#196: The Grade

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Grading papers is fun. I like examining students’ writing, I like assigning grades to them, and I like feeling like my comments will lead to some kind of educational breakthrough for students. You have to feel like your comments are useful in order to feel motivated to write them, right? Otherwise there’s no inspiration.

One habit of mine is writing lots and lots of comments. I’m very meticulous with my commenting, making sure to fill in everywhere and every thing with ink. I like to make sure that students know exactly why they got the grade they got, and I like to know that I fully read over and understood their writing. Sometimes, though, I can’t read everything; I can try and try to pore over the pages, but my eyes get all blank and foggy. Grading marathons are tedious even though they’re fun at times. They drown out every thing else from view, and you are lost with a vision of words upon words and numbers upon numbers only.

I like to grade while working on other things, like playing a round of limited in Magic: Arena or playing some ranked ladder on Hearthstone. Using games as a crutch is probably what allows grading to be enjoyable.

The advice I’ve always gotten from other teachers is to set every thing else aside, devote some time to grading, and not to fill up the essays with comments, because the kids will usually never read all of them and you’ll feel like they’re a waste. I completely understand where they’re coming from, because I distinctly remember picking up graded papers from the ground in my classroom last year, distraught at thinking of how much time I devoted to each paper only for the kids to disregard them like they were nothing. That’s just teaching for you.


Can you smell
if your eyes are blurred?

Can you eat
if your nose is stuffed?

Can you hear
if your hands are cold?

Can you feel
if your mouth is closed?

Can you see
if your ears are clogged?

Empathy, for a moment, please

It’s all we need

#163: The Dentist

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Going to the dentist is one of my least favorite adult activities, because I always know what they’ll say to me, and I always know that I need to do better. Unfortunately, knowing isn’t the same as doing. It isn’t as easy as it seems. Though I could just be making excuses for myself.

Here’s the thing. My teeth aren’t in fantastic shape. After forgetting to wear my night brace for over a year, my teeth regressed to the shape and form they had awhile ago, when I was younger and before paying for the orthodontist to do work on my teeth. I wish I took some of that stuff more seriously as a kid, then I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in now.

Going to the dentist gives me the chance to sit back, relax, and watch a trained professional stick pointy, sharp tools in my mouth and around my teeth, poking at my gums along the way. It’s created many memories that involve someone trying to strike up casual conversation with me — about the weather, sports, school, work, et cetera — while sticking those tools at me. It’s hard to swallow it all and not mess up their groove while still holding up my end of the conversation. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I find the dentist to be so unpleasant; they never seem to know when to just chill and not talk. I’m fine with going about my dentist appointment silently; the casual conversations don’t add anything to my enjoyment of the experience, if anything they detract from it.

I haven’t gone to the dentist in a bit, and I recently had an appointment scheduled that I needed to cancel on. It’s about time I find a new dentist.

#152: The Dog Bathroom

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When living life as a dog, everywhere is a bathroom, at least until you’re trained not to. But even when you are trained, sometimes you like to take big doggy poops outside in the bushes and leave them in places where Anthony has a difficult time picking up with his doggy poop bags. That’s what happened the other day, when Alex was away for the weekend. I took Angus outside earlier than usual, and upon reaching his usual pooping destination, he promptly squatted onto the ground and let loose a stinky mess right in the middle of a prickly bush. Of course, I tried as hard as I could to pick up after my dog, like a responsible and appropriate dog owner, but there was only so much I could do without hurting myself even more.

Taking Angus outside is always an experience. Being someone with perpetual anxiety, I always worry that we’ll bump into another dog and Angus will jump on them and make a mess in the apartment main lobby. Thankfully, that’s only happened a couple times and he’s gotten a bit better since we bought him a harness, but it’s still a concern of mine. Whether it’s human or dog, Angus will leap onto whoever seems the most interesting to him at any given time. When taking him outside, he tends to be a bit more excitable and interested in whoever is around him. He used to pull on the leash whenever cars or buses stormed through the streets, but he’s gotten much better at not doing that since we first adopted him.

Angus is the type of dog who loves attention, so much so that he’ll give off a little doggy moan from the couch if you leave him alone for too long. Alex and I used to think it meant he was tired, but now that we’ve had him for long enough, we’re convinced Angus just needs perpetual rubs to keep him from moaning during the day. And we provide the glorious body rubs for our boy, that’s for sure.

