Monday, October 31, 2005

The Simplifying

The link above supplies a great article about how Rosa Parks' story has been simplified, that she was a long time civil rights activist before her arrest on the bus that led to the bus boycott. We're watching the Teaching Tolerance video "Mighty Times" later this week, so we read about Rosa Parks' story today. A few sixers made ridiculous comments about the article, but most were into it. Though some of the nonsense smartypants stuff in sixth grade gets on my penultimate nerve, I like that so many of the kids seem to have little interest in pleasing me with their responses. With the thirdies, I always worried about coercion, but with sixers, ticking off the teacher seems to be part of the game. I just keep plugging along with my little ideas and lessons. The day went surprisingly well for teaching on Halloween, amidst bags of costumes and plates of treats for the big party this afternoon. I urged the kiddos to save the kitkats and twixes for me. Let's see who'll be getting extra credit tomorrow.
Credit for this cool foto of Gypsy: Lewison. (I bought the hat.)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Obstacle

Husbandman and I went out to see Broken Flowers tonight. It's a quiet moody movie which suited me this evening. I like looking at Bill Murray's face.
Before leaving the house I asked #1 son about his homework. "I have a story to finish. Basically the only thing standing in my way with that is how long I spend procrastinating."
Now we're home and the story's not yet done. Once again, # 1 son speaks the truth.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Paradise

Still feeling sick I decided to nap this afternoon. But then, instead of sleeping, I watched a documentary called Methodonia about people on methodone. What I got out of this documentary I will now pass on to you. Try to avoid methodone treatment if you possibly can. They call methodone "liquid handcuffs" for a reason. If you do happen to get on methodone, do not EVER supplement your methodone dosage with any type of prescription medication. You’re really asking for a lifetime of trouble if you go the methodone prescription drug route. I beg of you, don’t do it. I felt very sorry for myself wasting a beautiful Saturday recuperating from my severe sinusitis, but the addicts cheered me up by consistently remarking that they longed for a normal day. This very day that found me sick in bed watching a documentary about indescribable suffering and wasted lives could be considered equivalent to a day in paradise for a methodone prescription drug addict. I'm going to be keeping this helpful concept in mind tomorrow, as I work on report cards.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Satisfaction

The sixers have been bringing in CD’s in the morning and playing them on a pathetic CD player with glitchy volume control. Today a sixer brought in his own CD player, it’s bigger and in all ways better. I was nervous because things get stolen and broken in schools and teachers have to explain how these things happen. But when the sixer put on a Stones CD and a room full of sixers started singing Satisfaction, I felt nothing but happiness. Later during portfolio swap, I put on a CD given to me by RockFiles. At first they made their little faces when the soundtrack from This American Life came on. But gradually the music became the perfect backdrop for kids finishing up writing projects and sitting in clumps reading each other’s essays and book reviews and news articles. After a track or two, kids were generally expressing their love for the CD and one sixer asked if he could borrow it over the weekend. A sweet end to a snotty week.
After school, Judy suggested that I might not want to be blowing my nose quite so much during parent teacher conferences next week. Seeing the reason in these words, I headed over to the clinic for the antibiotics. Help is on the way.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The World

In my perfect world, every child hands in their homework every day. And no child ever flings their pencil into the air so that it lodges into the ceiling tile making everyone laugh just as class is about to start. And I never scream really loudly at impressionable children who decide to try to fling and lodge their pencils into the ceiling tiles as well. And I can always use my nose for breathing. Any time I need or want to.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Quarter

I have a cold now. The kind of cold where the nose is constantly being blown. My motivation's kind of low, but with one last push, I can finish this quarter, get the report cards and portfolios out, and confer with all the parents. Then I'm taking a day off to get reunited with my favorite paper in the world, the dissertation. The kiddos wrote This I Believe essays about literacy and they're pretty good. I wish I could think of a way to find more of an audience for these essays. Their books reviews will be published on our new circulation system in the library if I can find a typist. And the essays will be bound in a book, but I'd like to make a few extra copies and send them out to some other groups of readers. I wonder if they would want to read them on morning announcements? Probably not. Maybe we'll just make some books for other classes.
We shall see, said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw.
Foto Credit: Menosky.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Heat

