Puking, Practicums, Personas

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I’ve learned a few stomach-flu related German words this week. Diarrhea is ‘durchfall’ which literally means ‘to fall through.’ So logisch, this German language.   “Kotzen” is to puke. Anyway, now you’re all set in case you visit and get sick.  🙂

We’ve all taken a turn with it since Monday and since I’ve been feeling so funky, my thoughts have reached out to other things that generally make me want to vomit. Like, canned green beans.  (The fresh ones are fine.)

Another one that comes to mind is student teaching. I’ve been reflecting on that a lot, lately, and I’m not sure why.

At the time, I was twenty-four years old. Talking to a class full of students terrified me. And, you know, that’s sort of a thing you need to feel okay with if you’re in the profession.

To meet the requirement, I had to complete two placements, six weeks each. The first was in a ‘suburban setting’ and the second was in a ‘city setting.’ I’m assuming this was because it’s important to know how to teach equally well in a place characterized by fences and in a place where doors have multiple locks.

It was obvious the suburban setting cooperating teacher, Kathleen, wasn’t impressed with me, and in hindsight I can see why. I think she was expecting someone to come in and give her a break for a while. After all, aren’t student teachers supposed to be gun-ho? Eager to try out all the latest methods they learned in college? Ready to create bulletin boards that compete with London Harrod’s window display?

Well, that wasn’t me.

I followed her around like a lost puppy and she had to tell me what to do, step by step. I took no initiatives. I constantly had little red blotches of stress on my neck. Counted down the hours until the day was over. I felt so different from the other student teacher down the hall who took a central spot in the staff room to eat her lunch and bantered with the other teachers like she’d been part of the staff for years.

The kids were nice to me; I think they sensed something human in my vulnerability. I did a poetry-writing unit with them, and when I read out a poem I’d written about the color blue my voice shook uncontrollably and a rash bleated out from my chest.

When I was done they all clapped. Soon after they started saying, “Can you stay and be our teacher, rather than Mrs.___?”

I don’t think they intentionally meant to hurt Kathleen’s feelings; it’s more that they were trying to compliment me and didn’t know how to do it without insulting the other one.

I remember I wanted to show them a scene from The Dead Poet’s Society and there was a swear word in there. So, I asked Kathleen’s permission and my student teaching coordinator’s permission and I just about wrote to the President of the United States of America to ask his permission, too, because that’s just how taboo I thought this was.

As guided, before playing the clip I said, “Now, I’ve chosen to show you this scene because it directly relates to what we’re doing today. The only problem is there’s one inappropriate word and by the time I fast-forward it you’d miss the main part of the clip. So, I’m going to show you and I trust that you can all be mature about it…”

I believe the word was ‘damn.’ Or possibly even a higher level explicative, like ‘shit.’

These kids were in seventh grade. I was totally out of touch with the fact that they weren’t like me when I was in seventh grade (i.e. still tempted to play Barbies and playing this game we made up called Pupil’s Court at lunchtime and making crank calls to 1-800 numbers on weekends.)

(Fast forward sixteen years, and I showed my grade 12’s a clip from ‘The Wire’ that consisted entirely and repeatedly of the word ‘fuck.’ We were doing a unit on Language and Taboo, specifically swearing, and looked at the contexts for communication the word is used for. How times change.)

Anyway, the six weeks dragged on, and Kathleen stopped hiding her annoyance at having to shepard me around.

On September 11, 2001, I was in Kathleen’s classroom dreading an observed lesson on the parts of a story when the planes hit the World Trade Center. She tried to explain what was happening and I didn’t get it. I thought some planes had lost their way and bumped into a building, as much as planes “bump.” To be completely honest, I wasn’t even sure what the World Trade Towers were. (And I’d been in the city a week before visiting a friend, mind you.)

Mid- explanation she got too upset and left. Apparently her brother worked in or near one of the towers.

(As part of the editing process, I had Todd read this post and he looked up at this part and said, “You didn’t know what the World Trade Center was? You’re from New York!” In my defense, I’m from upstate New York and have only been to the Big Apple once or twice. And my knowledge of important buildings, key historical events, and current news is sometimes…patchy.)

It was the one and only time I had the classroom to myself, and it was the only day of student teaching that I semi-enjoyed. I didn’t watch TV until I got home, so I had no idea about the jumpers or the dust or that America had just reached a major historical intersection. I just knew I had control for a couple of hours.

