Sunday, February 24, 2008

I'm Going To Hell

It's true. And after you read this you'll agree.

At the semester change, I always have a ton of kids that I don't really know coming into my room at all times of the day asking me if they can audition for and add my classes. This January morning, I was cleaning myself from the bloodbath of the previous class and preparing to engage in battle with 52 7th grade boys when a student I didn't know walked up to my piano and asked me if they could audition for Bella Voce, an advanced women's choir class. I said yes, that they could audition for choir, but that they in particular could not because the Bella Voce class was only for girls.

To which SHE answered, "But I am a girl."

And of course this happened in front of 10 or so boy students who, facing me and knowing that their fellow student was of the opposite sex, gave me these "Kingman, how could you?" pitiful little faces. It was funny enough to laugh out loud, but even they, 7th grade boys, were decent enough to know that it was truly a distressing situation more worth crying about.

What's even crazier is that this girl is actually very cute. However, in my defense, she WAS dressed boyishly in an old t-shirt and jeans and had the sloppy shaggy haircut so many of the boys are sporting these days. She did walk in when my all-boys class was starting to boot. I've taught 3 of her older sisters and I did feel some measure of relief when one of them told me that her sister had been mistaken for a boy before.

Still. . . I feel awful. It is one of the more horrible things I have done as a teacher. What do you think my penance should be?

Just Stay Away From The Bishop's Office

Venturing to the general region of the bishop's/clerk's office at church typically proves to be a dangerous proposition for any member of the ward. You receive callings for which you're not qualified, get assignments to give talks on commandments you don't obey, and of course, confess sins that you'd much prefer to keep quiet. For some of us, namely myself, well, we cross into that danger zone in yet more creative ways.

There was the time about 3 months ago when I innocently walked down with a friend and the bishop, upon seeing me, yells inside to the ward clerk who we will call "X", "Okay X, let's get this over with." He turns to me without warning and asks, "Will you take X out on a date?" I had heard of bishops pulling these kind of shenaningans before, but heretofore had never been a witness, muchless an involved party in anything of the sort.

My big mouth has told our bishop just how it's going to be a few times (even to the point that I told him once that I was going to walk right past him on the way to the celestial kingdom---all in front of the ward council) but that was when he was just the stake high council guy. Now that he's the bishop and I'm his Relief Society President, I'm more of a lap dog to do his every bidding. Right there, he set up this date with this guy for Saturday (luckily for me this was a cool guy who supposedly should have asked me out a few weeks earlier but I guess was too chicken to) in front of the entire bishopric and the small crowd that was gathering outside. Because I had been on a "date" with the bishop and his wife (yes, only us three) a few weeks previous to this current embarrassment, the bishop went into awkward and mostly false detail about what a picky and expensive date I was and how I demanded steak (yes, I did eat steak when I went out with the bishop, but now at what cost?!). Naturally I was pretty much horrified, but truthfully I was feeling more sorry for this poor boy who had become a pawn in the bishop's devious game and who now had to take me out (but to my relief, one of the counselors told me that X was pretty excited; it's actually still unclear if this whole charade was actually staged and scripted by all parties involved excluding myself.)

The Saturday that I was to go out with X, I got very sick. The bishop even happened to call that day and when he heard how sick and disgusting my voice sounded, he said, "Don't even think about cancelling on that boy. I won't let you inside the church tomorrow." And I knew that he wasn't joking. I went on the date and despite being sick it was fun. The next day, the bishopric hauled me out of my presidency meeting to get a report. And of course X called in sick and didn't even show up to church. The nerve. You can guess how bad I caught it from the bishopric.

Weeks later, to further taint my soiled reputation, my friend Heidi and I were down in front of the clerk's office and she was showing around this picture that had been taken of us at the Polynesian Cultural Center with these massive bare-chested guys during our recent trip to Hawaii. The bishopric had gathered around Heidi and pointed to one of the guys asking, "So that's the one you kissed?" to which Heidi answered, "Oh no, but Camille kissed him." Then I completely turned red, which they all thought was an admission of guilt, despite my emphatic denials.

