Friday, May 30, 2008


Emma and Kate ready for their orchestra "Monster Concert"

you have to be all serious if you play violin and cello

and you also have to dress in black

but you can still be cute

and you can still have cute hair

Jane before her choir concert.

I love that crazy-toothed smile!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Is my "face" red?

The past two or three months I have been involved in a group discussion of the book Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, with a group of teachers at my school. It's a pretty great book about how to become a better writer. As you would expect, we have been devoting a portion of our discussion time to guided writing exercises. It has been a lot of fun to hear the writing styles of my colleagues as we share what we've written during these exercises. Here is where we have problem #1--I used to go to a writing group called The Would-Be Writers' Guild. We had guided writing exercises every month, and most of us basically put our true selves out there with no thought of guarding our privacy or dignity. I found myself in that special place yesterday during this professional development activity with my colleagues.

As soon as the buzzer went off telling us to stop writing, I realized I had spilled too many personal beans in my writing. There was NO WAY I was going to share. So I borrowed a typical 8th grader move and nonchalantly draped a napkin over my words. This is where problem #2 makes a scene--the English department chair (have I ever mentioned how intimidated I am by her?) noticed my little trick. And in true old-school teacher fashion, she said, "I think Shannon has something to share," as she peered at me over her tilted-down glasses with eyebrows raised and chin tucked.

"Oh, no, I'm sure we'd all much rather hear what you've written. I know I always enjoy your writing," I demurely replied.

She smiled and read a lovely bit of writing about green. Problem solved, right?

Problem #3, sneaking out from under the table and snatching my napkin away--"Okay, I read. Now you."

Problem #4, which has been swimming around the room (imagine Jaws music here) since Problem #2 made its grand entrance--Mrs. Department Chair kind of runs the show in our school. No one ever contradicts her. Not even the principal.

Problem #5, having been lurking in a messy room in the creativity wing of my brain for about a week--this is what a wrote, and this is what I read. To my colleagues. Several of them males. And my principal. Who is also a male.
  • I have chosen red. Red is a color of passion--love, excitement, anger, embarrassment, humiliation. I am often told my face is red (as if I don't feel the heat caused by my uncontrollable, spontaneous, fierce blushing). Sometimes it's during lunch in the faculty room. Sometimes it's when I'm with friends and family. It rarely happens, oddly enough, in the classroom with my students (who say things with specific intent to embarrass me). Last week it happened when my feet were in stirrups (you know, the kind that aren't attached to a saddle or stretchy 80's pants). My new gynecologist said to me, during an exam, "You get red and blotchy when you're nervous." Of course he wasn't looking at my face when he said it. I told my husband about his observation when I came home, and he kind of snickered and said, "Yeah, you do." I suppose red is just my color, from head to, um, toe.

Mrs. Cheney's students talk

9th grade boy: Mrs. Cheney, if your husband dies and my mom dies, would you consider dating my dad?

9th grade girl: Yeah, his dad is hot!

9th grade boy's best friend: Yeah, but dude! What would you call her if they got married?

Chorus of 9th graders: Yeah. Oohhh. That'd be freaky. Ewwww. Dude, she'd be your mom!

boy: I'd keep calling her Cheenizzle. Or maybe I'd switch it up and call her Che-to-the-ney.

my brain: That's it, I'm outta here!