Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Climbing Uphill

Here's a run-down of what's passed and what's ahead:

Friday - After work, I met Rachel at Park Meadows to go dress shopping for her graduation. We had no luck there (although she did find one later), but we did get some CPK to go. We enjoyed that meal (red pepper and goat cheese pizza and their Thai Crunch salad, if you're wondering) at my place while watching tv shows (30 Rock, The Office, and some Doctor Who for David Tennant/John Barrowman yumminess).

Saturday - Jill and I went downtown to celebrate her birthday, since her family all had to work. We got lunch at Maggiano's, browsed the art museum, made some concert posters at the hands-on part of the museum's current exhibit about rock posters from 1965-1971, browsed Tattered Cover, and enjoyed some delicious pineapple cupcakes at The Shoppe. It was a gray, rainy day; and it was a perfect way to spend it.

After I dropped Jill off at her car, I ran home and changed clothes for a big multi-stake YSA activity our ward was hosting. I was not too excited about going, but I felt obligated. It was luau-themed with dinner, limbo, hula-hoop contests, and generic dancing. They can't do any sort of YSA activity it seems without making it a dance. Which I would be okay with, except that they don't turn down the lights at all, so it becomes a bunch of 20-somethings jumping up and down kinda in time to the thumping loud music. In full flourescent lighting.

In any case, I did run into some friends and chat with them, and I got to talk to Melissa about my new job. Melissa used to teach theater here, then left teaching to work as a theater-director-for-hire for schools. Not a bad job, if you ask me. She's got the scoop on pretty much every school in the area, so she told me a bit more about MTHS.

I was done with the luau after about an hour, so I left and went to dinner with another friend from the ward, Ryan. We had a bit of trouble finding a place open to eat after 10:00, but eventually wound up at Chili's. We hung out there talking until they closed the restaurant, then stood in the parking lot talking until it got too cold to do that. I tend to do that with people - Ben (math teacher-Ben from DPJH) and I used to start talking after school, and not stop until it was dusk and we were the last ones in the parking lot, freezing.

Sunday - Pretty typical - meeting #1, meeting #2, church, home. Church was a little more tricky than usual since my 1st counselor moved to Provo a few days ago without telling anyone in advance, my 2nd counselor left early to go to another ward's sacrament meeting, and my secretary left early with the flu. Which meant I got to conduct Relief Society and play the piano for all of the songs, since my counselors and I are the only girls in the ward who can play the piano. Seems like taking piano lessons while growing up is becoming a rare thing.

Monday - School, like usual, then I had my last induction/ELL meeting at the district office. I can't say I'm sorry to see the last of those! One thing I kind of chuckled at through those ELL trainings (that's English Language Learners, for you non-teachers out there) is that when they want to help us experience what it's like to be in a class where you don't know the language, the teacher tends to bring in examples in either Russian or French, assuming that most people there speak Spanish as a second language. So whoo-hoo my 19th century aristocratic language choices!

During school, I got a phone call from one of the counselors at MTHS. She said she was working on the schedule for next year, and that it looks like they don't need me to teach an English class, at least for the first semester. Which, given the crappy behavior of my current English classes this week, brought me nothing but joy to hear. I mean, I love teaching literature and interpretations and meaty higher-order-thinking stuff, but I am so okay with not teaching grammar and punctuation to a bunch of crabby, angry teenagers for a few months.

In place of that class, she told me I could teach either a Theater Tech class or a Humanities class. Holy crap, what choices! I would love to teach either of those subjects and told her so. We wound up deciding to base the choice on 1) which had more student interest for it and 2) what materials were already available at the school for each. But what a choice!

After the induction meeting, I stopped by Family Home Evening for the opening part, then ducked out when they started playing volleyball, since I hadn't been home or eaten dinner yet at that point.

