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."

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