24 September 2004


1st period.

(Current Events)

TT: Has anyone heard about the bizarre rape case in Wisconsin?
Kids: No...
TT: Get this: the woman was 76 years old...
Kids: Aaaaahh! Gross!!
TT: ...and the man, if you could call him that, was 11!!
TT: Which just proves that rape isn't about sex, it's about violence.
Me: Power.
TT: Right! Power! It's about power!
Me: A lot of people don't get that. They think women who "act sexy" are more likely to get raped or... that they somehow "deserve" to be raped, like they were "asking for it." It's not about sex at all, it's about power. No one deserves to be raped, ever.
TT: Like, once I had this student who had missed a bunch of class, so after a few days I asked the other kids where he was. "Didn't you hear?" the kids asked. "He went to jail!" Guess why he went to jail.
Kids: He raped someone?
TT: Right! He raped a lot of people! But it gets worse: he went to jail for raping BABIES!

(New Mexico Trivia)

Q: What town in New Mexico is known as the Chile Capitol of the World?
A: Oooh! Peru!

5th period. (I accidentally let down my guard)

-- Ms. Backes, is that your husband?
-- (me, utterly confused) What? Who?
-- Do you have a husband?
-- Are you married?
-- No, no I don't have a husband.
-- Do you have a BOY FRIEND?? Ooooh, oohhh!
-- (me, laughing) Um....
-- Oh my god, she's blushing!
-- You guys, she's blushing!
-- What's his name?
-- No, no I don't have a husband and I don't have a boyfriend.
-- Yes you do!
-- What's his name??
-- It's Mark, right? I can see it in your eyes!
-- No, it's not Mark, I've never dated a Mark in my whole life.
-- I know, it's Mr. Backes!
-- Yeah, Mr. Backes! You love him!!
-- Okay! I'm not married, and the only Mr. Backes I know is my father.
-- (utter confusion) .... you married your FATHER?

6th period.

Me: You should write a writing prompt on your card, something you'd like the class to write about. It should be something we can all write about. Last class someone said, "How about, the first time I knocked someone out was...." Hopefully this is not a topic everyone can write about!
Bob: But you could, Ms. Backes!
Me: What? Me? I've never knocked someone out in my life!
Special Ed Teacher: [laughs to herself]
Joey: What about that kid on the playground when you were little?
Special Ed Teacher: [laughs out loud] What!
Me: I made him cry, I didn't knock him UNCONSCIOUS!
Ty: What? I never heard that story!
Shawna: She was a bully.
Me: I used to beat kids up on the playground.
Ty: Oh my gosh!
Me: Well, I'm not proud of it!
Joey: Why do you always brag about it, then?

Jay: (reading his free-writing exercise in a quiet, slow voice) I dreamed that I had a pack of dogs that could talk. They became quite vicious....

After school: a note that I found on the floor.

I don't know why I said I did not like you when I do. Kaden will you go out with me?

Yes or No

Yes I will but when your friends ask you will you deny were going out? Will hold hug and hold hands?

No I wont deny we're going out. And yes we will hug and hold hands. I love you!!! :-P



Andy: Rrrar! Raaaarrr!
Marsha: Ha ha ha! Oooh, I'm scared!
Andy: Rarrrr!
Bill: You wanna fight? Wait, I can't fight you!
Me: Okay, WHAT is going on?
Marsha: We're all scared of Andy.
Me: Why? Andy isn't very scary.
Andy: Maybe not on my own.... but I have a LETHAL WEAPON LUNCHBOX!!

1st period.

(watching a video about Bandelier)

TT: In another class, someone thought that's what the actual pueblo buildings looked like -- piles of crumbling bricks, three feet tall --
Jared: And bulletproof!

Jared: Whatever that guy's smoking, I want some!
TT: Speaking of smoking... Did you know that Native Americans believe that smoking mind altering substances is good for you. It makes you more intelligent, more open, more wise. Marijuana, peyote, mushrooms, acid... marijuana's even legal on the rez. When I coached, one of my star players got pregnant, and she had to take a weekend off so she could do peyote so she would have a smart baby!
Me: What? Drugs make you stupid!
Brad: How do you know, Ms. Backes?
Me: I just do. Everyone does! Peyote won't make your baby smart!
Jared: Legal pot! I'm moving to the rez!
Me: Aaaargh!

Team Teacher: So on the test tomorrow you have to pick five of the six essay questions to answer. Hint. Pick the ones you know.
Jared: Question. What if you don't know any of the essay answers?
Liz: Then you're screwed.

2nd period.

