Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Summer Teeth (summer there, and some aren't)

First of all, let me inform you all that Lydia lost ANOTHER tooth today. She's really taking this growing up, becoming a big girl thing seriously. She swallowed the tooth, however, so does that mean the Tooth Fairy is off the hook? I mean, it's the end of the month, payday is a couple of days away....

I DO get to teach the classes I was scheduled to teach- YAY! I'm not sure what horror stories you all have, but my district has yanked teachers out of one building because of low numbers and sent them to another building - after the first day of school. My first year at my current school started out with no sub to cover my colleague's maternity leave. The long term sub they had lined up went to Thailand to teach English and left them in the lurch. Well, it wasn't so lurch-like, since she told them in July. So, school starts, no long-term sub to teach Spanish 3. So, they found a French speaking sub who was willing to teach Spanish- level 1 and 2. So, I taught the 3's, which meant that I then had to make sub plans for him. Ugh. It was insane.

They ARE going to run the AP classes even though they are small- for THIS year, anyway. Don't get me started....

The first day of classes went well. We had homeroom, where we were to go over procedures outlined in the student planners. Without the actual planners, because we don't have them yet. We also got to to over the Sexual Harassment brochure- very entertaining for the students who get great folly out of reading the "language" paragraph outloud. "Such names may include, but are not limited to bitch, fag, ho, honey, baby, ....".

AND! Today we got to see the ever-popular Bloodborne Pathogens video as per OSHA regs. I LOVE the part where they guy practically cuts off his hand with the paper-cutter. They also refer to "bodily fluids" a million times and I get all grossed out thinking of the list of "fluids" that could encompass.

Tomorrow, teachers on the 5th floor of my building will not have access to their classrooms after 3:30. Why, you ask? The police are doing "active shooter" training up there. Um, yeah.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Goodbye to the Summer

Back. To. School.

The beginning of a new school year is full of mixed emotions for me. I feel excited about starting fresh- implementing new ideas, a list of "THIS year, I'm gonna/not gonna"s, meeting a brand new group of students. Even if I have some returning students, it's still a new mix of people. I love the smell of a school at the beginning of the year- all squeaky clean from a summer full of waxing and dusting and deep-cleansing. I'm a school-supply junkie. I stock up on crayons and markers and glue and have a great time doing it. I anxiously await the first glimpse of autumn- the first tinges of yellow and orange on certain maple trees, the kiss of frost in the air, the first evening where it's cool enough for a fire and a pot of chili.

And yet, it brings some sadness, as well. One more summer over. The girls are now both officially "big kids". This is the time in four years that I have neither a pre-schooler nor a kindergartener. We are at a crossroads. Lydia lost both of her front teeth yesterday morning, which makes her look incredibly cute. But, I remember when she grew those things! And in a few short months, her permanent teeth will come in, bringing her 2 teeth closer to growing up, her smile will never be the same.

Kids all across the country nervously anticipate their first day of school. Who'll be in their class? Will they have any friends? Will the teacher be nice? What will the cafeteria situation be like? What to wear? Their stomachs are tied up in knots as they try to fall asleep at a reasonable hour, knowing that morning will come all too quickly.

The funny thing is, that teachers are nervous too. Will I wake up in time? Will I get a parking place? Will my students be nice? What to wear? Will my own children get off to school all right? My stomach is tied up in knots. I will TRY to fall asleep soon, as I know that morning will come all too quickly.

Wish us luck.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Birth of an Ulcer

The last 2 days of inservice were pretty worthwhile. Thursday morning we all attended an anti bullying seminar which was actually very good. We got the afternoon to ourselves and Friday was "teacher time". This constituted a lot of copying, waiting for the copy machine, waiting for the copy machine to be unjammed. Good times. We even got lunch catered on Friday, courtesy of Wells Fargo.

Life was not all good, however, and I won't bore you all with the details, mostly for fear of being dooced. The short version involves a colleague who has some "issues" and me not having access to materials I need. I know that as teachers, we tend to get a bit territorial with our things, our desks, our rooms, but in reality, none of them belong to us, the exception being our own personal items, of course. I was mostly just absolutely astounded that an adult would treat another adult, a colleague, so crappy. The material issue was in fact resolved, but not without a lot of phone calls and emails that were TOTALLY UNNECESSARY.

