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Showing posts from 2011

A Little Blue Chalkboard

When I was a little kid, I had a blue chalkboard in my basement. It was set up in front of a old fashioned school desk, circa 1950-1960. I spent hours in the basement "teaching" an invisible class of students how to do math (cease your snickering), read, and about American history. Science was notably missing from my basement school house, but I'll blame that on my lack of beakers, chemicals, and any scientific knowledge.

I made fake worksheets for my students to fill out. Then I filled them out, answering a few questions wrong so I had something to mark. I made bulletin boards, class schedules and clocks. I read to my students, encouraged my students, chastised my students, and sometimes--just like every teacher secretly wishes he/she can do--walked away from them in disgust. I played school for years. Probably longer than was cool. Or socially acceptable.

So, I'm sure it comes as no surprise that now, two decades later, I'm a teacher, just like I always knew I w…

Christmas Spirit Just Vomited All Over my House

Despite the fact my house is aglow with with two different Christmas trees, smells like peppermint, and could land planes by the glow emanating from our balcony's festive lights right now, I'm having a little trouble finding the Christmas spirit this season.

Perhaps it's because we have no snow on the ground--a blessing for my commute, but depressingly unattractive. Perhaps it's the fact that, in a bad economy, an already tight budget is making gift buying exceedingly stressful. Or perhaps it's the fact that my students--in a fit of mid-winter doldrums--have mostly turned into asshats over the past few weeks. Whatever the reason, the generosity and joy of the Christmas season have escaped me; I find myself stuck in a Scrooge-y mindset that I just can't seem to shake.

This year, I find myself avoiding the Salvation Army bell ringers like they have the plague and cussing far more than is customary, even for me. But perhaps this is the reality of the holiday season …

Breaking Open Closet Doors

Once again, it is National Coming Out Day, and I feel like I really said what I needed to say last year on this day (read it here: Excuse Me While I Get out my Soapbox). But this is me, and I think we all know I can't just leave it there.

I live in a state that, a year from now, will be getting ready to vote on an anti-gay marriage amendment. Those who support this amendment call it a "defense of marriage" amendment, although it has never been made clear to me who it is exactly we are protecting marriage from--roving bands of gays who plan to convert otherwise straight men and women? I thought we called those people Jehovah's Witnesses...

I'm speechless in the face of intolerance. And I dislike that word--tolerance. I want to live in a world of acceptance, not tolerance. A world where we celebrate each other, not merely put up with each other. It is incomprehensible to me that some people can be so full of hate and vitriol. I cannot fathom such anger for such a poi…

What Teachers Make

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My senior year in college, I discovered Taylor Mali, a teacher turned poet who wrote about one of my favorite subjects--teachers and the hard work they do. This Tuesday, public school classrooms around the state of Minnesota will be inundated with school children while the parents do their happy dance as the bus pulls away from the curb. Another year, another nine months to change the lives of the children with which we work. As my friends and colleagues prepare to change the world once again, I leave you all with this clip of Mr. Mali performing his now-famous poem, "What Teacher's Make."


And don't you guys ever forget it.
Happy First Day of School. 

And so it goes

The Great Minnesota Get Together--otherwise known as the MN State Fair--began today. And if you remember back to my post from last August, you'll remember what that means:

My summer is over.

As I watch the local news stations offering tips for cheap state fair parking and the newest deep fried foods on a stick, in my head, all I hear is a slow, sad funeral march.

Goodbye summer, old friend. I hardly knew ye.

College students poured back into town last weekend, a cool breeze is wafting in my window, and my beloved MN Vikings have once again traded many of our rising stars in favor of an aging quarterback and promptly bumbled their preseason game. Fall is officially here.

As always, I feel a little melancholy with the ending of the summer. For someone who has always measured life in terms of school years rather than calendar years, the end of August always forces me to look backwards at another year gone. And looking back this year, it is difficult to put into words what I see.

The past …

An Apology from Minnesota's Sixth

I live in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District. For those of you who haven't been following the recent news concerning the Republican Presidential Race, that means that my constituents are responsible for the atrocity gracing so many magazine covers these days:

Michele Bachmann.

First things first--be clear: I did not vote for this woman. Now, I understand my politics are not for everyone, and I understand that there may even be times when Republicans--this pains me to say--may be (partially) right on some things. I admit I have taken great joy over the past few years in calling Bachmann crazy (and a few other names I shouldn't repeat in public) but I've recently come to see the danger in that sort of rhetoric.