Melody: Ms Backes, who wrote this [sample essay paper]?
Me: Oh, just someone.
Brad: But WHO?
Me: A student. It was a long time ago.
Jimmy: [looking at the paper] Yeah, 1995? That's, like, prehistoric!
Brad: Seriously, who wrote it?
Me: No one.
Melody: Tell us, Ms Backes!
Me: Okay, okay. I wrote it, when I was about your age.
Class: [stunned silence]
Brad: But -- but -- it has big words! You must be really smart!
Me: Anyway.
Melody: You ARE smart, Ms Backes! You're way too smart to be a teacher!
Me: Now what does that mean? You don't want smart teachers? Dumb teachers of America unite?
Brad: Yeah, cause dumb teachers wouldn't make us work so hard!


Brad: Ms. Backes, why do you make us work so hard? You're evil!
Me: [making little wiggly devil horns over my head]
Bill: [laughs to himself]
Brad: I'm serious, Ms. Backes! It's too early in the morning! This assignment is too hard! Why do we have to do all three articles? Why do we have to write a paper?
Me: Because I answer directly to Satan.
Brad: !!
Bill: [looking between Brad & me, silently shaking with laughter]
Brad: .... really?
Me: No! It's because I know you're smart and capable and I'm trying to help you become a better critical thinker!
Brad: Like I said. You're evil.

21 September 2004


1st period.

MB: Okay, if I said, "Julie is a jerkhead," would that be fact or opinion?
Class: FACT.
MB: Um. Okay. Let's back up. If I said, "Ms. Backes is a teacher," is that fact or opinion?
Class: FACT.
MB: Why?
Bill: Because you teach.
MB: Right. I do teach classes, and I get paid to teach, and I have a teaching license. That's three pieces of evidence we can point to. Whereas, if I said, "Julie is a jerkhead," can you point to a license she has saying so? Is she a card-carrying jerkhead? Did some federal judge decree her to be a jerkhead, officially?
Class: (thinking really hard) .....no......
MB: So if there's no evidence, how could it be a fact?
Ellen: I don't get it.
MB: Okay, think about it this way. Is it possible that someone else in the world thinks Julie is not a jerkhead?
Class: ....maybe....
MB: Can it be a fact if two different people have two different opinions about it?
Class: .... Oh! I get it!!
MB: Whew!

AND I used the story about the deaf people on Martha's Vineyard to talk about the social construction of, you know, EVERYTHING. I never thought I'd say this, but thanks, exceptional child!!

7th period.

Cody: Ms. Backes, can our conflict be that I'm a werewolf who can talk?
Me: .... So, what's the conflict?
Cody: And I eat people?
Me: So... the conflict is that it's hard to talk with your mouth full of people?
Cody: Um... nah.
Me: Okay... so maybe your conflict would be that the people don't want to be eaten.
Cody: Oh, yeah! Good one, Miss B!


1st period.

(I've been outside giving a makeup test, and come in halfway through THIS video....)

Video: [Xmas music playing, mom & daughter happily making cookies, little boy playing with game boy by xmas tree, dad on computer, happy dog and cat curled up by fire, sweet little birdie in cage in kitchen. Joy to the world, etc.]
Narrator on Video: Have you ever thought about how many things you have in your power grid? Computer, microwave, blender, clock radio. Imagine if all of these things gained a life of their own and decided they didn't like you.
Video: [Xmas music gets all screechy, man's computer starts flashing "THE END IS NEAR!!", little girl gets attacked by waffle iron, little boy gets attacked by christmas tree.]
My Team Teacher: I'm not putting up a christmas tree in 2012, that's for sure!
Me: [stunned and speechless in the back of the room]
Narrator on Video: Cats, dogs, pet parakeets, they'll all attack.
Video: [Shots of angry screechy cat and dog, parakeet basically explodes out through its cage.]
Narrator: Chickens, turkeys, horses, they'll all begin to talk and tell us of all our sins against them.
Student: We're all gonna die!
Narrator: This is what will happen on December 21, 2012.... ON THE DAY THE WORLD ENDS IN FLAMES.
Kids: Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!
Team Teacher: [strolling to VCR] Pretty scary, huh? Of course, that's just one theory about the end of the world, from the ancient Mayans.
Kids: Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!! We're all gonna die!!


Me: Um, that video was pretty over-the-top, don't you think?
Team Teacher: Yeah, but I did a pretty good job of emphasizing that it was just a theory, didn't I?
Me: Um...... no. I'm pretty sure the kids got stuck on the "we're all going to die" part, and missed the "or so one theory goes" part.

Team Teacher: Did you know that we are 99.99% genetically identical to chimps?
Jared: My dad says I am! My dad says I'm closer!

TT: There is a consistency around the world of alien intervention.

