Archives For October 2013

Part One is located here, in case you missed it.


Here’s a wide view of the room. I’ve been in this one for six years straight, as opposed to my time at East View, where I had three different rooms in the same span of time.

I have 30 students, plus a few 4th graders that come in for Math every day. It can be fairly crowded at times. Right now the seats are supposed to evoke a Viking mead hall, but I haven’t been able to get my annual Viking Day off the ground yet. It should have been today, as I always try and have it the Friday before Columbus Day weekend. We have new restrictions concerning food in school, which has really taken half the fun out of Viking Day. Because we do things like this:


We’ll see if I can get an exemption.

Here’s one more look at my bulletin board area. I have a student who has been giving me pictures of different animals with human names like Bill and Sam:


When the school was built, interior windows were in vogue, so we could monitor activity in the hallway. Now we cover them up to provide a “safer, more secure” environment in case of a lockdown.


Traveling back in time to the East View days again, one year a fast food restaurant had Halloween Simpsons toys, based on episodes of their annual Treehouse of Horror episodes (back when they were good.) Students brought them in and gave them to me. I had a Bart one, but one year my sister and my niece were visiting and she took a liking to him.


One student has decided it is her job to mark off the lunch calendar at the end of every day. And to occasionally leave me secret messages behind the screen.


Zooming in on the library, we see some rather worn copies of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, and a pre-film edition of The Return of the King. (I really need to update my classroom editions of ¬†The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. That might be all that’s left of them.)


My library could use some work, to be honest. I should be grouping them by genre, labeling them with reading level stickers and whatnot, but it’s a lot of work and I just don’t have the time.


My old Choose Your Own Adventure books made their way into my class library. Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey? was my favorite one to read over and over again.


Peanuts isn’t as popular now with kids as it was back in the day, but they’re still a presence in my classroom. Snoopy on his doghouse was made by my mother a long, long time ago. The beanie toys were a gift from…Kaitlin S, I think.


Nibbles is a creepy rat who occasionally shows up in students’ desks. Today someone made him a bed during Read Aloud.

This week was a long one, for many reasons, and I had to have a few chats with some of my boys who really don’t know how to make good choices. Forgotten homework, a tendency to goof around and talk at the wrong times, and a general disinterest in school. I have dubbed them “The Lost Boys.”

After we packed up and marched downstairs, and after the goodbyes and high fives, I walked back to my room, exhausted and frustrated yet again with how the year is going. This was waiting for me on my desk.


I’ll address the missing capital “R” in “rings” on Tuesday. We just took a quiz today on proper nouns. They should know better! ¬†ūüôā

Many teachers hang on to everything, because they never know when it’ll come in handy. I rarely hang on to anything that I don’t use on a regular basis, since I don’t like clutter, and more of more of my “stuff” is in digital form. I have hung onto a few interesting objects over the years, though, and along with a few other entertaining bits, I thought we’d take a short tour of some of my classroom.

Let’s start with this strange little object.

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Every year, sometime during the first days of school, I will have several students become obsessed with this object. They immediately think it’s a brain, or guts, and are always surprised to find that it’s just a hunk of hard pink plastic. Any clue what it is? I’ll let it sit there for a while and spark your creativity, and we’ll come back to it another day.

Also pictured: the new glass chess set donated to my room by a very nice family; the replica Empire Strikes Back lunchbox that is exactly the same as the one I had when I was in 3rd grade. Some NASA toys, a “bald” Lego Harry Potter, and of course rubber spiders and cockroaches, because obviously.

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My desk bulletin board is always one of my favorite places to personalize. It’s a mix of new oddments and some favorites that I stick up year after year. Up at the top you’ll see a man going for a walk:

Rockwell walk

I pulled this out of a Norman Rockwell wall calendar a long time ago. I suppose it sums up me at my most content. Going for a long walk in the cool autumn air. Loyal Dog can be optional.

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This picture of Bob Dylan was part of Apple’s Think Different campaign of the late 90s. Its hung in my room every year I’ve taught. Above that is the picture Mr. Rainaldi and I convinced the school picture people to take of us as a joke. The Monet comes and goes, depending on my mood.