It’s been cold in our house for weeks now, but I just keep turning up the thermostat, adding a sweater or fleece, making a cup of tea. Guests hold their coats over their laps, and I turn the thermostat up a bit higher. When Teen Daughter wears a down jacket while doing homework something clicks and I figure it might be time to investigate. The air blowing through the vents does not appear to be warm, but maybe it is? I can’t really tell. I turn the thermostat up to 85 and an hour later it still reads 62. More evidence of something amiss.
When the heating guy arrives seven hours after my call, he walks in and says, “I remember your house from the work we did on the air conditioning this summer. We had to turn your heat off because you need a flue liner.”
“Well, we’ve had heat up until today,” I answer.
He replies gently, “See, your heat’s been shut off. You’ve had no heat. There’s been no heat.”
“You shut my heat off last summer?”
“Had to. Without a flue liner we couldn’t hook up your furnace to the flue. Without that connection, the carbon monoxide would have killed all of you pretty quick.”
While I thank him for protecting us, I wonder why he didn’t mention this 4 months ago.
We have heat today and now I remember what heat really feels like. I vow to never forget again.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Friends

Good friends SavvyMom and Slapdash spent the weekend with us. We laughed and talked through the whole visit which included such highlights as a tour of the Lilly Library, the art museum, the farmer’s market, Dunn cemetery, and a trip to the supermarket to buy toilet paper. They’ve revived my teaching spirit which has been a bit low of late by recounting some of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard about kids in classrooms. The hilarity was interspersed with descriptions of phenomenal teaching ideas which were consistently interrupted with my reminder to “Send me a copy of that, okay?” In return for their friendship and fun, I supplied them with an almost endless stream of facts about our town’s history, which seemed to impress them mightily. I loved sabbatical for countless reasons but finding these two friends tops the list. And I thank them for making the long drive in order to pick up the chat where it left off last June. I miss them already, but they got out in the nick of time. As of noon today, the furnace works no more, nor does the washing machine. Curious coincidence? I think not. Something is obviously going on.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Egg

#1 son wants to be an egg for Halloween. I try to talk him into wearing his chiton, but he won't go for it. With low expectations, we wander into the costume shop and I sheepishly explain to the clerk, "My son wants to be an egg. " I expect the guy to offer us various approximations. Maybe a rubber conehead or a marshmallow man suit. Deadpan, he replies, "We have the egg in adults, but not kids."
I laugh out loud, "You have an egg costume???" He leads the way and the costume is a deviled egg with horns and a tail. 50 dollars for a piece of felt with a hole in it. I am peaking, but Husbandman scoffs at the price and #1 shakes his head at the horns. I hold up the package and cry out in anguish, "I am holding an egg costume right here in my hand! Our Halloween work is over with one swipe of the credit card." Husbandman starts making plans for buying felt and designing his own egg costume. #1 is nodding enthusiastically. I have tried to explain to my family a gazillion times that money can buy me happiness, but they don't listen. And the egg making begins.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Lunacy

Tomorrow we have a special day scheduled. A day the kids have been hankering after since the first day of school. It's DEAR day. Kids can bring in slippers and a pillow and a snack and read for the entire period. These days are ridiculous because half the kids read and half just act like lunatics. But maybe we'll go out for some recess once it gets too squirrelly as it surely will. I'm guestimating all hell will break loose after about 21 minutes. The good part of DEAR day is that not one student will generate a piece of paper that needs to be read by me or graded by me. And that's why we are having DEAR day. The madness of the constant writing must end. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Bus

