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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pics or It Didn't Happen

New Year's Resolution. Again.

I know it's a little early but when a good resolution hits you, you have to hit back. Before it runs away, laughing hysterically and calling you "slow".

So here it is Paste fans. All 3 of you.

I have hereby resolved to finally start writing "Eating the Paste: The Book".

No really, this time I'm going to do it. I even wrote the first page. I swear!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cupcakes on a Stick

Oh and an addendum to the entry about the kid with the "cupcake cake"....

Kiddo Smith who informed me that the textbook company must know his mother (and then also informed me that his mother had orphanage papers drawn up and ready) had a birthday recently as well. Like the rest of the children he asked if he could bring in treats to celebrate. He comes in the next morning with a cookie sheet full of CUPCAKES ON A STICK. I kid you not. Cupcakesicles. Cupcakes flattened to look like those fat popsicles you can break in half with a stick shoved in the middle.

He also presented me with a prototype drawing for the "Freudian Slip" Whoopie Cushion. It makes the farty noise then commands (in a German accent of course), "Tell me your problems." I'm not sure how I feel about the concept of sitting on Freud's face just for a giggle...

"For your information, Dave, Anna is a vegetarian."

Top Ten Ways to Tell You're a Teacher

1. When you go to pull down your pants in the ladies room, the following items spill out of your pocket: 2 dry erase markers (one red, one black); paper clips of various shapes, sizes, and colors; a grape scented pencil; and assorted scraps of paper.

2. When requesting a refund on Ebay, your mother asks, "Are you being mean, or are you using your teacher voice to scare a refund out of her?"

3. On the back seat of your car is no longer a change of clothes, sexy heels, and spare makeup bag. Instead there is one sneaker, a travel coffee mug that you keep forgetting to bring inside and wash, and a green and blue koosh ball you found in the parking lot that you thought one of the kids might like.

4. On a second date you sit down to watch a movie and automatically pull papers out of your purse to grade.

5. Your INBOX on Facebook is jammed with messages from students asking when the next spelling test is (and whether or not spelling counts).

6. Your weekends are planned around whether or not you've managed to avoid catching whatever it is that the super affectionate little plague rats are currently carrying.

7. Your Christmas list currently has more classroom supplies listed than it does "fun" items. Oh and you wrote your list on the same decorative paper you had the kids write their list on during Art class.

8. The cuff of every single one of your white blouses has an unidentifiable black smudge on it. Come to think of it, it's probably dry erase marker...I hope that comes out with water. But if it came out with water, it wouldn't be dry erase would it...

9. You're the only one done with work at 2:30 everyday and you can't find anyone to come over and play.

10. And finally, you know you're a teacher when the reason you leave the party early is that it's getting late (past 9:00 pm) and you have bus duty in the morning.

God help me...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's All About You, Isn't It

This morning I was explaining to my 5th graders that our English text hasn't been updated for over 11 years and therefore that means the selections chosen for them to read weren't exactly new, interesting, and up to date.

One of my boys starts grumbling about how he hates when that happens and it just ruins his day to have to read things that are so "super boring".

Of course my response was, "Yes of course Kiddo. There are men in suits sitting in their office at the publisher saying, 'Hmm...Kiddo Smith. What can we do to ruin his day?"

Kiddo thinks for a second then says, "Hmm. They must know my mom then."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thank God....Literally

We have officially made it through the first 7 days of school. My classroom finally looks fairly respectable (though I'm missing a large crate of childrens' books that is probably buried deep within my storage unit, never to be found again). The kids are wonderful. Now that says a lot since in general, I pretty much hate chidlren. They're usually rude, sticky, and know way too much about dating and sex, but these kids...they're like REAL KIDS!

Every day I get thank yous from my kids on their way out the door. They laugh at my ridiculous jokes, indulge me in my literary addictions, and they all do their homework regularly. I even had one of my little girls give me a gift of Crayola Twistable crayons, markers, and clay. When she handed me the gift bag and said it was for me, I was so startled I said, "Thank you honey, but why is this for me?"

She shrugged, thought about it for a second, then said, "Just for being you."