Here’s a flashback picture to my first work area, when I taught fourth grade at East View, and where you’ll find a few familiar pictures. I don’t know who the skinny guy with all the hair is, though.¬†The Irish Tricolor hung in my room all the way back in 1998, before I ever set foot on the island. Note the collection of gourds, indicating that this picture was taken almost exactly fifteen years ago, give or take a few weeks. I think Liz gave most of them to me. And to the left of the gourds is the sweet Princess Leia mug I used to have…until Shane broke it the next year.

First Classroom 1

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Speaking of the Irish, you wind up in Water Bottle Prison if you bring one of those cheap plastic water bottles and scrunch it at your desk just to make noise and annoy me. It will be guarded by the Irish Stereotype Who Wields a Lightsaber.

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The cabinet is new, replacing a large green cabinet that I had in my classroom every year until now. It was originally built by my grandfather for my aunt, who used to teach first grade in the district. She lent it to me for years and years, and I gave it back to her when I moved to Dublin. A parent was kindly enough to donate this one to my classroom. She’s just happy her child is enjoying school again.

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And of course, nothing beats 5th grade artwork. Read it in a mirror!!!!

I’ll take some more pictures tomorrow and continue the tour then. This is kind of fun.

88 per cent

October 9, 2013 — Leave a comment

While the kids left for P.E., one of them asked me, “What percent Mr. Fauth are you today?”

Mmm, I’m feeling about 88% today.

“I’ll take that!”

If I can monitor how I’m feeling by the number of Halls Menthol cough drops I suck on throughout the day, then I must be feeling better, because I think I only had 2 or 3 today. Usually it’s more like 10-12, sometimes almost non-stop.

Each time I get sick I can never remember the exact details of the last time I was sick, so I’m trying to use this blogging marathon as a way to document a few things, lest I forget the next time this crud comes my way. I’ve finally got a bit of energy again, but I tend to slip back into that overly-energetic mode I get into when I’m teaching, so I’m usually exhausted by the time snack break rolls around.

Had enough gas in the tank to make it to a former student’s soccer game yesterday, on the invite of a parent. I rarely have time for things like that, but he was a student who meant a lot and who kept in touch while I was gone last year, so I was glad to do it. Tough loss, but we got a chance to say hi and chat for a few minutes. Apparently he’s now deep into Arrested Development and Doctor Who. Knew I liked that kid for a reason.

Finally have some money in the back account, so I did a proper grocery buy tonight. After a quick dinner of chicken burritos (again) I worked on emails and my parent-teacher conference schedule, which I’m a bit behind in sending out.

First Quarter is winding down, and so my next two weekends will be spent with large tests and end-of-term projects, and then report cards. I missed the transition to online report cards last year, so this should be a pleasant change. No more hand-writing out all thirty students’ information, no more white out when I invariably make a mistake.¬†

Trying to get these guys whipped into shape, which involves being stern, but also appropriating stale memes that they haven’t discovered yet:



This is the secret of my success. Corny, out-of-date jokes and bad impressions. I’m like the Michael Scott of elementary schools.

Oh, God. I’m the Michael Scott of elementary classrooms…


The Pogues in 2007 in Chicago. Phil’s on the far left.

Sometimes people talk about that Blowin’ Your Mind moment. Brian Wilson hears “Be My Baby” and he’s so overwhelmed he has to pull his car over to the side of the road. It happens a lot with music. People hear someone like Dylan or Springsteen or Joni Mitchell and they’re just floored. Never heard anything like it, life’ll never be the same again.

I suppose that happened with me and The Pogues.

I’ve written about them before, on the old site, but I won’t bother linking or rehashing that. This is more of a family-friendly site, and some students may be reading it, so we’ll just stay focused on the new entries. But to sum it up, they’re my favorite band of all time. (When it’s not The Beatles, or Wilco, or Belle and Sebastian. Depends on what day you catch me.)

A buddy of mine in high school had their 1989 album Peace and Love, and he just couldn’t get into it. I listened to it in his room and just instantly fell in love, and he gave it to me. Sometime around then I saw them perform on Saturday Night Live, and I just kept thinking, what is this stuff? It’s loud and weird and kind of punk but also sounds kind of like those bluegrass records my mom and grandpa liked. The lead singer looks like a wreck, but he’s singing the most amazing songs.

