How I Accidentally Found Myself Involved in a School-Wide Crime Ring

One of my biggest gripes about teaching was the rampant theft. At the beginning of the year, I was provided with a few basic supplies, but had to purchase the rest myself. I wouldn't mind this fact so much if I were able to retain these items. Alas, my precious darlings would take anything they could get their hands on seemingly just for the sport of it. Over time, I've had countless white board markers, two staplers, a pair of scissors, several boxes of crayons, hundreds of pieces of paper, correction fluid, and three board erasers all stolen from me, leaving me frustrated. Moreover, at the rate the supplies were stolen, it was pointless to replace them, seeing as they would just disappear again, making it a big waste of my money. Unfortunately, I needed some of these items to operate my classroom, so I was forced to purchase them anyway, even if it meant losing them soon after.

Since I never caught any of my students in the act of stealing, I rarely spoke of it to the kids. However, when my $12 three hole punch vanished, I finally lost it, ranting to my class about how I would be buying no more new supplies since they continually went missing.

After class, a student approached me. "Mr. [Kevin], do you not know where your stuff is going?"

I asserted that I did not, then paused for him to rat out another rotten student. Instead, the student suggested a supposedly hypothetical situation wherein certain teachers and students formed a coalition in which the students provided the teachers with stolen school supplies in return for higher grades.

"This is ridiculous," I ultimately moaned. "Who is involved in this?"

The student refused to give the names of the students or other teachers complicit with this pact, again reminding me that it's not a definite situation, but it "might" be the case.

"Do you want to be a part?" the student asked.

I told him that in the past, I had agreed to have students purchase me supplies in exchange for nominal extra credit, but that I wasn't going to condone stealing from other teachers.

"You don't really think they buy those things, do they?" the student pressed. I thought back to some recently acquired items, unpackaged white board markers and an opened box of #2 pencils. I hadn't really thought about where they came from; they easily might have been stolen goods.

"Regardless, there's no way I'll do it," I said.

"Suit yourself," the student responded coolly, exiting the room.

The next day, my stapler went missing. The obvious suspect would have been the student who tried to work out a deal with me the day before, but it had to have been someone else since, due to block scheduling, he wasn't even in my class that day. I waited until the next class to ask the student about the incident.

"Did you know my stapler is gone?" I asked before class started.

"Maybe," the student said. "If I can get it back, will you give me extra credit?"

As much as I didn't want to reward thievery, curiosity got the best of me, so I played the game. "Sure, I suppose if my stapler magically appeared, some extra points could magically appear in the grade book, too."

Indeed, the next day, although I didn't see how it got there, I found the stapler back on my desk. It was alarming more than satisfying. A day later, the student asked if I was interested in getting white board markers, as well. I rejected the offer, explaining that I didn't want to make it a habit.

"You're in or you're out," the student warned.

"I'm out," I reaffirmed, laughing at the faux-earnestness.

Over the course of the next couple of days, my dozen or so white board markers dwindled to just two, though I never saw the culprits. I threatened my weasel of a student that once I caught him doing it, I would have him punished to the fullest extent.

"Well, you're not going to catch me because I'm not taking them," the student said. I believed this to be truthful since I spent the whole period eyeing the student suspiciously, hoping to catch him in the act. No, others must be involved.

"Do you want your markers back?" the student asked.

I could maintain my pride and refuse the extortion or I could save about ten dollars. "Okay," I conceded.

Through the remainder of the week, the markers poured in a few at a time. The student covertly slipped them to me as if it were some sort of currency exchange; white board markers were like the cigarettes of prison society. To compensate my miniature double agent, I agreed to give him extra credit, though I secretly limited it to mere fractions of percentage points so as not to reward a hooligan.

It didn't stop at the markers. "I thought you might need some tape," the student said, handing me an unsolicited present. I asked who he got it from, but of course he wouldn't tell me. That was part of the arrangement. I knew this meant that some other teacher was now cursing for losing eir roll of tape, but I did need it, so I turned a blind eye. Similarly, I didn't question the subsequent gifts like reams of notebook paper and a glue stick. I was getting hooked up. Additionally, I wasn't losing items anymore, either. By joining the crime ring, my existing supplies were being protected.

Once the process started, I never had to ask for items, they were just delivered to me by a few different students who eventually became comfortable enough to make it obvious that they were complicit in these activities, too. I had nearly everything I needed, but I was still short a three hole punch, so I put out a request to my crew to have it returned for significant extra credit.

Within two days, I had a three hole punch. The only problem was that it wasn't the one I initially lost, in fact, it had a label on the bottom with another teacher's name on it. Consequently, I felt bad; I was no longer dealing with nameless victims, now I had essentially indirectly stolen from a colleague and friend. I told the ringleader that I didn't want this other teacher's three hole punch, I wanted my own back. He told me that he wasn't sure where mine was, it probably changed hands a few times by now. Furthermore, he said most of the things I was returned, the stapler, the markers, weren't necessarily mine, just similar items from other teachers.

I couldn't believe I had unintentionally gotten myself in the thick of some absurd school supply black market. I felt as if I were in a mobster movie, except that the stakes were laughably trivial even though it felt just as intense. Helplessly, I told the student I wanted out, but that I didn't want my stuff to be taken. I asked if we could work out some deal where I remained neutral and no objects entered or left my classroom.

"Extra credit?" he asked. I agreed to furnish him with a lump of extra credit to ensure nothing was taken or brought to me from then on. It was a deal.

Feeling guilty, I brought the three hole punch back to its rightful owner. "Are you missing a three hole punch?" I coyly asked the teacher. I played dumb and told her it mysteriously showed up in my classroom without any indication that I knew more. She was appreciative and explained that she had lost that thing months ago. Months ago? I wonder where it had been floating around in the meantime.

"I see you got a new one," I said, gesturing toward another three hole punch on her desk.

"Oh yeah, a student got it for me," she explained. It looked just like the one I had initially bought, though I had no way of verifying whether it was originally mine since I never thought to label it or anything.

Was she in on this crime ring, too? Did I just feel sympathy for someone potentially as guilty as me? Furthermore, were the students fucking with us? Were they just trading the items around our classrooms in some lavish scheme to boost their grades? And why were we letting them succeed? I confronted my student liaison, but I never got a straight answer as to what exactly was going on in these illicit dealings, then quit teaching before I could investigate more fully. Regardless of the students' true intentions, I'm genuinely embarrassed at how caught up I became in these theatric petty thefts. My survival instinct overrode my morals in an over-the-top game for possession of white board markers.



Since my life is up in the air, I've had some friends contact me concerned that I've moved to Vermont. On the contrary, I'm vacationing at the Trapp Family Lodge, a resort built on the land that the Von Trapps, the family from The Sound of Music, relocated to after emigrating from Austria, and a destination I wrote a ridiculous paper on. I'll figure out my life when I get home. Or, you know, whenever. I know I don't want to live in Vermont, so that's a start, no?

I also know that it's Free Design Friday. Between the Von Trapps and Free Design, that's a lot of family band to handle, as if there could ever be an overload of that variety. At some point, Free Design decided to record its own version of "Do-Re-Me," only to find they couldn't obtain the rights, so they switched up the order in which they sang the notes to make it a different song entirely. Sort of. At any rate, it's soothing, stupid, and short, so you might as well check it out.

