28 May 2008

Oh boy! Sleep! That's when I'm a Viking!

Last night I had one of those dreams where I thought I had a great idea for a blog post. In my dream, I wrote about some hilarious thing that happened in one of my classes, and I remember thinking, "God, this is pretty darn funny! Erin will read it to Anna, and they'll both laugh!" Then I thought, "But this is a dream. Did this really happen? Will I remember it tomorrow?"

Today, I find myself with no memory of the post's content, and no sense of whether it really was based on reality. Oh well. Duh.

I spent today listening intently to my classes, hoping for writing fodder, feebly grasping at moments of levity, incongruity and insight, all of which slipped from me as I answered the intercom, or gathered back work, or had to leave my room to make way for another teacher.

I finally gave up.

Because I am a person firmly grounded in reality I will offer today's statistics in lieu of my fantasy post.

6: Number of Saturdays until I visit Nora in Venice.

5: The average number of seniors absent from each class today.

4: The number of phone calls I made (in between classes) trying to arrange to pay my son's tuition for the fall.

3: The number of seniors who told me they don't think they'll graduate this June because they still haven't passed a Regents exam they should have passed in 10th grade.

2: The number of students who showed up to mod 8 whom I hadn't seen in a week and a half.

2: The number of former students who came back to visit me with excited reports about their first year in college.

2: The number of beers I drank on my deck when I got home from school.

1: The number of seniors who told me they're pregnant.

1: The number of seniors who told me they're about ready to drop out of school even though graduation is on June 27th.

1: The number of former students' obituaries I found in today's paper.

1: The number of boxes of already-opened granola bars I received because they "tasted like bark, and I know you like to eat healthy."

All in all, it was a good day. Or at least it was a normal day.

22 May 2008

Will you be my mommy? You smell like dead bunnies . . .

Random discussion before class begins
Quinci: So Boo-Boo is bigger than you, right?

Yogi: Yeah. My brother's a lot heavier. And taller. That's why everyone always says, "Hey! Boo-Boo can't be bigger than Yogi!"

During a class discussion of a review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Me: So the first Indiana Jones movie came out in 1981.

Cheryl: Wow. That was a long time ago. How old were you? 16?

Me: You just got some extra points. No. I was 20.

Quinci: 20. Wow. My mother is younger than you.

Me: Hmmm. Yes. Well, anyway . . .

Guy: So you're . . .

Me: Yes. I'm dumb old. Wait. Should I say "mad old" instead?

Jamie: Yeah. "Mad old" sounds better.

Me: Okay. So. Back to the review . . .

Cheryl (interrupting): So was that Indiana Jones movie in black and white?

Another random discussion during the last two minutes of class
Cheryl (to Yogi): Does your house smell like curry?

What? Why?

Guyanese people smell like curry.

Yogi: My house doesn't smell like curry.

Breenah: White people smell like spaghetti.

Cheryl: And when it rains, they smell like wet dogs.

Me: What? Wet dogs?

Yogi: I don't know about that.

Me: What??

Quinci: What do Pakistani people smell like?

Cheryl: Curry.

Yogi: Does everyone smell like curry?

Breenah: No. Black people smell like must.

Quinci: Hey! I don't smell like that.

Breenah: Well, just the boys, and if they don't shower.

Me: Wait a minute. I smell like wet dogs??

Yogi: No, you don't. Cheryl just thinks everyone smells like curry anyway.

Me: So why don't I smell like curry??

Cheryl: No, I mean, white people have pets, and when it rains, they smell like their . . .

Yogi (interrupting): Do you just look at people and see them as food? I bet you do.

Cheryl (laughing): No, I mean, maybe . . .

Yogi: See? It's true! She does!

Me: Wait. I smell like wet dogs? And spaghetti? Why can't I smell like curry?

No, Miss. You smell fine. But we'll say you smell like curry if you want us to.

13 May 2008

Me fail English? That's unpossible.

Mark: How long is this movie review supposed to be?

Me: I told you on the assignment sheet I gave you yesterday, and which is sitting on your desk right in front of you.

Mark: It's easier for you to tell me.

Me: No, it's actually not.

Jen: So we're writing about two movies? Comparing them?

Me: What? No. Look at the assignment sheet, which I distinctly remember going over in class yesterday and which you have in front of you. It says write about one movie that you choose.

Jen: So it does it have to be one we did in class?

Me (taking a deep breath): Any movie that you choose. It could be one we saw during class, or it could be one you saw on your own, in a theater or at home.

Jen: But I didn't see all of Stranger Than Fiction last week. I was absent, remember?

