Saturday, December 17, 2011

You May Daydream of SugarPlum Fairies

....or, if you're a teacher, you may daydream of the tiniest inkling of a HINT of appreciation from your students. Ever. But especially as you roll into the holidays and Christmas break. dear sweet friends, I got that on Friday. All of my trials and tribulations from the past five months were validated on Friday at school with my gremlins (and I do hope that at this point you realize I'm using that term most affectionately).

This past week was the last week before a glorious fortnight in which teachers and students alike loll around like slovenly heathens who don't have to work for a living. Or whatever it is you like to do during winter break....

Thus, I had three trying days of instruction/Midterm review on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, followed by a Thursday and Friday consisting of Midterm exam administration. Thursday was for Part 1: Reading, and Friday was reserved for Part 2: Writing.

For me, this week posed two challenges, and they were: First, what do I do for my students for Christmas, if anything? Lord knows teachers are financially challenged, but I didn't want to send them off into the holidays completely empty-handed. Second, if I get them anything, what day do I carve out 30 minutes of time to give them their presents where it would not interfere with Midterm review or actually taking the Midterm?

The easier part was choosing what to give them. I decided to make every student I teach a "paper plate award." Paper plate awards are exactly what they sound like. Paper plates, decorated by yours truly, that celebrate some quirk or talent of each individual student. They take a good little chunk of time to make, because you first have to go through all of your rosters and concoct an individualized, specific "award" for each student......and then you actually have to decorate the paper plates.

I then decided that if I hammer in Midterm review for two and a half days straight, I could reserve the end of my class period on Wednesday for paper plate award dissemination.

Now, I like to get UBER specific with my paper plate awards. None of this generic "Class Clown" or "Most Improved" or "Most Likely to Succeed" bullshit.

No. My paper plate ceremony included such prestigious awards as:

"Most Steptastic (but NO you are not at Step practice you are in ELA!) Award"
"Most Likely to try to use his charm to get out of trouble Award"
"Most Likely to make me forget I'm talking to a 14 year old because you're so mature Award"
"Most Entertaining Explanations for why he is out of his seat at any given time Award"
"Most Random Question-Asker Award"
"Breath of Fresh Air Award" (for those THANK THE LORD students who are literally "breaths of fresh air" among their rowdy classmates)
"Most Reliable Participator Award"

You get the point. I gave a short "build up" speech before I presented each award to create anticipation and let my students kind of guess who it was going to be. I don't know if it was more fun for them or for me.

When Thursday and Friday rolled around, I knew that two days straight of test taking was going to be almost more than they could bear, so I was glad I had given the awards (and given them an academic break) on Wednesday.

This is the message I displayed on my SmartBoard for students about what were acceptable post-exam behaviors and activities:


1. Read a book.
2. Work on a Double Entry Journal.
3. Work on any late or missing assignments you have for my class.

5. Write an extra-credit Parody or Double Entry Journal.
6. Do a crossword puzzle or word search (on the back table).
7. Study for another exam.
8. NOT wander around the room.
10. Daydream about sugarplum fairies and candy canes.

11. Write an explanation for why Star Wars is the greatest movie ever made.

13. Write a story about a far away fantasy land where students never have to take midterms.
14. Write an explanation for why Lord of the Rings is the greatest movie ever made.

15. OH----OR NOT TALK."

As you can see, they had plenty of options for activities to occupy their time when they finished my exam.

You may have inferred that some of these options were placed on the board in a half-joking manner. Therefore, imagine my surprise when one of my fourth block students ACTUALLY WROTE AN EXPLANATION FOR WHY STAR WARS IS THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE, albeit he tweaked it slightly.

This was, hands down, the single greatest piece of student writing I have received in my teaching career to date. It was so awesome that I will now provide a picture and a complete transcription of the written piece.

"Star Wars has got to be the second greatest movie ever made. With that being said, Lord of the Rings has to be the best movie in the history of movie making. Sure, Star Wars is a combination of action, adventure, and science fiction, but Lord of the Rings has all of my favorite genres-- action, adventure, fantasy, and drama. On top of that, Lord of the Rings has a way better story line than Star Wars. I would rather watch a noble quest while battling creatures than space dudes fighting for the galaxy. Also, the Jedi have got to be the biggest hypocrites in space. They are always talking about bringing peace to the galaxy while they are carrying weapons and slicing dudes arms off. The Brotherhood of the Ring at least are honorable enough to die for their land. The Jedi just send out their clones to do their dirty work for them. Just because there are unlimited amounts of them doesn't mean they don't have feelings. With all that being said, Lord of the Rings has got to be the best movie ever made."

Oh. My. God.

You sir, get an A! I don't even care that you called it the "brotherhood" instead of the "fellowship" of the ring. YOU ARE MY NEW FAVORITE STUDENT EVER.

Do I seriously get paid to be in charge of a classroom where students write me EPIC SHIT like this because they know how much I love Lord of the Rings??

And of the reasons that teaching is the best job on the planet.

As aforementioned, Friday was the last school day before break. I was fully expecting 1 or 2 notes or "Merry Christmas-es" from some of my sweetheart students. However, I was absolutely NOT expecting all of the thoughtful letters, well-wishes, and gifts I received on Friday...

Please note the TWO 2-liters of Diet Coke.....from 2 different students..... They know me too well.

My favorite thing about Friday was not that I received gifts from my students--I definitely didn't need anything tangible from them. It was the tiny bit of confirmation that everything I've been trying to accomplish or the relationships I've been trying to form with them since August have not been completely in vain. Small victories.

Another 4th block student crafted her own "award" for me. The "Dang I need a Diet Coke, Y'all!" Award..........Apparently I say that phrase entirely too often if this student thinks I deserve a personalized award for it.