This has to be a honeymoon period. There's absolutely no way the whole school year can go this smoothly, right?

Friday we had a birthday in the 5th grade and the birthday girl brought in what is referred to as a "cupcake cake". It is what the title suggests- a cake made of multiple cupcakes. Of course at the end of the day on a  Friday, sugar was EXACTLY what the rugrats needed. The afternoon ended with me trying to explain to one of my girls why the "5 Second Rule" should not be universally applied to frosting after it has landed on the nasty blue carpet that has been on our classroom floor since, well, the time of Christ. Hey, we are in Catholic school. It's possible the carpeting is that old...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Jail Was Cancelled

Sorry to all those who were looking forward to an episode of "Skinny White Girl Goes to Jail". Classes were cancelled this week. But never fear! Next week, we will see SWG do her thang and whip a few more of society's outcasts into shape!

On the new job front, we had our first inservice today and it was by far the most painless experience of my life. I had fun, everyone I work with is nice, has a sense of humor, and doesn't glaze over or look at me like I've lost it when I speak. Could it be that I have found my home?

I'm still taking bets how long I last before I burst into flame however....

Sorry so short. Faculty meeting in the morning!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Setting Fire to the Lawn

Duffy: So what are you doing right now?

Me: Sitting on my ass. As usual.

Duffy: Cool. So yeah, I totally dialed the wrong number. Who is this again?

Why am I sitting on my ass doing nothing? Because I'm finally on vacation. A permanent vacation from my retail job. Yes folks, you read that right. I quit my job. Or rather, I went in today to quit and the manager was off so I actually have to quit tomorrow but still...NO MORE RETAIL!

What am I doing instead you ask? Well first off, I'm tutoring recently released prisoners who need to get their GED. That in and of itself has been a twice weekly comedic adventure entitled, "Skinny White Chick Goes to Jail". The first night I volunteered I asked if I could just sit and observe. The woman who actually runs the class teaches preschool by day. Not sure what made her think the transition from drooling babies to ex cons would be a seamless one, but here we are anyway. So I sat and took notes as I watched the students interact with the teacher and with each other. My notetaking quickly degenerated into me mapping out the odds that the guy in front of me with "F*$K BITCHES" tattooed on his left arm, and "GET MONEY" tattooed on the right would be back in jail within the next 48 hours. While no one else was really willing to place a wager, I still won on principle because said tattooed individual has yet to show up to another class.

Once they all got used to having me there, a few of the ex cons started asking me for help with their work. By the end of the second session the guys started talking about their time in jail, what they were in for, which corrections officers they couldn't stand. One wiseass decides that it's acceptable to drop the "N" word in front of me. Of course I immediately tell him to watch his dirty little punk mouth. He did the typical tooth sucking thing that all ghetto punks do when they want to convey that they are first cooler than you are and second that you should be afraid of them. All I can think in my head is, Dude, I'm so not afraid of you. You're obviously not exactly the smartest tool in the shed because you're here, wearing an electronic bracelet because HELLO YOU GOT CAUGHT! I can run away, get in my car, and drive home. You can't even take a piss without someone knowing where you are. The teacher finally notices that there's a little bit of a hubub going down at the table and she asks what the issue is.

Me: Oh, there's just a little bit of disrespect coming from the other end of the table here.

Punk Kid (under his breath): Yeah well you don't better not tell nobody who. (teeth sucking sound)

Wait...what? Was that even in English?

Anyway, other than that....the bigger news is that I accepted a position teaching English at a Catholic School that is literally ten minutes from my house. If it wasn't for the giant hill I'd have to climb I'd totally ride a bike to work everyday. Unfortunately for the life of my car, I'm WAY too lazy to walk to and from work everyday. I already set up my desk and hung a few abandoned building photos behind my chair so that I feel at home. I also got an awesome round cork board with a funky design and replaced the sliding doors on my book cabinets with some trippy shower curtains. I have my class record book all filled in with every class I'll be teaching and I bought a beautiful hardcover journal that I plan to fill with teacher related insight. Or inappropriate doodles of me eating crayons. Either way it'll be a nice record of my first year of educational sanity.

