Sunday, August 31, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
The fact that the administration at my school fills up all my on-clock planning time with pointless meetings is going to be a big problem for me. I don't mind working ten or twelve extra hours a week, but fifteen or twenty is too much.
Friday, August 29, 2008
I'm not sure what the logic is behind our current class arrangements, but grouping every problem child in the sixth grade into one homeroom and having them spend the day wearing teachers out is not conducive to learning. I'm not particularly angry or frustrated by this group, because my attitude is to just strap in and enjoy the ride. Their antics are always entertaining, and there's no sense getting angry at them. I tell them the truth: I yell because I'm disappointed, not because I'm angry (though when they almost knocked my LCD projector on the floor I did let my temper get the best of me--I'm out $600 on that piece of equipment, and I use it every day).
I think at the next sixth grade team meeting I'm going to suggest breaking this class up into more manageable chunks. There is a core of six boys and three girls who cause all the trouble. If two of them were in a room it would fine, and we could easily disperse them amongst the other sections instead of turning one section into the Arkham Asylum.
I like these kids, however. One of the worst behavior problems handed me a note today. "Don't read it in front of anyone," he said. I opened it after school and it said "I like you Mr. G. You are a good man. I like your class and but you is nice and smart. I try to be better. 4 yo and other teaching people."
Another of these hoodlums is a wreck all day every day until the end, when he meekly asks me to walk him out of the building and across the street to his mother. "Someone hasslin' you?" I asked him, and he nodded, but I can get no further info because of the no snitchin' code.
Karaoke tonight with the Booker T. fac at Kelly's, aaiiiigggght?
But I tuned in last night for Barack Obama's speech. I read his book, I've sent him cha-ching, I've cast off my former unwillingness to back Dems because of him, so I figured I should see what he had to say in Denver.
I was moved. Obama doesn't come across as artificial the way HRC or other Dems do. He actually DID leave Harvard and go work in the slums of Chicago instead of making bank as a lawyer. I can respect a brother with those kinds of cajones. Anyone willing to forego six figures to organize poor folks to fight for their rights can say "This election is not about me, it's about you" without causing me to puke. He pleased me by mentioning GBLT rights. I liked the fact that he was aggressive about defending himself against bogus charges of anti-Americanism (and he better keep it up. There are adults working in my school who believe Obama is going to turn Booker T. into a madrassa day 1).
Do I worry about his associations with Chicago School economists? Hell yeah. Do I worry about Joe Biden sitting in the VP's office with his tongue deep up several credit-card company CEO's asses? Hell yeah. But I think Obama is for real.
My students wrote letters to him for homework. I gave them the option of writing to McCain too but only a couple did. I am sending their letters to both candidates.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Every now and again I likes me some Dick, and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch was some of the best Dick I ever had. Of course Dick is an acquired taste, what with the never quite knowing whether you're in real reality or a variety of the pseudo-, and here there are the usual pre-cogs and the layers and levels and quadrillion associated narrative complications associated with such.
Dudes who have been drafted by the UN to colonize Mars eat a drug called Can-D in order to escape into an artificial toy world, inhabiting briefly but realistically the lives of a doll named Perky Pat* and her companion on a miniature layout. Along comes a drug called Chew-Z which takes things to a whole other level, and Bernie Mayerson can't figure out if Chew-Z is the second coming of God or an alien invasion. Neither can the reader, but who cares? It's damn good Dick.
*I swear Perky Pat was in at least one Dick story I read before.
Period 4 lined up backs to the wall before I let them sit today. I called them one by one to get their folders and take their seats. They all did at least part of their classwork today, and they wrote apologies to the principal for their behavior yesterday. I think I am winning respect from some of the clowns in that class. I can tell because they stop glaring at me and they start asking me what kinds of movies I like, and if I ever coached football.
Period 2 is still in honeymoon mode. No problems at all. I know their time will come. They haven't seen me blow my stack yet. We read about volcanoes and one of their warm-up options was "Some people are described as having a 'volcanic temper.' What do you think that means." Several students used me as an example.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I love my last class too, but it is full of head-cases. We had a sixth grade team meeting today and I asked our administrator why all the nutbags were couped up together. The teachers who had this group already today warned me that another goofball had flown in from Dunbar Middle. The administration tried to explain how East Baltimore kids were different from West B'more, and that the new kid would have an even shorter fuse and he would be frontin' hard to prove himself.
