20 December 2010

Pregnancy Questions

In the past few months I have spent quite a bit of time with 3 and 4 year olds. It has been a big change from spending my days with 15 and 16 year olds, but it has been fun. They are particularly fascinated by my pregnancy, and have asked some fun questions.

Abby: Why is your tummy huge?
Me: Because I'm going to have a baby.
Abby: So
Me: The baby is inside my tummy. If you watch really closely you can see him kick.
At this point she gave me a strange look and decided to sit next to someone else

Samantha: Did you put your baby down for a nap in his crib?
Me: He won't sleep in a crib until after he is born.
Samantha: Oh. Did you put him down for a nap in your tummy?

Sophie: How are you going to get the baby out of your tummy?
Me: A doctor is going to help me.
Sophie: I don't think the baby likes being in your tummy.

Elliot: Are you having a baby or a boy?
Me: We're having a baby boy.
Elliot: Is it a baby or a boy?
Me: It's a baby that's a boy.
Elliot: No, are you having a baby or a boy?

Samantha: Why did you put that baby in your tummy?
Me: All babies start out that way. You were in your mom's tummy too.
Samantha: What are you going to name him?
Me: We haven't decided yet. What do you think?
Samantha: You should name him Luke when he's born, and when he gets older you can call him James.

13 December 2010

Final Exams

For several years final exams have been a rather significant part of the Christmas season. This year I find myself neither taking nor grading exams. I would be a little bit lost, but the Texan is getting ready for his finals, so our household is not quite test free. And so in honor of all the students I know who are putting off their Christmas cheer until the testing is over, and who will spend many hours in line at the testing center, I present this poem I wrote during one exam week when I was at BYU. (It's amazing what I can accomplish when I'm putting off studying.)

How the Cougars took their Finals

The professors on campus like finals a lot
But the students, who lived just south of campus, did not!

The cougars hated finals! The whole finals season!
Now, please don't ask why for you all know the reason.

They'd have to stay up way into the night
And study real hard until morning's first light

They'd feel like they were banging their heads on the wall
Convinced that their brains were two sizes too small

But, for multiple reasons, such as midnight crams,
They sat there on reading days, cursing exams

Staring down at their books, with a sour, tired gaze
At the long lists of facts, reading page after page

For they knew every teacher on campus just north
Was busy now writing exams to put forth.

“And they’re printing them now.” They snarled with a sneer.
“Tomorrow starts finals. They’re practically here.”

“This huge pile of reading is really quite numbing,
We must find some way to stop finals from coming.”

For tomorrow, they knew, All the students would consign
They’d wake bright and early and long before nine
The testing center was sure to have a very long line.
That’s one thing they hated. The LINES LINES LINES LINES!

Then once in the building they’d sit down and write
And they’d write! And they’d Write

They would write big long essays, and make no mistake
They would write until both hands had started to ache

And then they’d do something they liked least of all
Every student on campus, the tall and the small
Would hand in their tests and though somewhat deflating
They’d simply go home and they’d all start their waiting

They’d wait. And they’d wait.
And the more students thought of this final-grade-wait
The more they all thought, “This is something we hate."

Why for quite a few years we’ve put up with it now
We must stop these finals from coming, But HOW?”

Then they had an idea.
An awful idea.
They all had a horrible awful idea.

“There’s just nothing to do. It’s all to no avail
“If we don’t take our finals we simply will fail”

So they did what all students have done in the past
They stopped whining and studied for finals at last.

(I know it’s a cop out ending, but I really should go study now)

06 December 2010

Morning Sickness and School Busses

I have been sick for far too long. I try not to be bitter about this, but my patience is waning. A more accurate statement is that I tried not to be bitter about this, but I have given up and am thoroughly irate about my current sate. It’s like the flu that won’t go away. I kind of expected that by the time I reached the I can’t tie my shoes, my wedding ring hurts my swollen hands stage of pregnancy I’d be finished with the I need to be close to a bathroom phase. People told me that I would feel better when I got to my second trimester. They lied. The second trimester has come and gone and I still find myself kneeling in the bathroom several times a week. In my more reasonable moments (which are occurring with decreasing frequency) I acknowledge that their dishonesty was probably unintentional. However, their inaccurate estimates cause me to question if I ever will feel better. I am somewhat certain that I am destined to spend the rest of my existence in an eternal state of “morning sickness.” I do think that the person who came up with that title was intentionally lying and should be punished accordingly.

As I approach my eighth month of suffering I have abandoned all pretenses of good naturedly accepting my lot and am quite unabashedly annoyed, frustrated, angry, and irritated. Unfortunately there is no easily defined target for my pregnancy enhanced wrath, and it occasionally lands on unsuspecting innocent bystanders. One day I was dropping the Texan off at school. As I approached his building the all too familiar gagging started. He quickly looked through the car, but unfortunately my plastic bag, which is normally stashed in the glove compartment for such occasions, had not been replaced since its last use. Although he was appropriately sympathetic and concerned, all he could really do was get out of the car, and wish me good luck on the drive home.

My rush home was significantly delayed when I got stuck behind a school bus on a road with almost no cross streets. I quickly became quite mad at the stupid bus driver who kept stopping to pick up kids. After only a few stops I earnestly loathed the flashing red lights and retractable stop sign. I sat in my car nearly choking. I wondered which front yard would become the receptacle of my partially digested breakfast. I cursed the unknown person who decided that all traffic going both directions must stop while children stepped from the sidewalk onto the school bus. I considered drafting a letter to the school board recommending they discontinue the bus system entirely. I tried to conceive of a way I could make one of the kids on the bus clean my car out should the need arise. I questioned why every child had to walk ever so slowly to the back of the bus only to find no open seats and walk twice as leisurely back to the front of the bus before sitting down, and I quite particularly wondered why the bus driver felt the need to continue holding up traffic for this entire process at every stop.

