Saturday, September 11, 2010

9th anniversary, September 11

9 years ago today my daughter was 6 months old, so probably my feelings and memories of this historical event will always relate to being a mother. 10 years ago, I had just resigned from my job (working in the local university residence halls as area director) and switched fields to study secondary English education. After G was born, I continued to "stay home" and took graduate classes until I started teaching when she was 2 and a half years old (7 years ago).

Earlier today I took G to her annual "well child visit" at the pediatric office where we have been going all the years of G's life. Listening to the doctor talk to G more than me directly was really interesting. The doctor discussed self-image, confidence (Do you think you look good? I agree!), peer pressure (Sometimes kids are mean around your age. Are any kids in your class mean?), personal responsibility (Do you have chores and help mom at home?), and other developmental issues (Sometimes at your age you hear kids school talk about things that are different than what your mom says. If that happens, who do you believe, the kids or your mom?) in very child-friendly terms. I LOVED it! I'm going to be so interested to hear what the docs (in this group practice) discuss with her when she moves through adolescence. (I want to know what pediatricians tell my students, at least the ones who have regular check-ups.)

9 years ago this morning, I sat with G on the living room couch watching PBS show (Caillou) in our Buffalo apartment. Sometime between 8:45 and 9:00, I switched to NBC just to take a peek at the news and could not comprehend what I saw - the familiar Twin Towers with smoke, the Today Show hosts saying something serious - for a few minutes before reality sank in. I lived in New York City from ages 7 through 11, then 14 through 22. G was a fussy baby at the age of 6 months, but she was very calm and quiet all morning while I held her, my eyes glued to the TV. This is the lasting image in my mind from watching TV that day: a mom pushing a stroller with a young child in it on a Manhattan city street, trying to walk away from danger, trying to get home.

Friday, September 10, 2010


That's probably the best way to describe my state of being right now, after the first "week" of school, 4 days of "work", 3 of those days with students. It's not bad, just so much input in a short time. That's how I feel about my "back-to-school".

Monday, September 6, 2010

last day of summer 2010

That's me on the beach of Lake Ontario, our last visit of 2010

Here's the Book Whisperer's article "how to accelerate a reader" that will jump start English teachers everywhere to celebrate the start of a new school year!

To help me celebrate, I'm keeping today as low-key and boring as possible, which will help me look forward to WORKING again, i.e. 6am alarm clock setting, professional work attire, structured schedule, a PAYCHECK.  (I revised the title of this post from "summer vacation" to "summer" because unemployment is not the same as vacation!)

NOT helping me today in the pursuit of boring is last night's Mad Men episode. I'm crazy about the series and especially this most recent, most STUNNING and FANTASTIC episode full of yelling, fighting, and crying. Many online fans keep me company today, such as the bloggers and commenters on Basket of Kisses.

Otherwise, let's keep it low-key and boring enough to make me go to bed early, such as before 11pm, to catch up on sleep.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

District 13

Our town's volunteer fire department runs the annual Labor Day fair, an event that we've all attended and enjoyed before. But attending the demolition derby at this fair was a first for me, my husband (who grew up attending this annual event) and daughter, and our friends/the family who lives next door.

The audience has standing views only, so while we jockeyed for a good spot, we sent our 9 year old girls forward to stand behind the row of people sitting in lawn chairs. Yes, we knew there was some type of barrier (later I learned it was concrete), but we didn't think about flying car parts or out-of-control cars until AFTER the girls were firmly settled. I didn't even have the chance to teach her any defensive maneuvers, like DUCK!!! This caused me much anxiety amidst the otherwise fun atmosphere, but I'm very thankful no one was hurt!!!

My own "bad mother moment" aside, I was absolutely stunned to see one car with "District 13" painted on the side. All the cars have the fire company town name painted on them, along with various slogans and decor. But District 13? As in The Hunger Games? I couldn't believe my eyes! Then someone said it may be that fire department's district number, which made more sense than random literary connection at a fire fighter's demolition derby.

District 13 - WON!!! The pics show two last cars facing each other - Ellicott Creek Fire Department and Snyder Fire Department. The latter caught on fire soon after that face-off picture was taken, so DISTRICT 13 was the last car running! (As soon as the Snyder car caught fire, sirens sounded, people yelled, fire fighters rushed over, the driver was pulled out, lots of fire extinguishers used, etc. I guess that's why a fire fighter demolition derby is ironic.)

