Category Archives: education

The Emily Project: Part One/Life–X (A Precious, Mouldering Pleasure)

Sophocles. Cast

Sophocles. Cast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


A precious, mouldering pleasure ‘t is
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore;
A privilege, I think,

His venerable hand to take,
And warming in our own,
A passage back, or two, to make
To times when he was young.

His quaint opinions to inspect,
His knowledge to unfold
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old;

What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran
When Plato was a certainty.
And Sophocles a man;

When Sappho was a living girl,
And Beatrice wore
The gown that Dante deified.
Facts, centuries before,

He traverses familiar,
As one should come to town
And tell you all your dreams were true;
He lived where dreams were sown.

His presence is enchantment,
You beg him not to go;
Old volumes shake their vellum heads
And tantalize, just so.


Thanks, Emily.

I also think of books as friends.  I especially like how she presents old books (like this one is–now there’s irony for you) as special travelers from times past.  When students groan about having to read Shakespeare, Homer, and Poe I feel a bit sorry for them.  They don’t know what they are missing!  They don’t realize that all that we have today comes from the past.  Those old voices speak truths that still hold today.  It seems teens only want to read about zombies and sparkling vampire boys.  They don’t realize that these contemporary stories were inspired by the likes of Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker–old timers.

Emily: When Plato was a certainty. And Sophocles a man;When Sappho was a living girl, And Beatrice wore The gown that Dante deified. Facts, centuries before

Me: I admit I am not up on these names like I should be.  My school doesn’t really dwell on old-time writing much.  Poor excuse, I know–I should look up what I don’t know myself. I highlighted the names in blue to remind me to look them up and to understand who these people are and that will help me to better understand why they were important enough to Emily to include them in her poem.

Standouts: Since this is a longer poem I caught that Emily has a knack for rhythm or flow.  There is a definite meter going on with this poem without it going all sing-songey. Some of the lines rhyme, but most don’t. She also chose particular words that lend an old-time charm to the poem: venerable, quaint, certainty, deified, traverses, vellum.

Edith: she checked the poem and what this means I don’t know–it must mean something and I count it as an annotation, so I included it.

Old books make for old friends–someone must have said that.


Day Twenty-Eight: Good-Night, Sweet Prince

Friday is my NaNo deadline. Speaking of deadlines, I am also supposed to turn in a short story for English. We are studying the short story form in English now and Mrs. X wants us to write one.

“We have been studying the elements of the short story and we have read many fine examples.  It’s now your turn,” were her instructions to us before announcing we needed to turn it in by Friday.  How am I supposed to squeeze in a three to five-page story when I still have around 4,000 words to hit my NaNo goal?

At first there were about five of us doing the NaNo extra credit challenge in Mrs. X’s class, dwindling down to three by the second week into it, and now it’s only me.  Although it looks like no one is doing the EC challenge because I stopped adding my progress stickers when I become the only NaNoWriMoer. I didn’t want to look like an overachiever.  Wait–if I do get my word count in eouldn’t the X factor have a fit if I dropped the 150 or so pages on her desk and say: “Umm, sorry I couldn’t get the short story in–will this do instead?”

As I was dwelling on pulling off my NaNo coup, Mrs. X was busy squelching the sounds of protest of having to write the short story. Yes, even though the X factor is scary, we sometimes do rise up to rebellion, even though it is a small one. At the minute grumblings, she did her trademark hand thing.  She will hold up her left hand like a traffic cop as if she is trying to stop the undesired behavior.  The strange thing is that is actually works.  She is scary.  Have I mentioned that?

“There is nothing wrong with having to write this story.  It will give you something to do besides update your Facebook profiles and wear your fingers out playing Guitar Hero.”

When she says stuff like this we toss around surprised looks at one another.  For being someone so decrepitly old, what she does know in terms of what’s going on continually amazes us.  She even uses a cell phone.  I saw her walking out to her car actually texting to someone.  That just doesn’t seem right.  Isn’t everyone over sixty supposed to be technologically illiterate?

I had a difficult enough time coming up with an idea for a novel, now I have to come up with an idea for a short story?  Actually, I might have one.

The other night I babysat Timmy.  He absolutely would not go to sleep.  Sometimes he gets fretful when his parents go out at night.  Kid fears.  I remember getting them now and then when I was his age.  He wasn’t interested in any of his books.

“Tell me a story.”

“Are you asking me or telling me?”

“Both,” he said.

“I’m not very good at making up stories. Really. That’s the truth,” I told him.

“I won’t be able to go to sleep without one.”

“You aren’t even a little bit sleepy?  Not at all?  Not even a tiny bit tired?”  I asked.

He shook his head.  “Not a bit,” although I thought he rustled down a little bit snuggier under his sheets and blankets.

“Hmm, that reminds me of a story I once heard about a little boy who couldn’t sleep.”

“I want to hear it,” he yawned.

