Posted in Life, Teaching

It’s My Brain and I Can Turn It Off If I Want To

OOO

“WALLET!” my husband shouts from the car, as I bound across the parking lot to Walgreens.

“Oops!” I say, trotting back to the car to retrieve my wallet. I smile at my hubby. He does not smile back. This is after I asked to go on his errands with him because I needed something really important at Walgreens, then almost left the house without shoes, then went to Walgreens with him and bought everything except the one thing I really needed, then did his other errands with him, then remembered the thing I really needed from Walgreens and asked him to go back, then tried to go buy it without my wallet.

“How do you function?” he asks. “Seriously, how are you a teacher?”

I ignore him and go to buy the very important item.

The answer is, I function quite well, thank you very much. I am an organized, efficient, productive teacher who juggles my duties with confidence and flair. But all that remembering and accomplishing is exhausting, so sometimes at home I turn my brain off. I think this is a healthy thing to do. Everything needs rest, even the brain. Especially a brain that has to be so on-the-ball all the time. My friend Lori refers to this need for a brain break as a “responsibility hangover,” and it’s the perfect description. Sometimes we need a vacation from responsibility. It’s such a relief to not have to remember anything for a few hours, to let someone else do the thinking.

The problem is that I don’t let other people know when my brain is powering down. There’s no maintenance schedule for my brain. Updates are spontaneous and unpredictable, even for me. One moment I’ll be reading peacefully, without a care in the world, and the next hubby will be looking at me strangely asking, “Weren’t you in the middle of doing laundry?” or “Have you eaten anything today?” or “What’s that sound? Did you turn on the tea kettle?”

At this, I will respond with a glassy-eyed stare and ask, “Laundry? Eaten? Kettle?” as if repeating the last word he said will somehow give the whole sentence meaning. Then I’ll snap out of it and eat a sandwich or make some tea or put the clothes in the dryer before slipping back into blissful unawareness until hubby reminds me of the next important thing I need to do.

I make no apologies for this. There’s just no better feeling than allowing yourself to drift cluelessly for a bit, relying on others to remind you about things like wallets and shoes and food. I think everyone should do it. Although, admittedly, it would be better if we took turns. If you’ve ever found yourself hanging out with a friend when both of you turn your brains off simultaneously, you know what I mean.

This used to happen a lot when I was with my cousin Kelley. Separately, Cousin Kelley and I are both intelligent, hard-working, mature-enough adults, but people who have only met us together don’t know this because our brains shut themselves down when we come in contact with each other. It’s like how some women’s cycles sync up, but we do it with our brains instead.

Kelley and I once decided (on two low-battery brains) to drive around aimlessly in the middle of the night to listen to a new mix tape* one of us made for the other. There was a whole conversation about which car to take and who should drive, and somehow we decided that we should take Kelley’s car, but I should drive it. We headed a few miles west, turned off the bigger roads, and drove slowly and aimlessly– singing along to the latest Roxette or David Bowie song– on small streets where no one was awake but us. Soon, we were lost, but we did not care. A short time later, we were being pulled over because driving slowly and aimlessly down dark, uninhabited streets at three o’clock in the morning is apparently suspicious behavior. No big deal. We were neither drunk, nor disorderly, and I knew the police officer would recognize this as soon as he talked to us.

Then I realized I didn’t have my license because, at no point during the which car/ which mix tape/ which driver conversation did we consider which one of us was carrying her purse.

Oops.

Thankfully, the officer was kind and we got off with a warning. Kelley took the wheel, we both turned our brains on to medium power, and we went home.

Medium power is about where my brain is right now. School ended today at 3:40PM (I’m free! FREE!) and although it was tempting to go into sleep mode immediately, I knew that was a bad idea. I have quite a bit to accomplish in the next 24 hours, like laundry and packing and navigating travel plans, so I need to keep my mind at least 50% charged. Otherwise I’m likely to wander into a bookstore or decide to rearrange the metal lawn animals. (Come to think of it, they do need to stretch their legs…) But when all that is done, watch out world, because I’m hitting snooze on this thing until January. If you see me slumped on a chair staring dreamily into space with a goofy grin on my face or a little drool glistening at the corner of my mouth, don’t fret. I’m fine. I’m happy. Just put a cookie in my hand, pat me on the head, and whisper, “Sleep well, brain. You have no responsibilities here whatsoever.”

Snowflake

* Dear readers under 30, a mix tape is like a playlist made of thin plastic that can unravel and get stuck in your car’s tape deck.**

** A car tape deck is a narrow hole the dashboard of your car where you stick a tape and sometimes a plastic straw to get the tape out and sometimes a pencil to get the plastic straw out.***

*** A plastic straw is a small flexible tube that people used to use to drink cold liquids so they wouldn’t freeze our teeth or mess up our lip gloss, but are now instruments of the devil that murder turtles and will therefore incur dirty looks if seen in use.

