Tuesday, July 28, 2015

He's always there for her! And we're all scared.

Greg Sellars teaches 8th grade math at the middle school where a friend of mine works. Hanging above the SMART Board in Greg’s room is a quote by William James which reads, "The teacher who succeeds in getting himself loved by his students will obtain results which would otherwise be impossible to secure."

According to my friend, this quote encapsulates Greg’s educational philosophy. Greg really “gets” his students. His room is very informal (students call him Mr. Greg) yet he rarely has discipline issues—the kids think Mr. Greg is just super “chill.” Greg’s only taught for three years, but he’s had a fair amount of success in the classroom with the majority of his students passing the state mandated test for math, and his students love him.

Sounds like a dream teacher, right?

Except my friend, who also teaches 8th grade math at the same school, had a higher percentage of his students score “Advanced” on the state math test this past year. All this without allowing students to call him by his first name or eat lunch with him in his classroom.

Two teachers. Two philosophies. Nearly identical results.

But only one of them was the subject of an essay written by an 8th grade girl in response to the prompt: Choose a person you admire and who has influenced you a great deal. What do you admire most about this person and why?

Here’s her essay verbatim:

I admire a man whose name is Gregory Joseph Sellars, because he is a great teacher that always knows how to make me smile. Even on my worst days, he finds a way to make me love him even more than I already do. Which, I don’t think is even remotely possible! Sometimes we have our disagreements, but he’s always there for me when I need him… Well, at school at least. Sometimes, I think to myself that he’s my guardian angel but, I don’t know if those even exist so I’m not going to get my hopes up. I admire him because he’s a very loving person and he cares about everyone no matter what. In my opinion, he’s is the most sensitive, funny, compassionate, and special person in the world and I wouldn’t trade him for anything else. I appreciate him more than anyone could fathom and I admire him over anyone… maybe except my mom but otherwise, I draw a blank. I remember once, around the end of 2014 that I came to school and I had an angry face. That day, something had happened and I didn’t want to talk to anyone. So , I walked into my math class(that’s the subject he teaches) and I burst into tears. I just started to cry and I didn’t know why, then I realized that someone was hugging me.. I looked up and he was staring down at me as if I was a fragile piece of porcelain doll. I continued to cry into his arms and after a while I started to feel bad about wetting his shirt, so I stopped. He asked me if I was okay and I confirmed that I was. He then said okay, and walked away. After that moment, I couldn’t focus in class. I felt as if the world was spitting out sprinkles and rainbows at me! It was the best feeling EVER!! I felt loved and cared for, which is a feeling I couldn’t describe then or now, because it’s too powerful of a feeling to be able to comprehend. The fact that he made me feel this way made me admire him, and it made me love him. Gregory Joseph Sellars is the person I admire(and love), because he first loved me.

On top of all the other profoundly creepy aspects of this essay, am I the only one creeped out by the fact that this student knows Mr. Greg’s full name?  Who else wants to make a call to the authorities now?

Perhaps you think I’m overreacting.  “What’s the big deal?” you may say.  “It’s not as if he encourages this behavior.  She’s just a teen who feels very strongly about her teacher, and she’s grateful for his help and attention.  She probably likes school and works hard for him.”

Maybe.  But Mr. Greg has done nothing to communicate what is and isn’t appropriate within the student-teacher relationship. Consequently, this student thinks this is an acceptable way to describe a teacher in an essay that will be read by other adults.  To every other teacher at the school, this essay raised major red flags. 

I’m not saying we have a budding Humbert Humbert here, but what he’s doing is still wrong.  The students think Mr. Greg is their pal who just happens to be really good at math.  What’s going to happen when he inadvertently hurts Isabella’s feelings, or doesn’t measure up to her expectations as her “guardian angel?” Do you know what middle school girls do to get back at boys who hurt them?

It’s not pretty.

By the way, neither is Winnie. Remember my friend Winnie?  I don’t know how the yearbook’s going for her, but I can tell you she’s made the same mistake of trying to win student approval, with scarier results.  

Monday, July 27, 2015

"They like me, they really like me!"

Teachers, please don’t try and win students’ approval. 

I’ve seen so many well-meaning (and some not-so-well-meaning) teachers “friend zone” their students, thinking that having students like them is a prerequisite to effective instruction.  

Yes, it’s nice to have people like you. But seriously, it doesn’t take much to get teenagers to like you.  Let’s face it, they aren’t the most discerning of people.  Teens have little life experience, no impulse control and a greatly inflated sense of their own importance.  Can you easily get someone like that to think you’re cool?  I should hope so.

