Monday, October 15, 2012

excerpts from grading

I was feeling a little down  today. Down on teaching, and down on my mission - to SAVE every student in the world. It's a tough gig, teaching, especially when you, like me, believe that every student can learn, it's just a matter of motivation and engagement.  Especially tough when you realize that the motivation and engagement all has to come from you. You're not teaching if they're not learning.

But then I started grading papers and I was cheered up a bit:

assignment: develop a research question for an observational study.
  • "Q: Who smoke more weed boys or girls? 
  • Observe different teens and see who smoke the most.
  • (I) go to four middle schools four high schools and observe 16 classes by getting a well-known jock to ask his/her peers about it and then I sit in on the conversations and take notes."
question (on a quiz!): explain how you would use simple random sampling to choose your sample group.
"I would take a group of people (mostly girls) and play spin the bottle with them. That would be considered random sampling wouldn't it."
BONUS question: for four points, list at least four X-men and the mutant powers associated with each.
"Black widow - turns black and disappears;  X-man - has claws out of his fingers"
"Never seen X-men, but I think I know the girl is stretchable, there is a fire man guy, a strong guy, and then a superfast guy."
"Wolverine = claws, Jade = psycho, Storm = weather, Wheelchair Man = physic powers"

Stay tuned for more gems. :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


The last time I wrote, I was a baby teacher nearing the middle of her training in Chicago.   Now I am a baby teacher looking back on her first month of teaching in a real live public school to real live children.
At least I think most of them are alive...they're pretty good at sleeping with their heads propped up, so for all I know, they could be dead.  But then again, they do leave like quick little bunnies when the bell rings, so there goes that theory.
Alright, so my students aren't all sleeping though my classes.  There are a few who have gotten away with sleeping if they prop their head on a binder- OH WAIT. No they didn't. Newsflash: teachers can SEE YOU. You're not fooling anyone just because you're not drooling on your desk.
Although, I do have one student who kinda roosts himself into his chest like a mama owl and falls asleep sitting up perfectly straight, most of the time with a pencil in his hand, poised on the paper. It's amazing.  Once he fell asleep during a quiz, and I debated just letting him snooze his way to a zero...but then I felt bad, so I rapped on his desk, and he carried on writing as if nothing had happened.

...So I just thought I would share my thoughts so far, maybe a few anecdotes, so that those of you who read this every once in a while will know what I've been up to.

I made it through my first whole month of teaching! The days go by faster now (they always go by much much faster than they did when I was a student) and that is partially because the feeling that I am drowning is dissipating day by day. Yay!  It's also because the school day is not very long at all: due to budget cuts, my teaching day goes from

7:30 AM (high schoolers love that) to 1:45 PM.

 Yup.  My kids get out of school everyday before 2:00. So when they fall asleep in my 7th period class, I can say to them "just wait 20 more minutes! then you can take a 4 hour nap and still wake up in time for dinner!"  It also makes their "I didn't have time to do my homework"-excuse really weak.

it's the bangs. it's always the bangs.
  • (male) Student:  "Ms D, I figured out who you look like. You look like Carly Rae."  Me: "Who? I don't think I know who that is."  Student:  "You know, (sings) before you came into my life I missed you so bad! I missed you so so bad/ So call me maybe! you know?"  Me: "Yes, but I am oh-so-glad you just sang that out loud."
  • (female) Student: "Ms. D, can I make up the work I missed this week? I was in jail."  
    • I don't even know what it was for, and I didn't ask.  All I said was "Sure. We did 3.7-3.9 in your workbook. Bring it to me tomorrow"
More to come soon!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

beating a dead horse?

I promised a lot of people that I would blog about learning to teach, and sadly I have let all of them down.  Until today.

The fact of the matter is, I haven't done so yet because I talk about teaching all. the. time. now, and when I sit down to the computer at the end of the day, it's usually to lesson plan OR (better) to do something completely unrelated that doesn't require my brain to be on at all.  Yesterday I was introduced to Phineas and Ferb and watched several episodes before finally going to sleep at :yawn: 10 PM.

10 PM is my new bedtime, and 11 PM is my new "why am I still awake"-time, mostly because 5:30 is my new wake-up time.  Also because (I don't know if you have heard this yet) teaching is exhausting.  I was teaching a lesson in summer school today about multiplying complex fractions.

