Friday, August 14, 2015

A Few Random Musings on a Friday (Because I am Getting Tired of Talking to Myself)

My introvert coffers are basically full, and so I'm a little more loquacious than usual this week because I think I need to talk to people.


Well, I mean, I need to talk to you, people!

I don't know where I'm going with this.

I don't know how I ended up with this ability to chatter and be an introvert. Yes, I know it's called an "ambivert." That's dumb. I like my way better - it's far more interesting than ambivert. Ambivert sounds like someone who has an affinity for frogs. Somehow I'm an introvert who processes best externally. I don't have anything particular to process tonight. But it's my blog and I get to process however I like on it. Sheesh.

So, I'm planning on running another half marathon in October, and slowly getting myself into gear. Running always gives me enormous clarity. Nothing clears my head like a run. I don't know why I don't do it more often. It's kind of like a physical form of prayer...after a run (which usually involves prayer) I just have perspective. One of my favorite teachers in middle and high school used to prescribe running as the antidote for everything.

Stressed out? Run!
Tired? Run!
Vomiting? Run!
Malaria? Run!

I strangely agree with him more and more. Thanks, Mr. Penney, for your life wisdom.

True confessions: after my run tonight I went to Walmart* and I bought Kraft Macaroni and Cheese  (that's "Kraft Dinner" for my Canadian friends) and that's what I ate for supper. Yes, I know that this basically negates all exercise I may have done for the week.

Lately I've been realizing just what a terrible grownup I am, at least in the food department (and in several other departments - thank God for automatic bill pay - but today, let's just focus on food).

Here's what I ate today:
Breakfast: Two cups of coffee. Forgot to eat actual food until 2:00 pm until I was suddenly so violently hungry I thought I was going to throw-up. (Hungry? Run! So Hungry You're Going to Puke? Run!)
Lunch: Leftover white rice with salt and pepper. An apple.
Snack: Apple Pie Lara Bar and pretzel sticks to try and get my blood sugar up so that I could actually run.
Dinner: Boxed Mac & Cheese.
Dessert: Strawberry Popsicle.

(Where's the protein, Bowers?!?)

I could try and excuse it by saying that it's summer. I keep odd hours in the summer and eat strangely. But it's not summer's fault. I eat haphazardly most of the time. My dog eats better than I do (well, relatively speaking - it's still dog food). I got really concerned about cheap dog foods, and I buy (embarrassingly expensive) grain-free dog food for her, but I'm eating boxed macaroni and cheese for supper. However, my desire to make sure my dog eats well gives me hope that if I ever have children, I won't be feeding them macaroni and cheese. Nope. They'll be getting the best grain-free dog food  money can buy.

It's really hard to do the normal, every day life things, like eating, once school is in session. I am excited for this year because I'll have Mod 5/6 off, which means I can eat lunch around noon instead of at 11:00 (as long as I don't have coverage. And I'll have coverage every day. It shall be my punishment for getting rid of Tech Ed.). I am entering into this school year with Big Hopes and Plans when it comes to eating. I'll do my grocery shopping once a week and plan my meals! I'll use my new crock pot more often (especially because it was a gift from a lovely friend)! I'll eat more vegetables and fruits intentionally! I'll do make-ahead salads like they have on Pinterest! I'll eat lunch every day! I will not be hangry by Mod 9 because I've eaten a good lunch! Consequently I'll be the Perfect Teacher and everyone will love me.

I give it a week, and it'll be back to Lean Cuisines if I remember to buy some that week, or a Luna Bar if I remember to stock my desk drawers or Popcorn if the janitors didn't throw out my stash left behind in the staff room over the summer, or a leftover from our "universal breakfast," or a handful of almonds.

I need a Jeeves to make sure the day to day things in my life happen so that I can focus on my job. Perhaps I'll advertise on Craigslist.

Did I ever tell the story of the time when, my students were discussing my marital status or lack of marital status? First, they asked me if I had ever been on a date. Fortunately, I did not have to lie about this. Then, I was asked by the same student who would bring powered sugar to breakfast:

"Miss Bowers! Have you ever tried Craigslist?"


