Saturday, December 13, 2014


Being out here in the very rural part of Alaska, we have a pretty high turnover rate with our teaching staff. In our small school alone, we have only 6 teachers. I have been here for five years and have had 3 different principals and 18 different teachers during that time. So I thought maybe I should put together a list of FAQ for someone who may be interested in coming out here to work, at my particular school. I know there are thousands of questions, but I’ll limit them to the only important ones. 

Do the students sit quietly at their desks and work with the determination of a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter?
The short answer would be “No fucking way.” 

Would it be considered rude if I ate the unmarked food in the staff refrigerator?
Keep your hands off my lunch.

Does the staff at your school act in a professional manner?
I would say that most do, but I avoid them. Or as they would say, they avoid me. Tomato/Tamato. Either way, keep your paws off my lunch.

Are flannel shirts part of the male dress code? And if so, how many does one need for a year?

Two unknown lumberjacks doing what lumberjacks do.

It’s not how many you have, but how you use them. (Am I right, Lumberjacks?  *high-fives all Lumberjacks in the vicinity*) I have 6 in the starting rotation and one on the injured reserve that I wear on the weekends. The one in reserve lost a button and I haven’t had it repaired. No, it was not an eating accident, I caught it on a door frame. But equally embarrassing. 

Does the staff work together to solve problems?
By problems do you mean ‘Find ways to make it difficult for Clay to voice his concerns during staff meetings’? Then yes, like a Swiss watch.

At staff meetings, when the principal asks if there are any further questions, why does the staff look towards you and roll their eyes?
If you don’t mind, I’d like to limit the questions to pertinent educational inquirers and not foolish water cooler jibber-jabber.

Do the students feel comfortable confiding in the staff at your school?
I have heard more inappropriate confessions in my classroom than a Boston priest at a St Patrick’s Day parade. I am not a psychiatrist but some days I enter into a surreal world of weird shit. So yes, they are painfully comfortable.    

I heard about an incident involving a stain in the hallway at your school. Did a student do that or did you?
I can see that a person could be confused on who caused this, what with the foot traffic and all. And you know how kids don’t always pay attention. Sometimes they run in the hallways without paying attention. But yes, I did that.

What the hell is it?
It is, or was, a Ding Dong. (No matter how old I get, I will never tire in saying the words Ding Dong.) I had a Ding Dong at lunch and decided to eat the Ding Dong over near my desk. Someone asked me what I was eating and I said, “It’s a Ding Dong.” Anyway, as I was walking with my Ding Dong in my hand, I accidentally dropped my Ding Dong and stepped on it.

Would you stop saying “Ding Dong” over and   over!?

No.       (Ding Dong)                       

So, there you are. This little FAQ list should help you decide if our school is right for you. And if you do feel it’s right for you, remember, that half eaten can of sardines in the fridge isn’t a charity giveaway. It’s my lunch. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014


It is almost Thanksgiving and I have been seeing people on Facebook post a daily list of things they are thankful for. Most start out very earnest, stating how thankful they are for all the support their family gives them. Then the next day they explain how thankful they are for their wonderful job and co-workers. (Oddly enough I have not seen any written by my co-workers.) But by the 5th or 6th day, they start scrambling for things to be thankful about. They’ll thank a pet, or maybe a cousin they played with as a child. By the time Thanksgiving comes around, they’re not even trying any longer. They’ll miss a few days and apologize, stating their thanks for the weather and hard bristled brooms. (A obvious shout out to the broom lobby.) These are the people who finish their projects. The rest quit after day 4 and get back to the real reason for social media: hating on everything. 

Wild Tundra Turkeys. Then we ate them.
But those eager attempts to share with others got me thinking about what I’m thankful for. Here is my list of 20 things I’m thankful for. And I will do it all at one time, so I don’t expose my inability to finish a project. 

