Jesus wept

CIMG4876Ask a class of Christian school students who are forced to memorize Bible verses to recommend one, and inevitably some wise guy will suggest “Jesus wept.”

“Please…can you  give us that one?  The one we did last week was sooooooooo long.”

Why don’t I want to give them that one?  Well, duh, they already know it.  However, they do not know it in French, so I agree.

Weeks ago, I agreed that we would memorize “Jesus wept” in French.  Jesus pleura.  It provides a good example of the literary past tense and happens to be shorter than the modern translation: Jesus a pleuré.  It’s a nice short verse for a three and a half day week, with some sobriety for Holy Week. Furthermore, it’s the end of third quarter and we are all feeling a little fried.

So Friday I began typing Jesus pleura on my “week sheets” of lessons for next week, but with the fresh news that a dear colleague of eighteen years has end stage pancreatic cancer. He goes from classroom to diagnosis to hospice in one fell swoop.  The news is a punch in the gut.

Jesus pleura.

And God has done it again.  He has taken a verse that was scheduled for some random reason–it’s the next page in my Bible, it’s part of a sermon series planned months in advance, whatever–and entered my world.  That’s one of the tricky things about selecting memory verses.  If I pick one like “Love is patient; love is kind” I inevitably find the circumstances of my week challenging the lack of patience and kindness in my heart.

This time God has prepared in advance a  comfort that he knew I would need.

Jesus pleura.  Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died.  With that, Jesus says, “I know.  It hurts.  Death sucks.”

Why did Jesus weep?  Was it because Lazarus was dead?  He was really, really dead, too.  Not like the sickbed miracles Jesus had done before.  Three days dead.  In the tomb dead.  But Jesus brought him back to life.  If he had the power to do that, why weep over it?

Or was it because of the grief of separation–a separation that Jesus himself would soon experience from his Father?  Seeing the grief of Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha got him weeping.  It hurts to be separated and death is the ultimate separation.  It hurts even when God is saying, “It is time.”

Wait, God, we’re not finished enjoying Tim yet.  We don’t want him to die.  We want him to get better.  We want his laugh to roll down the hall again and interrupt our classes with our own responsive laughter. “There he goes again!”  We want to enjoy his curmudgeonly attitude during faculty meetings–an outward appearance that represents what we all feel on the inside.  Ok, I even want a bear hug, even though he does it in front of students and makes me feel unprofessional.

Jesus pleura.  Jesus gets it.  He feels it.  Good Friday commemorates Jesus’ death and his separation from his Father, but Easter Sunday celebrates his victory over that separation.  Good Friday is why I weep for the pending departure of my friend and colleague, but Easter Sunday is why am not despondent.  Death is the ultimate separation, but in Christ it is not permanent.  We have an eternity of fellowship without lesson plans and emails to look forward to.   And I don’t know about the streets being paved with gold, but the setting in heaven has got to be better than the pathetic table in the hallway that is considered our “teacher’s lounge.”

Jesus pleura.  Jesus comforts me in my sadness.

Jesus is risen.  Jesus assures me of eternity.

When it’s my turn to go, I expect a booming laugh to greet me when I arrive.  Tim is sure to be assigned celestial “car pool” duty. (And if he doesn’t want it, he’d better put his request in now!)

Life-long learning…

Teachers are constantly astounded at how much there is to learn.  We are so surprised that, some days, it’s what draws us to the classroom.  Other days, it makes us want to hide under our warm comfy covers until summer.

What lack of knowledge will we face today?

This past week, the teachers at my school were encouraged to work out a professional growth plan.  What courses, conferences, seminars, videos, books, and what-not do we need to maintain certification and/or grow professionally?  This is, of course, in addition to mastering the interactive whiteboards, the new computer operating system, and the many features of Edline, while simultaneously test-driving a new grading software package as we await the imminent arrival of Ipads so that we can teach ourselves how to teach electronically with one-to-one student/teacher interactivity.

imagesCAC2OJ3BMeanwhile, we also teach actual content lessons.  To teenagers.  With attention spans the length of a tweet.  The big excitement in French class recently was finding out that the Academie Française had banned the word “hashtag”  (that’s the symbol #, known to us old people as the pound sign or to even older people as the number sign).  The students came running to me with the news:  “Madame!!!  The Academie Française has banned the word ‘hashtag’!!!!!  It’s now called a mot-dièse!” 

