Thursday, September 30, 2004

Thank goodness it's almost Friday

I am worn out, and can't wait to rest up for next week.

Today I began "teaching." I have that in quotation marks because it still feels a little surreal that I'm so in charge of everything in that room. Although yesterday I really felt like a teacher, grading eighty papers in one night and reconfiguring my seating charts. Whee! Anyway, so I taught a mini lesson on the four-square method. The class I always have at the end of the day actually got through everything, and I had about ten extra minutes. I did a little more read-aloud. The students seem to enjoy it; some of them are very vocal and participatory when I ask questions about the story. That's exciting!

My big class is still a huge problem. I literally got in three minutes of instruction in a forty-five period. And it's really going to start hindering the children that ARE behaving; the loud ones are so loud that I have no choice but to interrupt class to "discipline." I've got to get some kind of chart set up. And a consequence list too, and then begin acting on it. Oh, and remind me to implement the bathroom signout log.

I kept one of the rowdy students after class; they had lunch so it was okay. I talked to him about needing respect. He is really disruptive, but he's always wanting to tell me that someone is doing something wrong (like talking about his mama, or shooting rubber bands). So I told him about turtle control, where he pulls a 'shell' up so that nothing can get to him. Also, I said, "if someone is bugging you, talk to me after class, or even write me a note. But I need you to focus on me so that you can learn. I'm here for you, I want to help you get out of my room to 7th grade, but you have to be ready to learn, to respect, and be prepared." He was very quiet and seemed, if not contrite, willing to agree to improvement. We'll see how tomorrow goes. But I was happy with the way it worked out, and plus that was the first 'teacher-student conference' I've done.

Please, if you'd all be so kind, cross your fingers and hope that I stay patient and see even a modicum of improvement in all my classes next week. In other words, think good/happy thoughts for me. Thanks. :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Silence means NO TALKING!!

I said this phrase fifty times today, easy. "ZERO! NOTHING!" I wasn't yelling, but I was speakly a little loud and definitely sternly. My throat is the most sore it's been since school started. Interestingly, it was never sore last week; I hardly ever raised my voice.

Anyway, today went alright. Last night I went to the teacher supply store (ooh! I could spend all day there, and all my paycheck too, I'm sure), and got a whole bunch of materials to begin decorating. So I lugged it (my backpack, a rolling backpack, AND a big-ass plastic handle shopping bag) on the train and the bus and up the stairs to my room. I only had time to do a couple things, but I'm planning to stay after school tomorrow and get a big jump.

I didn't get much accomplished today in class. One class had time to do a teeny lesson on fact and opinion. I'm still addressing tons of behavior problems. All the children throw paper all over the place, with their hands or even rubber bands. Oh man, does it pisses me off, on several levels. One girl was struck on the eyelid with flying paper today; I see things arcing through the air during class; there is paper and crap all over the floor. As I tell them, it's extremely disrespectful. Then they're all, so and so is hitting me! or talking about my mama! or doing something else! It's hard not to just say, oh shut up, let it go! Of course I would never say it, but that's what goes through my mind. If that makes me a bad person, well, there you go.

Um. Now I have to start figuring out what to put on my bulletin board, next THURSDAY. Shit. I think I can have them do a four-square write and then use that to rewrite their autobiographies. But that means that in a week I have to teach the four-square thing and give them time to do a couple drafts and revisions. It will be a tight squeeze. I'll just have to do my best. God, the stress NEVER ENDS.

Why am I using so many ALL CAPITALS?

Monday night I was just worn the hell out, and I slept really hard. But last night I hardly slept, again, and was awake at 5.30. You remember how much I need and love sleep, right? Sleep is like necessary gold to me; precious currency to live normally.

Yeah. Going to bed now. See ya.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The world turns upside down again

Hello everyone, welcome to week three of my world.

On Monday morning, before leaving to go teach more Spanish (armed with not only a week's plans but a pop quiz too!), I got a voice mail telling me that I had been placed. For real this time, permanently.

I am teaching 6th grade English/Language Arts (ELA) at IS-, in Queens. I was very relieved to discover that it's still a little less than an hour travel time--a train and a bus, plus another bus four blocks if I'm lazy. They threw me in to teach third period (what has turned out to be the rowdiest class, too)...and I had NOTHING. Nada. I introduced myself, talked about Seattle, and gave a random homework assignment, to write a one-page autobiography. That way I could learn about the students, and get a glimpse of their writing skills.

Today I reviewed my rules--Respect and Be Prepared. Simple, but thorough--respect yourself, other students, the teacher, property belonging to yourself, others, and the teacher. Respect means listening, following directions, keeping hands and feet to self, etc. Be Prepared physically--in uniform with all of your class materials: three writing utensils, notebooks, etc; academically--study, do work, have homework completed; mentally--be ready to learn! Your brain should be 'on' when you walk in my door.

Let's see. So, because ELA is comprised of both a reading workshop and writing workshop, I have each class for two periods. Thus, I only have three classes. Fewer names, better connections, one hopes. That one rowdy class pisses me off, but I think I'm wearing them down. I paraded them back to the hallway today, and had them stand up to get quiet. Tomorrow I'm finally bringing in a whistle. Take that, chatty eleven year olds!! Bwah. And the table point chart thing is still developing.

Somewhere between a quarter and a half of each class is actually good students, who pay attention and attempt to be on task. That helps me mentally, better than nothing.

Things change. And so it goes.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Another "exciting" weekend

See, "quotation marks" is shorthand for "sarcasm."