If there's no money for field trips, some ask, why are the sports teams taking the buses off to sports events? But others say that the sports teams bring in money. But then others say that track does not, nor does tennis. And some others ask why aren't the sports teams taking smaller vans to sporting events? Then others say if you take away buses for field trips, shouldn't we restrict the more affluent schools from having parents pay for trips? And then other people ask, "Don't the downtown schools get an advantage in that they can walk to cool sites and the fringe schools can not?" Everything breaks down at the bus stop.
I recognize that the field trip bus is a rich site for sociological considerations. But here's the thing. I'm not a huge field trip fan. The zillions of phone calls to get them arranged, the fear of kids getting gored by cows at the petting zoo, the loud obnoxious singing. If they have to take something away from me, I'll hand this one over. Goodbye Field Trips. Be well. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Radio

Ira Glass has me thinking about the esthetics of broadcasting. He talked about telling stories in cool ways and he wished we could see more pleasure and surprise in the news. He showed us how to do tricks with background music to make talk sound smarter.
Ira made a convincing common sense case against ridiculous regulations and outrageous fines that are now imposed on broadcasters as a consequence of Bono saying the f word on an award show. He reminded us that we’re being governed by morons quite a few times.
When someone in the audience asked him about the transformative power of the stories on This American Life, he talked about changes in his own life as a result of doing the show and I loved that he didn’t make claims for others.
His talk lived up to all my high expectations and as I listened today during my slog, he seemed even funnier than usual. I may have to get Showtime so I can see his new show when it airs. And I might have to rig up a little music console to play background music while I teach. I can keep it next to the overhead projector.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Glass

Today's glass is half full:
I brought the diss out on the deck for some fresh air and the last few pages I've written look pretty good in the light of day.
Teen daughter and I brought lunch to the park while the Pumpkins in the Park celebration was in full gear. Music and a lot of lame games for little kids.
Then we headed over to Elizabethtown, the new Orlando movie. Some dumb parts, but Orlando shone like a beacon throughout.
And now we're heading over to hear Ira Glass talk. Maybe he'll ask for volunteers from the audience and I can be on This American Life. That would be the perfect end to this pleasant fall day. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 14, 2005

The List

  • Why I'm in a Bad Mood

    My whole family's out having fun and I'm writing 60 report card comments.

    Small gnat like bugs keep flying around me and getting into my wine glass.

    I watched CNN for 5 minutes and found out that bankruptcies are way up this month and so are the number of wounded kids in hospitals in Iraq.

    My eye keeps twitching and I think I'm going to wake up with Bell's Palsy tomorrow.

    We haven't had a frost, probably due to global warming, so the fall foliage sucks this year.

    Need I go on or do you get the picture?

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Braces

Teen daughter's braces came off today. So I took one last brace foto because we had all grown fond of them.
I went to my first union meeting today, fairly geared up about participating in the politics of schooling. After an hour and 20 minutes when we were still only on item 2 of a ten item agenda, I was sagging. Happily, we adjourned quickly there after. Teen Daughter asked if I felt like Joe Hill, and honestly, I don't. Maybe that happens next time. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Culture

I've been doling out apologies like they're going out of style lately. My friend G was incredulous about how much apologizing I'm doing. He says he's been noticing too many people living in a culture of apology. I get his point, but when I inconvenience someone, or hurt their feelings, I work up a pretty good apology. Sometimes I even buy the person a gift or two. G asked if I was apologizing so much because I had a need for people to like me. I'm sorry to report that the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Basics

I think my students think I'm blind. Last week, while I was teaching a kid walked across the room toward the tissue box. On her way, she flipped a note onto the desk of another girl. In clear sight of me and everyone. Today two kids traded off making the weirdest faces while I was reading a fascinating book. I decided to give the class a little chat about vision. I tried to help them understand by stating clearly, "You're directly in front of me and I can see you. I can see the things you do."
I don't want to promote sneakiness, but I do think they need to gain greater proficiency at basics like note passing, mimicry and assorted tomfoolery before they move on to junior high. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Groups