Give students what they want and of course they’ll “like you.”  The trouble is, once you’ve earned their approval as one of the “chill” teachers who really “gets” them, they see you as their equal. 

This is not a compliment. 

Do you see how they act with their “equals”, their friends, pushing each other in the hallway, snatching food off each other’s plates in the cafeteria, making up unflattering nicknames? 
Is this really what you want? 

My next five posts will detail stories that show the ugly consequences for those “chill” teachers who put friendship over structure. This isn’t a situation that helps anybody. If you think this isn’t a big deal, then you should read the essay from a student who wrote about her favorite teacher.  It will make you squirm.

Oh wait, that’s tomorrow.  Well, I’m already squirming now, and wanting to call Child Protective Services just thinking about it.



Monday, July 20, 2015

If you think coaching is easy, you've never coached.

When football coaches want their players to increase their strength on the defensive lines, they sometimes make the players "push plates."  The players have to move 50-pound metal plates across the field so that they can learn to hold back opposing players who weigh much, MUCH more and are moving faster

Sometimes you have to do the same thing in the classroom, only here, you're going to feel the struggle as much as the student is. The coaching is the same, but you may be pushing the weight in opposition to the student.

The other day I was conferencing with students who were writing analytical paragraphs.  A student, whom I’ll call Drew, came up with his draft so that I could help him make revisions. 

While reading it, I was immediately struck by the absurdity of his thesis: “In the story, The Chrysler and the Comb, the tone and language to Mrs. Bridge from Ruth is very negative, but I think that in an everyday normal situation they actually get along very well.”

Um, okay, it’s not typical to find a contradiction in the assertion, but that could be corrected with an improved thesis.  I read the rest of the paragraph to find his evidence to back up his idea.  In each example, he described Ruth as disrespectful and argumentative but ended each sentence insisting that the relationship between mother and daughter was positive.

Weird, I thought.  Either this kid lives in a world of denial or he has a very distorted idea of what constitutes a good relationship.

“So Drew,” I start, “I noticed you present a thesis that has a contradiction.  That’s going to be problematic for your reader."

“Why?”

“Because you’re saying two different things,” I point out.  “Either Ruth is negative, and you need to focus on that, or they have a good relationship.  You've given me evidence of Ruth's negativity.  If they have a good relationship, you haven’t given me any evidence of that.”

“But they do,” he insisted.

“Where?  Show me.”  I pushed the story toward him. 

“Um, the mom never gets mad at her.”

“Actually, she does.  In line 9, it says she answers her ‘irritably,’ and she lectures her throughout the story.  She lectures her and then just walks out.”

“But moms do that!”

“Yes, but do they do that when they’re happy with you?  My mom only lectures me when she thinks I need correction." I tapped my pen on the table.

Drew looked it over.  “I guess I don’t know.”

“You don’t know what?”

He shrugged.  “I don’t know where the evidence is, but I think they get along.” 

“Just a gut feeling?”  He nodded, and I pushed back.  “Then Drew, I don’t get it.  You can't base a thesis on a feeling.  A thesis is based on evidence and analysis, just like a scientific hypothesis.  You’ve got to show me evidence that says they get along most of the time.”

He started backpedaling.  “Well, maybe not in this story, but normally-"

“Wait, wait, wait.  Normally?  Do you know something about these two that the rest of us don’t know?  Because right here, we only have this story to look at.”  I pushed the story towards him again.

He shifted tactics.  “Why couldn’t this just be a one time fight they had?”

“It certainly could be.  That’s why I’m asking you to show me evidence that they usually get along.  You’ve got a lot of good evidence that Ruth is pretty snotty.  Does it say anywhere that either person was surprised by the argument, or that either one is sorry or upset over the argument?”

“I’m sure they don’t argue all the time,” he insisted. 

“You’re sure?  What makes you sure?  I need you to articulate it; otherwise, you’re just being a relentless optimist or willfully obtuse,” I pointed out.

“What do you mean?” Drew asked.

I sighed.  Drew would probably watch a bar fight unfolding and assume that the two opponents were just joking right up until the first punch.  “Prove it, Drew.  If my phone is missing and it turns up in your pocket, that's my evidence that you're a thief.  I can't say that even though you have my phone, I'm pretty sure that Amy took it.  There's no proof of that, get it?"  He nodded.  "So if you believe they get along just fine, find me a line or a sentence from the text and prove it.  You can’t try to prove two opposing arguments in the thesis.  Pick one side and give me proof.”

