Tag Archives: English

Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Manevolent Horst

Well, last week was rough draft week.  I must say, my students took the rough draft very seriously this time around, and by that I mean they took the word ‘rough’ seriously and made sure to not even READ their essays before hitting print and slapping their dreck on my desk with so much disdain.   For your amusement, here are some of my favorite spelling/word usage errors from this week’s batch:


That’s right, amung, not among.  It actually took me more effort to keep the misspelled word in this sentence because when I typed ‘amung’ Word automatically changed it to ‘among’ for me.  I actually had to go back and make the extra effort to suck at spelling, which leads me to believe that either a) This student uses some kind of sketch-mode, black market word processor he bought from the car trunk of a guy named Mixtape in the parking lot of a Fas-Chek – or b)This student was especially committed to this particular misspelling – like he thought the word processor was out to get him by changing the word, and he said “Nuh-uh! Not today, motherf*cker.  I know what I’m about.  It’s among.  Damnit, Stop changing it!  Amung! Amung!”

I don’t even know how a person makes it through at least 12 years of school without knowing how to spell such basic words.



Not malevolence.

According to Urban Dictionary, the foremost authority on ‘shit you hear those youths talking about in their rapping songs and their Justin Biebers,’ a manevolent person is “a person who is apt to change from a good person to an evil person (combination of benevolent and malevolent).”

Trust me, I’m all for portmanteaus.  I can chillax with the best of ‘em.  I’m a fan of the “Jabberwocky.”  (I do, however, have an irrational dislike for the word skort.  It’s just – ew.  Skort.  Ugh.  I don’t know why.  I also hate the word ‘slacks’ in reference to pants, although that’s not a portmanteau, so I digress.)  Unfortunately, though, I don’t think this student was trying to be linguistically clever.

This Maleficent drag queen is my best approximation of ‘manevolence.’


Paul Bearer.

This one is understandable, but still amusing.  Apparently there was a professional wrestling manager who went by the stage name Paul Bearer, and he looked like this

So. . .

Strike and Pose/Case and Point.

I get these.  A simple slip of the tongue is enough to drop that d and phonetically misunderstand how to spell these common expressions.

However, since I grew up being bored out of my mind every Thursday night as I watched my dad throw a heavy ball at some pins along with the other members of his bowling league, the word ‘strike’ inevitably makes me think of bowling, so when I think of ‘strike’ and ‘pose’ together, I think of this:


Finally, le pièce de résistance. . .


Can you guess what this student was trying to spell?

Take a minute.

Think about.

Nope, it wasn’t horse or hoarse.  This wasn’t a simple keystroke error replacing an ‘e’ with a ‘t.’

It wasn’t hurts.

Here’s the sentence:

They loaded his coffin up into the back of the horst.

That’s right, the student was trying to spell hearse and bastardized it so magnificently that context was the only way to determine what he actually meant to spell.

My only way to rationalize this is that the student read about Patty Hearst somewhere (remember her?  1970’s Stockholm Syndrome bank robbing lady?) and somehow believed that her last name was the same word used to describe the vehicle in which coffins are transported, but the ‘ea’ was lost in translation and turned into an ‘o’ giving us ‘horst.’

Here’s a horse-drawn hearse for you.  A ‘horst’ if you will.

I also received my fair share of papers that were syntactically competent but disheartening nonetheless.  Here’s what a student had to say about homeless people:

“What can be said is that they have a choice to engage in the capitalist economy just like anyone else in this country. They have the freedom to clean up their act and become a welcomed member of society, or they can sit on the steps and inconvenience people who are trying hard to make their way through life.”

I can’t even get past the sheer myopia.  I have never been homeless, but I somehow felt personally offended by this.  Ugh.

Oh, also, I had a student who TOOK OUT HER TEETH to explain to my why she would be missing our next class.  She came up before class, held up a piece of paper and before I could protest, she yanked those suckers out to reveal brown nubs that I can only assume were eaten away by copious amounts of methamphetamine.

And oh dear lord, whatever you do, DON’T do a Google image search for ‘meth teeth.’  Just. Don’t.

