Friday, September 30, 2005

The Dads

Last week a dad came in to talk about his kiddo and for some reason I thought he was another kid's dad, so we talked for about 30 minutes, and each of us thought we were talking about a different human female child. Then yesterday the dad returned to tell me that he had figured out that I didn't know which dad he was and to straighten me out. I was very embarrassed and kept saying lame stuff like, "I thought it was weird you kept calling her by a name that wasn't hers" and "Yeah, all that stuff I said about her really isn't true." These things happen and I have to move on. He told me that he wasn't coming in to make me feel bad, just to be helpful, and I expressed my gratitude a ton of times. But I'm still kind of freaked out about the whole thing.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Letter

Babbling today about writing and power, some kid interrupted me to talk about a letter to the editor he had read. The letter criticized people for using the term "gay" as an insult. The kids erupted at this remark, sharing their ideas about how stupid it was to use the word gay as an insult. Another kid said, "Last year a kid called me gay about 85 times. It's rude to homosexual people and it's rude in general, so just don't do it." You can never really tell, but it seemed like most of the kids were in agreement. I added something lame like, "And it's like harassment." A girl nearby countered, "It's not LIKE harassment. It is harassment!" After being with the little kids for so long, I'm taken aback by these conversations. I'm not used to following behind, perhaps? I could get used to it. Today was one of those days where the room is humming and people are focused on working and still having a good time. Of course midterms go out Monday, but I don't care. I'll take it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Stacks

We're hitting critical mass over here. Stacks of work to do, phone messages not returned, a missed meeting, an unrevised essay due this Saturday, midterm grades to go out on Monday, students going to the Caribbean who need homework for their backpacks. Don't even mention the dissertation. I have a 7 year deadline for that, so it naps in the basement. When life gets this harried, I just stop trying and look over my list with amusement. Some of the stuff disappears if you ignore it long enough. The rest will get done. Somehow. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Homework

Homework is a wee bit of a drag. I had to call a parent this week to rat a kid out about not doing homework. I rarely call parents, but this was about the 10th time and I figured it had to be done. Parent was appreciative so that's good. At home, homework kept Teen Daughter from watching Jodie Foster in Flight Plan with us on Sunday night. And tonight I may miss the Dylan documentary part two because I have school work to do. Or I could skip the work and just have more to do tomorrow night. It's not going anywhere. No one's going to call my mom, so what the heck?

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Numbers

Most articles I’ve read about the peace rally in DC last weekend estimate that the crowd ranged between 100,000 and 500,000. That’s a huge, exciting turn out and Husbandman expected more press coverage. He asked if the blogosphere had much about the march, so I’ve collected these links for him and for any one else interested in these admirable movers and shakers.Though organizers of the pro-war rally on Sunday projected attendance of 20,000, only 200 to 500 people attended. I know this war is unpopular, but 500 people? This number is significant in its insignificance.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Lotus

Another lotus has come and gone. The music this year was phenomenally unusual. The Black Sufis breaking melons on their heads, Jake Shimabukuro's blurry fingers on his electrified ukulele, the Balkan Beatboxers hanging from the tent rafters, dancing to Funkadesi in the street. On and on I could go, but the point is that the Lotus Festival is weird and wonderful. Please plan to attend in 06. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Lid

Right eyelid's been twitching for a few weeks. For the past two days almost constantly. I got a few spare moments today so I figured I should go ahead and google the condition. Come to find out lots of people have the twitching lid. Irksome because whenever I think I'm unique, google sets me straight with a smug and lengthy list of links. The lid twitch could be caused by fatigue, stress and caffeine overuse, three essentials of the dissertation distraction lifestyle. You don't want to know the possible alternative causes. I certainly didn't, so I opted for the fatigue and stress route, clicked off, and spent my afternoon couchside, reading the new Rolling Stone.
What an annoying problem. How much sympathy can lid twitching really drum up? A question that certainly merits investigation at dinner with pals tonight. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Journey

Limestone carver came to school today to carve a limestone jaguar. A few kids were chosen to carve with him. Several were irked they weren't chosen. I wanted to be chosen too, but I wasn't even considered, so I thought they should just buck up. I read a book called Blues Journey to the kiddos. One kid said it was "too sad," but I didn't get that at all. We ended the morning with me humming a blues riff while kids stood up to read out blues lines they'd written about their standardized tests. Too wild, no one listening, but every once in a while a line drifted through the ruckus about a brain that's been hurt so bad or a line about how long, how long, how long those tests go on. #1 son's picking out some blues cd's for me to haul in there tomorrow. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Times

