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."

I've been trying to write this post for a long time, but I've never found the right words. I had a conversation with an old friend last week and I decided that it's time for me to just write.

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

Sadly none of those are my favorite F word.

I love my coworkers. I know, I know, I say it all the time, but I'm incredibly lucky that I love the people I work with. K and L have been my long time personal saviors and I probably couldn't survive this job without them. At lunch two days ago, L thought her hands smelled funny and she made R, who is considered to be my work spouse, smell them. Needless to say, he wasn't amused by having hands shoved in his face.

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.
L: Fuchsia?
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

Whatever, it's legal.

It was one of my students' birthdays the other day.

Me: Happy birthday!
Kid: Thanks!
Me: You're 17 now?
Kid: Yep.
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

Ancient Greeks were slutty, obviously.

A conversation from B that reminds me of a conversation with my seniors several years ago. Two examples definitely make for a pattern with the Ancient Greeks...

Me: So, in order to leave the island, Circe wants Odysseus' affection.
Frosh girl: Like what? Like getting married?
Me: No, Odysseus is married. She
Frosh girl: To make babies?
Me: Sure we can say that.
Frosh dude: Wait, so he's going to smash and dash? He's the man!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Well played, me: Part II

Yesterday the students were reading their vocab sentences aloud to review for their vocab test today, which they do to earn candy in class. A kid read his sentence, but a) it made no sense and b) it very obviously referenced smoking weed. I denied him candy and told him his sentence was wrong. This ensued...

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.
Me: Awesome.
#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

I just realized that was nearly 13 years ago. Oh god.

This afternoon, during a discussion about Sean Combs, I told my students, "When I was your age, back in 1998, we called him Puff Daddy!" Apparently these days he's called Dirty or Diddy or Dirty Money or something. I'm incredibly uncool.

We're smarter than this, I promise.

I can't say it enough...I love my coworkers. They're hilarious, awesome people. But sometimes we have more ridiculous conversations than I do with the kids. I can't even remember how this started, but we were talking about celebrities.

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

At least he didn't add "fun fun fun fun" at the end!

The kids now know who Rebecca Black is and they can't stop singing her stupid song. This morning in my first senior class, a few kids, including Caliban and Feste, were singing her song. Later we were having a discussion about what the kids wanted to do in the future and then this happened...

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!

Well played, me.

I'm often snarky to kids, although I'm sure you have figured that out by now. Most of my kids know that's just how I am, but some misread my sarcasm for bitchiness. On a related note, I love overhearing things kid say about me in class. While other teachers might be offended by these occurrences, I find it generally hilarious, as I truly don't care what the kids think of me. In one of my classes the other day I overheard something, which led to the following conversation.

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 what is a coke closet anyway?

During my introduction to Pride and Prejudice this morning, I had to explain what sexual tension is. In a world where kids see people literally having sex on Jersey Shore, it's kind of hard for them to understand the simple nuance of touching someone's hand because that's all you can do. Of course Caliban and Feste had to make it awkward.

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 stats are like whoa!

I have no idea what happened, but somehow I've gotten 200 page hits in the last 24 hours. Yes, I'm nerdy and I look at my stats (which, unlike firetruck, actually is a palindrome). I'm going to call it a fluke, but maybe more people are reading this than I thought. If that's the truth, then I look forward to more people finding out how ridiculous teenagers can be.

Advice from Mama N

My mother is legendary. Seriously. She is a legend among my students. They all call her by her first and last name, something I do when I talk about my mom when she's not there (because when she is there I have to call her Mom). Whisper her name and they'll call out her catchphrases, all Southern sayings that are silly yet wise. I tell stories about her in class all the time, so much so that one year she actually visited one of my classes. They were enthralled to meet her, as they were in love with the embarrassing photos she brought and humiliating stories she told.

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?!
Me: Everything.
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

Bonus Spring Break WTF Post!

I don't really get pop culture sometimes. For example, this video has been posted by friends/former students on Facebook and was also posted on my favorite celebrity gossip site. People don't actually like this song...right? 6.5 million people have only watched it on youtube because of its hilariousness...right? There's no way my students would actually like this. I know I'm perpetuating its fame by posting it here, but I feel people need to know about its awfulness. Also, people need to recognize the existential issue of where to sit in a car full of friends. It's confusing, for sure. If this is what pop music is coming to, I'm going to need Britney to have another breakdown and comeback album like STAT. Because that would be truly fun fun fun fun.

Friday, March 11, 2011

M out!

As one, Arrested Development, of the best shows on television which is no longer would say...

"Spring break! Woo!"

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Holden would be proud. Or mad. Or just ambivilent. But secretly proud.

This is the perfect companion for my post yesterday.

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

Not even for 3 days pay!

Kid always want to know how much money I make. I tell them if they really want to know they can go to the district website and look up my salary, as it's all public record. Most of the time, to give them an easy answer, I say I make $2 a day. Sometimes they believe me. Then sometimes they just remember that in the back of their minds and use it against me.

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?
Me: No.
Kid #2: But that's like 2 1/2 days pay for you!!

I laughed so hard I started crying.

OK, I guess in this case I prefer necking.

As I've said before, I love when my seniors make references to things they learned last year in junior English. It makes me feel like maybe I did my job pretty well. For example, one of my favorite terms in The Catcher in the Rye is "giving her the time", which is Holden's euphemism for sex. Every year I try to make that a popular phrase and every year I fail. My seniors made me happy/feel awkward the other day with their use of the phrase.

Feste: [Kid] was late because he was necking with his girlfriend in the parking lot. I saw them!
Kid: Uh...
Feste: Were you necking again?
Kid: Uh...
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

Words are hard, y'all.

I have to remind myself that I can't use big words around Caliban and Feste because then they like to use them incorrectly. Caliban is far worse than Feste, as he has a great memory for the words, just not for the definitions. The other day I said something was looking caddywhompus, which lead to this...

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 Good Story

Despite all the ridiculousness that I present here for your enjoyment, sometimes there are moments where kids are just awesome. I think those moments tend to get pushed aside for the funnier, someone may say dumber, moments in my life, but I try to write these ones down as well.

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

My new blogger crush...

I'm in love...with a blog. Meet Mr. Teachbad. He's awesome. By the third post I was in love with his words.

Start at the beginning, or start here, which is incredibly smart and insightful...

The more you know! *ting*

Sometimes my class is like a PSA.

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

Uh, your manhood should always be away in class.

I've posted a few of Mrs. Bees', of Full of Bees!, student comments before, but this one is awesome because I can definitely see my having this conversation with some silly seniors.

* * * * * *

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?

LARRY: What?

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!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It's completely shocking to me that you're failing this class.

For our first novel of the year, back in October, I had the kids look up quotes to support the themes they had to come up with based on the novel we're reading. Apparently that was asking a lot of them. I post this now because we've read two more books and the kid says the same thing every time I give them an assignment like this and it still cracks me up.

Kid: I hate looking for quotes!
Me: Why?
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

Languages are hard?

Feste was bragging to me the other day how a girl in one of his classes last year year taught him something awesome.

Feste: She taught us some bad words in Japan!
Me: Uh, Japanese?
Feste: Yeah, close enough.
Me: Do you remember any of them?
Feste: What?
Me: The words?
Feste: Oh, definitely not.
Me: This has been...interesting.