When I was thoroughly worked up over the inefficiencies of bus transportation and fully convinced that an anonymous bus driver had conspired with dozens of elementary students to ruin my life, I finally saw a cross street where I could turn off the horrible road and find a faster, bus-free rout home. Yards short of my escape the bus again assaulted me with flashing lights and an obtrusively insistent stop sign. I looked up the street that was supposed to be my reprieve and found instead an antagonist. A boy was running as fast as he could down the hill with his backpack in one hand and his coat in the other. I spent a full minute of my life hating this tardy child and mercilessly wishing the bus driver would leave him on the curb. The bus driver waited. If I had not been clad in pajamas (the white flannel polka dot ones) I probably would have taken more assertive action. Instead I sat in my car and angrily muttered hypocritically to myself about how late children should be left behind.

Since the bus incident the doctor has given me a new medicine that has significantly curbed the vomiting. It has also significantly curbed my ability to stay awake for more than an hour at a time. I am happy to report that, with the assistance of promethazine, I have made it as long as 10 days without involuntarily expelling my meals. I feel sort of like the factories that post how long it has been since their last accident.

21 October 2010


Fifth period continued. John’s empty seat was soon occupied by a student named Charlie. His story will be forthcoming. Today, however, I would like to articulate some of my thoughts on pajamas.

I am irrationally emotionally attached to the clothing in which I sleep. Much like a young child who requires a specific stuffed animal or security blanket, my ability to fall asleep depends largely on the pants that I wear to bed. My unreasonable affinity toward my pajamas began just prior to the Fall Semester of 2001. As I prepared to make the trek halfway across the country and attend a semester in Nauvoo, Illinois, I was shopping at Kohl’s for some last minute necessities. Megan was with me. I don’t remember what I was actually shopping for, but I do remember stumbling across the most amazing pajama pants on the clearance rack for $2. (Yes, I do remember the price of the pajamas that I purchased over 9 years ago.) These were magical pants. They were made out of a blue crushed velour fabric that was decorated with white clouds and yellow moons and stars, some of the shooting variety. The pants were remarkably soft, and they were definitely not my size. I’m not normally an impulse shopper, but with some encouragement from Megan I decided that I must have the pants, and took my extra-large clearance find to the register.

I packed my magic pants and headed to Nauvoo where putting on my pajamas became a highly anticipated part of the day. The fit was ridiculous. I had to tighten the drawstring to the point that less than half of it remained around my waist, and they covered my feet entirely, but I loved those pants. After the Nauvoo semester, I took the pants with me back to Provo and continued to love them. In 2003 I took the magic pants with me as I served a mission in Pennsylvania. In December 2004, on the last day of my mission, the mission president’s wife took my magic pants and threw them away. She said that they were worn out to the point of being immodest. As I looked at the nearly sheer seat of my magic pants I decided that she probably had a point, and offered only mild protest.

For the next 2 years I wore a pair of good fitting pants made out of striped purple cotton. I developed no connection to these pants. They were not magical in anyway. This is when I decided that there are three essential elements to attachment-worthy pajamas:

1. The most simple requirement of amazing pajamas is that they must be soft. Some animals are easily distracted by shiny objects. My attention is easily captivated by soft things. And, despite the fact that I know better, I am always tricked into thinking that I am warmer when I am clad in something soft.

2. The pajamas must be way too big. This makes them very comfortable, and keeps my feet warm when I get out of bed. It also makes them a novelty. Appropriately tailored pants are practical and are to be worn during the day when I have to look at least moderately professional and mind my limited manners. Extra-large pants are fun and are to be put on at night time when I no longer have to be presentable.

3. Very closely related to element 2, incredible pajamas must be made out of awesome fabric. Awesome pajama fabric is any design that is really cute, but not suitable for regular clothing. No one in their right mind would be seen in public wearing blue crushed velour with moons and stars on it, but sew it into a pair of pajama pants and suddenly it’s acceptable. This is probably at least partly due to the fact that most people are not seen in public wearing their pajamas.

Basically, pajamas that are way too big and made out of awesome soft fabric are so completely different from normal daily clothing that they are very fun to wear. Putting on such a pair of pants is the physical incarnation of the "my day is over and now it is time to rest" sentiment.

My boring pajama spell was finally broken on Christmas in 2006 with a gift from Heather. She gave me pajamas made out of white flannel with multicolored polka-dots and a striped drawstring. These pants make me happy. The Texan refers to these as my nun pants. I’m not sure why he calls them that. There is nothing about ill-fitting flannel polka dots that reminds me of nuns. Nonetheless, that’s what he calls them. They have made it through several years without reaching the extremely tattered state of the magic pants because I alternate their use with another pair of pants that I acquired in March of 2007 while visiting Washington DC. After hearing the National Symphony Orchestra perform Dvorak’s 9th symphony (which, incidentally, is an excellent piece of music frequently referred to as the New World Symphony) I was perusing the gift shop at the Kennedy Center and discovered the music pants. Much more appropriately named than the nun pants, they are made out of a white knit and are covered in musical notes and symbols. At first I was quite dismayed to find that the only size apparently available was a medium. Not willing to purchase anything smaller than an extra-large, but really wanting to have awesome pajamas as a souvenir from the nation’s capital, I located a clerk who was able to find the appropriate size for me. Someday the nun pants and the music pants will meet the same fate as the magic pants, but I think that they still have a few good years left in them.