The time limit for the first test was 29 minutes. The time limit for the second was 31 minutes. A girl in the front said, "What's up with the weird times?"
What's up with the weird EVERYTHING? I wanted to answer---the weird desks in rows, the weird writing prompts, the weird anxiety about whether or not a mechanical pencil can be classified as a #2, the weird distractor items that make kids hold their heads in their hands like they want to pull their hair out, the weird rules about not going to the bathroom, the weird tension I feel as I see kids moving along with confidence, unintentially skipping items right and left. What's up with the weird numbers that arrive in a few months that rank and sort human beings in supposedly scientific ways and are therefore considered more valid than all the work that kids do every day for the other 177 days of the school year?
But I didn't answer that way.
I simply smiled and said, "You may begin."
We'll save that rant for later.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Plans

Savvy Mom often blogs about her one true teaching love. I too have lost a true teaching love. For 12 years Jayma and I jobshared. A few years back she left me for full time teaching and college money for her kids. The separation was traumatic, but now that I teach sixth graders, we are having a blast of a time once again.
The sixth graders wrote haiku a few weeks ago, so I wrote up a lesson plan for them to use to teach fall haiku writing to second graders. Lesson plans in hand, the sixers paired up with their pals and sprawled out into every nook and cranny. We saw sixth graders clapping out syllables and prodding kiddos to create similes. Falling leaves were compared to dripping rain and flashing cameras. Jayma and I were jumping up and down cheering them on. We get excited about these things. The sixth graders will type up the drafts and help with the hanging of the haiku around the school next week.
I'm trying to decide if I want to review appropriate haiku placement. I laughed today when I pushed a cart into the elevator and found a haiku hanging inside. Forbidden territory for students, but this transgression brought me glee. Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Mondays

Some kid said that he had a bad case of the Mondays this morning. For me, the morning was going well with a generous amount of pleasantry, but my cheer dissipated when in second period, there started a chain reaction of loud dramatic no hands over the mouth yawning. I explained that the dramatic obnoxious yawning leaned toward the rude side of life and it ceased. After about 10 yawns. This job's certainly not for the insecure. And sadly, I think I may have to face that I AM one of the insecure. I need to recommit to the warrior path, a la Chodron. I wish I could laugh these things off, but today, those yawns really got to me. By the end of the morning, I had a case of the Mondays too. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Ancients

I finally figured out how to import this cool fox foto from Lewison, ace photographer. I've been working on this for awhile and this morning it worked, so I'm blogging for no reason.
But while I have you here, Are you watching Rome on HBO? It's pretty good. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Fotos

We made a midmorning trip to the post office to update kids’ passports. Other people happened to be there for the same task so we had an interminable wait watching them fill out papers before we were all led through the back sorting area into a small room set up for passport photography. The pictures were taking forever so I left the room to see what the back of the post office looks like. Huge bins on wheels, lots of cubbies. Published posters about conflict resolution and how to use a polite tone were on the wall and so were three home made posters with magazine collages with war themes: one was covered with pictures of soldiers in Iraq and another was covered with photos of different military planes. I was intrigued by the whole inner workings so I took out my camera to take some fotos. I didn’t photograph people so I didn’t see that it would be a problem. After 2 quick shots, I returned to the little room. The kids were still waiting to be photographed. After a few minutes, a woman came in and started scolding me about taking photos. I apologized for not asking and she kept ranting. I showed her the fotos on my camera and even offered to delete them, but she kept blasting at me. She left and the kids were photographed and we returned to the main postal line where we were waiting for more papers to be filled out. The woman came out there with paper and pen and told me she needed my name and phone number just in case her boss would want to call me this week. I gave both politely but I was pretty freaked out, since it was dawning on me that she perhaps suspected me of working for a terrorist group. I wondered if taking pictures inside the post office was some kind of federal offense but I hadn't seen any warning signs. All day I’ve been in a wicked bad mood worrying if someone’s going to show up at my door to confiscate my beloved camera or to take me in for questioning. My family was irked by the whole thing and husbandman accused me of staging a scenario so I could blog about it. He apologized later when he realized how upset I was. I probably used bad judgment in taking the photos, but give me a break. I wasn’t touring a nuclear facility, I was walking through a room where people sort envelopes. Maybe those hand made posters have something to do with this?

