Early August 2016- With the possibility/probability (according to my internist, Dr. Appelbaum) of a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, my entire world is suddenly colored by cancer. Radio spots for planning ahead for loved ones, funeral arrangements etc. now have a new immediacy. My biggest concern is Kenny, whose own diabetes-related health issues require 24/7 monitoring. I actually help. What will he do without me? That’s really my only concern. Other than my immediate family, I have very few other family members that I’m fond of, but a zillion good friends. They will surely miss me – the one who’s the most fun in the crowd, if I do say so. Don’t worry, they’ve heard me say this with tongue in cheek, of course.

Watching Woody Allen’s latest film, “Café Society” this afternoon was a great escape, but why did I have to hear the father say, “I’ll accept death, but under protest.” His wife, a hilarious Jewish mother, played by Jeannie Berlin  responds, “Protest to who?” The movie was funny and as the credits rolled, I heard someone in back of me say, “Woody Allen gets better with age.” This time he chose a good alter ego in Jesse Eisenberg.  I watched the credits, but this time not for their artistic value, but to escape going back outside to face the real world. I never expected a nightmare to be real.

Car ride home after the movie: Why did I have to hear Seals and Crofts singing, “We May Never Pass This Way Again”? Gad! And then the “Midnight Cowboy” theme song with “I gotta keep going where the sun keeps shining/Through the pouring rain.” I strongly suspect I have a battle ahead- my first real battle in a very happy life.

For the past two days, when I see “Buy 2, get the second 50% off,” I have not gone for it. Yesterday it was Sensodyne toothpaste and today, Fiber One cereal. I did find  a heads up shiny penny in the parking lot of Rite Aid. If only…

Thursday tennis game: Played hard in hazy, hot and humid weather for 90 minutes with the usual crew. Went to a tie break  and won it at 10-8 with Sylrena as my partner. Felt great! Tennis, golf and running are so life affirming. On the down side, here I am, seeing all of the friends in my life and holding in this secret for the past two days. And I will spend tomorrow morning with Joan on the golf course.

August 12, 2016- Due to the extreme heat, golf was cancelled today, but I did meet Joan and Paula to swim at Joan’s East Hills pool. Oh boy, two more friends with whom I will have to eventually share my plight. But it was a fun day. Can’t let this get to me. We swam (I did 6 laps in the designated lanes), schmoozed and had lunch at the pool. I had also run on the dread mill this a.m. since I didn’t want to venture outdoors in the soupy, 90 degree early morning. Gotta keep up the exercise. Then Joan invited  us back to her house to watch the final two episodes  of  “Grace and Frankie” because she said they were really hilarious. Wait till you hear the subject matter: Estelle Parsons appears in the next to last episode as an aging California hippie whose “cancer has come back” and she has decided to end her life the very night she throws  a big party at and Grace and Frankie’s beach house. This is a bad joke. Did I really want to see this? On second thought, if I said I didn’t want to see it, what’s my excuse? I really didn’t want to raise any suspicion, so I mulled it over in my head and decided that gallows humor is okay. After all, I have an unfinished manuscript entitled, “Wake Me When Shiva’s Over.” Keep it light.

In the past three days, I saw my mother, spoke to Emily who’s vacationing in Mexico, called Andy and spent time with three separate groups of friends. NO ONE was told anything. I’m sincerely hoping I won’t have to. On Wednesday, after I had my blood test, I met Sharon Chernoff, Sharon Feig and Ritta for lunch at the Bethpage Golf Course. I hit 80 balls at the driving range just prior to lunch. On Thursday I played doubles with Sylvia, Linda and Sharon C. More silence. And today, Paula and Joan. As of today, only Diane and Glenn know anything and they have been sworn to secrecy.

Everyone who is anyone knows now that my surgery is scheduled for Monday, August 29 –  all but Bonnie, Risa and Barb Philleo. Gotta find a way to talk to them this weekend. Here is what I sent to the other three members of  my book club. Sande already knew because I spent Monday walking the Long Beach boardwalk with her.

