Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fiftieth Post!

This is my fiftieth post on The Loquacious Introvert. It's taken me a while! For someone who has declared herself loquacious, I've been more introverted than I would like on my blog. I've been particularily "chatty" the last  month or so, though. My sister commented (I'm paraphrasing because my phone deleted the specific text message) that you can tell when I'm more content because I'm blogging more. I guess I am not one of those gloom-and-doom writers who thrive on adversity. Sorry, folks, you won't be getting a Faulkner-esque Great American Novel from me (though you might get a P.G. Wodehouse-esque novel one of these days).

For my fiftieth post, I'm going to share five of my favorite posts from over the nearly two years I've kept this blog:

"The 10 Stages of Packing for a Procrastipacker."
In which I put off my packing to move back to the States by writing a post about putting of my packing.

"How to Blog Like an Inspirational Christian Blogger"
In which I make make fun of, well, inspirational Christian bloggers. Bless their bones.

"Musings on a Tuesday (3.19.2013)"
In which I talk about random, unrelated things and mostly just amuse myself.

"The President's Parking Attendant"
In which I meet POTUS and tell local dignitaries where to park their shiny cars.

In which I reflect on a challenging time in my life. And bake bread.

Thanks for reading - here's to fifty more posts!

The Loquacious Introvert

Friday, October 24, 2014

Musings on a Friday, 10.24.2014

A few musings on this Friday afternoon:

1. It was the best of was the worst of times...
Last week I wrote about having a really rough class period, and that I was sure I would experience more bad days to come, but that I was glad that I had had that bad day so that I knew I could make it through.

Sure enough, this was a week full of bad days (just that one class). It. Was. Crazy.

I honestly don't even know how to put it in words - nor am I sure I should put it in words. It was crazier than last week. And, it wasn't just me (thank goodness): everyone was having difficulty with these same, crazy kids. I mean, call-the-police-officer-to-escort-them-out-of-the-building-crazy.

And then, today, miraculously- who knows why? - it was a good day. I didn't have to raise my voice to even get their attention. I didn't have to cajole, threaten, or bring out the mean face and voice. I didn't have to call home, assign any lunch detentions, after-school detentions, or make any office referrals. The kids came in, did their work, asked good questions, and stayed on task.
It was...magical. I felt like I could actually teach and not wrangle.

I'm going to savor it while it lasts.

2. Had had.
As much as I love the English language, sentences that require you to say "had had" are stupid. I try to avoid them, but my brain is just too tired to come up with something else.

3. Affected vs Effected
True confessions...even though I am an English teacher, I still struggle with this. I just really can't ever remember what the correct usage is with affected and effected. I know that effect is typically used as a noun, and affect is typically used as a verb but when it comes to writing if something affected something or was effected by something - I can't get it right in the moment.

So. Embarrassing.

4. Ebola in Kayes
Kayes - circa ?? This picture is old, but Kayes doesn't look that much different. I went looking for a "pretty" picture of Kayes. I don't have one. But, it's still home despite it's ugliness. :)

Like most, I've been following the ebola outbreak pretty closely, and like most, have been spending a lot of time praying for the people in the affected countries. It's felt a bit distantly personal as people I know have been impacted by the outbreak. The missions community is relatively small, and so inevitably, you are going to know, or know of, the people working with this epidemic, or even some of the aid workers/missionaries who have contracted the disease (and fortunately recovered) even if you are not personally connected with the three countries most affected by this disease.

But then, it got a lot more personal yesterday, when the first ebola case was reported in Mali - and in my hometown of Kayes (pronounced "Kie"). I don't want to make it about me, because it's not. But then again, I know people who work in the hospitals in Kayes. My parents were just in Kayes last week. It's my home - even though I'll never live there again - and it's hard and weird and I don't know what to feel. It sounds like the little girl (who died, sadly) came into contact with a lot more people than initially thought. I want the people of Mali, of Kayes to be safe. I want our friends to be safe - their names and faces kept flitting across my mind all day as I thought about each precious person, and I was nervous to check my email in case my parents wrote to tell us that so-and-so might have ebola. The chances of someone that I know personally getting ebola just got a lot higher, even though they are still pretty slim. 

