Sunday, August 26, 2007

They're Ba-ack!

The 28th. Tuesday. THIS Tuesday. The "its in only two days, really one now, Tuesday."

Yes, on Tuesday the kids come back. This past week I've been in "Professional Development" (a fancy euphemism for "boring meetings educators are required to attend in which, rather than paying attention to the droning meeting, they play games at their table such as: How many 5-letter words can you create using only the letters in 'PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT'? in order to avoid the nagging feeling that one could be accomplishing something...dare I say--worthwhile!?!").
But on Tuesday they come back. I am, I hope, ready for another school year--if not lesson plan prepared, at least mentally prepared to do this all over again.

And so, over the course of the past week, I've ruminated about all those things I love and hate about teaching. The Reality Check Side Note: Let's face it--as much as I told myself in college I was going to college and accumulating all this student loan debt so that I could one day wake up each morning and say that I loved my job, the truth is that just like the pain-in-the-arse-office/lumber-mill-its-to-get-me-through-college-job, I usually wake up dreading going to work. Once I'm there, I'm usually semi-happy about it and prefer it to forementioned job. Nonetheless, I wish I could go back to former self and say "stay in college, it is easier here and your future involves paying back the student loans, honey."
Anyway, so I was thinking about what I love and hate about teaching high school and I've come down to my top 5 in each category. Enjoy!

5. Meetings, meetings, and more meetings...meetings to schedule the next meeting.
4. My permanently aching feet.
3. Waking up painfully early.
2. Disciplining and classroom management because sometimes I really think they lack common sense...just a little.
1A. Grading and everything about it: the paperwork, reading the same topic/paper over and over and over again, the "you've earned an A because it wasn't that hard for you whereas you've earned a C even though you've worked your tushie off and made leaps and bounds in your own progress."
1B. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, there was a tie so technically this is's my blog). When they don't reach their potential because they don't see it in themselves or they just plain don't push themselves to their full potential and I see them fall by the wayside (i.e. dropping out, failing, stop attending, transferring to alternative school, etc.) because, ultimately, it is their decision to succeed or fail. Watching this happen again and again really sucks. Fighting it and having it still happen sucks even more.

5. Summer! It is, after all, one nice perk out of very few. Now that it is over, I realize just how much I do love that it. It is the antithesis to the meeting-filled, waking early, aching feet, grading life I'm used to.
4. I have a department full of guaranteed great book recommendations and a promise of a good conversation about the book once I'm finished. Being the book-geek that I am, this really is something I love about my job--just being surrounded by other book -geeks makes me feel less alone in the world.
3. Teenagers really are too funny--whether their personality be smooth and charming or awkward and nearly offensive--they entertain and I enjoy them for the people that they are.
2. The few ego-stroking days I feel like I am doing something worthwhile and contributing something "good" to society.
1. When they "get it" and I think that maybe, just maybe, I played some small part in them "getting it"--nothing is more fantastic or rewarding than watching a skill form or some new piece of knowledge or idea settle into the mind of a young person. Nothing. Think "this class period my life was like an inspirational teacher movie!" (BTW--Teacher Movies: remind me to blog my love/hate relationship with these one day).

And that brings me to the "What About You?" What do you love about your job? What do you hate? Post your comments--I love to hear all about you!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Happy Birthday

My dear sister, "Wemdu" (AKA Loving The Chaos), just had a birthday yesterday. I hope it was a good one.

Also, my niece, Miss Aspen in Hawaii, had a birthday on Monday the 20th. She's 11! Holy cow! Happy birthday to her too.

Both of them love purple, so this banner was designed especially for them!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Confessions of a Former Teacher's Pet

Once upon a time, much further in the past than it seems, I was a senior in high school. It was a fabulous year, as far as high school goes. I was obsessed with Broadway musicals. I was certain I was "soooo fat" (but man, what I would give for THAT body). I didn't have or need a job. I was without debt. Many of my friends had access to cars and the necessary drivers license to boot. I survived the SAT. I had a crush on a boy named Peter. I sang in the choir and acted in the plays. I was dreamy-eyed about my future. I was also, though I didn't know it at the time, a terrible writer. Until that year, the year my life as a writer began.