Last night, I stayed in on purpose to watch tv. Today I attempted to buy my math textbook...sadly, the bookstore is closed on weekends. Before you think I made a rash decision to even try, I did call last night to check the hours. I could have sworn the message said open from 9-2 on the 26th. But it must have said the 25th. Eh, at least I got a nice walk out of it. At least that's what I told myself. I stopped in to the library and gotta few more books, then to the grocery store.

And then, I just sat in, had some nachos, and didn't really do anything. Tomorrow is Sunday. I'll finish my homework (which I did most of last night), work on my plan for the week, and watch me some ALIAS!

What's your AQ?

Because the commercials were just too strange, I went to the website. It's a quiz and then an analysis. My label turned out pretty accurate: Inward Inspirational Seeker, who is: curious, open-minded, low-maintenance, cautious, sensation-seeking. This is what else it says:

"You learn best by placing yourself in new situations--stretching your comfort zone helps you to develop a clearer picture of who you really are. You are a rare breed who places equal importance on having physical and mental adventures--you are conscious of their distinct benefits. As a thinker and experiencer, you take precautions before engaging in potentially dangerous activities. Above all, Inward Inspirational Seekers are interested in the intrinsic rewards all adventure has to offer--peace of mind, perspective and personal growth."

Aw. Eerily accurate. It's like they were reading my blog! Ha. I love personality tests. And I love adventures! Man, I can't wait to travel again, some more! All these great fares have been advertised lately, but I have no money. Travel will have to wait til spring, possibly summer.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Oh, hurrah, it is Friday.

Wow, what a week this has been. And to think, every week will be like this, for the rest of time!Well, for the next eight months. Oy. I'm tired. How I wish every weekend were three days.

Today went okay. It started off differently; apparently I didn't check in soon enough and so the schedule guy put another teacher reserve person in "my" room. I started to freak out a little bit, because of all the effort I've been putting in to my classes. I created seating chart templates last night, have been putting things up on the walls (even though I have no backing paper), and really feel ownership and responsibility for the classes and subject. When I talked again to the schedule guy, I let him know that, kind of, and he agreed to keep me there. I can't say that I didn't perk up a teeny bit at the idea of letting the whole thing go and not worrying about learning Spanish. But I also felt a pang of, hey, wait, this is mine, I've been working hard to do this and I'm making progress.

I was thrilled to note the other day that on Fridays, I don't see the monster class. However, one or two other classes are still rather unmanageable. Here's to hoping that time will wear them down. My homeroom class has turned out to be the best-behaved. They're still rowdy, but they seem to enjoy me and so respond to my requests.

Thursday, September 23, 2004


That's what I gasped when I looked over at my alarm clock--it said 8.32! The alarm was still set, but never went off. Crap, crap, crap. On a positive note, I was better rested today!

My first period class was covered for me, and I had a second-period prep today. I arrived at school at 9.30, and had some time to organize my room even more. I brought some maps today, and put up a few more vocab words on the wall. It helped make the room more homey, because frankly it's totally cold and unfriendly. The first day or two I never thought to turn the lights on, because I'm silly like that, and of course that makes a nice difference too.

Today I spent an entire period with one of my classes just with discipline. I had to wait awhile with them lined up in the hall, but then after they'd come in, it got too loud, so we went back to the hallway. And nothing got done at all. Which is a shame, but one hopes that it will build the blocks for better tomorrows. Heh, what a cheesy line. True nonetheless.
Indeed, my homeroom class, who took a long time to calm down at the end of the day, was much clalmer this afternoon.

The monster class continues to be tweaked, meaning that students are coming in and going out. One young man was there today who was completely off. Another teacher let me know that she's going to try and get him out of the class. And the dean and principal drop in now and again, and even they have to be super stern to get the students under control. But they DO get quiet for those two...and as soon as the real authorities leave, the noise level creeps up again.

So, things continue to be interesting. I'm tried in a new way many times every day. But again, I pretty much expected it, and so I'm working within that.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


This is what I say all day long, in vain mostly. Actually, all week. But it's early yet, I'm not giving up.

Today was a decent day. I had three classes in a row, one prep, one class, two preps, and one class. The monster class was there third period today. I made sure to get the dean over, to let him know about the not-enough-desks/too-many-children situation. He brought me more chairs and took four students to transfer out. A bit later the principal came and took a few more students out. It was certainly an improvement and relief to have places for all the students to sit. They were definitely still noisy and rowdy, but it was okay. Not a disaster.

When I got in to school this morning, I asked about this class--will I be staying there? Do they have a "real" teacher for it at all? And the guy who assigns us was like, no, so yeah, you'll probably be staying there. Are you okay with that? I said, well, this week I'm fine. But since I don't speak Spanish, I would begin to worry about teaching it after that. So he knows, not like that will likely change anything, but oh well.

Thus, I realized that I have to begin thinking of myself as a real teacher. A "real teacher" with "real classes" and "real problems." All of that "well, I'm in the Reserve Pool and they're supposed to place me and so I'm all temporary and not really a teacher and hello no one told me I would be dealing with full-grown teenagers!" is out the freaking window.

And with that, I began my quest to set down behavior management rules. I put signs on the doors, one saying Enter (in English, Spanish, and French) and one Exit. That way I can control how the class comes in. No more kids running in and out willy-nilly! I made all my classes line up in the hallway, explaining that I would know they are ready when they are silent, facing forward, and in a straight line. All of the groups grumbled and took some time to get ready. And I only made one class do it all over again when they were noisy inside the classroom. During a prep, I went to the resource room and made a sign about how to enter the classroom, and taped it on the wall beside the Enter door. I'll have to go through it with some new classes tomorrow, but I think it will definitely serve me well to begin making rituals and routines. All the same, cross your fingers for me.

