Friday, September 25, 2009

The Photocopier Continues To Haunt (Taunt?) Me

Seriously. I thought that when I left my school that all of my photocopying and printing woes would be behind me. Alas, I was wrong. As I usually am in these cases. I have told my tales of copying woe before (here and here to be exact) and can't believe that I have another one to share with you today.

I mean, isn't it enough that for seven years SEVEN YEARS the photocopier was capable of sending me into a rage I still can't quite put into words? What IS it about the photocopier? It got so bad at one point that Grandpa Mimi offered to BUY ME a photocopier. BUY ME A PHOTOCOPIER! I knew it must be really bad because my family is certainly not one to throw money at a problem (more like half a coat of deck'll fix anything) and photocopiers don't just grow on trees, ya know. (They eat trees.) (Hundreds of them.) (Shhh.) (I think they're watching me...)

How bad could it have gotten you ask? I mean, I'm only imagining that evil photocopiers and printers have now followed me out of the workplace, so yeah, it was THAT BAD. I'm talking you fill out the stupid little form requesting a copy, put it on the pile and then somehow the book disappears (Bye, bye original!), no one has any idea where it could be and oh yeah, those other copies you asked for are totally going to take longer than they thought. Or, how about you recieve 25 homework packets in a timely fashion, yet the top page (you know, the one with all the assignments and stuff) was photocopied at a wierd angle so now 35% of it is cut off but heck yeah that mistake was reproduced 25 times. Oh, and the third page? That's missing. And the whole thing was collated on the right hand side - not a tragedy - but enough to make you think that you may be on candid camera because it definitely feels like someone is fucking with you. This can't be real. It can't be this hard.

So THEN (because there's more) you walk your little self and your big stack of copies-to-be-made to the far distant corner of the school (read: universe) where the photocopier you ARE allowed to touch (read: the photocopier from 1974) is located. You lovingly call this part of the school Siberia. It's that far. You are ready to make this look easy. You have your originals, your list (always need a list) and your stack of paper. You insert the first copy to be made and paper jam. PAPER FREAKING JAM! Fantasizing about that scene from Office Space where Neil Diamond or whatever his name is, goes apeshit on a photocopier with a baseball bat in a field, you go back to your classroom and put your head down. Just for a moment. To rest your eyes.

Do I paint an accurate picture friends?

Call me crazy, but as I sobbed my way out of the building on my last day (It was so hard to say good bye to my little friends), I comforted myself with the thought that I would never again have to deal with ridiculous photo copiers or a lack of toner. (Don't even get me started on toner. This post is long enough...just click here.

And then today happened. I went to Staples to print out a very long, very crucial piece of my dissertation. 251 pages of blood, sweat and tears (mostly tears) to be exact. (And no, I'm not finished yet.) I mean, that's just too much to print at home, right? I'm standing at the counter, dreaming about waiting for my order whilst drooling in the Sharpie aisle when I realize...I have been standing here for twenty freaking minutes. (I am trying to curse less...not sure why, just seems like a good goal.) Um, Staples, hast thou forgotten my devotion to thee? Me thinks you have.

In a huff, I take my thumb drive and I'm off to Kinkos. For I am a woman of surprises, a woman of mystery! I get myself to the counter where I am told it is $0.49 a page. Which would mean that copying my document would cost roughly $125. Plus tax.

Back to Staples I went.
Where I waited.
Got some help.
Waited some more.
And was so frustrated that I couldn't even look at the Sharpies.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Hope You're Sitting Down...

...because I have something to tell you. And I'm really hoping you'll understand, since I haven't known exactly how to tell you all. However, as I say to my friends, "Honesty is the best policy." Granted this is something that I usually say through gritted teeth as I'm investigating the latest case of Who-Hit-Who-First and I know I'm being lied to. That's where you pull out the classic, "You know, if you hit someone, you will be in trouble because that's not okay. But if you hit someone and then lie about it AND I find out, which I will, then you'll be in more trouble and have lost my trust." Yea, that speech is an oldie but a goodie.

I'm just going to come out and say it. Just like that.

I'm not teaching this year.

There. I said it. Do you hate me? Am I still in trouble? (If I was I ever in trouble to begin with?)

But know this. I am a teacher. (Let me say that again, a little bit louder now.) I. Am. A. Teacher. (I feel a little like I should be ripping apart my break away shirt to reveal a fabulous super hero outfit with a giant T for Teacher in a bold red on my chest. Very Wonder Woman. And very fabulous.) I will always be a teacher. And I have every intention of teaching again. Every. Intention.

Let me explain my decision because it's not just about the book. (What book you ask? Why click here and see for yourself!) (Dazzling smile.)

