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.