TT: All schoolchildren in India are taught that white people come from Mars!
Kids: What? That's weird!
TT: It's true!
Me: Wait a minute. I don't know that that IS true. I have several friends from India, and none of them has ever accused me of being from Mars.
TT: Well, maybe not EVERYONE learns that.... but most.
Carly: [turns around and smiles at me, as if to say "don't worry Ms. Backes, we all know that Mr. K is completely demented"]
TT: Let me ask you this. The teachers in India teach this as fact, but what do you think would happen to a teacher here if they were teaching it?
Kids: They'd get fired!
TT: Right!
Me: [strangling myself] Arrrghh! The irony!

6th period.

Me: A conflict is when someone WANTS something, and something stands in their way. For example, if I wanted to put this pencil on that desk, that's not a conflict. But --
Joey: If there was a NINJA.....
Me: Um, right. If there was a ninja standing here, that would be a conflict, because something is standing between me and the desk.
Joey: A NINJA!
Kellie: Or if you had no legs!
Me: True. It would be a conflict if I wanted to get to that desk, but I didn't have legs to get there.
Dave: You're pretty tall. You could probably just lean over and set it there.
Me: Ah, but not if I didn't have legs! Then I'd be short!

7th period.

Me: You should have your blue sheet in front of you.
Class: chatter chatter mumble murmur chitter giggle mumble mumble
Me: Blue sheet. In front of you. Blue.
Class: talky chatter mumble mumble murmur giggle mumble chatter whisper
Kid: Ms Backes, what do we need?
Me: Your blue sheet. Out in front of you. Blue sheet.
Class: whisper mumble mumble chatter giggle! mumble chatter chitter talky talky
Me: You know what I feel like? When Dorothy's house crashes in Oz, and she steps out and all the munchkins are going [munchkin voice] "mutter mutter whisper whisper mumble chatter mumble giggle query chatter talky." And Dorothy stands there totally overwhelmed by the muttering munchkins. That's how I feel!!
Class: Are WE the munchkins?
Me: YOU are paying my therapy bills if you don't get out your blue sheets!
Class: Blue sheets? What blue sheets? What did she say? What do we need? I don't have a blue sheet!
Me: [running for the nearest padded room] Aaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!

I feel so mentally ill today.

The upside is that I made up a good way of remembering teaching 1st/2nd/3rd person POV on the spot today: They couldn't get the difference between the three, so I had two kids come up and stand in a line beside me. I said, "**I** am first. I am first in line." Turned to Ciera. "You are second. YOU are the second one in line." Pointed over her head to Amy. "SHE is third. SHE is third in line." Then I said, "Now when you're trying to remember, just think of me turning to Ciera and telling her YOU are second. And Amy back there, SHE is third. And of course, I am first, because I am always first."


5th period. (free reading)

Kid: Ms. Backes, someone farted!
Me: [rolling eyes]
Class: giggle giggle.
Class: giggle giggle!
Class: Giggle giggle GIGGLE GIGGLE!!!
Me: Guy, you're supposed to be SILENTLY reading. Please get control of yourselves!
Class: HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

7th period.

Me: Okay, gang. Don't forget that Sunday is National Talk Like a Pirate Day!
Eddie: Do we get extra credit if we do?
Me: What?
Eddie: Do we get extra credit if we talk like a pirate?
Jimmy: Aarrrrr, me matey! Extra credit or walk the plank!

More great lines from 7th grade stories:

From The Year

“By the Jocks booth there was the Cheerleader stand. Maybe I could be a cheerleader. I started to walk up to the stand. When one of the girls stared at me straight in the eye. It was a cold dark stare, like she was saying this is not for you go away your blocking the sign. Suddenly I turned away. I realized why she stared at me like that. I was a short thin blond with glasses who still wore overalls to school. I was a full pledged nerd.”

From The first day of 7th grade

“We had to get our schedule. Then we had to meet all our teachers. Veronica! I saw her! She is the cutest girl out of the 7th and 8th grade. I like her but I don’t think she likes me.”

From 7th Grade Students Who Are Happy

"She hates history, but she likes him."
"She closed her locker and her best friend."

From 7th Grade Blues

"Being a mutant was not normal."

17 September 2004


In case anyone has been questioning the influence of my conspiracy theory team teacher....

