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A Poem for My Fitness Friends

April 11, 2014

I had the chance to teach a writing course as a part of my internship.  (Pretty sweet, huh?)  We did a brief section on poetry while I was there, and we focussed mainly on free verse.

I got jealous of the neat-o poems being generated in class, and decided that I would participate too!  My subject matter turned, not surprisingly, to fitness! I haven’t written a poem  in a long time, and this one is pretty odd.  (I haven’t a title.  Suggest away!)  Thought I would share.

 

My secret double-life requires                                                                                      
spandex pants                                                                                                      
rocket fuel (black coffee, at least!)
and seriously
triumphant 
music.

Look (in the sky!),
I wouldn’t be there if I didn’t think
(in the tiniest way)
I was recreating myself for the better.
Forgive me,
for my concentration has curled
around this one thought,
and I am
dead 
set
on being a
Superhero.

It’s a hefty secret
(half my bodyweight, at least)
this two-faced life.
There’s more to me than meets the eye.

It’s as awkward to talk about
as a one-legged plank.
So, you go to the gym?
So what.
Give the girl a cape.

The fervour is embarrassing and religious.
Eyes alight and my voice rises in pitch,
branched-chain amino acids!
Pre-workouts!
Creatine!
Vitamins!

Protein powder and greens!
Guess that’s why
they call it a ‘cult.’

I thrill for tales of
endless pyramid training,
and increased muscle mass.
Whole.
Body.
Transformation.

It’s the drive that gives you away.
Can’t quit. Won’t quit.
There are normal people
and then,
there are the dumbbell obsessed.
Bag packed and ready to go every night.
Endless charts of reps and sets.

No excuses,
Plus every other gym mantra ever ringing in my head.

You got this.

Last set, best set.

You can do anything for 10 reps.

Hey, gotta grow, bro.

The promise is implicit.
There’s someone else,
just beneath the surface.
Unexpected,
it should strain to pull me in.
I’ve always been the bookish type.
A school marm
with a secret neon Superman shirt
beneath her gray
button-down.

Sometimes a secret agent.
Sometimes an Olympic athlete.
Sometimes the only one who can save the world.
But mostly I am just me.
A nerd.
Clandestine
sneaking to the weight room
the strange peace of the irons.
A part-time WonderWoman,
hiding in plain sight,
hoping my secret is safe with you.

spinlock_dumbbell_bars_b

Thanks for reading!
-Jenn

On a Brief Incidence of Internet Bullying

March 23, 2014

A friend of mine posted something (a picture with a caption) on Twitter which I happened to think was sexist.  I responded, trying to point that same fact out.  I already know what some people think of this, and what some people think of the people who respond to these things, so let me explain.

I’m not that upset over one picture.  The truth is, it’s not about one little sexist tweet, post or comment.  It’s never been about one little sexist joke.  If I were really upset over one sexist joke, then fine, call me a “whiny little b*tch,” or whatever.  It is in fact about approximately a million little. Sexist. Jokes.

You all know what I’m talking about.  I firmly believe that sexism has a cumulative effect on the psyche.  The more often we see it, (and it seems pretty obvious that we see it really often), the more normalized it becomes.  If you make sexism normal over and over again, with all of those individual little sexist jokes, it’s not about just one tweet anymore.  All of those jokes are tiny little snapshots.  Taken all together, those snapshots paint one ugly picture.

That’s why I care so much when I see small examples of sexism all over the place.  We need to move past this as a culture, and that is going to take action.  That action needs to be collective.  People need to actively participate.  That means, well, speaking up when you see it.  So…I do.

To be fair, my friend is not the problem.  We disagree, and that’s fine.  Do I wish I could convince him to my perspective?  Of course!  Still, I have no fight with him personally.  It was the lengthy string of tweets that I found directed at me from people I do not know that I had a problem with.

This morning, the crap-load of comments slung in my direction which were mean-spirited indeed.  For expressing an alternate view on sexist humour the following took place:

  • My full profile was laughed at.

  • My Twitter handle was laughed at.

  • I was called a “poser” (?)

  • I was called “directionless” (???)

  • I was called “dumb”

  • I was called a “whiny little b*tch”

Oddly, I was also informed that I have “no ballz,” which I am quite fine with, really!  I am also very curious, I’ll admit, with regards to what makes me a “poser.”  There are no lies on my profile.  I really am a feminist and a vegetarian.  I really do like to lift weights.  For real, yo.  As well, “directionless”?  I feel like someone was trying to call me a slacker-hippie!  That’s a weird one based on zero evidence.  Seriously though, this stuff, really sucked, and for a few minutes I was holding my phone, looking at my Twitter feed in a state of anger-shock.

