Sunday, September 30, 2007
If you've forgotten, I've waited on a food critic before. This is "my" paragraph of the positive review, which occurred last year sometime: The service is better now then I remember, when it was relaxed to the point of catatonia. Our waiter obligingly kept our meal at a leisurely pace, and smoothly helped us arrange what could have been a complicated meal. Nearly everything on the wily menu tempts, and considering the café’s origins in Slavic stolidity, there’s evidence of playfulness—a grilled marlin salad with spicy mango vinaigrette and Asiago cheese, a raspberry-glazed filet mignon.
It turns out that the four old people probably weren't it; even though they kept asking me about the place, it just wouldn't make sense for three of them to get the same meal if they were really critiquing the place.
I don't know if I waited on her tonight, but I do know I had a bit of an off-night. The new setup is taking some getting used to. My bartender was inexperienced and slow. It was busy and I fell behind at times. But I walked with $150, so all is well.
So tired, though. The inexperienced bartender couldn't get the drawer balanced until midnight. She felt really bad and apologized over and over again, but finally we got it figured out.
One new stereotype I'd like to introduce to the world of tipping: in the last two Sundays, I've waited on middle class white families who I can tell are very religious just from the first moment of conversation - they look like they're dressed in their Sunday best. Then, they actually both sat and prayed (loudly) in the restaurant after they were served. This happened both weeks. I've decided that whenever open prayer happens in the restaurant, then I might as well just know I'm not going to get a tip. Today, the bill was $38.69, and they left $3.31. Last week, the bill was $68, and they left $6. So, super religious people are bad tippers, if you believe the trend of my last two weeks.
Speaking of the Fells Point, yesterday was the grand re-opening of the restaurant where I work. Part of the night was serving VIPs from various media around the Baltimore/Washington area, and apparently there will be some big writeups, and here's hoping everything goes well. Last night seemed to be a success.
I expected to make a couple hundred dollars last night, though, and ended up walking with zero. No one paid for anything, so there was no tips. Hopefully, someone will make it fair tonight when I head in. I did work for nearly 11 hours straight there, though I must admit a fair amount of it was spent dancing towards the end. If someone plays "Groove Is In the Heart," I really can't hold myself back. My aching foot is killing me so far this morning, though, but it was worth it.
I have a huge stack of grading to get through, and I now turn my attention to that.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
But, tonight, I talked myself into seeing Fences performed at Vagabond. And even though there were only about 25 people in the tiny Fells Point theater, and even though the set was minimalist and the actors no names, I don't think I could have had a more powerful theater experience.
This play about dreams, disappointment, fathers, death, and baseball has always been one of my favorite teaching experiences. The kids love it, and it's moving and funny, and it provides lots of great discussion and writing. But I've only heard kids read through it. And myself. Seeing professionals act it out was more powerful than I ever would have imagined. They guy who played Troy Maxson gave one of those performances that I think I'll remember forever; he was absolutely perfect. Gabriel was just as good.
In the final scene, just moments after the epic father and son battle, Corey comes home to his mother for the funeral scene, and, at that moment, the tears that had been sort of in the background just started bursting out. I've never really cried in public before, certainly not like this, but the tears were streaming out. No noise, just tears. My friend looked at me, and she knows what I've been going through lately, and she hugged me, and a few moments later, I heard her sob during Rose's last monologue. And that's how moving and powerful the night was. The best night of theater of my life.
After finishing the last couple hundred pages of The Road yesterday, and Fences today, I think I'm ready for a light comedy, though.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
It's not a great time in my life to read that book. Or maybe it is the most perfect time. I'll know more after the 2nd week of October. I'm scared but the jolt is mostly gone.
My surgery/biopsy has been scheduled for a week from today. Hopefully, I miss just one day of work. The doctor seems to think that chances are I'll be mostly recovered by Monday. And I'd better be, as I'm starting The Odyssey that day.
There is just way too much going on in my life right now, more than, perhaps, ever. It's not so much about being busy, although the two courses along with my two jobs is the most I've taken on. It's the other stuff, though, both positive and negative. In fact, I must admit that if the Tigers had made the playoffs, I probably wouldn't have been able to handle the additional emotional intensity and weight.
The restaurant where I have worked for five years is having a grand re-opening this weekend, as they become more of a bar. I'm hoping to make some big bucks, as I wrote a check to Towson University the other day for $1095 - pretty much my entire paycheck - and still owe a couple grand. I'm hoping to pay these damn tuition bills without taking on more debts.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
You're The Sound and the Fury!
by William Faulkner
Strong-willed but deeply confused, you are trying to come to grips
with a major crisis in your life. You can see many different perspectives on the issue,
but you're mostly overwhelmed with despair at what you've lost. People often have a hard
time understanding you, but they have some vague sense that you must be brilliant
anyway. Ultimately, you signify nothing.
Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
In other news, I'm frustrated and tired. Not really news, I know.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Best Gym Locker Room for Naked Confabs: Men's Locker Room at the Stadium Place YMCA: Gym locker rooms are a bit strange, always have been, ever since seventh grade. But at the Stadium Place YMCA things are a little stranger than at other gyms. Any given morning or afternoon, you may hear political conversations, heart-to-heart talks about sexuality and aging, or even on one occasion four men talking about a kid who snuck into the men's locker room and urinated on the sauna heater. It's common enough small talk to pass the time--the kind you'd hear on a porch or at a café, but when everyone is bare-ass naked and spread out over the vast locker room, shouting the conversations to one another, things get a little weird. And unlike other locker rooms where the occasional glance at someone naked is met with both parties calmly clearing their throats and going about their business, at Stadium Place, it's more like nudity is a calling card that admits membership in the locker room banter. We usually stick to our stodgy ways and merely listen to the conversation, our eyes staying focused on the inside of our locker.
I witness this every morning here. It's a much less busy gym than I'm used to working out in, with a lot steadier of a crowd. Often, people say "Hi" to me when I walk in at 5:45 am, or when I step in for my shower at 7:30, and I don't kow them at all. Sometimes, a whole conversation is directed at me - it's someone I know from my professional life (a kid's father, for example) - and they strike up a conversation, and I can't look at them because, well, they're naked.
Best Local Production: The Boys of SyracuseFreelance New York director David Schweizer returned to his native Baltimore last winter and brought with him a bawdy, shtick-rich musical called The Boys From Syracuse, written by George Abbott, scored by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and choreographed by George Balanchine--names that mean something if you pay attention to Broadway. If not, imagine Baz Luhrmann, Carter Burwell, and Martha Graham getting together to make Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams and you'll start to understand what's going on. Schweizer amped up the meta, casting a Sesame Street-diverse group of stupidly talented and beautiful men and women, calibrated their brains to be in on the joke but not wink at the audience the whole way through, and mounted one of the most cheeky and entertaining nights of musical theater to hit Baltimore in years.
It takes a lot for me to like a musical, but this one did it for me; it was a lot of fun. I'm not sure if it was any better than Trouble In Mind at the aforementioned Center Stage, but it was still pretty damn good.
Best Restaurant Makeover, Essential: Joe Squared: When it opened, customers had to pretend that its ugliness was cool. Taking over from the last in a succession of unwholesome dive bars, Joe Squared did its best to clean things up, but the central joke--hey, this is a dump!--can only be funny for so long. Now it's nice. Not adorable or anything but finished-looking, intentional, and much brighter and better organized. It's much clearer that Joe Squared is a bona fide restaurant and not just a bar that incidentally has a kitchen. Fortunately for its founding patrons, the changes haven't detracted from the laid-back vibe.
I've enjoyed the Friday Happy Hours here more than ones at Brewer's Art this year. See, I just much prefer the upstairs at Brewer's Art, and that always gets so crowded that we're forced downstairs, and downstairs just isn't the same. And I'm often given free drinks at Joe's place. More advertising for him on my blog won't hurt matters in that regard. It's a great place. Try the mushroom reuben. Tell them I sent you.
In closing, I would have preferred a different winner for Best Blog. I love Baltimore Crime - it's the only blog I read every day at this point, and I love the commentary - but I prefer ones where I can get wrapped in the stories of the life of the writer. Perhaps a Best Personal Blog would have been a good category. I would have voted for Anger Hangover, who has had some really interesting dialogue on her site lately. I'm also really rooting for the Baltimore Sun's Education Blog, Classroom Connections, will start to become a force in this city, despite its dull name (which I believe they are changing). It's good stuff, so far. The more eyes on the head honchoes of North Avenue, as well as what is going on in the classrooms of Baltiomre, the better.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
But, make that fortunately. The night was good. Great music and people. A good reminder.
Today, I'm going to try to rectify the fact that I'm four chapters behind my kids in The House of the Spirits (to be fair, it's my 4th reading of it, but, still, it should be fresher than it is), and about ten chapters behind in my Educational Research class textbook, and about seven workouts behind where I should be. I can read on machines, and that's what I'll be doing. And cleaning.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
What went wrong? The answers are many-fold:
1. The bullpen: Injuries to Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, ineffectiveness of both when they were healthy, ineffectiveness of Todd Jones, 24 blown saves - just terrible all around.
2. Kenny Rogers' injury: He won 17 games last year, and just a few this year. No one replaced him.
3. And offense that counted too heavily on a first baseman with no power (Sean Casey) and a third baseman (Brandon Inge), a left-fielder (Craig Monroe), and a catcher (Ivan Rodriguez) who were mostly ineffective offensively all year.
4. Carlos Guillen plays a pretty bad shortstop. And Ivan Rodriguez's defense has gone to the crapper.
5. Jeremy Bonderman had a massively disappointing season. He was 10-1 at the All-Star break and ended up 11-9 with an ERA over 5.00. Terrible. Nate Robertson also had a pretty bad year.
6. The Tigers decided to rush prospects like Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin to the majors, and they just weren't ready.
