Saturday, December 17, 2011

in the wake of the Koyem:shi

I'm headed off to aul PodjaQ in a few, but it should be noted: I did it.
I completed my FIRST semester EVER of teaching.

And PhotoBooth / Checkers / our couch saw me through it.
Picture highlights from the week:

Driving back from Pojoaque last Monday - which took an inordinately long, if beautiful time because of the ice-tastic, snowy conditions - I found a completely dark Zuni. It was when I passed the Giant gas station and it too was completely unlit, that I realized. WOW! Desh:kwi is here! Desh:kwi is the time when Zunis fast and reflect on the new year, and it is characterized with no outdoor lighting. It was really very beautiful to see the Village truly looking like a village.
Stranger, however, was when I came home (6ish) to find our house completely dark - but Emily's car was in the driveway. She opened the door for me and let me into our pitch-black house. The dialogue went as follows:
Me: I thought Desh:kwi only meant outdoor lights had to be out --?
Emily: We are strict Sha'lak'o house here.
Me: (laughing) Okay.
Emily: Yeah, the power went out about half an hour ago. 
Me:  Wait, what??
(Desh:kwi starts on the 20th)

This has prompted me to create a list: You Know You're in Zuni When:
  • You assume a power outage is, in fact, the advent of a religious holiday.
  • You get a stomach ache and suspect that a couple of your students may be cursing you.
  • Your petsitter is late because she was making fetishes.
  • Your car hood is marked with a weird design and you blame hatikwes (witches)
  • Your students give you roasted corn, oven bread, piki bread, hot cheetos, and kool aid seeds as snacks.
  • Your students' parents coordinate the coming of the gods.
  • You hear scratching under the house and secretly fear the A:doshle (boogeyman)
  • Your scabbed lip is from eating outside and subsequently having a witch suck on it
to be continued. . .

This was us midweek. I think this was Tuesday, when I realized that I needed to make up my unit tests, finish putting in late work, create a detailed unit plan for UNM, finish reading journals, and I would get 86 portfolios the next day. As you can see, a soporific Checkers was most sympathetic.

Me with one such portfolio. It's a little hard to believe that as of 8.30am this morning, I had: successfully printed and distributed the December edition of the T-Bird Times, graded ALL the portfolios (including some real dogs and REAL gems), given unit tests (a bluebook and a persuasive essay on whether Zuni should get a casino [please no]), had my sophomores make vegetable fried rice, did a day of humor and a day of Edwin Arlington Robinson & Edgar Lee Masters (when in doubt, have students read a "Luke Havergal" one act you've written in college), and. . . well. Isn't that enough?

Now off and away - Pojoaque today, Indiana tomorrow, and Iowa for Christmas!

Over and out!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Breastfeeding and Backwards Planning

Today, I called the Zuni Indian Hospital.
Nurse: Hello, Indian Health Services, Zuni. How may I help you?
Me: Hi! I was just wondering if there were any childbirth education classes offered here?
Nurse: Hmm... I think so? ... Let me transfer you over to OB!
Me: Thanks!
Nurse: No problem!

(Gee, this is going well!)

OB Nurse: OB.
Me: Hi, I was just transferred over here. I was wondering if you have any childbirth education classes?
OB: What?
Me: (repeat first line, only a bit more slowly)
OB: What? You havin' a baby?
Me: Um, no. I'm a doula in the area and so I was compiling a list of references.
OB: (long pause) I mean. Yeah. I think we do. It's the weekend.
Me: Yeah?
OB: Yeah. The administrative staff will be back tomorrow. Call Women's Health at 541.
Me: 541. Great! I'll do that. Thanks.
OB: See, it's the weekend.
Me: Yep. Thank you!
OB: Bye.

Ah, gotta love the roundabout.
Thanksgiving break has been a great time to dread returning to teaching, spend some wonderful cooking / chilling / Dog-Show watching with the parentals, and re-kickstarting my doula training. In the melee of, well, everything, my certification work had been postponed.

But as of today, I finished a Breastfeeding Basics course! It was a free - and excellent! - survey course aimed at informing medical practitioners (and more peripherally midwives / doulas / mothers) on the science, troubleshooting, and general universal advantages of breastfeeding. I WAY recommend it if you think you'll be breastfeeding any time soon :). Though you can complete the course in a linear fashion, it also allows you to skip around and read on topics you have more interest in. . Also, if you have any questions on jaundice, the advantages of breastfeeding, or the composition of human breast milk, feel free to drop a line!
This completion has also re-kickstarted my confidence in marketing myself as a doula (especially as a volunteer one). Breastfeeding was the area I felt weakest in at my friends' birth last winter. Now I feel comfortable with general technique (more than half the areola, tongue under nipple, belly to belly!) as well as the science / literature behind it. I'm sure after I finish Spiritual Midwifery and The Breastfeeding Mother's Companion (my two current doula books in addition to the school Red Scarf Girl and Atonement for leisure), I'll feel even more confident. Now, to the best practice there is: working with mamas and babies!
Oh, a quick note: especially after grooving with Ina May, the Breastfeeding course seems a little sterile. If you don't know Ina May, you should. She's the psychedelic Nana midwife of the movement - her Spiritual Midwifery, which is her earlier, and hippier version of her Guide to Childbirth, is part Bible, part manual, and part oxytocin trip. All of her recommendations and farflung opinions are anecdotal, but underpinned with pure science. I like this comfortable, inductive style; it makes it feel more intimate and woman-centered. The breastfeeding course, while working towards the same end, made me feel more clinically distanced. The focus was certainly a medical one - they said clearly at the beginning that breastfeeding was an ideal process, but then spent the rest of the time troubleshooting the process as if it were rigging up a carburetor. I suppose the main difference was rhetorical? It's unimportant, just a note I had.
Meanwhile, I also looked up some national volunteer doula programs. There are a couple really neat ones, especially in San Francisco. Hmm. . .

