Beauty & Body Image: A Jamaican Perspective

During my first six months in Jamaica, I put on twenty pounds. I would be lying if I said that hasn’t bothered me immensely. The growth of two pant sizes resided in the back of my mind, interfering with every decision I made, from what to eat – or if I’d eat at all – to whether I’d go swimming with my friends at the beach. I grimaced at my reflection when I dressed every morning, and felt my self-esteem slip lower and lower.

Debenhams_Look4_057cflatAt the same time, I began to witness a movement among women on the Internet. It was becoming more common for girls to discuss their distaste with their bodies, in the hopes that they might inspire change. Upworthy.com hosts a slew of videos covering this topic, ranging from the damaging effects that flawlessness in advertising has on young girls, to inspirational messages about loving yourself regardless of your size or body type. A department store in the UK recently put out a catalogue featuring regular women (as opposed to size zero models), and Dove is constantly pushing for natural beauty.

More importantly, my friends were talking. It was becoming easier for them to accept who they are – body image and all – and were pushing for all girls come to this same understanding. They shared stunning videos of women reciting slam poetry, or time lapsed images of what photo editing can really do to a model before getting plastered on a billboard. In my newly acquired pant size, I joined the fight.

As I tried to come to terms with my new weight, I began looking at the women around me. In good company, Jamaica is a country where their women are preferred a little thicker, and where, generally speaking, women don’t have body image concerns. In fact, when caught complaining about my additional weight, I was often told that I was too skinny when I first arrived.


My favorite line came from a robust woman who heard me whine that everything I eat goes to my rear, and that I wish I could lose some of its roundness. Her response? “No no, if you lose that, you lose everything!”


Then a few weeks ago, a miracle happened; I lost weight! Suddenly, my pants were all a little loser on me, and I wasn’t so repulsed with my reflection. I was elated. Ecstatic. There was a new spring to my step. I felt a little more like me again. And I realized…

How wrong was that!? I’ve been me the whole time, but only at a certain weight did I feel good about myself. Never mind my intelligence; never mind my altruistic commitment as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The only thing that seemed to matter was that I was down a pant size. And then I thought… what would the women in Jamaica think if they heard my self-debasing mantra?

So I asked them.

Over the last three weeks, I spoke to as many women as I could about this “trend” in America and other consumerist countries. I explained how companies that sell beauty products or clothes use photo-editing techniques on their models before they publish images on billboard, magazines, and commercials. I detailed the ways in which this image of flawlessness is being pushed on women of all ages, and I discussed the haunting fact that girls as young as twelve are ending up in the hospital, malnourished, with eating disorders, and despising their bodies.

I then asked them what they felt when they heard this, and what they would want to say to these young teenagers. If they had a daughter, I asked them to consider how they would react if it was their child who suffered from this kind of personal debasement.

Many of the women said they were appalled, but mostly sad. They lamented that it’s not fair what the industry is doing to them. My Supervisor, a mother to three boys, commented that girls at twelve are impressionable, and if she’d had daughters, she’d urge them to love themselves for who they are.

The three most common responses included:

  • “You need to love yourself for who you are.”
  •  “It’s more important to be healthy than beautiful on the outside. Real beauty comes from within.”
  •  “God made you this way for a reason.”

Then I shared this image.

aeNPdd5_460s_v1

Loud and outspoken by nature, these Jamaican women hollered! There were whoops, and cries, and, “Laad almighty, why dem so skinny???” I talked to fifteen women and every single one of them said they’d like to feed the Victoria Secret models. After they got over how scrawny the models were, they admitted the girls also looked sickly and ill, like “air-brushed cancer patients,” as one woman put it. Certainly not healthy, which is what they thought when they looked at the Dove women.

Finally, when the shock of the picture had worn off and their exclamations noted, I asked them what their final thoughts were. The general consensus was that beauty comes from within, and that it’s more important to be healthy than skinny. A few said they would pray for the twelve-year-olds with eating disorders, and those without children promised that if they ever did have a daughter, she would be raised to believe that she is beautiful, regardless of her outward appearance.