Every once in a while we have discovery learning moments like this.  The rest of the time, we discover amazing things that the students don’t know.  Like how to operate the digital recorders.

I have a classroom set of digital recorders for recording student oral work.  I got them over ten years ago, thanks to a computer-teacher colleague who found them cheap on eBay.  Although a few of the recorders have died, I still have enough for them to be a pretty great classroom tool.  Except, the students can’t figure out how to use them.  If the device had an intuitive circle in the center or a screen to pinch and slide, the students would be ok.  As it is, there are buttons labeled with words: ON, OFF, RECORD, PLAY, STOP.

All through French I,  the same questions come at me: “Mrs. Harp, how do you turn it on?” (Press ON.)  “Madame, how do you record?” (Press RECORD.)  “What do we do when we’re finished?”  (Press STOP.) Then in French II: “Madame, I can’t remember how to use these.”  (Sigh.)

Alas, my antique technology does not compare with what the drama teacher learned at school this week.  While rehearsing with costumes for the school play, she discovered that the male actors did not know how to put on an overcoat.

Man in overcoat

Man in overcoat

Later, we shared this incident with the incredibly brilliant older brother of the lead actor.  His response: “What’s an overcoat?”

“You don’t know what an overcoat is?”

“I know trench coats.  They are light and khaki-colored.  And I know pea-coats.  I don’t know overcoats.”

Well, why would a young man know overcoats?  They never wear coats.  They exit the climate controlled comfort of a car to dash a few yards into a climate controlled building–in polo shirts in twenty degree weather with a windchill of minus three.

“It is scientifically proven,”said one shorts and flip-flops in winter student to his Spanish teacher mom, “that going outside without a coat will not make you sick.”

The teachers’ reply (in chorus): “But if the car breaks down and you are  stuck by the side of the road, you will die.”

The overcoat-challenged actors were baffled by the difficulties of putting the coat on over a suit jacket.  Clueless as to the technique of gripping the jacket cuff while sliding the arm into the coat, the boys found their jacket sleeves bunched up around their elbows.

” I can’t move my arms!”

"I can't put my arms down!" from A Christmas Story.

“I can’t put my arms down!” from A Christmas Story.

After teaching the boys how to put on an overcoat, the drama teacher had to  teach them how to take one off.  No, it does not fall into a puddle of fabric on the floor.  For the scene in question, the coat is to be folded gently shoulder to shoulder and draped over the back of the chair.

I can’t wait to see the school play next weekend, just to watch the boys put on overcoats. And someone should give the drama teacher an award for teaching life-skills.  With all that these students still need to learn, they are going to have to live a very long life.

As for all the things I’m going to learn this week, hiding under the covers sounds really inviting.

My own medicine

Last week I made my ESL students write three paragraphs on a single topic to three different audiences with potentially three different purposes–to inform, to persuade, or to entertain.  I gave them four possible topics with the option of picking their own.  They moaned and groaned about how mean I was.  You would have thought they were American students.  The next day, I read some really entertaining paragraphs.  The best was from a Chinese student who could not pick a topic.  So he wrote about how hard it is to pick a topic. Unlike an American student doing this to be a wise-guy, Cyrus was really having a dilemma (a vocabulary word that we use a lot) and was pretty sure he’d be getting a bad grade on this assignment.

Cyrus’ first paragraph was addressed to me to persuade me not to ever again give an assignment where he can pick his own topic. Among his reasons was that it takes him forever to choose.  (My comment back to him noted that I did not make him choose his own topic.)  In his second paragraph he explained  to fellow students that, even if he comes up with a topic, he doubts whether he can write a good paragraph about it. Ok, ok, he played the ol’ self-esteem card.  By his third paragraph he was beside himself with frustration.  There was no paragraph–just notes scribbled in the margin:  “How can this topic be entertaining? I’ve spent hours on this assignment.  I quit.  I’m going to bed.”

At this point I was laughing out loud, having been entertained from the first paragraph. But now I’m facing a blog deadline and I…ahem…can’t settle on a topic.  I started one post that potentially wanted to be meaningful with quotes from Martin Luther on Christmas, but–like Cyrus’ second paragraph–I did not think I could do the topic justice in a hurry.  Then I started another one, inspired by a WordPress writing post about using different voices.  So I though maybe a funny letter to Santa thing would be good.  And it might–but the time thing was shutting down creativity and it was sounding really lame.

