Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Good Morning

Scenes from a Morning with the Walls

Setting: House o' Wall, home to Emily, Ben, Caitlyn (6), and Logan (4). Specifically, Caitlyn's bedroom. I am asleep in a remarkably pink bed. In the early-morning darkness I hear heavy breathing hovering in front of my face.

I think: Hmm... no whiskers poking my cheek. It can't be Nash.

I open my eyes and see Caitlyn's nose about two inches from my nose. When she sees my eyes open, she grins. I'm silent. She's silent. We stare at each other for a few minutes.

Emily's voice from her bedroom: Caitlyn! Leave Manda alone!

Caitlyn scurries away. I go back to sleep.

Later, I am up and in the bathroom brushing my teeth. The door opens a crack.

Logan: Manda?

Me: (through the minty foam) Yeth?

The door opens further, just enough to let in a box of cereal, which Logan tips towards the countertop.

Logan: I brought you breakfast, Manda.

Emily's voice from her bedroom: Logan ! Leave Manda alone!

Logan scurries away.

Later, I am in the bathroom getting ready for the day. I hear a plaintive scratching at the bathroom door.

Emily: (From the other side of the door, mischievously) Manda?

Ben's voice from their bedroom: Emily! Leave Manda alone!

The House of Wall is indeed a fantastic place to be. Thanks for the great weekend, Em!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Quote to Remember

"His idea of roughing it is not being able to find good cheese."

Canada! Whoo!

Emily and I have run away to Canada. We are eating a great deal of chocolate, we have blue toenails, and Emily has promised some sort of exotic cuisine called "poutine".

We may not come back.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It'll All Blow Over

It probably wasn't the best idea to wear a skirt on a day like this:

Many a person saw my thighs today (and I got stuck in the traffic jam caused by one of those overturned trucks. Fun!).

Also? I've had 3667% of my daily recommended Vitamin C today. I'm taking preventative measures against my usual post-show-cold and scurvy! Yay health!

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Feel So Much Spring Within Me

Today was a good day. Here's why:
  • It was a sunny 60 degrees up in Mountain Town today. Crazy high winds, but they were spring-scented blusters.
  • I deposited a whole bunch of money into the drama account this morning and discovered that we are not only in the black post-show, but we turned a very tidy profit.
  • My top priority with said profit is more lights for the auditorium (we currently have 6 working lights. 6! 6=pathetic).
  • I got to tell my 3rd period class that they earned enough funds for their field trip, AND
  • I got to tell them that the MT police want to stage a fake car crash to raise awareness of drunk driving the week of prom and they want my students to play the victims (which means blood and bruises and other stage makeup goodness!).
  • I had a yummy pomegranate seed and goat cheese salad from Whole Foods for lunch (thanks, Mom and Dad!).
  • I took my 4th period class to the auditorium for a concert by a military brass band from San Diego. They were excellent in terms of music, funniness, and looking good in uniforms. It made me really want to go to New Orleans again (Just warning you, Jason).
  • I left right after school let out (!!!) and packed up the condo to go home for the first time in over a week.
  • I get to sleep in my very own bed for three straight nights!
  • I actually had the time and energy to file my taxes tonight, and thanks to my not paying my 2009 tithing until after January 1 last year, I'm getting a very nice tax return this year (TurboTax said my charitable contributions were unusually high for someone of my income. No kidding - between tithing and my tax-deductible Thailand trip, I bet they are!).
  • I also finally cracked the code to be able to order more garments online. I am excited about this because I don't want to do my laundry right now. Forget washing clothes! Buy new ones instead!
  • And, finally, I got this enticing packing list from Emily in anticipation of my visit:
Passport, shoes for getting wet, shoes for attempting to keep dry, a jacket that can withstand the elements, something to wear that says I am both classy and up for adventure, and a kerchief (I will provide the hobo stick)

Who wouldn't want to go on a trip with that kind of packing list? I ask you!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

The end of my first official day off in a long while is drawing to a close. I'm up at the condo still - my family stayed up here too last night after seeing the show, and we enjoyed a lazy morning together. By the time Rachel, Ben, Jack, Mom, and Dad bundled off to their respective homes, I decided I would rather stay up here and watch Downton Abbey rather than pack up tonight and drive down the mountain. And so I did.

