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.

C is for Coffee

Every morning during the school year there is one thing I enjoy the most.  It is having a good cup of coffee.   I know that this may not seem like much, but I love good coffee.  And I won’t stop there – I love good coffee creamer and sugar in the raw.  Mmmm.

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law know this about me.  It is weird that they know I love coffee, but they do.  On a family trip to Disney, I saw this awesome coffee mug.  Now, travel mugs is actually something I use every single day during the school year.  As I mentioned above, it makes my morning.  But my husband, being cranky because it was the last day at Disney and we were shopping for last minute purchases, said that he would not buy me this mug.  Uncool.  That was July.

On my birthday, in September, my sister-in-law Lisa and my nephews stopped by to drop off my present.  She was giggling like crazy and practically shouted to me to open the present.  I pulled out the “Mine” mug that I coveted at Disney and hugged her immediately.  Hooray!

So here it is, on my desk at school, in all of it’s splendor.  Mine.

Making the morning grrrrrreat!

To let go of To Kill a Mockingbird

In my past zillion nine years of teaching, I have mainly taught freshman. Freshman are unusual creatures. They usually still like some aspects of school and they are easily entertained through humor – or what I refer to as my stand-up comedy teaching routine. This works when we read my ultimate favorite novel of all time: Harper Lee’s amazing To Kill a Mockingbird. Each year I have perfected my Mockingbird teaching like when I performed a podcast reading of the first chapter with a Southern accent. Or when I took a super-cool (to me, that is) informative slideshow and turned it into a video introducing the novel.  That novel and I are soul sisters and teaching it gave me an excuse to shout it out to the mountaintops (well, to the ninth graders) and make them love it as much as I did.  Some did.  Others did not.  Some didn’t read a bit of it.  Still, this was the book I loved teaching.  Until this past year.

For some reason, the class of 2014 did not take kindly to the book.  Some had a lot of trouble with the dialogue, some were confused with the parallel story lines and some were just breathing in oxygen.  I started getting random questions as we were nearing the end of the novel.  The straw that broke the camels back was when a young dude wearing a LeBron James traitor to the Cavs jersey asked why the narrator was so smart for a six-year-old.  There needed to be a change.

So, I held my quivering chin up and discussed the situation with my amazing colleague.  She suggested moving the sophomore novella, Of Mice and Men, to the freshman level and my beloved To Kill a Mockingbird to the sophomore level.  The only heartbreaking thing is that I don’t teach sophomore English.  So bye bye to TKM.  Sniff sniff.

I went into panic mode.  It was October and I hadn’t read Of Mice and Men since my sophomore year many moons ago.  I think I was also in a class behind the cutest guy named Tim and I don’t think I even concentrated at all on the class discussion.  I believe my sophomore year was The Year of Tim, and one where I didn’t even realize my hair was burning (hey, silly girl with major Crush on Tim, meet the Bunsen burner!) until I smelled it.  Yeah, Tim was in that class, too.  Sigh.

Needless to say I was in panic mode.  Severe.  My super-dee-duper colleague came to my rescue like Superman to a runaway elevator.  She gently led me through activities, discussion topics, study guides and helped me find some much needed courage.

Amazingly enough, it has worked out well so far.  My freshman love Lenny and George, and even want to get up in front of the classroom and read the dialogue from the novel – which is a great use of oxygen!  Hooray!  I even got a little teary-eyed at the part about Candy’s dog (let’s be honest here – who wouldn’t?!)  And I was lucky enough to have an excellent teacher helping me through this transition.

As Atticus Finch would say, “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.  You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”  Ah, Atticus, my hero.  I am really going to miss you. But, I do think I will refer to you now and again AND I think I may use that quote tomorrow when I teach The Scarlet Letter for the first. time. ever.