Saturday, September 22, 2007

Phylum Democrata

I promise I'm not quite as conservative as this post may lead you to believe. But red or blue, you have to admit that it's funny.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The First Day of School (or My Pre-Teaching Anxiety Resolved)

Last Wednesday morning, I had one of those lightbulb moments. You know the ones I'm talking about - when you have the sudden realization that you've been thinking about something all wrong for years. An epiphany that really changes the way you look at something. Well, on Wednesday morning, I discovered that teachers at at least as nervous to go back to school as the students are. My knees were shaking as I trudged up the steps to the school, as I skirted around the security guards and the metal detector (after convincing them that I was, in fact, a teacher) and as I climbed the steps to my classroom. They were still shaking as I walked back down those steps because my classroom was locked and the key taken by the room's former occupant.

My school, however, has discovered an ingenious way of curing new teachers of that nervousness. Imagine this: you've slammed your finger in the door, and it's throbbing madly. Just as it gets to the point where you can't take it anymore, someone cuts it off. The finger, I mean. The initial problem - gone. Unfortunately, a much bigger problem has taken its place.

So there I was, a shaky-kneed first-year teacher trying desperately to calm her nerves and prepare her still-locked classroom for her first class. I also still hadn't received a roll or any sort of list showing who would be in my class. First period (my prep period) drags by, prolonging the time when I would actually face my first class. The bell fails to ring to announce the start of second period, so I stand patiently at the door for an extra few minutes to welcome the stragglers into class, direct them to their seat and point out the warm-up assignment written on the board. There are 12 (read: twelve) of them, all told. To those of you from Utah or Idaho, where a normal class size is about 40, this might seem tremendously small. In actuality, our classes usually run between 15 and 25, so I wasn't shocked by 12. When only four students showed up to my third period class, and even fewer in the succeeding four class periods, I began to worry. My nervousness about the first day was gone, replaced by frustration at the much larger problem at hand. I had only seen 18 students all day. Total. Students schedules hadn't been finalized before school started (and actually still haven't been finalized, a week later), leaving students with glaring gaps in their schedules. Students I had last year would find me in the halls: "Ms Chamberlain, can I come be in your class? I don't have a history class."

Aha. Anxiety gone.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


You made it! Congratulations! This is your official welcome to my blog. I'm actually pretty impressed that most of you are here, because (for many of you) it means that you read my Facebook profile closely enough to realize that I even had a blog.

While I have your attention, let me explain that I actually started this blog a couple years ago as part of an assignment for a Technology in Education class. I had intended to use it to post pictures/stories/thoughts from my semester in Italy, but didn't have reliable-enough internet access while I was there. we are for Round 2! Maybe I'll be more consistent, maybe not. And I'm not promising anything entertaining, witty or thought-provoking, although I'll be sure to try!

Ciao ciao

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Grocery Store Encounters

One of my biggest failings (or so I'd like to believe) is that I am not very good at keeping a journal. Or rather, I go through phases: I'll write religiously for several months, and then skip a few months, and then begin again. Lately I've been on one of the "off" phases, for which I recently was heartily reprimanded by my younger sister. Being the oldest child and somewhat more adventurous than my younger siblings have yet been (if you can call moving to Washington D.C. adventurous), I have stories that they always find fun, and which I should probably record somewhere.

Having only recently moved, I have not yet bothered to switch over to Virginia license plates. And as anyone lucky enough to come from Idaho can tell you, the first digits on our license plates identify which county the car comes from. We can tell almost immediately whether the driver comes from the Boise or from St. Mary's or from Rexburg. When I lived in Utah or Idaho, my friends and I would always take note of these license plates, but the game has become much more fun since moving to Virginia and Idaho license plates are a general oddity.

I was driving a friend to the grocery store, and as I pulled into the parking space, noted that the white Jeep parked opposite me had plates to match mine, the '1A' indicating that the owner was from the greater Boise area. I didn't recognize the car as any of my Boise friends', and as we entered the store, I had the fun idea that I might run into someone else that I knew.

The thought didn't last long. We did our shopping and left the store, discussing our opinions on Vice President Cheney, who recently spoke at my univeristy commencement. As we neared the car, I realized that there was a couple putting their own groceries in the back seat of the white Jeep. I had a bit of a double take as I recognized the man as my former governor Dirk Kempthorne, whom I had met on a few occasions and who a year ago was confirmed as President Bush's Secretary of the Interior. I told my friend that he was my old governor, and she retorted, "Well, why don't you go talk to him?" Without giving it a second thought, I introduced myself and explained my funny recognition of his license plates. He, in turn, introduced his wife and we chatted for a few minutes. Soon I decided that the situation was still somewhat awkward, and I excused myself from the conversation. Climbing into my car, I starting rambling about how I probably should have addressed him as "Secretary Kempthorne" rather than "Governor Kempthorne", and my friend was interested to note that we had met a member of Bush's cabinet in the Shoppers parking lot.

I love D.C.

Where else in America can you meet politicians or dignitaries at the grocery store?

My very own "Office Romance"

A hiccup in my summer teaching job (translation: DCPS fell through with their original offer) landed me in Falls Church as a payroll clerk for a security company. Now, I don't know how many of you have ever worked for security, but there are a lot of interesting people in the profession.

The company recently expanded, but hasn't yet moved into an office big enough to accommodate all the new employees, so for the first few weeks, I camped out on a small corner of the conference table in the room which I generally shared with 4 or 5 other people. Two of those people run one of the newer contracts in the company, and are constantly hiring new security officers. Applicants come in and out of the room all day, asking questions, filling out paperwork, etc. On one afternoon, my co-workers had stepped out, and I had the conference room to myself for five blessed minutes. Soon, however, the silence was interrupted by an applicant who I thought was looking for Alicia. He peered in through the door for a few seconds without saying anything, and then without any introduction:

Potential Employee: "Girl! You as fine as hell! Can I take you out sometime?"

Me: "Umm. Well." Trying hard not to laugh. "Hmm, I don't really think so."

Him: "What, you married? You have a boyfriend or somethin'?"

Me: "No, not exactly." At this point I should have just lied and said Yes.

Him: "It's 'cause I'm black, ain't it? You ever been out with a black man before?"

At this point it becomes useless to recall exact conversation. I struggled, probably in vain, to convince him that I had no problem dating someone who wasn't white. It was more the complete stranger thing that was keeping me from going out with him. He vacated the room soon afterwards, perhaps still unconvinced, and left me with a laugh