I consider myself a sensible individual, one that often doesn’t buy into something as trivial as a number on a scale. But even hearing these things – the respected opinions of these Jamaican women – isn’t enough to change my attitude of my self-image. It is not an easy fix. Decades upon decades of strategic marketing, promoting an image of flawlessness that is impossible to achieve, has engrained in women of all ages a self-fulfilling prophecy of personal discontent.

We live in a revolutionary new world; one where technology and Internet communications allows us to join forces and fight battles we otherwise never dreamed of fighting. The idea of positive self-worth is certainly one that should be high on our list. If we’d all just take a moment to look around, we’d see that evidence of manipulation is insurmountable. We’re at the mercy of fashion tycoons. They dictate how we feel about ourselves by force-feeding us a standard of perfection we could never attain. And they’re single handedly destroying generations of females.

Consider this: if children learn by observing their parents, and their mothers regularly shame themselves, then what kind of message are those mothers sending to their granddaughters?

How can we save ourselves?

I believe that we can take a cue from some wise Jamaican women, and we can treat ourselves with the love and respect we deserve, and teach our daughters to do the same.


5 Inspiring Videos that have been April-Approved

Amy Poehler on Body Image:

Girls & Body Image on Common Sense Media:

Dove Real Beauty Sketches:

TED Talk with model Cameron Russell:

Slam Poetry – Fat Poem:

 

 

 

Advertisements

Holidays Without Hallmark

Maybe it’s because I’m cynical, but I have never been a fan of Hallmark. I always thought it was cheesy, cliché, and above all, a marketing tactic to get people to spend unnecessarily. But before I go any further, I need to add a disclaimer; this post isn’t a Hallmark-bash. I’m not aiming to put down the company. I’m simply trying to convey an opinion – MY opinion – on the industry as a whole and the effect it has on our perception of the holidays. Let me explain.

February is Valentines Day. Yes, that’s right. The whole month is one holiday. Why? Because Hallmark (and various other companies) spend the first two weeks marketing their products. Come buy these chocolates, come pick up your cards. You need more TEDDY BEARS!! Beginning on February 1st, we’re bombarded with commercials and images reminding us that Valentines Day is around the corner, and if you don’t get these things for your loved ones, then you obviously don’t love them. After Valentines Day, all the stores need to get rid of their stock, so they drop prices while the commercials alter their message to say, don’t worry if you forgot, there’s still time to remedy your mistake.

The consequence of this marketing scheme is that the original meaning of the holiday becomes lost. Valentines Day has become something that most people dread. If you’re in a relationship, you may feel forced to spend exorbitant amounts of money for your significant other. If you’re single, you’ve never felt so alone. Very few people know the history of Valentines Day, or even who Saint Valentine was. All we know is what Hallmark tells us, and they’ve completely hijacked the holiday.

Very cool VDay facts on a very cool website.

Living in [rural] Jamaica has offered a reprieve from the demands Hallmark. It’s also allowed me a chance to see what a holiday is like without it. I have no TV, so I see no commercials. My parish is a very rural one, so I see few billboards. I do listen to the radio, but I don’t recall hearing too many advertisements for Valentines Day. The point I’m trying to convey – perhaps very poorly – is that without being hijacked by Hallmark, the holidays mean something a little different.

Take Christmas for example. In America, people adorn their homes with lights and lawn ornaments. The malls hire a Santa Claus to make a little extra cash, and every single store is having some sort of Christmas sale. While the holiday is still celebrated in the company of loved ones, it’s become more about the giving of gifts than about the birth of Christ. But in [rural] Jamaica, there are no lights, no trees, and no stockings. Some stores decorate, and some stores have sales, but for the most part, there aren’t too many seasonal changes. And, while I’m sure it’s a little more about the weather than the decorations, many PCVs have lamented that it doesn’t feel like Christmas without these things.

