so much bigger than it.

That is the very short version of what happened today, so I will try to post more later. In the meantime, let's make sure we get those permission slips in pronto for the eclipse viewing!

More to come.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Happy Birthday to Mr. Carson!

I really wish I had had more time to get to know Carson before doing his birthday post (after all, my last birthday post of last year was less than two weeks ago), but I am happy that I get to do one this soon in the school year. Also, I am happy that at least I got to see his Bio Bag today so that I can say a few words about him.

Here are a couple things about him that I learned today (and realized that we are kindred spirits in many ways)...
  • He loves horror. I don't enjoy horror movies at all (in fact, I avoid them at all costs). But I do love scary stories and horror books and especially comic books. I get why he finds this so enjoyable. This makes him very cool in my eyes. 
  • He is a martial artist! Little did I know that he would know so much about martial arts. He brought his foam nunchucks today (or should I say nunchaku) to share this fact with the class. I love that we have this in common. I told the kids today that they are in the safest room in the building in case of an intruder alert. 
  • He also loves riddles. So do I. 
Carson is brand new to Woodbrook this year, having come to us from nearby Forest Dale. He has come in with a smile and seems to be getting along really well with everyone else in the class. He's only had two days with us! I can't wait to see where you go from here, Carson.

Happy birthday, man! You deserve it!

Don't Be Left In the Dark

The biggest news for tonight is to make sure you turn in--either electronically or on paper--your child's permission slip for next Monday's eclipse viewing. They are due back tomorrow, so if you did not receive an email from Carmel Clay Schools, check your junk folder. If it's still not in there, call the school tomorrow.

Follow this link to see how the eclipse will look next Monday! Pretty neat. We looked at this as well as a power point from Carmel Clay Schools. They (and we) are really drilling into the kids' heads about eye safety during the eclipse!

Today we discussed expectations on the playground, our class expectations for becoming organized and independent throughout the school year, and the activities and field trips we will be taking throughout the school year.

Homework tonight is to bring in a book tomorrow for reading time, as well as reading 20 minutes at home.

More to come, but I hope your kids all had a great second day of school today. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ready Steady Go

What a great first day we had today! I did a whole lot of talking, and I told them that tomorrow it's their turn. I want them to bring in their Bio Bags--a bag of any kind with three objects that they can share with the class that tell us more about who they are.

We are off to a good start. I'm tired!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Chomping At the Bit

Okay, everyone!

This afternoon/evening is the Ice Cream Social. We will be in our pod areas for this. I have spent the morning doing copious amounts of labeling, putting name stickers in their proper places, having meetings, doing last minute check-ins and trying to work out my technology.

I'm just about ready to get this year under way. In fact, it was in late July that I really got the itch to start teaching again, so you could say I've been mentally prepared for a long time.

I hope to see everyone this evening. If not, I'll see you all tomorrow.

Let's do this!

The Purdue Mortar Board quote of the week is, "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."  --Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, August 13, 2017


I never thought this image would ever be considered controversial. The fact that it would now be considered questionable in any way in the United States is horrifying; I'm sorry. 

Will teachers ever be asked to teach World War II from "all sides"? It makes me shudder to think about. 

Let me say this: Nope. No, no, no, no, no, not in Area 51.

Yes, everyone deserves the right to free speech. Not everyone deserves the right to be thought of as the victim or the good guy.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

From the Lion's Mouth

Well, here's some progress! I've got quite a bit more work to do, but this made me feel accomplished today.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Our Neighborhood

As a teacher who, only within the past year--has taught students who are Korean, African-American, Italian, Jewish, Christian, Caucasian, Puerto Rican, Chinese, Indian, Irish, German, Muslim, Russian, Serbian, from single-parent families, from gay married families, and from traditionally-married families*--teaches all kinds of kids from all kinds of backgrounds, I loved seeing this sign tonight. This also includes students who were adopted, are step-kids, and who have both biological parents in their lives still. We had all kinds, and we will continue to do so in Area 51.

It was right across the street from the library in downtown Indy where I took my last-minute CPR class so that I could teach for the next five years. After it was over, I was taken by the urge to just walk around the neighborhood for awhile.

I found myself hoping that this "neighbor" thing extended all the way up into the north side of Hamilton County, because I felt pretty great about the possibility of being a part of this little community.

*This is from the 2016-2017 year alone...I could go on and on given all my years...

Monday, August 7, 2017


Normally by this point in the summer, I have decided what song is going to be my classroom song for 5-1. For those who aren't yet in the know, every Friday, we sing the same song before going home for the weekend. I hadn't actually thought about it much until just in the past couple days.

Within the past ten minutes, this year's song hit me. I can't wait to share it with the kids on that first Friday of school.

