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Wait, where am I?

28 Feb

Freshmen are precious little gifts from the academic g/God(s). While I empathize with (now more than ever) the individual challenges and personal issues each student has that I’m blissfully unaware of, I can’t help but find it funny — and maybe a little bit of offense — in the things that come out of their mouths.

I recently gave a lecture on Salvador Dalí to prepare the class for their evaluative essays on art, thinking that they would enjoy writing about pretty paintings and sculptures more than books (plus it forces them out into the community to actually look at local art). A student who’d been absent for the last two weeks looks at me and say, “I thought this was English class.” Confused, I looked around the room, and replied, “Wait, where am I?” Then gave my best really?! look and proceeded with my (Sur)really awesome lecture.

Puns!

Today has been one of the most difficult days of teaching so far, probably because everything seems to be culminating all at once in every aspect of my life.

Academically and professionally, I’m completing my thesis, still waiting to hear back from PhD programs (any day now!), preparing to organize and present at a conference next week, staring at stacks of 100+ student papers and annotated bibliographies to grade (which I’m constantly reminded of during each class when a student asks when they’ll get back the papers they turned in last class), and preparing to go to a huge national conference in two weeks which adds more work because now I need to figure out alternate assignments for the days I’ll be gone.

Romantically, (hah! I say that in jest, of course) there’s not much going on aside from realizing my selections keep getting more and more outlandish. I did, however, write a long, heart-wrenching letter to Red Ranger who I’ve loved for years, telling him exactly how I feel. He wrote an equally long letter that explored the philosophical underpinnings of romantic love vs. universal love. It’s probably the best written, most philosophical “it’s not you, it’s me” piece of bullshit I’ve ever come across.

Personally, and the impetus for my complete love of all of my students despite the nonsensical things they say, I found out last night that a long-time family friend committed suicide.

He was 20.

To write about it and see these letters come together to form that sentence is bearable, only because I’m not entirely sure it’s real. But to say it out loud destroyed me.

Teaching today was damn near impossible because in every one of their faces, I saw his face. He was a student. An RA. He sat in classes, made excuses for not having his work done in time, rushed home to finish the assignment before the extended deadline. He laughed at corny jokes made by desperate professors.

And as much as I wanted to be a hardass on them because they had annotated bibliographies due today and I knew a lot of them still weren’t following directions, I couldn’t. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s okay to be more human and forgiving in classes, because it really should be okay to be more human and forgiving in the “real world,” where second chances are given and we don’t have a set formula for how to deal with circumstance. All too often we take this prescriptivist approach to teaching or simply being citizens in this global community, rendering in “Situation 1, Action A correlates with Consequence B,” rather than taking into account the thousand, tiny multipliers to the human element.

I wanted to give each one of them a hug and tell them that they’re important, because they are — to me, to each other, to this entire experience of life. I wanted to tell them that even though I know very little about their lives, they’re all going to be okay. They’re allowed to make mistakes. They’re allowed to be hurt or disappointed. They’re allowed to be human.

What today reminded me is that while I have all of these extracurricular issues going on in my own life, I put my business face on and be the most helpful, cheerful, positive teacher I can be.

And so do so many of my students. I forget that sometimes.

So I hang onto their witty quips (“Look who decided to show up” when I’m exactly on time rather than ten minutes early due to a snowstorm), random statements of truth (“Snow makes me believe in the possibility of unicorns”), and grateful emails (when I am made aware of their circumstances and make arrangements to help them successfully complete the coursework) to tide me through and remind me of just how human they can be.

–AM.

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Sacrificial goat, anyone?

16 Feb

I suspect that at the end of this life, I’ll find out that I’ve really just been living in a simulated reality controlled by a failed Lifetime movie screenplay writer.

Or an angry teenager.

But I guess that’s probably the same thing.

(“I’ve heard it both ways.” Name that show!)

The last three years, I’ve been Valentine-less. So I usually just drink. But yesterday I had to teach, so my tradition had to wait until the evening. About half of my students showed up which crippled the lesson plans I had so we watched Harlem Shake and Bad Lip Reading videos on YouTube. And we ate candy.

I would’ve tried to be a little bit more productive, but about twenty minutes before I went to teach, I received an email from one of the PhD programs I’d applied to. They would not be accepting me for admission for the fall 2013 semester. I’ve spent the last five years postponing really trying to have a relationship (aside from the comedic adventures I find myself in to keep things interesting) in order to put everything I have into school so I can have my doctorate well before I turn thirty. So on a day already riddled with being emotionally rejected, I was now also academically rejected.