Download/listen: The Free Design - Chorale

While we're on the subject, why not go back to one of my first blog posts ever, and attempt to play the "Do-Re-Me" game. It's still a challenge that fouls me up!


Nordic Walking

Currently, I'm vacationing in Vermont. It's the best sort of tourist destination because no other tourists would even contemplate coming here, hence, it's not overrun with tourists, only a handful of locals. The public schools here must not teach geography or else the citizens surely would have found a better place to live. I've been here four days now and it's thunder stormed each day, so I've had a great opportunity to catch up on reading, do jigsaw puzzles, and look at cows.

This morning, before the rain, my family and I went for a walk. A walk, however, is boring even by Vermont's standards, so someone developed a way to sex it up: nordic walking. Nordic walking is just like walking, but with poles; it's sort of like cross-country skiing, minus the skis. Thousands of years of evolution have afforded humans bipedalism (or for the Jesus-inclined, on the sixth day, God totally made man be all upright and stuff), so it seems a little counterproductive to add extra limbs to the simplest of activities (with sincere apologies to the physically disabled.) When being handed the equipment, I wanted to decline. "No thanks, I walk just fine on my own two feet, actually." Evidently, however, nordic walking is a more complete workout; by poking the ground with sticks, walkers receive an arm workout in addition to the usual leg exercise. I buy that, I guess. It might look stupid, but a lot of forms of exercise appear silly; consider thigh masters, synchronized swimming, and Dancin' Grannies.

Before we started, I privately laughed at the idea of walking with poles. Surely it's a joke, how hard could it be? Indeed, it was simple -- for everyone else. I kid you not, I couldn't do it. You're supposed to poke the poles behind you as you move, poking with the opposite arm of the foot you're stepping with as you stride. For whatever reason, however, I was confounded by this process. Despite my best efforts, I kept poking and stepping with the same side of my body. At the beginning, the instructor twice attempted to correct me. As the instructor pointed out, it's an entirely natural motion. When you walk, the arm on the opposite side of your body that you're striding with swings simultaneously. Though this fact is true of me, as soon as I tried to replicate the same movement with the poles in hand, I fell into the old pattern of awkwardly maneuvering my same-sided appendages concurrently. Finding me a bit pitiful, the instructor gave up on trying to fix me.

Eventually, I managed to fall into the proper stride, but not without deep concentration. I legitimately had to focus on my movements the entire time or I would slip back into doing it incorrectly. It ended up being an exhausting mental workout for me since it required my utmost attention for an extended period. Mind you, no one else had this problem, just Kevin, the most uncoordinated idiot around. Apparently, I'm not even capable of walking and holding sticks at the same time.


Set Down the Sippy Cup

As a wee lad, my big brotherly duties involved tying a wagon to the back of my bike and wheeling baby Alison around the yard. Over time, Alison grew large enough to handle the responsibility of riding a tricycle all by herself. On one of the first occasions Alison took to her trike, I responded by crying and screaming. Not because I lost the coveted role of chauffeur, but because Alison rolled around on her tricycle while holding a sippy cup. As I worriedly protested to my mother, Alison was in fact drinking and driving. After containing her laughter, my mother explained that drinking and driving didn't apply to milk.

In retrospect, most intriguing to me is the fact that five-year-old Kevin was so firmly indoctrinated by don't-drink-and-drive campaigns without having a real understanding of what it actually meant. That just goes to show how powerful PSAs can be. No wonder I'm addicted to meth.


Hardly a First Class Experience

I flew first class today and I'm still going to complain about my flight. Hear me out. Over the course of nine hours, I took a series of three red-eye flights, meaning my sleep was interrupted every couple hours so that I could spend time waiting in four of the country's finest airports. As for the first class aspect, I don't consider this seating to be the treat my dad intended when he upgraded it for me. First class just made me feel awkward. The airline puts out a special blue "elite" carpet for the first class passengers to board the plane on, which is just excessive. I had been chatting with a stranger in the terminal while waiting for my flight, and imagine how embarrassing it was to have to say farewell and stand in the "I'm better with you" line immediately afterwards. Fair or not, I'm sure I immediately went from friendly and relatable to pompous and elitist; at least, I would have thought the same in my position. Furthermore, since I was exhausted, I preferred sleeping to receiving any of the additional accommodations first class has to offer, making it pretty much a waste.

At least first class might offer me the perk of peace and quiet so I could sleep. Through the magic of poor seating arrangements, however, across the aisle a mother and daughter sat, separated from the father by me, who was to my left. From their inane conversations, I quickly learned that the two people of the couple, who I'd estimate to be in their fifties, were named Donald and Maureen. Foreseeing a whole plane ride of being spoken over, I attempted to problem solve and offered to trade seats with Donald. Frustratingly, Donald replied, "I prefer a window seat, actually." Um, okay. At least speaking up would deter em from being too obnoxious throughout the flight, I figured--incorrectly.

The attendant came around with a tray of hot towels and a pair of tongs. While I declined, everyone else accepted and rubbed it against their faces, making audible sighs, particularly Donald, as if it were some remarkable luxury. To counter that temperature perhaps, immediately after we were offered a "cold plate." I wasn't sure what that was and whether I was supposed to rub it on my face as well, so I again declined. Donald, however had two cold plates, which turned out to be plates of raw vegetables and cheeses, and chewed with his mouth open.

Even after chowing down on two cold plates, Donald was still hungry. He kept asking Maureen for food, causing me to continually wake up as snacks were passed over me. At one point, I felt a grape land in my lap. Donald said, "Uh oh!" and I made sure to open my eyes quickly and hand him back the grape, lest he find it appropriate to reach toward my crotch to fetch it himself.

And then there was Maureen, who kept requesting this or that throughout the whole flight. Water, wine, coffee, diet cola... I don't know how a bladder can handle that much on a two hour trip. Well into our descent, Maureen ignored both the verbal and pictorial fasten seat belt warning and stood up to put a pencil in the overhead bin. A flight attendant, belted in herself, screamed at Maureen to take a seat. Maureen sassed back, "I had to put away a pencil, I'm not about to hold it for the rest of the flight!" as if it were a big deal or there were no other place to store the pencil. She then set back her seat into full recline, so the attendant again had to speak to her, asking her to put her seat back up, sending Maureen into a pissed tizzy. "Donald," she whined, expecting him to change United States flight regulations -- after all, this was first class. Maureen's next response was to then look around and find another sleeping passenger and pointing at him. "He doesn't his seat all the way back," she hissed. "Do something!" Maureen is either an ill-tempered tattletale or very concerned for the safety of her fellow passengers. The flight attendant had to unbuckle and wake the man to put his chair in the upright position.

While landing, I could clearly hear the flight attendants' conversations about how obnoxious Maureen was and how much they disliked Continental airlines, their employer. It seemed pretty unprofessional and if I could hear, it meant that Maureen could likely hear, too. Indeed, she did, and as we deplaned, she bitched to Donald about how the attendants are "idiots" and "unprofessional." How can someone be so right and so wrong simultaneously.

Next time I fly, I'm taking coach. I prefer the trashy, I-don't-know-any-better antics in the back to the snotty, I'm-paid-to-be-inconsiderate antics up front.


The Little Mermaid

Though it wasn't a planned event, out of a combination of laziness and lack of a better idea, Christine, Jason, Terri and I watched The Little Mermaid. While I loved this film in my childhood, I was even Sebastian the crab for Halloween one year, I haven't seen it since. I relished the opportunity to discern why this film was so meaningful to tiny Kevin and to add new perspectives. Somewhat surprisingly, I still knew most of the song lyrics, a testimony to repeated viewing experiences.

