25 Signs Your Child is not a Toddler Anymore

I get to spend a lot more time with my kids over the summer.  It hit me the other day that the boys are really not toddlers anymore.  It was kind of a sad and surreal moment for me.  Like how did this happen without me realizing it?


It’s something that I want and yet don’t want at the same time.  I mean, things are a lot easier with them being less dependent on me for everything but at the same time… I don’t know, it’s just weird.  I don’t think that it was any one thing that led me to the conclusion that they are out of that phase.  It was more of a mix of different things.  So here are 25 signs that your child is not a toddler anymore.

  1. When you let them help you with the dishes or other chores, it actually saves you time instead of adding more time to the task.
  2. When they run up to you crying and you ask them what happened, the story that they tell you is intelligible and coherent.
  3. When they brush their teeth on their own, you walk away believing that their teeth are in fact cleaner than when they began.
  4. Their drawings actually resemble what they say they drew.
  5. They can buckle themselves into their own car seat.
  6. They stop constantly eating things that are not food
    (i.e. crayons, rocks, spiders, socks, etc.)
  7. The people they mention in their prayers at night include people outside their immediate family.
  8. They don’t cry for haircuts anymore.
  9. They stop growling at strangers in Wal-Mart/Aldi, etc.
  10. They stop caring as much about what color plate they get at lunch.
  11. They don’t use their spoon to drink water out of their cup anymore.
  12. They can actually sit through an entire 30 min episode of a show.
  13. You can let them eat their lunch on the couch.
  14. They realize that it doesn’t make sense that the characters in Veggietales pick things up when they don’t have hands.
  15. When they can sit still enough that cutting their fingernails doesn’t feel like you’re going to dismember them.
  16. There are several activities you can no longer do indoors because too much stuff gets broken. i.e. soccer, kickball, wrestling, coloring, eating anything spherical, etc.
  17. They understand your sarcasm and respond in kind.
  18. Having them clean up their own spills, messes, toys, etc. does not take significantly longer than just doing it yourself.
  19. You can trust them to get dressed and remember all the essentials.
  20. If they’re in a different room and you don’t hear them for 15 seconds you don’t automatically assume something has been destroyed (Again, with Izaiah, this doesn’t actually apply…we always assume something has been destroyed).
  21. They can actually chew gum without just swallowing it after 10 seconds.
  22. When you pitch the wiffleball and then flinch because that sucker might be coming back at you pretty fast.
  23. When they just climb over the baby gate so you leave it open.
  24. When naps become an “if” not a “when.”
  25. When they remember medications that they need better than you do.

Like I said, it kind of a bittersweet feeling that at least two of my kiddos are no longer toddlers.  I’d like to here some of the things that your kids did or signs that you saw to show you when you knew yours weren’t toddlers any longer.  Please leave any stories in the comments section.  As always, if you enjoyed this post, please follow the blog by clicking in the lower right corner.

Mexican Chicken Cornbread Casserole

So let me start by saying that I had to look up how to spell the word “casserole.”  Spelling has never been my strong suite.  If you have ever come over to have dinner at our house, chances are pretty good that you’ve had this dish.  It’s a staple of our family so I thought that I would do my first recipe on the blog.  This is one our favorites.  It’s a little spicy but not so spicy that the kids don’t eat it.  I’ll throw in some modifications to it at the end so that if you make it, you can adapt it to fit your own tastes.  Let’s start out with what is in the dish.


2 medium boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 can of black beans (drained)

1 can of cream corn

1 12oz bag of frozen corn

1 4oz can of fire roasted diced chiles

1 can of diced tomatoes (drained)

1 package of taco seasoning

1 package of sliced mozzarella cheese

1 8.5oz box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix

1 egg

1/3 cup of milk (whichever milk you want. I use whole milk)


Step One

Preheat the oven to 250.  Boil the chicken breasts in a large saucepan until they are cooked thoroughly and then pull them apart using two fork.  The chicken should separate into small stringy pieces.  Place the pulled chicken into a large mixing bowl.

Step Two

Add the beans, cream corn, frozen corn, chiles, tomatoes, and taco seasoning into the bowl with the chicken. Mix it all together thoroughly.

Step Three

Spread the mix into a 9″ x 13″ glass pan.  Place the slices of mozzarella cheese on top of the mixture.

Step Four

Prepare the Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix according to the directions on the box.  Add the mix, egg, and milk and stir together.  Usually, I use a fork to do this and it works pretty well.  Spread the mix on top of the cheese slices.

Step Five

Bake the casserole at 250 for 45 min.