One of the most memorable experiences from that year was English class. I spent that school year with one of the best teachers I'll ever have. Mr. S. wore Birkenstocks and had a near-freakish passion for Hamlet. His walls were covered in shelves that were filled with books--cool books that we could borrow if we so desired. He had a fantastic, stand alone big screen television in the room--for watching scenes from the various film adaptations of Hamlet, of course. Yes, Mr. S's class was a definite highlight of my senior year. For many reasons: it was entertaining and engaging, he was personable, we worked our tails off. And, in retrospect, that was the year I learned how to write conscientiously. I wrote many an essay for his class and I had many a consultation about my writing that year. And that has made all the difference.

So, a couple of days ago I was avoiding a task and chose to surf the web to ease my mind about my procrastination. I hit upon my alma mater's website. On the faculty page I couldn't find Mr. S anywhere on the list. WHAT?!? He retired? But how? wha? why?. So, I tracked down his contact info, found his wife's email address (she too is a former teacher of mine, though botany wasn't exactly my forte so it wasn't her I was after). And I thanked him. I gave him an update--that I was an English teacher myself now. That I remember reading "Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" in his class and deciding I hated poetry that very day...only to become a poet myself a few years later. I told him he contributed a great deal to my success. And that was that.

Until today. Today I received my response. And, dork that I am, I was EXCITED! He seemed genuinely happy to get the note. He responded with his usual wit. He was even gracious enough to request some samples of my poetry. (Suck up that I am, I will be sending the carefully selected pieces shortly).

It felt good to write it down. I figured it only took me a few minutes to track him down, say what I meant, and push send. It was time well spent as I was avoiding another task. And I know that when I'm retired I would like to receive such an email from a former student. It would certainly be more pleasant than, say, seeing a former student's mug shot on the 6 o'clock news.

What about the rest of you? Who were the great teachers in your life? Have you told them so? If not, my little homework assignment:

Think back to a teacher that made a positive impact on you, that taught you a lot, that put up with a lot from your class but still came back everyday to endure more abuse and hopefully teach you a thing or two. Think back to a teacher that maybe just did their job well. Track that teacher down, and tell them thanks and maybe a bit about what you're up to these days. Oh, and write a one page reflection about this experience.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Further Proof That Life's Not Fair

This past week I spent at an AP Summer Institute. In a nutshell: I learned all about how to best teach my AP English Language & Composition class this coming year. It was very helpful as far as teaching the course. I feel better prepared to teach it than I did a week ago.

Now comes the whining part...The bad news--a woman in the class was feeling ill. The really bad news--after the conference on Friday, I decided to take a nap. When I woke up my throat was scratchy. I thought it might just go away, certainly I couldn't be coming down with something. Wrong! By Saturday afternoon I was in bed with a fever, dreaming crazy fever dreams. I keep pumping down Ibuprofen, my drug of choice, which helps more than it hurts at this point.

But I'm here to say that THIS IS NOT FAIR! You see, this coming week marks my FINAL week of summer. On the 20th I'm back at school for long-winded professional development days in which I feel professionally underdeveloped and annoyed that I can't go up to my classroom and do some "real" work. You know, the kind where you prepare stuff for your classes and plan out the year or at least the first week or so because when the students come you would like to maintain the allusion that you know what you're doing and that you have something important for them to do so they never realize you're not who they think you are and that you're a sham pretending that you know how to teach. (Why...yes, yes I do feel insecure about my teaching ability, what could have possibly given it away?). And it just isn't fair! This week is my last chance to enjoy summer and I'm blasted sick!

A curse upon this nasty (viral?) bug that is attacking my sinuses and throat (and I hope not my lungs but I feel them leaning in that direction). A curse upon the woman for breathing on me (really, she was nice and I shouldn't curse her). A curse upon summer for being over already. And a curse upon boring professional development days that I will go to because it is non-salaried extra money come payday. And may blessings forever fall on the inventors of ibuprofen and other cold medicine. Oh, and sorry for the "pity me party," I know life isn't as awful as it seems when you are sick.

Meadwhile, I'b go-ig to blow by dose.

Friday, August 10, 2007

On Slowing Down

The other night Alice and I had a conversation that has lodged in my brain and has been rattling around ever since. We were talking about education and grades, etc. And we got on the subject of early college and how quickly kids rush through their education (whether by their own choice or otherwise) to get to some strategically planned out destination. They end up with an associates the day they graduate from high school. Then they're 20 and have a college degree. And every class has been taken for the purpose of completing their education. Quickly. We discussed the great things you miss out on by rushing through the process: classes you didn't need to graduate, but that you benefited from nonetheless, sitting around with other students talking about what you'd learned, getting involved, volunteering, CHILDHOOD. Yes, it's nice because you saved on tuition those two years. Yes, it's nice if you're going on for graduate work or post-graduate work or post-post-graduate work to get the undergrad completed early on. The problem here is that in the rush your educational path becomes more about grades and the maximum amount of credit hours and getting on with your life, less about the actual education of the person, the human being, the individual. It is more about the goal and the prestige of accomplishing that goal. Learning, if considered at all, is no longer the focus. But isn't gaining an education supposed to be about learning? Aren't you better prepared for and more capable of contributing to the workforce/community/family/Conversation when you've learned and internalized more and allowed that information to simmer inside you?

