1. I am a Seinfeld devotee. It's kind of scary. My dad and I wouldn't be caught dead watching anything else between 7 and 8 pm any day of the week. It may be all about CSPAN Book TV on the weekends, but we need our Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer every day of the week.
2. Wine and I get along nicely. My hands-down favorite is a nice Pinot Noir. Nothing too fancy, but I'll spring for a beautiful crimson bottle of KJ any day. If I'm in the market for a white, I'll usually do a Sav Blanc. The last time I was in Napa, we discovered this amazing little winery, Clos du Val, cloister of the valley--small estate of a small valley as they put it. What I loved so much about this winery was that a) they were in many ways off the beaten Napa path and thus free of the obnoxiousness of 20-somethings trying to get wasted (yes, I'm a 20-something but I, au contraire, do not embark on wine-tasting adventures with this end in mind) and b) there was no trace of pretentiousness or snobbery in the tasting staff. I felt comfortable asking questions and they didn't scoff at my questions as if I should have already known the answers. Oh, and they waive the tasting fee if you buy a bottle, which not all of them do. Ooooh, and if you're in Sonoma instead, don't miss another favorite: Ravenswood Winery --no wimpy wines!
3. (Stealing this category from you, V!) I absolutely plan to do a PhD program sometime in the near future. As per the advice of my elders and professors, I will not do one without a fellowship or assistantship that covers tuition. Right now I'm waiting on deciding exactly the direction in which it's right to go. After a few years in the classroom I may feel that a Curriculum & Instruction PhD (NOT EED--zero interest in administration) might be right. But, I also am strongly pulled in the direction of my undergrad discipline--English. The drawback here is most English PhD programs require the candidate to have reading knowledge of two languages besides English by the end of the program--eeeeeeek! I took four years of Italian in high school and all, but 2 languages is a major commitment of a whole different breed. Other ideas include some sort of media/American studies/cultural studies/W&G studies/anthropology degree. I just need a good few years in the general ed classroom to see if that's where I want to stay or if I want to eventually pursue teaching at the post-secondary level.
4. I nannied two kids for 3 years! Right before I finished community (aka the 13th grade as we like to call it 'round here) and moved to regular college, I secured a part-time position nannying a little girl who was 1+ years old. When I left, she was 4 and had a little brother of 2.5. I was with them every morning for so many years, and I miss them terribly! They were great fun. Being with them every day really added to my knack of relating to kids of all ages, and schooled me in the intuitive ways of children--persons who can sense artifice and authenticity with great skill. I also learned a ton about babies in a supportive way; their mom was not just a great employer but is also a friend who taught me plenty of things I didn't know in a caring and nonthreatening way--including but not limited to how to split a banana into 3 easy pieces by shoving my finger in the top and to never try to calm an irate baby who won't go to sleep by continuing to talk to him about how upset and tired he is, no matter how soothing the tone. Watching--and enriching!--the process of two children's acquisition of language and observing the widening of their understanding of the world was unbelievably amazing. I miss mornings of singing Joni Mitchell and The Beatles together, and of dancing to Raffi--the very best musician for children in the whole wide world. And his philosophy on how children should be treated isn't too shabby, either. You don't know about Raffi you better ask somebody. Anyhow, I'm glad to have been such an important part in their lives, and I know that some of the times we spent together will be held fondly in their minds for always. Because of that position, I am able to say that I have actually had the privilege of working with kids quite literally from birth up to the 11th grade. I see where they've come from, I see where they're going, and my perspective has been greatly fortified by my experiences.
5. I love records. I'm lucky because my mom and dad have amassed a huge collection over the years. I think I like them because there's something so much more tangible about a record as compared to a cd. You can hold them and smell their musty smell and they have these sprawling photos of dreamers or glorious, hallucination-induced drawings. And then you open them up and they have all these surprises inside--poems and sincere dedications and whatever else the artist felt should go in there. My parents taught me early in life how to put the needle on the record carefully, and that is a skill I am thankful for.
