Busy Day

This morning, I was re-certified as a CPR/First Aid first responder. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good CPR class. Everything was very clear and easy to understand with plenty of time for practice. We even got to practice the Heimlich maneuver. I have been told how to do this in every class I’ve taken, but it was really valuable to actually get a chance to try it on a dummy. My grandmother saved my life by performing the Heimlich maneuver on me when I was 11. We also learned how to use a defibrillator and epipen, neither of which I knew. I think it was the best CPR/First Aid class I’ve ever taken.

This afternoon, those of us who were interested were treated to a tour of the new school building, which is currently under construction. I got to see my classroom in its current unfinished state, and it will be big.

So today was the last day! Post-planning is over, and I’m done. In two weeks I’m going to a workshop with the biology teacher and one of the English teachers. I have some reading I’ll need to do for that class. Matter of fact, I have some summer reading to do, as I think (at least I was led to believe) I’d be teaching seniors next year, and I’ve not read any of their summer reading selections before.

I am going to relax a little bit, but I have a lot of planning I want to do this summer.


I appreciated those of you who commented on my stress post.  Dana Elayne was right that part of it is end of the year wrap up stress.  I am under some other pressure at work, or at least I feel pressure.

I have been working through some personal issues, which I don’t feel comfortable sharing here, really, but things are OK.

Steve was in New York the last couple of days.  It’s nice to have him home again.

I have a lot of work to do for finals this weekend.  I need to make study guides and formulate the exams themselves.  I have some essays I still need to grade.  I am glad I have an extra day.  I need pace myself and not procrastinate (like I usually do).  I am feeling really tired today, however.  Lots to think about after a discussion with Randal and Josh at work today.  Lots.

Analia Bortz

My school was treated to a visit from a real “Phenomenal Woman,” Rabbi Dr. Analia Bortz. A short list of her accomplishments includes:

Bortz told the students about Judaism in Argentina. She didn’t play up her amazing accomplishments — merely mentioning them offhand as they were necessary to explain parts of her story. In fact, much of my short list was composed not from her talk today, but from a Google search. I have rarely listened to someone speak, and immediately thought, “Wow, she’s incredible!” She discussed anti-Semitism and political difficulties in Argentina. She stated that her reason for leaving, however, was not anti-Semitism, but the fact that “there is no justice” in Argentina — her friend was brutally murdered. She teared up as she recalled that nothing much was done about it. She’s an excellent speaker — such poise and so engaging to listen to. She told the students about several aliyah movements from Argentina to Israel, noting that of her Jewish Day School class, only about four of approximately thirty did not make aliyah, while only about three out of her husband’s class did not. She lived for a time in Jerusalem, completing some of her training at Hadassah Hospital. I wish you all could have been there to hear her speak. I just can’t do it justice.

Today I Went to Tefillah

I have been under a lot of stress lately. I have felt burdened. It’s been difficult. I am very behind on my grading, and I need to get caught up. The research paper is starting, and I’ll have plenty to grade as these assignments come in.

At the same time, school is like a haven for me. Even though I’m behind, I feel much less stress at work. There are a litany of issues I’m dealing with right now. The unreliability of my car (not to mention certain people) is really straining my ability to cope.

I guess that’s why I went to tefillah today. Tefillah means prayers, essentially. I’m not required to go, although as a teacher at a Jewish school, I would consider it well within the rights of my headmaster to require it. Instead, he is sensitive to the religious beliefs of his faculty. Actually, he’s sensitive to the differing practices of his students, too. Our students can choose to go to discussion groups rather than prayer groups. I went to the egalitarian minyan service performed by our Conservative Rabbi Pamela Gottfried. It was really nice. I don’t know enough Hebrew to do more than sort of follow along and when I hear a word I recognize, like “Adonai,” I can scan the page for the reference to “Lord.” I kept up pretty well, considering. Rabbi Gottfried and the students were, I think, surprised to see me, but also, I hope, sort of happy. I enjoy listening to Jewish prayer. I think it is very cool that so much of it is sung, and I enjoy it when the students really get into it and supply a beat with their hands on the table or whatever else is handy.

I suppose God doesn’t care if one of His Christian children went to a Jewish prayer service. After all, He’s the same God. I have been called a Judeophile, and I guess I am. The fact is, I joked with my students about this — I would be Jewish if it wasn’t for that whole Jesus thing. I just can’t give Jesus up. I know that a lot of filthy, disgusting, and wrong-headed things have been done in His name, but if you simply read the text of His teachings… Anyway, I really enjoyed the service, and I’ll probably go again.

This may sound strange to you, but Hebrew is really a magic language. I’m not sure if my students really appreciate it because it gets reduced to a class — one more thing to learn — and it’s hard. I look at the Hebrew letters on a page, but they are little more than a jumble of odd lines and dots. I really admire my co-workers and students who have managed to master Hebrew, especially as a second language. I would love to learn. I have been contemplating trying to take a class. But I said Hebrew is magic — and what I meant is that it seems to me that it’s the language of God. I wonder if my students see it that way?

National Honor Society

I didn’t get home until about 9:00 this evening. I am the advisor of the National Honor Society at my school, and tonight was our induction ceremony. It was a nice ceremony. I really enjoyed the speech given my my principal and the D’Var Torah presented by one of our Judaics faculty, Rabbi Pamela Gottfried. She did a really interesting interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve, linking it to scholarship and questioning, and I thought it was very good. I also liked that she mentioned being in the NHS herself in school. Evidently, the students told her that they appreciated that I recited the pledge along with them. Our pledge makes mention of performing mitzvot and upholding Jewish ideals. I am glad that they were touched. I think the kids enjoyed the ceremony.