-- So let's pick an example most people know. The Lion King. What would the climax of the Lion King be?
-- Oooh, Ms. Backes, I know!
-- Yes?
-- Um, when Mufasa dies?
-- Well, that's pretty dramatic, but it's not the MOST dramatic....
-- I know! I know! When he has a baby!
-- Getting closer....
-- When Nala almost eats the little guy! Timon!
-- Again, though that was dramatic, and it was a turning point, it didn't answer the central question of the movie, which was: Will Simba overcome the shame and guilt he feels at his father's death to take his rightful place at the head of the pride? What part of the movie answered that question?
-- Oh! I know!
-- Yes?
-- When Mufasa dies!
-- Okay, here's a hint. The climax comes near the end of the story.
-- Um......... Scar?
-- What about Scar?
-- When they fight?
-- Yes! Right! The battle between Scar and Simba, when they battle for control of the pride. Remember? It's the MOST dramatic! They're fighting, and everything's in flames, and the flames are leaping higher, and the hyenas are licking their chops, waiting to move in, and the winner takes all! And then Scar falls into the pit and the hyenas eat him! SUCH drama! That's the climax! And remember, we talked about how the climax is the final turning point in the story, so after that scene it starts raining and there's food again and Simba's the king and everyone's happy. The end.
-- Ms Backes! Ms Backes!
-- What?
-- I figured it out, I figured it out!
-- Figured what out?
-- I figured out when it is?
-- When what is, the climax?
-- No, when the Lion King is?
-- What?
-- When it happens.
-- Uh... okay. When does it happen.
-- On December 21, 2012!
-- Okay.... why?
-- Because Mr. K said that that's when the world will end, and everything will be burning, and all the animals will talk to us and tell us how bad we are, and the machines will all turn and attack us!
-- (oh. my. god.) You know, I don't think Mr. K actually believes that, I think he was talking about what some people believe a Mayan calendar predicts.
-- No, he does! He said we'd better be nice to the animals, or they'll tell us how bad we are before they kill us!
-- Ms. Backes, did she say 2012? That's only 8 years away!
-- I'll be 28 then!
-- You're twelve.
-- Yeah, if the world's gonna end in 8 years, so why do we have to learn about plots or whatever?
-- Yeah, what we should be learning is how to fight machines!
-- Yeah!

Why is it that so many of the conversations I have with students leave me feeling like Ricky Ricardo? It's a combination of disbelief and desperation and, secretly, amusement. Oh, Lucy!


Middle Schoolers on Love:

from 7th Grade
"The next day Johnathon asked Lidia if she was ready to hold hands and she said yes. So they held hands during classes and between classes. At lunch Johnathon and Lidia hugged and went to hang out with their friends. Johnathon told his friends he was going to kiss Lidia, and Lidia told her friends she was going to kiss Johnathon. So at the end of the day they went to each other and kissed. They both blushed then kissed again. The next day every one started to hang out with Lidia and her friends. The end."

from Her First Love, but Not His.
"She was still happy though just because she was going out with him. Every second of the day she felt goodness flow through her body. Until after 7th period when he told her that he had lost interest in her and that he wanted to break up with her. She was so crushed she actually loved him more than anything in the world. After she kept trying to get him back even if it took to break him up with every one of his girlfriends...."

from I Made a Fool of myself
"There was this boy named Nick and he was a geek. He had fore friends and they were geeks too. Nick licked a girl name was Christina and she was a popular girl. One day he went up to her and said hi how are you doing and she said go away.... He licked Christina, but Nick still licked her. She picked the pop star because Nick was a loser.... His friends didn't lick him anymore."

from Alex Found Her Guy
"He saw her and walked towererd Alex and Taylor. He asked Taylor to the dance they had announced that morning. Of course she said yes!!! They ended up dating!!!"

from Love at First Fight
"After that Ashley apologized to Derrick (after he got out of OSS) and they were best friends through high school. Then Derrick proposed to her at their senior prom. They got married four years later after collage and had three kids together."

from A Hidden Love

"He kissed Josh smack dab on the lips, and then he shoved a piece of paper into his hand and ran off. Josh stood rooted to the spot unable to speak. He went outside, opened the piece of paper, and leaped into the air with joy. Once P.E. was over he ran to the library and checked out as many books as he could find on grammar for this is what the note had said:

Listen up, I love you
Meet me at my house at
5:00 to practice my grammar
See you

And from then on they were more than friends. They were lovers."


1st period.

(after playing VOCAB CIRCLE OF DEATH! -- which would have gone a little more smoothly if a certain student hadn't dropped his vocab word underneath the portable, aka trailer, where our class meets....)

Me: Okay, gang, do you feel more prepared for the vocab test tomorrow?
Class: Yes!
Me: Is that an activity we should do again?
Class: YES!
Me: And are you ready to learn now?
Class: YES!
Me: Good, because we're learning about APA reference style for your bibliographies.
Class: Wait -- no! Not ready to learn! Ready to sleep!
Jared: Ms. Backes, you tricked us! That was so cheap -- even for you!


Most jaw-dropping moment of the day:

My team-teacher, a NEW MEXICO HISTORY TEACHER, turns to me in the library during research time today and casually asks,

"So, who is this O'Keeffe person, anyway?"