Tuesday - School, which I left as soon as I finished my last class to meet Rachel to drive up to MTHS. Their spring musical is this week. I can't make the actual shows, since I'll be celebrating my sister's graduation with my fam all weekend, but the current teacher, Ruth, said I was welcome to come to a dress rehearsal. Which, honestly, was better for me because
1) Watching the rehearsal process is a lot more telling of how the program is run and what the expectations are than watching a finished product would be and
2) I could leave without having to sit through the entire show. I love the movie version of "Sound of Music", but I have never been a fan of amature productions.
Plus, this way Rachel could come, too, and I wanted her to see the school and the theater so she can help me plan.

We walked past a series of nuns into the darkened little theater. When she saw me, Ruth jumped up and ran over to give me a big hug. "Amanda!" she cried. "I'm so glad you took the job!" She was nothing but enthusiastic. With a lot of explanations and apologies for the state of the play (which, yeah, it's still rough, but I know how shows and especially dress rehearsals tend to go), she let Rachel and I sit in the audience and watch them run through the first act.

Okay, remember how I said last week I would give you details about my decision? Sitting there, watching these kids rehearse, I started to summarize those points. When it came right down to it,
- the commute didn't matter (I like driving, and I've done longer commutes before with little irritation. Plus, there's no traffic to sit in - it's all gorgeous mountain scenery the whole way)
- the money doesn't matter (my happiness is worth $9000, and I wouldn't have gone into teaching if money was the priority in my decisions)
- I can buy snow tires for my car
- and I'm willing to give small schools/districts another try, knowing how extraordinarily screwed up STMS's district is right now.

Sitting there, what it came down to is that I need to be teaching theater again. I tried to pretend it was just an option for me, that teaching any subject is fine, that I love literature enough to be just as passionate about it, but what this year taught me more than anything else is that I need to be teaching theater. I'm good at it. Really good at it. And it's good for me. Other people who've seen me here have described to me how I come alive when I talk about shows and production possibilities. Jill said that she's seen a real difference in my countenance since I accepted the job at MTHS - that I'm happier, and she can see it in my face. It's sad that I'm that dependable on this art form, but I am and I'm not going to let myself not be myself anymore. And I can do that at MTHS.

So that's why I took the job. And that's why, sitting there listening to Ruth push her kids to be better, marveling at Jesse's work with the orchestra and genuiness with the students, and watching those kids scramble to pull together one last show for Ruth, I couldn't stop thinking about all of the things I could do next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. I was homesick, missing Janelle and Kelley and Ben and knowing that I had to do this without them; but I was also home.

Midway through the rehearsal, Ruth introduced me to another one of the teachers at the school who had stopped by the rehearsal. As she said my name and explained, "she's the new drama teacher here!" every teenage head within hearing distrance immediately turned to stare at me. You could actually hear the air "whoose" with the movement. It was funny.

While they were taking a dinner break and Rachel and I were heading out, Ruth grabbed me one more time and pulled me into the middle of the lobby where all of the students were sitting, eating. She formally introduced me to the students as her replacement with a very nice speech. She repeated how excited she was that I had accepted the position, since they had interviewed a lot of candidates, and I was by far the best (a surprise to me - for all I knew, I was the only one they interviewed). The students clapped politely, still doing that teenage-staring-judging-thing. I said hello, then kind of awkardly-jokingly asked if I should make a speech. "Yes!" Except what was I supposed to speak about? Tell them my biography? Classroom management plan? Recite a sonnet?

Instead, I asked if any of them had any questions. "What's your middle name?" one girl cried out.

"Jane," I replied. Ruth laughed at the question.

"I like your hair," Friedrich (who, to Ruth's disgust, was wearing rhinestone spacers in his ears and long pants to cover his leg tattoos, which made me kinda want to do a version of Sound of Music with all of the Von Trapp kids dressed in clothes of their choice) said from my left.

"Thanks!" I said.

The students then, as students do, promptly ignored me so they could all discuss me amongst themselves. I thanked Ruth and Jesse again, wished them luck, and ducked out.

On the drive home, Rachel and I tried to figure out what musical I could do next year. I don't know yet. I really, really want to do Urinetown - it'd be perfect for that theater in a lot of ways, but I don't think it would work the first year I'm working in that community. Something, though....