There were many hugs exchanged in the hallway outside my classroom door after the end-of-day bell rang on Friday, and I daresay I will actually miss those little gremlins until January 2nd.

Do I become frustrated with, complain about, and become baffled by my 14-year-olds on a daily basis? Maybe.

Do I have the best classes in the world? Oh HELL yes.

happy holidays yall :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A List of Positives

During one of my recent trips down the StumbleUpon rabbit hole, I came upon one of those hokey "better yourself" articles that advised readers to make a "list of positives" about their life or career. Normally, my reaction to an article of this nature would be to hit the stumble button immediately, but because I'm nearing the end of my first semester of teaching 8th grade and experiencing the mental and physical fatigue that accompanies it, I decided to give it a go.

Here is my list of positives.

1. I am out of grad school and receive an actual, real-person paycheck every two weeks.

I'm not sure when the excitement that I experience on the 15th and 30th of the month goes away, but I don't think it will be anytime soon. I now have the liberty of treating myself to things such as Tervis tumblers whenever my heart desires, unlimited supplies of Raid cans, more black shirts to accompany the 57 black shirts I already own because I'm obsessed with black shirts, Cab Sauv that's nicer than 4 dollar Fisheye, and new bath mats when mine seem gross because I'm too lazy to actually try to clean them. And the best part? Not having to justify seemingly ridiculous or unnecessary purchases to anyone! What? You think buying 6 Raid cans at a time is excessive? Doesn't matter anymore! Positive.

2. I have the most entertaining job on the planet.

As you probably know, I teach 8th grade. I know people use this phrase to describe things at an alarmingly cliche frequency, but there is literally never. a. dull. moment. when you teach 8th grade. The other day, I had a student raise his hand in the middle of a lesson on extended metaphor and ask, out of the blue, "Ms. Townes, can a person be a girl and a boy at the same time?" I could not make this shit up.

My students "open my eyes" every single day, and not in the cheesy way you're thinking. Through teaching them, I've learned that.....Yes, you do actually have to say, out loud, that it is NOT okay to make a public display of farting in class. It is NOT okay to write "Shamika has mad swagg, yo" on the Smartboard while I'm working one on one with another student. It is NOT okay to tell your teacher that if she would just get a boyfriend or a husband, she probably wouldn't be such a big fat jerk. (True stories.)

So yes, my job provides me never-ending entertainment in the form of 8th grade drama, baggage, academic confusion, and general unexpected events. All 6 of the teachers on my team were grateful we made it through 4th block on Friday after our hallway looked like a scene straight out of Mean Girls at class-change between 3rd and 4th block, complete with verbal threats, weave-pulling, attempts at physical attacks, and shying just short of a circle of students screaming "Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!"

As a coworker often says..."8th graders....A work in progress." Positive.

3. I have an enormous, quirky, awesome family.

I know everyone says that their family is the best. We are all incredibly biased towards our own kin. I have the good fortune of having an immediate family of 7, plus 2 wonderful sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews they've spawned, and a wide array of unique extended family members. As a collective group, we are inappropriate, politically incorrect, brazen, blunt, and crude. I realize those don't exactly sound like positive attributes, but I maintain that they absolutely are. We're like the Greek side of the family in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. You know, the awesome, drunken side? Our family increases in number even more when you factor in that we creepily treat our three goldendoodles like humans. Oh, and the dogs enjoy getting drunk as well. Positive.

4. I can drink wine and watch How I Met Your Mother and Criminal Minds way more often than is socially acceptable.

Hypothetical situation: My kids acted insane that school day. Because of that, I left school at 3:45pm, went home, poured a glass of Merlot (at 3:45pm), and engaged in a 6 hour marathon of DVR-ed How I Met Your Mother episodes.
Is this something that I should proudly admit in this internet forum? Probably not.

Are these activities that I can feel free to participate in and not feel guilty about because I pay my own rent and have my own job and don't have a paper due for grad school and I will lose my sanity if I don't partake in? Yes. Positive.

5. I have the opportunity to be a staunch advocate for nerds.

This one probably sounds weird. It stems from the fact that, again, I teach 8th graders. Therefore, I unfortunately witness firsthand the evil that is bred in a middle school environment; namely, bullying. I preach to my students the benefits and general awesomeness that comes with knowing and loving stories such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. My students make fun of me for this daily, and that is just fine. I own it and I love it.

What I don't own and love? Students making fun of each other. For any reason at all. I was never an active member of the super popular crowd in middle and high school, and I liked it that way. I did not like those groups of people when I WENT to school with them, and it is truly a beautiful thing to not have to tolerate that kind of behavior in teaching them. I tell my students outright that that kind of disgusting behavior is intolerable in my classroom, and work very hard to be constantly vigilant of it, and when I can, put a stop to it. Positive.

6. I can cheer myself up by hanging out with people of the canine variety whenever I want.

Please note that I said "people" of the canine variety. That's right....dogs. Can we all agree to the general consensus that dogs are freaking awesome? They are natural anti-depressants in furry, tail-wagging, unnaturally-always-happy form.

I get my regular dose of canine-endorphines in 1 of 2 ways. The first way....I drive the 1.5 hours up to Steve and Suz's house in Greenville, where I am ecstatically greeted by Dixie, Ginger, and of course, my freak of nature Stella. The second way.....I make a 10 minute drive from my apartment to a little place called Pets, Inc, off highway 20 in Lexington. There, I can take potential adoptees on walks and almost go home with 6 different new pets on any given day. Positive.

How can anyone be upset with the world when they look at a face like this?

Not this girl!

I realize this blog is a bit of a departure from my usual style, but with Christmas coming and all that sappy BS, It's somewhat refreshing to sit here and think about the awesome in my life.

