Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Art

Art Buchwald needs dialysis, but he doesn't want to have it, so he's chosen not to. He made this decision a few months ago and the doctors gave him 2 weeks to live. But Art says he's put death "on hold." He was inspiring in a PBS interview this week, cheerful, funny, witty. He's still writing, still visiting with friends. He described his political writing as nonpartisan, saying he pokes at anybody who has the power. The guy interviewing him seemed nervous and he asked really silly questions, even though Art tried to put him at ease. Art wants to be remembered as a funny and good man. That's a fine legacy I think.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Connections

I'm confused about the confusion around me this week. Yesterday I gave an assignment to the sixers, to analyze a poem by Barbara Kingsolver. I went over the criteria for the assignment before we chatted about the ways a poem can be analyzed by attending to images, feelings, patterns, possible purposes. We talked and took notes. Then it was time to write. Kids seemed to be writing everything except an analysis of the poem. I pointed to the overhead. "See all this stuff we just did. This can help you with your assignment."
They seemed shocked. "We're writing about that poem?" a sixer asked.
It took me awhile to get the breathing going again, but I finally did and I went back over the directions. This isn't an isolated incident. Come on little sixers, connect the dots here. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Kids

More bad news for a lot of the kids who suffered through Hurricane Katrina. You can read about it here.
First they lose their homes. Then they have to leave family and friends and move to TEXAS, the state where schools resemble mechanized testing mills. Then they are forced to take a standardized test that doesn’t match what they’ve learned in their home schools. So of course many are failing the test. And NOW, they’re going to flunk school this year. We have to hold them back because we don’t want to leave them behind, don’t you see?

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Points

The sixers are making power points about poets. I finally figured out to give them a deadline, so now stuff is coming together and I find myself actually helping sixers with their work, rather than running around trying to figure out who's blasting the Stones' Beast of Burden through the computer speakers. At the end of a busy but productive hour in the computer lab, a sixer handed over his rough draft. "Thanks," I said, "I'll edit it this weekend."
He looked at me and replied matter of factly, "This is actually my final draft."
I sang back at him, "No, it's not, my fine sixer pal, so ha ha hahaha." He grinned, shook his head and walked off as I continued to cackle gleefully.
The other sixers shook their heads at me as they filed out as well.
I feel like we're finally starting to understand one another. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Lunch

On our snow day yesterday, I was at home with #1 son and one of his sixer pals. Husbandman had to work. He's usually the person who gives us food, so I was a little nervous about how lunch would go. I ran out to the market and bought a frozen pizza and the kind of cookies that you slice and bake. They have some now that are pre-sliced. I loved that. The boys had pizza and I even cut up some apples for them. I'm always really pleased with myself when I provide sustenance for others and I continuously asked the kiddos pertinent questions like, "This pizza's quite good, don't you think?" and "Isn't this amazing that I thought to go out and get cookies for us to bake?" Whenever I venture into new territory, I need to make sure my attempts at identity work are successfully recognized. And I'm happy to report, they were.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Elan

I love museums and I love museums that have IMAX theaters. Last week we saw Deep Sea 3D. I was so looking forward to it. In line to enter that sacred space, we stood behind a guy who looked about 19 or 20. He was standing with a friend and he was thanking the friend profusely for attending the IMAX with him. He kept pounding the guy on the back while repeating statements like, "I can't wait to see this film. IMAX films are the coolest. I'm so happy you would come with me today, No one ever wants to come to the museum with me." I was impressed with this young man and whispered to Teen Daughter that he could be the perfect boyfriend if he was a little younger. She clutched my forearm tightly, which I've come to learn means that she isn't happy with my current line of reasoning. I'm getting good at picking up on these signals and quickly piped down. The film started and it was fantastic of course. I was speechless when I learned that Husbandman slept through most of it, but I got over my incredulity and we headed upstairs to a sculpture exhibit. Our Indy day was a spring break highlight.
P.S. Cross your fingers tonight for a 2 hour delay for us tomorrow. Snow's on its way.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Policies

Down in the basement, I decided to pop the very rough chapters 6 and 7 and the fairly polished chapter 8 into the working draft and move on to reanalyzing revisions that will eventually be chapter 9. Chapter 9 presents my most daunting dissertation challenge thus far, but by adhering to a strict policy of dawdling, staring into space, and drifting into daydreams over the next several weeks, I feel confident an outline will slowly emerge. While dawdling, I’m considering introducing the 2 week spring break policy at the next union meeting. It’s time for us to start tackling some important educational issues.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Anniversary

Democracy Now has been my slogging companion this week. Today I learned about the FBI infiltration of the Thomas Merton Center in Pennsylvania. The FBI has discovered that this peace organization has actually passed out anti-war leaflets. They have communicated with local mosque members as well. I also listened to a report about a recent crack down of soldiers who went AWOL from the war in...Vietnam. A lawyer for a man recently arrested in Idaho believes the recent arrests are aimed to deter deserters from Iraq. 8,000 soldiers have gone AWOL in the past 3 years. Over 500,000 soldiers went AWOL during Vietnam, so the Pentagon has a big job ahead, rounding these guys up. I'm annoyed by this waste of resources. And happy that Democracy Now exists to let me know about them. If you have a favorite pod cast, let me know. The pod gets me out the door every afternoon.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Kinsey

