Monthly Archives: May 2013

Once Upon a Time: A Tale of Teen Boys

Once upon a time, I managed to get an A in a class without reading the required text:


And then I was hired to teach… that same class. Guess which book they still use? Yeah. That one. Now I have to actually read it. Like read, read it. And try to make it comprehensible for my students.

Then again, once upon a time, not so very long ago, I was unemployed, and somewhat freaked out about that. And then I had four jobs, three of which I am paid for, and which I love enough that I would probably do for free anyway, should funding for education totally run out… (Shhhh. Don’t tell Payroll, or the Legislature.)

Crazy, I know. But I would–even though time is flying and my kids are growing and changing so fast that where once upon a time there were sippy cups and tricycles constantly littering my porch, now there are random automotive parts. I discovered this when I emerged from my front door for the first time in months today after an 8 hour stint of writing yet another syllabus (I generally go in and out the backdoor):



Since when do my children buy 5 ton pickups instead of dollar-store water guns? Was it when mowing lawns for the neighbors turned into this?

photo (37)

I took that picture the day before Mother’s day. Because seeing my boys working like that is better than a bouquet. It redeems my faith in them when I see things like this:



It’s been sitting in his doorway for almost six months now. I moved it from beside the front door, six months before that, and positioned it there as a gentle hint. I only wish I were kidding.  And yes, that’s an exterior door. He may or may not have soundproofed his room. And yes, he built his own room, this year–wired, sheetrocked, taped, textured, trimmed out, and painted his own room. And built a closet, and put in two doors. But the backpack filled with all the academic detritus of his eighth grade year is still sitting in his doorway. A year later.


And I thought “Sociolinguistics: The Essential Readings” was hard to figure out.


English Teachers Who Deserve Unprintable Fates

My son’s English teacher is making him write and sing a solo in front of the class this week.

Because a 12 year old boy is not already self-conscious enough as it is?

Because he doesn’t already hate your class passionately enough?

What language standard could you possibly be aiming to meet with this assignment?

This school already forces my son to take choir two quarters a year–where even the choir teacher stops at making them sing duets in front of the class–duets that are written for them.

This is the same man who made my son write an essay about how much he loves dogs–even though he hates dogs. He got a zero for writing about how much he loves cats–because apparently an A student has to love dogs, not cats.

This is the same man who gives him zeros for drawing inferences from a story that aren’t in the answer key, and that I would never have thought of, but are actually quite brilliant.

This is the man who says an assignment is due Friday, but students must start serving detentions on Tuesday if it isn’t done. But if students turn it in early, and he loses it, then it’s the student’s problem, not his. And if you turn it in early, but he decides to add another requirement to it Thursday, then you also get zero.

And now his students have to sing solos?


I hate to be that parent, but I don’t know if I can make it peacefully three more weeks until the end of the semester.

Jiminy Cricket

Jiminy Cricket has taken up residence in my kitchen.

He was singing enthusiastically this morning at three. I think he is trying to prick the region of my conscience that pertains to cleaning. Particularly places like the underbelly of my refrigerator.

At four, I was beginning to be swayed; he has quite a voice for someone small enough to hide under my fridge. I was beginning to wonder if maybe there was such a thing as invisible, ten-foot tall crickets.

There was no other explanation for the sheer volume of the thing. But now the night is past, and Jim has become silent. I’m hoping he just dies. And turns to dust.

My conscience refuses to be pricked.

I mean, really: how much of my life do you expect me to devote to cleaning places I only see once every five years or so when the appliance gods throw a wrench my way?

Speaking of (thank those very Gods) my washing machine bit the dust two weeks ago, and just in the nick of time: the warranty expired this week.

Thus Sears, and not I, paid the $1600 repair bill on my $800 machine.

They didn’t want to just replace the machine, because then it wouldn’t match my $700 dryer. So they just rebuilt the entire thing.

Makes perfect sense.

A friendly representative from their warranty department called me on Wednesday to offer a special limited-time rate on renewing my warranty for a full year–an entire 12 months. The cost to me? Only $750.

For record-keeping purposes, she asked the reason for my refusal.

I told her my firstborn was being held hostage by an alien race of giant crickets, and while I hated to pass up such an incredible deal, I was just going to have to gamble that the appliance gods would smile on me for one more year; I need every spare $750 I’ve got lying around, for ransom.

Stumbling Block

Observations for the fourth of May:

  • You know you’re a good parent when your children use words like “paltry” and “superfluous” in casual text messages home.
  • You may doubt you’re a good parent when you investigate the odd ratio of backpacks to children in your home and realize that one of them has been unemptied for almost an entire year.  That’s right: It’s been hanging around since June of last year.
  • You may also doubt you are a good parent when the pile of items you place directly in the center of your son’s doorway does not act as a gentle hint for him to put them away, but rather becomes part of his landscape… for 19 weeks.  Seriously. He’s still stepping over it.
  • You know the universe is aligned in your favor when your washing machine breaks down 10 days before the warranty expires–and repairs otherwise would have cost $1600.
  • Vinegar does not actually remove hard water deposits from windows. Or Windex. Or CLR. Or any toxic combination of all three. Are there windows that come with the stains built in? Is that a thing?


I like my students. I really do.

I, in fact, like most people. It’s pretty hard to get on my bad side.

The problem is, that when you push me far enough, long enough, I don’t get grumpy. I never let on how very annoying I think you are.

In fact, for a while, I’ll even feel guilty for allowing you to annoy me.

But then I’ll snap.

Very silently, but with great vengeance.

I will invent the most insidious ways of making your life miserable—and I will do it in such a way that I come out of the encounter lily-white and you will have no one but yourself to blame. The good news is that as soon as I see your misery, I like you again. And usually I feel really bad about making you miserable and I want to make you feel better.

Yesterday, I was vexed enough to design an assignment for the grade book called “Use of Class Time”  that I knew a specific segment of the class would fail miserably, even though I have ample justification for it both in my syllabus and from my (repeatedly) stated expectations.

And then I triple-weighted it in the grade book, just for good measure.

Grades plummeted. There was much shock and awe.

Apparently they keep tabs on their grades daily. (Remember when we were kids and we found out what our grade was on the last day of school?)

Today I feel kind of bad, but I don’t know if I should: Clearly, many of them learned something valuable about future expectations. (Whether or not they live up to them is yet to be seen.)

But at that same time, I feel like maybe I am at fault, too. I allowed them to push me that far. I didn’t lay down the law at the first sign of trouble, and stick to it, day after day. Being flexible gets the kids to meet you halfway many times—but maybe I gave them too much leeway, and I’m not sure how fair it is of me to enforce rules I’ve been allowing them to bend for so long.


Next semester, I really need to be grouchier, right from the start.

(Didn’t I say that this time, last semester?)