Saturday, May 21, 2005

Baby Whews

I didn't post yesterday, because I spent the entire day babysitting a 7 month old boy. My friend Paul had to go to St. Louis (for a bachelor party), and his wife had to be at work. With no other options, he called me. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am loyal to a few people and willing to help if needed. I called in to take the day off (sorry Highland) and went over to help.
Basically, I had to drop Paul off at the airport and then watch the kid by myself for seven hours. No problem, right? Wrong. You see, I had never been with an infant by myself before 10:30 yesterday morning. Oh, I had watched Xavier before, but not without my wife to guide me (she used to watch her younger cousins when they were babies). I am the youngest of three kids, and the youngest of my cousins (of the ones I saw as a child), thus I never before had worked with a baby. Want to guess how I was feeling after Paul left the car? Nervous would cover it.
I got young Xavier home, and immediately he started to cry. This was not a "I'm not a happy camper" cry. No, no, no, no. This was more of a "Oh dear lord, why have you left me with this man? I'm gonna die" cry. He got so shrill, that I could feel my ears hurting when I got close to him. This was only twenty-five minutes since he was in my charge. His crying totally flustered me. I ran through the various things it could be in my head. It played out as a conversation between myself and my Id (or Ego, or whatever. That's not the point.)
Maybe he's hungry?
No he ate in the car. Remember, Paul fed him.
Ok, then maybe he needs to be burped?
Good thinking, let's try it. (after a few minutes, Xavier is still wailing and my left ear is ringing.) No good. Next idea?
Could he have pooped? Smell him.
No, he smells fine. I'll change the diaper anyway.
As soon as put him on the changing table, he got louder. The cat bolted at this point as if to say, "screw you. Your problem, bub." The diaper was clean. Again, having never really worked with diapers, and with the little poppet screaming, I became flustered. I had a hard time getting the diaper into the right position. I started to think about my mother, and my sister. How could they do this? I was only with him for a half an hour, and I was ready to sell him on the black market for a pair of eyes and half a liver. It made me realize how strong parents have to become in order to deal with all of these issues.
Anyway, with his diaper changed, his crying had not really subsided. He was now hicupping from his crying. "Waaaa, hic, aaaah!" I returned to my conversation.
Damn. I was sure that was it....Ok, how old is he again?
He's 7 months old.
Ok, what happens when a baby is 7 months old?
Uuuhh. Uuuhh. Ooh, maybe he's teething? Where's that teething ring?
The ring did the trick, he stopped crying. I later found out that Xavier was supposed to have a nap, but I had not been informed of this.
The rest of the day went alot smoother. Xavier watched Antigone with me (he was not a fan. I'm not sure I really am either). He kept trying to crawl, but the house has harwood floors, so he kept pushing himself backwards. It looked like a modern dance piece. After he ate again at one, he fought it and fought it, but he fell asleep. After a nap of a little less than two hours, he was up again, and playing with me. His favorite thing seems to be "upside-down baby" where he is turned upside-down and swung around. There were giggles (from both of us). Lori, his mother, returned home around six, and Xavier lit up (he is very aware of who his parents are).
So, the final score read something like this:
One baby still alive, one mother relieved, six phone calls from or to family members (a totally unrelated issue), four diapers changed, one bottle of milk downed (baby), and one extremely tired baby sitter (though it wasn't the baby that made me tired, so much as family talks and a very warm house).
What lesson did I learn from all this? I don't know. The kid's alive, so I guess I can take care of a baby. Do I want a child of my own? I still don't know. I'm not thrilled that this came about for a bachelor party, but again, that's another story. Suffice to say, I am actually sore today (probably from holding the baby so much yesterday).
So, to parents out there, I salute you for your ability to take care of these small creatures and remain (somewhat) sane.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Vindication (5/19/05)