I struggled with The Little Mermaid's central theme about someone craving to be something she isn't. It's not clear as to why, but Ariel hates being a mermaid and wants to be a human more than anything. Why is she so dead set on turning on her aquatic lifestyle? I think that as a kid, it's easy to just go along with the idea that of course a fish would prefer to be a human and see nothing problematic with the representation, in the same manner that a movie would have easily convinced me that of course a black person would prefer to be white, as it is "better." While the racial analogy can be drawn, I see this film as addressing issues of class, someone giving up her lower past to join the ranks of the elite.

Terri countered that it probably isn't about class because Ariel is both a princess as a mermaid and a human, so it's a bit of a wash. Instead, Terri offered an interesting theory that The Little Mermaid is about the transgendered identity. Ariel is a individual who feels trapped in the wrong body and is willing to go through significant sacrifices to alter her being. She feels far more comfortable in her human body than she ever did as a mermaid. Furthermore, it demonstrates the acceptance of a trans existence by having Prince Eric take Ariel for who she is. He never once expresses a problem upon learning that Ariel used to have a tail, instead loving her for the new identity she is presenting. I'm not sure I agree that Disney intended to push this radical agenda, but I can think of one person's parent who would agree...

Indeed, the whole queer identity angle made me chuckle because, as a kid, Stacy was forbidden from seeing Disney movies, not because they promoted questionable ideals and poor body image, but because Disney theme parks hold an annual "Gay Day" to provide a welcoming environment for gay families. Finding this immoral, Stacy's parent eliminated Disney from Stacy's life, a pretty deviant decision in raising an American child. In the long run, the plan backfired, however; not only is Stacy employed by a gay music and film festival, but ey's planning a trip to Disneyland soon.

Stacy is also the one to point out I make a "Poor Unfortunate Soul" face in my everyday life. According to Stacy, when I react to certain things, I bulge my eyes wide and crinkle my mouth just like the deceived creatures Ursula turns into polyps in the film. Since I don't actually see myself making this face that everyone claims I do often, I can only guess that it looks approximately like the picture below. Friends: can you correct or confirm?

The best part of The Little Mermaid is definitely the dancing turtle. The turtle appears on screen for all of three seconds, but immediately attracted my attention such that I demanded we rewind and watch it dance again. Upon viewing it for a second time, I discovered why I was compelled by the image: the turtle dances just like me! Or rather, I dance just like the turtle. Is it possible that a tertiary character in a movie I watched about a dozen times in my youth has influenced my present dancing style?

Naturally, it's much better to check out the dancing turtle in motion to get the full effect. The turtle shows up at the 2:33 mark, but I'd recommend watching the whole performance of "Under the Sea" because it'll be a nice dose of nostalgia (next year the film will be 20 years old!) and bring a smile to your face.

Worth a listen, but probably not a download: Skye Sweetnam - Part of Your World



Last year, Kat introduced our friend circle to an amusing photo fad called smooshing. Whereas most people aspire to look their best in photographs, smooshing is about looking as peculiar as possible. To smoosh, the photo subject must release all tension from eir face muscles. Then, the person shakes eir head back and forth furiously allowing eir lips and skin to flail wildly with the movement as the photographer captures the moment. To do it right, the person must thrust eir head so fast that it actually makes eir brain hurt, so it does require some commitment. The results are pretty hit-or-miss since it's unpredictable as to what potentially strange angle the photographer will capture, but when they're successful, they're quite entertaining:

My own documented attempts at the sport have semi-successful. I'm drawn to/frightened by the first photo since it makes me look 70 years older.

The undisputed champion of smooshing, however, has got to be Ben. How the heck does one do that to eir face?

That face looks like putty! Bravo, Ben!


Stereotypes & Robots

All stereotypes are bad. While such a general, all-encompassing statement like this one probably across as a stereotype in itself, it's important to acknowledge its truth. Most people are aware of the idiocy involved in making generalizations about ethnicities, genders, ages, and sexual orientations... but what about toward robots?

Robots are stereotyped more than anybody. And, if I do say so myself, that's bogus. Robots are people
animatronics fashioned to look like people, too. Just because they don't have true emotions doesn't give others the right to make ignorant comments that would otherwise hurt their non-existent feelings.

Myth 1: Ro-bots-talk-in-a-fun-ny-man-ner.
Fact 1: Robots speak in many different ways, depending on their programming.

The forward-thinking amongst us probably have judged someone for performing bigoted impressions of an Indian convenient store owner or a lispy homosexual. Why should it be any different with robots? Robots can be remarkably articulate, yet they're often depicted as beings with no sense of syntax, as if they put punctuation between each syllable. Contrary to offensive impressions, robots can speak with affect.

Myth 2: Robots dance in a stilted fashion.
Fact 2: Robots can get as funky as the rest of us.

I can relate to this myth: as a Caucasian, others have made assumptions about how poorly I must dance. That hurts and obliges me to wiggle my booty to excess in order to prove my skills. In this fashion, robots have it even worse. I can't even begin to count the number of times I've been to a party where someone whips out a supposed imitation of a robot dancing as some sort of party trick. These "jokesters" are downright demeaning as they awkwardly move one stiff limb at a time, showing no mobility below the waist. I suspect that people who resort to pulling this crap are poor dancers themselves, trying to mask this fact by passing the buck to an easy, unfair target.

Myth 3: Robots are taking our jobs.
Fact 3: Robots are a productive part of society that fill positions that most humans would not want.

Granted, there has been a remarkable jump in the amount of robots in our workforce, yet this flux is a sign of economic prosperity, not devastation. In most cases, robots do not take employment away from pre-existing members of society, but instead accept menial positions as industries expand. Though many are quick to finger robots during our current economic setback, statistically, robots are still unemployed at higher rates than most Americans as well as hold less significant positions: only two of the Fortune 500 companies' CEOs are robots. Robots have dreams and want to support their families just like anyone. Plus, if it weren't for robots filling our service positions, we'd probably have to deal with Mexicans.

Myth 4: Robots are hellbent on annihilating the human race.
Fact 4: Some robots are apathetic to Homo sapien extermination.

While it is only fair to acknowledge that most robots are actively devising the downfall of mankind, there is a vocal minority of robots who are friendly toward humans. It's rather close-minded to assume the worst and lock your car doors while driving through a part of town with a significant robot population; not every robot's motherboard craves global domination. Heck, some of my best friends are robots, and they swear they love doing my chores and that they would never seek revenge. To be candid, I'm preparing for the cyborg apocalypse as much as anyone, but if we allow ourselves to fall into a mentality of "they're all out to get us," it's as if the evil robots have already won.

I hope this serves as a lesson to us all. I urge you, don't tolerate hatred toward robots on the part of your friends and coworkers; it may be a socially acceptable practice, but that doesn't make it right. The next time you meet a robot, demonstrate your acceptance of it as an individual, not a stereotype. Be sure to speak normally with it, compliment its work ethic, extend an offer of unreserved friendship, and perhaps even invite it to go dancing at a nightclub.


How to Make a Paper Airplane

Though I'm done with teaching, I still have a whole backlog of anecdotes from my experiences to share. I hope you won't get sick of them.

