Thursday, March 31, 2005

samples from today's writing assessment scoring (in which i use many parenthesis):

"his teacher, a full grown american..."
"his feelings for his teacher were inappropriate!"
"he felt the way only two adults should feel for each other..." (many students mistook the 10-year old's feelings for his teacher as romantic)
"he was chagrin..." (there were oh-so-many misuses of "chagrin", clearly a vocabulary word, PROBABLY hanging on the wall)
"aifffai oeiahfs aofhaishf" (we couldn't understand it either)

in other news, i've been baking up a storm here over break and have been remiss in posting on my recipe blog. strawberry shortcakes, chocolate cake, scones, butterscotch layer cake, strawberry pie. the husband is complaining (he's crazy!) about having to live with all the desserts (his life is hard), but i bet the teachers tomorrow won't be complaining about fresh strawberry shortcakes for breakfast.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

is there a place that houses more incompetence than san jose state? i truly don't think so. in my most recent example:

i pay for my classes through an americorp award. which means that every semester, i go to financial aid with my paperwork, submit it, and then wait for the first round of incompetence to begin. it's always something- last semester they didn't get the correct amount from americorp, and regardless of the fact that i was willing to submit another round of paperwork to get americorp to pay them a SECOND TIME, they refused. round and round we went- for months, in which time, clearly the money from americorp could have gotten to them- and they still refused. i HAD to pay by check the outstanding amount, as their website does not allow for credit card payments (i mean, seriously? in this day & age? why not? of course, nobody could give me an answer.). i digress, however. we are talking about THIS semester. so again, i submitted my americorp paperwork a few days before the due date. all seemed well. oddly, when things seem ok, i do not log in to their lame-ass system on a regular basis to double-check that all is well. i assume that i will hear. WRONG! i happened on there for a totally different reason last week and saw that i had been dropped from all my classes because of non-payment. so today i tromped down there (don't even try to deal with these people over the phone), and explained the situation. i told them about submitting my paperwork and how i had been dropped from my classes and asked, politely, why this was happening. like always, they can give me no explanation but to tell me over and over again that i have been dropped from my classes. "yes, i know", i repeat, trying to stay calm, since i informed THEM of that situation "but WHY?"
essentially, as far as i can tell, they didn't process my paperwork and therefore i was dropped from my classes and now they are acting as if they are doing ME a favor by allowing me to file all this new paperwork- again- and then meet with two separate people (in all my spare time, obviously), to get this resolved. again, they could not give me a reason why this paperwork had not been filed, since they HAVE IT, but just kept repeating what i have to do as if i have a short-term memory problem. i cannot imagine where they find their hirees, or what they have done to their ability to do simple tasks in their time there. grrrr.
this is the life:


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

when school is on break, being a teacher seems SO worth it. i am just loving sleeping in, eating my heart out, talking to all my ever-so-neglected friends, relaxing, napping, and staying up past 9:00 p.m.

the only person i have not had the opportunity to speak to at length is my brother. poor guy is at the police academy now (look for him soon patrolling the streets of santa monica), and only calls now for grammar or punctuation questions. our last three conversations have been about where to put a comma, how to spell 'therefore', and whether or not a dash went somewhere. family means never having to say more than you need to.

Monday, March 28, 2005

in news:

last night i had a dream that p. bush went down to the oval office in the middle of the night, in secret, IN HIS PAJAMAS, to sign something that would allow for terri schiavo's parents to reinsert her feeding tube.

i have very passionate feelings about this particular issue, not out of personal experience or political reasons, but out of what i believe to be personal choice when it comes to issues of life and death. whether you believe these choices are left to god or biology or fate or any other belief, i strongly believe that this is the choice of an individual and their family. the fact that the government believes it is their place to get involved in any issue of life and death (and i will go ahead and include the death penalty here- which i strongly disagree with as well) is ridiculous to me. my theory is that this comes out of a fear of death by many people, and translates into a country that will do almost anything to avoid death. death is inevitable, and while i wish i could say i have no fears about it, i can say that i do not wish for a horrendous excuse for a life OVER death.

i hope terri schiavo passes peacefully.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

deep thoughts after spending the weekend cooing at babies:

i don't know why it is that even though i'm about to turn 30 years old, i still feel
like if i got pregnant, people would whisper that i was "just another statistic".