Now, I'm freaking out because our AP classes are 'too small', according to the big-wigs. In our district we use a Block Schedule. Classes that are traditionally one year long are taught in half a year, or 2 terms. Classes meet for 90 minutes, we have 4 terms in a year. Recently, the people who get to make the decisions that earn them the title of the proverbial "they" have made the decision to make all AP classes 3 terms. AP teachers are happy because they needed that additional time to cover material adequately. The problem is that in any given year, there is usually only one section of an AP class, with the exception of maybe English. Some of the classes overlap, meaning that kids have tough decisions to make, since it's generally the same crop of kids who want AP classes. "They" have also made the decision to create a 'no-drop' policy, so that kids have to stay in a class all year. So, kids who are in AP have to commit to all 3 terms from the get go, or risk getting an F on their report card if they drop.

Our district is trying to sell itself to the community, calling itself the "district of choice". It looks very good on paper to see that we offer AP courses. It sounds good to say that we have an emphasis on "rigor" and "relevance". But, if we play this numbers game and don't offer the classes we say we do, and make it seem like an impossibility for students to take those classes before they even register for them, it is going to kill our upper level programs.

I'm sure you are wondering HOW this affects me. Here's the deal, I'm worried that they will pull our AP Spanish class, leaving that teacher who has more seniority than I without a class, meaning that I will have to give him one of my classes, and so on. Would our district really do something so drastic at this late date? Will I get to teach the classes that I was scheduled to teach? Or will I have to shift gears on the first day of school and have my schedule and about 5 other teachers' changed? Not to mention the students scheduled for AP Spanish. (*flowery soap opera music*)
Tune in Monday for the conclusion. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed, because I am stressing out.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mid-week Update

Here's the update on my inservice days. 2 down, 2 to go. This does not count the meetings we will have Mon. and Tues. because of the 2 hour early dismissal we will have.
Tuesday, we DID get fed- food service pastry and floppy fruit. We DID get introduced to new staff, three of whom got nicknames from me because I can't remember their names. (2 in Social Studies- one we shall call Smush-Face and the other Porn Star, because he's got this whole feathered blonde hair, sunglasses and gum-chewing thing going on. The other doesn't really have a nickname per se, but she will forever be thought of as "the one who needs to deep-condition".) I know, I am extremely shallow and I'll spend time in hell for it. I'm sure they are very nice people and when I get to know them, I will feel bad.

Let's see, on Tues. we were also reminded of past policies by Mr. Dean- his position, not his name. He did so in a condescending, "I- think- you're- all- idiots" manner, which goes over sooo well. He sent us all an email stating everything he had just spewed at our meeting. He should get a different job- like with the Department of Redundancy Department. One good thing - we were released by 9:30. The afternoon was a 3 hour workshop/seminar/torture session on "cultural proficiency". Usually at the beginning of the year it's nice to get excited about what you're doing, get pumped up for the new year. This? I left with a feeling of "I suck. Everything I do sucks. There's no hope." We saw several video clips of workshops by Jane Elliot which were interesting, but I'm not quite sure I "get" the relevance anymore.

Today, we got to meet our new superintendent. He was quite nice and quite charming. I'm sure he's re-thinking his decision to be here after he got pounded with "questions" from the teachers in our session. I almost felt sorry for him- he didn't come to talk about class size, the mangling of our World Language program, textbooks... But. He makes like $150 K plus some nice benefits. And? He's actually retired from a neighboring state, so he's "double-dipping". Our last superintendent retired from our district and then moved to a neighboring state to do the exact same thing. Cha-ching.
And all the while, I could have been doing something productive- which I did get a chance to do in the afternoon.

On a different note, there have been a couple of things lately that I do not "get". One is the movie The Aristocrats. I really wanted to like this movie- great, intelligent, funny stars are in it. It's a documentary. I just did not think it was funny. I found it disturbing to hear such filth and foul come out of the mouths of entertainers that I usually enjoy. The creepiest was Bob Saget- the Olsen twins' onscreen dad for so many years. Eww. Anyone see this film? Anyone like it?

The other thing I do not "get" is why this book is a favorite of anyone. I found it to be pretentious and self-indulgent on the part of the author. I thought the main character was repugnant and if this quote refers to Ignatious, I would have to boldly disagree and say that the "Jones" character was the true genious. And Pulitzer-worthy? I don't know. This book, yes, definitely. Anyone else read A Confederacy of Dunces?

