Dress Up Time

It was Spirit Week at school this week. They do them after 3 day weekends or breaks to entice kids back to school. Right. If you want teenagers in school, bring food. Any ways, one day was Battle of the Ages. They expected us to dress Greek, Roman, or Spartan. Uh… Um….. I …. Nevermind.

Now personally, I thought it was a misfire. Not everyone can dress like a Greek or Roman or have the confidence to. I would’ve, but I was a nerd. And at least, it was better than Gender Swap Day. I cringe just writing it.

So the day came. I took a sheet and folded it into peplos. (Told you I was a nerd. I do nothing in halves, so when I was in middle school, enamored by Greek myths, I learned to dress as the ancient Greeks.) I pinned it with help from my mother and cinched it with a tie.

Because some of the adults who watched my nerdy-ancient-loving teenage phase encouraged me, I have quite a lot of jewelry inspired by ancient designs. I put on earrings, rings, and a necklace.

I braided my hair in a few braids. I put on a few silver headbands. I twisted and knotted my hair before shoving in a dozen or more bobby pins.

Off I went in sandals, instead of my usual combat boots or mary janes.

And the kids loved it.

“Miss, are you a goddess?”

“Miss, you look beautiful!”

“Wow, miss, you’ve got school spirit!”

“Miss, how did you do that?”

“Miss, you’re so cool.”

“Miss, your hair looks amazing.”

As I teach freshmen, I didn’t expect a lot of participation for Spirit Week. They’re too worried that they will look uncool. For fewer participated in Battle of the Ages, only one. None of the student council or cheerleaders.

When I arrived home, I had forgotten that the boys hadn’t seen me yet.

They ran to greet me when they heard the door open. They stopped in their tracks.

Tornado S: Mama! What are you wearing?!

Tornado A: You look pretty, Mama!

Tornado S: You look beautiful, Mama!

Tornado E: You look like a goddess, Mama. Did your students think you were a goddess?

Me: One asked if I was Zeus. I said I didn’t have the beard for it, but he said I would look cool with a thunderbolt.

Tornado E: Pssht. You should have said you were Athena. That’s who you look like.

Me: Thank you, my boys.

I kissed them all.

 

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A Difference of a Year

Last year was one of the worst birthdays I ever had. It cracked the top three. It was the second day on the job, and my room was far, so very far, from being ready, especially as I had freshman orientation the next day. My new key from the district didn’t work, but someone saw my distress and let me into my room to put my stuff in. So I was nearly late for the group picture. After pictures, I ran around the campus trying to find someone to help me with the key. Oh, I can’t help; go ask Mr. So-and-so. Oh, I can’t help, go ask So-and-So. Finally I got a sub key to get in my room to grab my stuff for my meeting. Which I was now late too. They were talking about teen depression and suicide. And I got triggered. Tears streamed down my face as I stood in the back until I finally had to ran as professionally as I could to the hall before collapsing in sobs. What the hell? After that meeting ended, I was able to compose myself for the next meeting, which ran long. Then I had to run to the district office to get a new key and race back to my school and my unfinished room. I nearly started crying again at all the work still left to do as my room had been completely thrashed by summer school and was a left over room from someone who had retired. Why clean up if no one is ever going to see you again? I worked as long as I could but was not nearly done. I got home just before we had to race to dinner and then to karate and then I had to drop my boys off at their dad’s. Yeah, last year really did suck.

But this year. My room was pretty much intact, and my parents and the boys came in with me on Saturday to help me. I was done with everything I could do yesterday at 1:30 but stayed until 2:30 because I had a meeting at that time. (That’s when I learned I’ll have 38 students in one period. Holy cow! I don’t even have enough desks!) Today I still had issues like no speakers, no remotes, no AC, and a leaky room. But the AC was fixed, and the remotes were found.

So imagine my delight when my phone rang during my planning time during freshman orientation. It was my mom, and I had to answer it just in case one of the boys was hurt.

Me: Hello?

Tornado A: Happy birthday to you! You live in a zoo! You look like a monkey! And you smell like one too! Happy birthday, Mama!

Me: Thanks, Baby.

Nope, Never Ok, Not Ever.

“Nazis. I hate these guys.”

This year Nazis keep coming up, and it annoys the crap out of me.

Earlier in the fall in two separate class, on two separate days, two different boys gave the Nazi salute. It may help to tell you that I work in a high school that is over 90% Hispanic. And yes, both boys were Hispanic. But no matter the race, my reaction would have been the same.