Step Six

Increase the oven temperature to 400.  Bake the casserole for an additional 15 min or until the middle of the cornbread mix is baked through.  If the edges start browning too quickly, decrease the oven temperature to make sure that the cornbread is cooked all the way without burning.  Stick a fork into the middle of the dish.  It should come out clean.

Step Seven

Eat the food Tina!


Here are some additional options.

Vegetarian (Not absolutely Vegan)

Substitute 2 cups of brown rice for the chicken.  Brown rice and black beans in combination with each other provide all the essential amino acids to create a complete protein.  When preparing the brown rice, try adding lime juice or lemon juice to water for a citrusy flavor.  I’ve found flavoring rice by adding things to the water can go a long way in creating unique tastes without adding a lot of additional calories.  If you are a strict vegan, then use a vegan cheese and a vegan cornbread mix.  I have never used it, but Jiffy does have a vegetarian cornbread mix with directions on how to and what to substitute to make vegan cornbread.

More Spice?

If you’re like me, you like a little heat in your meals.  You can add some heat to this one pretty easily.  You can simply add red pepper flakes to the casserole mix.  You could add some fresh diced jalapenos to the cornbread mix.  Or you could substitute a hotter pepper for the fire roasted diced chiles.  One time I made this, I added diced chipotle peppers in adobo sauce because ALDI doesn’t have the fire roasted diced chiles…I liked it a lot.  The rest of my family couldn’t eat it.

More Cheese Please?

Because who doesn’t like more cheese in their life?  You can add a cup of shredded cheddar cheese to the cornbread mix before you spread it on top.  It adds more cheese and more flavor but also more calories and more expenses.


Well, that’s all for the first recipe.  If you actually try it at home, please comment and let me know how you liked it or if you needed to make any modifications (i.e. cooking times and temps, etc.)  If you did anything else to change the recipe with ingredients or something, please comment as well with what you did and how it turned out.  Hope you enjoy this.  As always, please follow the blog by clicking on the link in the lower right hand corner of the page.  Thanks for reading.


June Recap

Happy July everyone!  June was a ridiculously busy month at our house so it’s literally been over a month since my last post.  Here’s a quick recap.

I turned 31…not really a big deal.  Just another year.  However, I have titled it my “Offspring Birthday.”  If you remember the song “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” by Offspring, there’s a part that says. “He’s gettin a tattoo yeah he’s getting it done. He asked for a thirteen but they drew a thirty-one.”…corny I know.  It just popped into my head one day and I ran with it.

Speaking of running.  I completed the first, and most likely last, 50 mile race of my life.  My good friend Alex Woody convinced/coerced me into doing it with him.  To his credit, he hung back with me until about mile 32 before he took off.  I finished in 12 hours and 34 minutes.  To me, the only important part of that sentence is the first two words. I finished.  Coming into the race, I was only running 2-3 times a week and my longest training run was 16 miles.  My second longest training run was about 5 sooooo…. yeah.  Finishing was an accomplishment in and of itself.  I don’t know where I’m going next as far as training.  However, I do know that for the rest of my life, I can now say that I completed a 50 mile race.

Anya also had a birthday in June.  She is an insanely active baby.  This is probably a survival skill given to her because of her older brothers.  She is at least as energetic, if not more so, than either of the boys.  Our house is never quiet and still.  Until Joshua’s next birthday, we currently have a one year old, a two year old, and a three year old.  It’s fun, exhausting, frustrating, and amazing all at the same time.

Work-wise, HSA Denison Elementary is sadly closed down for good now.  It’s been really hard for me.  I’ve spent the last six years pouring myself into that school and that student body.  It really hurts to leave.  However, I am staying with the same company, Concept Schools, and transferring to one of our schools on the east side of Cleveland.  I am excited and nervous at the same time for the opportunity there.

I also got an Instagram.  One of the literary agents to whom I sent my books wrote back to me saying that he loved them but that I didn’t have a strong enough online platform for him to represent me.  One of the ways of building that online platform is through Instagram.  You can follow me at @erik_steidl if you feel like it.  Actually please do.  Also, if you’re reading this blog and haven’t actually followed the blog yet, please do that as well.  There should be a link it the lower right corner of your screen.  It will then ask you for an email address and send you a confirmation email.  Sometimes it goes to Spam though.  It is still a huge dream of mine to become a published author of children’s books.  I’ve been working really hard with editing, networking, and doing consultations to accomplish this.

Well, that’s basically a recap of where we are in life right now.  We hope and pray that your lives are amazing and blessed.