Yes, it’s just one school — and one of the most competitive in the nation — but I still couldn’t help but notice the irony and sadistic humor my comptroller has.

The YouTube videos helped.

And the candy. And the coffee that Barista Boy #2 made me that had “Olive Jews” written on the cup. And the donuts.

During “class,” I made a comment — within the context of our video watching — of how someday, when I have kids, I’d love to move to England so they grow up with accents. One of my ridiculously attractive black students (who’s on the football team and has dreadlocks) said “Do you want your kids to be in your own race or do you want mixed babies?”

In hindsight, there are so many ways I should’ve handled this. In the moment, my response was simply “I just want happy babies with British accents.” And skin like caramel.

To continue the excitement of my Valentine’s Day, I decided to tell my parents that I got a tattoo the day before. My whole life, my mother has been vehemently against tattoos. And for the last twenty-three years, I’ve never disappointed my mother. Well, at least not to her knowledge or in any way that I’d ever feel comfortable revealing to her. At any rate, she was silent angry. Which is the scariest. My father thought it was pretty. My seventy-eight year old German grandmother looked at her wrist and muttered “I want one…”

I then went to a pathetic concert at a small, local venue with approximately six patrons who weren’t in the band. The Chemist invited me. He wore a bow tie and an argyle sweater.

Last week he showed up at my door wearing sea foam green pants from the 1970s, a turtle neck, and a fedora. He then came in and made me a drink with his homemade limoncello. He also wore this outfit in public later in the evening. My younger sister was in town for a visit and kept remarking how much my life resembles a sitcom. She doesn’t even know the half of it.

Today the Pastor messaged me about a show at a coffee shop tonight, asking if I’d come out, and said he hoped I didn’t find it weird, but he’s been praying for me. I’m not sure if I should be flattered or insulted. So I’m going with contentment.

I’d go to the show — which starts in ten minutes — but I’m about to go explore abandoned tunnels under the city I live in with one of The Boys, the Quizmaster, and this really great girl I write with.

Seriously.

Here’s to hoping I don’t die or stumble upon death. I have a night vision camera and heat sensor camera app on my phone.

And a six-pack of Rascal’s Wild Red in my trunk.

— AM.

The kids probably aren’t going to be all right. At least not yet.

13 Nov

I’m at the age now where more people I know are either married, getting married, getting divorced, had children, having children, or planning on having children in the very near future than not. They’re collecting relationships. I’m collecting degrees.

My theory is that since I grew up in a military town, those in the military tend to get married earlier than those that aren’t, and the majority of my young, married friends and/or parents are involved with someone in the military.

Or maybe it’s just to have something to do.

Or it could be “love.”

At any rate, I think a lot about how differently my life would be right now if I had married my high school sweetheart like I planned for so long. I’d probably already have a kid, my decor wouldn’t be composed of old alcohol bottles (there are six empty wine bottles in my living room right now, holding flowers or serving as bookends. There’s also a Corona bottle filled with sand from Mexico), I wouldn’t be comfortable in such a tiny ass, old house, and I’d be a different kind of happy. I know being married and having kids can really enrich your life and shit, but the kind of happy I am couldn’t come from a screaming mini-me or a husband in my bed. I’m pretty selfish.

Here are the main reasons why I know I’m not mentally prepared or emotionally equipped to handle a child:

  1. Whenever I empty the litterbox, I think to myself how much easier it’d be if I just fed the cats less food. There’d be so much less to scoop.
  2. My idea of a “well-balanced meal” is when I can balance in two hands — usually with my phone in the crook of my arm — whatever boxes or bags I’ll be eating from on the walk from the kitchen to the living room without having to go back and get more. I also drink from the carton.
  3. Whenever I’m supposed to shop for someone else, I get distracted and buy myself more clothes or shoes or jewelry or scarves or purses or make up or things to decorate my house with.
  4. I have an open jug of sangria on the kitchen counter, an open 2L bottle of Pear Arbor Mist at my feet in the living room (it’s 2:40pm), two open bottles of white wine in the fridge, an open bottle of red wine in the wine rack, two kinds of vodka in the freezer, an assortment of other liquors on top of the fridge, and two full flasks in my kitchen cabinet.
  5. Whenever I meet someone’s child, I extend my hand, prepared for a firm handshake. I’m then insulted when the child doesn’t respond appropriately to my question about the progress of their pending careers.
  6. I swear entirely too much and too frequently.
  7. I laugh hysterically when I hear the word “nickel” because I think they’re saying “nipple.” There I go laughing.
  8. As I was grading papers, Shelly wouldn’t leave me alone (he likes to eat — everything), so I locked him in my sunroom. Then when he meowed incessantly, I angled the screen of my computer to create a reflection on the wall just out of reach so he’d think he could get to it. I also call him “little bastard” or “teeny assface” from time to time. Shmow is perfect.
  9. I routinely heat my house with candles and an open oven door. And, most importantly,
  10. I just bought the most adorable pair of neon yellow pumps. The majority of the shoes I own are heels, and pregnant/mom feet just wouldn’t fit in them. I’m just not ready to part with my heel collection or accept that my adorable feet will become gigantic monsters that I can’t reach.

