Sunday, May 24, 2009


I am very excited about having a three-day weekend. The class and I had a very rough week. Two students in particular are just ridiculously disruptive and unrepentant. Happily, two other difficult students are showing steps toward progress. They both did very well on quizzes late in the week, and when they saw their grades, they crowed with pride. I love that. Those are the ones that I think I'm getting to. They are a pain in my ass, and I'm a pain in their ass (because I don't let up), but they have started to like and respect me (and I, begrudgingly, might be loving them a little).

This has been my modus operandi for the past five years, actually. It's kind of hard to explain (I don't even know if I tried to articulate it during interviews last spring). You know, I just chip away and chip away at a kid, and just about always they start turning around. Sometimes it's only a little, and it's not like the kid suddenly gets an A in the class, but their attitude and their work start improving, bit by bit. By the end of the year, they totally love me, even if they would never admit it, and I totally love them back. (And it's taken me nearly five years to understand that about myself.) I don't think it's a great method and I think it's probably played a part in the gray hairs and insomnia that pop up here and there.

Dammit, this is why I want to leave teaching, but then say, wait, maybe it's not so bad. Gah! The day-to-day kills me. I have so little patience and I often tease instead of show kindness. (But I tease out of a good place, I promise; it's not malicious.) (The kids mostly get this. I think.) The never-ending overwhelming pressure to plan plan plan plan PLAN plan keepplanning PLAN wears me the hell out. I dread making parent phone calls--will someone answer? will the parent yell at you? will the parent threaten the child at you? will the parent be completely impotent? will a voice mail reach the intended parent or guardian? will a child care at all that a call was made?

Bonding with a kid is pretty cool. Seeing a kid who cares about the work, without prompting or begging or bribing, is pretty neat. Seeing a kid laugh at your stupid jokes is definitely cool. Watching a kid get a little better in school is fantastic. Getting a hug out of the blue is amazing.

Seeing how many kids do no homework sucks. Hearing kids cuss each other and you out, day in and day out, sucks. Looking at the quality of work done makes me want to die. Watching kids refuse to change and improve makes me want to throw them out the window. Hell, it makes me want to throw myself out the damn window. Especially when it's eleventybillion degrees in the classroom and we're all feeling smothered by humid, adolescent-tinged air.

There's always something wrong--not enough materials. Too many kids in the room. Things go broken or missing. Never enough books. Never enough parent involvement. Never a completely competent administration--you're lucky if there's one good one out of the bunch. Too many tests. Too many stupid inconsequential things like bulletin boards. Never enough hard-core discipline support that actually works. Never enough useful meetings--the development either isn't professional or doesn't develop anything. For god's sake, why is there no recycling program in NYC schools??

I've never been able to shut these out. I can't help the righteous indignation--goddammit, we shouldn't have to deal with this! Why can't something be done? Why can't we do this instead? Why don't we get more notice for events? Why can't the systems be logical, for crying out loud?

I've now worked in a handful of schools. None of them have the answers. All of them have problems, and though the schools themselves are sort of different, the problems are all essentially the same. The job is always essentially the same.

I really don't know if I'm cut out for it, and I really don't know if I *want* to be cut out for it.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Miraculously, last Friday afternoon was actually really nice with the kids.

Which means, of course, that today, they were Monsters.

This weekend, I roamed the city with a group of fun friends. We did long exposures at the Brooklyn Bridge landing, walked across the Williamsburg Bridge, molested the Wall Street Bull (I actually climbed up on its neck), flopped in the Central Park grass, brunched in Brooklyn, and of course, took bunches of photographs. All these people are great photographers too and I learned a lot from them--notably how to use my flash remotely (it's really freaking cool!) and the viewfinder exposure meter, and the awesomeness of black and white.

This afternoon I had to walk a couple places and I kept my camera in manual mode. On the way home I put it in black and white and fell in love.