After dropping Rachel off, I made some Relief Society phone calls and went to the RS monthly book club. Again, I got a late dinner and went home.

Today - School, blogging, RS visits tonight and hopefully some exercise on my elliptical. Oh, and dropping another dozen tamales off for Rachel and Ben. Mostly Ben. One of the parents at our school makes them every once in a while as a side business.

This weekend is packed with Rachel's graduation and family stuff, which I'm really looking forward to. After that, it's only 12 more days of STMS and then my summer travels begin. Thank goodness!

So there you have it - a slice of life in a nutshell. A very long, very wordy nutshell.

Oh! And I also finished the edits on "Making Waves" and Heidi officially dropped it off last week, so that's another project wrapped up, too. Go us!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

My Decision

I took the job!

More soon, I promise.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

No Sign! I See No Sign!

I try to be a humble person. I hope that hubris isn't one of my fatal flaws. But I'm starting to wonder if the gods are changing the weather just for me.

Consider this:
1) If that March blizzard hadn't hit, I wouldn't have stayed for the second day of the job fair last month. And if I hadn't stayed, I wouldn't have decided to look at any possible opportunities, which is how I wound up interviewing at MTHS in the first place.

2) The very weekend I am making my decision about the job at MTHS, a second blizzard hits Colorado. My only hesitation about the job at this point is my absolute abhorrence of driving in snow. Which was emphasized again during my more-than-twice-as-long-as-usual crawl home yesterday after school.

Then again, MTHS declared yesterday a snow day. Which makes me think that when they say "Information about conditions from Denver to Fairplay is considered since staff and students travel these distances. Safety is the primary consideration in deciding..." on their webpage about snow closures, they're not just talking the talk. Especially since they announced the closure at 10:30 pm the night before, when the snow was just starting to fall.

It's Saturday, it's snowing still here (which puts a kink in my "Let's drive to MTHS one more time!" plan), and I'm catching up on things I need to do. And I'm wondering if these two late-season snowstorms happened to get me to work at MTHS.

Another Day

Three vignettes from Thursday that just seemed to sum up my day at school.

1. As my fifth period were gathering in the room before the bell and I was at my post in the hallway, I sense a disturbance. Going inside, I discovered that someone in my fourth period class had left a lubed-up rolled out condom on one of the desk chairs. Classy.

Cesar offered to throw it away for me. I told them to just wait a second and not touch it. I ran to the bathroom to get some toilet paper (we ran out of tissues at the school a few months ago). When I came back, Cesar had picked it up with a pen and was chasing Jonathan with it.

2. After that class, I went to Brenda's room for an IEP. I was there early enough that we had a chance to chat. I told her about what had just happened at the start of my fifth period, and she told me that she had a kid who stole a soda from her bag yesterday. She caught the kid and he confessed. Then, this morning, she found out that the same kid had gotten arrested that morning for stealing a soda from the 7-11 across the street. Apparently, he was stealing it to give to her to replace the one from yesterday.

3. Driving away from school, I had to creep between a cop car with flashing lights and open doors and the picturesque view of a policeman pinning a guy to one of the vans in our parking lot, handcuffing the guy's hands behind him.

Be a Catholic

I decided this year to give up chocolate for Lent. It wasn't too hard, in the end, but it did make me realize how often chocolate is present when there are snacks or desserts offered to people.

In explaining some of the basics of Jewish beliefs to one of my classes (I always get questions when we read "Anne Frank"), one of the kids asked about keeping kosher. After class, I started thinking about doing that for Lent next year - keeping kosher for 40 days.

Then I realized the irony of it - a Mormon girl keeping kosher to celebrate Lent.

It's so delicious I have to do it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I called him.

We actually played phone tag back and forth a bit before getting each other live.

He offered me the job (!); I asked about the time commitment for the speech club. He said it was really up to me and the needs of the team how much time I would need to spend after school. There are around 11 competitions, almost all on Saturdays between October and January. If there is an assistant coach in town who can ride with the kids on the bus, I could meet them at the hosting school rather than having to drive up and back.

