Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stuff Students Say: February Edition

Here it is. The last day of the month. Flooded with 7, 8, and 9-year-old goodness. They drove me absolutely crazy today (I was having flashbacks of August come back to me in a few moments where I had to close my eyes to gain composure) but I'm glad I ended my day with this post. Because sometimes they're so dang cute.

Ms. Gesch you smell like laundry.

I only use capital letters. Lowercase letters irritate me.

(On pajama day, during a show-and-tell session with her stuffed animal...)
This is my pet unicorn. Her name is Ms. Gesch.

Are you twins with Taylor Swift? 
(This was answered with the matter-of-fact reply, "Why yes. Yes I am.")

I'm 7 years old today!
Oh, Happy Birthday! I didn't know it was today, I'm sorry!
No it ain't my birthday today. But I am still 7 years old. 

Do you know what a latte is?

Are you married to Justin Beaver?
(They all think that is his actual last name.)

Me: What do you have planned for the weekend?
Student: Ohhhhhhhhh MSSSSS. GESSSSSSSCCCCHHHH I'll probably go to Cuba or something. 

Good morning Ms. Gesch! I'd know those big glasses anywhere! 

I wanna be a landlord when I grow up. Then I'm going to leave that job for the NBA. Bothadem jobs make a lotta money, that's why. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ego Boost

Just a short blurb to say that 5 people in the last few days have told me that I have the same voice as this girl, particularly in the video below. Jennifer Lawrence. Katniss. Oscar winner. My fangirl idol. This makes me happy. And on a Wednesday in February, you capitalize on those things that make you happy. Woohoo!


Monday, February 25, 2013


The past two months have been full of music and concerts in some really cool places in Chicago. I thought I'd share the goods about four concerts I've attended in the last few weeks. Please don't think I'm  all that connected and in the scene on my own - I just mostly tagged along with my friends who are much cooler than I to these events.

Love random reunions
 The first I'm going to share is the most recent. Passion Pit. Matt & Kim. Icona Pop. OH MY GOODNESS. First of all, my sister-in-law cued in me into this infectious anthem by Icona Pop a few weeks ago and when I found out they were the opener it was a sweet, sweet moment. These chicks are some badass girls, let me tell you. There's something super cool about a girlband who can do all their own music. Girl power. Then, the second band and probably the most entertaining portion of the evening was Matt & Kim. They're together together and are the coolest music power couple I've ever seen. Kim goes crazy on the drums as Matt plays keyboard and sings in his hallmark voice. A really sweet feature of their concerts is that they have up-close cameras showing their faces on huge screens as they perform. Watching the unadulterated joy that flooded Kim's face as she drummed away for about an hour made me want to drop everything and take up percussion. Then, when I thought nothing else would make me happier, Passion Pit took the stage and was just so good. They have so much imagination. It is really cool to see. Plus the lead singer was wearing a suit and tie, and let me tell you I am a sucker for a guy dressed in a nicely fitted suit. I could relive this concert once or twice if I had a time machine. I went with my good friend Gina, who is a senior at Trinity and on her Chicago semester. I also got to see my fab TFA friend Sam (you've met her on this blog many times before) who was there with her boyfriend and coincidentally a few rows over. This was at the UIC Pavillion just about a mile up the road from my apartment. All in all, amazing concert. 

Gina and I 

Okay. Next event. The Darkness. Zach, my co-teacher from the summer and friend who has been lost to Milwaukee's TFA crew, came down to Chicago and offered me an extra ticket at the last second. This was a hilarious time. The lead singer is completely ridiculous. He rides that fine line of crazy/talented/funny/obnoxious. These guys are incredibly talented. Face-melting guitar solos to last a long, long time. This one took place at The Vic. I got the feeling that this venue is a little bit more geared toward the grungier rock crowd, which was cool. I do, in fact, believe in a thing called love.


