Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bitterness Isn't Sexy

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a post about humility being sexy. Today, a little time on the flip-side with what isn't sexy.

The writing/publishing world is an easy one to get bitter in. No matter our route and no matter where we are in our journey, there's always someone who's gone further faster, gotten more, done better.

A fellow querying writer who gets a gazillion requests on a derivative story with a so-so query while you can't get a peep out of agents.

A fellow self-publisher who races to #1 on the charts without seeming to lift a finger.

A fellow agented author whose novel sells in days while your agent has been shopping your second manuscript for six months after striking out with the first.

A fellow published author who gets the red-carpet treatment from their publisher while you have to pound the pavement yourself if anyone's even going to hear about your book.

So what do we do about it?

Some people send nasty replies to agents' form rejections. Some leave bad reviews on their "competitions'" books. Some just plain badmouth their peers. Some chat-bomb Twitter events that industry professionals have given up their scant free time to host and do little more than spew venom.

What good did any of that ever do anyone? I have a hard time believing it even makes the perpetrator feel better—not in any real way.

Here's what it's not going to do: Endear you to other writers. Or agents. Or editors.

Or readers.

Did you notice something in the list I gave earlier? All those people are supposed to be our "fellows." How about we treat them like it? We can be happy for them while hoping to soon be a bit happier for ourselves.

If nothing else, it's got to be better for your mental health.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Something is Usually Better Than Nothing

I'm back after a week off from blogging. Last week was mostly spent getting ready for Parent-Teacher Conference, which meant getting tests graded before then. Approximately two hundred of them. Afterwards, I decided some basic test-taking advice was in order. Nothing beats preparation and true understanding, but in the spirit of "something is better than nothing," these tips could certainly inch scores up a few percentage points.

Read the Instructions
I think teachers have been trying to get all students to do this since written language was invented. Yet some students persist in ignoring them. Thus perfectly capable people lose points because they only gave half of what the problem was looking for.

Use Common Sense
Even if you don't remember how to do a particular problem, you can at least apply common sense and avoid some obviously wrong tactics. If a problem asks for a distance, don't give me coordinates for a point. If it asks for an angle, don't tell me a line. If you're supposed to justify steps for solving an algebra equation, don't use geometry postulates and definitions.

Give Me Something ... Anything
It's true that if you write random numbers and such for every question, you're not going to get any credit for it. But by and large, students who at least attempted something got at least a point for showing a tiny bit of understanding. And that's more than a student who left pretty much everything blank will get. (A student who thought he didn't know anything but tried anyway actually did about as well as the class average.)

Take Advantage of Advantages
It continues to boggle my mind that I can give a review with problems mirroring what's on the test and make the test open-note, yet some students still do miserably. But I know at least part of it. They didn't bring their notes, or they didn't take notes in the first place. So they're automatically at a disadvantage.

The Last Minute is Too Late
I had a student who was frustrated when she got her test back. "I thought I did so well! I even studied!" Her version of studying was coming in after school the day before the test and saying, "Teach me everything." As in, the whole chapter we'd been studying for the past 3-4 weeks. I did a quick overview of each section, but there was no way she was going to meaningfully absorb it all in a single afternoon. Still, she probably did better than she would've if she hadn't come in at all.

Hopefully I can get some of these messages through before the next test.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Recover and Recharge

The weekend always strikes me as a time of recovery. This may be reflective of my day job, but this week there seems to be a lot to recover from.

Valentine's Day being yesterday means today my students will be crashing from their sugar high, and I'll still be finding candy wrappers in the strangest nooks and crannies of my classroom.

Yesterday was also our inaugural PAPfest. We're recovering from running it. Some of our participants are recovering from the excitement. Others are recovering from the disappointment. (For the latter, be sure to check my post from Wednesday if you haven't already.)

Today is mid-term, so I have a ton of grading to do. I don't get to recover from that until it's done. My back hurts just thinking about it. (I'm more likely to actually get grading done at school than at home, but if at school, it means being hunched over a desk while doing it. Definite dilemma there.)