6. Speaking of hallucination-induced anything, I'm interested in Carlos Castaneda's conversations with Don Juan as recorded in his mystical accounts, starting with The Teaches of Don Juan. It wasn't so much the Mesoamerican shamanism itself that drew me in, but the particular ideas regarding how humans can control their spiritual selves that took hold of me. The understanding of the world as something far more mystical and unknowable as we try to make it is comforting to me in some odd, eerie way. One of my favorite quotes is found in Journey to Ixtlan: "There are worlds upon worlds, right here in front of us. And they are nothing to laugh at. . . "
If you've ever read any Castaneda, yes, I have tried the do the whole dream thing and I think I did manage to glance at my hands once. I think I stopped reading the book before bed at that point. Maybe I should start again!
7. I love stationary and writing my own thank-you notes and messages of all sorts. Don't get it twisted--you won't catch me doing any stamping or anything else krafty-korner like. But I do love to write my own messages and give plain old pretty note cards for occasions as opposed to buying a card that says something disingenuous or artificial.
Ok, there you have it. Whew. I tag whoever wants to be tagged. I'm no good at that part. . .
You may have already seen it. But it's too messed up not to post. I saw it on field negro first. Please, people. I am not in the habit of making political requests. But please, go ahead and forward this to everyone you know.
Yesterday evening, we attended the Resisting Empire tour sponsored by Haymarket Books--a non-profit, progressive publisher. It was incredible. The major moment of the evening, for me, was meeting Jeremy Scahill. Thanks to the friend who introduced me, if you're reading. Silly me--I forgot to bring along my copy of Blackwater. Jeremy was an extraordinary speaker, not surprisingly. His Blackwater won the Polk award for excellence in journalism, btw.
I also had the pleasure of speaking briefly with Camilo Mejia, the courageous first soldier to refuse to redeploy to Iraq. He spent 9 months in prison. He signed my new copy of Road from ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia: An Iraq War Memoir. I can't wait to read it and will do a thorough post.
Michael Schwartz, author of War Without End: The Iraq War in Context also spoke. I still have to pick up a copy of this title. Schwartz was a powerful yet soft-spoken presence. It was an interesting contrast to Jeremy Scahill's admirable and inspiring intensity. Schwartz discussed the absolute destruction of the infrastructure of the country of Iraq by U.S. contractors--everything from the sewage system to ecosystems, from the electrical grid to the pre-invasion booming date fruit industry (via the careless disposal of routine pesticide-spraying that secured the livelihood of date farmers). The part about the date trees was reminiscent of the razing of orange groves in Palestine by Israeli forces. Not only is this type of annihilation a statement of the occupier's intention to destroy a country's ability to economically sustain themselves. It is a shot straight to the heart of a symbol of great cultural significance. It is a way to say, we are here and we don't care about what you held sacred before we came. The date trees take 15 years to mature to the point where they are an economically viable commodity. It will be at least that long after forces vacate Iraq for farmers to have any hope of returning to the successful date exportation of the pre-occupation.
Among other highlights from the speakers, Laila Al-Arian spoke passionately and with conviction about the devastation this war has brought to Iraqi families and U.S. soldiers alike. She discussed the mental anguish inflicted upon both oppressor and oppressed in the U.S. occupation. Her words reminded me of Paulo Freire's insistence that to resist oppression is to show love for the oppressor, to make the oppressor in fact more human. With 30% (at the conservative end of the estimate) of our soldiers coming back from Iraq with PTSD, the tasks they are ordered to perform while on tours of duty certainly does not a human make. And then the VA pays them the ultimate honor for their service and turns them away, classifying their PTSD as borderline personality disorder, claiming it is a preexisting condition. And let's not forget about the over 30% of Iraqi children manifesting symptoms of PTSD as well. Shouldn't it just be called TSD in that case?
I also purchased Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations. It is a compilation of oral testimony gathered from 50 veterans and it is edited jointly by Aaron Glantz and the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). Again, after reading I will be sure to post.
The Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) were present, too. At the Hofstra debates, 15 IVAW vets were arrested for peaceful civil disobedience. They had hoped to submit a question about Veteran's healthcare to be read at the debates--one that was, btw, asked at the Third Part Debate. One of their members was trampled by a police horse and his eye cavity was shattered. He is in the hospital as we speak where doctors are attempting to save his eye from sinking further into his skull. Three inches north and this brave vet would be no more. His bills will not be covered under our nation's sorry excuse for a VA. This is not a partisan issue, folks. When Americans are denied their rights to free speech and freedom of assembly, there is no red-state blue-state issue at hand. This gentleman was refused treatment by the police after the horse trampled him, and was thrown in the police van with other arrested protesters. Another woman, an NYC kindergarten teacher, was also injured by a police horse.