Then comes Wakey! Wakey! This was at Schuba's up in Lakeview at a really small venue. It was cool to be so close. I went with two people from my small group at church and had a really good time. This guy is hilarious and I almost enjoyed his comments as much as his singing. For all you One Tree Hill fans (I am not one of these, but I have many good friends who are), his songs were featured on that show once upon a time and he blew up from there. He's got incredible range and just the right amount of nasally whiny goodness to satisfy a girl like me who went through high school listening to Dashboard Confessional and Secondhand Serenade. He is great.


Finally, you've already heard about the concert I went to at Lincoln Hall, a medium-sized venue that featured The Freelance Whales. I went with my TFA Chicago friends for a fun little reunion to reminisce on the craziness we shared this summer as well as enjoy some cool music. Again, I want to be a vintage-dress-wearing-girl who plays bass in one of these bands. Maybe they take ex-french-horn players? I'll submit an application.


All in all, Chicago's music scene has been good to me as of late. I am dying to see Rihanna on March 22nd, but alas, I'm not a millionaire and would rather not drop 200 bucks to be in the very last row in the United Center. I was too late on the draw. I already have T-Swift tickets lined up for Soldier Field coming this August (yes, we were NOT GOING TO MISS THAT ONE) and am on the search for other good shows in the area. Fun times will be had by all. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Not the Same

This title was directly inspired by this song by Ben Folds. Harkens back to my senior year of high school when his music is all I would listen to.

If you read my last post, you may think I'm a rambling preteen girl who has no capacity for any reasonable insight about important things. That may be true, but I do, from time to time, think about things other than TV shows and books that happen to be en vogue at any given point in time. This long weekend has allowed me a few minutes to reflect on where I'm at in the school year. I'm six months into teaching. Half a year in this city and with my kids. And I have definitely changed. I am not the same. 


It's funny how 23 second graders can change your life. They've changed me in a lot of ways I am not so proud of: I look older than I am, could fall asleep for a 3 hour nap at any given moment throughout the day, and have lost my hot runner bod that I earned this past summer (moment of silence to mourn the loss...). I feel guilty about the other ways I've changed, like sometimes having a negative attitude, a complaining spirit, or an aura of impatience. But there are other ways I've changed, and it started to come into my mind this weekend. For some reason or another, I was introduced to ten or so new people in the past few days through friends of friends at various events and I had to continuously say my schpeal about where I'm from, where I live in the city, and what I do for a job. Stuff like that can make you do a double-take on who you are and what you're doing with all your time. And why you're doing what you do. 

I just have been thinking about who I am and what my job is in this crazy world. This does encompass my current job as a teacher, but I'm thinking more about my Job with a capital J. Like what I'm supposed to be doing with all my time. Like how I'm supposed to be spending my life. The way I've lived most of my life has not been the way I live it now. I've generally lived a privileged, comfortable existence as I bee-bopped through the years making friends, playing sports, loving school, and generally focusing all of my attention on, you've guessed it, ME. I did what I wanted to do and I spent my time making myself feel happy and important. You could generally say that I zipped from the mall to starbucks and back to my heart's content. I never truly went without money and I never truly had any sort of discomfort in my path. Of course every life has struggles, but I had it good. I still have it good. But just by a different standard this time. 

Doing this Teach For America thing changes you. It's not anything valiant or wonderful that I've done that makes it this way, it's just the inevitable byproduct of living and working with my kids. It's all on them. It comes from meeting T who is 7 and babysits her 4 younger siblings alone. It's about D who wants to play in the NFL but has a heartbreaking home situation and hopefully will just make it through middle school without getting into trouble. It comes from so many other kids who have lives and dreams and experiences that I never would have known had I stayed on the path I was on before this year. You don't run into a lot of kids from East Garfield Park in Starbucks. Of course (as my last blog post and many others before that indicate) I can talk about nothingness just like any girl. I'm not above stupid banter (in fact, it's my specialty). But this whole thing does make conversations about dinner parties and side tables and yoga class a lot less interesting. The lens has changed. 

