August 30, 2006

Adventures in Parenting: Part 1...

I have a feeling this could have many parts.

So, did I mention that my stepchildren are living with us permanently? We picked them up last weekend, and then had to rush them back here to a community clinic where they had to get more shots so they could go to school here. Nothing says "welcome home" like a two-hour standing line wait and a Hep A shot in the arm.

Everybody says I'll be fine as a mom, but I have had some moments of guilt in being a sucky parent. This week has to do with how the Tooth Fairy forgot to come the other night. (Funny, Mrs. T's daughter lost a tooth this week, too!) It was the day before school started, the kids had spent the day at some friends while I was at work, my sweetie had made social plans for all of us, and well, it was just a little crazy. So yesterday when I picked her up from school, my DD (darling daughter) told me she'd forgotten to leave her tooth for the Tooth Fairy the night before.

That's right kid, blame yourself. YOU forgot. It's YOUR problem.

Geez, I can't believe we forgot! We suck at this!

Well, the Tooth Fairy came a day late and ended up leaving $2 for her tooth. There must be a good market for baby teeth these days.

Or something.

August 29, 2006

Newbies Caught in the Middle

Those poor new teachers at my school--a few of them concurrently getting their creditials--are being told two different stories on how to approach the first days of school. They are getting two sides from their instructors, the administration, and from other teachers at our school. Wow! Poor teachers.

So, dear readers (since there are so many of you), please chime in on which method for beginning school you choose:

A. Spend at least the first week, maybe even two, doing icebreakers and practicing rules and procedures. Once the classroom atmosphere is in place, begin curriculum work.

B. Begin curriculum work right away on the first day to set the tone for the year.

My ears are ringing already. These seem like narrow options to me. I bet most of you have a option C, don't you? So do I. It's a combination of both A & B. Been there, done that on both of these points. (It's what I get for taking advice from others and reading "expert" books.) I don't have much patience for icebreakers. Any of the "little activities" I might do with my students in the early days are actually some sort of assessment. If they aren't, I probably won't do it. I give them the quick run down on rules and procedures, but I'd rather practice true application. Sure, I'd like to set the tone for a nice collaborative, team-like classroom, but more than that I'd like the students to know right away that it doesn't matter if they think my class is fun (it would be nice if it weren't torture, though) because we have too much work to do.

And that's the simple answer.

August 26, 2006

On My OCD: Sticky Messiness

Despite the fact I have had stepchildren in my life for four years, I still get real edgy about messy children. Kind of interesting considering that my stepchildren were toddlers when they came into my life--you'd think that I would have gotten over myself, huh? So I'm rather anal about what they can eat and where, and the cleanliness of their fingers and faces. Don't even get me started on their clothing.

Now, don't get this picture in your head that I am a total neat freak because I'm really not. There's too much clutter in my life--too much stuff, too little space--to be that way. My issues have to do with stickiness and dirtiness.

Got a little picture in your head of what life is living with me when you're a child?

The kids have spent a lot of time over the years in the car traveling from parent to parent. And it was ONLY in our car, but that is another rant for another day. For the sake of frugality and mess control, I generally pack the road snacks. To me the perfect road snacks are water and Cheerios. Maybe Goldfish or raisins. Apple slices or grapes if I am feeling really nice--but many napkins must travel along, too. And sometimes I give them clear Gatorade or Kool aid. (Clear Kool-Aid was made for people like me FOR SURE.) Get the picture? Non-staining, non-sticky foods may travel in the car.

So, imagine the explosion in my head when their grandmother gave them ORANGES for the car ride. "Ah hell no!" I was thinking, but since I'd already let my bitchiness shine twice in a 15-minute time frame, I decided to let the oranges thing go. I crossed my fingers that maybe the kids would forget about the oranges and settle for the nice cereal bar their grandmother also sent.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case 50 miles down the road. And again, I thought I could be a nicer person and just go with the flow. Afterall, the kids have been through some rough transitional times and the trip over the weekend was hopefully the last long trip we'll have to make with them for a while since that trip was to bring them to come live with us permanently. So when my stepdaughter handed me the orange and asked to peel it, I held my tongue and nicely peeled it--putting the rind in a plastic bag on my lap, of course.

