applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([art] i'm not sorry)
Valentine’s Day means a full eight hours of heartbreak, tears, and crushing disappointment.

Oh, not for me. Even worse – for my students.

It’s one of the hazards of being a high school teacher that on Valentine’s Day I have to deal with about 10% of my students carrying around an enormous cache of “romantic” gifts (using the teenaged definition of “romantic,” which is startlingly opposed to the usual adult use of the term) – cheap teddy bears, roses that are soon crushed by obsessive handling, and those fucking mylar balloons – while the rest look on in either annoyance or jealousy. If it were only the looking I could deal, but as my students are completely incapable of keeping what’s inside their heads out of their mouths, I get a bitter running commentary throughout all five periods of the day. By the time I get home I could definitely do with a romantic dinner and a sensual massage of my own, but unfortunately for me my boyfriend is in another city for school during the week... so I’m stuck with Diet Cherry 7Up, a grilled cheese sandwich, and reruns of Criminal Minds.

This is my third year of teaching. By now, I expect certain things on Valentine’s Day.

1. Somebody will get dumped.
There are many cruel people in this world and most of them are teenaged boys. For whatever reason, these douchebags-in-training can think of no better way to stick it to the poor girl that foolishly agreed to date them than to dump her on Valentine’s Day. She comes to school buoyed up by the expectation of a crappy Wal-Mart teddy bear only to have her hopes and dreams crushed by the unwashed asshole she thought she loved – poor thing.

The best-case scenario (for me) is if there are only tears and excessive texting to the boy in question. This is annoying but can be dealt with. The worst-case scenario is, well...

2. Somebody got cheated on.
It sucks enough to be a teenaged girl* dumped on Valentine’s Day, a holiday almost certainly designed for teenaged girls. It sucks twice as hard if you got dumped for the side piece. All of a sudden she’s carting around your half-wilted roses and wearing your boyfriend’s enormous filthy hoodie. It’s too much to bear!

When this happens, the girl usually can’t handle the strain on her own. There are the usual tears and texting, but she will also want to “take a break” out in the hallway while her best friend reassures her. This is bad enough if her best friend is already in my class, but usually she isn’t and will show up unannounced in the middle of the period like some kind of skinny-bejeaned fairy godmother summoned by the power of friendship. This will completely disrupt my class, naturally.

Bonus points if either the dumpee or the side piece are pregnant – that always adds an extra layer to this tiramisu of awfulness.

*Don’t think that boys get out of this completely scot-free. While I have the girlfriends, my school is helplessly overcrowded so I probably have the boyfriends, too. So I get to deal with this from both sides of the coin – lucky me. And there are plenty of cold-hearted teenaged girls out there as well, ready to dump their boyfriends on this most sacred of high school holidays with the best of the bastard boys. If anything, a broken-hearted boy is even harder to deal with than a broken-hearted girl, as they are about 50% more likely to be irrationally angry along with the crying and texting. There’s nothing quite like bearing the brunt of a boy’s melodramatic emotional outburst only to have him expect for all to be cool once he tells you he’s “just dealing with some stuff.”*

But as we are all aware, most of us having been there at least once in our lives, not everyone has a significant other to dump them on Valentine’s Day. This leads me to the last V-Day expectation....

3. Somebody’s gonna be single.
This is possibly the saddest group of all. At least the others got to enjoy having a boy- or girlfriend for awhile, even if they had to be cruelly cut loose in the end. The perpetually singles never even had the faint hope of getting a bear or a balloon – they knew that the day would only bring disappointment.

There are several different shades of this particular individual, ranging from mostly apathetic (or at least pretending to be) to out-and-out rageaholic. I consider it a boon if I only have to hear about “Single’s Awareness Day” or some light bashing of the Valentine encumbered once or twice per class period. Sometimes, though, you get someone who just can’t let up, and that is no fun at all. The most disheartening bit is the secondhand embarrassment you feel for these types, as they could not make it more obvious (despite constant demands to the contrary) that they reallyreally wanted to be someone’s Valentine and are desperately disappointed that no spontaneous confessions of love were made and cheesy gifts given. It's sad but understandable, as again - who hasn't been there?

At any rate, by the time the day is done I am more than ready to go home. Riding the rollercoaster of teenage emotions is difficult even on the most innocuous of days, but Valentine’s Day is a minefield of FEELINGS that run the gamut from ebullient to gut-stabbing, and it is more than a little exhausting for those of us who like to think we’ve moved to bigger and better.

