Sunday, September 27, 2009

No, really, I'm much better.

After nearly 4 years in a crappy rental house, the husbo and I were fortunate enough to stumble upon this fantastic duplex that just *happened* to be available for rent. It also just *happened* to be bigger than our previous crapshack and just *happened* to be cheaper. Like, $210 A MONTH cheaper. So we've spent the last 15 days preparing, painting, packing, and finally moving. We're in the final throws of cleaning 4 years of grime out of the house, and even though there are a few things left to do, I swear the house is cleaner than it was when we moved in. And I bet the landlord will find some asinine reason to keep our security deposit.

In work-related news, I like my job as a tutor, but still feel largely redundant in class. I'm not really there enough to feel like a giant ass full time, but the six hours I'm in class I never know how to "be". It's not my class, but I have an overwhelming urge to teach. To prevent anything that can be construed as overstepping my bounds, I don't say anything. The problem is, neither do any of the students. No one ever seems to willingly contribute to class discussion, and as a result, one professor in particular turns to me to answer questions. The only response I want to give is, "I already have two bachelors degrees. Why don't you ask your students?".

I do have little glimmers, though. I have a student who has "never written a paper before". He comes to me to get help, but he hasn't done any of the pre-writing assignments yet. Hell, he was provided with source articles that he hadn't even read yet. The paper is about weather or not Michael Vick should be allowed back in the NFL. Personally, I think he should be allowed to play ball again when his dogs can.... oh, wait, they're dead. But personal opinions get pushed aside when your goal is to get a student to do his damn work. So I ask if he's read the articles, and it turns out that he's read one... the one that supports HIS opinion, that Vick should be let back in. So I tell him, "The best way to construct an argument is to anticipate what the other side is going to say and make a counter-argument". Translation: Read your damn homework. He sat there and read it... and when he finished, he sat back in his chair, looked at me, and said he was going to change his mind. I got goosebumps... not because this kid suddenly decided to agree with me, but because he came to a conclusion based on research right before my eyes (okay, "research" is a loose term, but I'm going with it). I have no idea if he actually wrote the paper, though...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

This is better?

As a part time tutor at the community college, I get to sit through two classes three times a week. It's basically a high school level class, so I mostly read or write shitty poetry for the amusement of my friends. I don't have the same one-on-one interactions with the students like I did in the high schools, and it bugs me. Mostly because everyone is so quiet. It's not my class, so I can't start dancing on the desks to get their attention (well, I could.....). Even in the hallways, it's too friggin quiet.

The first class I sit through is at 8. Lord, 8 AM comes early after a summer of unemployment. And it's pretty apparent that the students are of the same mindset... especially the girl who's 8 months pregnant and comes in late every day, reeking of cigarettes. Lately, she's been sick, so she comes in, stinks up the place, hacks up a lung, and chugs Diet Mt. Dew. She's maybe all of 19, and she has a 2 year old. It kills me that I'm going to be 30 this year and have done everything in my power to *not* get pregnant.....

In the second class, I have a student who has Flintstone feet. It's pretty insignificant, but I find myself staring at them for the whole hour. He wears the same pair of oversized Adidas sandals, and they offer a perfect view of his stubby toes. In my head, I have nicknamed him Fred.

In other news, for those of you keeping score (the, what... 3 of you who read this?) my sister finally got a job. A real, grownup job with a grownup salary and grown up insurance. I am terribly, terribly excited for her, and relieved, and jealous beyond belief. She'll argue that she's been unemployed since February, which is valid... until I point out that I've been a glorified baby sitter for over a year and have *2* college degrees to her one. So I win the pity contest; hopefully the prize is a waiver for the massive student loans I'm staring down....

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I'm actually doing better.

I still have no job, and had a melt down a few days ago in Office Max over twistable crayons. Crayons. I kid you not. They were a buck, too. What got me was thinking, 'hey, these would be great for my classroom. If I ever GET a classroom...', which set me off. It's another school year and I'm relegated to subbing. Again. I hate subbing, but you do what you have to, I guess.

I have a part time gig as a tutor at the community college. It's 9 hours a week, and I basically sit there and either read or write. I've started a few short stories, which is mildly exciting. I gave up writing after I graduated from college the first time because I was preoccupied with, you know, working. So this has been win-win, I guess... $11 an hour to sit in a high school level class and write my own stuff so it looks like I care about what's being taught. At least it's not a remedial grammar class.

I also have an hour in which I sit in the tutoring center and take students on a drop-in or appointment basis. Last Wednesday, after my first class, I had a pretty busy hour, what with the developmentally challenged student whose class had been canceled and came because he didn't know what else to do (which is actually a pretty good strategy, except he had no assignments to get help with, since, you know, his class was canceled) and a guy who wanted to know if I knew how he could get the information he needed out of a 100+ page reading assignment without doing the actual reading. He wasn't even a student at the college; he's in a Master's program at a local seminary college. And this was for a Christian History class. I mean, this is what you need to *know*. This is history. Facts. Events. Dates. Information that is potentially relevant to, you know, what you plan on doing for the rest of your life. There are no Cliff Noted for 2,000 years worth of triumphs, persecution, martyrs, dogma, Calvinists, popes, corruption, etc, etc, etc... And the best part was totally when the guy answers his goddammned cellphone in the middle of my friggin' advice. At that point I just wanted him out and contemplated telling him he'd make a really shitty priest.