Dear Bookies,
 If you notice that I am not at Mim’s on the 30th, I do have an excuse. (That black and blue yellow fin that I always order will have to wait.)
On Monday, 8/29, I am scheduled to have a radical hysterectomy to remove tumors in the ovarian area and a nodule on my right kidney. I will be in very good hands with the head of oncological gynecology at North Shore LIJ (too many ologies and ectomies for my taste, but what can I do?)
I will be hospitalized for about 4 days (NS/LIJ on Lakeville Road.) In the meantime, between freaking out and carrying on my fun-filled life, I’m doing okay. I played tennis this morning, have another game tomorrow and a golf game on Friday. On Sat. we will be celebrating my Mom’s and her twin sister’s 95th birthday! Sunday, golf with Kenny.
I’m busy all day and see lots of people. I have lots of support from friends and I include you in that group. Feel free to call me if you want. I’m very upbeat, but I do take 1/2 Xanax every night before bed.
Sorry I had to write this, but calling to announce the news is just not me.
Love, Melinda
Today I am seeing Marie D. and Ellen for golf. I need to leave shortly, but I have to tell you what Kenny called to tell me when he was on his way to work this morning: “Hit ’em hard, hit ’em long, hit ’em straight.” At first I thought he was referring to tennis, but no, how could he have been?
I played great (for me.) Nothing to lose mentality. Why stress over golf (which is what I’ve done for the past 6 years- EVERY time I’ve played.) I seriously felt good about my game- had many really nice shots.
Prior to my surgery, I made a true confession to Kenny. For four years I’ve held it in. I lost his mother’s diamond wedding band – the one I wore everyday and constantly received compliments on. It was set in yellow gold and really was quietly striking. In case I didn’t make it through the surgery  I didn’t want him to go through my jewelry box only to find a cheap piece  of crap that I replaced  it with. God forbid he’d go to sell it and find out  “His mother’s” wedding ring was fake!  So I told him I lost it in the parking lot  of the beach in East Hampton. At this point I wasn’t stressing over anything material and I hoped he wouldn’t be too upset. It passed. Whew! I am sorry, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I was careless on that day four years ago.
Fast forward to September 29, 2016. Four weeks post-surgery. I will spare the details but yes, it certainly was ovarian cancer. Kenny covered the hospital experience deftly in email blasts to my nearest and dearest. And now when I get up tomorrow morning I will be headed to the Monter Cancer Center in Lake Success for my first 3-5 hour session of chemotherapy. The oncologist that I chose for this reviewed the pathology with us last Thursday. She said twice (once then and  once  over the phone) that there will be a good outcome. It is Stage2 as opposed to an advanced cancer but a slight technicality  really makes it Stage 3. This I will explain because it initially freaked me out.  I should be inured already- bad news and  more bad news, but always with lots of hope for recovery. I do know I’ve recovered very well (and continue to do so) from the August 29 surgery. Lots of unfit people tell me how my fitness level has helped me. I’ll go with that. When the oncologist at Monter said I have Stage 2, we mentioned that my surgeon said the cancer was not caught early. We left it at that. On Monday, she called me to say that she met with my surgeon and discussed this. The fact that there were some cancer cells removed from outside the pelvis near the abdomen makes it Stage 3, but she said it’s just a technicality. “Your outcome is still very good.”
Friends have stepped up like there’s no tomorrow. I came home from the hospital on Thursday morning, Sept 1st  and have had non-stop company since Sept. 3rd (mostly 2 at a time according to my plan.) Outpourings of generosity and love have boosted me up for an entire month. Yesterday Eileen Hudon gave me a sterling silver bracelet with “Strength” engraved on it. It will be on my wrist tomorrow. The cards, meals, food, visits, homemade Linzer tarts, my favorite sandwiches and wraps- OMG! It sounds trite, but it’s not : I feel the love.  But by far, the one who has been with me every step has been Kenny, my love. I just hope he’s not getting too run down – and I do remind him daily. I’m also there for him with his recent transition to the insulin pump. He keeps telling me we’re here for each other.
This is the email I put out on the day of my first chemotherapy session: It’s called “Piece o’ Cake.”
To my nearest and dearest,
     I called this “a Piece o’ Cake” because I was told today that I need to put on a few pounds. So, let me eat cake!
     Waiting to be called into the inner sanctum for my first chemotherapy treatment, I couldn’t help but notice the gray crewcut brigade of patients milling around. That won’t be me, babe, because I’m already “on it” with a natural looking wig about to be ordered, possibly as early as tomorrow. With a pair of sunglasses added to the mix, you will be permitted to gasp, “Is that Melinda Ehrlich behind those Foster Grants?”
     Today’s session was scheduled to last from 3-5 hours, but we were waiting for our car to return home in just under 4. That even included lots of detailed explanations every step of the way, including a visit from a nutritionist. So I now know that the longest sessions will be 4 hours every fourth week and the others, just over an hour.
