Thursday, December 27, 2007

Happy Holidays Everyone!

So I think it's Thursday, I've been home for a couple days. Christmas was actually very nice and enjoyable with both sides of family. Today I got to visit with two friends, one old and one new, and tomorrow a little more family time and friend time. I return on Saturday.

It's a whirlwind week and I haven't seen everyone or done everything I'd hoped, but it's still worked out well.

It snowed on Christmas! Also a little tonight.

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and relaxed with family and or friends!

Sunday, December 23, 2007


So apparently tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Tomorrow is also when I'm getting on a plane.

I haven't packed any clothes yet. I gathered all the gifts I'm bringing, and put all my favorite photos in little flip albums, and set both camera cases in the suitcase, but no clothes or other necessities.

I have to fly out of stupid Newark. I hate Newark. Or maybe I hate living way the eff out in Queens, an hour or more away from everything.

I'm going home for five days. I'm looking forward to seeing family and friends new and old, but overall I'm feeling distinctly meh about it. It's going to be more of a juggling act than relaxing visit.

Actually, I'm pretty meh about everything right now. Including me.

I guess I'll go throw some clothes into my bag now. Meh.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Seven Random (boring) Things

Ms Frizzle linked to me for the latest meme. (Yay, I love being linked!)

Here are the rules:
- Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
- Share 7 random and or weird things about yourself.
- Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
- Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. I like to snack on frozen french fries.

2. I own zero pairs of brown shoes.

3. I own fifteen pairs of black shoes. (Jesus!) (At least five are scuffy and worn [ugly] work shoes.)(At least five I never wear.)

4. I hate shoe shopping and I don't believe in handbags. (Here, take my Girl Card. Apparently I don't need it.)

5. I love orange juice and will never drink apple juice.

6. But I love hot apple cider. Especially if it's spiced.

7. I am a whore for back scratches.

I'm not sure I know enough bloggers who haven't already been tagged by someone, so feel free to tag yourself if you like!

Bonus Number Eight: This morning I submitted electronic 'applications' for jobs in Seattle and Kansas City. Random, but I feel good about making strides in the job search!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

This is what we call "Data-Dr!ven !nstruction"

Since the children don't know their historical details, and today I wasn't feeling the need to drill them in test nonsense, instead we reviewed a timeline of the last 400 years of American history!

I showed them the part of the US that used to be Mexico, and I showed them a very rough idea of Lewis and Clarks' route to the Pacific. I made sure to make it clear when the civil war and underground railroad happened (and the kids asked if it was really under the ground), and also a couple civil rights big moments. Because I'm tired of hearing the Martin Luther King freed the slaves!

Also mentioned were the World Wars, Custer's Last Stand, Washington being the first President in 1789, the Titanic sinking in 1912, and the Berlin Wall.

One girl asked me if I was Dutch, because I kept teaching them Dutch things. Another girl asked me if I was Irish, because of my nose and ears.

Best of all, at one point, one kid piped up, "Miss, are you teaching us Social Studies?"
I replied, "I'm teaching you. Just because I'm your English teacher doesn't mean I can't teach you other things I know or things you need to learn."
"Yeah!" said another.

Speaking of things to learn, I brought in some National Geographics and Smithsonians, and by the kids' reaction, you would have thought they were gameboys or something. They--all three classes--are so excited and interested by these magazines! I saw them pointing things out to each other excitedly, eagerly paging through the articles, staring in wonder/disgust at close-up pictures of different bugs. It's really exciting to see them be so interested. (Actually, the Herd was *too* interested and I had to scold them.)

Therefore, and I mentioned this to the Grey Bunnies, after the Big Day Next Month, I'd like them to find something they're interested in one of the magazines, and doing a writing project about it. They seemed to think that sounded good. Yay!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Couldn't Make This Up if I Tried

All of my students have always had trouble identifying genres. (Do the rest of you have the same issue?) Right now I'm trying to combat that in several ways, one of which is by assigning writing in different genres. The other night they were supposed to write historical fiction.

Oh, dear.

Take a look at some of their stories. Please shake in laughter rather than shake your head in despair of all the things they don't really know. :)

--A woman named Britney helped slaves. She rescued Rosa Parks and created the Make a Wish Foundation. For all her hard work, she won tickets to the New Jersey Nets basketball games.

--"Long time ago in 1835, World War Two began. But George Bush said "why fight if we could get along". ... George stopped being Mr. nice guy and told them (both) to stop the fighting. If you don't stop I will kill you. George W. Bush said."

The piece de resistance was so 'perfect' that I scanned it for you. Enjoy!

I swear to god, people.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I didn't go to school today! And I wasn't even sick!

It wasn't a mental health day either, really; I'm irritated about administration and such, but not enough to stress me out enough yet to necessitate a day off. (But I'm sure it will as the year stretches on.)

No, I took the day off because there would have been no point in going on. See, a bunch of my kids went on a field trip. One entire class, half another class, and five in the third. Seeing twelve of my students is kind of a waste of a day, with only so many instructional days left til the Big Day Next Month.

So instead of frittering away my time on coverages at school, I slept in (but not too late, so that I can be tired at a good time tonight) and frittered away my time at home. I cleaned part of my bathroom, I attempted to work out (but my stupid toe is not healed enough to allow that yet), I did a bit of Christmas shopping online, and, best of all, I completed my Christmas cards! I had some made online with a couple of my recent photos (did you know I'm a photo whore? I know you're shocked); they came in a set of twenty. So this morning I sat on my bed, half-watched old Psych episodes, and wrote out all twenty cards! Addressed, stamped, all done!

Then came the best part that I was really looking forward to--walking them to the post office. See, I have this new camera? And I'm kind of obsessed with it? I took almost two rolls on the way to/from mailing the cards and my first four rolls of film. Then I took a third one this afternoon when I went to a doctor's appointment in Brooklyn, and stopped at Canarsie Pier as the sun was setting. I think I got some fantastic shots with seagulls flying in front of the sun. I can't wait to start getting some of these prints back!

Tomorrow I go back to work, but I won't even mind, because it's only two days. The scheduler won't be happy with me; apparently they thought the machine was not working and didn't get my message that I'd be out. So at 9am, they called me hoping I was 'lost' in the building or something, I don't know. It made me feel a little bad, that they'd have to scramble for last-minute coverages. But you know, I have not taken a single day yet this year, so I'm resolved not to feel bad. I ended last year with at least ten days in my CAR, and earned another three already this year, so I have no need to hoard them.

And this way I'll be extra motivated to get back to Preparing for the Big Day Next Month!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ding Dong!

Monday morning, I walked into the office only to find a coverage waiting. What's worse, it was for seventh grade, the hell grade of middle school subs. Even worse? It was for the Hydras, my worst class last year. Oh, man. I felt a bit anxious all morning even while teaching. Would they torture me? Would they mock me and laugh in my face like they did when I had to cover them last year? God.

I packed up my MadLibs and BrainQuest and ascended the stairs, trying to exude confidence. As I neared the room and the class spotted me, my breath caught in my throat.

The students in the room gasped and called out, "Miss!" And not in a horrified way. A student standing outside the door threw his arms around me and squeezed. The class waved and grinned at me.

Good god!

Now, to be fair, the class was not exactly the same as last year. My good AP in her wisdom did her best to redistribute some of the, shall we say, dominating personalities. So there were a few faces I did not recognize, and a few faces from different classes mixed in too. Overall, though, it was a very familiar group. Importantly, the two most, erm, troublesome? boys were not there. That was certainly a relief, though it did not make the group perfect by any means.

I went through my spiel about the trivia game and we began. There was a lot of noise from boys clustered in the back of the room, and I had to call out a couple times. But since it was just a coverage, I didn't stress myself and did my best to focus on the kids who were paying attention and participating. It went fairly well. At the end, a couple girls even came up to give me hugs and tell me how they're doing.

I breathed such a sigh of relief when the period was over. I survived! Most of the kids didn't hate me! Holy cow!

Later, talking to Ms Math across the hall (we've taught the same classes all four years, so we're always discussing students and class dynamics), I learned that the Asshole Kid from last year who, along with his Insane B**** Mother, made my life much more difficult, has LEFT THE SCHOOL!

At the end of the day I found myself humming, Ding, dong, the witch is dead!

This morning I had another coverage (o joy!), and I was rather dismayed to see it was for the same seventh-grade class I covered last week, with whom I kind of strained my voice to be heard over the din. Ugh. But again I packed Apples to Apples, BrainQuest, and MadLibs into a bag and walked down the hall. Only to discover, to my delight, that there must have been a scheduling mistake, because the class was actually an 8th grade honors class made up of some of my favorite kids from two years ago. Sweet!

We played games and yeah, they talked and chatted loudly and chewed gum. But when I wanted their attention, they all got quiet and looked at me. Wow. They enjoyed the MadLibs and the Apples to Apples, and everyone participated at least in the group. I quite enjoyed the coverage too!

This is a week already full of miracles, and only two days in!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Merry Christmas to MEEEEEEE

Oh. My. God. Y'all.

I am so FREAKIN' excited.

