Friday, February 29, 2008

The End

I write gloomy autobiographical things. No wonder I'm so unpopular.

The End

A man’s not a man when he’s crying and pleading
When his soul is in strife and broken and bleeding
And he curses the crucified life that he’s leading

The start of the end is in every beginning
A loss is potential in what seems to be winning
The grace of the angels can save us from sinning

There’s a spark of death in each fertilized egg
A human monster makes a hurt woman beg
And a tired old man’s on his very last legs

A small bird alone is found with broken wing
A lonely girl is made sound and given a ring
The heavens resound as the angels still sing

When the bird’s body is whole away it will fly
When the girl feels secure, she’ll make her man cry
If the angels stop singing the world by fire will die

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Vicissitudes

I am actually liking the new job, despite how it reads in these posts. It's just that the good points are more or less the same as with all my previous experience, while the parts that I can complain about are all new.

I'm sort of in the worst of both worlds here. I'm just a fill-in, so I don't really belong to the K team. They know I'm going to be going back to the sub team in a month. Likewise, I can't really talk to the sub team about how our days go because my day is so different. It's the same pay, but a lot more responsibility (lesson plans, consistency, room maintenance, etc), and not much more respect.

I sent out an email to all the parents detailing what we've been doing this week. I talked about all our games and projects and centers, and I also mentioned how the kids have been dealing with the change of teachers. The Vice-Head and other employees who saw the email said it was a very well-written update; they were very impressed and pleased. I do have a little skill, of course, in stringing words together.

However... I misspelled the school's name in the subject line.

It was a typo, and I immediately followed it with another jokey email blaming the typo on "faulty keyboards." Slightly embarrassing, that.

No one mentioned the typo at all, though. A couple of parents sent appreciative replies. One parent sent a note saying "Congratulations! You survived your first week!" Yes, I did, and I also managed to stumble through your heavy condescension, as well.

I know it was probably meant well, but it grates just a bit. I admit to being anxious about taking over mid-term for a popular teacher, but honestly --- making it through, and admirably, was pretty much presumed on my part. Again, this is my career, and this is not my first year. Seriously, do only teachers get that kind of treatment? Do lawyers' friends send them breathless notes of congratulation when they write their first memo?

Well, maybe they do. I do chafe at being treated like a young tyro, perhaps because I look like one (as I'm told ad nauseam, I appear to be twenty), at the age of thirty-seven.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New room, day three

Today was a bit better. I go through the schedule easily enough, and I'm fine at teaching reading and math concepts. We have literacy centers and fun math lessons (counting by 2s and 5s, games with dice) and so on.

But as Mr. C warned me, these are the rowdiest bunch of kids ever. Transitions are particularly rough. It's not that they don't listen per se --- they're certainly not rebellious. They do stop and clean up and line up, but they do it so sloppily and loudly and inefficiently that it takes forever. It's like trying to herd 18 affable Labrador puppies loaded with kinetic energy.

I told the kids that we'd just have to cut free time shorter, since they were having such a hard time packing up and getting in line at a reasonable pace. They looked bemused at this news; perhaps it will take. Mr. C suggested (I have spoken to him on the phone every day since taking over) that I send them a few at a time, directing the others to watch and see how it's done until everyone is ready and waiting. But if I could get them to follow those directions, I wouldn't have to resort to such strategies in the first place.

It's not a huge problem and the kids will get used to my style soon enough. I just don't want to get into a habit early of constantly monitoring, directing, squelching, and scolding. Very bad patterns to get into, and easy to do. It's so much easier when the kids know what's expected of them and know the consequences of bad choices, so they can have a relatively hands-off, fun day of exploration and success. I'm now in charge of an classroom environment I didn't create, which is tough.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Okay, fine

Deliberated over posting about today or not posting at all or doing a quick fill post today. Couldn't decide which was more honest, which would give me a much-needed shot of introspection, which was truest to the blog's function as a memory hole, which was less whiny. I don't know.

If you read Achewood, and you really ought to, perhaps you know the one where Roast Beef is too depressed to finish biting through a piece of toast.

