31 May 2006 

Not Laughing.


The asshole in me is summoned. My face looks overwhelmed. Nothing is quite right. Closure moves to fast - but the packing is not fast enough. I'm thirsty all the time. Cats are always trying to run out of the opening and closing doors. Then I sweat. A lot. Gross. The shower feels rewarding, though.

I'm too tried to sing in the car during the four hour drive. Only left with more tiring thoughts of endings, because my mind still won't be ready to think about beginnings.

Let's not forget the new feeling of being overwhelmed from the quickly packed boxes once we arrive at my parents' place: only to be repacked for Phili, then repacked for Baltimore, then some things assimilated "naturally" into our split level family home, and other things repacked for disposal.

Pictures break. Things go missing. Furniture nearly takes out people. You get it.

Oh yeah - there's almost nothing to laugh about when moving.

30 May 2006 

Ambien CR = friend for the next three weeks

Two days left with my laughter-embedded students and my ugly ass classroom.

Four days left with friends who know me better than anyone ever has, and I'm finally okay with that.

I suddenly don't feel one bit excited for leaving and this opportunity. Laura and I were talking and walking when we both decided we like the friends we have and don't want new ones. Okay so that's only sort of true. However, I must be tired/overwhelmed/depressed, because I don't feel motivated to put all the work and risk into new people. It's not the city or the distance, it's leaving the people I love (and it's only a few that I'm leaving behind in this little town - few but mighty) that is making my heart race while I force my eyes shut.

I hope Thursday night brings the closure I need to leave a wake of contentment.

29 May 2006 

5 Things

5 Things
I was tagged by Jess!

5 Things in my Fridge
1. Yogurt
2. Apples
3. Milk
4. Dr. Pepper
5. Cheeses

5 Things in my Closet
1. Dirty laundry
2. Shoes
3. Old campaign paperwork from Frank Moe
4. Plastic tower full of junk
5. Garbage can

5 Things in my Purse
1. iPod
2. Wallet
3. Keys to classroom
4. Chapstick - regular kind
5. Tampons

5 Things in my Car
1. Lavender car spray
2. Kip from Napolean
3. Softball & Glove
4. Empty coffee cup
5. Badminton set

5 Things I wish I was doing right now
1. Drinking coffee at a coffee shop with reasonable hours
2. Making out
3. Laughing louder
4. Drinking beer or wine or a margarita
5. Hanging out with Dan/Nathan

5 Things I like most about my bedroom
1. The sage green bedsheets
2. My mattress - nice and firm
3. Pictures and wall hangings from South Africa
4. The two cats sleeping on my bed
5. The music it emits

I'm tagging:



Monday I told my students I wasn't coming back next year. They were proud of me. A few boys were mad. I told students Monday to give them two weeks to digest the inevitable and allow time for questions to be answered. I sound really full of myself, and maybe I have made a big deal out of it for myself more than them, but when you endure extreme amounts of tragedy, pain, joy, and exhaustion a bond is cemented. Out of respect for what was built, they deserved time to ask questions.

On Tuesday, those same boys came around with their grief and questions and understanding natures. It hurts walking away from them. It pains to not get to see them flourish their senior year. That loss of investment creates a knot in my stomach and sleeplessness.

On Wednesday the last edition of the newspaper came out. Fabulous. It's our best so far. I'm entering the newspaper into a bunch of contests. We have nothing to lose.

The advisor position for the newspaper has been secured with a teacher I respect, tremendously. The newspaper staff was concerned about the continuation of our paper. As the advisor is new, I'm sending his staff members to as many workshops as possible this summer so they feel like experts.

I also found out I received the job I wanted in Baltimore. I have huge shoes to fill, but I'm starting to see how my personality is unknowingly paving a path into journalism education. It's time to knowingly harness that drive.

Then I celebrated hardcore that night with friends I'm not ready to leave. I'm dealing with the loss of my students and coworkers, but I'm not doing so well with the loss of my friends from work and college.

On Friday I rallied for free yearbooks and won. I also was invited to my principal's house for dinner to meet his family, because he thinks I'm cool. It's a mutual feeling. The day ended at school with me anxiously awaiting the yearbook shipment.

Despite a few errors, the book looks great. I can't wait for dispersement on Wednesday.

I camped all weekend with friends. We took a small hiatus to run up to the school for graduation. In the end, it was a lot harder to see them leave high school than I thought - reason #1 parenting seems way too scary. I can't stress enough how much we all felt like family. Some are going to college some are going nowhere, and that mixture is bittersweet.

The valedictorian gave props to me and my friends/cool coworkers in his speech. While teaching isn't about affirmation from students, it sure doesn't hurt the motivation of a teacher.

Camping continued along with jovial actions.