When this class came in they were a nightmare right off the bat; the new kid was a whirlwind of incitement, moving around and starting trouble. Of course the principal happened to be walking by just as I was trying to get them settled. He came in my class and said "I don't run a zoo!" He took two young ladies to his office for acting out and returned them ten minutes later. I was struggling the whole class period to reign these kids in, and finally I blew up. "Silence!" I shrieked in my scary voice. The new kid said "dag" and I got right in his face. "I said QUIET!" I moved to the front of the room and continued: "If anyone speaks before the end of class they will get ten minutes with me after school." A boy raised his hand and I shook my head at him. He put it back in his lap. "Now line up against the wall, backs to the wall. NOW. I want to see your eyes on me." I waited for them to form up. "You are going to pick up the trash on the floor NOW, and then you are going to put your folders away and then you are going to sit quietly through the afternoon announcements. Tomorrow you have ten minutes detention in this class. EVERYONE. You speak out of turn, you move without permission, and you are MINE. I AM NOT PLAYING IN HERE ANYMORE. You get on my nerves again and my other classes will get all my treats on Friday. You will get an extra weekend homework. If you follow my procedures and if you follow the rules tomorrow I will take you off my detention list. If you do not I will keep you ten minutes Thursday AND Friday."
DEAD silence ensued for the next ten minutes. My room was spic and span. They lined up at dismissal and waited quietly. I am making a new seating chart and nobody is going to like their new seat. Tough.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
I had to intervene when an 8th grader (who tried to stab a classmate with a knife last year) grabbed one of my sixth graders around the neck in the hall. Funny how the worst behavior problems I have were because of the victim of this attack. Once I bailed him out he went from "Mr. G trifflin'" to "Mr. G, can you walk me to the front door?"
Never fear, that kid will put another airplane in my ceiling tomorrow. But I will win him over, and his table of ruthlessly chatty compatriots.
I'm starting to have fun, but I am overwhelmed with work.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I have no idea what to do with sixth graders. They're beyond my ken. I don't even have a classroom library for kids that age. Help me DonorsChoose.org! I've already dropped two large on classroom supplies and books and I'm loathe to spend another penny. Of course sixth graders in central district are likely to read at a third grade level, considering the eighth graders last year were at fourth and fifth.
But I'm excited, despite having not the slightest idea what I'm doing. I got my room and it's big and I have tables instead of desks and I have bookcases and world maps and two giant cabinets which lock. I moved the orientation of the room and put my projection screen on the side wall and pulled it down to test it and there in giant red marker was the word "Fuck" and the charming imperative "Suck it slut." I got a hearty laugh at that--such a warm welcome back to the Book. I'll be using white poster paper for a screen this year.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
The hapless souls in the office told me that they understood we were told to report to the school, but said that room assignments and schedules were not available yet.
"I have a ton of stuff in my car, and this is the second time I've come here and been turned away. I'm going to have to go home and unload all this stuff again because I can't leave it in my car on Whitelock overnight." Saying this I knew the people to whom I was speaking were not responsible. "I'm down to two days' time to set up my classroom and start planning for next week. I don't even know WHAT GRADE I'M TEACHING YET. The fewer hours of prep I get the less I can serve my kids."
"We think language arts teachers are supposed to go to another professional development at City College this afternoon, but we're not sure," I was told. "We know the principal told you different, but he wasn't told until this morning."
Yada yada yada. I called my buddy Dre over at another school and he's like "Dude, they gave us our schedules and room assignments last year. I moved in and set up last week."
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Many--perhaps more than half--of the teachers at our school are new. I think this is a good thing by and large but Oh My God they better be ready.
Baltimore City is requiring us to attend mandatory meetings at Morgan State tomorrow. When am I going to get into my classroom and set up? Sunday? They still haven't told me what grade I'm teaching.
Monday, August 18, 2008
My school had detectives on the roof in episode one, and it's good to see McNulty back at front and center.
"What the hell are you doing here?" he asked. "Teachers aren't due back until tomorrow!"
"We are dedicated and committed and we want to get our shit together," Miss Q said. She had on one of those ear-piece phones and beach volleyball pro shades. "How hard is it for you to look at your list and hand us a key?"
"I am not doing it. I am not doing it! You get your room assignments tomorrow per the Big Guy. GET OUT OF HERE! Get outta my hair!"