I think I’ve reached a place where I don’t really care which way things go. I don’t know if this has ever happened to one of you; if it has you might have a better idea what I’m talking about. It’s freeing, in a way. It’s the idea of making peace with something you thought was a bad outcome. The good part is that I don’t feel like the time I spent striving in order to reach this point was wasted.

On a completely unrelated note, I am chaperoning the 10th grade sleepover along with our new English teacher. He’s doing a great job. I’ve observed him with the AP Language class several times, and I think they’re in great hands. I’m not really nervous about it. I think the kids will be good. But I’m not foolish enough to anticipate getting much sleep.

I have been working much more on my education site lately. It’s my own place. I don’t really mind sharing with Steve, but it is a lot of maintenance, dealing with the juggernaut that has become Steve Huff’s True Crime Blog™. He’s been talking about moving to his own domain. Actually, I think I should leave this one to him and move everything over to my domain. I wasn’t crazy about the domain name — planethuff.com — anyway. Not that mine is any better. It was chosen with the purpose in mind that it would be an education site, and the domain name reflects that. On the other hand, while I don’t write anything here that I think parents or students would find offensive, I don’t really want to invite them to read it. I don’t know if that makes sense. Moving my blog over there — and for that matter, all the other blogs I maintain here — would necessarily be putting them all on the same domain as the blog I actually encourage my students to read, and I’m not sure I want to do that. After having had the freedom of a blog on my own domain, I don’t think I’d want to go back to something like Blogger or even Typepad (which isn’t even free). Part of me doesn’t want to move, because despite the fact that Steve probably gets the credit — and this isn’t the issue; I’m not complaining — I’m the one who really built this domain up. I also maintain it and fix it (if I can) if something goes wrong. I really don’t care if one person reads this site or one million. I’m very happy that my few online friends and some relatives keep up with me through this site. I do, however, kind of resent the notion that I’m not really here at all, that this is “Steve’s site.” He’s not responsible for me feeling that way as much as his readers and the press are. Frankly, if it wasn’t for this little man behind the curtain, the big old wizard head wouldn’t appear. I don’t know what I feel like I want — a little credit or something? I don’t know. I get miffed when his readers write to me because they’re too lazy to find his contact information and expect me to be his secretary. Oooh, that really does piss me off — especially because it is so easy to contact him. He even has a form!

So, I guess, on the one hand, I would like to go sit in my own peaceful corner of the web away from the craziness that has become this domain, but on the other, this site wouldn’t exist without my hard work, and I don’t want to give it up. I think that was the kind of stringy sentence I was just telling my 9th graders to avoid writing. Anyway, I guess I’ll have to think about it some more. If I do move, I will be sure to let you know and put redirects in place.

I would be happy to have any bits of advice you’d care to offer.


I hesitate to post a link to an incomplete web site, but I am slowly but surely getting HuffEnglish.com online. The site will have an education blog, classroom ideas, lesson plans, and a classroom blog. Thought perhaps you English teacher types who read this blog might be interested. Mind you, it is extremely bare bones for right now. In the future, I will probably put most of my reflections about education on that site, while this blog will remain more personal.

Male Teachers

The Boston Globe reports that only 20% of teachers in public schools are male; in elementary schools, the number is a mere 9%. Think fast — did you have any male teachers in your elementary school? We had one. Mr. Veach. My sister was in his class in 5th grade. The numbers seemed to gradually increase until college, when the teachers were predominantly male.

Some people believe that teaching is “woman’s work.” It’s too nurturing, too maternal. However, men who teach young children have another issue with which to contend: accusations of child molestation.

According to Bryan Nelson, founder of the Minneapolis-based MenTeach:

[S]ome men who might want to teach fear false molestation accusations, and … society looks at men with suspicion. That view of men has been worsened, he said, by recent attention to priest abuse scandals and even the trial faced by Michael Jackson.

“Society has a narrow view of men,” Nelson said. “We think men are dangerous.”

One might argue that lately, it seems like female middle school teachers are looking kind of dangerous in that regard. My daughter had a male kindergarten teacher for a couple of months. He had an accident and was unable to continue teaching that year, but I will admit I thought it was kind of odd — I asked myself why a man would want to teach kindergarten. I have to come clean with gender biases of my own. I don’t think men are any better or worse than women at teaching. But I will admit that I did scratch my head over a man teaching kindergarten. And why should that be? Sarah has had male music and P.E. teachers since then, but not a full-time classroom instructor; however, I can say unequivocally that her male music teacher is one of the best teachers of elementary school children I’ve come across. In addition, he is also very caring with Sarah, and I can tell he has made a significant impression upon her.

One of the most caring teachers I ever had was Mr. Velando, my homeroom, math and reading teacher in 6th grade. He bought me an autograph book when I placed first on our team/second in 6th grade/4th in the school in the spelling bee. He, along with Mrs. Van, my Language Arts and Social Studies teacher, took me to my favorite restaurant, Crystal’s Pizza (sadly defunct) with another student to celebrate our awards as Students of the Month (I was, I think, January, and the other student was December). He was a truly great teacher.

I found this story interesting, too, because I will be the only female teacher in the English Department next year; however, the Science Department will be totally female. I don’t think I’ve ever been in the position of being the only female in my department. I’m not worried about it, but I am wondering how it will be different.