Spring Break Potpourri

Life with five and three-year-old daughters means listening to so much needless drama, all of it at full volume.

“No fair!”

“Spider!”

“That’s not a T-Rex! It’s an Allosaurus!”

Then there’s the bloodcurdling scream that makes my legs work faster than my brain. The pain scream.

While acting as Odie’s sous chef, Viva gripped the pan’s edge to flip a pancake instead of its handle. My heart goes out to her. I’ve made the same mistake and it hurts like hell. I got her fingers under cold running water within seconds, California drought be damned, while Odie fetched ice cubes and Motrin. She cried off-and-on between guttural noises of agony for the ten minutes it took the ice to work its numbing magic. Eventually, in a weak yet theatrical voice, Viva allowed that the pain would be greatly improved if she could watch cartoons in Mommy’s chair.

Relief flooded in. Once the negotiations start, I know she’s feeling better.

My life teems with negotiations. Spring break means I show up to parenting full-time, and students’ negotiations shift to email. I must say, though, knock on wood, the latest progress reports went out with nary a peep from them.

Sure, there will be some last minute begging and pleading before final grades, but that mostly comes from the parents. They simply don’t know any better, poor dears.

I brought home shopping bagfulls of notebooks, thick folders of tests, and class sets of essays. Everything that didn’t make it onto the report cards. My plan was to spend a little bit of time each day, maybe an hour or two, marking papers (Coworkers who read my blog, I can hear you. Stop laughing!).

I negotiated Friday the 13th “off” for myself, of course, because I’d already worked the whole day at school. Then Saturday, I negotiated for one complete sloth day. Which turned into two, which turned into seven (What time is it? Damn. Eight). And here we are.

Undoubtedly, my students are just as bad or worse. They had nine full days to do their spring break assignments. I imagine most of them are taking a look at the document for the first time today. Sunday afternoon at the latest.  As above, so below.

My spring break calendar has been delightfully full and blessedly empty: Full-time parenting, all 13 episodes of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Google image searches for my next tattoo, household chores, mourning the latest death on The Walking Dead (hashtag EverybodyAteChris), my first spin class and its resulting Acute Pudendal Neuralgia.

That means my crotch hurts. I expected it, I did. There’s only so much you can “prepare” for pain. Viva isn’t the only gal in this house pounding Motrin. With goblets of pinot grigio? Yeah, just me.

Kimmy Schmidt is superb. Most of my “stories” are hour-long dramas that make Odie retreat to another room with a backwards look that seems to say, “Who are you?” This half-hour comedy from co-creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock kept him in the room (hurrah for preserving marital harmony!) and had the best comedic use of spinning class in my vast TV watching experience. If I hadn’t already planned to attend class at the “new” spin studio I’ve been driving by for five years, this would have inspired me. My writer friend (he actually makes a living at it), who also watched and spun this week, posted some provocative questions such as “HAVE we joined a cult?” “Did I just float up to the ceiling, or am I hallucinating?” and “Is this the most amazing workout like ever, ever, ever?” (Yes, he does write for ABC Family). I’m taking my second spinning class tomorrow, assuming that I am able to sit on the bicycle, so I will explore these questions in depth in a future post.

My midlife crisis is humming along apace with Odie’s. These bitches are expensive. We’re relegated to middle class midlife crises, so I’m having to choose between the tattoo and the Botox (Note to self: be sure to tag this post “first world problems).

Pringles is working on her jokes. She still leads with the punchline, but her timing shows promise. Viva’s fingers appear unblistered. They both have ankles hanging out the bottoms of their pants and bellies visible above the waistbands. How am I supposed to finance my midlife crisis with two children growing out of their clothes all the time?

You’re right!

Grandparents.

I need to go make some calls.

Happy first day of spring! May all your noxes be equi.

Posted in I forgot to call this something | 2 Comments

Pretty Funny

Louis C.K. told David Letterman that in a sold-out comedy show of 15,000 laughing audience members, what he sees are the 1,000 people who aren’t impressed. Letterman chuckles knowingly. Anyone in the business of making people laugh can probably relate. I notice that Louis C.K. is not good-looking, but his fame and comic genius make him appealing. I have no doubt he dates women 20 years younger who would be considered “out of his league.”