Teacher Interview Mrs. Calaiacovo

There are a few people in my life who I credit with helping to shape me into who I am today.  I had the pleasure of interviewing one of them, Mrs. Calaiacovo.  She was my Spanish teacher during my junior year at Medina High School.  She is one of the reasons I ended up going to college to become a teacher in the first place.  I really enjoy some the perspective that she brings as a veteran teacher.  Up until now, most of my interviews have been with teachers who are relatively young in their teaching careers.  I hope you enjoy Mrs. Calaiaovo’s wisdom as much as I did.

Erik – Can you give us a history of your teaching experience? Where have you worked and for how long?  What you have taught?

L.C. – In 1993 after graduating from Toledo I taught at Medina Jr. High/Claggett Middle School for 5 years teaching Language Arts and Spanish.  In 1998 I moved to Medina High School and have taught Spanish here since. Levels 1-3.

Erik – What is your favorite class that you have ever taught?

L.C. – I love teaching Spanish III.  The kids know enough vocabulary that I can stay in the target language most of the time and we still teach Destinos, the Spanish soap opera.  I like to teach grammar using “real world” situations from the drama to make it more meaningful for the kids.

Erik – Most of the teachers that I have interviewed so far have been very new to the profession.  I’m excited to get the perspective of someone who has been doing it for a little bit longer. How do you keep things fresh year to year?  What keeps you motivated?

L.C. – I never think that what I do is perfect; I always think there is room for improvement.  How to get more repetitions, how to be more efficient, how to make things more engaging. That is what keeps me motivated:  always striving to be better than the year before. Sometimes I get sick of teaching the same thing year after year so I try to change things up so it does not sound “tired” to my students.  

Erik – Aside from the obviously stellar class of 2006, are there any students or years in general that are extremely memorable to you?

L.C. – Of course!  We all have our favorite students.  My favorites are the ones I really connected with and could talk to, and were not always stellar students.  They were the fun kids who made class enjoyable. They were the ones who were energetic. Facebook is a great way to follow students who have graduated to see the amazing lives they lead.  After 25 years of teaching some of my students have kids that are now in the school system here at Medina!

Erik – What are some of the craziest things that you’ve witnessed?

L.C. – Crazy to me is simply not caring.  The crazy thing is that if kids would just put forth a little effort, they could do well.  I don’t understand kids who don’t value an education, but I think a lot of that comes from home.  

But I know you want bizarre:  so a 7th grader picked up a desk and threw it across the room.  I had a tile floor so it slid all the way across the room to the wall.  He was angry about something silly. By the way he was in jail before he graduated from high school.  

Erik – Aside from teaching, what other things are you involved in at the school?

L.C. – I am super involved in Student Council.  It consumes my life! I have a passion for leadership training for teens and love working on projects with the kids.  I have evolved StuCo into more of a service learning organization which has kept things new and exciting for me. I travel with my StuCo kids and take them to leadership workshops to help them with their leadership skills.  I probably spend more time during the week doing StuCo things than Spanish things, and I spend a lot of time preparing for Spanish classes!

Erik – What things do you do outside of school?

L.C. – My favorite sport is volleyball and I play indoor and sand.  I love doing classes at the rec center, walking, running, biking and spending time with my family and friends.  I am not a TV watcher and rarely sit. I like to be out and moving.

Erik – One of the things you told me when I first started teaching was that sometimes you just have to “Close the door and teach.” It’s some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten.  Can you elaborate on it? What are some of the specific ways that has applied to you over the years?

L.C. – There will always be distractions.  The state expects so much, the district, your department, your principal, that it seems sometimes they all forget that we are here to teach kids.  It is important to be able to shut out the drama and distractions and focus on your students and just work with them without being preoccupied with the other million expectations.  My main job is to teach students Spanish. They don’t have to love Spanish, but I do expect them to try to learn. They know when a teacher is not “all in” and then they don’t put forth the effort.  

Some times of year are harder than others.  I try to remember when I have 97 things going on that I just need to close my door and teach and forget everything else for that 43 minutes.

Erik – With summer fast approaching (Well…fastish), do you have any big plans?

L.C. – I am taking a group of students (StuCo and Spanish) to the Dominican Republic for a service trip.  We will be doing eco-tourism projects in the middle of the island. We were there in 2014 and I am excited to go back.  My family will also be going to Ireland, a trip we have always wanted to take. My son graduates in May so we have all the grad festivities and parties.  Volleyball and lots of working out, working on projects around the house and spending time with family will make a fast summer! I try to work on some school stuff a few days a week as well.

