Monthly Archives: May 2010

Quick Hit: Pie Day

As part of spirit week, the kids at CHS ran a raffle that allowed the winners to pie teachers in the face. Each teacher set out a box, and students bought tickets for the chance to toss a plate of shaving cream at the teacher of their choice.

Here’s me:

The student whose ticket was drawn for me was kind of mortified; he’s not yet had me in class, and now he’s worried that I have it in for him.

He has NOTHING to worry about; it was a lot of fun. I learned a couple of lessons in the process, though, like bring a change of clothes, and make sure NOT to lick lips until one’s face is completely clean (I can still taste shaving cream), but I’ll totally do it again if I’m asked.


Filed under fun, funniness, I love my job, the good ones


I’m working with my Writing Workshop students on vignette, tiny little snapshots in words that express much more than what’s on the page.  I gave them this gorgeous example (which I’ve been admiring since the day it was published), we talked about what vignette is and how it works, and then I asked them to write their own.

Since I’m fond of doing the assignments I give my students, I’m offering up the first draft of my vignette.  I’ll happily take suggestions and comments.

“It’s a process,” they told me.  “It’s going to take time, and no one can say how long it will take you, but when it happens, you’ll know.”

I got this advice a lot after my mother died; people trying to explain to me that this loss, this emptiness that I felt after she passed, would morph itself into something that I could better live with day after day.  I accepted their advice for what I thought it was – the kind words of people who didn’t know what else to say.

Then it happened; I knew the day I thought of “her” things as “my” things was the day I finally came to terms with her dying.


Filed under about writing, I love my job, Mrs. Chili as Student, writing

Most of My Job

It seems like a huge part of my job is convincing kids that they really are smart enough to do the things I ask of them.  I offer up as proof this conversation I had with a student this afternoon (while she should have been attending to her photography class, but whatever…)

My part of the conversation is in bold print.

hello, i was looking at the list of writings that i haven’t done and i was wondering if you could remind me of what a few of them are.
12:01 PM
Tell me what you need
You understand, Sweet, that you can’t make up pink paper, right?
I’m willing to work with you for some of them, but you’ve missed a LOT

yeah by my mom is making me do them anyway
hang on
12:06 PM
Okay, Sweet, here’s my thing; I, perhaps more than anyone else, want you to write. I KNOW you can do it and I know you can be great at it. That being said, though, I DO NOT want you to stress about it.
well i have to stress about it because I’m going to stay back if i cant get my grade up a little
Right, but it’s not about your GRADE, exactly; it’s about the skill you can demonstrate.
Rushing through all those assignments isn’t going to help you polish your skill
So, what are we going to do?
i dont not sure what i can and can’t do for the class
What do you mean by that?
for attempt to get a better grade
Here’s the thing, Sweet; I’ve still not received your analysis paper.
analysis for Rain man/the curious incident?
Analysis for your human rights topic.
Yeah, and that’s a problem.
I can’t mark you with a passing grade just because I believe you CAN do the work – you have to PROVE that you can do the work
yeah. that makes sense.
and it KILLS me, because I KNOW you CAN. YOU don’t know you can, though, and until you do, you won’t; you know?
people say that but i don’t know where to start with it a lot of the time.or when i start it i get a paragraph into it and then…blank.nothing
Do you still have the graphic organizers I gave you? I find that a lot of people say they’re VERY helpful in helping them generate ideas
i still have those
What I’m looking for is your ability to make a claim and then support it using evidence from the text – whatever that ‘text’ is, a book, a news report, a story, a film, a discussion. The first thing you’ve got to do is to take in and understand that ‘text.’  From there, you need to say something about it; you need to understand it well enough to make a reasonable claim
is this about the analysis paper still?
It’s about ALL of it, Sweet. Pretty much everything I’ve asked you to do in my class has revolved around making and supporting claims about the stuff we’re working with.
yeah.but i dont think im very good at that
Tell me WHY you don’t think you’re very good at that. You’re a very smart woman.  You’re observant, you’re thoughtful, you’re sensitive; there’s no reason why you can’t apply those skills to the things we’re doing in class.
i dont know.i dont know how to back up with reasoning with writing things out
You do it the same way you have a discussion; “here’s what I think, and here’s why I think it.” Tell me, for example, about the similarities between Rain Man and Curious Incident. Why do you think I showed that film with that book?
because the thought process of both of the main characters was similar.
(just as an aside, what are you supposed to be doing this period? You’re not blowing off a class IMing with me, right?)
Sure, but that’s easy. Why ELSE did I show that movie?
im in photography class.
Should you be doing photography? We can talk about this later
hes talking a little but were not really doing much today
but we could talk about this later
Let’s do this; think up FIVE reasons why I showed Rain Man with Curious Incident. Write them down, then write about how the stories are similar AND different. Be SPECIFIC here; say things like “Raymond and Christopher were both mathematically inclined, but Christopher is willing to engage people in conversation where Raymond almost never does.”
get it?

