Psychic Income

May 22, 2010

Well, another school year of trying to influence the lives of the 11-13 year old set is about to end. My second year of teaching — first year as a full-time teacher. How do I feel? Exhausted, drained, spent, and surprisingly enough, exhilarated. I just had another of my “psychic income” moments, and this year, my psychic piggy bank is more than half full.

After cruising through life unfulfilled, I decided to go back to school and embrace my DNA. When I was in teaching school, my supervisor said something to me during one of our meetings that really caught me off guard: “You’re going to be an amazing teacher.” I wasn’t sure how to respond without coming across as an egotistical bitch, so I quietly changed the subject. But inside, I was furiously nodding my head and saying “DAMN STRAIGHT I AM — MY MOM IS WATCHING.”

I’m a fourth-generation teacher, and it’s a title I wear proudly. When anyone asks me what I do for a living, I hold my head up high, smile broadly and say: “I am a TEACHER. I teach language arts to MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS.”  I’m always amazed at how many people respond with: “You poor thing, middle school.” I’ll tell you, I’d take hormonal middle-school students over snot-filled, leaky primary students any day. Kids in grades K-5 don’t understand my dark sense of humor. I make them cry (not intentionally, however!)

My first year of teaching, I had to learn how to survive in an environment where I was bullied by grown ups who hadn’t really grown up yet — most of them younger than I am. I not only had to learn how to teach, but learn how to maneuver my way around a school filled with cliquish staff members who banded together to make other people’s lives (usually the ones who aren’t willing to play such immature games like these — i.e., me) miserable.  Fortunately, I quickly won the support of my students, their parents, and a principal — the only three groups of people I really need to impress anyways.

Some might wonder why I stayed at a school where I was bullied by staff. It’s simple — teaching jobs are tough to get, and my co-worker and I are so much alike, we were even dressed exactly the same when I interviewed for the position, as she told me after she insisted to the principal that I get hired immediately or “she’s walking”.  And, since God answered my prayers for a teaching job within 45-minutes of sending it up, I decided I owed Him one in return.

I digress. What I really want to say about teaching is this: “Teaching pays me in ways no amount of money ever could.” Oh sure, if someone offered me a high salary, I certainly wouldn’t thumb my nose at it. But, the money isn’t the issue — it’s the “psychic income” that comes from the relationships I’ve developed with some of my students and their parents.

I had one student last year (and again this year) who couldn’t write a full paragraph for me at the start of the year. His words were all over the page, and he wouldn’t capitalize or punctuate in the right places. Many teachers had him pegged as “odd” or “lazy,” I saw him as brilliant and untethered.

I worked with him all last year, slowly encouraging him to write more and more. When he came back to me this year, his writing exploded off the page. I couldn’t get him to stop writing, even when it was time to switch to reading, or vocabulary, or whatever else I had to teach. His stories had characters, intricate plots, development, structure, creativity! His grammar and punctuation were near perfect. His poetry was filled with the full spectrum of emotions. And most importantly, he worked with me and he thanked me — for being his teacher and showing him the joys of writing and poetry. Ka-chink.

This year, I had two students who made deposits in my piggy bank. One boy, who I suspect has dyslexia (yet undiagnosed), can now write clear sentences most of the time. He stops, takes the time to write carefully, and doesn’t slop his words onto the page anymore. The other boy, who I suspect has Asperger’s (working in a private school, there isn’t a high number of Special Ed students with definitive diagnoses to warrant services), has been struggling to write coherent thoughts all year long. His first writings were totally incomprehensible. I couldn’t even tell what shape the letters were supposed to be, much less what they were trying to say. These were my “project” students — two students I decided needed extra encouragement and help.

