Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Things You Should Not Do In Class

I know it's difficult to determine just what is appropriate for class. I remember struggling to decide if eating Cheerios in my Rhetoric class was appropriate. I decided that the threatening glares from my prof were a hint and left the Cheerios at home. Here are a few tips in case you were wondering:

1. Do not clip your fingernails or your cuticles in class.
2. Do not Instant Message your girlfriend/boyfriend while using your laptop to take notes.
3. Do not yawn audibly (this is even more obnoxious when the offender leans back onto the desk of the person behind him/her).
4. Do not hit people in the face.
5. Do not raise your hand to ask when you go to lunch (duh, you go the same time every day) in the middle of an important discussion about the universal meaning of all literature.
6. Do not attempt to prove the professor/teacher wrong if you don't know what you're talking about. This should be avoided especially when you are arguing with the professor/teacher about the "F" you got on your paper in front of the entire class.

To be continued...

Monday, November 26, 2007

let's give 'em something to talk about

Sometimes I really should just not say things. There are really things that should not be said. I find, just one year older, that I'm more resilient to the opinions of others. I won't mention names or circumstances about how I, with my step-father-in-law, inserted my foot into my mouth. Working with high school students has it's perks; the acquired bluntness is not one of them.

PS: Do not use the phrase "what happens in Vegas" while entertaining your in laws. Really. Don't.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sippin' on Grandpa's Cough Syrup

If you've ever met my Gram, she's the picture of most of the things I want to be some day. She's elegant and well read. She has excellent taste in food, clothes, and her house puts those home remodelling shows to shame. I've never seen such eclectic and classy style all in one place. She has an eye for color, a nose for good martinis, and a shoe collection that would make most women faint. These things pale in comparison, of course, to her charm, her humor, and her quick wit. I come from a family of fast-talking, ice selling (you've heard the joke, he can sell ice to Eskimos), smooth operating salesmen. These men are tight with their money, relentless with their sarcasm, and some of the most charming men I know. My Gram has learned to run along side her husband for the last 60+ years. She keeps him in line, makes sure he's well dressed**, can survive his frugal ways and his sarcasm. These days, she's mostly confined to a recliner where she sits looking out at a golf course all day. She remains one of the most well coiffed women I know. She seems to sleep in such a way that her weekly make up application and hair dos are undisturbed when she slumbers. She also says the darndest things. Here's a conversation from my last visit:
Gram: Richie dear, when should we expect visitors for Thanksgiving dinner
Richie (my grandfather): We'll I think people should start arriving around 4PM. We'll start our cocktail hour then.
Gram: What time do you expect to serve dinner?
Richie: Well, I'm not sure Gram. What do you think?
Gram: Don't wait too long. If you have a long cocktail hour, the whole family*** will be smashed by dinner.

Now let me give you some context here. Without going into details, I'll say that I come from a family who likes to drink and tell stories at holidays. Not your plucky family stories about the time you [insert mildly embarrassing moment here]. These are the stories that turn your ears red, the stories you'd think were "safe" with family. With the motto, "Work hard, play harder," it's no surprise that the family coat of arms has been replaced with a family drink, the whiskey sour.

**This year, my grandfather was not dressed by my grandmother. He traded comfort for fashion and sported some black elastic waist velour pants with his dress shirt and his tie tucked into pants. He was so precious.

***In Mr. Pete's defence, he never really indulges in the whiskey sours.

Birthday Girl

I just turned the big 2-? and I'm pretty stoked about being that much closer to 30. It was a fun filled birthday complete with delicious sweets and a mini spa day from Mr. Pete.

This was the first birthday when I didn't have time to retreat to my favorite coffee shop for an annual time of reflection and journaling. Mr. Pete and I had a packed holiday schedule and decided to host a little soiree in the new abode. I usually spend my time rereading my journal from the year and reflecting on how quickly time passes. This has been a big year: we bought our first house, I taught my first college class, Mr. Pete started grad school, we celebrated two years of marriage, I started my sixth year of teaching, and I bought a Swiffer (hey it changed my life). Needless to say, we've had some monumental changes.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


In her article, "Rethinking How to Teach New Teachers," Denise Caruso validates the profession of teaching:
"Economic research shows that an educated work force is the foundation of a stable economy. A good education does more than just increase a person’s earning potential. Studies find that regions that produce well-educated high school graduates have a higher rate of business start-ups and more economic activity. Graduates also provide communities with a continuing pool of taxpaying labor.

As teacher rosters shrink, the question is this: How long will such regions be able to hold onto those benefits?

The well-known liabilities of teaching — low pay, overcrowded classrooms and crippling budget constraints — have led recent graduates to opt for more lucrative career options."

I've never thought of teaching so pragmatically. I've never thought that the local economy would be impacted not only by the rating our district receives on a report card, but by our students returning to give back to their community in a very tangible way.

