I Am a Teacher…or How a 40 Minute Errand Becomes a Two-Hour Journey

grocery list

Today I left the house with a list–exchange a propane tank, procure paper goods, and get groceries. I figured about 40 minutes (at most an hour) for all three. You’d think I would know better by now, since I have been a teacher for 20 years (16 years in our current small town).

Errand 1: Exchanging the propane tank. Everything went smoothly here. I was able to quickly move to the front of the line; the clerk was not a former student, so no extra conversation. As I was backing out of my parking stall, I waved merrily to B., a former student who is in town working on wedding plans to another former student (J.). How do I know they were working on wedding plans from just a wave….wait for it.

No time lost.

Errand 2: Procuring paper goods from Shopko. I found everything I needed, plus an item I didn’t, quickly. However, as I was heading for the check out, I ran into a friend, D., who looked distressed and called me over. She was looking for white card stock to print out wedding details (yes, the above-mentioned J. is her daughter), but could not find it. We searched three different aisles; during this time, a different former student J. tracked me down and wanted to talk (he has been out of the state –and for a while the country–with the military, but we have kept up via social media). Unfortunately, neither of us had time for the talk we desired, so he left D. and I to find the elusive card stock. We were finally successful.

Some time lost.

Errand 3: Getting groceries from a local grocery store. I had a fairly extensive but well-organized list. I moved through produce with my head down, focused on my quest. It was not until I left aisle 3 that I ran into K., a former student who is finishing her nursing degree. We had a lovely talk about her upcoming graduation and wedding plans (she, too, is marrying a former student, A.). We discussed his possible desire to become a high school English teacher after a good experience student teaching and how encouraged I was to hear this due to my concern that we have fewer male role models as teachers at all levels of education, but particularly the high school level. As I moved through the cereal aisle, I tried to refocus on the task at hand: getting home in a timely fashion. However, as I zeroed in on yogurt, I had a quick discussion with a current student, C., and nearly wiped out another current student, J., with my shopping cart as I entered the home stretch. Finally, I stopped at the video department because one of my seniors, A., was working and I hadn’t seen her at school for several days. The rumor mill had her dropping out, and another teacher and I had sent emails begging her to reconsider, but I had longed to speak with her in person. Fortunately she had no customers in line, and we talked about her future. She plans to get her GED through a cosmetology school in a neighboring community and then her cosmetology degree. She seems hopeful but was concerned I would think less of her for quitting high school. I assured her this was not the case; I just wanted to know that she was moving forward with a plan because she is too smart to do otherwise. I also offered to help in any way. We parted on good terms.

After picking up some carry-out chicken for dinner (I had run out of time to cook), I joked with J. (the one I had nearly taken out a few minutes before) as he took my groceries to the car.

Needless to say, a lot of time was lost in this final stop.

On the short drive home, I reflected on the trip. It is Sunday afternoon, not even remotely class hours, but this is so typical for me (and every other teacher I know). We do not work 40 hour weeks because we are never off duty. And frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just wish sometimes that those in political power could experience this. If nothing else, maybe they would find themselves too busy to propose and pass laws that damage education, not to mention too busy to make dinner.

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Talking Zombies

I zipped into town today for a pastry…one of my favorite things about summer is the flexibility to do such a thing in the middle of the morning.  However, since I had waited until the prime bakery hour of 9 o’clock, I had to do a turn around in the local grocery store parking lot in order to find a parking spot.

While doing this, I noticed one of my just-graduated seniors leaving the bank.  When he saw me in the parking lot, he stopped to let me know that his hypothesis concerning the reality of zombies had just been proved via the case of the cannibalistic guy in Miami reported recently. This student spent the school year trying to convince me of zombies’ existence and was quite excited to tell me about the story he’d seen on CNN.

I’m not sure where this fits in my attempts to get kids excited about persuasive topics, but if a student is still stopping me, his English teacher, on the street during summer break to continue his arguments, I claim that as continuous learning, and I’d like to think I had a little something to do with it.

Oh, and despite discussing the grisly attack in Miami, my chocolate-glazed doughnut went down just fine.

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Busy but Good Day

Today Russia and Canada outdid themselves.  We left for school around 7:20 a.m.  Just after school started, Canada headed on a field trip to a nearby community college with her Anatomy and Physiology class to tour the nursing program and experience the cadaver lab.  This was after the virtual autopsy she was a part of last week.  She loved it!  Although I think she’s still trying to figure out why the female cadaver’s breasts were so…well…gravity challenged.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her it happens to the best of us.

