Yesterday was one of the longest, but most validating days I've had as a teacher in a long time. Nothing really eventful happened in my classes, but I had three separate affirming experiences with two former students and a current student that reminded me why I became a teacher in the first place. It's been a long, long time since I felt like I was making any real difference. It's easy to get caught up in the everyday drudgeries: the contraband cell phones, the general apathy of students, uncompleted homework, grading, etc. I know I've been feeling less than committed for a while, which is part of the reason why I think I need to be out of the classroom. But days like yesterday, while long and tiring, reminded me that I can impact kids.

The first thing that happened was with one of my current students. This kid was in my very first Environmental Sustainability class and is in my advanced class right now. He's been apathetic about college and what he's going to do next year and hasn't had any real motivation. Yesterday, he spent two periods in the Writing Center enthusiastically researching and brainstorming what he wants to do while he goes to school: start a biodiesel co-op. He did an outstanding project on the relative ease with which you can create your own biodiesel from used vegetable oil and use it fuel diesel cars. He decided that he's going to become a self-made expert on making and using biodiesel from used veggie oil. This sounds like a crazy pipe dream, but it's actually much simpler, cost-effective, and practical than you would think. This is a kid who didn't even recycle when he started my class. Two years later, he has motivated his whole family to live a little more lightly and wants to pursue a sustainability-based career. Great success #1.

Last night, I was Facebook chatting (shut up, it was the very first time I ever used that feature, and he messaged me first) with a former student who has graduated and gone far away to college. This kid was also in my very first sustainability class. He's now decided that he's going to be a sustainable farmer. He can major in it at his hippie-ass college, and he's going to intern at a farm this summer. Great success #2.

The best teacher validation I had, though, far and away, was running into a former student who moved away at the Cardinals game last night. This student is very near and dear to my heart and I hadn't seen him in over a year. My first two years in my district, I worked half-days at our alternative school, where I served a very small population of the most difficult to reach students. This kid was with me for both years, and he was quite a challenge. Not only was he completely disengaged from school, but he was ADHD, dealing with issues stemming from his family, and had gaps in his learning from so many suspensions. Despite this, and despite the fact that he drove me crazy, he was, at his core, a sweet kid who was whip-smart when he wanted to be. I desperately wanted to know that this kid would be okay, that he would "make it", but just when things were going well, he'd get suspended. Finally, after his sophomore year, his mom moved him to a bigger school. I saw him once right after he moved, and he was still trying to adjust to this bigger school, but I hadn't seen him in forever. Lo and behold, he was at the game last night. He gave me a big hug. I asked him how he was doing, if he was going to graduate on time this spring. He said he was, that he was doing really well at his new school. I asked him what his plans were for after graduation. He said he was going to college! He got into Mo.State and will be heading to Springfield in the fall. I wanted to cry I was so happy. I felt like the auntie you never see that fawns all over you once a year and embarrasses you, but I didn't care. I can leave teaching knowing that if a kid like that can make it, any of them can.

So, yeah, I had to blog-brag about it.


Burrito Overdose

I finally did it.

I overdosed on burritos.

I thought it could never happen. I though I could happily tuck in meal after meal of glorious Chipotle or Qdoba without ever tiring of the yumminess, like that guy who tried to eat Chipotle every day to lose weight (??). I lambasted Chris when he said, "I don't feel like burritos..." for the first time. How can you not feel like burritos?

But it happened.

See, what had happened was, I ate Chipotle twice in two days when I went to Minneapolis. It's generally part of my routine: when I get downtown, I hit up Chipotle during the time between getting off their light rail from the airport and when my class starts. Or, on our Saturday class lunch break, a group of my classmates and I will grab our favorite combination of goodness. But I did BOTH in less than 24 hours. My Chipotle standard is a vegetarian burrito, half the amount of rice and black beans, two scoops of tomato salsa, a bit of tomatillo salsa, cheese and guac, thank you very much. Actually, I just switched to a burrito bowl with chips instead, because I was feeling feisty (in case you could not tell by by reckless burrito eating).

Still feeling good after two in two. But Friday, a mere week after the binge, Chris picks me up from my rained-out game and says we're going to Qdoba before we hit up Mokabe's for the Break the Silence party. My standard vegetarian queso burrito, half rice and black beans, salsa verde and double pico, cheese and guac just didn't sit right. Couldn't even finish it.