Easter is another big one. In America, we dye eggs and hide them. We give out chocolate bunnies. But in Jamaica – a more religious country, void of colored eggs and bunnies – the holiday retains its original, holy meaning. In fact, between Good Friday and Easter Monday, the whole island pretty much shuts down and goes to church.

118-A-gap-in-information

When it comes to the more secular holidays, like Valentines/Mother’s/Father’s Day, the Hallmark industry has some influence, but not much. Jamaicans do buy little trinkets to give out on Valentines Day, but no one is going to break the bank for it. Mother’s/Father’s Day is more about respect and recognition. And while you may argue that we respect and recognize our parents in America, I’ll argue that no one in Jamaica is running out to Kay or Jared’s to buy a diamond necklace.

All right, so maybe my position is more against consumerism than Hallmark, but Hallmark wouldn’t be able to survive outside of a consumerist economy. In a developing country like Jamaica, people don’t have the luxury of spending lavishly on these types of things. And without the demand for a “Hallmark Market,” the original intent of these holidays is not lost.

Personally, I enjoy it much more this way. It’s a relief not to be force-fed a notion driven by Big Corporation’s monetary gain. We live a world where money is meaningless (or at least it should be) and people are what matter. The spirit of a holiday, regardless of its origins, is to be with the ones you care about. When a company like Hallmark pushes a product and makes you feel guilty for not buying it, it casts a shadow over the entire holiday. A man may love his woman fiercely, and still feel as though he let her down on Valentines Day because he didn’t get her the good chocolate, or because he only brought her a dozen roses, instead of two. And why does the woman want these things to begin with? Because Hallmark told her she did. Giving to someone – whether it be a lover on Valentines Day, a parent on Mother’s/Father’s Day, or a child, adult, friend, colleague on Christmas – should come from the heart. We give (and celebrate) because we want to, not because a company told us to.

And on the topic of giving without spending for the sake of a holiday, let me take this moment to give a little something of my own. To my parents, with their respective holidays fast approaching, I give my gratitude. After all, I wouldn’t be who I am, or where I am without them.

Lastly, I challenge you – the reader – to think of a way in which you can honor and celebrate the upcoming Mother’s/Father’s Day without giving into Hallmark’s schemes. Did we all forget how easy it is to serve your mom breakfast in bed? Or do the dishes? Or, for once, complete your chores without her reminding you? For your dad, nothing could be simpler than putting a cold beer in one hand and the television remote in the other. Or perhaps a game of catch in the backyard? Take him fishing, if you’re able. No matter what you choose to do, just remember that is possible to keep within the tradition of a holiday without buying into the values of a multi-million dollar conglomerate. After all, your time, energy and love will always be worth more than the ever-fluctuating dollar.

Miss Teacha

Growing up, my sister and I were like most children; we played pretend. Among our favorite scenarios were house, treasure island, and The Three Musketeers (inspired by our love for Leonardo DiCaprio after seeing Man In The Iron Mask and Titanic). The only game we wouldn’t agree on, however, was school. I’d make Devon be the student, using stuffed animals for classmates, and have her ask questions and complete assignments. Of course, my only living student did not share my enthusiasm, and the game always ended abruptly.

Years would pass, and as I began collecting a variety of experience working with kids, my mom made an unwavering prediction. “April,” she’d persistently prophesize, “you’re going to be a teacher when you grow up.” Every time I heard this, I would reply with the same answer; “No, I won’t.”

But what’s that old saying, again? How does it go?

Oh yes: Mother is always right.

1441496_10152117749827150_750708971_n

While the Peace Corps has provided me with a large number of firsts, this is not the first time I’m playing the role of teacher, and if I’m to be perfectly honest, I had my “ah ha” moment a long time ago. I’ve worked as a camp counselor, a horseback riding instructor, a gymnastics coach, a religious school youth group leader, and a substitute teacher.

But even in all my prior experience, there’s still so much about this role that is new to me. For example, instead of following lessons left behind by another teacher, I am writing the lessons. I am no longer a faceless substitute, swooping in for a day or two at a time and having to relearn all the student’s names. Nay, I am the full-time teacher, and I get to spend an entire year with them.

