Category Archives: Work
“It is hard to take responsibility for your own transitioning. What I’m trying to say is – I’m becoming a serial killer.”
~Tina Fey in “The Nerdist” podcast with Chris Hardwick
I always knew Tina and I have a lot in common. I mean, there she was, enjoying great success entertaining an audience on Saturday Night Live, and she decided to leave. Here I am, enjoying great success entertaining a class full of students, and I decide to leave. The similarities are uncanny.
And then, I hear her saying that she is going to become a serial killer – which is exactly what I’ve been contemplating! What are the odds?!!!
The sad truth is that I would be a failure at serial killing, primarily because I do not like to kill even the spiders that crawl in our house. Heck, even the snake that curled up at the bottom of the stairs in our hallway got a free pass from me.
What does appeal to me about being a serial killer at the moment is the part where you are able to become emotionally detached. As I pack up my belongings to move to a new school, I am trying hard to exclusively think of the process and not the people I am leaving. The people I’ve worked with for 13 years. The kids who I’ve known since they were in Kindergarten. Whose siblings I’ve known since they were in Kindergarten. The darn picture one of them drew of me that hangs on my wall, a picture that portrays me as unwrinkled, skinny, and frizzy-hair free. STOP THINKING ABOUT THOSE THINGS, I tell myself.
I try to think harder about the a/c that never works in my classroom, the mysterious person who, for the past three years, has weekly torn part of my bulletin board border off in the hallway, and the horrible cell phone reception that forces me to step out into the middle of the playground in order to ever make a call during my planning time.
If I were to become a serial killer, the bulletin board ripper offer would definitely be the first target. (I’m sure there is a Jack the Ripper joke in there somewhere. I’ll ask my bud, Tina, next time I talk to her…)
I have been very drowsy lately. At first, I thought this was just another symptom brought on my Diet Coke withdrawal. But then I realized that it’s been about 2 months since I gave it up. I don’t even think drug addicts take two months to withdraw. Then, because I am a licensed hypochondriac, I immediately attributed this to the as-yet-unidentified disease that is eating away my insides.
I informed my husband that a doctor’s visit might be in order.
“Maybe you should first try to get more than 5 hours of sleep a night,” my husband dryly recommended.
“I get more than -” I started to argue.
But then I decided to count. O.K. I get 5 1/2. That’s almost 8. I mean, if you count by 2’s and round up, you’re nearly there when you get to 6.
I am 43 years old. I am apparently in that odd window of decades when 5 1/2 hours of sleep is not enough. It worked fine during my twenties. And it will apparently be plenty when I am in my 80’s. But at 43, in arguably the most active decade of my life, I am supposed to slow down more.
At 11:30 at night, I am not ready for bed. I am busy playing Sudoku on my iPad and laughing with my friends on Friends. I have to make myself turn off the lights and set the alarm. It takes a half hour to shut my brain down and fall asleep.
At 5:30 in the morning, I am not ready to get up. I have to make myself turn off the alarm and turn on the lights. I am not laughing. And if there were any Friends around at that time of day, they would be so horrified at my monstrous morning personality that they would run screaming off the set of my life.
Except Dimples, who I overheard the other morning grumpily informing her father that she is “not a morning person”.
She gets it. We compete with each other every morning to see who can sustain the longest glare.
I stupidly chose a profession, teaching, which requires me to be on the spot and cheerful at 7:30 in the morning. If I could go back to talk to my 20 year old self, I would walk in during one of her particularly vicious hangovers and make her repeat the directions for a complex task – such as writing your name at the top of your paper – 20 times, interrupting her to ask if I can go to the bathroom or did she know that it’s my cousin’s aunt’s boyfriends’ birthday next Friday, and then tell my stupid self that this is how it feels to be a teacher when you are not a morning person.
She will ignore me. Stupid I-can-change-the-world-on-6-hours-of-sleep -even-4-if-I-have-to 20 year old Idiot.
See how irritable I am? I really think it’s the disease talking.
I have been recently struggling with gastroenterological problems, and just switched doctors. This is my perception of my appointment with my new doctor on Monday.
Management said, “You know that Colon? He’s inefficient.”
“Tell me about it,” I said. “I don’t understand what that guy’s problem is. I’ve given him everything he’s wanted, and he’s still not doing his job. I’m fed up with that guy’s performance. I think we need to let him go.”
Management shook his head. “We can’t do that. It’s better to have someone doing that job badly then no one doing that job at all.”
“We can find someone else. What about Bladder? She’s always working overtime.”
“Bladder has a completely different skill set than Colon. That won’t work. We need to put Colon on a Growth Plan.”