Obviously the kids were not so into it, especially because their previous teacher has been known to say things like "they can't learn fractions. It's like beating a dead horse. So I just let them use calculators on the tests because they don't need to know how to multiply or add fractions for algebra. So why waste your time?"   My first response-thought to this was "my kids WILL learn fractions. and they will LOVE them."  So I poured my heart, soul and body into my lesson today and got very little in the way of enthusiasm back. Their teacher (who had been observing) said to me after "you put in waaaay more work into that lesson than the kids did. Don't do that. Make them work."   And as much as I may disagree with their teacher's view of their potential for learning, I think this advice is pretty good.

I learn lessons like this every day. Some are real lessons, with lectures and worksheets, and some are learned the hard way.  When asked to describe how I am feeling today with a color, my response was "dishwater" and it's true. I feel thin, translucent, grey, and, for lack of a better word, whooshy. But there is one thing that is keeping me from collapsing into a puddle, and it's my students.  Today, my kids took a lesson they had been told they'd never learn (or need to learn, but honestly, where does that assumption come from?) and tackled it. Even though they weren't jumping out of their seats, even though they may have been chatty, even though I wore myself out doing it, they went from 0% of the class mastering the skill to 83%.  

And that is what will keep me up till midnight tonight writing lesson plans.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

breaking up is hard to do

I woke up this morning and came to the sad realization that I would be waking up in Charleston (as a student/transfer-South Carolinian/Charlestonian) for the last time.  I graduated yesterday, and while that fills me with pride in my accomplishments and excitement about starting the next chapter of my life, it has also plagued me with sadness and nostalgia.

I have said goodbye to a lot of people I love and "see you later" to the ones who can never be rid of me,  but I am still grievously sad (as anyone within 40 feet of me can attest - I have cried a lot this week).  Why am I so sad though? This is the beginning of something new, even though it means the end of something beloved.   And then I realized why I am so weepy:

I am breaking up with Charleston.
I took this picture at Freshman Orientation, Summer 2008 :)

I once joked on Facebook that I was "in a relationship with the city of Charleston" and "it's complicated."  Complicated because so many people are in the same relationship, I think. Or because in the summer it gets really hot and smells like garbage and/or fish. Sometimes it's hard to love that. But I did.

In the summer I would joke that I was "in a long-distance relationship with the city of Charleston."   I would start to have dreams about just walking the streets, I missed it so much.  And then a month would go by and it would be time to move back. And I would roll down the windows as we drove into the city and say "it smells like beach" and smile.  And I would unpack and take a walk around the city, wishing on several occasions that it were possible to give the city a BIG I-missed-you hug.  (I had to settle for a lamppost. There was gum on it...)

I haven't experienced very many break-ups, and they have never been too devastating, and I think that's because I have never truly been in love.  Until I moved to Charleston.

I know it's a break-up (and that's why I am so inconsolably sad) because:
  • Every song is about us.   (me and Charleston, that is.)  Driving home from my parents' hotel room the other night, I heard two songs on the radio and I wanted to cry.  These are songs that I have heard millions of times before and on the surface have nothing to do with graduating or leaving or anything really. They were:
    • Hold on Loosely - 38 Special   "usually it's too late when you/ realize what you had/ so hold on loosely/and don't let go...etc."
    • Mr. Jones - Counting Crows  "when everybody loves you/ you can never be lonely"
    • thank goodness I didn't hear the Cheers theme or James Taylor or "How Far We've Come" or something otherwise reminisce-y.  Looking at these lyrics now, it seems really stupid, but the other night these songs were about meeee.  And that's how I know it's a break-up. Because I am acting crazy.
  • When people say "you can still come visit!"  what I hear is "we can still be friends...."  Visiting is such a hollow mockery of our relationship it makes me sad to think about it. I will always belong here, but I won't belong to Charleston the same way ever again.
  • I know that this is "for the best" but I don't care. We will both go on to grow and flourish. But I am allowed to be sad about something wonderful ending. So damn it, I will be sad. 
So goodbye, Charleston.

