Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Well, the children are gone. Away they go on to high school. I wish them luck.

And now summer begins. I will be busy this summer. I am going on a trip home next weekend and then on to a conference in the mountains for a week. When I get back from there, I am moving all my belongings into storage and then I am going to New Hampshire to work at a summer camp.

My blogging may become spotty and unpredictable. It may or may not pertain to teaching at all. It is a mystery.

If you lose touch with me over the summer, make sure to tune back in August 17th when First Year Teacher officially becomes a Third Year Teacher.
Monday, May 23, 2005

Wow. It is almost all over for the second time. I can't believe that First Year Teacher is finishing up her second and is all set to start a third.

For years and years I worried that I would never find anything that I wanted to do for any length of time. I am so antsy all the time-- always looking towards the next thing, feeling panicky and trapped if things stay the same for too long. I thought that I might end up one of those drifter types who have really cool stories but not very many close friends.

But, man, teaching really fits. Education, anyway. I may branch out eventually. But I love the schedule of being a teacher-- it allows for me to always be looking towards the next thing. The next lesson, unit, semester, class.

My job as a teacher is my happiest thing right now. And I have never been the type to focus much on my jobs. But when I go in to work I feel competent. And now that the kids have really bonded with me, I feel loved.

At Field Day I allowed myself to relax a little. In doing that, I had more fun than I expected. My team teacher and I couldn't get the kids to leave us alone and go play. They buzzed around us like flies, asking us to sign their yearbooks and shirts, telling us stories, asking us to watch them do this or that. It was really endearing and it showed me how much they liked us. I think it is sweet how many inside jokes I have with my kids. I am really going to miss them.

This is the pain of the 8th grade teacher. I only have one year and then they go away. Some will visit next year, but mostly they will move on. But I also get to be all proud when they go to their big dances and their graduation celebration.

Four more days...

Why is it that fun for the students usually means nightmare for teachers?

Today is the 8th grade Field Day where all of the kids get to go out on the field and play games like tug of war and one-legged races. They are so excited.

What that means to me is 3 hours in the full sun screaming at boys to stop touching girls and screaming at girls to stop going behind the bleachers with boys. Screaming, of course, because the field is huge.

Heaven help me.
I have had a hard time, lately, thinking of things to write. I have had a lot of people emailing and calling me, lately, and asking me what's going on in my life. I haven't been able to think of what to say. I did recently write a little story. I thought I would branch out a little (I don't usually mention personal-- non-school- stuff) and put my little story here. Welcome to my life.

“I know you.” She tells me over beer and conversation at the local lesbian haunt. “You and me, we’re the same.”

She tells me this sadly. It is no compliment, I know. She doesn’t like herself very much. What does that say about how she feels about me?

“No.” I shake my head. “We are totally different.”

I want to tell her how. I want to tell her that I would never ask my waitress for my check so brusquely. I would never worry so much about getting lost in my car. I don’t have the courage to go to bars alone. My own passion embarrasses me. But she is passionate about small things: sea turtles, bottle-caps, real or imagined slights against her.

I have been here before. It is familiar, though I haven’t visited in a while. This comes naturally to me—the confusion, the worry, the messy leaking out of my heart towards someone. I hate the messiness the most.

I keep my life tidy since J left years ago. She made such a mess of our home, our friends, me. So I tidied up. I swept our floors. I packed my boxes. I created a new home as far away as I could. I made a new house where everything has its place. My car is vacuumed and sweet smelling. My home is organized and well run. My glass has no streaks. I keep my life simple.

I don’t pretend to be original. This is an old story. Many women do this. Eventually they get cats. They smile at work. They are good friends. They are always available to go on weekend trips. Their coworkers say to them, “You are so lucky. You can do whatever you please! Imagine, nothing to hold you down!”

I, myself, have a difficult time imagining. I try to imagine having a pet. I think: tabby, toy terrier, bulldog, fish, Venus fly-trap. I imagine the messiness of it. They could pee on the rug, create muck in their tanks, die.

I tremble at the thought of the massive obligation.

And now, her. Why her? I try to remember what made me reach out. I seldom do. She was just sitting in the corner, alone, smoking cigarette after cigarette. She was not unlike Garbo-- I suppose that could be it. She seemed charmingly disengaged, in control, mysterious. The music was terrible. The people in the bar were strange. Her boots were similar to mine.

