Jen and Kim retell a spermy squid tale they heard on Night Classy that will make you rethink what to swallow. They give new teachers a few tips, and they delve into some Twisted Irish Lit. Just know that you will have a new understanding of Tit for Tat and appreciate the nuances of dirty limericks.
Jen and Kim discuss FAFSA hell, and who you shouldn’t piss off at the school. In TWISTED LIT, they take a deep dive into, The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage. They talk about why you shouldn’t name your dog SEAMAN and review some adorable picture books.
Jen and Kim delve into teacher life on social media. They give good advice, such as turning your spirit wear inside out to get drinks after school. In Twisted Lit, they talk about the grimmer version of Snow White and ask the questions, “Why was Snow White so Stupid?” , “Would the Stepmother have been nicer with a little Botox?”, and “Why did the Prince like Dead Girls?”.
Full Transcript Below
Kim and Jen talk about why you shouldn’t use the word pussy in class, no matter what the circumstances. They review their neighborhood pool rules, errant snake worms, and how “those parents” can make or break your day.
The Owl and the Pussy Cat-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43188/the-owl-and-the-pussy-cat
Hammerhead Worms: https://www.thoughtco.com/hammerhead-worm-facts-4178101
Preservatives slow body decomposition: https://iheartintelligence.com/bodies-have-not-been-decomposing/
Kim retells her harrowing experience at a hunting camp. Jen talks about how many conference cakes she once received. Kim realizes that she never got a conference cake. Jen seems to rub that in with the extreme detail in which she describes these elusive cakes. They also discuss personality inventory shaming at staff meetings.
I’ve been planning on giving birth to a baby dragon. I’ve planned for the dragon. I even consulted Daenerys Targaryen for parenting advice. She told me to leave room for the dragon to grow, and she threw in a few coupons to Pet Smart (thanks Danny). This is before she pillaged and went a little nutso.
I’ve planned for this dragon for years. It turns out I’m not having a dragon. I’m giving birth to a shape-shifting beast who mocks me. I don’t know what kind of book baby I’m having because the damn thing keeps changing. I’m in no way giving writing advice, but my advice is NOT to think the first draft is the final draft. Go ahead and file for a first draft divorce. You are going to lose your favorite scenes—the ones you wrote with flowing prose and perfect pacing, but they don’t move the story along. Your main character might not be your main character. (I just figured this out, and the anguish and grief will wane soon.) The setting might be off. Your POV may change. So, your baby dragon will look nothing like a baby dragon when you are done. If you can un-marry yourself from parts of the book that slow it down, don’t make sense, or are downright unnecessary, then you have done yourself a favor.
The scenes where you are dumping backstory, but nothing is happening, NEED. TO. GO. I’m learning to imbed the back story into the scene structure. But, this in itself, while keeping up pacing and weaving in theme and character arc is like juggling a knife, monkey, and a small child.
One thing I’m learning about writing is that I know nothing about writing. Here’s the epiphany that keeps my masochistic obsession going. I’ve always strived to know the most I can about any subject. Peeling back the never ending layers of the writing onion is daunting. I dissected 140 scenes. I came the harsh reality that many of the scenes do not move my story forward. I loved and nurtured those scenes. I fed them dragon food and stayed up with them at night. I’m uninviting them to the party. It doesn’t matter how fun they are or how much I like them. Ok, so cut, delete, slash..what’s left?
I will unearth the bare bones and scrape away the layers of dirt covering my story. Once I see the skeleton, I’ll add the flesh and other vital organs.
From here on out, I will outline all future writing projects. It makes more sense to start with the skeleton instead tearing into the body of a Frankenstein monster first draft.
I have another conversation with my editor on Friday. I’ll have my shovels and picks ready. Here’s to writing, never giving up, and loving your inner shape-shifter.
My cursor hovered over the send box on the email. I got up, walked into the other room. I was about to send the first draft of my manuscript to my editor. I took a deep breath….SEND. It was off to cyber manuscript world. What had I done? Oh My God. Shitty First Drafts
I started this book twenty years ago. So, picking up where I left off was more of a challenge than I expected. Over the summer, I wrote a thousand words a day until I reached my goal of 80,000. I ended at about 86,000 words. I knew the book was far from a literary gem. I knew that the characters were underdeveloped. Yah, I’ll get back to them. I knew that third person omniscient would put anyone over the edge. But, I thought it was important for the reader to know what everyone was thinking all of the time. Not a great plan. I knew that some of my descriptions were coma inducing. I just wanted the reader to picture every detail down to the condensation rings on the table left from a glass. I was dreaming of the characters. I didn’t see them or talk to them when awake, but I was close. It was time for an editor.
