Saturday, September 26, 2009

An Open Letter to Super Teachers Everywhere!

Dear Fellow Teachers,

Thank you for being so great in the classroom. Thank you for being creative, for being a sounding board, for being generally awesome and dedicating yourselves to our little friends. But we need to talk.

For many years, I have watched you, coming to school in sweatpants, sneakers (and I don't mean cute ones. I mean cross-trainers.) and hoodies. I have seen you enter the building and wondered if you came in to write your sub plans and leave because you were sick. And then I watched you stay. To teach. In SWEATPANTS! I have seen you stand in front of parents, students and administrators looking like you had just rolled out of bed and were going to run to the grocery store. I have seen you in jeans that look old and faded. I have seen you wear tank tops that look like gym-wear and t-shirts that belong on teenagers. I wanted to shake you, I wanted to yell and I wanted to strangle you. But most of all, I just wanted to take you shopping. 

"I don't have time for shopping" you say.
"I don't have the money for shopping" you cry.
"It does not matter what I wear. I am a super teacher and my students will learn regardless!" you roar!

Guess what. You do, you do and it does. Let me tell you how and why.

Issue #1 You don't have time for shopping.
Yes, you do. You have time to have drinks after work, you have time for shopping. You have time for Facebook on your computer, you have time for shopping. Get to the mall, or Target, or Kohls and pick up a pair of pants that fit you. A top with sleeves. Shoes that would not help you make a quick get-away in case of an armed robbery. Can't make it there? Welcome to the wonderful world of online shopping. Get out your credit card, I will show you how to get free shipping, and buy something. It takes 10 minutes and you don't have to go anywhere. Every store now has a website. Find it. Use it. Please.

Issue #2 You don't have the money to go shopping
Really? You have money to spend on classroom supplies but not on yourself? You have money to spend on going out, but not on your wardrobe? You spend money on stupid tchotchkes with cats dangling from a branch that say "Hang in There!" but you cannot bring yourself to spend $20 on a pair of pants that do not sag in the butt and actually fit you? Please. My friends, clothing options abound in this day and age. I am not saying "Get thee to Bloomingdale's and buy $500 Alexander McQueen sequin leggings" I am not even saying "Get thee to Macy's and spend $100 on Ralph Lauren or J.Crew" I am saying drag yourself over to Old Navy and slap on a pair of trousers that will run you about $30. Less if they are on sale and you have a coupon. Which I do. You can borrow it. Make sure the pants have a waist, make sure they have a button or snap closure. No drawstring. Make sure they reach down PAST your ankles. Get a top. One with some sort of sleeve. One that fits. NO SWEATSHIRTS! If you don't like the tops, get a pair of shoes. Real shoes. They have flat ones and they are comfortable. NO SNEAKERS. The whole trip should run you about $45-$50. Don't like Old Navy? Fine. Look in the sales racks of Talbots, Ann Taylor or Macy's. You can find basic pieces for as little as $12.

Issue #3: It doesn't matter what I wear, I know what I am doing and my kids will still learn.
Yes, Super Teachers everywhere, yes. You DO know what you are doing. You are all smart, wonderful teachers. You are creative and caring and despite the mountains of crap that get piled on us you still manage to provide your students with wonderful experiences. But I listen to your complaints. I hear you when you say "There is no respect for us!" I understand you when you let loose a tirade against parents who don't trust you and who undermine you. Guess what? Part of the reason the kids and parents get away with what they do is the way you dress. You think I am crazy. That it does not matter, but it does. Stop looking like a slob.
When you show up looking like you just rolled out of bed, you exude no authority. No confidence. Nothing that says "Hey! Guess what? Not only do I know what I am doing but I am in charge here. This is my domain, and I rule!" If you walked into a courtroom and saw a judge dressed in her pajamas, you would lose a little respect for her. You might think of her as your buddy. "Hey! She dresses like me!" But she is not your buddy. It is her court room and she makes the rules. The robes of office exude a certain power. They send a message. Your classroom is your court room.
People in business dress in suits and professional wear because it shows a respect for what they do and for their fellow associates. They wear things that say "I take this job seriously, and you need to as well." They do not wear t-shirts that say "Abercrombie" or "Hollister" because they are not 14. And neither are you.
Now, please, do not put on a suit. But stop looking like you forgot that you have a job and that you are in a position of authority. Show parents and administrators and your students that you respect what you do and you respect the people around you. You would not show up in jeans at a wedding, right? Why? Because it's not appropriate. Because it shows no respect for the occasion. Why would your job require anything less? You are a professional. Act like it.