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

she's so clearly mine:

do i have the only dog who would choose baked goods over meat?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

clear & present danger, or signs i am completely insane:

while reading an article about sociopaths last night, i had a cold chill run through me, as i thought "omigod, this is ME. i am a sociopath." sociopaths feel no empathy and do not have a conscience, and i apparently feel SO much empathy that even hearing about people without empathy makes me think i, too, share their situation.

is there an antisociopath diagnosis? because i clearly need some sort of diagnosis for this INSANITY.

Monday, March 21, 2005

at lunch today, i held in about 15 students from my 4th period class. this has become a tradition of late- they talk so much that after i count down from 5, if they are not quiet, i put the timer on. all their time adds up and they make it up at lunch or after school. i let the quiet ones go and keep the disruptive students. today, i kept them in (they owed me over 4 minutes!) and talked to them about impulse control. i explained that you can't just do and say anything that strikes your fancy. i said that particularly, for these students, they should really try to pay attention to what they are doing and THINK before they act. this is part of growing up, i explained to them.

"but i have adhd", one of them yelled out.

and guess what? every single student in there said "ME TOO!". are they diagnosed officially? no. do i have any record of it? no. are they on medication? no. do i doubt them? no.

i realized i was holding in all the adhd students. i actually DO believe that most of them are adhd, which i wouldn't say is true for many of the kids i know who ARE diagnosed with it. am i cruel to hold them in? is it really out of their control? and how am i supposed to deal with that in the classroom?

and when is spring break?
is it uncouth to post by student's poetry here?
because OH! i have a good one.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

to do this week:

* write 4-pg. paper tomorrow
* spend lunch interviewing student for said 4-pg. paper
* make 35 cupcakes for ghtb tomorrow
* talk to youth speaks about potential long-term placement in s. bay tomorrow
* find out how sjsu lost my financial paperwork and dropped me from classes
* get reinstated to classes, since have been dropped due to "non-payment"
* get print-out of how much paid to sjsu for tfa
* make a presentation for class thursday
* grade 100 poetry portfolios
* get all assessment information for the year together to turn in to principal
* make sour cream cake for step-dad
* make butterscotch layer cake for new mom friend
* and teach on top of that!

oy vey, it's going to be a busy one. thank god break is in only 4 more days!

Friday, March 18, 2005

honest to pete:

today, i had the unfortunate experience of catching a student cheating on his test. not only was he mouthing letters to a classmate, but when i went to confiscate his paper, i found a page of notes underneath. i kept him in after class to call his mom to expain the situation and inform her that he would be getting a '0' on the test. i talked to her first, and then he got on the phone.
"but mom", he pleaded, "i only got ONE answer from the person."
"uh-huh. yeah. YEAH!"
he turns to me, phone in hand, to speak again.
"he says he only got ONE answer by cheating", she told me.
"yes?", i replied.
"i do not think that is cheating. only one answer".
around we went, me sticking to my ground that, yes, regardless of how many answers he received or did not receive in the cheating process, he was still cheating, and he would still get a '0'. honestly, i think she found ME unreasonable. it's nice to set your children up to think that if they don't get much out of the crime, it's hardly punishable, isn't it? yes, that seems like a smart parenting technique.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

from the poetry archives, in what might be the single best line of poetry ever written:

love is fine
love is good
from the hamptons*
to the 'hood

tomorrow ends our poetry unit. while i will be sad to see it go, it will also be nice to not have the fever-high energy level in the classroom (and out) at all times. next up is literary criticism, which should prove to be interesting, as i don't feel completely confident that my students even know enough about literature to start criticizing it, but they can be a pessimistic and questioning group, so maybe it will be fine. i'm also hoping to fit in one more novel before the year's end.

