6

Tales From School: 4, 3, 2, 1, Pharaohs Want Their Buildings Done

After an exhausting weekend of two 3-hour drives, 2 workshops, 1 roundtable, and a ton of fun new memories at Eau Claire, it was time to get back to Madison and back to school. With my college students, I managed to stay awake enough to discuss Mother Courage with them, but stayed up half the night brainstorming ideas for how to introduce my next unit to my elementary school students tomorrow. Since Passover is coming up next week, and we have two weeks off, I got them started on thinking about this month’s country, Egypt.

I started off today with a riddle:

“My first letter is in a TREE but is not a FRUIT, my second letter is in the GARDEN but is not a FLOWER, my third letter is in the SKY but is not in the CLOUDS, my fourth letter is on the PLAINS but not in the LAND, and my fifth letter is in the DESERT but not in the SAND.”

In order to solve it, my students needed to figure out that they had to cross off letters that appeared in both words. The first one was pretty easy, since E was the only option, but the second letter could be either G, A, D, or N; the third could be K or Y; the fourth could be P, I, or S; and the fifth could be D, E, R, or T. After a few missed attempts (Eakie, anyone?) and running back and forth from the map, they figured out that it was Egypt. Which led me to introducing the riddle of the Sphinx, which segued into learning basic facts about modern-day Egypt (the lecture portion of the class).

After our mid-class break, we went to the multi-purpose room where I showed them pictures of some of Egypt’s great wonders: the temple at Karnak with its great pillars; the temple at Abu Simbel with the giant pharaoh statues; the Pyramids of Giza; and of course, the Sphinx. This led to a game similar to Simon Says, but I called it Pharaoh’s Builders.

The premise: One student is “pharaoh,” and all the others are builders. Pharaoh does not like it when the builders are lazy, so they must walk around in the hot hot sun until he decides which structure he wants them to build. If he says “pyramid” the builders must get in a group of four and join hands at the top; any student who does not get in that group is eliminated. If he says “sphinx”, the builders must get in a group of three; one as the pharaoh, one as the body of a cat, and one as the magic wings. Again, whoever doesn’t get into a group in time is out. If the pharaoh wants a “temple” two builders stand together side by side (with even numbers, no one gets eliminated; however, we later amended the rule to say that the couple who pairs up the slowest is eliminated). And finally, if he wants a “pillar” that means that the builders must stop where they are and put their hands to the sides; the slowest one, or the one who does the wrong position, is out. The winner becomes the next pharaoh.

We did this for several rounds and it was extremely fun. For the most part. The hiccups that occurred:

  • Tracey kept forgetting what a pillar was, despite making the final two almost every round, crossing her arms instead of putting them to the side.
  • One time, with four players left, the pharaoh called “sphinx.” Bella kneeled, Nora went down on all fours behind her, and Perry made the wings, but as he knelt down, Nelly slipped between him and Nora, making her own wings. Of course, arguing ensued, with the pharaoh (and me) saying that Perry was out because he hesitated when making the wings, Bella and Nora saying that Nelly cheated by cutting in front of Perry. In the end, though, it was resolved when the pharaoh said “what the pharaoh says, goes,” which actually solved the problem, and Perry (who is a pretty easygoing kid) went to the sidelines with no argument.
  • The game was pretty much determined by whoever made the pillar pose the fastest when the pharaoh called out “pillar,” so basically it was a game of walking and waiting. In one round, however, when Nora and Stephanie were in the final two with Nelly as pharaoh, Perry yelled “pillar!” from the sidelines, which confused the heck out of everyone else. It was a great discipline opportunity however; once that round had finished and Nora had won, I told the class that Perry, being a disobedient builder and not respecting the rules of the game, would be required to sit the next round out, and that we would play two more rounds.
  • Of course, there was a ton of arguing “I got here first!” “You moved!” but for the most part, the “what the pharaoh says goes” rule worked to resolve it, and if not that, then “what the teacher says goes.”

