Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stages of Teaching

Over the years, I've come to realize that the school year consists of several stages for a teacher.  I believe they go in this basic order:

June:  Euphoria.  All the problems from the previous year are gone, and we will never think of them again.

July-Early AugustDementia.  We use these months to forget that we ever taught in the first place.

As if you needed a visual to wonder
why I'm a little crazy.
Late AugustGnawing Apprehensiveness.  We know we should be doing something (planning) but are conveniently putting it out of our minds.  Instead we go to the pool, shop our hearts out and act like people who don't work for a living.  We pretend everything is normal, even though it isn't.

SeptemberAcceptance Mixed With Excitement.  Despite the fact that we are inundated with boring meetings, and the stress that accompanies the first days of school, we have the sense that the year will be fantastic, simply because we want it to be.  Our classes will be perfect.  We will never forget to go to a meeting.  Each lesson will be unique, engaging and will fill their young minds with interesting information.  We have accepted that we are back, and are making the best of it.   We may attend a happy hour at the end of the first week, but could skip it if we wanted to.

Mid-SeptemberAmnesia.  We have this uncanny feeling that we've been here before, and it frightens us.  We start to long for the Friday happy hour.

Late SeptemberRealization.  We HAVE been here before.  Only two months ago, in fact, and it is just as we remembered.  This is also when the panic sets in that we still have eight months left to go before the Euphoria stage will return.  Friday happy hour becomes mandatory.

Early OctoberLonging.  We actually start wishing we had last year's kids, a feeling we never thought we would experience.  Ever.  Our minds, which are ill-prepared to accept this reality, start to go mad at this point, which is why so many children think their teachers are a little crazy.  We begin to consider the mid-week happy hour as well. 

I'm between the Late-September Realization stage and the Early October Longing stage.  If I start to sound insane in my blogs in the coming weeks, don't be surprised.

Beth - 1  (One more week till crazy-town!)
Students - 1  (They are driving me there)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mother of the Year

Last week Jillian missed three days of school because she was sick.  So, you can imagine my surprise when her school called me this morning to say that she had come down to the nurse because she wasn't feeling well.

I asked to speak to her. 

"Mommy," said a sweet pixie voice.  "I don't feel good."

I felt really conflicted.  I didn't want her to feel sick at school, but the nurse said she didn't have a fever and she had already missed three days last week.

"What feels sick, baby?" I asked. 

"My head and nose," she said.  Then she coughed for good measure.

"Jillian," I said.  "You missed so much school last week.  Do you think you could wait an hour and see how you feel?  Today is only a half day and I'd hate for you to have to miss more work."

After a short pause, she sighed and said, "Ok, Mommy."

"Ok Baby," I said.  "I'm really proud of you for being so tough.  If you still feel really sick in an hour, have the nurse call me back."

"Ok," she said.  I told her I loved her, and she handed the phone back to the nurse.  After a brief exchange, I hung up the phone.

Not one minute later, the phone rang again, and my heart sank.  I was going to have to pick her up.  (I'll be honest.  I probably would have called my mom and begged her to watch Jillian again, and she would have said yes because she is so awesome and I am so lovable).

"Hello?" I said.

The nurse to whom I'd just spoken was on the other line.  "Mrs. Harar?" she said.  "I'm really sorry, but it turns out Jillian isn't sick at all.  I got your daughter confused with another little girl."

"Oh!" I said, relieved.  "But wait.  Are you saying that the little girl I talked to wasn't my daughter?" 

"Yes," the nurse said sheepishly.  "Sorry."

This is me.  Confused mother.
I had an entire conversation with a child that was not my daughter and couldn't even tell the difference.  Apparently, neither could she, which makes me feel a little bit better.  She also might be confused about her name, because she let me call her Jillian multiple times.  At least she called me Mommy.

I probably won't be nominated for Mother-of-the Year this time around.

Beth - 0
Nurse - 0
Child - 1 (I'm guessing her mother was nicer than me and let her go home)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Cold, The Book Festival, and Smelly People

Since Thursday afternoon, I've had a rather nasty cold, probably passed to me by my beautiful, contagious daughter.  Or, by the multitude of ninth graders who don't wash their hands. 