This tradition started back in 2010, by the way. Here is the list of past selections:
  • Journey: Don't Stop Believin'
  • The Foundations: Build Me Up, Buttercup
  • The Rolling Stones: Good-bye, Ruby Tuesday
  • Oasis: Don't Look Back In Anger
  • Whitesnake: Here I Go Again
  • The Eagles: Already Gone
  • OAR: Road Outside Columbus
  • The Traveling Wilburys: End of the Line
 Here's to another great year, and another awesome Area 51 anthem!

From Some Other Beginning's End

Well, here I am again.

Yesterday, while I was at the store, I was going through all of the school supplies and making sure I had everything (I assure you I didn't), and I saw all of the college dorm supplies. This got me thinking about the start of the school year from their standpoint.

As much as we enjoy summer and a small part of us laments starting school next week, we all at least know we are waking up and going to bed in the place where we've always done so. This includes the kids who are going off to Clay and to the high school. For the most part, our lives will continue on the way they always have.

I have stayed pretty tight with some of the families from the class that is starting college this year, more so than in years past. I've heard from some of my old students who are a bit nervous about the big changes in their lives. I remember them, and while they were scary, they were really pretty exciting.

Wherever you are, and whatever school you are going to this year, I know that this school year has awesome things in store for you.

As the wise storyteller says: Be well, do good work, and keep in touch. 

Friday, August 4, 2017


Happy Birthday to Nathan.

One reason Nathan holds a special spot in my heart is that I can remember this little blonde speck of a kid knowing my name from the time he was in kindergarten. He would yell, "Hi, Mr. Carter!" and I would say back, "Hey there, Mr. Rodgers!" At that time, I didn't know exactly what his name was, but I did know that he was the little brother of a student of mine. I felt so old this year when I had him in class at last, and especially so now that he is going off to Clay.

Nathan is passionate, spirited, and has a great heart. On my refrigerator, I still have a note that he sent me in the mail to my house last fall. It says:
Dear Mr. Carter,
Thank you for being my teacher and helping me. Thanks for reading T.G.F. and 2MM* because they are funny and interesting. Thanks for getting me motivated for tests and answering my questions. 
He would not have wanted me to put that on the blog during the school year, but now that he's been out for more than two months, I get to brag on him all I want.

I loved watching how excited he would get when the Word of the Day from a month ago would pop up in something he was reading. He remembered the stuff I taught in such a way that it gave me hope that someone out there was listening. This tendency is going to serve him incredibly well as he goes throughout the rest of his schooling. He has the heart of a boy while having the brain of a graduate student, and you can't ask for more than that.

Nathan and I both got the shaft this year when it came to our birthdays being on the morning announcements. Neither of us were mentioned in the summer birthdays. Well, kiddo, I hope this does a little bit to make you feel better. I'm pretty sure you have received the longest birthday post out of all of them.

Nathan marks the last of the 2016-2017 birthdays, which is a little sad for me. But what is sad for me is very happy for all of you, so I'm not going to be a downer.

Happy Birthday, Nathan! You definitely have it coming, buddy.

*Two-Minute Mysteries...those didn't last all that long this past year, actually.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Crickets Are Getting Louder

Here in the last few minutes of July, I find myself thinking about everything that will happen by the end of the next 31 days. My former students starting at Clay. The beginning of high school football season. The former students who are going off to college to start their lives as adults.

I live in Noblesville, and here, the kids are starting school tomorrow. I've seen friends on Facebook whose kids have started already. It used to be that Carmel was the first to start, but now we are actually among the last, and I'm not complaining about that.

August is both the longest and the shortest month for me. Earlier this summer, I was telling someone that throughout my years, between public school, college, working at camp, grad school, and then teaching, I have never ever known a life where August is not a new beginning. I've said before, it's like we're fiscal or something.

However you'll be spending your August, dear reader, I hope your next trip around the sun will make your world (and the world of the people you know) a better place. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Squirrels In the Roof

I love this video. While some kids can indeed be cruel, I have found that this is true 99% of the time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Happy birthday, Miss Kori!

Kori was definitely one of my quieter students this year. She helped create a nice balance with some of her...other classmates.

That said, some of my favorite times were when I would be leading everyone in from recess, and Kori was always one of the people right in front of the line. She would talk to her friends, and I would get the scoop when they thought I wasn't listening. She was quite verbal when she was talking to her friends in a loose time like walking in from recess. It was always such innocent fifth grade girl talk, but I would always crack up listening to it.

Another thing that I will always think of when Kori comes to mind were her gifts. At Christmas, teacher appreciation week, and at the end of the school year--all times when I am receiving (gratefully) gifts from students left and right--the kids would all stand in line, give me their gifts, get their hug after I read their note and opened the package, and then it would be time for morning announcements, math, etc. It never failed...I would always find, later in the day, a gift and a card from Kori, only when she wasn't around to receive the thank you and the hug. But doggone it if she didn't write the nicest letters I would receive. They were always so darn heartfelt.

It was just like Kori to do that. Never wanting the recognition, but as deserving (and often more so) than anyone.