It's changed because now I've seen a tiny taste of the real deal. I can't go back to my old life just pretending that this world doesn't exist. I've seen it, I'm in it, and it's too late. I can't pretend there aren't kids on the west and south sides who have lives and joys and personalities and talents and families just like anyone else. This of course is something I will keep thinking about (and therefore probably blogging apologies to you) for a long time into the future. For now, I'll try to keep thinking about my Job with a capital J (I realize that is a silly way to put it). What I'm supposed to do when the comfortable life I lead isn't a possibility for kids just a few miles down the interstate. What I'm supposed to be doing in this world where the west and south sides do, in fact, exist, right along with millions of other places on earth where injustices are done and the brokenness is winning. 

Yes. I'm not the same anymore. Good. 

Friday, February 15, 2013


Okay this post is about gents. Not just about males, but other kinds of gents. Firstly and foremostly, it is about the lady and gentlemanly style of my current TV obsession. Secondly and middlemostly, it's about two books called DiverGENT and InsurGENT. Finally and lastmostly, it's about how you need to be a proud bandwagon jumper, like myself.


Of course you're all obsessed with Downton Abbey. (DownTON Abbey that is. I called it DownTOWN Abbey in the beginning and am now really embarassed to admit this. What a noob.) This show is just so stinking good. I'm not usually crazy about period pieces, but this one is perfect. It's early 20th-century Britain, and it takes you from 1912 and on as the historically stable family rooted in the tradition of British nobility faces the crazy changes that happened in the world at that time in history. Nerd alert. I know. I realize I have not captivated you. Yet. It's about the estate of Lord Grantham and the drama, excitement, and scandal of his family and the servants who work at his mansion. The beauty of the show, for me, exists in that juxtaposition; we constantly get to view every twist and turn from the perspective of both the family and their servants. Furthermore, the viewpoints are so rich because each character is fantastically human: each has the capacity for goodness and darkness. Although I have my favorites (Anna, Mr. Bates, Mary, Matthew, Tom Branson, Sybill, to name a few...) and of course those that I really can't stand (...ummmm THOMAS anyone? And can we just take a minute to realize the extent of lame-ness that is Edith?), it is really cool to see every character's choices as the show goes on. And, if all of that cool historical drama and social intrigue didn't do it for you, you should get into this show for my favorite character of all: VIOLET CRAWLEY played by the one and only Maggie Smith. She's the grandma in this whole rich family deal and her comments are perfect. PERFECT. She is the perfect example of English wit that makes me oh so happy. My favorite quote is in the picture above. This GRADE-A-JERK of a man was engaged to Mary, Violet's granddaughter, when finally Mary decided that he was, in fact, an evil piece of scum and dumped him, breaking off their engagement. He went to Violet coolly and says, "Lady Grantham, I doubt we'll meet again," as his final snotty goodbye and she snaps right back at him, "Do you promise?" in her understated way. Oh my goodness. So good. If by the end of this paragraph you haven't caught on to the greatness of this show, you may go ahead, consider me a lunatic, and move on with your life. If, however, your feelings have changed, I must tell you that this show has bewitched me both body and soul and I love, I love, I love it. (Pride and Prej reference for all you diehards. I know SOMEone out there has got to be appreciative of that last sentence.)

On to the next set of gents. Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth. These books were recommended to me (and added to the book list!) by the one and only Nicole Ongna. This girl knows good books, apparently, because this series has grabbed me by the throat. I am almost done with Insurgent and can not bear the fact that I have to wait for Roth to come out with the final book to round out the trilogy. It's in the dystopian, young adult fiction, brave girl protagonist vein of the Hunger Games and delivers on all accounts. Brave underestimated girl as a main character? Check. A post-apocolyptic America facing corruption and merciless totalitarianism? Check. Hunky male character to supply the romance-in-the-face-of-crisis storyline? Check. Even as a bonus, this book series is set in the future ruins of the city of Chicago, so you get fun references to familiar buildings and landmarks throughout the series. Plus, on top of all of that, it explores cool concepts in humanity and worldview and what motivates people to do good and evil things. It is captivating. Don't be ashamed that you're reading a book meant for a 13-year-old because deep down we all have a little of that left over in us somewhere. Go buy it now.

I love this quote.

