Saturday, September 27, 2014

Situational Pet Peeves

In Which Danielle Climbs Back Up on her Old Familiar Soapbox

I have a lot of 'situational' pet peeves - as in, pet peeves that come and go, depending on what I'm doing, and where I'm doing it. I mean, one of my pet peeves used to be pushed-in-library-books-on-shelves. It's no longer my pet peeve. Why? Because I am no longer a library book shelver.

I'm not really one of those people who have long standing pet peeves that span all of time and space - like finger nails on a chalk board, or something. First of all, who uses chalkboards anymore? (Oh, I do - that's right - while working for a school district whose mission statement is something like 'training globally competitive graduates for the 21st century' I'm still using chalkboards like it's 1802.)

Here are a few of my current pet peeves:

1. People who write congratulatory statements on Facebook or other social media with no punctuation, or even the appropriate capital letters.

Ordinarily, I caution against excessive exclamation point usage - I never let my students use exclamation points in formal writing (never, ever, ever!) (yes, I see what I did there - it was on purpose). I let them use one or two in creative writing pieces, and even then, I generally tried to steer them away from using exclamation points, except for occasionally in dialogue.

However: If you are going to tell someone "Happy Birthday" on Facebook, why, oh why, oh why would you tell them:

happy birthday


Happy birthday

Or even:

Happy Birthday.

Come on, people! It's their birthday!

Or, there's the people who are actually writing congratulations. My brother just got engaged. (Side note: yay!) (yes, I see what did there, too.) I had to laugh as I looked at the comments appearing under his announcement:





Hello! He just got engaged! Surely you can take your right pinky finger, press down the shift key while simultaneously holding down the one key with your left ring finger.

Surely it's not that hard?

Is it?

Punctuation seems to be a problem for the general population, but something as overused as an exclamation point getting so under used in exactly the situation that a exclamation point is called for.

2. The people behind me who honk at me while I'm waiting to make a left turn.

This. Makes. Me. So. Mad.

I say very unChristian things when this happens that I am not proud of. (But I still don't curse at them, Will Martin, so don't get your hopes up.)

Everyone experiences a little road rage now and again. This makes me actually start to understand the crazy people who hunt other drivers down.

I'm a fairly cautious driver. I don't like to take unnecessary risks just to get to where I'm going faster or to get the people behind me to where they are going faster.

It's one thing when there is clearly no oncoming traffic - or a little reminder toot if the light turned green and you were zoned out - but it's entirely another thing when you know they can't see the oncoming traffic, whether it's there, or not.

My route home includes a left turn that is pretty easy to make, but the oncoming traffic is coming up a hill, so if you are not the first in line to turn left, you actually can't see the cars coming up the hill. And, if there is someone waiting in the opposite turn lane, it's even harder to see as the first in line, much less the second.

I don't know why, but lately people have decided that I should risk my life to scoot out in front of the huge semi-tractor-trailer because they have somewhere more important to be than my accident/death scene.

Seriously. It's ridiculous at the Caton Avenue and Georgetown left turn around 5:00 to 6:30. I've been making this same turn every day for a year and half, and in the last month, I've been honked at almost every time I make the turn (or, don't make the turn), without fail. I'm not being any more cautious than I usually am, but it never fails that the person behind me decides I should go, and decides that I need to know that I should go.

It is so frustrating, even when I am gratified by the car that comes zipping over the hill right after I was honked at.

I wouldn't care every once in a while, but it's ridiculous.

Baltimore drivers...they are not as crazy as Dakar drivers, but I am pretty sure there must be some Senegalese taxi men driving around in some of those big SUVs that think they rule the road and that they have the right of way simply because they are two times the size of my little Corolla.

[And a side note - a few days after writing this, I almost saw a horrible, horrible accident at this same intersection which would have definitely affected me and my car if the oncoming Semi had rammed into the car turning left in the alternate lane - it was horrible. I'm not exaggerating - the left-turning car was saved by about a second (and they had the right of way - the truck was running the light at about 50 miles/hour). Please be careful when turning!]

3. Leggings-As-Pants

Dear Girls and Unfortunate Adult Women,
Just because there are holes in the feet of your tights, this does not make them pants.


I sometimes feel that I am alone in my deep-seated hatred of leggings-worn-as-pants. I just don't get it. It's like I missed the memo where everyone got together to decide that leggings could be worn as pants.

