Friday, June 26, 2009

Later Gator

I'm taking off on The Big Summer Vacation. I'll be back the night of the 5th.

I'm going on a history tour of my particular religion of choice and then on to Chicago. I'm a desert girl who is dreading the humidity coming my way. My naturally curly hair is going to meet its ultimate volume potential, I'm sure.

Until then, enjoy the blogosphere. Pictures of my colossally frizzed head to come. Eventually. A few sites I'll be visiting to get you by until then:

Thursday, June 25, 2009


27 years ago today my favorite person was born. 

Happy Birthday, Alice! 

Go on over to her blog and wish her a happy day!

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Liar. The Cynic. The Mascara.

Last night my sister, mother and I had an interesting conversation about life and happiness and selfishness and living authentically and, well, stuff. The conversation stemmed from a certain movie we'd all seen at various times over the past few months. We all had very different reactions and interpretations of the film which led us into the territory in which we asked ourselves what it means to live authentically. (Now, before you go thinking "Whoa, freaky pseudo-intellectuals at Rookie's house," know that 20 minutes prior bowel movements might or might not have been our conversation's focus.)

When it comes to my attitude about life, I dwell in the camp of endurance. In my experience and opinion, life offers us moments of joy interspersed with legs of endurance. Life, as I've known it, isn't some exciting and entertaining experience in which we're happy 100% of the time (despite what TAMN at Seriously So Blessed might say). And I'm okay with that. I'm fine looking for the small and simple pleasures of life. The moment you put the key in the door at the end of the work day. The clean smell of lemons. Holding a sleeping infant after the bath, after the final feeding. The sound of rain on a tin roof. The smooth resonance of an acoustic guitar. Seeing and understanding another human being entirely and having that understanding reciprocated. These small pleasures can be lush oases in what is otherwise a desert of endurance: boring meetings, difficult trials, challenges, frustrations, mundane responsibilities.

And I told my family I thought this was living authentically: living an ethical and giving life, seeking out--stopping to recognize and appreciate--those simple pleasures. And when life is not at an enjoyable point, you wait. You endure. My sister disagreed with me, or she was playing devil's advocate, I never know. She shared a statistic about happy marriages and their correlation to a suspended sense of reality. She stretched this into a philosophy that we're all lying to ourselves about how happy we really are in order to endure. I could see her point, but hated to think I might be lying to myself about my own satisfaction in life.

We left each other in disagreement. My sister, the cynic. Me, the liar. Me, the optimist. My sister, the denier. I've been thinking about it ever since. Which one of us is being honest? And I came back to what I know about myself. The joy I feel when I open a new tube of mascara is a tangible, concrete piece of joy. You might choose to say this demonstrates just how unhappy I am, that something so simple and meaningless shouldn't impact me in such a way. But I choose to believe that I've stopped to notice the details. And that is what breaks up the endurance for me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Taking Yourself Too Seriously: When Bitterness Expresses Itself Freely

This week and next I am trapped in a writing institute "for the students." I got wrangled into it under false pretenses. I thought I was going to learn some great strategies for teaching writing and simultaneously provide some hand-picked students with a fun and stellar summer writing program. All I've really learned thus far:

1. There is a vast difference between theory and practice.

2. Don't ever work with the local big fat university's education department because it is like offering your students as guinea pigs to the research gods.

3. And, this is the most important lesson here, I've learned that it is sickly satisfying to watch college of education academians learning the critical truth about working with (gasp!) actual high school students.

Because the truth is that professors don't know about much beyond the false land of academia. I could go on about how most of the students I teach never make it into their second (or first) semester of college. How, subsequently, these poor professors don't know the truth about that other piece of the pie chart. You know, the group that doesn't make it to college (which somehow translates into my failure as an educator). I could go on about how most actual college professors only teach equally cocky graduate students about their personal, passionate specialty and research within the same narrow specialty and, as a result, can't function beyond their particular specialty. I could give them the benefit of the doubt here. But I'm feeling quite sassy. So I'll say this: never have I enjoyed anything more than watching smug, insulting, arrogant professors flounder painfully and awkwardly as they demonstrate what they believe I should be doing in my classroom.