I asked if I could have until Monday to think about it. He said I could have even more time, if that's what I needed. I promised to touch base with him one way or another on Monday.


Okay, my feelings have swung to polar opposites in the last 24-hours. Now, they're settling again back towards a middle uncertainty.

Last night I went to see Tang Concubines with Brittany (from the ward). I loved a similar production I saw a few years ago, Terra Cotta Warriors - it's a blend of Chinese ballet, opera, martial arts, drumming, and story-telling. Tang Concubines wasn't quite as good, but it had some wonderful tricks and moments in it. Enough that I couldn't shut off my directing mind - when I wasn't making notes (which I'm going to jot down here for my own records, feel free to skip ahead. Twirling fans by rubbing handles in your hands during backbends; hanging using a long doubled white cloth, then placing behind neck, spinning quickly, and ending on a backbend with the neck supported by the loop and quick full down white lights; warriors with wooden poles lifting up a corpse by threading them under the body in a star pattern; lifting the standing empress up on a platform carried by six soldiers; soldiers with a knife in each hand stabbing outwards like spikes going up and slapping the floor and thighs; DRUMS!, girl steps on guy's crouched thigh, guy turns under her so she ends up sitting on his shoulders; Okay, back to the story)

When I wasn't making notes, I was thinking about what plays would be best to involve a lot of students, very low budget, and a small theater space. I was excited again, and there were some creative buzzings I love but haven't felt since I left DPJH. I need to be teaching theater again.

I'll drive up there again on Saturday with Rachel and Ben (and Jem) so I can get some second and third opinions (and pictures). I'm also schedule to do a temple session tonight for the ward, so that should help with some more meditation time. I want to be certain of my decision when I make it.

Also, I want to thank all of you who have offered so many kind words of encouragement on the blog, by email, by phone, and in person. It really does help (even when I argue back), and it means a lot to me that you're thinking of me (Annie! Email me, will you? I don't think I have your current email address).

DPJH folks, I miss you guys like crazy. I can't articulate my decision to move to many people, but know that it had nothing to do with leaving our school or the drama program there. I loved working with you students, teachers, and parents; and I am crazy proud of the shows we created there. In making a DVD portfolio for my interviews, I went back and re-watched the news clips of our scows and the video Jackie and company made for me - that movie means more to me than I can possibly say. You have set a high bar for whatever job I take next, and your passion and love are what I think of when I wonder why I'm putting myself through yet another job search. So, thanks.

As always, I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Don't Know

The principal from MTHS (Mountain Town High School if you haven't been keeping up) left me a voice mail with all kinds of phone numbers to reach him. He wants me to call back as soon as I can.

I don't want to call him back because I don't know what to say. I can't accept that job yet. I should ask about the after-school expectations, especially on the weekends. I should drive up to the school again to get a feel for the drive when I'm not freaking out because the directions on my iPhone actually sent me to the elementary school, not the high school, which is ten miles further down the road. I should ask for time to think about it, and then really think about whether I want to turn down a job that's almost perfect except for a heinous drive that would require me buying a different car just to be able to get to work a little bit more safely, and turning down the job would mean being without any prospects again and it's only April, but still I don't want to be signing up to work as a sub in August and worrying about making my mortgage payemnts because I turned down the only job to be had back in April....

I'm kind of freaking out, and it's not my freak-out date yet. I just don't know what to tell him. Or, rather, I do and I'm afraid to.

Of course, he could be calling to say I don't get the job, which would solve all of that worrying for me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

GFHS called. They gave the job to the internal candidate.

'But I did a great job at the interview and they're certain someone will snatch me up.'


The Interview (Reprise)

Hi, my name is chitarita and I'm feeling... conflicted.

Newest to oldest:

I just got out of an interview at the high school just down the street from me. Remember them? And that? For ease, I shall now refer to that school as Geographical Feature High School (GFHS for short).