And the whole time I'm telling myself, "It will be okay. You can section the orange into pieces and it will be fine. It won't be too bad. It's okay." Wouldn't you know it? It was a nice, juicy orange (where are they in season?!?) THAT WOULD NOT SEPARATE INTO SECTIONS. So, while my husband is driving 85 mph down the freeway, I'm making orange juice in the seat next to him and trying not to hyperventilate about it. Husband's eyes are darting back and forth from the road to my mess because he knows I'm freaking out, but I'm trying not to let it show. There just aren't enough napkins in the glove box to deal with that! Grrrrrr. I finally sent a quarter of a piece of drippin' orange to the back seat. Much to my relief or chagrin--I can't decide which--she only ate that little piece and didn't want more. Just in case, though, I had a grocery sack full of juice and pulp at my feet--aka the rest of the orange she decided she didn't want to eat.

Now a few miles down the road my husband finished some chips he was eating--he's allowed because he's an adult and it's just wrong for me to have fits over his messiness. He handed the partially full bag to put away, and I had every intention of folding it up and sticking it in a safe place, but first I brushed some crumbs off his lap. I can't explain the motion, but somehow I ended up dumping the remainder of the bag's contents down the front of me and all over the floor.

So he starts laughing, but more in a soothing way, "It's okay hun. Don't stress out."

Stress? Oh, no! I'm frozen in the seat, covered in chips, my fingers still a little sticky from the orange, afraid that any movement might crunch up those chips all over the place.

Through bleary, teary eyes, "Please. Pull. Over. At. The. Next. Rest. Stop."

Instead, he pulls off on a rural exit and parks in the dirt by the side of the road. The kids: "Why are we stopped? What's wrong?"


Someone up there is having a good laugh at my expense, aye?

August 23, 2006

Happy Chyck is wondering...

why she really isn't so happy lately.


This morning I went in a little early before my meetings to see what cool new webtools I have discovered that I can use this year.

How many can I use?


Everything is too dangerous and therefore it is BLOCKED...

I just felt sick and depressed. And more whiney than usual. I get it in my mind to do something new, but I can't. No big deal, right? As teachers, we punt all the time. It's just that now I feel like I am regressing. I'd say a lot of the tools I was interested in using, and will do so from my home, were for my professional use--with intentions of collaboration. As I have discussed before. is a tool. I have big box of other tools to consider, too.

And for those of you viewing my blog with the left hand column at the bottom of the page, how long has this been going on? In Safari it looks fine, but Explorer it's a mess. Go figure. I just discovered it tonight.

On a more positive note--extremely positive note--my sweetie is just bouncing off the walls because he just finished his last class tonight. Wahoo! He's an official computer nerd with a degree. I'm so proud!

August 22, 2006

No AC: Another Teacher Suffers

Last week when I only had 2 hours to spare in my classroom it was nice and cool. Yesterday when I planned on working a good 6-8 hours, wouldn't you know it?!?! NO AIR CONDITIONING!

Folks I have to tell ya, I'm not a woman who simply perspires or glows...I SWEAT. And boy did I sweat. I must have sweated myself out dozens of times. It was just yucky, yucky, yucky! I kept working, though. Heat or sweat in my eyes, I still had use the time because there will be no more later.

It is kind of a funny image thinking of a sweet little teacher breakin' a sweat from hanging up posters. Makes it look like hard work!

Oh! I'm sure I also made a great impression on the new teachers I met: "Hi! I'm Ms. Sweaty Sweaterson! Don't mind me or my stench. And yes I think it is quite fashionable to wear my eyeliner dripping down my cheeks, but most importantly, doesn't my room like nicely put together?"

