On verbing nouns

 

@snidesky acts as a human clothes pin, hunkering down behind a senior whose drape was a little too loose. Just enough momming for a picture-perfect pose. Photo by Jason Pierce

@snidesky acts as a human clothes pin, hunkering down behind a senior whose drape was a little too loose. Just enough momming for a picture-perfect pose. Photo by Jason Pierce

 

Being a wordsmith, I love to try new things with existing words – like transforming nouns into verbs. It doesn’t work with every noun, and it shouldn’t, but boy, oh, boy, er, um, girl – well really, it was seniors, both boys and girls (young men and women?). Yes, I verbed a noun – a really respectable noun – that helped out a lot with senior portraits.

The photographers arrived and set up their stations, and soon after, newly christened seniors of 2015 began arriving for that first of senior year traditions – the senior portrait for the yearbook. Some were giddy with excitement, some were nervous about the hair that wouldn’t cooperate or the adult decisions that loomed before them, some simply seemed to be walking around in a stupor. A few were extremely disinterested, obviously there under order of a higher power – mom.

My yearbook helpers had been instructed in the fine art of finding the card with the senior’s name on it and verifying information. Then they were to help the girls choose the best fitting black velvet drape and help them, if necessary, to change in the restroom or help the boys find the best fitting jacket and then strapping on the fake shirt front with the Velcro fastening collar – tie generally attached, unless they’d brought one of their own.

Then the dressed senior was plunked down on the stool in front of the blue-gray backdrop while the photographer scanned the barcode on the card.

This is where I stepped in. By this point, the girls were moving their hair about or straightening a necklace. The boys had buttoned the jacket, which made for an awkward gaping opening that shows the vertical wrinkles of the faux shirt. And sometimes, the shirt collar was too loose and hanging more like a necklace than a real shirt collar.

I stepped up and said, “Here, let me mom you just a bit.” And I began to smooth out strands of hair, straighten and center the V in the drape. Or sometimes, more awkwardly, I had the boys unbutton the jacket, then I pulled it off their shoulders, tightened up the Velcro on the back of the shirt collar, smoothed out the front of the shirt, replaced the jacket, continuing to smooth out wrinkles and folds. It has to be awkward having a teacher practically dressing you, but it beats having the real moms upset because the pictures aren’t as nice as they could have been. The photographers had already shared that they don’t like to put their hands on the students, generally trying to use their words to have the students address the straightening of the attire. That would take so much longer, and I don’t believe the results would be as good.

I try to make it less awkward with the verb mom. I talk about how it’s not as creepy as it might seem because I have three sons and would want their pictures to look as good as possible. I put a lot of mom-itude into the entire act – just short of spitting onto my thumb to smooth the eyebrows. Helps that I’m over 50. Helps that I have a sense of humor and I tried to use it to loosen up the nervous or playfully banter with those I already knew.

Isn’t momming what we often do as teachers? How often do we provide band-aids for boo-boos, a cough drop for a kid trying to stick it out for the day instead of going home, a gentle shoulder squeeze for someone having a rough day. I keep a supply of crackers, both peanut butter and cheese, for those students who are always hungry in the morning. There is a change jar they can contribute coinage to if they have it, but if they don’t, hey, what mom would refuse to provide some nutrition? How many times do we simply provide an ear and eye contact to listen to what’s going on, try giving them a little perspective and then offer up a prayer nightly until things get better?

Momming – it’s one aspect of teaching, I suspect, even if you’re a guy.

“Think about that pretty girl!”

Picture day.

If you’re a yearbook adviser, you just got a flash of my whole day. But there are a few details that make every picture day, er, um, unique – memorable. The same was true today.

Ever done picture day during construction on your campus?

There, you just got a few more pictures in your head, didn’t you?

