Inside Mrs. B's Classroom

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Before you start to worry that I have forgotten how the whole calendar system works - let me reassure you dear readers that I am aware that this is the middle of the week. But, Back to School week has always been a half week where I live - so it seemed appropriate to only do a half week here on the blog. I don't know what Back to School week is like where you live dear readers, but where I grew up Back t0 School week was always a half day on Wednesday (and don't think I wasn't tempted to only read half of the book today, followed by full days on Thursday and Friday. And then I would sink into the weekend and be really dramatic and walk around the house acting like I had put in a hard week at school and therefore had earned the reward of a weekend of doing nothing. Upon reflection I can see now why my Mother spent so much of my childhood rolling her eyes.

And now it's that special time again, when I force you to look at childhood pictures of me:

First, it's time to address the corners of the pictures - I have no idea what possessed me to do that, but when I was about 11 I came up with the spectacular idea to cut all of the corners off my pictures. I somehow had the idea that it would look good - and boy was I wrong about that. Oh well, live and learn.

Here I am on my first day of school. I am filled with chagrin over the fact that my backpack did not match my outfit (a problem I would have never let happen in later school years - but I was still a child then, and I didn't realize the importance of accessorizing to make a good impression - and don't even get me started on the white tights.)

I consider this picture my proof that I am not exaggerating about the number of picture my Mother has taken of us over the years. I often tell people that she likes to take a picture of us on the third step before then taking one of us on the fourth step - and as you can see, she really does take pictures of everything.

I've forgotten at least two-thirds of my life, which is really sad for a person who is as young and sober as I am, but I do have a very vivid memory of my first bus ride to school. I was sitting on the bus thinking about how my life was passing me by too quickly and pretty soon I was going to be dead (I'm really not kidding.) Yes, that's just the kind of kid I was, the fun never stopped. I just sat around having cheerful thoughts all the time. And for some reason I was always convinced that both of my parents were going to die before I got home from school, so every day when the bus would pull up in front of my house and I didn't see ambulances I would breathe a sigh of relief and think, "Thank God every one's still alive." I have no idea why I was so high strung - and even more perplexing was how I managed to have a really happy childhood in the middle of the vat of anxiety that I was permanently floating in, but somehow it happened.

End of the week count:


PAGES - 2,025

For the year so far:

CHAPTERS - 4,939

PAGES - 62,257

Today's book, "Chicago's public school system in the 1980s and '90s was a stark symbol of the nation's educational crisis. Veteran Chicago Sun-Times journalist Leslie Baldacci was an expert on the subject. She wrote regularly on the school system's woes, calling on the mayor or other city officials to save the decaying system. Then one day, she decided to do something about it. Baldacci traded in her press pass for a teaching certificate, and never looked back. With high ideals and great expectations, the author was soon teaching in one of Chicago's toughest South Side neighborhoods. . . "

Shallow thoughts:

  • Today's book is not the kind I would normally read, but I'm so glad that I did because I really liked it. The book surprised me in several ways. First, I thought that it would just blend with all of the other "I taught in a tough school" books and movies, and there seems to be quite a few of those - but, there was something fresh about today's book that made me feel like I wasn't just reading the same old book. Second, there were parts that were actually amusing, which I did not expect - I started reading this book expecting it to be totally bleak and yet there were unexpected moments of humor.

  • Not-so-fun fact about teaching: A third of new teachers quit after three years and half quit after five years. - I'm truly shocked by that number. I had no idea. And now, the next time I see my brother (who is a high school teacher and coach) I'm going to have something to say to him other than "Please, pass the salt." So I'm feeling pretty excited about that.

  • The part of the book where the author was complaining about the way children are encouraged in school to write in boring, formulaic way, really resonated with me. I always used to be amazed by how a person who loved to read and write as much as I do could dread English class so much. But it was one of the my least favorite classes (next to science, except for that one year when we had a student teacher for science class that spent the whole year talking about the affair she was having with one of the other science teachers - that was also the class where one of the students faked a pregnancy and a miscarriage. . . but that's a story for another time, and it's a damn good one too.) I spend every day of English class feeling like I was having the creativity slowly drained out of me (except for in Mrs. Wilson's class in elementary school - she was delightful.) If I had a dollar for every time I got an English paper back that said, "You stray to far from the main point," which always made me wonder Just what is the point of writing if we're not supposed to start from one point and make our way to some place we've never been before? And what exactly is the point of circling the airport for five pages and then ending up exactly where I started? So I channeled my frustration into making a list of all of the people who I was going to send a xerox copy of the cover of my first book to, with the words "HA HA" written across the top in red ink. I had originally planned to send them the whole book, but then I decided Why should they get a free book, they don't deserve that. I also added to the list every person who was mean to me, and every person who said, "You know, a lot of people want to write a book, but very few of them actually get something published." Yes, I've always been petty.

And now, I would like to hear about your happy (and depressing) back to school memories dear readers.