So this morning I'm off to work before it gets hot, which is laughable considering that it's not even 7:00 am, yet it is in the 80's already. Got my bottles of frozen water and am dressed completely inappropriately to be going to school, even if it is just to work in my classroom. This is dedication.

August 20, 2006

Where Did the Teacher in Me Go?

I'm having a hard time getting in the mindset for school.

I thought I did a great job on Friday as I took some notes in the car on the way to California on some things we need to do in Publications this year. I need to keep them busier. Do you know what would help me? If the students actually had a textbook. Why is this a class that isn't provided with textbooks? (Maybe some day I'll go to school that has a textbook for this course. Or I'll leave this aspect of my experience off my resume.) Oh wait! I take that back, I do have The Young Journalist's Book which will take us through the first week or so--if I don't lose credibility with them first. Thanks goodness for photocopies from texts I wish I had in sets, the Internet and it's wonderful sources, and Newspapers in Education.

Oh! Look! I'm trying to get in the mindset as I type. Excellent.

I did have a dream about teaching night school. It was more a nightmare, actually. Reliving some of the unpleasant times I had there my first quarter.

Today I covered the kitchen table in things I needed to prep for work in my room tomorrow. I worked for a while and made a big mess of things. Then...I decided to color my hair instead. Sometimes I go with the gray because then the students think I am old as I am, but right now I'm going with eccentric rather than old. I feel better about my hair. Maybe now I can focus.

I'm going to be able to pull myself together before school starts because I am a professional. Unfortunately, I'll also be pulling some long painful nights because I'm a procrastinator.

August 19, 2006

Uh Oh! Bad Attitude on the Rise

I finally went to my classroom Thursday to start getting my room ready, but I was only able to spend a few hours. I officially report to work on Wednesday and the students will come the Wednesday after that. It seems like I have plenty of time, but I really don't. Once we report to work, it's likely we'll have little time to work in our classrooms. I'll be doing the Tazmanian Devil dance around my room getting things ready Monday and Tuesday.

As soon I walked into the building, I just had a sour attitude. Uh oh! Snap out of it! I'd rather be a team cheerleader than a team witch, but it looks like I'm going to have to work for it.

My classroom was in pretty good shape, and it was dust and mouse poo free. (Classrooms near me had some issues at the end of the year.) I wiped things down with Clorox wipes anyway.

I had time to put up some bright bulletin background. I'm starting with cheap plastic tablecloths, and with the colors I'd chosen I wondered if it was looking too Barbie-ish. (Plastic makes it easy to tape things up.) Once I start filling up the boards in with info and student work, it probably won't seem so blinding. I used to enjoy making my room look inviting, but this year I'm wondering if it seems so trite spending time on how my room looks when I could spend more time on curriculum.

Is that bad attitude or just stark reality?

Luckily, I had a lunch date with an old friend who was passing through town, so I removed my bad-attitude butt from campus.

August 15, 2006

The Teacher Voice

Last night I went to a movie with my parents. As we were leaving the theater, I noticed a group of teenage boys loitering and "rough-housing" right outside the theater doors. As much I as tried to avoid getting in their mix, they pushed and shoved until one of the little rabble-rousers crashed into me and stepped on my foot.

(Any flashbacks to middle school hallways? Anyone?)

"Hey! Watch it! People are trying to walk here!" I barked, glaring at them with my best teacher look.

The boys stopped, looking like deer caught in headlights, and made some guffawing noises that may have been half-assed apologies.

My mom rushed over asking me if I was okay while I'm ranting about damn teenagers who need to pay attention and mind their manners and how I shouldn't have to put up with that kind of a crap for a few more weeks. And my dad is trying to explain to my mom that I had just been stepped on and I had a right to be upset. Both of my parents were concerned that with all the yelling that I'd been injured. Nope, not a bruise--amazingly.

I may have gone over the top with the little ranting bit, but I didn't think it was improper to bring out my angry teacher voice. It's something about being a teacher: I think I have the right to reprimand wayward children in public. Okay, maybe it's not like I really think it's my right, it's more a compulsion that is difficult to control.