[If you don't know what leggings are, they are either tights-materials (thin, colored hose) without feet, or often a hose in a slightly-thicker stretchy/spandex material, also without feet - sometimes called *shudder* "jeggings."]

This is one of my seasonal pet-peeves. Fall has arrived (yay!) and with Fall the pumpkin spice lattes, the Uggs, and the leggings-as-pants come out to haunt us all like the Great Pumpkin.

In all seriousness, immodesty is an epidemic in North America - and just when you think the weather will finally make some people cover up, it almost gets worse when the leggings and boots come out.

Allow me to clarify: I have no problem with people wearing leggings with a tunic, or something long enough to cover the butt. It's the people who wear a normal length top, and a pair of leggings with no coverage that drive me crazy.

And, while I am a religious person, it's not really just a conservative, religious preference.

How we dress, whether we are in a religious environment, or not, says something about us. Is it right for others to judge us by our clothing and outward appearance? Of course not! But sometimes that's all we have to go on.Whether you like it or not, the clothes that you wear say something about you and will be evaluated by the people around you for better or worse. Of course there is a time to be casual, and a time to be professional - but you never know who you are going to run into when you are out and about in the world. You never know who you're going to meet, encounter, have a conversation with. A potential friend, a potential employer, a potential colleague, or even a potential spouse.

If you're okay with a possible friend, employer, colleague, or spouse already knowing the intimate outlines of your butt - go ahead and wear those leggings as pants.

I'm not working in a situation where dress code is as much of an issue (only a few of my little 11 year olds seem to be pushing the dress-code envelope [and by the way - we do have a dress code and we do enforce it, for those of you who cry out against public schools]), but when I taught high school (oh, how I already long for those much as I do enjoy my squirmy little middle schoolers), that was often an issue. In a Christian school, the girls had heard the Christian message about why it's important to dress modestly a million times, and I know they got tired of hearing it. So, I tried to occasionally couch our dress code in terms of professionalism: we are a school, we are preparing you for not just academics, but socialization and the working world. In the world, when you get a job, you are expected to dress in a certain way. Most jobs require you to dress with a measure of decorum and professionalism that is not that different from the modest dress code of the school.

But, of course, most of the women and girls wearing leggings-as-pants aren't wearing them on the job - they are relaxing after yoga, they are on a run to the store, they are just "hanging out." And why should you care about looking professional when you are on your down time? Of course not - that's not what I'm advocating. But why would you want to dress in such a way that is going to probably gain unwanted attention towards your butt (unless you really, really want that attention on your butt, and most normal women don't - and this post is for the normal women, not the ones craving the the attention). Just because it's comfortable? Because I think most of the women and girls I see are probably just wearing their yoga pants and leggings because they're comfortable. Yoga pants are comfortable. (Leggings, however, are not, and there is nothing you can do to convince me of that.)

My mom has always advised that when you are traveling, dress well. Comfortable, but dress well. She even advised that we don't wear jeans when we travel alone. (And, between you and me, I prefer not to wear jeans because jeans are not really as comfortable as we think they are, especially on ten hour flights - or twenty hour bush-taxi rides) Because if you are dressed well, if you are in trouble, people might be more inclined to help you out. If I'm stuck at an airport (or a bush-taxi gare) (or, God-forbid, a bus station) wearing leggings-as-pants and my uggs, I'm just another one-in-a-million twenty-something American girl who doesn't have a clue. If I'm stuck in an airport wearing a nice (but comfortable) dress or slightly-nicer trousers, I'm just paving the way to sweet-talk that ticket-agent into giving me a hotel voucher for the night since I'm stuck in Lisbon with no where to go - or, to convince the security guard in Lisbon to let me go to the front of the line because I'll miss my flight - or to just give me a voucher for food in the airport because I missed my flight. (The Lisbon airport and I have a long history...).

I don't know...maybe it's a stretch. But I do know that I get good results from ticket-agents, and I do know that the too-youthfully-dressed people in line behind me or in front of me often get poorer service. It also helps that I have been stuck in airports a lot and know how to push just enough for what I want without (usually) ticking off the agent.

I know that this is one particular situation, but it applies to not-travelling - as I said before - you just never know when you are going to be in a situation where you need to impress someone or where you might need help.

Mostly, it just bugs me. In case you couldn't tell from the five-hundred word rant I just delivered.