I’m a teacher not a comedian, but as Neil Postman pointed out in his brilliant book Amusing Ourselves to Death, all discourse is entertainment now. I’ve even had commenters here tell me that if I made education “fun” I’d have an easier time with students. Even the president needs to crack jokes to keep the nation’s attention during important speeches.

Louis C.K.’s comments made me think of high school and how people develop their popularity. The genetically-blessed don’t have to do anything but be. Everyone else has to do something. I’ve seen an awkward boy on the autism spectrum with echolalia be taken in by a group of thugs who find him entertaining. At first, we teachers tried to “rescue” him, only to discover that somewhere in those thug hearts where there exists no trace of empathy or respect for teachers and learning, was a protective instinct to keep this kid safe from other bullies. He became a sort of bully mascot.

The chubby boy studies John Belushi, John Candy, and Chris Farley and becomes a comedian whose genetic disadvantage is his comedy brilliance. He’s able to attract a cute cheerleader girlfriend. Not an A-lister, to be sure, but one of the peripherally popular girls. Enough to get him invited to the right parties because he makes everybody laugh.

The intellectual elite are in a group by themselves. They are going places. They will run the world. All of those jerks who call them four-eyes, nerds, suck-ups, and losers are going to be begging them for jobs. These kids are going to top universities. They may long for the kind of popularity that we all long for, but they’ll be fine.

No matter when you go to high school, nothing much changes except the technology. Kids submit essays as Google Docs now and read textbooks on tablets. We teachers text our students homework reminders and run literature discussions via blog. The hunt for identity that characterizes adolescence is impervious to technological advances.

I was promiscuous in high school. It isn’t generally accepted for women to admit that, much less to brag about it. The dance of adolescence is supposed to involve boys pushing girls for sex and girls being the gatekeepers. “Nice” girls and “good” girls don’t “give it up.” For all that adults may think high school kids have lost all morality and are basically humping in the stairwells, that dynamic still exists. Longterm couples are probably having sex (we all knew that couple who disappeared together during every social event, or if you were as unlucky as my group, didn’t feel the need to seek privacy). Everyone else is navigating the rules: the explicit and the implicit ones.

Pretty girls don’t have to be funny nor do they have to work to attract men. So the stereotype says. If I’m funny, does that mean I’m not pretty? I’m married, so I don’t need to pursue other men, but I can’t help but want them to look at me with desire. I worked to be seductive and amusing. I never possessed the kind of beauty that made it unnecessary. My self-esteem is wrapped up in being funny and pretty. As I approach my 43rd birthday and tote around my adorable daughters, I relate to E.B. White’s narrator in “Once More to the Lake,” who sees his own inevitable decline and death in the person of his replacement: his son.

I feel a combination of pride and sadness watching my beautiful girls grow. One has big, wide-set eyes and silky blonde hair. The other is tall and skinny with thick wavy long hair. If all goes well, they are both poised to fulfill cultural ideals of attractiveness.

But you bet your ass I’m teaching them how to be funny.

Posted in Confessional Stories of my Past, Essays/Commentary, Pure side-splitting comedy | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Hey, Jealousy

After years of begging a colleague to also teach AP English, he finally said yes; by which I mean our principal asked him once and he agreed. This week, we met a few times to collaborate on projects and discuss goals for next year. My excitement about working with another teacher on AP for the first time in seven years kindled an unexpected jealousy in my mate.

Odie is not a jealous man. He is either realistic about the chances of a 42-year-old woman with two small children trading up in Los Angeles, or he just trusts me. Even if the latter were untrue, he could take great comfort in the former.

There must have been something in my tone when I declared it “amazing” to “finally have a partner in AP English.” Something a bit too rapturous in my excitement tripped Odie’s insecurity sensors. He said something about Alexie Vera being “a handsome man” and muttered something about a forced-to-go-gay scenario and where Alexie would end up in the rankings (very high, as it turns out). I was making dinner for the kids and only half listening, so I said something like, “Oh, I know; I see him almost every day.”