Well, Kori, you can't help it. Here is your birthday recognition. I hope you have a great day today, and that you remember to look at this post today. You definitely deserve it!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Comeback Kid

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

Charlie is one of those kids with a big personality, a big smile, and who always makes his immediate world a more positive place. No one at Woodbrook needed an introduction to Charlie. He is the type of person who will either be a coach, a teacher, or a salesman one day. He can talk for hours and is very passionate.

He was a member of the Broadcast Team and the Woodbrook Choir. Needless to say, he loves to get up in front of people and is quite comfortable on the stage. He's also quite an athlete, participating in hockey and lacrosse.

At the end of every day, I am given a piece of paper that tells me how each student is supposed to go home that day (bus, walk, etc.). After a very early joke between Charlie and me (in which I was proven wrong about the average annual rainfall in Vero Beach, Florida by him*--he never let me forget it), I started telling him what danger he was in for as he rode his bike home that day every day for the entire school year. Luckily for us, however, Charlie never let a lightning strike, bear trap, or squid attack keep him from coming in the next day.

Thank goodness for that. Area 51 wouldn't have been the same without him this year. I hope you have a great birthday, Charlie. You deserve it!

*In-jokes in 5-1 can be pretty obscure. You definitely had to be there.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ideas Unleashed

This is a video that we watched at another training I was at today. I love stuff like this! Less than a month before everyone needs to get into thinking mode again...

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Punching and Kicking and Cash

Two bullet for this Sunday:
  • First off, I did a poor job in that I didn't get a picture of Will K. and his family last Monday, when I finally delivered on my PTO silent auction item in giving him a karate lesson. He wanted to take the lesson with his family, which was extremely cool. I taught them all kinds of escapes and self-defense moves, and word has it they have already tried them on big brother John, who was at football practice during the lesson. Don't worry, guys--I can make short work of him if you need me to! 
  • Secondly, I didn't get a shot of a former student from a little further back, Nick S., who is starting his senior year this year at CHS. I saw him at the C4 conference, where he was acting as manager for the Carmel High School's own Carmel Cafe and Market. As reported by the Indianapolis Star, Fox 59, and more, this coffee shop, which started with no money from the Carmel Clay Schools district, had a great first year with more than $90,000 in revenue. In talking to Nick, he has a serious nose for the business world, and what's more, he's a humble guy. I've known people who love to make money who can be fairly arrogant, but early success hasn't tarnished him at all. I'm proud of you, Nick.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Confessions of a Luddite in Remission

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

--Antoine de Saint-Exupery

This quote was part of a presentation put on yesterday at Carmel's C4 Conference. I have no idea what C4 stands for, but I do know that it is a conference put on every summer by Carmel Clay Schools. Its purpose is to expose teachers to new ways of teaching through the use of technology. I have to say that I come away every year with new ideas and with my mind opened to new things. Last year was the first year I attended, but I still have--and did use--my notes from that experience. 

What I like about this conference is that it is right in the middle of the summer, where you still have time to let the information soak in before having to implement it right away. It was great to get together with my fellow teachers to get as much information as possible. I didn't even see any of my fellow Woodbrook Lions in any classes (Mrs. Vahle was in one of them, actually), so I know we had a wide variety of experiences. I am really excited to try some of these things in the upcoming school year.
It was also kind of cool to be in classes with cohorts from Clay Middle School and Carmel High School. This year, I was able to put together many names and faces and officially meet people with whom I had exchanged emails with for years now. 

Good times. I feel great about what I learned.
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/antoinedes121261.html
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/antoinedes121261.html
If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/antoinedes121261.html

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Undaunted Happiness

Click here to read an article of about a former Woodbrook student. Technically, he was my student of record. But in reality, all of the honor goes to 5-3's own Peggy Loeffler and her crew of aids.

Any time you would see Charlie in the hallway, he had that same smile on his face. There is a reason the kids--the boys, especially--each had their day that they got to read out loud to Charlie during silent reading time. He would just sit there and enjoy it, often even shrieking with laughter. It was impossible to stay in a bad mood when he was around.

Please read the article. It will brighten your day.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sweet Tunes of Summer

It's been kind of fun for me to hear how everyone's been doing throughout the summer from time to time. Trips to Florida, band camp, summer camp, lacrosse, softball, gymnastics, and baseball games...from the sounds of it, everyone is busy!

I hope you have all been soaking in the goodness of summer. Can't believe we are at the halfway point already, at least. I think if you look on the calendar, we're actually a little bit past that, but let's go with a glass half full thing here.

UPDATE: I did check now. We have been off for six weeks now, and we have five weeks left. But hey, we have an extra-long summer this year (additional week), so enjoy!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Forests And Trees

Here is another article that I have read recently. Click here to read it. It's called "Teachers Don't Want All This Useless Data." In many ways, this is absolutely true.

