Many Drafts, Many Possibilities

Currently, I have 47 drafts.  Most are only halfway written, some are waiting on endings and a few are events I can’t even remember.  My dear friend, Valleygirl96 over at Views From the Valley, and I were discussing blogs and drafts, and she ended up actually writing AND posting a blog about drafts.  She rocks.

Check out her post here: http://valleygirl96.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/my-shitty-first-draft/

While you are visiting her, be sure to read some of her “Tales from the Teacher’s Lounge” posts.  They are hilarious and are all happening directly outside our classrooms.

As for me, I hope to get a post up this week.  Maybe even one of my many drafts!  😉

Computer and coffee time needed to write!

Computer and coffee time needed to write!

Hug a Teacher

The best days are those when a child actually gives a real response to the everyday questions, “How was your day?”

This unbelievable occurrence happened in my household on February 28th at approximately 3:11 p.m.

I notated the date and time because it is a rarity.  Rarer than the talking dog from the film Up.  Rarer than my husband likes his steak.  Rarer than me being on time for an event.  I am talking rare, my friends.

Since my oldest has hit middle school, he arrives home before the rest of the household.  He usually has about 10 minutes before I get there. Most of the time I find him watching The Family Guy on Netflix (he has been instructed since the beginning of time to start his homework, alas it doesn’t happen often without prompting).  This was different.  The TV was silent and the dude was sitting at the computer looking something up on Google.

“How was your day?” I asked.

“It was OK,” he answered.  A typical response at our house.

“That’s good.  Anything else going on?” I questioned, hoping he may add something to the conversation.

“Mom, you know what?”

I turned, shocked that I was actually asked a question!  “What, kiddo?”

“It stinks that it is the end of February.  I liked February.”

My mind raced trying to think of why… Maybe it was because he had one of the leads in our community theater’s production of Willy Wonka (he was Mike TV, appropriately) and we were heading into the final weekend of the show? Maybe because snow days are fewer in March? Maybe because a free Pokemon download wasn’t available after February at Game Stop?  Maybe I should just ask him?  Yeah.  That’s the ticket.

“So, why did you like February?”

“We learned a lot this month in Social Studies.  We learned about all sorts of people I had never heard of,” he replied looking a little melancholy.

“Really?  That’s awesome!” I exclaimed, excited that he is actually absorbing what he has been taught. Then, curiously, I added, “Who was the person you liked learning about the best?”

“Ella Fitzgerald.  She was very talented.  She was an inspiration,” he answered without hesitation.

“Wow, I’m impressed,” I said.

“I know, right?  Who knew February would be such a great month in Social Studies!” he said, jumping onto Minecraft on his iPod.

“So true,” I said as I began humming a little Ella.

I will be hugging his teacher soon.  For sure.

And he is back on technology. Again.

And he is back on technology. Again.

The Dancing Nancys

A few weeks ago, I had the agony pleasure of attending a teacher conference.

Both of the speakers were named Nancy.

The name Nancy is not too common these days.  It is one of those names that was huge (according to my mom, Crazy Pat) in the 60s and fizzled shortly thereafter.

I have a friend whose mother AND mother-in-law are both named Nancy.  This is almost as rare as finding a 100 bill in an old purse.  Yeah, it barely ever happens (although I feel like searching in vain through all of my old purses!)

The two Nancys, or as I referred to them, Nancy Squared or the Dancing Nancys, both took turns going through the PowerPoint presentation.  They also both color coordinated their outfits. I have not seen too many royal blue printed dresses, but amazingly enough, they each had one on.  Matching Nancys!

Nancy #1 was the rule keeper.  She informed us of special “norms” she expected from us throughout the two-day conference.  She specifically stated that we were to put away our computers, smart phones and iPads, and were not to use them under any circumstances unless it was break time.  As she was sternly giving stating this ridiculous important rule, everyone was packing their laptops, iPads and phones guiltily away.  Funny thing about Rules Nancy, she constantly broke this rule.  Each and every time the other Nancy took over presenting, Rules Nancy would get on her iPad and iPhone.  Hmmm.  Gotta love some irony!

Another interesting thing I learned from Super Rule Breaker Nancy was a phrase called “Equity of Voice.”  Unbeknownst to me, this is a very important norm to help motivate those who don’t participate to participate and motivate those, like me, who participate too often, to shut the heck up.  Who knew this even had a name!  Sadly, the very prestigious sounding “Equity of Voice” did not prompt the quiet ones to speak up, nor did it stop the ones who continually add to the discussion.  So much so that when the Nancys were having trouble getting anyone to raise their hands and share (hey, I felt scolded into refraining from using my Equity of Very Chatty Voice), they would shoot over a death stare to my table for a response.

Sharpies. One of the workshop highlights .