"You know. Craigslist."

"For...a date?"


There are no words.

I was almost as speechless as the time I was told by a student: "Miss Bowers, you're my DUFF**."

There are no words.

(Maybe I need to eat less macaroni and cheese.)

I am actually really looking forward to getting back to school and work next week. Also I need to get paid.

I realized (as I was running - perspective!) that this is the first time in three years I haven't had a new job at the beginning of the school year. I'm so happy to be going back to a familiar place and familiar faces. I'm really looking forward to catching with to the now seventh graders and seeing their sweet faces (please note how summer helps me forget how much I did not find their faces sweet two short months ago...summer is NECESSARY for teachers to become human beings again), and getting to know this new batch of sixth graders who will surely be the cause of a few more wrinkles by Christmas time, but are now a complete unknown (and they are pretty scared stiff the first month or so and that's how we like them).

I haven't talked about my neighbors in a while because I've been able to ignore them much of the summer because my parents were here to get the brunt of the complaints, criticisms, and "helpful" suggestions. They tend to get on these one-tracked obsessions that they will not let up with until it comes to a confrontation or I just do what they want. One of their obsessions is that people will come and snatch the dog out of my front yard and use her for dog baiting in dog fights. I can't make this stuff up.

Every. Single. Time. I. Leave. The. Dog. Outside. Without.Watching. Her. They. Inform. Me. Of. This. Possibility.

I'm fairly certain that if I ever go out there, and Lucy is gone that they probably took her to teach me a lesson. It's good thing their dog hates other dogs (and all other human beings) because that's the one thing keeping them from teaching me this lesson.

Lately it's the rats. It started with one rat comment about two weeks ago: "You better watch that little dog of yours because I saw a rat go under your bushes."

And then I got another rat comment a week later: "You better watch that little dog of yours. I keep seeing that rat."

And then two or more rat comments a day.

And then the angry (not sure if they were angry at me, or the rats?) phone call yesterday: "We have a rat problem. You need to do something about the rats in your yard. They're nesting in there. And they keep coming into my yard. I see them all the time. And watch that little dog of yours. Those rats will attack a dog."

First of all, let me elucidate. When they say "We have a rat problem," they mean me. Because somehow it's my fault that a rat or multiple rats have nested in my bushes when they are the one who feed birds bread on a daily basis several times a day.

The rat problem is actually their fault (well, as much as a vermin problem in a major metropolitan area can be). And, I actually dealt with it, but because they didn't see me do something about the rat problem it's still a problem (in other words, I put poison out but they didn't see me do it, and I, oh so foolishly did not inform them of it the minute I did it)

The thing about my neighbors is that I don't have to exaggerate. I am not exaggerating. You are getting the whole, unadulterated truth.

We are going to probably end up on Judge Judy some day. I'm already going to be on an episode House Hunters (don't ask - I can't even - I'm not ready to talk about it yet, okay?! It was very traumatic), so I'll just add this to my reality TV repertoire.

I'm starting to get anxious about going back to school not because I'm nervous about school starting (okay, I'm nervous about school starting, of course), but because I am not sure what I am going to do about The Dog Situation. I had a kid come and walk the dog for the two months that Lucy-ownership and school overlapped. But I am not sure if I want to continue that...frankly, I think she can hold it and it gets a little expensive (I guess I could go back to feeding her terrible dog food...).

But I'm not sure the neighbors can hold it.

I was told that I was cruel and mistreating her because I was crating her, even with the kid walking the dog during the day. When I told them it was none of their business, they told me it was their business because they love all animals. This is the readers' digest version of this confrontation - and even though I have a pathological fear of any and all conflict and confrontation and it makes me want to vomit (Pathological Fear of Confrontation? Run!) I stood up for myself and my choices and eventually gave in to what they wanted me to do (not crate the dog) because it's just easier that way.

I really don't need to crate her anymore (she gets gated into the kitchen), but it would be about 10 hours without a bathroom break.