Let’s call it an adventure that started as I raced to get to school by 6:30 a.m. because I remembered as I was going to sleep last night (isn’t it weird how you suddenly remember EVERYTHING you weren’t supposed to forget as you’re drifting off and can do nothing about it?), that I hadn’t turned in the “Facility Request” form. Therefore no one would know to meet my photographer, Joe, to let him in the auditorium at 6:30 a.m. so he could set up and be ready to make people smile whether he or they felt like it or not. I got there just after he had the band director let him in. He reminded me that the band director at every school is always there early.

On my first trip to the office to use the P.A. system, I learned two things: it was cold (I hadn’t brought a jacket) and though the water line break from the day before had been repaired, water had been restored to all buildings except the auditorium. Restrooms out of order. That would add interest to the day.

I enjoy listening to the photographers interact with their subjects. “You have brothers or sisters?” prompts certain facial expressions. If it’s not the right expression, a simple “Who wins the arguments?” might generate a better one. “Say cheese” is no longer the standard. When I hear “think about that pretty girl,” I never know what kind of expression it will generate either. But Joe has a string of ’em.

This was a retake day, so while I didn’t necessarily expect it to be incredibly busy, I was still disappointed at the low turn-out. It seems about three quarters of the student body do what they need to do to get their pics made, some more enthusiastically than others, but that last 25 percent just don’t want to play. What made me sadder, and even a little frustrated, is that a significant portion of no-shows were faculty. While we have a faculty of around 80, there will only be about 50 or so on the yearbook pages, and some big name players who got caught up in other responsibilities on both the original picture day and this retake day, were not photographed. Now the yearbook staff has to decided how to handle the missing people on the portrait pages.

I know everyone feels differently about getting their picture made on picture day. Some like to do it, some hate it. But I wish everyone would realize that the picture isn’t just about the person in the picture. Having that photographic account of these people at this school on this day is documentation that at some point most of us want to look back on. We want to be able to look back and recall the art teacher that made us feel special, the math teacher that could never explain things the way we could get it or the coach who made us learn to stick with something no matter how tough it was. To decide to withhold that opportunity from others because you don’t want your photo made or because you don’t want to take the time to get it done is a little bit selfish.

It’s also valid to note that the yearbook staff is responsible for putting that piece of history together, and they are cheated from a better product by those who would withhold that photographic part of history.

Wipeout

It’s a title you can only use once, but will probably be called for over and over.

Last week kind of wiped me out. Can’t even remember for sure why.

To begin with, Labor Day threw off my internal calendar, so Tuesday was Monday. I vaguely remember several students who were supposed to come in for make-up work not doing so, so I spent time trying to track them down to see if they reported to another teacher or blew me off. There were numerous loose ends to take care of like calling parents, chasing down payment confirmations on duplicate billings and ordering replacement pieces of equipment.

The managing editor of our local paper stopped by for a visit about running a couple of my students’ columns on the upcoming bond issue, and I was invited to present at Oklahoma State University’s Journalism Day in November. Both of these situations called for gathering information and communicating back and forth – hence my continued feeling of “feels like I’m forgetting something…”

Then Thursday was Picture Day. Picture Day involves being on your feet (and on your toes) all day, requiring my staff to keep hoards of students moving through lines, not dawdling, making sure they’re all getting they’re pictures taken and going back to class. We threw in a yearbook survey just because we thought we needed something else to deal with. I was back and forth between the Student Center, where photogs were set up, and the office, where I used the intercom system, and in between, addressing everything from “I didn’t know it was Picture Day. Can I bring my money tomorrow?” (No, the money goes to the photographers who will be gone), to “My son didn’t tell me it was Picture Day. How can I order?” (Here is the phone number and web site address), to “Can you just run my picture from last year?” (this was a teacher) to “Can the seniors make goofy faces since it’s just for their student IDs?” (I’m choosing my battles, and what I don’t see, I don’t have control of) and even, “What do you want us to do about the facial piercings?” (from the photographers, and it’s okay; I want their pictures).

Gotta love Picture Day.