But I’m still going to get those flowers in the mail, right?

Right?



Happy Valentine's Day!
applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([clemence] blush)
Sometimes I feel like a cosmonaut touching down on another world, my toes bumping against unfamiliar terrain. I know the language of the locals, have observed the varying cultures as they rub and scrape along each other, can parse the slang and with a little effort make sense of words I do not understand, but I will never fit in. I will always be the spaceman, hovering somewhere in the incomprehensible spaces between.

Nowhere is this clearer than in my professional life. Teaching high school is like rattling around on the inside of a cultural kaleidoscope - the disparate pieces of glass clunking together to form eye-bending, mind-twisting patterns.

On the one side, there are the teachers - ideally impartial fonts of knowledge and caring, leading lights for every child. Realistically? Biased and baggaged and often petty. Often I feel obliged to defend them as a uniform whole, as I do know many educators who are paragons of generosity and open-mindedness, though I also know all too well how unintentionally twisted they can be. Sometimes I am one of them, pushing back my helmet to find that I can breathe their air. Sometimes their words pound senselessly against the plastic bubble, an impenetrable toxic fog.

"She told me she was raped, but she was drunk! I tell these girls again and again..."
"I don't care if one of my students is gay, I just don't want them talking about it."
"I don't know his name! Paco, Juan, Jose - something like that."
"These black girls, it's no wonder stereotypes exist."
"You know they just have babies to get on welfare, just like their mothers."

I try and speak up, but their eyes glaze and brows wrinkle - as though I'm emitting nothing more than a series of insensible beeps and whirs and gibbered phrases. Isolated again, drifting off on a cosmic wind.

On the other side are the students, at my place of work a nearly 30-30-30 split of White, Black, and Hispanic (bubble kids, at risk, low expectation - titles placed on their heads like rotted laurels, and we wonder why they glare at us with sharp-cornered eyes and claim continually, "I can't.") A tapestry of community, language, culture, faith; sometimes even in the weave and sometimes snagged, sometimes ripped outright.

Among them I am liked, a kind of otherworldly oddity. I understand them (perhaps, being young, my world is closer in the planetary alignment to theirs), but in small ways I am strange, as though I hover continually between being one of the untrusted cluster of authority they rail against and being a teenager myself. Am I one of those or one of them? No one can say.

"Nobody likes me, Miss. All the boys want is a yellow bone girl, and I'm too dark."
"He did some bad things to me when I was little. It's in the past, I'm over it, please don't tell anybody."
"I got a fake ID, Miss, you want to see?"
"Who cares? He's retarded!"
"I got wasted this weekend!"

Again I open my mouth to protest, and again the stream of ear-deadening babble issues forth. Their eyes squint and slide away. Rocketman in flight.

Is there any way to bridge the chasm between them - bring their worlds together, make them sensible? Is it pretentious to even want to? Youth and age never intersect entirely, never understand each other, never "get it." Is this that, or something more insidious, indicative of rifts that have never closed - and never will if they are pawned off as being harmless results of an age gap?

Will we ever speak the same language?
applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([clemence] blush)
Sometimes I feel like a cosmonaut touching down on another world, my toes bumping against unfamiliar terrain. I know the language of the locals, have observed the varying cultures as they rub and scrape along each other, can parse the slang and with a little effort make sense of words I do not understand, but I will never fit in. I will always be the spaceman, hovering somewhere in the incomprehensible spaces between.

Nowhere is this clearer than in my professional life. Teaching high school is like rattling around on the inside of a cultural kaleidoscope - the disparate pieces of glass clunking together to form eye-bending, mind-twisting patterns.

On the one side, there are the teachers - ideally impartial fonts of knowledge and caring, leading lights for every child. Realistically? Biased and baggaged and often petty. Often I feel obliged to defend them as a uniform whole, as I do know many educators who are paragons of generosity and open-mindedness, though I also know all too well how unintentionally twisted they can be. Sometimes I am one of them, pushing back my helmet to find that I can breathe their air. Sometimes their words pound senselessly against the plastic bubble, an impenetrable toxic fog.

"She told me she was raped, but she was drunk! I tell these girls again and again..."
"I don't care if one of my students is gay, I just don't want them talking about it."
"I don't know his name! Paco, Juan, Jose - something like that."
"These black girls, it's no wonder stereotypes exist."
"You know they just have babies to get on welfare, just like their mothers."

