Comedy of Errors or Sacrifices for the Bard

In the spring of 2009, fellow English teachers and I went to a Shakespeare conference.  Let me say that Shakespeare is like a drug to high school English teachers.  We love him.  He is our lover from a past life.  We are jealous of any teacher who seems to know him better than we do.  We want to live in Stratford-upon-Avon and have his children hundreds of years later.  He is that awesome.

At this conference, it is tradition to celebrate the Bard’s birthday (and death day) with a cake.  No one blows out the candles on the cake, though, because that would be just weird.  Lol.

During these Shakespeare English Teacher love festivals (think the 60s but the dude is not alive and no one has any hallucinogenic drugs), we are usually given some kind of quote from the play being highlighted and we have to think and write about it.  I think some of the teachers go into multiple orgasms with this assignment, and one woman even peed herself with excitement.  Gasp.

I, however, did not get that warm and fuzzy feeling.  Instead, I wanted to crawl under the desk.  As much as I love the Bard, I didn’t want to write about one of his quotes under the scrutiny of all of the other English teachers.  So I sat there.  And sat there.  Even my purple Sharpie couldn’t snap me out of it.  Here is my quote:

“Am I in Earth, in Heaven, or in Hell?  Sleeping or waking, mad or well advised?  Known unto these and to myself disguised.  I’ll say as they say and persevere so and in this mist all adventures go.”

What the hell did this mean?  I looked around the room in horror.  I felt that masterpieces were being written and I was just sitting there sniffing my Sharpie.  Finally, I put my pen to the paper and here is my (pathetic) response:

OK.  I absolutely hate starting writing prompts because I can never figure out what would be the best way to begin.  Yet, I give students a prompt almost daily so they can write some BS about whatever I choose is important for them at the time.

Is it a fraud?  Am I a fraud?  As I look into myself, I was always the “classic underachiever.”  I even had a Bart Simpson t-shirt with those exact words on it.  I thought it was funny, but after awhile, my mom – the queen of reality checks – said it wasn’t.  She went on to say that it was my way to “somewhat” excuse my mediocre grades in high school or to placate my dad when my science and math grades were less than he would have liked (hideous).  Self-fulfilling prophecy?  Crap.  “Allison is horrible at math and science.”  Oh. Maybe that is why I didn’t like math from 10th grade on.  Hey, Jimmy Buffet wrote a song saying Math Sucks. I am not alone, right? Anyhow.

Sometimes I feel like I am a big fraud as a teacher and it is only a matter of time until I am called out on it. Thanks, Mrs. W., for telling me I didn’t know the first thing about grammar or literary analysis or English.  I really appreciate the caring support you gave to a new student – in 11th grade no less, who was brand, spanking new not only to the school district but to the state of Ohio.  Who was she to put those incredibly disparaging thoughts into my head?  I didn’t ask for that.  I really was just trying not to drown in a new town – torn away from all I had known and understood and finally figured out.  I was directly deposited into a whole new set of circumstances and patterns and humans I did not know.  Difficult? Yeah.  A fraud?  Who knows.

So, to this day as a teacher, I have had to prove to myself that I am not wearing a disguise.  I am not a fraud, although some days feel like it. I am doing exactly what I should be doing with my life. This is what I need to do.  And, I even try to make learning fun – because it wasn’t for me and I don’t want any of my students writing about me 20 years later as to how I crushed their spirit.

The quote from Comedy of Errors?  It is just an adventure.  An adventure in teaching and in knowing, deep down, that I am really not a fraud.  Even these excitable English teachers are not frauds.  Except for, maybe, Mrs. W., who isn’t here because she doesn’t love Shakespeare like us real English teachers do.

Salty Sunday

Originally posted on my blog:

I grew up listening to U2.  I am a big fan of Bono and all of his fabulousness.  Today, the song Sunday, Bloody Sunday was on my XM Classic Rock station.  Not sure when U2’s Joshua Tree songs became classic rock, but I guess they did.  Bummer.

But this is not what this post is about.  It is about salt, 4th grade and work.  These three things have no connection at all, you think? Well, they do.

String Bean’s 4th grade class was required to create a salt map of the great state of Ohio.  What is a salt map, you ask?  I didn’t know what it was until a thousand page long rubric came home stating all of the specifics.  Essentially, it is mixing a special salt mixture, putting it on a pizza box in the shape of Ohio, creating all of the hills, valleys, rivers and lakes in the state and picking a theme to label the map with.  Whew.  That made me tired just typing it!

Master Chef Tom began saying each day after school, “This weekend we are working on the salt map.”  Basically he would say it to whomever was around, as if he was working up the courage to start Bean’s project.  I would sit and roll my eyes and continue reading my Kindle or messing around with the iPad.

The weekend (two weeks later) finally came and Tom and Bean started to diligently work on the salt mixture.  They spread it over the state layout on the pizza box and put it in the laundry room to dry.  Apparently salt mixtures need a full week to dry.  Who knew?

By the next week, Tom began his after school statement again.  “This weekend we are working on the salt map.”

Finally, we were pressed to deadline.  Salt maps were due on Tuesday and it was the Sunday prior.  They take this cardboard pizza box with this crazy salty state and set it on the kitchen table and they look at it. (Insert cricket sounds here.)

I swoop in and begin helping by painting the box and the salty Ohio.  Then, Tom and Noah cut out and glued the million cities, lakes, rivers and surrounding states that were required on the rubric (I did mention the rubric was a thousand pages long, didn’t I?!)