This is my new love. I will take votes for names.

It is a Minolta Maxxum 5 SLR. I bought it on Thursday on eBay--it came with a bunch of film, batteries, remote, ring/filter thing, manual, and case. It arrived today and I'm still grinning with glee. Squee!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

How Time Does Fly

So apparently it's practically mid-December? And Christmas is in two weeks? Holy crap.

We have two weeks of school left til the break, but if I start thinking about that I may lose my mind. This week at least half of my kids will be out on a field trip--but I only know that because they came in all holding permission slips. Because god forbid they tell us these things in advance so we can plan ahead. Anyway, and then the week after that, they're holding a mock test for three days. The last week of vacation. No, I don't know why they waited this long to plan it. Yes, I think the kids will be insane and so will I.

So we have now, let's see...three and a half weeks of school until the BIG TEST. Four days already gone, plus who knows how many assemblies or other unplanned events will occur.


Also, now I'm a little late getting my holiday cards together, written, and sent. For the last five years at least I've meant to do them. For at least four of those years I never actually got around to it. I'm pretty sure that I did last year. It doesn't say much about me that I don't remember anything.

I was thinking about putting together a calendar of some of my favorite photos from this year, and giving them as gifts to a couple family members. Does that sound cheesy or lame?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Educator's Oath??

I pledge allegiance
to the test
of the Empire State of New York,
and to the standards,
to which it stands,
Each child, not left behind,
tested with haste,
and judged forever.

*My apologies if anyone has already done this better. Feel free to link to those.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


...just bought a camera on eBay!

Less than $100 for a used SLR.
(And technically it can count as a present, since I got a little bit of birthday money last month that I put away.)

Whee! Wooo! Hurrah!

Ooh, I can't wait to play.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Planning to Plan!

I've slowly become intrigued, interested and addicted to shows on channels like TLC and HGTV. On weekends, BF and I love to watch What Not to Wear with our tv friends Stacy and Clinton.

Yesterday I happened upon an episode of My First Place. As the name implies, the show profiles a person or couple who is shopping for their first home. Oh, and the best part is that they surprise them at the end by styling and furnishing a room. Well, I set the DVR to record all episodes and I watched one tonight, about an exuberant young teacher in Atlanta. She found a really cute townhouse and was so thrilled to move in to her own place.

Last night, inspired by this show, I went online to look at house prices. I only looked at a couple cities and areas, but it was exciting just to think about having a real place of my own. A house with a yard? A cheaper, newer townhouse? Hardwood floors or carpet? How many bedrooms and bathrooms? How much of a payment could I afford? What kind of furnishings and design can I do? Will there be someone living there with me? Ooh, it's confusing and overwhelming, but definitely in an exciting, grown-up way.

Partnering with that, I officially, sort of, began a job search. I registered and created profiles on a few charter school job sites, and I looked at a couple state sites and job boards.

Since it's so early in the year, I know nothing is going to happen and jobs won't really be listed yet. All the same, it feels good to do something proactive and begin thinking about possibilities.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I Made It!

I successfully got through NaBloPoMo, with not a day missed!

I took on the challenge because this year I got much lazier with the blog, spending much more time on flickr. I figured I could use the practice in writing actual posts instead of hi, this is what I did in school today.

I did enjoy making more of an effort. I'm not sure it always worked or that it made much of a difference, but it was the kind of push I needed to at least get something up, even if it was just a photo or a list.

But then I thought to myself, Wait, am I losing the teaching aspect too much? I am a teacher blogger, but of course I've never limited myself to posting about school; I just don't have a lot of other things going on. So I suppose it's good to change the topic more often than not. Now that I think about it, I wonder if I've lost focus completely. But it's my blog, does it really need a strict focus? Bleh, I'm thinking too much.

Anyway, thank you to anyone and everyone who followed me along this month! I hope it was a better read than others.

Metaphorical Journeys

Four years ago, our mortgage office got some kind of inspirational pamphlet or something. It described a company with this great extended metaphor [and I'm sure I'm butchering it completely]:

Everyone in the company is in a big canoe. Each person has a paddle and must contribute to moving the canoe. If someone doesn't pull their weight, everyone else will have to pick up their slack. Each member of the team needs to understand the destination and how to work with the others to reach it.

So then you have to ask yourself, Do you want to be in the canoe? You might need to get out of this canoe and find another canoe that's going where you want to go.

This concept really stuck with me, but it took me awhile to admit I hated being in a corporate canoe. I got in just for a fun ride, and though I enjoyed paddling alongside good and funny people, I didn't want to go with them to Corporate Island Paradise.

So I left the canoe. I didn't even wait until we were near another island or another canoe, and I didn't even check to see how deep the water was; I just jumped out.

It was scary, but exhilarating. Where would I go? What would I do? Could I swim well enough to find another canoe? [This metaphor stuff is fun!]


Fast forward. I've survived a capsize in piranha-infested waters [that would be my first year], I've made friends with fellow paddlers, and seen both good and bad paddlers exit the canoe.

But here's the thing. When I keep my head down and focused, I don't mind what I'm doing in this work canoe. But when I take a breath and look around me, I don't always like who I'm with or where we're going, or how we're getting there. It seems like instead of one big canoe, we're a flotilla of individual canoes. And though everything looks peachy from far away, close up you'll find some people not moving at all, others moving sideways and just wasting energy, and some turned around going the other direction. Some clueless person is up front in a yacht telling us what to do, while our paddles are splintering and cracking under our hands.

I've begun to feel that I'm outgrowing my canoe. I'm not patient enough to wait for the long-promised new, supposedly unbreakable canoes and paddles. I'm working hard in my own canoe, but it turns out that maybe I'm spinning in circles.

So do I jump out again, in uncharted waters? I've done it before, am I brave enough to do it again? What's waiting for me in a new island chain--more piranhas? Dolphins who will support me, all friendly? Better canoes? Better leaders? Competent paddlers beside me?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Likes and Dislikes

Reconfigure of the original six-year-old "About" page on the old geocities site.

LIKES: My iPod. Itty bitty baby kitties. Painting some building and getting covered with the paint. Loppers. The words "beep," "mouse," "bubble," "poop," "crux," "gelatinous," and "whilst" and "turtle." The smell of new books. Reading. Libraries and bookstores. Candy. Chocolate shops. Good music. The television shows "The Amazing Race," "Bones," "Chuck," "The Office." The movies "The Princess Bride," "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "The Boondock Saints." Sports movies, especially dancing and baseball movies. Dancing. Ultimate frisbee. Softball. Pickles. Europe travel. Business class on British Airways. A well-packed suitcase. Funny people. Frosting. Chocolate. Gelato! Midori sours. Christmas music. The glow from multi-colored Christmas lights. My scrapbooks and photo albums. Spice-flavored car trees. Cats. Greek mythology. Swear words. Imitating accents (ask me to spell "Alabama" sometime). Frozen pizza cheese. Pepper jack cheese. Pepper jack nachos. Movie quotes. Email. Cucumber ranch salad dressing. Croutons. French fries (especially fajita nacho fries!). Root beer floats. Sneezing. Sleep. Laughing. Cute boys. My stuffed animals. School/office supplies. Pens. Staying up late. My diplomas. Wearing fake tiaras. Wiggling toes in grass or big shag rugs. Boggle. Taboo. Big hugs.

DISLIKES: Scraping paint. Spiders. Ticks. The show "Seinfeld." People who are too serious and/or who have no sense of humor. Shallow people and stuck-up people. Stupid people. Stupid people! Stupid music. Techno music. Purposelessly repetitve and/or annoying music. Reality television shows like "Survivor." Commercials! Sexism. Excessive materialism. Cigarettes and cigarette smoke. Jumpy, yappy and/or slobbery dogs. Extreme Republicans and other right-wing conservatives. Shitty birthdays (and I've had enough to know!). Mean people. Senseless traffic. People who can't drive/slow me down/try to show me up by speeding recklessly. Lazy students. Pens that don't work all the time. Waking up early.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Why I'm Glad I Didn't End Up Teaching Math

On the NaBloPoMo site, there's a Writing Prompts group. Obviously, I have not used their wealth of information; otherwise all my posts might have had some interest and/or direction!

Yesterday I visited and saw a Daily Prompt thread with all kinds of ideas. And since I am very tired with zero ideas, I figured I'd take advantage of it tonight (the thread, not the thoughtless fatigue).

From Nov 2: what's your favourite childhood book, and why?

In case you're new, I'll remind you that it is physically impossible for me to choose favorites. Partly because I rebel against certain rules (but unimportant ones like "choose only one") and mostly because I'm terribly indecisive.

So I thought I'd make a list and discuss several influential books from my childhood.

--The first book I ever "read" by myself was "Marvin K Mooney, Will You Please Go Now?" I always felt sorry for him and related to him feeling unwanted and unhappy.