I tucked the blankets around him and began:

“Once there was a little boy, he was a prince, in fact.  He lived in a wondrous castle with his mother the queen and his father the king.  He had servants galore.  One servant helped him dress in the morning.  Another buttered his toast, while another taught him his ABC’s, numbers from one to ten, and where Pago Pago was on the big map that hung in his study room.  Besides having servants the little prince had stuff.  All the kinds of stuff every little boy would want, be he prince or not.  He had balls, bats, bikes, boats, balloons, oh my and more, and that was only some of the B toys.  He had a pony to ride whenever he wanted to ride a pony.  One for each day of the week, in fact.  He had not one, but three pools to swim in.  One for when he was hot.  One for when he was cold.  And an empty one when he didn’t feel like swimming at all.  He had a huge library filled with books to read whenever he wanted to read.

Yet, with all these things the little prince did not have one thing he wanted and needed so very much.  That would be a good night’s sleep.  Night after night he would try to sleep, yet night after night he would close his eyes only to toss one way and then toss another.  It wasn’t any use.  It wasn’t possible for him to fall asleep.  He wanted to sleep.  He really did.  He wanted to close his eyes and dream sweet dreams of places to see and people to meet and new things to try and do.  Yet sleep simply would not come.

His mother the queen would read him story after story and the little prince would simply say, “Please read me another, dear Mother the Queen.”

Then the father would say, “I will tell you a story that will surely put you to sleep, so you will dream sweet dreams all through the night.”  He would sit in the chair next to the bed and spin a story that lasted and lasted yet the little prince would not shut his eyes, though his mother the queen was quite fast asleep.

The little boy prince would say, “I liked that one ever so much, dear Father the King.  Do you know any more?”

Many remedies had been tried to absolutely no use.  Cocoa, soft pillows, dreamy lullabies sung, snuggly stuffed bears to hug, and downy blankets to cozy under.  Nothing worked nothing worked at all.

Then one night when the little prince again tucked into bed could not sleep, the time had come to say “enough is enough.“  For by now the king was getting cranky and the queen  would sniffle and weep and the servants were nervous and the kingdom became concerned..  No one, no, no one at all knew what the matter could be, and solutions tried and failed.  The king announced, ‘Half my kingdom to the one who can come with a plan for my son to have a good night of sleep is what we all need.’”

The little boy prince sat up in bed and announced,  “Father my king you can keep your kingdom for I have all I need, but I think I have the solution.  It’s true, I think I do. There is one thing that must be done.  One thing I believe that would do it, I think.”

His father the king was speechless, his mother the queen stopped her sniffing, and the servants stood at attention waiting for the command.  They all listened and waited, wanting to know what it could be.

“If it pleases you all,” the little prince declared.  “I know I need a good night’s sleep and that will start with a ‘good night’ is all.”

“That’s all?” they all declared.

“Yes,” he nodded.  Every night with the stories, books, cocoa, comforters, stuffed bears and such, I thought it all too much.  All I need, and I am sure you will agree, is a simple, ‘good night’ and then I will know it’s time to sleep.

Such a simple solution from one so young amazed and astounded all who heard it, and it was done.

“Good night, sweet Prince, good night.”


The little boy prince fell asleep upon hearing those words, and the soft little snore became the sweetest snore ever heard.

The most amazing dumb story in the world is what I told Timmy, yet it worked.  I probably bored him right into unconsciousness.  I’ll write that up and see what the X factor says.  Or I might just drop my NaNo certificate of completion on her desk with the excuse, “Sorry I didn’t get to the short story assignment, but I was busy finishing my novel.”  That would be worth the laser eye.  I believe it would be.

Day Twenty-Six: Verily, Merrily Vocabulary

I doubt I’ll be using my cell phone alarm anytime soon.  Waking up before the alarm, at 6:12 am, a good fifteen or so minutes before the alarm was to go off, I tapped my organizer and shut off the one-time alarm setting. Or so I thought.

I’m in the bathroom and I hear the obnoxious fakey rooster alarm goin beserk.  Caught in an awkward moment, having just stepped out of the shower,  I am not up for dripping and streaking across the hall to my room to shut it off.  I’m frantically trying to towel off enough to get some clothes on to dash across to my room wishing for a robe. That’s one request for my Christmas request list.  It’s difficult pulling up damp underwear onto a damp. Let alone the uncomfortable sticky part of wearing them.  I don’t recommend it.

I manage to jam on enough clothes for decency to make the dash, jump onto my bed, and grab my cell phone off my nightstand.  “What is your problem?” I growl at my phone.   I go through the turning off procedure again, the log says “alarm empty.”  I bounce my phone on top of my bed firmly enough to teach it a lesson.  I then attempt a return to my morning routine, yet I have little energy from too many late nights of noveling attempting. I give up on style this morning and go for necessity.  The hair will have to air dry and not wanting to catch a cold I throw on my woolen hat.  I grab a Pop-Tart and an apple, a kind of a guilt and compromise breakfast on the run, and head out the door.  I have the presence of mind to make sure I have my keys and phone before shutting the door.  Hello to another day.

One reason for my state of flurry is while in the shower I suddenly realized I have a vocabulary test in English, causing panic to set in.  The alarm frenzy didn’t all help. I try to recall the vocabulary list, try to envision the handout, yet all the vocab words whirl together in my brain like a blender in puree mode.  I close my eyes, convincing myself to take a breath and to calm down.  I pep talk my brain into test mode.  I hope my brain is listening.

