Steve Jobs

Ladies and gentlemen, I know you don’t know a world without iPods, but when this ad came out in 1997, it blew my face off and it still blows me away today.

The only reason I didn’t share this with you today is because pretty much every Apple ad makes me weep. Maybe we’ll watch it tomorrow as we transition from reading to math.

My 7th grade English teacher had probably half a dozen Think Different posters in her room (the Amelia Earhart one goes for $600 in mint condition now), but this is the one I had in my college dorm:

And because I know you all have a soft spot for Jane Goodall, here she is.

Privilege and Entitlement

We’ve spent a good amount of time having conversations about poverty, racism, and teachers’ contribution to the achievement gap this year. This is partly because we’re a reflective bunch, and partly because we’re in the second year of NCLB sanctions, so we need to figure out how to be more responsive to our students’ needs POSTHASTE.

Anyway, all the talk about privilege made me think of this extremely thoughtful, eloquent speech from the quarterback at my alma mater, Michigan State. It covers a lot of the same ground we did in our discussions of race, SES status, and poverty, but in a different context.

I’m proud to be a Spartan.

Today’s Moment of Zen

Ms. Willard* and I spent quite a while roaming the streets of Laurelwood Gardens making home visits yesterday. We were excited to talk with a few more families, and honestly, we were both really impressed by the design of the complex. It was welcoming and bright, and we enjoyed walking around.

One of the neatest sights we saw was actually at a house where no one was home.

What an excellent use of limited space! Maybe they were out at the library getting more rad books when we stopped by! (you can see my welcome letter, gift book, and contact info magnet on the ground in front of the door)

This honestly made my day. I’m so tickled when we find families who ardently support reading.

*Ms. Willard just got married this summer and she will still be Ms. and she will still be Willard! She is my kindred spirit!

Summer Reading

As summer draws to a close, so too do summer reading programs. For those of you in Seattle, remember that all paperwork must be submitted before the weeklong furlough closure starting August 28.

Grown-ups can participate in the summer reading program too!

This is a good time to remind you that if, like me, you check out a bazillion library books for your classroom at the beginning of the year, you’ll need get all your requests and such in before the 28th.

Do you frequent the King County Library System? There’s a summer reading program for you too!

Fabulous Thrifted Finds!

Perhaps you have had one of those off-handed conversations where something someone says winds up nagging you for months or years to come. A few years ago a fellow teacher said, “I make sure I don’t dress too nice because one of my students said it made her feel like I was trying to show I was better than her.” I respect this teacher and think she’s one of the most gifted educators on our staff, but her comment has stayed with me…

That’s the staff of the Ron Clark Academy. They look like that every day. I wear skirts or dresses most days to school, and I never wear jeans. That’s my personal preference. When my students have a free dress day, I wear uniform (which they love SO MUCH). Reading Ron Clark’s chapter on teacher dress brought my thoughts on the issue to the forefront.

I hesitate to say I support a strict teacher dress code. After all, I’ve seen teachers dress professionally in jeans, heels, and a nice blouse. Alternately, people have commented on the distracting nature of my towering yellow high heels, my pink hair, and my cloche hats (I haven’t worn them all at once. Yet.). Banning certain items is shaky, so how does an administrator tell someone, “Um, I think you’ve crossed the line.” ? Does it matter? Does it impact instruction or teacher morale? I think it does.

I LOVED it when fellow staffers wore outrageous socks and tights to celebrate my wedding shower. Even our principal on the left. (Who, BTW, is wearing jeans. And is still professional.) I’m wearing the nude fishnets second from the right.

That said, I also think we need to point out that “traditionally” “appropriate” “attire” can be inexpensive. If our kids think they don’t have access to the clothing they need to look professional, there’s a chance they won’t see themselves as future professionals. When a student complements me on a belt or a neat necklace (before class time, of course), I never hesitate to say I found it at Goodwill, Value Village or Target.

That’s why I think organizations like Dress for Success are so important. We talk about helping our students from poverty navigate the hidden codes of the middle class, and I think dressing snazzy is one of the codes they would benefit from knowing. This year, I’m planning to recruit some family members to help repair the inevitable blown-out knees and ripped shirts our students accumulate so they can be proud of the way they present themselves.

Again, looks don’t necessarily define a person. But I know I stand a little taller when I wear a crinoline-puffed shirtdress or my crocodile boots. I see teachers have a little spring in their step when they dress up for conferences. We have a little more energy, and sometimes that extra bump of energy is what’s going to make the difference in our students’ learning.

OK. Well. This started out as a vanity post of the rad items I found yesterday, but it has quickly morphed into something more. Ponder this all as you see fit. But I can’t wait any longer to show you my amazing steals!

$6 felt fedora from The Woodward Shop at Hudsons. Hand-formed hats like these sell for upwards of $300 today.

$5 Lilly Pulitzer skirt. They cost $80-$130 if you want to get one today. And none of their current patterns have zebras and antelope.

$10 Talbots suit. Whenever I wear dress pants or pinstripes, one of my students inevitably says, “You look like an office worker today, Miz Houghton.”