And then I realized I was being just like Cyrus.   I’ve spent way too much time on this thing.  I have some lesson plans to type up.  And I’m going to bed.  Some random day this week I may be posting a profound post with quotes from Martin Luther or an entertaining set of correspondances with Santa, but tonight, dear reader, you’re stuck with this.

Not ready to call it a summer

This is it.  Back-to-school week for teachers.  And I’m not ready.

My back-to-school car maintenance got me a back-to-school back-pack! It only cost me $$$$.

Oh, I’m “ready.”  I’ve gone to Office Depot for a boatload of supplies. I’ve paid Toyota a significant amount of money for scheduled maintenance on my car.  I have the weeksheets typed up for my first week of lessons.  I even practiced using my alarm clock on Saturday.  (I had an early–9 a.m.–appointment for a pedicure.  At least my toes are ready for school.)

But I’m not ready.  Besides the fact that I’m currently on a 1 -9 a.m sleep cycle and that waking up to the alarm at 5:30 a.m. is going to kill me, there is still stuff I wanna do.  I still have beeswax to play with. I have more things to order from random suppliers to make more lip balm.  I haven’t learned how to make candles.  I haven’t found seeds to plant in my fall garden.  The little “fill-your-own-teabags” that I bought online…well, they aren’t filled.  I haven’t ordered cute little jars to put my bath salts in.

I know, I know, these are not critical.  The world will not end because the parsley is not planted.  It’s just that once school starts, nothing will get done except school.  This is why certain teachers I know (and Linda H, you are not the only one!) address their Christmas cards in July.

I bought a tee-shirt in June when I toured the Celestial Seasonings tea factory in Boulder, Colorado.  Underneath a picture of the SleepyTime bear is the quote: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”  What a lovely Zen-like thought.  It kind of even works as a calmness motivator–in summer.  It’s pretty laughable during the school year, though, when Mother Nature calls and you have three minutes to push past pokey teenagers in the hallway to get to the  restroom–and back.

It’s a calming thought, but I lean more towards Ecclesiastes 3:1–“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

I’ve spent the summer doing one thing at a time.  (Sometimes not even that much.)  Now it is time to re-enter the world of constant multi-tasking.  And I don’t want to.  I want to continue to do one thing at a time.  Is it possible to boycott multi-tasking?  Is it possible to make a stand for focus in an ADD society?  What would happen if I not only said, “I can’t do three things at once!” but I actually didn’t try to?

Every year teachers get asked to do more and more in the same amount of time.  I think I reached my saturation point last year.  So I begin this year wondering, is it possible to not hurry and get everything accomplished?  I don’t know.  I’m curious to try.  And when I fail, well, that’s what the bath salts are for.

Tending the herb garden, with thoughts toward school

Innocent fuzzy little fennel plants grow up to be prolific seed producers.

One advantage to ignoring the garden for awhile (like the entire ridiculously hot month of July) is that when you finally attack the chaos, the results are dramatic.  Getting started, though is a daunting task.  Where to begin?

My philosophy on tackling overwhelming tasks is to start with one big thing that is really bugging me and that will make a huge difference when it is done.  You can’t just start at one end of the garden and pick every little weed until you get to the end.  You’ll never get to the end.  There are an infinite number of weeds in there.

This philosophy is one that I presented to one of my daughters when she was in middle school and had a disaster area for a bedroom.  If she tried to tidy it, she would spend an entire afternoon and have one tiny tidy corner to show for it.  I  finally said to her, “Do you need me to write out directions on how to do it?”

“Actually, that would be really helpful,” she replied, without a hint of sarcasm.

So I did.  “How to clean your room in less than 10 steps.”  She posted it on her mirror, where it stayed until she got married.  This does not mean that the room was clean.  It just means that if she decided to clean it, she had a 9 step process to get it done.

