Monthly Archives: December 2011



My computer came back from the black hole at HP repair. Just in time for a new year and a new experience at Frontier Middle School, teaching language arts to sixth graders.

Until then I’m fidgety. Unable to settle down an accomplish anything. Last week I had my sis-in-law’s kitchen to tile–there were people waiting on me, brother-in-laws to not tick off. This week? Meh. No motivation. I get on the treadmill. I get in the shower. I load the dishwasher when nothing else will fit in the sink. I eat a lot of calorie-dense foods and occasionally I pick up stray objects and put them away. Mostly I just step over them. Thread my way through the six-kids-home-on-a-two-week-vacation chaos.  I eye all the unfinished projects I started weeks ago. It occurs to me that if a natural or man-made disaster struck and destroyed said projects I would feel nothing but relief.

So why don’t I just get rid of them?

Blasted garbage can is full.

Maybe I’ll go eat some peanuts and wander around looking for ways to annoy my children.


Friday: Need I Say More?

Let me just admit that I don’t have the widest ranging professional wardrobe, yet.

I did, after all, come into this profession after something like 17 years of wiping up snot and other leaky bodily fluids.

But that’s the great thing about subbing, see: I can wear the same thing every day if I sub in a different classroom, or building. Not even the most observant little children are going to pause on their way past me at the door, narrow their eyes, and say… Hey… isn’t that the same shirt you wore yesterday?

Not that, in the grand scheme of things, wardrobe really matters. I mean, unless you are the prime minister of Canada. (Then again, maybe he’s on to something there.)

Funny thing is, as I was looking through my daughter’s closet this morning, I used this reasoning: Hmm. Yes, I wore this Monday to sub for Social Studies, but since then, I’ve never even made it out of the locker room/gym until it’s time to put on my coat and go home… So. None of these sharp-eyed teens are going to notice.


I even wore the same necklace.

And wouldn’t you know it? First thing I got asked to do upon entering the office this morning was to fill in for the same Social Studies class I subbed in on Monday, today, during my prep period for gym.

And yes, they noticed. My daughter has excellent taste–her slightly younger peers admire her wardrobe, even if I wear certain ensembles twice in one week. (Not that I would raid her closet/necklace rack while she’s out of town for ten days.)

Then again, these students also tell me, several times a day, that I have beautiful eyes–and since nobody has ever pointed this out to me in the previous three decades+ of my conscious memory–there is a distinct possibility that their flattery has ulterior motives.

Which, in the interests of my own self esteem, I will choose to ignore.

I have, after all, made it through an enter week of middle school. Now I just have to send out my Christmas cards… or, alternatively–and much more efficient–simply tuck them away, out of sight, with the ones from last year…

Days Two and Three

On day two of middle school PE, I took myself by the collar, looked deep into my own soul, and told myself to get a grip. (And then I prayed, really hard.)

Whether it was divine intervention or bootstrap determination, I had a totally different experience. Mostly because I decided to believe it would be, I think. And… I kind of knew what was going on. Especially today–I even learned all the names of the students in second period. (Yeah, I know–there should be some sort of congressional medal of honor for teachers who do that consistently!)

I did break out the Sharpie Wednesday and post team rotations–but only on paper. This worked spectacularly, except during warm ups. I didn’t realize the incredible magnetism of a handwritten note on the wall. They were powerless to resist. It turned running warm up laps into an exercise in traffic direction. After he hollered at students for rubbernecking instead of running for about the millionth time, the other PE teacher who shares the gym with us during warm ups asked me to never, ever, post another list on the gym wall.

Today I waited until after the other class left before posting, and all was well. (If you don’t count the three almost-fist-fights that arose over trivial offenses and profanity-laced death threats. And the kid who disappeared without a trace ten minutes into class.)

The thing is, I’m no longer frightened. I am who I am; I’m not your regular teacher, I’m not a mind reader, and I don’t know how every little thing is supposed to work at your school. But I am the adult responsible for your safety, today. These are the rules, and this is why, and yes, please come talk to me about it, if you like. I’ll see what I can do.