The next time she returned to class after missing another class session, she came up to my podium and, breath reeking of the dankest weed ever, explained that she’d been absent because she had to get her son admitted to a psych ward for a psych evaluation after he stabbed some other kid with a pencil.

I imagine this is her kid:

Finally, I’m still dealing with a student from last semester who re-used old essays from a previous English class.  The first time he did it, I told him that he needed to produce original work for each class.  I warned him not to do it again.  I also gave him the benefit of the doubt and let him rewrite that paper – I mean, the rule isn’t necessarily self-evident, and the university policy on academic dishonesty doesn’t explicitly address it.  It’s his original work – he’s not plagiarizing someone else – so why shouldn’t he think he could use his essay as he saw fit?  I could see how he might have just made an honest mistake.  He assured me that this was the case – that he simply didn’t know he wasn’t allowed to do that and that it wouldn’t happen again.

Well it did, on his last essay, so I gave him a 0 for the essay and he failed the class (NOTE:  this is the second time he has failed English 101, since the essays he re-used were from the English class he took and failed in the Fall semester).

I consulted my department chair, and she advised me to report him to the dean.

Now the kid is e-mailing me with his daddy cc’d asking me why he failed, claiming he doesn’t understand.  It’s seriously stressing me out because I just don’t want to deal with it right now.  I just don’t.

What if this kid appeals his grade?  What if I have to endure some messy hearing in which my every action is scrutinized?  In situations like this, I always second guess myself:  “Maybe I didn’t explain it well enough.  Maybe he really didn’t understand and this is all my fault.  Maybe I’m a terrible teacher.  Maybe I’m just not cut out for this job.”

Mostly I know this is not true, although situations like this do make me dream wistfully of other jobs – I could be a carnie.  I mean, I was very direct with him the first time this happened, and I even reiterated my point to him during finals week when he came by my office to talk about his rewrite; I warned him that if he re-used old essays in his future classes, some professors might not even give him a second chance and would simply fail him automatically.  If he didn’t understand my stance on this practice, then he’s hopelessly dim and perhaps that’s why he can’t seem to pass this class.

But still, I hated having to fail him, and I almost didn’t do it because of the potential for a messy fallout.  Yes, I actually considered passing him as I stared at the originality report telling me that, despite my multiple warnings to him, he actually resubmitted another essay from the same former English class.  Again.

I actually considered passing him because, honestly, I just didn’t want to deal with it (I know that sounds awful, and I obviously talked myself out of it).  It would have been so much easier to just give him a C and move on.

It also doesn’t help that he’s a likeable kid.  He always participated in class, always smiled, was always courteous and friendly.  I hate to say that it would have been easier to fail him if I didn’t like him, but it’s true.  Despite the fact that it would have been easier, despite the fact that I like this kid, I did what I felt was right and I failed him. . .and now I feel depressed.

It doesn’t add up.

Why am I letting this kid’s poor decision-making skills, his laziness, fill me with such dread for the potential repercussions of my rightful actions?

Has anyone else ever had to deal with this?  What’s your stance on re-using essays from former classes?  Any words of wisdom out there?  Right now I just want to avoid my inbox like the plague and become a temporary Luddite.


Future Leaders of the World


On the first day of each semester, I ask my students to go around the room and tell me their names and some other piece of information of my choosing.  This serves 2 purposes:  1)  If any of them have batshit names that in no way reflect the actual spelling on my attendance sheet, this is a great way to find that out (I’m looking at you Azalea, pronounced Ah-zhu-lay).  2)  With just a few words, I gain some insight into the empty, bored faces staring back at me as if I’m less interesting than a hangnail.  I get it.  I was that bored student once, I’m sure.  I don’t expect them to look at me as if I’m Miley Cyrus or a much too convincing male to female transgender who makes them question everything they thought they knew about their sexuality.  


(Because seriously, these gorgeous young ladies were once dudes).

Or a unicorn.  Or a Miley Cyrus drag queen impersonator, which is obviously a thing.


(because you’re not REALLY famous until a drag queen impersonates you, right?) 

