Monday, September 19, 2011


"What a Teacher Makes"

He says the problem with teachers is,

"What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"

He reminds the other dinner guests,

"You know, it's true what they say about teachers:
That those who can, do; those who can't, teach."

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his,
And resist the urge to remind the other dinner guests that it's also true what they say about lawyers.
Because we're eating, after all, and this is polite conversation.

"I mean, you're a teacher, Taylor. Be honest. What do you make?"

And I wish he hadn't done that -
Asked me to be honest -
Because, you see, I have a policy about honesty and ass-kicking,
Which is:

If you ask for it, then I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor,
And I can make an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

You wanna know what I make?

I make kids sit through forty minutes of study hall
in absolute silence.
No, you can not work in groups.
No, you can not ask a question, so put your hand down.
Why won't I let you go to the bathroom?
Because you're bored and you don't really have to go, do you?

You wanna know what I make?

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home at around dinner time:
"Hi, This is Mr. Mali, I hope I haven't called at a bad time.
I just wanted to talk to you about something your son did today.
He said, 'Leave the kid alone! I still cry sometimes, don't you?'
And it was the noblest act of courage that I have ever seen."

I make parents see their children for who they are
and who they can be.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write, write, write,
And then I make them read.
I make them spell, 'definitely beautiful,' 'definitely beautiful,' 'definitely beautiful,'
Over and over again until they will never misspell either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math,
And then hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them realize that if you got this [brains],
Then you follow this [heart],
And if somebody tries to judge you based what you make, you give them this [the finger].

Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:

I make a goddamn difference. What about you?

---Taylor Mali

Usually I don't give ya'll such a long quote to read, but I saw this and was instantly in love with it. As a future teacher, I know the facts.

I will not make a six figure salary. I will be content to scramble around with whatever I get.

My hours will be long and yes, I will get summers off. But those summers will be spent planning for the next class and bettering myself so my students will learn better.

Not every student in my classroom will actually want to learn from me. Some will hate me and I won't understand why. Some will just not want to learn. Others will try and no matter what I do, will not get it. They can't all win, as much as I will try.

Allow me to wax philosophical, if you will. Not that I really control you. I mean, you can stop reading this at any time.

That's nice. Free will. You can stop reading at any time and I won't be mad. I won't even know. Hell, you could think me the most abominable monster of a person you've ever met and I won't know.

See, out there is a whole world of people who have a different opinion than I do. And it's wonderful. I love it. Because some of us will agree on some levels and disagree on others, and we can still be friends. Heck, sometimes my closest, oldest friends and I don't always see eye to eye and it just makes me love them more.

Which is a silly thing in itself. I mean, sometimes we love people we are in constant conflict with. Certainly I know I have friends that I cannot agree with to save my soul, but I love them all the same. Why? Because we are compatible on some level. We have the same values. Sometimes it's the smallest thing that starts a friendship and then it just keeps blooming. Like my knitting group. We united with a love of knitting, continued with a love of theatre, and continue to share a love of various geeky things.

Isn't it fun to go back and place when and where a friendship started? Sometimes it's not where you think or it's different for the both of you. Like my friend Ashlyn. I recall meeting her in seventh grade and then our friendship just blossomed. Partly because we loved the same things and partly because we needed each other. But I know that we both remember seventh grade as a starting point. Now my friend Bobert I recall very clearly for the first time in January of 2010, although I get the feeling we've known each other for longer. I'm sure he could tell me when and where we met if we met before. And of course, there's Jim. Niether once of us can remember when we met. I swear it was elementary school, but he thinks it was middle school. All I know is that I don't recall him not hanging around (not that it's a bad thing)

Some people you've just known all your life. My friend Emma (and thus, her sister Julia and brother Jimmy) have been with me so long that for many many years I was convinced that we were actually cousins. They've just always been there.

These are the people (and many, many more who I simply don't have space to mention) that I will have with me as I go on to teach children. These are the people who make a difference in MY life who continue to influce me as I'll make a difference in someone else's life.

End philosophical blog post.

Song of the Day: Time of Your Life by Greenday

<3 Erin

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Time Warp

"Well, I was on my way to this gay gypsy Bar Mitzvah for the disabled, when I suddenly thought, "Gosh, the Third Reich's a bit rubbish. I think I'll kill the F├╝hrer." Who's with me?" - Melody Pond/River Song

Ah. Yes. Well. Ahem. It seems I've been a bit....absent. Since July.


I'd like to say that I've been busy and partly that's true. But part of it was pure laziness. I was tired and had a ton to do. So why don't I start at where I left off?

I suppose the first thing to cover was the seminar in Boston. Goodness, it seems so long ago...but it was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. The McKeons and I arrived early and so we were hanging around at Brandies University (if you've read the book Tuesdays With Morrie, this is where Morrie taught) and got to do a little bit of setup. Of course, because we were there early we got to meet with the heads of the organization early, Dan and Scott Cohen. Of course, the McKeons already knew them so there was much hand shaking and catching up while I tried to disappear into the wall. Surprise surprise, I can be extremely shy around black belts who I'm terrified will break my spine. But of course, this did me no good when Master Dan got a look at me. He walked over and gave me a great big hug and exclaimed how nice it was to finally meet me in person.