--I loved reading The Baby-Sitters Club books. My dad used to take me to this great local bookstore called Rainy Day Books; the kids' books were at the back of the store and I used to excitedly rush there to look for the new book each month. That store had the classic homey bookstore smell that doesn't truly exist in the big box stores. In the books themselves, I admired all the girls for their different strengths, but I think mostly I was fascinated by their friendships. I had no real friends growing up and desperately wished for a group of solid friends like they had.

--Sometime in elementary school I must have read a Wrinkle In Time. I had loved science in school and after reading this book, I've always had a fondness for mitochondria. And I've always remembered the illustration with the string, showing the time 'wrinkle.'

--By sixth grade I had already read Anne of Green Gables several times. I remember randomly asking a sub if she knew what the word 'fortnight' meant. I had come across it so many times and had a vague idea but didn't know for sure. Big help, she didn't know either. I think we looked it up and discovered it meant two weeks.

--Later on I finished reading the series. We learn about Anne's friends and her children. The last one, Rilla of Ingleside, is a coming-of-age story during World War I. Rilla begins as a spoiled and silly girl, but ends up taking care of an infant and winning the heart of a handsome and gallant young soldier, who happens to be the son of Anne's friends Leslie and Owen. It was so sweepingly romantic. It made me wish to be strong and desirable like her.

--Then I happened upon A Girl of the Limberlost. Eventually it reminded me a little bit of Annie, because the plucky main character overcomes many terrible obstacles. In this one, the heartless mother ignores her, but the girl, determined, collects exotic moths from their swamp to pay for her education. The mother eventually grows a heart and gives herself a physical and mental makeover. The girl finds romance with a man sent to the country to recover from illness. Near the end, he steals her glove for her ring size and presents a beautiful emerald. Of course the girl refuses at first, scared. But he wins her over, the mother is revealed to be loving after all, and all's well that ends well. Except upon the many rereadings, the character (Eleanor! That's her name) gets irritating. All that determination and beating the odds, blah blah blah.

--The Secret Garden. I received several versions of this book in elementary school but didn't read it for a couple years. When I finally did, the beginning of the story did not interest me. In fact, it confused me and I probably tried to reread. It never really explained who was who and what the hell was going on. And Mary was such a crankypants! Not lovable at all. I wanted to slap her dour and snobby pale face. But the description of the moors was fascinating; I envisioned it as eternally gray and foggy, all flat, swampy ground covered in brush. Then the mysterious wall, with the secret door, and the friendly bird who leads her to uncover the key. Ooh, the excitement! The intrigue! Finally she befriends the equally dour and unlovable Colin, only Mary is now transforming, and then Colin begins to transform and oh, the hints of romance! The secrecy! I fairly wriggled in delight. And of course father and son are reunited, and they love each other. All are healed and healthy.

I loved reading, and I still do. You can always escape into a book, completely forgetting the real world. You envision yourself in those characters. Would you do what they do? Would you be like them? Would you be friends with them? What would you tell them to do? I tell you, there is nothing better than a good book.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Old Enough

I always think it's weird to be old enough to say I've done something or known someone for over ten years.

But nine or ten years ago, a bunch of us in our dorm gang (erm, as in group of people who hang out, not as in snapping dancing knife-wielding hooligans) made up a list of where we'd all be in ten or twenty years.

Already everything is wrong, but still, isn't that funny? How our perceptions and hopes and realities can change so utterly?

I, of course, was to be the jet-setting fancypants with fabulous apartments in Paris and London (or was it New York and Paris?) and the friends would visit me on the holidays.

Ten years later, in matter of fact, I am a jet-setting lazypants with an adorable apartment in New York who has to come visit everyone at home because for some reason no one wants to come to New York!

We predicted three of the boys married. One of those is married with a child who must be....three? five? we've never met the little boy. Another boy, not from those three, is also married with a child, who is most probably in the two-three range; we haven't met him/her either. Oh, and yet another boy is engaged. Maybe married by now; who knows, nobody tells me anything.

Two of us girls are now teachers. Neither of us planned to be.

None of us girls are married. I'm not sure if any of us planned to be by now. I certainly didn't, but I can't speak for the others.

So now it's ten years since our freshman year of college, and life is real and really different.

What will happen in the next ten years?

The cusp of 40 sounds a lot more daunting than the cusp of 30, I'll tell you that much. (And I am the youngest of the crowd, so several of them are already 29.) It seems like grown-up life is quickly encroaching if it hasn't already. We have to have, like, real jobs and stuff. And be serious and adult and shit.

So what do I think life will hold for me in the next ten years? First of all, based on the previous ten years, things will happen that I would never be able to dream up. But I think there are some patterns that could conceivably continue or emerge.

For example, I'm quite sure I will continue to travel often. In ten years I hope to have visited at least two new continents (South America, Africa, or Asia, perhaps)(I suppose that's all that's really left, since Antarctica is way too expensive and I've already been to North America, Europe and Australia). I wonder if I will have been able to live abroad? That is still such a potent pipe dream of mine. God, I would adore living in Europe. Living Down Under would be divine too.

Which brings me to work! I suppose I have to have a career in order to have money which will allow me to globe-trot. I am certain that I will find a new job for next year, and it's quite likely that I could move out of state again. Because I am unimaginative and scared, I'm sure I will teach for a couple years, maybe a couple more if it's a cushier situation. I'm quite sure I don't want to be a career teacher, but I'm scared I'll be too lazy to leave. As long as I'm dreaming, I'll have a photography business on the side. Ooh! Maybe I'll be a travel writer/photographer! Yes, I'll take that, please!

By 38, if I'm into that kind of thing, I would hope to be married. I've never been sure I want to, but if the right person is there and situations are good, then I think I'd definitely be into it. Ten years is a long time from now, but I would like to hope Boyfriend is still around (as more than that, after all that time!). However, a part of me does expect to be on my own for the long term. I've always been independent and though it would be lonely, I'm sure I'd deal just fine.

Speaking of lonely, I've never been positive I wanted kids. Actually, grown kids seem kind of cool (especially with the spinster idea), but the baby thing...yikes. My two youngest siblings were born when I was nine and thirteen, so I did a lot with them and have zero illusions about the beauty of diaper changes and two AM crying. Again though, if I decide to have one, I hope that when I'm 38 it would be a toddler or in school. Still though, picturing me as someone's mom is way, way too weird. Even the pregnancy thing...shudder. Aren't I too young for that?! That's a grown-up thing! But I do like the idea of shaping a future citizen, teaching it languages and sharing books, taking it around the world and doing fun activities.

I have to say, watching and reading about so many people's journeys through these things, through blogs and flickr, has made it all (marriage and parenthood) seem more normal and kind of more interesting. Fascinating, really. But...ssh, don't tell.

In the next ten years, I don't care about acquiring much material wealth, but I do want to be comfortable, independent, with some quality surroundings. A nice camera, a real couch someday, an awesome big soft bed, a cushy armchair with piles of soft blankets for curling up with books, actual bookshelves filled with my books and photo albums. Really, what I desperately want is to have ALL my things together in one place, in *my* place. My entire life, belongings have been spread among and lost at different houses (oh, the joys of joint custody), and I *hate* that. I have a constant low-level anxiety about my stuff--at this point, I don't even know what I have back home, where things are, or in what quality. So when it comes time to be a real adult, I will gather with me all my things. I'll probably need a lot of space, but it will be worth it.

In general, I want to be happy and satisfied with my life in ten years. I hope to make and accomplish some goals. I hope to be surrounded by good friends. I want to be happy with the decisions I've made and the person I've become.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Things That Make Me Happy!

Being productive and completing the to-do list I wrote on my hand!

1. I made my doctor's appointment.
2. I did my laundry.
3. I changed the sheets. Yay clean fresh sheets!
4. I printed out new attendance sheets.


Starting a new library book (which is kind of stupid because I have FOURTEEN of my own books on a chair. Plus four other library books. I'm dumb, I know. But come on, who can resist overdosing on books?!) that is already awesome. It's called The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman. It's a YA book about some boys who 'meet' a kid who seems invisible, and it's hilarious.


Songs that make me happy:

1. The theme song of How I Met Your Mother.
2. The theme song of The Office.
3. 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' by Mariah Carey.
4. [changed!] 'Build Me Up Buttercup' by The Temptations.

Do you have any happy songs?

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Tank and a half of gas: $50

Driving 280 miles in three state: 6 hours

Visiting old haunts: Priceless
Thanks to US!!

Discovering new delights: Priceless


Satisfying the wanderlust: Doubly priceless

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Yes, I'm Thankful.

I know I was supposed to do this two days ago, but I didn't. So there.

--First, although it's going to sound terribly cheesy, I am so grateful to my boyfriend. He is the best ever. I don't write much about our relationship or things we do, but really, he is so good to me. He's so patient with my moods and chatter, he's always kind to me (except when he teases me), he's too generous with gifts, he likes to travel and is a good traveling companion (I don't think he knew how serious I was when I told him how important that is to me--it's a make or break kind of thing), and he makes me feel beautiful and loved. I am just as happy globetrotting next to him as I am hanging out at home watching tv.