I sent my synopsis out to a few editors. The one I chose liked the premise. She wanted to talk to me to see if we were a good match. No one else offered this. I hired her. She told me that as soon as I sent the manuscript, to start on another writing project. So, I did. The new project was shiny and fresh. It didn’t talk back, and it was at my mercy. It wasn’t being abused and ripped apart.
Two days ago, I got my preliminary edits. OMG. If you want to have a thicker skin, then send out a manuscript for someone to edit. Seriously, this is shock therapy. My husband did not understand why I was upset. He’s an engineer and sees only black and white. You wrote a book. You have edits. Make the edits. No big deal. Logic had no place in the beginning stages of my pity party. Logic wasn’t invited.
My dialogue soon turned into a pity party (and as everyone knows, only one person is invited to your pity party.) “I suck. Why would I ever think I could be a writer….blah blah blah.”
Here are some of her edits out of context. It’s much more fun this way.
Does he own this store?
Has she been to her mom’s yoga class?
There’s no consequence for Tracy’s repeated assaults?
Why would he have towels so close at hand?
Do we need access to this character’s unspoken thoughts?
We’re in Lou’s head now.
The morgue is upstairs from here?
So, Domenico is sober right now? It seems like this scene belongs before the one with the fingernail.
More unprovoked assault without consequence for the bullies. Visit to/from the gnomes, Lou.
This seems unlikely.
Why would he do an internal exam at all?
Is this frog punishment ever unpacked? Bobby clearly has issues, and putting his frog in the forest doesn’t do anything to help him — it only ostracizes him from the other children. Ms. Aubry seems relatively enlightened, but she never questions the practice of public shaming.
The principal’s behavior here feels implausible.
This is the 70s, right? Big bushes were in. And why would a psych nurse help her shave her bikini area? This is my favorite.
Tonight, I spent an hour talking to my editor about her feedback. She was spot on and showed me how to make my book the story I’m trying to tell. I had imagined her wielding a red pen over my manuscript, laughing maniacally. Yah, it’s a Word Doc, but being dramatic fueled my pity party. She told me that these are normal first draft edits. She gave me suggestions that I would never have thought of. She sees what’s hidden beneath the madness. She sees what’s possible. She understands my story.
Every first draft sucks. This is a long process. I have homework. I’m to outline my current draft by scene. From there, I change POV, strengthen character development, and make sure the settings are true to the period. My editor will review, then I work on my second draft. Then she reviews again in a hard edit and gives me more homework. There will be another draft or two. I’m sure by then my bruised writing ego will get a hold of herself.
I’ve been Instagram-shamed by both of my daughters.
Violet: “Why are you posting everything twice? You have the picture on your story and on your page.”
Me: “I am posting on my page then putting it on my story. Doesn’t the picture need to be there first in order for me to put in on the story? I tried archiving, but the picture disappeared? Oh, and what are those little circle highlight things? Can you put those on my page…uh…story…?”
Violet: “Give me your phone. Look at the tiny icon of you. Do you see it?”
Violet: “Click on that, press this, double click here, do 23 burpees, dance around a maypole, and wait for a full moon. Then you can post. Violet took my phone. She performed some crazy, maniacal blurry finger magic vampire edits to my Instagram. When she was gone, I attempted to post ONE TIME. The icon she showed me had disappeared. I posted twice which seems to be the reason some people were convicted of witchcraft. I assumed she wouldn’t know. But, it’s social freaking media, and she knew.
A few days later…
Serena: “Why are you posting on your page and in your story?” Violet: “What happened? I showed you how to post. Remember? The other night, in the kitchen?” She followed this up with a post on Instagram proclaiming that she spent two hours schooling me on Instagram. I tried to find the post, to post here, but it’s gone, or in some secret cyber abyss. Me: “Yes, but there were a lot of steps. There may have been wine.
Why can’t it all be my story? What’s the difference? Why do some posts stay and other posts disappear?”
Serena: “Also, what’s up with the 1,000 words a day update every day? It’s kind of random. You don’t explain it anywhere.”