In any case, my parents were a little surprised by my "bark." (I have a growl to go with that, too!) They'd never heard me use that tone of voice, and my mother claims she hadn't heard me yell since I was a kid. I can guarantee that the girlie yelp I used while fighting with my brother is nothing like the deep tone I use to reprimand wayward kids.

My dad can't believe that it was really ten years ago today that I packed up my little Escort and hit the road to start my first teaching job in rural Nevada. Yep, it's true Dad! I really have been a teacher that long--and I have the teacher voice to prove it!

August 10, 2006

Organizationally Challenged

I try so hard to be organized, but I am just the clutter queen. Oh, I'm so much better than I used to be, as I am always looking for ways to sort my life, but it is never enough. NEVER.

Do you know that I taught for almost two straight years before I organized my lessons, materials and handouts? I think back now and I don't know why I was so stupid. Get some file folders, girl! Duh! Some of my colleagues use binders, but I don't always use the same materials from year to year depending on the level of students I have and how much I need to build scaffolding. I wish I could only use a few binders--at this point I have enough files to fill two drawers in a filing cabinet.

Oh, but wait! That does not count the all the files on my computer and the bookmarked websites I have. Do you know that I have gone years saving files without putting them into folders? Again, duh! Use those folders! In the last few years I've been pretty good about using folders, but then I do have a "Stuff" folder on my Mac desktop. Who am I kidding? It's like the junk drawer in my kitchen.

And let's complicate this a notch. I work on three different computers. Mosly I work on my Powerbook G4 because it goes back and forth to work everyday, but sometimes when I think I'm going blind and my wrist just can't take it anymore, I use my home or work desktops, which have normal keyboards and big screens. I often start things and then send them to myself to finish on another computer, so you know I have some half completed stuff out there---or even better, I have saved myself the confusion and saved it to one of my two flashdrives. Got a handle on where my files might be found? Good luck finding it only if you're a determined detective.

So, what I'm working on this week is getting myself organized. It's not just for me, but so I can share with my colleagues, too. (I'm really just thinking those with the same grade level and subject.) My big undertaking is to create a wiki for me and my mates to use as a reference and sharing too. There are apparently many uses for a wiki, so I hope this is a good one. We often share things anyway, but this might make it easier. Now, cross your fingers we can even access it at the school. You know how locked down we are. I'll get back to you on this one, as I am still sorting through the wreckage of my files. And yes, I do have folders. Lots of them.

My minor undertaking, which is taking a while, is to move all my Internet bookmarks to Okay, if you think I had any better system for my Internet bookmarks, you are just not paying attention. I rely on the Internet as a research tool and source of inspiration when lesson planning. I'm up for sharing that information with my colleagues, so I wondered if I should limit it to only school stuff, but there isn't anything too crazy in there--and it's going to be used by ME primarily. This is a tool I am looking forward to trying out and sharing with my students, so it's likely I'll end up making another one with classroom resources if this one works out well for me.

So here's mine. I'm not quite finished as I have some huge folders on blog tips and various forms of writing. When I look at all the bookmarks I have saved, I wonder if I really need them--do I use them? Some I have, and I keep the others because I know they contain information I might need. Perhaps with the tagging features in, I'll be able to find them and use them more. Although, I'm not sure I'm using the tagging business right, as the more I add, the more I rethink what tags should be applied--I've really overtagged in many places. The reason for some is that the resource has more than one use, but I most honestly, when I go looking for these places again, what tag will I think I put it under?

You can give a girl an organizational tool, but that doesn't mean she will be organized...

August 9, 2006

4 Pete's Sake! Yes, It's Another Meme!

California Teacher Guy picked this up at A Clearing in the Fog, and I am passing it on to you! If you're not up to your neck in kids or classroom set-up, join in and let your bloggin' buddies know a little more about you. You can judge for yourself, but I think mine is screaming, "Happychyck is a low-brow, small-town girl!"