I have no doubts that some day I’ll get over all of these things, or I’ll figure out a way to make my life fit around the life of a child. But until then, I just have to keep in mind that despite the overcrowding of adorable babies flooding my Facebook News Feed and constant questioning of when I’m going to breed, kids right now would probably turn into teeny, tiny delinquents.

You’re welcome, world.

— AM.

That, my friends, is what “failure” sounds like.

7 Nov

My office door faces the lobby of our departmental offices. I use the term “office” loosely, because it really serves as a glorified storage closet. I’m currently staring at two stacks of about 36 boxes holding 6,897 books from some program that happened who knows how long ago. Other “office” decor: antiquated binders, cassette tapes, an archive of anthologies, pillows, and a broken coffee maker.

My desk is ridiculously and unnecessarily huge. There’s also a “conference” table which is made of two square tables with a set of six uncomfortable, foldable chairs. Last year, I had the office to myself because I worked for a federally funded program that paid for the room, and due to sensitive information, I was justified to have it all to myself. Since the funding has been cut, I now share it with two other instructors (one of which is BFF). As I said before, I don’t like to share. We’ve pushed the “conference” table/s against the gigantic desk to form a “collaborative workspace,” or what I like to call it, MegaDesk.

It’s not so bad sharing an office, except I’m easily distracted and easily distractible, so whenever I’m in here with anyone else, I get absolutely nothing done. For example, I’m currently sharing the office with BFF who is grading. I’m listening to 30Rock on Netflix and writing this blog. I would be grading, but I keep getting distracted and wanting to tell BFF things, like making smartass comments about the paper I was grading (“Many individuals believe they’re capable of operating a vehicle after one or two drinks until their car is totaled or worse, dead.” To which I reply, “Car is dead?”)

There was also one time when BFF and I were sharing a room on a study abroad trip and we were supposed to be writing essays in our hotel rooms in Athens, but I was distracted taking pictures of myself with a scarf wrapped around my head making angry faces in complete silence, causing BFF and other roommates to laugh and pass judgment, blaming me for their inability to write a paper. In my defense, I didn’t invite them to play with me.

The Scantron machine is right outside the office door, and every so often, another professor has a shit ton of Scantron tests to grade, so my brilliance is interrupted by the sweet sound of this:

It’s not unlike the sound my grandmother’s shih tzu makes when you blow in his face.

It makes me want to vomit on the stack of papers I have sitting in front of me that I grade instead of shoving it through a machine to tell me how well my students are doing. Such is the strife of teaching writing.

My only way of maintaining any semblance of sanity during these Scantron tests is to play little games with myself where I mimic the sound the machine makes, communicating mutual failure. I then pass judgment on the anonymous students whose responses anger the machine. I cheer inside when I hear only a few blips. It’s like I’m taking part of their victory because for a few seconds, I don’t want to strangle myself with a phone cord.

But, naturally, there is ne’er a thing to say because of my lowly, delicate position. The office is cold, it’s crowded, it’s poorly lit, but I have an office and I have a job. That’s something to be grateful about.

I also get to keep the sound of my students’ failures to myself, so there’s that.

–AM.

Like a cheap whore on a busy avenue.

6 Nov

One of the most delightful experiences in being a new instructor is the joy of having your superior observe your class, taking notes and scrutinizing on a four-page rubric that decides how well you function as a teacher, how well your students react to you, how well planned your lessons for that day were, and how well you “fit” into their design of the curriculum that you have the distinct honor to regurgitate to (un)willing receptacles of knowledge.

I recently had this exact pleasure. One of the chairs (yes, one of the chairs) sent me an email about a month ago wanting to schedule observations. I know it’s a terrible, terrible habit, but I really have a hard time planning out an entire semester for a class I’ve never taught, let alone at an institution I’ve never taught at. I don’t know how long it’s going to take me to cover the necessary topics. I pretty much wing it.

