July 31, 2015

Classroom Zoo #29 - Boo Boo Juice

Despite spending thousands of dollars for classroom supplies over the years, there comes a time where enough is enough. I am very appreciative of all the generosity of my district and community in terms of providing supplies. If I feel a certain item is crucial to student learning, I rarely hesitate to make a purchase. However, one particular item draws my ire. Though not directly related  connected to learning, not having this item or an accepted alternative creates chaos in the classroom. The item: bandages.

Kindergartners would use hundreds of these daily. Literally. No joke. I found this out my first year with five year old, injury-prone children. While the hyperbole related to their agony was high, the whining wouldn't ever end until that injury (even the small and/or invisible ones) was cared for. The comfort of that elastic against the skin worked wonders. Bandages also worked magic. They made money disappear.  Part of my weekly routine was raiding the nearest Walgreens. 

There must be a better way. And there is: Boo Boo Juice. Put a fancy label on a  water-filled spray bottle and problem solved. Non-blood injuries are resolved with one quick spray. Instant dropoffs in  "injuries," and aggravation.

July 30, 2015

Dadventures #20 - Pain Equals Pleasure

What is it about actual pain or the feigning injury or discomfort that makes babies and toddlers go crazy with laughter? Does your facial expression and/or tone stimulate hilarity? Is it because your reaction is unexpected? Or. . .are they just plain evil? Either way, when I bump into something (either accidentally or purposefully, but usually due to my clumsiness gene), my daughter is overcome with the giggles. Don't even get me started on hiccups. As if it were a reflex, I knock my noggin, she's bowling over with laughter. I stub my toe, she's hysterical. I smack my shin, she's in stitches. I wonder what would happen If I actually needed stitches. :) I guess i really shouldn't complain. Even though I injure myself on my own more than I'd like, I use the "fake injury" move to get her going or stop her from losing it. And while the pain is real most of the time, seeing her tears of happiness and hearing that contagious cackle do make the pain go away rather quickly.  Eventually, I hope her initial reaction to my ever so common casualties is more of concern, but until then, I'll just enjoy the laughter.

July 28, 2015

Classroom Zoo #28 - Tears

A new school year equals new adventure. New students. New families. New. . . tears. Being a kindergarten teacher, I expected tears. However, tears show up across the grade levels. In fact, I dealt with more tears on my 4th grade days. Bullies. Missing reading logs. Forgotten lunches. The joy (and pain) of being a teacher is simple. Teaching is just a small snippet of the job's responsibilities. Nurse. Therapist. Referee. These three other tasks tie in directly to the tears we deal with on a daily basis. There's always a need for a bandage or ice pack due to clumsiness or carelessness., so teachers have their nursing outfit at the ready. Words and rumors are exchanged among students that constantly require adult  intervention, attention, encouragement, or affection If only we had a proper couch to hear out all the children;s troubles. Squabbles about gameplay, materials, or just about anything else require teachers to don the referee uniform and be the arbitrator in the case. No matter what "job" the teacher is doing, rest assured there have been tears or will be some in the near future. It's an inevitable occurrence. Luckily, tissues are on the beginning of the school year supply lists.

July 27, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #145 - Lost Turtle

I've had a variety of  turtles. Painted turtles. Red-eared sliders. Wood tortoises. Box turtles. What started as an interest in aquatic turtles has moved to the much cleaner land-dwellers. I've enjoyed having turtles so much, I often get chided by my significant other. She requests I purchase some public access TV time and host a Turtle Talk show. I've had my fair share of turtle tragedies and scares. One such event was when I was turtle father to three sliders. After leaving my reptiles in the care of my roommate for a weekend, I returned to one less turtle. With no plausible escape route visible, I assumed the worst and confronted my roommate. To his astonishment and mine, he knew of no such situation. After wrapping our heads around the issue, we searched. Caught in the corner behind a bookshelf, he was dirty and dry but alive. Apparently, this death-defying adventurer squeezed his way out, plummeted nearly five feet to the carpet, stuck close to the wall and ventured around the perimeter of the room until there was nowhere left to roam. Based on the dustbunnies he uncovered, I knew I needed to foolproof my tank and clean my room.

