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

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. No. It was just the second thing.

I’m going to tell you a series of fictions, but the result will be truth.

I’m grading the last thousand or so papers from my 2013-2014 students, and then I will be done with my worst school year in memory.

“Please check back on Thursday. I’ve got so much to tell you.”

She said. You see, I think this is one of my weaknesses as a teacher and as a human. I make promises without being sure I can keep them. I need to stop making promises, or learn how to keep them. It’s a struggle.

I start summer school on Monday, but it’s one group of kids and one class. I’ve been planning lessons and enjoying my very short vacation. And let’s be honest, season 2 of Orange is the New Black.


Posted in Blogging about how I'm sorry I haven't been blogging, Essays/Commentary, Teaching, Work Related | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Mrs. Odie’s Class Fee Schedule

I hate punishing the students, especially when they’re the ones I really enjoy. Recently, I caught some kids cheating, and I was sad for a week. I couldn’t let it slide. It was so obvious and badly done, I was actually more depressed about what it said about me as a teacher than about the cheating.

But, then I comfort myself that if they think Jonathan Swift was inspired by Hannibal Lecter and failed to include a TARDIS in that scenario, they have no business in an advanced class.

It makes me sad when kids fail my class. I take no pleasure in F grades. Funny how it’s “I got an A!” but “She GAVE ME an F.”

I have no fucks to give for students who don’t turn in work, don’t participate in class, don’t pass tests they didn’t study for, then beg “what can I do to pass?!” often accompanied by a parent email pleading for “extra credit.” Extra credit? Your kid can’t even handle credit!

What can you do to pass? My reply is dependent on your answer to the following question: Do you have a TARDIS?

Kids don’t hear me when I say on and from day one that there will be no Hail Mary, no miracle free throw on the last day that will save them from a semester of laziness and apathy. Their parents are comparatively deaf. I’ve become so frustrated, that I’ve fantasized about what I could do if I had my integrity surgically removed.

If I had NO integrity at all, I think I could enjoy coming up with a “Price List” for my more affluent parents. A “Fee Schedule,” if you will.

Mrs. Odie’s Exclusive Fee Schedule for Discerning Parents

“The Graduation Saver”* (aka “The grandparents bought non-refundable plane tickets for graduation”)

Course Grade of D with a Citizenship grade of Satisfactory: $1000 per semester (available to students with failing grades, no “teach them a lesson” or “revenge” purchases accepted).

*exclusively available to graduating seniors

“The Basic” Course grade of C with a Citizenship grade of Satisfactory: $300 per semester

“The Basic Plus” Course grade of C with a Citizenship grade of Outstanding: : $375 per semester

“The Good Student” Course grade of B with a Citizenship grade of Satisfactory: $400 per semester

“The Good Student Plus” Course grade of B with Citizenship grade of Outstanding: $475 per semester

“The Ivy Leaguer Package” Course Grade of A, Citizenship of Outstanding, Letter of recommendation written with a thesaurus while sober, and without a template from “How to write a college recommendation letter” article on eHow.com. $1000

A La Carte Menu

Recommendation letter for college/scholarships $100

Well-written recommendation letter for college/scholarships $200

Smiles $50/ea

Wit, sardonic tone/long-suffering eyebrow raises: the free services I provide




Posted in Pure side-splitting comedy, Teaching, Work Related | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

The Shelter of Memory

I can’t sleep. Four years ago at this moment, I got out of bed because I couldn’t get comfortable. My back was in agony, but I was too gigantically pregnant to want to get out of bed for Tylenol. I had been sleeping lightly, restlessly tossing and turning as much as a 39 weeks pregnant woman can, postponing the inevitable. Like when I have to pee, but I’m too exhausted to get up, so I continually fall back to sleep and dream that I go into bathrooms and find the toilet missing.

Odie was snoring. What I experienced as “having a baby” was 40 weeks of “having a designated driver” to Odie. He’d ordered a second beer at the restaurant and had at least one more once we got home, celebrating me not going into labor that night.

And, you know, “It’s Thursday.”

In my younger and more vulnerable years, I was impatient with people’s stories, especially the ones I’d heard multiple times. Now that I’m middle-aged, I know that telling our stories is the only way we can cling to the terror and joy and excitement and wonder and thrill of the fleeting moments.  Because what I love so much about this story is how it makes me feel when I write or tell it. I’m back in my bedroom again about to have my baby, as much as I ever can be.