This week is going to be a blur, much like the rest of my summer. I haven't even really processed everything. I can only recount events; I don't quite know what they mean yet.

20 May 2006 


Possibly because my own family has not gone far in post-secondary education, I am a failure avoider. I remember crying, my senior year in high school, in my favorite teacher's classroom. I was freaked out by college. I knew I had to go, but nobody I knew had ever made it through.

I traversed through the courses in college easier than expected. I found I was equiped to succeed, and I had no reason for fear.

However, that first-generation complex doesn't go away, I discovered. Even when I was accepted into T*FA, I was genuinely surprised. How could I, a state university student, beat out ritzy Harvard grads?

I applied with passion. That's what did it.

So now I sit here, reading the hours of curriculum that must be finished before Institute this summer, and am totally surprising myself. I'm specifically reading about reasons why the achievement gap exists, only to find out that I have already taught all of this stuff to myself. Of course that is thanks to a certain crusty professor who gave me the freedom to explore what I cared about in his courses.

I applied myself in his courses with passion.

I'm about to learn how to turn the achievement gap around. That's what I didn't know how to figure out on my own and my education department ignored.

Yet again, the complex arises. As part of my acceptance I have the opportunity to attend JHU in Baltimore. My own research discovered that it's one of the best education grad schools in the country. I may even be able to receive an advanced masters degree, but I find myself doubting if I'm smart enough to do it and well.

I do this all the time. And I encounter it every day at school when students doubt themselves and I TALK THEM THROUGH THEIR SELF-DOUBTING. Now I'm talking myself through the doubts, because I want to be more than someone who talks a lot.

The same professor often talked about cherishing failure. That is what I will do. If I fail at grad school, so be it. If I pursue it with passion, I think I'll be successful. If I pursue it with passion and fail, then I'll be content knowing I did my best.

18 May 2006 

Thoughts on Randomness & Predictability

1. When I listen to music, the CD must be on random. My iPod's my bitch, because every CD I own is on random all at once. It's a new high that I never tire from.

2. When I order food at a restaurant, I pick three things I know I like or would like to try. Then I make the waiter/waitress pick a number.

3. I vocalize my stream of consciousness. Probably too much.

4. When I teach creative writing, I let go of educational theory and let my randomness enter the room. Hence, requiring my shy students to holler down the hallway, "Conflict!" Of course they were answering my questioning scream of what does every story have?

5. When I become turned around while driving, I relish in the unexpected occurrence and enjoy the random challenge.

6. I love teaching because my students say the most random shit, in which my randomness is instigated (however, I then oppress my spirit to bring us back to our educational opportunity).

7. I observe people quietly while they are talking, and usually I offer them random compliments that really have nothing to do with our current conversation - even though I still absorbed the conversation.

8. I like Faulkner. He seems random, but isn't.

9. I've never actually been bored in my entire life, that I can remember. Everything around me is somehow interesting or thought-provoking. It doesn't matter what it is.

10. Since I have a clear pattern of random randomness, I think that means I'm not random at all.

16 May 2006 

Raising Hell

I gladly left for work at 6:30 am and arrived home at 8 pm. The school day itself was uneventful, but the newspaper meeting - wow.

The paper just needs to be revised a final time. Then we have one last edition to push out in the next three weeks. In the midst of the small army, furiously working on the newspaper this afternoon, the principal jumps on the intercom. "Please evacuate the building immediately. There is a gas leak in the south hall."

That's my hall.


At this point it's almost 5, and the computers were finally warming up the room. So I grabbed my purse -keys, cell, money- and escorted the kids out the door. We settled on the grass and started talking about the role poetry should have in our newspaper when I realized that if the building did explode, we would die. We proceeded to move to a place that wasn't actually next to the stacked bricks.

Then we cursed. We cursed at the sky for not bringing a camera. This is breaking news! Ideas brewed and we contemplated making a student pose like he was diving away from an explosion. Everything was figured out: we knew exactly who would throw the brick at just the right time to make it look like the building was really crumbling.

It didn't take long for the topic to spiral into about twenty others, and we were soon back in the classroom working.

About twenty minutes later, the fire alarms went off. The two students who went to go check on our cooking pizza came running back into the classroom. Uh. The pizza wasn't burning, it was just responsible for evacuating the entire high school and middle school.

The staff evacuated a second time. I trod down the hall to take the pizza out and let my mind imagine a flaming kitchen.

I arrived to the classroom and received a precious look of death. The custodian took out the pizzas, which looked perfect. I inspected the oven to find that it hadn't been cleaned for a long time. Ahah! It wasn't us, at least not completely.

I went back outside to the still-not-discouraged-newspaper-staff. We watched the middle school continue to evacuate. They were carrying trays of food. I guess they were having a formal dinner. We ruined it.