In five years on Twitter, I have never really had a completely unprovoked and personal attack like that. Oh, sure, people get mad at me sometimes, or debates turn really sour, but the angry reaction usually after some kind of actual interaction.  It’s also usually that the person gets mad at my stance rather than me as a whole entire person.  In the end, I made a couple of tweets back basically saying that I had no direct fight without anyone.  Then I hit the ‘block’ button a couple of times.  I don’t need to surround myself with that.

Yet, I can see that this is not always an easy choice to make.  By hitting ‘block’ I am relinquishing something.  Now, I can no longer even see the conversation.  These people are still free to say and think whatever awful things they want to about me.  I admit that a part of me wanted to fight back; to tell them how wrong they were, and to defend myself.  Yet, I am old and ugly enough now for logic and adulthood to take over.  You don’t engage this stuff.  You get out.  But…what if I had been 17?  What if I had been one of the students I teach?

It took 5 years for me to get full-on bullied on Twitter.  I think it took so long because most of the time adults do not have to deal with this.  It isn’t adult discourse.  We do know, however, that kids have to deal with it, and also that it’s WAY more frequent.  It really makes me feel bad for ever taking that “meh, just get off the social media and get over it” approach to internet bullying.  Yes, I can get off the internet for myself now, but I am not so sure teenage me would have.

Honestly, kudos to every outspoken kid who ever has to deal with this flack.  Keep fighting the good fight, and remember why the “block” button is there.  Internet bullying sucks.

Gonna make sure I hug a teenager today!

Missing the Bus.

March 7, 2014

Well, sometimes I truly fail to impress myself.

This morning I was supposed to be leaving on a brief ski trip with the school that I’m interning at.  I wasn’t key to the operation or anything,  but I was really looking forward to it.   I have never been skiing!   I enjoy taking on new adventures!

Unfortunately, last night I had some marking to do, and yesterday there was a death in Jason’s family.   The end result?  It was 1AM by the time I got to bed.  (Spent a little time glued to my rotary phone last night.  Yes, really.)

This morning, after shockingly little sleep, I got up, threw myself together and got out the door.  I knew I was running late.  Not good. Then I got detoured.

Like a bad movie,  I became later still.

I managed to get to the school just in time to watch the bus leave.

Derp.

Derp.

Derp.

Sigh.  I had a moment of panic.  Then I got in touch with some of the people on  board the bus, (hooray for technology!) and everything is ok.  At least it’s mostly ok.

Now I am at the school for the kids who didn’t go on the ski trip.  This is fine, and even has some benefits,  but I am here dressed in stretchy clothing which is more appropriate for the gym than a private school.  (Push-ups, anyone? )

There yyou have it.  Any students here get to see the real me today.   This is Ms. Martin without refining. :)

The upsides?  I can now get a lot of school work done today.  Also, I probably won’t injure myself.  

Sure, maybe that last part sounds silly, but I can  be a bit of a calamity.   In fact, Jason is looking forward to talking to me tonight,  just to make sure I have escaped this adventure unscathed.

Ah well.   YES.  I’m ok.  The biggest spectre in my day is a potential paper cut.

I guess I’ll just have to grab a slide and hurtle myself down a hill after school,  just to make it up to myself. (Screaming ‘WOO-HOO!!!’ all the way, of course. ) 

On Effective Teaching

February 18, 2014

I would love to take the easy way out.  I would love to be very general about this, and say that effective teachers just have a certain “je ne sais quoi.”  That said, I have a feeling that I would not get away with this attempt at brevity.  I will endeavour to say something more constructive and well-defined than that.

In the first place, I am learning again and again that effective teachers have to be organized.  They have to know their lesson plans, be able to connect where it’s headed and draw from where the students have been.  It has to work with the curriculum and it has to be leading the students toward something.  Teachers who seem to perform the best have a plan in mind all of the time, and they have communicated this plan effectively with students.  In my experience, the more clarity and transparency, the better.  (This goes for both teacher and student.)  It takes a lot of planning for the lesson to appear effortless and cohesive.

The best of the most effective teachers also do well with giving students individual attention.  This is not just correction, but can also be motivational, such as the right word at the right time or a smile of encouragement.  The best teachers form memorable bonds with their students.  Facilitating these bonds will help students to be motivated to learn.  A community of mutual respect comes about when all voices are valued.  This is supported by the teacher being respectful to all of the individuals in their classroom.

The most effective teachers I’ve ever met were also near-geniuses at questioning.  I am not truly convinced that this skill can be fully taught, nor am I sure that I have the knack for it that some do.  Questions that stimulate more questions and lead to a revelatory thought are a beautiful thing when well-executed.  I have seen this done well, and it requires being challenging while also being encouraging.  The teacher knows where they want the student to wind up, and through some magic that I haven’t quite mastered, they ask the right questions to gently lead the student to that outcome.  This is not as easy as it looks!

