I got married when I was TOO young, got a bar named after me (not really; I wish!) called BAD DECISIONS, eloped, dropped out of school…and broke everyone’s hearts (my parent’s are EVERYONE (to me).  So six years later I decided to spill it out onto here..in a story, because I wanted to see if other people maybe had the same experience, and if or , they could connect with me.  If you can, write back and and and and and RELATE/SHARE!

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A Third World Came West…

(6th chunk, 1st page)

I pulled into the driveway about five minutes later and pulled up the emergency brake, studying the bay window for any lights still on and crunched with my sandals over the diamond like reflecting pebbles scattered over our hilltop driveway. I got out slowly and told Chaz to shut his door very quietly then said ‘no’ and got in front of him so that I could shut it quietly for him. I put my finger up to my lips, and pointed with my finger to the left and then to the right walking up the narrow stretch of grass, past the neighbor’s metal fence and to the right where a big square window was, it’s sill coming up to the mid-calf of Chaz’s leg. “I’ll be right back,” I whispered. Stay here and try not to make any noise. Five minutes later and I was through the front door, tip toeing across the Mexican tile and passing the living room where I was listening for sounds from the kitchen where there were raised ceilings because of the skylight in the middle making the room wide, airy, and echoing. But all I heard was the ceiling fan knocking its gold chain when one of the lopsided paddles swung hard towards the left side of the room. When I got towards the end of the house where my cousin was sleeping, I turned to see my cousin’s door shut and switched on the hall light long enough to see outside from where I stood at my doorway, Sam waiting outside my window. The look made a hiccup in my spine for seeing him as the stranger that he was, outside feeling an intentional and rehearsed panic. I stepped into my room, turning the knob slowly and walked over to the window to open it. I pulled the sliding wooden door to our bedroom hall shut and went to the window ledge where I threw open the black metal ledge of the window and Sam seemed to have eyed the rectangle spokes on the screen because he didn’t miss a beat before using these to pull it out, leaning it next to the peach painted side of our slab house.

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People who aren’t real….

There’s lots of people who aren’t real.  Lashay Simpson on Twitter isn’t real.  That girl down the hall with the skinny pontail who pegged the skill standard wrong on the benchmarks, is not real.  These are people from my alternate reality .  They’re flags that wave in my face to challenge me.  yes.  And I measure up.  I stand tall; salute…while rolling my eyes when they’re done + turned around.  So’s my brother’s tweet.  That’s not real.  I’m talking to much of out of myself, pushing myself.  Maybe its cause of Daniel.  I feel guilty!  How’s he doing?  Did he write me back?  Uggh.  I have it on the tip of my tounge , what to say.  I should let myself.  …who cares?  I don’t have Linda VanderPump’s hyptnotist measuring my brain waves.  The only people that see action across my head are the kids who throw my dictionaries across the room and see my reaction. 

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I thought the cherry on top was…a teacher under a burner on low?

In Baltimore, I live in a cheap condo in between Hampden and Mount Washington.  I live across from a cheap pool with a torn green plastic cover on it that remains there for most of the part of the year.  During the summers, the pool is filled with mostly kids, yelling and splashing and not knowing how to swim, so floating along in the shallow end in plastic floaties.  I like to do laps but since its this way, I usually just hop in and swim to one side, then the other and float for a minute or two, before getting out and walking across the street to my place.

I haven’t always lived in Baltimore.  Before, I lived in Orlando, Florida.  Right around from where Disney is, but actually from about 45 minutes in from where it’s located.  Where I’m from there are a lot of strip malls, new restaurants, like the Cheesecake Factory or P.F. Changs and a Borders by Ruth Chris steak house.  There’s a high school where I went to , Winter Park , and most of the kids were transients, kids who’d come into town mostly cause of their dad and who would usually either finish out their senior year there, or transfer and go back from where they came, like New York, or Alabama or Georgia , mostly.  But I lived there my whole life.  I’d known the street names around town by heart so much that I purposely forgot them.  Maybe my head felt big at searching the skyline for big, maybe abandoned buildings with intricate deteriorated sinking floors, but which showed birds flying slowly across saturated dark clouds.  Down 17-92 were too spaced apart, short, one story buildings that held no more than a real estate company, or a dry cleaner, or a Subway, just trying to make to make it. 

When I moved to Baltimore, it was for excitement.  My brother was going to George Washington in Foggy Bottom, in D.C.  I’d ruled out working as a teacher in that city, because my major was English, since I heard it was dangerous, that you’d have a hard time making connections with the kids.  So I moved to Baltimore, having it in my head that I’d get into a school where I could make a difference.  But when I got up to Baltimore, the county told me that I couldn’t get a job anywhere since I didn’t have my certification.  I had explained to them that I had applied and received an eligibility form in Florida that I was enrooting to getting my certification.  But instead, they told me to go to the city, where’d they’d take teachers and where they’d even put me through school.  I was in the parking lot at an Applebee’s next to a location that gave the Praxis tests to eligible teachers.  I was getting a call from a woman at Baltimore County insisting that I’d have better luck applying to Baltimore City.  I applied to Baltimore City and got in quickly and spent more money than I had on simple things, markers, pens, sticky notes and greeted a class with a substitute with these bags somewhere around the end of October. 