As you can see, all these recent, forced hours of silence have rendered me quite wordy in Blogland. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Let's Get it Started Again

Well, it's that time again. For those of you non-teacher types, I know: Boo-freaking hoo. But for the teachers- you all understand. The dreaded "inservicing" we must endure before the students arrive. Usually I go in a few days before I'm actually required to (FYI- this means I'm going in for FREE, since it's not a contract day) and unpack my boxes of stuff that I had to load up at the end of the year so they can take stuff out of the room to clean it. This year, I just went in a day ahead (today), girls in tow, Barbie DVD in hand. I got a lot of "stupid" work done- put the Spanish teacher Barbie on my computer cart (the joke is that if I'm absent, she's my sub.), take the crap out of my desk drawers, print class lists. Speaking of which, does it make any sense that my 1st block class has 7 students in it, while my 3rd has 29 and my 4th has 28? They are all Spanish 4. I hate tiny classes and the one with 29? I'm sure it'll have 31 or 32 when all is said and done.
We'll see how it all works out once they tweak everyone's schedules. Speaking of THAT, I guess last week at registration, the entire computer network was down because some yahoo sliced through a fiber-optic line with a back-hoe while trying to fix a water main. What joy! What fun! And? The police had to be called because 3 fights broke out. During registration- did I mention that? I don't know who was doing the fighting- at our school it could just have easily been the parents as the students.

Tomorrow we are to report for duty at 7:30, when they will feed us - always helps- and then the fun'll begin promptly at 8:00. The state of Iowa recently decided that we are lacking in inservice days so have mandated 2 additional days, one at the start of the academic year, one at the end. Because of this, we cannot use sick days on those days. Wha??? I think it has something to do with the fact that we get a little stipend at the end of the year from the state because our teacher pay is among the lowest in the nation. But I digress. From 8-11, I'm sure we will do the following: 1. meet new staff ( I think we have like 20 new staff members.Yikes)
2. talk about new "policies" (shorter passing time, no-dropping of classes)
3. talk about old "policies" (hats, cell phones, jackets, dress-code)
4. brainstorm about how we can raise test scores, especially in the sub-groups.
5. look at the clock about 76 times while it crawls to 11:00, when we can break for lunch.

In the afternoon, I'm sure we will get to watch some hokey movie about bloodborne pathogens and our staff will go all Mystery Science Theatre 3000 while we watch some 2 bit actor pretending to be a teacher attempt to cut off his arm with the paper-cutter. We'll probably talk some more about test scores, or maybe "community building". We'll look at the clock and will it to say 3:10.

I must confess to you all, while all of this is happening at our meetings, I myself will probably be doing the following: 1. drinking coffee
2. writing snarky notes back and forth with my colleagues.
3. trying not to get a case of the raging giggles- you know, where you snort and tears run down your face while you are trying to be quiet.
4. writing lesson plans.
5. trying to name all of the teachers in our building, and giving smart-ass nicknames to the ones I can't name, then giggling about it with my colleagues- Carlos's Mom and French -teacher Lady.
6. doodling.
7. making lists
8. making seating charts
9. if I knew how to Sodoku, I'd probably be doing that, as well.

Teachers are the worst to have in class.

Monday, August 14, 2006

NIMBy-ism (Not In My Belfry)

Dear Bats,

While I realize your purpose in the whole Circle of Life, your place in the food chain, I must take this opportunity to tell you that you have no place in my home. Yes, I know you eat potentially disease-ridden mosquitoes and other pesky bugs. I also know that you really don't want to be in my bedroom in the middle of the night any more than I want you there.

I'm sorry that our culture has given you a reputation that is often associated with insanity and blindness (ie: batshit crazy, batty, bats in the belfry, blind as a bat). I'm sorry that you are often associated with vampires. I believe, though, you kind of brought that one on yourself- what with your fangs and all- and your wings really do look like a cape.
The local media has had a heyday with your kind- portraying you as rabies-crazed monsters that need to be gotten rid of. I know how it is- a few of your species get something like rabies, and pretty soon you're all labeled. It's like us and AIDS or lice or strep.

I'm sure that you are more much like Stellaluna than your crazy friends we see in movies, flapping around, terrorizing people. (Ok, I don't actually know of any movies offhand where bats terrorize people. You guys just have that image. Sorry about the species profiling.) I think it's cool that the word for you in Spanish has all of the vowels in it. Murcielago. I like using cute images of you as a decorating accent around Halloween. Hey, you even have a superhero created in your image. But, you need to stay the hell away from my house. Sure, the attic is just used for storage. Do you know why? I know you and your friends are up there. I see the mess you leave. I can't very well have my kids play up there on rainy days with the trail of turds you have left up there, now, can I?

Well, my husband hopefully sealed up every inch of the attic to prevent you from getting in. He even tried this stuff, which is basically just mothballs. It worked at our old house where we had one of your distant cousins who knew no boundaries. Yeah, I know it's stinky, but it sure beats a fatal blow to the head with a tennis racquet, no? Why don't you try one of the new bathouses my husband hung on the side of our house? They were custom built to suit your needs- unlike our attic, which was built to suit human needs. They are also much more accessible to your food source, and there are no pesky ceiling fans.