Oh well. Shit happens.

We waited outside for about twenty minutes before we decided to work through the pulsing alarm. I told the students we all had to eat one piece of the smoked pizza, since it was probably the most controversial pizza they'll ever consume.

I thought I was clever; they didn't buy it. The pizza fell into the trash.

The night solved remaining white space.

15 May 2006 

The throw down

I purposefully intimidated the hell out of my American lit students today. We're starting As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. Today we discussed some of the major questions the novel brings up with families and death, but the chat was about where we stood on the issues without novel ties.

We have three weeks to conquer this beast before the semester's over. I want us to do a quality reading, compose a literary analysis, and delve into Faulkner's greatness (in my opinion).

I also gave them "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Next week - we're tackling "Wasteland." This is what I like to call my educational drop-kick.

We've worked hard all semester, and now I want them to work it like they're in college. Damnit.

14 May 2006 

Mi Yeewnii

They have the courage to put me before what they want. Not perfect but graceful.

My joy.

She's tough shit, as the shirt says. My little sister has evolved into this amazing young woman. She's the most honest person I know, which is inspiration.

My Grandpa is the last of my living grandparents. He's been every man in his life: the kind you hate and want to lock up to a nurturing and loving maniac. His spectrum of livelihood keeps me real.

These two are dorks. Enough said. Okay, just kidding. Add Natasha to the picture (I don't have one, I discovered) and you will see physical representations of friendship; utopian relationships exist.

It's not that far...

In the midst of graduation parties, I'm (as everyone is) barraged with questions about next year. This makes it even more real, the departure. But when I step back to look at the people who make up my reality (not all are here), it's obvious that I'm adding more drama than necessary. These are all people that I'll know for years and perhaps my lifetime. Our relationships have endured years and distance and strange situations, so I'm certain physical separation won't change the things that matter about our connectedness. I've been craving distance to get closer to myself, which is liberating. I'm ready.

13 May 2006 


My school is small. By now I know every single student's name in the building. Naturally, I know a lot of the spec ed students. Their teachers are pretty cool too, cool enough to hang out with during personal time.

One student, renamed Jack, and I have talked about playing our guitars together for a long time. He's only a ninth grader, but man - he's a huge kid. I get to be like the aunt type person. We have fun together always, because unlike his case worker, I never have to deal with him on his bad days.

Two weeks ago I made a promise to him that I would bring my guitar and play with him on my prep hour on Friday (yesterday Friday). Friday preps are great. You know you have the weekend to do planning, so that hour can be spent doing things more interactive in the school.

He never forgot our conversation, which his case worker said is a great feat for his wonderful mind. I walked into the room with my guitar, and he had the entire room setup for us. I told Jack to just start and I'd follow. His hands started slamming the strings and making wild noise, so I did too. Thirty-seconds later, his eyes are locked into mine and his head is swaying and he is jamming out like the Jack Johnson he wants to be.

About two minutes later he stands up, stops playing. He's facing the wall and starts taking these deep breaths and repeatedly says, "Okay." As soon as he turned around there was magic. I felt like I was living in a world where possibility oozed out of the crevices of life. He started to mouth silent words to imaginary band members, hand pointing and shaking in each member's direction, giving them very specific directions for our song. Then he looked at me, nodded, and we started to play our guitars again. We went on and on like this for about forty minutes.

We played nothing, but we played freely. I taught him how to tune his guitar with an electric tuner, but otherwise we just pretended we were rock stars.

Now this friendly giant doesn't just say hi to me in the hallways, he actually walks with me and puts his entire weight on his forearm resting upon my shoulder. He laughs at everything I say.

Jack has rhythm, he knows how to keep it too, he just doesn't know how to strum or play chords. I think, with his love for his guitar, that he could learn this. Despite his partially paralyzed hand, he could do it. Then I think, when kids feel this good, they can learn anything, no matter what the spec ed tests say about their brains or bodies. When something matters to a person, there is always a medium to success.



The softball season came to an official close on Thursday. It ended bittersweet, as we didn't have enough players show up. The other team ended up giving us three of theirs. But really, let me play up my ego here, my players showed up. The varsity players didn't, therefore, I lost my girls. In any other game I wouldn't complain (be selfish), but this was our last game and we had all worked hard as a unit to achieve. We didn't work hard to compensate for the other team's lack of drive. One day when I'm a varsity coach, I'll understand. He asked for my best player, and I fought him on it. I told him he couldn't take her, she's our anchor in every way (attitude, technical skills, communication, etc.). In my extreme disappointment that varsity was acting like a bunch of nincompoops, I had to be reminded that varsity takes precedence. It does. I get that.