"But I won't be comfortable!" you wail. Grow up. Suck it up and get over it.If your clothes fit, you will be comfortable. You can be perfectly comfortable as well as appropriately dressed.
"I don't live in a fancy place!" comes the grumble. "I need to identify with my population!"That is a bull***t excuse. I am not saying put on the Chanel, I am saying stop looking like a slob. Just because your district is not fancy is no excuse for you to be slovenly. Cotton is washable. Last week a teacher at my school wore dark, tailored jeans, a really cute white top, makeup and adorable shoes. She looked great. And not fancy. She looked put together and casually professional. I would have saved the jeans for Friday, but whatever. It goes to show it can be done. So do it.

That's all, my fellow Educators. Please think about what I have to say and when you go to your closet Monday morning, let your hands skip over the hoodie, trail past the saggy terry cloth capri's and find their way to the black chinos you then pair with real shoes. Your profession will thank you. And so do I.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


OK, I think something is in the water at school, because in addition to THIS, I heard the following conversations in my room this week. Let's keep in mind, people, it's only Wednesday.

Conversation 1.

Mrs Lewis overhears the tail end and can only imagine the beginning:
Student A: Oh. I thought you said "whore"
Student B: Not "whore". What's a "whore"?
Mrs. Lewis scrambles over to divert the rest of the conversation.

Conversation 2:

Bug Boy, looking up science words: Mrs. Lewis?
Mrs. Lewis: Yes Bug Boy?
BB: What's an orgasm?
M.L.: Excuse me?
BB: What's an orgasm?
M.L.: Bug Boy, do you mean an orGANism?
BB: Yeah
M.L.: A living thing
BB: Oh, that's not what it says here.
(Mrs. Lewis walks over - quickly- and turns BACK the page on the big dictionary)
M.L: Look here
BB: Oh. OK. Thanks.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Well Wishers

I have had a chronic ear infection for about 2 years now. Last week, my doctor put me on new medication. My body does not like it and neither do I.  I took the first (and last) pill Tuesday night around 10 and by 3 am I was puking my guts up. In addition to all kinds of other intestinal distress, I puked so hard I burst blood vessels in my face and a blood vessel in my ear. It was lovely. I decided, however, that if I had stopped throwing up by 5 am, then I could probably go to school. Sometimes, believe it or not, it is just easier to go in and have the kids watch a movie and work on spelling than to try to get all the nine million things done for a sub. Plus, I am super picky about my subs and only want the two I like in my room. Yes, these are the things teachers think about even while praying to all kinds of gods a 3 a.m., porcelain or otherwise.
Anyway, I went in, because after falling asleep at 5 am and not waking up until 6:30, it was too late to call anyone to come in for me. Big, giant, huge mistake. I was nauseous all morning and silently retching behind my desk. (not, btw, easy to do.) One colleague said I looked gray. One told me they had never seen me look so bad, and everyone kept asking if I was ok. Finally, at 8:45 when I threw up during my break, I knew the party was over. I got my kids from PE and as they were doing their writing, arranged to grab one of my favorite super-subs (and all around pal) to come fill in. She was volunteering in a kindergarten room that day and was around. In the meantime while I was waiting, my kids just kept staring at me as if waiting for me to blow. Bad Boy even asked me "Mrs. Lewis, do you need a trash can?" At 9:45, I grabbed my stuff, my sweet little friends all said good-bye, that they hoped I felt better, and all the other things 9-year-olds can yell to their green and gross teacher as she is trying to leave before things get worse. As the door closed behind me and I sighed with relief, I heard one concerned voice get in a final farewell:

"Don't puke in the car, Mrs. Lewis!"

Thanks, guys.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why I Love Football Season

Football season is here. Not just NFL football, but high-school football. And I am thrilled. "But wait!" you say. "You hate football. Despise it! Think it is possibly the stupidest game EVER!" You are right. Nevertheless, I am thrilled it is here. And I will tell you why.

By the time Friday night rolls around, I am totally knackered. All I want to do is come home and fall face-down on the couch/bed/any flat surface. I don't want to talk/interact/see anyone. Including my husband. Joyfully for me, Mr. Lewis covers high school football. In the south, this means one thing: Friday Night Football games. They are a religious experience around here, and I still do not understand why grown people who have no children in the school, no grandchildren at the school, nor any connection to the school whatsoever persist in attending these games. Please, I beg to know, what is the attraction? But that's another rant for another time.

