Reading Tip: To experience my current “writer’s voice,” read this post out loud after smoking two packs a day for a few decades*

Keeping your head above water

(Keeping your head above water)


I haven’t said much here, and I have no good excuse, since I’ve had an unusual amount of downtime lately.

Last week my corner of the world freaked out about an epic Snowpocalypse, which was a little silly to me, in contrast to other parts of the world experiencing real crisis (and because I grew up here in Michigan.) But it got me two snow days in the middle of the week, and boatloads of snow to pretty up the winter scenery. So I slept in, let my car drift over, put on my boots, schlepped around, and (best of all) rented an outdoor hot tub for a few hours with some friends, during the thick of the blizzard. We sat around toasty warm with snow freezing into our hair. We had a snowball fight while half naked. It was wonderful.

Somewhere in the midst of all that, I got some kind of deathly plague. For a week now I’ve been hacking up slime and spending every spare moment lying around, trying to sleep but mostly just feeling exhausted and congested. My voice has been reduced to varying degrees of cartoonish squeaking. This has made teaching into a terrible adventure. I’ve been trying to power through it, teaching in whispers or croaks to a somewhat skeptical audience.

Lo siento, niños. Estoy enferma. No puedo gritar. Por favor, escuchen.

“Señorita, you shouldn’t be at school,” said one Kindergartner, hands on hips. “You should be at home, drinking hot cocoa.”

My kids are smarter than me.

I took good advice from the 5 year olds, and took today off to go to the doctor, where they peered into my snotty depths and said: laryngitis, can’t do much other than wait and rest, here’s a note excusing you from work the rest of the week, $25 copay please. But I don’t want to take any more days off. (This sounds strange, even to me.) This is my third week with my new bunch of kiddos, and already I’ve lost too much time to blizzards, flat tires, and ineffective croaking. I’m also on eggshells at school, since two coworkers (with years of seniority and loyalty) were fired out of the blue this week. Things feel very unstable. I can’t think how I could be more involved or engaged at my job, except by making sure I don’t burn through my sick days all at once.

All that aside, I really am psyched to work with this group of kids. This is my one quarter where I get to teach “Advanced Spanish” to the 7th & 8th graders. At that age level, usually my classes are full of apathetic adolescents who got dumped into Spanish with no desire to be there. Most of this group wants to learn Spanish, which is huge. Most of the class is female, as a contrast to the last few quarters. I haven’t written any names on the board yet (knock on wood), and a few people even take notes. At the same time, they are mischievous and silly and curious and clever. They master the classroom phrases and the layout of the dictionary enough that they can try to ask off-topic questions in Spanish (because they have rightly guessed that I am more likely to be led astray in the target language) and to put together ramshackle Spanglish idioms like rata de barrio. They might be… can I say it? …my favorite class this quarter. This is unusual. I am trying to improve my ever-changing middle school curriculum, trying to keep them engaged, trying not to lose them, trying to figure out the maximum amount of language I can fit into their craniums.

The kiddos are trying to figure me out, too. I get the sense that they are somewhat baffled by their clashing perspectives. They suspect I am an early-onset cat lady, bespectacled, with knitting poking out of my bag, but the 6g earrings poking through my ears are less easy to figure out. They get confused when I make references to Kanye West’s newest album while trying to explain the proper pronunciation of murciélago. And I feel conflicted when I have to ask them to refrain from singing songs from a wonderful but totally inappropriate album that has been in my car’s cd player for an embarrassing number of weeks.

Hey teacher teacher, tell me how do you respond to students
and refresh the page and restart the memory?
Respark the soul and rebuild the energy?
We stopped the ignorance, we killed the enemies.
Sorry for the night demons that still visit me.

Recent events and situations really serve as reminders of how much I love my job. I can’t wait until I am able to do it with full vocal abilities.

As has become habitual for me, let me trail off into photographic evidence.


This makes me smile every day in the hallway. MLK, or a drag queen? Who can know?


I have a feeling we might be doing some more of this in the next few days, until I regain my voice.

Notes from 8th grade

Unearthed among last quarter's research notes, from the 8th grade.


*Please don’t actually smoke.


3 Responses to Reading Tip: To experience my current “writer’s voice,” read this post out loud after smoking two packs a day for a few decades*

  1. Just wanna remark that you have a very decent internet site , I love the design it really stands out.

  2. Lyla says:

    So when you taught them murciélago, was it with the soft ‘c’ or with the Spanish ‘th’?

  3. Saracita says:

    Soft. I do sometimes tend towards a castellano lisp (my mom claims that even my English picked up a castellano lisp after I got back from Spain) but other than explaining regional differences I try to stick to the Mexican/Latin American pronunciation that my kids are more likely to come in contact with.

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