Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Learning

This week we’ve been talking about a news article about a high school teacher who made a kid sit on the floor because he didn’t like the sports team mentioned on the kid’s jersey. While the kid sat on the floor, the teacher told the other students to pelt him with wadded up balls of paper. In our talk about this text, we all expressed our anger at this out of control teacher. When I asked the sixers why the other students would comply with such a brutal request, many screamed out that they HAVE to do what teachers tell them to do. You can imagine my stunned reaction to that statement. I mustered a recovery and asked one pesky sixer, “Look, if I told you to walk over there and beat up Brian, would you do it?”
The sixer replied matter of factly, “Maybe.”
Capitalizing on a teaching moment, I gently told the sixer, “No, you should not beat up people even if a teacher instructs you to do so.” I really think I got through.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Glee

I finished a draft of the methodology chapter of the diss this morning. Next chapter will focus on analyzing a kid’s story. Most of that’s already written in my quals, so the next chapter should go pretty quickly. Then the going gets tough again, but let’s think about that later, shall we? This blog entry is cheery and upbeat. On Friday night I watched a most excellent film, Happy Endings, that I think all of you should probably rent a.s.a.p. If you want. Right now I’m heading out to see The Edukators with Mitzi at local movie theater slash eating establishment. Best of all today was the kind of blustery day I love. I slogged down to the park with dark grey clouds zooming overhead while I listened to stories about gender clich├ęs on This American Life. It’s nice to have alittlegleeway to blog about after last week’s debacles.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Horror

Every month or so we have a cheerful breakfast with coworkers at the compound. I saunter in jauntily this morning, zoom in on my favorite dish and scoop up a huge portion. I don’t feel too much guilt about taking more than my share because I’ve had a bad week. I'm on the last bite when I realize that something is in my mouth that doesn't belong there. Please don't let this be what I think it is,” I scream silently, as I subtly reach up with my napkin to remove the object from my mouth. Sadly, the object turns out to be a nail clipping of some kind. I'm thinking toe, but it could have come from a large human thumb just as easily. Ugh.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Cheesing

"Can we get her fired?" That's what a sixer asked another teacher today. Yes, he was referring to me. I won't go into the details, but the whole day I've been really cheesed off about the incident. I've spent the afternoon eating nonstop...cookies, triscuits, cheese. More cookies. I jinxed myself with an upbeat email to my mom about how fond I've grown of the sixers. When will I learn? A positive attitude doesn't pay. Stay negative. I've told myself time and time again.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Mercy

Some friends in the know have given this organization good reviews. If you’re considering making a relief fund donation, you might want to keep them in mind. We donated some money for earthquake victims in Pakistan this weekend. A news story about the horrible conditions these poor people are enduring finally got me moving on something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Keep MercyCorps in mind next time you’re donating.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Paint

We're having some rooms painted this week. The man who will paint for us told us to pick out some colors 2 weeks ago. I never did it, and today it had be done. This is a job I hate. Husbandman kept trying to hurry me along, but I couldn't figure out what I wanted. I'm not visual and I'm not imaginative. That's why I go with white all the time, tho I know it's boring. For me, being creative would take time, fortitude and a different personality. Teen Daughter picked out a shade of purple for her room in about 6 minutes, so there's hope for future generations. Right now, I simply rely on the kindness of strangers. Our kitchen cabinets are old and grotty and the man who will paint said, "Want me to sand and restain those cabinets?"
And I said, "Oh yes, my friend, I certainly do." They've bothered me for a long time, but I never feel any real urgency about these issues. Other people are more adept at home improvements, and every few years I'm happy to compensate these people handily.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Gash

Right before I slipped on some ice last night, I thought, "This could be slippery." Then I went down. As you can see, I have a fairly serious gash. A jagged piece of limestone cut into my palm. Someone at work ridiculously suggested that I cover it with a bandaid, but I asked, "How can I show it to people all day long if it's covered with a bandaid?" (What a weirdo). We have an elmo projector in the compound classroom so I was even able to display the gash on the television. The sixers cried out, "Please! Stop!" But I wanted to give my gash the attention it deserved.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Scores

Like a lot of states, Hawaii screwed up and made their standardized tests super hard. Raise the bar, high standards, that whole bit. Now kids can't pass the test. Morale in schools is low. The governor gave the fifth grade math test to her senior policy advisors and they couldn't pass it. The governor's trying to get the test revamped, but she's being opposed by people who correlate difficult tests with quality education. These people aren't thinking the whole thing through. I agree with the governor when she says, ""I am supporting making the standards more in line with what the children need to know to be able to read and write and multiply, subtract and divide." Standardized tests are broad instruments that don't tell you much about individuals, so they should focus on the basics. Leave the high power inferential stuff to the professional teacher. Step aside, testing companies.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Interest

A rough – legged hawk perched high in a tree across the street this morning. I spent a not inconsiderable amount of time watching it through binoculars. When it flew off, I searched through my bird books for awhile in order to make the proper identification and I'm convinced I have done so. Later, after grading for 5 hours at the compound, I decided to search for fotos of the rough legged hawk on the internets. I guess you could say that birds are of great interest to me. Perhaps you too have seen a hawk in the recent past.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Meeting

