Thursday, March 30, 2006

Gotta love New York

Homeless-type guy in his 40s, on Sixth Ave, to me:

"Well, hello there, dear! You have very nice breasts!"

I just barely kept a straight face.

Then I was almost insulted that he didn't compliment my ass as he passed by me.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Very nice

I am happy about the short teaching week!

Yesterday morning, however, I was not so thrilled. I woke up with a headache, a sore throat, and soon after a nosebleed. Good morning to you, too! The throat thing backed off enough to let me yammer on all day, but the headache continued into a migraine, which made that yammering not very easy or enjoyable.

Other than that, we are getting into the media stuff but good! Today we reviewed the second of four (or maybe five) types of advertising. I have been explaining the rationales behind each and showing examples, then leading them through a discussion about the images, words, and messages being sent. It's quite fun.

The kids are easily drawn into this, because it's pictures and things they are familiar with. I like to take the point of view that this study (and media literacy in general) is a way to talk back and avoid being manipulated. As I point things out in the ads, and they become more and more absurd sounding, I see the lights dawn on their faces that yes, advertising really does do a lot of silly things to make them think certain ways.

Some of the ads the kids turned in for homework were really great. Except for the kid-like drawing and pasted-on pictures of celebs like Lindsay Lohan or Beyonce, the ads do sound like real ones. Very impressed. Although, since this generation has been exposed to more media than any other, it makes sense that they should easily recreate it.

The other thing this week was tests. For me, not the school or state or anything, thank goodness. No, it was time for some good old assessment. There was a vocabulary test, which is part of two things: my nefarious plan to build some serious lexical awareness, and my thesis research project.

Then it was time for a grammar test. A week or two ago we learned the types of nouns and verbs. (I think I posted about it.) I finally got around to squishing in a test on it.

It took me all day yesterday to grade the tests for ONE class--my lowest one--and when I was done, I was utterly dismayed. There were two parts of the test. One had four sentences, and they had to underline nouns and circle verbs, and then identify each. You know, that 'bear' is a common singular noun. The second part was simply to make a few nouns plural, and I think I got most of the rules in there (changing y to ies, adding es, blah blah).

I got more than a couple 'berrys', one 'teacher's', and? one 'foots.'

The first part was just atrocious and I was pretty sure an inaccurate tell of what they actually knew. So, being the reflective and thoughtful teacher that I am, I talked to them (remember, this is my low class) first thing.

I reminded them of the process that we went through in learning nouns and verbs. Just to remind them and make them think about how yes, all from the test had been done in class, and reviewed as a class, and wasn't tough. I said, I am willing to drop the results of yesterday's test, for you to do this one.

For the first time, I really walked them through a test. I started with having them write the categories. I walked around and checked each and every paper to see if they had it. God love them, all but a few dunderheads did. (Whee! They DID learn!) The ones that didn't, I tried to jog their memories and nudge them to rethinking what they had (because they were stuck in 'person, place, thing') without telling them what the correct ones were. (I did honestly think about doing that--the four categories--as a class, just to make sure they had it right. But I decided that that would take too much away from them and their responsibility to learn and retain and recall information that is done and practiced in class.)

The next step was a list of varied nouns that they had to classify. I asked the class, "Out of the four categories, how many does each noun fit into?" "Two," a number of them chorused. Hurrah, they remembered! They completed that task.

The third part was identifying nouns and verbs in sentence context. Yesterday's test had fairly complicated sentences for having them look for parts of speech. So I wrote much shorter and simpler sentences for today's. Still got a couple just plain stupid shit ("the" as a helping verb), but overall, I was thrilled at the many correct responses. Fully half the class got between 95-100% of the things done right! This is the class with the lowest comprehension and test scores!

I felt really good. First, I was excited that the students would have a high test score to end their quarter. Second, I was hugely relieved that they proved to me (and themselves) that they did know it after all. Third, I was proud of myself. I saw that something was wrong, that maybe I had erred or overestimated. But instead of stamping my feet about what they couldn't do, which honestly is my usual reaction, I did something to fix it, and gave the kids a second chance, a more attainable task...and by gum, they stepped up. It was a 'good teacher' realization for me. Look at me grow and better both myself and the students!

Today is Wednesday. Which means that I had class last night. With a migraine. UGH times three. I took some pain relievers before I got there, and soon enough they did kick in. The caffeine in them worked; I got a lot done. We have a huge pile of things to turn in next Tuesday. BUT, it won't be graded. The prof is just going to give us feedback on whatever we do turn in, because all the real stuff is due at the end of the semester. As she did say, she tried to break it up for us and help make the gargantuan tasks get done faster and easier. (We're talking a ten-article 20-page annotated bibliography that is to be turned into a 10 to 15-page literature review. Plus a handful of small and silly things.)