I'm going to try and keep this positive attitude up as my students file in for 1st block in about 10 hours, but we'll see what they have in store for me instead. My guess is that it will involve random hatred for me and my subject matter, massive life-ending drama with a best friend, and hair weave-scattering across my classroom floor.

The positive? Two more weeks until Christmas break. :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Middle Ages Halloween

I went to a Renaissance Festival last weekend.

Go ahead, make your fun. I'll admit that I was fully planning on making fun of myself for going as well.


Boy, was I wrong about Renaissance Festivals. In a word? AWESOME. There were wenches, knights, jousts, dragons, tree people, homeless fairies, and ALE, among other awesome things.

My one regret from my first Renaissance Festival is that I personally did not dress as a medieval character, nor did any of my comrades. I also concluded that the only thing better than going to a Renaissance going to a Renaissance Festival on Halloween weekend.

Not only do you have all of your crazies dressed as dragons and knights, but you also have individuals walking around in all sorts of other out-of-theme costumes including, but not limited to, Iron Man, Jason Voorhees, Harry Potter, and Asian children dressed as Batman.

And let's please pay proper homage to the many, many creepy points this man added to the festival by showing up dressed like this.....

(in case you don't see it, i'm talking about this uber creepy molester-esque grown man dressed as a clown)

Now for my favorite character of the day. He was followed VERY closely by the jousting knight with Heath Ledger's Joker face paint and the Asian Batman children, but he pulled out the win. I don't think I ever actually saw the guys' face, but he was parading around the Renn Festival all day with a troop of wonderful freaks all dressed in the most realistic and comprehensive dragon costumes I'd ever seen. As they walked by, I was thinking "Norwegian Ridgeback! Hungarian Horntail! Chinese Crested!", but then I remembered this was the middle ages, not Hogwarts.

oh don't mind me y'all. I'm just over here doing dragon stuffs.

As you can imagine, after consuming the finest ales and ciders the Middle Ages had to offer, we had to relieve ourselves from time to time. Don't be mistaken though. This was done in the privies, definitely not in bathrooms.

However, we would have had to consume a LOT more than we did to render our money or services at "Feathers of Pleasure." Your guess is as good as ours as to who in the Renn Festival marketing department thought that was the best name possible for this particular merchant.

I have a hunch that whoever was behind "Feathers of Pleasure" was also behind this little establishment.....

Oh, and here is the dragon again. Just hanging out with his dragon friends while a crowd of onlookers watches in awe.

I wouldn't suggest going to a Rennaisance Festival if you are unable to shed any aversion you may have to all things creepy or weird. This girl was dressed as what can best be described as an anime wood nymph fairy and was "granting" small children's wishes. Not at all disturbing....

About halfway through the day, it dawned on me. You know, the reason I was enjoying the Renaissance Festival so much?

Being at a Renaissance Festival is the closest I will ever get to being a part of Middle Earth.

Unless I buy a plane ticket and fly to New Zealand to walk the Lord of the Rings trail to Mordor with Dwight Schrute, a Renn Festival is the next best thing. Albeit the wizards are nowhere near as cool as Gandalf and the Rohirrim could take the Renn Festival knights in a joust any day, it was close enough for me.

And look, Treebeard was even there!

(there's a real person in there, dressed as a giant, talking tree. awesome!)

Enough of my LotR/Renn Faire nerdgasm for today, though. Let's talk about Halloween.

I spent Halloween with the 8th graders of course, seeing as it fell on a Monday. The teachers at my school were definitely encouraged to dress up, and I went through a number of thought processes trying to decide what to wear to school that day.

The first and foremost thing I had to keep in mind was that the costume had to be "school appropriate." I use this phrase so often in my classroom, I sometimes have to stop and remind myself what I even mean by it. Basically, "school appropriate" when you teach 8th grade means nothing that will spark even remotely perverted thoughts, nothing illegal or immoral, and no full face masks or hats.

First, I was going to dress in 80s workout garb and go as "1987," but I thought that concept might be lost on a room of people born in 1998. Then, I was going to go as the Cheshire Cat, but when I went to tape the purple duct tape around my black shirt, there ended up being no good shirt location on which to place the tape without it being too tight here, accentuating a risque body part there, etc. etc.

Finally, I just borrowed a leopard print shirt from my roommate, put on cat ears and a cat tail, and went to school.

The next thing I had to worry about was the Halloween Dance occurring after school that day, mostly because I was the one in charge of it, being a student government sponsor and all. My cosponsor and I slapped up some decorations, paid the DJ, and hoped for the best.

Now, I had not been in attendance at a middle school dance since I attended middle school in 1999, and it soon became apparent that I had either gone to a very different type of middle school than the one where I currently teach, or middle school dances have simply changed.

I miss the days of middle school dances where slow songs were actually played. Remember those terrible slow songs from the late 90s?

Lyrical masterpieces such as Backstreet Boys "I Want it That Way," KC and JoJo's "Crazy," and Brian McKnight's "Back at One" were nowhere to be heard.

Awkward-"ass-out"-arms-stiff-and-locked slow dancing was nowhere to be found.

Males and females weren't even gawkily standing against walls, looking around longingly at the opposite sex wishing they had the kahunas to ask them to dance.

The only music played was rap or hip hop, I was taught how to "dougie," and there wasn't a slow song played the entire 2 hour duration of the dance. My cosponsor and I spent our time "white girl dancing" (as our students put it), and judging the costumes of the 6 students who actually showed up in one.

A 7th grader dressed as a red Teletubby won.

I was a leopard. She teaches science. Hence, her mad scientist costume. Behind us is a sparsely populated dance floor because apparently it's not "cool" to go to a middle school dance anymore. Sigh.

