Thursday, November 10, 2011


My sweet nephew Drew has autism. Many people don't understand what that means, and if they do, it's usually because they remember Rain Man. To truly understand what it means, you have to imagine Rain Man as a little boy, and then think about all the trouble that a little boy can get into.

But as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so a video must be worth a million. I made this video about Drew, and it is a true labor of love. So much so, in fact, that I've littered this paragraph with trite phrases. Forgive me.

If you're interested in learning more about the benefit that we're throwing for Drew on Sunday, November 13th, please visit for more information.

Friday, September 2, 2011


"You look tired," Michael said to me. He'd come into my office with his best friend Ashley because that's what they do.

I've been getting that a lot lately. Sometimes when you're a teacher you look at administrators and think about all the ways that they're messing everything up and then you become an administrator and you mess things up, all the while thinking longingly of those days when you used to get sleep.

So I told that that I looked tired because I was working hard for them.

They didn't buy it.

"You know what you should get?" said Michael. "It's that thing that Caucasian people wear."

Caucasian people?

"Ooh, yeah," said Ashley. "They put it on their face so people can't tell they're tired. Miss A uses it all the time. You should ask her. She looks good."

Um. I thought hard, trying to figure out what they were talking about. You mean concealer?

"Yeah!" said Michael. "You put it under your eyes. It covers up those dark circles."

I couldn't help myself; I started to giggle like a little girl. They looked at me blankly, unsure what the joke was.

I decided to help them out. So what you're telling me is I shouldn't get more sleep; I should wear more makeup.

Ashley nodded. "Yes." She was so pleased with me. "Because then people can't tell. That's important."

They both told me bye then and ran out of my room so they didn't miss the chicken sandwiches at lunch, which reminded me. I needed to eat lunch, too.

I keep forgetting.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Simple Gifts

My name came over the loudspeaker. Report to the main office, they said.

I'd been expecting it, ever since our Parent Coordinator told me that some kids were looking for me. They had something for me, she said. I shouldn't go too far. So I ran a quick errand but apparently it wasn't quick enough, because a teacher stopped me on the way back to the office saying that she wanted to reschedule our observation. It wasn't a good day, she said, and she knew I had high expectations. I was trying to talk her out of it because really, I'm not that scary, before the announcement gave me an out.

When I got back to the office, three of my former students were standing there, with a large picture wrapped in what looked like the paper we used to cover bulletin boards.

"We're here to give you a present," Jenny said. She was holding a dusty plant, which she immediately thrust into my hands.

"We feel you need it," said Alan. "A present, which we will present to you with great ceremony."

Alan was always one for a clever turn of phrase. This is one of the reasons, in fact, that I enjoy him so. He handed me a somewhat ragged stuffed bear. Dog. Something. It was white and fuzzy.

Jose then presented me with what was clearly the real present. I could tell because they'd gift-wrapped it with bulletin board paper. It was a poster in a tattered frame.

So of course I opened it with great ceremony and even though I knew they'd found these items all over school, I let them hang it with even more ceremony, because when someone goes to this much trouble for a joke, you really need to let them get to the punchline.

Kids. They're funny.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


We decided to stop for a drink after work, Susan and I.

Some guy sat down next to us.

"You girls teachers?"

Susan was showing me some papers that her ESL students had written because I was still relatively new to teaching and couldn't figure out how to grade a stack of 150 essays in less than a week without going quietly crazy. Each one seemed like it took twenty minutes, and the kids never read my comments.

I didn't know what I was doing wrong.

Yeah, I said, and asked to read her comments. I looked them over. They didn't look any different than mine. She maybe even wrote more.

How long did it take you to do this one? I asked.

She shrugged. "Five minutes? Seven?"

Our friend looked over my shoulder. "English teachers?" he said.

Yeah, I said again, and handed the stack back to her. I brooded over my beer. How do you do it?

She shrugged again. "You just get good at it."

Good at it. And clearly, I was not.

"So what do you girls like to do?" our friend asked. "Got any rulers you can smack me with?"

I sighed and turned my back toward him. If I had a nickel for every time a guy brought up rulers or pointers or desks, I might actually be making a decent salary.

I gave Susan back her papers and she stuck them in her bag. I pulled out some of my graded papers and she looked them over before handing them back. What do I need to do? I asked.

"Nothing," she said. "Just get faster."

Faster. Right.

"So how long you girls been here?" our friend asked, looking at the clock. It was after five. "School day ends at, what, 2:30?"

Automatically, I started to protest. The new teacher contract required that we had to stay at school until 4:45 twice a week for PD, and since she taught an evening class at Columbia and I was in grad school at Brooklyn College on Tuesdays, we figured our bar stop was a good way to kill time until we got on the train again.

Not really time for anything else. And anyway, we needed a drink.

"Yep," said Susan. "2:30. Actually, we left school early, and we've been drinking here since one. It's not as if we were working that hard. Might as well go drink. The kids don't notice. They don't pay attention anyway."

"And you only work nine months anyway," he sneered.

This time, I followed her lead. I didn't correct him and say ten months, eleven if you teach summer school; instead I leaned back in my barstool and faced him fully.

And we get Christmas break, I said. And Easter. We hardly work at all.

"Rosh Hashanah," said Susan. "Yom Kippur too."

I'd like to report that he was properly cowed, but instead he called us bitches and moved to the other end of the bar. I looked up at the clock and drained the rest of my beer. We had to be on the train by 5:30 if we were going to make it on time.