Saturday, January 30, 2010

With So Little to Be Sure Of

19 awards, 3 Best of Events, Top Team in the State

Yay, but also many conflicted feelings, which may be largely due to exhaustion. I'll sort through them here later. For now, bed.

Still, good for the kids.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Our State Fair

I'm at school right now in my consultation period. I have tons I could be doing, but I'm more nervous than I thought I would be about the State Speech Meet, so I thought I'd write a bit here before diving into work.

We leave in a little over an hour for the Meet. Well, first we'll stop off for lunch, then run to the hotel to check in/change clothes, and then go to the Meet. It's a two day event - today's events will be
  • Original Oratory
  • Poetry Interpretation
  • Humorous Literature Interpretation
  • Dramatic Literature Interpretation
  • Solo Acting and
  • Impromptu Speaking
Three rounds of each starting at 3:00, plus finals that will hopefully start by 8:00 tonight.

Tomorrow we start at 8:15 and compete in
  • Public Forum Debate
  • One to One Value Debate
  • Creative Storytelling
  • Dramatic Duet Acting and
  • Humorous Duet Acting
Again, three rounds of each plus finals. Awards are scheduled for 4:00 pm tomorrow.

The 25 kids who are going have been great about working this week. We've strategized, planned, plotted, and shuffled people around to different events. We've got strong people in every event (except PF Debate - we're not competing in that one this year), including several who've won in the past.

I'm conflicted with this, as I have been all year. I'm proud of my students and I want them to do their best. I had a talk with them on Monday about the factors that affect scoring - there are the ones they can control (memorization, performance, amount of practice going in, etc.) and the ones they can't control (the judge's opinions and biases). Still, I know that if the team doesn't take first in the state overall, they're going to be really disappointed. Ridiculous, yes, since they're competing against 20+ other schools. Still, they think highly of themselves, which is both good and bad.

They're excited, though, and nervous. Heck, I'm excited and nervous.

To be honest, I want them to take first just to prove that I'm as good as the old teacher. I know how irrational that is, and I know that I've done a damn fine job given all of the obstacles of this year (including my remarkable lack of experience). Still, I really want to have that first place status to be able to point at and say "See?"

Either way, I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


In my crazy yesterday, I had noticed that my office phone was blinking with a message.

Today I had time to check it. When the electronic lady said, "You have a message from... Dr. [Superintendent]," my stress level and heartbeat shot up. Way up. If seeing a principal makes me freak out, thanks to past experiences, imagine what my boss's boss's voice does to my fight-or-flight instincts.

I called him back, thinking of all of the (no good, awful, terrible, horrible) things it could be. He answered; I apologized for the delay in returning the call. He said,

"I just wanted to call to thank you for doing such a good job this year."

I stuttered something like a thank you, caught completely off guard.

"You've done a good job, and I know it hasn't been the easiest. There've been a lot of obstacles. But, thank you for the work you're doing."

And that was it.

Today wasn't really an easier day - I was still incredibly busy and juggling way too many balls. But it really helped to hear someone say thank you.

Especially when that someone is my superintendent.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Some Say

While riding home from our speech meet this weekend, I realized that about 1/3 of conversations with my two assistant coaches is about the past. Former students, former meets, and I've heard "of course, the team was a lot larger back then" at least 20 times this year.

They usually don't mean anything by it, and I understand their nostalgia, but it's exhausting to constantly listen to. Some of it's the Rebecca syndrome - I tend to assume that everyone is comparing me to the former speech teacher and that she always wins. I listened to one of my team captains today exclaim how she's surprised they "haven't lost too much" this year, even though they were working without the former teacher.

I keep pointing out that taking 2nd place out of 15 teams isn't losing. And that we've won first place in all but two meets this year. And that we've competed in a lot more tournament (re: bigger schools) meets this year. And that we're competing with less than half as many kids as in the past, which cuts down on the whole winning-by-sheer-numbers thing. Still, in their eyes, things just aren't as good as they used to be.

The State meet is this weekend, Friday and Saturday. In getting ready for that, I worked straight through my prep and lunch. Between the low blood sugar and my exhaustion from working all weekend, I couldn't walk down the stairs at school without gripping the handrail to keep my balance. One of my freshman boys came up to me in class with arms outstretched and announced, "Slaughterhouse, you look like you need a hug." I ate my tangerine while coaching a student in poetry and my string cheese on the drive home.

It was an exhausting day. In fact, as soon as I finish updating you (complaining to you?), I'm heading to bed. This week is going to be brutal, and next week are auditions. I might be able to catch my breath on February 6, though.

This is a downer of an entry. Sorry about that. I'm really quite tired and a lot of that exhaustion is emotional, I think.