Next for the theme.  Tom and Bean picked this out long ago.  First, they were going to put the state parks in Ohio on the map until they realized there are MANY state parks (almost as many as the number of pages of the rubric.)  So they narrowed it down to the Underground Railroad stops in Ohio.  There were 13 of them.  How do I know?  Because I printed them off, cut them out, labeled them and helped Beanie with the key.  I am smarter now.

My question is:  How do children who do not have parents who take an active role in their education complete a project of this magnitude?

Here is the finished project:

The Masterpiece

Ring my bell

Made you look!  Nothing too crazy in this post, I can guarantee.  I just can’t get the 1979 disco song out of my head.  It makes me want to sing it REALLY loudly and annoy all of those around me.  So, just three short hours ago, I busted into this song as we all were working Squishy’s homework.  Ring my bell, my bell, ring my bell.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that bells rule my life.  As a student, it was the bell that beckons one from class to class.  As a teacher, it begins again, although chatting with friends in between bells (or classes) is rarer and more precious.

I feel ruled by the bell, not saved by the bell.  A bell/alarm wakes me up, a bell signals me that I should be at school – which is ironic because students are not even in the building at that shiny morning time of 7 a.m.  A bell lets me know that is is OK to make copies, try to go potty and even just sit down at my desk.  The bell rules my life.  This year, there is not a bell after lunch.  In fact, there is only a late bell.  It kills me.  Why?  Because I am so conditioned by the bell to be in my classroom on time.  Ring me Pavlov, please.

This afternoon, before breaking into song and really making my husband crazy, I figured out that my iPhone has a bell-like signal when I receive a text (duh) AND, here is the important thing, when I SEND one.  The receiving texts signal is a no brainer, but the sending one, now that is new.  Sad thing is that I have had this phone for over six weeks and just now heard it.  Maybe the bell is not loud enough. Who knows.  Maybe I just need a mind-piercing school bell.  Ha.

When I was in the corporate world, many moons ago, I remember reading an article in the paper (the real one, not the online one – lol!) that business people were so distracted by bells and whistles such as alerts, email notifications, and the like that they were off task after they heard the sounds.  The article stated to try and NOT be ruled by the sounds of modern technology. This was 1996.  I wonder what the article would have said if it knew of the future that held thousands of bell tones, text notifications alerts and email zip sounds and the fact that I just noticed I had a sending text sound on my super dee duper iPhone.

Maybe I need a bell at night to signal me that it is time to go to bed or stop writing this silly post.  Ring my bell.

The Scarlett Syndrome

In college, I wrote a lengthy paper about the Scarlett Syndrome. I labeled this as the “think about all things that are stressful at a later time” tactic.

This is how I feel about everything at the moment.

A new school year has approached and the drama of it all makes me feel queasy. For example, I was told that I had a certain stipend position, only to find out that it was posted and now I have to go up against a halitosis, fire breathing nerd for the job. I almost feel like saying “whatever” and letting the school deal with the penny loafer wearing, asexual man who wants any stipend he can get. Ha.

But, even with the stress of the start of school, my ultimate concern is the students. So like a good person, I am going to do the right thing and I am still going to step up and grab that position.

Back to the Scarlett Syndrome. Last night I had three chapters to read in the novel so I will be one little step in front of the students. Did I read? Nope. Not one word. Instead I played a very addictive game on the iPad called Peggle. Don’t even Google it – it is so addictive. Really.

Well, I should dive deeper into this topic but I am not going to because I have five chapters to read tonight. Maybe I will play a quick game of Peggle first to get “in the mood.” Ha.

40 by 40

Here is the list of all I hope to accomplish in 365 days. On the big birthday. The four-o.

40 by 40

1. Live each day to the fullest
2. Lose 40
3. Go to Vegas
4. Buy a pair of Malanos
5. Take a photography class
6. Read 100 books in the year
7. Climb a rock wall
8. Visit Auburn
9. Get good family portraits that I don’t hate
10. Eat a good steak with my dad
11. Eat vegetables every day
12. Go to the state fair
13. Take a yoga class
14. Videotape and photograph my children more often
15. Finally finish our honeymoon video
16. Visit one friend from college
17. Have a couples massage
18. See ALL members of my extended family
19. Have a character breakfast at Disney
20. Organize all digital photos
21. Finish baby scrapbook of Luke
22. Save $50 a pay
23. Teach a tap class
24. Write on my blog at least weekly
25. Breed my Havanese, Maisy
26. Visit NYC and the 9/11 memorial
27. Clean out, organize, sell and donate ALL baby stuff
28. Learn how to play my uke
29. Organize unfinished part of basement
30. Actually use my gym membership
31. Write one real note/letter a week
32. Touch base (by phone, not just Facebook) a long distance friend each month
33. Play laser tag
34. Solve Super Mario Bros on the Wii
35. Visit each of my son’s classes and take them to lunch
36. Hang with my wolf pack at least once a month
37. Plan a great birthday celebration for my husband
38. Try out for a musical
39. Say no to things and not worry about hurting feelings when I do
40. Control what is in my control and let go what is not

Mom, teacher, wife – not necessarily in that order

Do you remember the Lily Thompson movie “The Incredible Shrinking Woman”?  Mom took us to see it at the movie theater sometime in the 80s… Anyhow, that is me now. I am Lily Thompson in that movie.  But not exactly in the same context of cleaning products, but with the exorbitant amount of information I am holding onto.  I feel swamped, not in a medicated way, but more of a “how can I remember this because it, like 99 other million things in my life, is so important?”

That’s how I feel today. Too much on my plate – my plateth overfloweth.