Friday, February 25, 2011

Letting the hot air out

Pennsylvania English teacher vents and doesn't get away with it

This blog entry shall be brief as I have a lot of work to get done before the week begins again -- I don't disagree with the fact that a teacher blogged about a few terrible days at work, or with the choice of words she used as she could best describe her perception at the young people's [mis]education. I am in complete support of a person venting, as people will do, on their own personal blogs, be they public or private -- and I believe hers was private; or, at least, it did not name specific students NOR did it mention the place she worked.

I just feel that, as an educator, we are looked upon to find the diamonds in the rough, or to help maintain the ones that already stand out among the others. As an educator, it is up to us to maintain ourselves as people of emotional, mental, and physical stability -- not as superheroes or even super humans; rather, as people you can see yourself going to for help or for someone to talk to because nobody else will listen to you. It's a lot to live up to, but I have always stood that if you keep things positive, and keep Work Life at work and Home Life at home, you will have success in those with whom you interact. Positivity is a huge component in my teaching philosophy that I've developed over the years and it's helped me to befriend, not antagonize, the young ones I see and teach everyday.

Do you remember what high school was like? Angst, misconceptions, drama, self-consciousness, body image issues, eating disorders, homework, material goods, grades, expectations everywhere . . . The last person I would want labeling myself and my peers as stoned slackers would be a teacher. When all else was collapsing around me, I found comfort in going to school, learning things, and watching my quirky teachers do their thing because I knew I could count on it to be there. Sometimes it wasn't, because nobody's perfect. If I could recall a time when a teacher called us any of the things this PA educator did in the classroom, it's since been overshadowed by the positive aspects of school.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Mathematician Writes

One aspect that I really enjoy about working where I do is that I do not have to abide by any pacing guide, computer-generated tests or quizzes, or "script" created by a corporate office somewhere out in Texas that does not know my students to the depth that I do.

Of course, one aspect that would make my  job a lot easier is having a pacing guide, generated assessments and "scripts" to follow when I am feeling lost about how to better show my students the real-life applications of the Binomial Theorem or the Quadratic Formula.

Nevertheless, it gives me the opportunity to guide students through written reports to seek out math applications for themselves. For the last two years I've assigned a "Wonders of the World" writing assignment where students chose an ancient "wonder" or one created during/after the Industrial Revolution. After the reports are turned in, extra-credit posters and videos presented, we watch an episode or two of "Engineering an Empire," an amazing series from The History Channel.

 "The Aztecs"

Before my favorite video rental place in Berkeley closed down (RIP Reel) I'd get most of my videos or DVDs there to show my students. It was independent and had a plethora of obscure videos, with such subgenres as "Man vs. Shark" and showcased more than twenty great actors/actresses/directors' work with their own shelf of achievements.

My only critique was that their video collection was missing the original "Sleuth" starring Michael Caine and Lawrence Olivier and written by Anthony Shaffer. I still have yet to see the 2007 remake from Kenneth Branagh, which WAS available at Reel. I'm curious how well Jude Law pulled off Caine's original role as the young, good-lookin' guy.

Humboldt County folk would recognize this store as a variation of Figuredo's, where I first checked out so many foreign and independent videos that my teeny weeny middle-school brain could hardly process. There I was first exposed to so many cinema greats: Almodovar, "El Topo," and "But I'm A Cheerleader." Those were the days I coveted Roger Ebert's job.

Tragedy struck in 2000 or 2001 when a kitchen fire from an adjacent Mexican restaurant spread to Figuredo's in McKinleyville and destroyed decades of work to build such a unique video collection. I remember mourning the loss for weeks, having to make the commute to Arcata if I desired the same hard-to-find titles. That Mexican restaurant is where I had my first chile relleno combination plate. It's never been the same.

But let me return to my original point: writing essays in math class? Yessiree, it is indeed one of the finer points of the scriptless classes I teach. It's a great way for writers to explore mathematical applications and for mathematicians to explore writing applications.

