Making Progress

With the move all finished and the semester over, I now have a couple of weeks to relax, unpack, get organized, get things like internet set up, and prepare for next semester to start. I am proud to report that I’m making progress on all fronts.

Time Warner is coming next weekend to flip our internet switch, which seems a tad ridiculous to me. How hard can this be that we have to wait a week and a half for them to come and plug things in? I mean, we have our own modem and router. We know where the plugs are. The apartments were built long before the Interwebs were, but I’m sure we won’t be the first people to use them there. All they should really need to do is literally flip a switch or click a box or perform a simple tribal dance. Really it can’t be that complicated. But apparently what with it being the beginning of the month and all, enough people are having their internet/cable hooked up to completely book every technician Time Warner employs for every moment of every day until the 14th. But we do have an appointment that day, so we’re making progress.

The unpacking and organizing are going well too. Here is a very bad, cell phone picture to at least give you (Ana) an idea of what’s going on in there. 99% of the boxes are gone, and though I don’t have a picture of it, my room is also taking shape nicely.

On the relaxation front, today marks the second day in a row that I have not woken up in pain, I went to the POOL yesterday, and I’m headed to Asheville tomorrow to get my kayak on!! Well. I’m not sure we’re actually going to go kayaking. We might go white water rafting, or we might go funyaking, which, I know, sound like we’re going to have an awesome time vomiting, but a funyak (aka duck or ducky) is basically an inflatable kayak or one-person raft. In either vessel, I am certain a fun time will be had by all. And I’ll try not to get 2nd degree sun burns this year.

And finally, although I have not yet begun to write actual lesson plans, I did order several books yesterday with which to torture my poor students. Yippee! Hooray!! You might not be able to truly appreciate how satisfying this is unless you are a teacher, but if you are a teacher (especially an ESL teacher), I’m sure you’re jealous that I’m getting new books. Even if I did have to purchase them with my own money from Whatever. Last year, I discovered the joy and absolute magic of tax write-offs. My goal is to get my AGI into the negative. I think I’m getting close.

Y’all have a great weekend!

True Confessions

True Confession #1

When I think about planning lessons, my whole brain shuts down, and I have to convince myself that it’s a necessary thing to do. Then I have to think about how long it will take me and what else I have to do that day, and if there’s any time at all to spare, the lesson planning gets bumped back. I like the actual teaching, and I love hanging out with my students every day, but the planning part is so draining. The only things in life I like planning are trips and parties. That’s it. Everything else can be improvised.

True Confession #2

When I’m walking alongside a single guy friend, I always want to hold his hand. Always. It doesn’t matter if I’m interested in him romantically or not. It just seems to me like the natural thing to do, and I have to constantly remind myself that we are not dating, that I’m not actually interested in dating him, that if I were to try and hold his hand, it would be weird, and that nothing good could come of it. It would make everything awkward and not be worth it at all. So if you are a single guy friend of mine and you notice that my conversational skills are lacking when we walk, it’s because I’m having to concentrate very hard on not weirding you out. You’re welcome.

But if you want to hold my hand, go for it. I won’t think anything of it.

Story Time!

I’m writing this before I leave for Italy and setting it up to publish itself while I’m there. I’m going to tell it from today’s perspective, though, so when I say “yesterday,” I really mean Wednesday, June 15. I’ll only do that once, though, so don’t worry.

Ok. So yesterday, I had my grammar class in the afternoon. There’s a fifteen-minute break between the morning class and the afternoon class, and I like to sneak away for a few of those minutes to regroup. Well, as I was sneaking back upstairs, one of my students came rushing in from the parking lot all in a panic, telling me he’d locked his keys in his trunk.

Now let me just tell you that this is a very smart guy. He probably speaks three or four languages now, and although he says his job has something to do with trade between the U.S. and China, one of the other teachers and I kind of suspect that he’s a spy because his description of his job is so vague and because he has “friends” in just about every country in the world. Or maybe our imaginations are just too active, and we need to leave the country more often. Anyhoe, back to the story.

