28 September 2006

Another Message for My Freshmen

Today we read "A Sound of Thunder" by Ray Bradbury and discussed genre. "What are some plot and setting elements we see in science fiction?" I ask.

Beck raises his hand. "Science," he says.

"Okay," I reply, slightly annoyed, "thank you, Captain Obvious. Anyone else?"

Reed raises his hand. "Fiction," he says.

Honestly-- shut up, you little smart-asses.

27 September 2006

Dude, Where's My Hair?

Jess' wedding is this weekend, and I decide that, as school has been kicking my butt recently and I really want to look good in the inevitable bevy of pictures that will be taken, this will be my week of grooming. On Sunday I get a pedicure. On Tuesday, Jess and I go shopping. And today, I go to get highlights.

I have actually gotten highlights before, albeit years ago, and I loved them but haven't had the energy to put the time and money into it since then. (Seriously, three hours in a barber chair is not my idea of a good time, especially after seven and a half hours of teaching.)

So I make an appointment with Linda, the stylist my mother has spent months raving about, skip out of school a wee bit early, and land at the salon around 1:30.

Linda is waiting for me, foil and combs on a little rolling cart. "What do you want done?" she asks.

I'm ready, too. "Highlights," I say, "subtle ones-- probably dark blonde."

"Okay. You want a trim, too?"

"Yep-- an inch, no more than an inch and a half."

"Okay," she says.

Look, I have complete and utter faith in people that I am paying to do me a service-- painting my toes, finding me a shirt in another size, whatever. I trust them to know what they're doing and not totally mess me up.

But after Linda takes the foil out of my hair and washes out the dye, she takes me back to the chair and starts cutting.

And cutting.

And cutting some more.

And I watch her in the mirror, my eyes widening with horror as my hair-- the hair that I have been deliberately growing out for the last year, the hair that is (was) the longest I've worn it since high school-- falls in tufts to the floor.

Linda takes a handful of hair, looks at it with a critical eye, and snip snip. Another inch.

Every so often, she puts the scissors down and picks up the comb, and I relax, thinking, "Okay, she's done." But no-- she puts down the comb and picks up another pair of scissors, and snip snip. Good-bye, long pretty hair.

It gets better. She finally puts down the scissors for good and says, "Okay, now I'm gonna put the color in."

Uh... what?

I meekly follow her to the washing station, and she grabs a bottle of chestnut-colored goo and begins slathering it all over my hair. "You want a deep conditioner?" she asks, her hands not-quite-so-full of my hair as they would have been fifteen minutes ago.

"Why not?" I sigh.

After she washes out the goo, we return to the chair, and she starts to blow dry my hair. Twice, she turns off the hair dryer and picks up the scissors. Snip snip snip.

Finally, it seems she's done. "You like?" she asks, holding up a mirror so I can see the back of my head as well as the front. "I took out all that old red and made it light brown instead. And I put in honey-colored highlights."

Okay, I'll be totally honest-- I do like it. It certainly looks more elegant than my previous, grown-out-dye, hasn't-been-cut-in-months look.

But oh! My hair doesn't swing across my back anymore! Instead, it sits sadly just below my shoulders.

As I drive home, I call my mother. "So, uh, about Linda?" I say.

"Yeah? How did it go?"

"Um, well, I told her to trim an inch, and... she did whatever the hell she wanted."

My mother is silent for a moment. "Yeah, that's kind of what she does," she finally says. "I guess I should have told you that before." She pauses. "But I bet it looks great!"

I look in the mirror again when I get home. Yeah, it totally does.

20 September 2006

A Message to My Freshmen

"Boring" is not a genre. It's an adjective, you little smart-asses.

Dance, Monkey, Dance!

Last night was Back to School Night here at school, which is a big ball of stress and Xeroxing but is also (I hate to admit this) a lot of fun. I mean, think about it: a captive audience, enclosed in a classroom, wedged into hard plastic chairs, with no recourse but to listen to me talk about curriculum for ten whole minutes. It's the performance to end all performances, and I get to do it every year! Yay!

I left school around three, returned home, and walked Q, checked e-mail, finished the fourth book of Fables (another great reading suggestion from Jess), and primped like crazy. I have to be very careful at BTSN: because I still get mistaken for a student every once in a while (honestly, I've been working at this school for six years, and there isn't a year that goes by without someone asking me for my hall pass), I feel like I have to put special effort into looking older. So that means makeup and curlers and the most suit-like clothes I own.