At our school the freshmen are taught the Greek side of word parts, and in sophomore year we learn the Latin aspect.  We aren’t learning the languages of Greek and Latin, only the word parts.  I guess something like 85% of our language is composed of Greek and Latin.  The rest is made up of German, French and some other languages.  It makes sense to study how words are made up of parts.  Mrs. X had one of her rare cool moments, which are very few, and explained the vocab system one day.  She did it with Oreo cookies.

English: Two regular Oreo cookies. Please chec...

English: Two regular Oreo cookies. Please check my Wikimedia User Gallery for all of my public domain works. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Class,“ she beckoned to us, holding up an Oreo cookie. “This cookie is made up of three parts.   “There is the top,“ she demonstrates. “the middle,” she flashes the creamy middle after expertly twisting apart the two halves, “and the bottom.” We blink and stare.  She never does anything like this.  Seeing our glazed, unblinking expressions, she continues.  “Think of the top as the prefix, how it goes before the creamy white center.  Now the center is the root, it’s the middle of the word.  This brings us to the end part, or the suffix.  This cookie is similar to most words in that there is a front part, a middle, and a back part.”  And she put the cookie together and ate it.

Her cookie demonstration helped a little in understanding how words are put together, except I immediately want to eat cookies whenever I study vocabulary.  I wonder if she studied Pavlov.  Heck, she’s so old she probably went to school with him.  I think she started teaching the year the school opened back in 1946. The X is legendary, that is for sure.  I hear the principal is even frightened of her.  I think she’s been here so long she must have been his English teacher when he went to high school. If Mrs. X does retire some day they could hire three new teachers and still not equal her seniority in years. She is old.  Way old. She is way old school.  No one talks in her class. Death by over-the-reading-glasses glare is gruesome.  It happened last quarter.  I was witness to it.  Two girls whispered, actually whispered together, while Mrs. X went over the reading assignment.  The girls were oblivious to the quick darting glance warnings students tried to give them.  Then it happened…Mrs. X zeroed in on the offenders and before they could adjust their composure they got zapped with the famous X factor withering eye.  They stiffened in their desks and did not move the rest of the period.  I don’t talk to anyone in her class.  She is fearsome.

I absolutely do not want to fail this vocab test.  Not that I have failed any so far, but I have this “driving desire to pass it with excellence”, which is what Mrs. X tends to say as she passes out the test sheets. If we do well we’ll be spared her Vocabulary Speech.  This speech is among several she pulls out, dusts off, and drones to us.  Speech #42: “How Vocabulary Should Be Taught.”

“Because of the block schedule  I cannot teach like I used to. The old system allowed for continuity.  I would give students their word list on Monday, methodically go over each word, give a sentence example, and ask students to supply a word using the prefix, root, or a suffix from the word list.  The next class I would give the synonym and call upon a student to give the equivalent off the list.  The third day  would be “pop-offs,”  meaning I would randomly select words and students and expect the word to be known She chuckles at saying “pop-off” as if she thought it was cute for her to use such an expression.  Maybe she thought she was being “hip” for using it.

After her momentary inserted chuckle she continues: “If five words were answered incorrectly during the review I would have the students write them out fifty times on a piece of paper.  The Friday of that week the test would be given.  It would be rare to have a student get less than 95%,” she would crow at us.  I am so glad we are block schedule.

Block schedule has been in effect for at least five years; however, Mrs. X is still holding on the hope they will return to the Old Way.  She reminds us on a frequent basis how much better it was when teachers could meet every day with their students instead of this “willy-nilly haphazard excuse” of a schedule.  We get the vocabulary of yesteryear speech every time she hands back a set of unsatisfactory vocabulary results.  “Top grade today was a 87%.  Study, people,” she cajoles.  She threatens to reintroduce us to the proven method of repetitious writing for vocabulary if we don’t bring up our scores. Ack, please spare us the drone repetitive writing and rewriting.

I usually manage to learn my weekly vocabulary by sheer intimidation.  She personally hands back the papers and I tend to hold my breath as I glance at the score. Last test she handed back my paper pointing to the circled red 90% with an equally red fingernail.  I don’t know if that is an indication of condemnation or congratulations.  Her expression is this one-sided grimace, or maybe that is her smile.

I know I sound like I am whining.  Okay, I am whining.  Vocabulary shouldn’t be this hard.  Then again I have collected some absolutely bodacious words from my weekly vocabulary words.  Here are some of my favorites:

1.  petulant: insolent in speech or behavior
2. loquacious: full of excessive speech
3.  dubious: fraught with uncertainty
4. magniloquence: characterized by a high-flying style
5. veracity: adherence to the truth
6. consanguinity-relationship by blood
7. expedite: to speed up the process
8. aureate: of golden color
9. sagacious: sound judgement
10. mordant: bitingly sarcastic

I tend to hoard certain words like they are bits of found treasure, only to find that they sometimes accidentally drop into in conversation or in writing. If that happens at school students will remark, “Oh, we just finished week 4 or I spelled that one wrong,” since we all suffer through the same vocab program.  However, outside of school people tend to look at me oddly for interjecting an ocassional treasure vocab word, as if I am not privy to it. My parents are word freaks like me, or I should say  “connoisseurs,” which is a nicer term.