Things I’m thankful for: (Not in order of importance)

  1. My wonderful wife for allowing us to live in two
    places I love.
  2. My job where I can hang out with the coolest and weirdest kids in the world.
  3. Sunday morning breakfast with the Becks.
  4. Red Dirt Music.
  5. Flannel.
  6. Flush toilets. I can not emphasize how thankful I am about this.
  7. Amazon Prime. They are my provider of such items as chili, coffee beans, and toilet paper. 
  8. Opposable thumbs.
  9. The fact that camera phones were not around when I was young and foolish(er). 
  10. My slippers.
  11. Living in a place cold enough to sleep between fleece sheets. If you’ve never experienced this, do yourself a favor and move to Alaska, or Canada, and put these on your bed. You will thank me for the sage advice. 
  12. The ability (and desire) to Google information of ‘shared’ Facebook posts to verify validity. Seriously, it only takes seconds and it can keep you from looking like a total dumbass. 
  13. Leftover Halloween candy.
  14. The ability to have dreams while I sleep. Because of this, I am able to still see my dad and talk to him. I realize its not real, but for a short time it is. And I’m fine with that.
  15. Hard bristled brooms. Science fact: they move dirt like nobody’s business.
  16. The color red. The boss of all other colors. 
  17. Beer. 
  18. The chemical reaction that occurs when heat is applied to the flesh of dead pork. Or in other words, BBQ RIBS!

Of course these are not the only things I’m thankful for, but they are what I thought of while writing this. I was born into a great family and I married into a great family. That sure makes me able to be thankful for many things in my life. 

Community dinner a couple of years ago.
We are having two Thanksgiving dinners. The first one on Wed. will be with our village. Each year the students serve the community a Thanksgiving meal. On Thursday we will get together with coworkers and talk about how great we are. Then we’ll eat turkey again. So yeah, I’m going to have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


In my last blog, I ranted about the misconceptions of the Common Core State Standards. This week I’m going back to what I know best; writing about farts. My life’s ambition was not to go forth and share my experience and knowledge about farts. It just sort of happened. Unfortunately.

My exposure to professional grade farts started in my early adulthood. As a young man right out of high school, I thought I’d give college a try. Well, turns out I couldn’t tell the difference between being a responsible drinker or being the dude that Aerosmith kicked out of the band because he drank too much. So I did what most mature minded people do: I joined the US Navy Submarine Force. Without going into every detail, there was a large volume of farting caused by colossal quantities of beer and indigestible fast food. I was always amazed at the pride some would have of their expelled sewer bouquet. Some would have the same look of pride on their face as a first-time father sharing a picture of his newborn. They would then nod their head, poke me in the chest, and boast, ”That’s how you do it!” I wanted to point out that I already knew how to fart, but I really didn’t. Not like that. So I hung my head and fought through the next 6 years.

Now, some odd years later, I’m an elementary teacher. And once again I am faced with a room full of people who take no shame in sounding their ass trumpets. Not just the small sounds that you would expect coming out of small children. Some of these sounds are more like that of a logging truck just entering a town, turning on his compression break. I have to imagine the air pressure inside these kids are more than inside the tire of a tractor. And it doesn’t matter what they are ingesting. It’s not like they’re eating undercooked beans and then suffer the effects. They can walk up to the drinking fountain, take a drink, and then produce pure evil out of their ass. 
Maybe a science fair project?

After one of these treasures is released, the presenter revels in the laugher of the entire class. My only recourse is to wait for the laughter to die down. After the laughter comes the smell, which invokes the same response from the class. “Oh my god! The smell!!” they laugh. Yes, it is warm air over a turd. It makes sense that it will smell bad. I am still amazed at the lingering power some of the kids have.

It is hard to imagine that in the interior of those cute little faces brews a stench strong enough to drive demons out of the room. I’m lucky enough to be able to keep my door to the hallway open and my windows open to create a draft. This will aid in clearing the room temporarily. Some teachers are forced to keep their doors closed because of noise or other gas bags in the hallways that may come into their rooms and fart. There are those who roam the halls, looking for open classrooms to deposit their fart. Thanks Common Core!

So, what do I do about it? Nothing I guess. I just have to deal with it the best way I can and always position myself near a window. And always remind myself to be thankful I am not the one who has to wash their underwear. The Hulk on their Underoos may have changed colors. And he's still pissed.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


As someone who has Internet access and reads social media traffic, I’m getting the sense that people are getting upset about the Common Core Standards. I’m also getting the sense that some are getting their information from social media sources who may not be telling the truth, but instead may be using incomplete data to help further their narrative. And usually the narrative has something to do with their political leanings or their views of how far the Federal Government should influence state or local education. Politicizing the Common Core is about as futile as politicizing vegetables. With that, here I go.

