Monthly Archives: October 2008

Care for a slice of cutie pie?

I never thought I could say this, but seventh graders can be darn cute some time. I am always telling Jason about my students and saying, “oh, so-and-so . . . he is so cute!” Because, really, they are. They say the funniest things, they still have a childness to them that high schoolers don’t, and some of them are just so darn cute I could pinch their cheeks.

For example, I have one student who, whenever he doesn’t like something, says “Weak!” But he has this adorable little voice and this shoulder length hair that doesn’t match up, so him saying this just adds to his adorableness. He is also a bit emo and loves 70s and 80s rock, and in combination with the above, you just can’t beat that.

Another example of cuteness is a girl in the same class. Now, this class often gets me frustrated, and I have to use my strict Mrs. Higgins persona way too often for my taste with them. However, one day I was in a great mood for some reason, so I said to the class at the start, “I’m in a good mood, so let’s keep it that way!” This girl then goes, “Mrs. Higgins, you look pretty today!” to which I responded, “Makayla, are you just trying to keep me in a good mood?” About fifteen minutes later, they were getting on my nerves, so I said to them, “My good mood is going down,”  to which Makayla replied, “But you still look pretty!”

There are many, many days when I think I am not cut out for seventh grade. Then there are days when I think I could not give up these middle schoolers ever. Jason told me, “if you ever end up teaching high school, you’ll never be able to call your kids cute, because that would just be weird.” And it’s true. I can’t really call high schoolers “cute.” Not in the same, little-kid way that I can seventh graders. Middle school is a strange age: some days I cannot handle their immaturity, other days they impress me with their good behavior, and some days I savor their youth because it means we can play fun games that wouldn’t fly with older students.

I have always said that middle school is a challenging time: everyone is trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in. But I got to admit, the same can be said for the teachers. I am also trying to figure out who I am as a middle school teacher and where I fit in with the students and my co-workers. I guess you could say I have more in common with my pre-teens than I thought before.

And they’re just so gosh-darn cute!

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An elephant and a donkey

I am so glad there are only a little over 5 days until Election 2008 is over. I will be so glad when my morning commute doesn’t consist of one hundred different accounts about what Obama said about this and what McCain said about that and what Obama said AFTER McCain said that and on and on and on. I am sick of approved messages from the candidates and the thousands upon thousands of political analysists that discuss everything from hidden racial messages to the way the men stood during the debate to the way the candidates part their hair.

I honestly think the American presidential race is ridiculous. No other country spends half the term of the current president getting ready for the NEXT president. Obama has been campaigning for two years now. TWO YEARS. Imagine what could have been accomplished if that time was invested in more worthwhile causes, such as – oh, I don’t know – his Senate job that he HAS been elected to. Or think about the money that has been raised. Barack Obama has raised over $150 million dollars this fall alone. $150 million dollars. Now, I know I am not a politician and all, but if Obama is really behind the “Change” he has been advocating for so long now, why doesn’t he take that money and donate it to impoverished nations, or survivors of the Iraq War in Iraq, or AIDS-infected areas in Africa, or, if he really wants to be patriotic, the millions of homeless Americans that sleep on the streets each night? Honestly, none of us will see that much money in our entire lives, and he has raised that much from voters in three months.

Not that I am attacking Obama; I’m not. I don’t think McCain is much better, especially after his choice of VPOTUS. Sarah Palin rubs me the wrong way in many ways, from her uber-conservative views on abortion and oil drilling, to her lack of experience, to her ability to avoid answering questions when she doesn’t know what the Vice President does (and don’t get me started on the “Joe Six Packs” and “Maverick” use, either). I tend to lean towards more moderate candidates, because I am more moderate myself, and was actually pretty happy with McCain, until Mrs. Palin came along. I think it was a stupid choice on McCain’s part (just because I am a woman does NOT mean I will vote for a woman ticket, especially if her ideologies don’t correspond to mine), and a stupid choice on Palin’s part as well, considering her lack of experience (being Governor of Alaska does not give you foreign policy experience, no matter how close to Russia you may be) as well as her family life: is running for veep at this moment, when your 17 year-old daughter is pregnant and you have a small baby with Down’s Syndrome really the smartest choice, especially for a woman who has “strong” family values?

At this point in time, five days before the election, I am indecisive who I will vote for. I think both candidates have weak points, and I think no matter who is elected, the next four years are going to be hard. I do think it is risky to have a same-party President and House, because I think the system of checks and balances can become skewed that way, which makes me lead more towards McCain, but then that would make Palin second in line for the Presidency, and do I really want that as well? I think I’ll just vote for Nader.

