Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Decade Day

I don't understand why the other teachers at my school don't dress up for spirit week. I mean, who doesn't love an excuse to wear costumes?

Today was Decade Day. The most popular choices by far among the students were the 80s and the 60s. I considered both and went so far as to pull out a hippie outfit from my closet last night. Then I realized that I had worn the exact same outfit to work not too long ago (minus the wooden-beaded headband).  Back to the racks!

I combed through my clothes in search of another outfit, finally landing on my dress from Andy's wedding last summer. While also not a costume, the addition of my opera gloves and a beret were enough for me to declare my outfit dated.

The kids loved it. I got many compliments, including a student who declared "I just want to take a picture of you!"

So she did:

Decade Day

(I especially like my punk freshman in the background.)

"Are you going to wear that outfit to Paris?" they asked.

"No," I said. "People don't actually dress like this in Paris."

They were disappointed to learn that.  And, indeed, it is a dommage.

Monday, September 26, 2011


One of my new rules for self-preservation is if no one signs up for Speech practice at least 24 hours in advance, I cancel practice.

Distracted by Homecoming/Spirit Week and accustomed to my being there, well, all the time, the sign-up board for this week was looking pretty sparse and today's slot was completely empty.  I stuck to my guns, and when some kiddos came in right after the bell rang and asked me to work with them, I said, "Sorry, no.  Sign up for a time later in the week, though."

They definitely need to practice, but they also need to learn to respect my time and plan ahead.  So I kept my own rules and ta-dah!  I had time to get the speech hoodie order processed, Photoshop the logo for the hoodies, prep for Drama 1 auditions tomorrow, and completely catch up on grading.  Woot!

My own productivity levels have dropped since getting home, though.  Sure, I worked out and cooked dinner and all, but I'm also distracted.  Not by Homecoming plans or deciding what to wear for Decade Day Wednesday, but by a certain upcoming trip.

We booked our hotel last night, you see, and it's so pretty and so wonderfully located.  Plus, my grandmere et grandpere sent me a book last night that I've been thoroughly enjoying.  In fact, I'm off to read more about Parisians now.

Bonne nuit!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

On Sleep

I'm thinking about sleep while I'm sitting here between conferences.

It's not so much because I'm tired, but rather because I came across this TED talk by Arianna Huffington:

(via Mental Floss)

I started off the school year determined to be healthier. Granted, I do that every year, but I feel like I've had some particular victories this time around, and one of the biggest has been my sleep cycle.

I have worked hard to get myself into bed on time. (As I've mentioned before, "on time" means falling asleep by 8:45 in order to get a full eight hours prior to my alarm going off.)

Ms. Huffington talks about the bragging rights that people indulge in with sleep. I feel that too. I hear people talking about staying up so late or getting up so early or doing so much and I want to play the game and be just as superhuman.

This year I declared enough.  I'm not superhuman.  I need eight hours (actually, I think I need nine, but eight is a good start), and by golly, I'm going to get eight hours.

So when 8:00 PM rolls around, I start getting ready for bed.  And I've seen the difference - I have more energy throughout the day, I feel safer driving up and down the mountain, and it's easier to get up when my alarm goes off. Of course, there are some not-so-great differences, too. Last night I was up at Rachel and Ben's for Book Club and just after 8:00 I suddenly drooped. I was tired! It was bedtime! And it was freakin' 8:00.  In the midst of the perkiness of the 20-something youngins, I needed to get to bed at the same time the toddler did.

I indulge on the weekends, staying up until 10:00 or, if I'm feeling particularly feisty, 11. I can compensate on Saturday and Sunday, but then Sunday night rolls around and I'm not at all tired at 8, 9, or even 10. It's not fun to wrench my cycle back into gear at the beginning of the work week; but when I follow my rules, boy do I feel the difference after a few days.

Overall, I really do recommend it. Getting enough sleep really does make a good difference.  I just don't know how to do it without giving up a social life altogether.

Parent Teacher Conferences

Hello from Mountain Town!