While the reasons are many, it's too bad that they're not going to the playoffs. This season was a fun one, for the following seasons:
1. I got to witness two of the best offensive seasons every by a Tiger. Curtis Granderson, my favorite player, turned into a bonafide superstar (20+ homeruns, 20+ doubles, 20+ tripes, 20+ stolen bases, an amazing feat), while Magglio Ordonez had one of the offensive seasons in Tigers history and still could win the batting title.
2. Placido Polanco also had a great year. Offensively, he was well over .300 all year, and defensively, he set a record for consecutive errorless games at second base.
3. Verlander's no-hitter, which unfortunately I did not witness. But he had a great year, building off that great rookie season.
1. Alex Rodriguez
2. Two great bullpen arms.
3. A first baseman or a shortstop.
4. Someone to push Inge at third.
5. A corner outfielder.
6. A #2 or #3 starter.
That's it. I'm sure we'll get all those. Ha ha.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I've also spent a considerable amount of reflection about my practice this week. It's pretty clear to anyone who is around me that I hate the way we do summer reading in the 9th grade. Assign it over the summer (hopefully they get the assignment in the mail), expect them to read and understand it (hopefully they know how to read a novel), and quiz them to death when they start the school year. If I have anything to do with it, we won't do the same next year, but I still have to deal with the issues revolving around it. And there are many, because many kids just can't read a novel.
Now, clearly, a large chunk of kids were not reading. That's okay - they should fail. I can try to inspire them, but they have to make the choice to do the reading. But another large group of kids were reading it, but just not getting it as well as they should. I'm sure, with some, it was a question of skimming it, or trying to Sparknote it, but with others, I'm sure it is a comprehension issue. So, after a couple of shitty lessons last week, I figured out that I need to do a better job of teaching, and not assigning. This week has been a return to that. Instead of assigning reading and giving check quizzes, I've slowed down quite a bit, concentrating on analysis of small chunks of the book. I've concentrated on textmarking and thesis development based on textmarking.
It's been a joy. Today - and this amazes me every time it happens, which is all the time, so it should stop amazing me - a little girl made me think about a passage from To Kill a Mockingbird a little differently than I did before. She backed it up well. I got goosebumps.
One class, decimated by a field trip, turned into a discussion about the Jena 6. It literally went like this:
Brittany: Can I say something? I don't like this book. I don't like how they refer to us as Negroes.
Me: Well, I can understand that, but that was an acceptable term then. The other n-word, now that one was offensive then as it is now, but the word Negro was just like the word Black or African American today.
Brittany: Well, I still don't like it.
Me: Okay. You're allowed that.
Keon: Can I say why I do like this book?
Keon: Because I think we can take lessons from it for ourselves. I mean, they did Tom Robinson just like that 17-year old boy down Atlanta who got ten years for messing with that 15-year old girl.
Me: Interesting connection. Can you explain how it's similar and how it's different?
And it then went into a discussion of the Jena 6, and they even matched up characters from the novel with figures from that trial. Tomorrow, most of the class (and me) are wearing black to support the cause. I have some discomfort with making these kids into martyrs, but much more discomfort with a system that would try (any) 15-year old kid as an adult for beating someone up.
In other news, I'm really exhausted, and my eyes are killing me. I tried my best to leave school today right when the last chime rang, but it didn't happen, so I found myself leaving at around 4pm, and then racing up to Towson University for class. I had a four-page paper due, a review of a research article, and I did it all this afternoon - found the article, printed it out, read it, analyzed it, and wrote the stupid review. I got to class at 7:14, only fourteen minutes late, and proceeded to nearly doze through the lecture, which thankfully ended at 9:10 instead of the prescribed 9:40.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
With that $5, I bought the first piece of music that I paid for in my life - a cassette single of Suzanne Vega's "Luka." In the era of the Beasatie Boys and Guns N Roses, I chose the dark folk singer. (My sister, if you're curious, purchased Taylor Dayne's "Tell It To My Heart.") I played the single until it wore down, memorizing not only the song but also its B-side ("Night Vision").
In college, I got into Suzanne Vega again. She released a few really daring, almost avant-guarde type albums that I consider two of the best of my collection, especially her industrial folk album 99.9, a masterpiece. Through it all, she's wowed me with her eclecticism, being able to range from long narrative folk ballads to smart electronica pop to chamber music.
The concert tonight saw her do all that. It was quiet at times, it rocked at times, and completely made me forget everything I didn't want to remember and remember everything I didn't want to forget.
Ironically, "Luka" was probably the most uninspired of the performed songs. The keyboards were drowned out by the band, which was just a little too big for that little song and its little narrator. That's okay, though. That's just a minor quibble. The concert was a blast.