July 26, 2015

A Readers Review

The 14th book of 2015 continued in a recent trend. I have been enthralled with outdoor education. This book did a very thorough job of showing easy and educational activities for children throughout the seasons. While it particularly aimed at parents and families, it could easily be converted to the classroom. And convert it I will do. :)

July 24, 2015

A Trip Through Time

I love having the ability to plan a trip on the fly. Today, for example, while randomly looking through my Facebook feed, I noticed there was a fur trade encampment at Pike Lake. With the Fur Trade Era in Wisconsin and surrounding areas being one of my favorite historical periods and being a regular guest to Pike Lake, it just made sense to go. 

When we arrived, we made a beeline to the voyageur ride. For those less experienced in the Fur Trade era, a voyageur was a French fur trader. Living a hard and fast-paced life, these men often started their grueling (but lucrative) career at about age 12. They didn't have much time to enjoy their rewards as their average life expectancy was about 25. The French tended to work for the Northwest Fur Trade Era while their English counterparts and competitors worked for the Hudson Bay Trading Company. Both companies fought for the attention (and usefulness) of the Native American tribes who were excellent fur trappers, a much sought after items for the fashion-forward Europeans. I don't want to bore you with too many details, but I just can't get enough of this time in our history.

The canoe we were able to ride was modeled after the 28-foot birchbark canoes commonly used at that time. We were able to experience a small version of the voyageur experience as we took a canoe ride, paddles and all, and even had a chance to portage, or carry our canoe when water wasn't accessible. Luckily for us, our portaging only lasted a few feet.

On the canoe, while the historian was giving a brief history of Wisconsin's role in the Fur Trade (and I was answering most of the questions), I was inundated with memories of teaching this to 4th graders. Good times. Jean Nicolet. Black Hawk;s War. Voyageur River Races.  Ahhh, the memories.

Besides the canoe, we toured tipis, had some delicious meet straight from the fire, learned how to load a  flintlock rifle, and read up on the current tribes of Wisconsin while observing their flags.

Of course, being on the water, we had to take a dip. Even through i forgot my trunks, Embry made sure to splash me so I could enjoy the refreshing water.

Of course, forgetting my trunks also meant forgetting the towels. No problem. Dadventures always find a way to have fun, even if it is impromptu. We decided to dry off while enjoying the playground just off the sand.

Another day. Another Dadventure!

July 23, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #144 - Outnumbered Again

I am in a perpetual cycle of being outnumbered by women. Some see it as a blessing. Others as a curse. It is what it is. It began as being the baby in a set of four children. Did I mention I am the only boy? I can only imagine the makeup and clothes my sisters had me in growing up. Growing up "alone,"  I sought social and creative expression through joining choir, which of course was dominated by girls. I survived choir throughout elementary and high school and arrived in college, ready to unfurl my wings. However, my shyness inhibited that and instead I did spend a good chunk of time with the opposite sex, but only serving as their surrogate boyfriends to distract meat-hungry males away from them at local drinking establishments. Of course, I gained valuable experience to help decipher the inner workings of the female persuasion. . .yeah right. My outnumbered experiences continue into adulthood as I teach elementary school and am active in a writing organization, both heavily dominated by the better half. Being outnumbered is comfortable for me. One would think all this experience with women would help me better understand them. Think again.

July 22, 2015

Classroom Zoo #27 - Many Names

I get called a lot of names in my classroom. At the beginning of the year, "Teacher" is the norm. As students figure out my name, "Mr. Dargatz" or close variations take over the year. Occasionally, a "Mr. D" slips in. I even allow for "Mr. Donut" if a student is gracious enough to bring in a delicious donut treat. However, as the year progresses, there are a few names I get called that warm my heart, even if they embarrass my students to no end. Whether asking for help with a math problem, searching for a book, or getting their shoes tied or jacket zipped, it is wonderful to be called "dad."  Heck, "mom" actually slips out more than often. I know it is just a slip of the tongue, but I also feel it connects to the comfort and safety they feel in the classroom, surrounded by people who genuinely care for them. Most students correct themselves immediately, looking around to make sure no one else heard. What's even better is when they do it and don't even realize it. It is one of those perks in the classroom, at least until I get called "Grandpa" or "Grandma."