I can’t remember the pain, but I know I felt it, because I remember how this story goes. I didn’t know what labor felt like, so it went on for a couple hours before I knew that’s what it was. In fact, my body had to give me an unmistakable sign. I was on my way to the kitchen for Tylenol and cranberry juice, not to Labor and Delivery. In pregnancy, low back pain had become as much a part of me as red hair, green eyes, and asymmetrical nostrils.

This frustrates me about memory. The way the feelings don’t quite come back. They’re almost there. I can close my eyes and focus on the memory and a recollection will come and go like a shudder or a spasm. I got out of bed and my water broke. It was the wildest feeling. I’ve heard some women say they thought they’d peed their pants, but this sensation was singular. I probably said, “I think my water just broke,” but I was certain.

In my marriage, I’m “The Keeper of the Memories.” Odie can’t remember things, big or small. I pity him that. I retell our birth story to him every year, starting sentences with “Remember when…” and I see that regretful look. The look that says, “Probably not, but go on.”

And that’s another thing about memories. Collaborating on the story is nearly as pleasurable as having the memory. To giggle with Odie about how we arrived at our rented wedding house in 2007 and discovered it had a hot tub we didn’t know about which was heated and begging to be enjoyed. We stripped down and hopped in, delighted by the elicitness of a skinny dip when our wedding party was expected any minute.

“Check your messages,” I urged him. He picked up his discarded jeans and PLOP! went his cell phone into the hot tub.

He doesn’t remember those details like I do, just that it happened. It isn’t as much fun as it could be, having that memory all by myself.

That’s why the big ones are special. He’ll never forget “I think my water just broke.”

Five years ago, our first daughter was born at 4:08 p.m.

Or, as Odie remembers it, “The doctor poured enchilada sauce all over my wife, cut her with scissors and Viva’s head popped out.”

Posted in Marriage, Parenting, Pregnancy, Vignette | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Houseguests and Fish

All you have to say to another mother and wife is “I have the in-laws this weekend,” and all is understood.

In conversation with a friend and colleague, I found out how lucky I am that my mother-in-law doesn’t live with us. Sure, she wants to be close. She often laments that she wishes she lived closer so she could “help [me] with the girls.” She really is a huge help. Last night, I got home from work late because I wanted to finish the essays I collected that day instead of taking more work home. I sat down with a glass of wine, and my mother-in-law helpfully said, “Mo, Pringles wants some milk.”

I was far better at disguising my withering looks before I had kids.

My aforementioned friend Melanie, however, has it rough. Married to a first generation man with an old world mom, she had a moral imperative to let grandma hop a ship to The New World as soon as the treasured grandson made his appearance. “She is a huge help to me, because I can’t afford day care,” Melanie sighs, “but she’s turned my husband back into a child.”

On the one hand, I can understand wanting to be near my children. I don’t get the grandma thing yet, but my kids are at the age that grandmas love. Too old to need poopy diaper changes, but too young to roll their eyes at you. They think grandma is as exciting as the Easter Bunny, especially since she always comes with presents. Too young to understand why Mommy and Daddy make those faces when Grandma Lulu gives them the stickers from The Museum of Art. “Look, Mommy! BOOBIES!”

I’m not saying I don’t like Gauguin, but my sticker tastes for my girls run more along the lines of My Little Pony.

I try to keep the conversation light. I want my daughters to believe in magic and happiness, and maybe even in God. I accidentally said, “Happy Good Friday,” and was rewarded with “Oh, RIGHT. Yeah. Let’s all celebrate the right wing Christian agenda!” Easter baskets are okay though, because it was her idea and she knows I don’t like holidays to be about candy. We’ve had this talk. My kids get a little bit of everything, including candy, throughout the week. My mom withheld treats and it helped make me a binge eater then a bulimic.

Ever notice that no matter how many times you “have the talk” with your mother-in-law, she will do it her way? And then we promise ourselves, “When I’m a mother-in-law, I will never-” The best laid plans of mice and men go awry, though, because if we followed through, the era of the annoying MIL would have long since passed.

She came over on a Thursday and my sister who lives in another state happens to be visiting this weekend. We had her family over for brunch. As much as I’d have liked to tell MIL we can’t have so many guests at once, I let her come over.

“Wow, Mo. The house looks great,” then to my sister, “You must be very special guests! I barely recognize the place. What’s Viva eating? Oh, another sandwich. She sure does eat a lot of sandwiches doesn’t she? I can’t digest all that bread. It makes me heavy.”

Speaking of, I’ve lost 17 pounds since she last saw me, and she hasn’t said a word. When I was pregnant, she never missed a chance.

