Monthly Archives: June 2012

Quick Hit Thought for Thursday: Doing Me a Favor

The longer this plays out and the more proverbial stones that get turned over, the more I’m thinking that, despite the nearly crippling heartbreak of losing my job, this may well have been a blessing.

From the looks of things, there’s a distinct possibility that the entire experiment is going to go up in flames.  It may well be that I’m lucky to get out when I did.

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TenThings Tuesday

Plus one!  The “let’s update Chili’s resume!” edition!  Here are eleven things that I added to my resume today.

1.  designed and taught core English courses to grades 9-12

2.  designed and implemented objectives and standards for core English courses

3.  designed, planned, and taught online “snow day” courses via web-based program

4.  led NECAP standardized test preparation for Language Arts; proficiencies rose three straight years

5.  designed and supervised independent study courses for students in writing, literary analysis, and film study

6.  designed and taught elective courses in poetry, film as literature, and Aliens and Vampires in Literature

7.  coached Poetry Out Loud team 2009-2012; regional finalist each year

8.  communicated with parents via email and in-person conferences; published a weekly informational newsletter for the school community

9.  ran quarterly book fairs at Barnes and Noble; stocked, tracked, and maintained school’s book supply

10.  Led the Socratic Society club’s weekly meetings

11.  chaperoned out-of-school activities

Now, are any of you any good at writing cold-contact cover letters?

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Filed under composition, doing my own homework, I can't make this shit up..., job hunting, winging it

When One Door Closes….

… another opens.

Right?… RIGHT?!

One door has been pretty squarely closed.  I was informed last week that my position at CHS will not be renewed in the fall.  I’m still reeling from that announcement (I absolutely DID NOT see it coming and was, in fact, told on numerous occasions and by more than one person that it wasn’t), and I’m not nearly clear-headed enough to write about it yet, but I will.

For now, I’m going day-to-day.  I cleaned out my classroom today; my entire professional life is now taking up my husband’s half of the garage.  I’m going to email my boss at Local U. to let him know that my availability to teach freshman English has just opened up, and I’ll be submitting a couple of (probably too late) applications to a couple of places, though I expect to have a pretty light schedule for the next school year; I can’t imagine I’ll find a position this late in the game.

Regardless, I’m holding myself open to whatever possibilities are in store for me, and trying to reestablish my center.

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Filed under ethics, failure, frustrations, I can't make this shit up..., job hunting, really?!, winging it, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

Irony: I Haz It

I will likely write more about this later, when it isn’t so shocking and raw, but I had to share this bit.  It turns out that one of my freshmen, into whom I practically beat the practice of understanding topic/purpose/audience and social contracts BEFORE beginning communication, may well be using the skills she learned in my class to advocate on my behalf.

Wow.

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Ten Things Tuesday

I don’t know if I’ll make it to ten things, but here are some of the things on my work-related summer to-do list:

1.  Planning.  I’ll be teaching at least three core courses (most likely, English I, III, and IV) and at least two electives.  I need to decide what those electives will be, then plan an overview of the year for each of them.

2.  Writing competencies.  The State has decided to use competencies to determine student achievement, and it’s pretty much fallen to me to write these for the English department for the school.  I’ve already begun the process – I’ve done a fair bit of research into what other schools are doing to measure mastery – but I still have to codify them into a useable rubric.

3.  Interviewing.  I’ve made it pretty clear that I want a different part time teacher next year.  The man who taught this year was well enough – he read books and graded the kids’ work – but he never even bothered to become a part of the community.  Not once in 180 days did this guy ever stay for lunch; he’d disappear as soon as his morning class was over, reappear for his afternoon class, then bolt out of here with only an occasional “see ya later.”  That doesn’t make him a bad teacher, but it does make him a bad fit for the community.  I’m not convinced, though, despite my making requests that he be observed and evaluated, that that actually happened, so it may well be that admin decides to offer him another part time gig.  I’ll argue against it, but I don’t know how well my arguments will be heard.

4.  Rearranging.  I’m not good at moving rooms around; once I get things to a point where they’re both functional and appealing to look at, I tend to leave everything well enough alone.  I’m not sure that I’m making the best use of the classroom space I have, though, so I’m going to bring a couple of outside eyes in to the room to see if I can move things around to make it work even better than it does.

5.  Laminating.  I have a ton of inspirational bits and pieces that I rotate on and off the walls of the room – cards, images I’ve scanned, that sort of thing – that are printed on plain paper.  When it gets humid, all that paper curls, so I need to spend some quality time with a laminator to protect them.

6.  Reading.  I’m reading for my own personal enjoyment again (I’ve taken the Outlander series back up, and am heartily enjoying spending time with old friends), but part of my planning process is choosing which books to read during the upcoming school year.

7.  Cleaning.  We inhabit a nearly 200-year-old mill building that seems to generate its own gunk.  I’m planning to spend at least a whole day after the kids leave taking all the furniture out of my room and vacuuming the shit out of the place.

8.  Re-cataloging.  I have a lot – A LOT – of personal property at this school.  I need to document everything that’s mine, and make sure that I have record of its being mine in the event of loss, damage, or separation.

9.  Organizing.  I have to go through all my files and make sure that a) everything is where I can find it and b) everything that can be scanned and cataloged has been.  I have a lot of great materials that I just don’t use because they’re not convenient to me when I need them.  I need to figure out how to remedy that.

10.  Networking.  I am concerned, because of things that have been happening around here, that there may be a need for me to keep certain options open.  I’m going to review my professional development, look into some more college courses (I’ve been flirting with the idea of a degree in social work), and talk to some of my contacts about the possibility of perhaps stretching a safety net underneath me.  I wish it weren’t so, but wishes aren’t horses, so beggars don’t ride.

