Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bells are Ringing

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

For now, the happiest of wishes to you!

Friday, December 12, 2008

I Hope I Get It

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

So... something good that happened at school.


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It Sucks To Be Me

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

Girl Student:
glares at Boy Student

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

Me: Give me the note, Eli.

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

Me: Eli.

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

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

And that's where I intercepted the note.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Empty Pockets Filled With Love

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

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

I miss not getting ready for a show.

Life Support

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

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

Me: Yes. It's World AIDS Day.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All six were boys.

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

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

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I changed the link in the post below so you can all enjoy Jon Stewart's singing.

You're welcome.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Can I Interest You in Hannukah?

This Christmas Special was hit and miss, but this song was my favorite.
Watch the whole song, if you can.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Ikea Business has a test to find your style. Apparently I'm Scandinavian Natural. Go figure.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hymn to a Sunday Evening

For no reason other than merriment, I give you

TV From My Childhood

For starters, of course, it has to be

Rainbow Brite

(Oh my goodness, the tinny music. My ears! My speakers!)

Chip 'N' Dale: Rescue Rangers

(I maintain still that is one of the best theme songs of the decade.)

Out of This World

Full House

(Yes. Sad to say, but yes, this one, too.)

Silver Spoons

Perfect Strangers

(I thought Balki was hilarious - look, he's stuck in a revolving door! Ha!)
(Hey, I was, like, 10. Don't judge me.)

Gummi Bears

(Gummiberry juice! Who knew Disney would endorse steroid abuse during the "Just Say No!" era?)

Square One TV
(This one gets two clips)

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
(I couldn't embed this video, but it's worth the link if only for the map with the flashing lights - oh, the memories!)
(Yes, I fully acknowledge my geekiness with my love of educational TV programming. This show rocked, though. I mean, the singers are called ROCKapella! How could they not be awesome?)

Punky Brewster

(Check out the cool girls' outfits - aren't they styling? I tried to find the two clips that are burned into my memories - Punky dropping an oyster down her shirt at a fancy dinner party and Cherie getting trapped in an abandoned refrigerator. Thanks to this show, I still have an underlying belief that suffocation in abandoned refrigerators is one of the top causes of death for children under the age of 16.)

Saved By the Bell

(This Very Special episode has Very Dramatic Acting.)

And just to remind you that there was some good TV shows in the 80's:

That's it for now - it's bedtime for me. I'll probably do a part deux. For now, though, how many of you could still sing along with all of those songs? Rachel?

Friday, November 14, 2008


Is your cat plotting to kill you?

So if you don't hear from me for a few days....

P.S. You should check out the list too - it's pretty funny.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Latin Chant

We are learning Latin root words in my classes today - port, capt, miss, flect, and so on.

Me: "Aqua" means water. What does "aqua" mean?

Students: Water!

Me: Good! So, we make waves with our arms while we say "aqua".
I demonstrate, students imitate, giggling.

Me: Excellent! What are some words that have "aqua" in them?

Kid #1: Aquamarine!

Me: Nice. Which means?

Kid #2: The color of water.

Me: Great. Other words?

Kid #3: Aqua Man!

Me: Yes! And what does he do?

Kid #3: Shoots water at people.

Me: Wonderful! And what do you call a room that holds water in it?

Kid #4: Waterhouse!

Much laughing.

Today's been a good day so far.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dirty Rotten Number

Words I can't say in my 8th grade classes, no matter the context, without eliciting snickers:

e.e. cummings

I also can't spell any word that begins with the letters "a-p-p", either.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Apple Doesn't Fall


All of my tension and frustration over the totally uncoraporative kids has set up camp in my neck and shoulder blades, so I'm typing this with horrible posture. I'm got a much-better articulated post in mind that I'll write later along these lines, but I just need to vent about the fact that


For example.

I had our school translator call a parent this week to report the following consistent behaviors about her student:

  • Refuses to sit in her assigned seat
  • Refuses to do any work (seriously - it's been 3 months and I've seen maybe 2 assignments from the girl)
  • Brings toys to class
  • Spends the class period talking to those toys to entertain her friends and distract the other students
  • Giggles, sings, hums, makes puppy whining noises, and talks to herself and her friends during the class
  • Talks back to and/or yells at the teacher when asked to stop the above behaviors
This has been going on since August, and I have literally done every single consequence available to me as a teacher (held after class, sent to a different room, sent into the hallway, sent to the office, lunch detention, Think-Reflect worksheets), with absolutely no remorse and/or behavior changes. I have also recommended her for both academic and medical testing (as in she needs drugs, not as in "let's run lab-tests on her"), which the school apparently still has not yet begun.

So the translator makes the phone call and relays my message. Here's how her mother responded:

"This is not my daughter's fault. It is the teacher's responsibility as well."

