Category Archives: Teenagers

Escaping Camp Hormone

It has been a troubling week in Camp Hormone, the gossip mongers have been hurtful, the facebook chat rooms full. There are weeks when I have my overdose of teens, living with one at home and a multitude at work. They are strange and worrisome creatures and there is no handbook, just trial and error, a lot of patience and masses of consistency and consequence.

But I cannot discuss Camp Hormone here; my gag order is in full effect so instead I will tell you about my other life. Do I have another one? Yes, I found it on Saturday night dancing to Salsa in uncomfortable high heels with no Tequila. (I was driving and being sensible. Always sensible.)  I find myself going out so much more now that I am high heeled up and single (well single and married, if that makes any sense at all.) I went out five nights in a row which is a record, really. I am not sure I have not that this decade, though it is only 3 months old.

This past week I have attended an Irish themed dinner party, complete with very interesting Irish folk and a superb Baileys and Mint Chocolate Chip Ice-cream milkshake, a Murder Mystery Dinner where I was given the role of Brash and Aggressive American ( no risk of type casting there then) and featured a divine Pear Martini, a decadent Indian meal, a girls’ night out under the stars, a birthday dinner with my girls and a heavenly molten chocolate dessert, a tea party with pink champagne instead of tea and a hilarious one year old who cleaned the chocolate cake off everyone’s plate and the afore mentioned salsa dancing.  The dancing was fun and long overdue and I was having a great time dancing with the bodacious Latino ladies until a pile of my students walked in and balked.

Nothing like a 17 year old at 1:00 am on a Saturday night to make you feel old.

Camp Hormone. Can’t escape the inmates.

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Filed under Teenagers

Living inside a computer.

Not really very much to write to be truthful. So the question begs, why write at all? Well I made a decision, a resolution really, about writing and I must keep to it. I feel it is good for me and in many ways keeps me sane. There are dark thoughts going around my brain, there are school matters proving most distracting and there are matters of a parental nature, more specifically parenting a nearly teenage girl, that are spinning my thoughts asunder.

It seems not that long ago that Trooper was small and wide eyed, eager to learn all and curl up beside me for a good cuddle and a read. Now things have disappeared into a world of cyber possibilities where gossip and love stories zip across the continents, where hearts are spilled on status pages and multiple conversations take place at once, sometimes between Facebook, MSN and Skype. It has all suddenly appeared to be out of control. Perhaps once school is over and the minimal homework that is doled out is completed, there is not enough to do. We have no TV, there are no neighborhood kids with whom to ride bikes or kick a can, no ice cream shop to walk to and how many hours a day can one really read? So the computer has become a world unto itself and I am not sure I like it.

It cannot be banned, it is here to stay and in fact a very healthy and normal part of adolescence, similar to the amount of time we spent on the phone, those many pre-cell texting years ago, with school friends that we had seen mere minutes before. Then when I went to boarding school we were always together, attached through meals, visits to the loo, long homework sessions where novels were written in the form of  “notes” and we didn’t need any devices to keep us connected, only apart!

A plan is needed. Horse riding lessons will be booked forthwith!

In other news the Entourage addiction continues. We are now on season 5 and I doubt I will ever return to watching TV with commercials. It is quite pleasant to sit and watch two episodes without being interrupted by averts for itchy skin, adult diapers or anti-anxiety medication. If there is one sure way to send you into a depression, American ads will do it. Between shiny cars, oozing beef, and dandruff shampoo, it is quite common to find scary legal firms offering us help with law suits and pharmaceutical companies selling us pills for problems were didn’t know existed. It is not a pretty picture of the world. I do not miss the ads one bit. But I did miss the Golden Globes terribly and I must confess to spending my break in front of looking at the best and worst dresses of the night.


Filed under Teenagers

More summer limes.