Also, I don't normally feel anxious at all about my parents living in Africa but today I feel a pit in my stomach that is never there (a pit I have only felt once before, during the coup d'etat in 2012). Of course my parents aren't going to contract ebola - but it just got that much more possible that they could. Of course, they could contract about half-a-dozen other diseases at any point in time, too - but of course ebola seems a lot scarier at the moment than malaria, TB, hepatitis, or typhoid.

I guess I am just writing to process - I don't really have a resolution. It's hard to be here: I want to be there, in the thick of things, as strange as that sounds. I think the work I'm doing here is very important, and I get confirmation every day that I'm supposed to be here, for now, doing this job and working with these kids. I don't really have any medical skills other than putting on bandaids (though I have read Where There is No Doctor from cover to cover several times and would be a very handy person to have around if you ever get bit by snake or need to build a clean latrine). But there's this itch of wanting to be there, to do something, to help. The "Martha" in me isn't satisfied with prayer - but Jesus keeps reminding me that prayer is the best thing I can do right now to help the ebola outbreak.

5. Back to Curly
And, to end on a slightly "lighter"  note, to follow up my silly post about straightening my hair, when my Mod 2 class came in on Wednesday (my hair was back to it's normal curliness), one little girl looked at me, her face crestfallen:

"Oh." She said, disappointed. "Your hair's curly again."

I felt a little like Jo March in Little Women after Amy declared that she had given up her "one true beauty" after cutting off her long locks of hair.

Until another Friday's (or Tuesday or Thursday) Musings.

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Did you Iron Your Hair??"

Today in the sixth grade there was shift in the time-space-continuum. Our careful, fragile ecosystem was upset...all because I straightened my hair.


"Did you cut your hair?"

"Miss look different."

"Did you dye your hair?"

"You look...beautiful!"

"You look...?"


"I really like your hair straight."

"Your hair is so different."

"What's different about you?"

"Did you...iron your hair?"

"Did you get a hair cut? Something's different?"

"Is it permanent?"

"What happened to your curly hair?"

"Why did you do it?"

You would think they'd never seen someone straighten their hair before. Admittedly, I don't do it often, and it was the first time at this school for this year but people straighten their hair all the time. Even those strange beings called "teachers." Right?
 No matter what age group you teach, no matter what type of school you teach in - no matter what - when you change one thing about your personal appearance, it will be the topic of conversation for the day. It never fails - if I ever straighten my hair, no matter what school I've taught in, it becomes the conversation piece of the day. The comments above are only a fraction of the commentary I got all day long because I came to school with my hair straight (rather than it's usual curly-craziness).

At least I got the straight hair day out of the way. The next is the wearing-my-glasses day. (Let's hope that never comes, though. Glasses. Gross. Shudder.*)

Or straight? 
(Also, side note: the fake-brick wall in my 
living room, that I really don't like, is actually a great backdrop for selfies... :)

No comments about my glasses will ever  top Lee's, however:

Over the course of 2 years, I probably wore my glasses four times total when I taught Lee American Literature and then in AP Lit.

(Side note: I miss teaching those classes - and those kids. Those were the good ole' lizard hunting, machete-wielding days of yore!)

And every. single. time I wore my glasses Lee would ask: "Miss Bowers, are those different glasses than you normally wear everyday?"

I wish that I could say he was being facetious. But he wasn't.

At least in that instance, his classmates (Tanner) would typically mock senseless him for his comments - I barely had to do any mockery at all! - but still: every time, Lee?

Every time.

*Actually, I like the "look" of my glasses - I just don't like wearing them because they give  me a headache.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

In Which it Gets Significantly More Difficult

I came to a realization early this week: my sixth graders are no longer cute.

Those adorable little bundles of cuteness have disappeared, and have been replaced by something other:

Middle Schoolers.

It was a tough week. It was the kind of week where I wondered what the heck am I doing here? I could be in Myanmar teaching perfectly polite Burmese children English literature.

It was the kind of week where I wondered how did I wander into an inner-city school with no one telling me?

