Art Imitating Life: When TV Really Nails It

By Eddo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Eddo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I want to preface this by saying that I have never before seen an episode of Glee. While I understand that lots of people love it and that’s cool, it’s just not really my cup of tea.

That being said, it was hard to miss all of the buzz last week when the promo spot for  “The Quarterback” episode was released online. This episode was to be the tribute to Cory Monteith’s character, Finn Hudson. Monteith, as you’re probably aware, died of an accidental overdose this past July. Though I’d never seen a single episode of the show, I watched the promo because I (strangely) gravitate toward tragedy for some reason. Immediately, something felt very familiar to me, and I knew that I’d finally have to watch an episode.

I just finished watching it. And it was brutal. So brutal that, instead of getting caught up on other shows as planned, I’m here, at 2:15 a.m. on a Saturday night/Sunday morning, writing it out.

I remember sitting in homeroom in 8th grade and having the teacher read us a form letter telling us that another student had died. He was a year ahead of me. He committed suicide. I didn’t know him, but I was really shaken up about it because I was in 8th grade. I’d just dealt with my grandmother dying a few months before, but this was different. This was closer to home in terms of age. And it stirred up the emotions that I was still processing from losing my grandma (the first person close to me to die).

That didn’t prepare me for what it would be like when I was teaching.

Fortunately, I never lost anyone I was close to in high school. A few years after graduation, a few of my classmates died, but I wasn’t close to them. My primary observations of teenagers grieving all came from my sister. She lost a friend to an unfortunate gun accident. She lost a friend to cancer. And, two weeks before their high school graduation, she lost one of her very best friends very suddenly to an unknown (at the time) health complication.

And that still didn’t prepare me for what it would be like when I was teaching.

Continue reading

Turn and Face the Strange

Why is it so easy to get comfortable? We call ourselves proponents of change and say that we welcome it, but we settle into this state of happy lethargy and contentment. We might not be fine with where things are or where we are with them, but we’ll choose to be (or at least say we are) because it makes it easier and then we don’t have to think about it. When did it become favorable to never want to push ourselves or test our boundaries in any and all areas of our lives? Continue reading

Do They Make Academic Rehab Clinics?

‘Tis the season to be writing papers, cramming for finals, and generally stressing out — or so says about 80% of my Facebook newsfeed. I’m insanely jealous.

I think I have an addiction to academia. I surmise that it started when I was two or three and started harassing my parents relentlessly about how long it would be until I got to go to school. I didn’t even really know what it was; I just wanted to go there. I heard there were books. Faced with having to wait, which is something I don’t believe I have ever been good at in my entire life, I resorted to scribbling on a chalkboard in the basement of our old house while my stuffed animals listened quietly and attentively.

If only my students, during my actual teaching career, had been so quiet and attentive.

Scene in my classroom, May 2008

(As fate would have it, though, I wasn’t done teaching stuffed animals) Continue reading

The Fall-Back Career

Over the weekend, I was afforded the opportunity to discuss education initiatives with other educators.

Okay, I was really just talking to my friends who are also teachers, but I liked the way the first sentence made it sound like I did something important.

Anyway, as we always do, we got on the topic of education initiatives, namely that of basing teacher salary on teacher success rates. My friend made a very good point when she stated that most teachers go into teaching because they want to make a difference. Given that, it should be obvious that teachers are trying to improve test scores. What apparently escapes lawmakers’ minds is that teachers aren’t actually taking the tests for the students. We can only do so much before the students must be held accountable for their own success (gasp! What a novel concept!). I immediately agreed with her because I share a very similar sentiment. Continue reading

Letters

Everyone goes through periods in life where they feel like throwing in the towel. What’s the point? I’ve been feeling that way for a while, but in an effort to make up for the last post, I’m writing about something more positive this time. It never fails to surprise me when, just as I’m ready to give up on myself and people in general, something makes me stop. Perhaps another time I’ll explain how I’m possibly the most secretly optimistic pessimist you’ve ever known.

Yesterday, after I heard the mail truck drive off up the street, I put my book down and peeled myself off of the couch. I’ve been receiving mail every single day this week, and none of it was good. In fact, every single piece of it was bad news relating to money. No. I’m sorry. I got three pre-approved credit card applications.

So when I pulled the stack out of the mailbox, I said to the dogs, “What kind of bad news do we have today?” There was a stack of envelopes, two of them coming from the source of my livelihood at the moment. There were a few envelopes for my parents. And there on the bottom was a plain white envelope, addressed to me with no return address. I didn’t need a return address because I immediately recognized the tiny cramped handwriting as belonging to a student I taught during the 2006-07 school year in Virginia – my second year teaching.  Continue reading

Leaving NCLB Behind

On my best days as a teacher, I’d be at work at 7:15 a.m., spending the next eight hours trying to find a volume level for my voice that didn’t make it hurt by the end of the day – a skill that took me nearly two months to perfect at the beginning of my career. I would deal with common problems like classes who couldn’t keep quiet to save their lives and students who made it a habit of never doing homework. During my “break” I was working on lesson plans and creating homework, tests, worksheets, and the like. I was updating my website and making sure that the homework was available to students on the web so that they could have no excuse for not having it. Left your homework at school? No problem. Just print one off! Once the kids were gone, I’d change my boards and grade some papers, answer some emails or make a phone calls to parents. I would have to make sure my grades were in the computer. I wouldn’t have finished everything anyway, and so eventually I would pack things up and go home and continue to work well into the evening on whatever remained.

On my more common days, I would do all of that and more. My students felt comfortable talking to me as a trusted adult. Most days after school, and often during my planning periods, I would find myself with students in my room who wanted to talk or who wanted advice. I’ve listened as students coped with death, depression, heartache, teen angst, and school problems. If those students weren’t in my room after school, then I was advising (which is code for “doing everything”) a community service club that I was encouraged to start up during my first year. When all that was over, I would have to go one of two places: either to my second job (because teaching doesn’t pay nearly enough for all the work that goes into it) or to a night class for grad school. Most people aren’t crazy enough to work two jobs and do grad school at the same time, but as it turns out…I am. Continue reading