Drew furrowed his brow and was quiet for a few minutes while he re-read the story.  Finally, he sat up.  “So if I can’t prove it, I can’t say it?”

“Exactly,” I said.  “That’s a good rule for papers and life.  So let’s see if we can refocus your thesis.”

He sighed heavily.  “I’m just not good at this stuff.”

“Don’t wimp out on me Drew.  No one’s good at writing a first draft.  If you were, you wouldn’t need this class.  It’s just practice.  Don’t blow off practice.”

Drew hunched forward.  “You sound like my coach.”

I grinned and nudged him.  “Then get your game face on.”  He groaned.


Okay, so I’m no Bill Belichick or even Bill O'Brien, but I have my moments. I still probably shouldn't have been sweating and exhausted by the time Drew figured out what needed to change. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

A case of mistaken identity - my own

I’m helping with check in for a huge field trip.  100 high school students are all gathered in the school gym with backpacks, luggage, and pillows, getting ready to head to another state on a long-planned trip for a contest.  It's 7 am, and everyone is tired, but the kids are excited to be going.  Parents are there to see their kids off because I'm sure they can't even believe it's real - a whole week without my obnoxious teenager!  They probably all went to a bar after they dropped the kids off.

I’m not going on the field trip, but as a teacher who had a part in the trip planning, I have to help expedite the leaving process.  Each teacher handles checking in the students in his or her class.  Students must drag their stuff over to my table, which is marked with a big sign that says "MARLOWE."  Check in involves making sure each student has the required luggage, isn't toting around medication to share and has given the correct parent contact information.  Students are then given a bus assignment and a chaperone teacher to oversee them. 

All of my students are on the list, and I'm going through it, crossing out the last minute cancellations and no shows, checking off each student who arrived and making sure he or she is with the right chaperone.  I have 15 students on my list, most of who have already arrived and gone through the process.  There's a lull while I wait for the bus loading to begin.

A man comes up to my table.  "Bryan Hughes," he announces cheerfully.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Hughes?" I ask pleasantly.

"No, I'm looking for the bus assignment for Bryan Hughes," he says.

"I'm sorry, he's not one of my students," I say. 

"Oh yes, he's in your class."

Pause.  "No sir, he isn't."

"Can you check?"

I know who my students are, and I just said he’s not one of them.  Why would checking change this?

I smile with patience I don’t feel.  "Sir, he's not one of my students, so he's not on my list, see?"  I hold up my list to him.  He peruses it, blinking a lot.  I try to be helpful.  "Who's his teacher?"

"Chatwick."

I point to my sign.  "Unfortunately, that's not me."

He looks at the sign.  "This isn't Ms. Chatwick's station?"

I guess “MARLOWE” wasn’t the giveaway I thought it would be.  "No, sir, her station is over there."  I point to where Mrs. Chatwick, a tall black woman, is standing, and he begins wandering over.  I assume he’s wondering why I’m not tall or black like I should be. 

Does this only happen to me, or does it happen to you too?  And why does it happen?  Is there something about me that automatically makes someone distrust my answers?   Were my glasses askew, or were there leaves or sticks in my hair? 

I have this constantly happen when people call me and have a wrong number. 

"Is so and so there?" the caller asks.

"I'm sorry, you must have a wrong number," I reply.

"So Kevin isn't there?" 

"I don't know a Kevin.  You must have the wrong number."

"Is this 806-555-1212?"

I don't even care if he wants to double check the number if the caller would do it first.  But why do I have to justify myself to this stranger when he called me?

If anyone knows of some psychological testing that can give a reason, I'd love to hear it.  Or maybe I’m the one who needs the test.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Have you seen this child?

Disclaimer: If you're looking for some yuks, you're not going to find any in this post. If I ever find humor in this story, it's probably time for me to retire.

Parker was a boy in my class who had ADHD.  Bad ADHD.  His mother could not get him to take his medication, so by the time he came to me, he was bouncing off the walls.    Everything distracted Parker – a door opening, someone laughing, a dropped pen on the floor.  He spent more time turning around in his seat, twisting to see what he might be missing, than actually doing any work.  When I’d talk to him about the fact that he was failing, he’d assure me, “I just wanna get my work done, Miss.” Seconds later it was, “I can’t do this stuff, Miss. It’s too boring.”  I had him work through lessons in a virtual program for my remediation class, but Parker constantly complained about having to read “so much,” and insisted “I do better with work on paper.”  When I had him work on paper, it went untouched, because “this stuff is boring.”  When I pointed out that he hadn’t read anything on the page, it was back to the “I just wanna do my work, Miss” before trying to poke another student. 

