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Monthly Archives: September 2015

I can pick up my hand, vomit my social connections into my face,

I’m all alone but there’s Katie in Texas but I’ve never seen her face,
I’m alone but there’re thousands of people willing to talk, most of the time,
I’m all alone but I’m practically married and I’ve found the one.

The time in the bathroom at the bar is when the screaming can stop,
it’s driving through a tunnel, thoughts suspend in zero gravity,
your face appears in a mirror.

The medicine doesn’t mix with intoxication but this is
what you do on a Saturday night so it’s time to feel like a sunken boat.
Look at these passing fish, cringe at my sound waves. Turn off the sonar.

There’s a shed on the hill where we can gather and smoke
and feel horrible together and our horrors won’t reach each other,
we are sitting around with a cigarette in our lung speaking horrors
that flitter past our lips and die on the cement below us.
Gas station, highway ramps, millennials with black teeth from coffee and cigarettes and stress and the first time I got a  master’s  degree my stomach lining wore away,
my second masters degree I sold my eggs and now my ovaries are like a plucked dry tree.

Either way, that blood is pouring out of me and I’m stopping it in time
to stand up and tell you where I’m from and what I do and all my boring
fill in the blank personal details I could have made a Xerox of and handed out to you.

We are so fucking stoned, I can’t stop saying how much I love you
and you can’t stop saying it back but
someone’s in the bathroom and we can’t let our insanity be witnessed.
We have personally attacked every cell in our brain,
here we stand battle weary.

My friend (?) passes out drunk just when I finish describing an otherworldly experience with brain waves. Amanda’s singing about coke heads and volleyball players and you’re making macaroni and cheese in the kitchen.

And I’ve ripped up my defenses, nails tearing meat from meat in this attempt to reveal something of my self, such a potential waste of time.

I’m old enough. I pass out in a strange place, wake up in a strange place, walking through halls you pray are the same in a strange place.

But then I take this pill, and I feel as if nothing behind or before
even matters, and the days are split up into colorful fragments
filled with sensibleness and reason and parents who assent,
approve all the imperfections you’ve dregged for them. Drudges for them.

Here’s a résumé for them.

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If you could not be on the verge of panic for a little while, wouldn’t that be nice? But it’s never quite that easy. It’s always been something like, a lack of sleep, and seeking a solution for this problem, going on the Prozac which makes you sleepy all the time, covered in life’s slime, then to Wellbutrin, which gives you energy but whispers in your ear that your life is ending. It’s always—some nagging issue, some faulty treatment, eternal discontent.

When you have sleep mastered for a while, you get up and face all those little problems you can’t manage to fucking solve. You walk down the halls at work and the pies are just smashing you in the face. You feel like a joke, but you’re actually just doing your job and being a good contributing member to society. But your brain isn’t convinced. If things were okay, then, well, wouldn’t you be gushing with serenity and happiness like, you know, those—those people? Wouldn’t you know?

You try to force your mind into a Zen state, then you remember that you can’t be forceful with Zen and your mind should be settling down like a leaf falling to the ground or some shit. Not forced into observant appreciation. Then there’s some shit with breathing. You ask about how to dissolve your anxiety, and the doctor gives you a little machine that hooks up to your finger and tells you about your heart rate.

YOUR HEART RATE IS TOO FAST. SLOW DOWN. COME ON. DO IT. DO IT NOW. RELAX. INHALE, EXHALE, FUCK!

Shouldn’t that be easy? Breathing?

You call your mom, because you want to have this amazing relationship with her where you appreciate her for the role she’s played in your life, and love her unconditionally which you somehow need to do because your soul is just making you. She is tired. You haven’t talked to her in two weeks but she asks you what’s new like she’d rather be doing something else. She tells you to just call her every now and then to update her. This isn’t the close relationship you were looking for, but it’s something and you should appreciate that but you only want to share everything with her. Some point in your life you probably screwed this dynamic up, back when you were a teenager and despised her for the way she thought, and your early 20s where you just ignored her.

Damn it. This is going to become never-ending regret.

You go to work and several people there decide to sit across from you and talk about how young you look. You look so young, your eyes are all big and bright even though you’re terrified, you’re probably dressing wrong or something. Their eyes look you up and down and you can see them actively judging you in your presence and you don’t even care enough to look at them closely and judge them back. They’re not even interesting people. They like the same sports teams as everyone else and town, like the same shows, go to the same stores, talk about the same memories. This is harsh of you, but they are looking at your stomach to see how much you weigh.