That was a huge load off my mind. I've been pecking away at the bibliography, rather like an academic fireline. I first went through and put in the easy stuff, then went back through and began filling in the more detailed and complicated. Now I have to make my final rounds, completing the more difficult and time-consuming tasks of reviewing results and discussions from my research articles.

So, I'm going to do my best to get things done. I'll turn in everything I have. Interestingly, knowing that I don't have to do it will probably motivate me to actually do it. Because I'll be doing it for me, to get it done and out of the way and evaluated, rather than just kicking my own ass to finish it to meet an arbitrary deadline. I've got a twisted mind about schoolwork. Thank god this is my last real full semester.

With the five kids who actually show up every day for the stupid minutes, I've been doing grammar with them. Yesterday we started going through a worksheet that made them choose the correct tense of irregular verbs (ie, chose versus chosen). They paid attention and learned about the "have/has" being a tell to use the past participle [chosen, for those of you who've been out of English class for awhile ;)]. Today, we continued with that. I keep asking them why they chose what they did. I have also been asking them to identify the present tense of the verbs. They didn't really get that because it's not one of the choices. Exasperated, I began the very tedious operation of explaining infinitives and conjugation. It's not easy in English because most of it is the same.

So, don't you know it, I showed them an example in French, just to let them see how it works and changes according to the subject.

I said that the infinitive always has a "to" in front of it, to show that it hasn't been messed with, or broken down yet into conjugations.

I used "to be" because it's the most irregular of English verbs. When I prompted them for the conjugations, they were befuddled. So I said, "Well, sometimes you hear people say, 'He be late.' What's the correct way to say that?" And they replied, "He is late." And so on.

So for the most part, they stuck with me and seemed to begin understanding. I explained that this is really important, to know grammar of your own language, if you ever want to learn a different language. Plus, one of my girls knows French (she's originally from one of their colonies), so she was excited to share her knowledge when I conjugated 'dormir' (same meaning in French and Spanish, which I love).

So today, I say, Go with Grammar, my friends.


For the ladies out there: Do you wait for him to do the asking out, or do you take the risk?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Nice Friday

Yesterday was mostly a pretty cool day, because I got to feel proud of my students.

At the end of the day, we held our third P#nny H#rvest meeting. We've done things very quick and dirty, since I got a late start on it and the deadline is in two weeks. Last week the kids found possible organizations online, and then they looked more closely and decided on whether or not they wanted those organizations to be included on our donation list.

This week, we had to make phone calls to those places. First I led them in coming up with questions and then we practiced conversations. This meeting I had to be a little more involved than before (and I was extremely proud of what they did on their own the last few meetings), partly for time and partly because now's the time to start dealing with adult strangers, which is intimidating.

Finally, after nearly forty minutes, we made our way to the office and three students made three phone calls. The first was very short; the person told the kid to email instead. The second was a long one; the student spoke clearly, professionally, not robotically, remembered to ask the questions they'd thought of, and I was just so proud! I spoke briefly with the rep, and she too praised the student's phone manner. The third call was shorter but the performance from the student was also mature and responsible.

I was just really happy with the whole thing. So proud.

Earlier in the day, I went on a trip with my favorite class. Unfortunately, due to bus scheduling issues, we all sat around for over an hour killing time. I had to fight the noise and play, but I was not comfortable with relinquishing control. It was tiring but eventually they did calm down, like the good kids they are.

At our destination, the students behaved wonderfully. They followed directions of the staff members, participated in the discussions and activities, and really paid attention. I heard that one group took notes--of their own accord! They enjoyed themselves and learned new things.

Like I said, they are my favorite class anyway, because they are all very smart and driven and self-motivated. And they're nerds just like me; they happily sit reading for a whole period and prefer Madlibs over trivia games.

I expected they would be decent on the trip, and I was very happy with how they did. One of the staff complimented them, within earshot of one of the very smart girls. I said, 'yeah, they're a good group. Social and chatty sometimes (teacher look at the girl), but they're very smart and just good kids.'

The other teacher who was with us was grateful for my involvement in handling and managing the kids. He said he's been on trips with teachers who don't pay attention or wander off or let the kids act like crazy people. I was bothered but not surprised by this, and I felt a bit vindicated for my strict manner.