     Regarding the nutritionist: Kenny and I could have been the nutritionist with all of the knowledge we’ve gleaned from his diabetes regimens. However, not to minimize her knowledge and oncology experience, she did recommend that I eat more broccoli, spinach, peanuts, walnuts, almonds and oatmeal. I have always shied away from oatmeal, but I know it’s good and fresh berries can be added to it so it’s not so bland. I’ve never been into sweeteners and I was reminded that that’s a good thing. Artificial sweeteners are definitely bad. I’ve been eating right for years (BFD – look where it got me.)  Green tea is out because it interacts with one of the chemo meds that will be dripping into me every week. I love black teas anyway. Whatever they suggest, I will comply with. It reminds me of something my beloved late father-in-law once looked at me and said,
“Melinda, if they told you pigeon shit was good for you, you’d eat it.” He was right.
     Finally, I need to use an alcohol-free toothpaste. Colgate and Crest make one, so it’s farewell to Sensodyne with whitener. I hope my smiles remain bright. As of today, I’m smiling an everlasting smile (a la The Bee Gees.)
Love to all of you.
   P.S. Please don’t forget, Nothing on Facebook.
Here is the 2nd installment of my chemo therapy session; A Piece o’ Pancake
To my fabulous friends and family,
      Accompanied by my dear friend Sande, my two and a half hour visit today could not have been smoother. This time the IV was placed in my left hand, so Sande was asked to forge my signature on the paperwork. No problema.
     It was characteristically cold in the center so I was given a warm blanket and I got one for Sande as well. And the drip goes on… In between visits from various personnel (social worker, my doctor’s nurse practitioner and the delivery from the pharmacy), Sande showed me stunning photos from her recent trip to Norway.
     I asked the social worker if she thought meditation might be used to help me sleep better. I really do not want to take Xanax or anything else if I can help it. I had to laugh (to myself, of course) when she recommended coming to a Gentle Chair Yoga session which incorporates meditation. Visualizing “chair yoga” got to me, but I will definitely explore meditation. The last time I meditated was in 1971 when my three college housemates and I were initiated into Mahararishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation. We volunteered to have a guru stay at our house so we could waive the initiation fee. All of the students at the college were asked to bring the requisite flower and handkerchief for the initiation ceremony and they were, in turn, assigned a mantra. It was a real scene and we loved every minute of it. We had been instructed by the guru to never, ever disclose our mantras to anyone, but somehow, thirty years later we all discovered we had the same mantra. Oops. Glad we didn’t pay.
     This morning our friends Steve and Abbie also suggested preparing a banana tea with cinnamon that should act as a soporifc. Stay tuned. The water’s boiling as I type.
     Once I was unhooked and released today, Sande and I went out for lunch. I had a short stack of pancakes with real maple syrup. Yum. She then drove me home on this gorgeous afternoon and we decided to go for a walk at the beach in Oyster Bay. It was a full day but that’s what evening’s rests are for.
Love to all of you and again, thank you for your good wishes.
This is my email entitled “Chemo Session 3: Do You Want Fries With That?”
To My Loving Friends and Family,
     The day began with the good news that Bob Dylan, my absolute favorite singer-songwriter and poet, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature! To the naysayers who claim he sounds like a an alley cat in heat, I urge you to try analyzing his visionary poetry. Who can deny brilliant lyrics such as these:
“Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.”
     Now to segue into session 3 of chemotherapy. Surreal, eh?
My good friend Ritta (a tennis and golf buddy too) accompanied me today. She went to park the car while I checked in.
     Today’s session at the Monter Center began with a visit with my oncologist. She examined me and is very pleased with my progress. Ritta sat with me for the infusion which took just over an hour. She entertained me with conversation and a book called, A Girl’s On Course Survival Guide to Golf. Once I was unhooked from the IV, Ritta drove us towards home and we stopped for lunch. Are you ready for today’s menu? Turkey cheeseburger sans bun for me, a spinach mushroom omelette for Ritta and we shared a small side of French fries! My maiden voyage in the world of fries – and I loved them.
                                                                        Gimme a Head With Hair
     This past week I’ve had expert advice from my hairstylist/friend Joan in my quest for the perfect wig. We had lots of laughs and it could have been made into a script entitled “Looking for Mrs. Goodwig.” We wound up working with a rather eccentric Argentinian wiggest {sic} in her 70s. I made three visits to her studio before making my purchase. She trimmed it in the front and added, “If you wear it and you feel you need to have it thinned out, come back any time.” No problema. Gracias. I said, “How ’bout I make an appointment once it grows a little?”
Thanks again for all of your prayers and good wishes.
 Love, Melinda


