Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Oh Juno, why aren't you released nationwide yet? I saw a poster for this, and the very pregnant teenager in grunge-semble turned me off. But Simini just showed me a trailer for Juno, a new Fox Searchlight film, and oh my. It's love.

Some review pages bash Juno for being as lame as Little Miss Sunshine. But wait... wasn't Little MIss Sunshine fabulous? Yes. Yes, it was. I heart that movie. I also, in a Diet Coke haze at some ungodly hour two nights ago (after midnight, that's all I know), I watched Garden State and enjoyed it. I laughed out loud a few times. So yay for independent films.

This week is the devil. Let us all get through finals. Amen.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Was blind, but now I see.

On Friday, I put my eyes in Dr. Jesse Hunsaker's hands, and after 10 minutes in an operating room, my eyes could see better on their own than I can remember ever seeing in my entire life.

Three years ago, an eye doctor back home said my prescription for my glasses and contacts had finally stabilized and that I could be a good candidate for LASIK. I wasn't very old, so I didn't think very much of it. I had a pretty long history of poor vision. I have no recollection of seeing perfectly or even well on my own. I was a smart little kid, so I did a good job of getting through kindergarten and part of first grade without letting on that I was blind as a bat. Finally, one night we were watching TV as a family, and my mom, from the other room, asked what channel we were watching (brand new cable, so we're talking at least 20 channels, pretty impressive). I stood up, walked over to the cable box, arranged myself on the floor directly in front of it, and waited for my eyes to focus. The next week, I got my first pair of tortoise-shell, wire-rim glasses. You know the kind, with the little bar running straight between the tops of the two lenses. Very chic.

Later, in middle school, after years of hideous huge glasses, I got contact lenses, which I got used to very quickly and loved right away. About the same time, glasses technology changed, and they could shape lenses in such a way that they appear less thick from the sides. My beef is that my glasses still distort the shape of my face. I'm very nearsighted (although much improved from when I was younger and required bifocals), so my glasses make the sides of my face pull in and my eyes appear smaller. Not so cute.

Now in college, they've developed contact lenses that you can leave in for days at a time, and I loved those as well. Still, contacts tear. They fall out. They get itchy and irritating. I can't run around and play in glasses. Mine are too big anyway and fall off. So I went to talk to the good people at the Excel Eye Center. They took my measurements, confirmed that my -7.50 prescription was 20/20 for me, and set me up with a procedure date three weeks out. Three weeks of torture. I discovered that I liked those glasses, that my vision issues were manageable. Many have much worse vision than I do and get by just fine without LASIK. Was this a vanity thing? I got a discount because of my student insurance, but was this still ridiculous? I could lose my eye if things went wrong.

It's also dumb, but I felt I had three different visions. One without any correction, my "home base" of sorts. Old faithful. Then my vision with contacts, which was correct vision, including peripheral vision, with a somewhat magnified twist. Everything looked a little bigger with my contacts in than without. And then I had my vision with my glasses. No corrected peripheral vision, but everything is a little bit smaller. Which means I look a little bit daintier, which I always liked. So I worried about which "vision" I'd have after LASIK.

To my delight, I have a fourth vision. I never knew that both glasses and contacts change the quality of the image I see. Even to subtleties of color and crispness. My distance vision has never been this good, and it's getting better by the hour.

Anyway, back to the surgery, I got to the Excel Eye Center in Provo, on a rainy Friday morning with my mom in tow. I was so nervous. They took a bunch more measurements from me, and everyone was extremely friendly and supportive, although professional at the same time. The place was immaculate and well-ordered. They had a live-feed of the surgeries happening before mine, these big eyeballs on a TV screen. I couldn't watch. Normally, I'd be totally in to it. But knowing my eyes were going to be poked and prodded, I couldn't look. I asked my mom, "Am I doing the right thing?" She has been wanting this for me for a long time. "Yes, this is definitely the right thing." While I was in the room getting scans done of my eyes, they told my mom that they didn't often get to work with people as nearsighted as me, and that this would change my life in ways I couldn't understand until it was over.

They were right. They called my name, gave me a hair net thing and shoe covers and took my glasses. "Won't need those ever again." My heart started to pound at that point. The assistant prepped my eyes with an iodine rub and eye drops, and laughed and joked with me to help me stay calm. I went into the operating room after squeezing my mom's hand, and was set up on basically a reclined dentist's chair looking deal. "Would you like to hold a football or a bunny?" Without a seconds delay, I answered, "A bunny, please." Even laying down, I felt so nervous. I knew I could still say that I changed my mind, but it was all set up. I was terrified. They knew I was, so it was one big cheerleading fest in there.

For the faint of heart, I won't go into the details of the surgery, although I've got the whole thing on tape if anyone wants to see it. Afterwards, after losing my vision during the cuts, watching it get even dimmer with the flaps lifting and shutting, I was hoisted up to me feet and told I was all done. I looked around, just stunned. I couldn't say a word. Then I looked out the door and saw my mom. "Mommy, I can see you!" I started to bawl. I was so overwhelmed. It had been such an emotional rollercoaster for me to decide to go through with this. So I just cried and cried and hugged everyone I could find who had helped me. I have always depended on glasses or contacts just to survive. It was scary for me to give up that crutch. And my vision wasn't 20/20 the second I walked out of the operating room, but I would have been satisfied with what it was, it was such an improvement. Later that afternoon, they took off my eye guards and tested my vision. 20/25! I got the nickname "Eagle Eye" because rarely do people as nearsighted as me heal that quickly.

I'm still a little sensitive to bright light, but all things considered, I'm amazed. What a miracle! Now I think everyone should get LASIK. It's hard to imagine improving on my experience. I would do it over again in a heartbeat!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My cousin and Matt Damon

What do they have in common?

"How do you like them apples?" My first exposure to this line was in health class in 10th grade, with... I can't remember my teacher's name. Anyway, some exceedingly lazy educator pirated the censored version of Good Will Hunting off NBC, and let it run in half hour blocks every other day for a few weeks.

So my cousin... Today was my mom's parents' 50th wedding anniversary, and festivities were held in their honor at my parents' house. The eclectic menagerie that is my mother's family came, amongst the bunch my eight-year-old cousin, who is in third grade in the next town over. Well, I remember how much I loved getting attention from my older cousins around his age, so when challenged (shyly) to a round of air hockey, I accepted. An hour later, my cousin beat me for the umpteenth time, triumphantly, hoisting himself halfway onto the table, yelling, "How do you like them apples?!?!?"