This smelly person in no way
represents the people I encountered.
There are few things to enjoy about a cold.  Mostly, headaches, sinus pain, sneezing, itchy eyes and copious amounts of mucus accompany a cold, making me miserable.  In fact, there are very few up-sides to a cold, save for one:

When one has a cold, it is usually very hard to smell distasteful odors.  The cold that currently inhabits my body, however, is unique.  It has brought upon all of the usual awful cold symptoms, except that I am still able to smell very bad things.

This is unfortunate, because I encountered two distinctly smelly people today while at the National Book Festival in downtown Washington D.C.

The first was on the metro.  My mother and I were having a very interesting conversation about books (we were gossiping) when a young man, wearing a Dolce and Gabana jacket, sat in the seat in front of us.  In no time at all, a rather pungent smell accosted our nostrils, causing us initially to wrinkle our noses.  Within minutes, we had our hands to our noses, desperately trying to block out his horrible "I haven't bathed in weeks" odor.

We became desperate.  The smell was so bad that my mom finally leaned over and said that at the next stop, we'd switch seats.  We gathered our belongings and prepared to stand as we reached the next metro stop, but God was smiling on us, and the man rose and left.  I'm still shocked that he was wearing a designer jacket.  Shouldn't designer people bathe?

We arrived at the Book Festival very early in order to get third row seats for Toni Morrison, which, may I say, was totally worth it.  She is delightful.  Unfortunately, twin sisters sat behind us.  While they do believe in dressing alike over the age of 60, they do not adhere to the norms of common bathing.  In short, they STANK.  They smelled WAY worse than the guy in the metro.  Even through my cold I was getting sick to my stomach.

I feel a little bad for complaining, because she did overhear me saying I taught high school and gave me her Book Festival poster to give to another teacher.  But if you had only smelled her and her sister, you would be complaining too.

In hindsight, I'm not sure why I felt the need to share my story about smelly people, except perhaps that I could smell them DESPITE my cold, which means they were stinkier than all get-up. 

Actually, there seems to be no purpose at all to this blog. 

I'll make it purposeful:  GO TO THE BOOK FESTIVAL NEXT YEAR.  It is wonderful, and something I would never miss, even when sick.  Katherine Paterson, author of one of my favorite books, Jacob Have I Loved, was there.  It was an honor to listen to her. 

There.  I feel better now. 

Beth - 1  (I don't stink)
Stinky People - 0
Book Festival - 100,000!!!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Made A Video!

I made a video to show my freshman.  They needed a reminder of my homework policies.  Check it out!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why I Hate Going to the Dentist

A picture of what would happen if
the dentist had her way with me.
I hate going to the dentist. 

I probably have about fifty "watches" on my left upper distol or right aclusal distal **or my upper left right besial distal aclusal.  Each time the dental hygenist reads them aloud, a small part of my tooth self esteem dies.  I continue to try and blame things on mouth-breathing and allergies, but that only gets me so far.  I think they are catching on to my excuses and one day will just roll their eyes at me.  

The sense of guilt I feel is overwhelming whenever I am there.  I hear phrases like:

"Oh!  You've been clenching your teeth.  Why don't you purchase our $800 custom made mouth guards that make it impossible to sleep at night?"
"I see some staining on the back of your teeth.  Do you drink red wine?"  (They know I do.  I refuse to give up my favorite bad habit, so I just shrug and give them my most innocent look.) 

Invariably, they always find something wrong.  Today, through no fault of my own I might add, they informed me that one of my teeth is a darker color, which means it may be dying.  Fan-freaking-tastic.  I asked them what I would have to do, and heard a new phrase this time.

"Oh, we'd just do a root canal to fix it," she said, as if she was talking about taking me for a nice leisurely walk. 

Oh!  That's all.  Just a little minor root canal with needles and drilling.  They aren't fooling me, because I've heard ALL the horror stories.  Root canals suck no matter which way you look at them. 

For the record, I would perfer to do any of the following instead of go to the dentist:

1.  Re-take Drivers' ED - even the parallel parking portion.
2.  Sit through a day full of meetings discussing the purposes of air.
3.  Work as a paralegal again for a day, with my former, horrible, attorney boss.
4.  Spend the day picking up trash on the side of 66.
5.  Babysit the horrible girls that used to live behind my parents and made me cry when I was 14.

At least I don't have to go back for another six months.