Anyway, I decided to do a sort of mixture of all three choices. This will be a meaningless post that references where my head is today but might as well not be posted at all, really.

I don't know. Work was something. Beats me.

Starting today, various parents are coming in to have lunch at the tables with their kids. I have no idea if the two couples that came today were impressed with my calm professionalism and came away knowing their kids were in good hands or if they sat there appalled and wondering why everything was going to hell. Honestly, I have no idea. I can't tell.

The Vice-Head told me today that there's a school policy against picking up kids or hugging them except for a kneeling side hug. I'm a guy, and guys like to toss kids around, and I'd seen other teachers picking up kids, so I've done it. So now I have to tell the kids not to swing on me or ask to be picked up, and also clearly I was looking kinda weird for being so physical with the kids all the time, and also clearly some teachers must have complained to her about me. I don't know, it kind of feels like an emotional punch in the gut.

Has taking over the class put me under this pall of stress and uncertainty? I've never felt anything less than totally competent and confident at a new teaching job, but suddenly I feel like I'm being watched and judged.

I'm too sensitive or some shit. I have to finish biting through this toast.

Let's see. Today we started literacy centers and did some math and decorated our George Washington cut-outs. And in math we counted by 2s and 5s and I introduced them to calculators.

I may feel an infinitesimal bit better now. Or am I still depressed? Possibly. Can't tell. Too dazed with foreboding and gloom.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Kindergarten class

Well, you might think I'd have an interminable post about my first day taking over Mr. C's class, but it really wasn't any different than any other time I subbed at Prestigious. Well, a little different, in that I have to think a bit more long-term now and stay after school to rearrange things and prepare, but no biggie.

We did English and Math and made little paper George Washingtons and colored pictures in the style of Edgar Degas and so forth. I called Mr. C after school and asked a few questions about routine.

One kid came in crying because he missed Mr. C, but he cheered right up after a few minutes. I left his mother a voice mail and she emailed me back saying he "came home with a smile on his face" and that they were happy I was in the room. Of course, kids are protean --- he might come in crying again tomorrow.

Eh, I don't really have anything. Tired, though. And, outside of work, feeling bleak and futile. Insight, perhaps, in another post.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Turning Japanese

Yesterday, while on a walk, the whimsical notion popped into my head to search for grammatically correct but bizarre, phrases on Google: phrases that in theory might be used but in reality aren't, so no results would be found. The first one that popped into my head, for whatever reason, was "the Florence of Asia." Surely there's no real-world referent to such an appellation, I thought.

It turns out that there isn't much of one, but there's more to it than that.

Google brings five results for "the Florence of Asia," with five different cities being so called. Clearly, it's not widely used, but someone thought of it.

Huh. Bemused, I queried "the Rome of Asia." This returned 1,200 results, and apparently that nickname is reserved for Lhasa, Tibet. I did not know that!

Now I was becoming curious. Why was I not informed of these Asian counterparts to various cities? What is "the Paris of Asia"? Shanghai, Google informs me, with 2,410 results. Now I feel ignorant.

Surely there is no city called "the Milan of Asia"? There doesn't seem to be, but around 234 pages tell me that the Philippines has this name, for its fashion and furniture design industries.

Okay, try "the London of Asia." Singapore or Hong Kong, 1,820 results.

Is there a "New York of Asia"? Hong Kong for sure this time, with 2,300 pages affirming.

Trying to get esoteric, but still reasonable, I typed in "the Berlin of Asia." Only four results: Hong Kong, or war-torn Korea or war-torn Vietnam. Getting closer!

Similarly, "the Los Angeles of Asia" gives only four results, none of which agree with the other. I was surprised on this one, thinking it would be Bombay, for the Bollywood film industry.

Time to steer away from useful cities with a history. But still, "the Dallas of Asia" gives three results (Beijing or Singapore).

"The Mexico of Asia"? Lots of results: 275 or so, with no general consensus.

Okay, time to break out the oxymorons and get genuinely unrealistic. I typed "the Toronto of Asia" and got one result: Busan, Korea.

