Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Nesting is Going to get me Thrown Out of the Tree

Once again I've found myself in the not-uncommon occasion of doing something I absolutely abhor; this time it's moving.

It's stressful.

It's expensive.

It's basically a pain in the ass.

However the hubs really wanted to "change it up" and leave the past behind--only about five or six miles behind--but he thrives when completing projects or serving a purpose.  He is his best when there's a set of tasks before him and a due date for completion.  In this scenario he gave it to himself.  While the "old" place's amenities were indeed  aging, and the rent was increasing, there wasn't anything categorically terrible.

It was our first place together as a couple.  Then we enlarged our little family by adopting our dog.  We got engaged and then married in this apartment. (Well, I mean, not IN the apartment.  Jesus, that would be depressing and totally bizarre.) After time, clearly this became home.  Especially because--and this is the important part--I'm a nester.  That's right. I've pretty much always needed or craved my own space and desired to make that a unique and special place for me.  I like to make sure my little area of the world in which I lay-me-down-to-sleep, is ideal for me.  I like painted walls.  I like pictures of loved ones, and places we've traveled thoughtfully placed around the vicinity.  I love various flowers and plants to bring life both indoors and out. And after five years of living in this home, I had a pretty fucking amazing nest.

We'd accrued some fancy (and by that I mean, matching!) kitchen ware, two nice (also matching) sofas with complimentary pillows to the wall colors, and a whole patio of plant friends.

This might have something to do with control--needing to assert it or maintain it, but it manifests in a weird way where my home has to be perfect.  Whatever.  It doesn't hurt anybody, so I'm going with the innocuous term, nester.

So, with lead in my heels, I agreed to look around for something different.  Needless to say I was one picky bitch.  Deal breaker?  Small closet space.  I'm out!

Naturally we eventually find something nicer than what we've had.  But here's the deal--NO patio, NO garage, and a bit smaller. But I'm totally sold on the granite countertops, the fancy island, two outdoor pool options, two huge gyms with all the newest equipment and a place that has never even been lived in.

Then comes the moving part.  I'll skip this since most people have moved, and most people, like me, hate it.  So why would you want to read about it?

Ok, we've moved in.  I'm emotionally battered and physically bruised, but no matter.  I've already painted the living room and the office/ study so I'm feeling pretty good. We didn't sell as many items as planned, but no matter.  Surely we'll get our deposit from what I am now referring to as "that old dump."

But now, we have two bathrooms.  Hoo-ray!  I love the hubs, but let's face it.  Every woman needs her space.  Now that means we need some new items.  I begin small.  I tell you.  I go with our biggest needs.  There HAS to be a shower curtain.  And there should be a rug, but then one rug looked funny.  So, I bought another.  And then the matching bathroom accessories were on sale, so... you know where I'm going with this.

I also blame the summer.  This all occurred when I had way too much free time to judge, ponder and then act without consulting the budget-Nazi.  This also might have been on purpose.

I changed lamp shades, bought entirely new lamps, towels, and more bathroom items.

Currently, I've got my eye on a new rug for the kitchen.  The one I like is in the three-digit range.  That's two digits too many as far as he's concerned.  Better yet, why get a rug?  The heathen!

While this search continues, I'm also working on two new side tables that I keep mistakenly refer to as console tables.  So, when the kind lady at the fancy furniture store that I pretend I don't know asks what I'm looking for, I tell her "two matching console tables" I have to quickly edit my mistake out loud--not unlike an autistic person--and explain that, yes, I am a dumbass, and no she will not be receiving a giant commission.  One--because I'm never going to be able to afford anything for this store and two--because I meant side tables, not giant ass coffee tables.  They should just all call them coffee tables, btw.

Needless to say, the hubs will reconsider our next move.  Of that, I can be sure

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Student Teacher: Mr. Blindspot, aka, Bruce "Literary" Jenners.

My student teaching experience was not unlike most other folks.  I had a wonderfully talented, funny, and inspirational cooperating teacher named Mr. Blankenburg, whom I still consider, after thirteen years of teaching, to be a dear friend.