Don't get me wrong. Data has a purpose. Maybe even as the spine guiding the path along teaching each individual child. But data also has some pretty darn significant faults. Let's say the child wasn't thinking while they were testing. Maybe on the day of the testing, he or she was thinking about what another kid said to them on the bus to school. Perhaps the kid got yelled at by their parents that morning for any reason. Maybe they didn't sleep the night before because they were nervous about the freakin' test.

At any given point, most kids are thinking about kid stuff.

 As teachers, however, we get to know the kids over the course of a year. We spend most--or at least half--of the child's waking hours with them. We know them.

There is a frightening percentage of the bureaucracy who put all of their eggs in the data basket. Of course, the poor administrators have nothing else to rely on. I'm not talking about them, because I feel their pain. I am talking about lawmakers and curriculum writers (plus the media outlets...the same companies as the curriculum writers--look it up), plus a couple of higher-ups whose jobs rely on data, proving that things don't work, and proving that things which actually don't work do work.

I want you all to know--past and present--that I teach your child as an individual. Every now and then, I need to have a conversation with that child about how to show the Golden Cow Data what they actually can do and what they know. But I don't worship that Golden Cow, FYI.

I hope your child doesn't either.

I hope you don't either.

Data can be handy when I'm helping a child during the summer, but you know what I usually find? Normally, I find that the kid does get it. Or they do after one reminder. It usually turns out they they just spaced it on the day of that test. It turns out that once I word it the way they remember it being worded, they remember it perfectly.

It's just a matter of "Oh, yeah!" or "Oh, now I get it" moments. It is not a measure of a child's aptitude nor their intelligence level. Data and computers and robots are no replacement for a teacher's understanding.

The article quotes Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball, very aptly:

“Intelligence about baseball statistics had become equated in the public mind with the ability to recite arcane baseball stats. What [Bill] James’s wider audience had failed to understand was that the statistics were beside the point. The point was understanding; the point was to make life on earth just a bit more intelligible; and that point, somehow, had been lost. ‘I wonder,’ James wrote, ‘if we haven’t become so numbed by all these numbers that we are no longer capable of truly assimilating any knowledge which might result from them.'”

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Everybody's All-American

Happy July 4th, everyone!

The teacher part of me has to remind you that this is not actually the date on which the United States became independent; it's the day that most of the founding fathers signed the document that started the war with England proper. We didn't actually gain independence from England until the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. (Not to be confused with the Paris Agreement. That's...well, that's something different.)

The good ol' boy part of me wants you all to have a great Fourth of July celebration tomorrow. I hope you have a hot dog, some apple pie, and play some baseball. Do some sparklers--but don't step on them when you're done. Watch some fireworks. Get out on the boat. Go to Carmelfest, although good luck going to the parade if you didn't have your spot staked out a month ago.

Whatever you do today, I hope it's All-American!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

No Use Falling From the Halfway Point

While it isn't a widely-renowned fact, nor is it an actual holiday, today is the middle day of the year. If you took all of the days of the year, and you started crossing them off on both sides, you would find that July 2 is the median of the year.

From here on out, we are on the downward slope toward the end of the year 2017. I know it's time for me, at least, to get started on some of those projects that I told myself I would accomplish this year. As we stand here at the equator (or is it the prime meridian?) of this trip around the sun, I hope you all take advantage of the summer to think about your goals. And as my students head off to middle school, I hope the second half of 2017 is as good--if not better--than the first.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Happy Birthday, Eh?

Happy one-fiddy to our neighbors to the north! Without Canada, we would be without the Blue Jays, the Maple Leafs, round bacon, Mrs. Strong in the office, mounties, Aero Bars, and Alex Trebek.

I really hope they don't get fed up with us and build a wall. We know we're obnoxious, Canada, but we do our best.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Stories Of Akira

If you haven't read this book, I want to recommend it. As much as I would like to report that I discovered it myself, it was recommended to me by Mr. Norris, 5-1 parent from this past school year. As I have told you, thanks so much for the recommendation.

The first part of what is so great about this book is that it is chopped up into very short chapters. Each chapter has a parable about working hard, earning what you want to receive, honesty, integrity, kindness, remaining positive, and so on and so forth.

This is the kind of book that I could read to the class (and trust me, I will) one chapter at a time and lead a discussion after each chapter. Told through the narrative of a sensei and his student, it is easy to read and easy to understand. It reads like a corporate motivation book (see Who Moved My Cheese? or 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People), but it is better, because this one applies to children every bit as much as it should to adults.

It's not everywhere yet; I had to search it down (and ended up with two!), but once it becomes more popular and widespread, it's definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Rumble In the Jungle

One of my favorite things about blogging in the summer is that I can share stuff like this. The Black Panther movie looks like it's going to be awesome!

Monday, June 26, 2017


Okay, Abdul, like with Ruby, I will definitely change this one out soon if you want. It's not a bad picture by any means, but I'm just repurposing another picture from before.