I finally found success with "the Ottawa of Asia." Zero results!

I managed to craft a reasonable search with no results. In this utterly useless contest, however, there are no winners. Only losers. Me and Ottawa.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday Cartoons: the rut

Normally this type post is for sharing moments from print graphic novels I enjoy. I don't like posting comics available already and solely online, because, well, what's the point? But this made me, as the kids say, LOL.
























by "Phil"

Friday, February 22, 2008

I think some divine rapport has equalized me with them

The morning meeting with the parents went better than I'd anticipated. Everyone was cordial, and nearly everyone was reassuring and calm. One mother seemed a bit anxious, and asked lots of questions concerning my readiness. (Honestly, does anybody except teachers get that kind of interrogation? This is my job! I know how to do it!)

I pointed out to her that the transfer of power was not happening in a vacuum: the in-house substitutes, the reading coach, the whole kindergarten team, the Vice-Head, and so forth were all supporting me. And then I capped it off with, "This isn't my first job, you know." She deflated just slightly after that.

In the afternoon, I met with the PITA parents, the ones who'd sent the three-page jeremiad. The Head and VH had intimated that if things got rowdy during that meeting, they were going to invite the parents to leave Prestigious. But they were very appropriate and calm, and I made some reassuring teacher noises about their child's reading behaviors and phonemic awareness, and that was that.

Monday, I'm in there as the teacher for the next six weeks. I'm not too worried; the K team is letting me coast and feeding me the plans, and the floater's going to try to hang around a lot, so it shouldn't be okay.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

PITA Parents

Got my first taste of PITA (that's Pain In The Ass) Parents today. Prestigious is known for its uptight and demanding parents, and during conference days (the 13th and 14th), I did encounter one mother who got extremely emotional and irrational about her kindergarten-age daughter who wasn't reading yet. But that was just something I was observing, not my problem.

Today, the Vice-Head showed me an email a parent sent to her with "concerns" he still has about my taking over Mr. C's class starting Monday. It started out asking where I'd done student teaching (uh, who cares?) and what my reading teaching strategies were (a fair question), and then just kind of devolved into an all-out criticism of anything and everything about Prestigious. Why don't I hold hour-long conferences with all the parents as soon as possible? Why isn't there an assistant, since there are a whopping 18 kids in the room? Hey, the reading coach doesn't have a master's degree! Hey, some other teacher, Ms. S, is with the kids maybe a couple of hours a week --- and she doesn't have a master's, either! (The parent found this out by searching the school website) And why can't parents visit the classroom whenever they want? And so on.

This email was sent, the Vice-Head told me, immediately after an hour-long conversation with her about the transfer. A conversation which began, she said, ten seconds after she'd sent the original notification email to all the parents.

So, like I've mentioned, I'm meeting the parents tomorrow. Yeah. Pretty enthused about that.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go review my reading teaching strategies.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

This day will soon be at an end and now it's even sooner

I subbed in the Repeat Kindergarten class again today --- just seven kids, and the teacher leaves very detailed lesson plans. It's an easy gig, even by the rather lax standards of Prestigious.

After school we had our weekly staff meeting. They served sushi and other Asian treats. As a February birthday boy, I had to go to the middle of the room with five other teachers while the staff regaled us with the obligatory song (I stood there and took it, but it pained me; I hate being the cynosure). I got a gift card from the school, but I lost it. Anyway, pretty generous.

Every year, Prestigious gives grants to teachers who propose to travel and do something helpful, enriching, or skill-building. Today they revealed the winner, one of my sub team members who will get to go to Ecuador. I didn't quite catch the details, but she'll be doing some kind of volunteer work with wilderness trails.

Oh, and a weird thing happened. ...Well, maybe better not go into that at all. Let's just say it involved my inadvertent disclosure of search terms that had been used in the past on the classroom teacher's computer. One of them was a Japanese word. It freaked me out.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The same thing that I'd want today, I would want again tomorrow

The Vice-Head sent out the email to the parents of Mr. C's room, saying he was leaving for six months and I'd be in his place. Mr. C told the kids himself, but I couldn't be there, as I was subbing in another room. By the end of the day there was one (possibly the first of several) email from a parent concerned that the change would result in their son slipping in his reading progress.