One the plus side, it's a three-day weekend. On the minus side, parent-teacher conference is coming up on Thursday. I actually like the chatting-with-the-parents part. The be-at-school-until-8pm part isn't my favorite.

So the plan for the weekend is to do more than recover. It's to recharge. And I think I'll best accomplish that by engaging the writer-side a little more. Do a little reading for once. Do some work on either a revision or a rewrite of one project or another. Things that are a little less frustrating than grading quizzes where some kids did great, and others ... still didn't.

If you're looking for something happy to get your recovery going this weekend, keep an eye on Young Adult Books Central today. They'll be revealing the cover for Mindy McGinnis's debut Not a Drop to Drink, which is less than seven months away from publication.

And that right there makes up for the empty cotton candy bag shoved between books on my shelf.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

PAPfest is LIVE!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the PAPfest! We had some wonderful entries and are looking for great things to come from the writers who were selected to move on to the agent judging round. Our lovely agents—Adriann Ranta, Tina Wexler, Jennifer Laughran, Suzie Townsend, Laura Bradford and Pooja Menon—will be cruising the entries and making their requests in the comments of the entries until 9 PM EST tonight.

Don't forget the entries are spread out over my co-hosts blogs as well. MarcyKate Connolly and Mindy McGinnis have PAPfest entries, too, so don't miss out on some excellent new MG and YA voices being hosted over on their blogs.

But please, NO COMMENTS on the entries until the agents have made their rounds (so not until 9 PM EST tonight).


The PAPteam

R.C. Lewis
Mindy McGinnis
MarcyKate Connolly



GENRE: YA Fantasy (set in today's world)

WORD COUNT: 70,000


Sixteen-year-old Allura comes from a long line of man-eaters.

Her all-female race of Femina Mari lost their hunger for flesh a few hundred years ago, after her folkloric ancestors decided the best way to hide from humans was to live among them. And while they still enjoy tree-jumping under the shroud of night, the Council’s policy against man-eating is strictly enforced.

But the Council has just elected a new leader, and she’s set on resurrecting the old ways. So when Allura starts developing the abilities of her foremothers, her caretaker aunts notice. She’s the first in generations to show true Femina Mari tendencies—the desire and prowess to prey on men. According to her aunts, if she embraces her cravings, she can awaken the carnal hunger within her sisters, putting her species back where they belong, at the top of the food chain. Allura wants what’s best for her kind, but going from zero to monster overnight can leave a girl’s head spinning.

When Allura falls for David, the delicious-looking guy she’s supposed to be hunting, her feelings for him complicate matters … a ton. If Allura obeys her aunts, the cravings will intensify with each kill. And unleashing the flesh-hungry side of her sisters can’t be good for mankind. But if she defies her aunts, they’ll destroy David, her human stumbling block.

Too bad falling for the enemy never tasted so good.

The fierce-female story elements of DARK WATERS will appeal to fans of Andrea Cremer’s NIGHTSHADE and Julie Kagawa’s THE IMMORTAL RULES. I envision it the first in a series, though it can stand alone.

I am a PRO member of Evergreen RWA. DARK WATERS won second place in the Seattle RWA’s E.C.O. contest. My credits include an article on marketing strategies, Guest Speaking to Get the Word Out, published in the spring edition of the C.A.P.P.A. newsletter.

FIRST 200:

My nails dug into the bark as I clung to the pine tree and swung myself up to a higher branch. “I’m thinking the forest is a lost cause tonight, sisters.” I lifted my nose and took another whiff. Just to double check. “There’s nothing to hunt here.” The three female teens waiting in the nearby trees were the daughters of my aunts, but I’d never call them cousins. We were more like sisters.

Arlana crouched on the solid branch of a towering evergreen and shook her head. “Allura, why do you keep picking the thinnest limbs?” she said in a voice barely louder than a whisper, ignoring my food comment. Our hearing was more than impeccable. We could almost feel the vibration of sound.