And not because I'm wrong, either.

Bachmann recently made the cover of Newsweek in a famously unflattering picture above the headline "The Queen of Rage." Conservatives complained the picture made her look crazy. They were right. And as much as I de…

These Are the Things I've Learned...

Since having my oral surgery--the only real medical procedure I've ever had done--on Tuesday, I've learned a few things. I thought I'd share:
1. Google is a hypochondriac's best friend and is therefore inherently evil if you are sick and anxious.

2. Not eating while taking narcotics will result in being violently ill and told you are no longer allowed to take narcotics. This causes a considerable amount of pain and cussing.

3. There is a remarkable amount of food that you really don't have to chew if you don't want to.

4. Tylenol is amazing. Especially if you happen to experience the situation mentioned in #2.

5. When your dreamy oral surgeon tells you that taking out a horizontally-impacted wisdom tooth will be the same as taking out a partially erupted wisdom tooth, kick him in the shins and run. He's lying.

6. I am a coward when it comes to pain and the anticipation of pain. However, as the situation mentioned in #2 proved, I also have a relatively high …

The Wizzes

Thirty-two hours ago, two of my wisdom teeth (the evolution of which we discussed in the previous blog entry) were wrenched from my poor mouth. Other than the lack of sleep and tears that preceded the surgery, everything went well.

I was extremely happy to find that my oral surgeon lacked the typical sadistic elements one has come to expect from those crazy individuals who specialize in ripping teeth from people's heads. He was not only a good-looking man (something even my husband pointed out to me during the consultation when my surgeon briefly turned his back on us to examine the x-rays), but he seemed to agree with my own (unmedical) diagnosis that I did not need to remove all four of my wisdom teeth. While he did persuade me to remove the one tooth I was afraid of extracting, I figured he met me halfway, so why not? I signed the forms, my husband was hustled from the room, and surgery commenced.

Other than the extremely painful IV process, which entailed the nurse repeatedly ja…

Evolution Sucks

Back when we were all Neanderthals, our diets consisted of a lot of caustic food. The lack of cooking meant that much of our food was damaging to our teeth. In fact, by the time Neanderthal was roughly 16 years old, his back molars would already be damaged and shrinking from his diet. If Neanderthal couldn't eat, Neanderthal would die, so evolution kicked in to make sure his broad jaw could continue to grind up that raw meat and all those nuts. Evolution thought: "If you're going to wear away those molars I gave you, I shall provide you with new ones!"

And bam. Third molars (also known as wisdom teeth) began to grow. Neanderthal was saved. Evolution rocked.

Fast forward thousands of years. Fire is discovered. People cook food. Our jaws shrink. Now, third molars are no longer necessary, as our back molars have ceased to rot out of our heads by the age of 16. People learn to make money off these "third molars" by calling themselves oral surgeons and ripping t…

The Lottery--A Must-See Documentary

Tonight I watched the documentary, The Lottery, which follows four young children who are attempting to navigate through the confusing labyrinth of the NYC educational lottery system. The children in question were trying to get into a public charter school in Harlem called Harlem Success Academy. I found myself simultaneously enraged and sympathetic to the message of the film.

I'll start with the rage-inducing factor--the founder and mouthpiece of the academy, Eva Moskowitz is (there is no other way to say this) a horrible, grating person. While I respect her desire to educate all children at higher levels and her refusal to accept that poor economic status and background will mean academic failure, I find her deplorable for her constant vilification of teachers and unions.Do not misunderstand me; I do sympathize with her struggle and frustration with poorly performing schools. I do, however, reject her notion that failing schools are the fault of the AFL, NEA, or the teachers who …

When Words Just Aren't Enough...

For the past two weeks, I've been trying to decide how to best write about the death of my uncle on July 1st. It was sudden--he went to the doctor for stomach pains, discovered he had tumors on his liver caused by untreated terminal colon cancer, and passed away less than a week later. He asked that there not be a funeral or a memorial service. He passed away about 12 hours before my husband and my planned visit to say goodbye. In lieu of services, there seems to be a lot left unsaid.

But for the first time in my life, words seemed to fail me. I am a reader and a writer, so this failure confounded me. Unable to say something eloquent, I said nothing.