--I'm thankful for the friends I've made in the last few years, some from school, some from the blogosphere. I never had much luck finding real girlfriends when I was young, and so I value them extra now. These women are intelligent, fun, good people who accept me, laugh with me, make me feel whole like only real friends can.

--My family is far away from me, but I do miss them. They've been supportive of me being out here in New York, which was the only thing I had the first year. There were a lot of ups and downs growing up, but regardless, because of them I became who I am. They made me a reader, a traveler, a liberal, an appreciater of culture, an independent person.

--Not to be too much of a blogwhore, but I'm so surprised and grateful that people read this blog. Thank you for listening to my rantings and ramblings. I appreciate you all! You have taught me a lot.

--I'm thankful for my students this year, for allowing me to enjoy being in my room. Don't get me wrong, I get irritated and yell at them just as much as in previous years, but these kids make it fun. I kind of love them. They are helping me get through this year.

--I love my DVR. It changed my life, and so cheaply! [Yes, I can be shallow. At least I realize it.]

Friday, November 23, 2007

half an hour left in the day

and I still haven't really done much.

Today I had meant to be on a roadtrip, didn't happen.

For the second year in a row, BF and I went to Thanksgiving at a friend's and it was fantastic. There was much wine, laughing and game-playing. Also I tried bread pudding for the first time; it was tasty.

Today ended up being mostly about wine recovery for one of us, and television. I still kind of want to go somewhere, make myself get out of my apartment, but...I might turn out to be too lazy! (I know, I'm *shocked*!)

One more week of daily posting. No days missed so far. I'm hoping to do a couple more 'deep thoughts' posts, but overall I haven't made much of an effort to improve the blog writing.

Right now I'll blame it on school stress--five weeks of school until the exam, and I'm actually freaking out a little bit. I have so much to cover! They need SO much practice! Oh god.

The weekend will last two more days. I hope I can do something to justify having all this time off.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone is enjoying some restful time with family and friends.


Teacher Spotlight!

Miss Brave is fighting the good fight with grammar and punctuation, and posted the awesomest idea ever:

What if teaching were a reality show? And every week, teachers competed to see who could teach the most compelling, engaging, enriching lesson? And the teachers had bitchfights over things like whether to go with Teaching With Love and Logic or the assertive discipline approach? And they were coached by surprise celebrity guests like Harry Wong and Rafe Esquith? And every week someone got voted off by a panel of judges like Jonathan Kozol and Deborah Meier? And in the end the winner was crowned America's Next Top Educator and rose to fame throughout the nation?

I say this is too, too cool. Let's spread the word so someone rich will sponsor it! (Hey, Bloomberg!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Other Side of the Story

I made it to the school level spelling bee in fourth grade and seventh grade.

In sophomore year history, we performed classic Greek plays. Our 'Furies' swept the award show after the festival.

In high school chemistry I conscienciously did my homework every day. I received an 87% in that class and was more proud of that than any A I earned.

I aced the stoichiometry quiz (balancing moles and molecules in chemical reactions).

Junior year in gymnastics, I made a list of goals at the beginning of the season and accomplished almost all of them.

I premiered a new floor routine (to Janet Jackson's Control) at a meet with one of the top teams in the district. I scored a 7.5 and tied for fifth.

I made it to the regionals in floor and beam that year.

In my first game on the JV softball team, I hit a three-RBI triple.

I worked with three peer health education programs--Planned Parenthood Teen Council in high school, a Positive Body Image group at Western, and a University Health Ed program at UW. I gave some very successful presentations with each program.

I represented my dorm building in the res hall council freshman year of college.

My first quarter of college, I took four courses and my GPA wasn't great. But my GPA improved every single quarter after that, for all four years.

I interned for two years at a national nonprofit organization. The second year I was pretty much in charge of the website. (Of course, after I left they merged with another company and had a much more complicated site.)

I was always a procrastinator with big projects and papers. In college, since the last two years required so much writing, I actually worked harder and did not procrastinate with writing. Eventually, I noticed that when I worked at it, my class writing was pretty good. Quite good, actually. I learned to enjoy writing and feel proud of my work.

My undergraduate major required a thesis. I worked really hard on it for an entire school year and felt very proud. It totaled about 60 pages including a bunch of appendices.

I graduated with a 3.72 GPA.

I traveled around Italy for eight days with no reservations, no map knowledge, knowing no Italian. Obviously not really a smart thing to do, but I made it work.

Since then I have traveled alone to Paris, Belgium, Prague, and Amsterdam.

I drove alone down the Pacific Coast after college.

After my first year of teaching, I drove 3700 miles across the continent. The last two thirds was on my own.

We worked really hard in AmeriCorps. In September, we spent a week and a half canoeing down and up the Quinnipiac River clearing logjams. My arms were extra strong after that.

I applied to the Teaching Fellows almost on a whim but was accepted into the program. (I had been rejected from TFA two years earlier.)

I survived an awful first year of teaching and returned to a much improved second year. For someone who's never done anything longer than a year or two, staying in one place for four years is a pretty big accomplishment.

I think I'm a pretty good teacher. Occasionally I feel like I actually reach a student and see progress in them. I'm also getting better at talking to and relating to the kids.

Sometimes I can make people laugh. Mostly eleven-year-olds.

I make really good mix tapes/CDs.

I make a perfect caramel macchiato (because I worked part-time at Starbucks for four years).

I have a master's degree. It didn't require as much work or intellect as my undergraduate degree, but it's still nice to have.


I'm proud of this side of the story, but I'm still haunted by the other.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Story of My Life.

I played soccer for one autumn.

I took riding lessons for a few months.

I played piano for a year or so.

I made the 'major' little league team in fifth grade, and never once swung the bat in a game. Ironically, I was afraid of striking out.

I played the cello for five years and hardly practiced.

I was in Honors classes and barely studied.

I did math homework in class.

I decided that acting would be fun, but never made an effort to really audition for anything.

My dream was to be an Olympic gymnast, but even in my youth I was too easily frustrated and not motivated enough.

I took two years off in middle school when my legs hurt too much and I was bored.

On the high school gymnastics team, I was too easily distracted by various aches and pains to practice hard, and too scared to learn anything new. The vault was my favorite event in elementary school, but in high school it scared the crap out of me.

I joined the yearbook staff my senior year as a half-assed way to boost my resume.

I graduated from high school with a 3.55 GPA, which even then felt almost worthless, since I hardly did any work.

I only applied to three colleges.

The UCLA application required an SAT II, and the only subject I felt I could scrape a score was in French, even though I hadn't taken it in two years. And I didn't study for the exam.

I completed the FAFSA on time but didn't qualify for aid, since my teacher parents were too comfortably middle-class.

I never bothered to apply for a single scholarship.

I was accepted to the University of Arizona and Western Washington University. Going out of state sounded kind of exciting, but it was five times more expensive.

So I took the easy way out and went to WWU.

Science was always my favorite subject, and genetics sounded interesting, so in college I thought I'd do a biochem major. The college-level pre-calc homework was so confusing and frustrating that I never completed it and somehow scraped by with a C+.

I still loved chemistry and tried to challenge myself by moving up to o-chem sophomore year. I fought to survive the first term and only lasted a week into the second before dropping.

Then I couldn't decide on a major, so I transferred to the University of Washington.

Upon entrance to UW, I declared a double major in French and Women Studies. I dropped the French major at the end of the year because it would have required an extra year to finish both.

After college, I couldn't decide what to do, so I applied to AmeriCorps.

When I was waitlisted, I kept working at Starbucks because I had zero idea of what to do in the real world.

After I quit my office job in 2004, I applied to AmeriCorps to be a team leader, and to the Teaching Fellows. I never heard back from AmeriCorps. I never called to check on the application. So I came to New York as a default because I figured I should do something.

In New York, I couldn't be bothered trying to learn about individual schools and the job fairs were either cancelled or crazily overattended, so I couldn't find a job.

I remained in the reserve pool until called for a permanent position. I've been there ever since.

I'm a pretty good teacher, but I never take work home with me.

I go to conferences and workshops on my own time, but rarely incorporate new ideas or practices into my teaching.

I don't 'plan lessons.' I just think of things and jot down a couple words in my lesson plan book. I never even had a lesson plan book until this year.

I roughly follow the curriculum, but I'm always behind. I can't be arsed to keep up.

I take a lot of pictures, but almost never make an effort to plan and execute and perfect. I received some technique books and only began them. I glossed over the technique pages because it's too confusing.

And I feel like an incompetent wannabe with a camera.

I get cards or little gifts in the mail, and I never respond. I want to, and mean to, but...don't.

I never read a newspaper or watch the news. I see things on the Daily Show or SNL (yes, I'm *that* twentysomething), or sometimes on blogs.

I feel kind of dumb about that.

I don't read the 'real' edublogs because the posts are long and boring.

I can't even make an effort to think of interesting things to write about my own blog.

I'm reasonably smart, but I've never bothered to work to reach any kind of potential.

This is the story of my life, and I am ashamed.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tee hee.

So AMP mentioned gizoogle.

So I had to try it.

And lo, it was awesome.

Two prime examples:

It's not gangsta if you're straight trippin' geography!