First off, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not here to tell you that the Common Core will be the educational panacea some people are hoping for. I know that there are valid concerns among many people who make education their profession. I am going to address a few concerns that have been expressed that I find as non-issues. I find them non-issues because they are based on misinformation to further a narrative. 

If your argument is that the Federal Government should not be mandating standards that are to be shared throughout the country, then that is where your argument ends. You need to go no further, because I have good news for you. The Federal Government has not mandated that states must use these standards. Each state has the opportunity to use the standards they see fit to use. Good, that settles that. Now, onto the next shitstorm. 

If your argument is that the Common Core Standards are making learning impossible, please read further. I am a teacher. I have opinions. But I try my hardest to form those opinions using facts from reliable sources, not from Chicken Little. Furthermore, we need to be able to separate opinion from fact. (Ironically, that is a standard included in the Common Core.) The best way to do that is to actually read the standards. I know it will take a while, so choose just one grade. Since I teach early elementary, I will be speaking from those standards, so you may pick one of those grades. (I’ll wait) Click here.
I’m assuming that very few of you read the standards. If that is you, please do not continue in the debate knowingly ignorant. If you have looked through it, congratulations, you are one of the few people who have done that. I know of teachers who have not made the effort to see what it is they are to teach. As you can see, nowhere does the Common Core tell teachers exactly how to teach the standard. As some people have stated, they are vague. (I agree somewhat on that.) But it is the state, school board, and curriculum that directs how a teacher teaches that standard. 

We need to make sure we understand the difference between the curriculum and the standards. The curriculum as I will speak to is the materials that the school uses to teach a subject. The standards are a set of written objectives a student should know during a particular period. In our case, grade level. People are incorrectly attempting to blame the Common Core for a publisher’s application of a strategy. 

So we will now get to what I’ve seen on Facebook as an attempt to offer evidence of how the Common Core is destroying the fabric of our nation:
Sometimes referred to as 'Hitler's Math'
Instead of labeling the math as ‘New’, it should have been labeled as ‘Another Way’, because that is exactly what it is. The Common Core says that students will learn other strategies in adding and subtracting numbers. The Common Core also provides a standard for learning the ‘Old Way’, which is a memorization algorithm. Here is a great article that explains these two ways of doing the same math problem. In that article, the authors uses a cooking analogy. Memorizing a recipe is not the same as understanding how to cook. Also, memorizing that 8-4=4 does not mean a student understands what is happening to the numbers. By being able to manipulate numbers mentally instead of with a pencil and paper will serve a student, and an adult, well in life. We use mental computation daily when we play games, count change, or even figure out our gas milage. Anyone who has ever played blackjack knows that a 9-7 is the same as a 10-6. It is using mental manipulation of the numbers in our heads. This is exactly what the ‘other way’ is teaching us. Teachers for years have been using blackjack and similar games to help students understand that numbers are malleable, not just stagnate digits.

The curriculum our school district uses, My Math, has 120 lessons through out the entire text book, accounting for roughly 170 school days. We have one lesson devoted to teaching other strategies in addition, and one lesson teaching other strategies in subtraction. The same time given to teaching the ‘old way’, using a memorized algorithm. Throughout the text, students are able to use which ever method they prefer. They are not held to only one method of adding or subtracting numbers. 

The fact that people are in an uproar and say that this new math is ridiculous just underscores the need for us to do a better job of teaching math. The statement, “I don’t understand it, therefore we must not teach this” is a good indicator that that person should not be included in the debate. 

I’ve ranted long enough. Those of you still reading this, let me know and I’ll buy you a beer next time I see you in a place that allows alcohol. Again, my position is not as a defender of the Common Core. I understand that there will be problems and I hope they can be discussed and a better solution offered.  But I think that a conversation about education should be kept to things that are true. If someone has a concern, that’s great, but let’s make sure it is valid and relevant. It is frustrating as an educator to watch people build straw men and tear them down, claiming that they’ve just done some social favor, instead of just adding to the pile of cow shit of educational reform. In the end, I want my students to be able to navigate through life with a set of skills that will enable them to make informed decisions in their lives. I could not give one shit if a Republican or a Democrat was President when educational decisions were made. Only that they were the best we have. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014


As I’ve written before, one of the perks of being a teacher is having the summers off. Unfortunately we don’t get paid for those days, but it’s time off nonetheless. People will ask me, “Clay, what is it you do with all your free time?” I always answer their question with gusto: “Nothing.”