Erik – There are times when teaching is a simply exhausting profession.  Aside from “Close your door and teach.” is there any other advice that you would give to a first year teacher?

L.C. – Time management is huge to me.  As teachers we are pulled in so many directions and it can be overwhelming to try to keep up with it all.  I don’t waste a minute. While my kids are working on their bell ringers/warm up activities, I do attendance, talk to kids that were absent the day before, grade a couple tests, answer an email.  If we do a book exercise I tell the kids they have 90 seconds or 2 minutes, or whatever time I think it should take, then we go over it and move on. 43 minute periods can go by quickly and it is hard to teach everything without using all the time.  Kids stay engaged when there is no time for chatting or waiting around. This also cuts down on discipline issues, which I think is a huge hurdle for first year teachers. Kids don’t have time to fool around because we constantly move from one activity to the next.  Also, I try not to do any activity for too long so kids don’t get bored. 5-7 activities per class period keeps it fresh and makes time fly!

Erik – Do you remember any teachers in your life that made huge impressions or had a major impact?

L.C. – I had a speech teacher in high school that I just loved and she is the reason I majored in English/Speech.  She was kind, understanding, fair and fun. I think we remember teachers who made us feel good, but we don’t necessarily remember their curriculum and lessons!

Dandelions and Graduation

Every year in the spring, when I first start having to mow the yard again, I’m always reminded of something that my Grandpa Steidl used to say.  “If dandelions were hard to grow, people would want them in their yards.” I find this saying to have meaning on several different levels.  First, I think it could mean that although most people think of dandelions as a weed, they are a flower and do have beauty.

However, I think that another meaning is that part of the value and beauty of a flower is that it takes time and a lot of effort to cultivate.  A rose is considered more beautiful and valuable than a flower because it doesn’t generally just grow on its own.  You have to nurture it and work for it.  I think this is true of many things.  When you have to work for them, you appreciate them more.

This is where graduation comes in.  Yesterday was the last day of the school year for the sixth grade students at our school.  It was honestly a very emotional day for me.  As I said goodbye to many children that I’ve taught since they were in the first grade.  They are like flowers.  It took a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of energy to get them to bloom.  I saw them grow from tiny little six year old kids to almost teenagers.  Many of our students come to us not even knowing the alphabet.  To see them grow from that to being independent readers and writing full five paragraph essays is a true joy.

It’s always a bittersweet moment at “graduation.” (I know that they’re sixth graders and it’s not actually graduation).  On one hand, it’s really sad to see them go.  On the other hand, I take pride in the feeling of accomplishment as they walk out the door prepared for seventh grade and hopefully prepared in some respects for the rest of their lives.

Zordan and His Lover: A Classical Romance

If any of you have read the past couple of short fiction pieces I posted and thought, “This dude is really weird,” well, the foundation for that goes back well into my primary grade years.  My mom recently gave me a box of things she had saved from elementary school.  Included in that was a story I had written in fourth grade titled “A City Slicker in Texas.”  It was a relatively normal story if not a little quirky.  However, over the weekend, Jordan Tekulve, a good friend of mine, sent me a copy of a story I wrote in sixth grade titled “Zordan and His Lover: A Classical Romance.”  Oh boy.  There were many times that I simply laughed out loud as I read it.  It must have actually been for a class grade because there are teacher comments from Mrs. O’Brien included at the bottom.

As a teacher now, I think back to how she must have felt as she read it.  Her comments were “Interesting opening paragraph!  Your story is unique, different from the others.  Great Title!”  Again, from a teacher’s perspective, when you don’t know what else to say about a student’s work but don’t want to hurt his feelings, you say it is interesting, unique, and different.  I’m laughing at my desk as I write this imagining her reading it and trying to find words to describe it.

Here are the pictures of the story.  As you read, please remember that I was in sixth grade when I wrote it and don’t judge too harshly.  I was a weird kid.  I’ll share my thoughts on it afterwards.



Zordan2My first reaction is to notice all the grammar and punctuation mistakes.  I’m hoping that there are actually many more periods in between the sentences than what I’m seeing and that it’s simply a matter of photo quality that I can’t see them.

My second thought is that the title is very misleading.  The story is neither classical nor truly a romance.   I guess I tried to pull the old bait and switch on Mrs. O’Brien to get her interested.

My third thought is that the ending is very abrupt.  Maybe there was a maximum word count that I had to stay under and needed to cut it off that way…at least I hope so.

I also read that the story is set in 2021.  I wrote this in 1999.  It’s funny how looking back, I thought that 2021 was sooooo far in the distance future.  Now it is three years away.  I was right about hoverboards though…kind of.

