Thursday, October 30, 2008

Better late than never: June with magnolia flower, Virginia, early summer.

Return of the Slang Sling: Sweaty, Stinky Edition

Often in the past, I've used this blog to indulge my inner-armchair-linguist, focusing in particular on the vernacular underbelly of our glorious ever-percolating mother tongue. Well, my new Mr.-O-incarnation gives me up close access to a particularly rich microcosm of slang. So let's revive our Slang Sling series. First up, "musty":
sweaty (and possibly also stinky)
I love how this very specific vernacular usage orbits around the standard version (Webster's offers us, "smelling of damp and decay"). And middle-schoolers, obsessed as they are with the newly emergent demands of personal hygiene, spend a great deal of time discussing the mustiness of their neighbors and acquaintances. In particular, my girls' classes* like to complain that my room is "musty" after it's been occupied by a boys' class. (As it undeniably is. Many of my early-middle-school gentlemen have yet to master the finer points of deodorant usage.)

* Did I mention that our middle-school classes are gender-segregated, a nouveau-retro trend in urban education. At one time, I would have been highly suspicious of such an initiative, but now I find I quite like it. It eliminates a layer of hormone-frenzied complications from the classroom dynamic and allows the boys and girls to operate in their very distinct styles. (Are gender differences ever more acute than during middle-school?)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

La Famille Brusier, Friday, Circle Bar

Make it so.

The Week That Was: Mein Gott!

  • The weekend: A blur of end-of-quarter paperwork: exams, quizzes, folders, spreadsheets, percentages, miles and miles of red ink.
  • Monday: Our new schedule went into effect: classes shifted and split, a whole new routine, a new homeroom, new names and personalities to learn (who knows what, who doesn't know what, who can sit by whom, who can't sit by anyone...).
  • Tuesday and Wednesday: I was stricken by a particularly virulent stomach flu and remained home, laid up for two days (the misfortunes of my ailment blended with ongoing end-of-quarter logistics to form a particularly unenchanting blend of nausea and drudgery.
  • Thursday: Returned to work, groggy and out of the loop. The kids ask me a million-and-one questions for which I had no answer. It's a weird short day, the kids are dismissed at one, and report card conferences are held from 2 to 6.
  • Report card conferences: it was an open-appointment format—the parents arrived in dribbles and drabbles, sometimes with the kid, sometimes without, to pick up the report card. After my rag-tag week, it felt remarkably professional and real. My grades were reasonable and fair. The conferences went well. Whew! Six o'clock rolls around and it's officially behind me.
  • Friday: It was another curious short (make-up for Gustav*) day. The classes were more casual than usual. We played the radio.** I dazzled the 6th-grade boys with my drawing chops. In the afternoon, we went on a field trip to City Park. (We hoofed it there, a distance, as I'd explained during our measurement discussions, a distance of approximately one kilometer.*** It was lovely.
* Other places have snow days. We have hurricane days. And sometimes, like snow days, they have to be made up during the school year.

** I've had to introduce a "No Popping" rule for my class—no straight up booty-shaking. My fifth- and sixth-grade girls will sit in groups and bop along doing math problems. But certain songs make them want to get up and start shaking it, and, in all earnestness, I have to decry, "No popping!" They understand and don't argue. (There's a time and a place.)

*** As a benchmark for a mile, I tell them "from the school, down Esplanade, to the I-10–you know, by the purple Man Chu...". (The Man Chus are a pair of ghetto-Chinese take-out joints near-ish to our school–the pink one on Broad, and the aforementioned purple one on Claiborne by the highway.****)

**** (Footnotes within footnotes. (Parentheticals within parentheticals.)) I've bonded with the students over the fact that my dad grew up in the radically-dilapidated-but-formerly-honorable old Creole townhouse next door to the purple Man Chu.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Better late than never: Jason, front porch, summer

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Through the eyes of a child—a portrait of yours truly by one of my fifth-graders. I love it. (I particularly love the careful attention given to the mole on my left cheek.)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

1/4, 0.25, 25% of the Way There

Well, we're wrapping up the first quarter of the school year (I just gave my quarterly exams today), and to date, I've successfully managed to make just about every rookie mistake there is (too nice, too inconsistent, too overwhelmed by the dizzying array of kids and complexities and problems and craziness and procedures and all the bijillion things you're somehow supposed to know how to deal with and do with next-to-no training). But for what it's worth, I'm usually pretty good at learning from my mistakes, and I'm starting to feel like I'm at least getting a bit-of-a-sort-of-a-clue of how to make this whole complicated thing work.

I've never done anything so hard in my life. I get up at four in the morning to prepare for the day.* In the evening, not long after I get my own kids to bed, I zonk out, too stupid and tired to do or say much of anything else. Some days are okay. Some are just simply miserable. (Here and there, a few are rather lovely.)

But as hard as it's been, and as much as, sometimes, it's just completely sucked, I love the work and I love the kids. (They're so so funny.) And I'm very much looking forward to starting the next quarter, getting some things right that I got wrong the first time around, hitting a bit more of a stride, getting into something like a groove, and incrementally increasing the good-to-crappy-day ratio.**

Onward and upward.***

* Farmer's hours. That must be a genetic legacy of my Virginia farm-stock heritage.

** Also, due to various logistical shenanigans, my teaching schedule will significantly improve. I'll switch from teaching three grade levels (tough for any teacher, really tough for a rookie) to just two: fifth and sixth. And my rowdiest class is being split in half, going from nearly thirty wild sixth graders to two classes of much more manageable proportions.

*** This phrase has ended quite a few of my recent posts. I happened to notice the other day that it also concluded the very first Slimbolala post ever. I think I'll stick with it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Better Late Than Never—The gals and their wigwam, Virginia, early summer, constructed under the guidance of yours truly. They spent many happy ours of their vacation crouched in it, having adorable little tea parties.