Now that I’m a teacher, I catch myself repeating lines I heard from my own school days. Things like, “I’ll wait until it’s quiet,” or, “Sound it out.” I feel a sense of divine power when I give out stars for good behavior at the end of class time. And certain mysteries, like, how did she know which student wrote the test answers on the desk?, have suddenly become clear. (Just match up the handwriting; it’s so obvious I don’t know why I never thought of it before!)

As rewarding as being a teacher is, it’s also a lot of hard work. I write all my own lessons, make up activity pages, and have to grade homework and spelling tests. Consider the amount of prep work I put in for one class, and multiply it by the five different levels I’m working with. Some weeks I don’t sleep.

Classroom management is also a challenge, particularly in a culture where corporal punishment is still widely practiced. Though I’ve implemented a behavior system with rewards and consequences, it’s sometimes still difficult to maintain control without at least brandishing a ruler at them. This is one part of my job that will not miss when I leave Jamaica. I would never hit a student.

Christa-McAuliffe-Teacher-Quoteteacher_quotesTeacher+Printable+5

But the pros far outweigh the cons, and for someone who was reluctant about being a classroom teacher up until the very moment she became one, I’m having a pretty good time. I’ve laughed at my student’s jokes, and cried with them during times of hardships. I cheered for them when they ran the Jamaica Day Marathon and shared in their pride when they passed the Grade Four Literacy Exam after three tries.

I’ve gotten to know my students, both academically and personally. I know what they are capable of, and know where they are challenged. I can tell you that the troublemakers are the sweetest ones at heart, and I always know when someone gets some extra help on their homework.

I think the most beautiful thing about being a teacher is watching your students grow. Overnight, they’ve become taller. I look at my sixth grade boys and I suddenly see young men. My third grade girls now move with the grace of young ladies, rather than the clumsiness that comes with being a child. I’ve witnessed improvement in their self-esteem, and of course, their reading ability.

We only have a few weeks left of school. As I begin wrapping up the year and thinking about the next one, I also find that I keep asking myself one question: is this the career for me?

Mom predicted I’d be a teacher, and she wasn’t exactly wrong. Whether I’m in the classroom, in the middle of a riding arena, or on the gymnastics floor, I’ve been teaching. Every job I’ve had has included the transfer of skills from instructor to pupil. Now that I think about it, I can’t imagine having a job in which I am not working with kids.

Children are so impressionable! They see the world through a different light, and if we listen carefully, there is so much that they can teach us. Children are creative; they believe in miracles and magic, and they don’t know the meaning of hate or prejudice. Most importantly, there is nothing more incredible than witnessing that moment when a child finally learns something new. Their face lights up. Their eyes grow wide. The smile overcomes their face and you can literally see the joy and excitement pour out of them.

And there is nothing more rewarding than that.

IMG_1399

Newfound Adoration

Screen shot 2013-11-16 at 4.08.53 PMLet’s face facts.

Geographically speaking, I didn’t go anywhere. At 180 miles away from my hometown, I am closer to my family now than I was when I went to college. I’m in the same time zone, with the same flora and fauna, and the same tropical climate. Even the color of the water is the same – that crystal blue that’s so clear you can see straight down to the bottom…

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that while my fellow volunteers are fawning over sandy beaches and discovering the joys of year-round tank tops, I’m sitting over here, nodding my head and saying, “Been there. Done that.”

It should also be a no-brainer that when asked where in Jamaica I’d rather live, I replied with, “The mountains.”

So the Placement Gods got it right this time, and stuck a city slickin’ beach bum in a rural community, deep in the heart of the Blue Mountains. At 2,000 feet elevation, with the clouds on a gloomy day settling in around me, I am as far from my norm as I could possibly be. More to my delight, while other volunteers were growing accustomed to a winter without snow, I was gifted with a brief reprieve from 80-90 degree weather.