I had decided some time ago, before the book came out...and really if I'm honest, before the book was even a possibility, that perhaps it was time for me to move on. You see, I learned a tremendous amount at my old school and met some amazing people. Honestly. I just didn't blog about all that as often because, well, it wasn't that funny. Just fabulous. And then of course, there were my friends, or as I like to call them The Biggest Reasons I Stayed. But despite all the fabulousness, all the learning and all my friends I could feel myself getting angry, frustrated and just blah. (There's a concise word for you.) Because all the other stuff that I blogged about did happen and I was terrified that I would turn into a bitter, angry teacher. Actually, starting the blog helped me to stay longer and learn even more. It was a way for me to vent, to get it out and to refrain from poking myself in the eye. Clearly, I am struggling for words to express myself, but there was just this feeling - perhaps some of you know what I am talking about - that it was time to go.

ALSO....because as always my reasoning is multi-faceted and long winded....Mr. Mimi and I thought we were moving. How could I start a school year, meet all those little friends and then leave them? I knew I couldn't do that.

AND THEN....yes, there's more...I'm also in graduate school pursuing my doctorate. (Very fancy pants, I know. Lots of suede elbow patches and Victrola playing in my house.) (Not really.) (More like lots of staying in my pajamas all weekend desperately trying to complete all my coursework with occasional bursts of Jay Z inspired dance parties to celebrate the completion of a chapter.) (Again, it's all about honesty today, isn't it?) I am officially in the home stretch or at least that's what I'm telling myself. I am fortunate enough to be able to take a year (and my book advance) away from the classroom to focus and finish. And people, I NEED to finish. Mr. Mimi NEEDS me to finish. My sanity NEEDS me to finish...

OH RIGHT...the book. There was that too. I have created some rather colorful characters. And as I've said before, I've only ever shown one side to these characters...the side I think you'll think is funny. Sure, I've taken a few liberties here and there to make things funnier because I know at the end of a hard day, we can all use a good laugh. My intention was always to mock the system, the ridiculousness, the drama that plagues us all (no matter where we teach) and not the individual people. But I know some feelings have been hurt - word gets around pretty fast, you know. And for that I'm sorry. And please don't hit me. In fact, I considered titling this post "Can't We All Just Get Along?" because I'm quickly finding out that the answer is no. No, we can't. Not all the time.

So there you have it. It's all out in the open and I hope I haven't let you down. I do intend to continue blogging. Let me say that again. I WILL KEEP BLOGGING! My readers and commenters and emailers (I'm a writer now, I can make up words from time to time.) have been amazing, have kept me going and have inspired me to continue to speak up for teachers everywhere using my own experiences. Hearing your stories and words of encouragement have made me realize that I wasn't alone. And, perhaps sadly, that some of the problems I was facing weren't just problems I was having because sometimes I can have a bad attitude (it's true) but rather they were problems that plague many schools. (This would be another cool place for me to rip away clothes and show off my super hero costume. Really, that's a great way to punctuate a speech. Note to self - find seamstress who is able to work with spandex.)

I knew this day was coming, so I saved a ton of juicy fun stories off to the side just to tide us all over. Hilarity still to come! And now that my secret is out, probably more regularly! (Oh, and don't worry, I won't start posting about my cat, what I had for dinner or that lady who took the last bunch of flowers from my favorite guy at the farmer's market.) (Unless you really want me to and even then, I'm still not sure how I feel about that.)

OOo...and as a bonus side project (because I am the Queen of taking on more and more and more until my plate is officially at capacity) I am working on developing a Mrs. Mimi website for teachers. Very Mrs. Mimi, very informational, very fabulous. Seriously, it will become the place you go for teaching, learning, sharing and feeling fabulous. FABULOUS. I will keep you posted on this development for sure. Watch out internet, here I come!

Let me wrap this up (I KNOW! Finally, right?) by saying that I AM A TEACHER and I love all my Super Colleagues - those with whom I've worked and all of you out there who I write for. (Pretty sure that sentence could have been structured better...shouldn't end with "for". Let's see - those with whom I've worked and all of you out there for whom I write. There, that's better.) I WILL TEACH AGAIN - Mrs. Mimi is no quitter and I have no intention of quitting all of you.

Blog, I just can't seem to quit you.

(Okay, taking a deep breath and hitting "Publish Post" Don't quit me. Or hit me for that matter.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Biological Teacher Clock is A'Tickin'

And before you get all excited, no, in my book a biological teacher clock does not equal anything baby related...I'm just saying it's kind of the same thing, right?


Okay, let me explain my thinking. You see, you spend the beginning of the summer just relaxing (read: laying face down on the couch watching whatever comes on the television after The Today Show because you lack the energy to even lift the remote). Or at least I do...and if you're honest with yourself, I think you do too. This is a very necessary step in one's Recovery From The Previous Year. For me, it feels a bit like my early twenties (I'm going with this whole biological clock analogy thing...please, try to keep know how I love to beat any sort of analogy/metaphor/image to death by NOW) when I knew that some sort of future awaited me in education, but it seemed all really far know, in the world of Bills and Responsibility which I was fortunate enough to avoid until after college.