I really don’t do a whole lot during the summer. I don’t have any real hobbies, like wood working or spelunking, nor do I feel compelled to do something just for the sake of doing something. Idle hands are not the devil’s playground, but in fact are just nicely rested hands. More than ready to handle the demands of safeguarding a beer. I firmly believe that the art of relaxing is totally undervalued and unappreciated. Unbelievably, people want to judge me because I’m still in my underwear at 4pm. I believe it would be bad form to skinny-dip in the front-yard kiddy pool at that time of day. Therefore, I will continue to keep my underwear on no matter the heat and humidity.

Getting out of bed during the summer is more complex than during the school year. In Nunam, I use my alarm clock. In Oklahoma, I use my internal alarm clock: the urge to pee. It will gently try to wake me, but I ignore the urge and pretend it’s not that bad. I’ll fall back asleep and try to resume my happy dreams. But instead, I start dreaming about peeing in inappropriate places. I’ll wake up in a panic, check the sheets for wetness, and hustle to the toilet. After that, there’s no way to go back to sleep, so I’ll get some coffee. 

Just a part of my lawn.
Once I’m up my only real chore is to make sure the lawn is mowed. I bought a new mower this summer and it has cut my weekly mowing time to only 5 hours. Now, that does not include my beer breaks. If you take those into account, my mowing time takes three days. Several U.S. studies (mine) have shown that breaking a chore down into smaller parts makes it more likely it will get done. As will several reminders from a spouse or similar partner. 

Monica and I do like to expand our cultural background during the summer. We will travel to listen to live music around Oklahoma and its surrounding neighbors. So I guess I do have a hobby: going to bars, drinking beers, and listening to music. Unfortunately, it also includes listening to assholes who decide to go to the same bar as I do, but instead of listening to music, they’re there to talk to their friends. I don’t understand why someone would chose a bar playing loud music to hold a conversation. Monica says a kidney punch would be uncouth. I believe it would be rightly deserved.
Matt Stell at the Wormy Dog Saloon in OKC.

That was pretty much my summer. I left out the parts of me eating because it would take up way too much space here and probably frighten the children. We’ve been back to our Alaska home for just over a week. With school starting in just a few days, I think I’m recharged and ready to go for another nine months. I’m looking forward to seeing my bright eyed students fully recharged and ready to give me hell for the next nine months. It’s one of the perks of my job.

Saturday, May 17, 2014


We have only three school days left until summer break. Most teachers I know are saying or posting on the Facebooks, “Wow, this year really flew by! I can’t believe it went by so fast!” (Elementary teachers use lots of exclamation marks!) They may go on about how they’ll miss the little ones and can’t wait to see them next year. My reaction, as always, is “Wow, why the the hell did this year take so long? Who took my @#$&ing shoe?” (I use lots of question marks.) I know most of us, when finishing an event in our life, will take some time to reminisce. We look at the good things and smile, realizing that it wasn’t so hard. In fact it was quite enjoyable. (When I say ‘we’ I mean other teachers. I’m still looking for my other shoe.)

I usually wait until I get back to Oklahoma to reflect on my year and I invite a familiar partner for these conversations. I have an old friend from my years in the US Navy submarine force, he goes by the name of Captain Morgan. Well, the Captain and I sit out on the porch and we talk about how the last school year went and what I’ll do differently next year. We will discuss the progress and regress of the condition concerning education today. After a while the conversation turns to our puzzlement on the popularity of cats, being they’re such assholes. Then we’ll stop talking and just listen to the music really loud.