The hubbs and I will also be moving in a few weeks to a place that's bigger, nicer, and cheaper, if you can believe that. $210 a month cheaper, to be exact. When you have very little in the way of an income, every little bit helps. We also discovered a pretty kick-ass thrift store today after "breakfast" (it should not cost a couple $12 to get two mochas and a piece of cake, but it was nice to get out...), so when we get into the new place we can decorate it a la shabby chic and not spend a ton. It would only be cheaper if it were free.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


It's been over a week since I had that interview. The only criteria for when I'd hear back was "soon". Considering school starts in less than 20 days, I expected "soon" to be roundabouts the day after the interview. Maybe the next Monday. So I'm operating under the assumption that I didn't get it... it's almost easier to accept that. I suppose after a while one gets used to disappointment.

Hey, speaking of disappointment, I had to grovel to my dad for money again. Well, it was less "groveling" and more like "hyperventilating over the phone while sobbing after he asked if we needed money". And since I hung up with him, I go through these swings where I can't stop crying (for once in my life I hope that's hormonal). I feel like I failed. I have always had this fear of failure, which explains a lot of my lackluster performance during high school; if you don't try, you can't fail. I partly gave up my dream of being an actress because I was afraid I'd fail (and partly because they never cast my ass in squat)... what do you do when you give up the unattainable dreams of your childhood for something more realistic, and you can't even reach that? And I never thought I'd be the one to play the numbers game, but I'll be 30 in four months and this is NOT what my younger self envisioned for my 30 year old self: sitting on the couch in the dark blogging about how miserable I am half the time while trying to hide it from the rest of the world. Jebus, no wonder I'm having a breakdown.

And that "part time" tutor job, the ONLY FUCKING JOB I WAS ABLE TO GET REMOTELY IN MY FIELD is frustrating as hell, and I haven't even started it yet. I have been scheduled for 10 hours a week. Okay, part time is part time. However, when those 10 hours are broken up into 2 hour segments five days a week, we have a problem. I'm not even pissed that MWF starts at 8 am. What I'm pissed about is the five day a week thing. And of course it's scheduled so that subbing is out of the question... 8-10 am MWF, 2-4 TR. School has either already begun or is about to let out by then. What. The. Fuck.

So tomorrow I will call the interview lady and discover my fate; I will then feed some cats for a friend, call the tutor coordinator and hope for the best, take another friend's kids to the pool, and pretend none of this shit is eating away at my soul.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pray. Pray hard.

It's been a challenging summer, to say the least. I estimate that I sent over 100 resumes out this year, only to receive three rejection letters. Three. Rejections. The rest of them didn't even call. I'm not expecting freakin' flowers or a candygram... it would just be nice to know where I stand.

It's actually surprising to me that we managed to survive this long minus reliable income. My husband has been temping for less than $10 an hour whenever he can get it, and I've had to swallow my pride a few times and hit my parents up for help (I HATE asking them for money; it's not that they won't/can't/don't help... it's that I'm 4 months shy of being 30 years old and I have to run to Daddy when times are tough. I thought by now grown-ups had their shit together...).

Hopefully, this will change, and soon. I had my first (and only) job interview this morning. And because everyone else I know works, I've spent the day numbing myself in front of the television because if I think about this, I'm pretty sure my head will explode. I actually think it went well. I actually think I have a shot at this, and that's because it's not a regular school. It's an alt-ed program dealing with the fringe students who aren't successful in traditional high schools. And it comes with a real, grown-up paycheck. We're not going to be living in a palace on my salary, but I can at least afford the rent on this crapshack without dipping into my parents' retirement fund...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ah, insomnia...

Nothing's happening. I wish I had more to report, but that's about the gist of it. Unless there's a rush to fill positions in a few weeks, I have heard nothing new. And by this point, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be getting the whopping $64 a week in unemployment.

I *do* have an interview on Friday to be a tutor at the local community college. It's a 2 hour group interview to be a part-time tutor. They want to be able to "asses your problem solving skills". Because apparently having a teaching degree isn't proof enough that I can take a problem and solve it... which is the basis of fucking teaching.

I keep telling myself to stay positive... it's getting harder and harder.

EDIT- I got the job. They must love me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

As if it's not bad enough...

My sister has been unemployed since February. She just got yet another rejection after an interview she thought went well.

"You're qualified enough, but I don't feel that we got to know you well enough in the half hour interview and are concerned that your personality may not mesh with the staff."


I hate hearing her cry...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Well, the largest city in a 150 mile radius just announced their school district is cutting 1,000 jobs. There goes THAT plan. I'm getting desperate, and it's only June 10th. We are -$65 in checking and alas, there was no substantial check in the mail from some distant, recently deceased relative.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Haven't I paid into this shit since I was 17?

Unemployment= $64 a week. That is, as long as they don't deny the claim on the basis that I'm a teacher and school's out for the summer.

So as long as I can keep my expenses under $150 a month, I'm all set....

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bitersweet..... but not really.