Anyway, I know that I have to work to get them to talk to me, and I accept that.  If I’m not feeling creative, I might just ask for their major or what they like to do in their spare time, which will still typically yield some. . . illuminating. . . responses:

1. Well, I’m a Juggalo, so I like dressing up like an asshat and drinking copious amounts of Faygo while listening to ludicrous music.  No, not Ludacris, the rapper.  I’m using the word ludicrous as an adjective here.


Well, I enjoy long walks on the beach, reading Nicholas Sparks novels and sacrificing talk show hosts to the great god Xenu.


2. Well, AS A MOTHER, I have no identity outside of my children, so let me tell you a little bit about little Makayla’s pinworms and how Brody is in the gifted program!

(Disclaimer:  Most nontraditional students are not like this.  In fact, my nontraditional students are typically my favorites because, for the most part, they are respectful, do their work and actually want to be in class.  However, there’s one like this in every bunch.  You know the type. . .)


3. I like getting really pissed off about everything, so let me first demonstrate that by going into a five minute tirade about how the government doesn’t force my asshole-good-for-nothing-baby-daddy to pay enough child support because they’re all just a bunch of selfish penises who need to be castrated. What’s that?  Oh, yea, my major – I’m a counseling/psych major.

You know the type.  It looks like this:



or this:


4. I’m president of our campus anarchy club.

To which I respond, 



This semester, since I’m teaching a composition class centered upon making arguments about policy issues, I decided to open the class by asking each student to tell me about some policy, human rights violation, or social ill that they would change if they could.   Several of them mentioned raising minimum wage.  A few more mentioned limits on welfare benefits.  Others explained that they would institute rehab instead of jail time for nonviolent drug violations.  Some wanted more protection for the homeless population.  

However, here are my three favorites.

One came from a kid named Clyde Tater (That’s not his real name, which I can’t disclose – however, it is pretty close to the spirit of his real name).  He looks and sounds exactly as I would expect someone named Clyde Tater to look and sound.  (P.S. A Google image search for ‘Clyde Tater’ yielded this. . .


this. . .


and, inexplicably, this. . .


NOTE:  This is not what Clyde Tater looks like, I can assure you.  His severed pig’s head was MUCH larger.)

He’s slumped down in his desk wearing a Carhart jacket, camouflage ball cap and work boots.  When he realizes it’s his turn to speak, the sound of throat clearing erupts from somewhere inside his untamed beard and he says in a mellifluous country drawl (and I’m crying inside with joy because he sounds like home, and I already love him), “I’d change the lowering of speed limits.  They lowered it to 60 out where I live and I usually go about 90.  I can’t afford no more points on my license.”  

I can so vividly picture his vehicle:


It runs on freedom.

Or, who knows, maybe I’m just stereotyping this kid.  People surprise me all the time.  Maybe Clyde really drives something like this.


It’s possible.  Unlikely, but possible 

Anyway, people driving too slow and the government making them do it – that is the nefarious social ill that Clyde would like to solve. He truly is a visionary.

Another guy with a pretty standard name like James Neal or Josh Barnes or Jared Brown or something equally nondescript chimes in next.  He has close-cropped brown hair, some groomed facial hair and he is wearing the most generic jeans and t-shirt combo.  Seriously, his clothes could belong to anybody, anybody at all, and this is why I sometimes have a harder time remembering my male students’ names. Unlike in the animal world where men preen their colorful plumage to attract dun-colored females,Image


(Hey, gurl!  You like what you see?  Bitches love feathers.)

in the human world girls have weaves and hair dye and day-glo dresses and skirts and sequins and any possible arrangement of clothing colors and patterns imaginable.  Men mostly wear jeans and t-shirts.  


Not all men, mind you (again, see Clyde Tater above) but many of them.  This invariably makes it more difficult to remember their names.  None of them particularly stands out to me in quite the same way as the girl with blue hair or the one whose see-through lace top is so skin-tight that I can’t help but remember in ironic horror that her name is Chastity. 

Why can’t the guys in my classes wear something more like this?


or this


or whatever is going on here. . .


I would definitely remember the names of these gents.

