Monday, September 29, 2008

Not Sure How to Take That...

I play music quietly while the kids do silent work.
Student: Miss, who sings this?
Me: The Four Tops.
Student: What's it called?
Me: I Can't Help Myself.
Student:  Me either, miss.

Warships Surround Somali Pirates

The story turns out not to be really funny at all (though it is interesting), but what a great headline!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Photo Flashback

Sorry, Dear Readers, I'm just so in love with all the old pictures Dad sent me. I need to post a few more. I'll try to space them out so as not to overwhelm you and drive you away.

Alex and I in Olympia, Washington, about thirteen years ago.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Duh, or "How St. Thomas More Pointed Out That I've Overlooked the Point"

As I have mentioned once or twice, I have grown to really loath politics, the political machine, the entire election process, and especially the exceedingly large piles, buckets, and repositories of pretentious, irrational, "me-against-you" horse manure that get stacked up, stirred up, ad paraded about. I find it frustrating, frightening, and nauseating.

So I removed myself from the entire thing. I just don't talk politics. When it comes up in conversation, I quietly leave the room.

Recently, the Catholic blogosphere has been passing around the Litany of St. Thomas More, and after seeing it on at least three different sites, it suddenly dawned on me.

Duh, Andrea. You should be praying.

Rather than simply refuse to play, I ought to be praying about this unfortunate state of affairs, and for more people like Thomas More, who was martyred for the faith and refused to compromise his integrity, to get into the game.

Litany of St. Thomas More, Martyr and Patron Saint of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers

V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
V. Christ, have mercy
R. Christ have mercy
V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
V. Christ hear us
R. Christ, graciously hear us

V. St. Thomas More, Saint and Martyr,
R. Pray for us (Repeat after each invocation)
St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers
St. Thomas More, Patron of Justices, Judges and Magistrates
St. Thomas More, Model of Integrity and Virtue in Public and Private Life
St. Thomas More, Servant of the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ
St. Thomas More, Model of Holiness in the Sacrament of Marriage
St. Thomas More, Teacher of his Children in the Catholic Faith
St. Thomas More, Defender of the Weak and the Poor
St. Thomas More, Promoter of Human Life and Dignity

V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Spare us O Lord
V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Graciously hear us O Lord
V.Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R.Have mercy on us

Let us pray:

O Glorious St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, your life of prayer and penance and your zeal for justice, integrity and firm principle in public and family life led you to the path of martyrdom and sainthood. Intercede for our Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, that they may be courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life - the foundation of all other human rights. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

An Odd Nostalgia

Back to those pictures Dad sent me.

A long time ago, I noticed an odd phenomenon with my littlest brother and sister. However much I adore them in their present form -- and I do, my friends, roommates, students, and vague acquaintances get rather sick of hearing my endless stories of how stinkin' funny and brilliant they are -- there are times when I look at them in their ten and eight year old bodies and think, "I miss baby you".

I think parents can relate to this, and other way-bigger siblings. I am by no means as important in Melissa and Charlie's lives as our parents are, but because of our significant age gap (about thirteen and fifteen years, respectively), I have always been more of a caretaker than the typical older sister (like I was for Alex, who is only four year behind me). Along with that, I clearly and distinctly remember loving the ever-living daylights out of them from the moment I saw them, especially when they smiled at me like that or drove me up the wall by repeatedly sitting on the dishwasher when I was trying to load it and laughing at me when I yelled at them.

They were other, different individuals then. Both of them have always been busting with their own personalities, and they still blow me over daily, but when they were babies there was just something... different. Almost magical, if you'll excuse the sap. Maybe they were just unbearably cute.

And now they're big, and smart-mouthed, and clever as all get out, and I am more glad every single day I have them. But there are moments, not at all uncommon, when I wish I could rewind them and have them be the teeny little pudge balls they once were, mischief and glee and pure life flying like sparks from a sparkler from their eyes and laughs.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thats my school!

And your eyes do not deceive you - it has six classrooms and is entirely baby blue.

The Secret Heart, part 2

Joe asked an excellent question about my post of yesterday: What did my students think?

It's a funny thing with middle schoolers. They are, for the most part, not even quite on the outskirts of abstract thought. Of course, that's part of why the language arts are so important. A huge part of my job is to teach them how to think abstractly; heck, that such a thing exists. I, having been out of that stage of cognitive development for almost a decade now, have a fair amount of trouble figuring out how in the blazes to get them past the concrete (this is why you do basically the same thing in English class from 6th grade up -- it's really tricky stuff, and it takes a lot of practice).