It sucks to leave you.  I will always have a HUGE place in my heart for you and for the College and all the wonderful people I met as a happy consequence of moving here four years ago.  I will miss you. I will miss the Farmer's Market and praline samples and Charleston Christmas traditions and nuns and church bells and crooked streets and lampposts covered in gum and old houses and boarded-up fireplaces and seagulls and the Cooper River Bridge and horse-drawn carriages and alleyways and the Battery and bicycles and the best cupcakes I will ever eat. I will probably never stop dreaming about walking these streets with the people I love.
Stay beautiful, Charleston.  I will be back to visit (we can still be friends).

I've cried a lot about leaving here, but this morning when I looked out my window I knew it was never a one-sided relationship:  Charleston was crying too.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

today on the internet...

I just came back from practice for my graduation from the College.  Cray-zay.   And now that I have the time (which I should be using to do laundry, pack my stuff, and...I don't know...learn French) I am going to regale you with commentary on ridiculous things I found on the internet today.  

I checked the weather this morning (hoping it would rain again so I didn't have to sit on the stage in the blazing sun) and noticed that has made some updates.  Again!  I feel like they do a redesign every other week.  Those people are on the ball.   Anyway. Today I noticed a new feature:

That's right. It says "Alert me when it rains."  A useful feature for...cave dwellers? People without windows? Maybe, but chances are that if you aren't already outside or can't see outside, you won't be going outside soon. And if you did, you would probably be able to tell when you got there. I'd hope.

 It doesn't say "alert me when there is a hurricane" or "alert me when there is a deadly waterspout hell-bent on making it inland and headed straight for my house" or "alert me when ash falls out of the sky after a Super Volcano-type situation cuz then I will probably need more than a poncho." It says "alert me when it rains." I am curious to know how many people use this application and why.  But that's for another day.  

OH! also lets you know about weather-related "trending" topics from Twitter users in the area.   And surprise! Today's trending topics are "rain," "raining," and "sunny."  Fascinating.  Potentially useful/interesting if the topics are "blood rain" "locusts" or "aliens??"  But for now... it's a bit redundant.

Another thing that caught my attention (potentially more stimulating than updates) was this article about the new cover for Time Magazine. It's about the mother breastfeeding her almost-four-year-old son. Here's the picture:
Oh my! Controversy! That child is wearing army pants! 
OK, setting aside anything implied by the actual Time article or the headline ("Are you mom enough?" really? Time Magazine, why you always gotta be startin' sumthin?), the article about the article was pretty inflammatory and stupid.  The url for the Gawker article is "" GIANT preschool son's mouth? I don't know all of his parentage, but I doubt he is even half-Giant. Does he look like a child of Hagrid? No.

The final questions are designed to get commenters into a frenzy.  The first two are valid:
  • How does this cover make you feel? 
  • Will it haunt [the child's] future? 
but of course, even these questions elicit the most heinous internet responses:

"Wish I was that Kid so I can have my mouth on those sweet jugs : )"    classy.

"Not being breast feed had NOT ONE negative effect on me and I'm closer to my parents than some of my peers. My first cousin breastfeeds her children until they're almost two years old and they're allergic to almost everything under sun!"  to which someone responded: "maybe if you had been breast fed you would understand the concept of sample sizes"    hahaha touche.

 And then people just started getting sarcastic..."Breastfed toddlers are also Giant Pussy Crybaby Whiners. See Science publication Vol456. The correct feeding method is Mountain Dew in a bottle with Kool ashes flicked on the head."

And this gem:
 "First of all he is four and his brother is five, and they both breastfeed. That is way beyond the point of normalcy, whether you agree with that or not ("normal" is relative, but that is a fair point, this is not average behavior). And I only took 4 classes in psych in college (please, please don't brag about this. By starting your sentence this way I have already stopped listening to you) but I am quite sure (you are the expert opinion here) that the kid will develop a different bond with people than most. It is likely that he will be much more needy for companionship (not true - several studies show similar levels of attachment to peers as well as fewer problems weaning off of transition objects like teddy bears and security blankets) since for 4 more years he had to attach himself to his mother for nutrition (what? pretty sure he ate other food - otherwise he would not be the "Giant" you claim he is) while all other kids were learning to eat by themselves. I'm not saying it's a certainty, but it is a likelihood that could prove a major problem later on in life."