Reading this also brings back a flood of memories in regards to the context of it.  I believe that the protagonist, Zordan, is actually based on Jordan Tekulve.  I don’t remember who his love interest was at the time.  I’m trying to read into the name I chose, Kristin F. Uller, to remember.  I don’t remember a Kristen Fuller.  If anyone reading this, (Jordan cough cough) can shed any light, I would appreciate it.  I believe that I gave it to him to keep because he was the main character.  I remember that Matthias Luff is actually Matt Huff.  It’s funny because he actually did end up in the armed forces.  I am not entirely sure which branch and do not want to insult him by saying the wrong one.

Well, there’s some insight into the mind of 6th grade Erik Steidl.  Hope you guys enjoy it.


Teacher Interview – Ellyn Lykins

Hey Everyone!  So it’s been almost two weeks since I last posted on here.  The reason for that is that we’re now in the middle of something known as testing season.  Theologically, I’m not sure what I believe about the concept of purgatory.  However, if there is such a place, then any teacher sent there will spend their time doing nothing but proctoring standardized tests until they have received penance for their sins…or until 85% of the class has tested at a proficient level. Either way, it can be as soul draining as it is time consuming.  However, in the midst of all that, Ellyn Lykins took the time to be the subject of the next teacher interview.  I found her responses to the questions to be thoughtful, heartfelt, and passionate.  I want to start by thanking her so much for spending her precious time doing this.  Enjoy this insight into an amazing and passionate teacher.

Erik – First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to do this.  I know that now we’re in the middle of testing season (an unfortunate reality for us these days) and you’re probably really busy but it means a lot.

Erik – Can you start by just giving a history of your teaching experience?  Like where you’ve worked and in what grades?

Ellyn – For one year after college, I worked for Americorps as a literacy program specialist and tutor in neighborhood centers on the East side of Cleveland. During that time, I worked with mostly elementary and middle school students. The next year, I worked as a high school English teacher in a private school serving 9th-12th grade students with Autism. Currently, I am teaching 7th-grade language arts for my fourth year at Visintainer Middle School in Brunswick. I’ve liked working with all age groups for different reasons, but 7th graders are especially awesome!

Erik – Do you have any plans for the rest of your career?  Do you plan to continue teaching or do you think you might want to go into admin at some point?

Ellyn – As of this year, I cannot see myself working in a setting that doesn’t involve being in the classroom and working directly with students. I have considered going back to get a license in administration, but I cannot honestly imagine being a principal. It seems really stressful, and I don’t think I’d sleep at night. Plus, I feel most fulfilled when I’m teaching; time is irrelevant when I’m in the middle of a good lesson.

Erik – What inspired you to be a teacher in the first place?  Is there any kind of a story there?

Ellyn – There is no “aha” moment for me. I can’t say that teaching was something I knew I was going to do growing up. Most of teenage years, I wanted to become a hairstylist. When I started at OU, I declared my major to be East Asian Studies. Sometime during my sophomore year, I decided to take a teaching course, then soon chose to teach English because it seemed like the best option. I’m not really sure why I chose to pursue teaching, but I do remember thinking many of my teachers growing up were the happiest adults. They were people I wanted to emulate.

Erik – Who were some of the teachers that really had an impact on your life when you were in school?  Why do you think they had that impact?

Ellyn – Elaine Taylor was my art teacher at Medina High School. I am friends with her on Facebook now, so she may see this! I always wanted to be in her classroom. Even if I had a study hall, I would find a way to spend it in her room working on my art projects. It was my happy place. She created an environment that was warm and comfortable; I felt like I could be myself. Likewise, Pat Werger, my art teacher from A.I. Root Middle School, was incredible. I remember thinking of her as my teacher but also thinking she was the coolest adult ever. She had so many interests that she shared with us, and she embraced everyone’s weirdness. I always wanted to be in her classroom, too. If I wasn’t a language arts teacher, I’d want to be an art teacher. I also remember my 7th-grade team of teachers at A.I. Root Middle School. The teachers were fun and energetic, but more importantly, they seemed to really like being at school everyday. It was my favorite year of school. Oddly enough, I am now a 7th-grade teacher, and I hope my students think that I like being at school!

Erik – What are some of your best memories as a teacher so far?  Are there any students you’ve had that stand out specifically?

