Yellow Index Cards: The Male Reproductive System

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Yellow Index Cards: Boys

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Our favorite, most entertaining guys in our AP Bio class. They made us laugh every day. The one in the middle, D, went through a pretty serious do-rag phase, illustrated below.

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Yellow Index Cards: Senioritis Not Just for Seniors

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Tick…tick…tick…
Blah…blah…blah…
Debator! (Did you know you can letter in debate?)
“Everyone knows that! At least, I do.” (Valedictorian)
A and M passed out on back row, no doubt hungover.
“Can we have the test tomorrow?” (That usually worked if someone asked. We usually did.)
“Anybody got a joint?” (Mumblings of this sort could be heard constantly from that  table.)
And then that would be me and Jenny passing notes.

Thoughtful Thursday: Another Planet

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I have a habit of making lists, and some lists I’ve had going since I was in about 7th grade are “Books I Want to Read” and “Books I Have Read.” My 7th grade English teacher started them for me on a jumbo index card, in her enviably pretty and small cursive handwriting with her signature blue rollerball pen. The advent of websites like Goodreads and Shelfari have made this task so much easier and more enjoyable for me. I started out at Goodreads, but I’ve since migrated over to Shelfari, just because I find it more visually appealing with the graphic display of books (with actual covers) on shelves, which is one great thing about going to bookstores in the first place. I’m sure plenty of people prefer the streamlined minimalism of Goodreads. But I like bright colors and pretty pictures. It does not take much to please me.

These sites make me happy because I can’t tell you how many times throughout my checkered techno-past I ended up with multiple Notepad documents strung out across so many floppy disks, and scraps of heat-sensitive receipt paper from my years working retail in college and reading book reviews while waiting for customers. Eventually, a nicely consolidated list in Microsoft Word vanished along with my hard drive’s pulse one summer. So, my lists at this point are patched together from memory, but now when I add to them, I am comforted to know they probably aren’t going anywhere this time. I really like it when technology brings to my life a tiny shred of stability.

I bring this up because a book I finished recently had been on the “To Read” list for 8 years, and I just got to it. That’s how backed up I am. This is partly because I don’t like chronological anything, usually. My photo albums jump from “The Last Day of 5th Grade” to “College Road Trip to Chicago” to “High School Graduation,” and so on. And I tend to read books as I am able to find them for free or cheap instead of deliberately tackling each successive title in perfect order.

 Another Planet: A Year in the Life of a Suburban High School by Elinor Burkett was published in 2001, and I believe I read about it in the Fanfair section of Vanity Fair magazine at work while the seconds shimmied towards midnight. I remember strange things sometimes. Other things that I actually need to remember? Not so much.

The author actually spends a year at a Minnesota high school, talking to teachers, administrators, and students. The book focuses on the graduating class of 2000 (I think, don’t quote me), which was only four years after I graduated. I was struck by how much less these Minnesotan kids seemed to be learning than I did. And not because of a lack of effort on (most of) the teachers’ parts. Words that came to mind about these students: lazy, sense of entitlement, unprepared, lacking big picture thinking skills, eogtistical in a way that was beyond that of normal teenage self-indulgence. The author argues that the Self Esteem Movement of the 1970’s in education is what produced generations of kids who all think they are special and individually important — the exception to all the rules. And that makes a lot of sense until I think about my own generation, and how if that had been such a successful “movement,” then we should all have a lot fewer problems and a lot more self-confidence than we ended up with. I don’t recall being taught “good self esteem” in elementary school, like the kids in this book. Maybe they didn’t do that in the South, thinking it was a bunch of bullshit. Sure, there are a few people I know my age who feel good about themselves without too much effort or struggle. However, I don’t think that came as a result of being taught that as schoolchildren. Depending on the person, I think it came from other sources entirely.

When I was in school, I don’t know if I just didn’t realize how bad things were in so many areas, or if things really weren’t as bad then. Then again, I was always in the honors/advanced program, where we actually learned stuff, and we didn’t have behavioral problems. My graduating class, as well as the one just ahead of me and the one just behind me, was extremely competitive. I graduated 14th in my class with a 4.987 GPA.

There are things I recognize as huge problems with the system now that I’m older and have two teacher parents nearing retirement and a teacher boy-person who only started teaching a couple years ago. Some of it sounded really familiar, like the social dynamics and castes. But so much of it I was a little stunned by. Maybe a big point I’m leaving out is that I graduated before anyone had ever heard the word “Columbine,” and these kids graduated the year after it happened. Maybe that makes all the difference.

There were parts of this book I sort of skimmed through (teachers unions bitching about new contracts, for one) but only because I felt like I’d heard it all before. Analyzing the educational system is something I was raised doing at the dinner table with my parents over green beans and sweet tea. Some of it did not require a recap. In any case, finishing was sort of a let down only because I didn’t have anyone to discuss it with. But I’ve passed it on to Swamp, so hopefully he’ll give his new-teacher insight sometime soon.

Yellow Index Cards: Look at Me

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So, I like Julia Stiles, but I long for the day that she is interviewed by Mr. James Lipton and he asks her to talk about this scene from 10 Things I Hate About You, the marvelous teen comedy adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew.

Bianca Stratford, to her older sister: “Where did you come from, Planet Loser?”
Katarina Stratford (Stiles): “What, as opposed to Planet ‘Look at me, look at me?'”

I think there is one of those girls (or maybe several) in every high school…the ones who think they’re way cooler than they actually are. Ah, teenagers.

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Yellow Index Cards: Hospital Helicopter

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I think this is my favorite of the Yellow Index Cards. I would normally save the best for last, but I really needed this to laugh at today.

The back wall of our classroom was all windows. They looked out onto the front lawn of the campus and the rural two-lane highway on which we sat. The building was very new and modern. In fact, my graduating class of 1996 was the first class to attend all four years in the “new school.” The older historic structure in town, where my grandmother had graduated in 1944, was remodeled and turned into a middle school.

One day, in the middle of a lecture that involved transparencies on the overhead (this must really show my age), a medical helicopter flew by on its way to our tiny local hospital. Usually if someone was medivacced to our hospital, it signaled an injury so severe that our small facility was the quickest option for treatment, even if it wasn’t the most well-equipped. Needless to say, this was not an every day occurence.

Mrs. Robertson was a little…shall we say…oblivious. In more ways than one. But on this day, when her class full of students rushed to the bank of windows to ooh and aah over the helicopter buzzing by at eye level, she didn’t even notice. She never looked up from her teacher’s edition textbook. As we had gotten up, she has been immersed in her book, trying to find a specific passage. She found it by the time we all got back to our seats and continued her lesson.

It was the one time that semester when that sisterly connection I told you about Jenny and I having in that class all the time actually flickered amongst all of us. Questioning faces, heads turning every which way, silently asking the persons on the other side of the room, “Did that really just happen?”

And then we went back to our sketching, sleeping, note passing, and candy eating. Just another day. Typical.