I try and speak up, but their eyes glaze and brows wrinkle - as though I'm emitting nothing more than a series of insensible beeps and whirs and gibbered phrases. Isolated again, drifting off on a cosmic wind.

On the other side are the students, at my place of work a nearly 30-30-30 split of White, Black, and Hispanic (bubble kids, at risk, low expectation - titles placed on their heads like rotted laurels, and we wonder why they glare at us with sharp-cornered eyes and claim continually, "I can't.") A tapestry of community, language, culture, faith; sometimes even in the weave and sometimes snagged, sometimes ripped outright.

Among them I am liked, a kind of otherworldly oddity. I understand them (perhaps, being young, my world is closer in the planetary alignment to theirs), but in small ways I am strange, as though I hover continually between being one of the untrusted cluster of authority they rail against and being a teenager myself. Am I one of those or one of them? No one can say.

"Nobody likes me, Miss. All the boys want is a yellow bone girl, and I'm too dark."
"He did some bad things to me when I was little. It's in the past, I'm over it, please don't tell anybody."
"I got a fake ID, Miss, you want to see?"
"Who cares? He's retarded!"
"I got wasted this weekend!"

Again I open my mouth to protest, and again the stream of ear-deadening babble issues forth. Their eyes squint and slide away. Rocketman in flight.

Is there any way to bridge the chasm between them - bring their worlds together, make them sensible? Is it pretentious to even want to? Youth and age never intersect entirely, never understand each other, never "get it." Is this that, or something more insidious, indicative of rifts that have never closed - and never will if they are pawned off as being harmless results of an age gap?

Will we ever speak the same language?
applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([teaching] i eat children)
In my line of work, you can almost always see a fight coming. With very few exceptions, high school students (well, people in general I suppose, though my experience with fights is pretty firmly entrenched in the high school setting) follow a prescribed set of rules before getting physical. The idea is to catch them at it and squash the drama before the blood and hair start flying.

1. Trash talk. This starts slow, and is the hardest to catch because half the time trash talk is barely different from the way students usually address each other. "Bitch" and "motherfucker" are common endearments, so teachers have to train themselves to pick up tiny differences in tone and body language. Or, you know, at least look away from the open Ebay page on their computer. As retorts get snappier and the students start to move out of their seats, we move to phase two.

2. Posturing. Posturing is your typical personal space violation. Students in the posturing phase move closer to their opponent, often leaning in very close to their face or touching them in small but annoying ways - flicking hair, pulling at clothes, or swatting lightly at shoulders and chest. Trash talk continues, but is more aggressive and is obviously hostile. Naturally, this leads quickly to...

3. Escalation. At this point, shouting is imminent. Gone are the subtleties of the argument - the combatants are now screaming obscenities at each other. What may have started as a game is now deadly serious (or at least minor injury serious). Girls toss their heads like wild horses, clap their hands for emphasis, and raise their voices to a pitch hardly decipherable to human ears. Boys push at each others' chests, lunge forward aggressively, and move into fighting stance. If you, the teacher, have allowed it to get this far, you're basically fucked.

4. Melee! It's on now! The last chance you have of avoiding bloodshed is if other students get involved and restrain their friends or if you buckle on your balls and jump in between the opponents yourself. This does not always work, and I would suggest not getting in between two girls unless you're willing to take some physical damage. It's a nearly universal truth in teaching that while boys will usually calm down if a female teacher stands between them, girls have a longer fuse and a bigger payload, so by the time they come to blows they are going to keep at it until they draw blood no matter who gets in their way.

Keep in mind that the minute other students realize a fight is going on, 90% of them will completely lose their minds and race to the scene, causing a maelstrom of adrenaline and cell phone cameras, so you need to move fast if you plan on breaking it up. At this point, your best recourse is to call down for a principal and the school resource officer. They live for this, so don't feel too badly for imposing on them.

5. Fallout. The fight is over, but now you have to deal with the drama it has left in its wake. If it all went down in the hallway during class you may be able to salvage your lesson, particularly if you managed to keep your students safely ensconced in the classroom while you busted things up. If it happened during passing period, you will have to endure high spirits and a deep interest in blow-by-blow analysis for at least half of your class period - longer if any of your students knows one of the combatants. If it happened in your classroom, you might as well give up now. There is no way the students are going to want to back to reading Act III of The Crucible after they've just watched two girls go at it cage-match style in the middle of the room.