This past week, my husband I took my nieces to Lake Nebagamon in Wisconsin with his family and very close family friends. For me, it seemed eerily reminiscent of the previous year at the lake, when we were all mourning the death of one of the members of the family with whom we share the week. But somehow, a quiet lake in Northern Wiscon…

Facebook Sucks

Some of you are probably laughing right now, knowing as you do how often I use my Facebook account. And while I admit that is true, I also contend that each time I sign off Facebook, I say the same thing--internally, at least--"Facebook, you suck."

A lot.

Let me explain. In the past, you graduated from high school and, unless you kept in touch with everyone, waited until your high school reunions to see what everyone was up to. Inevitably, at that event, some people would show up with amazing and envy-inducing lives, inspiring you and your spouse to grumble about "those people" during the car ride home. Once home, you were once again blissfully unaware of everything others were doing, wrapped in a cocoon of ignorance.

Then Facebook came along and turned everyday into one big class reunion.

Let me give you an example. Today I woke up and perused photos of friends' recent home renovations, travel albums from exotic places like Marrakesh and Thailand, and their pletho…

Ode to Book Sniffing

Ever since the summer started, I have been suffering from a spate of migraines, making it nearly impossible for me to concentrate on anything for very long and plunging our apartment into a continual state of semi-gloom. So I resorted to my light-reading standby--Harry Potter.

Rest assured, I can hear your snickers from here, but by this point, I am impervious to your mockery. Yes, I have read the books more times than I can count; yes, I have three different complete sets of Harry Potter books  (paperbacks, hardcovers, and the British editions); and yes, I went to Chicago (twice) to see the Harry Potter exhibit when it was traveling. I love Harry Potter. I've come to terms with it. So should you.

But my love of Harry Potter is not my real confession here. My confession is this: as much as I love the story, there is one thing about the books I love more: the smell. Two nights ago, I was curled up on my couch with the third book when I heard my husband snickering from the kitchen . W…

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

Teachers love summer. This is not to say we don't love our jobs or students, or that we are not eager and ready to go back to work in September. This is only to say that we, like our students, love summer. Unabashedly and unequivocally love summer.  So, in the spirit of the first day, I will count the reasons for my love of the next twelve weeks.

1. I get to sleep past 4:30am. There is nothing--nothing--to rival this feeling.

2. I can once again read for fun. (Okay, to be honest, I do a fair amount of this during the school year. But during the summer I can do it guilt-free).

3. I can pee whenever I want. Perhaps only other teachers can truly understand the wonder that is the unscheduled bathroom trip, but it is not to be underestimated.

4. I see sunlight. Often. During the school year, I work in a windowless classroom, and--as Minnesota winters stretch the dark hours of the day to 14 hours or more--I often go five or six days at a time with no real proof that the sun actually does ri…

The Melancholy of Thunder

As I sat on my porch tonight, I was surrounded by that perfect stillness of a warm, muggy summer night. Despite the fact it is still early May, the weather today carried notes of summer on the wings of the breezes and the distant roll of thunder in the background. The silence of an impending storm always puts me in a theoretical mood. As I sat there watching the muted flashes of lightening behind the heavy clouds, I felt a pleasant heaviness wash over me. I am 27 years old; I am grown up and these past few years have seen many changes in my life that all seem to point to adulthood on the horizon. I have not officially accepted it yet, but I feel it looming.

As the title of my blog indicates, I am at best a reluctant member of the adult world. At times, I am skeptical that this is really what all that "when I grow up" business was really about. Robert Frost said two roads diverged in a wood and he took the one less traveled. But life so far has taught me that where we end up i…

Letting Go

This past Saturday at 7:30pm, I found myself getting off a school bus for the last time this year. We had arrived back from the Minnesota High School League State Speech Tournament. It was the last speech tournament of the year. We went. We spoke. We conquered (kind of). I was acutely aware of the fact that it was the last time I would work with this particular group of students. Watching those students file off the bus for the last time this season was a bit like a little bereavement. Many of them were seniors. Most of them would not be back the following year. It was an ending. And for those of you who have never spoken to me and are unaware of this, I have never been a fan of endings. As a teacher, each June I must send my students out into the real world, aware of the fact that many I will never see or hear from again. They will become just another face in what will inevitably become a vast ocean of faces populating my career. And that's part of the job. And as a teacher, I ca…