This is just before I incrementally increased the volume
of my lesson.
I’ve already started preparing for the summer by getting my hair cut and trimming my beard. I usually do this three times a year: Aug., Dec., and then again in May. The main reason I trim my beard is so I can eat pilot bread with peanut butter on it. I usually end up looking a like a two-year old eating a banana cream pie when I eat something like that with a scraggly beard. The long beard also confuses the kids because they can’t tell if I’m smiling or frowning. Keeping them confused is the secret for keeping them from climbing the walls or removing my shit from my desk. If they’re not sure whether I’ll bite them or not, well, that works to my advantage. When I trimmed my beard, one of my students said, “You look like you did when you were younger.” I know he wasn’t trying to compliment me, but I kind of took it that way. I’m also convinced that the students’ secret in controlling a teacher is keeping us confused. If I think they might bite me, I won’t stand too close. And farting. I hypothesize that they use farting as a protective shield, keeping teachers at a distance while they continue in their mischievous ways.

I am also taking the summer off from my graduate program. Someday I hope to be a reading specialist. Which means that I am learning how to teach kids to read. I’m learning new skills to replace my older, much less effective attempts of getting kids to read. Apparently, just repeating myself with incrementally increased volume levels does not help. Actually, according to studies, being screamed at does not “positively affect the learning process of a student” (Irwin,p.81). Whatever nerds, if I can scare a child into knowledge, by god I’m going to scare them. But it will be nice not having to read and write college junk for the summer. Besides, some professors don’t have a good sense of humor. When asked to contribute on a topic I had zero idea about (maybe I wasn’t paying attention at the time), I used the standard, “a professor, a PHD candidate and a rabbi walk into a bar....” She waited for the punchline. Trouble is, I had no punchline, still don’t. Every time before when I started to contribute in this manner, I was cut off and ignored, allowing somebody else, who might have been actually paying attention, to speak on that topic. After an awkward pause, I just shamefully said, “I don’t know.” Which is what I should have done in the first place, since I had no idea what she was asking me. Now I have to think of a new way to deflect having to answer questions I don’t know a thing about. 
Here is Monica taking her turn on the tire swing.
And a student in the background who is worn out from
all the day's learning.

So, now we head south in less than a week. I’ve purchased a new lawn mower, new smoker, and am ready for midweek naps and getting reacquainted with the Captain. I love summers. And my wife. I also love my wife.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


Well, the year is winding down. With less than 4 weeks of school left, I start to reflect on what we’ve accomplished in the classroom this year. I think about how much the students have advanced in their knowledge. I see how much they have physically grown over the past 9 months. I also reflect on the scars and physical damage they’ve inflicted on me. The loss of hair and memory, the graying of my beard, and the twitching I’ve developed in my left eye. I’m no spring chicken, but holy cats, they can beat a man down. 

Nine months is a long time to spend with a group of kids whose central plan is plotting my demise. But we have had a successful academic year. During this year, I have implemented my School House Rock learning plan for the class. I want them to learn grammar the same way I did; by watching cartoons. So, during free time in the classroom, I turn on the School House Rock DVD. If I can get my adverbs from Lolly’s, then by god so can they. When the kids are learning their adjectives, they look up at me when the “he was a hairy bear, he was a scary bear” part comes on. Not just because I’m large and hairy, but because I ate one of my students my first year here. I was new, inexperienced, and I just lost control one day. Do I regret eating a student? Sure, but he kind of had it coming and looking back I can justify it to myself. Maybe not to the parents, but to myself. 

Our math didn’t go quite as well as our language arts. I noticed some problems from our last assessment and it taught me 2 important things:
  1. Borrowing from zero is a difficult concept in subtraction.
  2. Understanding the differences between area and perimeter can be difficult.
  3. We’re not learning the basic concepts of math.
Now, that’s not to say that the whole year was a waste when it comes to math. We did spend a lot of time working with perimeter and using Call Of Duty to explain what it means to check the perimeter. We learned fractions from pizza and probability by my angry outbursts. (Is it more likely that Mr. Clay will explode if 2 of us are making farting noises or 10 of us are making farting noises? They like to perform their own experiments.) 