Ah, conferences.  The good news is that I totally caught up on my grading prior to the conferences.  The bad news is that because I did that, I'm twiddling my thumbs while I sit here for the requisite time.

I could make up a worksheet for Intro to Drama next week, or input Speech data, or search for and order Interp pieces, or work on set designs; but I just lose my motivation to make up things to do after the 10th hour of work, you know?

So, as you saw from my previous entry, I'm catching up on Google Reader and blogging instead.

Hmm.  I think I'll take a picture of the view from my window next.  The aspens are just starting to turn gold.  Then again, it's always a gorgeous view outside my window.  Here, see for yourself:

View Fall
View the First

View Fall
View the Second

What you can't see is the river and that pond sparkling in the little bit of sunshine peaking through the clouds. It's almost pretty enough to make me understand why people want to live up here in Mountain Town.


I'm going to stay up here until Friday. We don't get out of conferences until 8:00, and being able to be "home" in 10 minutes instead of 50 PLUS being able to sleep until 5:45 instead of 4:45 is just too delicious to pass up on these long work days.

I do feel bad about abandoning Natasha, though. She made herself scarce this morning when I pulled out my suitcase, lest I stuff her in a cage and haul her up the mountain. Still, when I think of her all alone in my apartment for three days, my conscience twinges. Is it not strange that cat guilt should hale souls out of men's bodies?

(I've got this show on the brain:)

Not a Bad Price!

We've got Asian babies, African babies, Canadian babies...

Monday, September 19, 2011

All Quiet

I've started a few blog entries tonight, but really, there's just not that much to share.  This cold wiped me out so completely that things have just been quiet.

Literally for a while.  Thankfully my voice is almost back to normal - I could at least do the vocal warmups today, although I'm still coughing (or, as one student graciously put it, "barking like a seal").

Happily my energy's almost back to normal too.  I've missed it.

See?  Like I said, not much to share.  So, to make this worth your while, here's a video that's all shiny with 80's childhood memories:

The best part is the water reflection.

Also? I was convinced for years that Fivel was somewhere out there beneath the "pebble light". I figured it was some kind of weird perspective-thing, since they were mice and all. Then again, I also thought "half-mast" was a sailing term for doing a poor job, like you only raised the sails part-way. It was a long time before I figured out people were actually saying "half-assed."

My version makes a lot more sense, if you ask me.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Sick Day Encore, Sick Day Toujours

This cold is totally kicking my keister.

The kids have been telling me for two days to "go home, Ms. Waterhouse"; "you're sick, Ms. Waterhouse"; "you have the plague, Ms. Waterhouse"; "why are you still here, Ms. Waterhouse?"

"I'm here for you," I tell them between coughs.

They laugh at me.  "Go HOME, Ms. Waterhouse."

I tried leading vocal warm ups, and my voice cracked through the "Hey!" which made everyone break into giggles.  I tried to "Reee" off the top of my head and they collapsed over in laughter.  "You sound like a mouse being stepped on!" they tell me.

I stomp my foot in mock aggrevation.  "Stop making fun of me!" I croak.  They laugh harder.

"At least you don't get meaner when you're sick like some teachers," they tell me.

No, I don't get meaner.  I do get more distractable, and it's easier to get me going off on tangents.  They haven't quite figured that out yet, although they might suspect it after I suddenly realized in the middle of giving mini-speech-meet instructions that I have arms.

I had forgotten, you see, and they were a pleasant surprise.

It probably is best that I took their advice and stayed home today.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Take Two

After sealing up my blackout curtains, shooing the cat away, grumbling about the noisy children frolicking outside my bedroom windows, and taking various drugs, I tucked myself into bed last night at a far too reasonable hour.

And didn't fall asleep.

I was too worried about sleeping again.  I tried a few tricks - reading, watching an episode of Parks and Rec, counting backwards from 100 by 13s, but to no avail.  Heck, I even downloaded a General Conference video to try to lull myself to sleep.  It didn't work.