Which is a long time.

But she's a dog.

And she can (probably) hold it. I need to see if she can, but I'm pretty sure I will not be given the opportunity to come to the conclusions on my own, because as soon as they pick up on the fact that the dog walking kid isn't coming around anymore (I don't even know if he can still do it, actually), I'm going to hear about it.

And please, don't suggest that I give The Neighbors a key and just let them let her out if they are so concerned. Oh, no. Those people are not getting inside my house. I get enough commentary from them about the outside of my house. Can you imagine? I'd have to keep my house spotless. I couldn't leave a crumb on the counter by accident because I'd be told about the dangers of cockroaches (which, um, after African drain cockroaches very little phases me now in the cockroach department) and mice and ants. Once, I left an empty yogurt container by accident on our shared porch and was informed about three different times about ants and how they were now infesting their side of the porch because of my yogurt cup. That had been licked clean by the dog so there was no residue.

Mostly...I try to laugh about it. Mostly I do laugh about it. But it does get my goat when I'm told that I have a rat problem when they're the ones feeding the rats.

Final thought for the night: I think I have an overabundance of parentheses. It's like I picked them up at a bulk punctuation store and I'm just using them devil-may-care because they're cheap.

Oh, parentheses. I love you. I don't want to give you up. (Even though I may need to use fewer of you.)

I love you almost as much as I love the m-dash.

Whatever would I do with out you?

*Incidentally, I'm pretty sure that Hell is going to be that Walmart. No need for fire and brimstone. Just build Hell exactly like the Landsdown Walmart and people will come to Jesus in droves. This is the part where I get struck by lightning...wait for it...)

**DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Musings on a Summer Tuesday, 8.11.2015

On my mind this week:

1) This is my last week of summer - one week from now, as I write this, I will be sitting in Extremely Positive and Upbeat Sounding Meetings That Inform Us of All the New and Wonderful Changes That Will Turn Our Good School Into A Great School and How To Teach Globally Competitive Citizens.

I'm actually quite looking forward to getting back to school (if not the battery of meetings and professional development I have to endure the week before school starts) - I adore summer (I am really good at being a couch potato and I'm not afraid to admit it), but I also really like getting back to school and activity and work and routine. I'm teaching all Language Arts (which is what I would have called "English" before teaching in this district - so novels and poetry and writing, including two GT sections which means Better Behaved Children (in theory), and my homeroom is one of the GT sections. Also, NO TECH ED. I would teach Math over Tech Ed (Computers) any day. Tech Ed. was literally (and I'm using this with the actual meaning of the word) the bane of my existence. I shudder to think of it. I won't even put it on my resume because I never, ever want another school to say: "Oh, this person taught a computer class. Let's give her Computers." There is nothing worse than trying to teach Microsoft Word to a thirty sixth graders after lunch with six of the worst kids in the grade in your class.

Okay, there might be a few things that are worse than that (like teaching gym - or sitting through an entire sporting event without a book - or being tarred and feathered) - but not many.

3) I have spent more time on Pinterest this summer than is probably recommended. I get these little craft obsessions and I can't stop figuring out how to do them until I overdose on whatever the project was - hoop art or diy abstract paintings or repainting furniture or how to do a gallery wall or yarn wreaths or whatever. I've actually managed to make some really cool items (if I do say so myself) that I've used for gifts or my own decorations, so the obsessions paid off, I suppose.

Pinterest is a pretty funny place, as useful as it can be. I like using it to predict when someone is either about to get engaged or about to have a baby. The truth is in the PINS, although, admittedly, it is a bit harder to predict the engagements because every unmarried woman or girl occasionally pins wedding things (you can make the prediction based on the frequency). No one, however, pins something about "pumping" or diaper rash or cutesy pregnancy announcements unless they're pregnant or planning on getting pregnant soon. How can I be so certain? Please. I don't need to know nor want to know tips on pumping until I actually have to face that reality in my life. And thank you very much Pinterest friends for shoving that in my face (shouldn't one of the perks of being single be not having to even think about breast-feeding or diaper rash?).