Sun desperately trying to get through these dark clouds. I haven’t been this cold in a long time. In London during the snow storm of the century I was cold, but then, it was snowing, it was to be expected. It has been forever proven that I am a warm weather girl. I get very sad when my bones ache with cold. At night I sleep clenched, trying to stay warm, longing for a hot water bottle. Last Saturday, at 4pm on July 4th as I sat huddled, practically in the fire place, I decided once and for all that I will never own a country house here in Quebec. That was quite the epiphany moment there. This is my home, the place I love and I have decided that I will never again own a home here. I simply hate to be cold.

Now please don’t imagine that I am complaining. Yes, I might grumble now and again as I borrow another sweater but I am still happy to be here.


And I do live in hope, I have a pretty Trini sundress hanging in the closet.






Does anybody know a remedy for the problem of teens and their selective blindness? Pull out a pack of cigarettes to have a quiet and sneaky cig and they are as sharp as a hungry seagull. Walk into a room and see a pair of crotch in your face underwear left centre stage and they are as blind as a mole. I point them out. Even walk them through the room like a private visitor to an exclusive gallery, but even if they see it, the mess, the strewn clothes, it is with the blurry vision of the carefree teen. These things are just not important!

But I think they are, along with table manners, talking back and general politeness. I know a lot of parents, tired from the constant fighting, just give it up and sweep the discord under the proverbial rug. Then bitterness ensues, complacency and the eventual silence at the dinner table. Parents then become so surprised to learn that it was their child who gate crashed the party in a bikini.

So I might be the nag, the mom who forces then to pick up, the recipient of many a rolled eye ball, but I believe in the old fashioned fundamentals.


So bring on the dropped knickers and I’ll lead the gallery tour.









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Filed under Family Stuff, La belle ville, Teenagers


The truth is, a move is harder at 12 than at 9. My eldest brown eyed girl has been going through some changes and moving is making them kaleidescope.

Most days she couldn’t be lovlier but somedays that sweet brown eyed girl, who at one time curled contentedly on a lap, humming and chatting, turns into a grumpy, sour, cross and stomping monster child. It is a gradual change, over a period of some months, but then one day, seemingly overnight, the sweet poppet goes to bed and in the morning a new child is born. For girls this transformation happens between the ages of 11 and 12. They suddenly look different, sound different and act different. It is also at 12 that the Best Friend is born. Before that time. when there are no real secrets to be shared, friends are the best people around to laugh with, play with, splash with. Now, at 12, a friend is everything. She is a confident and the true understander, She is the sharer of secrets and the person you worry to, cry with and share the agony of boys.

My 12 year old beauty is going to have to say goodbye to these friends and to the Trinidad that she calls home. The world is very intense and small when you are 12. Yes, there is Facebook and MSN and email (which I didn’t have when I said goodbye to my friends at 13) but it is also THE END OF THE WORLD. Young teens have no perspective and teaching it is a near impossible feat. We just need to hold them, pull them up and remind them that the world is only beginning, not ending.

I also have friends that I need to say goodbye to. The practice of bidding farewell has served me well and I can numb the pain in the way that a child cannot.

The one that will really pinch is Cassandra. We have, if not seen each other daily, then at least spoken multiple times a day. We have been each other’s best friends for well over a year now but more than that we have also been each other’s family. She is the person who knows exactly what I mean when I call her and groan. She knows what I am thinking just by looking at my face. She can tell my kids to behave, tell my dog her ears stink, tease my husband and watch me sort out kitchen cuboards. I have learnt all sorts of advice, from her. She has taught me cooking tricks, and to wear deodorant on my thighs so they won’t chafe. Like me she can laugh on the beach, sneak wine into the movies and worry over her kids and the move.

She is moving too. But unlike the 3rd world adventure that I am jumping into, she is moving to a wonderful city in the US complete with big and plentiful grocery stores. There will be the joy of concrete sidewalks, museums and safety and I know that after 10 years of moving she will finally feel at home.

In this week of goodbyes ours will be a hard one but I  know that we will be connected for life.

Of my friends that I met when I was 12, my best friends, my sleep over buddies, I am still friends with a few. Others have been popping up on facebook. In this funny thing called life it is the people that matter. I hope that my sweet monster girl, the one whose brown eyes will be so sad in a few days, will carry those special people in her heart.