Of course, if you actually had a fight break out in your classroom, things look pretty bad for you anyway. The key is catching things before they get that out of hand and crushing them under the steel-toed boot of authoritarian bitchiness. Of course, there are justifiable cases (gang rivalries, for example) where there is really nothing you can do, but most of the time a teacher's action or inaction is what draws the line between garden variety high school drama and a shitkicking beatdown.

Secretly, I get my own thrill from watching a fight go down. It's my chance to go into decisive, professional mode, and I get to pretend for a few minutes that I don't spend most of my day toiling away trying to fight eleven years of low expectations and second-rate administration with frustrating results. For just a moment, I get to bark orders, jump into a fray, and act as badass as I can probably hope to get as a high school English teacher.
applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([teaching] i eat children)
In my line of work, you can almost always see a fight coming. With very few exceptions, high school students (well, people in general I suppose, though my experience with fights is pretty firmly entrenched in the high school setting) follow a prescribed set of rules before getting physical. The idea is to catch them at it and squash the drama before the blood and hair start flying.

1. Trash talk. This starts slow, and is the hardest to catch because half the time trash talk is barely different from the way students usually address each other. "Bitch" and "motherfucker" are common endearments, so teachers have to train themselves to pick up tiny differences in tone and body language. Or, you know, at least look away from the open Ebay page on their computer. As retorts get snappier and the students start to move out of their seats, we move to phase two.

2. Posturing. Posturing is your typical personal space violation. Students in the posturing phase move closer to their opponent, often leaning in very close to their face or touching them in small but annoying ways - flicking hair, pulling at clothes, or swatting lightly at shoulders and chest. Trash talk continues, but is more aggressive and is obviously hostile. Naturally, this leads quickly to...

3. Escalation. At this point, shouting is imminent. Gone are the subtleties of the argument - the combatants are now screaming obscenities at each other. What may have started as a game is now deadly serious (or at least minor injury serious). Girls toss their heads like wild horses, clap their hands for emphasis, and raise their voices to a pitch hardly decipherable to human ears. Boys push at each others' chests, lunge forward aggressively, and move into fighting stance. If you, the teacher, have allowed it to get this far, you're basically fucked.

4. Melee! It's on now! The last chance you have of avoiding bloodshed is if other students get involved and restrain their friends or if you buckle on your balls and jump in between the opponents yourself. This does not always work, and I would suggest not getting in between two girls unless you're willing to take some physical damage. It's a nearly universal truth in teaching that while boys will usually calm down if a female teacher stands between them, girls have a longer fuse and a bigger payload, so by the time they come to blows they are going to keep at it until they draw blood no matter who gets in their way.

Keep in mind that the minute other students realize a fight is going on, 90% of them will completely lose their minds and race to the scene, causing a maelstrom of adrenaline and cell phone cameras, so you need to move fast if you plan on breaking it up. At this point, your best recourse is to call down for a principal and the school resource officer. They live for this, so don't feel too badly for imposing on them.

5. Fallout. The fight is over, but now you have to deal with the drama it has left in its wake. If it all went down in the hallway during class you may be able to salvage your lesson, particularly if you managed to keep your students safely ensconced in the classroom while you busted things up. If it happened during passing period, you will have to endure high spirits and a deep interest in blow-by-blow analysis for at least half of your class period - longer if any of your students knows one of the combatants. If it happened in your classroom, you might as well give up now. There is no way the students are going to want to back to reading Act III of The Crucible after they've just watched two girls go at it cage-match style in the middle of the room.

Of course, if you actually had a fight break out in your classroom, things look pretty bad for you anyway. The key is catching things before they get that out of hand and crushing them under the steel-toed boot of authoritarian bitchiness. Of course, there are justifiable cases (gang rivalries, for example) where there is really nothing you can do, but most of the time a teacher's action or inaction is what draws the line between garden variety high school drama and a shitkicking beatdown.

Secretly, I get my own thrill from watching a fight go down. It's my chance to go into decisive, professional mode, and I get to pretend for a few minutes that I don't spend most of my day toiling away trying to fight eleven years of low expectations and second-rate administration with frustrating results. For just a moment, I get to bark orders, jump into a fray, and act as badass as I can probably hope to get as a high school English teacher.
applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([reading] nose in a book)
Is that the alarm? Already? Shit. Can't hit the snooze button more than once or I'll have to skip breakfast, and my belly is quicker to wake up than my brain. Just sit up - it's not so bad after the initial head rush.

What day is it today?