My first essay assignment of the past school year was to write what we in the biz call a "process" or "how-to essay," a standard of the California public education system. Essentially, students compose the steps of how to do something as though they could be included in an instruction manual, with the topic preferably high-interest. Since it can be fairly dry, I set up the essay in such a way that it covers several skills simultaneously including research, paraphrasing, transitions, a formal tone, and clear, precise diction. Generally, the students who try, even the poorer writers, feel successful with this essay since it is a manageable task.

One honors student, however, failed on all accounts. The paper was ridiculously informal, thoroughly confusing, and perhaps the worst set of instructions I've ever seen. Gasp at the grammar, wince at the transitions, and remember: honors student.

Hey dudes and dudiets do u guys want to learn how to fly a plane? What that a yes, well o well I'm not going to teach you how to fly one but to make one... out of paper!!! For your material get your paper n stapler or shared one with your fellow classmates.

First let things started fold the plane in half like you normally would for a regular plane. Since that is done fold the two corner to the middle fold of your paper. After this procedure is done we move to the difficult part of the folds. After that is done we fold the triangular shape down until both the corners of the plane are sharp.

Ok now we flip over the paper and continue towards the even harder part of this jet. Once hte triangle is made we flip it and fold the two corners in again. Since you are done with that as well we fold the wings down and there you go a jet-fighter... hahaha im just playing there more. From there you flip the plane upside down then fold it again. Do the same thing to the other side of the paper.

Frequently change your hand n risk position so that you don't get a cramp of some sort. Now we fold the point towards the wind of the paper, yes the tip of the plane... well anyway now you staple the point/tip of the plane. Now strap your finger n the plane with a rubber band and there you have it a jet-fighter.

That my friend looks like a mean jet-fighter. Well that one of the easiest origami that I found in a book as well as a website. Hope we can do it again if your not confuse in anyway. Well yeah bye for now peoples.

When I was through with it, the student's paper contained more of my ink than the student's own.


Claustrophobic Student

It's my last hour of teaching. I'm being lax in dealing with the kids, probably too lax, but I'm so close to the finish line, I'm not remotely interested in laying down the law. As a consequence, the kids are running around and causing small-time mayhem. One student, we'll call em Punk, decides to pull a new stunt.

My whiteboards are affixed to a cabinet system with shelving units behind them. The boards themselves are on tracks and roll back and forth to suit my educational needs as well as allow access to the shelves. Punk thinks it will be a funny idea to push one segment of the whiteboard aside and squeeze emself into a shelf. Actually, Punk's just a bit too big to fit, so eir rear end causes the shelf piece immediately above em to somewhat protrude out of place. Then, Punk closes the board shut in an effort to hide.

Punk isn't really hiding, as I've watched em do the whole thing; I'm just choosing not to care. If Punk thinks this stunt is amusing and keeps him quiet and out of my sight for a while, more power to em. After some time passes, Punk begins banging on the whiteboard frantically for someone to let em out. Initially, I ignore what I dismiss as a ploy for attention, assuming ey could get emself out if ey so desired, but when Punk persists, I move closer for a better inspection.

There are two locks on the whiteboard, both of which have been pushed into the lock position. They exist in case the teacher feels it necessary to secure items they store in the shelving unit, something I've never once attempted to do. I pull on the board to see if I can open it, but indeed I cannot. Meanwhile, Punk is still screaming for someone to let em out quicker. I yank harder, hoping the locks are not too effective, but to no avail. Upon discovering I cannot get the door open, Punk goes into a full on panic attack. Ey shouts, bangs, and swears ey's getting claustrophobic and needs to be let out immediately. I can tell from eir tone that this situation is legitimate, so I, too, slip into panic mode.

Though I have never locked the whiteboards before, I must have the key, I figure. I search through all of my keys, but none of them fit, prompting Punk to go into an even bigger spasm. Punk thrashes about even though there is barely room for em to wiggle and complains that ey can no longer breathe. I believe this description to be inaccurate, but certainly Punk's fear is real.

This is it, I think. After two years, in my final hour, this incident is going to be the one that defines my teaching career. I'm going to end up on the news for this one. I'm going to have to call for help.

Finally, I break every cardinal rule in teaching and leave my classroom unattended to ask a neighboring teacher for eir whiteboard key. I don't expect it to match up with mine, but it is worth a shot. I return and find that it does fit, and, at last, Punk is set free. Punk, who generally puts on some front like ey is a tough guy, is visibly sobbing and shaking.

I feel bad for Punk. In some ways ey deserved it, but in others that seems unnecessarily cruel. Altogether, ey was frantically in the shelf for five minutes, a long time to suffer a panic attack. Though one of my other students must have intentionally locked Punk in, understandably, no one fessed up to it. It's not as if I would get whoever in trouble, this incident is hardly one I would willingly report to the administration. I figure Punk is going to keep quiet about the ordeal, too, both afraid to spread the story and get in trouble for eir role in it.

None of this seems fair. I gave my students their finals a day early, but they're testing me right to the last moment.


A Big Day: My Birthday and the Last Day of Teaching

Though yesterday was my birthday, I actually celebrated it on Wednesday night because of my overbooked Thursday schedule. Katy, Michael, and I traveled downtown to the newly opened Belgian pub, which turned out to be quite fun. The establishment was standing room only, but we lucked out and found a few seats at a long table next to a lesbian couple. While I'm generally not one to chat up strangers, fortunately my mates are, and we made good friends with the significantly older duo. They are some of the coolest, wittiest people I've met in this town in ages. We took turns buying one another french fries, shared beers, sassed back and forth, and even developed a contingency plan should I go off of health care and develop cancer. (Seriously, one of them is a cancer surgeon.) Katy and Michael Michael wanted to know if it'd be acceptable to invite them to my party later that night, which of course I approved because I want to be barbecue friends with these people. As I decided last week, we were returning to the lesbian karaoke bar. Michael and Katy each invited them to "the karaoke bar," the place's name clearly registered recognition with them, which confused them. I finally cut in and and said, "Actually, it's a lesbian bar." I understand it's an interesting predicament, since we were already going there and didn't want to make it seem like we were inviting them just because they were lesbians, but I think there's such a thing as being overly-cautious. Alas, they never showed up (to their credit, they were tanked and admit they probably couldn't drive), but digits were exchanged, so here's hoping.

The lesbian karaoke bar was a hoot. Because it was my birthday, a lot of the lesbians dedicated their songs to me, which was a nice gesture. Allison brought a nice cake, Michael and Terri bought me drinks, Katy and Phoebe sprung for an official t-shirt from the bar, and Lindsay and Peter brought a Nascar-themed birthday card with the most awesome one-word inscription on a card ever: "Dykes!" Even better was the fact that my stalker from the previous week was not present. There was one guy who bought me a drink, but did so in a friendly manner because it was my birthday, then proceeded to put the moves on Terri instead. Win-win scenario. For me, anyway.

Since it was a late night, I only got a couple of hours of sleep before it was time to go to work. Although I set an alarm, I must have accidentally fallen back asleep because when Kirsten re-awoke me by calling to wish me a happy birthday, I realized it was 7:30, meaning I should have been to work 20 minutes prior. I didn't even get a chance to put on socks or straighten myself up, instead hopping in the car, getting to work as fast I could.

