Thanksgiving for Teachers: A Sample Itinerary

Thing about teachers is, it’s hard to describe being one. I mean, in a vague way I guess people think they understand it — well, you babysit some students who are sort of vaguely jerkish, you write some lesson plans and quizzes, you grade some quizzes, assign some homework, take an hour-and-a-half lunch every day, and then you get three months off during the summer. Oh and THOSE WHO CAN’T DO, TEACH HAW HAW HAW. And that’s true, in the sense that it’s true that bees are face-stinging forces of evil. Sure, they are, but that leaves out the much more important truth that they power the agricultural engines of the entire freaking world.

Teachers are people. Flawed people. People whose work gets the better of them sometimes, just like anybody else, and people who look forward to their well-earned vacations with a gusto that borders on the psychopathic. Seriously — take a walk through any school building in the days leading up to a holiday. See if you can’t smell the desperation coming off them in waves, if you can’t see the frenetic ecstasy rimming their eyes.

But as much as we look forward to our time off, we always screw it up. (Or at least I do.) Here’s how this Thanksgiving went in my life as a teacher:

  1. Organize a series of quizzes and essays to grade over the break. You have a week off; that’s plenty of time to fit in an hour or so somewhere to do a bit of catch-up work.
  2. Stuff said papers in your “teacher bag” and carry it home.
  3. On the short drive home, allow yourself to drift away completely from even the abstract idea that you are a teacher.
  4. Bag o’ papers goes in the closet. Enjoy a nice adult beverage with dinner because it’s vacation, dammit.
  5. Spend next few days doing house things and totally not doing teacher things. Bag o’ papers collects lint in the closet.
  6. Organize for your trip out of town. Do not, even for a second, consider bringing Bag o’ papers with you.
  7. Turkey and stuffing and travel whirlwind for a few days.
  8. Arrive home and decompress from seven hours in the car with kids who do not want to be in the car for seven hours. Bag o’ papers is still in the closet, lurking like bad leftover green bean casserole. Nobody is interested in either.
  9. Plan to hang Christmas decorations. Find that on your earlier trip to Home Depot, you got the wrong size staples for your staple gun. Go to Home Depot again. Get wrong size staples again. Give up and watch college football. (LOL what bag o’ papers?)
  10. Last day of the break. Plan to hang Christmas decorations. Watch Inside Out with the kids instead. Remember that you’re a teacher and you have to go back to teaching tomorrow. Write a blog post about the things you did instead of grading papers over the break. Think about taking some time to grade papers today (there’s still time) and remember that the Falcons play at 1 PM. That means: morning for decorating, football in the afternoon, and by evening it’s time for the usual Sunday evening routine of dinner, bedtime, and sobbing over the lost weekend while sacrificing a goat in hopes of buying more time before you go back to work.
  11. Wonder how in the hell nine days passed so fast. Drink wine until you no longer care.
  12. Monday morning. Retrieve ungraded bag o’ papers from closet. Go to work in a panic. Resume regular teacherly duties.

I’m assuming it’s pretty much the same for all teachers.

The Weekly Re-Motivator: Stuff of Substance

I was going to write about the stuff-focused holidays we have here in the States (Christmas of course, Thanksgiving with its frankly embarrassing piles of food, and Black Friday, a de facto holiday with a surprisingly adversarial focus on buying as much stuff as you can’t afford) with this week’s prompt, but the moment I started kicking it around, I realized that even I couldn’t take any more of my bitching about holidays and special events… between my tirade about NaNoWriMo, my grumbling about Daylight Savings Time, and my sermonizing about the war on Christmas, I’ve sure been slinging the negativity lately.

That said, the picture is unrelated.

Today, a positive bent, a return to what I like to use SoCS for: to ruminate on writing.

I’m giving myself a break from Big Writing Projects lately — through the Christmas season, really, by the time all is said and done — and as a diversion, and to keep the grooves nicely greased, I’m working on some short fiction instead. You haven’t seen it around the blarg. It’s a SECRET.

Or rather, it’s in progress, which for writers means it may as well be as secret as the Coca Cola formula — we don’t like people sticking their fingers in our pies until we’re good and ready to have our pies finger-stuck.

Anyway, I went and enrolled in a free short fiction writing workshop hosted over at Holly D. Lisle’s site at How to Think Sideways. She lays out a three-step (with multiple embedded sub-steps, but y’know, that’s not as flashy as saying “3-step”) template to writing flash fiction that doesn’t suck. And what I quickly realized is that a lot of my stories kind of suck. Like, most of them have decent ideas at their cores, but they lack any sort of follow-through or intelligible raison d’etre. (I don’t actually know what that means, but I heard it before and it sounded fancy.) In short, stuff happened, but lacking were the reasons for said stuff happening, or an appreciable understanding of the consequences for the stuff happening.

And with the five stories I’m workshopping, there is a real focus on meaning and significance through brevity. It’s been eye-opening, like that air freshener commercial where they blindfold people in squalid rooms, wave air fresheners under their noses, then remove the blindfolds so they see the cloud of actual sharknado they’d been inhaling.