---

A little more toothpaste, there we go. Feeling more awake now - maybe it's the peppermint suds in my mouth. So what day is it? Ah, yeah, Tuesday. One more week until the end of the grading period. Wonder how that's going to go. Better yet, wonder what excuses I'll be hearing when it comes down to the wire.

Maybe I'll take the day. I haven't been sick once yet; a personal record. There are definitely some faces that I'd rather not see today. I'd rather go back to sleep, then spend the day with some old friends. Kara, Bill, and Saul maybe. Or Tim and Dawn - those kids are always good for a laugh.

---

What should I have for breakfast? Those bananas are going, guess I should get my money's worth. Once they get too mushy I just don't want 'em anymore. Maybe some oatmeal. It's that kind of day. I wish I was a coffee drinker, but the taste turns my tongue inside out. At least the cat hasn't pulled my clothes off the ironing board. Small blessings.

I won't take the day. There's too much to do. Besides, if I make it to 1:30 I'll see my favorite class. Maybe one of my kids from last year will come by and say hello. I always get a kick out of that, especially when they talk me up to the new crowd.

---

Shoes, phone, keys. Is that it? Sorry, kitty, can't stay and play. Grab the trash on the way out the door. Down the steps, drop the Hefty, into the car. It's starting to get cool out now, isn't it? And it's so dark! Sometimes I wish I kept a normal schedule. Start things up and let's get rollin'.

Don't think about things too much for now. Turn on the radio, crank up the noise. Merge onto the freeway. Let off some steam swearing at the other half-asleep commuters. Make to-do lists out loud - that's not weird, is it?

---

Already here; how's that possible? 25 minutes really ought to be longer. Kids are starting to pull in, but I've beat the rush. Good news for my stress level. Ever tried driving through a high school parking lot? Tragicomedy at its finest.

Have I got my classroom keys? Wonder if my buds are in the English office yet or if I'll get stuck talking to Ms. Motormouth again. Let's go.

"Hey, Mama!"
"Good morning, Miss!"
"Cute shoes, Ms. F!"

How did I get here again? And how is it I'm smiling?

Eight hours to go.
applespice: it is a sparkly fairy ([reading] nose in a book)
Is that the alarm? Already? Shit. Can't hit the snooze button more than once or I'll have to skip breakfast, and my belly is quicker to wake up than my brain. Just sit up - it's not so bad after the initial head rush.

What day is it today?

---

A little more toothpaste, there we go. Feeling more awake now - maybe it's the peppermint suds in my mouth. So what day is it? Ah, yeah, Tuesday. One more week until the end of the grading period. Wonder how that's going to go. Better yet, wonder what excuses I'll be hearing when it comes down to the wire.

Maybe I'll take the day. I haven't been sick once yet; a personal record. There are definitely some faces that I'd rather not see today. I'd rather go back to sleep, then spend the day with some old friends. Kara, Bill, and Saul maybe. Or Tim and Dawn - those kids are always good for a laugh.

---

What should I have for breakfast? Those bananas are going, guess I should get my money's worth. Once they get too mushy I just don't want 'em anymore. Maybe some oatmeal. It's that kind of day. I wish I was a coffee drinker, but the taste turns my tongue inside out. At least the cat hasn't pulled my clothes off the ironing board. Small blessings.

I won't take the day. There's too much to do. Besides, if I make it to 1:30 I'll see my favorite class. Maybe one of my kids from last year will come by and say hello. I always get a kick out of that, especially when they talk me up to the new crowd.

---

Shoes, phone, keys. Is that it? Sorry, kitty, can't stay and play. Grab the trash on the way out the door. Down the steps, drop the Hefty, into the car. It's starting to get cool out now, isn't it? And it's so dark! Sometimes I wish I kept a normal schedule. Start things up and let's get rollin'.

Don't think about things too much for now. Turn on the radio, crank up the noise. Merge onto the freeway. Let off some steam swearing at the other half-asleep commuters. Make to-do lists out loud - that's not weird, is it?

---

Already here; how's that possible? 25 minutes really ought to be longer. Kids are starting to pull in, but I've beat the rush. Good news for my stress level. Ever tried driving through a high school parking lot? Tragicomedy at its finest.

Have I got my classroom keys? Wonder if my buds are in the English office yet or if I'll get stuck talking to Ms. Motormouth again. Let's go.

"Hey, Mama!"
"Good morning, Miss!"
"Cute shoes, Ms. F!"

How did I get here again? And how is it I'm smiling?

Eight hours to go.

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