Category Archives: kids
Yesterday I went once more into the breech, willingly, stupidly, but also bravely. I put in a whole day of Pre-AP English classes for 8th-grade smarty-bunnies. I know those kids are supposed to be the good bunnies. And many of them were. But Pre-AP classes can also contain many little snarky bunnies who are smart enough to carry out evil plans and do truly sinister and wicked things.
Yes, snarky bunnies can eat you, and some will not even spit out the bones when they are finished.
A good share of the problem was that the weather had turned rainy and cool in the early morning hours. That cranks up the pain input on my arthritis meter and makes me feel cranky and out of sorts. That also makes it harder to control what stress does to my diabetic blood-sugar levels. Yelling at kids makes the blood-sugar levels shoot upwards, and then my stressed body chemistry will make everything crash. Bummer. Pity the snarky bunnies. I took it out on them. (I should here point out that I am one of those teachers who calls it yelling when I quietly recite a sin-list to a snarky-bunny perpetrator and run down the menu of possible consequences just to make him or her squirm before taking them back out of the hallway after forcing them to choose the behavior they will excel in rather than suffer the appropriate consequence. They often don’t realize their actual peril because I tend to smile and enjoy pronouncing sentences.)
I actually only had a handful of snarky bunnies to sharpen my teeth on. Too many good bunnies inhabit Pre-AP classes. But there were two in 3rd period, and a handful in the last 7th-period class.
I told them the story of how English teachers, especially old ones, are often afflicted with Lycanthropy. (That is… werewolf disease. I had to define it for them, as well as the word, “afflicted”. Pre-AP students, yes, but only 8th-grade little ones.) I told them that they didn’t have to worry because the full moon was last week and that I hadn’t actually eaten a misbehaving student since 1863 (at least, as far as I could remember.)
“Are you threatening to kill us?” one bright snarky bunny said.
“No, of course not. I am just warning you that I do not like afternoon misbehavior, and I am capable of growing my fangs in the late afternoon class.”
They were mostly quiet and busy little bunnies. But two of them, who were actually best friends, started arguing with each other just after the last bell. Instead of scurrying home to afternoon carrots and gruel, one pushed the other with two hands, and then that bunny lost control and hit the other on his shoulder-blade with a slap-fist. I got to keep them after class for more sin-lists, confessions, and good-behavior-vows.
So, all in all, I had a good day at Field Middle School. I enjoyed chewing on some snarky bunnies. And I thanked the teacher thoroughly for being out and giving me the chance. Oh, and I think I earned at least a couple of dollars for doing it.
I have been doing most of these Saturday art posts from my WordPress library of images. I generally try to organize around a theme. Having exhausted myself at Vivian Field Middle School yesterday, school-ish pictures are my theme for the day.
I have a tendency to think in pictures, and these are all school thoughts of one kind or another.
Some of my favorite students over the many years in the classroom were major nerds.
I liked them mostly because they were the same exact species as I was when I was a monkey-house-aged student.
Monkey-house is a synonym for Middle School.
Wally shared my obsession with Japanese anime and could draw them better than I could. He was a major nerd. And a totally enthusiastic learner whom other students treated like he was radioactive. I always had time for him when he needed to talk to someone. He was a teacher’s kid at a time when my own son was still little.
Yes, I am doing Mickey stuff to recover from a multiplicity of bad stuff happening to poor ol’ Mickey.
My computer had a brain injury and is no longer capable of connecting to WiFi. I am now tethered directly to the modem via an Ethernet cable. It limits where I can do my writing, internet surfing, and other computerized gymnastics. My favorite writing space upstairs is now out of reach.
But I have moved to a location right next to the table where I set up my paints for miniature figure-painting. That leads to a temptation to do things besides writing.
I put paint on Princess Persimmons’s Castle while writing this very essay.
It is easy to move back and forth from table to couch. From tiny figures and paint to the computer keyboard and more Mickian wordification. (A made-up word that here means putting Mickian nonsense into the form of purple paisley prose. Like this comment as a convoluted, many-worded parenthetic expression.)
You can see that I even managed to paint the Princess herself as I switched seats between loopy paragraphs.
She is obviously eating a persimmon as I painted her.
As you may have read yesterday, I had a miserable teaching day on Tuesday, and a better, but longer and more tiring day teaching on Wednesday. So, yesterday for me was a rest and recuperation day, as well as a feel-sorry-for-myself and licking-my-wounds day. For my daughter, however, it was a creative day in which she wore the suit of armor she made for herself to school on Halloween.
I am impressed by her creative abilities. Wherever could such a thing come from? It must be from her mother’s side of the family. Me, my creative urges go into writing stories, painting little stuff, and playing with dolls.
Next week I intend to do another book promotion. I made $0.04 on book royalties in October. Of course, giving away free e-book doesn’t even make that much. But Mickey does what Mickey has to do. And he will continue to do Mickey stuff laced with both good and bad substitute teaching days until the day comes when he can do no more… of anything.