I am not going to take a side on this.  I am not going to use anecdotal evidence and say "I know people who breastfed past the age of four and they turned out pretty OK fine" because that is the kind of reasoning these commenters use and it is completely ineffective.  What I will say is this: people on the internet are stupid. I do realize the irony of writing all this on the internet, yes.  But just remember that opinions are opinions and facts are facts. And please don't pretend to be an expert and then admit to not being one in the same sentence.

Also, just FYI, I have never before seen the word "tits" used this many times in a comment section about a Time Magazine article. ever.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Guest Blog: The Modern American State of Vegans and Vegetarians

After a few months of radio silence, I come to you with something a little different.  I present to you my first guest blog, written by a friend of mine very interested in many things.  I can't think of a funny name for this person, so for now Guest Blogger is anonymous.  But you might be able to guess who it is.

On today's menu: the state of meat and those who eat it (or don't).


Firstly, allow me to go ahead and say that I am not a vegetarian, though I have been in the past (however I’ve never given up eggs, butter, and whole unpasteurized milk, meaning I have never been a vegan, probably not even for a day) for about a year. Meat is definitely on my menu these days, though in a very small ratio compared to veggies. While I feel that there is substantial reason to eat meat and little to no reason to not eat it (in a responsible way, of course), I will leave that soapbox unoccupied for now.  Much more important issues are at hand regarding modern conceptions of vegetables and vegetarians.

A recent news article in the New York Times was published about the hard knock lives of today’s vegans and vegetarians, with their main gripe being the unsatisfactory nature of meat and dairy replacement products. The cost and taste of such products are discouraging to them, and certainly factor into the likelihood of a person remaining on their “vegetarian” diet. Let me go ahead and tell you that, from a year’s worth of vegetarianism (with the occasional exception, of course), it is neither expensive, nor bland. In fact, cutting the (usually) substantial meat portion from your grocery bill and upping your intake of veggies is probably the most budget-friendly thing you can do, but this is where people get into trouble. Vegetarians today aren’t really eating “vegetables” anymore; they are eating insanely processed vegetable-based meat alternatives, which are costly and very unhealthy.

Here’s a quote that we will examine from the NY Times article (April 17th, 2012, page D6)…

“…even a box of Gardenburgers is 4$ - which doesn’t seem expensive, but when you compare it to the meat counterparts, it’s so much more” –Megan Salisbury

I can’t pass on the irony of her last name… Salisbury steak anyone?

But I digress… it’s more expensive to purchase gardenburgers because a team of scientists had to concoct this disgusting excuse for a meal and marketers had to find clever ways to sell it to unsuspecting and under-informed consumers. Check out the nutrition label on Morningstar Farms’ “Garden Veggie Patties”. You will be surprised to find eggs (definitely not vegan) textured vegetable protein (what sort of “garden” does that grow in?), and a good bit of soy (which we now know is unhealthy when processed, and vastly more beneficial in it’s traditionally prepared fermented forms).

Beef patties however (grass-fed and pastured, preferably), are comparably inexpensive because you only have to do three things to the beef to eat it as a burger: get it off of the cow, grind it, and grill it up.

I will say I have purchased gardenburgers before, and from experience, they are disgusting and horrifically expensive. Save yourself the trouble and buy some real vegetables instead.

The modern state of American vegans and vegetarians is that they are being sold a half-truth at a high price. The health benefits and morality of eating only vegetables is underscored while the actual implementation is perverted, obscured, and capitalized upon to the benefit of such “food” companies as Morningstar Farms and Turtle Island Foods (evil and unhealthy institutions, if you ask me), who prey upon the naivety of their customers.

Why must a newly christened vegetarian seek out costly and often unhealthy alternatives to meat and where does this notion come from? Is it some sort of cardinal sin in modern America to go for a period of time without some form of “burger” or “cheese”? If vegetarians (and people in general) committed themselves to eating and buying real food and not food products, they would…

1.      Spend much less money
2.      Be much more healthy and…
3.      Be “voting” with their dollars for higher quality food.