Monday, September 17, 2007
2. The Tigers are playing like World Series contenders right now, and I'm telling myself it's not too late. Of course, it meant rooting for the Red Sox over the Yankees this past weekend, and apparently God doesn't like me rooting for the Red Sox, because the inning I turned on the audio of both games, within five minutes, both games fell apart for those Big Budget Bosox. On Friday, I turned on the game during the collapsing 8th inning, and last night, I turned it on during that great matchup between two of my least favorite players in all of baseball (two of the five that, I think, I'd never stoop to having on my fantasy baseball team, along with Bonds, Jeff Suppan, and Dmitri Young). I was pulling for the old fat ass Republican Bush-schiller Schilling like nothing else last night, and, of course, the Kalamazoo turncoat Derek Jeter hit the 3-run homerun as God punished me for rooting for the Red Sox and for a Republican. Oh well. Big series right now against the Indians.
3. Tomorrow night, I'll be seeing live in concert a singer/songwriter whose hit song nearly two decades ago (and it was a big hit that has held up well... still played on the radio on a number of formats quite often) was the very first piece of music I ever bought for myself. This artist does not tour often, nor has this artist had any hits in the last several years. But the artist has continued to produce very good music, and I'm bringing a friend down for the show. This is the same friend who I trade concerts off with every couple of months. We don't tell the other person who the concert is of, we just say to clear the night. I can't quite believe it's happening in this week of all weeks, and I do not look forward to the drive there or the drive back, or having to leave school early, or anything else about it, except the hanging out with the said friend and seeing the concert. I've never seen the artist before and several of this artist's songs help form the soundtrack of my life, from middle school all the way up through college and even a little bit of adulthood (though, truth be told, I have not bought this artist's last album and didn't listen to the one before that very much). So, do you like my lack of revelation here? Any guesses who this artist might be?
4. I have two big papers due on Wednesday, and tonight might be a night where I stay up until midnight finishing them. I better get to them, stat.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Still, my post about working to rule has generated a few interesting discussions, from folks who don't much like unions, to the Baltimore Sun's Classroom Connections blog, to Education Week's blog. I don't know what to make of it all, and wish I had a bit more guidance on the issue.
More is happening than I thought. I heard that the Drama Club advisor began this year's first meeting by telling the students that by advising Drama Club, he and his colleague were going against the union's orders, and asked the students to have their parents call the school board about this issue. I tought this was a powerful way to get your point across, in a serious speech to kids, kids who know you care because you're there, anyway, advising a group after school.
And I want to support the union, I really do. I don't have nearly enough planning time now, and the thought of giving any more of it away is ludicrous to me. And, it is about the kids; when a teacher teaches 170 of them, he needs time to get back essays and plan dynamic lessons for them.
So, yes, it is important. But apparently I don't think it's that important, because I'm not working to rule.
But, if the union had said, "Alright, our position is that your class size will be capped at 25, and that you will have a 12-month contract instead of a 10-month contract, and that every teacher should be issued enough textbooks, a working computer, phone, and overhead projector every year," then, damn right, I'd do whatever it takes to support the union's position. I would not stop working at 3:15, but I would take all of my work home with me to further the cause.
So my opinion about the matter is that it apparently is a bit about what they're fighting for. Planning time is just so disappointingly meek. It's important, but not nearly important enough.
So that's my current take on it. Still supporting the union, but, because I don't think the union is my voice, I'm not supporting them by working to rule.
After all, the Maryland HSA - at least in English - didn't provide nearly enough time to write a well-crafted BCR or ECR. Last year, students were expected to write one ECR (basically a 5-paragraph essay) and one BCR (a 2-3 paragraph literary response), plus answer 25 multiple choice questions and read the short stories and passage associated with them, all in one hour. All year, we would instruct the kids about how to plan a BCR and an ECR, and, then the test would come, and there would simply not be enough time other than to write something just to write something.
Still, it pains me now that kids in this state will not have to write as part of their exit test. I mean, eliminating this portion is eliminating the importance of writing, and how could someone say that writing is not important? We put a lot of energy into writing, obviously, including into these ECRs and BCRs. It bugs me that they're being dropped. And this is especially because our kids tend to do better on the writing than the multiple choice parts of these tests. I'm worried that taking away the writing is actually going to hurt their scores more than it helps them.
But, let's be real: the MDSE thinks that taking away the written portions will actually raise most kids' scores. It's a way to be able to say, "The test scores in our state jumped 20%" without having to provide more resources. It's basically to hold up a lie. Ah, the artificial raising of test scores... that's the legacy of NCLB.
In a perfect world, those saved resources will be spread around, and maybe I'll have classes of 24 instead of 35. I'm not holding my breath, though.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Now, she finally has a Youtube video of the entire song. I love Plater's live voice, so big, clear and direct, and how she maneuvers the distance between her mouth and the microphone to create effect. May stardom someday find her.
I've been angsty lately, and the song fits. And that's probably why I'm listening to so much music lately - the new album from Common hasn't left my CD player in days - and why I've finally decided to resurrect my house concert series. More on that later, probably.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
I've heard it's unsafe to take the road at night, and one friend told me outrageous stories of cars being boxed in and the occupants robbed. And, truth be told, it would really suck to have a breakdown on this street when it's dark out. A long walk with my feet hurting would certainly make me a target if anyone was looking for one.