“A Growth Plan? I don’t want Colon to get any bigger. He’s bad enough as it is.”
“To make him better, not bigger.”
“Let me see that Growth Plan…. Wait a second. Why am I the one making all of the accommodations here when Colon is the one who is the problem? I already gave up Diet Coke and salads for him. I think that’s plenty. Where’s the paper that lists what he’s going to do?”
“Colon has shown that he can’t do the tasks that he has been assigned, and you want to give him a heavier workload? That hardly seems to make any sense.”
“So, are you suggesting that I lighten his load so that he will do a better job? That doesn’t make any sense, either. What about sending Colon to another department? Let someone else deal with his inefficiency.”
“With Colon’s reputation, no one else is going to take him,” Management said, shaking his head. “Brain is going to strike if you send her one more problem. And Heart and Lungs are still threatening to sue after you forced them to participate in that new Exercise Plan. I’m afraid you are going to have to find a way to work around Colon’s short-comings for the sake of the Company.”
“Fine!” I said. “But I want it on the record that I am protesting having to work with an inefficient Colon. And while you’re adding things to my file, put down that Bladder is going to have to work overtime on her own right now if she’s so intent on winning Employee of the Month. I’m tired of staying up late just because she’s some kind of freak who never needs to sleep.”
“Duly noted,” said Management. “But I wouldn’t count on that happening.”
“Well, if someone doesn’t start cooperating with me, I’m just going to have to take my complaints to The Top.”
“I’m sure that could be arranged,” Management stated as I turned around to make my leave.
Maybe I should just file for Bankruptcy and start all over.
A word to parents: While you might be worried about Twitter knowing your address and phone number, even more intimate details about what goes on in your household get shared about you every day at school. Here are a few conversations I heard amongst my Gifted and Talented students this week (of course, all of the names below are pseudonyms).
My third graders (8 years old) were using the iPad to make a puppet show video. They chose their characters from the “Talk Show Set.” Here is their group discussing their own creation.
Jay (pointing at the Talk Show Host they had chosen): Is that a boy or a girl?
Dave: It’s a girl.
Conan: No, it’s a boy.
Dave: No-o-o, it’s a girl who acts like a boy. It’s Ellen.
Jay: Ellen? Isn’t that the one on the J.C. Penney ad? My mom was talking about that.
Dave: Yeah, did you see the Facebook thing? There’s a whole thing about that. My mom –
Jay and Dave did not have the chance to go into more detail on the “J.C. Penney thing”, as the fourth group member quickly informed them that they were off-task, and they got back to work. I was slightly disappointed, though, as I was a little curious about how an 8 year old would explain the “J.C. Penney thing” about which he seemed so knowledgeable based on his Facebook source.
Strangely, Ellen made an appearance in another conversation in my classroom this week. This was an exchange amongst my four Kinder students. Keep in mind, these kids are 6 years old:
Belle: My mother is French and my father is from Puerto Rico. Of course, he speaks Spanish all of the time.
Ariel: I speak some British.
Belle: He talks in Spanish to his whole family from Puerto Rico. Of course, to his mother because she would spank him if he didn’t. (Belle chuckles at her own comment.)
Pocahantas: My mother can’t draw a thing. I tried to teach her.
Ariel: Oh, didn’t that help when you tried to teach her?
Pocahantas: No, she just wants to watch Ellen when I get home.
Belle: You should be in pageants (to Pocahantas, not to me, although that would have made much more sense).
Ariel: Do you watch –
Belle: Toddlers and Tiaras? Of course! I never miss a show. You know, they are completely different people when they are on the stage than they are when they aren’t.
Ariel nods knowingly.
Belle (to Pocahantas, again): You really should be in pageants. You’ve got a perfect face. I would love to be in pageants. The best part is they wear makeup. I really wanted Avis to win. She was the best.
Ariel again nods knowingly.
Pocahantas clearly does not know what Belle is talking about.
Jasmine (completely uninterested in this entire discussion): Sometimes I can color in the lines, but sometimes I can’t. I struggle with it a lot.
The timer goes off.
Jasmine gets the award for revealing the least about her family’s television and computer habits.
I’m wondering if their parents have any idea how much these kids are taking in at home. I think we need to start tattooing disclaimers on the feet of babies before they are released from the hospital. “Parental Warning – Nothing You Say, Do, or Watch will Ever Be Private Again.”http://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4638981545/”>opensourceway</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
Did you hear what he said?!!! He said the “X” word. What? You don’t know what that is? Poor “X.” As a letter, he really bears very little weight. Unless we’re talking Roman numerals. But people seem to have other, far more pressing matters on their minds these days.