So, is it a deal? You need to go be with your kind. It's time. And, you need to stay the fuck away from the inside of my house. You dig?

Thank you.

The Management

Friday, August 11, 2006

Page view or Visit?

Many of you who have blogs out there probably have some sort of site meter. I myself have one of the free variety that basically just tells me how many people are looking at my blog and at what time of day. Simple, right? Okay, but I still don't get the difference between "page view" and "visit". Anyone out there have an answer for me? Anyone?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Livin'- Oh, it's easy all right

Just in case any of you are wondering (I'm sure you are not, but oh well...) I have to agree with a friend of mine in that BLT's are the perfect summer evening meal. And to make them even more perfect? Replace the mayo with a schmear of avocado. Yuh-uhm. And, since I am in Iowa, Home of the Corn Palace-wait, actually I think that might be in South Dakota. Anyway, we are known for corn and right now is the time for getting a grocery bag full of "peaches and cream"- yellow and white kernels- from the back of a pickup truck parked on the side of the road. $4 for a baker's dozen. To me, this is summer in Iowa. Add to that the chirping of cicadas in the late afternoon/early evening, the sweltering humidity, the smell of hot weeds when you get anywhere near "rural", and bags of zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and eggplant that people anonymously leave on your porch when they know you aren't home to catch them.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Today I was at Target (my second home)and some colorful, cute little shirts hanging on one of those end-caps caught my eye. I was looking through them, trying to figure out sizes, holding them up to figure out which daughter they might fit, when I noticed that they were of an odd shape. I said to myself, "Well, no wonder they were on sale! Who the hell do these things fit?!" Then I noticed the other merchandise on the shelf. Dog bed. Dog purse (the hell?). Chew toys. Leashes. Doggy beds. Mm. Either this was the S&M section for midgets, or I was about to purchase a doggy sweater for my girls.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"When I Think About You, I Tag Myself..."

With apologies to the Divinyls for the title of this post. Although, really, shouldn't THEY be the ones to apologize to all of US for singing such a schlocky song?
Ok, so here's the meme, which I originally saw at Happychyck, then Teacher Lady did it, and now, I tag myself.

1. One Book That Changed Your Life: Yikes, no pressure, or anything. I don't know if I can really say that there is any one book that altered my life. There are many that have shaped my life- Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, to name a few. I guess I don't like the idea of anything that would make me put on the brakes, and come to a screeching halt with an "a-ha" moment. I think there are many, many books that have helped shape who I am, but so far no life-changers.

2. One Book That You've Read More Than Once: Aside from Goodnight, Moon and Pat the Bunny,I also have read the 3 books listed in #1 more than once. Oh, and of course I've read all the Harry Potter books several times. And I love them so much, I will read them all again. I was originally a skeptic, but after reading the first book, I never looked back.

3. One Book You'd Want on a Desert Island: This is a tough one. I'd probably want something big, but not too dry. Something entertaining- like Gone With the Wind or And the Ladies of the Club. They never specify how long you're actually going to BE on the deserted island. Is it like, for the rest of your life? Or just until the headhunters eat you?

4. One Book That Made You Laugh: Anything by David Sedaris makes me not only laugh, but actually guffaw and snort. Since it says "one book", and I'm pretending to be a rule follower, I guess I have to pick one. So, I pick Naked. He is so freaking hilarious, he can't do anything the "normal" way. Hitchhike across the country to find himself? Sure, it's been done before, but he has to do it with a paraplegic. Guitar lessons? Many have taken them, but not with a midget. It also helps to imagine him reading each entry- he has a voice and a delivery like no other.

5. One Book That Made You Cry: The Kite Runner. This is an amazing story about a friendship between 2 boys in Afghanistan. It will break your heart, but it's worth it.
In the children's genre, I Love You Forever is an absolute tearjerker. I cannot read this with a dry eye.

6. One Book That You Wish Had Been Written: Maybe some early 70's or 80's young adult novel that portrayed short Midwestern girls as being cool instead of all of the books I read that took place in New York.

7. One Book That You Wish Had Never Been Written:Any of the Chicken Soup books. Gag. And I'm totally with Teacher Lady on the Dr. Laura thing. I hate that woman.

8. The Book That You Are Currently Reading: Not a fair question for me. I just finished Mrs. Kimble, which I quite liked- a good, first novel about 3 women who have all been married to the same creepy man. I just started Zadie Smith's On Beauty, but one of my book clubs is reading Night, by Elie Wiesel. I have such a low, low tolerance for sad things at this point in my life, I'm not really psyched to read it.