I bought a bottle of Cab Sauv and some Hershey kisses on my way home, and spent the rest of the evening handing out candy to the 3 trick-or-treaters I got. Mostly just drinking wine and eating all of the Hershey kisses on my couch as I watched Halloweentown on the Disney channel, though.

My life is apparently very sad, so I'll end on this positive note. I got a sweet hair cut and color with Nicole over at Salon 2000, and highly suggest you hit her up if you're looking to get your hair did.

This should be TWO thumbs up to chicks who know how to do some good hair :).

later yall.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dead Mice Inspire Blogs

Dead mice inspire blogs? Of course they do, in the Townes household!

I should have known that something like a dead animal carcass would end up being what motivated me to blog for the first time since July.

It was going to have to be something especially weird or gross, as I've been sucked deep into the bowels of the public education system since August 18th. I've managed to stay afloat thus far, gasping in breaths of air between never-ending paper grading and the profound, emotional baggage* you take home from the lives and minds of 75 eighth graders each day.

*Let it be clarified that profound, emotional baggage from an 8th grader includes things like discovering the joys of very public displays of flatulence, crying because you found a piece of cardboard in your pizza at lunch, or getting in a fight because a classmate made fun of "the shape of your head." (I'm still shaking my head at that one).

Back to the dead mice!

Today, I went outside to let the doodles do their biz in the backyard. On my way back in, I noticed all three doods sniffing and licking a spot on the brick wall of our house.

Upon further investigation of the doodle interest spot, I found this:

My first reaction was to become a little nauseous, for two reasons.

Reason 1) Do you notice the little trail of blood/innards dripping down the wall below the mouse? Yup, I did too.

Reason 2) My dogs had just been LICKING this. BARF. How do you rectify that situation? And how much time has to pass before I can feel safe that the dead mouse splatter is no longer a lurking threat in Ginger's mouth the next time she ninja licks me?!

Obviously, it's a dead mouse. This poor little rodent up and got himself killed in an electrical socket outside our house.

The question in my mind was, "How did he die?"

Soo....he crammed his head and half of his body under this outlet and....electrocuted himself to death?

He crammed himself into a too-small crevice, couldn't get free, and died of thirst and hunger?

He was crushed by the pressure of trying to force himself between an outlet and a brick wall?

I couldn't come up with a conclusive decision of how I thought he met his end, but I had to ruminate over it because it seemed like such an awkward and precarious position in which to die--half hanging out of an electrical socket with a trail of your own guts dripping down the wall beneath you? That's a bad way to go, even for a mouse.

As soon as I got my pictures snapped, Steve went into full-on mouse carcass disposal mode. He donned a rubber glove covered even further by a ziploc bag for extra protection.

Great success! Steve pried the mouse body loose with very little resistance from the aforementioned deceased. He then proceeded to completely saturate the spot on the wall with Clorox spray.

The dogs were sad. If they lick the wall again, they'll be in no danger of contracting any dead-mouse-germs, but they will most likely die of Clorox bleach poisoning. Steve gets a little spray-happy when it comes to Clorox and Weed-B-Gone.

Switching gears, I'd love to entertain y'all with tales and foibles from my 8th grade classroom, but I'm not sure I'd know where to start. Saying that there's never a dull moment would be a gross understatement.

8th graders are kind of like gremlins. They are the happiest, most adorable creatures on Earth one minute. The next minute? Bam! They've been fed after midnight and you are the worst person on the planet in their eyes. They are running around your classroom and throwing paper and crying and spitting in the trash can and biting each other and farting really, really loud and rolling around on the floor laughing and then farting again.

I honestly cannot believe how often my class has been interrupted due to students making massive productions out of farting. Shouldn't a 13-year-old boy (or girl, for that matter) have grown out of that stage? Apparently not.

They think you're weird and pretty and lame and cool and mean and rude and funny all in one 90 minute class period. One minute, they're making some profound connection between world events and classic literature, and the next, they can't even tell you the difference between a verb and a noun.

In short, teaching eighth grade is.......interesting.

All I can do is keep smiling and hope that the next dead rodent comes around sooner rather than later.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

End of an Era

My collegiate life is officially ending.

Although I graduated in May, I haven't actually had to DO anything from June until now besides bask in the afterglow of finishing the degree and read the entire Hunger Games trilogy and lay in bed until 6 p.m. It's not like I had to start working or anything crazy like that. I am a teacher, after all.

But now it's July 31st (happy birthday Harry Potter!) and I have exactly one week until summer is over and I report for my first day as an 8th grade English teacher (YIPES).

So, instead of reading the books I'll be teaching this year or doing any pre-planning whatsoever, I'm writing this blog!

On Tuesday, I am shipping out with Steph and Suz to attend the National Hallmark Convention in Kansas City, and that's where I'll be until my plane gets back at 11pm the night before I start work.

What's that you say? No, no. You read that correctly. A National Hallmark Convention. And that will be a blog all by itself so I wanted to update before that happens.

So here goes. The completely anti-climactic things I did with the end of my last collegiate summer:

1. As aforementioned, I read the entire Hunger Games trilogy in a 4 day time span. If you haven't read these books, you are living under a serious literary rock and missing out on the best series since Harry Potter.

And if you compare them or their upcoming film adaptations to Twilight, we are no longer friends. But for realsies, go read them. I'm currently devising schemes to work them into my curriculum in some capacity.

Oh, and can we please just salivate over these fine hunks of love who are playing the two lead males? YES.

2. I spent a good deal of time with my sister, Stephanie, and we are freaks. In a good way, we hope, but freaks nonetheless.

About a week ago I got a package in the mail at my new apartment. It was addressed to me alright, but with one minor alteration to my name....