I remember the first time I drove to Cedar Valley. I was about halfway up the mountain when I realized the air outside the vehicle had changed. It was thinner, and even in May, had a slight nip to it. Later that evening, I curiously stepped outside to feel the temperature. The night was brisk, and instantly, goosebumps rose on my flesh. I knew, in that instant, that I would experience a winter.

But allow me to digress a moment, and bring you back to my college years, when I attended a university in New York. I’d never experienced a winter before, and after four years of “seasons,” I was very much through with that nonsense. I yearned for my sunny home state and the ability to only require a sweater when seeing a movie.

So why, for crying out loud, did the idea of winter in Cedar Valley excite me so much??
Answer: It was the summer without A/C that did it for me.

I couldn’t wait for the excuse to wear long-sleeve shirts and sleep under a thick comforter. Or to snuggle up in a big sweater and baggy sweatpants with a mug of hot cocoa. At school, the wind blew through the valley and into my concrete classroom, where I shivered and some days felt my helpless fingers grow numb.

“Numb? What? Come on, now. It’s not like it was snowing or anything.”

No, but spend your life in the land of eternal sunshine and even sixty degrees feels like Antarctica.

And I loved it!! I was reminded again of how good it feels to sit in the sunshine and bask in its warmth, rather than spend day after day trying to escape it. I enjoyed walking to school in the morning, and not arriving a hot sweaty mess. I could actually wear my hair down. And the view from my rose-tinted window (aka: facebook) allowed me a chance to be thankful I was in Jamaica, and not in New York.

But the joy was short lived. Eight weeks later, and it’s summer again. Away goes my comforter. No more sweaters or baggy sweatpants; instead I just get sweat. My hair has returned to its permanent ponytail state. Before I know it, it will be that time of the year when your only option is to camp out in front of your fan.

On the plus side, I’ll welcome the cold showers again.

Please enjoy this info-graphScreen shot 2014-03-21 at 10.55.34 AM

Jamaica Day

I could hear the horns halfway through Jacardi (means, shortcut). Children clad in black, green and gold laughed and shouted at each other as they barreled past me down the mountainside. Inwardly, I awarded myself for remembering to buy a Jamaica shirt for the occasion.

The day was rich with excitement. All over the island, children were celebrating their country’s heritage and accomplishments. The school served chicken foot soup and barbequed chicken back and neck. A bulletin board displayed newspaper articles of Jamaican athletes at the Olympics. The compound was a rolling wave of Jamaican colors, playing to a soundtrack of young voices, shouting playfully in a language I still don’t fully understand.

The Marathon

Marathon MapWe stood under a tree on the side of the road, holding light blue tickets made from poster board and a stamp of the school’s seal. “This is the last checkpoint,” Miss explained to me.

The marathon was the highlight of Jamaica Day. Fifty students signed up for it. Shortly after Devotions, they were loaded into two buses and brought to their starting point in Richmond Vale, while several teachers dispersed themselves along the way. The objective: run from Richmond Vale back to Cedar Valley Primary School – a total distance of 3.3 miles.

For a long distance runner, three miles may seem like child’s play, but consider that a U.S. student might be asked to run a mile in his/her P.E. class, then factor in pavement instead of grass, a couple of steep inclines, and children without shoes. That’s the CVPJHS Marathon.

We waited for close to an hour before students made their way toward us. They came charging down the road – barefoot* and shirtless – collecting their colored tickets along the way, encouraged by cheering community members.

They were given ice cream and orange juice upon returning to the school.

* When parents buy shoes for their children, sometimes they have to buy one pair to last two or even three years, so many students prefer to ditch their shoes (especially when running) as soon as they get to school.

1939496_10101072764987350_132246235_n

Carrie Russell

“Wait, who is this?”
“Carrie Russell. She brought home two gold medals for Track and Field.”
“And she’s from here?”
“She was a student of mine!”

IMG_1693I thought of the students who just ran the marathon; one of them could be Jamaica’s next biggest athlete. What pride these students must feel, to know that one of their own made it to the top. I wonder if that crossed any of their minds as they ran barefoot on mashed up roads through their poor community.