Okay, what I actually said was, “Nooooo shit.”

That was apparently the wrong thing to say.

And yet, oh, so right.

Since Wednesday, when Mr. Vera and I met for an hour to discuss an upcoming project, Odie has been peppering his conversation with such gems as, “I know I’m no Senor Perfecto, but can you grab me a Dr. Pepper while you’re up?” and turned “Collaborating with Mr. Vera” into code for adulterous shenanigans.

It led us to a philosophical conversation about the role of jealousy in our marriage. He’s never expressed an iota of jealousy toward me, not a single drop – something that has hurt my feelings just a little bit in the past. What is that about? I have all the proof in the world that Odie loves me. He married me, had two children with me, treats me lovingly, does laundry. He tells me he loves me every day. I have insecurities, though. Some are the same ones I’ve always had, others are new. I have a birthday coming up, and with every passing year I feel more invisible as I disappear into the high waistband of my Mom Jeans.

When Odie says, “I trust you,” I don’t know if he means “I trust you,” or “I trust you are undesirable to others.”

On the flip side, my jealousy makes him angry. It says “I don’t trust you,” which means “You are a liar, a cheater, and a scumbag.” He claims to have a “former life” in which he was all three, and he gets self-esteem and fulfillment from the fact that he has been a devoted and faithful partner to me. I can’t even playfully tell him that I’m coming home early, so tell his girlfriend to leave.

“I know you’d never have a girlfriend over while I’m at work, honey,” I assure him. Our house is a disaster.

Today I complimented him on his new haircut.

“I know I’m no Mr. Vera,” he smirked, “but I’m not bad-looking for my age.”

“This is just TOO fun,” I said. And it is. Immature and petty it may be, yet I relish Odie thinking of my head being turned by another man. It’s novel since he’s never ever ever considered it before. (But has he ever considered it before? He has not.) My inner Oscar-clutching-Sally-Field crying “You like me! You really like me!” is gratified to the roots of her eighties perm.

No doubt someone will snidely say it’s a sign of his own wandering eye and not admiration for me that makes him project insecurity. Thanks a lot, you killjoy bastard. Whatever the cause, we talked about how I would much rather have a husband who doesn’t fear losing me than a possessive, accusatory, suspicious one. Jealousy isn’t a sign of love. It’s a sign that your wife is still hot.

Posted in Essays/Commentary, Marriage, Pure side-splitting comedy, Work Related | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

The Chore Chart

Thank you, to reader and commenter “Nancy” who wrote:

We just trade off [getting up with the kids]. He gets up on Saturdays and I get up on Sundays. Not as bad when you know what to expect I guess.

It’s almost too obvious, isn’t it? Of course we should take turns. Incontestably it would make our lives easier. Undeniably planning ahead is the way to go. And unfortunately it cannot happen since it would completely eliminate all of the quiet resentment that burns at the tender heart of my marriage.

“Have you ever considered some kind of chore chart or calendar?” the therapist asked us innocently. I shot Odie the look every husband would recognize and every wife reading right now can picture exactly.

“Would you like to answer the nice man’s question, Odie?”

The next thing we know, we’re in a Jennifer Aniston/Vince Vaughn movie where I’m explaining to my husband that nobody wants to do the dishes!

From there, we go on to discover that Odie’s “love language” is “acts of service.” We didn’t talk about mine, but later that week at happy hour, I brought it up to my girlfriends and they simultaneously and in unison said, “words of praise.”

He wants me to rise from my Saturday and Sunday morning slumbers in order to let him sleep in because I love him, not because it’s my turn. We have a schedule for who cooks dinner and who picks the kids up from school, and it works great. I have frequently requested we make a schedule for the other chores and duties around the house. We’re still in the early negotiating stages, but I feel positive about the outcome. Although Odie and I have different feelings about how the housework and childcare duties should get parceled out, the therapist announced cheerfully that “these positions are reconcilable.”

There can be a schedule of assigned chores with room for spontaneity wherein I demonstrate my deep and abiding love by scrubbing toilets. Unscheduled. Not because I have to, but because I want to.