A science fair experiment. It was a new torture devise they
made for me.
We had actual experiments for our science fair and we learned why people want to live near water. We’ve had kids spinning and revolving around one another pretending to be planets. We’ve had arguments over who got to be the sun. The sun seems to be a popular role since everyone else has to move around them while the stand there and gloat. We learned why people came to Ellis Island and why island has a stupid ‘s’ in it. (Because we’re pigheaded and don’t want to change things, even though we know it would be easier.) I don’t want to get sidetracked on a rant here, but if the Internet word Nazis really wanted to make a difference, I wish they would focus their efforts on fixing our problems instead of condescendingly pointing out when people mess up these complicated and convoluted grammar rules and spelling. We also farted. A lot. Everyday. Everywhere. 

We were picking up trash around the school last week.
Nobody was injured.
Now that we’re almost done, I start thinking about next year. I’ll have most of the kids again next year, so it’s not like I can just pass them off to the next teacher. I am the next teacher. I get to see my teaching mistakes next year, so it pays to keep working till the last day. But they will soon have 3 months free from me. They are already in their summer mode. I’ll look outside and the kids will still be out at the playground at 10:00pm. They’ve had a head start since it is much warmer this spring than normal; we have very little snow left. Now, I’ll leave you to continue humming your favorite School House Rock song. Your welcome. (See what I did there?)

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Since I write this blog about teaching in rural Alaska, people who are wondering about working out here often contact me to ask questions. I decided to share some of these questions with the good people who read my blog. And for people who are wanting to know what it is like to teach up here. These may or may not be real questions asked by real people. 
  • A lady from Springfield asked me what type of conditioner she should use for dry, frizzy hair. (Bear fat, of course.)                                                                                             
  • A young graduate from Harvard asked me if he should continue to date his current girlfriend, even though she has this “unhealthy fascination with stripper poles” while listening to Johnny Cash. (I told him no, and he should send her up this way so I could look at her Johnny Cash collection. I’m a big fan.
  • What is teacher housing like up there? (This varies by village but we don’t live in igloos. The housing I live in was just constructed this past fall, so it is nice. We have two bedroom/two bathrooms. Other places have older units that have troubles with plumbing and keeping the rain out. And no, it is not free rent. Most places have housing built and provided by the school district, who then leases it to the teachers.
    This is a picture of our school and our housing.
    It is very close to each other, in a good way.
  • A retired teacher from Montana asked if we still had to poop in buckets in the morning. (When and where I poop is my business, thank you.)
  • A mortician from New Orleans asked if it is ok to paint his customers’ faces as clowns. (If you don’t make them sad-clown faces. I think that would send the wrong message.)
  • A young man from Dallas asked if it is true that there is no law enforcement in some rural villages. (That is correct. The village I live in has no law enforcement. The Alaska State Troopers have a post about 20 miles away and will usually respond within 3-7  business days.)
  • An elderly lady from the Washington D.C. area asked if I still eat my vegetables. (Mom! Stop hassling me!! We don’t have the opportunity for fresh vegetables out here. Most will freeze on the cargo plane before it reaches our village. And canned vegetables are out of the question. We can get frozen vegetables sent up here, but that would take up valuable freezer space allocated for the bacon supply. So, you can see why we have a limited amount of vegetables.)
  • A duck call manufacturer from Louisiana asked if beards are compulsory for the people up there? (That is a very good question. The answer varies depending on whether or not you can grow one. Women are discouraged, but allowed. Children need written approval from their parents before attempting to grow a beard. Manly men are required and men who are trying to be manly grow one to avoid being pushed around. fyi, using halloween paint does not fool anyone, they only push you around more.)
  • A prince from Nigeria asked if I would send him $2,000 in order for me to receive $1 million from one of my Nigerian relatives. (No)
  • A teacher from Maine asked if it was true that teachers only had to teach for 10 years and they then could collect a large pension. (No. don’t be an idiot. there is no pension for teachers. we pay into a fund, which we get back when we feel there is an adequate amount for us to stop working and begin drinking daily. we also do not pay into social security, so keep that in mind when planning for retirement.)
  • A student from Amsterdam asked what did it mean that most villages were “dry”? (A dry village means that purchasing or possessing alcohol is illegal. that doesn’t mean that there is no alcohol out here, it just means that I don’t have any alcohol out here. I want to repeat that: I don’t have any alcohol out here. so that means that i am on a first name basis with the owner of the liquor store in Jay, Oklahoma during the summer months.)
I hope that answers some of your questions. I may have to revisit this when I get (or think) of new questions. Now, I have to download more Cash from iTunes and begin construction on a new stripper pole. Yes, I said new.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


March seems like an incredibly long month. I think that standing next to February, a much shorter and balder month, makes March seem more substantial. Another reason is because every March, the students kind of turn on me. Not in a violent sort of way, but like a pack of passive/aggressive wolves. They move in a fluid, well coordinated motion. It is imperative that no student ever gets behind me or else I fear they will attack. Or take shit from my desk. Wolves are like that, putting their grubby paws on my stuff.  
Documented proof of me being attached by students.