For me, this was exciting. Here I was, a stranger in a strange land, meeting a local star. More importantly, as an Educational Peace Corps Volunteer, whose primary goal is to “make a difference,” there stood before me living proof that you can do anything you set your mind to. Was this as inspiring to the students as it was to me?

This was not the first time I was meeting an Olympic athlete, but this was the first time I witnessed one return to her roots. She arrived on campus so casually that at first no one paid her any mind. Wearing blue jeans, sneakers, and a blouse, she blended into the crowd and disappeared from my view.

A little later she spoke to us, encouraging students to follow their dreams and never give up. She did not speak of her fame, but of how good it felt to return to where it all began. She thanked her teachers – many of whom are still at the school – and assured us that CVPJHS will always have a special place in her heart.

Soccer! Er… Football!!

Penlyne Castle Primary School joined us in the afternoon for the long-awaited, highly coveted football match. With their school in red, and our school in blue, the students began warming up, and more community members arrived. It would appear that the football match was more exciting than an Olympic athlete!

I didn’t stick around for the soccer football game; it was after 3pm by that time, but I hear CVPJHS kicked some major Penlyne booty.

football

So, between running and football, I’m sure there are a couple of stars hidden within our midst. And as far as Jamaica Day goes, I’d like to think a few of students were inspired to try their best and never give up.

For me, they day was stimulating. Even though I sometimes still struggle to understand the language and culture, and I’m often not made aware of big events until the last minute, I felt fully included for the first time since joining the CVPJHS family. Maybe it was the Jamaica shirt. Or maybe I’ve finally been here long enough to have not slipped everyone’s minds. But while I munched on chicken neck, hung out with the students, and witnessed a real-life story of beating the odds, my preconceived notions of a Peace Corps Volunteer came to mind.

Prior to my own experience, I believed the friendly people I saw in pictures with foreign children were important people. I believed they sat on mountains of personal achievements and were now influential ambassadors performing miracles. Surely these volunteers had to have hearts of pure gold – a heart of which I was not worthy.

So I applied on a whim, never believing I’d get in. Then I did, and slowly made the transition from the outside to the inside. Eleven months into this crazy exploit, and I’ve finally come to understand that I am now one of those people from the photos. Only, I am not performing miracles; I’m taking baby steps. I’m not sitting on a mountain of personal achievement, because I am still learning and growing. Anything I’ve done feels small in comparison to what I’d like to do. And I don’t have a heart of pure gold; I just have my heart – a heart that’s made mistakes but still tries to make the right choices. I’m no great, influential ambassador; I’m just me.

Just me, sitting on a bench, surrounded by students, on a little island in the Caribbean, eating chicken. I am completely present. Around me, I see a culture that is different and also the same in so many ways.  All at once, I understand that this is what it feels like to be one of those people in the photos.

Oh look! I’ve got one now too.

1795729_10101080089803360_1175984477_n

**************************************************************************************************

IMG_1517IMG_1523IMG_1629IMG_1532 IMG_1622IMG_1593

How To Take A Bucket Bath

Every Peace Corps post is different, and each volunteer experience varies in degree from one to the next. But there is one thing that just about all of us have in common: the bucket bath.

In countries where most volunteers serve, water scarcity is an obstacle. And if scarcity isn’t the issue, it’s still safe to assume that a lack of running water is. That’s why when you meet an RPCV, you can easily conclude that he or she is an expert at taking bucket baths.

So what exactly is a bucket bath, and how do you take one?

A bucket bath is a method of maintaining cleanliness that is achieved by using a bucket of standing water, and the objective is to waste as little of it as possible.

 

To learn how to take one, feel free to follow along with my step-by-step instructions

*********************************************

Materials:
First, you’ll need a bucket of water. (Or in my case, a basin.) If you’re able, you can boil the water first for warmth and added comfort.

photo

Pour a small amount of it into a separate container, so you have a place to dip your hands after shampooing or washing your body. You don’t want to let your clean water get soapy or dirty!