I am looking forward to when the girls are older and they can do all the chores. That’s how it works, right?

Posted in Marriage, Parenting, Pure side-splitting comedy | 3 Comments

Sunday Blues

Weekend mornings have turned into a silent power game. Pringles wakes up between 5:30 and 6:00 every day. Like Jim Dear and Darling from Lady and the Tramp we wish we could teach her about weekends, and yes, I just compared my daughter to a dog.

Odie and I both hear her. His breathing changes. He’s fooling nobody.

“Mom!” she stretches the word into three syllables, “I’m hungry!” An invitation to The Big Bed is parental stalling tactic one. She scurries under the covers and nestles her blonde head into the Pringles-sized nook of my neck and shoulder. This is nice, I think. Cuddles.

From here, she announces in a full-volume voice, “Mom? I’m hungry. Mom? I’m hungry. Mom? I’m hungry.” If she doesn’t say she’s hungry for the entire time that she is in fact hungry, then her needs will not be apparent to me and she will starve to death.

“Sssssh! Whisper!” I demonstrate, “Daddy and Viva are still sleeping. Cuddle with me for a minute.” I hope the offer of the ever desirable Mom cuddle time will distract her from her agenda to get everyone up to begin The Fetching of the Snacks.

Game on. Odie is still pretending to be asleep. He wants me to get up with Pringles. I want him to get up with Pringles. Odie can’t go back to sleep after he wakes up in the morning whereas I can go back to sleep under any circumstances. Having babies and breastfeeding gave me an on-call doctor’s napping skills. I can fall asleep in 5 minute increments. I can fall asleep quickly and go deeply into REM sleep. Odie can only sleep when all conditions are ideal. He cannot nap. Should he fall asleep during the day, he cannot recover from it. He will be groggy and useless for the remainder of the day or evening. That’s right, I said it. Useless. I can go from deep sleep to full consciousness to active parenting with very little transition time. I don’t like it. I don’t prefer it. But I can do it.

Odie and I wait each other out. Every Sunday, I plead with Pringles to go back to sleep. The triumph of hope over experience. She does not go back to sleep.

Odie won today. I got up with Pringles, settled her in front of the TV with a snack and then peeked in on him, hoping that he was just awake enough to be unable to go back to sleep. My plan was to deeply empathize and then deeply dive back under the still-warm covers.

The best-laid plans of wives and moms go awry.

 

Posted in Marriage, Parenting, Vignette | 11 Comments

But I’m Here

One of my all time favorite movies is Postcards from the Edge. There are so many gems in that film, I find another perfect line of dialogue every time I watch. When the main character comes home from rehab, her mother throws her a big party. That’s right, and to stack inappropriateness on top of questionable judgment, mom proceeds to make herself the center of attention by performing a song and dance number at the piano.

“Good times and bum times/I’ve seen ‘em all and my dear/I’m still here./Smooth sailin’ sometimes,/Sometimes a kick in the rear!/But I`m here.”

That pretty much sums it up. Whatever happened to Mrs. Odie? It’s partly not knowing what direction I want to go with my writing. I see myself as a social critic and satirist, essay writer, and hopefully a humorist. I want to write fiction too, and more than anything, I want to make money. Another part of staying away from writing is that teaching has taken up more than just my time lately. Just last night, my father asked me what has changed about the job because it didn’t consume me like it does now. That’s a long answer. One I am determined to answer when it isn’t after 2 a.m.

Parenting is like a black hole where marriages go to die. Love really is a biological trap. I’m still in love with my husband, but five years into this parenting gig I haven’t figured out how to bridge the gap between us that started with morning sickness and widened with an episiotomy. I miss him so much and I am sad that I will never get to be young with him ever again.

My daughters are simultaneously my favorite people and my tormentors. Their love is endless but so are their demands.

I feel like I just walked into the kitchen and now I can’t remember what I came in for.

“I got through all of last year. And I’m here.”