I taught the kids the arc of a storyline using The Three Little Pigs, and it was the first lesson where any semblance of humor came out of me. I even started to rethink my hatred of the major I’d chosen. But, any positive associations of having Kathleen leave for the day plummeted circa 4 p.m. when I turned on the TV.

The next morning Kathleen told me to help the kids cover their textbooks using brown paper bags, and I wandered around the room passing out scissors and tape and casting little nervous looks her way.

“Um, can you show me how to do it?”

Kathleen snapped her face towards me. “Are you kidding me? You don’t know how to cover textbooks? Didn’t your parents ever teach you how?”

I felt all the kids stare, and my eyes filled with tears that I beat back with my eyelashes.

Kathleen rapidly covered a textbook and spoke all the steps out loud, slowly and asynchronously with the task. The room was silent. I couldn’t follow a single step she showed me. The kids ended up helping each other out and one boy even led me through the process, his voice full of teenage static and cracking.

Later, during the break, Kathleen told me off. I only remember the gist of what she said, but it was something about how it would be difficult to write me a good recommendation unless I ‘came up to bat’ a bit more, and that the kids could read my fear and I had to be the one in charge, etc.

I started crying; I couldn’t help myself. Kathleen looked at me like I was a new breed of insect perched on the table.

“I’m sorry,” I sobbed. “It’s just that my uncle was in downtown New York when the planes hit and now they can’t find him, so I’m just feeling extra sensitive today.”

I’m ashamed to admit that was a lie. My uncle had been hard to reach at first, but he eventually made contact with my aunt. It just came out of my mouth in a sudden need to not let Kathleen know that she could impact me so much.

(When Todd got to this part he looked over at me, horrified, and asked how I could have lied about something like that. I was about to delete the whole paragraph, but it’s the truth. I did lie about that. So, I have to leave it in. Why did I do that? Ugh, I don’t know. I was young, scared, insensitive, and my nerves were shot. Not proud.)

On the last day we had a party and every single kid in the class, all twenty-something of them, brought in desserts. We let them blast Alycia Keys and compare sugar highs for the duration of class, and Kathleen even left the room for a long time to hang out with her teacher friend down the hall.

The kids kept saying, “We’re going to miss you! Can you teach us instead?”

I felt like maybe I hadn’t failed as much as it seemed.

*

The next placement was in downtown Buffalo. I took the bus there every day, along with all the outpatients at the nearby psychiatric ward. There was one guy, I remember, who sat next to me and struck up a conversation. We talked about the weather, the blackened snow along the curbs, and the Taste of Buffalo. Then he brought up a recent experience buying at groceries at Wilson Farms.

“So I went up to the cashier to pay for my stuff. And, I heard the craziest sounds coming from beneath the counter. I was like, what is that? It almost sounded like something was saying my name. So, I leaned over to check it out and saw the cashier’s legs beneath the counter and I swear to God she was not a human. She was an alien. I mean, she looked human up top. But from the waist down she was an alien.

Yes, interesting times on the Buffalo public transportation system.

If I thought I was uncomfortable during my placement with Kathleen, my urban setting placement was a whole new level of torture.

The teacher, who we’ll call Fred, was well respected by his students. When he walked in, it was clear he owned the room. He was a cranky grizzly bear of a teacher, the type where kids do their homework for his class first because they’d never consider showing up to without it for fear of death.

But he had this great sense of humor that cracked through his scowling veneer. And, he knew his stuff. When the kids challenged his interpretations of things, he cupped his chin between his thumb and pointer finger, listened, and then stripped down their argument in a way that managed to both credit them for being thoughtful, but make it clear that in the caste of Disney they were all extra fish drawn in to The Little Mermaid and he was Walt.

On day one Fred handed me a stack of ten books, and told me I’d be teaching Hamlet to one grade level and The Scarlet Letter to another. I’d never read either book. (Thank you very much Kenmore school district.)

“Now, what I want you to do is study as much as you possibly can about both of these books. You need to know them backwards and forwards, okay? And then you’re going to present the chapters to the class starting a week from now.”

As I taught, he sat at a desk in the back of the classroom with his hands folded, squinting at me, the left side of his lip curled up. It was a facial expression that said, “What are you doing?”