Here are a couple links to the reports:
Huffington Post report
Be The Media report (including videos)
Digital Journal report
On a final note, the Abolitionists were present. They have just succeeded in commuting a death sentence of a man in Georgia to life in prison. They also just secured a second stay of execution for Troy Anthony Davis, also on death row in Georgia, whose story is a perfect example of why the death penalty should be abolished. A few quick facts on Davis' case: he--a black man--was convicted of killing a white police officer but no physical evidence ever linked him to the crime. Seven of nine witnesses have come forward and signed affidavits saying they lied on the stand, some said they were pressured to do so by police. Troy was without any public defender/attorney from 1991-1996.
Needless to say, it was an invigorating weekend that left me with much more to think about than I had two days ago. I hope, after reading, you can say the same!
To begin with, I've had to admit to myself that bringing my beliefs about writing/reading workshop into this school culture that doesn't embrace it is way more of an uphill battle than I imagined. And, believe it or not, the battle is mostly with trying to get my students to care about their own writing, to own it and to produce authentic work--a battle ultimately rooted in the inadequacies of the design of the curriculum. Simple, really: when no one makes you give a shit about your writing for 7 years, you don't. And when someone comes along who tries to help you towards the goal of caring, it's hard. It's hard to take ownership when all that's been expected of you is the deliverance of writing on some terribly dull schemed up topic described as "relevant" by the lazy slobs who drummed it up, or some canned response to reading which does not require your actual reaction--but rather the reaction your teacher told you you should have had all along, silly--or some "persuasive" piece planned, written and typed in one day. I'm assuming that my students would want to pick their own topics and that they're capable of it. I'm assuming that my aims for their writing are transparent. I'm wrong. They have gone through 7 years of having others tell them when to write, about what to write, exactly how much to write down to the number of sentences and paragraphs, and when to write it. And they were ok with that, because it's simply all they knew. I'm turning their world upside down and they're frustrated and a little daunted by the challenge. I'm doing my best to assure them that I will support them. And I'm hoping that what I envision for them can become a reality.
In other news, I've had to face the truth that my students aren't who I thought they were--my assumptions were naive at best. To begin with, they are still 7th graders in many ways and I think I forgot that. They're dealing with a major transition--a huge shift in expectations, in workload, in social arrangement, in social pressures (keep reading). We spent a few minutes today talking about what they're overwhelmed or frustrated by, what they're finding challenging. One of my kids--one I'm rooting for and have been working hard with--bravely announced that he was pissed off about everyone assuming he was the same kid he was in 6th and 7th grade. I think our talk in lunch detention today had an impact. I hope.
Now the tough stuff: tonight many of my kids are attending a party at which they will be doing things I can't imagine having done at their age. Among other things, it sounds as though this party will include a mom who doesn't care about what they do and "open access to bedrooms," as one of my little informants put it. I'm cringing for their poor little brains and bodies, much too young to accommodate any of these activities. The school knows, but can't do much about it. I don't get it. But I guess I do. I'm sad. I didn't know it was like that. I reminded them all to make good choices and use their best judgment this weekend. I sure hope they listened, though my intuition tells me they don't give a shit--as I didn't, when people told me that in high school. But that's the point--in high school. Not eighth grade.
I'm lost right now. I guess it's ok to be lost, to be frustrated, to be pissed off and sad and disappointed. I just keep hoping it's all going to teach me something I need to know, to bring me to some new place I need to be--for my kids and for me. Boy, friends, I sure am on the learn this week.
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.
Consider it my Poetry Friday. And Saturday. And Sunday. It was worth waiting for, no?
Ok, and "Little Wing," for good measure. This is a beautiful recording.
Did you know that when Jimi said he wanted the cover of Axis: Bold as Love to have an "Indian" theme, he meant Native American Indian, not East Asian? Yep. So he ended up with the iconic cover by mistake:
One of my very favorite Y.A. titles--Coraline by Neil Gaiman--is being made into a stop-motion animated film! Dakota Fanning will be doing the voice for Coraline. Somehow that strikes me as just the right fit. She's just got that edge of creepy--sort of because she seems so adult but is yet so young all at the same time. And that's kind of how Coraline struck me, too. Here's my review of the book, which I read over the summer. And here's a piece from W that I was just reading on Dakota Fanning.