Also: the AKC Dog Show made me feel as though we should probably have a Rez Dog show here in Zuni (Cheerleading fundraiser). The categories would be: car-chasing, siren-barking, cutest mutt, ugliest mutt, will-actually-bite-you (as supplied by Emily), and rezziest.
You know you want to enter.

ONE last note from Thanksgiving: First off, it was a delightfully lethargic day. It began with a big big big breakfast at the Inn at Halona (we're talking eggs, hashbrowns, pancakes, fruit, and tea) with the padres. Our breakfast the day before was shared by a cool film couple who encouraged my theatrical pursuits and left their info in case I'd ever want to teach the Inupiak up in Alaska. Hmm, as Emily said, "probably next week."
Anywho, breakfast and round one of cooking back at ye olde trailer #5. Then back to Halona for afore-mentioned dog show. Then cooking and eating and relaxing. We - parents choice, promise! - also watched "Imagine Me and You." If you haven't seen it, it's a DELIGHTFUL lez romcom.
I had never thought of myself as remotely conservative - I'm probably akin to a baby-loving, tree-hugging mystic Bolshevik - but I realized queer theory wise, I'm happily traditional; I once heard "Imagine Me and You" for being criticized as utterly unrealistic. Well, then. I'll let you know when I see a Romantic Comedy that IS based in fact. It normalized a lesbian relationship in the way that "The Kids Are All Right" tried but failed. Go, "Imagine," go!
Moving on, in preparation for the early arising and trip to Amtrak Gallup, we got in the car to pop back to Halona -- only to find our one route blocked by the Christmas / Thanksgiving / Shalako night parade. I mean, of course. So, we walked behind the parade - blaring Christmas tunes and weaving through all of Zuni - until Halona was in sight. We said goodnight, but I walked back to the Giant gas station so I could see the first part of the parade.

One image: religious elk dancers, in full regalia (antlers, turquoise, tall cloth boots, prayer canes) dancing to a drum circle. BUT, the song the drum circle was chanting? A Zuni language version of "Good King Wenceslaus." The antlers of the dancers? Hung with tinsel. The boots? Jingling with jingle bells. The prayer canes? Striped like candy canes. Holla back, hybrid identity!

This past month (and then some) has been such a blur - it feels like practically no time has elapsed since I wrote my Police entry, while also Halloween seems like eons ago. Go figure.
Halloween was swell, though, as these pictures provide ample evidence:

Yes, we carved four pumpkins and cadged another. A couple were stolen by errant students, but retrieved from down the drive. And yes, that IS a Zia pumpkin. Yes, it IS awesome.

1. Dramatic reading of "The Raven." Check it out.
2. Yes, curriculum supervisor, I am using the textbook on a daily basis.
3. How good does our ristra look? (a present from the lovely Lyly)

Halloween was professional development - it started out in a spooky scary way learning that I could work the rest of my life in the ZPSD, but only half of my retirement could be collected by a domestic partner (as opposed to 100% by a spouse). Cute, institutionalized bigotry. Cute.
But then the trick-or-treaters came and sang their Halloween song and loved our puppets answering the door, so all was well!

OH, it has also been in the last month that my classroom got up to 92 degrees for about a week. 
I don't think I need to say more than that. It was a time of utter and abject misery where no learning and much frustration was present. 

I must pop off soon to grade my memoirs, my Spider vs. Wasp comics, my accounts of discrimination (so far, they've been well-written and revelatory), and my Sojourner Truth paragraphs, but I need to make note:

I got to see the great "Opiate" twice - I can't tell you how wonderful it was to see THEATRE, and furthermore how delightful it was to sit up in the booth on Friday night. Similarly, attending junior seminar and having Ethiopian food and the BGP and the cast party and "Fire and Brimstone" and brunch and DogTooth and Poor Richards and angelic Ellement and and and -- 
It was an immensely rich weekend, thank you to all.
Also, thank you to all my friends who said, "OMG I LOVE your blog." You've gotten me to resurrect it, albeit with an odd holiday post that's more natural birth than teaching reflections.

After picking my parents up from Amtrak Albuquerque one week ago, we got stuck in crash traffic ( and it took us 6 hours to get back to Zuni. After a reckless and sleepless CC weekend, this was the icing on the cake. However, thanks to my parents coming in as guest lecturers, I got sleep and my kids sure appreciated the enrichment! My mother taught a ladder of abstraction lecture with apples and my dad brought a poetry-writing workshop. 
By in large, my kids were remarkably focused and respectful; it's not easy to conjure up attentive students the two days before Thanksgiving break. My 3rd hour crazies were still crazy for my mother, but simmered down and were nonissues with my father -- this confirmed my suspicions that those three guys almost certainly have issues with female authority figures. Hmm, hard to know what to do with that.
But we got some beautiful work especially in poetry form, but it was also great to see my students get warmed up and engaged into describing their homely, Halona apples. JC gave a lovely note to my dad, and MN became one of "Doc's" biggest fans from the moment he held the door open for us as we walked up Monday morning.

**At this point, I'd like to summarize what I've done teaching-wise for the last month. Then, I realized that this would be a fruitless venture. At the end of a week, it almost seems too big to condense, let alone a month. I'll leave it at this: scary story contests, dramatizations, reading circles, tearing apart and writing about osage oranges, Making Meaning (thanks to Professor Pence, the awesome master teacher), banned book projects, another issue of the T-Bird Times (plus community distribution), newsjournals, peer revisions, reading reading reading. . . **
More easily:
So, what's on the docket for tomorrow?
My sophomores, in conjunction with Red Scarf Girl, will re-imagine Zuni as if it had a communist cultural revolution and give tours in groups; my journalism kids will read through our survey results of "What are you thankful for?" and prepare for training from documentarian MS for an oral history project; and my juniors will begin Cather's "Wagner Matinee" in groups in preparation to study the complexity of hard-bitten frontier women. My cheerleaders have typical MWF practice, but also games T&Th. Oh, boy.

All in all, it's looking to be a good week! Now, to gather up the gumption to do it.

Over and out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

and sometimes it is like the Police. . .

and every little thing [you] do is magic.