Nancy #2 was a fast speaker who didn’t read directly from the slides, thank goodness.  She was intent on getting the information to us so we could break into groups and write on sticky-note-like poster boards with primary colored markers.  Fast Talking Nancy also had a stray piece of hair that kept migrating to her lips.  Why did I notice this? Because, she had to keep pulling it off of her lipstick.  I began to take a tally.  The totals: Hair in lipstick – 38, Fast Talking Nancy Lipstickhair – zero.  Poor Nancy #2.  Oh wait, scratch that.         Do not feel sorry for Nancy #2 and her lipstick saturated hair.  She started reading directly from the power point slides.  Epic power point fail. Ugh.

Coffee. The gets-me-through-everything elixir.

After awhile, I became frisky.  I decided that I would not, under any circumstances, look for a clock in the room.  I made it an hour and seven minutes before my eyes deceived me and scoped it out.  9:37.  How would I survive not one, but two days of bone-crushing boredom, silly rules and the crazy, dancing, matchy-matching, Power-point reading Nancys?  Maybe by sneaking quick, longing looks at my iPad?

I survived by writing about the Nancys, drinking waaaay too much coffee and daydreaming about finding a twenty in an old purse.

TGIF!

Under the Big Top

The end of a school year is a circus.

As teachers, we can fight it or we can embrace it.

A circus costume!

I am now embracing the big top and all of the eccentric things that can happen under it.

Students?  They are the audience after all. If it wasn’t for them, there wouldn’t be a show in the big top. Some do not like the show and are vocal about it. Some sneak out of the show never to be seen again. Some are there because they are waiting for the circus treats. Some are there to socialize with the animals – who may, in fact, be other students. Some cheer, some yell, some cry and some are silently waiting until the circus comes to a close.

The animals are ready.

Teachers?  They are the performers.  Some are masters at walking the tightrope.  Some are clowns, laughing and making the last days seem like a hilarious joy ride.  Some are the lion tamers.  They make sure all is well under the big top for the final performance, and navigate all of the hoops with ease.  There is the bearded lady who is counting down the minutes to summer and a good facial.  There is the strong man who willingly holds down the audience and makes sure they stay in their seats until the end of the show.  There are the trapeze artists (like me and The Captain) who feel as if they are on solid ground and the next moment feels the rush of the floor free-falling beneath them.  Swinging and balancing in the air until the final details are complete.  And lastly, there is the tired ringleader, who is hoping for a smooth and serious ending to a lengthy run.

Staff?  They are the tireless crew.  Some make sure the big top is successfully taken down, some clean the big top after the audience leaves and some ensure the big top will rise again.  Without the crew, the circus would not go on.  They are the planners, and the ones in the background who make things run.  Even though they are out of the spotlight, they make things happen.

Circus dogs are a must have.

All that is left is the circus dog, and a good trapeze artist always has one of these at home.

The circus will return, the performance will resume with a new audience, new faces and new tricks.

And that is the power of the big top.

***A brief side note:  This post is dedicated to one of the crew who has made my life as a teacher in my district wonderful.  He is the behind-the-scenes in all areas dealing with technology, and has taught me more than I can ever repay.  He is making a career move, and he will be greatly missed by me and the rest of the circus we call a district.

The Bard, Field trips and Nail Biting

Each and every year, I embark on a perilous journey.  One that defies all things known and makes the impossible possible.  One that is a black hole with a narrow escape.  One that encompasses magical powers beyond the scope of nature.  What is this odyssey?  Why, it is taking students on field trips to see a Shakespeare play.

This year, I enlisted the help of my trusted friend and confidant, Brainvomit40.  She and I gathered all of the courage and tenacity we could muster to organize this massive undertaking.  She is the reason I made it through the day.

Let me back up in time and explain the path of the most recent journey we were destined to travel.  It was year 2002, and I was summoned to a grand place in the land of Cleveland known only as The Great Lakes Theater Festival.  From this moment on, I was entranced by their powers.  Enamored by their gently use of The Bard’s great words.  Encased in their sheer talents.  I was, to put it mildly, hooked.  As Juliet would say, “This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath, May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.”  Yes, indeed.

From then on, I took students to see these incredible works of art each year.  It was a time to develop young minds, and show (not tell) them how important and timeless the plays of Shakespeare really were.  It was mystical.

But not always.  Many times there were alien students among us.  One particular one did the worst thing possible – he tripped an actor.  According to E.T., his legs needed “extra room” so he put them in the aisle.  Bad, bad alien student.  Another Alf-like creature listened to his iPod through Act I, Scene II of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  His excuse?  “I don’t understand what they are saying.”  My response, “We covered it in class.”  One Mork actually fell into a deep slumber during Twelfth Night.   His rebuttal after other students woke him up with furious tapping and shaking?  “The girl is dressed like a guy and it creeped me out.”  Classy.  These are the villains of my days with The Bard.

But, alas, I have held true to my word and provided the non-alien youth with the best gift of all: the gift of live theater.

