Today, I did what I had to do: I fought what may be a sinus infection all day to make it to school to provide comfort for at least some of my students. Consequently, I quickly found out that the teacher who passed away, familiarly called “H” by students and colleagues alike, had had a profound impact on so many people.

That made it incredibly difficult. One colleague gave the announcement this morning, and having been at the school for years, he had a hard time making the announcement. The student who normally does the pledge bowed out (H had been a family friend, I understand), and the secretary, bless her heart, broke down crying in the middle of giving the pledge in the student’s place. It was so hard to listen to because the grief was palpable.

And then there was silence, something which has never (to my knowledge) happened at the beginning of my 1st hour class. So I told them, “I’m sorry, but I have to break the silence. We have to talk about this.”

And what ensued was a beautiful session of catharsis.



I woke up this morning feeling pretty awful. My ribs and collarbone ached, and this turned into (over the course of the day) a full body ache that makes me think I’m getting sick.

At one point, I came by the house to get some medicine in the midst of running all over the place doing other things, thinking, I haven’t used any sick days yet…this would be a good time for it. And I have a message from a number with the same prefix as the district I teach in.

It’s the secretary, telling me that the teacher who I ultimately replaced (with one teacher between us) had passed away. I call her back for details, and she really has none. I tell her that I had been thinking about calling in sick, but that’s out the window now: I can’t abandon my students, especially the seniors who had this teacher as sophomores in her last year of teaching.

I honestly don’t know what I’m going to say tomorrow, although I know that I can’t really teach at least my senior English class. I’m going to have to let them know that I’m here for them and to lend a sympathetic ear. I don’t even think I know what I would do otherwise.

Tomorrow will be hard, especially if I feel the way I do. This is a moment, though, that I cannot afford to lose with my seniors, who are (now, finally) somewhat back on board with me after many of them starting to show signs that I’m losing them. If I didn’t show up when they will be grieving so for this beloved teacher – the teacher they were just talking up on Friday in a class discussion – then I would really be disrespecting them. I just have to bite the bullet and be there, in whatever shape I’m in. The students will likely do the same.

I don’t know if I’ll help at all. But the fact of the matter is that I have to try, and hopefully that will mean something.

I am so far behind, both here and in real life, so here are some highlights of the past, uh, week or so:


That’s “Thank God For Short Weeks.”

Today is the last day of instruction, and only the first half of the day meets for classes (so no juniors – hoorah!). It couldn’t come soon enough.

The last few days since I last posted anything have been extremely trying. Notable moments (good and bad):

  • Tuesday: Celebrated the National Day on Writing in a few classes by doing writing of some kind, and I taught a mini-lesson on six-word memoirs; several of the students really got into it, giving me such gems as “Promises are made by truthful liars.” Also, sophomore hits me in the head with Dan Brown’s latest novel (I wish the student had better taste in smaller books). Oh, and I had to correct my seniors on the true etymology of the F-word (it’s from a common Indo-European root with analogues in several Germanic/Scandinavian languages; it has nothing to do with acronyms like “Fornication Under Consent of  the King”), which is, um, not something I had ever really expected to come up…
  • Wednesday: Discussed evaluation with principal, which by and large was good; asked for some feedback on how I could improve and talked that out a little. A sophomore class really pushed me over the edge, and I gave another detention to one student in particular who has repeatedly pushed me too far.

I need the break, and I wish I were getting one: tonight is my older brother’s wedding rehearsal (I’m in the wedding party, my first time in that experience), and tomorrow is a few parent-teacher conferences in the morning (that might give me some new material to write about) and the wedding in the late afternoon. I am going to be wiped out, most definitely.

Wish me luck.

Okay, so I had my observation earlier today, and I was very pleased with how things went. My lesson flowed just how I wanted it to: brief mini-lesson on complete sentences (amazing how many of my sophomores didn’t know how to identify the verb in a sentence), followed by another mini-lesson on run-on sentences, with guided practice throughout. It was practically an ideal situation (well, except for the amount of unprompted student response, but I chalk that up to grammar). I happened to be talking to a student as the principal left the room, and she gave me a thumbs-up as she left. Great feeling, I must admit.

Now on the other hand, I wanted to sell my juniors to the highest bidder (and at this point, it wouldn’t probably take too much of an offer). My nice lesson on McCarthyism and the “red scare”? Drowned out to “Why can’t we have time to work on our projects?” and “We’ll just forget this by Tuesday” and other various examples of whinery.* Nothing wears me out (not down) like complaining, especially when I know that I can’t give in and must push on with material.

Sigh. At least we only have one more day this week, and then a four-day weekend!

I have needed this so badly…

*I think this is my own coinage, although in truth, it’s a pun off of the name of a bar that was nearby the university I attended.

