Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bells are Ringing

Merry Christmas!
I'm a-typing from mah new iPhone! Whoo! Technology!
I have stories to tell, and time to tell them this week; but I shall wait for a larger, more-than-2-fingers-at-a-time keyboard.

For now, the happiest of wishes to you!

Friday, December 12, 2008

I Hope I Get It

After my last entry and all of the venting I've done over the phone to my family (sorry about that), I've been trying to think of something good that happened at school this week I could blog about. I don't want to only blog when I'm upset - that's not very nice to you lovely readers, nor does it make an accurate journal for me.

So... something good that happened at school.


Yesterday I was handing out progress reports to students, and one girl in my 2nd period said, "Thank you" as she got hers.

Look, I know some of you dear readers are currently students (by the way, shout out to Jimmy Black and welcome to the blog), so will you do me a favor?
Will you please
1) remember that for every assignment you have to do at school, the teacher has to grade, like, over 100 of them?
2) Remember that they do that because they honestly want to help you learn.
3) Will you please thank your teachers next time you see them for taking that time to grade? Even if you don't mean it, do it for me. Trust me, we teachers don't hear it that much, and it's an easy way to help us have a better day.

I'm going to paste an email here from Ben (math teacher Ben). Not to be selfish, but I'm posting it for me - I know there are going to be more days ahead when I'll need to reread this message, and I want to put it somewhere easy to find. It means a lot to me.

"The faculty holiday dinner at Old Spaghetti Factory was last night. Everyone wanted to know how you were doing in Colorado. You recent blog post was fresh in my mind, and I tried to summarize the many struggles you've faced this year without bumming out the whole party. There is not one person on the faculty who worked with you that doesn't have tremendous admiration and respect for what you built and accomplished at [DPJH]. More than one person said that they knew they'd miss you but that they didn't realize the magnitude of your effect on the school until you were gone. On hearing of your frustrations, the most common response was that they were "devastated" to imagine you in your current situation. Your friends at [DPJH] still care about you, and that we are all pulling for you to find a job where you can do amazing things again and be the kind of teacher we all admired while you were there. I thought you'd want to know that."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It Sucks To Be Me

It's finals time, so I'm facing a stack of grading I need to get done so I can help my students figure out what they can do for the end of the semester grades.

The thing is it's been a long, hard day. I've had to work really hard be the proverbial duck in a rainstorm - to let the rude comments; the exaggerated yawns and the girl who yelled out "This is boring!" while I was mid-sentence; the student who refused to do any work today, including the mandatory vocab test; the girls who were "just playing" in the hall and who slammed into me; the glares; the heads down; the eye-rolling; the nastiness; and the constant "you're bugging me, Miss, so screw you" verbal and non-verbal messages roll off my back. I'm trying really, really hard to keep smiling, to keep joking, to keep pretending I care about subjects and predicates and to keep believing that this is what I want to do.

Then, after school just now, I walked back to my room to tackle the grading and found that on the poster I had made for my classroom door, the one with my name and room number on it that welcomes my students to class with a cheery, colorful fabric background, right under my name someone wrote "sucks" in large, permanent letters.

And while I'm glad the person spelled it right, I lost whatever energy has been carrying me. I just want to get in my car and find some place to be where I don't feel like a rotten teacher and an unattractive person. I'm exhausted, and I don't know if I can get up from the mat and start swinging again.

But I promised I'd give them progress reports tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


One thing I like about middle-schoolers is the way you can tell exactly what they're thinking...
usually because they tell you. Sometimes it just creeps up, though.

For example, here's how one student answered the textbook question "In your opinion, why does the woman in the snow return every year to ride the same bus?"

3. I don't know what it is asking me hold on yes cause she had all four things and you know what they are

Sometimes, though, it's subtler. For example:

Me: standing at the board, pointing a a sentence Good! So if "grandpa" is the subject, then-

Boy Student: whispered to girl student two desks away, loudly enough to force me to cut off mid-sentence Hey! What does "obulousy" mean?

Girl Student:
glares at Boy Student

Boy Student: still stage-whispering, oblivious to the fact that I and the entire class are now listening What? I really don't know!

Me: Give me the note, Eli.

Boy Student: stuffing note under desk I don't got a note, Miss.

Me: Eli.

Boy Student:
hands me the note, which I read as I walk back to my desk to stash it. It says:

Girl's Handwriting:
are we dateing?
Boy's Handwriting: IDK
Girl's Handwriting: how do you not no
Boy's Handwriting: IDK
Girl's Handwriting: Well Obulusly you don't want to be together so

And that's where I intercepted the note.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Empty Pockets Filled With Love

It was cold enough today that I pulled my long, wool coat out of the closet. As I walked to my garage this morning, I stuck my hands in my pockets.

I found a handful of cough drops in my left pocket. And in the right I found a folded piece of paper with a rough sketch of the "Mattress" set on one side, and a shopping list for things like "PVC pipe, 4 gallons brown paint, 140 yards gold ribbon, lute supplies, safety pins, 1 fake apple, etc." on the other.

I miss not getting ready for a show.

Life Support

I am standing outside my classroom door Monday, greeting my students as they enter the room. One eighth-grade kid comes running up to me and says

Student: Miss! Isn't today AIDS Day or something?

Me: Yes. It's World AIDS Day.

Student: Holds out his hand Then where's my condom, Miss? Don't we all get free condoms today?


For Monday's classes, we read Mona Gardner's very short story, "The Dinner Party." Taking place in colonial India, it begins with an officer's wife suggesting that women have moved beyond the "jumping-on-a-chair-at-the-sight-of-a-mouse era". One of the colonels, of course, protests, saying that men have "that ounce more of nerve control." A debate ensues, a cobra is detected in the room, and the story ends with a nice twist.

It's a good filler activity, a story we can do in less than a whole period. Plus, sexism issues are always good for discussion, especially in middle school.

I consider myself a pretty creative teacher, which is probably why students are still discussing whether what happened Tuesday was my plan or not.

I began the class with a starter question about which gender handles crises better. The students wrote their answers, then we went around and checked in with their answers. There was some posturing and minor arguments as some students, mostly boys, claimed that the other gender was the weaker.

We were about 2/3 of the way through the students when Mikayla quietly and calmly said, "Hey, there's a mouse!"

I looked where she was pointing and saw a brown and grey-ish rat run from under the computer table in my room to under my desk at the front.

"Huh," I said, "So there is!"

Shrill screams rang out as six of the students climbed on top of their desks, shrieking.

All six were boys.

I called the front office, who called the janitor, who said he couldn't do anything about it, and about 6 minutes after we spied George-Bob (so named by my 5th period and me), I finally managed to calm the class down enough to continue the lesson.

After we pointed out the way one particular gender handled the crisis, that is.