Day 4: Legally Blonde Ambition
Ok - First things first...before I get to day four, I have to finally update you on some past events... one of which will be a good segue into day four's events.
First order of business: Doris' inappropriate comments. I wanted to clear up a potential misconception; That my "Doris" actually looks like Doris Roberts....she does not. In fact, it's just the opposite (which is why I thought it was worth the mention).
She actually looks a little like Joan Rivers. She's very petite....very well put together for a woman in her early sixties....very chic....and almost....almost looks like she's had a little work done. (I would need one of those infamous TMZ "Good Genes or Good Docs" polls to be sure). When I thought about that, I thought about the fact that calling her Joan would have been even more appropriate because not only does she bear a physical resemblance, but her often brash comments are reminiscent of the real loud mouth politically incorrect Rivers. So then, I realized I should call her Doris Rivers.
But then I had one more piggyback thought after my Rivers epiphany....that she doesn't quite have the often emotionally jarring facial structure of Joan Rivers....she definitely doesn't look like her face has seen more knives than a Benihana.... and plus, she's got a tad more class than Joan. Then it hit me. She looks just like she could be Ellen Barkin's sophisticated, yet less attractive sister. Which is why from now on, her official pseudonym will be Doris Barkin Rivers - it sums her up perfectly. And yes, her full name will be used every time she is mentioned. Get used it. Neil Patrick Harris. Jennifer Jason Leigh. Doris Barkin Rivers.
So Doris Barkin Rivers said the other day not ONE, but TWO WILDLY offensive comments....mind you, on the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! (As if after all her years of experience, in all her infinite wisdom, THESE were her takeaways from meeting her new class of innocent nine year olds) To summarize>> ONE: "Too many Orientals that all look identical, whom for the life of her, she can't tell apart." TWO: (and this one is the bigger doosy) With all four of us fourth grade teachers in her room, she says: "I have this hispanic girl who can't read or write....she might as well be in 1st grade. You know, I hate to say it, but let's be honest here....she's just gonna be another one of those girls who ends up 16 and pregnant." OHHH. MYYYYY. Ga--- (gaped mouth...SEE: above dramatization). That's right - a sweet, beautiful nine year old child is now predestined by an upper-class, white veteran teacher to become a "useless" knocked up teenager. The fallout? The three other fourth grade teachers (Me, Cady, and "my buddy" who we will now call "Jillian") were so disturbed, that the amazing fourth grade teacher Jillian decided it was her duty to have a chat with the principal about Doris Barkin Rivers. Surprise, Surprise - apparently last year, our adorable principal Clarissa had to give Doris Barkin Rivers "sensitivity training" because complaints started coming a-rollin' on in from frustrated parents. And let me tell you, I can attest to her rapport with parents after seeing her interact with them on the first day of school. Epic fail.
Second order of business: The hare might have beaten the tortoise after all. I called the Turtle Rescue Center of New Jersey because I wanted to be a good little environmentalist and adopt a desperate turtle already in need of a good home. Problem: It's virtually impossible to give a turtle in need of a good home a good home. Why? Habitat and diet requirements. They're elaborate, super high-maintenance, and despite all my research, can't adequately be contained in a relatively small tank. After a long talk with the impassioned head of the Turtle Rescue Center of NJ, she convinced me that successfully having a turtle in a classroom is all but impossible. Furthermore, any teachers who DO have a turtle in the classroom are ill-equipped to care for it properly and are probably unwittingly making the turtle's life a living hell. It would be like trying to keep a horse in a trailer for life in the freezing cold. Add to that the very specific environmental needs required for a turtle to be healthy, safe, comfortable, and get just the right amount of warm air, cold air, warm water, cold water, basking and swimming time, and you have one big tortoisean mess. With the high salmonella risk to boot, a turtle is no longer in the running to be our class pet.
I'm so sorry for all who voted - but my options are going to be dictated by the realities of our classroom. This also rules out all other reptiles (for similar reasons) and leaves only rodents and fish - apparently the only TRUE pets suitable for classroom usage. So, we're aiming for a hamster or guinea pig.....notices went out today to rule out allergies.... if any come back positive, then fish it is. Basically, our classroom knocked us all the way down the class pet food chain. But, that aside, we did pick ten very cool names. Apart from the irony of having a pet hamster named "Tortuga", all the names chosen should also make pretty cool pet hamster/guinea pig names. So, without further adieu, here are our TEN Turtamsterfish Pig name winners: Rufus, Copernicus, Galileo, Picasso, Kobe, Tortuga, Turbo, Michelangelo, Gizmo & Rafael/Rafa (go Rafa! He became a Career Grand Slam winner AS I was writing this.... SEE: Homo-erotic post-match victory photo below).