On the second day he offered me a chair and said I could teach sitting down, if that made me more comfortable. Sure, great.

On the third day he said I asked the students too many questions. “It interrupts the flow of the lecture. Don’t do that.”

“This is really tough for you, isn’t it?” Fred asked after my first week in front of the class.

I didn’t answer. It wasn’t necessary.

“How about I take back the grade 12’s and you just sit and take notes on what you see. Would that make you feel better?”

So, I did that for a while, but Fred must have felt self conscious having me in one of the desks rapidly writing in my notebook for the hour (after all, if I couldn’t actually teach the class, I wanted to look eager to at least fill up several pages of observations on what Fred did.) Or, more likely, maybe he was just sick of me invading his space.

Whatever the reason, he sat down with me once again and said, “From now on you can just head home after you teach the grade 9’s. Half a day’s enough.’

He awkwardly slogged my shoulder in affection.

“You know, you’re doing fine,” he said in a way that indicated the opposite. “It’s going to get easier the more you do it.”

He considered me for a second and I was on the verge of launching in to some form of an apology and promise to quit teaching and even move out of the area if that would help my case when he continued.

“What you need is to develop a persona. You can’t just stand in front of a class and expect that to be enough. They’ll run you right over.”

He rapped his knuckles on the desk.

“Develop a persona,” he repeated.

At the time I had no idea what he meant, and thought he was just telling me that I was boring, terrible, lifeless, not cut out for the profession, a failure, dog shit, and everything in between.

But, over the past sixteen years I’ve figured it out.

It took a long time and it happened naturally and only as I became more comfortable, but I have developed a persona when I teach, and I do think it improves the classroom experience and my bearing on it. Why? I’m not quite sure I can explain why. It just sort of happened the longer I taught. Maybe it’s because, in a sense, leading a classroom requires you to be an entertainer of sorts? It’s not enough to just deliver the information. Kids learn better from a relatable human being that they want to listen to for any number of reasons.

So, what is my teaching persona?

It’s parts of the real me, just amplified. It’s me 2.0. For example, time and being an expat have made me much more outgoing over the years. So, in the classroom I’m a stable extrovert, prone to dancing and singing as loudly and badly as I can, usually butchering the lyrics of songs.

(Which reminds me of a story—for the longest time I sang ‘Dream of Californication’ by the Chili Peppers out loud to a seventh grade class. I had no clue that the word was Californication. I thought they were saying ‘California-cation’ and that the whole song was about wanting to move to California and live life like as a full time vacation. Yeah. Embarrassing. The kids tittered whenever I sang it but I just figured it was because my voice was so bad.

To make matters worse, the school freaking news came around for a segment where they recorded teachers singing. What song did I choose to perform? You guessed it.

Needless to say, it didn’t make the school news. That’s when I finally looked up the actual lyrics and learned I’d been singing about western civilization becoming perverted. Which is actually a deep thought. But, still—there’s the word ‘fornication’ in there.)

Anyway, now that I think about it—quite a bit of my teaching persona has been collected piecemeal throughout the years, totally ripped off from people I admire. It’s not like I intentionally stole it. I just let it drain into and become part of me, like a lake takes in sewage. But, in a good way.

One of my favorite lines I stole from my husband. When a kid acts up, I ask, “Have you ever seen someone with two broken arms and two broken legs? Do they look like they’re having fun?” Or, I just threaten to throw them out the window. They love that.

From my mom, I got her love of ‘getting down to their level’ with humor and of preying on teenage gullibility. We like to convince kids of ridiculous things. I’ve told students I used to be a professional skateboarder, a private investigator, and a nun. They believed it all.

Also, I took on one of my high school teacher’s tendency to fall into hyper spells and pound the desks with both fists, talk fast and loud, and trip over things.

I would love to take on Ellen Degeneres’s thing of starting off each lesson by dancing. But, that would feel too much like stealing. The other stuff simply drained, which is a whole other verb.

So, why am I thinking about all of this now? Sixteen years later?

Well, puking associations aside, I’ve come to the conclusion that something I’m trying to explore throughout this whole blogging adventure is my writing persona. I’ve been referring to it as my ‘voice,’ but that’s not quite the word I want.

I’m not sure I’ve found my persona, yet, when it comes to writing.