My first few days were hell and then again maybe my first years too.  The kids lacked motivation, came in late, fell asleep at their desks.  I raised the bar on how much work I did.  I created my own worksheets, I designed handouts, changed the layout of my classroom, painted desks red, painted walls orange, bought extra credit tickets that I gave out when students volunteered an original thought.  But I was still slinking under the pressure.  Classes were 90 minutes long and there were endless; END-less papers to grade.  There wasn’t help from parents because most of their numbers were disconnected, and when a kid got unruly or cursed me out, I couldn’t get a hold of them, nor feedback from the write-up slip I’d submitted from my academy principal.  Here I was, grading papers up to my elbow, submitting the grades all by hand and at the end of the quarter, using a calculator to manually count up each student’s grade points.  I felt that I was doing 75% of the work, while my students MAYbe did 25%.  I started to watch program re-runs “Head of the Class” lol, or “Saved by the Bell” and would envy students who begged their teachers for questions that might be on an upcoming test so that they could study for them.  I was usually lucky to get 2 or 3 students to study for a test during mid-terms.

Now, I’m still in the same school, still struggling, still seeing Teach for America teachers or education students apply through Baltimore City Teaching Residency who enter our system and who try to make it right and make a change, just like me.  Except, now, which was different from before, my breaths are more short when my kids put on their headphones rather than pay attention in class, when they yell out across the room to another student about a conversation another students had, verses a conversation a character (say) would have in one of our novels.  I know what to expect and I don’t expect anymore.  At the same time I try up to a certain point and expect in my classroom, that this is as good as it gets.  Once, when I was in college, I daydreamed that an English teacher’s primary role was to extend beyond the literal with students, but now I felt that my role was skewed from this, that I was doing something else.

I still love English, I read and write and study it every single day.  I put myself into conversations and dig it up from friends to start discussions about situations, fictional, theoretical circumstances.  But, I keep my head half-way high at school.  I want to keep teaching.  The burner under my ‘I Will’ is just on low.  I still feel that somewhere, I could get a pair of eyes to look up at me that like to imagine, that liked to feel that characters in books are ‘escapes’.  That, if you want to escape to an island to get away from everyone, try reading Lord of the Flies or Life of Pi. I’ve seen  a number of movies where an inner city high school teacher changes the heart of a high school system.  Maybe I thought I could do this when I came to my school, or maybe I had intended to get from it something else.  Somewhere, I’ll get someone to really, really love reading.  And then they’ll have a discussion and be able to see themselves through someone else’s…..socks.