It's over. And we just got a Chipotle in the Loop, too.

It's not you, burritos. It's me. It's just a break. I just need time to figure some things out. Then I'll be back. I need you to trust me on this.


What Will You Do To End The Silence?

Today is the Day of Silence. Day of Silence is a national day of activism where students around the country will exercise their right to remain silent in honor of those LGBTQ youth who have been forced into silence simply by being who they are. Over half a million students will participate in this year's Day of Silence, including almost 50 of Chris's and 25 of mine (although our DOS is Tuesday due to MAP testing today).

Supporting LGBTQ youth is something I'm very passionate about. Adolescence is hard for any teenager, but to start acknowledging your sexuality and realizing that you aren't what is considered "the norm", and that any number of your friends, family, or acquaintances could immediately reject you if they find out, is incredibly difficult.

According to a study done by GLSEN, 4 out of 5 LGBTQ teenagers report being the victim of physical, verbal, or sexual harassment at school, and 30% reported missing at least one day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety. If there's one thing I believe in with my whole heart, it's that EVERY kid deserves to feel safe and comfortable in their own skin at school. Unfortunately, LGBTQ youth are not only overtly harassed in their schools, but are the victims of subversive harassment in classrooms where slurs like "faggot" and "homo" are all but ignored by teachers.

Hate crimes against LGBTQ people, particularly youth, are not a thing of the past. Lawrence King, an 8th grader from California, was shot and killed by a classmate because of his gender expression and sexual orientation. An 8th grader. Shot. For being gay. This happened February 12 of this year.

Fortunately, when students approached me to help them start a Gay/Straight Alliance almost three years ago, I had a supportive administration, and we jumped through relatively few hoops. We've experienced backlash from a small number of students and a smaller number of staff, but for the most part, I think myself and these ladies have provided a safe haven for our kids who are LGBTQ or Allies. We are still fighting the battle for our gay male students to feel comfortable coming out. Chris has been fighting a different battle. His district is larger, more bureaucratic, and more conservative. He's been fighting for his kids to be able to have GSA, a fight that has gone all the way to the School Board. Today's day will hopefully go smoothly, without any vandalism or harassment, but anything could happen. One of us has a student who, after coming out to her mother, was told by her mother that she wasn't allowed to join the "AIDS Club". One of us has a kid whose parents already reject him for his personality and mannerisms, and he is afraid to come out while he lives under their roof. I have a former student who will hide her sexual orientation for an indeterminate period of time because of the profession she has chosen to go into. I have close friends whose parents have all but disowned them for their sexual orientation. One year, we had two teachers publicly denounce Day of Silence to their classes, one going so far as to tell students that God didn't want them to participate.

Events and organizations such as Day of Silence, Ally Week, and GSAs are vital to not only providing LGBTQ youth with a safe haven where they can be themselves, but to creating a visible program of understanding and tolerance that all students can witness. These days aren't about gay rights, sex education, promotion of sexual activity among students, or drag shows. They're about promoting a culture where bullying of students is unacceptable and understanding and tolerance is the norm. ALL students deserve the chance to go to school in a safe environment. Period.

Update: Good news! Chris's district is approving GSAs at the high school level with full support of building principals and district attorneys. He's got well over the estimated 50 kids participating today--everyone from jocks, to Muslim girls in hijabs, to anime kids in cat ears. This is going to make a difference in so many kids' lives, and I'm so proud of him for helping those kids fight for their right to assemble.


Laptop Halp!

In the next month or so, I'm going to be in the market for a new laptop. My current laptop belongs to my school, so I must give it back when I peace out of this bitch. I've been using a MacBook for school for the past four years. Love the Mac OS, but leery of staying with a Mac, for two reasons: one, the added cost; two, the horror stories I've heard (and experienced) about Mac's planned obsolescence. My own hard drive crashed and was irretrievable, same with my good friend's less-than-a-year-old HD.

So, does anyone have any recommendations of a moderately-priced reliable laptop?



Yeah, so unbeknown to me, I was in an earthquake this morning. I woke up to the bed shaking. In my post-wake haze, I thought Asher's tail was hitting the bed, which it is want to do. Then I thought it was Chris having some leg spasms. I hit him, like I do when he snores, steals covers, or is talking in his sleep. He didn't react, so I just rolled back over and went to bed. Was getting ready this morning and saw via Twitter that there had been an earthquake. In St Louis. Glad it didn't happen during the school day.