I remember in middle school staying up late on the phone with my friend Andrea. We were two little suburbanites who thought we knew what the world's troubles were and we were the smart girls who would grow to be smart young women who changed the world. I ran into Andrea a few years ago at a happy hour and we reminisced about those conversations. She said, "well you're doing it."

Sometimes it just doesn't feel like change. Today I cleaned up chocolate smeared on my floor, I answered the same question at least 15 times, and someone breathed "b****" under their breath in a subtle way when I wouldn't let them move seats. That doesn't change the world.

Tonight, our local Chipotle had a school fundraiser. I met up with my homeroom class of about ten students for what I called a "family dinner." We sat around a table "smashing" burritos (that's teenager for eating something up) and giggling. I watched a young man let the ladies in line go ahead of him. I watched people say "please" and "thank you". One young lady was laughing so hard at the end of the night, she was crying. Something's got to change when you sit down with your teacher and smash burritos. Racial lines were blurred, rice and beans were flying, and I was connected with my students. I can only hope that a little carbo loading and giggling will some day change the world.

PS: Mr. Pete went. He is the best husband in the whole wide world.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Home Improvement projects 34 and 35 of 90,000

One of the reasons I started a blog was to document the new home ownership experience. It's fun to have something of your own. When I lived in an apartment, I looked forward to buying new dish towels to experience the sense of satisfaction one receives for making something in his/her life better. Since we've moved in we've done mostly wall and floor stuff like painting and finishing floors. The real improvements, I think, are in the details. Like, it's really great to have curtains on the back sliding doors so I don't imagine someone is out there every night after 6:30 now when it gets dark. One of my first projects was to change out the door hardware. Let me tell you, oh joy! I've compared teaching the first months of school to walking through a sandstorm with your eyes open. I'm thinking I'll need to come up with a metaphor for fixing the silly mistakes previous homeowners made carelessly while fixing their 100+ year old house. My latest two projects were really fun. The first one was the best. I went to Home Depot and picked out lights to project light onto dirty dishes in the sink. I say it was a great project because, after a fruitless trip to pick out furniture, I insisted that we install the new lights. Mr. Pete started them and I went upstairs to "do-some-work." I came down only to criticize his work and screw in a few screws. Essentially, nothing. The great thing is the after show here. I mean it really made a big difference. The other project I really worked on. I mean it. There were several trips to several homegoods stores until I finally picked a roman shade (said with thick accent) from Target (pronounced by my mom and sister as tar-jay). It was tough stuff. I installed the shades on a metal door. There were power tools involved, and no, not the kind with batteries. We're talking power tools here people. Notice the killer brackets and final product.

Oh yeah, and that door hardware, that's my work too.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Will Okun has this blog over at NYtimes.com It's great because he's a teacher and he's a photographer and I really dig his stuff. I've linked it here if you want to check it out. Here's a quote from today's post titled "Understand":

"Although I am exhausted and frustrated, I am still passionate about teaching and I care deeply for the students I teach. I am saddened to consider that my race potentially limits my effectiveness in the classroom. But truth be told, I can feel an awkward disconnect between the students and me on an almost daily basis."

Now I'm not sure I feel an awkward disconnect on a daily basis but I do feel different. It's frustrating at times to know that students make assumptions about me because of my race. I guess it's even more frustrating to me to know that other people will make assumptions about them because of their race.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Say Chaise

I can't quite figure out how I've survived the last few years of my adult life with all the decisions I've had to make. Job, husband, house, grad school...the list could go on forever. Since Mr. Pete and I have reached the "must have somewhere to sit" phase of new home ownership, I've realized just how picky I am. Most of our furniture is hand-me-down. We've been saving up to take the plunge into adult- looking matching furniture.
It was quite a productive weekend. We finally found some furniture we could both agree on that wasn't going to break the bank (ie. give Mr. Pete a heart attack). We found both a couch and a chair. Imagine a chocolate brown couch with a paisley chair. Mr. Pete's face was priceless after we made the big purchase. It was like 'Hey, I picked out the furniture and I'm outta here. I'll leave the mirror/picture/accessory picking out to you'.
I didn't realize how most furniture salespeople (in those chain-like furniture stores) are like car salespeople. Here's a summary of the conversations we've had with salespeople lately.
Couch-o-Rama Sales Person (aka. chain store salesperson): How can I help you folks today?
Inexperience and indecisive young professional(s): Hmmm I'm looking for a new sofa.
CORSP: some kind of random tirade about springs and glue
IIYP: Yeah I'm looking for something attractive and functional
CORSP: We don't carry those
IIYP: Hmmm
CORSP: Let me try to sell you a wrinkly cotton couch instead
IIYP: Ok, let's take a look around.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Couched in Impatience

I really can't believe just how difficult it is to find a suitable couch. I didn't think I had high expectations. I wanted something attractive, well made, and comfortable. This is coming from someone who house hunted for four months during the best buyers' market in years. Hmmmphh. I'm afraid to say, at this point, I'll take almost anything.