“What’s the fun in catapulting from the thick ones?” I pulled my body low, positioning to leap from the narrow limb to a thread of a twig ten feet higher, on a nearby tree.

“Um, I’d say not falling on your ass when the tiny, weak branch breaks!” Celine laughed and rested her hand on her hip as she watched me prepare to make the jump.

PAPfest Entry - WAR PROJECT 7



WORD COUNT: 105,000


Set on a far distant planet in the future, WAR PROJECT 7 is a young adult sci-fi novel with fantasy elements about a seventeen-year-old female soldier. Raised on a battlefield alongside other child-warriors, Mara lives to Protect. Her actions as a fighter, and now a leader, daily determine who lives and who dies.

Actions off the field have consequences as well, and the senior officers punish those with questioning minds, no matter the intent behind the questions. When Mara is wounded in battle and an enemy fighter not only heals her injury, but promises answers about the war, she’s compelled to risk treason and travel with him beyond the boundaries of her known world.

That the war is not a true war, but a war experiment, is the first in a series of challenging discoveries as new knowledge reshapes Mara's identity and new alliances work to shatter a system that values experimental design over human life.

This book would be a great match for fans of Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore, Beth Revis, and James Dashner because of the strong female main character, the action, and the scale of the conflict.

During the summer I teach classes to budding novelists in grades 5-8. I am a fellow of the Denver Writing Project and a member of RWA, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and Pikes Peak Writers. I am a state and national-level presenter in gifted education, a black belt in Taekwando, and a former middle school English teacher.

FIRST 200:

Mara stared down the line of her fellow Protectors. Young faces looked back at her, expectant. Anyone over fifteen watched the trees and the shadows underneath the huge branches.

“Helmets,” she called. The Gaishan would appear by sunset, boiling onto the battlefield like ants from an anthill.

She nudged her horse through the ranks to the newest fighters. How many would be lost tonight? She stopped in front of a brother and sister she’d taught in combat class. Both clutched their long staffs. Both faces were blotchy with fear.

“Trust your training,” Mara said. When the two children just stared at her with wide amber eyes, she leaned out of the saddle. “Keep your staff between you and the enemy. If they hit you with powder, if you’re cut or touched with a weapon, run for the edge of the fight and don’t let anyone near, not even family, until a healer clears you.”

The small girl cast a worried look at her brother. “Yes, ma’am.”

Mara made her way back to the center aisle and stood up on the stirrups. This plus her own nearly two meters in height provided a view of her entire cohort.

“There’s six hundred Protectors out here tonight. And a hundred fifty is us, the Greens,” she yelled.

Someone in the middle rows whooped. A few laughed.

“We got a lot of new fighters with us. First fight,” Mara continued.

The standing soldiers shuffled like rows of plants in the wind. “First fight,” repeated along the lines.



GENRE: YA Urban/Modern Fantasy

WORD COUNT: 80,000 words


Cursebreakers are the first responders to the devastation left by the magic of angry creatures of myth. Morgan is the only born Cursebreaker in the region and she thinks of it as more of a janitorial position where she's hired to do clean-up. She runs an agency with her Gramps, but business is on the rocks. It’s hard to make a living in the modern world when your clients don’t have bank accounts.

Nicholas, her latest client and a prince who thinks he’s really charming, becomes her assistant when he can’t pay off his debt and creates more problems than he fixes. To make matters worse, her snake-turned-boy childhood friend, Sadler, is suddenly acting suspicious while the official supernatural police force is interfering with business.

Now the Collector, a hunter who kills and drains his victims for their magic, plans to add Morgan's ability to his already expansive collection of powers. Morgan doesn't know who to trust when she finds out that Prince Nicholas has secrets of his own, and a close connection to the Collector despite being asleep for the past 1000 years.

CURSEBREAKER is an 80,000 word humorous urban fantasy for young adults told from multiple perspectives. It incorporates fairy tale elements and folklore to tell an unconventional romance of a heroine and her prince in distress.

