Love for Arts
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I will do anything to get my point across to students who don’t find the relevance in the stuff I have to teach.  Sophomores are reading A MidSummer Night’s Dream.  Shakespeare is hard on any given day for any of us, but when you’re 15 years old, earning F’s in all classes, are tardy every day and could care less about the standards and the testing and the school’s money…well, Shakespeare is like putting forks in your eyes.  And mine.

I’ve given them the basic premise.  We read it daily.  Then I thought…let’s just put this out there.  How about this.  You bring in lyrics that tell of unrequited love.  Missed connections.  Heartbreak.  Another teacher said, “Why are you doing that?  They’re not going to do it anyway.”  Ah yes, so I should just fail them every day and keep on with the “thous” and “doest”.  Um.  No.

Because I’m shameless, and will do almost anything to drive a point home, I plowed ahead with the project.  And here is what I got.  I rarely blog about my students any more, but while I’m on a training hiatus, I thought I’d share exactly what a 15 year old thinks about Shakespeare…and about love.

The last one is the song I’m currrently singing.  See?  They’re not so different from us…teenagers.  I think they get it.  Shakespeare… What do you think?  I think Will would approve.  Heartbreak.  Long lost love.  If you’re 15, you understand.

Life’s Second Chances

The first year I taught was 1981.  Except for a five year stint of taking off time to raise little babies, I have started an August assignment 24 times.  On Thursday, I start year 25 as an educator.

Most people reflect on the school year at the end of the year, but this time of year always makes me wistful as I remember the many faces and places and names of unique students and colleagues…and I attempt another stab at teaching kids how to have wonderful lives.  Honestly.  That is my goal.  And, in order to have a wonderful life, you must be able to read, write, communicate…

So this is that time where I lose sleep.  When I wonder who I will meet on Thursday.  When I wonder what challenges I’ll face, and if I can weather the tough calls that all teachers need to make.

And I remember me.  In 1981.  I was a 23 year old girl, teaching 6th grade right out of college.  I didn’t really know what I was doing…but I had this master teacher…Mrs. Murray.  She erased her name every morning and re-wrote it.  Along with the date.  Every day.  And I do that still.  I am aware also, that English teachers aren’t supposed to start sentences with the words, And, But or Because…


When I blog, I think aloud, and I have random thoughts as I start this school year.

Sixth Grade:

  • Year 1. Brick in the Wall.  Pink Floyd.  My first year as a teacher. We could smoke in the teacher’s lounge.
  • Year 2. The Principal was also the Fire Chief and his brother owned the bar.  Do the math.
  • Year 3. All black school.  Called an “Old White Honky” by the boy who turned out to be my most favorite student
  • Year 4. The Principal asked me to move with him.  I made a life sized eagle on the ceiling.  Kids thrilled.
  • Year 5. First influx of Hmong in Fresno.  We had no idea what to do.
  • Year 6. Taught sex education co-educationally for the first time in the district.
  • Year 7. Trying to have babies, getting fertility shots at Science Camp!
  • Year 8.  ESL finally on the scene in Fresno. Write first AIDS curriculum.  People & friends dying.
  • Year 9.  Getting my Masters Degree in Counseling.  Ready to leave teaching for awhile. 1990

School Counseling

  • Year 10.  Setting up a counseling practice in the school Library. 
  • Year 11.  Working with kids who’ve been abused.  Dads who were alcoholic.  Motel Drive.  Fresno.
  • Year 12.  Mid year move to Stockton Unified …elementary schools.  Play Therapy.
  • Year 13-15 Moved around to different schools.  Nothing really happening.  How could it? I was never at a school long enough.
  • Year 16.  Pregnant.  Finally.  High School Counseling Career…a dream cut short…for another dream…

Junior High

  • Year 17 is 2002.  I’ve taken a 5 year break.  I cannot get a job.  I have never heard of the word *standard* …I finally get a job as a 7th grade teacher.  At a Catholic School.  The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.  Meeting Tom Gordon.  He signs my book “Stay out of the woods” Random baseball game.  Students are in shock.
  • Year 18.  Jr. High Science and PE and Math.  Dissecting cow’s eyes, fish, ducks, whatever I could get.
  • Year 19. More PE.  English Credential.  I am in Who’s Who in America’s teachers.
  • Year 20 PE teacher.  Couch to 5k …my whole Jr. High competes in a 5k.  Inaugural school year. I leave for greener pastures.
  • Year 21-22-3-4.  Sketchy.  Bouncing around, full time PE teacher, land Continuation High School gig, High School English.  Can’t get a foothold in my career.  Lose job.  Find Twitter.  Ask Schwarzenegger for help.  He does.
  • Year 25.  To be determined …On schedule to teach Freshman & Sophomore English.  College Prep. 

