Category Archives: blogging

News of my death…

has been greatly exaggerated. I’m feelin’ you, Mark Twain. All my posts lately are about how busy I am, and how that’s what’s keeping me from doing any real writing for you… but there will still be plenty of writing next year, and much of it related to education, too. More on that late-June-ish. And if what brings you here is not the education stuff at all, there’ll be who-knows-what dropped at a dark barker. If all goes exceptionally well, there’ll even be pieces published on real, tree-killing, high-gloss paper.

But yes, it is goodbye to teaching. Or at least, goodbye for now. TMAO says it’s a false promise to leave indicating one’s possible return when that might just be a rationalization or a fantasy or something. But teaching science has been good to me. It’s been full of challenges, adventures – dead lobsters, dead crickets, LEGO robots, homemade musical instruments, and more, and let me meet a few hundred interesting people who are fast on their way to becoming adults.

I ran into one of those young people on the bus the other day. He was in our school, perhaps illegally, in the very first year. Illegally because he was supposed to get services that we couldn’t provide. He was kind-hearted, didn’t read or write all that well, loved science but could be infuriatingly lazy, drove us up the wall, and thrived at the same time. He’s a junior in high school right now, teaching chess to little kids at a camp this summer – he always was a super-star chess player – and was talking about taking the SATs and the Chem Regents and starting college visits pretty soon. He wants to be a chemical engineer. How do I capture what it feels like to sit on a bus next to this young man, talking about his future, thinking back on the three years that I taught him, knowing the long odds for a kid from the South Bronx, a Dominican male with special needs, becoming an engineer, and yet knowing that he is already far along that path and can now see it unfolding in front of him. This kid is going to make it, and I played some role in that, and what’s simultaneously remarkable and reassuring about it all is that among the students who have graduated from my school, he is not an exception (I don’t have any data to back this up, just a few anecdotes and a sense). (The fact that he wants to go into a science-related field is just icing).

But it’s been a hard year, and the eighth hard year in a row, and at a certain point this winter, every cell in my body was telling me it was time for a change, physically, mentally. Time to make space in my life for healthier relationships, for the trazillions of interests that I have besides education, for pursuing writing in a serious way, for slowing down and redirecting my energy, at least for a while. I’m turning 30 next week: I guess that’s part of it. And then I saw an opportunity, and soon there was a job offer, and then I accepted, and then I told my boss, and then I wrote a resignation letter, and here we are. My new team met yesterday for a few hours, and reality got a bit realer, some initial planning was sketched out… well, I really can’t share more than that but be patient!

Still, I wish I could annotate this post in multi-colored post-its and add all the things that I’m leaving out (for now)… thoughts about why teachers stay and why they go, about my own personal reactions to stress and whether the problem is me or the job or the particular version of the job that happens in certain kinds of classrooms and schools in the city, about where I hope life might go next and the ten-thousand things that might come as next steps. I’m leaving, but I’m not going anywhere.

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Filed under blogging, confession, education, midlife crisis, New York, science, special education, teaching

Um, WordPress?

Where do you get off listing “possible related posts” at the bottom of my posts without so much as my say-so?  Can I turn this OFF?  Sheesh.

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Studying the masters…

Last week, at my writing class, our teacher brought in a friend and former colleague of his, Jeff Leen, who is the Investigations Editor for the Washington Post and has won several Pulitzer Prizes. I’m not normally star-struck – and I honestly hadn’t heard of him before meeting him last week – but he’s obviously very, very good at what he does, so it was exciting to have him in our class. He talked a little bit, and then we did what we always do, which is to read our assignments out-loud and then critique them, briefly. Mainly, he shared advice for writers which he finds true, a lot of it advice he himself picked up from writers before him: William H. Gass, Tom Wolfe, and so on. What was most interesting to me is a little insight he gave us into his own writing process. In the advice he gave, one piece was to study the masters, another that structure is the area that needs the most work from struggling writers. So a student asked him who are today’s masters, especially regarding structure. He said that he’s working on a book at the moment, about a famous athlete from many years ago, and he said he promised his editors it would be like Seabiscuit. And now, in the middle of researching and writing this book, he’s going back to Seabiscuit, teasing it apart, trying to figure out what makes it such a well-written book, to the point that he actually counts the number of words per sentence, figures out the ratio of reporting-type sentences to more lyrical sentences. To me, this is fascinating. Here’s this accomplished, award-winning writer and editor looking to the work of a much younger author, Laura Hillenbrand, as one of the modern classics, and studying her work as a text to emulate, and with such a microscopic focus. It’s not the age or experience piece that matters most – good writing is good writing – more the constant process of learning, of learning through imitation, of learning so deliberately.