Anyway Jake Clark or John Smith or whatever this kid’s name is, chimes in, “What is up with men’s shoe sizing?” (and for a moment I’m expecting a stand-up routine, and I get a little excited, but alas).  “I mean, I ordered a pair of size 13 rain boots off the internet the other day, and when I got them they were tiny!  I mean, what’s up with that?  I was pissed!  I think men’s shoe sizes need to be standardized so I know what I’m getting when I order online!”  I don’t know if I’m more amused or saddened by the fact that this kid doesn’t realize he ordered children’s shoes – that he doesn’t realize that children’s shoes also come in size 13 and this is most likely what he ordered without reading the item description thoroughly enough to realize it.  I imagine these are the boots he received:


No, not human trafficking or sweatshop labor or climate change policies – this kid wants to standardize all shoe sizing for men, making the world a better place one pair of galoshes at a time, not by placing them on the feet of a person in need, but by making sure they are large enough to fit him.

Finally, remember the girl I mentioned above going into a five minute tirade about her baby daddy and child support?  Yes, she was real, and that was the issue she’d like to change about society – that the government should make her baby daddy pay her more child support. Her name is something like Amber or Krystal and she has thick black highlights in her platinum blonde hair. 

If a pack of cigarettes could speak, it would sound exactly like this girl.

She’s the type of woman who enters the room with a fanfare – harried and out of breath, she feels the need to explain what held her up on her way to class (Lost my keys, but I found them at the last minute right in my purse where I left them!  My life is SO cu-razy!)

From her long and breathless spiel, I can already tell that she’s going to irritate me on multiple occasions this semester.  As I work through explaining my class policies, she interrupts several times without raising her hand to ask pointless questions.  Now, I’m not necessarily a hand-raising Nazi.  This is college, after all, and these are adults.  But she is talking CONSTANTLY, holding up the class, asking questions like – “Now this textbook is listed as a ‘recommended text’ not a ‘required text’ so that means it’s recommended, not required, right?” 



When I get to the section of my syllabus about classroom respect, I make sure to make special eye contact with her as I mention that students should raise their hands with comments or questions when anybody else is speaking – myself and other students included. 

I can already see her classmates inching away from her on peer revision day, praying to the god Xenu that I don’t stick them in a group with her. 

Overall, though, it seems like it will be a pretty fun class, and I’m happy to wrap up my classes at the four-year school where I teach.

Finals week is over for them and I’m ready to bid that class a solid adieu!  Why?  Here’s a sampling of the types of students in that class:

One girl submitted her rough draft as her final draft without changing any of the content and with my original, meticulous Microsoft Word comments still in the margins.  One boy submitted an essay from a previous English class that he took and failed last semester.  Did I mention that he already did this once this semester and that I caught him, gave him a 0 on that essay and warned him not to do it again?  Because that happened.


Hurray for Generation Y and credentialism!


C is for Christmas and Cookies and Cocaine and Crazy

Greetings scant blog readers!  I hope you didn’t think I was dead, because that would be disturbing – just imagining some dead person out there, lying in her apartment, having her face gnawed off by her cat. . .

Here’s the thing – Christmas makes me a little crazy.  By that, I mean I love it.  I’m a cynical bitch about most things in life, but when the holidays come around I turn into this thing:

I know. It’s disturbing.

A manic, sugar-guzzling, ho-ho-ho-ing Martha Stewart reject.  Christmas music plays constantly in my mind – the anthem of my mania.  I scrawl out massive ‘to-do’ lists with the fervency of a cartoon super villain creating a blueprint for world domination.

I think to some extent I believe that if I bake enough, craft enough, stare at twinkly lights enough, wrap enough and listen to “Jingle Bell Rock” enough, I will usher in an era of world peace that will bring even Kim Jong Un to his knees and all will behold my saintly glory.

You see – I make a lot of homemade gifts because I’m an adjunct; thus, I am poor.  (P.S. This is cute when you’re a kid making fruit loop sombreros, but it’s just kind of pathetic when you’re a full-grown, real-life adult with a master’s degree – it’s like when your senile Aunt Bethany regifts her cat or when your husband catches you eating a spoonful of peanut butter and chocolate icing for dinner).