Even before I left for Hawaii, I was sitting down outside, yes, you know the spot, the bishop's office and was casually making small talk with a new member of the ward. You know the drill: where you're from, what do you do, etc. I made some reference to "westside" because I grew up on the west side of Las Vegas. And he was down with that of course, because he grew up on the west side of Orem and we westsiders gotsa represent together, especially in Utah where west equals ghetto. I then asked him if he had gone to Orem Junior High to which he replied in the affirmative. I told him that I was the choir teacher there. To continue our small talk, I found out he too was a teacher---6th grade at the school 30 seconds away from my house, but he had taught at one of the elementaries that fed into Orem Junior just recently.

I think we had moved on to something else when all of a sudden he asked, "Wait, you teach all of the choir classes there?" And I said yes. And he clarified, "Even 8th grade boys?" And again I said yes. And then he sat back and laughed, "I just got an email from one of my former students saying that he wanted to set me up with his choir teacher." Sure enough, it was indeed one of my students. Hilarious. And an amazing coincidence. At this, the counselors in the bishopric lept up from the money that they were counting and were like, "So. . . when are you guys going out? What are you waiting for? It's like an angel has appeared saying that you have to date!"

Again, I felt totally bad for this guy who was having all this pressure put on him to date me when I wasn't very convinced that I was even his type. I shrunk from that situation by turning in my tithing and getting the eff outta there. Even though my 8th grade student (and shockingly not the bishop and his little minions) was to blame for this dating debaucle, just the fact that it happened in the vicinity of the bishop's office and that it had to do with my dating life makes me suspicious. I suppose if you are married you might feel bold enough to wander to that part of the church building, but if you're single I'd advise you to just steer clear.

Junior High for Dummies: A Survival Guide

(written mostly in November 2007, but edited in February 2008)

When I tell people what I do for a living, they either tell me that I'm a saint or that I'm crazy. Both are true to a certain extent, but really I think most people could do my job of teaching teenagers (maybe just not so much the teaching choir part, but the teenager part, yes.). Of course, not everyone is going to be enamored with junior high, but they could make it through without slitting their wrists if they would but get to know their enemy a little better and master a few skills. They might actually be able to find some humor inbetween the inevitable bouts of crying and frustration. (My experience has been that these survival tips actually work amazingly well on real people too, not just teenagers.)

1. Look directly into their eyes and always call them by their name. People will do anything for you if you know their name. On a related note, parents will do anything for you if they realize that you actually know who their child is.

2. Just like dogs and bees, junior high students can smell fear. Don't be scared. Fortunately this gets easier and easier the longer you teach.

3. Wear one piece of distracting clothing or a distinctive accessory. Weird posters in the classroom works too. Anything that will elicit a response from them. Get them curious.

4. Develop an addiction---a harmless one. Come Christmas time you get less crap and more diet soda. . . by the case.

5. Always lie---as to protect the people you truly care about in your personal life (because kids know how to use the internet to gather information better than we do), but embellish the truth liberally about your love life. And they will ask, so be ready.

6. If you're going to ask them to do something (especially in a singing class like mine), you've got to be willing to do it yourself.

7. If you demonstrate something (particularly a weird sound or clapping. etc.), students WILL do it immediately after you do it. . . even if you're still talking. It's best to be overly literal in cases such as these: "Class, I'm going to demostrate XYZ. You are going to feel the uncontrollable urge to do it right away. Please practice self control by restraining yourself until I give the sign ABC."

8. Don't EVER proceed to give instruction to a group when they are talking. It sends the message that what you have to say isn't important and it sets the precedent that they can talk over you whenever they want.

