Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Gone fishing

I have a rule. My students have to say goodbye before they leave. It broke my heart to have a student I'd come to know, respect, and enjoy talking with suddenly disappear on me one day; I'd find out that he or she went home to Korea, moved to another city, or simply dropped out of school.

To be true to my own rule, this is my little sayonara. I blame it mostly on time, but frankly I'm losing a bit of interest in blogging. It just requires too much energy; I'd rather spend it building Lego castles with a little girl.

Thanks to everyone out there who ever read my words, ever posted a comment, ever hit the "Next Blog" button and ended up with 4 zillion. Best wishes to you all.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

1 year old

birthday balloons

Friday, September 23, 2005

3 simple pleasures

  • garlic bread
  • dusk
  • a very toothy smile from a very little girl

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2005


    Errors republishing the blog. Odd.


    You are now reading the words of an alternative ed. teacher. Students are sent to "alternative education" when they've failed in mainstream classes, typically because of organizational (attendance) problems rather than behavior. I'm hoping that's not true for me as well. It's a grand switcharound to try to match teachers' strengths better with different groups of students. I'm trying to view the whole thing as an opportunity. Stay tuned.

    Monday, September 19, 2005


    I don't know what I'd do without them.

    I can't imagine what the lives of my students are like at home. Do they ever sit down to watch a movie together and share a bag of popcorn? Does their mother, or grandmother, or auntie ever ask, "How was school today? How did you do on the math test?" Do they even know their students are taking math? Do they ever go places together--the beach, hiking, even the mall? Do they have someone who tells them when it's time to go to bed or to say, "Sleep tight. See you in the morning"? Do they see their parents in the morning?

    A student I knew for all of two weeks made my whole job worth it. She came in during the mornings to help me sweep the floor, stack up the books neatly, prepare the whiteboards, and--the best part--to read me poetry. She loved Maya Angelou. One day she came in and said that she read every poem in her textbook, and of all the poems, she liked "Oh Captain, my captain" best because it made her cry. Her dad was in jail; her foster mother called the police on her. She wrote me a poem about how hard it is to leave a friend and was gone the next day. I wish that she could go home every night to someone who loved her.

    Friday, September 16, 2005


    I turned on CNN yesterday and caught a few snippets of the president's remarks in New Orleans. When the audience began clapping, L joined along. Very cute and vaguely disturbing.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2005

    the death of imagination

    Kurt Vonnegut joins the bandwagon of people who claim that TV is rotting our kids' brains. Ok, not in those words, but in these:

    "Now there are professionally produced shows with great actors, very convincing sets, sound, music. Now there's the information highway. We don't need the circuits [of imagination] any more than we need to know how to ride horses. Those of us who had imagination circuits built can look in someone's face and see stories there; to everyone else, a face will just be a face."

    If by "imagination" he means visualization, then we should accuse all those illustrators of childrens' books, too. If by "imagination" he means sound, maybe we should blame all the musical songwriters who dare to put lyrics in their music. If it's a combination of the above, then perhaps the blame goes back to the birth of theater and those horrid actors who dare to pretend to be characters in a play.

    Does multimedia affect imagination? Absolutely. But I think we need to train our children to tap into their own thoughts and imagination while they're viewing/listening/playing. There is a world of difference between just running your eyes across a page in a book and actively reading. That doesn't mean we should ban books because we don't trust ourselves to think at the same time.

    Forgive me for saying so, but Vonnegut, you're old-fashioned.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    the breakdown of the bicameral mind

    Why would I be fired? Polanco asked.

    Picture Lord of the Flies, but instead of Parachute Man add a teacher named Jessica. Except that I'm still alive. So far.

    fish or cut bait

    I've given more thought lately to a hypothetical change of career. Worst case scenario: I'm fired in January and look for a job as a technical writer, editor, or computer programmer. It might be nice to have a job that I can do effectively in 60 hours/wk or less.

    Sunday, September 11, 2005

    hanging on

    "Those people, what can you say? Believe me, our guys were aware of it. You could feel the emotion on the flight up here. You could feel it in the locker room. And you could definitely feel it on the field. This was an important win for this football team but it kind of goes way beyond that, doesn't it?”

    — Jim Haslett, Saints coach, after a 47-yard field goal victory in the last three seconds
    (Photo from http://www.neworleanssaints.com/)

    real fruit juice

    90% of all products claiming "made with real fruit juice" usually has "10% fruit juice" written somewhere else on the packaging in fine print.

    Friday, September 09, 2005


    Why is it considered a desirable personal trait to stoically face someone begging for forgiveness? I know it's important, but wow, I'm awful at it.

    As I type, my daughter is in convulsive sobs, on the brink of deep sleep. I have to grit my teeth and watch the clock not to run in there and comfort her. At what point does it cease being tough love and become inhumane?

    At school, I had my first observation last week, and I'm dreading the results. Every person who walks into my Lord of the Flies classroom pulls me aside afterwards and tells me I have to reinvent myself. Changing seating charts, procedures, consequences, even the words I use, I can do. I'm ready and willing. But change my personality? It's not in me to scream and yell. It's not worth it to me to lose my self dignity and compromise the very reason I became a teacher, to help people who need it.

    I don't consider myself weak, just too nice. I want to treat people, even very young ones, with respect and courtesy. I want to make it clear to students that they choose their behavior, not that they must submit to authority.

    Poor girl. 20 minutes is my breaking point.

    Thursday, September 08, 2005

    call it quits

    I'd admire Lance Armstrong if he weren't so conceited. His greatest strength, the resolve never to quit, is also his greatest weakness. 7 victories and how many years has he been talking about retiring? Come on, already.

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005


    We're reading "The Wreck of the Hesperus" in class today. I'm usually not a fan of ballads, especially ones that involve sailors or young girls with "cheeks like the dawn of day." Nevertheless, this little hurricane poem had a bit more resonance.

    The father (a hubristic skipper who scoffs at warnings of inclement weather) ends up tying his young daughter to the ship, hoping to keep her from being swept away. To no avail. Huge tragic death and lots of exclamation points and apostrophes (the "o" kind).

    Sunday, September 04, 2005


    I click on a news article about 200 New Orleans police officers walking off the job due to inhumane living conditions and I get a Ralph Lauren 2005 Collection Accessories ad. What a strange and sad world we live in.

    Saturday, September 03, 2005

    state fair

    My mom was a fair queen. Growing up, there was a picture of her on our living room wall awarding a grand prize ribbon to someone and his cow. She was proud of it in a strange way. The list would go: kids, Ph.D., state fair crown, nice house, no cavities at the dentist.

    When I was ten or maybe eleven, they had a big reunion in her hometown of all the fair queens from the past fifty years. She bought a blue sequined dress just for the occasion. I remember waiting in the grandstand as the sun went down and just as they finished cleaning up from the monster truck rally to see her walk across the stage for about fifteen seconds.

    I think from that moment on I decided that State Fairs were best visited briefly.

    posse comitatus

    I just learned it's illegal to deploy U.S. troops on U.S. soil. Obviously this doesn't apply to the National Guard in a state of emergency. Still, as troops are being recalled from Iraq and Afghanistan (for very good reason), I'm curious about the motivation behind and details of this 1878 law.

    Thursday, September 01, 2005


    Oh, and I turned 27 yesterday.

    fever pitch

    L has a nasty fever. 103.7. Yikes. Medicine is keeping it down and her happy, for now. Boy, I care so much about that little girl.