Saturday, April 02, 2016

A is for April fool's day!

At this point, I have been a teacher for four years. I think four years are enough to start developing some traditions that you follow every year. One of my many annual traditions is to hand-write a personal letter to each of my students and give it to them on the last day of school, usually in the month of May. Another annual tradition is my April fool's prank.

Over the past three years, my prank has been pretty standard. I would devise a quiz of some sort of my students, the entire first page would be serious, science-based questions. When the kids turned the page over, the second page would be filled with nerdy science jokes. For example... have you heard that the moon is broke? It's down to its last quarter!!! Is it just me, or are these science jokes getting cornea and cornea?! Yeah, I know. Pretty epic. But it has always gotten a smile out of my students.

Apparently the generation gap is also becoming smaller and smaller. The students I taught four years ago are not the same by any measure compared to the students I teach now. I feel the students and the parents of kids four years ago were very laid back and could really laugh at a joke. That was a huge part of the reason that my April fool's pranks would work spectacularly well. In fact, last year, I managed to get at least two students in each class to voluntarily stand up and yell out "I ate my poo!" in the middle of the quiz.

This year, I was in a quandary as to what to implement for an April fool's joke. I had already done the fake test thing several times. And let's face it, it is the oldest trick in the book. Oldest, yet most effective. I settled for performing a mix of pranks on my kids, depending on what period they were in. While I did get a mild "ha-ha" reaction, I was surprised and very disappointed to see that kids these days, are not easily amused. I actually had a few kids panic over my fake test prank and look at me all worried, asking me what they were supposed to do if they couldn't answer page two. It is now all about the grade.

So, is the current generation of kids really that worried about their grade that they can't take a joke anymore? Or do we live in a society where we are so ready to play the victim that we are expecting the worst to happen to us at any given point in time? It is so easy to offend and be offended these days. Have we forgotten what it is like to sit back and enjoy a simple April fool's prank without panicking?

Also, why is there a generation gap between the freshmen (9th grade) and the juniors (11th grade)? Aren't generations supposed to span a decade or more?

We live in interesting times and I am curious to see how technology, culture, social media and ideas play a role in our evolution as a whole.

In conclusion, I am very disappointed that today is April fool's day and nobody has announced to me yet that Donald Trump running for President is just a big, fat Republican gag! :P

Thank you Clueless, for waking up the slumbering blogger beast! ;)

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Accepting Challenges!

This month is going to be all about accepting challenges! I was recently told about the April A-Z challenge for bloggers and thought I didn't sign up for it officially on their website, I decided to try it out anyways. I've been toying around with the idea of starting a new blog for a while now, because I miss blogging and I haven't been able to get myself to be creative here in a while. I guess I have been viewing this page as my college days writing space. But there is so much history here!!! So why not restart my blog here first?! :)

So here are a bunch of goals and challenges I have set for myself in April.

- Post at least once a day on my blog
- Get back to painting and paint at least 10 pieces of art (I already finished one! But I'll talk more about that in my next post)
- Stop eating like a four year old. I recently discovered that kale smoothies aren't actually that bad, especially if they have lots of berries in them!
- Become more physically fit.

Seems like a lot to accomplish, considering all this has to happen around my number one priority - being a high school teacher! But I really think it would be healthy for me to try to bring a balance in my life between work and fun. Of course, this is a difficult task when you find what you do fun! :) Don't hate on me! :D

So here's to another restart! Let's see how it goes! :)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Change, the only thing constant

I really do miss writing. I never was a regular when it came to blogging but the times that I did write, I really enjoyed myself. This blog saw it's golden age of posts when I was in college and saw the world through "blogger eyes", as my friend, Clueless, had once put it. The posts needed a variety, ranging from humor to philosophy to the mundane.

I still view the world as a blogger, but a different kind of blogger. I guess that's what happens when you grow up, become a teacher and view life very differently. I find myself not posting here simply because I really don't want to mess with the vibe that I had created here that I love so much. This is a new era in my life and deserves it's own blog :)

I'm not venturing too far out. I'm still going to post under the same nickname, just a different url. And at this point, I'm sure I'm just talking to an empty room in here, all my readers have long given up on me. But for what it's worth, I'm moving to a different url. If you are ever bored, feel free to come see me at my new place! :)

Here is to a brand new start! Cheers! :)

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Dear Teacher

Happy Teacher's Day!!!

I missed you so much these past few months. I went back to Chennai for a vacation with my parents. And as I always do, I went back to school to see all my teachers. Well, almost all, I definitely missed you. I wished you were there so I could tell you first hand that I teach Physics, just like how you taught me. I would have loved to talk to you about how to be the best physics teacher in the world!