And in all of this, the regret, the I wish I hadn’t done that…The boy who wouldn’t take off his vulgar shirt, and he ran away from me, the kids I berated because I had to be right all the time…the parents I fought…the control and the kindness, the joy and the pain.  Hearing someone read English for the first time, and watching kids walk away from education.  Watching faces light up as they do long division, and it’s right.  Excitement in reaching a goal…dissecting a heart, getting that coveted 9:00 minute mile.  Taking a piece of clay and making it into something wonderful.  Watching the Space Shuttle explode, hearing the DARE “just say no talk”…over and over until I could repeat it myself.  Getting cards and letters from students.  The love.

It’s this time of year that I reflect.  Because.  Because I want to do it better.  Different.  Be kinder, be more loving.  And then some wisecracker will come into my room and I will bite a hole in my tongue and try not to be his mother, but I want those pants pulled up, and stop cracking that gum, and is your head cold?  no?  Then take your hat off.  And please accept this education as a gift.  Don’t end your sentences with the word *at*.  Stop texting in class.  No…Text in class. Please do.

And I see Scott.  He was a 6th grader my 2nd year of teaching.  And after school got out that June, we had to have a teacher’s meeting.  Immediately after school.  After an HOUR of this meeting, someone says to me: “Mrs. Musto, there’s a student waiting for you outside”.   I walk out, and there was Scotty.  He had waited for me the whole hour.  Because he didn’t want to get on the bus.  Because I was his favorite teacher.  And he was crying.  And I started crying.  And he hugged me.  He simply waited for me to come out so that he could hug me and say goodbye for the summer.

And then I remember.  The girl in the English class who was given a novel.  Who loved the story, who got lost in it.  And heard the teacher call her name, and she got it right.  And she. got. it.  Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out…that girl was me. 

And I hope I can give her a fair shake come Thursday.  Year 25.  Here I come.

Before He Cheats. Heh.

You have to get up pretty early to cheat on Ms. V.

I laughed so hard, I nearly spit out my yummy drink this afternoon.  My students have VERY creative ways of texting…in their pockets, in their book bags, under the table.  I catch myself in AWE of these students, and know I would have done the VERY same thing.  We were lacing brownies with *stuff* in high school, but I digress. (My Mom reads my blog.  Sorry, Mom.)

I try to tell them, “Look, I’m old.  If there is one trick that you can think of that I haven’t thought of or done, I’d like to know what it is.”  Texting is nothing more than passing notes…or is it?  I have a permanent iPod charging station in my room, because I KNOW they are doing it.  Might as well have the energy for break or lunch.

I mostly have very sweet students.  Today, however, tested my nerves.  I can take aggressive students, I love assertive students…Passive aggessive kids tend to push my buttons, however…That little clicking or rapping, and I look and they stop, etc…SO annoys me.

Today, I tell “J” that she has to finish her work out of the class because she is so disruptive.  Her reply?  “Good, then I won’t have to look at your face.” 

For the first time, I had no words.

Next, “M” tells me “You aren’t a runner.  You don’t look like a runner.  YOU couldn’t be a runner.”  He told me he ran 4 miles in 30 minutes, and I was impressed, and threw around words like, “lactate threshold”, “PR”, “sprint”…he wasn’t impressed.

Well guess what I’m showing him tomorrow.

2008 2009 medals & bibs

Yup.  Bibs on the left are 2008, on the right…the current year.  In the middle, my training programs. 

I’m on the beginning of two weeks of taper.  I am too a runner.  Pffffft.

We set up camp here.


You remember this movie don’t you? If not, quick go rent it or buy it on the Dollar table.  Leap of Faith with Steve Martin is one of my favorite movies.  He tricks the town into believing in his version of faith.  He’s lying.  They believe anyway.

Sort of like what’s happened to me on this little journey that started when I lost my job in February.  The last six months I pretended to believe.  I faked it.  I knew there was not a chance of getting a job when so many were out of work.  I believed anyway.  I knew I couldn’t keep my house.  I believed anyway.

Letting go:  Anything or anyone I have ever let go of, has claw marks all over it.  When I was losing my house, I stuck my fist in the side of the mountain, and I believed. 