At some point somehow I finally fell asleep, and I slept pretty soundly, too.  No dreams/hallucinations about phone calls or air raids - yay!  When my alarm went off, I actually felt refreshed and ready to head back to school.  Yay encore!

Then while driving to work I noticed that my vision was still blurry.  I couldn't make out the road warning signs.  But I was committed to going to work at that point, having showered an all, and I was sure I could see well enough to avoid hitting deer or small children.

My fever came back about 10 minutes into the first class.  I was going over some blocking notes between hacking coughs, and I was suddenly incredibly hot.  I was wearing several layers, since up until then I had been freezing cold, so I continued my notes while stripping off various scarves and sweaters and making a pile on the stage next to me.

Then I looked at the pile.  It looked like such a nice, soft, welcoming pile of fabric.  I could just rest my head there for a little bit.  I can direct laying down.  I'm sure the kids won't mind!

They probably wouldn't mind, but they were starting to look at me with worried expressions.  Probably because I had trailed off mid-sentence and was now staring at a pile of clothing at my side.

I soldiered on!  We blocked twelve more beats! I think I even made coherent communication!  And then I taught two more classes!

Well, kind of.  I gave myself a break in Intro to Drama.  Their monologue performances were today and normally those are followed by the Mime unit, but I didn't think I could teach mime when I was having trouble stand up for long periods of time.  So they're watching Clue instead for character analysis.  I even made them a worksheet and everything.  I'm a real teacher, I am.

In retrospect, I should have stayed home again today, but we were supposed to start the Speech season yesterday and there were already parents having fits about the delay.  I should probably stay home tomorrow, but tomorrow's the meeting for the kids interested in going to New York and, heck, I'm here anyway.

And might be for a while.  I'm having trouble finding the energy to stand up and go home.  And that pile of papers is looking mighty inviting...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sick Day

Sometime in the wee smalls of the morning I woke up convinced I had just had a conversation with my parents about whether I should call in sick.  They were both in favor of it, and I was halfway through typing up a lesson plan when I suddenly realized that I was actually tangled up in my sheets, mumbling into Natasha's fur.  I still wasn't sure whether or not it was a dream until I realized that my dad had been the one who answered the phone, and he was totally coherent, despite being 4:00 AM.

Definitely a dream.

While not as exciting as the time I had gotten sick in college, indulged in a M*A*S*H marathon, and proceeded to build a blanket tent in my dorm room for shelter against the bombs; I figured if a) I was too woosy to get to the bathroom without falling over (twice!), b) I was still sweating despite the fan I had aimed directly at the bed and the AC turned down to 70, and c) I was halfway through writing subplans in my sleep anyway, I better just throw in the towel and call in sick.

I blame this guy:

The germs were wise to breed in this one....

When not sleeping, my day has consisted of various juices, rice pudding, episodes of Doctor Who and Angel, and trying to pop my ears.

Sick days would be so nice if I weren't, you know, sick.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Everything's a Little Bit Blurry

Not smart:
Taking the cold medication before I write the final draft of my talk for church tomorrow.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Glutton for Punishment

"Ms. Waterhouse, can you take us to New York?"

That was Cody's question during Business today in first period.  It wasn't one of their flippant, mostly-joking questions, like when they ask if I'll take them to Paris in my carry-on luggage.  Cody was serious, and I know her well enough to know she's been thinking it over for a while.

It's an idea that I've been thinking over for a while, too.  I even went so far last year as to contact a couple of student travel agencies for quotes.  But then they kept wanting to chat by phone, and my phone is in a completely separate room, and speech started up, and I had to sew and dye all of these tunics, and, well, the idea got away from me.

But Cody asked at an auspicious time - the speech after-school practices don't start until Monday, I'm only directing one show at the moment, and I was actually caught up on my grading.  So during my plan period I looked through a few websites and put in a few queries for price quotes for a trip in the weeks right after school lets out.

Once travel agency, Smithsonian, contacted me within 20 minutes.