Today, as well as a bit yesterday, I had the students pair up to practice their letters. I was able to circulate and hear them and help them practice. That felt good, because I could see that even the ones who were distracted were still making attempts to work, at least when I was standing at their desks. And some students needed help and so I was able to do that. Again with the real teacher thing.

I think I forgot to mention that before, how on Monday I kind of had a little inner freak-out. This week is the first time I have been in a classroom, by myself, all on my own (god, in so many ways!), all day, actually teaching. It's still surreal. I'm actually a little worried that I'm starting off too mean/cold/sarcastic. I don't want them to think I'm bitter and turn against me just for my personality or lack thereof. That's different than being just a plain bad teacher. Which is of course another worry. Although honestly, at this point, being a first-year teacher, AND being thrown into a subject which I know nothing about, I totally expect to be a bad teacher, or at least not be a good teacher. No one is a good teacher at the beginning of their first year.

All of this introspection this week has really surprised me, because I'm handling it fairly well. I'm totally swimming, you know? Obviously, this is a highly-stressful situation, but I haven't cried or lost my temper (though I did snap once yesterday with the monster class), and I feel like, as much as is possible, I've been able to keep a fairly level head. Frankly, I'm surprised and rather pleased and impressed with myself. I knew this was going to be hard, and it is, and that's that.

What's totally killing me is not being able to sleep. Sunday I tossed and turned. Monday I tossed and turned most of the night. Last night, even though I felt ready to drop at 6 but stayed up til 11, I tossed and turned most of the night. My mind just will not stop whirring. Singing "heads, shoulders, knees, and toes" (because I am trying to do that as an activity to learn the Spanish words), or thinking of activities, or of situations in which I performed poorly, or spoke harshly or too sarcastically, or thinking about what to do with my room, or thinking about what kinds of rules or procedures I might use. Etc, etc, etc, forever and some more, until the stupid alarm goes. All morning my whole body felt half-dead from sheer fatigue and exhaustion. This happened most of the summer too, with the summer school classroom experience. Clearly I am scared about that and will very soon be thinking about chemical aids to help me zonk out.

Congrats Chip & Kim!

Hurrah, nice people won the Amazing Race! Check it out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Si, Habla Espanol!

Whew! Through with day two.

I started from scratch with the first class today, because first period yesterday was a bust. After that, another class came in and had already done the colors. So at the end of second period, I suddenly thought to myself, wait, I had a second-period prep yesterday, what's going on? Yikes. There was no class third period, so I visited a mentor down the hall, and she explained the schedule--eight periods a day, and the kids all stay together, based out of their homerooms. Each day has a different schedule.

Altogether, today was alright. I did some review of the alphabet, an evaluation of yesterday's "lesson," if you will. I asked them to turn to neighbors and then spell out their names, using Spanish letters. It kind of failed. They could copy down the spelling of pronunciations that I had put on the board, but many of them didn't know how to say them. Or at least they needed prompting and reminding. So maybe tomorrow I'll go over more vocabulary and also then spell the vocabulary words.

Oh, and the dean of the floor has an office next to this room, so he comes in sometimes to address a behavior problem that he spots. Later, during a prep, I was chatting with him, and told him I don't actually speak any Spanish. He was all, no way, you sound like you do! He looked impressed and I was very flattered. At least I am teaching the kids authentic-sounding Spanish basics. Though today I started to worry that I was using an Italian accent/style in some words.

The classes mostly responded to my "Silencio, por favor!"s. They would at least get quieter, if not completely silent. One or two students would automatically repeat it, though, because we'd been doing that with other things. I felt kind of bad about that, it was apparently misleading for some students. But like I said, most of them are getting the hang of it.

I had three prep periods/lunch in a row, then one class. The day was sort of spoiled for me by that last class. It was the huge one from first period yesterday. It's actually two classes, and another teacher told me that one of them is for special needs. (Glad I got the memo on that. Like subs have any expectations otherwise, right?) But good lord, it was a disaster. Kids getting up, walking around, out the door and back in, nonstop noise. The students in the front of the room (which were almost all girls, I think) were paying attention, and were also disrupted at the noise from the back half of the classroom. I went over the alphabet with them, because they got nothing yesterday. For about ten seconds during that recitation, I had the entire class's attention, and there was no extraneous noise. Before we even got to Z (zeta--seta), a couple students began whispering/chattering/talking again. My throat hurts. They mostly ignored the "Silencio"s. I was at a loss, I was very irritated at them, at the lack of equipment in the classroom, and of course, angry and disappointed in myself for not getting control of them at all, let alone effectively. I need more tools. And token economies and behavior charts are all well and good, but for a substitute to eighth-graders, I have no power. I don't know if I'll be in that classroom tomorrow, I certainly don't know any names to note or report the many behavior problems.

So I'm trying to let that anger and disappointment go, and remember that I felt like I was making a little progress with the other classes. I will try to ask for help about that huge disruptive class. I might even let go of the Spanish and try something different. I can't help almost wishing I would go to another classroom tomorrow, so that I can just forget the problem. Because, like I said yesterday, it is not legal for me to be hired for this position. The school supposedly doesn't have any vacancies, although the Spanish classes have yet to have a permanent teacher. But what if the region can't find me a permanent spot for awhile and this school keeps me as a long-term sub...god, can I teach Spanish for more than a week?

Monday, September 20, 2004

Holy crapola!

