I don't know

I don't know why I am scared to drive on the streets I am familiar with, yet really excited to drive in the UK, but I guess it's some kind of reverse psychology thing.

All the single ladies

I have never had my preferred title questioned before now. I was told that if I went by "Mrs." it would be more simple than "Ms." I don't really understand why it is difficult to grasp the concept of "Ms." It is the only accurate title I can go by. Miss makes no sense because I am not single, and Mrs. makes no sense because the man to whom I am married does not share my surname. However, even if I were single I would go by Ms. because I believe it sounds more dignified than Miss, and even if I shared a surname with my spouse I would go by Ms. because I feel like my title should not reflect my marital status. "Mr." does not indicate whether a man is single or married, and I like having the neutral "Ms." as a title. It is simply my preferred, and correct title, not a statement of my political beliefs or feminist beliefs or what have you. I have gone by "Ms." since sometime in college because I prefer it to "Miss" anyway.

Now, this whole thing would technically be simpler if I got a doctorate so I could just go by Dr.

I give up trying to be what I think others want me to be

All I want is a job where I don't have to deal with other people, a home filled with my husband and wonderful pets, and to be surrounded by books I love.

I can't keep pretending I can relate to other people or even be around other people for an extended period of time. All this does is make me look like a bumbling idiot, and it accomplishes nothing.

Now if I only I could find a job that would allow me to not interact with others at all.

A metaphor for my social life

Here is a metaphor I thought of that describes my social life:

Say you are invited to a party where you don't know any of the attendees very well. When you arrive, every guest at the party is playing a board game. They invite you to join in. You tell them you don't know the rules, and they say that's okay, you'll figure out how to play the game. So you make a move. People look at you awkwardly. As the game progresses, it's clear you're playing it completely wrong; yet every time you ask someone to explain the rules of the game, they just shrug and continue to become more annoyed with you. So you start copying what other players are doing. Then they get even more angry with you. They act as if you're intruding on their privacy and start giving you really weird looks and slowly moving away from you. When it's clear this tactic doesn't work, you quit playing the game altogether. Some people ask why you stopped playing. You tell them, "Obviously I wasn't very good at the game." They tell you that you won't get better unless you keep playing. Other newcomers arrive and figure out the game on their first turn. When you all but beg the rest of the players to just give you the rules of the game, they still tell you no, you'll figure it out; everyone else did! Yet as you continue to play, no matter which style you choose to play - completely ignoring the rules, copying what everyone else is doing, or skipping your turns entirely - you become more and more alienated, and by the end of the party, you are exhausted, everyone is looking at you weirdly, and it's evident that you have lost the game.

This is what my life is like. I try to fit in, and I can't. I try to do my own thing, and people still don't accept me. There's clearly a social code with distinct rules, yet there is absolutely no way for me to obtain the rules or figure them out by following others' cues. And I always come away from a social situation with the feeling that I won't fit in. Ever. There's no particular reason why. The game table just doesn't have a place for people like me.

More ideas for teaching!

I would love to take a whole chunk of the first week of class just instructing students on how to get an A in the class. I could even call the mini-seminar "How to get an A in this class." It would involve instructing students how to monitor their learning so they are sure they are following instructions properly, because some students don't even understand the fundamentals of following directions and using a rubric.

The first part of the seminar would be about respecting others in class and learning to appreciate different viewpoints and perspectives.

The second part would be about editing their work and peer editing others and following guidelines. I would give them examples of papers that earned A's, B's, C's, D's, and F's, so they could compare their own work against the samples. I would have them write small assignments and check them over and over again to make sure they are actually answering the assignment prompt. I think one of the biggest issues standing in the way of students getting an A on an assignment (excluding not doing the assignment at all) is not following the instructions. Sometimes they don't pay attention to the most basic guidelines, such as:

- If I ask for one paragraph, write one paragraph. As the teacher, I know what length of response this assignment requires. Do not go beyond the length to try to get extra points. If I tell you a prompt can be answered in six sentences and you give me twelve sentences, you are not following the assignment guidelines, and you probably don't understand the assignment, so ask me to clarify.

- If you are asked to analyze a specific element of a text, only write about and use supporting evidence about that part of the text. Do not summarize the text, write a book report, editorialize (unless asked), etc.

- Actually read and edit your own paper and compare every single one of its elements against the rubric before peer editing/turning in the assignment. You should read over your own paper at least 2-3 times to make sure you are following ALL directions.

- If you are peer editing and your partner's paper requires no corrections, it is not appropriate to write nothing on their paper and simply hand it back to them. Give them specific feedback about why at least 3 elements of their paper worked. Otherwise, how will they know WHY their paper is "perfect"?

Learning to learn is so important in school. I want to take a lot of time to go over things like this, and make sure all the students have a deep understanding of it.