It was scary at first.  I remember.  But I also worked my ass off to make sure I knew what the hell I was talking about while keeping my target audience in mind--namely to keep them awake and not humping each other during group activities. I wrote down everything Mr. B did in class during those observations.  I stayed up late perfecting my lesson, memorizing names, and practicing my emerging teacher-face, now perfected with the Mom-stank-eye when the kids get on my last nerve.

These fond memories inspired me to, years later, embark upon the similar journey of mentoring potential future educators.  So, for many seasons now, I've agreed to host college students from around the area to observe my classroom and my teaching.  I've encountered quite a few teachers-in-the-making, with their eager and nervous smiles.

All of them, I feel fairly confident in saying, found their way in the world--most as current teachers.  All of them had potential to do something in this world.  All of them could communicate thoughtfully and effectively.  All of them except for my current student teacher.

I shall dub him Simon.

Simon arrived to our first meeting over 40 minutes late.  He was small, sweaty and strange. It was one of those moments, like on a first date, where you think to yourself: well, this is gonna suck.

I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt; however, more time spent together only strengthened my case.  He came over six times late.  That's six times too many, homey.  Naturally each time he'd arrive late, he'd interrupt my teaching, a few kids got distracted, and he'd creep over to the other side of the room, waiting expectedly for me to come over to him and summarize everything he'd missed.  When I finally confronted him on it, Simon became Simon, the Martyr.  That other apostle no one wants to talk about because he was just that fucking annoying.

He couldn't afford a car, because he couldn't afford college, because his parents were poor, because who knows.  He had to ride his bike--in the rain--up hill--both ways--and then the chain broke--and then someone almost ran him over--and then, and then, and then I want to scream and go all Wolverine on him in the head.  We have our various crosses to bear and at this point, it's not professional to announce them prior to having any type of relationship.

Well, that confrontation backfired on me, because the next time he showed up early.   Two hours early.  Two additional hours with Simon, the Martyr. Since this was my planning period which meant no students to interrupt him, Simon took it upon himself to begin the world's most awkward interview.  Each question would begin the exact-same-way.

Simon: "Um, Mrs. -I have a question."

Me: Stopping what I'm doing and turning to him. "Sure, Simon.  What's up?"

Simon: Without any noticeable expression.  "Um, so.  Um.  How do you, like know, like what to teach?"

Me: Blink. Blink.  "Do you mean what texts I teach? Or what lexicon level of texts? Or skills?"

Simon: "Yes."

So, then I'm thinking that perhaps this college isn't quite up to par in their preparatory courses anymore, and instead introduce all the different ways the English department creates the scope and sequence for the year including all the TEKS skills, district course guides, etc. Meanwhile Simon simply sits there looking around me--not at me. After I finish, hand him several more handouts with information about our courses, he begins again.

Simon:  "Um, Mrs. -I have a question."

Me: Thinking this would be a follow up question related to what I've just spent the last seven minutes discussing. "Go for it."

Simon: "Did you buy a class ring from your college?"

Me: WTF? Take a deep breath. "Um, no."

Simon: "Um, Mrs. -I have a question..."

Me: Warily.  "Ok."

Simon:  "How do you work with students who don't care?"

Me: Thrown yet again by the drastic change in subject manner and complexity of the real answer. 

... Twenty or so minutes pass in this way while parts of my soul have just died. 

And this now concludes the Q and A part of our session.

Each "interview" is the same completely random and disconnected set of questions with the same introduction.  "Um, I have a question...." Well, no shit.  We're not friends, and you certainly don't know what you're doing. Just ask it!

Days pass and poor Simon is still fiddling with paperwork, or looking through all the documents I've given.  And then, one day, Simon is just sitting.  Nada.  Then he's--dare, I say it?--on his phone and ostensibly texting.  This is while I'm leading the class through an analysis of an excerpt from Meria Edgeworth's novel, Belinda, in my senior AP class.  Texting.  Really?

