Sunday, April 27, 2008

Queen Mab

Friday was our annual 9th grade Shakespeare Festival. This year, Porter asked me to emcee the entire event, which meant I had to track down a costume. Getting to the costume shop about 45 minutes before they closed the night before, I couldn't find a Renaissance-style dress that wasn't made for someone over 5'5" (they all came to my calves). So, I looked through their Roman costumes and found a long tunic. Add a black wig and some heavy eye makeup and I decided to dub myself "Queen Mab" and go with it. Whoo.

The festival went smoothly. Aside from my on-stage duties, I was also in charge of the costume contest (six categories are traditional - best royal, best peasant, best male, best female, most authentic, and best headdress) and, of course, the post-workshops entertainment.

Four of my Advanced Drama girls volunteered to do monologues, which they did fine at. Nothing spectacular, but then I didn't take a lot of time to coach them, either. I've been prepping Jacob and Daniel instead to do the big show - Romeo and Juliet in 20 minutes. It's a crowd favorite, naturally, full of slapstick and silliness. The actor I originally casted as the narrator had to be dropped for missing too many rehearsals, but the student I asked to fill in memorized the lines in one night and did great. Jacob and Daniel were awesome, just as I figured they would be. They not only have great comedic timing and instincts on their own, but they feed off each other beautifully. It was one of the easiest times directing this piece for me because their humor worked so well with this style.

My black wig and makeup came in handy after school, too, when Ben, John, and I met up again in Ben's room for another round of "Rock Band". Kelley joined us for a bit as well, and showed off her awesome guitar skills. I'm getting better at singing, good enough to play it on hard on the songs I've actually heard before. I'm also getting good at faking my way through the songs I've never heard before in my life. I tried expert on a few, but it's REALLY picky about pitch. Afterwards, Ben burned a cd for me of songs, which should help for next Friday's session. In fact, I'm listening to it right now. I like a lot of the songs, but I can't say I'm a fan of "Gimme Shelter". It took me most of the song to figure out a snippet of the lyrics - enough to search for the song online to figure out which one it was.

This weekend I gave in to my addiction again and read three books. I shouldn't do that too often; it tends to make me moody. All three were well-written, and I liked each. Very different types - from chick-lit magical realism to classic YA sci-fi/adventure to depressing YA realism.

I didn't just sit and read, though. My elliptical trainer totally broke down on Friday (12:58 minutes into my workout). I took it as far apart as I could. Far enough to realize that I wouldn't be able to fix it this time. So, I did a lot of research on line and wound up ordering this one from Amazon. With their usual low price, plus another $100 off, plus free shipping, it's a pricey-but-good purchase for me. I'm glad at how much I miss working out already, and I hope the habit picks up again after I wait for the delivery.

I bought my old one from Janelle for $100 - a great bargain, and it's served me well for the past few years. This one, though, has a smaller footprint, a longer stride (18" - much better for my height), and hopefully won't sound like an off-balanced washing machine trying to escape from the wall.

I did some more research for my other plans, which I should be able to tell you all about next weekend. Granted, most of you know my plans by now, but I haven't officially announced it yet, so I'm avoiding leaks. After all, I know some of my former students know of this blog and while I don't think they read it anymore since it's, you know, literary-like what with my complete sentences and correct spelling and all, I still am aware of the remarkable capacity for gossip to make it's way around the Dead President Junior High School community. So one more week.

Last night, Heidi, Brent, and I took the lightrail downtown to see a fused glass exhibit at the main branch of the library, then went to dinner, then went to see "The Producers" at PTC. It was a good production, as far as that show goes, and with good company. Today was stake conference - shorter church, but on much more uncomfortable seats (those metal chairs get downright painful after just a few minutes, let alone two hours!). Then I drove to have late lunch/early dinner with Grandma Cook, and then back to Salt Lake to work a bit more.