I understand parental concern and naturally I'm going to discuss their fears with them. But really, some of these high-maintenance parents are bit too jumpy, if you ask me. How likely is it that Prestigious is going to replace the teacher with a total slacker who's going to just let the kids slide? Anyway, I'm meeting the parents Friday morning. There will be donuts, juice, and anxiety.

I had a talk with Mr. C after school in which he briefed me on some of the more troublesome behaviors to be found in his class. At the beginning of the year, two kids regularly would pitch screaming fits, and one of them literally had to be held by Mr. C. He said it was the worst first six months of his entire teaching career. Apparently, the kids have calmed down a lot since then; two are on some kind of behavior-altering drug.

***

When I was in his room during class hours, briefly, one girl came up to me, talked excitedly about something, and then abruptly turned and skipped / ran / jumped off to the circle area.

"She's in a hurry, I guess," I remarked to another five-year-old girl.

"No," she said offhand, "she's just hyper."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Jeffrey's Monkey Hit the Road

Lyrics to a song of loss and dependence.

Jeffrey’s Monkey Hit the Road

It seems the phone won’t stop ringing
Wasted toilet water singing
Sympathy cards, junk and bills
There’s no more room, mailbox is filled

Jeffrey’s monkey hit the road
Jeffrey’s monkey took a load off
Nothing good does this bode
Jeffrey’s monkey just lost his heart
Jeffrey’s monkey won’t do his part

Not a change of clothes for some time
The smell, the must, the awful grime ---
Where is Bobo who would dart and lunge
Here and there with his cloth and sponge?

Jeffrey’s monkey hit the road

Jeffrey’s monkey took a load off
Nothing good does this bode
Jeffrey’s monkey finally called it quits
Lazing god knows where, picking nits

Friends will find Jeff sad and alone
His little helper gone to parts unknown
They’ll bust down the door only to find
Jeffrey’s monkey left him behind

Sometimes life throws us a curve
Life hits and runs as it hits a nerve
We take what comes and hope it lasts
And try not to cling too hard to the past

Jeffrey’s monkey hit the road
Jeffrey’s monkey took a load off
Nothing good does this bode
Jeffrey’s monkey had it up to here

Wants a life of skittles and beer

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Take a load off

Questions originally posted here.

Hypotheticals: If you could be a character in any novel, who would you be?
Boy, that's rather a tough one. Most of my favorite novels have protagonists who are more the victims of a large uncaring world (Yossarian, Holden Caulfield), not so much people whose fates you'd want to share. And characters with power over others, like Dracula or the Invisible Man, tend to end up badly. I do feel a sort of kinship with the sour but noble Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. Sherlock Holmes is admirable in his way, but I always found him a bit too supercilious. Well, let's see. There's also Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island --- a plucky young lad who comes into fortune after great adventure. Same with Huck Finn. I'll pick Hawkins, because he's still young and financially secure at the end of his book.

Anything Goes: What outdoor activity do you consider the most dangerous?
Bungee jumping or skydiving. Oh, I guess maybe doing this.

No-Brainers: What is your favorite genre of movies?
Snarky comment: this is a "no-brainer" because only people who don't think very much have favorite genres of movies. Well, I'm mostly joking. But I might say animation, because there have been so many wonderfully imaginative animated films, but I could just as easily say any other genre. It depends on the writing, acting, direction, mood, cinematography, message. I'm not a big fan of Westerns, for example, but High Noon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance are both great movies. Conversely, while I love thrillers and documentaries, the huge preponderance of movies in those fields are utter crap. I really don't have a favorite genre.

Oh, all right, it's superhero movies. When they're done right, I just love them so much.

