sols_6I’m not the same after a time change. Spring forward, fall back…it doesn’t matter because my internal clock just gets all confused. Either I can’t sleep, or I wake up too early. It reminds me that I need to look at where I am teaching-wise, and what I have left to do (Don’t ask why time change makes me think about teaching, but it does!).

Anyway, it’s also progress report time — AGAIN. I’m pretty sure I’ve written here many times that grading is my least favorite part of teaching. My students who never turn anything in always seem to want/need confirmation that they really haven’t done anything, and my students who complete everything get assurance that I see them!

So, as I try to get my body’s clock back into rhythm, and my students’ progress-report-temper-tantrums contained, The Foo Fighters sing me advice. My man, Dave Grohl (who is more than welcome to give me advice personally any day of the week!!), usually can make me remember what is important. His song-writing this time tells me that even though things change, that change can be good. It’s okay that the time changed; I’ll adjust. It’s okay that my students seem shocked with poor grades; maybe this time they will change. It’s okay that work is stressful at the moment; Spring Break is right around the corner.

Thanks, Dave!


sols_6Being a high school teacher toughens a girl up. I’ve come to believe that without some toughness, a girl can be doomed. Teenagers treat their teachers like a girlfriend they can’t dump. First they act like you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. You think everything is going along fine: they are reading, writing when you ask, talking about their literacy. Then, it’s time for checking papers and assigning grades, and BAM!!! Where did the love go?

When it first happens — not matter how long you’ve been teaching, this always takes you by surprise! — you think it’s you. You haven’t used English words. You haven’t tapped their learning style or dominant left-brain/right-brain strategy. You gave them too much freedom….You didn’t give them enough freedom. You change their seating, their assignments, their technology. Everything is wrong, but nothing works. Even your teacher friends are helpless.

Then you get mad. The students aren’t taking you class seriously. They tried to trick you into thinking they wanted a good grade; they wanted to learn. Then you yell at them, and you realize that the only ones who are remotely listening are the ones who normally do their work. You have them in tears — they don’t know what they’ve done wrong! Then you get even madder because the “bad” ones are laughing at your tirade; one of them raises his hand and says, “Hey, ain’t you acting like one of them ar-key-types you told us about? One of them shoes?” You shake your head because even though he got the word wrong (he meant “shrew” of course), he got the idea correct.

Then, being the good teacher that you are, you go on a Google search — there has to be something some smart savant has come up with to help with the little kiddoes problems. So you get an answer that looks like this:


Apathy search

Yeah…that says a million sites. A MILLION!!!! Now you realize that you aren’t the only teacher dealing with students who don’t feel a connection to school — the one place you could call safe when you were little. How can that be? You immediately realize this is a dumb question because there were classmates you remember from school who didn’t want to be there and who didn’t graduate. You know the problems they dealt with and are still dealing with (you have a Facebook, for crying out loud!) for not having a good education.

While you’re thinking about your students, your kid yells at the pretend class she’s teaching to “BE QUIET, I SAID! NO, WE ARE NOT GOING TO READ OR WRITE STORIES TODAY! YOU HAVE BEEN TOO BAD AND ALL OF YOU ARE IN TIME OUT! AND NO RECESS!!”

So now you know this school-hate starts from little school where we (the teaching profession) ruin little kids and their tender feelings. We have retarded their curiosity — especially if the student is male. We don’t think they can write their own stories or read books not on their “level.” We stop teaching science and social studies in favor of test prep. They move to upper grades where their teachers are trying, but aren’t able to help them get that Kindergarten love back. And we test them ALL THE TIME. AND ALL THE TESTS ARE “IMPORTANT”!

And just when you know all is lost and you start writing about your frustrations, maybe your kid sees you writing and does this:

Lily writesAnd you think that maybe you’re doing something right after all.


Teaching makes me so tired. Some days, I’m so exhausted by 1:30 that I don’t know if I’ll make it the rest of the day. But I do. I’m not doing any heavy lifting — nah, nothing fun like that. No, my brain has been differentiating, counseling, instructing, herding cats (my students, of course), nagging, reading and writing. Phew…I’m tired all over again!

So on days like this, I need a little pick-me-up. TV? No. Exercise? I wish! Nope…I think about my little children in a Proms & Potties episode!!1

Proms    travel-the-world

Okay, well, Jake is a junior in college and doing well. He’s all on his own — except he refuses to try to find a job. But…he’s finding free things to do, mooching off his friends, and living on the measly $100 I give him each month. But he wants to leave me. Yep, he called last week to say that he wants to study abroad (cue the crude “I-hope-she’s-cute” joke). First, it was South Africa; then, Ireland; my favorite, New Zealand; settled on London. Yes, I’ll let him go–that’s my job. But I’ll cry and worry every day. Wonder if he’ll call or forget his raincoat. What if he doesn’t meet any friends? Or what if he gets mugged? Or worse, what if he gets a job, loves it, and gets an offer to move there. Can I be a separate-continent kind of mommy?