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Is a Graphic a “Novel?”

Welcome to the world of graphic novels and young adult (YA) lit. I never knew James Patterson has a whole series of young adult novels, but there they were on the desks in an 8th grade English class. I noticed a few of the kids had graphic novels that they were reading during the 20 minute “Independent Reading” segment. Before I could even get my question out, a boy defended himself, “Our teacher lets us read them.” I’m old school where graphic novels are equated with (God forbid) comic books. Anyway, an adorable boy was stumped about how to express the mood that was created in his book. He said it was “kind of like when you eat a Tic Tac and it has a lot of flavor at first, but then it wears off.” Hopefully he can find some textual details to support this great imagery. This Tic Tac Queen never thought of that one.

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Sub Stories

Melinda Ehrlich

April 5 at 7:30pm ·

In a World History class the kids were working on Document Based Questions (DBQ) about Gorbachev and glasnost. I was circulating around the room when a hand went up.
Me: Do you need some help?
Girl: No, but my friend really likes your nails.
OMG! Flashback to my Maxwell days where hair and nails ruled.


“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!” Wow! When was the last time I taught “Romeo and Juliet!” It had to be around the Millennium since I didn’t teach freshmen for a few years before I retired in ’05. But I’ll tell ya, it’s like getting back on a bike. You never forget. The kids have a quiz tomorrow and reviewing the 6 scenes of Act II with them felt so natural. The best part is that I may “exeunt” today and need not be thither on the morrow.

Talk about spacing out! A class was taking a practice Living Environment Regents exam (better known to us as Bio.) The real deal is scheduled for next week. Fifteen minutes in, I noticed a girl totally immersed in splitting the ends of her hair. I went over to remind her to start her test and she looked up and thanked me. The kicker is I can relate to this behavior. True confession.

Here’s a very heartening story. There is a young man with whom I have had a less than warm relationship whenever I’ve substituted in his classes. In fact, he was such a hostile presence one day that I “wrote him up.” (OMG! He hated me even more after that.) Nothing too serious; he’s just a senior who’s had senioritis ALL year. Today I covered a self-contained special ed. class for 3 periods and who shows up to have one of the school aides in the room sign his yearbook? You guessed it. We ignored each other and I allowed him to get his book signed. But while he was waiting, I couldn’t help but notice how he fraternized with the 8 developmentally delayed kids in the class. He was high-fiving, even hugging a couple of them and they all knew him. I went over and said, “Joe (not his real name), I’m seeing a whole other side to you right now and it’s really nice.” He smiled (at me – wow!) and said, “This is the field I’m going into.” He’s planning to minor in special education in college. That’s all.