I went to Jamaica to the junior high. They put me in a class of 8th grade Spanish. SPANISH. I speak FRENCH. Oh god.
The first period was awful, because I had nothing. I talked about some Frenchy things out of desperation, and even brought out the MadLibs. Yikes.
Thankfully I had a prep next, and I visited an experienced Spanish teacher. Thank goodness, she was wonderful and gave me some ideas and materials (like chalk, of which there was none in the classroom, nor books, charts, overhead, anything). She ran through the pronunciations with me, and so after that it was much better. I felt fairly comfortable the rest of the day, at least with the saying things in Spanish part. It was super basic--alphabet, common phrases, days of the week. But these kids were brand new to Spanish, so they knew even less than me, hallelujah.
It was an exhilarating day, because it was my first as a real teacher, on my own in front of actual students all day long. A little scary, but I just jumped in and did my best. There were issues with talking and disturbances, some classes more than others. But I could also tell that I was reaching some of the students. More than half of each class, if not more, was actually paying attention and participating. Which was definitely a relief. Though still difficult, because the loud ones made it hard for the good ones to hear me.
Overall, it was a huge learning experience. I feel like I can do anything now, sort of. I'd love to go back to them the rest of the week, because all of them were like, are you our new teacher? are you another sub? do we have a real teacher? I would love to become their permanent teacher and work with them--there's tons of potential. On the other hand, it's not fair to give them a Spanish teacher who doesn't know Spanish! Not to mention the fact that I'm only certified to teach up to sixth grade.
Must get to bed and rest up for tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Dang, this just isn't very interesting, isn't it?

This morning it was brightly sunny with a chilly wind. I walked the other direction on 71st for the first time, and walked for a few blocks on Metropolitan Ave. Discovered another library and a bakery. The rest of the day, I worked on my homework assignment and watched XMen2. It was cold in my room! My roommate came up with the brilliant idea of pouring some olive oil on the window chains so that I could close the window. Still, brr.

Apparently the Emmys are on tonight; I had no idea. For a moment there, I thought about putting it on, you know, in the background. But honestly, I have zero interest in award shows. So I don't even care. Bliss in ignorance, as they say.

From RE: blogging about blogs

1. RE: Your blog – when did you start and what made you do it?
I believe that the very first one...wait, now I can't remember! I started one through UW, it was fairly dull--just papers and thesis updates. The big one was through GeoCities, which I opened at the end of my junior year of college (2000), to serve as a travelogue during my study abroad in Paris. That way I wouldn't have to send out a bunch of mass emails all the time, and it also would serve as another journal/photo album of the trip. I just kept it going after that, including a big trip in 2001, and my AmeriCorps experiences, all the way up to quitting my job early this year.
During AmeriCorps, I started a team website on GeoCities so that the families and friends back home could see and read about everything we did. They seemed to appreciate it.
I was about to run out of room at GeoCities and then happened upon Blogger. I wish I'd found it sooner!
2. RE: Someone else’s blog: Is there someone who runs a blog that inspired or inspires you to start and maintain your own? Who are they and what is so special about them?
No, not really. If I think about it, the other blogs I read make mine look quite pathetic in comparison.
3. Show me the linkage! Give us some blog linkage that contain some of your favorite posts and content – - who are they? Why are you linking them?
Most of my favorite bloggers are writers for Television Without Pity---Pamie, Sars, Regina Rouge. They are brilliantly funny and intelligent women, which makes for excellent reading. Not to mention my college friend Rae, who is not only a prolific blogger, but an artist too!
4. Are you ever guilty of blog neglect? Do you feel bad? Guilty? Do you just NOT blog at all? Or try and fill your blog with stuff just so that there are regular updates? What is a busy blogger to do?? Do tell!
Sometimes I haven't had time or equipment to update, but mostly I can fill a post just fine. Now, the quality is another matter. I've yet to master the topical, well-written entry. My excuse is that this is more of a journal than a writing portfolio; also that I figure no one's actually reading it. I used to address posts to my invisible readers. That's always fun.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Childhood fears

From this site: Do you remember what you were afraid of when you were a little child? What brought it on? How did you deal with it?

There are two that immediately spring to mind, and are linked. The first is dark--I've never been afraid of the dark, but I used to scare myself when there was dark behind me and light in front of me. One of the houses I lived in during my childhood had a downstairs bathroom. The stairway was an angled one; you know, four steps to a landing, then the rest of the flight at a right angle to the right. The light bulb was on the (second-story level) ceiling at the landing. So, coming upstairs from the bathroom (which was right at the foot of the stairs), there was a mass of blackness at my back, and a line on the landing whereupon it became bright. That never ever failed to freak me out; I always imagined how scary it would be if something was behind me in that dark. Not necessarily that I thought something was behind me, and not like I had a real imagination to create a darkness monster; the thought that an unknown and unseen creature could be there, and could then chase me, is what scared me.

The second thing I was "afraid of" was being chased. To some extent, I suppose I still am; no one really chases me anymore, though. My brother and I, or friends and I, used to always run around. There was always a point when I was being pursued, that the anxiety came to a head and the fun crossed into true fright. Of course I knew that there was no danger, it must have been instinctual. Usually I emitted some primal shriek, or at least wanted to. I don't know, it's hard to explain, but it almost always got to me if I was being chased long enough. Perhaps some of it was fear of actually being caught, but I also freak out about my footing. Like my scariest dreams have always been the ones where I can't run away or scream. So when I was being chased around the house, part of me was frightened that I would trip or suddenly not be able to move when needed. As I said, very possibly some kind of primal instinct.

A Long Weekend

Well, it certainly does make for interesting current events when hurricanes dump their residual rains along the Northeastern seaboard (or whatever you call this area). It's a good thing I did not leave my bedroom/apartment today. Speaking of hurricanes, my teammate Jess is heading to Florida to help with Red Cross disaster relief efforts. Good luck, be safe, Mwah! I would so love to do Red Cross again; it's a terribly unique experience to be involved in disaster relief. Someday, I will. Probably sometime in a summer, or when I'm all old and retired, like most of the rest of the recruits. No, really.