Anyway...because Mr. Lewis is covering these football games, he is usually working until 11:00. Which for me means peace and quiet and solitude and bad t.v. with no one to make fun of me and possibly a nap and no making dinner and maybe a long phone call with someone I have not talked to in a while with no interruptions. It is a glorious evening. I really, really love it.

Beyond Friday night I also have Sunday afternoon to look forward to. Mr. Lewis is an unabashedly devoted Jets Fan. Seriously, he is really devoted. It's kind of sad since all they do is lose.  However, because we live in Florida (and the Jets are a NY team), Jets games are not shown on regular cable TV. Oh no. They are ONLY shown at the sports bar where they have the satellite t.v. package. (conveniently located about 100 yards down the street) So Mr. Lewis has to trot himself over there to watch the continual slaughter. In his Jets jersey. And hat.

"Mrs. Lewis, you are MEAN!" you say. "Don't you WANT to spend time with your beloved on the weekend? After all, you both work, you are both busy, didn't you get married so you could be together?" Well, yes friends, we did get married so we could be together, but I did not get married so that every Sunday I would be subjected to hearing the yells and screams and foot-stomps (yes, he stomps his feet) that accompany the aforementioned spouse's watching of the NFL. So... off he goes. (Side note: I once offered to drive over and pick him up after a loss, but he told me "No. I need to walk this off". That is how seriously he takes these games and I ask you all: really?)

 This separation on Sunday truly is a win-win situation for us both. I get at least 4 hours of lovely solitude and Mr. Lewis gets to yell and pace and eat things like a pulled pork sandwich or a "french dip au jus" or a bacon cheeseburger. With fries. These are things he will never see in this house on these plates and so he relishes them. Everyone is happy.

I have at least 3 months of all this bliss ahead of me. I plan to love and take advantage of, every minute of it. And that, my dear readers, is why I love football season.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Yesterday we were happily doing our math. Everything was humming along and Bad Boy says - in the total silence, loudly and without any hint of shame- "Mrs. Lewis? What's a prostitute?" He even said it correctly. I was not sure he said what I thought he said so I said "What?!"
"What's a prostitute?"
"Bad Boy, does that have anything to do with place value? No. Get back to work."
I had to turn around to hide the laughing.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

An Ode to Morrissey

Oh, Steven Patrick. How I adore thee. Your giant hair, your amazing eyebrows. For 17 years, I have loved you from afar. I know I came to you late in my life, but in 1985 I was 9. I knew nothing of angst. When I was 15, possibly the coolest girl in my high school mentioned The Smiths to me. I found out who they were and I have been devoted to you ever since. I mark it as the beginning of my life as an Anglophile.  For me, Every Day Is Like Sunday.  You are The Light That Never Goes Out. I have seen you as the tragic hero and thought, much like every teenage girl in the world “If we could only find each other, I could be the one to make him happy”. Hours were spent in my room staring at pictures of you and Davy Jones. (I know, totally weird, but both English. Love at 15 cannot be explained.) Imagined scenarios floated around in my head involving the two of us and great swaths of gray, wet, windy English countryside. Lots of tweed.  
But I grew up. Others came and moved into the space in my heart that you once occupied. Michael Stipe. Robert Smith. Hugh Grant. (briefly). Music no longer had the same hold on me as it did at 16, 17 or 18. 20 saw a brief resurgence when I lived in Bath and you were everywhere, but alas, I came back.  
                    At 25, NPR wound its way around the emotional trellis of my being and choked off the part that once wore brown lipstick called “Toast of New York” and carried a black and steel box for a purse. Dust covered my 14-hole Doc Martens. (that I still wish I had bought with the heel.) I did not marry an English guy. 
                     At 30 I got an ipod and began filling it with podcasts and books. Amusing, but never really soul-touching. Have you ever thought of reading books on tape? I could totally get behind that one. Loved the endless possibilities of the ipod, but never felt it was a necessity in my life. If I did not have it, the sun would still rise. Music had taken the way-back seat in my life. 
                     The years passed. But, My Unrequited Love, I have news. Recently I saw a trailer for a new movie  “(500) Days of Summer” In it was one of your songs. A tremor went through me. It was like recognizing an old friend out of the corner of your eye. Suddenly, my head was filled with all kinds of lyrics. All kinds of melodies. Your voice. And so I ran to my CD collection, loaded up the CD’s and put them all on my ipod. Suddenly it was 1993. I was wearing plaid and you were telling me that Meat was Murder and The Queen is Dead. Frankly, Mr. Morrissey, I was in bliss.  Through the miracle of the ipod I have your whole catalog at my fingertips. And on Tuesday as I drove home, I cranked you up and sang with you as loud as I could. Even though it was pouring. Even though I probably should have been paying closer attention, I was yelling my head off and rocking out in the car. It was a beautiful sight. I knew at that moment you were back in my life for good, reclaiming your place in my heart.
                       At 33 I realize the foolishness of my teenage dreams. I know we can never really be together. I know that even if we meet, you can never be happy. It’s just not who you are. You revel in the vegan-ism, the depression, sadness, angst and unrest. But it’s o.k.  I have your music. I have what I need. And somewhere, hidden deep in the recesses, I have my Doc Martens. I am totally going to put them on, crank you up and rock out.