I don’t know what the f*#k everyone is so worked up about. Apparently, a recent episode of Modern Family implied that a toddler said the F word. Although, in reality, she said the other F word – “fudge.”
Sometimes, I think we spend too much time creating our own problems. Why do we give certain words so much power?
Kids accidentally drop “inappropriate” words on a regular basis. Our reactions to them are what give the words their power. Trust me, as a teacher, I’ve had a little experience with this. I had a student tell me one day that the octopus is different than a spider because it has testicles. Not one student in my class of fifth graders cracked a smile. “I think you might mean tentacles, Charles.” “Isn’t that what I said?” “Uh, no. But that’s okay. Now, who knows the difference between an octopus and a squid?”
That same year, I was informed by another ten year old that living things are orgasms. A reasonable mistake, considering there is only a difference of a couple of letters. Again, no reaction from the rest of the class. I was dying inside, of course. I made a mental note for future teacher’s lounge conversation, carried on with a mild correction, and crossed my fingers behind my back that no parents would suddenly get interested in what their kids had learned at school that day.
When collecting my students from the basketball hoops at recess one day, I was somewhat irritated at their slowness to line up and settle down. “When I blow the whistle, you need to get in line and Hold. Your. Balls!” I firmly ordered.
The entire class dissolved into hysterical laughter.
So, two “taboo” words got no reaction. But I use one normal everyday word in a very appropriate context, and everyone’s minds go to the gutter.
I’m tired of words being labelled offensive. As long as no one is flinging them at me as a direct insult, I don’t see why we have to be so sensitive. The people who get so worked up about strings of letters that they empowered in the first place should try channelling some of that energy toward curbing people’s offensive actions and Donald Trump’s ridiculous hairstyle instead.
Octopus Photo Credit – photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/lunkwill42/3658339290/”>Morten Brekkevold</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
Trump Photo Credit – photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/bosstweed/254102797/”>Boss Tweed</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>
OK. Don’t panic. Do. Not. Panic.
Stop! Why are you panicking? Did I not just tell you DON’T PANIC?!!!!
Yeah. I know. It didn’t work with me either.
I don’t know what you’re not panicking about. But here is my most recent disaster.
I tried to put on my jeans yesterday, and they did not fit.
I kind of suspected that day was coming, but it was still a pretty tough blow when it happened.
So, I panicked.
But nobody knew it. I inner-panicked. That is my clever way of secretly panicking without anyone knowing. It requires great will-power. Almost as much will-power as not eating so much that one goes up a pants size.
No tantrums or tears. No boxing up my entire closet to truck on over to Goodwill.
Just a very quiet panic while I looked for some more forgiving jeans that say they are the same size, but obviously can’t be because they fit fine.
Finding the forgiving jeans helped to reduce the major panic to a slightly less heart-attack inducing one. Slightly.
I know why this happened. When I first started this blog, I posted an article about my desire to be a writer. The post was entitled, “I Might Get Fat.”
And I did.
Granted, I have not become a published awriter. And I have not quit my job. Two of the contributing factors to my then future fear of getting fat. But, don’t you think the fact that I predicted something happening and it has now happened is more than just a mere coincidence?
Maybe, it is the fault of my Irritating Bogus Diagnosis that has absolutely no medical explanation but continues to make my life miserable, changing my once fairly consistent diet into some wild roller coaster ride of experimental foods as I continue my quest for something that won’t nauseate or constipate me.
Or, maybe it’s because whenever I feel like panicking, I internalize it, and I am now bloating up with all of those undigested panics.
Perhaps, it is a sympathy weight gain to show my love for my dear bulldog, Wonderbutt, who tips the scales at 65 pounds, about 250 pounds more than he is supposed to weigh, apparently.
Who cares? When a tsunami flattens your house and you are clinging to an indestructible, eco-friendly, buoyant dog toy for dear life, do you waste your time wondering why this happened?
I must come up with a Plan.
On the bright side, I don’t have to worry about quitting my job to be a writer making me fat since I already am. Fat, I mean. Not a writer. Well, I am a writer. Just not paid for it.
I shall ponder that while I eat my Hostess Ding Dong. Hey, at least I’m not filing for bankruptcy. Because that was totally unforeseeable during these health trendy times…
I don’t speak Kindergarten.
I have been testing and teaching Gifted and Talented students in elementary school for 13 years. Every January, when Kinder testing rolls around, I try a new communication strategy. And every year, I fail miserably.
My first couple of years, after I had been teaching 5th grade for 8 years, I cut myself some slack. Even after one little girl burst into tears after I asked them to write their names on their papers. Even after one little boy silently peed in his pants during the test because he somehow missed my request for anyone who needed a bathroom break.