Though Friday was the last day of school, and subsequently my "last" day of work, going in today to finish up some grading was really just a matter of not doing it on Friday so I could get paid for one more day (hey, $100 is $100....). I'm sad now; not because I'm going to miss teaching there or because I've made so many friends and bonded with so many of the other teachers in the office, but because I will miss being able to buy shit. Like groceries. And rent.

I have one more paycheck coming my way. I have to wait two weeks before I get it because the district pays subs once a month. Part of me wants to take that money and blow it on a tattoo because that will make me feel better. Then I remember that I have an entire summer of NOTHING ahead of me and that money would be better put towards other things. Like groceries. Or rent...

Tomorrow I file for unemployment for the first time in my life. Wish me luck.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

And his mother had a doctorate in English.

"I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book's autograph. I am a proud non-reader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life." ~Kanye West

No wonder my students are illiterate.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Officially unemployed. Woo Hoo?

Today was my last day as a long term sub. Well, technically I have to go in on Monday to post grades, and I could have done it today, but if I go in I get paid for the day.

I gave the vocab final to my first hour class. They were appalled that I couldn't help them. And by "help", they meant "tell the definition of the vocabulary words". And this was AFTER I gave the little fuckers breakfast (of course, when I mentioned the possibility to breakfast to them last week, they started demanding doughnuts and pancakes. Like I'm getting up to make them fucking pancakes. Have some generic Pop-Tarts and consider yourselves lucky).

Monica, my *favorite* in the class (who missed 11 days in a row three weeks ago and never made up the work) was especially pissed that she had to do the work on her own. She handed me her 160 point test with about 15 points worth of work done after only 20 minutes and announced that she was done. Now, we have 90 minutes for finals. There was no way in hell I was going to let her sit there and be a distraction for 70 minutes, so I handed it back to her. She rolls her eyes and whips out her definition cards with every intention of cheating. I quashed that pretty quick, so she sits and starts whining that she needs someone to read the test to her (yes, this IS a reading class). Because these students have IEPs, they can opt for someone to read the test to them. However, for finals, they have to either talk to me ahead of time or pre-arrange to have someone read to them. She was perfectly capable of reading the damn test. She just wanted to wander t he halls, which is a HUGE no-no during finals. We can't even let them go to the bathroom. So when I told her that *I* would read it to her, she threw a fit. And I told her her options were that either I read it to her or she reads it herself. Which went over swimmingly.

In reality, what Monica wanted was for me to give her the answers. There was no way in hell I was going to give her the answers; not after I've spent the last week drilling review into their skulls. What does she expect when she misses the Thursday and Friday before a long weekend and already has poor retention and comprehension skills?

One of the vocab words was "enormous". They had to give specific examples of things that are enormous. One in particular was "A Country". She gives the name of our town... "Is Anytown a country?" I stared at her for a second. "No, honey. Anytown is a city." "What about Illinois? Is Illinois a country?" This completely baffled me ("baffle" was also a vocab word, BTW) because she gave "Texas" as an example of an enormous state... Yet she could not recognise Illinois as a state. So I said, "No. Illinois is a state." To which she replied, "I donno no stupid countries. If all you wanna country, then y'all needs to tell me a country to put." So I asked her, "What country do you live in?" and she answered with "I don't know". So I calmly tried again. "Monica, what country are we in right now?"

" I. DON'T. KNOW."

She knew she was boned. She finally recognized that she missed too much school and she was frustrated and trying to save face and doing whatever she could to keep from going down in an epic fail. Part of me also wants to believe that this was all test anxiety. That deep down, she really knows that Illinois is a state and that we live in America. But I really can't be sure...

Monday, May 25, 2009


I'm currently suffering from the 5th illness brought about my germy children. I should add, it's the 5th illness since January.

My job doesn't come with health insurance because being a sub sucks. Here's hoping it's not the swine flu.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Oh, what to do, what to do.....

It's been pretty hard for me to post lately. Finding out the position I applied for had been filled was quite a blow; eleven days and two random hysterical fits of crying later and I'm remarkably okay.

I have four days. Well, technically three, as I will be out of town next Thursday. And it's finals week to boot. I suppose the advantage to being paid once a month is that on June 15th, I will get my May paycheck. And that, my friends, is it. At least it puts abject poverty off a few more weeks. I've had a few responses to the diploma I put on eBay; no takers, but messages of support are just as good (though $53K would arguably be better).

In other news, the students are conspiring to rob me of my sanity. Today I got to break up a hissy fit between a diva and the boy who lives to annoy the shit out of her (which he does quite well... at least he's good at something, since the kid can't read). She was making for the door, hell bent on leaving until I called after her, "If you leave this room, you suffer the consequences!", which made her stop. Which shocked the hell out of me, since I can't get them to define the word "miraculous", even after I tell them the definition is "like a miracle". And none of these kids EVER stop to think about the consequences of their actions, so I had a *tiny* victory.