They were London-Irish, mostly, and mixed traditional Irish tunes with a modern, early-80s punk vibe. They were never wildly popular, at least in my circles, but man did I love them. If anyone ever asks me what started my whole obsession with Irish culture, I always say it started with The Pogues.

So anyway, I bring them up today not to once again prattle on about My Time In Dublin, but to note that Philip Chevron passed away today after a long battle with cancer. He was the guitarist for the band, and the one that kept the flames going in the band, organizing tours, remastering the catalogue, and interacting with fans on their official message board. A gentleman, a lover of the theatre, and a great songwriter in his own right. “Thousands are Sailing” now becomes even more of a misty-eyed song than ever before.

Ick of the Sea

October 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

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This is the very last of the Purina pencils.

Almost 30 years ago I had a bunch of these, which a friend of mine would alter by scratching out key letters in the Purina products advertised on the pencil. PURINA CHOWS became PURINA COWS; CHEX CEREALS morphed into CHEX EELS; PET products became ET products (how’s that for an 80s artifact?); and of course Chicken of the Sea became ICK OF THE SEA.

Don’t ask me why I still have it. One of those things that survived purge after purge of childhood mementoes and countless moves.

*     *     *

That’s all I got tonight. Had a horrible night’s sleep, still not feeling any better. Hoping to go to bed early and get some real rest.

Tomorrow apparently there is something called a Boosterthon pep rally. I am scared.

Tears in Space

October 6, 2013 — Leave a comment

Antibiotics don’t seem to be doing a lot, as the cough is still ever-present. Doc recommended I get some Mucinex-D, but that stuff’s expensive, and I’ve got more important things to spend my spare cash on, like movies and pizza.

I’ve been doing nothing but sit around the house the past two days, and so I decided to get out of the house and go see Gravity, a film I’ve been dying to see for quite a while now. I’ve refused to watch any trailers or read any reviews or articles about the film. I just wanted to go in blind and enjoy the latest from Alfonso Cuaron. He directed both Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, both of which I’ve probably watched 5-6 times each. He’s one of the most talented filmmakers I’ve seen in the past twenty years, and I only wish he didn’t take so long in-between projects.


But boy is his stuff worth the wait. Gravity is, simply, astonishing. I’m not even going to go into any details, but if you’re reading this, I highly, highly recommend you pony up the cash to see it in 3-D and in IMAX. Now, I tend to avoid both formats whenever possible, as I find 3-D mostly annoying, unless the filmmaker is really doing something interesting with it, like Henry Selick and Coraline and Martin Scorcese’s Hugo. IMAX is also a distraction for me mostly for aspect ratio tastes. It tends to be a little overwhelming when you’re presented with an image so enveloping.

But with Gravity, all of this works in the film’s favor, creating an unsettling sense of immediacy and disorientation. To put it simply, you are right there with Bullock and Clooney. It’s like they took them up in a rocket and shot the film in space. It’s that real.

Swung by work where I found two other fifth grade teachers prepping for tomorrow. Got caught up with planning for Monday, had plans to make some chicken tacos, but I’m feeling too blah to actually put any effort into cooking tonight. Thankfully, Gario’s delivers…

Just a quick entry today…finally went to the doctor and got an antibiotic. He didn’t think it was too serious. Might even be allergy-related, which means the antibiotic will be irrelevant.

Thanks to the Dead Homer Society for linking to my post about Mike and Liz from the other day. Featuring them on a Simpsons site is just about the best gift you could give those two.

Here’s something I found on the wall of a school I was teaching in last year. I’m pretty sure that’s He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named on the left, but I’m not positive who he’s giving the ole Avada Kedavra to, nor why they have a little person in their hand. Perhaps those more learned than me can solve this mystery.




Nutmeg and Spice

October 4, 2013 — 2 Comments

I decided to stay home today, to get some rest and try and get over this thing. Chest was pretty congested when I woke up, and I thought about going to the doctor, but so far I haven’t made it past my reading chair.