This minor quake did not deter me from boarding a plane to Minneapolis via Chicago. I had pleasant travels, including my first coffee in a week, a cup of the new Starbucks house blend. So it was just one cup, no big deal. I plan on keeping with the green tea most days, though.

Really had a crazy week. Soccer was horrific. Although we escaped 2-1, we dropped a game to a team we previously beat, basically because we showed up five minutes before game time. Then, our bus driver got lost trying to pick us up (despite the fact she has taken us to this field multiple times) and we sat at the field for thirty minutes waiting for her. Good times. In our next game, the girls forgot the balls, and, although we managed to pull off the win, one girl on our team got a concussion and one girl got a broken nose. Oops.

I've got class...gotta run.


Hi Pointe Closing?

WTF? 52nd City is claiming that the Hi-Pointe theatre is closing. Noooooooooo! First the beloved bar, now the theatre? Bunk City! Say it ain't so.

Update--Good news! Hi-Pointe is only closing for a few weeks, then will reopen under new management.


Great Scott!

Wow, where was I when all this went down? I think I saw a flash of it on the news, but didn't really read about it until today.

This is so fucked up on so many levels, but not really surprising. We had some middle school girls get in a fight and put it on YouTube, so if it happened here, it probably happens all over. The fact that these girls' parents were making excuses for their behavior just makes me want to vomit. If there's one group of assholes I hate more than any other, it's entitled kids and their trifling-ass parents who raise them that way. See: parent nonsense, bubble-pizza bitch. Damn, people. You are not doing your kid any favors by fighting every battle for them that they come across, particularly if their kid is in the wrong. The foolish idea that children and teens don't make mistakes, let alone need to learn from their mistakes, is ridiculous. That's what growing up is: learning from the mistakes you will inevitably make. If there are no consequences to your actions, all you are learning is that your mom and dad will bail you out (figuratively and literally) any time you make a poor decision.

I see this all the time with my kids. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe that the majority of my kids would pull some cheerleading beat down. I believe they know better than that. But a whole lot of my kids lie, cheat, and manipulate on a daily basis, with little care for any potential consequences. A huge percentage of my kids actually work harder to manipulate their way out of a given situation, whether it be homework or something else, than it would take to actually do what is required. They do not fear consequences, because either they will not have any consequences, or, if there are consequences, they either will disregard them or they're minimal. The threat of in or out-of-school suspension is laughable. Don't even think about detention--they won't go. But their problem-solving skills only extend to getting out of things. They can't use problem-solving skills to actually do anything of value.

Is this new? Or was I so busy actually do shit in high school that I didn't realize that everyone else was clowning? I mean, I told some lies in my day, but I have kids who lie ALL THE TIME. About stuff that doesn't even matter. I hear bullshit excuses every damn day. Just tell me the truth. Life happens. I am a master procrastinator/ball-dropper. But take some responsibility for your lack of completion.

Chris and I were talking about this idea the other day: nothing is really special any more. There's no such thing as a real "treat". When not owning an iPod is the norm, not the rule, you know times have changed. I think back to ten years ago. No one even had cell phones, let alone $250 gadgets. Granted, those $250 gadgets did not exist, but was there something similar? When I was 14, the coolest thing a kid could own would be a moped or roller blades, preferably both with a tow rope, and you know only one or two kids you knew had a moped. Almost all of my kids have iPods and cell phones. Seriously, it is an anomaly for a child to not have one or both. Had I asked my parents for something that cost $250, they would have laughed hysterically, then handed me the classifieds.

Jesus, now I just sound like my grandpa. But honestly, I just worry about the level of values kids have these days. I'm not talking about premarital sexin' or religion. I'm talking about honesty, hard work, compassion, kindness, and integrity. These days, it seems like everything is about material possessions, money, fame, and getting attention/seeking approval from potential love interests.