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school Da….zzzzzzzzze

I’m trying to teach my students about To Kill a Mockingbird…really engaging them about Mayella ewell and the courtroom scene.  Well meanwhile, my principal gets on the loudspeaker and starts yelling that unauthorized students have been allowed into the school.  Well this is nothing new.  Students, parents, siblings of students come in all the time and usually its about nothing more than for dropping off a sweater or a lunch or for asking questions about junior, senior dues.  But now, my class is interrupted.  Just as I’m about to listen for feedback (extensive use of pedagogical strategies) about why Atticus Finch is asking Mayella how many friends she has and what happened to her mother, students from the 9th grade academy come up banging on my door trying to get headphones from someone thy know.  I have to stop, call our hall monitor who doesn’t pick up the phone, and ask someone, a student to call the hall monitor because there are 9th grade students cutting class and disturbing mine.  At this point, 1 student, Walter, my saving grace, raises his hand to say that Mr. Finch has asked these questions because he wants to prove to the jury that Mayella well, is lonely.  This is why she hit on Tom Robinson in the first place and invited him in, to her house.  Next, in the second after Walter’s response, before I can exclaim that yes, this point is what in an ordinary jury, could have set Tom Robinson free, some other student in my class is walking out to chase down the 9th grade academy students to give them their headphones’ back.  Trader.  Then, I hear in the distance, somewhere in the corner of my classroom, a really pretty girl who reminds me of Tamara Mello, grumble to a friend that she can’t think in this class for all the disturbances.  Walter, you remember?  My saving grace.  H yells out “Miss Hauser, you didn’t answer my question!”  Has that much time lapsed between him answering my question to me looking at him weary, trying to figure out where that other student of mine disappeared to?  I contemplate 1. Calling the office to report this missing student 2. writing a cut slip for this missing student a sap should an administrator catch him and report to me that he’s walking the halls (thus stopping all discussion and encouraging side conversations), or 3.  Should I dismiss the student who left, keep going (If he didn’t want to stay and be apart of the discussion well, I might as well pay attention to the kids who DO want to learn)?  Well if this is looking somewhat like a Cosmo article, it’s about to be one.  I’m submitting it a sap.  I decide on the 3rd option which will most likely see my butt in the hot seat straight after school.  I’m already on my principal’s hotlist for bringing in a microwave to work and a fridge and for letting a student heat up their breakfast.  My hand is red from the hit I took for that.  Anyway, I start up discussion with my students again by saying how Walter is right.  Yes.  Atticus Finch WAS asking Mayella Ewell these questions to try and convince the jury that it was SHe, not Tom who initiated intimacy.  Just as I’m about to call on a student who acts engaged and who wants to read the next lesson, I hear a final student belt out from another side of the room, a song she is listing to on her cell phone.  She’s yelling loudly and somewhere in between me asking her to put her headphones away and her saying a biting, cutting, cussing remark back to me; I hear a knock at the door.  Sink. I think it’s those two ninth grade kids bugging me again, I start by ignoring it.  But then my kids shout at me that a teacher’s at the door.  I go outside, leaving my class AGAIN, and leaving Walter to falter for trying to maintain focus.  Ugh.  Are you huffing yet too…  The teacher outside asks me about a student, Cory, how when he came to class (twice so far) cursed me out , and then tosses an absence verification form towards me telling me he’s been absent so much because his grandmother died.  The teacher/social worker/administrator, wants a full report on him.  What have I done to help him?  How is he doing in class?  How is his concentration level?  I don’t know about Cory’s, but mine is about to explode.  I need addiral right now.  A big bottle.  I take a breath and smile and try not to look like I don’t know, and give her some short answers that I have actually witnessed from Cory.  She seems pleased and rather than count myself as too lucky, I stop jabbering on and realize that Walter is in class probably losing his mind.  I say my goodbyes to the social worker and come into class just in time to see Shelly throwing a book across the room at another student, while, Oni (the 1 with the headphones) in addition to listening and singing to music, has also started up a conversation on how her uncle was stabbed to death in his apartment, and, how she watch the whole thing happen.  GRRRrahhhhghgh.  What do I do now?  Should I listen?  Should I stop the Atticus discussion and pay homage to her  uncle?  Ugh.  Thank god for Cosmopolitan magazine.  I always  need an A,B, and C option.  I decide to cut the conversation short, I manage to grab a composition book from a filing cabinet AFTR  tripping on a multiply supply of extension cords I DO NOT NeeD (and that aren’t mine) and I tell Oni that this is something  important she is talking about.  She needs to write down hr thoughts and give them to me.  I want to respond to her writing.  She gets this, snaps some gum, and puts the composition book s-o-m–where.  I pass by Walter and see his disturbed face and hear him say that he can’t stand this class.  My heart is broken.  He’s my 1 student I can count on.  Ugh.  I’ve lost them all now.  I think about giving it another go round, about Atticus’ interrogation of the victim, but then my principal comes on AGAIN and this time its about the afternoon announcements.  I think about asking the students to do their homework, which I do.  But then half of them have lost their homework sheet and so I shut the book on trying to encourage them to do it.  I go over to my computer as kids are bumping into desks, spilling thesauruses and dictionaries on the ground and check to see if I have a nice email from someone saying that I’m neat.  No such letter.  Just an email from my IST saying that someone has the classroom set of Kindred and she’s tired of asking for it.  Fess up whoever you are.  I log off my email, and let MSN collect my mail along with the other 500 and something that I haven’t deleted, and I knock my had against my bulletin board as my kids filter out into the hall B-4 the bell rings, knocking down the student work for which I have no more staples to staple it back up on the wall.  Its 3:35 now and the bell rings and I can think.  Time to plan a lesson for Day (what day is it now?) so that I can go through this whole day again tomorrow.  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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John Updike

Red dusty roads, white clapboard frames falling off of dilapidated houses, one story houses with views low enough from a bystander standing at the road to be able to see the valley over them,  in between rolling mountain hills of a lonely town where tire wheels are more likely to roll over dust and rocks then pavement smeared with gum on which ambitious people hurry, elbow to elbow, to work.: what I think of when I pass the cheap laminate and glass bookcase where I first found a copy of Rabbit at Rest, and when I pass the tall palm trees at a golf resort of where Updike wrote about Rabbit retiring.   If Rabbit’s  legs could really run fast then I’d feel for a moment that I was him, that animal, moving in rewind from the chainlink fences around the Floridian basketball park where he was an athelete at 60, to the thick smoky air of the mills in the blue collar towns of the mid-Atlantic.

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