Am I boring you?

It's an insult from a self-centered and immature teenager, but somewhat understandable. However from a senior in college preparing to actually be a teacher, who's entire job at this point is to OBSERVE, it's something else.  Again, I want to Wolverine your face.

Yes, I just made "Wolverine" a verb.

So, I get all teachery on his ass, and suggest he move around the room to help with students'  questions on a writing exercise.  I return to my podium in the front where students have been coming up to ask for individual help.  Kids are visiting with me a few at a time.  I briefly scan the room.

Students working? Check.
Simon walking around the room? No--hmm.
Simon in his corner?  No.  Uh-oh. 

I do another quick scan and nearly have a heart attack because it's then I realize Simon has been standing in my blindspot for some time now, with his hands in his pockets.  Just standing.  In the front of the room, in the left corner, not doing anything.

The nickname Captain Blindspot was born that day.

Then it came time for Blindspot to begin his lesson planning to then actually deliver a lesson to one of my poor classes. The questions were relentless.

Blindspot: "Um, Mrs. -I have a question..."

Me: Yeah, I bet you do.

With his rigid schedule (he mysteriously can only be available Wednesdays and Fridays) the best viable option for him was to lead a lesson in my elective course--Literary Genres.  Selfishly, I'm also aware that he can do the least amount of damage to an elective course where I can literally make things up as I please.  The kids are fantastic and the focus is by my design.  I thought this would be an amazing opportunity to craft a lesson using pretty much any medium with the only stipulation that the focus be in the adventure genre and there's some planned analysis.

When I describe this rare gem in one's teaching career to Blindspot, he does not share my enthusiasm.

Blindspot: "Um, Mrs. -I have a question."

Me: Here we go. "Yep."

Blindspot:  "I don't know what you do in this literary genres class."

And now think to yourselves how to say the word "genre."

I bet it was not "jenners" which is how he pronounces it.  "Jenners" as in Bruce Jenners.

This is a mistake I would absolutely allow for a middle school student to make.  This is something I might hear from a high school student.  But for a senior in college who majored in English, and plans to be an ENGLISH TEACHER?

Houston, we've got a [yet another] problem.

And mind you, he's now been observing this class for three weeks with every piece of syllabus and class material the students have also been given.

Bruce "Literary" Jenners has emerged.

He has two weeks to prepare a lesson for Literary Genres. I've never been asked more questions in my life.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Books of 2013

The following titles are novels that I've read (or reread) this year in order from January to... (why am I writing this part?).  I tried to be brief because sometimes I just want to know the gist of something--give me the seed of the story, whether it's worth the time, and then shut up.  So, that's what I've done, with some anecdotal information because it's my blog.  

The Hobbit by Tolkien
     There's not much more to say about this stunning story that hasn't already been written, so although this was my first choice for the new year, I won't even attempt to be clever or creative, but rest assured, if you haven't read this and are contemplating it, stop reading this and pick up one of the best stories written, grab some hot tea (how very British of you!), and get to reading.  Sweet but not sappy, inventive and absolutely addictive.

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
    So, I teach the hell out of some Shakespearean tragedy, but it's important to include his comedy as well.  While he's got some famous ones, I prefer Twelfth Night to do the job.  There's a line in there where Viola (dressed as the young man, Cesario) is cryptically telling the man she secretly loves that the only female in her family (referring to herself) could never speak her love, but sat "like Patience on a monument, smiling at grief."  That always gets me.  The whole plays is about mistaken identity and reinforces the idea that unless we are brutally honest with ourselves, we may never even know what we want anyway.  To the right is the promotional image for the film because there aren't any interesting covers for the actual play.  The movie is fun too!

Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling:
     I really, really, really wanted to like this book.  However, in the end, I didn't.  Here's the deal: I knew there was no Harry in this.  I knew there was no magic, or Hogwarts, but come on... just a little nod to something of the genre.  Just a knowing, wink-wink, would have been appreciated.  Oh, and for those of us who loved the emotional and physical adventure of Harry and Company, be prepared to be absolutely underwhelmed by the lack of both.  Tear, whimper.  It's an ostensibly realistic portrayal of a town with the old money and then those "on the other side" where characters from both sides are monsters.  It's a little dark, definitely depressing, but certainly well written.  I'll admit that Rowling's facility with language was a surprise; I'd pegged her as brilliantly creative, but left it at that.  This novel lets her flex those linguistic skills.  I just didn't like the story!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
     What a page turner, and much needed after the bore fest of my previous choice.  This one was chosen by our book club and was a perfect escapist novel filled with interesting narrators and some wild plot twists.  You have two narrators--one the husband, and one the wife--and as the reader, you're torn on more than one occasion as to which one you trust or even like.  I got into the style of the novel as well--it wasn't a bubble gum beach read by any means, but I didn't feel like I had to work too hard either.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
   To be fair, this is another one that I'm using with my juniors, but as an English teacher, I invariably need to reread it.  At times this can be taxing, but my-oh-my how I adore this little novel, ahem, novella.  The story of an unlikely friendship between two men, Lennie and George, trying to make their American Dream become a reality. And the film with the fantastic John Malkovich and Garry Sinise is really wonderful as well; I cry every time.  (This past semester I didn't really "prepare" before reading the last chapter aloud to them and I totally couldn't get my shit together.  Another sweet kid took over for me.) I love this particular cover.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
     This is an outside reading option for a large research paper my AP seniors will be using basically as one of their sources, but all that doesn't seem to matter.  You will fall so deeply and completely into the dark world of Celie--you love her and want to fight for her.  Even when she's an adult, you still see her sometimes as this helpless child whose innocence was stolen from her--whose life was stolen.  You celebrate her evolution as a character through her diary entries which are also her prayers to God, whom she at times denies, and for good reason.  This is both a heartbreaking and heartwarming novel.  Pulitzer--duh?!  National Book Award, of course!  Now I get it.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
     Yet again, I'm cheating a bit in that I've read this one, but it was worth the reread.  Each time another chapter speaks to me in a way I hadn't expected.  It's a collection of war stories told by Tim O'Brien--who was in the Vietnam War.  Except this is fiction.  Why?  Because sometimes you have to lie to tell the truth.  This is infuriating for a seventeen-year-old, but fodder for valuable class discussion.  It's raw, complicated, beautiful, and terrible.  It's humanity.  I was enthralled from the first stories and then overwhelmed later as you get to more "truths" or explanations revealed in later chapters which at times contradict details earlier forcing you to ask those important questions, like does it even matter?  I think my juniors got a lot out of it--some simply because they could read a book with cussing, but be that as it may, it reaches all the kids in some manner.

Wild: From Lost to Found On the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

   This one has been on lots of book club lists (including my friend, Oprah), and that's exactly how I was inspired to read this one--my book club.  It's a memoir about a young woman who takes a year off from regular life to hike the rigorous Pacific Crest Trail because she is lost emotionally (and at times physically), yet by the end becomes... you guessed it, found!  There were some sections in the reading which were extremely compelling including the portions with her dealing with the recent death of her mother and clearly coping with all the complications that a mother's death can create.  It was heart wrenching stuff, but the low-middle class kid came out and started to get annoyed with all her self-induced, bullshit drama.  I felt like yelling at her to "suck it up.  Get a real job. Stop using so many drugs and stop fucking around."  But some people need  a long trail and a year off to figure it out.  Either way, it's well written, but if you've had enough with the Eat, Pray, Love entitled, white woman drama, then this isn't for you.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James (Trilogy)
     Alright, alright.  I know. But I had to find out what all the hub-bub was about, and here's the deal.  I totally get it. It's a story that, yes, certainly has sex in it.  But more importantly, it has the equivalent of sex for most women.  It's centered around a hot, brilliant, and wealthy young man who needs help.  Help from whom?  Help from a young and also hot brilliant young woman.  He NEEDS her--it's so thick with Lifetime Television-esque scenarios the academic in me sneered.  But... I kept reading.  It also has her detailed shopping trips, what savory dishes they ate with the wine, what vacations they took to romantic and picturesque places around the world.  It just had all the frivolous things women take pleasure in, and then we get the added benefit of just how desperate he is without her.  We get the physical AND emotional intimacy!  Oh my!  This was also the first book (I refuse to call this a novel) where I read it solely from the comfort and protection of prying eyes using my iPad.