I may not especially appreciate Mrs. X and her vocabulary tests, but I relish the introduction to all the new words.  Not surprisingly, I also have grown quite fond of Oreo cookies.

Vocabulary - Words Are Important

Vocabulary – Words Are Important (Photo credit: Dr Noah Lott)

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Day Nineteen: The Whoa of Homework

Words have a power all their own

Words have a power all their own (Photo credit: Lynne Hand)

This is all I am writing today. Double Hah. Fat chance.  I will be writing all day long, it just won’t be much toward my NaNo.  I have focused so much on my novel (that I am really not writing) I have neglected my school stuff.

Between NaNo obligations and school obligations I feel I am about to drown from word and number hovering.  I feel like a giant sponge hovers above my head, saturated with words and numbers, which dribbles down on me as a reminder to get writing and to get studying.  Soon the dribble is going to go into full out deluge mode. Besides the dread of death by word and number asphyxiation there is the fact I am too tired to do anything. If I had enough energy I would shout: I WANT TO SLEEP!  I still haven’t gotten into the dark to dark routine. If I were a bear I would climb into my cave, put out the “Do Not Disturb Until Spring” sign.

I went to bed after 1 a.m. due to all my homework.  The last thing I studied for was my vocabulary test. When the words began to blur together I thought it’s time to call it a day, actually I called it a night.  The test is for Mrs. X, which increases the doom factor.  It’s nearly impossible to pass her vocabulary quizzes.

Her vocabulary tests are crazy hard. We have to memorize the following word parts: the prefix, root, and suffix of each word off the list she gives us.  We also have to know the definition AND the correct spelling.  This is every week.  She says it will prepare us for our SAT tests.

“If you can identify any part of the word, you should be able to identify the correct word from the choices available when faced with the vocabulary section of a high stakes test.”  Sounds good in theory.    I  also had to read and answer the assigned questions for a short story for her class, finish up my history report, restudy my last geometry test since Mr. A allows one retake a quarter and my 48 out of a 100 prompted me to take him up on the offer. I’m glad the week is almost over and there are only three days of school.  I’m ready for some time off.  I hope I don’t nod off in any of my classes, and if I do I will probably mumble roots and prefixes in my sleep.  I think I’m becoming delirious with too much studying.

At least I squeezed in this measly entry for today.  I shall persevere and not succumb to quitting. Yet.

Day Eighteen: Eddie. Oh. Eddie.

The Princess Diaries (film)

The Princess Diaries (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eddie Liptenstein.  I saw him today.  I actually see him every other day since we have biology together.  If he sees me or even remembers me  he doesn’t say anything.  Sometimes I feel like Mia in Princess Diaries when people would sit on her because they didn’t see her.  For all my shortcomings I am not as nerdy as Mia.  I watched Princess Diaries when I was in seventh grade.  Of course Anne Hathaway has moved on to some fairly amazing un-nerdy roles since then.  I guess having a queen for a grandmother is helpful for transformations.  Next time I see Gran I will ask for her magic wand.  She’s pretty special.  If I could drive I would jump in the car and retreat at her house.  Our house, or apartment, isn’t that chaotic, but I do wonder what it would be like to have continuity.

Gran never did work out of the home.  She said there was work enough in the house to keep her from taking on anyone else’s.  Gramps worked thirty-two years as an elementary schoolteacher.  He never wavered from the fifth grade.  He never wanted to move up, down, or move sideways.  “Fifth graders remained the same for the most part, even though times changed,” he once told me.  “When I first started teaching, chewing gum was my biggest classroom disruptor.  When I retired it was the least of my worries.”

He told me he liked how fifth graders were beginning to shed their puppy feet.  They were still playful, a bit innocent, yet were seeing there might be a point to education.  Then again, near the end of his career, he thought many of his students too full of play, not very innocent, and got the impression students thought education had no point at all since most of them either wanted to become rock stars, actors, or professional athletes, and who needs education for those careers?  Gramps decided to leave the fifth grade classroom before he became too discouraged.  He wanted to still like kids at the end of his career.  I can relate.  I don’t know how some of my teachers can stand some of their students.  I barely like them and I don’t have to do anything except sit next to them for ninety minutes.

Let’s see, today in my biology class at our lab table one of the kids was more interested in forcing his initials into the table leg than taking notes for the upcoming quiz.  The teacher never saw it, trying to initiate our interest in cross-pollination through a PowerPoint.  Being in a darkened room maybe the kid thought he wouldn’t be caught.  Hmm, a college educated teacher coming across initials embedded into the table where a student  sat previously, whose name matched those very initials…did the kid think he would go undetected?  Obviously he does.  At least it wasn’t Eddie. Although if Eddie had grown in to a bad boy would that make him even more desirable?  Hmmm, Hollywood and the latest YA Chick Lit makes me think so.