Then, as summer chugs along, you get to the point where you realize you should probably DO SOMETHING with your time off and presto! Out come the To Do Lists. How I love me a good To Do List filled with grand plans of organizational genius! I think I might be blushing just thinking about it! Anyhow, you realize you should do something and start frantically making plans for all your Big Projects. You list all sorts of things that you Should Have Gotten Done During The School Year but whatever, we all know those sorts of promises are almost impossible to keep. It's like my mid to late twenties - I went and got a masters degree, started teaching, went back to school for my doctorate...I mean, if that's not similar to frantically listing things like "Clean curtains" and "Make doctor's appts", I don't know what is. I was like a crazy person on a mission to educate the shit out of myself and anyone I came in contact with.

Finally, it's the end of the summer. You notice that it starts getting darker a bit earlier. Every major office supply store has commercials with joyful parents shopping for Back To School. Most of your Summer To Do List is complete, and you rationalized that the rest of the list can go screw itself because it's the end of the summer and you need to ENJOY YOURSELF. But, in the midst of all this enjoyment (read: cocktails, back to school shopping and sleeping late), you feel like something is missing. Perhaps it's the cool heft of a stapler in your hand, or the multi colored beauty that is a planner filled with big ideas and our beloved post it notes or maybe it's the sound of all your friends laughing at your latest read aloud. (Was that last one too shmaltzy? It felt a little too "awwwww" for me, but I threw it out there anyway. Admit it - you miss the kiddos!) If you admit that you've had this feeling, than you know what I mean when I say your Biological Teacher Clock is ticking.

So know we're BACK! And even though we all love to bitch and moan about going back and oh, my alarm clock and I hate commuting, and is it always this much work...we also love getting back to it because we are ready. And we are addicted to school. And maybe office supplies, but that could just be me. Whatever, we are stapled, papered, labeled, planned and back-up planned. We have mapped out bathroom policies, homework routines and read alouds. We have a vision of the first few weeks, a plan for the rest of the fall, a goal for where we are going. We have a PURPOSE! (insert fist pumping and high-fiving here)

In honor of the FIRST DAY BACK for many of us and in the name of BEING PREPARED (Because I learned pretty quickly to have a back up plan for the back up plan and so many tricks in my tool belt that it was ridiculous...not one moment was to go unplanned or unattended! Although really, what's with the tool belt metaphor? Like that would ever match my fabulous back to school outfit...), I have a fun story from my first year when I was, well, not prepared. (I know, can you even imagine? Me? Not prepared....insanity! But it happened...once.)

I should have known it wasn't going to go well after spending several hours crying over pencils - how to handle the pencils, organize the pencils, sharpen the pencils, deal with the millions of pencils I envisioned strewn all over the floor nameless and homeless...the horror! However, I had fooled myself into a lull of preparedness by mapping out literally every second of the first day. Every. Single. Second. And then some of the seconds in between those seconds. And I did it. I made it through the first day of school. I was mere seconds from dismissing my class of new friends when I realized, here was a second I hadn't prepared for. After my HOURS and DAYS and WEEKS of preparation, after all of my nudity filled anxiety dreams, I had never thought about the following scenario - where the HELL was I supposed to take them at the end of the day? Seriously, how do I GET RID of them?!?!? I mean, the day went well and all but it's over. O.V.E.R. Over and I need to lay down for a bit, but they're totally still here and I don't know what to do with them.

Me: (popping head out into hallway) (looking around) (looking around) (Where IS everyone?)
Super Colleague To Be: (popping head out into hallway) (looking around) (looking around) (We make eye contact.)
Me: Uh, what are we supposed to do with them?
Her: Uh, I don't know. It's my first year too, remember? I thought YOU would know.
Me: Crap. (Okay, I didn't really say "crap"...I know better, but it's funnier.)
Her: Crap. (She didn't really say it either.)
Me: What do we do?
Her: I don't know. Line them up? Walk them downstairs?
Me: Maybe we should wait and see what the other teachers do and copy them?
Her: Good idea! Why didn't we ask about this before?

So we faked it. We faked it until we saw a more experienced teacher lead her class down stairs. And then we promptly copied her.

Hope everyone was prepared today, because like it or not WE'RE BACK!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Today I Saw Myself At the Bookstore

(Alternative Title Un: Channeling, Fist-pumping and Bitches - Oh My!)
(Alternative Title Deux: Today I Spent Way Too Much Time Picking Out What To Wear To The Bookstore)

"Hello, lover."

That's one of the things I'm going to say in my head when I officially see my book at my beloved Barnsey later on today. Because today, I'm going to visit my book at a real bookstore for the first OFFICIAL time.