One of the types of pins that pops up a lot is something like "Five Cute Hair Styles for the Gym: So we work hard at the gym, it doesn't mean we can't look cute while doing it."


Cute hair styles for the gym? I don't know about you, but when I go to the gym (or for a run)...I. Don't. Look. Cute. Even if I did my hair "cute," I wouldn't look cute after about five minutes. Also, who has time to do their hair for The Gym? I can barely make the time to exercise some days (err, uh, most days...especially when school's in session), much less style my hair for The Gym.

Girls (well, and boys, I suppose), if you are going to the gym to look cute, you're not doing it right.

3) I just decided to pick up the Harry Potter books again. Why? It's been on my mind because, according to my Time Hop app, I posted a lot about the seventh Harry Potter book when it was published eight years ago (thank you, Time Hop, for reminding me about all the dumb status updates that I'm sure I thought were witty at the time...). I started with The Prisoner of Azkaban because I've read the first and second too many times.

I need to talk about a few things that have long been bugging me about the Harry Potter universe. I'm about to go into full Harry-Potter-Geek-Mode, so feel free to stop reading and skip to the end. Or keep reading and then feel free to mock me afterwards. Or stop reading and mock me anyway. Whatever. I can take it.*

So, first of all, I've been doing some math. I only do math if it pertains to something I like, like books or baking. Here's the problem: Harry Potter never, ever seems to know other students at his school. Which might make sense if his school was big. but it's not. It's small. It has to be small.

According to my sister, J,K. Rowling said in an interview somewhere that Hogwarts is about 1000 students.

J.K. Rowling, the numbers do not support this.

If Harry's year is typical, and students are sorted more or less equally into the four houses, let's assume there are about twelve students/year in each house, so, about forty-eight students per year. There are seven grades at Hogwarts, so, rounding up just a bit, this means it's a school of 350 students.

I went to small schools my entire life, and if there is one thing I know to be true about small schools, it's this: everyone knows everyone. You may not know them personally, you may not even have had a conversation with them, but you know everything about them, and they know everything about you. I don't know how, exactly, but somehow, you know the main bits about everyone else. You at least know their names, and can recognize them. Especially when that small school is a boarding school. I still remember, twenty years later, who the cool (at least I thought they were cool) older kids were when I was in 5th grade. I can give you names, grades, nationalities, what their parents did, how long they had gone to my school, and the part they had in the spring musical that year. My friends and I adored watching and knowing about the older kids. Now, we weren't fighting off mythical beasts and trying to take down Voldemort  He Who Must Not Be Named, so maybe we had a lot more time on our hands, but still...Why doesn't Harry, by Year 3, at least know who Cedric Diggory? Why does Oliver Stone have to point him out in the hallway? What 8th grader doesn't know who the cool, Quidditch-playing 10th graders are?

Harry never seems to know of anyone, other than his own little circle of friends. Harry is actually my least favorite character of the series (other than the obvious ones you're supposed to dislike, like Umbridge) - I think he's one of those main characters that are basically there to anchor the story but aren't terribly interesting in and of themselves. Oh, Harry has an intriguing back-story of course, but that doesn't make him all that wonderful himself. He's actually a jerk, most of the time. If I were doing a serious character analysis of Harry Potter, I would probably say this lack of awareness of other students at his school points to Harry's narcissistic personality and that he has an inner core of selfishness that manifests itself in only having and using the friends he needs, not seeking out new friends in years above or below him or in other houses, or even admiring older students. As a teacher, Harry's the worst - can you imagine teaching him? Half the time I side with Snape - not Snape's tactics, but I'd like to wipe that nasty little smirk off Harry's face with loads of lunch detentions myself.

If I was not doing a serious character analysis of Harry, I would just assume that J.K. Rowling probably never went to a small school and so doesn't know the ins and outs of how small schools work.

