2011-2012 in books

I need to write a real post (there’s been plenty to write about), but I’m going to cheat here and just do another annual “Year in Books” post just to keep me in the habit/mindset of posting something, at least.  Continue reading


I am not a Kansan

Because I am not nearly nice enough or patient enough to make it through this week without quite a bit of teeth-grinding.

As I mentioned yesterday, the reason why I’m in Kansas is to attend a professional development workshop that relates to a new position I’ll be filling next year. This is actually the first PD that I’ve done since leaving Boston two years ago (as you can imagine, there aren’t lots of PD opportunities in Bulgaria; plus I was adjusting to, you know, being in Bulgaria). I was pretty excited about it, especially because I figured it would be really helpful and relevant, since I’m pretty much looking for anything and everything that can help me figure out how to do this new job.

But I’d forgotten something about PD in the two years that I haven’t attended any PD. And that is that PD is almost always awful.

My major issue is this: In my mind, an in-person in-service or PD ought to consist of knowledge that you cannot get simply from reading a book. Otherwise, my time is better spent actually reading the damn book. PD should be experiential. Today, the leader of this workshop actually made a point to highlight that experience is the major factor that actually changes beliefs, and everyone nodded at this sage wisdom and wrote it down, but this workshop itself is not embodying that philosophy. The irony: someone standing up in front of a ballroom and telling us, “Talk doesn’t work. Experience is what changes belief.” You wonder if these people can hear themselves sometimes.

This is day 2 of the first of two 3-day workshops. We meet for approximately 6 hours a day: 3 hours in the morning, 3 hours in the afternoon after lunch. Do you know how much material I could read in 6 hours? A lot more than gets covered when someone just gives you an overview of the ideas and structures and talks with only slight variations of the prompt, “What do you think about this idea? Does this resonate with you?” I can do that on my own, too – it’s called annotating the book. I would LOVE to talk more with the people here and actually learn about their experiences, but the ratio of our talk time to the leader’s talk time is way below what they’re advocating we look for in classrooms.

Here’s what I would do if I were in charge: Continue reading


It feels pointless to even make any “I’m alive!” jokes, as this is just my 5th post of 2012. So in a nutshell, yes I’m still alive, yes I’m still in Bulgaria, yes it’s still weird sometimes, yes the paradoxical trend of my seeming to get busier and busier the more teaching experience I have continues. I have still been keeping a list of things I want to write about eventually, but it is now a list of seemingly free-associative topics that make very little sense anymore, so I don’t know that I will ever get to them.

But one topic I’ve had on that list since last year is “prom,” and since the class of 2012 just had their prom last night, plus I happened to witness some prom arrivals in Kazanlak this past weekend from my hotel balcony (there’s another post that needs to be written), this seemed like as good a time as any to finally write the post (one year late better than never).

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The year in books

I sometimes like to look back on the past year in terms of the books that I read. This stems from the BPS Reader’s Workshop requirement that students read 20 books a (school) year; given that none of my students ever really seemed to hit this number, I often wondered if I actually read that many books in a given year, and resolved to up my pleasure reading to try to meet the same requirements that were placed on my students. I also find it a good way to “measure a year,” as they say in Rent, because while I often look back and feel that no time at all has passed since the beginning of the school year, usually I’m shocked to see what I was reading at the time because it feels like ages ago.

Also, now that I’m on Goodreads, it’s a lot easier to keep track of these things.  Continue reading


I’ve been keeping a running list of topics I want to blog about during this whole span of time where I haven’t been writing anything, and the list has been reaching epic proportions, so I thought I should just do some housecleaning and write about one of them at random. Some of them are sorely outdated, but this one at least seems to be sort of universal and fitting as an end-of-year reflection.

The kids finished exams yesterday, and teachers are in school until this Friday. Overall I had a really wonderful year and loved my kids (especially my 10th graders) dearly. One of my former colleagues in the States saw a video of some of my students (boys specifically) and said, “Ah! They’re SO European! They’ve got the European male walk/strut down.” Which got me thinking about some of the other differences between my Bulgarian students and my American students. I mean, my kids here speak English, they watch American TV shows and movies, they have fancy cell phones, they want to learn to drive and go to prom, they drink and smoke and have sex when they probably really shouldn’t…so what are some of the differences? How could you tell that my kids are native Bulgarians and not just an immigrant American kid with an accent? 

I thought of three… Continue reading

How To Clean a Bathroom (BG Style)

I know that I haven’t posted much lately, and I realize it’s a bit uncouth to have the first post after a long absence be potty humor, but I have a random 25 minutes to kill at the end of the school day (not enough time to get through another essay, but too long to just sit around and do nothing), and because I’ve been drinking tons of water lately, the issue of bathroom maintenance at my school has once again come squarely to my attention. Also, my students are working on satire projects, so I’m in an ironic mindset. Of course I realize that not EVERYONE in BG cleans a public bathroom like this, but I’ve certainly never seen anyone in the U.S. use these particular “techniques,” so I’m going to go ahead and call it BG Style. And with that said, I bring you this How To:

How To Clean a Bathroom (BG Style)

1. Fill bucket with water from sink.

2. Flush toilet. Bonus points if you catch some of the swishing, swirling toilet water in your bucket. 

3. Use water in bucket and cleaning rag to scrub interior of toilet. Rinse rag frequently in bucket while doing this. 

4. Without changing water, upend bucket over toilet to douse the entire toilet with water. IMPORTANT! Do not wipe water off!!

5. Flush toilet. 

6. Close toilet lid. IMPORTANT! Still do not wipe any water off, particularly off toilet seat, which will now remain soaking wet under the toilet lid.

7. Water that flowed over toilet will now be pooling around your feet on the floor. Use mop (and maybe occasionally cleaning rag, for hard-to-reach places) to swirl water around floor. Make sure floor is good and soaked. There should be a physical film of water with serious hydroplaning possibilities remaining on top of the tiles at all times if at all possible. Under NO circumstances should you attempt to dry the floor in any way. 

8. Put mop in empty bucket in corner of bathroom. 

9. Use still-damp cleaning rag to wipe down all desks in classrooms, then store rag on external window sill, to allow it to dry in the sun and pigeons to roost in it.

10. Lastly and VERY important! Remove any rolls of toilet paper from bathroom premises and lock them away where they can never be found. 


I’m feeling very Bugga’d today.

(NB: The internationals use the term “Bulgaria’d” as a verb and have now shortened it to BG’d, which in turn sounds like “bugga’d” when you pronounce the B and the G in the Bulgarian way. This term usually refers more specifically to cutting people in line, but can also be used in general when life in the Bulgat is kind of getting you down.)

This is not to say that anything that happened to me today is particularly Bulgarian (or particularly traumatic, I’m just cranky and whining). Certainly I’ve had very similar days in the U.S. But when days like this happen to you here instead of at home, you get all indignant and entitled and “Muhhhh…Bulgaria!! die!!!” like a big ol’ baby. Which sometimes, you just need to be. 

Here is basically what happened:

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