#197: The Paper

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In continuing my trend of talking about grading papers, today I’ll be discussing the process of looking at and editing these particular Research & Portfolio papers. I’m currently doing some grading, and it’s not great, but I’ve looked at these papers already so they shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. I’ve worked with these students during class and after class, helping while I can and sharing my thoughts and words with them. None of it is easy, though. I always have to grapple with helping too much, versus helping just the right amount. I also want to make sure that students appreciate the work I put in for them. It’s a constant struggle between competing needs and desires, to please or to help. If only both were possible at once.

When I first started working at this new job, I once worked with a student on his essay, only to discover that my work wasn’t what the teacher wanted. I helped him pen his thoughts onto the computer, because he wasn’t the type of student who really enjoyed typing and asked for my help. To find out that I didn’t do a good job was kind of a dagger in the heart, for a few reasons: one, because I’m really trying my best here and want to succeed as much as possible, and two, because I felt that the student I helped actually benefited from my help quite a lot. It’s one of those cases where you just have to shut up and take whatever someone else says inside you, and then put it away. You can’t expect everyone to like the work that you produce, even when it’s something you care about. Eventually someone will tear it down, and you have to persevere despite their criticisms. Everyone’s a critic these days. Everyone, it seems.

#170: The Essay

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This blog post is inspired in part by the comments made by a student during one of my study halls a couple days ago. We were discussing the importance of all of his classes — science, math, and humanities — and after discussing some of his special electives, he proclaimed proudly that he “already knows everything there is to know about writing an essay” because he “wrote essays every day in third grade.” If only it were that simple dude! You’re gonna have a long next eight years of English classes in the future, if you think that already.

But after thinking over his comments some more, it reminded me of when I was in school around his age, and I thought pretty much the same thing about myself and my studies. I was convinced that I could get by with my intuition alone, without putting effort into my studies or classes. I was, for lack of a better word, a lazy bum, unable to motivate myself to try more because I was satisfied enough with a B+, even though I could’ve scored higher if I tried. The woes of being a lazy eighth grader with a video game addiction and enough friends on Xbox Live to keep me occupied!

I remember teaching students how to write essays in 10th grade, and just from seeing some of their works-in-progress, you have to know that someone in 3rd grade wouldn’t have a chance at getting to their rough drafts in terms of quality. It’s difficult to overstate the difference. One of my failings as a teacher, and something I wish I could change if I went back in time, is that I never explicitly told students what I expect from an essay, the five-paragraph format or whatever. I kept my expectations to myself, I guess because I didn’t have very many expectations in the first place beyond “you should get this done, because I said so.” Times have changed since then, though.

#157: The Yearbook

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Remember being in school and having a yearbook? Remember passing it around to all your friends and fellow students, asking for signatures or messages to remember them by over the summer? Remember looking through to see your class picture, your pearly whites gleaming in the perfectly symmetrical lighting of every one’s pictures at once? Maybe you remember looking back at your yearbooks in the years and years that have passed since school was relevant to you. I certainly do; just a year ago, before we moved to Stamford, Alex and I spent some time looking at my old yearbooks before packing them away to be brought to our new apartment together. It was a nostalgia trip, just poring over those pages and viewing the signatures I had from friends I haven’t spoken to in years. It’s really been years, believe it or not, and it feels like it’s been years, too. Nothing compares to the nostalgia of looking at your picture from 8th grade, the year you hated the most, and seeing positive messages there that you forgot about. The phone number your first real crush left there, the HAGS and more and more, repeated forever.

I mention the yearbook because, as someone who’s currently working at a K-8 school, I was enlisted to help program the yearbook online. I’m a member of the faculty in charge of the yearbook, and we’re working together to complete this thing in time. We have about a month left (at the time of me writing this) to finish it. We’re waiting for pictures to be sent in from parents and students, but there aren’t many yet. It’s a work-in-progress, but it illuminates for me how much work must have gone into all the yearbooks people have made for me throughout the years. They weren’t just imagined out of thin air.

#104: The Journal

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Awhile ago, in a Sociology class in high school, I started writing in a journal I had in front of me. I titled it “The Greatest Journal Ever!” and, in my excitement, made sure to write every period I had the chance. I penned my thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and it made me a better writer in every possible way. I credit my fascination with writing to my interest in writing personal narratives in my journal; although I spent some time before high school writing fantasy stories and unfinished novels, sometimes involving my friends, but more often invented by the solitary confinement of my mind, it exploded when I started writing about myself. Like my mentor teacher during my student-teaching period, we both were fascinated by the potential of personal writing. It allowed us to shape our experiences into creative stories themselves, to craft narratives out of our memories and the important moments that make up our lives. Without that journal in high school, I doubt I would have started writing blogs like this. I simply wouldn’t have had the experience to call back to, in order to make this less of a daunting endeavor.

I still write in my journal every once in a while, and when I first quit my teaching job months ago, I moved into my journal exclusively as my mode of writing. It preserves my thoughts during important moments, and I like to look back and see what I felt during those times. It provides a perfect frame of reference for the present day, so that I can look back, review my feelings, and observe how they have evolved since then. I love that journal, and when it comes time to write by myself, nothing is better.

#96: The Sleepover

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I have a sleepover coming up with some of my good friends, and it’s time to write about it. Another wonderful, positive aspect of my life.