“Are you here by yourself?” I asked her. She smiled. That was it.

Now I am in a damage control situation. After two and a half years of polite dates, uninspired sexual experiences, and inability to connect, I have attached myself to her like a starfish. She would enjoy the sea-creature reference, I know.

“Tell me what is so great about this chick.” M demands, her frustration with me growing. She is far away. She can’t understand what is happening to me. She is used to the way I have become. She has, more than once, been comforted by my stability. I am scaring her with my recklessness.

“She collects things.” I want to say. “She stays up late with me trying to remember the Greek and Roman Goddesses. She scratches her cat’s belly when he hurls himself at her. She has this smell. She is nervous. She worries. She writes. She is so open with her fear. She shakes her head when I make her laugh, like she can’t believe it.”

“I don’t know.” Is what I tell M. I know what I like about her. But who says such things?
Saturday, May 14, 2005

Well, the testing is over and done with. I even got my scores yesterday.

They were sort of a let-down. Last year my students improved an average of 6 points. This year they improved less than three. I was trying to focus on the two or three that made huge surprising leaps, but I couldn't help but notice that most of them jumped only a little or stayed exactly the same. I guess I did no harm, but I would have liked the scores to have been a little higher. I wanted to be more impressive, I guess...The sin of vanity.

But they were not bad scores. And most of the kids were pretty happy. Tonight is their 8th grade dance-- a really big deal for them-- and I am going to be there to pry them apart when they get too close. I'm pretty stoked. I love to see them all dressed up and proud of themselves.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Just so's ya know...

My pep rally was a great success. My team teacher did this amazing free-style about the test that had the kids jumping and screaming. Then the step team did their awesome step routine and they had made these lyrics about doing well on the test that were amazing. The kids had a blast. My principal came up to me after and said, "I have never seen the kids so happy to be taking a test!" I consider that a success.

Also. I had my first dodgeball game tonight in my tournament. I wore a sweatband that had the word "dodgeball" written on it. My sweatband was highly coveted. My skills as a player, however, were not.

I got hit. A lot. And generally speaking, quite quickly. The balls were really spongy and didn't hurt, but they were hard to throw. And the girls we were playing against knew how to play. And we didn't. And they were strong. And we weren't. But it was fun and I met some cool people. Again, a success.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I have learned that as a teacher I may not ever really know the effect that I am having on my kids. Not academically (though I can get some gauge of that) and not mentally or emotionally. Students just don't come out and say what you have done for them.

Except sometimes they do! I got the following letter for Mother's Day from a student. With the letter were a bunch of drawings he had done of ninjas. (By the way, I am not a mother):

"I present this card to you from my heart wishing you a happy Mother's Day. Also one day I heard you say that language is like art so I present these arts to you, because when I went to look at these pictures I drew I thought language is art and first came to mind was to give you these.

Thank you for encouraging me so many times. For sometimes when I am down and you probably don't notice you say words to boost me back up, like for example I was sad one day and you were talking to another student who was stuck on something and they did not know how to do and you said 'don't pout keep on going and don't give up'. I then took note of that and here that same thing going in my head everyday. Love, G"

There are so many wonderful components of this letter. The general sweetness of it is awesome. Also, I know that the only time I have ever said that language is art was on the first day of school-- so he remembers it all the way from then. Also, I spent forever teaching them how to use the phrase "For example" in their essays and he used it correctly in this one. Plus, I always think I am mean when I tell them to quit pouting, so I am glad he took heart from it.

So even if your students (if you have some) don't write you a letter like this, some of them are thinking it.

Today is my reading state test with my kids. Wish us luck.
Thursday, May 05, 2005

Lesson for today: Never suggest anything.

I suggested that we hold an End-of-Grade test pep rally. I thought it might be funny to have little songs and stuff and I thought it would be a good opportunity for my EOG Bootcamp kids to be able to do their chant in front of the school.

Then my principal said, "I have approved your pep rally. It should last about a half-an-hour. I am looking forward to it!" Then she slapped me on the back and walked away.

Mind you, I am more of an "idea" person than an actual "do things" person. I didn't want to create or hold the pep rally. I wanted someone else to. But now I am in charge of entertaining the ENTIRE student body for a half-an-hour.

I'm gonna need a pretty good costume for this.