I don't know. They're alright. Besides, he was allowed to use two mallets (to my one) and his hands (while he instructed me severely several times to keep mine off the puck). So I'm not ashamed of losing. But "them apples"? I'm still reeling.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Blogging: It's What Needs to be Done, or, Things I Like Lately

Diet Coke with Lime.

Feist. In 2005, a boy (hmm?) introduced me to "Mushaboom," a song I've been in love with since day one. Feist has recently come to international attention with the release of the new iPod Nano commercial, which features her song "1-2-3-4." What makes Feist awesome? She's nowhere near being tainted by attention, nor is she in any danger of becoming a sell-out. My roommate has looked up some of Feist's music videos. Please see My Moon My Man for an example of previously affirmed awesomeness. The woman is not afraid to sport a single Princess Leia bun, a killer trench-dress, and a dozen or so unisex background dancers, and rock out like the white girl she is. For another example of her white girliness, please refer to Feist and Gonzales live at Trash in London. Start at about 2 minutes. In conclusion, Sim put it best when she said that Feist "makes me want to play guitar... coolly." Yes, me too. Me too.

Sleep. I averaged about 10 hours a night over break. Needless to say, no homework was completed at all this week.

Yams. With toasty marshmallows.

Those fruit roll things they sell in the produce section. Except one is never enough. Wow, food dominates my life.

Mail. I got a letter from a friend on an LDS mission today. Well, it actually came yesterday, and I was chomping at the bit all yesterday and this morning to get a chance to read it. When you have to wait close to two months to hear from someone abroad, those letters are gold.

Enchanted. Holy cow. Sim and I saw it tonight (my second time). You know something is good if my roommate starts wheezing while she laughs. Amy Adams was really good at being an air-headed Disney ditz (thus confirming what we've always suspected of Disney "princesses"), and of course I was satisfied that she reformed and became a secure, confident female force to be reckoned with. It took me a second to get out of my head the Katie image from The Office, but she knocked this role out of the park. I also love James Marsden. I think he's incredibly versatile. I loved him in Hairspray this summer as well. Sim and I also confirmed that the best way to win a girl over is to hold her close in a slow dance and softly sing in her ear. Oh... It's good. Guys, don't do it if she doesn't dig you, though. That would have quite the opposite effect. But if you know she's into you, for Pete's sake DO IT! And please note, chest hair, though a natural part of life for many men, and possibly attractive to certain women, probably shouldn't be flaunted whilst wearing a loose bathrobe. And women probably shouldn't make a habit of playing with the chest hair of strangers. Just a thought.

And now I leave you for homework, or What Really Needs to Be Done.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bonus Material

Just for being such a great crowd...

Be amazed. He's something of an idol back home. We have an oboist and a flautist among my sisters, and this guy gives them some shred of hope that their hobbies can be cool someday.

Also, my roommate has taken to consulting me on composition for her art projects. Simini, I just don't know. All I know is, I like to see the other ear piece on your glasses. I want ear piece! That's all I know! Check her out, she's the coolest. Link to the right...


Jani, this one's for you.

I encountered, for the first time in my life, someone completely ignorant of the concept of a library, who should have known better.

I work as a reference desk assistant in the Special Collections department of my university's main library. My supervisor wasn't in, so I checked her messages during a slow part of my shift. A patron had called in looking for a copy of the book, Joseph Smith and Herbal Medicine.

Side note: I find the title of this book disappointing and somewhat upsetting, and if it weren't my job to help patrons find materials, I would have deleted the message right there. I'm embarrassed that the library not only had the book, but had seven copies over three editions both in SC as well as the religion department. Not that this is the library's fault; down in SC, we especially look to preserve anything written by or about the Church or church members. But this... Come on. Let's not make inferences where they oughtn't be made. Well, that's typical of my work. For every bona fide source we have about the Church in our locked stacks in SC, we have three or four sources of questionable repute, or downright blasphemous/anti-Church materials. But I digress...

I called this patron back, but got the answering machine for an herbal supplier in the next county over. Okay, easy enough. A few hours later, right before close, the phone rang again. Who would it be but our dear herbalist friend. The following is a reenactment of the conversation:

"Special Collections, this is Hilary, how can I help you?"

"Hello, this is Bob Jones (fake name in case that wasn't obvious), I'm calling back about the book Joseph Smith and Herbal Medicine. You said you had it?"

"Yes. We have editions from 1975, 1980, and 2001. We have multiple copies of the first and last editions, but only one of the 1980."

"Oh, so these are used books?"

Pause. I continued:

"Well, in theory... They are on the shelves both in our protected stacks and in the library itself, so yes, any patron would have had access to these copies."

"Oh, okay. So can I buy one of the newer ones?"

Okay, now wait. Buy? How many times have I just said the word "library"? Was that unclear?

"I'm sorry, I don't think I understand. This is a library. We only lend out materials, we don't sell them."

Pause. Again. I pressed forward:

"I'm looking at the online card catalog description for this book as we speak, and the publisher is Bountiful Books, based out of Springville with Cedar Fort, Inc. It's a fairly popular LDS publisher. You could probably find this in a Deseret Book or a Seagull Books store."

Pause. He tries this time:

"Sooo... Deseret Book would have it?"

Aw, for the love of Pedro. Come on. Regaining my composure, I offer:

"Possibly, but I'm not sure. You'd have to check with the publisher or with those stores."

"Oh, okay. Do you have their number?"

Google, buddy. But I had nothing else to do, so I googled it for him. At this point, it was clear he needed all the help he could get. I gave him the most information I could, and sent him on his way. Now, I never saw him face to face, obviously, but I made the following assumptions just from his voice:

1. male
2. white
3. American
4. between 40 and 50 years old
5. completely inept

How did he not understand the concept of a library? Rarely does one buy anything from a library. I was so baffled. Apparently someone's partaken of a few too many herbs in his day...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Someone so kindly alerted my attention to the fact that my vida has been seemingly un-llena, judging by the (in)frequency of my posts.

I'd like to plead whatever number says that computers are a pain in the patooty. I killed my iBook and my mom's Dell, as well as a brand new external hard drive this past month. I now have a new Dell Inspiron, and pray every waking moment of my existence that it will not die on me.

Other than that... I'm sorry people. I'm just uninspired lately. Simini's last post was extremely amusing. My wee little roommie... I'm going to miss that girl.

This is going to have to go up as it is. Consider this an IOU for better things to come.

