Thursday, April 17

In Teacherland

My students made that card for my husband's birthday.  Witty, no?  And while this next comment will probably detract from your overall enjoyment of the card, please note the correct usage of it's and your.  Double win!

And now, for other news.  [Be forewarned, I am foregoing segues]:

:: We hosted a ninth grade night a couple weeks ago.  We set up booths and made flyers describing the various classes and extracurricular activities sophomores could choose.  I manned the Honors English and basketball booth (that way I could tell students they could only be in Honors if they also tried out for basketball.  Some say coercion, I say adept teaching pedagogy) .  Honors students had to pick up their summer homework packets, so I had a constant herd of nervous ninth graders stopping by with their parents.  More often than not, the following exchange occurred:

Parents: "Is honors hard?  Did you take it this year?"
Me: "I...taught it this year?"

And then the parents would apologize profusely, while I reassured them that all was well.  I'd rather look young than unduly old, so no harm done.

:: My students asked me when my birthday was.  I replied vaguely that it was in summer.

One student: "Well, what's your address?"
Me: "I'm not giving you my address."
Student: "Well how else are we going to drop off your birthday cake?"

Ah, bless them.  [Though my address must absolutely remain secret because, frankly, you never know what they'll do.  And I tend to incite over-the-top pranking.]

:: My students are doing literature circles for fourth term [I give them six or so thematic book options and they choose the most appealing and read it in groups].  In their groups, I have them discuss consequences for those who don't read; most choose something treat-related.  However.  One group decided on the following consequence: those who don't read must twerk in front of the class for one minute.

So basically I have to stifle their creative ambitions, or possibly lose my job.  Choices, choices.  I'll let you know what I decide.

:: I cut my hair over spring break- just a few inches, nothing dramatic [regardless, I'm mourning the lost length].  Anyway, one of my students commented on the haircut.  Another student jumped in:

"You cut your hair?  Where?!  How?"  This outburst was accompanied by wild gesticulations at my head.

One of my basketball players responded, "She cut her hair at the bottom.  The bottom part of the hair was cut, duh."

:: One of my students ran into my room the other day and yelled, "Someone thought I was you, I love my life!" and then ran out.  Ego stroking at its best.  [But seriously.  Some of my students are so nice to me I would be obnoxiously self-confident if it weren't for the students, in equal number, who are so whiny to me.  Teacher balance, you know.]

:: Some of my students called me over the other day to get help with an activity.  I crouched next to their desks and pointed at various parts of the assignment, talking them through the steps.  I asked if that helped and they nodded, smiling.  I returned to my desk.  Thirty seconds later they start cracking up and call me back over.

"Sorry about this, but we were pretty distracted by your wedding ring when you came over.  We were basically just staring at your ring and not listening to anything you said.  Can you go over this again?"

:: One of my most adorable, eccentric students finished his standardized test early and picked up his copy of The Help.  He then proceeded to belly-laugh sporadically at the book.  It was such a joy to watch.  He was just bubbling over, absolutely loving the story.  At the end of class, he had 100 pages to go.  Later that day, between classes, he sprinted into my room.  "Did that just really happen?  That ending!  That just really happened?!" I started to respond but he interjected, "Sorry, we don't have time to adequately discuss.  I'll come in tomorrow during lunch.  Bye!"

:: My juniors just finished 1984 and we've been playing what I deemed The Great Game [self-aggrandizing title, so what].  They have to create societies, publish propaganda, take other groups to war, and build world wonders.  I wasn't sure whether they'd really buy in, but my fears were unfounded as they have gotten so into the game that whole societies now loath one another.  Some of the students have gotten downright vicious.  It's kind of like watching video gamers argue about tactics and insult other players' methods.  Battle of the nerds, if you will.  It's both lovely and horrifying to watch.  I'll have to do some love one another activities next to repair student relationships.

And...this turned into a novel, so I'll stop rambling here.  The moral of this post: teaching is a lovely, exhausting, confusing, funny gig. 