He was very concerned about the keys. I told him it was fine and that we’d call AAA after class. He didn’t know what that was, so I had to explain. I didn’t go into much detail because I had a class to teach, but I told him he wouldn’t have to pay any money and asked if he trusted me. He said he did, so we went up to class.

Two hours later, I called AAA, and they told me they’d be there in about 30 minutes. Immediately after that, the tow truck guy called and said he’d be there in 15-20. The student and I went outside and waited. I ate an orange. We chit-chatted. The tow truck arrived.

The guy tried to jimmy the lock, but he couldn’t catch it for some reason, so then he pulled out The Pump. I don’t know if y’all have seen this or not. I never had. It looked to me like a third of a blood pressure arm band (the third closest to the pump). He got it wedged into the door and started squeezing the pump, which expanded the bag, opening the door slightly. Then he stuck a long rod through the crack in the door and used it to push the unlock button inside the car.

Success!! The alarm sounded loudly, but the student leaned in and popped the trunk. Then he went back to retrieve his keys and turn off the alarm.

He rummaged through the top layer of stuff in the trunk. Then the second. Then back through the first. Then he was just tossing things out right and left. The tow truck guy asked if they were in his bag, and he said no, and then I asked if they were in his pocket, and bingo.

Not just any pocket, though. His back pocket. He’d been sitting on his keys for two hours in class and hadn’t felt a thing. The poor guy was so embarrassed, but the tow truck guy and I couldn’t help ourselves. We were losing it. The student apologized profusely to both of us, but I think we agreed that it pretty much made our day, so we weren’t mad in the least.

The End

How Many Fridays Can One Week Have?

This is at least the third day this week that I’ve thought was Friday. I honestly don’t know how time could possibly pass more slowly, but in case you are so inclined, please don’t try to explain the passage of time in the metaphysical sense to me as my head would most certainly explode.

It’s been one of those weeks when I just felt like I wasn’t running on all cylinders mentally. When I didn’t feel like sticking to my lesson plans, I couldn’t think quickly enough to change them on the spot. And I’m sitting here now trying to figure out exactly what I want to do tomorrow (because I was very lazy in my planning and just wrote down “*Vocab test, *Watch”), and I’ve got nothin’. The test will take about ten minutes, and I have no idea what to watch. And if we’re going to watch something, I need to come up with some listening comprehension/analysis/discussion questions to go with it, and once again – nothin’.

Goodness gracious, the semester JUST started, and I already need a vacation. If you have ideas and/or hugs for me, bring ’em on.

One. More. Week.

I sort of count the week over on Thursday afternoon because that’s when I finish my last afternoon class, and on Fridays, I’m finished at 1:00. Fridays are also easy because by that time, I’m pretty much finished with my part of the work. What I mean by that is that I don’t stand up in front of the class doing a lot of explaining on Fridays. I do most of that on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the rest of the week is mostly them working on stuff and me waiting around until it’s time to go over it. This class is nice like that. However, it does mean that I spend a large part of my weekend planning my lessons. Every week.

This weekend will be no different, but NEXT weekend…oh next weekend, how I LONG for thee!! Thou makest me to speak in Shakespearean English, for thou art glorious in all thy ways!

Next week is the last week of this semester! And while I will be working two nights a week (because my job is weird like that), I have every day off for two whole weeks!! And I’m going to spend the first weekend (and a couple of extra days as well) at the beach. Doing nothing. Literally nothing.

I don’t want y’all to think that I don’t absolutely love my job. I do. And I consider myself extremely lucky to have found something I’m good at, I love, and I get to do with the most awesome people for the most awesome people. But oh my gosh it wears me out. Mentally, physically, relationally (and therefore emotionally), it wears me the eff out. I walk in every day at 8:50 and immediately have questions to answer, and they don’t stop until 3:00. Grammar questions, vocabulary questions, usage questions, what’s-the-difference-between-these-two-synonyms questions, personal questions, spelling questions, pronunciation questions. By the end of the day, I barely know my own name.