So it's my both my birthday and my last day of teaching, and for the only time in two years (aside from when there was a traffic accident and then some F-ing in my classroom), I am late to work. Granted, I don't care, but I don't want it to look like I don't care just because it's my last day. On my drive, I panic and wonder whether I should call until I remember that since it's the last day, the first hour has been earmarked for a "study hall for finals," even though I can guarantee that absolutely no studying occurs during this time. I am co-"teach"ing this period, so it's not as if I'm leaving a classroom of kids unattended. When I arrive nearly an hour late, I apologize to the other teacher who doesn't much care. Whew.

During first period, my honors class celebrated my birthday by bringing three cakes, which was a fine gesture. My favorite one was a cookie cake, pictured below.

It reads, "To Mr. M, The Feminist." It's the perfect joke and a good capstone to a year in which I tried to address some social issues in the classroom. I told my students I was a feminist four months ago, and it hasn't come up since, but clearly it resonated on some level if it is part of my farewell celebration. One of my usually well-behaved students surprised me by slamming a cupcake into my face. Had it been a punk, I probably would have reacted poorly, but coming from eir, I found it amusing and left the frosting on for the remainder of the period.

Throughout the day, students wrote messages on my white board wishing me a happy birthday and farewell, which was sweet, except for one message about how I need to watch out for hookers, which I still don't quite understand. By the end of the day, some students were so rambunctious that they began draping my room in paper towels; I let them do whatever they wanted so long as they cleaned it up at the end, and to their credit, they did.

After school, I spent time chatting with some of my more favorite students, finished grading, and cleaned out my classroom until 7 at night, when graduation began. I was assigned to parking lot duty, which meant I stood in the parking lot, surveying for trouble. It was the least essential job ever, it's not like I was valet parking or anything. My students kept walking by me and asking what I was doing, so I tried to make my job seem exciting rather than humiliating, but I didn't even convince myself. The people here were excited for graduation, definitely more excited than students at my high school. As I see it, at my high school when I was a teenager, everyone was expected not only to graduate, but graduate again four years later at the collegiate level. For many of these kids, however, graduating is a big deal. They beat the odds and strung together just enough last-minute Ds to earn a diploma in what is likely the first and last graduation of their lives. Evidently, the parents of these students express their pride for their kids in the form of helium balloons. I swear, there were more balloons in the stadium than people.

Ultimately, I opted to skip out a few hours early, disgruntled with my position. It's not as if I wanted to be sitting through the ceremony with a better job, so I suppose the fact that I got away with skipping out makes it pretty good in the long run. Well wishes to the seniors, but my birthday takes precedence over their graduation, though.

Certainly a long, but eventful birthday.


A Quote to Remember

"I have no patience for Alzheimer's patients. If you're not going to remember me, I'm going to forget you, too!" - Travis


Reduce, Reuse, Rehash

At the end of the last school year, I bemoaned how my colleagues were antagonistic to my recycling efforts. Their responses were near farcical. Afterwards, I resolved to return to school with a course of action, in part to spite these coworkers. Spite is a legitimate motivation for saving the earth, right?

In a school, paper waste is atrocious. Between announcements, assignments, worksheets, note taking, and scratch paper, with about 2,500 students in the school, I think 10,000 sheets of paper would be a conservative estimate for the amount of paper used in a single day. While some of it is kept for the short term, all of it is disposed of in the long term, adding up to nearly two million sheets winding up in landfills.

When this past school year began, I appealed to the administration to start some recycling program, even offering to head it up. I was told that the idea of recycling had been explored, but was neither affordable or feasible. Soon after, I approached another authority figure and was assured that plans were underway. A couple of months later, this manifested in bins to recycle cans and bottles. When I inquired why the program excluded paper, I learned that the reason for doing bottles was as an added source of revenue and paper would be "too much of a hassle."

The more I've dealt with society at large, the more I realize how inherently selfish people are. Recycle? What's in it for me? Maybe we need to monetarily reward our thoughtless citizens for global preservation of all sorts. This reason is why I'm hardly perturbed by the elevating gas prices. We're not about to coax people to be wiser with their fuel usage without it hurting them financially first.

Though I care about these issues, I would hesitate to call myself an environmentalist. There is so much more that I am aware of that I don't address. I could research companies for their sustainability practices and policies to make better informed purchases. I could become a vegetarian, or failing that, at least cut down on red meat in order to make better use of our natural resources. I could utilize public transportation more often or purchase a vehicle that uses alternative energy sources. Lest my rant come across as preachy, let me be the first to admit that I am hardly the environmentalist I know I could be. I look at my contributions to the earth as being minimal at best. When people can't be moved to make the slightest of sacrifices, however, then we have a problem.

As I mentioned a year ago, we have a problem when we teach our subsequent generations that caring for our environment doesn't matter. In my classroom, I leave a recycling bin directly next to the trash can, and fifty percent of the paper waste still winds up in the trash can. These are the same kids who don't believe in global warming. I used to think that people who actually denied its existence were more mythical than the global warming they disputed, but now that I've experienced them in the flesh, I'm frightened. It's "liberal propoganda (sic)" as one student explained, though ey couldn't define what either of those words meant when pressed.

Anyway, despite the lack of support, I continued my usual practice of bringing my recyclables home all year, but at the end of the year, the amount I have is tenfold. Again, my coworkers saw me hauling multiple armloads of paper products, and again they couldn't help but judge. One colleague responded in a truly condescending fashion, "That's so cute!" "Isn't that more trouble than it's worth?" asked another, clearly not willing to give effort to a similar task. Later, a third person quipped, "If I had known you were one of those people, I would have given you all of mine." One of those people? A recycler? Said with disdain? Furthermore, caring just enough to pass the buck rather than taking responsibility is not actually caring at all.

On one trip, I carried a box-load of paper to my car. Several feet away from vehicle, the bottom of the box busted open and spilled out all of its contents, literally thousands of sheets of paper. It was gusty outside, so before I even had a chance to bend over, the papers blew away. I managed to grab a couple of fistfuls, but other than that they flew quite a distance, onto the sports fields and out of the school boundaries. This is a hellish situation because those papers are a combination of my students' graded assignments, assignments I never quite got around to grading, my personal documents, and even some confidential documents. Most of them successfully escaped, but I got some assistance from the coworker who asked "Isn't that more trouble than it's worth?" to chase down the sheets that didn't get too far. When this person had an armload, ey asked, "Is it okay if I just throw these out now?" Dejected, I sighed, "Sure." In an effort to recycle, I wound up littering instead.

Wouldn't you know it? Not only are my coworkers hindering my pursuit to save the environment, the environment itself is providing me obstacles. I swear, if I face any more resistance, I'm going to take it as a sign to quit. Excuse me while I go burn some plastic.



When I had a series of unfortunate events a few months ago, Susan introduced me to an astrological superstition: "Mercury is in retrograde." Susan explained that during this three week span when Mercury appears to be retrograde (traveling backwards), star followers believe that it brings bad luck. As I listened to eir explanation, the words traveled in one ear and out the other -- in a figurative fashion, obviously. Picking up on my skepticism, Susan rehashed how it was Kim's sibling who explained the concept to Kim who didn't believe until ey noticed a correlation. Likewise, Susan was skeptical of Kim's account, then found that ey suffered bad streaks during this period, too. Nevertheless, as I strive for rationality, I ignore superstitions like "Mercury is in retrograde" out of habit, despite multiple testimonies to the contrary.