Yikes and cant no hood fuck with death rizzow!


Teaching. Sick.
Conferences. Sick.

I don't think I need to say anything else.

Day 235: Sick! Boo! [Honk!]

I made it home! I survived conferences! They actually went really well. I was able to say plenty of good things about the students as well as encourage them to do better. My kids are pretty great this year.
Cross our fingers that tomorrow will go well too.

In other news, the congestion is moving into my ears--party time!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

TMI, but too funny not to share.

I just sneezed hard enough to drool.

And since they called me Droolie as a wee baby, I can only imagine what that must have been like. You know, when I didn't have fine motor control and whatnot.

An educational game link

Know Your World

It's not a time-waster if you're learning/reinforcing geography!

Woke up sick

First of all, I was awake before 8am on the one day I had to sleep in. Curses!

Second, I awoke with a very scratchy throat and also a stuffy nose alternating with a runny nose, aided and abetted by bouts of sneezing (which I've had for the last week or so). It took the conference and early wake-ups and my weekend lack of vitamins for this cold to sprout. Curses again!

It's noon on Sunday. I could have should have been back at the convention already.

I still want to go, kind of. I still think I *should* go; god forbid I don't have enough to turnkey to my unknown colleagues!

But the hermit in me wants to stay right here in my pjs, with a cozy soft blanket wrapped around me and a mug of spiced cider steaming away on my desk.

Screw academia, man. It's all about the R&R.

Oh holy crap.

I laughed so much tears came to my eyes.

I'm probably a year late seeing this, but oh well. English teachers, enjoy! The Impotence of Proofreading by Taylor Mali.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Whew. And Phew.

I can't wait to sleep in tomorrow morning.

I'm home now, having survived day two of the NCTE convention. Working the booths this morning was a breeze; there were no crowds or crazy busy-ness, and better yet, no assholes. :)
Nancy was there too, and it's always nice to have a friend around. In the afternoon I attended some workshops to professionally develop myself. One was an author speaking, with Brian Jacques and RA Salvatore, and another was about using genealogy and primary sources for research, thinking and writing.

[We interrupt this blog post to apologize for the shitty writing. At least I'm writing.]

In the exhibit hall, I acquired even more stuff and later, I ended up borrowing Boyfriend's suitcase to lug all my loot home. What a relief to not carry any more heavy bags!

Oh crap, and now it's almost eleven pm. I am so tired.

Tomorrow I want to sleep and relax and maybe even pretend to plan. However, I found some workshops that sound really interesting tomorrow afternoon...and there are also even more books I want to buy.

Sigh. To go or to rest?

Friday, November 16, 2007

English Teacher Candy Store!

This morning I awoke painfully at 5.50AM in order to get to the Javits Center before 7AM, for the NCTE convention. Good god, it was terrible. But things picked up after that.

I worked four hours at the program booth, and some people were very nice and friendly (lots of Southern accents, which I had to consciously avoid picking up), and some were assholes. See, unfortunately, for people who forgot or didn't have their name tag and program paper, we couldn't give them their program. Which means they had to go to the registration line, which was really long for awhile. And I certainly felt bad about it and wished it weren't that way, but it's not like I made up the rules or was just being stupid. People shouldn't be rude to the service people who are just trying to help out. Rude people suck.

I'm sad to report that I missed Amy Tan's presentation/signing in the morning, as well as Dave Barry's lunch workshop (which was all the way in Times Square). Happily, I was more than happy to visit the Exhibition Hall.

Oh. My. God.

The line must have started at eleven, and I joined it at about ten to twelve. When the ropes opened, a frisson ran through the crowd, and then the noise escalated. I hoped no one was rioting or stampeting. But the people charged into the hall and down the aisles, crowding the booths and sweeping up the freebies on the tables.

It was all I could do not to run down each aisle grabbing greedily while gleefully shrieking. I really did feel like a kid let loose in a candy store, except most of the candy was FREE! WHEEEEE!!

So I paced myself and tried to be patient. Don't misunderstand, I swooped up the free things too, but I looked a little closer and for once wasn't afraid to chat with the booth-minders. (Sometimes I turn mute in public, so this was a nice change.)

Very soon I was laden down with stuff: lots of free totes filled with posters, pens, stickers, even some free books and magazines, even a couple free academic journals. I bought a few books because they were ridiculously cheap--such as the sequel to Scaredy Squirrel for only ten bucks! I didn't even know it existed, and that's five bucks cheaper than retail. Some other books were two and three dollars, and I got signed books by Scott Westerfeld, E. Lockhart, and Sarah Mlynowski. Laurie Halse Andersen's line was too long this afternoon, but she'll be signing tomorrow, as will Jerry Spinelli, among others. Squee!

I left the exhibit hall a little after 2pm; my feet hurt and my shoulders were sore from carrying all the loot. I didn't make it to any workshops or sessions, but I'm working tomorrow morning again and will try to do something academic. Because my AP wants me to turnkey whatever I learn. Right now I'm thinking I'll just be like,'s some pens?

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Hi, it's Thursday and the weekend is going to be very busy, so there will be short posts for a few days. Possibly just photos even.

This week was the cut-off for kids turning in their shots info. And of course, tons of kids haven't gotten them. Which means that half the grade was 'quarantined' in the auditorium for most of the week.

Really? In the middle of November? Because the kids haven't been contagious or susceptible for the past two months? And now we're supposed to be in full test prep mode, and literally half the classes are absent for two or three days? REALLY?!


It is highly annoying, because all of us teachers are basically stalling and trying to figure out how to deal with having so few kids. Bless my kids, they still worked for me, even if there were only six people. We reviewed some grammar and some predictions, and then we did some fun games too. One was identifying famous landmarks. They worked together very busily, but oh, it was so sad. They know *nothing*. One group insisted that the Arc de Triomphe was the Great Wall of China, while another group thought it was in Mexico. Another group labeled Big Ben as the Eiffel Tower. And Paris is in the country of Europe, of course. Oh, and Stonehenge is in Japan, in case you were wondering.


But that's exactly why I had them do the activity, so they would learn some new things! And hopefully retain some geographic knowledge.

Interestingly, every group correctly labeled the Sydney Opera House, and do you know why? Because I showed them my Australia pictures from the summer. So you see? They do learn! And remember! Hurrah!

In sum, teach your children geography, please!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


...for all the ranting lately.
Wanna know a secret? A bloggy secret? I wasn't really as angry as I wrote about yesterday. Obviously, I was angry and very irritated, especially on the day I discovered the mess. But yesterday, after the initial shock and disgust, I set to cleaning and mostly stopped thinking about it.

Here's something about me: I'm nowhere near the neatest person you'll ever meet. In fact, I can drift toward downright sloppy at times. But when a mess gets significant, I love to clean it and straighten it and make it look nice. I think it's a mental satisfaction thing--the before and after are so drastically different. Who doesn't love that?

So let's see, there are some other nice-ish things going on. Sort of. I think I have not mentioned here yet my class size this year. The largest class, my afternoon bunch, whom (is that right? who?) I shall dub The Herd, has 30 students. The morning class, henceforth named the Greying Bunnies [because they are sweet but sometimes a little slow], has 25. The middle class, the Tame Roos [for their quickness, niceness, but sometimes the wildness appears], has a mere twenty kids. Their small size is part of their awesomeness.

Shh, don't tell! I don't want to ruin it!

We all know that class size makes a difference, but holy crap. When the room has thirty kids in it, it's crowded, louder, and more likely to get rowdy faster. Even a difference of 5 kids makes the room feel bigger, more open, calmer. And a difference of ten kids, well, wow. I feel like the luckiest teacher ever. I can easily see every single child in the room. There is plenty of space to separate kids if they are distracted or distracting. They can easily gather around the computer when it's time to watch Grammar Rock, and everyone can see. The room is so quiet and easy to get around. It almost feels more like a family sometimes than a classroom. I can do something that only book-teachers get to do--sit with a kid for more than thirty seconds and do some meaningful work with him or her. It's fantastic and amazing and they are my favorite class.

So take it from me--class size really does make a difference! Shocked, aren't you. ;)

Another positive thing I wanted to share was the ESL kid in The Herd. He does now go to an ESL teacher for one of a double period. And lately, the rest of the class has been reading or doing tests, and I can sit with him. Last week or thereabouts I went to the 99cent store and found some primary workbooks. I've been going through them with him, practicing vocabulary and sentences, and questions and answers. "Which is faster, the bicycle or the car?" "The car is faster than the bicycle." That kind of thing, orally and written. I have no idea what I'm doing, obviously, but I feel good about attempting to help him.

Oh, on a personal front, I've worked out twice already this week, so I'm proud of myself.

Also exciting is the NCTE conference this weekend! I'm volunteering so I can go for free. Can't wait to meet some new folks and learn some interesting teaching things!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Anyone who is faint of heart, click elsewhere. Anyone who doesn't like swearing, avert your eyes. Anyone who believes children are innocent and beautiful and can do no wrong, for god's sake, get real!
Sometime last week, the lock we placed on the bookroom door was removed. Not even broken or mangled; it just wasn't there anymore. AND another teacher caught some kids going into the bookroom and stealing books. And at point, not sure if it was those same boys or not, but someone trashed the book room. MY book room.

