Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Reggae Night

I walked home from VCU yesterday night. Walking up Main Street, I looked into the windows of the different bars and stores, dividing my attention between the store windows, reflections over what I had heard in class that afternoon, and keeping a general lookout for potential muggers.
As I walked past the Martini Kitchen and Bubble Bar just before Meadow, a black man with dreadlocks was standing outside smoking a cigarette. I smiled and nodded at him, so that he could see I was one of the cool white people, and he smiled back. As I went around the corner he called out to me.
"Monday night is reggae night."
Awkwardly, I turned back a moment to respond, but without knowing what to say.
"No cover," he said cheerfully, just as I was about to say no. I tried quickly to come up with something else to say to him, and just before I could get it out he spoke again:
"No dress code either."
I looked at my jeans and brown hooded sweatshirt, unsure of what a dress code would have to do with someone dressed as dapperly as myself.
"Yeah, I'm on my way to pick up some Chinese food," I told him sheepishly, "maybe next time."

Monday, March 08, 2010


I like to draw at work. The other day in homework time none of my kids needed help, so I drew a picture of them doing their homework. I knew this was a mistake as I did it, but I didn't care. I was bored, and homework time was almost over anyway. Many of them were sitting around drawing themselves. Sure enough, as I drew each person a number of them crowded around to see what I was doing.
"Who is that?"
"Is that me?"
"No, that's Stacy. See, she's got glasses."
"Oh, I bet that one's Frank."
"Who's that supposed to be?" one particularly loud kid said into my ear.
The figure I was drawing as taller than the others, and had a beard.
"Duh, Terrell, he's drawing himself now!"
"Is that you?" asked Terrell. I nodded.
"Dude, you got way more eyebrows than that," said Terrell.
He was right, so I thickened up the eyebrows, and he smiled his approval.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

With an S

"Please fold your index card in half, and then write your name on both sides, like this," says the professor.
We follow his directions, as he goes on, "In a class like this it's very important to know everyone's name. So, the name cards will help with that, but let's go around the room and just quickly introduce ourselves."
"My name is Michael, and I work with special needs children."
"My name is Rachel and I want to teach high school math."
"My name is Megs and I am elementary ed."
"Thank you, Meg" says the professor.
Her hand goes up.
"Oh, yes, I'm sorry, did I say it wrong?"
"Yeah, I go by 'Megs."
"Megs. With an S. That's what all my friends call me, and I just prefer it."
I can't tell if the professor is confused or irritated.
"Okay, thank you Meg, let's hear from Jonathon!"

Sunday, January 31, 2010


I frequently identify with cashiers. I think about what it was like when I worked at Barnes & Noble several years ago. I remember the boredom that would set in after hours behind the counter, and how I would quietly judge the people who came through my line. I would look at their clothes, their hair, the way they carried themselves, what they were buying, but most importantly, I judged their manners. Did they treat me like a servant or a person? If I helped them did they take it for granted or were they appropriately grateful? That stuff mattered to me, and I always try to be the sort of customer I would have liked.

Here's something I wrote about cashiering back in 2005, shortly before I left Barns-ez Nobobo:

Two observations after 8 hours of cashiering:

1. Exact Change
slows me down, and is unneeded as I am capable of basic mathematics. If you insist on giving a cashier exact change please don't pretend like you are doing your cashier a favor. Be honest with the cashier and with yourself: you're not doing it to save anyone time, you're doing it to get the pennies out of your wallet. While you fish around for loose pennies the people behind you are waiting impatiently. As am I. You selfish asshole.

2. Do you want a bag?
is a question I ask any customer with only one item, and I have noticed something about the responses I get:
Most business men and college students don't like bags, and most old women and black people do.
Broad theories as to why this is:
Business men don't want to be bothered with an extra piece of trash.
College students are enviromentally aware.
Old women like to save bags and use them around the house.
Black people are used to living in a racist society and would prefer not to be accused of stealing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Another semester has started, and with it come fresh feelings of contempt for my peers.

In one class a boring professor started off by assigning group work in which students wrote down answers to broad questions like "What is effective teaching?" and then wrote answers on the board to discuss with the class. In response to this one girl wrote the words, "REACH TO TEACH."
When asked what this meant she replied, "It's a saying I made up. It just means, you know, you can't teach'em if you can't reach'em!"
"Do you reach them?" asked boring professor.
"Yeah, I think so." said the girl.
"How far do you reach?" asked the professor.
"As far as I need to," said the girl.
They exchanged meaningful glances.

In my experience, one thing that most education classes have in common is a fondness for bad slogans. Every concept needs its own memorable catch phrase, preferably one that is short, and involves either rhyming or alliteration. Last semester I participated in a group presentation on Linda Albert's "Cooperative Discipline," a theory of classroom management that involved "The 3 C's," "The 5 A's," "The 6 R's," and God knows how many others. I could barely discuss it straight-faced.

So while my first reaction to "Reach to Teach!" was one of disdain, I feel as though I know where it comes from. This girl has no doubt been to as many education classes as I have, she's internalized all this slogan making, and, having concluded that this is what the education game is about, she has decided to play along. In the moment where she and the professor exchanged meaningful looks, I thought I knew what the professor was thinking. I thought she was thinking, "Dear God, this girl is going to work with children." However, less than thirty minutes later when this same professor showed us a video that included the phrase, "Engage them, don't enrage them!" I changed my mind.
Now I think that in that pregnant pause the professor was likely thinking, "Reach to teach.... Can I steal that?"