Okay – do that. Don’t worry about writing it in nice paragraphs; bullets are fine. Have those for tomorrow, okay?
okay.i’ll do that
Cool. Now get to class!!

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Filed under Uncategorized

Nearly Wordless Wednesday

The usual suspects are trying to use their special brand of dumbness to disrupt the school’s theatre production.  They seriously underestimated the agility, creativity, and will of the directors.  Heh.

In other news, yet another kid got suspended for doing something dumb on faceb00k.  Seriously.


Filed under dumbassery, I love my boss, I've got this kid...., really?!, student chutzpah, Yikes!

My Misery…

… loves his company.

A colleague of mine emailed this to me this afternoon.  I’ll give you three guesses who “our favorite student” is…

So, our favorite student came in to see me today. He wanted to know if his grade improved and what he’s missing, so I gave him the long list that I gave him the other day and told him it hasn’t changed (both the gist and the grade). Then he went into our website to upload an assignment that was due 6 days ago and was complaining that it wasn’t there for him to submit his assignment.  I said, “I know it’s not there, it was due 6 days ago. When you miss the deadline, the assignment closes.” He’s not too happy about that. Then I pointed him to the syllabus and had him read the late work policy. I told him he needs to nail this project and the final in order to possibly pass. He told me he would do a good job and I told him, “No, you need to ace these if you want to have hope at passing.” He walked out of the room.

Sigh.  Poor baby just doesn’t get it.


Filed under colleagues, concerns, dumbassery, failure, I can't make this shit up..., I've got this kid...., Yikes!


I have every expectation that this week is going to be a little bit crazy – if not downright surreal – and for a lot of varying reasons, too.  I’m also pretty sure that there’s almost nothing I’ll be able to write about without crossing my own ethical lines.  I’ve got to tell you, tomorrow is the first day that I’m actually hesitant about going into work.  Sigh.

In other news, I am officially registered for the writing workshop at Prestigious Boarding School.  I signed up as a commuter, though, so I won’t have to stay in the dorms (trust me, even at PBS, dorms are still dorms.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be grateful for my own bed after the days’ activities).  I’m certain I’m going to learn a lot, and while I’m a little scared of the work (there’s going to be a LOT of work), I’m also really looking forward to the opportunity to stretch my writing (and teaching) practice.  I’ll probably do much of my homework right here, so you get to share with me.  Watch this space.


Filed under colleagues, concerns, ethics, frustrations, little bits of nothingness, Mrs. Chili as Student

Getting Old

I’ve got to tell you, people, this end-of-the-year bullshit is getting really old, really fast.

I’m starting to grow weary of the nonsense, and not just from the kids, either.  In fact, something is happening on Friday that I just can’t wrap my brain around.  It involves my colleague, who I’m tired of complaining about, so I’m just going to leave it but, really?  No; I mean, really?!  When someone with a whole month’s worth of experience in the classroom questions the propriety and effectiveness of a lesson, you probably ought to reconsider.

On a positive note (for me, anyway), Jimmy has been taken from my class.  Here’s the thing with Jimmy; he thinks I don’t like him and he’s probably blaming me (and his music teacher) for the rotten time he’s been having lately.  The fact of the matter is that I do like Jimmy, and that is evidenced by the fact that I’ve been trying desperately to get him to do the things he has to do to pass (and, consequently, to graduate).  He continued to make excuses and to hand me completely unacceptable work (despite my practically begging him to do what he’s supposed to do), which told me that there was no way I could ethically attest, by marking him with a passing grade, that he is capable of doing the work to the level that I expected.  Since he was past the point of no return, the guidance counselor pulled him from the class and is working on getting him into a credit recovery arrangement.

I’m not going to tell you that I’m not relieved; having him out of the class means the rest of the kids get to focus a bit more (because they don’t have to listen to Jimmy trying to interject something completely off topic, or endure another one of my “you understand that you’re all making choices’ speeches).  I wish him well, I really do, but unless he figures out that he is responsible for what happens to him, I don’t foresee good things in his immediate future.

Nineteen more days… nineteen more days….


Filed under colleagues, dumbassery, ethics, failure, frustrations, General Griping, I can't make this shit up..., That's your EXCUSE?!, Yikes!

Ten Things Tuesday

Ten random things.

1.  There are 20 school days left in the semester.  I think I can… I think I can… I think I can…

2.  Note to kids; when the prompt for the assignment is significantly longer than the answer you give, you really ought to rethink your strategy.  Jimmy handed in a six word answer to a detailed, articulate prompt.  No shit, you guys; six words.  This wouldn’t surprise me, except that I specifically told him that he needed to take notes on the film before I started it.  He told me that he didn’t like to take notes.  I told him he’d need them to complete the assignment.  He told me he didn’t like to take notes.  Okay, kid; your choice.