I'm mad. I'm so mad it's gone past mad, into rage, disbelief, defeat. I almost feel violated.
Look at this! Who the fuck do these kids think they are? How do they decide that is an okay thing to do? What the hell were they doing there anyway? The whole staircase is supposed to be completely off-limits to students. So how did they make it down there, make a big fucking mess, and escape without anyone noticing or doing something about it? Where the hell are the goddamned school safety agents?!

It was disgusting. That white stuff was an almost-new box of kleenex that these assholes decided to take out of the box and toss around. The other shit, basically they just shoved things off of shelves. Low shelves and high shelves.

Parts of two shelves were tossed, plus a cabinet opened and things tossed out.

It took an hour and a half to do all this. It was practically like starting over, a year ago.

Seriously. So disgusting!

I tell you, when I come down with some kind of cancer or lung disease, we'll all know why.

PS--I finally figured out how to get more than one flickr photo in a blog post! I'm so pleased and excited. Ooh, the possibilities that are in store for you lucky readers. :)
For anyone else who wants to do this, you go to "all sizes" and choose a size (small or medium), copy the html code and then paste it into the blogger template. Et voila!
If everyone else already knew that, pardon me for being slow. :)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Why I Can't Wait to Leave My Job

Today I visited a charter school in Brooklyn, and I can't wait to work there. Or really anywhere other than a New York City public school.

As I told one of their people, everything that I saw was an antidote of the last three and a half years. All the things I want in a school, all the things I need to be the best teacher I can, it's all there in this place!

The first part of the visit that really clicked with me was that two of the teachers I looked in on were playing music in their classrooms! I thought to myself, "Hurrah! I have found my people!" The teachers were all young and calm yet stern. The students were not perfect, but had no trouble redirecting themselves quietly. Conditions were not shiny and new, but positive and spacious.

The principal talked to us about the school's philosophies and schedules and such. Though the school day is much longer, the teaching load is pretty much the same. Teachers use the rest of their days to plan and collaborate with their colleagues. They all work together to critique and improve lessons, and even work on discipline. They strive to build a sense of teamwork among the students as well as among the staff. Everyone's in it together, and everyone wants to grow and improve.

This is what's been missing, this is what I've been craving. To feel like a professional, to feel like I'm part of a real team of other intelligent and motivated professionals.

My school is not a safe place to be, it's not a fun or creative place to be. It's divisive and difficult, and I feel like I don't know who to trust, I certainly don't have any senior teachers to look up to and learn from.

In August, I submitted my resume to this school. (And I must say, whatever my esteem issues, when it's all written down, I am pretty dang awesome.) Now that I've seen the school in person and it's what I expected (ie, very good), I can't wait to work there. If it doesn't work out, I'll look into other charter schools, including places out of state.

Wherever I go, next year I will not be working in my dreadful, dusty, distrustful New York City public school.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Needs and Wants

Five, Oops, Seven Things I Can't Live Without:
--Library card
--Lots of snuggly blankets and pillows and stuffed animals
--Cheese. No, ice cream.

Five, Err, Six Things I Want To Live Without:
--Sensationalistic newsmedia (annoying! depressing!)
--Hipsters (Self-explanatory.)
--Trend-lovers (Dude. A lot of trends are hideous. Just because magazines say they're in and they cost many hundreds of dollars does not mean it's actually cute or cool!)
--Bad Drivers (I have road rage! But it's not my fault--a lot of people are assholes/too slow!)
--Stupid People (Argh!)
[Do people count as things? Aw, hell, it's my blog, sure they do!]
--Cheesy Tourists (More with the Argh!)

Five Things I Want But Must Live Without:
--A DSLR. (Oh, how I want one. Every weekend I look at craigslist and see listings for D40s or Rebels and I just swoon. I really can't afford it. )
--Photography classes. (Ditto)
--An unlimited budget for books. And unlimited time to read them.
--An unlimited budget for ice cream! And cheese! Ooh, and banana chocolate! And maybe pickles!
--Jeans that fit correctly and make my ass look hot.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Originally uploaded by susiejulie
This post caught my eye recently--some jackass teacher tried to make fun of my name by ripping it off!

What the hell, jackass?!

Thankfully, someone at Edwzie must have felt the same way; the entire post is deleted now.

For a Laugh

According to their tv spot this weekend, Boots as well as Women's Apparel are not available in Hawaii or the DR. Sandals and men's tees all around!


From the classroom, kids trying to use words in sentences:

My friend is Fatigue.

I have a cousin who is criticism.

(Taking personification to a whole new level!)

And my personal favorite:

My brother and I love criticism juice.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Conflict Mode 5 of 5: Compromising

Compromising is moderate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness. The objective is to find some expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties. It falls intermediate between competing and accommodating. Compromising gives up more than competing but less than accommodating. Likewise, it addresses an issue more directly than avoiding, but does not explore it in as much depth as collaborating. In some situations, compromising might mean splitting the difference between the two positions, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle-ground solution.

It's hard to agree to disagree. But sometimes that's all you can do. It's even more difficult sometimes to give something up, especially if it's a grudge (I'm a champion grudge holder). I don't like to do it, but most of the time I try to be a grown up and suck it up already.

For example, we have been having even more administrative nonsense the last couple days. It's something that should have been addressed weeks ago, to prevent everyone a shitload of work. It's actually not a ton of work for the teachers, but more for admin to deal with it. They asked us to change/update some information on report cards. I truly didn't mind, and I wasn't upset, because it took hardly any time at all.

However, some of it I completely disagree with, and my colleagues felt the same way--cond*ct marks should absolutely NOT be correlated to the academic grade. Sorry. So I didn't change mine. If they want to write me up or change it over my head, go for it. But I will stick up for that. I guess there's my competing side coming back up.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Conflict Mode, 4 of 5: Collaborating

Collaborating is both assertive and cooperative -- the complete opposite of avoiding. Collaborating involves an attempt to work with others to find some solution that fully satisfies their concerns. It means digging into an issue to pinpoint the underlying needs and wants of the two individuals. Collaborating between two persons might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other's insights or trying to find a creative solution to an interpersonal problem.

Isn't this who we all what to be?

I really want to collaborate. I enjoy it, because everyone wins. I try to do my best to collaborate when I have the opportunity--I'll speak up with my own ideas and suggestions but also give feedback.

Teaching has such great collaboration potential, being creative and professional with your colleagues, to benefit us and the students too. Collaboration builds community and esteem, and I also believe it improves instructional quality, in several ways. First, teachers get ideas, lessons, and units from colleagues, tweaking it to fit their own style. Second, when you know you're working with other creative people and need to share, you want to step up your own game. So then the grade students improve, and then the positive atmosphere spreads, 'infecting' other grades and eventually the whole school. And hey, test scores might even increase!

This is why I long for real professional development and real common planning time. When we have time to collaborate as professionals, everyone wins!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Hands On Real Life Lesson!

Over the summer, while painting my apartment, I realized that the sequence of tasks might make an interesting lesson. So I kept all the tools in this little box, and finally brought them to school.

So today in class we learned about sequence and higher order thinking. I handed out these items to the tables, and each table shared with the class what they had and what it was for (I had to correct or guide some kids with the paint can opener and the sanding sponge). Then I gave each table some index cards with the tools listed on them, and the kids had to put the cards/tasks in order, and explain in writing in their notebooks why each step needed to go before or after another task.

At the end, I redistributed the items to some students and then they came to the front of the room and put themselves in order. As a class, we discussed why each step came in what order, and what would happen if, say, you spackled after painting.

I think it was a fun lesson, and the kids definitely got into it. They liked looking at and playing with the tools, and everyone was involved. Lots of accountable talk! It actually got too loud with the accountable talk a couple times. But overall, it was good, especially because it's pretty difficult to do kinesthetic lessons in English. Also, they now know how to go about painting! :)

Feel free to borrow or adapt this idea, fellow teachers!

Conflict Mode: Part 3 of 5: Avoiding

Avoiding is unassertive and uncooperative -- the person neither pursues his own concerns nor those of the other individual. Thus he does not deal with the conflict. Avoiding might take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.

At school, I often try to do this. Since I know I tend to get irritated and there's so much potential conflict (with adults), I'll do the complete opposite and shrink back, trying to be invisible. During preps that I have to leave my room, I put on my headphones and go to the couch to do my work, facing away from the room. Leave me alone.

I do this in my personal life too. When I don't feel I fit in, I think to myself, better get away. In high school once, I remember I put my coat over my head because I felt like I didn't belong and shouldn't be there.
I'm kind of an introvert with bursts of extravertist tendencies, and occasionally I'll snap from the latter to the former with a bang. It's not fun and I know it's pathetic, but it's easy to sink into the "I'm not good enough/No one likes me/I don't know what I'm doing/No one's listening to me/No one likes me."
I just disengage and pretend it doesn't bother me.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Conflict Mode and Personality, Part 2 of 5: Accommodating

Accommodating is unassertive and cooperative -- the complete opposite of competing. When accommodating, the individual neglects his own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other person; there is an element of self-sacrifice in this mode. Accommodating might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, obeying another person's order when you would prefer not to, or yielding to another's point of view.