As the VP had hinted, they did call me for an interview. I know they have an internal candidate, so I tried not to get my hopes up. That mission was not helped by reports from my aunt via my parents that it is not unusual for a school to pass on an internal candidate for one who is better qualified. And after my thinking about yesterday's interview (more on that in a few paragraphs), I was back into really, really wanting this.

I did everything I could do. They had 7 people there: two English teachers, the orchestra teacher, the choir teacher, two VPs, and... someone else. I forget what she does. English, maybe?

They had the list of questions printed out at the front desk, and gave it to me to look over before going in. No surprises on the questions, aside from the total absence of questions about discipline or problem students. Odd.

As I waited, another girl in a business suit came out holding the same paper. She had a lanyard hanging out of her bag with the school's name blazened on it, which lead me to conclude that she was the internal candidate. Hmm.

The interview was... dry. They responded to some of my jokes and enthusiasm, but all they did was run down the list of questions, then ask to see my portfolio, then told me they would let me know by tomorrow, in all likelihood. As I left, I passed a nervous-looking guy in a suit (the other interviewee, I assume) and then I realized that I had not mentioned my tech experience when I answered the first question, despite it being specifically asked for.

My gut right now says no job there. They didn't ask me if I had any questions or really deviate from the script, which made it seem like their hearts weren't into me. Their estimated timeline seems quick to me, nor did they mention my meeting the principal at any point before the offer may or may not come. My guess is that they had to conduct at least three interviews for an open position, and they filled it.

This is rather different from the interview yesterday. Also a group thing (principal, vice principal, head of English department, orchestra teacher, dean of activities, and the outgoing drama teacher), they were totally into me the whole time, very open, and very friendly and positive. The principal took me on a tour of the school afterwards (which is hands-down the most beautiful school I've seen), and the drama and orchestra teacher showed me the theater (not nearly the quality of the new building - old, tiny, cinder-blocky with no lighting. Workable, but kind of ugly).

The problem? It would be about a 45-minute commute each way in perfect driving conditions. If it snowed or got icy or anything (and, being Colorado, that would be most of the school year), the drive would be at least an hour.

A lot of the teachers there commute, and several carpool, which would help with gas (1/6 of a tank to go up and back yesterday). Still, if I had this job, it would be doing both drama and speech, which would mean every night and most weekends spent up there (or getting up there). Basically, my life would be all about school 10 months of the year.

I don't know if I could do that. I can't imagine right now turning down a high school theater job, but nor can I reconcile myself to the idea of giving up my growing life in Denver. You all know I'm a workaholic, but I try to keep some balance between work, friends, church, and personal time. This job would take over the others for the entire time (the drive does NOT count as personal time).

So, I'm feeling conflicted. Two interviews; one great, one so-so. Neither job seems possible right now, but nor have I been offered the decision yet.

I just don't know yet. But, apparently, by tomorrow I'll know a little more.


Question on the board:
Explain why the Hanukkah scene is included in the play, please.
(Recall what we discussed about Hanukkah yesterday!)

Explanation, following the class discussion:
Teacher: Good! So, what words could you put in this phrase?
"The story of the Maccabees _______________ the story of the Franks?"

Student A: Parallels?

Teacher: Excellent. Any other words we talked about yesterday?

Students: (silent)

Teacher: Like how a dove ________ peace...?

Student B: Symbolizes?

Teacher: Great!

Answer to question on the board, from student's paper 5 minutes later:
"Hanukkah is there because it symbolizes the Franks and Vanndanss. It also symbolizes peace like a dove."

Teacher: (Hangs her head in disgust, then copies down the answer for blog fodder.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Things I Learned in High School

For all of the students who suffered through Robin Hood's torture with me:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Answer the Call!

(At :13 I said "Karen!" in my mind. At :51 I squealed "KEVIN!")

I've been keeping up with Shakespeare and Co's troubles via Meg's blog. They can't afford paper, people. And they are doing good in the world.

I get it, and it breaks my heart.