Sometimes I feel like writing a blog post as Sarah 2.0, pounding the desks with my fists and threatening to break your arms and legs.

But, other times I want to write in a very serious or dumbfounded Sarah 1.0 type of way.

Does this matter?

That’s what I’m trying to figure out.

It does seem that Fred’s advice applies to all kinds of professions, and not just teaching or writing. Like, people are going to be more likely to flock to the dentist or the hairdresser or the botanist with an intriguing persona, right? They’ll look for it every time they visit for a floss, highlight, or discussion about plants.

So the persona has to be firmly in place, but not so much like a mask that people feel the need to pull it off.

In short, I think I’m trying to figure out how much Fred’s insistence on persona applies to my writing and if it will bring all the boys to the yard because my milkshake is better than yours. (P.S. That’s another song I terribly, terribly misunderstood the lyrics to, way back when. But, I never sang it out loud to a class. Thank God.)

So how about you? Do you have a persona, and when does he/she come out? Any song lyrics you’ve REALLY misunderstood throughout the years?

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28 thoughts on “Puking, Practicums, Personas

  1. Sarah, I cannot believe that it has been 16 years since student teaching! I remember how ups at you were everyday when you came home. I loved teaching Middle School and telling them outrageous stories. My favorite was my black eye that I said was from my women’s hockey game in overtime!

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    • I just laughed out loud about the black eye from women’s hockey! That’s HILARIOUS. I don’t think you ever told us that story?? Anyway, yes, it has been sixteen years and I still look back at that time as being a complete and total nightmare. Glad teaching has gotten better since then! SOOOO much better. 🙂

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  2. I really thought this “I took the bus there every day, along with all the outpatients at the nearby psychiatric ward” was gonna be a bunch of side stories until the end of the post hahhaha

    I personally noticed I am a different person every time I talk on the phone… must be the training from the bank drilled into my brain (smile before and during the call…posture…be calm… use “I understand” for all complaints, etc). I sound differently on the phone too! and I sense it, my voice just changes and it’s an AUTOMATIC thing… like a robot. That’s it! my Laura 2.0 is a phone operator from the 70s (??) all smiles and “how may I direct your call” attitude!

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      • So, honestly I didn’t think the picture worked but was too eager to get my post out there so I put it up, anyway. 🙂 I meant it as a thing where people are looking at a frozen ‘idea’ of me or something…eh…yeah, it didn’t really work. I’ve just been wanting to use this little app thingy I found. Another post will be a better fit for that, hopefully! 🙂

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      • THE PICTURE CHANGED!!! lol I went to look at it again and it’s a new one… sooo previous picture had 3 pictures of you on the wall with 2 black people shadows staring at them…. that’s the one I’m asking about lol and what app… please do tell 😀

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      • sorry two black shadows of people… not to be misunderstood… sounds so wrong now “two black people shadows” hahahahhaha

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      • LOL!!!! Yeah, not quite the right phrasing, but I get where you were going with that. 🙂 So, it’s a website called http://www.photofunia.com and I’m just itching to use it. 🙂 Check it out! You can put your face in all kinds of pictures…

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      • I foresee HOURS OF ENTERTAINMENT this weekend lol and a blog post with the result, just because. THANKS! (and I mean it!)

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      • It’s a pretty fun website, isn’t it?? I’ve been so eager to use one of the pictures and I tried so hard to make it work with this post, haha! :-)))

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  3. This post really took me to Funkytown. That’s not a song lyric I ever misunderstood but any time a catchy beat comes on I yell out, “Won’t you take me to FUNKYTOWN?” Although if the funky beat just keeps on repeating I’ll say, “If you get near a song play it,” but that’s another story.
    A good persona is like one of those masks Tom Cruise wore in Mission Impossible. It’s not until you take it off that people realize it’s a mask. I think you already have a good, strong, interesting persona, but, as with any good writer, your style changes to suit the material, whether you’re taking a broad perspective, zeroing in on a specific anecdote, or turning the reins over to your husband to let him express his horror at a terrible lie you told.
    And you can believe me because I used to have a circle of friends who called me ‘Fred’. That’s true although I have never been described as the grizzly-bear type. If I could find a good enough mask, though…
    Finally I hate to nitpick but the name of the breed is Dalmatian. The name is from Dalmatia (although their exact origin is unknown) and they don’t “dalmate”. Well, they do mate, but preferably only under the proper circumstances.
    I know this because I currently live with three Dalmatians who are smart enough to spell. And who could easily outwit any Disney villain.

