15 December 2006

More funny oral reports....

K: I have a question. How many variations have there been on the Art Deco style?
D: MS.BACKES!!! OH MY GOD!! That was actually an intelligent question! You should give him extra credit for that!!!

"FDR was basically a mama's boy. He had a stamp collection."

I: And that's my report on the Empire State building. Any questions.
J: Yeah. Is it still standing today?
J: Ohhhhhh! I didn't realize it was THAT empire state building!

E: And he wrote this song called "Rhapsody in Blue...."
K: Wait, George Foreman wrote MUSIC?
Class: What?
E: George Gershwin!
K: OH! Because I knew about the sandwich grill, but not the music!

14 December 2006

Feliz Hanukkah!

This year, my pet peeve is people who are crabby that they "have" to say "Happy Holidays" instead of merry xmas, as well as the people who take Wal-Mart's reclamation of "Merry Xmas" as some sort of F-You PC-ers! victory. First of all, weird. Second of all, I grew up in Madison, home of the Freedom From Religion people, so the idea of any sort of xmas in schools is totally foreign to me. Third, I grew up a Unitarian Universalist in a town that was 50/50 Catholic/Lutheran, so the winter holidays were always a little rough and weird for me personally, especially in school. And fourth, I just don't see why taking other religions/cultures/beliefs into account is such a huge problem that you have to be such a smug asshole about it.

Anyway... the other morning at a staff meeting, the Spanish teacher got up and waved his arms in his special way, announcing in this very aggressive way: "We're going to be singing Christmas carols in Spanish next week, so if that OFFENDS anyone, we'll make sure not to sing too close to your room! We will be singing CHRISTIAN songs, so let me know if that's a PROBLEM!" (He stared right at me the whole time, even though I've made absolutely no mention of my non-xianity. Anyway.)

The next day, some students told me they had to go to his class next, and they were all moaning and whining like they do. I said, "You guys are learning xmas carols, right?"
"Tell him you want to learn some Hanukkah songs in Spanish," I said. "That would be awesome."
The kids laughed and agreed.

Later that afternoon, I was out on the bus pad when I heard the teacher screaming at me. "THIS IS YOUR DOING! JEWISH SONGS?????? YOU TOLD THEM TO SAY THAT!!!!!"
I shrugged and said mildly, "Hey, if your students want to express appreciation for a diversity of religious beliefs, I think you should support that."

And then I walked away, laughing quietly to myself, while he waved his arms and yelled after me.

Good times.

12 December 2006

Natty's Survey...

... because it's better than paying bills.

1. Full Name: Mary Margaret Backes

2. Name a few nicknames you may have: (chronologically:) Mouse, Mousie, Moddy, Molly Holly, Moo Boxes, Maruja, Molly Dolly, Mollsa Bollsa, Holly, Monster, Sister Mary Molly, MIZBACKES, Plincess, the devil

3. Whats a nickname that you HATE - and why?: Suki. I mean, come on. Ditto for Muffy, Puffy, Buffy, and Chaz.

4. What was your FAVORITE grade/year in school? Why?
Let's see... maybe junior/senior years of high school and college. Senior year of college was probably the best year overall. Living with the Fun Nuns in White House, the last stop before hell....

5. What elementary School Did you Go to?
Oregon Elementary School, K-3

6. Junior High?
Oregon Middle School, 4-6; then Oregon Junior High, 7; then (briefly) Century Oaks Middle School, 7, before Oregon Middle School, 7 & 8. It's a long story. And a stupid one.

7. High School?
Oregon High School (see a pattern?)

8. Name one person you absolutely did not like in school:
Dan Quayle. He bugged me so much when I was in middle school. I'm not even kidding.

9. What states have you lived in? (again, chronologically:) Wisconsin, Iowa, Massachusetts, Iowa again, and New Mexico

10. What countries have you been to? Canada, Costa Rica, England, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Italy, Belgium, Slovakia, the Netherlands, uh... the United States

11. Do you think you would like you if you weren't you?
Really hard to say. I do like to do projects, and I *love* to do projects with someone else. So... as long as I did projects with myself, I'd probably like me.