But these kids are actually quite wonderful despite (or because of, if you want my opinion) my strictness. One or two had cameras and took pictures of their classmates and friends. One wanted to take a picture of just me. Cute! Several shared their snacks with me, because they know I like treats and goodies. They packed away their trash conscientiously after lunch.

What a lovely way to end the week, having a fun trip and seeing one's students behave like the model citizens they're becoming.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Why I'm not a patriot (brought to you by Wikipedia)

Wow, I honestly did not expect to hear about something like this. Not the burning cars in the city thing, but a real movement. Not in 2006, anyway.

It's not terribly surprising, however; France, Paris in particular, has a very long history of popular revolt. I find it fascinating and inspiring, actually. The French have always had a very strong sense of nationalism and freedom, and if one begins limiting or threatening the other, they do something about it. They stand together and make a fight. They physically take to the streets and construct barricades. People march, and to protect themselves from police, pile random shit together to make a huge wall.

For over two hundred years (the mere lifespan of our own country, in which we hold our Constitution sacrosanct) the French have repeatedly reinvented themselves. Now, that was often because some guy let the power go to his head a little bit, but the country as a whole is okay with saying, 'Well, this hasn't gone too well. Let's scrap it and start over again and see if we can do it better.' I believe that is a much more natural and democratic way to go about being a national entity. Rather than, say, idolizing a single document regardless of changes in time and crime and sentiment and all kinds of things, using it as the end-all, be-all answer to what it means to be American.

I believe the French are up to their fifth or sixth constitution.

Each time that I learned about another popular uprising in France or Paris, I was astonished and awed anew. The people took matters into their own hands. When they were being wronged by someone in power, they ALL banded together to make a serious statement and DO something about it.

I think that this country will never be what it purports to be: the land of the free and the home of the brave. There are too many imprisoned in poverty or actual prisons. It began as, and has only become more so, the land of the rich and the land of the privileged.

To be a real, true democracy, the people rule. However, while that's the tagline of America, the reality is the 'every man for himself' and 'fighting for the American Dream.' These are singularly individualistic notions.

Now, obviously, the sheer size of both the physical land and the population make true synchronized rebellion difficult if not impossible.

But just imagine.

Imagine whole regions of people banding together to take up the fight for real freedom: economic opportunity. Why just let the rich and powerful populate and run the influential schools, universities, corporations, and media conglomerates?

Imagine an entire indignant profession deciding to stick up for themselves. Because dammit, they just weren't gonna take it anymore. What is wrong with fighting for rights and equitable pay?

Imagine a country looking at its leader and seeing a manipulative, lying, pampered oil prince, and the people DOING something about it? ALL of them, not just the crazy left-wing uberliberals?

Obviously, attempts to rise up have been made occasionally. Those brave souls risked their lives and jobs and reputations, sometimes in vain. But sometimes it works.

In this day and age, the likelihood of something like that working would be stifled by a very simple thing: it would probably be covered up and ignored by the mass media, since it's all controlled by the folks who don't want to see the dominant paradigm move a damn inch.

One can only hope that the young folks of the country have more awareness of the truth and the power of the vox populi, as well as the increasing importance of smaller, independent media to spread the word. Only then can this country embrace their freedom to actually seek true equity.

Now, that is what I will call a land of the brave and the home of the free.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


This morning, my daily personalized mug of hot chocolate sat forgotten on my desk until third period.

That's the only explanation I have that around the same time, I became irritable and cranky, and later, tired. It's NOT PMS, thankyouvery much; I was just impatient and annoyed at the clinginess and neediness of some students and the loudness and brashness of some teachers.

I hate the teacher's lounge. I know it's fairly common for younger teachers to say this, because of the negative energy and disgruntled teachers. Sometimes I need that, it's an effective if not pretty way for us to work off steam about difficult students or impossible parents.

Most of the time, though, it's just loud. Or smelly, from the food being cooked or eaten. Last week, I got halfway into the room before I had to quickly turn and leave again; something nasty was in the microwave and I was near choking at the smell. (I'm a really picky eater, but in no way one of those proselytizing save-the-animals types; I just don't want to eat most things. I am also really sensitive to strong food smells. Like turkey, or fish, or a lot of ethnic cuisine and dishes.)

If there's a class using my room, there's only two rooms for teachers to go to. One of them is occasionally unavailable, but neither are quiet or peaceful. That's why a couple times I go to the dusty, secret book room.