One GOOD thing that has emerged from this election is Tina Fey’s awesome Sarah Palin impersonations on SNL. I have not loved an SNL character so much, and will be sad when the skits are over. Although, I guess if McCain is elected, we could have four more years of those skits, and for all you Joe Six Packs out there, that’s enough for this maverick. *wink*

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Lukewarm

It has been a while since I have posted, almost two weeks to be exact. I have started a lot of posts in my head, but have never been able to sit down and type. Part of the reason is because my laptop officially died (I knew it was coming), so J and I have to share a computer, and part of the reason is because I am so tired, I have no motivation for writing. Or, I feel like I am only going to be negative, so I avoid writing to come across as whiny or inconsiderate or – worse – a bad teacher.

A student today asked me what I wanted to be a teacher. To my dismay, I could not give him a straight answer. I finally joked that I really wanted to be a three ring leader in the circus, and teaching was the next closest thing (to which another student replied, “can you go to college to be in the circus?”). In all seriousness, though, my Facebook status the other week was something to the tune of “I am not sure I am cut out for this teaching thing.” I think I scared a few future teachers with that. One girl that I know who is a senior English secondary-education major at SU told me her status scared her. And I didn’t mean for it to scare anyone, especially not anyone who is looking to become a teacher. I responded to her that I have good days and bad days, and the day I had made that my status was a bad day. Unfortunately, I vented my frustration via a public forum, so it was easily misinterpreted.

It is true, I have good days and bad days. There are days when I feel like, “okay, this isn’t so bad, I can do this,” and days when I think, “how am I going to get through the rest of the week, let alone 30 more years?” But in actuality, I have good days and bad days, but no REALLY good days or REALLY bad days. Most days are lukewarm – a little bit better than yesterday, or a little bit worse, but all in all, rather tepid. I’m not burning, I’m not freezing, I’m just going along, getting through each day, looking forward to one more day closer to the weekend.

I don’t like this lukewarm feeling. Honestly, what good is it to be lukewarm? It makes horrible bath water, disgusting drinking water, and is all in all, a rather useless temperature. But that is how I feel about teaching right now. I don’t love it, I don’t hate it . . . I’m just getting through it, one day at a time. But I wish that something would happen – a day would turn to ice, where I just cannot wait to get home, or I burn myself with something exciting and fiery. I want there to be a day where I break down screaming or crying, cursing myself for choosing this profession, or a day where I scream “YES! YES! YES! THIS is what I have been waiting for!” But neither of these days have come. True, I have had some moments where I have been on the verge of tears or a mini-breakdown, or days where I come home and tell J all through dinner the funny stuff that happened with my students that day. But all in all, each day is like every other, fading into the next, an endless sea of lukewarm, gray water.

We are almost through the first nine weeks, which means I have a quarter of the way through the school year (and my first year of teaching). I am praying that between now and June, something happens that lets me know whether or not this is truly what I should be doing. Am I cut out for this teaching thing? Sure I am. I can handle it. I can deal with it. But I want to do more than just deal with it . . . I want it to be what I was made for.

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So take a photograph cause this ain’t gonna last . . .

I really, really want a new camera. The one I have now I have had for 2 years, which everyone knows in electronics years is ancient. I mean, it is a decent camera all around, but for the kind of photography I want to take, it’s just not cutting it. In fact, I have found myself taking less and less photos lately just because I am disappointed in the quality of the pictures.

I’m looking into getting a higher-end one, not just your run-of-the-mill $150 point and shoot. I’ve been looking into a Nikon Digital SLR, which are for “more serious” photographers. Okay, I’m not necessarily a “serious” photographer (yet), but I know with the proper equipment, I would be!

J said he would get me one for Christmas, but I’m hoping maybe it could be an early Christmas present. We’re going to Boston at the end of the month and Disney World over Thanksgiving, and it would be awesome to have a nice camera to take some pictures with. Capture a side of the two places I’ve never seen before. So I’m going to be looking around, hoping to find a good deal or two, and I’ll keep you posted.

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You drive me crazy (uh, oh) like no one else (uh, oh)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a new teacher fresh out of college is in want of a classroom full of annoying twelve year-olds.

Yes, that is the opening line of Pride and Prejudice, modified, of course, to fit my needs. The truth of the matter is, I am becoming increasingly annoyed at a few of my students, and I am not quite sure how to handle it. There are a few times where I have really struggled to keep my cool, biting my tongue and clenching my mouth shut at the “SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP” that is bubbling beneath the surface. In all honest, I have discovered that many seventh graders lack simple “sense and sensibility.”

For example, I have one student who refuses to close his mouth. You can literally tell him not to talk for the rest of the period or he is out in the hall, and he will make a comeback to that! He has become increasingly more frustrating, both for me and for the other students, who are constantly telling him to “be quiet” (after I remind them that the words “shut up” are not be used in my room). He often will distract others by making funny noises or tapping his pencil. The other day, I asked him to get something from his desk. He was at the front of the room, and his desk is near the back (after I discovered that him being at the front was a distraction). Instead of walking over to his desk, like a normal human being, he proceeded to CRAWL across the room, on his hands and knees. Yes, he CRAWLED. I never realized that as a middle school teacher I would have to remind my students to walk on two feet like the young adults they are.