Tomorrow the state testing starts. I'm not worried about it. I've never stressed out about how my students will do. I just teach them what I teach, and every year they score well, if not great. This year it's all on the computers, which will make things a bit trickier for monitoring. As each student finishes a section, they're supposed to raise their hands and wait for me to come over, double check to make sure they answered all questions, then I have to be the one to hit the submit button. That will translate as a lot of running around the room and a lot of reminding kids to not talk and to wait patiently until I can get to them. Fun, fun! My turn is scheduled for Monday and Wednesday this week. It also means my kids will be bouncier than usual in drama class, since they tend to vent their restlessness from testing in there. I'm countering that by having them do their monologue performances this week. Ah, fear. You can be my friend when we work together.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Missin' You

Things My Parents' Europe Trip Taught Me:

1) My mother's ability to worry is hereditary.

2) Said worrying is caused by lapses of communication, and manifests itself through many remarkable feats of imagination, all of which end with the travelers dead.

3) If any of said scenarios should come to pass, I would be my brother's legal guardian for the next 6 weeks.

4) If I did become my brother's legal guardian, chances are my brother would never know it because I don't see or hear from my brother for months at a time. In other words, in a race between him finding and charging his cell phone and the next six weeks, bet on the six weeks.

5) I hate making life-changing decisions without my parents to advise me.

6) Vicarious living can happen from parents for child, not just child for parents.

7) I'm really, really glad my parents got to run away from their workaholic tendencies for a while.

Here's a picture of the two of them in a hotel mirror in Istanbul. And, see? I have no need to worry - they're protected by the evil eyes!

Just to prove the lapses of communication and the subsequent worrying are indeed hereditary, I am going to post here an email I got from my parents when Emily and I backpacked Europe back in 2000. This was about 3 days into the trip, and we were still in our first stop - visiting Mercedes in England.

Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2000 12:33:27 -0600
From: wsara
To: chitarita
Subject: Worries

Dear Amanda,

Dad: No news from Amanda?
Mom: Nope.
Dad: Not even email?
Mom: Not even.
Dad: Postcard?
Mom: Nyet.
Dad: Smoke signals?
Mom: Nay.
Dad: Telepathy?
Mom: Non.
Dad: Probably busy.
Mom: Probably kidnapped
Dad: Probably terrorists.
Mom: Not mentioned on BBC.
Dad: Notice you watch BBC every night lately.
Mom: Thought terrorists.
Dad: Sold into slavery?
Mom: Worse.
Dad: Not that?
Mom: Could be.
Dad: Converted?
Mom: It's happened before.
Dad: Like Bill Bryson.
Mom: Anglophilia.
Dad: For shame.
Mom: Affecting the accent.
Dad: Following cricket.
Mom: Driving on the left side of the road.
Dad: Enjoying boiled cabbage and potatoes.
Mom: The full monty.
Dad: I hear there's hope.
Mom: A cure?
Dad: Just over the Channel.
Mom: Of course
Mom and Dad together in Chorus: La France!

Please write.

Love, Mums and Pops.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Dear Old Shiz

I took my AVID kids to Westminster today for a tour, a Q&A with admissions, and a scavenger hunt. They behaved well, they were friendly and polite (if a little boisterous), and I heard this comment from three different kids:

"Dang! Now I want to go to college!"

Then again, that was in between the many, many comments by the girls about the rampant hotness of college guys.


I'm totally in love with the art of scherenschnitte. Oh Happy Day posted link to Cindy Ferguson's beautiful papercuttings. I want to draw them and I want to learn how to make them. As soon as I have time.

Meanwhile, here's two more of my favorites:

P.S. The Post/Song title today might seem far-fetched, but there actually is a connection. The song is from "Ragtime", and is sung by a Jewish immigrant who is a silhouette artist. He and his daughter narrowly escape a rioting mob, and to calm her down he cuts out an image of her ice skating while he sings this song. So it fits, you see? And if you don't, then YOU come up with a better musical song title for an entry on scherenschnitte.