Third order of business: My emotionally disturbed child. Whoa. I'm intimidated. I shouldn't really discuss his behaviors...even with his code name. But, all I will say is "Dennis" does harmful things to himself that no other fourth grader should ever even know is possible....or would ever consider doing to themselves in their wildest dreams. And if you discipline him too harshly, you will send him into a dangerous rapidly descending downward spiral. So far, he's outwardly defied me by telling me he won't sit where I tell him to, and he's left the room on his own accord. Today, for instance, he poured water on his desk, pretended to karate-chop a box of tissues, and for the big finale, took his name tag, rolled it up, and pretended it was a taser that electrocuted him in the neck to death a la 1920's Green Mile electric chair...capped off by fake slump-over death and all. So far, believe it or not, I've escaped his wrath relatively unharmed by barely acknowledging his outbursts, and quietly maintaining order by removing his distractions one by one mid-lecture without any pomp and/or circumstance. Fingers crossed that it doesn't get much worse than this.....
Which brings us to today. What a difference a day makes. Nervous breakdowns have officially passed. Friday was one giant kick in the ass. And it was needed. A necessary wake-up call to abandon my old disorganized ways. Who here has seen Legally Blonde? (SHAME on you to those who haven't!!!!) So, you know the scene where after she finally gets into Harvard, she's pushed to the point of defiance by some ruthless fellow law students who prompt her to immediately decide to take control of her life by buying a macbook in her hot pink bunny suit and prove everyone wrong? That's what happened to me this weekend. I was a defiant Elle Woods, determined not to drown in this sea of chaos - sans hot pink bunny suit, of course. (Well....I do have an old baby blue bunny costume from about 20 Halloweens ago....I'm sure there's a bizarro niche fetish market for that somewhere.) Anyway, I went out to Office Max, dropped a pretty penny, and came home with planners, organizers, notebooks, school supplies and a commitment to turn things around NOW....oh yeah...and a wholllllle lotta post-its for to-do lists. After working straight through the weekend, I suddenly feel completely in control. And today was a great success....and with Back to School Night looming on Wednesday, this was just the boost of confidence I needed.
I wasn't the only one whose behavior changed today. I love the expression "same shit, different day" - but that couldn't be more wrong today. What a difference it makes to actually have taught all of the subjects today.... kids who were previously distracted, aloof and very difficult to keep on task during our initial days of community building and bullying lectures, were instantly engaged in Math and Science classes. I mistakenly thought those first few days were indicative of the year to come in terms of individual behaviors. I was all wrong. Students behaved completely differently today now that they were learning....and handing out D'Angelo dollars for the first time didn't hurt.....AND, having a serious behavior-related pow-wow this morning on the rug about how frustrated I was over the weekend about their performance the first few days as compared to the other fourth grade classes helped to set the tone for the first full school week ahead (thanks for that idea, Cuz! You're the BEST!).
I saw good behavior today that I've never seen before...and I saw faces light up with encouragement and promise when struggling students earned dollars for succeeding at simple tasks.... immediately, they worked harder and faster. Success. Some of the kids are loving our time together so much, they think I need to add "Class Lunch in the Room with Mr. D" as one of the big class prizes. We're talking a $2000+ class prize....not kickball....not a pizza party.... everyone eating lunch with me apparently takes the cake. Don't be fooled - they were pretty upfront about what an upgrade it would be to eat with me instead of the "mean lunch ladies."
Basically, today was a picture perfect day. I arrived to school this morning committed, relaxed and excited, and I left at 6:30, twelve hours later, relieved, elated, and proud. After a bumpy few days, we're off to a good start. It reminds me of those few initially bumpy moments of turbulence you just have to suffer through every time you take off into the sky from a runway....until you reliably cut through the cloud line and ascend to higher, calmer skies and suddenly feel the plane ease into a smooth climbing glide . I guess we just had a bumpy take-off. Hey - If Elle Woods is any indicator, things will only go up from here. In her words, "This will be like senior year, ONLY FUNNER!"
at 12:24 AM