Meanwhile, in present time, it's been a rotten week. Take just yesterday for example. In addition to the fight, I learned that my application for health care was likely to be denied because of my jaw problem, found out that a relative of mine has liver cancer, and had my debit card suspended on suspicion of someone using it to make unauthorized purchases. All four of these situations prompted me to have too make numerous phone calls and stress me out. Then, on top of it all, I had to miss most of Margarita Mondays, usually one of the brightest spots of my week, so that my housemates and I could meet with our landlord. The landlord is perhaps the most single unpleasant person I know. He calls to harass for things we have no control over and/or aren't our fault. Although we are, by his own admission, the easiest tenants he's ever had, he constantly threatens us and tries to bully us into ridiculous situations. The meeting with our landlord goes predictably horribly. He refuses to compromise and yells at us, acting like a big baby. You truly have to see this guy in action to believe it. At the end, I actually cry a little because I want to move out and not have to deal with him anymore. My roommates and I are now stressed and divided as to whether we want to put up with this shit any longer. Moving seems like a good solution, except that we're all traveling this summer, making such an event nearly impossible.

Actually, most people I know are having an uncharacteristically rough week. Today, on the way home from work, I picked up a pizza to bring home in the hopes of cheering up my friends and me. As soon as I put the pizza in the car, the box tipped over and the hot cheese ran right off the pie and all over the back seat of my car, leaving an inedible mess. Gah! I came home, sat down on the toilet, then while I pooped, text messaged an inquiry to Susan: "Is mercury in retrograde?" I also made sure to inform eir of my other simultaneous activity. The reason I asked was not because I genuinely thought Mercury was in retrograde, but as a way to indicate how rotten my life had been.

Not twenty minutes later, I received an unprompted message from Desiree about how ey, too, has been having a rough time and how ey feels that "Mercury is in retrograde." Peculiarly, I've not once discussed this concept with Desiree in the past, nor would Desiree have any idea that I just brought it up to another friend. The coincidence was enough to inspire me to check the internet to find out when exactly Mercury is in retrograde. Much to my surprise, Mercury is, in fact, in retrograde. It jarred me and left me pondering whether I might just believe this superstition after all.

One thing is for sure--there's not a chance I'm going to check when the next time this astrological event will occur.


Fighting Back Sentimentality

My teaching career is concluding at the end of the week. Like anything that has aggravated me for a long period of time (be it a relationship, job, school, situation, etc.), before it's finally over, I've begun to romanticize it. I cannot help but question whether leaving teaching is a step I'm ready to make. Realistically, I know the answer is that teaching is wrong for me, at least under these current circumstances. Nevertheless, I've actually grown dependent on it and fear having to cope with that not being an active part of my life. Even when it's bad, it's hard to let go. Fortunately, summer brings a natural conclusion to this situation so that I don't have the opportunity to be wishy-washy or think it'd be better that I stay on longer.

I approached my last week with an open mind, deciding to go with the flow and enjoy the normally frustrating occurrences. I did just that during the first period of the day until disaster struck. While my back was turned as I tallied points for a review game, apparently, one student threw a plastic bottle at another student's head. This stricken student got up and tipped over the desk of a third student incorrectly believing him to be the bottle thrower. Miffed, the tipped over student stood up and approached the desk pusher, a situation that would surely escalate to trouble. It's worth noting that these two students are the two biggest students I have, both in terms of height and girth. They're each at least 6'3", and storming toward one another. In an act of bravery or stupidity, I sprint and put my body between the fuming pair. To emphasize that I disapproved, I screamed, "No! No! No! No!" Unfortunately, my cries were ineffective, as a fight broke out, literally over the top of my head. Given their respective heights, they were able to throw punches above my head, bloodying each other's faces. Being stuck between this enraged pair and unable to stop it, I finally retreated and called the office to request some assistance from security. Three kids were carted off, two of which were suspended.

Expectedly, it freaked me out to be literally smack in the middle of a senseless brawl, powerless to change the situation. I've felt powerless as an educator since the start, and this was just a manifestation of that emotion. Perhaps this will be the metaphor I recall about my experience: teaching is standing between two oversized goons pointlessly attacking one another over a misunderstanding and being unable to do a damn thing. What am I doing there? What's the point?

There's nothing here to romanticize, so I refuse to be sentimental. Even if I am tempted to do so, I'll just think about any one of a long series of incidents like this fight and know that I've made the right decision. Good bye. Good riddance.


Look at the Books

Another trip to a thrift store led to more great book finds.

Quit your peeping.

As someone who strives to be a woman of excellence, I finally found my literary companion.

I'm particularly fond of this page in the book that a fellow excellent woman worked through. She lists thirst as an obstacle in her relationship with God and laments her dependency on Diet Coke. Hey, Excellent Women are fallible, too.

This one probably shouldn't strike me as funny, unless of course it has scabies.

This book has a distinct niche market: crazies. Especially crazy cat ladies.

Strike the last book, this one is for the crazies. Since it's at a thrift store, it means that someone purchased it back in the day (let's hope it was before 2000 at any rate) and then finally realized it wasn't worth keeping on the bookshelf anymore.

It's a shame I found this gem so shortly after the Y2K party. If this book was to be believed, the world post-Y2K would be nothing short of bedlam. It's as if the worst would happen to the worst. Plus, the millennium spares no one! People in all areas of the world will be effected by the event, meaning that their will not be typical outreach from other areas of the country.

I haven't carefully examined the text, but the book does have numerous lists with invaluable tips. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite suggestions:

* Wear long polyester underwear.
* Move to the country.
* Start simplifying your lifestyle. Practice giving up certain appliances and establish a "no-TV challenge" as a fun exercise.
* Stock up on candles -- purchase six a day.
* Build a crystal radio.
* Stockpile medical supplies.
* Practice medical treatment with your kids.
* Learn to defend yourself in a way that is congruent with your personal philosophy. Could you use deadly force to defend yourself or your family?
* Consider the possibility and impact of martial law.
* Practice common sense if you need to travel--keep a low profile.
* Consider getting a gun and taking a gun class.
* Learn how to shoot your gun.
* Learn how to clean [your gun] and take care of it.
* Train your children in the use of the gun.
* Find out if your car is Y2K compliant.
* If you are married, talk through your plans with your mate. Make sure you are in agreement with the choices you've made.
* Have yourself tested to reveal your talents and skills.
* Get letters of recommendation updated.
* Decide how you would take care of solid waste.

My favorite list is a compilation of "20 Questions to Strike Up Conversations with your Kids." I guess if you're some freak who's going to buy this book and barricade your family in a basement, you might not know how to have normal conversations with your kids and need to rely on the following prompts:

* What is your favorite food?
* Tell me about the neatest birthday present you ever received.
* Describe the "ideal" father. [Issues!]
* What is something you can do pretty well?
* What is your best friend like?
* What kind of store would you like to own and operate?
* What is your favorite room in your house? Why?
* What kind of trophy would you like to win?

Imagine surviving the travesties of Y2K only to have to endure forced awkward discussions with your folk. The living would envy the dead.


Daniel Dolphin

During the last Free Design Friday, I alluded to a song called "Daniel Dolphin," suggesting bestiality undertones. Truthfully, I was sensationalizing the scenario for effect, but it's no worse than the lies dolphins spread against tuna fishers. No, in fact "Daniel Dolphin" is about... well.. it's about rebirth? The life cycle? Jesus? I must admit, this tune boggles me. Help me make sense of it.