This conversation has been sinking in me more and more and then, tonight, I happened upon this. So I guess this blog is about slowing down because I need to say it to get out what I think. I may repeat some his ideas--I apologize in advance. I just listened to it. But this is what I have to say: why the race? I feel like our motivation is skewed. I feel like we've forgotten the real purposes behind why we do the things we do.

And, trust me, I am not exempt from being guilty of this! I teach English to high school kids. I rush my students knowing full well that some things take time to learn. But there is "so much to do and so little time" and I say "hurry" more than I ought. And I'm wrong in doing this. The real purpose of me being there is to help these kids learn but instead of making sure they've mastered it, I spend my time calculating the time left of class in ratio to the tasks we need to complete--and does it come out even? I suppose I feel pressure. They have tests coming up, there is a certain level of expectation, if they're pushed to complete quickly, they have less time to get into trouble and they focus on the task at hand. Educating is tricky business. But rushing through it isn't necessarily the answer.

I am just left to ponder why "the better life" equates to "the fast lane." I think that feeling accomplished or that you've completed a task is a satisfying feeling. But, I would daresay, enjoying the process of that accomplishment is equally as satisfying, if not moreso. I am sure each of us has experienced the phenomenon in which we got what we wanted or what we thought we wanted and yet that elusive happiness did not appear, neatly packaged, before us as we had vaguely promised ourselves. Instead it was on to the next thing that might lead us into our own satisfaction. Take, for instance, the day I graduated from college. This particular day was the pinnacle I pined after for five years, the evidence and documentation that I had "arrived." Rather than the pomp and circumstance I had anticipated, I heard a resounding THUD! It was over. The graduation ceremony was anticlimactic. Now what? No, the working towards that day was the enjoyable part. The classes I took, the things I learned about myself, about my world, the people I met, these were what really mattered.

So, I suppose this is the truth about swift motion: If we spend our lives in constant swift motion, we miss the sights along the way. I, personally, am for slowing down, pacing myself, and taking the time to notice life as it manifests itself to me. Frame after frame. My ever-fluid goal this school year is to slow down both in the classroom and in my personal life.

What about you? What are your thoughts on this? Did you watch the link? Is my rambling just unrealistic, late-night fodder? What is the value in slowing down? What is the value in continuing at our present pace?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Tag...I'm It

I've been tagged for another "survey"...

5 Things I was doing 10 years ago
1. I was about to start my junior year of high school at Kodiak High...go bears. woo.
2. I finally had my driver's license
3. I think I had a crush on someone in my ward. I can't remember his name but he had a big nose and he quickly thereafter annoyed the heck out of me. Blast! What is his name?...I have had a long list of crushes--most of which occurred between the ages of 13 and 17. It could be anyone, ah well!
4. Oooh! I know! I know! I had my first job ever. The Pizza Parlor on the Coast Guard base, which was a nesting ground for cockroaches, by the way.
5. I think I was in love with my first pair of doc marten's shoes.

5 Things on my to-do list today
1. Go to my session of the AP Summer Institute (check)
2. Return a pair of pants to old navy (check)
3. Do my "homework" for tomorrow's summer institute (which I am currently procrastinating)
4. Do some of that summer reading that needs to get done before school starts.
5. Go visit my grandparents...which didn't get done because by the time I got done with #1 I was too hot and didn't want to end up sitting in traffic in my hot car after I visited my grandparents.