Covering science classes today when a young lady walks in with a full head of purple hair. “Aren’t you the teacher who wrote the book?” she asked. Flattered that she remembered, I said, “Yes, but did you have purple hair the last time I saw you?”
“No, it was green,” she answered matter of factly.
ROY G BIV lives.



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It’s Greek To Us

One day last week I covered a math program – Common Core mathematics, which confuses the issue in a new and improved way. I never saw more baffled students as they left their math class and went on to their next subject. I know because I’ve talked to them. I sat in on a geometry lesson (an Inclusion class) in which the teacher was introducing pre-trig. concepts. She appeared to be a good teacher – well-prepared and familiar with the subject at hand. She presented well. She incorporated the good old SOHCAHTOA formula for finding tangent, sine and cosine. I got those concepts, but not with the method that was being scrawled all over the Smart board. My deepest sympathy to the struggling students. Thankfully, many of them have a math review class in their schedules. Just don’t ask me to help; Common Core is Greek to me: Sigma, delta and theta.

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Take Off Your Crown and Spit Out Your Gum

Covering a great English program today. Honors, A.P. English and Creative Writing. What could be bad – and how can one teacher be so lucky to have this program? (And with a program like this, why is she absent?) Meeting an 11th grade Honors class in the computer lab, I assisted with “memoirs,” really one-page autobiographical essays. They had been previously written and edited and had to be printed and ready to be submitted to a contest tomorrow. Semicolons, or a lack thereof, posed a problem in every paper I looked at. They just didn’t use them, but who did in high school? When I was teaching writing, I always made it a point to teach usage and punctuation, even when it was out of favor in the dumbing down of America’s curricula. Oh well, these kids will survive. Their stories were otherwise nicely written. The A.P. English class was reading about Nietzsche’s theory of the Ubermensch. They actually sat quietly all period and concentrated on this. Their homework assignment was to read Part I of Crime and Punishment. Very lofty, but it’s Advanced Placement with the exam coming up this spring. On the flip side, the class clowns are in their glory whenever there’s a sub. In today’s Creative Wriitng class, a senior (yes, a senior!) was sporting a Burger King crown. The weird thing is, I think I was the only one who noticed it. It’s been 11 years since I walked away from the classroom and it feels nice to be back on this very limited basis. No strings attached, no emotional investment and best of all, no papers to grade.

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Relax, It’s Only Tennis

At my Friday doubles game, Marie, my partner extraordinaire, was playing very well. I was just okay. We were neck and neck with our opponents, but every time I made a stupid error I became more aggravated with myself. Marie knows me so well. She said, “Relax – it’s only tennis.” I joked, “If I’m like this with tennis, imagine me in real life.” So I heeded her advice, took a deep breath, but  lost the next two points! That was it. My intensity (aka tension) returned and we closed out the set 6-4. We looked at each other and Marie sheepishly admitted, “It’s never only tennis.”

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The Difference Between a Teacher and a Sub

Setting: The hallway on the second  floor of the local high school in which I have been substitute teaching. This period I am assigned to hall patrol in a school where the halls are dead for the most part.  There’s really nothing to patrol. I brought a book with me and would have read a few pages during the period, had it not been for the friendly fellow substitute teacher I met. I didn’t know he was a sub until we introduced ourselves. He told me that he is a retired cop with a teaching license  (wait a second – shouldn’t he be doing the patrolling?) who has been working per diem in this school for a few years. He loves it, he says, and “they know can call me as late as 7:35 in the morning (school starts at 7:50) and I can get here because, hey, I don’t have to blow dry my hair (he’s pretty bald) and I live right across the street.” All this I found out within the first five minutes of our conversation. He was walking down the hall and stopped at my post – and didn’t leave until the bell rang! I mentioned the word “golf” in the conversation and bingo! He talked golf for the rest of the period. Golfers can do that. I managed to get a few words in edgewise, but he was fired up about the birdie that eluded him. I get it. I sized him up as the type of guy who knows all the ropes at this school; hence, a good person to know.