Russia presented a talk about her country to the local Lions’ Club over the lunch hour, which went swimmingly.  Then she scored a season-high 4 points with one rebound and one foul in tonight’s JV basketball game, the last of her career.  I don’t think it’s a stretch to say she was on fire.

I should be so tired, but I keep replaying how excited they were talking about their respective days over Subway sandwiches tonight.  Although I could have done without Canada’s comparison of her Italian white bread to the human brain.  Just sayin’.

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It’s Been a While…

I know…I haven’t posted for a while.  It’s been about 3 months of ups and downs as a “family”.  For a while Renaissance Man and I wondered if Russia and Canada would ever settle in and relax.  Well, I looked around tonight as all four of us were watching KU basketball and eating pizza and thought, “This is pretty good stuff.”  Although I occasionally miss the freedom of schedule in my previous life, I will definitely miss nights like this one when the girls go home.

During halftime Russia and I were in the kitchen baking brownies and laughing over Facebook.  She laments over basketball season drawing to a close–after all, she scored her first basket recently with the whole gym cheering for her.  Renaissance Man and Canada were doing her Anatomy and Physiology homework–I love that he absolutely refuses to give her any answers, even when she giggles like a total dipstick girl.  She applied to nursing school online today.  I’m so happy for her, and yet, it’s a sign that the end is closing in.

May 29 (Russia’s leave date) and June 3 (Canada’s) are not very far away.  Where has the time gone?

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Sniff, Sniff

For crying out loud.  I just sent the girls off to the movies with a friend, her parents, and her younger siblings in a minivan–overall, a pretty safe venture.  Then I entered the kitchen and felt…lonely.  I was actually near tears.  They’d been gone for 3 minutes, and the house already seemed empty.

I’m sure it’s just the fact that I’ve had a busy week…right?

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Girls and Shoes

While I wait for my umpteenth load of laundry to dry, here’s a question for you:

Do you like the grey shoes?








Or do you prefer the silver, sparkly ones?








Renaissance Man and I spent over an hour discussing the merits of each with Russia tonight in preparation for the Fall Ball, which is a week away.  I was prepared to vote for the grey ones, but frankly, I’m kind of digging the sparkles, as is Russia.  We are working hard to help her make her own decisions; this is a very difficult skill for her.  She constantly second-guesses herself.  Her heart is screaming for sparkles, but her head is wondering if the grey ones are more practical for the future.

Of course, I suppose she could always wear both while doing her famous “Lobster Dance.”

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Things have been a little challenging at our place.  Evidently there was a bit of a blow up between the girls Friday night, followed by a weekend of Cold War that Renaissance Man and I didn’t completely comprehend.  So by last night (Wednesday), an intervention was in order.

Although  both girls were hurt and angry, they also agreed that they didn’t like this tension.  We got everything off our chests and set some guidelines for future conflicts, because we all agree that we will get on each others’ nerves again–it’s unavoidable.  I took the early advice of our exchange program supervisor and created a Google Doc with simple steps for conflict resolution.  I know–kind of cheesy, teachery, nerdy–but I think it’s a good idea with the language and cultural barriers we sometimes face.

Many issues were discussed last night, but none was so obvious as the difference in expectations that the girls brought into this experience.  As an only child, Russia dreams of a family with a mother and father (hers have been not-so-amicably divorced since she was a baby) and sister.  Canada’s parents are separated, too, but only for the last few years and quite amicably, so she expects a family much like her own–a mother and a sister.  I don’t think she quite knows what to do with Renaissance Man at times, although she does find him intriguing.

Russia does not like the pressure of smiling and conversing in the mornings.  Canada dreams of all of us sitting down to breakfast and sharing our plans for the day.

Russia believes she has bad dreams because her mother is not here to kiss and hug her before bed.  Canada feels hugging is only necessary when it’s “natural”.

How to balance this?  We’re all going to have to adjust our expectations–rarely a fun activity, but definitely a necessary one.  And lots of prayer has and will continue to guide us.  Thanks to those of you who have offered up requests to God since we’ve begun this adventure.  Whatever you do, don’t stop now!

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