So, if everyone could just conduct themselves in ways that don't annoy me, that would be great.
Yes, I made this meme myself. I am totes cool. 

4. One last pet peeve:

People who write "tots" instead of "totes."

I mean, for the love of Pete, it's bad enough when people say "totes" in place of "totally" (which is bad enough in and of itself).

But writing "Tots"? Really?

In what kind of universe are we living that the basic rules of phonics are simply being thrown out the window, devil-may-care?

A terrible, terrible one. It's time to make a super-hero movie about grammar.

What are some of your "situational" pet-peeves?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Supposedly Teaching, Part XI

Welcome back to the first installment of "Supposedly Teaching" in almost a year - pathetic, I know. This installment has a theme: "I'm not teaching High School anymore."

[First, a few words about Becoming Miss Bowers - then on to business.

I loved Becoming Miss Bowers. But, I just can't write two blogs. I can barely write one. So, Becoming Miss Bowers is going to be my account of my DA years. I am officially stating that I won't be posting any more posts there. But, it's still open to the public - feel free to continue to go back and read your favorite posts. Of course, I don't really expect that you'll do that, but a girl can dream, right?]

This week has been a week of reminding me just how different sixth graders and twelfth graders really are. I know I keep saying that. But, the differences just keep surprising me.

1. Sixth Graders are the biggest tattle tales. In the world. I haven't taught every sixth grader in the world, but I am pretty sure that this generalization is true.

So. Much. Tattling.

I thought that it wasn't cool to tattle?

When does it become uncool to be a tattle tale?

And, it's not that I mind kids telling me if someone is genuinely hurting (physically or verbally) another student - of course not! But the "Miiiiiiiiiiiiis, Can you tell him to stop loooooookin' at me?" is driving me up the wall.

"Miiiiiiiissssss, he was makin' fun of me at the lockers."

"Miiiiiiiiisssss, she was blocking my path."


Oh. My. Word.

I honestly don't know exactly what to do...I mean, like I said, I want to encourage students with genuine problems, but I also do not care if so-and-so looked at her.

Call me cold. Call me unfeeling. But I. Do. Not. Care.

And, inevitably, the kid who just tattled on someone for lookin' at them turns around and annoys another kids who inevitably cries out "Miiiiiiiiisssss!"

So, yesterday, I pulled out the Big Guns.

Things that My Mother Says.

"Well, I'm going to tell you what my mom says: if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

"But, Miiiiiiiiiisssssss!"

"No, I'm not kidding. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Also, stop looking at each other."

"But, Miiiiiiiiissssss."

I'm almost ready to pull out another one of my mom's one-liners (and, of course, the one-liner of every mom in the entire universe - even Borg Moms probably say this some days): "I'm changing my name!" (Or, if you're a Borg: "We are changing our name. Resistance is Futile.")

2. Sixth graders don't have a filter.

Yesterday, I was covering for ALC - the Alternative Learning Center i.e. In-School Suspension - during my prep period. Fortunately, it was two kids that I know, and not any big, bad scary eighth graders or something. They get a bathroom break every period when in ALC, so the two boys were approaching the door to head to the bathroom. I noticed that one of them was carrying a book in his hand (he loves to read).

"Um..." I hesitated. "You're just going to the bathroom." I explained.

The boy cheerfully nodded his head. (Seriously, for being in in-school suspension, he was downright pleasant and happy.)

"So...why are you taking your book?"

"Well." He began. "It's kind of awkward."

I braced myself.

"You see..." He paused, and a huge grin spread across his face. "I kind of have diarrhea."

"Oh." I said.

And I want to point out that I didn't say what I was about to say: "But if you have diarrhea, you should be finished quickly."

Please note that I am growing up and am learning to control my-thinking-before-I-speak-ness.

"Well, then...Just Go." I said, and he rushed off.

(Also, speaking of bodily functions...sixth graders are also really gassy. Just thought you'd like to know.)

3. Sixth graders hand you gross things and think it's okay.

In the middle of class while everyone was working independently, a girl approached me, held out her hand, and put her tooth into my unsuspecting hand.

Her tooth.

Her tooth.

Like, from her mouth.

Into my hand.

I stared at it. I've never been handed someone else's tooth before. Let me remind you that I don't have children. And 12th graders don't lose teeth.

"I just lost my tooth." She explained, somewhat unhelpfully.

"So...what do you want me to do with it?" I asked.

She shrugged.

