Thursday, March 31, 2011
"Maybe teachers have a hidden life. Where they're actually, like, human. Where they have, I don't know, dignity. Or maybe not."
My students always want know what I was like in high school, as if that explains who I am now. I have a really hard time answering that question for them because having some perspective, as I've been out of high school for over a decade, and now looking back I'm not really sure what kind of kid I was. The main problem is the fact that they want me to whittle myself down into a stereotype. They want to categorize me, because that's how people are defined in high school.
I was having this conversation with one of my oldest friends J, last week. J and I have been friends since we were about 7 years old, when he moved to town and started at my elementary school. He was easy to categorize, it seems, as he was a football player, or at least he was until he blew out his knee. What most people didn't know is that J was also really smart, but people just saw the number on his back and made assumptions. I, on the other hand, was a lot of things. I was a good religious girl, a peppy student council girl, a smart girl, the shy girl in the back of the classroom, the less studious but still smart younger sister of the super smart girl who graduated a few years ago, a drinker (only during senior year, sorry Mom), later a not so religious girl and probably many other people as well.
More than anything, I wasn't at all confident. I was scared of what everyone else thought, because in high school everyone is scared of what everyone else thinks. A long time ago I posted a status on Facebook about how I really enjoy dancing and singing in the hallways in-between class periods to the one minute music (which plays over the loud speakers during the last minute of the passing period between classes) and how I never would have been able to do that in high school. An old friend commented that it surprised her that I would say that because I was always involved and seemed to confident. Ha! Hilarious! It's incredibly interesting to me how we view ourselves v. who we are to the outside world.
Kids don't believe me, and to be fair if I was 16 I wouldn't believe me either, that everyone is just as scared as you are. The popular girls went through the same self-loathing morning routine that I did. Popular and unpopular boys alike are afraid to ask out the girl (or boy) they have a crush on. We're all the same and social status doesn't mean anything (did I just blow your mind there?).
One of the things I try to impress upon my students is that the social structure of high school doesn't matter. Unfortunately society places such significance on who you were in high school, as if this four year experience has to define who you are for the rest of your life. In 10 years it's not going to matter who was popular, who was prom king, who was first chair in band, who ate outside in the courtyard or inside in the cafeteria. You're under no obligation to be the person you were in high school for the rest of your life. If that was the case, life would be unbearable. This is what J and I were discussing last week, that you don't have to be pigeonholed as that person, you can be whoever you want to be.
There's a line from My So-Called Life (where the title of this post comes from as well), one of my all-time favorite shows (I wanted to be Angela Chase when I was 14 and I even dyed my hair, as if that was going to make Jordan Catalano burst out of my tv and fall in love with me) that says it all... "People are always saying you should be yourself, like yourself is this definite thing, like a toaster. Like you know what it is even. But every so often I'll have, like, a moment, where just being myself in my life right where I am is, like, enough."
If you've made it to the end here, I guess this is my long-winded, rambly way of saying that Angela Chase, as always, was right 16 years ago, I'm just me, and that's good enough. So, to my students, I'd say it doesn't matter who I was in high school, because I'm not that religious girl, or the shy girl in the corner, or that peppy student council girl, or anyone else I was in high school anymore, but someone who is hopefully better. And whoever I want to be today, even if that is a nutjob English teacher who dances in the hallway, that's OK.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
L, sticks her hands in R's face: Smell my hands. They smell awful.
R: What the hell!?
Me, laughing: What are you doing to him?!
L: I have hand sanitizer that smells like...what's that f word?
K: I have no idea what you're talking about.
Me: Crazy lady, that's a color. How does your hand smell like a color?
L: I don't know! What's the word?! Fresca?
K, in her very matter of fact kind of way: Fresca is a calorie free soft drink from the Coca Cola Company.
L: FREESIA! It smells like freesia!!
Me: You're worse than kids.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Me: Happy birthday!
Me: You're 17 now?
Me: Cool, go see a R-rated movie. That's really the only exciting thing you can do on your 17th birthday.
Kid: Yeah, but next year...
Me: Cigarettes and porn!
Girl, laughing: And voting! What about voting?! Dude, M, be a teacher!
Me, laughing: OK, OK, good point, voting, cigarettes and porn. Awesome.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Me: So, in order to leave the island, Circe wants Odysseus' affection.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Kid: What?! How is it wrong?!
Me: It's wrong for like 16 reasons.
Kid: Fine, give me at least 6 reasons why I'm wrong.
Me, smiling: You sure you want me to do that?
Kid: Yeah, do it.
#1: You use the word incorrectly.
#2: Your sentence contains a bunch of words which, when put together, make no sense.
#3: You clearly don't understand what the word means.
#4: You talk about drugs, which is school inappropriate.
#5: Your hair is ridiculous.
#6: You need to stop hitting on me because it's creepy and awkward and will not get you a passing grade in this class.
