Wednesday, June 23, 2010


So yes. I haven't been writing lately. Bad. I know. I actually had to re-read some of my last posts to remember where I left off. Very bad.

It was so nice to leave that last day. So. Nice. It had been so rushed up until then. I felt as if I had been going going going (think Energizer Bunny) since the standardized testing mid March. The end is always a garbled mess of report cards, retention meetings, IEP's and so on. Then Sr. Callejo threw in a two day (Friday and Saturday -- days I don't usually work and was planning on using them for cleaning the house and packing for my epic trip east) training that I was not at all excited about and was not being compensated for.

Then I left and had a fantastic time visiting family and friends in a trip that was all too short. Graduation was fantastic, I'm so proud of my brother and I can't wait to see what the talented man does next. I met up with one of my favorite people from high school and the Boy bonded with her little boy (SO CUTE!) and I spent time on the Cape with my family and my Dad's fantastic fishing boat. (Pictures perhaps to follow!)

When I came back I began doing some work for Moonlight Consulting that has been taking up a lot of time and when I'm done with that I just sort of want to knit and breathe and watch mindless TV mostly via Wii Netflix; Friday Night Lights, Weeds, Big Love, Real Housewives of New Jersey and so on and so forth. (Love that Wii Nexflix...totally awesome...I'm sure we won't be using Netflix mail for very much longer.)

Then, sometime in the near future, the boy, the Chaca Dawg and I leave for an epic road journey that's going to take us visiting family through Wyoming and Montana (Yellowstone Baby!) and I absolutely can't wait for that.

So over the next few days I have a lot of things to catch up on! Keep an eye out!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dear NPR,

You failed me this morning, for the first time. Thankfully, it wasn't too serious.

Every morning I wake up and the first thing I think about the date. Now, because I grew up in Western Massachusetts, a place with, you know...four seasons and not one and a half there are days when I can't figure out the month in my early morning stupor because I have no seasonal clues. Oh, it's sunny outside, it must be August...or October...or February.

So this morning, I'm in the car thinking about the date, when your story came on about TODAY being the 40th anniversary of the Kent State Shooting. I listened as you did an interview with one of the nine survivors remembering a piece of historical fiction I had written in college for a history class all about the days leading up to the massacre itself from the point of view of the girl in the historic photograph. I remembered the date from the project, May 4th and also remembered that people also called the day the May 4th Massacre. Aha! I said to myself, it's May 4th! I was pretty impressed with myself for remembering the date after years of not thinking about the project.

I got to school, gave the reading assessments all day, labeling each May 4th and thinking to myself how clever I was, until the last test was handed in and Matt said to me, "Ms. Knitter, isn't it the third?"

I felt very not clever after that.

Yours Truly Even So,

Ms. Knitter

11 Days left.

So, I had allotted this week to do the DRA (Diagnostic Reading Assessment) because it's taken me that long in the past. On Friday I went in to make sure everyone's folders were organized and I had copies of the correct test. I sort of guessed on where I thought the kids would test out and I'm proud to say I was only wrong 1 out of 15 times. (ROCK ON! Less time and paper wasted when I'm so very right!)

I ended up spending the entire morning on it with the third graders. I gave them some busy work and tested the kids I had to test. (The other reading teachers are testing the other third graders.) It took about two and a half hours all told. After the kids' out loud reading fluency is tested, they have to answer questions to test their prediction and comprehension skills. That part they do on their own and it can take them up to an hour or more to complete it. So the whole morning was testing. I decided to do the same with the fourth graders. I only missed two kids, because they were absent.

I figured it was better to mess up the whole day rather than the whole week. Then I took some time to grade them and put the results into my computer. I felt a little guilty about taking teaching time to do that, but I haven't once complained about not having any specials after physical education was cut after the holiday break and both my classes lost Performing Arts because the teacher can't control them at the end of February. I figured I sort of deserved it and the kids didn't complain.

I'd given them the math assessment last week and so was able to put everything together in each of their folders and left my classroom feeling like I had accomplished a lot. Report cards are going to be a breeze! The only test they have left is the Spanish language test and Ms. Jenson will be giving that, though I'll have to correct the multiple choice section.

While I was in the midst of testing the third graders this morning, who walked into my room but Monte! One of my sixth graders from last year! It was so good to see him. He's so much taller. I asked him why he had come by, though I guessed he and his mum had been to the capilla on the other side of the church from where my classroom is. He said that he had just popped in to visit me and that he lives outside of La Pasa now! His mum popped into my classroom earlier this year to say hello and to wish me well. I must have made an impression on that family! It made me warm and snuggly inside.

*Sigh* Only eleven days left.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Parents are the wild card in my career. Some are fantastic, some never believe the good or bad things you say about their children and some are just awful.

Sometimes you get great parents like Saul and Brent's mum whom I've now known for four years. She's always ready to back you up, she's active on the PTA but she's not in the classroom all time and so she's not in your face. I've known Matt's parents are just as long too and though Matt isn't always the easiest kid in the classroom to deal with, his parents are willing to discuss the problems in a rational how-can-we-help-each-other kind of way that I really appreciate.

Then there are those that make me really uncomfortable. Gilbert's family, whom I've also known since moving here is one. They are really really religious which in and of itself is not a problem. But they push religion into every part of their lives. The Christmas card from them had such a strong pro-life message that made me feel so icky that I tossed it in the trash when no one was looking almost immediately after it was handed to me. Also, when I was their daughter Loo Loo's teacher, she panicked after she head the girls from my class doing "Bloody Mary" in the bathroom. She decided that this was some sort of "spell." She went directly to the board meeting and tried to ban Harry Potter from my classroom. I did not let this occur. This post is another example.

Another mother, of whom I'm not going to say, for further anonymity is really hard to understand. When she speaks to us, Ms. Jenson and myself, she speaks in ebonics. Now, I have a lot of parents that speak exclusively in Spanish. I understand almost everything they say and am usually only about a half sentence behind in understanding. When I speak to this mum I'm usually around three sentences behind in understanding.

This is one thing. The other thing is the way she is dressed. It's embarrassing for us and I'm sure even more so for Sr. Callejo who has been in on many of these meetings with us. She is wears shirts that are so revealing. Shirts that show her underthings and doesn't seem to ever leave much to the imagination. That's not the worst of it. She stores her cell phone IN her cleavage. And when it vibrates/rings...need I say more?

So after one of these meetings, it somehow came up that some parents occasionally join their kids at lunch. That next week, in she came complete with three bags of food from McDonald's. Now whenever someone unexpected comes in all my students (eating separately from the third graders) turn to see who it is.

Fred, who seems to know a bit more about the world than is healthy for a boy of ten, turns to the boy sitting next to him and says, "You know what fruit I like best?" The other boy shook his head. Fred replies, "Watermelons." The other boy looked confused, but I wasn't.

It took all I had not to burst out laughing while I was telling him that I understood perfectly well what he was talking about and that he needed to knock it off this instant.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Not so depressed as before

So I think I'm coming to terms with teaching sixth grade next year. There were a few reasons I wasn't so comfortable with this idea.

The first is that I just love the fourth grade curriculum. The science and math curriculum is rich with hands on activities that are doable by the students. The stories in the reader are engaging, culturally relevant and the kids love them. I've taught both fifth and sixth grade and did not find them to be similar.