I'm very active in the Boston writing community as an associate of the Boston Public Library, a member of SCBWI and PEN New England. I received my Bachelor of Arts from Simmons College in English Literature and Writing in 2008. My favorite hobby is studying old fairy tales.

FIRST 200:

The witch had telekinesis. That hadn’t shown up in Morgan’s research.

Morgan hit the ground hard, barely missing the three latte mugs flying at her. They shattered harmlessly against the wall as the witch’s face contorted in rage. Yeah, the lady was pretty pissed.

The polished floorboards of Six Swans Coffee were strewn with large white feathers. Turning the owners into swans—You had to admire the witch’s sense of irony.

Making sure her leather bag o’ supplies was still with her, Morgan ducked behind the counter, dodging another flying ceramic. There they were, six large white swans honking softly. One of them saw her first and the rest twitched their heads to her in unison, beady eyes watching her expectantly. “I have those shirts you ordered, guys,” Morgan said softly.

Morgan hadn’t brought proper supplies for defeating an angry witch, but she had some stuff to at least ward her off temporarily. She quickly lined the counter with a brass bell, a quartz crystal, and a clove of garlic from her bag. The witch dove after her too late. Wards and charms were great for minor offensive magic, but it wouldn’t hold for long.



GENRE: YA Contemporary Fantasy

WORD COUNT: 84,000


HIDDEN DEEP is complete at 84,000 words and won the 2012 Maggie Unpublished contest in the YA division. It is set in a version of our present world where beautiful and powerful Elves use glamour enhanced by modern technology to cover their existence and get whatever they want.

Sixteen-year-old Ryanne Carroll has just run into the guy who saved her life ten years ago. You might think she'd be happy to see him again. Not exactly. She's a bit underdressed (as in skinny-dipping), and he's not supposed to exist.

After her father's affair, all Ryanne wants is to escape the fallout of family implosion and find a little peace. She also wouldn't mind a first date that didn't suck, but she's determined to make sure she protects her heart and never ends up like her mom: vulnerable, betrayed, destroyed. Ryanne has recently moved back to her childhood hometown in rural Mississippi, the same place where ten years earlier she became lost in the woods overnight and nearly died.

She's still irresistibly drawn to those woods. There she encounters the boy who kept her from freezing to death that long ago winter night and was nowhere to be seen when rescuers arrived. He's still mysterious, but now all grown-up and gorgeous, too. And the more she's with him, the greater the threat he poses to Ryanne's strict policy-- never want someone more than he wants you.

Seventeen-year-old Ladd knows the law of his people all too well: Don't get careless and Don't get caught. It's allowed the Light Elves to live undetected in this world for thousands of years, mentioned only in flawed and fading folklore. Ladd's never been able to forget about Ryanne since that night ten years ago. When he sees her again, his fascination re-ignites and becomes a growing desire that tempts him to break all the rules. He's not even supposed to talk to a human, much less fall in love with one.

And the timing is atrocious. The Assemblage is coming, the rift between the Light and Dark Elves is widening. Ladd may have to trade his own chance at happiness to keep the humans, especially Ryanne, blissfully ignorant and safe.

I envision Hidden Deep as the first part of a triology, though it can stand alone. I think readers who enjoyed the fated love vs. forbidden love story of Unearthly and the mysterious contemporary fantasy elements of Beautiful Creatures and Evermore will respond to Hidden Deep.

My previous writing samples were broadcast daily to thousands of people (though the word count was considerably lower!) through my work as a news anchor and reporter in Mississippi, Tennessee, California, and Rhode Island.

FIRST 200:


The first time I saw him, everyone convinced me he was a hallucination caused by hypothermia. It was the second time that really messed me up.

* * *

It was only mid-morning, but I couldn’t wait anymore. The need to get out there had grown stronger each day since we’d returned. With everything my mom had going on today, maybe she wouldn’t give me an argument this time. The screen door slammed behind me with a loud creak and double-bouncing bang.

“Ryanne? You going out?”

