23 December 2009

Miracle lotion treats all skin types: ashy, pinky and yellowy beige.

As students enter the classroom first thing in the morning . . .

Gwendolyn: Miss? You got any lotion?

Me: Yup. In my bottom left drawer.

Gwendolyn: Oh, I like this lotion. It's good.

Me: Thanks. I like it too.

Grace: I like Palmer's.

Gwendolyn: Uh huh. And Suave is too watery.

Nadine: Yeah, but Palmer's is too thick for me.

Grace: What's that lotion in the blue bottle?

Me (thinking): . . . Nivea?

Grace: Yeah! That's it.

Gwendolyn (to me, laughing): That's what you should have, Miss. That's white people's lotion.

Me: I'm sorry. What?

Elizabeth: What? Why?

Gwendolyn (as others nod in agreement): I dunno. It just is.

Me: Hmm. Okay. Whatever. So the lotion I just gave you isn't white people's lotion?

Nadine (laughing): Naw, Miss, it's good for us, too. See? It's in a brown bottle!

Me: O, lord. . . but if Nivea's in a blue bottle, why is it for white people? . . .

Samantha: Can I have some too? I'm mad ashy today.

Elizabeth: Oh yeah! Me, too.

Me: . . . I can see you're not going to answer my question . . .

Samantha (to Elizabeth): White people don't get ashy!

Elizabeth: What? Yeah, we do.

Samantha: No, you don't. Or if you do it doesn't show because you're pink.

Me: What? Pink?! I'm certainly not pink. I'm more of a . . . um . . . yellowy beige . . . AND Elizabeth and I will go without using lotion for a week just to prove that white people get ashy too.

Elizabeth (as others nod in agreement): I know, right?

Grace: Miss? May I have some lotion even though it's not for Puerto Ricans?

Me (sighing): Of course.

11 December 2009

When "nipple" is the best option.

As the class is getting ready to be dismissed:

Jim: Hey! What are you doing? Geez, that's so gay!

John: Ewww. Really. You're a retard.

Me: Hey! I don't want to hear those two words again! Seriously!

John: Um, which two words?

Me: What? "Gay and retard."

John: Oh. We said "nipple" too.

Me (thinking): Nipple is fine. No problem at all with nipple.

Jim: Really? Nipple's okay? Oh. Okay.

Me: Yup. You can use "nipple" all you want. Just don't call each other gay and retard anymore.

John: Jim is such a nipple.

Me: Much better. Go to lunch now.

23 September 2009

It's a word now.

Me: So for this essay you should probably have four paragraphs. The first one would be . . .

Most of the class: Intro.

Me: The second would be . . .

Third of the class: A body paragraph.

Me: Good. The third would be . . .

Handful of the class (hesitantly): Another body paragraph?

Me: Yup. Good. And the last paragraph would be . . .

One lone voice: The outro.

Me: Hmmm. I like that.

18 September 2009

Who needs the president if you write poetry?

Frederica: Miss? Look at my resumé. There's nothing on it, and you said I can't include stuff from middle school.

Me: Hmmmmm. . . Well, yes, it's a little empty . . .

Frederica: I know! And it's too late to do anything about it.

Me: No, it's not.

Frederica (slowly): You know? I don't need a resumé at all.

Me: How come?

Frederica: President Obama's going to be speaking at that college soon, right?

Me: Um, right.

Frederica: Okay then. Here's the plan. I'll go see him and be all like, "Mr. Obama, may I please have your autograph?" And then I'll hand him a piece of folded paper and he'll sign it. But the paper will really be a letter of recommendation I wrote! So the college will think the president wrote me a letter of recommendation!

Me: Um, that certainly sounds like a plan, Freddie.

Frederica: Oh, it's a great plan! So I don't even need a resumé!

Me: By the way, you've forgotten that I published some of your poems in the school's literary magazine when you were a freshman . . .

Frederica (interrupting): Can I put that down?

Me: Absolutely!