So. All in all. If you've made it this far and have reached the end of this rant, here are three things you should take away from these last few minutes of your life: A) You need to stop doing whatever things you're doing and start doing more important things like watching whole seasons of TV series in one sitting and ignoring life obligations to finish a book B) British people are cool and C) Bandwagons are fun. Hop on and enjoy the ride. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dream Weaver


This one will make your heart melt. Or at least mine did. In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. day last month, we got all inspirational in Room 22 and became influential leaders ourselves. Each of my 23 students wrote their own "I Have a Dream" speeches modeled after MLKJ himself. We used the format of the speech and they filled in the blanks with things they had a dream for and where they wanted their future to go and what they wanted to change in this world for the better. Then they each delivered their speech in front of the class (a big step for second graders!). This is the best part: after each presenter was finished, we all gave a toast and clinked our Juicy Juice apple juice boxes and took a sip in his or her honor (I stole this idea from my friend Sam who did it with her sixth graders this summer during Institute). It was so precious. Below are a few actual quotes from the speeches. Sometimes I'm amazed at the visionary minds seven-year-olds can have. I wish I could tell you the backstory for each kid that makes the speeches that much more relevant and close to home. Beautiful. 


I have a dream that families would get along and love each other instead of arguing.

I have a dream that nobody would get shot.

I have a dream that people will just stop fighting.

I have a dream that we will help homeless people.

I have a dream that kids can be allowed to play outside all day. 

I have a dream that someday someone will say to me that you have made a difference in the world. 


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Old School

I was just reflecting today on old people. Okay I'll be kinder and say "my elders."

I don't know what it is, but I'm just feeling thankful for the silver-haired-no-nonsense-full-of-wisdom types lately. Whether that's my fabulous grandparents or others. I think it was probably my Seminar class for my grad program through Dominican University tonight. Our Seminar class is taught by a nun named Sister Mary. She is definitely rocking the patterned vest ensemble on the reg and I have a sneaking suspicion that she might smoke. I hope she does, in a weird way. (I don't know why I would find joy in the knowledge that an old lady nun takes cigarette breaks, but I do. I definitely do.) She leads us for class one Wednesday a month, mainly spending our class time facilitating discussions about what is going on in our classrooms and peppering in her own advice from time to time.

Let me tell you, as a TFA-er, I wade through my fair share of PC BS. If you need me to explain PC, that means Political Correctness. I hope you can figure out the other abbreviation. It's a constant. I understand Teach For America's need to tread carefully as they enter communities and school districts where they aren't necessarily welcomed, and so they, as a non-profit, need to say the right things at the right time about things like, say, the Chicago Teacher's Union. They would never refer to our schools as "the worst in Chicago," for example, because that wouldn't be politically correct. It's with good reason that they have well-worded things like vision statements, theories of change, and mission statements.

Not so different after all. 

Old people, on the other hand, just get to say stuff. Sister Mary threw it out there tonight and said, plain and simple: "You guys are the best and the brightest. You are in the worst schools in Chicago. That's right where you should be, because the system stinks. It needs fixing. And the only way it will start to get better is if people like you who actually care are there doing the job. Keep it up. Don't give up."

Talk about a moment. A nun just told me not to give up. Day = made. (And this is on a day when my kids forgot how to stand in line, sit on the carpet, and work in partners and chose to act all cray instead. So this was a great thing to hear.) And while the way she says things, her technological know-how (we never have internet up in the class...ever), and that patterned vest she was donning might all be a little out of date, I appreciate it.

There must be something about growing older that makes you cut the BS. That makes you just say things when you want to say them. The thing I love about our grandparents' generation (Sister Mary seems to be included) is not only that they say things, but that they still believe in the things they say. They mean them. There's not a passive aggressive agenda. They aren't disenfranchised or burned out. Sure, they can come out grumpy sometimes, but at least it's all straightforward. They've put in their time and have seen crazy things and been through struggles. They've been around for awhile. And the great ones still believe that change and goodness can happen. If you can make a 23-year-old-first-year-teacher feel positively about being in grad classes on a Wednesday night after teaching all day, you must be doing something right. So to all those old people and nuns in America, and particularly old nuns in America, I salute you. Keep saying things. Keep meaning them. We all need to hear it.