Thursday, March 31, 2005

A look back to one year ago

In March of last year, my life went through some massive upheaval. Let's recap that era, so near and yet so very far.

In January, I began to hate my job. Or, realize that I hated it. Loved the colleagues, but hated the work. Finally screwed my courage to the sticking place and put in my notice at the end of the month. I also applied for the New York City Teaching Fellows and AmeriCorps NCCC Team Leader.

The last day of work at the mortgage company was March 5, I believe. On March 7, I flew to New York City to interview for the Teaching Fellows.

When I got home, I moved out of my fun, bachelorette apartment I'd been sharing with my college friend Stacey, and back home with mummy. Not sure what exactly I did for the rest of the month, other than try to find short-term work and wait on tenterhooks for any news on either job front.

In April, I was accepted to the teaching program. Assumed I'd be hearing from AmeriCorps soon, but never did.

So that is how I went from just another mindless twentysomething automaton in the Pacific Northwest to being a teacher in the Big Apple.

If things had gone even a bit differently, I would not be here now. If I'd decided to suck it up and finish out the spring at the mortgage company. If I'd not put in my notice soon enough to fly out here. If I'd decided to NOT do this. If I'd heard from AmeriCorps. Any of those things and I would basically be a different person right now.

I haven't decided whether to be glad it all worked out like this, or chagrined.

Hell must have got a bit chilly

Because today, I had a coverage of an eighth-grade class, and it went well. They were excited and mostly attentive for BrainQuest (god, that is up there for the best five bucks ever spent this year!). There were some very bright kids in the class, too, which was neat to see. I get all bitter about the 'old days' when we actually knew stuff. Most of the kids are not quite that sharp or quick, but a select few were right on the ball. It was cool. I taught them about E Pluribus Unum, reviewed states of matter, and reminded them about Eastern Hemisphere geography.

Let's see. In test prep review, we did context clues, which meant I got to teach them a whole bunch of new words: flourished (I showed them the Latin etymology--and I DO use the word 'etymology'--meaning 'to flower or bloom'), thrive, vigor (those two because they were in the definition of 'flourish': to grow or develop vigorously; to thrive), opaque, translucent (because it's the antonym), elated, outlandish, and reversible. I think that was all.

Classes B and C got to have a writing workshop, where they just worked on their drafts. In Class B, one table's worth got to peer edit and review, two tables had to start their damn drafts already, and the other kids worked on their first or second drafts.

In Class C, I am continuing to see some fantastic improvement in a few of the lower-level students. The higher-level students are coming up with excellent dialogue and action words. Yay! Praise be, they are LEARNING!

It was a very hectic day, even though Thursdays are usually pretty calm. I teach first, second, third periods, then I have fourth, fifth and sixth off, and teach seventh and eighth. Well. Not that simple today.

Fourth period I took a small group from each class to work on test review (of course, I had to use another teacher's room, since seventh-graders are in my room every lunch period except Wednesdays; that leaves me TWO PERIODS A WEEK--TOTAL--in which I can be in my own classroom without a class in it. Ahem.). They all did very well; I had some of them in yesterday too, so they knew to look for clue words in the passages. I think most, if not all, the kids got all the questions correct. They like doing the worksheets because I put them in sheet protectors and hand out whiteboard/overhead pens for them to write on the page with. They think that is fun and cool, as do I.

Fifth period I had the prep. Again, praise be, it went well. Miracle of miracles.

Sixth period I would have been able to sit down and take a breath, but Class C was throwing a surprise party for another teacher who's taking a leave of absence. There was pizza, soda, chips, ho-hos, and candy. I helped pass everything out and got to have some snacks, too. Yum.

After school, I got to chat with CuteTeacher and help explain some computer things like the nerd I am. Oh well, Cute is Cute. A friendly teacher gave me a ride to the train station. That was awesome. Thank you, Friendly Teacher! That gave me plenty of time to chill for a bit, and then go work out. It was fun but tough, of course. I know I will be sore, but I will relish it. It makes me want to stretch, which I should do more of anyway.

Back to lunchtime:
I am relieved to be making progress with my test help, because Mr Principal will be coming around to find out what we are doing to 'move' the lower-level kids so they will pass the big test coming up. In my department, we are expected to have an individualized plan for EVERY STUDENT, and how we will help with their deficiencies, and what exactly we will do to do that. Other departments are not expected to do that for all students, only a handful in each class. That is manageable. Ninety kids? Totally unrealistic.

For me to work with ANY kids individually requires me to give up my lunch period. Does that tell you how well this system is working?

It's not only me; there's just not enough time or student motivation to differentiate or scaffold in an everyday class. We have other shit to do! A LOT of it!

This might be a good time to discuss the fact that, according to one particular teacher, HALF the staff is talking about or actually applying for jobs outside the classroom, or on the island.

This huge amount of paperwork and extra time is just overwhelming and ridiculous. I'm not the only one who thinks so, either. Why would anyone want to put up with this kind of stuff when there are jobs like school librarian out there? Why do people think that teachers are leaving the city and there are so few good teachers out there? Because ALL teachers are being worked to death. Paperworked to death, more precisely. This level of work and stress is just unreasonable. I cannot for the life of me imagine having this life for another thirty years, let alone five. I'm sure I'll be out of the city school system just as soon as I can. Another statistic. But jesus, teachers are people too, not robots.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

My America...

...looks pretty cool. Hurrah for being fairly well-traveled. Or at least getting the entire West covered, and a good chunk of New England.

Because I am a shameless copycat/suckup. Stolen from the inimitable Mz Smlph:

create your own personalized map of the USA

Alright, never mind. My world looks a bit (well, a lot) Western-Centric. I better get out more!

create your own visited country map

Ay yi, is it Friday yet, please?

I am so tired. Three nights in a row, my head won't shut the hell up so I can rest for an entire night. Waah!

I started Class A with Echo and Narcissus. I wanted to catch them up. They listen so well when I read aloud. I did a really quick version and stopped after the 'shun' lesson.

That took awhile, of course. We still did literature groups and practiced 'chunking'. Eventually we stopped that and did test prep practice. It was supposed to be short, like a 'warm up', but there was no time for anything else. Dammit. I suck at timing.

But you know what? One of the irritatingly chatty boys sat up front by himself (I talked to him quietly before first period) and did very well staying on task and being quiet. Loud E did really well, showing effort and initiative. At the end of our block, he said, "Ms C, this has been the best day ever." And he said something else too, I'm just old and can't remember. Earlier he told me I looked nice, but he and couple other boys do that a lot, and I think it's just to try and butter me up. This one kid who bugs me by talking instead of working (like calling out, look, I'm doing my work!), said to me today, "Ms C, you're my friend" and "Ms C, you look pretty today. I like your hair." I gave him a look and said, "Sucking up doesn't work on me. I don't care if you love me or hate me, do the work. That's what I care about." Heh.

For Class B, the do now was "define 'bankrupt' and use it in a sentence.' Easy enough. I gave them the definition of 'etymology,' and then explained the etymology of the word 'bankrupt.' As I revealed where it came from, kind of like ta-da, I looked at this one kid, and he had that kind of light-going-on, hey-that's-awesome smile. I tell ya, I loved seeing that, watching new knowledge dawn over someone's face. It was really cool.

I also showed them the updated word wall. I put up 'acrophobia' with the other phobias we discussed. I asked them if they could figure out what it meant. Had they seen the root 'acro' anywhere? I was thinking Acropolis in my head, but someone piped up 'acrobat,' which works too. So I drew a little diagram: a straight line representing Athens, and a big lump with the Parthenon on top. Did they know what the name of the lump was? No. Okay, it's called the Acropolis. What does 'polis' mean? Nothing, even though I KNOW they learned it in social studies. So I reminded them it means 'city.' (Right? Heh) What must 'acro' mean, then? Above, right. So what does 'acrophobia' mean? Fear of heights! Yay.

Like I said, lexicon expansion underway!

Also like I said, the timing sucks. All this fun wordplay means we don't get enough time to do our "real work."

Class C did the the bankrupt thing and the test stuff. Tomorrow they'll do chunking, I think.

Man, this test stuff takes up too much time for me. Tomorrow I'm doing context clues, maybe it will go faster. Then we'll have time for actual writing work.

Did I mention how awesome some of Class C was in the writing workshop yesterday? Several kids who haven't written in paragraphs ALL YEAR finally responded to some individual explicit instruction, and came up with fabulous stuff. IN PARAGRAPHS. I saw other kids finally get their drafts started, and were writing a lot. Helped a girl with writer's block, using format/plot elements to guide what to do next. Had a group peer- and self-edit, which looked productive for awhile. Then a few of them stopped working and were just lazing about. But altogether, I was very pleased.

We'll see if Classes A and B can do that too.

Tomorrow is the last day of third quarter! I can't believe it. We are finally heading into the home stretch. I'm trying to get ready for the onslaught of behavior problems.

Because even now, I am so frustrated with A and B. I feel helpless; I don't know how to make those last few shut the hell up. I think (knock on wood!) that most of each class is on my side, so to speak. They help me tell the noisy ones to be quiet, more colorfully than I am allowed to. Heh. I get to hear them say things like, "Don't you want to learn?" But when I have to stop and wait for the same two kids every two minutes, I find myself with no consequences to scare them, and I don't have a positive reinforcement in place either, other than getting a good grade for the day. I better work on that.

With that in mind, here I go to make phone calls to those houses.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Get this!

Two of my classes had to take some random test today. And, no joke, the first passage was about Narcissus. Is that awesome, or what? I said to Class B, "Aren't you glad you have such a well-read teacher who likes to share things with you?!" Heh. It was pretty damn cool. They will REALLY know the meaning of the word 'narcissism' now.

The shame lies in that Class A had to take the test too. And I did not get to do the fun Greek myth/wordplay with them yesterday. So it was just another passage in a test to them. Nothing special. I still might try to throw in the myth again tomorrow, see if they can recall/infer what narcissism must mean. And I can teach them 'shun.' What a fun word.

