Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Got A Little Time

Oh, man.  The things you can do when you have time to do them!

I've been busy since Monday.  For example, here's what I accomplished just today:

- Hair cut and colored
- Drop off at UPS
- Drop off at Post Office
- Grocery store run
- Made mustache straws for Jack's party
- Made parts of the propeller pops for Jack's party
(pictures of the former 2 will come after the party!)
- Worked out
- Washed and folded 2 loads of laundry
-Tidied up the kitchen

I also have exciting plans for ironing tonight.  I'm hooked on Battlestar Galactica now, so a lot of the above happened while I was watching episodes of that.  It's handy having an iPad to take about the house with me while I work in various rooms.

It's so ridiculously nice to be able to get so many things done and still, you know, sleep and eat and such.  It feels .. too nice.  Like this isn't right, I shouldn't have so much time.

But, believe me, I will enjoy it while it lasts.

Friday, May 20, 2011

All on a Golden Afternoon

Here's how I spent my Half Day Which Kind-of Heralds the Beginning of My Summer Vacation:

First I went to

where I browsed around this:

Then I drove to

and had a treat.

Next, I took myself to a matinee of this

at this theater:

Finally, I got take-out from here

Which I enjoyed while watching

But my favorite part will be later tonight when I turn off my alarm and sleep until I am done sleeping.

Mmm... delightful.


We're DONE! Yay!!

Classes are over, finals are graded and in the computer, and I'm keeping the same classroom next year (first time in three years!) so I don't have to pack everything up to move.

Monday's a half-day for teachers. We have faculty meeting, then time to work on whatever we need to. Me, I have one last kiddo coming in Monday to take a final and then I get to do all my filing and tidying up. My office has some great bookcases in it, but they're filled with old French and Spanish materials. (Hey - Spanish! It just occurred to me that I should borrow a workbook or dictionary to get ready for Peru! Handy!) I'm going to box those up and claim the shelves for all of my books. Bwah, ha, ha.

I'm looking forward to Monday - I can get up at 5:45 instead of 4:45; I can wear jeans; and I get time to crank up my music, kick off my shoes, and get organized. Putting things in alphabetical order makes me happy, you know?

Today's actually a half-day, too. They finally figured out what a waste of time it was to have kids go to all their classes the last day when they took half of their finals the day before. (I usually just pull out my stash of board games to keep them occupied for the 90 minute sessions.) John, Tiffany, and I are getting out of here soon. I'm going to celebrate the shortened day/start of summer by taking myself out to lunch and then to Tattered Cover to look for guidebooks for Peru. An excellent way to spend the afternoon, if I say so myself.

Last Day

Whoo! Summer! Whoo!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Another Winter in a Summer Town

With just a half-day tomorrow to go, the end is so close. I administered two finals today AND I graded and recorded them in record time. I just have one final left to go tomorrow, then the usual end-of-the-year wrap-up business at the teacher work day on Monday. But I'm having a hard time believing it.

As eagerly as I look forward to it, it doesn't feel like summer is here. I'm guessing that this might have something to do with it:

May Snow

Yup. Snow. It started just before noon and was still going strong when we left school around 3:30. The drive home was actually a little perilous, since it was accumulating and freezing.

Ah, May in Colorado.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

The backstage area was an absolute mess when I started here.

This year we've tackled a lot of it. We've sorted through the flats to toss out the torn and the broken. We found hammers and paintbrushes in all sorts of unimaginable places and relocated them to a newly-designated tool closet. We've converted my office backstage into a dressing/current-show-storage room. We broke apart the more dangerous pieces of scenery, salvaged the screws and found a storage place for good scrap wood. We reorganized the big pieces of scenery backstage to make the area navigable and safe. We even took a stand against the wrestling team storing their giant (GIANT) wrestling mats backstage and moved the mats to the wrestling room at the other end of the building.

This week was the granddaddy, the peak, the Everest of the clean-up. This week we tackled the costume shop.

The costume shop is a narrow room at the top of a shaky set of stairs backstage. Due to some ... supervisional issues from the teacher before me, I was only granted a key to that room when I swore that no students would be allowed up there unless I was standing in the room with them.