Anyway, I hope you have had a wonderful birthday, Abdul. You sure got a beautiful sunny day with the perfect temperature, in my opinion.

One unique thing about Abdul is that he created a mathematical contribution to our class in creating the Abdul Ray. You see, one day earlier in the school year, he pointed out that the viniculum--the line above a repeating decimal--should actually be a ray, because it goes in one direction forever instead of a line, which would go in both directions forever. This was one of the smartest things I had heard anyone point out in a long time. Therefore, it became known as the Abdul Ray. Personally, I think this should be taken into account by the mathematical community at large. (I'll talk to Dr. Goldberg about it.)

He is a fun-loving guy who has had more than one nickname. I liked shortening his name down to Abs, personally. He is also the future proprietor of Abdul's Pretty Good Fruit Salad.

Okay, so it turns out that Abdul is pretty much just the cornerstone of a lot of Area 51 in-jokes, but trust me; he's not a joke. He's a good boy with a great mind.

Happy Birthday, Abdul! You deserve it. I will see you soon.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

You Can't Take the Sky From Me

Here is an article (as in, click here...) that I read this evening and loved.

It's about a group of librarians who rode around on horseback during the Great Depression delivering books to people seeking to educate themselves during a time when America truly needed hope.

There is something I share in common with librarians, and that is a true appreciation (I almost said passion, but that seems trite...) for education. In a world that seems to celebrate and honor ignorance (cough*Kardashian*cough), we in the education world often just want to put our faces in our hands and shake our heads.
If these librarians were able to hold their heads high and deliver lessons and stories to the struggling masses and give them hope, well, that helps me keep my own hope alive.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My Soft Spot

I wanted to share this picture with you here because I'm not sure if everyone got to see it or not. It was purchased at a PTO fundraiser by the Delabys, and it features the whole class. I love this picture. It already is posted up in the room. You guys are awesome.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Fifth Quarter

Let me start by saying that I'm going to address the parents and adult readers of this blog here.

If you haven't watched the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary O.J. Made In America, do yourself a favor and watch it. In my opinion, it is one of the most important documentaries that has ever been made.

What was most eye-opening to me was not what I went into this documentary looking for. I was watching it partly as a nostalgia piece. 1994 is the year I was a sophomore in college. It was the year of Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding, the year Kurt Cobain died, and--of course--the year of O.J. It was that prime age where the music I listened to, the messages from my professors, what I read, and the media input was at its most potent. It was a year of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Live, Weezer, and Oasis.

What I got out of it, though, was a wonderful, horrible, honest profile on race in America. Things I hadn't even thought about came to light through this film. Things that are hundreds of years old came to light. It made sense suddenly, and I realized exactly why we still have a whole lot of work to do.

Normally, I don't pay any attention to the Oscars. However, when I found out that ESPN had won the best documentary feature for this miniseries, I said they got something right. I knew without reservation. It is one of the most important things to come out in the past year.

Do yourself a favor and watch it when you get a chance.

Sunday, June 18, 2017


OK Go always gives an incredible presentation. No special effects are in this video, or any of theirs.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Do 5-1 Students Dream Of Organic Sheep?

I hope everyone is getting plenty of rest over this summer break. Lord knows you can all use it!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Teenage Spider In Queens

How good does this movie look? I love that they actually have a teenage Spider-Man, like he was originally written back in the 60's.

Here's to the math and science nerds out there. Here's your guy!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Had To Be There

Naturally, I thought of Sammy when I was having dinner on my parent's back deck a couple weeks ago and saw this on my plastic cup. No one knew why I had to take a picture of it. I think you would have had to be there this year in order to get it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Better Living Through Science

I am all for teaching kids to be prepared for yesterday, contrary to what this guy says at first. However, I would be lying if I didn't say I would love to have one of these for my classroom. I can definitely see the potential, and I also recognize the need to prepare them for tomorrow.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Life Lived Well

I met Adam West at a comicon about five (?) years ago in Fort Wayne. He was very humble, and not intentionally so. He asked me--a guy who had just walked up to his table--if the Batman TV show was something people still knew about. I told him of course it was.

His voice is unmistakable, and I have to say that he always seemed to be having a great time in anything I saw or heard him in.

Rest well, Mr. West. You have earned it.

The Summer Of Our Content

A little Steinbeck for you on this Saturday afternoon. I hope everyone is enjoying these beautiful days to the max.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


And we round out the birthday trifecta with Grant today! Happy birthday, Grant!

I know that I often say this about students, but it is 100% true when I do: Grant is always unshakably in a good mood. What's unique about Grant is that he is also Mr. Mellow. In a class that had its share of big personalities (I loved you all), he held a special place to me because he always had a sense of chill about him. Because of this, he is able to get along with everyone. When I made seating arrangements, I never had to keep anyone away from him. You have no idea how valuable that is to a teacher.