Of course I have a reading chair. Which is different than the one where I watch films and the televised programs of broadcast and cable. It’s one of those¬†PO√ĄNG¬†chairs from IKEA. Cheap, but comfortable, and perfect for reading books. A chair that almost helps you not nod off to sleep.

Since I’ve been ill so much of the past two months, I’ve spent a lot of time in that chair working through a stack of books I’ve been meaning to read. So much of the past year was spent reading plays and theatre theory and the stack of “other” books to read has gotten rather high. So this is what I’ve been reading lately:

I started James Joyce’s Dubliners unofficially as part of my theatre reading last fall. The Corn Exchange in Dublin was premiering a new production based on the famed short stories and it was a highlight of the 2012 Dublin theatre fest. I never found the time to get them read, unfortunately, and I wish I had, as it would have deepened my appreciation for the Corn Exchange’s play. Anyway, I finished them a couple of weeks ago, and enjoyed them quite a bit. I don’t think I’m quite ready to tackle Ulysses, though. Someday.

Another volume I’ve been slowly working through is a collection of Tolkien’s short stories, mostly centered around the theme of wandering into the realm of Faerie. Tales from the Perilous Realm includes all those stories with lovely titles I never got around to reading when I first fell in love with his works: Smith of Wooton Major, Farmer Giles of Ham, and Leaf by Niggle.¬†There’s also the haunting poem “The Sea-Bell”, and his essay “On Fairy Stories”, which I’m about halfway through. Once I complete this book, there won’t be much left of him for me to read.

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After meeting Bill Kelso I read his book on the Jamestown archeological dig, and I wish I could do more with it in class, but 4th grade handles early American history now. I tried dipping into it
in class, but no one was biting.

I’ve tried to work through Ken Robinson’s The Element, thinking that it might have something interesting to say about education and the arts, but it’s mostly self-help nonsense. Best to stick to his TED talks I guess.

A bit of comfort reading has been necessary as well (if Tolkien doesn’t already count), and so I picked up some X-Men comics for old times’ sake. It’s one of those multi-issue crossover things that I usually don’t care for, but so far this one has been decent.

Books that stare out at me waiting to be read include Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes, and Savage Continent, a new book about the aftermath of World War II in Europe. Not really anything that relates to fifth grade, but I haven’t had much interest in reading kid lit these days. I think about all the books and stories I haven’t read, and wonder how I’ll ever find the time to fit them all in, so my reading time has been devoted to books just for me. I can’t keep up with the latest “hot” books for elementary students, nor have I much interest in books on whatever trendy educational models people are reading. No Daily Five for me. Though, Summerhill School, by A.S. Neill recently wound up in my Amazon cart. Certainly not a trendy or recent book, but one that keeps niggling away at the corners of my brain.

Bad Luck Brian

October 3, 2013 — 2 Comments

One strange hope I had during the Year Off was that I’d come back healthier and more energized, and less prone to getting sick.

Yeah, that didn’t work out so much.

Things were good at first. I had dropped some weight, I was in decent shape after walking everywhere. Came home, tried to get into a running habit, and promptly got plantar fasciitis. Six months later I’m still limping around. And I’m growing more sideways than I would like.

I’m six weeks into the school year, and I’ve been sick twice. First time I figured it was allergies; everyone had it back in early September when there was a lot of ragweed and mold in the air. This new bout gave me a 102 degree fever last week and I’m on Day 12 suffering with a congested chest. I know I should have gone to the doctor, but honestly I think it’s nothing serious. These things usually stay with me for a couple of weeks and then go away.

Plus I really don’t feel like racking up any medical bills right now. I’m not exactly flush with cash. But no need to get into that. At least I’ve got health insurance and a real salary again.

What’s really frustrating is the fact that I never really got sick during the Year Off. The only time was a 4-5 day chest cold, and that was while I was back in the states for a wedding and a funeral. Even when I subbed for a few months, and I was around different kids and different germs every single day? Nope. Nothing. Not even the sniffles.

So what does that mean? Why do I get sick all the time in this job? Is it my habit of high-fiving too many kids? I don’t really do the whole hand sanitizer thing; I tend to believe that it does more harm than good. (This is probably one step on the road to me becoming Ron Swanson.)