The show went very well. The cast, crew, and audience were all quite happy with it, and we played to a virtually sold-out house all three nights (260 seats, if you're wondering). The students celebrated by giving Rachel, Jesse, Melody, Ann, and me bouquets and then getting into a massive glitter fight backstage using the "Suppertime" plates I mentioned earlier this week.

The Adv. Drama class also found success in selling concessions as a fundraiser for a field trip in a few weeks. We needed to raise $400 to pay for the bus, and they managed to earn over $500. Of course, they also broke the school's popcorn machine, so we'll see how much of that money they get to keep. :)

I'm having a hard time shutting off the note-taking part of my brain. It's been a week of work dreams and I keep thinking there's more props to make or sets to paint or things I need to remind the actors about. I do have two more shows to go this year, so that should help with the withdrawal symptoms.

I'm glad it went well.

(Photo courtesy Rachel)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

About Time

"You have too much free time," a student commented today when I showed them the Beethoven t-shirt I drew last night.

"Actually, I don't have any," I replied, "I've been working almost non-stop for the last month."

Sadly, that's not really an exaggeration. It was while I was kneeling alone in the auditorium at 7:30 tonight duct-taping the bus back together in anticipation of tomorrow's show that I got to thinking again about how much I've been working, not just this past month, but since the school year began.

The thing is, it's just not good for me. This kind of schedule is not healthy physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, on any kind of level.

However, it is my job.

It's a pickle I'm not tackling yet. I need to get through show week first. Then I'll think about it.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Can it be?

My midterms are all scored.

All class grades are in and posted for the quarter.

40 plates are glittered.

A t-shirt has a picture of Beethoven on it (yay for Sharpies!).

The set's totally done.

The program's typed and proofed.

The actor/techie bios are ready to print.

And it's 1 minute to 9.

Glory be, I'm going to get 8 hours of sleep tonight. Whoo!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Razzle Dazzle

I spent my Sunday evening covering plastic plates with the herpes of crafts.

Glitter time!

I spent my Saturday painting the set. Well, really I spent it instructing and supervising a dozen teenagers while they painted the set. But still, long workday.

Tomorrow I'll post quarter grades, draw a cartoon Beethoven on a t-shirt, make a miniature keyboard, print programs, teach three classes, conduct a 4-hour rehearsal, supervise the lunchroom, and glitterfy another 15 plates.

One more week. Just one more week.

P.S. Dear Mom and Dad - The condo may be a bit sparklier than how you remember it.

Glitter Cat

Natasha may be, too.

Anything You Can Do

While reading the comments on this article about teacher pay I came across this:

"One of the dirty little secrets of education is that outside of athletic coaches and performing arts teachers, it is very hard to determine really effective (a more realistic standard than excellence) teaching."

I've restarted this blog entry six or seven times so far and I still can't figure out how to articulate the issues this presents.

Like how effectiveness is constantly measured by competition and therefore creates a hierarchy of people instead of allowing for the radical notion that multiple people may qualify as effective/excellent.

Or how competition such a big part of public schools, which perpetuates the idea that "winning" means besting other people rather than measuring your own growth and personal achievements against yourself.

I wonder what the author meant when he said my teaching effectiveness is not hard to determine because I teach performing arts. Do the public performances my students put on really fully demonstrate my performance as a teacher? Is he/she calling for similar public displays of mathematical, geographical, scientific, or historical learning? And what happens when the judges sitting in my audience watching their children speak Shakespeare and sing Schultz by and large have minimal to no knowledge or experience with theater prior to that performance?

It's why I hate Speech. I hate watching my students be judged and base their self-worth on the opinions of people who have absolutely no knowledge of what they're judging. It's a horribly flawed program and I hate that so much pressure is put on the students and on me to win when that "winning" comes through the opinions of biased, uninformed, complete and total lay people.

The parents who praise me and my teaching rarely do so because their child comes away with such great knowledge of theater. (Ironically, given the absence of their voices in this whole dialogue, it is the students who consistently praise me for how much they learn about whatever subject area I'm teaching them) The parents praise my teaching because of the growth in their child's self-worth, social awareness, leadership abilities, social aptitude, confidence in their ability to achieve and learn, and, quite simply, because sometimes my class is the reason that kid gets up in the morning.

None of which, by the way, is listed in the state or national curricula for my courses.