Something unexpected happened though. The new Principal of the school asked me to address the school assembly, so the kids could hear first hand, an alumnus of that very school who chose a path different from becoming a Doctor or an Engineer. I agreed to this, but only for one reason, a reason of my own. I knew that addressing the assembly was the best way to reach all my teachers and tell them that they made me who I am today.

So I stood up on that stage, conquered my fear of public speaking, and spoke my heart out. Everything that would have otherwise remained a secret in my "Dear Teacher" posts came out. I told the kids to be brave and follow their dreams, even if it rubbed society the wrong way, because at the end of the day, they have to be able to live with themselves.

Then I told my teachers, that I understand how difficult their job is. I understand now, from first hand experience, how much effort goes into being a teacher. I understand how frustrating it is to balance everything, from planning, grading, administrative work to even family life. I told them that I know, at some point in their career, they must have seriously contemplated quitting the profession altogether. The pay isn't as good as it should be, the kids can be extremely frustrating, administration can be frustrating, too many hours and too few rewards. I understand why quitting seems so much more attractive.

But you know what? There exists a human being, me, who is so eternally grateful that her teachers fought through those frustrations, never gave up, never quit and always came back to school to inspire another day. My life has changed so much because of my teachers, that I am dedicating this new career path to them. I have never been so proud in my life to have a career like this, one that is difficult, but one with a purpose. I wanted all my teachers to know that if there ever was a time they wondered whether or not they made a difference, I am living proof that they did. They shaped my life into something very beautiful.

After the talk, all my teachers, well, almost all, you weren't there, came to me in tears. We all shared a moment together, silently standing in a circle behind the stage, with tears in our eyes, too overwhelmed with emotions to say anything, yet understanding what we were trying to say. I never in my life imagined that I would get to be this honest with my teachers and share this moment. And I know that we were all wishing that you were there with us. I told the whole school about you, your story, OUR story. And you know what? Kids and young teachers who didn't even know you, missed you that day.

Later on, I got to talk to my old Chemistry teacher. She told me what a perfectionist you were. Why didn't that surprise me?! She admires you very deeply. But do you know what she told me? She said she had met you in the final weeks of your life. She told me, that your advice to her was "don't stress out! None of it matters, none of it makes a difference, nobody is going to care or remember anything!"

How could you say that? I remember, and I always will, it mattered to me that you were there for me, it has made me who I am today. Society tells me that I have taken a step "back" in my career by becoming a teacher, but you know what? I am proud to be walking in your footsteps. 

I miss you today, on Teachers Day. I have all this technology with me, smart phone, laptop, iPads, none of them are useful to me today. There isn't an app that can let me communicate with you to tell you that you were wrong and that I cared, I still do. All I can do is look helplessly at all the facilities at my disposal, feeling frustrated that I can't talk to you one last time.

Here is another Dear Teacher post. For as long as I live, I will carry on your story. Because you know what? If I tell your story often enough, maybe one of these times, you will be listening in on me. And you will know....

You made all the difference in the world to me.

I miss you. 

Your loving student,

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fighting a losing battle

It must be a tough job to write up the constitution of any country, it needs to be tight enough to catch as many of the criminals as possible but at the same time, reasonable enough to allow the innocent to walk if they are ever wrongfully tried. It must be a tough job to be an honest lawyer or a judge to uphold the law to make sure that no innocent man is put behind bars and put through the horrors of prison but at the same time, to keep most of the criminals behind bars, away from society.

Over the years, I have often thought about the idea of "innocent until proven guilty" and have been comforted by it. It seems like a scary thought when you are framed for a crime you did not commit and are punished for it. No innocent man should ever go through that. I used to feel that it is a bigger injustice to put an honest man in prison than to let a murderer walk free because of a technicality or loophole in the law.

We would much rather see a criminal walk free on a "technicality" if that same technicality helped an innocent person stay out of prison. It doesn't make it any easier to see a criminal walk free with that smug look on his face, but at least an innocent victim was saved from a horrible fate.

Recently, I tried to apply that idea to my job and found it very disturbing. Its weird how similar a teacher's gradebook is to the law/lawyers/judges. It needs to be tight enough to make sure that those who work hard and work sincerely pass but not so tight that everybody fails no matter how much they try. It has to be fair. My idealistic view was that a good gradebook would be 100% fair. Nobody who deserved to pass would fail and nobody who deserved to fail would pass. What I did not realize was that this is not a good gradebook, it is the perfect gradebook. And nobody has it. At least not in my school and school district. Apparently we need to pass 80% of our kids, which means curving grades, which means, a few students who do not deserve to pass will pass. And the kids that are aware of this loophole will take full advantage of that.