Monday, April 14

Spring Break

Despite the fact my knees look extra fleshy in the above photo, that picture is everything that was lovely about my spring break.  Reading, basketball socks, and sunshine. 

However, I know that summative picture is not enough to quench your what did Regan do during spring break? thirst, and so I present to you a list of my many and varied accomplishments last week:

:: I ate whole cartons of strawberries in single porch-reading sessions. 
:: I drove to the grocery store multiple times to buy single items, because I had time.
:: I went to the gym (sometimes twice a day) and listened to delightful audiobooks whilst on the stairmaster.  I thought it was time to supplement my workouts with something other than Kanye West's Blackskin.
:: I finished five books: Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me?, I am the Messenger, Galveston, The Handmaid's Tale, and Warriors Don't Cry.  These were not the books I should have read for educational purposes, which made them all the more delightful.
:: I played a lot of basketball.  We held open gym over the break and a total of two coaches (me and one other) and two athletes showed up.  So we indulged in two-on-two. 
:: I seriously considered getting my car washed and detailed, and then didn't.  I mention it because the mental preparation required for a car wash extravaganza is enough to warrant recognition. 
:: I graded a handful of papers and then decided that it was my moral obligation to mentally recover, and stopped doing all things teacherly.  (And, dramatically enough, I started to taste bile every time I thought about grading, which was warning enough for me).
:: I made our bed everyday. 
:: I kept our house immaculate, and then sighed theatrically in delight at its cleanliness. 
:: I went to the nearby park and swung by myself, solidifying my neighbors' fears that they live amongst a pedophile.  [I'm not, guys.  I just like to swing and don't think that should be taken off the table simply because I'm 23].

I hope my unabashed declaration of accomplishments didn't make you feel inadequate.  Not everyone can eat strawberries and look pedophilac- it's my special gift.  I'm sure you have one, too.


Thursday, April 10

I have letters in my head, waiting for instruction.  I picture them there, like alphabet soup.  I hope they can arrange themselves because I have been positively inebriated with writer's block for months (that was hyperbolic- it's been days only).

I am going to publish this (whatever it is) even if it is directionless piece of drivel.  As author Sherman Alexie eloquently stated on twitter, "Write a lot of shit today, pray for less shit tomorrow."

And now I begin:

I wish I had a transcript of all the thoughts in my head two minutes prior to falling asleep.  As the conscious and unconscious meet, stretching out their hands, I have slippery thoughts that feel, somehow, big.

It's quite possible that these thoughts feel significant only because I'm in a state akin to a anesthesia.  Maybe I'm thinking popcorn sounds good, and my addled consciousness doesn't know what to do but applaud and pretend the thought is deeply revolutionary.  Maybe my fleeting thoughts are more desperate.  Someone needs to tell LeBron not to wear a Pharrell hat.  Someone needs to tell Pharrell not to wear a Pharrell hat.  And why don't people eat pizza for breakfast?

But what if I really figure things out in those fading minutes?  What if I am a genius writer, but only in two minute spurts, and right before sleep?

Whatever happens in my head before sleep, it's replaced when I wake up with checklists.

I am adding to my checklist: be less checklist-y.

It's spring break and even now I create unnecessary lists in my head.  Gym, protein, nap (I schedule these, in my head!), dishes, grading, reading, basketball.

On Tuesday I even scheduled: eat strawberries and read on the porch at five.  I did it, too, and it was lovely.  But shouldn't that be something one does on a whim?

I'm sure it's obvious, but this post has gotten away from me.  It was away from me within the first line.

What was it Sherman said?  Pray for less shit tomorrow?  Amen to that.

Maybe I'll break routine and spontaneously write tomorrow.  Around ten(ish)?  Scheduled spontaneity may be as good as it gets with me.


Thursday, February 27

Should Be

Somewhere to be
Five Minutes
I should be
Checking items off grocery lists
Sifting through papers

I'm forgetting something-
What was it I needed to do?

Wipe the counters,
Organize the drawers,
Scrub the sink,
Unload the dishes.

Papers, always papers.

I should be

Here.  Now.

In the moments I'm missing.