“I envy you, Mo. I was so sick when I was pregnant with Odie, I had to buy smaller clothes! Of course, I’ve always been very thin. I can’t find pants that fit because my legs are so long and my waist is so tiny.”

She knows me, but doesn’t know me. I’ve always been lucky in that my MIL is terrified of me. My own mom and I are estranged, and she used to ask tentative, continual questions about the situation. My passive-aggressive-narcissist detector is so precisely calibrated, and I’m so sensitive about my decision to distance myself from my maternal poisoner, she was never able to get what she wanted from me.

“Mo, how’s your mom?”

“She will never change.”

“Oh, I see. Okay. Do you ever talk to her?”

“Why do you ask?”

“No, I’m just. I mean. I know Odie said you guys don’t really talk, so I just thought, you know.”

“No. I don’t know.”

“Does she give the girls Easter baskets?”

I explained how I instructed my mom “No Easter baskets, no candy holidays” for two years, then on the third year she passive-aggressively mailed it to us, so I texted Mom a picture of it in the garbage cans.

(That didn’t really happen, but I threatened my mom it would and I had every intention of going though with it)

Mother-in-law scoffed, “Well, I just remember I always called my mom once a week, every week.”

“I’ll bet she liked that.”

If I could harness the self-mastery I use to not scream “WE ARE NOT GOING TO PUT YOU IN A HOME!” and employ it to get my housework and schoolwork done, I’d be able to challenge Jennifer Garner to a Virgo Contest.





Posted in I forgot to call this something | Tagged , , | 23 Comments

Game of the Walking Good Wife

Not every TV show has to be Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. I’m sure it’s exhilarating to watch it trend on Twitter and fill the blogosphere with reactions to the latest shocking death. “The Rains of Castamere” episode of Game of Thrones and its shocking Red Wedding scene changed the role of Twitter in television. I have no doubt that the writers’ room now includes conversations about how to get Twitter participation during the show, and fostering the “two screen experience.”

Author Lee Child wrote that if you can see the bandwagon, it’s too late to climb on. No one told The Good Wife producers Michelle and Robert King. Nor apparently the EP of How I Met Your Mother.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actor. What I dislike, even as a teacher, is doing the same thing over and over in exactly the same way. I don’t know how an actor can tolerate doing a play for weeks, months, or sometimes years. At least a series has new episodes, but perhaps playing the same character is tedious. I have trouble doing the same lesson twice in a row. It therefore doesn’t surprise me when actors decide they want to leave a popular show and find something else to do. From the perspective of an audience member, it’s shocking. Shelley Long leaving Cheers? To do what? David Duchovney is tired of Fox Mulder? What does Clooney think is out there for him besides Dr. Doug Ross?

As a fan, I hate it, but as a performer, I get it. I’ve been lucky in my career to have assignments with variety so I don’t grow bored. My most challenging year was the one where I taught four periods of junior English and one of AP junior English. Four shows a day, five days a week put my creativity at an all-time low.

The problem with Josh Charles’ exit from The Good Wife versus one like Katherine Heigl’s from an ensemble show like Grey’s Anatomy is that TGW’s central plot is a love triangle among Julianna Marguiles, Charles, and Chris Noth. It is only Noth’s onscreen likability that keeps the audience from rooting unanimously for an Alicia/Will partnership.

I say “onscreen” because I have it on good authority from a number of people in the food service industry that Noth is an amazing actor.

Michelle and Robert King ruined my Good Wife viewing experience by posting a letter on Facebook within minutes of airing the infamous episode 515 where Josh Charles’ character dies. The first words are “We, like you, mourn the loss of Will Gardner.” It’s like the college acceptance letter where the words “congratulations” or “unfortunately” in the first sentence cinch it. The first words should have been: major spoilers ahead if you’re trying to meet your grading deadline and you DVRed the episode. I give the Kings a tip of the hat for including “send him off to Seattle” as a jab at the unsatisfying way Dr. Ross ditched Margulies’ Nurse Hathaway, leaving her to parent their twins alone. In your face, John Wells.

The letter went on to justify their choice to kill the character.

I don’t believe a word of it.

Michelle and Robert King killed Will Gardner because they couldn’t kill Josh Charles. He left their hit show, a show revolving around his character’s relationship with the titular one. I’m surprised they didn’t have him shot in the face. Or the nuts.

I worked in television my first job out of college. My dad’s work war stories from television sets were the soundtrack of my childhood. He once pitched the idea that all actors be replaced by puppets. No producer would be that believably benignant about a lead actor quitting an Emmy winning show. Choose any euphemism you want, but Josh Charles quit. His contract expired and he walked away.