I am basically a teacher at heart. It was the culmination of 18 years spent in school learning all the stuff it takes to be a teacher. And of course, when I got my first teaching job, I had to unlearn most of that and learn a whole new set of skills. Being a teacher is a juggling act, using fifteen different balls that will explode if you don’t keep them in the air all at the same time. And if you drop one, you will likely drop them all. You will become Reluctant Rabbit Fricassee, thoroughly over-cooked.
And the bad news for those who want to be a substitute teacher… that job is not easier unless you already possess all the teacher-juggling skills at the start.
Friday I performed a half-day of teaching, four classes of sixth graders supposedly learning history with their Chromebooks and current-events lessons online. So, the teaching was a matter of keeping them quiet and focused. I only got to use classroom management skills and a little bit of conflict-resolution skill. Not really the fun stuff. Not really the interactions and back-and-forth thinking-out-loud that I really enjoy about teaching.
But I love working with kids just like those. 90 percent Hispanic, with one black kid, one Vietnamese kid, and one handful of white kids. The whole school has the same demographic.
I did most of my teaching with the classroom door open. It helps when the kids know the assistant principals wandering the hallways and trying to look useful can hear what’s going on in the classroom. That worked for all but the last period class.
The second to the last period was the practically perfect class. No hassles. Only one lethal stink-eye used by me to quell a couple of the boys who apparently say hello by punching each other hard on the shoulder. The Vietnamese girl was a perfect little darling, the kind a teacher wants to keep and take along to the next job. But that would be kidnapping, and she was too smiley and sweet for that. And I never actively plan a kidnapping during a school day, only murders. And those, like the ones I planned in the next class, are only carried out in fiction.
The last class of the day is the nightmare class that puts the exclamation point on every day for poor Miss W, 6th Grade History teacher. Thirty-two kids, more than half of them boys, and at least five that I knew right away were hyperactive, hyper-kinetic, and rocket-fueled by the fact that it was the last period of the day on a Friday afternoon. They thought it was fun to throw things across the room at each other. So, I tried to collect them all in one table by the left classroom wall (it is always easier to watch one problem spot than four corners of the classroom at once). But multiple kids, even the few who were quiet, had forgotten their Chromebook chargers and the ones who did have theirs needed recharging at the end of the day too. So, practically everyone was plugged into the wall. And all the other boys in the room were willing to toss stuff back at the five musketeers whenever I wasn’t looking in their direction. Those are the real fun times. Notice the italics for purposes of conveying sarcasm. My first teaching day in over five years ended with a class that did not really accomplish anything but cleaning up the chaos before the last bell. We spent a good ten minutes at the end putting up and cleaning up and sucking up (especially the ones who wrote their names on my list of perpetrators. Only one of those tried to put someone else’s name. Thankfully, hyper-active boys will snitch on each other without prompting and I could triple-check the names of perpetrators before leaving a “please-execute-these-kids” note for Miss W.)
So, my first day back doing typical-Mickey stuff was a success. I enjoyed it. I didn’t kill anyone, so I didn’t have to worry about where the assistant principals bury the bodies every day. And I discovered a bunch of cute little learning-bunnies that I wouldn’t mind teaching again. (Especially that last class, so I might have a chance to get even a little bit.)
Today’s Art-Day Saturday post is about the pictures I have drawn to establish in my mind the characters that make up the fictional world of Norwall, Iowa. Specifically, the kids in my YA novels.
I do manage character development and detailed descriptions by creating early on a picture of what the character looks like for me.
Of the people in the school picture from Rowan Rural School #4 (a one-room schoolhouse from Midwestern history and lore) all the ones who survive are octogenarians. Three of the survivors were at our family reunion for Great Grandma Hinckley’s descendants. My mother and uncle were there. Their cousin was also there. The school house stood on the Aldrich corner, near the house where my Grandpa and Grandma Aldrich lived, the farm house of a farm that’s been in the family for over a hundred years. My mother and Uncle Don and Uncle Larry could easily walk there. The rest came from country miles around by horse-drawn wagon.
Uncle Larry is now gone, but they have survived from the time of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the time of Criminal President Doofenschmertz Jehosephat Trumpennoodle. Things have changed. The house I now sit in was, back then, a place with a windmill and hand-pump for water, an outhouse for bathroom chores, and a radio for entertainment.
If they hadn’t endured through World War Two, and Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare, and the assassination of JFK, we wouldn’t even be here. We are the children of hardship, endurance, and conviction of the rightness of life on Earth.
We saw progress through the creation of Disneyland, landing the first man on the surface of the moon, Bugs Bunny cartoons, Scooby Doo, and the Pink Panther… Nixon and his Watergate break-in, Hee Haw and Lawrence Welk, Laugh-in… President Ford falling down stairs, Saturday Night Live, the Peanut-farmer President, Reaganomics… the Iranian hostage crisis… Saved by the Bell, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones… The invasion of Panama… Operation Desert Storm… the second war in Iraq… the downfall of Saddam Hussein… Thundercats, Jerry Seinfeld, Friends, the Wonder Years…
I am especially impressed that they lived through all those Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethons. And Leisure Suits… Aagh!
And their time is not completely up. Mother and Dad and Uncle Don still move on and go to reunions and bury loved ones… and tend to the needs of grandkids and great-grandkids… And pass on the good things to the next generation… and the next. So it goes, towards times not yet dreamed of.