Last night I went shopping on the way home. I got a few DVDs (3 for $25! The Princess Bride, Notting Hill, and the Big Chill) and some random stuff too, including a bunch of half-price Easter candy. Whee! I do love cheap chocolate. Mm, Cadbury eggs.

I am still very sleepy. Slept only marginally better than I did on Sunday night. I was exhausted, but my brain just keeps on trucking. On Sunday I dreamt that I was in some kind of hotel/hostel. No closed rooms, and it was getting late. I was trying to sleep, but there were people everywhere talking, making noise, playing loud music. I was all stomping around, telling them to be quiet already!

Holy cow, the sky was clear blue and almost warm this afternoon! It's like a springtime miracle!

I stayed after school for over an hour, making a poster, cleaning up my pigsty of a desk, trying to organize test stuff, and other miscellaneous tasks. At the beginning of the year, I used to do that a lot, stay in my room doing whatever. I rarely do that anymore, though. Hm.

I have been getting compliments and comments from my colleagues on my enthusiasm and energy and skill. I thank them as graciously as I can, but I'm thinking, dude, are you talking about ME? Weird! Nice, though, to know that I come across as talented and energetic. I sure don't feel like it. I feel like I complain a lot, or whine, or just whatever. But I do know that I have come miles from where I was back in October, as an intimidated, overwhelmed newbie. God, that was a rough time. The ultimate sink or swim, like I've been saying all year. I think I can say that I'm dogpaddling now. Not racing in the Olympic 100-meter or anything, but I'm doing okay staying abovewater.

Alright, done with the half-assed water metaphors. For now, anyway.

I can't wait to be a second-year teacher. I'll still be learning all the time, and I have no doubt it will still be VERY difficult, but at least I won't be totally green. And I'll be able to plan to throw in grammar, vocabulary and wordplay on a regular basis. I'll have to make myself a t-shirt that says, "Caution! Lexicon Expansion Underway!" I could wear them on certain days, and even raffle off others as part of an incentive program. Dude, that is so awesome. I have to do that!

Once I get truly comfortable with management and stuff, I think I have fantastic potential as an educator. I am very confident in my subject area, as a person, not just as a teacher. I have a ton of experiences to draw from, most of which is very unlike the experience of my students. I hope to open their eyes to new ideas, like travel and community service. I know a lot of things that they don't, and I am eager to share with them everything that I can.

Okay, I better stop, because I'm starting to sound like that enthusiastic, energetic new teacher that the other teachers are seeing. Bah humbug! Heh.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Just a quick update

I had time today to read a story to two of my classes. It was the story of Echo and Narcissus, from Greek mythology. The kids knew what an echo was, but they had not heard of narcissism.

So I read the story. It's kind of flowery, old-fashioned language. I prefaced it with a reminder about Roman vs Greek names and how Hera was always jealous about Zeus's philandering ways. I said, "you think that all that soap opera, love triangle, Jerry Springer stuff is new? Nope, it's been around for thousands of years." They giggled, and I think their interest was piqued.

After the story, I asked them to write a definition of 'narcissism' and we practiced saying it, too. We also learned the word 'shun.' I told them that I shun milk. Then they shared things that they shun: tourists, cheese, homework, little brothers, bugs, etc.

Several kids talked about shunning eight-legged creatures, which of course led to a discussion of the official name, arachnophobia. That's another word rooted in Greek mythology. I quickly explained the story of Arachne.

Then I asked them to figure out what the word 'agoraphobia' might mean. They got the phobia=fear part, but had forgotten what an agora was. So I told them that it means marketplace. I led them to the definition of agoraphobia as fear of big, open spaces. Then I asked if they knew a word that meant the opposite of that, and many of them did, which is of course claustrophobia.

It was fun and educational and I think/hope the kids will remember today, the words and stories. I think they can see when I'm excited about a subject. And if I can relate it to their own experience (like jealousy and Jerry Springer), they can totally understand it. We all know that reading is the best way to increase vocabulary, which clearly works.

If only I had time to do this kind of thing every day, my kids would have a huge lexicon by the end of the year. Oh well, I'll do what I can. I've already taught them a few good word things, and I'll just throw in others as much as possible. I think tomorrow I'll cover the history of the word 'bankrupt.' I learned that last year in Paris and thought it was fascinating. Maybe the kids will too.

PS, for any teacher who has a unit on Greek mythology and has time for a fun, possibly wild project, put on a (scripted perhaps, to avoid the bleeps) Greek myth-themed Jerry Springer. How cool would that be? I think that any class would easily absorb characters and plots in that setting.

Ay, late again. Night, all.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Back to the grindstone...

Well, I got a lot done today. I've got this week and next week mostly planned. Not details or anything, but each day has a lesson at least. I got the homework all checked. I did a bunch of test prep stuff, too! Hurrah for me. I'm going to do test prep on Thursday reading and Friday all. I'll find a kind willing to sing in front of their peers so that we can sing our motivational test prep ditties. Ha.

This week I need to get a crapload of copies made, for the testing stuff. I'll give the office a shot, but it may be Staples for me. Also, is there a place I can go to get more TIME? There's simply not enough of it!

I watched the new doctor drama tonight, and at the end, the 'moving narrative' said, "They make it hard on purpose. There are lives in our hands."

That kinda got to me. It's cliche, but it's true, even though I'm not a doctor. I have the opportunity to teach my students something. Even if it's a little something like the history of 'goodbye,' the meaning of E Pluribus Unum, and the way to punctuate dialogue, they'll know something. Something that another teacher may not have been able to tell them. That's pretty powerful. It may not save a life right now, but I think I've helped a few kids turn the corner to being better, more motivated students. I hope I'm able to be at my school to watch them grow and mature, and cheer for them at their middle school graduation. That will be really great. This is my one and only first year teaching. These are my first students. So far I think I've done okay by them. (Oh man, they are gonna kick my ass tomorrow. Every time that I'm in a positive frame of mind about teaching and my classes, they knock me back into place. Hello, hubris, nice to see you again.)

I hope that the end of the year is more of that good teacher stuff, with more "a-ha" moments. I'm pretty sure I'll have to save that til next year, because it's way more likely the rest of this year will be all behavior management, once it stops snowing and raining all over the place.

It is really late. I am very sleepy. Goodnight, all. Here's to happy, quick Monday.

Another Teacher Blog

My teacher/blogger friend Nancy was quoted in the same article, but her link was left out. She is much more articulate than I am, and she's nice and stuff. Check it out.

The other NYC teacher quoted, wockerjabby, is also very articulate, smart, etc. AND has fantastic photos of Paris. Check her out too.

Hi, new friends

So now I know why people are here, it's the article in the newspaper.

I was a little shocked that the article led with me cursing and ranting...but I suppose that's what I get for a)not censoring my posting and b)interviewing for an article about the blog. I refuse to censor myself here, except for the fact that I don't use real names (my own, my kids, my colleagues, my school). So read at your own discretion!

I suppose it might seem like I'm a violent, hateful person if you take some of those quotes out of context, but I am fully not. I get angry and upset, just like anyone else. The scales are more tipped that way than being Susie-Sunshine, it seems. I don't have too many happy-smiley stories to share about my first year teaching, but when something good happens, I definitely write about that.

I just hope everyone out there understands that all people have good and bad days at work. Being a teacher, you can be in the best mood ever, but if your students are having a rough day, then so will you. It's not like working in an office job, where a bad day might be triggered by a lack of toner or too many voicemails or something. It's dealing with people: adults and kids. And if they get on you, or they react to you poorly, then that comes back to bite you in the ass.

Here's something from last week that I keep forgetting to write about:
When I'm talking/instructing/whatever, and there's noise, I stop. Mid-word, mid-sentence, whatever. Sometimes I'll shoot a Teacher Look of Death at the noisemaker, sometimes I'll snap, "I'll WAIT." The kids will nudge each other or look guilty for the most part, and quiet up.

So Wednesday, I'm standing in front of Class C, and I stop midword to wait for the chatter to die down (they are a very chatty bunch). And almost immediately, a girl pipes up, "I'm waiting!!"

I clapped my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing out loud. The rest of the class laughed too. Too funny! I said, "Well, at least you guys are paying attention!"

Later, I had called on someone to speak, and there was other chatter going on. Another girl yelled out, "I should only hear one voice at a time!" Which, of course, is what I say all the time.

This cracks me up. I am thrilled that they know me well enough to imitate me to each other. I'm relieved that they're actually listening to hear me say those things. Maybe that means they hear other things I say too, like you know, lessons and stuff.

See? I'm not evil or anything. I'm human, that's all!


Is someone fucking with me? Why have nearly one hundred people stopped by since last night? Usually I figure those are people browsing through Blogger, using the "next blog" button. But the last ten have been direct hits. What the hell? I am suspicious of anything that people do that appears to compliment me.

Speaking of complimenting me, I have been fawned over this weekend, comparatively, a lot. On Thursday before us teacher gals went out, Ms F and this other lady were telling me how gorgeous I am, but how much more beautiful I would be with more makeup/flowier hair/shaped eyebrows, etc. I let Ms F do a bit of eye makeup, I borrowed some powder, and slapped on some lippy. Once the lipstick was on, Ms C and Ms H the math teacher were all, "ooh, girl, look at you!"

Last night I met up with my cousin, his mom/my aunt, and another aunt. The aunts have been in town visiting this week, and actually a third aunt was in town during the week too. But she's gone now, so I didn't see her. Anyway, I haven't seen those aunts in a long time, probably a year? Not sure; this moving-across-the-country has messed with my memory and sense of time. Feels like I've been here a few years instead of ten months. So one of the aunts was all, "Oh, you are just so pretty!" All fawny. It was very sweet. I was all, aw-shucks, but who doesn't like being told that? I'm just not used to it. I did have on the lipstick, so maybe that's the key. Some kind of Clark Kent/Superman trick. Throw on the lipstick and BAM! It's SuperPrettyTeacher! Heh. Able to leap tall buildings and grade papers at a single glance!