$5 Ann Taylor silk blouse. I’d been looking for a blouse that I could tuck in to my pencil skirts and circle skirts. Perfect. Also, I have a tattoo. Thoughts on the professional nature of a visible tattoo? Our admins don’t have a problem with it, and I told my kids if it was a distraction, I would just keep it covered up. We had the same conversation when my hair was streaked pink — if it interfered with their learning, I’d dye it back to brown.

Despite these wonderful new acquisitions, I still haven’t decided on my First Day of School outfit yet. What about you? How do you decide what to teach in?

Clipboard Prospects

The summer is time for reflection. Unfortunately, I reflect an awful lot during the school year too, which means I often wind up reflecting on absolutely frivolous things. Enjoy this example.

I know that one day soon, my beloved pink-and-black fleur-de-lis clipboard will bite the dust. It’s served me well the past four years, and the only real panic I’ve ever had over losing it was when I left it in the cafeteria on top of the piano during a family math night.

Lalala, Miz Houghton misplaced something again.


I wish I could share a picture of it with you, but I can’t because it’s nestled on my (SIGNIFICANTLY CLEANER) countertop at school where it always stays (when I’m organized). I bought it at some exorbitant price at City People’s Mercantile shortly into my first year of teaching because I was feeling disorganized and wanted a pick-me-up. When you tap it, it sounds like metal, but a corner of it has chipped, revealing that it’s actually wood.

Important people use clipboards.


I’ve been pondering my clipboard’s untimely demise for several years now (“hope for the best, but plan for the worst,” my daddy taught me), but most of the options I’ve seen have this inferior shove-it-open-with-your-thumb closure rather than the alligator clip style. I’ve had clipboards in the former style in my classroom clipboard stock, and they’re always the first to break.

Lovely, but short-lived


I’ve noticed that Etsy has started to carry more alligator-style clipboards, but I fret the acrylic ones will crack (this also happens to a lot of my students) and that the paper-covered ones will become sticky or disintegrate with use.

Acrylic Clipboard
Paper-and-Mod-Podged Clipboard


So what’s a super-picky girl to do? Goodness knows I’ve a bit of a thing for vintage…

But I feel like vintage for clipboards just means "old."


Having whipped myself up into a totally unjustifiable fit of frustration, I finally happened upon THE PERFECT CLIPBOARD.



ISN’T IT AMAZING? Feel free to send it to me posthaste.


Pencils, Not Pens

We made this neat video just for you, ladies and gentlemen!

Here are the lyrics to our amazing MSP song, inspired by Tin Cartwright.

Never went to bed as early as I did last night
Well-rested so I shine so bright
I’ve never seen so many people tell me to show what I know
Since I’ve let stamina grow, I have as long as I need
You can not see the response I’m writing
Cannot highlight, but I certainly can circle or cross out.

Pencils, not pens
Are testing with me
There’s nobody here, it’s just you and me,
It’s where I need to be
I’m ready to show
You what I really know
I’ll never forget, a gallon is 4 quarts

Not surprised to see elapsed time on the test today
Knew an open number line would be OK
I’m amazing
Never saw paragraph numbers in my books before
Testing’s a genre on its own
Synthesizing what I learned
I have never had such a feeling
Such a feeling of complete control, as I do today

Pencils, not pens
Are testing with me
There’s nobody here, it’s just you and me, It’s where I need to be
I’m ready to show
You what I really know
I’ll never forget, a gallon is 4 quarts

I never will forget, a gallon is 4 quarts
Pencils not pens.
Pencils not pens.
Pencils not pens.
My pencils and pens. (I love you.)


New Books for our Classroom Library

I’ll admit that I’ve neglected our classroom library as I’ve been chipping away at all the books that need to be processed for the school bookroom. But the boxes of unused books are just killing me, and so I decided I’d spend a good chunk of time this weekend knocking some of these books out.

This is usually my home base when I process books. I use Toby’s iMac instead of my laptop because I scrunch over less. Plus, I can queue for random dungeons in World of Warcraft.

Stack of books and book pockets. And WOW hidden behind GoodReads.

I try to add books to our library as soon as I receive them, but lately we’ve added a ton of new books. You can see I also enjoy eating pizza and drinking fizzy water while I work.

Books from Wildwood, Mrs. Burn, and Ms. Willard

This doesn’t even really put a dent in all the books I need to go through. My parents are still sending me old books from my childhood.

OMG BOOKS!!! (and my math frameworks binders... I TOLD you I didn't lose them, Ms. Stock!)

After I’ve entered the books into LibraryThing, figured out their AR levels, and made sure they have book pockets and book cards, I set them out in the hallway to be whisked away to school.

Sound book to send back to the science center, books with no AR level, books that need AR tape.

I’m looking to go into Wildwood tomorrow to spruce up our classroom and get these books into book boxes so students can check them out first thing Tuesday morning.

Remember that tomorrow is really supposed to be a day “ON,” rather than a day off, so consider participating in a local service project. I’ll be serving in a public elementary school classroom, and you should totally join me! :) Oh, speaking of public schools, did you notice the Glee folks thanked public school teachers in their acceptance speech?