Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Procrastination

I must pack. I must take clothes and put them into a suitcase. Everything in me is resisting this task. I have packed one shirt. The second shirt I want to bring is wrinkled so I've been reading the newspaper and contemplating whether or not it's worthy of ironing. That's going to involve plugging in the iron, setting up the ironing board, moving the iron back and forth. I figured blogging about it might get me out of the packing rut. If this doesn't work, I'm going to have to give myself some tough love and do my drill sergeant voice...Suck it up! Get cracking on the packing! That kind of thing. The trip is going to be fun, but the whole getting there thing feels odious right now. I'm not sure why.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Attention

#1 son had a big project due today and he worked on it for hours last night. I wanted to go to bed at 10:30 and asked him to get some sleep. In an exasperated voice, he told me to go to bed and to please let him get his work done. I went to bed, feeling that things were not right with the world. This odd feeling reappeared tonight when I got home after working in the classroom compound for a few hours. Both offspring were busy with their own pursuits. I tried to distract them by performing some spirited aerobic dancing accompanied by a series of pestering questions, but they smiled kindly and ignored me for the most part. I'm discomfited by the total lack of attention I'm receiving from the offspring. What about me? Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Warmth

The UN commission on climate change is meeting in Canada this week. Top on the agenda is the development of a plan to extend the Kyoto Protocol past its current “commitment period” which ends in 2012. Guess who doesn’t want to extend the Kyoto Protocol? Guess who thinks working on restricting global emissions should be a voluntary endeavor rather than a legal mandate? Guess who’s the biggest polluter on the planet? Yeah, it’s us, the U.S. Even though, once again, I may not get to feel that warm glow of pride from the knowledge that we’re joining with others to take some small steps to protect the planet, I can anticipate the warmth that will come later from the global warming crises on the way.
Foto Credit of the Komodo Dragon: Joy

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Thanks

The weekend of thankfulness with the wonderful family has come to an end. Yay team! The haystacks were eaten, the bevvies were bevved, the zoo was reviewed, the movies were viewed, the chatting at the kitchen table was thoroughly chattifying.
The new Harry Potter had me screeching "POTTER" with vim and gusto in the parking lot after the show and Walk the Line has brought us all into a burning ring of fire. Singing Folsom Prison Blues too but I have to interrupt myself to point out to los kiddos that killing a man just to watch him die is totally unacceptable.
Now it's back to work before a jaunt to Miami on Thursday. I'm freaking a bit because all I've bought in terms of xmas gifts so far is a fancy cheese grater that Mitzi recommended. I don't even know who it's for. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Lunchroom

People who work in lunchrooms should be paid a lot of money. I stayed in the lunchroom for 3 lunch periods today, monitoring the famous Mix It Up Day. In that loud space, you never know when someone's going to start slamming a thermos into the table over and over again or throwing half a sandwich at someone nearby. Anything can happen. I say KUDOS to the lunchroom monitors. They were extremely cheerful and helpful even though the whole cafeteria routine was thrown akilter. The school seemed to like Mix It Up. Third lunch was a hard sell, but the first two chatted happily together and answered the ice breaker questions the sixers had written, questions like, "Have you ever been grounded and what for?" and "Would you rather jump out of a plane or walk across hot coals? Explain."
During third lunch, I heard a kid say, "This Mix It Up day is crap."
I told him, "Mix It Up is not crap. And even if it were crap, you shouldn't say it's crap. Now, be honest. You're enjoying Mix It Up, aren't you?"
"It's okay," he replied sullenly.
I didn't want to push my luck, so I took that as an enthusiastic endorsement of the sixers' project and wandered off to discuss the new Potter movie with kids at the next table.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Letter