Today, I didn't feel like going all the way up there, so I stayed in the teacher's lounge, but with my discman on and up, to drown out the teachers. I read the Smithsonian magazine that came yesterday. (Did you know that 75% of Saudi Arabians are under 30 years old? Incredible!)

Speaking of food, it's been a big thing this week. I bring things to eat to school: yogurt, a little plastic thing of dry cereal, a granola bar and maybe some cookies. But these things do not do anything to make me not hungry. And after a year and a half of hardly eating at school, apparently my body has had enough! Every day this week I have been way hungry and counting down the time til I could go home and have some real food and feel sated.

I have some new baja ranch dressing, lettuce, cheddar AND pepper jack cheese, chips, and new orange juice, and zesty pickles....easy to see why I can't wait to get home. :)

This afternoon, after eating and checking email and that, I had to actually take a nap for about an hour or so. That really rarely happens, and I don't know what to make of it.



Today the students finished their findings graphs and charts. As they shared, I asked some questions to get them thinking about WHY they saw what they saw. Not sure if it worked, but I gotta try. Things like, to the class, what can you tell about what they were watching while seeing this type of commercial?

The majority of groups, across all three classes, had the biggest category as food ads. That included candy, cereal, restaurants, all that. Like, way more than toys or electronics or anything. Food-type things, since not much IS actual food.

One group did their classifying as including 'healthy food' and 'unhealthy food.' They called me over yesterday to ask about Coca-Cola. To ASK about Coca-Cola being healthy food! You know what else was on their so-called 'healthy' list? HONEY COMB and GUM.

Good lord. I shook my head in sadness and disbelief. They giggled a lot at that.

Tomorrow, I am very grateful that I am going on a trip with one class. I don't know at this mment how I'd be doing regular teaching stuff.

And next week is only three days with the students. Yes, grateful indeed.

Man, this really is a slumpy time of year for me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Auspicious Beginnings, I hope

I began the lesson, and the media literacy unit, today in the style of a carnival barker:

Ladies and gentlemen! I have something inside this box that will change your lives. It will blow your mind! 99% of students who used it said their academics improved. If you use this product, your grades will increase. People will like you more. Your life will be better!

[Dramatic Pause]

What do you think is in the box?

The kids went nuts, yelling out what they thought was in there. It was loud but I certainly had their attention!

I asked them what had I just done. Immediately they responded, 'advertise.' I gave them definitions of and we discussed examples of media, advertising, and propaganda.

I quoted from a fascinating book the following ad for an advertising agency: it was a big picture of the president, with these big words: "If you have high ambitions, hire us. He did." Smaller print: "If we can produce advertising that persuades Hispanic Democrats to vote Republican, we can get them to buy your product."

The students were appropriately floored and shocked by this, and I led them in an analysis discussion, reading between the lines and inferring what the agency thinks about consumers.

Their favorite part of the lesson, however, is the homework: Watch television. I gave them the worksheet, the one I posted a while back, for them to keep track of the commercials they see while watching a show tonight.

I can't wait for class tomorrow, when they report and synthesize their findings!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Monday, Monday

First, I am feeling better, rest-wise, than I was all last week. Progress!

Second, during one of the book skits, in which the book was about a rural country girl in the 1800s, one girl said this line, "My mama didn't raise no fool!"

Third, I glanced over the extra credit essays that were turned in today. The assignment was to choose an interesting person from the abolition/suffragist movements (since they have found research and begun a timeline, they were aware of when and who this involved) and write about their work. Here are a few of the choice figures chosen: Louis Armstrong. Rosa Parks. Martin Luther King Jr.


Adolf Hitler.

I don't know WHERE that child has been, but it sure wasn't my class. Jeez.


Math updates:

Yes, I looked for actual classes. Half the CUNY schools either don't have summer sessions, or if they do, they don't offer math. The ones that do, their summer sessions either start in MAY and go during the day, or start later and end in mid August. And all of them go FOUR days a week.

And that all just sounds awful to me.

That's why I thought the CLEP would be a better option.

I saw a recommended college algebra tutorial site, so I went there yesterday and completed one of the basic tutorials on polynomials. Now, I'm not stupid; I learned all this stuff. But it was actually back in high school, and I never enjoyed or practiced math even when I was taking it. So it's nearly gone from my brain. The tutorial was exactly what I needed: a review of things that I once knew. I scrolled down, looking through their examples, and at the end I did the five practice problems. I got them all right!

That made me feel much better. Phew, I'm not an idiot, I'm just getting old. :)

However, I did take a look at that SUNY online catalog (thanks for the tip!), and found a good-sounding, liberal-arts type class that is done before July.