Yes, if you didn't know this, the beauty in education professors is that (and I'm quite certain this is true in most of academia) they actually believe they know how to do my job better than I do. Why? Well, because they've researched in controlled environments and read articles on the topic, of course. Apparently teaching in the chaos of an actual school and prepping and assessing and discussing students for ten hours a day doesn't qualify me as an expert on the topic. But, never fear, the decision and policy makers churned out of college of education departments nationally are experts.

This post is entirely unprofessional of me, I know. But seriously--you cute little professors (bless your hearts!) need to realize that your quest for tenure means not a thing in my classroom. We're not a team in this. Teams fester in the trenches together. Real teaching (not that pretend research kind or the incessant talking that happens in a lecture hall--but REAL teaching) is damn hard.

It's like this: the emperor of education has clothes on, yes. But, my lands, if that get-up isn't ridiculous!

*What would Stacy and Clinton have to say?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Confessions of a "Rook"ie (Or "Pretty Much the Cheesiest Title I've Ever Written")

In high school I was a drama geek. To be more specific, the musical was my drug of choice. Shamefully so. While my peers discovered post grunge-era bands like Weezer and The Wallflowers, I was popping West Side Story in the (thoroughly outdated) Discman. Who needed rock and roll rebellion? I had Ragtime and Rent. But enough obnoxious alliteration, the point is I adored musicals the way most (normal) adolescents love their favorite band.

At 20 I discovered the sexiness of the guitar, the musicality of literature, and the broadway phase of my adolescent years was all but forgotten. Perhaps I should blame my rock star boyfriend? Or maybe we can chock it up to the narcissistic odd balls that dwelled in the drama department of my alma mater? The point is that, while attending the occasional musical was an acceptable evening activity, my tastes in music changed drastically after high school. The various original cast recordings filling the sleeves of my cd case found their way into Grey Whale CD Exchange, most likely funding my Elementary Public Health textbook (which, like most overpriced college books, I never read) and my first acoustic alt-folk fix.

In true donate-your-own-plasma-you're-so-poor fashion, I purged myself of all my musicals.

Except one.

Yeah, Chess. The early 80's-rockable, former ABBA-ite composed, ill-fated-relationshipped, Cold War politic-inspired musical with the World Chess Championship set in the background.

So you may be thinking, "Good heavens, Rookie, this sounds like a show business disaster." But, my lands, is it deliciously good! Brilliantly good. So, I'll concede, "One Night in Bangkok" is rather 1984 Billboard topping pop-ish. But have you ever heard "Anthem" or "I Know Him So Well"?

Genius lyrics, epically dramatic music, a sophisticated and layered story line--Chess is my perfect musical. While I've moved on from my former Broadway-love, Chess is the one musical I can't let go. I don't care what you say.

And tonight something good happened. While stopping by a blog I sometimes like to visit, I learned that tomorrow (Wednesday) night on PBS, Great Performances will be showing Chess in Concert! I feel oozingly happy with anticipation.

I'll most certainly be watching tomorrow.

And if you read this and decide to watch and then end up hating it, I'm sorry (sort of). Taste is a tricky and very individual thing. But that, my friends, is another post altogether.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I missed it.

Somewhere along the way this spring my blog turned two years old and shortly thereafter I posted my 200th post. And I missed it. But I'm delayed on pretty much everything these days, so I guess this is just to say happy belated birthday to my blog.

200 posts and two years' worth of blogging is quite an accomplishment. In my first post ever, I didn't know what to expect of myself or of the blogging world. And now, here I am, years later, blogging about whatever comes to mind, reading my favorite blogs as soon as they update.

Now, this blog has morphed and changed over time. My attitudes are entirely different. I've hit my stride at some moments, and at others I fall into a serious slump. No matter what my blogging mood, however, I've kept with it. While I've been thinking I've let my writing fall by the wayside, my blog has proven otherwise. The truth is that blogging has kept me rich in words.

So here we have it: post number 208, two years, two months, and three weeks later and I'm still blogging.