Parker’s mother and I decided to move Parker’s desk next to mine so I could redirect him easily, and he could get his work done with minimal distraction. Parker complained strenuously about the move, but he passed the first two terms of school, thanks to our efforts to keep him on track.

Then Lonnie decided he wanted to be friends with Parker. 

Lonnie began walking with Parker to and from class, telling him he was cool and that he should hit on the various girls in the class so Parker could be a “playa.”  Parker, who for the first time was encouraged to do something he’s spectacularly bad at, proceeded to chat up the girls using highly dubious and borderline offensive lines: “Is yo mama a drug dealer? Cuz you dope!”

From there, Parker moved to trying to stroke girls’ hair, causing them to slap at his hands and scream at him.  More than once, I had to haul Parker out into the hallway for a “come to Jesus” meeting about this “new” behavior. 

“Parker,” I said wearily after one frustrating class in which three girls threatened to relieve him of his manhood, “I will have to send you to the office if you touch another girl.”

“Aw Miss, we’re just playing. It’s no big thing.”  He kept craning his neck trying to look through the classroom window as we spoke.  

“No, it IS a big thing.  Touching a girl on any part of her body after she’s asked you to stop is assault and sexual harassment.  You DO NOT touch a girl if she doesn’t want you to.  This is not fun, and it’s certainly not playing.  You may think you’re having fun, but legally, you’re creating a huge problem.”

“Naw, Miss, it ain’t like that,” he drawled with a big clueless smile.

“Did Lonnie tell you they’d like it?”

His smile began to fade. Bingo.

“Guess what?  The girls don’t like Lonnie either, so he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  Putting your hands on a girl is absolutely unacceptable, and I will not warn you again.  I’m calling your mother about this, and if one more girl complains about you touching her, you’re going to the office.”

“No Miss, please don’t call my mom!” His eyes became huge behind his glasses.

“Too late.  Go sit down and get to work.”  I opened the door and walked him back in, just in time to see Lonnie turn and give Parker a thumb’s up. 

Parker didn’t attempt to touch anyone’s hair the next time he was in class, but I noticed that he and Lonnie were now trying to move into a new seat each day.  The minute either of them sat down, I’d say, “That’s not your seat Lonnie. That’s not your seat Parker. Move.”

“But Miss, I can’t work there!”  They’d both say.

“Apparently, you can’t work anywhere, based on what you’ve done in the class.  Now move.”

Lonnie would sometimes obey, and sometimes would just get up and walk out of the class.  I didn’t care; if he left, I could at least manage Parker.  Plus, skipping class meant he’d have to spend the next day in ISS. Those were good days. 

Parker wasn’t as practiced in disruption, so after a few days of being re-seated, he decided to refuse.

“I just wanna do my work, Miss. I gotta get to work, and you be bothering me.”  He was sitting next to Leslie, who was leaning as far away from him as possible.

“That’s funny, Parker.  Now get up before I call Ms. Drake and have her come get you.”  Ms. Drake was a particularly intimidating assistant principal.

He kept repeating that he wanted to do his work while trying to scoot closer to Leslie.  I picked up my phone and dialed the office, telling them I needed a student removed from my class immediately.  While the rest of the class intently watched the scene unfolding before them, Lonnie seemed oblivious, blithely doodling on some paper.

Ms. Drake came in immediately. "Ms. Marlow," she began, "I was in the middle of a meeting. You know teachers are responsible for handling disc---" Her scolding was cut off by a shriek from Leslie.   “Get your hands off me, Parker!”  Parker was leaning across Leslie's desk, his hand reaching for her hair. Leslie frantically tried to push his hand away. Within seconds, Ms. Drake had Parker by the arm and was forcefully escorting him from the room. I noticed Lonnie giggling to himself.  When the bell rang, he walked up to me and  said, “Miss, why you gotta do Parker like that?  He ain’t doing nothing.”

“Shouldn’t you be worried about your own performance in my class, Lonnie, or should I say, your lack of performance?”

“But Parker’s cool, he –“

“What Parker does has nothing to do with you.  I want you to leave him alone,” I said coolly.