Now here’s my point. If I were working as a regular English teacher, would I have time to schmooze for 40 minutes? Never! So as Diane Keaton liked to say in “Annie Hall,” la di da.

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Marji, Allan Ginsberg and Me

Marji & Me @ the Museum
Back in college, Marji’s dorm room was decorated with the sensuous posters of Maxfield Parrish. How do I remember that? Posters were important statements of who we were in those days. I had a “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?” poster whose slogan was ascribed to Carl Sandburg. Of course we can’t forget that black & white pop art poster of Paul Newman in a T-shirt hanging on the ceiling over my bed. (TMI?) We had good times, no doubt.
Recently the Nassau County Museum of Art mounted an exhibit of Maxfield
Parrish’s work. I contacted Marji and we made a date to see it. A docent-led tour filled in the blanks on Parrish’s technique of achieving that luminosity and the cobalt blues that he used have come to be known as “Parrish Blue.” His posters, magazine and calendar illustrations are really stunning & Marji & I are glad we reconnected for the occasion.

As for the posters that adorned our rooms, many were wavy, psychedelic abstract designs painted in Day-Glo. If you had a black light, it would glow in the dark, often providing an evening’s entertainment. We didn’t need much. Peter Max was big, as my friend Barb reminded me when she read the above post on Facebook. So was artist Milton Glaser, whose now-iconic Dylan poster was included as a bonus in the album cover  of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits in 1967. Lots of vinyl record albums included posters as bonus material and they were decorating the rooms of a whole generation of baby boomers. My roommate and I even took a trip to the Village expressly to buy posters for our room. Hendrix and Jim Morrison were prominently pinned up on walls, as were any band you can name from the Sixties. Posters of Jefferson Airplane from the Surrealistic Pillow days and Fillmore East and West concert posters were everywhere. Marijuana was still very illegal and you had to be careful about the posters you hung up. In fact, paranoia struck so deep (sic) that I removed a poster of a peace march featuring Allen Ginsberg flaunting a sign that said, “Pot is Fun.”  Getting busted for a poster would not have been fun.

The ubiquity of peace signs and anti-war messages reminded everyone that the Vietnam “conflict” was a-raging. Picasso’s famous bouquet of flowers (Fleurs et Mains) and Maxfield Parrish’s mellow, sensuous landscapes…Dorm room décor included them all.


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A Can o’ Worms

Oh my! That last blog opened up a can ‘o worms. All the funny stuff that happened while I was a teacher is rushing back. Stuff that was not included in my book like that overweight teacher who wore a sweat band while she was teaching. What a workout! And it was not in the gym!

I had commented on the “Wizard of Oz” poster that adorned the French classroom at the local high school in which I am currently subbing. Well,  I had forgotten to point out another – a take-off on that familiar morale boosting poster: Restez Calmes et Parlez Francais. Originally “Keep calm and carry on” was a British slogan/poster, created in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II. As I carry on calmly, I have a new ploy. Next time I face a new class, I don’t introduce myself in the mundane manner I have been doing: Hello, my name is Mrs. Ehrlich and I taught English in New York City for  over 30 years.” Bor-ing! My new line is,”Hi, I am not a sub; I am here to gather material for my next book.” Let’s see how this is received…

Ah, to be in a suburban English classroom filled with lots of book shelves and class sets of the books you plan to teach for the term at your fingertips (instead of trudging down the hall or even to a different floor to count out books and pray that there are enough. I refer to NYC.) I saw neatly shelved copies of “The Crucible,” “Death of a Salesman,” “Macbeth,” “A Separate Peace, “The Odyssey,” “The Namesake,” and “Sophie’s World,” a new one for me, but billed as “a page-turning novel that is also an exploration of the great philosophical concepts of Western thought.” Good stuff. In today’s subbing assignment, the classes were reading Michael Chabon’s “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” and “One Hundred Years of Solitude.” After meeting these classes, I think those last two books may be a stretch, but one never knows. It all depends  upon the teacher and how ambitious he or she is.