So I was faced with this pressure to come up with something brilliant that usually comes to me as I’m teaching or the day before I teach weeks ahead so my superior can come and tell me I’m good or a gigantic ball of flaming suck. I found a pretty fantastic lesson plan that I managed to tie into the assignment I had to teach, so I prepared for hours the night before, making copies, practicing the discussion in my head, imagining the worst case scenario where the angry racist student throws a chair that breaks into tiny pieces while the guy who hates me for giving him a bad grade pulls out a weapon of some sort — likely his fists — and begins attacking, bonobo style, the students around him out of sheer frustration and rage.

The superior came in and said “Just pretend I’m not here. I want you to act completely natural, completely normal. It’s not like you’ll get axed if today doesn’t go well.”

Yeah, sure. No pressure or anything, but that was basically a “don’t fuck up or you’ll be homeless and jobless next semester because you suck big time and you’ll get to live in a cardboard box and go to the shelter for food donations and all your pretty clothes will be worthless because bums don’t care how you look but the bright side is you’ll probably either get super skinny because you can’t afford to eat or you’ll get pulled into some sex ring where you’ll sell yourself for a quick score and you can die a cold and lonely death.”

Good thing my lecture went AWESOME. Every student spoke, they had smart things to say, they didn’t get side tracked, and most importantly, I didn’t even get yelled at. About an hour after class, I received an email from the other chair saying the chair who observed my class was delighted and my handouts were awesome and would I like to teach again next semester?? (Yeah, two question marks.) I said yes, of course, because being homeless scares me and I really like using make up and soap.

But through this experience, and many, many other days teaching when I had a bit too much to drink the night before/earlier that morning, and even days being a graduate student and asked to sit and write a few hundred pages on the spot to get ready for the upcoming assignments makes me realize just how much teaching/graduate-studenting is like being an actor, always performing.

Or it’s like being a trained monkey. I’m not a trained monkey. I can’t write on command. Actually, it’d be pretty cool to train a monkey to write on command. I’m sure someone, somewhere has done that. I’m sure that monkey could replace the seat of about 78% of my students. But, like a trained monkey, being a graduate student is all about performance.

In the precarious situation I — and all the other graduate student teachers delicately straddling the lines between student and teacher — face on a daily basis is the constancy of being on display, knowing superiors are lurking outside your doors or sitting in the back of your classroom, eagerly gripping their #2 pencils and frantically scrawling notes on a legal pad, or judging every word you put in front of them through papers you hand in or your contributions to classroom discussion.

Like a cheap whore on a busy avenue, the whole town’s watchin’.

–AM.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

2 Nov

Shit’s been going down.

Mostly because I went to Wal-Mart on Halloween, and as I looked at my cart before I checked out, I realized just how awesome (sad) I’ve become. The contents of my cart:

  • cat food (with coupon for free bag of cat treats)
  • cat litter (with coupon for $1.50 off said jug of cat litter)
  • a six-pack of Smirnoff
  • a bag of pears
  • Wal-Mart brand Apple Jacks (I think they’re Apple Smacks? Stacks? Something catchy)
  • two gigantic bags of Halloween candy (that I had no intention of sharing)
  • Zombieland on DVD
  • The Last Unicorn on DVD

That was my Halloween. I polished off the 1.5L of Pear flavored Arbor Mist while I watched Zombieland. I know it’s a funny movie, but I couldn’t help but be mildly terrified because I live in a 100 year old house with creaky floors, poorly insulated windows that shake and shudder with the wind, and two ridiculous beasts that jump about and stare down empty hallways as if there’s something at the end of it. So then I watched The Last Unicorn and reminisced in childhood bliss.

I told my students “Be safe. Make good decisions. And if you don’t make good decisions, at least be around someone who can make good decisions so you don’t die from alcohol poisoning or stupidity and I can see your smiling faces on Friday.” That day, our writing prompt was “20 rules you’ve broken,” and I learned more about them than I intended. I even prefaced it with “You don’t have to tell me everything and I will never collect your daily writings,” and shared my own broken rule of taking tags off the mattress even though it says not to. Some of their responses were concerning, though they hedged their language smartly (I have taught them something!) by saying “I’ve inhaled THC” rather than “I’ve smoked THC.” Silly pupils.

Now that we’re in November, I’m delighted. My birthday will be in a few weeks, then Thanksgiving, then I will make the GRE my bitch, then we’ll have finals, and then it’s Christmas.

Pseudo-homeless man that I’m hopelessly in love with is back in town (which I learned from a phone call about seventeen minutes ago) so I’ll get to see him again before he moves back east. It felt almost like a break-up phone call. “Have you seen my black shoes? Did I leave those at your house?” “I don’t know. All I have here is your bag of clothes and your hockey gear. When are you coming to pick them up?” “In due time.” “Well, I’ll be around tomorrow. And if I’m not, you still have my key, right?”