31 August 2010

5th Period Adventures - Ice Cream

Evidently being assaulted by a student is an excellent way to get whatever you want from the administration for the rest of the school year (and a bigger classroom with windows for the next year.) The day after John dumped his lemonade on me a rather large accident shut down the freeway, and I was a few minutes late checking in. When I walked in the secretary greeted me with, “Why are you here? We didn’t expect you to come in today.” I thought to myself: Really? I could have stayed home and no one would have thought less of me? Why on earth did I wake up early today?

They had a substitute ready for my classes, and I momentarily considered going back home. But I decided that I had already gotten up before the sun, and fought with ridiculous traffic, so at that point I might as well stay and work. From that day on my Principal thought I was the most resilient teacher on the planet. And while he didn’t stop sending me difficult kids, he did give me pretty much anything I asked for. I’m certain that I had the most well supplied History classroom in the state. (This is obviously not the same principal that banned maps. It’s too bad she had to come along and ruin things.)

A few weeks after John was removed from my classroom I was in the hall dutifully monitoring students as they left the cafeteria. The kids only get 22 minutes for lunch, so it is fairly common to see students hurriedly trying to finish eating as they walk to their 5th period classes. One kid, who was not a student of mine, was quickly working on an ice cream cone. I guess he decided that he didn’t want the rest of it because as he walked by me he stopped eating and smeared his dessert in my face. Then without missing a step he continued around the corner to his class.

I was a little bit stunned for a couple of reasons. First, the ice cream was really really cold. Second, this was some random kid. I didn’t know who he was. He didn’t know who I was. At least when John threw stuff at me he was doing it out of anger and spite. I hadn’t made the ice cream kid sit in a seat he didn’t like, or mark him tardy, or take a magazine away from him, or give him a bad grade on a test. He had no reason to be angry with me or wish death by dairy dessert on me. He just shoved ice cream in my face because it seemed like the thing to do. After spending a minute indulging my indignation, I decided I couldn’t write up a kid I didn’t know and gave up on pursuing appropriate disciplinary measures. Instead I went to the bathroom and washed my face. Then I took a stack of paper towels and put them in my desk drawer in case of future food encounters.

18 August 2010

5th Period Adventures - Part 4: Lemonade

The next day John entered my classroom only 5 minutes late. I took this as a good sign. I was further encouraged by the fact that he was carrying a backpack. Perhaps John had arrived with some scholastic purpose in mind. He sat in his seat for about 3 minutes and then stood up. I decided that John might not want to sit next to Frank in all of his cosmetic glory, and since a couple of students were absent that day I figured I could accommodate him. I asked John to choose an empty seat to sit in. Surprisingly he picked the desk that I lovingly refer to as Outer Siberia where I send the political prisoners. I continued teaching my class about the Black Plague. After looking around for a few minutes John realized that he had voluntarily placed himself in the time out chair, and got up to move. I continued to teach.

John, much like Daniel, was not getting the attention he wanted, so he decided to take more ostentatious action. He stood up and walked around the classroom talking to the other students. I decided that my strategy of ignoring the problem in hopes that it would go away was no longer the best course of action.

“John you need to be in a seat. It doesn’t have to be your chair but you need to be in a chair.”

John drew himself up to his full height and proclaimed, “Miss, you can’t make me sit down.”

“You’re right. I can’t. Do it anyway.”

This confused John and he stopped for a moment, but he quickly re-gathered his senses and continued to walk around the room. At this point it occurred to me that it was very likely that John did not enjoy being told what to do any more than I do. Rather than dictate instructions, I decided to give him some options. “John, you may sit in a chair, or you may stand outside the door.” John sat down. I think he didn’t really want to get locked out again. But he wasn’t about to admit defeat, and certainly did not want to portray an attitude of compliance. As soon as he sat down he reached into his backpack and pulled out a bottle of lemonade. The district maintains a strict no food or drink policy in classrooms, and every student in that room, including John, knew that he had just broken a very aggressively enforced rule. He looked with an “I dare you to stop me” glance. Knowing it wouldn’t work I asked him to put the lemonade away and he again responded with “You can’t make me.” Then very slowly and deliberately he opened the bottle and took a drink. I walked over to him, touched him on the arm and repeated my request. I knew that I had just broken a cardinal rule of teaching by touching a student, but I did not expect the reaction that I got. John angrily threw the bottle on the ground and walked out of my classroom, slamming the door on the way out.

I decided that John had temporarily solved the problem. He was no longer interrupting my class, and I could write him up later. So I picked up his lemonade bottle, threw it away and continued teaching. Within a few minutes I had my students diligently working in groups to trace the route of the Bubonic Plague as it spread throughout Europe. I was standing in the back of the room between two students answering a map question when I heard someone knock on my door. I looked up in time to see another student let John back in the room. Without saying anything John crossed the room and retrieved his lemonade from the trash can, dumped it all over me, threw the empty bottle on the ground, and left the room slamming the door yet again on his way out.