"Shannon Nippie Townes"

My sister and I have this utterly bizarre practice of calling each other "nips." Before you go thinking we are batshit crazy or anything, just say it out loud to yourself. Say it in either a tone of sisterly adoration or one of frustration or something. It kind of works, right?........Right?!


"GOSH, stop being such a NIP and come help me get the groceries in!"


"Aww, nippie! Thanks for opening the bottle of Barefoot Pinot Grigio champagne for me because you knew I was too scared to do it!"

Whatever. I laughed, hard, when I saw it addressed to that name. But that wasn't even the best part of the package. I opened it up, and THESE were inside.......

Lunch BUGS! They have fake roach decals on them. Arguably the greatest surprise package I've ever gotten. Thanks a bunch, NIP! I'll never have to worry about someone swiping my sammies again!

3. We took our annual family vacation to Edisto. The first two days were pretty normal: beach, booze, beer pong, etc.

And then it rained. And rained, and rained. It wasn't our best Edisto trip, but we did all learn an awesome new dance courtesy of Stephanie. It's called THE WOP. All you do is flail your arms around to the beat of this fancy number:


4. I swear, I couldn't come up with a fourth eventful thing that concluded my summer. That's just how lame it was. However, Stephanie and I went on a simple errand that turned exciting today, which I documented with photos.

We're driving down the road, I look to my right, and this poor little preacher man in a wood-paneled station wagon beside us has left his Bible (of all things!!) on top of his car when he starting driving.

Being the good Samaritans that we are, we felt compelled to alert this 200 year old man to his Bible's whereabouts. We had the best of intentions, but screaming out "SIR!"... "SIR!"...."Your Bible!".... "SIR!"...over and over again at 50 mph might have been more conducive to causing a collision than doing a good deed.

He eventually looked over, realized the message we were trying to convey, decelerated to a snail's pace, pulled over, and finally..... retrieved the Bible. Thank God!

Then, we went to Wal-Mart.

......And met the Kool-Aid man! OH YEAHHH.

And that is pretty much it. The only two events now left standing between me and the start of my "career" are the Bachelorette finale tomorrow night, and the Hallmark Convention from Tuesday-Sunday.

A quick word about the Bachelorette. In my opinion, Ashley has been the most obnoxious and vapid Bachelorette in the show's history, and she solidified her position on my shit list with the dumping of AMES.

Meet Ames:

Ames is a 31-year-old portfolio manager from NYC who has like 7 degrees in things like finance, being really effing adorable, and having a big forehead and too-far-apart eyes that I'm still somehow wildly attracted to.

I'm also pretty positive that Ames is my soulmate and I am in love with him. I am literally praying he's the next Bachelor but he probably won't be because he's not a dingbat moron who overuses the word "amazing", which is apparently stipulation numero uno to becoming the star of this show.

As my brother David says, "Ames is just so.....Ames-y." Sigh, I agree.

Look out for the next post, chronicling the freakshow that is a National Hallmark Convention!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Words with Creepy Strangers

I'm obsessed with Words with Friends. I'm a self-proclaimed Words addict.

For those of you living under rocks, Words with Friends is a Scrabble-esque application on the iPhone, iTouch, iPad, Droid phones, and probably some other platforms of which I'm unaware.

You play it just like regular Scrabble, complete with double letter and triple word scores and a 7-letter queue of tiles you choose from during each of your turns. So many people have this application on some platform by now that most of them have enough games going simultaneously with people they actually know to get their fix.

For some Words with Friends crackheads, however, that's not enough. They need to have the maximum amount of games going at the same time as they possibly can (which is 20 games by the way, I'm always at the limit).

To accomplish this, one is forced to sometimes create games with a "random opponent." In other words, some other Words aficionado out there in cyberspace who is just sitting on his or her phone waiting for the game requests to come in.

I started one such game this morning.

I've started many games of this type, and they usually just fall into my game list and blend in among the other games with people I do actually know.

But not this game.

About ten or so moves into this game, I noticed that the little green chat bubble had 3 new messages from this RANDOM Words with Friends opponont (yes, you can "chat" instant- message-style with anyone you're playing with).

I found that a little bit odd, but sometimes even random strangers like to comment on a particularly awkward board or a really baller word you just played.

But not this girl.

When I opened up the chat window, I had to read through the messages twice because I was so taken aback.

This person,"tatiana," was BERATING me for not playing back fast enough. Now, this MIGHT, in some alternate universe, be sorta, kinda, maybe, acceptable if I had taken hours or even days to play a word back to this girl. That was not the case though. She had made her last move literally four minutes prior to these messages coming in.

At first I was a little peeved I was getting yelled at, since I pride myself on having a pathetic enough life to be able to play people back in this game within minutes of their move coming into my phone.

But then I just laughed, because this person was obviously 12 years old, or pretending to be, and I decided to engage in the conversation for a little while. I took screen shots of the whole shebang because I was so amused.

After messaging back and forth with her a few times, I wanted to tell her that she couldn't be more than 14 years old because she reminds me of my 9th grade students from last semester. But you know what? That would be an insult to my awesome 9th graders.

Who does this? Who asks for a stranger's real name in an online Scrabble game chat window?

Oh, thank God she's *not* a freak!

I couldn't have crammed more stereotypical preteen word vomit into one message if I had made it up myself.

Ohhh, okay. She has an iPod Touch, NOT an iPhone. That changes everything!

I know she asked me to quit the game over three hours ago, but as of now she's still just lingering in Words with Friends purgatory out of spite.

Here's hoping for better luck with future random opponents, and if you ever happen to receive a request for a random game with "tatiana1228," I'd advise not accepting that invitation.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Phantom Cone

You are all now cordially invited to address me as "Master," preferably in a tone appropriate for a Sith lord or otherwise highly revered being.