The Kings and Julianna Margulies (also a producer) did not raise their glasses “to Mutt!”

Thank goodness for the Sunday night program schedule, because after watching The Good Wife episode 515, I was able to cheer myself up with The Walking Dead.

Posted in Television/Film Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Check Engine

A yellow light illuminated on the control panel of my car. It read “Service Engine Soon.”

Some car designer didn’t pay attention to his English teacher’s lesson on ambiguity. I tell my students to embrace ambiguity. They all want fast easy answers, and those don’t exist in good literature. They should, however, exist in cars.

Is there going to be a light that reads, “Service Engine Really Soon”? What about “Service Engine NOW!” Red, not yellow. Yellow does not convey the necessary urgency.

Because when the yellow “Service Engine Soon” light came on, I didn’t panic, but took my car to the dealership the following morning. That’s pretty soon, right? Not soon enough. My car needs repairs beyond what a “Service Engine Soon” light should have predicted. These car repairs required a red warning light, “YOU ARE COMPLETELY FUCKED.”

Also, did you know you’re supposed to put oil in a car?

I’m kidding.

The insurance inspectors weren’t, though.

“You know you’re supposed to have the oil changed, don’t you?” the only thing he left out was a condescending “darlin’ or little lady” at the end. I sort of wish I hadn’t replied, “I’m not a fucking idiot,” but I’m not always at my most composed when I’m being condescended to by insurance agents.

The inspector from Condescending Asshole Auto and Home Insurance is slowly and meticulously trying to figure out what has gone wrong with my engine, but they are sure that whatever it is, they don’t cover it because it’s expensive. It reminds me of when a relative of mine was struck by a car while crossing the street. She had an uninsured motorist policy through her own insurance that covered her medical bills, but the payout was huge. As a result, the insurance company found loopholes to deny the claim, then dragged out litigation for five years, so instead of getting the full amount of the policy, she had to pay a third of it to an attorney. Sure, she won the suit, but only after five years.

From a layperson’s perspective, an insurance company has no incentive to pay for anything. If their goal is to make profits, then they must operate like a gym that sells as many memberships as possible and counts on members not showing up to workout because the gym would be packed beyond capacity if everyone with a membership showed up! As long as those dues come in every month, they make a profit. My insurance company is more than happy to take my money every month, but as soon as I need something from them, it’s suspicion and accusations.

Odie and I saved for the summer. Our districts have finally gone from a ten month pay cycle to an eleven month. Seven more years of collective bargaining, and we might vote on making it twelve months (fingers crossed), but slow down. No one is talkin ’bout a revolution (in a whisper). We only have to put away 1/11 of every pay check instead of 1/10 (I know, I know, I promised there’d be no fractions). Secretly, I was hoping I would be able to avoid summer school. Take Viva out of day care instead and spend some real quality time with her before she starts kinder in the fall. Disneyland for her fifth birthday, just her and me. That’s not possible now.

I’ve been sad, but I feel like I’ve been sad for a long time. My daughters watch Frozen at least once a day, and I relate more to the fear-filled Elsa than I do to plucky Anna. “No escape from the storm inside of me.” I’m overwhelmed by my confusion and anger. And I can’t hit that fucking note in “Let it Go.” Is a mezzo-soprano or contralto Disney heroine too much to ask for?

I guess there’s a chance the insurance agent will call and say, “Congratulations, Mrs. Odie, the car clearly has a defective engine and we’ll cover the repairs 100%!” then it’s “Hello, Disneyland!” But I’ll start working on my summer school syllabus anyway.


Posted in Essays/Commentary, Parenting, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

I Love Kelle Hampton!

April 1, 2014

From her pigeon-toed, open-mouthed selfies to her Poppa, I cannot get enough of Kelle Hampton.

Christmas has passed, but her book Bloom, Finding Beauty in the Unexpected would make a terrific Easter gift. Especially if you gave up amazing writing for Lent. This book would be a perfect way to break that fast.

Speaking of her amazing writing, no one can pepper a sentence with “Dude” or replace the g in an -ing word with an apostrophe like Kelle Hampton can. It makes me feel like she’s sittin’ right here talkin’ to me.

Ha! As if I could be so lucky!

Very few people in this world are inspirational like Kelle Hampton. Her words and ideas can change the world. The whole fucking world. Oops, her dad hates it when she swears. Isn’t that adorbs?

