I do my own stunts

I fell at school last week.  I was walking down the hallway, and I slipped on a Skittle.  I am not sure who lost the red demon Skittle, but it knocked me down with the force of a 500 pound bag of Skittles.

These are strong, slippery little suckers.

It is really embarrassing to use the school hallways as a collision crash course.  Many students saw my mishap (sadly, they did not see the Skittle – stupid Skittle) and some even offered to help me up.  I was carrying things.  My coffee, for one, my laptop, for another.  I saved the laptop, lost the coffee.  Let’s say I was bitter for the remainder of the day, because it was good coffee.  Really good coffee.  Gone.

Luckily, my favorite Tech guy at school was absent.  Or, it may have been previewed many times due to the cameras in the hallway.  Maybe fast-forwarded, rewound, played in slow motion.  All of the fun that can come with someone falling on their buttocks in the main hallway.  Did I mention it was in the main hallway where there is the most traffic between class periods?  No?  Yes, it was.  Darn Skittle.

Save a laptop. Toss a coffee.

One fun thing I found out from falling down in the hallway:  It takes me longer to recuperate than it used to.  Over the weekend, I kept complaining about my knees (yes, those crashed down and impacted with the floor), my elbows (which is the epic save for my laptop), and my wrist (which, thanks the Skittle, was no match for the gravity that impaled my travel coffee mug into a locker).

Essence of today’s post:  Beware of Skittles, and know, that as we age, we may not bounce or bounce back as easily.  At least there isn’t video to prove this.

The Spanish Inquisition

As a high school teacher, sometimes the littlest of instances force a reflection on my own less-than-stellar moments as a student and helps me get through some less-than-stellar days on the education front.

So a confession: There were times when I did not behave as a good student.

Spanish class was one of those times.

I was horrible in Spanish class.  From the day I stood in the door of the classroom, to the day I vowed never to take another course from that teacher, I was just an absolutely plain awful student.

Let me back up and explain that this was a difficult time for me.  My dad’s career transferred us from New Jersey to Ohio.  I was a junior in high school, moving away from all of my friends, my networks, my favorite mall (this is important to a teenager) to a town I didn’t understand.  I went from being a Fighting Eagle to a Fighting Quaker (yes, frighteningly enough, this is a real mascot – an oxymoron in itself).  Did I mention that I was a junior?  In high school?

As a new student, I got the thrill of being escorted around the building by the wind-pant wearing, whistle-swinging P.E. teacher.  He led me through the building with an editorial about many different things: who not to hang out with, what not to eat in the cafeteria and where not to sit at the stadium.  He also introduced me to all of my teachers – as they were in the middle of teaching their first period classes.  It was quite embarrassing, if I do say so myself.

He directed me into the Spanish classroom, and I stopped dead in my tracks.  The class was being taught by the wife in The Shining with a pyramid haircut.  I had a flash to being snowed in the high school and this teacher screaming as her students shouted “Red Rum, Red Rum!”  I could not step any further into the door.  This did not bode well for the gym teacher who proceeded to push me as if I was on the defensive line through the doorway.

Mrs. S. looked at me inquisitively, introduced herself and was very nice that day.  It was the first and last time that would happen.

I was awful in her class.  First, I was placed in the back of the room.  This is not a good place for me – especially in a class that was Greek to me, oops, I mean Spanish.  I would try listening to her, I really would, but I couldn’t get the vision of her fighting off Jack Nicholson’s character out of my mind.  The same actress also starred in Popeye – as Olive Oil – so it was Shining or Olive Oil, all day, every day.  Also, Mrs. S. talked like she was eating her face.  It was very disturbing.

After awhile, I began to read in class.  Novels, not Spanish.  This is when Mrs. S. caught on to my less-than-stellar performance as a student.  She began taking away the precious novels I would be reading in class.  I switched to magazines.  She figured that out, too.  Darn.

My mom, Crazy Pat, was concerned when Mrs. S. called her in for a conference.  I told my mom that Mrs. S. was mean and that she reminded me of a horror movie actress.  I also told my mom that Mrs. S. was so boring and she always took my things away.  Did I mention I was awful?