I would need to use some of my AmeriCorps money to pay for a class, so tomorrow I will need to call the advisor and get some more info, and see if that will be the best option after all.

Gah, math.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Math Anxiety!

According to my wonderful college, I need to take another math course. An option is to do the CLEP exam.

I have not done math since the fall of 1997, when I took pre-calc in my freshman year of college. So I knew it would be really tough either way.

After looking at the summer schedules, I decided that the CLEP would be the best way to go about it. So I ordered the exam review book on Amazon this week, and it arrived last night.

This morning I took the first practice test, as a diagnostic, to see where I was.

Well, it was pathetic.

Out of the 60 questions, I only answered 30. (A number of those ended up being guesses.) Out of those 30 I answered, I got 11 correct.


I will read this review book, and perhaps ask the friendly math teachers at my school for help. But maybe I should find a class to take after all...

My pirate name is:

Red Jenny Rackham

Passion is a big part of your life, which makes sense for a pirate. You have the good fortune of having a good name, since Rackham (pronounced RACKem, not rack-ham) is one of the coolest sounding surnames for a pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Moving....just barely

(Me and the week both)

This week, with the testing madness and my general malaise, I decided to begin grammar stuff for reals. On Tuesday we started with nouns. I put up notes with the four categories and examples (common, proper, singular, plural), and then made a little game. I said, name as many ____ nouns as you can in one minute. The last round we did was plural proper, and that had them stumped a bit. I was walking around, pointing at people at random. For a not-exactly-exciting lesson, it ended up being kinda fun. Ish. Oh, and then they had to practice by copying down some sentences, identifying the nouns and then figuring out what type of nouns they were. They did well and I was happy with it.

The next day, we finished up the sentence noun work. I was tired, so after the first few, I said, 'I'm tired of being the teacher. It's time for you guys to do the work. I just called on so-and-so, and he/she will be the one to call on the next one and pretend to be me.' It was fun to watch. I certainly saw more hands up and waving around; they all wanted to participate when their classmates were the ones calling on them. My last class didn't do so well, though, descending into confusion, and they kept looking at me and saying, can you be the teacher again? or telling a student, you're not a good teacher! I had to stop myself laughing. After I got their attention again, I said, well, I hope you can appreciate that teaching is not so easy, and also how the chattiness of the class detracts from the discussion. They all nodded with renewed understanding. Funny.

Today we hit verbs. (Get it? I'm very punny lately; about the skits, I said yesterday, If you haven't done your script yet, you better get your act together! ha!) Regular verbs are pretty easy, so my challenge was getting them to understand and identify helping verbs. I gave out copies of a bunch of blurby articles from a Scholastic science magazine, directed them to the first paragraph of a particular mini-article, and let them identify all the verbs. They did need my guidance with it, because the sentences were very complex, two or three verbs or verb phrases in each sentence. But by the end, I think they were getting it. We'll continue with another mini-article perhaps tomorrow.


I went to bed earlyish last night. Sadly, I mostly dreamed about giving vocabulary tests. That's the kind of dreaming that actually makes you feel like you haven't been sleeping at all, and you feel not only tired but cheated out of true rest. I hate that.

Once again, I felt....more than just tired or sleepy. I think I have slipped into a bit of a melancholy spell. Feeling sad and pointless and lonely. This morning, while walking up with my students, I very nearly began crying. For no reason at all. Needless to say, that worried me a bit, and I really just wanted to curl up in a cozy bed and wallow. So 'teaching' was no fun today. My kids have been behaving pretty well lately, and they've been especially cooperative since I've asked them to do regular work even with the test. Maybe they're just being good so they can keep doing the skits (I'm always having to tell them things like, 'When you guys are so chatty, that tells me you don't deserve fun projects like skits, and I am very willing to accomodate that.' Heh, I'm awesomely mean.). My point was that the day went well despite me not being anywhere near the top of my game.

Skits tomorrow and a little bit Monday, then it will be time to start the media stuff! I can't wait. I hope I'm adequately prepared in time. I've been putting things together, but in the mindset that it was off in the future. So this weekend I need to solidify the plans. I've actually already planned a 3 week unit plan (daily agendas), I guess I just need to review and adjust it if needed.

But mostly, I need to get some rest and figure out how to boost myself back up. Spring break is still a long way off, and I don't want to be desperate for it like I was last year. I think March is always just a bitch of a month, so long and without respite. Ugh.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I can't even take how tired I am. It's been one of those days when my body feels like jello, I can't stop yawning, and everything takes too much energy.