Monday, October 29, 2007

ScEd 353 - Cultural Identity Report

Hey kids! Who said homework couldn't be fun? The following blog is actually a homework assignment for my multicultural ed class with the fabulous Dr. Ramona Cutri. For those random friends who actually read this lonely page, the assignment is (and I quote): "Create a 'conceptual webbing' of the various cultural, biological, economical and contextual factors that have influenced your identity, shaped your values, and influenced your learning. Place your name in the center of the web." The name in the center of the web part gets complicated a bit because this is a blog, and unavoidably linear. Oh well, here goes anyway. I think I'll start with "the basics" and move into more complex areas of the web that is me. :)

Hilary Watkins
Race (Color? I'm confused about this term now...): White/Caucasian/Anglo...?
Gender: Female
Heritage: Predominantly English, Welsh, Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish.
Birthday: May 13, 1987
Birthplace: Summit, NJ
Hometown: New Canaan, CT
Current location: Provo, UT
Family's current location: Alpine, UT
Place in family: Oldest of five girls; no brothers!
Financial situation: Born to a poor couple who acquired quite a bit of money through hard work and smart investing; now I've come full circle as a financially independent poor college student.
Education: Student at Brigham Young University; BA in English Teaching with a minor in TESOL K-12.
Political affiliation: Somewhere between the Republican and Democratic parties.
Religious affiliation: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Favorite foods: Sushi, dark chocolate, Diet Coke with lime, Indian food, grilled cheese, anything minty, ice cream, and good pizza. Being raised in the east, I'm a food snob.
Favorite colors: Green, blue, and brown (the colors of the outdoors). We are a walking family; we love Sunday strolls, and we like to spend time up American Fork Canyon.
Favorite holiday: Christmas. So many wonderful memories and traditions.
Things I love: Traveling (we have visited three continents as a family), music (I studied piano for 10 years and competed in New York), reading (my mother always read to us growing up), admiring the mountains and clouds (the move to Utah has opened up nature to me), playing with kittens at the pet store (I miss my pug Sammy at home), typing (I know this is crazy, but it's actually quite therapeutic, and I transcribed missionary journals for work for seven months), digging in the garden (my mom loves to garden), swimming (we have a pool), watching movies (a weekly roommate activity).
Things I hate: Forgetting things at home (which I do all the time, and which bothers my dad), sleeplessness (picked up from my dad), not liking any of the food in my apartment (again, food snobbery), people who brag about expensive clothing (we were raised with the understanding that material things are the last things we should be worrying about in this world), blindly conservative/liberal people (my parents have raised me to be a "free thinker" and to challenge norms).
Most life-changing experience: Living in Ecuador last summer for three months, working in orphanages and hospitals, and picking up as much Spanish as possible.
Life goals: To be a wife and mother (although I cannot guarantee the caliber of either), to have a positive influence in the lives of those around me, and to see more of the world and to understand what I can do to help improve it.

This is starting to look like one of those obnoxious "About Me" forwarded emails that we all used to be obsessed with in middle school. Hopefully this does the job for this assignment...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Mom, I have a headache in my belly.

I used to tell my mom this when I was sick. And right now, it bears repeating.

What I ate after 4:20 today:
1. Approximately 1/2 cup Reduced Fat Cheez-its
2. 2 apple cinnamon rice cakes
3. 1 cup of milk
4. 1 slice of cheddar cheese
5. 1 cup of edamame

Then I booked it up the hill to work. When I got there, I craved chocolate and bought some Junior Mints in the break room. This proved unnecessary, as my co-worker Kimberly bought a jumbo bag of Reece's Pieces. So at least I didn't down the mints. But I ate a lot of Reece's Pieces. And that didn't feel so good. And so I sipped some water and tried to sit still, moaning gently... On the inside...

Quite unfortunately, tonight was the L. Tom Perry Special Collections 50th Anniversary Gala Event! complete with carrot cake and ice water. Of course I had a piece of cake, with way too much buttery cream cheesy icing.

So now the edamame, the rice cakes, and the skim milk (Team Healthy) are warring, somewhat unsuccessfully, against the cheese, the Cheez-its, the Reece's Pieces, and the carrot cake (Team Junkola). The carrot cake could have been healthy, but it succumbed to the cheesy creamy icing, and converted to the Dark Side. Or at least the winning side. Uck.

So much for yoga last night. Is it weird that I still want Chinese take-out right now?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The many sounds of Gummibears.

A discussion with two of my roommates about the olden days of Disney afternoon cartoons brought many mixed memories to the surface. This is a collection of trivia, with the Gummibear grande finale.

Fact: In DuckTales, Uncle Scrooge is raising Huey, Dewey, and Louie because their guardian, Uncle Donald, joined the navy. Yeah, I know. But who isn't above a little subliminal messaging?

Fact: InTaleSpin, the she-bear who buys out Baloo's freight business is named Rebecca Cunningham. I grew up with a Rebecca Cunningham.

Fact: This is boring. Now to the good stuff.

Check out these bad boys. First, the original Gummibears theme. Second, the a cappella version, hailing from Brown University. And finally, the Swedish techno remix.

In conclusion, homework is overrated.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Addicted to Connectivity

Well, our internet connection is down. It's been pretty lame all week, but after running some diagnosis tests over the phone with the frazzled Comcast lady today, our modem was pronounced dead. The brand new modem that TPM (our management group) finally bought us after living without our own modem for the whole summer and part of this semester. And pirating the mysterious "linksys" open network has proved less than successful, although the signal is unfrequented enough tonight for me to write this post. Roar, I just hate when things don't work. I didn't have anything desperately needing my attention online tonight, but I panic when I don't have an internet connection when I'm expecting to have one.

I know it's pathetic, but I get that way when I leave my cell phone at home, too. Just knowing that I'm supposed to be connected to the technological world but I'm not freaks me out. How bothersome. My thoughts turn to Thoreau in the woods. Simplify, simplify, simplify...

Of course, Thoreau only pulled off the whole Walden thing because Emerson and some existentialist buddies gave him land and helped him build his house and made sure he didn't starve. So civilization is somewhat necessary. It's just too bad that our civilization comes with so many screens, plugs, and flashing lights.

Can I just say, I love eating brownies and singing along to Regina Spektor with my roommate in our living room at 11:30 on a Sunday night, long after our responsible roommates have gone to bed. Shout out to ya, Sim.

Friday, October 12, 2007

According to Billy Crystal...

...women and men can never be friends. My roommate and I watched When Harry Met Sally a few weeks ago. Besides having some riotously hysterical moments, it harped on the idea that men and women can never engage in a nonromantic relationship. Harry and Sally, though friends for the better part of the second half of the movie, eventually get together. So point proven, I guess.

Gosh darn it, why can't we all just be friends? I'm so sick of the anxiety of a relationship. I'm just happy to be alone. Not emotionally alone, I need and love my friends. Just unattached. Not worried about keeping someone else happy for once. Just me. I love my friends, but I also like the fact that I just don't get stuck on my friends like I get stuck on dates/boyfriends. My friends and I can all go our separate ways, and I know that in six weeks, four months, or two years, it'll still be like old times.