While I was busy cramming my bulging eyeballs back into my skull, he went on: I know she's a writer, but what does she write?
Me: (in utter shock and disbelief) Georgia O'Keeffe?? Um, she was an artist. She was THE artist.
Him: So.... she's from New Mexico?
Me: Well, she was from Wisconsin, actually, but she's the number one artist everyone associates with New Mexico. No other artist so famously captured this landscape.
Him: So.... she's a painter, or what?
Me: Um, yeah. A painter.
Him: So like, what does she paint?
Me: Um. Flowers, and skulls, and.... Okay. Let me find a book and show you her work. I can't explain Georgia O'Keeffe.
Him: I've always heard the name, but I never really knew who she was. So where does she live?
Me: ..... at Ghost Ranch? Up near Abiquiqu?
Him: Hmm.
Me: Also? She's dead.
Him: Oh, really?
Me: Um, yeah. She first came out here in the 20s, I think. Moved out here in the 30s or 40s. She lived to be pretty old, but I'm pretty sure she's been dead for at least 20 years.
Kid: Are you talking about Georgia O'Keeffe? I love her! I was just looking at a book of her paintings!
Me: Would you go grab it for me?
Kid: Sure! Here it is!
Me: (showing my team teacher) See, she painted skulls... crosses... flowers.... and the land.... She said, "New Mexico -- I loved it immediately. From then on, I was always on my way back."
Him: Hey, this painting really looks like New Mexico!
Me: [[staggering out of library and collapsing with the strain of how fucking bizarre my life is]]

6th period.

MB: (conferencing with students about progress reports) Ellery?
Ellery: (running back) I better have an A or B! Do I have an A or B?
MB: (calmly taking his progress report) Well, let's see....
Ellery: You'd better write A or B, or I'll shoot you!
MB: Ellery Jones, you did NOT just say that to me.
Ellery: Whoops! I was just kidding!
MB: That's the kind of thing that is NEVER okay to say!
Ellery: I was just kidding, Mrs. Backes! I'm going to teach you how to play Yu-Gi-Oh!
MB: Okay. Wait, WHAT?

1st period.

Anna: Ms. Backes?
MB: Yes?
Anna: Jenny says your brain never grows, but I say she's wrong.
MB: Well....
Jenny: I'm totally right, Anna!
MB: Think about it this way: if you were born with an adult-sized brain, wouldn't you have a freakishly large head, for a baby?
Anna and Jenny: ............ EWWWWW!!! That would be so gross!!


Picture Day!

2nd period.

-- Ms. Backes, I HATE picture day!
-- Me too.
-- Me too!
-- Everyone hates picture day. Suffer.
-- But Ms. Backes, what if my picture is UGLY?
-- Look, my 8th grade picture was so ugly, my mother refused to have it in her office. She just kept my 7th grade picture up for two years.
-- That's mean!
-- Well, I *was* pretty ugly.
-- Ms. Backes, that's nothing! In my kindergarten picture, I had horns!


last night.

Me: I'm working on a media bias analysis mini-unit for my Humanities block. Every Friday we "do current events," but all that involves is Larry standing in front of the room talking about what's going on.
Teacher Friend Camille: ....in the universe! Ha!
Me: Last week, I asked the kids to bring in articles and summarize them, and half of their summaries sounded like, "Rich Ford is having a huge sale next week!"
TFC: I know. I tell my students to bring in controversial articles, and they bring in "Woman, 26, Murdered."
Me: Um, Miss? I object. How do we REALLY know she was murdered?
TFC: Yeah, that wasn't murder! She was asking for it!
Me: It was a mercy killing!
TFC: She had no right being out after dark in that sweatsuit anyway.
Me & TFC:
Me: .... oh, god! I can't believe I tricked anyone into giving me a teaching license, much less a job. I'm so mentally ill.
TFC: Oh honey, the best ones are the most fucked up!

1st period.

TT: Who can tell me what Linguistics is?
Curtis: Ms. Backes can!

TT: Does anyone know what Linguistics is?
Jared: Oooh! I know! It's a kind of pasta sauce!

5th period.

Kurt: Ms. Backes, Cyndi keeps her money in her (whispers) B-R-A.
Cyndi: So? At least no one tries to steal it that way.
MB: Yeah, I do that too, when I go clubbing.
Every child:
MB: Sure.
Cyndi: What clubs do you go to?
MB: Clubs in Albuquerque.
Cyndi: Which ones?
MB: Why, so you can meet me out this weekend?
Cyndi: Yeah!
MB: You're TWELVE.
Cyndi: So? I got into Isleta Casino once!
MB: Anyway.
Kurt: Oh, man, I can't believe you go clubbing! That's so cool!!