So dinner with family was fun. They were excited about being in New York, and about seeing the Met. My cousin agreed with me when I said that in my head, the Met gets mixed up with the Louvre and other big museums, and I always want to speak French, whichever one I'm in. They saw the Producers already this week, and last night they saw the Snowshow, which is apparently clowns or something. Eek, not sure I'd be into that. But anyway, it was very nice to see them. I was happy to be included and invited out. It's nice to see people, and it's also nice to see people who are happy about New York. Cause I'm just, meh.

It's always nice to be around people who know where you're coming from. Being from the West Coast is like being from another country around here. Different accents, different words, different frame of mind, different personalities, everything.

It's already Sunday--BOO! Yesterday I got some papers 'graded.' There are twelve sets, so instead of actually reading them, or even looking them over, I just checked them off in my gradebook. Sorry, kids. Your teacher is a lazy scatterbrain who doesn't have time to read every word you write. Part of me feels bad about that, but the vast majority of me is all, 'dude, are you kidding with this shit? Like I have nothing else to do?!'

Not like I actually do all that other shit. On Friday I did no work, but I wanted a day completely off. That's normal. Yesterday I only did that checking of papers, and couldn't even finish. Got like three phone calls in a row, and then I had to leave, so I only got two classes all done. Four more sets to check off.

That means today I need to finish the homework. I need to plan my week. I really need to get some test-prep work done. I really need to get some grades started so that next week I'm not overwhelmed with the in-putting. I need to clean my room like nobody's business; I have that all-my-clothes-are-in-a-pile problem again. We have no QC classes this week--HURRAH!--so I can legitimately forget about all that work. I should go to Target.

Waah, I don't want to do any of it! It's only 10.30, so I've got a lot of time today. But still, WAAH! I hate working at home on the weekends!

There is some exciting news though: I got a new bulb for my overhead from the AP! I didn't have to go buy one with my own money! That is very cool for me.

Yesterday I bought a bunch of teaching reference books, two of which are test-prep books. I plan to use them during the week either in class or possibly even for homework.

The third marking period ends on Thursday. Holy crap. We JUST did grades at the beginning of February. I cannot whine enough about how much I do not want to do them again. BOOOOOOO...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Last weekend, while shoe shopping, we found the Ugliest Shoes in the World. They come in two horrific colors for your enjoyment: Cookie Monster and HyperColor T-Shirt. Fabulous! Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 24, 2005


It's the long weekend!! I am so happy.

In fact, I am so happy and a little frazzled that I can't really think of anything much to say. The week is over. I have three days FREE!

Last night was weird. We're doing these individual presentations in the second class. Two people went yesterday. First was someone talking about blindness, and she taught us about the Braille alphabet. Even gave us all cards with dots for each letter. It was interesting.

The second presentation was by this hipster-artsy girl. She spread out the backside of poster paper on the floor, dumped out a pile of art supplies, and told us to gather round and fill in as much white space as we could, with whatever we wanted. Every two minutes we switched areas.

Something about the whole thing affected me. When she told us about the project, I got a little choked up and emotional. The first round I just hung back, standing up and looking down, kind of frozen. I was intimidated and felt shy and very young. The next one I timidly joined in. I didn't do much, and I stayed silent, feeling like a nervous little girl. By the end, I was just...weird.

The whole art/creation/expression thing triggered something in me. I don't really know what. I realized that I've been neglecting a lot of my own life, since June, really. Even though I don't work my fingers to the bone as a teacher, I still don't do anything for me. Watching tv doesn't count. Sleeping in on the weekends doesn't count. I have no life. I realized how lonely I've become, how emotionally isolated I am. I felt awful, sad, depressed, blue, melancholy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


It's Tuesday, I think. I know I wrote a post last night. Blogger, why do you test my love like that?

Tonight was the skating trip for my grade. It was an adventure, but pretty fun. Once we got there, I became Julie again, instead of Ms C.

Tall T's mom told me tonight that Tall T's writing is really improved, and that I have turned her around. She told her mom the other night, "I love ELA, Mommy!"

A girl told me that I was different than in class; "you're nice now but mean in class" or something. heh.

I helped a few unsteady girls on their skates. I helped serve pizza and soda to each group of kids. I got to skate around the rink a few times, too.

I got to smile and laugh freely around my kids. It was fun.

The other part of the day was alright. I yelled at/lectured Class C about their laziness. Then we went to the book fair and I spent forty bucks on books and pencils to add to my collection.

We reviewed the kinds of figurative language that we've already learned this year: simile, metaphor, alliteration, personification, and onomatopoeia. I read my story to them and then demonstrated how to add in figurative language. By then there were only five or ten minutes left, and I handed back the few drafts I had. Everyone was all confused and upset that I didn't give them back something.

Tomorrow they'll continue with this. We'll talk about either SNOT (show and not tell) or action words/speaker tags.

I can't remember Monday now. That was too long ago.

Oh, wait. It went pretty well. My new procedures of a Do-Now and different homework collection eventually quieted all my classes. Today it still took awhile. I can't really practice a do-now, but it will be there every day. I suppose that means that soon enough they will get used to it.

Then we reviewed simile and metaphor, and I handed out a sheet for them to work on with a partner, to finish a simile comparison. Miracle of miracles, just about everyone was engaged! It was lovely and fantastic.

I have found my true calling

And it is: writing new lyrics to existing songs. See exhibits A and B in the archives (christmas tunes reconfigured as teacher-laments).

Here are two test-prep/encouragement songs I came up with tonight:
Exhibit C, to the 'tune' of Slim Shady's chorus:

"Find the main idea:
Who did what?
Why and when?
How and where?"

Exhibit D, to the tune of Somewhere Over the Rainbow:

You call all score really high on the big day
If you just get lots of rest and eat a good breakfast.
You can all score really high on the big day
If you just bring lots of number 2 pencils, sharp and ready.
You can all score really well on the big test
If you just concentrate and also do your best.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


I am currently unmotivated to do anything, not even to find anything to actually do. Not feeling terribly clever or articulate or anything, but since I usually post at least once a day, I feel behind.

My abdomen is only getting more sore and tight. Yowch.

Saturday was a fun day. The getting up after five hours of sleep was most certainly the UNfunnest part of the day, but surprisingly I didn't feel tired after I was up and going. In fact, on the train, which took forever, I read the whole time. No need to doze. I finally picked up Educating Esme, which is a first-person account of a first-year teacher in an urban Chicago school. It's a great book, filled with excellent ideas and inspirations...but to me, it also makes me a little irritated. Because it makes me look like a shitty teacher. Because I don't spend my money on class sets of several books, or create a 'time machine' box, or decorate every inch of my classroom. I can console myself by remembering that this girl actually went through an education program first, with a fantastic mentor/student teaching experience, and of course had a classroom in plenty of time to plan and decorate. As a Fellow, I had the exciting "sink or swim" experience. And I haven't drowned yet. So, go me.

Anyway, my trip took me into the city for the "Fellows at Five" conference. There was breakfast when we arrived, along with materials, tote bags and keychains. I like free toys like that. I saw my FA from this summer, three Fellows from my summer class, and also one of my colleagues and friends, Ms FG.

We got to attend four workshops. The first two I chose were about classroom management, of course. I think I'll be able to use ideas from them, or at least think about them and tweak things and eventually start a clear system of procedures and rewards/consequences.

The keynote speaker was the fantastic Dr Harry Wong. He told us to begin a new procedure on Monday, rehearse it, then do another new procedure next Monday, and another one the next, and soon we will have a much smoother-running classroom. And we will write him letters a month or two from now that say, "Thank you, Dr Wong, for saving my life!" I am going to institude a new homework handing-in procedure. Also I will definitely institute a 'do-now'; some kind of quote to respond to, or short word activity, or word definition, or something. Hopefully those things will build a quieter, calmer start to class. I hate the noisy chaos. There are some vague routines in place, but they're not ones that encourage peace and quiet and, most of all, getting working right away.

Then a decent lunch. Chatted with my Fellow friends and checked out the vendor displays too. I bought some great books that I will be using this week and hopefully all next year.

The afternoon workshops were alright. Got a few tips that might come in handy. I always make excuses for myself, being a secondary teacher. I only have 43 minutes with my classes, which makes creating a classroom environment a little tougher. And I still need to work on making sure the work I assign is at everyone's level...gah. I get lazy, I know it, but I can't often push myself to follow through on ideas and suggestions. Meh.

Me and Ms FG hung out after the conference, walking around Chinatown. Got ice cream at the fantastic ice cream factory--banana and lychee, yum. Walked down Canal Street for awhile, then went uptown to 34th. Got some shoes and clothes and stuff. Grabbed dinner back in Queens. I crashed before 11pm.

I slept for eleven hours--whee! It was fabulous. I was so tired last night. I hate not getting enough sleep. But it's worth it if I'm having fun with other people.

I am bored. I don't really want to watch tv or movies, or plan anything, or even play on the computer. Just blah.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Thursday night and Friday

I did indeed go work out on Thursday night, to a stability ball class. It was way tough. My hamstrings cramped up something fierce. My whole abdomen was also worked heavily. Ow, basically.

Friday, I was still battling tightly-wrung hamstrings. Could not shake it out or anything.

At school, a girl in Class A asked, "Ms C, can we do the skits again? They was mad fun."
I said, "Unfortunately, we have no time. We have a bunch of stuff to do next week."
Girl: "Could we do it when we have, you know, extra time or whatever?"
I gave her a look and said, "With this group, you think we're gonna have extra time?"
Girl: ""

For test prep stuff, I continued the critical analysis/author's purpose reading passages and group activities. Class A did not get all their time, though. First period was an unannounced assembly for our grade. I hate that. Things being sprung on us last minute, I mean. Assemblies, I love.

Anyway, we did some of the practice reading passages. Next week perhaps they'll get to do the group activities. That class keeps getting shafted for various reasons.

Class B continued the group work. It's really hard to try and explain the inferences in comic strips to kids. Probably not inherently difficult, but to do it quickly and urgently, because there are five other groups that are potentially trying to cause insane chaos, is not easy or fun.