Still, we know that no matter what, humour counts for a lot.  A teacher who is informative but who also happens to be amusing can make learning more fun, and this can enhance the reception of their message.  A welcoming atmosphere is supported by a teacher who values keeping a good attitude and a healthy perspective.

This use of good humour and a positive demeanor is not simply cracking jokes either.  Attitude can also include the teacher’s display of inquisitiveness and curiousity.  Learning simply must be accepted as an ongoing part of the job.  A truly effective teacher will be consistently expanding their professional knowledge, including acquiring new skills and the application of those skills.  The best teachers are willing to be wrong, to learn, and to investigate interesting new problems or ideas (whether from research or, more often, coming from the students themselves).  Professional development is not something a teacher can opt out of!  There could never be a stopping point; a decisive end at which time a teacher finally becomes as effective as they can possibly be.

While I believe that some measures of becoming more effective can be more or less cultivated, I do still find myself coming back to the idea of “je ne sais quoi.”  I do believe that there is an unidentifiable “something” which some teachers possess.  I think that this unquantifiable extra goes beyond mere interest and professionalism.  This is something that comes from deep-rooted conviction, passion, and a belief in the importance of teaching.  I’m tempted to say that this magic exists for those who see teaching as a calling.  It’s a mysterious force that I don’t believe all teachers possess.  All the same, I would love to someday be known as one of the educators who do.writing

Cosmic and Physical Knocks in the Head

February 16, 2014

So, here’s a fun little story…

A few weeks ago, I was walking along a snowy sidewalk on what was turning out to be a stormy sort of day.  I was feeling pretty energetic.  It was messy on the roads, but it was also so very pretty outside, and I quite liked the fresh air and layer of white.  Plus, I had decent winter boots on, so you’d think I was  good to go.

Along my walk, I came upon this slight embankment.  Just this tiny hill of snow built up on the curb.  I saw a flat surface on the other side.  In a fit of girlish enthusiasm, I hopped over it.

You know the part where I said this is a “fun” story?  Well, I lied.  In the next, post-hop split-second, here is what happened:  I touched down on the other side.   My heels kept going, and, with considerable momentum, I fell, not simply on my rear, but fully backward, managing to hit my head.  Lovely.

I hit my head with such force that my glasses wet flying off my face.   This sudden impact pushed all the air out, and I got this strange and shocking aching sensation that pulled across the front of my collarbone.  I saw stars.  My head was ringing.  I wound up sitting in the snow for a couple of minutes, trying to collect myself and verify that yes, I was actually ok.  A man in an SUV stopped and asked if I was alright.  I couldn’t see him, since my glasses were still some distance from me, but I managed to stand, smile and say that I was.  (No other responses sprang to mind!) As is often the case with these things, the true impact of my fall wasn’t felt until sometime afterwards.  I got myself together, even checked my pupils in the car mirror, waited 45 minutes until I really did feel fine, and drove home.

It was only later that night, after dinner, that things on the right side of my body got pretty stiff.  My shoulder, neck, and head were very sore, and the incident kept replaying in my mind.  Ouch.  I found myself thinking of how much worse it could have been, and I still wasn’t totally convinced that I was ok.

The next day, Jason confessed that he had been watching me the previous night like a hawk.  He’d been pretty worried too, and was relieved when nothing much happened.  I was really fine.  I mean, three days later I still had a headache, but I was fine.

Or, going to be fine, anyway.  In the meantime, I had given myself a fright.  I found myself a bit forced to stop, slow down and take stock.  The night it happened I didn’t get any work done.  What if it had been worse?  What would have happened?  Those questions soon took on a different tone.  Where was I with my inner life?  I was working a lot, and that’s fine, but where was my spiritual awareness, interest or curiousity?

As it so happened, my mother took me to see a motivational speaker the night after my fall.  I sat there, stiff in my seat, while the buoyant blonde woman on stage bounced around and talked about the power of gratitude, setting intentions and getting out of your own way.  A fine experience, and the testimonials were great, but none of it was new.

But then, if it wasn’t new, why weren’t these things part of my life?  Like, you don’t have to convince me that meditation and taking control of your energy are generally good for you.  I get it.  I don’t have an excuse.  This is old news to me.  Yet here I am, every day totally living in the mundane day-to-day with my spiritual inclinations so far on the back burner…

I don’t know why it all got tied up in my head, but my knock on the pavement started to feel way more than physical.

Still, it let its physical effects be known! Over the few days I felt the pain more through my body like a wave.  First my upper back was hurting the most.  The next day the pain was more centered in the front of my body, including my jaw and collarbone.  Then it seemed to be at its worst in the middle of my back.  After that, I felt pain along the muscles on the right side of my abdomen.  I honestly feel recovered now, but I also feel like I am very lucky it wasn’t much worse.