Crazy Pat went in for the conference.  She came home, spread out 12 novels and 16 magazines on the kitchen table.  She told me she believed that I was not acting appropriately, and there was a personality conflict because of it.  She said I needed to apologize the Mrs. S. and start paying attention.

I started paying attention.  But I never apologized.

Driving home from school yesterday, I saw my Spanish teacher walking her dog.  She still had the pyramid haircut.  She still had the inquisitive look on her face.  She still looked exactly like the actress in The Shining.

I felt badly for my behavior as a 16-year-old.  To Mrs. S., I am truly sorry for my poor behavior.  The old saying is true: what comes around goes around.  And it has come full circle now that I am a teacher.  Oh, and one more thing, thanks for giving my novels and magazines to my mom.   I really appreciated it.  Oh, and, sorry for being just plain awful.  OK?  Thanks.

Welcome to Spanish.

It’s Snow Fair

It’s snow fair when other schools all around me have snow days and we don’t.  It’s snow fair when we have a winter without a snow day.  It’s snow fair this year.

Usually, a snow-covered, wintery weekday morning goes like this: It is early.  The sun hasn’t even decided if it is going to show itself (and it probably won’t because it is winter in Ohio).  The alarm clock hasn’t made its deafening sound to frighten me out of bed.  The cat is nestled cozily sleeping next to me.  And then, the phone rings.

Here is what immediately goes through my mind:  Whose school is calling?  Please let it by my school!

And then I speak those precious words, “Whose school is calling?”  I say to my sleeping husband, The Captain.

He checks the called ID and says the horrible words, “Mine.”

Crapola.  That means that he is off or has a delay and I have to go in at the regular time. We teach at two different districts, so this is a common thing during the winter.

Sadly, this morning occurrence has only happened once this season.  At it was not for my district.  Ugh.

So I am begging, pleading for Mother Nature to send us a snow day.  Just one little snow day.  Because teaching a bunch of teenagers who act as if it’s the week before spring break, and yet it is not quite March, is sheer torture.  Spring break weather needs to be reserved for spring break time.  Not February.  Plus, my little dudes at home and I would really like to go skiing, sledding or even just build a snowman.  To be fair, that is what winter is all about.

And, if we don’t get one, in the words of my students, “It will be, like, oh my God, so snow fair.”

Even Squishy would love a snow day. This snow was from Christmas break. Go figure!

I Made It! And Got an Award, too!

I walked into school this morning with a sense of dread.  I realized on my drive to school that interim grades were due by 2 p.m.  Super.

Scampering through the day to get everything in the grade book, I spent most of my time cleaning up loose ends on assessments, and leaving virtual comments in the online grade book like “Good Worker” and “Not Working to Potential” and my favorite this marking period, “Seems Interested”  which has many different connotations.  Are they doing pretty well, but not “Good Worker” status?  Seems Interested.   Are they in class and kind of working, but not so poorly as they need the “Not Working to Potential” comment?  Seems Interested.  Are they as tired as I am dealing with the random Ohio winter and are ready to move on to spring and some sunshine?  Seems Interested.  It just works.

Imagine my excitement when I finally had the chance to jump onto WordPress and find that the amazing and wonderful Jonesin’ After 40 nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award!  Yippee!  Does this mean that I am a “Good Worker”?  I hope so!  I can’t even begin to say how excited I am by this.  The song Here Comes the Sun comes flooding into my mind.  Forget the cloudy Ohio winter, this is the sunshine for my day!

But wait, there’s more!  There are rules to this award.  They can be found at the Versatile Blogger Award blog.  One of the rules is to list seven things about myself.  Oh, the pressure!  I don’t know seven things about myself.  Oh well, here goes me trying to be funny/quirky/silly/humble/giddy/etc./etc.:

1.  I do not cook or have a green thumb.  Many times I sing “Green Acres” and insert that “New York is where I’d rather stay.  I get allergic smelling hay!”  Which is true.  I am allergic to hay and basically almost all trees and grasses.  Without allergy shots, I am like the Bubble Boy from Seinfeld.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  😉

2.  I love that leggings are back in style.  Why they ever left and were replaced by low-rise jeans and mid-drift shirts, I’ll never know or understand.  Strange.

3.  I am a bit of a wino and a chocoholic.  I love red wine – especially Pinot Noir.  I love chocolate – especially Dove milk chocolate.  So, come and join me sometime!

4.  I originally wanted to be a stand-up comedian and get a role on SNL.  My dad told me he wouldn’t pay for college for me if that was my career choice.  I then chose to get a BS in PR because that is funny, too.  Now I am a high school Language Arts teacher (aka English teacher) and this is even funnier than the BS in PR.  I still dream of being on SNL…sigh.  And the BS is actually a BA, which I told my dad meant Bad Ass.  Yes indeed.  He is so proud.

5.  I have lived in many different states, so my variety of random accents pop out and freak people out at different times.  States include:  Louisiana, Texas, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio and Alabama.  All of these were before I was 21.  Some say my accent reminds them of New Jersey and New Orleans combined and that makes me smile.  Many can’t peg exactly where I live or where I am from, and that makes me smile, too.  Always keep ’em guessing.  Yes indeed.

6.  I have a secret love for any movies about superheroes.  I cried at Spider-man 2 and 3.  I waited in line to see Batman take on Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy.  I long to meet the director of the Transformer movies.  I took my family’s picture with The Incredibles.  I miss the best Superman ever, Christopher Reeve.  I would leave my husband/life for Superman, Spidey or Batman (but only for the two short hours of the movie!)

7.  I am not domestic, wore a hideous pink coat in junior high, love Shakespeare, have been compared to Tigger, may procrastinate (I call this deadline-driven), use emoticons too often, and I have been known to sing on occasion (daily).  (All of the hot links here click to those blog posts because my mom always says that I don’t “sell myself” enough.  I think that can be taken in the wrong direction, but whatever.  Lol.)

That sums me up in a nutshell.  The rules go on to state that I need to nominate bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Awards.  There are some great blogs I read, and many of those have already received this award including my very own bestie, brainvomit40.   I also have a bestie whose blog is private – so a shout out to Peanut!  A a super big shout out to the blogs that I follow who have already been given the Versatile Blogger Award.  You all inspire me to keep writing.  Thank you.

And the new winners of the Versatile Blogger Award, passed on by me in no particular order, are:

1.  Tales From the Motherland:  This is a versatile blogger!  Excellent posts.  Click, read and enjoy!

2. Suzanne Gipson photo blog:  This is my sister-in-law’s photography blog and she is an amazing photographer.  I wish I had half the talent she has!

3.  Meanderings of a Restless Mind:  Hilarious!  My fav is the post entitled “Hey Benjamin Button, Help Me Age Backwards!”  A must read!

4.  2012: 365 Days a Year:  My favorite post of Amy’s is her what not to wear post.  It brings memories of some bad clothing choices I may have made.  May, not did, may have.

5.  Listen to the sun rise: Anyone who has their tagline as a quote from Winnie the Pooh is awesome in my book.

6.  Caution: Man at Desk:  From hilarious cartoons to short stories, this is the coolest guy around.

7.  Theycallmejane’s blog:  We are both addicted to Pinterest, have children who waited until the very last minute to make Valentine’s Day boxes, and are concerned about Big Brother.

8.  tales of a charm city chick:  Fun and fabulous are the two words I would use to describe this blog.  A neat Baltimore chick!  🙂

9.  The Domestic Fringe: We both share the same craft ability, and the ability to laugh at ourselves!

10. Candice McMath: An Artist’s World:  This is my friend Candice and she uses her iPad to create art.  It is unreal what she creates with her iPad and her imagination.

11.  My Mom Adventures in Fort Collins:  A blog I found recently, and once I read her Fat Tuesday post, I was hooked!

12.  mad: crazy. beautiful. life.:  The title says it all.

13. Fresh Scratch:  OK, I don’t cook, but if any blog could move me toward baking, this would be the one.  I drool as I read this.  Yummy!

14.  heatherlgraham:  I just found this great blog today and it is an instant fav!

Whew!  I made it!  Thanks again, Jonesin’ After 40, for making my day!   Soon, I will be posting a blogroll with all of my ultimate favorites.  Stay tuned…

Jumping for joy!

A School Bus and a Sheriff Sandwich

What is the likelihood that I would be sandwiched between a school bus and a sheriff on my way to AND home from work?  Oh, it is very likely only for those few individuals lucky enough to be me.