But I digress.  It’s my garden that is a mess.  The fennel arches over the oregano like Snoopy the Vulture.  A bazillion seeds are poised ready to bomb the garden with an explosion of more fennel.  The oregano, meanwhile, is creeping back to the chives.  Chocolate mint bullies its way past the pineapple sage and into the chamomile.  The chamomile,which had its glory day in the sun weeks ago and is now turning brown, hangs over the thyme which makes a pathetic attempt to lean forward over the rock border to get a sunbeam or two.   Spearmint is getting much too friendly with the basil.  Lemon verbena has overshadowed the tarragon.  Weeds pop up with audacity and gill-over-the-ground wends its serpentine trail through it all.

Now the garden is reminding me less of my daughter’s bedroom and more like a school filled with teenagers.  I ponder my students as I hack and harvest and weed.

In this photo, the herbs had not yet run amok.

1.  Boundaries.  Certain boundaries are set in my garden.  Rocks and flat stones create the border.  Small fences establish perimeters for plants within the garden.  It’s really easy to cut back the mint because I know exactly where it has overstepped its bounds–the little white fence.  My students need boundaries too.  If I create clear boundaries, then it will be easy to keep behavior under control.

Unlike the lemon verbena, which is happily dominant in its spot, the lemon balm could more aptly be named lemon “bomb”–it ends up everywhere! Hmm…like the contents of some students’ backpacks!

2.  Space to grow.  Some herbs in my garden are bullies.  Some are over friendly.  Some are just so happy and thriving that they dominate the landscape.  I like my herbs.  But I like all of my herbs.  Lemon verbena is absolutely my favorite scent.  But I really really want tarragon too.  My students need space to grow too.  In the classroom, certain personalities often dominate at the expense of others.  If I give the overshadowed students space and attention, they have a chance to  thrive, too.

3.  The right spot in the garden.  I’m thinking that perhaps I need to grow tarragon someplace not so close to the lemon verbena. Lemon verbena is great, but my big thriving verbena is not great for the struggling little tarragon.  You know where I’m going with this.  Some students need to be separated for their own good.  Even if they are friends.

4.  Weeds.  When the plants are under control, I can see the weeds better.  This is definitely where the “10 steps to a clean room” comes into play.  I have to address the big ones first.  Which ones are the most problematic and/or unsightly.  There are some big, tall weeds that take up a lot of space but are easy to pull.  (Some big, tall boys come to mind here.  They can drive you crazy but respond to discipline.) Yanking them is like making the bed–it doesn’t take too much effort but yields big results.  The sneaky vines aren’t quite as dramatic, but they choke everything.  They are not hard to pull and a good weeding produces a gratifyingly large mound of debris, but you have to keep at them.  They never really go away.  And it only takes one to get the whole  garden back into a tangled mess.  (Certain girls with their gossipy ways, or sneaky rule-breakers, or cheaters seem to be like this.)

Taller fennel, but still not its full 3 ft. height or loaded with seeds.

5.  Eliminate excess.  Because I actually do not have a green thumb (it’s more like the Black Thumb of Death), I am very reluctant to rip out plants that volunteer to grow for me.  “What!  You want to grow in my pathetic little garden?  Why, bless you!  Welcome!”  This is why I have a ridiculous amount of fennel–I think I have to harvest every single seed, even though a bunch of them escape.  It is part of why garlic chives are everywhere–the flowers are so pretty but often go to seed  before I snip them.  In the classroom, as in the  garden, I have to remind myself that I can’t do everything.  In my desire to not have wasted class time, I tend to assign far too many tasks and then can’t follow-up on them all.  Focus, focus, focus.  That’s not just for the students; it’s for me.

Here is a “volunteer” that I’m glad to have!

6.  Rip out unwanted growth.  You know what?  I don’t like chocolate mint.  Oh, I like the flavor.  It’s the plant I don’t like.  For starters, it doesn’t really taste that chocolatey.  When it flowers, the blooms are a silvery green that look like they would like to be something prettier but are not.  Stupid ugly little flies are attracted to its flowers.  And it takes up a lot of space.  I think I would rather have orange mint.

Oh…  I can rip it out and plant orange mint.  It’s my garden.  Just because it has been in the garden for ten years doesn’t mean it has to be there forever.  Huh.  I’ve been teaching for a long time.  I wonder how many things I’m doing that I don’t want to do but continue to do just because I’ve always done it that way.  I’m not talking about ripping out the whole garden and starting over (ugh!), just a thing or two.