And so I put off that room until we had cleaned up everything else. With the other projects I could make several hot-spot-small-group assignments to a class and then migrate from place to place to supervise, assist, and answer questions. The costume shop was not large enough for an entire class, though, and I was not about to leave 20 kids down below alone while I supervised one group upstairs.

I knew I would be staying after for Grad Night yesterday, so I put out an invitation to both my drama classes that anyone who was willing to come help clean up the costume shop would be more than welcome.

We started with 8 kids. We finished with 2. (Not because the other 6 were buried under giant piles of fabric or anything - they just had to go home.) But by golly, we cleaned it. When we started, we had to shove shoulder-to-door to get into the room because so much stuff was piled on the floor. And now the junk is gone, the remainder is either hung or boxed and all is labeled. (In fact, we filled 1.5 of the school's dumpsters with junk from that room.)

As great as that feels (and, believe me, it feels great), I am especially proud that there are teenagers in the world who would gladly spend four hours cleaning out a dusty, musty, disgusting room simply because I asked for help.

Costume Shop

Man, I like teenagers.

Don't Do Sadness

Tiger Award

Last night was Grad Night, an apparently long-standing tradition at MTHS. The seniors and the teachers get together for an evening of dinner, a slideshow, and general end-of-the-year emotional stuff, including awards presented by the seniors to the teachers who are present (about half the staff). Most of them were joke awards, but they're all quite congenial.  It's a fun way to glimpse how the students perceive the adults.

My award is pictured above. The student who presented it said to the crowd, "If you've ever been in a play or musical, you know that although this teacher is a very loveable person, if you do something wrong, she'll call you on it and make you work until you do it right."  It provoked much laughter, including from me, as I went up to get a certificate and a little gold trophy.  And so I am the proud recipient of "The Caged Tiger Award." 

This morning, with the little trophy twinkling on my desk, I mentioned going to Grad Night to my Humanities class.

"Did you cry?" they asked.

"No," I replied.

"I heard everyone cried," they said.

"I'm not really a crier," I said.

And I'm not. As do all teachers, I've said good-bye to hundreds, probably even thousands of students by now. It's part of the job. You get to know them, you do what you can for them, then you both move on.  I think of former students often and wonder how they are.  Some individuals and some groups stand out still, and there are some student-memories (and one particular DPJH dvd) that are very dear to my heart.  But good-byes are said annually and I prefer to stay in control of my emotions.  I've become very good at not crying.

I like that this group of students respects me enough to see me as a fierce director.  I've worked with a lot of them in the last two years, and this is a fantastic class as a whole. There are kindred spirits in the bunch, and I will miss many of them next year.  But I'm not going to cry over my little trophy or over pictures of them as second graders, especially since I'll be seeing them all again for graduation on Sunday.  Grad Night will probably fade to the general blur of yet another last week of another school year.


There are those moments that stand out, those times that you can point to and say "This.  This is why I keep teaching.  This is why I'll come back next year and do all of this again."  What I will remember from this week is one of my boys - my Macduff, my Jack Worthing, my Schroeder - coming into my room on the second day of his summer break, hiding something green behind his back.

We were in the middle of check-in, and he crossed to me ignoring the chorus of happy hellos from the juniors and sophomores who were left behind with me.

"I wanted to give you something," he said. Then he held out a feathered and beaded and beglittered mask.

I exclaimed with delight when I saw it, as did the other students.  "Try it on!" they called, and I did.  I promised it would go on the wall next to my desk where the masks I collect from my travels hang.  Then I hugged that tall, tall boy.

Then, later, when I was alone in my classroom, I opened the card he had given me too.

And I read it.

And I started to tear up, just a little.

Then I tucked away the card somewhere safe, and got ready for my next class.


Monday, May 16, 2011

South American Way

Finally, FINALLY, Jason and I have decided where we're going this summer.

Drumroll please...

We're going to Peru!
This place.

After months (MONTHS) of discussions of where-to-go, let's-be-practical, how-about-here? -ness, tonight we actually bought plane tickets, thereby ensuring some sort of civil war or llama uprising in the next two months.