Just like Jake, Lily has started leaving me. We went to the bookstore a few days ago, and the LilyBelle said she had to go to the bathroom. I told her to wait because I had just sat down…and SHE SAID, “I’LL GO BY MYSELF”!!! Yep, I couldn’t believe it either. After the go-to-the-bathroom-by-myself incident, she spent the night with our next-door neighbor. Then, I had to take her to a basketball game with me (I had gate-duty); Lily with some of my students, found a friend she knows, and proceeded to run around for an hour meeting new people, seeing one of her teachers, and hugging on the teachers I work with. I didn’t see her for the two hours I was taking up money.


So…even though I’m brain-dead practically from teaching all day, my sweet, sweet babies always give me much more to think about. I can deal with it. Hopefully!! ;)

Okay, well, I haven’t been writing this week. I’m going to play the CANCER card because I’ve felt like hell all week. Turns out, the third round of chemo does NOT do a body good! Much more tired and many more bone aches this time. I know, I know….there’s no excuse, Steph…you take on a challenge, you should complete each day. All I can say is, I’m sorry — and I hope my acrostic poem brings joy! Until Tuesday, my peeps (Promise!!).

March Madness

My writing may never be the best,

And sometimes I post a little late.

Right now, though, all I

Can think is

How much fun I have:

Sharing my stories…

Or reading other bloggers’

Life-moments… and

Seeing another March


In my neverending quest for my March Slice of Life to NOT be a cancer journal, I of course have another entry about that very topic! haha…I spent last night in the hospital for running a fever and having a very low white blood cell count. My favorite part of the night was sitting in the patient room from 9:15pm or so until 3:00am with no medicine at all, and my fever just sort of disappeared. The doctor who finally saw me around 11:45 told me he was admitting me over night because they couldn’t figure out why I had a fever. I was in a “whatever” mood, but I should have gone with my instincts and left at midnight. When I made Kevin go and complain, the nurse told him that some people had been there for eight hours and hadn’t been seen yet. I find that abhorrent. And wrong.

But, I told all the docs and nurses I came in contact with me they they had until 1:00pm on Friday to do what they were going to do because I had a ticket to see The Hunger Games movie at 2:00. They got me out around noon…I went home for an hour to shower and rest….and went to my movie. However, my oncologist called during this time, and Kevin kept calling and texting — these messages I didn’t get until the movie was over. Apparently, my oncologist was all mad that the hospital had let me leave, that they hadn’t treated the low blood count, they didn’t give me the right kind of medicine, and, most horribly….that I had gone to a movie, thus exposing myself to massive amounts of germs.

Well, that’s just too bad! I had on my Katniss bow & arrow earrings and my District 12 Tribute bracelet and Mockingjay pin. There was NO STOPPING me from seeing that movie!! It was sooooo worth getting in trouble!

(Lest anyone worry, I’ve been in time-out since!)

I’m scoring TAKS tests for Pearson Testing, just to earn some extra money since I’m not working. The last time I scored writing tests, it was for the NC 10th grade test, and I totally sucked — even though I taught the flipping test! The problem is the rubric! I can’t understand it — it’s too full of holes and so open to interpretation. And I could hardly get the anchor papers right — either too high, or too low. Then, I didn’t last much more that two weeks because they “pride” themselves on the scorers reliability & validity — HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. So, I’m not sure why they offered me another position (actually, I’ve gotten other email invitations, but have not really had time to try again).

I’m doing the same thing now. I read a paper, don’t really pay attention to the mechanics because I wouldn’t on a first read with my students, and give the score I think goes along with the Texas rubric. Right now, I’m at about 63% accurate with the anchor papers. I hate it…and I’m thinking this is not worth the stress I’m feeling. The writing is so different than in NC — but still ALL narratives! It’s amazing to me that these kids can pick any type of genre to respond to the prompt, except poetry, and the majority write personal narratives. I don’t feel too bad about my writers because these kids don’t really use paragraphing either…and most of them can’t use homophones correctly to save their lives — so it’s NOT just in MY classroom! haha….

But some of these papers are heart-wrenching pieces. I want to flag most of them and tell the supervisors they better be calling those schools to get the kids some freaking counseling! If I’m not reading about sex/physical abuse and parental drug use, I’m reading about how much better they feel because God’s in charge of their lives. I’m wondering what the hell’s going on in Texas?! haha…

Maybe I can hang on and make a little vacation money – or even enough to get Jakey-poo an iPad for his birthday….but if I keep acting like I’m a National Writing Project alumni instead of some bum off the street reading stupid papers….I definitely won’t!!

Any advice?

