Saturday, April 29, 2006

A warning sign

The little one has one of those small cardboard books open and is using it like a cell phone, talking into the pages. Where did I go wrong?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

more details

The older brother of one of my students was the target of the "altercation" yesterday afternoon. Five bullets were fired from one car towards another at the intersection of our school. One bullet grazed the brother's head, causing him to collide into a cement truck. A suspect (I'm unclear whether this was the brother or the shooter) then jumped out of the car and started running through the neighborhood and into the project housing, where police quickly caught him. Luckily no one bothered or attempted to run towards the school. A few teachers who glimpsed the scene saw the car's transmission fluid all over the road and instantly feared it was blood.

It's amazing that no one was seriously injured. My student was not at school today. I wonder how he's dealing with all this. I wonder how he deals (present continuous tense) with all this.

Two points. 1) Daniel, you may be right that this is a way of life, but it gives me pause and causes me to question how much do I want this to be part of my life, even tangentially. 2) At lunch, a few other teachers scoffed that it was clearly gang related. A student teacher (a social studies teacher, one who gets worked up about all the right social causes) began asking pointed questions: how do we know it's gang related? He's right. Suburban schools haul in psychologists whenever there's a school shooting and delve deeply into underlying causes of the violence or possible trauma of the victims, but when it's in a poor, minority neighborhood, everyone always assumes it's "just gang violence."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

a drive-by and a barbecue

"... a barbecue in the slow lane ..." came the hourly traffic report during my drive home. I was tempted to turn around and head for the northbound 15 just to find this BBQ. Maybe I'd pull over on the side of the road and join the crowd of hot dog eaters and frisbee throwers. We'd be mingling with the rush hour traffic, sipping cold drinks and talking about things that don't really matter.

Long day today. While five other schools in five other states are busy wrestling with the anniversary of Columbine and alleged plots of disgruntled teenagers looking for revenge, Minnesota schools are now slated to practice more lock-down drills than fire drills each year. Not necessarily a bad idea.

Today we had a lock-down of our own. The third I've ever experienced that was not a drill. I've honestly never heard gunshots before when they didn't come from the television, a sound studio, or my great-uncle's Civil War era rifle (were they called rifles? I don't even know). I didn't actually hear them today either; I'm so congested I can barely hear the person on the other side of the room talking to me. But my students heard it. Multiple shots.

The shots were fired during the 6th grade lunch break (the first of 3 breaks). It was a drive-by, directed not at the school but across the street. Here in sunny California, students eat outside and there are no shelters. Understandably, our school automatically went into lock-down, addressing teachers to keep students in class with the doors locked (the unspoken advice hung in the air: stay away from the windows). Unfortunately my closet of a classroom doesn't have a loudspeaker, so I had little clue what was happening except when I poked my head out the door for a VP to give me the scoop. We spent the next 2 hours calling back and forth to other teachers, making sure we hadn't missed any more announcements, etc. Students were nonplussed, almost frighteningly so. They played hangman, talked about the chicken sandwiches they wanted to eat. I fed them Tootsie Rolls and Hot Cheetos from my teacher bribery cabinet. And after an hour, I even got them back into fractions and greatest common factors.

The irony of the whole thing was an article published not two weeks ago that featured the great work of a fellow teacher at the school. He was miffed that the reporter had added a bogus quote about how tough the neighborhood was and how we had to practice lock-down drills for drive-by shootings. They have an agenda of their own, no question, but sometimes I wish the media was not so accurate.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

epic play day

Miserable weather outside, so we holed up this weekend and played the entire Lord of the Rings set while cleaning, making stew, playing with the little one, and just lying on the couch with nothing better to do. I forgot how much fun those movies are.

Monday, April 17, 2006

what I learned about Easter

1) Way more fun with a kid, especially one who can walk.

2) An egg can be "hidden" in the middle of the floor and still cause immense joy upon being discovered.

3) People really do buy new dresses for church on Easter.

4) No flower-print dress looks good on a pregnant woman.

5) Sermons with names like "No Fear Factor" are bound to come off a little corny.

6) Don't sit next to the trumpet player. He's very good but very loud.

7) Lemon juice works best for dying Easter eggs and doesn't turn the "whites" dark blue.

and last, but not least,

8) Never put tinfoil-covered chocolate within reach of the carseat.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

house guests

My in-laws left this morning after a two-week whirlwind visit. As far as retired people go, they have an endless source of energy for home improvement. We know have several rooms painted, lots of stocked frozen food, backyard drainage working again, light fixtures repaired, bookshelves secured to the wall studs, a dozen new curtains, and even a new outfit or two for the rapidly growing not-so-little-anymore little one.

It was good to see family. And after two weeks, it was also good to say goodbye.

Now I have to figure out a humane way to say goodbye to the critter who dug the hole in our front yard.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

civil disobedience

Local schools as well as schools around the nation are grappling with student walk-outs to protest immigration policies. Unfortunately, the majority of these civil disobedient youth are opportunists, looking for an excuse for truancy. Misconceptions run high. A boy asked me if all the illegals would be deported if they kept coming to school.

Schools' attitudes in our area have been pretty consistent: we don't support walking out on your education, we will offer forums to learn about and debate the complex issue of immigration. I was impressed by our own superintendent's letter to parents that tacitly complimented those students who walked out Monday, March 27 for their orderliness, the sophistication of the student leaders, and the manner in which they walked to the capital, listened to speakers, and returned to class afterwards. The superintendent then pointed out that the 300 students who walked out the next day were not the same students--showing disrespect at our schools and in our community.

It's interesting that all this is occurring simultaneously with Chavez' birthday (who by the way strongly opposed illegal immigration) and the protests by students and labor workers in France.

Definitely a learning opportunity.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Thank you for all your good wishes. My family is coming to peace with the news of the baby's less-than-perfect health. Despite the fears in the back of our minds, we all have so much to be thankful for and hopeful about.