Beth - 0
Dentist - 1

**My apologies to the dental community for misspelling these words.    

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Something a student said to me on Thursday has bothered me all weekend.  He mentioned that he didn't do his homework last year, but was going to make a real effort this year to do better.  I told him that he should find a quiet environment, like his room, and do his work as soon as he got home. 

He told me he didn't have a room.

"OK," I said, "how about the kitchen table?"  You guessed it.  He doesn't have one of those either.  And he wasn't joking.  Wherever his family lives, they do not live the same way I do, and his lack of resources made me uncomfortable, followed with a strong sense of how spoiled I am. 

I then suggested that maybe he could stay after school in my room and do his work, but he doesn't have a way home because we only have late buses one day a week and teachers aren't allowed to give rides to students.  

Out of options, I gave him a sad, uncomfortable smile and changed the subject.  

I seriously take for granted all that I have.  My parents were (and stilla re) married and provided me with every opportunity to succeed, from taking the time to quiz me for history tests, to taking away my license when they found out I'd been drinking when I was only 19.  They still encourage me and help me when I need it  
In case you couldn't guess,
I'm the person here.
Still, I am left with a feeling of helplessness, for I am only one lowly person in this grand world and there is so little I can do.  My hands are tied with familial responsibilities, work, and rules.  How do we help students like the aforementioned succeed when they have so few opportunities?  The government can push national standards all they want, but how do you explain this to a kid that has no room and no kitchen table in his house? 

Why would he even care about homework when his basic needs aren't being met?

(This is where I heave a huge sigh and leave the question unanswered.  I simply don't have the answer.)
All I know is:

Beth - 0
Kid - 0
Government - 0

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My Day Off

From Saturday at noon till Sunday at 4:00 p.m., I had about 28 hours of freedom.  It was everything I thought it could be, but I have to admit I missed my family quite a bit. 

All in all, however, I was much less productive than anticipated. 

And sadly, my day, plus four hours, wasn't as exciting as you might think.  It went something like this:

1.  Go to the gym
2.  Color my hair
3.  Shower
4.  Go visit my parents' house and drink wine
5.  Go to Arlington and have dinner and drinks for Bethany #2's birthday.
6.  Win a bet that I would NOT be hit on.  (Some dude asking why I wasn't smiling doesn't count)
7.  Drink too much and get a ride home.
8.  Wake up at 6:00 a.m. to my dog barking at the door because his stomach is making unnatural noises.
9.  Wake up at 7:00 a.m. to my dog barking at the door because his stomach is making unnatural noises.
10.  Wake up at 8:00 a.m. to my dog barking at the door because his stomach is making unnatural noises.
11.  Wake up at 9:00 a.m. to my dog barking at the door because his stomach is making unnatural noises.
12.  Decide to finally get up at 9:30 and eat leftover bok choy veggie dish at 10:00.
13.  Do nothing from 10:30 - 3:00 except watch television, drink coffee and eat popcorn.  Saw some good movies, however.
14.  Actually, add in a champagne drink at 2:30 p.m.  Just because I could.
15.  Go to my parent's house at 4:00, drink more wine, eat good food and hang out with my family.  My husband arrives with the children.
16.  At 10:11 p.m., my children are finally asleep and I am watching Curb Your Enthusiasm with the love of my life. 

Life is back to normal.  Thanks for sharing my day.

Beth - ??  (How do I rate this??)
Life - 1

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Those who know me well will be surprised to learn that I am still awake at 10:38 on a work day. And not just any work day.  The day before ninth-grade orientation.

Tomorrow I meet my new students, and am nervous as usual.  So, I'm going to say a quick prayer before I go to bed.

Lord, please let me sleep from 11:00 p.m. till 6:00 a.m. without waking up, for we both know that should I awake during those hours, my crazy brain will move into overdrive, causing me to stay awake for at least two hours obsessing about, well, everything.

May the school dreams which have plagued me for the past month bother a different teacher tonight.  I do not need to arrive to school in my dream only to discover that I have nothing planned for the day.  Nor do I need Satan's child in my classroom for the next ten months.  (In hindsight, it is very possible that WOULDN'T be a dream.  Ug.)

May I have enough confidence in the morning to fool the new faces in front of me.  And please, please Lord.  Do not let my voice tremble as it so often wants to do on the first day.  It shows weakness, and ninth graders can smell weakness.


Beth - 1/2 (maybe)
Students - 1 (always)