July 21, 2015

Dadventures #19 First of Many

Embry has already been to many sporting events. She has responded quite well and absolutely loves the mascots. However, her first sporting event might have been the most memorable so far. 

May 28th, 2013

At six weeks of age, we weren't sure how long we would make it with our bundle. I think we were both surprised at how well she did and through we made it 9 innings, we missed a ton. This rivalry game with the Minnesota Twins lasted 14 innings. Brewers rookie shortstop tied a franchise record with six hits. The Italian won the sausage race in the 6th AND 12th. In our wonderful season tickets, we came the closest to getting a foul ball. Unfortunately, the Brewers lost 6-5.

Fast forward two years.

We go to games regularly, though Embry's attention has turned from the field to the playground. When she does manage to relax in our seats, she's enamored with Bernie Brewer's house, the fireworks, and the sausages. We still see Jean Segura. The sausages still race. We still come close to getting a ball. And unfortunately, the Brewers still lose more than we'd like.

But any day at the ballpark is a good one.

July 20, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #143 - Prepared

Imagine Y2K, a zombie apocalypse, and a flurry of natural disasters combined. Sounds like no one would be able to survive, right? Well, you'd be wrong. You've obviously never the privilege of experiencing my childhood basement. Literally can after can of carbonated beverage. A freezer stuffed to the brim with pizzas, pancakes, mozzarella sticks, and any other processed item available and imaginable. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. Need toiletries? Don't worry, we've got toilet paper rolls to spare.  Actually, dozens or so to spare. Please don't even get me started on paper towels, tissues, cotton balls, toothbrushes, toothpaste, crackers, mouthwash bottles, dish detergents, sponges, dryer sheets, disposable razors, assorted condiments, peanut butters, paper plates, napkins, soup cans, deodorant sticks, air freshener aerosols, and cookies. To me, this was normal. Heck, I didn't mind having a seemingly unending supply of soda, junk food, and random supplies always available. I know my friends didn't either. Today, the bunker of goods has diminished greatly, but still has elements of apocalyptic planning. In fact, I regularly joke with my father about his supply stash. But that chiding doesn't stop me from shopping at the Dargatz Store any chance I get.

July 16, 2015

Dadventures #18 - Long Nights

Even though I joke about psychologically pregnant, I know my experience pales in comparison to that of my wife. From the months of personal connection to the actual physical delivery, I will never be able to fully appreictae that typer of relationship with any of my children. However, those personal connections do relate to the process of breastfeeding. I know I am blessed to have such an amazing wife who sacrificed so much time, sleep, and sanity to nourish our daughter in the most critical months of development. I obviously don't have the parts needed for actual breastfeeding, but I can say I at least lived a small percentage of the process. Those first few weeks were very zombie-like, catching any winks of sleep possible between feedings and changings. It was a cycle. Feed. Change. Sleep. Repeat. I remember being exhauted. Because of that exhaustion, I remember the feeling of guilt that encompassed me as I realized the physical toll was so minimal compared to that of my wife. I felt some mental relief when I was able to bottle-feed my daughter and give Mom somewhat of a break. It just wasn't the sa.me. Women are definitely the better half.

July 15, 2015

Down in the Dumps (Both of 'em)

Both are time-consuming.

Both are necessary.

Both seem to go on and on, with many times feeling like little to no progress is even being made.

But when the deed is done, sweet relief sets in. Until you have to do it all over again.

Any ideas?

Well, both activities can be crudely summed up using one word: dump.

Today has revolved around two activities. Yard waste and potty training. In other words, loading up the car and bringing yard waste to the dump and potty training my daughter to help her. . .well, you know.