I was about to publish this blog when Violet decided to write a letter. Although this part digresses from the topic at hand, I couldn’t leave this out based on my recent Instagram shaming. Violet: Do we have envelopes? ( I get her an envelope.) Violet: Where does the address go?” I’m suddenly feeling like writing-letter-shaming her. Me: “You don’t know how to address an envelope?” Violet: “No, that’s why I’m asking.” This was delivered in her best OMG/DUH tone. Me: “Her address goes in the middle.” (I point to the middle of the envelope.) Violet: “Do we have stamps?” For the love…I get her a stamp and place it on the correct spot. Me: Your address goes here.” I point to the upper left hand corner of the envelope. Although there were no reasonable spots left, I thought I should show her. Envelope sealed. Violet: Do I go to the post office to mail this?” Me: “Put your letter inside the mailbox, lift the red flag, and the letter will disappear, like magic.” I reminded her that this was the old- school communication equivalent to my neophyte Instagram skills.
I knew I wanted to be a writer/story-teller when I was in second grade. This was the period where I was banned from show-and-tell. Instead of talking about an oblong object found in my mom’s nightstand, or a kitchen appliance–grabbed at the last minute, on the way to school, so I could participate in show-and-tell–I invented my own stories. I used this as my time to get literary feedback from my erudite audience. ‘My brother is missing. He put on my mother’s favorite dress and her favorite red lipstick. He got on a raft and sailed away on the Chattahoochee River. We haven’t seen him since.’ This was in the hub-bub of the Wayne Williams child abduction cases. Coincidentally, my teacher’s name was Mrs. Williams. I assumed they were related, thus explaining her abrupt end to my story. She told me to sit down, and I wasn’t allowed to participate in show-and-tell anymore. It turns out that they weren’t related. I
Twenty years ago, I started writing my novel. I stopped at about 54,000 words. I don’t know why. The characters had been developed. The entire story had been outlined on notecards. I met with writers who were in the editing and publishing stages of their books. They gave me feedback, and I made the changes. But, that voice, kept going, ‘Why do you think you could ever write a book? Who do you think you are?‘ I didn’t have the answer then, but I have it now. ‘Because I can, and I will.‘ If I had that voice years ago, I can’t imagine what I could have accomplished. I’m not saying it’s a great book, but it’s me, and it’s my heart and soul. So, in that respect, it’s great.
I’ve kept myself accountable by posting my daily word count. I have gotten up at 5:30 (during my teacher ‘summer break’) to get in my 1,000 words (and to work out). Finishing my book is a non-negotiable. Quitting is so much easier than following through. The time we take to complain about our sorry lots in life could be time used to fuel our drive to start living our dreams. It is no one else’s fault if our dreams don’t happen. But,isn’t it easier to blame those people or events who had a negative impact on our lives eons ago? Those people don’t think about us, haven’t thought about us, and some may not even remember us. It’s easier to reach into the Mary Poppins’ bag of life and pull out the myriad of excuses that tell us it’s ok not to follow through. Looking in the mirror and literally and figuratively reflecting on our ‘stuff’ is difficult. We are socially trained not to boast. We all know those people who hang their own moons. But, it is important to honor what we have achieved. It is necessary to name those achievements and think about how we got to those ‘wins’.
When I was in the fitness industry, I wanted to win a body building competition. I didn’t say participate, I said win. There is a huge difference between merely participating and going for a win. I learned then that I shouldn’t put limits on my dreams. There are plenty of people out there who will do that for me. I worked toward this goal with drive and willpower that I didn’t recognize. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Every day, I trained for three-four hours, practiced the competition routines, and ate bland and boring food. My family didn’t understand my goal. I may as well have been training to be a rodeo clown or a circus performer. I competed in one fitness and three bodybuilding shows. I kept training and dreaming and imagining that win. Every day I thought, “I‘m one day closer to my win.”
I won my third bodybuilding show. Hearing my name in the same sentence as first place was surreal. I am grateful to have had that moment of sheer accomplishment. I was so happy and proud of myself. I had imagined my dream true. When I went out to the lobby to meet my family, my father wasn’t there. He had left before he knew I won. I embarrassed him because I was on stage in a bathing suit. I leave that part of the story in because although his absence was like a gut punch, I owned my win. I honored my determination and my drive. Other people don’t have to buy in or approve of our dreams. I know my dad was proud of me. He was uncomfortable seeing me in a bathing suit, on a stage, performing a bodybuilding routine because of how he was raised. Some people will not understand or support our dreams, and that’s ok. My dad had his reasons for leaving. But his reasons for leaving did not affect my reasons for staying.