Monday, June 8, 2009

As an Addendum to My Previous Post

I still really, really, really, really do NOT want to sort or file anything. Ever.

If I made more money I would hire a filing clerk. I dream about him sometimes. He'd wear bright ties with coordinating striped dress shirts. He'd call me Boss and treat me with more respect than my students ever do. He'd water my plants (that I don't have because he's not around to take care of them) and make my life dreamy.

Oh, how I'd love a filing clerk.

Yes. To answer your question, this is a gratuitously pitiful and meager attempt in delaying the filing even longer.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Rookie No More...

(The ghetto blinds snapped while another teacher used my room. Don't hate.)

In case you didn't notice, I'm a teacher. This whole "Rookie" business came about at this blog's beginnings as a very nervous, overwhelmed, and uncertain new teacher sat in front of a keyboard and started typing about her new life out of college. Her new life in adulthood. Her new life as a teacher. Her transitions, her lessons, her learning.

I taught my last classes of the year today. The final bell rang. We have two days of activities next week, but no classes. I've been counting down. I've spent the week packing, sorting, moving piece by piece of the previous three years into a new location. As I sat here facing my hollow classroom (hollow except the filing--MERCY how I want to avoid the past nine months' filing), I grew strangely emotional. Weird-emotional. Crying quietly in my emptied cage-like office emotional. I'm only moving up one floor. To a better room. I'll still be teaching for a long while. But something has brushed over me that feels a bit tingly and odd.

In the beginning I said to myself: Three years. Try it for three years and then re-assess. Well, today my three years are up. I have completed my third official year (nevermind that 3 1/2 month stint of take-over hell). I'm no longer a rookie at this. My new city feels more like home than my old city. My parent's house feels different and distant. The "teacher" title has meshed into my identity and the "student" identity I once held so tight feels far, far away. With co-workers I no longer feel like one of their students, I can call them by their first name AND disagree with them professionally. I've gained some clout; it's okay now. And my student loans are...well the good thing about student loans is that they will always remind one of past lifetimes.

I can sit here with the extra stress-pounds, the sorer feet, and know that I survived it. I made it through one of those really chaotic, confusing, disorienting life steps. I wouldn't call myself a great teacher. Maybe a novice, at best. But I'm no longer a rookie. This hollow classroom where I began this journey is officially a place in my past.

And just in case you didn't believe me and my filing woes, know this isn't the only surface that looks like this in my classroom.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Generation Gap

As it is the last "official" week of school (June 8th & 9th don't really count what with water park trips, yearbooks, and 48 hours of utter INSANITY), my students are being treated to a movie. And not just any movie, but this little gem:

I, personally, love this movie. It gets me all nostalgic and has always managed to make me giggle. I got it from the roommate on my birthday. I was certain I was, like, only the coolest English teacher ever by letting my 9th graders watch it for our Narrative Unit "final".

And do you know what they did?

"Oh NO! Not this!" (accompanied by an eye roll)

"Are you freakin' KIDDING me? I HATE this movie." (and another eye roll)

"This is SO LAME." (as a twist, the cross-eyed eye roll)

My sweet, baby-faced, scared little freshmen have officially made the transition to obnoxious "We're-no-longer-the-babies-of-the-school-we're-now-pompous-little-freshmen-hating-sophomores". I can't stand that kind of student. Almost as much as I cringe when seniors become the (equally obnoxious) "We're-no-longer-children-we're-now-pompous-and-lazy-little-about-to-graduate-and-become-'adults'" type.

What is wrong with the kids these days? Do they not appreciate culture? Do they not recognize a classic cinema masterpiece (with a tiny Fred Savage) when they see it? Teenagers!

Needless to say I generously layered on threats of the alternative (and quite possibly unwritten) final if the whining did not stop. Also needless to say (but I'm saying it nonetheless): the end of the school year could not come soon enough.

And in other job-ish news, I'm moving three and a half years worth of school CRAP (and trust me, it is a daunting and powerful quantity of CRAP) to a new classroom over the next week and a half.

Threats will probably be a theme with me this week.