Yes, I graduated from my Master's program. I haven't posted on here since February, and a few milestones have occurred since then.

Since February, I successfully completed an absolutely fantastic student teaching internship, sold my soul to Steve Jobs and succumbed to the iPhone, turned the ripe old age of 24, and began searching and interviewing for my very first teaching job for the 2011-2012 school year. Of those things, the only fun part has been the iPhone and a new, sick obsession with the Words with Friends and TapZoo apps.

Yes, I have a virtual zoo on my phone and yes, I want to be your neighbor.

So far, the only negative thing I can say about the iPhone is that my texts still often make me look like a drunken 4-year-old. I've had it since March and I still have not conquered that cursed touch screen keyboard.

Soon, keyboard. Soon.

The task of chronicling everything I've done or seen since February seems too daunting to me on this lazy Sunday. Instead, I'm just going to try to make a couple of succinct reflections about the end of my graduate program, and then discuss something I think is interesting and funny that happened to me last night.

So, what did I actually learn in my graduate program? That's a very difficult question, seeing as I considered a lot of what I did in grad school to be what I call "graduate level busy work." However, after twenty-four months of grad classes, I was bound to come away with something, right? I know my parents and their tuition money sure hope so.

This is what I think one learns in grad school:

1. If you thought you were a good procrastinator before, graduate school will push you beyond your wildest realm of imagination in this regard.

My paper-writing record was 6 pages in fifteen minutes, and I'm pretty sure I was also drunk. As the saying supposedly goes, "some papers are good, and some papers are done."

2. You will meet the greatest people of your life.

The individuals that comprised my cohort for the past two years are the most hilarious, intelligent, entertaining people I could have hoped to survive the trenches of grad school with. The great thing about a graduate program is you get a mixed bag of the most random group of people ever, and you probably would never have met each other if not for your very specific shared interest in secondary level English, or whatever your discipline may be.

In our small cohort alone, we had our resident "creepy old guy," the singer from a metal band called Right to Fall, a comic-book-loving-Black Belt asskicker girl, drunken theologists, former undergraduate party animals, and many other colorful characters. I feel lucky to have gone to school with this hodge podge of badass weirdos.

This is some of us pretending we have bat wings in our Master gowns. Who gave us graduate degrees again?

3. You will meet the most terrible people of your life.

As evidenced in my many posts on The People You Meet in Grad School, there are some really terrible, miserable people roaming the halls of higher education institutions. The people who live to hear the sound of their own voice, who have such an inflated sense of ego and self worth you wonder how they bear to sit in the same classrooms as mortals such as yourself, who play devil's advocate "just this once" every. single. class period.

Let's not!

I hope these people continue pursuing graduate degrees for the rest of their lives so I never have to encounter them out in the real world, and they probably will. Because that's what they do. Professors are not excluded from this category of people.

4. Being a nerd is cool and socially acceptable.

Now, depending on where you went to school and what kinds of activities you were involved in, this might ring true for some undergraduate programs. In grad school though, it is especially accurate. Suddenly it is perfectly acceptable to go to pint night and talk about nothing but Shakespeare or a project due in class next week. In fact, I found it was hard to talk about anything BUT school when I went out with my classmates.

School consumes your life, and that's okay. If a lively debate over whether Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi is the better Star Wars episode made it into the conversation, that was okay. And on some rare occasions, if your friends don kilts or start speaking in rudimentary Middle English accents over a bottle of "Chaucer's Mead," that was okay too.

5. Everyone develops a superiority complex, and your school's graduate department will give any idiot a Master's degree if they pick an easy enough discipline.

I'm not excluding myself from this conclusion. Once I got to grad school, I immediately thought I was better and more worthy of praise than my undergrad counterparts. I couldn't help it. I was aware of it, and I might have even tried to quell it once or twice, but I couldn't. I got infuriated at Facebook statuses from undergraduates complaining about 5 page papers and having to go to a 50-minute-long class.

Ohh really? You think 50 minutes is a long time to sit in a classroom? Go to grad school and have fun rotting away for 3 hours straight, three times a week. (It's even more fun if they've just repainted the hallways of your classroom building and done nothing to repel the noxious fumes). Go to grad school and enjoy writing 30 page papers and compiling hundred page portfolios.

Here's the other thing. At least in my program, this complex transcended the simple grad-undergrad dichotomy. I'm sorry, Physical Education majors, but we just really didn't perceive you as being on *our* level. I'm sure these were nice, intelligent people, but in our orientation for our final semester of the program, one of them seriously asked what it meant to write something in "narrative form." Really?!

I once asked a guy in one of my grad courses which class he'd just come from. His reply was "Basketball." Not "Principles of Teaching Basketball," or maybe even "Advanced Basketball Strategies." Just basketball. And they gave him a Master's degree.

Enough ranting. That's all I have. I'm sure I also learned a great deal about teaching methods, canonical literature, adolescent psychology, or strategies for struggling readers. But mostly just those things up there.

HOKAY, SO......part two! The following incident can be filed under "weird shit that happens to me and gives me the fodder for keeping this blog in existence."

My sister drove down to my apartment from our parents' house last night to keep me company because neither of us has friends. We went to see the movie Bridesmaids. It was a funny movie. A bit predictable, a bit disgusting at times, but not a waste of money.

So we saw the movie, during which I drank approximately 44 ounces of Diet Coke, and went to find my truck in the parking lot.

That's when I spotted it. From across the parking lot. I stopped short. I grabbed Stephanie's arm and she stopped, too. She looked back at me inquisitively. I was entranced, but I spoke...

"What is that on my car?"

She looked over to my car.