The cover looks like Twilight meets R&J.

This year’s presentation was Romeo and Juliet.  I was ecstatic for a few reasons.  First, this is actually one in our literature books, and second, I teach it every year.  Double score!  Brainvomit40 and I got crazy-eyed with happy thoughts and reserved not the usual 40 tickets, but a whopping 80 tickets with visions of Romeo dancing in our heads.

Yikes.  But we had high hopes. Maybe too high as Mercutio states, “True, I talk of dreams, which are the children of an idle brain, begot of nothing by vain fantasy.”

Let me just state that, for the days approaching the trip, it was as if “the mad blood stirring” was a reality.  Everything that could go wrong, went wrong.  Brainvomit40 wrote an excellent post about how asinine the entire process was.

Finally the big day arrived.  We herded 80 students into two school buses at the blistering early time of 7:35 a.m.  We ventured on the hour and a half bus ride to Cleveland.  We gathered all of the students and promptly got them seated in the theater.  We smiled as we sat down in our seats, breathing a collective sigh of relief.

The set. Taken without a flash before the show began.

Intermission came.  Our students deserved halos for their amazing behavior during the first half of the performance.  Brainvomit40 looked at her watch: 11:39.  The buses had to be back by 2:25 for their routes.  Would the show be finished and we be out the door before 1 p.m.?  Enter nail biting.

Throughout the second half (and I must say half, it was technically Acts III, IV, V), I couldn’t focus.  All I could think about was what was coming next.  Here is a look into my mind:

“OK.  She is getting the sleeping potion.  Finally.  Good.  Now she is going to have a monologue and drink it.  Fine.  Now Romeo is going to find out she died.  OK.  We’re good on time.  Crap.  Romeo still has to fight and kill Paris and there is dialogue.  Darn.  OK, he took care of Paris.  Now the death scene.  Geez.  Totally blanked that the Friar’s so many lines here.  Come on already and bring out the Prince to wrap this up!”

By this time, I have no nails left to speak of.  I would be lying if I didn’t confess that Brainvomit40 and I were about to cheer when Juliet said, “O happy dagger!”

The play ended, and we made it on the buses by 1:06.  We made it back to the school by 2:22.  Whew.  I should have been feeling down because it was over, “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” but instead I was thinking thank goodness this is once a year.

I still love the Bard, and I appreciate the opportunity to showcase how incredible his words come alive in a live performance.  “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite.”

To Shakespeare!

Here is another post I wrote about the Bard.  Enjoy!

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.

Boxing with Perception and Apples

I may rant a little bit today about poisoned apples, Mary Poppins, Snow White and clueless people.  Consider yourself warned.

Here goes:  Sadly, there are many people who have a skewed perception of themselves.

Me this morning before dealing with the wannabe.

In my school, there is one that I am on the brink of giving her a strong dose of reality.  I have turned from Mary Poppins to Snow White’s stepmother in a matter of hours due to her flighty behavior and the scads of students she has poisoned with her song.  I am about to give her the apple so she will shut the hell up.

Maybe you have one of these in your place of work.  Here are some of the underlying (or outward) tendencies they seem to possess:

1.  Think that their opinion is the right one.

2.  Can talk a good game, but can’t walk the walk.

3.  Believe that everyone wants to hear their side.

4.  Does not understand or comprehend any constructive criticism.

5.  Seems clueless about their own reality.

6.  May rationalize their behavior rendering it OK at all times.

7.  Believe they are doing their ultimate best, but, in reality, are mediocre.

8.  Can be found off task over 80% of the time.

9.  Sincerely think they are the sole source on a topic.

10.  Did I mention they can talk a good game?

Me a little later in the day.

So, I am bringing the evil witch out today.  I ended up calling this Snow White-wannabe on something she was saying to students.  Something that had not been approved by our administration.  Something that could have many repercussions.  She tried to talk her good game, but her game wasn’t working for me.  I pressed the issue.  She backed into a corner.  But, alas, she did not fall asleep after taking my apple.  Brainvomit40 also tried to wiggle some sense into the Snow-wannabe’s glass-enclosed head, but she couldn’t work her magic either.  Instead, Snow began ranting to others to join her failing dwarf parade.  I am going to have to give her yet another apple tomorrow…

Me at this very moment.

One day, I, too, would like to be blissfully unaware of my reality.  I, too, would like to float around, believe I am the epitome of knowledge and the source of all wisdom spews from my mouth.  I, too, would like to over rationalize my poor decisions to make them brand-spankin’ new and perfect.  But, honestly, I have a grip on reality.

To enjoy more stories of the lost touch with reality, Snow White-wannabe in my building, check out this post and this post and this post on my dear friend Brainvomit40’s site.  Brainvomit has a great perception, and a grip on reality, by the way.

Apples are ready for tomorrow.

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 occurence 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!

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.