When I was especially young, I loved having sleepovers. They were something to look forward to during the week, motivating me to make it through school and karate and baseball because, at the end of it all, I’d be staying up late and playing video games with some of my best friends at home. As a teenager, nothing was better than this. I cherished my friends and kept them close to me, as they were an important source of happiness in my life.

Nowadays, as a more mature (but not entirely mature) adult, I still have sleepovers with friends. They’re not the same, obviously; we don’t gossip about school or play Rock Band 2 any more, but parts of them are similar. The friends are the same, despite the long distance between us nowadays. We buy lots of snacks to fill our stomachs with terrible nutritious value, we bring whatever gaming consoles, controllers, and accessories are necessary to play the best multiplayer games, and we reminisce about old times, even though we are still in our early twenties. It’s never too early to be nostalgic, right? I hope these never end.

Sleepovers help me stretch my hosting muscles, too. Whenever friends visit Stamford, I feel especially motivated to make sure the apartment looks spic and span. They haven’t met Angus yet, but eventually, one of these days, they’ll have the opportunity to have our little old man park his butt in their laps, his favorite pastime when meeting new people. He recently met the family, and I’m excited for him to have the chance to introduce himself to others.

#95: The Blog

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After discussing how my poetry has changed over time, I’d like to take a bit to talk about how my blogging has evolved, who I write it for, and how that feels.

When I studied abroad for six months, I was introduced to the idea of personal blogging. Everyone was doing some variation of it; whether they were chronicling their travels or just keeping in touch with family, nearly every student abroad had a photo album or online blog prepared to share with everyone. I felt that it was necessary for me to join in, too. Now, that blog is set to private and probably won’t see the light of day any more, but it existed for a time and served its purpose: it helped others know what I was up to, and it kept me writing.

Nowadays, I commit to writing at least 300 words or so a day. Sometimes I skip a day, but that’s only after writing 600 or more words the day prior. I like to overcompensate and give myself days off from writing, like going to the gym. I had a conversation with a friend awhile back in which she said she was writing every day, and that’s what inspired me to continue like this. I also write this blog so that I can appreciate the smaller stuff in life, while also making sure I have an outlet for my writing. Writing is a huge hobby of mine, and I don’t want to abandon it. Personal blogging is a strong way of holding that hobby together and keeping it consistent over time.

I should also mention that this blog, after all, isn’t for anyone in particular except for myself. I don’t aim to become popular through this, and I don’t want to achieve high engagement numbers or anything like that. This is a collection of my writings, and the occasional likes help motivate me to write more, but they aren’t my primary source of motivation. I am intrinsically motivated to write as much as possible, at least 300 words a day, and this blog gives me the opportunity to hold myself accountable for all that.


School is like jail,
sad and dry and
they don’t hit you
just send you out
just make you
suffer math problems
make you do more
and more work,
at least in jail
they just yell at you,
that’s it,
they can’t hurt me
with words,
they say we learning
but I never learned
a thing here
no projects, no homework
just guards and aliens,
weird people like me
I looked at my skin
and knew I was home
I’ve been here before,
maybe one day
I’ll go back

#84: The Old Student

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It goes without saying that the memories you share with old students can last a lifetime. I don’t think I’ll ever forget some of the great memories I had in my first year of full-time teaching, and I also doubt I’ll forget the bad ones, too. That’s just how our brains work; we hold onto the extremes, not the middle ground. We attach ourselves to extreme emotions, the ones that are most memorable to us. Unless we learn to forget them, which takes time, they are bound to us like leeches, siphoning energy, metabolism, and life. Old students can be thoughtful reminders of simpler and more complicated times, simultaneously. Old students restore my teaching spirit and remind me why I entered the profession in the first place, to learn, to teach, to inspire a deep passion in others to read, write, and explore literature and creative writing. In fact, if I were to simplify it down to just one goal, it’s to inspire creative writers to write, just like I do. I hope, by the end of my one year of teaching in Milford, at least one student took on the habit of journaling or writing poetry on their own. It would make me happy to know that that’s taken place.

I recently received a message from a student, not too long ago, asking how things were going. I haven’t responded yet, but I’ve thought about what to say for awhile, leading mostly nowhere. That’s what inspired this post, and I know that this student learned and enjoyed my class. That fact alone, and the reminder of it that the message confirmed, brings me great joy. I hope that this feeling lasts for longer than other times. Fingers crossed. Nothing is confirmed.

Not Time

You have 5 minutes
to finish
your CFQR chart

5 minutes to finish the
poster paper project

What happened to
all the time I
gave you last class?
Can I have a
copy, Ms. Stoley?
Not this time,

we don’t have enough
time, not time
Go to your seat

Hmmmph, I didn’t
do anything, what
are you talking about?

What are you saying?
I’m saying, it’s
not time for this,

Not time for this
right now


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In London every street has a name

(although it’s hard to tell)

And every train station has a train

usually within a minute at least


In London every store has underpaid workers

unless you’re in Westminster

And every cashier has the same shit-eating grin

because they’re in London, so who cares?


In London every palace has at least seven bedrooms

one for each day of the week

And every king or queen has distant family members

in every other European nation


In London every homeless stranger asks for money

but in the most polite way

And every empty plastic cup feels like a dagger

in my heart


In London all the bridges have names

some more exciting than others

And all the streams connect somehow

to the vast river in the center


In London all the bookshops store “Trainspotting”

because it’s everyone’s favorite novel

And all the people sit quietly

because they don’t want to bother anyone


In London all the pubs radiate outward

as everything around them comes alive

And all the drinks will amaze you

with how quickly they drag you down