The HELL? What, exactly, about this girl's behavior is my responsibility? And what the hell kind of favors do you think you are doing her by blaming ME for her crappy, immature, inept behavior?

And (while I'm at it), dear government, how in the world do justify holding ME accountable for this girl's choices? I'm not her psychologist, doctor, pharmacist, behavior specialist, police officer, counselor, parole officer, her father, or her mother. I'm her Language Arts teacher, damn it. And all I'm asking is for her to let me do my job.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Everybody's Got the Right

For the first time in my voting life, MY VOTE COUNTED!!!

I like living in Colorado. :)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Under the Sea

For my parents:

(via BB-Blog)

(Yes. I am absolutely procrastinating the work I brought home. Enjoy the fruits of my non-labors.)


It's Just The Gas

My afternoon, once school let out, began with 8 phone calls home. Two were for neutral issues - standard updates on students. The others were to inform parents of students' misbehaviors. So that should give you some idea of how my 5th period went today.

I had planned on a long afternoon at school, since I needed to write up my lesson plans for the week, rewrite my curriculum maps (I have a meeting with one of the curriculum coaches tomorrow), and do other such things that are meant to, you know, make me a better teacher.

You know what would make me a better teacher? Getting home in time to exercise, cook dinner, and get to bed at a decent hour!

Anyway, I was working away when the assistant principal dropped by to return one of my dictionaries to me. He warned me, as he brushed off the cover, not to "smell it too closely".

I arched a curious eyebrow at him.

"You know, unless you want to drive home a little..." he trailed off, miming a stoned driver.

"Ah!" I said. "So that's why there were cops in the hallway after school."

"Yes," he said, "the kid apparently 'forgot' he had that baggie in his backpack."

The AP set the dictionary up on a desk near me, and after we chatted for a bit, he took off to GO HOME. Freaking annoying.

Anyway, after the AP left, I resumed working on my lesson plans.

About 10 minutes later, I noticed a strange smell. Boy, I thought, the AP must not have been exaggerating about the drugs spilling onto that book!

(NOTE: I do not have a very strong sense of smell, nor am I good at identifying drug smells.)

A bunch of kids spilled into the hallway from basketball practice, making a terrific amount of noise. One of the rattled the gate that separated them from the classrooms and their lockers and yelled "Miss!... Miss!"

"What?!" I yelled back, while typing.

"Come unlock the gate and let me run to my locker!"

"No!" I yelled, continuing to work.

About 5 minutes later, the secretary got on the PA and announced, "Anyone left in the building needs to leave immediately."

Thank goodness, I thought. The kids will leave and I won't have to go out there and deal with them!

About 10 minutes after that, I grabbed a workbook and headed to the office to make copies. I let myself through the gate, crossed the hall towards the gym that connects my side of the building to the office, and smiled politely at the two firemen standing at the door outside, with axes over their shoulders and some kind of monitors aimed at the ceiling.

"Uh.. Ma'm?" I heard as I opened the door to the gym.

"Yes?" I said, stepping back out into the hallway.

"You need to leave the building. Now."

"Okay..." I said, looking out the window past them at the students and teachers and janitors and secretaries gathered on the dirt across the parking lot from the building. "Can I at least grab my purse?"

"No," he said. "Now."

"Okay." I headed out of the building, walked past all of the firetrucks and police cars surrounding the building with lights flashing, through the conversations about the gas leak, and joined some of my fellow teachers on the "lawn".

"You were in there this whole time?" Jessica asked, incredulous. "Didn't you smell the gas?"


When they let us back in the building, 20 minutes later, I grabbed my purse, threw my books into my bag, and headed home to do the work.

Maybe, one of these days, I should figure out what marijuana actually smells like.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Some of you are aware of the new exercise I'm been doing this year in my English classes. It's called "The Reading Minute" (although, honestly, I hardly ever manage to keep it to just a minute), and I got the idea from this book.

Basically, 3 times a week I share something interesting I've read. Just an excerpt, usually. The kids copy down the name of the piece and the author, then use that information to write a short, 1-3 sentence summary of what I read to them. Simple, but they're getting tons of practice that way at summarizing AND they're being exposed to the many, many, many wonderful things that are out there to read. Because I'm trying desperately to get them to not hate reading.

I've shared a variety of things - a few parts of Twilight; excerpts from The Princess Bride, Love That Dog, Bronx Masquerade, and other YA books; poetry like "Child" by Sylvia Plath or "Bolivia" by Gwen Head; nonfiction like Anthony Bordain's account of eating a cobra heart; some internet articles and blog posts about inventions or interesting places to travel, and so on.