But I'll never ditch an opportunity to take it. The pitch darkness makes me think that it's an old country road, and that I'm back in southwest Michigan driving. It's still the city, but if you didn't know it - or didn't look up and miss seeing the stars and moon - you might think you were in a desolate area in the middle of nowhere. It's not until the road opens up at near Bel Air and Erdman - onto, frankly, one of the worst pits of Baltimore, with garbage always baking on the streets, and people with nowhere to go standing on street corners in front of a liquor store - that the spell is broken, and I realize that I'm once again going through the motions of heading from school to home in Baltimore.
It makes me happy, if only for a couple of minutes, to drive on that road. It's been a tough go of it lately, and promises to get tougher.
I think I'm dealing with my annual October unhappiness a little bit early. It's that time in a teacher's year when the optimism of the new school year wears off, and he realizes that he'll never actually ever be caught up with anything, ever. It shouldn't happen on September 14, though. It should happen in October. And then you deal with it, and the rest of the year goes well. This year, it has come quicker. The graduate courses, or at least one of them, is sucking my soul away. My health problems are almost comical, they are so ridiculous. Head surgery? Shaving my head (or at least part of it) so a doctor can cut into it? How absolutely ridiculous! Constant and sometimes intense foot pain? How does that even happen?
I'm a little sad, a little homesick, and a little pissed off, but at least the classroom gets me excited every day. It's the rest. The rest that I don't have, the rest that I have to get through. Pun intended.
Today, on the way out of the school, I ran into a big kid from my 2nd period. He looked at me, and his eyes ducked away. I walked over to him, and told him that the results from the To Kill a Mockingbird Part I check test - which the kids had to read for summer reading - were back. He had failed, miserably. I asked him what happened. He shook his head and looked away, and said he wanted to transfer to a different school, that he can't believe he's failing English because he didn't do his summer reading. I like the kid, and tried to encourage him, but he wasn't having it. I thought he was going to cry.
I can't believe it either, frankly. I would not mind starting a course with it. Give a quiz and move on. But we not only started the course with it, but we're now at the end of week 3 and we're still soldiering on through To Kill a Mockingbird. But kids who have given up have already given up. It's killing me. I hate summer reading so much. Can you imagine starting your high school years like that? Over my dead body, or over my departed-to-Chicago body, it's done again this way.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
2. I taught my heart out today, only sitting down for lunch and to write a quiz. At the end of the day, my left foot (the good one) hurt worse than the right foot. I don't know what to do; I clearly cannot sit down during my job, and it's not like I'm out there trying to run a marathon. I'm exercising every day, and am probably on my feet more than the average person, but I don't think I've done anything to deserve the sort of pain that I'm experiencing. Apparently, I was just born with bad feet, or bad cartilage, or something like that. I called my podiatrist, but that Jewish holiday that begins with "R" that I can't spell is tonight through the end of the week, so I probably won't hear back until next week. It sucks, but I'm still staying active by lifting weights and going onthe eliptical.
3. The instructor didn't show up until 7:05 today, and I was so excited that maybe we wouldn't have class. Nope. He showed up.
4. If computers were in front of me during lectures in my undergraduate days, I probably wouldn't have graduated. I'm surfing like crazy. A couple people are sleeping.
5. I'm going to utilize university resources today to print out a 67-page document. I also might steal a chair for my classroom.
6. (That last part was a joke.)
7. I have a lot of work to do in the next 36 hours. So much reading and writing... deadline for submission is Thursday at midnight. I might hit it at 11:57.
8. I finally found free parking at Towson. 3 weeks in a row, it's been available. No $75 tickets this year!
9. I really believe The House of the Spirits is one of the most enjoyable books that I teach. It's so funny, but also dark and moving at times. I've enjoyed inhabiting the world of the text, for the third time.
10. That's all I have for you. My mind is pretty scattershot these days.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Because I've been doing this so damn long, I can still read what I was thinking at the time: September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2001. I was such a kid.
Today, besides spending quite a bit of time at the doctor's, looking at that strange lump on my head (surgery has been scheduled for an upcoming Friday, so hopefully I only miss a day of school), I did the best I could think of to honor the anniversary of September 11: I voted.
I realized this morning that I never changed my registration to District #13, so my research on Emmett Gayton was all for naught. I went back to my old precint, District #2, and voted for Jill P. Carter, Michael Sarbanes, and Michael Hamilton (the latter of whom, I personally know).
I think there is a very good chance that none of my candidates will win. I think Carter is the only candidate worth anything running for mayor; she has the combination of intelligence and ballsiness that this city needs. I wish - wish wish wish - that Keiffer Mitchell was a candidate I could support, because he stands the best chance of beating Sheila Dixon, but Mitchell is just another corrupt city politician, someone who was there all along while the city's optimism and functionality has seeped away over the last couple of years. Realistically, I'm hoping that Carter gets enough votes to make her a contender for the next several years, and a voice and force in local politics. We need her.