IMG_1317

You’ll also need a small container for pouring a controlled amount of water onto yourself. I like to use a recycled tomato sauce jar

IMG_1320

Make sure you have a washcloth, looffa, or shower glove available. These items are great for lathering soap, and help a little go a long way.

Personally, I like the shower glove, because the course texture helps remove stubborn, unwanted dirt.

IMG_1324

Finally, you need the obvious; soap, shampoo and conditioner (or 2in1 if you’re really economic)

IMG_1326

Now you’re ready to bathe!

Using your jar or small container, pour some water onto yourself. For long hair, gather as much of it to your head as possible, for maximum wetness with minimal water. If you need to, use more than one helping of water to make sure you’ve got your whole body. It also helps to use your hands or a washcloth to spread the water around. Remember, you want to waste as little as possible.

Next, shampoo your hair as normal, and when you’re finished, dip your hands into the second water basin to rinse them off. Using your washcloth, looffa, or shower glove, clean your body as normal. You can rinse that off in the basin as well.

Now it’s time to rinse. Again, using your jar or small container, use however much water you need to properly remove all soap and shampoo.

If you’re using a 2in1 for your hair, your bucket bath is complete! Otherwise, repeat steps one through three for conditioner.

Feeling so fresh and so clean, remember to spill your rinsing basin out, and use a little bit of clean water to wash away any remaining soap. If you’re able, cover any unused water for future use.

Murphy’s Law

Murphy's Law

“The school’s projector doesn’t work very well, but you can use mine. I have good speakers too.”
“Great, thanks! Can I lock them in my classroom so I’ll have them when I get to school tomorrow?”
“I have to teach an early class tomorrow, so I’ll be here.”

Of course, he wasn’t.

I got to school at a quarter after eight, figuring how-to-train-your-dragon-poster-1that forty-five minutes was more than enough time to set up for the movie. My students had spent the last two weeks reading a story about dragons, so I wanted to treat them by showing the Dreamworks film, How To Train Your Dragon. I was excited; this was the first time I was showing them a movie, and I knew they’d really enjoy this one. I wanted to make sure I got to school early enough to set up, and iron out all the kinks before 9am. At an hour and a half in length, that would give us enough time to watch and be finished by Break.

Without Sir’s projector, I was forced to see if I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the other one. I pulled it out, plugged it in, and turned it on. It seemed to work just fine, so I brought it to the library and began my set up. Projector in place and functional, next I needed a computer. Thanks to Apple’s brilliant product scheme, the projector would not properly connect with my laptop, so I needed to track down one of the school’s PC’s.

Okay, PC laptop: check.
Projector: check.
Extension cord? Yeah, I definitely need that. Let’s go get it.

Time: 8:30

As luck would have it, the extension cord was not where it was supposed to be, so I needed to track that down as well. I asked several teachers, and ten minutes later, finally had it in my possession.

“What about speakers?” I asked. “I am showing this to twenty-four students.”
“They should be in the office. You didn’t see them?”
“No.”
“Hm. Who had them last? Go ask Miss and see if she knows where they are.”

This Miss didn’t know, but maybe that one would. Nope, she didn’t know either; go ask her. “I haven’t seen them, but I think they are in So And So’s classroom.”

Time: 8:58

meme-face-thinkingBy five after nine, I had the speakers in my hands and returned to the library. Thrilled that I was only five minutes behind schedule, I pulled them from their box… and discovered a power plug.

Of course they need to be plugged in, I thought grimly, looking at the wall with only two outlets, and both of them occupied. Can I unplug the computer and let it run on battery? The computer quickly powered down. Guess not.

I need a power strip.

So once more I return to the Principal in search of a power strip, hoping this won’t take me another ten minutes, or that the school even has one. Fortune was with me, but not with the school’s bursar, who had to give up all use of her computer by handing over her electrical unit. Thanking her, and apologizing profusely, I hurried back to the library.