On the train yesterday there was this dude. He was completely a punk from the 80s, by which I mean the movement, not the derogative name. He had a mohawk (though it was short), a plaid button-down complete with rolled short sleeves, tight-fitting black jeans that were just barely highwaters, white socks, and clunky thick-soled black shoes. Oh, and eyeliner. I vacillated between being impressed at his efforts, or rolling my eyes at his efforts.

Yesterday I went shopping for more "household furnishings" as Money calls it--two more blankets!--and visited with two friends. In the last few days I watched some movies--Lost in Translation, which was neat, Bill Murray is the shit; 50 First Dates, which was quite cute and funny; and the newest production of Oklahoma, starring none other than our favorite stage and screen hunk Mr Jackman. Dude, three hours is a long time. And as much as I love Hugh, I like the original film version better--if just because Shirley Jones is the all-time queen of movie musicals.

This has been a very long long weekend. I had an entire weekend, and then another one right away. Four days! And it's only been three so far, but it feels very long. I suppose this makes me ready to face a new school and age group on Monday. I've actually been printing out worksheets and activities in anticipation of the event, in case I need something to do with a class. Not like I can run off copies or transparencies of any of them, but it does help me feel a little more prepared. And I'd almost forgotten about MadLibs! I'm all about educational fun.

Let's see. Like I said, it's a long and quiet weekend. Tomorrow I have to finish my homework assignment, which is a science lesson plan. I believe that's the only thing we have for Monday; I hope so, anyway.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Friday Forum, from the Daily Meme

Because I am such a lame writer at times, I was excited to find this site with prompts and things. Now we can get to know each other better. Woo! This one jumps right in.

1. Starting with your head down to your toes, what health/beauty products have you used/applied to your body so far today? [For example, shampoo, toothpaste, makeup, cologne/perfume, nailpolish, etc.]
Let's see. Dove shampoo and conditioner, Suave kiwi bodywash, Suave toner, Oil of Olay moisturizer, some eyeliner, Maybelline mascara, Cherry Ice lip balm, and Hawaiian Ginger body spray. I do my best to be minimalist.

2. Do you have a ritual when you take a shower, such as washing your hair first or maybe even brushing your teeth in the shower? If so, what? Do you prefer baths or showers, usually?
I always wash my face first, then shampoo and rinse. Then put in conditioner, let it sit while shower gelling, then rinse. Then I'm done! Wow, that's exciting. I almost never ever take a bath; maybe one or two in the past three years or something. I like to take showers at night so that I can sleep more in the morning.

3. How do you get yourself up and going in the mornings? Coffee? A hot shower? Breakfast? Would you consider yourself a morning person at all? When do you usually get up?
I have never been a morning person, nor will I ever be. I don't ever drink coffee, though sometimes I wish I did so that I could have a caffeine rush. I can't stand the taste of coffee and I can't afford it either. In college I realized that caffeine gives me a headache, so I stopped drinking soda as much as possible. To "wake me up," I just wash my face. During the second round of AmeriCorps, we stayed in a cabin in the woods. It had no heating or hot water, but it did have running water. So I washed my face every morning in ice-cold water, got used to it, and have ever since used it as a natural pick-me-up. Man, that sounds cheesy.

4. Do you normally eat breakfast? What do you usually have? Do you usually make it at home or go out for breakfast, or do you prefer not to eat breakfast?
As stated above, sleep is always more important in the mornings. So I take the least amount of time necessary, and breakfast is not a necessity, at least not at home. In previous jobs, I brought food to snack on when I got to work, like granola or an english muffin. Lately I've mostly ignored breakfast, which sucks because I get hungry pretty early. So, I'd like to eat breakfast, but I can't afford to go out, and besides I'd like to be healthy-ish. If I ever get my act together, I'll bring a cup of cereal for the morning before school starts.

5. What does your alarm clock sound like? A buzzer, music, or something else? Do you ever set your clock fast so that you push yourself to get ready sooner? Are you usually on time, late, or somewhere in-between?
I noticed way back in elementary school that alarms have a way of getting in my head. Music would become part of whatever dream I was having, not wake me up. And buzzers just irritate the shit out of me. So what I do is basically jolt myself awake with loud music/radio. I've never really seen the point of setting the clock ahead or back or whatever, because I just calculate what time it actually is. I'm pretty good at being on time, though I have a tendency to let time go and be almost late. Just cause I'm so tired and sometimes want to stay in bed.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Funny things

More interesting stuff that I found when pawing through my myriad belongings.

The "Important Safety Instructions" for some electronic appliance I bought a couple years ago:
1. Read these instructions.
2. Keep these instructions.
3. Head all warmings.
4. Follow all instructions.


And an old comic from the Western Washington University newspaper that cracked my shit up:
"Excuse me, how do I get to Parks Hall?"
"Go straight until you see the giant orange mosquito, turn left, go past the beastiality sculpture. Don't let it scare you. When you come to the lump of rusted metal, turn right. It's past the cube, and past the UFO crash site. When you get to the bowling ball people, it's right in front of you."

Funny 'cos it's true.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

My Ox is BROKEN!

Bwah! If you haven't been watching The Amazing Race, watch the season finale next week.

I have a new twitch. It's in my right eyebrow, and feels like a tremble/tremor thing. Oh, so fun. And get this, my quads and outer thighs have been super sore. The only possible explanation I can come up with is that the first day especially, I kept crouching down to talk to the new kindergartners on their level. Like a day full of squat lunges. OW, it hurts. Especially when I'm about to walk down a flight of stairs, I wobble a bit like an old lady. Very weird.