But I think one day when I'm a varsity coach, I'll cancel the season if we don't have commitment from the ladies. Letting them play without accountability in practice or warmups only enables them to live life in half-ass style. I'm really not a jock chick, but I can think of a million lessons and metaphors that playing sports teaches about living life well.

Of course the entire situation on Thursday is a lot more complicated than what a blog can dictate, but the season ended with a fizzle.

That's okay. I watched my JV players grow into decent athletes. Oh, and they laughed - all the time - while trying hard.

08 May 2006 

Mixed Bag

The answering machine told me that I have an interested principal who would like to do a phone interview. My throat, instantly dry. Change in my life can't be anymore thrusted.

My email told me that I have to contact five different people and tell them my travel plans to Baltimore. Then I read I must arrive between 3 - 6 p.m. Is that possible in a two day drive from Minnesota? Ugh. Oh wait. I still have to move out of the apartment I live in now. one.thing.at.a.time.

The sun burned through my navy blue t-shirt as I hollered - slightly exhausted - "Who are you?" to a softball player. Once the weakest player at the beginning of the season, today she caught everything with perfect form and threw the ball like a pro. The two of us couldn't stop smiling all throughout practice. She even figure out her hitting. Damn. This type of development makes me sad the season is over after today. More time would buy...

My students hollered at me across the gym during opening ceremony to say "Hi." My voice mail relayed that these same students also called me when they were hanging out this weekend to say hi and that they hoped I'm having a good weekend. I got to be that teacher, the one where students forget about looking like a school-boy (see rock star complex).

My friend reminded me, through a story about herself, to stay focused on this last month in this town. No matter the preparations I must endure (there are still 48 hours of curriculum to experience), be here now because it'll be gone.

The sink reminded me that I feel like chaos because my environment at my apartment is chaos. Things need organizing. Like my brain.

It's that constant adrenaline for the unknown future and endearing past that keeps me awake longer than my body's will.

07 May 2006 

06 May 2006 

We won...

much to his demise.

Twins 6, Detroit 5

Hey it's an improvement

The third baseline and beer and good friends and goofy parents - hell yeah.


Body World

I just finished attending the Body World exhibit. So I walked around a museum and looked at dead and preserved bodies. I feel stale and emotionless right now. Working up to the event I was eager, and I'm having trouble properly communicating my reaction to even myself.

What's cool about the exhibit is it brings a sense of understanding to how I literally exist and work. It's also a great way to advocate for a healthy lifestyle. Yet it was all, in a subtle way, unsettling.

I couldn't separate the science from the human. I started out walking the exhibit maze fascinated by the anatomy and how our bodies worked. The further I traversed, the more my face started to shrivel. I was walking among the dead. I craved to know the humanity of each person. Who were they?

The whole concept of somebody's job encompassing the slicing of a human body into five vertical pieces is alientating. I want to know the minds of the people who execute the plastination process.

The comparison has been made to the World War II torture, but all of the bodies in the exhibit are there voluntarily. In fact nearly 7,000 people are on a roster to be plastinated and used for education/art purposes. It just kept reminding me of the horrible experiments that were done in concentration camps, even though they are so clearly different.

How did Gunther van Hagens find his first person? What happens if he messes up a body during plastination? What is he going to do with thousands of bodies anyway? How many does he need?

I'm glad I went, because it has opened a door I don't understand and need to think more about: the relationship of death and humanity. As of now, I think the exhibit is important. It's making people think about a lot of complex issues. If people are thinking, this teacher is happy.

01 May 2006 

"She cares because it's her first year."

Plastic & Effective Teaching

Today and tomorrow have been reserved for a major food company to execute an experiential learning project about how to start a business. Students get to engineer snack mixes and work with business executives. Of course, there were moments when students felt like they didn't have anything to do, so they started to get weird.

One example is when a student took a sheet of plastic, folded it around his face, then wrapped packaging tape around his head to secure the plastic. I walked up to the student with the distorted plastic face and said, "Let's make good choices." Then I smiled. Winked. Walked away. The plastic came off as soon I turned around.

Another student responded to my reaction by classifying it as caring for the student's safety, which is true. Then a second student followed that response with, "She cares because it's her first year. Giver her another couple of years and she won't care anymore." He knew full well how I'd react to that statement, so I just smiled at him and didn't really go there.

I know a lot of teachers who are crappy. They are lazy, unethical, and pursued teaching for what I perceive are wrong reasons. But they were always like this; time didn't create their presence in the classroom, rather it was an ill-poured foundation.

I hang on to the relationships I have with veteran teachers that are effective and dynamic. I disagree that time ruins a good teacher, because good teachers are always eventually aware of themselves and how they are interacting internally and externally.

Loss of awareness ruins teachers, just as gaining awareness can save teachers who started poorly.

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