I returned to school around six-- okay, so there are also not-so-fun parts to BTSN-- and joined my fellow department members in our department workroom. Um, you honestly think I'm going to sit in my room while parents wander the halls, skipping the PTA meeting to catch teachers one-on-one? Hell no. We English teachers sit in our workroom and get ourselves ready to face the masses by laughing hysterically at things we wouldn't normally find funny. (This is a result of a combination of exhaustion and nerves.)

Anyway, I've never had any problems with parents at BTSN; I get up in front of the room, do my trained monkey dance (or, as Christine likes to call it, our "dog and pony show"), and leave as soon as the last parent of the night disappears out the door. Parents tend to like me because, if nothing else, I am wildly enthusiastic about what I teach. And because I know their students' names already.

And because, honestly, I do a great monkey dance.

15 September 2006

Fun with Puritanism

This week in AP Lang, we dove right into the ever-fascinating (does sarcasm bleed through text without the accompanying tone of voice?) American literary periods. Not to be down on American lit-- honestly, the longer I teach it, the more I appreciate it-- but out of all the cultures in the world, America has the most boring literary periods. But sadly, junior year in NoVA means American lit, and for every brilliant dark Romantic and Modernist movement, American writers inevitably followed with a Rationalist or, heaven forbid, Realist movement to put it to sleep.

And don't get me started on the Transcendentalists. (Go to hell, Thoreau.)

Anyway, this year I decided to follow the literary periods chronologically, so my juniors spent this week with an intro to Puritanism and the Age of Reason, then moved on to Mary Rowlandson's "A Narrative of the Captivity" (wife and mother kidnapped by Indians, suffers cruelly, lives to tell the tale), Equiano's "The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Equiano" (African kidnapped and sold into slavery, travels the Middle Passage to America), and Jonathan Edward's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (sermon-- basically, God dangles us over the fires of hell and can drop us anytime he feels like it. Creepy!)


(Okay, fine, I'll give you Edwards. His hellfire-and-brimstone is entertaining, if nightmarish.)

So on Wednesday, my first period class is discussing the Rowlandson and Equiano narratives, and... zzzzzz... Oh! Sorry, fell asleep just thinking about it!

Anyway, my first question is always, "What did you think of the reading?"

Overall, the class agreed with my own (silent) assessment: Yawn. "Rowlandson just lists events and talks about God," says one student dismissively.

Oo, there's a lesson here. "How does that reflect the time period in which she's writing?" I ask.

The kids who actually absorbed the intro materials jump in immediately: Puritan writing is by and large in diary form, and writers were constantly finding the presence of God in everyday life.

"Okay, good," I say. "What about Equiano? What did you think of him?"

Cut, a curly-haired boy sitting in the back, raises his hand. "I thought it was cool," he says. "You know, he talked about all the fun adventures. Like being on the slave ship."

The other students giggle.

"The slave ship? That's was a fun adventure?" I reply.

"Fun... yeah, you know, interesting and... fun," Cut backpedals lamely.

Seriously, you can't script this stuff.

11 September 2006


Okay, so I fell into bed last night at 12:00(ish), and I slept five heavy hours in which I had the following adventure:

For some reason, Fidel Castro had arranged a marriage for me to one of his advisors. So I, of course, went on the run, cross-country style. There was some guy helping me at first, but he disappeared at some point, and I was left to fend for myself. I ended up hiding in a youth hostel, and, more specifically, in someone's luggage. Literally, I zipped myself into someone's duffel bag, which somehow ended up in an abandoned house.

And that's when Steve McQueen rescued me.

The rest was a lot of running from a crazy, Castro-supporting bus driver (who ultimately turned out to be a good guy and led my pursuers away) and holding Steve McQueen's hand as he dragged me through cornfields and such.

Is it any wonder that when my alarm went off, I could hardly drag myself out of bed? Honestly, I spent the whole night running away from Castro's evil minions.

For the first time in my life, I hit the snooze button.

Er, fine. I hit the snooze button twice.