Child, you put your tooth into my hand, and you don't know what you want me to do with it?

"Do you want to keep it?"


So, I found her a zip lock bag from my lunch box, put the tooth in the bag, and surreptitiously slathered my hand with hand-sanitizer.

And finally, I thought I would share the "goal" of the little girl with boy trouble from the post last week. Keep in mind that their bell-work for the day was to write a note to their future self - at the end of seventh grade, and to talk about several goals they would like to accomplish:

"Dear Future Self,
They only break your heart. Over and over again and if you want to date them break THERE heart."

[Grammatical error left for a little sixth grade flavor...]

That's all for this installment of "Supposedly Teaching." Join me next time for what will surely be an account of me doing something stupid in the classroom.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Settled. Ish.

Well, so far, I've survived exactly two weeks of school.

Physically, I feel a little bit like I've been thrown into the spin cycle of the washing machine - or like I've just been on a ten mile run. I come home from school and basically collapse on the couch till I go to bed. Occasionally, I remember to eat supper. It's probably a good thing I am not responsible for the care and keeping of any kind of pet - or child.

Honestly...sixth graders are a lot of work! I'm am not complaining, but holy cow! It's constant...attention. More so than high school. Constant...redirecting. Constant...awareness. My kids are, well, kids, and more so than any other "kids" I have taught. Sixth graders, at this point in the school year, are basically still in elementary. Knowing that going into this experience is quite different than experiencing it. I always joked: "There's a reason I don't teach elementary school!" (Trust me - there is.). Joke's on me. Here I am, doing "1-2-3 Eyes on Me" and counting down from five and scrambling to remember any and every elementary classroom management strategy I've ever heard of to implement into my classroom.

It's a pretty steep learning curve. I feel like there is a huge well of wisdom and knowledge that I am only just peering into, but can't access except for time and experience (and lots of professional development hours and helpful hints from other teachers). It really helps, though, to have six years of teaching under my belt.

I actually really like my students (so far). There are definitely some stinkers (both figuratively and literally), but they are, for the most part, sweet and eager to please. They smile, laugh at my corny jokes, appreciate my terrible Scottish accent (that drifts into Irish and Pirate if left unchecked) and eagerly approach me in the hallway to talk about the Loch Ness Monster (what we've been studying in Reading - hence the Scottish accent), or to ask me for advice about boys.

(Yeah, the irony of that isn't lost on me.)

One of my little girls keeps asking me, as she lingers before heading to lunch: "Miss Bowers...what do you do about boys?" and has told me on more than one occasion: "I'm having a rough day. Boy trouble." I just tell her that I generally ignore them, and I'm content. Today, she sighed mournfully and said: "That only works for some people."

(So cute! And hilarious!)

People keep asking me if I like it so far. I feel like it's too soon to tell. I'm in a really different place, personally, than I was at the start of the school year last year. A good place. I think I'm in a place, professionally, where I can really grow as a teacher. I've finally found a church (that I love!). I feel like I have a slowly growing circle of friends.

It's taken a year and half.

A year and a half of my adult life to feel somewhat settled, somewhat "transitioned." I honestly never, ever expected it to take this long. Because, I'm a grown-up now and I should know better. And I should be good at this transition stuff after approximately twenty-nine years of experiencing it.

Considering it's taken me this long, to be honest...I'm probably not going anywhere for a little while, unless God really, really smacks me in the face with a change of plans.

And, a year ago - six months ago, even - I would have utterly despaired at writing that statement. But, I think I'm here, for now. It's not easy. My family is far away. My best friends are far away. I am very much alone in many ways. But I'm a little more comfortable with that.

There are days, like today, when I really miss having a roommate, because today was a crazy day - too crazy to write about on my blog for confidentiality reasons. (I was so, so blessed to have roommates and close friends just an apartment away to talk to on the rough and/or crazy days.) There are days I wish I didn't have to pick up the phone to externally process. Or write on my blog about it, albeit vaguely.

But I'm a little more comfortable with that.

I've said many times since being hired last month that I'm pretty sure this is going to be a tough year - it already is in a number of ways. But I think it helps that I feel so much more like myself now. I know last year I really struggled to find myself here in these United States. I still feel a bit lost, but I'm getting there. Even though my new school is yet another (huge) transition, I think it's a place that I can see myself becoming a part of.

So, this is where I am, two weeks in.

Settled. Ish.

What a strange sensation.