He is a talented hockey player; he plays lacrosse, and he is a brilliant young man. He has a creative streak in him, and he has a smart sense of humor. He never turned in a paper that wasn't his full-blown best work. I am really happy to have had the chance to teach him this past year.

Grant, I hope you're having a great day today. It sure is a beautiful day--very bright and sunny and a little bit chill. In fact, if I had to describe you in terms of weather, I think today would be what I would describe.

Happy Birthday, Grant! You deserve it.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Other Right Stuff

I had actually bought the movie Hidden Figures before the end of the school year, and I had planned to watch it to make sure it was safe to show to the class, thinking it might be good to watch on the last day. I didn't get it watched in time. I remember Charlie M. had recommended this movie earlier in the school year, and the subject matter alone does tie in with our space unit.

Last week, I watched it while on a flight, just as a way to pass the time. It turned out to be so much more than I expected. I loved this movie as a teacher, a math teacher, and as a teacher of girls. I love the civil rights message. It shows what one can do with math knowledge. It also shows that if anything is standing in your way, you have to find the way around it or through it. This was shown in three different ways--the pursuit of education being one of them.

I expected the civil rights issue when I watched this film, and it delivered. But what I didn't expect was how empowering it would be to mathematicians, females in particular. Without the women involved in this project, it would have taken much longer for NASA to successfully make it into outer space. Personally, I never knew this story. Also as a lover of history, I ate this up.

If you're looking for a good family-friendly movie to watch this summer (it's rated PG), this is highly recommended. It stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, and Kirsten Dunst.

I'm going to show this in class next year, done deal. 

Monday, June 5, 2017


Okay, Ruby, unfortunately I forgot to get everyone's picture for the summer birthday blogs, so if you want a different one on here, just come running over the next time I'm tutoring Eli. I should be there soon!

Now, on with the show.

Ruby is one of the smiliest, friendly girls in the whole fifth grade. She is gregarious (look it up, girl!) and outgoing, and she was such a special friend to many other girls in the classroom. She always did her best in class, and never hesitated to ask when she didn't understand something. You may not realize now what a valuable tool this is, but you would be surprised at how many students can be embarrassed to ask questions. This is going to really pay off for her throughout the rest of her school years. She is driven!

She is also musical. She comes from a musically talented family--her grandmother was a music teacher, in fact. At the talent show, the fifth grade musical, and the choir show, she really blew everyone away with her singing.

Ruby, I hope you're having a great summer so far. I'm sure you're keeping yourself busy with softball and stuff like that. (Yeah, I forgot to mention that she is also an athlete! Is there anything she can't do?)

Happy Birthday, Ruby! You deserve it!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

June 3, 1989

I remember so clearly listening to this on my radio when I was a kid. It was late at night, and I think I was either grounded, or it was too late for me to be up. I was still in school, but we were getting closer to the end.

Anyway, I remember hearing the image above being described over the radio. It was scary and shocking and yes, to a 14-year-old, a little exciting at the same time.

If you're a former student, ask your parents what they remember about Tiananmen Square. It's what happens when one person stands up to forces in power that are bullies.

I need to add June 3, 1989 to the timeline.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Resolved Pretty Easily

This is one of my favorite pictures from the past school year. These two are best friends. They got in trouble all the time for talking during class, but their friendship is one of my favorites. I got these two confused all the time, not because they look anything alike (look at them!), but because I associated them with each other so much.

I think this is from when I told Abdul and Rohan that they had to put on the "friendship vest" because they were arguing, but as you can tell, there was really no need at this point in the argument.

I hope you are both having a great summer so far, and please know that I miss stuff like telling you both to get back in your seats.

Also, I miss talking in German, Rohan. If next year's class doesn't have someone who speaks German, I will be sorely disappointed.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sweet Victory

I am loathe to take selfies, but I took this one on Track and Field Day anyway. I meant to tell the kids how proud I was of how they did that day. Don't get me wrong, I did tell them, but I wish I would have been more specific.

Really, I wish I would have told them how proud I was that they kicked the butts of that green team. I got mad and told them not to respond when they were being mean and calling us out and calling us cheaters. From that point on, I made my kids go back and redo anything they did that may lead to us being accused of cheating at all. Luckily, where it counted--and where they couldn't be accused of such things--the tug of rope contest, we beat them fair and square. The big races? Well, we came out tied with them. But the test of strength--we destroyed them in a feat of glory.

Way to go, Big Blue! You destroyed them. Remember when I told you not to predict that you would win because it would make their potential victory extra sweet? Well, you didn't do that, and it paid off. They did do that to us, and that also paid off in our favor. Just like I said it would!

Blue won. Again. I told you we were the best class.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

I Saw the News Today, Oh Boy

I am hoping that you are all having a great start to your summer. While it was just a few days ago that we parted ways, it does seem like it has been summer for a little while already. I have been to various graduation open houses, attended a couple of neighborhood block parties, and let's face it, life just feels different right now.

I've been cleaning out and making lists, and I hope you all are enjoying the start to your summer.