And so I fight. Eat it, Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan and Carey Fischer. Men and women can "just" be friends, so help me.

Friday, October 5, 2007

My date with the Rocky Mountain Express Cloggers.

I forgot to write about my Clogger. Not like he clogs things up. He clogs. Like Irish dancing, but not. You can swing your arms around and such.

So I introduced myself to this tiny little kid who sits by my desk, and asked him how his work was coming. The seventh graders are working on a project in which they design their own worlds, complete with cultural norms, family norms, etc. So I've seen places called Eyeland (how punny), ESPN World, Marclar (Southpark reference, I'm sad that I know this), Heavenland, JimmyWorld, you get the idea. Well, this tiny little wisp of a boy shows me his brochure for his world. It's name? Rocky Mountain Express Cloggers Island World.

"You clog?" I croon.

He tells me all about his dance company and the features of his little clogging mecca-world. I walk away, and out of the corner of my eye, I see these skinny little limbs working their magic under Clogger's desk. He is dancing up a storm, trying to steal sneaky glances at me. Oh, I see you Clogger. Immobile torso, yes, but those clunky skater shoes furiously wearing away the carpet underneath your seat.

I gave him a sweet little smile and said, "I see you clogging under there." He grinned and blushed. I think I'm the first girl he's ever impressed. He invited me to his dance recital. In December. If I remember I'll go cheer on my cute little Clogger. Seventh grade is the best!

In the next class of seventh graders, there's a student from Brasilia, Brazil. When I introduced myself on the first day of my time at this junior high school, one of the students asked me if I spoke any other languages. When I confessed to speaking some Spanish and Portuguese, they all cajoled me to say something in the latter. I said something to the effect of, "I don't speak Portuguese very well, but I do speak a little bit." Brasilia responded in Portuguese, and we exchanged three or four times. The class went wild. It's fun to snag their attention. I still haven't cracked my ninth graders, but the seventh graders have been pretty easy.

Anyway, Brasilia was spotlighted today, and talked about her desire to be an author by profession. She announced that she had already begun her first novel. When she was done, I jotted down a self-publication website on a post-it (, thank you Ben!) and "Good luck!" I quietly and quickly stuck it on her desk; I didn't say a peep, just turned around on the double. I did glance back though, and her face was priceless. Her head whipped around, and she was grinning. She's a very bright, very expressive girl. I see a lot of my seventh grade self in her. Eager, bursting with ideas, and all-too-easily obnoxious. People like Brasilia and me, we need allies. I love being a teacher because I get to be an intellectual, academic ally for kids like Brasilia. I don't know her well, but I have a feeling I will be receiving a copy of her self-published novel within the next year.

And randomly, things I learned I am bad at:

1. Tearing colored paper off the butcher rolls in the copy room.
2. Stapling said paper onto a bulletin board.
3. Reloading the stapler.
4. Handling fart jokes.
5. Handling sentences that run as follows: "So Marclar marclarred the marclar in the marclar, and Marclar marclarred Marclar back in the Marclar room."
6. Turning down flirty twelve year-olds.

I love education.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


I'm intrigued by a seventh-grader named Chugg.

I wish I were his mother. If my own kids have to look homely and sad, and there's a chance they will, I hope they look like Chugg.

Chugg is small and round. He wears sweatpants and striped or camo t-shirts. His hair is blond and sticks out at all the wrong angles. Chugg sports some glasses that magnify his eyes to comical proportions, and the ear pieces are dipped in rubber to help keep them on his head. He faithfully carries around one of the those fabric binders with a zipper. He's one of those pack rats whose binder is bursting at the seams. When "at ease," his mouth tends to hang open. His glasses are always sliding down his nose, so his head is always cocked back and to the side a little bit. He's irresistible!

At first I thought the teacher was calling him Chuck. During group work, I introduced myself to all the students, working my way around the room.

"You're Chuck, right?" I asked.

A squeak back: "Not Chuck, Chugg!"

I was hooked ever since. I didn't have his class today, but I ran into him in the hall. I asked him how he was doing. In typical Chugg fashion, he tilted his head back, squinted his eyes and pushed up his glasses, tugged a bit at his shirt and took a deep breath.

"I'm going to the main office, because... My locker is because..."

"Your locker is jammed?" I offered.

"No, because my coat, a part of my coat.... It's stuck like," and he waved his hands frantically up and down and then pursed his thumb and pointer finger together, "My coat is in the locker and I can't open it."

Last time I checked, that is what defines a jammed locker. Apparently my school-day terms are obsolete. Already. So that's Chugg.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Out of the mouths of babes.

I'm a shoddy blogger. I'm sorry. Thank you to everyone that suffers through it, whomever you are.

I do have something fun to share today. Today was my last day with my first through fourth period kids. I had them all fill out a quick evaluation of my teaching skills. The results were varied, at times touching, and sometimes downright insulting. I had lots of good laughs to overpower my confusion or hurt, though. And although anonymous, I can figure out almost exactly who wrote what. Very fun.

The evaluation I put up on the overhead was as follows:

1. How do you think I managed the class on days when I was in charge? Was I too strict or not strict enough? What can I do to improve in this area?
2. What do you think of my teaching style? Was I interesting, boring, or somewhere in between? What can I do to improve in this area?
3. What do you wish I had done to make class more fun?
4. Please tell me what else I can do to be the best teacher possible!

Here's what they wrote. And I mean, EXACTLY what they wrote.

Period #1: ESOL

A. I think u managed the class good!
you were kool i guess every teacher has
to be kinda of strict But you werent that
like i think you should work on like having more
conversation with us and getting to know us
your teacher style was good i learned some/
thing new everyday
We just should of gotten to get the chance
to know each other.
Other then that u' were a chill & cool
teacher!! u were off
da BOMb
ama miss

B. you did good could of been better
you need to have fun wit it but
dont loose control...

C. Perfectly Stict Don't need to work on
you were interesting
I Don't Know
nothinG *derrogatory racial comment scratched out by author, although why you'd belittle your own race is beyond me*
*a booger appears here*

D. You weren't really strict
but you teached us really well.
You would be really interesting
on your teaching.
You could of done more
I really think that you
are a great teather.
Think you for helping me
when I need help.
I'm really going to miss
You Good Luck!

E. Dear Hilary
I'am give you a 10 because you
did a great Job There nothing To
change you are going
To be a great Teacher and hope
you will come back again it was
Fun having you here.