Okay, well, it’s a Slice of Life…and my “life” right now is BORING. If you read my blog, you know I’m going through chemotherapy for breast cancer (if you’re a new reader, I won’t bore you).

Yesterday, I bought a new wig and 4 hats. Kev loves the wig:

I think it looks sort of like my hair about 6 years ago…I had cut off about twelve inches and donated it to the Locks of Love charity. They make real hair wigs for children with cancer.

Anyway…This is my life today. I probably should have taken an idea from Mary Helen’s post about her van, but I didn’t read it in time!! Another time, maybe. For now…I’m just going to remember “me” — the real me….the one who isn’t tired or practically bald or a cancer statistic. Yay, me!! :)

But remember….







A few weeks ago, I had almost decided to not participate in the SOLSC because I’d have nothing to write about. I’m not in the classroom this semester, and the thoughts of writing about a boring life on the couch watching tv or reading just seemed antithetical to the challenge’s goal: to find the little things in life that matter. Obviously, I changed my mind, but only because I promised myself that it wouldn’t be a “cancer journal” — my slices had to be about something else — something funny or something weird or something thoughtful.

But then, this morning, this happened:

It’s a week before my second chemotherapy treatment…I knew that my hair would fall out. I didn’t expect that my body would betray me so suddenly, blowing raspberries in my face, singing “Na na-na na na na.”

My feelings are hurt, though. I know that we aren’t our boobs or our arms/legs or our hair. I know that the hair will grow back. But it doesn’t really help to hear stuff like that. I know I should be grateful that I’m cancer-free, and that the chemotherapy is a precaution. I know I only have to have four treatments, so it’s “not so bad.” I know that this will be over soon.

But today, as the birds outside are singing to each other about all the juicy worms laying on the rain-soaked grass, I’m just pissed. The truth is, I don’t want this to be happening to me. I’m the caretaker — not the taker of care! All I want to do is hole up in a dark room (with a flashlight, so I can keep reading, haha), and not have to interact with anyone, not even my family. I don’t want my kids to see me like this — it bothers them, especially Jake, when I’m upset or sick. I don’t want to have to put on my happy face and make jokes about baldness and put everyone else at ease by wearing my (sexy) wig. I want to be by myself, in my warmest pajamas and sweater, cap on my head, and for everyone to leave me alone.

Kevin told me this morning that “This is life; we go through stuff.” He wasn’t being flippant about my hair loss, just honest. This shift, though, is different for me than the breast surgery. But, it’s happening….and I’ll find a way through it.

I’m adding a video clip of something that makes me happy —and NOT try to go through with my plan to be alone. Being able to write about it helped in the oddest of ways. Which is what writing’s for, right?

Enjoy Chunk!

**Just a warning: if you’re offended by talking about body parts, you might want to skip this one…;)

It’s been six weeks since I became breast-less (see my previous post for background info). In that time, I’ve cried, pouted, and , yes, laughed. Not MUCH laughing — just when I try to talk about my boob-less state. I’m not in a place mentally where I’ve accepted that I’m really going through this ordeal; however, I think I’m doing a decent job most days using sarcasm to mask my fear.

Surprisingly, I don’t really appreciate the loss of my boobage. I mean, sure, I wanted them to be perky and in the same place they were before I had kids — or got somewhat old. But who goes “Yay, sure, I have cancer, but I get new boobs out of it!”? The fact that when faced with a mastectomy, women are automatically offered reconstruction, tells me that I’m not the only one concerned with this issue (I really didn’t think I was anyway). For the last several weeks, I’ve noticed how these particular body parts have impacted my life. So, I thought a song would be fun for today. A song to sum up the feelings of one woman trying to cope with a new life as a breast cancer statistic. And, like all good reading lessons, there are vocabulary words to preteach:

* nits = LilyBelle’s word to describe me now (NO + tits)

* foobs = the term I use for my prostheses; however, I may have to give them “real” names (FAKE + boobs)

*noobs = the term for what happens after my reconstruction (NEW + boobs)

* tit-fill = the term to describe the procedure my plastic surgeon uses to fill the expanders with saline; this happens before I have the implant surgery

I Miss My Boobies (Sung to “Oh, My Darling, Clementine”)

Oh, dear boobies. Oh, dear boobies,

Oh, dear forty-four double Ds

You are lost and gone forever

Oh my dear boobies.


In the middle of December,

A mean old doctor sliced you off.

And now I’m lost, lost, lost without you,

Oh my dear boobies


I never thought too much about you

Only how my clothes looked bad,

Just because you were always sagging

Oh my dear boobies


But now I know what all you did to

Help me out all through the day:

Hold the seatbelt, keep me balanced,

Oh my dear boobies


When Lily needs to be comforted,

You’re not there to lend a hand.

All that’s left me are some stupid nits

Oh my dear boobies


You’ve been through a lot in such a short time

It must be hard to end up as waste.