Is it Friday yet?

Friday is the drinking holiday...and I could use some fruity alcoholic beverages...

Monday, March 13, 2006

When someone tells you 'teachers have it easy', send them this post.

I forgot the best part of last week!**

Late last week, there seemed to be bugs going around. I didn't know this til late Thursday, though. Here's why.

My homeroom class comes back to me at the end of the day. They line up and wait in the hallway until my 8th period class is all done and out of the room.

So on Thursday, a minute or so after the bell rang, I opened the door to dismiss my last class. I opened the door to find...

...a huge puddle of vomit. It was pink. The kid who was standing there looked miserable. Probably because he was about to vomit again. (He did, and we all saw.)

This puddle was bigger in diameter than the doorway. Plus, it was the stinky vomit.

So yes, that's right. We were trapped.

TRAPPED in the classroom by VOMIT!

You can possibly imagine the reaction of the thirty eleven year olds who were inside the room. Screaming and freaking out and generally, immediate pandemonium.

I stayed calm. I shut the door and let the teachers in the hallway deal with those kids. I called the office to tell them to send a janitor, stat. I didn't breathe too deeply because the puddle had splashed under the door jamb. Thus, we could still smell the vomit.

I opened both of the windows that open. Sadly (well, usually happily), they are both high up. The students rushed to the windows, clamoring for fresh air.

You think that doesn't sound too bad?

We were trapped there for FIFTEEN MINUTES waiting for a janitor. I called the office a second time. Five desperate minutes later, I called a teacher on the first floor, and asked her to walk and find a janitor and tell someone to get upstairs immediately.

Kids were calling their parents, and fretting about the missed busses. One girl handed me a cell phone, because her mom wanted to make sure she wasn't lying about where she was.

I blew my whistle a few times to try and calm the crowd, reminding them that screaming about it wasn't going to make it any better. "This is not a fun situation right now, but unfortunately we're stuck in here and we just have to deal with it," I said.

I took out my trivia deck and asked a few questions. That worked fairly well for diverting their attention, which was a relief, if only for a minute.

[For the record, this is not the first time I've dealt with vomit in the classroom. Twice over the last year or so, kids have puked IN the classroom. Thankfully, both times it was a small amount and not the smelly kind, so I could easily hold my breath and put a couple paper towels over it until the custodian got there.]

Oh, and you know the kicker? At about 2.35, after the inside class finally escaped and the locker class had quickly gotten their things, I still had to do math with my tutoring group. I'm quite sure I was totally useless; talk about frazzled!

**As most of you should have been able to infer, this is a little something we like to call sarcasm.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Phew. What a week.

I don't know why I've not posted this week; a ton has happened. I guess I'm just lazy. Shocker.

Actually, before I get into anything else, I want to state for posterity that this weekend I've been surprisingly productive. I have read the rest of my articles needed for my annotated bibliography, and I have graded a class set of last month's author project, and updated two classes' grades in the computer. Go me!

Yesterday I got to go to Project Cicero. It is the coolest thing: someone or some organization gathers books all year, and then in two days, they invite a bunch of TFA/NYCTF-type teachers to come and take a big box of books for their classrooms.

Do you remember the contests on Nickelodeon, where you could win a shopping spree in a toy store, and have like three minutes to dump as much stuff as possible into your shopping cart? Didn't the very idea of that just thrill you to bits?

Well, going to Project Cicero was like that for the nerdy, more grown-up me. AND without the time limit. I didn't speed too much, though I tried not to dawdle either, since the books were flying off the tables and I wanted to see as many as possible. But I didn't pore over any books; if it sounded familiar or vaguely interesting, I added it to my pile.

A free book shopping spree! Man, talk about a thrill.

I stayed for perhaps forty minutes of my hour and a half shift. I didn't even fill the box because I only brought my medium-sized rolling suitcase. As it is, I must have gotten nearly sixty books and packed that suitcase as much as it could go.

I had driven my little car into the city, on a Saturday afternoon. I'd hoped that the traffic wouldn't be too bad and it wouldn't scare or intimidate me too much. And you know what? The transportation gods were with me: it was so easy and quick (relatively). I parked in a garage a couple blocks from the event and they let me drop my full suitcase in the garage office.

Then I had some hours to kill. I got a very tasty smoothie on Sixth Avenue, and then sat in the food court of the Manhattan Mall, chatting on the phone and reading research articles (though not at the same time).