City Council President was tougher, and I voted for Sarbanes because of his appearances on the Steiner show and the Norris show. What can I say, he's a smart guy who seems to have great ideas for the city. I have nothing against Rawlings-Blake, but she just didn't distinguish herself to me. (Speaking of which, isn't it crazy how dynastic our politics are in this state? Sarbanes, Rawlings... might as well be Clinton and Bush. That's another reason I like Carter.) Lastly, for that District #2, I don't think Hamilton will win, and I like Curran, but wanted Hamilton to get enough votes so he has a chance to run next time.
Tonight, I'm quite sure we'll see Dixon claim victory, and that will make me even more depressed about this city. By the way, I voted today at around 11am. I was the only voter there. Sad.
Back to writing my essays...
Sunday, September 09, 2007
So, I'll probably keep both classes, which will give me a semester of ultimate hell, but it will mean I'll be all done with my Master's Degree before the summer starts. This will free me up to do a lot of different things this summer, from travel to a summer teacher institute, as long as I save for the summer well. Last year, I saved pretty well all year - $200/paycheck - but had a pretty major financial crisis right at the start of the summer, and that made me pretty broke once August rolled around. But I also was taking classes, and, apparently, next summer that will be all over with. I'll glide into the 2008-2009 school year with a more than $7000 raise, and hopefully the financial straits of my life in the last few months will be over.
And hopefully this second job will be over, as I'm just ready to start having actual weekends sometime soon in my life. However, I admit yesterday at the restaurant was full of fun and laughs, thought not too much money. Today, I'm at the festival for the afternoon, and that should be fun (working outside in the fresh air, schilling pierogi and gulumpki), and then back at the restaurant for the evening. Sunday nights are usually lucrative, and hopefully I can make another big tuition payment on Monday or Tuesday. My balance of $3397 has come down quite a bit, but I still have quite a bit of work to do. I'm determined to do it, though, and perhaps even I'm going to do it without using any credit cards - all cash up front. Wouldn't that be cool? Towson is apparently using me to tear town half of itself and rebuild itself - there is so much freaking construction there, I can barely find my way around - and I wouldn't want to let it down.
Friday, September 07, 2007
I'm in a miserable state right now. Just got off of work. I'm sore and tired all over. I have a little bit of work for my Saturday graduate course, which meets for the first time tomorrow. Plus, it's the weekend of the big festival, so I'm pulling extra duty at the restaurant.
Here's my schedule this weekend:
Friday: At school until 4:15. At the restaurant at 5:30. Work until midnight.
Saturday: In my graduate course from 8am-4pm. Work at the restaurant from 5:00-close.
Sunday: Work at the festival from 11am-4pm. Work at the restaurant from 5pm-close.
It's pretty depressing to think about. I guess I can sleep in a little on Sunday. Maybe my prof will let us out a little early on Saturday. Otherwise, it's a weekend of small rewards, except for money. But I really, really need it.
Tuesday, there's no school, so I can relax a little then. Of course, I'll be relaxing by getting a biopsy. More on that later. But hopefully not much more. Oy.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
My first year of teaching, I was a clueless 23-year old thrown in front of a bunch of city kids without any idea how to manage a class. The kids mostly liked me because they could get away with anything. Luckily, when I was a first year teacher, we were on a semester schedule, so I got all new kids in January, and from that point on, I got myself on two feet - with a bit of help from a woman named Louise.
More to the point, though, were the kids in those classes. I think everyone remembers the kids they start with, and these were particularly memorable. One kid from that class of sophomores just messaged me tonight, asking me how I've been. And another kid, one of the most memorable of my career, sent me an email today. He was a sophomore my first year of teaching - seven years ago - so now he's several years out of high school and basically an adult. I got an email today that simultaneously made me happy and made me sad. Here is part of it: Its been one big roller coaster these last 3 years and the ride is still goin. I can't get into too many details online but I had a lot of major set backs these last couple of years. You might have heard of a few. there have been some success stories too. I'm just trying to stand of my two feet and get through all the madness. Its really good to hear from you tho. I put you down as a reference on my resume and like all my job apps.lol! If you ever want to drop me a line you can hit me on here or ... Take care. talk to you later.
I'd often thought about him and hoped he had been okay. It sounds like he has been, barely.
Just a few days ago, I learned that another kid - one I taught as a freshman four years ago - is attending Michigan State University, my alma mater. It's the first time I've had a student attend my alma mater, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me extremely proud. Admittedly, I'd lost touch with him a little bit, just saying "hi" in the hallways (after his unsuccessful 9th grade year on the baseball team, he chose track), but I'd always liked the kid, and seeing him go to State made me pretty happy. Too bad he got stuck in Brody.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
The class has dropped about ten from last week, but I will not be one of them. This is a pre-requisite for the course I'm taking in the spring, so I must take it; if I end up dropping a course, it will be the other one. My advisor, just today (or maybe yesterday... I've got to do a better job with checking email), gave me an "out" - she said she thinks she can swing an alternative course and a semester extension on my transfer credits. It still seems like a slight risk, but I might take her up on it. I've decided to attend the first class on Saturday, though, as there are two others in this class that are taking that one, too, and I've heard the professor is very good. It might be better to have a semester of no life and have a more worthwhile summer. I will decide within the week.