“Miss, why you gotta be like that?”  Lonnie cocked his head and pursed his lips, in a vain attempt to look serious. It just looked pathetic.

“I suppose I could ask you the same question.  Why are you so disruptive?  Why do you refuse to do any work?  Why all the sudden interest in making sure Parker starts copying your behavior?”

He laughed suddenly.  “Because it’s funny, that’s why.”

I felt a murderous rage run through me.  This snotty little punk was ruining Parker’s chances of actually learning and getting through school so that he could be amused.  I thought about Parker’s concerned mother and all she was trying to do to get her boy to stay in school.  I thought of all the conversations she and I had had, trying to work through his behavior. All the after school help I'd given him, all so Lonnie could turn Parker into his personal clown and for a second, I seriously considered punching Lonnie in the face. 

Instead, I swallowed hard and made my face blank.  “Well then, I guess it’s good that you finally have a friend in here, Lonnie.  I know both you and Parker have difficulties in that area.”

“I don’t have no difficulties with friends, Miss.  I got tons of friends!”  He seemed tense.

“Okay,” I said blandly.  “If you say so.  I just haven’t seen it in this class, so…” I trailed off and began stacking up some of the workbooks.  Lonnie looked at me curiously for a second and then walked quietly out of the room. 

I wish I could say that things improved, but they didn’t.  Parker and Lonnie ended up in ISS the next week for skipping my class, and I had to send Parker to the office nearly every day after that because he refused to keep his hands to himself.  He never did get back on track or pass, and honestly, I'll never forgive Lonnie for that.





Monday, July 6, 2015

The Sharknado of students

Remember Lonnie?  I'm sure you'd love to forget him like I would, but watching him is like watching a Syfy channel movie.  Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you're baffled, and sometimes it's just too excruciating to see to the end.

Since he’s “for real,” Lonnie is a terrible liar, and I mean that both in terms of skill and believability.  He skips class constantly or comes in late with excuses that are either jokes or insults to intelligence.  I started making a list of them, and once a week I sent the list to his mother and the assistant principal.  His excuses include:
  • ·         helping a student who was bleeding get to the nurse, “’Cause you know Miss, my uncle was a fireman, so I’m cool under pressure like that”;
  • ·         doing a favor for Mr. Fleet, the assistant principal whom I know he’s never met because Mr. Fleet has been on medical leave since the first month of school;
  • ·         finishing up a test in his dance class (which is held two periods before my class);
  • ·         talking to his counselor about a schedule change, because she reportedly thinks he’s “too smart” to be in my remediation class. 

That last excuse was the worst, mostly because I saw him walk in from the parking lot with his “pass.”

Catching Lonnie in a lie has absolutely no effect on him. What’s astounding is not that he acts shocked that you don’t believe him (he doesn’t), but that he’s not even embarrassed. Most students who get caught in a lie respect themselves enough to attempt to maintain the charade. He seems to wonder why I even bother to call him out. It’s just what he does.

Is he the worst behaved kid in class?  No, but he’s definitely the most tiresome. On days that he shows up, by the end of class I feel drained of energy and IQ points.

The thing I dislike about Lonnie the most is his habit of latching onto the “weaker” kids.  Lonnie seeks out the kids who aren’t very bright, who are intellectually and emotionally immature.  Then he starts paying a lot of attention to them, talking to them and telling them they’re funny or cool.  For one reason or another, these targets of his attention typically don’t have a lot of friends, and they’re flattered by his sudden interest.
He began palling around with Eric the first part of the year and told everyone they were best friends.  The more Lonnie lurked around Eric, the more Eric’s grades dropped, the less he accomplished in class, and the more he and Lonnie seemed to be absent until Eric failed the first term.  At that point, Eric told me he planned to work hard and pass the class. Could I move him to another seat, he asked so that he could avoid Lonnie? I sat him with Chandra, one of the most vocal Lonnie objectors in the class. She and her friends “circled the wagons” with Eric in the center, effectively freezing Lonnie out. By the end of the term, Eric raised his grade to passing.

Lonnie sometimes tries to work his charm on me by telling me I’m his favorite teacher. I always reply, “Really?  That’s sad.”  I usually stare at him blankly when he starts speaking to me.  Then I’ll either turn away like I don’t hear him or just say “no” to whatever he asked.  No is usually the appropriate answer, anyway. 

“Ms. Marlow, you want to know something?”