I just surfaced from a struggle with everybody to stay true to the grades that I had entered in my gradebook, a student who never showed up to class, never completed work on time, ended up passing my class on a "technicality". I had to sign off his gradebook and allow him to pass this year. It broke my heart as I thought about the kids who work their tails off to ace my class or even to pass it. And then there is this kid who knows how to work the system against the teacher and passed on a technicality.

Everybody keeps wondering why the American school system isn't getting any better. Try teaching at a public school for just one month - I challenge you. Teach in a public school for a month, not just for the sake of teaching, but for the sake of making this a better system for the kids, a system that teaches respect, discipline and good work ethics. You will quit within that month. Why? Because nobody will support you. Every teacher who strives towards this goal is shot down, by the students, by the administrators, by the parents, by the community, in favor of better graduating rates and passing rates. As long as teachers are held accountable for the students passing or failing, the education system will be flawed, unless we put the sense of responsibility and accountability back in the students' hands, the education system will be flawed. If I ever did badly in a class, my parents questioned me and my work ethic, not my teacher's work ethic. For any kid that walks into my class, I know that less than 5% of them will actually use the Physics I teach them to make a career or support their career. I couldn't care less even if they aren't perfect in Physics, it will make me prouder to see them walk out of my class room with a better understanding of treating people with respect, having the discipline to do their work sincerely and most importantly, have a good work ethic. That is what school is supposed to teach teenagers. Everything else comes easy after that.

I would much rather see a kid who doesn't deserve to pass get a passing grade than to fail a kid who deserves to pass, that is for sure. It doesn't make it any easier to see the lazy kid walk away with a smug look on his face, but as a teacher, I have to think about all my kids and what is fair to all of them.

I don't think I have grown as much in any other job/role in my life as I have in this past one year being a teacher. This job calls for such a huge sense of maturity, the ability to fight battles and keep carrying on from the ones you lose. I don't know if there is another job where you get so invested in the people you are working with, your students. I will never understand the people who are able to be teachers as just a part of the job. Its more than a job. It hurts me everytime my kids fails and it lifts my spirits everytime they succeed, as though they were my own kids.

I guess all things said and done, there will be those that slip through the cracks, work the system against you, there will be those that hate you, hate your guts and annoy you to no end. But being a teacher means being the bigger person, remembering that these are just kids, giving them the benefit of the doubt, believing that they will learn eventually and just keep working till that day. But all things said and done, there will be those kids who will love you, who will work for you and for the love of the subject you teach, who will come after school to hang out in your classroom while they wait for their rides back home, and who write little notes for you at the end of the year telling you how much they will miss you :)

I feel emotionally drained after spending a school year fighting for my kids, against everybody who stands in the way of their education, without any support within the school (except for my wonderful wonderful mentor). I ask myself at this point, will I fight just as hard for the kids next year? The answer is a very tired sounding yes, but a yes nevertheless. The day that answer turns into a "no" is when I need to quit being a teacher and find something else to do.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

How do you like your eggs?

I met this interesting girl once when I was out. We got into a conversation and she was telling me about herself, her life goals and ambitions, personal and professional. As far as personal goals went, she said she had just one goal - to find out how she likes her eggs in the morning. I looked at her for a second, wondering if she was being serious about it, then I realized she was making a reference, she didn't literally mean that her only goal in life was to figure out how she wanted her eggs. I am still surprised I understood the reference, given that I have watched "The Runaway Bride" only once!

For those of you who haven't watched the movie or who don't remember this reference, the movie is about Julia Roberts dating one guy after another, moulding herself to suit each guy's needs and then running out on the wedding at the last minute. Richard Gere calls her out on her BS and confronts her by saying, she loses herself so much in these men that she doesn't even know how she likes her eggs because she always gets the same kind of eggs that the man she is dating at the time gets.

The girl I met was using this reference to tell me that she has been catering to the needs of the people she has been in relationships with that she feels like she has lost her identity and need to reclaim that before she does anything else with her personal life. It made complete sense to me and I respected her a lot for that.

That conversation made me look at myself, my tastes and choices and I realize that on several matters, my choices have been very much affected by the people around me, this gets esepcially worse when I am in a relationship or with a very close friend. I am beginning I don't know how I like my eggs in the morning, I need to figure it out.