Class C did fine. Both times that I counted to five for silence, I only actually got to three before it was dead silent. Excellent! I think I'm pulling them over to 'my side.' The next thing to do is to get them to turn in the homework. SEVEN children turned in homework on Thursday. Nearly all of the kids in that class might fail this quarter. God, the admin is going to kill me.

Let's see. I hung around chatting after school, then got home and did nothing, really. Later on I went over to Ms C's and we drove out to the island for a 'girls' night' at another teacher's house. It was one of those hosted home-parties, with an adult theme. I felt a little innocent and naive, especially since I'm so very single.

But it was fun, and there were snacks. We hung around afterward, Ms F was there, me, Ms C, and the other teacher. Sat around talking and stuff. Men, work, families, that kind of thing. Relaxing and social, too.

Got home really late, showered, and fell into bed.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

That was Class B yesterday.

So I became one too, snarling and spitting and hissing all over the place. But only because they told me to! I feel like I'm always yelling and stuff, but guess what? I'm still a 'nice teacher', because I "don't do anything" when kids are doing something wrong. I'm honestly not sure what I'm supposed to do, in their view; I can't send a kid out of the room every five minutes (and trust me, that's how often someone bugs someone else), because then I look bad to the admin. Am I supposed to just yell at them? Make them apologize? Isolate them?

Because of course, as soon as someone tells me that so-and-so did something wrong, so-and-so pipes up, "No I didn't! YOU did!" and it just becomes a lying/yelling match. I'm not down with that.

So I got nasty. I took away the fun mini project. I made them write two pages about respect.

The semi-decent kids that I had to yell at (because otherwise I'm 'nice') looked uncomfortable and scared and nervous. On the one hand, I was happy that the nasty act was working. On the other hand, I felt sad and bad for acting that way and making them feel uncomfortable. I don't want to be that teacher; that's one of my biggest worries. Acting that way is one thing, but actually being that way is another.

Anyway, so that was yesterday. Classes A and C did very well, all engaged in the planning of their skits. Neat.

Today was pretty decent. I had Class B first and second periods. Now, normally they are good when I have them in the morning, so I don't know if today was an accurate 'reading' of the effectiveness of yesterday's newfound nastiness. I was nasty this morning too, even before they entered the room. I heard one kid go, "Geez, Ms C" when I snapped at the boys to straighten up their line. But holy crap, they sure did straighten up their line. No back talk or anything.

Today was definitely the Nasty Act. It is tiring but effective. Knock on wood, but the patience and put-upon faces seem to be working okay with Classes A and C. I still have bouts of the Nasty Act to make them shape up or whatever. But it seems like Class B needs it most.

So last night we had class. They were very small classes because most of the elementary folks had parent-teacher conferences. The classes were still boring. The reading teacher insists on treating us like fourth-graders, handing out a sheet and then reading it to us. For god's sake, what a complete waste of time. Grr. Social studies is a total farce. We do nothing. It's all just talk about stuff. Mostly about the teacher. Everyone else was all charmed and impressed last night when she talked about the celebrities she knows and the hiphop connections in her family. Blah blah blah, I was bored.

I was very productive though. At the beginning of the day, I had nine sets of homework. After class was over, I had less than one. Whee! That felt great to get caught up.

I really liked reading these sets, too. All this week's homework has been using fairy tales to explore the effects of setting and character. The kids have really impressed me with their creativity. This one girl wrote like six pages about ghetto Cinderella. She talked back to her evil stepmother and told her to clean her own damn house. The "ball" was a dance party at school. It was awesome. One kid told a very clever version of Little Red Riding Hood in the desert. I meant to copy it here so you all could read it, but I left it all at school.

Alright, I'm out. Will leave to work out in 20 minutes. Yay!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Tricky, Tricky

I was very patient today, stopping every time there was noise. I did my best to put off a wounded, disappointed look each time, too. So really, the kids kind of patrolled themselves. They heard me stop mid-word or mid-sentence or whatever, they saw my put-upon face, and they told the noisy ones to shut up. Whee!

I've been telling my classes about skinny vs fat questions. That's working pretty well. Next up is a 'game' for literature circle discussions. I just need to come up with questions to pose to the groups.

For writing, I talked about the way that characters have to solve a problem or overcome some kind of obstacle. Then I wrote a list of the parts to a story. Finally, I introduced the mini-project. I made sure to threaten to take it away if they didn't behave correctly, though. I let one person come up and choose one card from each pile (character, setting, problem, troubling trait, helping trait, solution). Then they will put them all together and create details for a story. Thursday they will act it out in their table groups.

Cross your fingers, y'all.

After school, one of the coaches was nearby when I was all firm-bitch-lady, telling the kids in front of my class to turn around and move. She said that she hadn't seen that side of me yet. I laughed and said, oh yeah, I'm a big ol' bitch. She was all, right on.

A conversation between two kids in Class C, before school:
Student 1:...oh wait, I'm confused.
Student 2: You're always confused!
Student 1: Hey, not all the time.
Student 2: Yeah, you are.
Student 1: Well, yeah.

I came home and ate a bit. Then, I went and worked out! I went to something called "Therapy Dance." That's a total misnomer; it's really Latin Dance Aerobics. Salsa-type steps for 45 minutes. It was pretty fun. Very cardiovascular but not too intense, and I didn't get all red-faced and over-exerted. It was a great way to ease myself back into the workout routine. There's a stability-ball class on Thursday night that I'm really excited about.

Monday, March 14, 2005


There is serious trouble brewing with the union of New York City public school teachers. We're going into battle with the mayor--who's a media mogul billionaire (thus not afraid of any piddly $2 million ad campaigns from the union). He's shown himself to be a hardass when it comes to contract talks and strikes, so it's very possible that in October we could all be striking.

Bloomberg wants to avoid a contract. He doesn't agree with the raise the union is demanding. That raise is to give city teachers the same salary as teachers on Long Island. Half of city teachers leave NYC in the first five years. Why slug it out in the poor and needy areas of New York, when you can teach at a posh school on the island, and earn 15% more?

Apparently he also thinks teachers should have cafeteria duty again. That, my friends, is absolutely ridiculous.

Or, teach an extra period a day. That means either extending the school day, or giving teachers one less prep a day. In secondary schools, we do not teach more than three periods in a row. That way we can at least pretend to have some sanity.

Assuming nothing changes, I'll be asking you and all your friends and family in the area to NOT vote Bloomberg come November. Please folks, support the teachers--and thus the schools, your children, and the future of New York City.

Ugh, Another Long Monday

I'm not too bogged down with it or anything; Mondays usually are not great. And it's over now.

I just did a couple exercises about setting today. Read some excerpts from Ralph Fletcher's excellent book, Live Writing. As in, not dead. I hear that his The Writer's Notebook is also very great. Check them out, teacher folk. Or writers. I had the students brainstorm possible settings (the mall, home, another planet, midnight, noon, etc). Then I had them do some visualization about a room in their house. Then they had to use their senses to recreate that room with words.

The homework, which I think is pretty neat, is to rewrite Little Red Riding Hood (I just wrote Little Red Writing Hood! Ha!) with a different setting. Meaning, NOT in the forest at daytime. Students asked, "So, like, what about the city?" and "What about the Bronx?" To which I replied, "Sure, that's different. Little Red Riding Hood IN the 'hood!"

Tomorrow they're going to start making little skits (to practice using the elements of a story). Cross your fingers that it works, it gets them engaged, and that it's not a management nightmare. (Yeah, right. They're gonna go wild.)

Oh! Here's some fun news. You know how my room is always in use? That I only ostensibly have it to myself for fourth period lunch? No longer! A seventh grade class will be in there every fourth period, except Thursdays or something. Fan-freakin-tastic. Who needs a prep in their own goddamn room? Surely not me, little first-year teacher. Who needs a place to invite kids in for extra help? Surely not me! Gah.

After school, we had a department meeting. Our supervisor, who is a nice person, and deserves respect, is not too great with showing us the respect in order to 'win' respect for her. I try not to dwell on it. I can see where she's coming from, because we as adults should be quiet and respectful in meetings. However, as an adult and an educator, she should not talk down to us and insult us. Sort of a catch-22, perhaps, a little bit.

All of us had to finish up some busywork "data" analysis before we could go home. Blah. Stupid.

Ooh, guess what I did on the way home? I went to the grocery store! No, really! Then you know what I did? I joined a gym! No, really!

I've been feeling fleshy lately. That sounds kind of gross. What I mean is that I don't think I've gained weight (thank goodness for those size-8 cords!), but I've totally lost all muscle tone in my midsection. Thighs aren't too shabby (or flabby), because of the walking and the double-stairs-taking. But I'm just out of shape. I stopped working out last MAY, back home in Washington. I was doing pretty good at home; pretty good toning and stuff.

So I just sucked it up (or in) and went to the Lucille Roberts that's right in my neighborhood. They have a lot of classes in the evenings, and I hope to start tomorrow. I'm kind of excited. I think it will be really good if I get in a pattern and am able to work off stress at least Tuesday and Thursday evenings after school. Maybe Mondays and Fridays too, depending. Anyway, I'll keep you updated!

Oh man, I had a crazy dream last night. I was at my dad's house (and I think the two houses were a lot bigger), with an AmeriCorps/Habitat friend and his girlfriend. We were hanging out, checking out the view.
All of a sudden, Mt Rainier erupted! The top fifth of the mountain kind of rose up crookedly as red lava spilled out beneath. I was like, "Holy shit, look at that! Where's my camera?" Yeah, I'm a nerd, even when I'm asleep. Anyway, the lava and the melting glaciers caused this giant heated snow to flood everything--all the way up to my dad's house. (Mt Rainier has to be at least seventy MILES in reality, would this happen? Not so much.) It was freaky and yet cool. I was taking pictures, with two cameras around my neck. One was a type of camcorder, and ice was gathering on the lens. I kept breaking it off and trying to defog it, hoping that all my pictures would come out.

God, I am so weird.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Making progress, being productive...

So I followed that list pretty well so far. I was up until 1 and slept until 9.30. Wish I'd been able to sleep more.