"Oh my god. I don't know. What is that thing?!"

We walked a little bit closer, tentatively of course. If you've spoken to me for five minutes, you know I'm nothing if not suspicious and irrationally paranoid.

When we got close enough to determine what it was, we looked at each other and shared a why-does-this-weirdass-shit-always-happen-and-only-happen-to-members-of-our-family? kind of look.

This is what was on my car.

It's a cone.

A seemingly innocent orange parking lot/traffic cone. But why was it on my car?! Who put it there? What if there was something underneath that cone?! My truck is not at a party. It does not need a party hat. What are you doing up there CONE?

For some reason, it terrified me. It was a piece of molded orange plastic, but I was terrified. I think it was the mystery behind the cone more than the cone itself. We didn't want to touch it.

I was thinking things like "maybe there is a bomb underneath my car?" or "maybe there is someone hiding in the backseat?" Two highly irrational thoughts, because if either of those things were true, I don't think the perpetrator would have warned us about his deeds with a bright orange cone sitting like a beacon atop the car.

Stephanie ended up swatting it off the roof of the truck, and I told her to toss it in the bed. I would decide this cone's fate later.

That's where the cone still sits right now. I have no plans for the cone, and I don't even why I kept it. But it taunted me and I wasn't going to let it stay in its familiar home in that sketchy movie theater parking lot. I'm open to suggestions as to what to do with it.

Welp, that's it folks. I've re-emerged from my long blog absence. My apologies if I've rambled as a result.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Things I've Learned about High far.

Yes, I am aware of the huge pile of blogfail currently sitting at the top of my blog as my header. I wanted my blog to look more fancy and less like I write it in my pajamas at 5 pm on a Saturday and don't know the difference between HTML and a hyperlink (ps. I kind of don't).

So anyway I made what I think is a super cute header collage and tried to affix it to the top of this page, and ended up with what you see above. I don't know what the black chunks are on either side of it and I don't know how to get rid of them. HALP me, plz.

Since I last wrote, I started full-time student teaching English I to seven blocks of 189 ninth graders at a local high school. I have made some discoveries about 9th graders and about my sad excuse for a life in that time.

1. High school students think that Jersey Shore is more important than Martin Luther King, Jr.

True story: When my coaching teacher asked our students if any good specials/celebrations had been on TV the day before, my students responsed with: "Yeah! Jersey Shore!"

The day before that was MLK, Jr. Day.

2. No matter how close in age you may be to high schoolers, if you are not in high school anymore, you are automatically an old loser who is a lot less intelligent than said high schoolers.

My students have tried to tell me that "Smirnoff" is a brand of gum, that the "real" bell actually rings at 8:15 and not at 8:00, and that college couldn't possibly be as hard or boring as 9th grade English.

they pretty much see you like this. even if you are only 23.

3. High school students do not have it in their physical capacities to maintain possession of a piece of paper you give them from one day of high school to the next.

4. High school students will pick up on even the most minute, obscure sexual innuendo you have the misfortune of accidentally uttering, and will take this innuendo and ruin the next 30 minutes of your life with it.

*Note: They will forget every scrap of information you share with them on Animal Farm, but they will remember this accidental sexual reference until the end of time.

5. If there is one tiny detail you forget when teaching any given subject, high school students will ask you 17 questions on that detail during that lesson.

6. At least a few students in the class will take
literally almost everything that you meant sarcastically.

One day, when trying to get students to raise their hands and participate, I made the mistake of telling them that it's a special talent among teachers to be able to just stare out into a room of silent students for as long as it takes for someone to produce a response.

Next thing I knew, a student in the back row was encouraging all of his classmates to "test Ms. Townes' talent," and all of my kids went mute. Teacher fail.

7. High school students think you are really stupid.

My students think I really don't know that they ask to go to the bathroom so that they can roam the halls for 5 minutes instead of sitting in class, that they act confused and ask questions to which they almost certainly already know the answers just to waste class time, and that if they tell me their name is "Elmo" that I can't simply go to the roster book and discover their name is actually John.

8. High school students may hate you, but they hate substitute teachers more than you.

This results in a very weird camaraderie on days when your coaching teacher is absent, and you are there alone with your students and a substitute. Suddenly the ones that despised you yesterday are your best friends. The ones that already liked you have clung to you like leeches and are your staunchest defenders in the face of a foreign invasion by a substitute.

9. Although I'm sure they possess them, high school students do not use their inference skills very effectively.

My students were having quite the heated debate about how old they thought I was one day.

Student: Okay, so are you old enough to buy alcohol?

Me: Yes, I am.

Another student: WAIT, but are you old enough to buy cigarettes??

Yes, Bobby, I'm at least 21 years old, but somehow not yet 18.

10. High school students will make fun of you at ANY and EVERY opportunity you give them.

I recently made a mix-CD for my students for a lesson on theme, and they scoffed at the fact that I had NINETIES music on this CD. As in, the 1990's. This prompted me to ask what year they were all born and subsequently experience my first "I feel so old ballz" moment when they all responded they were born in 1995 and 1996.

My students have also exploited my fear of roaches and love of Star Wars, and flat-out could not put their little brains around the fact that I go home at night and plan lessons and activities for them to do in class the next day. I guess they thought the magical lesson plan fairies deliver their material to me when I get to school each morning. If you don't have a thick skin, I wouldn't recommend venturing into the minefield that is a 9th grade classroom.

All that being said, it is "so far, so good" in my student teaching experience. Maybe I'll go watch Clueless or High School Musical or Bring It On and reflect on how wildly unrealistic they are in their depictions of what goes on in high schools.