9. Shorten your fuse: learn to get mad---real mad---fast. And then be able to switch back to totally pleasant immediately afterwards. The students for some reason really seem to respect this and it will scare them to death. While I don't believe that scare tactics are being touted as sound educational pedagogy these days, I think kids aren't scared enough by authority figures and so when it works, it's extremely effective.

10. Develop a "stupid human"/party novelty trick/illusion/act and perform it. . . but only every once in a while. Leave them wanting more.

11. Create something successful. Nothing is as magnetic to junior high kids, or human beings for that matter, as the chance to belong to a group that will bring them success.

12. Be extremely explicit in your instructions. Rehearse what you want them to do over and over.

13. Repeat yourself. Repeat yourself.

14. Signals that provoke Pavlovian responses are very useful and decrease the unwanted behaviors in your domain.

15. Pace is the trick. That's title of a song of a favorite band of mine, but I couldn't say it any better myself so I'm going to rip it off of them. Teach clearly and slowly, but change what you are teaching every few minutes.

16. Tell them how much you love them and that you talk about how amazing they are to your friends.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Seventh Grade Cyber Harrassment

Since I was feeling especially benevolent during the days leading up to and following by birthday, I thought I would bring birthday treats for my students the Monday and Tuesday following (I see my students only every other day). You know, so we could all bask in the celebration of my philanthropic life together. (After all, I am spending my best years with these kids!) Well, A-Day (aka Monday) went without a hitch and sugar was enjoyed by one and all, making the entire ambition of teaching post-Thanksgiving all the more arduous. On Tuesday, however, I must have decided that I was finished heralding the dawn of my new decade (which technically probably starts at 31, huh) because I showed up to school, sans candy and unbelievably, my first 75 students during the first 75 minutes of school did not make a peep regarding my gaffe. The bell rang and 51 seventh grade boys stormed the door. "Did you bring our treats?" Oops. It hadn't even crossed my mind. After consoling my distraught students with promises of candy to come the next classtime, they almost seemed ready to absolve me of my sin. But oh, how quick was I to forget on Thursday the mercy that had been extended to me just 48 hours previous. Again, I had not even thought of my dietary obligation to the children since Tuesday afternoon. Thursday, needless to say, was not good. Seventh grade boys looked up at me only to look away and shake their heads in distaste. I was receiving mutinous threats on the dry erase board and was half expecting someone to have keyed their name on my car. The vigilante students then decided to take matters into their own hands: they would send me emails over the weekend through my school address to remind me. What followed was a slew of emails overflowing in my inbox. I thought I would share some of the winners (with original spelling and punctuation).

treats dont forget them or the punishment will come!


Alec Woolley told us to send you a reminder to bring treats so here you go.



Alec Woolley told us to e-mail you about reminding you to birng them treats! I think that they need it for how well they are doing!!

Mrs Kingman, C plz get us the treats on Monday or we all will crying so plz bring us treats for B2 on Monday
Plz : Please.

I was just reminding you about the candy thing hehe
so bring it on monday for B2
oh ya p.s. bring candy on monday

Bring treats please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Well have a good day I will write each day over the weekend. So Mrs.Kingman do you have a boyfriend. Bring to school so we can meet him. Dont be mad at me please. Well gotta go my show is starting. Bring Treats OKEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, it's Monday and I remembered the treats. And I still have my head and classroom and car intact. Moral of the story: If you're going to bring candy to junior high kids---seventh grade boys in particular---make it a surprise.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

I Must Belong Somewhere

Awhile back I was talking about my brief love affair with Europe's "The Final Countdown" and how it had proven itself to be a worthy theme song for my 30th birthday and such. While the affair may be over (we've parted amicably and will remain friends), I thought I'd share a little compilation of songs I'd been crushing on---mostly within the past month or so, some from earlier in the year. If the song is on the list, it basically means that I've obsessed over it, playing and re-playing it multiple times in a row (yes, I do this to songs I love).

To anyone who has turned 30, is single, and living in Utah Valley (or maybe to someone who is only one of those 3), the title "I Must Belong Somewhere"---shamelessly yanked from the last song of this soundtrack---bears obvious meaning.

