Monday, November 28, 2011

Blogger's Block

I apologize for my posts being rather lame boring scarce as of late.

But in my defense...I swear I'm not doing anything interesting. Or funny.

I used to go on terrible dates/get traumatized by online dating. I used to play kickball, have wild weekend that resulted in recovery Mondays, and spend a few nights a week out at my local pub.

And now? I work. I get up on Sunday and work. I come home during the week and work. I work, take a break, and work some more. When I actually do give myself a respite, I either zone out in front of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or....well, that's pretty much it.

I could write about that time that I uh, went to to the grocery store, but nothing really happened there. Or about how I read a book before bed. Or talked on the phone to my mom. When you're a first year teacher, these things feel like great accomplishments, but in terms of anecdotes you tell at parties...I'll have to pass.

So basically I have a big, nasty case of blogger's block. That, and the wild and exciting life I used to live is a thing of the past.

What's a small-town girl to do?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Teaching aka Flying by the Seat of Your Pants)

T. has been in some kind of mood this week. (His mom and I call it "preparing me for parenting".) Every answer is no, every response is rude, and every question is ignored.

Luckily, I know how to play the sassy teenager game. I invented the sassy teenager game. (Just ask my parents. They literally spent 1999-2006 wondering if this impulsive, tempermental teenager was switched at birth with their sweet, levelheaded child.)

Since I'm determined not to punish him, but instead help him learn to deal with his anger and frustration, I started reading a book called Positive Discipline in the Classroom. The first thing it says about classroom management is to give the student limited choices. (Both choices have to be something you would be happy to have the student do.)

This morning I went in armed and ready. This was a good thing, because T. immediately came in and started wreaking havoc. After I redirected him, he pouted, put his hood over his head, and sat down at his desk. I walked over  and quietly asked him "Would you rather get started on the computer or read a book?" I was calm. I was cool. I was Positive Discipline all the way.

Then he popped his head up and said "Neither."

Um....crap. Was there a part in the book that mentioned what the heck to do or say when the student says neither?!?!?

This is why I tell T. he needs to be a lawyer. People would literally throw their money at him in order to not have to argue with him anymore. (Chapel Hill law admissions, are you reading this?)

I sat there, stumped. I was too tired to raise my voice, so I just quietly said "Those are your choices. You go ahead and sit there until you're ready to get started."

A half hour went by, and then he magically got up and began his computer work without a word.

So I learned two lessons today:
1.) Sometimes being too tired to get angry is beneficial, and
2.) Patience pays off

Oh, and as for what the book says to do about an answer of "neither"? Tell them they can sit and cool down until they're ready to make a choice.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nice to Meet You, I'm from New Jersey

This past Veteran's Day was a wonderful time to remember those brave souls who have served their country so selflessly. The three day weekend also meant I got to return to civilization. (Tall buildings! Stores that stay open past 5pm! Bar patrons that have all of their teeth!)

The crew (Why are they all so beautiful? It blows my mind.)
Among other deliriously wonderful activities of the weekend (sushi restaurants, Forever 21 shopping) was a chance to spend a night out on the town with some of my favorites. Our first stop of the night was Dandelion Market, where I was determined to meet a law student or trust fund baby who could support my lifestyle a little better than teaching does.

My first shot? Was a man who rubbed my faux fur vest up and down (rude) and asked me if it was real. When he leaned in closer to me to hear my answer, he knocked his head in to mine. (It hurt.) Strike one. 

Next, a man who appeared to be all of 21 came up to me, squeezed me on the rear end, (usually I request that you buy me a drink beforehand, sir) and said "What's up? I'm from New Jersey."

Ummm...I'm pretty sure there's NOTHING you could say to a Southern girl that would make her run faster. Not even the butt squeeze. 

Distraught, Shannon (a flirting expert) told me to walk up to a guy watching basketball, touch his arm, and ask him something about the game. It went a little something like this:

Me: Hey there, (arm touch) do you know if Chapel Hill won their game? (Bats eyelashes seductively.
Him: No. (Looks back at television.)

Strike three. Not only am I out, but that was my one chance at real socialization for the next month or so. Better luck next time? One can only hope. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Real Housewives of Bertie County

(Note: this should have been posted about a week ago. My apologies.)

I mentioned in a previous post about how terrible I am at coming up with Halloween costumes. I'm just not a fan of spending money on a costume that makes me look like a streetwalker, or worse, that I'll never wear again. 

Hence my roomie and my's decision to dress as our favorite Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Since I'm obsessed with Lisa Vander-fabulous, so I went with a tight Mad Men style dress and borrowed a neighbor's stuffed dog to fill the role of Jiggy. (Sadly, the 15 million dollar house wasn't included in the costume.) 

Kyle Richards, Mrs. White from Clue, and Lisa Vanderpump (with Jiggy)
The real Kyle and Lisa
I found out as we were arriving that we were going to be playing a "real-life" version of Clue, aka a murder mystery game. What happened to good old fashioned parties where one person drinks too much and the rest sit around and watch as they make a fool of themselves? Way less work on my part. (Unless I am the person in question.)

However, beggars can't be choosers when it comes to social events where I live. So I went. I played. I gave up halfway through participated reasonably well. (Though none of the players would accept my bribes, which would really have upped the excitement.) And guess what? I won.

The moral of the story? Bribery does get you somewhere. (Strong drinks help as well.)  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Parents DO Just Understand (Sorry Fresh Prince)

Last week, I'd had about enough of T. I was over the backtalk, the teeth-sucking, and the whole ignoring me when I was talking thing. (Listen, dude. If I wanted to put up with this for barely any money I'd have my own kid. Now sit down. And STOP TALKKKIIIINNNNG. Please.)