As you may recall, we were going to be good travelers and stay domestic (i.e. North America) this summer in hopes of going to Europe for Kristkinglemarts in December and St. Petersburg next summer.

But then Jason told me last night that he just can't make the December trip happen with his work schedule.  My heart was bruised (oh! how I miss Germany at Christmas time!), especially since I really don't know anyone else who would/could make that trip with me.  And while I certainly don't mind traveling on my own, that particular trip was meant to be shared.

Not going to Europe this winter does open up some financial possibilities, though.  And so we started poking around Kayak again.

And then we spotted round-trip tickets to Peru for $501.



We immediately started researching different travel sites, reading out loud to each other the various facts and opinions and suggestions.

"We can go on a four-day trek through the jungle and camp out!"
"Oh.  That sounds... fun."


"We can volunteer in a classroom with kids for an afternoon, singing songs and teaching English!"
 "Oh.  That sounds... fun."

(Betcha can't guess to whom each suggestion belongs!)

Within an hour, we had convinced ourselves that Peru was it.  Finally we were excited, not just content but excited, about our plans.

And then we went back to book the tickets.  The $501 was still listed, but it was impossible to find on the booking page.  Darn you, Kayak!  Darn you and your travel-teasing ways!

We searched and searched watching the prices climb higher and higher.  Really, it was bizarre.  I've never seen plane tickets change like that over such a small chunk of time.  Within two hours of our original search, Peru was pulling up at $950 or more with 9-hour layovers in the middle of the night in Bogota or El Salvador  Not the best itineraries.

Frustrated and dismayed, we called the search off for the night with promises to reconvene soon, maybe Peru, but probably our domestic roadtrip plans to confirm instead.

But the bug had bitten - I was feeling that excellent nervous-excited tremor about Peru that I hadn't felt about any of our many, many other trip ideas.  I had spent Friday at a faculty party having this conversation over and over again:

"So, where are you going this summer?"
"I'm going to go live in DC for six weeks."
"Oh.  You're not going overseas?"
"Not this summer."
(with visible disappointment) "Oh.  Well, that'll be fun, too."

I hated it!  I'm spoiled, dang it!  I want to go somewhere with great possibilities for great stories.  I want to accomplish something travel-wise this summer.  I want adventure and novelty and foreign-language mishaps.

So when I wrapped up work at a reasonable hour today I hopped on to see what they could offer.  When I found a really reasonable itinerary for under $900, I emailed Jason.

A flurry of emails and several refreshings of the search screen later, we had our tickets to Peru.


Now there's all sorts of accomplishment to be had - a new continent!  Heck, a new hemisphere!  And, best of all, now I have something new to research!

Man, I love researching a new destination.

(Say, who's got two index fingers and a place to go this summer?)
Boom, baby!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Come What May

Dear Colorado,

It's just cruel to dangle the possibility of a snow day in front of us in May.

May Snow 2

There's 8 days of school left.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Always True to You in My Fashion

It was about halfway through the pre-show rigamarole that I suddenly realized what I was wearing.

I've been on the path for a while, but Friday night I truly became a drama teacher.

I also demonstrated my true bloggerness, since my first thought was that I needed to get a photo of my outfit to show you what I mean.  Five different kids were looking for me at that moment, though, so I have no photo evidence to show you.

Well, I do have this:
Asian Pose!

E.K. Hornbeck snagged me after the show to take a picture "Asian style!" in the dressing room.  But it hardly shows what I'm talking about, and I can't let such a momentous transition in my life go unnoticed.  So I drew you a picture of what I was wearing:

See what I mean?  I swear all I'm missing is one more flowing layer, and I actually had intended to grab a black and red silk scarf that morning.

Sigh.  I am a drama teacher, aren't I?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Jolly Theatrical Season

I officially declare the MTHS theater season of 2010-2011 closed!

In the past eight months I have produced/directed/designed seven productions:

One classical comedy,
One children's play,
One Shakespeare tragedy,
One one-act festival,
One musical
One slapstick comedy,
And one drama.

