Thursday, June 30, 2005

I just got back from a Catholic teacher's conference in Florida. My principal may never ask me to go to another. Here is why...

me on the plane ride there: HA! TURBULENCE! This is so fun. Aren't you having fun? Oh. Okay, never mind. Hope you feel better. Hey, anyone want to play cards? I brought Hello Kitty cards. Let's play Go Fish! Do you have any...sevens? No? You're SUPPOSED to say GO FISH! GEEZ! Ooo, look out the window. It's SWAMP! I can see SWAMP! Miles and miles of swamp! It's the Everglades, isn't it? Everyone, look at the swamp! So cool. Wow. Swamp.

me getting off the plane: OHMYGOSH, it's so humid! Y'know what I feel like? Like I'm in a reptile house. Like I'm a tropical plant. Like I'm a sponge. This moisture in the air thing is so COOL! Isn't this cool? Isn't this a great experience? This is very different. Wow. Humidity.

me in the rental car: Now we are driving through the swamp! Look, there are birds! And trees IN THE WATER! Gosh, there's a lot of water. Water water everywhere. And trees. The clouds are humungous. Egret! Greenery everywhere! Look at how green it is, guys! WHOAH, I saw an ALLIGATOR! No, really! An alligator! Are there crocodiles here, or alligators? Oh. Everyone help me look for more alligators! Wow. Alligators.

me at the conference: It's HOT, and RAINING, at the SAME TIME! This is sooo neat! I feel like I'm in the jungle. I feel like I'm an explorer! A conquistador! A native! Look, there's little frogs on the window! AAAH! So cool! FROGS! And look at these bugs! The size of these bugs! OH GOSH THERE'S A SNAKE! On the sidewalk. Snakes on the sidewalk! So different. Look at these mosquitos. Aren't they HUGE? That's so cool. Wow. Mosquitos.

me at the beach: This water is so WARM! Yay! I'm taking a bath! Whoah, look at all these shells. This sand is so white. Look, a sand dollar! OHMYGOSH, there are crabs on this beach! I'm making them scuttle! Just like in the movies! Crabs! Scuttling! Yippee! All right, now I'm floating in the ocean, floating in the ocean...oo, what's that dark shape in the water. AAAHHH! SHARK! IT'S A SHARK! AAA! Oh. That's a school of fish. Not a shark. Err, sorry, guys. OOo, school of fish. So different. Look, it's raining again! I'm swimming in the ocean while it rains, and I'm not even cold! Wow. Rain.

me on the plane ride home: Zzzzzz.

There were some neat teacher related things that I learned, too. Mostly, the conference was more inspiring than practical; there was much to do with the place of the teacher in the universe, the nobility of teaching as a vocation, and so forth. I really liked a point which John Galten made (he was the keynote speaker): if you want your students to imitate you, you must yourself be a happy and virtuous person. If you are tired, sad, and complaining on a regular basis, no student will learn from you, because no student will want to be like you. We want what makes us happy; if living the life of the mind does not seem to make a teacher happy, then no student will want to live such a life.

Friday, June 24, 2005

I have been doing nothing but drinking coffee and writing all morning. Oh, wait, it's almost 2 pm. Where does the time go? All I need is a maidservant and a few martinis, and my self-indulgent summer vacation will be complete.

I went to get my hair trimmed the other day. The hair dresser was supremely indifferent to my specifications, and so now my hair is uneven when parted on the side (which is where I always part my hair, which I told her...damn her eyes). Also, she managed to get hair clippings all down the back of my shirt, the front of my shirt, and on most of my clothing when she removed the smock. I brushed myself off the best I could and proceeded to the drug store. The cashier, while ringing up my purchases, seemed to be staring intently at my bosom. I was a bit puzzled (my shirt wasn't THAT low fact, it's TAC dress code). When I got back to the car, I discovered that, due to the heat and humidity, all the stray hair clippings had pasted themselves to my skin so that it looked like I had a hairy chest. Yippee! Now the Long's Drugs cashier thinks that I'm the Amazing Monkey Girl!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A good artist both sees how things are and senses how things ought to be, instead. This can't be a particularly pleasant way to go through life. Oscar Wilde is, I think, an artist in whom that dichotomy is particularly evident; much of what he writes skewers the inanity and evil of what the world values, but the sad-beautiful fairy tales he wrote for his children (which you should all read, you soulless people you) demonstrate his keen awareness of what is truly worthwhile.