Cyndi: Ms. Backes, you should totally go goth!
MB: Do you think my students would be more likely to do their homework?
Cyndi: Mmmmm... probably not.
MB: Then no.

7th period.

Davey: Hey, Old School!
MB: Did you just call me Old School?
Davey: What? No! I meant the computer!

Charlotte: Ms. Backes, I can't get my thing to work.
MB: What's --
Davey: (calling across the room) Hey Ms Backes!
MB: One moment, please. (to Charlotte) Okay, what --
Jose: Ms. Backes?
MB: Hang on. (to Charlotte) Sorry, wh--
Annabelle: Ms. Backes!
MB: Please wait your turn. (to Charlotte) I'm sorry. So what's wrong with you?
Charlotte: (giggling) .....where do I even begin?
MB: Tell me about it!


before school.

You just know there's something wrong when you're sitting in a meeting with one of your colleagues and all you can think whenever he starts to speak is, "Please don't mention the aliens, Larry. Anything but the aliens."

Here's a conversation I have over and over:

Supportive friend: I'm so glad you're teaching!
Me: Thanks.
SF: Well, how's it going?
Me: Pretty well. It's a lot like working in a home for very small, very fast Alzheimer's patients. They get lost a lot.
SF: Well, that sounds fun! So how's that team teaching thing going? That sounded like it would be pretty interesting.
Me: It's going really well! You know, except for the fact that my team-teacher is a conspiracy-theorist who's devoted much of his life to learning the truth of what happened at Area 51 in Roswell, who believes that aliens came down and altered the DNA of early humans, who believes that the Bible is just a big cover-up for what happened to the city of Atlantis, who thinks that quality education is watching another educational video about trout fishing in the San Juan, and who looks like he just stepped off the set of "That 70's Show." And the principal keeps describing my working relationship with this man as a "shot-gun wedding." But other than that, great!

4th period.

Brad: Ms. Backes? I don't know how to draw an old person!
MB: Well, how is an old person different than a young person?
Brad: Wrinkles... and liver spots? What else.
MB: Okay, are old people usually tall?
Brad: No. Hunched over!
MB: Right. And are old people usually.....
Brad: Ugly?
MB: I was going to say big.
Brad: No, they're small! (to himself) Small, and ugly.

6th period.

Ellery: (holding up a Yu-Gi-Oh card) Ms. Backes, do you think this looks like you?
Troy: We think it looks just like you!
MB: Oh yeah, just like me! What with the tail and the horns and the claws and all.


6th period.

-- Two questions. One, someone raise a hand and tell me when your revision sheet is due?
-- Ooh! Pick me!
-- Yes?
-- Tomorrow!
-- That's right! Second question. Someone raise a hand and tell me what an acceptable excuse would be for not having your assignment finished and here tomorrow.
-- Um, your dog ate it?
-- Wrong!
-- Um, you couldn't get your locker open?
-- Wrong again!
-- Okay, what if you got really into your TV show and you totally just blanked it?
-- No! That's a terrible excuse!
-- I know! I know! Pick me!
-- Yes?
-- (triumphantly) There IS no excuse!!
-- Ding ding ding! We have a winner!
-- Oh! Oh! Ms Backes! Ms Backes!
-- ... yes?
-- Okay. But what if you, like, get KIDNAPPED? And, um, taken across the border??
-- Hmm. (long pause) Okay. IF you get kidnapped, and IF you can bring me reasonable proof of this fact, like a police report AND a video of the story on the news AND notes from both your parents and your kidnappers, then I guess I'll accept late work. Just this once, though.
-- Yes?
-- Seriously, you want our KIDNAPPERS to write us a note of excuse?
-- Seriously.
-- (whispering) Dude, you'd better just do your homework.

-- I just let you all get away with murder.
-- Ooh, really?
-- What? No! Obviously, if your murdered someone, you'd get an F!

-- Ms. Backes, how old are you?
-- Guess.
-- Um.... 35?
-- No...
-- 40?
-- 40! Do I look 40? Are you kidding me?
-- Oh. Um.... 29?
-- Nope.
-- 27? 25?
-- Younger.
-- Just tell us!
-- 24.
-- You're so young!
-- I know. You never thought someone so brilliant could be so young.
-- Not that you're bragging or anything, Ms. Backes.
-- Never.

7th period.

-- Someone raise your hand and tell me a good excuse for not having your homework finished tomorrow.
-- Um, your dog ate it?
-- You forgot?
-- Oooh! I know! There IS no good excuse!
-- That's right!
-- Ms Backes? What if your bus, like, crashes, and you are in a coma?
-- Okay. (long pause) Okay. IF your bus crashes and you go into a coma, and IF you bring back a signed note from your doctor along with witness testimony and polaroids of you lying in that hospital bed, then I'll accept late work. Oh, or if you're kidnapped and taken across the border, but only if you bring me police reports and letters from your kidnappers, the border patrol, and your parents.
-- WHAT???
-- (suspiciously) Ms. Backes, is that, like, just another way of saying that there's no excuse?