I can’t just make things easy for myself either and say, “Hey, I know – I’ll just make some chocolate chip cookies for everyone.  All I have to do is triple this recipe, bake em up, box em and be done!  Easy!”  Au contraire.  For some reason, I go absolutely batshit and feel the need to

Truffles and peanut butter cups and cookies shaped like snowmen! Biscotti! Banana Bread! Palmiers!  I must bake them all!

And while I bake them, I must taste them!  Taste them all!

This all sounds perfectly feasible when I make out that to-do list at the beginning of the season, but as Christmas draws nearer, I crumble into a ball of sugary panic and desperation as I sacrifice sleep to dip pretzels in melted chocolate and seriously consider developing a mild cocaine addiction:

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t leave myself any time for blogging or writing or anything except rocking back and forth in a hyperglycemic frenzy, really.  I barely managed to make it through my last few weeks of classes without serving arsenic-laced petit-fours to my students whose last batch of essays were utterly abysmal.  I’m talking ‘clearly didn’t even read the essay when finished because paragraph three ends in the middle of an unfinished sentence’ abysmal. I’m talking ‘inventing new words like lessable – yes, lessable’ abysmal.  Perhaps this was my fault, consumed as I was by my sugar-peddling bacchanal.

(Pssst. Sometimes I really don’t think I’m cut out to be a teacher.)

Anyway – I’m back, and as I noted last week my New Year’s Resolution is ‘leave the dishes.’  I will try to cultivate an attitude of relaxation and tranquility.  I will try not to sweat the small stuff.

Unfortunately, I also registered to take the GRE in March, so this should be a fun few months!  Yes, I finally decided to apply to doctoral programs, because clearly I need more education debt in my life.  I’d love to say that I’m taking this step because I value knowledge and personal growth, but really, I just want a job that pays me enough to move out of the hood (where ‘fireworks or gunshots?’ is a regular topic of discussion over dinners of Ramen noodles and depression), and it seems a PhD might be required for this.

I didn’t have to take the GRE for my master’s degree (my writing samples were enough because I’m so clearly awesome), but now it must be done.

As I cracked open the math section of my study book for the first time, I was greeted with a veritable melee of terms that I have, for years,  carefully sequestered in the corner of my mind reserved for cockroaches and speculums and all things unpleasant:  FOIL, permutations, functions, quadratic equations, exponents.  Integer?  That means number, right? Right?  Oh dear God, what does it mean?!?

Here’s how I imagine all English majors encountering algebra and geometry for the first time years after graduating:

In other words,

Any advice?

I Did Nothing

After a grading bender on Saturday and Sunday, I managed to finish all my work before Thanksgiving Break even began.  So, when Monday morning rolled around and my husband prepared for work while I sat in my pajamas under my heated blanket like an elderly invalid, I quavered out this feeble question: “What should I do today?”

He replied, “Do nothing.  Do absolutely nothing.  Don’t clean. Don’t cook. Watch TV and read books all day.  Seriously, if that empty bowl of yogurt residue is not sitting on the table when I get home, I’m going to find it and throw it against the wall to watch it shatter into a billion yogurty pieces, a symbol of your broken serenity.”  (I might have made that last part up).

So I girded my loins and prepared for the daunting battle against my own sense of guilt.  You see, I don’t quite know how to do lazy.  I’m sure I’m not alone here.  When I try to relax, guilty, wormy thoughts squeeze through the cracks in my brain and whisper obligations to me (guilt worms can whisper, btw, and they look like this):

“Lazy cow,” they whisper, “there are so many things you should be doing right now.  Cleeeean something.  Wriiiite something.  Plaaaaan something, dummy!  Harvest someone’s organs!  Do something!  If you don’t, your humanity will be revoked, and you will become one of usssss! Blaaaaargaaaagarrr!”

It’s usually just easier to acquiesce to their demands, but on Monday, I decided to make a concerted effort to not put forth any effort.

I succeeded.

I watched movies.  I read books.  I stayed in my pajamas, curled up in my heated blanket burrito, drinking tea (dream big, people, dream big) and breathing.  Most of the time I feel like I’m holding my breath, swimming upstream against a steady deluge of work.  Monday I was finally able to take some slow, deep breaths into the brown paper bag of my first real day off in a long time.