* how an inner-city 13-year old boy from california knows about the hamptons is baffling to me. i don't think i knew what the hamptons were until i was in my 20's.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

i wish i had an amnesia pill for first period today

about halfway through i had a girl run out of the room and start PROFUSELY vomiting all over. the kids could see her, and you can imagine trying to pull them together after that, what with the smell and all. about 15 minutes later, one of my best students is not doing her work, so i walk over and ask her what's wrong and she bursts into tears. we step outside, she is bawling, and tells me her mom told her that she didn't love her anymore since she got in trouble (last week, suspended for writing on the girls bathroom wall). where this came from, i still don't know. so she went to the bathroom, but again it was evident that something was a'brewing, which is what 8th graders live for. THEN, as if barfing and crying isn't enough, i have to give ANOTHER of my students a referral for writing 'fag' on his whiteboard. goodness me, is it friday yet?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Signs Things Have Gone Too Far or Why It Needs To Be Summer, Pronto:

* when i saw two young men (read: 20 or so years of age) sort of wrestling with each other, i almost said "gentlemen, let's keep our hands to ourselves".
* i really felt the girl dressed in the "sorority girls do it with style" shirt needed a talking to about the inappropriate message her shirt sends
* the young couple making out almost got a nudge from me and told to "move it along"

Monday, March 14, 2005

i had a talk with my 1st/ 2nd period students last week about ghtg's birthday and how she wanted to have cupcakes. i explained that we will not do this for everyone, and i understood that it wasn't fair to do it for just one person, but that everyone has different needs, and that we should try to be sensitive to that, and this was something she needed. could we, i asked, just celebrate this one birthday, knowing full well it wasn't fair to everyone? YES! they agreed readily, and seemed really thoughtful. then today, when we worked in student-choice groups for the first time since the conversation with them, about five girls went over and asked her to be in their group. it was SO incredible to see them act so sensitively. i was so very proud.

Sunday, March 13, 2005


don't you wish desperation looked a little different? i'm willing to admit, in my heart, that many of my students live with some sort of desperation. it could be financial desperation, or emotional desperation, or attention desperation, or a myriad of other types of desperation. this is fine. this is dealable. hell, i got into this to help people who were lacking in some way, because i can't live with myself unless i'm helping others. but you know what really bothers me? desperation is UGLY. desperation is MEAN. desperation doesn't look like a quiet student with big eyes, willing to take what i can give them. desperation instead looks like telling me i'm ugly, or pushing away any help i try to give, or testing, testing, and more testing on behalf of the student. desperation is mean, and i often can't help the desperate people. i want to, don't get me wrong, but it's so much easier when they want help, or are willing to take help, or will not be incredibly angry with me for trying to give help. desperation wants to hurt me, or bring me down, or make me pay. desperation will not make it easy for me, but it also will not make me stop trying. because the day i stop trying is the day i give in to desperation and let it win. and i will not do that.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

file under: things i wish i'd never said

"yeah, where are the bras for little girls?"

Thursday, March 10, 2005

i left my class tonight at 7 p.m. (a class, mind you, where the professor was WRITING INVITATIONS. the professor!) and there was still a little light in the sky, and it was a balmy 70 degrees.

i got a text message from my husband, with grand news that he has received a new job. a much better job, a much better-paying job, a much more interesting job. a job that places us in a ridiculously high income bracket and yet, we probably STILL cannot afford to buy a house here. oy.

i also found out that to get a single-subject credential (the credential i really want) is only one more class after i finish my multiple-subject. this makes me incredibly happy.

if last week was The Week The 13-Year Olds Turned On Me, this is the week of The Police. it started out with the police this morning, who gave me the number of ghtb's probation officer, who i spent a long time on the phone with this afternoon. then there was the police citing one of my best students for graffiti and a long suspension for her, which upsets me no end.

tomorrow is looking like another haul to get kids to the poetry workshop, and bring them home, and probably have to listen to their music and buy them dinner. half of me thinks- fridays are MY day. i like to come home, nap, have a nice dinner and hang out with my husband. then the other half of me remembers that it's expression like this that made me want to become a teacher in the first place and how bursting with pride i am when my students write poems. so it looks like i'll just have to give up the fridays.

life is pretty fine.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

sad, glad, mad, bad:

today was some serious highs and lows, but luckily nothing as low as last week (we can now safely refer to it as The Week The 13-Year Olds Turned On Me).