A few years ago, I decided to go back to school and earn my Specialist degree. It was horrible. These days were rough. I taught all day, drove about an hour to school, then sat in class for three hours. When I got home, I’d do homework. The weekends were filled with grad work and lesson planning. On grad school days, I treated myself to a Diet Dr. Pepper from Chic Filet. This coming from the anti-soda, former vegan Nazi. There were group projects. I would rather have a pap smear and a wisdom teeth removal in lieu of participating in a group project as a middle-aged human. I had help; people supported me. But at the end of the work/school/homework/paying bills/taking care of kids day–it was me who got up with hope thinking , ‘today is one day closer to my diploma‘.
Eighty-thousand plus words went from my brain to the page. The words, sentences, paragraphs, and chapters are in their own unique order. I developed characters who live in a world I created. I completed my first draft of my manuscript! It may go nowhere. It may suck like Howard the Duck (which, in my opinion, was the worst movie ever made). I kept my promise to myself. I am done with quitting at the first sign of failure. Build a bridge; get over it,and slay those dreams!
This is the beginning of my novel-writing journey. I will be advised to remove some well-intentioned yet unnecessary plot points. I will need to develop some characters more, and scale back on the characterization of others. Maybe, the story will flatline from chapter one. I’ll fix it. I’ll rework it. But, I will not give up on it which would be the same as giving up on myself.
Here’s to achieving GOALS, recovering from Instagram shame, and learning how to address a freaking envelope!
Today is the last day of school. It is also the last year I will have a classroom to pack up. I’ll be moving into an office. I have a new opportunity as the instructional coach for our school. I’m honored that my admin thinks I can do the job. But, isn’t there always a ‘but’? Is it me, or is it every time something new and positive happens, that little nasty “you can’t do it” voice jumps out every chance she can get. I mean can’t she take a day off? For the love..
I’ve been a teacher for almost 20 years. Although I’ve had many roles as an educator, I’ve never gone a year without teaching students. I will be working with teachers. I went back for my specialist degree to torture myself since I’m a graduate-school masochist. No, really, I went back to get my degree in teacher leadership. My goal was to make a difference and to advocate for teachers and to end war and famine. The latter objectives weren’t on the description of the degree, but they were implied.
As a new teacher, back in 2000, I didn’t even know where I needed support. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. My first year of teaching, colleagues would stop by, look around my room, and see sheer dread and utter confusion on my face. Students may or may not have been hiding from me. I have blocked some of that year out.
I was drowning in a sea of SSTs, poorly distributed desks, and holiday parties. I was previously a personal trainer and aerobics instructor. I taught, in a way, but those folks paid me then drove themselves home. I didn’t need to walk them everywhere or make sure they got on the right bus or in the right car. None of them pooped themselves or needed me to open ketchup packets.
My first day of teaching was the winter holiday party in a second-grade classroom. There were so many little people, all doing different things and needing me for various reasons. Mostly, there was glitter….everywhere. I can’t think of a time where I was more unsure of myself or when I felt more like a failure.
One day, my friend Jen came to my room and said, “It looks like your desks fell from out of the sky and randomly landed. Would you like some help in putting the desks into cooperative groups?” I had no idea what cooperative grouping of desks was, but it sounded really good-like kids would suddenly cooperate once the desks were in fancy research-based groups. Just seeing my classroom more organized made my brain more organized. The dynamics of my class drastically changed. What Jen did, changed my mindset. I had some control. I didn’t know a damn thing about instruction, but I had a starting point. Those few minutes, she gave me changed the orbit of my teaching career.
Have you ever been so lost that an infinitesimal altering of perspective changes everything? I wanted to do for teachers what Jen and so many friends did for me. I was in a safe place, and people were kind and gracious. I grew in my craft. I wanted more. I was bitten by the education bug.
Teaching is a vast freaking task. It is difficult and can be ugly and disappointing. There have been days where I sat in my car, before school, contemplating the day and hoping not to screw something up, upset parents, or disappoint those who (at one point ) thought I was a good teacher.
When teachers make mistakes, we make them in front of a bunch of people-students, teachers, parents, and/or administrators. It’s not like you accidentally put salt in cake batter instead of sugar. Hell, you just throw out that lousy batter. You can do this alone, with no one looking or judging. There was a time I attempted to make a Bundt cake, but I was supposed to snap or connect the pan to itself, and the batter drained out of the oven and on to the floor. I did clean it up and bought a less complicated pan. But when a long division or a The Crucible allegory to McCarthyism lesson is tanking, and students are cross-eyed with confusion, you can’t throw that out, but you can try to clean it up.