Oh, and FYI- NEVER assume that a private conversation between yourself and another teacher won't get back to the student of whom you are speaking, resulting in having to field angry phone calls from Mom and a really confused vice-principal. Remember that extra credit I thought was plagerized? I never had difinitave proof that it was; I scoured the vastness that is the interwebz to see if I could find ANYTHING that suggested what I suspected. So while searching on a shared computer, another teacher struck up a conversation with me (which was weird since no one in that office EVER talks to me) and we started talking, in general, about students. I merely mentioned that this paper was suspect, but that I had no proof (remember that.... that's important). Well, a few days later, the VP catches me in the hallway and informs me that this student's mother called her and wants to set up a conference about this paper. Now, the VP has no idea what any of this is about, so rather than getting involved, she hands me Mom's phone number so I can speak with her directly. After the last parental conference, I would be lying if I said I wasn't shitting bricks. I leave her a message, and the next day she calles me right as I take a giant bite out of my sandwich.

This is when I finally get the whole story. Apparently, the teacher I was talking to is this kid's case manager. She took it upon herself to tell this kid that he's losing points because he plagerized his paper. WTF?!? Have I mentioned how *I* hadn't even talked to him yet, as I had NO PROOF??? Turns out Mom helped him, and in the past, every time she's helped him he gets accused (my first thought is, "probably because you think 'help' means 'write for', because there's not an original thought in this entire 2 and a half pages"). So all this explains why nothing came off the internet searches...

Because Mom is polite and understanding, I give the kid the 15 extra points. What the hell do I care? The kid will pass the class with a D+... not valedictorian material, but he won't have to take the class again. For a third time... Besides, what are they going to do, fire me?

At least he tries.

Today's endearing Glass Menagerie student grammar screw-up:

"Laura and the Unicorn of the set of Menagerie are very alike in many ways. First of all they are both very genital."

I do believe he meant *gentle*. Regardless, it made me laugh out loud.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


The English position I applied for in the school in which I have been subbing for the past 9 weeks has been filled.

I didn't even get an interview.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Spirit week revisited.

The highlight of my day today: being punched in the boob by a student who slammed into me in the hallway because she wasn’t watching where she was going.

Today there’s a giant all-school festival at the end of the day. Subsequently, class periods are all 28 minutes long. At this point, why bother? It sometimes takes most students about 10 minutes to settle down enough to get into the class groove. That leaves 18 minutes to work. Take out about 7 minutes for snide comments and socializing, along with 5 minutes of being interrupted by students asking to go to the bathroom, and two minutes to log into the computer system and take attendance, and that leaves you with four minutes. Four minutes of actual, viable instruction time. FML. So, in most of my classes, especially this morning, I have relaxed the hell out of the rules (without telling them, of course) and not made them adhere to strict policy. It’s not like anyone’s whipping out cell phones or fornicating, but I let them talk and crack jokes and hope that perhaps it will soften the image they seem to have of me as a harsh dictator and give them a sense of what I truly am: an honorable and fair dictator who will, every once in a while, grace them with my benevolence.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Spirit Week

This week is spirit week. The students are encouraged to participate in fun weekly wardrobe activities, like Monday's "Class Colors" event (Freshmen in green, Sophomores in purple, etc.). Tomorrow is "Sport Jersey Day". The downside of being married to an artist is the decided lack of sports jerseys. Today was "Crazy Day", with a lot of bright colors and bathing suits on the outside of clothes. The highlight?

6 foot tall senior in electric blue footie pajamas.

There's a big all-school festival on Friday, and I volunteered to take a pie to the face. However, it was by vote, and since I'm a freakin' sub, no one voted for me. It's not that I WANT a pie to the face, but let's face it... volunteering to be smothered in pastries has got to look good on a resume. Actually BEING smothered in baked goods is as good as getting hired.... or it should be, anyway.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Note to self:

You cannot help the students who refuse to help themselves.

Case in point: Monica has missed two days due to a suspension. We are currently working on a paper for the last (relatively short) book we've just read, When the Emperor was Divine. It's all of 150 pages, which when compared to To Kill A Mockingbird, should be a freakin' cake walk.

Monica has taken the test for this book. She has been in class and listened to discussions about said book. She participated in a presentation on background information on the book. She turned in a reading guide for the book. She has received the handouts to aid in the writing of the paper for the book. She asks me to help her get started on the paper. Fine, it's what I do.

So I start asking her questions about the topic she picked. And it's not like she had to think hard; we gave them their thesis statements this time. All they had to do was pick a side and fill in the blanks (The interment of the Japanese Americans was ________ because _____________.).
Every question I ask her is met with the same responses: "I don't know." "This is hard." "Can I go to the bathroom?" Not a single thing is coming from my questioning that is going to be helpful for this girl. We manage to eek out a thesis stance after about 20 minutes (twenty minutes of surpressing my urge to smack her....), but any progress she made was completely halted when she dropped this little beauty into my lap:

"I didn't finish the book."

Okay, sweetheart. What the hell am I supposed to do, write the damn paper for you? How in the hell were you able to take the test and fill out the reading guide if you didn't read?!? And when I told her that perhaps she should remedy that by, say, reading the damn book, she hits me with this little jem:

"Well, if something isn't interesting to me than I just don't comprehend it."