Today I shared this video for the Reading Minute (if you can't get it to work here, you can also watch it here):

It was one of the kids' favorites so far, and it's probably one of mine, too. Taylor Mali's dear to my heart, but this guy, Rives, might be a serious rival for my poet affections. Especially when I watched another of his poems here(that one's NSFW, though).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Just Go to the Movies

Last week was one of the hardest weeks yet at STMS. It took most of the weekend to talk myself into going back there again today. Fortunately, today went smoother.

Of course, since life is never, ever simple, I got to deal with
  • a 7:15 faculty meeting (1 of 2 this week)
  • being observed by 3 different people, none of whom I've met before
  • a mandatory 90 minute ESL training after school (which I've already been trained in - remember SIOP, DPJH folks?)
and this lovely gem
  • finding out that one of my kids is pregnant. 13 years old, people.

Happier things:
  • That last bit of news got the beginnings of another piece for "Making Waves". It's germinating now.
  • Janelle, Brent, and the kids stopped by for breakfast yesterday, as part of their road trip
  • Jason stayed over one night last Thursday on his way from Las Vegas to DC (which lead to an very tired Friday, since we stayed up rather late talking. YES, former students of mine, we just TALKED. Again, as always, I assure you he is only a very dear friend. Note the lack of bunny ears.)
  • I got to hang out with my sister Saturday afternoon, and we went to a yummy (although not at all calorie-friendly) Cooking Club session - Southern Comfort, this time.
  • I think I know what I'm going to be for Halloween, if I can find a good wig this week.
  • I am procrastinating writing lesson plans tonight by watching movie trailers.

The movie I really want to see a trailer for hasn't released one yet, and this one is even further behind, but here are some others I'm looking forward to seeing:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


Sunshine Cleaning

Happy Go Lucky

Un Conte de Noel (I couldn't embed the English version of the trailer)

Rachel Getting Married

And, dang! is Pixar getting good!

And is it too early for me to be excited for the season to watch this again?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Birthday

Yup, I'm 29!

I don't feel 28, nor do I feel 30; but prime-numbered ages always feel a bit off to me.

My real celebrations happened Friday and Saturday, which I will post more about later. For the actual day, today, I had delicious waffles made by my mom, then a 4.5 hour car drive from GJ to Denver with Nash, and now I'm trying to get through a towering stack of papers so I can go to bed. Today, not so fun. The rest of the week? Awesome.

An off-the-cuff list of some things I did while I was 28:

- Traveled to:
  • Portland,
  • New Orleans,
  • Grand Junction (6 times),
  • San Francisco,
  • New York City,
  • Denver (twice),
  • Boise, and
  • San Diego
    (hmm.. nowhere foreign this year...)
- Moved to a new state
- Bought a home
- Got a new job
- Produced 3 plays and at least 6 other shows
- Became an official playwright
- Discovered an insatiable desire for Rock Band
- Read over 100 books
- Watched over 50 productions/movies
- Studied fencing
- Began studying Spanish
- Posted 109 entries on this blog

Not too bad, if I say so myself! But I can beat that this year, just you wait and see!

Here, just for fun, is a now-and-then picture
(but please ignore the messy car-ride-grading-papers hair):

29 years. Can you believe it?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Two Little Pussycats

In an attempt to keep up with the cuteness on Rachel and Miranda's blogs, I give you my craft project of the weekend:

Mama Cat and Kitten 2


Mama Cat and Kitten 3

The kitties technically aren't done - I have patterns for eyes, noses, and optional stripes. But I rather like them how they are, so I'm not going to stay up late finishing them. As I all-too often wind up doing with weekend craft projects.

After a heinous forced-upon-me-at-the-last-minute training at school Saturday morning, I decided to treat myself to a lovely day. I drove downtown and had lunch at Swing Thai, wandered around the art museum for a while, met Rachel and Miranda at Fancy Tiger for some craftiness, then went back to their homes for the execution of our projects. All in the rain. Just the kind of happy day I needed to wash the bad taste of school out of my mouth.

Here's a picture of the rainy art museum:

Days like yesterday make me glad I can be busy and happy all by myself.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

It's Hairspray

This week is Spirit Week at STMS. After some lamer days (Pajama Pants Day, Twin Day, and Jersey Day) (Although, as a side note, I did get some good looks when I showed up for Jersey Day sporting my Shakespeare baseball shirt), today was the inevitable Crazy Hair Day.

The conflict was that it's also Parent-Teacher Conferences, thus severely diminishing my at-home time and greatly raising my need to look presentable. You know, for the parents. Who come to conferences in a tank top, reeking of beer and cigarettes.


I rolled my hair in sponge curlers last night, pulled them out this morning, then twisted the whole thing up in a scarf and got this look:

A look which lead at least six students to say, "Miss! That's not crazy! You look too good!"

And, yes, "good" was meant as an insult.