One reason the kids turn into some sort of wolf/gremlin hybrid is because they are getting tired of me by this time of the school year.  And they have reason to be. They have sort of hinted at this, saying, “We, as a class of small wolflike creatures with grubby paws, are tiring of listening to Clay. We would appreciate if you would allow for more goofing off in the classroom.” I am of course paraphrasing. What they actually said was, “Stop making sounds out of your face!!” Then they stick their fingers in their ears and scream like goats. As you would expect, this is an unpleasant experience. This is March.

The kids are making other animal sounds during class. These outbursts are unexpected and unappreciated, by me at least. One sweet little girl made the sound of a donkey braying. Unprovoked and loud. (Although I’m not sure how one would provoke someone   into making that sound.) Right in the middle of a math test. And the oddest part of this true story is that nobody turned to look and see what was going on. And she went back to her math, just like she hadn’t emitted that awful sound. It was as if I was the only one who noticed this and found it out of place. This is March.

Here we have a student ready to fire.
By the time we make it to March, the kids have had six months of practicing their school farting. School farting is the art of passing gas at a moment's notice and without regard to decency or decorum. If one kid farts, others in the class will discharge within seconds just to show that they can too, similar to how dogs bark at each other at night when you are trying to sleep. Only now you can smell the barks. And the pride they have! Zero shame and high fives. Some weeks I let them choose what spelling words to use for the week. Last week one student’s word was “fart”. No, I told him, we are not using fart as a spelling word. “How about butt fart?” No, I told them, we are not using butt fart as spelling word. Besides, butt fart is two words not one. Their reply? “Ha Ha, Mr. Clay said butt fart!”  This is March.

March is half way done. The sun is out much longer now and continues to give us 6 minutes more each day. Every year goes like this. And every year I realize at this time that maybe it isn’t the kids who are turning on me. Maybe, just maybe, it’s their teacher who is getting grumpy. Maybe their teacher got tired and started feeling sorry for himself. So I remind myself that making barnyard noises and smells aren’t the worst things in the world and try to appreciate my surroundings a little bit more. But I will not turn my back for one second. Because this is still March.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


If you’ve ever had the privilege of listening to a teacher for any amount of time, you’ll realize that we tend to complain about things. A lot. For long periods of time. Some are legitimate (we shouldn’t have to build library shelves after school), while others are just made up whining (can we make Clay stop making those goat sounds during the meeting?). In my defense, goats make soothing, relaxing sounds that help others concentrate better. But there is one thing that a teacher will complain about and has every right to do so. SCIENCE FAIR PROJECTS. These things are killing me.

I am a vocal science advocate. If I had a dime every time Monica rolled her eyes while I was explaining why something is a load of crap because science has already disproved that, I’d buy her dark glasses so I didn’t have to see the eye-rolling. I’m usually yelling at the TV or my computer, so I don't always get to see the eye-rolling. But I know it's there. I love science because it gives us a way to test ideas and see if they are true or untrue. So, why do I hate the science fair?

Oobleck. This was pretty cool.
The process of making a science fair project is not a pretty sight. The process includes name calling, screaming, yelling, crying, yelling, and shameful behavior by all parties involved. This begins when we have to choose which project each student wants to choose. Since we live in a place where there is no Wal-mart, materials are hard to find here. So, many really cool projects have to be shot down by me because of the lack of resources and materials. This is the first stage of the yelling and name calling. I try to calmly tell them that we can’t do it because we don’t have liquid zinc and dioxicide carbonate powder. They irrationally let me know that they don’t care, they want to blow up a watermelon. 

