Archive | teachers RSS feed for this section

Be The Boss Of Me 2013: The Poll

2 Aug penguinboss

Without further ado, it’s time for the annual Be The Boss of Me poll.  This year you’ve had to work hard, which doesn’t come easy to you boss types. Instead of one poll with a few options, you’ve watched old music videos all week. You’ve made recommendations and  rejected some of the weaker ideas, which I’m sure you’ll present to the board of directors later as your own and claim full credit, but that’s ok.

Now it’s time to decide my fate. Hey, it’s not like I’m asking for a raise or the corner office.  Just a theme song is all I ask.

Need a reminder about the choices?  Check out  this handy voter’s guide I prepared over lunch.  So, yeah, about that raise.

Handy Voters’ Guide

The Finalists:

Get Ready, The Temptations

Devil In the Blue Dress, Mitch Ryder

Cynical Girl, Marshall Crenshaw

59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy), Simon & Garfunkel

Dandelion, Antje Duvekot

Honorable Mention:

Teacher, Teacher, Rockpile

Write-In Candidates from some Bosses of Me (They are the BoMs.)

Special thanks to the sunshiney midwesterner and the  chip-kickin’ Texas women for their suggestions.

Powerful Stuff, The Fabulous Thunderbirds  / Jimmy Vaughan — (Linda of Shore Acres)

Galway Girl, Steve Earle– (Domer’s Mom, Debbie) — This links to the Gerard Butler scene from the movie P.S. I Love You.

You Can’t Resist It, Lyle Lovett and Leo Kottke  (Valentine Logar)

Ready, set, be the boss of me!

Poll closes Sunday, August 4 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. The theme song reveal will be posted on Monday.

And just for fun, the Also-Rans

Fever, Peggy Lee —  

Why I considered it: The intention-setting factor

Why it’s not a finalist: It’s Peggy Lee’s theme song.

Penguins, Lyle Lovett

Why I considered it: C’mon. Who doesn’t love penguins?

Why it’s not a finalist: I didn’t think of it until Val suggested Lyle Lovett.

So What (I’m Still a Rock Star, P!nk)

Why I considered it: What, you doubt that?

Why it’s not a finalist: My P!nk moods are fleeting.

Might As Well Have Fun, Alice Peacock

Why I considered it: Carpe diem!

Why it’s not a finalist: The only video I could find has two minutes of talking at the beginning. If you click the link, the song starts around 2:15. It’s worth it!

Carolina In My Mind, James Taylor

Why I considered it: Because it’s been my true theme song since a pact I made with some friends when I was  20-something. That opening line is particularly brilliant.

Why it’s not a finalist: Too schmaltzy. Come to think of it, that probably suits me fine. If my moment involves sharing the spotlight on a remote beach with the baby sea turtles I’m rescuing, this will fit. Otherwise, it’s just a dreamy song.

Peace Train, Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam

Why I considered it: Peace is always a good idea.

Why it’s not on the list:  I’ve written about that song twice before. I’m not really as obsessed with it as that sounds.

Bright Baby Blues, Jackson Browne

Why I considered it: Hello? They’re up here.

Why it’s not a finalist: Also schmaltzy, plus there’s a drug reference and good Lord do I have trouble enough convincing  you people I’m not really a hippie.

Be The Boss Of Me: Devil With the Blue Dress

30 Jul My dream Vera Wang. I probably wouldn't wear it on a Wednesday.

This is Day 2 of Be The Boss Of Me Week. What’s Be The Boss Of Me Week?  In case you missed it, here’s what.

I am a quiet person. Not only do I exist in a quiet environment, except for all the frivolity going on up inside my head, but when I speak others often have a hard time hearing me.

This can be a problem for someone in my former profession educating young minds, encouraging young hearts, molding young spirits, guiding young citizens toward productive and prosperous future endeavours, when they absolutely, positively can NOT FOR THE LOVE OF PETE BE QUIET FOR ONE HOT SECOND!


Early in my student teaching experience, it became clear that I would need to compensate for my near-inaudibility.  One way to do that was to go oVEr the noise, which I can do. Oh boy, can I.  I can get loud if I need to, but I don’t like to.