Ellyn – I will never forget the students that I worked with at the school for Autism. That was my first year with my own classroom, and I only had 14 students, so I got to know them all very well. Many of the students had been removed from their home school districts. The school was– in a sense– a last resort for them. They needed supportive adults in their lives so badly, and I wanted to support them in every way I could. During my time at Visintainer Middle School, I have had so many experiences with students that I will cherish forever. Language arts is a special subject to teach because I get to talk about so many interesting aspects of life with students all the time. This year will be memorable to me; it is the first year I have really slowed down enough to enjoy the little moments with the kids. In previous years, I was working on (and stressing over) many new teacher requirements. Now I realize that I’m helping kids grow up which is an awesome privilege, and I have to treasure it!

Erik – We’re now about six weeks away from summer break.  Any big plans?

Ellyn – Usually over summer break, I take on extra jobs (tutoring, babysitting, etc). This is the first year I will not be doing that! I am very excited to be going on a trip to Norway with my husband, my brother, and sister-in-law at the beginning of June. I am also signed up to take tennis lessons! My goal is to master the art of relaxing more so than I have in the past. Last summer (and pretty much my whole life), I have constantly felt the need to be busy. To encourage myself to relax, I’m going to buy a hammock.

Erik – I’ve found a lot of times that teachers always have a lot of side projects going on like writing, art, music, crafting, being a teacher-author on teacherspayteachers.com, etc.  Do you have any of those?

Ellyn – At the moment, I don’t have any side projects going on other than trip planning. I would consider that a hobby. I have written and shared pieces of writing a few times in the past, and it is something that I’d like to keep doing. I’ve also done some freelance editing. Writing is definitely a passion for me. You also mentioned teacherspayteachers.com. I have thought about submitting curriculum materials to the website many times. I think this summer I may submit a few! Why not?

Out of the mouth of babes

In, “Attack of the Clones,” the second episode of the Star Wars saga, Master Yoda says, “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.”  In my six years of teaching, I have found that Master Yoda is absolutely correct in this.  At times, children think so simplistically, while at the same time employing fantastical imaginations.  Either way, the results are almost always entertaining.  Take our three year old son Joshua for example.  I forget what exactly prompted him to say this, but the other day I was doing something where I was standing between him and the television.  He looks at me and says, “Come on come on, just sit down ya old man.” It took me off guard so much I just burst out in laughter.  I have no idea where he heard that.  Here are some other times from this week when kids have just said some of the strangest or funniest stuff to me.

The other day, I was buckling Joshua and Izaiah in the van.  Izaiah looked at me and said, “No daddy, I just want to hang on this time.”  I looked at him and said, “Izaiah, let’s just make it a rule that whenever we’re in the van driving, you just “hanging on” is not really an option ok buddy?”

Today in first grade one of the boys walked up to me and said, “Mr. Steidl, can I go to the bathroom?  I really have to poop.  I farted twice already and I think the other kids can smell it.”

One of our first graders stole another one’s Lunchable and had it in his desk.  It was the one with crackers, meat, and cheese.  He had already opened it and assembled a few of the little sandwiches (it was about 9:30 in the morning mind you).  When confronted, he said he shouldn’t get in trouble because he hadn’t actually eaten any of the crackers yet.

My first graders know that my bald spot itches whenever I eat something really spicy.  So now, any time I reach up to scratch my bald spot they ask me if I’m eating anything spicy.  I’m like, “No, I’ve been standing in front of you talking for 45 minutes.  Have you seen me eat anything spicy?”

Our morning discussion question was “If you had a robot and could program it to do anything, what would you do with it?”  We had some great answers.

Student – “I would have it take me to Mexico.”  Me – “Do you speak Spanish?”  Student – “No.”  Me – “Then why would you want it to take you to Mexico?”  Student – “So I could go shopping.”  Me – “You just want to go shopping in Mexico?”  Student – “Yes.”  Me – “….ok.”

“I would make it dab…and beat up my sister.”

“I would have it transform into dirt bikes and race cars and stuff…..and feed me apples.  I really like apples.”

“I just want it to play video games with me.”

“I would have it bring all my dolls to life to have a tea party with me.”

Student – “I would have it turn my lights off for me.”  Me – “That’s all you want it to do?  You can program it to do anything.”  Student – “Yeah, sometimes I get in bed and forget to turn my lights off.  I hate that.”  Me – “Ok…you know that they already have this thing that you just clap your hands and it turns the lights off.” (Five students clap their hands) “Well we don’t have one in here…but they do have them.”  (Disappointed sighs)  They spent the rest of the day clapping in each room they went into to see if that room had the clap off lights.  They were sorely disappointed each time.