F. You were perfectly managed the class, not to
strict and and not too little.
Some where in between.
Write down what your teaching.
Made it easyer.
Make something more easy.

G. How do you think I managed the class
on days when I was in charge? you were
a. you were not strict
b. nothing your great how you are
Your teaching style is perfect.
a. You are interesting
b. nothing your perfect the way you are
nothing because class is no fun
nothing, I don't know

H. I think you were strict enough
because I guess to be a good teacher
you can't be too soft or too hard
I think you were really good, just
pay attention when someone is behind
so every student can be on track
I think you were really helpful
I think you are an interesting
teacher but also you can be like
an understanding teacher,

Period #2: Containment

A. You were great

B. I think you did good
We didn't reallly get to
see your style you werent
here to long
hands on
come back

C. your were not stick
you were interesting
bring more Kandy!

D. 100%
great Awsome
Perfect Just keep
goin the way you are.

E. You were strict But not to strict
You are in Betwen
Been her longer
Stay the same.

F. you did pretty good when
you were in charge

G. good, you werent too strict.
you rock!!!
Lots of candies
Just be yourself.

H. I really liked it becdause I'm
tired of being bossed around
and you asked kindly and people
respect that. I don't think
you need to work on anything.
I think your just average nothing
too special.
maybe we could have done more
hands on things.
Have fun and be strict when you
need to be.

I. you are a Decent
teacher you Just Need
more experance.
I Dont Know
what your teaching style is
Pepole fear what they
Dont understand
so lern about your
students so you understand

Period #4: Freshman English

A. I thought You were fine
in between
Play dodge ball on fridays
I thought you were fine

B. really Good. Not really Stricked
Good-and I loved the teaching
Play games or do Jokes
make the assignments
a little fun.

C. Good
Awsome, interesting
*The phrase "Give more candy" is scratched out here because I gave each of my fourth period kids 3 Oreos for being so good while my professor evaluated me yesterday.*
tell jokes.
Thats all

D. I thought you where
just fine
somewhere in Between
Let us Play more games
I think you where fine

E. You weren't strict you were nice
when you ask for our attention
we gave it to you & thats good
Your normal you always give examples
& say things that have happend to you
You did good you just need to speak louder
Nothing just make things more
fun!! and you'll do great

F. You were really nice &
controlled the class really well
it was a Lil boring but most
of the time pretty fun
i don't know.
Your nice! :)

G. no not strict at all but can work on
being striced
You are cool and can talk to
and you R Polite
Let us Play dogeball
to us you are the best
(if you're nice)
we'll miss you!!!!

H. you were fun.
just right

I. I thought you were a good teacher.
I liked your teaching style. It was
really cool.
Like if we have quizes after we
learn, you could give candy
for the people who get the
right awnser.
you could be a little more

J. I think you was great. Because
you wern't to nice or 2 strict.
You somewhere in between.
But I understand you.
Have music.
You can get more intersting
facs about what we are

K. I think you did very well.
To be just right?.. umm i don't
think you should change a thing
sometimes you were boring... but
then again i think it was the
i think you should show your
personality more.
You'll be great.

L. Good I really liked it. No it was
Perfect Not too strict
& Well yeah you were a really
good teacher You are Interesting.
You teach Really good.
Nothing. It's just right.
You did a Good Job Hilary!
We'll Miss You! :)

M. You were pretty cool and chill so I
liked that
we should have
You were a good teacher
and stay way chill! for
real chill teachers are dope

Oh these kids... Even the booger paper will be cherished. I cried in fourth period today. I'm so sad to leave my kids.

I'm exhausted, but hopefully I'll get more about today down... some other time.

The moral of the story: chill teachers are dope dude!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pandamonium and publication.

Well, I survived yesterday without Shule just fine. I'm not sure about her sub, though.

I taught ESOL first period. The kids were pretty ornery. Oh well, water under the bridge. We got through it.

Containment was exceptionally good. I gave most of them the full 10 participation points for the day. A couple of guys fell asleep, so... No dice, kids. That class only has two girls in it. One regularly doesn't show, but the last one hasn't been coming the last few days either, so I hope she didn't drop out. Also, I learned a new drug term the other day, specifically, the term "420," and was tickled (if I'm allowed to be?) to see that a student had it emblazoned proudly on his right wrist, like a fake tattoo watch. Hopefully my class is not 4:20 time...

Third period, normally the harriest part of the morning, behaved themselves too. I had a nice chat with the sub, a first-timer fresh off an LDS mission. Green in so many ways, but pleasant nonetheless. If only he knew what was in store for him.

I offered him fourth period as a test run for the rest of the day. I had already modeled the lesson in second period, and I knew that my fourth period kids would behave for him. They did, and he was actually quite charming and had them eating out of his hand! I was kind of jealous. Here I am, with a passion and drive to teach, and Joe California shows up and knocks one out of the park! I felt better about bailing at lunch, though, knowing that he could handle these kids. At least, that's what I thought.

I looked over his notes on the attendance for the last 3 classes. I knew fifth was a big class, and prone to acting up, but it went alright from his brief notes. Sixth is small and decently manageable. Seventh though... Oi vey. Seventh period, a paper fight broke out, and the black button was pushed. The black button, you ask? A feature of the classroom I had failed to notice before, apparently. When kids get really out of hand, you can push a panic button of sorts and have reinforcements at your door in mere seconds. Incredible. I guess kids started jumping on each other, and so Sub had to call for back-up. Poor guy. That was probably the worst $50 he's ever made. Welcome to education.

Today was pretty normal, but a few things stick out that I want to mention. One of Shule's students from last year was hanging around her room before the bell yesterday, looking for someone to listen to her poem. Shule was trying to finish her lesson plans before heading out to a training meeting, so this student was passed on to me. Poet read me a rather angsty piece about her boyfriend, who moved north and avoids her calls now. Quite a lengthy composition, a sheet of lined paper, double sided. No recognizable trace of meter, no rhyme scheme. She did use the word "inscrutable" though, which does merit a nod. Still, I was so pleased that she had found a way to express herself constructively, instead of, as she put it, "tracking him down and screaming, and probably breaking something in the process." Too true. She then showed me the rest of her binder, about 300 handwritten pages of a novel. Already 28 chapters! I say this rather cheekily, but I really am impressed with her dedication. Apparently she has already finished another novel. Think Tolkienian scope of a new world and language system(s), with a dash of her own personal love life (strictly autobiographical), in another galaxy, with Leonardo DaVinci as the mentor figure, under the watchful tutelage of a tenth-grade editor, and voila! The novel. She's planning on mailing it to a publishing company in New York. I hope the rejection process doesn't discourage her too much. She did seem aware of the competition and the high standards of the industry. I just hope they go easy on her.

