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Giving Up Gatsby

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For the past ten years, my sophomore English class has studied The Great Gatsby every fall. It's one of my favorite books and it typically--and quickly--became a favorite of about half my class, at least. I loved teaching it, but there was a doubt that niggled at the back of my mind: for a lot of my students, the book was just too hard. They could understand the story and produce incredible insights about human behavior and the American Dream, but they couldn't read the novel themselves. We would have to read large portions of the text out loud in class, and they'd need a healthy dose of guidance. And to be honest, that guidance often meant I was doing more mental work than they were. I love the book, but the truth was, I didn't love teaching it because deep down I knew that it wasn't good teaching.

So this year, to the shock of everyone in my department, I suggested giving up Gatsby.

I don't really let go of things easily. I keep the brochures from tourist sit…

An Open Letter to Speech Alumni

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To My Speech Kids (because no matter how long it's been, you're always my kid),

There's never time to say everything I want to say. I live under the belief  life is best lived without holding back. I've never been afraid to say what I think (or feel). If feelings make you uncomfortable, this might not be for you. But our feelings are, at the most profound level, what connect us as human beings. They are the things that make all the other noise of the world beautiful and important. We should never be ashamed of what we feel. I hope that's something you learned from me by now.

This is for all my speech alumni, and most importantly, to all those beautiful voices who are poised on the precipice of becoming speech alumni in just a few short days.

The end of the season is upon me once again, so nostalgia is in full force. As I sift through old critiques, newspaper articles, and seemingly endless photographs, I am battered by a barrage of old memories. I find myself sudden…

Moving Mountains and Burning Bridges: The Power of Words

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Words can move mountains. That's what I tell my speech students--their words can change the world. They can hurt or heal, break or bond. They have power. I'm acutely aware of the fact that what we say to others lingers far after the words are said; words have a way of worming themselves into the very fabric of our being and becoming a part of us. When those words wound, we carry that pain far longer than even we suspect. Words are particularly insidious weapons because too often, we fail to recognize the myriad of ways they'll follow us. I try to be mindful of that. I try to remember, in my daily interactions, to keep my words kind--or as kind as I can in a situation. I admit I fail more often than I would like, but I do my best to make sure the words I leave behind me will make people feel powerful, important, heard, supported. At the worst of times, I try to leave behind words that at least won't do any damage.

Words can move mountains. But they can also burn bridges…

How Lyndon B. Johnson Ruined My Childhood.

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When I was in elementary school, my absolute least favorite  activities involved the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. It was something President Johnson created in 1966 to ensure that generations of American school children were "physically fit" and dreaded gym class. I mean, seriously, fuck you Lyndon B. Johnson and your push-ups and curl-ups and sit-and-reaches and mile run. Want me to sit with my feet against a weird little wooden box and see how far I can stretch forward over my toes? Fine. Ask me to run a mile? Less cool, but I'll do it at a brisk walk. But demand that I pull myself over a metal bar in a curl up? Not going to happen. Even by the ripe old age of seven I knew upper body strength was never going to be my thing. Somewhere in my sixth grade year the tests were supplanted by the ominous climbing rope. The day that thing unfurled from the ceiling of our gym I lost a little faith in God. I don't remember ever climbing the rope. I don't remember e…

Bone Weary

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I've been listening to Christmas music for a solid month now, and I've come to one very important realization: there are only actually about six Christmas songs and all of the good ones were written before 1962 (except for "Christmas Eve in Sarajevo," but that's okay because that one just replaced the super rape-y "Baby It's Cold Outside" so it's an even swap). And my all time favorite song is "O Holy Night." To be fair, "O Holy Night" doesn't really hold up the same way "Carol of the Bells" does, but it has one solitary, beautiful line in it that helps it secure the number one spot: "A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices/For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn."

"The weary world rejoices."

Y'all, let me tell you. I am weary this year.

2017 has, without a doubt, not been my year. Rehashing the myriad of ways people and circumstances have clobbered me this year isn't really the …

The Stigma of Messiness or Yes I Do Have Anxiety Flashcards

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I have never been under any illusions of being a "laid back" kind of gal. I admit that, at the best of times, the term "high strung" can accurately be applied to me. I like things done a certain way, at a certain time. This accounts for my neat-freak habits, my road rage, and my inarticulate rampages in crowds. But these have always been manageable. I get butterflies before my team competes at Sections, I can't sleep the night before we leave for a big vacation, and I recheck my alarm every night at least three to four times (let me tell you, I slept through it once and woke up 32 minutes before I was supposed to be teaching in my first hour an hour away--never again).

But six months or so ago, this transformed into something completely foreign to me: real, honest to goodness anxiety. I don't mean the anxiety you feel before starting a new job, moving, or even the first day of school. I mean the kind where my mind doesn't feel like my own anymore. Where…

Fifth Grade Trust Issues

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When I was in elementary school, there was a girl in my class everyone adored--let's call her Cassie. In retrospect, I'm not really sure why we coveted her friendship so much; to be completely honest, she was boring. But we all wanted to be her best friend, and it caused enough bitterness in the class that in fifth grade, all the girls were forced to stay inside at recess to "talk it out."  (Side note to all elementary school teachers: this does not work. It was just 35 minutes of brilliant passive aggressive mind-fuckery). But, by some stroke of luck, Cassie was my best friend. For whatever reason, she chose me.

And then one day I found out--Cassie was a bitch.

I was walking into the hall when I heard a bunch of girls in my class whispering outside the door. Apparently Cassie had told them I "made her" be my friend. She didn't actually like me, but I forced her to be friends. It was never clear to me how I was supposed to have done this--I assume throug…