Eddie.  I think he was cuter in fifth grade.  He now has a bit of a goatee growing on his chin.  His eyes are still so very, very blue, like the flowers on Gran’s  best china plates.  He runs cross country and has that long, leggy build.  Not that stocky, chest thick, no neck build of wrestlers and football players are prone towards.  Basketball players are leggy that way too.  Swimmers  also.  It’s not like I’m boy crazy like some of the girls who outright ogle a guy and then giggle to their friends as he passes by.  I’m appreciative.  I can window shop  right? After all, don’t guys?

Boyfriends mean drama and distraction.  Seriously.  I see the drama all the time and I’m thankful to not be part of it.  It’s not wishful thinking either.  How many of these couples are actually going to get married out of high school?  I’ll see at our ten-year reunion.  Don’t count on my RSVP.

I’ve been able to watch Eddie at a safe distance since he is not at my lab table.  Back in September we randomly sat  wherever. My game plan is to try to arrive early to a class and mark out a seat by the wall, if possible. Melting into walls is a specialty of mine.  If there are no walls, then it’s in the back corner seat.  I don’t want anyone behind me.  I don’t want some six-foot something guy looping his feet around my desk because he can’t fit his under his own desk.  I don’t want some girl behind me whispering next to the girl next to her and have the teacher shoot the eye daggers in my direction.

Melting in.  Being unobtrusive.  That’s my usual seating chart plan.  Now and then there will be a teacher who sits us alphabetically so he or she can learn our names.  Or we’ll get a teacher who does something really creative, like my biology teacher, who asked us to sit according to our birthday months, saying we could start off the year with something in common with our table partners.  Our biology teacher is so new with her teaching credential she looks like a senior.  No joke, I think I heard that one of the guys asked her out and I don‘t think it mattered to him when he found out she was the new science teacher.  I wonder if they prepare teachers for that in their college training.

Ms. P has all these new ideas about making science interesting.  For the most part she’s okay.  She at least knows how to use technology.  Most of my teachers still fumble with their TV remote.  This teacher has tons of PowerPoints, and even puts YouTube clips in her lectures.  She must sit up nights thinking and working on lesson plans.  Ms. means not married, right?  Not married, no kids, no husband, basically no life?  That’s mean.  I’ll stop.  I like Ms. P, but I don’t think I will after what she did today.  She’s cute, or I guess pretty is a better word for a twenty-something old woman teacher, and she usually has our attention when she talks to us.  The guys like her,  some are rude in their comments, I won’t bother repeating them, and the girls, most of them, gaze at her like she is someone they hope to be one day—older, independent, confident with a style.

Ms. P: “Class.  I hope you can appreciate how we are moving into the second quarter and it’s around the corner for semester grades to come out.  Remember, semester grades are the ones that count for your GPA.” A reality check that put things nicely into perspective.  “Some of you need to bring your grades up.  Some of your grades are so low that, well, I won’t go into the gory details.”  A couple of kids snicker, giving away their grade guilt.  “So, I’ve decided to create study partners.  I know some of you already study together and if your grades are fine, then I am fine with the arrangement.  However, some of you probably realize that studying with your best friend isn’t always the best idea,” she quickly plunged on, as she realized that we were getting the drift of what was to come. “I have drawn up a plan for study pairs.” She held up a hand at the murmurs.  “It’s only for the rest of the quarter, or,” she drew the “or” out a little louder, “until I see significant changes in grades.”  I could hear “significant” get underlined.

She then went to her desk and pulled out blue slips of paper, while most of the students muttered bits of discontent.  Misoneism. A vocabulary word I learned which means “disliking change.” Students don’t care too much for change.  Watch their faces if a teacher should dare create a new room arrangement.  Choosing a desk to sit at for a semester becomes part of a person’s identity, and when a teachers move students’ desks, it’s like rearranging their hair, or making them try on a shirt picked out by their mother.   The truth is that students like their bubbles, comfort zones, whatever it is that keeps us coping while we grind out our routine in school.  We get used to where we sit, how the teacher teaches, and what will be taught.  When we get forced to try something new, we may not always like it.  This study partner thing was creating major comfort zone disharmony.

As Ms. P organizes the slips the questions emerge:  “Ms. P?  Why can’t we choose our partners? I mean, wouldn’t we know who we can study with more than you?”

“James,” Ms. P uses her patient, “I-get-tired-of-you-questioning-me” tone.  “I’m not asking you to marry the person.  It’s only when we are doing projects here in class.”

That brought up a good laugh.  James actually got embarrassed and shut down.  He is always asking what he must think are significant questions.  I don’t think he asks them to be a smartalec.  I think he asks them because he is one of those smart kids who doesn’t have any social sense.  He isn’t Hollywood movie nerdy—but close.  I hope he won’t be my partner.

“Okay, I will hand out the slips to one of the partners.  Both of your names are on there, and you will need to go over to that person and if you don’t know your new partner, introduce yourself.  This is not a big deal, you guys.”

She hands out the slips.  I hope I won’t be the one who gets the slip.  I don’t want to move from my wall and my comfort zone.  There is an awkwardness that fills the room momentarily.  No one is really moving until Ms. P says with a laugh, “Do I need to walk you over to your partner?”  The tension is released and people start moving. She’s right, it isn’t a big deal.  It’s still tough though.  I haven’t gone out of my way to get to know people in this class and wonder who I will get.