Crazy River pouring his vineger.
Once they have been coerced into a particular project, they have to preform the experiment, record data, and explain what is happening to the rest of the class. This is the fun part for the all of the kids. The ones preforming the experiment love doing that part and the rest of the class gets a kick out of seeing what happens. Then all hell breaks loose again when we have to begin to prepare “The Board”. 

“The Board” is a three foot tri-fold board. The little scientists now have to prepare it by typing all of their procedures, materials, hypothesis, and conclusion. They then glue it on the decorated board along with pictures of them preforming the experiment. This sounds like a fairly mundane activity, until they start. First off, they have to type their data on the computer. You know, so people can actually read what they’re trying to communicate. I would assume that teaching a 3rd grader how to type is similar to teaching a 3rd grader how to fly an airplane. This is where the teacher begins to unravel. I am walking around the classroom as my kids are on the seven computers. I then began to shout letters for the next hour. “P!! It’s a P!!!!! No!!! A P!!! No!!! No!!! A P!!! Not an A for God’s sake! A P!! It’s a P, as in ‘Please find the P key’.  A frickin' P!!!!!”  This goes on for an hour a day for about 4 days, until they get their project all typed out. 
We did find raisins and Sprite.

We still haven’t had our fair yet, but that is the another fun part for the kids. Their teacher tends to calm down a bit and enjoy what the kids have done. I’m always impressed with effort and results when it is all said and done. The kids love it and will talk about it until we go through this next year. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014


I took a few weeks off from writing this blog for two reasons: 1) I was busy. b) I am lazy.  When a lazy person gets busy it kind of makes things weird in the world. So I am now sincerely apologizing for the Polar Vortex thing. I tried to warn Monica, but she kept me busy.

The busiest thing I did was to buy a house. We went to Oklahoma for our winter break,which was three weeks this year, and finished up the paperwork and closed on a house. Owning a house takes the pressure off me because now I don’t have to waste time thinking about where I will be spending my paychecks. There will always be plenty projects to pay for. 

Our new house in OK.
We had a good time in Oklahoma for Christmas; spending lots of time with family, eating good food, and visiting my friends at the liquor store. We even were able to listen to some good music in the City on New Year’s Day night. 

Getting to OK is not a fun event. From the time we get on our first plane in Nunam Iqua to when we land at the Northwest Arkansas Airport, we’ve been traveling for about 24 hours. Not all of it in a plane, some of it in airport bars, but still, 24 hours without sleeping in the prone position. 

For those of you who haven’t had to spend much time in airports, I’ll share this tidbit with you: They suck. They suck in almost every way possible. They’re crowded, stinky, crowded, loud, uncomfortable seating, crowded, and there are a lot of people there. If you like to people watch, you’ll get your quota for that in about 2 minutes. But I do learn some things while in airports. For instance, I learned what Hank Hill is doing now that his show is no longer on the air. He makes announcements on the intercom at the Houston Airport. 
Hangover Ball at the Wormy Dog Saloon. Jason Boland,
Wade Bowen, and Adam Hood.

I also learned that I can tell a person’s age by the distance they position their finger to their iPhone when they use the phone. The older the person, the further they keep their finger from the phone, and they peck at it. Much like a chicken eating off the ground. It is in a random cadence how they strike the phone. There is also a cutoff age where people use their thumbs instead of their index finger. I think around 44, because my wife is 29 and uses a mix. I am 47 and use my index finger usually. When I text angry, I use my middle finger. 

I also had my first personal, one-on-one experience with the fine folks at TSA. As I finished standing in the scanner so they could have a good look at what kind of underwear I was wearing (I bet they were surprised), they asked me to come with them for a personal inspection. Well, I was new to this, so there was some confusion on my part. I had my shirt off and my pants to my ankles before he asked me to step out of the line and said we were just going to just look in my backpack. I was embarrassed, TSA guy was annoyed, and the gal behind me pretended she didn’t look. But I know she did. After they found no contraband in my backpack, they released me back to Monica. She also seemed annoyed at me. 

But we made it back without further incident. We stayed in Anchorage for a night before heading back home. We found out the Polar Vortex thing affected things up here too. It had been warm, but the cold followed us north. People like it cold up here, so everyone’s happy now I guess. I could tell the kids were happy to see us return, because they kept asking when I was leaving again.