Friday, February 26, 2010

Back in Time

Dr Emmett Brown: “This is it! This is the answer. It says here... that a bolt of lightning is going to strike the clock tower at precisely 10:04pm, next Saturday night! If... If we could somehow... harness this lightning... channel it... into the flux capacitor... it just might work. Next Saturday night, we're sending you back to the future!”

- Film “Back to the future”

Last night, I received a call from the GATE KEEPER, which was a double-edged sword. It meant I wouldn’t have to rise at 5:25am, but it also meant I had to work. Turns out that I was subbing at the same school as Monday*, for PE AGAIN, but this time I was going to be the part-time teacher I worked with, and working with the previously absent teacher. My schedule would be to work straight through from 8:10am until 12:55pm with no breaks, but then I could leave early.

Three Phys Ed. jobs in one week: what were the sub gods telling me? Are most other subs too petrified to teach gym? Did these two teachers request me? Am I meant to go back to school and become certified in Physical Education? I know it isn’t the last one! On the upside, because I did warm-ups with the students, and made it a point to be active, I was beginning to lose my winter mush.

When I left the house, I noticed that the previous night’s rainstorm blew some shingles off the roof and knocked over our little fence that barely protects our little patch of dirt. We’ve buried a couple of fish and hermit crabs there. A few bulbs pop up, but often get stolen as soon as they bloom. City living.

I did the right thing, going straight to the cafeteria and paying my thirty-five cents for milk. Then I went into the teacher’s room. This cool school had a Friday breakfast potluck. I put put fifty-cents in the jar and got a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. Then I swiped a small croissant on the way out. In all fairness, they always leave the leftovers with a note for any teachers and staff to take some. (Am I a teacher or staff or neither?) I should confess that last time, I also swiped a book from their book swap shelf, but I brought an old with me today to replace it. What is it about this school that turns me into a kleptomaniac?

The seventh-grade class couldn’t have behaved any better, using the sack of balls given to me in the office. Almost every person played some game, with only a few girls (as usual) staying on the sidelines. One student is me reincarnated or my clone or my platonic soul mate. I met her when I subbed music last year. She had my semi-Goth look, but updated from the 1980s. I put on my iPod while they completed a survey. She asked if we could listen to hers. She had the same exact red one as mine that raised money for Aids. When I viewed her play list, we had almost identical songs. Her music ranged from back to the 1970s until the present. Because of her, I discovered the Silversun Pickups and found out the name of the artist to the song “Mad World”. Oh, and her favorite color is also purple.

The next group of eighth-graders was a horror when I subbed Science last year. It was early in my substitute teacher "career" and they were my first middle-school group. Since then, I’ve enjoyed them much more in PE and Music, where I’m not forcing them to do anything academic.

Since I’ve been looking back on the teenage me, I’ve revealed my senior picture, which was taken just before I began my final year of high school. (Click on it to enlarge, if you dare.) To see more pictures of me with curly hair, become my Facebook friend. Here, I was sporting the tragic Vanessa Huxtable look from The Cosby Show. Even then, my dream was to have a bob with bangs, like the lead singer in the band, Siousxie & the Banshees and my friend, Maura. I was a straight-haired girl trapped in a curly girl’s head. If only they had the same hair products and flatirons back then.

Considering I had just ridden my bike to the school in the summer, my hair and make-up held up. At least my face had grown to match my nose by that point. Let's not discuss my eyebrows. The photographers made us push down our shirts and put that funny fabric over them. My skin was darker then, making me look like my Italian relatives, but now it’s paler like my Irish-side of the family. My hair was medium-brown, but I dyed it black. Now it’s naturally darkened to nearly black. It’s hard for me to believe this picture was taken twenty-two years ago.

In some ways, who I was then and who I am now hasn’t changed. But in other ways, I don’t know who that girl is anymore. If I were in high school now, what would I be like? Would I still be a semi-Goth girl? Would I be like the girl who has a similar look to the old me and shares my play list? I remember who I was vividly** – all the awkwardness and insecurities and frustration of not having control over much of my life.

That’s why I love writing for and about preteens and teens. Leaving childhood, you begin to question everything you took for granted: parents tumble off pedestals, religion is questioned, government seems ineffective and corrupt, and almost all adults are clueless and uncool. As a teacher, I see myself through the students’ eyes. I don’t try to be their friend (lame), or talk down to them (rude), or minimize how hard it is to be them. If anything, I point out how different I am (calling myself an old white girl), which garners their respect (Or silent ridicule).

Would I want to go back in time and be that young again? Hell, no. Maybe going back to my early 20s, before gravity ravaged me, would be tempting. I spend enough time with minors; it’s easier to be in charge of them than being one of them. The nice thing about writing preteen and teen characters is that I get to visit, but I don’t have to live there.

*Here’s the post from the PE job the other day:

** A previous post about relating to adolescents:


  1. 'If I were in high school now, what would I be like?'

    Exactly that question haunts me and it's only been about ten years since I left (although British society's changed in those ten years in one or two ways that would have had a direct impact on my happiness, I think) - gosh knows what I'll be like with it when it's been even longer!

