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Last Thursday, I walked home from classes and saw traffic backup piling into an intersection. It wasn’t Times Square Status by any means, but there was a bit of kerfluffle, since it’s not an intersection that is usually very busy. It was easy to peer ahead and see the source of the commotion was a row of ambulances (ambuli?) huddled around a storefront, pulling someone out on a stretcher and loading him or her into the vehicle.

A Nicer, Truer Hufflepuff You Never Will Find

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I think if a member of the Hufflepuff house were to reach into the sorting hat in a moment of need, they would withdraw their hands in slight surprise, having just reached in to find my hedgehog coming to their rescue. They would have, of course, roused her from a nap, and so she would naturally be a little miffed, and thus, a little spikey. But a true Hufflepuff, seeing the good in everyone, even a perturbed hedgehog, would reach back in to find my hedgehog quite forgiving, her quills now laid flat. And in that moment of need, my Hufflepuff would offer the greatest support in any Hufflepuff’s moment of need. She would give a good snuggle, and all trouble would vanish.

A Fair and Balanced Account of Valentine’s Day as a Holiday.

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Yesterday my Facebook feed was abuzz with adorableness on Valentine’s–people publicly declaring their love and celebrating their flowers. As a manifestation of how old and mature I’m becoming, many of my friends posted pictures of their new Valentine’s–little babies covered with smooches, or pregnancy announcements clad in pink and red.

And honestly, it truly was adorable. I enjoyed it. I clicked the like button many times! I was happy it was Valentine’s Day!

But I was also a little bit cognizant of how much I would have hated my Newsfeed on Valentine’s Day five years ago–in the most cliche way of course. And though it was cliche and perhaps unnecessarily bitter, I don’t want to delegitimize the loneliness one single girl can internalize while scrolling through a Facebook Feed Full of Love.

So, remembering my former self, I decided to chronicle my 2015 Valentine’s Day here, where people actually need to CLICK to see, to choose to imbibe this particular love potion.

I’ve had my Dead Poet Moment.

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It’s my prep period. My desk is overflowing with an alarming amount of grading that I’ve procrastinated and resented. I need to plan two separate lessons for tomorrow, and I carry with my no small cloud of stress with me at any given time. So prep periods are sacred, stress relieving times where teacher gets to play catch up.

But I have to stop, ignore the pile and swipe away my stress cloud,  so I can record what just happened in my classroom. I’ve never had more fun in my class than I had just now.

End of Year Earmarks

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It must be acknowledged: Sometimes teaching sucks. Sometimes the amount of your paycheck represents only 1/10 of your ink, sweat, and tears. Sometimes students are mean, and sometimes they are manipulative. Sometimes (all the time) you work through lunch and sometimes (too many times) the students never seem to learn. Sometimes teaching sucks.

(Yes, I do need to cool it with the anaphora. Find a new literary device, Penrod, sheesh).

To be frank, most teachers have that period of the day that doesn’t jive like the others. That class period of hell filled with (individually lovely but compositely grumpy) students that simply refuse to think that what you are teaching them is worth anything. That hour of the day that not only reminds you that sometimes teaching sucks, but ensures that it does.

And then there are Michael Rudins* that wash away the sins of “Nth Period” in one fell swoop. In one fell binder full of ink and sweat.

I try not to write about individual students very often. I do this for a couple of reasons.

  1.   Students’ personal lives are their own, and I imagine there would be a reasonable amount of horror were they to know that a teacher blogged about them.
  2. By picking one student to write about, I worry that sometimes it invalidates the beautiful experiences, kindness, and worthiness of all of my other tremendous students, many of whom slipped by expressive, kind, affirming Thank You Notes my way on this their last day of high school.
But today, I simply must. I must write about Michael Rudin. He is a metaphor for all the other many wonderful students that have made this year worth it.

He is shy. I do not identify with shyness. I am not shy. But for some reason, I love my shy students. It’s perhaps an unfair generalization, but I am fascinated by their untapped depths.

Michael Rudin is shy, but not quiet. Throughout the year, whenever I called on him, he always surprised me with ready, boldly stated, poetically worded responses.

I was briefly out of the classroom today when a ragged binder and a Dr. Pepper appeared on my desk. As I thumbed through the pages (some pages earmarked) of my desk’s new arrival, I found “Youthful Thoughts: the Complete Works of Michael Rudin.”  A binder full of poetry and short stories, of secret, untapped depths collected over the years.

I won’t embarrass the student by posting my favorite poem, “English Class,” in its entirety (even though it’s insightful and perfect and made me cry), though I will include the charming refrain: “In Penrod’s class is a chance to learn.” I won’t detail the joi de vivre I experienced as I thumbed through each of his earmarked pages. I won’t belabor the pride I feel for this student (and all of my students’) ability to feel the world.
But I will share this one tenderest of moments of my own experience with Youthful Thoughts. Michael Rudin had about 50 poems, and had earmarked about 20 of them for my perusal. And then, I came across this:
To you, this is nothing. An unbent earmark. Big deal.

To me, this is Michael Rudin carefully sifting through his poems, deliberating, deciding, and changing his mind. This is Michael Rudin, in a quiet, pensive moment, unsure whether or not this poem was a good enough representation of himself. This is Michael Rudin folding and then unfolding an earmark. This to me, is a moment of tenderness, of attention to detail. This is a moment of care.

I am not sure why I am so taken by this unearmarked corner, but the corner itself is poetry to me. Because it speaks.

I hope forever these students, not my students anymore, but these continuing students continue to speak boldly, quietly, articulately, and joyfully.

I am reminded everyday why I continue to teach. 

Novels and Noodles

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My mom, my working mother, my corporate powerhouse mother, spent a lot of money and spent even more hours on my childhood hobbies. She frequented the sweaty YMCA while I “played volleyball,” and massacred basketball. She sat through one too many poorly rehearsed renditions of Easy Note “Just Breath” in poorly executed piano recitals. My mom carted me to singing groups and dropped me off at school extra early so I could learn Spanish and practice the Oboe. If I wanted to be well rounded, well, darnit, she was going to see to it that I was.

But the key part of the above sentence is:

“If I wanted to be.” 

The Curse of My Life.

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I don’t have vision problems. I have 20/20. Currently, this is the curse of my life.

I want glasses. I want hipster glasses. I’ve even found a few in stores, but the makers are always presumptuous enough to put some sort of magnification in the little lenses to ensure that glasses can only go to elitists with real vision problems.

Fight or Flight.. Or Cry.

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I don’t think I was programmed with the usual “Fight or Flight” Tendencies. I think when I am startled, adrenaline starts flowing out my tear ducts, and it might be easy to mistake the adrenaline juice for tears running down my cheeks.

I’ve had several incidents to prove this, but most recently, I tried to go grocery shopping at the “far away, cheaper, more enjoyable” grocery store. I figured I would save enough money to justify taking a taxi back to our apartment.