(If you're a newer reader to my blog, Shakespeare and Co. is the group I studied with for a divine month in 2006. The blog entries about the experience start here. They changed me and my teaching. DPJH folk - these are the people who taught me about check-in, Belly Mamba, and status, and so much more. If you can help them, please do.)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Trouble in His Brain

The principal at what I will now start referring to as Mountain Town High School and I have been playing phone tag, the result of which is that I have a second interview scheduled for Monday afternoon.


He said it would be a standard interview, with the dean of students, a counselor, some teachers, a speech student, and himself present. Sure, nothing to be nervous about.

Pros of MTHS, as I now see them:
- It's high school
- It's a theater and English position
- It's in a community that supports the program
- The principal specifically talked about supporting what teachers are passionate about
- The school tests well above state average, and always meets AYP (STMS has killed off most of my desires to work in a "tough" school, i.e. failing school)

- It's a tiny school/district/town (again, something that STMS has killed the desire for - I would love to work in a district like DPJH is in again - one so huge, I get lost in the crowds)
- The pay (Oy! The pay! Money matters, I'm afraid. Not a lot, but this is less than I made my last few years at DPJH. I thought leaving Utah would work in my favor, salary-wise).
- The commute (maybe - I'm curious to see what it's like on Monday)

Okay, so the cons aren't that many. I'm just nervous that I'll like it and nervous that I won't. Typical, for me.

What I need to do now is figure out how to squeeze in some more interview prep in the next four days. I'd like to put together a DVD of some of the plays from DPJH to show them, but I also have the following tasks to do by Sunday night:

- Update grades and print progress reports,
- Finish writing/editing "Making Waves",
- Finish my taxes (it's taking me longer than usual this year, thanks to the trans-state move and all),
- Make and email Jason an itenerary for Greece and Istanbul (he's in charge of greater Turkey),
- Attend a Relief Society Leadership training tonight, and
- Submit the visiting teaching report for March.

So, naturally, I am hard at work on writing a blog entry.

Yeah, my typical procrastination. I am wading through things slowly, but it didn't help that I got bogged down by some sort of sickness for the first part of the week. I'm not sure what it was - a generally thorough exhaustion/dizziness/lethargic mood. It was strange. I called in for a sub yesterday and slept all morning, which seemed to have helped. I feel the beginning itchiness of a cold sore, so it may not be over yet, but at least I was teaching more coherently today.

Speaking of "Making Waves" (and I did, a few paragraphs ago. Remember?), I spend most of my spring break last week in SLC working on the show with Heidi. I did manage to squeeze in a few hours of play with Teresa, Janelle, Ben, John, (missed you, Kelley!) and my grandmother; in between, we worked full-time on the show. I need to fly out to SLC again this weekend to wrap things up (a quick trip - out Saturday morning and back Sunday afternoon), but we're close and it's coming together well. It helped that Heidi and I went to see a really, really strange production on Friday. And by strange, I mean bad. I'm talking, it rivals "N" (of horse chunks fame, remember Camp Shakespeare people?).

It began with the ticket takers instructing us to remove our shoes and leave them in the lobby, continued with a walking tour through a brain (not figuratively), then put us through two very long hours of the egotistical self-uindulgence that is most performance art, included the show's creator handing out beers and champange, yelling at the audience for not getting "enthusiastic" (i.e. drunk), taking a bong hit before leading us on a -not-very-well-done meditative mind-walk, climaxed with them wrapping us all up in orange yarn, and ended with the actors passing out gift boxes wrapped in close-ups of brains. The boxes contained, surprise!, our shoes, because "The greatest gift you can give is a piece of yourself. So, I give you all pieces of yourselves." We then had to stand up, holding the shoes aloft as we tried to find our own in the crowd.

Two good things came of it: 1) Heidi and I got some good ideas for the show while waiting shoeless in the lobby prior to being lead through the brain and 2) we realized that our show is a lot better than this, and if she can get money to do that sort of thing, by golly, so can we.

I also got to see a much better show, since my family and I went to see Andy and Jen perform in Westminster's production of "A Chorus of Disapproval" that Saturday. It helped wash away the brains.

Okay, I'll go do more work now. I'll let you know how the job interview goes. Fingers crossed?