Sheryl (to me): Look at that big ole smile on her face!

Me: Uh huh. Pretty nice!

Frederica (smiling even wider): So maybe I don't need the president this time.

09 September 2009

Stuff I heard myself saying in public at the start of a school year:

  • Well, I don't know where they've hidden the PBIS matrices.

  • Oh! That's a new obnoxious buzzing sound, isn't it?

  • Okay. Today we're following an A day schedule, but we're also having mod 3 of a B day. So you go (pointing with index finger at the invisible columns in the air schedule) boom, boom, 1, 2, then boom (gesturing in the air up and to the right), that's mod 3, then boom (pointing back to the invisible column on the left). See?

  • I'm really sorry, but I don't know where modular 6 is. It's not on the map.

  • I'm really sorry, but I don't know where D52 is. In fact, I didn't know we had a D52 room.

  • What happened to yesterday's end-of-class bell? It was gentle, like, "Oh, there's my elevator." Today it's back to a sound that makes me feel like a pointy pencil is being pushed through my ear.

  • Oh, thanks, but I'm really just wearing a dress today because my school pants don't fit again yet.

20 June 2009

Teacher seasons are never labeled on calendars.

(As I sit sipping coffee and reading the newspaper at home)

Husband: I thought you were giving up coffee for the summer?

Me (clutching coffee cup to my bosom): Um, yes, I did say I'd stop as soon as summer started. Did I miss the beginning of another season?

Husband: Summer starts today.

Me: No way!

Husband (consulting the calendar): You're right. It starts tomorrow.

Me: That's not really the start of summer.

Husband: Um, what?

Me: If high school graduation is next Friday, then the official start of summer is next Saturday. That's when Teacher Summer starts.

Husband: Oy.

Me: I'm just sayin'. Teacher seasons run differently, and I still have a week to drink coffee.

10 June 2009

Seniors are the beast

Today was the last day of class, and for my seniors, the day was a strange combination of exuberance, gratitude, relief and hopelessness. For me, as well.

Since my students took their final exam in class on Monday, they spent today's class writing about and discussing the difference between their post-graduation plans as of September, 2008, and their post-graduation plans as of June, 2009. While many of my students will be attending 4-year colleges, most have decided to stay close to home and attend one of our community colleges. Several students had to change plans because a parent refused to file income tax and therefore could not complete the FAFSA. Several more because a parent, sibling or significant other convinced them not to leave home. Some are reluctantly attending their second or third choice college. Several will be off to basic training in July. Several are attending their first choice college with adequate financial aid. Too many tell me they are still "undecided."

One student totally surprised me with this answer about her college plans:

My plans have changed due to being homeless.

Other parts of the day made me laugh, usually at myself.

A note posted on my wall:
Elizabeth and Katherine will greatly miss there favorite teacher Ms. Huth! Heart U always!

A short conversation at the end of class:
Audrey: I feel like I'm gonna be famous. Miss, when they make a True Hollywood Story about me, you'll agree to be interviewed, right?

Me: Yes, of course.

Susan: She'll say, "Oh, I remember Audrey was always so funny . . . "

James: Naw, remember, Miss Huth will be mad old by then. She'll be like this (in a quavering old woman voice): Oh, that Audrey was always so funny . . . "

Me: What?? Is that me or a very old chicken?


Audrey: That's you, or it will be you!

Later, an overheard bit at the end of another class:
I'm so scared of large bodies of water, you've no idea. That's why I won't go near the Mohawk River. You never know when a whale might come sneaking up.

At the end of the day, I know there are a dozen and a half really bad pictures of me posing with students, pictures they assure me are "really really good." In my head are faded pictures of those who simply stopped coming to school, despite our best efforts to convince them otherwise. I see myself writing good bye and good wishes on shirts and stapled pieces of paper to those who did not have $72 to spend on a yearbook. I see my graduating seniors proudly showing me the cap and gown they paid $27 cash for today. I rather enjoy this picture, however, left on my board today, near the suicide prevention hotline numbers we were directed to post in our rooms.