The Passage by Justin Cronin
     The reviews for this novel really intrigued me including one by the famous Stephen King who is quoted as saying "Read this book and the ordinary world disappears."  Whoa! Right? Now, I typically don't go for unnecessary blood and gore in my summer reading, but this was something right out of the X-Files, and you know I'm a slut for anything Scully and Moulder-related.  So, I embarked on this journey and was not disappointed.  The gist is that there has been a terrible government experiment gone awry causing the end of the world as we know it.  And as cliche as that sounds, it seems totally believable while you're reading. You meet a whole host of protagonists and even skip around in time.  This novel plays with all kinds of genres including science fiction, fiction, romance, and definitely a little gothic! Word to the wise, this is a long one, so you'll have to commit.  Also it's the first in the triology, but really it gives a sense of closure if you don't want to read the second or third. I'm on the fence about reading on.

Saturday by Ian McEwan
     When I saw the film, Atonement, I was really blown away by the whole thing--the sweeping story line of love and betrayal, told from an outsider's narration who affects the plot early on.  Then someone suggested the short but dense novel, Saturday and I was intrigued.  It's just one day in the life of this neurosurgeon, but it was so incredibly well written with phrases that just cut right to the truths of humanity--get it?  "Cut"...You delve into the past of this interesting and articulate family and then something dramatic happens... It really is a worthwhile read.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
     This felt like the "summer of Gatsby" since the film finally came out, and since it was summer, I finally found the time to go see it--at a super sketchy dollar theater, ironically--but this was also the first time I am preparing lessons for the kiddies upon their return.  This was their summer reading as well.  This novel is as a beautifully written as its character's are ethically flawed, all save Nick--our little cowardly lion who is able to grow a pair by the end.  Can't wait to hear the seniors' take on it--I'm sure they'll be critical, and I'll have to destroy them.

The Lacua by Barbara Kingsolver
     One of her previous novels, The Poisonwood Bible, really is like a religious text for literature teachers looking to use a novel rich with texture, distinctive narrative voices, and a deeply moving plot line.  I've always wanted to read more of her works, and I finally got my grubby hands on The Lacuna.  While the former was set in Africa, the focus of this novel is really Mexico during the exciting and turbulent times of the Russian Revolution while in the home of the infamous painters and rebel thinkers, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.  Our narrative then travels back to the U.S. and our narrator is forced to confront the ugly, and frankly embarrassing, trials against involvement with Communism with the HUAC trials. The concluding pages just take you to another place altogether--compelling, wondrous, evocative and lovely. Read!

Next up? A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
     Ok, this one is going to be short.  "It was the best of times; it was the worst..." and I'm asleep.  Sorry Dickens.  You lost me on this one.  NEXT!

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
     What an interesting read.  Now, I was unaware of the whole index in the back--but those are for yuppy cheaters.  I roll the hard way and made various family trees (or really webs with all the bastard children) on post it notes. Quite handy as you start getting through the various plot twists. This puppy took some time for me, by no means a slight on the novel, but more a commentary on how fucking busy the end of the semester is.  You've got political conspiracies, murder, cover ups, and then let's talk about love.  You've got thwarted love, familial, fraternal, hell, even incestuous.  This series has it all.  Now, since it's a series there's quite a bit to cover which the HBO series leaves out for the sake of time and to keep the attention of the typical ADD-prescribed viewers, but all the same it's damn entertaining. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cell Phone Murder Painful for us All

Well, I'm a murderer. 