I spoke to the representative for a while, talking about what kind of tour I was looking for (Shows!  Lots and lots of shows!).  The costs were higher than I expected - $1850 per student is what she quoted me for a 5 day trip.  That's all-inclusive - meals, airfare, tickets to two shows (which seems to be their definition of "a lot".  If you're in New York for five days and you don't see at least six shows, there's something wrong with your itinerary), gratuities, a full-time guide, night security, an improv workshop, everything.

So I took it to my students.  I told my afternoon classes about the trip, told them the price, and asked how many of them were a) interested and b) probably able get together that kind of money by the February payment deadline.

Over 30 kids raised their hands, which means probably 10 would follow-through with that.  Add in the students from first period and those who I don't have in class this year and I've got a good-sized group of students to take to New York at the end of May.

I've had two hesitations previously:

1) The Hassle

Oh, the hassle.  Organizing a simple day trip to DCTC to see a show takes several hours of phone calls and paperwork and planning.  Can you imagine a five day trip across the country?

This company, though, is the same one that another teacher in my school does an annual international trip through.  She's raved before about how well-organized they are.  For example, they set up a website for your group that the students log into to handle all of the paperwork and payments.  I don't have to touch any money - that's a really good thing.  It's a reputable company, and Tiffany assured me that it's got the best value for the dollar (and she shopped around much more than I did).

A few of the students asked about fundraising, and I answered them honestly.  I explained that between speech and drama and everything else, I don't have any more time to give.   "I can put together this trip, I'll gladly take you on it, but I won't do any fundraising."

The students nodded.  My goodness, do I love that I've earned their trust and respect!  They got it, and they didn't push me or question my choice.  Instead Kailey raised her hand, "What if our parents wanted to organize a fundraiser?  Could they?"  and I happily said, "Of course."

Frankly, I'm kind of proud of myself for drawing that line in the sand early on.  I'm doing a better job of being aware of what's reasonable and of allowing myself to say no when taking on something else will lessen the quality of my other work or, for that matter, my own personal life.

2) The Tour

Urgh!  The tour!  I don't want the kids to see New York from an air-conditioned tour bus!  I want them to ride the subway, to figure out the street system, to smell the city!  Inhale, my dears!  Every city, let me tell you, has its own smell!

To add salt to the wound, every single tour I found included a tour of the Statue of Liberty, of Ellis Island, and of Ground Zero.  What a waste of time!  If I were in charge, we'd note the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park and slow down our pace long enough to peer through the fence at Ground Zero on our way from the Irish Potato Famine Memorial to see a matinee.

I lamented the loss of time over Ground Zero in my fourth period class, and they were taken aback at my irreverence.  "It's a giant hole in the ground!"  I explained.

"But isn't there, like, a memorial?" they asked.

"To commemorate a hole in the ground!  Who needs to see that when we could be at the Natural History Museum or the Guggenheim or at a show?!"

They did not understand.

If I found a company that would book the hotel, the meals, and all of the tickets, both airplane and theater, but then left us to our own devices, I would be thrilled.  But, no, that's not to be.  So I'll let someone else lead the tour and I'll try not to sulk too much while we drive around town in a giant tour bus.

The thing is, I know this trip's for them.  If I wanted to go to New York, I would just go.  This isn't going to be my kind of trip, but it is going to be the first time most of these kids have ever been on a plane, let alone in New York.  I want them to go there, I want them to fall in love with it, and then I want them to go back again, this time on their own terms.

Oh!  Speaking of their terms, the students were quick to form their own agendas for the trip:

Cody: (Gasping with a sudden thought)  Ms. Waterhouse, if we go to New York will Jason come too?

Other students:  We get to meet Jason?!

Me:  Jason?  Maybe.  I don't know.

Cody: We should totally meet him!

Kailey:  I want to meet Jason!

Students: (Chatter excitedly amongst each other about meeting Jason)

JJ: If Jason's going to be there, then I'm definitely going.

Me: (Laughing) You guys make it sound like I should advertise the trip like "MEET JASON!! ...and see some Broadway shows."

Gretchen:  That's exactly how you should advertise it.

Kelsey:  Do you know how many students you'd get signed up for it if they got to meet Jason?