In happier news, I get to see some former STMS friends tomorrow night - Brenda's in town visiting, and we're gathering to say "Hey." I'm really looking forward to it.

And now I'm going to bed.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Slaughter on 10th Avenue

My freshmen drama students have dubbed me "Slaughterhouse".

They say it with affection, believe it or not.

I actually like it. It's an improvement, at least, since the best my 8th graders came up with at STMS last year was "Waterbottle".

Now There Is No Choice

I had about two free minutes today at school.

I chose to use that time for a bathroom run.

I ate my lunch today in about four minutes during the passing period between my last two classes, while collecting money for the speech meet hotel rooms tomorrow, reassuring three students who were worried about performing a scene while a fourth was absent, cautioning another student that sneaking up behind me and yelling my name doesn't trigger the safest of reactions, being reminded (simultaneously!) of and IEP meeting after school for one kid at the same time another wants some help with a project, and gathering the papers I needed to take to the stage for the period.

It's not the healthiest way to eat, but it's all the time I had.

I think my friend Jen put it best when she described it as the Sophie's Choice of teaching.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Big Girls Don't Cry

A few years ago, I bought an elliptical from my friend Janelle, cut back to 1500 calories a day, and lost 45 pounds.

Then it plateaued, I moved to Denver, and I started slowly gaining weight back (there may have been a little work stress involved ...coughSTMS!cough).

I certainly haven't gained it all back, but I don't like the path I'm on. So! To help keep me motivated, since the musical season is almost upon us (Yay! for not having time to snack, Boo! for having to rely on take-out and being too exhausted to work out), I figured if I held myself publicly accountable, I might maintain better long-term habits.

I'm testing out a new (to me) app that lets me track food and exercise both on my phone and online. I'm in that opening phase where I enjoy detailing everything I eat. That will quickly become tedious, I'm sure. It does give me a handy sidebar badge, though. Big scary red number!

I don't trust my weight tracking, though. 9 pounds in two days? My weight can fluctuate that much from morning to night. Crazy female-ness. We'll see how I'm doing a week from now.

As for working out, I have my motivators - I like working out while watching "Chuck" or "Dr. Who" - they both have good moments of fast, energetic music. But that's for a 45-minute workout, which I usually don't have time to do during the week.

My new resolution was inspired by a Mamapop staffer. Instead of planning my workout by time and feeling daunted by the 45-minute goal, my new vow is to do at least a mile a day. If it's late and I'm exhausted, all I have to do is a mile. That's doable! And if I'm feeling up to it, I can add more. Yesterday I did 1.5 (in 15 minutes!), today I did 1.8. Short, daily workouts have got to be better than infrequent long ones, right?

We'll see what happens when I go out of town this weekend for another speech meet. My immediate goal is to drop 20 pounds by my trip to New York over spring break.

I'm going to hit "Publish Post" now. Which means I can't take this back - you all will know my plans. Dang my knowledge of how publishing goals makes you accountable for them!

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Video's playable now. Sorry 'bout that.

We Tell the Story

Here's the commercial I made to announce the musical:

Ring any bells for you, former DPJH peeps?

As I said before, I'm totally recycling as much as I can this year.

It was met with a collective "Huh?" at first, but as I tell them about the characters and the story, the excitement is growing. Which is nice to see. I bet there's a spike for the soundtrack tonight on iTunes.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Ain't Down Yet

Thank you for the supportive comments, both in the blog and in person!

They've helped me get into a better frame of mind. I'm so enamored with the ideas of either renting the condo and moving abroad to teach or applying for the Arts Management fellowship at the Kennedy Center that I almost wish I'd get non-renewed.


I'll keep you posted, of course, but I don't plan to hear anything for several weeks. All the more fun, right?

In happier news, I had a lovely weekend playing tour guide again. Jason flew in Thursday night and, despite there being nothing of especial interest in town this weekend (aside from the stock show, of course), we had fun. Here's a run-down of the highlights:

1. Playing at the Denver Art Museum, where
a. I renewed my teacher's membership,
b. we played in the bungee-cord jungle installation as part of their temporary exhibit:
Me at DAM

c. we made postcards:

and d. we played dress up with the sample period costumes:
Dressing Up

(The beauty of going in the middle of a school day is getting to play with hands-on parts without any annoying kids getting in the way!)

Oh, we also saw some art, but that's really secondary. Back to the list!

2. Browsing Tattered Cover

3. Wandering around Boulder (it was in the 50's Saturday! Perfect wandering weather!)

4. Watching "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Nine"

5. Watching the Golden Globes with Rachel, Ben, and Brian

6. Eating at Damascus Grill, Vesta Dipping Grill, Brasserie 1010, and PeiWei

7. Making Spanish hot chocolate, baguettes, and curry (not all at the same time)

8. Shopping for spices

9. Eating cupcakes late at night, surrounded by hipsters and realizing we were the oldest people in the place
More Cupcakes!
Totally worth it, though.