Tomorrow is, strangely, Dress Like a Hero Day. I wasn't quite sure what to do with that one. So they mean a superhero? An "educational" hero? Do I wear a costume? Do I wear my usual work clothes and come up with some lame excuse-of-an-identity/pun?

Our principal sent out an email two days ago stating, in blatent terms, that we were to in no way acknowledge Halloween in our classes at all. No costumes, no makeup, no candy, no games, don't you dare even bring it up.

I'm sure the fact that the State Office of Education will be visiting our school that week has nothing to do with that mandate.


On one hand, I'm not sure a costume would go over well. I'm pretty sure none of the other teachers will be in costume. Heck, the only other teacher who did anything for Crazy Hair Day was the student council adviser. He styled his hair with a slight upward spike, rather than his usual stick-straight-out-from-the-forehead look. On the other hand, I like dressing up and I'm apparently not going to be able to do it on the one day a year that it's socially acceptable to do so in the daytime. Plus, wearing a 1860's dress is technically still in the teacher's dress code.

So, I'm going as Jo March - writer, educator, and beloved fictional woman of intelligence:

Okay not so intelligent in that scene. When the movie first came out, I had to assure my sister and many of my friends that Jo's rejection of Laurie makes much more sense in the book. After all, in the book she's not rejecting Christian Bale. Because seriously - if Christian Bale offered to take me bashing around London, I'd be dropping my cat off at my parent's house faster than you can say "Teddy, please."


Rachel and Ben helped me come up with the idea. Of course, it did follow their other costume suggestions of Lillian Wald, Protoman, Penicillin, and Charlie the Unicorn.

Go 'head. Guess which suggestions came from Rachel and which one from Ben.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Mum and Dads

A weekend in photos!

My parents came to visit this weekend, in part to bring me a treasure trove! They cleaned out our old books from when we were kids and brought them up here for my classroom library.

Oh, the books!
Yay Books

Rachel and I share the memories:
(And discover old rivalries - the favorite find was a book of mine which, across the top of the cover, said "Do not open, that means you Rachel!" and inside said "Privet property of Amanda".)

My classroom sign:
My Sign

Oh, and speaking of books, check out this display at Anthropologie:
Piles of Books

After dropping the books off at my classroom, we headed up to Boulder for the day. We decided to swing through the Farmer's Market, and boy, did we enjoy that!
We found a man selling beautiful large pots of mums for $10 each or 5 for $45. So we got a few. There was also a lady selling other flowers for ridiculously low prices - I got that giant pot of yellow and pink impatiens for just $6, and Rachel got the lavender for $4. Our car was certainly fragrant for the ride home.

Natasha also enjoyed her new pot of catgrass and catnip:
Nom Nom

We also got some peaches and pears that are very, very yummy. The peaches are so ripe, I made them into a pie today after my parents took off. A peach and cranberry pie with streusel topping and pecans, to be exact. Nash isn't the only one who'll be nomming tonight.

We shopped, ate at a delicious French restaurant, had a fun dinner with the Walkers and Brian, visited, and enoyed a lovely weekend. Thanks for visiting, parents o' mine!

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Bit of Earth

Yesterday was the ground breaking ceremony for the construction at STMS (the new abbreviation for my current school. I figured DPMS was too close to DPJH. So, instead of "Dead Playwright Middle School," I'm now calling it "Small Town Middle School"). It was right after school, so I figured I'd swing by.

My principal was handing out hardhats to people who would take them, and I figured, "Yay! Costumes!" so I took one. Turns out, if you have a hard hat, you get a golden shovel. And if you have a golden shovel, you get to pose for the pictures with it. So, behold!

I'm the fifth person in on the left, by the way.

Oh, also, you see those branches? Those are the remains of a beautiful old silver oak, which was right outside my classroom window. Sad. I had suggested that rather than hacking it down, we move them to the other side of the building. The administration said they didn't want to pay for the equiptment to move a tree. I said, "Bah! Who needs equiptment? You've got hundreds of middle-schoolers. Heck, make it a reward - 5 Paw Prints (the school's currency) earns you five minutes with a shovel. The kids will be clamoring for a turn!"

They just laughed at me. But they haven't seen the Pikmin might of 35 seventh graders carrying a full-sized bridge from "Seussical" back and forth across the stage as I debate where it should go.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I Think I'm Acting

Thanks to Kelley's last comment, I realize that the longer I wait to post something, the greater my tendency to turn more reporter than commentator. Hmm. That could be on GraphJam.


I should tell you what I was actually thinking during/after the whole reading last week. If only because it actually does make for more interesting blogging, right?

When I first arrived at the theater, I was 1) panicky over my pantyhose emergency making me arrive a good 20 minutes later than I had planned and 2) sad that our Rock Band session was over. Seriously. John and I comment often in emails back and forth how ridiculously addictive that game is. We're not joking. Ben is all too good a dealer. He gives us just a taste of the good stuff, then cuts off access until we're begging for more. MORE!


