Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the tag “teenagers”

Things I Can’t Tell You

I am an English teacher in an urban school with a diverse population of students who are, for the most part, really terrific.  I love my job even though I have been known to complain.  But, I complain because, you know, it’s WORK and that sometimes just sucks because it is, you know, WORK.

I am a mom, too.  This should come to no surprise to you, the person who is reading an entry on a blog titled “Off Duty Mom.”

But, my kids are still pretty small.  My oldest is in Kindergarten.  So, while I work daily (and have for hmfhmghph years) with teenagers (and, yes, actually enjoy the company of teenagers), I haven’t had the privilege yet of raising any teens of my own.

And, you’d be surprised the shit I hear as your teenager’s English teacher.  You’d be disgusted, embarrassed, shocked, terrified, enraged, and/or more than mildly amused at the things I both overhear and am told absolutely directly.

Here are just a few of the things I have dealt with in my time in this line of work:

*A sophomore student was once so high, she couldn’t spell her own name right.  I sent her to the nurse since that is our protocol when we suspect drug use.  She was back in my classroom a few minutes later because the nurse could not determine the cause of the student’s unusual behavior.  She then bragged (supposedly) out of my earshot about how much weed she had run through that morning.

*A group of 18-year old students had never heard of the Beatles.  Or Tupac.

*Last week I tried to get a 14-year old male student to stop cutting himself.  Last Thursday, he e-mailed me at 12:30 am apologizing for not being able to keep this promise.  He was treated at a nearby hospital for his self-inflicted injuries.

*For the past two months, a 9th grade boy I know who is a fabulously top-notch student has been dating one of the worst human beings imaginable.  He is an athlete, he’s well-liked, he is a straight-A student.  He is articulate and personable and handsome.  His girlfriend and her mother have been taken to court twice for the girl’s truancy.  She has failed every single one of her classes every quarter since the beginning of the year.  When she is in school, she does very little actual work and mostly just casts her head downward, looking at teachers and classmates above imaginary glasses the way a Bond villain might.  I can’t tell this boy’s mother that his girlfriend is a bad influence because this would be considered inappropriate and a breach of the girl’s confidentiality.

*A Freshman boy asked me why everyone was so sad in the 20th century.  He was referring to the Great Depression, I figured out from talking with him for a few minutes.

*A 15-year old boy today just proudly announced that he was off his ADD meds.  The class looked at him, puzzled.  He, I think, was hoping for applause.

*A 16-year old boy has been confiding in me for months that his alcoholic mother physically abuses him and his father (the parents are separated) steals from him.  Yes, I have notified my superiors.  The boy and his family have been to court.  The courts have found that the boy is in a “safe” environment.  Since the abuse and thefts have started, the boy has been arrested 5 times for lashing out at others violently.  No one gives a shit if I think that this is a behavior he learned from his mother who beats the living crap out of him when she’s on the bottle.

*I suspect that a student of mine is on the Autism spectrum.  I cannot suggest this to her parents as I am not a certified medical practitioner and cannot legally make any determination or even suggestion about her health.  I referred her to a guidance counselor for evaluation, but because the young lady was already being tutored, the parents chalked up her bad grades to a basic need to step up her tutoring and denied any further evaluations.

*A 9th grade student asked me if the book we were reading took place in the time of slavery.  It was set in the 1950s.

*After spending 25 minutes explaining a research paper assignment in class one day, a student raised his hand and then asked me, what are we doing today?  Ummm… WRITING A RESEARCH PAPER?!?!?

*Today a teenage boy wrote his name on a paper to sign up to do a presentation for the class.  He listed only his first name and his last initial.  The “period” used to denote his initial was placed before, not after that letter.

*A senior student who was a “person of interest” in a crime that involved a throat-slashing sat in the front row of my class a few years back.  For legal reasons, my administration was not permitted to let me know that this young man may have been involved in this attempted murder.  When I found out about it from a colleague who had a relative in the police force, I could not share the information with anyone, either.  She was risking her job secretly warning me.

