Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Scores Are In!

Who rules? Me! Now I don't believe in teaching to the test or judging a student (or teacher, for that matter) solely on some test, but since my employers do, I let this news work for me.

First, I'll set the scene: my witchy bosses have it in for me! They've been giving me trumped-up negative write-ups in my file and undeserved negative observations (My lesson was unsatisfactory because my font was too small? I could read it from the back of the room, but okay...) They even sabotaged me in the meetings where we would plan my observation lessons. ("Parents blame you when their kids don't do well. When you're a weak teacher, there's only so much I can do to defend you." Wow. You think I'm a weak teacher? [That may not be clear in writing, but it was clear in her tone.] Well, that makes me feel comfortable and confident with you visiting my class tomorrow.) My friends an I suspect they do this so I can't get a job teaching at some other junior high or high school. As a bonus, if I quit, it looks like I quit because I was a bad teacher (as opposed to "Oops, we lost another qualified, experienced teacher").

During my last post observation, I said, "Look, what do I have to do to get a satisfactory rating for the year?" "Well, I don't know," the Principal replied. "What steps can I take? I want to do the right thing." "I don't know..." I had to ask her four times. She said she would send the literacy coach and my AP to observe my lessons and give advice. She said she would visit to see if I was taking her suggestions. She said I should get my students to follow all my instructions. I should do this without ever raising my voice. Right. Now basically, she couldn't give me an unsatisfactory rating because she didn't follow through on her part of the bargain, but now she really can't!

The top score on the test is 4, above grade level. Who has the only students in the whole school with level 4 scores? That would be ME! And they didn't come to me with 4s. I helped them raise their scores to 4. I raised more scores in one class than any other teacher. I raised more scores total than all but two teachers. In my worst class, I managed to retain the scores of all but one student. In short, I rule in a way that my number-cruching boss cannot dispute. Hooray! If she wants to live by the scores, then her vendetta will have to die by the scores. YAY, YAY, YAAAAAAAAY!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend

Friday I was tired and stressed, but Madrid convinced me to come for drinks right after work. I was tired and sweaty, but I agreed. We met up with Laura, Carolina, Jenny Levy, and two of her friends. We snacked and sipped and had a lovely time. Then Jenny's friend said, "Hey, did you notice the vagina mirror?" "WHAT?" I sputtered. "In the bathroom! There is a full-length mirror opposite...where you sit. Your sitting there and all of a sudden you look up and...hello! Vagina mirror." Anyhoo, Jenny is pals with the bartender. She made up a shot for us and said we could name it. The name seemed...obvious. I thought the bartender was going to fall over laughing.

The group broke apart. Then I was going to meet up with Tom and his friends. There were some really irritating train snafus...which are so irritating I'm not even going to make you read about them. Suffice it to say, by the time I got there, his friends were all gone. Grr. But I forced myself to cheer up fast. Part of being a good girlfriend is not being a drag, and with all Tom has to hear about my job, I don't have many drag points to spare.

Saturday, we went to his parents' house. They have a lovely pool and hot tub in the back yard. Also, his mom made the most delicious pina coladas I've ever tasted. "Here," she would say, "have some more. And I didn't put in enough rum. Here, have more rum." Mmmmm, I thought, so this is what alcoholism tastes like. Then Tom's dad grilled us some delicious food. We swam, chatted with his family and soaked up rays. I got a little sunburned.

Sunday we went to Brookyln's Tom's Diner. Everyone there was really friendly. The staff handed out orange slices. We got there early, but I've heard if you come later there's a line around the block, and they give you orange slices and cookies on line. Then we walked through Prospect Park. We bought bagel sandwiches and picnicked in the park. Then we joined up with Debra at Metropolitan for barbecue. Eventually, it was just too crowded, so we went to meet up with Dom, Tori, Becker and Mike. Mike had broken up with his girlfriend. She was nice, but...well, it's just one of those things, I guess. They weren't getting along well enough.