I did feel bad about being inside on such a gorgeous day, so after I felt like I had spent some worthwhile time on work stuff, I left the mall and strode outside into the dusk. It was still very pleasant, and I really enjoyed just walking down the street.

I walked for a good twenty blocks before I figured I had to get on a train. The blocks were the north-south mini ones, though. And I came across a salon, so I went in and got my eyebrows threaded. That was a new experience for me. It's kind of ticklish and a very odd sensation. I don't get how the thread pulls out the hairs, but I think it's pretty neato.

On the train, read a bit of my advertising book, and then met up with Ms Frizzle. There were supposed to be a few people getting together, but it ended up being just the two of us. It was nice, we just sat and talked about boys and work.

The other weekend I had drinks with Ms M, and that was really nice too. I think more of that talk was about traveling. Ooh, and then we found a crepe place! I was so excited. We were both annoyed at their many menu misspellings and inauthenticities. For one, once they were done cooking, before serving them, he let them sit on the plate thing, which made one edge all crispy. Also, the guy put the crepes on plates! To be eaten with a knife and fork! Not cool.

If I haven't said it recently, or at all, I am so glad and grateful for the wonderful people I have met through this silly blog. Thank you to all you friendly NY teacher types!

At school, this week was rather tiring. Prejudice has been the unofficial word of the week, and not necessarily in a good way. Ugh, I think I'll just leave it at that.

I'm having my students do some work on the beginning of equal rights work: abol!tion and the suffr@gettes. I told them about how the two movements grew up at the same time, only a hundred sixty years ago, and that all movements since then were possible because of those first fighters. I let them know that this is an important project to do, because it's so personal and sensitive. None of us would be here without them. I'm crossing my fingers that they get into it and learn a lot. (So far they've at least learned/heard the terms for the movements. That's new to them. I suppose that's a good start.)

Um, what else? Hm. It feels like I might be forcing myself out of the lazy-bum phase I've been in for awhile. I hate working at home, but I also hate feeling behind. So now I have only one set of projects to grade, a project to sort-of plan, and a media unit to polish.

I've started the annotated bibliography. I'm taking it on like an assembly line: I started with the really easy stuff, the citation and summary. Now I can continue to put in the more detailed parts of each article. It's due in three weeks or so, so if I keep up with working on it some each week, I should do okay. Shit, I keep forgetting that that has to be turned into a literature review, and they BOTH are due in three weeks. Yuck. Still, I'm making progress. Hurrah.

And now I have to go get groceries because I'm hungry. Food!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Please Help Now!

I have somehow refrained from mentioning this so far. My silence will be no longer!

In early February, the President released the proposed 2007 budget. The budget included a reduction for all of AmeriCorps, and only a few million for my program, the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). This money is to SHUT DOWN the program entirely.

Those of you who know me, or have read my blog for awhile, know that NCCC was an incredible and life-changing experience. Thousands of my alumni around the country agree with me. The possibility of this program existing no longer is just too painful to think about, and it's unacceptable.

A website has been set up, There are links to "Find your Congressional Representatives" as well as sample letters or messages to send them.

Even if you've never done the program, or never met anyone who's done it, please take some time to learn more, either at the above site, or at the official NCCC site. Once you've done that, please take a few minutes to send at least an email to your state's representative or senator. If you're like me and have origins/family in another state, contact those reps too.

While the program does not bring in money, the work that comes of it is priceless. We work with organizations that could not continue or offer as much without our help. It costs nothing to have a strong and motivated team of ten to twelve young people to charge in and get some things done.

In particular, one of the most incredible aspects of the program is the partnership with the Red Cross. Because teams are mobile and have very few belongings, corps members can be called immediately to respond to natural disasters. Both times I went, I had notice overnight, but another time, two teammates had a mere two hours' notice before they had to go. No other organization or group gets people on the ground that quickly or effectively.

Here are excerpts from a recent emailing:

NCCC Set to Deploy Large Contingent to Gulf Region

AmeriCorps*NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), the team-based AmeriCorps program for young adults, announced today that 18 teams of 10 to 12 members each have recently begun work on more than a dozen projects related to hurricane relief efforts in the Gulf Coast region.

Among the projects: mucking out flooded homes with AmeriCorps Alums and Hands On Network at the Hands On New Orleans and Hands On Gulf Coast sites; building homes with three Habitat for Humanity affiliates in Louisiana and Florida; and supporting the work of the AmeriCorps St. Louis program in Pass Christian, Mississippi, which has made a yearlong commitment to help in a variety of ways rebuild the coastal town as part of the Corporation’s partnership with the ABC television show “Good Morning America”;

“Katrina relief and recovery is the highest priority of the NCCC program in fiscal 2006,” said Merlene Mazyck, Director of AmeriCorps*NCCC. “Currently, approximately 30 percent of NCCC resources are focused on supporting Katrina recovery efforts, and we expect to maintain this level of support throughout the ’06 fiscal year.”