I just published the mix onto iTunes, and as soon as I get the link for that I'll put it up here as well.

Reprise-Grizzly Bear (This is a beautiful ghost of a song. This band was, hands down, my favorite during May-June 2007.)

D.A.N.C.E.-Justice (I dance in my house and in my car to this song and am unashamed to admit it. You will too. Just an unabashedly happy song from some European hipsters.)

Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex-CSS (This song, from what I'd like to call Brazil's indie answer to the Spice Girls, is a little more innocent than what you might infer from it's provocative title. You might recognize it from the latest iPod Touch commericals.)

Phantom Limb-The Shins (If you hate, and I mean HATE---and truthfully you may---all of the songs on this list, you will love this one. Promise.)

Knights-Minus the Bear (Worship the guitar at 2:05 in; the song is pretty cool up until then, but it really gets good at this point.)

Viscera Eyes-The Mars Volta (The guitar riffs from the previous song are completely ripped off from this band. Most of Mars' songs are like 10-20 minutes long and total weirdo-prog rock-jam band---which I can't fully appreciate because I don't do drugs---but I still love their singer Cedric, the Latin Robert Plant.)

Nomanisisland-Subtle (I just found out about this band from my sister last week, but I'm obsessed. They don't fit into any music genre except for "weird." Love it.)

Wolf Like Me-TV On the Radio (If you like to race on the freeway, this is your song. This band sports some pretty wicked cool afros too.)

Icky Thump-The White Stripes (A little psychedelic and head-banger at the same time. I'm still a little bitter I didn't get to hear this song live this fall.)

Rest My Chemistry-Interpol (I wish I were as cool and melancholy as this song. The band is totally not in a hurry because they are cool too. . . and they know it. . . and they know you will listen even if you should have been somewhere else 20 minutes ago. The guitar on the bridge is especially great.)

The Way I Are-Timbalake (Okay, okay---a guilty pleasure. My student teacher did an activity teaching beat with this song and it is so friggin catchy.)

Declare Independence-Bjork (This song is what carries me through the hardest, tiredest part of my runs. It was her encore when I saw her in California earlier this year and she and her all-female-all-horn band were jumping up and down with flags; I felt like I was caught up in a frenzied spiritual revival. Basically it is Bjork screaming furiously for Greenlandic independence but somehow it seems to do the trick for me. Yeah, a lot of you really wouldn't like this song.)

Brandy Alexander-Feist (I wanna be a dead sexy singer like this Feist chick when I grow up. Her CD is maybe the most beautiful of the year.)

The Marshalls Are Dead-Bloc Party (I discovered this song on a mix CD that my sister titled "Loads of Gayness." It is anything but. It's from an EP that came out before Bloc Party's first album Silent Alarm, a CD I think would be better labelled "crack cocaine," as it is precisely that addicting.)

Jigsaw Falling Into Place-Radiohead (A gem from the best band in the world. Thom's vocals are exquisite. When I name my firstborn son Thom, you will know why. Since this song "technically" has not been released yet by a record label, it's not on iTunes and won't show up on the iMix link. Go to and you can get the whole album for whatever price you choose.)

10 x 10-Yeah Yeah Yeahs (I'll never forget seeing this band about a year and half ago and watching Karen O., their lead singer, put the microphone in her mouth and scream at the top of her lungs and it was beautiful. Not a band I typically listen to much (outside of the fact that seeing them changed my life), but this song is fabulous.

American X-Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (American rock n' roll at it's sexiest. Dark and soulful. If you liked the Brit band Oasis before they got addicted to drugs and became total a-holes, you will like BRMC.)

I Must Belong Somewhere-Bright Eyes (Even if you're not down with the Bright Eyes goat voice, you will still probably really enjoy Cassadaga, the album from which this song comes. I just thought that this song really summed up how I feel turning 30.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

In 2007 I'm Thankful For. . .