7.  Room for more.  With the bullies cut back and the weeds eliminated, I find I have space for some fall color.  I never thought of putting ornamental cabbage in here before, but now it seems like a fun idea.  As I ponder the personalities who will be returning to my classroom, I know that if I keep the dominant personalities  and the over-exhuberant students from taking over, there will be space for the new students and time for the fun stuff.

FYI, in  case you were amazed at how together my act seems,  the fact that I have this tidy little list of observations does not at all imply that my garden is under control yet!  (Or my classroom, for that matter.)  After an hour of hacking and weeding, my ponderings got the better of me and I ran up here to the computer.  So don’t look for any ornamental cabbages quite yet.  In fact, if I don’t get them planted before school starts, you may not find them ever.

The Home Stretch

Bumblebee on the raspberries

After a visit to the bee yard to watch the take-offs and landings of the honeybees, we noticed that bumblebees were all over the wild raspberries Sunday evening.  They have been busy pollinating and there looks to be a nice batch of raspberries this season.  Saturday morning I took a stroll down to the blueberries to gauge their progress.  Little fistfuls of berries are still green.  It is so tantalizingly close to summer that I can’t stand it.

This week is the home-stretch at school.  It is exam week.  Half-days.  I love exam days.  (Hee hee.)  I have finished instructing and assigning work.  It is time for the students to show me what they have learned.  They work at their exams while I sit at my desk.  Ahh…the luxury of sitting at my desk.

I have nothing to do but…grade papers, enter grades, inventory books, declutter and pack up the classroom, check out the teachers in my department, write end of year reports for the media center, technology guru, and various adminstrative people.  I should also make a supply list while I’m looking at the empty supply box instead of trying to remember in August what wasn’t in it in June.  Somehow every year I get it done, even if some years I am literally shoving things pell-mell into the closet in a dash to flee the school year.

But I am so tired.  Is there enough pep to sprint the last little bit of this year?  Or will I stagger to the finish line like my brother in one of his marathons–legs locked and refusing to cooperate?

Just a few tantalizing days and I can bumble like the bees.

What is it about bumblebees?  When I think of honeybees I think of an extremely organized and very efficient society.  Go, go, go.  Honey, honey, honey.  But bumblebees?  They are  bigger and slower but they make honey too.  It must  be the name.  You can’t be efficient and bumble at the same time.  (Unless your name is Bourdon, which means “bumblebee” in French!)

Well, I’m tired of being efficient.  I’m ready to bumble.  One more week.

Meditations from the herb garden: Graduating the seniors

My goal Saturday morning was to weed around the screen porch in order to find room for the flowers I bought last week, but by the time I slept in and enjoyed a mug or two of coffee, the sun was blazing in that part of the yard. The wise weeder seeks shade, and shade was by the herb garden.  Shade is usually over the herb garden by the time I get outside, which is why the herbs are looking pretty good and the screen porch is surrounded by grass stalks.

After some weeding, the chives emerged

After some weeding, the chives emerged.

The herbs are doing amazingly well.  Too well.  The oregano is boldly going where no oregano has gone before.  The fennel is popping up in the midst of all the oregano.  Garlic chives are settling in firmly everywhere.  And the lemon balm overshadows everything.  The regular chives are in there somewhere…I see a bloom or two peeking up…but they are dominated by the other happy aggressive herbs around them.  If I don’t give the chives some space, they are going to disappear.

So Saturday’s task was to open up the chives.  Give them room to grow.  That meant clearing out quite a bit of oregano.  Step one was to snip them and harvest them.  Step two was to pot a few manageable chunks into pots for gifting.  Step three was to rip what was left in the no-oregano-zone with reckless abandon. Ditto for the garlic chives and the lemon  balm.  Twisting and winding amidst it all were vines of gill-over-the-ground needing to be aggressively pulled.

When all the snipping and potting and ripping was done, three chive clusters stood blinking in the daylight.  Three wonderful little chive clusters who will bring me joy when snipped onto my morning eggs.  Three modest chive plants that will grow into impressive blooming plants with an abundance of purply-pink blooms for making chive vinegar.

Sprinkle a little mulch and they won’t look so forlorn.