  2. I like your high school picture. Mine is horrendous. Your blog is great, Theresa. You have a very interesting job, and I respect you a lot. Thanks for this post, I really enjoyed it.

  3. Hampshireflyer, it's funny, but I feel as removed from high school as I did ten years ago. Once you move on, you move on.

    Roxy, that's kind of you to say you like my picture. Thanks for the nice words. It means a lot.

  4. This brings back memories! I always thought you looked beautiful and cool in your yearbook photo; I have red hair, brunette & horribly overplucked eyebrows in mine!

    I had some amazing experiences in school, but I'd never want to go back to that uncertain, insecure time.

  5. What an interesting post. Sorry you got stuck teaching PE again. I don't mind PE when it's for middle school and high school -- it's an excuse for me to dress more casually. Elementary (especially kindergarten) PE is exhausting because they never listen to me, and I always end up yelling more than I originally intended.

    And the Silversun Pickups are awesome.

  6. Kathleen, thanks. I don't think you look that differently in your yearbook picture that you do now (But better eyebrows).

    Shelley, do you have a whistle? I find that when I use it, they stop in their tracks. I lost mine and think I'm going to break down this weekend now that I seem to be the go-to-girl for gym. The room is loud, so I know what you mean about raising your voice. I take cough drops with me.

    The Silversun Pickups are opening for Muse in Boston this March, but I don't know as many Muse songs, so I didn't get tickets.

  7. Theresa Milstein!

    You looked like Molly Ringwald and grew up to be Holly Hunter! Good gracious woman! What a filmstar! You have a doppleganger and so have these hollywood stars! LOL!

    What a great pic!!!!

    Oh and I thoroughly agree with you about leaving all that young years behind. It was fun but hey I would never ever ever choose to return. I think the person you are now is a much more interesting one because of those younger years, so why try and turn back the clock?

    The best years are yet to come!

    Take care

  8. I love the picture. And I really enjoyed this post. I too feel like in a lot of ways I am pretty much the same as I was at 17...and oh so different. I don't want a redo, I never want to be that age again, but I wish I had more things to remind me of myself back then.

  9. Old Kitty, thanks for the compliments. I've NEVER been told that I looked like Molly Ringwald. I got Holly Hunter from a student once - you must've read that post! First she called me Elastic Girl, but then explained it was the voice of Elastic girl. I had to look up Doppleganger.

    I agree. We're more interesting now. Let's look forward!

    Rebecca, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I wish I had more mementos from back then as well.

  10. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I like that picture of you. My husband is an elementary music teacher and he's so glad when they get him a sub when he's out sick! You guys are the best!

  11. Thanks for the comment and compliment, Aubrie. I enjoyed your blog too.

  12. I would have thought that subbing in P.E. would be fun, but that just shows how little I know! I love the photo; you look so serious.

  13. Edie, I liked subbing PE on Monday and Friday, but not on Wednesday. Overall, it is one of the easier subjects, but it's noisy.

    I think they took a few photos; I'm sure some of them had happier expressions, but I chose this one.

  14. You must have the patience of an angel, I'd say! I don't think I could handle PE--much less three days in a week! (What is going on with these teachers???) It's so noisy and chaotic. I'm too much of a control freak to sub PE. Ha. Much respect to you.

    Oh, and your kleptomaniac stuff had me laughing aloud!

  15. Thanks, Tiffany. The upside is that I get to wear yoga pants to work, and I don't even dress that casually when I'm in the house.

    I got complimented in the cafeteria and teacher's room for leaving money, so maybe my kleptomania is manageable. Oh yeah, I swiped a blueberry tart later that day. Maybe not.

  16. I love the picture - really, it's very good! I would never go back to high school, never ever ever. Middle school was even worse. I guess we should take pity on teenagers instead of being exasperated by them (spoken by the mother of a 13 year old).

  17. Susan, thanks for complimenting my picture. I agree, middle school was even worse. Notice how I haven't posted any pictures of my curly mullet. Those years were ones I would NEVER want to revisit. My son is now eleven, so I know I'm in for it soon.

  18. I'm getting to the point where I have spent more time teaching than I did as a student, making it increasing difficult to put myself in their shoes. It's so easy to forget how much I used to be like some of them. I've also reached a point that I have lived longer since graduating college than I did before graduating high school. Sigh. Still, when I drive by high schools, I thank God that I am not a student there any more.

  19. Paul, when my son gets goofy, instead of snapping at him, I should remember that I used to behave the same way. But it usually annoys me, and I reprimand him.

    It's the same way with students, I can remember not caring about a class, but if I'm the teacher, I want them to care now.

  20. I think we have the same senior year pic. Or maybe it's the 80's hair and drape and pose... must have been a really big sale on those drapes is seniors all over the country were being made to wear them... Ahhh, the good old days?
    Never want to go back, but would like to be that thin again!

  21. Dawn, I was so thin, I used to drink Sustacal. I agree, that part was good!

  22. Yeah, so I totally had that haircut. I remember them not being able to find a drape thing small enough because I was so flat chested, and the photographer told me so, out loud. Jerk.

  23. Tara, I can't believe the photographer would say that! The photographer is jerk.