Here's a little tribute below to Gregg Allman, who left us just yesterday.

This song just screams summer to me, come to think of it!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Keep You Informed

Just a quick grade update: The new grades have been posted, but they aren't up yet. I did not put any closing remarks in them, because I have talked to most of you in the past few days and have caught you up that way. That said, if you do have any questions after the grades are up, send me a quick email and I will answer as soon as I can. We've had a kink or two in the last couple report card uploads, so let me know if you need anything.

The Known Unknown

I told the kids yesterday that the saddest part of the for me is coming back to an empty classroom. As much as I tried to keep them quiet, the quiet now is almost deafening.

But there is no time to sulk. I love the purging and the cleaning at this time of year, and the sealing everything up until August comes again.

Keep your eyes on the blog if you're interested over the summer. I try to pop in every couple days with a picture or two, or a video, or something else that's interesting. Plus, I still do the kids' birthdays during the summer. I forgot to get their pictures yesterday, so I will have to scrounge for those over the summer too. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

And All the Ships At Sea

Well, today we tried to recreate the picture from the first day of school. We did...okay. It was much harder to get everyone arranged than I thought it would. This was the closest I was able to come to getting everyone to look at the camera. You could say that this is part of what I still love about this class.

We watched Home today, the kids helped me pack up boxes, and we had a bang-up talent show that showed we have a lot of talent in 5-1 alone. Then, for some reason, we had to sing an acapella version of the Friday song! It worked, though.

I will post more pictures and stuff in the days to come, but right now I'm spent. I hope everyone has had a great last day of school, and has a summer full of relaxation and good things.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ridin' Around In the Breeze

Thank you so much to Craig Anderson for once again putting this video together for my class. He is now a 5-1 alumnus dad, having had both of his boys, Reed and Luke, go through. Now he does this only out of the goodness of his heart, and with a good ear for music. He may love the tradition of the Friday song as much as I do.

Here's to another year! Thanks again, Craig!


Happy Birthday, Will!

This is him tonight at the fifth grade party. The first thing I did when I walked in was figure out where he was so I could get his picture for the blog. My mind had spaced it earlier today (sorry, bud!).

Will and his family are no strangers to 5-1, because his brother was in my class many years ago. It wasn't until last summer that I really got to know him, though, and I knew right away that he was the kind of person I needed in Area 51. He is calm and collected, which is always more than welcome in one of my classes.

He is Mr. Athlete. Basketball, baseball, you name it. He is 100% boy in his interests. I was really happy this year to watch him go from being someone who didn't like to read into someone who is now what I would call well-read. I would enjoy seeing him quietly, and with extreme patience, not exactly roll his eyes, but he would just look out the side of them, when people were acting like idiots this school year. It felt like I had a kindred soul.

Will, I am so sad that tomorrow is your last day, but I hope you will always keep in touch. You have a very bright future ahead, man. You're one of the good ones, Will!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Accumulation Of This

You know, last week may have been one of the most epic weeks in 5-1's fabled history. When I realize how much cool stuff we did, it is at least right up there with some of the best.

As you know, I have had the kids working on their end of year presentations over the last few days. This has been so much fun, and that is exactly what it is meant to have been. I told the kids that there are no rules for this, all they have to do is present what they have learned independently about whatever they want. They can do it with a book, a speech, a powerpoint, or whatever medium they want.

Here the kids are working hard last Friday, in between visitors and specials and math. I turned off the lights at their request. I thought these pictures look like a cross between a blackout and mission control.

Can't wait to see what they give me tomorrow! I hope no one is stressing out about this, because this is not supposed to be even a little bit stressful. 

Full Circle

Friday was a very special day in 5-1, because not only did we receive a visit from my mom and dad, but later in the afternoon, we were visited by Michael Pitz. Michael is a very-soon-to-be Carmel High School graduate. He has spent the last year as the student body president, a member of the basketball team, a bass player for the orchestra, and pretty much just a man of the people.

Honestly, I was surprised that he was able to come. I have always thought that he belongs to the people now, but luckily for us, we are some of his people. Michael is the founder of the Circle of Manhood, which he spoke to the class about. Michael and his family have come to mean quite a bit to me in the past ten years or so, and I was really glad to have had the chance to share him with the class, and the class with him.

He is off to IU next year (well, I tried, at least), and we are all thankful that he was able to stop in on Friday before we went home. I'm sure you helped inspire some of these kids, Michael. Keep on doing what you do at IU and it will be a better place for it.

The Grandteachers

I was so happy on Friday when my mom and dad came to read to the class. My mom reads the same way she did when I was a kid. The kids had been waiting for a long time for a visit from my mom and dad. I was very happy with how the kids behaved, with their excellent questions, and with how naturally my class interacted with them.

My parents even wanted to sing the Friday song with them before they left, so we all got to sing a round of "The End of the Line" together.