4 jobs you've had:
1. bookseller
2. assistant manager at Burger King
3. afternoon cleanup at a donut shop
4. oilfield laborer

4 movies you could watch over & over:
I don't like to watch movies over & over, so I'm listing some childhood favs I don't mind watching
1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
2. Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer
3. Pretty in Pink
4. Footloose

4 places you've lived:
1. Lewiston, ID
2. Orofino, ID
3. Hawthorne, NV
4. Vernal, UT

4 TV shows you love to watch or 4 books you love to read:
1. Friends
2. Oprah
3. Desperate Housewives
4. special primetime news shows like 20/20, Dateline, etc. I don't know which one is which...

4 places you've been on holiday:
1. Williamsburg, VA
2. Costa Rica (can't remember name of place)
3. Phoenix, AZ
4. Oceanside, CA

4 Web sites you visit daily:
1. (And from there I connect to many other magical places.)
4. (just lately)

4 of your favorite foods:
1. mangoes
2. yogurt
3. my homemade burritos
4. Berto's Gelato

4 places you'd rather be:
I'd rather be with people I miss right now and they are in:
1. northern NV
2. CO
3. UT
or I could go for a
4. a nice beach somewhere calm and breezy...not too picky where

August 6, 2006

Oh, Those Parents!

So many times it's easy to do some parent bashing--especially why you can see how they are doing everything wrong. Over the years I've seen so many toxic parents who seem to be clueless, but I've also seen parents who aren't really toxic but more helpless. A lot of them are parenting alone--mostly mothers. When you have a parent break down in tears in front of you and release all the weight of their shoulders upon you, well, it's just pretty hard to judge--no matter how much they might deserve it. I had a pretty heavy parent breakdown earlier this summer--but after school ended--so I've been thinking about writing on the topic of parents for a while.

These emotional breakdowns have happened to me several times in my career because I will listen. Well, that's the reason I have come up with, as I don't particularly enjoy these episodes. One young mom broke down and admitted to me that she had not been a good mother and had tried to be her children's friend. She was no longer a single mother and was trying to reform her ways, but it wasn't easy. Most of the moms who break down in front of me are overwhelmed from trying to hold a family together all alone. They are doing their very best, but they recognize that it's not enough. As a struggling parent, what a terrible thing that must be to admit to yourself--let alone the teacher of your child--that you aren't doing a good enough job!

What is enough? I've also dealt with distraught parents from unbroken families who seem to be doing everything right, but the student is still going the down the path of self-destruction. Those moms are less likely to break down in front of me because they have their husbands, but they still feel compelled spill all the dirt. Sometimes poor school performance is only part of the problem, you know. I can think of several families I've dealt with like this. I don't get it. The only thing I can think of in most cases is that some kids are just born rebellious, and no amount of discipline and structure is going to change that. I hate to admit this, but I also think that sometimes strict parents produce problem children because they are overly strict--like it pushed the children in the opposite direction.

Mostly I just listen to parents when they spill their family issues, but sometimes I offer advice, which at the secondary level places a large amount of responsibility on the student--not the parent. These are the times when the parents just don't know what to do about their slacker or lost-and-confused students. The advice is academically focused, as that is what the meetings are usually about, although the conversations sometimes turn to more personal family issues. Some parents really don't have any strategies about how to structure home so students can do their homework. So I offer up my strategies how on to make home more conducive to studying and how students can organize their lives and homework better. These are basically the same tips I give to students.

When a parent starts getting personal and breaks down, offering up some advice on how her student can raise his grades or focus on school is just not appropriate. It's sticky, though. What can I do? I'm not a counselor. I'm a teacher! Sometimes I'm considered the enemy. Yo, parent! Are you sure you want to expose your underbelly? So, I reinforce all the good things the parent is trying to do. Kind of give a little pep talk. Sometimes parents do have all the right strategies, but they don't have the stamina to be consistent. Or even if they do have the stamina, kids can be stubborn. It's so helpful to say, "You're doing fine. Keep up the good work! Stay strong." As teachers we need this kind of pep talk sometimes. Maybe parents do, too. I don't lie, though. I pick the positive traits--like most obvious one being that the parent cares so much.