You! Outside NOW!

Me: (in my mother voice) What did you do? Do you think that was respectful? Do you think that was appropriate? For my classroom? For public? Do you even know what that sign means?

Boy: (finally saying something instead of shaking his head, in a whisper voice looking at his feet) It’s just the Nazi salute Miss.

Me: (in my mother voice) “Just the Nazi salute?” Do you know what the Nazis stood for? The one pure race. Which they believed would be white. They believed all others inferior and preferred them dead. They would want you dead. And by doing that sign, you are saying you agree. With. Them.

Boy: (snaps up head to finally look me in the eye) But it was just an old German thing.

Me: No. They are Nazis still very much alive and active and everywhere. (At this point, the boy’s eyes go round.) And you are saying you’re a race traitor.

Boy: I’m… I’m sorry, Miss.

Me: And I (The Voice) Don’t ever want to see THAT sign in my class A. GAIN. (Normal teacher voice) Am I clear?

Boy: Yes, Miss. I’m sorry, Miss. I won’t do it again.

And after the second time, it hasn’t happened since.

While I hesitate to mention my work on my Mommy Blog, it brings me to what has been happening in Tornado E’s grade. With 6th graders. In a school across town with a 70% white majority. With a middle class background.

Tornado E has been coming home with some interesting stories.

Mama, the boys are talking about the Nazis. They think they’re cool. I don’t think they’re cool. I don’t like this, Mama.

So and so thinks Hitler was funny. I told him Hitler was evil, not funny. I don’t think he believed me.

Mama, so and so drew a swastika, and all the boys laughed. No, Mama, he erased it before the teacher saw.

Mama, so and so put a finger under his noise and said he was Hitler. The boys laughed. I keep telling them it’s not funny.

Mama, one of the boys said “Heil, Hitler” to one of the boys. No, Mama, the teacher didn’t hear. I don’t like this, Mama.

So the boys and I have had talks about race and privileged. We’ve talked about what to do when we are in a group of people who are saying bad things. We’ve talked about how to confront our friends.  And I decided this had to stop.

Only I dropped the ball, being a busy mom and teacher. Until I was at a 6th grade field trip, eating alone, recharging my batteries, sitting in a corner, watching the dynamics, listening.

Mumble, mumble, Nazi, mumble, weapons. Laughter. Mumble, Nazis, mumble, mumble. Laughter. Nazis, mumble, mumble. Mumble, mumble, Nazi weapons.

With the first Nazi that reached my ear, I locked on to the group of boys who were sitting far enough away from me that I couldn’t hear every word and further still from every adult, especially the teachers. So I watched them, listening. I watched them laugh and have a good time. The inflection was not what you want boys to be using when speaking of Nazis. I had enough.

So I went to the teachers and told them all about what I heard through the year so far and that Tornado E was being put into a rough spot, having to moniter his peers. I told them how I had handled it and learned that many of the kids had no idea how serious this conversation was and suggested that it be dealt as a class issue. The teachers agreed and thanked me.

Two weeks went by.

Mama, one of the boys dared another boy to do the Nazi salute. So he did. And then a bunch of them did it behind a teacher’s back.

Oh for Christ sake.

I immediately sat down and wrote the teacher about the incident.

I got a reply from the teacher a few hours later apologizing for not talking to the social studies teacher, promising it will be addressed with all the classes.

I haven’t heard of an incident since. But I swear if I do, I will march into that principal’s office first thing and demand that this nonsense end.

Man, I hate Nazis.

What’s new?

I start a job and look what happens to my blogging. I knew it. I absolutely knew it.

I’m a long term sub, which means I can’t breathe the word “sub” or the kids will eat me for lunch. Luckily, I’m a tough meal to swallow. I’ve spent the last few days hammering the class back in to shape. With Fall Break next week, I expect my job will take longer. I’ve spent the last several nights thinking of how I can …. manage….my …..class…..

I’m teaching math. Not my strongest subject. But I’m an adult, so I do algebra every day. I can do this. I plan to just follow the book. “Make sure you follow the state standards,” remarked my principal. Dude, you know my background; you know my crappy (oh so very crappy, as in half of what a starting teacher makes) pay. I’ll follow the textbook because that should be effective since the school board picked it.

I’m hoping things will settle down and ease up. I hope I can do right by these kids.