When she was pregnant, she thought she was having a second perfect baby girl. The thing is, God chooses the most specialest people in the world and gives them babies with designer genes (GET IT?! It’s a pun! God, she’s funny too! All of that and FUNNY). You really ought to read her book to get the full amazing summary, but just let me tell you that when Kelle’s daughter Nella was born with Down syndrome, she loved her anyway.

I know, right?!

I mean, not right away. She’s not Jesus.

But once she cobbled together a blog about it and realized she could rock out Down syndrome like no one ever had before, she decided to embrace it like it was ugly tile. The popularity of her one viral post says it all. People know good writing. Look at the popularity of “Heaven is for Real.”

If you’ve never heard of Kelle Hampton, sister, you must not hesitate another moment. Slide your smooth slippery fingers over your Samsung keyboard and spell out The Small Things. It’s a place wherefore babies are slung on hips. Laundry is ignored in favor of popsicle pictures of exotic almond-eyes and bent pinkie sunsets. Tiny turtles tempt tots’ toes. Kelle always accentuates alliteration.

As a working woman with two young children, nothing thrills me more than a stay-at-home Mommy Blogger who declares spring break a “lazy week.” She positively promotes play instead of work, which I totally could never do, nor could anyone I know, but just knowing that she is rocking it out at home, taking pictures of her kids and posting them on the internet instead of working, makes me feel like absolutely anything is possible, even over-loaded run-on sentences.

Like me, Kelle Hampton idolizes Emerson, who went to the beach because he wanted to live deliberately. To suck the marrow out of life while buying as many craft supplies, home decor items, cute outfits, shoes, barrettes, Washi tape rolls, and camera doodads as possible. Her ability to zero in on exactly what Whitman meant by “Spartan-like” when he wrote Charlotte’s Web will make you rethink your own version of putting to rout all that is not life. Or something.

I’m sorry for going on and on. Something about this beautiful first day of April inspires me. It’s like my love of all things Kelle has turned me into a marrow sucking machine.

I never promote other bloggers, but to quote Kelle’s website motto, “4 Pay it Ward.”


Posted in Pure side-splitting comedy | Tagged , | 40 Comments

Sent Mail

I hate email.

I wonder if teachers despised telephones when they first became ubiquitous. I once sent email sporadically to save paper for inter-office memoranda. Though the expression “Didn’t you get the memo?” is alive and well, the memo itself is dead and buried. Email wasn’t even a verb back then.

I admit, there were a few times in college (mostly grad school) where I sent a cleverly worded email instead of an assignment. Ten years later, what I know for sure is that I never fooled anyone.

Teachers know we’re lying. And I say “we” because I’m guilty. Email is second only to the text message for the nonconfrontational procrastinator’s exit strategy. I don’t even check my email the night before a major assignment is due. You would be stunned how many people’s grandmas pass away. If you’re a grandma, you might want to acquire a copy of your teenage grandchildren’s school syllabi and find out when the midterm is.

Because, lady, your days are numbered.

I wish I could avoid my email after progress reports go out. I will have at least 15-20 emails from parents who want meetings with me about why their children are in danger of failing. It used to be that I regularly communicated with the parents of my students. It was called a progress report. Today, the progress report is the prelude to the email. The same way that the “due date” for an assignment has become the day when students check in to see when the real due date is.

Because surely, when I wrote “due date,” what I meant was “turn it in whenever you feel like it.”

Communication is so easy these days; it takes a minute or two to fire off an email to your child’s teacher. What doesn’t register for parents is how many other parents are doing the same thing. I have nearly 200 students. Luckily, most of them are passing, or I would never be able to leave my desk.

I refuse to check email from home. There will probably come a time when I won’t be able to get away with that, but I already use my family time to grade papers and plan lessons. How much are we supposed to allow our work lives to encroach on our home lives?

“Mommy, can you play with me or are you working?” my oldest asked me last night. All I ever hear from mothers of older children is “Treasure this time! It goes by so fast!” I know. When I blinked, my spring break was over and my in-box was full.

Oprah once said that teachers should be available via cell phone until late in the evening to help students. Rhetorically, it’s a great strategy. If I say, “But I don’t want to be available to my students during my family time,” then I sound like I don’t care about my students. While she and the other millionaires are fixing education though, I wish they’d consider teachers people. Or replace us with robots and get it over with.

We see ourselves as the most successful students, and therefore experts at what students should do. After all, the student became the master! Others see us as failures. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

Those who can’t teach, blog.