Kids are kids and they are intent on seeing what they can get away with once they get wind of a sub in the room, but look out, ’cause I’ve got “skills” from years of classroom management. I could easily wing it, but thankfully the teachers leave detailed plans for every class – even enough photocopies for every student. There seems to be a nice camaraderie amongst the teachers who share the rooms and everyone I’ve met has been helpful. I had to laugh when I saw a young teacher writing an “Aim” and a “Do Now” on the whiteboard. I noticed the Aim began with “To read Chapter One and discover the main characters.” I told her in New York City, that structure went  out the window 20 years ago. Instead, it would have to be written in the form of a question: What have we discovered about the characters we met in Chapter One?” Such nonsense. She agreed.

We acted out the screenplay of “A Few Good Men” – expletives and all – in one class and those who read parts were really good! In any other class, a kid who used such language would be written up, but not here. They could “handle the truth.” Now I have to see the movie again.  Another class took a quiz and once it was handed in, they were instructed to read a chapter from the Chabon novel, which segued into talking amongst themselves. Since there were only a few minutes left, and being the talker that I am, I jumped right in. Then the bell rang. School’s out till next week…

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Pimples, Pimples Everywhere

Now that golf season is just about over (who can complain when it extended well into December – in New York!), it’s time to go indoors for a little something different. So I interviewed at a local high school to work as a sub two days a week. Ha ha, a sub, you laugh. But it’s a very civilized little school with polite kids, a courteous, well-dressed (no jeans) staff and four minutes from my house.


Day 1: I haven’t seen this many pimples since I retired ten years ago.

Spent one period on hall patrol (they seem to assign regular teachers this period of R & R) and in 40 minutes, only two Ugg-clad students shuffled by my post – and both had cameras for the yearbook. What happened to the stragglers and the cutters I was so used to seeing in the city? They don’t exist here.

During the first period, which runs from 7:50 a.m. to roughly 8:35, the halls were alive with the sound of music – not piped in, but band practice around the bend. (The school layout is square-shaped.) On my first morning I was instructed on how to take attendance on the computer and I had to do very little in most classes whose teachers had left detailed lessons for the kids to complete. (I did come prepared with a couple of my own emergency poetry lesson just in case. ) And get this: In 5 class periods that I covered, only 2 kids were absent! I don’t want to ever hear a teacher in this school district complain how hellish the teaching profession is. They are truly sheltered and can be considered blessed, in some circles. Of course, I thrived on the daily challenges thrust upon me for 33 years in the NYC public school system. It made for great material – and in retrospect, something to be proud of. This is not to say the teachers aren’t teaching here; they most certainly are.

A few kids even thanked me as they exited the room at the end of the period. Were they thrilled that they had a sub or did they thank me for providing them with some entertainment? I read the French classes an excerpt from my book, Take Off Your Hat and Spit Out Your Gum – A Teacher’s Memoir. I carry a copy to school since it’s about high school and for the French classes, I read a section entitled, “The Only Thing To Fear is the French Teacher Herself.” The French teacher who was absent has a beautifully decorated classroom, adorned with knickknacks and souvenirs from France and even a magazine rack stocked with French magazines and comics for the students to read. My favorite poster was one of Dorothy that said, “Toto, je dois le sentiment que nous ne sommes pas plus au Kansas.”

Let’s see what the New Year brings in the wonderful world of substitute teaching. All I know is it feels great to leave the building without a care in the world about having to come back the next day.

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