Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stuff I'm not good at

In my fight with a cold this week, I'm big time obsessed with Words With Friends on the iPhone. This marks another my being late to the party but nerding out about how much I like it. (Hit me up for a game--username is coachpdawg)

But WWF also marks another example of something that you'd think I'd be good at that I am completely and totally not. Confession: I am not good at Scrabble. Like, it's embarrassing how bad I am. So let's just go there:


1) Scrabble. Like I said, not so scrabbletastic. What makes this worse is that everyone assumes English major = awesome at Scrabble. Not so, mon frere. Yeah, I like words, but I like what they mean, not the cool patterns of letters that they make. (Also, see my color/number crazies for even more PDawggy confusion.) Scrabble seems, to me, to be the reduction of euphonic, meaningful, God-given words into something (ew!) mathematical--patterns, logic puzzles, etc. It has nothing to do with imagery or metaphor or sound devices or wit or any of the things I like about putting words together. I'm also terrible at spotting patterns, playing strategy games, and anything requiring patience. So if you hit me up for a game, as I suggested, it will be an easy win. Scrabble gives me the pit sweats. Everyone expects me to be good and I ain't. I honestly prefer to be drinking when I play--at least then I can blame my use of such sesquipedalian words as "the" and "dog" on the wine.

2) Spelling. I do okay, you know, my spelling is respectable, but I spent about three hours of teaching time every year telling kids, DUDE, I DIDN'T MAJOR IN SPELLING and I am not going to tell you how to spell that. Also along these lines is the fact that NOBODY LIKES TO BE YOUR HUMAN DICTIONARY, YOU LAZY BUM. Kids want an easy answer because they don't want to learn how to spell things and they don't want to get up and walk to the dictionaries across the room. I don't want to be their enabler. But back to my skillz. Like I said, I know some stuff about spelling, but not everything. I don't see it as a linear assumption that if I like to read books, I've memorized the dictionary. The dictionary is BORING. I know a lot of words--more than some people, sure--but I don't have the kind of mind that looks for errors in spelling or grammar, and spelling almost entirely ignores the richness of meaning and sound. I have to force myself to read that way. I don't read like an editor. My mind is more like a kindly grandma at your kindergarten piano recital when it comes to those kind of errors--she can only see you and your beautiful effort rather than your little tiny mistakes. If I want to read for errors, I have to switch out of Gma mode. (E is constantly finding spelling and grammar mistakes on my blog, FYI.) I'm constantly learning new words, though. Learning = not being comfortable with, yet. Learning means it takes time. I'm not ashamed to admit that I have to look things up all the time. I'm curious, so that means I have to put in some work to move forward.

3) Helping you transform your lame essay into a stone tablet of awesomeness. Listen, sometimes your essay really sucks and there's only so much I can do. I can shine it up, but I can't make it be something it's not. Maybe your writing has potential, and maybe it doesn't. If I'm being honest, there are some steaming piles that I just can't fix. Maybe that's too much to admit, that some essays are beyond help. Sometimes a steaming pile will only ever be a steaming pile. (Oh God, now you think I'm a bad teacher. Listen, I'd still help that kid. I would still try to give him or her some help, but you know as well as I do that most of those kids don't want the help anyway. And for some of them, it would just be better to rip it up and start over again.)

4) Hip hop. I can FAKE hip hop pretty well if people show me things. I taught myself a lot of things watching Youtube and I know how to make it look like I'm doing something by acting confident and pretending I know how. But listen, my hip hop training started and ended in about the mid-90's. From time to time I'll have someone ask me to teach a hip hop class and I have such a hard time explaining that training in teaching ballet/tap/jazz/contemporary does not translate into being able to teach ANY STYLE OF DANCE. Same goes for ballroom. I could ape it if someone taught me, but that's not the same as being trained to teach it or even having legitimate license to claim I know how to do it. But still people ask. I know, I know. You're all shaking your heads because I'm a white girl anyway. It comes up from time to time, okay?

5) Being organized. I'm good at faking this too. At work? I've got a pretty good system going. I have a bitchin' to-do list template, but this is only because I have about the second worst record on campus for taking roll. And I lose things. I forget to respond to email. If I have all that on a chart, I am more likely to work things out correctly.  I like my work space clean, but that's because high schoolers are like preschoolers--the fewer things you leave out, the fewer things that are going to get broken or choked on. And I like certain things organized--meetings, music, desks, papers, bookshelves--but unfortunately that has nothing to do with my being able to keep my bathroom clean at home. Would I like to have a clean, organized house? Sure. But would I also like a nap? Yes please.  I know how to organize, but that doesn't mean that I do it.

6) Being right when I'm teaching. I'm wrong all the time. I'm very open about it. I don't know how I could teach high school and NOT be. But it's annoying how much kids assume that if you're a teacher you have to be perfect, and how much glee they get when they think they catch you making a mistake. I'd never expect that from them--because they're still learning--so I try not to expect it from myself. Sometimes I just don't know the answer. Sometimes I say the wrong thing and then I have to correct myself. I learned the most from teachers who were still actively learning and who wanted to look at things with us. That's just the way I roll. What gets me is when kids try to prove their intelligence by "catching" me in something I don't know or am not sure about. Go ahead and knock yourself out, kid. I already said I don't have to be right--so stop wasting your energy on me.

7) Being intimidating. I know you think I am. I don't mean it. I just have a serious face. But I'm scared of everything.

So there you go. Secret's out. Come beat me at Words With Friends now.

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