*Three students in my career have “come out” to me privately.  Since they were not a threat to themselves or others, I was not permitted to share this information with their families or friends, but was allowed to share it with the guidance counselor if that seemed appropriate.  She couldn’t share it with their families or friends, either, though.  Ordinarily, I would say that this type of privacy is a necessary thing, but when a mother called me crying about her son needing psychological care, I had to pretend that I knew nothing and couldn’t let her know that he wasn’t likely suffering from a serious disorder, but was simply gay and didn’t know how to talk to her about it.  She had him go through in-patient therapy and the doctors eventually determined that this was, of course, a complete waste of time and energy, as even the boy had insisted.  He wasn’t depressed as she had insisted he was.  His doctor finally “outed” the kid to his mom.  They no longer speak.

*A significantly troubled Autistic teen openly masturbated once in class.  The girl sitting next to him was obviously fairly traumatized.  The other students went through varying degrees of freaking-the-fuck-out depending on how much they saw/heard.  Teachers were not permitted to discuss the situation with the parents of these children other than to tell them that an “incident” had happened and that it was being “handled.”

*A 10th grader did not know that the following countries existed:  Trinidad, Austria, New Zealand and Tibet.

*An 11th grader did not know that Canada was in North America or that Hawaii was a state.

*Most of my students are shocked to learn that I read books before I teach them.  The vast majority are downright shocked when I tell them that I read most books I teach more than once.

*(I think) I talked a 16-year old out of quitting school last week.

*Today a student asked me if the bike I rode as a kid had one giant wheel on the front and a little one in the back.

*There is a student in my school who is severely depressed, but we are not supposed to know about it.  He only showers maybe a few times each month.  If we’re lucky.  We are not supposed to discuss this issue with him or with his family.  We are not supposed to make contact with Social Services.  We can only notify and re-notify our guidance department.

*I suspect a student is dyslexic.  I am not allowed to say that to her parents, though, because my degrees do not include School Psychology or an associated field, nor have I administered any diagnostic exams to suggest that she has a Learning Disability.  I can refer her generically to our Special Education Department and/or our Guidance or Social Work Departments, but if the parent calls me directly and asks me what I think her child’s problem is, I am not allowed to say.

*A parent called me to ask my opinion on a new girl who has been calling and texting her son.  I cannot tell her that this girl is a whore.  No, really.  She was cited for accepting payment in the form of designer accessories for offering blowjobs to fellow students in school.  I have to let this mother fly blind on this one.

 

All of the world’s secrets are safe with me.  Some should be.  Some are awfully damn hard to keep.

What do you think about all of this?

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I’m old and out of touch, just like I swore I’d never be…

I have been making a mental list of things I don’t understand.

It’s a long one.

(That’s what she said.)

And, being both a mother and a teacher I am therefore surrounded by young people for the vast majority of my waking hours.  And, you might think that this would aid me in my quest for ultimate world domination and superiority over others, but you’d be wrong.  Being around young people just makes me realize how little I know about the world around me.

macbethI have, like, a couple of degrees and whatnot.  I’m, you know, smart ‘n stuff.  I can recite a heaping chunk of the prologue of “The Canterbury Tales” in the original Middle English.  I can recall the entire first scene of “Macbeth” from memory.  I can say the alphabet backwards.  I know all the words to REM’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.”  I know my IQ.  I am not telling you what it is, but let’s just say that I’m not not telling you ‘cuz I’m embarassed, but because I don’t want you to feel bad about yourself.

And, yet, since I am swimming in a sea of Disney-Beiber-CallofDuty-Miley-Legos-XBoxLive-ness, I too often feel like a dipshit.

maniacsI remember being a teenager and just “knowing” that my folks were so out-of-touch.  They didn’t know ANYTHING about REALITY because they thought that 10,000 Maniacs were an LA gang and that Nirvana was Viking heaven.

Of course, my parents felt that their lack of knowledge of popular culture was irrelevant and that the real REALITY was, you know, mortgages and car insurance and W2s and that sort of thing.