All art tends to be painful in that respect. We see, really see, the true, the good, and the beautiful, but only for a moment; then we are plunged back into the humdrum, the crass, and the dull. The sudden ascent, and the equally sudden descent, disquiets our soul, possibly permanently. Hurts so good, though.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Acquired for the first time ever this summer: the two piece swimsuit. It is a terribly fifties halter top and swishy skirt getup. Standing up, I look like a vintage pin up girl. Sitting down, my stomach bunches up so that I look like a vintage Jabba the Hutt. Or possibly elephant seal. Well, this is obviously the summer of remaining vertical at the beach. Instead of lounging around (sitting!) or sunbathing (potential sitting!), I'll play a lot's that game with the nets and things? Yes, I'll play that.

Volleyball, that's it.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I was reading the New Testament today (as one does), and it struck me how the Gentiles came to Christ not for their own sake, but rather for the sake of their children ("My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hands upon her, and she will live."). The devotion of a mother or father, regardless of creed, will surely justify them.

p.s. Happy Father's Day, Dad. And to every dad/future dad in the audience.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

It's all over, baby blue...

I'm done. Well, sure, I need to spend a day or two having meetings and cleaning up the disaster which is my classroom, and eventually I'm going to this teacher's conference thingummie in Flor-i-da, but mostly, I'm done. I feel fairly good about the year, except for the Algebra II class.

Bleh. The Algebra II class.

My largest class by far. Twenty-something teenagers, most of whom were not fond of math to begin with, were rowdy beyond belief, and would far rather have toothpicks slowly inserted underneath their toenails than attend a maths class.

Also, I'm not a natural. It takes a rare soul to make math enjoyable; I am not such. Sure, I can break down factoring three ways from Sunday, and I know my (mathematical) shit from my (mathematical) Shineola, but the fact remains, I don't really inspire anyone to add vectors or master the dread secret of the logarithm.

For the first few weeks, I had no idea what I was doing. I let the kids do more or less whatever, and gently pleaded with them to quiet down enough so that I could teach.

Control, once lost, is hard to regain. Trust and respect, if not present from the outset, is difficult to develop. Sure, I tutored, cajoled, put three thousand examples up on the board, gave them practice problems and study guides and so forth. They had already made their minds up. Never mind the fact that they did nothing but goof off the entire fifty minutes when I (theoretically) had their attention...if they didn't understand, despite not trying to understand, it was My Fault.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

In a way, it was my fault. Although there was nothing I could have done about it (how could I have known how much you have to jump on them initially to get their respect? I never went to high school, y'all will recall), still, due to my lack of expertise, the few who wanted to learn did not have the ideal classroom environment to do so. I spent the rest of the year trying to rectify behavior patterns which should never have started. I should have started out barking orders and checking notebooks and drilling orders of operation. Three weeks into the year, it's far too late.

Just thinking about that class makes me want to hide under the bed.

The other classes went fairly well, though. My physics students were darling. We talked about wave-y particles and the vagaries of refrigeration. My middle school students (religion, literature) were more or less tractable. They now know the rudiments of Latin, and the difference between matter and form, and the maturation process of Johnny Tremain. I'll be teaching mostly literature classes next year. JOY. Science and literature are my secret boyfriends.

It IS all over, baby blue. I half miss my students already, the wee bastards...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Since California has experienced three rather sizeable earthquakes in the space of a week, this might be the time to review our emergency preparedness situation.

Three gallons of water? Check!

Several cans of chicken broth, and one mildewed package of instant mashed potatoes? Check!

An emergency cash reserve of four dollars and twenty-eight cents, all in dimes, nickels, and pennies? Check!

A half bottle of triple sec left over from that one time I made margaritas (so as I can sterilize wounds)? Check!

Two scented candles and a possibly functional lighter? Check!

No idea whatever where the fuse box for my building is? Check!

A fairly sharp kitchen knife with which to fend off scavengers? Check!

Extra batteries for my scented candles? Check!

Toilet paper, and, if that runs out, paper towels, and, if that runs out, the complete works of Plato? Check!

Some aspirin and suchlike futuristic medicinal supplies? Check!

3-5 day supply of underwear? Check!

Bad ass leather jacket (in the event that Southern California goes Road Warrior on me)? Check!

