09/01 Direct Link
If you had 100 words, what would you do with them? Would you write in poetry or in prose? Would you count each one, measuring your words carefully? Or would you write first and think afterward? I suppose I'm curious as to whether constraint causes creativity, or hinders it. I wonder how I'll create within these confines. I imagine I'll write in new and unexpected ways. I'll try new formats and phrases. I'll feel frustrated and surprised. I'm already unsure of what the month of September will bring. This is just another variable within the chaos. It will be interesting.
09/02 Direct Link
My parents' wedding album is fantastic. There's my mom in the dress she made, her hair long and tied with a ribbon. My dad looks incredibly young, younger than I am now, and is wearing these amazing plaid pants. The wedding was sort of impromptu. (Not that kind, I promise I wasn't a surprise.) More like, "Our families are coming in April to visit so why don't we get married?" The wedding was small and simple, but what they lacked in frills they've made up for in staying power. And after 28 years any naysayers have long since been silenced.
09/03 Direct Link
It didn't take long for her to become annoying. She was always around. I would see her smoking out on the porch (knowing that her oxygen tank was hooked up inside.) She asked me to buy things for her. She stole my trash can. (Which was funny at the time, but somehow it got me sucked into taking her trash out every Tuesday.) I even took her to the grocery store once. I know, I know, she's lonely. She can't take care of herself and her family isn't around. But how I ended up her surrogate daughter I'm not sure.
09/04 Direct Link
It's funny how things filter in and out of our conscious minds. The world is too big and too complicated to concentrate on all at once, and so we exist for the most part within the sphere in which we feel comfortable. I slowed to let an ambulance turn today. I wondered briefly where they were going, what had happened. The thought left me as quickly as it came, and I continued singing along with the radio. I forget sometimes how small I am, how small my world is. The rest of the world becomes, for the most part, unimportant.
09/05 Direct Link
The expectation that I will leave hangs over me. I came back glowing from my trip, ready to go try something else that day, that minute. It's more complicated now that I've settled into a routine. I think about next year, about continuity, and realize that to plan too much would be a waste. I also think of how long it took to learn all of the rules and procedures, to stop stumbling over names (it took forever to get Josephine and Vicky straight,) to stop being the new kid. I look forward to doing that again, but I'm nervous.
09/06 Direct Link
Teacher meeting, which means I spent the day drowning in inane buzzwords. Curriculum, strands and benchmarks, pedagogy, curriculum mapping...what do any of these words mean? Nothing was fully explained today, as often happens, so we spent most of the day slightly bewildered and trying to come to consensus on the directions. I don't think we really got anything done. It's always interesting to see teachers without kids. Some people have the same personality around kids and adults (I do, but I'm more sarcastic with adults.) Some have radically different personalities. In the end we're all a bunch of weirdos anyway.
09/07 Direct Link
It's always a little strange to play tourist in your own city or state. Add a camera to the mix and a couple of people willing to take pictures of anything, and the results are bizarre. Surreptitious pictures of blue cowboy boots and a matching prairie skirt. The tightest leopard-print pants you've ever seen. Little "lonely goatherd" marionettes. Forks bent into all kinds of sculptures. (Really, and they were actually pretty cool.) A dog in a cowboy hat. The Santa Fe plaza was crowded for the week of Fiestas, with so many people we had ample opportunity for snapping pics.
09/08 Direct Link
It seems I've changed so much, people and places ought to change with me. They don't, of course. Everything is still the same. The banners on the walls listing years the team won state championships. School records for different events showing names of people I knew and competed with. The chlorine smell, and the first cool rush of sliding under. The lifeguards in their red printed t-shirts, looking bored and half-asleep. The locker room with its ring of showers, benches polished by years of use. Nothing changes but me, and I return to the same place for the same activity.
09/09 Direct Link
We space our drama over months and years, building it up into an explosion that disrupts the day and our teaching. It began this morning with a note in my box, stating the resignation of an employee. No explanation, no warning. A simple explanation followed, one with no details and the recommendation that we not make an issue out of it. Try as I might not to get involved in the gossip I still do. I wouldn't, but curiosity always gets the best of me. I want to know what is happening and why as much as the next person.
09/10 Direct Link
It rained all day. We don't expect that here. A 30 minute monsoon thunderstorm, maybe. But a whole day of rain is something only experienced in other places. Consequently: All of my kids were in shorts. Nobody had an umbrella. I don't think I even own an umbrella. The air conditioner was on all day and we froze. We had to have lunch recess inside, and I barely had time to pee, much less eat. Still, it was all worth it when I saw the heavy clouds spilling up and over the Sandias and smelled the wet grass and soil.
