Hell is — high school English

We’re getting ready to read the play No Exit which means establishing a basic understanding of existentialism.

Hell is— trying to explain existentialism to high school seniors. I’ve never done well with philosophy myself. Life has meaning, but is completely pointless. Well, fuck.

I told them that my clearest memory from Philosophy 101 was a T-shirt my professor wore at least once a week. It had a Groucho Marx quote on it: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” Good stuff.

They survived a visual demonstration of the Allegory of the Cave so we could totally tackle Sartre and Camus, right?

One Hank Green Crash Course video on existentialism later, and half the class made the finger gun gesture to their heads. Solid start.

Honestly, I was a little concerned that some of them might immediately latch on to ideas within existentialism. I mean, Hank Green is telling them that only they can create meaning in their lives regardless of what authority figures like teachers and parents want them to do. We just want them to graduate, but that idea sounds like a built in excuse to get high and do nothing. Suddenly they’ve discovered their essence; they’re all existentialists!

I had them holster their finger guns and we tried some guided notes to simplify.

1. Existence before essence. You’re born and then you figure it out. Only YOU can determine your essence/passion/purpose/importance in life and prevent forest fires. This basically sounds like 3/4 of today’s high school curriculum. We spend so much time trying to reflect on you-iest version of you. Find your path. Group hug.

2. We are condemned to be free. Sounds good, right?! Unfortunately, it means that we are free to make millions of minute choices-turn left vs right, set your alarm for 6 am instead of 6:01am, have the chicken instead of the fish- and suffer the consequences of all those choices. No matter what it’s your fault, kids. I am their daily dose of sadness. The finger guns were back.

I accidentally demonstrated the third point through a classroom supply mishap. I gave everyone a half sheet of paper and told them they had 5 minutes to draw me a picture of Hell, knowing that their drawings would lead to a discussion of archetypal imagery: flames, devils and pitchforks, oh my.img_4504

They started digging into the perpetually dried up marker box for just the right shades of Hades. It doesn’t matter that our department orders a few boxes of new markers every year, I think they send us dry, uncapped markers with the colors picked over from the start.

Within a few seconds, a cry went up.

“THERE’S NO RED! IT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT COLOR IN HELL!”

And here concludes our intro to existentialism.

3. Life is absurd. The final downer for the day is that “absurd” means pointless and meaningless. All those choices? Whatevs. Draw Hell with red markers or don’t. Same same.

There are no red markers. Enjoy drawing Hell, Sisyphus. Insert maniacal laugh here.

(I can’t even plan shit like this.)

I’ll leave this here just as my high school French teacher would after reading The Stranger.

What?

“What?”

(But hear my voice -or Samuel L. Jackson’s– when you come wandering into my classroom with time on your hands while I’m staring at the computer wondering who needs strangled next.)

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His Samuel L. Jackson impersonation.

Tomorrow is the last day of school. It has been a glorious and terrible week of exhaustion, panic (failing students panicking, not me), and universal done-ness. Tomorrow my colleagues will have an adult meeting with adult beverages and ramble on about their own done-ness.

I am not done.

If I can get the publication kids done, that’s a positive step, but that rarely happens in time for attending the adult meeting.

I am never done.

Miles and I will just leave this here. Whoever wrote it didn’t get the quote quite right, but it is my favorite desktop graffiti. Found during yearbook camp– yes, that’s a thing- that I attend and teach at during the summer.

Just another sign of my not done-ness.

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“Say ‘what’ again. I dare you.”

Purr More, Hiss Less

Once in a while a student will remind me that I’m not entirely evil, and that some people find sarcasm and snark endearing.

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This was a belated Christmas gift because she didn’t get it done in time. A girl after my own project-based heart. I used to cross-stitch, so I know this was a labor of love, knots,and crossed eyes. The student used to knit during class; it kept her hands busy and mind calm. I might have secretly had a bag of yarn anonymously delivered to her one year. Can’t help but love a dedicated crafter.

“Purr more, hiss less” could be a pointed message on her part as I tend to be hissier than needed most days. It’s a good reminder for my classroom.

Trifflin’ S O B’s

The governor of Ohio wants me to become an intern. I’d love to see him run my classroom as an intern. Trifflin’ ass. 

President Cheeto Skin Butthole Mouth appears to be more incompetent on a daily basis,but no one seems to be stopping him. I wonder what would happen if I tweeted “You are a bad man” at him daily. 

There hasn’t been any REAL snow all “winter.”

Ipads just give the asshole in my class more opportunities to be an asshole and continue to say, “What? I didn’t do it. He he he he” Some children want to be left behind. 

My skin is crawling and I keep dropping everything. Can’t even nap successfully. 

I suspect 3-5 glasses of wine plus sinus medication might even things out… or not. 

Olivia Wigglebothum looks how I feel. 

“MOTHERFUCKERS.”

Bitch, please.

Professional Evaluation 

Birdie: “Why don’t you have this shit graded yet?”

Me, weeping into hands: “BECAUSE YOU WON’T MAKE DINNER OR RUN THE VACUUM!”

Brain:”Plus I spend the school day cleaning my gun just in case bears show up. I just thought I was teaching a Dystopian unit, not living it.”

*”All Summer in a Day” awesome little heart string puller from Ray Bradbury. 

**With my 20 years of experience in public education, I can solidly say that any teacher carrying a firearm at school is a phenomenally bad plan. 

*** Just Google Devos and bears. The new Sith Lord of Education will probably send the secret education police out for me at midnight. 

My cats’ lives in alternative facts 

Choosing one toy from the nip bin is not enough to get crazy high. 

Getting high on catnip leads to rational behavior. It does not lead to exposed cat nipples. 

Olivia nipples


I only feed three of the four cats. I force the black one to forage and dominate the other cats for food. This isn’t racist. He likes it. It is what it is. He has the same opportunity as the other cats. 


Miles is actually a dog. 

He sings in the litter box because he’s bragging about his poo size. (I don’t really know WHY he sings in the litter box so this could be a real fact not an alternative one. 

Mum’s favorite dog.


Side note: I look forward to failing the first kid who suggests using “alternative facts” during the research unit. Wikipedia full speed ahead!

Happy New Years: Insert Evil Laugh Here

Day 1 back from almost two magical weeks of doing whatever (mostly)  I damn well please.  Little to no sleep. Because why would my body go to sleep, knowing that the alarm would go off at 5:45 am? Yeah!!!

I’m so tired, I’m pretty sure I hallucinated most of my work day. 

This was an impulse buy at Target after school because ….caffeine.

Sadly, it did not smell like coffee.


 And my hair is super crazy. 

Multiple students today:”Hey, your hair looks nice. Did you do something different? Did you color it?”

Me multiple times today:”I ironed it because I can’t remember when I washed it last. Ironing it kills whatever is going on in there. The color is ‘old lady gray’ with ‘you need to dye your roots red.'”

Kids these days will cry at the drop of a hat. Weak. 

MY KIDS took it upon themselves to make  snacks today while I was at work. 

I came home to an open cabinet, a gutted bag of relatively expensive cat food, and four guilty looking cats all sitting in the living room instead of meeting me in the kitchen as per usual. 

Oddly enough, no one has asked for dinner, and I have not brought it up.