Every now and then, another guilt worm would whisper in my ear, but I managed to stuff a sock in its terrifying maw long enough to enjoy my day.

In short,

Highlights of last week?  Listening to a teenage girl on the bus tell her friend, “White people and light-skin people look nasty, like they sick.  Look like somethin’ wrong with they skin.  Ugh.  I could never date outside my race.”

I get it.  I’m pale.  My skin is roughly the color of copier paper. Beetle-cleaned bones. Basmati.  But, come on, it’s not like I look like Lord Voldemort:


My lily-white skin does react poorly to sunlight, though.  On my honeymoon, despite emptying the entire contents of a family-sized bottle of sunscreen onto my body, I still managed to get sun poisoning.  My whole face swelled up.  I looked approximately like this:

Hey you guys!

Also, when I was working at a daycare, a little boy asked me, “Why you draw all over yourself with markers?”  It took me a minute to realize he was pointing to the bright blue veins shining through my translucent skin.

I’m pale.  Still, I like my skin.  It keeps out pathogens and cat hair like most skin.  I guess it’s a good thing I’m not trying to chat that girl up and get her number, though; she might just vomit all over me, and then who knows what color I would be?

Highlight #2:  While having a discussion with my students about the purpose of higher education (whether it is simply to prepare them for careers, or whether it is also about shaping their character), one student raised his hand and said, “I think high school is when we shape our character and figure out who we’re going to be.  I think when we get to college, we should pretty much know that stuff already, so college should just be streamlined and focused on our careers.  We pretty much did all our growing up in high school.”

My response:

Did you think like that when you were a freshman?  I don’t remember thinking that, and a cursory/embarrassing visit to my old journal confirms that I pretty much felt like a fetus when I was 18 (and wrote like a fetus, too – a depressed, angsty, hormonal fetus).  Is this a common thought amongst college freshmen now?

If so,

I asked him, “Think about who you were when you were 13.  Were you pretty much the same as you are now, or different?” (Obviously he replied ‘Pretty different’) “OK then, imagine yourself when you are 23.  Does turning 18, legally becoming an adult, really put a stop to your ability or need to grow any more than becoming a teenager caused you to completely put away your childhood and suddenly become mature?”

Cue crickets and blank stares.

Anyway, I’m on break now, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  I hope you enjoy it with people you love (or at least tolerate).  Go find some leaves and roll in them for me.  All mine are covered in snow spat out by the encroaching winter demon who longs only to torment me with his jagged, icicle fingers.  Oh warm fingers and toes!  Would that I knew you still!  Pray you return swiftly and reattach yourselves to my icy stumps.


T(eacher) Rex

I asked my husband what he thought about my last post.  He said I talked about money too much.  Wa-wa.

So here’s something non-money related.  Also, if you go to the Stories link at the top of the page and click on Bogeyman, I posted some fiction.

Teaching makes me nervous.  Let me rephrase that – everything makes me nervous .  Let me rephrase that again – I have a sometimes soul-sucking level of anxiety which obviously makes me perfectly suited for a career in teaching where twenty pairs of eyes are pinned on me at all times for hours every day.

Let me put it this way – on a scale from Emily Dickinson to Howard Hughes, I am Sigourney Weaver’s character from the 1995 movie Copycat.  Remember that movie?  Probably not, but I always have, mostly because despite the whole ‘almost getting murdered in a bathroom stall’ part, I could totally relate to her (incidentally, since I first saw this movie I have had a completely healthy fear of public bathrooms).  Here’s a clip, if you’re still curious.  This is pretty much what I look like every time I try to leave my house:

I might not be that bad (yet), but I did one time hide between my bookshelves with a bowl of half-mashed potatoes when I heard my landlord outside mowing the grass.  I wanted him to think nobody was home so he wouldn’t knock on the door and try to talk to me.  That’s normal, right?