While I was gone, the sixers performed plays for the little kids about the Mix It Up lunch project. As they worked on their zines and stories this morning, I read to them from a stack of thank you letters written by the smaller kids. When I got to a letter with the words, “Thank you for doing the plays. I can’t wait for Mix It Up at lunch because I do not have any friends,” the sadness of the letter startled me and I’m ashamed to report that I started laughing uproariously. The sixers just shook their heads at me as I tried to pull it together. My whole life I’ve had a problem with laughing at inappropriate moments and I explained this to the sixers. One supported me with the kind words, “It’s nervous laughter. That can happen when you're uncomfortable.”
“Exactly. Thanks for understanding,” I replied, suppressing more chuckles as I looked at the letter again, which was written in rainbow colors. The sixers never quite got back to work after the incident. I had no one to blame but myself of course and I wondered once again if someone like me really belonged in the teaching profession.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Cabs

Pittsburgh suffers from a paucity of taxis. I discussed this with the Pittsburgers to try to figure out what could be done. Many of them have considered starting up their own cab companies. Others shared practical strategies for making sure others do not steal your cab. Even the cab drivers acknowledged the problem, telling us, "Teachers, you will not be getting a cab tonight. Face it, teachers."
Come on Burgers, huddle up and let's figure something out here.
Other than the cab debacle and drama, NCTE was much fun, with incredible talks to attend and many old friends to visit and chat with. Next year...Nashville.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Poster

A teacher asked me to check out one of the posters my classes had placed all over the school about Mix It Up day next week. I assumed that the poster would say something horribly inappropriate as I followed the other teacher to view it, but when I got to it, it brought me much mirth and merriment! The sixer had written an advertisement that would make anyone excited about the Mix It Up project:
Mix It UP! Have you ever sat with anyone you dislike? Well on November 22, you will be! You will be sitting with people you don’t ever sit with. So be prepared.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Fugitive

#1 son’s been talking about some guy named Crazy Craterson every day for many months now. Whenever we want #1 to finish some homework or go to bed or find his shoes, he asks us, “Have you heard about Crazy Craterson? He grew up on the streets of Pittsburgh. All alone, except for his dog Waffles.” I asked # 1 for some info about how I might track Crazy Craterson down on the upcoming Pittsburgh trip. #1 just laughed and shook his head, “Crazy’s been hunted down by the C.E.O.’s of companies for years. He’s a fugitive and there’s no way he’ll be showing his face anywhere you’d run into him.” I’m disappointed, but I may ask around anyway.

Monday, November 14, 2005

The Pretending

I freak out when I'm preparing a talk. I know I'm going to do it, and everyone else expects it. Before I put my butt in the chair to get the talk worked out, I email everyone on the planet to remind them that I need reassurance. Sometimes I ask for prayers and candle lighting. Any help that is offered, I take. The reassurance and assistance come rolling in as the afternoon wears on, and the talk is slowly shaped into presentability. Later, after the talk, I don't remember the freaking out part. I wish everyone else would forget it too. Let's just pretend.
Foto credit: Emmanuelle's Mom.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Shirt

Judy has been helping me buy clothes for so long that if people remark on my attire they usually say something along the lines of “Nice sweater-shirt-scarf-vest. Did Judy pick it out?” This week at lunch, Judy got a little bossy with the clothes, as she can from time to time, with “You shouldn’t be wearing that white shirt with that sweater. Wear a t-shirt under the sweater.”
As I had been feeling rather dapper that day, I replied, “I like the way this looks.”
She responded matter of factly, “It’s a waste of the white shirt. The white shirt is a stand alone.”
“But I like the look of the white shirt with the sweater.”
“You’re going to sweat and make the arm pits of the white shirt yellow and then it’s useless.”
“Well, I guess I can always buy a new white shirt then.”
But Judy knows that the white shirt was expensive so she commented on its price before advising me one more time to wear the white shirt without the sweater in future. In the clothing department, and in pretty much all others, Judy does not back down. Will I wear the white shirt and the sweater again? I really can’t say. I'm going to have to think about it.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Play