Posted in I forgot to call this something | 12 Comments

Falsetto

I sing along to the kids’ Disney CDs when driving. I’ve been told I have a nice voice, and I enjoy singing. I don’t have anything like Idina Menzel’s range, but I can do a fair Kristen Bell, and Mandy Moore is a snap. 

My talent is actually more in mimickry than singing. I don’t have my own singing voice. I copy what I hear. Today, I sang these lines from Tangled

And at last I see the light/and it’s like the fog has lifted./And at last I see the light/and it’s lo,e the sky is new./And it’s warm and real and bright/and the world has somehow shifted./All at once, everything is different/now that I see you.

It’s a love song, thus I naturally think of Odie, especially this time of year. Our actual physical romance began in September in Arizona, so the dry heat of late summer brings back those early days when the world seemed new because I was in love. 

Zachary Levi’s harmony with Mandy Moore brought me a startling epiphany in addition to the sweet summer nostalgia of my infatuation with Odie. 

I’m a teacher.

Bear with me. You know that. I know that. What’s revelatory about that? Why is Disney being dragged into this non-story? 

I’ve never been comfortable in my teacher skin. It wasn’t my identity or my essence. It was my job. I’m a writer. Teaching is how I pay the bills and keep myself in Amazon deliveries. It was temporary while I got my writing career going. Trouble is, teaching high school English and composition doesn’t leave much time for anything else. But I do not choose the word teacher to define myself simply because I failed to find time for anything else.

In a recent therapy session with one of my many siblings (long story, for another time), I remarked, “If you let yourself get all worked up over movie and TV portrayals of [sibling’s neurological condition] then you’re in for a long life of hurt. Look at how teachers are portrayed! We’re either fucking our students or doing drugs or fixing student government elections!” 

“But that’s just your job, not your identity. You’re not being erased when a top TV show misrepresents your job.”

At the time, I chalked up my ruffled feathers to the annoyance all people feel when millennials talk. A probable secondary cause was the way my sibling declared my feelings less significant than theirs (see previous comment about millennials talking). 

You’re feeling that excitement all people feel when an English teacher makes a grammatical faux pas. Don’t get too excited. It’s intentional. Sibling demands to be a third person possessive pronoun (part of the long story for that other time). 

Thirteen years after I did my best impersonation of a teacher in front of my first class, I realized that “teacher” is in fact my identity as much as writer, mother, redhead, sister, vegetarian, or humble genius. All at once I’m not mimicking or playing the part. I had two major epiphanies in July, one during summer school, the other at a teachers conference. What Oprah would call “Aha moments.” 

Whatever you call them, the result is the same. The fog lifted. The world shifted. I saw the persona I’ve crafted and been inhabiting all these years and it no longer serves me. I needed Ms. Teacher-Persona for a long time and I’ll keep her on my substitute list in case I fall back into my falsetto habits out of comfort or laziness. 

Or if I have to sing.

 

 

Posted in I forgot to call this something | 15 Comments

The Six People You’ll Meet at an English Teacher Conference

I love going to teaching conferences and getting new ideas, tips, and tricks for my teaching practice. I’m even willing to tolerate that sinking feeling that I’ve been doing it wrong all this time.

Since this book and TV-loving couch potato runs the risk of meeting no new people ever, conferences also provide low pressure opportunities to talk to other people and then promptly forget them forever. The problem is, I don’t meet any “new people”. I meet the same six people every time.

Similar to the five people you meet in Heaven, since it’s for real, there are six people you’ll meet at a teaching conference (one of them isn’t going to Heaven).

1. The Know it All

We’re all used to being the one standing up front with the chart paper, but The Know it All can’t get oriented to the fact that they’re not. They interrupt, direct their comments to the group instead of the facilitator, and have no questions. Email signature: “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. – Kierkegaard”

2. The Resume Giver

Starts every sentence with either “In my class…”, “The way I do it is…”, or “This reminds me of the way that I…”. They are similar to The Know it All, but where TKiA is arrogant and intractable, TRG is covering up a core of insecurity and hoping to be validated for what they already do. Or is just off their meds. “This reminds me of something I did as Teacher of the Year.” Also, refers to resume as “curriculum vitae.” Email signature: Board Certified Teacher.