Maybe the job just takes too much out of me. Two years ago I stepped down from my other job, and one that I loved dearly, because I kept getting sick just as the summer season would start up. My current students ask me what percent of Mr. Fauth they’re getting today, and it hasn’t been 100% Mr. Fauth for a while. I can’t sleep most nights, at least on Sundays and most Mondays, so there goes half the week. I’m lucky to get two-three days at work where I’m the teacher they know and (hopefully) enjoy, the manic preacher of Vikings, Hobbits, and Funny Voices. Most of the time I’m just exhausted.

So what’s the answer? Don’t tell me I need to exercise and eat like a caveman, or take some miracle drug, or “just relax, Brian!” I am fully aware that I need to exercise and eat and sleep better. And I would love to relax, but the job is always there. It’s never-ending, and when I finally put it down for the day there’s always the nagging list in my head of All That Needs To Get Done.

Sometimes I’m afraid that the only way I’m going to stay healthy is if I stop teaching altogether. But that’s pretty unlikely. It’s a job I’m born to do, apparently, and I’m still dedicated to it. And it’s not like I can just up and do something else. Our society is pretty good at keeping you in your place. Once you do something for a while, it’s awfully hard to try and break out into something else. Believe me.

I’ll try and rest up again this weekend and hope that I wake up next Monday with a clear chest and a full battery. My students deserve nothing less than 100% Mr. Fauth.

Ben and Sarah and Emily

October 2, 2013 — 3 Comments

This is one of those posts that talks about how awesome life can be.

I wish I wrote more of these. But I’m mostly tired and cranky these days, so occasionally I get sentimental and reflect on some of people I’m lucky to know.

When they write the book on me, I hope they give a good chunk of it to a couple of kids named Mike and Liz. Mike and Liz just had their first baby together.

Mike and Liz were both former fifth grade students of mine, too. That’s the awesome part. I talk about them all the time, and tell their story often, but I felt it important to lay it down properly.

I came home for their wedding last year. A year ago almost to the day, I think. Last minute thing. Didn’t think I’d be able to make it back from Dublin, but things worked out and I got a chance to get this picture taken:

Mike and Liz wedding

Liz I met first. My first job teaching full-time was as a 4th grade teacher at East View. Liz was in that first class. Liked to do theatre. Used to give me pictures of her dressed up in costume from her plays. Here she is helping me pack up the room at the end of the year.

Liz 4th grade 1

I moved up to fifth grade next year, and Liz came along for the ride. There was a new student to East View that year named Mike. Here he is with his D-Day project he made. “A BECH ASSAULT.” Mike, we need to talk about your spelling, pal…


Fun Fact: The blond girl behind Mike? She just got a job teaching first grade in my building. So now we’re co-workers.

That summer I started a theatre company for the park district, and Mike and Liz both joined up. A couple of years later I wrote my first, full-length play, and they starred in it. The Last Dance, about a group of junior high friends. Loosely based on my own youth.

rehearsal 1

(There are way too many people that I love dearly in this photo, but this is for Mike and Liz, so I’ll just stay focused on them. But hey, Renee and Freddie!)

Five years later, after many shows and even some ups and downs, we did one final one together. They played Ben and Sarah again, the same characters from The Last Dance. It was about goodbyes, and a journey. Most of my plays are about goodbyes and journeys.


(From left: Mike Arney as Ben, Liz Husted as Sarah, Freddie Zimmer as Stuart, and Kim Skibinski as Amanda. All former fifth grade students of mine.)

Shortly before Liz had their baby they stopped by my house to drop off some paint supplies I had lent them while we were painting their new house. I was making dinner and invited them to stay. We told stories and quoted The Simpsons, as we’ve done for over ten years. We talked about baby names, and of our fondness for simple, traditional names like Sarah, Elanor*, or Kate.

Last Wednesday Mike and Liz welcomed their first child into the world. And they named her Emily. Perfect.

*I recently decided that had I ever a) bothered to start a family and b) really embraced my nerdy love of The Lord of the Rings, I would have wanted to name my daughter Elanor.