The first boy, the one with suspected dyslexia (I’m not an expert, just going on a hunch here), has been a poor speller and writer since kindergarten. So says the Special Ed teacher providing services to him (I use that term “loosely”, because I think he’s just feeding him answers, not assistance). When I saw the boy’s handwriting, I asked if there were anything I could do to help him improve. I was told “That’s the best you’ll ever get out of him. Trust me, I’ve been working with him since kindergarten, and he’s never gotten any better.” Well, of course that was the moment when I decided no teacher was ever going to tell me to give up on a student, so I said “We’ll see..” and grumbled off. A month or so later, it gave me great pleasure to walk up to that teacher, show him a thank you letter written by this student (without a single misspelling or grammatical error) and sneer “Told you, I’d get him to write.” Bitchy of me? Yes. But that teacher deserved to be taken down a notch. Ka-chink.

The other boy, the one suspected of having Asperger’s, continues to struggle with writing. But, something wonderful happened today. I made his mom cry. Why? Because I think she finally has an answer to her son’s situation — I sent her a link about the struggles Asperger’s students have with writing. She read the link and was so overwhelmed at how similar the post sounded to her own son, she started to cry and had to stop reading further until she could get herself back together again. All this time, she had been thinking herself  as crazy, because she knew something was “odd” but couldn’t figure out what.

I have had many moments this year where I heard the coins drop into my piggy bank:

Having an entire class tell you that “You’re the only teacher here who likes us, Mrs. B”

and, when I gave a breath mint to everyone “I LOVE YOU, Mrs. B, you’re the BEST!”

and just recently, “Wow, we’ve never had the chance to read for an entire class period! Can we do that again, Mrs. B?”

Ka-chink! That’s the sound of psychic coins plinking into my piggy bank. And I love that sound.

Advertisements

WHOA: Reflection on “The Oh Factor”

April 24, 2010

This poem is in response to Charles R. Smith, Jr’s published poem entitled “The Oh Factor” — a poem from his CD “Portrait of a Poet” about the effects poets can have on their readers. I call this “WHOA”, because of how my students reacted to “The Oh Factor”. I found his email and sent a copy to him this morning.
WHOA

Just lettin’ you know,
Your fluid flow
Made my poets say “WHOA
And move and groove
To the sweet, smooth, slick
Sensual sound of wondrous words
First time heard
Flippin, slippin’ and drippin’
Off your CD’s knees
Blowin’ thru the easy breeze
Aimin’ to please
young minds like these
Landin’ and commandin’ in their ears
Chillin’ their fears
‘Bout hearin’
One. More. Pointless. Poem.
Taught by teacher
Preachin’ ’bout
Love for all poets
And funky, fresh, flowin’ poems
That roam
From the home
inside the
fine young mind’s
predefined eye
where they realize
recognize
and utilize
scraps of verbs and
unknown words
can make themselves shout out:
“OH!
What do you know–
I guess
MY best
can make
others say ‘WHOA.’”


The Britney Spears/Todd Rundgren Battle of the Lyrics Continuum

April 17, 2010

“Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears

Oh baby, baby
Oh baby, baby
Oh baby, baby
How was I supposed to know
That something wasn’t right here
Oh baby baby
I shouldn’t have let you go
And now you’re out of sight, yeah
Show me, how you want it to be
Tell me baby
‘Cause I need to know now what we’ve got

[CHORUS:]
My loneliness is killing me
I must confess, I still believe
When I’m not with you I lose my mind
Give me a sign
Hit me baby one more time

Oh baby, baby
The reason I breathe is you
Boy you got me blinded
Oh baby, baby
There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
That’s not the way I planned it
Show me, how you want it to be
Tell me baby
‘Cause I need to know now what we’ve got

[Repeat CHORUS]

Oh baby, baby
Oh baby, baby
Ah, yeah, yeah
Oh baby, baby
How was I supposed to know
Oh pretty baby
I shouldn’t have let you go
I must confess, that my loneliness
Is killing me now
Don’t you know I still believe
That you will be here
And give me a sign
Hit me baby one more time

[Repeat CHORUS]

I must confess that my loneliness
Is killing me now
Don’t you know I still believe
That you will be here
And give me a sign
Hit me baby one more time

