Monthly Archives: November 2013


Today the principal was in my room for 90 minutes.

After 10 minutes of direct instruction to the class, I noticed one of my students madly waving her hand. She wanted to whisper something in my ear, so I bent over to listen.

Her message: “Your zipper is open!!”

It went downhill from there for about 40 more minutes. My kids just weren’t engaged. They were playing along for my sake, I suppose, but nobody was connected.  It wasn’t until I decided it couldn’t get any worse, so tossed the pre-approved lesson plan and went extemporaneous for the rest of the class that we clicked into our usual groove.

Earlier in the week, I asked my fourth period to watch this video: and then they talked about what motivates them to try new things or to excel in school.

I spent the next 90 minutes in silence, just listening to the raw and sometimes emotional opinions of 30 odd teens who want to achieve brilliant things, but feel smothered by an outdated education system.

Now I’m off to a three hour class with 20 other teachers/administrators who maybe feel the same way my students do–who feel like maybe they are standing, every day, in front of not only an entire room of teenagers, but entire schools and communities unprepared, with a zipper undone.  I haven’t hardly slept in days (yes, Meg needed me to cut her hair, fix her dress, move the waistband in her dress, and print her travel documents the night before she left) and I’m coming down with some kind of flu. But this thing–this muddling through a doctoral program aimed at really changing educational paradigms–feels like it might be worth it.


Happy Meggledays

Last Sunday, we had an early holiday dinner at our house–turkey, stuffing, pie, 36 small, shrill children, etc. My daughter is leaving for Mexico this week, and will miss the next two Thanksgivings and Christmases at home so we gave it one last hoorah before she left. 

Yesterday, we also sprung a mini-Christmas morning. 

We called them, respectively Megsgiving and Megsmas. 

Today, she’s transferring her bank accounts into my name, and maybe teaching her brother how to drive her car.

Hopefully, at some point, she cleans her room. When I came home from work today, her 14 year old brother was cleaning his 10 year old brother’s pit of despair room, in anticipation that when she leaves, he will banish the 10 year old to her less desirable room, and then take over the corner suite himself. 

This may sound convoluted to you, but their territorial wars make all sorts of sense to them. And any man with a broom in his hand calls the shots, if you ask me. (Which he didn’t, but then again, he’s got the broom.) 

I’m hoping room cleaning/stuff storing makes it to the top of her list tomorrow, or the ten year old will have a legitimate excuse to sleep on the couch–which is his preferred locale–until I get a chance to purge clean her room myself, and we all know that will be shortly before she comes home. If I’m lucky.


Wednesday, at six o’clock in the morning, we put her on an airplane. Well, make that: at five, we probably watch her go through the security gate, and she puts herself on an airplane. ‘Cuz she’s an adult and all that.

People keep asking me if I’m nervous to see her go. I don’t know if it makes me a good parent or a bad parent that I’m not–I know she’s totally cut out for whatever challenge comes her way. Sometimes I get a little emotional, at unexpected moments, but that probably has more to do with sleep deprivation than anything else. 

What I’m most nervous about, actually, is rather ridiculous: It’s the letter writing–and I don’t know why writing actual weekly, paper letters–as opposed to emails or letters–to my own kid would be intimidating, but it is.  There’s something about committing it to paper that is so much more serious than writing an email or a text.



I overheard an interesting conversation the other night. A frustrated parent expressed the opinion that one of her children’s teachers had to be (and I quote) “The Laziest Teacher In Existence.” Maybe your child has had a teacher who you thought deserved that appellation; I know I’ve suspected the same thing.

Now that I am a teacher, I have new perspectives, but yes, I still think some teachers are lazy.

Having said that, her comment that this teacher, “probably doesn’t spend one minute more than her contracted seven hours a day” rings a bit strange to me.

If your school board has contracted with your son’s teacher to work 180 days a year, for 7 hours a day and to pay them x amount of dollars to do that, why do you feel qualified to measure out how many additional hours that teacher should actually be working?

And since you aren’t qualified to specify that, shouldn’t you be complaining instead that the wages are too high, and not that the teacher doesn’t take enough work home at the end of the day with her? She’s filling her contract. Argue with the contract, not the teacher.

Argue that she is overpaid and under-worked.

But first, job shadow her for a couple of weeks. Arrive and leave at the same time she does. Weigh her bag coming and going. Listen in to the conversations she has with parents and administrators. Take a peek at the regulations she has to satisfy. Ask her how much of her “vacations” are actually spent vacationing and not planning or grading papers. Ask her how much the mandatory, ongoing training will cost her throughout her career. Ask her how much of her salary she spends on buying her student’s supplies for them.

Then tell me how overpaid you think she really is.

I dare you.