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    • Damn it! Now I’m going to have Funkytown stuck in my head all night AND definitely botch the lyrics. Seriously, your ‘but that’s another story’ line is never ever going to stop earning a laugh from me. I love that! The other day a friend emailed me and suddenly mentioned that his house flooded but that was ‘another story’ and I immediately wrote back and said it was fate and that he HAD to check out your blog that very second. So, there you go. 🙂 Anyway, thanks for what you said about already having a persona! I don’t know. I’m still kind of looking at that. My problem is that I can be easily influenced, too. Several years ago I wrote the first draft of a book and when I started to edit it, I realized that I’d incorporated the voice/persona of at least five of my favorite writers. It was a mess. All of these competing personas, and none of them were TRULY mine. I think I’m getting closer, though, the more I write. And, I’ve written more in the past three months than I have in YEARS. I can’t get over the fact that I just stopped for as long as I did. Have you ever just stopped writing for a period of time? When, exactly, did you get into it? Anyway, I need to look back at the Dalmatian line! I’m glad you nitpicked–I chose the dogs because I was in a hurry wanted to have a line about the Disney caste system. But I need to give it another think. 🙂 THREE dogs. Wow! That’s a lot of work right there!

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      • I first got into writing when I was a teenager and reading a lot of science fiction and I thought, this is what I want to do, especially when I discovered Ray Bradbury, and I wrote a bunch of sci-fi stories. In fact I was thinking about that lately since I’ve been sort of returning to my roots by writing a science fiction short story, but that really is another story.
        There was a time several years ago when I quit writing. I gave up science fiction when I was still a teen and switched to poetry. And that’s mostly what I wrote for a long time until I had kind of a breakdown. I realized poetry wasn’t what I really wanted to write and basically started over from scratch. I realized I wanted to be funny, to make people laugh. I may write a funny poem if an idea comes to me, just like I may write a science fiction story, but I’m not limiting myself to any one thing anymore.
        I’m still a writing apprentice, but, hey, aren’t we all?

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      • And what better place for writing apprentices than blogs to share their work and figure this whole thing out? It’s interesting, this process of trying to figure out what we want to write. The breakdowns and starting from scratch are probably really important for finding out what it is that we most enjoy writing. And, I like what you said about not limiting yourself to one thing anymore. I claimed to ‘give up’ writing fiction a while back, but maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to stop that altogether. It’s fun to experiment. Science fiction has always been a genre I’ve just sort of skipped over–not sure why! I’m probably going to be teaching a unit on it next year to my grade 10’s, so I better start embracing it a bit more! I do remember reading Fahrenheit 451, though, and loving it…so maybe that will be a piece I’ll cover with them. 🙂

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  4. Durchfall, Durchfall, Durchfall. I’m making sure I remember that word. It sounds like one of those houses in Gothic romances: ‘When she arrived at Durchfall, the rain was coming down in torrents, and the massive pile of stone stared menacingly at her.’

    It makes me snicker.

    Well, you didn’t surprise me with your lie about your uncle; the last post I read was about you lying! I think it was inspired. I was always ready to start crying at jobs, but couldn’t think of a good reason, except that I’m a wuss.

    I cried once in front of a room full of kids. That’s a whole story. I froze in front of high schoolers my first day of student teaching, but did okay with the advanced class of English students. My teacher was really nice, and I taught a unit on poetry, too! That was the best; the kids were so proud of their poetry, because even advanced honor students had never written any. Can you believe it?

    We even wrote sonnets using Shakespeare, and the best ones were when we copied Robert Frost’s ‘Out, Out.’ I had them do a quick-write of an accident they’d had or seen, and then we all did a poem like his using our own accidents. It was major cool.

    My teacher wouldn’t let me give them copies of the poem, ‘Dappled Things’, because it said, ‘Glory be to God’. She was afraid of the religious aspect, although she had them read ‘The Christmas Story’, by Dickens. I thought that was strange. I also used song lyrics (they loved the 70s) and Billy Collins and Smokey the Bear.