Ok everyone. Cross your fingers and wish me luck. I finally settled my lawsuit against the Charter School from Hell and so far life is falling into place. I'm knocking on wood right now to make sure I didn't jinx myself so I need all your prayers (if you believe), thoughts (if you don't believe), and support (if you're incapable of both prayer and thought). Let's see if I can stay in one place long enough to get my ergonomic desk chair into just the right position!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Paranormal State...of Mind?

I have had the most unproductive day ever. I woke up pretty achey, still stressed out from the week that failed miserably. I stayed in bed and finished reading Mystic River, watched a little Veronica Mars, and communed with my cats.

I haven't had a camera for a couple of weeks now. My battery died on my last shooting expedition and when I got home to plug it in and charge it, I discovered the charger was dead too. Of course I could just buy a new one but I had just laid out $1200 to get my car to pass inspection so I was a little light on cash. I sat down and wrote a couple articles for Associated Content and waited patiently for them to offer me my peanuts in exchange for my brilliant insight. I then ordered a new charger from EBay and waited almost two weeks for it come in. When it finally got here, I literally ran upstairs, grabbed the battery, shoved it in the charger, and plugged that little miracle worker in. Of course 5 minutes elapse and my friend Dan and I hear a pop.

Me: Was that....? 
(Dan leans over the kitchen table to look at the outlet where I plugged in the charger.)
Dan: Yup. That was your charger exploding.

Needless to say I immediately marched into the living room to grab my dad's laptop (mine was too far away) and got on EBay to write a nasty note to Hong Kong, even though from the looks of the reply I got they understood little to nothing I had written, while the charger sat on my kitchen table, belching smoke.

Luckily, I cried. Therefor my mother took pity on me and lent me the money to order both a new charger AND a new battery.

At the same time this week my hard drive crashed. My hard drive which contains pretty much every photograph I have ever taken, the complete manuscript to my first book, and my entire music library. That was meltdown number two. I feel like someone has removed my hands. Now what the hell do I do with myself?

Oh yeah. I have a blog.....

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Resume Padding

It's that time of year again when I get the itch to find a new job. It's also the best time to look because all of the schools have their final budgets ready and they know how many people they can hire to replace those they just laid off! So that means a healthy round of printing out resumes, letters of reference, and addressing envelopes. It also means filling out countless online applications and criminal background checks (just please, no one call the state of Virginia...).

I have been working retail since this past December, thanks to the untimely demise of my job at the Charter School of Satan. While retail is fairly simple and routinized, of course I feel like I should be doing so much more. My resume looks mighty weak when I look at it and realize I've done very little lately. However, I had a rather enlightening experience at work the other day that has given me a brand new, very handy skill.

Chipmunk Wrangling.

You heard me. We have a chipmunk (creatively named Chipper by our manager) who likes to do a kamikazee run into the store, then head for the sale racks. He's a savvy shopper after all. Not too long ago though I got a call at 5am from our alarm company telling me that the alarm had gone off. Twice. I called the manager to find out what the hell was going on and lo and behold we had managed to overlook Chipper at closing time the night before and locked him in. He of course, being a chipmunk did what all good chipmunks do, and ran for the front door at the crack of dawn and set off the motion detectors. Then a few days later I look up from helping an elderly customer only to find that Chipper had not only snuck in but had also brought a friend! Figuring this could be bad, the assistant manager and I tried shooing him out of the store but Chipper was too wily for us. He managed to slide behind one of the giant wardrobes that happens to be bolted into the floor, leading us to worry that he might, you know, die behind there. So we waited for him to show his furry little face, scared him out of there, and proceeded to chase him around the store with a metal hook. I had blocked his hiding place with a shelf and when he ran for it, he wound up flying smack into the shelf. We finally herded him out the door and closed it behind him. 

The assistant manager looks up from bending over, laughing hysterically and says, "Now that's something to put on your resume. Chipmunk Wrangling!"

I kid you not.