09/11 Direct Link
How do you measure a year? The thing that's stuck me about today is the stories. Everyone has a story to tell, even those of us who were far away and seemingly unaffected. In a way we were all affected. I like the positive stories best -- stories about people helping one another, building friendships. I wonder which list is longer -- the list of good things or the list of bad. I have a hunch it's the good. That, at least, is nice to hear. I'm not sure what I believe, but I do know I believe in people.
09/12 Direct Link
Today was one of those barely sane, hanging on by a thread type days. I didn't yell (I don't really ever yell,) but I was pretty much out of patience by 2:00 PM. I have these days occasionally, less with these kids than with the previous class. I suppose I should learn to harness that energy and use it for good. Sometimes it's a chicken and egg issue, though. Are they acting crazy because I'm out of patience, or am I out of patience because they're acting crazy? Probably a little of both, with some tiredness thrown in for flavor.
09/13 Direct Link
Is it possible to fall in love with words without really understanding their meaning? I fall in love with poetry and lyrics everyday. I stare at them and mouth them and try to divine their meaning, but it's always the shape and sound that attracts me first. Sometimes I fall for the most ridiculous and cloying phrases, knowing their cheesiness full well even as I sigh and nod agreement. Sometimes other people's words speak everything I always wanted to say but never had the courage. I want to commit each word and phrase to memory, to make each my own.
09/14 Direct Link
My cleaning philosophy: out of sight and out of mind. I suppose by comparison I am a pretty neat person- I do my dishes, I put things away, I need to feel organized. That being said don't ever, ever open the spare room closet. It's quite possible that opening that door will lead to a concussion. Now you're dying to try it, but don't say I didn't warn you. The things I see on a daily basis (bedroom closet, kitchen cabinets,) are organized. The things I don't I just stay away from unless I need rubber cement or a flashlight.
09/15 Direct Link
They say their breakfast burritos are world famous. I don't know, though, don't all New Mexican restaurants have world famous breakfast burritos or some such thing? Anyway, people in Beijing aren't raving about Garcia's Kitchen and their incredible burritos. Still, it was a good breakfast, and I did enjoy it-- with beans and green chile on the side. I can't remember what we talked about, but I know we laughed a lot. Family gatherings are always like that-- some story or imitation sets us off and suddenly we're all talking at once, telling jokes that probably bewilder the other patrons.
09/16 Direct Link
I could tell that she must have been cute, in her youth. Her lips were still full and pouty, her hair thick and brown, her skin smooth. But when she told me how she had a "body that could stop a train" I simply mumbled an "Oh, really?" and raised an eyebrow. She had such a stocky build-- like a miniature football player; it seemed inconceivable that she could ever have been a size 5. Even if she did work out as much as she claimed. But who was I to get in the way of her search for youth?
09/17 Direct Link
I watched, amazed, as she served the ball, scoring point after point. The other team was still at zero but the numbers continued to climb. I'm not sure that they didn't stop trying after the 10th or 11th point. They stood bewildered, making half-hearted attempts to dive for the ball, or looking puzzled at the other players and wondering whose hit it should have been. I was certainly amazed, and proud, of her winning streak, but I couldn't help feeling bad for the younger and smaller opposition. In a year or two maybe they can build up a better program.
09/18 Direct Link
"Ms. P, can we jump off the swings?" a ponytailed, tomboyish 4th grader asked me this morning. "You know you can't," I replied. "But you're supposed to be the cool teacher!" she said. I laughed, and I was sort of flattered, but I know what being the cool teacher means. It means I'm a pushover. No way. I can be as mean as, well, as mean as that nun who used to teach 1st grade. I'm glad they think I'm cool, but I think they would be surprised if they spent a day in my classroom. My reputation is amusing.
09/19 Direct Link
The best students are often the most independent, self-starters, working hard and without help. Their projects were obviously kid-created without a lot of help from mom and dad. Some kids definitely had help, and in some cases mom and dad did everything. I prefer the second group- some help from home but the majority of the project was the child's. Someone complained to me about projects that require help from parents, but I can always tell a family that works and learns together. Those children and more well-rounded and curious, more interested in learning itself. They're also the most fun.
09/20 Direct Link
Fridays are a blur. By this point in the week I'm running on fumes no matter how early I go to bed on Thursday night (or how late I sleep in on Friday morning.) We spend the day playing catch up for the week- searching for lost assignments, finishing with late work, and generally creating chaos and wreaking havoc. It's fun. I try not to think about the fact that 1/5 of our learning time is essentially wasted. Next week I'm trying something entirely new and different. Because I'm insane and because I need change. We'll see how it goes.
