Tag Archives: school

Showerheads. Furries. I’m Tired.

24 Apr

I have lived in my apartment for three years and have only just now discovered that this entire time, my shower head featured a massage function.

Well, “massage function” insomuch as an apartment shower head can offer. That is, with poor water pressure, constant fluctuations from scalding heat to shocking cold, and an overall lackluster performance.

A poor person’s spa treatment, if you will.

I’m sorry I said that just now. Not the poor people thing. We allow ourselves the pleasure of mocking our own class and race so I’m going to go ahead and cash in on the Poor  Cracker category.

No, I’m referring to the use of the phrase “if you will”. I’m pretty sure it’s a result of grad school. It’s only in my brain because I noticed it used several times in the last two weeks by people attempting to explain tiny concepts with many words. That phrase makes no sense to me. It only goes to great lengths to make you sound desperate. Unless you’ve said it with a somewhat British accent, in which case all is well by me.

Last night in class, while I was noticing the excessive use of the phrase “if you will” in class, I successfully inserted the word “poop” into the conversation.  You know, to balance things out a bit. Also, the professor was discouraged by our lack of feedback on each other’s public relations plans so I took a note and decided to get involved.

My classmate’s plan wasn’t poop. Rather, her plan was centered on a downtown hotel’s ineptitude at attracting convention center visitors. And as you may or may not know because I may or may not have spoken emphatically about it before, our downtown convention center is utilized for a major Furry Convention.

I watched as the scene played out before me. One student looks confused at the term and half the class pretends to know. The other half recognizes the one confused face as an opportunity to witness the first-time reaction to the description of a Furry.

And I’ll tell ya – it was a darn good thing I was there because wouldn’t you know discussion in the room drove right to how all furries dress up like cats and use their hotel rooms as a litter box.

This is our world. These are its issues.

So, having no other motivation to speak prior to the mention of furries, I sought to clarify the definition. I didn’t want virgin ears to be polluted by these allegations.  I apparently leaped to the defense of furries everywhere and was sure to inform the class that furries range from fan kids in costumes to fully-fledged hotel-carpet-soiling cathumans.

Right, so poop.

Look! There's one now!

Look! There’s one now!

 

Where were we? Oh, the showerhead. Yes. I’ve made a discovery today. It wasn’t so much about the shower head (or the furries) as it was that I’m beginning to notice I’m a bit tired. I suppose I thought that if I were awake and paying attention, I’d have noticed this detail. Then again, that seems to insinuate that I’ve been tired for the last three years.

…Which, now that I’ve said it out loud, actually sounds kind of accurate.

But hey, the semester is coming to a close so now’s not the time to quit over a little shower head confusion. I’ll admit that I’m tired. And before when I got this tired I could choose to lose sleep, drink coffee, and carry onward. But I’m already doing those things and it’s still not enough time.  But there are places I can squeeze it from.

When I think of all the time that accumulates over the course of several years for personal grooming alone, I go insane.  If I’d just give in to bushy brows, chin hair, woolly armpits, and year-round leggings, I could sneak in a few more hours of rest.

You know, it’s a shame we’re so far from No Shave November.

Here’s to the home stretch. 

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A Day at an Inner City Public School

15 May

Last Friday I found myself standing in the stall of the faculty bathroom of a local public school, wondering what would happen if I just didn’t go back to class to teach.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday y’all.

If you’re new ’round these parts and you don’t know that today is a semi-holiday (it’s okay, I didn’t get you anything either), mosey on  up to the “What’s Lollipop Tuesday?” tab at the top of the page.  You’ll hear all about my adventures in sucking at new things, and all about why I couldn’t just stay in the bathroom stall and wash myself in my own tears.

Now, back to my personal hell.

For this installment of Lollipop Tuesday, I signed up to be a volunteer teacher at a local school.  It’s a program that was offered through my workplace, where instead of going to the office for a day I head out to a school and teach a pre-set curriculum from a kit that is provided to me.  