Of course haters come in all shapes and sizes. But it's a particular clique (yes, the dreaded teacher clique) to which I'm referring. Most teachers simply have no time to hate. These people obviously have too much time on their hands. I think I've referenced the thick as thieves group of women who spend all of 30 minutes on their plans each week--30 minutes that are, generally, comprised of deciding which handouts from the textbook to copy for the next week. Now, I have developed my ability to smile and nod with unprecedented success. But I'm tired of having to worry about who is an informant to these. . . I won't even say ladies. . . and who is not. I can't stand passive aggressiveness. I can't stand having to worry about where people's allegiances lie. So I'm giving up on worrying about it.
To epitomize how I'm feeling, here's a youtube of Kat Williams on haters. Warning, IT'S GRAPHIC. Which is partly why it's hilarious. Absolutely graphic plenty of curse words so don't watch if you don't wanna hear 'em.
It's just silly to hate on someone for wanting to do the work they do, and wanting to do it in a way that brings goodness to the lives of others, not darkness. It's just too bad.
unless an ear that hears for an open mind
Let them think you dumb.
Let them dominate the discourse.
Never reveal what shivers and boils
beneath brown tree green eyes,
unless what pleads to be said
trembles and echoes.
Ok, so here's a poem I wrote a couple years ago in college. I wrote bad poetry for a while. This is not a pity plea for you to tell me otherwise. It's just a plain old fact. Anyhow, maybe my professors, if any are reading, are laughing and thinking that they never knew me to be one to sit quietly. But it's funny to look back at the poem now, as a teacher. With all of the emphasis on getting to every student to contribute something every day, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that not every student always feels what they have to say is important. And yes, we should be validating their perspectives. And yes, we should be assuring them that their contributions are worthwhile and important to the classroom community. However, I knew as a student that at times what I had to say about something was either not topical enough to be addressed at the time or not pertinent enough to add depth to the discussion. It's a fallacy to assume that students always always always have something to say about a given idea. We need to remember what it felt like to sit in a class and silently evaluate whether or not we should speak. We need to teach our students that yes, what they have to say matters buuuuut we must teach them likewise to be thoughtful speakers who can contribute genuinely because they feel compelled to by the quality of their contribution, not just to have secured the much-sought-after participation point :::shudder::: --a point just undefined enough to dangle ominously over their heads. I don't do the participation point. I prefer to create a relationship with my students by which they feel comfortable enough to contribute without being forced or cajoled into it. This doesn't mean I don't push them towards and support them in the process of becoming more community-minded, social people. It means that nobody needs to be nagged into contributing. I'd rather not have them speak if this is how I must go about having them do so.
Guess who needs some fun new boots? Me.
Guess who picks out her bday presents for everyone else to buy? Yup. Me again. I leave nothing to the imagination when it comes to gift buying.
The question of color is an important one today. Black will absolutely be the most versatile. But who can resist the browns? The question of height is also paramount. I really want to try out a knee-high boot, but I'm 5'2, so a heel is most probable at this point. However, I'm really drawn to the flats. I'm just not sure they'll do me any favors, especially the knee-length ones.
I also am NOT buying school-wearables. I'm SICK of buying things for work. These will be only for out-of-school me. Besides Fridays, perhaps.
Here are the options as of today . . .
Michael Kors. The black is very appealing also.
Urban Outfitters. Again, hesitant to try the flats. But a good option if I choose to.
All from Aldo. The top only comes in black. The middle in various. I think I'm gravitating towards the last pair. The color is "ice." I'm assuming that means something greyish, but the pic is ambiguous. It could go that way or more towards the taupe side of things. Both would work well.
Oh, and these are sort of awesome if completely impractical . . .
Go here to look at the back. I'm no mathematician, but I'm pretty sure that the back multiplies the awesomeness by at least 10. Wish I could just paste the image. Silly Adobe. The bane of my image-copying existence.
Send any suggestions my way.
This is way old, but I don't think I've ever posted it here. Funny thing, there used to be a cut version of this on youtube but now you need to scroll ahead to about 3:15 and watch for like the next 45 seconds. Watch carefully . . .
