I <3 Lunch

I <3 lunch. I <3 the classics, sometimes with a twist. My favorites include PB & local honey on 10grain; tuna + mayo + dried cranberries + crackers; lettuce from our garden + nuts + fruit + cheese; guac + tortilla chips.

So I <3 lunch and I needed a lunch bag. A real one. I needed one because:

1. I'm tired of wasting brown paper bags despite their brown paper bagginess and crinkly charm


2. Tupperware doesn't fit into brown paper bags without ripping the bags.

And, ok, 3. everyone has a cute little lunch bag to carry their lunches and I wanted one too! Don't worry, I'm not going to fall down the bad egg chute.

They might all have one, but I'm smug when I say that you won't ever catch me carrying a Vera Bradley anything. Bllllllllech. It's like the international sign of either a) I'm a teacher or going to college to be one or of b) I'm a rich white 12 year old. I just don't personally understand the appeal. Sorry if I've offended. On second thought, I'm not sorry. Throw your Vera Bradley away and spend your money on something that actually manages to be more exciting than a trip to the dentist.

So I decided to go to Whole Foods today in search of something. . . uhm. . . err. . . Whole-Foods-y. But they were all out. And I was tired. It was looking like ordering online was my best option. While Built NY lunch bags are cute and super functional I'm sure, I just am not "sporty." And somehow they come off as super "sporty." And yes, my lunch bag is going to be a reflection of myself. What a good little consumer I am--hook line and sinker, huh?

Next stop, Etsy. Kind of a fail safe, wouldn't you agree? I ended up with, count'em, two lunch bags because I couldn't decide. But there were so many adorable ones that I thought I'd share.

From Etsy sellers:

goshdarnknit's neoprene options are adorable

point of light:

and roxy's tattoo:

If I were a Francophile, which I am not, or desired to be a poseur, which I do not, I would totally scoop up these and every single item from Paris Chic Botique:

Morganmoore's oilcloth options were major contenders, esp. this rather teacherly number:

Here's a different take on lunch transportation from Shinzi Khatoh UK, from which I purchased an adorable canvas carryall a few months ago--behold his take on the lunchbox/bento box:

I probably would have gone the Shinzi Khato route if a) I could fit a piece of fruit in the double lunchbox (doubtful) and b) the price wasn't in Euros :\ I just can't bring myself to spend $40 on a piece of plastic.

So, after plenty of unnecessary and satisfyingly distracting deliberation, I purchased:

this sweet little cotton canvas green apple lunch bag from madebymolly

aaaand. . .

this simple organic cotton one from EcoWorks.

I'm happy with my purchases and--perhaps as importantly--have satiated my craving for a little online shopping fix by buying something I actually needed. Sort of. I'm just too exhausted this weekend to spend time hunting things down in stores. And who doesn't love supporting small businesses and independent craftspeople (o the excuses)?

From the Depths of 5 Dozen Word Study Quizzes

I emerge. I think just this week it's hitting me what has happened. I spent 5 years working towards a degree I believed in. I spent 2 semesters figuring some stuff out, finding out what it's like to have 25 sets of eyes fixed upon you in anticipation or in boredom or in fascination or in apathy or in desperation or in admiration. And now I'm it. There's no one in the back of the room to tell me when I've forgotten to move away, not towards a student when I call on them. No one to tell me that my timing could have been better but boy were they engaged. No one to say that I need not micromanage quite so much (hi! are you reading? dinner was swell!). No one to tell me that the kids putting their trust in me day by day. And I'm steering and we're rolling right along and the path is littered here and there with confusions and perhaps the occasional inconsistency, but nonetheless we are plunging forward together into the quasi-unknown.

Here are some highlights from the trip so far:

1. Half day. A lesson dedicated to thinking about our attitudes about poetry, on not taking poetry too seriously. Some hilarious dramatic interpretations of Billy Collins' Introduction to Poetry. A student with classified with Emotional Disturbances (o the titles) smiling ear to ear and volunteering his pair to go first reading their poem from Poems for Two Voices. And what a beautiful reading they did! He's withdrawn in his other classes thus far, and sometimes he's guarded in my class, too. But, slowly, each class, he decides to put his hand up, to speak, to contribute. His main issue, meaning the main manifestation I see of his classification, it seems, is he just isn't comfortable with being asked to contribute or being singled out or called on when he isn't prepared to be. And you know what? I'm ok with that. Plenty of students feel that way. What matters to me is that I see him watching and listening, I see him taking things in, I see him doing his work, writing when he should be writing and reading when it's time, I see him enjoying himself. And for what more could I ask?