I began to feel woozy...whether from heat or dehydration or alcohol or the smokers nearby...who knows. But I pushed through it and found my partying-second-wind. We ended up playing Truth or Dare, of all things! Tori was disappointed I wasn't drinking and had the bartender invent me a drink, The Joy Machine. Wow. Two original drinks in one weekend! Monday we had breakfast, watched some cartoons, then Tom made me delicious pasta. Then I went home to grade papers. I didn't get enough done, but then when do I ever?

Friday, May 25, 2007

After Graduation

So I went home from the graduation ceremony exhausted, had a snack and typed up a blog entry. Then I took a nap. I managed to wake up and spiff up to go out with my ladies. I met up with Riza, Laura and Carolina to celebrate Carolina's birthday. We munched on yummy Peruvian food. Carolina cursed us for the cake and the serenade by everyone in the restaurant. Then we went dancing at no malice palace. Tons of guys were hitting on me (well...tons, three...same difference). That never happened when I was single! One adorable guy elbowed me in the eye, so I made him buy me a drink. He thought I was flirting, when in truth I was charging him the asshole tax. Besides, I was out of cash. Then I met up with Tom, and we stayed out until the bar closed.

Sunday I watched The Godfather at Tom's urging. I'd never really felt the need to watch it, but Tom convinced me. It was okay, but suffered from two things: 1-Famous Movie Cliche Syndrome and 2- lack of sympathetic characters.

1- FMCS is when a movie has been tributed and referenced and knocked-off so many times that the original feels...unoriginal (think "It's a Wonderful Life.") On top of that, most FMCS flicks are so famous they've been hyped to death. How can the actual movie stack up? It was like, "Oh, I've seen this scene." "Oh, that's the context for that line. Cool."

2-Tom and I agreed when watching Sopranos. We're supposed to root for these people who make their living from crime and intimidation? We're supposed to feel sorry for the people who sponge off the people who make their living from crime and intimidation? It's all about people who treat other people like puppets. (See the poster above!) I feel the same way watching The Godfather. Tom, on the other hand, feels troubled that I don't feel overwhelming love for The Godfather. It has nice characterization and cinematography and pacing and acting. It's a well done film! It deserves the awards, the acclaim, the mantle of masterpiece. It's just...see all comments above. Maybe it will grow on me? Some movies do.

So then there was a week of work. It was hot and we were all crabby. And then one kid, lets call him "Boberto," pushed me too far. He's been faking orgasms in my room on and off all year. Tuesday he did this weird snakey dance up in my face, proclaiming, "You're makin' me hot, you're makin' me hot, you're makin' me HAAAAAAAAAAWT!" Then Wednesday he was moaning again, and said something really rude to me, I don't even remember what. "Fine, 'Boberto,' I've been trying to decide what to do about your nasty comments yesterday. Now you've made it easy."

I turned the reports in to the dean and told them I wasn't comfortable with how 'Boberto' was treating me. They called his dad who kept saying "I don't know where these allegations are coming from. You keep making these allegations." Unfortunately, we couldn't ask "Boberto" about the incident, because he had cut school for the last few periods of the day. The AP, the dean and I had to stop ourselves from laughing out loud when his dad claimed, "'Boberto' is such a quiet, shy boy." My AP usually drives me nuts, but I loved her when she replied, "Well, that's not what we see at school."

We had to meet again the next day (Me, AP, Principal, Dean, Parent Coordinator, 'Boberto' and his parents). 'Boberto' stuck to his claims: He didn't say or do any of those things. He'd never been in trouble in my class. I just didn't like him, and was making this stuff up to get him out of my class. I emphasized that that isn't the case, I'm not a liar, and I'm trying to straighten out his child so he doesn't get sued for sexual harassment some day.

My principal stuck by me. She showed the child's father the kid's report cards (all failing), his progress reports (failing with complaints about his behavior from all his teachers) and his attendance record (absent 22 days, late 88 days). Oops. Daddy's little angel isn't so angelic after all. P.S. Dad claimed to be involved in his son's life, and to really know his son. So how didn't he know all these things? It's a mystery. Well, he's out of my class, at least. And has "Boberto" learned his lesson? Well, today I heard him tell a girl, "You don't have hair on your head, you have pubes." So obviously he's put himself on the straight and narrow path.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Today I graduated! My official graduation date was August 31, 2006, but the ceremony was today. I wasn't sure if I wanted to pay all the money to rent the robe and go through the ceremony, but I decided I needed the closure...that feeling of finality.