“No.”

“Ms. Marlow, can I go to the bathroom?”

“No.”

“I’ve got to go talk to the counselor.”

“No.”

“Why are you so uptight, Ms. Marlow?”

Long pause, then “no.”

“No, what? No, you’re not uptight?” He’s snickering.  I quickly start writing out an office referral slip, which I hand to him.

“That’s a good question for the assistant principal.” 

“I was just kidding!”

“No.  Explain it to him when you get to the office.”

A good day is when Ronnie ends up in ISS, which he frequently does, or when he decides to skip class.  A bad day is when he’s there.  Probably the best day would be the day I find out he’s moved or transferred out of my class. 

“When I’m infamous, Miss, y’all are going to tell everyone y’all knew me,” he informed me and whoever was listening one day. 

“Don’t you mean famous, Lonnie?” I asked in a dull monotone.

“Naw, Miss, INFAMOUS is way BIGGER than famous!  You a teacher and you ain’t even know that?”

I reached for the referral pad, when I realized that sadly, he wouldn’t even reach that level.  Odds are he’ll end up in his parents’ basement, unemployed and drinking himself to death.  He’ll definitely be alone.


For those who think I’m being too harsh, check out my final installment in the Lonnie series, when I tell you about Parker and what happened with the two of them. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Just your common garden-variety concerns, of course...

What am I worried about?  What about writing makes me insecure?  Tons, really.  Enough to make for an entire IWSG post.

My dream has always been to have a full-time living as a writer, a humor writer, to be exact.  I work hard, hoping to try and make that dream come true, but as I start dipping my toes into the writing life, worries rear their ugly heads. 

What if I become a big success?  What if I make enough money that some of my deadbeat family members start to ask to borrow money?  I mean, sure, I’d help my younger sister, who of course wouldn’t ask but could probably use the funds, but there’s no way I’m giving money to Cousin Steve, not with his “recreational” drinking problem and habit of picking up girls at the post office.  But I’m sure that Aunt Clarissa will start bothering my mom about it, about how even though I’m successful, I’m “too good” to reach out to family members who could “use a hand,” and “remember how Charley and Steve used to play together and were so close during summer family reunions?  So why would she turn her back on him now?”  Once I’m a big success, I am totally blocking her emails, and I don’t care what Grandma has to say about it.

Now that I think of it, I don’t even know if Aunt Clarissa counts as a worry since she makes everyone in the family insecure.

What if I write a novel that becomes wildly successful, but it’s polarizing, like Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight?  I mean, I want to be proud of my work, but I also want to be successful, so does it matter if some parts of it are a little stupid?  Who am I kidding – of course it matters!  I don’t want people acting like I’m the latest Justin Bieber or Iggy Azalea, just a cheap flash in the pan with a lab-created body.

I like the idea of a gravity-defying body, but once you’re famous, you have to start interacting with idiots on their smartphones and end up with a Twitter Q&A session that goes as badly as E.L. James’s did, but really, what was she thinking when she agreed to that?  I don’t want to have to defend what I write to my snotty former English Department head, although she may just be jealous of my fame.  That’s okay, then.  I guess if people say something negative, I’ll reassure myself that they’re just jealous of me, and I’ll say it in a British accent, because everything sounds better in British.  That’s probably why E.L. James is so successful, you know – the accent.

What if other writers accuse me of plagiarizing their writing? I’ll have to lawyer up and defend myself.   That would be a nightmare.  I mean, odds are good that someone might be writing about the same idea that I am at the same time, so I’m going to have to expect it, those letters full of accusations and misspellings.  I’ll just handle that by never telling anyone about my ideas, not even my cat, Cujo.  I don’t think he listens when I talk anyway, but I still won’t tell him.

There are so many other concerns – should I live in a gated community?  Should I drive a Lexus or a Jaguar?  Do I really want to pal around with Hollywood types, particularly someone like Shia LeBouf, that pretentious putz?  No way, and definitely not someone who’s faux-intellectual, like James Franco.  He looks like a sex offender with facial hair.  The last thing I need is my fans thinking I want approval from people like that. 

And fans – what if my fans are weirdos like stalkers?  What if they show up on my front porch at 3 am, wanting to hang out?  What if Cousin Steve shows up with the stalkers?  Because that’s totally something he’d do. 

The gated community is a must, along with a black Cadillac Escalade with tinted windows.  Steve can’t find me to beg for money with those obstacles, not with his drinking problem.