Also, try this test: It tells you what dialect you speak. I found it interesting because I speak some "Dixie", apparently. I wish I had taken this test when I first got here so I could compare results.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Summer is fast approaching. I have to finish up school, give my kids their end of grade tests, begin three classes next week, find some sort of summer work, get a new apartment, organize my lesson plans for next year, dismantle my classroom, remantle (a word? should be) my classroom, work out my lateral entry teaching license, swim in my apartment complex's pool as much as possible, save my dying plant, organize my personal get the point.

But all of this seems more bearable now that I know I can pick strawberries in a for real-life patch for a small fee! I've never picked a strawberry...I've never even considered doing such a thing. When my students told me I could do so right near my school I expressed childish delight and a sudden squeal.

I picked a berry or two once in Oregon...but it wasn't in a patch. It was one of those really painful berries surrounded by thorns and so fragile that it was juice by the time we got them home...I can't remember if they were blackberry or raspberry but it didn't matter since we killed them all. It also rained that day so we went home soaking wet with bloody hands.

No bleeding for strawberries, so say my students! I love the things I can do here that I can't do anywhere else. I like to feel like a tourist... I guess it helps to remind me that I do, indeed, get to go home someday. I need to pick strawberries because I will leave here and not be able to.

My plan is to pick lots of berries and then eat them.
Monday, May 02, 2005

Now, fitness is important. I pay money every month for the privilege of being a member of my local YMCA. They have aerobic classes there. Since I have recently relinquished my hold on my twenties, I decided that I should attend one.

Is it just me or are aerobics teachers mean? I mean really mean. I mean black-hearted.

It wasn't the actual physical exertion that I had a problem with. I know that as a thirty-year-old ex-smoker who doesn't exercise enough and eats too many chips I am going to get tired when I do aerobics. I accept that I will sweat and that my arms will turn into spaghetti from the obnoxious little pink weights.

But, really, do the routines have to be designed to make you feel so stupid? Just when I learn how to do the grapevine the woman with the headphone is screaming twenty directions at once, each one progressively more complicated. I am doing my best to keep up (or at least look somewhat like I am doing what everyone else is doing) but she adds all these twirls that make it impossible to fake it. Because I was working with a step, I really feared that I was going to end up on my butt, crying, with a twisted ankle.

And I am pretty sure the instructor was smirking at me through the mirror. And when I stopped and stared at her because everyone was twirling around in some devilish pattern I could not discern, she said in her loud speaker, "Yes, it is okay to stop anytime you feel like you need a break!" even though I was clearly the only one who had stopped and needed a break. Then all the other women in the studio looked at me with a mixture of sympathy and superiority.

Why must fitness be so difficult in these times? I somehow long for the days when people just got exercise naturally, like from pushing a plow or slamming laundry against rocks. It just seems unnatural and unholy to have to gallop around an aerobics studio with sweaty red-faced strangers. It seems like such an intimate experience, but no one ever talks to each other. I find it bizarre.
Sunday, May 01, 2005

Well, the day is passing. I celebrated my birthday in a very lovely way with my very lovely friends. We had delicious Italian food and I went to a neat re-enactment (spelling?) of a 1850's school-house. Very cool.

Today, the actual birthday day, I spent pretty quietly. I got to weed-wack a little and walked around a really bizarre street festival called Carrboro Day. There was a very freaky woman dressed as Mother Goose. I think she was supposed to make the children gleeful, but she scared the crap out of me. She was huge and pink.

Then I ordered Chinese food and played The Sims 2 on my computer. I should never have started it because I get obsessive with The Sims. I just love to build houses and create babies and run cyber-households.

Tomorrow is the beginning of the last week before the End of Grade tests. I have a workday and then four days to make the kids believe they are ready and can do it. I guess I will spend all week dressed as a drill sargent and do the whole EOG bootcamp concept. Very exciting.
Thursday, April 28, 2005

I remember my mother's 30th birthday. Someone gave her a shirt that said "30 and Still Frisky". I remember that she was kind of sad during that birthday and that it was a really big deal but I didn't understand why.

Now I do. On Sunday I will turn 30 myself.

In my younger years I always thought that women who worried about their age were incredibly vain and stupid. I have always said that I couldn't wait until I was 30. I guess I have always felt like I would have everything together by then... I wouldn't worry what people thought of me, I would fully understand why I am who I am and why I do what I do. I would just relax, I think I imagined. Like the work of figuring out who I was would be over.