Someone somewhere in this kid's school career mentioned that if she's not interested in something, she doesn't comprehend what she's reading, and now the little darling is using it as a crutch. And let's not even bring up the CLASS TIME DEVOTED TO READING OUT LOUD. She'd have to read 10 pages at home at one time, tops. And hell, half the shit I read in college was boring as fuck, but I read it, goddammit. Never before in my (albeit short) career have I ever witnessed a student completely defeat themselves before they even start. And after she tells me that she "can't comprehend" the book, she goes on about how she needs to bring her grade up hardcore. Uh, if you don't read the book, you're going to need a miracle to bring up the 35% you currently have in my class.

The kicker of all this is that she ASKED TO MY FACE if she could write the paper if she just got the "gist of it"; meaning she wanted me to give her the Spark Notes version of a book I read in less than two hours. Because she was out for two days, she thinks she's entitled to lots of help, failing to realize that 1. she was suspended for having her phone out in class (presumably busted mid text), and 2. WE FINISHED READING THE BOOK A WEEK AND A HALF AGO. She had PLENTY of time to do what she was supposed to do, but she tells me that she had a shitty weekend because her "mom was in the hospital", a claim I can say in all seriousness that has zero credibility at this point, since she has a habit of lying about serious shit in an effort to buy herself time. And her father is "super concerned" about her performance in school. Here's an idea... TAKE THE DAMN PHONE AWAY. Don't talk about your concern for your daughter's lack of motivation in school in one breath and bitch about the 600 texts she sends in one month in the next. Guess what, Daddy Dear? Those two events are completely related!!!

Maybe I should go back to selling dog food. Dogs don't talk back.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Who knew anything that came from the same animal that gave us tasty, tasty bacon could be so wrong?

It's that time of year again... the flowers are budding, the grass is greening, birds and bees are trying to have sex with each other, and that can only mean one thing:

It's time for a pandemic!

Ordinarily, I am not a worrier when it comes to various plagues and ailments. I accept the fact that in this line of work, since I spend so much of my time around so many germy children, that I will get sick. And I've had 4 colds this winter alone (the standard number is 1...). And then comes Swine Flu to freak me the fuck out. It's a controlled freak, to be sure, but a freak nonetheless.

The closest confirmed case of Swine Flu is probably about 200 miles away. But when you work in schools and then hear that the schools in the next largest city have been closed because of contamination, you start to get a little worried. And realistically, I wouldn't be concerned if I had a damn contract job. And what, you may ask, is the correlation between the two?

Health insurance.

Yes, my friends, Mrs. Spatula has been uninsured for almost a year. I live in fear that I will get t-boned by some fucktard while driving, or that I'll cut myself while cooking. When I fell at school and sprained my foot, and they denied my claim (at first), I about shit myself. And now there's a freakin' pandemic on the horizon and I'm not woried about dying from it; I'm worried about how to pay for it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


A student was working on a typing program first hour. The program gave a pictogram and the student had to decipher it, then type the solution into the appropriate boxes. She was stuck:

"Hey, Mrs. Spatula... do you know what this is?"

I look over. I see a "DO", an arrow pointing to a knot, a hand with the five numbered fingers, a "Y", an arrow pointing to an oar in the water, and two obviously male chickens.

I started to think out loud. "Do.... not.... finger? Your...."


Thankfully, she figured it out before I continued with my thought. It was "Do not count your chickens", not "Do not finger your cocks".

Thursday, April 23, 2009

So now I suck at what I do. Brilliant.

Next week I will have my first parent conference. This student, ("Jimmy", for the sake of simplicity), is a good kid. He's personable, funny, and really bright. He's also really fucking lazy. The first week I was here he asked me every day to go get something out of his locker, and only after threatening him with detention and manual labor did he start to come to class prepared. I mean, c'mon... it's an English class and we're reading a novel. You *should* know that you're going to need the book in class.Especially since it's To Kill a Mockingbird which takes about three years to get through.

At the end of the unit, all the kids had to write a thesis paper. And by paper, I mean essay. A five paragraph essay. And we gave them everything they needed: we gave them a list of topics to choose from. We gave them a study guide which they filled out through the entire 10 weeks of reading, with room to write quotes and page numbers. We gave them a huge packet with graphic organizers to get their ideas on paper and work with them to make them cohesive. We showed them that, with a three pronged thesis, each paragraph should deal with one idea of the thesis statement. Topic sentences for each paragraph should relate directly to said thesis. Examples should support the topic sentence, which supports the thesis. We offered our advice and help; we did everything short of write the damn thing for them.

We spent what seemed like DAYS in the computer lab. And you know what happens to kids on computers.... Jimmy was no exception. Of all the students, he was one of the worst offenders of violating the "NO FUCKING INTERNET" rule. So when I got his rough draft, I was not in the least surprised to see a haphazardly slapped together paper without a thesis, correct punctuation, supporting details, and the two quotes required from the book.

He got a 2 out of 60.

I really hemmed and hawed about giving him such a low score. It's not that the kid didn't earn it. But it's such a drastic score...his grade in the class was fairly high- a B- and I didn't want to fuck that up. On the other hand, he didn't do the most basic requirements. He was online instead.

So the score stuck. He was rather surprised when he got his paper back; at least he didn't go ballistic on me, like I have seen other students do in the past. He seemed reserved, he didn't say much. I figured he would turn it around for the final draft.