********************************************************

“Parallel Lines” by Todd Rundgren

Face the facts
Some things never come together
Parallel lines running on forever
And you can’t turn back
There is never any starting over
Parallel lines never do cross over

It’s a challenge
Gotta make myself remember
Facing the truth, well, that doesn’t mean surrender
What is bravado and how much is a force of will?
I know that the world is full of opposites that attract
But unless we ignore the physics
Very soon we’ll have to

So I send you the gift of empathy
If you’d once in your life acknowledge me
I have visualized so thoroughly
That when I think of me I think of we

Can’t face the truth
It means that we must surrender
Understanding won’t satisfy the hunger
It whittles away at the destiny we fulfill
And like an animal running wild
You can’t call it back
And it’s just gonna make it harder
When it’s finally time to

It’s like a train that’s stuck running on a track
Parallel lines running on, running on, running on

Score: Todd – 1, Britney – 0.


The Peter Gabriel/Justin Bieber Musical Let Down Hypothesis

April 17, 2010

Today’s pop musicians (read: nearly everything written from 1995 – present) have no talent. Gone are the days of imagery-filled, gut wrenching, make-you-go-wow lyrics. Songs about love and relationships and all things that pertain to it have been dumbed down so far, I am convinced that we’ll begin seeing music hitting the top of the pop charts that was originally written as a second grade assignment in some podunk school out in the cornfields of Nebraska (no offense to Nebraskans, but if I chose Detroit or Chicago, we would be more likely to see dumbed down, obscene, rap lyrics written by angry sixth graders).

To prove my point, I give you the set of lyrics to two songs about love and relationships gone awry:

“Come Talk to Me” — Peter Gabriel, 1992 (written because of his strained relationship with his daughter)

The wretched desert takes its form,
The jackal proud and tight,
In search of you I feel my way,
Through the slowest heaving night
Whatever fear invents,
I swear it makes no sense
I reach out through the border fence
Come down, come talk to me

In the swirling curling storm of desire
Unuttered words hold fast
With reptile tongue, the lightning lashes
Towers built to last
Darkness creeps in like a thief
And offers no relief
Why are you shaking like a leaf?
Come on, come talk to me

Ah please talk to me
Won’t you please talk to me
We can unlock this misery
Come on, come talk to me
I did not come to steal
This all is so unreal
Can’t you show me how you feel now
Come on, come talk to me
Come talk to me, come talk to me

The earthly power sucks shadowed milk,
From sleepy tears undone
From nippled skin as smooth as silk,
The bugles blown as one
You lie there with your eyes half closed,
Like there’s no one there at all
There’s a tension pulling on your face
Come on, come talk to me

Won’t you please talk to me
If you’d just talk to me
Unblock this misery
If you’d only talk to me
Don’t you ever change your mind
Now your future’s so defined
And you act so deaf so blind
Come on, come talk to me
Come talk to me, come talk to me

I can imagine the moment
Breaking out through the silence
All the things that we both might say
And the heart it will not be denied
‘Til we’re both on the same damn side
All the barriers blown away

I said please talk to me
Won’t you please come talk to me
Just like it used to be
Come on, come talk to me
I did not come to steal
This all is so unreal
Can you show me how you feel now
Come on, come talk to me
Come talk to me, come talk to me

I said please talk to me
If you’d just talk to me
Unblock this misery
If you’d only talk to me
Don’t you ever change your mind
Now your future’s so defined
And you act so deaf so blind
Come on, come talk to me
Come talk to me, come talk to me

**************************

************************************************

Now for Justin Bieber’s “Baby”: (About teenage love angst)

Ohh wooaah (3x)
You know you love me,I know you care
Just shout whenever, And I’ll be there
You want my love, You want my heart
And we will never ever ever be apart

Are we an item? Girl quit playing
Were just friends, What are you saying
Said theres another, Look right in my eyes

My first love broke my heart for the first time,
And I was like
Baby, baby, baby ohhh
Like baby, baby, baby noo
Like baby, baby, baby ohh
I thought youd always be mine mine

Baby, baby, baby ohh
Like baby, baby, baby noo
Like baby, baby, baby ohh
I thought youd always be mine,mine (oh oh)

For you, I would have done whatever
And I just can’t believe, we ain’t together
And I wanna play it cool, But I’m losin’ you
I’ll buy you anything, I’ll buy you any ring
And im in pieces, Baby fix me
And just shake me til’ you wake me from this bad dream

Im going down, down, down, dooown
And I just cant believe my first love would be around.