Me:  That's ridiculous!

Cody:  We're looking out for you, Ms. Waterhouse.  We want to make sure he's right for you.


Kailey:  It's only a matter of time, Ms. Waterhouse.

So, Jason, how would you like to meet me and 10-30 high school students in New York this summer?  They promise that they won't embarrass me in front of you....

The Cabinet of Curiosity

My mom sent a picture of their new prize:

(Sadly, that's not a ghost in the reflection - it's an Ikea lamp.)

And also a photo of the decorative-but-hardly-magical keys:

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Curiouser and Curiouser

My parents came to town for the holiday weekend, and it was both delightful and laid back.  Aside from the usual rituals (eating out, shoe shopping at Clarks, clothes shopping at the Eddie Bauer outlet, craft shopping at Fancy Tiger, grocery shopping at Whole Foods, and, of course, Sweet Action ice cream), we added a new twist - antique shopping.

Inspired by the grandchild, my parents came with a mission - to find a Cabinet of Curiosities for their newly-remodeled house.  My dad gave my mom this terrific microscope for Christmas last year - the kind where you can look at tiny three-dimensional objects, not slides.  They have been collecting bits and pieces for the microscope in addition to all of the bits and pieces collected over years of foreign and domestic travel and had visions of a grand cabinet filled with drawers and cubbies and maybe even some secret hiding spots for said objects for the grandchild to explore.

We visited a few stores, but at the end of the day wound up returning to the first store a second time.  It was a delightful, crowded place filled with treasures that ranged from 19th century scooters for toddlers to a leather-bound metal stationary case (complete with ready-to-fill glass ink bottles) to a curvacious 1920's French writing desk.  There in the basement was a cabinet that had stayed on our minds all day.  The more we looked at it, the more we liked it.  But then!  Then we started making discoveries:

- It was custom-made in the mid-19th century for a maharaja in India.
- The basic design is English, but it's accented and framed by bronze vines, flowers, birds, and figures dancing and playing the sitar.
- The figures are naked. (As a rule, our family likes things that stir up the Home Teachers.)
- The top drawer of the bottom half is actually a cleverly-disguised secretary desk.
- The secretary desk has many drawers and cubbies.

Once we discovered the secretary desk and its accompanying hidden release buttons, it seemed destined to be the cabinet of choice.  But then (then!) the shop owner casually mentioned the secret hiding spot.

"What, what?" we said, then practically raced back downstairs to see for ourselves.  It took quite a bit of poking and guesswork, but we discovered not one but five secret hiding places in the cabinet! (And I'm not saying anymore about that!  You'll just have to find them yourselves.)

Really, the only thing that disappointed was the lack of a working key.  I had pointed out to my parents when they first described this quest that the cabinet really must have a proper key.  Sadly, most of the locks on this cabinet were filled in with sawdust, but the main outside locks seemed to be in working order.  However, there were no coordinating keys in sight, not even in the secret compartments.

"We might have something that will work."  The saleswoman slipped upstairs then reappeared with a clanking shoebox.  She opened it to reveal the most delicious collection of old keys I have ever seen.  From tiny brass ones to rusted iron keys as big as my hand, she started poking through the box searching for a possible fit.

After trying five or six keys, she found one that fit in the lock and "looked pretty."  It didn't actually operate the lock, but she declared her search complete and set the box aside.  When she rejoined the owner, who was telling my mom about his trips to India to purchase furniture, my dad sidled up to me.  "Do you really think she tried enough keys?" he whispered conspiratorially.

That was all the push I needed.  While he casually joined the others, I opened the shoebox and began sorting the keys, taking them in great handfuls to the cabinet to try each one in the lock in turn.  My parents continued chatting with the owner.  He was probably telling very interesting stories, but I like to believe they were just encouraging him to keep talking in order to buy me more time.  I had a quest!  I must find the correct key!