I've killed my cell phone.

You know how this blog is about the fact that I'm a teacher, but I still do stupid things, or make poor choices?  This one is just such a rookie mistake, probably made by many.

For some reason, I put my cell phone in the back of my shorts and took Piper out to go play.  (Did I think someone important was really going to need me in the twenty minutes it took to play with the dog?) It's over 100 degrees in the shade here in Austin, so I got back and was disgusting and sweaty.   I just started to a load of laundry, stripped and thew in my shorts, along with all the rest I'd been putting off. 

I take a shower, grab a snack and, as I usually flip though Facebook or my emails while I eat, I began to look for my beloved.  Instantly, the cold shock realization that I have totally fucked up hits me. I sprint to the washing machine pulling everything out, which is all ten times harder now with the water weight and the tangling. I grab it out, but yes, it was totally submerged at some point in the wash. The cursing began here. 

I remembered I'm supposed to keep it off and get it as dry as possible.  (Yes, from a previous encounter with a tub of water at the pedicure place.)  So, I look for rice to start sucking out the water--but no dice.  But, I've got couscous!  Then I attempt to make a couscous bowl ASAP, but it's literally all over the floor now in my frenzy. I get on the computer to watch some You Tube clips about getting into the phone to remove the battery before any more damage is done.  

Have you ever looked at the screws on the I phone 5?  Ok, the screws at the bottom which I'm instructed to remove are so freaking tiny I have to get out my glasses. I don't have a microscopic screwdriver for the microscopic screws, so I thought, hey!, why not run up the conveniently located Apple store where I can get instant access to the pros?!?!  I put my dripping hair in a crazy-ass looking bun, put some actual clothes on, and literally run up the street to the store where I'm met with the most patronizing man with his hip, clear glasses.  After explaining my whole situation with sufficient self-deprecation and the I-screwed-up-please-help-me-smile, he replies that "they" aren't open.  (What, do you own Apple?  Is this your family?)

"Um, I'm here talking to you.  The door wasn't locked or anything."

"Well, yes, but we open at noon on Sundays."

"Ok, that's in thirty minutes.  No, ok, well can I just borrow one of those microscopic screwdrivers to avoid more damage on my super-expensive-phone which has everything on it?"

"I'm sorry, but there's just nothing we can do at this point." Shaking his head as if he cared, and then queuing up his stupid functioning I-Pad.  "But you can make an appointment for this evening with our Genius Bar."

Um, thanks for nothing, asshole.

So, now I'm frantic AND pissed off.  I quickly head back home to the car and then out to HEB to get a special screwdriver to open up the case. Along with actual rice since the couscous is getting in the small openings of the phone.  While there, I can't find anything useful except that little plastic case people use for glasses with some extra screws.  Whatever, that and rice and I scoot.

I race back home, now just frantic and less pissed, because I am taking this challenge head-on!  I can change this outcome!  I've got my own will and abilities! Only to find that no--in fact this teeny tiny screwdriver is small--but NOT microscopic.  Lots of cursing. 

Then Speed Racer out again to Home Depot for another set of screwdrivers.  I'm still trying to pump myself up here and not to give up.  Some little old man employee was eyeballing me since I was taking out all these screwdrivers to make sure this time.  "Ma'am, may I help you?"

"No. I'm fine."  Seriously man, you do not want to unleash the Kraken boiling up inside this sister.

I pay for the deluxe set of 16 screwdrivers thinking the smallest one HAS to work.  

Naturally, it doesn't.  The bile is now rising in the back of my throat.  I've now personified my cell phone as drowning in a car, and I can't help it. 

I basically found one of the flathead attachments to use, which really wasn't the right size either, but I made happen, all to figure out that the YouTube video was for an I phone 4, not 5.  Meaning, I needed more special tools to open that one up.  At that point the hubs came home from work (yes, working on Sunday) and I totally broke down-- bawling from frustration.... and also hormones and let's face it, hunger. 

