I encourage my students to ask questions. I don’t hop around in front of them going, “Ask me! Ask meeee!” But if they ask a question, I’ll answer it to the best of my ability. Thinking back over the questions asked recently, I can only conclude that they’re sometimes a bloodthirsty bunch.

“If I was in the eye of a hurricane, and it was going pretty slowly, and I could walk along with it, would I be safe? Oh, and then what if someone fired a missile at me? Would it come through?”

“What would win in a fight of a Great White and a Killer Whale?”

“If a person fell into a vat of acid, would they die because their skin was missing, or from shock and pain?”

“What would we do if we didn’t have any bones?”

“Could you make a deer mad enough to charge at you?”

Although I have to say, they’re not always bloodthirsty:

“Was Rosa Parks a Buddhist?”

“What’s the best CSI if I can only watch one?”

“What do possums eat?”

“Do they have parrots in Jamaica?”

“Do sow bugs have mouths?”

I do my best, but a lot of the time, I have to say I’m not really sure.

I Confess!

I totally forgot to post a confessions thread on Friday, as I was so busy having a birthday!

Anyone else want to confess?

Bring It.

So. Apparently, the Self-Confidence Fairy finally found her way to me, after a backorder of about fifteen years, and dumped the accrued years’ worth of self-confidence over me like a trucker pours syrup at IHOP.

First, I called a friend on his bullshit after he insulted E over a matter of what turns out is of very little importance. It was a clash of values, but said friend needs to be schooled in the ways that adults relate to one another. I stepped up.

Then last night, I sang along, loudly, to Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” with no regard to the safety of those around me. I can’t actually sing, so it was a leap of faith for me to do it out in public, with people around me.

After that, I argued with a guy for mocking another guy’s musical taste. Matty likes The Smiths and has no problem with the fact that Morrisey is gay, because he loves Morrisey’s awesome lyrics. Fucktard (an alias) can’t get over the fact that Morrisey is gay, and, so, therefore, Matty must be as well. I argued for a while, but Fucktard had no actual argument (what a surprise). So I simply called Fucktard a boor, and when he looked at me with disbelief, I said, “It’s four fucking letters long. Don’t tell me you don’t know what it means, you moron.” I could blame the two glasses of wine I had consumed, but I’d rather call it self-confidence.

Is this how self-confident people feel all the time? Like there’s champagne in their veins and they’re able to channel a deity? Wow. What have I been missing?

In Which I Turn 35: Redux.

I was born thirty-five years ago to parents whom, before I caught in my mother’s womb, wondered if they might be infertile. Heh, even then, I took my own sweet time. My father named me, while my mother was still groggy from drugs and couldn’t protest, after a queen and a princess, “Because she is,” he allegedly said.

I think I remember my first birthday. I squished a cupcake onto an aqua-painted steel highchair tray.

Three-and-a-half: Green Eggs and Ham isn’t a mystery anymore. I’m reading!

In Kindergarten at four, I’m the only kid who knows what ‘soporific’ means.

Six: Ashamed I can’t write in my journal fast enough. My fingers won’t move fast enough to still have legible printing.

Eight years old, and I’m in both enrichment and remedial classes. My brain shows me fireworks and my hands can’t write them down!

I’m eleven, and I’m sitting next to a crying girl. She’s been excluded by the mean girls in the class. They pick on a new girl every day. I’ve also been excluded, so I make it a point to hang with the excluded girl. Every day. The mean girls hate me.

I’m twelve. Icy sweat runs down my back as I tell my teacher that not only girls sew, and his suggestion is misogynistic. Later on, he tells my mother, with some bemusement, that I will never march to a regular drummer.

At fourteen, I ask one of the ‘bad’ kids, in a grade above me, if I can borrow his hat. The popular mean girls never bother me again.

I am sixteen and I am so in love I can hardly stand it.

I am seventeen and I can’t believe I ever thought he was anything at all. I spend my lunch hours sketching my friends or escaping for coffee to a cafe.

