Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day #112

I might teach at a lovey-dovey hippiefied charter school, but we're still a Title I institution in a rugged urban area. A few weeks back some 8th graders smashed out a teacher's car windshield with rocks. Over the past couple weeks we've had some kids from other schools roll up and start fights with our students over Facebook bullshit. Students have been busted giving fellatio in the project room, laptops, phones, and wallets have been stolen, etc, etc.

Today after last period I went down to the main office to pick up a package, and immediately my sixth sense started beeping. I stepped around the corner from the stairwell right into a whirlwind. Girls were banging each other in the face outside the front door and the conflict had spilled over inside the lobby. Parents were screeching at and threatening one another, there was blood, and I just kind of put myself instinctively between combatants. Things were cooling off by the time I arrived.

The fight was centered around T. Woody and her wanna-be thug shenanigans. She kept messing with an 8th grader who's typically on the straight and narrow, but who finally had enough and stood up. T. Woody popped her nose and bloodied her lip for her before the parents got involved and the staff got between them.

T. Woody lives to create problems. Her soul purpose in life is to sow dissension and strife. She's stout, surly, unattractive, and reads on a 2nd grade level in 7th grade. She has no charm or grace or wit, and yet she has a posse of much more intelligent girls who pay court to her and do her evil bidding. I don't have the intelligence network that I used to have over East or back at the Book--I need to find out what Woody's got that makes her so powerful. She got the hookup for dime bags? She is always at the root of every girl fight or conflict, and typically she's got much smarter girls punching each other for her sake. Today she actually threw down herself. It will take days to cool this situation down.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Day 110

It's ok to be in a funk. Sometimes you'll do an efficient, adequate lesson without all the glamour and glitz--it can be effective. Not everything needs to be exciting and inspiring or some combo of the two.

If I could accept this my life would be so much easier.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


This might be my new favorite comedy by the uproarious Werner Herzog. When a glassmaker dies in a German town where his secret red glass formula employs most men, the owner of the factory goes mad, the local prophet sees Europe collapsing into an abyss, and a dimwit woman who carries a duck dances nude.

Several scenes in the film are gorgeously lit like Northern Renaissance paintings--faces straight out of Breughel and Memling, candle light, somber Puritanical interiors.

The finale is set in one of my favorite places, a spot where I had prophetic visions of my own, and where I was nearly killed by a gigantic sea bird.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book #6

John Shirley has given us a Hunger Games for adults. Or for adults who liked the Hunger Games but who want more things the Hunger Games doesn't have, like blow jobs.

In the near future, a gigantic tsunami wipes out much of the California coast. The imaginary coastal town of Freedom is mostly destroyed. Those who survive are trapped between the sea and the town's ferociously Libertarian mayor, who refuses any "big government" help. Aligned with a group of meth-head thugs, the mayor attempts to establish his own New World Order, and Lord of the Flies breaks out.

Shirley is a fine writer and his characters are engaging. I enjoyed this grim romp through our near future. I may need some more optimistic futuristic fiction soon, however.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Book #5

Just beautiful. You know the story, of course, but will be surprised at its new setting in the Ming era. Xing Xing is quite appealing as the stepdaughter who works her ass off only for scorn. Demons, dragons, reincarnated fish parents, clever linguistic touches and puns--a treat for YA readers and oldsters like me!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Weird--after a long hiatus I'm hooked on Frank again, this time via the Sinatra/Tommy Dorsey collaborations. It's peculiar that music from decades before my birth can make me feel a powerful and melancholic nostalgia. Also, In the Wee Small Hours, which I used to find too ballad-y, is just fucking great.

As I typed this, iTunes shuffle play suddenly went Sinatra-mad, running three tracks in a row. Someday I'm going to write about iTunes and synchronicity.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Books #3 and #4

Off to a slow start this year! The first e-book I ever read is one of the first classics of world literature I tackled. I read Notes from Underground (a different translation) in 11th grade and wrote a paper about it; I recall having to write a synopsis of my paper and present it at some event at the Cockeysville Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library.

I think I had more cogent things to say about it then! The narrator is disarmingly aware of his own flaws and the absence of a sturdy moral foundation in the Age of Reason has confused his moral compass and set him adrift. If nothing is meaningful or worthwhile, than the old mores and systems are no longer valid; stuck between a desire to fit in and a desire to mock and destroy, the Underground Man festers like an unlanced boil. His treatment of Liza is particularly brutal. This translation is much less clunky than the one I read decades ago; I also recommend their Brothers Karamazov.

I never read YA fiction until it became a professional necessity. Sometimes I wonder why I read anything else!