Posted in Teaching, Work Related | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

Dancing with the Stereotypes

Danica McKellar described her Maxim pictures as “little girl sexy.” It was March 19th on Access Hollywood while promoting her upcoming appearance on Dancing with the Stars.

My blood was already boiling because host Billy Bush called Emilia Clarke on Game of Thrones “Queen Khaleesi.” Khaleesi is not her name, it’s her title. Why do they let him talk?

But Danica is smart, as everyone inevitably points out. She knows how to do math. Barbie once told me “math is hard.” Rest assured, though, Danica is not so smart that men don’t want to fuck her.

Some photos popped up onscreen: McKellar posing on an unmade bed in underwear and knee-high stiletto boots, her pinkie nervously between her teeth as if to say, “I’m just a virgin. You’re not going to hurt a wittle sex kitty wike me, are ya big boy?”

What fun captioning those pictures.

“McKellar helps us solve for (se)X!”

“McKellar’s sexiness has no LIMIT!” (too much Calculus?)

Our society simultaneously condemns pedophilia and sexualizes children. Treats girls on the verge of legal adulthood or puberty as tantalizing treats (remember the countdown to the Olson twins’ 18th birthday? Brittney Spears in a Catholic school uniform? Salma Hayek as a stripper in Dogma wearing ponytails and sucking her thumb?). The responsibility is then placed squarely on the girl: Do not encourage bad behavior, because “boys will be boys” and “modest is hottest.” Even the prohibition of them is exploitative. Look, but don’t touch. Take a really, really good look. Here, we’ll give you some pictures.

You want to know what nauseates me? Someone is going to find my blog now from Googling “sexy little girl.” Do you feel sick? Me too. What are we doing about it?

I am glad that smarter women than I devote themselves full-time to this problem. I have a small suggestion:

Don’t describe little girls as sexy.

If you hear someone else do it, correct them, like so: “I’m sure you didn’t mean to say ‘little girl sexy.’ I think you meant ‘inexperienced, young, but enthusiastically-willing woman’ sexy.”

Lust for women is normal and healthy. The sickness is lust directed toward girls. Fetishizing them.

I’m not going full Jezebel.com on you, I promise. Words are my game. Denotations and connotations. I want to change the language. As George Carlin so hilariously said, if poor people no longer live in slums, but “the economically disadvantaged occupy substandard housing in the inner cities,” then fertile young women who like to wear boots to bed can eagerly consent to sex without being tricked or misled. Or portrayed as girls.

Men are allowed to desire young, sexually mature, consenting women, but there must be no ambiguity about her age in the images or in the language.

“Girls” are children. Women want sex, but the word “woman” has connotations beyond sexual objectification. Women can have power. Girls cannot. They can only have a version of it called “Grrrl Power” which is absolutely adorable.

It’s too late for Danica McKellar not to pose for Maxim Magazine as an underage girl being trafficked for prostitution. She can’t unsay her undoubtedly careless words describing the images. “Math is hawt” sells her books. Marketing’s point of view is the male gaze, whether it’s sexually objectifying the teacher or the school girl. To me, though, the message is “It’s okay to be good at math as long as you’re sexy, look good in your underwear, and objectify yourself.”

I watched women in my generation buy into the wholesale lie that feminism is not owning your sexuality, but selling it. In The Usual Suspects, Kevin Spacey’s character says the best trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist. Well, the second best was convincing poor white people that helping rich white people get richer is going to benefit poor white people. And a close third is convincing tweens, teens, and twentysomethings that posting naked pictures of yourself on the internet is Female Empowerment.

It isn’t.

Here’s your English lesson from Mrs. Odie: the “Either-Or” Fallacy. It goes like this. My sexualized image is going to end up on the internet anyway, so I would rather put it there myself and own it. Which begs the question, “Is your sexualized image going to end up on the internet anyway?”

Sex sells, but it isn’t the only thing that sells. Tina Fey isn’t naked on the cover of Bossypants. It’s like women don’t even think to question the belief that a woman’s worth comes down to her fuckability.

Since celebrities and models can refuse to wear fur, they can refuse to pose as sexualized children. And going naked isn’t the only alternative.

It’s a start. From there, maybe we can figure out how to make women realize that being good at math will make us far more powerful than posing in underwear ever will. I want my daughters to value themselves and be valued for their humanity, not their youth. Their humanity is not temporary. Or for sale.

And it’s Queen Daenarys Targaryan OR Khaleesi, Billy Bush. Not both. Because she is not only the rightful heir of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros but also the Dothraki queen. A very powerful woman, indeed.

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