It’s like we had the shitty relationship without any of the perks (euphemism). As much as I’m trying to hold onto the whole wonderful-time-of-the-year goodness that the season brings, the precedent set within the last two years is the end of one five-year relationship and the end of a two-year whatever-the-fuck-this-was relationship.

I swear, one day I’ll get this right.

Let’s talk about sex(ual harassment training) baby.

30 Oct

So about a month ago, unbeknownst to me, I was supposed to have completed online sexual harassment training. I got a passive aggressive email from my boss today, informing me that I need to complete this online training immediately so the certificate of completion can be sent to HR (I asked for a copy so I can frame it).

As I’m going through the myriad of lessons about what constitutes sexual harassment, who can sexually harass/be harassed, and quiz questions, I’m Facebook chatting with one of my favorite people, B. Here goes part of that conversation:

Me: I get to do online sexual harassment training.
I’m doing it now, as a matter of fact.
You should be jealous.

B: Well. Good thing you don’t work for me.

Me: I personally disagree with everything in here.
It said that sexual harassment can lower employee morale.
Personally, I’m much more motivated to work when I’m being sexually harassed. I’m also more motivated to look nice, which increases productivity.

B: I’m still laughing about the PCD night. [See “Sexy like a cotton ball” blog]

Me: Me too.
I’m learning about quid quo pro sexual harassment. I love the way it was explained: “this for that, so if quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs, a supervisor (or other manager) has requested sexual favors in exchange for providing job benefits–or a supervisor (or other manager) has threatened to deny job benefits in order to gain sexual favors.”

B: So, is there such thing as supervisor with benefits?

Me: And not health benefits. But yes.

B: Well, good sex is healthful.

Me: I’m slightly offended. All of the images are of an old black man.
He repositions himself expressing disdain to emphasize the tone of the computerized voice. Like the news he’s getting about sexual harassment is getting progressively worse, and he’s seriously reconsidering working for this company based on their policies.

B: What, old black men need ass, too.
Heh heh. I said “old.”

Me: It just seems slightly racist.
Old white men need ass, too.
So do old black women. Or old white women.
E’erybody need ass.
Me:

pastedGraphic_1.pdf

Me: Nailed it.

B: Clearly, you can’t answer that without knowing whether he’s hot.

Me: Clearly! Stupid online training… It’s so unrealistic. Obviously there are always mitigating circumstances. 

B: Written by asexual robots. Which is prolly redundant.

Me: “You just learned about quid quo pro sexual harassment. But wait, there’s more types of sexual harassment! There are TWO types of sexual harassment: there’s also hostile environment sexual harassment!”
I gained a regular booty call from sexual harassment at work.

B: And if they AREN’T hot, isn’t it all harassing?

Me: Exactly.
If the person is hot, it’s flattery. If they’re ugly, I’ll scream.

B: There’s your seminar.
Eew? Harassment. Ahhhh! Not.

Me: Precisely.
I’m hoping that’ll come out.
That’s what she said.

B: I thought she hoped it would stay in.

Me: Trick question. The scenario was a woman who supervises this guy she wants to have sex with and asks him out on a date. He’s also interested, and gladly accepts. Sexual harassment or no?

B: Applying the “Eew/Ahhh” rule, nope. Hope they hook up like rabbits. Good for them.

Me: That’s how I answered. There really should be a fill in the blank option. Here’s my favorite:

Fact: Ethel and Lucille work together in a software firm. Ethel often makes inappropriate comments about Lucille. Lucille is offended by Ethel’s remarks.
Fact: Ethel is an ugly name, therefore it is sexual harassment.

B: HAHAHA

How much longer? The thingy. You’re watching. For work.

Me: I’m 41% done because I keep stopping to screenshot it and laugh hysterically.
Also, because although there’s text I could easily skim through, I like hearing the robot voice man say “sex.”
It’s like C3PO teaching me about sexual harassment. When he describes the scenarios, it’s almost like dirty-talk. 

B: Cold. But long lasting.
Probably not much of a cunnilinguist.
C3PO.

Me: I just pictured the scene in Dumb and Dumber with the frozen pole. A fill in the blank option would be fantastic. I wonder if the computerized voice could be programmed to respond to fill in the blank options. I’m sure it could. I’d talk to it. Call it “tonguefucking C3PO.” See if I can strike a chord, maybe get him to talk about R2D2.