Most days I slog by the Kinsey house, and viewing the Kinsey movie last week put me in a mood to learn more about these famous Bloomingtonians. Besides, my friends are everywhere this week-- Kauai, Kiawah, Kabul--and my day needed some spicing up. I ventured out on a field trip to an exhibit called “Was there a Mrs. Kinsey?” Like most exhibits at our history museum, this one was small enough to be viewed in five to ten minutes, but I’ll share the little I learned. Clara was a brilliant chemistry student, but gave up her graduate work when she married. Clara Kinsey liked hiking. She and Alfred took a hiking honeymoon. They were summer camp counselors in Vermont. Clara took girl scouts out to hike and led faculty wives on hikes as well. She taught swimming lessons. When she found dead animals she would save them in the freezer until she got a chance to dissect them with her kids. She saved a lot of her clothes and these were on display. 3 hiking outfits were considerably stained and carefully patched. If I were Clara and still alive, I probably would feel slightly embarrassed to have my muckiest outfits displayed so prominently. Her wedding dress had a big stain on it too. She was not the neatest, but she was neighborly and many of our town’s citizens remember her fondly.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Class

Last week I got to substitute teach a grad class for my pal who is in Afghanistan right now. I loved being back on campus, talking to people about articles, sharing ideas about projects. I made a power point presentation for the sixth graders based on the articles we read, all of which were about gender stereotyping and children's literature. The grad students created artistic responses to the articles and so I borrowed their posters, cd's and brochures to share with the sixers too. I wish I could always have a foot in both of these worlds. Sometimes I'm sad that my grad school life will come to an end at some point and I'll have less access to critical ideas and experimental projects to shake up my teaching. Something to think about for the future. On an unrelated topic, we saw Transamerica yesterday and the old 40's classic, "Laura" today. Both good.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Break

My main goals for spring break are to sleep and to dissertate. I finished a chapter this morning, just so you know. After finishing a chapter of the dissertation, (just so you know) I went to school. The kids were hyper and many preferred to hang out in the hallway rather than enter the classroom. After being corralled inside, they chattered incessantly as I took attendance. Attempting to document attendees, I noticed a sixer walking over toward our phone. He picked up the receiver and asked politely, "Hey, can I call my dad?"
I thought he might have a family problem, so I answered, "Sure, but do you mind telling me why you need to call him?"
The kid answered, "I was reading this really great Far Side book last night and I forgot to put it in my backpack. I want him to bring it over."
"Put the phone down!" I screamed at him, before adding the rhetorical, "Are you InSANE?"

Spring Break. I love those two words so much.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Invitations

The sixers are involved in extra-curriculars and they often invite me to attend their games, their recitals and their plays. I'm always disarmed by these requests and have to pause, smile, and breathe before I politely decline. My natural inclination is to laugh outloud and sputter, "Why the hell would I want to go to your swim meet?" I know teachers who attend extra curricular activities and I admire their kindness, but I have to do my own thing. Yesterday I declined an invitation to watch a play two sixers are in. I had the perfect excuse. I watched #1 son play Yussel the hat maker in Fiddler on the Roof. The kid was awesome.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Fives

5 deer in the backyard this morning. I think they crashed here last night. 4 were lying around and 1 was raiding the bird feeder. Just saw the 5th of 5 nominated best pictures, Good Night and Good Luck. I've seen all 5, so I'm ready for the big show tonight. 5 days to spring break. And today's March 5th. I wish I had a 5th 5, but there's still time. Posted by Picasa

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Payment

As much fun as Chicago was, that’s how unfun my week has been. My ass has been thoroughly kicked and I’ve struggled with that horrible feeling of not being in the game all week long. The week’s been pretty typical. The tense conversation with parent who’s mad at me because their kid is a forger. Conference with parents of the kid who thinks it’s alright to smack another kid with a ruler. Come on, she was bugging him. Then there were the kids who played at falling back into each other’s arms. Sadly someone decided not to catch one kid who banged her head on the hard floor. I taught with migraine aura blurring my vision this morning and after being interrupted by one little sassette for the 50th time, I asked her to write me an apology. The resulting note read something like, “I’m really sorry I interrupted. I was interrupting because I find what you’re teaching so boring. I’m also bored by the books you read us. I like your class, but I’m often very bored. And that’s why I talk.” I had to laugh especially since I only had 5 minutes left before the sixers headed to lunch and I got to head out of the compound.
Though true, the cruel adage, if you play you pay, really sticks in my craw.
This weekend I'll catch up and start again.
If I grade, I'll have it made.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Korman

Writer Gordon Korman came to speak today. I loved watching the sixers change from glowering gaping drones to nervous surprised gigglers to outright cavorting chucklers as Korman moved through a hilarious forty minute talk. He’s a gifted speaker and he had hundreds of kids in the palm of his hand.
After he wrapped it up, he uttered the words that cause dread in most teacher’s hearts: “We have time for some questions.” 100 kids raised their hands. Out of the 20 questions asked, 12 had been answered during his talk, or during another kid’s question. But Gordon simply pretended that each kid asked an altogether different question and he launched into a brand new brilliant story each time.
I wanted to ask about his work with an editor, but a kid near me was having a meltdown about her untied shoelaces. “Two times!” She started screaming, and I swooped in to attempt the required double knots. Lucky for me, pal Judy asked the question for me and I heard most of the answer. I’m hoping Judy got the rest.