18 May 2009

I'll take "breathing" for 3 points, Alex.

(As the pledge ends and class begins)

Katherine: Huthie! You didn't stand up for the pledge!

Me: Right.

Katherine: But it's the pledge!

Me: I know. I was silently respectful, unlike you, who was yelling at me through it.

Katherine: I think you should turn to god for help, Miss Huth.

Me: Um, thanks. I hope it works.

Katherine: Oh, I'm just kidding, Miss.

Me: I know. And I also know you're just stalling right now.

Grace: Speaking of stalling . . . it's really cold in here.

(Murmurs of agreement from others.)

Me: Yes, I know. Okay. On to Hamlet . . .

Katherine: Well, Miss, you're all set with that big ol' sweater of yours.

Me: Uh huh. And back to the play . . . Act III, scene 2 . . .

Blanche: Excuse me, please. What's "strumpet" mean?

Me: Um, someone with loose morals.

Like a skank?

Me: Hmmm. Yes. Like a skank.

Amanda: Or a ho?

Me: Um, yes, kind of like that, too.

Blanche: Thanks. Okay. Act III, scene 2 . . .

Grace: Hamlet reminds me of House.

Me: What? Dr. House on TV?

(Murmurs of agreement from the class)

Grace: I know, right?

Me: Hmmmm . . .

Grace: You don't see it?

Me (considering): No. I guess I do.

Grace: See? I just made a real-life connection to Hamlet! I should get 10 points for that!

Me: Why don't I just give you breathing points as well? Anna, I think that's worth only about 3 points, right?

(Anna, trying desperately not to be drawn into this, laughs a bit and shrugs.)

Me: See? Anna says only 3 points. If you want to explain your point, I'd be happy to hear it.

Grace: It's the way he talks to everyone, especially to Ophelia and Polonius. Like, he's always cracking inside jokes and making fun of them. House is always doing that.

Me: True. I guess I'll take your "real life connection." Should we take a moment to discuss the similarities between Hamlet and Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart?

Grace, Blanche, et.al: Naw. We're good. Act III, scene 2 . . .

03 April 2009

Nothing more to say

(After reading the mandated "grief statement" to the class about the previous night's suicide of a freshman, the 8th in the last four years, and the 5th one this year)

Me: So remember that if you need to talk to someone about this or anything else, you may go to the Commons. We've got guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists, clergy and students and staff there for you to talk to. . .

Patricia: But that makes me so mad . . .

Me: What? Why?

Patricia: Because people do that just to get out of class. They don't really feel bad, or they didn't know this girl . . .

(Some students mumble in agreement.)

Dolores: Yeah, it's not like they really care about that girl.

Me (sighing): Look, I understand your point, but how can you or I determine who needs help or feels bad? It's not right that some people abuse this, but still, something like this affects us all. (Slowly) I mean, even though I didn't know the students who killed themselves recently, that doesn't mean their deaths don't affect me. (More slowly now) I did know Dashad, for instance. (Stopping abruptly, struggling to make some point and suddenly terrified to find my eyes filling with tears) He was my student . . . and that was really hard (shocked to realize I won't be able to continue or even look up at them) . . . and um, right now . . . see? This reminds . . . me . . . um, of . . .

(Sorry to have begun this at all and even sorrier not to be able to finish, all I can do is turn away and wipe some random words off my white board. Class is silent.)

(Bell rings)

Dolores (from behind me, quietly): You had to bring up Dashad, right? You know he was my best friend?

Me: I know. I'm sorry.

(Dolores holds her phone out, showing me a picture of her at his grave.)

(Long pause.)

Me (finally able to look at her): I'm sorry.

Dolores: I know. It's okay.

(She walks away. I walk to my computer, hoping to distract myself with some email but realizing Patricia is still in the room. )

Patricia (walking slowly to stand next to me): I mean, it's so hard still. He was our friend, but he was your student, too.