Do you see how I plan these entries strategically? I spare you the weepy Wednesdays, the Tear-my-hair-out Thursdays (one day I did actually pull out a few strands of hair in frustration), La Llorona / Moaning Myrtle / banshee on craic imitation days. I spare the reflections to future teachers - "don't do it! run the other way!" - and neglect to attach the furious e-mails sent to loved ones of my futility in this profession.

Because, as Donald Barthelme says (I just re-read "The School"), "You needn't be frightened (though I am often frightened) and that there is value everywhere."

These few days' value:

N.B's burst of inspiration, as strange but as brilliant as the "fitful flame of the bivouac" (on our Walt Whitman day)
J.C.'s beautiful poem, "Blighted," and his beautiful Patch of Ground and his beautiful symbolic drawing he brought to class just to show me.
My muhanna (a Zuni word meaning excelling / being kind in all) cheerleader K.K. smiling and giving me the thumbs up from her full tribal regalia during our homecoming parade.
C.P. consistently turning in evidence of her brilliance as a writer and her dedication to motherhood.
A.B.'s face lighting up like Sha'lak'o flames when I showed her just HOW excellent her essay on O. Henry was.
M.C. laughing with me when I suggested ways we could make her "Jersey Shore" article more school-appropriate.
My sophomores exclaiming that, today, class was SO FUN! These are the same who text constantly to check in on homework and also to invite me to go dancing with the class at the Zuni Community Hall.
My veteran colleague leaning over conspiratorially today and saying, "They really like you, you know?"
L.W. telling me quietly but earnestly that she loved her Emily Dickinson poem, "There is a Solitude of Space."

Today the air smelled of smoke; last night, of the silence of stars and roasted corn. It's a lovely place, here. It's a lovely place.

Over and out.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

confessions of a bibliophile

My at-home work productivity has been less than optimal this week. Then again, it is homecoming week, and mayhap I should cut myself some slack? I think that this "slacking off" can be attributed to 1. sheer exhaustion, 2. stress-induced exhaustion, and 3. A reading addiction.
Honestly, after a day of talking about literature and reading c. 40 journals a day and reading / editing / grading papers daily, what do you think I choose to do with my free time? Yes, yes, you're right. I read. 
I haven't read this much in years! It's a delectable, if perplexing, feeling. I have also become wildly addicted to audio books - wildly!!! It began with the GORGEOUS and simple beauty of The Poisonwood Bible. Given my frequent (and delightful) forays over to Pojoaque, I have a lot of driving time - enough to listen to a 500-page book, apparently. It began as just a diversion for the drive - but then 94.5 got sold to the Navajo country station. Suddenly, my morning top 40 fix became Tim McGraw with Dineh dictation. Scandal! So then my mornings became audio book, and then quick day drives. . . in its current manifestation, I generally sit in my driveway for 10-15 minutes listening. I finished the beautiful Kingsolver, whipped through the YAL Esperanza Rising in one weekend away, and now am 2/3 through My Name is Memory - fun, if occasionally hokey, trip through time with the traveling pants' Ann Brashares. It's an ambitious book, and doesn't entirely succeed at it, but telling of a 1500-year-old love affair with teen angst, WWI, and amorous Anatolia makes for one fun trip. She's clearly hung up with the idea of our souls and how they invariably and mysteriously make their "own society." (We also tackled Emily Dickinson today with the juniors to mixed success) I'd like to pick old Ann's brain about this latest book.
But I'm also reading books. Two books, actually. I finally got a copy of Angela's Ashes, a book I've been meaning to read forever. If you are in the same boat as I was, GET IT. Now. Talk about an ambitious and inspiring book that absolutely succeeds - and exceeds, and re-creates, and and and. . . I'm, I'd say, roughly 3/4 through that one. 
And the third book, which I began yesterday but am already on page 70, is Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters. It's an Annie On My Mind for the 21st century - truer to mainstream high school, certainly, but not nearly so sweet and innocent. Good, though, and a good one for HS libraries. It rings true with themes of sexuality and bigotry in the largely-intolerant / insecure microcosm of high schoolers.

There's been an impossible amount to recount (rhyme!), but suffice to say that things are fine. Cheerleaders are fussy about our number of uniforms (we'll look a little slapdash come Friday) but generally a happy, endeared melee. In journalism, we had a visit and interviewed Josh Lucio - who works at the Zuni Education and Career Development Center and who helps run College Night. Our paper should go out next Friday. (oh, boy, cross fingers!)  
Junior English is the Romantics! We finished (sadly) with the Transcendentalists, but not before we took a nature walk last Friday. It was wildly popular, I'm happy to say :) The go-into-nature-and-write reflections I've received have been very good. I'll post excerpts from the best; yes, I certainly covertly Xerox the best papers I receive. 
I still don't know what to do with my pre-AP-ers. About half the class just doesn't read. Like, ever. But I have some absolute gems that make that class a delight to teach. So it remains half dread, half delight. For instance, one student asks me a studied question about irony while another group don't realize that their Tolstoy story (featuring serfs on the steppes) takes place in Russia. Hoh boy. But when I brought in "The Gift of the Magi" and we read it after studying "1000 Dollars" by O. Henry, they loved it. Direct quotes: "That was so dope." "I loved that." "I loved it more." "I loved it the most." Go figure.

A few pictures to end this (already too long post - past my bedtime!):
As part of Spirit Week, today was face paint day. I had none until last hour, when my juniors expressed dismay. I borrowed a tube of paint and led them through our beginning exercises; when they bent over their perplexing Dickinson poems, I quietly painted my hand. Then I whacked it on my face. Then I quietly cleaned off my hands. When I told them to find their poem partner to share thoughts and tone/mood/theme, they got quite the shock :) . Clearly, I told them, I'm the Blue Hand of Isengard.

One benefit of getting my blackboards cleaned one every two weeks or so (like, actually) is the palimpsest utility. This little cabin was originally scenery for a Zuni version of the Devil and Tom Walker - I easily appropriated it for Thoreau, however.

The infamous sign with its addendum.