If you were going to pick one author who’s work you want to understand not only in terms of content but in terms of what makes the writing work, who would you study? Why? What piece?

A good deal of my writing these days is going into a little red notebook, and from there, onto this computer, and then, to class.

That makes two excuse posts in a row.

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Hate mail?

I’m not sure what to make of the repeated searches for “k1ll ms. fr1zzle” and “ms. fr1zzle sucks” that have led people to my blog in the last couple of days.  I doubt they have anything to do with  me, but the only other ms. frizzle I know is my inspiration, an orange-haired science teacher in a children’s book series… not someone who inspires a lot of strong negative feelings, I imagine… weird.

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Well….

line break and paragraphing problems still unresolved (though, to be fair, I did not attempt to solve them), a couple dozen projects still ungraded, I am off to California for the weekend.  I’d put flowers in my hair, except that I’d have to buy them because it is snowing out.  No flowers.  Can I just say that pretty soon we are studying sunset and sunrise times and man, am I ready for sunset to happen, at, say, dusk?  Six o’clock dusk, not 4:50 dusk.  And if you should find a masseuse in your closet, please, please send ’em along to me.  I could seriously use a backrub right now.  Any masseuse hiding in your closet might be sketchy, but I could get over that.

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aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Weird problem with Firefox, can’t open it any more.  Safari is seriously messing with things like my ability to use spaces and line breaks on this blog.  HHHEEELLLLPPP!

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The most neurotic cat in the world…

Hey, remember Friday Cat Blogging?  Does that go on any more?  (Yes.) I vaguely remember it being a little controversial, like, dude, I read your site for the political analysis, I don’t give a hoot about your cat.  Clearly the sort of hard-nosed opinion one would find among leading-edge readers of political blogs.  Then again it was also credited for “bringing people together” in the article linked above, and I can’t find the comments about it being dumb that I remember, so maybe I’ve reconsolidated my memories incorrectly?  Blogs have matured and now, it seems to me, people either blog about their cats once in a while, or they don’t, or they don’t have cats, or they don’t want you to know they have cats, and it’s all well and good, the world keeps turning.  But oh doesn’t having a fairly distant memory of a cyberspace “thing” make me feel old!  I mean, remember the dancing baby?  And I even go back to when you could type “chef” into your unix email thingie and it would encheferize, er, rewrite all the text to sound like the Swedish Chef.  Anyway, the really purpose of this post is not to ruminate and reminisce about ye olde internet, it’s to describe Valentine’s favorite game: sit on the table and cry every few seconds until it becomes so obnoxious that I lift her up, at which point she purrs, sits on my lap for a minute, then jumps off and repeats.  A variation – and I honestly can’t say which I like better – is when she stands on the corner of the couch, whines, reaches out and sinks her claws into my shoulder (sometimes it’s more of a swipe than a grab, but you get the idea).  Fun for all!  Now, the answer may seem obvious: Valentine needs more attention.  So, I sit on the floor and wave feathers at her, which keeps her avid interest for… 20 seconds.  Then she stalks off.  Well, what if I roll a ball with a bell in it, or toss a catnip-stuffed mouse her way?  Again, seconds of fun!So without actually solving the problem by giving her the QT she obviously needs in a way that she likes, instead I find myself reinforcing the whining and clawing behavior by picking her up when I can no longer ignore it one second longer… only to reinforce it again and again throughout the evening.  Um, help?  (and let me assure you, DOZENS of toys have been tried).

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