25 June 2008

My own private Rapa Nui

School is strangely quiet now. We are finishing grades, completing paperwork, cleaning rooms and in some small way, preparing for the fall. I'm essentially done today, except for turning in my keys and attending graduation on Friday. Other years, I would probably still be trying to finish everything, but this year, for some reason, I finished early and fairly painlessly. I'm enjoying the quiet and using it to plan for changes to my senior English class next year. And I'm reading the New York Times. A lot. To find articles to use next year because my students lost all my books when I was out. And drinking lots of coffee. Often.

In the midst of my googling a comparison of Fender and Gibson guitars, I was startled to see a student rush into my room. Rush is not exactly the right word. Surge is probably more like it. I've had him for two years now, and he always enters my room the same way: Right shoulder first, head down a little, surging sideways and surprisingly quickly over the threshold and straight to the bank of windows at the other side of the room. As if forcing himself through invisible combatants. As if the end of the room is the only thing that will slow his momentum.

When he reached the windows, a wave hitting a rocky shoreline and rolling back out to sea, he surged gently back to my place, back toward the door, to finally hover behind me, just out of my peripheral vision.

Douglas: So you're all done!

Me: Yup. I just finished cleaning my desk.

Douglas (pacing behind me over my right shoulder): Looks good!

Me: Thanks.

Douglas: Which head would you like?

Me: Um, excuse me?

Douglas (presenting me with two pretty much life-size photocopied cut-outs of his head, neck and a tiny bit of t-shirt collar): Which one do you like?

Me: Um, I like them both, but may I have this one?

Douglas: Sure! Let me just trim it a little bit.

Me: No, that's okay. It looks fine! Thanks!

Douglas: Now you can hang me on your wall! You'll have to find a place!

Me (as I clip the head to my bulletin to my left and directly behind my left shoulder):How about if I put you here for now? I'll rearrange it in the fall.

Douglas: That looks good. Now I'll always be watching and you'll remember me.

Me (as he surges back out the door, ostensibly to deliver the remaining "head" to a colleague):Of course I'll remember you . . .

17 June 2008

Whoa, slow down there maestro. There's a "New" Mexico?

I've found myself with an unhealthy interest in my site meter. In particular, I enjoy checking the search words visitors have googled or yahooed to end up at my site. Unfortunately for them, this little blog never helps them with their search.

The most popular search by far is for "the noise next door," a punkish group from England, apparently. Little did I know. My blog's name refers merely to the occasional noise emanating from classrooms surrounding my very quiet one. If the visitor is British, Canadian or Indian, he is probably searching for this musical group. I suppose I should listen to them sometime.

The second most popular search is a fairly new phenomenon. If the visitor is from Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, New Mexico or Arizona, I can be pretty sure that he is looking for information about "tractor tattoos." Oy. Really? Hmmm.

Another popular search is for "fish scale purses." Those searching for "Mary Poppins spoons" end up at the same entry.

While it's easy enough for me to question why someone might be interested in learning about "fish scale underwear," "what black people smell like," "tattoo texting" or (most disturbing) "paying to be shot," I have to accept this fact: I'm the one writing about these topics. Okay, I may not even be aware that this is what I'm writing about, but nevertheless, search engines send people to me looking for information about things that are very strange, possibly illegal and certainly, at the least, in questionable taste.

It's enough to make me read my entries with an eye to potential search phrases. An entry I wrote on 16 June for my father mentions "wool skirt," "knee socks" and "Camelot" from Monty Python. I eagerly await the possibilities.

15 June 2008

On second thought, let's not go to Camelot. It is a silly place.

When I was in high school, my father used to joke about how his fantasy daughter would dress. She would wear wool skirts, knee socks and (I think) cardigan sweaters. I can't quite remember if penny loafers were part of this.* Unfortunately, the teenage daughter he ended up with favored Levi 501s with flannel shirts over T-shirts that said, "Swimming suits me."

On the surface, we seemed to be opposites: his academic interests were in science and math, and his strengths were in all subjects; my interests and strengths were in English and history. He was third in his class of over 700 (that nameless position, which our family coined "goobetorian" just for him); I was somewhere in the middle with a pretty solid B+ average that could have been much better had I worked harder. He was gregarious; I was shy.

As we both get older, I realize that he may have given me more than I noticed as a teenager and that ultimately, we are more similar than not.