So I called Dad. (His dad, not mine.) Dad's a truck driver and spends weeks at a time on the road. Luckily, he was home, so I explained what was going on (basically: your son won't quit actin' a fool) and asked him for his advice.

His answer? "I'll be down there tomorrow. Don't tell him I'm coming.)

I hung up the phone and wondered what I'd gotten myself into. Was he coming down with a belt to show T. a thing or two in front of the whole class? Was he going to fuss at me for not being able to keep his son in line? Were we all doomed? (Teaching middle school has done nothing to help ease my dramatic nature.)

And come down he did. I met him in the hallway, pleaded for my life shook his hand, and invited him into our classroom.

The look on T.'s face? P-R-I-C-E-L-E-S-S.

His dad didn't yell. He didn't fuss. He didn't scream. He simply sat down next to T. and listened quietly as we finished our reading lesson for the day. (T.'s hands were trembling every time he turned the page, which I thought was fair retribution for all the tooth-sucking that had occurred.)

He sat with us during lunch and gave T. and J. a heartfelt talk about the importance of education and the regrets he has about his own life. I was in awe. In 10 minutes, he beautifully summed up what I had been trying to get across to them for 10 weeks. 

Which made me realize something: every parent, no matter who they are or where they live, wants one simple thing: for their child to have a better, happier, and more burden-free life than they did. While none of them are perfect, they are simply doing the best that they can with the cards they've got, and praying that their children get dealt a better hand. I felt very lucky to spend my afternoon with this wise, slightly intimidating, caring man who brought one of my favorite people into the world.

Also, it didn't hurt that his mere presence in the classroom scared the crap out of T. I have a feeling things are about to get a whole lot easier in my classroom...

I'm Here for the (Barn) Party

After a long workday conference on Saturday, my new roomie dragged me off the couch, made me put my cowboy boots on, and took me to my first barn party. (Hers too. She's from Cincinnati.)

"If nothing else, it'll be a great blog post," she said.

She knows me too well. It's scary.

So we loaded the Bud Light in the backseat, drove 20 miles on back roads that wouldn't have been out of place in Deliverance, and knew we were in the right place when we saw the double wide with 20 jacked-up trucks parked out front.

This scene brought me back to a conversation I had in my classroom, in which one of my students asked "So, since you're white, does that mean you're a redneck?" to which another student shouted "I don't know many white people, but I KNOW she ain't no redneck." (Thanks, dude.)

After Roomie peeled my fingers from the door handle (I was a little, uh, reluctant), we walked around back to the "barn" party. I say "barn" because while I had imagined a large, red building piled with bales of hay, this was more like a detached garage with a disco ball and DJ. Every male was in head to toe camo, and I saw more than one lady mullet. (Let's just say I popped open a Bud Light pretty quickly.)

My first new friend was a guy named Worm. He couldn't tell me how he got that nickname, which was fine since I didn't really want to know anyways. Then I met Michelle, an older house painter who kept telling me over and over "But you're so PRETTY! My teachers were all old and blue-haired. You're just so young and PRETTY!" (I liked Michelle.)

Inside of the barn was a DJ spinning tunes by Vanilla Ice and Garth Brooks, two Confederate flags, and a sink full of....deer meat. Soaking. In front of everybody. At that point, I knew with 100% certainty that if I mentioned to anyone that I:
1) voted for Obama, or
2) was a vegan

we'd be running out of there to the tune of bullets whizzing by.

A farmer named Bob (not joking) told me that I have "two choices as to what to do on the weekends. Get drunk or leave." (I was kind of wishing for the second one.)

It's at these sort of gathering that I bring out my Southern drawl and make sure to mention that I went to an SEC school and that my mama's from West Virginia. (Somehow this gives me street cred with every redneck. Go figure.)

I actually ended up having a great time. By the time we left (well into the morning), I had all the marks of a great Saturday night:  smelled like bon fire, met a new friend named Worm, and had legs that hurt from dancing. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Little Things

When I signed on to teach special education in the sticks of North Carolina, I pictured myself as a 2011 version of Erin Gruwell. We'd play a game of "stand on the line", cry and bond, and spend the year discussing literature, world peace, and the human condition.

Strangely, things haven't really been that way.

At the beginning of the year, J. and T. came to me as thirteen year old boys barely reading on a kindergarten level. They'd mainly survived in school by actin' a fool, which distracted teachers by effectively shifting all of their energy onto the boys' behavior. These boys are in my classroom with me all day because our school district doesn't have an alternative school. I'm the alternative school.

Unfortunately for them, I'm the daughter of two Naval officers. And I quickly let them know that I wasn't having none of it. 

As of Friday? They're officially on a first grade reading level.

At first, that doesn't seem like much. They're still six grade levels behind where they need to be. But think of it this way:  J. and T. have grown more in the past eight weeks than they have in the past eight years of school.

So there you have it. Somewhere deep inside these angry, tough, pull-your-hair-out frustrating teenagers are incredibly intelligent, wildly funny, and caring boys that I'm blessed to spend my days with. No one makes me smile bigger or my blood boil faster. Our good days are very, very good and our bad days....well, use your imagination.

It's the tiny moments of our day that are the most special. Watching T. choose his own book from the shelf. J. and I laughing about a book together. The way they fist-pounded each other with pride after sharing the news that they'd both improved so quickly.

We may not be discussing fine literature, but soon we'll be reading second grade books. And that's just fine with me.

(Look for our movie in theaters May 2013.)

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