Clarissa Explains It All

So, now that training is complete and the flattering embarrassment of the luncheon has come to a close, I can finally fill you in on what happened at the end of the day when I went back to my own school and conferenced with my principal.  *Sidebar:  I've also realized that I'm going to be referencing these people A LOT in the coming year, so I best be coming up with some creative pseudonyms for my main characters (to maintain professional and public anonymity).  Therefore, my principal will hereby be affectionately be referred to as "Clarissa" for the duration of this blog.  Why "Clarissa"?   Because it's kind of funny...and because I was a child of the 80's & 90's - and I fully expect this Clarissa to "explain it all".  You got that, Melissa Joan?  This is probably your first official shout out in a decade....  be excited.

So, my meeting with Clarissa consisted of two very memorable moments (among an entire hour-long conversation about what the be prepared for on the first days and weeks of the new school year).  The first of which came when she went through my class list with me.  First of all, I'm thrilled about the number - 18!!  The fact that I'm under 20...or even 30 given the state of things...is both welcome and remarkable.  But the real excitement came as she perused through the list and began to provide American-Idol style back-stories on each student.  All of the sudden, she says, "Oh.... his mom is on the PTA board."  "Oh, crap!" I said aloud.  She of course, reassured me that it would be fine.... that even though this uber-rich community has a parental force to be reckoned with, their support of our teachers is PARAMOUNT.   I shouldn't be so worried...After all, in this artist's rendition of them, they appear to be the gosh-darn sweetest batch of parents in the world. 

But seriously, I needn't worry - every piece of evidence I could find has proven our parents to be tremendously supportive of public education and our teachers (see: exhibit A {artist's rendition above} ). They move heaven and earth to make sure their children are getting the best possible opportunities in our school district.  Why then, is it so intimidating?  Maybe because they move heaven and earth to make sure their children are getting the best possible opportunities in our school district.  And as one of two new classroom teachers in the entire school, Clarissa has already told me there is a lot of small-town chatter about who the new 4th grade teachers are.  She confessed - that all eyes are indeed upon us.

So, after I finally got over the fear of having a child of a parent on the PTA board in my classroom, we kept on moving down the list of students.... as her finger passed over the names, I heard things like "She's a doll".... "He's such a good student"...."She's very low, but she loves writing" ..."He's got some behavioral issues".  Finally, and rather unexpectedly, she came to a name and paused (and kind of winced).   

"What?!" I said nervously.   
"Oh...", she groaned.  
I looked at her with growing panic and said, "What!? ... GOOD 'oh'?  BAD 'oh'?  WHAT?!"  .... Finally, after a small pause, she said,
 "Her parent is the president of the PTA Board." 

Oh. My. God.  "Are you kidding me?!", I blurted out in disbelief.   Clarissa very nonchalantly just said, "You'll be fine!... They'll love you.".  To be honest, I was so freaked out by having Sasha and Malia in my classroom that I forgot what name she even pointed to.  Boy?  Girl?  First name?!  Last name!? I have no idea!?  So, now there are basically covert CIA PTA undercover ops in my classroom.  Malia incognito. Sasha in disguise. Visions of those goofy Groucho black glasses with the fake eyebrows and big noses floated around in my paranoid head and blurred my eyesight. Goodie. Big brother is watching. 

Thankfully, Clarissa was able to distract my fear with the second memorable moment of the conversation by putting me in stitches (the figurative kind).  While reassuring me and my fellow other 4th grade new hire (who I'll now call "Cady" because she too has been to Africa, and "Cady Heron" in the movie Mean Girls, had lived in Africa as a child....and because I love the movie Mean Girls.... and because this Cady and that Cady are both very pretty....) anyway... Where was I?  Oh, right - Clarissa was addressing Cady and I....  Anyway, Clarissa was telling us NOT to worry about being observed the three mandatory times during our first year.  In all of her awesomeness, she very jovially told us that she is here to help us, support us and teach us - not frighten us and tear us down.  

She punctuated her sentiment with a fantastic story about the very first time she was observed as a new second grade teacher.  She said she had a terribly cruel principal who ruled the school like a totalitarian.  She said she would shake with fear before she entered this woman's office.  In part, she said that's what inspired her to become a principal herself - because she knew there had to be a better way to rule a school.... that you could in fact be a kind, generous, incredibly warm and helpful principal (which Clarissa COMPLETELY is!).  

So, she said on the day of her observation, she was incredibly nervous.  She was calling all the students by her favorite two pet names during the entirety of her super energetic, scatterbrained, and panicked lesson.  She would call out encouragingly, "Great job, peanut!!"  ...and "Fantastic, sweetpea!!"  She kept on switching back and forth between the two as her nerves and energy grew ... "You're right, sweetpea!!"  .."Stellar answer, peanut!"  ..."Sweetpea!!"..."Peanut"..."PEANUT, SWEETPEA!"  ... Before ultimately during a regrettable moment of mixed-up confusion BLURTING out, 

"Way to go, PENIS!".
As I'm writing this now, I'm laughing again. In fact, I laughed so hard at the time in her office, I cried.  We were practically crying together...but not the Extreme Home Makeover kind of cry....the MXC Extreme Elimination Challenge college roommate cry. 

I screamed, "What happened?!"  
She said, "The kids FROZE!"  They F.R.O.Z.E in underage shock and horror.  They each had that "Oh my god, the grown up in charge just said a bad word" stunned look on their face.  

Then I said, "Well, what did you do!?!" .  
She said, "Oh my god.  I lost all control, and I just doubled over and began hysterically laughing in the middle of the lesson.  I simply couldn't compose myself to finish"  
We cried some more.  
She said her totalitarian principal simply walked out of the room right then and there.

So yes, I finally agreed with her - NOTHING can be that bad.  She had renewed my faith to no longer worry about my upcoming observation at the end of the month.... or for that matter, the fact that I have the First kids in my classroom.  Thank god for Clarissa.  Hey - look at that, she really did explain it all.


  1. OMG, I just remembered how you use to play the sound bites from the Online Dictionary back in Newells!
    The Plural of Penis is----

    Word Origin & History

    1676, perhaps from Fr. pénis or directly from L. penis "penis," earlier "tail" (cf. Eng. tail in both senses, the sexual one slang), from PIE *pes-/*pesos- "penis" (cf. Skt. pasas-, Gk. peos, posthe "penis," probably also O.E. fæsl "progeny, offspring," O.N. fösull, Ger. Fasel "young of animals, brood"). The proper plural is penes. The adj. is penial. In psychological writing, penis envy is attested from 1924.

  2. So jealous of your wonderful experiences before the school year even starts! I am sitting at work [office job, not teaching :-( ] and dying of laughter about the penis story, classic!