Additionally, I've taken students on field trips to do two theater facility tours, two acting workshops, and to see eight different theater productions.

I'm not tired of theater yet, but I am certainly ready to be just an audience member for a while.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Alegria Quote

(This is just for me - I'm constantly looking for where I left this quote, so I'm putting it here.)

(It's a good one, though, isn't it?)

“When you step into the light to do the show, play your role with everything you've got. Invest every tear, every laugh, everything beautiful and ugly from your lives.  Do you show and live your lives with humanity, because whatever you do, it changes someone's life forever."
-from Alegria

I Dreamed a Show

(It may have been that the whole class was slaphappy after doing a show last night, but this quote from our discussion of what musicals we should do next year too good to simply use as my Gmail status.)

Kate: "We should combine Chicago, Rent, and Sweeney Todd for the musical next year!  We can be barbers who murder their husbands with AIDS!"

Children and Art

I am rather worthless right now.

My 2nd period Humanities class is drawing to a close, but I can't bring myself to grade the stack of papers next to me.  In fact, it's taking most of my willpower to not curl up on the carpet in the middle of this computer lab and give in to sleep.

No worries about my teaching, though.  My students are hard at work.  They're writing biographies of artists of the 19th century right now and posting them to the class blog.  And they're listening to the techno version of Grieg's Peer Gynt, thanks to one student.  He had been whistling Peter and the Wolf until his neighbors begged him to stop.  So he switched to Peer Gynt.

I can't blame him for the earworms - they just took the classical musical listening test.  Which, if I have time tomorrow, I'm going to try again to figure out how to post that test online so you guys can try it, too.

The Adv. Drama class performance #1 was last night (hence the tiredness).  A lot of forces combined against me to make doing the show difficult, but, as always, Dionysus prevailed and the kids pulled it off. 

Kind of. 

We'll call last night a dress rehearsal.  Tonight they'll be good.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Haben Sie Gehört das Deutsche Band?

I got a sneak peak at my schedule for next year. Nothing's set in stone, of course - even as I walk into the building on the first day of school I halfway expect a new schedule of classes. But still, there are some highlights:

- They actually listened to me when I asked if they could please not schedule drama classes at the same time as the band class. Jesse's got a lot of percussionists, and it's really hard to rehearse on stage when they're wailing it out Stomp-style in the backstage shop.

- No English classes again! This is the one that I'm keeping my hopes the lowest on. I loved (LOVED) not teaching English this year and I'm glad that my drama enrollment's up enough for them to decide that I'm more needed for electives than English.

- Humanities is still on the list. I keep expecting this class to get cut, since it's not the most popular elective. The counselor assured me that not next year but the year after that she can arrange for all the students who are in AP World History to be concurrently enrolled in Humanities (a marvelous idea all around). I was surprised that my gut reaction to that news was something close to panic at the thought of being here for that long. But that's a subject for another entry.

I'll just be glad to be able to use and improve my Humanities curriculum for another year, since I have put at least a hundred hours into it. Plus, there's all kinds of new things to add to it. Like this!

How great is that? The second week of my class involves a virtual visit to the Lascaux caves. Now I can supplement that by introducing my wee ones to the wonders of Werner Herzog.

(A Werner side note -  Is hearing one's own heartbeat such a big deal?  When we were in Phra Den's cave at the beach wat in Thailand, Phra Bart repeatedly commented on how thrilled he was that it was quiet enough to hear his own heartbeat.  The other meditation students nodded with similar reverence and awe.  I was just baffled - I can hear my own heartbeat anytime I'm in a relatively quiet place if I listen for it.  Even right now, I can hear it when I pause in my typing.  Is that really so unusual?)

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Good Clean Fun

The Intro. to Drama class play wrapped up just fine. The parents enjoyed it Thursday night and the entire middle school came over on Friday for a matinee performance.  They were a rambunctious and reactive audience, in a good way, thankfully. They laughed at all the parts which I had assured my students were indeed funny. My students approached me with trepidation afterwards because they had skipped five pages ahead at one point (right over a key blocking sequence that set up the entire ending of the show), only to be pulled back to that part later by the senior I had filling in for one of the missing narrators prompted them to do so (how she came to be onstage is a whole different story).

