Category Archives: the good ones

Quick Hit: Getting Ready

So!  I start teaching at the two community colleges the Tuesday after Labor Day.  Next Tuesday marks the start of staff meetings.  Of course, both colleges are holding important, orientation-type meetings for new adjuncts on the SAME DAY, but I was lucky that the staff meetings at Not Local Community College (NLCC) end in exactly enough time for me to hop in the car and make my way to Local Community College in time to make it to the meetings there.

Phew!

I’ve just about got my syllabi put together.  I’ve found myself stressing most about the schedule part of the document; I tend not to schedule out a semester’s worth of classes just because experience has taught me that scheduling is a pointless exercise; the first two days go as planned, generally, but then the class takes on a life of its own.  I don’t want to spend a lot of time and energy on a plan that I’m going to abandon in the second week of classes.  If I abandon the idea of mapping out every last class meeting, I can say with some confidence that my syllabi are ready to be printed.

Neither of the classes I’m teaching (college composition and developmental writing, which is essentially pre-comp) are particularly challenging for me to teach; I’ve done it many times before, and I have more than ample materials and facility with the process to make it work.  I’m going into two entirely new environments, however, and I think that’s what’s accounting for the mild case of low-level jitters I’m experiencing lately.  I’m sure that, once I get a feel for what the respective colleges are like (and get to know my colleagues and supervisors a bit better), I’ll fit right in.

So, that’s my professional life at the moment.  What are YOU all up to?

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Filed under doing my own homework, lesson planning, little bits of nothingness, self-analysis, the good ones, The Job, writing

English is MESSED. UP!

This reminded me of Adam.  I wonder how he’s doing now…..

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Filed under bad grammar, funniness, little bits of nothingness, the good ones

Sad

When I came home this afternoon, this was in my inbox:

I miss you at school so much, Mrs. Chili. Ms. Danielli is apparently our English substitute this week and I’m about to pull my hair out. She screamed at Elizabeth this morning during class, and the sad part is that though Liz said some bold things; it was what everyone was thinking. The gist of it was that Ms. Danielli was being very unfair and micro-managing our class when Mr. Lannen specifically said we could handle making decisions for ourselves, and Liz spoke out saying something along the lines of, “I thought this school was supposed to be about freedom.”  Liz makes me nervous when she says things like this, but instead of just her feeling this way, this year she’s the only one not afraid to speak about the elephant in the room.

There’s a different mood to the school this year. It’s quieter between classes, cliques are really tightly-knit, there are noticeably less positive shares in the morning, no one has very much enthusiasm about anything, and for the most part, people are absolutely miserable. I can’t speak for all of the teachers, but Mr. Wayne took our sophomore advisory aside and talked about it as a group with the door closed last week and everyone agrees, including him. It’s just a really sad place to be, and it’s been made clear that it’s not just the students who have noticed this.

I don’t want to be another Sarah (ed. note; Sarah was a girl who attended the school last year.  She was generally miserable and felt that her misery deserved everyone else’s company; as a consequence, most of her energy was spent spreading malcontent) and I don’t want to cause trouble, but I’m upset, nervous, conflicted, and angry. I’ve wanted to talk to you about things for a while, not because it could possibly fix things, but because it might make me feel a little bit better. I don’t want to ever give up fighting for this school, because CHS has always picked me up when I was down, and I want to do the same for it. But I feel like power has been taken away from the students, and this hurts me most because you said you’d always be my advocate for these things last year when I felt powerless. I know you were an advocate to a lot of students this way. I think a lot of kids have lost hope this year.

I don’t know how much more I can say, because I’m sitting in advisory and I’m close to tears. Sometimes when I get really upset, I try to read and hear your voice in my head like I used to when we read The Book Thief. Maybe I’m just hormonal and having a hard time, but I’m really upset and I guess I just really needed to let it all out. Consider this a morning write

I love you and I miss you so much, Mrs. Chili.
- Amayah

Oh, Lord.  WHAT do I do with THAT?!  I wrote Amayah back and told her that, while there really isn’t anything I can do to change the conditions at CHS, I AM available to meet with her (and anyone else who wants to see me).  I can be a sounding board, I can help them think critically about the situation and work through possible solutions, and I will do everything I can to empower their voices.

This is exactly what I didn’t want to happen after I left.  I knew that leaving the way I was forced to did would result in at least some of the kids feeling abandoned and that, more than anything else, kills me.

I hate this.

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Filed under compassion and cooperation, concerns, critical thinking, dumbassery, ethics, failure, frustrations, I can't make this shit up..., I've got this kid...., Student Activism, the good ones, winging it, Yikes!