This makes interacting with people at work a little complicated.  First, it almost certainly means that I will never receive a promotion at work over someone else who is equally qualified because when I run into my superiors, my personality falls out of my butt.  I become loud and awkward.  I laugh too easily – nervously – maniacally –  I probably sound like a psychopath.  Really.  They probably think I have actual skeletons in my closet at home, or assorted animal skulls, or at least a Helga-Pataki-level bubblegum shrine resembling my latest stalking victim.  gum shrine

A typical conversation will go like this:

Me: (Seeing boss approaching down a long hallway) Oh no, oh no, oh no.  Please turn into that classroom.  Please turn – Ah, shit, now I’ll have to talk to him.  I better think of something smart or witty to say.  Wait – how do I make my mouth look like a smile again?  Is it like this?

No no – like this

Remember Kane, from Poltergeist?

Remember Kane, from Poltergeist?

Yea, this is the right look.

Boss:  (Friendly) Hey

Me:  GOOD.

Boss: What?

Me:  I MEAN – HEY – I MEAN – HOW’S – DAaaaay?

Boss:  OK, how’s your day going?


Boss:  What?

Me:  YOU TOO! OK BYE. (Running suddenly away)

(He’s charmed, I’m sure.)

It also makes interacting with students a little complicated – and sweaty.  Normally, I am incredibly sensitive to the cold to the point that my body starts a mutiny when the temperature falls below 70 degrees, and it begins to drain all the blood out of my appendages.  It’s as if there is a tiny submarine in my central nervous system with a tiny captain who bellows through his tiny megaphone when his sensors pick up the first hint of cold:  “Mayday!  Mayday!  Mayday!  There’s a possibility that it could one day be cold out there.  Call the retreat, redcoats!  Fall back!  Protect the major organs from the onslaught of their impending, icy death.”  I call it ‘The White Fingers.’

It's actually called Raynaud's Syndrome.

It’s actually called Raynaud’s Syndrome.

My favorite gift my husband has ever bought for me was not jewelry or fancy flowers (which tend to sadden me anyway – who wants to watch beautiful bouquet of flowers slowly die on the table – why not just chop off a cat’s head and bring that to me?).  No, my favorite gift was the heated blanket he surprised me with last winter (romance done right).  I named it Cecil the Blanket.  He accused me of loving it more than him.  I changed the subject.

When I teach, on the other hand, I sweat profusely from my armpits.  Profusely.  Like this:

Apparently Axe believes I can solve my problem with their products, but I am loathe to smell like a pubescent boy who hasn’t figured out personal hygiene yet.

When I get home at the end of the day, the first thing I want to do is strip off all my clothes and wash myself while curled up and weeping in the bottom of the shower.  Of course, I have to make it through the day first.

One survival solution I’ve come up with is to imagine that I’m a T-Rex (the T stands for Teacher).

I clamp my upper arms firmly against my sides and flail my tiny forearms around trying to write on the board, like this but with words instead of numbers:


Also, whenever students piss me off, I just bite them in their faces (don’t tell them that if they sit perfectly still I can’t see them).

I’m still sweaty, but at least nobody has to stare at my pit stains.

Remember Pit Stain from Pete and Pete?  That show was legit.

Remember Pit Stain from Pete and Pete? That show was legit.

Maybe one day I’ll just slap some maxi pads under there or preemptively soak my entire shirt in the bathroom sink before class.  Until then, T-Rex arms.

Of course, it doesn’t help that some students are just giant ass spatulas, even when it comes down to something as simple as the pronunciation of their names.  Honestly, I do my best.  I want to say every student’s name correctly because I think it is rude and disrespectful to them not to do so and, believe it or not, I try to be respectful to my students at all times.  Once they tell me how to say the name, I will continue to say it that way until I DIE with their haphazardly spelled monikers trailing from my lips like Citizen Kane’s beloved Rosebud.

But, allow me to put on my Mama’s Family little old lady wig and glasses to say,

What's up with parents today naming their children completely incomprehensible, make-believe names?

What’s up with parents today naming their children completely incomprehensible, make-believe names?

I suppose they think their children are special, so they don’t want to give them average names like Mary or Bobby.  I suppose they also want their children to grow into the type of people who make passive-aggressive Facebook status updates about how they’re not going to let the “drama” get to them because they’re unique butterflies or flowers or munchkin cats, or some other nonsense.