3. The Murtagh, AKA The “I’m too old for this shit” Veteran

Quickly outs herself with the first long-winded comment about how this will never work. Email signature: Teacher

4. The Noob

Easy to identify by all of the smiling and nodding while taking copious notes. Email signature: a quote by Jean Piaget

5. Mr. Keating

Loves the sound of his own intellect. Teaches outside the box in a Transcendentalist utopia far above you. Writes poetry during breaks, or if you’re really, really unlucky, has brought his guitar. Email signature: A Walt Whitman poem. An obscure one you casual readers have never heard of.

6. The Facilitator’s Pet

Quick on the hand raise just like The Know it All and The Resume Giver, yet lacks the long-suffering “Fine, I’ll help you with your stupidity problem” body language. The Facilitator’s Pet has one goal: be the favorite. They may or may not polish apples. Prefaces questions or comments with “You really blew my mind”, “I’m sure I’m wrong about this”, or “How can someone without your amazing skill implement this strategy?” Email signature: A quote by Waylon Smithers

I’ve inhabited all of these personas to some extent (I don’t play guitar). If I am sitting with a bunch of Murtaghs, I get Nooby and apple-polishy. Fighting my tendency to be a know-it-all is a personal struggle. It isn’t easy to be this bright, talented, and well-read.

I’m struggling to accept that my school year begins in two weeks. I’d like to attend a conference where the objective is to organize all of the information learned at conferences and plan the semester accordingly. In the past year, I’ve gone to an AP conference, a classroom management seminar, and a Common Core reading conference. Now, I need to sit at a ten-top with white linen in a hotel ballroom for 5 days and plan how to incorporate all of this into my lessons. Preferably with a $50 per diem. Where do I sign up for that conference?

 

 

Posted in Essays/Commentary, Teaching, Work Related | 4 Comments

Monday Summer Potpourri

Every mother knows that moment when “My tummy hurts” turns into mommy covered in barf. My youngest, now three-years-old, has “my tummy hurts” on her nightly litany of stalling techniques.

1. I’m not tired.

2. I want milk! (You have milk) I want different milk!

3. I miss my friends and teachers.

4. I’m scared.

5. (enter pretty much anything, Pringles will make conversation endlessly to keep herself awake)

6. My tummy hurts.

I usually tell her, “I know, honey, your tummy always hurts,” so my guilt was doubled when the vomit tsunami hit. My first thought is always “Intestinal blockage,” followed by “terminal cancer,” but it was either something she ate or a virus. We’re in the waiting period, hypervigilant to every twinge in our own guts. Was that a stomach virus or too many gummy worms.

Why won’t I lay off the gummy worms? No good ever comes of it.

As a result of 2:41 a.m. Round One of Hot Sick (rounds 2, 3, 4, and 5 came about every 20 minutes), I couldn’t attend day one of my Common Core Conference today.

I’m a teacher who enjoys conferences. I have yet to go to a sleep-over one in a hotel (chaperoning Key Club Convention does not count) but hope to someday follow in the footsteps of my friend Tatianna who grades the AP exams every year. I don’t know if people like me are masochists or just “English teachers.” Even if I don’t find the conference helpful or interesting (something that has honestly never happened) I can plan lessons and hang out with people who do what I do for a living.

I thought I’d have more time during summer school, but I had less. Even though it was only one class with fewer than 20 students, five hours a day meant more daily planning than usual. The 12 day semester (that is not a typo) meant no grading procrastination. I had to turn around their assignments immediately. I regularly worked past midnight, woke up at 5:30, and started my class at 7:45 instead of 8:00.

A full third of my students stubbornly clung to the illusion that school started at 8:00. About half of them would not do homework, no matter what it was, how much it was, or how it affected their grade. I don’t believe in homework for my English students as a rule, outside of daily reading. Summer school is a different animal, though. It’s mostly an independent study session guided by a teacher with some review lessons and class participation required. What I cannot understand is parents allowing their kids to do no homework, day after day. These kids come to school with iPhones, nice shoes, manicures on the girls and the latest MP3 player permanently plugged into the ears of the boys.