And I’m like
Baby, baby, baby ohh
Like baby, baby, baby noo
Like baby, baby, baby ohh
I thought youd always be mine, mine

Baby, baby, baby ohh
Like baby, baby, baby noo
Like baby, baby, baby ohhh
I thought youd always be mine, mine

Luda
When I was 13, I had my first love,
There was nobody that compared to my baby,
And nobody came between us or could ever come above
She had me goin’ crazy,
Oh I was starstruck,
She woke me up daily,
Don’t need no Starbucks.
She made my heart pound,
And skip a beat when I see her in the street and,
At school on the playground,
But I really wanna see her on the weekend,
She know she got me gazin’,
Cuz she was so amazin’,
And now my heart is breakin’,
But I just keep on sayin’…

Baby, baby, baby ohh
Like baby, baby, baby noo
Like baby, baby, baby ohh
I thought youd always be mine, mine

Baby, baby, baby ohh
Like baby, baby, baby noo
Like baby, baby, baby ohh
I thought youd always be mine, mine

(I’m gone)
Yeah, yeah, yeah (6x)
(Now Im all gone, now im all gone, now im all gone)
Gone, gone, gone,(gone)
I’m gone.

*****************************************************************************

I rest my case with this one. Coming up next — Britney Spears’  “Hit Me Baby One More Time” versus Todd Rundgren’s “Parallel Lines”.


Fade Out

March 24, 2010

Fade out.

Scalp tingles. Pulse quickens. Skin ripples.

Pupils dilate.

Spine stiffens. Muscles constrict.

Fingers clench.

Adrenalin rushes.

Hands strike.

Bone crunches.

Body falls.

Sweat pours.

Fade in.


Mistress Nic

March 19, 2010

Twenty-four years together.

Daily visits with you.
Sneaking around behind my back.
Trips out to meet you.
Thousands of dollars wasted on you–
Money that could have financed
Our dream vacation
Or brand new furniture
(Instead of the crap we have now)
Or paid for our kids’ braces
Maybe even a few college credits.

Well, bitch, guess what?

He finally dumped you.
It took him awhile
and a lot of pleading from me and the kids
But, he chose life with us
Instead of a living hell with you.

So, get out — You disgusting piece of filth.

He (We) doesn’t want you around.
Dirtying up his life or
Ruining  his health anymore.

He’s not falling
for your tricks anymore either
or your instant allure.

He’s done with meeting you
for morning coffee
or an evening beer
or a quickie
after our family meals.

I (We) win.

He’s mine (OURS) now.

You (YOU) lose.

Take your poison elsewhere.


A Blind Man’s Vision

March 9, 2010

Note: this is not my piece of poetry. It belongs to an 8th grade student of mine, who was in my class last year. He wrote this in response to the prompt: “Describe colors to a blind man.” When he read it aloud, it took my breath away and a collective gasp was heard from the audience. Remember, he is only 13.

I found a blind man one day while walking in the park.
he stopped me and asked, “What is color?”
I stared at his blank eyes and spoke,
“The deep sound of a trumpet is red,
the gurgle of water from a spout is a light blue sky.
The dark moans of a funeral is black,
and the rustle of a tree’s leaves is green.
The cold touch of frozen metal is gray,
the raindrops falling all around you is a purple haze,
and the dull side of a blade scraping across your skin is yellow.”
He was quiet, and as I stood he turned to face me and said,
“I have heard and felt all those things before, and never given them a thought,
but now I can see the colors, plain as day.”
I smiled as I walked away.

(PS: He also took top honors at the district’s recent Power of the Pen competition.)