Monday, January 26, 2009

That Time of Year

It has reached that time of the year when all I can really think about is this:

And how, wish as I might, it isn't going to happen any time soon. 

Because, lately, my life is a bit more like this:
(Oh, don't be offended. We all need to giggle every now and again.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Words Escape Me

When it comes to the fashion "sense" of adolescents, little surprises me. In case you hadn't received the memo, the 80s are returning. Leg warmers are frequently slouching beneath desks, stone-washed purple jeans and other atrocities reminiscent of my childhood are slinking into my classroom after the bell. Some students prefer to move in four extra sizes of clothing, while some gender-benders have been found squeezing their chicken legs into the skinny cut jeans in the girls' section. Yes, adolescents and appearance-self-expression go hand-in-hand.

I've seen almost everything and I am rarely shocked. But today, while driving home from work, I saw something sauntering down the sidewalk that stretched my tolerance for fashion freedom.

Picture a teenage girl in a short, pleated plaid skirt. But not just any school-girl skirt. Oh no, this one had an accessory.

Yes, you guessed correctly there. Swinging in rhythm with the mini-skirt was one of these atrocities you see above. I'd seen this grotesque "something extra" once before on one of those hopeless individuals who spends a week with Clinton and Stacy on What Not to Wear. I thought that person was, perhaps, just that special, endearingly eccentric kind that frequents WNTW, that the tail was a fluke. But no, no, no. Never fear. These dead rodent unnecessaries placed (in the correct anatomical position) exactly where one's tailbone ends, are available far and wide. And on ebay.

And I say here again: Sometimes the words just escape me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Good Day.

(Did anyone notice who is hanging on the wall?)

I don't really care which way you slide on the political spectrum. 
For me, experiencing this event with my students made it perfect.

Monday, January 19, 2009

From Room C410

I remember very little about my first day on the job. I remember it snowed terribly that day (I was hired mid-year--in February). I remember crying a bit in the car, the worry that I wouldn't make it on time for my first day plaguing me every snow covered inch of I-15. But I have no idea what happened my first day on the job. I have no idea what happened those first months as a bona fide teacher. That period in my life conjures up one word: survival. Oh sure, I remember the nightly crying freak out sessions: "I have no idea what I'm teaching in the morning and I spent 12 hours at school yesterday." I recall the stress piling up higher than my laundry pile did as each bullet item at faculty meeting was covered: "There's so much I'm not doing, apparently. But I'm here 12 hours a day!" I remember feeling exhausted all of the time, my eyes drooping as I entered attendance. I remember gaining more weight in three months than I had in my entire adulthood. It hasn't left, mind you (which is why I remember it so clearly). The actual teaching part of those first months, however, is a blur. I know I was there for it. I know that I was probably awful at it. I'm thinking I must be suppressing those memories. Because, try as I might, I cannot fully recall that time. I just know it happened and that it is over. That it is over is the most important part.

Last night I clicked onto Netflix to see what I had in the old queue for instant viewing. (I'm loving the Netflix, by the way, and all the foreign, indie, and old cinema I've struggled to access until now.) There it lay like a beacon, halfway down my ever-growing list: Chalk. This is your typical fly-on-the-wall mockumentary. Except, unlike The Office or Waiting for Guffman, elements of this particular flick hit a little too close to home. As I watched, I felt an eery sense of familiarity. The film follows a female PE teacher, a heartbreakingly awful newbie (this is where the eery sense of familiarity exhaled its cold breath on my neck), the friendly "we do nothing in his class" history teacher, and a new-to-administration assistant principal, all of Harrison High School.

Chalk was humorous, but not necessarily because it intended to be. When it tried to be funniest, it wasn't. Over the top at points? Slightly. But, on the whole, Chalk squeals across the blackboard of its subject with frightening, pitch-perfect clarity. This is what teaching in an actual classroom is like. Just add more students, perhaps no shower, bags under your eyes, and the sensation of aching feet and you get the point. And that irony was particularly poignant for an old school marm like me.

Where most films about teaching paint a picture of heroism and sacrifice, Chalk tells the real story. Bureaucracy, pettiness, cluelessness, and a room of revolving students who rarely care about what you have to sell. Its first message: 50% of teachers quit within the first three years. It spends its time telling you why this statistic is what it is.

It is true: three years is a magic number in the teaching world. I promised myself when I started that I'd give myself three years of it and then decide whether or not I wanted to stay on. Well, on February 15th I will mark my third anniversary in the classroom. And in spite of its downsides: exhaustion, aching feet, weight gain, incessant interruption while speaking, exposure to every airborne illness out there, piles of responsibility, verbal abuse (my classroom cupboard has a permanent carving of "f___ Ms. Rookie" that stares at me every day--thank you, incompetent substitute teachers), in spite of a general sense of survival from September to May, in spite of underpay and benefits that aren't as great as you might think, in spite of in how awful it really can be, I'm not going anywhere.

Because, in truth, it gets a bit easier every year. And, if I'm being honest here, the breaks aren't half bad, even if summer is spattered with professional development. But, most importantly, though I don't admit it all that often, I rather like my job. Something about being there as someone else learns is, for lack of a better term (and I know this is really quite cheesy), magical. Because, for all that people want to say is wrong in public schools, I'd like them to show me something better that is reaching everybody. For all of its imperfections, I think that most teachers are in the classroom for the right reasons. Call me an optimist. Call me diluted. Teaching is hard. It isn't a job for the faint of heart. 50% of teachers quit within the first three years of teaching. But for this teacher, I'm one of the 50% who stay.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Confessions of a Grammar Snob

While checking blogs today, I came across this lovely ditty by Jen. And I couldn't keep myself from writing a lengthy list of grammatical pet peeves in her comments section. And then it hit me, I'm not what I think I am.