I got right into correcting homework. When I was about two-thirds done, I had to find something else to do. So I did one of the online book orders that my kids turned in. I now have finished up the homework for the week. (I still have their midwinter break stories, but I'm not really counting that at the moment; I'm not going to sit and read through them all right now.) Hurrah!

One of the things I have to do for my reading class at QC is make a predictable book. One that has repetition or patterns and stuff like that. I had a bright idea to use camp song lyrics! Good job, me. It shouldn't be too tough to put them onto pages and plan an illustration. Then I can make my kids do the actual illustrating. Whee for making kids do my homework, heh!

Let's see. So it's 2.00 already. This day has gone quickly so far.

I still need to figure out my lesson plans for the week. I've got my blank template up, and I have ideas about what to's the organizing and writing out and making actual decisions that I hate and thus put off as much as possible.

I also need to organize all the shit that I have at home that I should bring to school, namely test prep and handouts from the AP. Ugh, how boring and tedious.

So I learned something new this morning, while looking around the Scholastic website. Since it's Women's History Month, they have some special profiles. I read the one on Sally Ride, because the Girl Scout camp we worked at two years had a special museum room of her stuff from when she attended the camp. I already knew that she was the first American woman in space. But um, I totally thought she died in the Challenger explosion. She did go on the Challenger space shuttle, twice actually, but that was before the accident. She actually investigated the explosion.
How did I not know this? Duh. See? Sometimes, I'm a little bit dumb.

I was thinking earlier that if I'd done all this crap on Saturday, I wouldn't be so rushed to get through everything in one day. And I would actually get to do (or, um, plan to or pretend to do) my own homework. Without being stressed or pressured or whatever.

But you know what? The past two weekends I've taken Saturdays for my own days, not doing anything at all related to school. And it felt so wonderful, to just be me, not Ms C. To run my own errands, to sit on my ass and watch movies all afternoon, to stay up late watching television. I felt relaxed and good.

If only we could always have three-day weekends, so that we could have 'personal days' but also get two days to work. Stupid five-day workweek.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

A Teacher's Sunday To-Do List

1. Sleep as long as I possibly can.
2. Begin correcting homework.
3. After thirty or forty minutes, desperately search for something else to do.
4. Around lunchtime, dutifully get back to work.
5. Soon after, decide to do some online research for lesson plans.
6. Get working on the week's lesson plans.
7. Stretch and impatiently see what I can do to finish working on the homework.
8. Sit up with a start and yell out, "Oh shit!"
9. Dig out the syllabi for my own courses and figure out what I'm supposed to have accomplished by this Wednesday evening.
10. Groan and half-heartedly try to work on it.
11. Look around and squirm.
12. Look dispairingly at the piles of homework ungraded and lessons not written out.
13. Eventually give up and tell myself there's just no time.
14. Take a nap.
15. Wake up and pretend that the piles are actually gold, proving my extreme wealth and good fortune.
16. Giggle and pretend the damn piles don't exist at all.
17. Watch a Netflix movie.
18. Again look at the piles. Sigh uncomfortably.
19. Suddenly remember that I need to the store. Yeah.
20. Return home after dark, and shake my head that oh dear, it's just too late to get it all finished in time.
21. Resolve to work more during the week.
22. Relax and watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
23. Read in bed.
24. Get to bed before 11.


So, yesterday. Supposed to be test prep, and I got some activities off the test-score site, and was all ready.

Class A had to take yet another assessment test. Before and at the end, they would not shut up. I finally gave them a pop quiz as a consequence. It started as 5 questions, but since they insisted on not shutting their mouths, it got up to TEN. And of course I made the questions difficult. Well, difficult for them. I did two geography questions: Name two states that border New York (some answers: Boston, Brooklyn, Long Island), and Name three states that border the Pacific Ocean (many answers: Texas, Arizona, Massachusetts, Virginia). I asked who the current Secretary of State is (answers: Colin Powell--impressive but still incorrect, and MANY Ms. Bush).

So all in all, it was a frustrating start to the day.

Class B did not have to have a quiz, but they were only one chance away from one. What I did was write "POP" on the board and cross a letter off each time they were talking/not behaving properly. Those first two went in the first ten minutes, too. Bastards.

We got some work done, though. I gave a chart about author's purpose. We did some sample passages together; I read the passage to them and let them answer the question in their own words. To get them thinking, you know. Then I read the passage again and gave the question AND the answer choices. They wrote down their answer and then we shared. We discussed why each was either the best or not the best answer.

When I came back into my room, Class C was there, and had been there without me, just like they are three other days of the week. I didn't immediately jump on them to sit down and stay quiet, because I had to stand at my desk, arms crossed, surveying for my anecdote book. I got more and more angry, stalking around, picking up piles and moving stuff around. Eventually I spotted it lying on the groung--most decidedly not where I had left it. When I opened it, sure enough, several pages were ripped.

I was incensed and utterly livid. I shouted for quiet and snarled that for the THIRD TIME my book had been stolen and ripped. I told them that since this happened when I was out of the room, I would be giving them ALL detention. Well, those snotty little bastards piped up, "that's not fair!" blah blah blah. I yelled, "EXCUSE ME?! I'll tell you what's NOT FAIR--that I can't trust ANYONE in this class to RESPECT my property anytime I'm out of the room! It's ONLY fair to punish everyone until someone steps forward!"

It was all I could do not to swear up a storm--and I told them that. Seriously, I wanted to be all, "Look, you assholes--DON'T TOUCH MY GODDAMNED SHIT. EVER." Somehow, with inhuman strength, I refrained from cursing. At one point, I told two students that, "this is effed the heck up." They looked at me and then at each other with wide-eyed, shocked faces. I said, "Oh hush, all you heard was the letter f." As I said, I was extremely upset.

Anyway, so then some of them started piping up that they saw R around my desk, moving something, ripping and then restapling something, etc etc. I asked where he was, and they cried, "We don't know! He left!" So I told them to write it all down, whatever they saw, with the date, their names and class number. We collected those and I told them that it all would be used as evidence against R.

I was so irritated that I just couldn't stand it. I sat on a desk at the front of them and leveled with them.

I started by affirming that I'm actually a reasonable person. "Actually, I used to be a nice person too, before I came here." I said that I have a lot to share with them, a lot to teach them, and that it's a privilege to be in my classroom. I told them that one person has already lost that privilege (R, if I have anything to say about it. The admin are aware of the issues with him and my class, and I will be turning in a written report along with the students' testimonials). I told them that I don't want any other people to lose that privilege. I said that I was looking forward to seeing what they know and seeing them succeed. I told them, "I have high expectations, for me and for you. Even if we don't all reach all of them, we'll still at least be striving for something."

I told them about how my parents were divorced, I had to constantly shuttle back and forth, and all my stuff was never all together, and especially with my bratty little brother, my things were always being messed with, and I hated it. I said, "Look, as a person, I just can't stand people touching my things or messing with them. Not even as a teacher, but just me, it really bothers me." Then I talked about how respect is the most important thing to me, teacher or no. I told them, "We all have to live in this room. I would never DREAM of coming to your house and leaving food on the floor of your kitchen. I KNOW your mother would die if she heard that you went to someone else's house and left it a mess. So show some respect to me and my classroom. That means following directions. That means listening when I'm talking to you. That means not leaving trash and food inside the desks. That means not putting your hands on other people or their property. And it means don't touch my stuff." I told them that I was just exasperated. And I told them that meant totally fed up. (You know me and using all those fancy big words...What was funny was that after I said it two times, I forgot how to say it; I wanted to say 'exacerbated,' which is a completely different kind of word-heh.)

After I finished my spiel, I asked them what they were thinking. I guess I can be optimistic and say that they made 'text to self connections,' because all they talked about was their own brothers and sisters and how much they sucked or were evil or whatever. I was amused by some of it.

And that was how we spent seventh period. After I talked about respecting the room, three boys jumped up and asked if they could use the brooms and clean up the room. I readily agreed. They did a very thorough job, too.

Eighth period, I showed them the author's purpose chart and we did some of the sample passages. There were several more disruptions, but I was too worn out and defeated to care much.

Just so you don't mistakenly think that I'm a purely evil bitch 24/7, I will give them (most of them, anyway) credit for being quiet and listening attentively while I was talking/lecturing them. When a couple kids talked or whatever, I just stopped talking and waited, shaking my head, a weary, worn look upon my visage. Several students shouted out, "Shut UP!" and "She's waiting!" "Show some respect!" So the frankness hopefully helped get a few more of them 'on my side.'

Like I said yesterday: Not the most fantastic day, Friday.

I am Logophile, Hear Me Roar!


It is Saturday! What joy it brings. To sleep, perchance to dream.

Ooh, speaking of Shakespeare, Denzel Washington will be Julius Caesar on Broadway! Wow. Not like I'll have time or money to go check it out, but you know, it's cool. It's very New York.

I woke up at nine, so obviously did not go to the workshop. Oh well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Holy crap, what's with all the quotes and proverby things today? Weird. I must be tired.

I ran some errands, including picking up my box of books that I picked out of my giant collection while at home, and Mom mailed to me, cause I forgot. Whee! Nearly a whole shelf worth of books to read!

So what do I do? I go to the library and pick out three other books to read. And then throw them on top of the pile of the six books I bought last weekend at the Strand.


Friday, March 11, 2005


Woohoo! I am so thrilled that it's the weekend, I can't even tell you. Last weekend seems like it was about a year ago.

Today was tough. I gave a pop quiz and also a lecture on my personal history and respect. But it's over now. I am nearly cross-eyed with fatigue at the moment. After school there was a literacy workshop. Then I went out for drinks and discussions with a colleague (first-year Fellow too), and it was good. Man, am I wiped out, though.

There's a workshop I should go to tomorrow morning in the city...but at this point, if I don't wake up, oh well. Sleep is more important than new-teacher-credit hours, if you ask me.