Nineteen: Someone pulls the fire alarm at the university pub. Outside in the cold, a sincere engineer hands me a clumsy poem written to my dancing.

I’m twenty-one and I am sobbing my heart out as cars slide by on Pacific Boulevard. The man I love most in the world takes me into his arms.

Belly dancing! I am twenty-three and I cannot believe I’ve found a way to exercise that is this much fun!

Twenty-five. My ex-boyfriend is a monster, a shell of the person I thought he was. Goodbye, monster.

I am twenty-seven. I cannot believe how much the university throws at me, in order for me to become a teacher. It’s like they even hate me for trying. My favourite uncle dies. I don’t have time to grieve, I’ve got so much busywork.

Twenty-eight: This man I am dating is too simple. He must be hiding something.

Thirty: He’s not hiding anything. He is easy in his likes and dislikes. Thank God, because my mother is dying and I hate my job. How the hell did I ever think I could be a teacher?

At thirty-one: Mired in grief. My boyfriend and I move in together. I wake up crying, but I no longer rebel against getting out of bed. I get out of the regular classroom and start tutoring and teaching privately. E points put that I am happier to go to work, even with the dead mother issue.

Thirty-one: small-class ESL doesn’t make me want to kill myself. Result!

When I am thirty-three, my father moves a five-hour journey away. Cue more anger.

Thirty-four: I don’t wake up crying at all, almost. I can have a conversation with my father that lasts more than ten minutes. I’m pretty sure I am an adult.

Bring it on, thirty-five! What happens next?

Giving Thanks.

Thanksgiving is earlier in Canada than the States because, as we are more northerly, the harvest is earlier. So this weekend was a general overindulgence in all things. We went over to Fran and Jim’s, as per usual. Jim cooked two birds. I sous-cheffed and E did the gravy. And I fell in love.

Mike is a tall, dark, lean cool cat of a dude. An accomplished jazz musician and all-around audiophile, he does more listening than talking. He has an intriguing smile and a certain elan with his clothes. Chill, Y’all. I didn’t fall for Mike. I fell for his Sweet Potato Pie.

Oh, the sweet potato pie. It had its wicked way with me. And then, when I was fully sated, replete with Thanksgiving goodness, I had to sneak back for another taste.

How was I to know that such a thing would be so good? I mean, it’s in books, right, but it’s not really real, right? Like Whataburger or fried onions in a can. Or those hamburgers they call sliders. But sweet potato pie does exist, and I have fallen deeply, deeply in love with it.

I am thankful for friends, for family. For my life and its trials and tribulations. But I am especially thankful for sweet potato pie.

The Curse of ‘Gifted’.

Since I have some super-smart friends, and they have some super-smart kids, and I, myself, have been known from time to time as super-smart, I’m writing about it.

Being labeled ‘gifted’ can have huge ramifications for a student, largely because of other peoples’ assumptions and misconceptions. The label can give a kid a lot of confidence, but it can also be a burden.

Some people seem to feel that if a child is gifted, it means he will act exactly like an adult, only shorter. A gifted child is still a child, and will respond as a child to different situations. Just because he is far above grade level in reading or math does not mean that he is emotionally above grade-level. Adults (even educators) who cry, “But you’re gifted!” as a protest to age-appropriate reactions are cheating the child of his chance to be just that-a child.

Some people expect a gifted person to be exceptional in all subjects. That’s not the case. I got slapped with the label, in terms of language development. Yet I had to go back to high school for math 11, because it took four tries to pass it. I could legally buy beer, but I was too busy studying for math tests. Kids who have that kind of “You’re not living up to yourself” pressure on them will really struggle with self-esteem, because “their best isn’t good enough”.

Sometimes there are backlashes in the classroom as well. If a gifted child is forced to learn only at the speed of his peers, he’ll get bored. And just as nature abhors a vacuum, so does a kid who wants to be occupied, find things to occupy him. That causes problems when he disturbs or distracts other kids. And with 30 kids in the room, and the teacher trying to accommodate all other learning speeds and styles, if that teacher doesn’t have a contingency plan in place with the gifted kid, hijinks ensue.