Needless to say, I felt right at home. Everyone was exceedingly friendly and wonderful. The first night we had a 3 hour lesson where I learned a new kata (that I sadly don't recall) and got my first experience with a bo staff! OH, and I found out that it is possible to bruise the bottoms of your feet. But it was nothing compared to the next day. From about 9 in the morning to 12 I was in the dojo, working on my kata. There were about sixty of us all told and that first day we were split; a group handpicked by Master Dan Cohen would stay up in the main dojo and practice there while the rest of the group would go down and work on the mats (falling and throws and such) until eleven, when there would be an hour of open gym before lunch.

Guess where I was? If you said down on the mats, shame on you. No, I was terrified to be put in the main dojo where it was explained that if we were up there Master Cohen either wanted to see how we were doing or we were being tested for our next belt. Strangely enough, that actually helped since beforehand Mr. McKeon had told me that they wouldn't test me at the seminar. So I then spent the next two hours practicing kata and Master Cohen was even kind enough to help me refine some of my moves. But of course, me being stubborn, I stayed the entire hour of open gym working on the same kata until it was just me, Sensei Friedman (my other Sensei. He's a doctor and was so nice the whole time, checking if my bad knee was doing all right), and Master Cohen. We ended up asking Master Cohen about the correct way to execute a technique in the kata, which he showed me and then asked if I would show him the whole thing. Before I even started, he remarked "Oh, and remember, you're always being tested."

That was not nice.

But I showed him the kata to the best of my ability, and so he asked to see another I'd been working on, which I showed off as well. Then he asked for another, higher level kata that I had to admit that I didn't know so I got to scamper off to lunch with Jim, who was kind enough to wait. He lamented that they told him that they'd been testing him and three other brown belts since they'd arrived. But our stay progressed in much the same way; wake up, eat, dojo, eat, dojo, eat,sleep, then repeat. Jim and I calculated that over the three days we were there we did 21 hours of karate on 18 hours of sleep. OW. But it was fun. I made a lot of friends.

On the last night the heads of the organization were handing out certificates of participating (WOOOO) and then they asked all the black belts to come up to the front so they could hand out rank promotions. Masters Scott and Dan would hand the certificate to the sensei of the person who was getting promoted and wouldn't you know it, the first certificate of the night was given to Mr. McKeon. I was poised on the edge of my seat, thinking to myself that this HAD to be Jim's black belt. It had to be!

So imagine my surprise when they called MY name.

I jumped up and was presented with a certificate stating that I had been promoted to the rank of Orange belt. As shocked as I was, the only thought that kept running through my head was that Mr. McKeon said they wouldn't test me! As I found out later, Master Dan Cohen had pulled Mr. McKeon aside after the first lesson to ask where I was at in my training and apparently decided to judge for himself (which apparently resulted in rank promotion?) so Mr. McKeon didn't know I was being tested either. But I sat back down and several more promotions later, one more certificate was passed to Mr. McKeon and Mr. Friedman.

I am very happy to say that as of July, I am dating a black belt. It was an awesome moment for everyone involved. And even more surprising was that when I got back, Mr. McKeon gave me his old orange belt (a huge honor for me, even if he didn't really wear the belt all that much) and Jim was given Master Stephen Dunne's belt, our old teacher.

So the next weekend was supposed to be my half marathon, but unfortunately it was so BALLS HOT that we bailed. When it's like, 90 degrees at 8 in the morning, you don't run. You just don't. Still, I'm going to keep running and in the spring I know there's a half marathon/marathon at U of I, so I'll probably run that.

So knitting. I was kinda lazy over the summer with it. I finished Bobert's Jayne Cobb hat and my sister's graduation gift, so now I've got a few projects going on at once. I'm making Jim a new scarf, since the one I made him a year ago is kinda sad looking, I'm making my sister a hat, Beth wants some gloves, and I'm finally making a hat for myself.

But the rest of my summer was spent working and getting set to move into the apartment. Which I am all moved in and while my room is kinda messy, things have been going well! Of course there have been some bumps in the road as far as roommates go, I'm still on great terms with Audrey, and we're starting to talk about a two bedroom for next year.

Classes are intense. I'm taking seventeen credit hours, so one less than last year. But the nice thing is that out of my six classes, I really like the majority of them. There's a lot of work, but I find that I don't even mind getting up for an 8AM class so much. Later this month I'll actually start going to work in a school, which is going to be AWESOME. I guess the hardest class I've got right now is Spanish because it's been a looong time since I've spoken or had to comprehend Spanish and the whole class is in the language. My first exam is this Tuesday, so let's hope that turns out.

Swing has been awesome so far. The kickoff dance was the best I've ever attended, and since I helped with making it happen, that made me really proud. Jim even showed up to escort me home like the gentleman that he is. It's new having him actually on campus but he seems to like it and we don't spend all our free time together, so we have separate lives here as well. It makes me really happy.

In about a month, Sara Bareilles is coming to the Canopy Club and I HAVE TICKETS!! I know last time I posted I said that I was going to see her at Summerfest but we were way up in the stands so we didn't have a good view. But her voice was awesome and I can't wait to see what it'll be like here!

Not much else going on. The Michigan house is nearing completion (I'm serious this time) so maybe in October I'll go up with friends.

Song of the Day: Toes by Norah Jones

<3 Erin