It exhausts me just to call to someone across the room. Shouting darn near wears me out and in my first three years of teaching, I had complete laryngitis by December.  So I work with my  quiet voice instead of against it.

If you stand before a group of noisy teenagers and quietly, calmly share your message while all manner of calamity is going on around you,  they start to wonder, maybe not what it is you’re saying, but rather whether or not someone should call for medical assistance. Really, teenagers are much more caring than you might imagine.

Some time near the end of the first marking period, they realize you are more or less possessed of your faculties and are merely employing slick classroom management techniques.  Teenagers are keen to being classroom-managed and they adapt.  It’s a delicate dance and you must be thinking steps ahead. By this time you need alternative methods.  While the our-teacher-might-be-crazy-because-she-talks-to-herself method dwindles in effectiveness, it is imperative to have simultaneously built nonverbal gestures and hand signals into the communication repertoire.

No, not those gestures and hand signals.  I am a trained professional.  Work with me here.

These three nonverbal options got me through most situations:

  1. Pointing to the imaginary bill of my imaginary baseball cap, as a means of communicating, “Please remove your chapeau in the building.”
  2. Pointing to my mouth and mouthing the word “gum,” while shaking my head in one stern, disapproving move, then removing the finger and pointing it in the direction of the nearest waste receptacle. The key here is the one stern move. Repeated shaking can lead to misinterpretation as a command to chew faster. See? Trained professional.
  3. And, finally,  because sometimes students have quiet voices too, cupping my hand behind my ear and leaning that side of my head in the speaker’s direction. In a warm and nurturing environment, which is what I like to think my classroom was,  this generally communicates, “I really care about what you have to say. Please repeat it so I can enjoy it.”

I’ve been out of the classroom for over a decade and I still have trouble at the mall holding myself back from offering teenagers nonverbal cues to remove their hats and spit out their gum.

Last week the ear-cupping gesture came into play in an entirely different setting, and thereby hangs the tale of the devil in the blue dress.

Why a blue dress?

Perhaps to balance out the quiet voice, Mother Nature endowed me with big, loud blue eyes. Before the laugh lines set in, it was suggested they should be registered weapons. Honestly, they’ve gotten me into about as much trouble as they’ve gotten me out of. Now they pretty much hide behind bifocals, staring at a computer screen, reminiscing about the adventures they’ve had.

My dream Vera Wang. I probably wouldn't wear it on a Wednesday.

My dream Vera Wang. I probably wouldn’t wear it on a Wednesday. (Sofia Vergara at the 2012 Golden Globe Awards. Poor dear. Her eyes are brown.)

Long ago a friend insisted that eyes that blue should always, always have a great blue dress to go with them. It was the beginning of an accidental accumulation of blue dresses in the closet, more out of habit than anything else.

Recently my organization moved and my new office is located near the offices of new colleagues, one of whom is a nice man, also possessed of a quiet nature and a quiet voice. In the professional pecking order, he is far above me in rank. In the personal order, it’s clear that he was raised to be a personable gentleman, so he often has a kind word when we pass one another in the hall.

I am usually up inside my head when I realize he is saying something, and I clumsily respond with a “Huh, excuse me? Did you say something?” This forces him to repeat his kind words, with an expression that suggests he might be worried that he’s offended me. I feel awful when this happens and I’ve been trying to pay more attention to keep from putting him through it.

It’s not going so well.

Last week I wore a new blue dress that got rave reviews, bifocals and all. I was headed down hallway where I don’t normally see him, so I was blissfully up inside my head, when he mouthed something that was not a command to remove my hat, but I didn’t hear, so. . . ugh. . . I said, “Excuse me?” and just as he repeated it, someone in a nearby office started a printer, so I missed it twice, and with the automaticity of a seasoned nonverbal cue-user, I cupped my ear and leaned toward him.

He, mustering his quiet voice for the third attempt, nearly shouted, “I SAID THAT COLOR BLUE LOOKS GREAT ON YOU,” just as the printer stopped and it was painfully quiet . . . for everyone within earshot.

I felt terrible. I felt evil. I felt like the devil in my stupid blue dress. Maybe that should be my theme song.