#7: And, for a bonus, you should have written the major term paper last quarter because maybe you wouldn't have to be playing catch up now and trying to hard to get an A on every assignment so you can pass this class.
At the end I was laughing really hard because a)I think I'm hilarious and b) he was just sitting there with this absolutely stricken look on his face, like he never thought I could come up with all those reasons. Today in class, a girl came in and said that she loved what I said in class yesterday and she wrote it down at the time and posted it on Facebook. She reread me the list out her notebook and I'm glad I wrote it down correctly here. For the second time this week, well played, me.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Coworker: And then there's that Vanessa whatever her name is.
Me: Vanessa? Oh, Vanessa Hudgens? The one with nudie pics.
Coworker: No, Vanessa what's her name, from Showgirls.
Me: Um, who?
Coworker: You know, the one who won an Oscar for Showgirls?
Me: I have no idea what you're talking about.
Coworker: Yes you do.
Me: Do you mean Jennifer Hudson?
Coworker: Yes! From Show...oh, Dreamgirls.
Me: I don't even know how to proceed here.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Caliban: I want to be an author.
Feste: That's impossible, you're a moron.
Caliban: Shut up dude, I'm awesome.
Me: That's not entirely true.
Caliban: Fine, I'll write books for kids, like Dr. Suess.
Me: Oh really? Please give us an example.
Caliban, pausing: The cat ate pie/Up in the sky/He laid in some hay/...
Feste: Dude, you're worse than Rebecca Black!
Kid, half whispering to another kid after I said something snarky: It must be so depressing to be a bitch all the time.
I laughed to myself on the inside, because it's actually pretty awesome to be a bitch all the time. Two minutes later, the kid attempted to have a conversation with me...
Kid: So, M, how was your spring break?
Me: Gosh, I don't really remember, I was too busy being a bitch to everyone. It was pretty depressing.
Well played, me.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Me: You know when a guy and a girl like each other, but they can't do anything about it?
Feste: Why can't they just DO IT? You know...
Me: They just can't. There are obstacles.
Caliban: I don't understand.
Me: Because during those times you didn't just meet someone at a party and then have sex with them in a coat closet.
Caliban: A what? A coke closet?
Me: A COAT closet. Like where there are coats.
Feste: Why would you do it in there? Why wouldn't you just go to a room?
Me: Oh my god.
Caliban: Yeah, like, the coats would just get in the way.
Me: OK, I severely regret starting this conversation.
Monday, March 21, 2011
My mom reads my blog, so she knows how ridiculous teenagers can be. Also, to be fair, she raised two teenagers, both of who grew up to be (arguably) decent, law-abiding, successful adults. She still listens to my stories when I call her and whine about my day and share what my students have done this time.
For example, I had a rash of cheating in one of my classes before spring break. Kids thought they could cheat on an essay using the period trick, which I'd never heard of. Honestly, it's a great trick, but I wasn't very amused when I found my kids doing it. I guilted them about it hardcore and I even had one kid come to me to confess...and he cried. I love making kids cry. I know that sounds terrible, but it's true. Maybe it's that I love when kids actually feel bad about their mistakes, instead of being all "Whatever, I'd do it again. Bitch." So I called my mom and told her about this kid crying and she thought it was hilarious.
Me: I mean, I felt kind of bad about it...
Mom: Why? The kid deserved it. You should make kids cry. It's a good thing I wasn't their teacher.
Me: Yeah, because you'd go all FirstName LastName on them?
Mom: Well, of course! I'd tell them don't be stupid and I won't have to make you cry.
Me: I'm writing this down right now. And I'm going to put it on my blog.
Mom, laughing: Good! I hope you tell you kids that, especially the ones who cheated. What the hell his wrong with kids these days?!
Mom: Well then they need more beatings. Or they need their car keys taken away, like we used to do with you kids.
Me: I don't think I'm allowed to beat the kids. Or take away their car keys. But I'll let their parents know what you advise them to do.
Mom: Definitely more beatings.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Friday, March 11, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
I got an email from a co-worker, whose room is next door to mine, during class. He was giving the same exam as me.
"I love these kids. They're the worst, but they work Catcher dialogue into their conversations so perfectly. One kid asked if, instead of writing 'Catcher Exam' in the subject box on his test, if he could just write 'God Damn Test'. Then another kid said that 'knocked [him] out, it really killed [him]'."
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I had one of my junior classes clean desks. I usually do this at the beginning of the week with my first class of the day, but on this particular day we didn't get around to it. I love having kids clean desks because they are amazed, disgusted and appalled by the filth that lives on them. A kid, when we were done, had a proposition for me...
Kid, holding out his used Lysol wipe: Would you eat this for $5?
Kid #2: But that's like 2 1/2 days pay for you!!
I laughed so hard I started crying.