Time: 9:15

As quickly as I could, I unplugged and replugged everything, then rebooted the computer and the projector. As I ran through one more mental checklist and performed a final test for functionality, I heard the distinct grumble of Sir’s car as it entered school property.

PC laptop: check
Projector: check
Speakers: check

Time: 9:23

All systems are go.

In a hustle now, I swiftly collected my students and ushered them into the library. Once they were settled in their seats, I stood before them and smiled. “I am so excited to show you this movie,” I prefaced. “I know how much you liked our dragon story, and I think you’ll really like this movie too. In class, I asked everyone a question; I asked what you would do if you saw a dragon. Some people said they would run from it, and some people said they would fight the dragon. But one brave person,” I winked at that student, “said he would pet the dragon. That said, this movie is called How To Train Your Dragon. I hope you enjoy it!”

I moved aside and pressed play.

Thirty seconds in, when the film’s narration begins, there were sound effects, but no voices. Panic raced through me, but I was tech savvy, so I was confident I could fix this. I quickly paused the movie, apologized, and began pouring over the VLC Media Player settings. After five minutes, and watching my students grow rowdy, I conceded that this might be beyond me. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong! I sent a student running to get Sir. He took his time sauntering across campus, clicked two buttons, and smiled at me before heading out. Back in business, I breathed a sigh of relief, and restarted the film.

A very short time later, someone knocked softly on the library door. Stepping outside, I greeted the Principal.

“Is everything working now?”
“Yes, finally.”
“Good. I am glad you are getting through. I wanted to remind you about the special presentation today. I’m sure you got the notice that went around yesterday?”
“No… I never got a notice.”
“Oh, my apologies. Anyway, there is a special presentation today at Eleven. And you remember that today is an early dismissal day?
“Yes, that I remembered.”

“Miss! Miss!” I heard from inside. We both stepped into the library, to find the screen dark. The projector had finally given up.

Time: 9:50

e84453ed_Are-You-Fucking-Kidding-Me-Rage-Face-Meme-Template-Blank-300x295

The master of delegation, I sent the same student back to Sir’s room to get his projector.

At 10:30, the students heard the bell for break, and lost interest in the film.

By 10:50, I began my slow descent into madness. My students finally returned from break and were settled in their seats to resume the film, when the library door opened again. Without acknowledging me, six older boys poured into the room, demanding that my students stand up so they could take the chairs. Livid, I put my foot down. “Excuse me! You knock when you see a closed door, and if you need something, you ask me, the teacher. You don’t just barge in and do whatever you please!”

brunette_rage getting pissedTaking things one step further, I sent the boys away and instructed my students to take the chair they are sitting on and bring it to the pavilion, and to make sure that they each bring one chair back afterward, so that we could finish the movie.

But the presentation went longer than expected, and I knew finishing the movie that day would be impossible. My students, however, eager and excited, did not want to take no for an answer. They did as they were asked, brought back the chairs quickly, and promised they wouldn’t make a mess eating lunch.

Meanwhile, the extension cord had disappeared – turns out they needed that for the presentation too – and the Bursar needed her power strip back so she could get her work done. Other students were trying to sneak in so they could watch the movie too, my students wanted to go to the bathroom, all of them wanted their lunch, and two boys were suddenly wrestling violently on the floor. If that wasn’t chaotic enough, a parent showed up to talk to me about her son, and Sir’s car rolled into view with a honk. “Are you ready to go?” he shouted.

When the hell did it get to be 1:30!?

I don’t know how I did it (PTSD clouds my memory) but I managed to survive the tornado and make it off school grounds in a timely manner. I can’t say much for my sanity, though, and as soon as I reached home, I collapsed on my bed. Tears spilled from my eyes – either from stress, or relief that the day was done – and my final thought before I drifted off for a well-deserved nap was that I needed to change Bowser’s litter.

I woke up to find a fresh, rancid turd in the middle of my bedroom floor.

1375728723_picard-facepalm