Yes, I put the date, because I might actually be right about more than one thing.
On this morning's edition of the
92 KQRS Morning Show, they discussed how bad Minnesota drivers are. They mentioned the retaliation factor, the driving on the shoulder, and all the other aspects that I have been mentioning. I don't mind getting hate mail from Minnesotans who tell me things like (and I quote), "You don't know shit. Why don't you go back to New York where no one speaks English." Or my other favorite email, "If I see you on the road, I will knock you into the wall and laugh and 'call my neighbor' as you die."
Again, this is the passive-aggressive tendency. When Minnesotans get into their cars, it's like a person slapping Bruce Banner. You know what happens when Banner gets mad? That's right, he becomes the Incredible Hulk. Minnesotans are the same way. Are you following them too closely? Bam! They morph into their aggressive behaviors.
You can say all you want to me about this, but I now feel vindicated.
On another note, the absolutely fantastic blogger(s) known as
Slanderous Minneapolis featured Ironic Teachings as the guest blogger today. That's right, I threw out some slander AND some libel. Dual threats. Check it out at some point and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

When A Person Listens

It's very strange when people actually listen to you. More often than not, we glumly look at another person, shaking our head as if to say we're listening, but really we are somewhere else. As a teacher, I'm used to a room full of these people. They stare at you with eyes of glass and nod only when you look at them. Perhaps one or two students are listening, but most of the time they are thinking about that afternoon, or a video game they were playing, or whatever runs through the mind of a 9th-12th grade student. This is not limited to the classroom either. No one can claim to have never performed the "Fake Listening Trick." We've all done it. There's even a skill to it.
You get a phone call from someone you know, but it's an inopportune time. They begin their story while you are doing whatever it is you need to finish or just want to do. At random intervals when the voice stops, you interject a "uh-huh," or a "I understand." So that's why it's so strange when people actually listen to you. Then whatever you told them is there for until they forget. In this digital age, if a person posts (like in a blog or live journal) what you told them, then it is there for all to see.
I bring this up, because there is one student who I am convinced does not really listen to me, but likes to play games with me. We will discuss her in her own blog another time. Anyway, this student has a blog of her own. Recently, she has been unhappy about a few things, and she has, in my opinion, a very skewed view of the world. She is also young. Somewhere in the sixteen to eighteen range (and before you get that thought in your mind, dear reader, no. I never would. Get over it). I decided to give her some advice. Basically, I gave her the rules by which I live my life. I won't share those with you now, but suffice to say, I was shocked when I saw the she had put them on her blog. I meant to help her with her issues, but I really didn't think that she would actually listen to me (she is a master of the Fake Listening Technique).
This goes to show you that sometimes people can surprise you and actually listen. Beyond that, it shows the power that words have. You've all heard, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." If that were true, however, then words would not have the power to draw out emotions.
So be careful, you never know when someone may actually be listening to you.