I avoid handing out parenting advice like, "This is what I'd do...." Sometimes I help them sort out ideas, though. A few years ago I had a parent who was cross between the helpless single mom and strict parent type who was concerned about her son going into rigorous high school program to which he'd been accepted. She knew he was bright and he'd been in accelerated classes in middle school, but his recent scholastic performance made her think he should not go into the program. His poor performance was not about intelligence but about maturity. She knew he would not be happy, as his close friends would be in the rigorous program, but she wasn't sure he would succeed. I helped her line up all the pros and cons, adding some things from a teacher's point of view. In the end, I repeatedly told her, "You're the parent. You're in charge. You do what you think is best for your son." That's a good mantra for all parents, right?

I've forged close relationships with the parents of some of my most wayward students. We cling to each other as a support system as we try to guide students down the best paths. Sometimes all of our hard work seems lost as the students become lost. If you've ever taught teenagers, you know there is that certain age they reach where their parents and teachers hold no influence. So we just stand by, hoping and praying that these kids remember what they've been taught--where they've come from. The majority of them turn out okay--more than okay--and then the parents and I joke, "Can you believe the pain and suffering he put us through? But you see? He remembered what you taught him. He just needed some time to figure it out himself."

Teaching is a tough gig, and mostly we don't know what we're doing until we get some experience. Unfortunately, parenting is quite similar. Just as in education, there are parenting "best practices," but we are dealing with different personalities--not to mention social and family issues or the dreaded teenage hormones--so the one size fits all approach does not work. Teachers who are also parents can probably see both sides pretty easily. For those of us who aren't parents, it's important to remember that even though it sometimes doesn't seem like it, parents are doing their best. They sometimes make mistakes, and often they feel powerless and alone as their try to raise their children. Sometimes they do all the right things, but their children are still difficult brats. Sound familiar? I don't know about you, but I can see parallels to my own classroom...

Well, I'm no expert in parent-teacher relations, but in my experience, parents want the best for their children and they want to be heard. Oh, and some respect for bringing their children into the world. It really doesn't take much to make alliances--and sometimes life-long friends--with your students' parents. Pretty much a good ear and some understanding will do it.

Teacher + Parents = A Good Alliance

August 3, 2006

He Loves Me So Effortlessly

Several times over the last week my sweetie has been on the phone with some tech people trying to fix some techie issue he's having. A few times I overheard him say my name to the person on the other end. We have different last names, so it stands out. At first I thought it was because he used my credit card, which is our online-buying card. But then tonight I heard him do it again, and the real strangeness is really how he said it. He said, "Ms. [my name]." That's weird! Why not my first name somewhere?

So, I asked him about it. He told me it was the answer to his security question.

So, what's the question?

"Who's your favorite teacher?"

Wow! That is just so sweet!

August 2, 2006

The One Book That...

When I first saw this meme over at California Teacher Guy's place, I wanted to do it, but it's hard for me to make definitive decisions about "the one book" that did whatever to my life. ONE! Seriously! Then I saw Mrs. Bluebird tackle this and Mindful Teacher, too. So, what the heck. I ought to embrace the opportunity to talk books like I used to back in the day when I was a bookseller.

1. One book that changed your life: My Posse Don't Do Homework by Louanne Johnson. I read this before becoming a teacher--before it was made into a movie. Perhaps you know the sell-out title, which is the same as the movie: Dangerous Minds. I just remember in the early years of my teaching, it made me feel like I could do this job.

2. One book that you’ve read more than once: As if! As a teacher, I have had to read several books more than once--classroom novels and pedagogical books that I review each year. I had to consult my bookshelf for this one, and I decided on Cowboys Are My Weakness by Pam Houston. (Ugh! The new cover is terrible!) She's one of my favorite contemporary Western authors from the 90's. In fact, I think I might reread Cowboys this summer.