2. A non-reader. A self-identified non-reader like any self-identified non-reader I've ever met. Resistant to the bone. Resource room for math, gen. ed. for Language Arts. Reading. A book. He's reading a book. He's reading a book. A book by Walter Dean Myers about soldiers in Iraq--see, he's a military camp kid and it basically defines his being. A book I suggested at what they referred to as a Book Fair--a book he took from my hands and immediately sat down with to the chagrin of his buddies, who were now looking like boats without sails. Or sails without wind. One or the other. He sat and he looked and he was hooked. He put it on hold, hoping they wouldn't sell it to anyone else, as he hadn't brought any money today--any why would he have thought to? But come Friday, he remembered his money (after we wrote it in his planner Thursday, of course). He bought his book (or I would have bought it for the room). He rushed to show me periods before our class, and to return the other W.D.M. book, Monster, that he had been "reading." One of his cronies proclaimed that the world must be coming to an end. Indeed! A certain world is coming to an end for this kid. And a new one is starting. He told me he had read it at the end of each period so far, but just didn't have enough time. And were we going to read our independent reading books today? Well, we weren't, but now, of course we were. And we did.

Oh, so I guess go ahead and consider the Collins poem my lame excuse for a Poetry Friday post. I need to start remembering! I just don't want to get into the habit of posting at school.


It's Been a Good Ride, Bacon

But we're done. Yesterday I officially said goodbye to eating pig meat (that's an odd way of putting it, isn't it?). . . not an earth-shatteringly momentous occasion, but one worthy of mention nonetheless. I just kept picturing my puppy boy being strung up the way it goes. . . oh, the details are far too heinous to rehash. Read up yourself and then tell me you can still honestly eat that ham sandwich and pretend you don't know.

I swear it's not me to go the whole PETA route. At all. Or the whole ohhhhh I'm an awesome karmic citizen of the planet and fellow peaceful inhabitant of this earth route, either. Just a they do what? route. I think it's more of a disgust with the regulation (or lack thereof) of the slaughterhouse industry and the failings and corruption of the FDA and USDA than it is with anything else. Because, you know, the government doesn't really care so much about what you put into your body (unless heavenforbid it's a joint or some other unsanctioned--I won't dare say unprescribed--illicit drug that keeps the money rolling into the "War On Drugs") nor what they put into children's bodies via what passes as an excuse for a "school lunch," so long as the lobbyists keep them on the dole. I mean, Christ, I have to make sure my organic products are certified by a second party already. WOW what a disgustingly bourgeois thing to say. I'm just not supporting that machine anymore. . . at least as far as pork goes. One day at a time, people! One day at a time.

Edited to include: I sort of want to cry that I had to look up how to spell bourgeois. Two years ago I could have spelled it for you--backwards--on even the most compromising of evenings. OH HOW I MISS ACADEME.


Contrived, Much?

Thanks to enc over at observationmode, I came across this fantastic video. We're reading a short story about the cultural divide between a grandmother from China and an American granddaughter. Foot binding plays a role in the story, and so when I saw this film I knew it would be a perfect way to begin our discussion of unrealistic definitions of beauty today and in the past, in this country and others. Please take the time to watch:

The students were just as shocked as I was the first time I saw this video. I was taken aback when considering how absolutely the model in the magazine or on the billboard is, in fact, no longer a real person. The person at the beginning of the film no longer exists in the photo (can it be called a photo?) at the end. It is, in essence, a computer generated image. I couldn't find this person in the world if I tried. And young women couldn't ever look just like her, even if they employed every painstaking attempt at manufactured beauty they could conjure. So sad. So sad. I'm glad the students--male and female alike--seemed to genuinely appreciate our discussion, and to see how unrealistic our culture's definition of beauty truly is.