the high: man, on man, oh man. oh, woman. the poetry some of my students are writing blows me AWAY. they are so much more talented than i could ever even hope to be. one of my bigger boys got up in front of the class today and read a poem he wrote about how people make fun of his size but how he's glad he's big and that he's really a gentle giant. TEARS, people, TEARS, on top of beaming from ear to ear. i was jumping around him clapping afterwards. he is so very brave.

the low: ghtg was in class today and apparently is in the midst of some sort of court situation (for, mind you, threatening to kill the principal of a local elementary school)- she's wearing the ankle bracelet and the whole bit. so i mentioned to her that if she needs anything to let me know- anything at all. she turned to me, her wrists and arms all cut up to hell, the ankle bracelet on, looking about as tough and damaged as a 14-year old can and says "well, my birthday is on the 23rd and i'm going to be in court all day so nobody is really going to celebrate it, so i was wondering if maybe i could bring in some cupcakes the day before and we could celebrate here." jesus fucking christ. she doesn't even interact with the other students in my class. she sits alone and sort of does her own thing- she always does her work but she's so removed from everything. so, i'm going to talk to the class and see if they are ok with celebrating JUST her birthday, because of the situation. they are quite aware of her difference, so i am hoping that they will be sensitive and say to go ahead. also, there is a part of me that doesn't totally trust her- i am a little scared of her because of her proven unpredictability- so i think i will make the cupcakes so nothing extra gets put in.

so folks, that's the highs and lows of 8th grade today. also, i really wanted to take the day after my 30th birthday off so i could have a nice celebration that night and not have to worry about getting up the next day. turns out the next day is the 8th grade formal dance, which i assume i should attend. i even sort of want to attend it, but then i think- do i remember a SINGLE teacher at ANY of the dances i went to in middle school or high school? nope, not one. so maybe it's fine that i'm not there.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

this week is not turning out to be considerably better than last week, but it's not worse either, so i guess i'll take it.
i think i need to not get as much sleep as normal and go in really, really tired and zombie-like. it seems to help the atmosphere of the class. you probably think i'm kidding, but i'm not. it seems that my energy level may be a bit of a deterrent for some of my more behaviorally-challenged students.

also, we are doing a unit on poetry, which i'm loving. so are many of my students. so much so that they cannot stop writing poetry. all day, every day- during class. it goes against everything in me to say "stop writing poetry"- it's like saying "stop trying to work for justice" or "stop being creative". but they are so into it that they aren't paying attention to the lessons (when i kvetch like this, you are allowed to kick me. we should all have such problems). their homework for the last two weeks has been to create a poetry anthology of their own poems, so it's not like they don't have the opportunity to be creative. do i make them stop? or just let them be? help.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

i am actually glad that desperate housewives is canceled tonight, because it means i can get to bed at a decent hour (read: 9:00 p.m.).
i am pathetic.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

east-coastians: now is the time to come to san francisco.

Friday, March 04, 2005


i think i earned my stripes as a teacher today. yes, friends, today i got to file my first police report for assult against me by a student. LOVING. LIFE.
this all came AFTER a buttload of drama about ghtg showing up in a police car this morning, someone sticking something deep into the lock of my classroom and me not being able to open my classroom door AT ALL TODAY, and a fire alarm that went off mid-morning that had the school standing in the pouring rain for about 10 minutes. you, dear readers, know that after the week i have had, all i could do was laugh. that is where we are- laughable. because if not, i am SURE a nervous breakdown will ensue, and we don't really have time for that right now, do we?

but tonight i had 15 (15!) students come down for a slam poetry workshop and although some of them were just straggling along with their friends, some of them wrote such amazing words that i was 'um-hmmm''ing in the back of the room. i do have to say that as a teacher, one of the most difficult things i have had to do was let someone else teach my kids. it was so hard not to tell them what to do, or how to do it, or monitor their behavior. i think i've become a bit of a control freak.

tonight, i am so damn excited to read my book. salvation came after all.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

i wish i'd never become a teacher.
i wish i'd never moved to suburbia.
i wish i had any friends left.
i wish i could smoke, or take a few advians, and call it a day.
i wish i had just ONE friend to call and say "hey, want to grab dinner?"
i wish this knawing feeling in my stomach would go away. and the extreme tension in my back and shoulders, while i'm at it.