I agree that the salary-based-rewards given to teachers based on Master's degrees and years of experience (i.e. loyalty to a school district) do not equate to rewarding the more effective teachers. I agree that teachers should be compensated based on effectiveness if a fair measure of teacher effectiveness can be found. I really do appreciate that this author acknowledged the existence of teachers in subject areas outside of the core curricula. I just hope that a reform comes to teacher pay that allows for the fact that very few subjects covered in schools can accurately be measured by traditional tests.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Aqueducts 2011

It's Aqueducts Time again!

Yup, it's that time of year when I bring out the IVs and saline bags and let my students explore the physics of Roman plumbing. Which means my classroom looked like this:

Aqueducts 2011

And I kept thinking "Come on, Principal! Come on, Superintendent! Someone come by for a surprise observation!" To no avail, dang it.

Aqueducts 2011

It's a good lesson plan, though. I can tell since 1) two different office aides/former Humanities students came by my room during the period to deliver notes and both exclaimed on entering, "Aqueducts! Awesome! I remember those!" and 2) a current student who also has me for drama declared during that class' check-in, "I'm Bridget and I'm good today and YOU ALL SHOULD TAKE HUMANITIES BECAUSE IT"S AWESOME AND YOU SEE THOSE WET SPOTS ALL OVER THE FLOOR? THAT'S FROM AQUEDUCTS!"

Aqueducts 2011

So, yeah, it was a good day. Even at rehearsal, where the leads don't know all their lines and everyone's stumbling over the addition of the live band and the microphones aren't working, even amidst all the stress and frustrations of this part of the run we're still laughing as a group and the mood's surprisingly upbeat. We wrapped up the run with about a half-hour left, so I decided to teach bows today and save us that time tomorrow.

I explained the plan, and the kids cried, "NO! It's not Friday! You can't!"

I was tickled that they had been listening when I told them earlier in the week that practicing bows prior to dress rehearsals is bad luck. "Eh, it'll be fine. I'm not that superstitious."

"NOOO!" They cried, smiling. "Don't curse us!"

"Yeah, well, you know what else? Macbeth."

"Aauugghh!" cried the ones who have taken drama with me. "Go outside! Undo it!"

(I did undo it for them, after we ran the bows.)

The biggest laugh of the day came when, in the middle of a scene, I heard a gaggle of students behind me in the house. I turned to see what was going on, and found a group who were trying (and failing) to hold in their giggles as they said over and over, "It's stuck!"

"What's stuck?" I asked, trying to keep an ear on the scene on stage at the same time.

The group parted to reveal our Pigpen. He sheepishly held out his hand. He had apparently been messing around with the kite bobbins backstage and, well...

Aqueducts 2011

(and anyone who has any experience with 9th grade boys will not be at all surprised to see which finger it's stuck on)

"I can't get it off!" he said.

Being the responsible adult in the room, I first took a picture on my cell phone, then I tried twisting and pulling on the tube. It wasn't budging a millimeter; and, judging by the redness of his knuckle, he had been trying to do the same for a while before confessing to me.

"Should I get some scissors?" an eager student asked.

"No," I said. The tube is made of thick cardboard, and besides, it is a prop. We need that tube. Instead, I took Pigpen by the wrist. "Come with me," I said, pulling him up on stage and to the bathroom in the wings. The gaggle followed closely behind.

Sadly, the soap in the school bathrooms is the foamy kind. I tried anyway, greasing up his finger and the tube. No luck.

"Scissors?" the eager student asked again.

"Not yet." I wiped down Pigpen's hand and led him into my office. The gaggle followed closely behind.

"String..." I said, looking around. "I need some string." The gaggle immediately started tearing apart my office. One girl triumphantly held up a piece of yarn.

"Excellent," I said. "Thank you." I then tried a variation of the string trick, but it really doesn't work on a tube that long.

"Awww..." moaned the gaggle in disappointment when the tube didn't budge.

"That's okay," I said. "There's still one more thing we can try."


"Nope." I took Pigpen's wrist again and held up his hand. "Sorry about this, Chris, but it works best." And with that, I licked his finger.

"Ewww!" cried the gaggle.

"Yeah, I know," I said, "but saliva's nice and slimy." I swiped my finger in my mouth and coated his finger again. Then, with just a little wiggling, I slid the tube off his finger.

"Yay!" The gaggle cried.

"Shh!" I shushed, smiling. "Quiet backstage."

"Yay!" The gaggle whispered.