Every student in the room silently watched me and waited for my reaction. I instantly wished I had something of extreme importance to tell them, because I was keenly aware that I had more absolute attention from 5th period than I would ever have from any other class for the rest of my teaching career. Unfortunately their concentration was somewhat wasted. Instead of taking advantage of their attentiveness by sharing deep pearls of wisdom, all I could manage to do was use my sleeve to wipe the lemonade out of my eyes and then check on the students I was standing between. After confirming that both kids all of their materials were lemonade free I finished answering their question, and moved to the next group to see if they needed any help. The class decided that the show was over, and rather disappointedly went half-heartedly back to their assignment.

Despite my best efforts, John successfully interrupted my class more thoroughly than any other student, and more completely than I think he realized or even intended. The kids tried to refocus, but for the rest of the hour my classroom seemed to be a parade of adults completely oblivious to the fact that school was still in session, and I still had a class to teach. First the counselors’ secretary came into class to find out why John was wondering the halls. Next the principal came in to hear what had happened. He was followed by one of our police officers who came to ask if I wanted to press charges. The lead counselor came in to tell me that he was working on a schedule change so that John would no longer be in my class. Every assistant principal in the building stopped for no apparent reason really. They kind of reminded me of people on the freeway who slow down to look at the remnants of an accident that has already been cleaned up. All there is left to see is some broken glass, but they are going to be sure to see it. Then the counselor came in again saying that he couldn’t complete the schedule change without a documented reason, so I needed to write up the incident on the appropriate discipline referral form. A custodian came in to mop the floor. The counselor came in yet again asking if I had completed the referral yet. By the time my neighboring teacher came in to ask if I needed anything I was so sick of interruptions I told him I needed him to leave and lock the door on his way out.

17 July 2010

5th Period Adventures - Part 3: John

Administrators don’t teach fifth period. In fact many administrators have never even been in a classroom. So when John returned from our alternative campus the counselors thought it would be a good idea to add him to my fifth period family. John was a rather large student. He had been in my class the year before, failed miserably and got kicked out of school for selling drugs. He came back with a chip on his shoulder and an axe to grind. He arrived in my classroom 15 minutes late. He carried no materials with him, and said nothing to anyone. He merely glared around the room and clenched his fists. I assigned John the only empty seat in my classroom, which happened to be right next to Frank, and braced myself for a new onslaught of disruptive behavior. John stomped his way over to his desk, slammed himself into the seat and stared at the floor.

I decided to do my best to help John succeed in my class and handed him some paper and a pencil that he could use for the day, and asked him to bring his own the next day. He lifted his gaze only slightly and acknowledged my request with a grunt. A few minutes later stood up, pushed his papers on the floor, walked out of my room, and slammed the door. Having taught John before, I was discouraged but not surprised by this performance. His bewildered classmates watched me pick up his papers and continue teaching without comment. A few minutes later John returned to my classroom, and discovered, much to his dismay, that I keep my classroom door locked. When he slammed the door he locked himself out. I took much pleasure in this little victory and continued teaching.

I have a very simple policy that John was already familiar with. You can walk out of my classroom any time you want. I won't stop you, I won't get in your way, and I won't argue with you about it. But once you leave, you can't come back without a note from your principal. And if you don't make it back with a note from the principal by the end of class, you are marked absent. With my door locked, John knew that he needed to go tell the principal that he walked out of class, but decided to see if he could avoid that meeting, as it surely would end in detention. He knocked on my door. I went outside and asked him if he had the required note. When he told me he did not, I went back into class leaving him in the hallway to contemplate his options.

John knocked on my door again, I ignored him. He pounded on the window, I ignored him. He jiggled my doorknob, I ignored him. One of my students helpfully pointed out that John wanted to come back into class. Tenth graders are so observant. I told them that John wanted to disrupt class and asked them to ignore him. They performed remarkably well. I was so proud of all of them. John continued his pounding and got very frustrated when he could see through the window that no one cared. He started shouting through the door. When that didn’t work he pulled out his cell phone, which is not allowed in school, turned on the alarm, and pushed it under my door. It found it very difficult not to laugh as I picked his phone up off the ground, turned it off, and deposited it in my desk drawer to be turned into the office at the end of the day. John cried out loudly in dismay and defeat just as an Assistant Principal rounded the corner. He was assigned detention.

09 July 2010

5th Period Adventures - Part 2: Frank

I was a little disappointed that Daniel dropped out of school, but not at all upset that I stopped receiving death threats. I thought I had slain the dragon, and settled down to my happily ever after. However, I soon discovered that I had only battled the enchantment protecting the dragon’s lair, and the true contest was yet to come. The next attack came from a different angle. One of the counselors stopped by my room during my conference period to let me know that she had just changed a schedule and put Frank in my class. For a moment I was tricked by this siren’s song and allowed myself to be lulled into a false sense of security. I thought of how kind and considerate it was for her to go out of her way to tell me about a schedule change, and I looked forward to meeting this new pupil. I knew I was headed for trouble when I looked up his previous schedule to find out whom to get his grades from and discovered that Frank had already been through three other History teachers, and it was only October. However I decided that I had the upper hand in the impending contest due to the fact that I had a 24 hour head start. I quickly assigned Frank a spot in the seating chart and then began searching for information that I could wield in my favor. I went to Frank's most recent History teacher. When I mentioned his name the teacher first cringed, then shuddered, then said “good luck” and promptly walked out of the room. With that resounding vote of confidence I made my way back to my room and prepared for the worst.