“Hey,” I glance up and realize I’m being talked to.  I’ve been watching the others move around watching for my partner and here he is.  Eddie.  He holds up the slip.  “I guess we’re partners.”  I guess so.  My heart and stomach do the flippy thing.  “Do you have the low grade or is it me?” he jokingly laughs.

“ I’ve got a C that’s hovering towards a D.  I bombed on the last quiz.  So who knows where I am now,” I shrug.

“Yeah, I bombed too.  And it definitely wasn’t the first F-bomb. You’ve got the better grade.  I don’t study like I should.”

That’s the extent of our conversation because Ms. P gives out the assignment and brings up one of her Power Points and then the bell rings.

“Later,” Eddie says easily, sliding his books off the lab table.

I watch him walk out the door while trying not to watch him. I think I liked it better when Eddie was sitting across the room.  It’s easier to continue a fascination when he isn’t so up close.  I will actually have to make real conversations instead dream them up.  Talk about rocking the comfort zone.

Day Seventeen: Teach Sweeps and Football Fever

Classroom with students and teachers - NARA - ...

Classroom with students and teachers – NARA – 285702 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The school is on this low high because this is the only full week of school this month.  After a four-day weekend students are moving around like slugs strapped down with salted backpacks, yet have outbreaks of silliness. No one is focusing on learning anything. Teachers are not much livelier having finished the posting of quarter grades and then have immediately go into to splitting their week with two nights of parent/teacher conferences.  It’s no wonder my teachers are showing movies. By showing movies, at least if students sleep it’s done with the lights off–less evidence of zoning out and maybe that lessens the guilt of not keeping students engaged. Some teachers require we write down facts learned while watching the movie and then turn these in.  A compromise I guess in case an admin member walks in and conducts a “teach sweep.“

Our school has periodic walk-throughs, or “teach sweeps” which I overheard two teachers call them.  This is where two or three of the administrators come in, sit down for ten minutes, watch the students, watch the teacher, and scribble away on their notepads.  Students call them “the posse.”  Some of my teachers get a little flustered when the posse arrives.  Others, you can tell, don’t give a flip and carry on doing their usual.

Some of the students get nervous  when an admin pops into the room.  When two or more admins arrive, a sense of drama unfolds, like they are on a search and destroy mission.  No matter how unobtrusive they attempt to be there is no way twenty-seven students are going to ignore being scrutinized.

This week there are few admin sightings in classrooms.  They are no doubt rooted in their beehive of offices.  Why?  Football.  Our football team won their second playoff game and are on their way to state championship.  Any remaining admin are hiding away in their offices posing with paperwork while listening to updates of how the football team is doing. I don’t blame them. After all, we haven’t made it to state for three years.  We haven’t won a state game for ten.  Going to state calls for suspended protocol, right? Especially if it’s football. *slight sarcasm insert*  Here’s my point: Our boys and girls soccer teams both won state.  Did the school shut down?  Nope.  Our cross country team went to state and so did our girls volleyball team.  Did we claim a minimum day so people could flock to see them?  Not even.  But football reigns. In our school, through the state, across the country.

Maybe if my dad had been more interested in football I would be more interested.  Our family life is so fragmented with him coming and going on writing assignments that he doesn’t have much time to watch sports. Therefore, sports I care not much or a whit for.  All around me though, people are passionate.

All week I hear murmurings of excitement. “Are you going?”  “I’m cutting last period to get there earlier.”  “I bet we watch movies in all our classes on Friday.”  Am I the only one who will stay behind in our fair town while all others travel three hours away to watch our Eagles fly to victory? I am wise enough to keep my opinions to myself.

Friday is essentially a half day.  There are so many students going down to the state game, it’s ridiculous for teachers to take attendance, let alone attempt any type of teaching.  The amount of make-up work to be done would justify an after-school activities bus.  Let’s see, there are about 30-40 guys on the varsity football team, and about four of the teachers on the staff are coaches.  Then there is the pep band, another 25-30.  Don’t forget about the 12 member squad of cheerleaders who go to encourage our fans and players and the 25 member dance team who will entertain at half-time. Maybe they should gather the remaining students in the gym for one good attempt at education consolidation.  I don’t dare mention my lack of football interest.  To anyone. I could pretend to care.  Maybe.

There is a pep bus that leaves right after school, and if traffic cooperates the bus will arrive at the Riley Memorial Dome with forty-five minutes to spare until kickoff.  I, for reasons I don’t understand, start this inner dilemma within myself.

Me: This will probably be the only state game I will have while in school.
Me Two: Since when do you care about football.
Me: It wouldn’t hurt to care just a smidge about the school, would it?
Me Two: YOU want to sit on a bus for three hours with noise and teenage nonsense?  Why?
Me: Good point.  I’d be like a fish on a bicycle.

I continue to dwell on going despite the good points I’ve made. I should go because going to a state game would be a memory I might treasure some day. Another reason I’m considering going is that I don’t know how long I will be in this school.  Every since Dad wrote that bridge article about the picturesque town of  Calder, I’ve noticed  Mom Googling information on it.  She better be checking out vacation rates instead of housing prices.