Basically, this is only me if I'm at work and don't want to get in trouble. And even then I'd probably protest or at least roll my eyes.

I must say that I do tend to think negatively about this type, because who wants to be a doormat? Everyone should be able to speak up for themselves. And maybe, since Competers have such big mouths, we also will speak up for those who don't want to.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Conflict Modes and Personality: Competing

Note: I have written, rewritten, rearranged and/or redone this at least four times, trying to be logical and articulate. I'm sure I have still not succeeded on that, but there you go. Just keep that in mind as you read and be kind. :)

Today and tomorrow we have Professional Development at school, and one of the first activities this morning was taking the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. There are thirty pairs of statements and you have to choose what you're more likely to do in the situation. Based on those responses, you end up 'fitting in' to one of the five conflict modes [I put that in quotation marks because you're forced to choose things that you may not ever actually do, and therefore these groupings are not necessarily valid].

This instrument is designed to measure a person's behavior in conflict situations. "Conflict situations" are those in which the concerns of two people appear to be incompatible. In such situations, we can describe an individual's behavior along two basic dimensions: (1) assertiveness, the extent to which the person attempts to satisfy his own concerns, and (2) cooperativeness, the extent to which the person attempts to satisfy the other person's concerns.

First up on the list is:
Competing is assertive and uncooperative -- an individual pursues his own concerns at the other person's expense. This is a power-oriented mode in which you use whatever power seems appropriate to win your own position -- your ability to argue, your rank, or economic sanctions. Competing means "standing up for your rights," defending a position which you believe is correct, or simply trying to win.

Twelve of my 30 responses fit into this category. I said to myself, great, I'm a forceful asshole!

Our facilitator mentioned that these modes also indicate our default personalities. Or perhaps I just heard it that way.

"Competing" certainly has a negative connotation; it implies conceit in one's own opinions and power. Winning is a positive thing in our capitalist and opportunistic Western culture, but not when one is portrayed as caring about nothing other than winning, for the sake of winning. In general, this sounds like a forceful and strong personality, completely unwilling to compromise or hear anyone out.

Let's try to articulate all the ways this is significant.

In general, if I am confronted with a debate, I will hotly argue for my own opinions. (Face it, I'm usually right. :D) I have strong ideas and clear opinions on many issues, and I will passionately work to make others see things the way I do. Does it work? Very rarely; I seem to be a poor debater. Regardless, I will always involve myself, even though it usually ends with me frustrated and inarticulate.

When it comes to issues and causes, I'm definitely passionate about doing. That's why I got involved in volunteer work and education. Contrarily, that's why I try to avoid politics and the news--so much bothers me and it works me into a rage, but I can't seem to do anything about it, not even write articulately or interestingly about it. So I just watch the Daily Show and feel glad that others are also bothered about the facades presented by our government.

If I am confronted in the street or by a coworker, I do NOT engage and compete; quite the opposite in fact, but more on that later with discussion of the other modes.

When it comes to teaching, I think this is actually a pretty valuable trait. In the classroom, I do subscribe to the "my way or the highway" idea for most things. For example, homework--do it. No forgetting, no leaving it in another room, no broken printer, no writing it in the wrong place. If it's not done and done correctly, zero. I believe this is beneficial to the students, because at this age they need to learn accountability and responsibility for themselves and their work. In the classroom during lessons and things, I am passionate about the subject, so that the students will take the subject, and me, and their own success seriously. That is vital to a successful classroom.

We must also create and uphold high standards, and then convince the children, their parents, our supervisors, even sometimes ourselves, that everyone *can* and *must* aim for those high standards. We have to admonish children for not following rules, correct their misbehaviors, teach them social mores, separate bullies...the list goes on. Teaching can be a battle (hopefully not a bloody or uncomfortable one), unifying educational ideas and goals with rowdy, rude children. All this fits right in with the Competing description: standing up for what you believe, working hard to 'win.'

When I talk to parents, similar things apply. I understand that things come up, but the student needs to do their job. Period. End of story. Obviously, this does work with some particulary nasty/insane/indifferent parents. And in those cases I still don't back down, often to the consternation of an administrator. The child is responsible for their behavior and their work, and that's all there is to it. I will not compromise on that.

In general, leaders should exhibit some of these traits, especially leaders in education. They should be willing to fight for teachers, for resources, for students, and for the well-being of the school in general. There are some issues that should not be compromised, like upholding the discipline policies or supporting teachers' rights.

Now for the personal interactions.

I certainly agree that I can be a strong personality, and I enjoy games or sports. But I've never been obsessed with "the win." I'm happy enough to be victorious, but I hate sore winners and sore losers, so I'm not one to be all, "WOO! I WIN! YOU SUCK! I'M AWESOME! YEAH ME!!"

However, as I mentioned above, I choose to see the most important aspect of this mode as standing up for your rights and beliefs. Competitors will not be bowled over or taken advantage of, because of either conviction or stubbornness, whichever you'd like to call it. We are passionate about whatever we believe.

Back in AmeriCorps, we did a lot of teambuilding/service learning. One of the most memorable was the 'box of happiness' activity. Each member of the team wrote a note about each person, saying what they appreciated about that person, and then those notes got collected into small boxes for us to keep. I still have mine, and it lives on my important tchotchkes shelf. When I first read all the notes, it was very warm-fuzzy, but then when I re-read them, I realized that basically said the same thing. I got upset (at myself? not at my teammates) that I seemed so one-dimensional. Was that really all there was to me? Is it a bad thing?

I just dug out all the notes and reread them (tearing up just a bit because I miss them, I suppose) and here's one that represents them all: "I admire your ability to speak up for what your stand for and what you think, even when you are the only one saying it."

Forceful asshole again? Being out on a limb so much that I built a home there? That's my knee-jerk lack of self-esteem perspective (back then and still now). But then I think I must adjust that, because shouldn't everyone be able to express themselves? Shouldn't everyone have a voice? Not always a voice to take over others, but to be acknowledged at the very least. I suppose that even if I was too forceful at times (which I surely was), I wasn't trying to be selfish or irritatingly righteously indignant, and my teammates were able to frame it in a positive way (for which I do need to be grateful).

Happily, several other notes also mentioned that I cared a lot about the team and our cohesiveness, so hopefully I was not despised or pigeonholed by my opinionatedness. :) (More making up words!)

When in our groups this morning at school, we discussed advantages and disadvantages. First, we as Competitors are honest about being strong-willed. That leads us to being persistent and passionate, which I've already mentioned. Unfortunately, it makes us seem inflexible and possibly intimidating. Not to mention creating conflict where it doesn't need to be.

When dealing with others, we need to remember to be patient, that not everyone is as outspoken and impassioned as we might be. But that doesn't mean those quieter folks get ignored--we need to find ways to see their points of view. Also, many times the argument is going nowhere and we just need to let go and step back, and agree to disagree. This can be very difficult for me. But I've worked on this kind of stuff and I do think I have gotten better about being strong without being forceful, standing up for myself without alienating others, and working to cooperate as much as possible.


My hope is to examine the other conflict modes each day this week, so stay tuned! Assuming you're still awake right now, that is.
Other teachers or anyone else, I would love to hear/read what you think about all this. Feel free to discuss or write your own post and link here.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Spring, erm, Fall Cleaning

This morning, I forgot that the time had changed, so when I woke up at 8.30, it was really 7.30. Sweet!

Once I changed my watch and alarm clock, I took a look around and decided to tidy up. (This only happens once a month or so, if I'm lucky.) First I had to pick things up off the floor, then move the card table back into the kitchen so I could use the swiffervac. The bathroom bleach cleaner soaked while I did that. I even cleaned off my computer desk! It was really dirty and dusty and crumby. Ick.

My next step was a bit of self-cleaning. Except not. For the first time in at least two weeks, I worked out! It was a one hour yoga/pilates tape, nothing too vigorous to exacerbate my trick knee. It felt really good and now I'm ready to tackle the pile of sweaters on my table and the pile of things by my hall closet. I also need to gather recycling and tidy the kitchen. And then mop.

I'm also catching up on tv while getting these chores done. Good job multitasking. And it's only ten AM!

Sweaters done
Hall pile mostly done
Trash and recycling out
Rug shaken out and put on floor

And now it's still not even 1pm!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A Big Thank You!

I wanted to say THANK YOU!! to everyone for birthday wishes and comments. It's been a great birthday weekend and you all have made that much more special.

Virtual hugs to everyone!


I began blogging before it was called blogging.

In the fall of 1999, I transferred from Western Washington University in Bellingham to the University of Washington in Seattle, where I declared a double major in Women Studies and French. I'd been a francophile since middle school, when I began taking French classes. So when I saw a listing for a class called The History of Paris, I immediately signed up. A month into the class, the professor distributed a flyer for a month-long study abroad in Paris. It was worth 10 credits I think, and the tuition was something like $1100. On the flyer was a photo of Nike (Winged Victory), which is my favorite sculpture of all time. The moment I saw this flyer, I told myself I had to go.