Feste: [Kid] was late because he was necking with his girlfriend in the parking lot. I saw them!
Feste: Were you necking again?
Me: Wait is it 1951 outside my classroom? Is "necking" making a comeback?
Feste: Yes! To both!
Kid #2: At least we didn't say he was "giving her the time".
Feste: Dammit, that would have been way more awesome.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Feste: It's all cadymompus! That's great!
Me: That's not what I...
Caliban: Is it looking auspicious too?!
Me: What? That has nothing to do with anything, I...
Feste: Oh M, you and your words.
Monday, March 7, 2011
A few weeks ago I was having a bad morning. I was in my second class of the day, seniors, and they were working on something or other in class. While they were were being great and working hard, but I, personally, was having a bad day. I had just logged into my email to find a message from an old friend. It was just a few lines, but long story short, I started crying, and not in a good way. So there I was, sitting at my desk at the front of the room with tears streaming down my face, while my kids were in their own world. After a few minutes, a girl who I adore sidled up to my desk and took some tape from the tape dispenser, a move that was obviously a cover, and she gave me a look.
"Are you OK?", she asked in a shushed tone.
I looked up at her and smiled, "No," I said honestly, "But I will be."
She smiled back at me and nodded. "You'll definitely be OK. You're cool, M."
"Thanks. So are you."
She went back to her desk and sat down with her friends. I pretended to look for something in the cabinet next to my desk, while I was furiously trying to wipe my face and preserve my mascara.
So when you think that hope is lost for this generation, know there are a few good eggs out there who care, who are sweet and who want to make sure their English teacher is OK when she's crying in class.
Friday, March 4, 2011
Start at the beginning, or start here, which is incredibly smart and insightful... http://teachbad.com/2011/02/10/teaching-vs-spreadsheets-and-programs
Kid: Does Holden get drunk in the [The Catcher in the Rye]?
Me: Do you mean more than once?
Kid: No, I mean like DRUNK drunk?
Me: Yes, but also, drunk is drunk, there really are no levels. [OK, I'm lying, but it's a white lie because this 16 year old kid doesn't need to know the difference between happy drunk and college girl druuuuuuuuuuuunk.]
Kid: You know, like "he can't drive" drunk.
Me: WAIT WAIT WAIT...let's just get one thing clear, ALL DRUNK IS NOT DRIVING DRUNK. You realize that right?
Kid, laughing: Yeah, yeah.
Me: No, we're using this as a teachable moment. All drunk is not driving drunk. Never drink and drive. Are you listening to me?
Kid, taken aback by my seriousness: Yes, ma'am.
Me: OK, good. Please don't make me call your mother, she's a nice lady but I don't want to have this conversation with her. I WILL call your mother.
Kid: I know! I know!
Me: Your hopefully nonexistent arrest record will thank me later.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
* * * * * *
We’re doing that thing (I’m sure it has a name) where you have an inner circle and an outer circle, and they pair up and discuss something, and then one circle rotates until they find a new partner, and then they discuss a new topic or more on the first… What in the blue blazes is that called, anyway? Whatever it is, it works very well…
Anyway, we’re doing that thing, which means that kids are sitting on the floor. And this kiddo in particular – we can call him Larry if you’d like – has taken the opportunity to roll up his pants legs to mid-calf. I can’t resist comment.
ME: Are you trying to persuade your partner by showing off a little leg?
LARRY: Ha – yeah, I think that’ll work.
ME: Rocking the man-capris today, I see.
LARRY: Yep. You know it.
ME: Is that the new fashion trend for spring? Man-capris? [To Larry's female discussion partner] I think he might ought to shave first, though.
LARRY: No way. [Rubs the leg hair on his calves.] This is my manhood here.
ME: [Blinking; heroically keeping a straight face.] That’s your manhood?
[Girls are giggling. Larry is oblivious. A couple of his guy friends look over, smirking, probably wondering whether it would be funnier to clue him in or watch him dig himself into a hole.]
FEMALE STUDENT: That’s a little disturbing.
LARRY: Okay, fine. I’ll put my manhood away.
[Much dissolving into giggles.]
ME: Did you really just say that?
ME: I’m going to have to write that one down. Dear Diary. Today, one of my students said ‘I’ll put my manhood away.’
LARRY: Huh? Ohhhh!!!!!!http://fullofbees.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/lewd-and-clueless/
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Kid: I hate looking for quotes!
Kid: It's SO much work! And they use those little thingys...[make hand motions]
Me: Uh, quotation marks? So you know where the quote is?
Kid: YEAH! They're SO annoying!
Me: I don't even have a response to this.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Feste: She taught us some bad words in Japan!
Me: Uh, Japanese?
Feste: Yeah, close enough.
Me: Do you remember any of them?
Me: The words?
Feste: Oh, definitely not.
Me: This has been...interesting.