Three hours on a bus is a lonely time when you don’t really have anyone to hang out with.  Maybe I could convince Simone  in experiencing the event with me.

“What you call football is not,“ she explained to me at lunch, after turning me down. “What you call soccer is football. The bump crash game of Americans,“ she demonstrated with the smacking together of her hands, “does not make sense. You come to watch a soccer game with me.  The boys in their shorts all running,“ she sighs. “Yes, that is nice to watch.“ She does have a point there.   Football uniforms don’t do much for me either. Okay, so I’m good with staying


home doing my usual.

It’s weird that this is the only full week of school for this month.  Between school being off because of quarter ending, school being off because of parent/teacher conferences and next week being Thanksgiving week, and with a half day on Wednesday with school being closed Thursday and Friday, it’s amazing they bothered with even unlocking the front doors.  I guess somewhere in there they all figured we will get some edukashun.


Day Sixteen: Oh Fricative

English: "No Swearing" sign along At...

English: “No Swearing” sign along Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gone. I know why it’s called a zip drive.  You store your work, four hours of dedicated, ideas flowing, fingers flying work, and then ZIP, it’s gone.  Gone. Gone.  Gone, baby, gone.  I had relived my  exciting, stimulating, enthralling parent/teacher conference, writing it all down and increasing my word count and ZIP.  Gone.  I feel like swearing.  I could.

I don’t like swearing though.  For one, it sounds stupid.  There are so many really great words in the English language to use and to resort to using a set of finite Anglo-Saxon verbiage makes me a little embarrassed at myself. This is why I always feel stupid when I swear out loud. Even if I‘m by myself I look to see if anyone heard me. Swearing is too easy–it’s lazy. It’s like taking the elevator to walk one flight of stairs.

But I do wonder what is it about certain words that when said, releases tension? Also, why are certain words considered okay and others not. Who decides that a word becomes too shocking to use in civilized society?  Is there a BWC, a “Bad Word Committee” out patroling around, ready to cull words from usage and deem them dirty, profane, shocking, offensive, or taboo?

This I learned in school: Some words start out innocently enough and eventually hit  objectionable list.

Found under carnal knowledge.  Take that one and use only the first letters and you’ve got the “oh my”  of all bad words.  But that’s what it means.  Or so I overheard a girl in the library tell a girl.  She’s a junior and they are studying American Literature and with that comes reading The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter. Yeah. Found under carnal knowledge.  Public school education at its finest.

I used to profane my sentences like everyone else did.  Then one day Gran heard me use a swear word after I slammed my bare foot into one of the kitchen table chairs.  She looked as if I had slapped her.  She looked so hurt I would use such a word, actually an expression, I felt shamed.  I actually hadn’t given swearing any thought.  Everyone swears, especially teenagers. That not saying because I’m a teenager I have a special permit to swear, I’m just pointing out it’s easier to do something if everyone else is doing it.  Reacting without thinking. Swearing does not involve much thinking.  I swear I learned most of my swear words from going to public school.  However, the profanity posse has rode into town and now it’s illegal at our school to cuss (and to hang out with kids who do).

Last year a group of people, one of those state education groups, who observe schools for whatever reason, commented on how much profanity they heard while visiting or school.  This prompted the no swearing rule.  Teachers are now actually handing out tickets for swearing.  The Profanity Police are out and about.  Watch your mouth.  Pop out a naughty word and if caught, the offender finds a ticket in hand and lunch detention. It sounds dumb, but it works.  I don’t know too many kids who want to do lunch detention, especially for something as stupid as swearing. I don’t want to be one of the kids who spends their thirty minutes in room 401.  That’s in the D wing–known for D as in the dummy hall.  You got to be dumb to get detention.  Rare do you see a National Honor Society student in there.

So now that I’ve become a reformed potty mouth, what do I say when I stub my toe, or drop my binder onto the floor and scatter its contents in all directions?  Stupid stuff.  So stupid that when I say it I start laughing and can’t stay mad.  How stupid?  What about “Pickle Farts!”  If you count “fart” as a swear word, then I don’t know.  “Pickle Toot!” doesn’t have the same ring.  I discovered it’s not so much the word that is the problem it’s the connotation.

Connotation and denotation. These are terms I picked up in English.  I actually do learn some stuff in there.  Connotation is the implied meaning.  Like “gay.”  Right.  I hear the  snickering.  “Gay” actually means “happy,” which is the denotation, or the actually meaning of the world. Over time the word has changed. I looked it up in the dictionary and the first two meanings have to do with being light-hearted.  The third is sexual orientation. The word rates an asterisk.  At the bottom of the definition is this detailed paragraph on how gay is now a word used primarily for sexual orientation designation and goes on for a bit how the word is now changed. It’s always interesting when we read one of those old stories or poems and the author inserts how gay he or she felt about something.  Mature audiences do not abound in high school.

That rabbit trail about swearing results from losing my data.  I had it all typed up about how my progress in each subject and how my parents handled the conference and what we did.  I know it’s hiding in my laptop somewhere.  I know it is.  This is when I crave  tech Ninja skills.  I need the word count, so I will try to remember it all once again.