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Filed under Sisterhood, Teenagers

MSN and the art of letting go.

Kids don’t communicate by talking any more. They MSN. Sometimes whole romantic relationships go on this way and when they see each other they are almost awkward. It is like a relationship with a pen pal. But it is not the same as a telephone relationship. Then you hear voice inflexion, emotion, and mutual laughter. A dialogue that is verbal is different from texting.

They can be lost in their MSN world for hours, talking to perhaps 4 people at once, back and forth. Sometimes they even pretend to be someone they’re not so that they can deceptivley find out if someone “likes them.”
I brought this up at dinner the other evening. My sweet eldest had no idea that impersonating someone for your own gains was wrong. She simply didn’t see it like that since “everyone did it.” I asked her how she’d feel and she immediatly widened her eyes and realized what it meant.

It is fine line. Teaching awareness, self confidence, self esteem, and empathy is hard. Mostly you need to teach by example ( and that is not always easy) and often you need to just point it out.

If my daughter relaxes by spending most of sunday on MSN, in the pouring rain, after a busy week, with all her possessions in boxes and her room in ruins, is it a bad thing? Better or worse than a day in front of Hannah Montana and other Disney kack?

Parents need to let go and hold on all at once. Let go too much and you not only lose the control but the dialogue too. Hold on too tight and they harbour more secrets than usual. MSN is here to stay. I cannot forbid it nor ban it. I can control the hours spent on it but I cannot prevent either of my girls from communicating the way all her friends do. I hear that if you miss a night of MSN banter, you miss a lot and arrive at school a little out of the loop. Being a teen is hard enough, we don’t need to make it harder.

But still.
I pause for thought and wonder if my internet free childhood was that much better?


Filed under I have two girls, Teenagers

The Girl who saved the day ( and killed a roach.)

Teenagers care immensely what people think of them. Their sense of self is being developed and their egos take a crushing blow. The other day in class a young man that we shall call Tom opened his backpack to slip out a book. What crawled out instead was a very large and very brown cockroach. I don’t do well with roaches. As an aside I’ll mention that I once handed over my pocket money to a friend in return for the killing of the large cockroach making its way across my room. I am a wimp with a capital W. A wimp moving to Africa where I hear the bugs are super-sized.

Apparently Tom didn’t do too well with cockroaches either judging by the speed with which he leapt, white faced onto the nearest desk. While he was shaking like a lilly white leaf the girl of his dreams, the one everyone knows he adores, we’ll call her Nat, was slipping off her shoe and giving that cockroach what-for. Within minutes she had that roach crushed and swept up in a tissue much to the applauding, cheering and jeering of the class. I was outside of the room, hand on forehead, quivering until the beast was dispatched to the garbage. With a stroke of perfect timing, at the exact moment that all this was going on, in fact at the moment that Nat was running to the garbage in the corridor, roach in hand, the head of admissions was passing by with a prospective family who were visiting the school with a mind to enter their child next year.

Now, Nat is the hero of this story, the coolest chick in the school, the brave roach squashing student and object of Tom’s admiration. Tom, on the other hand, is now considered a “girl” and his emasculation proved the subject of much hilarity in the lunch room. He now looks upon Nat with Awe, in addition to Lust but hopefully his feathers have barely been ruffled. His sense of humour and his ego are intact but still, that must have hurt a tad. What was once an infamous tale of unrequited 10th grade love is now a tale of girl rescues boy. I, of course, was thrilled by the display of girl power, and a smidge jealous of her bravery.

I might need to brush up on my shoe wielding skills.


Filed under Might be funny, Teenagers

A tale of two worlds

The teenage years are a slow slipping through the fingers of control. Ever so slowly those little girls who were once glued to the hip are now keeping secrets and living in their own little worlds.

People often ask me, how can I possibly cope teaching teenagers? Aren’t they rude, smelly and all together quite awful? The truth is that I really love teens. I love the enthusiasm, the raw energy, the budding intelligence, the swirling hormones, the fact that they are on the cusp on adult hood. Plus no one is smelly, if anything those boys seem to bathe in Axe.