Download/play: The Free Design - Daniel Dolphin

Daniel Dolphin - The Free Design

Daniel was a dolphin with wide innocent eyes
We met him seven years ago in an island paradise
He used to meet us at the shore, and swim with us and laugh
And show us games and coral reefs and carry us like a raft

Daniel Dolphin was a real friend,
he knew more than he said
Smart as Daniel was
he used his heart before his head
No one would believe he was
as bright as what we said

One day our grampapa was watching us play
It hurt him that we ran along and with him did not stay
and so he followed us along the sunny, sandy shore
He got so far behind us that he couldn’t walk anymore

Daniel Dolphin was a real friend,
he knew more than he said
Smart as Daniel was
he used his heart before his head
No one would believe he was
as bright as what we said
No one knew he loved us.

There were the young ones playing, there was the old one praying

Daniel took our grandpapa away through the waves
they couldn’t find him anywhere in the coral reefs or caves
But three days later Daniel came, but they killed him angrily
But not before he brought to shore a tiny old brand new baby

Daniel Dolphin was a real friend,
he knew more than he said
Smart as Daniel was
he used his heart before his head
No one would believe he was
as bright as what we said
No one knew he loved us.
No one knew he loved us.

So I'm thinking there's some sort of religious allegory at play. Daniel, a dolphin, is a genuine friend who assists the elderly to their deaths and brings newborns in their place. Or, in the oxymoronical words of Free Design, a "tiny old brand new baby." Maybe it's ageist, but maybe it's noble; the context isn't overly clear as to whether Daniel is praised or admonished for "us[ing] his heart before his head." It's also unclear who the "they" are that kill Daniel, as well as why Free Design sides with the marine life over their grandpapa. There are a lot of [blow]holes in this story, but I suppose if it were transparent, what would be the point? You don't listen to Free Design because it's simple.

Your theories are appreciated. Interactive Free Design Friday!


Walking a Mile in Her Heels

I’ve been negligent in reporting my last three trips to the lesbian karaoke bar; allow me to catch you up.

Before she fled California, Kirsten joined me for a wild night. She boozed, I drove. I sang “Slide” by the Goo Goo Dolls and acquired a rabid fan, let’s call her Roxanne, who loved the song. Roxanne was cute, conversed with me, and even gave me free tickets to her concert. Just as I was thinking there might be some romantic potential, I noticed that she kept referencing the fact that we are “family.” At first, I believed Roxanne was making adorable references to our instant bond, but soon realized that when she said “family” she meant “gay community.” So she wasn’t hitting on me. I’m the dumb one, however, thinking there’s potential at the lesbian bar. Sigh…

Last week, a few of us returned to the bar only to be blocked by emergency vehicles. Two buildings away, a warehouse was severely on fire, and the firefighters actually were pumping water out of the bar to help put out the blaze. Due to the commotion and smoke inhalation, our group decided to cancel our plans. The following day, Laura ran into a regular at the bar and asked whether she stayed during the action. The patron made light of the fact that the firefighters were trying to flirt with the women at the bar, commenting “as if that’s going to happen.” Heh.

We rescheduled our outing for last night. When we arrived, an alert Phoebe noted a pair of men staring in our direction and “being obvious about it.” I paid no mind, figuring they were sleazy dudes gawking at the women folk in our party, an unfortunately common occurrence. Ten minutes later, Phoebe brought them to my attention again, insisting that, actually, they were clearly staring at me. “Oh please,” I dismissed. “How can you tell?”

At some point, I proceeded toward the bathroom and noticed that one of the men Phoebe pointed out got up immediately as I passed him and started following me. I avoided eye contact and walked briskly into the restroom, locking the door behind me. That was a good move, since within ten seconds he tried to open the door. I can’t imagine what he thought would come of entering the restroom with me, or rather I don’t want to imagine that anyway. After urinating, I exited to see the man waiting just outside. “Kevin,” he said, extending a hand for me to shake. I was self-conscious since my hand was still wet after washing them because there were no paper towels, plus I wanted to know how he learned my name, but was too afraid to ask. He introduced himself and called me a “cutie patootie.” Although I know Rosie O’Donnell uses the word as a term of endearment, it’s nauseating coming from a creepy stranger. As he compliments me a bit, I nod and thank him and try to back away. While I make my exit, he points out where he’s been sitting and encourages me to stop by and see him. He’s sitting with his friend, which he stresses as friend so that I know they’re not dating. Taken by surprise, “Ohhh… okay” was the only response I could muster.

Later, I noticed him talking to the bartender and pointing toward me. I slumped over in my seat, afraid he might be trying to buy me a drink. Half an hour passed, though, and no drink was delivered, so I decided I was letting the first incident go to my head. When I went to order my next drink from the bar, the bartender handed me a beverage and would not accept payment, instead informing me that this drink had already been paid for by the gentleman with the glasses. Gah! Simultaneously, another stranger spoke to me about how much ey liked my performance of Eagle Eye Cherry's "Save Tonight," which drew jealous stares from my drink benefactor. Feeling uncomfortable, I quickly ended that conversation so I could chat with Stacy at the bar briefly to devise a plan before having to face my gentlemen caller. I thought it might be funny to make a comment about how I was glad to see he was just friends with his buddy, because there seemed to be a lot of gay people here. While this was amusing, it was not practical. Instead, Stacy fed me some no nonsense lines to deter him and finally I felt confident. Sort of confident, anyway.

I approached him, thanked him for the drink, and told him I was already dating someone. He blatantly ignored the "dating" comment and explained that I'm a "cutie patootie" again (shudder) and tried chatting me up. Since he did buy my drink, I indulged him a bit, giving him my real occupation but a fake area of residence and background. When I informed him that I taught high school, he told me he wishes he were back in high school. “Really? I don’t,” I commented. “That way you could put me on suspension,” he said like a true pervert. Then, uninvited, he began rubbing my back. I'm not sure how I resisted the urge to vomit in his face. Thoroughly skeeved out, I hastily thanked him again and retreated as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, our group mingled with Roxanne, who I mentioned meeting a month prior. It quickly became clear that Roxanne had a crush on a female in our party. They even exchanged phone numbers, so that’s awesome. If I’m not going to date her, someone I know should. In other circumstances, I might be jealous, but love was already blooming for me with that gross man. Speaking of which, my friends tried to encourage me to be flattered by the whole thing, but I called him “ancient.” I estimated him to be 50, but Phoebe insisted he can’t be older than 40, as if that made it any more appealing.

Phoebe was also approached outside the bathroom by a regular patron. She invited her to come join them for weekly Monday bowling, and then specifically mentioned that Phoebe bring me, “that cute boy who sings”, too. It’s hard having an adoring public. Although I do like bowling or even “bowing” as the flyer advertises (obviously, curtseying is just a little too femme for these gals), I’m not about to abandon Margarita Mondays. Besides, I view my periodic trips to this bar as a hobby, not a lifestyle.

Just when I thought he had taken the hint, it was the man’s turn for karaoke and he dedicated his song to me. I wanted to crawl into a ball under the table, even more so once I recognized the song: "I Will Remember You" by Sarah McLachlan, which is sappy and wholly inappropriate. Please, don't remember me. Please. I made it a point to keep my back turned to him the entire time so as not to encourage this behavior. After the song, he came up and told me how shy he is (could have fooled me!) and embarrassed he did that. Then he slipped me his number and said he'd appreciate if I called him. Once he walked away, I gave the number to Stacy instead. We think it'd be really funny if she called and said, "Kevin's not interested, but I am!"

