12 Things I’ve Learned From My Students

One of my day jobs involves taking care of kids after school… tutoring, crafts, and a lot of improvisation.

Two sixth-grade girls said I should do a blog-post about each kid. I don’t think that’s a good idea, but a more general blog about working at the school is doable. More specifically, I’ll go into what I’ve learned working with kids. And yes, all of these have happened since January.

  1. Big boobs are something of a liability on the job. (I’m constantly telling kindergartners “personal space, honey!”)
  2. Construction paper robots have to have perfect weddings, with all the trimmings.
  3. Knot-tying is best taught with animal metaphors (“the little eel swims into the cave”).
  4. Not being able to spell “turkey” is a 12-story crisis.
  5. Five AM at Freddy’s is fun, but Home Alone is terrifying. (Who knew?)
  6. Hair clips are surprisingly sharp, and they can cause quite a lot of blood.
  7. They remember and forget bodily autonomy with no set pattern.
  8. Wet paper towels make everything better.
  9. Dolphins and tigers are the most fascinating animals on earth.
  10. I constantly have to drop subtle messages like “moving chairs isn’t just for boys” and “being a girl doesn’t make you a scaredy-cat.” (Thanks, co-worker.)
  11. Asking them if they follow what I just said (like the bad guy in The Sting) gets amazing results.
  12. Most importantly, they know how adults are supposed to behave and remember when the adults in their lives (or the President) don’t live up to that standard. (Just for the record… they volunteered their disdain for the creature sitting in the Oval Office. I guess that means there’s hope for the future.)

Halloween! (repeat and fade)



The first elementary school I attended (kindergarten through third grade) took Halloween very seriously.  One teacher turned her house into something that wouldn’t have been out of place in Nightmare Before Christmas, and encouraged us to trick or treat there.  She and her husband were in full costume, of course; she dressed up as a witch, and he dressed up as a ghost, except for the year she was a skeleton and he an alien.

Aside from trick or treat, she and the music teacher instilled in us a love of goofy Halloween music.  Her favorite was “Witch’s Brew.” ( Listen, and try to get it out of your head.  I dare you.

The songs the music teacher had us sing proved a bit more difficult to find, but one of my all-time favorites was “The Bat Dance.” ( This song was especially dear to me, not only because it was slow and easier to sing, but there were a ton of bats around my house.  We just had to walk up the hill, and it was like the introduction to Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?

Then there was “Do the Igor.”  I never liked this one as much (being hypnotized into dancing creeped me out), but I have to include it because it was a huge presence.  And it has a really kick-ass organ solo. (

Any Halloween mix would be incomplete without “The Monster Mash” of course.  This was a party I always wanted to attend– after all, Boris sent me! (  It was a constant nag as a tot that I never did get to do the Mash with my favorite monsters… dancing with Dracula was practically a life goal.  More proof of my incurable weirdness.

Anyhoo, enjoy the music– comment with more, and happy Halloween!


Why Do You Like Horror?

Scary, isn't it?

Scary, isn’t it?

And when I say “you” I mean “I.”

It’s a question I’ve been asked a lot over the years in various contexts– as a kid, as a woman, as a feminist, as a significant other– and there’s not really a simple answer.  Part of it, certainly, is that I grew up with monsters.

My dad is a horror writer, film scholar, historian jack of all trades, and his office was and still is lousy with monsters.  As a tot, I’d toddle in, find a book with a gruesome cover (to my mother’s distress) and ask, “What’s that?”  Dad would look up from his typewriter, Word Processor, etc and calmly answer, “That’s a werewolf growling.”

One day in Kindergarten I came home to discover a cute, plush Frankenstein Monster doll on my bed.  It was love at first sight, and after making him break through the piles of leaves out back, we christened him “L’il Boris.”  He was eventually joined by “L’il Bela” and “Lonnie.”  They’re a lucky few stuffed creatures who always survive the Purge when I clean out my closet at the end of the year.

But that doesn’t answer the question.  And to be honest, it’s kind of a repeat of my Richard III post… I identify with these movies better than lighter ones.  Now I have never tried to reanimate a corpse, I do not want to be a vampire (I’d miss church too much), and contrary to popular opinion, I do not practice black magic.  I was, however, something of an outcast as a kid… the weird one who read, put tons of effort into Halloween costumes instead of just buying a Ghostface mask, and enjoyed black and white movies.  About the time Dad bought me L’il Boris, I made a series of drawings of myself living in a house with the classic Universal monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Wolfman….

It was fun and all, but my appreciation for them has changed over the last few years.  As I became more self-confident and actually gained a social life, I didn’t like these movies any less (classic horror is the best, after all), but it seems like my imagined role had shifted.  Instead of joining the ranks of the living dead as in my Kindergarten drawings (good thing that teacher was a horror fan, too), I still envisioned myself as  a character, but more of the ambiguously good expert.  Sort of like the Andrew Keir character, Father Sandor, in Dracula: Prince of Darkness— a monk, he is superficially the symbol of good and knows how to deal with vampires, but he is tough, a crackshot with a rifle, kind of a bully, and enjoys shocking people.  With him, it’s no black and white contest of good vs evil.

I enjoy shocking people, I can be mean, and I will fight very hard to defend what I believe in.  Like Father Sandor.  Considering my role before that was probably a kind of Renfield, that’s quite a promotion.  Is it healthy to see myself as a horror movie character?  I think I’m definitely doing better than I was, but who can say?  I’m not a psychiatrist… I’M A VAN HELSING!