Me (able to look up and seeing her eyes filled with tears): I know (sighing). It is still really hard. But that was my point, I guess.

(Long pause as we both reach for kleenex.)

Patricia: I know. I mean . . . I'm afraid now (stops to blow her nose) not to answer my phone. I think, what if it's one of my friends who needs me? What if I don't answer the phone and I'm not there to help them?

Me (as the weight of this burden sinks in): Oh, Patricia. . . (slowly, wondering what can possibly be said) It's going to be okay. You need to take care of yourself. . . You're a good friend.

Patricia: Thanks.

Me (hugging her): Thank you. You have a good weekend, okay?

(She hugs me hard for a long minute, then lets go.)

Patricia: Okay.

(Study hall students arrive as she leaves. I focus on taking attendance.)

23 March 2009

Strep + subs + 12th grade - nagging + teacher = . . . wait . . . what? sigh . . .

Because I have already written at length about the problems we teachers have with having substitutes, I will not spend much time discussing the problems of missing two consecutive days of school last week from a bout of strep throat. Suffice it to say that as today progresses, I'm learning more and more of what happened in my absence.

Like the substitute who arrived 15 minutes late and then left 10 minutes early telling my students, "I'm leaving because I've got stuff to do." Had this not been independently documented by several reliable sources, I might not have believed it. And my class, apparently sans "stuff" merely remained in the room, quietly, waiting for the bell to dismiss them. Oy.

I have yet to determine the degree to which my classes actually completed work in my absence. I do not have high hopes for this. Nevertheless, I did enjoy finding this note scrawled on one of my attendance lists:

Where you at Mrs. Huthie? Not cool to ditch us like this, but whatever. I'm sure you have a good excuse, just make sure you're here next class, alright, ok. I'll talk to you later.

Sometimes it's enough just to know you were missed.

12 March 2009

The truth is in the necklace, my children.

(As I collect "writer's notebooks" at the end of class and try to address questions from students having trouble completing their financial aid forms for college)

Me (to Adele): So you can estimate the tax information on the FAFSA until . . .

Audrey (looking up as I pass by): Have you ever toasted a pop tart?

Me: What? Yes.

Audrey: Do you want to try this? It's a hot fudge sundae pop tart.

Me (to Audrey): No. Thanks, though.

Me (to Adele): . . . until you have the real numbers.

Adele: So should I call the EOP office?

Samantha: What does your necklace mean?

Me (to Adele): Yes. Absolutely.

Me (to Samantha): It's supposed to be a Chinese character for "energy."

Me (to Grace): You're going to try to finish the TAP form tonight then?

Grace: Yes, but . . . .

Audrey: Everyone else has tried a piece. You may as well.

Me: No thanks.

Me (to Grace): But nothing. You need to just get this done!

Samantha: So do you think it really means that?

Me (to Samantha): The symbol? My theory is it means, "I'm an idiot for wearing this necklace in a language I don't understand."

Samantha (laughing): Could be!

Audrey: So how do you toast it?

Me: What? You put it on a lower setting. Especially if there's icing.

Jessica: Look at her! She's so cute, trying to answer everyone!

Me: Thanks, Jessica. Good to know.

Audrey: Well, I'm just going to eat this untoasted then. That's why it's called a "pop tart," because it's "to go."

Me (cocking head slightly): What?

Audrey (laughing): I know. That didn't make any sense, did it?

(Bell rings . . . )

23 February 2009

Guess who's coming to dinner without answers?

Packing up at the end of class and after a brief discussion of whether the movie Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is still relevant today

Lucy: . . . so yes, I think it is.

James: And the attorney general called us cowards and says we can't discuss race honestly in this country. But Miss?

Me: Yup?

James: You have kids, right?

Charles (interrupting): Are they black?

(Class laughs.)

Me: Um, what? (carefully) Noooo . . . why would they be black?

Charles: Just wondering.