The Kite Rider is just a blast, with family intrigue, seedy docks, Mongols and Chinese, the mighty Khan, boats, kites, dragons, spirits, omens and oracles, gambling, and characters drawn with the delicate finesse of a fine calligrapher. Next time I teach ancient China the kids will do a novel study and I'll make them record evidence of culture and traditions. Loved it!

Monday, February 06, 2012

So today I totally stole my lesson from Ms. P. We've been learning about the Silk Road and ancient China and in order to learn about cultural diffusion and globalization she'd compared the Internet of today to the Silk Road of the past. I thought that was clever and interesting and totally ripped it off. Of course I didn't have to steal it because Ms. P sent her graphic organizers and PowerPoint to me when I asked.

At one point we were discussing what the Internet gives us and allows us to do, and one of the boys in the back of the room said "PORN!" I had to smirk and say "Let's keep it school appropriate please!" while inside I was itching to have that conversation. What are the ramifications of globally homogenized desire and standards of beauty/attraction? What are the consequences of young girls and boys watching gonzo porn from an early age? What expectations will they have? What myths? What roles will they adopt? Will people viewing porn around the world have happier, more liberated sex, or will they be trapped in someone else's idea of what's hot? What evidence do we have of a globalization of porn? Bukake? Amateur videos created in Indonesia, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East featuring the standard tropes of California porn?

Were I still teaching at the University level, we'd have had that conversation. I can't do so with middle school kids.

My job challenges me no end. I've never had a job where I felt out of my league so often, continuously puzzled about how to do it and get it done well, where I worked 50 hours plus routinely and had to pick and choose what I could get done. But the challenges not intellectual challenges. I crave intellectual stimulation beyond discussions of pedagogical or behavior management methodology. How much longer will I be able to sustain interest in middle schoolers? I signed up initially for high school placement, but went where I was sent. Now I'm in a school I adore but there's no high school attached to it yet. I'm getting restless.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Milk Milk Lemonade

So last night we finally saw Milk Milk Lemonade at Single Carrot, and I almost plotzed. Genevieve plays narrator, un-developed twin trapped in living twin's upper thigh, a baby doll owned by a young rural boy with gender issues, a poisonous black spider with ghetto attitude, and a chicken-to-English translator. Jessica plays a remarkably philosophical chicken with the soul of a poet, aware of its own sad fate and yet uninterested in escape. Aldo plays the young boy on a farm with talent show dreams and a predilection for barnyard sex play between boys. Gitti plays a neighborhood bully who abuses sissies and wimps while joining the protagonist at "playing house," and Elliott plays grandma, wracked with cancer, who feeds chickens to a slaughter and packaging machine and attempts to make her grandson more masculine.

This is the exact sort of material Single Carrot nails, and they did indeed last night. With choreography! People from DC were waiting in line for the loo with me, gushing about how much cooler Baltimore is than DC because of theater like this.

That's right, bitches!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Day something or other

So I'm running back and forth between class and the Special Ed office. I seem to be the regular educator of choice during IEP meetings lately. I had 2 meetings yesterday and 2 this morning. They almost always take place during my teaching time so I have to arrange coverage or lessons for my paraeducator (if one is available).

The IEP meetings can be so depressing. Sometimes parents don't show after promising they will. Sometimes they won't even answer the phone when they have an opportunity to be on conference call during the meeting. And sometimes you get them on the phone and you wish you hadn't, and the reason for much of a child's problematic behavior becomes apparent. I don't want to judge anyone, and I'm aware that many families have extraordinarily disastrous situations far beyond anything I ever had to endure. But man some parents are a trip! You leave these meetings sometimes wishing you could just pull out your VISA and adopt the kid.

But I've had a positive week after a pretty painful January. I felt the creative juices burbling, my attitude improved, and I became more lyrical again in the classroom. For example, today class was simultaneously disrupted by a kid sneezing two gigantic green streams of goo out his nose another kid farting like a dirt bike revving. The boogers attached themselves to the one kid's coat, hanging thick and sloppy from either nostril and jiggling like ectoplasmic tendrils. That blew up one table just as the other kid farted loudly and it was FOUL. So it took a minute for me to rein in those 7th graders and I said "I think boogers are funny. I think farts are pretty funny, too. But I know when it's appropriate to laugh about them and when it's not. That comes with being mature. I'd advise you that my Humanities class is not the place or time to laugh at boogers and farts.Unless I'm laughing, in which case it's ok. I'd like to pass you on the 8th grade as kids who are serious about getting into City, Poly, or Western high schools, rather than as the straight-up clowns you were last year."

A friend introduced me to this comedian via Facebook. I run a small reading group of 5 6th grade girls for 30 minutes each day. We're reading Lost and Found from the Bluford Series. Funky Dineva would fit right in.