10 days down....170 to go!

3 things to talk about this week:

So the last two weeks have been We started our school year with the death of a colleague who had been very sick. We all hoped she was going to make it, we all hoped she was going to join us for the year, we all hoped she would be part of our lives again. Alas, it was not meant to be and she passed away the Friday before school began. So the year started out rough. Viewing the first day, funeral the second. (death in Florida is weird. Seriously. The night before the funeral, you literally line up on one side of the funeral home, walk past the coffin to "view it" and then walk out the other side in a giant circle. That's it. It's like a drive-by! One of my colleagues and I sat down thinking that, you know, there would be words or something. Nope. Another colleague informed us that that was it and what were we waiting around for? Okaaayyyy...)Although she and I were not good friends, she was one of those people who was just really nice, you know? One of those people who had a kind word for everyone and always had something nice to say to you. It was doubly sad for the kids who had her as a teacher in the past. One of the positive things that came out of all this if indeed such a thing can happen,  was that the person who has taken over her class so far is a woman who has been at my school since God was a child. Like 42 years or something. She was forced to retire 2 years ago and subbed all last year. To see her back at our school, despite the circumstances, is a great thing. She is an amazing teacher. She is a super rock-star of teaching, and all though we don't know how long the district will let her stay with us, I know that if the kids in this room could not have their assigned teacher this year, Ms. B. is a hell of a sub. She is the kind of teacher I wish I had had. So that was how our year began. Sad.
My friends are beginning to settle down into a routine and I am discovering all their little quirks. True conversation while they were working on their Social Studies foldable. (FYI for those of you not in the know, a foldable is a study and /or review aid that is disguised as an arts and crafts project.)

DRAMA GIRL: (to 5 other girls sitting at her table) You know Ted Kennedy is dead? It's sad. My life is sad (She is 9)

From across the room, no idea where it came from, comes another voice: Didn't someone shoot him?

DG: Yeah, I think so.

ME: (from my desk) No one shot Ted Kennedy.

DISEMBODIED VOICE: Well I know someone someone shot Obama.

ME: No one shot Obama

DV: So Ted Kennedy got shot?

ME: No.

Another DV: Then who shot Obama?

DG: No one! Don't you listen?

ADV: Someone got shot, all I am trying to find out is who! Geez! So who shot Ted Kennedy?

ME: (standing in the middle of the room) No one got shot! No ONE! Kennedy had brain cancer, he died after being sick and this has NOTHING to do with your Social Studies! Now get back to work!

silence descends......until after a slight pause you hear:

ADV: Does brain cancer hurt as much as getting shot?


The thing is, this whole conversation took about 3 seconds, pinged across the room and did not faze me at all. It made me laugh later in the day, because honestly, in fourth grade, this is exactly how the whole day operates.

I have a little friend in my class we will call Bad Boy. Bad Boy is not bad, but he thinks he is. I had his brother last year, and if I had to live up to that....well, I would want to consider myself a Bad Boy too. So Bad Boy and I have a relationship from last year, and I think we understand each other. He and I get along and right now, that's a great thing. On Thursday he came up to me and motioned for me to lean over. (he is pretty short). He whispered in my ear "Mrs. Lewis, I did all my homework!" Now this may not seem like a lot, but for Bad Boy, it is huge! I looked at him and said "All RIIIIIIGHHTTTT!!!!  HIGH FIVE! Now I have to do my Bad Boy dance in celebration!"
(My kids all get their own dances in my room. If they do something awsome, I will treat them to the dance named after them. It's pretty dorky, but they love it and think it's just about the funniest thing they have ever seen.)
I did my Bad Boy dance. He stood totally still for about 5 seconds after, looked at me and said "I will always do my homework for the rest of the year if you promise not to ever to that again"

Deal, Bad Boy, Deal.