So I arrived at the theater flurried and bummed, and was immediately delighted to see Heidi outside. That delight only grew as I walked into the theater to find Katharine, my parents, my grandmother, my brother and Jen, Janelle and company, Ben, Lynn and her son, Angela and her entire family, Dr. Teresa and Nick, and four very dear and very excited former students. More than delighted - I felt totally loved, and that was really, really good for me right then. I couldn't believe that so many people cared enough to take time out of their weekends to come see this little play I helped write. It's been 10 days, and it still means a lot to me. So for those of you in that group - thank you.


As the play itched to start and as the house manager tried to find more places to squeeze in folding chairs for the people who just kept coming, I took a seat next to Heidi in the back row. I needed to be next to her, and I needed to be in the back. I tried to listen, wishing I had brought some paper and a pen because I was dying to do something. I wound up doing the dexterity exercises I teach my English classes, just to keep my hands busy (mostly the OK-3, for those of you in the know). This is where the conflicts started - my four main theater instincts started firing off, sometimes alternating, sometimes simultaneously.

Former Usher/House Manager me wanted to get up and stop the door from squeaking each time someone entered or left.

Former Techie me wanted to get those girls some microphones because the big crowd was sucking up all of the sound waves and they just weren't quite loud enough.

Former (dang well better be temporarily former) Director me wanted to get those girls to be louder and add some more gestures or something else visual.

Most of all, Former Actor me was really, really picky. After the first couple of pieces, I could guess which of the four actors would be reading which pieces. Some of them were fine choices, like the redhead doing my "I Am a Celebrity" poem. Others were not. My favorite piece of the ones I had written, "Losing My Voice", I was disappointed in. Probably because I so badly wanted to be the one to do it. I love (LOVE) performing that piece, so I was really bummed when the actor doing it just didn't find the flow of the words and bumbled the climax.

I don't think the actors rehearsed nearly enough - they stumbled a bit more than I could forgive, and there were a few pieces they just never found the rhythm on. It's not that the rhythm's not there, I've heard it myself. They just had not run it enough times to actually find the writers' rhythms. Which is too bad.

On the other hand, they casted actors who were all teachers. I think that explains the range of acting experience that I, at least, could sense. However, I also think that it was a very wise move on the director's part to ensure that the people speaking those words, our words, knew what it meant to be a teacher. I also found it interesting that the director was moved enough by the script to make that call. One of the most touching post-show comments came from one of the actors. She used to be a teaching in Yugoslavia, I think it was, and she said that our play reminded her so much of teaching there. How remarkable to think that we had created something that speaks on a universal level.


About halfway through the show I realized a few things:

Revelation #1
All of my mental fretting was over the acting, not my own writing. I am really proud that I wrote something, some things, that are strong enough that I don't feel any need to criticize them, even after a few months of leaving them to hibernate. Often, I don't like my writing after a while; but these pieces I do like still. And I'm glad I had the chance to spend so long workshopping and editing and living with them to hit that comfort level.

Revelation #2
Apparently, my writing is really distinctive. REALLY distinctive. Almost every time an actor began reading one of my pieces, my mother would turn around and look at me with eyebrows raised. I would nod confirmation, she would smile, then turn back around. Okay, fine. She's my mother. I would have been disappointed if she had not recognized my stuff. But when Ben, Teresa, Lynn, and even my awesome former students started turning around to look at me for confirmation mid-piece, well... I just didn't realize my voice was so... me.

Revelation #3
I needed to be there that night. And not for the reasons I thought. Yes, it was wonderful to be there as a playwright, to hear the audience laughing at things I had written and to hear if my writing was strong enough for someone besides me to perform it. But about 20 minutes into the show, sitting there behind those kids that I love dearly and who loved me enough to come see this thing I had done, I suddenly thought, "That's right... I used to love my job."

And I did. And I had forgotten that, because I don't anymore. And I need to fix that, because that's really, really not okay with me. I used to love my job, my kids, and my classes. And this year has been so hard and so frustrating and so consumed with the business of triffles that I dread going to work each day. And I totally understand why Troy, one of the other new teachers at DPMS, drove away after school two weeks ago and never came back. And I find myself, for the first time in my life, thinking about walking away from teaching. And that terrifies me.

But I sat there, in that little blackbox theater, and I listened to the words I had written not too long ago, and I thought, "That's right... I used to love my job."

And that made walking back into DPMS the Monday afterwards really, really hard.

But most of all, my friends, I felt proud of what Heidi, Katharine, and I had done. And I felt gratitude for the audience and their thoughts and comments after the show. And I was touched that they took us seriously - that it wasn't just "well, that was a cute little play; now let's go get ice cream" kind of feedback. The audience honestly felt that this was something, and that it is, in fact, on the verge of becoming a big something.