I did however have an interview with the education director at the local prison. Honestly it was by far the most entertaining interview I've had since the day I met the principal at the DarkSide. I got there a little early since I'm already familiar with security procedures at medium security prisons. The education director was on his way to run an errand and said he'd be back for me. I sat and listened to the wonderful symphony of metal doors clanging shut and guards yelling at wayward convicts. Ah, what a sweet sound! Anyway, the ed director comes to get me and we start walking out to his office when he promptly starts asking me what I thought of the movie Shutter Island. It turns out he has a doctorate in psychology and is fascinated by Leo DiCaprio's portrayal of paranoid schizophrenic delusions. As he's going on and on about Hollywood's take on crazy, I'm trying my best not to look up at the jail itself. I can hear that the inmates are out on the basketball courts that are stacked, three on top of each other at the end of each wing of the prison. Of course all sounds related to basketball suddenly cease and I hear, "LOOK LOOK LOOK!" I can also hear the clanging of chain link and I look up to see them all hanging like Rhesus monkeys from the fence. Excellent.

Inside the education building we pass open classrooms where one inmate damned near falls off his chair while saying, "" Listen ladies, if you ever need an ego boost of epic proportions, interview for a job at a prison. You could throw a bag over your head and wear a burlap sack and they'd still get excited.

Other than the possibility of finding a new man (I only have to wait 2 to 5 years. It was just an assault charge he said), I'm really hoping the funding comes through in the fall so I can teach full time with this particular program. It's probably as close to my DarkSide experience as I'll ever get. In fact I'll probably run into some of my former students!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The End of an Era

It's taken me a long time to be able to sit down and write this. For some time now this blog has been fueled by stories about my time at the Dark Side and now, as of this past April 1st, the Dark Side no longer exists.

I can't even put into words how I felt when I got the call that the ugly axe had finally come down on the place that launched my career, engendered my interest in mental health, and made me who I am as a teacher. The first thing I felt was regret. Regret for having left the Dark Side so long ago when I thought it was time for the next career move. Regret that I wasn't there in the end to see the last few kids off into the world. And most of all regret, feeling that I failed that place by leaving when I did. What if I had stayed? What if I had continued giving 120% day after day, blood, sweat, tears, and pain? Would it have survived? Who knows now.

The second thing I felt was a great sadness knowing that the closing would mean many generations of kids who would never know the kindness and caring that some of my students found at the Dark Side. Beyond the typical complaints about the food and the rules, I choose to believe that my kids' lives were better because of us, that the Dark Side saved them, even if it was only for a short time. Now where will the rest of the children go when their parents fail them and society decides to shut them out? Now they truly have nowhere to go.

I will say at this point that since my time at the Dark Side I have never again been happy in a teaching position. I can't explain why that is, nor do I think I will ever be able to. Maybe I love a challenge. Ok. I definitely love a challenge. Maybe I'm a champion of the underdog- the kids that no one ever expected to do more than continue on the path to permanent delinquency. Well, I think by now you all know that's true. I belonged in that place. I loved those halls, my classroom, the units where the kids lived, where we celebrated holidays as best we could. Field trips where I saw my kids faces light up when they saw a planetarium for the first time or went ice skating for the first time. The fields out back where we clumsily played sports with the kids and played on the playgrounds with them. The place was my home as much as it was theirs.

I'll move on. I'll continue to teach and research and write- but the Dark Side is over. It's the end of an era. What else can I say?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Fair Lazy

I'm alive. Just barely. I have a throat infection, an ear infection, and a sinus infection. Basically my entire skull is just full of ooze. There's no other way to describe it. I've been in bed since Monday night, emerging only briefly on Wednesday to make an attempt at going to work for 9:30. I made it until 12:30 when I had to go home and die in a corner. Then I had an allergic reaction to the amoxycillin I was taking and had to describe to the on call doctor (who obviously doesn't know me and isn't used to my vocabulary) that I was sick to my stomach and had the "itchies". Apparently medical school doesn't address the "itchies".

The only thing that redeemed this week is getting a box of books in the mail. I love getting books in the mail. In fact I love it so much that one time the guy I was dating came home unexpectedly and, upon finding me in the kitchen with my brand new pile of books was prompted to say, "Did you just sniff those?"