So now there are four days stretching out before me. What shall I do? I would love to get a library card...they require all kinds of crazy ID and stuff, so wish me luck. How I miss free books. And this local branch has a shitload of DVDs too. Ooh, I'm all excited and can't wait to go to the library. What a nerd.

I wish I could try and prepare for next week. I feel like I should go shopping for supplies, but...I don't know what to get, and I still don't really have the money yet. I did get a tiny paycheck today, made to HULIE. Assuming that the next one will be a real-sized one, I should be able to start getting back on my feet, financially. Mostly I want to get ahead on my credit card payments. The past six or seven months, I keep charging as much I'm paying off, so the principal hasn't changed much, which means as time passes I'm paying interest on interest. Grr. My only solace is that this is a recent and desperate measure; I wouldn't have been able to live on the meager income otherwise.

Hurrah for Long Weekends

I am so thrilled and relieved to have such a long recovery period from the first week of school. And I'm not even a real teacher yet!

I was in the hallway with the girls from this class. I was 'quizzing them' on hand-washing (it was more interesting than it sounds, especially to five-year-olds), and actually taking an authority role. In the middle of it, one of the girls goes, "I love you." Aw. Usually that kind of thing takes a little more time and more personal interaction, but it feels nice all the same. Figures, because...

On my way home today, I got a message to report to a junior high in Jamaica (the part of Queens, not the island) on Monday. Sadly, that's not a permanent position either, but it will most definitely be educational! I'm trying to think of other classroom management, because in early elementary it's cheesy things like "One, two, three, eyes on me!" or "Stop, Look, Listen." Which I've never been able to bring myself to do. I like the idea of a hand signal, but that seems a bit juvenile too. Not to mention the fact that I'll probably just be subbing around the school or something. Dude, it will be tough.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The first days of school

So, remember, I'm a not-really-para in a kindergarten classroom at my temporary school. Yesterday the children came to school for the first time, for a very short day. All the parents brought them up to the classroom and helped them settle in. Many took pictures and/or video. Crazy technology craze. I helped welcome them, put on name tags and start an activity. After that, I didn't really do anything of much value to the classroom, just errand-type things for the teacher. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't teaching.
In the afternoon, I went over to a first-grade classroom to help out. Again, I did errand things. Tried to help out with managing the kids during "independent practice." Some responded to me, some kept on being hyper six-year-olds.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

School memories

Tomorrow the children of New York City begin school! The ones in public school, anyway. Like I said, I'll be working with kindergartners and first graders this week. Do you remember your first day of school? I don't. Sadly, I don't have a lot of specific memories about being in elementary school. Let's see what I can conjure up.

First of all, my parents applied to get me in to kindergarten early. Since my birthday is in November, I wouldn't be able to start until the year that I was already five. But when I was four, they were all, hey, she's smart, let's get her in school. That must have been...1984? Yeah. Anyway, so they took me to the University of Washington for testing by the psychology or sociology department. I know all of this because I have the report about it. The tester's description of me is a little depressing--a quiet, sad-looking little girl with dark hair. I had just moved, so I didn't know my address. Jeez, I was a toddler with newly-divorced parents--you can bet your ass I was confused about a lot of things on the home front. Anyway, they administered the Wechsler scales! We just learned about those this summer. I scored a vocabulary IQ of 106 (but the tester noted that I appeared to be having a bad day and that I was probably much better normally), and performance IQ of 123, and an overall IQ of 115. Neat! So I made it, my scores averaged higher than my age, up to six years in one or two categories. On I went to school.

I know that in kindergarten I was a big ol' knowitall (some things never change!), and I was always telling people how to spell things. I remember the big swing next to the giant cherry tree in the playground. I believe that we tried to learn how to use chopsticks. I did most of a second year in kindergarten because I was so young. Actually, I just found the 'report card' from my first K teacher, and she wrote that even though I was advanced for the level, I was too young, and recommended that I stay one more year. My parents must have been okay with that. But I remember that in the spring of the second K year, they asked me if I wanted to move back up to first grade. I was like, okay.

Suddenly going to another classroom was weird. I believe that I felt out of place, because I didn't know how they did anything, they were already set in their routines and I was clueless. For example, there was a class loom, and all the kids were on a list for when they would have a turn on it. Obviously, I never had a turn. And I think once we made donuts. Those were really yummy.

Second grade, I definitely remember spelling-related things. That's the year I decided to memorize the spelling of "chrysanthemum." I'm not sure why. In any case, to this day I can recite the letters, all quick-like. I also remember losing the class spelling bee to stupid Jorunn Grobey. I spelled the word "stomach" as "stamoch." I knew that it was kind of a funny word, and had both an "a" and "o" and just took a guess. Dang it. Jorunn was also the other fast girl in class. For some reason, the big thing at recess was to have races among the girls and boys, perhaps even between girls and boys. I believe that I was second-fastest among the girls. In fact, I think once I even beat Jorunn to win the temporary honor. Woohoo. Let's see. I remember that we had a lot of homework. I had a bright yellow plastic notebook binder that I recorded homework in. I think I did a report about dogs once. Oh, and when I was at home, I found a book I wrote in second grade, called My Dinosaur. It was short, sweet, and very weird. Here is what I wrote, punctuation and grammar and all:
"Dedicated to My whole family and MRS MOORE
"If I owned a dinosaur, at school I would pop him then shove him in my desk.
""I would feed him banana-berry and strawberry-cherry splits.
"I could take him to any movie any time.
"I would always take him to "Little Shop of Horrors," and he would like it!
"He would let me ride him on the way to school.
"He would be a magician. Like say I said "I want a thousand dollars" he would just clap his hands and there it would be!"

