28 April 2008

Texting, tractors and tattoos

During a discussion of a New York Times article on technology in the classroom, my students shared some insight. They prefer to text (while attempting to hide the phone under the desk, leaning against lockers, slouching down the hall and most scary of all, while driving a car) to making an actual call.

Why? I asked. I am a person who (despite the fact that I touch-type really well) texts with an index finger while holding the phone rather delicately in my left hand. And it annoys me to have to omit punctuation, which I do because I'm too lazy to look up the way to include it.

Because, Quinci told me, we don't know how to end phone calls. It's mad hard to do and makes us uncomfortable.

Don't you think, I asked, you should know how to do that? It's not that hard. It's part of being polite and learning the social graces.

No. It's mad uncomfortable. Plus, you can lie when you text and they won't hear it in your voice.

A short play about my cell phone

Kevin (to me): I think your phone is vibrating.
Me: Oh, that's okay. Just ignore it.
Sherelle: What if it's your husband?
Me: It's okay. He'll figure out that I have class and I'll call him back.
Sherelle: But you answered the phone yesterday! Just because he was out of town and you were worried about him!
Me: I know. He's home now. It's fine. Besides, you all had a fit when I answered my phone at the beginning of class DESPITE THE FACT THAT I'M A GROWN-UP.
Sherelle (to the class): What if he's stuck under a tractor? What if he needs your help because he's just stuck under a tractor?
Me: What? Lord . . . he's not stuck under a tractor.
Sherelle: But . . .
Me: And if he is stuck under a tractor, it's too late for me to help him anyway. So let's try to focus on this reading . . .

Finally, an even shorter play about tattoos

Quinci: I'm going to get a tattoo on each wrist that says carpe diem.
Katie: What? What is that?
Quinci: It means "seize the day."
Guy: Watch, you'll get Alzheimers some day and look at your wrists and be like, what? is that my name? carpe diem?

23 April 2008

And it's not even my birthday.

Small gifts I received today from students, and a big gift from a friend:

From Dan: A series of bad jokes that made me groan first thing in the morning. (Well, this actually happens every day . . . )

From Jess: A small sailboat folded out of notebook paper labeled "S.S. Huthy."

From Andre: Closed curtains that I couldn't otherwise easily reach.

From someone in mod 1: A slightly dirty kleenex left on a desk.

From Elizabeth in mod 3 English 12: Good news that she was able to complete her Tuition Assistance Program form and therefore complete her financial aid application to the college she will attend in the fall, Russell Sage.

From Eric, mod 6 English 12: A copy of a New York Times article about credit recovery, today's discussion/lesson, with a drool spot.

From mod 8 English 12: A truly thoughtful and mature discussion of the same New York Times article, with only two attempts to sidetrack the lesson, neither of which was successful.

From Gary, my friend: The promise that he would spread the rumor that I was a dangerous person to be reckoned with, that he would tell people, "Don't mess with Huth. She'll cut ya."
(I'm still not sure what prompted this, but sadly, I like it.)

From Katie: A great, if inadvertant, joke, when confronting the word "anonymity."
("Miss?" she asked. "Isn't that where Nemo lives?" As I tried not to laugh, she started to laugh herself and said, "Oh, no. That's . . . " and the entire class said as one, "Anenome." Two minutes lost from class, but well worth it.)

Finally, also from Gary: My 28-year-old Yamaha FG-335 guitar.*
(After he called me a lazy-ass for not playing anymore, he took it away and had it fixed and reconditioned. It has been unwarped, restringed, and oiled. It is a beautiful thing. If only it sounded beautiful when I played the three chords I still remember . . . and he will not tell me how much this cost. I am afraid, however, that I will be required to play "Smoke on the Water" for him at some point.)

*I received my guitar from my parents for Christmas in 1980 when I was a freshman in college. In this other life, attending a Catholic women's college in hyper-preppy Burlington, Vermont, I happened to be friends with people who were completely insane every weekend, spending Saturday night at whatever UVM kegger was advertised, but who still managed to play for folk mass Sunday morning. And so I began a short period of embracing my Catholicsm. It was a scary time. It was a short time. Nevertheless, I did get a beautiful guitar out of it, which I continued to use fairly regularly until a friend popped a string on it, which I was too lazy to replace. And so there my poor guitar sat, unused, unloved, warping and getting old, in my son's bedroom.)