B: That should be a model of C3PO. Normal C3PO, and Toungefucking C3PO. I wonder which model would be more popular.

Me: Clearly the TF C3PO. Nerds gotta get some, too. Tappin’ dat ass.

B: Especially nerds.
Not to be confused with the discontinued YOLO C3PO. You Only Lick Once. “Dumped him.” “Why?” “HOLO.” “Bastard.” See also, “SOSO.”

Me: “How’s that femmC3PO?” “She’s so-so, also SOSO, so, that’s really why she was so-so.”

B: Would one tap femmC3PO’s ass, or tink it?
Ditto, the tin man.

Me: Tink is more aesthetically pleasing.

B: “With a tink and a squeak, he shuddered as his hot oil shot across her sweaty navel…”
Ava, on her online sex training, “I really thought this would have more helpful ‘how-to’ information.”

Me: Yet another sexual encounter ending with disappointment.
And gin.

B: Well, there’s always gin and a dangerously hot bath.

Me: That’s what I call a Monday night.

Since I was otherwise occupied with above conversation, I crossed my fingers and hoped to FSM (Flying Spaghetti Monster) the sexual harassment training I learned from watching the episode “Sexual Harassment” on The Office would come in handy.

It totally did.

–AM.

P.S., for more screenshots from my online sexual harassment training, see new page “Sexual Harassment Training.” 

That’s the spirit.

23 Oct

I’m approaching the downward spiral of the semester. My day today (and, let’s face it, most days):

Woke up at 6:00 with every intent of going for a run. The neighborhood I live in truly is extraordinary. The entire avenue is lined with century’s old trees and homes. I live a 1/2 mile from a beautiful park, meticulously kept, surrounded by beautiful oaks and pines. This time of year, some type of bird chirp religiously all morning in the trees as I pass them, creating a beautiful contrast to the pounding of my tennis shoes on the pavement. But then I decided I liked the feeling of my thick blanket and the sound of my humidifier more, so I set my alarm for 7:00.

I then got out of bed, fed the cats, and showered with Shelley keeping a watchful eye from the rim of my tub. It’s cold in the mornings, so I keep a fluffy, pink robe and house shoes in the bathroom for when I get out. Shmow was laying on my bed, and she just made it look so perfectly comfortable, I lost balance of my legs and somehow fell on top of the bed, deciding to take a nap. Just a quick nap, really, since I didn’t need to leave until 8:30 to be ready to teach at 9:00 (to include a stop at my office to pick up the essays smoldering with mediocrity to hand back).

Woke up again at 8:00, threw an outfit together, pulled my hair into what resembles a Snooki poof meets Mae West, grabbed an apple, and fought Shelley to get out the door. He’s a sneaky little bastard and will take any chance the door is open as an opportunity to escape and investigate the outside world. (I decided I’m getting him a harness and leash to take him to the snow once winter comes. That’ll be exciting.)

My students were continuing their presentations today, so I got to sit there with my laptop open and give them feedback. As much as they annoy me with their banalities, I honestly think the best thing I can do as a teacher for introductory writing is help boost their confidence so they can have the lady/man balls to write something better somewhere down the line — hopefully for me, but I’m a burst of rainbows and sunshine, so I’ll find something good to tell them (“You spelled your name right! Good for you!”)

I spent my entire office hours catching up on homework for my graduate course tonight. Researching, annotating, alphabetizing, contextualizing, and trying to one-up everyone else (because I’m great and I need to continue to prove it).

By the time I got to my last class of the day, I realized I forgot to reread (since the last time I read it) what I wanted them to read, so I broke them into groups to present on sections while I skimmed it (‘cause I’m a fucking genius). Began a lecture on the rhetorical canons, then class ran out, with a “to be continued” note. They’re so ridiculously excited to pick up the discussion.

“Miss! Miss! Tell me more about Quintilian and Cicero and Aristotle and Socrates! The Sophists are just fascinating!”

Only not.

I came home for lunch, pulling together my expertise in culinary magic to make my lunch: a quesadilla, a spoon of cookie dough, and a small bowl of mango sorbet (‘cause I’m a fucking health nut) to finish my homework, despite Shelley’s efforts to convert my keyboard into a naptime spot.

Back to the office, continuing homework, meetings and strategizing with BFF about our ultimate takeover, then onto coffee. More coffee, and then another cup, you know, to make it through the evening.

Class for three hours, during which time I’m forced to work with a woman I actively despise, but since I’m the typist of our group, I choose to selectively ignore her stupid ideas (because they’re stupid and I’m more eloquent — clearly. Stupid).