All my colleagues chose to teach kindergarten.  I figured the older, the better the slot on my resume looked.  So I dove right in to the the highest grade available: 8th.

I don’t know why I did that.  That was stupid.  Because when I was knee deep in immigration in the 1800s and the California gold rush, my colleagues were across the hall drawing farm animals.  And I wanted so badly to be drawing pigs instead of talking about Abe Lincoln’s plans to get Americans to settle in the West.

As it turned out, farm animal art wasn’t in my kit.  Instead there were 6 lessons I was expected to cover throughout the course of the day.  Each was a combination of a lecture and an activity.  Except the lecture portion wasn’t an outline.  It was a summary of to-dos.  It said things like “Explain to them that the Gold Rush was…” and “Be sure to mention that….”  The margins were full of little bullet points to include if we could work them in and at the end were a bunch of additional activities.   The course book was a hot mess and if I could get my hands on the person who laid it out, I would have to resist doing very violent, unChristianly things to them.

After getting a few bullet points from the school coordinator, I went to meet my 8th grade class only to find that the first thirty minutes of the day are a mandatory reading period.   Except no one was reading.  I took a look around to find three boys playing  a game on the class computers, one girl bouncing a basketball at the front of the room, and two kids in the back on the cell phones beside the teacher, who was also on her cell phone. I started to morph into a very angry taxpayer when I was distracted by one of the boys rapping (which was the closest thing I’d seen to reading thus far given that it at least involved words).  

I started to wonder how I was going to get through the day if it was all going to look like the first half of Sister Act.  I tried not to panic and walked to the teacher’s lounge to make some copies and sit in the bathroom stall, giving myself a pep talk. I reminded myself that my colleague came to work hungover today.  I saw the yellow skin and her right arm cradling an electric blue Gatorade.  If she can teach kindergarten when she feels like a hell demon has possessed her insides, I can Whoopie Goldberg these 8th graders like a champ.

I went back to the class to hear the bell ring and watch them all leave.  Apparently, I was to follow them from class to class, but I didn’t have a schedule of where they were headed or how long I had with them in each room.  I tried to get a little context from the person who facilitated Rapper’s Delight Hour and she reluctantly told me the next location.  I packed up all the things I had spent the remedial period setting up, and hoped the next classroom had a bit more structure.

When I arrived, the teacher didn’t acknowledge me.  I stood at the front of the class holding my kit, trying to assess how I would hang my visuals, where I would put  my activity book, and how I would arrange the students most effectively.  He cleaned up after their remedial period, which actually seemed to involve use of their cerebrums.  When he was finished, he told the students to pay attention to me and handed over the floor.  Boom: go time.

I introduced myself and got down to business.  I put the key words on the board, breezed through a Jackie-style mini lecture on immigration on the 1800s and actually surprised myself with how well I was handling it all.  By the time the activity portion rolled around, I acquired what I referred to as the “Sleeper Table”, a table full of kids who pulled their heads inside their hoodies like turtles and hid from the knowledge I was bestowing upon them.  The teacher noticed and ignored them so I chalked it up to a regularity and decided to be thankful that they were all at least gathered in the same area of the room.

I had just finally summed up the Homestead Act and put them in a few scenarios to see how they would handle the decision to move out west when the bell rang.  It was mandatory art period – I had 40 minutes to myself.  I was also informed by the teacher of a career fair that was to take place at the end of the day, knocking a total of two more sessions off my lesson plan.  I cut the ‘transportation of the 1800s’ off the list.  I figured it was kind of common sense anyway.

That was, until after the mandatory art period when all the kids returned (I had packed up all my things and moved to a different room again).  When I was introducing the section on human, capital, and natural resources, one of the students asked if there were cars in the 1800s.  I used it as a teaching opportunity and threw in some of the pointers from the transportation lesson.  I asked them all to shout out what they thought were forms of transportation in the 1800s.  One student eagerly shouted “a windmill!!”