My daughter (short brown ponytail) next to her friend (blond pontail) had great views. Crashing cars in small field... next time, my kid will not be that close.

Last 2 cars in middle of picture

I overhead someone in the chicken dinner line (oh I didn't mention we ate FABULOUS chicken dinner and clam chowder?! Tomato-based clam chowder, the BEST I've had in a long time, thanks!!!) say the driver of this winning car (with trophy) was the fire chief of that fire department.

Resting derby cars during dinner time. See "District 13" painted on the side of the white car?!

school dreams

One of my favorite authors of all time is Barbara Kingsolver. I mention that fact gratuitously because my topic reminds me of her book Animal Dreams. Each time I read a new book of hers, I say, "THIS is my FAVORITE book that she wrote." My most recent favorite Kingsolver book is The Lacuna, which I read in print and listened via Kingsolver's audiobook recording last spring. (Who knew she spoke Spanish so well???) I also listened to the first half of her audiobook recording of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. (Half of the book is how much I could enjoy learning about Kingsolver's "eat local" endeavors. Special bonus of the audiobook is her daughter reads the essays/recipes that she wrote in the book!) Her readings are truly wonderful :)

Other audiobook favorites of mine: Eat, Pray, Love written and read by Elizabeth Gilbert (who has a lovely speaking voice, whose SISTER is Catherine Gilbert Murdock who wrote the terrific young adult realistic fiction Dairy Queen trilogy), I Feel Bad About My Neck written and read by Nora Ephron (laughing that hard while driving is a safety hazard, but it's not my fault), Who Moved My Cheese, and The Red Pyramid (book 1 of The Kane Chronicles) written by Rick Riordan (who wrote the Percy Jackson series) and read by 2 actors who were super good.

Only the second tangent (about audiobooks) was unintentional when I started this post. Typically my school dreams fall into three categories:

1) I'm trying to get to work on time, but I'm going to be late because I can't find the right clothes to wear or find my car or whatever, and then I'm definitely late and trying to call the main office to let them know, but for some reason I can't reach my phone or remember the number or whatever. I'm neurotic in general about timeliness, and even when I worked in non-school settings, my coworkers thought I was overly zealous about being punctual. So put me in a school setting where my every work minute must be accounted for, and being late is my absolute worst nightmare.

2) I'm not prepared with actual lessons and try to just "wing it". In these dreams, my students and I cope with my "winging it" rather well. They don't seem to care!

3) I'm trying to get the students' attention by screaming at the top of my lungs, but they can't hear me and/or don't care. In real life, classroom management is not an issue for me at our fairly tame suburban school. The small remedial classes that I've taught last 2 years present unique challenges - take a handful of students who hate school in general and reading and writing especially, make them take English Language Arts TWICE a day every other day, voila! I've done the most "screaming" when trying to supervise students moving to classes in the hallways and absolutely need to stop unsafe or otherwise intolerable behavior in its tracks. Our large school size (over 1300 students, 6th, 7th, and 8th grades) is mostly to blame for the chaotic halls, in my opinion.

I've had a few back-to-school dreams during the past few weeks. I think I've had each of the above 3 scenarios already, and last night it was #3. The setting was in an amusement park, and I was trying to scream out directions to students on a roller coaster ride.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Jane Austen's Fight Club

Here's a back-to-school video special for all English teachers and students. Thanks to Tricia from Coffee & Critique Writers Group for the link! (Oh sorry the video frame doesn't fit properly!)


Isn't that a terrific invented word?! I learned it from the blog Fashionable Academics and the post in response to the Chronicle of Higher Education article about professor "hotness". (Special thanks to the awesome blog Academichic and its post about that article.)

I'm borrowing the term for my topic even though I'm not a professor because "teachartorialism" doesn't work as well. Since I voiced opinions about teenage student attire, the professional appearance of teachers is a fair discussion topic here.

Specifically in my suburban middle school environment, I like to dress for work.  "Dress for work" means I want to convey these messages:
- I am working, using my professional training and skills.
- Teaching is a profession, not a hobby.
- "Game on" is my work mode from 8am to 3:15pm on a school day.
- I like to express some of my personality, interests, and style through my clothing and accessories, but I do not want to distract students from learning.

Tricky balance on some days, but I think it's fun!