Monday, November 28, 2016

Dream a littler dream

I can’t be the only person out there who regularly dreams about work.

The day after Thanksgiving I decided to take a well-deserved nap after an exhausting morning of shoveling in some of the pie I neglected to eat the night before.  (All that digesting really takes it out of you).  I fell asleep quickly and dreamed that I was working on a project with two other teachers, in which we had to find commonalities between Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  The clues I was given were rhyming clues: “An egg that will hatch/A color to match/A tire to patch.”

Yeah, I couldn’t figure it out either, and my group was being timed.  I woke up in a panic, thinking that I needed to re-assess the project I already had for freshman English.  Then I panicked, even more, when I realized that we were reading Julius Caesar, and there’s no way I could find rhyming clues for that one.

I know we teachers teach in our sleep.  As I’m also married to another teacher, I’ve often heard him trying to explain scoring rubrics to a group, or else he’s lecturing Eric on how he’s going to lose that phone if he doesn’t put it away.  He says he’s heard me complain about grading deadlines to a principal as I snoozed. 

While I think this is pretty common in almost any job, sometimes I wonder if it’s just hard to put our teaching personas away.  I know that the other day I was having lunch with two non-teacher friends (yes, I have some) and they asked me some school or education-related question.  They both said I turned to the side and started to gesture at something while enunciating my words very clearly.  I’m glad they got a kick out of it, but I was completely unaware.  What I was aware of was the need to come up with good follow up questions for them to make sure they understood.  

I need to get a life, preferably one outside a classroom.  I'm trying, truly I am.

It’s the dreaming about the classroom that irks me.  I need my time off just like everyone else.  But it seems like I can’t escape even in my sleep.  By the way, what rhymes with “ides of March?”  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanks for the memories, too, I suppose...

It’s Thanksgiving time, that time of year when we teachers are glad to get away from our students for a few days.  The year is starting to drag; the days are shorter, and the whining is louder.  I mean, how many times can you tell Pierce that his paragraphs need a topic sentence before you just crumple up his latest paper without reading it? 

I did read it.  But Pierce's definition of “paragraph” is pretty loose, and I was hard-pressed to find a topic sentence in any of those.

However, it is the time of year to feel thankful, so I took a random poll of teacher friends of mine and asked them to list what they were most thankful for.  Here’s the list:

Grading curves
Referral slips
Automated tardy slips so the student can’t claim she wasn’t late “THAT many times.”
Teacher development “so we can learn to be better teachers” (this teacher is a suckup)
Time off
Pre-made lesson plans for those days where a teacher can barely keep his or her eyes open
The students who actually read and follow the directions
Tina, the girl who asks insightful questions during class discussions of the novel
The fact that Eric fell asleep during that same class discussion so we didn’t have to hear his various witty remarks
Supportive principals and department heads
Parents who bring cookies and gifts, specifically gift cards
Other teachers who’ll hang out in the teacher’s lounge and commiserate
Being able to escape to the parking lot before Jenny’s mom can corner you to ask why Jenny has an A-minus, and what she can do to raise her grade to an A
An IT department that is genuinely helpful
Comfortable shoes
More booze

I think that about covers it, so the next time you see your kid’s teacher with a frozen semi-smile on her face, you’ll know that she’s grateful for all these things.  Or else you’re Jenny’s mom, and she’s trying to make it out of the parking lot before you can talk to her. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Like, you know - whatever...

One piece of advice I constantly repeat to students is almost universally dismissed: read your writing aloud.  When you read what you've written out loud, you can hear the mistakes in it.  But students just won't do it.  For some reason, they seem to think that they can find the errors on their own, or worse, they assume that there aren't any.  When I read their writing aloud, they usually start to squirm and try to grab the paper from me, mumbling, "Yeah, okay, I'll fix it."

All of the following examples show what happens when a high school writer doesn't follow my advice.  While it makes for pretty good entertainment for blog readers, it sure doesn't inspire confidence for the future.  

Music can help people get better or for the worst.

Music has been around for many generations.

People will listen to the “new hits,” but they will be influenced by society and their emotions.

Some songs drive people to create stern and rugged personalities.

Living in society daily and being around others show me many different things about people.

Music is a huge influence to people’s thoughts and actions, but also peelings.

Music can effect your sadness, anger/hate, and drug-use tendencies.

Music brings us closer, binds our lives together in a web with ties stronger than blood.

Music can’t influence people to do anything.  I listen to rap and I’m not influenced by it, but other people are. 

It's still early enough in the year that I have hope we can undo the damage, but sadly, it's too early in the day to drink myself into a stupor.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

IWSG - The ability to make up excuses for anything

The year is drawing to a close, and I'd like to think I've accomplished SOMETHING, but maybe just cranking out a post for this month's IWSG question is enough of an accomplishment. 

This month's question is "What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?"  I think my favorite aspect is taking the weird things that happen to me or around me and turning them into material for the blog.  Of the topics I write about, very little is fictionalized.  Sometimes I change names or places so that I won't get sued, but most of it happens.

Honestly, that's what I find fascinating.  Art does imitate life, and of any situation you read, you can be sure that it's already happened somewhere.  Maybe situations that involve dragons, unicorns and ghosts haven't happened (yet), but I'm sure there's a germ of truth in all of it.  

The other thing I like is the ability to find humor in a situation.  Often I've come home, steamed over a parent conference or incident with a student, and dealt with my anger by writing down what happened.  By the time I finished, I can usually find something in the story to laugh at, even if I didn't at the time.  Like the time a student said he wasn't going to follow my instructions, and I said, "Okay, you can leave the class then."  I was angry but struggling to hold it in.  He left, and it didn't occur to me until later that, yes, he had followed my instructions.  Take that, mouthy student who couldn't even maintain a D average!

Hey, you've got to laugh, because if you don't, you might cry, right?