The other evening I witnessed a mating ritual, that resembled the great meeting of the peacocks. It was the final night of CAISSA, a sports event that unites several Caribbean International schools. While I was mere feet away in the auditorium watching the elementary school music festival ( a few screeching violins and my beautiful daughter singing a solo) the gym was brimming with unrestrained teenage joy. Our school had just won the girl’s basketball championship and the music was nearly as loud as the cheering. With little time to spare, showers were taken and people were dressed to impress, for there was young, fresh and very handsome blood in the building. The teens walked circles around each other, flashing smiles, batting lids and giggling behind hands. The boys from Caracas and the Dominican Republic were smiling and looking around, the girls from Trinidad were doing their own mating dance. The contrast between the sweet innocence of the auditorium with the brave display of young talent performed for eager parents and the loud sexy gym was one that gave me pause. I sneaked out of the music festival, accidentally missing the choir performance (a sin for which I paid dearly) to revel in the fresh talents of my teens. 

The two worlds collided in the photos I looked at later that evening. My photos of earnest children dressed in black and white looking fearfully into the limelight were suddenly interrupted by the puffed and pruned teens standing around the gym. Those little eager sprouts making their parents proud would soon enough be ruffling their feathers for the opposite sex.  I have one little ball of sweetness singing her heart out for me and then before my eyes her sister is slipping into that great big world of peacocks.




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Persian princes, rockstars and humble pie.

Slightly unconventional class the other day. After watching the computer games unfold in my kitchen I got into a debate with some of my students.

“How can any video game be as good as a book?” I asked them.

“Of course they can!” (Collective chorus)

“Prove it.” I replied.

The mission: in teams of three to bring in a game, 1 person would explain the merits of said game while persons 2&3 play the game for the eager and skeptical audience. Three judges will decide which game and presentation wins. But the greatest challenge would be to disprove the following and in doing so persuade me that I am wrong about video games:

“Video games rot your brain. Read a book instead.”

And so the games started.

Team one lugged out the XBOX  and proceeded to play Prince of Persia. I learnt that this is a game involving the leaping upwards and across to higher and harder levels. An attractive Persian woman accompanies the Prince and is his lucky star. Should you miss a leap and hurtle alarmingly towards the colourful abyss below, she will save you.

The colours, art work, music and graphics were all incredible. This was certainly not a game involving the hurtling of hedgehogs. The sophistication was impressive. I didn’t have a go, far too scared of dropping the prince.

Next up: Halo 3, the darling of video games and the main drainer of teenage boy’s time.

A lot of shooting. I tried this one, and was impressed by how the (wireless!) console vibrated each time I fired the guns. I felt small fragments of testosterone shooting through my veins that stopped the minute I put the game down. A little scary.

Game three was the Wii and Rockstar. Out came drums, guitar and microphone. I had the frightening responsibility of singing along to The Clash, ….  My score was meager and embarrassing but this was fun! The whole class sung along, laughed clapped and (did I imagine?) took photos.

Then it was Wii sports and I attempted (good word) to play tennis and baseball. More photos.

So am I eating humble pie? Did the teacher learn something?

The silly miniclip and other free games on the internet involving fast cars, motorcycles, snow boarders and hedgehogs will rot your brain. Read a book.

These games on the other hand require imagination foresight, coordination, fast reflexes and a sense of humour. The greatest thing is how social they are, having the ability to gather a group together to play or even watch. There is an investment in time and thought, especially Prince of Persia that takes about 8 hours to play.

 They are a lot of fun! And I am convinced that any pilot who spent his youth console in hand will have excellent reflexes, it probably aids in drivers ed, but more importantly, and apart from all the shooting that I didn’t like, these games were really fun. Obviously spending 6 hours playing games, 3 on MSN and 2 in front of the TV will rot the brain and probably lead to oxygen deficiency. But in moderation, and in my opinion, the Wii is the way to go.

And to quote one fine student in response to my totally nerdy question about spending one’s time in a productive and worthwhile way,

“What’s wrong with doing it just because it’s fun?”