The Letter

I forgot to tell one tidbit from the training:

At the end of the session, we were each given a cream-colored piece of paper and a blank envelope. Our instructions went something like this: "Write a letter to yourself in 8 weeks to remind yourself and congratulate yourself on the goals you set for diversity tolerance. We will mail you the letter in 8 weeks so you can remind yourself of what you've learned here."

I tried. I promise, I tried. My mood was awful by then and my tolerance zilch, but I honestly could not think of a single thing I wanted to read on a piece of paper delivered by the district in eight weeks. Kelley, Vicky, Carol, and Mark all wound up writing themselves To-Do lists (I liked Kelley's idea - she wrote her current To-Do list so she could remind herself of all that she will have accomplished by then), but I couldn't even do that. I'm very self-reflective and constantly analyzing, but not in this forced way. The presenters hovered, letting us know by their presence and their New Age-y music that we would not be allowed to leave until we gave them a sealed envelope.

I realize I could have sealed it empty or with a blank piece of paper, but I knew that in 8 weeks I would not want to get an envelope that represented the things I hate about this district. Then, wonderfully, Vicky and Carol rescued me - they demanded that I hand over my paper, and they each wrote something on it. Carol then asked for my envelope and they sealed it up and turned it in for me.

To be accurate, then, I should say that there were some great things at this training - it reminded me how lucky I have been to get to work with such kind, thoughtful, funny colleagues. And, I'm actually looking forward to getting a letter in June.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

I'm going to tell you about my weekend in reverse, so I can tell the good news first.

I just got home from a delightful afternoon with Heidi and Brent. We went to dinner at Red Rocks Brewery (very good food, despite the "post-game" atmosphere), after seeing "A Clean House" at SLAC. The play was... eh... but the company was wonderful. Part of the magic of Heidi is that things always seem clearer to me after a conversation with her. I'm now rethinking my entire summer, but I'm getting the feeling that it's moving towards a better end.

This morning I went to church with a different ward, since I was going to be busy during my regular church time. I spent some time thinking over my dream from last night. I dreamt that I had forgotten all about the AVID field trip I'm chaperoning tomorrow, and had discovered that the students went without me. They were fine - Ben was still with them, but I was upset that I had forgotten and that no one had stopped by to remind me to go.

Yesterday evening I enjoyed some take-out from Cafe Rio, following a late matinee of "Definitely, Maybe". I didn't like the movie at all - the only redeemable part was the importance of a hard-bound copy of "Jane Eyre"; although any book could have been the cherished one, given the total lack of any actual application of the novel. Boo. Once in a while I want to see a good romantic comedy. The problem is, there haven't been any for a long, long time. The group sitting behind me loved it, though, and seemed genuinely amazed at the series of events that came from what I thought was a very predictable and mindless plot.

Teresa and Nick came over to my apartment Saturday afternoon so we could begin Season Two of "Slings and Arrows". I've been very good, resisting the temptation of watching more of that awesome show until we could all meet up again. Seriously - awesome show. We watched 4 episodes and made a plan for more. Unfortunately, we have to wait until after Nick's done with grading and past my next trip. Which means enduring a month of the DVDs taunting me. "They were Victorian and so could be forgiven, but you! You know better!" I am so going to save that line to use in class one of these days.

(warning - language)

Saturday morning I spent cleaning my apartment. It was much-needed and delightful. And good grief is my cat shedding like crazy. I'm trying to wait until June to shave her, since it grows back so quickly. Big fluffy kitty.

Friday afternoon I got out of my district training during daylight hours and with a great need to be distracted. So, I went to see "21". It was definitely better than "Definitely, Maybe" but not outstanding. And I'm pretty sure the original MIT students were not that attractive nor that sexually-driven.

Friday day was both nice and extremely irritating. On one hand, being sent to a mandatory district training meant sleeping in an extra 45 minutes, not wearing dress code, free breakfast and lunch, and a day off from teaching. Don't get me wrong - I love teaching. But it's exhausting to come up with and teach 3 different lesson plans a day.