12. Are you a GOOD secret keeper?
As long as I know it's a secret. Jesus.

13. Are you a good Liar?
I used to be an excellent liar. I think that's why I started doing improv. But now... I don't have the energy for it.

14. Are you lying about being a good secret Keeper?
Look, you didn't tell me it was a secret, okay?

15. Who are you thinking about?
Natty, of course.

16. Whats the BEST part about that person?
Her excellent taste in friends.... She's brilliant and doesn't realize it, she's super loyal and just really true to herself. I respect her, even when I don't agree with her. Also, she's just really fun to hang out with. Look her up, people, she's not one to miss.

17. Kate may be with Sawyer now...but she's going to end up with Jack, Ultimately.
I met a baby named Sawyer over the weekend, but I couldn't tell if it was a boy or a girl, so I think I referred to its mother as IT, as in "how old is it?" Very classy.

18. Seventeen wasnt a question....I just wanted you to know that.
Another thing about Natty is that she's a stickler for grammar & punctuation.

19. Do you know someone named Heidi?
Yes, Heidi was my chemistry partner and we learned so much together about the difference between hot glass and cold glass.

20. Is she obnoxious or fat?
Not at all. Short and weird, but in a really great way.

21. Everyone I know with that name has been both.
Oh you and your non-questions.

22. Do you like your job? Why or why not?
Sometimes. I really like the kids, except when they suck. I mostly like the people I work with. I love the moment when a kid *gets* it. That's so awesome. And when kids come back and tell me stuff from the real world that relates to my class. And when kids come back and whine about how much they miss middle school. And when I get to do something that actually makes a difference, like be the advocate for a kid who doesn't have too many adults in his life who believe in him, or give good advice to kids struggling with stuff, or.... basically yeah, I love all the parts of my job that have to do with kids. It's all the other bullshit that's hard to take.

23. Can you finish the following sentences?

>>Here we are...face to face...a couple a _faces____ ______.
>> You take the good you take the bad you take them both and then you have the _good______ of __bad________...
>>DAAYSS GO BYYY....its the bigger love, of the _days________

24. Did you Lie about being able to answer those questions? (if so, please go back and change your answer to #13)

25. Favorite Disney movie- PRE-PIXAR:
All of them except Pinocchio. I hate that little puppet kid. Also Snow White. No one who sounds like a goat should be allowed to sing in public. But I made everyone at my birthday parties watch lady and the tramp every year from 1984 to 2001.

26. What's a good quote?:

Whenever characters become self-important or sentimental in the Muppets, then there's always another character there to blow them up immediately.

~ Frank Oz

Summer: But what if we don't HAVE any friends?
Me: We all have friends. At least one. Your dog counts.
Davey: I don't have a dog!
Me: (seriously) Thomas Jefferson said, when everything else is said
and done, I shall have one friend, deep inside of me.
Jack: Is it his liver??

27: Ever been to Hawaii? What Island(s)?:

28. Do you know all of your siblings birthdays?
Megan: July 29, 1982; Val: December 17, 1972; mystery half-sister stolen by the nuns: ?

29. Do you know the order of the colors on a stoplight?
this question makes me unaccountably nervous

30. List your Ideal job. Money and reality is no object. If you could do ANYTHING you wanted and get paid for it...What would it be?
live in a stone house and write books and raise geniuses. Also I wish someone would pay me to be friends with you guys. I like you. Also teaching, but only if I was teaching awesome stuff in the way I want to kids who actually care. Also I've long harbored a secret dream to be a country star: big hair, big boobs, big boots. I'm perfect.

31. What frustrates you about the world?
where the hell do I start. That people too often value style over substance. Also that some people don't believe in global warming. What the hell? And hate crimes, and kids making comments about all things gay and queer. Giant pet peeve.

32. Texting- Dumb or Awesome?

33. Toi gavareesh na-rucckki? ochen xorosho?
Of course.

34. Do you LOVE kids...or not know how to interact with them?
I hate the little ones. They're so sticky and needy and they want to sit on your lap and play the same freaking game for six hours. You're not a doggy! Get out of the kennel, stop barking, and grow the hell up. Go file some taxes.