The newly-coined "Dream Board." After reading an excerpt of "Walden," I sent them forth to write on a sticky the answer to: "What is the direction of your dreams? What is the life you have imagined?" This tied into the selection, the Thoreauan ethos, and also my CC graduation motto.

Less savorily: 

I discovered this gem a couple weeks ago. Surprisingly, the next day I had a wonderfully-successful conversation with my students about it. I began with the question, "Do you know what discrimination is? [definition given] Okay, good good. So, what would racist language sound like? [slurs] What would sexist language sound like? [slurs] What would homophobic language sound like? [giggles and slurs] Okay. Good work. Now I don't know who wrote it and I don't care, but I found this yesterday [read quote]. Now, is this discriminatory language? [overwhelming YES] Yes, thank you. Now, I didn't care so much when I first saw it - people are jerks, right [assenting murmurs] and I've heard it before and I'll hear it again. But then I realized that if anyone in this room had said this about any of my students, I would have gone apesh** on you. Do you understand how utterly inappropriate this is? In school, we need to feel safe. I don't care if you're gay or straight, Zuni or Navajo or white or black, I don't care how much money your family makes. This is a school. We are here to learn and celebrate our identities, not feel ashamed. If we are ashamed, we are scared, we cannot learn. And this is a school. I never, ever want to see this sort of language used against anyone in the school." (Vehement nods, smiles, rapt attention) 
"Okay. Go finish up your stuff."

Only rainbows after rain, as they say. I found this little guy on my board this evening after practice:

Sweet reading, Friends!
Over and out!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Transformational Change

First off, I'm not going to have any pictures this blog post. APOLOGIES! Given liability and all that jazz, I'm not allowed to post the uber cute shots of my cheerleaders. So I understand if you stop reading here.

All I can provide are snapshots of words.
First, me: I'm sitting on our NEW COUCH which we got from friend / co-worker Zowie, a 4th-grade teacher at Dowa Y'alanne elementary. It takes up a large part of our living room, but has effectively more than doubled our seating - so we're not complaining. I'm wearing a black tank top, blue jeans, and my Kokopelli earrings. I'm mildly disappointed about not making it to the etch-a-sketchy Zuni carnival this weekend; but given that I've finished all planning, grading, chores, and had a delightfully romantic / fun weekend to boot, I'm not one to complain.
[we're talking a boisterous win for cheerleaders and football team alike on Friday, sleeping in two days in a row, home-made-and-eaten mashed potato burritos & breakfast burritos & spoon-scooped kiwi & corn flakes, crazy UNM class (that featured me writing a crazy immigration narrative as a class assignment - see footnote1 for full text) & subsequent Goodwill hunting that produced a Tiki bowl, books, a nightstand ($3.99!), AND a cute dress,  and supper at the gay hippie commune Ancient Way (we showed up late and without reservations, and they STILL fed us <3), the film "Everybody's Fine," and all in all some R&R&S (Rest & Relaxation & Snuggling)]

Outside: dark. It's roughly 8.15pm, and I'm headed bedways soonish. If it were day, or you had the cat-lamp eyes of the A:doshle (Zuni boogeyman), you could see the makeshift start of our chicken fence, some squash blossoms with their eyes shut against the dark, the beans' little purple fists, and the wild plentitude of Zuni stars.

My lesson plan book: scribbled up to the gills and ready for action. Dr. Faustus, my blue sea dragon puppet, is coming into action when I model good think tank / fish bowl discussion techniques for Fahrenheit 451 later this week. My juniors are working with Ben Franklin, Sandra C, Olaudah Equiano, and Ms. Phillis Wheatley. Journalism is the hectic amp up to paper release on Friday!

One more snapshot, this one into the past:
The Wednesday before last:  the teaching day, though only a half day, went well: I began with a Examining Student Work specialist, analyzing essays from the English department, so I had to prepare a sub lesson for my journalism students. Then a symbolism lesson for the juniors - featuring Vanitas, Zia signs, and Coldplay - and a close-reading of figurative language with Ray Bradbury for the sophomores. When the 12.45 bell rang, I sighed a great sigh and then began to grade and read the dialogue journals. The time flew. Then 3.30-5, all the cheerleaders gathered and ran and did sit-ups and such and I tagged along and then ran over to greet the FAMILIES of the cheerleaders. Picture me, barefoot, in little boy shorts, and a pink cutoff shirt that says, "Embrace Today" with scimitars. Picture them, many of them school board members (and the superintendent!!!), looking like the graceful women of Zuni. Picture the meeting going very well! After that, it was whisking to one of our HS portables for the grand opening of the parents' centre - where students / families alike can come to study and use computers after school. I ate, schmoozed with the women of Zuni some more, and then dashed back to ZHS proper. Why? College night! Every Wednesday, a group of volunteers teaches a workshop to help kids get oriented to the college search / application process. So I helped a score of kids create CollegeBoard profiles, snarfed some cheese and fruit, and then finished grading. Then I went home. It was barely 8.30.
I went to bed.
So, you see, while I've been out I haven't entirely been a layabout ;)

Overall, teaching goes all right. I find it - although I know, in the Dan Savage fashion, it does "get better" after the first year - overwhelmingly stressful and exhausting. A letter from a family friend / friend's mother today said that she "felt for [me] in the crucible of [my] first year of teaching." Especially given that she's a scientist and knows well the physical properties of crucibles, I think that that's an excellent description.
Even so, it doesn't stop me from, on a daily basis, figuring out how my talents might better be used - either for my students or for my own health. I've gone through librarian, high school counselor, reading interventionist, and my two personal favorites: part-time drama teacher (yes!) and / or high school nursery worker. If the last, I could read to the students' babies CONSTANTLY and condition their infant minds to respect teachers and value hard intellectual work.
You see, it comes down to that. I feel like the base of the educational crisis in this country sits uneasily on its tenet of teacher disrespect - our profession isn't valued by the upper echelons of society even as it is spurned by our lower-class students. The middle class merrily maintains, "those who can't do, teach."
OF COURSE race and class are huge, institutionalized, almost-insurmountable odds to combat on a nation-wide educational basis. This reflection seeks, if anything, to reaffirm - and not demur - the efforts of TFA. However, I feel if we had transformational change in terms of societal attitudes towards teaching, the results would be astronomical.
Think of it this way. Even if a kid doubts her own ability, her teacher tells her, "you can do it! try!" And, because she was raised to respect and obey teachers, she complies and gives it a shot. Much to her surprise, she can do it! Her confidence in herself heightens as her respect in her teacher stays constant.
I know it's a blue sky scenario - but I feel that having kids be willing to try for my sake (and then for theirs) would make my job roughly 1000000000 times easier.