Despite the aforementioned issues, I think that this game is incredibly useful and does not get annoying like other games (like The Game We Shall Never, Ever Mention Again). I could play Pharaoh’s builders all day. The best part is that the kids will definitely remember all those things now.

That was quite the long blog post. In other news, today is 4/4 and I paid my VISA bill today using check #444. So that’s something?

1

Foiled by a French Word

Hey y’all, I’ve emerged from the crazy place I’ve been over the last week or so, alternating between stressing, running up and down the library stairs, sleeping in/staying up too late, sneezing/sniffling/dehydrated, and seeking out random places to get work done (including 1 hour of grading last night at Hurts Donut in Middleton, and 2 hours of reading/writing in a booth at Perkins) while trying (and failing) not to have too many sugary snacks. Even though I want them.

Today was actually relatively productive. Even though I didn’t get my day really started until about 12:30, at least I was up around 9 or 10. I headed over to Colectivo to get a cappuccino (yum), a sandwich (meh), and a cup of onion soup (…nasty), and proceed to discipline myself to work. First, I decided to read a book I’ve been meaning to send out for awhile. I gave myself one hour, and by the time the hour was up, I was 5 pages from the end of the 230-ish page book, so I finished it, ordered a mocha, and steeled myself for an hour of working on some of the most difficult writing I’ve ever done.

So, there I am, typing away, click click click la di da di da, when all of a sudden my brain just comes to a screeching halt. I need a word that refers to an incredibly talented and versatile individual, but I cannot think of one. There is a specific word I’m looking for, but it’s in the wrong section of my brain and I can’t find it. I know it either is or sounds French, so I run through every possible French word I know. Panache? No. Savoir-faire? No. Je ne s’ai quoi? No. AUGGGHHH.

It’s. Right. There. But I can’t find it.

I call for backup. My parents are in Ocean City, and my dad and I have a several-minute long conversation about this word, which neither of us can think of. He asks my mom, who asks one of her friends who is fluent in French which is convenient because today is that friend’s birthday and she lives all by herself and my mom almost forgot to call her.

I get off the phone and start frantically writing words. Virtuoso. Au courant. Tour-de-force. One of these may or may not be the answer, I feel like I’ll know it when I see it.

I open up Google Translate and try out some French words, go to dictionary.com and thesaurus.com, make yet another call to my dad, and now twenty minutes have been spent on this one word and I’m so desperate that I open up the Wikipedia page on English words of French origin and go down the list, starting at A and getting up to C before realizing how ridiculous I’m being. After trying out a bazillion different possible words, I settle on “tour-de-force” and continue onward.

Up to now, I still have no idea what that word might have been, although tour-de-force is probably the closest I got. However, I came across some other French words that, in my opinion, should have different meanings.

Blancmange. It refers to a type of sauce, but I think it should refer to someone who is sophisticated enough to order the correct wine for the meal.

Legerdemain. It’s a lovely way to refer to trickery, but what it should means is, someone who is incredibly skilled at bookkeeping or journaling/blogging.

Demimondaine. It refers to something sordid. What it should mean: an aging leading lady (think Ms. Moore)

Peignoir. It has to do with a hairdo. It should refer to someone whose hair is so perfect that others doubt it’s natural.

Joie de vivre. Means “joy of living.” Should mean “let’s all jump around like we’re young lovers frolicking around Paris in the spring.”

And on a final, quite random note:

While I was grocery shopping today, I walked past the school supplies and for a moment, my eyes saw the word illegal pad” on a small notebook; upon closer examination, it was just an ordinary legal pad with an oddly placed logo. Who decided the legality of pads, anyway? What if I wanted an illegal pad? What would it look like? Would I have to declare it at customs? Would it be considered contraband? Would I have to throw it across the border into Mexico? So many questions.

0

it’s a crazy beautiful life we live AKA the dream

So, today for me was one of those days that would seem insane to other people, but for me, it’s insanely energizing. Hence the reason I am typing this at 11:34 PM from Espresso Royale rather than from my couch. Anyway.

9 AM: Up and at ’em!

10 AM: Yogurt and YouTube.

10:30 AM: Arrive at Helen C. to pick up midterm exams.

10:50 AM: After fighting the wind, arrive at Bascom to proctor the midterm exam (BASCOM HILL ASCENT #1)

11:00 AM: Proctor exam.

12:00 PM: Return finished exams to office in Helen C. (BASCOM HILL DESCENT #1). Hang out in office answering emails and stuff, forgetting to eat lunch.

1:15 PM: Teach first class of the day.

2:15 PM: Upon leaving first class, realize that I do not have what I need for the third class I have to teach today. Guess I gotta run home at some point.

2:25 PM: Teach second class of the day (BASCOM HILL ASCENT #2)

3:05 PM: Dismiss second class 10 minutes early because I have to run home and get stuff I forgot (but they don’t have to know that). (BASCOM HILL DESCENT #2)

3:20 PM: Arrive home, proceed to tear up apartment. Just when about to give up, locate papers needed to give to third class. No time to celebrate: gotta run back to teach third class.

3:30 PM: Sail into third class exactly on time, almost face planting in front of the desk. Teach third class of the day.

5:00 PM: After stopping at Fresh to pick up sushi, fruit, cookies, and coffee, head to Helen C. for office hours.

6:00 PM: Office hour done, go home to drop off backpack.

7:35 PM: Arrive at salsa class in Van Vleck only 5 minutes late (but actually on time, since they started 10 minutes late today). Salsa for an hour, dance dance dance (BASCOM HILL ASCENT #3).

9:00 PM: Arrive at home, check in with parents. (BASCOM HILL DESCENT #3). Just enough time to drink some water, change my pants, and pick up my Latin shoes.

9:40 PM: Arrive at Latin dance class, 10 minutes late, but it’s a full hour so I didn’t miss that much. And today of all days is Samba stationary walks, bota fogos, and whisks, nonstop, at a dizzying pace, with a new teacher, an awesome tiny lady who threatens to kill us all if we stop dancing. Since no one wants to die, we all dance for most of the full hour. I get complimented by her on my hip movement.

10:40 PM: Walk home, but run into a friend who is heading to the library, reminding me that I have some stuff to scan there.

11:00 PM: After a short debate with myself, decide I’m on a roll, drop off shoes, pick up laptop and scripts to scan, and head to library.

11:25 PM: Leave library having scanned script to email (only 11 pages) and decide to reward myself with some snacks.

11:40 PM: Arrive at Espresso Royale, which is the only coffee place on State that is open until midnight to enjoy coffee, jellybeans, fruit, and Goldfish crackers and type this post.

It’s a good thing that the gym is closed or else I might have ended up there too. Call me crazy but I love days like this.

3

I Didn’t Choose The Teacher Life…

Ten minutes to midnight on a Monday, and as I am composing this lovely blog post, I am also simultaneously…

  • Wearing jeans, a sweater, and a scarf
  • Sitting among several piles of paper and books
  • Furiously chewing about five pieces of Extra bubble gum
  • Photocopying several activity sheets for class with the kids tomorrow
  • Cutting up said sheets
  • Pressing down the paper on one sheet that got bent in my backpack
  • Preparing to do laundry
  • Listening to Justin Timberlake on my iPhone
  • While watching The Golden Girls with the sound muted.

I didn’t choose the teacher life, the teacher life chose me.

Hashtag, teacherlife.

1

Saladfield Wounds

Honestly, what is with me and salads these days?

It’s kind of like Jenna Marbles and her soups, me and my salads. Making them, posting about them, and eating them. My innards are probably just lettuce leaves right now. Only, in the last few days, I’ve punctured my skin several times and now sport two lovely bandaged fingers from them. And I barely even touched a sharp knife; my Sharper Image veggie guillotine thing has some sharp blades which, oddly, I keep forgetting about, despite the machine being able to slice through an entire cucumber in one press, and, you know…it’s called The Sharper Image. You don’t get those kinds of injuries from cookies.

And speaking of cookies, despite being on this salad-binge diet, I had one on Sunday at Hubbard Avenue Diner – a yummy, gooey, freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie. I also had chocolate chips, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a packet or two of fruit snacks, some Lindt chocolates, and an almond croissant from Colectivo, where I sat and finished 2 books this afternoon. Even so, I’ve managed to lose a little weight this week, so…progress? Maybe? I don’t know, and I can’t be too hopeful, but it’s something.

And now, to see if my bandaged fingers can manipulate the remote because it’s tough to type with them.

4

How I Invented the Movie

A few hours ago, I was all set to get out of my apartment and go down to State Street for some coffee, a reward, and reading time at Starbucks or Colectivo or something. A minute before I head out the door, I get a Facebook notification that there’s a get together going on at Five Guys. So, I go…read, or socialize? 

Backpack with books in tow, I head out and end up at Five Guys. It ends up being three tables pushed together full of people, and I get convinced to eat some fries. Then, we head over to Blue Velvet for martinis, because there’s a birthday in the group. So, I ask myself…read, or drink?

Then we’re at Blue Velvet, a bar I’ve never been to but is actually pretty chic. People see to be having fun, and so am I. I get suckered into buying and drinking a “Mother Pucker” sour apple-watermelon martini. And it’s delicious. But, eventually, I realize that I’m in a bar, with a backpack of books, and I haven’t read much of anything today, so I pay for my drink and head over to Colectivo for coffee, a croissant, and some reading time before they close at 10 and SNL starts at 10:30.

As I’m reading, I think to myself…what if there was, like a bar where it was socially acceptable to read? Then, I thought, how about a bar where reading is required? Like, the pages of the book are under panes of glass upon which you rest your drink, then press a button to turn the page. But then, I think wait, that wouldn’t be very social. But what if everyone was reading the same book? And what if it was on a giant screen in front of them? And they could watch it together, and it could have pictures?

And that’s how I came up with the movie.

2

My Night at Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Party Ever AKA Dreams Do Come True

This is sort of a Throwback Thursday post, since it happened last month but I was so amped up and busy that I just kind of blew past it, but because I want to preserve the memories, and I want you to know, and THE WORLD NEEDS TO KNOW, here it is, in full: My Night at Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Party Ever.

Sometime early in the semester, I was looking up something online and I saw that Ronnie Spector was playing a concert in Milwaukee sometime in November. I thought about going, but was like…I’ll probably buy the ticket and then something will come up and I will have wasted my money. But a few weeks ago, when I was feeling pretty down and out about my prelims and totally bummed by the election, I looked it up again, and realized that it would be on November 29, which would be after Thanksgiving but two days before prelims were due, and a) I would be in Madison, and b) I had nothing scheduled, so I did something I don’t normally do…bought tickets to the show, no regrets! It was only $52, and I’d need to drive to Milwaukee, but I got a floor seat and OMG I DON’T CARE I’M GOING TO RONNIE SPECTOR. I sat on my hands about it for a while, not telling anyone, and was hoping to finish my prelims over Thanksgiving and then have that be my reward. I ended up not finishing but getting pretty close, but I decided to reward myself anyway.

So, come November 29th, I go to teach, and then, I’m off to Milwaukee, to the Northern Lights Theatre at the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. I was kind of nervous at first…I mean, this is a big deal, would I get to meet her? What would I do? What would I say? Also, would this place be weird? (I mean, it’s a casino I’d never been to before…) But anyway, I ended up getting there plenty early, and there was plentiful parking, and I headed inside, passing all the machines and bright flashy lights – those places really are mazes. But I was determined to get to that theatre.

Though the casino was full of smokers, the theatre itself was quite lovely. I was guided to my seat in Row F, given a $10 voucher which I didn’t use, and paid $3 for a Coke. The seating was around little tables, and I guess I got lucky, because my table mates were so much fun; like me, they were also teachers, and also like me, they weren’t drinking because they had to teach in the morning (well, two out of three, one of them had just retired). We quickly got acquainted and chatted up a storm while we waited for the concert to start. I was seated next to Harry, the school principal; next to him was the school guidance counselor, whose name was either Marilyn or Marlene; and their retired Spanish teacher, Evie. We didn’t get too much of a chance to talk because the lights came down…

And when they came up, three backup singers dressed as the Ronettes were onstage, as was the band, and they broke out into “Baby, I Love You.” At first, I thought it was just an opening act, but then, Ronnie Spector emerged in all of her black leather glory, and I actually did start crying a little. I mean…Ronnie Spector, the original bad girl of rock and roll, a living LEGEND, was on a stage just yards away from me. Marilyn and Evie giggled as Harry and I passed tissues back and forth through the first song, but then I composed myself. Interspersed with the songs was some lovely Ronnie banter and projections of interviews and TV appearances by the Ronettes in their heyday. She made a lot of funny jokes, and sang all the classics, with several tributes: one to her late sister Estelle (“How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?”), to the late Amy Winehouse (“Back to Black”), and something in honor of the Beatles, which I can’t remember at the moment.

Right when the show was really getting hot…it happened.

Bum, ba bum TSS…bum, ba bum, tss…

Yep, “Be My Baby.”

I was instantly up out of my seat, dancing like a fool, and singing along with the chorus, and thinking to myself, “holy cannoli, Jacob, you are actually listening to Ronnie Spector, singing ‘Be My Baby’ RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW LIVE. It will not get any better than this.”

Minimal crying occurred.

Then she had a costume change and launched into some Christmas tunes (after all, it was a Christmas party) and now a lot of audience members were up and dancing, not just me. And in the middle of her last song, she knelt down and shook hands with the people in the front row, and I was like…”now is your chance, Jacob, just do it…” so I impulsively ran down front, hoping not to be hauled off by security or anything, and squeezed in next to the stage, and I got to be the very last one to shake hands with Ronnie Spector. She even pointed to me and mouthed something like “I saw you dancing” as we shook hands (I think I might have blubbered something like “thank you, I love you”) and she gave me a thumbs-up before finishing the song and heading offstage. I will never forget that handshake…her hand was sort of soft, sort of leathery, but it was still warm from holding a mic and OH MY GOSH I WAS JUST LOST IN THAT MOMENT. The only thing that would’ve been better would have been to get a picture with her, or a hug, but her acknowledgement of my presence was a present in and of itself.

She might be 73 years old, but she’s still got that rock n’ roll. Two thumbs up; I would go see her again if I could.

When the lights came back up, I walked back over to our table, and walked to the exit with Harry, Marilyn and Evie, my new teacher-friends. We somehow managed to get some pictures with the backup singers, who bore incredible resemblances to the young Ronettes. There were a lot of people, so I didn’t manage to get a picture with just me and them, but I have one with all three of them, Harry in between the two who looked most like Estelle and Ronnie, and me standing next to the one who looked most like Nedra. I was hoping that Ronnie would come on out, but it was pretty clear that it was time to go as they whisked us out and closed the door behind us. I stood outside the theater and chatted with some of the other concertgoers about our experiences – I thought that I was pretty crazy for driving in from Madison, but there was a group who had driven in all the way from Indiana, just for this, which is dedication.

Anyways, since there didn’t seem to be any swag on sale, and it was getting late, I decided to exit the casino before I died of smoke inhalation, and headed to Rock Bottom Brewery for a quick snack before heading back to Madison, calling Hanna and my dad on the way, freaking out. Hanna was actually at a party or a gig or something, so I apologized for interrupting, and at first she didn’t register why I was freaking out, but when I told her it was the “Be My Baby” singer, she was like “ooooohhhh wow!”

And that is my story of seeing the original bad girl of rock ‘n roll.

And if you’re reading this, Ronnie…thank you for all the music, I had the time of my life. Next time, let’s dance together or at least get a picture, please.

Baby, I love you.

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