This morning, I was to be at school for a 7 a.m. meeting.  It was 6:46 and I ended up behind a school bus.  Stop, start, stop start.  I look in my rear view mirror (yes, I was putting on mascara at one of the many stops) and – low and behold – there is a sheriff behind me.  I thought, “Wouldn’t it be hilarious for me to get my phone out, too?” But I put the bad angel idea away and continued on.

I knew exactly where the bus was going to turn (this getting behind a bus has happened to me before).  On a regular day, I would put my Mario Kart skills to good use and be ready to floor it to the moon as soon as the bus made the turn (vroom, vroom motor sounds go here). But today, that just wasn’t going to happen.  I gently pressed on the gas and cautiously glided up to the posted (but completely inane) speed.  Mr. Sheriff was still behind me, and I had half a mind to ask him to give me a police escort to school because I was going to be late.  Bad, bad angel.

Finally, he turned down a side road and went on his merry way.  I was so happy my tires squealed, my heart leaped and my foot became made of lead.  Made it to school at 6:58.  Whew.

After school today, I was merrily driving home anticipating the extreme amount of homework my fourth grader String Bean will have (and his complete excitement and willingness to do it – ha), when a bus pulled out in front of me.  “Here I go again,” I thought and then hummed the horrible White Snake tune. Within two miles, a sheriff pulls behind me.  By this time I am estatic.  Twice in one day – this is one for the record books.

Luckily, he turned following the bus.  Whew.

I could write and say this is a metaphor for life hinting at me to slow in on down.  Maybe it is a metaphor telling me watch my speed or calmly go wherever I need to go.  Maybe it is a metaphor for my life phase – hanging somewhere in the middle if you will.  But, I really don’t think it is a metaphor at all.  I think I was just caught between a school bus and a sheriff.  Twice in one day.  A little sandwich of coincidence. Lucky me.

Did I mention I took a photo of the bus? Yeah, I did. I didn't have the nerve to turn around and take one of Mr. Sheriff though. I thought that might be a bad idea.

Pooh are You?

To the tune of The Who’s Who Are You:  Pooh are you?  Pooh, Pooh, Pooh, Pooh.  I really want to know…

What Pooh Are You?  This question was posed to brainvomit40 and I during the school day last week.  I was going on and on about a certain student acting like Eeyore, and Suz was talking about one who was like Pooh.  It was a perfect question and ideal for a manic Monday’s blog entry.

"Say, I'm so happy I feel like bouncing!"

Over the weekend, it was posted on my Facebook saying that I would be Tigger.  OK, I thought, I can handle Tigger.  Tigger is cute – he has stripes, he’s a tiger, he is bouncy.  I am sure that sometimes I really could be a little like Tigger.  Bounce, bounce, bounce.

But the real question is, what Pooh are you?  High school students can easily be put into Pooh categories.  As I mentioned earlier, I have an Eeyore, but I also have all of the other Pooh characters as students.  There is always at least one of each of Christopher Robin’s friends every school year.

I have an Eeyore during my first period class.  In their mind, nothing goes well for them.  The Eeyores never have a good day, and are frequently seen visiting the counseling office because they can’t find their tail.  Again. The Eeyores mumble, and physically show their feelings.  When disciplining an Eeyore, it may require chocolate or some other incentive so they don’t droop down to the floor and give up all hope.

I have a Rabbit.  He knows all and doesn’t hesitate to share it with everyone.  He firmly believes he is smarter than everyone around him – including me.  He, however, does not want people to think he is pushy or a know-it-all and will defend, defend, defend until the cows (or his Pooh friends) come home.

I have a Piglet.  This is a student who gets very excited, eager, basically thrilled about everything.  They have a thousand questions, always needing constant reinforcement and encouragement. Yet, this student is timid with the Rabbit and doesn’t understand the Eeyore.  This student will not voice how very excited, eager, basically thrilled he is because that is not in his nature.  He is a usually a sweetheart.

I have an Owl.  Owls are special because they always know the right thing to say at the right time.  Sometimes, the owls keep talking and don’t know when to stop.  This student will speak until they realize their audience is totally gone.  Then, they will fluff their wings and move on to another group.  The owl is friends with many, however many stop listening soon after the owl starts talking.

