Sunday, September 20, 2009

Shameless Plug

Yes, it's my first blog post in a while, and I'm out begging. Please check out my request on! People who donate, even small donations like $10 or $25, get thank you cards and super-cute pictures of the kids using their new dictionaries!


That link looks weird. If it doesn't work, post a comment and I'll fix it.

Thank you thank you thank you!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Creepy Stalker Tech Guy

As promised, I'm finally sitting down, practically at the scene of the crime, to let you laugh and cry with me over the antics of our own local Creepy Stalker Tech Guy.

I hope you appreciate the risks I'm taking in telling this story. No, I probably won't be kidnapped or tortured, but getting on the wrong side of the computer tech people in any business can sink you like a lead balloon, and I wouldn't be surprised if CreepyStalkerTechGuy has installed a keystroke-logger on my machine.

Scary, you say? Yeah. It is.

It all began at the start of the last school year. In years past, work orders for computer-related problems could take forever to process, so we were all happy when the district hired a few more IT people and assigned one of them to our school site, which is shared by two schools. I needed some software updates, so the new guy came in after school.

I quickly discovered that he talks better than he works.

Within 30 minutes, he had poured out his entire life story, moaning and groaning about how he kept losing jobs because he had to go to court over a custody battle from his nasty divorce, but he was ready to start dating again, get back into a relationship...

...and suddenly I recognized the warning signs I haven't seen since high school. This guy was about to ask me out! There were students still on campus, people wandering in and out of the room, and he was planning the unthinkable!

So, quick as I could, I "accidentally" dropped a pencil on the desk in front of him and, of course, picked it up with my LEFT hand. He saw the diamond and caught the hint, or so I thought.

"So, are you engaged or married?"

"I'm married."

"Oh..." He thought for a moment.

And then came the icing on the cake.

"Are you...HAPPILY married?"

I didn't think my eyebrows could travel any further up my forehead, but apparently my bugging eyes weren't the "SHUT UP" signal to him that they are to my students. A terse "yes" ended the conversation, but not forever.

On subsequent trips to our school, which happened way more often that I would have liked, he continued his creepy flirting with myself and other teachers, made comments to a male teacher about how much he likes working at our site because of all the attractive females, talked the ears off our overworked administrative assistant and, worst of all, tried to start a conversation with me about "all these people who don't speak English." Not a good plan - our school is 87% Hispanic. Just because we're the only two caucasian redheads within 20 miles does NOT mean we're MFEO!

By now, everyone at the school was having fun laughing about how much attention our whole site was getting, thanks to me, but it was becoming really creepy. Then, my friend put in a computer work order to have some new software installed, and it was software that I had been wanting. When I saw CreepyStalkerTechGuy in the office the next day, I asked, half-joking, if he was there to install the upgrade. Imagine my surprise when he started following me to my classroom. As I told him, I didn't even remember if I had put the work order in yet.

After spending two hours - yes, TWO HOURS!!! - in my classroom, he was running through the work orders to see if he could come up with any other reason to stay. "Um, do you need Shockwave?" As I checked off the work order, I realized something. Something that was going to get me into hot (scalding, boiling, pressure-cooker) water with my friend. This wasn't my work order, it was hers! She had already left for the day, so I asked him to come back at 11 the next day, when she would just be dismissing her summer school class.

He came at 10. He very rudely informed her that he had a lot of work to do, and that if she couldn't give him the computer right then - in the middle of her class - that she'd just have to wait until he could come back.

Um, CreepyStalkerTechGuy? You do know that we only have, like, 10 people on our staff, right? And we all are pretty good friends? And we talk, like, all the time? So everyone is quite aware that you spent 2 hours at my computer, ignoring everyone else at my school and the other 40 people on this site who ALL have computer needs the week before school starts, including the guys who ended up not having the Internet the second day of school when ALL OF OUR ATTENDANCE AND GRADES ARE KEPT ONLINE??? YOU DON'T KNOW THIS???

This has gone way beyond funny, "oh, he's got a crush on Manda, put her name on your work orders and trade computers with her so that the work will get done quickly." No, this has gone to the point where I have HR's extension on a post-it by my phone, and if he pulls this crap one more time, he'll probably lose his job.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

But it's HARD!

The first assignments are due on Tuesday, and the after school homework centers have been ringing with the proclamation: it's HARD!

Yes, dear, it's supposed to be hard. You're in 8th grade. It's Algebra. What, you think it should be easy?
Most of my students are tackling their most difficult assignments first; they are ferocious in their desire to conquer the Algebra and Physical Science, to prove that they can do it, to exercise their atrophied brains, but how long will the honeymoon last? Soon they'll start dropping off, deciding that it's not worth doing because it's just too hard.

Some of my favorite writers have described the writing process, and something seems to be missing: how easy it all is. Stephen Fry just posted a mini-blog about a looming deadline, and he, along with his gazillions of commenters, seems to be constantly surprised by how difficult it is to finish a novel. He quotes his friend Douglas Adams (oh, to have such friends!), saying "'It is almost impossibly hard, [...] It is supposed to be. But once you truly understand how difficult it is,' he added, with signature paradoxicality, 'it all becomes a lot easier.' " The "Why We Write" series over at Wordpress lists writer after writer who, like Fry, find their work as difficult and sometimes dreary as the most burnt-out Algebra student.

This is a long weekend, ironically named "Labor Day." On Tuesday, we'll all get back to the hard work of teaching students to work hard.