"Now go wash your hand," I told the still-stunned Pigpen as I headed back to the front of house to get back to the scene and to rinse out my mouth.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A Few More Hours

The snow was coming down fairly thickly when Jesse and I walked out of rehearsal last night, and I told him how conflicted I felt. On one hand, a snow day would give me the time I needed to grade papers and write midterms. On the other hand, we really couldn't afford to miss a rehearsal at this stage of the game.

The snow just barely covered the ground, so to school I went, running the math of the day over and over in my head, hoping that I would find a hidden couple of hours to get it all done.

Happily, I had booked the computer lab for the Humanities class. Their assignment was to go to this website and make a mosaic, then spend the rest of the period reviewing for their midterm exam tomorrow using the 100+ word list I had given them. I figured I would be fielding a lot of questions as they reviewed, but I hoped for at least five minutes of independent work so I could update the gradebook.

Turns out, I had underestimated their potential for obsession with digital art projects. Most of them spent the entire period working on their mosaics, producing things like this:

They loved it (you should see some of the ones that were variations on the Greek Key!); meanwhile, I graded almost all of the papers I needed to get through. Hurrah!

Then, even better, the cold readings took longer than I thought in Advanced Drama, which means the auditions for their next play are spilling over to tomorrow, which means I didn't have to spend tonight casting the show. Yay!

Instead, I ran to the grocery store (which is a bigger feat than usual, since I'm still camped out in Mountain Town and the nearest grocery store is 30 minutes away) to get treats for the students who might show up to help paint on Saturday. Then Jason and I caught up a little by phone. It had been a while since we've talked, since we're both fielding crazy work/performance schedules, him with his black tie affairs at the Ritz Carlton, me with my turning toilet paper tubes into oversized kite bobbins.... We do live glamorous lives.

The productive element to our conversation was that we finally (FINALLY) made some decisions about our summer trip. As in, we know the dates. The destination is still up in the air, but by golly we know when we won't be where we currently are now. Hurrah encore!

My day ended with a quick bite to eat for dinner and this blog post. I find myself composing blog entries in my head when I get especially busy, sort of narrating the crazy, as it were.

And now, bed, for tomorrow I must write two midterm exams before my first class period.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Steppin' Out With My Baby

Rachel and Ben cashed in on their Christmas present this weekend, which meant I got to spend yesterday hanging out with my beamish boy, Jack:

Babysitting Jack

They went to a matinee of Colorado Ballet's Romeo and Juliet, so I headed over just before his early afternoon nap. Once he woke up from that and had some pureed pasta for lunch, we went to Wal-Mart to get supplies for the musical.

Only five gallons of paint this time, but naturally that was in five different colors so it took a while to get. The paint-mixing man was nice, though, and gave Jack a blank paint sticker tag of his own.

Babysitting Jack

The paint mixing machine was the source of much fascination, too.

Babysitting Jack

We picked out some other odds and ends, then headed home for a bottle and another nap. I ignored the pile of papers I had brought with me to grade in favor of browsing hostels in New Orleans and other southern cities. When the boy woke up again, we watched some videos online and had some Facetime with the grands. Rachel and Ben got home just in time to put a tired boy to bed.

All in all, a fun way to spend my Saturday.

Babysitting Jack

Friday, March 04, 2011

He Wanted to Say

"That has been the thing that I think for me has been the most mind-blowing for me watching this debate... To see people blaming the avarice of teachers. Or the idea that 'Hey, they only work nine months a year.'

God forbid you do the job of a teacher for a year! It will blow your mind at how hard-- My mother was a teacher for years, she worked in the educational field, she's still in the educational field. I couldn't be more impressed by what she did and the work she did in her life. Those people have no idea."
- Jon Stewart

Watch this. Please. It's fantastic. Jon Stewart is fantastic. I couldn't understand how quiet the audience was during the interview section of the show because I wanted to applaud so much of what was said. The first segment is dead on, too.

It just such a relief to hear someone outside of education with respected status and a national platform saying these things. I suddenly felt a great deal of empathy for Seuss' trees.

Thank goodness for the Lorax! Thank goodness for Jon Stewart.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Nice Work If You Can Get It

I shall be fragmented tonight.

- I am worried because I appeared to be late today. I actually was in the theater inventorying our paint supplies in anticipation of set-painting next Saturday. I walked over to the other building a minute or two after the first class started (I have 1st period prep). I went through the back entrance because I was enjoying the sunshine and wanted to walk outside a little longer, but that meant avoiding going through the main office. I've been fretting all day that my principal now thinks I snuck in late.