I feel as though American culture is perched precariously on the verge of either totally annihilation or enlightenment. Kind of like on Back to the Future 2, when Marty goes to the future and Biff owns everything, and everything is porn-organized-crime-vice related because Biff gets the sports trivia book and makes a fortune. So Marty has to make it so that his kids aren't complete fuck-ups in the future. Is there a pivotal event that we could go back and change to fix this situation? Is this really an issue, or did I make it up in my mind, or is it just the same tired "kids-these-days" crap old people have based their bitching on for generations? Have I asked enough Carrie-Bradshaw-esque rhetorical questions for one day?


Thoughts for a Friday

Sorry I've been absent this week. I was busy with soccer games and furiously trying to finish homework. I'm about to peace up to Kirksville for our annual soccer alumni weekend. It is official that I will be one of the three oldest ladies there, which means I don't have to play a minute of the game if I so desire. Sidenote: the Holiday Inn in Kirksville has some nerve to try to charge $100/night for a room. For that price, there better be an open bar in my room, a bidet in the bathroom, and free limo rides to the Dukum Inn. I will take my $47 room at the Super 8, remove the comforter from the bed, spray some Method Cinnamon air freshener to cover up the smell of smoke, and be on my way for cocktails, thank you very much.

Because of my impending departure and the fact that I probably should do some real work even though I have 27 days left up in this bitch, at most, I am just going to holla some quick thoughts at you. BTW, if anyone wants to pay me a lot to do very little, I'm totally available. I'm thinking about starting a business where people pay me to deal with awkward situations that need to be dealt with. Some lady microwaving stank fish every day in the office, but nobody wants to say anything to her? Don't use a passive-aggressive note. I'll say it to her face for you for a nominal fee. Dislike your best friend's new baby daddy? I'll tell him he needs to stop wearing socks with sandals and talking like Borat all the time. Won't faze me. Think about it. It's like a courier service, but I deliver the truth.

* Can we talk about the much-anticipated return of The Office? It was like every awkward dinner party you've ever been to morphed into Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and then slapped the dinner party scene from Go in the face. Chris's observation pretty much summed everything up as the episode wound down: "It's so funny, I never want it to end, except it's so awkward, it feels right that it does." True.

* A kid in my room right now has his own picture on his shirt. Him playing basketball with a biblical quote underneath it. Granted, he is a phenomenal athlete, but who does this? Really?

* The new Raconteurs is freaking unbelievable. I would highly recommend that you get it. In other music news, one short week after we got our tickets for Wakarusa, Ben Folds and Built to Spill were added to the lineup. I saw Ben Folds in 2004 with Guster and Rufus Wainwright, and hearing him and Rufus duet Careless Whisper by Wham! changed my life. In addition, I would also recommend Wakarusa if you want to go to a festival but don't want to be completely and totally overwhelmed by the crowds of insane people. Waka is fairly small, the lineups are sweet, and camping chill. I could never do Bonnaroo because I could never deal with that many assholes in one place. This is something I realized while waiting in line to go up in the Space Needle: I can't deal with large groups of assholes, which is why I should stop working at a high school. Plus, Wakarusa is only four hours away in Lawrence, KS, a lovely college town.



Take that, hate mongering assholes!

Support Tower Grove Farmers' Market

I've mentioned before how much I love the Tower Grove Farmers' Market. It's a true grassroots market that I've watched grow over the past two seasons thanks to the efforts of Patrick Horine and Jenny Ryan (the duo also responsible for Local Harvest Grocery). Everything there is locally grown, several of the vendors are certified organic, and those that aren't still use more sustainable methods than industrial agriculture. The market is always bustling with something new, be it yoga, speakers, or a fresh crepe stand.

They run almost entirely on donations and volunteer hours, and they're in need of some funds to keep things going and growing. This year, they've added a series of political speakers, a farm to table program for schools, a kitchen incubator project, and now accept food stamps. They're really doing things right over there and I'd hate to see it falter due to a relatively small amount of money. Keep this great community event going by becoming a friend of the market and donating. You're getting $600 soon, anyway.

Weekend Update, if you care...

After next weekend's trip to Kirksville, I'm straight detoxing, because my body, particularly my vital organs, cannot take much more of this weekend bingeing.

Friday was pretty low key. I had drinks with friends at a local happy hour, then watched the six-car MRH state basketball championship parade from said happy hour. Chris and I hit up Pi, the new pizza joint on Delmar across from the Pageant. They've got a sustainable bent (the servers all had shirts that said "Green Is The New Black"), a good beer list, and incredible pizza (down with Provel!). Seriously, really, really good.