Finally I get to come home, greeted by excited meows from the beasts as I trip over my once-clean apartment that is now for all intents and purposes akin to a frat house post Tour de Fat. Granted, the bottles of Wild Blue are from me, but still. They could’ve cleaned up a little bit and prepared for my arrival.

I took out the trash, lovingly guiding (or swinging bags, whatever) at Shelley, who attempted to run out the back door. There’s a gravel parking lot in the back of the house for the tenants of the building, and the dumpster is along the alley. The street light is motion-censored, so when a cat or bird or bat or zombie walk by, it turns on, but approximately 93% of the time it turns off right as I dump my trash in the dumpster. The dogs of the neighborhood sound the alarm (another reason why I have cats).

I decide on cereal for dinner, but then realize I have no clean spoons. I briefly consider using a fork and a coffee mug (because I also have no clean bowls), but then opt for cleaning some dishes. Another downfall to my cheap apartment: no dishwasher. Well, technically there is a dishwasher, but she’s a cranky bitch and generally refuses to wash dishes because she’s above that.

Before I even begin to wash dishes, I realize I left the washcloth in the crockpot to simmer. (What, you don’t cook your washcloths?) I find a new one among wine bottle openers (plural), lighters (also plural), coupons (yeah, still plural) for cat food, and a switchblade (singular. I thought more than one switchblade would be excessive). As I’m washing with the new cloth, it occurs to me that my housekeeping capabilities would terrify my grandmothers, serving as further evidence of my perpetually single life, and probably sending them to an early grave.

Feeling festive, I poured myself some eggnog in a wine glass because the other glasses I own are dirty. Oddly enough, my wine glasses are all clean. I typically only use wine glasses when I have company because, to be completely honest, I open a bottle of wine with absolutely no intent of drinking it one glass at a time. I’m classy that way.

The rest of my night will undoubtedly be filled with drinking Wild Blue (delicious lager) while watching reruns of “The Big Bang Theory” and dodging leaps from Shelley and Shmow as they engage in battle royale, burrowing under my carpet and knocking trinkets off my shelves.

Tomorrow? Same shit. I have to say, my twenties are turning out pretty delicious.

–AM.

I’ll have to write a thank-you note to the makers of Tums.

15 Oct

I never thought I’d be yelled at by a student. I mean, I’m young, I’m hip (we still say “hip,” yes? Barista boy says I’m “hip” and I think he’s adorable), and quite honestly, I think I have the charm of Betty White meets Zooey Deschanel, (only I look slightly more like the illegitimate offspring of Ron Perlman and Sandra Bernhard), so I’ve been operating under the assumption that being verbally accosted in the classroom just wouldn’t happen to me, you know, because I’m special.

(In my head, I sound like one of those people narrating an episode of True Crime TV — It was always such a lovely neighborhood. We never thought anything like this could happen to us, until one night…..)

I’ve been yelled at by not one, not two, but THREE students this semester. All three from the same composition 1 class at the community college I teach at two days a week. The first instance shook me to my very core. I’m a rhetorician (or I try to be), so my pedagogy is highly rhetorical. I talk about the canons, the rhetorical appeals, kairos, how to construct an argument, logical fallacies, etc. I was ridiculously excited about the #Muslimrage trend on Twitter because it was a real demonstration of rhetoric in the hands of people, and the people who were being pigeon-holed reclaiming the negative stigmas against them with humor. Delightful! (The day before this, I did the exact same activity at the university and my students loved it. We then rhetorically analyzed the Twitter pages of Obama and Romney.) So I showed my students at the community college a news clip contextualizing the greater conversation that’s going on to incite the “Muslim Rage” cover on Newsweek, which I showed the class, then I pulled up Twitter to talk about the rhetoric. Before I could even go into the whole “look how neat!” spiel I had prepared, an older Texan woman (she is hard of hearing so wears a microphone around her neck to amplify the sounds of the classroom discussion) — who in this conversation I learned is a staunch Republican — launched into a diatribe about how she didn’t understand what this has to do with English and how the academy is trying to indoctrinate the students with its liberal agendas and those goddamn Muslims are all terrorists! They’re evil, evil people! As she spoke, the microphone around her neck got closer to her, so along with her pissed tone, the feedback from the mic amplified her words, turning the sound into a barrage of remnant, offensive, old-school megaphones spewing hate from her gritty Texas accent. (I thought of the Cybermen in Doctor Who, and felt in my pocket for my sonic screwdriver, but realized I don’t have a sonic screwdriver.)