So when I show them a poem that you and I, Dear Reader, instantly recognize as an ode to that deep, unspeakable, intimate love that exists in a parent's heart for a child, 8th graders read, "The kid's dad lit a match to check on him and he had a happy look on his face."

Alright kids, let's look at this a little a little closer:
He wore, it seemed to his small son,
A bare heart on his hidden one,

A heart that gave out such a glow
No son awake could bear to know.

It showed a look upon a face
Too tender for the day to trace.
After reading these six lines very slowly with deliberate annunciation, and a lot of hinting and prodding, I got these responses:
  • "Maybe the dad is dead and he's seeing a ghost."
  • "Maybe he died but the son still feels like he's watching over him." (Give her credit for going beyond the surface.)
  • "Why doesn't he just tell his son he loves him?"
  • "Maybe the son is crazy and the dad was sad because the son is crazy." (Give him credit for making a personal connection.)
Well, it's early in the year.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Secret Heart

We read this in class today, and I got to spend twenty minutes asking leading questions about, and potificating on, the meaning. I'd never read it before I found it in the textbook for the 8th graders, but I love it.

To think, in middle and high school I detested poetry.

The Secret Heart
by Robert Tristin Coffin

Across the years he could recall
His father one way best of all.

In the stillest hour of night
The boy awakened to a light.

Half in dreams, he saw his sire
With his great hands full of fire.

The man had struck a match to see
If his son slept peacefully.

He held his palms each side the spark
His love had kindled in the dark.

His two hands were curved apart
In the semblance of a heart.

He wore, it seemed to his small son,
A bare heart on his hidden one,

A heart that gave out such a glow
No son awake could bear to know.

It showed a look upon a face
Too tender for the day to trace.

One instant, it lit all about,
And then the secret heart went out.

But it shone long enough for one
To know that hands held up the sun.

Things I Miss

Dad sent me a truck full of scans of old pictures. This one makes me miss my siblings (including Charlie, my fellow bookend, though he was probably inside drooling when this was taken) very, very, very much.

This one, on the other hand, just makes me laugh out loud.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

First gift from a guadalupe student

Pecans from her grandfather's tree.

I. Want. This.

I mentioned School House Rock on Friday, and yesterday my kids came back and told me it was coming out on DVD today. Naturally, I jumped on Amazon the first chance I got and looked it up.

My kiddos got a little mixed up. The Election Collection was released today, but it turns out the 30th Anniversary edition with "Every (School House Rock) Song Ever Created" has been out for years -- since 2002! How did I not know this? What a sad vigil I've kept over the latest in instructional media. Shame on me.

Now being aware of its existance, I'm coveting it like crazy, of course.

Where Middle Schoolers Find God

Each class period begins with prayer. I think most of my colleagues go pretty basic -- intentions, thanks, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, the essentials. My language arts block is twice as long as any other class (instead of switching, they stay in my class two periods, everyday), and I like to take advantage of the time to be just slightly more adventurous with prayer.

One of my experiments has been assigning a student to lead prayer once or twice a week. A few have gone "free style", some have read scripture, and one had us recite the Apostle's Creed. Most have gone the YouTube route. If they use a video, they introduce it and explain why they feel it's good for prayer, and those few sentences -- even though it's like pulling molars to get them out -- reveal an impressive understanding of the faith for 7th and 8th graders.

Some of the videos they've used so far this year:

What About Now? - Daughtry ("Embedding disabled by request")

The Lifehouse "Everything" Skit

Free Hugs

Granted, they're not winning any prizes for "videos no one's seen yet", but hey, it's middle school. We're working up to originality.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Going to the Mattresses

Our school is attached to a parish, and so my classroom is used for CCD over the weekend.


Two Mondays in a row now, I have come in to find the room's AC on full blast (I turn it off before I leave for the weekend) and my desks totally out of order.

Not. Fine.

Those not in the teaching profession may not fully appreciate this, but especially in the middle grades, order is everything. Even if my lesson is abysmally ineffective (can't win 'em all), if I can keep order I consider the day a success. My desks are the way they are for a reason. Were I to let my 7th graders walk into the room as it was when I walked in, chaos and confusion would erupt. So I was obliged to spend ten minutes putting my desks back (while I lost feeling in my hands because the air was so cold).

I'm not taking this lying down. This Friday, before I leave, I will write them a note.

Yup. I mean business.

And It Begins...

It happened with spring, too: I didn't realize it had sprung until I looked at the Google homepage. The seasons just sneak up on me.