Fourth graders, you know the actual students are just the best. They are still engaged in school for the most part. They find new concepts exciting and they love the practice. Fifth graders have started to see the routine in school and its harder to keep them engaged in school and not the drama among their peer group. And sixth graders. Ug. I don't even know where to begin with them. Check out the beginning of my blog because I try not to revisit that particular part of my teaching tends to bring on waves of panic.

As I was wrestling, fighting, cajoling, begging, helping the third graders to finish up the science fair group project, it came to me that these kids are actually going to be next year's fourth graders. (Well, except for those we are going to hold back.) Now, you might think this would have come to me much sooner. And perhaps it should have. But in years past, at the beginning of the year it's the third graders that I've the most problem with and fourth graders that I've loved. As the year comes to a close, the third graders start to become fourth graders and they become the most fun to work with and the fourth graders start to become fifth graders and I begin to become annoyed with their drama.

The other day I realized April was ending and I hadn't observed this particular change which I usually begin to see at the beginning of March. The third graders are still third graders, some are even still acting like second graders. The fourth graders are still fantastic. I'm grateful every time I get to send the third graders on and the fourth graders walk into my room.

So perhaps working with fifth and sixth graders next year will be a good thing. I'll have my fantastic fourth graders from this year and the sixth graders will be my fourth graders from the first half of last year and for the most part, I really enjoyed them.

I said as much to Sr. Callejo as the Science Fair was ending last night and he seemed excited about my change of heart. I know he loves the way I teach and likes the way I expect great things my students. He said, "That means you get to have my niece!" and he introduced me to Elma's mother, his sister.

So all and all, it's probably all sewn up and might even be for the best.

How's that for a positive note.

However, I'm definitely going to have to take home the sixth grade math curriculum and spend the summer with it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

18 Days left.

Well it's hit. The year is almost over and the kids know it. So the countdown begins.

Today was one of the those days. One of those days where you feel like you are nowhere, you have taught all those kids nothing and you just want to roll up in ball and cry.

Instead I chose to go home and loose myself in The Wire and pet my dog. Well. To be honest there was a little crying.

I put together this great probability unit back during my Master's year. Every year I take a piece of it and use it in my classroom. This year, I decided to do the entire thing. It's all hands on games. It was reviewed by a mathematician back in 2006. It's a damn good unit plan if I do say so myself. I weave fractions, games of chance and games of probability together so well, the kids don't realize until the game is over that they learned something. Sr. Callejo was so excited when I told him all about it. He said that my plan was exactly what he wanted teachers doing at our school all the time.

I came into school Monday so excited. I had spent a lot of the weekend thinking about it, working it through in my head and double checking to make sure I had everything. I start with the third graders. I get nothing. They throw around my manipluatives, refuse to think about the questions, all they want to do is fool around. My fourth graders did a little better but they fell apart today. I'm getting nothing from either class. It's so frustrating.

I know it's almost summer. (Hence the countdown) But I keep stressing to them that it's not over yet. It's just not.

Then at the end of the day I have a conversation with Sr. Callejo that leads me to believe I'm going to be teaching fifth (which is great, because I'll have my fourth graders that I usually love again) and the SIXTH GRADERS.

Oh to put the cherry on my sundae.

I guess my job doesn't have to make me happy yet.

There would be more choice for me with grade levels if I had my bilingual endorsement, but that's a really expensive thing to get and there is no help from the school or the state because they were in a terrible state even before the economy fell.

I'm stuck.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jamie Escalante

If you were ever a teacher, knew a teacher, took a clase de espanol, had a substitute in math or loved math you know about Jamie Escalante and have seen Stand and Deliver.

Just today Sr. Callejo and I were doing the finger man tricks with the third graders and talking about how you need ganas to succeed in school.

"To be a teacher you need to believe in the potential of people." Jamie Escalante

Second Day of Testing or The Day I Got Thrown Up On.

Yesterday, ALDR started our New Mexico Standards Based Assessment (NMSBA), the state test that the children are required to take according to No Child Left Behind (NLCB) in order to access whether or not we've made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Whew...that was way too many acronyms! AYP is a powerful number. At best, if we have good numbers, we'll get some monies from the state to continue improving and at worst we'll be closed down because our numbers are so bad.

Thankfully the latter can't happen to us just yet as we haven't been open long enough. This year is our last “free pass” so to speak. Last year, we did alright. We passed in reading and came close in math. Our math scores did double, which was great and gave me some much needed confidence in our mathematics curriculum.

The kids have three weeks of testing. 12 days of awfulness. It starts at 8:30 and should only last until 10:00, but there are days, like yesterday that it can last until 11:00. It's hard because all the kids can be be done except one and the others can't move or talk until everyone is finished. So some kids can be sitting (reading if they choose) for up to an hour and forty five minutes. They have three days of reading, three days of math, two days of writing and three days of science.

It's a lot of work for them. And it's tiring. So after the testing, the rest of the day is sort of shot. Their eyes are glazed over. They can't focus. They are exhausted. This year, I have the fourth graders after the test until 1:00 and the third graders from 1:00 – 3:00. I have each group do some math, usually something fun and hands on and then let them watch an episode of Planet Earth or Seas of Life for some brain rest time.

I have nine fourth graders to test. What about the other four you ask? Well, two are severe special ed and so need one on one testing and two are mild special ed and so need small group testing. Because I only have nine students in my room, it was decided that I didn't need a proctor. This at first was fine with me, because all my proctors have done in the past is sit there and read a book while I do all the work. This did however mean, that if anything went wrong I was going to be in a tough spot as children are not to be left alone while testing.

As I mentioned earlier, my classroom is in an interesting spot in the school. This makes it very difficult to begin testing because there are so many people going back and forth between the rooms that it's hard to tell when everyone is where they are supposed to be for the next two to three hours. The other two classrooms also have outside access so you'd think that people (Mr. Rama a.k.a. my least favorite person at school) would realize that they don't have to interrupt testing to get from place to place. To deter errant people walking through my room during testing (which according to the test directions is expressly forbidden) I began locking two out of the four doors in my room.

Yesterday, as it was the first day there were the first day kinks to get out. ALL of the directions had to be read aloud to the students and two sample questions had to be worked through before the students could even begin. There were 26 questions in first session of the reading test. I think the students really struggled with it and put a lot of time and effort into what they wrote and how they answered. They asked questions that I wasn't allowed to answer, but that showed me they were really thinking. They weren't getting all the questions right, but I was impressed with how hard they were trying.

Today was an entirely different experience. We were able to get started on time for the most part, which was nice. There were only 16 questions. (Now, why they didn't let the kids get their feet wet with less questions on the first day is beyond me.) About five minutes after I had set them to begin, Jamie raised his hand. This child is so quite and so shy, I was surprised. I walked over and he told me he didn't feel good. I asked him what he wanted to do about it, my usual response to that question. He couldn't even get the answer out before he began to throw up. So I rushed him to the door. Which was locked. Just as I got it unlocked, vomit sprayed over my back and left arm. Lovely.

I opened the door, stood in the door way (you know, because I didn't have a proctor and couldn't leave the room) and grabbed the nearest garbage can. Jamie continued to throw up. The Kindergarten kids came by on their way to morning water break. I asked their teacher, Ms. Betty to run to the admin office and get someone to come help because I couldn't leave the room while the kids were testing. The office person came and said she was going to get the custodian. Which left me still standing in my doorway with vomit all over my back. Custodian came cleaned up and we sent Jamie to the office. The office person was able to give me a shirt, luckily Jamie missed my pants. (It was really nice of him.) She stood in the doorway of my room while I ran to the bathroom to clean my arm and change.

The students had 16 questions and three passages to read today and they were finished in about 30 minutes in. They did not spend any where near the amount of time on the questions today that they did yesterday. We aren't even allowed to point out to students if they've missed one. I was so upset as I walked around and realized that some students weren't even writing complete sentences for most of the short answer questions. They know how to do that. We've worked on it all year. They just want to be done with the test. (Frankly, I don't blame them.) I walked back upstairs to talk to return the tests to Sr. Callejo and mentioned how discouraged I was. You know what he said? “Encourage them to write more.” Ok. Seriously. Duh. I did that. But that was all the advice he had for me.

I heard an awful story yesterday from the current second grade teacher that was assigned to test the seventh graders. Ms. Billings is a lovely teacher, she does a great job and she's always willing to go the extra mile even though her life outside of school isn't easy. She was telling me that the seventh graders basically refused to take the test. They found it too difficult and threw their test booklets and answer documents on the floor. They told her that if they didn't pass it didn't really matter because it was her fault because she didn't teach them right. (She's the second grade teacher...she hasn't even spent a single day with them. Haha, lucky woman.) She was horrified at their lack of disrespect and their inability to do anything without complaining about it first. I wasn't at all surprised. They were awful to me last year as I've written about on many occasions.

I put that sentence in bold for two reasons. The first because she isn't their teacher and hasn't spent anytime with them and it shows the amount of maturity these kids lack, the second is the sentiment itself. More and more it is becoming apparent to me that my job is going to start depending on these scores. What with the firing of an entire staff at a Rhode Island school, the firing of an entire staff in Georgia and the idea flooding public schools across the country that students and parents should be more in control of what happens at a school than teachers. This really worries me and makes me wish that I was trained for something other than teaching, you know so that when all the shit hits the fan, I would at least have a back up.

It seems 100 percent unfair to me that my job should depend on these scores. Maybe in middle class suburban neighborhoods and others that are more affluent. Maybe. The odds that are stacked against my students (and therefore me) are tremendous. Lack of English Language proficiency, poverty, parents that work 24 – 7, students that come to school but decide not to learn no matter what we do, parents that take their students out of school early ALL the time, parents that don't bother helping us with disciplinary issues, parents that bring their children an hour late EVERY day and the school not having enough money to provide us with what we need to teach these children all play into how well the students learn.

And it's not only these everyday things. There's also the children that come to use a month before testing is to begin, like Eliza in the third grade, from a different school, already behind. We are still responsible for that child's scores. You know why she moved schools so late in the year? Her father passed away suddenly. Guess who found him at the bottom of their hot tub. Eliza. Tell me how can we expect her to be able to do her best? Or what about the pair the sisters (both of whom I've taught, but have in the classroom this year) that lost their father suddenly over the past weekend. We are held responsible for those scores as well. And yet these children should not even expected to perform under these conditions.

How can it 100 percent my fault when the students don't test well even when the kids have been here all year? Today alone, Jamie threw up at the beginning of the test. He's going to have to go back and re-do it. Fred, after missing all last week, (when we did review and prep for these tests) (not that was the only prep and review, but still) didn't get home from El Paso until after midnight last night. He was half asleep as he was working on the test and he won't be able to go back and look at it again. How is that my fault?

Now don't get me wrong. I think teachers should be held to a very high standard. I work to meet that standard every single day. I think teachers should be educated in what we teach, I think we should constantly reflect on how well we are doing, I think principals should be in classrooms observing, checking on student learning and giving the teacher feedback weekly. I also think teachers should be paid as if they are professionals and that schools should be castles.

Lots of things get in the way of this ideal. Principals (not mine, though today he didn't have very good advice), the government, teachers' unions (my opinions on that are definitely a whole other post) bad teachers and of course students and parents. We ALL need to do better. I'm doing my part and I know there are other fantastic teachers out there that are doing their part. At some point all that has to add up to something.

Nice moment of the day: I got a quick note from one of the girls that did the same Masters' program that I did in Bennington. She ran into one of the students, Kim from the class that I student taught in back in 2005 – 2006 year who wanted to know what I was up to. Which really warmed my heart. Exactly what I needed to bring my spirits up a few hours after being thrown up on.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Paper Cap Gun Ammo

On our way back from lunch, Brent announced to me that some of the other boys "had red paper and they were throwing rocks at it." I didn't think too much of it for a second and then it hit me what it was:

So I turned back to Brent and said, "Wait, does it make a spark when the rocks hit it?" When he nodded I knew exactly what I was looking for and it could certainly be considered a weapon. No one owned up to who actually had it but everyone was comfortable pointing fingers at each other, I said, "If it's not in my hand by the time I count to ten, I'm writing all of you up and you'll go to Sr. Callejo." Joey coughed it up and I was able to sort out who had actually been playing with it. I wrote up those four students, Joey, Gilbert, (I'm sure I'll be hearing from his father about that!) Kismet and Diego. Joey was suspended and I won't see him again until Monday and the others lost recess and computer time.

Kudos to Brent though. He didn't feel the need to pull me aside and tell me, which would have been fine of course. I love that he had the courage to just announce it in front of everybody. He knew it wasn't a safe thing to have at school (or anywhere without adult supervision for that matter) and he didn't care if his classmates knew he was the one that told. I like to think it means Brent trusts me. Which makes me feel really good.

The Weather Man

Sorry to say, but this is going to be another rather negative post.

A few weeks ago, I got a flyer in my mailbox at school that said the local meteorologist was interested in coming into the local schools to talk to children about what he does to predict the weather. Awesome. I called right away for the fourth grade. (Since I'm their homeroom teacher and well quite honestly because I like them better.) I ended up making the appointment for third and fourth grade anyway. All he needed was a DVD player and a dry erase board. I have both in my classroom already and hung up looking forward to it.

A week later, Ms. Hernandez started the staff meeting by announcing that she had called to make an appointment for her class and ended up making an appointment for the ENTIRE school on the same day and time as mine. She said to me in front of the entire staff, "As long as you have no objections, I figured that was the best thing to do." I'm happy to say this time that I stuck up for myself and explained that I liked the idea of the small classroom setting for my kids because they would be more likely to get something out of it and that was the reason I had set it up that way. It didn't change anything however, because obviously it didn't really matter if I had objections.

Today was the day he was set to come and we had all received a reminder note in our boxes. I wondered if anyone had set up how we were going to get a TV and a dry erase board over to the cafeteria for the presentation. So when Sr. Callejo walked through my classroom this morning to ask him I learned that no one had thought about this. Two hours later, about an hour and a half before the presentation was to begin, I got a note from the office that it was going to take place in my room for grades 3 - 7. I was not pleased. You can't trust 5 - 7 grade to behave anywhere for anything and I didn't want them all crowded into my classroom AND causing a ruckus. So I asked Sr. Callejo what was going to happen if the older couldn't calm down and pay attention. He said they would be sent back to their classrooms. I wasn't going to hold my breath. I was hopeful.

I had all the fourth graders prepare a question, each of them wrote it down on an index card and practice reading it out loud. Then they took the time to move all the desks and chairs to the side of the room. We clean up and organize so that all the kids will have a place to sit. I even made sure the seventh graders had chairs to sit in because they always put up a fuss about sitting on the floor. The weather man came in just as we were finishing and we had some fantastic lively conversation while he was setting up.

Then everyone else filed in and it was basically a free for all for the next hour. Only the third and fourth graders were trying to pay attention. We had a few errant third graders here and there, but it was easy to catch their eye and remind them to behave. Fifth grade through seventh grade however were talking and fooling around the entire time. Only Ms. Hernandez tried to do something about it and even that was only half heartedly. I was really really angry as I was watching my students tried to hear and learn to no avail.

Then of course, after everyone left we had to put my room back together. So a week before the most important test of the year, my students lost two hours of learning. I *so* hate it when I'm right.

Oh and after everyone left, my room smelled like gross, oily, unshowered, zitty tweens.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CENSUS 2010!

I love the Census! It's perhaps one of my favorite things about this country. There is something so thoroughly satisfying about counting all the people in the country and the idea that the number could change peoples lives for the better.

It only happens every ten years, so much like the Olympics (yes...I know the games occur more often) there's hype and excitement about it. At least there is for me. And probably the people that work for the census. But no one else seems very excited. Everyone I've spoken to seems to say, "eh."

I think about the "Mr. Willis of Ohio" episode in West Wing where the democrats are considering using sampling data instead of a direct count. They wanted to do this because it would cost way less and according to research, give the government a better count. They argue that the standard way the census is done is unfair to many different minority populations (illegals, (whom while they are illegal still need to be counted) the homeless and all minority populations) in the country. The republicans say that the constitution requires a head by head number count.

It's an interesting argument. I think that how we get the number is far less important than getting people the right number of representatives in the government, the right amount of monies for the SCHOOLS and all the other social programs that depend on how many people live in a certain area. I believe the founding fathers would agree with me.

And after learning that only about half of the people of the state of New Mexico were counted properly last time around (re: illegals, the homeless and the various different minority populations) and that the one of the more serious reprocussions has been the over crowding of our schools, I was even more excited.

So how are people not excited about this?

I wanted to be the person that filled out the census for my family ten years ago when I was sixteen, but because it's supposed to be the "head of household" my father filled it out. I was excited this time and made The Boy promise that I could be the one that filled it out. (I was "Head of Household!" Sadly, the form didn't say that specifically.)

It was a disappointment. Sort of like the time I saw Maya Angelou speak and it dawned on me that she was a racist. (True story.) Or when I voted for Obama but voted nay on the wrong state constitutional amendment and had to go through the crazy process of getting a second ballot and walking out wondering if my vote was now even going to be counted in this historical election because my name was on the roll in two places. (Ok, obviously, I never quite got over that experience.)

So we got a letter a week ago from the census bureau. I was so excited, ready to fill it out, only to open it and find a letter saying that we would soon be getting our form. When we finally got it, it was in a small envelope. So I filled it out and set it out to mail. We picked up our friends' mail while they were gone for spring break and they got a big envelope! I was so curious how our forms were different that I asked him to open it up right then when he came to pick up his mail. His form was in English and SPANISH!!! Now, why didn't we get a form in both languages? After all, this is the only state in the union that recognizes both English and Spanish as official languages.

I can only surmise that they saw the (very nice) location and fanciness of our house and assumed we spoke English. Our friends live in a part of town where the neighborhoods aren't as nice and there are more small rentals than houses. The Boy suggested that perhaps the people that lived here before spoke English and they had that information on file. I guess that would be ok, though still not kosher according to our state constitution except that all the houses that were here before were torn down to make way for the fewer and nice houses that are here now.

I also think there should be more questions. There's so much more the government could learn from such an official form. After all, it does say on the envelope that our response is required by law. (How would you be prosecuted for that after all?) After all the time and effort the bureau put into the census I gotta say, I'm not impressed.

I came home to this flower from The Boy!

Oh and that's my favorite wine.

PS. I lined the children up the same way I did yesterday and didn't get any parental complaints. Whohooo!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bad Interaction with a Parent

I honestly meant to write while I was on Spring Break. Really. I promise that was the intention. I just didn't do it. I did pretty much nothing, which was fantastic. There were lots of things I meant to do (grading, catch up on second drafts of lesson plans, fix the play that the fourth graders are working on) but mostly I sat around and knitted on a blanket I've been trying to finish for awhile after taking it apart and starting over.

There are lots of things that I need to catch the blog world up on. But for now, since I have 15 minutes before walking up to meet The Boy with the dog, I'll write up the most recent.

Over the past year it has come to my attention that the most dangerous and scary part of my day is when the kids are let out after school. Some kids are headed for after school program in the cafeteria, but don't want to go because their friends are waiting for their parents. Other kids peel across the school driveway at break neck speed for their parents' cars that don't follow the one way rule of the school parking lot. Those that are left begin swinging on the gazebo and throwing rocks. We don't use buses, so though we are a small school of about 120, that's 120 children running EVERYWHERE. Enough to put even the sanest of teachers into a pretty serious panic.

At the beginning of the year, I made a suggestion that all teachers walk their students out and line them up along the sort-of-basketball-court and as parents drive by children can get in to cars in a safe and organized fashion. This idea was not looked on favorably. Why? Who knows?
Goodness forbid we all do a little extra work at the end of the day in order to keep the children safe. (Though I gotta say our kindergarten teacher does a great job of keeping her kids corralled and accounted for.)

For the most part, I can keep track of whatever class I'm in charge of during the afternoon (3rd or 4th) during dismissal and speak to the parents I need to speak to. The last few weeks have proven difficult and the weather has improved and children have begun using dismissal as recess in earnest. The gazebo is between the "field" (read: rectangle covered with dirt, rocks, used heroine needles and broken glass) and the driveway. This makes it difficult for me to speak to the parents I need to speak too and keep Juanito from throwing rocks at Paulito.

Having had enough of that I decided that I would line up my students anyway. That way I could at least keep a good eye on the students that I am most responsible for. I started this afternoon. Once we got outside, I sent the students that go to after school program to after school program inside the cafeteria. I sent off the students whose parents were already parked and I lined up the rest.

Matt, a fourth grader has been having a lot of trouble following directions and getting his work done lately. He's labeled as gifted and in many ways he is ahead of the game. Today, however seemed to be particularly difficult for him as he refused to do work for Ms. Jenson this morning or for me this afternoon. And so after a few reminders, I caught myself almost begging him to do work. At this point I sent him to Ms. Hernandez so he could do his work in there. Later Mr. Dido took him for the last half an hour of the day as part of his gifted services. He came out a few minutes after the rest of my class with Mr. Dido. I sent him to after school program. He didn't want to go. (Well, he hadn't followed any other direction today, what would make that simple one any different?)

Gilbert is another of my fourth grade students. His father was waiting for him and so he was one of the students I sent off straight away. After Matt refused to follow the direction of going to after school program, Gilbert came up to him and asked for his phone number. I stopped the conversation and sent Gilbert back to his car, after explaining that Matt had a direction to follow and that this wasn't the best time to be asking anyway. I repeated my direction to Matt and he slouched off to cafeteria after shooting me his best sneer.

A minute later, Gilbert's father came strutting up to me. The following was our conversation while he was keeping cars from continuing through the correct one way:

Him: What was that with Gilbert and Matt?
Me: I'm sorry?
Him: (Angry voice) All Gilbert wanted was Matt's phone number.
Me: (Very respectfully) I understand, it's just been difficult lately to keep all the kids safe after school and since you were already here I sent Gilbert back to you.
Him: (Even angrier voice) IT'S AFTER SCHOOL!
Me: You're right! Well done, that's why you're picking your son up after all! Yes, sir.
Him: (Even angrier voice) You always seem to be annoyed about something! (Then he turned his back and walked away.)
Me: (To his back) I'm sorry you feel that way, Sir.

(I can't remember if it was annoyed or another word exactly, but it was something like that.)

Now, if I had been allowed to continue the conversation in a civilized way, I would have suggested that he and Gilbert walk into the cafeteria together to talk to Matt, or that he could, but I wasn't.

Now, Gilbert also has bouts of not following directions and fooling around in class. I talk to his parents about this. I also mention positive things during these conversations. So in no way am I always annoyed when speaking to him.

I felt a little guilty after this interaction, so I walked myself into the cafeteria and asked Matt for his phone number. He couldn't remember it! He gave me nine numbers and then when I said that couldn't be right, he gave me five. I went outside to pass on this information to find that they had already left.

I was surprised by this interaction because this is one of the families I know the best. I was their daughter Loo Loo's teacher when she was in fourth grade. I tutored her on my own time and was not compensated by them. (The school got a grant from the city.) I drove Gilbert and Loo Loo home a few times this year while their father was in the hospital, so their mother could stay with him or run some errands. (They are right on the way to my house.) And earlier this year Gilbert broke his glasses and on my own time (they even called me over Christmas Break) I helped them get glasses for cheap over the internet.

Now, I did those things as a pay-it-forward-sort-of-thing. My good deed for the day or whatever. But after all this I was hurt to be treated this way by this father. Thankfully, I kept my voice down and was respectful. (Mum taught me well and Sophia taught me how to stand up for myself in front of parents.)

The cool thing was that I was one of the first classes out for dismissal this afternoon. Other teacher saw what I was doing and copied it! So we had grades 1 - 6 lined up on the-sort-of-basketball-court.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

So glad I don't teach the upper grades!

The last half of last year was really hard for me...just check out the very beginning of my blog.

One of the worst days was this one.

Ms. Tours has not improved her classroom management skills. A bit earlier this year, many of the teachers came together and complained at the same time to Sr. Callejo. Her classes are out of control, children are getting hurt (because Ms. Tour can't keep control and teachers weren't finding out about the injuries ((children getting shoved off the stage)) until parents came to complain about them and students coming back from performing arts in such a state that no teaching could happen until they calmed down. Sr. Callejo had a meeting with Ms. Tours and she was told to create a behavior plan and stick to it. Months later, nothing has changes which became painfully obvious on Tuesday of last week.

She was not paying attention and a fight between Cosmo and Zarahe broke out. A serious one. Kids were egging them on, screaming and shouting. Zarahe started the fight, with Cosmo deflecting at the beginning and then (guessing at this part) said "F*%# it" to himself and fought back hard. The fight was about 25 seconds long (I know this because the kids decided to record it on their cell phones and I saw it later that afternoon) and wasn't broken up until the woman who works in the cafeteria came and broke it up. Ms. Tours could be heard in the background telling the kids to "stop it," she also asked some of the other sixth graders to break the fight up instead of doing it herself. (Um. Helloooooo.)

But this sort of begs the question. Now that we have middle school kids, what do you do if the kids start fighting? I got in between Cosmo and Fonzo last year (they had stopped throwing punches, but would've started up again I hadn't been there. I always thought that I would try to get between them, stop it, pull them apart. Ms. Hernandez said that she would never do that because the kids can get so angry and she wouldn't want to get hit. (To that I say "Bring it on.") But she also mentioned that she knew of teachers who had done that and then gotten into trouble for "man handling" the kids.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ah, Redemption

So the last half of last year with the sixth graders was really really hard. Very little real teaching went on. I walked into school three goals; to keep everyone alive, get one thing done in reading and one thing done in math. If I accomplished those three things, I felt like I was successful. Awful isn't it? Five months of awful.

On the days that they drove me most up the wall, I would go and vent to Ms. Hernandez, who worked with them for about an hour everyday for Social Studies. I haven't written much about Ms. Hernandez, but she really is one of my rocks. She's been at ALDR since the beginning and the kids truly both fear and respect her.

But I have to say that she always said that if she was in charge of the kids they would be beautifully behaved and that they would do all their work.

Well. She's teaching them now. Not all day long, but in a rotation with two other teachers. It's only taken from August 'till now, but she is fed up! They don't listen, they don't care, they don't do their work, Ms. Hernandez was ticking all the these things off on her fingers.

So in my head, I did little back flips, jumped up and down and did a little dance. But outwardly, I ticked off on my own finger all the things that worked for me, which parents to call and for whom it worked to take away recess.

Because...I try to be a good person and I felt for her. But honestly, it was all I could do to not say, "I told you so!"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Finally being in control...

and having it all taken away from you. That's what happened to me this afternoon.

So the first day or so after the kids came back from break were fantastic. They were calm, ready to listen and mostly (in fact I'm sure) still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes from having to get up so early for the first time in awhile. Those two days ended so fast. Since then, it has been a constant fight to get their attention for anything (even recess, RECESS people!) But...

(For those of you non-teacher people; that's a behavior chart!! That kid must go to school on the weekends though!)

I've tried as many (perhaps even more) different kinds of behavior management styles as I have ways of keeping track of the writing implements in my classroom. I've tried those behavior charts with the color coded pockets. I've tried putting everyone's name on the board and keeping those in for recess that have two or more check marks. I've tried yelling (after asking nicely more than once.) I've tried keeping everyone in at recess. I've tried the-put-your-hand-in-the-air-and-wait-for-silence-method. I've spoken to parents. I've tried shutting the lights off. I've tried a password. I've tried the good cop/bad cop method. Some of these things worked for a few days, some for a few weeks, some for an hour. I couldn't get anything to stick for any real length of time.

A few years ago, these were the sorts of things that would get me all in a tizzy and keep me from sleeping for days and sometimes months at a time. I would be stressed out because my days were so awful in the classroom because it felt like I always fighting against them. Very little good teaching can go on in that type of environment and so I constantly felt like I was failing them and not doing my job. Which at the end of the day would only make me feel worse and cue the no sleeping bit.

Today was a tough day. There wasn't much teaching going on, some of my pencils (my beautiful mechanical pencils!) were stolen, I was lied to, kids hit each other. I was standing there, trying to teach a lesson about place value. I had somewhat of a break through. I realized that I wasn't internally panicking. (I learned a long time ago that you can NEVER outwardly show panic. They are very much like animals. They smell the fear.) I realized that I was calm. I was ready. I was going to deal with it and have it be done. It was a very empowering feeling. I was on top of the world.

So, I said loud enough for only the kids sitting in first row to hear, "I'm taking a minute off your recess." The news spread quickly, but it wasn't until minute seven that something started to happen. They started to quiet down. I got back to teaching and the next time it happened, I didn't even have to say anything. I just added minutes to the board. They lost over half their recess. Later however, they earned it back by sitting ALMOST completely quietly during read aloud (both while I read and while another student read!!!!!)

I decided that when they can't earn it back, everyone comes into my room for the beginning of recess. After about a minute, I'll let the four (out of eighteen children) that I never have to ask twice, outside early and kept the other for the rest of the time. This way, I'm giving consequences for not behaving, rewarding positive behavior and (hopefully) encouraging other kids to just FOLLOW SIMPLE DIRECTIONS like "Sit Down Please."

So when the classes changed and I got my fourth graders, whom I can usually count on to bring me up after my third graders I was relieved. When we got back from lunch (which was CRAZY) I realized that it was not going to be an easy afternoon. I was lied to, disrespected, not listened to and one kid smacked another kid. Ergo, not much learning going on.

And so, I did the repeated the process I had gone through with the third graders. I finally got a math lesson going. Some kids were gone for speech and so when everyone came back, we paused and I called everyone over into the library to have a little chat. Everyone was silent. They could tell I was very unhappy. I hadn't raised my voice, but they could tell from the way I was talking that I was not happy.

So we all sat down. I explained how I was feeling and how it wasn't working for me. We talked about why we come to school. We talked about what will happen if they didn't follow directions. We talked about whether or not my "new" rules were fair. They agreed that they were. Just as we were finishing and I was about to send them back to their math assignment, Mr. Rama came in. (Presumably, but I didn't find out for sure about about another thirty minutes, to take Kismet for his afternoon break.)

Mr. Rama really makes me uncomfortable in a lot of different ways. The one that really annoys me is the way he acts so superior. He can be very dismissive of other people, without actually being dismissive. He'll say things like, "I don't mean to interrupt, but..." or "I don't mean to step on your toes, but..." or "I certainly didn't mean to take over, but..." When he totally DOES mean to do all those things. He says all the right things so that you can't accuse him of not saying all the right things. Then later, he'll come up and apologize again, to make it seem like he was really sincere about his faux pas. (He's done this to me in front of parents before. PARENTS people!) But he doesn't mean it, because he'll just do it again at the next meeting or during the next class discussion he happens to walk into.

Mr. Rama realized that we were having a classroom discussion, which is pretty much his favorite thing in world because he gets to go all mollycoddle on the kids, let's talk about our feelings, let's define our feelings, let's give examples of our feelings. So as I predicted the moment he walked in, he said, "Let me ask you a question. How do you feel about following directions?" and he looked at me as if he just remembered that I was leading the discussion and said, "I hope you don't mind but..." Since he had already asked the question, I wasn't going to say, "Well, no actually..." (But I think next time, I'll have the guts to!) All the children turned in his direction. I had just lost all the control. Done. Eyes were no longer on me.

Also as a preface, I've had lots of conversations about what what things like respect and following directions means on other occasions. During the day before, in fact and so I was being very stern, quiet and clear very much on purpose. I've had the kids come with their own definitions in their own words. (You might be surprised at how many kids DON'T know.) We done that. More than once. They know exactly what is expected of them. It was time for some tough love.

The conversation about what feelings mean, examples of feelings, examples of times the kids didn't follow directions went on and on and on and on and ON. All of the questions came from Mr. Rama (who also did some of the answering.) By the time it was over, he (I say he because he was the one REALLY in charge!) had used up our entire Science Literacy period. There was also a point near the end, where he decided to come kneel next to me (I was sitting in my chair, the kids were on sitting on the floor) to make the kids turn towards me again. (You know as if to remind me once again that I wasn't the one in charge.

If this was the first or even second time he pulled something like this, I wouldn't care. But I feel like I've gotten his routine down enough so that now, I can figure out a good way to stop him next time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Worst Cooks in America

Every night for the past few weeks, The Boy and I have been watching Alton Brown on the Food Network. (This was not my choice as he sort of creeps me out, but I usually hog the T.V. for background noise in the early evening and so I don't begrudge it...too much ;) He's sort of growing on me though. I'm becoming better at ignoring his uppity way of explaining things and I've stopped rolling my eyes (for the most part) when The Boy goes, "Yup!" (as in; he already knew that) and "Ohhhhh!" (as in, he didn't know that yet.)

But what I'm really enjoying are the commercials for "Worst Cooks in America." I would win this show. Hands down.

As I'm not much of a foodie, I never really learned the craft of cooking. My parents both cooked, though very differently. When my mum cooked, I wanted to be the one that had to clean up. This was because when she cooked, she made yummy food AND cleaned as she went. I always wanted my brother to have the nights my dad cooked, because he made awesome food and usually left quite a mess. This is really my way of explaining that I wasn't in the kitchen much while the food was being made. I just never had the desire to learn...and so I never did.

When I moved out on my own, I was very happy to eat the same thing most of the time. I don't remember what I ate for those first few months I lived on my own and so I guess it really didn't matter much. I was good at Annie's Mac and Cheese, omelets, cereal, ice cream (which other people don't count as a meal, but I sure do) and steak. I do remember that I didn't really have to clean the oven in my first apartment when I moved out, because I could count the number of times it had been used on one hand.

It was at this point that I thought about learning to cook other things, not really because I wanted to, but more because I just thought I should. I tried to learn from my dad, but when I asked him how me made something or how much of a particular ingredient he added, he would just shrug his shoulders and say "Enough." For someone who needs all the details and lots of practice before she goes all freestyle, this was very frustrating and I sort of gave up.

My first Thanksgiving on my own is a great example of how little I knew about cooking by the age of 23. I was here in La Pasa and didn't really know anyone except my close girlfriend from Bennington, who left town for the holiday. I hadn't even met The Boy yet. I decided that it was silly to buy a turkey for myself and thought that a small chicken would do the trick. I can't remember if it was because I wasn't making much money, (I was an E.A. that year) because I didn't want to learn any more than one thing at once or because I just FORGOT to buy anything else but the chicken for dinner.

On Thanksgiving, I called home and got directions from my dad about how to clean my chicken, how long it should go in the oven for and at what temperature. The most frightening part of the process for me was definitely going to be deciding when it was done. This was how my dad described it; "Just wait until you can twist the drumstick just enough (there was that word again) and have the rest of the carcass (my dad likes that word, its used with love) stay still.

This description posed many problems for me. Because I had never cooked a chicken before, I had no idea what "just enough" felt like. What if I couldn't get the drumstick to twist? What if I let it cook too long and it got too twisty? What if I thought it twisty enough, got it out of the oven, cut it open and it wasn't done? What if because of all the times I've opened the oven to check to see if the drumstick was twisty, the oven lost too much heat and the chicken NEVER got twisty?

I followed my dad's instructions very carefully and got the chicken in the oven. It was the first time I used that oven. (Though to be fair, I had only moved into the apartment a month and a half before.) I sat down to wait. I can't remember the number of times I called home after checking to see if the drumstick was twisty and not being sure if there was the proper amount of twistyness. Over three hours after the drumstick was "supposed" to be twisty enough, I took the chicken out in defeat. I cut it open and discovered it was not cooked thoroughly. After this failure, my dad suggested buying an oven thermometer. I soon discovered the oven was about 70 degrees cooler than the temperature you asked it to be. That's the last time I cooked chicken.

A few months later, I ventured into the kitchen again. I have no idea where I came up with the idea for the recipe, but it was a very basic beef stir fry with rice. After working with the recipe six or seven times, I thought it was pretty good and would make it once or twice a week. It was soon after this that I met The Boy. I offered to cook for him for one of our first dates.

I spent a lot of time at the grocery store picking just the right beef and vegetables. I went to my favorite wine shop and picked out just the right bottle of doesn't-say-anything-about-tasting-oak-barrels-on-the-label red wine to go with it. The Boy came over and I made a big deal about being all up in the kitchen and getting everything together just so. I served the dinner, we sat down to eat and the dish had absolutely NO favor. I don't know what happened, but it just didn't taste like anything at all.

I wasn't mortified until the first time The Boy made dinner for me. It was perfection. A five course, wine matched bit of perfection. To this day he swears he loved that meal I made for him. It is however, hard to believe when I've been eating homemade stocks, home cured bacon, stuffed porkchops, fried pears in sugar, steak salads and chicken thigh, leeks and celery braised in champagne and served over home made polenta or something just as wonderful for the last two and a half years.

That is why I would win "Worst Cooks in America." Hands down.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Inspiring Article about Teaching!

I loved reading this article. Enjoy!

Multiplication Tables

I'm not a teacher that is a fan of having kids memorize things in general. However, I feel differently when it comes to multiplication tables. They are the one thing that I think kids just need to memorize.

I think they should know the 2's through the 12's (because the zero's and one's are easy) and the 15's and the 20's through to 12 (because in my own life I use the 15's and 20's a lot and wish they were as beaten into my brain as the others.) I use the 15's and 20's as extra credit for the kids who learn the 2's through the 12's. Whenever I begin the process with classes, they balk at the number of facts they need to learn, but actually, there's so many turn around facts that in the end it's always about two thirds less than they think it is.

My classes use flash cards and they take home half sheets of paper corresponding the to the table they need to learn to help them practice at night. Every day at the beginning of math time, they take a quiz corresponding to the table they are working on. It's a laminated one by six inch sheet with mix facts and they have a minute to complete it with a dry erase marker. (The laminating idea was Sophie's and totally saved me paper and time!) This encourages the kids to stop counting on their fingers. They learn quickly that if they count on their fingers, they run out of time. I keep track of their progress on a big sheet that is hung on the wall of my classroom.

The homework part was the hardest to make a good routine out of. I found this fantastic website. Here you can get already made worksheets to give to the kids for homework. The site is mostly about math but covers everything from geometry to dollars and cents notation. I've used it with third to sixth grade to great success. It's easy for me to print stuff out, make copies and put them in a filing cabinet for easy access.

This year I've been really impressed with my both my third grade and fourth grade class in that they want to pass their tables. That hasn't always been the case as most of my previous classes have looked at them as a chore.

Here's a picture of the charts in my classroom (of course you can't see names or anything!) and the little quizzes and homework sheets.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Never Ending Search for...

Writing Implements in my classroom.

I don't remember much about the routines of my elementary school days. I know that in middle and high school we were meant to bring our own supplies. I don't remember any routine being as difficult or frustrating as it can be to find a pencil in my classroom.

Alma De La Rosa serves a predominately low income population and we are school wide Title 1 due to our high free and reduced lunch numbers. One of the tenets of the school is that kids don't have to have any of their own supplies. We provide everything from winter coats to backpacks to breakfast to pencils to uniforms for all our students in need. To provide all this we depend on the community around us. The church that adopted our school for Thanksgiving and Christmas can always be counted on if we know of a particular family in great need or we need a set of uniforms. The city runs school supply drives that we often reap the benefits of.

And the pencils. Back to the pencils. The pencils are the bane of my existence. The kids can't keep track of them. There have been weeks I've started with 100 of them and ended with less than ten. It's like the children eat them. (hmmmm yummy) I've tried so many different things to keep enough of these yellow buggers in my classroom and sharpened.

I've tried giving all the kids a box with two sharpened pencils, a big eraser, two cap erasers, a box of crayons, a small box of colored pencils, a pair of scissors, a book mark and a glue stick. On top of the two sharpened pencils, I also filled a cup on my desk of sharpened pencils and when kids needed a sharpened one, all they had to do was bring their old one to my desk and trade it for a sharp one. The boxes were soon taken apart, stuff strewn all throughout their desks instead of neatly arranged in their boxes. The pencils began disappearing and so my sharpened pencil cup pencils dwindled, even as I tried to keep up with the sharpening of them everyday.

There also was a time that I allowed the kids to use the electric pencil sharpener that I had. We went through two in three months time. We couldn't use those hand crank ones because we didn't have any walls to attach them to.

I tried giving each kid a pencil with his or her name on it and collecting it at the end of each half day so that the kid would have it for the next day. There were numerous problems with this plan; the name would rub off the pencil which would provoke children into fighting over the pencil with more eraser at the top, the kids would take forever to get their pencils from the cup, the kids would wait to get their pencils until I was in the middle of teaching the lesson, the kids would lose them before I could collect them and so on and so forth.

Then I tried sharpening pencils as they needed it, that was a terrible plan, a week of complete awfulness.

Then I decided that I was done with the pencil sharpener, it was on its way out anyway, refusing to make a point on a pencil, it's gears slowing and the whrrrring sound becoming more and more ragged. I went to Target (I know, I know, not really much better than Walmart, but I'm working on it!) and shelled out 20 bucks for some mechanical pencils, hoping that something with a little more permanence would help. This the end of the second week and it's going well. It can still be frustrating at times, but so far it's proven better. I've gone through a bunch of them, a bunch of them have been broken and I'm going to keep needing lead but all and all, best week for writing implements yet!

Monday, January 11, 2010


I've heard people say that Avatar was just a 247 million dollar re-make of Fern Gully:

I've heard still others (namely The Boy) describe it as "dances with wolves in space."

I however thought it was an amazing bit of movie making. Honestly, perhaps the best movie I've seen since Star Wars (and every other Harrison Ford movie of course!)

My brother and went to see it while I was home in MA. He offered to drive me all the way to Albany, NY to see it in 3D like he had. But 3D has never worked for me and I have no idea why. I remember being a little kid in Disney world with my family and everyone else was ohhhing and ahhhing at Honey I Shrunk the Kids...but all saw were wibbly lines and normal images. Those red and blue glasses did nothing for me. I thought maybe when I grew up it would be different. The Boy took me to a 3D movie two years ago and I went with an open mind. Still...wibbly lines and fuzziness while everyone else was ohhing and ahhhing.

And so I was thankful when 3D wasn't even an option at the Berkshire Mall. (Oh the Berkshires...for once I was thankful you are so behind the times in the entertainment business.) My brother relented and went with me anyway. I loved it. Loved it.

Then I came back to NM and The Boy hadn't seen it yet and neither had my girlfriend who was visiting from France with her Frenchman and so I went to see it again. La Pasa is a little more with the times entertainment wise and we saw the 3D version. I figured since I had already seen it, it didn't matter if it was wibbly and fuzzy. 3D imagery evolved since that last movie I tried to see though. Now the lenses are POLARIZED and I saw the 3D stuff. For the first time I got to do the ooohhhing and ahhhhing.

Some people saw that the story was predictable and mushy. I say that most movies are predictable and mushy. The classics are predictable and mushy; think Romeo and Juliet, Bridges of Madison County, (Hi Dodo!) Ten Things I Hate About You (just another version of Taming of the Shrew, which was certainly predictable) and Love Actually. (Like how my classics are in ascending order of release date?!)

I will admit that some of dialogue was lame. The entirety of Michelle Rodrigquez's character was awfully lame. But then again, the great movies have a lot of lame dialogue. Star Wars is full of lame dialogue ("But I was going to go into Toshi-Station to pick up some power converters") but dialogue wasn't the focus. Dialogue and story line wasn't the focus of Avatar either.

I loved it. That's all I really wanted to say.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


This is a picture of the Walmart in Roswell, New Mexico. My brother and I took a trip there before Thanksgiving. He's been an alien nerd since he was a kid and immediately saw the boon for him when I moved here, making me promise not to go there until he was able to get here and go with me. We were headed for the U.F.O. museum but I needed the bathroom and so we pulled in. We didn't see the alien theme of the Walmart until we had almost parked, it was pretty funny.

So, in 2002 of my favorite Bennington gals convinced to stop shopping at Walmart for a myriad of reasons that I won't go into here. I stopped cold turkey, deciding that I didn't mind spending what little money I had on less by shopping at other stores. Since then I can count on one hand the number of Walmarts I've been in walletless with family, friends and for the free bathroom since then.

The last time was with a friend as I was helping him get ready for a party. Before that it had been about three years. This was also to be my first Super Walmart experience. My students idolize the Super Walmart and I had heard all about the aisles of frozen dinners and pizzas and other foods that I could only imagine was full of all sort of chemicals that little bodies don't need. The thing is that food is cheap and the families that attend our school are certainly not rollin' in the dough. I was imagining there were three or four aisles. I was so wrong. There were seven long wide aisles. It was really gross.

And so you can imagine the surprised but icky feeling when I opened up a gift card from the Church that adopted our school for Christmas and Thanksgiving. It contained a 100.00 gift card to Walmart. It was an incredibly large gesture (and I was thankful for it) as each teacher received one. At first, I decided that I wasn't going to use it, but then The Boy reminded me that it would be a completely empty political statement because Walmart already had the money. Then I decided I would use on supplies for the classroom. What I ended up doing was spending it on prizes for the winners of the English Spelling Bee I put together last week. I also decided to make the The Boy go with me because a, it was his fault I was going anyway, b I like it when he drives and c, I needed someone to shoot horrified looks at as we walked from aisle to aisle.

And so we had to decide which one to go to. The closest one is also the most robbed Walmart in the West (or some scary statistic like that.) Hence, we chose the other one that's pretty close. As we walked in the first thing I noticed was the lighting. It was DIM inside. It felt like the power was out and the secondary lighting had kicked on. When we finally found the toys, The Boy pointed out an aisle just in front of the toy area. The shelves were full of candy and soda. From where we were standing, not even in the aisle yet, we could see over sixty packages of oreos. They were stacked three across from the top of shelf to the bottom, eight or nine shelves worth. Next to those were just as many packages of Kit Kat bars, then snickers, then soda and then more candy. The message was obvious and sick. No wonder we have a nationwide problem with childhood obesity.

We got some great classic board games as prizes for the top spellers and then those awesome animal capsules as prizes for all the kids that participated though. It was a relief to get back outside. This trip definitely solidified my belief that Walmart should not be shopped at.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Meet Han Solo!

Shortly after The Boy (my middle man) sold my Harrison on Craigslist, we bought a new to us car! It's a 2007 Subaru Impreza! It's a stick shift (which I think we will continue to buy as long as we can) and we love it! I really recommend CarMax. They were so helpful and easy to work with. It's just like driving my old car. We love it! And to continue with the theme, his (because I'm not going to "shift" a girl) name is Han Solo!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Dog Days of January

I wanted to tie up some loose ends that I left when I stopped blogging for so long.

Ms. Jenson is still a bit of a nutter, but I have a little more respect for what she does in the classroom now. I do still have some problems working with her. The first being that during the first set of parent teacher conferences, she told all the parents (with me sitting right there) that I was responsible for all of the academic concepts the student were learning, except for Social Studies and she was only responsible for whether or not the students were learning Spanish. This was incredibly frustrating for me. I only have each class for half a day. There is no way I can cover all the academic subjects for both grades in that amount of time. I have spoken to Sr. Callejo about this and he agrees something needs to be done, he just isn't exactly sure what to do. I hope it's figured out soon, because report cards are coming up again and I really don't want all the work put on me again.

First, Fiona came back! Her little sister didn't because their mother can't deal with Ms. Jenson. Getting Fiona back felt so good though. I really don't think she would have done as well in a huge inner city middle school as she would do with us. I guess that's probably true for all our students, but I really feel close to Fiona. Her mum told us that she didn't like the other school at all and basically begged to come back to us. That made me feel really good. Of all the kids, she is the one I would choose to find out about as she grows up and moves on.

Kismet has been causing quite a lot of trouble lately. He's probably spent a total of an hour in my classroom all week because he gotten into so much trouble before his class even gets to mine. It has gotten to the point where no adult in the school can keep his body safe. In the past four days, he's climbed to some pretty high heights after being asked not to take his feet off the ground and dropped from them. The first time he landed on his arm and came close to breaking it, the second time he landed on his face and scratched it up. He doesn't do these things while he mother is at the school with him obviously but once she leaves it's all over. I really feel like I can't be held responsible for his personal safety because he listens to nothing I say and then chooses to do the most dangerous thing. He'll be in class and then disappear. I can't chase him because I'm also responsible for the other 11 children in my class. His family doesn't seem to understand how dangerous this is.

I've lost some other students, I'm down to 12 students in the fourth grade. I have only two girls in that class now. The third grade class has been fluctuating a bit. One of my favorite students, who didn't show up at the beginning of this year, showed up on Monday. Hector was one of my kindergardeners and it's nice to have him back!

We got a new student, who has been causing a lot of trouble. He's been making a lot of gang related comments and threatening to hurt other kids. It's been quite the experience. I think of my third graders as relatively hard core kids, they have a lot of energy and a lot of street knowledge, but after spending time with Chris, I'm pretty sure most of them are scared s*&@less of this kid. He's only been here a few weeks, but as missed three days because of external suspension and two days worth of internal suspension

I don't feel like the year is half over... at all.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

It's been awhile...

That's for sure. And I swear it's not a New Year's Resolution to return to blogging!

The first thing I would like say is that my drive to work has gotten easier. I live about half a block off of one of the main roads through the city. ALDR is a few block off the main road. Since the city is built on a grid, there are many ways to get to work. However, I have oft lamented that there was wasn't an easy way to cross over to the road that ALDR is on. Instead of turning left out of my driveway and turning directly onto the big road, I have been turning right and then left through a stoplight in the opposition direction of where I need to go. I do this because it is very hard to see in either direction at the intersection of my street and the big road. Once I have gotten onto the big road, depending on the patterning of the numerous traffic lights, deciding when to turn left off the big road. After crossing a few streets, I can go down to that road and then cross over a few more to get to the school. (I'm not sure if this description is coming off as more or less complicated than it actually is...I'm hoping for the former...because it is.) Of course, the days I would like to stop and get coffee on the way to work there's less time playing the traffic lights and more time turning at a specific place in order to get the coffee.

Now, a streetlight has been added at the intersection of my own street and the big road! So now, I can turn left out of my driveway and skip going out of my way! If I want to get coffee however, not much changes, except that I still don't have to do the part that takes me out of my way. Other than that part because the city is built on a grid it doesn't make the drive shorter per ce, but it does make it more succinct.

Here is a little picture I drew to show the difference! The solid line is old way, the dotted line is the new way, and that thing in the middle is my coffee shop!

So, let me explain a little about my hiatus. After one my last posts about Peter (whose behavior as improved considerably and seems to actually enjoy school these days!) and his medication, I got a comment that I did not make public. In effect, this person insinuated that I was wrong to write about my students. I often worry about the people I work with finding out about my blog as I do not always show my colleagues and students in the best light. I do strive to write the truth as I see it, from my point of view. I suppose if I continue to write, that is simply a risk I have to be comfortable taking. Of course all the names are changed and specific locations are carefully hidden, but the possibility of a bad guy finding my blog is there. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this and my take even more precautions as I continue to write.

Happy Birthday Robert Duvall! (Someday I should write about all the reasons he's awesome!)