I have many Kangas.  This student is the mommy figure who takes some of the Poohs, Eeyores, Piglets and Tiggers under their wings (or in their pouch).  Kangas are special because they are not afraid of the Rabbits and will basically stick up for all of the characters, not just the ones they hold closest to their chests.

I have some Roos.  Roo is a cute little guy who will always want to play.  Roo students are easily distracted and can run with the Tiggers of the world.  Roos also get along with Rabbit, which says a lot considering the Rabbit students are, well, you know, bossy!

I have a Tigger (and apparently I am a Tigger according to our school counselor who knows best).  Tiggers have tons of energy and want to make people feel happy.  They are confident, “The wonderful thing about Tiggers is that Tiggers are a wonderful thing.”  They are proud to be their own person.  They may be entirely too enthusiastic for some.  Like my former boss, for example.

I have a Pooh.  The curious student, who really is concerned with the simple things like, “When is lunch?” or “Do you think we will have a snow day tomorrow?”  Pooh always has random questions that come out of left field.  The Poohs are always thinking about something simple.  Like how many minutes until the bell rings.

So, what Pooh are you?

My own Tigger and Pooh.

Sing Therapy

My wolf pack of BFFs and I take an annual girl’s trip to Hilton Head Island.  It was the second trip we made and we were excited to leave the world, kids and responsibilities behind for a little while.

On the looooong drive down, we end up singing in the car.  A lot.  A whole lot.  Usually it is 80s music, sometimes its (gulp) country, and we have even been known to eerily belt out, with the correct lyrics, many classic rock tunes.  Be jealous, be very jealous.   😉

When we reached our destination, we immediately headed out for some drinks and dinner.  Talking and laughing about our careers as teachers, we all decided to take on different “personas” if we were ever asked what we did for a living.  I decided that I would be a “Sing Therapist” because I think singing makes people feel better.  Nat aka Peanut, who is a little, bitty thing and is a Spanish teacher by day, decided that she would be an artificial insemination specialist for big livestock.  Suz, who shares a love of 80s music and books with me, said she would say that she played the triangle for Bon Jovi.  Double G was going to be a therapist to the stars.  Hooray!  We all had hilarious new jobs!

Sadly, we were only asked once what we did for a living.  What do you think we all said? “Teacher,” in unison.   🙂

But, I digress.  My point is not just writing about the blast we had in Hilton Head with the wolf pack, but it is the realization that I sing all of the time.  I am Sing Therapy.  I didn’t really notice I did this until a student in my English 11 Honors class said to me, “Mrs. M., you should really be in the choir.”

“What? I am a teacher.  I can’t be in the high school choir.” I asked as I was passing out copies of The Crucible.

“You sing all the time.  You have a nice voice.  Our choir could use you.”

“I don’t sing all the time,” I stated, and then the class went into complete and utter chaos.

“Wait a minute, everyone, why all of this chatting?” I said as I tried to give them the “you better stop your talking” eyeball and the teacher spoken code for “be quiet.”

A sweet, quiet girl raised her hand, and strategically said,  “Mrs. M., you don’t know that you sing all of the time?  You do.  Every time we enter the room, in the middle of your sentences, during your lessons, you sing a ton.”

“Really?? No way.” I replied.

“Yes way.  So far, you were singing a line from that annoying Friday song and then repeating “Last Friday Night” over and over.  You have been singing all day,” said one student triumphantly as if he had written down everything I have ever said word-for-word.  If only he would take notes that way!

“That is impossible,” I said with a tone. “Plus, I have nothing to sing about when it comes to The Crucible.  Now, let’s get to work.”

Another student raised their hand.  “Yes?” I asked.

“Ah, yeah, um, yesterday? When we finished the Act I quiz? You…um…you started singing “You Gotta Keep Your Head Up.”

“Oh, wow.  OK.  Let’s begin.”

After that, I began to ponder the question Do I Really Sing A Lot?  I think I am going to have to ask around.  Meanwhile, I can’t get the Beatles song “Hello, Goodbye” out of my head.  Go ahead, sing it with me.  You know you want to.

My new place of employment? I think not.

Censorship Blinds the World

I have a poster hanging in my classroom.  It has many different covers of many different novels on it.  In the center, it looks as if it is an eye chart used by  optometrists everywhere.  But the kicker is what it says:  “Censorship Causes Blindness. Read!”