Yeah, not so much. In fact, rather than making the SCREAMING corrections (like, I dunno, WRITING A THESIS STATEMENT) he hastily corrected *some* of the grammar mistakes in between getting busted on the internet and goofing off in class. He even took some things out completely rather than correcting them. And I know this because they had to turn the rough draft in with the final draft... I was really kinda pissed when I saw how little he did over the course of two days.

This was all a few weeks ago. Then suddenly, out of the blue, his father emails my co-teacher:

I’m the father of Jimmy Jones and would like to meet for an explanation of a couple of his grades. He received a grade of ‘2’ out of ‘60’ on the TKAM rough draft and a ‘1’ out of ‘60’ on the final draft. How can a grade go down after making corrections? Mrs. Spatula did the grading. Perhaps she could sit in on the session to explain this. I would like to know what in the content constituted ‘59’ points to be taken off and what was the only correct part of the paper to earn that single point. There seems to be a huge drop off in grades for a number of students in the class, beginning when Mrs. Spatula took over. This lack of consistency can be frustrating and confusing for the students. While I think his previous grades might have been too generous, I don’t understand how any student can get a ‘1’ on a written paper, that has undergone corrections.

I can meet at 3:30 or later on any weekday. Please let me know a time that would be convenient for you.

Oh boy.

"...beginning when Mrs. Spatula took over". I would like to think that this father isn't blaming ME for the class' decline in grades, but that's sure as hell what it sounds like. I want to email him back and say, "Dude. Your kid fucked off for four days when he should have been writing this paper. And it's not like we made them write it at home... he wrote in IN CLASS where at ANY point he could have either asked for help or taken it one of the NUMEROUS TIMES it was offered to him. I had been here for all of a week when I had to help said kid write this essay, and then I had to read 150 poorly written essays on the same fucking book, and you're bitching to ME about a lack of consistency and irregularities? I just show up, pal."

This is going to kill my weekend.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I'm sure you'd understand the irony of the situation if you knew what "irony" was...

I have two classes that are going to kill me.

These two classes each have seven students in them. Some of those students overlap. So really, it's going to be death by twelve 15 year olds. The first class is a reading class; these sophomores read, at best, at the 6th grade level. Not all of them are that advanced. The other class is a supervised study hall, since these students can't be trusted (in every case) to do their work on their own (some just need the extra help on homework).

The study hall is in a classroom that's attached to a very small computer lab. These computers will play a huge role in my demise. Because children CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT THE INTERNET. The minute they see a computer, they drool. All other though processes cease, only to be replaced with Myspace, Facebook, eBay, and inappropriate rap videos (seriously, how many booties shakin' in a single convertable before it's deemed too over-the-top?). The kids know they're supposed to PROVE to me that they need the computers before they can work on them. The sneaky bastards try everything in their power, however, to make up reasons to be on one.

The best part about the whole thing is that they think I'm stupid. Hello, it's Windows. I can see when you have the browser open, and conveniently enough, the minimized window even TELLS ME WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING AT. Feigning surprise when I bust your ass for being on You Tube only makes me angrier. And at this point, I'm the friggin' Hulk.

First hour is a whole 'nother story. This is the reading class... who will do whatever they can to get out of reading. The cirriculum suppliments in-class activities with a computer reading program, so with ten minutes left in class, we march down the hallway to the affore mentiond lab.

You can imagine what happens next.

It got to the point that I threatened to stop taking them. TEN MINUTES of a reading program... you'd have thought I was waterboarding them. They fought to be online: "I needs to check muh grade" (Newsflash: you're failing everything), "I needs to check muh emails" (WHY is everything plural??), "Dis one right heah don' be werkin'" (if I had a nickel for every misuse of the language that I heard in a day, Sallie Mae would have been paid off by week 2 of this job). The simple fact of the matter is, they don't care. They can't see past the immediate need/want. I don't think they can even tell the difference between needs and wants; everything is a NEED. They NEED to no be working. They NEED to talk obnoxiously during class. They NEED my foot up their ass...

So yesterday, the computer program wasn't working on all the computers. I gave them fair warning that we may not be going to the lab today. Today rolls around and surprise surprise, no one was paying attention to me when I made the announcement, so it was a venerable mutiny when I said we may stay in the classroom and read. One girl in particular, we'll call her Monica, took special exception to this:

"Giiiiiirrl (yes, she calls me 'girl'), you need to no be changin' stuff up in heah. Dis ain't yo class to me changin stuff in. We be goin' to the lab ebery (yes, ebery) day, and if they computers not be workin' , you need to be fixin' it and not punishin' us by makin' us stay in the classroom and be readin' when we supposedto be in the lab. I ain't readin'. This is bogus. YOU bogus."

Oh, how this made me feel all warm and squishy inside. The ironic thing is, this is the same girl who, not two weeks ago, told me that I needed to "be the teacher and not be the sub anymore".

What was my response, you may ask? Well, I had one of those seconds where a shit-ton of thoughts come running at you at once. Is she going to hit me? Could I take her? Aim for the thumbs... If I stand here and argue, she's just going to get louder. She may storm out. Would that be such a bad thing? No, but she can't be in the hallways while other people are in the classroom. I knew I should have given them all detentions on the first day to establish my alpha role...