Personals: How good is your long-term memory, on a scale of one to ten?
When I was younger (preteen, high school, early college), I'd say my memory went up to eleven. I remembered events (but not faces or dates) vividly; could recite snatches of conversation and text verbatim; and more often than now plucked the mot juste out of my expansive vocabulary effortlessly, without pause in speech of writing. Now, I'd say old age, alcohol use, and general rust has weakened my memory to, say, an eight.

***

This just in: My blog uses lots of big words

blog readability test

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008

In media res

No work today. Some of my entertainment the last couple of weeks:

Television: Showtime's "Dexter." An original idea, with a charismatic star (Michael C. Hall) who pulls off the difficult task of portraying a likable serial killer. I don't agree with all the praise this show's gotten, though. Unlike HBO's top-notch shows, 'Dexter" suffers from some rather clumsy acting (particularly from the main character's sister). Also, the plot is often much more unsubtle than I like to see. Holy cow, you mean the creepily intense prosthesist is the other killer, the one obsessed with hacking off limbs? Never saw that one coming! Finally, while there's a good mix of black humor and drama in the scripts, the depiction of police work is almost childish: press conferences held at whim, no repercussions (not even mandatory leave and counseling) for a shooting, shaky evidence taken at face value, obvious connections leaving the detectives baffled (where'd all that blood come from? Could it be from the guy who's been draining blood from his victims??), and so on. Oh, and Dexter's girlfriend being changed with assault when it has already been established that she had a restraining order against her ex-con, wife-beating, drunk-at-the-time husband is beyond absurd. All of which is to say that although it's not particularly intelligent, "Dexter" is nevertheless compelling viewing --- again, mostly for its quirky premise and Hall's work in the title role. But I can't see that it in any way compares in quality to HBO masterpieces like "The Wire" and 'Deadwood," or even "NYPD Blue."

Comics: Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark's run on Daredevil. My local comic store is having a big sale, so I picked up the entire collected run so far, three TPBs, at once. I love everything Brubaker does (Criminal being among his finest work), and was especially sorry to see his and Lark's Gotham Central end, but this is a fine replacement for the latter. It's all gritty and noir, with a complex (but not unnecessarily convoluted) plot and a very intelligent, sinister villain. Or rather, a succession of villains. If there were ten of these books out now, I'd get 'em all. Comic book heroin, this stuff is.

Books: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I've stated before that I'm normally a fan of the florid prose of the 19th-century female classicists, especially their rich, evocative language. However, I found a lot wanting in this book. Here, the overly verbose prose bored me with its superfluity, rather than wowing me with its verve and poetry. More than that, though, I found the titular character almost completely unsympathetic. It wasn't that Jane Eyre, the orphan and schoolteacher, is a repellent person; it's that she seemed to have no will or direction of her own. As she vacillated ad nauseam between marrying her bigamist beloved or running off in shame, and again between marrying an arrogant prick of a missionary for no reason other than he demanded her to or actually having a spine, I found myself muttering "Stop moaning about, you prolix bint, and stand up for yourself." But then, I've always taken literature personally.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dear Fellow Teachers

Dear teacher recently returned from maternity leave: I realize I'm outnumbered in this matriarchy, and you all really enjoy talking about makeup and babies and cute things all the time, but honestly, can't you wait until I'm out of the room before you start talking about your birth plug falling out? There is a line at which one has gone too far, ladies!

Dear 23-year-old first-year K teacher with no graduate degree: I realize I'm new here and all, but it irks me to sit on a parent conference and hear you introduce me and say that the reason I'm sitting in is "to get a little experience." It's kind of demeaning. I'm nearly 15 years older than you, far more educated, and have been working in early childhood for seven years. So, you know, that sucked.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

If I thought I was qualified

Today was Parent Conference day at Prestigious. Lacking a classroom of my own, I sat in on five conferences (one from each grade), and helped a little at the greeting desk as well. I saw a good sampling of parent styles as well as teaching styles. Some parents come in like they own the joint and the teachers are their personal tutors; others see the teachers as the authority in the room. While there's some weight to the former (the teachers are paid by tuition, after all), a middle ground leaning toward the latter is probably healthiest.