We get to school at 3:20 pm, even though conferences don’t start until 3:30.  Dad likes to get to places early.  He hates to be late.  Mom can go either way.  She doesn’t stress about time.  She would rather be early than late, and she likes to keep Dad in a good mood so she just flows with going out the door on his time schedule.

Swear word.

What I had yesterday for this part was so much better than this blathering I’m doing.  I think it’s because I’m tired.  Something about having extra time over the weekend makes me even more tired.  All I did was hang out and read yesterday.  That and napped.  And snack.  No one cooks on Sundays.  It was not one of our going to church Sundays.  We are not good about the continuity thing.

Okay, try again. Dad and Mom get my report card.  They look at the grades.  Nothing too shocking.  Of course they dwell on the “C” in Geometry, instead of the “A-“ in English and Typing.  And a “B-“ in Biology is respectable.  As far as the conferences go:

English-“She’s quiet.  That’s not a complaint.” Appropriate agreeable laughter sounds.  “She turns her work in, and for the most part it’s refreshing.  Sometimes I think she hurries and doesn’t proofread out those fragments and run-on sentences.  That comes with time.  Overall, I think she is an asset to the class.  Speak up a little more.”  Polite smile, fade-out chuckles.

Geometry:  “I think she gets the concepts.  How are you studying for the tests?  I thought so.  Do you practice with the problems in the back of the book?  Well, give them a try and I will be glad to check your work.  The even answers are provided.  Maybe by semester we will see that “C” rise to a “B”.

Biology: “Not a bad beginning.  A bit shaky on some of the early tests.  A nice solid “A” on her recent lab report.  She writes better than most of the sophomores.  But then that should come natural, shouldn’t it?” That adult chuckling thing again.  “I’d say a little more studying to bring the test scores up, but otherwise doing okay.”

PE: “Most of the grade comes from dressing down, something she does, unlike a few of the girls.  Participates.  Though athletics aren’t a real strong point.  I give her credit for trying.  That’s all I ask, is for students to at least try.  Dressing down and trying, that’s what PE is all about.”

History:  “For some reason I don’t have many girls in this class.  The fact is I seem to have mostly football players.  That could be intimidating.  It does intimidate me at times.  HaHaHa.  My parents and teacher share a chuckle.  I focus on the “Got Milk?” poster on the cafeteria wall.  “I appreciate her written work, but we do have a participation grade and you can see that has affected her overall points.  So I would see keep up the writing, and speak up.”  HaHaHa

Typing:  Whatever.  Sit down.  Shut up.  Type.  I can do this one no problem.

Art:  I like art. The teacher likes me.  This is all good.

TA:  Office assistant.  “Hello, Student speaking.”  Run messages, file excuses, doctor notes, backpack lost and found, etc.  Do my homework in between.  I passed.

That should have taken all of what?  A half hour?  Five minutes per teacher. Skip the TA conference, that’s five times seven teachers which is thirty-five minutes.  Try instead an hour and ten minutes.  We got the first conference done and down and guess what?  Other parents show up.  They want to talk to teachers as well.  Mom and Dad finally got the idea of picking separate teachers and getting in a line.  Some were only two deep.  That meant about ten to fifteen minutes of waiting.  The conferences are all in the gymnasium.  The teachers are herded in their little groups like Old MacDonald’s farm. With English here, and History there, here a PE, there an Art e-i-e-i-o.

The separate, divide and conquer routine, with a  “I’m next” wave” proved too excruciating and I decided I really needed to go to my locker.  Dad, realizing, (thank you for your keen awareness, Dad) I was withering with embarrassment decided he and Mom would hang together instead.  We suffered, or rather I suffered through the rest of the conferences.  I still haven’t gotten over being talked about as if I not there.  Sitting there and listening to them discuss me is almost like an out of body three-dimensional experience.  And my parents wonder why I tend to not tell them about parent teacher conferences?

At five o’clock we are seated at the Olive Garden.  Fortunately my classes are no longer a topic of discussion and we actually enjoy a nice dinner.  Dad talks about his recent assignment—an article about the bypass recently built in a small Idaho town.  No big deal.  Except the bypass took over sixty years to finally get going.  The usual cries of destroying the nature habitat had concerned citizenry bent on stopping its progress.  “The environment will suffer!”  “The city will suffer!”  “Too much money!”  In the mean time, Dad tells us, the town is burdened with trucks, cars, even bicyclists who smother the flow of traffic.  The bypass is built and all problems are solved.  Hmm, maybe, maybe not.      Dad traveled there to do an in-depth article about the before and after of the bypass. What was hoped would be accomplished with the bypass and what actually happened.  Dad fell in love with the town and I got the feeling as Mom listens to him describe the huge, splendorous lake surrounded by mostly trees on hillsides “resplendent with trees, Sylvie, very few houses,” that a move might be imminent.

I begin to fuss inwardly. Oh, come on, parents!  I have at least two more years of school to finish.  You know, that minor meltdown I had not too long ago?  The one that extracted a promise I could graduate with my class?  Hello?  How about a vacation outing instead?  Christmas skiing sounds good.  Shopping for new living arrangements doesn’t.  Instead a nod and a smile, “Pass the bread, please.”


Swear (Photo credit: Wikipedia)