Thinking of this sort - of the transformational change I'd like to see in society - makes me miss the days when one could go places without a degree and even without a diploma. Again, I'm not saying that any one of my kids can't graduate. I am saying that some people, regardless of race / sex / age / ability, are not "school people." They're smart, they're driven, they're delightful people - but school is not the right venue for them, for whatever reason. Now, I feel like a lot of my students think they're this sort of person and actually are not, but it seems a shame that they lose tremendous credence if they don't have a diploma. The times they are a changin'.
I'm not being so coherent; it's clearly time to hit the hay. But I'll try again later to articulate this thought. It has something to do with the "olden days," something to do with the future, something to do with farmers, and something to do with monks. In this day and age, with 20% or so of even BA-holding youngsters unemployed, our monasteries still age with no vocations; our farms go to seed or worse, to Monsanto seed; our youngsters without BAs are forgotten entirely on the rez, in the cities, in the suburbs.
What to do? What to do?

Over and out, Sleeping Beauties.

ps. Okay, I lied about the pictures. As to not end on such a low note:
(note the spray-painted blue & gold hair, thanks to cheerleader Jamie E.)

And, if you were wondering, here is footnote 1:
(I went overboard, but c'est la vie. The assignment, which we then analyzed with a rubric and compared to student work, was to write a journal entry about an immigrant coming to America and seeing the statue of liberty)

That’s it, then, that’s it. With me knowing the bloody English language and all, me a young available thing, not mangled into a life a limping like Paddy Brennan at the mill or half blind and all stupid like Mary Keenan – she who the sisters didn’t even want to take when she came a beggin’ at their door over in Killarney, I thought they’d take me here.
            America. Feck. Everybody, all their French diseases and dropping off limbs and all, can come over from cursed London. Makin’ ya English don’t make ya cleaner – ya ever seen da feckin’ town o’ Liverpool? But the way ya hear ‘em talkin’ you’d think their shite was gold or summat.
            But I ain’t English.
            When the old English king kicked all us Catholics outta Dublin he said – well, me granddaddy and all said he said – to hell, or to Connaught. So we went to Connaught – went out to Inis Oírr and cobbled shoes and grew our bloody crops on the kelp and the sand. Me great great gran mammy married, prayed to Jaysus, had 30 kids or so and so on and then it was me.
I was set to have all the kids, do the rosary, darn their five score socks and all but then the potatoes failed. Wouldn’t grow. They plain rotted in the ground. We thought it was the worm or the soil but it was the same soil. There weren’t no worms just slime and black and nuthin’ eatable. We don’t have nuff land to grow nuthin’ but praities – we realized we were all set to die. So we pooled our money, a tuppence or two, and weren’t enough to give me a better life or what have you so I went to Dublin town down to the Red Light district and I sold me wares and now I’m here.
Now I’m at the feet of some big metal woman holdin’ a book and a torch and they’re tellin’ me I can’t come through. Ya big feckin’ hypocrite.
Ain’t I a huddled mass enough? Ain’t I yearnin’ to breathe free? And ‘cause I sold me wares I done sold my ticket outta hell. Months in the black shite of a belly of a boat, months o’ weevil bread and the skeevy men looking at ya bendin’ over the bucked, for what? My family gave all they got to send me to America, I gave my whole bleedin’ body and soul, and they say I can’t go ‘cause I ain’t clean so.
It’s just me and that big ugly metal lady and some men with doctor’s coats and one big fat ugly “no” in their white-teeth mouths.
So where do I go? Connaught’s hell, America’s hell, and I haven’t a half pence in between them.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where's My Block Break???!

One brief note before the Mobile Home #5 crew goes to the all-corps:

(Teaching last week went well, by the way. More on this later today or tomorrow.)

Thursday morning was the worst morning I've had so far. I was cursing, throwing my sweater (which I slept in in a state of exhaustion), saying things along the lines of "If they want to be lazy and never amount to anything, let 'em! See if I care!" (I actually very much do, dang it), and showering angrily.
Have you ever showered angrily? It's a miserable experience.

Anywho, I got to school and was tiredly preparing the day's handouts / approaches / etc. I looked over at my calendar. Then, I realized: this past Wednesday was the third day of my fourth week.
Namely, it should've been the last day of the block.
My betrayed but now-comprehensible angst: Where's my block break??!

This idea rallied me through the rest of the day, but now I am seriously bemoaning my non-block existence: yesterday was a full, crumby day, though cheering at the football game was pretty swell. But then again, I'm coaching, which has a different ring to it than ASB leader :). But yes, now the all-corps and revamping / creating a day by day Long-Term Plan await me on the other side of this entry.

But I was quoting "Smoke Signals" with some 7th hour peeps (who consistently cheer when they come in my classroom, so that's good) and there's at least the prospect of fry bread.


Over and out, little critters,
Coach Hudson of the Pickle Room

Friday, August 26, 2011

I value you.

Happy Friday!

Reporting live from the kitchen table. The students have had the last two days off - so coincidentally coinciding with the Zuni Festival - and we got released a little early from our professional development sessions today. So, I find myself at home a little before 3 on a Friday. Sweet. Sweet.
I plan to clean, explore the festival, love up Checkers, and create my detailed weekly LPs before jetting off to Pojoaque for most of the weekend. After this post, you may understand my need for a little vacation.