In some ways, it’s great. I think sometimes about what it would be like if I had an office job, and I feel like I would just lose brain cells sitting there all day. Answering questions I’m not prepared for at least keeps me on my toes. Plus, I can be really creative if I want to be. I have a lot of freedom to teach things however I want, and that also keeps my brain active. But after three and a half months of non-stop brain activity and spending 20+ hours a week with the same people, this introvert needs some rest. So I’m running away to the beach for four days, and I’m not going to talk to most of you until I get back.

My head feels lighter just thinking about it. The sun on my face, the sand in my toes, a book, a bottle of water, my favorite playlist, and no one asking me why “beforeward” isn’t the opposite of “afterward,” how “near” is different from “nearby,” or what the correct pronunciation is of “sheet” (sheeeet, SHEEEEEEEEEET – sh*t – oh forget it).

One more week, y’all. One. More. Week.

Non-stop Fun?

I feel like I’ve packed two weeks into this week already, what with laundry and writing sub plans and making a sassy Mardi Gras running skirt and movie Tuesday and working out and this and that and the other thing. I can’t believe it’s only Wednesday, but on the other hand, I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday. Holy crap, y’all, it’s already Wednesday night, which means at this time TOMORROW, I will be en route to New Orleans!! I should pack. And print out my e-ticket, and print out the info about where we’re supposed to go and when for the race, and maybe print out a map to the hotel from the airport.

And go to bed. Whew. I’ll try to update from the Big Easy, but if I can’t, keep up with me on Twitter. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of tweetable moments to share.

The Help: A Book Review by Beth Parent

I told myself several times yesterday that I would NOT stay up until all hours of the night finishing The Help. I’m trying to get back on a normal sleeping/waking schedule, see, because morning registration is tomorrow, and classes start back on Monday.

But then last night, I took the book to bed with me and read straight through to the end. I don’t even know what time I went to sleep because by the time I finished reading, my phone had turned itself off, which means it was at least 1:00 a.m. Dangit. No self control.

Anyway, The Help by Kathryn Stockett is great. I liked it a lot. I would almost say I loved it. The only thing I didn’t love about it, in fact, was the way it was told. The story is about black house maids and their white employers in Jackson, Mississippi in the early ’60s. Some chapters are from the perspective of one maid, some from that of another maid, and some in the voice of a young white woman who is sympathetic toward the maids, largely because she’d had a maid of her own growing up whom she loved dearly, but who has disappeared (not in a Dean Koontz sort of way, just nobody will tell her what happened).

I found the three perspectives to be a little bit confusing, especially when chapters from the points of view of the two maids were told back-to-back, because they had similar voices, and I kept having to remind myself who was talking.

Also (and I realize this is going to sound contradictory since I just said having three perspectives was confusing), there was a fourth major character whose perspective I wished I could have seen. If you’ve read the book, I’m talking about Hilly. I think it really would have rounded out her character (and the story) to let us see her and the the world through her own eyes.

The character development as a whole, however, was fantastic. I found myself doing each character’s voice in my head, and they were all completely distinct. By the time I was finished, I knew those people. Stockett does a great job of showing us the characters through their words and action. (Koontz, in stark contrast, spends a whole page explaining to us that one of his characters is “careful.” Then he kills him off. I might actually have to go reduce the number of stars I gave his book.)

The plot is good too. It’s relatable, it’s emotionally stirring, it moves right along, I didn’t roll my eyes at any of it, and I don’t think there’s anything in it, really, that is unnecessary. Even things like Skeeter’s mom’s health, which might seem like just unnecessary details of her life or fillers to make her chapters longer when Stuart’s not around, come into play in a significant way at some point. Nothing is wasted (except for Celia Foote at the party).

I’m giving The Help four stars, and I would recommend that you read it. It’s not my new most favoritest book on earth, but I really, really, really, really liked it. ****

Vacation: Day 1 – Professionalism Fail

Well first let’s start with an update on my vacation to-do list progress. I spent the weekend with Rachel and Annabelle baking. And hooooo-boy did we bake! I think we made about 90 buck-eye balls, about the same number of pretzels with melted Rolos and pecans on top, roughly 50 Christmas wreaths, and when I left, Rachel was still rolling out and baking cookies. Christmas wreaths, by the way, are super-easy and very delicious. If you’re looking for something festive to make this year, I’ll tell you how to do it.