One of my purchases at the Strand last week was a copy of The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. I read it after AmeriCorps and loved it immediately. I meant to buy it and read it every few months to help motivate me toward whatever goals I had/have. But, I didn't. So now I finally have it and I'm in the middle of it--Santiago has just started the desert journey--and it is so good. Please read it, it will inspire you.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


Go listen to, and then buy, Conjure One. Check out the tracks Center of the Sun and Tears from the Moon at the very least. You won't regret it. No matter your musical taste, there is no reason for you not to be floored and entranced by this music.

How do you pronounce 'hubris'? In my head I sort of want to say 'oobriss, or hyoobriss, and even a little oobree. Stupid French training.

Tomorrow is FRIDAY!! I will be thrilled to get to sleep in and procrastinate on my schoolwork.

Was there no Scrubs on Tuesday? Wtf?? On a slightly related note, why, dear God WHY, is Will & Grace still being produced and shown? Make it go away! Take that money and give it to Scrubs so we can have more of that!

A Rotten Thursday

Figures, doesn't it? One step forward, eighteen steps back. Sometimes this professions sucks.

Class B had to take the interim assessment test (Class C took it on Tuesday and Class A will have to do it tomorrow) during reading. That handful of girls was mucho chatty. I actually kept a tally: Attitude A talked out of turn or called out NINE times in the first thirty minutes. Another girl called out seven times in that same period of time. Fucking ridiculous.

In writing workshop, we reviewed the five elements of plot. I emphasized that at the climax, the story hangs in the balance, and that we keep reading to find out if the hero will win or not. That's the point when the ending would change.

Then I read a lame, picture book version of Cinderella. They were supposed to take notes on what elements of plot they could identify. I stopped reading at the point when the prince arrived at Cinderella's house with the lost glass slipper.

We discussed what each element was what. Then we talked about the climax. That we know the ending of the story is that the shoe fits only Cinderella, and then they get to live happily ever after.

So, since the outcome of the climax determines the ending, I had them rewrite the ending as if the shoe fit one of the evil stepsisters instead. (In each class, when I said this, students gasped, and said, "What?" "No way!" It was cute.)

Class B did okay, they were chatty and whatever.

But Class A was the real treat. (Sarcasm)
A kid who is one of my borderline behavior problems (always out of his seat, leaves the room without permission, comes in late, talks, sitting in the wrong seat, etc) called out that he needed to go to the bathroom. This was twenty minutes before the end of third period; lunch is right after that.

Now, before I go on, Mr AP put out a bulletin for sixth grade teachers about bathroom, that some kids have had accidents and teachers should let them go. There was also a sentence about we 'should know who the kids with behavior problems are.' As in, we should let the 'good kids' go? Because it's the bad kids that cause problems trying to take advantage of bathroom privileges. And honestly, it is a privilege. At the beginning of the year, all the 'bad kids' totally took advantage of me being a new, nice teacher with the bathroom stuff. So with that, plus the disruption it causes, I withdrew ALL bathroom privileges soon after. That's only fair, unfortunately.

Anyway, so this kid is a problem. For ten full minutes, there was a nasty battle of wills about the goddamn bathroom. Once he stood up to make for the door, I stood there with my back against the doorknob. Did that stop him? Oh no, he put his hand on the door, touching me in the process. When I told him to not touch me, he insisted that he wasn't. He was very upset, seeming near tears. But no dice for me. I don't trust him and I'm not going to be manipulated by him. Once the yelling fiercely didn't intimidate him, I just kept telling him in a quiet, calm voice that he needed to sit down, that he could go at lunch in a few minutes.

This went on for ten fucking minutes. I did not move and he kept yelling for me to move. Once he started to raise his fist. I took note. Later, he denied it of course.

Anyway, after ten minutes of no progress or change, I said to him, in a low, threatening voice, "Listen. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to open that door, and you're NOT coming back. I don't care who you get a note from; you are not coming back into this room without a parent, and I will tell them exactly what you've done today."

At that, he sulked back to his seat.


We then finished the lesson. I did not let them go until we were done. It took about six minutes into the lunch period, which wasn't too bad, considering the ten wasted minutes with that jackass kid.

Some of the nice girls in Class A stayed in at lunch. They were so sweet. They understood exactly why I did what I did. One of them said, "Every time we have a nice teacher, they [gesturing vaguely toward 'boys'] ruin it." I said, "Mm, I've noticed."

Fifth and sixth were off and I didn't do much of anything.

Seventh Class C started off too chatty, and I told them that I was only going to give them one chance. They kept chatting and not focusing, so BAM! Pop quiz.

Then there was another battle with R. It took awhile, and Mr AP plus another dude, but they took him out.

After a lecture, which they sat through quietly, we moved on. They came up with some great alternative endings to Cinderella. One good one went something like this:

The shoe fit the evil stepsister. Cinderella was like, "What?! I have the other shoe!" The prince was like, "Whatever, you're ugly, so I'm marrying her." So Cinderella went outside and cried for five hundred years. Then she died of hunger.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

An Awesome Wednesday

Except for the fact that I wrote an entire post and thirty seconds before I could push "publish," the power went out. Goddammit! AND that means the recording of Alias cut out too.

Thankfully, it was only out about three minutes. So we're back and this is gonna have to be quick and dirty so that I can get to bed.

Yesterday was that crazy storm. It looked like a blizzard: big gusts of wind, snow blowing in sideways, icicles forming and ice covering all surfaces. It took a long time to get home, which is probably one reason why I didn't really do much work last night.

So this morning a bunch of people were gone, teachers and students. Our whole grade stayed in the auditorium to watch a movie through third period. Then I had fourth and fifth period preps. I teach Class B sixth and seventh periods on Wednesdays. However, they had taken that class and split them into other classes. So I had another two free periods. That means I only taught eighth period. FUCKING SWEET!

Eighth period was most of Class C mixed with half of Class B. I made them clean up the room and then we did BrainQuest. Please, if you have kids or are a teacher, throw in geography any possible way you can, here, there or anywhere. None of these kids, in any class I've been in at my school, have any CLUE about how the world is arranged. Or the difference between the names of states, countries, and continents.

Now it is late and I need to get in the shower.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Sometimes my students make me laugh.

Yesterday during the test, from Little K, disgusted and annoyed:
"These tests make me think."

This morning during lunch, from a girl in Class A:
"Ms C, it's been awhile!"
Me: " mean since yesterday?"
Girl: "Yeah! A day is like a year to me."

At the end of class, talking to the same girl:
Me: "Why are you writing on looseleaf, where's your notebook?"
Girl: "Oh, they're at home. I copy my work into my notebook when I get home."
Me: [weird look]
Girl, shrugging self-deprecatingly: "I got nothing to do later. I'm bored at home."

Other conversations:

Today at lunch:
Girl 1: "Ms C, what's your first name?"
Me: [silent]
Girl 2: "Does it start with an S?"
Me: [silent, struggling to keep a straight face]
Girl 3: Is it Samantha?
Me: [still silent]
Girl 2 to the others: "She looks like a Samantha, don't you think?"
Girl 1 to Girl 3: "You look like a Dora."
Girl 3: "I look like a DORA?!"
Me: [REALLY struggling to keep a straight face and not adding in that Girl 3 kind of does look like a Dora.]

My college mentor came in today, and was there for the angel act that Class B gives every time I have them first period. He told me that I've made a lot of progress. In turn, I told him that this class is Jekyll and Hyde; they're totally different in the afternoon. Buggers.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Here it is, next year's smash holiday hit!

More Christmas cheer from Nu Teacherz!
(from Little Drummer Boy, in case you couldn't tell)

Come, they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A difference you will make, pa rum pum pum pum
With your energy, pa rum pum pum pum
And idealism too, pa rum pum pum pum

But in no time, pa rum pum pum pum
You'll be sapped!

Oh, holy crap, pa rum pum pum pum
I sure am poor these days, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no life to live, pa rum pum pum pum
Nor any time for it, pa rum pum pum pum
pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum

Shall I keep going? pa rum pum pum pum
Have you heard enough?

I see you nodding, pa rum pum pum pum
Looks like you've heard it before, pa rum pum pum pum
Are you a teacher too? pa rum pum pum pum
Then you know the rest, pa rum pum pum pum
pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum

A kid smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
It's not so bad.

Dude, it's Monday.

I hated waking up this morning, because I remembered that I would not get to sleep in for another five days. On Thursday and Friday mornings, when the alarm goes, I comfort myself by thinking about the upcoming weekend. But Mondays suck that way.

I had a coverage first period, which is highly unusual. I normally get coverages Wednesdays or Thursdays fourth period. This one was nice because it was a sixth-grade class, and they are far less rude than seventh and especially eighth graders.

Coming in, I immediately gave them a choice: do some four-square writing or play a game. I wonder which one they all picked? Heh, I love smart manipulation like that. Get them on your side right away! Anyway, we played BrainQuest, of course. They were rather quiet, a little more tentative with their guesses at first. That game is rife with 'teachable moments.' For instance, today I asked a question about the length of a marathon. So then of course my follow-up was, does anyone know why it's 26 miles? They just did a unit on Ancient Greece in Social Studies, but they had not heard of Marathon. I only very briefly explained it, and they didn't roll their eyes at me. That kind of thing is when I get a kick out of being a teacher, little tiny things that I can tell/teach/show kids.

Let's see. The day was not very exciting. We had to finish the assessment during reading period, and then for writing, I put a short savannah-animal dialogue on the board for them to 'translate' into correct dialogue format. I walked around, checking work. Most of it was pretty good, but I had to remind a few people about little things that I thought we'd already ironed out a couple weeks ago. Short memories, much? But anyway. I called volunteers up to fix them, and then got feedback from the rest of the class. It was pretty informative, and it seemed to give them a sense of success.

The rest of the period was spent rewriting their argument dialogue homework redoes. This one was the third version of it; it was first assigned two weeks before break or something, then I gave it back to them last Thursday to redo, and then today I gave them back their redos to fix. Then they go on the bulletin board.

In Class A, I had three kids who are fairly lower-level turn in excellent dialogues (in form, I mean)! I am so thrilled. I gave them high-fives and told them how proud I was of them. A bunch of kids finished and got them in and they all look great.