Last week I gave the sixers a little talk about my diss. I told them that I’m pretending I’m an editor of an independent press. I named my press, went over the mission statement and talked about the press’s list of publications, all of which focus on social justice themes. Then they started sifting through their writers' notebooks to identify themes for their publications. First period will be creating theme zines and second period will be doing social narrative fiction stories. One second period sixer showed me a notebook entry about Las Vegas he wanted to include in his story. “I know I want the story to be set in Las Vegas, but I don’t have a theme.” We had written down a list of themes from the texts we’d shared last quarter. I pointed to where he had written “class” and said, “That might be good. Or money. Especially if your characters are in Las Vegas.”
He nodded and said with surprise, “That’s not a bad idea, actually.”
Next week they’re writing book proposals and submitting these with self-addressed stamped envelopes, so I can send them book contracts.
One kid asked, “What if you don’t like our proposal?”
He simply grinned back at me when I offered my happy response, “You get to redo it!" I love working in an elementary school. Even the sixers can get into the figured world of the independent press. Listening to my imagined identity, they nod their heads and play along. For now anyway.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Reparations

Foto above shows my view on Monday night, when I ventured out to have dinner with two pals. You probably notice that the table seems empty except for my beverage and some reading material. In short, my friends never arrived. Foto below represents compensation for my losses as good pals hosted me to an awesome dinner at Mikado later in the week. Having received reparations, I feel I can move on with my life. (Thanks, D and M!)
Sushi dragon foto credit: Menosky.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Program

The last few nights I’ve gotten into bed at a decent time, but I’ve stayed up late perusing the NCTE program that showed up in my mailbox Monday. The book-sized program contains thousands of descriptions of presentations to be seen at the upcoming convention in Pittsburgh. I try to stop reading after 30 minutes or so, but I can’t put the thing down. My own talk is not yet prepared, but I’ll think about that later. For now, I am going through my days waiting for another night with a glass of wine and the NCTE program. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Toughness

Today was a day for homework to be returned and despite my rant last week about not allowing the completion of homework in class, several sixers tested my resolve. Despite a long rant about the life skill of responsibility, several attempted to sneakily finish it on the sly and turn it in during the period. I had to do some serious lambasting in response to this flagrant chicanery. I love the sixers with all my heart, but the shenanigans must end. And end they will. I'm hoping they will, at any rate. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Puppets

I go to meeting after meeting this week where we try to figure out how to offer electives to the sixers. At the fifth meeting in two days, I finally stop trying to give what I consider reasonable input, and just start nodding at everything and anything, desperate for it all to be over.
Inexplicably, I find myself volunteering to teach puppetry. Everyone is happy. The meeting ends.
When Teen Daughter hears about my elective, she looks up from the computer, "You hate puppets," she reminds me.
"I thought maybe we could make those paperbag puppets like in the Fandango commercials."
I don't need her to say anything. The insanity comes rushing in on me and I scream, "My god what have I done?" I rush to the computer to email my retraction, "I forgot I hate puppets. Sign me up for school newspaper. " I just hope it's not too late.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Calm

There's always a lull at the beginning of the quarter where you can kid yourself into thinking that you'll be able to keep up with it all this time, that you won't let it get so out of hand like it did last quarter, that you have systems in place now that are really going to help, that nothing's going to keep you from making real progress on the dissertation. Of course, the lull is a sham, a delusion. But it's okay to enjoy these few moments of calm before the storm turns into a tornado with each passing week of the new quarter. Calm is good, when and wherever it shows up.
Foto Credit: Carmen's family.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Gum

During our talk about Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement last week, one sixer shared that the sixers are organizing to try to get gum chewing permitted at school. I had noticed quite a lot of gum chewing lately. I’ve asked a few kids to spit out gum, but I think the gum chewing might be keeping them a bit quieter so I’ve been inconsistent with enforcement. After this first sixer piped up, the rest erupted in a barrage of comments about how unfair it was that they couldn’t chew gum. I tried to support them in their social action plans, such as they were, by remarking that I was surprised that teen daughter was not only allowed to chew gum in high school, she was allowed to bring her cd player and could listen to music as she moved from class to class.
One kid yelled out, “You have no idea how many of us are listening to ipods at recess. We just wear our hoods and the supervisors don’t know that we have them with us.” I turned away and began readying the VCR for the Mighty Times video viewing.
Later I told Teen Daughter that I was pleasantly surprised that the kids were sharing their stories with me. “Maybe they trust me,” I wondered.
“They might trust you,” she answered, “Or more likely, they don’t really care what you think.” I had to admit that the latter rings more true at this point. And really, w/e.
p.s. Foto Credit for this pic of happy Samantha as Spider: Menosky