04 September 2004


5th period. Today I am wearing knee-high leather boots (under a long black skirt).

Charmagne: Cool boots, Ms. Backes!
Me: Thanks!
Raul: I have a pair just like them at home!
Everyone: WHAT??
Raul: Er... I mean, my MOM has a pair just like them!

7th period.

(study time)

MB: While Topher is taking attendance, you all might want to be studying for your spelling test.
Class: Spelling test? What? I didn't know we had a spelling test? What test? Spelling test! What?? What test?
MB: (going to the board and banging on the daily agenda, where it says "Take Spelling/Vocab Test") Test! You have a test! It has been on the board for days!
Summer: Um, Ms. Backes? Isn't [crotchety old head of department] Mr. Laney on the other side of that wall?
MB: Oh! You're right! (looking around slowly) I'm in way big trouble now!

(five minutes later, Laney's at the door. Summer gives me a knowing look)

MB: Can I help you, Mr. Laney?
COHD: This might be the strangest question you've heard all day....
MB: Oh, I seriously doubt that.
COHD: Are you certified TOESL?
MB: No.
COHD: Okay, just wondering.
MB: We thought you were going to yell at me for banging on your wall!
COHD: Banging on the wall? No, be my guest! It's good for my students. Keeps 'em frightened and guessing.

(spelling test)
MB: Number four. Multicultural. Mul-ti-cul-tu-ral.
Jose: Ooh! Ooh! Question!
MB: Yes?
Jose: Have you ever seen a shaggubullashell?
MB: Sorry, what?
Jose: Have you ever seen a shogguh-bulla-shell?
Jose: Have you ever seen a shotgunbulletshell?
MB: (overly enunciating) A SHOT - GUN - BULLET - SHELL?
Jose: Yeah, have you ever seen one?
Jose: They're huge! You definitely wouldn't want to get shot by one.
MB: I don't want to get shot by anything! Good heavens!
Jack: They ARE huge!
MB: ANYway! Back to spelling!

(Taking a "memory quiz," aka pre-writing for a short story)

MB: Number two. Who was your best friend or who were your best friends on the first day of seventh grade?
Arlene: The same as they are today!
MB: Okay, fine. Who are your best friends, right now, in your life?
Eddy: Oh! Question! Do past lives count?
MB: Um... no. For now, just write down your best friends from this life. The one you're living right now.
Josh: (whispering to Eddy) I was a snake. So I guess I had snake friends.


Summer: But what if we don't HAVE any friends?
MB: We all have friends. At least one. Your dog counts.
Davey: I don't have a dog!
MB: (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??


7th period (of course) reading Gary Soto's "7th Grade"

MB: (reading) ...he had seen in a GQ magazine -- Who knows what that is?
Davey: Um, like a girly magazine?
MB: No... It's a magazine for guys, like the male equivalent of Cosmo or Seventeen. GQ stands for --
Rabbit: Girl Questions?
MB: Um, no. Gentleman's Quarterly.
Rabbit: (disappointed, to himself) Girl Questions is a better name....


(still reading Gary Soto's story "7th Grade")

4th period.

MB: So, why do you think the teacher would help Victor impress his crush?
-- Because he thinks the girl is cute?
-- Yeah, he wants to get with the girl!
MB: What?!? She's twelve!
-- So?
MB: The teacher is a grown-up, and Teresa is a 7th grader. That's just wrong!
-- There's a 20 year difference between my aunt and uncle!
-- Yeah, lots of times girls go for older men!
-- I have a question. How come it's okay for kids to have crushes on teachers, but it's not okay for teachers to have crushes on kids?
-- Yeah, like Arnold has a crush on you, Ms. Backes!
MB: Okay, back to the story!

6th period.

Danny: Uh oh, I forgot to serve lunch detention today.
Drew: With who?
Danny: Mr. C.
Drew: Uh oh! You're in trouble!
Danny: Ms. Backes, can I just stay here and hide out for a few days?
MB: No way! I don't harbor fugitives in this classroom. Personal policy.
Danny: Uh! You used to be cool!

7th period.

Jill: Ms. Backes, since you know French, can you answer a question for me?
MB: I wouldn't say I "know" French. I only know little snippets. But I'll try.
Jill: Okay, what does that song mean? That aloo-something song?
MB: Alouette?
Jill: Yeah, that one!
MB: Um.... a duck? I think it's about a duck.
Darlene: I like ducks!
MB: About killing a duck, maybe? "First we cut off the head, the head..." I'm not sure, though.
Summer: WHAT? It's about killing a duck?? We were singing that in kindergarten!!
Darlene: (whispering in disgust) You little duck killers.