"About the author
"My name is Julie C. I am 7 yrs. old. I wrote this book because I like the movie Little Shop of Horrors."

Whee! Clearly I was a little short of attention span, and had strange ideas. The dinosaur was inflatable, a magician, and had hands. Okay, seven-year-old me.

Anyway. Third grade we learned to write cursive. I so wanted to be perfect at it. We also adopted an orca whale named Nugget, and as a big class project, made a life-size chicken-wire whale. When it was done, it hung from the ceiling by our room the rest of the year. That was cool. Ooh, and we had computers in the classroom for the first time! There was one Apple IIGS.

Fourth grade was long division, ugh. I struggled with that. And one time, the teacher asked a question about 5x5. I knew the answer, but my brain confused it with 5+5, so I said 'ten' instead of 'twenty-five.' I was very embarrassed.

Fifth grade, I began playing cello. We had rehearsal every day before school started. There was a big group project we did, called Pioneers. It was like a role-playing game version of The Oregon Trail. And there was a Commodore computer in the back of the room, that the boys always hogged. Harrumph. That was the year that Sinead O'Connor's Nothing Compares 2 U came out; I remember some girls discussing it in the cafeteria.

My school experience was unusual in that academically, I did well. Socially however, it was not so pretty. I had no friends at school. Interestingly, I had a whole host of them out of school, but no school chums. Especially fifth grade, I was totally alone. All the pictures of me from the class 'yearbook,' I'm by myself. Really quite depressing, looking back.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

That lowers the value of the diamond, you know.

So said a dude talking on a cell phone as he passed me on the street tonight. I often hear interesting tidbits from passersby.

Anyway, back to real life. Right now I am a little depressed and anxious about my life. At work I feel like a temp, when I should be feeling like a new teacher. But I have no teaching duties, I'll probably just be observing and wiping noses. Supposedly the region is supposed to let me know when there is an opening for me to get my own classroom. That could take a week, or it could take all fall. Who knows. My life will be in an ongoing state of transition, I won't be able to settle down and focus. God, what if I never get a classroom? Because now that I'm in the reserve, I'm on my own. The region can place me wherever they want, in a high-needs school, in a posh school, even in another region. I joined the Fellows program to work in a high-needs school, but now I guess that won't happen, at least not this year. Obviously, I realize that I did not make an effort to find a placement, so a good portion of the blame is mine. That's fine. The city has been having trouble, though, placing all the people it promised to. So some of the blame is there. Apparently Region 3 is especially difficult to get hired this year. Excellent.

Next, I have a sub-par social life; I have yet to make a real friend here in New York. I feel lonely and alone. (Yes, those are different.) I have spent the vast majority of weekend evenings at home, watching television. Not like I was so busy when at home; I was kind of lonely there too. But I did have friends at home that I could go hang out with, even if just sitting around their house instead of mine. Better with people than alone, right? God, I really just suck. I SUCK.

Rocks and Hard Places

Did anyone watch that special on NBC last night, about Aron Ralston? He's the climber that got pinned by a boulder and eventually had to cut through his decaying arm in order to get free. Oh my, it was such an intense show! He and Tom Brokaw climbed right back down into the canyon where it all happened. It was the first time Aron had been back, his blood was still on the canyon walls, the epitaph he'd carved himself with a knife was still visible. The way he talked about it, you could really feel the isolation and desperation he went through. When he demonstrated the final sawing through his right arm, he fell back, demonstrating his sudden freedom. His face registered this expression--surprise, shock, disbelief at the sudden fortune,, I could feel it too. It was an incredible story.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Deep thoughts by someone way more eloquent than I

"So how do I write, paint, and create at the times when my dear [cat] Jupiter is lying still and hot and quiet?I can give myself permission to stop and be fully present to what is REAL in my life right now.
Our real lives are full of these kinds of challenges and living creatively is the best way to live fully with the "real stuff" of life which sometimes can feel hard, chaotic, and overwhelming."

"I am confident that we must flail and stumble as often as we are called to. I propose that we surrender any big, proud ideas and inch along whenever inching is called for. Surrendering also involves accepting the gloriousness of ourselves and living in that glorious light.Out of the ground of not-knowing will come new growth."

If you haven't read any of her books, go buy one.

I am listening to one of my playlists, called, Soothing, Etc. My favorite song is one that I just added. Sometime in the last year or so, I watched the weird-as-f*** movie Mulholland Drive. The scene in the theatre really struck me, and stayed with me, because of that haunting and beautiful song. Awhile ago, I finally bothered to take a look at the soundtrack to find out what it was called. Just tonight, I remembered that I can download crap again, and successfully acquired the song, "Llorando (Crying)" (I put in the translation and parentheses because the song listed without them is completely different). Man, what an incredible song. It forces you to listen and think. I just realized that this song is an a capella Spanish cover of Don McLean's Crying, which is also a fabulous song. So in the spirit of crying, the words of SARK hit home, especially with this crazy summer I've had.

I remembered a list I made a couple years ago. This is not surprising because I am always making lists. But I'm not actually Type A or OCD, I swear. I just like feeling productive. And crossing things off a list is one hell of a high, for just a simple swipe of a pen. Anyway, this list was about the last six months or so of 2001. In that six months or so, I did the following:
--Graduate from college (!)
--Travel in Europe
--Travel around Italy on my own, knowing no Italian, having no hotel or train accommodations
--Bought a new car (a used one)
--Quit my job at Starbucks (which I'd been aching to do for quite some time)
--Drove down the Pacific Coast by myself
--Moved to Los Angeles
--Three weeks later, made a decision to move back home (and made the drive in half the time)
--Got accepted from AmeriCorps (from which I'd been waitlisted and completely forgot about)
--Moved all the way across the country to join AmeriCorps

Holy crap! Talk about productive, and accomplishing a lot. I am still really impressed with that, with myself.