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Blankets

On CNN this week, I saw an army soldier interrogating an Iraqi vendor. The man owned a roadside stall located near a spot where a bomb had detonated. Through the interpreter, the soldier told the man to look him in the eyes and tell him if he had knowledge that the bomb was going to detonate. The man looked back at the soldier and shook his head. The soldier told the interpreter, “He’s lying.” I wondered, What’s the guy supposed to say? Yes I knew it would go off at 11am, but I didn’t think it was in my best interest to tell you? I hope the guy wasn’t taken off for gratuitous violence during questioning, but he easily could have been. In a NYT Magazine (10/23/05) piece about the war in Iraq, the writer described aggressive tactics the U.S. military uses when it wants information from a civilian. Our army might blow up a person’s house, torch crops, force people to do push ups while our soldiers laugh. When looking for weapons in a family’s home, soldiers tear the place up. One soldier stood out from the rest. Often “chided by his peers for the delicacy with which he searched Iraqi houses,” Ralph Logan would refold blankets after removing them from closets. This same guy refused to assist in the tossing of two Iraqi men into the Tigris because they were out past curfew driving plumbing supplies to Baghdad. One of the men died. One Iraqi civilian told the writer that he had supported the Americans at first, but their violent attempts to humiliate Iraqis changed his mind. This simple gesture of refolding the blankets stands out to me as strikingly heroic and so contrary to the norm. I wonder who his allies are.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Teen

Our teen daughter is 15 today. She's been super fun to have around.
Celebrating her birthday was a wonderful end to a long day filled with more parent teacher conferences. Lots of chat about homework, organization, punctuation, test scores, future junior high placements, and the social lives of sixers. I have a weird sore under my nose from the three weeks of sinusitis which is unsightly and kept me from really enjoying my day with the parents. I could not stop thinking about it. I told my teaching partner how bummed I was about my disfigurement and she reassured me with the comforting words, "It just looks like a zit." That really calmed me down. Anyway, now I'm home and life is good in the heartland. Happy Birthday dear teen daughter. If you wanna hang out here for another 15 years, it would be our great pleasure. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Cut

The day off went well. Some sentences were written, some roads were walked, some hairs were cut. I was embarrassed in the haircutting place because I have been trying to get my haircutter pal to cut my hair really short for several months now, but she never quite pulls the trigger and my hair ends up looking like an evenly mown lawn.
Today I sat in her chair and said, “There’s this character on the show Rome with really short hair that I like. Do you watch Rome?”
“No,” she answered.
“Well this character has really short hair,” I tried to explain.
Her husband works with her and he screamed from across the haircutting place, “Cleopatra???? Are you wanting your hair cut like Cleopatra???” He seemed surprised.
“Well, I didn’t really want to identify the character, but yes, I want my hair cut like Cleopatra.”
After he finished laughing, he told Haircutting pal what that would look like. Haircutting pal cut my hair very short and I was happy as she hacked away even though her husband kept making Cleopatra remarks all through the session.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Walk

The conferences with parents went well today. A big theme of the conferences is that sixers don't like to show their parents any of their work, so the parents don't really know what's going on with the kiddos. I don't want to sound braggy, but my own #1 son shares his work with me and even lets me give him tips. But that's just my luckiness and I am making no judgments. I'm a soft hearted teacher and many parents encouraged me to lower the boom on the kiddos. I've never had much success with boom lowering, but I'm willing to give it a try. I have 9 more conferences to do later in the week, but tomorrow is a day off. My partner is going to take the kids to see The Music Man and musicals are not my thing. I'm going to start the day with a walk with guardian of Gypsy cat. My first exercise in weeks. I hope to spend the rest of the day working on a conference talk and I'll buy a vacuum cleaner. Maybe I'll even squeeze in a little dissertation time. My stress level about the dissertation is off the charts right now, so light some candles for me.
Laughing Alice photo credit: Alice's mum and dad. She's the most adorable snow princess around, as you can clearly see.

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' ...