I started this little list at the beginning of the month. . . the items are more in chronological order (as pertaining to events of the past few weeks) than anything priority-ish (even though I am TELLING you, you gotta try that Sonic burrito, no joke).

Steak, Egg and Cheese Breakfast Burrito at Sonic. Damn that thing is good.

Also grateful, upon returning from Institute, that I don't care about minutia.

Radiohead "In Rainbows."

Facebook, sadly enough.

The internet and Google and Wikipedia.

My amazing kids at festival. I didn't have to yell at one kid all day! It seems as if I have finally succeeded in teaching my students mind reading, or at least the reading of MY mind, which is really the only one that in their minds should matter. I asked them who they really were and what they had done with my real kids. I then added that they were making me believe that I had been teaching idiots for the past 6 years. True story.

Throwing the piece of paper up with the boys, they scream until it hits the floor (supposedly an old Boy Scout device)

Diet Mountain Dew

Pebble ice

Prep periods (so that you can sneak out and get the fountain drink of Diet Mountain Dew with the pebble ice)

My cell phone, again, sadly enough.

Laughing so hard that you cry. And when that happens, I'm very thankful for waterproof mascara.

My ward.

The Harvest Hills Monday night FHE group. (along with the games Mad Gab & Loaded Questions) It's been really nice to be able to go to FHE for the first time in 2 years.

Going up to someone at church that you don't recognize to say hi and find out that they're mystery name #46 on the list you've been staring at for weeks.

My best friend who gave me therapy on 11/10, and who then helped interpret a divine message a few days later.

Plants in my house, even though I'm not very good at taking care of them. I believe they are calling into question my future parenting skills.

My bishop.

The chance to shoot a shotgun. Even though I got the nastiest bruise!

My hilarious roommate who is always in a happy mood.

The scriptures. They just make me feel good, and it's like the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser for anything bad in my mind.

Rhodes rolls. I think last night for Thanksgiving we just about made our best batch ever.

My mom who tucks me in with a blanket when I fall asleep on the couch.

The elves that keep sneaking over to mow my yard so that I have yet to learn how to do it myself.

Mashed potatoes, THE Thanksgiving staple.

My house: I love it, it is beautiful and it is mine. And my family is here right now, making it full, warm and cozy.

The garbage disposal. Mine stopped working last night, and didn't realize just how grateful I am for it when it is usually working. And while I'm feeling generous and benevolent, let's throw in how thankful I am for the garbage men too.

My little orchid that has been stuck in half bloom for like 4 days now! They are gorgeous though, and worth the wait, and do they last forever. This is one of my many attempts to go against my true nature of killing plants and forcing my thumb to turn green.

IKEA, I guess. Anything in my house that my mom and Ashley liked and asked where I got it, the answer was inevitably IKEA. Will take them there today. Makes me laugh that the answer to that question is no longer Target.

My temple recommend.

My brother and sister.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Final Countdown

For some inexplicable reason, I have of late been obsessed with the 80's hit "The Final Countdown." I'm playing in my classroom for my kids for no particular reason at all, and I rock out to it by myself---all the harder when I'm occupied with the most mundane of tasks; it's my status on gmail chat and nowadays I'm constantly making reference to it in conversation. I can't help but laugh out loud as I think of Arrested Development's character Gob making his grand entrance on stage for his magician's act, dagger in mouth and scarves flailing, "The Final Countdown" blaring. It has become the official theme song of my 30th birthday, which is actually pretty novel---I've never felt inspired to have a theme song for my birthday! Ooh, and how about a birthday soundtrack? I think the hamster in my head just woke up and that squeaky wheel is starting move on it's axis. WD-40, anyone?