Meanwhile, today was an exceptional teaching day. It's a good reminder that teaching 9th grade - or maybe just teaching classes of ~35 - is a constant juggling act that takes a lot of energy. I was winded at times, but running in between the aisles (kids now know not to ever put their bags on the ground in the aisle) and modeling textmarking (of Sandra Cisneros' vignette "Hairs," which is chalk full of all five types of imagery and two of the three main types of figurative language) on large pieces of newsprint worked well.
My summation activity, where they practice the skill I taught them, was too rushed, and it was a good reminder of how much I miss teaching in the 90-minute block. Yes, there was a lot of wasted time in it, mostly due to lazy teaching. And I hated A-day/B-day. But I miss being able to spend 90 minutes on a topic.
And, perhaps my last rant on the topic of summer reading: I hate the emphasis on it in my course. It's just a crummy way for a disorganized 9th grade student to start the year off: behind. Starting the first novel should be together, with great fanfare, making sure that every kid has it. It's just impossible to do with mailings over the summer to incorrect addresses and a summer orientation program that not every kid attends. I'd rather de-emphasize it. Still have kids read, but maybe not have it a book in the curriculum. Then, boom, in the second week of school, you're off and running into the first book.
I'm very tired. And sick, which I'm blaming on those germ-ridden 9th graders who don't wash their hands enough.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
"Working to rule," is, as the letter explained, not completing any tasks not explicitly stated on the contract. No hall duty, no lunch duty, no staying past 3:25 and no arriving before 8:05. No advising any organizations. No writing any letters of recommendation. No grading or planning anything outside of the prescribed time. No buying any school supplies. No grading any work at home.
It's all pretty laughable. The awful feeling of being in front of a classroom without a proper plan is enough to dissuade me from ever engaging in something like this, and this is just the selfish side of me. You just can't negotiate with the kids as a bargaining tool. It's impossible to be an effective teacher working only 7.5 hours a day, and, thus, it's just impossible for me engage in something like this.
That being said, I'd be much more willing to engage in a full strike than "working to rule" (though, I wouldn't go on strike over this). A strike, at least, gets people's attention. A work to rule is bound to fail because most of the general public probably does believe that teachers work to rule anyway. I get the sense that most think like this guy does. In other words, how could teachers be asking for more planning time? Don't they already get 45 minutes a day? What other job needs planning time? Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure strikes are not allowed in this state.
It's apparently all over planning time. According to our Union head, we already get less planning time than any other district in the state. I don't know if that's true, but I definitely know that I don't want the BCPSS filling up more of our time with pointless professional development when I could be working for my kids. Still, it's hard for me not to wish that the union was doing something a little more useful. Can we get a cap on our student loads or class sizes, for example (say, 140 and 28?)? Or how about be guaranteed textbooks for every student? Or how about, I dunno, a phone in my freaking classroom? I don't ask for much. My classes of 36 and 37 would feel a lot better if there were ten less kids. I know the kids get a better education, and I also know that I just feel a lot more relaxed. Putting nearly forty 14-year olds in the same place, squished together in 93-degree heat is a recipe for lots of stress. That was me, about four hours ago, only I was in front of them, taking off points for chatter while we discussed our vocabulary.
Still, I guess this is where the contract negotiations are, and because it's nearly impossible to vote out a member of the BCPSS union, it's once again Marietta English who is in charge. Maybe class size and class load is out of the realm of possibility. Maybe the planning time is the only place where any negotations could occur. I know from experience that an inch turns into a mile really quickly when dealing with contracts. Giving up a planning period every other day could quickly turn into, I don't know, mandated test-writing sessions or something like that.
Anyhow, work to rule... I'm not doing it, and I don't know of any teachers that are, at least at my school. But today I left at 5:15 instead of 7:30. Vive la revolucion! I'll just pretend I don't have 60 essays in my bag to grade tonight.
Monday, September 03, 2007
This guy is much more eloquent than I am.
Saturday and Sunday were long, long days at the restaurant, but today I had the satisfying experience of using the tip money to pay off some of my silly credit card debt I got this summer, as well as some grocery and school shopping.
It could be that my foot injury is what finally ends my second job. I see the podiatrist tomorrow, I think (why do I never write down appointments?), and have decided I'm really going to insist on a different course of action than I'm currently on. It's been two months since the injury, and there is still no appreciable difference. It feels great for a while after a cortisone shot, but that only lasts a week or so, and then I'm one awkward step away from searing pain. Teaching is a job that you can't do on your butt, and neither is waiting tables. Something might have to give in order to give it a rest.
My phone will not turn on. I think I need to get a new battery. It lights up when it's plugged in, but that's it. I had to borrow a friend's phone to call my parents and my sister yesterday, for my weekly check-in.