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Filed under colleagues, compassion and cooperation, concerns, doing my own homework, ethics, Extra-curricular Activities, I can't make this shit up..., job hunting, Learning, lesson planning, Literature, Mrs. Chili as Student, out in the real world, politics, self-analysis, Teaching, The Job, winging it

Quick Hit: Vignette

I gave my juniors a bunch of short story prompts inspired by a compilation of “either/or” choices in a book one of the students brought to class this morning.  The one I chose was “would you rather always lose or never play?”

I’m giving it to you just as I wrote it; it hasn’t gone through any revision or workshopping.  I’ll take whatever feedback anyone feels compelled to give.

Stacey sat in the bleachers, watching her little brother’s baseball team lose… again.  They were oh-and-19 going into this game, and the future didn’t look good.  At least this time they managed to get on the scoreboard; the run the Ducks brought in on a laughable error by the other team’s outfielder brought the number of runs scored by the team for the entire season to exactly two.

Bottom of the 9th; two outs.  Jameson was at bat.  At 13, he was still an awkward kid, and despite his 6 years in Little League, he never quite got the hitting stance right.  He held the bat like a weapon, Stacey could see Jamie’s fingers turning white in the death-grip on the thing, and he bent his knees so much that his ass stuck out at an impossible angle.  He stared at the pitcher with what looked to Stacey like a mixture of wide-eyed fear and blazing fury, and she was sure that, at any moment, the kid might storm the mound and beat the pitcher to death.

The ball came screaming toward her little brother, and he did what he always did.  The bat came flying around his body, wielded more like a broadsword than a baseball bat, and missed the ball entirely.  Stacey heard the ball thump securely in the catcher’s mitt, watched the umpire signal strike three, and watched as her brother and his fellows came to the infield to line up to congratulate yet another vanquishing team.  Stacey gathered up her bag and her jacket and thought to herself that the kids didn’t even look all that dejected.  Losing, it seems, is something that they’ve gotten comfortable with.

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Filed under about writing, composition, doing my own homework, fun, Learning, Mrs. Chili as Student, writing

How Far the Ripples Go

Very long story somewhat short: I’ve got this kid… or, rather, I should say I HAD this kid.  Let’s call him Mitchell.

Mitchell and I never really got along very well.  While I’m sure there are a number of reasons for this, the one I come to first is that he’s a pretty insecure young man, and I think that my forthrightness intimidated him.  Regardless, he ended up leaving my class on ideological grounds; his mother, it seems, is a fundamentalist Christian, and from what I understand, she didn’t appreciate my challenging her kid in the ways that I did.

The truth is that I have nothing personal against the boy, and never have, though I don’t go out of my way to chat with him as his behavior around me makes it pretty clear that I make him uncomfortable.  That’s why I was surprised, and pleasantly so, when Mitch asked me this afternoon if I had a few free minutes I could give him.  I invited him into my room and gave him my full attention.

He started out by asking me some vague questions about how I handle fear.  I spent a little while talking about how different fear – fear for physical safety, fear about personal conflict, fear of intimidation, fear from shock or surprise – have different effects.  I let him know that I, personally, have difficulty managing my physical response to fear; despite going into a conflict armed with confidence and knowledge that I have a strong foundation upon which to stand, I still shake and my palms still sweat and I often find myself in angry tears.  I told him these things as a way of humanizing myself to him because, as I say, I know that his impressions of me have not been entirely favorable.

It turns out that, despite what else he may think of me, Mitch understands that I’m someone safe to go to with difficult personal issues.  He confided that he is having some pretty serious problems with a family member (not his mother), and that the issues are sufficient that he felt it necessary to warn the school about what’s been going on.  He asked me for advice on how to comport himself through these experiences, and I told him that while I could not counsel him – that I’m neither a social worker nor an attorney – I did know that, as an adult (he’s 18) he has absolute freedom of association; he gets to choose whether or not to spend time with someone, and that his fears of being compelled by court order to associate with the person in question are unfounded.  I recommended that he seek the advice of law enforcement about the possibility of a restraining order and that, if he feels it would do him some good, he should talk to a counselor to sort out how he feels about the whole mess.  I offered that I grew up as an abused child, and I understand that there are a terrible lot of mixed emotions that come with that legacy.  I also offered up confidence to the boy that I had faith in his ability to find his way through it, and told him that I would always be a listening ear if he felt I could be useful to him.

It turned out that I had some things to take care of a the end of the day, so I was on my way out the door when Mitch emerged from his meeting with administration.  He was clearly upset, so I hung back to offer up one last shot of support.  I took him aside, so that we wouldn’t be in the middle of the hall, and asked him how he was doing (though it was patently obvious the boy was on the verge of tears).  As I was giving him my “you’re not alone; there are plenty of resources; you’re strong and smart and I believe in you” pep talk, his mother came around the corner and stopped dead in her tracks.  I know, though I’ve never been told outright, that she has very little use – and even less respect – for me, but at that moment, I didn’t care.  Her son recognized me as someone safe to confide in, and I was not about to disrespect that for fear of what his mother might think.  She stood there, a respectful distance away, listening to every encouraging thing I had to say to her son.

Though I’m truly sorry for what’s happening to Mitch, this could not have happened at a better time for me.  After everything that’s happened at school these last several weeks, having THIS kid come to ME to address something difficult and painful and personal is nothing short of divine confirmation that I am doing a good job.  He sees me being a support to other kids; he recognizes me as someone safe and caring and generous, and came to ME despite our previous rocky history.  That tells me that what I do – and the way that I do it – are working.  This boy’s choice to seek me out for this personal issue is a vindication of the very public, open, and honest way I love my students.  ALL of my students.

Thank you, Mitchell.

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