Middle school is truly a case study in many, many aspects. If you ever want to research human behaviors, a middle school classroom is surely the best place to do so. I knew that middle schoolers would be different in that they are so wrapped up in their own little lives, but I never realized to what extent. I try to validate their lives as much as possible – when a girl tells me on Monday she is in love with the boy she started dating at Friday’s football game, for example – but I also need them to realize that school is not ONLY for socializing, and that we are not there ONLY on their terms or on their agendas, and that you can still concentrate in school EVEN IF the boy in front of you is chewing gum. I guess part of me didn’t realize how much of a “life curriculum” I would be teaching: how to behave like young adults, how to ignore those who are bothering you, how to know when to let things go, how to deal with conflicts. Many days I feel like a life coach.

It’s fun, though, I must admit, and when I see a side of a student that I’ve never seen before, it’s amazing. We laugh a lot, we learn a lot, and we make mistakes a lot, and at the end of every day, it’s (usually) rewarding. But, boy, oh, boy, some days I really wish I didn’t have to remind a student not to crawl across the floor.

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A minimum of talent

If you have a minimum of talent, but you sit at that typewriter long enough, something will emerge. All I had was this burning desire to be a writer and all these emotions.” – Robert Cromier

I have not written much in a while. Sure, I do semi-frequent blog updates, I write a lot of lesson plans and comments on student papers, and write out a lot (much more so, these days) of checks. But I have not written something creative, original, or even analytic in a long time. It has been 10 months since my last college paper. Some of you may think, “So what? That sounds great!”, which I completely understand. But in many ways, this lack of writing makes me feel almost hypocritical.

Let me explain. I am a language arts teacher. I teach reading and writing. And not only do I teach the act of reading and writing, but I have also decided I am a masochist because I want to teach the joy of reading and writing, which is no small feat for a 7th grade teacher. In so, in this quest of impossibilities, I have my students read, and write, and read, and write some more, all with the hopes that within this reading and writing, a small spark will ignite within them that will feed the ever-glowing embers of the love of language.

Yet, in many ways, I do not practice what I preach. Sure, I have got the reading thing down, although, in all honesty, I should read more than I do (I’m averaging about a book every two weeks, which is not that good. Even some of my students are reading more than I am). And I used to have the writing thing down, until that blissful period called “college” ended and the real world came crashing down around me. Yet, how can I expect my students to understand the value of reading and writing, which, in my opinion, correlates with the practice of these disciplines? How can I say to my students every day, “Writing can be an outlet, a way to express yourself. Just write and you will see what I mean,” when I do not use writing as an outlet myself? Of course, I do value reading and writing, or I would not have chosen to become an English teacher, but do I value it enough?

In a lot of the education books I read, they say that a teacher’s enthusiasm and love of the content can often inspire his/her students. So my question is, do I display my enthusiasm and love of the content? I try, but I think I would be more inspiring if actually DID the content: if I actually read and write daily, as a part of who I am. Readers and writers can only be taught by other readers and writers, no? If expect my students to enter the discourse of reading and writing (both those taught in school and outside of school), then I myself need to enter that discourse and not just stand on the sidelines as an outlooker (which, my students could tell you, means “watcher” as it was one of our vocab words last week. But I digress).

Now, the truth is, I am scared to death. I have not written creatively in a long time, at least not in an inspired way. And I have certainly not written anything analytical or thougth-provoking without the aid of a prompt or professor. But I cannot, and I will not, tell my students one thing and do something else. I tell my students to take risks, to try something and if it doesn’t work, try something else, until they get it right. I tell them to just keep writing, even when they think they have nothing to say (they really hate my “write in your journals for 5 minutes without stopping” warm-ups). I tell them that writing is thinking, and one of the best ways to think is to write down your ideas. I tell them it doesn’t matter how bad of a writer you think you are, practice always makes perfect, and the more writing you do, the better you’ll get.

So I sit in front of my computer, with my seemingly minimum amount of talent, and will sit here until I have something to write. Because inside, I have not only a burning desire to write (and read), but an even larger desire to see my students write. And what better way to teach them than by example?

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Red, red wine . . . (and white, and blush)

Hi, my name is Emily, and I am a wino.

Yesterday, Jason and I went on a wine tour around Seneca Lake with a group of people from our church. We left the church parking lot at 6:45 a.m. in a limo bus, and didn’t get home until around 9:30 p.m. In that amount of time, we stopped at 6 wineries, drank countless samples, laughed like crazy, ate too much, and purchased, the two of us alone, 35 bottles of wine.

It was a great day.

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