3.  The atmosphere around here is very weird.  Not only are we staring down the home stretch of the school year – which makes kids nutty anyway – but the faculty is also awaiting contract meetings.  Everyone knows that one of us isn’t being invited back (in fact, we’re pretty sure the letter saying so was received on Thursday, because that person’s arrival on Friday was… well, let’s just say that all wasn’t well in Denmark).  I’m not sure whether its being official after contract meetings will make it better (because everyone officially knows) or worse (because everyone officially knows).

4.  I’m working on standardizing the way the English Department does business.  I started with writing a catalogue of classes for the department, and I’ve moved on to articulating guidelines for the portfolio, which is a requirement to graduate from CHS.  I’ve floated a draft of my proposal to my boss; I’m waiting to hear back on whether she’s good with it.

5.  I showed my students movies this week.  The big kids got Rain Man (to go along with our reading of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time) and the Workshop kids got The Prestige (to go along with our reading of… wait for it… The Prestige).  I love watching how kids respond to film, and I had a particularly good time when the Workshop kids got to the punchline of their movie.  I’d been warning them that the film’s story line was very different from the novel’s (though the book’s themes are amazingly well articulated in the film), and it was a hoot to watch them put all the pieces together at the end of the movie.  I love my job.

6.  Do you guys think I can get away with reading (and showing) Brokeback Mountain for the theme of Gay Pride Month in my junior/senior class?  I’m still not sure if I should.  If I decide against it, I have Milk to fall back on, so it’s not as though I’m without a plan; I’m just not quite certain how hard I can push against the boundaries, you know?

7.  I decided on the writing workshop at the boarding school for my summer professional development.  I mail the cheque for the thousand bucks (ouch!) this afternoon.

8.  We’ve started up a new online presence at CHS, and I’m still trying to get the hang of it.  It’s exceedingly cool, and it does a lot of things that the platform we’ve been using doesn’t do, but I don’t feel like I’m in control yet.  That’s not stopping me from playing around with it, though!

9.  Is it terrible of me to say that I’m not sad that some kids aren’t coming back next semester?  There are some kids I’m going to actively miss over the summer, but I’ve gotta tell you, there are a few I’ll be just as happy to say goodbye to and know that they can’t show up in my classes (again) in September.

10.  I’ve got a stack of papers to grade – one on the themes of The Prestige (the novel) and one set on the theme of madness in Othello (or, alternately, how many of the Seven Deadly Sins were represented in Othello) –  so nine’s all you’re really getting today.  Wish me luck!


Filed under concerns, dumbassery, failure, film as literature, frustrations, General Griping, I can't make this shit up..., I love my job, Mrs. Chili as Student, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

Decisions, Decisions

Dear Readers, I need your help.

I have the choice of two workshops this summer.  One is the Belfer program for teachers at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC (which, really, is the fallback because it’s pretty clear at this point that I wasn’t chosen for the teacher fellowship there).  The other is a week long writing workshop offered at a very prestigious boarding school relatively close to my home (yes, Carson, that one).

Both will cost me about the same amount of money; the DC workshop is free, but I’ll have to pay for transportation, lodging, and food.  The boarding school program costs about a grand, so I figure it’s a wash financially.

Both workshops will give me a lot of material – intellectual and concrete – to bring back to my classroom.  Both will be very impressive on my resume.

The DC workshop is three days; the boarding school program is a week.

Which would YOU choose?


Filed under analysis, Mrs. Chili as Student, Questions


You guys; I mean it – I cannot make this shit up.

This morning, after shutting Jimmy down several times as he tried to do anything but the work the class was doing, he got up, grabbed the bathroom pass, and disappeared.

Now, to be fair, I give the kids a fair bit of leeway when it comes to bathroom breaks.  This is due mostly to the fact that we only have two restrooms for both the school (which consists of 70-something kids) and several other businesses on our floor (one of which seems to be staffed by a bunch of crack heads, but that’s a post for another time).  I’ve had to wait more than five minutes to get into the ladies’ room (and that’s after banging on the door to try to encourage haste on the part of the occupant), so I don’t give the kids too much grief for being longer out of the classroom than I would like.

Anyway, Jimmy was gone even longer than I’m willing to allow for (I started getting twitchy at about 10 minutes).  I mean, we’re responsible for the kids on our roster, and I’m not wild about the idea of a kid under my command wandering around unsupervised; if my boss comes and asks where So-and-So is, I like to be able to tell her, right?  So, I fired off a text to the secretary and asked her if she could see Jimmy (her office is right by the bathrooms).  She told me no, but also said that the men’s room door was closed.

A few minutes later (we’re up to about 15-20 minutes by now). I get this in my inbox.  No lie:

this is jimmy. just so you know, and also so i don’t have to announce it to the class when i get back, my stomach is killing me (cont.) which is why ive been in the bathroom for so long.

No shit, you guys; this moron emailed me from his phone, from the bathroom, to make an excuse about why he was gone so long.

If it didn’t actually happen to me, I wouldn’t believe it, either.


Filed under concerns, dumbassery, failure, I can't make this shit up..., I've got this kid...., Yikes!, You're kidding...right?