Basically, they’re like Rice Krispie treats, but you use Corn Flakes instead of Rice Krispies. So you melt the butter and marshmallows together in a pot, and then you add green food coloring until the whole pot of goo is green. Then you add the Corn Flakes and stir until they’re all covered in green goo. Then you plop them in roundish clumps onto wax paper and add a few Red Hots (you know, the tiny cinnamon candies) to look like berries on the wreaths. Then just let them cool and set a bit. Voila!

Oh, and the pretzel thingies were really easy too. We just got the sort of checker-board-looking pretzels (like these) and laid them out on a cookie sheet. Then I painstakingly unwrapped a whole mess of Rolos and placed one on top of each pretzel. We popped those into the oven for a few minutes, just to soften the caramel center of the Rolos. Then we took them out and smushed a pecan half on top of each one to make them a bit flatter and spread the chocolate across the whole pretzel. Let those bad boys cool, and you’ve got yourself a treat.

Oh, and also, I watched FOUR movies this weekend, so I’m very proud of that. It was also on my to-do list, if you recall.

But look at me. I’ve gone and gotten distracted by sweets and films. I meant to tell you about my first weekday of vacation, the first goal of which was to sleep in. Mission accomplished!!! The next goal was to get out of bed and go straight to the shower so as not to sit around all stank in my jabambas all day. BOOM! Showered.

Then, I was supposed to get dressed and put my face on as if I were going to go out to a real job in a real office because they say that’s what you should do if you work from home – treat your job like any other job – with professionalism.

Except when I got out of the shower, I realized that all my clothes were dirty.

So I put on clean jabambas and started a load of laundry. Oh well. I’ll get it right tomorrow. And in the meantime, I’ve got work to do. But hopefully, I’ll have something to say to y’all more often since all my brain power won’t be sucked out of me by the evil lesson planning fairies for the next few weeks.

Until next time (tomorrow??)…


Y’all. Whew.

The semester is over. It’s over, and a new one doesn’t start for almost a MONTH! And in that time, I have so few plans, it’s ridiculous. And the plans I do have are as follows:

  • Spend this weekend in VA with Rachel and Annabelle shopping and baking.
  • Bake cupcakes.
  • Write/edit some articles.
  • Put up my Christmas tree (finally).
  • Go Christmas caroling.
  • Spend Christmas in Charleston with la mia famiglia.
  • Spend New Year’s…somewhere. I don’t know where yet. I have some options.
  • Watch movies.
  • Run.
  • Eat.
  • SLEEP.
  • Start thinking about what to teach next semester. Maybe make some copies.

Oh it’s going to be FABULOUS. If you’d like to join me for any of these things, let me know. I’m open to company for most of them.

This Is My Life

The students in the classroom next to mine are always learning American idioms. This makes my students jealous, I think, because I rarely teach them idioms. I used to teach them all the time. I have lots of units on idioms, some of which we use today, but many of which left the corpus of American speech a full generation ago. That’s one reason I don’t teach them any more. I don’t want to be responsible for dozens of immigrants saying things like, “Today is a red-letter day,” or, “Good bulgogi is as scarce as hen’s teeth in the U.S.”

The other main reason I hate teaching idioms and slang is because a lot of times, they are so generational and/or subcultural. It just doesn’t sound right when a 60 year old says that something is “dope,” or when a 19 year old guy exclaims, “heavens to Betsy!” My job is to help them assimilate, not get them beat up.

But by golly, they just love learning those idioms. It’s fascinating – dare I say, seductive even. Learning an idiom in another language opens up a whole new window through which to view and understand the culture, and there are SO MANY of them, it’s ridiculous. I mean, idioms ARE English. If you don’t know them, you don’t know squat. Unfortunately, they’re like the secret English that only native speakers and a few lucky learners are privy to. Others might learn them intellectually, but they may never be able to use them in a way that sounds natural. Not all of them anyway.

Here is exactly what happens when you teach an ESL class a list of idioms and new vocabulary, and then have them make up skits to practice using them.