The following day I returned from the cafeteria a few minutes early, anxious to prepare for my new disruptive student. I was momentarily caught off guard when I discovered that he had beaten me and was waiting for me outside my door. I quickly put on my serious I’m-in-charge-of-this-classroom face and unlocked my door. Frank had been through enough schedule changes by this point in the year to know that his ticket into my classroom was a copy of the new schedule. With a flourish in his wrist he handed me the required documentation, and then with all the femininity of a damsel in distress sighed rather significantly, leaned on my door frame, tilted his head to one side, batted his eyelashes and asked, “Miss, do I look pretty today?” In all of my mental preparations it had never occurred to me that my new antagonist would be a boy who wished he was a girl.

I tried not to focus on the exorbitant amount of foundation, eye shadow, and lip gloss that was caked on his face and told him where his assigned seat was. He tossed his head and swung his hips all the way to his desk. When class started Frank started rummaging through his purse. I watched closely hoping that he would take out some paper on which to complete the warm up assignment. My optimism shattered when instead his hand emerged clutching a rather large make up bag. He pulled out a compact and carefully applied some rather dark eye liner, gazed at his reflection for a few moments and then decided he needed some more lip gloss. He settled on some clear lip gloss with glitter in it and went to work. Even my most dedicated and disciplined students had a hard time focusing on the task at hand, and all eyes were on Frank.

Frank had an interesting ritual. Maybe he was still determining what makeup was best for his coloring. He would spend several minutes applying makeup, then admire his handiwork in the mirror for a while, then pull out a washcloth to wipe off all of the makeup and start over. He was challenging to the class in a number of ways: 1) he didn’t care about History or listen to a single thing that I said. This made him about average for fifth period. 2) Instead of using the normal methods of ignoring me such as falling asleep, passing notes, or texting, Frank's makeup ritual was quite distracting to everyone in the room. 3) He loved to play the race card. Anytime I asked him to do anything he responded with “You just hate me because I’m black.” 4) He made my other students uncomfortable. All sorts of behavior problems that had never existed before began to surface when Frank entered my classroom. This was a difficult predicament. He would say the oddest things. Once he asked me if I liked his new lip gloss. Once he told me he liked my eye shadow and wanted to know where I bought it. Once he asked the girl sitting behind him if she would pluck his eyebrows for him. Fortunately for me, Frank liked to stand up before interrupting class, so my standard response to all of his antics quickly became “Frank, please sit down.” “Miss, you just hate me because I’m black.” “Frank, I don’t hate you. Please sit down.”

After about two weeks of this the tension in my classroom started to settle down. The other kids realized that Frank wasn’t going anywhere, and found some sort of comfort in the daily ritual of me assuring Frank that I didn’t hate him and asking him to sit down. Frank realized that I wasn’t going to write him up, so he was stuck in my class for the foreseeable future. He even occasionally took a break from his makeup routine to take some notes.

02 July 2010

5th Period Adveuntures - Part 1: Daniel

Fifth period is at a rather difficult time of day. Much of the world avoids post lunch problems through use of the siesta. However, Americans boldly cling to the bizarre idea that humans are actually supposed to be awake during the mid-afternoon hours and try to conduct business as normal. Teenagers, who already have a very limited connection to reality, are especially hard hit by what I refer to as afternoon insanity. Knights, warriors, mythical gods, and other literary heroes have nothing over a fifth period public school teacher.

My first Nemesis arrived in fifth period on the first day of school to announce that he had just returned from prison, celebrated his nineteenth birthday, and was now ready to begin his high school career. He got off to an excellent start by walking out of class and slamming the door. Getting Daniel to sit in a seat was a Herculean task (except that Hercules would not have been able to accomplish it.) Daniel’s favorite response to any request was “Miss, I’m fixin’ to go guerilla on you.” I decided to overlook the obvious Texan nature of the comment and concentrate on keeping him from interrupting the other students in the classroom.

Having never attended high school before, Daniel did not immediately make the connection between attending school and passing school. He missed several weeks before he decided that coming to class might be worth his time. Unfortunately he decided it was only worth his time because he could sell drugs in the restrooms, and his only excuse to come to campus and use the restrooms was to attend an occasional class.

After Daniel discovered that blatant disregard for all school rules was not getting him the amount of attention he desired, he decided to try something slightly more abrasive He stood up during class and announced that he was going to bring a gun and school to shoot everyone. Then, just to make sure I knew of the special place that I had in his heart, he promised me that he would come and find me first. While flattered to be the first one he thought of, I decided that I would prefer to make it through the year without gunshot wounds. I asked him to sit down and finish taking his test. During our weekly meeting, I mentioned the exchange to my Assistant Principal who insisted that in any school shooting he would certainly be the first target. I held my ground and maintained my position as first in line.

A few days later Daniel was quite disappointed by the apathetic response he received and decided to try again with a little more fervor. This time, in addition to promising to find me first in his assault of the school, he stood up and acted out some target practice. By the third time Daniel promised to bring a gun to school the Assistant Principle lost patience and did the most logical thing: called a meeting. The attendees at this meeting included myself, Daniel, the AP, and our police officer. Daniel was informed that he would not be allowed back on campus until his parents came and met with an administrator (because, of course, the solution is another meeting). Daniel pursued the most obvious course of action and withdrew from school.

14 June 2010


I received this email from a parent. I could provide multiple pages of commentary, but I think she speaks adequately for herself. (I have even preserved the original spelling and punctuation.)

"you and I need to talk [my daughter] worked to hard on a project that was objective... meaning your opinionto receive an 70% She has expressed your dislike for her now Im beginning to wonder if she is right. If you do not contact me I will have no problem escalating this complaint."