Saturday, February 8

Everything and Nothing

Beanies and faux leather: scaring students into submission since 2014.

Well, hi.  This will be a post about everything and nothing, leaning heavily toward the latter.  In semi-chronological order, I present a smattering of life happenings.

:: As second term ended, I announced, in no uncertain terms, the day on which I would accept no more late work.  There were of course students who saved copious amounts of work to turn in the day after the late work portal closed.  One such student took to harassing me via twitter.  His fatal words, "I'll do anything if you accept my work."  And, so.  A deal was struck.

The following day, before our lesson began, said student had to do an interpretive dance to the Hercules masterpiece, Zero to Hero.  He whimpered for the song's entirety, looked completely debased, and made our class very happy.  Students shouted dance move suggestions and he half-heartedly obliged.  I stood at the back of the room muttering, Remember, this is what procrastination looks like.  Humiliation.  Let this moment forever sear your memories.

:: One of my students tagged me in a whiny, semi-educational tweet.  I said something about student apathy and posted a picture of Homer Simpson smacking his head.  Later, he stopped by my classroom with his friend.   "Did you see my tweet?!"  Me: "Yes.  Did you see my response?"  Student: "Yeah.  Well the thing is...I don't know a lot of the words you use."  Me: "Might I suggest downloading  It would fit nicely next to your twitter."  His friend let out a whoop and punched him in the arm.

:: An adorable disabled student recently found out where my classroom is.  He runs to see me between classes.  He talks to me, about me, in third person.  "Why is Regan wearing shoes?  Why did Regan use the boy's bathroom? [Ahem: I did not.]  Why is Regan wearing socks?"  Notably, he's taken an unfortunate interest in my feet.  He always tries to get me to take my shoes off.  For the sake of all involved, I refuse.

:: In class the other day we were talking about, "The American Dream," and meritocracies, when I asked whether anyone knew what meritocracy meant.  Me: "It's a word you hear, but may not always know what it means."  One of my student raises his hand, "Um...Mrs. Gull?  I'm just wondering.  Who exactly do you hang out with?  Because I sure don't hear my friends saying meritocracy."  Me: "I...hang out with books?  And a few humans."

:: Now, to wrap up all things crucially important.   Last night I was getting Conlin a Haagen Dazs ice cream bar when I had a brain lapse and thought it would be funny to pretend to chuck it at him.  [Are those dry attempts at humor ever funny?] I wound up and jerked my arm forward, letting out a dramatic, "Waaaaa!"  Conlin didn't even blink because we've been married almost five years and I, to my dismay, continue to do this kind of dumb shit.  However.  While I had intended for the throw to be staged, the ice cream bar actually broke free from it's wrapper, whacked the coffee table, bounced up at Conlin, and sprayed the room with chocolate shell.  His eyes coldly assessed the lunatic in the room, me, while I stood in shock, babbling about my intentions.


Sunday, January 19

First Kiss

My students just finished writing a collective dating guide with accompanying narratives.  [The irony wasn't lost on them: that the people in most need of dating advice [them] were the ones proffering advice, and etcetera.]  The pieces I've read thus far are real gems, though.  

To help them with their narratives, I wrote one of my own.  I narrated mine and Conlin's first kiss, in all its awkward glory.  While reading it in first period, one of my students continuously muttered, "Make it end...oh, please just make it end..."  

So, here it is.  
*My vanity would like it noted: this is a rough draft.  I know there are wordy patches and the ending's slightly rushed...I did that so my classes could walk through the revision process with me.  Not that anyone cares, but, vanity.  You know.


