Teaching Stories

Teaching is never boring. It may be stressful as well, but if I had to choose between the two, I’d go for stress. Without stress we’d all be dead, right? — or at least really bored.

When I tell people that I teach Latin in a high school, they usually question my sanity. Why would anyone want to spend all day with teenagers? And try to make them learn Latin?

First of all, teenagers are some of my favorite people. They have many of the same concerns as adults, just less experience. They are people in transition, and change interests me.

And teaching is a job I will never completely master. I will never arrived at the point where I can say, “Now I can laminate my lesson plans.” There’s always something new to think about, so it never gets boring.

But kids get bored, and no matter how much fun I’m having with participles or subordinate clauses, nobody listens if I don’t make it interesting. Their eyes glaze over. Finding ways to keep them wide-eyed is my quest. More

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Caveat Scriptor

Writer, beware.

One of the things I love most about writing fantasy is world creation, exploring a world where anything can happen — as long as it follows your rules. Fantasy writer Orson Scott Card has explained world-building better than I can, so I will limit my thoughts to word-building — the invention of names.

It was word-building that first dragged me into the messy world of fantasy. Before I ever read Tolkien, I was making up languages and drawing maps. Reading Lord of the Rings was a confirmation of what I already knew: there were other worlds to explore. All I had to do was stick my flag in the ground and start naming things.

In the advertising world, people are paid to make up new words. What they realize (most of the time) is that we are all neck-deep in words these days — slang, product names, new terms for things that didn’t exist an hour ago. On an average day of reading, I may run into half a dozen words I’ve never seen before — because they are so new they haven’t made it into the dictionary.

Usually I just Google unfamiliar words, and most of the time figure out what they mean in the context I’m reading. I also see a lot of things they might mean. When I Google dax, I learn that it may refer to the German stock index (Deutscher Aktien Index), a hair-care company, a character on Star Trek, a company that makes eco-friendly products, a singer, an actor, a really funny guy, and (apparently) a transsexual prostitute.

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Northern Girls

toilet-roll-300x300We lie in the back of the car and play submarine.  Jamie has a periscope made out of mirrors and a milk carton. We take turns using it to see out of the back window.  No one comes.  There is nothing to look at.

“Want to see something?” Jamie asks.

I follow him over to his house, upstairs to Chuckie’s room. There is a small cage on the desk, full of wood shavings. Jamie reaches into the cage and picks up a handful of small pink things.  When he holds out his hand to me I see that they are baby rats —hairless, their eyes shut tight.  “He named it Mickey, but then it had babies.” The baby rats writhe, but make no sounds.  They look like fat pink worms, wiggling around in his palm.  I extend my finger, feel a rubbery body.  None of them is bigger than my pinkie. More

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