Anyway, I’m not going to detail the … well, details of the course. They’d be tiresome if you’re not interested, and if you are interested, it’s worth your time to roll over to Holly’s site and sign up for the course yourself. Suffice it to say that while this has been some much-needed down time from my big projects, I’ve not been idle, and that feels nice. Momentum matters and all that.

Which is, I guess, the point of the post this week: writing is something you can only ever get better at by sitting down and practicing at it. And a tremendous obstacle for many would-bes is the simple but enormous leap of faith that it takes to even start screwing up a perfectly good blank page with your awful, stupid words. There’s something to be said, then, for the virtue of just sitting down and banging out words week after week. But there comes a point where you feel safe enough in the habit, and you want to actually start refining your craft. I think, a year and a half into this adventure, I’ve more than established the writing consistently part, and it’s time to start worrying more about writing stronger, smarter, sharper stories. Stories where the stuff that happens is stuff that people will care about.

Stuff of substance.

This weekly Re-Motivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every Saturday, I use LindaGHill‘s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.

Turkey-Drunk Takeover

I’m guest-posting over at Linda G. Hill‘s place this week.

Specifically, I’m hosting her Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday this week; an event I regularly partake in on Saturdays. Of course, I’ll still be partaking, but at double the fun, since the prompt this week is mine, all mine!

*cue evil laugh*

Anyway, if you like what you read here, you might want to head over there and check it out. The prompt is live, too, if you want to jump in and take part.

Just tell them Pav sent you.

Except that when you get there, you’ll find me in the driver’s seat there as well. So you’d be telling me that I sent you.

But, y’know, tell me anyway.

I was going to post something funnier, but my heart just isn’t in it tonight, watching the shootout at a Planned Parenthood, of all things. Jesus Christ.

Anyway, happy Black Friday.

Channel Surfing At Its Worst

I’m gonna keep this brief, because I’ve got leftovers to shove down my neck.

The Pavs are staying at a hotel this Thanksgiving, which means all the delightful things that go along with staying away from home as the parents of toddlers (packing a literal vanful of stuff for a two-day stayover, remembering that the 18-month old doesn’t do well at all with staying away and therefore won’t sleep or nap, and therefore, NEITHER WILL YOU… you know, minor inconveniences).

But today, I’m sitting here, both kids asleep (amazingly!) and with a little time to kill, so first of all I’m blarging a bit, and second of all I’m looking around to see what’s on TV, which is of course a mistake. Nothing’s on TV on Thanksgiving except a bunch of Black Friday ads that I don’t care about and the first in several networks’ series of holiday marathon movies. In short, I could turn the TV off from now until January and probably not miss a thing.

Anyway, I’m flipping through channels and not having a lot of luck, and I find this handy-dandy reference card by the TV. You know, the list of local stations. But there’s a problem…


Just look at that abomination. Who in the name of all that’s holy designed that monstrosity? It’s totally unreadable and useless to anybody who might be looking at it. Channels arranged alphabetically? Who in their right mind, staying at the Holiday Inn Express from out of town, knows enough to wonder what station KET, Scottsville IND, or Trojan are on (these are all stations on the card, for the curious)?

Sorry, channel card designer, when I am sitting in my hotel room looking for something to kill thirty minutes on the idiot box, I want to know first what’s on the channels as I’m flipping through them, second — maybe — what I can expect to see in a few minutes on the same channel. Like, I’m flipping, and I see what looks like a documentary on giraffes, but I want to make sure I’m actually watching Animal Planet and not Fox News, where they’re about to replace the lovely peaceful image of a giraffe with some idiocy about how the giraffes have ruined the plumbing at the zoo and Obama is to blame.

Further, if you ARE going to list the channels alphabetically like an absolute tosspot, at least have the decency to list them left-t0-right. Top-to-bottom listings should be reserved strictly for numerical sortings. What are we, savages?

How dare they call this thing a Channel-Surfing Guide. More like a do-it-yourself instant aneurysm kit. My eyes won’t uncross.

On a more serious note, it’s Black Friday Eve, so I’m stockpiling ammunition and taser cartridges for my shopping sortie tomorrow. If you cross my path, it’s nothing personal, but I’m getting that last Minion doll.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Parenting High-Five!

As a dad, I am always worrying about the things I’m passing on to my kids. Am I teaching them the right lessons, showing them how to be wise adults, instilling in them the best values?

It’s impossible to tell, day to day. Raising kids is a little like growing bamboo; you plant it, and you water it, and you tend to it day in and day out, but for years — years! — you get no outward sign of the plant’s progress. Kids, meanwhile, are angels one day, demons the next. Their moods can swing like pendulums on things as inconsequential as the order you buttoned their jackets in. So there’s really no telling how things are going in their little heads.

Until your oldest brings home his Thanksgiving project from preschool.


If you can’t read it, that says “I am thankful cause I give mommy and daddy highfives.”

I could quibble with the grammar, but I won’t. (Yes, I will. It should say “because” or, at the very least, have an apostrophe before “cause”; Mommy and Daddy should really be capitalized; and high-fives should be hyphenated.)

That picture up there tells me I’m doing something right.

Excuse me while I take a victory lap and then high-five my son at the end of it.