The thing I realized is that almost without exception, teens just want to be treated like people–and most of them don’t have any desire to make waves. When I decided that no matter how bored he looks, or how far down his thighs he wears his pants, or how narrow she slits her eyes at me while I’m talking, I’m going to refuse to be intimidated, annoyed, or flustered–that was when I finally found my footing in the classroom. That cavernous, acoustically ridiculous classroom.  Which I no longer have to yell to be heard in–because now I just point at the chart on the wall.

For those times when yelling is essential, I’ve learned PE teacher speak: A simple, “Nets in!” or,  “Game two!” was all it took. And they did it. Even when it involved push ups. Well, except for the kid who just disappeared and never came back, but apparently that’s normal for him.

Nice that I got it figured out on the last day of the tournament. Tomorrow we’re on to something new.

I think it involves all of the PE classes at the same time, which will be good, because even the veteran teachers don’t know every kid’s name, so nobody will care if I occasionally yell, “Hey! YOU!”

Armed and Nameless

Seventh grade social studies and me: Yes. Proven doable. Yesterday, in fact.

This morning at 4:05, the question was: Middle school Physical Education? For the next six school days?

And in a foggy, just-woke-up way, I decided: How hard can it be? What do I have to do, watch them run around in circles and remind them to tie their shoelaces? I can do that for six days, right?


First of all, there are like, 70 of them in the gym at one time. Close to 90% of them of bigger than me, and all of them are armed.

It wasn’t so bad when they were in the locker room, asking me to tie/untie their shoes. (Eighth graders. Who knew?) At least then they moved about in little clumps and you could identify them because somebody was always yelling at somebody else–by name–to get their attention. 

Things got complicated when I realized I was somehow supposed to merge three separate lists into an organized round-robin tournament that will last for the rest of the week. As in: the week I will be here, and so I can’t just fake it until the bell rings and let the regular teacher sort out the mess. She wants to know who won. And she wants specific kids playing other kids in a specific order determined by some complicated algorithm that only PE teachers must be trained to comprehend.

Class roster? Yes.

Little numbers randomly listed (not in order) beside the names on that roster? Yes. 

Columns and columns of other numbers that should somehow correspond to both the roster, and the courts? Yep.

My job was to not only sort out which numbers went with which names, but which names went with which faces.

And then try to make all that happen in the real world. With a large group of identically dressed people, all wantonly swinging racquets–none of whom I know by name. In an acoustical nightmare of a gymnasium.

Tomorrow I think I’m going to take a Sharpie into the gymnasium and label the floor. 


You’re right, that would cause problems when it came time to switch courts… 

Never you fear. A brilliant idea is… just… almost… right within my grasp.




Where I’ve Been Lately: A Screenshot


Not opening dozens of tabs on my computer screen.

(Well, that too. Those have all been open for weeks now. I have this irrational fear that if I just bookmark those journal articles I will somehow not be able to find them again.)

But seriously, look at that list!

Those are all courses I’ve taken in the last year and a half–I just took a break from thesis writing to see if any grades had been posted yet, and for the first time, I think, realized how very many classes I’ve slogged through in the past 18 months working towards these degrees.

Good night!

(Ha! I wish.)

Sleeping Naked

Daughter gave me my Christmas present early this year–on the condition that I promise to never wear my old ones again.

I admit I violated conditions, post unwrapping, but only because these are so comfortable you actually feel like you’re sleeping naked; I wouldn’t dare wear them out in the service of any other activity–and we all know that most household chores are best accomplished in pajamas:

(No, that’s not me, but you get the idea.)

Pajama’s from PJ Salvage–if you haven’t heard of them before, you have now. They are ridiculously expensive, but mmmmmmm…..

Feel Free To Speculate

Feel Free To Speculate

Yes, that’s a ceramic plate.


First day subbing at MLHS. Remedial English for Frenshmen and Seniors.

Way. Better. Than. Elementary.

Or maybe just better than the other district I was subbing in?

Why does everyone get hysterical and warn me away from teaching high school?

Maybe I just had a charmed first experience; I’ll be back tomorrow for another day, same students, same classes, so we’ll see.