A Teacher’s View on Names

I chuckled as I read this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge about the significance of names.  Any teacher will understand why.  Being a teacher ruins names.

I don’t have children yet, but they are in my life plan.  Like any girl dreaming of her future family, I’ve tossed around ideas for potential baby names with my girl-friends and my husband. However, for a teacher, names immediately lend themselves to memories of students.  Sometimes the association is good, and sometimes I can only picture saying the syllables in an irritated voice commanding a kid to stop talking.

Tyler, for instance.  I associate the name “Tyler” with an obnoxious inability to sit still and be quiet.  I’ve had three students named Tyler who fit this description.  Unfortunately, two of them were in the same class period, so simply yelling “Tyler!” didn’t do much, because they never knew where my yells were directed.  Fortunately, Tyler was never on my list of potential baby names, so it isn’t too much of a problem.

Keep reading!

My Blog isn’t My Mark

The signs may not be obvious, but they’re there for the keen observer.  I haven’t written a book review since April.  I’ve been much less consistent at replying to comments.  My posts have dropped from twice a week to once a week, and this one is late.  The previous two posts were both responses to the Weekly Writing Challenge instead of the brainchild of my own ideas… and this one is, too.  Sort of.  I’ll explain what I mean in a bit.

Foto einer Glühbirne (an),

Waiting for the light bulb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All these signs point to one fact.  I’ve lost my blogging drive.  I still enjoy the act of writing.  I’m still floored by the numbers of followers I have – even after sifting through the spam followers that worked their way into the mix.  I still feel like I have something to give to the world.  However, I’m realizing that blogging was my place-holder for my real mission, and right now, the place-holder is starting to feel a bit flimsy.

Keep reading!

Minefields and Marriage Vows

I usually do not form a strong emotional attachment to love songs.  Most of them are a bunch of fluff that has very little to do with what a real, life-long love story looks like.  Especially these days.  Taylor Swift’s misunderstanding of Romeo & Juliet and One Direction’s insistence that “the way that you flip your hair gets [them] overwhelmed” simply don’t cover the depth of companionship, sacrifice, and effort that go into a life-long love.  A few singers do get it.  I enjoy Brad Paisley’s “Little Moments”, and Jim Brickman’s and Michael W. Smith’s “Love of my Life” is absolutely gorgeous.  In general, though, love songs don’t make me melt.

But there is one song that takes my breath away, that I actually spent the money to buy on iTunes.  I first heard Andrew Peterson’s “Dancing in the Minefields” – and really listened to the lyrics all the way through – while in the throes of preparing for our move to Boston.  I was near panic mode because the pieces were not falling into place and the move date was mere weeks away.  It sounds cliche, but I was driving when the song came on, and I literally had to pull over on the side of the road because I couldn’t drive and cry at the same time.

Continue reading

How to Make a Good First Impression on a Room Full of Teenagers

“It’s kind of hard here, isn’t?  You have to figure out a lot on your own, don’t you?”  The other sub was older than me, in her forties at least, but she was looking to me for advice.  She’s right; we subs aren’t given much guidance, but I hadn’t really thought about it until she started asking her questions.  I know how to manage a classroom, even if I don’t know the particulars of school policies, so I just do what comes naturally.  And between all the moving, subbing, and starting over, I’ve had a lot of practice at making a good first impression on a room full of teenagers.

I connect well with my students.  It’s probably my biggest strength in the classroom and a trait that has carried me well over the years.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve walked into a new class for the first time, either as a sub or as a long-term teacher.  While I’ve never really had the opportunity to see if I have staying power beyond one year, I do know that I can make a good first impression.

So in the spirit of the Weekly Writing Challenge, this advice goes out to my fellow substitutes, or to anyone else who may need to walk to into a high school classroom for the first time.

1.  Come in with a smile.  Now, I’ve heard the quips about not letting students see you smile in the first week, and I understand the reasoning.  Students need to know to take you seriously.  They need to know you mean business.  But I’ve learned that I can be firm without being grumpy.  A smile lets the teens know I enjoy my job, and I enjoy sharing a room with them.  That’s important.

Keep reading!

Strong for Someone Else

“It hurts!”  She gasped and sobbed as she stumbled along behind me.  “It hurts!”

“It’s OK, I know.  We’re almost back.  We’ll be OK, you’ll see.  You can do it.”  I kept up what I hoped was a soothing monologue, all the while ignoring each new scratch and cut tearing at my legs.  I was hurting, too, but I knew her pain was worse, so I kept calm for her.