09/21 Direct Link
I've always felt that I excel at organization. I invent all kinds of ideas and devices for keeping track of times, events, school supplies, food, clothing, whatever. I'm not sure if my organization is accessible or even makes sense to other people, but it does make sense to me. I fell all out of whack when things aren't organized. If I can't find anything I need in 10 seconds flat then I either give up or buy a new one. My closet is organized by color. My makeup is organized by type and color. I think I might be crazy.
09/22 Direct Link
I worked longer than I care to admit this afternoon. I was excited to set up the new activities for this week, but now I'm nervous and worried that the kids won't be able to work independently on the activities. I will be annoyed if I have spent all of this time setting things up and they can't read and follow the directions without my help. I guess I can't expect things to run smoothly the first time. I'll have to give them a week or two to get used to the system before I start expecting results and success.
09/23 Direct Link
I come back to the same question again and again. How much is it worth to me that the kids have fun? If I can do one activity with little planning or a more fun one that requires a lot of planning which will I choose? I worry that I value fun over learning. I spent 7 hours yesterday planning activities for this week. That was a large chunk of my Sunday spent making sure these kids have a good time in my class. In the end I can only hope that their learning is greater because of my efforts.
09/24 Direct Link
Do you get sucked into daydreams about what could or should or might have happened? I have this whole list. I think that if I had been older, or more experienced, or generally more myself than I was then... Or if we had met some other way, or in some other time. If I had had the chance to make those mistakes with someone else, then I might have been ready. I might have been smarter. I might have been more cautious. It doesn't hurt anymore, but even now I can still get lost in the mights and if onlys.
09/25 Direct Link
I have nothing to say today. I was half-asleep and slightly grouchy today, but I don't think anyone noticed. (OK, they probably did.) I just pinched my arm repeatedly and reminded myself to at least try to act friendly. I did, and I made it through the day in reasonable shape. Tonight my dad and I are swimming and going out for Teriyaki Chicken Bowl. Then I'll park myself in front of the TV to watch the season premier of "The West Wing." My dad calls it "The Left Wing," which he thinks is funny. Everyone should be so witty.
09/26 Direct Link
They screamed like girls in the 60's screamed for the Beatles. The screams were measured, a little for some, more for others. The most screams were for Justin Timberlake. It was freezing in there, with the air conditioning going full blast. It wasn't possible to whisper over the noise of the blowers, so they had no choice but to pay attention. So much money and time went into a presentation so insipid, I could hardly believe it. We do things like this and call it drug use prevention. Red ribbon week is the same-- an expensive shot in the dark.
09/27 Direct Link
I'm finished with feeling guilty about not listening to the homily. How can I? I have 100 things on my mind, none of which are the plight of the homeless. (Sorry, but it's the truth.) I spend most of the mass eyeing the kids carefully and making sure they pay attention. (Ironic, I know.) Not to mention that the priest is essentially unintelligible. Sometimes my mind wanders to some pretty fantastic places. There are the usual "What am I doing next?" musings, but also crazy, mixed-up daydreams about vacations and ex-boyfriends and lottery winnings-- sometimes rolled into a single imagining.
09/28 Direct Link
I never wore my sunglasses in Alaska. I was afraid of missing something. I knew that the mountains and waters that sparkled in the distance would be lost if I shielded my eyes. And so I squinted a little, but spent most of the time wide-eyed and amazed at absolutely everything. So it was today. I snapped dozens of pictures with the camera in one hand and the steering wheel in another. I sat on the bluff until time ceased to move forward and there was only the wind and the rain in the distance. What was I waiting for?
09/29 Direct Link
Anymore I think there are 6 work days in the week. This makes Saturday very important-- so much pressure to relax but also to make the most of the day. Sunday is more regimented. Sleep in. Spend time online. Think about the week and mull over classroom resources. Type whatever's needed. Work for a while-- first on the room, then on planning, and finally on grading papers. If I get that far. I still have a stack of language pages to grade, but I'm not going to waste time worrying. Now I need to think about being rested and ready.
09/30 Direct Link
I'm so glad for it to be October. Cooler weather, sweaters, falling leaves, Halloween... I can feel it coming when the wind rustles my curtains, and see it in the beams of afternoon light. I felt it last weekend on the bluff as I shivered and pulled my arms inside my sweatshirt. These days the sun sets squarely in the west, falling behind the clouds at the end of every street. It rises each morning in my rearview mirror. I've been waiting for fall since August. I won't mourn the end of summer but let it go until next time.