MB: Number four....
Dawn: Wait! I'm not done!
Jose: Hold on!
Darlene: I'm not finished yet!
MB: Okay! Sorry!
Class: (tap tap tap)
Class: (Tappity tappity tappity tap tap!)
MB: Alright, tappity tappers, number four: How did Victor try to impress Teresa?
Class: (tap...tap...tap...)
Class: (tap tap tap)
MB: Stop tapping!
Johnny: I have an idea! When everyone's finished, they should tap on their desks. That way, you'll know when to move on to the next question.
MB: That's a terrible idea!
Johnny: Okay, better idea: When we're finished, we can all bang our heads on the desks!

MB: Number six. Explain the ending of the story. What happened, and why.
Rabbit: Miss? You're very attractive.
MB: Thank you.
Darlene: Ooooh, Alia's getting mad!
Tessa: Ms. Backes, Alia's going to beat you up! She's jealous!
MB: (rolls eyes)
Rabbit: (to Alia) No, baby, I just wanna get an A.
Annabell: He's just sucking up!
MB: Well, I'm glad we've gotten that out in the open.
Tessa: Yeah, Rabbit, stop sucking up!
Rabbit: No! I mean, you are very attractive. Really!
Rabbit: ....so... do I get an A?

after school.

(grading papers while my team-teacher talks politics)

TT: I always tell kids we're just talking theories. Theories.
MB: Well, that's good. I'm probably too opinionated and angry to teach politics and history.
TT: I know, like in one school district they wanted me to teach Creationism! I refused!
MB: Huh.
TT: To tell the truth, I don't believe in creationism OR evolution! As far as I can tell, the only theory that really makes sense is that aliens came down and genetically altered the original homo sapiens.
MB: Um....
TT: It's in the Sumerian tablets, and in the Indian religious texts too! The aliens came and enslaved the homo erectus, and genetically altered the homo sapiens. Everyone in the persian schools learns about it. Ask any 15 year old Indian boy where the Caucasians come from -- he'll tell you they come from Mars!


4th period.

-- Don't forget that the rough draft of your story is due Tuesday.
-- Question? What's it about?
-- Seventh grade, remember?
-- Does it have to be about 7th grade?
-- Yes. Some aspect of your story must be about 7th grade.
-- Ooh! Question!
-- Yes?
-- Can my story be about BATMAN??
-- Seventh grade.
-- Oh.
-- .....Oh! Can my story be about BATMAN.... in SEVENTH GRADE??


Andrew: We chose to feature these restaurants in our brochure because we found information that said they were the three most popular.
MB: Why didn't you include the Frontier? Down by the University? It's an Albuquerque landmark!
Karl: Yeah, or that one pizza place!
Andrew: I'm sorry, I'm not FROM Albuquerque. I'm from a magical land of snow. And rain.
Karl: Alaska?
Andrew: Boston.
Mike: What's it like to live in Alaska?
Chelsey: It doesn't rain in Alaska!
Karl: Where's your sled dogs?
MB: Where in Boston are you from? I forgot.
Andrew: Well... Apparently now I'm from Alaska, according to a popular survey done by the Karl Corporation for Public Research.

TT: Who writes these standardized tests?
Jerred: Computers?
Missy: Robots?
Amber: Smart guys in little rooms?
Holly: Psychos?
Karl: I know! The president!
TT: (under his breath, to me) I read that the president has an IQ of 82.
MB: (quietly) Definitely not writing standardized tests. Or we'd really be in trouble!
TT: 82! Isn't that, like, retarded?

6th period.

-- Please don't forget that your rough drafts are due on Tuesday. TUESDAY. Rough drafts.
-- Miss? Question.
-- Yes?
-- You look exactly like my language arts teacher in 5th grade.
-- Well, we probably come from the same factory.
-- Bu-dum-bah!
-- (from the back, a lone voice) Oh, **I** get it!! HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

Two moments so great they belong to a cheesy inspirational teaching movie:

Today's poem was "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." It takes about 8 minutes to read. After I finished reading it 7th period ("'till human voices wake us / and we drown"), there was a moment of ringing silence, and then the class spontaneously burst into applause.

Before school this morning, Ernest stopped me in the hall and said, "Can I talk to you after school?" I said, "Of course!" with no idea what was going on. After school, Ernest came up to me and whispered, "The story we're writing about 7th grade?"
His voice got even quieter. "Can we write it about a homosexual couple that's afraid to express their love?"
My heart stopped, just for a moment. And then I said, "Of course you may."