I must say a manual photo-walk is a good way to take my mind of this ridiculous job. :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Good Reading Deed for the Day

It's tough being sort-of employed. My bank account gets a boost every couple weeks, so part of me is like, woo, I have no budget, I don't need to watch my money anymore! But of course, the other part of me still feels actually unemployed; I suppose because it's temporary.

Anyway, I checked in at The Longstockings, a collaborative blog of YA/middle grades authors, and saw a link to the Guys Lit Wire project with Inside Out Writers. Guys Lit Wire put together a Book Fair for Boys, to get interesting books into the hands of boys in the LA County juvenile justice system.

Well, I don't know about you, but I think that that sounds like a fanfreakingtastic way to spend a few dollars, even with my semi-employment budget.

Please read about the project here and find out the important information. They've set up a well-thought-out wishlist through Powell's to send directly to one of the teachers in the program.

Please take a few minutes and help bring more children the joy of reading!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

almost friday

Ugh, I am so. tired.
My knees are doing okay. They ached a lot when I woke up on Monday, and I worked out that night. Tuesday morning, they didn't ache! Isn't that interesting?
I did yoga on Tuesday night and the Shred again tonight.
The kids are acting craaazypants. Which is totally normal, I suppose.
However, a teacher said to me the other day that I'm doing a really great job with them, and that other teachers think so too. I guess they were even worse before? Maybe with other subs or something?
Anyway, that was nice to hear. Not sure that I totally believe it, but it was very nice to hear indeed.
Mostly, I'm tired.
Hanging out with photog friends this weekend and hoping to go to Trailblazers too!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Phone: How Not to do it

Ring ring.

Me: Hello?

Some Dude: Hello?

Me: Yes?

SD: Uh, I got a call.

Me: ....

SD: What city is this?

Me: I'm in New York. ...Did you get a message?

SD: I saw a missed call and this area code.

Me: (rolling my eyes hard enough to roll right onto the floor) ...Do you have a student at Such-and-Such School?

SD: Such...and...Such...School? Naw.

Me: Okay, then I don't know what to tell you...


Yesterday, I made some phone calls to parents. You know, like you do. I had gotten a number from a kid and I called it. Makes sense, right? Left a message, etc.

An hour or so later, I got a call from a number. "Yes, you called my daughter but the person you called didn't get the message because I'm in New York and you're in Washington." Um, huh?
It actually took like five full minutes for it to be clear that this woman was trying to say that I had the wrong number. Even though it wasn't actually *her* that got the call and even though the kid had given me the number not three hours earlier. Strange, right?

So of course, this morning when I was in the office, I heard a secretary ask if someone had called this particular child's mom because she called back.



The Phone: It's Really Not That Hard, People!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Odds and Ends

Someone the other day referred to me as "blondish." Now, even working in school where no students are Caucasian, I think my hair could never be mistaken for anything resembling blond, ish or no.
I got a message from a parent of a student at my former school. She was checking up on her child to see how he's doing.
This child was a bit...special, but I would think in the last FOUR MONTHS he would mention to his mother that one of his teachers suddenly left!


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Oh hello.

I'm proud to report that I left the house multiple times today! First for brunch at the local diner across the street, then to the new Citi Field, and then on to a photog assignment.

As always, I'm not too keen on the idea of Monday morning. Right now I'm doing my best to push through each day, but it's pretty much Just A Job to me.

And this is the issue that keeps coming up in my mind and I have to keep pushing it back down because it's such a big deal: 1. I don't want to teach anymore. At least, not like this, in schools like these. 2. I'm not qualified for most jobs out there that aren't teaching, so 3. I might have to suck it up and try to teach another year.

Countdown to head stuck back in the sand in 3...2...1.


I was so busy lying on the couch watching television that I didn't have time to post.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

squishy knee mcgee

I'm now in my fourth week of my exercise chart! ((Cue applause)) I took the day off entirely yesterday (from working out, not from working, obvs) so made sure to do something this evening. I had a photography meeting in the city for a couple hours, so I got home a little late, but I faithfully let Gilad Totally Sculpt me.