"Did we do okay?" they asked.

"You did great!" I exclaimed.

"But we skipped..." they trail off, imagining me docking their final exam scores for their mistake.

"And the audience didn't have a clue. You kept going and they didn't even know that anything was wrong! That's exactly what you're supposed to do."

They collectively sighed in relief and then got to work cleaning up the lettuce and shaving cream before they missed their buses.

We'll do a better post-mortem on Monday in class. This group is so very novice that they need that assistance in processing this past week a lot more than usual. And then, as usual, we'll strike everything, set things up for the next play, and then celebrate the glory that is us.

I thought about coming out to Salt Lake for the weekend. My parents were up there to meet the new family members and I was struck by a sudden strong missing-my-SLC-friends-ness that had me looking for last minute plane fare deals. By the time I had cleaned up the show Friday and was heading down the mountain, though, I had a rotten headache and a strong urge to do things that required very little planning or stress.

Instead, I went to the temple Friday night and treated myself to a trip to Rumbi's, one of my favorite SLC restaurants (yup, there is indeed a Rumbi's here in Denver, but it's very much out of my way).

Rachel came over Saturday morning with a sick-but-getting-better Jack and we had a day of sister-like fun. We went shopping (Rachel got some very cute dresses), went out to lunch at Panera's, went to Fancy Tiger to ooh and ah over their new fabrics, got frozen yogurt at a new favorite place, ate pizza and watched the new episode of Who at Brian's, and wrapped up the day by watching the first part of the miniseries of Battlestar Galactica back at Rachel's.

Rachel has been talking for a while about getting me to watch that show (she's also trying to get me to watch Star Wars, which might finally happen this summer.) (Did you know that I've only seen one of the Star Wars movies? It's yet another fascinating thing about me!), but she also cautioned me that it's pretty depressing and that it makes for serious geek cred. I trust her recommendations, though, since the other geeky TV shows she's introduced me to make up the majority of my favorite things to watch. (Given my same pattern of then introducing said TV show to you, Jason, you should expect me to coax you into continuing the Battlestar Galactica this summer.)  I happen to enjoy both geek cred and a good show, so I'm looking forward to seeing more of it.

Today, Sunday, I did very little.  I read a book, washed my dishes from the week, did a slew of laundry, and I cleaned out my refrigerator, reducing the contents to little more than salsa, lettuce, a few apples, and six eggs.  Because I've been off omelets since my time at the monastery, I'll have to hie me to a grocery store in the near future.

I also gave in to the temptation Rachel laid for me yesterday.  She told me about this.  I did my own research, thought it over all day, then decided that not having to scoop cat litter was indeed worth $260 to me.  Plus, I love my cat and I do feel guilty whenever I abandon her.  The least I can do is get her a 1960's-version-of-the-future-looking gadget that guarantees her a clean bathroom, right?

I will only be abandoning her once more this school year, I think.  I'll be up at MT for the last half of this week for the Advanced Drama class play, Inherit the Wind.  I do love that play.  It's got some marvelous speeches in it, and I get all sentimental since it was the very first play I was ever a part of (Mrs. Blair - a speaking part as a freshman!).  We'll see how it goes - as of Friday, none of the leads were memorized yet.  I'm also curious to see how the community receives it.  MT is pretty conservative.

No matter what, though, in five days I'll be done with plays for the school year.  I'm definitely ready for that.

Small Talk

You can watch a more complete talk by Sir Ken Robinson at a TED conference here. I've seen it before, too, but it's well worth multiple viewings. It includes ideas such as:

You probably stayed benignly away from things at school, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? Don't do music, you won't be a musician. Don't do art, you won't be an artist. Benign advice now profoundly mistaken.

Which, incidently is exactly the philosophy that led to my current superintendent cutting classes like Home Ec. from my school. He discovered that only a few students went on to graduate in Home Ec. in college and concluded that the classes were therefore a waste of time and money.