In Class B, we did not have as much time, so I didn't get as much of an opportunity to address needs of the lower-level kids. Also, none of them finished their redo work. I told them to finish up tonight and get them in tomorrow so I can put them up.

Class C also had to finish their assessment, which took all of reading period, since the special-ed kids get extra time if they need it. The rest of the class read their author study book and answered the chapter questions. Well really, they chatted and pretended to look at the book, but ostensibly, they were answering the questions.

Oh, I taught them the word 'kleptomaniac.' That jackass R was at it again today. Not even pretending to do any work, naturally. He wasn't as loud as he sometimes is, but he never shut his mouth, which obviously distracted the people around him. He of course verbally, well, harrassed, me like he does, calling me names or talking about getting me fired, and other stupid, juvenile shit. At one point, he was out of his seat with my bucket of pencils in hand. I sharply asked him from the next table what he was doing and told him to put it back. Then I made an announcement to the class like the sardonic bitch I am, about how "some people are kleptomaniacs, and they can't keep themselves from stealing." Surely not very appropriate, but sometimes I can't help myself.

When I'm not in a classroom, I swear that I'm a pretty nice person. But these kids are by far old enough to know how to conduct themselves in school and how to talk to a teacher.

Class C is having a harder time grasping the dialogue stuff, as a whole. I don't know if that's because it's inclusion, or if this group of kids just isn't getting what I'm saying. I tried to talk about those nesting Russian dolls as a metaphor for the way that spoken words act as a sentence inside another sentence, like:
"The zebra is asleep," he said.
She said, "The lion is getting ready to pounce."

A few kids are confused about where periods stay periods or change into commas, and why speaker tags get capitalized before but not after spoken words. And I was not very good at explaining why, so eventually I just said, "You know what? It's just a rule you'll have to try and remember." Which is a pretty crappy answer, but really, grammar doesn't necessarily have an easily-known 'answer.' It just is what it is. And I love the fact that I can cram it down their throats. Because I may not be able to teach them to spell, but look at me teach them how to use quotation marks and speaker tags, with correct punctuation! And it's WORKING! They're getting it! This is something that I'm pretty sure many adults do not know, so I feel like I'm actually making a difference in tomorrow's citizens, albeit a tiny and probably meaningless one.
I'll take what I can get.

Let's see. We had a very short department meeting after school, and then we were sort of quarantined; ie told we had to stay in the building until four. This is kind of weird and a little Big Brother, but I honestly don't mind. I had a crapload of work to do anyway, like finishing my bulletin board and making copies of the conduct sheets (I'm up to THIRTY--that's more than one-third of my students that require a little more watching or whatever, because of some kind of behavior and/or academic issues).

I also made some awesome charts about all the words we've been talking about. Let's see. One has a list of character traits. One has the words we brainstormed for using instead of "said," "asked," and "laughed." One has a list of action words to use instead of "walked" or "went."

We'll use those last two in conjunction with the fourth one I made, which I called a Character/Action MADLIBS. I wrote a little vignette about Sally waking up in the morning, leaving out verbs and adverbs. That way they can practice using interesting language to develop whatever characteristic they'd like to give Sally. For classwork, they'll continue going with Sally's morning. Then, the homework will be writing about their own main character 'doing dinner.'

So yeah, that will be tomorrow.

Now I'm home, not working, but not really caring, either. There is SO MUCH HOMEWORK to be graded...but again, just don't care that much. I'm totally screwing myself by being such a lazy sack of shit, but dude, I'm tired and I don't want to think anymore. Now that I think about it, it's not even thinking, it's just tedium that's the issue.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Aw, man, is it really Sunday night already?

I hate Sunday nights. They always give me a little bit of dread and anxiety. Even when I wasn't working at school, I always had a vague worry in the back of my mind that I should be doing homework or something.

Nowadays, of course, I have TONS of homework and other things to do. Do I give a shit?


I finally graded the last two sets of homework papers from before the break. I don't even have a count of how many I still need to do. Way too many, that's what.

Fucking daily English homework. I can't even really complain; if I had taken the initiative to stay on top of it last week, or catch up over this weekend, it wouldn't be a big deal at all. But I'm a lazy motherfucker, so there you go. Up a homework creek with rising water, and my strength dwindling every minute.

My worry tonight is the bulletin board. I don't think I had enough good papers turned in on Friday to put many up. So I'm thinking I'll give myself a free pass tomorrow in writing workshop and review dialogue with them, and have them recopy their work, get it nice and pretty and perfect for the bulletin board. Really hammer it in. They need it, man, do they need it.

Then I'll have plans done for Tuesday and Wednesday. Sweet! One more minilesson for Thursday, test plans for Friday, and bam, the week's done.

In the evening, I popped in one of my favoritest, cutest movies: Love Actually. I love it! All the adorable people, the cute plots, the humor, even the heartbreak, I love it. Fantastic music, and it always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Until I snap back to reality and remember the LACK of cuteness in my life at the moment/for the past year and a half. That reawakening always stings a little bit.

I hate when I get into the mode where I'm tired of being single. I get lonely. I want someone to hug me and rub my back and talk to me and do nice things for me. It's frustrating because I will find some person to get interested. It's like I can talk myself into it if some part of me thinks that they might be interested. Seriously, it's so seventh grade. Anyway, things very rarely work out for me in that regard, so I know not to get my hopes up. But that seventh-grade romantic idealist inside me holds out just enough to stay invested. Cuteniceboy and cuteteacher are all well and good, but hello, it's never going to happen. I'm not ever going to do anything to see if anything will or not. So shut up, my inner angsty-poetry-writing-teenaged self.

I need to confess something only slightly related to that: I'm totally excited for Miss Congeniality 2. It looks funny and fluffy and I think I will actually try to see it. Movies in the theater are a big deal for me, you know. I've gone to ONE since September, so you know I'm serious.

The Best Laid Plans of a Life-Long Procrastinator...

...don't really get too far past the 'plans' stage. Duh.

Obviously I stayed up WAY too late last night (almost 2am!), doing nothing productive.
This morning I was up fairly early (but only in an ideal world would that mean that I will be tired enough to go to sleep at a decent time tonight). And so far I haven't really done anything.

I just spent a good hour reading a column on, and then checking out I finally closed the window once I hit 'kicking ass and taking names,' when I proceeded to guffaw out loud for two minutes, tears threatening to come out of my eyes. No more!

Back to work!

Or maybe...not yet!

Yesterday morning I finally watched Napoleon Dynamite. Have you seen pictures of normal-looking Jon Heder? He's adorable. Napoleon is one weird dude, but sort of lovable. The dancing was indeed pretty fucking awesome.

I also watched Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, but that's because I lurve Topher Grace. Cute, intelligent, wry humor=my perfect man.

So far today I've made a list of all the things I need to do. That's really most of what I've done. I have my lesson plan page up, ready to be filled out by genius ideas of teaching.

This week is going to be really complicated. The assessment tests from Friday did not get finished, so I have to give them time to complete them on Monday. Then I'm supposed to have them all evaluated in time for Friday's 'test sophistication.' Also, we have the springtime computerized assessment test to give this week, too. But I shouldn't do it on Friday, so that I can at least pretend to teach them skills and strategies for the big test a month hence.

All of that test-taking crap is going to have to go into the reading workshop, so that we can get some work done on the stories the kids are supposed to write.

I think I should start off the week by finishing up some of the character stuff. The kids didn't really seem to get the action stuff that I talked about on Thursday. So maybe I'll figure out some activity to do with that on Monday. I've started a 'fill-in-the-blank' action verb/adjective/adverb that hopefully will get the kids practicing using interesting language to describe their character. That homework can be to describe how your character would have dinner or something.

Then I want to start moving into plot, and do that the rest of the week at least. Next week we can finish that up and touch on setting.

Eventually it will be time for detailed revision and edits. We will talk about leads and conclusions and grammar and stuff. I vow to do a better job of that this time around.

Then, it will be time for the final draft of the story, and I will publish them into class anthologies.
So that puts a rough estimate of the finished product at around the end of March. Not bad, I suppose. That actually fits nearly perfectly, since the new 10-week plan was supposed to start Feb 1. That will give me April to do the literary letter, which is the second product of this 'unit.'

See, look at me figuring things out. Writing here helps me flesh out my ideas and decide what to do or not to do.

Wow, this has been a completely worthless post. Good for me, very bad for you. I apologize, readers. Go back and read the older stuff if you haven't already.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Why I Heart Weekends

1. I can sleep in.

2. I can eat chocolate for breakfast.

3. I can watch Netflix movies.

4. I can take a nap in the afternoon.

5. I can go into the city.

6. I can spend two hours or more browsing in a used bookstore.

7. I can definitely spend thirty hard-earned dollars if it buys six books.

8. I can eat a leisurely dinner at a fast-food joint.

And the best reason?
9. I don't have to be a teacher; I don't have to even *think* about school! I LOVE THAT!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Oh, Holy Weekend

That's going to be the title track on the Nu Teacherz Christmas album, Ring This, Jackass.

o, holy weekend, the freedom warmly beckons!
it is the time when we do get some rest
long lay asleep in your warm and cozy bedroom
til you feel like you're at last fully rested

fall in your bed
o dream, the night is long
for time is briefly yours
to cherish without toil
o sleep divine!

It is Friday. I have gotten through the week. It seems like a long one; thinking back to Monday evokes fuzzy, cobwebby feelings, like, huh? When? What?

All I did was the assessment test today.

Class A was fairly chatty to begin the day. It didn't help that I made sure to get the tests, even though they weren't stapled together. It took a long time to pass out all the pages, have the kids sort them, check for missing ones or doubles, staple them, pass out scantrons, lend out pencils...argh. They did finally get to work though, even the attitude problem kid.

Class B wouldn't shut the hell up, and they have a single period, so they literally had six minutes to do (start) their test. Ha.

Class C went the fastest, because I'd done my spiel twice and I apparently reined in their chattiness enough to keep things moving.