I figured it would take me a little time to learn the Kindergarten dialect.
Last year, one of the parents told me that her child thought the entire time I was testing her that I was testing her for Speech. Another parent mentioned that her child thought I was the Principal.
So, this year, I thought I would try to do a better job of explaining what I do and why I’ve taken them from their class for a little while.
I told them that I teach the Gifted and Talented class. I asked them if they knew what that meant. They didn’t even move their heads, just stared at me bug-eyed, waiting for me to pull out some comical sock puppets like the counselor or to break out into a song from Dora the Explorer like – well, I don’t really know who would do that, but they seemed to expect some kind of entertainment.
I told them that I teach kids who like to do extra thinking. I said that we sometimes do thinking games in my class and we learn different ways to use our brains.
“Gifted and Talented means that you like to try to solve problems and that when something is hard you try to figure it out. Gifted and Talented is a class for students who like to think of new ideas. I like teaching Gifted and Talented because we get to do different types of puzzles and games. Sometimes, we invent things, too. I’ve been teaching Gifted and Talented for 13 years, and I love it.”
Silence. Well, not exactly. One child was busy trying to roll his pencil off of the desk and catch it. Another was obsessed with the fact that his shoelace wasn’t tied, and mumbling progressively louder to try to get my attention. One of the girls was digging inside her empty, borrowed desk looking for her pencil, which was on the floor beneath her chair.
“So, who remembers what I teach?”
Five hands went up. I nodded at one of the boys who seemed to be paying close attention during my speech.
“Kids. You teach kids.”
Yeah. I try.
There are lots of acronyms in the world of education. Sometimes we use the same ones for very different things. For example, E.D. This could mean you have a Doctorate in Education. It could also mean that a child is Emotionally Disturbed or has an Eating Disorder. On a calendar, it can mean that we have an Early Dismissal Day. If you are B.D. (Bob Dole) with an E.D., it means you have an Erectile Disfunction.
We usually don’t have to deal with the latter in Elementary education, thankfully.
Sometimes I confuse my acronyms. I attribute this to my age and the fact that my passwords to various software and hardware take up most of the storage space in my brain. However, my students seem to have this problem as well.
We were talking about different definitions of tolerance in my 5th grade Gifted and Talented class, and I asked my students to think of things that they felt were kind of acceptable today, but that they felt should not be tolerated. Most of them immediately thought of things that they felt were unfair to kids based on their ages, like driving, voting, and Rated R movies. One of my students raised her hand. This student often thinks in a completely different universe from the proverbial box, so I should have been prepared as soon as I saw her hand.
“Miss. What is your opinion of PTA?”
This completely threw me off kilter.
I am on the PTA board. That being said, I could probably think of a few things that could be done to improve the PTA. However, they were not necessarily the same things to which a 10 year old girl would object. Did she think kids should be on the Board? Was she going to suggest that we should serve doughnuts and pizza at the meetings? Did she want to vote on the nominations for the Nomination Committee – which seems amazingly redundant? Oh, wait. The last one was my perspective, not hers.
I was speechless. She took this to mean that I didn’t understand her. Which, apparently, I didn’t.
“You know, Miss. When teenagers are kissing in the park?”
“P.D.A.! You mean P.D.A.!” about five of us all realized at the same time.
“Public Display of Affection,” one of the boys loudly and proudly translated.
“Oh, yeah. Sorry,” she said sheepishly.
My relief to find out that she was not talking about PTA was short-lived. My tolerance of P.D.A. seemed to be an equally, if not more, dangerous topic than my tolerance of the PTA, with the potential to lapse into a very not appropriate classroom discussion.
How was she expecting me to respond to this, exactly?
Well, if you are E.D., and get suspended because you have an emotional outburst, or you are out of school early on an E.D. day, and you are in the park with your girlfriend, who has been fighting an E.D. because of the irrational expectations for women in today’s society, and you decide to engage in a P.D.A. instead of doing your homework, then I think your expectations of ever getting an E.D. in graduate school are P.D.A. (Pretty Darn Arrogant)
I would like you to note that, according to www.acronymfinder.com, there are over 115 different definitions of P.D.A. including Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia (which I am pretty certain, now, that I have) and Past Doctor Adventure (which I thought was a great way to start referring to my experiences in medical offices, but apparently refers to the Doctor Who novels.)
But I digress. Suffice it to say that I successfully changed the subject from my student’s suggestion to a more appropriate one about the P.D.A.’s teachers must engage in each time the students get a holiday on P.D. (President’s Day)
Professional Development Activities, People! Get your minds out of the gutter.