“Don’t you have any homework?” they ask their children. “No,” the kids reply. Never mind that I post the daily homework assignments on the school website and the parents can easily verify it. How many F grades would I accept as a parent and still believe my daughters when they tell me, “I did it already?”

Zero.

I had several students who showed up every single day, on time mostly, put in their 60 hours, and have nothing to show for it. I’ve never had a teenager of my own, though, so I guess I should be careful about the judgment. I wasn’t going to breastfeed a two-year-old either, as I recall.

I do think it’s ridiculous when the teacher is the one in the class working the hardest.

Posted in I forgot to call this something | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Unmitigated Disaster and other Hyperbole

I went to the park today with my husband and daughters. It was my idea, even. For the last eight months or so, I’ve been fogged in like a San Francisco airport. Sometimes, the whole weekend would go by and I’d realize Monday morning that I didn’t even go outside. I’m back, baby. I feel myself healing from the shitfest that was this past school year.

Part of it was paper grading, which can be endless for an 11th grade rhetoric and comp teacher is she lets it be. Most of it was me cocooning myself in because getting from Monday to Friday took everything out of me.

I want to write about it all. I want to tell you every single degrading, terrifying, infuriating, stomach-lurching thing that happened this school year.

But I can’t. Don’t be mad. Let me explain.

Do I have to say it? Google “teacher fired blog” and see what comes up. I have. It’s infuriating. Every teacher I know has said something similar to what Natalie Munroe did about her students. Okay, maybe not “rat-like.” The First Amendment may protect us, but that’s still something decided in court. The article I read about Munroe says her principal “was forced to take her back.” How delightful. I’ve seen administrators in that position, but teacher tenure is a whole ‘nother Oprah.

This past school year, I found myself more frustrated than I’d ever been with the learned helplessness of my students. That’s not what drove me to anxiety and depression so bad that I considered (however temporarily) in-patient treatment.

The group I abandoned in 2009 mere days before the AP Exam for maternity leave was especially dear to me. My own baby is five and “graduating” from pre-school this summer, but my other babies are graduating from Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, Bennington, and MIT among others. They post their Facebook pictures – smiling, capped and gowned – and I well up as if they were my blood.

My expectation that it would be the same when I went back was not unrealistic, but it ended up way off base. A comedian can do a hit show in Chicago then have the exact same set tank in Atlanta. Likewise I found that I don’t play well to every class I’m in. “Tough room” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Every class has its own personality. Contributing factors include the time of day, the class they just had, the position of Saturn in the heavens, and some mysterious whothefuckknows that together make up the energy of a group. Not only do individual classrooms have it, but whole classes (meaning the class of 2009 or ’10 for example). Every class has students I bond with and inspire, but this group did not click with me.

Once you’ve been in education for close to two decades or more, everything old is new again. When I started my career, our state had adopted new standards so everyone was in professional development prepping for the new new tests. As a wet-behind-the-ears noob, I was eager and enthusiastic (for me, anyway). The eye-rolling, world-weariness of veterans rubbed me the wrong way.

“Shoot me if I ever get that cynical!” I commanded my coworker Mary.

Thank God Mary doesn’t own a gun.

When our state adopted Common Core, I turned to Mary and whined, “Didn’t we just adopt new standards?”

So far, I’ve only looked at Common Core for the summer school class I’m teaching. It doesn’t look a whole lot different than the standards we already had, but I’m looking at 9-10 ELA. I trust the professionals at all levels who have concerns about the new tests. They’re the experts, so they can be trusted to know what is best for their kids. Imagine if legislators also believed that, what a wonderful world this could be!

I am still enough of that apple-polishing student who became the master underneath it all to believe that it can get better again. My first year of teaching AP a decade ago was a disaster. An unmitigated flop. The next several years were the opposite. By September, I will be ready to give them my best once again.

Which is unfortunate, because school starts in early August.

Posted in Blogging about how I'm sorry I haven't been blogging, Essays/Commentary, Teaching, Work Related | Tagged , , , , | 29 Comments