On a larger scale, they did a wonderful job making the connection between the oppression that was inherent in the practice of binding the feet of Chinese young women and the mental, spiritual and emotional oppression, the deterioration of self-confidence and love of self and self worth, that can easily take hold of women, young and old, upon constant consumption of the images like the one at the end of the video.

Thanks again, enc.


No, Alanis, It's Just Unfortunate.

^^click to enlarge!

So, today we were learning about irony. Some comedian said that title line, but I can't remember who. The only lyrics that actually are ironic, if I'm not mistaken and correct me if I'm wrong, in Alanis Morrisette's "Isn't It Ironic?" are "it's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife." Actually, I suppose the line with the guy who overcomes his fear of flying then dies in a crash is sort of ironic, too. Well, maybe not.

The students did splendidly! To begin our lesson, we read the poem "Richard Cory" for some seriously hilarious irony. They actually loved it, and :gasp: laughed--one class loved it so much that they asked me to read it again and I did at the end of the period. Starting with this
was a good way to get them thinking about why they were surprised by the poem, the element of the unexpected. We built our understanding, then, on that reaction. The key, for me, is to read it in a airy, whimsical tone that leaves them completely unsuspecting of the ending.

Next, they did some guided reading of O. Henry's short story, "The Ransom of Red Chief"--sort of an old-fashioned Home Alone-esque story of a kid getting the best of some bumbling adults. Loads of irony.

Tomorrow, as an anticipatory set, we'll look at some comics that are ironic. While searching for comics, I came across the one above and wanted to share it even though I couldn't use it for class.

Things are going well. I'm expecting a drop-in from the admin. any time now. They've been to see everyone else, including the other two new teachers. . . I keep wishing they're coming when I'm in the middle of lessons that are working! As a matter of course they'll probably end up coming in while the kids are doing independent reading or writing in their Writer's Notebooks. Such is life!


Random Acts of Music

A little Joni for a lovely Saturday. . .

I really wanted to find a live performance of "Case of You," but to no avail. I surmise that the lack of live performances of this song may be due to the fact that it is heartbreakingly sad, perhaps personally so for Mitchell. But there I go again with the authorial intention critique--wholly unreliable and deplorable theory as we English majors were told again and again. . . oh, but it's so tempting. . .


Makes and A-S-S out of U and M-E

So today there occurred a major eye-opening moment for me. We're discussing stereotyping in the midst of addressing a monologue (see below post) about a young Muslim-American who coped with racism and feared for his safety in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Now, the students with whom I work come from very privileged backgrounds. I hadn't conceived, unfortunately, of the degree to which they are still keenly aware of prejudice and racism. One brave young man shared a story. It went something like this:

PLAY: One day, I was walking along and saw a penny on the ground. It was just laying there, so I decided to pick it up.

PAUSE: So, in my naive head I'm thinking, "Oh, great, here's a story about how someone stereotyped this boy as poor. He's going to say that someone asked him if he needed that because he was poor and then we're going to have to refocus what we mean by stereotyping. These rich kids aren't taking this seriously at all."

PLAY: And so then someone goes, "hey Jew, picking up that penny"

I should be honored that this student felt safe enough to share this story in class. And shame on me for assuming that this student couldn't possibly understand what it feels like to be stereotyped, pigeonholed, or discriminated against.

Poetry Friday

Below is a poem by Carl Sandburg, a poem whose home is within my mother's old copy of Honey and Salt, circa 1963, complete with marginalia and all. It set her back a whole two dollars ninety five cents.

Is Wisdom a Lot of Language?

Apes, may I speak to you a moment?
Chimpanzees, come hither for words.
Orangoutangs, let's get into a huddle.
Baboons, lemme whisper in your ears.
Gorillas, do yuh hear me hollerin' to yuh?
And monkeys! monkeys! get this chatter--

For a long time men have plucked letters
Out of the air and shaped syllables
And out of the syllables came words
And from the words cam phrases, clauses,
Sentences were born--and languages,
(The Tower of Babel didn't work out--
it came down quicker than it went up.)
Misunderstandings followed the languages,
Arguments, epithets, maledictions, curses,
Gossip, backbiting, the buzz of the bazoo,
Chit chat, blah blah, talk just to be talking,
Monologues of members telling other members
How good they are now and were yesterday,
Conversations missing the point,
Dialogues seldom as beautiful as soliloquies,
Seldom as fine as a man alone, a woman by herself
Telling a clock, "I'm a plain damn fool."