Sadly, my right knee has officially begun twinging. This is not happy news, friends. I suppose it was inevitable; it happens every time I start getting more exercise. I always feel like a big wimp complaining about my aches and pains (my high school gymnastics coach gave me the Ice Princess award at the end of one season because of my constant icing and taping of various body parts). But I have had to see doctors about this stupid knee, so I don't want to ignore it even if I could.
For now I'll try to take it a little easier, do more yoga or something, and maybe ice it here and there. (I wanted to tonight but ran out of time.) Might even use that drugstore knee brace a little.
Tomorrow is Friday, and that's always good news.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

I wish I had a hangover

Because then at least I would have a reason for not sleeping and waking with a big ol' headache. Instead, I went to bed early and couldn't sleep until like 4am. Waaah!

This morning was pretty rough. The kids were off and I was off. The afternoon wasn't pretty either. But it ended in kind of a cool way. See, I'm teaching this class now, but their regular teacher is still in the school. A couple weeks ago Real Teacher had to give the class a Stern Talking To that they have to listen to me. This one kid, you know, That Kid, scoffed and called out, "Yo, we don't like her! She gotta bounce!"

That Kid has continued to be That Kid, but has shown bits of humanity here and there with encouragement. And today at the end of the day he was like, "I'm gonna walk with you, Miss." I said, "Oh really? Don't I have to bounce?" He smiled a little and said, "No, you gotta stay, stay."

Well, folks, my heart grew about half a size right then. (Because tomorrow morning he will resume being That Kid.)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Carmen Crankypants Has Left the Building

I am not cranky today, but I am still tired. Strangely, less tired than yesterday even though I didn't sleep well last night. I am, however, more hydrated than I was yesterday. Anyone want to give me a fancy government health grant to investigate the corrolation between water intake and pouty output?

One long dream involved going home and having to take a car service from one place to another, a half-hour trip, for four hundred dollars. !? It was the middle of the night and dream me was all, ok, whatever it takes, I guess. So I had the driver stop at the WaMu on Mercer Island (what odd realistic details), which was full of people despite the time. Later I was at some kind of churchy hall thing and I ran into two friends from high school (who I haven't seen in real life since then) and a former student all grown up (much older than she is in real life; I think she must be a freshman this year).

I started reading during some of my prep periods again. Today I did some reading and some sudoku, and I correctly solved two puzzles in a row! Also, the song Cell Block Tango, from Chicago, came on my ipod and I could not keep myself still for the life of me. I was tapping, swaying, twitching all over the place. Well, not like a totally crazy person, I was trying to be semi-subtle. While almost dancing in public, which I guess means not so subtle.

I want a haircut. Today after going to the bank, I walked around downtown Brooklyn trying to find a hair salon. And I couldn't. Isn't that odd? If I don't find one tomorrow, I'm just going to cut it myself tomorrow. I gave myself a decent haircut once, back in the day before I moved to NYC; I was pretty impressed with the results. And that way, if it doesn't work out great or I decide to go shorter, I won't have to pay twice.

I haven't sent out any job applications for a couple weeks. As of June 27, my life is a blank. Kind of weird. I'm not freaking out about it only because I'm pretending not to know about it. :)

Monday, May 04, 2009


I am so tired and now I'm also terribly cranky.

I forced myself to do a hard workout, so I'm also already sore and a little trembly. I've exercised three days in a row and still feel bigger than I have in awhile. Maybe potato chips for dinner wasn't such a good idea?

I'm totally over this week already. Is it Friday yet?

I better get to bed before I cause any more damage. Apologies if you're reading this.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Two days in a row!

Look at me trying to maintain a goal!