Kids who get these labels often find their own coping strategies to get through their schooling. The label shows, and they’re aware of it. The label can cause grief through ostracizing and bullying. For some reason, however, some parents still want their children labeled this way.

I have taught those children, and grown up with them. Their lives are a misery. I call their parents Label Chasers, because they will hound and harass their children and their childrens’ teachers ad nauseum just to get that label. Some Label Chasers will go so far as to encourage their children to cheat to get into Honours classes. And when the kids can’t handle the pressure, it’s a huge time-sucking blowup for the teacher and the administration.

The children of Label Chasers can suffer even after their education is finished. After a childhood and adolescence being pressured to do more than they are actually capable of, they often find the relief of not being pressured too seductive. So they drift, working joe jobs, unconsciously rejecting the years of “FasterBetter,GetTheLabelOrYou’reNothing” conditioning. And that’s really not fair.

In an ideal education system, there would be no labels, but accommodation for every student, of every ability, with the resources, training, and staffing to help every kid understand that who they are is okay, and no better or worse than any other person.

Friday Confessions.

It’s early, but whatever.

I don’t have a lot to confess this week. Some weeks are smooth that way.

1) Gym. Meh.

2) I jonesed for the new House episode. I finally got to see it late last night, and felt so much better. And laughed and shouted, “Who’s the nerd?” at the “TESLA WAS ROBBED” on the blackboard.

3) I hate Korean sushi and I wish people would stop giving it to me.

What’s up with the rest of you?

Wednesday Tutoring.

On Wednesdays after I finish my work-work, I head up to UBC to tutor. I always learn things from my kids, but my Wednesday guy is special.

He has a particular neurological condition that makes him twitch, sometimes violently. When I first started tutoring him, his parents sat me down and explained it all to me, and there was the underlying message that I must treat him like glass, because he was fragile. They cosset him a great deal.

So I was nervous for a while, because he twitches more when he’s excited than when he’s calm. I kept him as calm as possible, because I caught the parents’ feeling: twitching = not normal = wrong.

But then I began to realize, the kid doesn’t care that he twitches. That’s his parents’ hangup. And we began to get raucous. Now, we shout each other down, he runs around the room to illustrate a point, we laugh and chant the words of books as I read to him. He twitches, sure, but we don’t care.

His parents are astonished at how much he’s learning, although I see them worrying about the general volume of tutoring sessions. Maybe, in time, they’ll learn something as well. Their kid is a little different, and that’s okay. He is also bright, enthusiastic, inquisitive, and happy.

Maybe, like I have, they’ll learn that he is more than his twitch.

Techno Peasant Strikes Again!

So this morning our handyman came over to rewire our kitchen light, which was turning off intermittently. But in this house, nothing is ever simple. The landlord came down, and, in finding out which breaker turned that light off, we ended up trying to figure out the other breakers so we could label them all and be safe and sensible.

Did I say nothing is ever simple? Right. So, in flicking breakers, we ended up inconveniencing the people on the main floor, both of whom are home with bad colds. We thought we’d just see which breakers controlled stuff up there (there are two breaker boxes in the house), and learned things like, our kitchen light is also on the breaker that controls half of their bedroom lights. Only half, mind. And the top-of-the-stairs light in the laundry room is also on the bathroom breaker. So I ran back and forth from calling upstairs, “Anything go off?” to alerting my landlord, who was writing it down.

Naturally, I forgot to turn off E’s computer, and I don’t know how to get it all running again. Even worse, something happened with the TV remote, and I can’t get the TV to play anything but Star Trek on the Space Channel.

Basically, I shouldn’t be allowed to play with electricity.


I am it. But it is becoming apparent that I need to become less so. I need more adult students in the daytime, before I go to work-work.

Yet part of me wonders, if I put word out that I’ve got time, will I have a bigger response than I can handle? Then again, what if no adults want conversation classes?

Gah. This is the curse of being semi-self-employed.

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