Saturday, October 2, 2010

Being a Teacher: 2010

My favorite moments from my job this year:
*having a 16 year old say she needed a hug and asking me to give her a hug
*sewing the backpack straps for two 17 year olds
*getting a text from a 17 year old about Buddhism, yoga and meditation and her thoughts about my lecture
*being told by my boss that his daughter was curled up enjoying a book from my class
*getting an email from a former graduate that he missed my class
*getting a facebook message that a doctoral student is still using the research methods I taught her in 7th grade
*learning that my former student was told by his professor that he must have really learned how to write in high school

Take that "the media", Arne Duncan, Barack Obama and Michelle Rhee. I guess not every school is horrible! Please explain to me how to measure those things. Yes, students should pass tests, but HOW DO YOU MEASURE these things?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Vacation

According to Phineas and Ferb:

There's 104 days of summer vacation
And school comes along just to end it
So the annual problem for our generation
Is finding a good way to spend it

Well, if you asked my 6 year old and 3 year old daughters, spending their summer vacation watching Phineas and Ferb or any other Disney sitcom, cartoon, or movie is perfectly fine. If I'd let them, they would mindlessly download every joke, attitudinal eye roll, and plotline from Disney (channel 68 where we live). Today, as I turned off the tv for the hundredth time this summer, I said to my 6 year old, "Isn't it ironic that you'd rather watch Phineas and Ferb enjoy their summer vacation, than actually enjoy your own?" What did I get in response? A blank stare and the ever-so-tiny beginnings of a smirk.

Then I looked around the house. I had forced everyone to clean up last night, so no toys were out. The house was clean, yes, but not one that screamed, "Let's have fun!" So, we took out the crayons and drew pictures of our vacation on Cape Cod a week earlier. We played cars on the floor with my 1 year old son. We played the Hungry Caterpillar game with my 3 year old. We set up the dollhouse, again and again and again. We let the boy take allllll the magnets off the fridge and then went outside, played catch, played a round of croquet, and ran around the yard. As we all tumbled into the hammock, my 6 year old turned to me and said, "Mom, it WAS more fun to enjoy ourselves than watching Disney." Take that Walt!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pomp and Victim of Circumstance


Watching students graduate can sometimes be the most heartbreaking moment in a teacher's life. Yes, this is the moment we've prepared them for. No, they are not our actual children. Of course, we'll get another batch the next year. Certainly the years all run together. But, in actuality, at our school, you create bonds with these young people. You see them mature from little tadpoles into full-grown adults. You watch them work hard, appreciate each other, learn how to persevere, solve problems and make their way into the world. I know they all move on, and their high school teachers become just a distant memory, a quick "remember when Mrs. So and So said" but to the teachers, those children ARE our children in the most devastating way. Because with my own three children, I can expect them to come back and share their lives with me. While our relationship will indeed change, it won't disappear. But, with my students, I know that the moment we had with them is completely over. They never really come back. This particular class, the class of 2010 had some very special characters who spent much more than 40 minutes in my classroom. They were there in the morning, in the afternoon, during lunch, and always kind, always respectful, always sharing a laugh or sharing their lives. I've had other students like them who are now gone into their own lives, so I know this feeling of loss is real. I know that I'll have more students who mean as much to me. But today I mourn for the friendships that I'm losing today, because I know this really is goodbye. Good luck and Godspeed Class of 2010.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Time for Travel

Time gets away so quickly. With 3 kids and a full-time job and no nearby family, all responsibilites fall on Jefe' and me. But....and I thank them so dearly for parents were the dolls that they are and came to stay with the kiddos for two weeks while Jefe' and I went on a school-sponsored field trip to Europe. Ten days in Italy, France and Spain with 45 students grades 9-12 and 10 adults. I'm sure it sounds like a job, but it was the trip of a lifetime. The students were fabulous, the locales were divine and the 10 days passed so quickly, when I finally caught my breath, I was on the return flight to the US.

Of the three countries, Italy was by far my favorite, with the Vatican and Monaco coming in 2nd and 3rd (okay, 5 countries if you count those two lil' ones). Rome, Florence, Pisa, Orvieto, delightful. Had I time enough and cash, I would go back in a heartbeat. Knowing that I trod where ancient Romans did is hardly fathomable. Seeing the colliseum, walking the Roman forum, leaning with the tower in Pisa....

Looking at the timeline from the Roman Forum, the colliseum, the medieval towns in France, the modern architecture in Barcelona, it is evident how time in the US is different from time in Europe. The kids were a little impatient when the Spaniards took so long to clear the dinner table. Some folks were annoyed when shops were closed early. But seeing how life can be lived on a different time-table is refreshing.