Two disparate ideas for the new year

1. I want to start a challenge to myself to do my hair and a minimal amount of makeup (at least covering my under-eye darkness) each day of 2017, even if I'm doing nothing that day. It's not because of societal expectations, but because it makes me feel productive and like I care about myself, which in turn might stimulate me to have more confidence and work harder.

2. When I become a teacher, if the curriculum isn't dictated heavy-handedly by the administration, I think it would be interesting to organize the curriculum into thematic units that encompass different time periods and authors, but lend students a deeper perspective of a theme or event. For example, a unit could focus on the Trojan War, and the class could read the Iliad (or Odyssey), Troilus and Cressida by Shakespeare, "To Helen" by Poe, and other texts that center around the Trojan War. They could complete writing projects that explore the meaning of conflict and beauty. They could relate the war to current events. I feel like this tactic might help students remember facts and vital texts after they graduate, since instead of surveying so many different topics, they would focus on just a few throughout the year.

2016 Books in Review

I always keep track of books I read each year. 2016 was a good year for the quantity I read - approximately 3,000,000 words, and a fairly decent amount of books, considering many of them were 800+ pages long. However, I didn't read very many good books this year, and the best books I read turned out to be some of the shorter ones!

So here is my very short list of book highlights for 2016:

Best Books:

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Chasing Lincoln's Killer (nonfiction)
Shipwreck at the Bottom of the world (nonfiction)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Worst Books:

Nicholas Nickleby
I'm Thinking of Ending Things

Besides those, literally every other book I read was just "meh". Here are some more sub-categories just for fun:

Books I expected to like better than I did:

The Old Curiosity Shop
Animal Farm
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
The Hobbit
Challenger Deep
Fahrenheit 451

Books I expected to dislike, but actually liked:

Martin Chuzzlewit
^ um, that's it

Classics I read (defined by my own criteria):

Martin Chuzzlewit
The Pickwick Papers
Nicholas Nickleby
The Old Curiosity Shop
The Call of the Wild
Dombey and Son
The Hobbit

Sort-of classics:

Invisible Man (Ellison)
Animal Farm
The Chocolate War (YA classic)

And the best Dickens novel I read this year: The Pickwick Papers

I have a confession to make

About two years ago, I decided to stop supporting sweat shops as much as I possibly could. I have bought all my pants and shirts, except work clothes and some ethically-sourced clothing, at consignment stores or thrift stores ever since.

Unfortunately, I just don't think I can do that for professional clothes, and I'm going to buy a few outfits for my new job from traditional stores.

I have really, really tried to only buy consignment, but usually I find nothing I need. On top of that, there are very few petite clothes available in consignment stores. I sometimes get lucky, but usually not. And having pants altered costs as much as buying them. I have gone to several different stores, and I've decided that wearing used clothes that don't fit correctly and sometimes wear down sooner is just not working.

I will probably go somewhere with high-quality clothes that I don't have to replace for at least a few or several more years, like the Loft or Banana Republic. I will try to take really good care of them so I don't have to buy new ones. I will still go to consignment stores for daily wear, but for work, clothes that are usually very used and often musty ain't gonna cut it.

So yeah, I know this wouldn't seem like a big deal to most people, but I feel terrible about it. I just feel like I don't have any other options at this point.

Women need to stop making other women feel bad

My fitness instructor tries to be positive and upbeat, but ends up making me feel bad. All the lectures about gaining weight over the holidays, using exercise instead of antidepressants (can you say "not qualified to give out medical advice"), making us exercise harder because she feels guilty about eating too many calories and thereby creating terrible relationships with both food and exercise - it needs to stop.

Can't exercise just be something people do to feel good? Why does everyone have to have the goal of being skinny? As someone who has a very negative body image, and can only lose weight while restricting my calories so low that I feel foggy, lightheaded, shaky, cold, and ravenously hungry all the time, I don't want to be part of this culture anymore. Not all women want to have "perfect" bodies, and the goal of exercise is to be healthy, not to be skinny. It's not that difficult of a concept, yet everyone promotes it! If we didn't keep spreading the myth that exercise will make you slim, no one would even bother going to the gym.

The inevitable disappointment of being a foreigner

Many people who visit another country say they wish they could stay forever, or at least for a very long time, because they only see the surface of the country: the architecture, the landscape, the clothing style, the food, the tourist attractions.

Yet at some point when you're a foreigner, the disappointment of the impossibility of ever truly belonging creeps in.

It's tiring to not know the language. Each transaction is a calculation of how long you can go without saying something or, if you know a little of the language, how long you can maintain a conversation before either you stop understanding the person talking or they stop understanding you.

Once you begin to see the social and political issues under the surface - and you will - you realize the country you're in is not a paradise, but just a place like anywhere else.

And if it's a place you will never belong, you have to choose whether you can accept that you'll always be a foreigner - whether that excites you or whether you would rather form deeper relationships.

Then when you go home, if you still don't belong, you realize that, while you might set down roots somewhere, you'll always feel like an outsider.

So would you rather be an outsider in your own country or an outsider somewhere else, the choice becomes.