I got the robe Thursday, but when I got home, I saw that I was supposed to get a blue hood and they gave me a yellow one instead. Friday I stayed home sick from work to get the correct hood. I didn't feel well, anyway.

Today is the birthday of my friends Madrid and Carolina. Madrid wanted to celebrate last night. I agreed, but who did we see once we got to the restaurant? My Assistant Principal. Oh, GREAT! I was trying to back out before she saw me, but Madrid (not thinking), exclaimed, "Oh, look who it is!" and started waving. "Let's go say hello." Aaarrgh! Afterward, I asked her what she was thinking of. "I wasn't! I'm so sorry!" She felt so bad. I really hadn't felt well Friday, but this made things look suspicious, and my employers have gone after me for a lot less. Oh, well. They will or they won't bother me about it. I can't control their actions.

Back to today: Tom was nice enough to come take some pictures of me in my cap and gown. As we walked over to Central Park, one of my neighbors called out, "Congratulations, girl!" We found a pretty spot with craggy rocks and blooming trees on one side and a marathon or race of some kind on the other side.

Then I hopped on the train into the Bronx. I had to run to make the lineup on time. Then I found that only three of us had the blue hood. Apparently, they'd given everyone the wrong hood, and only three of us asked for the right one...essentially making us the ones in the wrong hoods. Heh. Oh, well.

The ceremony was actually nice. Each group stood and was recognized. The address was given by Willie Larry Randolph, manager of the Mets and former coach of the Yankees. Everyone involved enjoyed stirring up some Yankees-Mets rivalry among the student body. His speech was good, not because it was original or had jokes, but because his delivery was funny and -- unlike the speaker at my undergraduate commencement -- he wasn't CRAZY. (Seriously, that guy talked about a girl getting an eye poked out by the wire of a spiral notebook. Ew.)

One speaker from the university teased the undergrads about their collegiate experience: "You gained the freshman 10, you fell in love...she dumped you. You said, 'Fine. I'll show her. I'll become a Jesuit.' But it doesn't work, I can tell you. So you pierced your ear instead, taking it out when you went home to visit mom and dad." Hee.

The benedition was given by this hilarious priest (I think), who delivered it in such rhyming couplets as: Bless the students/ keep them holy/ help them lose the rolly-polly/ shape they blame on Sodexho*/ but is the fault of lack of exo...cise."

Then we sang the Alma Mater. Now, during the National Anthem, I gained a suspicion that was confirmed during the Alma Mater: people can't sing. I'm not saying I'm the best singer in the world. I'm just saying...with a song they know, people can get by. When they have to sight-read, they are lost.

By this point, it was sprinkling and cold. There were going to be second ceremonies, divided by school. Our individual names would be read as we would be handed scrolls. But I was cold and tired and hungry. I'd forgotten my wallet, so I couldn't buy food. I decided I was done. I just wanted to go home to sleep. I'd already gotten everything I needed from the day: a ceremony to put a close to that time in my life and prepare me for the time to come.

*Sodexho is a company that provides food to many universities, including my other Alma Mater, Buena Vista. It is not known for having fresh, healthy, delicious food. It did, however, provide yummy ice cream, and you could tell a meal was bad if you saw everyone eating ice cream cones instead of dinner.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Freaking out

Hate job. hateHateHATE! AAAARRGHHH! Help. Why, why, why? Paycheck. Only for the paycheck. Virginia? MFA. Poetry. LOVE! But my love is left. And where to live? WHERE? Need a home! How to get there...not just me but my stuff? And I'm just so tired, my feet and mind and voice. A month and a half...I just have to get through a month and a half. A month and a half? All I have left with this city...all I have left to get a month and a half? It's a blink. It's a lifetime. And I'm freaking out. A lot.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day, Mommy!

So it's Mother's Day again...that day when we all do our best to show our mommies how much they mean to us and how much we care about them. My mother is such a giving, caring person. I just with other people would nurture her as much as she nurtures all of us.