- We're talking Greek philosophy this week in Humanities. Since I'm covering all of it in about 2.5 days, it's a pretty quick synopsis. Still, many of the kids are very much into it. Yesterday we did a 20-minute Socratic discussion (mostly trying to answer "What is beauty?") and spent quite some time today wrestling with Plato's Theory of Forms. Three of them declared how much fun they were having and asked if there was a class in philosophy they could take. I explained that this was the closest to that at this school, but recommended they get themselves to college asap and in the meantime read Sophie's World.

- One of my students turned several missing assignments on Monday. Her mother emailed me on Tuesday wondering why they weren't in the computer yet. I wrote back (after deleting several not-so-polite-sounding drafts) that the late work will be put in the computer soon. I didn't point out that if the student couldn't be bothered to do it for several weeks, it would only be fair for me to be granted the same amount of time to grade it. The mom responded that I should at least delete the "missing" marks in the gradebook because her daughter's grounded until her grade goes up. I'm still not entirely sure how that's my problem.

- The musical is coming together pretty well. We had a dance review day which meant I got to play with Jack while Rachel tweaked the dance numbers. As she put it, "they're past the embarrassing stage." Less than two weeks left! Whoo!

- The first grade won't come to the matinee show because the teachers don't think they can watch a play that's longer than an hour. Aren't they watching movies by that age?

- The district's abuzz about budget issues. The good news is that my principal announced in faculty meeting today that "we've talked to the people that's going to affect the most" and I haven't heard anything from the admin yet. I assume that means they're keeping me on.

- The superintendent sent out a survey to all district staff and parents. (Notice that they didn't ask the students.) (And yes, my Master's thesis was about the lack of student voice in policy-making.) It proposed several possible budget-reducing options. Interestingly, the one that seemed the most popular among staff (65% in favor) and parents (53% in favor) was going to a four-day week. Happily, the proposal to cut all non-core-academic programs wasn't a popular choice in either group. There was also a lot of bitterness over the idea of moving the 5th grade to the middle school to better use resources.

- The optional-comments-section responses from the survey were sent out to everyone along with the pure numbers results. I found those interesting mostly because I was surprised at how rare proofreading seems to be. A lot of the comments were angry, bitter, and biting.

- Someone apparently forwarded the comments on to the local paper, so that should have some fun consequences in the days to come.

- A few of the comments echoed the "teachers are just glorified baby-sitters" sentiments that are also getting battered about in Wisconsin. Although they are certainly not the majority, I'm still baffled that anyone sincerely believes that.

- One parent also suggested eliminating the prep period for high school teachers.

- I would like that person to know that I've skipped lunch four times in the last two weeks because I needed those 15 minutes to grade papers/cast a show/make copies/respond to various urgent emails/and so on.

- They also reminded us at faculty meeting today that midterms are next week and grades are due on Friday.

- Friday we're doing a double dress rehearsal. I'm not entirely sure how I will get grades done on time.

- But in two weeks and two days I'll be free!

- Free!

- F-R-Double-

- Now, not so fast. I didn't think. The way I am I just cast the spring show for the Beginner Drama class and I'm holding auditions Monday for the Advanced Drama class' other show.

- Still, those other two shows are in-class productions. Which means that in three weeks for the first time since August I won't have after-school activities.

- Plus, I get to go on adventures with Emily and then go visit my folks.

- In the meanwhile, though, I've moved into the condo in MT. It's so nice to have the option to skip the commute.

- I should get to bed now, though. I want to walk into the building extra early tomorrow morning.

(Can you see me? Can't you see me?)

(Too bad about all the prostitution. Funny Thing would be a really fun show to do next year, wouldn't it, Rachel?)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Good News

Hey, check it out! There may not be a need for Making Waves after all! Jon Stewart covered most of the issues in less than 3 minutes:

The Doctor is In

While my sister is being all kinds of productive I'm... not.

The cold from last week is kicking my butt, and after dragging myself through school, costume parade, and rehearsal yesterday, I called in sick today.

And so I've done very little. I am indulging in some of my favorite Doctor Who episodes ("The Girl in the Fireplace" at the moment, which makes me want to watch some Firefly next) and I'm blowing my nose a lot. I did go to school for musical rehearsal. With the show in two weeks, I can't afford to miss.

Still, it's nice to be able to take at least a half-day off. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be less Kleenex-dependent.