10. And, of course, a lot of talking. That is one thing we do very well. We stayed up far too late each night doing that, though. After I took Jason to the airport this morning (which was precarious on two accounts - one, because the gas light in my car came on in the middle of Pena Blvd and I panicked because I had no idea how long this new car gave me before running completely out and two, because I was so dang tired), I crawled right back into bed and slept for another two hours.

Aside from some light housework, finishing the commercial to announce the musical tomorrow, working out, and catching up on the interwebs, today was a lazy day.

Like this:
Lazy Day

I'm not ready to go back to work tomorrow, but there are some good trees in the road ahead to stand as goalposts, so I'll just focus on the closest and worry about the rest later. "Anonymous" hit the nail on the head with the suggestion for reading time. I haven't read very much at all this week, and that never makes for a happy Amanda. I'll hop on my Kindle before I go to bed and see what enticements I can download instead of planning for my classes tomorrow.

Because first things first, after all.

P.S. I'm very curious who "Anonymous" is, since you offered such good advice. Please comment again and declare yourself! :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Worry Song

I've been planning a long entry to update you all about school so far and Humanities in particular. I've even taken pictures to show you of the Cave Art and the Illustrated Epic of Gilgamesh my students have made.

But then I went to a district faculty meeting after school today about the $700,000 that needs to be cut from the budget next year, the $350,000,000 that the state is cutting from education overall, the fact that the school year after next is projected to be even worse, budget-wise, and the superintendent seems focused on the idea of cutting back on licensed staff. The first to go? First-years in the district.

In other words, there's a chance I could lose this job.

Moreover, to hunt for a job in a market with hundreds of other teachers being cut and districts downsizing, chances are that districts will hire the cheap fresh-out-of-university kids rather than a teacher with a Master's and 7 years experience.

Which made me wonder what I could possibly do if I couldn't teach.

So, the Humanities entry will have to wait a few days. I need to get back into a better frame of mind, and I need to clean my apartment up since I've got a guest coming tomorrow.

On one hand, I'm teaching five different subjects, my classes are all full, I'm coaching speech and drama (which, since they hired me out of district, I assume no one else wanted to take on), and I'm doing a good job.

On the other hand, I'm the most recent hire, 4/5 of those classes are electives (i.e. not on state tests), and drama and speech could be reduced to after-school only.

Do I start updating my resume yet again? Cancel my summer travel plans since I may have to live off my savings for a while and how stupid would it be to spend so much to go to Africa when I might not have a job to come back to? Figure out what other kind of job I could possibly get outside of teaching? Or stifle the worries, shift the laundry, pull out the vacuum, and plan lessons on Eyptian death rites and external characterization?

Damn it.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Gee, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning

It really sucks when you look at the clock at 10:30 am and realize you've been up for seven hours.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

We Are Family

Man, I like my family.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Visit

Well, it's a good thing I've had my tour guide skills whetted recently, because I get to host another Denver visitor soon - Jason's coming to Denver for Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. Hurrah!

I spent my last day of vacation running errands (in my new car!), although I did treat myself to a movie.

My parents gave me a subscription to Netflix for Christmas. I set up my queues tonight, and am currently watching some Doctor Who as I type this/fold laundry/do dishes. Awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I just ordered a Roku. I've been considering purchasing the Doctor Who series on DVD. This would ultimately be quite a bit cheaper, since all of the new series is available for instant streaming. And Torchwood is, too. Mmm....

Tomorrow is a teacher work day. Thank goodness. I hope it's an actual work day, not filled up with meetings. I need to make my disclosure statements and some copies of things for the first few days of school. I'm really excited that for the first semester in seven years, I don't have to teach grammar!

Thanks to my parents and Grandma Cook, I left GJ with two boxes full of Humanities materials. I'm worried about teaching the course, mostly because 1) I haven't taught this subject before (although that's nothing new, I suppose) and 2) I feel like I need to know a lot about a lot in order to be good at it. I'm getting there, but it'll be a bumpy first term. I just hope it's not so bumpy that they cut it next year.

Or me. I'm worried about my position being reduced/eliminated. The fact that I watched "Up in the Air" this afternoon probably contributes to that fear. Not the most uplifting movie....

Bedtime! Semester #2 at MTHS starts tomorrow!

Sunday, January 03, 2010


My blog turns 5 years old today!

Take a look at the archives list to the right - oh, how it's grown over the years! From 62 entries the first year to 375 in 2009. The photos I posted from my Yay 30! may have skewed those stats a bit, though....