Life In The Slow Lane

Minnesota has decided to open up the express lanes to anyone willing to pay to get on them. In theory, this is a wonderful idea. Drop a few bucks, and you can skip the rush hour traffic to get to your destination. There's only one problem: Minnesota has forgotten that the people here are terrible drivers (it's no wonder that this state has been ranked in the top ten for bad driving). Some of the natives realize this, because there was an article back in 1999 in the July 29th edition of the Star Tribune. Essentially, the article admitted that Minnesotans can't merge, drive the wrong speeds in the incorrect lanes, and are overall pretty bad drivers. You need more proof? Look at the amount of road rage posted about Minnesotans. I believe I mentioned these problems in a previous post.
Now you can send a nastygram or
hate mail, because you believe I am wrong or are just bitter about your driving, but I have further proof from Minnesotans themselves.
As I mentioned before, the new 394 lanes are open to the public should they wish to pay. An article on Tuesday said that the lanes were a complete success, but the picture as well as the experience says otherwise. The picture shows the entire eastbound lanes of 394 backed up in all lanes, including the new "fast lane". The picture, however, is not the only way to tell the experiment is not working at 100%.
Jackie was born in Minnesota (up near Brainerd), grew up in Minnesota, and still lives in Minnesota. She also has the benefit of living near 394 and takes the express lane in order to get to work. On Monday (as well as Tuesday) she took the express lane in the hopes that it would go faster. Unfortunately, instead of only three lanes of backed up traffic with people driving 4 mph in the left lane, Jackie had to deal with an express lane that was backed up. Think about that for a minute. The EXPRESS LANE was backing up. What's the point of the lane then? She explained that the following problems occured:
1. No one would let people move over. That sounds really familiar.
2. People were driving slower. Again, not only familiar, but it's an EXPRESS LANE. Go faster.
3. Many attempts at angry retaliation. Apparently, if a Minnesotan gets cut off, they will retaliate. It doesn't matter that it endangers everyone else, just as long as he or she gets revenge.
4. Unsafe Tailgating. I know, almost all tailgating is unsafe, but it is necessary at times. However, she explained that people were driving so close that you could see their pores. Maybe that's a little exaggeration, but I have seen how close they get.
On Tuesday, I myself went into the lanes in order to bypass (or so I hoped) traffic. I, too, experienced the above problems. We slowed to a crawl and were barely (and I stress BARELY) moving faster than regular traffic. I watched a green BMW on the outside keep pace with me. I believe we were both moving at 25 to 35 MPH. If that's the case, what's the point? I had a Escalade on my rear that was so close, I could almost read the lips on the kids in the back seat. This woman was not paying attention to me, but rather looking at her kids and looking at the clouds and other cars. At one point, we had to slow down quickly, and I heard the screech of tires from behind me. I honestly prepared to be hit. I was convinced I would be because she was so close. Luckily, I was able to swerve a little, and she was as well. She did almost hit me, and instead of being shocked, she rolled down her window, honked at me, and started screming at me to pay more attention. That is that wonderful Minnesota Nice at work. In the car? Go nuts.
I know a driving instructor who says that everything he tells his students is countered by their parents. He once witnessed a parent tell his son, "you don't have to let people in. They have to find their own way." That's a problem, people.
So here's my tip to you: Review the rules of the road and learn to let go of your anger and frustration. When we drive angry, we don't pay attention. Think of Bill Murray in
Groundhog Day: everytime you get frustrated, think, "Don't drive angry. Don't drive angry." Do that, and maybe we won't be in the top ten of the worst states to drive in anymore.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Hyperbole: They Name Is High School Student

I teach high school students. Those wonderful "not really kids anymore/ not quite adults yet" creatures that are made of sarcasm, attitude, and a pinch of idiocy. Many of them think that the most minor problems are the end of the world. A recent conversation I heard makes my case.
The following is a real conversation between two high school girls. The conversation took place on May 16th. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Girl A: Terri. TERRI! I could just DIE. I mean I could die.
Terri: What's wrong, Linda?
Linda: Oh my god! So no one told me that at prom, I had the same shoes as Tina. I could JUST die.
Terri: That's not so bad. Did I tell you about my date with Matt on Friday? Oh my god. I got home and looked at my nose, and I had a HUGE zit! I did not know what to do. I covered it with makeup, but all night I swear he was staring right at it.
(Editor's note: Matt did not, in fact, notice. He was totally oblivious and stared at her nose, because he was nervous about looking her in the eyes. This was explained to me later when I asked him about his date.)
Linda: Oh my god! (That's the third time it was said in under a minute.) Maybe he didn't notice. Maybe you had food on it or something?
Terri: I don't know. He didn't call me the rest of the weekend. I just don't know what it means.