Read the dictionary from A to Izzard today.
Get a vocabulary. Brush up on your diction.
See whether wisdom is just a lot of language.


9/11 Plans

Some teachers are choosing to address the anniversary of the day of the September 11th attacks with little direct plans dedicated to remembrance. I think it's important to revisit that day--the pain, the confusion, the horror--and the aftermath--the unity, the support, the rebuilding, the heroes--and so I've chosen to go ahead and spend the day having students go inside what this experience was like for other students of their age.

Helping students develop and examine the importance of empathy is a core belief of my teaching philosophy. For me, it's what negotiates a person's success with almost any social relationship. It helps us overcome barriers of difference and it enables us to say, if not "I understand," at least "I don't understand but I'm willing to try."

So I've chosen to have students read excerpts from a book that came out in 2002, Annie Thoms' With Their Eyes: September 11th--The View from a High School at Ground Zero. Basically, Thoms--a teacher at Stuyvesant H.S., a magnet school 4 blocks from ground zero--and her students decided to honor the experiences of various members of their community by creating a dramatic representation of their reactions to the terrorist attacks. The students conducted and compiled various interviews with other students, school teachers, staff and community members and created word-for-word monologues. The monologues are frighteningly honest and contain every nuance of speech, all of the "uhm"s and the "like"s and all the repetitions. The monologues read like free-verse poetry. The 2-Act performance served as the school's winter drama production. The book is the script.

Students will be reading monologues in small groups. Each group will have a different monologue. They will have the option of performing portions of the pieces. Our discussion will focus on the struggle and the hope found in each monologue.

If you're a teacher, what do you think you might do this Thursday with your students?

What do you all--teacher or not--think of the idea of exploring this subject with young people?


Me & Anthropologie Have a Dangerous Relationship

It's love hate. Meaning, I love the clothes and my credit card hates me. And you know what? I've got a real job. I can actually pay the credit card bill off in its entirety if I so choose. Wow, what a feeling.

I actually didn't realize I was reading the Anthro catalogue the other day, and started muttering to myself, "Wow, Urban has really gone up. But I love the direction they're going in. . ."

Here are a couple highlights of today's trip:

The military-inspired "Strategy and Tactics" coat is the perfect size for my little 5'2 frame. Sometimes I love the silhouette of a coat but try it on only to realize that the fullness completely envelopes my body. This one was just full enough to impart an interesting shape. Hooray! I can't wait to wear it. Sorry for the teeeeny pic, go here for a closer look.

Alas, I've found a cardigan that's versatile enough without being bland. The softness of the pima modal makes this "Library Nook" cardigan a major contender for 24-7 wear. I went with the grey, although the purple was delicious.

Who doesn't love polka-dot tights? And in a super thick merino wool? Bring on winter. Bring. It. On. It's hard to tell, but these are actually a dark grey. Again, I went with the grey over the brown w/ orchid spots and over the navy/white.

So now that I've scratched the Anthro itch, it's back to Target and the thrift stores for me.

Poetry. . . Saturday.

Poetry Fridays seem to be hopeless. Here's one by Billy Collins that always makes me think about those who have moved on to another existence. . .

Billy Collins' "The Dead"

And one more by Billy Collins, for good measure


You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
—Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.

You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and—somehow—the wine.

*Thanks to a certain professor, if she's reading, for bringing both of these poems to my attention and for adding Billy Collins to my ever-growing list of favorite poets. You're the best!

In Memoriam

I am so saddened by the news of the untimely death of a professor who impacted my decision to become an educator in ways I didn't know were possible, nor so genuinely important, before I met him. Selfishly, my sadness is just as equally rooted in my own disbelief that I won't be able to go to this person and speak with him about my journey in the world of teaching, to hear his words of comfort and to be supported by his wisdom, as it is a reflection of my sadness for the suffering of him and his family.