Yes. Yes I did.

So I'm reading My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster, my favorite author and the reason I started blogging many moons ago. I have twice laughed myself into a snort and I've only read about 8 pages so far. I've learned not to read Jen on a full bladder...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dear Luckeyfrog....

(I now refer you to the most recent comment on "Dear Wendy....")

Dear Luckeyfrog-

I congratulate you on becoming a teacher. From the sounds of it you are new to the field and therefore still maintain much of your enthusiasm. I applaud you for that and hope to God that you're able to hold onto it for quite some time. And yes, I read Wendy's comment quickly and do realize she asked me to read and comment on it. In fact I gave her comment as much attention as she obviously gave the content of my blog posts.

I had optimisim and idealism once when I was 18 and started teaching. Yes, I started teaching at the age of 18. And yes, there's a story behind that. Back in the day I attended public schools where early on they dicsovered that I was a little quicker on the uptake than most kids in my quiet little suburb. I was placed in a "gifted and talented" program until I hit high school where I began taking AP classes and getting ready for college. You know what happened my junior year of high school? I was so miserable- between being bullied and being generally bored- I told my parents to figure out how to fix my public school experience or else I was going to drop out.

Cue my high school graduation at the tender age of 17. That fall I started college. Where I was teased unmercifully for being the youngest person in the freshman class. However, that allowed me to start teaching under a waiver at the age of 18. I am now almost 30. You do the math.

Now, after you have taught special education for 12 years, then you and I can talk about optimism. We can also address your comment about "strong, motivated teachers" because I'm not sure I appreciate the subtext that perhaps my cynicism comes from a lack of motivation. Au contraire. My motivation has guided me through two BA's, an MED, and an MAT. It guided me through a year of guardianship of one of my students who didn't have parents and needed someone to help make decisions about her IEP and give her Christmas presents. It guided me through the suicide of one of my students. It also helped me return to work the day after one of my students jumped me and broke my nose with a sneaker.

Many of my old stories that are posted on this blog are humorous. However, there lurks beneath the humor the true struggle of helping a special education student learn to value themselves as well as their education. You're right Frog, you can't do it all. We as educators do indeed have to take the little victories as our own and hope that at the end of the day that can be enough to sustain us as professionals. (Sidenote... Nicholas started college at Porter and Chester Institute this fall and moved into his first apartment!)

In the end I will say to you one thing and one thing only. I have earned my cynicism and my option to rant. I will stand by what I said: If you stopped me on the street and asked me for one good reason to become a teacher, at this moment in time I wouldn't be able to give you one. Until I see teachers like you held up and encouraged to continue to be optimistic and idealistic, I will have a hard time believing in educationt the way it was meant to be when formal education was developed.

I hope that in ten years you are able to email me and tell me about your teaching experience and that you have nothing but positive to share with me, thus making my cynicism largely unwarranted. However, until that day comes, I reserve my right to tell you I personally wouldn't wish our education system on my worst enemy.

Love and kisses,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dear Wendy....

(I refer you all to the most recent comment on "What Ails You")

Dear Wendy Graham-

I appreciate your comment on my recent blog post however, I have to ask Wendy... Did you even read my blog before commenting? The article you're asking me to consider contributing to is meant to be a positive, encouraging one with 100 reasons to become a teacher. In case you haven't noticed, I can no longer even come up with ONE!

Right now, after everything I've experienced in the last few years in both public and private institutions, I can see no good reason for any rational human being to become a teacher. Consider our current society. From almost day one children are encouraged to find entertainment in mind numbing video games and borderline inappropriate television shows. Parents spend more time shopping on EBay than reading to their kids. The average middle school student can't place the state of Massachusetts in national geography let alone tell you anything about contemporary history. High school students are graduating with the minimum of useful knowledge, having learned more about the continent of Africa than about the American Revolution. Teachers are governed by curriculum frameworks and standardized state testing, both of which are inherently flawed, being designed to essentially sap teachers of creativity while making it impossible for them to effectively pass on the love of learning.