And I did! In the summer of 2000, I made a geocities site to update what I was doing and seeing. There were about 25 of us, living at the Cite Universitaire in the south of Paris, in the Provinces dormitory. Our classes met every morning Monday through Thursday in both French language and Paris literature. Each day the French professor (a native Parisian woman who was both the kindest and most intelligent woman I've ever met) made us a traditional lunch and every Friday was field trip day. One day we took the train all the way out to Chartres; we toured Versailles; we went to Notre Dame first thing in the morning for fresh orange juice and croissants, and visiting the top of the towers.

Unfortunately, at some point a couple years later, I apparently deleted all those entries, much to my regret.

Perhaps fortunately, I went to Europe for five weeks in the summer of 2001 after I graduated from college. My mom and I spent a week touring Greece, then I went to Italy alone for eight days or so, from there I met up with my aunt and cousin in Paris for a week. My mom met us there at the end of the week and we all traveled north to Scotland (the Isle of Skye, the seat of my mom's family's ancestors), and finally ended with four days in London. All those uninteresting entries do live on.

After that, I periodically updated the website (which was just called a website, the term blog wouldn't come along for several years), which was cheesy and pathetic and just plain silly. Mostly I complained about being bored and lonely, or whatever stupid moody mood I was in. Oh, and in 2002, I made another Geocities website for my AmeriCorps team.

So in February 2004, around the time I came to NYC to interview for the Fellows program, and at which time I had amassed a grand total of 700 page views, I moved over to Blogger.

Later I moved all the old entries over, and there they are in the archives. I warn you--they are bad! Very un-good! As much as the entries nowadays are not exactly prize-winning fare, those old ones are worse. But hey, practice makes perfect, right? Something like that. That's what I tell my students. And yes, I think my writing has gotten better. At least it's good when I make an effort, which is not often. So I hope to work on that a little bit this month, when I shall post daily in honor of NaBloPoMo.

Thus, my blog is nearly seven and a half years old, and it is not just a teacher blog. It started way before I became a teacher and will continue for probably long after I'm no longer a teacher. Oh, and the name is NOT a reference to my many shifting moods. It is actually named after an awesome mix CD I made in early 2004.

Here is the song list:

*Shades of Grey--Cry, Cry, Cry
*Guilty--Bonnie Raitt
*Tempted by the Fruit of Another--Squeeze
*The Downeaster Alexa--Billy Joel
*One Day I'll Fly Away--Moulin Rouge soundtrack
*Seasons of Love--Rent soundtrack
*The Water is Wide--Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, Dixie Chicks
*Son of a Preacher Man--Marianne Faithful
*Low--Kelly Clarkson
*Center of the Sun--Conjure One f/ Poe
*Tears from the Moon--Conjure One f/ Sinead O'Connor
*Think Twice--Groove Armada
*Little Plastic Castle--Ani Difranco
*The Wild Rose--Nick Cave f/ Kylie Minogue
*Sistersong--Ani Difranco, Tori Amos, Paula Cole
*Grey--Ani Difranco
*Colourblind--Counting Crows

Friday, November 02, 2007

Feeling panicked now that I'm *supposed* to post!

Yesterday was, of course, not only my birthday, but also the beginning of NaBloPoMo.

...And suddenly I can't think of anything to say.

So I'm 28 now. That sounds old. Nice even number in the definite late twenties, which sounds very grown up.

When my kids asked me yesterday how old I was, I just said, "Older than you, that's all you need to know." They giggled.


One of my best little boys gave me a card, one he made in Print Shop. The text reads, "Best wishes on your birthday. You deserve a special one." He added, "PS--Don't let kids bother you. Some of them are rodents!! :0"



Today's warm up involved verb tense. They did sort of okay with the sentences I put up, but when I told them to try, it was much more difficult. So this one boy, who is sweet but a little goofy, was having trouble with his sentences. I kept coming around to check on him and redirect him. So when he finally got it right, and I told him good job, he exclaimed, "Yes! Thank you, Jesus!" I stopped and demanded, "Excuse me?! Did Jesus teach you that? Who taught you that?" He grinned and said, "Miss." "Ok, then."


Oh, and I can't even tell you how many children wrote, "Yesterday we was happy." I said, "Excuse me?! Who says 'we was'? Tell me who and then send them to me!"
I'm so mean.


I don't think I've mentioned here the after school program I'm supervising. It's just a homework study hall; another teacher and I supervise and help out any kid who wants to come work on homework or projects. It's not fancy, but I think it's really important to have available. We've already got some regulars and I really like most of them. This one boy J saw a vocabulary worksheet that one of my kids was working on (shoot me now! vocabulary worksheets!!). J was really interested and was started to answer the questions. I told him he can't do someone else's homework, but I could give him his own. He said, "Ooh, yes please!" So I gave him the three my classes have already done, and he was really happy.


This afternoon, I passed a girl around ten or eleven who was walking down the street reading a book. Yes!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Day 218: Hey hey it's my birthday!

I'm 28! Whee!

Today has been pretty great. I slept really well and awoke feeling rested, for the first time all week. There was a lovely sunrise (uploading soon). All my kids wished me happy birthday, including some of my favorite kids from years past. A couple gave me presents or cards, too. And I got some compliments on my outfit, which is always pleasant.

I'm about to leave to go out for dinner, dessert and drinks with Boyfriend. And, of course, opening presents!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"Fun" stuff.

During seventh period yesterday, I spent some time working in the book room, tidying and organizing. The 'highlight' was surely finding a condom wrapper on top of the file cabinets in the back of the room. And, it was not covered in asbestos dust like everything else around it, so...


A few weeks ago we put another lock on the door, but last week that had also disappeared, and every time I go there, the door is wide open. I close the door when I leave, so draw your own conclusions about that.

Oh, but see, the door doesn't actually shut. At the beginning of the year, somehow the door was locked closed, so after a week or two, the custodians opened the room. Apparently they decided to just remove the whole doorknob. And not replace it.

Yep, surrounded by winners here.

Speaking of winners, older readers may remember that my first year I taught an inclusion class. So it may surprise you to learn that today I attended an IEP meeting for the very first time ever. Doubly surprise, really, because I got the notice last week that the meeting was today, mid-morning. I rolled my eyes and sighed and put the note away. Hello, teaching day, etc. But then yesterday, the scheduler guy told me they scheduled a coverer for that period! Look at that!

Now of course I left class promptly to get to the meeting right on time, but I ended up sitting in the library for the rest of the period, waiting for another meeting to end. Once it was into my lunch period, then the meeting was ready to begin.

Oh, here's another fun thing. Some of you have made nice suggestions or recommendations about the ESL kid, but I'm sad to inform you that you are vastly overestimating the communication in my school. All those things you said, all those people you mentioned? I do not know any of it. Nobody tells us ANYTHING in my school.

Here's an excellent case to prove that:
Last week a memo was given to the students with information about days off and such, including parent teacher conferences.

To this day, TEACHERS have never received official notice with the dates or times of conferences.

We are so unimportant and unrespected by this new administration--they make us fill out paperwork for copies that never arrive; they give out student notices at all hours of the day, not during homeroom like they're supposed to; they refuse to support the policies they spout; they don't inform us of anything except what we must do in order to avoid trouble.

Man, I'm tired.

Good thing tomorrow's my birthday! I'm having secret parties with my classes, but don't tell anyone--wouldn't want to get in trouble. After all, my students have been working hard and mostly behaving well. God forbid we have a good time to celebrate...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Last week the children wrote essays about their goals for the future. Most students want to be doctors or lawyers (and I won't say anything about that at all. Right now, at least.).
Many students also are interested in going to Harvard University.

However, not a SINGLE student could spell Harvard correctly.

I told at least one kid, "They won't let you in if you can't spell their name right."

Mean, but come ON!

Why I Love My Middle of the Day Class

Yesterday I told them, "So your favorite teacher is having a birthday on Thursday...."

They immediately perked up and some clapped, oohing and aahing. I added, for my own benefit, "That's me, by the way," but I love that they were right there with me. :)

I told them we can have food and fun but not a "party." So if anyone asks, no party. But really? We'll be having a good time. Shh.

Since the next two months are supposed to be just test prep, I'm looking at it as a school year Mardi Gras. You know, celebrate and get out all the loud fun before the quiet seriousness begins.

What shall I call this class? They are small, cute, kind of goofy and fairly quick. Hm. X, I need your naming expertise!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Happy Food!

From yesterday's Broadway photo walk.

The food and I are happy because today after school I've been so productive! Stopped at the 99 cent store to pick up some activity books for the new student who speaks no English (isn't someone supposed to tell me what to do with a child like that? Shouldn't he be in ESL?), printed all the documents that were submitted for copies many days ago to no avail, and ALSO worked on entering grades!

Hurrah! Enjoy the pretty colors.
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