When I say something that makes my students laugh, or when they make me laugh, I see my dad's sense of humor. Because of him, I can appreciate the broad, the ironic, and the just plain silly, and I'm grateful for the time we spent watching Monty Python and Laugh-In, even when I didn't get all the jokes.

When my son or daughter protests about my paying for something and I tell them that "it's all the same money," I hear my father telling me that as he pays for our plane fare to visit or refuses a contribution toward a restaurant bill.

When I imagine a life beyond my job, I see my dad learning to paint, learning to ski, learning to play banjo, remodeling an old Victorian house, an Adirondack camp, figuring out how to build a backyard skating rink, a deck, a pergola, a dock. I see him sitting on a boat with a book in his hand, walking to the post office. I see him enjoying the people around him, offering help, friendship.

As I learn, slowly, how to handle life's surprises, I see my father appreciating the ironic, the absurd, the difficult, and handling them without anger, dismay or despair.

I actually have a picture of myself wearing a plaid wool skirt, knee socks, penny loafers and a sweater. It doesn't really look like me. Somehow, Dad always made me feel he appreciated me despite our seeming differences--no small feat when the daughter of a science teacher had trouble passing her Chemistry Regents with a 65.

*My father has since pointed out that the preferred shoes were saddle shoes, not penny loafers (16 June 2008).

09 June 2008

They shoot horses, don't they? or Two horses walk into a bar . . .

Dan: Lemme tell you a joke.

Me: Oh lord.

Dan: It's a good one. Two horses went into a barn . . .

Me (interrupting): Bar or barn?

Kevin: I'm leaving if this joke has the word "neigh" in it . . .

Dan: Barn. So the one horse says, "Did you hear that George is in the hospital?" The other horse says, "So, how's he doing?" The first horse says, "Oh, he's stable."

Me (to Kevin): I think I would have preferred hearing the word "neigh."

Kevin: Oh yeah.

Dan: Hey! I almost got low blood sugar last night from thinking that up!

Me: What?

Dan: I had to get up in the middle of the night to write that one down!

Me: Wait. You wrote that one yourself?

Dan: Yeah.

Me: Hmmm. I hate to say it, but I think I have to give you a tiny teeny weeny increase of props for writing it yourself.

Kevin: No, I don't think you need to do that.

Me: Kevin, believe me, it hurts to say that, but I do.

Dan: Hey, thanks, Huth!

Me: Dan, that doesn't mean it's a good joke or anything.

Dan: Yeah, but if it had been really bad, it would have gotten the "Huth eye roll."

02 June 2008

You know what I blame this on the breakdown of? Society.

During a discussion of a New York Times article on curbing truancy with electronic monitoring systems, with an eye toward creating a persuasive argument, and as the more vocal members of class voice their opinions about how the chronically truant adversely affect the lives of those who diligently attend school--

Joe: I mean, those kinds of kids, the ones who are truant, they're not going to change just because they're wearing a GPS.

Jess: They might. If I had to wear one, I'd change.

Me: It is true that attendance does not necessarily equate academic success . . . I'm thinking that while Justin certainly is here in body, he's so busy texting right now that he has no clue what we're discussing . . .

(Justin sheepishly looks up and pretends to put his phone away.)

Roger: If the tracking device was really big and obvious, then it might make a difference. Like if it were around their necks . . .

Me (interrupting): What?

Roger: . . . with spikes to stick into their necks . . .

Me (interrupting again): What??

Joe: Naw, you don't need spikes. You just need to make them stand out, so everyone would know they were truancy problems.

(Tired groans from the rest of the class)

Me: So, you're suggesting a way to make it obvious that this group of kids is a problem, right?

Joe: Right.

Me (tilting head, scrunching mouth thoughtfully): So . . . we need a way to identify this particular group as a problem . . . (thinking some more) . . . I think the neck-thing would be difficult to manage . . . What if we tried something else . . . something simpler . . .

Adele (under her breath): Oh, lord . . .

Alex (under his breath): Wait for it . . .

Me: How about making all the truancy problems wear something to make them stand out somehow? We could make them wear, I dunno, a brightly-colored star or something on their clothes . . .

(Adele, Hosna, Alex, et. al. variously snorting and attempting to suppress laughter)

Me: . . . something so we could all know that these kids are different from us and that we, those who regularly attend school, are better.

(Exaggerated sighs and heavy eye-rolling from the truancy lynch posse.)

Me: Ah, yes. That's why I get the big bucks. And just remember why we're reading all these articles now . . .

Class: . . . because all your books disappeared when you were out . . .