"I have a car full of stuff to unload. You're going to make me drive home and unload my car and then load it back up again tomorrow and bring it in?" I asked.
"To whom am I speaking?" the manager asked. I was about to reply when Miss Q jumped in: "He was here last year, unlike you. He came back, unlike most of the people here last year. He a soldier!"
I laughed at the idea that I'm a soldier of any kind, and introduced myself.
"We report back tomorrow, but we're not meeting at the school," the manager said with more patience. "We're meeting at the caterer's as arranged and having a full day of meetings. You will get your assignment tomorrow and you can move into your room Wednesday."
"That's why we're here today. We're losing a set-up day tomorrow with this off-site meeting garbage," Miss Q said.
This went on for ten minutes before I left, exasperated. I went to Target and Staples and dropped a g-stack on supplies the school system used to supply when I was a middle-school student. At least the Fed allows me to claim back up to 2% of my salary as a teacher for the supplies I purchase on my tax return. Of course I've already spent 4% of my salary. But I did buy extra stuff I don't need, but want: an LCD projector, for example, and a printer/copier/scanner for the classroom. I plan to use a lot of technology, a lot of PowerPoint, a lot of Windows Movie Maker.
I'm ready. Let's get started.
There will be no mentor in the classroom with me this time around. It's all on me. "The horror. The horror." But I'm kind of excited too. There's always a chance I'll be good at it and things will go smoothly and my kids will be awesome. More likely I'll be shagged out and cynical about the system and the kids' chances within a month or two. We'll find out soon.
Word has it I'm teaching 7th grade this year. Woo-hoo.
Friday, August 15, 2008
We had a grand time in Philly. This is the only photo ever taken at the Philly Museum wherein at least one fool is NOT posing like Rocky at the top of the steps. In the ten minutes we spent out there about twenty people and one film crew posed thusly and had a picture taken. Uh, guys? The museum is really great--why don't you go inside?
Cha wanted a cheesesteak so I took her to South St and down into a joint with the filthiest restroom I've seen. I've traveled in the third world. The cheesesteak was, she said, delicious anyhow.
Another quality NYRB re-issue. I'd not read Williams before--now I'm going to buy his other novels sight unseen. Butcher's Crossing is elegant and efficient and I read the last 50 pages with that delicious and all too rare frisson between part of me which wanted to find out the end and another part which didn't want the book to end.
The same frisson is manifest now that I've received season 5 of The Wire on DVD. We've had it three days--I just can't bring myself to find out what happens.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Today we're off to Philly. I've not been in ten years, which is ridiculous given its proximity to B'more. I lived there for two years many moons ago, in a frigid apartment with nothing but a bed and a fork, in Dickensian poverty.
I want to see Phineas Gage's skull at the Mutter Museum, and to re-visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Love that filthy Duchamp corner with the peep holes.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Initiate in and founder of several secret societies, Dion Fortune wrote worthy books on kabbalah and tarot. Her novels purport to encode esoteric doctrines into their plots. The only knowledge I found encoded in The Winged Bull, however, is that Dion Fortune was a one-trick pony as a novelist. The plot is almost exactly the same as that of The Goat Foot God. Stick to her short fiction about Dr. Taverner.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
We were outside a gimmicky tourist emporium. Leesha was asking about fans, Cha and Ma were trying on sandals pre-loaded with reflexology g-spot activators. A crate of electronic pups yipped at me. "You feel good!" a man said into my ear.
"Wha?" I asked.
"You feel good!" he said again, Marlboro cupped in his left hand as he gestured downstairs with his right.
"Oh, massage," I thought. A ten-minute foot reflexology massage was just what I needed. I mentioned to the others that I might give it a go, and bummed a twenty from the Mrs. I went downstairs and was put into a cubicle constructed of shower curtains.
"Take off shirt" my diminutive masseuse demanded, tugging my collar.
"Um, I uh wanted a foot massage," I told her.
"No foot for you! Back. You need back!"
My back has hurt for months, so I did what she said.
"How long you like?" she asked, and I told her ten minutes.
Eastern massage is decidedly different from Western. Instead of rubbing there is pressing, pinching, and punching. Often on one pressure point at a time. The masseuse punched a spot in my neck and my spleen somersaulted. She brushed with an ostrich feather a concavity by the hinge of my right elbow and I suffered the curious sensation of a lengthening large intestine. She pinched my left pinky finger at the third joint, and my uvula leapt forward to the rear of my top lip, poked out a slithery tail, and fled into my right nostril.