This professor was one that not every student understood. He loved building boats, folk storytelling, traveling all over to learn new things and, more importantly, to meet new people and find out how they lived. Some students groaned about his tendency to opt for a storytelling approach to learning, not quite wanting to sit quietly and patiently listen to his words. Some were not up for the challenge required by the type of thinking he was asking us to do. And some, like in every college course, just wanted to know what to do to get a good grade.

But this professor's courses were so profoundly important to those of us who knew--or at least though we knew--what he was getting at. We returned to class again and again to be filled up by his good sense and to engage in dialogue that stimulated our abilities to think critically about the pedagogical underpinnings of our practice. This was the professor to bring so many crucially important writers and educators to my attention for the first time--people whose writings formed the basis of what I do and why: Paulo Freire, John Dewey, Debbie Meier, and countless others. And this is the first professor (not the last) I had in my studies at the college who made me believe that I could create the classroom I imagined, and more. He filled us with the confidence to develop the core beliefs that would refine our visions of our purpose in schools, and the confidence to question those beliefs and purposes, to reflect on whether they rang authentic.

I can talk all about how wonderful this professor's courses were, and the myriad ways in which his lessons shaped the person I am today. Every professor changes you a little bit, each adds something to who you were and really does impact who you will become. But what was special about this guy, what makes the influence he had on us qualitatively different from that of some other professors, was his kind, unflinching way of helping us confront those questions that not only furrow the brow of one's teacher self, but one's student self, one's spiritual self, one's social self, one's whole self alike.

To recall this professor's memory is to recall a very certain peacefulness. I know that although I won't be able to go to him to speak with him about my journey, about the becoming I am doing and will be doing for some time, I can always return to what he's taught me, reflect on it, and go out into the world better because of it.

Please think of Terry and say a prayer for him.


Decisions, Decisions

I need to decide which magazines I want to subscribe to come that first paycheck. I feel like subscriptions are like a little present to oneself once a month. De


1. Vanity Fair - Love it. Always a great combo of style + journalism, not necessarily just fashion journalism.

2. The New Yorker - Witty, makes me feel smug and smart when I read it, I'll admit it.

3. W - A favorite fashion mag.

4. Real Simple - I might wait on this one until I actually have my own space and am not living at home w/ Dad (yeah, I live at home w/ Dad, btw. This guarantees my ability to save boatloads of money.)

What are your opinions? Other options you think I should consider?

I'm So Glad They Moved My Favorite Shows to 9.

So today was day 1 with the kids. It went fabulous! Kids are easy--it's adults that are a pain in the ass. It's funny how, after working with kids for so long, you start to understand the kinds of students that are there every year. You start to see the faces and hear the voices of past grades in those of today, and it's reassuring to know that the names may be different but, so often, the kid-ness remains the same.

We'll be starting, it looks like, with a short story unit. Although I was hoping to begin with memoir/personal narrative, it looks like my colleagues and I aren't exactly on the same page when it comes to writing instruction. And who can blame them? They've probably seen dozens of new teachers come & go. There are a couple things I won't be compromising on, though:

1. My students will be doing weekly word study based on root words, with only a couple of words from the week's readings. I prefer to assign less words, focusing on quality of their understanding of the few words. My colleagues prefer a more textbook-based approach, in which the words are pulled directly from the pieces students will read.

2. I will be happy to stay in sync with the other teachers in terms of what material is being addressed when, but I don't feel obligated whatsoever to follow the same plans as they make for themselves (and, in a way, one another). I will address the material with the students, but in the ways I see fit (and effective).

Needless to say, there is a social element to which one must become accustomed when entering into any new community. I have plenty of positive, peaceful people surrounding me--people I feel comfortable going to for guidance and support. And there are some that I still need to settle in with. And some that will just go about their business, bothering with me only when necessary. And I am so o.k. with that, too.


When Will

Obedient Sons & Daughters finally make it possible for me to procure something from the wonderful A/W collection?! I've been waiting long enough, already.

The Hutsons are the husband/wife duo behind the label. How adorable?:

You Know You're No Longer a College Student When. . .

You buy a slip. Ugh.

Amended to include:

-It's not really such a big deal to get your wash done

-You internalize the timing of the morning stock exchange info before NPR begins that broadcast, so you can switch to another station and avoid it altogether without missing any more talk