09 June 2010

Final Projects

The last assignment of the year was a decade project. The kids had to make a poster, write an essay, and present their decade to the class. Most of the kids did an excellent job. One student even made a comparison between Kennedy's use of television in the 1960 election and Obama's use of online social networking in the 2008 election. While such magical moments make a teacher extremely proud, the non teaching community doesn't seem to find much entertainment in them. Some of the presentations didn't really make me proud, but they did make me laugh a little bit.

Project on the 1920s:
"Alcohol was illegal in the 1920s, so nothing interesting happened."

Project on the 1940s:
"WWI was in the 1940s. It was where the United States fought against the Soviet Union and dropped the atomic bomb on them to prove that we didn't like communism."

Project on the 1960s:
"Then there was Rosa Parks. She was important because....Well, I don't know, but she got in trouble for something."

I was a little dismayed that she didn't seem to know anything about Rosa Parks. It was just the icing on the cake that Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus in 1955, and really had no place in a project on the 1960s.

Project on the 1970s:
"Ryan drew a picture of a turkey on my poster. I don't know why he did that because turkeys weren't invented in the 1970s. Turkeys are animals, so they can't be invented. Maybe they were discovered in the 70s though."

Project on the 1990s:
"I put a picture of September 11th on my poster because that was a big deal. Oh wait, that was in 2001. That's the wrong decade." Then he ripped the picture off his poster

Same project on the 1990s:
"Bill Clinton had to be impeached so that Bush could become president."

27 May 2010

Favorite Conversation of the Week

The Texan was trying to add an event to our evening that I hadn't planned on.

Texan: Come on. We should go. It will be fun.

RedHead: I don't know. I'm not really dressed for it...my hair's not done...

Texan: You still have four minutes. I've seen you work miracles in less time than that.

21 May 2010

If You're Going to Plagiarize...

As part of a final assignment each student had to write and "essay" about one decade in American History. Essay is in quotations because they only had to write 300 words. One student turned in the following as her essay about the 1940s:

"On December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of American was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan..."

Legal and ethical issues of plagiarism and academic dishonesty aside, I'm moderately offended that she didn't think I would recognize one of the most famous speeches ever made by a US president.

09 May 2010

Happy Mother's Day

I never wear shoes in the house. I get this habit from my mother. Friday morning I was trying to get to school early so that I could give my AP kids cinnamon rolls before they had to take a test. I was running a little late (which is a habit that I do not get from my mother) and ran out to the car in quite a hurry. I was well on my way to school before I realized that I was not wearing any shoes and would have to go back home to get some. I raced back home, ran inside, grabbed my shoes, and ran back to my car which I had left running. Unfortunately in my hurry I managed to accidentally lock my car. I had to go back inside and get the Texan's keys. I made it to school only 10 minutes before the AP test started. I handed all my kids a cinamon roll, whished them good luck, and sent them on their way.

I don't think my mom ever went to school without shoes, and she's a very on time kind of person, but it made me think of other habits I get from my mom.

1) I read the news during my lunch break. I remember my mom reading the newspaper every day. Sometimes I would sit on the floor and play with her feet while she would read the newspaper. Despite how annoying this sounds, she never kicked me, which I appreciate.

2) I love serving dishes. I remember packing up some dishes to go to college, and my mom pulled out an old yellow serving dish and asked me if I wanted to take it with me. I told her I didn't need it. She told me that sometimes it's nice to serve a meal in a dish that it was not cooked in, and packed the yellow serving dish for me. Ever since then I have been a firm believer in serving dishes. They are fun. Currently I have a set of white oval shaped serving bowls that I love.

3) I like to sew things. I only partly get this habit from my mom. She sews some amazing stuff. She made me a Christmas dress, and Easter dress, and a First-Day-of-School dress every year. She also made my dresses for prom and homecoming. My favorite dress is the lavendar prom dress she made for me based not on a pattern, but on a picture I drew. Which is even more impressive than it sounds when you take into account my remarkably poor drawing skills. I don't do fancy stuff like that, but I like to sew simple things like napkins and pillowcases. Occasionally I sew a project that involves a zipper, and then I feel quite accomplished.

4) I eat fruits and vegetables. I even crave things like broccoli. My mom would make my lunch for me to take to school every day. And every day that lunch would include a fruit or a vegetable. She also gave us vegetables at dinner every night. When it was my turn to make dinner I would try to get away with not making a vegetable, but she was pretty smart and I never got away with it. Now I don't feel like I've had a meal until I've eaten produce of some kind. I will feel hungry until I've eaten a vegetable. My current favorite is green beans.

Happy Mother's Day. I hope you have a good one.

01 May 2010

Testing Week

The TAKS test is an almost mystic event encompassing many deeply rooted customs and rituals. In its infinite wisdom and power the Texas Education Agency has decreed that only those holding current and valid Texas Educator Certificates should be allowed to participate in the most exclusive rites of test administration. I would be perfectly content to share the experience with my certificate free colleagues, but alas, TEA will not allow a paraprofessional, librarian, or office assistant to partake in the TAKS testing tradition. This is mainly because TEA needs a method of recourse. Should their sacredly held procedures be in some way violated resulting in a "testing irregularity" TEA can confiscate my teaching certificate. And so every year at the end of April I put my professional credentials on the line to participate in four days of fun-filled state mandated testing.