Those tentative little chive plants reminded me of my juniors in French IV class.  Now that the seniors are gone, they are the class.  All year they were overshadowed by the dominant personalities of the seniors.  They were content to let  those personalities dominate.  They were content to hide behind the upper classmen: the next generation’s leader of the free world; the compulsive talker; the “you know you love me so don’t notice I haven’t  done the homework” schmoozer;  the quiet but practically perfect one; and the pathologically lazy hence always  getting yelled at one.

This week the juniors had oral projects to record.  As I listened to their projects, I was pleasantly surprised by how well they did.  These are the timid ones.  When they speak, their voices barely project to the end of their pencil. But  on the recorders (placed right up to their soft-spoken mouths  and with a volume dial so I can crank the decibals up to human auditory level)  their thoughts and their pronunciation were really quite good.   Like my little chives, there they were –quietly and invisibly competent.   And now, with seniors gone, they are exposed.  And now that they are exposed, they have no choice but to grow.

My herb garden looks a little sparse where I  cleared it.  School looks a little sparse these days too.  There is a gap where the seniors used to  be.  It’s not that they were “weeds” to be yanked.  My overgrown herbs  aren’t weeds–they were planted and nurtured because I wanted them.  But like the herbs taking over the garden,  it is time for the seniors to go.  Their personalities were outgrowing the space.

If senior-itis didn’t announce the need for seniors to move on to bigger and better, the spandex-clad Santas who ran screaming through the school the other day certainly did.  Teacher tolerance for the prank was in direct proportion to how much exposure they have had to seniors–the more exposure, the less tolerance.  Senior pranks are a lot like poison ivy–most teachers are allergic.

The seniors have new gardens to explore.  They will be a little tentative until they get established but then they will thrive.  In the meantime,  they have left space for the juniors to rise up and flourish.  And in two more weeks, even the juniors will be  gone for a bit, giving me some room to flourish.  I’m making no promises about what time I will be rising, but I’m hoping to get the rest of my weeding done.

Heigh ho! Oh no! It’s back to work I go!

When the buzzards start circling, it’s a pretty good sign to get up and show some signs of life.  I’m not referring to colleagues trying to take over my job.  (Like they would want it.)  I’m being literal.  Pneumonia-stricken Shelley and I were catching sunbeams on the Café Maywood porch one balmy day this past week when dark shadows circled lazily over our closed eyelids.


Yes.  They were circling over us, waiting for all signs of life to disappear.  When I got up from my seat, they flew off to find something more dead than we.

It’s time.  Daughter Julie has finished her maternity leave.  My mother has gone off to Italy.  Shelley’s antibiotics are working their magic.  And the doctor handed me my hip-replacement airport identification card.

Ding! I am now free to roam the country.

Spring is popping.  Bees are buzzing.  Hibernation is over.  Even if Monday’s forecast does call for flurries, the sap is flowing.  It’s time to get to work.

From my musically educated readers, can I hear a nice, clear toned sol…do…?  Heigh-ho????   I’m feeling a little conflicted.  There is a little dwarf for every one of my moods.  Dopey, Sleepy, Grumpy, Happy, Sneezy, Bashful, and Doc.

Let’s start with Sleepy, because even though weeks of recuperation have been restful, my body will never, ever like the sound of the alarm at 5:30 a.m.  Which leads, naturally, to Grumpy, who will get grumpier after re-entering the world of school politics and drama.  (Emails were much more entertaining.)  Then there’s Dopey.  In addition to the early morning wake-up, I have completely un-learned how to multi-task.  And  there’s that little matter of the new copy machines that went in the week before I left.  I’m going to look like a complete idiot.

I’m prepared for Sneezy.  Weeks at home away from hundreds of germ-carrying teenagers have left me susceptible.  I have stocked up on Airborne and return to school with immune system fortified.  (I hope.)  But Bashful?  Oh yes.  It’s wonderful to be missed, and there’s nothing so gratifying as a good “Thank God you’re back!”  It’s just a little awkward to be fussed over.  Can I just ease back inconspicuously? Maybe?

Finally, there’s Happy and Doc.  I’m really am happy to return to my little world.  I love what I do.  And, in spite of a most incredible team filling the gap in my absence, there will be plenty to do to remedy the students who were limping along until my return.  Still…sigh… there’s a lot to be said for being Sleeping Beauty.  That is, until the buzzards start circling.

Lucrative lessons

If the lucrative business doesn't result in adequate compensation, there may be an altercation in my class.