Yes, I plan to spend the summer teaching a college course. I plan to teach college students who have chosen to sit in my class and soak up every word I say. However, I will teach each class knowing that the number of students continuing on to college will decrease incrementally year by year. I will also keep in the back of my mind the thought that many of my future students will have no idea about the history that effects the subject I will be teaching. Will they know about the Holocaust, who Hitler was, how the United States Eugenics movement contributed largely to Hitler's doctrines? Most likely not. Will they understand that just a few short decades ago there was no such thing as special education or disabilities advocacy? That some of them, if dyslexic or maybe hard of hearing, would never have been allowed in my class? Definitely not.

Today's students feel entitled to an education but they don't understand what education is supposed to mean to us as individual human beings. They attend school simply to make social connections that they may or may not use appropriately. Some will unmercifully bully others until the one being bullied takes irreversible action. Others will spend their days texting, updating their Facebook status, and planning the next big event. They see the movie instead of reading the book. They use Google instead of an encyclopedia. They download magazines instead of going to the library. They want everything at the speed of light.

And don't get me started on special education. At the risk of putting myself in a position where I will be blackballed from special educaiton until the year 2056, I will say that the diagnosing of special needs has gotten out of hand. On the other side of the coin though, the ill treatment of those with a true disability is abhorrent. Special education is an oxymoron. There's nothing special about it. And there's no education involved.

Before I rant to the point where my head explodes, let me wrap this up by saying, show me a teacher that isn't counting down to retirement and maybe I'll be able to think of a reason to get into the profession in the first place. In the meantime...

Reason #1 to Become a Teacher: Summers Off

Love and kisses,

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What Ails You

After everything that's gone on this year (yes, I realize it's still only January) I have to say I have finally found the cure for what ails me these days. Aside from finding what I believe to be true love, I have also found a sound way to make myself happy without also driving myself crazy.

I'm now working retail. Something I kept swearing to myself I would never do again after spending a few months as a visual merchandising director for Macy's. However, I am now a keyholder at a tiny boutique type store in a very affluent suburb and I'm finding that I really enjoy it. It's easy, quiet work and I love the people I work with. On top of that it's given me more time to devote to my writing and my photography.

On top of that, I just got a call that the college from which I graduated would like me to develop and teach a course on institutional models. Teaching is in my blood. And though I can't stand the school politics of teaching primary or secondary school, I'm absolutely looking forward to working with college students who are actually choosing to be in my class. What a delight it will be to see the faces of students who actually want to hear what I have to say!

Next month I'm off on vacation for a few days. A much needed and deserved break indeed. But I have to say, I haven't been this happy and relaxed in ages!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Getting Drenched

At the risk of entering the "too much information" zone, I have to tell you all, when it rains...well, you know the rest. Currently I'm working my tail off at a clothing store, making peanuts compared to what I was making but strangely it's been relaxing working a job where I feel so very little pressure to perform to rather twisted expectations and ideals.

However, on the homefront, I feel my muse has deserted me. Have I been writing? Pfft. No. Have I been out with my camera? Yes. And that little trip yielded a whopping three decent photos. Decent being a term I use generously here. It's been a little surreal, almost like I'm watching my life happen without me. Moving home in July I assumed life would finally settle down, that I could get into a rather comfortable groove with work, art, relationships. No dice sadly. It's one roller coaster ride after another.

I have also found a rather handy use for the "block" option on my cell phone plan. I won't go into hairy details but sometimes a girl's character judgement isn't as stellar as it could be. Girls, let me give you a bit of advice. Your mother? Is generally right. Should your mother tell you a guy gives her "the creeps" or has "stalker" printed somewhere on his person, take it for what it's worth and run in the opposite direction because chances are he'll wind up cornered by the cops in front of your house threatening to break your windshield.

On the brighter side of things, I had a great Christmas. I managed to finish reading three books which was a welcome change. I took a break from researching my current book and made it a point to try to enjoy myself. Hell, I even managed to go ice skating which I haven't done for a few years now. Anyway, it's a new year. Let's see what kind of trouble I can get in....