She's taken care of all her students for decades. She's taken care of Dad and the house(s) for decades. She's taken care of pets for decades (she was the one who usually fed them, cleaned up their accidents, took them to the vet, and took them to the vet that heartbreaking last time). And perhaps most difficult of all, she took care of my brother and I for decades. Now we're grown up and off on our own, but she still gives us love and support.

We don't do enough to show her what she means to us, or how much we care. Maybe it's because what she does for us is so amazing, we know what we could do would never match up. But I'm trying: trying to call more, and to listen more. Trying to tell her I love her and appreciate her whenever it comes to mind. I haven't gotten there yet, though. If I really did that, I'd be calling her every day.

Mom, I love you, and you've done so much for me. You've been my mother, my inspiration and my friend. And isn't this 1970s photo of you adorable? I took a digital picture of it when I found it in Grandma Carol's album this summer. I think you should consider giving this haircut another try. It's flattering and back in style. P.S. What happened to your hand? Also, do you still have that watch? If so, I want to borrow it because it's adorable.

The good of this week: Tom and I got together Wednesday for gorgeous Cuban food. He was in the city for a delegates' assembly (he's a United Federation of Teachers union delegate). The Cuban food was relatively inexpensive with big portions. I tried a great dish called Pernil. YUM! There was enough food that I ate a bunch that night, more Thursday night, and the rest for lunch today. Friday Tom and I went out for really yummy burgers in Brooklyn.

Saturday we got together in the city. We went to the vegetarian restaurant, Zen Palate. They have these peanut basil rolls that are mouth-wateringly good. They used to have this puffed pecan dish that was scrumptious, but they don't serve it anymore. (Pout.) The dish I got instead was alright... At least the basil rolls didn't disappoint. After lunch we went to see the movie Grindhouse, which is crazy, gory fun. Warning: if you didn't like Kill Bill, you won't like this. If you don't fondly remember (or do research on) grindhouse movies, you will think it is just an aweful flick. It's bad on purpose. It's awesomely bad (Think Evil Dead II, but a little less campy and a little more gross). Then he headed back to Brooklyn and I met my girlfriends for dinner. I love hanging out with them, but I was sleepy and went home to bed before Carolina joined the group for drinks. Oh, well. Maybe next weekend...although that's going to be a busy weekend! Dawn Dorland is coming to visit and I'm graduating...if I manage to get a robe. More on that later.

In other news, my job is so horrible that I want to quit every day, and it's only the idea of a summer full of paychecks that prevents me from doing so. I HATE MY BOSS! I know that's not a Christian thing to think or write but she's just so mean and I've turned the other cheek several times and all I ended up with was another slap in the face. I'm kind of at a loss here. I've tried treating her as I'd like to be treated, but she continues to treat me like something stinky that she stepped in and that is now stuck to the bottom of her shoe. She walks all over me, and acts like it's a bother to do so.

I just keep repeating to myself, "All you can do is the best you can do." I do my best to keep my classroom nice, plan and execute my lessons, and grade papers. I try my best to reach my students. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, but I can't control everything. It reminds me of the Serenity Prayer, which I found at People usually only quote the first stanza. Now you have a chance to check out the full text, along with the calendarific photo the blogger posted with the poem. I especially like the part about hardships being the pathway to peace.


God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

Monday, May 07, 2007

Happy Cinco De Mayo! Also: Auto Adventure.

At left: Feliz Cinco De Mayo! (Poster translation: "Before your celebrate, designate a driver." Oh, we did, as you shall see.)

The day after my birthday, it was work as usual. My door is untreated wood, and the first year it was installed, the grafitti artists tagged it like crazy. You can't get grafitti out of untreated wood, so I covered the door with paper. Students take pride is ripping it and writing on it. After work Monday, I had to re-do a bulletin board vandals messed up and I fixed my door by creating and laminating a large poster. The poster should protect the paper so they can't rip it.