What got me thinking about this conversation that was had long long ago was the scent that greeted me as I entered my apartment today after stepping out for a while. It was a pleasant, cherry-flavoured scent that seemed to have a cheerful and perky connotation to it. It made me happy and it made me smile. The reason my apartment smells so damn good is because I have become a huge fan of scented candles. And all these months, I have been buying candles that have a flowery scent to them, which is awesome, I love flowery scents. But a few weeks back, I saw a few candles that were on sale for half price. I looked at the scents they had, they were all very fruity - Cherry, plums, strawberries etc etc. I picked up the black cherry candle and smelled it. I was surprised at how good it was! I stayed away from all scents fruity because an old friend of mine, with whom I used to spend a lot of time, hated fruity scents, and so I stayed away from them too. Over time, it became a habit. But that's not really me, I don't mind fruity, under a certain limit! My apartment smells awesome!

Lots of choices I have made are because of the people in my life and now I am spending time reevaluating those choices and testing them all to see if it really suits me. Sometimes the answer is a yes, for example, I started using Aussie brand conditioner because a very good friend of  mine recommended it, when I started dating, my ex had told me that was her favorite conditioner. So I started using it. After my ex and I broke up, I switched to a different conditioner but it didn't take me long to realize that Aussie actually is really effective for frizzy hair. Aussie is here to stay.

Doctor Who, may or may not stay, not sure on the verdict for that

Walking Dead is out. It scares me too much

Knitting, may or may not stay, there are some days when I am in the mood to knit, but it takes too long to finish a project and while I do find it rewarding at times, it isn't always as rewarding as I am lead to believe.

Oreos had taken a hiatus because my ex hated them, now they are back on my coffee table

Full cream milk is back

Diet coke is out. Dr. Pepper shall never darken my doorstep (or kitchen) again!

I will get myself a kitten in a few months, being a cat person does not make me evil.

When my phone is due for an upgrade, I will get another android, I will not be swept up in the iPhone craze because I am more comfortable with a droid.

Back to being indifferent about zombies (its not going to happen, y'all. Its not biologically possible)

Back to being indifferent about vampires (meh, too many vampire shows and movies, even when I don't count Twilight)

Back to using mushrooms, onions and garlic in my cooking! Yay!!!

Back to watching the Justice League, Bones, Mythbusters and Bollywood movies

Back to jamming out to Linkin Park on my drive to work

Back to making travel plans to expand my fridge magnet collection with more states to add on!

Back to 1000 piece puzzles

Back to fiction books

Back to blogging (I hope!)

Back to being me!!!!

And P.S.: I like my morning eggs fried over-hard :) Runny yolk bothers me, it needs to be cooked solid!

Guess who's back, back again!

I am back. Or at least I think I am! I have been craving to blog for more than a month now. But being being and being lazy took alternating turns to get in the way :P During the day, I am at school working as hard as I can to get grading done, teach my kids and tutor them. Then at evening, even though I do have time most evenings, I tend to want to just sit on my couch and be lazy and watch TV. Opening my laptop seems like too much trouble! Maybe I need an iPad that I can keep on my coffee table so I can just pick it up each day and blog some ;) But then again, its probably not worth spending all that money just because I am too lazy to open my laptop, which is also on my coffee table most of the time! :P I guess laziness will just have to take a backseat if I want to blog and I really do miss blogging.

So.... lots has changed since I last blogged. I had my first girlfriend and we broke up 6 months after we started dating. Needless to say, being my first relationship (despite the short period), it broke my heart but I moved on. I dated again, had another girlfriend, broke up again. And now life is slowly finding equilibrium, for now. I still feel occassionally heart broken about the break up, but the relief of being single again overtakes the grief of a break up. Being in a relationship eats up too much of my time and emotions.

These past couple of weeks have been good. I have caught up with old friends I lost touch with, I found a 1500 piece puzzle that I have started working on. This puzzle would also constitute a part of the reason why I haven't blogged, its addictive!!! :D :D :D I think I will write a follow up post to how to solve a 1000 piece puzzle. I really enjoyed writing that post and am very proud of it! Did you know that if you google "how to solve a 100 piece puzzle" my blog page with that post is the first link to pop up? I feel special!!!

I also have big plans of starting a "Dear student" label on my blog. I have lost track of the number of times students say funny stuff in class that are very blogworthy.

I was contemplating starting a new blog page for myself and leave this one as a memory of my days in Singapore, because my writing and thinking style have definitely changed. But then I decided that I enjoy being machogirl too much to move away from this page. So here I am! This is me and there is nowhere else on earth I'd rather be! :P