Now the issue here is that these girls are sixteen or seventeen. They have all of college to meet more people. They have more time in high school to meet more people. One girl got a 30 on her ACT, a 3.8 GPA, and she was convinced that her lack of community service (even though she had other extracurriculars) would keep her from getting into any college. I know we were all like that. Ok, I wasn't, but many of us were. Something must happen when we're in college that makes us grow up. We no longer care about the fact that we're might be wearing the same outfit as someone else and our world view grows.
Of course many people say that real life is like high school, cliques and all (Minnesota may feed that rumor). Maybe these students should be worried about the most minor things. Instead of worrying about the future, maybe I should worry about what the teacher next door thinks about my hair. Maybe I should be more concerned that another faculty member hates me?
In my honest opinion, no. One of the keys of graduating from high school is to learn NOT to use hyperbole or over-exaggerate as much. By the time that you're an "adult", you've learned how to put all that behind you. So put your petty squables away and get over your feelings about wearing the same shoes, because otherwise, you may never really get to experience life.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The (Not So) Quiet Anger of a Colleague

I have not been a teacher very long. I admit that I am a rookie. However, it has not taken very much time for me to make friends and enemies. Unfortunately, in my second month of student teaching I was told by another teacher that she hated me. She flat out did not like me, what I stood for, or what I taught. Honestly this was a shock. I could not believe that this woman, a fellow teacher, was taking time to explain to me why she hated me. At first, I thought it was a joke, so I laughed. I figured out it was not a joke when she cocked her head like a puppy hearing a noise and asked, "and just WHAT is so funny?"
Fast forward to today. I was covering a class when I saw this colleague in the hall. She stopped, turned to me, and said, "What are you doing here?" I responded, "I'm covering this class." After taking in the room, the students, and myself, she took a deep breath and asked, "But why you?"
Now, how would you answer that? Would you flip her off? Tell her to stuff it? Answer politely? Regardless of your answer, I was actually polite (a strain, but I did it). I told her, "They asked me to cover, I had the free time, so I said yes." Again, she hit me with that look. She was unhappy with me being in the building.
Confused, I turned to the class to begin. One student quickly said, "Mr. L. She really doesn't like you." Well, I already knew that, but I didn't want to be unprofessional, so I said, "I guess." However, this student was not done. "No, Mr. L, I don't think you understand. We mentioned you in her class, and she went nuts. She said you were a horrible teacher, a horrible person, and we should never take a class with you." This sounded too much like a joke, so I laughed it off, but then another student said it was true. I knew I annoyed people, but I never realized that one conversation (and we had only ONE conversation) was enough to make someone talk smack about you to students. Still, that's so unprofessional. You do not go to the students and talk down about another teacher. That takes away respect and is classless. Still, this was out of the mouth of high school students. I just wasn't sure it could be the truth. Let me explain: I respect and like my students, but sometimes I think they like to stir up the hornets' nest.
Unsure of whether or not the truth had been told, I turned to one of the faculty members that I knew always told it as it really is. He has no problem telling students what they may not want to here. He has never backed down from putting faculty members in their place. I asked him if this woman had really said these things. He took a breath, looked at me, and said, "Yup. She hates you. She hates the fact that you don't share her beliefs, and apparently she really doesn't like that you give the students any control in the class."
So what does that say for the professionalism of teachers? Is her anger toward me such that instead of talking just to me about it, she has to get the students involved? Is she hoping that the students will turn on me and lead a coup within my classroom? That she can come to my room, and my head will be on a pike, and the students will be shouting her name? I just don't get it.
In the end, however, I care more about the students than what one of my colleagues thinks of me. She doesn't really affect my job. The students do. If my students are not doing well, then I am not doing well. That's the point of being an educator: to better the students, not the faculty. Perhaps this teacher has forgotten that.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Not Living Up To Potential

A guy I work with found my blog and gave me only one comment:
"Hey, Ironic Teachings (or whatever you're called). You mention irony. You have irony in your name, but you don't really use any irony. What's up with that?"
Ok, ok. I'll try to add a little more iron(y) to the diat(ribe).
I know. It's a bad joke.
Look, I'm stupid, but I'm friendly. Isn't that enough?
I'll make sure that some of my posts have an ironic twist (cue M. Night, "What a twist" Shyamalan).
As a final note on this Saturday night/Sunday morning: thanks to
Digital Retrograde for posting about us little folks.