I have a sixth-period prep on Fridays, and Class C is in there with the social studies teacher. Then I get to come in, and they're all riled up and the room is a mess. Today was extra special.
Someone (I'm pretty sure it's R, the class asshole) used and broke the pencil sharpener on my desk, and also spilled my thing of hot chocolate. So it spilled all over my desk, staining a bunch of papers strewn about. Not only that, but my anecdote book had been stolen.

Let me talk about that for a sec. On the Friday before break, my anecdote book disappeared between fifth and seventh periods. I looked around my desk and places I walk and talk, and checked in the teacher center, to no avail. I freaked out a little bit, because it's got the whole year of incidents, plus phone numbers and all sorts of important things.

The other day, I bought a new composition book to use for an anecdote book, and decorated it with color sharpies and stickers and stuff. All pretty and new and empty, pink front cover and blue back cover. Nice! Gotta have something to write in.

Well, yesterday or the day before, I was walking around the room during Class B, with the pink book, and a girl said, "Oh, Ms C, I found your book." I was like, "Oh yeah? Which one?" I thought she meant one of the reading books that kids have lost here and there. She goes, "Your first one, like that," meaning my other anecdote book. I was all casual-like, "Oh? Where'd you see it?" trying not to freak out, because holy shit did I want that book back. And she leads me over to the radiator/bookshelf and pulls it out from behind a pile of stuff, all "Here it is." I said, "Hey, thank you! I'm glad you found this!" doing my best not to gush and overreact, thus letting on how fucking important that book is.

So today I knew that I had had my pink book in the classroom fifth period. And I knew that sixth period, Class C was in my room. So I joined them seventh and couldn't find my pink book. I checked around my desk, and glimpsed casually into student desks as they were working, looked a little bit at the trash and recycle bins, but nothing, no pink book. I thought about announcing that it was gone and get kids to find it, but I didn't want to give anyone the satisfaction of hearing even a hint of desperation in my voice. Finally, I went over to the radiator and peered behind that same pile of stuff, and lo and behold, there was my pink fucking book. The first page was halfway torn, and the second was partly ripped too.

It was all I could do to refrain from hitting somebody, honestly. To have my personal goddamn property stolen by some punk kid, out of my own fucking classroom, TWICE, is just too goddamn much. Screw the assumption, I know exactly who it is. R came up to me as I was writing in that pink book during their test. I'd taken his away because he wasn't even pretending to work. Ironically, he was writing a letter of complaint to the dean. Can you imagine? This is the child that does no work whatsoever in class. No homework since mid-first-quarter. He throws things. He stomps out of the room without permission whenever he feels like it. He yells at anyone that dares contradict him or say something he doesn't like. He's rude and disruptive beyond belief. He's writing a complaint. That is just plain funny!

Anyway, he comes up and was like, all whiny, "you can't write us up, you don't know who did it. I didn't do nothin' to your desk. You can't write me up." I said to him, quietly and gently, "R, the
key phrase there is didn't do anything. You haven't done anything at all. Ever. What kind of grade do you think you will get?" Whiny, not looking me in the face, "I don't care. I don't care. You can't write us up. You didn't see who did anything." Me: "R, you're not answering the question. What kind of grade do you think you're getting right now?" R, whiny, still not looking at me: "I don't care! You're not answering my question. I don't care." etc etc

I swear, it was all I could do not to slap him across the face, yell "fuck you, asshole kid, don't EVER set foot in this room again, with me or without me," then physically shove him out the door.

People, I am not a violent person. I would never touch someone in anger. Even these bratty, attitude kids don't inspire violence in me. But I've had it with this kid. Seriously, I want to demand that he not be allowed in my classroom, period.

It is extremely late right now. I was feeling all melancholy, and now there's a spark of anger, frustration, irritation trying to meddle with the melancholy. Writing that earlier post, my music had been frustrating me. I usually listen to the tracks in alphabetical order by title; that way it's an interesting, eclectic, non-repeating 'mix.' Tonight the "I" and "J" sections of my songs just really sucked. Really not the right moodsetter for my wannabe-depressed self. So I put on Nirvana's MTV Unplugged album, and ooh, is it awesome. Great sound and tone, I love it so.

O sweet bed, calling my name!


At least once a week, I like to cruise around and check out some Ameriblogs, find out what current teams are up to, find out what the corps members are doing and how they feel about it, and sort of relive some glory days.

Tonight was one of those days (because of my scintillating social life that allows me to be at home EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT), and some guy talked about trying to find a copy of "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran. (Yeah, I have no idea about that spelling right now, sorry.) I was catapulted into a memory of my corps year. Two of them, actually.
It was 2002, end of winter/early springtime, I think. We were on campus, so it was around the end of first round. It had been a tough round, emotionally, physically, etc. There were some interpersonal things that I was really battling with, inside. As in, figuring out how to deal with certain people on my team. Plus, everything was still a little bit new, still daunting, very intense.
A teammate had loaned me a copy of "The Prophet." I read it quickly, and I was blown away. Many things clicked for me. After all of that intense stress of living and working with strangers in a strange land, plus still being a pretend manic-depressive, it all came crashing down upon me. I seized upon a particular phrase, with surprise, relief, amazement, and sadness:

"And alone and without his nest shall the eagle fly across the sun."

This seemed to be the perfect statement of my state of loneliness, and the reason for my sorrow, and I wept many bitter and lonely tears. I too was on a journey, and I was on it utterly alone. I had left everything behind, and felt like I was flying solo into new, dangerous territory. I was not meant to be anything but alone.

I wanted to remember the phrase, to make it mine, to make it a talisman to remind me of my true place (alone), to make it a part of me, a lifeline to cling to in my time of need. So I took a black sharpie and wrote it repeatedly, on my person. I felt enlightened, like why hadn't I ever thought of this before? It's perfect. On my forearms, on my calves, even once across my belly, I wrote this phrase, over and over.

I ran down to the fork (the little twin spits of land that jut out into the Chesapeake from the great lawn), and sat on the outcropping, listening to the water lapping the boulders in the moonlight. I chanted my new mantra over and over like a mantra, mumbled desperately through my tears.

Eventually, I had to return to my empty house, still weeping and utterly fatigued. Not knowing what else to do, I cried myself to sleep.

A day or two later, a teammate noticed the inky remnants of this experiment, showing under an edge of clothes. They joked about Memento, which I've still never seen, and being all amnesiatic or whatever. I just smiled thinly and went, "oh, mm-hmm." Desperately wanting to share my loneliness, but trying to remember the moral about a journey being taken alone.

How foolish I was, wrapped up in my own drama to always appreciate those ten people that were in the process of becoming my family. Obviously I understand that there's no way I could have been happy-happy-smiley-smiley for ten months straight. We all had our issues and our moments of depression, insanity, irritation, anger, etc. I think I had too many.

Here's the real psychic break.

It was summer, though not the high, stifling summer that was June. It must have been the August transition week, because we were on campus, and it was warm.

I remember it was night. It was dark, and clear, and late enough to be pleasant, not sticky. I was in my house on Fourth Street, probably reading or writing in my journal, when suddenly I just had to be outside. I felt all cooped up, physically but also mentally. I suddenly had a bundle of nervous energy and I felt as if I coul d actually run a marathon. I was in my pajamas: a flimsy cotton cami and short cotton shorts.

I was so desperate to get moving that I dashed outside in that 'outfit' and without any shoes. I started by loping down the sidewalk. The sidewalk ended and I circled Third and Fourth Streets. After a few loops, I went down the main drag that leads to the VA buildings. Past the post office, past the little bank, just off the road, I found a little swampy area. There was a group of puddles, warm water sitting in the grass. I decided that I needed to run around in that water. So I did.

For perhaps twenty minutes, that's precisely what I did: I danced in a bizarre triple step in circles, around two puddles, each a few feet in diameter. I also hummed a three-note tune over and over.

Suddenly I left my little swamp dance place and took the triple-step/three-note hum
back to the street. I danced down Fourth Street, up Third Street, back down Fourth Street, through the winding lane along the water, not stopping once. I felt exerted but, surprisingly enough, not overly winded.

It was late, but not late enough. There were a few groups sitting on porches, and they called out to me like the freak I was. I think at one point I called back to one group, "Can't a girl lope down the street in peace anymore?" I passed people on the street, and they looked at me a little scared, not sure if it was okay to talk to me. I think someone even tried to ride alongside me, in the campus bicycle that changed hands three times a night. Tried to ask me if I was alright, and I kept going, lightly insisting that I was okay.

And I was. I felt free, and my mind was empty. Just those three notes and the desire to keep going.

I knew I looked odd. I knew that frankly, I looked at least a little bit insane. Like maybe a particularly young patient who had escaped the ward up the road. But the thing was, I couldn't stop. I had to keep moving, in that little triple-step, humming my little ditty. Honestly, it was probably the closest I'll ever get to feeling possessed. I couldn't even bring myself to slow to a walk.

I think I had been out at least an hour by the time my feet finally made me stop. They were cut and scratched from trodding on the rough pavement and whatever debris lay on it. They were, of course, covered in mud from my puddle-romping. I limped up my stairs, and found that my legs were covered in mudspots and that my feet were thickly coated in filth.

I was tired and bodily worn out, but I felt oddly satisfied. Elated and high, on something. If only there had been a substance to blame it on.

I did not feel regret or shame, though I figured I'd get some weird looks and/or questions about my mental health the next day. I think my team leader asked me about it, delicately, "I heard you had an interesting night last night?" I glossed over it, "Yeah, I was just kind of feeling out there, you know..."
I really don't know what these things were all about. To this day, I have no idea what spurred me into either of those very odd events. Never before and never after those nights have I ever had any kind of similar experience.

They're part of my personal life lexicon, though, making me who I am today. They feel kind of like dirty secrets that maybe I should try to forget about. But they also feel like small moments of true honesty, true desperation; times of absolute truth, bizarre though they were. I can take a wee bit of pride in the way that I embraced the feelings and urges of the moment. They were not destructive, and they were my truth right then.