The Patron Saint of Charter High School

So, remember a few weeks ago I told you that Glen sent me a time turner?

Well, I made him a facebook friend and we’ve since gotten to know each other pretty well.  We’ve emailed back and forth, we’ve shared recipes, and we’ve become, I think, pretty close (well, close in the way people who’ve only met through the computer can be).  I have always strongly maintained that the very best part of keeping a blog is the community I’ve gathered as a result.  I’ve met some incredible people through my online writing; some of the most important people in my life, in fact.

Well, two weeks or so ago, CHS opened a wishlistr site and uploaded some things we need onto it.  A few days later, 150 rolls of paper towels were delivered, thanks to fermat.  I nearly burst into tears over the delivery, You Guys; it was a simple little bit of nothing that felt so incredibly generous and thoughtful, and it touched me in a way you wouldn’t expect paper towels could.

This would have been more than enough, but something else came today.  As I was in the kitchen getting my lunch, the receptionist was sorting the mail and handed me an envelope with my name on it from a publishing company.  I wasn’t expecting anything, so I opened it expecting to find a solicitation,  Instead, I found a disc.  On that disc is the APA manual with 10 licenses.  This disc was not free; it wasn’t even cheap, and here it was, in my hands.  I brought it out the social studies teacher, who requested the manual; he is beside himself.

Just when I start thinking that the bad well outweighs the good in the world, something like this happens.  Thank you, Glen; I really needed a shot of good today.

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Filed under admiration, compassion and cooperation, I can't make this shit up..., out in the real world, the good ones

Humbled and Honored

A couple of weeks ago, fermat sent me an email asking if I’d like to be added to his holiday card list.  The idea tickled me, and he offered to take my work address if I wasn’t comfortable giving out my home address, so that’s what I gave him.  I didn’t really think much about it after I sent my delighted reply.

This afternoon, one of my coworkers handed me a box that had arrived in the mail.  I opened it and was astounded to find Hermione’s time turner!

image credit

There was a packing slip in the box, but I didn’t immediately recognize the sender’s name.  It took me about ten minutes, but the email exchange popped into my head, so I went back to look to see if fermat had signed his real name and, in fact, he HAD!

This wonderful, perfect stranger took time (and no small amount of money!) to send me an incredibly thoughtful and wildly generous gift.

I have always maintained that the primary reason I keep blogs is because of the community they bring to me.  I was reminded again, in a very tangible and concrete way, just how giving and supportive and awesome that community is.  I am humbled by all of you, and I’m grateful for your presence in my life.

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Filed under admiration, colleagues, out in the real world, the good ones, You're kidding...right?

I NEVER Thought I’d Say This…

… but I’m kind of hating the weekends.

I’ve got a couple of (my favorite) kids whom I’m keeping a wary eye on lately.  Things aren’t good for either of them; Margot’s just been released from a hospitalization and is dealing with debilitating panic attacks, and Jeff is neck-deep in a really unpleasant home environment.  They’ve both come to me for support, and I’ve been more than happy to give it to them.

I’m finding, on this lovely Friday afternoon, that I’m worrying about them more than I did last night, or on Wednesday.  I’m sure this is because, on every other night, I know I’ll see them first thing in the morning (and, if I don’t, I know how to find out where they are and whether they’re safe and upright).  The idea of going two days without laying eyes on either one of them is proving to be disconcerting.

I’m less worried about Margot.  She’s got a strong family support system and is being well cared-for at home; I am confident that she’s safe and loved.

Jeff is another story altogether, though; he sent me a text message on Wednesday asking me to sign onto facebook so we could chat, and he told me that his home life is fast becoming untenable.  So much of his situation reminded me of MY life at that age – parents (or, in this case, a mother and a new boyfriend) who give every impression of loathing the mere presence of him and make no effort to disguise that fact but who, inexplicably, won’t let him leave the house.  Jeff is angry and frustrated and, I think, scared; he’s recognizing that all of this is wearing away at his already tenuous self-esteem.  I spent a good bit of our chat time explaining to him why *I* think he’s an amazing kid who’s growing into a good and decent man, and how I’m deeply proud of him.  I know, from my own experience, that while hearing these things from me is probably helpful, it’s not enough to salve the damage being done by the people who are supposed to love him, and that’s the part that’s killing me.

I had a conference with Mitch (the new guidance counselor, whom I really, really like) and our assistant dean (whom I’ve not yet given a pseudonym; let’s call him Brad, okay?) about exactly where my line has to be with Jeff.  They both agreed that everything that’s happened thus far has been not only okay, but good; they both recognize that Jeff needs someone he feels he can count on, and he clearly feels safe with me.  When I brought up the idea of having a sit-down with Jeff’s dad, my men searched all of Jeff’s files and discovered that we’ve got nothing in the way of custody orders or other official paperwork that would forbid such a meeting, so Dad and I are having coffee tomorrow afternoon.