Why hooman?  Why did you maek me like dis?

Why hooman? Why I haz no legs? Why you maek me like dis?

People can name their children whatever they want, but I’m not a mind reader and there’s no way I will be able to pronounce some of these loco names correctly on the first attempt.

On the first day of the first class I ever taught, I had the following conversation:

Me: (Reading the name ‘Sherawhn’ from the roster) Sure-on?

Sherawhn:  Yea…(eye roll)

Me:  I just want to make sure – did I say your name correctly?

Sherawhn:  You the English teacher.  You should know (lips pushed out with so much defiant attitude it looked like she’d gotten them stuck in an escalator – eyes rolled so far back into her head it looked like she was seizing).

Me:  (what I actually said) Nobody, not even English teachers, know how to pronounce every word in the world, especially names with unique spellings.

Me:  (what I wanted to say) Do you know how to pronounce ‘vituperator’? Because it means bitch and that is exactly what you are.  Please find a bus and throw yourself in front of it, posthaste.

I forgave Sherawhn somewhat.  After all, she was clearly fresh out of high school – full of the arrogance of youth.  I hope she has matured into a fine young woman, or that at least she’s been enthusiastically b-slapped in the face a few times since then.

However, a few years later I had another student who was obviously old enough to be my grandmother (read:  someone who should have known better):

Me: (First day of class, First attendance, I see the name Sheeilaann on my roster.  Soo manny unnneeeddeedd letttttersss) She-lan?

Sheeilaan: UH-UH!! nnnNO! UH UH! (Practically shouting – she was kind of like all of these characters rolled into one –

Me: Oh, I’m sorry, did I say it wrong?  How is it pronounced?

Sheeilaan:  (Wagging her finger and bobbing her head around so fast she looked like a helicopter.  I half expected her head to fly off her body and take off out the window) It She-LUN, not She-LAN!!

Me:  Well, I’m sorry I said it incorrectly, but there’s no need to have such a bad attitude about it.  This is the first time I’ve seen your name.  You have my assurance I will say it correctly from now on.

Me: (What I wanted to say) Seriously, everyone who has ever loved you was wrong.

Some other favorite names:

Chris-Xeil (pronounced Chrishell, like Michelle but with Chris at the beginning – naturally)

J’Rae-jaa’ (I don’t even think the poor girl knew how to pronounce this one.  I heard her pronounce it at least two different ways to different people.  Who can blame her?  So much punctuation.  Why?)

Aza’lea (Pronounced Ah-zhu-lay, not azalea, like the flower, which is how I said it, much to her dismay).

Satohn (Pronounced Sa-tawn.  OK, so this was actually a four-year-old little boy at the daycare where I worked, but it is still one of my favorite names of all time.  My question for the parents – why not go all the way and just name your baby Satan?)

Sugar Dick – A colleague of mine had this student – this was her given first and last name.  A Google search reveals some. . . horrifying things, but also the fact that this name combination is more common than I want to believe.  The only possible justification for this is if the baby was born with a birthmark in the shape of a tiny g-string with dollar bills sticking out of it.  The parents would then figure, “Well, it’s obviously her destiny to be a stripper, so we’d better equip her with the best stripper name possible.  That way she can be the best darn stripper in the whole wide world!”  I imagine her childhood was a lot like this little girl’s, whose parents actually dressed her up like Julia Roberts playing a prostitute in Pretty Woman.

This is full of so. much. yikes.  Ba da ba ba ba - I'm not lovin' it.

This is full of so. much. yikes. Ba da ba ba ba – I’m NOT lovin’ it.

The majority of my students are completely understanding, normal, rational humans, but for me and my unending levels of anxiety, teaching is like walking through a field where I know for sure a land-mine has been buried (because there’s usually at least one Cray Charles in the bunch).  I anticipate it, I wait for it, I dwell on it.  I mean, if some of them are willing to expend so much energy becoming angry over a simple mistake in name pronunciation, just imagine what they will do to me when I turn into Teacher-Rex and bite them in their faces.