No one goes into teaching for its lucrative potential but it cannot be denied that every day is rich with potential.  Potential for what?  Disaster, joy, teachers going postal, one never knows.  This week’s adventure in learning began with a vocabulary list.

I teach a high school English class for international students.  On Monday, I went over the vocabulary words for the week.  When we got to the word lucrative, the Arabic speaking “I’m not Jewish!” Israeli boy raised his hand.

“I want to share about lucrative.”


He has a YouTube business.  I’d never heard of YouTube businesses, but what do I know?  I feel savvy just knowing what YouTube is.  Anyway, this young man has been posting video on YouTube for about five years and was recently offered the opportunity to have ads posted on his pages.  When viewers click on the ads, he gets revenue.  At this point he had earned $100.  (This apparently works for blogs too.  Dear readers of this blog will note that my blog is ad-free, so you know that this is not a lucrative venture on my part.)

So, after the whole class gives a “wow” of appreciation, a Chinese student raises his hand.

“I want to share about lucrative, too.”

This young entrepreneur earns money back home by delivering people’s broken iPhones to the store for repairs.  He doesn’t repair anything himself.  He goes to their home, gets the phone and bicycles over to the shop, for which he gets a fee.  The class expresses another appreciative “wow.”

The next day, YouTube boy announces that he earned $50 the previous night and that one of the other Chinese boys in class is joining him in his business.  What?  Was Daniel going to post videos too?  Oh no.  He is employing Daniel to click on the ads on his YouTube posts.  So now the class is very interested and the Koreans are using more English skills than they ever have before.

The following day, YouTube boy comes to class with a written contract because a Korean boy wants to join in the business and he needs to make things “official.”  His employees are to spend up to an hour each night clicking on the ads for which they will be compensated (another of our vocabulary words this week).  Now deep in the recesses of my teacher brain is the thought that this is an authentic language experience and I should really work with him to fine tune the English in the document as an exercise in real-life writing.  But all I can think is that these goof-balls (and they really are) have started an international internet business in my English class.  And, they can’t really earn money doing this, can they?

A Chinese girl with impeccable written English but an absolute fear of speaking out loud and making a mistake raises her hand and asks, “Can I work in this business too?”  The  Nigerian slowly rolls his eyes (he does everything sloooooooowly) and says with his British accent, “I just don’t understand you people.”  He clearly does not have the entrepreneurial spirit of his classmates.

A peek at next week’s vocabulary reveals altercation, dissent, irate, and pauper.  I hope we don’t have an object lesson to illustrate them.  Creative writing would suit me just fine.  It could tie in with our lesson on elements of plot.  I even have a topic: “What will happen if Ron does not pay his employees?”

Where is the Easter Bunny when you need him?

This is the latest Easter I can recall.  And I’m not actually recalling it because it isn’t here yet!  And it’s killing me.  And it’s killing all of us at school who are dragging our bodies through the day.  By the last class of the day, my students are just blobs in a chair.  I make deals with them: if they will just do x amount of work, I will be satisfied.  Forget the clever Smartboard drills and the interactive partner activities that so cleverly connect the four language-learning skills of reading-writing-listening-speaking.  Just listen to me for five minutes and do exercise 12 and we’ll call it a day.  Deal?  And they nod–deal.

Today I am thankful for jury duty.  Yes, jury duty.  All week I looked forward to a wasted day at the courthouse where I could just read my Nook and be quiet. What if I had to serve on an actual jury?  Oh, I wasn’t thinking that far ahead.  I’m only processing things one minute at a time.  Yesterday afternoon I dutifully called in to the Circuit Court message board.  My number was not needed. 

Oh sweetness and joy!  Oh conflict and despair! I was glad not to have to serve, but I was really looking forward to the break.  Well, I’m not about to waste all the effort of getting a sub and making sub plans.  So today is a much needed personal day.  Unlike some people I know, the golf course is not figuring anywhere into my day.  It’s been a day of bill-paying and squaring things up with the MVA and figuring out my course schedule for next year.  There are some errands to run and a bazillion other things that can’t be dealt with during the school day.  I could also spend the entire day doing actual school work–all the work that I could do if I didn’t have to teach all day. 

But if I do nothing else, I must get myself outside.  I’d like to find that Easter Bunny and kick his little cottony tail into action.