The lights were dim since I was showing them video on the screen, so thank the g/God(s) she couldn’t see how red my face was growing and how my hands shook like I had Parkinson’s. I calmly explained to her that this has everything to do with English, because this is the power of words and look how cool when the power of words gets out of the hands of the media (Newsweek) and into the hands of the people (the explosion on the Twittersphere). Other students jumped in to my defense (which I kind of hated) and we ended up veering completely off track, legitimizing the war, defending the Muslims who aren’t all terrorists. Pandemonium! I closed the conversation off quickly, because it seriously was going nowhere and all I could think to say was “you’re a fucking idiot,” and I thought that didn’t sound too professional. She left before class was over.

The second and third times I was yelled at by students happened in the same day, so I can knock out two angry birds with one pig. Or is it the other way around? I’m pretty sure it’s the other way around. You get what I’m saying.

I hate tardiness. I’m German. I’m always either three minutes early or exactly on time. I explained on the first day of class that starting week three, I will lock the classroom door once class has begun, and if you’re not in the room, you’re absent. One young-ish woman consistently came in 15-20 minutes late, so when I started locking the door, her attendance dropped dramatically. Well on this particular day, she came in right on time (because she was locked out the last class) and before she even sat down launched into her own pissing fit about how I’m not allowed to do that and she gets here fifteen minutes early and it takes forever to park and she has to walk to the building and engage in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and it’sjustnotfair she’s trying to fight for Gondor to protect the city of Minas Tirith! I told her to leave earlier; I manage to get here on time and so does everyone else. She rebutts, and I interrupt, telling her to save it until the end of class; I’m not going to waste everyone’s time on her issues of tardiness.

Meanwhile, I’m passing back their first papers: an explanation essay in which they are to identify something, explain its processes, explain who it is important to, and what it contributes to the global community. Before their final papers were due, I conferenced individually with each student, making sure they were on the right track and offering suggestions for revisions. One student, a 30-something year old man, wrote about the joys of growing up as an Army brat and getting to live overseas and travel and be diverse and shit. Okay, cool, so did I. Here’s your fucking gold star. I told him during conferences that he has a really great start, a terrific narrative voice, blah blah blah… but now I want him to focus on explaining how living overseas is useful to other people in order to fulfill the assignment requirements. For his final draft, one sentence was added to the end of the conslusion: “Living overseas is good for other people, it was helpful for me, too.”

Na bro.

Feeling charitable, I gave him a 75%. (C = average. I wonder if that translates to bra sizes.) He was livid. Left class ten minutes in, then suddenly reappeared towards the end, asking if he could speak to me about his paper. I said sure, let me finish what I’m doing here.

“Let’s go in the hall,” he says. Motherfucker. “Perfect,” I say. So we sit down, and I’m hyper-aware of body language, so I sit up straighter, positioning myself as “in charge” of this conversation — because despite my limited “actual” power as a graduate student teaching first-year composition, they don’t know that, so they think I have some power. He shakes his head at me, disapprovingly, telling me he’s considering transferring out of my class. “If that’s what you feel you need to do, then that’s probably your best option,” I reply. I’ll be damned if someone bullies me into changing their grade. He gets an “A” on every one of his papers he’s ever written, and this is just unacceptable. “Well, you didn’t this time,” I told him. His tone escalated and be began to get belligerent. As I tried to explain to him the comments and rationale to my grading decision, he interrupted, so I put on my best angry professor face and said in a calm, low voice “Do you want to hear what I have to say?” He tossed the packet of papers in my lap, swung his right leg over his left, crossed his arms, sitting back and said “Yeah. Let’s hear what you have to say.” I spelled out in exhaustive detail each piece of the assignment and how what he wrote did not fit the assignment criteria, again, in a calm, low voice so he’d have to listen very carefully (a trick I learned from “The Office.” Oh, bless Michael Scott). I refused to change his grade, and explained to him that it was actually a generous “C.”

He’s since apologized for being a “gigantic jackass” — his words, not mine; mine would’ve been much more colorful — but the issue still remains in regards to the dynamics of gender and age in the classroom, and how I’m supposed to account for being young and woman. My mother was terrified for my safety (“He could’ve killed you!” “Na, ma, I got street cred. I know people” — because my actual ability to fight is limited, considering that I have the upper body strength of a kitten). I’m more irritated that he questioned my grading method.

I teach them tomorrow, and every Monday and Wednesday evening, my heart fills with small pieces of dread, not knowing what’s in store for me the next day. On a positive note, the stocks in Tums is going up because I am single-handedly investing every cent I own into the relief from acid indigestion from these students. Maybe they should write me the thank-you note.

–AM.

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