(Although you can buy it from Amazon too...but if you do buy it from Amazon, don't be afraid to post a review...don't be afraid at all. Just click on the little button and type in phrases such as "fabulous!" or "essential for all teachers" or "I laughed until I cried - everyone should read this book!")

Now, I say the first OFFICIAL time because, as those of you who follow me on Twitter or have joined my Facebook posse of amazing peeps probably already know, this is not the first time I have seen my book on display at Barnsey. You see, I was told that my book would be released on September 1st. That is today, in case you are not near a calendar. I, armed only with my teacher-esque need to write important dates and times in my planner thereby attaching meaning to them, assumed this meant my book would appear for the FIRST TIME in book stores today. I also thought it meant that all the pre-ordered copies of my book would ship today. Or at least that is what I have been telling people. I mean, that makes sense, right? Why else would there be this big, ominous date looming in my head for the last six months. Clearly, I was wrong.

I now think the date has been looming in my head as a catalyst for many, many anxiety dreams. Many. Some of which involve me standing naked in Times Square whilst people judge me. So yeah, maybe that's
what the date is for. Nudity dreams. (And not good ones.)

Moving on...

I first discovered that I was wrong about the BIG DAY on Sunday, when Mr. Mimi and I decided to saunter to our favorite, local Barnsey in order to engage in one of our favorite past times...improving our minds through books (read: drinking enormous chai lattes and drooling over the photos in travel books while simultaneously planning our theoretical trip around the world.) (cough cough) As is my way, I nerdily typed "It's Not All Flowers And Sausages" into that little kiosk/computer/information thingy because the thrill of seeing my book pop up on the screen is a force greater than I. I have very little impulse control. So, as is his way, Mr. Mimi waited patiently at my side waiting for my moment of crazy to pass.

(insert me typing)
(imagine me waiting...goofy smile on my face)
(insert some toe tapping from Mr. Mimi)
BAM! There it is! On the screen - It's Not All Flowers And Sausages....IN STOCK.

In. Freaking. Stock.

(Insert Mr. Mimi and I slowly turning to give each other a ridiculously wide eyed incredulous stare, pausing for a moment before simultaneously turning and hurtling ourselves down the escalator in search of the correct section.)

It was Sunday, August 30th. A full two days before Tuesday, September 1st! (Not that I'm complaining but still...I so was not wearing my My-Book-Comes-Out-Today-Outfit.)

We flew around the corner and there it was. Right there on the shelf. Five whole copies. (gasp!) Was I actually sharing a shelf with Jonathan Kozol? THE Jonathan Kozol?

I die.

Or rather, I start ugly crying a little. Seriously. I cried a little. Then I took a picture with my camera phone. Then I carried several copies to the front of the store and plopped them down on the prominent New Arrivals table for everyone to see. In that order.

And as I stepped back to admire my book (MY BOOK!) sitting on an actual table in an actual Barnsey, I thought of one of my friends. (Do I get a chorus of "Aaawwws"?)

Last year I had a very shy friend. Very shy. In fact, we shall refer to him as Mr. Shy. Mr. Shy was, well, he was shy...I think we've already established that. You get it. Enough. Well as is the case with most shy people (geez, I'm really beating a dead horse with this shy thing, aren't I?), Mr. Shy was reluctant to share in class conversations, volunteer answers or participate in anything that drew too much attention to himself. So of course, on publishing day, Mr. Shy NEVER wanted to read his story out loud. I let him say, "pass" but made a mental goal to try to get him to read ONE story to us before the end of the year.

Now, I am not a shy person. I know. You're shocked, right? But I do understand how hard and scary it can be to get up in front of other people. (Remember, I do feel a bit as if I am about to be standing naked in Times Square whilst people judge me...and my book of course.) So I worked hard with Mr. Shy all year to get him to see that he did have value to add to our class. I wanted him to know what he thought and felt and accomplished were important to our class. Together we made a little action plan to slowly get him to try to participate more. I was like Pep Talk Sally with this kid. And it worked. Not because everything I try in the classroom works, but because I think he was finally ready to take the risk. Plus, I have always found that little ones are- sometimes surprisingly and always amazingly-supportive and caring in the most crucial of times. The day had come when Mr. Shy was ready to read his story to the class.

We gathered on the rug, anxiously awaiting his tale. He read in a confident and clear, although quiet, voice, never forgetting to show us the pictures. It was wonderful. He closed his book, basked in our applause, and then walked over to hand me his writing. And as he made his way back to his spot on the rug, he (and I swear this actually happened) fist pumped and muttered, "Take that, bitches!"

So, later on today, when I go to visit my book, a book that I still worry about sharing from time to time, I will channel Mr. Shy, silently pump my fist and say, "Take that, bitches!"

Who's Peeking?