I shall ride out the coming apocalypse with a smirk on my face. If you happen not to be quite as prepared, run out and buy your compasses and snake bit kits and freeze dried tomato soups now. Remember, the life you save may be your own.

Sometimes, I'll put things off till next week, and find myself snickering "Heh. Future-Me is going to have a tough job getting ALL THAT done!" Really, the lack of empathy I have for my future self is astounding.

Surely I'm not the only one who feels this kind of temporal disassociation.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Why I Like Teaching (by Wavelet the Loving Lemur)

I realize that, if you've been in touch with me for the past several months, you've heard mostly my horror stories about teaching kidsthesedays. This is because I'm a natural attention whore, and horror stories are a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Also, if I don't laugh about the foibles of the adolescent set, then I might start crying. For days. However, now that the end of the school year is rolling around (my brain has turned to jelly, my resistence has been ground), I feel that a more rounded picture of the teaching experience is in order. My presentation on Why I Like Teaching shall be composed of a series of aphorisms (much like Pascal's Pensees, only, of course, less brilliant).

aphorism #5509

The kids think that you know everything. This is a fun belief to exploit. Also, they will not pick up at all on more abstruse humor, but will take efforts at same as further proof of your brilliance.

aphorism #209

The sixth graders will write you beautiful poems, such as my very favorite "My Best Friend is a Coconut."

aphorism #9031

Adolescent boys have massive amounts of energy, and seemingly bottomless reservoirs of good humor. Learn math they would rather not, but if I ever needed a dragon slain or someone beaten up for me, I'm sure they would be happy to oblige.

aphorism #3208

Occasionally, you'll make even the dimmer bulbs flicker a bit.

aphorism #27

Almost all of the kids have some secret enthusiasm, which renders them vulnerable to learning. If you can show them how what you're learning right now pertains to Star Wars (or members of the opposite sex, or whatever) then you will obtain victory.

aphorism #4480

Pitting hyper, competitive proto-adolescents against each other in a spelling bee? Fun.

aphorism #783

Watching a bunch of normally reserved, sullen teenagers race to see who can construct the most efficient electric motor? Fun.

aphorism #60098

The students ask me about my youth, implying that it was ages, ages since I was young. This makes me feel all mature and stuff.

aphorism #5574

If for half a second you have their full attention, anything is possible. That half a second, though...difficult to obtain...

aphorism #229

You can call it a day at 3:15.

aphorism #87

Adolescent girls are interesting creatures. They tend to be light-years ahead of the boys in terms of personality development, but not so much with the emotional maturity. I find their social machinations fascinating to observe. Drama! Back stabbing! Tears! Mind boggling obsessions with Orlando Bloom! They're more entertaining than television, really...

aphorism #813

If they grasp factoring by grouping, I feel as if my mission on Earth has been accomplished, and I can rest in peace with my ancestors.

aphorism #745

Most of them are starved for the genuine and the true, little as they would like to admit it. If you can teach them something real, they will secretly admire you forever.

aphorism #11

Did I mention you can go home at 3:15?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Lest I leave you with the impression that teenagers are pure evil, here's a cute routine courtesy my fourteen year old math student, Rico Suave:

Rico: "Miss P, do you want two tickets to the gun show?"

Me: "Eh? Um, sure?"

Rico: *pulls up sleeves, flexes biceps*

And a variation on same, courtesy seventeen year old Tubby (note that Tubby is not actually overweight):

Tubby: "Miss P, do you have any thread?"

Me: *absentmindedly* "And why do you need thread?"

Tubby: "Cause I was flexing my guns, and I ripped my sweater!" *shows off hole in sweater*

Saturday, June 11, 2005

she was into s&m and bible studies / not everyone's cup of tea she would admit to me

Worst. Week. EVER. I've only got one week left, and I'm not sure if I can stand it. The mere thought of teenagers makes me flinch and shudder a bit. further reflections on teenagers deleted, on advice of my lawyer. oo er.

I'm feeling better now. The boyf is good at making soothing noises. I'm easily pacified. Prior to the soothing noises, though, the muscles in my neck and back were tense to the point of uncontrollable twitching. TEENAGERS.

Oh well. I'm also typing up the middle schooler's grades, and am reading over their tests in the process. One seventh grader, on the subject of matrimony, had this cryptic injunction to offer: "You should love your wife like God suffered for her." Bonus points for pious sounding, yet inexplicable!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Massively, inexpressibly, terribly no good very bad day.