I cannot wait until summer. Spending those 10 days traipsing through sights makes me want to take my own kids out on the land. Whether we visit every zoo in a 300 mile radius or take every boatride on every lake within 100 miles, or window shop in every little village, I want to make sure to take the time to enjoy what little time I have with them.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

HSBC Hold Music

I had to call HSBC last year because I thought that my identity had been stolen. Well, actually, I thought maybe someone had hacked into my computer to get my bank information. It's a long story and I'll leave it for another post. But, to get us back to my topic, the music, you must know that my beau and I are on our way soon to chaperone a trip to Europe with our students, and I had to call my bank to alert them that I would be using my card in Italy, France and Spain. As I called HSBC again I was subjected once again to their divine/disgusting hold music. It's the kind of music that when you begin to hold you can't believe a reputable bank like HSBC could possibly use it as their hold music. But, given it's unique and brain-wormy character, when you call the bank, having used the "internets" to find the phone number, and you are still wary as to whether or not you're actually calling the bank or some "identity-stealer", once you hear this "awesome short bass line and cymbals intro" (thanks "Audio Kio Productions" you know it could only be HSBC. When I called them last year I first heard it and marvelled. Then I called them again this year and now, the tune won't leave my brain. It plays over and over and over. I've called and made my beau listen to it, too. Being a poet, he wrote a poem about it:


Annoyed awake in my three star hotel
By elevator muzak and wild kids,
I am reminded of Sivan Cotel,
Advocate of music for invalids,
The cheesy midi file instrumentals
Banks play to keep you on hold and happy,
Repetitive without incidentals
(A different kind of totally crappy).

Just dial 1-800-9
75-HSBC and press #
To hear cymbals after a short bass line;
Even days later the track will resound
For Sivan, customers, and people who,
Like Roxanne my wife, will dance on cue.

Next stop HSBC, ringtone!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My Sports Blog

My beau is not the typical guy. He is an English teacher, a poet, and not much of a "the game is on" type of man. But, there are certain events that he will watch: our local (horrible) football team, the Olympics (do they count?) and the NBA playoffs. He was a "sports guy" in high school, running track, cross country and playing lots of basket ball, so he knows sports and when we watch "the game" together I am glad because I can finally ask him all those questions that I didn't know the answer to. Like....why do those two guys run before the play starts in football. And...why are the NBA guys so jumpy near the basket? Just stay under the basket and they'll be sure to stop anyone from trying to get one.

From Jefe', I learned that all of those things have meaning. I understood the meaning of the "in the paint" rule for basketball, but I must admit, I still don't understand the "in motion" thing from football. Why do games have such arbitrary and seemingly incomprehensible rules. The names that go along with sports are also a bit impenetrable--why is it called a "down"? Why is a zero "love"? And for God's sake, please explain a "touchback" to me again. And...what is a "googly"? I'd better explain how I heard of the last one.

I teach creative writing and I have a cache of un-captioned and un-texted photographs that I've culled from my years of research. Well, I call it "research", but really it's just browsing magazines.

I love reading magazines. Every time I go to our local purveyor of fine groceries, I have a really hard time not buying all the magazines on the rack. Yes, even Readers Digest and Healthy Cooking. Nothing makes me happier than an afternoon spent perusing the pages of Real Simple or Cosmopolitan. I can wile away the hours just looking at beautifully designed pages and imagining myself in those layouts: cooking that meal, wearing that dress, designing that room, refinishing that boat. No, I don't really read the articles--they add no meaning to my life--but they could! And that's why I buy them. Every month, magazines present a new opportunity to change my life--in glossy color images.

Back to the topic at hand, so I buy magazines not only to escape into fantasy, but also to find inspiring photos for my students to write from. I paste cool photos on construction paper and give them some sort writing assignment or another. One of my old National Geographics had an article on the anglophile's favorite sport, Cricket. Now, let it be known that I teach in a little village in upstate New York: a place where Cricket would no sooner be played than professional croquet. in order to be a real man here, you have to play football, basketball or MAYBE soccer. So, when I saw the photos of cricket players and a cricket field, ahem, pitch, I thought, "AHA! Here's something to inspire some poetry. Let's see what strange literary brew they can make out of this."