On a related note, 7 years ago this week I officially started teaching. I'd like to think that I've changed dramatically from those first days at Dead President Junior High, but since I'm surrounded by materials at the moment, planning my first few weeks of Humanities, somehow I don't think that much has changed.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Good Vibrations

Good-bye Sentra!

Hello Vibe!

And thanks to mes tres bons parents, Ben, Betty, and car salesman Fuzzy (pictured above), who defied stereotypes by being very nice.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

Oh, man. Over two weeks since my last post? I have been a slacker!

A brief run-down on what I've been doing:

1. Took the speech kids to Cheyenne, WY for a inter-state meet.

It was an enormous pain-in-the-tuckus to make that trip happen, and I didn't particularly want to do it in the first place. Still, it was a good meet to attend, and the whole trip went smoothly, without incident. Aside from leaving a kid at the Carls, Jr. we stopped at for lunch, that is. No worries, though. We spotted him sprinting through the parking lot towards the bus in time.

2. Wrapped up the semester.

MTHS' schedule is set up so that the students get a year's worth of credit within a semester. Which means when I go back next Wednesday, I'll have all new classes. It also means I'm done teaching English for the year (yay!).

Thanks to some good advance prep on my part, plus the way the finals schedule worked out, I actually graded all my English class' finals with half an hour to spare by the end of the last school day (drama and speech were performance-based, so I graded those on the spot). That meant I had grades posted by the time I walked out of there for the break. Yay for that!

3. Home-made Christmas.

I learned how to make marshmallows for my colleagues-gifts this year. I tried it on my own first, and called my sister when the first batch turned out poorly. She gave me a few hints over the phone and reassured me that it would all be fine. Not so. The second batch was an identical failure. Rachel then very kindly offered to come over the next night and let me observe her process. By batch #5, I was a fluffy-mint-marbled-colored-marshmallow pro!

Once I got to Grand Junction, I kicked into crafty mode and made the rest of my gifts this year. Rachel and I collaborated on a gift to our dad - we bought him an Eddie Bauer jacket and made and attached patches of the various companies he uses. I think the idea came from this New Yorker cartoon.

I also designed and sewed two couch arm-rest craft organizers for my mom and Rachel (adapted from this idea)and embroided a set of handwarmers for Jenn based on two pictures from the Tracy Aviary website (she works there).

Really, why I decided to make most of my gifts this busy year, I don't know. But they all turned out well, and I'm glad.

4. A Late Christmas

We celebrated on the 26th this year so we could all be together. On Christmas Day, my parents hosted their annual Christmas Board Game Extravaganza where I discovered I know far more about the Simpsons than I thought.

I got many lovely gifts for Christmas, including a new suitcase, a nook, a Cricut machine, and a spinning wheel to share with Rachel. Travel, reading, and craftiness - perfect!

5. To Utah for a Birthday Party and New Year's.

After Christmas, we all drove up to Layton for a party for my grandmother's 80th birthday. The day after that, the various relatives, my parents, and I headed for a winter camp up above Sundance. We spent two nights there, including New Year's Eve. I went sledding, worked on some school projects, played a lot of games with my cousins, and even went snowshoeing for the first time. In the light of a blue moon. On New Year's Eve. That was a good first.

In the end, we were all rather tired, so we celebrated the new year an hour early with horns and confetti poppers provided by my grandmother, then spent 20 minutes cleaning up the confetti, then played Quiddler while the real new year rolled in.

6. Car Shopping.

After 11 years, my car is starting to be more trouble than it's worth. I took it in to get a free oil change right before driving down to Junction, and walked out with a list of $700 worth of repairs recommended by the car shop. I didn't get any done at the time, since I was rushing out of town first thing the next morning to try to beat a snowstorm. When I got to Junction, some green liquid was dripping from it. My mom declared it unfit to drive and suggested we go car shopping "just to see what they have".

With Rachel knitting in the car and my mom, Ben (a hidden treasure-trove of car information), and Ben's mom (a safety expert who nicely offered her opinion) in tow, we visited a salesman my parents know and trust. I looked at some new models, but balked at the prices (Africa! I want to go to Africa! I don't need working brakes, right? I'd rather travel!). Upon Ben's recommendations, I was particularly interested in Vibes/Matrices. Lo, they had a used one. I test drove it, and it's actually in great shape. 2007, only one owner, 26,860 miles on it, and it's got almost everything I was looking for.

So, tomorrow I'm most likely buying a car. I don't have the title to my current one with me (since this was an unexpected purchase), so I don't know if I'll be able to trade it in. If it does go through, I'll post a picture tomorrow!