But this birthday is kicking my ass. I know that my life is going fine...I finally figured out what I want to do with my career (education, if you can believe that!) and where I want to live (running back home to beautiful Portland, OR) and what is important to me (being near family-- didn't see that one coming). All of this is good. Why am I so depressed?

Thirty is a state of mind, I know. You are as old as you feel, right? Well, I feel too young to feel this old. I feel too unfinished for 30. I'm not who I hoped I'd be in a lot of ways. I'm getting wrinkles. I am too impulsive. I don't think things through. I don't save money. I don't eat breakfast. I never live up to my "potential". Etc.

I am hoping that this malaise is just birthday induced and that I will snap out of it. I'll keep you posted.
Friday, April 22, 2005

Do you ever feel like you have nothing to say or that you have already said everything? That's how I feel lately. Which is no big deal except for that I have this online journal. And I really should post to it. Not should, but want to. But I just feel like nothing too interesting is happening.

Interesting is so relative, though. In some ways nothing interesting is ever going on and in others there is always something interesting going on.

Well, another week down, anyway. That is interesting enough for me today.
There are eight school days until the End of Grade Test. Ugh. I forgot how exhausting this is. I am tutoring in the morning, tutoring in the evenings, and spending each class period trying to think of fun ways to go over story elements...AGAIN. They are sick of it, in this one way, but also kind of panicky, too.

It is strange how invested they all are in it...even though we still have to struggle to keep them from just guessing when it comes to the test. The pressure they are under to pass this thing is ridiculous. All this energy...I wish they could spend it learning to bring pencils and paper to class or on how to stop calling each other names.

I am tired already. I will now go watch a Discovery Health Channel show on conjoined twins to forget about tests.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I had to have a talk with Newly Interested Parent turned Newly Interested in Stalking Me Parent. She came in this morning and was just as rude and disrespectful to me as she has been for a few days now. Then she had the audacity to ask me why her son was still failing to turn in assignments and why he was failing. I decided that as much as I love my job, I couldn't kiss her butt anymore. I began the speech I have been rehearsing in my head but thought I would never be able to use.

"Ma'am," I started (the Ma'am is because I am in the South). "Children take cues from their parents, as they should. As much as they pretend not to, they believe in you and respect your opinion, for the most part. It must be as obvious to J that you don't respect me as it is to the rest of the room. If you don't respect me and if it seems to J that you don't think what I have to say is worth listening to, he isn't going to either. And kids aren't going to work for a teacher they believe isn't worth listening to."

Newly Interested Parent stonily looked me in the eye. She squinted a little and thought. Then, the miracle.

"I see what you're saying." She conceded. I'm sure my jaw dropped. This never happens. They never listen.

"I'll make sure he understands that he is to listen to you...and respect you. I'm gonna go."

And with that, she turned and left the room.

True story. Can you believe it?
Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I definitely understand why my administration needs to pass these kids on. Our principal told us that if she kept back every 8th grader who was supposed to be held back we would hold over 100. This doesn't even take into consideration all the 6th and 7th graders who would also be held. Our facilities could never handle that many children. We have to send as many on as we can.

The problem is that we are creating (or already have created) this terrible situation where the children know that they don't have to do anything all year. This not only teaches them to be irresponsible; it also creates terrible behavior problems through the year. If a student knows s/he doesn't have to work, then they don't. Then they are just sitting there with "nothing to do". So they create things to do-- like call other students names or me or throw things or write in books, etc.

They know that they will be given a packet because they know there is never enough space for us to keep our word and keep them back. They have been given a packet for the last three years. It is a stupid cycle. When I announced my packet situation to the class, one of my A students said to me: "I'm a chump. Why did I do all that work?" That breaks my heart.

I have no idea how to fix any of this. I just know that we are doing these kids a huge disservice by letting them slide.

Also, Newly Interested Parent is in my room right now spying on me during my tutoring. I don't know what she thinks she is going to find. I think she just likes coming into my room and trying to intimidate me by starting at me with hate in her eyes. She doesn't really speak to me except to challenge anything I have to say. As she left this morning she didn't look at me as she semi-yelled "Goodbye" and walked out the door. I am still uncertain why her son not doing his work makes me the Devil, but I guess I am stuck with her. P.S. he is still not doing his work. Even with her in the room staring at me...maybe she should be staring at him?