You can see where their eyes are pointing.

You try to go home, and someone swoops down on you and demands to know what your life choices have been thus far. What is your job? What is your job? WHAT IS YOUR MOTHERFUCKING LINE OF WORK? Then they try to empathize with this line of work, give their opinion on it, they’ll ask where you’re from and you’ll say it, for the thousandth fucking time—

Sports teams? Sports teams? Sports teams?

Then out of nowhere this person will make fun of the things you care about the most in the world, making jokes, bad jokes. You’ll be fumbling to find the right key, but they all look sort of the same. You just need to stick a key in the doorknob and go home but this person wants to tell you exactly what they think about everything and zero in on choice details in your life to try to turn into jokes. This person thinks they’re great. They’re fun to be around! You all need to hang out.

You’re worried about sleep. All those interactions stuck little needles in your brain, marking where the insecurities and neuroses are. You try to ignore those points, nope, not looking at them, you are looking away, you are listening to this—humming of the fan! Crickets outside! But then you’re back to those needles again, pulling them out of your brain and sticking them back in.

You’re worried about sleep. Sleep will make everything better, yes, that’s the solution. Then it’s dawn and you spent the whole night running laps around that thought.

You’re working things out. Slowly. When this is all resolved, you’ll know

                                                     Hope Gangloff

.

A teacher heralding the importance of education and bemoaning the current state of education is definitely nothing new. I’ve entered my 5th year teaching as of August, and yet no aspect of my career has allowed for any stability. The majority of my experience was at a city charter school, where I was contracted and subject to renewal on a yearly basis. The fragility of the position meant that I had to do whatever they wanted me to, whenever they wanted me to do it. Of course, this meant I was doing everything, always.

Now I’m a substitute teacher again! Oh, bottom of the barrel, how I missed you.

I think there’s value to my insider perspective, since most of the time when someone is going off about education they are not a teacher. But me, I’ve seen some things. A variety of things, in my brief amount of time teaching. I have most likely experienced first-hand that shitty situation that you’ve heard about. Multiple times.

For example, let’s talk about testing. This is talked about all the time—kids are tested too much, parents are opting their kids out of testing, testing is tied to funds. So what is “too much”? Well, let’s see. First, let me start off by saying that the most important aspect to the charter of the school I was previously employed at was the guarantee of certain test scores. That was what the state cared MOST about, and they weren’t subtle about it. They were basically, “yeah, whatever, show us your scores,” looking away from the technology and signs of school culture to stare at a data wall. Since the state governments primarily care about test scores, schools freak out about them as the snapshot of their success/failure. This sort of anxiety leads to things like benchmark exams and practice tests, which are fairly common in schools at this point. The school I worked at held four benchmark exams, one per quarter, for each subject with a state test, so the “cores,” English Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies. Of course, that was just middle school. But anyway. There was also the practice test, which was usually held in February or March—the state exams for middle school were in April and June. A practice test for ELA and math. Now, each test generally takes about two days, and the ACTUAL state tests are 3 days long. In order to provide data for the teachers (mmm, gotta love that data), what we called STAR tests via Renaissance Learning were administered, and those were a day each for ELA and math.

What’s our total here in days spent testing? All those days set aside for STAR and benchmarks and practice tests and the actual state tests? Now, I’m gonna adjust a few numbers here and there, since a few tests are shorter than others… and what I have is….

Six weeks.

Six weeks taking tests. Six weeks out of the school year devoted to taking tests. Sitting there. With a pen or pencil, starting at a piece of paper. Maybe standing in front of a beaker if this was a lab.

Think of all the things these students would be better off doing. Better off learning, practicing.

Now, there’s the oft talked about Common Core State Standards. God, people really hate those. I always get a little miffed when I listen to people going off about them, however, because people tend to not even have any idea what they are attacking. The standards themselves are actually completely reasonable and good. I practically have the standards for ELA memorized, and I’ve seen the standards for the other subjects. The main goal of these standards is to get students to engage in higher level thinking, to read more non-fiction texts and to think abstractly. That is a good thing! Of course that’s what people should be learning to do! The word standards is key here, because these are just skills that teachers should be making sure students learn. That is all.

What I have found issue with, however, is everything else surrounding the Common Core. Namely, the application of the standards on a state level. The modules. Oh god, the modules!