#114: Claire’s

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Let’s talk more about a very specific type of place: Claire’s Corner Copia in New Haven. It’s a wonderful, natural, vegetarian restaurant with an extensive menu filled with lots of delicious, nutritious options that won’t make you feel bad after eating them (at least, most of the time…; more on that later.) It’s the perfect place to relax, unwind, sit down, and listen to the general commotion of New Haven.

I love the chipotle chicken sandwich, and Alex loves the meatloaf. We also order smoothies when we get there, sometimes a Power Surge, sometimes a Greener the Cleaner or a Mango Lassie. Other times, we order the black bean nachos and take it into the car with us, where Alex and I work together to feed each other. It’s a bit romantic, I guess.

One story Alex and I will never forget is when we went to Claire’s for one of our birthdays, I forget which. I think it was Alex’s, actually. We both ordered the mac n cheese after thinking about it constantly on the ride over. When we saw the mac n cheese in the “hot food” section of the restaurant, we fell in love at first sight and immediately decided to order it next time we were there.

Unfortunately, both of us ended up with terrible stomach trouble and had to rush into the Subway bathroom to take care of it, if you catch my drift. This is because we didn’t realize to order the vegan, or dairy-free, cheese. I don’t fault the restaurant at all for this, as it was moreso our usual idiocy at play. If it were any other restaurant though, maybe I would take a second to consider their role in this, but Claire’s is different. Claire’s is wonderful.

#103: The Smartphone

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Continuing the trend of talking about technology in these blogs, I’ll be discussing smartphones today, and my history of having them. I saw an article on my Facebook feed about how young kids shouldn’t have smartphones until they’re 14 years old, apparently. I can see the many arguments as to why; the exposure of privacy, the complete freedom it offers and the consequences a few missteps on the Internet can result in, and more. Having access to a smartphone regularly as a kid is probably not a good idea, in my opinion, and I wouldn’t recommend giving phones to kids in the first place. But that’s besides the point of this blog, and I’m just rambling at this point!

My first cell phone was from Verizon, my old cell phone carrier, and it was an Envy 2. It was, of course, a flip phone. If I could find a picture of it on the Internet, I would put it right here for all to see and marvel at. The Envy 2 could search the internet and text friends, but that was about the extent of its power. It couldn’t really do much else, but it survived for awhile and kept me fairly social during middle school and my teenage years. I wasn’t the kind of person to text during class, as I hated drawing unnecessary or unneeded attention to myself under any circumstances in school, but as a student, the Envy 2 allowed me to be a teenager with the rest of my teenage friends for a bit.

I switched over to the iPhone brand afterwards, but that was a short-lived stint that lasted until I studied abroad in 2014, when my mom took me to T Mobile to get me a Samsung Galaxy Mini to take abroad with me. Shortly after, I switched to Android and the rest has been history! I’ve managed to try the HTC One brand, as well as the next evolution in the Samsung Galaxy. That’s actually what my current phone is.

#86: The Coffee Spot

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Coffee. Coffee coffee coffee. Let’s talk about coffee, the caffeinated greatness. I’m drinking coffee right now, enjoying the frothy aroma and its heat in the early morning. Fulfilling the early morning duty of keeping me awake, coffee adds so much to my normal daily routine. Alex wakes up before me and prepares some coffee for me to take to work, which fuels me for the first few hours of the working day. Coffee motivates me to get up out of bed and into a new day.

When we first moved to Stamford, there was a nice place nearby called Coffee Spot, which I visited frequently during the summer for an iced chai latte or a macchiato. I’m pretty basic when it comes to my coffee choices, but I can’t deny flavor when I taste it. I love the gingerbread latte at Starbucks, and I love the caramel macchiato at Dunkin. Like I said, pretty basic overall. Some time in the past two months or so, Coffee Spot shut down and without much fanfare or notice. It just slowly disappeared, like the result of a Thanos snap. One day, Alex said that she walked by the coffee shop and saw the seats and books gone. I thought it was nothing at first, but it turns out it was actually signalling the end of one of my favorite neighborhood spots. I wish I spent more time actually sitting and reading there, instead of just going for a coffee and then dipping quickly. There’s more to the place than meets the eye. Unfortunately, nothing has risen up to replace the spot yet, even though it’s in a prime position for commerce and activity!

It won’t ever come back, but it exists in our memories. Nothing will replace Coffee Break from Quincy, when Alex spent two and a half months living there. It was the perfect place to read and relax inside. Maybe they’ll swoop by and replace it! A man can hope.