5 Snacks I enjoy
1. Chips & Salsa (yes this is technically 2 but they go together oh-so-well)
2. Popsicles
3. I have to second Michelle here, I really do like a good fruit roll up
4. Watermelon Laffy Taffy--the big long bar with the fake seeds on it.
5. Popcorn

5 Songs I know the lyrics to
1. "I Know Him So Well" from the musical Chess
2. "Ends With Anne" by Royce
3. "We Are Bound for Greater Things" which I sang in choir in 9th grade.
4. "I Am A Child of God"
5. And once upon a time, long, long ago, Alice and I made a goal to memorize "It's the End of the World As We Know It" by REM because we are dorks. I am so very sad to say this never happened. :)

5 Things I would do if I were a millionaire
1. Pay off all debt--student loans, credit card...ooh that would be so nice!
2. Travel to Peru and the Galapagos Islands, India, and go on a few cruises...and to Europe. And to Hawaii again. And on a church history tour. get the point. I guess "travel" would suffice.
3. Buy a new friggen' car! My poor baby is a '92, the dashboard is cracked, and the ceiling is caving in and needs to be pinned up. But she runs and she's always been paid off. And sometimes the CD player works. Usually the A/C (knock on my particle board computer armoire) works quite nicely if she's going fast.
4. Teach half-time. Write the rest of the time.
5. Establish a scholarship program for college kids who pay for their own school but their parents' income(s) still count(s) and they make too much money for the student to get grants and their only other option is to take out student loans. This was me in college and I think these kids get the shaft. Oh, and the scholarship would also contribute to books and housing and living expenses.

5 Bad Habits
1. Staying up too late...even if I have to wake up early the next day.
2. Procrastination...I know that last minute panic all too well!
3. Swearing
4. Avoiding doing laundry until it is simply unbearable and I'm wearing weird ensembles.
5. I'm late to EVERYTHING. Even when I get up extra early...something is genetically wrong with me. I can't be on time to save my life.

5 Things I'd never wear again
1. Hypercolor T-shirts (if you put your hand on a spot and made it hot it would change color)
2. Shorts in January (unless vacationing in an appropriate climate for such wear)
3. A Thong. I tried it once and was highly tempted to just go commando.
4. A sports bra as my daily bra. Oh, to be in 8th grade and freaked out by one's own body.
5. My ugly plastic Sally Jesse Rafael red glasses that were too large for my face a'la Olsen Twins sunglasses. My mom really needs a good talking to about doing that to a 5th grader!

5 Favorite toys
Are these childhood toys? I am guessing so...
1. My Cornsilk Cabbage Patch Doll
2. "Pop!" Goes Perfection
3. Anything Barbie
4. My red bike
5. The old-fashioned metal Slinky which only ever lasted a day or 2 before getting an un-fixable kink.

5 People tagged:
1. Wemdu
2. Blackeyed Sue
3. Stine
4. Heido
5. jinriksha

Monday, August 6, 2007

Funny Nonetheless

I "overheard" this on my AP listserv. Thought some of you might get a chuckle out of it as did I.

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
Hello. My name is Oedipus. You are my father. Prepare to die.
Hello. My name is Darth Vader. I am your father. Prepare to die.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Potter Affair

I've been involved in a torrid affair. I've lost a few days out of the past week and a half of my life. He kept me up late at night. He was my reason for waking in the morning. I couldn't get him off my mind. I lost sleep. I neglected friends and family. He even invaded my dreams. It has been a punch drunk sort of love. Yes, I've been reading Harry Potter.

Harry and I have had quite the history, actually. Years ago, while I was still a freshman in college, I read books 1-4 in about a week-long span. I recall being ticked off I had to wait who knew how long until book 5 came out. Like any lover who feels herself scorned, I forgot Harry and our passionate affair, moved on to more sophisticated reading, required reading for college classes, poetry and other recommendations. I began to think myself above him, possibly out of spite for having to wait around for him. Harry was just a name I heard in certain circles. Harry's story slipped priority and other books, other things took precedence. Harry was forgotten. I slipped into adulthood. I forgot the intensity of that magical week we spent together.

And then I had a conversation with Alice's sister about Harry Potter, she lent me books 5 and 6. Responsibility be damned, I bit. An all-nighter, three complete showerless, nutrition-forgotten days of my life, three neglect-complaint sessions from those close to me, a late-night stop at Wal-Mart (it was the only place open) for Book 7, and I've completed the series. And, frankly, now that it is over I feel a bit lost. It is silly, I know. But there is a melancholy in knowing I will never read Harry Potter for the first time again. In fact, I doubt I'll read much of Potter ever again. One cannot dedicate that kind of time to that kind of epic series when one has a "life list" like mine. One must also face the facts: she's 26, the school year is coming up, she has laundry to do and bills to pay, and losing a day for a reading love affair is silly.

So, Harry, thank you for the time we spent together. My memories of you will always be fond ones.