09 September 2006

(The End of) My Summer Vacation by Rosaline

The first week of classes is over. I'm ready to keel over and die. Join me in my week (in a nutshell)--

Monday: is Labor Day. I don't have to work. I do, however, have to worry about work. For the first time in my teaching career, I actually left on the Friday before Labor Day having completed everything for the first day of school. Syllabus? Check. Policies and procedures? Check. First quarter calendar? Done and done. Boxes unpacked? Surprisingly-- yes! My classroom looked clean, uncluttered, and organized when I locked the door.
But that doesn't mean I don't worry. There are many other things to worry about. Like-- what should I wear? In what order should I present all the information about the class? Will the kids give me the "year from hell" vibe? (This actually exists-- I got it on the first day of school three years ago. That was the year I came within inches of quitting. >shudder<) Will guidance add more students to my classes? Will I have enough desks if they do?

So, yeah. I worried. I tried to distract myself with Stephanie Meyer's New Moon, the sequel to Twilight. (Um, more on that in a later post. Much more. And flip to Jess' blog for her eloquent gushfest about Twilight. She says all the things I would say. We're so psychically connected it's scary.)

Anyway, I went to bed at 11:00. I was still awake at 2:00

Tuesday: My alarm went off at 5:30. It's set on 104.1, a classical station, and the music kind of filters into my unconscious before I opened my eyes and looked at the time. "That can' t be right," I thought blearily. "Didn't I just fall asleep five minutes ago?"

Sadly, no. So I picked up the school day routine where I left off in June: walk Q. Make lunch. Shower and dress. Double-check to make sure I haven't forgotten anything. Stop at Starbuck's. And finally... to school.

My first period was juniors, AP Lang and Comp. They were quiet.

Third period was freshmen. All my freshmen classes are team classes (which means that I have a team partner from the special ed department. Let's call her Christine. We've been working together for four years, and I love her. We have a lot of fun, which isn't always easy to have when you're talking about fourteen-year-olds). They were also quiet. Is this a trend? No, it's just the first day of school.

Fifth period was AP juniors again. They were... lively. I asked them how they liked the summer reading assignment and was met by a cacaphony of "It was awesome!" I immediately decided that they will be my favorite class.

I had seventh period off. I tried to work on several things at once, but gave up when everything started to look and sound like gibberish. So I went to the library to, um, "Xerox" (yeah, there' s more to my frequent library visits than that. Later, I promise).

Wednesday: I was in meetings all morning. I saw my third period freshmen again (I see them every day), and we talked about their summer reading assignment, Animal Farm. At first they were all a little reluctant to participate, but I finally said, "Look, you want me to learn your name ASAP, you'll contribute to the discussion," and that got them started.

Fourth period was another freshmen class. They were also quiet and significantly less eager for me to learn their names.

Sixth period I was off again. I Xeroxed (for real this time) and watched the clock. At 2:30, I booked it home and spent the rest of the day finishing New Moon.

Thursday: My AP kids had their test on The Crucible, one of their summer reading books. We talked about rhetorical devices. They actually seemed interested. We'll see how long it lasts.

Third period we discussed writing good paragraphs. When I asked, "What should a good concluding sentence do?", I received the following response (say it with me, people-- I'm sure you can guess what's coming):

"It concludes."

"Ah," I replied, shooting a frosty glare of death at Beck, the unfortunate smart-aleck boy who spoke first. "Okay. Thanks for that, Captain Obvious."

I spent my planning period grading Crucible tests. Oy. John Proctor totally did not rip his shirt at the end of Act Two when his wife is arrested for witchcraft. And "torture" is not spelled "tochure." There were truly points when I wanted to cry.

Friday: When I woke up, I was in the shower. It's a good thing my routine is so automatic, I guess-- I really can do it in my sleep.

It took me half an hour to decide what to wear. My principal decided that casual Fridays shouldn't really include jeans anymore, but he never really said we couldn't wear jeans. And my jeans are nice, new, Gap jeans. I put them on and passed on the shirt emblazoned with our school mascot. When I got to school, it seemed like that's all anyone is wearing. I felt like a rebel. Then I walked past my principal and felt guilty. Over a shirt.

Meetings all morning. Again. Freshmen the rest of the day. Pep rally in the afternoon (I locked myself in my room and made the reading quiz for my AP classes instead).

At 2:40, I was in my car. At 3:00, I was home, and the first week was over.

And you know? Despite the zombie fog I'm currently experiencing due to lack of sleep-- it was a really great week.