It's Sunday. This weekend has gone far too quickly for my taste. Yesterday I gave myself the day off (I declined a photo event gig) and tried to sleep in. (I am very unhappy to report that after a good month and a half of wonderful sleep on my own, in the last week I have not gotten a single full night of good sleep. Bad job!) I watched tv in my pajamas for a big chunk of the day. Later, however, I did exercise and then walk to the grocery store.

Today I shot two events, including the 5 boro bike race. It was rainy the whole time, and I was outside for several hours, walking several miles. I wasn't too thrilled with the vast majority of the photos I took. I haven't felt too creative or artistic lately, and I'm not sure if it's laziness, or a lack of talent, or lack of motivation, or what.

I've been wanting to take another photography class for awhile now. The issue is money and also level. I think I have a steady paycheck for another two months, but right now I have nothing lined up for the summer. So I'm afraid to pay a couple hundred dollars on what seems like vanity, when in a few months I'm going to need those dollars to pay bills.

I think I'm shooting some weddings (as a second shooter) in the next couple months too, though, which will be a fun learning experience. I totally psyched myself out of my first wedding shoot and it really wasn't worth it, so now I'm kind of doing the opposite and practically forgetting about the shoots. That's probably not so much of a good idea, either. :)

When I started subbing, I did a lot of reading on my time off during the day, and burned through a lot of books. In the last couple weeks, though, I've done almost no reading at all, instead choosing to spend hours on sudoku! I'm struggling my way through the Sudoku For Dummies book, which is kind of disheartening considering that most of the puzzles beat me the first time through and I have to erase and start over. One in particular I've tried four different times! I gave up on that one. It's certainly a good exercise in patience to calmly work through a single puzzle instead of clucking in frustration and going on to the next one when I get stuck.

That's all for now, hope everyone has a lovely Sunday evening.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

MAYbe I should just shut up and blog already

Hey all, it's May! How the hell did that happen? That also means that I am now six months from that big number--thirty!

I've seen a couple people have big, interesting lists of things to accomplish by a certain time or age. In the back of my mind I tried to think up some things I could do for that, but nothing came to mind (also, I didn't exactly try very hard ).

Around spring break a few weeks ago, I finally realized that it's stupid for me to be out of shape. For the first time in months, I actually have time to myself outside of work. (Well, except for the two months I was out of work. That was just plain laziness.) And I live with someone who is always, always diligent about going to the gym. So! No more excuses!

Starting spring break, I promised myself I would exercise at least two times a week. I actually made up a chart--originally supposed to be a sticker chart, because apparently I'm still in sixth grade myself--to keep track of how often and how much.

I am very proud to say that it's going well! It's now been three complete weeks and I have exercised at least three times per week. Thank goodness for this beautiful weather (Finally! Spring!); I do a little walking here and there (which totally counts on my chart).

Work-wise, I've been subbing. I actually have a long-term position through the end of the year, which is a good deal to have right now. It's been about a month, maybe, so I know lots of names (of kids, not of teachers)(teachers don't talk to subs, but I knew that already so it doesn't bother me or anything). This school has SmartBoards, and it's the first time I've ever seen them and used them. They're fantastic tools, if you have computers and powerpoints to hook them up to. I actually have been 'teaching' a class for the last three weeks or so, the same group of sixth graders in my preferred subject. They are not easy kids by any means, but they're not nearly as nasty as the older kids in this school (whom I was covering for my first two weeks). Some of them are downright sweet. Well, sometimes.

It's a pretty sweet gig, because it's temporary and technically they're not my kids, which means I'm not investing any real emotional energy. This means that when I leave school right at the final bell, my mind clears. What a revelation!

I'm still doing freelance photo events for the newspaper, once or twice a week. I finally got my hands on a couple hard copies of papers with my photos on the front page--that is a pretty awesome thing to see.
There are more things rolling around in my head and I might challenge myself to post at least something every day this month. No promises, but jeez, it's not like I've got that much else to do.