3. One book you’d want on a desert island: Is it fair if I say a blank book? If not, then I'd take The Complete Works of Shakespeare. It would keep me entertained for a long, long time. Plus, it's so big, I could probably find other uses for it...perhaps as a table or something.

4. One book that made you laugh: I wish I read more funny books. I think the The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore is the last one that comes to mind.

5. One book that made you cry: I cry easily...this one is tough. I bawled throughout the The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere. It was a gift from a friend, but I decided to pass it on to my mother so she could bawl her eyes out. It's one of those short little gift book that you see at Christmas that you know will make you all warm and weepy.

6. One book that you wish had been written: I'm thinking something fun like a POP-UP Betty Crocker Cookbook. That would be a hoot!

7. One book that you wish had never been written: Diet for a New America by John Robbins. How much simpler my life would be without thinking about the dangers of the food we eat. Or shouldn't eat. Uhm, ignorance is bliss?

8. The book you are currently reading: I'm currently reading more than one: The English Teacher by Lily King, The Power of Grammar by Ehrenworth and Vinton, and Adored by Tilly Bagshawe. I'm having focusing issues. I might juggle two books, but not usually three.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read: Not that I really want to, but I've been meaning to read The Three Musketeers. I have 10 boxes of them in my classroom. I think someone intended the IB 8th graders to read it at one point. When, how, and why--I'm not sure. It just seems like a waste not to use them, so I better figure out a way to git er done. On a personal level off the top of my head I cannot think of one title, but I do have a list of potentials.

10. The original instructions say that I should tag 5 people, but that's not the way I roll. If you would like to try out this meme, knock yourself out. Let me know so I can check out your version!

August 1, 2006

Teachers I Could Blame: Honoring My Mentors

After reading California Teacher Guy's take on some harsh words by Linda Chavez, the devil in me realized that if we have inadequate teachers in our classrooms, we only have their teachers to blame. If I'm ever blamed for being inadequate, I think I'll try pointing my finger at my teachers. Ha! That thought just cracks me up!

Yes, in my opinion, I've had some terrible teachers. Mostly I can't even remember their names, so over the years I've spent most of my energy appreciating the teachers who've influenced. I'll gladly blame each of them for the positive influences they each contributed to my life.

In college, there was Dr. Davis, with whom I had at least one class each quarter. Sure, I took some useless classes from him (like an entire class on Yeats), but I spent years in his round table-like classes discussing the craft of teaching writing and literature. I avoided disappointing Dr. Davis and respected his opinion above all. The best thing about him was that he practiced innovative techniques himself, and we all learned through trial and error together. If he hadn't retired, he would have certainly been one of the first to use the technologies educators are experimenting with now.

In high school, Mrs. Forsgren conducted her classroom with a casual yet commanding air. She convinced me to join the debate team, and although I was never successful in any event or competition, I believe her encouragement released me from my shyness, and that has...well, just helped me in life. (Years later Mrs. Forsgren and I were in a community play together. That couldn't have happened without her years before.)

In high school there was also my newspaper advisor, Mrs. Johnson, who taught me a lot on the bare bones level and managed to make a cohesive staff with a wide range of personalities. I learned to accept people for who they were. Oh! And let's not forget Mr. Gillman, a crazy chemistry teacher, who taught me more chemistry than my right-leaning brain thought it could handle. In fact, about 7 years later when I took it as an entry level college class, I was surprised how much I already knew.

During my junior high experience (things are starting to get fuzzy here), Mrs. Murphy really stands out. She was such a great teacher that we kept in touch while I was in college, and neither of us could wait for me to do my student teaching with her. Of course, she was a great mentor to me as a teenager and as a practicing teacher.