I had 90 applications out when I interviewed for this position.  90.  So, when I went to the interview, I hung in there, and refused to give rote answers.  I decided that THIS TIME I was going to tell the panel exactly how I felt.  One teacher said, “We are a college going community.”  My response?  What are you doing for the ones not going to college?  She said, “Most of them will go to college.”  My response?  Really?  That doesn’t seem to be statistically accurate. 

At the end of the day, I emailed the HR person and said, please remove me from the applicant pool.  I lay down that night with $300 in my account, and I said, “God, I will take any job.  Wherever you think I need to go.  But this isn’t the job for me.”  The next day the HR person called me and offered me the job.  I said, “Let me think about it.”  Before we got off the phone, she had me talked into it.

You know what?  I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

The Linda Vermeulen camp has come to town, plays live, and sets up here.


(PS-I have re-upped with the TNT Nike Marathon team.  I will finish the marathon. I will raise the money.  I. am. back.)

.and, 23 yrs in education.


23 years of school teaching and counseling may end today.  I find out yesterday that my seniors are graduating.  This tells you the intellectual and professional ethics of my now former boss.  I race to the graduation at 6:15 to find all the graduates and faculty in gowns.  My friend and colleague runs to find me a robe.  I throw it on, and am firmly placed on the stage with the other two teachers.  During the speeches, my boss and his boss talk.  All through the speeches.  All I did was one time lean out to give them the Ms. V. stare, because I am appalled, and hey.  What are they going to do…fire me? 

The above photo was taken as I was leaving to get in my car.  I turned just as they were throwing their caps.  I may have just attended my last graduation as a faculty member.

I know that something will happen as a result of this.  I am fighting to keep my house, to stave of the creditors, although they are starting to line up outside of my door.  As a fellow blogger said to me in a note:  “I would be crushed if I did to someone what he did to you…knowing that your children will be on welfare, and you will be losing your home.”” 

Too bad, not everyone is a good guy. 

For today, Kim and I ran 4×400’s.  Running is saving my life and my sanity.  We had a great mile out and back, then 1.5 miles of running the track.

Lap 1~2:20

Lap 2~2:25

Lap 3~2:35

Lap 4~2:15

I call CharlieBob, because I’m going to the Modesto Tweetup tonight.  He is emailing me the next four week’s workout.  I call because he said I have to call if I’m going to miss a day.  After 4 weeks, we have done every training, and like Billy said yesterday:  As soon as I signed up and trained, I became a runner.

I like that.

Modesto Kaiser Permanente 5K on Saturday, then I drive to LA for the LA Marathon.  If I haven’t said it a bazillion times, my family and I will be on Mile 20 volunteering…

Ring up Ahnold please

This is a sad day.  Last night, I spent an hour on the phone with PG&E trying to get the electric and gas bills figured out.  An hour.  Once I got it all straightened out, I told them I needed to enroll in the CARE program, which is a program for low income people.  On the form was a box to check for food stamps.  Food stamps, CARE…and I’m trying to fill out an application for unemployment online, but no…I don’t have a union number, and they don’t know it.  No, I stop work in 10 days, so I can’t fill it out anyway.

I have degrees, and initials after my name.  I have 3 different teaching credentials.  I am NCLB compliant in 7 areas.  I have a license to practice family therapy.  I suddenly realize that someone who does not know how to navigate the system may want to give up.  I want to give up, and I have a lot of resources on board.  So, to all those people I have erroneously judged in my life.  I’m sorry.  I understand now what it’s like to be on hold for 45 minutes to try to get some help.  I know what it’s like to be shamed by a bill collector.  I know what it feels like to look at the empty box that I must check for food stamps.

Why did this happen?  I left a tenured position, and became probationary, and not protected by the cuts.

There is no magic answer.  27000 jobs will not appear out of nowhere.  Someone get the Governor on the phone.  Stat.

This day in pictures.

Run Like A Girl - Nike's Women's Marathon

Yes.  I was selected.  For the Full Marathon.  Let’s not go there yet, shall we?

Yes.  I bought Mizunos again.  I thought I had 140 miles on my old ones.  Went to my Runner’s World Training Log.  They had 247.  It was time, because I am really hard on shoes.  I ran again and again, and I liked them.  The only thing about Mizunos:  When they’re done, it’s like a flat tire.  I run 5 in the morning.  We’ll see.

Yes.  I had a telephone interview at an online public school in California.  It went well.  I was excited.

I’m out of excuses.  Excited, nervous.  Self doubt.  Lots of that.  Now I just need to retrain my head.