9. One Book That You've Been Meaning to Read: One book? Are they kidding? I can't just name one book I've been meaning to read! Ok, I'll try. One Hundred Years of Solitude, because I love Marquez and I love magic-realism. Also, Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as well as the scads of other unread books that are on my shelves, taunting me.

10. Five People To Tag I can't do the tag thing. For one, I don't "know" enough of you that well. Also, I hate putting that kind of pressure on people. Plus, if I tag you and you're all "uh, I don't think so...", I don't think I could take the rejection. So, tag yourself if you are so inclined. Be careful, though, you might go blind.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Journey to the Center of My Mind

Things I'm thinking about today:

While watching daytime television:
1. Why on earth does "Good Times" need to be in syndication? Jimmy Walker has got to be one of the most revolting people ever.
2. Flavor Flav needs to maybe forego the purchase of his next timepiece and get that bulldog jaw of his fixed.
3. Is there a 12 step program to help people like me, who get sucked into watching VH1 shows and cannot seem to get enough?
4. Here's a trivia question: What to John Stamos, Rick Springfield and Demi Moore all have in common? *Hint* The answer has nothing to do with Kevin Bacon, or sleeping with Ashton Kutcher.

While hanging my laundry on the line:
1. I am so happy not to live in some prissy, snooty subdivision that forbids the hanging of laundry on an unsightly clothesline.
2. Also happy not to live in prissy snotty subdivision where all homes are varying shades of beige, taupe, tan, grey, and cream.
3. Why does the tag bearing the name "brand" of my cheap underwear from Marshall's say "Eyeshadow"? What the hell kind of name is that for an underwear company? Is it because the sight of me wearing them should make one want to shade their eyes? Or is it because the undergarment actually is dual purpose- aside from the obvious, you could drape them across your brow in really bright light, thus providing an eye shadow?
4. Why have I never called underwear "panties"? Even when my girls were teeny tiny, we've always called them underwear, underpants, undies, or unders? I think it's because "panties" sounds kind of dirty.
5. Feeling pretty good about using the sun instead of kilowatt-sucking dryer.
6. Feeling pretty sure Al Gore is right while standing in melonoma-inducing sunlight, complete with harmful UV rays.

While making lunch:
1. Does everyone get Kitchen Fuzz?
2. How often is often enough to scrub out kitchen cabinets, clean inside of fridge, on top of upper cabinets?
3. What were they thinking when they chose the floral/coordinating striped wallpaper that graces my kitchen walls and matches the butt-ugly hunter green countertop?

While writing this post:
1. Perhaps I have too much time on my hands.
2. Maybe I need a hobby.
3. Maybe it's time for me to start getting ready to go back to school.


I must say for the record that I am not a fan of the big "news" networks- Fox (or Faux, as I like to call it), CNN, MSNBC, etc...
But, embarrassingly, I do like to channel surf and tonight I came across Donny Deutch, who seems less like a journalist I should respect and trust and more like a Ben Stiller character I should laugh at. His show was all about OUR CHILDREN AT RISK. I'm an educator, I've been reading and hearing about the "children at risk" thing for the past 14 years. During my first year of teaching, part of my salary was paid for by an "At-Risk" grant, thank you Bill Clinton. So, I took the bait.

They had "shocking footage" of elementary-aged children beating the living crap out of each other on the playground. They had teachers who had come forward, but had to do so anonymously so as to protect their jobs, to tell of 2nd and 3rd graders who control their school buildings in Philadelphia public schools.

Part of me is not surprised. Even here in the Heartland, we have some pretty rough schools- especially where I live, since we are in such close proximity to Chicago, we get a lot of gang activity and people who try to escape the harshness of their lives. Oh, and we're like the Meth Capital of the World- Sudafed and farm chemicals, don't you know. So, I know firsthand that there are some really tough little buggers even in the lower elementary grades.

Then there is this other part of me (the Pollyanna part) who thinks it's just all media hype, that your average kid in your average American town is ok. They just happened to go to like THE roughest inner-city school they could find and searched until they found THE most badly behaved kids. I mean, kids have always been rough, right?

So, I don't know what to think. Do those of you who have children who go to school have any insight? What about those of you teaching? I know my own children go to a little dream school where I'm sure there are "issues", but they don't even begin to compare to others. The high school where I teach is a mixed bag. I personally don't ever feel unsafe-even when there are fights, since the fights are always personal in nature- they go after each other for very specific reasons. (He said that you said that I said that......)I've heard other parents talk about bullying (hot topic these days) and how "those teachers have no idea what's going on". Do we? Do we have any control? What's bullying and what's just normal, pecking-order bullshit? Help me, Donny Deutch, help me!!!!