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    • Your comment made me miss teaching! I’m going back in August and as I read through what you wrote I kept thinking things like, ‘accident poems! Wow, that would be interesting’ and ‘Billy Collins–love him!’ and ‘Dappled Things–another one I love!’ etc. I’m very curious to know your crying in front of the students, story. I’ve definitely had an experience or two with that, too. The most recent one was when a few teachers and I took sixty kids to Paris for four days. None of us knew our way around Paris. The kids were in sixth grade and oblivious (i.e. crossed the street without looking, got on the tube without looking, forgot to get off the tube because they weren’t looking…) Anyway, it was my job to get us all to castle Versailles and I managed to put us all on the wrong train. By that point I was SO tired and SO stressed (there were MICE in our hostel and that’s my biggest phobia so I barely slept at all over the four days.) So, I just broke down. It wasn’t fun. Back to ‘Glory be to God’ that is funny about the religious aspect, especially in terms of the Dickens reading. I definitely appreciate teaching at an international school and how much leeway we have, there…I wanted to teach A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime to my grade 8’s but knew there was a lot of swearing. A LOT of swearing. I ran it by my boss and he just shrugged, did a bit of online research and found something on the literary reasons for all the cussing, forwarded it to me, and told me to go ahead and that he trusted my professional opinion. It’s a NICE environment to work in. 🙂

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      • We’re overprotective where it doesn’t always count, and under protective in other respects. Oh, well.

        I applied for a few ESL positions in different countries, but I think my age made a difference. Would have loved it, but at least I got to fly for twelve years with Pan Am.

        My favorite class when I was teaching besides the advanced English, was ESL. Those kids were so polite, and mostly very appreciative. I still think about a few of them sometimes, and they must be finishing high school, by now.

        I was a sub for three years, and had a couple of long term positions. One of my first assignments was in an orchestra class, and as soon as they saw a sub, they cared not.

        I’d had to call the hall monitors three times before noon. Those ladies were scary and I loved them. They could restore order with one look.

        The third time, two of them came into the room, stood by me, and said, ‘What’s wrong?’ I started to tell Ms. Spencer and started crying! Oy.

        She dragged me into the hall, and said, ‘Don’t you never let those kids see you cry! They don’t care about you. They just hop on their scooters and bikes and go home, and forget about you. Don’t you never let them see you cry.’

        Later, when I subbed there in an eighth grade class, one boy asked if I’d gotten their letters. She made them all write letters of apology to me, but they didn’t send them.

        We even had a Poetry Jam at the end of the year with all the English classes. It was a hoot.

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  5. The things you have to say in your blog are really interesting. I know exactly what you mean by a writing persona. I definitely have one. And it’s still me, just a little bit more me. It took me a while to realise I needed an illustration persona too.

    Also, the German word for diarrhoea is excellent.

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    • Sorry for my delayed reply! (I’m just going to apologize for any delayed replies of the future right here and now, because I don’t seem to have a very quick turn around.) Anyway, thank you! I think the things you have to say/show on YOUR blog are interesting, too! It’s hard enough to feel comfortable enough to embrace one’s written persona…kudos on incorporating the illustrations. They truly take your blog to the next level! And, yes, German always has excellent words for things. Durchfall is just the tip of the iceberg. 😉

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      • Apology accepted for all future delayed replies. Now you don’t ever have to feel guilty for a delayed reply. I also deliberately delayed replying to this for several days out of solidarity.

        That might have been a lie. I might not have done that deliberately at all. I might just be lazy. But now you’ll never be sure.

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  6. Ok! Commentaire take #2! I really liked this post and it really got me thinking. I act very differently depending on the situation and the company. I guess I am a man of many personas. It is always awkward when my personas are forced to clash, which happens when I try to consolidate groups of friends with very distinct personalities. I was wondering if consolidating all of your personas into one is what it means to be true to one’s self. It was very interesting to read about your student teaching experiences. Lots of good advice for those of us who are starting on similar paths. It is good to know that it does get better with time.