I decided to take the ath of least resistance and ignored the hell out of her. She went on her little tirade and I told the rest of the class to open their books and we started reading. And guess what? Monica volunteered to read first. And she was SILENT the rest of the class period, and once we were in the computer lab, EVERYONE did what they were supposed to.


I don't understand this mindset. They're obviously not good readers, or else they wouldn't be in this class. But the theme for the majority of my students, even the ones outside of these two classes, is "what the fuck ever, dude". Forget consequences of their actions; these kids don't even stop to consider their actions. They have no idea when they're being disrespectful, or disruptive, or mean, and they really don't give a shit. They don't care if it's towards me or another classmate. As long as their immediate NEED is satiated then what the fuck ever, dude.

Monday, April 20, 2009


I'm currently sitting in a confined space in which the heat is blasting and a student reeks of hot socks rolled in ass. There are five more minutes until the bell rings and I'm not sure I'm not going to asphyxiate before then...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Let's see if we can beat 150...

Thus hubby's been collecting rejection letters. He, too, is an out of work teacher, but of the art professor variety. He's slowly being turned away from every position he applied for. And since his retail job evaporated about a year ago due to the corporate headquarters being run by highly trained monkeys (who closes a store that's making a profit?!?), the future looks drab. Not bleak; I'm forcing optimism here. But only because I'm not sure it could get much worse.

Oh, how about the $100K+ in student loan debt?

Like I said, I'm trying to be optimistic. But after a while, it's hard. Really hard. When today's letter came I immediately grabbed the closest bottle of booze at hand (green apple vodka, in case you were wondering). I'm currently staying awake long enough to go to bed sober. And this was seven hours ago. We've already been without health insurance for almost a year; I seem to live in perpetual fear that one (or both, god forbid) will get into an accident (because other people are morons) and need medical attention. And it's not even a horrific accident that can set us back... one false move while chopping tomatoes and we're in the poorhouse. I mean, we're right on the cusp here. Outside of education loans, we really don't have a lot of debt and are able to squeak by by keeping our champagne dreams well below our beer budget (hey, did you know Aldi's has beer now? We're living the dream, my friend). But when I say we're able to squeak by, I mean only JUST able to squeak by...

Our neighbor is a theater history professor. He's the perfect man for me to be living next too... he's funny, crude, loves my dogs, is GAY!!!, and loves theater. He came over last week for dinner with his partner (who is equally fantastic) and was regaling us with stories of how *his* professor in grad school received 150 rejection letters before he got his professorship. He saved them all.

I don't think I can do 150. But I have a feeling we're going to come close.

::drinks myself into oblivion::

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

What and when are you going to help the middle class struggling with student loans? I have, in the last year, managed to earn a whopping $10K in INTEREST on a $40K loan through Sallie Mae thanks to the 9.25% interest rate they're charging me. They want me to pay them $800+ dollars now and $400 a month for the rest of my life... which would be great, if I were employed. I'm an out of work teacher scraping by as a substitute, while my husband (who has an MFA) is doing temp work after almost a year of unemployment as well. And Sallie Mae is now telling me that it's MY FAULT that I can't afford to make my monthly payments! My sister, who is in a similar situation, gets over TWELVE CALLS A DAY looking for exorbitant payments after ridiculous fees are added on to her principal balance. And whatever interest we're accruing while we're unable to make these payments gets capitalized and ADDED TO THE PRINCIPAL BALANCE!

I don't want to *not* fulfill my financial obligations. It's bad enough that I have to swallow my pride every month to borrow money to pay my rent. But these companies are resorting to what amounts to usury, and they're not willing to work out an agreement. I actually had a Sallie Mae representative ask me what I can afford to pay a month, and when I told him I could MAYBE scrape together $150 a month, he told me that sending that little would essentially be a waste of my time since it wouldn't make a bit of difference on my account. And then he had the audacity to ask me how I was even going to be able to afford that if I can't make the $400 payment!

If billions can be given to struggling banks, what about those of us in everyday America who struggle just to keep from getting evicted? How can we be used and abused for profit? I went back to school to become a teacher so I could make a difference; however, if I default on this education loan because I can't find a full time position, I risk jeopardizing potential positions if the employer decides to do a credit check.

So I could bite the bullet, move back in with my parents (who are also unemployed), and send everything to Sallie Mae, or I can ignore the growing debt that this predatory company keeps shoving down my gullet and risk not getting the job I need SO I CAN PAY THEM BACK.

I'm screwed if I do, I'm screwed if I don't!!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The sub's sub.

It's currently 4:53 and I've been up for almost 2 hours with stabbing pain between my shoulders. I think it's gas. Whatever it is, since I can't sleep, or sit, or walk comfortably, I think I'm going to need a sub today. This sucks because 1. the students have just gotten comfortable enough with me to start misbehaving, and 2. if I'm not there, I don't get paid. Subs don't have sick days.

So I'm trying to decide if I can tough it out if I squirrel enough Tums away in my cheeks to last the day, or do I say "fuck it", call in, and try to get some sleep and hope that the students don't set the classroom on fire? Hrmmmmmmm.....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I have doubled my caffeine intake since I started teaching. You'd think I'd be able to stay awake during class, or that the headaches would stop. I suppose the latter can be attributed to 25 students all hollering back and forth to each other across the classroom....