One of the best classes I took in college was Writing for Science, which combined my love of the written word with my passion for empirical knowledge. I brag to my students that I won second-place in an essay contest not for the self-congratulation, but to show them that all the logic and mathematical lingo that I thrust upon them in each 55-minute session can be used to further one's own talking points. That essay writing, just like mathematics, needs to follow a formula for success. Sometimes the writing will go off on tangents, sometimes it will be more rigid, and sometimes it will look and feel counterintuitive. But regardless the end result is clear, concise, and unique.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Pirate Knits With Yarrrrrrn and Hunts for Purls

With the date of Stitches West (SW) fast approaching, this is what I imagine my brain has turned into:

A knitted I-cord brain stem could make for an EXCELLENT lasso!

Yes -- my brain has become a knit/crocheted mess! If my brain were made of yarn, its fiber content would change with the season. Right now it is 100% Peruvian highland wool, thinking of warm thoughts and keeping dry in the downpour of rain that is being experienced in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I have started a Knit List (teehee) of things that I want to search for this Saturday at SW. Last year I went in not knowing what to expect; I did stock up on many different yarns and accessories and books that I wanted to explore, but I feel like I had no direction. I was just groping at anything I could get my paws on, like so many eager children I used to view with envy on Nickelodeon as they blazed through a Toys 'R' Us on a competitive shopping spree.

The space in Santa Clara is so huge that one feels the need to rush through the aisles, and it's dizzying to weave in and out and try to see everything. With some guidance and a few modest goals for garments to knit this year, I feel like I have a chance to get a lot of loot this year that will go to good use.

Until then, I've managed to abstain from getting too many new knitting accessories -- with the exception of some beautiful sock yarn from the lys in WC.

And researching how to make pigs fly; you KNIT them!

Today at lunch is Crafting Circle; so far it's me and one other crocheting [male] student. All ya'll gotta get off Academic Probation, ya hear? No more lunch detention for you -- you belong with me, crafting into infinity! 

There are some pretty creative folk that I'm sad to say are victims of education, or their own sloth, or both.

Or perhaps it's because their teachers are spending too much time blogging and not updating grades.

. . . 

To the grade book!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I am ___________________

Today the students at my school showed a lot of solidarity towards racial stereotypes by writing "I am ___________ " signs taped to their clothes. The signs exposed their race and a multitude of other stereotypes that followed:

I am Mexican. I'm on the T diet. I got pregnant at 15 and go home to an abusive husband.

I am black. I will rob you and sell drugs in your neighborhood.

I am white. I'm privileged and will to go a better school than you. People don't suspect me of doing any crime.

This compelled me to write my own:

I am a woman. I wear high heels and wish I had bigger breasts. I cook and want to please others before I please myself. I wear tons of make up and pretend to be stupid.

If you think about it too much, it's depressing. It hurts. But that's the whole point -- and furthermore, we are NOT those stereotypes and we even surpass them when we realize our greatness and overcome hardships to achieve our dreams. OK now I'm sounding mushy.

Either way, this "movement" sparked many genuine conversations throughout the school and I can already feel the bad vibes wearing off. We're all in need of a vacation and will get one next week, but this has helped tame the fire that we are all feeling in this tiny school.

Lest I forget, all this conversation reminded me of an "In Living Color" skit my boyfriend showed me a couple of weeks ago:

(Of course, ignore the ad in the beginning :-P

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rebirthing (ew)

Let me tell you a little bit about this website's inception and conception: it all started with an assignment from my credential class to create a Blogger account. It was my understanding that we had to create a blog from which we respond to all class assignments -- how to integrate technology in the classroom, how to use "data" given from the district to raise API (Academic Performance Index), meet our district's goals of successfully implementing technology while meeting state-adopted standards, and give more reason for the state to give us dinero.

But let me not get distracted by the inner workings of our education's excessively bureaucratic rewards system.

Needless to say, I was wrong in my understanding. However, I am keeping up this blog and committed to figuring it all out to utilize it for myself in all the ways that I can. I won't go into the inner workings of the status of my previous website. I'm just moving on. Pity -- I was just getting used to WordPress, too. :-/

As for now my To Do list requires more hours than I can give concentration towards; my brain is partially lost in Las Trampas where I was this time yesterday, and partially lost in the pursuits of creating a knit pullover inspired from a twisted-bark tree I viewed there:

Quite gnarly indeed.

Friday, February 11, 2011