Today, I was doing the annual scavenger hunt for the folks on the end of year check out list. As I was avoiding death or severe injury rolling my Chrome Book cart out of the trailer, down the ramp, and cumbersomely into the building (A colleague came to help me. Otherwise, I would have been cursing under my breath trying to roll the cart over the threshold of the door whilst avoiding smashing my toes with it.) I thought, “I am so glad I’m not one of the people on the check out list for whom everyone is looking.” That job kind of sucks. I would want to hide or scurry away from everyone. I was proud of my moment of gratitude. This is an aside since I’m attempting to be grateful for stuff every day. I was also thankful to Amber for rescuing me from the Chrome book cart. The voice of unreason began speaking, and she said, “Dude, I bet you will be someone who has to check off crap next year.” She may be right.
At 50, the doubt doesn’t dissipate. It still reaches out and tells me the bad stuff that could happen. But, risk-taking is what keeps us alive and striving for a better life. At 50, I know how to tell doubt off. Sometimes it rolls its eyes at me or gives me the finger. I’m not scared of it anymore. It’s there and I know it exists, but I also know that hope exists. I’ve accomplished some cool stuff. I’m not an extreme expert on anything, but I have fought the doubt and focused on the end goal with some success. Doubt never apologizes, it’s just happy to have sucked the life out of us for a bit. I hope to do a good job next year. I hope to develop relationships with my colleagues. I hope to kick doubt’s ass.
Thank you JEN ROBERTS for taking the time to help me. I think of you always and with much love and appreciation.
Another year of teaching has come and gone. I have different ideas, and definitely varied perspectives of education, and its faults, fallacies, and good intentions.
The year before last, I taught gifted, advanced math, and was an instructional coach. I changed schools to be closer to home, and I taught 4th grade. This year, I am an IRR teacher for 9th grade lit. A colleague asked me why I keep changing what I teach. I want to avoid becoming a complacent educator. The changes have been uncomfortable, but that discomfort fired off some stagnant synapses.
I chose to move on to high school. It is closer to home, and I love the content. I took the Special Ed and English GACE. So here I am. I’m humbled, again. The learning curve has become the rainbow colored spinning wheel when the computer is thinking..and thinking….and thinking.
I never understood the work and tenacity that writing an IEP requires. My mentors are very kind and patient. They make corrections on the IEPs with multi-colored sticky notes. I give myself a grade on the IEP; it all depends on the sticky notes. Five or fewer, is around a C. I made an A one time, but it was an anomaly.
It’s a big high school. It took me months to figure out which direction to head. There was the block schedule which took me a while to remember. The kids from the wrong periods showed up in my class; they were just as confused. I’ve noticed a few differences between teaching elementary school and high school:
- I have TWO planning periods. TWO of them…not one, but TWO.
- They have phones. For the love…
- I don’t need to walk them ANYWHERE, even though I probably should.
- They skip a lot…they aren’t very good at it. I wasn’t either, so I understand.
- They don’t like me sometimes.
- Some have given up.
There are a few similarities:
- Calling parents still works.
- They argue like kindergarteners.
- They stall and avoid work with anecdotal stories of their lives.
- They are awed and amazed by snow. They aren’t awed and amazed by the online learning days.
Going from 4th to 9th has been interesting. My students have struggled with literacy for as long as they can remember. When working with elementary aged students, it seems there is more hope for them. I do get frustrated, because I know I can help, but some don’t want it. It’s too overwhelming for them, and they’ve ‘gotten by’. This year, I tried to engage students in good conversations. I tried to help them find their motivation that faded into the walls of a former classroom where failure blanketed them. They remember the struggles. I tried to help them succeed. For some success is a making it to the end of the day. This year, students told me they weren’t smart, things are too difficult, and people gave up on them.
We did get to some good places. We did learn to trust each other. I believe I started teaching without trying to gain trust. That was a big mistake. If they don’t trust me, then they won’t take risks; I get that.
My biggest struggle was the phones and earbuds. They asked if they completed their work if they could play on their phones. Um…no. I told them the first week of school that I teach bell to bell. There won’t be ‘down time’. They responded with looks of shock and confusion. I did use this as an opportunity to teach situational irony. A good example would be if they came to class without earbuds and phones.
The EOCs and final exams came and went. I watched as they faded into their usual oblivion, where tests they don’t understand don’t exist.
Next year, I’ll be teaching 11th grade American Lit. If I expect my students to do something different to learn and grow, then I should too.