We read this book in first grade by Eric Carle called, The Tiny Seed.  In it, one of the flowers gets picked by a boy who gives it to a girl.  Well, the book says that he gives it to a friend.  Of course when the kids sawthat it’s a boy giving a flower to a girl they all yelled “Eeeewwww.” One girl in the front row turned around and said “No guys they’re just friends” (Air quotes as she says just friends).  Then she winked and they all yelled, “Eeeeeewwwww!!!!” even louder.

I made the mistake of telling a knock knock joke to the kindergarten kids at lunch.  There is nothing worse than 15 min of kindergarteners making up their own knock knock jokes…except 20 min of them making up their own knock knock jokes.  That would be worse.  Here were some of them.

Knock Knock.  Who’s there?  Chicken nuggets and super stackers.  Chicken nuggets and super stackers who? (blank stare looking at me then) …….IT’S YOU!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!! They all laughed uproariously.  I didn’t get it.

Knock knock.  Who’s there?  Mr. Steidl.  Mr. Steidl who?  ……IT’S YOU!!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!!  Same punchline.  I still didn’t get it.

Finally I made one up.  Knock knock.  Who’s there?  Mr. Steidl.  Mr. Steidl who?  Mr. Steidl who doesn’t want to hear any more knock knock jokes! BAHAHAHA!!!!…. now they didn’t get it.

But yeah.  That was my day today.



Things I say

I have several goals for myself as a teacher.  I want to prepare my students academically, emotionally, and socially for the rest of their lives.  I want to provide them with a safe environment both physically and emotionally while they’re here.  I want them to leave my classroom simply as a better person than when they walked in.  However, one of the things for which I strive, as I think we all do, is to simply be someone that they remember.

There are several schools of thought on this.  First, there’s the cliche that “Students won’t remember everything you taught them but they will always remember how you made them feel.”  So for this, I do try to always provide a welcoming environment in which the students feel safe and accepted.  However, I have found that one of the things that the students remember most about me is the quirky things that I say.  My first year, when I was coaching the basketball team, to get them to stop talking so we could coach, I would yell “Lock it up and take a knee!”  Just last year, I saw one of my old basketball players and he quite literally asked me if I still told kids to lock it up.  I’m proud to say I do.  However, I just say and do a lot of quirky things to try to keep the classroom fun and entertaining and keep the students engaged.  I think overall, if ten years from now, students look back and think, “Man, Mr. Steidl was probably a little bit legitimately insane!”  I’ll be ok with that.  So, without further ado, here are some of the weird things I say.

When a student tells me that they don’t want to do something I usually reply with, “Well I don’t want donuts to make me fat.  But I eat plenty of them and, well….”

When a student asks a question that I really just don’t want or need to take the time to answer I say, “Oh yeah, that is a nunya.” or “Oh yeah that belongs to nunya” or “Oh she was talking to nunya.”  Then when they say “Who’s nunya?” or “What’s a nunya?” I say “Nunya business!!! BAHAHAHA.” and walk away.  I also do the same thing with the word minejone.  As in “Minejone business!!!!”

Sometimes I’ll pronounce words wrong on purpose.  Like I’ll say soicle instead of circle.  For example, “Soicle all the fractions that are equivalent to 1/2.” Kids look at me weird and I say, “I can’t say the word circle so I have to say soicle instead.” They usually yell, “But you just said “Circle!!”” And I’ll act like I’m hurt and say, “Now you guys are just teasing me.  I literally cannot physically pronounce the word, “circle,” so I have to say, “soicle.”

When kids say “OH MY GOD!!!” like complaining that I’m telling them to go back to their seats or something, I say “No, I’m Mr. Steidl, not God, but I think He’d agree with me on this.  Go back to your seat.”

When kids disagree with something like not being able to just get up and go to the bathroom whenever they want, I’ll say, “Too bad, so sad, glad your mad.  That’s rhyming. And that lesson is free of charge.  You’re welcome.  Now sit down.”

I am proud to say that I have taught an entire 30 minute lecture in an Irish accent.

When kids hug each other in the hall I’ll say, “Stop! Nope! Nope! Nope! This is a hug free zone.  That is much different than a free hug zone!  No hugs allowed.”

Many times when I’m saying a students name I’ll place the wrong emphasis on the wrong syllable.  For example, I’ll pronounce “Harmony” as har-mone-ee. Just to change it up and get the kid’s attention.