James: So how many do you have?

Me: Two. A boy and a girl.

James: What if one of them said they wanted to marry a black person?

Me: Um, it would be fine, as far as that goes.

James: What do you mean?

Me: Well, I can't imagine objecting to someone based on some category like color or religion . . . I trust my kids' taste and selectivity. I'd just want the person they choose to be a kind, compassionate, thinking human being.

James: Welllllllll . . . what if your daughter wanted to marry someone who was black AND a really really really really hard core conservative right winger ?

Me: Wow. Hmmmmm. Let's just say that I might have a problem with one of those categories but that I'd have to reserve judgment . . .

James (laughing): I knew it! You'd object to his being black! (several beats) . . . . . . . sike!!

Me (slowly shaking my head): O, goodness. Yeah, you'd better add "sike." Okay. Moving right along . . .

Charles: What if you just had a black baby?

Me: What? But I don't.

Charles: I know but just what if you just suddenly had a black baby without any warning. What would you name it?

Me: What? There are several problems with this scenario, you realize this, right?

Charles: I know. Just play along. What would you name it?

Me: Um, I don't know. Is it a boy or a girl?

Charles: A girl.

Me: Um, I'd name her Erin.

(Class laughs)

Charles: Why "Erin"?

Me: Because that's what I named my daughter.

Charles: Naw, it has to be a different name.

Me: Um, I don't know.

Charles (smiling and nodding): See? That's why I like you as a teacher. You give me answers I can understand.

13 February 2009

Are left-handed compliments better than no compliments at all? (Probably.)

As we finish watching Katharine Hepburn's character fire Hilary St. George in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Patricia: Miss! That's you!

Me: What?

Patricia: That's just how you act!

Me: Like Sidney Poitier?

Patricia: No! Katharine Hepburn! She's talking all quiet to that woman, and you know she's mad but she never gets loud, she just stays all quiet . . .

Dolores: . . . but you know she means business!

Douglas: Yup. That's you.

Grace: And it's so great because you know she is so mad at that woman and she's just all calm. It's kinda scary.

Me: I guess I'll take that as a compliment. I could do worse.

09 February 2009

Home-schooled college: Where you're a name, not a number (but you might have to sleep on the floor)

Just before class

Audrey (excitedly): Miss Huth! I went to that college open house Sunday and loved it. And I got in!

Me: Congratulations! That's so great! So they had an instant admit thing?

Audrey: Yes. I was so happy there. The campus felt like home.

Me: That's great. I'm so proud of you! So did you get to . . .

Dolores (interrupting, to others): We're going to have college at Miss Huth's house next year.

Me: (distracted): Um, what??

Dolores: We're having college at your house next fall. We do graduate in four months, you know.

Audrey: O goodness.

Me: Exactly. Audrey, I think you're better off at Maria College.

Jessica: Dolores! Honestly. What are you going to study?

Dolores: English, of course!

Me: Hmm. I thought you wanted to study business?

Dolores: That's for later.

Me: So let me get this straight. I'm just going to quit teaching here and open a college in my house?

Dolores: Yup.

Me: Oy. Let me think about this . . . okay. Then tuition will be a million dollars.

Dolores: Okay.

Audrey: That's a little steep for me. Can I pay you a bit at a time?

Katherine: I thought you were already set for college?

Audrey: Oh yeah!

Me: So you're not expecting room and board as well, are you? I mean, I don't have a lot of beds or anything.

Dolores: Well, we got to eat and sleep, right? We'll just do like we do in the City. You know.

Katherine: You know. But I'm not sleeping on my coat!

Dolores: Naw. It's Miss Huth's house. We'll pull the cushions off the couch and sleep on those.

Me: Um, we do that in this city, too, by the way.

Dolores: Oh. Anyway, and you can cook for us, but I'll do the cleaning.

Me: Hmm. Cleaning. Okay. That sounds good. But tuition is still a million.

Audrey: You'd better get a loan, Dolores!