The work week itself went well! The batch of personal essays (with a first draft, peer comments, and a paragraph written about its style) about overcoming a challenge turned in by my squirrel nuts were GREAT. Highlights were essays about going to state in the discus, placing third in cross country, and the quest to successfully cook pancakes.
Tuesday I found out during Journalism that our technology - particularly our laptop carts - is impossible to deal with. So they had to handwrite their first drafts while I scurried about from library to front office to phone to the recalcitrant laptops. All but one refused even to log on. I hooked up the working comp to the projector I checked out, only to have it read neither my DVD nor the projector attachment. SO my juniors got to watch me Vanna White the "Avatar" trailer around the room. As I had a sub for my last two junior classes (more profdev yet!), I had to create something that was engaging yet easy to facilitate. So, I gave them an outline and told them to argue that "Avatar" is a better contemporary connection to the exploration narrative than the Mars Rover. I have yet to read the essays, but at first glance they seem encouraging.

Wednesday was quite the day. First of all, it was a 1/2 day - so our 54-minute classes were further truncated to 39 minutes. The sophomores were slapped on the wrists for not reading "The Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" and sent home with an adaptation assignment and a hefty chunk of reading in Fahrenheit 451. It was fun, however, because I used "The Edge of the Sea" as an excerpt on how to properly write a screenplay. I wrote "The Edge of the Sea" when abroad in Ireland, and it was delightful to have my Sinead read by Savannah, my Jimmy by Carlan.
Journalism was whipped a bit into shape by a voting on our paper's name, "The T-Bird Times," and by having to turn in a first draft of the gas leak article by the end of the period. Their assignment? Writing a first draft of an article of the Zuni Fair. One student asked if she could interview a carny. God, I hope she does!
I got a bit of a slap in the face when my 6th-hour juniors walked in and informed me that the sub had not, in fact, followed my meticulously-drawn-up notes. She had to show them the "Avatar" trailer twice and tell them where to find the Mars Rover piece in their books. That's it. Wanna know what she did instead? She had them sit quietly while she ignored all my directions and looked up "zuni jewelry." I know this detail because she left my computer frozen on that page. . .  so 6th and 7th hours were spent frenetically doing make up "Avatar"ing and such. But I still managed to fit in a mini-lesson on there / they're / their. (you wouldn't believe the number of errors attributed to this) I also read two outstanding paragraphs: one a beautifully-detailed vision from the perspective of a Zuni warrior, the other a hilarious parody from the view of one of Coronado's soldiers. "Since we've taught these Indians a new God and new government, I've had time to catch up on my artwork." Priceless. More priceless, however, were the giant grins from my anonymous authors 2nd hour.
When in doubt, read your kids' exceptional work out loud.  It's a beautiful celebratory moment.
So class = great. It was probably helped by the fact that I looked sort of like Sandra Cisneros:
Yes, those are parrot earrings.
My students lavishly complimented my "scarf / poncho / sarape." When they'd ask what exactly it was, I would frankly say, "You know, I think it's a table cloth. But I really wanted to wear it." 
That killed them :)

So Wednesday was also the Family Open House; so I bit the bullet and stayed through from 1-9. Yes, that did mean a 14-hour day at ye olde ZHS. It would've been a fine time - 

However, at about 4.30pm, the librarian came to talk to me. She told me that I should "be careful with that sign on my door." The sign she was referring to, of course, was my "Safe Zone" sign. (that, by the way, has been up since the first day I got my room.) It promises that I am an ally towards all people: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, heterosexual, and questioning. Furthermore, it says I have resources - if I don't have something, I know who to refer them to. It ends with "I value you."
CLEARLY, this is politically-oriented. Dangerous. Incendiary. Probably obscene.
Fortunately, when I showed her that it's just a Safe Space - that I want my kids to feel loved and safe at school - we had a productive conversation. She told me about all the graphic novels in our library. I think we made peace. 
Then the vice principal showed up. Direct quote:
Ms. ______: Yeah, you need to take this down.
Ms. Hudson (me) : With all due respect, Vice Principal _____, why?
She couldn't say. Suffice it to say we had an offensive (to me) but very reserved / controlled conversation. She said - of course! - she had no problem with "it," with "them," but these things should not be in writing. I politely argued that if they were not, our kids would not know they were true. She conceded; she said that people would "be offended" but she couldn't see anything wrong with it. She said it was not what she expected from what "people" had said; but she said I absolutely needed to pass it by Principal H__. Also, I had to get our principal's approval of ANY letters I send home.
You can imagine I was feeling rather safe, having been reported for gay propaganda in my second week of teaching.
After she left, I broke down. Sad Sandra Cisneros running crying down the hall! Fortunately, my fellow TFA-er and friend, Mr. S., took me in a big hug and made me feel like I was in a "safe space" again. I took a big breath, went back to my room, and wrote Principal H____ a letter (he wasn't in his office). I delivered it. Then, I put on Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" as loud as it would. And hell, I decorated:

I may be an "urban disease," but at least I have the coolest-looking room in the school.

But the rest of Wednesday was great! Actually. I met 11 families of students and they were all lovely people. Their kids are fun variations of them.
That evening my principal came and talked me. He told me I was "fine," and that I hadn't done a thing wrong. If he could have any complaint - and he "had to look" for something amiss - it would be to mention other factors: race, ethnicity, etc. I said, "Absolutely, Sir!"
Once I can approach my door without arousing suspicion, I'll take a picture of my door: next to my safe spaces is a pink star. It says: "all races. . . all religions . . . all backgrounds. . . all opinions . . . all dreams! I value you"