#81: The Sloth

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Let’s talk about dogs again. Alex reminded me last night that it’s been awhile since I’ve talked about Angus, and he’s always on my mind, so it’s no surprise that he’s showing up again here. This time, we’re going to talk about Angus’s pet sloth, Sleuthy (or Sleuth, whatever you want to call him.)

Angus has a special attachment to chewing things. Whether it’s the comforter, the Pikachu plush, or the outside of our laundry hamper, Angus finds a way in and then chews and chews and chews, in a playful manner, because he’s not a vicious fiend or anything. He doesn’t chew on us or on anything especially valuable, which is nice. I imagine it’s a texture-based fascination; that he loves having a bouncy, stuffed, soft feeling in his gaping mouth.

During a trip to Target last weekend, Alex and I picked up a sloth stuffed toy for Angus, along with dog food and treats. Turns out, it’s his new favorite toy. This morning (the morning I’m writing this) I came out of the shower to find him laying in bed with his head rested on Sleuthy’s body. Good thing the toy is made of stretchy fabric that can’t be torn off, at least not easily, because this boy loves his sloth friend. Sleuth will be staying with us for a long time, and I’m looking forward to future bedtime snuggles featuring Angus and his pet sloth. They cap off the night perfectly.

Nothing else to report on the Angus front recently, except that he’s still as excitable and jumpy as ever. When I take him for walks, I still have to yank on his leash to make sure he doesn’t jump on random passer-bys. He’s gotten better at it, though.

Update: Since writing this post during the week, Angus has eviscerated Sleuthy’s throat and ran around with the fluff in his mouth. He is a monster.

#72: Passing Knowledge

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“Passing knowledge” is knowledge that’s good enough to pass, but not good enough to help. It’s knowledge that reflects more on effort than on ability; if you put in more effort, you might exceed having just a passing knowledge on a subject. But when it comes to a person’s ability, their skills, it’s different. Ability sets us apart, in some ways, but effort is the difference between a skill ceiling and a skill floor. What happens when you don’t have any effort, though? What happens when your motivation falls through, and there’s nothing left to push you forward?

I have a passing knowledge of a few subjects: carpentry, contracting, and the works; Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake; sitting and looking occupied while not being occupied at all; and exemplar pet training, petting, and grooming. Alex credits me sometimes for knowing the perfect spot to pet a dog to get them to like me, even though it’s the same spot every time (right behind and under the ear, bonus points for both ears simultaneously.) I don’t have an expert’s knowledge of any of these subjects, but I know enough to get by. That’s passing knowledge.

It’s easy to think thoughtlessly about certain subjects: math, science, quantitative literacy. It’s easy because, after a period of time, you give up on trying. You doubt yourself so much that there’s nothing left but doubt.

I worry, sometimes, that I only have a passing knowledge of subjects I should be an expert in: teaching and English. It’s a constant worry that bothers me when I fail in something, that I secretly am not as good as I need to be. I know I have sufficient knowledge, but there’s always a part of me that doubts myself, exacerbating the issue.

#65: The Employee

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You read it right. Anthony’s a newly-employed man. After a couple months of job searching, and a previous few months of deliberation and summer vacation, it feels surreal to say that I’ll be returning to work again on Monday. To put things in perspective: I went to a conference and workshop over the summer of 2018 and even attended a few curriculum development meetings, too, but for the most part, my summer was barren of work. Then, a day after school resumed session in August, I took a sick day to see my therapist, spent another few days adjusting to my head and new medications, saw family and updated them on my status, and signed up for an FMLA. That first day rocked me to my core, and put me in complete collapse. A month and a half later, I decided to resign from my job, knowing fully well that I would be saying goodbye to that world I was briefly a part of in Milford. There was sadness attached to my resignation, and I would feel, in the coming weeks, overwhelming guilt, regret, and nostalgia towards that job. It’s impossible to replace the feeling of being a teacher; even through all the negatives, the positives still found ways to be front and center in my head. The more I failed in my job search, the more I returned to happy memories from the very same job that put me in a mental health crisis in the first place. It didn’t make sense, obviously, to beat myself up so much over a decision I made for my health, but when it comes down to it, we do what we have to to survive.

Now, I begin work at a new school, in a new role, fulfilling the duty of a Literacy Interventionist. It is a responsibility I feel ready for, and I hope that I have the same success here that I did in North Haven.