"Adolescents are not monsters. They are just people trying to learn how to make it among the adults in the world, who are probably not so sure themselves." -Virginia Satir


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Winter Break Cabin Fever

Today, my mom came home from running errands with Chick-fil-a kids meals for my sister and me. My 19-year-old sister and my 23-year-old self. As we dug into our 4-pack nuggs, Suz was bustling around the kitchen, straightening things up and doing Mom things, when she casually stated:

"Ginger threw up a sock today."


"Yeah, she threw up a sock. It was just a gross, balled up mess of sock parts and bile."

After she told us this delicious little bit of information, I was wondering two things...

Where was the sock now? And did she take a picture?

When Suz told me that she threw the sock mess away, and that she did NOT take a picture of it, I was legitimately upset. Like, actually upset that I didn't have evidence of the sock-vomit.


Because if she had taken a picture, I could have written a whole blog post about my nasty dog and her nasty sock vomit.

I kid you not, I even contemplated RE-CREATING what I thought the regurgitated bile sock might look like and writing the blog anyway.

And that's when it hit me that winter break has officially gone on for way too long.

When you become noticeably, admittedly frustrated that you don't have any photographic proof of a ball of sock mess and bile that your dog vomited earlier that day, it's time to go back to school and be a real person again.

This got me thinking back to the events (or lack of events) from the past month that led up to this extremely low point in my life.

I left the house a few times over the course of winter break, I swear.

The first thing I did was go on a road trip up to Washington, DC back in the second week of December with my friend Jen.

Jen's mom lives outside of DC. So we went up there, had a few nerdgasms in all of the DC mall's awesome museums, hung out with Jen's awesome mom, and just had a generally good time. This short but sweet trip had me feeling pretty good about how winter break was gonna go down.

nerdgasm in the lobby of the museum of natural history

A few days after that, my family and I headed up to Asheville and had ourselves a lovely time at the Biltmore estate. Another very pleasant trip. My spirits were still good. But this was only about a week into break.

A couple days after the jaunt to Asheville, that creepy little menace known as boredom started to sneak up on me. In recent years, when I am home at my parents' house with my sister and we start to get bored, a trend has developed...

We do stupid shit to our hair.

So, 2 days before Christmas and 4 days before our formal, professional family portrait session, Stephanie and I went to the hair salon.

And accidentally dyed my hair red.

Prior to this incident, I had been a platinum blonde for all 23 years of my existence. I went from platinum this.........

just call me Ginge.

Some of my friends and family members told me that they liked it and that it didn't look that bad, but all I could think was OHMYGODI'MAGINGER.

I have nothing against redheads, but on my own head? Hideous. Plus, Suz was none too thrilled about me taking the formal family portrait with these new locks.

Now, keep in mind I did this to my head 2 days before Christmas. So there I was, on Christmas Eve, on a desperate search to find another hair salon to fix the hot gingery mess on my head before the Christmas weekend and before our family portraits.

My sister happens to have quite a bit of experience in the hair catastrophe department, and managed to track down a salon in downtown Greenville that would take me, last minute and with no appointment on Christmas Eve, to try to salvage my coif.

In an epic stroke of luck that doesn't usually befall someone like myself, this woman was a hair miracle worker. She took one look at my head and went straight to down with highlight foils.

thumbs up to destroying the integrity of my hair to avoid ruining formal portraits and being etched off the family tree.

And so, several stress filled hours and 200 dollars later, Susan the miracle worker at Headquarters day spa in Greenville had saved the day. The new finished product went from holy-redhair-batman! to this:

crisis averted.

Some have said it still looks dark blonde, others say light brown. But all I see is "not red." So i'm happy.

Also, those of you who know me know that I don't wear glasses, so I guess I should essplain those.

I'm really obsessed with glasses, but unfortunately I was cursed with near perfect vision and have no actual need for them. Thus, I buy fake glasses and wear them around like I'm bat blind without them.

And I don't even care that I'm announcing that they're fake right now because I just love glasses that much. And I especially love looking like a nerd, so I'd say these huge specs I picked out do the trick.

The hair debacle entertained us for a few days. Oh, and I guess Christmas did too. And just when cabin fever was setting in again, it was time to ship out to Atlanta for the South Carolina bowl game in the Georgia Dome on New Year's Eve.

I had high hopes for New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, USC's football team and the Marta subway system conspired to bring those hopes swiftly crashing down as the clock struck midnight.

We lost the bowl game kind of miserably to Florida State, which is embarrassing enough. After all, they are in the ACC for crying out loud.

(And on a sidenote, if I ever have to hear the Seminole tomahawk chop cheer ever again, I might murder someone. Death by tomahawk chop.)

After the game, my friend Kate and I had a very simple plan: take the Marta to a club called Cosmo Lava, pick up our tickets we had already pre-paid for, and ring in a fun New Year in downtown Atlanta.

We did not take into account, however, how the Marta system has magical powers that turn two decently intelligent 20-somethings into complete idiots with zero sense of direction or common sense.

15 minutes before midnight, we got off on a stop on Peachtree Street.......literally 18 blocks from where we were supposed to be.

We admitted defeat, sat down on a street curb in the middle of downtown Atlanta, and rang in a very anti-climactic new year with this guy:

This man is called Dwayne. He is homeless, has two fake legs, and fought valiantly for our country in Vietnam.

Someone asked me on New Year's Day if I had a NYE kiss. I replied "No," because if I had had a new year's kiss, it would have been Dwayne.

Dwayne was nice and all, but homelessness and prosthetics just don't really do it for me.

I got back to Greenville from Atlanta on the 1st, and for the past 5 days have done almost quite literally nothing except StumbleUpon and watch movies on demand with my sister and drink wine.

That brings me to this evening and my yearning for Ginger's sock vomit. So I wrote this blog.

Happy 2011 everyone! I need to go back to school.


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