Out of the Mouths of Seniors

My speech and debate class have been giving speeches the last few days. 

Today I had a beautiful, poised girl give a speech on body modification–as in piercing, tattoos, ear stretching, and scarification. She began by warning us about all the inherent dangers, plus potential employment and/or credibility related problems in the future. The irony is that this girl has more modified body parts than I have natural digits. 

I kind of wanted to cry.  She is so beautiful. So smart. Such poise–and she understands exactly what the risks and consequences of her decisions are. But on it goes. She invited me to touch her blown out ear. 

Then there’s the exchange student from Columbia who gave a presentation on all the beautiful, wonderful things about her country, because she can see the prejudice in American eyes when she says, “Columbia.” It was a stunning presentation–and her English was almost flawless.

There was a boy who rarely speaks. Who sits at the back when he comes, and who got up and kept his head down while he began. But then suddenly he threw his head back, let go of the podium and his notes, asked for a whiteboard marker, and presented about the most effective ways to the most out of your cannabis. He spoke at length on its almost miraculous properties–and drew detailed diagrams on the board regarding technique. It was the most alive I’ve seen him all year.

He began shaking like a leaf when he sat down, and I thought he might cry.

It took courage for him to speak at all.  So what if it took this topic to crack him out of his shell? Was that wrong to permit a mini Weed101 course in my fourth period?

He put up his hand at the end of class.

“Mrs. Lybbert?”


“Are you going to give a speech?”


The entire class chimed in that it’s only fair–if I expect them to do it, I should too.  And so far, this year, I have–everything I’ve asked them to do, I’ve done first, because I know how terrifying it is to get up in front of people and tell an impromptu story or argue on the side of a debate I don’t agree with.  But a speech. 


Topics anyone?

(What Didn’t Come) Out of the Mouths of Juniors

My Juniors were playing a vocabulary game. Round one, they can say anything except the word they’ve drawn out of a hat, in an attempt to get their team to guess the word. So… “Something you eat soup with,” and your team correctly guesses, “Spoon.”

Round two, we put all the words back in the hat, and start over, but this time they can only say one word in order to get their team to guess. They might say “Soup!” to get you to guess spoon.

Round three, they cannot use any words at all–it’s like charades, but you’ve heard the words twice already. 

It’s round three and a young man is pointing frantically at me as the timer runs down. It’s the first time we’ve played the game, so we’re using pretty basic words, just so they get the general idea of how to play. 

The time is ticking…

Nobody can figure out what word he’s getting at, even though they’ve had all these words several times in the last ten minutes. 

Finally the timer goes off, and he reveals his word. 

It’s “beautiful”.

Out of the Mouths of Sophomores

“Mrs. Lybbert, how long does it have to be?”

“Uh… However long it takes you to meet the requirements of the rubric?”

“No. Like just tell me how long it has to be.”

“Okay. One page.”

What?? Like a one full page?”


“Have you seen the size of my paper?”

A ‘Peace’ of My Mind

Well, hello… . (Don’t I know you?)

I started off this school year madly in love with my students. I walked into the school every day buoyant, and came home energized.  That lasted about six weeks before exhaustion set in. I then limped toward the midpoint of the semester, staying up  so late, so many nights, that on Wednesday, I was actually hallucinating as I tried to post midterm grades. Most bizarre experience of my life.

Life’s been crazy on many fronts, just like yours, probably. I’m working three different jobs, have six children, and am in the midst of working on my doctorate. Duh.

But wait, there’s more.

We’ve had to call a tow truck several times in the last month, and not all for the same car. At one point, we were down to one vehicle for five drivers. Boo-hoo, I know. Something like 93% of the world’s population doesn’t own any car at all.  My own family rarely had private transportation when I was a child. (Then again, our town had public transportation, and I think only one of us ever had a job at any given moment.)

But back to my sob story, such as it is:

Daughter one still isn’t ready to leave for an 18 month stay in Mexico–mostly because I forgot to make the appointments and order all things necessary in time.

She leaves in two weeks.

But. The totaled van is back from the body shop. Son 3 has reattached and replaced the most critical of various missing hoses and clamps that apparently the body shop knows less about than a sixteen year old boy.

 Husband is finally back from an impromptu, two-and-a-half week trip. Impromptu, as in… hang-up-the-phone-and-ask-your-wife-nonchalantly: “Hey, can you drive me to the airport in the morning?”

“The airport? What? Why?”

Because an old high school friend would like you to come over and draw blueprints.

In Abu Dhabi.



It got really weird here this fall. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. One day I even found myself staring at an email, unable to determine if the demands of the situation required that I write “peace” or “piece”.

Maybe I’ll tell you more.


Or maybe you won’t hear from me again until January.

Hard to say.