Thursday, Bigoted America struck again. This time, unfortunately, it was my chair that came. I choose not to delve fully into the unpleasantries of the conversation. I will say that she claimed that the "single-sex" relationships were quite well-accepted in our community (wrong, at least at ZHS) - but that those relationships were different. "In Zuni culture, friends can kiss each other and it doesn't mean anything. They don't - do - anything!" By putting up a sign, I am introducing a new, "urban," concept to these "naive" kids. 
She conflated it with the recent introduction of GANGS to Zuni. 
Me = "I'm sorry Ms. _____, but are you comparing gang violence to love?"
Her = (shouting) NO!
She said that I would create a situation of intolerance in the school my sign. Because I have it, kids will start saying that "there are faggots in our school and they go to Ms. Hudson's room." 
I think that was about the point where I started crying. And I mean crying. Like, snot, tears, sobs that racked my entire body. I felt actually poisoned, actually hurt by her words.
She tried to comfort me, saying she wasn't trying to upset me; she just wanted to let me know that the administration would be offended. Then she tried to touch me. I was shaking so badly she stopped that. I told her - again, with "all due respect" - that I'm glad she was trying to help but that I needed her to leave me alone. 
She said no. 
I said, "Please leave. Your words hurt me more than you can imagine."
She left. I closed my door, turned off the light, and made my own safe space. 
I spent the day in sessions, trying to blanket myself with other TFA-ers. To be frank, I felt wildly unsafe. 
That afternoon, my principal visited me again. An exhausted, defeated feeling came over me. Then, he said that he wasn't sure if it was appropriate, but if he could he would like to apologize for the way people have been speaking to me. 
What a man.
He said that it's just new to them - he's been having a heck of a time explaining to them that it's a part of a lot of health curricula in the country, that safe spaces are a growing trend in the US. He said that we just needed to have "thick skin" about the whole thing. If anything happened again, I was to tell him. Until then, he told everyone that if they had a problem, they could come speak to him.
I thanked him; I apologized for causing such a problem. 
Principal H_____ = What? Don't apologize. This is in no way your fault.


Epilogue (to this heinously-long post):

Last night, I walked next to the ZHS float in the Zuni Festival Night Parade. I, along with a few faculty and more than a few rowdy kids, walked down 53. We threw candy, we cheered; we were hemmed in by two traditional dance groups. It was like the C'ville Christmas parade meets a powwow. Unreal.
At one point, I heard, "Hudson!"
It was several of my students. They cheered wildly and one said, "I already finished my essay!" I said, "Awesome!" She said, "I'm going to text you." (in response to my no-more-excuses-I-gave-you-my-number-so-call-me convo) I said, "Please do!" 
Also great was meeting Shanice's mom and giving candy to Savannah & Emily E. The former was wearing a box she had painted like a panda. Go figure. 

If I have learned nothing else this week, I know that I am more determined than ever to be a present, active, committed teacher. My kids will succeed because they are excellent and they are safe.
I value them.

-- this post dedicated to Forbes' 11th most influential woman and to Equal. Sometimes I miss you more than I can say.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

magetra cancellata / vittata?

I thought to share the glory of my personal favorite backyard buddy:

She looks fearsome, I know, but she's a herbivore - and we aren't a bad lot, really! (credits to My favorite part of this rather anatomically-bizarre critter is its ambulation. They bustle-waddle-stilt at an improbable and highly-precarious speed. It makes sense why Gallup-ites call them "Football Beetles." Other names have been Red and Black Blister Beetles and Sunday Water-Haulers.
Per the last name, maybe I can conscript them to water our little garden .  . . ?
Off to plan and prep and read.
Over and out!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

2 observations, 5 days, 6 hours, 278 pages


I felt obligated to prove that I have survived this first week - and if I dare say, I may have flourished.

Flourished, we must remember, IS a variable term in the desert. Far away are the lands of peaches pulling their green-mahogany branches into Koranic half-bows. Far away the fat tomatoes. Gone are the days of tossed beans to the soil producing a rabid patch of climbers and apaches and pintos and little black turtles. 

But we do have a small line of royal burgundies that, despite the sluicing rain and scorching sun and red dirt made in two layers of dust and hard, have continued to grow. We have our summer squash already getting their adolescent fuzz and spade shaped (if not sized) leaves. This is their Three-Sisters land, after all.

And that is how my week has gone. I have grown, sent my tendrils on strange new earth - set my voice to new vocal rigor. 

It is sore from raising it in enthusiasm and passion in class discussion: 
Me = So, if that's what being in a museum means, what does the title "Museum Indians" mean?
Student = That Indians are in the past. They aren't around any more.
Me = Right. Now, is that true?
Class = (upset) No.
Me = Of course it's not - but that's the title, right? So let's look in the story. What character disproves this meaning of the title "Museum Indians"?
One or two murmurs = her mom.
Me = Her MOM! Is her mother in a class case?
Class = no.
Me = Is her mother dead?
Class = No!
Me = Is she small and timid?
Class = No!
Me = No! She speaks her mind. What else is she?
Class = proud. . . powerful . . . tall.
Me = Right! She is a tall, proud, powerful Dakota woman who wrestles with the Chicago police! Am I right?
(Class nods and I launch into a description of the word "Irony" and how it matches the situation)

It is sore from raising it (less often) in sharp disapproval.
Me = Class. My number one rule is Respect and right now you are disrespecting me.
(A phrase that can silence a room of my juniors when talking over my homework assignment.)


My JUNIORS are respectful, brilliant, and honorable people. I have 5 parents (at least) of my 56. Contrary to popular belief, who points a gross punitory finger towards the "irresponsibility" and "shortsightedness" of teen parents, I find my parents (generally) to have  a heightened awareness and maturity. 
In case you were wondering, the dramatizations of the Native creation myths went okay. 2nd period's all-boy "Navajo" group was INCREDIBLE. There was the cawing cry of the god approaching, feathers and cut-outs of corn and a Sunflower Natural Foods Store bag (mine) standing in for a sacred buckskin. In the performance quality of the well-rehearsed, they lay the items down and circled the creation in unison. They got a 98%. . . as for the rest of the groups, well, there were a couple As, some Bs, some Cs, and one steady F. 
I tell my kids I'll work as hard as possible. If they meet me halfway, there is NO reason they shouldn't have an A+ in the class. If they don't try, that's the sourest kind of failure.