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Gas

Good news on district wide memo today: No field trips this year because gas prices are so high. Our grade level will get to go on the annual district funded trip to the musical arts center to learn about opera. I could say that this thrills me no end, but I'm trying to cut down on my sarcasm. The kids communicated to me today that they don't really like it. Geezlouise.
Foto credit: Lewison Posted by Picasa

The Sheets

A few years ago, word walls became a big thing at school. To help kids out with their writing, teachers covered their walls with words. Now teachers have been told to cover their word walls with sheets because kids should not be able to look at word walls during next week's standardized testing. It saddens me to walk through the halls and see white sheets up in classrooms. I wonder what the kids think when they look at those sheets? God forbid they should look up at the wall while they're writing about their stupid prompt and use one of the precious words posted there. We sure wouldn't want that to happen. Using a word from the word wall might IMPROVE their score and give them advantage over others without word walls.
I have no word wall because I'm lazy about these things, so I'm lucky I guess. No white sheets for me. Yet.
p.s. Foto Credit: Menosky

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Hotel

I saw someone very upset at school. He didn't want to talk and when I asked a girl about his sadness, she told me that another boy had come up up behind him at recess and asked him if he would like to stay in a 5 Star Hotel. When he answered that he would, the kid punched him super hard 5 times on the back. So, just a tip, if someone asks you if you want to stay at a 5 Star Hotel, say NO! You might want to even take a few steps away from that person. Pass it on. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Van Sluys

Once upon a time, long long ago, I had friends in graduate school who took classes with me. But these friends graduated and became professors and their dissertations became books, like the one you see here. I feel proud to know these authors, but I miss them too. Because now I just work down in the basement. No classes and no other students in sight. An occasional mole or cave cricket my only company. And the pages I hand over to Mitzi are written slowly, if at all. But, getting back to this book, Kudos to you Ms. Katie. Come visit soon so you can be here when we toast you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Beliefs

We read Rick Moody's This I Believe essay about reading today, preparing for our own essays of beliefs about literacy. One kid insisted that he had no beliefs about reading.
I asked, "Do you like to read?"
He answered, "No. It's stupid and pointless."
I said, "Well that's a belief. Write it down."
As I tried to lead a discussion of belief statements, another kid started singing the theme song from the MTV show, Sweet 16, which I have to admit is pretty catchy.
I happened to watch it last night instead of grading literature logs, so we talked about the show for awhile before I exercised my authority and tried to redirect. We didn't get far with the essay planning. We'll see how tomorrow goes. On a good note, I finished up a small section of dissertation and now can move on to a new, harder section. yay.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Senator

Last week I wrote to Senator Bayh to express my incredulity that Congress would consider repealing the estate tax for the Richie Riches of the world when the misery of poverty is screaming right into our faces every time we turn on our media. I write to Bayh pretty frequently. I don't spend a ton of time composing the letters so I always hit the send button with a cringe knowing that I sound not too brilliant, but I figure a badly worded letter is better than none at all. Bayh responds quickly and politely but I never can quite pick apart where he is on an issue. His estate tax email contained comments about keeping taxes down while being concerned about our national debt. Well, are you voting to repeal the estate tax or not, Evan? That's all I ever wanted to know. Frist decided it wasn't the right time to vote on the estate tax so the vote's been delayed. So I may try to pin Evan down on this matter. I wonder if that's possible. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Hours

Sunday night is a night of review and appraisal. As weekends go, this one wasn't so fun. I mowed the lawn most expertly for over 3 hours, worked on the diss for about 5 hours, graded papers and planned the week for another 4. Major outing was dinner at Afghan restaurant last night with husbandman. I don't feel sorry for myself because my productivity was quite remarkable, but I do need to work on planning more fun into the days off. Otherwise, I get a little surly and hostile toward those around me. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Match

Last week I talked to someone who finished their dissertation in 3 months. His words filled me with awe and anxiety. I'm not sure I'm the best writer for this dissertation of mine. It seems to need someone more efficient and I need it to be a bit more self-reliant. I'll do all I can, but in the end, the dissertation has to stand alone. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Hopes

At 3 am I woke up with that feeling that my sleeping had officially ended. I wandered downstairs and couched it, listening to cnn. 25,000 body bags have been ordered for the corpses in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. That number's haunted me all day and I hope that the death count will be no where near that number. I also hope that the press will find a way to keep covering the story. A kid in homeroom talked about an interview he had seen where a kid cried about leaving his dog. The reaction was so strong among the kids that they would never leave their pet behind. I hope for them that they will never have to make a choice like that. Sad today, but remember what time I woke up? Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Displays

Haiku and mock news articles have been written and are on display. A power point presentation featuring fotos and key info for 29 kids has been produced. Still, tonight's Open House makes me nervous. It's so early in the school year and I don't feel too organized about what I'm doing yet. If anyone complains that I'm not doing spelling tests, I'm going to be irked. I've stayed late at school this week to get stuff ready, but at my school there's almost always a problem that needs to be dealt with at Open House and I don't feel totally prepared. After I stapled 60 articles to the hallway bulletin board, I went into the classroom after lunch and gagged at the rancid B.O. produced by 29 sweaty post-recess adolescents. I hope the rancidity dissipates by tonight. But maybe it will keep the crowds moving? Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Edge