He was very disappointed when I told him you can’t ride a windmill.  In retrospect, I suppose that was closeminded of me.  You can certainly ride one; it just won’t get you very far.  I wrapped up my combination of transporation/business resources session and was glad I could fit them in together, else that poor boy would have gone into high school thinking he could hop on a windmill and ride it into the western sun.

I was changing lives.

By the final session, it was clear who my winners and losers were.  I had a very engaged section of kids on my left, a sleeper section on my right, and a girl right in the middle who flatly refused to do anything at all.  She had a posse.  And since that reminded me of the posses from my high school experience, just looking at her pissed me off.  At one point, she threw her pencil on the ground and told me to pick it up for her.

At the beginning of the day, I might have done it.  But by the end of the day, I told her she had two hands and that I’m sure she could manage it.  She copped an attitude and asked me if I was a mother.  I took it as a compliment.

By the final session, I was pretty exhausted.  Actually, I wanted to sprint out of there.  I spent my whole day guessing how much time I had left in my lessons because there was no schedule provided to me.  I didn’t know how many students would be in each class because though the bulk of the group remained the same, there were always a few faces added or subtracted and I had no idea where they came from or went to. I had packed up my things three different times and spread them out three different times, and had worked so hard to make the material interesting to a bunch of kids who would rather be on their phones or sleep than learn that I would have been just as happy to set myself on fire and run tearing out of the building.  I headed to what I thought was the last 15 minutes of the day and used the time to hand out the certificates, letters for parents, and complimentary DVDs.   But when the teacher handed them out to the class, they chucked the DVDs across the room like frisbees and instead of correcting the behavior the teacher decided to forgo handing them out.  She asked me if I had anything prepared for the final 35 minutes and I told her I was informed it was 15 and wanted to hand out the materials during that time.  She pushed me to wing it; I pushed her to shove it.  

I was really rather frustrated with the lack of information and I was so exhausted and over the day that I really just wanted to go have  a stiff drink.  Coincidentally, I found out later that around this time my hungover pig-drawing kindergarten colleague was depositing 32 ounces of regurgitated electric blue Gatorade into the faculty bathroom toilet.

Could have been worse, I suppose.

The whole experience really made me appreciate our teachers.  I  mean, I thought I appreciated them before but I didn’t truly have a concept until I stepped foot in the shoes of an inner-city school teacher who has to fit in several lessons in the course of a day despite system-wide mandatory periods designated for other things .  And all of it in an environment where not all teachers are still fighting the good fight.  Some are content to let kids rap and play basketball and sit on their cell phones when they should be learning – and there are teachers who have to try to maintain their attention in spite of that and get them to zero in on things as boring as the Gold Rush, The Homestead Act, and Immigration in the 1800s.  

In that environment, I might come in hungover as well.

So here’s to our underpaid, unrecognized, and overtired teachers.  If I were in your shoes on a regular basis, I’d probably be tossing up Gatorade in the faculty bathrooms.

Next time, I’ll take the farm animals. 

The Persistence of Memory

26 Sep

I’m starting to be hindered by the mnemonic devices my teachers passed on to me.

Back when I was taught them, they were fun and no-fail ways to remember pretty much anything – multiplication tables, spelling, the meaning of a word, grammar rules – the fun never ended.  I don’t know if there’s some point in your life where you’re supposed to graduate to just knowing the information instead of singing songs in your head and repeating things quietly under your breath, but I never had that moment.   I feel like other people know their ABC’s just fine without putting them to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  I, however, cannot.  Which is why if you ask me to do the alphabet backwards, I have to sing through it forward, spout out as many letters near the area I can, and then go back to the beginning again.

It’s getting rather irritating.