When you're 18, you can serve in the military, vote, be prosecuted as an adult and move out of your parents house without them being able to do anything about it. But no one really respects you except for your 17-year old friends. People SAY you're an adult when you're 21 and you can get into bars and gamble and drink. And although the world may be your oyster in Sin City (ah, home sweet home), you're still not old enough to rent a car there. (And you're still paying as much for your insurance as those mature 16-year olds.) I think the new official age of adulthood should be changed to 30. When people tell you they're 30, well, dude, I respect that. . . like totally. I feel like at 30, there's not going to be any other explanation for stupid behavior other than a midlife crisis. So this is it. Since I only have 6 days of my roarin' twenties left before I'm obliged to be a responsible adult with a completely developed frontal lobe, I really need to make them count. Thus, today I sought counsel from some of my esteemed colleagues at the junior high. Here's the advice I got from 2 of my classes when I asked them what I should do in my last week of excusable irresponsibility.

The most creative from the 8th and 9th grade Men's Choir class:

-Go to an old folks home, run up to a random old lady and say, "Grandma, I haven't seen you in so long!"
-Buy a golf cart
-Go bungee jumping
-Pour out a can of tomato juice in Walmart and leave a trail leading to the bathroom (for some reason a lot of suggestions surrounded around doing something to or in or at Walmart)
-Put peanuts in envelopes and leave them on my neighbor's doorsteps with a note saying, "I'm just nuts about you" (I'll remember that next time I want to ask someone to prom.)
-Get married (yeah, like THAT hasn't crossed my mind)
-Bust mailboxes (if anything ever happens to your mailbox, you know to come find me and we can interrogate my class and send them to federal lockup)
-"Smoke" crushed Smarties candies (their latest obsession besides Walmart)
-Buy a dog
-Rent an RV and drive to Brazil
-Get a Big Gulp mix of every single flavor soda at 7-11 (boys, that's what we call a "suicide")
-Wrestle with pigs (I actually do have a pig connection if I felt so inclined)
-Get in a shopping cart and ride down a hill
-Tell the boss to "eat my shorts"
-Go fence busting (basically running battering ram style into one of those fences with the vinyl panels---supposedly it just pops out and doesn't hurt that bad)

Following this class I had one of my 3 sections of Women's Choir, compised of girls grades 7-9, but with about 80% coming from the seventh grade. Initially I wasn't planning on asking them, but after having received such crazy responses with the boys, I thought it might be an interesting sociological experiment to see what they came up with on their own. Their suggestions were just as disturbing as the boys'. (So as to not influence their ideas and taint the validity of this all-important experiment I did not tell them what the boys had said.) Just keep in mind that many of these ideas were from people who are still not tall enough to ride all the roller coasters at the amusement park.

-Go clubbing
-Go skydiving
-Eat nothing but candy and soda for 6 days straight (hmmm)
-Walk around in the mall wearing a swimsuit and goggles (Mall is to girls as Walmart is to boys, I discovered, if nothing else in this experiment)
-Hold up a sign on State St. that says "Honk if you think I'm sexy" (should be fairly easy after having lost all dignity at the mall)
-Toilet paper houses (this was another big fixation)
-Go into a fitting room, wait for a few minutes and then yell, "There's no toilet paper in here!"
-Glue money to the ground and watch how many people go to pick it up (not as fun as it sounds: I know)
-Pretend to be a hitchhiker (scary idea, girls. geez!)
-Hide in clothes racks and scare people
-Prank call people (oh how I miss the pre-*69 and pre-caller id days of the 5th & 6th grade---these girls SO don't even know what they missed!)
-Have a food fight
-Steal bags full of raked leaves and search for unlocked cars in which to throw the leaves (another variation was to find cats and throw them in people's open cars as well)
-Break out spontaneously into dance in random places and moments (c'mon, that's like everyday already)
-Dye my hair pink

So. What in THE world is in the Orem water these chillins be drinking? I mean, for realz. Weigh in, and let me know whose vexing responses you found more deranged and bizarre: those of the 8th & 9th grade boys, or those of the 7th grade girls. The verdict is still out for me. Hey, I only write this stuff, you know.