I agree that personal finance is closer to relevant than knowing all of the stock characters on Saturday Night Live might be.  Nevertheless, I feel just a little silly and old when I realize how much there is that I don’t know.

galtLike this:

Who is Benedict Cumberbatch? (I know who John Galt is, but for some reason that doesn’t seem to matter to the people on Pinterest as much.)

Wasn’t “Dr. Who” a TV show in the 80’s?  Why is everyone talking about it now?

Name one song by Macklemore that isn’t “Thrift Shop.”  I dare you.  (Actually, don’t.  You probably can name 20 and then I will just feel worse.)

Who the fuck is ASAP Rocky?  (And why does one student keep insisting he is better than Tupac?  I never even heard the name ‘ASAP Rocky’ before, but I can tell you that it doesn’t matter.  There is no fucking way he is better than Tupac.)

Does anyone actually believe that Katy Perry, Beyonce and Miley Cyrus are feminists?

greeneAm I the only person on the planet who hasn’t yet read The Fault in Our Stars? (I’ve read almost everything William Shakespeare has ever written.  Aren’t I done reading things yet?)

At the end of the day, though, folks, I have to admit that I love learning.  So, if anyone out there can enlighten me regarding any of this or can share some wisdom with me about our world, I am more than interested in hearing about it.  Feel free to share the answers to these pressing questions in the comments section or pose a few of your own.

Thanks for reading!

Is it June yet?

Tgood teacheroday, I shall further my rant about teenagers.

In case, you haven’t caught up with my blog in a while, or…um…ever before, you might not know that I am a high school teacher and a proud momma of two little ones.  I have always said that I do not understand kids at all until they turn about 13.  Most other parents likely cringe at the thought of their children going through the teen years, but I honestly have no idea what to do or say to most 3-year olds.  I just don’t have that piece of DNA in me that makes me want to sit on the floor and play with Play Doh.

I “get” teenagers.  I don’t always like them.  But, I get them.

However…

It is nearly June.  And, if you have never taught you don’t know how much you just kinda want to get away from these kids by this point in the year.

I spent some time in a “real job” in an office.  I hated it.  HATED IT.  But, I have to say that I never wanted to get the fuck away from my coworkers with quite the same desperate passion as I truly want to get away from students after 9 months together.

Indeed.

Indeed.

My coworkers never complained that “someone farted.”  And, they never broke my box fan during a before-class wrestling match that involved a disagreement over a purple pen.  They also never surrounded my desk and yelled my name at me over and over again even though I was clearly talking with someone else.  Their parents never called me to scream at me, threatening to have me fired since they “pay my salary.”  I never broke up a fist fight between my coworkers.  My office was always air-conditioned.  I got an hour for lunch at my office (not the 12 minutes I end up with by the time I microwave leftovers, find something to drink, go down the hall to the lounge and sit down).  I could pee whenever I wanted.  I never had to repeat what I wanted others to do, like, a MILLION times.  My day started at a normal time, not 7:06.  No one ever threatened to slash my tires.  No one ever looked me in the face and said, “I am going to fucking kill you, bitch.”

Now, don’t get me wrong:  I 100%, without question love my work.  There is absolutely nothing I would rather be doing.  I did some soul searching while at that terrible office job.  I bought a book called “What Should I Do With My Life?” in the hopes that it would tell me what to do with my life.  It didn’t help one damn bit.  But, I did end up back in a classroom and it was the best goddamn decision I have made in a very, very long time.

ftsMoms and dads may complain about their children.  This does not mean that they do not love them.

I happen to have 102 children.  I complain about them all the time.  But, I do still love them.

But, now it is your turn to deal with them for a few months.  Get me outta here.

Surviving Teendom

Teen angst.

Ugh.