And that was before someone rear ended my car.

Sadly, I was obeying every law of the land. Slowing, signalling, looking both ways, making a left hand turn of geometrically perfect proportions. The idiot kids behind me in the plastic Saturn bisected my arc. The joke is really on them, though. My car? Small scratch, some slight warping. Their car? Completely crumpled front hood.


Monday, June 06, 2005

The seventh graders keep telling me this joke, and I still don't get it.

Two oranges are sitting in a bathtub. One of them asks the other "Could you please pass me the shampoo?" And the other orange says, "What am I, a typewriter?!"

Saturday, June 04, 2005

I had an incredibly disturbing dream that one of my friends was choking; but he was too tall, and, um, wide, so I couldn't effectively perform the Heimlich maneuver. On reflection, many people I know are too tall/wide for me to save them from choking without considerable cooperation on their part.

Tall people: the next time you inhale a carrot chunk while only midgets (such as moi) are available to help, remember to place your back against the wall so that they can perform the Heimlich maneuver without having to wrap their arms around. Actually, I have a better idea. If you're over 5'8", why don't you just go ahead and eat only pureed food substances from now on, hmmm? The life you save may be your own.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Yesterday, at 3:45 pm, I was home, puttering around in bare feet, drinking a beer, and fixing one of my inimitable shrimp mushroom medleys. I AM A TEACHER, HURRAH!

Also, you know what I have in two weeks? SUMMER VACATION. That's right. No snarky high school students offering to do my makeup (I used to wear makeup to work, then I thought to myself..."Wait. Who am I trying to impress? Not the seventeen year old boys, that's for damn sure."). No emotionally unbalanced middle school students collapsing in tears for no discernable reason. No back and forth arguments about late homework, never turned in homework, and the mitigating circumstances thereof. No telling anyone not to run around the classroom like a crazed mongoloid/throw pens so that they stick into the porous ceiling/hit girls/pass notes about how soandso is only attractive for his personality/steal other people's lunches and play catch/sneeze without covering mouth. No more banging my head against the thick wall of adolescence or proto-adolescence. Screw all y'all, I'm dyeing my hair black and traveling the states as part of an avant-garde puppet review!

All right, not really. Teaching isn't all that bad. The adolescents are kind of cute by turns. My favorite evil senior got accepted to college, which makes me very happy. He's going to be wildly successful someday; he's the kind of independent/crazy which doesn't make for a good high school experience, but which makes him the kind of student that good colleges are designed for. And the juniors and seniors apparently want me to come to their prom. In an effort to lure me in, they claimed there would be square dancing. Heh. Riiiight...

Seriously. What should I do with my summer? Note that I am very poor. Summer suggestions which make money are the best. A 500 word essay about what Miss P should do with her summer is due Monday. START WRITING, BITCHES.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

So there I was, in the grocery store line, with my opulent spread of chips, salsa, and Pete's Wicked Ale. The fellow in front of me in line had no basket, no cart; just two bean and cheese burritos, two apples, and a carrot, rolling around on the conveyer belt. It looked as if he had wandered through the grocery store thinking "Food...hmmm...what is it people eat...I know, apples! Also carrots. And, um, burritos."

On closer scrutiny, he seemed to be about twenty-five, going on eighty. His clothes were disheveled, dirty, and several sizes too large. He was emaciated, with a scraggly blond beard, uncombed blond hair, and yellow teeth. His hands trembled a bit while he took out his wallet. I snuck a peek at his drivers license while he found his Albertsons card. The license photo showed a sweet faced kid (seventeen? eighteen?), with chubby cheeks, big glasses, clean shaven chin, short blond hair, and a giant shit eating grin. I was seeing the portrait of Dorian Gray, only in reverse.

I know that the American Dream (and the corresponding Calvinist work ethic) holds that everyone is given a chance; poverty is the sole lot of the slacker and the slugabed. Is that actually true, though? I have a hard time believing that such a sweet faced kid could, through a series of voluntary choices, end up buying his food one bean and cheese burrito at a time. Perhaps that was the case. I'm not sure. In any event, let's all say a prayer for everyone on the edge (emotionally, fiscally, or otherwise).

What did we use to say? "There, but for the grace of God, go I..."