Because heaven forbid you have educated, trained, intelligent teachers apply these standards their own way, many states have put together their own Common Core modules which they “suggest” that schools use. Yes, suggest, as they breathe down the schools’ necks. The administrators and boards of the schools spaz out, of course, and accept these modules as if they are manna from heaven. These scripted lessons are made mandatory for teachers to adopt (not adapt—adopt…. this debate was such a pain the ass broken record at my last job). Maybe this is more of a New York thing, but those EngageNY modules were my bane for a while.

These modules were RIDDLED with mistakes, the text selections are questionable, and it’s just graphic organizer after graphic organizer after graphic organizer. A big old graphic organizer boner.

The schools are paying money for some of these materials too, of course.

Money! Now there’s the thing. What schools are paying for and not paying for. Why is funding such an issue with schools? It seems like a no-brainer that education should be the top concern when it comes to funding. Class sizes are too big? Build more schools. Hire more teachers. Expand the buildings. As if there was money for that! In my current horrific substitute placement, I’m teaching in 4 different rooms, which means I have to carry my supplies from class to class, which means I need to cut back on what we as a class are using because honestly I can only carry so much. The school is also discussing setting up trailers for classes.

In this day and age, technology is absolutely essential for the classroom. I scoffed at them at first, but now I think that if a school doesn’t have at least some SMARTboards then they are a crappy school. Granted, SMARTboards are delicate pieces of crap, but the ability to write on them, interact with them and display on them, that is so valuable in a classroom. The modern child needs to learn via technology, because that is just the world we live in. How can I effectively teach a student to write well in an applicable, practical sense without the internet? Blogs, web sites, online applications, that is just what is up. To neglect teaching that means the student graduates missing out on that information and those skills.

And don’t go thinking young people just know this stuff. I couldn’t tell you how many times I had to teach an adolescent how to search for things on Google effectively. Young people tend to only know how to use social media interfaces, and anything else is beyond them. Without that exposure, kids are missing out on a very important part of the world. Yes, students need to learn how to navigate the internet and use the internet as a resource—that’s usually not what happens when they’re on their own.

High standards should be held for students, but this shouldn’t be monitored via tests, and not including computers in this means not setting up a human being to function in the real world. There’s so much more I could ramble about, but I’m just exhausted after this long day so I guess I will take a breather for now. Just remember that schools are where the money should be going. The compensation for everything a teacher does is pathetic as well. You can’t ask a teacher to be a super hero in the face of these issues and then pay them what they get paid. Oh god, and then what teachers get paid… people have such misconceptions about that as well. But I just don’t have the energy for that right now.

Yes, yes…. the title. I have this on loop in my head, it’s been going off for the last two days. The record is broken, and honestly I don’t think it’s going to stop because I don’t have the capabilities to lock this shit down.

Oh, I will endure. I might even do this job well. God knows I’m trying. God knows I feel like everything is exploding in my face and all of my efforts are hitting brick walls. A coworker told me today, “You are surviving, and you haven’t quit yet at day two! That’s more than a lot of people.”

A lot of people….? I can’t imagine quitting, I would never give up. I would have my face dragged through the dirt and injure myself psychologically, sure, but I wouldn’t give up.

I am working for a substitute temp agency, basically. Also, since I just moved recently, I really need money. So when I saw that there was a placement for two weeks in this one school district, I was like, awesome! I’ll get to actually teach. It said, “Extra teacher,” so I assumed there was some delay in the hire or something (Oh, how naive I was). Two weeks of subbing is a lot of money.

I walked in the door yesterday at 6:30AM, walked right to the main office. They told me they didn’t have any information for me, to just go stand around. Okay, sure. I stood around for about two hours, working my way through a chain of human beings (one teacher took me to another teacher who took me to another, who took me to another, who took me back to the first person, who sent me back to the office, who sent me to another person). At each individual I was able to excavate just a little bit more of what the fuck was going on: The teacher had quit, even though the job was posted weeks ago they still hadn’t hired anyone, and I was to start off the school year and lesson plan until they hired someone. No one person told me this—no one ever actually told me what my assignment was. I puzzled that shit together.

SURPRISE! Start off three different sets of classes for the first day of school! Both 7th grade and 8th grade English! Fresh out of elementary school, half of them! In forty minutes!

Oh, and I slowly came to realize a parade of things: I had no log-in for the computers so I could not print at the school, I had no computer to work with period, I had no access to any school email or information database. I can’t get parent phone numbers, and there are apparently no ways to write-up or refer kids to detention. There are no phones in the rooms. There are police and security officers everywhere. There are no air conditioners. There are blackboards with chalk.