The most important part of the testing ritual is pacing. Test administrators must "actively monitor" the students. This means that over the course of 4 hours of testing I can walk about 6 miles all without leaving my classroom. Sitting down is a cardinal sin. The test are not timed. I am required to encourage each student to take as much time as they need to do whatever it takes for them to perform best on their test. Inevitably there is a student in the room who thinks he can perform best on the test by taking a 3 hour nap. After 24 students have already completed the exam, and I have alphabetized all of their answer documents, and organized test booklets by form number, this student will finally decide to wake up and start the test. I have to keep pacing, and all the other students are required to remain seated and silent until the final test is turned in. TAKS testing makes normally sane, reasonable, and competent people crazy.

In an effort to make sure the students take the test seriously, don't cheat, and are generally as miserable as their teachers, we don't let the kids sit by their friends, or even in their normal classrooms. Instead the entire grade level is seated in alphabetical order. In my classroom I had tenth graders from the "Garcia" section of the alphabet. Getting these kids in the appropriate seating order was slightly more complicated than I had anticipated. Not only did they all have the exact same last name, they all had similar first names as well. I had one girl named Jessica, and every other student in my room was named either Jesus, Jorge, Jose, or Juan. After learning every students full name, I finally got everyone sitting in the appropriate seat. As the final Juan took his seat at the end of the last row I giggled a little bit about the whole situation. One of the kids asked me what was funny to which I responded, "We could play twister in this room." The kids gave me blank stares, so I elaborated: "You know...right hand Jose, left foot Juan..." Blank stares continued.

Finally one kid spoke up. "Miss we can't play that game in this room. It's a white person game."

25 April 2010

TAKS Season (not to be confused with the equally frustrating but mostly unrelated "tax season")

It is once again time for educational institutions across the country to prove that minority students have not succumbed to the "soft bigotry of low expectations," and can answer multiple choice questions as well as their white middle class peers. In Texas that means it is time to administer the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

In an effort to prove to the federal government that our high risk students have an equal opportunity for education and aren't getting left behind, we interrupt their normal curriculum and instruction for two weeks to conduct TAKS review.

TAKS review is not my favorite part of the year. I look forward to it about as much as I look forward to (insert some type of universally agreed upon unpleasant activity here.) The only thing about teaching that is more unpleasant than TAKS review is the TAKS test itself. (Which, I am fairly certain, I will have something to say about next week.)

For a few excruciating days I followed the prescribed review format, and decided that it was actually making my kids dumber. When I am bored to tears and the kids aren’t learning a single thing it’s time for something to change. So I handed out markers told the kids that we were going to make an illustrated history of the United States. They were kind of confused at first. Several students reminded me that it was TAKS review week. Some kids asked me if I would get in trouble. After I convinced them that the new assignment was still part of TAKS review my kids did some excellent illustrations including the bombing of Hiroshima, the Spanish American War, and the Civil Rights movement. This picture of the 1929 stock market crash made me giggle.

17 April 2010

One small step for man...

I wrapped up our unit on the 1960s by teaching the kids about the moon landing. Since NASA is not that far away, and they just made a big deal out of the 40th anniversary, I thought it would be a relatively simple day. I probably thought that because I temporarily forgot that I teach teenagers at a public school.

Every day Roger drags himself into first period 10 minutes late, stands at the door and asks "Miss, what we be doin' today?" I used to think that this habit would drive his English teacher crazy. I met her last week, and she seemed quite sane, but she did mention his poor punctuality. If my response to his query sounds interesting enough he comes into class and participates. If my response doesn't meet his standard he pouts a little. He makes a face, stomps his foot, and asks "why?" (Which is apparently appropriately pronounced in 2 very distinct syllables.) When he does this I tell him it's because I'm trying to make him miserable, and I was up all night trying to think of ways to ruin his life. Then he shrugs, comes into class, and sleeps.

When I told him that we were going to learn about the moon landing I was entirely unprepared for his response. He proudly proclaimed "I already know all about that. It's that Buzz guy. Buzz what'shisname." I was quite proud of his knowledge, and particularly impressed that he didn't throw out the name Neil Armstrong. He was an informed student. He knew that Armstrong was not the only astronaut involved in the moon landing. Anticipating that this meant that Roger was deciding to participate in class I responded, "That's right. It was Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Michael Collins was there as well, but he didn't actually walk on the moon."

Roger looked at me for a minute. I really think he spent an entire sixty seconds trying to figure out what I just said. I could see the wheels turning in his head and I thought I might have thrown him off a little by mentioning Michael Collins. Then he said, "Miss, what are you talking about? I was talking about that movie. You know...the one with the toys. It's Buzz...Buzz...Buzz Lightyear! Yeah. That's his name."

22 March 2010

"If I Were In Charge Of The World"

My second grade teacher read to us a lot (Probably most second grade teachers do, but I don't know for sure since I was only in the second grade once.) We all enjoyed read aloud time. She read us poetry, picture books, and occasionally even a chapter book. We sure all felt grown up when she pulled out the first chapter book. I remember her reading to us about the grouchy ladybug, Amelia Bedilia, and Ramona Quimby.

By far the classes favorite book was If I Were In Charge of the World by Judith Vorst. Occasionally our teacher would reward exceptional behavior by allowing a student to pick out the book for read aloud time. Invariably whoever the lucky student was would pick If I Were In Charge of the World. Soon we all knew the book by heart and would say it along with her.