If nothing else, my interactions with this man have been a learning experience. Though many times I’ve been in the company of my female friends while they’ve been relentlessly hit upon and made to feel uncomfortable, I’ve never recognized how truly unnerving it is. Previously, I could neither relate nor understand. Like my girl friends, all I did was exist in a common space and did nothing to provoke the attention; I did not like being objectified and pestered. Now I can see why some of my friends feel so anxious each time they go out socially, knowing it is likely they’ll be harassed and attract unwanted attention and comments. I used to think it was unfair that women so easily had drinks purchased for them, but I don’t believe it’s worth the trade off anymore. If this were something I regularly had to endure, I would probably never go out. I have a new appreciation for my friends who have to put up with shit in an attempt for everyone to have a good time.

Oh, but we are going back for my birthday celebration next Wednesday evening. If you are my friend in real life, please join us. If a sketchy person approaches me again, I do maintain the right to make out with you to ward them off – you know, birthday privilege.


They Both Had a Different Thing

I found this poem while cleaning out some student work I saved from last school year. All mistakes are the poet’s own.

S.M. (2006)

She was intelligiant,
He was mentally challanged,
They both had a different thing,
In the end the became the best of friends.

Heart-wrenching, isn’t it? I appreciate the poet’s no nonsense approach: just get to the sentimental part and skip any sense of detail or plot development. In spite of their “different thing,” they persevered, assuming there were obstacles in the first place. I should probably pass this masterpiece off to Best Buddies.



While I have problems with many students, one student, Bernie*, is consistantly problematic. I have not had a single class this entire school year in which Bernie hasn't disrupted my lesson multiple times, save for those blissful days where he was absent due to suspension. Bernie inevitably gets excused for his behavior, however, since he's been diagnosed with an alphabet's worth of disorders (ADHD, etc) and is always either over- or under-medicated according to his mother.

Today, I begin class and Bernie isn't there, which is exciting because that means I can get twice as much done. As I stop at my desk to pick up a book, I smell a rank fart. I turn my head, but no one is close enough to be a plausible suspect. I know I didn't do it, so... I peek under my desk and there lays Bernie in hiding, giggling. I command him to get out. Bernie asks how I knew he was under there, and I quip, "I smelled you before I saw you." He giggles again the class rightfully berates him for always being so gassy.

Bernie asks to be kicked out of class, which is alarming. Though at any given point he's worthy of being booted, not once has he asked for this to happen, making me wary of his motives. "I feel ill," Bernie says. "I need to throw up." I don't buy his story, but I would rather set him loose than possibly contend with vomit.

A few minutes later, Bernie returns with a handful of snacks from the vending machine. "I thought you were throwing up?" I press. "I tried, but I couldn't throw up," he responds, merrily eating some chips. I ignore Bernie for a while, which is a mistake considering I next find him trying to climb atop a bookshelf.

"What's your problem?" I ask.
"I'm not feeling well, I need to go to the nurse," Bernie replies, as if his response is justification for his behavior.
"What's wrong?" I ask.
"I think I'm constipated."
"You think you're constipated?" I sputter back.
"All right, you can go," I say as I write him a pass. I use a fuchsia crayon to scrawl a note: "Bernie to the nurse. He 'thinks he's constipated.' - Mr. [Kevin]" Afterwards, I proudly declare aloud that it is my favorite note I’ve ever written.

Fifteen blissful minutes pass before Bernie returns shouting. “Mr. [Kevin], you punked me! You think I’m stupid!”
“What?” I ask.
“I know what you did, you think you’re so funny.”
“You’re going to have to explain…”
“You wrote that I’m constipated on the note! Everyone in the health office was making fun of me.”
I laugh aloud. “Yeah, well, you told me you were constipated.”
“But I didn’t know what that means! I thought it meant I couldn’t throw up, but then the nurse asked me when was the last time I took a boo boo.”
I could only continue laughing.
Bernie continues, too. “You embarrassed me on purpose! I had to tell them I could poop. I can poop!”
I shake my head. “Shh! Don't worry, we know. We smelled you earlier.”


School Picture Day

This past week was school picture day. Technically, I'd contend that every day is picture day since all class long I catch students taking photos of themselves making pouty faces with their cellphones for their myspace pages. Nevertheless, official school picture day is a big event in just about every student's life.

I goofed big time. About a week prior to the big day, the administration sent the entire English department an email announcing the details, but I managed to either ignore or forget it. On the morning of picture day, I was reminded again and knew I was headed for trouble. Even though I personally didn't think it should be a big deal, I knew that it would not be acceptable to spring this news to my overwhelmingly superficial teenagers.

During each period, I had to drop the "Surprise, it's picture day!" bomb. From the way they reacted, you'd think I had told each of these kids that I had personally shot their parents. They cursed, theatrically fell out of their chairs, and told me that they would rather die than take a picture today when they were not ready for it. They had a lot of complaints. "Why weren't we warned?" I covered up my culpability in this incident by half-truthing and saying I, too, had only found that morning and agreed that it was wrong. "Why are we taking next year's pictures now when we'll look different next year?" Again, I could only agree and admit that the situation was unfair. "How do you expect me to take a picture in this shirt?" Would you rather take it off? I think that might be more embarrassing.

I played ignorant as to what the pictures were for. "I'm told they're for your IDs, so they're not too important" I said. Each time, students would counter, "Everyone knows that they use your ID photo as your yearbook photo! If you have one bad yearbook photo, your social life is over!" Though I can't get these kids to learn the term hyperbole, they certainly know how to use it. I suggested that some of them might want to consider transferring schools to avoid such a situation, but my sense of humor was, as it generally is with this audience, not appreciated.

I attempted to spin the surprise picture day as a good opportunity to forego the usual BS rituals and take a picture as they actually look on an average day. Given the reactions to this statement, I am apparently the stupidest person to ever live for holding this opinion.

Each class had about an hour warning before the photos were actually taken, which turned out to be far too much time. My classroom instantly turned into the backstage of a fashion show. Students swapped clothing and accessories. Some girls applied a full pound of makeup to their faces until they looked like cheap whores - or cheaper whores, I suppose. Others actually plugged in their straightening irons and tugged at their already straight hair. Those who abstained from the primping fest were made to feel stupid and ugly by their peers. "You don't think picture day is important? Do you want to look bad? Do you not want to have friends?" Throughout these moments, I did my best to continue with my planned Romeo & Juliet lesson, but it fell on deaf ears. I asked them to prioritize, only to realize that their priorities clearly differ from mine.

In the gym where the photos were taken, the kids were merciless. Because each student got literally one shot, for better or worse, some of them were competitive and heckling one another in acts of sabotage. The motivation being that their pictures won't look as bad in comparison; aren't they little darlings? A couple students outright refused to pose for a picture altogether, including a girl who had swam in PE earlier in the day and insisted that she could not be photographed because her hair was too wavy, even though it looked no different to me than it usually does. My favorite poser was a girl who was totally not into the picture thing to the extent that when she had her photo snapped, she was so busy text messaging that she didn't even look at the camera. I harangued her for that a bit, but ultimately decided that, if nothing else, the photo accurately portrayed what she does 85% of the day.

The whole experience was so overwhelming, that I must have appeared visibly stressed to the photographer. I wasn't even posing for a photograph, yet ey asked me to "Smile." Ha ha. Talk about saying cheese.