Mind Mapping

“Do I need a mind-mapping program?” My finger was poised to click “Download Now” when my rational self (the one who pays the bills) intervened. “What would I use it for?”

“Use it?” I replied, finger itching to click. “It’s just cool to play around with.”

“What could I do better with a mind-mapping program that I don’t already do with some other software?”

I retracted my finger. “Well, a map is more useful than an outline. Outlines are so linear. A mindmap is visual, spatial – it’s creative. And look at all those features! I can make straight or curvy lines, boxes or ovals. They can be any color I want. I can drag images into them!”

“And what would I put in all those boxes and ovals?”

Clearly, I wasn’t convincing my rational self. I had to come up with a better argument.

The fact is, I like maps. More


In my Latin classes the most interesting discussions often have almost nothing to do with Latin.

Things we have talked about recently: the stock market, aliens, abortion, mortgages, profanity, nature vs. nuture, feminism, prostitution, spelling reform, social justice, immunization, the calendar (BC/AD), and the health care bill.

My students know much more math than I do, but they do not know how what compound interest or amortization are. They do not know the difference between stocks and bonds, or what Wall Street has to do with the economy. I know these things not from formal education, but from life experience.

This is why I love teaching Latin. Ironically, if I were a math teacher, I might not be able to teach them about the stock market. As a Latin teacher, I can allow tangents to go almost anywhere. This is because: More

My Secret Ambition

On particularly bad teaching days, I am certain I’d rather teach adults. Kids can get on my nerves: they’re immature, impetuous, petty, shallow.

In other words: they are kids.

I should know better; I’ve been to enough teacher inservices to know that adults can be just as bad as the kids we complain about — or worse. We talk while the presenter is talking, forget to do our homework, argue with other teachers about things that don’t matter. Teachers are impossible to teach; we all think we know everything. Someone trying to teach us what we have painfully learned on our own — that doesn’t sit well. We are a cynical and stubborn group.

No, teaching adults is not the answer to my discontent. I will stick with the kids.

Recently, though, I was asked if I would be willing to share my classroom management skills with other teachers, and for a brief moment I was able to envision my dream career: I could go around the country  telling groups of people the same thing and getting paid lots of money to do it. Then I would write books about the same thing and sell them at the inservices.

I’ve had the same thoughts about writing.

As much as I love to write, there are days when I would rather “have written.” Once my novel is on shelves, I can write about writing and people will listen to me. With the street creds of a bestseller, I could set up workshops, give lectures and get paid to write articles about what I’m only thinking about doing: writing.

I believe that this is the secret ambition of many novelists: to write book about writing. Novels are hard to write. Talking (and writing) about writing is much easier.

I guess everybody has days like that, when we wish we were doing Something Else. Something Else always looks easier, less stressful, and more financially rewarding. More

Slitting the Other Wrist

I’m not thinking of ending it all. I just thought this title was cool. It ought to become a catch-phrase: “Things are going down the tubes. I’ve already slit one wrist. Now what?” “Slit the other wrist!”

In fact, the title refers only to the upcoming surgery on my left hand. My right wrist was slit back in December and is doing well. My left hand, however, is constantly numb and occasionally painful. I am right-handed, so this is sort of annoying, but not crippling.

I’d like to blame my tendency to drop things on carpal tunnel syndrome. Not a serious issue, nor one requiring any painful choices. The surgery is very easy and quick, and in about 90% of cases cures the pain and numbness. (Klutziness , however, is not so easily cured. That’s another story.)

Anyway, I’ve been looking at diagrams of the surgery to see what the doctor actually did while I was knocked out. More

“My Bad” (and other half-ass apologies)

I rarely demand apologies from people. I don’t like putting myself into a position to be re-dissed by a refusal.

But it’s my job to enforce rules. And people seem to have no trouble saying, “My bad,” when I call them on something.

“We don’t use that kind of language in this room. ”

“My bad.”

“You’ve been late to class every day this semester.”

“My bad.”

“No talking during the test.”

“My bad.”

“Put your phone away.”

“My bad.”

As far as I’m concerned, “My bad,” is the same thing as “F– you.”

Does an automatic “my bad” outweigh a forced “I’m sorry” (said with rolling of eyes)?

Why do people apologize, anyway, if they don’t think they did anything wrong? More

Sacrificing to the Test

I spent about 15 hours last week proctoring the state proficiency exams we are required to give to our students. It is an awful week for everyone. By Friday, the students were so burned out that they could barely think.

My responsibility as a proctor was to stare at them for two and a half hours, occasionally walking up and down the rows and looking over their shoulders. It occurred to me as I was sitting there that I didn’t know the etymology of ‘proctor.’ Obviously Latin, but I couldn’t think of what word it came from.

I couldn’t abandon my staring duties to go find a Latin dictionary, so I just forgot about it until a few minutes ago.

‘Proctor’ is a medieval shortening of ‘procurator.’ We think of procurators as people working in museums, but it originally meant a steward or treasurer. ‘Procuro,’ the verb it derives from, means ‘to look after, administer, have charge of.’ Interestingly, it also has the meaning, ‘to avert by sacrifice, to expiate.’

Etymology yields such interesting ironies. Who are we sacrificing with these tests? What sins are we forcing our children to expiate? More


The f-word is wearing out. It may still have the power to shock some people, but in general, it seems to be moving into the mainstream, following in the muddy footsteps of ‘damn’ and ‘shit,’ which have become almost acceptable (except in Judge Judy’s courtroom).

There is no longer an ‘f-bomb’ – it’s becoming just another filler word like… well, ‘like.’ Or ‘um’ or ‘you know.’ These are verbal tics; we don’t realize how often we’re saying them until students start keeping track and reporting back to us.

But unlike “like,” f*ck is versatile, providing verbal, adjectival, and nominal uses. There is rarely a sentence that can’t be augmented by one f*cking profanity. I am convinced that this is a big part of its popularity.

I’m not morally opposed to profanity; I just can’t use it. My mother would be disappointed in me. I know she can’t hear me, but whenever I use those words, my ears start to turn red. More

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