It got me thinking, though, about helping some students start up a literary magazine. My sister and I were involved with our high school's literary magazine back east, and loved our time listening to and voting on student submissions. Just knowing that some of these kids are writing and don't have a forum in which to share it kills the part of me that's seeking some unrealistic measure of justice. I might not even be in Provo after December, though, and I wonder how fair it is to start something in these students' lives that may be taken away from them so soon, not unlike other arenas of their lives. Still, if I could recruit a teacher to oversee the group, and teach them how to pass judgment fairly on others' writings... It could really be something productive and cathartic. Then again, I don't know how the school does clubs, if they do at all. The curse of dreaming big...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Back from prison? And the football incident.

It's another week of interning wonders! I am especially wiped out today, so this will be brief.

Our ESOL kids are so darn smart. They learned the word "boycott" today, and my afro-coiffed student (although it is freshly braided to the crown of his head) said, "Boycott... Like you mean with the lead stuff from China?" He reads the news?!? I had to hear about that from my mom, and here was this kid who had actually picked up a newspaper or hovered on a news station long enough to get the gist of what was going on. Score one for the educational system! The class then proceeded to work in groups, discussing various ways boycott might be used in a sentence. When they reconvened to present to the class, almost everyone started off on a tirade against "whites" and the foolishness of those dumb and lazy white people who don't want to work, but want to deport their workers back to Central and South America. Now, I understand that these students have faced a lot of racism in their lives, far more than I have ever dealt with or will have to deal with. However, I spend a lot of time and energy helping to break down stereotypes against Latinos/as, and it's a little hurtful to hear my own race so tidily belittled and scoffed at. I'm not really sure how to deal with it. I kept my mouth shut in class. Shule tried to brush it off, saying things like, "That's not true..." but the kids were rather vocal. I felt hurt. It cuts both ways, people. Today was my most disappointing first period thus far.

Containment was same old. My flirty friend is back. I don't think he actually went to prison, but the kids sure thought it was great that a classmate might be in the slammer. He was not so bold today. He only said "thank you" to me when I brought him the reading chart he missed last week. So something happened. I'm having a hard time staying emotionally detached from the students. I worry about them all, and some are clearly having a harder time getting by financially and emotionally than others. So I hope my alleged jailbird didn't have too rough of a weekend.

No third period today because Tuesdays are shorter days for teacher in-service. Woo-hoo!

And last but not least, my beloved fourth period freshmen. I graded their paragraphs they wrote last week for a school-mandated prompt. The paragraphs are graded on a 1 to 4 scale, with 4 being exceptional. A 3 is a school-wide goal for our students. The school assumes they will hit about a 2 on their first shot, and many students will get a 1 if they don't really try at all. Well, I taught my kids exactly what they would need to do to get a 3, and though that felt odd at first and I wanted to "teach to the 4!" I knew I had to be realistic. Well, I had to give my whole class 2s, and I gave them good reasons for the scores they received, so the revisions should turn out really well. Anyway, one lone student, a shy girl from the left corner of the class, wrote a solid 3 paragraph. I was so proud! I asked her if she would read it to the class, but she said she would prefer if I just read it. I did, and her neighbors figured out that it was hers and made a fuss. To see her straighten up and look proud, if a little sheepish, was awesome. I wish all of my students could feel like that every day. I try to make them feel like they can do anything if they try hard enough, but sometimes I feel spread so thin that I worry I'm not reaching them all. And I only really have one class! Still, they're "mine," and I hope I don't lose their interest over the next couple of weeks...

No Shule tomorrow, so it's me and the sub to keep everyone in line! I'm terrified, but Shule emailed me the lesson plan, so hopefully nothing too catastrophic shall pass between 7:30 and 11:30 tomorrow morning.

Oh, the football incident. I almost forgot. Because Tuesdays are shorter, I also saw Shule's fifth and sixth period classes today. I can't remember which class, but one of the boys had a football and was hucking it to another kid a few seats behind him. I went over and asked him his name. "Juan." Conveniently, after I had called him Juan 17 times, I learned his real name, which was not Juan. Anyway, regardless of his name, I asked him to put the football in his backpack. He responded, "It doesn't fit." I said, "Then give it to me." Aaaand blank stares. Okay. I tried again with his two options. Stares. Hmm...Some teenagers are just indiscriminately mean. I certainly didn't want to stand there hovering over a football, calling a kid by someone else's name, looking like an inept idiot. I feel like I'm reliving eighth grade... Ouch. :(

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"This is soooo ghetto..."

Everything with these kids is "ghetto" or "gay." A friend told me on the phone today that I should have an activity in which they actually have to discover new adjectives that actually do something crazy - describe the object about which they are speaking! Handouts are not ghetto. Overheads are not gay. Geeze.

I also managed to steer clear of the overhead pens today. Yesterday, I came home up to my elbows in ink, and because I nervously touch my neck when I teach, I had blue smudges all around my hairline. Only minorly embarrassing...

School was pretty routine today. Some of my ESOL kids are getting excited about the letters to Senator Hatch they are currently drafting. I showed them how to create an appropriate heading for a business letter. They were so excited by how professional their letters looked once they changed the font from size 18 Curly to standard size 12 Times New Roman and slapped a few addresses and the date at the top. Amazing. My mom-student's letter is quite good. She is so proud of her work, which makes me want to burst. That's one of the most satisfying feelings I have ever experienced. Weird thing of the day: some of my kids freaked out when their letters overflowed to a second page. Somehow they had it in their heads that a letter should only be a page long. Oh, the panicked margin adjusting I saw today... I think psychologically it worries them that they're actually creating something substantial. It makes them more accountable for what they write, I think.

A note about Containment: I learned the other day that students are only put in Containment after fair warning, and can work their way out with good behavior. The school has students from a girls' home and a boys' home. Those kids and Containment kids have a special lunch so they can't interact with other students. The isolation is really unpleasant for them, so most of the students in Containment want to work well so they can be with their friends again. That's probably what makes that class one of Shule's easiest to deal with, surprisingly. Today was no exception. Incidentally, the boy that was sort of checking me out yesterday went to court after school, and rumor has it that he's in jail now. So maybe that won't be an issue anymore...

Third period was hard again, as usual. The whiny girl sets off the rest of the class like a spark and... The analogy escapes me. Anyway, she is seriously getting under my skin, in a bad way. Shule, bless her, has a hard time being disciplinarian in that class because there are a lot of demands on her attention. Whiny Girl was painting her nails during class, and Shule had a hard time following up with her about putting away the bottle of polish. I didn't want to disrepect Shule's control (because I generally sit back in that class and observe), but I seriously wanted to give that girl a piece of my mind. For a lot of students, they just want to do their thing for their own purposes; getting caught is an unfortunate hazard of that. Whiny Girl, however, wants to cause a scene. Well, if it's a scene she wants...