People who know me know I am not a fan of fall. It's the ever-darkening lead up to winter, of which I am even less a fan. And in some sense, it's worse than winter: in winter, at least the days are slowly lengthening again, a long wait before the rebirth you know is coming. Fall is death itself.

...Too much?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Push Ups, or "Look, Mom, I'm Irish!"

Notre Dame is rather infamous for the number of traditions it has, some reaching pretty far into the realm of minutia. Every official ND dance ends with Billy Joel's "Piano Man", for example. Every single dorm has its own formidable bucket o' traditions. Every night at the Backer, which is not even an official Notre Dame establishment, finishes with "Proud to Be an American", the Notre Dame fight song, "Oh, What a Night", and "Happy Trails". In that order. Every time. And when you sing the fight song, there's a part where girls are supposed to yell and one where boys are supposed to yell.

Here's a pacticularly unique tradtion I hadn't heard of until I got there this summer: in the stuent section at the football games -- I don't know if you knew, but Domers are pretty serious about football -- with every score, a group of people will pick up one person and do "push ups".

Here's how it looks up close.

And here's how it looks from afar when the whole lot of them are doing it.

Two of my housemates teach at St. Joe's, which has its homecoming game Friday night. The St. Joe fight song just happens to be exactly the same as the Notre Dame fight song, and three of the six housmates present were ND alum. So, when St. Joe scored and the band started playing the fight song, naturally they all decided we should do push ups. Being the smallest one present not wearing a skirt, and being totally game, I soon found myself the object of a lot of odd stares as my housemates threw me in the air nine and then twenty-five times (we missed a touchdown), counting as we went.

I am now truly and undeniably an Notre Dame student.

Bloodless Value

So I'm an English teacher, right, and that means I get the joy of being in charge of book orders. What I didn't know until now is that the book order package has deals for teachers -- class sets and such.

This month's book order offers the "Classic Goosebumps set", twenty-some of the "best of Goosebumps".

False! The set doesn't include Night of the Living Dummy, Phantom of the Auditorium, or Monster Blood. What?! You can't have ANY Goosebumps set that doesn't include Monster Blood!

That's it. I'm writing a letter to Scholastic.

Image taken from Reader Beware: The Goosebumps Blog

Friday, September 12, 2008


For those friends and family who happen to read this today and the next couple: my housemates and I are not evacuating for Ike, since it looks like the worst we're going to get are the outter bands.  Should be nasty weather for a few days, but nothing remotely dangerous.
It was pretty clear and still when we left for school two hours ago; already, it's getting grey and blustery.  The kids have a half day, but we teachers will stay until 3:30 for a faculty meeting.  After that, I intend to sit in my house and grade papers all weekend.
This is a fantastic storm traking site Dad sent me.  Great "at a glance" info, with lots more available with a click.

Back in the Game

Actually, I have been for three solid weeks now.  The new school is phenomenal, and up to this point I've been almost afraid to post anything because the kids were so eerily well behaved, I was convinced they were all going to turn on me at some point.
I teach 7th and 8th grade.  The 7th graders are still a little draggy, but the 8th graders are starting to act like... well, 8th graders.  Earlier this week, one of two ACE supervisors came by to observe.  When he left, the entire 8th grade bombarded me with questions about who he was, having already concluded he bust be my boyfriend (that a boyfriend would have no reason to come sit in my class for fifteen minutes and then leave did not occur to them).
We read Shakespearean sonnets today.  You can imagine how that went.  In response to one of the most well-studied pieces by arguably the world's greatest writer ever:
Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And oft' is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd:
But thy eternal Summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

I got the following comments:
"How do we know he wasn't talking about a dog or a cat or something?"
"Good question.  You tell me, class."
"Well, it's romantic."
"I don't read this and think 'romance'.  I wouldn't want to be compared to a tree."
"Do 'thee' and 'thou' mean 'you'?"
"Then why didn't he just say 'you'?"
"But summer isn't nice or pretty.  It sucks."
"Yes, in Brownsville."
"Well, where was Shakespeare from?"
"Miss, was Shakespeare dyslexic or something?"
I love my job.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Little Brother

...the one who is actually smaller than I am, was in good form last night when I called the fam:
Charlie: I like the line in Spider Man 3, 'You always have a choice".
Me: That is is a good line.
Charlie: Well, in important things.  Not like race cars and stuff.
Me: What are important things?
Chucky: Weeeeeell, you know... like insurance.  All that financial stuff.
Ah, the wisdom of eight year olds.