Sometimes I’ll sing Disney songs in the hallway to students if it applies.  For example, fifth grade lost their recess for three weeks and had to sit doing writing assignments.  Their first day back on the playground, I started singing, “And for the first time in forever.”  Or if a kid is taking a long time at the drinking fountain…”I’ve been out here staring at the water…”  When we’re learning about shapes in first grade “It’s the circle of life”…when I hear two kids are dating “It’s beauty and the beast.” etc.

A lot of times I’ll change my voice inflection dramatically in the middle of a sentence along with my rate of speech.  So I’ll go from whispering to half-yelling and talking in slow-motion to talking really really quickly.

I’ll speak Spanish to my only English speaking kids just to confuse them and get them to look at me.

Sometimes when a kid says, “Excuse me!” I’ll reply, “That’s ok, I didn’t smell it.”

So as I read over this list, I realize that I must seem like a really crazy person to my students.  Strangely, I’ve come to be at peace with that. I think that it’s probably best that my students think I’m little bit crazy in the head.  It’s good for them to think that…or maybe that’s just me being crazy again.


Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day at an elementary school is always replete with drama.  As teachers, we don’t always know who’s dating whom and who just broke up with whom.  We get snippets and hear some of it but simply don’t have enough time to truly keep up with it.  Furthermore, I personally can say that I don’t really care.  Some of it is noteworthy so we know that Boy A can’t sit next to Boy B anymore because Boy B is now dating Boy A’s ex so they’ll fight.  Or we know that we can’t let Boy A go to the bathroom when Girl A is out of the room etc.  But most of it is just tertiary drama that really doesn’t affect us day to day.  However, on Valentine’s Day, we usually get doused with it.  Here are some funny anecdotes from the past couple years from Valentine’s Day.

The Manipulator

This is a pretty simple story really.  I was in first grade one year and saw one little girl get up in the middle of instructional time, waltz up to a young boy’s desk, and blatantly drop a note on his desk and hug him.  The boy, obviously taken aback at this unexpected amorous display looked helplessly up at me.  I just rolled my eyes and held out my hand.  The boy handed me note and I opened it up to read, “Dear Finky (Badly misspelled name), I love you.  I really do Finky. Love, (Girl’s name).”  Obviously I ribbed the boy to no end about it and to this day call him Finky.

However, the real punchline of the story comes later while I was at lunch duty.  As I was walking around the cafeteria helping the first and second graders open ketchup packets, (a task that is seemingly impossible for them to complete independently) the girl walked up to me and said, “Mr. Steidl, I have a secret.”  “Ok” I said. “I don’t really love (boy’s name). I just gave him that note to make you jealous.” She whispered.  “Ok.” I said, as I felt that any other response would be somehow inappropriate.  She then skipped away as if we’d never talked.

Cool Points for Mr. Steidl

Two of the teachers were sitting in the lounge on their planning period on one Valentine’s Day just discussing some of the drama.  “Oh gosh and then the whole thing with Bob and Jane (real names redacted to protect the somewhat innocent).” I heard them talking about how he forgot to get her a card for Valentine’s Day and how she loves Hershey’s Kisses and he came in eating Hershey’s Kisses but didn’t give her any for Valentine’s Day so she’s so mad at him.  Now Bob is an idiot.  I love the kid, but he’s an idiot, especially when it comes to girls.  However, we were making Valentine’s Day cards in my first grade group when he was on his lunch.  So I went to the cafeteria and called him out to the hallway. “Am I in trouble?” He asked as he walked up to me. “Well not with me.” I replied “But I hear that Jane isn’t too happy with you.” “Oh man. I know!” he said, and proceeded to give me the whole sob story about how he forgot.

I decided to help the young man out and asked him if he would like to bring his lunch to first grade and make a valentine for Jane there.  One of my students had also given me a giant Hershey Kiss that I was in no way going to eat so I offered it to him if he wanted it.  He said that yes he wanted to come up and make a valentine for Jane.  He worked diligently for about 15 minutes and then got up to leave.  “You want me to proof-read it?” I asked. “Yea that’d be good.” He replied and handed me the note.  I opened it up…

“Dear Jane,

HAHAHAHA Gotcha!  You thought I forgot for real didn’t you? Best joke ever right?  You know I would never actually forget about you.  I just wanted to make it better because it would be more of a surprise.  You know I love you.  I would say more than that but I think Mr. Steidl gonna read this.


It was just epic.  I never told Jane anything about how he actually did forget or that the huge Hershey Kiss she got was actually from a little girl named Adrianna.  That would be some major violation of bro code.  I’m pretty sure she knows anyways.  However, every time “Bob” sees me in the hall now, he kind of just gives me a nod and grins.  Cool points for Mr. Steidl.