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Filed under Miss Teacher, Teenagers


Rarely something happens to make me realize that I must be doing a good job. I know that teaching is the best job in the world, I feel that most days, but teaching doesn’t have a way of monitoring return on investment. Most companies in the corporate world have a means of assessing your worth, sometimes it even leads to a big bonus. So it is rare that I have proof that I am actually teaching these kids something other than the obvious, something a little special that might stay with them for a very long time.


Well I got proof, I got my bonus and it is right here.



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Filed under Lying in bed with books, Miss Teacher, Teenagers

From Maycomb to Kabul and beyond

 At the moment we are reading To Kill a Mocking bird in grade 10 and The Kite Runner in grade 12.

Some observations:

The Kite Runner is one of the first books that most of my high school students have ever enjoyed in school. Normally you watch kids struggle through classics, not inspired by or relating to them. Then a book comes around that was made for their generation, a group of kids raised on video games, Drift Movies, high speed internet , google search and anything that goes really really fast. They are aware of the existence of evil and it is not Darth Vader. This is the post 9.11 group. Our seniors were 9 or 10 when those towers fell and we are now beginning to see a generation of kids bred in fear and cynicism. My students are shocked and disturbed by the details of cruelty in the book and we are reading it alongside pictures, news reports and film footage of Afghanistan. This is a book that tells an important story but it is written in the age of TV, movies and high speed internet and it cannot have escaped the author’s mind that this story would be suitable for Hollywood. He himself has admitted that he was raised on movies, and cannot undermine the influence they have had on his writing.

It certainly stimulates great discussion and we have learnt more about Afghanistan than ever before. We debated not just the US’s role in Afghanistan, but all of NATO especially now that Obama has planned to send in 17,000 more troops. News articles have been mulled over, power points done, freedom of speech debated and lots of interesting chat about plot and character. We have talked about the difference between redemption and atonement, and been touched by the idea of becoming good again.

The Kite Runner is easy digestible and a great story to boot but in terms of a work of literature, I find The Kite Runner to be a complicated one. The writing is average, the story is great but at times the dramatic nature of the events is farfetched to a fault. There are no heady metaphors, hidden symbolism and any recognizable parallels are noticeable a page away. It might not be as well written as To Kill a Mocking bird but it does pull a mean punch


To Kill a Mockingbird by the great Harper Lee is still one of the best books ever written. I can’t fathom that Harper Lee never wrote any other books. I suppose she had just the one in her, but what a one to have.  I am really teaching the book in conjunction with some historical references to The South and Racism in the 1930s-1960s. It is very hard for my students to wrap their little heads around the KKK; especially in the months following Obama’s inauguration.  It is also hard for them to identify with children who spend their whole summers playing with no access to TV, radio, video games, Wii, Malls, movies and computers.  I think they may be getting a trifle bored of reading books written before the year 2000. However, I am a strong believer in the classics, so classics they shall read. 

This is a book that most of my Grade 10s love. Of course there are the odd balls that are bored and looking for more action then Maycomb and the Finches can deliver but generally I would say that some fine questions have been raised by this book. This is a book that asks what it is to be human, what is dignity, what is the way to break out of small mindedness and ignorance? It is also a chance to celebrate how far we have come as a society.

The big question in my mind is this. What constitutes a great work of literature? Has the definition changed with the readership? Are those that appreciate 19th French literature, Tolstoy, Faulkner and even Evelyn Waugh now in the minority? Is that a bad thing? Literature is fluid and changeable and is written for and by a changing group of readers.  

What are the ingredients of a great piece of literature? The Inheritance of Loss, in my humble opinion, is a beautifully written book, at times unbelievable in its beauty, but I feel it tumbles down in the story telling department. 

Very few books, really, out of the millions published, accomplish the happy marriage of extraordinary writing and that rare story.

To Kill a Mockingbird, I told my class, is a masterpiece. It is a book that does not simply tell what people do but subtly asks why.



Filed under Lying in bed with books, Miss Teacher, Teenagers