The last 2 lit. groups, I've been behind on the reading. For Zlata's Diary, kids starting the group talking dramatically about an injury the dad sustained. I was like, "What?" He hurt his hand? Did that happen after p. 70, cause that's where I stopped." And today, for Sign of the Chrysanthemum, the kids were asking for clarification of a particular scene and I responded with, "Well I didn't read any of the chapters so I have no idea what you're talking about." A few others were behind as well, so one kid suggested that we all catch up tonight and meet again tomorrow. So now I have to read 3 chapters before I go to bed. Aargh.
I'm a little surprised they don't hassle me about slacking on the reading. I like to think it's because I give them extra time when they slack. But maybe they're nice because I'm an authoritarian representative of the state. I'll probably never really know. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Pandemic

A sparrow has been hanging out at the feeder all week, just sitting there, not moving as I walk by to get to the car. I'm pretty sure that bird has avian flu. It seems lethargic and apathetic. Maybe I should stop putting seed out. But won't the still healthy birds just get stressed and be possibly more susceptible to the avian flu if I stop helping?
A few years ago, I assisted a kid with a research project on pandemics and ever since then the mere mention of the word brings me anxiety. The 1918 pandemic killed about 5% of the world's population. That's a goodly amount of folk. The vaccine for the flu is only made in one place in Switzerland. Don't you think they'd have a bunch of this stuff stockpiled somewhere just in case? Especially if there's any truth to quotes in the NY Times today that the pandemic probably won't occur soon, but it will surely occur sometime in the future. Pandemics are major dissertation distractions. I really don't need this right now.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The Prize

Congrats to the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, Mohamed ElBaradei. He and his organization, the International Atomic Enegy Agency, work to curb nuclear proliferation. The Bush Administration has been at odds with IAEA, so that's more evidence that they're doing something right. Today's AP article states, "ElBaradei suggested winning the world's most prestigious award vidincated his methods and goals---using diplomacy rather than confrontation..." Good choice this year, I say.

I wrote 2 new paragraphs this week, so I will be seeking out some prizes of my own this afternoon. Maybe the new Viggo movie is in my future.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Chiton

#1 son needed a chiton for Greek Day tomorrow. So I did what had to be done. Called on the person who made Teen Daughter's chiton for Greek Day 3 years ago. The person who can take a piece of wire and a marble and bend it into a yard sculpture. Who brings over cakes decorated with wild flowers. Who makes purses and jewelry in her spare time and writes poetry in the wee hours of the morning. She whipped this awesome chiton out in no time flat. Kudos, to One Woman! We did help with a cardboard shield and Husbandman's going to make a Greek Salad for the feast. Stick a fork in it. We're done.Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Reasons

I'm probably not working on my dissertation for a number of reasons. First, I graded papers and worked on midterm grades all weekend and am desperate for a few moments to do nothing. Next, I spent 3 hours yesterday working on 3 hours of subplans for today so I could attend a meeting about teaching reading. And third off, I keep waking up at 3 in the morning and that makes me tired during the day. These are not good reasons, but they are reasons. I feel a lot of guilt and anxiety and sadness about the diss this week. I wish I could be more resolute. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Future

Los studentes responded to a piece by M.T. Anderson last week about maturing. Anderson, as a kid, worried constantly, and looked forward to an adult life with less worry and paranoia. Los studentes all wrote that they felt the opposite. They anticipated adulthood as a time of increased worrying, and most mentioned items like taxes, paying bills, and getting to work regularly. I should console them by telling them that adulthood's not too bad. My dad still does my taxes and husbandman does all the bill paying. I get myself to work on my own and haven't missed a day yet this year. I have a huge stack of sick leave piling up so I will probably take a day off soon, just for fun. Maybe they'll just have to learn about the perks on their own. Posted by Picasa

Gratitude #9: Power of Song

We've been listening to , singing, and reading about, songs for social change.  Fables of Faubus, Which Side Are You On?, Wavin' ...