Speaking of Snape, the other thing that really irks me is the teaching load. (I know...only a teacher would think about the teaching load at Hogwarts). Presumably, there is only one teacher of each subject. Some of the classes are combined with students from other houses, but a lot of the classes are just Gryfinndor on its own. Take Transfiguration, for example. Professor McGonnagal must teach Transfiguration to each year, with four sections of each grade. That's seven different preps, with four sections each: that's 28 classes.

28 classes. That's not even accounting for how often these classes meet. I teach 25 actual class periods a week (five class periods a day), and do not have enough time in the two planning periods I have to get all the planning, marking, and phone calls in - I have to spend at least two hours extra a day, if not more (and not counting weekends), doing school work outside the regular school hours and the hours I'm technically contracted to work. At Hogwarts, it doesn't appear that these classes meet every day, but they must meet at least two times a week - 56 classes (and this is a conservative estimate).

56 class periods a week? A week? Plus planning and grading? This is not physically possible.

No wonder McGonnagal's irritable. And anytime Dumbledore gets himself fired, what does McGonnagal have to do? Take over as headmistress, as well. Now, it's possible in the upper years that some of these classes are combined, and it sounds like students don't have to take all the core classes after their O.W.Ls (oh, man, I am way, way too knowledgeable of the wizarding educational system), but that's still a remarkable amount of classes to teach.

If, say, there were 1000 students at Hogwarts as Rowling said, imagine: as a teacher, you would have to each all 1000 students. No wonder they can't keep a Defense Against the Arts teacher. Who wants to have 56 classes and 1000 students? And no, I don't think every teacher is provided with a time-turner because that's just not feasible. It would definitely mess with the space-time-continuum.

It's a very good thing school is starting soon, because I clearly have way, way too much time on my hands and if I mention the space-time-continuum I might have to start talking about Star Trek or Doctor Who and both of those are a spiraling time-suck you don't want me to get started on.

(Have I ever mentioned how angry the newest Star Trek franchise makes me? AAARGGG! It makes me so mad!)

4) Finally, to end on a Back to School note, one of my favorites on my old blog, Becoming Miss Bowers were the Supposedly Teaching posts. The kid who started it all for me got married yesterday (I think I've had about a gazillion - no exaggeration - former students get married this summer), and honestly, I feel like I was there from the beginning. I still (weirdly and, yes, kind of creepily) remember seeing these two kids walking around the petit poteaux (how do you spell that??) court during handball and thinking: "Really? Huh. That's not a combo I would have predicted." And, despite my skepticism, the Math Geek and the Artsy-Hippy have become one. Anything is possible. Opposites do apparently attract So, I thought I would re-post the conversation that, if I was at that wedding, I would have insisted on sharing:

6th Period. American Literature. 8 Students. Could be potentially awkward, because of the small class size. It is awkward. But, not for the reasons you might think.

On a day I was trying to get the students to liven up a bit when they seemed especially dead after lunch:

Me: So, did everyone had a good day yesterday?
Student: (raises his hand) I kissed my girlfriend for the first time yesterday.
Me: (jaw opens...closes. opens. closes.)
Student: What? You asked me how my day went--I told you! (grins)
Me: (eventually, after all the jaw closing and opening and the laughing) That's not exactly what I was looking for...

On another day, same class, me and my big mouth, again:

Me: So, how was the weekend?
Students: Muttered responses...mutter mutter mutter..someone mentions church.
Student: I went to church at ISD yesterday, and there was this pregnant lady there.
Me: Okay...
Student: Pregnant ladies make me nervous!
Students (and Me): What?? Why?
Student: Because, when I went last week, she said her due date was in like, 2 weeks. So, yesterday, she was still (makes hand motions of a pregnant lady...)
Me: (strange face directed at student)
Student: So, then I sat really far on the other side of the room from her...
Other students: But, what did you think was...mutter mutter laughter laughter...
Student: I didn't wanna get her baby juice all over me! What if she had...(makes hand motions again indicating stomach)
Lots and lots of laughter.
Gosh, I miss these kids.

Until another day's musings...

*cries herself to sleep that night.