We all went through it and yet somehow no adults seem to have figured out yet how to get the 12-19 year-old crowd to know for certain that

  1. You are not alone
  2. You are not ugly.  People who call others “ugly” are being ugly.
  3. Not EVERYONE hates you.
  4. There’ll be sad songs that make you cry.  They don’t freaking help anything.  Stop listening to them.
  5. Do not call, text or drive past your ex’s house or person.  It’s not helpful.
  6. School isn’t about algebra and sentence diagramming.  It’s about life.
  7. Your haircut is stupid.
  8. Reading books gets you farther in life than the “right” shoes, purse, belt or phone ever will.
  9. Punctuality matters.  Really.
  10. If you learn how to shake hands and look someone in the eye you will do well in both your private and your work lives.
  11. You should be the girl/guy who can be introduced to Mom or else you will never be good for anything other than a fling.
  12. It is not true that no one understands you.  We totally understand you.  We WERE you.  And we know you’re acting dumb so get over yourself.
  13. Swearing has its place.  Grown-ups do it, too.  But it isn’t for street cred.  It is only as a legitimate expression of emotion, amplitude or art.
  14. Yes, family is more important that friendship.  We’ve all had friends who were practically family, but that entire 8th grade clique of yours isn’t going to be with you when you’re 59 and your mother dies or when you lose your job with no explanation after 32 years of service.
  15. 99% of what matters to you today you will not even be able to remember in 10 years.
  16. Skinny jeans are not for everyone.  Find your own style that makes you look your best.
  17. You won’t die if you put down the electronics for a day.  Interact with humans, for crying out loud.
  18. Your mom will eventually prove to have been right about, well, everything, ever.
  19. It’s called a “waistband” because it goes around your thighs.  Just kidding.  You look absurd.
  20. Your poetry is probably not that good.

If, one day, we can find a way to convince the young buckaroos of these facts, peace will reign.  Doves will soar above the mountaintops.  Rainbows and angels’ songs will permeate all the lands.  All will be right with the world.

 

Then and Now, Inside and Out

I will admit that when I sat down at my computer I had very little to say.  And, that, frankly, kinda scared the hell out of me.

Who am I if I am not a loudmouthed, sarcastic know-it-all who has something to say about everything?

I just don’t know.

My instinct, for some reason was to comment about Tupac.  I think it is because I saw a teenager wearing a t-shirt today that had Biggie and Tupac on it.  Tupac was flicking off the camera.  It made me think about the whole concept of rebellion and whether it was inherently good or bad — or neither — or both.

When I was a teenager, I remember there was a bit of a resurgence of 1960’s hippie fashion and culture.  I bought cheap babydoll dresses at Contempo Casuals and discovered The Beatles and people started tie-dying everything around them.  Then Hypercolor t-shirts became the post-modern pseudo-tie-dye reinvention.  Ugh.

And, during this time, I thought everyone over 19 was pretty fucking dumb.  They just didn’t understand reality.  This reality, of course, was whatever I believed it to be in my 14 years of wisdom.  No one, you better believe, was dumber than my parents.  They were super, ultra, extra dumb and could never hope to understand my world in all its complicatedness.

I was a rebel in my own mind.  I never got into any trouble whatsoever.  I once drove a car for about 5 whole minutes before I was 16 and had a license.  I never had to serve any penance for this crime, though.

anarchyYet, I empathized with those who struggled.  My soul seemed to identify with those who felt the need to revolt.  Maybe I listened to too many Sex Pistols songs or Sonic Youth feedback.  There was always a sort of fire in my tiny, adolescent belly that yearned to be in London (and be older), with my fist in the air and a snarl on my face.  I scrawled lyrics to Pixies songs on my school notebooks, then went to AP English class in my cheerleader uniform where I discussed philosophy and later filled out college applications to some of the more prestigious universities in my area.

I never felt like a hypocrite.  I just felt (then and now) that the person inside me didn’t always match the person I showed to the public.  Or the person my parents expected me to become.

I never rebelled.  Not in any real way.  And, I do think – now as an adult – that all of the teeny-bopper bullshit whining that I hear constantly about how adults don’t understand and the world is so cruel and the soul is so black and we’re just so misunderstood is played out and pretty fucking annoying.  I have become my parents.  But, I already knew that.

But, still, I kinda like seeing that picture of Tupac with a very adamant middle finger proudly on display on that kid’s shirt.  Part of me still identifies with the fuck-you attitude.

It is what makes me so charming.  And lovable.

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