I also had my Goal Meeting. I wrote for my goals that I wanted to get to know the staff and students better over the coming months as a way of fitting in better; and that I wanted to study kindergarten lesson plans and books for next year. The Vice-Head, looking over the goals, said, "That timeline may be changed."

It turns out that Mr. C, the K teacher I've helped out the last couple of days, is taking a leave of absence until the beginning of April in order to rest and recuperate. I'm going to be the teacher in that room, not next year, but starting the week after next.

Yikes. Stepping into the shoes of a well-liked, experienced teacher + mid-term + demanding parents + little kids who like routine + next to no preparation = anxiety.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life

All day, my legs and abdomen were actually sore. This is what comes of playing ball games for two hours with groups of pre-K kids yesterday. And being, apparently, completely out of shape. Stupid doctors telling me I can't lift weights.

Luckily, it was teacher appreciation day at Prestigious, and the staff was treated to chair massages (just what I needed) and lunch. The latter was sandwiches, mixed fruit, chips, and delightfully decadent chocolate-covered strawberries, and man, did I just describe that in a totally homosexual way or what? Speaking of which, one of the gay male teachers addressed me as "honey" today. It just kind of slipped out, I suppose.

Man, if I were gay, my social life would be a lot easier.

***

One of the kindergarteners was looking at a book of dangerous or exotic animals and as he flipped through the pages, I identified and commented on them. When he came to a photo of an octopus, I got all excited. Octopuses are among my favorite animals because of how interesting they are, what with all their weird powers (regeneration, piercing "tongue," color and texture adaptation, ink sacs, autotomic limbs) and supposed intelligence. I said, "Oh, boy! octopuses are---"

And another kid interrupted, "Delicious!"

Monday, February 11, 2008

Exhausted

I filled in for the pre-K gym teacher today. I had them play a game where two teams rolled balls at each other and if you were hit, you had to sit down until a designated helper tapped you back in again.

I lead a rather sedentary lifestyle and am unused to long bouts of aerobic exercise. And I only ate a yogurt, tomatoes, and cucumber for lunch, so I lacked energy fuel.

I came home and fell asleep for two hours.

***

Winter's on its way out and the nights are getting warmer, which in my house means it's time to make sure I wash the dishes every night and spray Raid in the garbage cans. I'll still get big monster roaches, but not as many.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

新春快乐!

Went to the Hangout last night with the Friar. Once there, I sent out tentative, exploratory texts to a few people (T-Bone, K, Jaded, Epalg), but no one else wanted to come. I can understand why. It is a college bar, and last night was Douchebag Central, what with all the goddam frat boys and sorority skanks milling around. But eventually the usual gang of picaresque rogues --- AL and Tall and Fat and Voluptuary and so on --- came around, and we all had a good time monopolizing the trivia machine and talking a bunch of crap in general.

As has become our custom, I gave Friar a ride home (I'm never more than mildly tipsy by 2:00 a.m., while he's invariably plastered). No sooner had I reached my own house and kicked off my shoes than Friar called me (which in itself is anomalous, as he typically communicates solely through text massages). He said that Palfrey, in normal circumstances a rather iracund individual in any case, had become incensed at his lingering in the car chatting with me a few minutes outside their house. She proceeded to take his keys and throw them into the yard. Whereupon Friar, perhaps not unreasonably, pounded on the large front window and shattered it.

Well, that was his version of the tale, anyway. I walked back out and was reaching for my car door handle to pick him up when he said to forget it and hung up. A few tearful phone calls from Palfrey followed --- she urged me to go pick him up --- but he ducked my calls and ignored my texts, so I went to bed.

The nosography of connubial distress, or, Everyone's got problems.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Friday, February 08, 2008

Lost its sparkle, it isn't the same

Yesterday, a fourth-grader stymied me with the old "A man pushes his car to a stop in front of a hotel and realizes he's bankrupt" conundrum. Damn smart-ass fourth-graders.

The pre-K students have been studying folk tales and nursery rhymes for a while now. Today at reading time, a pre-K kid ran up to me with a Rumpelstiltskin book, saying excitedly, "Look what I got!"

I nodded approvingly and said, "Yes, that's Rumpelstiltskin. Do you know that story?"

"No," he said in a matter of fact tone. "I can't even read."

***

Had dinner at this place again (had the same chicken tacos) with the Friar, Palfrey, and their baby Crafty; and 74, Zaftig and their now two year old baby E.

Made plans for another time with Epalg. Got a text massage (and email) from Jaded out of the blue for the first time in almost a year. I don't know if I care to hang out with her, though.

***

I seem to be a lot less introspective these days. Perhaps it's the lack of sleep.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Vocabulaire: fripon

fripon - mischievous, roguish
Cette belette friponne a chipé encore tous les oeufs de nos poulets !

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Nothing like the real thing

As I mentioned yesterday, I was in a fourth-grade English class today, all day. Three sections, with no break at all.

The kids read aloud reports on Spain that they'd written. Their teacher had required them to fit vocabulary words into the essays, so there were more than a few unintentionally humorous sentences where the kids had forced the words into the piece, regardless of overall flow or sense.

For example, immediately following a discussion of bullfighting and apropos of nothing: "If everyone in Spain died, there would be great despair."

Sometimes the kids tried a bit harder: "I bet the bull is filled with despair as the matadors stab him."

Or a final line of a report on the modern customs of Spain: "I did not find anything about segregation when I researched this paper."

My favorite: "There is no place for segregation in fandango dancing."

There were the usual instances, as well, of misunderstanding words: "Spanish people creed that bullfighting is a good sport."

Besides listening to the kids read the essays, I administered a brief vocabulary quiz to each section, read some Narnia books aloud (I'd forgotten just how good they are) at DEAR time, and started a KWL chart about Spain.

It may not sound like much, but this day kicked my ass. I left school with deep exhaustion and a newfound respect for teachers at this level.

Oh, and I made a fourth-grader cry today by giving him a recess timeout (actually, I meant for him just to come see me and talk to me about the problem he'd been having, but he went and put himself in timeout instead). He said he hadn't gotten a timeout in two years. I had been very calm and laid back about the whole thing, so it wasn't like I scared him with my attitude or anything. He was just sensitive about getting "in trouble." I tried to console him afterwards, the poor guy. I really don't think it's that big a deal, but another teacher told me his mother might want to talk to me about it, as she's a hands-on type who has five other kids either in or graduated from Prestigious. Ouch.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Now the way that I feel is no longer news

This week will be busy. Quite a few teachers and most of the administration are gone on conferences.

Today, I subbed:

--- in a fourth-grade gym class. Wall ball!
--- in a first-grade writing session. Read and illustrate poems!
--- in a pre-K room. Show and tell!
--- in another pre-K room. Lie down on your mats, kids!
--- in two different kindergarten rooms. Leveled readers and a color separation science project!

As you can see, I wear many hats in this job. Tomorrow, it seems (though nobody consulted me on this), I'm going to be a fourth-grade English teacher all day.

At Prestigious, the fourth graders are rather more swaggering and insolent than they are at most elementary schools. Prestigious stops at fourth grade, so these kids are the kings of all they survey. Some of them are in for a rude awakening when they get to other, larger schools. Oh, they're great kids, but some of them could stand to be taken down a peg. A calm but assured demeanor and the expectation of respect seems to be the sine qua non.

Monday, February 04, 2008

I try to laugh about it

We had a half day today. Some very young prospective pre-K kids came to visit the school. Then all classes were dismissed at 11:00 a.m. The school provided a nice sandwich lunch for the teachers.

After lunch, a psychologist and author came to talk to the faculty about gender differences in learning. He teaching social skills to boys who have problems communicating. I'm interested in the topic in any case (as I wrote in this book review, which originally several opinionated comments that have since vanished), and he was a good speaker. He talked about the link between good hearing (girls hear better and with more breadth than boys) and phonological awareness, and how the latter is essential to social comprehension and emotional skill. He gave us a lot of instructional strategies for maximizing executive control --- the ability to maintain and monitor one's memory and reaction to transitional situations.

The school day ended at the normal time, but then we were all required to come back at 7:00 p.m. and hear more or less the same talk, only this time tailored for parents instead of teachers. It wasn't as awful as it sounds, as some of the information was different, and the speaker really was skilled at capturing attention. At one point, he showed a series of pictures of eyes --- only the eyes cut out from photos of people. He asked audience to label each pair of eyes' intended expression; it's a test for autism. Boys usually perform more poorly than girls, but I got every one right. No autism for me!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Freedom isn't free

I wonder if there's anyone left who's been paying the slightest bit of attention lately and still manages to pretend to themselves that this is a free country.

The following would be amusing if it weren't so representative of the overall atmosphere of sanctity: lawmakers would like to outlaw overweight people from eating in restaurants??

As in any fascist state worth the name, priests are put in prison for non-violent demonstrations against torture.

The President, having sworn to uphold the Constitution when he took office, now baldly asserts his power to ignore it.

Oh, you better believe fascist states like to torture enemies of the state.

Holding enemies of the state indefinitely, without charge or attorney? Even natural-born citizens? You better believe that, too.

Also, our overlords think citizens should have no privacy of information.

And they use a supposedly independent media to broadcast lies.

And no fascist nation would be complete without rigged elections and cronyism.

The list goes on. That's not even mentioning the contrast between the rights and protections of corporations versus those allowed citizens. And I think our Founding Fathers would burn the FCC to the ground if they saw the absurd power it held over speech.

I'm really hoping the Democrats take the White House (though I don't expect it; I believe the voting process has been hijacked). John McCain, to my mind the most palatable of the Republican contenders, wouldn't lift a finger to reverse any of this fascist doctrine.
So thank your lucky stars you've got protection
Walk the line, and never mind the cost
And don't wonder who them lawmen was protecting
When they nailed the Savior to the cross.

'Cause the law is for protection of the people
Rules are rules and any fool can see
We don't need no riddle speaking prophets
Scarin' decent folks like you and me, no siree.

--- Kris Kristofferson, "The Law Is for Protection of the People"

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Saturday Cartoons: Jack of Fables: The (Nearly) Great Escape
























by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges & Tony Akins

Friday, February 01, 2008

If life's for living what's living for

JOKE

Q: Who in literature killed more chickens than anyone else?

A: Macbeth, because he did murder most foul.

***

HEALTH

Went to see the sawbones after work. She said I was asymptomatic at this point, but I need to keep an eye out for certain signs of Impending Death. She said that because of how my surgery was done back in '74, if I ever do need some kind of implant to help my heart, the surgeons would have to come in from the opposite side from normal and maneuver around some unusual inner anatomy. I said, "That sounds like it's a procedure that few people could do well and would be very likely to be fucked up." The doctor said, "Yes, that's about right." Lovely. But for now, I seem to be free of the need for such drastic measures.

The doctor called me a "sweet kid." It's kind of irksome to be called a sweet kid when you're nearly forty. Damn these boyish, handsome features!

***

JOB

Light day today, mostly helping out in Mr. C's kindergarten room. He's supposedly leaving the school next year due to stress (that's not just gossip, it's from the vice-Head), but nothing is official yet. Indeed, he looks a bit more relaxed lately. This could be attributable to the news that the K teachers will have assistants next year.

I went to the VH and asked how certain the plans for me to be in the K room next year are.

She looked alarmed and asked, "Why, don't you want it?"

I assured her I did, but I just wanted to know for my own peace of mind. She replied that as far as she knew, it was as definite as I wanted it to be. If I wanted Ms. G's room, I'd have it. I said that was good, and I'd asked because the K teachers were looking happy, and I was worried about Ms. G deciding to stay after all.

The VH got a sort of sly twinkle in her eye and said, "Well, I can be a bit devious sometimes. Ms. G was very upset with being in the K room, and wanted another grade. I asked her if there was anything that could make her stay, and she said no. So we arranged the transfer. Then I told the K teachers about the assistants next year."

Hmmm.