Recently, NCCC has decided to expand its Gulf Coast Relief effort by deploying nearly 80% of its available member force throughout 2006. NCCC leaders gathered last week in New Orleans to finalize the deployment and logistics strategy for the large scale effort.

Congresswomen Matsui Spearheads Dear Colleague Letter

On Monday, March 6, 2007 a Dear Colleague letter was released by Congresswomens Matsui, DeGette, Holmes Norton, and Congressman Gilchrest- in it they strongly voiced their support for NCCC. An excerpt is as follows:

We are writing to express our concern regarding the proposed cut of the Americorps*National Civilian Community Corp (NCCC) in the President’s FY 07 Budget. As you are aware, there are five campuses in the United States that serves as both a wonderful place for young people to get involved with their community, and necessary aid for hundreds of communities across the country. It is with that in mind that we respectfully request that the Budget Committee include $25.5 million, the same as requested in FY 06, to continue funding this program.

You can help bolster this effort by urging your congressperson to support the Dear Colleague Letter. For more information on how to contact your congressperson and seek their support, please click here now. AmeriCorps Alums recommends that you that you fax in this request to your Congressperson, as this is the most likely way for your congressional representatives to take note of the correspondence.

Senate and House Appropriations Committees to Begin Mark-ups
Members of both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committees are expected to begin the process for arriving at the FY 2007 Federal Budget when mark-up sessions begin in late March to early April. This process is a major indicator of Congress' funding priorities for the year ahead. In order to effectively make headway in our SAVE NCCC Campaign, it is critical that we communicate to Congress the value of NCCC. Please contact the members of both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees immediately.

To view a list of members belonging to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, please click here.
To view a list of members belonging to the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, please click here.


Find and Contact your Elected Officials

Monday, March 06, 2006


Holy crap, how is it still Monday night?

I got home after 4.30, which is kinda late for me. We had a faculty meeting after the minutes. Then I stayed a bit to finish up my bulletin board. (I don't put grades on the student work---shh!)

After stuffing my face with a zesty-cheese pizza-for-one and orange juice, as well as a Cadbury Egg (yum!)(I am a health nut, can't you tell?), as well as checking email etc, I was bored enough to actually work out. AND clean up my room, including vacuum. Dang!

If only tomorrow night was NOT class, I might actually stay bored enough to attempt working at home on either my thesis research crap or grading projects from a month ago.


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Since I'm not wiki-fied

Stuff like this is what made me even contemplate going into education. In college, I loved doing work and workshops deconstructing advertising. I just find it fascinating.

Last year I was bummed to not have time (or wherewithal) to do any media studies.
This year, I'm excited to tie it into our l!t c!rcles.

The next week will be spent in a mini-drama unit, where the students will write and perform skits based on exciting events in their books.

Without further ado, read on, fellow friends and educators! Let me know what you think!

Media and Advertising Mini Unit

March 20-24
Monday: Introduction
How many of you have a television?
What is media? What is advertising?
Take PBS Quiz and Discuss
Introduce Media Project
HW: TV Ad Matrix

Tuesday: What did you see?
Groups chart ads into categories
Poss: toys, food/drink, beauty/health, tv/movies
Begin discussion of advertising techniques
Testimonial, Celebrity, Lifestyle, Bandwagon
For each technique we discuss, we will find/examine a print ad and then discuss/analyze it.
Then each group will make an ad for their book, using that strategy.

Weds-Friday: Continue learning and analyzing techniques
Ask yourself questions and talk back!

March 27-31
Monday: Target audience and Demographics
Happy Meals
Whose Best Friend?

Tuesday: Fact vs. Opinion in Advertising

Weds: Groups review all techniques and tricks. Then decide which technique they’d like to use for their book ad campaign.
Begin working on print ads.
Target audience: 6th and 7th graders (hopeful exchange with Ms F’s 7th grade ELA)

Thursday/Friday: Inservice

April 3-7
Monday: Analyzing TV ads
(poss Jean Kilbourne video?)

Tues/Weds: Finish Print Ads and Create a Commercial/skit

Thurs/Fri: Perform for 6th and 7th Graders. Hand out print ads as playbills.