This week is going to be an incredibly crazy week. Starting tonight, I have events through Tuesday night which will take a significant amount of my time, and I have lounge duty this week (meaning that I’m responsible for bringing snacks for coworkers and keeping the lounge clean all week). On Thursday, my fall evaluation period begins, and so I have to work out some time to 1) have a pre-evaluation chat (I think that’s what she wants) and 2) set up an observation time (prediction: it will not be during my junior classes). And there are further school events that will complicate matters further near the end of the week, which is very inopportune given that for at least one class I am already struggling to fit everything in that I want to do before the end of the quarter (which is three weeks away). I’m trying to plan as best I can to make this week work without too many issues, but, like so many things with teaching, it’s a juggling act.

It’s possible that I may not be able to blog very much at all consequently, so don’t be surprised if I’m absent for a few days. (Not that anyone will likely be holding their breath, so to speak…) We’ll have to see how things go.

Tonight, I’ve been grading college application essays that I received from students yesterday, and I’ve noticed a pattern that I’ve encountered before during student teaching, so I have to say something about it. If you are a student in an English or writing course, I suggest you read closely.


It has been one of those weeks for me: an utterly soul-crushing experience that has made me lose a lot of self-confidence in my abilities and what I am doing. I can’t say that the thought of giving up has entered my mind, but I have had doubts about how good a teacher I am. Not a good week at all in that regard.

But there are some things that can help make things better. For me today, it was colleagues who made me laugh. A simple thing, really, but laughter is so powerful, and even the gloomiest outlook can be softened by it.

Words I try to live by: When I can laugh, it’s a good day.

Bigotry has been on my mind a lot this week. Several days ago, my mother was talking about her concern that a “Middle Eastern” man* had recently taken ownership of our local gas station, and she backed away from really speaking her mind (I think) after I showed how apprehensive I was about the sentiment she was saying, which was ultimately that some foreigner had taken over, and why couldn’t the station stay in the hands of a local owner. One for xenophobia.

Then I saw the somewhat comforting tribute to Alan Turing.

Then I saw this sign and was sickened at the unadulterated racism that popped up during the recent 9/12 march.

Today, I was talking with a coworker over lunch before the rest of our lunchmates came in about a sign in a local Wal-Mart that read “Formula maybe purchased at aisle 18”. (My response: “What, you don’t know?”) I suggested that it could have been put up because this particular brand of formula had been shoplifted often, or it could have been racism (this Wal-Mart is in a moderately large town with a significant African-American population). I did put a caveat on my statements, though, saying (and I quote), “I’ve learned not to make any assumptions about bigotry because when I do, I’m generally disappointed.”

Then the rest of our colleagues come in, and the topic turns from a student who is now pregnant (who I have in class) to the welfare mindset, and quickly…well, I don’t think I even need to go much further for you, thoughtful reader, to finish the story.

In an amazing twist, I was proven wrong (or my point was made, whichever you care to look at it) within mere minutes, and by the very people who I work with to help our kids become upstanding members of society who understand and care about the diversity of human life.

I don’t really know what to say other than the fact that I am deeply saddened. I am utterly opposed to racism, xenophobia, and any kind of bigotry, and I make no apologies about it. It is not something I am comfortable with or will ever be comfortable with, and the only consolation I have is that I have a chance. A chance to help instill positive values that will impact the world positively.

I just hope that I can take advantage of it.

*I say “Middle Eastern,” but I’ve also heard that he’s a Hindu, which could mean that he’s Indian or some East Asian nationality. The point stands regardless of the specifics.

One of the perils of being a teacher is having a lot of preparation that happens outside “business hours.” I’m used to having work to do when I get done with work – I did work full-time through most of my undergrad – but this is still a struggle for me.

One of the perks, on the other hand, is the schedule, especially regarding holidays. But there is a sinister dark side to holiday weekends for teachers.

See, when you work a “normal” job – that is, one that doesn’t come home with you – the holiday weekend is one more day to relax. For teachers, however, that extra day is of little or no import: it is in fact one more day that we could be getting work done that we need to do but can’t won’t because, well, a holiday is a day to relax, not to work. And additionally, the whole weekend is pretty much like that.

So in fact, the holiday weekend is deceiving: rather than providing more time in which things can be accomplished, there is actually less time available for actual work.*

And then you get students coming back from the long weekend and wishing they weren’t back in school. (While secretly you wish the same.)

Oh well, you take the good with the bad. Even when you get exasperated enough that you want to throw things (don’t ask, please), this vocation is still one of the greatest jobs in the world, and the occasional inconvenience of a holiday weekend is worth it.

*Unless you’re one of those really on-the-ball people who has prepared way in advance and can enjoy the holiday weekend guilt-free, in which case don’t talk to me.

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