Cut down branches. Pile up debris. Take daughter to potty. Carry debris to car. Load up car. Take debris to dump. Come home. Take daughter to potty. Repeat.

In oth situations, with every trip, you feel closer to being finished, only to find out there's so much left to do.

Well, break time is over. Back to the dump. Which one you may ask? Take your pick.


July 14, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #142 - Floor Sleeping

For reasons still unknown to me, I spent a good chunk of my childhood using my living room floor as my bed. It's not that I was neglected and bedless. I had a perfectly fine bunkbed in my own room. I guess the nightly ritual of watching television until passing out was more desirable then the ergonomic advantages of an actual mattress. This has no scientific evidence to support it, but I believe the fact that I spent all this time on the floor has allowed me to relax in positions that when seen by others, provide for instantaneous cringing and cramping. However, after a family road trip to Green Bay and realizing the comfort available through a regular bed, I remember the moment it hit me. I was lying in the motel bed and just blurted out, "I'm not sleeping on the floor anymore" as if this declaration was groundbreaking to everyone else. Regardless, I remember the moment of truth as I freed myself from the shackles of floor-sleeping and picked my blankets and pillow up from the living room floor, carried them courageously to the bedroom, and threw them to the top bunk. never to lay flat again.

July 13, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #141 - Lucky Me???

To say I am dense is quite an understatement. Sometimes, things stare me straight in the face and I don't see them. This is extremely evident in my occasional excursions with the opposite sex, before I was lucky enough to find the love of my life, I tried desperately to gain the attention of females. More often than not, I misread signals, imagined interest from others, or plain fixated on something that wasn't there, while at the same time ignoring opportunities right in front of me. . .literally. One such missed opportunity involved a co-worker during my college days. Both working after hours, I should have been more aware that things were more than what they seemed when she asked if I wanted to see her new tattoo. Oblivious to her obvious attempts to seduce me, she showed me her new ink, which happened to be the words "Lucky You" positioned just above a certain part of the female anatomy. Looking back, I am very glad I didn't get lucky that evening, but the lonely walk home to my dorm room that night was truly the ultimate walk of shame. I wonder how she and that tattoo are holding up.

July 12, 2015

A Readers Review

Lucky book 13 was one of the most inspiring yet. I am hoping to one day work in a forest school. I hope to begin the process at my current position and this book offered so many wonderful insights on how to not only connect curriculum to the outdoors but to build and maintain a community of outdoor learners and partners. 

As I read this book, I was literally inundated with ideas and excitement about the possibilities this has for my school and the children that will be a part of it for years to come, This would be a massive undertaking that would take time, dedication, and persistence. However, the payoff would be considerable as this would provide rich, real-world learning and life experiences for students, teachers, and the community. 

July 11, 2015

Classroom Zoo #26 - It's Not About Getting It Right, It's About Doing It Right

Cheating in the classroom is one of my biggest pet peeves. Even at 5 years old, kids seem to have the idea that they NEED to be right engrained into their minds. It takes away their creativity, stifles their risk-taking, and frustrates the heck out of their teacher. When kids come across the smallest difficulty, many of their instincts is to check in with their neighbor rather than think it through. It's all about getting it done, at any costs.  I have seen children cheat on questions that literally have no wrong answers. I feel guilty as I feel responsible for helping nurture them into confident and "willing to fail" learners. Plus, as silly as it may sound, it would sort of nice to see those "guilty" to at least improve their sneakiness skills as they are usually caught quite easily and often cheat off of someone just as clueless as they are. By no means am I suggesting that I want my students to become better cheaters, but adapting and improving is always a goal across all academic and social situations. I aim to grow in my patience and flexibility in order to assist children as they need it.

July 10, 2015

Dadventures #17 - A Zoo of a Trip

It's amazing how quickly a car can fill up for a new parent. Preparing for the worst often leads to the worst actually occurring. When you escape the comforts of home and venture out into the real world for what feels like the first time, it is hard to enjoy yourself fully as your attention is on the newest addition to your family. In fact, this anxiety and planning (and overplanning is some cases, underplanning in others) makes every trip out of the house a zoo.