I don't remember the whole thing anymore, but I do remember that if the unnamed character were in charge of the world he would cancel Monday mornings and oatmeal. I thought those were noble goals. I also remember that the book ended by saying, "If I were in charge of the world,a person who sometimes forgot to brush, and sometimes forgot to flush, would still be allowed to be in charge of the world." And after we all finished saying that part we would cringe, and offer our commentary of "eww...gross," and feel confident that our seven years of superior dental hygiene qualified each of us to be in charge of the world.

Now that I am no longer in second grade I have sadly realized that despite my years of consistent toilet flushing, I probably will never be in charge of the world. This is mainly because the world is not ruled by one person, but power is distributed among multiple leaders in many nations. And unfortunately those people will gather to discuss things ranging from health care to climate change to the lack of a BCS playoff, but seem content to leave Monday mornings and oatmeal alone.

But if I ever am in charge of the world, I will institute a new checkpoint at airports. It will be a smell check were people who have particularly bad body odor, halitosis, or whose clothes smell like smoke will not be allowed on the plane until their odors are neutralized. We already take off our shoes, jackets, and belts and submit to pat-down searches with the expectation that this somehow makes our flights more secure. I don't think it would be that much more invasive to have someone say "Excuse me sir, you need to take a shower before you can get on this flight." And it would certainly make flying a more enjoyable experience for all involved.

10 March 2010


My AP kids are starting to get some personality. Perhaps the prospect of the upcoming spring break has inspired them.

I gave the kids a quiz. I listed five terms from the chapter they just finished reading and asked them to define and identify the significance of each one. Rebecca did an excellent job on the first four terms, but I don't think she finished reading the chapter. This was her answer to number five:

"So, I used to work at souper salad, but then I quit because it got to be too much to handle with school and what not. But last night I went to visit my old boss and the people who worked there and I made them cookies and I walked in and saw a cute guy and tripped. :("

04 March 2010

I Have Decided

After much thought and contemplation I have come to the following conclusions:

Everyone should make a snow angel at least twice in their lifetime.

I am a better teacher when my feet don't hurt, therefore I do not have a large selection of cute shoes.

Any problem a Band-aid can solve is not an emergency.

No one on the planet should be required to be awake before 6:00 in the morning.

23 February 2010

My Teacher Said...

Last week was course selection week. Instead of teaching our kids history we took them down to the auditorium where the counselors gave them all the paperwork they need to pick their classes for next year. One of the counselors started explaining to the kids the difference between an AP class and a duel credit class and how each would figure into class rank and GPA. She was rudely interrupted by one of my students who shouted quite loudly, "My teacher says that in three years no one will care."

09 February 2010

Death by AP US History

Today was test day for the AP kids. As I was handing out the multiple choice section of the exam, Mike asked me, "Miss, is death by AP History considered suicide or homicide?"

After some discussion, including the possibility of genocide, the kids decided that AP History is self inflicted and settled on labeling it mass suicide.

28 January 2010

I was rather irate when the came into class. It wasn't their fault, so I tried not to make a big deal out of it, but it didn't take them very long to notice that something was different. They were pretty curious, but after I assured them that they were not the target of my anger, most of them were satisfied. Brian, however, wanted some further clarification.

Brian: Miss, did someone accuse you of being a pagan?
Me: No
Brian: Good. Because that would be really insulting!

That made me giggle. Then we had a pretty good class on the Civil War.

22 January 2010


I do not have pets. I am not sad about this. I am not anti-animal, but I am decidedly anti-indoor-pet for two reasons:

1. The amount of red hair around the house is more than sufficient. I see no need to add animal hair to the mix.

2. Animals have a distinctive smell that does not belong in my house. If I want to smell animals, I will go to the zoo.

The Texan is much less anti-pet, therefore we have a fish tank. I do not clean the fish tank, I do not feed the fish, and if I ever start to smell fish in the house the tank will disappear. Under these conditions, I actually kind of like the fish tank. In the early days of the fish tank the Texan named a fish, but it died less than an hour later. Now we keep nameless fish. Currently we have ten. One of these fish is a jerk. I refer to him as the mean fish. He is territorial and aggressive and has managed to restrict the other nine fish to a small corner of the tank. The mean fish has intimidated one particular fish to the point that it was unable to come out of its hiding place and eat for several days in a row.

One day as the Texan was feeding his fish, the frightened fish finally emerged and tried to eat, but the mean fish quickly chased it back under a rock. The Texan was tired of this selfishness, and decided it was time for action. He took the mean fish out of the tank and put him in a bucket on the floor for a few minutes. I came home a few hours later to find all ten fish happily swimming throughout the entire tank. When I asked the Texan about this fishy behavior he proudly explained that he had taught the mean fish to be nice by putting him in time out.

10 January 2010

What Would Jesus Do?

On Sundays I teach the 5 and 6 year olds. I have been doing this since April, and was a little nervous about it at first, but it turns out that they are remarkably similar to the high school kids. Today's lesson was titled "I can choose the right." First we played follow the leader. Then I asked the kids how to follow Jesus. Kaitlyn answered, "You do what he would do and not things that mean and grumpy people do." I felt good about that answer and told the kids that they could ask themselves what Jesus would want them to do, and then do it. A few minutes later Will interrupted me:

Will: Teacher, there is something black on that chair next to you. It's gross.
Me: You're right. That's why I decided not to sit in that chair.
Will: Do you know what Jesus would want us to do?
Me: What?
Will: He would want us to try to clean it off so that His church isn't dirty.
Me: I think you're right.

So we found a wet paper towel and cleaned the chair.