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    • I really like your comments–thank you so much! Great point about personas clashing! In a way, I find that when I’m out in town with my husband or friends and run in to students. They are expecting my over-the-top energetic and enthusiastic self, but quite often I’m in my ‘at home’ shyer mode. Strange. But, yes, I bet that all together those personas comprise a whole self. I don’t know if you’ve ever read Hermann Hesse’s book ‘Steppenwolf?’ I read it years ago and just remember it being about that (i.e. all the parts of self.) It was an interesting read. Are you going in to teaching? I need to go back to your page and read more. And it gets a million times better once you have your own classroom and can just figure it out as the one in charge. That’s for sure! I truly love it now. 🙂

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      • Thanks for the book recommendation. I will add it to my reading list. I sort of crash-landed into teaching as an occupational hazard. I love it. It offers me a great change from my usual work routine (I am an academic). Sometimes, I cannot shake the feeling that I don’t have a clue of what I am doing in front of the class. I mean, I know I have the knowledge. I also know that the students mostly yearn for it (I’ve been lucky with my students thus far). Oh, but passing on the knowledge is not necessarily trivial. Overall, I think I do an OK job out of it. I overcompensate the cluelessness with great doses of enthusiasm. However, I’ve been frequently told that I am way too nice to teach (mostly by supervisors, but once by a group of students).

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      • I am sorry (once again!) for my delayed reply! I’m not normally like this, I swear. For some reason I’ve been away from the blog this week and having trouble writing. It’s one of those things where I have a topic I want to write about but it’s not coming out right/I’m not sure I should write about it in the first place/I’m super busy and have no time for writing, anyway, so it’s a moot point. Anyway, I smiled in empathy when you described your teaching. I, too, overcompensate with enthusiasm and have also been told that I’m way too nice to teach. On rare occasions I FEEL like I’m being strict/borderline mean and the kids just kind of look at me and say, “That’s you being MEAN?” (It makes me very curious to know what’s going on in other classrooms because I feel intimidating as hell!) 🙂 Anyway, can I ask what grade(s) you teach? I’m at an international school here in Heidelberg and love it!!

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      • No worries about delays! Sometimes, life just catches up and you have to step away from the screen. Speaking of which, my computer just suffered an accident (the cord got in a little fight with the power outlet) so I’ve been unable to post for the past few days. My head is now bubbling with ideas and I am struggling to put it all out into paper. I think there should be a word for this state of limbo. The in-between of getting something out of your head and into words. I teach 1st year Biochemistry undergraduates and 1st year PhD students. I wonder how all of that happened, since not until long ago I was a student myself. I think this year I will be unable to teach though, which makes me sad since I’ll miss it. What about you? What grades do you teach?

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  7. I loled at a few points in this post, but especially the sewage in the lake comment. “But in a good way.” ROFL!
    I’ve also struggled with the voice/persona you mentioned. I’ve been writing since I was 11 but that was just to me, and unfiltered. I figured out what entertained me on subsequent re-reads so I eventually learned to write more that way. But when I started trying to write for others I got super self conscious and well behaved and almost formal. My sister said (paraphrasing) that when I wrote in that kind of style it was unnatural and boring and it sucked. I *think* I’m writing truer to myself now than when I started, though of course there’s certain things I feel I must edit for an audience! Figuring out how to be more honest without oversharing seems to be my biggest challenge now.
    But hopefully we entertain… ourselves even if no one else, right? As long as it’s fun 🙂

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    • I think that last sentence really captures the most important thing that I keep forgetting–to have FUN! I could relate to absolutely everything you said in your comment about writing unfiltered to yourself and then becoming self conscious when writing to others. I’ve definitely been experiencing that transition, lately, and it isn’t easy! I just need to focus on that last sentence of yours and remember why I started doing this, anyway. As for editing for an audience, do you find yourself having to worry about that in terms of family? Or not really? Sorry this comment is kind of all over the place (I am so tired right now and feel like nothing’s coming out clearly.) 🙂

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      • Oh yeah definitely – there’s a lot more of Huffy and Nutty’s style in my uncensored writing but because my Mum reads my blog I don’t feel like I should publish that stuff. I don’t really worry about the rest of the family, though I did get in a bit of trouble last year when I lightly teased about something a little nephew did – didn’t mention any names of course, and it was just an ‘omg the things our kids put us through sometimes’ kind of thing that I write about my own kids all the time, but my sister in law was quite sensitive about it so I changed it.
        For a while I agonised over whether I should ever use the word ‘fuck’ or any of its variants, because of Mum… but in the end I decided I that it’s my blog, I’m trying to be as authentic as possible, and if I feel it’s necessary I do it. And also because it’s fun. 🙂 And I use language warnings.

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