As with all my choices, there are down sides to this one:

1. My name isn’t Molly.

2. To establish this as my theme song, I would need to wear blue dresses consistently for an extended period of time. That could get a little weird.

#2. Mitch Ryder, Devil With the Blue Dress

A teacher goes to Washington, leaves heart in the classroom.

16 Dec Teddy bear at the foot of the State of Connecticut's Christmas tree.

On Friday, December 14, something terrible and unthinkable happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and I became a teacher again, if only in my heart.

I’m in the process of letting go of a lot of things that no longer serve a purpose in my life, learning to accept and move past the fact that certain things are never going to happen or are never going to happen again. It’s a difficult change of seasons. One of those things is being a teacher. In my heart, I always have been and always will be a teacher, but in my daily existence, I do other things now.

Teddy bear at the foot of the State of Connecticut's Christmas tree.

Teddy bear at the foot of the State of Connecticut’s Christmas tree.

For weeks now my loft/office has been piled up with boxes pulled from closets. My normally orderly, organized, Virgo tendencies seem to have surrendered or just to have allowed themselves to take it slowly.

But this was it. This was the weekend that everything was going to go, like ripping off a bandage. Just go. Get it over with. Let it be done.

Then Friday someone asked if I’d heard about the school shooting and I was so mired in the other things I do now that it didn’t even register, much the same as my reaction to  the traffic alerts that come through when a five-block area is in gridlock due to a suspicious package.

On my way to get a late lunch / early dinner, I passed by the television in our inner lobby and saw clips of President Obama’s tearful message. Like you, I was stunned and heartsick at the news.

Then I walked to the outer lobby, where a few years ago a lovely young woman came up to (re)introduce herself as one of my former students.   There I passed a man who it is reasonable to assume is a lobbyist, equally reasonable to assume a Republican, who was in that moment a concerned and protective father, escorting a little girl with a pink backpack. We exchanged glances that in a flash said what words could not express and for a fleeting moment, this little corner of Washington DC, just a few blocks from the White House, was a place where parents who love their children were united, unfortunately  for the most tragic of reasons.

Candlelight vigil beginning to gather outside the White House, 12/14/2012.

Candlelight vigil beginning to gather outside the White House, 12/14/2012.

I’d already planned to walk over to see the new National Christmas Tree after work, and I wasn’t sure I still wanted to do that. I didn’t want to go home, either, so I did take the walk.  The tree is surrounded by a pathway lined with smaller trees, one for each of the fifty states and U.S. territories.

A collection of teddy bears was already beginning to appear at the base of the tree for Connecticut, some with political messages that led to discussions among a few passersby, and DC was back to being DC, but I was not.

I was a teacher, imagining the horror of trying to protect innocent charges  from a troubled mind that saw evil as its only means of relief.

The State of Connecticut's tree at the National Christmas Tree Pageant of Peace, December 14, 2012.

The State of Connecticut’s tree at the National Christmas Tree Pageant of Peace, December 14, 2012.

As I’ve sorted through this, the one thing I have not asked myself is “How could this happen?” The sad truth is one name came to mind immediately as the student I knew who, but for the grace of God, could have eventually resorted to something so horrific. As I thought about him, another name came to mind, and then another.

One of the hardest things to do as a teacher is to help students through any traumatic news, especially when it affects you, too. In my last year in the classroom, I had to walk into first period on four separate occasions to give “the talk” about a death in the student population.

Only one of those was caused by violence at the hands of another. It was one too many and those were four talks too many.  The last time I walked in, the most cynical girl in the class said, “It’s ok, we know. We’re ok,” and that is what broke my heart.

Safely tucked away  in these boxes are the memories of the kids I still refer to as “my kids” — the funny memories, the sad memories, and even the very troubling memories. I’m still not ready to let those go.

Earlier I re-blogged Omawarisan’s signature eloquence about first responders and his thoughtful compilation of resources.  I hope he won’t mind my adding these thoughts to that piece. Along with my heartfelt gratitude and empathy toward those fine folks, my heart goes out to those teachers who will have to help their students get through this experience and who are forever changed by what happened in their world on Friday, December 14.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,381 other followers

%d bloggers like this: