High school English, DIY-style

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My sister is now a 10th grade English teacher. Of all the people on the planet to end up as an English teacher, my sister is not high on the list of names I’d predict, for a few reasons:

  1. She hated school.
  2. She really hated English.
  3. She doesn’t read or write all that much.
  4. She really, really hated school.

However, there are a few reasons that I am also not surprised by this new career:

  1. When she sets a goal, she meets it.
  2. She’s one of those super annoying people who is good at everything, even on first attempts.
  3. She’s always been excellent with kids of all ages.

Now there are two of us literary types in the family. We came up with some fun ideas to decorate her classroom, including my contribution – the book map.

I would have totally geeked out over this map in high school. My book club geeked out over the idea and helped me come up with titles. It’s been an English geek fest! (For everyone except the students, anyway… they aren’t terribly impressed so far.) Unfortunately, some of the titles I’d chosen for stories in Central and South America, Canada and the Middle East didn’t print well, so there are holes in the map. Also I realized I’ve read a woeful lack of almost anything that takes place in the Orient. But these things can always be added, and suggestions are welcome!

For the other decor, my sister and mom channeled their inner Native Americans and used every last piece of the carcasses of murdered buffalo books to create window banners out of pages and a mobile out of spines. A few inspirational posters and writing guides, and the room is good to go. It’s not as decked out as some of the other teachers’, but I like its minimalism. It keeps the important things in focus – reading, writing and awesome maps!


What would you tell your 14-year-old self?

This question is asked in every interview on “The Conversation with Amanda de Cadanet,” a new Q&A-style show on Lifetime. Amanda interviews women (mostly celebs) about everything from politics and money to sex and body image. It’s a fascinating show. Jane Fonda, Arianna Huffington and Melissa McCarthy have been some of my favorite guests so far. If Amanda could get Oprah on the show, I’m pretty sure the universe would explode from all the female empowerment vibes. 🙂

Back to the question at hand: What would you tell your 14-year-old self?

Ah, the mid-’90s. Good times. 😉

For me, freshman year of high school was bittersweet. I was super excited to be on pep squad because it was the required stepping stone before trying out for dance team. I’d wanted to be on dance team – specifically Marshall’s dance team – since I was 9 years old, when my cousin Jana was on Marshall’s dance team and we went to a football game to see her perform at halftime. Also, I was pretty excited about high school in general. I imagined it was going to be a lot of fun – driving, dating, dance team. What wasn’t to like?

The bitter part was that the friends I hung out with in middle school all went to a different high school. At first this didn’t seem like a huge deal because the girls I knew who were going to Marshall (and also joining pep squad) were girls I’d known since elementary school. Most of them lived in my neighborhood. But, I learned quickly, not being part of their group in middle school made me not really part of their group in high school, especially in the beginning. It was awkward, and for most of the four years I felt like I was just sort of hovering around them. All of that started first thing freshman year.

There were guys I liked who didn’t like me. There were guys who liked me that I didn’t like. There were good friends I made who managed to get folded into the bigger group without me. There were girls who were just plain mean. High school was a lot more turbulent than I expected. It wasn’t an awful four years, just different from what I’d imagined in my head.

Being on the outskirts of things and being on the defense hardened me. Then all that stuff from the setbacks post happened during the college years and that hardened me a lot. I became depressed and angry and mean. It was exhausting, and difficult to break. If I’m being totally honest, I’m still working on it.

So, what would I tell my 14-year-old self?

Stuff doesn’t always happen the way you’d like, but no matter what, always take care of yourself, practice being patient and stay open-hearted.

What are y’all’s answers?

11 Random Things

So I’m about halfway done with the extra chapter that I’m going to add to my book. Because I was writing this weekend (and picking confetti out of my hair for the better part of an evening), I didn’t take the time to come up with a super clever blog post for today. Therefore I am stealing one from my friend Stephanie from high school. Her blog, Froggy & the Mouse, is about her adventures raising two little boys. Seriously, parents of little ones — follow her. I don’t even have kids and I love reading her posts. 🙂

Anyway, sometimes she does these getting-to-know-your-blogger things. She posted these questions and then said to come up with 11 random facts about myself on my own. (I think that was the challenge. I only copied the questions so I can’t remember.) Here it goes!

1. What is your most favorite place on Earth?

Port A, my grandma’s kitchen, my grandparents’ backyard, my parents’ front porch, the top of Enchanted Rock… so, I guess, in a nutshell, TEXAS! 🙂

2. If you woke up with an extra $10,000 tomorrow, what’s the first thing you would buy? {and DON’T say ‘pay off debt’. LAME.}

I’d book my trip to Italy (supposed to be happening this fall — fingers crossed), save some and then donate the rest to the Paisano.

3. Facebook, or Twitter?

I never thought I’d say it, but… Twitter. I’m following a lot of authors and lit agents and getting tons of useful advice and resources. Very cool. 🙂

4. What’s your favorite book?

GAH!! 😦 To Kill a Mockingbird, Little Women, the Little House series, the Harry Potter series, anything by Marisa de los Santos, Gone with the Wind and the thesaurus. (Yes. I am a dork.)

5. If you could go back and do one thing differently THIS WEEK, what would it be?

Go to bed earlier.

6. What’s one thing you wish you knew how to do really well?


7. Iced tea: sweet or unsweet?

Unsweet, but with sweetener. Yeah, I said it. (Explanation: Sweet tea is TOO sweet. I just need like 1/4 of the packet of sweetener in the glass and I’m good.)

8. If you were stranded on a deserted island tomorrow, who would you want to be stranded with? {ONE person only!}

Captain Jack Sparrow.

9. Have you, or have you not, ever thought about ordering a pair of pajama jeans? {no lying!!}

No ma’am.

10. What do you love/hate about blogging?

Love: It’s fun, cathartic and makes me feel productive. Hate: It’s work in the sense that I’m trying to build an audience, so I check the stats and plug myself on social media sites and it’s very easy to get discouraged if a post doesn’t “hit” the way I want.

11. How do you know me?

High school! JMHS class of '99. Go Rams! 🙂
(Picture of a picture, taken on my phone, hence the quality.)

Now, 11 random things:

1. I take personal offense if Mexican restaurants do not offer complimentary chips and salsa.

2. My red Mitsubishi Outlander is named Jessica Rabbit.

3. Seasons, ranked favorite to least favorite: Fall, Summer, Winter, Spring.

4. One of my dreams is to buy a few acres, build a house and rescue a bunch of dogs.

5. I’m obsessed with calaveras/Dia de los Muertos art/imagery.

6. If I ever met Johnny Depp or Kate Winslet in person, I would most likely burst into tears.

7. When I laugh really hard, I squeak. *blush*

8. If I was ever brave enough to get a tattoo, I’d get a feather quill on the inside of my right wrist.

9. Zachary Levi is my current celebrity crush.

10. I danced for 20 years. Tap is my favorite.

11. Summer Olympic Games > Winter Olympic Games. (London 2012! It’s so close, y’all!) 🙂

What about you? Answer some of the questions above or give me some random facts about yourself. Tell me something I don’t already know.