I exhaled loudly, then turned and faced my mother as she followed me out onto the back porch. She was dressed in her new red interview suit, a face full of going-somewhere makeup, and her hair up in clips where she’d been straightening it in sections. She’d rushed to the door in her stocking feet, causing a fresh run to start near her big toe.

“I left a note on the counter. Just going for a walk—you know.” I shrugged. No big deal. I glanced down and nodded toward her foot. “You’d better change those.”

“Shoot!” She hiked up her skirt and started ripping off the pantyhose.



GENRE: MG Adventure

WORD COUNT: 55,000


Stray has just blown his sister’s chance at the scholarship of a lifetime, and their father’s old pirate stories may be the only way to set things right. One stolen death certificate, a caged research assistant (he totally had it coming!), and an unearthed grave later, Stray faces his first real challenge. His sister wants to join the treasure hunt. Along with three friends—and one reluctant enemy—the siblings inch closer to a stash long dismissed as legend. In turn, two modern-day pirates hunt a prize of their own. Stray. And they’ll gladly kill anyone who tries to stop them.

DOUBLE-CROSSED (55,000 words) is a middle grade adventure rooted in the history and legends of my hometown, Amelia Island, Florida. This tiny island has flown eight different flags, including two hoisted by pirates who changed the course of Florida history. Following in these illustrious footsteps, I routinely pillage the local library and procured a degree in Modern Treasure (a.k.a. Finance) after forcing its previous owner to walk the plank.

Like THE GOONIES and the more recent SUPER 8, DOUBLE-CROSSED is driven by character relationships, which are illuminated—and tested—by each plot twist and danger. I hope the sample below leaves you wanting more.

FIRST 200:


In 1817, notorious con artist Gregor MacGregor set sail for Spanish Florida, where he conquered the quiet island of Amelia. Scallywags and thieves immediately overran the tiny port, filling MacGregor’s coffers with their ill-gotten spoil. As U.S. troops closed in, determined to restore order, MacGregor fled, but not before meeting with fellow pirate Luis Aury.

To this day, no one knows what occurred during this meeting aboard Aury’s ship, the Congresso Mexicano. All anyone can say for sure is that, when the U.S. finally arrived, Aury claimed to be destitute – and MacGregor’s loot had vanished.

Two zillion and eleven.

That’s how many times Amee had repeated that story to sunburnt tourists at her dad’s Amelia Museum of Piracy.

But never again. Not after today.

All she had to do was ace the Ramirez Sporting Goods scholarship contest, and she’d be free. She glanced over at her biggest competition, beach-bum Greg Johannsen. His genius idea for community improvement was park benches made out of old surfboards.

Amee had this in the bag.

Amelia High’s air conditioner labored against the May heat, sounding like a dragon snoring on the roof. News cameras flanked the walls, all trained on the Ramirezes.



GENRE: MG Fantasy

WORD COUNT: 57,000


Birthdays shouldn’t be this tough.

But ever since his dad died, Asher thinks they’d be a heck of a lot better with him around. On his 13th birthday his mom gives him a pretty unusual present. An old pin that belonged to his father.

And that’s when everything changes.

Strangers start showing up at his school. Objects begin moving around on their own. Mysterious creatures keep lurking around every corner.

And when Asher gets chased into a world called Eden Worn through his school’s boiler room, he finds out why. It’s because his dad’s not really dead. He’s being held prisoner by Lord Balor. A madman who wants something of Asher’s. Something Asher doesn’t even know he has: the key to using the magic from the ancient Stones in Eden Worn.

Asher has to make a decision. If he leaves Eden Worn, he’ll never see his dad again. But making a deal with Lord Balor could mean the end of both worlds as he knows it.

Nope. Birthdays shouldn’t be this tough.

I am an award winning screenwriter and a member of SCBWI. By night I’m an avid fiction reader and writer. By day I teach at a public school where I keep an eye on our own boiler room door. I haven’t discovered any worlds beyond the mass of old desks and tables that lie behind it.


FIRST 200:

Asher ran his thumb across the blade.