Saturday, Chris's mom called and said she had Birds tickets, so we hopped on the Metrolink and went down to Busch. It was a beautiful day for a game, although we were under the overhang in left field, which was about ten degrees cooler than in the sun. The Birds won, hooray. Being a non-native St Louisan, it's not totally in my blood to jones for baseball to start, but being at Busch really made me feel like it was spring. I love how vibrant the colors are at the stadium, I love the smell of the food, I like the sounds and the rituals and the people watching.

Chris and I went to Euclid Records, where I picked up the new Raconteurs, the rerelease of Whiskeytown's Strangers Almanac, and a Felice Brothers' disc. Score. Then my friend Emily came into town and all hell broke loose. Long story short, there was more karaoke at Harry's (where I realized I've been denying the world an opportunity to hear me sing "Stay" by Lisa Loeb for too, too long), and the night ended up in my friend's Pee-Wee's playhouse-like house watching him and Chris roller skate (as in black quads with neon green wheels) around to 80s sitcom theme songs until 4AM. It was Roll Bounce up that bitch. My abs still hurt from laughing. Good times.

Had MoKaBe's delicious, delicious brunch with Emily, which unfortunately, did not cure my wicked hangover, and then walked over to kickball. It was such a beautiful day. Too bad our whole team had been out until the wee hours and we played like poop. Luckily, the teams we played generally play like poop on a good day, so we pulled out the win, and I actually got some color on my face so I no longer look like Tilda Swinton in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.

All in all, it was a really, really fun weekend, one that my liver will hate me for for a while.

This week I'm cracking the books as I've got a presentation via video due Wednesday, a paper to finish and Heart of Darkness to reread. Good thing I'm taking 2 1/2 days off. Thanks, MAP test!


Friday Funtime From the Archives

My colleague just reminded me of a crazy student we used to have who once sent him a paper via e-mail. From his e-mail address: bigassdick@yahoo.com

I swear this is true.

Awesome Student Quote

From a student letter to Russ Carnahan for Government class about gas prices:

"I thought we went to war the second time to fight so the gas prices could decrease. Why are they increasing? This is what I think: if we stop the war, gas could decrease. Bringing the troops home will hopefully bring gas prices down. Isn't that what supports the war? Gas prices?"


This is why I am glad to go.

I have to vent about a student.

I have a student who is ridiculous. Really, truly, ridiculous. Condescending, patronizing, annoying, and refuses to do any type of work whatsoever because he thinks he's above it (even though, trust me, he is not). You may have heard of him here or here.

Today, in Creative Writing, I told his friend in our class that I heard from his English 10 teacher that his ghost chapter was really good (they had to write an additional chapter for the book Kindred by Octavia Butler, which is a totally awesome book if you have not read it). Annoying student, probably pissed that I didn't acknowledge his clearly Advanced chapter (which was unfinished AND written "from the perspective of blood"...I know, right?), says to the other student, "Isn't it annoying that we have to dumb down our writing for that assignment?"

Me, "What?"

Him, "Yeah, like, uh, because we had to write in the author's voice."

Me, "So you had to dumb down your writing to sound like Octavia Butler? You're saying you are a better writer than Octavia Butler? Seriously? You are so rude and condescending. Really. That's so rude. I'm really tired of you acting like you are so much better than every assignment you get, in this class and others. If everything is so easy for you, why don't you turn anything in? Ever?"

Him, "Uh."

Then, to prove my point exactly, I told the class they had to turn in their writer's notebook and an exit ticket on their research, which he tried to leave the room without doing. But I kept him until he turned stuff in. I guarantee when I open his writer's notebook file, he has less than half of the entries.

Yes, I know this kid has all kinds of issues, and I know that he really is smart (just not nearly as smart as he thinks he is), and I know it's all a show to mask his own insecurities. But it doesn't make it any less annoying, rude, or condescending to other individuals he encounters on the daily.

Did I tell you that he insisted on showing me a video of him playing guitar? Until I realized it was a System of a Down song and he was guitar-synching it to the actual track? Yeah, this is what I do.


Linky Links

I've got a post up on Sustainablog on ReadyMade magazine's new digital edition. I love magazines (ReadyMade is one of my faves) but they use up a lot of paper and clutter up my house. Go read both my post and the mag.