You see, when acquaintances find out what I do for a living, their responses are usually a combination of the following: "I loved/hated English! My teacher _________________ was such a good teacher/so difficult to please. I guess I should watch my grammar around you, eh?" My response is typically, "Oh, don't do that. Really, I don't care. Speak as you will. No judgment here." And it is true that I don't want to judge people for their grammatical misunderstandings and language blunders. I've long thought, "I'm not one of those English teachers who judges everybody else's grammar."

But, in all honesty, I am.

Now, when people speak, I'm (a bit) less apt to care. I've been known in the deep recesses of my past to say "your guys'" (I am from Utah, afterall). I may drop an "ain't" every now and again for style's sake. But when writing, I believe the standard rules of English ought to be followed. Punctuation marks aren't there to confuse, they're set in place to add deeper meaning, emphasis and influx. Subjects and verbs were intended to agree. And when that doesn't happen, I wince a wee little bit. Against my will, usually. My better judgment says, "Oh, what does it matter?" My inner-grammar snob says, "NO! Not again! Why must the public be so ignorant of the very language they speak?" And the more mistakes, blunders, and errors made, the harsher I judge (if I am not particularly fond of the person this becomes quite a pleasant activity, in fact).

It is awful. It is snobby and offensive. I am probably losing friends as I write this. But I cannot help myself. Once you know better, these things flash out at you in painful, wincing clarity.

So, next time you write something, read over it once with my eyeballs. If you feel like, while writing, you are making TAMN at Seriously So Blessed seem spot on as opposed to exaggerated, maybe you could read more (stuff that's been through an edit or two, not just blogs). Or research the conventional rules of the English language. Maybe you could have someone you trust edit your work (I'm not volunteering myself--I have a full time job that, while it doesn't pay much, pays me more than you would for doing this).

And maybe I should just shut my mouth. No maybe. I just should.

OH, and my family is NPR-famous. Over the holidays, my mom went to visit my sister and family back East and they made it on my favorite radio station. To listen to their five minutes of fame, go here. Woo hoo family!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


What is: one more time-sucker I just don't need.

We now know why I REALLY waited to join.

Monday, January 12, 2009

20 Random Things That Make Me Cringe, In No Particular Order

1. The sound my alarm ringtone makes (you can add the T-mobile jingle to that list as it was once my alarm).

2. Needles.

3. Veins.

4. The sound of a shovel scraping pavement.

5. Opening cans. A few months ago I royally sliced my hand on the jagged lid while opening a can of refried beans. Ever since then I'm terrified of it.

6. Swallowing the handfuls of vitamin concoctions my mother gave me growing up (washed down with a protein Shaklee shake, thankyouverymuch). (You can add this to the "things that make me shiver" list.)

7. Stagnant algae-filled bodies of water. I was once dumped into a stagnant cove of this stuff while canoeing at girls' camp growing up.

8. Ear wax.

9. The heavy stench of bacon that lingers long after it has been cooked and consumed.

10. Fish. Seafood in general, really.

11. Mystery moisture (you all know this experience--any public place in which you sit in/accidentally touch moisture that derives from an unknown source and has been there an inestimable amount of time).

12. Grammatical errors and malapropisms including: "Unthawed" (so does that mean you're freezing it?), "Irregardless" (not a word, in case you missed the memo), and my mom's personal favorite "Ignernt" (she thinks she is saying "ignorant" as in, they are rude, but she apparently is ignorant of the fact that "ignorant" means unaware, misinformed, or uneducated on a matter--Mommy, you know I still love you).

13. Over the top comedy movies in which things go from bad to worse (I hated Meet the Parents because I was cringing with stress the entire time).

14. Body odor. 'Nough said.

15. When I've started saying something without thinking and my comment goes awry (typically down the offensive/insulting path), at which point I try and correct or clarify the statement and, in the process, make it much worse.

16. Canned meats. It is just wrong.

17. When people say incredibly stupid things and remain oblivious to the stupidity of their statements. (Thank you, Miss South Carolina, for exhibiting my point perfectly!)

18. Scab-picking.

19. Muffin tops. Or should I say ill-fitting clothing in general.

20. Dry wooden spoons.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lazy Blogger

I have been a terrible blogger lately. Blame Facebook (after much pushing, I finally signed up and holy moly! the people that come out of the woodwork). Blame my new obsession with sewing (did I tell you about the $25 Bernina sewing machine in perfect condition that I scored in a silent auction at school?). Blame the holidays. Or blame the fact that I'm now back in school after my break (and had the worst week in the classroom I've had in a long time). Frankly, I haven't had much spare time and in that spare time I've been doing anything but blogging.

But, frankly, I haven't got a single thing to say lately. Other then Happy New Year! I'm working on it.

Oh, and so that it is just out there in the universe and I can rest easy knowing I said it: Winter is my enemy. My toes haven't been warm in days, I swear (okay, maybe a wee bit of hyperbole, there). I'm cold and sick of snow. Boo to winter.

I promise, the blog will be updated with a real post soon.