35. Can you drive a Standard?
Like an Andretti

36. If not, arent you embarassed? I would be.
I know, right? Tell that to the other adult in my household.

37. Ever been arrested?
Of course not.

38. Have you ever felt that you probably should have been arrested?
Can you get arrested for being a dumbass? Then yes.

39. Did you grow up going to church?

40. DOGS!!! am I right???? DOGS!!!

41. What was the WORST groundation you ever got? ( you dont have to put what for....)
Our parents couldn't really ground us effectively, because of the divorce thing. One time my mom tried to kick me out, so I called her bluff and made my dad come get me. She was not happy.

42. Favorite toy/stuffed animal/doll as a kid?
Mama Bear. One time I left her in Peoria, and we had to turn around to go back for her. In college, I'd leave her in Wisconsin because the drunk assholes on my floor (including Ali) liked to use any and all stuffed animals as projectiles, and I wanted to protect Mama Bear, but every semester my mother would stuff her into a fed-ex box and send her down to Iowa.

43. How many cousins do you have...and do you like them?
A million. My dad's the youngest of 9 irish catholic kids, most of whom had kids. And yeah, they're good people. Many of them are way older than me. My oldest cousin is older than my mom, I think.

44. Have you spit on someone? Duh.

45. Can you play an instrument? What kind? How many years? Best song you can play? I studied the violin for ten years, and can still play the theme song from the Civil War series, and Smetana's Moldau. Also I used to play "You don't bring me flowers" on the piano, and it was so much prettier than it is on the radio.

46. Best movie youve seen recently?
White Christmas. I don't care what you people say; I freaking love that movie. Oh, Danny Kaye, why you gotta be gay and dead?

47. Do you have a BIG secret- that no one can know?
That's the secret. It's so meta!

48. Would you rather be bald or have no toes?
No toes, for sure. Jesus, that's a macabre question.

49. What is the DUMBEST thing you have heard in your life?
Seriously, you don't believe in global warming? What??

and FINALLY........

Don da da dA!!!!!!

50. Without naming the person...tell them what you need to say: I pretend not to care, but secretly I don't think I can live without you.

THERE! Are you happy, Natty?


11 December 2006

Oral Reports! (The funniest time of the year!)

Kaitlynn: During the Great Depression, lots of people lived in Hoovervilles....
Cale: OH! That's where they lived in the Grinch!
Class: ...
Kristy: Oh.....! You mean WHO-VILLES, Cale!


Today a 7th grader gave a very earnest presentation about Franklin Delaware Roosevelt. She seemed so nervous I didn't have the heart to correct her... so I just tried not to giggle too loudly.


Also today, the kid who had researched Babe Ruth and the kid who researched Dorothea Lange discovered that...

Babe: Your guy was born in 1895? MY guy was born in 1895!
Dorothea: No way! What month was your guy born?
Babe: February.
Dorothea: Mine was May! That's really close!
Babe: What day?
Dorothea: The 26th.
Babe: Oh my god, mine's the 6th!!
Dorothea: That's SO WEIRD!!!
Babe: What are the chances???
Dorothea: I know, right? Isn't that SO WEIRD, Ms. Backes??
Class: They probably knew each other!
Class: Maybe they were in love!!!

(I didn't tell them that since we're studying the 1920s and 1930s, there's actually a pretty limited window of time in which any given adult from the 20s and 30s could have been born.....)

06 December 2006


*ring ring*
Me: (whispering) Hello?
Me: (croaking) Hello?
Cam: Did I wake you up?
Me: No... I have laryngitis.
Me: I wasn't going to tell you....
Me: I mean, I was going to tell you later this week, if I didn't get my voice back....


This morning one of my students handed me a broken mug with four pieces of candy in it. "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Backes!"
"Uh, thanks," I said, taking it gingerly so it wouldn't break more. Later, I overheard him telling another kid "I accidentally ate Mrs. Backes's candy! Don't tell her!" (He was sitting like five feet away. I may have laryngitis but I'm not deaf.)

But yeah, Merry Christmas! 'Tis the season of awkward student gifts!


Helene: Miss, what if I can't do research, because my computer is broken, because I got mad and threw it on the floor?
Me: Um... use books?
Helene: (whining) Miss Backes! But books are so ghetto!

(cue "when I was your age, we didn't have a fancy internet to do research" speech...)