I shared an article about the countries that are sending aid our way with homeroom today. The kiddos were surprised at the different things that countries were sending. Rethinking Schools listserv has been sharing some good articles. We may be collecting books for kids in La. Stay tuned. Later the kids in first and second period were sent off to hang their haiku around the building. When I walked through the building later I had to take some of them down. I forgot to tell the kids that they shouldn't stand on each other's shoulders to tape the posters as close to the ceiling as possible. I should have mentioned that holding each other by the knees so that they could tape posters deep into the stairwell was a bad idea as well. Most were hung safely at eye level. It's hard to remember to tell people everything they need to live. I'll do better next time. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Laser

I worked the laser and scanned the library books my students checked out this morning. They picked interesting titles and I got to learn a new skill. I distrusted the technology and kept checking the screen to confirm accuracy after lasering the bar codes. The combination of working the scanner and talking with kids about their books made the job pleasant. I am considering volunteering in the library during my prep times. Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Apartheid

Kozol has a new book out about educational apartheid. The newest Harpers has an article by Kozol about the topic too. The 2 Bloomingtonians who escaped from New Orleans this week and were interviewed in our local paper talked about the apartheid in the schools there. Just this year a law was passed that toilet paper should always be in the schools and school principals were given special credit cards to use to buy toilet paper. I learned this weekend that one of the elementary schools in this town employs a full time security guard. Probably just a coincidence that this school has the most kids on free lunch and sits in one of our poorer neighborhoods.
Here on the east side, #1's son folder contained more work and more teacher feedback in it this week than it held during the entire last year in our friendly and peaceful slacker sabbatical school. Kozol says this about so called improvements brought to schools with NCLB:

From The Shame of the Nation“I went to Washington to challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations,” the president said in his campaign for reelection in September 2004. “It’s working. It’s making a difference.” It is one of those deadly lies, which, by sheer repetition, is at length accepted by large numbers of Americans as, perhaps, a rough approximation of the truth. But it is not the truth, and it is not an innocent misstatement of the facts. It is a devious appeasement of the heartache of the parents of the poor and, if it is not forcefully resisted and denounced, it is going to lead our nation even further in a perilous direction. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Storm

The devastation in New Orleans has been more than my head can handle this week. When teen daughter and #1 son were way small, Janet and I went on a trip to New Orleans. I fell in love with the squares and the live oaks and the food and the music and the art and the free spirit of the place. Peter and I sent some $ off and the school is starting up a drive for relief boxes. It feels necessary but so insufficient. The kids are freaked out about the looting so I read Smoky Night today and we talked about getting out of control in out of control circumstances. I told them about seeing footage of women walking out of a store with stolen diapers. I don't excuse looting, but I told the kids that if you have a baby at home, you really want diapers there too. In our local paper, I read about 2 Bloomingtonians who left New Orleans with their cats and that's all. They left teaching jobs and are living with parents here in town. Their schools are gone, their jobs are gone, their home is gone, and they're happy to be alive with a place to live and a pair of shoes on their feet. In their interview they talked about the extreme poverty of their students.
I'm slowly coming to look at what has happened. I don't think my slowness is only my own fogginess. The news reports early in the week were general and full of vague comments.

Edited to add: Check out this site about how looting is compared with finding in these photos.
And you might want to read Pareti's piece about how the free market killed N.O. and will bring us all down eventually. The comparison with Cuba's hurricane evacuation is startling enough. And I slogged to a Democracy Now podcast that gave me more info in an hour than I've gotten from a week of news bites. And Michael Moore's letter to Bush is a good read too. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Disability

Come to find out, I might not receive a paycheck with the rest of the workers tomorrow. Forms were to be filled out and somehow no one realizes that I work here again so they never gave them to me. I go to the big office to remedy the situation. Once there, I don't know how to fill out the tax forms, having a somewhat severe case of FormLD. I tell the woman I have to take the forms home and she cheerfully tells me, "I hope you'll have them back this afternoon. I really want you to get paid."
"Thanks, so much, I'd like that too!" I chirp back at her, hoping she gets the sarcasm.
My father-the-tax-man talks me down and walks me through exemptions and allowances. Husbandman offers to return the forms back to the big office for me. I think he has a sense that I might not get the job done right. He's nice about it, but he just has to mention that he's told me to check on the payment situation several times. I tend to be an optimist about these things, or maybe I'm just an inept slacker (when it comes to forms). It's hard to tell.
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