Before I would advocate any type of nutritional/dietary regimen, exercise routine, or other healthy habit I would say this first and foremost:


This goes for anyone, vegetarian or otherwise, because it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. Put down the twizzlers and have some beets (nature’s candy), cut back the soda and just have some water or juice, forget the frozen “veggie”-burgers and have a salad. There are real vegetables to be had, and they are really good for you.

Here are some tips for you aspiring vegetarians.

1. Eat real vegetables.

I can’t stress this enough, and it’s so simple that it’s almost unreal. Real, fresh from-the-earth vegetables are remarkably healthy for you; they’re packed with micro-nutrients and are relatively lacking in any of the saturated fats or preservatives you should be afraid of.

2. Try a farmer’s market.

Here you’ll find all the local healthy eats that you could possibly want (provided that your farmer’s market is actually focused on selling food, and not touristy garbage). Support your local farmers and they’ll trade you in kind for desirably fresh and healthy vegetables.

3. Learn how to cook.

Simply put, by making your own meals you can know exactly what goes into them. When you buy packaged, frozen meals or weird meat alternatives (The Frankenstein-like “Chik’n”, for instance) you run the risk of ingesting undesirable preservatives or hidden ingredients that you hadn’t expected. Plus you’ll be a great entertainer and slightly more marriageable.

Good food is good for you.

Monday, February 27, 2012

I have been pretty stressed out lately, and noticing a few indicators of anxiety neuroses.

anxiety:  "an unpleasant emotional state for which the cause is either not readily identified or perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable"   


I started to ask questions: When did these start? Why am I so sensitive? Why do I feel like I am stressed or anxious all. the. time? 
How come some people can calm down and not me? (apparently, only 18% of Americans. SO 82% of Americans are anxiety free most of the time! no fair!)
Why do I only ever use the left-hand "Shift" key?

That last one has been bugging me for a while now, actually.

Anyway, I started looking back on my life and noticing flare-ups of stress, but a general anxiety blanket over most of my thoughts starting around high school.  So naturally I thought it must have started around there. Something about the universally traumatic experience of post-pubertal development within a public high school plus braces plus orchestra minus cool equals inevitable generalized anxiety problems. 

BUT, as I pointed out earlier, not everyone has these chronic problems. Clearly.

And then, remembered for a completely different reason, a fully formed memory floated into my head:..... (bubbly dream sequence harp playing)...

I was walking behind my church, leaving after some post-Mass event or other, and I was worriedly asking my mother what I would have to know to make my First Communion.  I remember that it was warm and sunny outside, with fluffed pine straw in the landscaping to the right of me and the carpool lane on my left. I remember seeing everything from my much smaller 7-year-old height and the hum of the generator behind the old gymnasium. 
And I remember someone telling me "'re going to be quizzed on all the priest's homilies. I hope you were paying attention..." 
and all of this, the carpool lane, the generator, the pine straw swirling around me as anxiety scooped me into it's dizzying arms.
 ...I haven't been paying attention, I worried, I'm not going to get it. I'll never get it. I'll be old and wrinkly and no one will give me the Eucharist...

Something in his voice (and the laughter that followed the statement) told me he was kidding, but I couldn't undo the worry. And I didn't - not until I finally did make my First Communion a few agonizing months later (during which I spent every Sunday willing my attention to the priest at his pulpit and begging my brain to remember it). 

And so the pattern goes.
  1. Evil thoughts.
  2. Needless worry
  3. Needless worry
  4. must calm down.  CALM DOWN.
  5. Oh no!! [insert worry here] is about to happen...
  6. Oh, what? [insert worry here] already happened? And everything's fine? Oh. Phew.
  7. repeat. ad nauseum.
 Moral of the story: Claire has been like this for a while.

I don't know if you can tell, but I'm about to graduate from college. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

don't forget to breathe

Life has been stressful lately. I'm going to live in this song for a while.

And all the suffering that you've witnessed
And the hand prints on the wall
They remind you how it's endless
How endlessly you fall

And the answer that you're seeking
For the question that you found
Drives you further to confusion
As you lose your sense of ground

So don't forget to breathe
Don't forget to breathe
Your whole life is here
No eleventh hour reprieve
So don't forget to breathe

Sorry if this bummed you out.