Yesterday's union meeting was full of talk about early retirement benefits, selling bonds, ratification drive bys and insurance subcontracting. I wrote up notes for my colleagues back at the compound but most of my remarks were prefaced with comments like "I'm not sure but..." and "What I think I'm supposed to tell you is..."
I hope they don't lose confidence in me. I'm in way over my head and it's embarrassingly clear to me that I'll probably never acquire the identity of the proficient union rep. This is humbling. I prefer to be good at everything I do, whenever humanly possible.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Facts

I'm not overly concerned that James Frey's memoir has made up parts. Maybe I should be. Mary Karr says that you have to be vigilant about your facts when you write a memoir. She says, "Even when you think (your memories) are true, you have to peck and push and nudge yourself...Is that right? Could it have really happened that way?" Frey probably should have added a disclaimer. That wouldn't have bothered me at all. Or just written a novel. It seems kind of rude to get huffy now about a book that brought me pleasure and much needed leisure. I hope Frey can stay strong during this rough patch and avoid his former demons. You can do it James. Just say no.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Calls

I've called a gazillion parents this week to express my concern about missing work. I used to hate calling parents and I would do anything to avoid it. But I'm starting to rethink this whole enterprise. During each call, I maintain an upbeat tone of kindness as I outline all the missing work and expose an assortment of ridiculous lies that obviously have been told both at home and at school. The parents are so grateful that I called and they get pretty ticked off at their sixer. This is a win-win situation for me.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Suggestions

Posted by Picasa
Illegal Art carried around suggestion boxes last year and invited people on the street to put some in. Now the suggestions are in a book that has been ordered by me this very day, but some others were printed in Sunday’s NYT, as “Advice for 2006.” I liked "Wear a Bigger Heart on Your Sleeve" and "Dine with Strangers." I shared some of mine with the sixers, “Slog daily,” “Slow down, lighten up,” “Dissertate with your morning coffee,” “Read more fiction,” and “Avoid dogs.” They wrote their own suggestion signs in the computer lab, “Make a life for yourself,” "Try not to play with fire," "Love's always better" and “Chill or be chilled." A cool bulletin board will appear soon.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Flix

Here are the movies I saw on vacation.
Pride and Prejudice: A. Already blogged about it.
King Kong: A - . A few scenes dragged, but most are beautiful. The ending killed me even though I knew it was coming.
Memoirs of a Geisha: A. Good job on this one. Music's quite lovely. Hat tip to you, Yo Yo Ma.
Fun With Dick and Jane: B. Tea Leoni is good and they slam the Enron crew in the credits. Well done.
Family Stone: B. Better than I expected. I'm partial to Luke Wilson anyway.
Syriana: A. Kudos to you, George Clooney.
Rumor Has It: C +. There were a few moments of mirth, but I know they could have done better.
Constant Gardener: A. Beautiful and sad. A good twin to Syriana.
Munich: A. Eric Bana, a favorite of mine from the Hulk, did well here. I felt more acutely the pointlessness of what's going on in Iraq right now, and I was surprised that was possible.
Shop Girl: A -. That Jason Schwartzman. You can't beat that guy. Plus I liked Claire Dane's ears. Good job writing a novella and acting in it too, Steve Martin. Keep up the good work.

I'm a pretty easy grader, but overall I was pleased with the cinematic offerings this holiday season. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Quote

Read the new New Yorker piece on Phillip Pullman, if you need to gear up for heading back to class this week.
Pullman makes a case for the “literary School of Morals,” the ambiguous, dynamic democratic conversation that contradicts “theocracy” which he defines as “the tendency of human beings to gather power to themselves in the name of something that may not be questioned.” Pullman claims that theocratic impulses will eventually “defeat” the literary School of Morals, but that we should just plug along anyway, acting as if literary work can make a difference:
“I think we should act as if. I think we should read books, and tell children stories, and take them to the theatre, and learn poems and make music, as if it would make a difference…We should act as if the universe were listening to us and responding. We should act as if life were going to win.”

Pullman’s words are a good shot in the arm for me as I head back into second semester with the sixers. I’ve spent the day editing drafts. They're not the greatest, but they're all I've got right now so I’m practicing acting as if.
This is the penultimate day of vacation and Husbandman and I are heading out to the basketball game. Go Hoosiers!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Bergen

The Time In Between is a moody novel about two Canadians on a trip to Vietnam. They’re searching for their father who is missing. The dad, Charles Boatman, fought in the Vietnam War and for 30 years has been hobbled by his guilty memories. The book moves back and forth between the dad’s time in Vietnam searching for something, it’s never clear exactly what would help him out of his torment, with the kids’ time in Vietnam searching for their father. Ada and Jon, both in their twenties, take up their own searches along the way, and their quests seem hopeless and dangerous, but unavoidable. The three Boatmans meander through Vietnam on their own and the country comes off as uncapturable and alluring, kind of a mirror of the aims of the characters. The scenes with the American expatriots remind me of books about Paris in the twenties. Don’t delay, read it today.