It was sharp. Really sharp.

The light reflected off the edge and the steel sliced right through it. He smiled. Even the light didn’t stand a chance against the weapon in his hand.

His eyes narrowed and he leaned in for the attack. His heart pounded in his chest. He raised the blade and took a deep breath.

“This better work.”

And then he struck.

Asher dragged the razor blade down his cheek. A trail of freshly shaved skin appeared beneath the thick layer of shaving cream. This was way easier than he thought it was gonna be. He put the blade under the running water to knock off the bunched up foam and went in for round two. He pulled the blade down again. A white-hot pinch of pain seared his chin.

Asher sucked in a sharp breath and dropped the razor in the sink. A bead of blood welled up under his lower lip. The sting was a whole heck of a lot bigger than the tiny cut. He splashed water all over his face and watched the shaving cream swirl down the drain.

He looked at himself in the mirror.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Contest Woes: I Feel Your Pain

Tomorrow morning, the PAPfest entries will go live on my blog as well as Mindy McGinnis's and MarcyKate Connolly's.

If any of the entrants are reading this post, I imagine some of you are old hands at such contests, while others may be contest newbies. Either way, I want you to keep my own contest experiences in mind.

Some blog readers may remember that last spring's Writer's Voice contest was a big part of the big, crazy frenzy that resulted in me signing with my agent less than two weeks later. I had several requests from participating agents, lurking agents, and through a handful of queries I'd sent just before the contest went live.

Super-awesome, right? Dream come true, right?



I almost didn't enter.

I'd tried another similar contest for two years straight (different manuscripts) and nary a peep from an agent either time. Not so much as a request for five measly pages. There'd been a "preliminary" round beforehand, and I'd gotten through that both times. Someone had at least sort of liked my work.

Hard to remind myself of that with the silence surrounding me.

The silence hurt more than any number of query rejections. Mindy can tell you about talking me off the ledge those days.

But I did come down off that ledge. I kept writing, kept learning, kept working, and eventually it all came together. (Now I have the same old insecurities in whole new ways, but that's another story.)

I'd love it if every entry tomorrow gets requests. I hope that happens. But if it doesn't, those of you who receive the silence, I understand. It's okay to be bummed and let it hurt ... for a little while. A good critique partner will let you wallow in it just long enough, and then they'll remind you it's not the end. You're still awesome. That awesomeness can only come out if you keep putting it out there, one way or another.

Send some queries.

Revise some pages.

Work on a new project.

Just keep going.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Does It Matter If You Ever Use It, Specifically?

"When are we ever going to use this?"

Every math teacher's probably heard this at least once, and during some units, at least once a day. (There were years where I never heard it. How I long to go back to teaching that way. But I digress...)

Here's the answer I've taken to giving my students. It's three-part.

First, you may think right now that you won't use this specific math concept, or any math other than basic percent calculations with money. You may think you know what career you'll go into, and it's not one that involves math even a tiny bit. But when I was your age, I said the very last thing I would be was a teacher. When I passed my AP Calculus exam so my general math requirements for college were taken care of, I said, "Yes! I never have to take math again!"

Moral #1: It doesn't hurt to keep your options open. The more you learn—in all areas—the more doors you have available to you in the future.

Second, no, most of you will never have to do a geometric proof after finishing high school. You may never factor another quadratic equation after that, either, or sketch another box-and-whisker plot. But how often in life do you need to bench-press a hundred-pound barbell? Rarely if ever? So, why do so many people do weight training? To strengthen muscles so they will be able to use them in various other ways when needed.

Moral #2: Math builds up a part of your brain that might otherwise atrophy. Logical reasoning skills are always useful, and just like Chris Hemsworth's biceps, they don't magically appear from nowhere.

Third, why are you asking this in the first place? Are you really concerned with whether this is something you're going to use specifically in your everyday life? I'm pretty sure if you isolate specific tasks in most of your other classes, you'll find they don't mirror the activities of most adults. (I promise I haven't written a five-paragraph essay since high school.) I think you're really asking because I'm presenting you with something that isn't instantly easy for you. Your instinct, therefore, is to avoid something that requires effort unless you can see a direct need for doing it.