Tuesday I thought I was going shoe shopping, but I didn't find anything that fit, so I went bra shopping instead. I needed new ones because of the weight I lost last year (I went from 36C to 36B). Because it's expensive, I've been replacing my bras a few at a time. Wow. This paragraph manages to be simultaniously mundane and too much information. Wednesday I went on a mini-spree at H&M to buy two pairs of pants, two spring dresses, and short-sleeve button front shirts in black and white (wardrobe staples!). All this was also necessary due to the weight loss. I like how I look lighter, and I feel more fit...I'm even starting to enjoy running a little. But it's been expensive! Half of my skirts are so loose that they twist around when I walk. The side seams end up in front.

Thursday I was supposed to clean and do laundry. Instead, I went out to eat with Tom. His allergies were acting up, though, so things were cut short. I was home in time to sink into bed and watch Grey's Anatomy. Then Friday I did the world's fastest four loads of laundry before meeting up with Laura, Carolina and Madrid at Three of Cups. My shrimp pizza was yummy, but I ate too much and it upset my stomach. I told them I was going home instead of staying out for drinks. "No! You can't go home!" I decided to cut to the chase: "Guys, I just puked in my mouth." "But you don't have to go home," Laura cajoled. I thought perhaps I just hadn't said it right, so I tried again: "No, seriously! I just puked in my mouth!!!" "Oh, okay, if you're sure you want to go home," Laura replied sadly. Hee. Once I got home, I took an antacid and felt fine.

Then Saturday, I went to JFK airport. Was I going on a trip? No! I was going to meet one of my bestest girlfriends, Rose. Rose is a wonderful girl I met in Spain. She's a native Southern Californian. She works for Planned Parenthood and is a high ranking officer (perhaps the highest ranking?) of the local NOW chapter. She's also an awesome dancer and speaks killer Spanish. She is, as we speak, in Spain working on her dual citizenship. This is possible due to her adorable Spanish hubby. Anyway, she had a layover in her San Diego-Madrid flight: a few hours at JFK airport. So I trekked all the way out there to hang out with her. I gave her a backrub and comforted her about her unusual transatlantic marriage. She gave me delicious Kinderbuenos (my favorite European candy bar) and comforted my about grad school in Virginia and having to leave my beloved boyfriend. We gave each other the world's longest hug when she had to go back through security to catch her flight. I'll miss her, but seeing her was so great! Every time I see her, it's like we were never apart.

After Rose left, I went to a Cinco De Mayo party at the home of Tom's friends, Sarah and Afton. The food, music and friends were great. Their dogs tried to eat Tom's pants. Oops. We ended up playing Password (or Catch Phrase or whatever). I was awesome at it, but I should probably have taken it down a notch. When it was time to go home, Tom had had a few drinks and announced, "Either you'll have to drive or we can take the bus." Thus began my first driving adventure in NYC!

I made Tom promise: No yelling at me. No making fun of my driving. This proved challenging from the start, as I am used to gear shifts attached to the steering wheel and his is on the floor. When I wanted to go in reverse, I ended up washing the windshield. Anyway, slowly but steadily I managed to get un-parallel parked! It was a standard parking job in NYC, but in Iowa it would have been considered a little tight. Also, it was on a hill. Even with the windshield-squirting, I was pretty happy with how things were going when there was suddenly an ambulance parked facing me in my lane.

"What do I do," I asked. "Go around it," Tom replied. But then I found that fire trucks were blocking the road ahead and to the right and there was no left turn. In other words, there was nothing to do but turn around. "Do a K-turn." I could not remember exactly how to do a K-turn as I probably hadn't done one since Driver's Ed. I forged ahead, anyway, and SQUIRT! accidentally washed the windshield again. I was trying to turn with these fire trucks everywhere, and several other cars were trying to turn, too, which made the whole process more perilous. Tom yelled a little, and I reminded him of my two rules (No yelling at me. No making fun of my driving.) He forced himself to be calm as I got the car going in the right direction. I calmly drove as the people around me...drove? Is that what you call it? Drivers in Brooklyn are CRAZY! I'd exclaim at some crazy maneuver they'd make, and Tom would reply, "It's Brooklyn," as if that explained everything. I got us back to Tom's apartment safely and even managed to parallel park. He managed to only make fun of me with his eyes.