As I searched, I felt the pressure mounting.  I sorted the keys, setting aside the ones that were the wrong shape and size, keenly aware that if ever I have learned anything from all of the young adult books I've read it's that if I found the correct key and fitted it to the lock and turned it successfully and felt that click of the bolt sliding into place, magical things would happen.  An abandoned garden, a world trapped in winter, a hidden wife - o, the possibilities!  If only I was being pursued by wraiths or Death Eaters!  Then a magical conclusion would be guaranteed!

Sadly, I was not in peril.  I was, however, under a time limit and as the adults' conversation near me drew to a close, I knew I only had a few seconds left.  I quickly pulled three keys from the bottom of the box and rushed to the cabinet.  The first one fit, but didn't turn.  The second one was too wide for the hole.  The third one fit into the lock.  As I tried one last time to turn a key in the lock, I turned my head to see my parents shaking hands with the owner, a universal sign of a conversation ending.  To my surprise, I felt the last key rotate with ease.  I whipped my focus back on the bolt on the side of the door as I twisted the small silver stem.

Nothing.  The key simply turned in the lock without catching any of the tumblers.

As my dad shot me a querying look, I shook my head in defeat and set the silver key on the cabinet's shelf before returning the others to the shoebox and handing it back to the shopowner's assistant.  The small silver key will be a nice decorative addition to the cabinet, another fun trinket, but it won't be magical.

If only there had been wraiths.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Show and Tell

In my Advanced Drama class today, I told the students they could do Show and Tell at the opening (I like to do small activities like that on Fridays to build the classroom community). With my very late night last night (yay Les Mis!), I completely forgot about bringing something.  Here's how my turn went:

Me: I'm sorry, I forgot to bring something from home for Show and Tell.  Here (digging in my pocket) you can see a photo from my phone, if you like.  I have a picture of my parents, of some of the kids I taught in Thailand, of this Incan-

Students: (Interrupting) Show us Jason!

Me: Jason?

Students: Yeah!  Show us Jason!

(Note: They collectively forgot 40% of their theater vocabulary words over the summer, but this they retain with perfect clarity.)

Me: Um, okay then.  Here.  (Flipping through the pictures) Here's a picture of him in Turkey(I hand my phone to the student next to me.  They instantly flock around it.)

Various Girls: Aww!

Cody (a girl):  He looks like a goob!

Students: (chuckle)

Me: What's a goob?

Cody:  You know... a goob.

Me:  (looks confused)

Cody:  Like Zach. (points at Zach)

Zach: (nods)

Me: No, he's not a goob.

Kailey:  Yeah.  He looks more like a nerd.  That's okay though, Ms. Waterhouse.

Me:  (Thinking about it) I'm actually probably more nerdy than he is.

Alana:  Tell us about him!

Randy:  Yeah, it's Show and Tell.  Tell us about him.

Me:  What do you want to know?

Alana:  Where did you meet him?

Me:  At a dance in college.

Katie:  What does he do?

Me:  He's a lawyer.

Students:  A lawyer?

Kailey:  Oh, then he's not a nerd.  Lawyers are, like, hardcore.

Cody:  Yeah, they're real.

Ali:  You should invite him to Homecoming!

Steven:  Call him up right now and ask him.

Bri: We'll pay for his plane ticket

Me:  He's at work right now.

Zach:  So are you!  Call him!

Kailey:  At least get married to him, Ms. Waterhouse.

Me:  We're just friends.

Cody:  That can change.

Kate:  Yeah, what if he was, like, dying and he then he liked, realized that he loved you, and then he called you up and was all like (in a deep voice), "Miss Waterhouse, I'm dying.  I love you.  Let's get married."

Everyone: (Laughs)

Me: (Laughing too) I like how you think he calls me "Miss Waterhouse," Kate.

Students (including Kate): (Laugh)

Me:  Yes, and I call him "Mr. Davis."

Katie and Alana:  Like Mr. Darcy!

Katie:  He could be your Mr. Darcy, Miss Waterhouse.

And... scene.

P.S.  I wonder sometimes if I rely too much on Jason as my token boyfriend, but then scenes like this happen.  How could I rob us of such blog fodder?