"Woah," I said.
"You like! You feel good! Fifteen more minutes!" I protested, asked if I could have my foot massage, and again was told "Back! You need back!" I figured I was just a gwai lo tourist getting the works. But the massage was pretty good and it was fucking cheap.
She leapt up onto the table and knelt with a knee in each of my ass cheeks. I thought that was kind of cool until she stared beating her feet against my calves like a seal. This sort of thing went on for a while before she took me upstairs to pay. I got a pretty good 25-minute massage for $25. I've paid a hundred bucks for worse at nice spas.
The woman who took my payment worked behind the glass counter at a Chinese pharmacy. She was alarmingly pregnant. She charged my VISA and asked where I was from. When I told her she said "Oh, yes. Have many men customer in Baltimore. They like strong sex herb. You try strong sex herb. VERY strong, no side effect!"
"VERY strong. Make you like horse. See?" she asked, pointing at her abdomen and winking.
He played guitar during Katrina while Condi shopped for shoes in Manhattan and Brownie did a heckuva job.
Now, while Russia is bombing the shit out of Georgia and re-forging an empire, Bush is checking out hot, quivering volleyball ass.
[photo stolen from Fleshbot--link definitely NSFW]
In other news, John did the graphics for PBS's excellent American Experience: Walt Whitman. It's up for an Emmy!
We had a lovely time in the Big Apple. Aside from a few showers Friday the weather was about perfect. I finally got to tour the Morgan Library and see old J.P.'s fantastic Italianate study and collections. Loved his selection of Mesopotamian cylinder seals. And his two Hans Memlings.
We also pushed Ma around the Met in a wheel-chair. The expanded Greco-Roman galleries are a sight to behold. The Turner show is really spectacular, and even the rooftop exhibit of the world's most famous MICA graduate is worth seeing. As are the fake waterfalls scattered throughout town, including one under the Brooklyn Bridge.
We had peculiar and awesome rolls at Ginger, with banana and peanut butter and jalepenos and other tasty extras which work much better on the pallet then on the ears. Another fine rec from John and Leesha.
In Chinatown Friday nobody was on the sidewalks--most peculiar! Then we went to dim sum at the Golden Unicorn and of course the opening ceremonies were on satellite earlier than they were on NBC, which explained the absence of pedestrians.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Stanley Elkin is a laugh-riot, dark, sardonic, and endlessly inventive. More people should read his stuff.
Leo Feldman is imprisoned for helping customers at his department store fulfill their desires--any of their desires--out of a basement office. He's rich and influential, so his sentence is only one year. Feldman has always treated life as a game and his associates as pawns; now he's the pawn in a sinister game designed by Warden Fisher. Will Leo figure out the rules of this game in time?
[Though I loved the book, I was aggravated by the NUMEROUS typos in this Dalkey Archive edition. Very distracting to see words like "throughtful" every ten pages or so.]
Of course we love to see Leesha, John and Chalupa, but the real reason we're going to New York is obvious: dim sum @ The Golden Unicorn.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
Friday, August 01, 2008
Since I first saw Jules et Jim I've counted it among my very favorite films, but I never saw it a second time until today. I remembered next to nothing about it, curiously enough, except for a delightful sequence of Jules, Jim, Catherine, and Sabine marching off into the hills for a picnic. Much of Truffaut's masterpiece features his characters running or dashing off or striding confidently or otherwise bustling. The cameras are often in movement too, and the sense of life and ever-fluid standards and perceptions is about at its peak as represented cinematically in this fine film.
The difference between a scoundrel and your run-of-the-mill average person is often simply that a scoundrel has been found out. Average run-of-the-mill folk are quite good at hiding their unfortunate, unforgiveable tendencies.
Sara, the narrator of Cary's Herself Surprised, doesn't come across as horrible or mean-spirited or detestable--but her story begins at her sentencing, and she marvels at how the judge condemns her for smiling often as her misdeeds are recounted in court. She doesn't really understand the depths of her depravity or the true costs of her misdeeds, and because we are trapped in her point of view we don't really see an accurate picture of Sara at all, aside from some hints at darker truths and motives from time to time.
Cary carried on Sara's story in two further novels, narrated by other characters who might flesh out this mysterious story with more detail. I'll get around to those books eventually.