“No, this trick won't work... How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?”
I thumbed through various DVDs, offering suggestions over my shoulder.  “The Count of Monte Cristo...Lord of the Rings, never seen that, actually...The office.  Huh, The office?”
Conlin, the corners of his mouth upturned, shrugged.  “Sounds good to me.”  
As I fumbled with my parents’ all-too-complicated sound system, Conlin plopped onto the nearest couch, a well-cushioned brown mass that had witnessed previous pseudo romantic movie moments.  On paper, this scene was no different from past movie nights I had undergone over the years: boy, girl, DVD.  Except for this: I couldn’t breath right.  Something about Conlin made the air catch in my throat.  
Aiming for a nonchalant air, I sat down next to him and stealthily swiped my sweaty palms on the couch cushion.  He smiled at me and nodded toward the screen.  “I’ve only seen a couple episodes.  You’ll have to fill in the gaps.”
“That I can do.” I replied.  
A couple minutes into the first episode, Conlin placed his arm on the couch backing.  Just close enough to taunt me, not close enough to touch.  If I only leaned back a couple inches, we’d collide.  I focused on my breathing.  Then, gathering my wavering courage, I leaned back.  Contact.  Conlin’s head twitched in my direction and then returned to the show.  
If the next few minutes were captured in a time lapse, it would probably have looked like this: my hand is placed neatly on my knee.  Conlin’s hand moves to his knee.  A few frames would capture our hands nearing.  Eventually, hand-holding.  (Not captured: sweaty palms). Conlin’s free arm remains on the couch backing for two frames.  Conlin’s arm then wraps around my shoulders.  The next frames catch barely perceptible changes: hair falling slightly, subtle smiles, eyes shifting.
Once we touched, we hardly moved.  We were afraid of disturbing the position so much juvenile maneuvering had made happen.  We hardly moved, that is, until The Terrible Thing Happened.  
The episode we were watching ended.
As the sound petered off, a heavy silence settled.  Finally, I sighed.  “Another episode?”
Conlin affirmed and I got up to start the DVD.  
Were we a normal, well-adjusted couple, this disruption would have been a minor glitch, hardly worth noting.  But we both seemed to have missed the training in junior high where you learn how to initiate cuddling.  
So, when I returned to the couch, where do you suppose I sat?  Against Conlin, my hand in his?  Perhaps with my head on his shoulder?  
Or a few inches away, with zero contact.
I sat down, the space between us glaring.  My seat selection yelled of a sterility I hadn’t intended.  
Over the next few minutes we participated in the same slow-moving cuddling ritual: painfully inching toward one another.  
            Ah, young love.
            After a couple episodes and numerous attempts to stifle yawns, we glanced at the clock.  2:07 a.m.  Time to call it a night.  We ambled upstairs, slipped on our shoes, and walked out to his car.  
            Our goodbye ritual was about as suave as the one used to initiate cuddling.  A half hug and small, incoherent small talk.  My house sat atop a steep hill.  From our position we could see the back windows of a neighbor's house, brightly lit.  I smiled, looking toward the house, and began, “We used to sit up here and watch Lisa, our neighbor, dancing in her livingroom.  She’d really go for it when no one was home.  Pretty sure she didn’t realize-”
            I didn’t see it coming.  
            It was a split second.  Spectators might have missed it.
            But I sure didn’t.
            Conlin, demonstrating surprising initiative, had swooped in, quick, and planted a kiss right against my teeth.  


Monday, January 6

Behind Every Student

I just got out of the shower, where I cried for my students, the water masking my sobs.  I stared at the glass shower door, seeing their words, and remembering the things they taught me.

Earlier, surrounded by strewn papers and scribbled notes, I read my students' stories.  I held a purple pen, intending to attack the essays with suggestions, compliments, edits.  But as the stories unraveled, I found myself forgetting my pen, and caring only that I kept reading.  Because, armed with words, they let me into their lives.  And what I saw was beautiful and harrowing and raw.

They understand love, and trust, and selflessness.  They know what it feels like to be alone and misunderstood.  They walk into classrooms and parties and sporting events.  Some days, when they enter, they feel at home; other days, out of place.  They've experienced loss and they've experienced gain.  They are discovering who they are, who they want to be.

Despite, or because of their vulnerability, they let me really see them, or a part of them.  And I am better for it.  Because I remember-

Behind every student, is a story.

And I resolve, as my sole New Year's resolution, to keep remembering.  During fourteen hour days, and long bus rides, and grading, I will stop, and I will breath, and I will remember.  Everyone has a story.  And every story deserves kind eyes.