Let me also add, that I specifically used those cricket pictures to appeal to my male students. While I spend lots of time buying Lady Magazines and Mom Magazines and even dorky Dad Magazines (home renovations, boating, technogeeks), I have never bought Sports Illustrated, so have no sports pictures in my files--and my cricket photos were a pathetic attempt to "branch out". Well, lo and behold, one of my finest athletes picked the photo of the cricket pitch and wrote a poem that was pithy, serviceable, and one of the few that actually had a line in it which has since been cemented in my brain. I must admit, I don't know what a "googly" means, and when I asked my beau for yet another sports explanation, and he came up empty-handed--but, we both agreed it didn't matter and that the best line yet to come out of that assignment was:

"Now, that was a wicked googly!"

Pure genius! Even if I don't know what it means!


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bong Rock vs. Kiddie Music

So, I’m all like, “Jefé, which Death Cab cd do you want to listen to?” and his riposte was, “I don’t want to listen to any of that kiddie music.” Let me preface this conversation with some insight. Jefe'and I have a 13 year gap between our birthdays. That means when I was singing “People in my Neighborhood”, Jefé was singing the latest from Led Zeppelin. He was approaching 7th grade puberty when I was approaching my mom’s Ob-gyn. So, our musical tastes tend toward the opposite extremes. He likes grown up music and something we like to call Bong Rock—yes, the Grateful Dead, the Allman brothers, etc.

I’m not suggesting that I listen to NSync and he listens to Lawrence Welk, because in many respects, our tastes are (no pun intended) in sync. We both love Simon and Garfunkel (who doesn’t), Donovan, Leonard Cohen, CSNY, Fleetwood Mac. But, Neko Case, Andrew Bird, and Feist would not be the first things to hit his ipod. Jefe' tends more toward the classic—from classy jazz, classical or classic rock. He might be listening to McCoy Tyner or Coltrane. Some days his study shakes with the strains of Debussy. Then I find a cache of recently purchased Robin Trower or Donna Fargo. I must admit I had never heard of the last two, even though I did recognize Donna’s “Happiest Girl in the Whole USA.” Jefé's tastes are eclectic. He knows most everything about music and when I ask him about The Fleet Foxes (someone I had only just heard of), he hands me their cd. He’s introduced me to some great music. I actually picked up Mazzy Star from him and he bought me my first Feist cd AND my Tina Dico, not that he’d ever put either in the player. Some days he surprises me, though. I walk by his study and hear New Order or even The Cure—two of my faves from growing up. A time when Jefé was already grown up.

Yesterday when I was leaving I asked him where BB King’s greatest hits were. He was pleasantly surprised—I can branch out—I’m a grown up, too.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Roxanne Revisited

In high school my friends and I all thought that we were outre' fashionistas. You know, the kind of students who thought they were too cool for the place they lived, which for us was South Louisiana. Instead of embracing the Creole and Cajun culture surrounding us, we were much more interested in what was happening on the pages of Vogue magazine and in the streets of New York City. We dressed differently, drank hot tea in the afternoon, shopped at thrift stores, befriended the foreign students at the local University and listened to decidedly "Not Top 40" Music. Everything we did had to have the requisite flair--even our writing. So it was that we all chose pen names: names like Sadie Midnight, Calista Kreegan (before Calista Flockhart was even a star), and my name--Roxanne Dubier.

I loved The Police, so Roxanne was a no-brainer and the last name sounded French and fancy. So, I signed all of my overly sentimental poetry and unended short stories with a flourished Roxanne Dubier. I even made a poster of my signature and hung it on the ceiling of my bedroom above my bed. My own name was a gutteral German moniker, one that no one had heard of--but Roxanne was simple, yet mysterious. I was able to shed my identity, one that included being Black and White, specifically German--not a known quantity in my hometown--and become someone else, someone cool and sophisticated.

Flash-forward to 1998 when I took my then fiance', now husband to visit my family in Louisiana. After all the hellos and nibbles of boudin (you simply must try it) and nips of liqueurs (my mom always has a nip) we dragged our plane-tired bodies to my childhood bedroom, laid us each down on a twin bed and breathed a harmonious sigh of relaxation. Well, Idid anyway, my beau instead started laughing and pointing up to the ceiling. While I had never told him the story of Roxanne, he knew me enough from my still-present need for flair and flourish, that this must have something to do with an imagined identity. Yes, Jefe', I gave myself a pen-name, and yes, it sounds fake-fancy and fake-French. Even better, Jefe', after 25 years of leaving Roxanne behind, I'm resurrecting her for this blog. So, if you like fashion, literature, motherhood, teaching, clashes of cultures and fancy flair, then SURPRISE! You've entered the realm of Roxanne Revisited!