thank goodness for my one friend, who i called and said "can you see me? because if you can't, i'm going to smoke." she came to my rescue with dinner plans. major props to her. HOWEVER, as i thought things really couldn't get worse, i walked into the restaurant we were meeting at and there was a man at the counter, trying to talk to the hostesses. he didn't seem able to speak, like maybe he'd had a really bad stroke. as it turned out, he was having a seizure, which came out when he finally said, through what sounded like a tunnel i'm all too familiar with- "seizure". at this point, i didn't even think. i just opened my bottle of adivans and threw them in my mouth. i then turned to the guy calling 9-1-1 and said "i have adivan here. tell them that. i'll be outside."
see, my anxiety disorder stems from the fact that i had seizures when i was young. and since then, i have avoided seizures like the plague. if there is one on tv, i turn it off. it still causes me to have an anxiety attack. it's taken years- YEARS!- for me to even be able to say the word seizure. so to walk in on one today- today, after everything was so terrible and desparate and broken- just about sent me over the edge. WHY ME? why is the world pummelling me this week? how much longer can i keep going? what will get me through?
i don't have pat answers here- there is no glean of light yet that makes me remember why i'm doing all of this. dinner helped, talking helped, chocolate helped, my bath helped. but i still feel sort of fucked to the cosmos right now, and feeling like i don't know what my savior is going to be. but i'm waiting, not-so-patiently.
to: all the myriad of people who come to observe me teach on a regular basis
from: over-observed teacher
re: your "observations"

thanks to all of you who come and watch me flail in my classroom on a regular basis. it's so helpful when you come and take little scribbly notes and then we get to go over them IN GREAT DETAIL for at least an hour every time, and then i get to keep them, in case i want to read them again. just fyi, i am pretty cool reading notes on my own (you know, the whole english major thing), so if you want to just point out the main things for a quick discussion, i've got about a million other things i need to get done YESTERDAY, so that works for me, too. it's not that i don't enjoy spending time with all of you- i do. you are all perfectly nice people. it's just that i have 110 13-year old bosses that i also enjoy spending time with, and they are always up in my grill, needing MORE and MORE.
speaking of 'up in my grill', i'm wondering if some of you can't just talk to each other about your observations and then get back to me with one document. between you all and my district observations, i am being observed approximately once per week. this is my second year, and while i have some pretty horrific days (see yesterday to be sure), for the most part things are cool. also, if you talked, maybe you could give me similar advice, instead of just lots of advice. because lots of different advice doesn't really help so much. oh- and regarding advice, can i mention a few things that i don't really think qualifies as "advice", but that you continue to say every week anyway?
1) "you have a really tough situation here"
2) "can you change his/ her seat?"
3) "maybe if you tried x...(x being something i've tried 1,000 times already)"
4) "you cannot excite them in any way"
5) "do not engage with them on any level, including about class material"
6) "you would do much better in a school where students intrinsically want to learn"
7) "are you sure you want to stay here next year?"
8) "go observe x (some 22-year old tfa punk)"
9) "i talked to your principal about the situation..."
10) "you need to do everything FOR them, they cannot work on their own"

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

today was the WORST day i have had teaching all year. after 4th period, i was like "you know what? i'm out. teaching is just not for me." i won't bore you with the details (or traumatize myself by rehashing it), but instead give you some of the BRIGHT points of my day.

- the poetry my students are writing. it's no shakespeare, but it is straight from the heart, and quite frankly, that's all i need.
- the poem by the young boy who wrote an ode to his older sister. oh god, it was cute.
- the boy who made me listen to a beat on his ipod as i read a poem- they went together. the joy!
- the student who, when i reprimanded him for some small infraction, replied "i'm sorry ms. j, you are the BEST TEACHER EVER", making me bust up laughing.
- the students who think it's really fun to call me ma'am. i'm TOTALLY down with that.
- the fact that i need to enlist a parent to help me because SO MANY STUDENTS WANT TO COME LEARN HOW TO READ AND PERFORM SLAM POETRY ON FRIDAY AFTER SCHOOL. rock on!
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