This is my tenth year of teaching high school Language Arts (that’s fancy educator speak for English literature and writing.)  I have had this poster since day one, and I believe in it wholeheartedly.  Pictured on the poster are books such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Slaughterhouse-Five, 1984, and even Judy Blume’s Blubber.  Books that are classics.  Books that encompass time periods that we have conveniently forgotten about.  Books that are guides to not making the same mistakes twice.

My students don’t understand how some of these books could be the victims of censorship.  They can’t wrap their heads around how a book about a Southern girl or a book about a wizard boy with a lightening bolt scar can be on the same poster.  They don’t get how a book about a girl being bullied because of her weight or about a boy would choose to eat worms would be censored.  These students are not blinded by censorship.

If they aren’t, then why are adults?  Why the need to censor books, blogs and more?  Who decides what is to be censored and what is safe?  Isn’t censoring these things just making more of an issue?  Shouldn’t we be teaching our children to understand what is right and wrong and also, more importantly, truly understand the defeating power of censorship?

I just finished reading two novels set during World War II and the Holocaust.  One was Sarah’s Key.  This book was unbelievably heartbreaking to me.  Censorship?  Yeah, it was everywhere during that time.  So much so that the French didn’t even understand that Jewish neighbors were being rounded up and sent to concentration camps.  The second novel I read was Those Who Saved Us.  This was from the point of view of a German teen who fell in love with a Jewish doctor.  She ended up having to do many difficult things in order to survive.  One point rings true:  No one was told anything.  Everything was censored.  The news, the neighbors and even the words each said to each other.  Censorship was hurtful. Censorship caused blindness.

It is important to look back on these novels for reference.  Especially books like 1984 when the world is a false utopia and Big Brother is constantly watching.  It is important to look back in history so the same mistakes aren’t repeated.  It is important to look ahead at the ever-changing landscape of the world and make sure our children don’t have to face the dangers of censorship.  It is even important to think of the words of Elie Wiesel when he said, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”  So, in turn, we are not blinded by censorship.

My Own Chocolate War

Quite a few years ago, I taught the novel entitled The Chocolate War.  From the title, one may feel that it is a Willy Wonka romp through a magical land of chocolate with some prevailing conflict that can be solved by – you guessed it – chocolate.  And maybe even the Oompa-Loompas go on strike and are protesting by stopping their tireless production of chocolate, or the chocolate waterfall stops flowing and Charlie has to find out who of the original group sabotaged it.  However, that is not the case.  The novel is about a chocolate selling fundraiser, which is the hell I am dealing with at school.

Fundraisers are hard.  Schools don’t have money to buy things and even, sometimes, replace technology.  I teach a broadcasting class that airs announcements every day over our own cable channel.  This year, we have lost five video cameras.  Not physically lost, just dead soldiers who proudly served for five plus years each and every day of the school year.  Cameras are not cheap, and video cameras run around 300 clams each.  Hence the fundraiser.

What is one not-so-fundraising-creative teacher turn to?  Why, chocolate, of course.  It is not a difficult fundraiser, even though it is completely time consuming and the chocolate is always around.  This is the bad part.  I have zero willpower when it comes to chocolate.  As I said, it is always around and I see it, smell it and basically figure out ways to justify/rationalize devouring it.  Skipped breakfast?  Why not have some Buckeyes.  Afternoon snack as a reward for grading freshman essays?  Why not try a London Mint bar.  Stopping at the post office after school?  Well, you get the drift.

This time, I have 50 cases.  Each case has 48 bars.  That is a total of 2400 chocolate bars.  I could build a chocolate mountain with all of it. I could surprise my friends with a two-story chocolate fountain.  I could be the envy of my neighborhood when I don my new chocolate winter apparel.  But, I digress. In all honesty, I would love to find another fundraiser – one that is not going to cause me to gain ten pounds each year.  Any suggestions?  Well, while I am waiting, I guess I will just have to Willy Wonka it and get busy.  I have some chocolate to peddle/smell/buy/eat/enjoy.  But first, I may have to have a little, bitty bite.  And then hit the treadmill.  For days.

A quest to stop the insanity.