Thanks, Mom and Dad! The kids loved meeting you, and I loved getting to show off my class to you (and you to my class...).

Excellence On the Field

There will be more to post later on, but right now I'm just trying to catch up.

I want to say just how extremely proud I am of my students' behavior and sportsmanship on Track and Field Day. They were often in hostile territory in competition with another class, but I am so happy to report that my class had class. What's even better than that is the fact that we beat the other classes! We tug-o-warred them out cold.

This is another one of those classes where I could not be more proud of their attitudes. Good people right here.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Singularity And Continuity

On Wednesday, we actually did quite a few things that were counted as "fun" by one of my students later on that day. It wasn't intended to be a fun day, but it turned out it was, and from my end, too. Practically every day is fun for the teacher, but if it turns out to be good for the kids, well, that's bonus.

The first thing was that in Math class, we cut out and constructed 3-D models of geometric shapes to help us learn about vertex and edges. Everyone seemed to like this, and it was fun just to hang out while the kids cut out shapes and then did their best to mold them into the proper 3-D form with tape and glue sticks. I am proud to say that at least all the glue sticks came back with caps properly in place and firmly attached.
We did research with the 360 laptops for the kids' independent study program for the last few days of school. That was fun. It was silent for a good portion of this! Who knew? If I had known this, I would have checked out a couple of technology carts long. long ago! It was so much fun to see the kids researching whatever they want to present, and coming up with the appropriate way to present their findings. This project has just been perfect so far.

Finally, Will Keen safely got his anole back home to its new home. So did many other students, and I am very thankful to report that none of the anoles are left over at this time. Thank you, Will, and to all of the other students who gave our anoles a new hope and a new life beyond our research in science class!

Oh, and back up to the first picture--the library summer reading program starts very soon (if it hasn't already), so make sure your child has brought home their materials and get them reading over the summer--or keep them reading over the summer, I should say.


This isn't even one of Chris Cornell's originals, but I find this song to be an especially healing listen. This is a great performance, and I hope it's a good tribute to a man who struggled with mental illness. I hope this sheds some light on a less-and-less taboo topic that needs to come into the light if it's going to be dealt with in a realistic and unashamed way.

Another Mad Smile

Let me start off by saying that many things have happened since the last time I posted here last Wednesday:
  • Chris Cornell died. 
  • My mom and dad came to read to the class.
  • We had track and field day.
  • An old student, Michael Pitz, came to read to the class. 
  • We did the locks. I may try this one again with my class. 
  • We continued a research project. 
I will discuss all these things coming right up, but in the meantime, in the in-between time, I will leave you with a brief schedule of upcoming events:
  • Tomorrow, we will continue with our research projects. We will also have Math. By the way, these research projects are pretty much just for fun and using the computers.
  • Tuesday, we will rehearse and also have our fifth grade graduation.  There is also a graduation party later on that day, after school. I have received absolutely zero information regarding this, but I'm hoping you have? I'm in the dark, personally. :(
  • Wednesday is, of course, the last day of school. We will clean out desks, etc., that day. 
Okay, now I'm on with the show...

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Getting Over the Last Big Hump

Tomorrow we are BLUE.

If you are coming tomorrow (I can always use parent helpers for Track and Field Day!), let me know! Evidently, I as supposed to let Mrs. Strong know by today...but I just got the email today, so there you go.

I look forward to a great day tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Birds, Bees, Etc.

The kids survived the Ruth Lilly talk today. Our presenter did a great job, and was very frank and no-nonsense. I thought the kids did a great job. 

I did take some pictures of them looking extremely uncomfortable, but decided it would be unfair of me to post them here. However, if anyone gives me a good reason to, I will not hesitate. (Ha!)

And Now, a Word From Mr. Z

Woodbrook Track and Field Day 2017

To: Woodbrook Elementary Parents

From: John Zangrilli

RE: Track and Field Day

Woodbrook Parents,

All grade levels will have their Track and Field Day on Thursday, May 18th, with a rain date scheduled for Friday, May 19th.  Track and Field Day will be held at Woodbrook starting at 9:30. All parents are encouraged to come and watch their son/daughter participate in this fun-filled day. Please feel free to interact with your child, as this is what they would prefer.  We just ask that you do not take them away from the group, so they do not miss any activities.

Other Track and Field Day notes:

  • Wear your team color T-shirt (which is listed below) with a sweatshirt or jacket over it, if necessary.
  • Lunches will be eaten outside during normal lunch time.  If needed, sack lunches can be ordered via the cafeteria the morning of the event.      
  • Don’t forget other specific items your child may need for the day: sunscreen, inhaler, allergy medicine, etc. 
  • Please write your child’s name on his or her water bottle

Mr. Vahle                                                        YELLOW                                                      
Mr. Carter                                                       BLUE            
Mrs. Stemnock                                                GREEN
Mrs. Loeffler                                                  RED

Thank You,
John Zangrilli
AKA, Mr. Z