On the other hand, I had to sit through 6 hours of training that was meant to teach teachers how to approach a diverse student population. Here are some of the quotes from the day:

One of the "Diversity Beliefs":
"Saying 'ouch' can open the conversation from the heart."

Another of the "Diversity Beliefs":
"Head, Heart, Hands, Healing"

Presenter, referring to above statement:
"Let the heart touch you!"

Participant's perfectly legitimate question following the presenters' claim that we should all be teaching students tolerance through exercises like sticking colored dots on our heads and being made to feel guilty because the presenter said "organized yourselves" and we organized ourselves according to the color of the dots:
"I teach multimedia, not history or the language arts. I don't have time in the curriculum to teach these ideas."

Presenter's response (and I quote):
"Do you have time not to do it?"

Vicky's whispered conversation with me after I let out yet another frustration-repressing sighs following above remarks:
Vicky: "Amanda, can you hear the birds?"
Birds outside, prettily: "Tweet, tweet. Twitter, tweet."
Me: "Yeah."
Vicky: "Concentrate on the birds."

Really, it was 6 hours of frustration. When they began by saying that today we would be having hard conversations from the heart, I knew it was going to be a terrible, terrible presentation. I was bugged by
- the lack of any practical discussions,
- the presenters' constant use of "we" (as in, "we often judge our students by the color of their skins," or "we do not appreciate how hard it is to learn a new language while going to school" and other such false assertions of what I believe),
- the weepy testimonial one of the presenters gave in showing us her "cultural object" - her granddaughter's hand print (I'm not sure how your granddaughter's hand print is demonstrative of her culture. The crying and breathy spiritual voice that could have easily wrapped up the speech with "I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen," only ticked me off. Guess I'm not spiritual enough.),
- the constant focus on racism. By my experience here, teachers need training on how to deal with diversity in sexual preference and religion just as much, if not more so.

If I had to give up three days of teaching, heck, if the school district is going to pay for every one of its teachers to miss three days of teaching for this training, it would be nice if it 1) was realistic about the fact that we are hired and tested on teaching the core curriculum, 2) recognized that being told to "let the heart touch me" is not going to help address the real problems that diversity (or lack thereof) brings, 3) offered actual, practical tools for dealing with these problems. But then again, if these presenters actually knew how to create a tolerant population in three days, I'm guessing they wouldn't be working at a school district.

(again, language)

See why I started with the good stuff first? I'm moving on, I promise. I just needed to vent a bit through my faithful blog. Tomorrow I get to take my AVID kiddos to Westminster to explore a real college campus, and Friday is the annual Shakespeare Festival, so it should be a busy week. Hopefully that translates as a week that goes by fast. In the meantime, my parents are living it up in Europe (and going to a medical conference - they're worse workaholics than I am). I'm thrilled they're getting away and having fun, but, boy, am I building a long list of things to talk over when they get back. Darn growing-up-real-life-choices.

Happy 2761st Birthday, Rome!

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I have big news, but I can't post it here yet, because I have to keep it hushed and some of my faithful readers know the people I have to keep it hush from. I will be able to soon, hopefully; and I will cryptically say to those of you who know what I have been working for since October and looking for since a few weeks ago has been achieved, much to my satisfaction. And now entirely new searches begin.

Puzzled? Call or email me for details, or distract yourself (as I did tonight) with this game:

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Baby Face

Janelle gave birth to happy, healthy baby Emma Roselle yesterday! I got to go visit them this morning, embracing my roll as photographer:

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Small House of Uncle Thomas

I really shouldn't be looking at blogs like these while I'm planning on moving.

For example, there's Studio Nommo's awesome wallpaper:

And then there's this blog, devoted entirely to bookshelves. Seriously, this is like my pornography. Here are some samples that would need to be in my dream house: