Saturday, September 29, 2007

before i dash off...

It's 11 on a Saturday night and I'm two glasses of wine what's new? The small fact of my field trip tomorrow, is all. Five other teachers (two of my closest friends, my co-chair, and two others) and I are taking 60 students on a three-day trip to UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, and some other place you've probably never heard of called UC Berkeley. Hells yeah.

I should probs pack.

Anyway, a few things before I go:

1. We got a new car. I've been meaning to take a photo but it's delayed the post so much already. Anyway, we ended up with a hybrid Civic in "magnetic pearl." Is it blue? Is it purple? Is it grey? I don't know. All I know is it is already dented from a woman in a BMW who decided to move into A's lane regardless of A's extremely-parallel presence in said lane. In other news: move to LA!

2. Cats! We have 300 of them and they are getting big. Big enough to fill the sink, even!

Major has moved back into the loft.

3. I started my grad program on Wednesday. So far so good, except in a logistical sense. UCLA's ed program is extremely competitive and well-respected and worthwhile, but that doesn't prevent them from doing things like emailing you on a Friday that your classes will start Monday, or in my case, emailing on a Wednesday that tuition is due in full by Friday or you'll be dropped. ....thanks. No paper mail or anything. No due dates mentioned, ever. I know that the logical thing would be to check UCLA's website for such things, but a) the website sucks, and b) my credentialing program (also through the ed school) had totally different payment dates from the campus as a whole, and informed us about them separetely, and also tardily, though not quite this tardily, and without threats of revoked admission. UC Regents, how I've missed you and your bedside manner!

4. Mila, this one's for you.

Monday, September 10, 2007

standin' around in pretty dresses

A couple of things:

Thing the first: We got a new car. It's pretty. I will put up a picture soon, if I can get it together to take one. Also, we managed to scavenge a whole bunch of stuff out of the old one, including A's textbooks, more or less a whole case of wine and another of beer that had been protected from the shattering glass, my new shades which I had been moping about losing, two binders' worth of CDs, and the Bose deck, which was, incredibly, completely unharmed if noticeably stickier than it was at purchasing-time.

Thing the second: Photos are up! Send me an email if you didn't get the link. Be sure and tell Dmitry how awesome he is.

Some of my favorites (though there are many more):

That last one might be the most complete group shot we have. Prove me wrong, people!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

How to dispose of leftover wedding alcohols 5 days or less.

OPTION ONE: Five-day mimosa binge

OPTION TWO: Drinking game in which every time someone asks you if you feel "different" and then looks at you expectantly, you take a drink


Bonus: This option will also take care of your new ipod deck which you have been looking for a way to destroy.

On the for-real plus side, Aaron (who says to tell you that he totally had all his hubcaps when he went to bed last night, and that one must have flown off and landed somewhere out-of-sight or rolled into the gutter or something) took my wedding dress out of the trunk when he got home last night. Not that I know what I'm going to do with it, but it's nice not to have the decision made for me in such an abrupt fashion. He also got to stick his head in the backseat and screech,"It smells like a brewery in here!" a la Nathan Scott Phillips. And, though it sounds funny, when a policeman shines his flashlight in through your screen door at 4 in the morning, there are much, much worse reasons than this.

RIP, ipod deck.

Mourn ya til I go to BestBuy and convince them that the 2-year warranty covers acts of drunk.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

the nuclear family

We sort of accidentally got a third cat. Not that she's staying here permanently, mind...just that she wandered in the door a week and a half ago and kind of refused to leave. She's the sweetest thing in the world, silky and docile with a sort of bemused Luna Lovegood-ish gaze. But then I've been seeing Luna in everything since viewing the otherwise painfully mediocre Order of the Phoenix.

The Tiny (aka Nathan Scott Phillips, aka Bounce-Bounce) has gotten decidedly less tiny. This week I'm calling him Brown Bread, for his incredible weight and density.

For the most part the Major tries to stay out of their way, but the two of them together are a hoot. You can get a sense of their general dynamic here:

That kid I was talking about last time finally got transferred. Did he stab someone, you ask? Commit armed robbery? No, his final offense, the one egregious enough to warrant explusion, was walking out of his IEP meeting.

There's a lot to get upset about there, but whatever. He's gone.

I'm going to [gritted teeth] Stanford next weekend for a school retreat. As a non-improving PI school we're required to have an outside provider come in and magically solve the problems we're too stupid to solve ourselves - you may remember how much I hated our last Outside Provider. I wasn't alone, and collectively we chased them out, only to have them replaced by Stanford. Now, the Stanford ed school is the home of outspoken Program-hater Linda Darling-Hammond, so they can't be all bad, but so far their whole plan for the school involves spatial redesign, and since our school is already so cramped with additional buildings and "bungalows" (what we would have called "portables" back home) and there's no time or money to rebuild, their entire plan consists of "signage." You know - banners and umbrellas and such. Mostly banners. They were paid $2 million by The District for this plan. Not for banners and umbrellas, even - just for the mere notion of banners and umbrellas.

Anyway, I'm there Thursday through Sunday evening. If you're slumming it in Stanford those days, hit me up.

Overheard at work:

One maintenance man to another, heatedly: And they want us to empty trash, and spot-mop, and de-gum, and clean the sodas off the floors, and work as a team!

A kid (next to the side gate, lately closed to students, forcing them to walk all the way to the front of the school to leave): Let my people go! Let my people go!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

of books and beatings

First, the books:

I have in my posession not one but FOUR copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - two mine and two McD's - and, as of about 11:40, I have finished reading one of them. Fear not, for I will not spoil, but I will say that I feel the book's emotional peak came about two-thirds through, and that you should skip the epilogue, and that I was half-amused, half-irritated by brazen lifts from Lord of the Rings, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and - wait for it - Return of the Jedi. All in all I enjoyed the experience - there's nothing quite as nice as an uniterrupted read-through - and I think I enjoyed the book, though it's hard to say since I was clearly going to read it either way, lest I be consumed by the desire to know, before anyone else, How It Ends.

In other YA news I have recently read A Great And Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and Tyrell, which were extremely enjoyable, and Rooftop, which wasn't. Then I got sucked into Shame of the Nation, which is going to be one of my students' choices for lit circles when we come back on track in November. It is going to kick their butts, but I'm on this whole Challenging Kick, which is to say that I don't think I've been pushing anyone nearly hard enough except my ESL classes with Romeo and Juliet last year, and it's about time I hold everyone to the same standard. I expect great things this year.

Which leads us to the business:

From an academic standpoint, the new year is going really well. To my great surprise and relief I love teaching American Lit, mostly because I am completely ignoring the suggested curriculum and instead doing a unit on immigration policy, reading op-eds and articles and interviews and working on discerning the authors' underlying philosophical beliefs and assumptions. This is harder than it sounds. I spend a lot of time talking about "Habits of Mind," and stressing the importance of reading not just for information but for those little tidbits of word choice and rhetoric that give away the author's position. It's difficult for many of the kids because of just how much they go through in pursuit of the literal meaning of something like an Economist article, let alone delving beneath its surface. We're leading up to a complex position paper integrating multiple sources and a variety of modes of writing, so I think next week I have to take a step back and make sure we're really clear on what's gone on so far. Last week was a little crazy, so some of what we've done has started to feel a little unravelled from the whole.

Per craziness: the vibe on campus is changing. We had a series of fights and a resulting lockdown a week ago Friday, and another fight and a lot of (well-deserved) administrative crackdown on Wednesday. The kids are doing this meerkat thing at lunch, standing up on the benches and craning their necks to see where the action is going to be. Rumors are swirling about some Latino kids, probably Florencia, beating an African-American kid pretty badly - maybe a Blood, maybe not - and revenge being forthcoming.

Meanwhile, in addition to this campus-wide tension, my SLC has its own saga unfolding, with one of my former students. While I never had a personal problem with this kid - he was always polite to me and everyone in my class, despite attempting a grand total of one (1) assignment all semester - I know that he's up to his ears in Florencia, on parole (the story behind this is like Russian dolls, one offense nestled inside the next), the owner of some very nasty and unexplained scars, and high more or less all the time.

Our story begins on Wednesday during break, when I happen to glance out the window and see an unfamiliar kid on my balcony whip off his shirt and disappear around the corner to a rapt audience of about 20 kids. I am running towards the door with one hand already dialing the phone when I hear a heavy thud against my wall.

(I was talking to a colleague the other day, and we agreed that while we generally feel dumber than we did before taking this job, it has done miracles for our reaction time.)

So I get outside just in time to see my former student along with three of his friends, clad in Brown Pride finery, take off down the hallway, leaving a kid curled against the wall next to my room and a Hansel-and-Gretel-esque trail of little blood drips behind them. I follow, I find security, I write my statement. I figure, he's on parole. He must be out of here.

But oh! Not so. No indeed; he is back in class the next day. This story continues, but it's getting long already. The quick-and-dirty version is that he brags to me that he had in fact jumped this kid, making a charming stomping motion on the ground and laughing, "This is what we did to him, Miss. Send me back to the deans. I'll still be here." He has discovered, as we teachers already know and dread, that students designated as Special Ed for any reason, not just behavioral problems, more or less cannot be expelled or OT'd. They have to be put on a "behavior plan," which translates pretty well to total immunity. I would like to think that "Do not beat the shit out of people" is a pretty basic behavior plan and that he has clearly violated said, but that's not how it works. Come to think of it, I'd like to assume that beating the shit out of people is a violation of his parole, but that doesn't seem to be a problem either.

Anyway, outside of my English classes and Leadership activities and taking care of my community's two new English teachers, finding a loophhole on this kid is priority one. He knows I'm actively watching him and reporting back to the deans, so while I have personally never felt threatened by him (he seems to feel that being on his case is my job, just as maiming is his), it is probably a good thing that I have no car to key or anything.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

changing it up

As you may recall, we adopted a second cat awhile back. She was really beautiful, but so mean. She chased the Major around mercilessly and bit everyone and he lost a lot of weight because she wouldn't let him eat. They were not the best of friends.

So, we packed her up and sent her back.

It took about 3 seconds for the buddy to get all neurotic and weird again, with no Great Enemy to take up all his time.

So today, we found him a new nemesis. He is very small.

He does not have a name yet, but we are thinking of Zim. I am ZIM!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

the best feeling in the world

An age ago, when I was still in school, I would walk across campus sometimes, and something about the way the breeze would rustle in the trees, or a bit of conversation I would overhear, would fill me with this almost inexpressable joy, a feeling that surprised me at first in how it really is a swelling in the chest, and I would think to myself, "I am really, really happy here." That feeling was gone for a long time when I left. And now, just as suddenly, it's back. It's seven p.m., and I'm sitting in my warm, colorful classroom, reading my ESL students' essays on Romeo and Juliet. This is going to sound like bragging, but I have to say, they are blowing me away. They have really, really learned something this year, and they are honest-to-god ready to move on to mainstream English. And as for me - I, for the very first time, know what it feels like to be successful at teaching. It is the swelling/bursting feeling again, the feeling like I am in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.

Reading Area #1:

Newly-created Reading Area #2:

I swear I have space in my classroom for doing actual work.