In the meantime, I’m keeping my cell phone on – and on me – at all times.  I need to be available if either of these babies needs me.

Monday can’t come fast enough.

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Filed under compassion and cooperation, concerns, ethics, I love my boss, I love my job, I've got this kid...., out in the real world, parental units, the good ones, Yikes!

Ten Things Tuesday

I love all of my students, but some of them are much closer to my heart than others.  Here are ten of my favorite kids (in no particular order), and just some of the reasons I love them.  I have changed the names, but the kids are all very real.

1.  Bart.  He’s my “school son;” I love him like my own.  He is kind and gentle, he is generous and thoughtful, and he is wicked smaht and funny as hell.  He and I have settled into a kind of familial intimacy that makes me grateful every day that I took this job.

2.  Margot.  She and I are just now starting to connect.  I had her in class last year.  Some days I thought we clicked, other days I was sure she hated me; I could never tell where we stood.  I found out the other day when she had a panic attack, left the school, and called me in near-hysterical tears asking me to come and get her.  I cannot tell you how important it is to me to be a safe person to my kids; knowing that she is comfortable enough to call me when she felt most vulnerable is huge.

3.  Kermit.  Kermit and I clashed HARD last year; to the point where he actually transferred out of my class.  I will admit to being nervous to have him this year, but something is profoundly different between us.  He’s energetic and engaged, and he’s dug into the work that I ask my kids to do – to the point that he’s kinda rocking my socks.  His parents told me that something clicked for him at home, too, and he’s totally making it all work.  He and I are laughing and really talking, and I am delighted to be sharing this year with him.

4.  Caroline.  She’s a new kid this year, but something in her resonated with me from the moment we met.  She is open and sweet, she has a sublime sense of humor, and she’s eager to learn and to find her place in our community.  She’s got some self-esteem problems that I’m working on (she was convinced at some point that she’s a bad writer), but every time we talk, I get the feeling that she’s going to be one of my kids.

5.  Jeff.  Jeff is one of my guitar boys and, like Kermit, we did not connect our first year together.  In fact, Jeff was one of the kids I was sure we were going to lose; he just wasn’t working.  I kept at him, though, even though I know he sometimes hated me for it.  Last year, something in him turned, and he started the year really rockin’… until he wasn’t.  At one point, he came to me and admitted that things were bad at home.   I looked him in the eye and told him that he could call on me for anything he needed.  Ever since then, he’s been my kid, and I love him like I love Bart.

6.  Trevor.  Trevor is a new kid, but he’s already grown on me.  He’s open and sweet, he’s sharp and funny, and he seems a genuinely happy to be with us.  I have no idea if he’s going to be one of mine (really, the kids choose me), but I wouldn’t object if he wanted to be.

7.  Nick.  Nick is also a new kid, and I am deeply impressed by him.  He is infectiously, deliriously friendly, he is wickedly smart and observant, and I’m pissed that he’s a senior because it means we’re only going to have him for the year.  He seems to me the kind of kid who will put himself out for other people, and I already feel like he’s going to be a huge part of my school life this year.

8.  Hannah!  There are a million things to love about Hannah!, not the least of which being that she signs her name with an exclamation point.  She’s in it; she wants to learn, she wants to read, she wants to suck everything out of this experience, and I adore her.  She isn’t really mine – while we get along fantastically, I think she’s bonded much more to another teacher at the school – she is one of the kids I look forward to every day.

9.  Arthur.  Arthur was another kid I thought we were going to lose last year, but who’s somehow managed to come back to us this year; he’s not quite wheels-up, but he’s definitely on the runway and picking up speed.  We’re really starting to connect; he’s looking me in the eye, he’s joking with me, he’s starting to trust me – and himself.  I have a good feeling about this kid.

10.  Betty.  I adore Betty.  She is a firecracker, but I think that a lot of that energy is her way of trying to cover up some pretty hefty insecurity.  She admitted to me, in a piece of writing, that she’s going through some things.  I wrote back to her and told her that she didn’t have to go through them alone; that I would be there for her if she needed me.  We haven’t spoken about it – that’s not the way Betty operates – but I know she knows I’m here.  That may be enough – just that knowing – but if she needs more, and I can give it to her, all she has to do is say the word.

I am so incredibly lucky to be able to do this work, and to work in a place that lets me love my kids the way I need to.

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Filed under compassion and cooperation, I love my job, I've got this kid...., the good ones