And fourth period... My class! Again, today was a great day. I'm really lucky, they are a great group of kids. Plus, freshmen still have a spark of innocence in them and actually thrive with praise. Some of the older kids here wouldn't bat an eyelash if you cut them a check for $5k right then and there. I got all their names today, too, which made for better inclusion and more responsive kids. I feel like they are starting to trust me. It goes both ways, they tested me a bit more today, but they also got into group work much more enthusiastically. They love showing me how they can problem solve and how detail-oriented they can be without being told to be. One girl with Cleopatra eye make-up got her whole group to box up this part of the paragraph, and underline that part, and circle errors... Who is this child?!? The great thing about a school setting such as this is that these kids get a chance to be leaders in ways that were never an option for them in their mainstream schools. One of my brightest and most motivated ESOL kids told me this morning that he's running for Student Council here. His face was GLOWING! Here he is truly among his peers, and he stands a shot at actually feeling the rush of participating in change and in earning the respect of other people.

Spark in a tinderbox. Is that the analogy?

No school tomorrow, because of teacher in-service, which means I can sleep in tomorrow. Yay!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My first class ever, and the misapplication of the term "racist."

Today I did not encounter any tow trucks, so that right there made today a better day than yesterday.

I already taught my first class today. Shule is a jump-right-in kind of gal, and when she asked me if I felt like getting up in front of her fourth period class, who was I to say no? But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The day began as usual with ESOL, which is becoming my favorite class already. Maybe it's too early for my kids to be rowdy, but generally first period is calm and productive. I'm a little biased anyway, since I find ESL is a really interesting and growing field of education. This class has students from all grades (9-12 here, which is unusual for Utah), and the freshman tend to be very overwhelmed with the prospect of writing an entire letter. It's not that the English is difficult, although it is an ever-present concern and challenge. These kids aren't used to anyone asking them to do anything incredibly difficult. Yesterday I reviewed, corrected, and commented on all their letters. Some were remarkably good. Others struggled to get anything down on paper. I wrote on many of these letters that they were missing conclusion paragraphs. After brainstorming out loud with some of my froshies, I then turned the task over to them.

Four kids, independent of each other, listened to my huge long explanation of conclusion paragraphs and my suggestions for improvement, then turned to their keyboards and asked, "Sooo... What do I write?" I learned a valuable lesson today: Sometimes you have to walk away, or your kids will finagle a way for you to do the work for them. So I did a lot of walking away today.

Second period brought Shule and me out to Containment. Something about that room... It reeks to high heaven. It smells like stale incense mixed with moldy crackers or something. Now, the kids might just stink, especially since they are not allowed to leave the portable except for lunch. That's a lot of teenage boy smell floating around in a small space. There are also a number of large bluish black stains on the carpet. What they are, I don't care to find out, but they are highly suspect. Regardless of the stench, Shule's lesson went really well, and it was on that lesson I would model my own lesson in fourth period. I worry about some of the kids in Containment. Two of them fell asleep every few minutes, sitting straight up in their seats. Now, that makes me wonder what is going on outside of school with these kids. They might just be staying up late, but my mind goes to all the wild possibilities that might keep teenage boys awake in bed, including family troubles, sleeping disorders, or fear. I hope they're okay. Some of the aids were getting cranky that the two boys wouldn't keep alert, but I know that it's not always a respect issue. Then again, sometimes it is. I guess I'll never know.

Containment also afforded what I hope does not become a recurring experience in my early teaching years. One of the students, a very handsome (minus the barbed wire earrings) and well-built junior, was cracking some very friendly jokes with Shule at the start of class that I thought were exceptionally clever and good-natured, both qualities I wasn't expecting from him. Well, I was all smiles and appreciative laughter, but I definitely encouraged something that I shouldn't have. The rest of the class, I felt his eyes glued to me. I tried very hard to avoid his gaze. Admittedly, it got him really involved in the lesson, because he wanted me to look at him and smile or something, I don't know. We were warned about this at the start of the internship, that our male students might find something very exciting about "mature" older women who also happen to have access to grades. I will, of course, deflect any advances he may make in the future. I will not be an accessory to grade tampering!

Third period was kind of a wreck. Every teacher has an SEOP group third period, a group of students he/she sticks with for all four years. Shule's kids are juniors, and no one seems to take SEOP too seriously. Shule and my challenge is to come up with an activity to get them thinking about the reality and possibility of graduation. We're fine-tuning a collage project, with a written assignment of a letter to themselves for graduation day. We'll see how that goes down. These kids are hard to engage. The funniest part of the day happened here though. One of the kids, a redhead, had his pants ripped by another student today, and the FACS teacher offered to sew them up for him. Meanwhile the kid sat, humiliated, in gym shorts about two sizes too small for him. Another student, a girl with horribly dyed black hair, kept whiny to Shule about wanting to go to her locker, an activity clearly restricted to passing time. After this girl had a minor tantrum, Shule let the redhead go get his shorts so as to better cover himself and end his misery. Well, that just sent the whiny girl off the edge. Her next declaration went something like this:

"Shule, you let Redhead leave the class! You hate me, don't you? You're so racist!" Now, Shule is Latina, and the other two kids are Anglo. That is about the only place race factors in. If the girl with the awful black hair had said "sexist" instead of "racist," she might have had a better case, somehow suggesting that Shule hates her own gender, and therefore let the boy leave and not the girl. So a better case by just by a little bit. But even that is confounded by Shule's being a fairly empowered woman. So, I have no response to dyed-hair girl. Ah, kids...

Finally, fourth period. What a dream! It is amazing the adrenalin rush I got as soon as I stood up. I had about five minutes to draft out my version of Shule's lesson, but surprisingly everything went off without a hitch. I got these kids thinking, helping me. The only thing that slowed me down was not knowing names. But it's only my second day, so I won't be too hard on myself. I felt like I neglected about a half of the class because I didn't have time to get names. These kids are bullet trains; if you don't keep up with them, they derail in an instant, and then the whole class is a waste and impossible to reclaim. So even without getting to every student, I still communicated what I needed to. Shule's comments: very natural in front of the class, said "thank you" and built good rapport with students that way, called on one kid for not taking notes, didn't let kids shout out answers, steered tangents back to lesson material well... Yay! I get warm-fuzzies knowing that the lesson felt as good on the receiving end as I felt giving it.