Now, here is a list of the things that I have done in these most recent six months (You know, this is really just a recap of this entire blog. Hmm.):
--(Nine months ago, I went to Paris, just because I wanted to. Froze my ass off but had a fabulous and wonderful and excellent time. I really wish I could count that in this list.)
--Quit my job (!)
--Moved out of my own place, back home
--Went to New York for a week and froze my ass off
--Got accepted to NYCTF
--Found two part-time jobs to earn money
--Packed up all my stuff and moved all the way across the country
--Endured seven very intense training weeks for teaching
--Moved into a new apartment in Queens
--Unexpectedly went home for a visit
--Faced the school year blind, and now am placed at a small school in District 25.

Yeah, the first list is way more impressive. But this second isn't too shabby, either. This one is more gutsy, I think, looking at it objectively. Definitely more cerebral.

Take the time to think about what you do, what you have done, and what you will do. It is important to reflect on where we've been and what providences have brought us to where we are now. Things really do happen for a reason. But only if you leave your house; this I know from extensive experience.

Holy torrential rainpour!

Stupid East Coast weather poured most of the day. Traffic was disgusting. It took me two full hours--a train and two buses--to get from my place in Forest Hills to my school in Bayside. Good lord. Thankfully, many others had problems too, so I wasn't conspicuous or in trouble when I came in late.

The day got better after that. There was a staff meeting in the morning, and in the afternoon I helped with random tasks here and there. I felt more welcomed today, people were friendly.

And thankfully, it was a quick trip home--less than an hour, and only one bus and train. Let's hope that tomorrow is not a repeat of this morning.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Back to work

First of all, I could not sleep all night. That really has to be one of the biggest pet peeves of all time, because you can't force yourself to sleep! Man, it sucked. Anyway.

Getting to the address in Flushing took an hour, which isn't bad, but it felt like forever. I hate the Q25 bus. The address was the Region 3 Operations Center, and I sat in a room and signed the sheet. I figured I'd be sitting there all day long, because hello, bureaucracy much? But my name was called about an hour or so later. I was assigned to PS130 in Bayside.

It took awhile to get there, two buses. Coughed and struggled not to openly gag when standing on a street corner near a bunch of smashed fish. Blech. I arrived at the school around 11.30. Of course, no one knew who I was or what I was doing. I felt overdressed in my nice new professional suit, but that's okay. I felt like a grown up, and now I know that I can tone it down a bit. I helped a couple teachers with preparing math materials.

It was a pretty quick day. I expected to feel overwhelmed, but mostly I was just confused and a little disappointed. See, I'll be at this school, doing who knows what, for who knows how long, until someone from some office calls me with a classroom assignment of my own. And this school is apparently a really good magnet primary school. I was all taken aback and confused at that, after all of the talk about working in high-needs classrooms. The staff seemed pretty nice, and fairly welcoming, even though most of them assumed I was a student teacher. Oh well.

Um, let's see. After school (which gets out at 2.50!), I took the F train all the way through Queens and Manhattan and then into Brooklyn, for another citywide placement fair. It was my first, but just as frustrating as I'd feared. No schools from Region 3. Thankfully, the bigwigs knew that we were having problems finding opportunities, let alone jobs, so we were cleared to look in other regions, as long as it was in the same borough. I talked to two people, both in Brooklyn, and they were nice and marginally interested, but nothing solid. And I don't think I'd be cool with signing up to teach somewhere on the spot. Although, after today, maybe I would. So while I am glad for the experience, it was fruitless. However, I did very much enjoy catching up with some of my classmates who were also there.

Okay, I am tired now and The Amazing Race is on. Later.

Monday, September 06, 2004

We went to see Hugh Jackman in The Boy from Oz. He was fantastic! Afterwards, we joined the throng at the stage door for autographs and photos. We were successful. Woo! Posted by Hello

Back in Perry Point

A lovely example of a sunset from the Point. Posted by Hello

This a group picture from the AmeriCorps weekend way back in June. Setsuko, Rachel, Roko, Val, me, Dave.  Posted by Hello

WOOHOO!! I'm back online!

Today I broke down and bought a wireless adapter, so that I can get online at home. Hurrah, it works!! I am so relieved. I'm just hoping that when the cable modem is installed sometime soon, this thing will still work.

Anyway, yesterday I got back from a few days back at home in Washington. I was there about four nights, and got to hang out with family and friends, and relax too. I really enjoyed it. Didn't go anywhere terribly special really, just the same old places. I loved driving my car again. I spent a lot of time going through all the stuff I'd put in boxes in the barn. I found all the Paris/travel stuff that I'd wanted to. Altogether, it felt wonderful to be home and with familiar folks. Coming back to New York wasn't exactly a thrill.

So anyway, here I am back home in Queens. Yesterday after I got in, I went shopping and finally got some school shoes. They will go with the new school clothes I got last week. Woo! I haven't bought clothes in who knows how long. And they are good! Yay.

Happy Labor Day. And for me, happy last day of nothing to do. Tomorrow, I start to work! I'll be reporting somewhere in Flushing...I forgot to write down the address but have a map of the intersecting streets. The website that had the address stopped working. So wish me luck that I find this place. I'm planning on taking two buses to get there, and I'm giving myself at least an hour. I'll be crossing my fingers.