Monday, April 13, 2009


Today I learned how to say "bitch" in Russian.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I was led to believe there would be booze...

Yesterday I experienced my first faculty meeting. Contrary to popular belief, faculty meetings do not consist of teachers hanging out in the lounge, smoking, drinking, and making fun of students. I was so disappointed...

Instead, we head over to the local university for a discussion hosted by their writing department. This is, incidentally, the same university where I got *both* of my (non consecutive) undergrad degrees, so you can imagine my joy when I found out that they were going to hand out parking vouchers, because Parking Services has taken from me, over the course of 6 1/2 years, the equivalent of the GDP of Tuvalu. And I got free breakfast. I consider it reparations for two years of dorm food.

I was one of the first on the scene, and since I'm a long term sub, I really didn't HAVE to go in the first place, but since being a sub sucks, and I'd really like to have a big-girl job next year, I went in the hopes of shmoozing. Instead, the whole thing reminded me of high school, and it's as if I were the unpopular kid with B.O. It's pretty safe to say that not a single teacher spoke to me the whole time I was there, save my co-teacher, and I got there before he did. So I had 10 minutes of sitting alone trying not to look like a loser.

There are definite cliques: the young, attractive teachers all group together. Seasoned veterans all sit and talk about family or classes, and there are even a few wannabes that flit around and try to wedge themselves into one group or another. The hardest part about being an imposed observer of this whole thing is how desperately I want to be in one of those cliques, becuase it would mean I had a job and a classroom of my own. And the health insurance would be nice...

The topic of the day's meeting: research papers and research writing. What does the university expect incoming freshmen to have experienced once they get into college; in other words, what do we need to cover to prepare them for 100 level English and writing courses. Here's the probblem I have with this: I'd say that the majority of the students I have contact with on any given day can't even write a fucking sentence. Let's not even touch upon spelling, even with spell check. There is such a dosconnect between students' lives and school in this area; they see school as an inconvenience. Or a social gathering. They don't give a shit about writing, reading, or anything that comes in between them and their interactions (oh my god, WHY does every sixteen year old need a cell phone?!?!). The theories discussed in the meeting were noble, but also idealistic. By the time the students get to us, they have completely given up because the system has already failed them.

Here's the problem that I have now... I'm a damn sub. And I'm in a co-taught classroom for most of the day, so I basically function as a support for the other teacher in the room since I've had no previous input as to what is being taught. I spend my days following lesson plans that have been implemented by other people. So how do I make these kids care? Bottom line is, I have to get them to get this work done. How much room do I have to rock the boat? I find it hard to be spending this time talking about preparing students for college when the vast majority aren't ready for high school. Where is the joint meeting of high school and grade school teachers to discuss what they need to know to be prepared for high school, so that by the time I see them, I can get them ready for college?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I am the Anti-Christ, apparently.

The assignment: Thesis essay on To Kill A Mockingbird. Choose one of five given themes and write a minimum of four paragraphs explaining your theme. Examples should relate back to thesis.

Oh boy.

Nothing kills the classics like having to read 50 poorly written essays butchering great literary works. I wish I could say there were some saving graces in this bunch; sadly, this batch would have poor Harper Lee turning in her grave (if she were dead).

One in particular stood out among the group:

First, he gets his rough draft back and sees the score is a zero. It’s not like I just GIVE grades, you have to earn them. And to earn a zero, you have to fail pretty magnificently. I was completely justified (for example, if you turn it in printed in magenta, that’s a pretty good indication that you sat at a computer for two days fucking around with the settings and doing little else). He tried handing in a thesis paper..... without a thesis. This isn’t rocket science, but Jesus, give me some credit for intelligence. I KNOW what a piece of shit essay looks like, and PINK is one of the warning signs.

He fancies himself a writer, yet he probably had ONE grammatically correct sentence in the entire two paragraph (should have been five) paper. He referred to the "...heart stopping love tail" that is apparently the main storyline for To Kill A Mockingbird (Scout has a romance with Boo??? What edition was he reading and where can I get a copy?). Words were misspelled, commas were either missing or used gratuitously where one wasn’t needed, proper names either weren’t capitalized or were completely wrong, events were pulled out of NOWHERE, and the whole thing was fucking pink.

When he got it back, he was "devastated". He talked to everyone about it except me. I offered him help. Numerous times. He told me, "No. I don’t need your help. I know what you think I did wrong. Now it’s just a matter of pride." I actually started to feel bad, but I hoped that if his pride was damaged, he’d try harder next time....

I got the final copy, which was worse. He changed NOTHING. Oh, wait, it wasn’t pink. And when I asked him today if he was SURE he wanted that to be his final copy, that this was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime redo, he looked me square in the face and said "No." And when I told him that the final was actually WORSE than the rough draft, suddenly it was MY fault for not telling him what was wrong. To which I told him, "Produce the rough draft and tell me where I didn’t show you what was wrong." And thank god I have a co-teacher in that class who had my back the whole time... because the student simply walked away. The sad thing is that he’s already failing the class, and this will only make it worse. And he’s one of those kids who you can TELL is super smart, but lazy as fuck. It kills me.

Ah, teenagers. At least by having to play teacher all day I feel like a grownup again.