I’ve worked very hard to get my multiplication tables to the point where I don’t need to sing.  Oh yes, my teachers used singing for everything.  So when going through the multiples of base numbers, I have a song for carrying me through each multiple. Like:

  • 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24… = Old MacDonald Had a Farm
  • 6, 12, 18, 24, 30… = You Are My Sunshine
  • 7, 14, 21, 28, 35… = Happy Birthday 
  • 8, 16, 24, 32, 40… = She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain 

And thanks to these sparkling hits of my elementary education, I still rely on singing through multiples from time to time.  I can, of course, spout of a multiplier without the singing.  But when I need to know the breakdown of it all, I don’t even use division sometimes.  I just sing myself a lovely rendition of Camptown Races.

There are lots more that aren’t even melody-related but still annoying all the same.  Like the fact that I always struggled to spell “aggressive” and so I relied on the cheer team’s spelling cheer: “Be aggressive! B-E Aggressive! B-E  A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E! WOOOOOOOOOO!”  Or how every time I try to spell dessert I have to remind myself it’s two S’s – like two scoops of ice cream.  Or spelling Wednesday, which I always say out loud “WedNESday” to make sure I get that little strange bit in the middle correct.

The most common is the half-song half-poem, terrible excuse for a mnemonic device used for remembering how many days are in a year, which I have to go through every single time I fill out my monthly dry erase board:

Thirty days hath September

April June and November

All the rest have 31

Except February, which blah blah blah 

I never really paid attention to the end of that one, so when it’s February I have to google it.  

So tell me, friends: do you have weird little mechanisms like this rattling around in your head?  Or did everyone graduate to just remembering without the songs, tricks, riddles, and repetition?  

I’m having visions of myself in an old folks home mumbling over and over to myself:

Why I Suck at Geography

6 Feb

I do.  I’ve been trying to hide it for years, but it’s the bold, dirty truth: I suck at Geography.   Of the United States, to be specific.

The thing is, I moved a lot when I was young.   In 1st grade I went to a local Christian school, where they taught Geography in 2nd grade.   But I moved to a school in the next town over for 2nd grade and there, they were going to teach geography in 3rd grade.   Just when I was ripe with anticipation for 3rd grade, I bopped back to a public school in the town I just came from… where unfortunately they had just taught Geography in 2nd grade. 

I know it must seem silly.  You must think that I have run into U.S. Geography plenty of times in my life and that this constant interaction should suffice for competency in the subject.   Well, I haven’t, and it doesn’t.

I did, however, study South American Geography in 8th grade.  I got the downlow on all those big bad countries and capitals – and meanwhile found out for the first time in a conversation in the same grade that Washington D.C. was not actually in Washington State.

Some time ago, Dave came home from the local art store with gifts in tow.   He came bearing a huge smirk and a placemat that sported a map of the United States.  He knew I was embarrassed about the situation and thought that if I ate off of a picture of it (because I eat so often) that I would eventually be a wizard at it. 

But that placemat, paired with the one listing the U.S. Presidents in chronological order (gotten for himself) made my dining room look like a preschool.  So I tucked it under the bar.

When I was in college, a friend (let’s call him Bart) was disgusted with my lack of competency in both geography and history that he sent me links to online games to help me learn the states and capitals.    Unfortunately, I was in the midst of my World of Warcraft addiction at the time and was much  more interested in the geography of Azeroth.

Now, I’m not a complete moron- I’m aware of states and capitals out of sheer frequency of encounter.  But I have to admit that if you handed me a map of the U.S. and asked me to fill in the names of states, I would probably jumble together the order of the ones between Pennsylvania and California.  Above and below those, I’m not too shabby.

I could have easily sat down and made a point to study them, and I have many times.  But honestly, I just get so bored and tend to wander onto web pages like “Most Frequently Misspelled Words” and “Most Common Grammatical Mistakes” instead. 

So I’m sorry, America, that I still tend to struggle with where exactly everything is inside you.   But sometimes when I think about it, the earth is all our land and borders are silly, manmade invisible lines as if drawn down the middle of two siblings’ sides of the bedroom.   So maybe I can just say that I’m not that into learning where the borders are because I choose to disregard the validity of their claims.  Is that hippie of me?  Or is that just an excuse for sucking? 

Perhaps a little of both.

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