It was the kind of week where I started to understand that the kids go crazy in October and don't calm down until December.

That kind of week.

And it wasn't even a full moon.

Please don't misunderstand me - I am not complaining. I'm just processing. And apparently, I need an excessive amount of italics to do that, but whatever. I'll try and stop now.

Between you, and me, and the five other people who read this blog, it's been getting tougher and tougher as the year has progressed. As I began the school year, I was aware that 1) that I was going have a challenging road ahead of me  and 2) that I was going to reach a point where I no longer found it fun - because the reality of long days, absent-minded sixth graders, and lots and lots of extra "stuff" would start to crowd in on those sweet, teachable-moments. Knowing and experiencing are two different things - I'm glad I knew that this was going to happen, but it is hard when it does happen. And, it's not that it's not fun at times, and it's not that I don't like my students - I do! - but the fuzzy little honeymoon period has worn off and this is the reality: I teach a hundred and thirty or so squirrelly, squirmy, eleven-year olds who don't know how to write a paragraph, much less a sentence with all the right capital letters and punctuation.

I think I've mentioned that my school, while not quite in the city, is only a few blocks away from the city line. And, it's a Title 1 school, which means the majority of our students come from low-income families and some rather impoverished situations. I don't know how to put this politically correctly, but with those demographics come behavior challenges that you just don't see in comfortable, suburban USA.

I also knew - and know - that you can read all the books in the world on behavior management, watch every Harry Wong video, attended numerous PD sessions about classroom management, and even have almost eight years of teaching under your belt - but nothing quite prepares you for the day when you have to pick up the phone and threaten to call the police officer to come whip your class into shape.

Yep - it was that kind  of week. The kind of week where you have all five trouble makers in your Mod 7/8 class flare up at the same time, and the kind of week while you're trying to put out fires in one part of the classroom another fire is starting blaze.

The kind of week where you just. don't. know. what. to. do.

About two months ago, I woke up to a bat flying around in my bedroom. And I had absolutely no idea what to do, other than take a flying leap out of bed, scream like a girl, run down stairs and start semi-hyper-ventilating.

It was that same feeling, yesterday, when I could not rein in this particular class. I was so upset that I was shaking (but I did not cry or break down in front of the students, fortunately). Nothing really prepares you until you're in the moment. It's sort of like the first time you absolutely have to get off a hill when you're driving a stick - when no one else in the car knows how to drive a stick, and you are on a steep uphill road in the middle of Letchworth State Park with a million cars behind you, starting to honk and you are not sure if you can do it. But you do - because you have to.

So, I pulled the one kid who was being a total jerk out into the hall, yelled at the rest of the class that decided that was hilarious, threatened to call the officer (but didn't have to), then assigned an escalation of consequences to the girl who was being an absolute terror (lunch detention which turned into after-school detention, and sending her out of the room - which finally resulted in the calm that I needed, indicating that she was the center of the storm [though she was far from calm]). I gave the "I'm extremely disappointed in you" speech to the "good" kids who decided to be bad today (talking, talking, talking!), and assigned their exit ticket as homework because they had wasted all the time.*

*Yes, I know you should never assign homework as a consequence, but in this situation, they would have had time to do it in class, but they wasted the time. The sad thing is, I'll probably get only four back on Monday, but at this point, I'm fine with the zeroes. No more Miss Nice Lady.

Whew - it was rough!

But, I'm so thankful for a 6th grade team who has lots of great ideas, who doesn't blame me for the behaviors because they have them, too, in their classes.

I'm so thankful for a 6th grade team leader who doesn't make me feel like I'm inexperienced when I talk to her, but instead assures me that everyone has "a class from hell" and also gives me helpful strategies to deal with the problems without making me feel like I'm a bad teacher.

I'm so thankful that once I moved the girl out of the class, I was able to regain control of my lesson.

I'm so thankful for the handful of good kids in the class who really didn't participate in the crazy.

I'm so thankful that the majority of my classes are actually pretty well-behaved - and the majority of my students.

I'm so thankful that this was a class I've prayed for a lot - because maybe, it could have gone even worse without the power of prayer.