He hugged me and let me complete my Ugly Cry.  We left it in some rice (thank you HEB) overnight and that poor puppy was still fried.  I tried to turn it on finally the following morning and it literally was blinking red and white.  My phone was bleeding.  Totally a Johnny Five moment for me. 
No disassemble! Johnny-Five alive!

So, from our research, it seems like I can pay a small fortune and just get a replacement.  That was going to be my school clothes shopping money.  Also a tearful moment. 

First world problems indeed, but they're my problems so they count--yo. The hubs said he thought a family member died I was so upset when he came home.  I told him one did.  I loved that phone.

And now, naturally, I have to walk back to the Apple Store and make a stupid appointment with the "Genius Bar" to get another phone.  God, I hate that name. And I'm going to make sure that I have on make-up and dry hair this time.  

Lesson learned?  Get the stupid insurance coverage and don't be a dumb-ass.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sex Ed

There were some times, especially in my early years of teaching, when I knew, just knew that one of those hormone-raging, angst y little teen-aged boys had a crush on me.  They'd have that glassed over look and get all goofy when I asked them a question about what I was actually fucking teaching.  Now, I think it's interesting to mention that this was not a male-only scenario.

Oh, yes.  A few years ago I had one of my female students flirting with me.  I thought it was in my head, but this gal--we'll call her Melissa--was just a really cool, smart girl who happened to be in a band.  We had lots of small talk after or before class: she'd ask about my dog, I'd ask about her recent new hair dying experiment (gone wrong).  Because she was a female, I didn't think anything of it.  And then, she would be coming in after school every day asking if I needed help with anything.

Any filing?
No, I'm solid but thanks gal.  Have a good afternoon.  
Any grading?
Nope, I'm good!  
Want me to rub your shoulders?

Silently: Whaaaaat the fuuuuuck?

Melissa went from asking to help me staple some stupid packets to physically touching me.  I gave her a blank stare to which she then added:  Do you want me to play with your hair?

And that's when you realize that girls have crushes on girls too.  Since I've never been gay, this really didn't dawn on me.  Sadly, the Melissa scenario got a little creepier before it got better.  She made me a beaded bracelet with the letters to my first name, and then told me about a song she'd been writing...about me. Gulp.  Right as I was starting to get a little paranoid and watched Jennifer 8 for clues on how to horribly address these things, Melissa got a little girlfriend of her own!  Saved by the ever-changing, volatile world of teenagers.  She solved her own problem; I couldn't have been more happy--or supportive.  I was her own personal cheerleader.  To the point that I think I creeped them both out.  The new girlfriend thinking, "What's the deal with that weirdo teacher who keeps smiling and waving at us?  And why did she give us this coupon for dinner-for-two?"

The young-cute-teacher novelty would inevitably wear off when the love birds received their shitty report card and realized that in actuality, No, I'm not cool. I'm your English teacher. Now stop staring and get your ass to work!  Typically the honeymoon phase would come to a close and we could really get down to the learning business.

Time has passed and I really thought I'd crossed some threshold of teenage attraction.  This was welcomed.  I'd hit the over-thirty birthday, gotten married, had our anniversary--all of this was public knowledge.  I was a teacher who was no longer privy to their lingo, their music, their television programs and I was okay with this.  There was a more clearly drawn line between the students I taught and myself.  I also did some math, and turns out I am, biologically speaking, old enough to be their mothers!  Now, I would certainly be a young and most likely fucked up one, but still!

All this to say the other day I received the most sexually charged anonymous email from one of my students--presumably male from the contents.  It began with the "don't try and guess who this is because you won't.." I checked the email and sure enough, it's some bogus name.  And then I kept reading the shocking email which contained lines like: "when you wear those grey cords it makes me want to bust out of my seat and have you right there."

When I started to read it, my mouth dropped wide open and I started to laugh.  And then since I'm scared of technology, I started to wonder if he could see me... so then I deleted the email thinking that would do the trick.  Then I blocked all email from sender.