It’s the first time I remember having to be strong for someone else.  I was in middle school at the time, spending a week of my summer at an overnight camp.  I’d befriended two girls named Ashley and Hannah who had come to the camp together.  The three of us became good friends over the week – though apparently, we didn’t try to keep in touch at all after camp was over.

One day, the counselors took us all out to an island in the middle of a lake.  I’m sure memory is skewing the size of the island in my head, but it seemed quite large to my pre-teen eyes.  The counselors had organized a game of capture-the-flag over the whole island, and soon we had all fanned out, roaming the land and trying to get past that invisible center line.  Of course, my two friends and I stuck together as we explored.  We weren’t the most aggressive capture-the-flag players, but we participated with the best of them.  However, that day, we soon forgot all about teams and flags and trying to be sneaky.

Keep reading to find out what happened!

Someone Other Than Miley

Alright, I’ll take the bait.  I wasn’t going to write about Miley’s and Robin’s infamous VMA performance, because quite frankly, I didn’t want to give it an ounce more recognition than it deserves.  I realize I live in a world where I can’t walk through a grocery checkout line without learning something new about one of the Kardashians or the latest member of The Bachelor cast.  What I haven’t figured out is why I should care about that stuff.  But this particular event has crossed the bounds of gossip magazines into even my pop-culturally-ignorant consciousness.  And so, since this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge is about this topic, and since I’ve built my platform on the potential for greatness in young people, here I am, adding my two cents to a topic that I’d rather let slip quietly into oblivion.

Miley Cyrus left a mark on the world with her performance that day.  She made people notice her and talk about her.  It may not be positive attention, but no one can deny that the eyes of the world are fixed on her for the moment.  In America’s outrage, they’ve plastered Miley’s twerking body all over the news and in front of my eyes.  I didn’t watch the VMAs, and yet I’m still inundated with her tongue-wagging image.  But to those outraged at her performance, I have a request.

Keep reading, and I promise to only say Miley one more time!

Is “Looking Good” Really All That Matters?

The Common App

How many things do students do just to look good on this piece of paper? (Photo credit: mWei2010)

I recently read a post by a young blogger considering the pros and cons of attending a well-known university simply for the sake of the school’s prestigious name.  Did the name of the university matter that much when it came to future employment?  For the sake of discussion, let’s take the question a little bit wider.  Do appearances on paper matter more than who you are as an individual?  Should you do things in high school just for the sake of writing them down on your college applications?  Is “looking good” really all that matters when it comes to universities and future employment?

Keep reading to dig a little deeper!

The Facebook Generation

I’m 28 years old, and Facebook belongs to my generation.

I joined Facebook as a college student, when it truly was ours and only ours.  All the youth growing up now constantly connected to the internet are following in our footsteps.  In high school, we chatted on AOL Instant Messenger late into the night.  In college we experimented with various online connections (Xanga, LiveJournal, NationStates), but when Facebook entered the scene, all those other options fell away.  Oh, they still exist, but none of us use them anymore.  We still use Facebook.

College Roommates Freshmen Year.  One of the first photos I posted to Facebook, when posting photos became possible.

College roommates in our younger years. One of the first photos I posted to Facebook, when posting photos became possible.

I remember hoping and waiting for my college to connect to Facebook.  That was the day when Facebook belonged to the colleges and universities.  That’s why I joined, actually.  As far as social networking went, Facebook offered more security and privacy than other websites like MySpace back then.  We had to sign up with our college-assigned e-mail account, and there was no such thing as a public profile.  Our college network plus our friends from other schools was as “public” as we could get.  I chose a more private option, limiting my profile to only my friends and blocking out the rest of my college network.   Continue reading

Two Coats

English: This is a photo of mid-town Anchorage...

Anchorage, Alaska. That looks cold.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wish I were able to tell you how we’ll buy those two coats.

That’s it.  That’s all I need right now.  Two coats.

Ok, that’s not true.  There’s a much longer list of things I need, and it makes my heart race if I think about it too much.  I wish I were more confident of employment in Alaska and Miami.  I wish all our belongings were able to pack themselves so I wouldn’t have to pack them myself again and again.  I wish my husband were able to get a full night’s sleep between all his work, studying, and stress.  I wish we were sure of a place to live in Miami.  I wish my sub coordinator were calling right now to tell me I have work lined up for the next month before we fly off to Alaska…

And I have to stop there before the panic sets in.

Two coats. Warm enough for an Alaskan winter.  At a price that we can afford.   Continue reading