Did you see his eyes? Go back and watch again. Despite the outdatedness of this clip, it's such a major thing when the facade is broken, if only for a millisecond. It demonstrates that, indeed, just as Orwell had it, the overwhelmingly scary presence of doublethink exists at even the highest levels of power. I guess in some cases it is absolutely imperative for one to carry out one's orders.
Let's just pray that Sarah "I'll-Be-Alive-For-Jesus-Christ's-Second-Coming" Palin's "goshdarnit we're mavericks" blackwhite newspeak doesn't fool anyone.
The God of Broken Things
by Yusef Komunyakaa
He's in a lopsided heaven at Maggie's
Junk Shop. Objects of wood, iron, ivory,
Of veneer, lead, stone, glass, flimsy
Cardboard, of tin, brass, bronze . . .
He could go on forever fixing
Cracks, fissures, dents, fractures,
Rasping & gluing together what is
Unheard-of with what can never be
Broken or hurt beneath the architecture
Of planned obsolescence. Objets d'art
& bric-a-brac mended with ratty hemp.
The secret space the butterfly
Screw opens wings inside a heart
Made to slip into a dream. He browses
Gutted appliances, & knows if toenailed
Right a murderous thing is almost new.
"People have (with the help of conventions) oriented all their solutions toward the easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must hold to what is difficult; everything alive holds to it, everything in Nature grows and defends itself in its own way and is characteristically and spontaneously itself, seeks at all costs to be so and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must hold to what is difficult is a certainty that will not forsake us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it."
I've said it before and I'll say it again--so often, we don't choose what we read. What we read chooses us. This one came right on time.
While I love and believe in reading aloud to my students, I am NOT a fan of whole-class readings of texts, meaning students volunteer to read. It's an eternal struggle for me to figure out ways to have them collectively read a text in class without us doing it as a whole group. Almost always, if we are reading in class, the students are working in groups to practice some sort of reading strategy and record on graphic organizers. Sometimes I do guided reading groups. But when I do the strategies in small groups, the students have been super-focused on the ones we've been learning about--visualizing, questioning the text, etc.--to the detriment of their comprehension in some cases. So, I planned to have us read as a whole group and then turn & talk/pair/share whatever you're calling it in order to practice summarizing/retelling today. Meh. Just meh. I was bored. They were bored. No one--meaning other students and me alike--really likes having to listen to students read, even if they are ok readers and volunteer. I know this isn't an effective way to make our way through text. I know this, and we did it anyway.
I think, in part, I wasn't listening to my own voice regarding best practices. My ICS teacher and I had had a discussion last week about them being too focused on the strategies, so I guess I pulled back into a way too traditional approach in an attempt to balance it out. I knew this wasn't an authentic way for me to teach, and I did it anyway. They did what I asked, and they were ok about it, but did it benefit them? Meh.
The main issue here, I'm beginning to think, is I was expecting students to move from me modeling a strategy to them applying it to texts they need to comprehend without enough guided practice. I haven't been spending enough time after I model to allow them to try with mentor texts that aren't the focus of our work for this short story unit. I've been rushing to keep up with colleagues, but why? It's not their business nor their place to tell me what my students need nor when. I'm not saying they are even making it so. I'm just succumbing to some sort of could-be pressure. And that is silly and foolish.
So I'm ready to not do this lesson again. I'm confident that, with a little more time practicing together, I can support my students through applying reading strategies to the texts we're working with without them becoming so focused on getting the strategy right that they forget the text.
This, of course, brings us to the argument THE NANCIE makes in The Reading Zone. She says stop with the strategy instruction now and just let them read, Goddamnit (not in so many words). This, of course, comes along with the implication that they should at all times being reading what they choose to read. And the more and more I see a sea of readers plunging into their independent reading books, the more I agree wholeheartedly. You should see them. They sit and they read. The non-reader moved away from his two cronies today because he was distracted. Let me repeat. The non-reader moved away from his two cronies today because he was distracted AND WANTED TO READ HIS BOOK. Small victories, small victories.
Tomorrow, it's Writing Workshop. I've got some great ideas lined up for them to start analyzing their audience for editorials they're getting ready to draft. Will update.