Of course, this is still the middle of the damn day, so now I have to teach knowing that one of these little horny bastards had the audacity to send me--an adult--his teacher--this really inappropriate email.  The first day I hardly made eye contact with anybody.  It was awful.  Then after talking to the hubs about it--who laughed (thanks for the help)--I got kinda pissed off.  It felt like a power struggle and now this over-sexed kid has put me in an uncomfortable position. So, the next day, I was on a mission.  I was the one staring at everyone.  Making serious face just a little too long.  I was also wearing the most asexual thing I could find.  I really wanted to bring back that black blow-up suit Missy Elliot wore in some music video, but that was really hard to find with such short notice.

What's also disturbing is that I love those grey cords.  I wear them with my converse and a some kind of lame t-shirt.  Dammit kid.  You've ruined my casual Friday uniform for winter!

So, the mystery here still goes unsolved, but the drama never ends.

The following day, I'm leaving school a little later than usual.  I'm on the third floor, and I take the poorly lit stairway where the walls still show years of graffiti that has been painted over and over, but are forever peeling and however much you clean it still smells like Fritos and vomit.  In short, it's pretty gross.  But as soon as I swing open the door, two students--one of them I currently teach--make a quick gasp.  I turn to see her pulling UP HER PANTS!!! and then him crouching down on the ground, his face in his hands as he has recognized that they've been caught, but what's worse--caught by his own teacher.  I yell: "Oh my god!  Gross!" and then there's the split second of absolute terror for us all.  I'm not even sure they were even having sex, or about to have sex... but whatever it was, was NOT OKAY!!!

So, what do I do?  The adult. The professional.

I say with my hand outstretched so I don't have to really look at either of them: "I'm embarrassed for both of you.  Leave.  Right now."

And they do.

After going home and contemplate poking out my corneas with a hot poker, I realize I have to teach that kid the very next day.  I arrive early to get my head straight.  The kids begin to stroll in and Mr. Lover is among them--not early nor late.  Just there.  I'm still too mortified to even write him up or, God help me, call home to talk to a parent.

Neither of us has made eye contact since.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This entry is not exactly timely, but I think it's still worth sharing.

When you begin a new school year in August the teacher is going what feels like one hundred miles an hour.  You're a freaking performer.  You are an entertainer, disciplinarian, friend and sometimes foe.  You facilitate conversations, deliver lessons, provide examples, share your wisdom, ask questions, exhibit respect, and so on... then around November, you begin to realize that this is totally working!

The students--ok, most of the students--are responding to this whole thing.  They are learning.  Following your procedures.  Those who don't follow the protocols you've established are put in their place by fellow classmates.

You're giddy with success.

Then we hit the end of the semester.

The wheels fall of a little as those idiots who have been sucking the marrow of your joy everyday come to you and ask:

Student: Hey Miss

Me: (Um I have a name, Fuckface.  I've memorized yours and 159 others this year alone)  We haven't seen you lately.  Is everything ok?

 .... (nothing) How can I help you?

Student: "Uh, like,  what can I do to pass?"

This is an interesting "conversation" to have with some students.  Now, with most of the kids who are riding the border between passing and failing, I can actually respond normally and with a potentially successful outcome.  With the kid who has missed more days than he's attended, and an average in the single digits, I have my own special response. It goes as follows:

Me: Ok, so here's what I want you to do.  First, go home and get ALLLL the tools you can find.  Set them out.  You with me?

Student: Uh, ok.

Me: Then I want you to start to build something really special.  I want you to build a time machine.

Student: (blankly staring at you and probably already thinking about video games, pot or porn)

Me: Then, hop into your time machine.  Set it back to the beginning of the school year, and then do EVERYTHING I TOLD YOU TO DO from day one.  How does that sound?

Student: (begins to smile a little.  Then realizing that he's fucked, just stares. Then sometimes...) So, like, there's no bonus?

Me:  No, honey.  There is no bonus.