But mostly, I felt loved.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Let the Play Begin

Last weekend I flew to my old hometown so I could see my play (!!!) in the Page-To-Stage festival and to play Rock Band with the DPJH crew. Not necessarily in that order.

It was a wonderful weekend, marred only by how difficult it made work on Monday for me.

Behold! Orange Tuesday reuinted!

And the less well-executed "Chop Suey" (although you have to admire Ben's accomplishment, since according to the doctor, his vocal chord is still paralyzed. Rock Band heals!)

After we had lunch at our old favorite curry place, Janelle, Ben, John, Kelley and I headed over to Kelley's house to play Ben's Rock Band 2 in her basement.

A little over three hours later, I finally looked at a clock and realized how late it was. Ben drove me back to Janelle's house, where I had left my rental car, and I changed clothes quickly before heading to the theater (stopping very quickly on the way at a store, since my only packed pair of pantyhose naturally ripped in, like, four places while I was pulling them on).

The show was... amazing. We had a terrific turn out (65 people in a 45-seat blackbox), and the audience was very receptive. Respectful, even, of the possibilities of the project.

Some photos, courtesy of my Dad's iPhone.

A theater head-shot:

Look at the crowd!

A few of the faithful from DPJH came to support me, and caught up with each other, too.

Aw! My adoring and adorable fans. On top of showing their love by coming to see the show, they even composed a song on their cellphones before the show started to celebrate my return.

Andy and Jen chat with Teresa and Nick:

The grinning founders of Chichi:

Katharine (the other playwright) talking to the actors after the show:

Heidi and I celebrating at dinner after the show:

After a delightful dinner at Buca di Beppo with my family and friends, we went to see Andy and Jen's new place. There, I met Norman. He liked being scratched.

After seeing my family off, Heidi and I met for lunch at Oasis Cafe to debrief/plan for the future. The good news is, I think that reading may just have been the beginning....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Singing My Song

Hey, DPJH folks!

Look! I'm not crazy!

Spread the word!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

[title of show]

Just to prove that the title of my blog is still apropos (even if I'm not currently teaching drama) I give you, sans editing, with the original ink choices,

A Note Confiscated By The Teacher During Period 5

IDK! But I tried to talk to her But she was like I don't care any more It pissed me OFF

O is dat why you asked for ur sweater back?
O R U on C's side she's nice n all but she gets annoying tho

I AM NOT ON ANYONES Side But She Pissed me OFF


Ya I want to be her friend IDK what to do and IDC ANYMORE

G dat sucks u should just talk to her if u want

Probably but want I say might Piss HER OFF and Stuff

O why what were u going to say to her.

I was going to say look whatever the I did well don't blame it on me C said it it did not come out of my mouth

O I do'nt know if shell get mad

IDK I Hope not I want to be her Friend but it does not matter I AM done fighting wit her

U guys will probably become friends again but no matter what Im still ur friend

(At this point the correspondence abruptly ended)


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Famous Feet

(click on the picture to read it, or go to the link below)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm Getting Tired So I Can Sleep

First cold of the school year!

I didn't stay home today. Probably a mistake, since I got a fever mid-afternoon. I think I'll stay home tomorrow - I brought all my grading just in case.

Monday, September 08, 2008

On the Town

(Link via my Daddy-o!)

Hey Fellas, Let's Talk

Three vignettes:

#1 Mrs. E., the science teacher on my team, regaled the FAC with this dialogue:

Mrs. E.: To the class Now that you've practiced taking measurements, turn your worksheet over, close your eyes, and draw a bunch of straight lines on the back of it. Then measure them!
Mrs. E. wanders the room, monitoring. Her teacher-senses tingle and she hones in on one corner.
Mrs. E.: What's the problem, Vanessa?
Vanessa: Miss, I don't get it. How are you supposed to measure with your eyes closed?

#2 While walking a student to class on Friday, I decided to pull out my AVID training and inspire the kid:

Me: Hey, Omar, have you thought at all about what college you might want to go to?
Omar: Not really, Miss. Maybe this one in Mexico.
Me: You know, Omar, there are some colleges that will pay YOU to go there if you are a good soccer player.
Omar: Really?
Me: seeing the magic gleam in his eye, springing on it Yes! And college classes are FUN! What do you want to do for a living?
Omar: getting more excited Oh, Miss, I already know! I want to be a porn star! Because you get free sex, and they PAY you for it!

AVID never covered that one.

#3 I was standing at the back of the room today, trying to get a kid to behave better through proximity while I explained to the class how to fill out a worksheet. As I spoke, I felt a hand grabbing my chunky silver bracelet. As the hand squeezed it, the kid it belonged to (same as the one I was proximinating) said (while I was mid-sentence, mind you), "That's a cool bracelet, Miss! What's it made of?"