Me (taking a deeper breath): That's why the assignment can be about ANY movie you want to write about.

Anthony: I bet you're having us write about a movie because we didn't read the book you left when the sub was here and they all disappeared.

Me: That's a good guess, Anthony.

George: But Miss, five to seven paragraphs is mad long. I can't write that much.

Me: Don't worry about the length right now. Just get started on one point and get that part roughed out. Besides, paragraphs can be all different lengths . . .

George (interrupting): No, they're supposed to be three or four sentences long.

Me: Where did you learn that??

Kira: So how long is this supposed to be?

Me (head buried in hands, groaning audibly): Read the assignment sheet again, please.

George: Miss, why do you stress yourself about us? You should just let us take the easy way.

(Murmurs of agreement from other parts of the room.)

Me: Hmmm, let me think about that . . . . um . . . . no.

George: Miss, I'll be honest with you. I've just been doing the bare mininum this year.

Me: Thanks for making that clear.

11 May 2008

Because of skunk mittens, spelling tests and guitar chords

My mother likes to tell the story that she knew she was supposed to be a teacher when she gave a spelling test for the first time. Somehow, she knew that she was meant to teach, which she did for many years. While I had no similar portent of my destiny, I have to believe that I became a teacher, in large part, because of my mother.

She also has helped determine who I am in other ways:

Because I stood beside her in our kitchen in Rochester watching her make a pie crust, using the backside of a fork to crimp the edges, I know how to bake.

Because she knit me hats and scarves and especially skunk mittens, and even more importantly, patiently showed me how to do it, I knit and have been able to teach this to my own daughter.

Because she carefully and kindly corrected my writing assignments, I am a confident writer.

Because she wanted to ski, I learned how to ski and skate and love the cold winter months.

Because she was a beautiful and strong swimmer, I learned how to swim. And because of how she taught me to swim, I learned how to teach others.

Because she taught me that being a lifeguard was an important job, I took the job seriously.

Because she was a voracious reader, I love books.

Because she taught herself how to play guitar, I play guitar. When I haltingly switch from C to G, and the song briefly hiccups, I hear her switching chords and hesitantly, quietly, singing at the dining room table.

Because she loved music and always wanted to play the piano, I learned how to play piano and cello and bassoon and drums and guitar.

Because she loved horses, she let me learn how to ride and eventually have a horse of my own.

Because she thought Caroga Lake was the most wonderful place in the world, the camp there remains my favorite place as well.

Because she let me up-end furniture and drape blankets over it, I learned to imagine other worlds.

Because she let me make peanut butter, onion and Worcestershire sauce sandwiches, I feel free to experiment with flavors when I cook.

Because she made me pancakes for supper on Fridays, I love breakfast anytime.

Because she let me use scotch tape on the windows, I know that any mess can be cleaned up afterward.

Because she didn't make me wear a white dress and veil for my first communion, I learned that we don't always have to do things the way everyone else does.

Because she always saw the best in her students, I try hard to do the same.

Because she is a strong woman, I know that I have strength when I need it.

In these ways, this incomplete list, I understand who I am and how and why I came to be.

09 May 2008

I heard that Ramon got a horse and carriage

Today is the day of my school's junior/senior prom. It is a day of magic and beauty and anticipation and multi-colored fake fingernails and head scarves covering rollers and elaborate, humidity-sensitive do's and discussions of whose stretch Humvee is the longest. It is a day that my district requires all potential prom-goers to attend school for at least half the day--until 10:40 a.m. It is, as all teachers of juniors and seniors realize, a wasted day.

Morning classes are full, but those in attendance are too busy worrying about hair appointments, dress fittings, manis, pedis and limo rentals to really pay attention to any class assignment. After 10:40, classes are empty. The only students who remain are those with really strict parents or those who are not attending the prom. My children, with four proms between them, remained at school the entire day of each prom day. I hope they have forgiven me. Partly to make it up to my lovely, long-suffering and understanding children, Erin and Tim, I always try to plan a useful lesson for prom day despite the loud and regular protests of my students.

A very short play about the futility of teaching, not just on prom day

(The class buzzes hopefully, quietly discussing the slight possibility that I might give them a "free day.")
Me: Haven't you learned by now that I'm not accepting lame excuses like the prom as a way to avoid work? Haven't you managed to avoid enough work this year?
Dan: We've done plenty of stuff this year. We should get a day off. I mean, we read Hamilton, and everything.
Me: What??
Dan: We read Hamilton.
Me: What?? . . . Hamilton? . . . . . . (as a sudden and horrible possibility slowly dawns) . . . . . by William Shakespeare?
Dan: Exactly.