I'm so thankful that I've figuratively gotten that car off of that hill. I remember that day well (it wasn't a hypothetical scenario). I remember how frustrated and helpless I felt, as I tried again, and again, and again to get my car off that flippin' incline. And finally - I got it. I was shaking, close to tears, extremely embarrassed - but I got it. And I never had a problem with hills and stick-shifts again.

Now, I don't think twice about driving standard. In fact - I'd rather drive a stick than an automatic - but it took me a while to get there. So - and I realize I'm milking this metaphor now - maybe, just maybe, I will reach a point where I'll know intuitively how to handle the challenges and even like working with kids that are so troubled. I want to show those kids that I do care for them - even if they got in trouble on Thursday - and I want to be on their team and somehow let them know I'm on their team, even if it means putting them in after-school detention for their own good.

I'm am not naively believing that I've faced the toughest day that I'm going to face - nope. I'm sure there are many more crappy days to come (October-November: the crazy months). But I think I showed the kids that I mean business - that my threats aren't empty. And I showed myself that I could do it - that I could reign in the crazy, when it flares up again, which it will. I know this will happen again, but I'll think I can survive it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ode to Autumn

Today was the first real Autumn day in Baltimore.

I love Autumn.

I grew up in a world without seasons. Sure, sure - we transitioned from Hot-and-Dry-Season to Hot-and-Muggy-Season to Slightly-Less-Hot-Dry-Season, and back to Hot-and-Dry-Season again in Mali, but in reality? The dramatic shifts in weather and temperature and colors that are the Northern Hemisphere's seasons are nearly non-existent in West Africa.

Fall is my favorite season. It was such a surprise to me in college when I realized that I loved - loved - Autumn. As much as I hated New York winters, that first whiff of Autumn air made me want to sing and do cartwheels around the quad with glee - even if was a harbinger of a Narnian winter of snow and ice for months without end.

Autumn reminds me that I actually like living in North America.

I love the coolness of Fall. Not too hot, but not too cold. I have my windows open, and while it's a bit chilly in my house as I write this post, the fresh, crispness of the air feels so healthy and my house seems filled with Autumn-ness.

It's also not too warm to cook, and so my house is filled with the smell of pumpkin crisp bars and bread-pudding goodness and something stewing in the crock-pot, because Autumn also makes me want to bake cozy desserts and comforting soups and creamy stroganoffs and hearty chilies.

Mmmm, bread pudding. 

I love that Fall means I can wear scarves without seeming hipster-ish and pretentious.

I like to collect scarves from the different places I've traveled to. I think I bought this scarf in Rome. Also - please try to ignore the huge bags under my eyes... 

I love scarves.

I try not to wear them when it's stupid to wear scarves, like the summer, but when Fall rolls around, I am so happy to see my colorful friends that have been pushed to the back of my closet.

Hello, my lovely friends!
I wish I could say these are all the scarves I own. But there's more.

I love that Fall means pumpkin flavored things:

Like pumpkin flavored oatmeal.

True confessions: I bought this.

And pumpkin flavored marshmallows.

I did not buy this.
Fall also means Apple Cider. I love Apple Cider! (I am definitely my father's daughter!)

I love that Fall makes me want to do crafty things that are too hot in the summer time. This weekend I've been crafting - I'm currently making yarn-wrapped wreaths and felt flowers. It's too hot to crochet or work with yarn in the summer. But it's Fall! So I can get my DIY on. (I am definitely my mother's daughter!)
I made this!

Of course I also love the changing colors of the trees, and the leaves dancing with glee - even if that means that inevitably my neighbor will be nagging me to rake up the three leaves that have fallen from the small Japanese maple in the front yard.

Fall even makes me want to go for a long luxurious run (of course, while listening to a podcast of "This American Life" about how much people love Autumn in America). Also, something about Fall makes it not sound so silly that I just put the words "luxurious" and "run" in the same sentence.

My poor running shoes have been rather neglected of late.
Last year's half-marathon...a beautiful, Baltimore Fall Day.

Autumn makes everything seem possible.

Happy Fall, friends!