Moral #3: There is value in struggling. Many things are only worth the effort they require, making easy things pretty worthless. As for the direct need for doing it, see Moral #2.

This is a little ranty, but there's been a silver lining to these conversations lately. I rarely get through more than a sentence or two of one of my reasons before another student in the class pipes up with why they think it's important for them to learn the concept, even if it isn't obviously applicable to "real life."

Bless those long-sighted teenagers.

P.S. To be fair, I also have some students who ask the same question, but in a different way. They sincerely want to know the applications of a particular mathematical concept, because they like to see the bigger picture, to get an idea of how it's all connected. And that's always a question I'm happy to answer.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

First Conference: The Aftermath

I'm back. As expected, I survived despite my anxiety. The trip to New York was great, and I gladly accept the resulting exhaustion. Since I went primarily for a conference, and conferences are for learning, I'll share a few things I learned.

  • If I'm going to take red-eye flights, I need to learn how to sleep sitting up.

  • I still love NYC. Cabs accepting credit cards makes it even better.

  • Meg Rosoff and Mo Willems are entertaining/fascinating enough to keep me wide awake no matter how little sleep I've had. And Shaun Tan is brilliant. (I must check out the work of all three.)

  • We need to shrink geography or come up with more time-effective methods of travel so there aren't thousands of miles between me and the likes of Mindy McGinnis, MarcyKate Connolly, Charlee Vale, and Matt Sinclair.

  • Speaking of ... Mindy after a few glasses of wine isn't very different from regular-Mindy. And MarcyKate needs a medic as part of her personal staff.

  • Editors are people, too. People who dress better than I do, but people nonetheless.

  • While I've gotten pretty good at forcing myself out of my introvert tendencies, I can only push them away for so long. (Mindy was very proud of me for managing the shindig Saturday night as well as I did. But I was definitely ready to head back to the room when we did.)

  • Mindy's anecdotes on her blog are awesome as-is. But when she tells stories in real life, she reenacts. This is not to be missed.

  • Cupcake love forever!

The bottom line is that I need to head back to NYC before too long. (And yes, I know my sister will insist on coming along that time.)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Being Liked is Nice, But Not at Another's Expense

When it comes to teaching, I know I have things to work on, but I also do some things pretty well. A lot of kids like my class and like me as a teacher.

That feels nice. It's helpful, too, when a kid who doesn't normally like math likes you as a teacher. They try a little harder, which often leads to doing a little better. I've even had a kid or two come away with a totally different opinion of math as a subject.

Like I said, it feels nice.

You know what doesn't feel nice, though? Students convincing counselors to let them transfer into my class mid-year because they think I'm somehow better than the other teacher who teaches the course.

Flattering, but ... wait a minute.

The two of us prep together and teach from exactly the same materials. We have essentially the same training. We see eye-to-eye on most mathematical topics and how to approach them. Sure, our personalities are a little different. But here's what it really comes down to.

I don't have a reputation yet.

The other teacher falls into the tough-but-fair category. That's a good thing, but kids who don't like the "tough" part spread the word that she's "mean." (Oh, please.)

Letting kids bail from one teacher to the other just because they feel like it isn't fair to her—it undermines her. She's been teaching for years and teaching well, and she deserves more credit than these kids are giving her.

It's also not fair to me. It puts me in a position I don't want to be in, playing me against my colleague. That sucks. On a more practical note, I don't like it because it means my classes keep getting bigger. They're all between 36 and 39 students now.

(My colleague could see it as great for her, because her classes are smaller, but she doesn't. She'd rather we each have a fair, even class load.)

And you know what? Kids (and people in general, I'm sure) do this all the time. Playing favorites. Choosing sides. Trying to get everyone else to like/not like the same people they do. Often without much—if any—solid basis for that opinion.

I don't like it.

Not sure what I can do about it.