It pains me to say it, but after the Tigers' 8-7 heartbreaking loss on Sunday, it appears they're done for the year. I'm not expecting a playoff run. No team with as many injuries as the Tigers have had this year (Rogers, Bonderman, Robertson, Miller, Zumaya, Rodney, Guillen, Sheffield) or as many holes (1B, 3B, LF) can be a playoff contender. And they just keep giving away games that they should win. I'll still hold out some hope, but it doesn't appear to be our year.
As for the Orioles, I have to say that I think they made a great trade the other day, getting Scott Moore (a player I know well) and another guy for a month of Steve Trachsel. That's a near steal. And, while the team is obviously in a rough patch, I have to say that the team is looking better than at any other time in the last seven years, since I've been paying attention to them. Their young pitching is some of the best in baseball, and as long as they stop spending money on Jay Payton and Danny Baez types, the future of the team is bright. I'll be interested to see what they'll focus on in the off-season. I hope they start seeing what they can get for Mora, Tejada, and Roberts - getting some young players for them, especially players that could help on offense - will be setting the team up well for a playoff run in 2-3 years.
I have sent an email off to my advisor, to see if she has any advice for my coursework. I have three classes that I must finish by the end of the summer to complete my Masters Degree in Secondary Education. Currently, I am enrolled in two courses, and planning on doing the last one in the spring. This will free my summer up for full time work, or maybe a summer teachers' institute (which I've always wanted to do). If I get the go-ahead from her, though, I think I might drop one of the classes and take one now, one in the spring, and one in the summer. The go-ahead will depend on what is offered in the summer. Last summer, only one course I needed was offered in the summer.
Tomorrow, I start To Kill a Mockingbird with my students. I'm hoping it's what rejuvenates my lessons with the 9th graders a little bit. It was a bit of a lackluster week for me with them. I hate summer reading. I like that the kids do it, and I like talking about it because I like talking about what books kids would like to read, but I've never had much of an idea what to do with it in the classroom. I designed the summer reading assignment for the 10th grade team that I left. Kids got to choose any one of four books - I love giving kids a choice - and they did some work for it and took a quiz on it and now they've moved on. I long for that sort of system. In fact, that's why I designed it as such. Ugh.
Saturday, September 01, 2007
It was a hard week. I think I'm out of practice teaching 9th graders, after a year off. I'd forgotten just how much direction they need. I'd forgotten how an inch turns into a mile without even noticing it. I also don't really think it's just about the 9th graders. I'm not yet in midseason form. Throwing us into a five day week the first week of the year is tough.
But I'll get there. The four day week next week will help. But my schedule this week was amongst the busiest I've remembered. My average day looked like this: wake up at 5am. Go to the gym. Get to school at 7:45. Stay at school until around 7, grading and creating lesson plans. Then, I usually have another activity, whether it's class, waiting tables, or, my favorite, passing out from exhaustion. I'm not feeling that healthy, which is pissing me off. My foot pain is sometimes barely noticeable, and, at other times, it burns with every step. Such a simple thing to expect to be pain free - taking a step - and I'm not able to get it. Yeah, it just makes me mad. I'm also fighting off a cold, but that's not that big of a deal.
The strain I was feeling with my 9th grade team - two good friends, both huge personalities, both dramatic divas to which I'm generally the soothing tonic buffer - erupted on Friday into a shouting match centered around what kind of a test to give our students on Tuesday. The shouting wasn't between the divas, who occasionally are at each others' throats, but, rather, involving mild-mannered me. As a colleague stated, there was some Jerry Springer shit going on in room 227 in 3rd period yesterday. We aired it out, though, and it felt good afterwards. It's good to feel like I'm in it with others just as passionate as I am. I wish it was a little more drama-free, though. Afterwards, we went out for Happy Hour(s) and all is well. It was a long week for everyone, not just me. I seriously don't remember ever working this hard so soon.
My kids seem fine, though. My class sizes are ranging from 33-36, and several students were added to my classes on Friday. My load will, once again, be in the 160-170 range, though I haven't made a final count since the kids were added yesterday. I already have a least favorite class and a favorite class. I don't much like my room arrangement and probably will change it in a day or so.
With two graduate courses, this is probably going to be my toughest semester ever. I attended my 7-9:40 course on Wednesday, and I was so tired by the end of the day that I couldn't make it to the gym in the morning. However, I actually have some friends now in the program, and several of them are in the class. That could make things easier. Still, I have sent an email off to my advisor for some, well, advice. I'm supposed to finish my MAT in the spring, and if I drop on of my classes, I'll have to spill into the summer. I wouldn't mind that, but, last semester, Towson did not offer any of the classes I needed in the summer. If I don't finish my MAT by the summer, all of my transfer credits will expire, which is why I have a time limit.
One of the bigger issues is that I just can't afford to put the money upfront for the classes right now. I need to put the money upfront to get reimbursed, but just don't have $3000 lying in my seat cushions at this point in the school year. If I don't pay by October, I think I might get dropped permanently.
My phone is turned off and I'm going to chill tonight. I worked all day at the restaurant (busy day in Fells Point, and I made $115), and have a little bit of grading to do before I do some reading and hit the sack.