Thus proving that while I was giving them instructions, he was actually thinking, "Ooh! Shiny!"

Oy. Vey.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sur La Plage

I finally didn't spend a Saturday at school working!

Granted, I had to run away to San Diego in order to do that, but still!

Here are some photos (courtesy mon pere et moi) from the trip:

The family at Sylvie & Larry's house (foreground: George chatting with Sadie on the "phone", on the couch: Grandpere, holding Lexie, Sadie, Sylvie, and me)

Me, Mom, and the Incredibly Cute Baby:

Plum Tart, Grandmere making one of her amazing salads:

Dad holding Sadie in front of the shrine to the grandchildren,
me and Lexie:

A picture of my dad from 1960:

We also got to see Grandpere's airplane
Can you pick out his?

How he films while flying:
Flip Camera+Velco

Grandpere pointing out the stickers that show the states in which he's flown that particular plane. Note also the windshield cover he made himself with fabric from Wal-Mart. The craftiness runs in both sides of my family!

Not shown:
* Fabulous Sunday spent at the beach. Lots of swimming, minor sunburn (Note: Spray-on sunscreen doesn't work out so well when it's windy)
* All-you-can-eat Sushi!
* Yummy BBQ at Sylvie and Larry's
* Sylvie and Larry's nifty living room rug, rest of house
* Sadie's Curious George-themed bedroom
* Tower of chocolates bought at Trader Joe's
* Mom, Dad, and I all grading vocab tests while waiting at the airport Monday
* Lots more baby-cooing

And, since I haven't told you before, my Aunt Nathalie has the Most Awesome Title Ever. Sadie dubbed her "Wowee" at least a year ago, and Nathalie's determined to keep it. And who'd blame her? We all look forward to seeing "Wowee George!" come over.

Make Me Happy

I walked into my classroom this morning and found on my desk an envelope with a dried flower glued to it. Inside was this note (replicated without corrections and with matching ink choices):

Dear: Mrs. H2O

I am so glad to have you as my teacher.
I hope that you'll be my teacher all year.
I love you a lot and I will do for ever.
Thank you for everything.
I Love you

From: Jennifer

Sometimes you get what you need, right when you need it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Show Goes On

Oh. My. Heck.

I checked my email this morning and found a message that promptly and thoroughly made my freakin' day:

Dear Heidi and Amanda,
Thank you for your submission to Wasatch Theatre Company’s 8th annual Page-to-Stage Festival. We received many scripts this year and have selected six for production and three for staged readings. We are pleased to announce that your script has been selected for a staged reading.


I haven't talked much (at all?) about this project on my blog. I'm at school at the moment and should be grading papers, so I'll have to save the longer story for another day.

Short version:
We wrote a play both for the people who know what it means to be a teacher and for the people who think they know what it means to be a teacher. That took, oh, about two years.

Then, we performed a staged reading of it for a few invited guests about a year ago.

In May of this year, we found out about the Page-to-Stage Festival and, in a fit of madness, we revised and submitted our script.

Then, I got kinda busy what with the whole end-of-school-year-move-to-Denver-buy-a-home-start-new-job-ness that was the last three months. Occasionally I would wonder what happened to our submission, but it had been so long I figured we didn't make it.

Then, the arrival of the email of validation and self-confidence! Hurrah!

So. If I can figure out how to, I'm totally going to fly to SLC for the reading. How can I miss that?! I'll post a reminder here, because you're all invited (Do you hear me, DPJH-alums?!).

More information from the email:
This year, the Page-to-Stage Festival (a co-production with the Utah Association of Community Theatres) will include the production of a full-length original play (Breaking the Shakespeare Code), the production of six short scripts from local playwrights, and several staged readings and workshops. The festival will open Thursday, September 11th and will run Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through September 27th and will take place in the Studio Theatre at the Rose Wagner Center for the Performing Arts (138 West 300 South).

Your staged reading is scheduled for Saturday, September 20th at 5:00 p.m. in the Studio Theatre. This event is free to the public. The purpose of the staged reading is twofold. It will give you a chance to hear (and see) your piece as interpreted by others and it will be an opportunity to receive feedback from those in the audience. Feel free to invite friends to the event.

Okay, back to being a teacher.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I Speak Six Languages

A short story:

La clase esta en la escuela.
La maestra esta en la clase.
La maestra dice - Buenos tardes, chicos!
Los chicos grita - Adios, senorita!
La maestra esta cansada. Ella se sienta en la silla.
El maestro corre en la clase. El mira la maestra.
El maestro dice - Hola, senorita.
La maestra ve el maestro y sonrie. La maestra no esta consada.
El maestro dice - Ven conmigo a-
Maria corre en la clase y grita - Senorita!
La maestra grita - Maria! Adios! Ven a tu casa!
El maestro ve Maria va y el rie. El ve la mesa grande y el maestro sonrie.
La maestra dice - Aqui?