I should mention that Gary tells me that aside from my being a lazy-ass, he had the guitar fixed for me because I gave him my piano (another gift from my parents. I'm a very lucky girl).

I'm pleased to note that Gary, much less of a lazy-ass than I, has been using the piano to play and to write songs. And it looks lots better in his house. Sadly, more use than it got for years sitting in my house.

What I did realize, however, is that I have no way to tune my guitar now. I will have to call Gary and have him play me a low E.

I will now work on my calluses.

14 April 2008

It's all about perspective and scrub jays

I don't trust people who read self-help books. Or who watch Oprah. To be fair, perhaps these poor souls don't have the luxury of smart, sensible friends, as I do. Whenever I find myself wallowing in doubt, beating myself up or merely thinking too damn much, my friends usually set me straight.

Case in point: I woke up this morning at my parents' home on the Gulf coast of Florida. The sky was blue, the weather was warm, it was spring break. Where was I? Outside enjoying the sun? Appreciating my wonderful vacation time? Nope. I was inside, writing to Nora about how bothered I was that I hadn't felt like writing lately, and myriad other issues. Her response?

"Just dry your hair and go to the beach, Huth."

Ahhh, friends.

While I did not go to the beach until later, I did visit a state park. On the trail, I spotted a scrub jay. As one does with scrub jays (apparently), I stuck out my hand and clicked my tongue a bit. A jay swooped from the brush and landed on my hand while the other watched. After a minute or two, this jay flew off, and the other one swooped in to land on my head. Suddenly, my purpose was clear: I was a perch, an amiable resting spot, a way-station for the convenience of wildlife.

Actually, I felt quite peaceful. And useful.

Later, when I did make it to the beach the sun had just set, and the surf was rough. The wind had kicked up, and if I had been home, I would have said that the clouds looked like they held snow. The sunset-watchers had left, and the beach was empty. I stood there for a bit, holding my jacket close to me.

There is nothing like going to the beach, or having a large blue bird standing on your head, to provide perspective.

01 April 2008

Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!

Today was my first day back at school after being out since March 6. While I was looking forward to seeing my kids, I was not eager to return to the routine of being up before daylight, living according to bells, and the general mess that awaits a teacher who's had a substitute for this long.

Some significant numbers with which to document my day:

115: The number of pages I left my students to read during class.
35: The number of books I left for my students to read during class.
33: The average number of pages that were actually read.
27: The number of students who unabashedly told me they did nothing in my absence because they didn't like the sub.
17: The number of days I was absent because of my husband's heart surgery.
16: The number of days my sub apparently entertained my classes by performing magic tricks.
15: The number of feet a hawk was sitting from my window as he ate a pigeon, neck first.
12: The number of students who actually completed the work I'd left.
11: The number of days until spring break.
9: The number of hours I spent at school today trying to clean up my sub's mess.
9: The number of hours I'll spend tomorrow at school trying to clean up my sub's mess.
8: The number of the "mod" or period where this exchange occurred.*
4: The number of books that I found this morning upon my return.
3: The number of classes I alternately lectured, ranted at and made feel guilty today. I'll do the other class tomorrow. And I'll probably go back and do the same to the other classes as well.
3: The number of dry erase markers that disappeared.
2: The number of hours I'll spend tonight trying to clean up my sub's mess.
1: The number of lamp chops I will make for dinner (it's a big one).
1/2: The amount of a bottle of wine I will consume as I try not to think too much about my students.
*Kathy: Miss! Did you read about me in the paper last week? I was stabbed in the butt!
Me: Um, what?
Kathy: Yeah! So I was at a party . . .
Me (interrupting): Kathy, I'll let you tell this story if you can do it in under 3 minutes.
Kathy proceeds to tell the story in 2 minutes and 47 seconds.
Me (realizing I had, in fact, read this story in the paper): O, lord, Kathy. That was you?!
Kathy: Yeah, and that's why I can't sit still today, even though they gave me a shot of amnesia.

(Later, as they're writing and some tiny discussion pops up)
Me: Hey! Hush now, and keep writing! You took the last three weeks off, and you have no business talking now.
Guy, Cheryl, Sherelle, et. al.: Okay! Okay! We're writing!
Me (sarcastic): Because if the writing is too much, I suppose I could grade you for breathing . . .
Kathy: It would help.