I am also feeling a little happier.  I am now consciously making time for expressions of spirituality.  I think I need things like meditation and remembering to breathe deeply and feel grateful.  I have been pretty unmotivated about it, but I am now trying to get back in touch with my more spiritual self.  I mean, you never know what could happen.

Next time, I think I’d just like a gentler wake up call!

cosmic-awareness-2

Not Pretty Enough at 6:30AM

January 27, 2014
Don't look at me!  I'm Hideous!

Don’t look at me! I’m Hideous!

Today I went to the gym.  It’s Monday.  I was tired.  Because I was tired, I popped by a   coffee place so I could get a big, bold, black coffee to take with me to the weight room.   (Early mornings, eh?)

I had slightly messy hair.  I had thrown on my gym clothes and had on my big cozy    winter coat.  It being 6:30AM, I most certainly did not have any makeup on my face.

That said, I feel like adding here that I actually did catch a glimpse of myself in the      mirror as I was leaving the house around 6AM, and I still thought I looked pretty good.   My skin is relatively clear, and I don’t think I’m like, hideous without makeup or      anything.  (In fact, there are many many days when I choose to forgo painting my face.  Who has time every single morning?)

I go to buy the coffee, and the guy serving me is someone who I know on an acquaintance level, but not exceptionally well or anything.  He says to me, after he gets my coffee, and I am quoting directly:

“You look like you need makeup this morning.”

Whoa, dude.  Seriously?

This took me by surprise.  6:30.  In the morning.  BEFORE I go to the gym.  BEFORE I am thinking about facing the world all prettied up.  I’m sorry, was my appearance really up for debate at that time?  This comment irked me on a couple of levels, and maybe not quite in the way in which you would think.

For starters, it’s not really about the insult.  Fine.  I looked not-so-good.  I can accept that someone could think this.  I am not really hurt by it, because I am ok with how I look.  I also know that even at my best, plenty of people probably find me unattractive.  No problem.  We all have different tastes, and I already have a partner who seems just fine with how I look, thank-you-very-much.

It’s less about the insult of it and more the lack of tact.  How the heck is this ever ok to say?  Even if I was actually hideous swamp beast, and children ran screaming from my dowdy pock-marked visage, there is a line that the polite observer does not cross.  It’s not about whether or not I look good, it’s just the idea of an insult like this being spoken aloud at all.  Even though I’m confident, I would greatly appreciate people refraining from publicly judging me based on my freaking face at 6:30 IN THE GODDAMN MORNING.  Just…no.  There’s no excuse for that.

Beyond the lack of tact, I think that there is an implicit gender stereotype at play.  I’m a woman.  I didn’t look great this morning.  Therefore I must “need” makeup.  This is ridiculous, because even if this coffee dude got to work looking like he just rolled in from a 3-day hangover, he would probably never ever look in a mirror and think to himself that he really “needs” makeup.  (Again, I do know this guy, and no, he is not a makeup-wearing male!)  I also very seriously doubt that he would ever say something similar to a tired-looking male patron.

To compound the sexism, there is also a certain level presumption.  Shockingly, some women (including myself sometimes), do not wear makeup.  Maybe my face, as it was at 6:30 was as good as it was going to get for the rest of the day.  Maybe I like how I look just fine without makeup, and all I do is slap on a little chapstick and go.  Who is some person who doesn’t know me to tell me what I “need”?

In the end, I’m sad to say that I didn’t have a snappy comeback, and I wasn’t particularly witty at all.  I was surprised and muttered something vague about being on my way to the gym.  I think that my very non-”me” behaviour stands as obvious evidence that I really am in need of coffee at 6:30AM!

I’ll just be getting mine somewhere else from now on.

 

School’s in Session

January 14, 2014

After a rocky start involving a three-day delay in schools reopening, classes have officially begun!

This time, however, I am on the other side of the podium.  Now, my job isn’t to sit there and take notes.  My job is to stand in front of the whiteboard and tell the grade 11′s to take notes!

The experience is already nothing like the brief two-week taste of the earlier internship.  I am in the same school, but with a different teacher, and I am actually directly involved in creating curriculum.

Holy crap!  Creating curriculum!  Nothing like a bit of trial by fire, eh?

I have an absolute stack of novels to read, and I have lessons to plan.  I have many opportunities to bring things in and suggest things.  Frankly, I am both thrilled and overwhelmed by choice.

Oh, and I’m tired.  I get up at 5:30 to get in my gym time before school, and of course I’m a nervous insomniac anyway, so…yeah…

Anyway, I’ve got a lesson to plan, so I’d better get gone!

-Jenn

P.S.  OMG you guys I get to teach Dracula.  Not even joking.

 

Annex - Lugosi, Bela (Mark of the Vampire)_02

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