That being said, imagine what an actual trip to the zoo would be like. After packing up more than you even know you had, you are finally ready to go enjoy the sight and sounds before stress and worry takes over, second-guessing your packing, doubting if you are ready. Then, you arrive, pack everything up, attempt to enjoy your day, stopping frequently to check on everything. Eventually, you decide you've had enough. So, you re-pack and return to the safety of your own home.

Of course, as time goes on, your attention to detail tends to as well. It's not that you care any less than before. You just change what you care about.

July 9, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #140 - Coolest College Student Ever???

Attending a university known for partying, there were endless opportunities to delve into the world of alcohol and promiscuous debauchery. However, my grades suffered in my freshman year for a much less exciting distraction: cable television. Having the ability to watch pretty much anything at any time was much more intriguing to me than hitting the books. I didn't party, I didn't study, I didn't chase girls (or at least catch any.) Rather, I watched crappy television. A lot of it. Most Friday nights followed a pattern. I did laundry, ordered cheesesticks from the cafeteria, and plopped down to whatever sporting event or B-movie was on the tube, usually with some Limp Bizkit blaring from my stereo. I was quite the catch in my college days. Interestingly enough, cable television is what brought me into the drinking world. My first alcohol encounter occurred with a buddy from my Bible Study group, and we drank Smirnoffs while watching playoff hockey in the alcohol-free dorm. We were living on the wild side. Though I haven't gained many more cool points since this plateau of awesomeness, at least I am now less dependent on terrible television and a much improved connoisseur of beer. 

July 7, 2015

Discovering Dargatz #139 - Wrestling Anywhere and Everywhere

Major sports and entertainment venues.  State fairs. Basements of bars. High school gymnasiums. American Legion Halls. I've seen wrestling shows pretty much everywhere and anywhere. From the major promotions to smaller independent ones, when a wrestling show is within reach, there's a good chance I'll be there. Wrestling  isn't fake, it's scripted. If people get away with watching soap operas and reality TV, then people should be able to enjoy wrestling, which is basically a combination of both genres. It's been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember. I would skip out early on church by either feigning illness or pestering my father until he complied just so I could sprint home to catch the final minutes of the weekly Sunday morning show. I would wear out the wrestling VHS tapes at my local video store. I would do extra chores on Saturday mornings to be able  to stay up and watch wrestling on Saturday nights, just to get upset with my father when I inevitably fell asleep prior to the show's start and he wouldn't wake me up. It was a part of my childhood, and continues to be an interest into adulthood.

July 1, 2015

A Readers Review

Unfortunately, because of the frenzy in my life , book 12 took a whole lot longer to complete than it probably should have. That being said, it gave excellent insight and a boatload of ideas and activities parents can (and in my opinion, should) do to "slow down" and enjoy life rather than just be a part of it.  I know I often struggle with this and with my daughter growing up, I am sure it will only get crazier unless I take the time and energy to slow down and take the time to enjoy the moments that make life worth living.

Shalom Wildlife Sanctuary

I'm a big fan of hidden gems, so maybe this post will hurt my cause of finding peaceful places to unwind and enjoy nature, but this place was way too good to not share. A friend referred me back a  few months ago and I finally made it. Combining animals, nature, history, and lots of authentic and active educational opportunities for children, this place and my personality are a match made in heaven.  I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend a visit to Shalom Wildlife Sanctuary in West Bend Wisconsin. Please enjoy a small sampling of the fun we had.
Holding a baby albino skunk. Don't worry the "stinker" was removed

Very extensive Native American history dissemination and artifacts collection

Toddlers know no fear

Learn while you burn!

Not the usual Ice Age Trail yellow blaze, but worth "bopping" anyways

Watch out world!

Hard to take steps without seeing these tiny toads

Where's Embry?

What.  .don't tell me you've never done the Heisman pose with a tortoise?

Ssssssssssssssssssssssss. .  .

Just an antler too short