I did something truly frightening and scheduled a colonoscopy for myself on Halloween. In retrospect, that wasn’t my best plan ever. But Fate saved me from myself once again, and my doctor’s office called to reschedule because, apparently, the doctor’s husband is having surgery on that date.
I am not going to go into the details of the domino effect of this schedule change. Being a teacher of gifted students at two different schools, I had to personally notify at least 500 people when I cancelled class for next Monday. My students thought I was taking a day off for Halloween. I didn’t take off for my own birthday, but I’m going to relax at home on Halloween? If I was going to let that day effect my teaching schedule, I would go for the day after Halloween – when the kids are so sugared up from all of the candy they ate, and so exhausted from trick or treating that they are extra diligent about misbehaving, and drop their heads on the desk as soon as you ask them to expend some energy on anything that requires thought.
Anyway, my doctors’s office decided to reschedule me for next Wednesday. After I dutifully marked that on my calendar and hung up, I contemplated the nightmare I had just agreed to.
I had just finished emailing all of the teachers about next week’s schedule change, and let Transportation know so they could get a different driver because the current bus driver has already scheduled his life around me once and refuses to do it again. Now I was going to have to tell everyone that I was just jerking their chains. I really meant to cancel class next Wednesday.
And, let’s be logical about this. If the doctor’s husband is having surgery on Monday, and something goes wrong, is my doctor going to be in any shape to be doing the sensitive things they do during such procedures? What if the husband stops breathing during his mystery operation and everyone panics and the nurse drops a scalpel, and someone steps on it and slips, hitting the anesthesia guy in the crotch and then all Hell breaks loose? Do I really want the doctor to be working on me a mere two days after this traumatic experience? I think not.
Of course, rescheduling would mean I would have to call the office back again. So, I need to weigh the likelihood of my doctor going off the deep end due to her husband’s brush with death against the likelihood of me talking to a real live person who can help me before I stab myself with the butter knife after being forced to listen to scratchy elevator music for fifteen minutes. This is not Dr. Jimmy’s office where humans pick up the phone after one ring and magically pull convenient-for-my-calendar appointments out of their uncolonoscopied rears.
Then I looked at my calendar more closely. What? OK – hide the butter knives. Time to call the doctor’s office. I could handle re-notifying 500 people rather than calling back to re-re-schedule, but there was another event on the calendar that I could not cancel and I sure as heck didn’t plan to attend loopy on anesthesia with an aching butt.
David Sedaris is coming to town. That man’s writings – and his readings of his writings – makes life worth living, and I am not going to miss his humor injection for a dang colonoscopy that will probably result in my doctor officially declaring me a hypochondriac once and for all.
So, I called the office again. And, you have rightly deduced that I did not stab myself. The colonoscopy is rescheduled. I will be able to enjoy David Sedaris with my full faculties intact. At least the ones that are usually present.
I haven’t told the 500 people yet. I’m thinking of keeping things quiet. After all, it might not be so bad to have the day off on Halloween.
We are going to a concert this weekend. I was very excited about it when we bought the tickets. Now that the time has nearly arrived, I don’t want to go. I had a tough week and I’m tired, and the thought of fighting crowds, sitting on the ground, and getting upset with people who don’t respect my space just doesn’t seem worth it. But I’m going anyway. Because I know I will be happy afterward that I did. Well, that’s not the whole reason. It’s mostly because we bought tickets, and I don’t want the money to go down the drain.
Which made me think about the motivational potential of tickets. I think there may be a business opportunity here that needs to be explored.
For example, we really need to clean out our garage. We have been saying that for three years. But we never do it. We always find reasons not to do it, and there is no real urgency, other than the fact that we can’t park our cars in it.
What if we bought “garage cleaning tickets”, though, for next Saturday? We couldn’t justify any type of excuse if we had paid $100 for them, right? What’s better – to be out $100 with a clean garage, or to be out $100 with a space that needs to be condemned by the city as unsafe?
Do you see my point?
Oh, I guess there are some flaws in this idea. But you People have to think big! There are flaws in every business plan. However, put a Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates in charge and you’re in the money.
Stop snickering, there, Idiot Speaketh, you with your George-isms and cynical views. I expect you to be a negative nelly. Ask Kramer what he thinks, and I’ll bet he thinks it’s a great idea.
If you, too, want in on this great opportunity, let me know. I’m going to work on my website right now. It’s going to be called “Stick-It Master – the Site Where You Get to Stick it to Yourself if You Don’t Get the Job Done”.
It’s a wonder why I’m not a millionaire yet.