Essays and Articles

The Ostrich Principle: When your submission is “not a good fit” – Medium (4/14/22)

My skin has thickened up considerably over the years, but rejections still sting. One of my least favorite things to see in a rejection email is, “just not a good fit.” I mean, how am I supposed to take that? Not a good fit is just a euphemistic way of saying bad fit which immediately leads my mind to the conclusion that what I submitted was crap. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to work as a fiction editor on a literary magazine that I got insight into what might actually keep a piece of writing from being that holy grail of literature: the good fit.

My Black Thumb: Parenting Adult Children – Medium (3/3/22)

I’ve been in the business of growing people for a long time. First, it was in my classroom where I helped my high school students grow as writers and readers but mostly as humans. I took to heart the advice of one of my mentors who said once, “Don’t ever cut a student off at the knees unless you have the skill and the willingness to build back their legs.” I did my best to hold my tongue and filter what I said, knowing in the immortal words from Vivian from Pretty Woman how “the bad stuff is easier to believe,” especially when spoken by someone in a position of authority.

Grief’s Doorway – Medium (8/23/22)

For a long time, my life was like my dog. For twenty-five years I’d pulled my life alongside me, tugging it in the directions I wanted to go. Admittedly, I could attribute my success to the modesty of the demands I made on my life. I wanted to go to college, so I went. I wanted to marry my boyfriend, Jason, so it came to be. I wanted a career as a teacher, so that was the road I traveled. Only once so far had my life yanked hard on its tether, threatening to slip its collar and declare its independence. That was when my father died in 1995.

The New Abnormal in Schools – Medium (6/28/2020)

Right now everyone in America is walking a tightrope between the very real dangers of COVID-19 and the equally real desire to get back to “normal.” Some people cling more tightly to one side than the other. There are those who refuse to wear masks in public, even creating fake cards to flash at people to assert their right to not have their freedoms impinged upon. And there are those on the other side who insist that everything, EVERYTHING needs to be locked down until a successful vaccine is released. In the middle of the wire with no net in sight below us are America’s teachers.

Why Teachers Are Grumpy in May – Medium (4/26/19)

“Why aren’t you in a better mood? It’s almost summer?”

Yeah, but it’s NOT summer yet. It’s that liminal time of year that teachers know and loathe: late April and May. Sure, we’re thisclose to being able to pee whenever we want and to taking more than fifteen minutes to eat our lunch, but we still have to get through the last weeks. And they’re pretty awful.

We Are All Aunt Becky – Medium (4/21/19)

Do you know who wasn’t surprised when the college admissions / standardized testing scandals broke? Educators. Do you know why? Because we have been dealing with Aunt Becky and her kids for a long, long time.

They are the family who doesn’t live in the school zone but lies to come because there’s a “good” reason to. Maybe the school has a better reputation for academics or a better sports team, or maybe the kid just likes the school colors better.

Dangerous Disregard – Medium (11/12/18)

So, the Thousand Oaks shooter was described as a “ticking time bomb” by high school faculty. Let me tell you why that’s not a surprise.

Teachers like me aren’t licensed psychiatrists or psychologists, but we are on the front lines with around 150 kids each year, and, depending on our school, we can be in daily interaction with over 2,000 kids. We see things, and we know things. We should be listened to.

I’m in it for the Money – Medium (9/8/18)

I know. Everyone is probably tired of hearing teachers complaining about how we’re not paid enough. Know how to make us stop? Pay us more. Seriously.

The ridiculous cliche that “teachers aren’t in it for the money; we’re in it for the kids,” is just another manipulation to guilt teachers into accepting less for doing more. I’ve got bills to pay and things to buy, and I work in order to earn a paycheck. It’s wonderful that I like my job and find fulfillment and satisfaction in it, but let me be very clear: I absolutely get up each morning and work all day for the money.

The Awkward Kid in the Back Row – Medium (8/28/18)

If my school is ever on fire, I’ll be seen running out with a box under my arm. It’s a big metal tin that used to have cookies in it. It has “Good Stuff” written in black Sharpie on the lid, and it contains most of the letters, cards, Post-It notes, and drawings that kids have given me over the last twenty-five years. When I’m having a bad day, thinking about how peaceful it would be to just work at somewhere like Target, I get the box out from under the repository of random detritus that I throw in a file cabinet drawer. I pry the lid open and read until I feel better. It never takes long.

I Really Do Need That Yellow Binder – Medium (7/18/18)

Last summer, a video circulated on social media of a lady known as One Funny Mother, and it’s making the rounds again. In the video, a woman circles what looks like Target, ranting about people who complain about buying supplies off of teachers’ lists. I’ve never met her, but I love her.

As a mom, I know that back-to-school shopping gets expensive. When my kids were in elementary school, I spent around $50 per kid for school supplies. The amount went up when they hit middle school and had multiple teachers asking for stuff. When it was time for high school, there were things like large capacity flash drives and engineering-grade calculators that jacked my totals above the triple digit watermark. Multiply that by three kids, and add in the uniforms and backpacks and other things my progeny deemed necessary, and it made me clutch my pearls at the checkout.

Loving an Unlovable Dog – Medium (7/16/18)

My dog is an asshole. Everyone says so, and I have to admit that when considered objectively, they’re right.

I got Sully from a rescue organization. His face popped up on my Facebook feed, and his little furry mug with its pugnacious under-bite made me melt. I clicked and went to his profile. He was “some kind of terrier mix,” and he’d been abandoned at a vet’s office when he was around six months old. We’d never had a small dog before, but I sent a message to the organization that had him, and I got a quick reply. We arranged for a meeting, and a few days later, the rescue lady was at my door with a little brown mutt, peering angrily at me from beneath feathery eyebrows.

Teaching in the Age of Trump – Medium (7/13/18) *Featured Article*

Full disclosure: I’m not a Trump fan. I woke up on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 with a sense of dread and foreboding. I wondered how I was going to get up, go to school, and be a responsible high school English teacher in this brave new world of Trump.

Like many, I figured I would ride it out. My previous job, at a very conservative school, taught me to keep my head down when President Obama was elected and both colleagues and school families responded as if it were the end times. It was my turn now, I reasoned. Sure, Trump had admitted to groping women, he’d mocked a disabled journalist, done myriad things I found repugnant, but there were checks and balances. How bad could it be?

Well, I’ve now taught one school year that spanned the election and inauguration, and I’ve taught one school year under the Trump presidency. In my perspective, it’s been so much worse than I could have ever imagined — but I have a job to do. It’s a job that I take seriously, and I’ve tried my best to be a responsible educator in the age of Trump. As I prepare for the 2018–2019 school, I wanted to share the five tenets I now cling to.

Losing a Student – Medium (7/1/18)

I got a message this morning that I’ve gotten too many times over the years as a teacher. They all start the same way: “I am so sorry to tell you…” or “Did you hear about…” or “I thought you’d want to know…” Like so many, many other things that we teachers can never be prepared for in our college classes or professional development seminars or even just through years of experience, losing students is just part of loving students.