Posted in Halloween, Reading, Teaching

Ms. Juettner is Missing

Today is Halloween, my birthday, and one of my favorite days of the year. 🎃

My school allows teachers and students to wear costumes, and I’ve got a fun lesson planned of creepy stories (like this true one I wrote last year) and creepy poems (like this one by Annie Neugebauer) to share with my classes.

Unfortunately, I’m feeling a little under the weather (*cough cough*) so I’ll be staying home today. My students will have a sub instead…

…Miss Viola Swamp. 😈

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* Happy Halloween! *

MissNelson

P.S. If you’ve never read Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard and James Marshall, get thee to a library and check it out.

Posted in Teaching

Highlights, Lowlights, and A (Possible) Glimpse into the Future

I’m home sick today. I was home sick yesterday too. I’ve had a cold since last Wednesday and am also dealing with some crazy home repair issues, which I’ll probably write about in a later post. (They say comedy = tragedy + time, so I need a little more time before this whole house issue is funny.) Yesterday, I was sick-sick. Like, “pajamas all day, 4-hour naps, multiples doses of Robitussin” sick. Today I’m “I feel better! I’ll accomplish something! Oh wow, that took a lot of energy, I think I’ll lay on the couch for a while” sick.

Photo of teddy bear, tissues, orange juice, medicine, and a book
If anything will cure my cold, these things will.

Tomorrow it’s back to work, regardless of how I feel because…

A) Taking two days off in a row when you’re a teacher is kind of unheard of and definitely unsettling. You can’t help but wonder what sort of shenanigans are happening  in your classroom without you there. Also, one year, every single time I was absent, I got a new student. Every time. That’ll teach you to take a “me day”. *
B) Being absent is a lot of work when you’re a teacher. Last night (whilst sick) I spent an hour making sub plans, and this morning (whilst still kinda sick) I spent half an hour redoing the sub plans that I did wrong last night because I was sick. (I don’t recommend trying to operate Google Forms under the influence of cold medicine.)
C) I miss my students. I have GOOD kids this year. Kids that smile at me when they walk in my room and say “Have a nice day” when they leave and sometimes laugh at my bad jokes. I have kids that listen (mostly) and do their work (mostly) and politely point out that I wrote the year as 2011 instead of 2018 and offer to fix my mistake. They’re not just good kids, they’re GREAT kids. I love teaching them and, despite getting the year wrong once in a while, I think I’m doing a good job of it.

However…

Today during one of my short bursts of energy, I decided to clean up a random pile of papers on my desk. In it, I found a scribbled sheet of notebook paper from last November titled: Highlights From the Week Before Thanksgiving. I thought, Oh, neat! Then I read it and realized that “Highlights” was sarcastic, and I thought, Oh, no.

Here’s what it included:

Handwritten note that reads, "Highlights of the Week Before Thanksgiving"

  • Yesterday I wrote on a student’s paper, “This is not a simile! You are not comparing two unlike things. Liver is liver.”
  • Today a student misspelled his own last name on his paper. His last name is three letters long. He has no academic disabilities.
  • There are currently SEVEN project books in my lost & found box. Four of them have the owners’ name written prominently on the cover. We are working on the projects in class today. The students need their books. No one is approaching the lost & found box. ???
  • Conversations I’ve had in the past three days:
    • Conversation #1
      Student: “Where should I turn this in?”
      Me: “The same place we’ve turned things in since the first day of school.”
      Student: *stares at me blankly*
    • Conversation #2
      Student: “I have a question.”
      Me: “Yes?”
      Student: “I finished my assignment.”
      Me: “That’s not a question.”
      Student: *stares at me blankly*
    • Conversation #3
      Me: “Every day you ask to go to your locker to get your book.”
      Student: “I know. I just forget to bring it.”
      Me: “Okay, we need to come up with a solution for this problem. Why don’t you put a big colorful sticky note on the inside of your locker door that says, ‘Don’t forget your book.'”
      Student: “But I don’t go to my locker before this class.”
      Me: *stares at student blankly*
    • Conversation #4
      Me: “Please read the next item on today’s Workshop Rules.” [Note: The sentence says, “I will use my resources if I need help.”]
      Student: “I will not use my resources if I need help.”
      Me: “Let’s try that one more time.”

 

You’re probably thinking, “Wow, her students last year were definitely not cut from the same construction paper as the ones this year,” but you’re WRONG! My students last year were AWESOME! They, too, said please and thank you and laughed at my jokes. They, too, worked hard (mostly) and followed directions (mostly). But during the fourth month of school, they all– collectively and simultaneously– lost their minds. I remember it now clearly. It was a dark time.

So, here I sit, itching to get back to my classroom tomorrow, hoping against hope that my two-day absence has not made my beloved little seventh graders regress into name-misspelling, book-losing, non-question-asking shadows of themselves, because that really shouldn’t happen for at least another two months.

Wish me luck.

* Update: Since the writing of this post, I have received an email telling me I will have a new student tomorrow.