Today was the second session of my "Spanish For Teachers" class. I'm enjoying it so far - it's very hands on, low grammar emphasis, high practical use focus. The dialog above was written me and three other students/teachers using the words we've learned in the last week.

Despite our group's assurances that the two teachers were only going to use la mesa grande to review the CSAP data together, our performance of the scene garnered quite a few laughs and many winking references throughout the class. (I played El Maestro - there was only one guy in the class tonight, and he was in the other group.) My group made sure everybody knew that the la mesa grande bit was my idea. I, however, take pride in my attempt to write subtext despite a working vocabulary of only 30 words.

During our introductions at the first class, many people mentioned other languages they've studied. Here's my count, in chronological order:

  • American Sign Language (thanks to Grandma Dorothy, who quickly taught the not-yet-speaking me important words like "cookie")
  • English (obviously)
  • German (2 years worth at the DODDS school in Landstuhl)
  • French (studied in middle school/high school, accent gleaned from ma grandmere)
  • Russian (college/summer 2007)
  • and now Spanish.
I'm leaving out Swahili, since 1) I've surpassed it already in my Spanish studies, 2) I never got to hear it from or speak it to a native speaker, and 3) it would screw up the perfectness of the song title for my post title.

What makes me sad is how little I retain of the languages. I'm good for counting at least to 10 in all of those, a few pleasantries, plus a smattering of other words. After English, I'm most proficient in French, but 1) I've had far more chances to practice it and 2) I studied it for much longer than the others. Still, I'm kind of proud to realize what a polyglot I might be.

I have already put my Spanish to use. A few days ago, the students in my 5th period were checking in. They always pass it from student to student, passing it to me last of all. I was sitting on a table near some students in the corner (trying to keep them from talking) as one of them did his check-in:

Ruben: Hi, my name is Ruben. One new word I learned last week is "ratio". I pass it too...
Jonathan: Thinking he's going to "get me" as he whispers Ruben! A la maestra!
Me: Smoothly, without looking up from the attendance I was taking You can pass it to me if you want.
Jonathan: Astonished You speak Spanish, Miss?
Me: Si. Who are you going to pass it to, Ruben?

I emailed my Spanish teacher this dialog, and she was quite proud of me.

Hasta luego!

Monday, August 25, 2008

I Write, You Read

After my comments about the academic levels of my students (and my subsequent dispair), some of you have asked me just what their writing looks like. Behold! Samples, transcribed with no editing on my part:

Assignment #1: After I read them a shortened version of the first chapter of Heat by Mike Lupica, I asked them to write a 1-2 sentence summary. I also wrote the title, author, and main characters (Ramon, the thief; Michael, the ballplayer; and Mrs. Cora, the victim) on the board and made it quite explicit that they were to include those things in their answers.

Heat by Mike Lupica describes how a man name Ramon and he is a thief that steels Mrs. Cora's purse and Michel a kid that loves baseball trows a ball to ramon so he can stop the stelling.

mike lupica, "heat" tells about a guy taking her purse. he pushed her down, the kid doesn't wana work so he steals stuff.

Heat by Mike Lupica is about a lady who had money to buy groceries and then a kid stole her purse. Later. he got hit by a baseball player and thats how the cop got him because the ball slow him down.

Heat by Mike Lupica is about a woman who's purse stolen by a 16 year old who has never been caught by olice until he had a sharp pain in the back of his head then tumbled down to the ground. A baseball player throw the ball so hard it wet past the stadium wall and hit the robber in the back of the head.

Heat By Mike lupica
Ramon was stealing
stealing the old womens
bag then Ramon was
being chased by a cop
then out of No where
He drops to the floor.
then when he awakes
he is already cuffed.
Editor's Note: I don't think Isaac was going for poetry in his answer, but it does have a sort of e.e.cumings ring to it don't you think?

Assignment #2: You've officially been an 8th grader for one week! What are three things you've learned so far?

3 things I've learned so far in school is The word sum, How to do a New way of multiplacation, How to do division

Three things I learned this year is foldable, and how to kick ass
Editor's Note: I wonder what class that last part was taught in?

My one week in 8th grade so far are. The classroom expectations. Raise your hand,

Three things I have learned in one weerk in 8th grade are some of the speeches of Joan McCain and Barack. Also the roars. Also the safety of doing and experiment
Editor's Note: "roars" referrs to the school's positive behavior acronym, so that's actually not as nonsensical as it sounds. Although, I do like that she's on a first name basis with Obama. Joan McCain, on the other hand...

(By the way, I did pull these examples from both the higher and the lower students in my classes. Sadly.)