Spending your time gettin’ tit-fills

Oh my dear boobies


Are you jealous when I wear foobs?

Is that why they hurt so bad?

You’ll be replaced with perky, cute noobs.

Oh my darling boobies


I miss my boobies; I miss my boobies

Can’t the doctor give them back?

Well I guess he really is, just

Not the real ones hangin’ ’round!

I’m not sure if anyone else has noticed, but teaching is hard. It’s not hard like I suppose brain surgery probably is — like if you get it wrong then someone’s head could explode or result in death. It’s probably not hard like saving people from a burning building, or even designing and building bridges or buildings. The difference in teaching and those other professions, to me, is simple: the number of potential bodies in one spot for a specified amount of time with no way out!!

Here’s what I’m saying, as succinctly as possible: I worry for the future. Now, I’m only basing my hyperbole on the population of teenagers in one rural high school. But  even with that small number, I weep for the future.

And every time  I think those thoughts — you know, the ones where the only thing that could possibly save us all IS a zombie apocalypse? — I have a meeting with a parent who’s crying over his/her teen because there’s no words to get across to said-teen that the world is not a nice place at the moment, and the ONLY advantage one MIGHT have is going to be a high school diploma — which may or may not be a tangible the teen has bought into.

My classes this semester are 10 to 1 boys over girls. Something happened to the water supply, or something, because there are NO girls in this particular cohort. And, just like all good little boys, they distrust ALL authority figures, but especially the ones who can wear a dress (without getting laughed at). Needless to say, my year has been challenging on a different level than I’ve had since beginning my career in alternative schools. They actually wanted to argue with me over using the word “ain’t” when they write! I have NEVER had anyone argue over that! Here’s the typical conversation:

Me: When you write a formal paper — or something for a grade, please do not write the word “ain’t” — It’s not standard English, and I want people who read your writing to know that you know your topic.

(Typical) Students: But “ain’t” is in the dictionary.

Me: Yes, I know. And Shakespeare was one of the first writers to use it. However, it is a word that has come to mean a person is lazy or ignorant. When you write, it’s important to sound as smart as possible, so your reader will believe you. Appearances matter — especially when you might not meet the person/people who read your writing.

(Typical) Students: Okay.

See how simple that was? Seriously, that’s usually the extent of the exchange. We may have already done the lesson where we cut out pics from magazines that show formal  and informal items; then list formal and informal words (ex: going to vs. gonna). And I may have already talked about code-switching — or you talk differently to different people in your life, therefore, you’ll need to consider your audience when you write.

But this year’s group is having NONE of that typical stuff. They suspect EVERYTHING I tell them. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G!! It is oh, so annoying, that I think I might actually lose some weight because I’ve had to start running in hopes of not committing a felony! haha….I was so frustrated yesterday that I could barely contain my trailer-trash thoughts of cussing the little kids out. Thank God the lunch bell rang! ;)

Then, today, I had an epiphany. They are teenagers. They are Holden Caulfields all, begging the world to right itself and not be so scary. They hear from their parents that times are hard and jobs scarce. They hear the news (or see a headline on Facebook), and know that something is not right with the world. This group of teens have NEVER known America to NOT be in a war. Can you imagine? And these are the thoughts I had just on the drive to school this morning. Then I met with a father whose son is failing miserably, all four of his classes, and who is sent out for behavior every single day (cumulatively). And this poor man — who is literally poor, not just figuratively — sat across from me and begged me to not give up on his kid. “He’s a good boy, ma’am. I wish you could have known him before now. He’s funny, he tries to make me feel better about not being able to find a job, and I love him. Please, help me keep him in school.” Yes, sir, I said…I’ll do what I can.

So, I found myself thinking afterwards that school is all about what we (teachers) are “selling” — and right now, at least to the teens I’m with every day, I seem to be selling snake oil, and they are having none of it. And I’m going to be okay with that. They ought to be questioning — I just need to show them how to question effectively, not disrespectfully, like in a I’m-never-going-to-believe-you way, but in a genuine I-want-to-know way. They ought to be able to be creative (for some reason, most of the students are loving the creative writing we’re doing right now); they ought to be able to work together in groups and help each other out.

I’m not peddling snake oil. The product I’m selling is a future that without a diploma, might be much more difficult than without. But I have to lighten up about “kids these days” because they are getting that from every place they come in contact with. There was a time when they liked learning and wanted to show their parents and teachers and whoever would listen what they could do NOW (“Did you see me…..?). And somewhere, we stopped listening — and they stopped trying it our way. Maybe that’s just growing up and not being the center of the universe, but I find that I don’t like it much. I need to do better.

“The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they know everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls. they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior,and dress.” (Peter the Hermit, 1274 <a leader of the first Crusade in the Middle Ages>– as quoted in Carol Jago’s Rigor for All, 2nd ed.)


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