The last school I taught in had SMARTboards. Oh, how spoiled I was without even knowing it.

Today, in an 8th grade classroom with 31 kids in it and not enough desks and no room to walk around in, I had a whole bunch of seniors walk in halfway through the class because their schedules had the wrong room number. I wrote them a pass to where they were supposed to go, they were gentlemen, whatever. The 8th graders were very amused and I told them with a laugh to stop trying to show off to the seniors. Five minutes later, a straggler senior walks in, and I tell him where to go. He stumbled back and forth and insisted he’s an 8th grader. His eyes were glazed. I would say he was baked out of his mind, but honestly weed doesn’t debilitate you to this level. I tell him to go. He tells me that he loves me. I tell him to go. He tells me I need to say it back. I tell him to go. He stumbles out of the room. The 8th graders (all 31 of them) are like “What the fuck, what is the teacher going to do?” I put on a good performance of asking them WHAT in the WORLD just happened, and that whatever he was smoking was spiked so it would be best not to ask him about it and we joked about it briefly, and honestly that was the best behaved they were for me the whole time.

After third period, there was a fight in the hallway outside the room I was in and some tall male teacher was yanking at these two adolescents (I’m teaching in 4 different rooms, none of them ever in a row on the schedule, so I have to pick up all my stuff and go every period). After class started, this 7th grader—who I did not even know the name of because he’s not on my roster—stood up and started cussing out this girl. Fuck this, fuck that, fucking, fucking fucking, you fucking bitch. He would not stop, so I had no choice really but to send him out of the room. I press a button on the wall (yes, I have a button) that summons an escort. A security officer in police-like uniform shows up, the kid is gone. I can’t even tell them what this kids name is.

That was an honors class.

I’m scrambling to lesson plan for three different classes, spending all my planning periods doing this and running around the huge building to find people who can help me get resources (or…. literally anything). They are taking away one of my planning periods next week and giving me a class. 

Surprise, surprise—a tiny class crammed with 31 kids doesn’t behave well. My bag of tricks is reduced down to almost nothing due to lack of resources. I am trying to teach them. I really am. I am doing my fucking best.

I have to spend the whole long weekend lesson planning (and drinking until I’m dead). The two 7th grade classes will be receiving a BOX EACH full of workbooks, and I need to run through a scripted lesson that takes them through this magical world of workbooks. I received My Big Ol’ Magical Box Teacher Manual Edition Including DVD which was even bigger than their boxes, and it had a false handle on it. When you grab the handle all the books fall out. I have to do this, because this is what is done in this class, and it’s my job to set up the class for whoever is teaching it. They’ve already interviewed teachers for the position, and I’m so busy lesson planning I don’t have time to locate the application or find the mystery HR person or gather up the 12 fucking documents I need to apply. And do I even want the job? No, I don’t want the fucking job.

I’ll be there until next Friday. How am I going to make it? I don’t fucking know. I don’t even know if I can do a good job at this. I’m afraid to process what I’m doing too much so I don’t feel like a huge fucking failure. I’m definitely putting in a lot of work trying to do a good job.

As horrible as this is, thank god for the other teachers. These people. These wonderful people who expect this and have normalized everything that I’ve just described. Who fly by the seat of their pants daily. Who, despite how busy and frustrated and also lacking in resources they are, are helping me so much. I’ve had a dozen people take the time to help me out, show me where things are, suggest things I should do curriculum-wise, recommend rooms for me to work in (since I don’t have a set classroom), find resources for me and answer my questions.  They don’t have to do this, but they see me sweating my face off and scrambling and they provide because they are simply amazing, and yes—you have to be a fucking superhuman to be a teacher. I don’t even care if they turn around and go, “Look at this fucking idiot,” at least they’re helping me.

The school has such a prison-vibe to it, the emergency button and the PA asking me what I need, the police, the security, the gates. I’m going to finish this assignment, no matter how much it wears me down. Yes, I’ve cried on the way home the past two days. Actually, I even held it in for the ride—God forbid somebody sees me—and managed to wait until I got home to fall apart. I think most people would cry. That doesn’t stop me from feeling like a horrible mound of shit.

I feel like I should add… this isn’t my first year teaching. I’ve been through a lot of this before. I should probably be handling this better. I’ve just never dealt with THIS much all at once in a location completely devoid of resources.

I just quit my telemarketing job because they switched the program to one that scams people.

What am I doing with my life, everyone? Holy fucking shit…

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