After I taught, Shule and I debriefed and planned for tomorrow, and then I headed outside to my car. I opened my door, sat down, and started shaking. I didn't realize how exhausted I was. I put every ounce of my emotional and mental energy into that class period. Once I was off-duty, my body was ready to collapse. I don't know how to best deal with that. I'm sure it'll be an evolving experience. I teach again tomorrow, so hopefully I'll get used to this demand on my system to perform.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Have a better day!" and "Are you nervous?"

I thought today was going to be hard. This was the first on-site day of my 20 hour per week internship course, the first three weeks of which I will aid and teach at a high school for at-risk students and disciplinary cases here in Provo. I expected the dregs. I braced myself all weekend for an inevitable barage of obscenity, drugs, cruelty, promiscuity, insert favorite social depravity here. Quite tragically, my difficulties began much earlier than the morning bell today, let me tell you.

I had to be at my assigned school by 7:40 this morning, 15 minutes before the first period bell rang. I didn't sleep well last night, but I did leave myself enough time in the morning to run up to the Y to print off my resume for my mentor. Of course, the printing network was down. Campus-wide. So I hopped back in my rusty-chic Acura Legend and frantically called my roommates to see who had bothered to hook up a printer since we moved in. Bless her, Katie had, so I careened down 700 E., narrowly dodging the UTA buses that crash indifferently around Provo. Now, the aforementioned rusty-chic Acura Legend is quite stylish, and so sits rather low to the ground. It is also about as broad and long as a sedan can be legally, if legal limits exist, which is an argument for another time. Anyway, actually getting my car into and then parking it in our basement garage is such a headache, involving a complicated maneuver of pulling in and backing up about seven times. Thinking this would be a quick trip inside, I parked my Acura in front of the dumpster just south of my building. I flew up the stairs, burst into Katie's room in a whirlwind, waited for my overburdened iBook G4 to wake up, waited for the computer to recognize the printer, waited for the print job to send... A hurry up and wait situation. I was looking at 7:35 by that point. If I floored it, I would be just a minute or two late. I turned around, ran out of my place and down the two flights of stairs, only to see my beauty of a car hooked up to a tow truck. Argh...

Of course, there is a wonderful thing called a "half tow," so the guy dropped my car for $60.50. Now, I needed my car, but I hate throwing away money like that, especially because of my own stupidity. $60.50 is 7.5625 untaxed work hours for me. I still feel sick about it, but at that point, what could I have done? The poor tow guy was so sweet; he asked me if I was late for work, which was admittedly an awkward and somewhat unnecessary question, as I was standing there in gray slacks, a white button-down shirt, pearl earrings, and black dress shoes. I even blow-dried and straightened my hair today! C'mon. Duh. At least he was trying to soothe my obviously flustered soul. It wasn't much of a balm, but then beggars can't be choosers.

"No," I answered, "First day of an internship." This is going to sound masochistic, but I was kind of pleased with the gravity of my response. This was serious business. I was really impressed with how quickly he worked to get my car free from the blasted truck. His parting shot: "Have a better day!" I think it's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. He wasn't much older than me, and my one prior experience with a tow guy was less than agreeable. I think I'm going to write University Parking Enforcement a note asking them to thank that kid for me. Nobody is happy to see a tow truck, but he had the perfect demeanor for a tow truck driver/operator. Not many people can claim that, you know.

Alright, so on to the school. Though I was 10 minutes late for the first day, the other girl from BYU with the same school assignment had been on time but had only sat there in the main office, so I felt the clouds begin to part a bit. Almost as soon as I stepped into the office and announced myself, I was hustled out to my mentor's classroom. Fate worked her magic once again. I have been placed with the embodiment (albeit Latina, and I am very, if not lamentably, Anglo) of my vision for myself as a teacher. Shule (pronounced SOO-lay) is a perfect mentor for me. I'll be helping with her first four periods. Her first class of the day is ESOL, which is what I am studying for my minor (TESOL K-12). Ahhh-leluia! It's going to be a good way for me to brush up on my Spanish and continue my ESL work. Second period requires us to migrate to "Containment," which I'll explain in a moment. Third period is a school wide study hall period. They run announcements and Channel One (a national adolescent news channel broadcast in schools), and let everyone catch his/her breath and get themselves caught up on work. A great idea, especially when the school day is disproportionately split around lunch. Fourth period is standard freshman English. Well, standard for this school. I guess it's pretty unique held against the rest of the school district.

Okay, so "Containment" is an interesting thing. You would think that isolating these students in a special school for their specific behavioral needs would be extreme enough to create a constructive environment for learning. Apparently, not so for some students. This school has a portable classroom called "Containment" that is for students who, even in the "last straw" school, have found a way to label themselves as the troubled students. I was a little disturbed by the concept, especially when these students were very pleasant to me. Sure, everyone looked a bit rough around the edges, but no one was outwardly offensive. Oh well, trust the system I s'pose.

I've been interested to learn that students at this school are placed here for a variety of reasons. One of my ESOL students, at the ripe old age of 17, has a baby boy, and was transferred to this school to help spare her from her peers at her mainstream high school during her pregnancy, as well as to accomodate her schedule now, as she needs to nurse and somehow be a mother, even though I thought she was a freshman when I first saw her. I read some of her written work today. I was so moved and frustrated at the same time. If the strain of being a single teenage mother isn't enough already, add the stress of being the only illegal alien in your family. Her parents and brother's papers have all been processed, but hers hasn't gone through yet. She wanted to marry her baby's father, but the INS told her they would cancel her paperwork and she would have to start over if she did. And yet this girl has dreams of being a Registered Nurse, loves to get involved in Student Council, and has already started courses at a junior college. These kids are bright and have incredible potential. Some have met uncontrollable road blocks, and many more have made a few major mistakes that have dead-ended them. I don't know where to start. Grammar and formal letter structure seem so trivial. These kids need serious life coaching, life overhaul. But I guess that's what these teachers are doing, in a way. Shule is a great example of providing safe, constructive outlets for the anger many of these students feel about where both life and mistakes have brought them. It's therapeutic, and the intimate classes (8-18 students) allow for a high level of interaction and purposeful exchange of ideas.

Put your hands up and step away from the soapbox. One of my first period kids raised his hand after I introduced myself and asked me, with a smirk, "Are you nervous?" How subtly he tested my boundaries... I looked him square in the eyes and said, loudly, "NO." I really wasn't. I'm kind of glad my car almost got towed. I was so freaked out about that, I didn't have the energy to waste on jitters. I just marched in, got pushed in front of a class, and set off running.

I love what I have decided to do with my life. Day 1 done.