In elementary school, I had two old cowboys, Mr. Redden and Mr. Gamble, who were both strict and a little scary at times. I can still see in my mind's eye Mr. Redden's paddle displayed prominently on the chalkboard. I wouldn't call these two teachers passionate about education--they were certainly not your average Ron Clark--but they were serious about it, and they expected the same from us. Plus, when we students were good, these good ole teachers could tell some good stories and jokes.

Oh, and I cannot forget Miss Heeney, who contained a nice balance of control and fun. She had interesting ways of dealing with us when we were bad. I'm digging pretty deep into my past here, so I cannot remember many details of her class, but she also turned out to be a life-long mentor for me in my heart.

I have expressed my gratitude to some of these teachers, but to others I've never had the opportunity. Nonetheless, they helped shape who I am as a person and as a teacher. If I'm ever blamed for being an inadequate teacher, it wouldn't be because of these great mentors!

Teachers I Could Blame: Feeding the Blame Beast

After reading California Teacher Guy's take on some harsh words by Linda Chavez, the devil in me realized that if we have inadequate teachers in our classrooms, we only have their teachers to blame. If I'm ever blamed for being inadequate, I think I'll try pointing my finger at my teachers.

Lordy, have I known some crappy teachers! I will not be changing names to protect these foolish educators. They had such an impact on my life that I have forgotten their real names.

My college experience was rife with poor instructors. Toward the end of my long college career I had to take yet another science class (I guess to balance out my liberal arts major?), so I chose metereology. Weather affects us all, right? My friends and I thougtht it might be a fascinating class, but what we found was that Professor Blowhard's nostrils were the most fascinating part of the class. If we showed up late, we'd be stuck sitting in the front row where we had a wide-angled view of, well, everything. How in the world could we be expected to focus with that distraction?

Professor Blowhard had nothing on Mister Principal who taught a series of education history and theory classes to all education majors. He was a nice enough guy, but his delivery was so boring and all that theory was so pointless that I opted to sit in the back row so I could study for my other classes. Strangely, I had the sense that although he could drone on about his own school, he wasn't a good administrator. Yea, like he knew what he was talking about. Whatever.

In high school, I had two really terrible math teachers that made my math experience so awful that I almost backed out of going to college when someone told me I had to take calculus. I was ready to go to beauty school instead. The first math teacher, Mr. Happyhour, had chalk-stained fingers, the worst dandruff ever, and a travel mug of "coffee" that was always nearby. We loved to catch him losing his place in solving problems on the board. Obviously he didn't know what he was doing. I tried to explain that to my mother when it was suggested that I report to his office for extra tutoring, but she just didn't believe me. So, off to tutoring I went. It was rather creepy.

The other teacher, Mr. Mathsnob, never knew my name despite the fact that I had him for two years. What was the freakin' point of trigonometry? He was another one who would miscalculate on the board, but then he'd go back and make changes without explanation which would confuse us all. He also didn't require that we have our homework done until the test date when he would nail us hard if we hadn't done every little graph. I shed a lot of tears trying to figure out all that crap. Not that he would have cared. He was all about catering to the students who understood.

The most irritating teacher I had in high school was Mr. Misogynist. He exiled us girls who used to like English to the back of the room where he ignored us. He then proceeded to favor all the dumb jocks he positioned in the front row. My best friend and I ended up passing notes back and forth while doing our tedious Warner exercises. Hundreds of them. Excercises and notes.

High school was a long time ago for me, and junior high/middle school was even longer. I don't remember most of my teachers, but I do remember Mrs. Stinkybreath had the nerve to place me as the 2nd to last flute in my section. Second to last! It was obviously a personal thing because despite the fact I never stopped forging my practice log, after that year in her band, I was never lower than 3rd chair from the top. Never. Even as a underclassman in high school. I guess it's okay, though, because it was in at the bottom of the flute section where I met my best friend. We learned to deal with being losers by acting like losers. We were driven to it. What can I say?

I suppose it's a miracle that I turned out okay with some of the terrible mentors I have had. They were just so boring, indifferent, and they obviously didn't understand me. It's a miracle I learned anything.