And the discussion we were supposed to have comparing their assigned story with the creation story? Didn't happen. When I assigned as homework that someone tell them the Zuni creation story, a student raised his hand 3rd hour. He's a bit of a clown, but a very proud Zuni young man - the only one I've heard speaking Zuni. He very candidly told me, "We can't tell Zuni stories until wintertime - until Sha'lako. Otherwise we'll get bit by snakes."

What can I say? I don't want my kids to get bitten by snakes! So that discussion will have to wait until December - maybe we'll take a hiatus from Civil War lit to read Frazier's Sue Anne Big Crow and discuss how their old pueblo is, in their tradition, the centre of the entire world.

That fact came up a few times in their diagnostic essays - addressing Ian Frazier's quote. Also some spoke elegantly about the landscape of their home - the heroism of the cowboys and the Indians, the red mesas and the people who provide for their community and their country. Some spoke even more movingly about the ruin of their home: Uranium mining, the construction of roads and cities, the terrible droughts, the arrival of the white people who did not know how to make this land sustain itself.
Though I put in two 15-hour days getting the essays graded, it was absolutely a worthwhile and humbling experience.

My sophomores are a bunch of squirrel nuts whom I love. Monday through Thursday were marked by indolence, lack of attention, and impossibly large discrepancies. Some of my pre-AP-ers are exceptional. Some struggled to write a comprehensible paragraph. This said, Friday was marked by receiving a passel of excellent reflections. If any of you were curious as to the outcome to "Skunk Dreams," I am shocked. "Skunk Dreams" is a philosophical survey of the dream state and the connection of Place to Self; compared to "The Leap," a fun magical realistic piece by Erdrich in their reader, I thought old Skunky didn't stand a chance when I asked them to write me a page about which they liked better and why. 
Boy was I wrong. They LOVED "Skunk Dreams." And I'd like to share a few excerpts from my favorite responses:

First, the most technically-impressive essay I've seen. I gave her a ++, and you'll see why: 
"When I had read 'Skunk Dreams' by Louise Erdrich, what I had liked best about it was when in the beginning she was talking about how we don't know about other people's dreams or even about our own.  I had liked how she said 'If dreams are an actual dimension, as some assert, then the usual rules of life by which we abide do not apply' because I like to think of our dreams as another dimension we slip into when we sleep. It's as if our minds are in an in between stage, where they can move from one dimension to another. . . . [description of why she liked "Skunk Dreams" better]
"I believe I can relate to how she misses her homeland greatly. I know I would certainly start missing the mountains behind my house, the trees that line the edge of the fence in front of of my house, the clear skies that seem to go on forever."

An excerpt from a weaker writer - but a spunky one at that :) :
". . . What I found really interesting was how the skunk just laid down beside her and went to sleep while she laid there and looked at the moon. I think many teens would like this story especially girls. She's a girl growing up, trying to figure life out, while experiencing feelings and problems like how some of us girls are. = ) "

And finally, a Public Service Announcement from a great, practically-minded girl:
[about "The Leap"] "The part that was boring to me was where they kept launching themselves in midair. If this story was non-fiction, I probably would've like it a little bit more. If I were to talk to the author about this story, I'd tell Erdrich that pregnant women can't be doing flips and launching themselves in midair. I mean, won't it be dangerous for the baby??"

My JOURNALISM kids need a good dose of adrenaline. They were stuck in my class largely because of a lack of an extra elective. BUT we're making progress. My 2nd / 3rd grade reader has been illustrating what he watches in the news, I had some excellent lede sentences on Friday, and we're readying ourselves to interview our principal on the gas leak this coming Monday. All the same, when I pull their sticks from the mud, I reckon you'll hear that damp squelch anywhere. Forget the "shot" heard around the world!

I must curl up with a mug of tea and my lesson planning book for my week to come - think explorers (Cárdenas & de la Vaca), Mars, and nudibranchs for the juniors, Fahrenheit 451 and Desai for sophomores, and some interviewing, workshopping, and more In The Plains, Pronghorns Can Be Curious (Impact, Timeliness, Prominence, Proximity, Conflict, Bizarre / unusual, and Currency) for journalism.

But I wanted to make a note about Dialogue Journals:
If you are remotely involved with English / gradeschool education, do them. I don't feel like it's my right right to make a laundry list of the topics covered - it trivializes something that has been, in many cases, a big serious trust thing. If you're curious as to the nature of the entries, think a mix between school time summaries and Freedom Writers
They're incredible.

If you read this far, KUDOS! I must be off to plan and work ad infinitum. I should have some more fun pix once I further glam up my room; until then, let my face suffice of photographic proof of survival:

I know I look a little goofy. It happens. Here's a better one:

Over and out, Friends!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

it's really happening. . .

Save for another gas leak (cross fingers!), we're on for tomorrow.

Oh, boy.
I've got (I think) a super fun week planned for the pequeñitos. Clearly deriding the nonhelp of the system-given daily LP Template (which I filled out nonetheless!), my calendar for the week looks like this:

Within those squinched syllables (not unlike Blackberry Eating, non?) are some grade-A short stories and essays for dissection and adoration, Native creation stories that my kids will dramatize and then juxtapose with the Zuni creation story, and plans for my journalism class' first story: The Gas Leak at Zuni High :)

I'm waiting for some pinto beans to finish cooking, so I'll share some sweet serendipity before bed: 

Knowing the caliber of Louise Erdrich, I sought to find an essay of hers to accompany / contrast with her delightful short story "Leap." Then, on a link on Google, some Erdrichite had enthused, "Oh, I recommend the wonderful essay 'Skunk...' by Louise Erdrich. It's in the 1994 Best American Essays." I scanned the page, and then double-took. Paused. Then walked slowly out my car and grabbed a blue book from the top of my spoils from yesterday's Goodwill trip. Yup. You got it. Of all the books in the Goodwill - of ALL the Best American Essays - I had happened to nab the 1994 edition.
So my kids are going to read "Skunk Dreams." And they're gonna like it :)

Wish me luck?
Over and out ~

Friday, August 12, 2011

what a gas!

Just a brief note from this slow, hummingbird-thrummed day.

It began with the morning water of the tiny garden:
(but look at those little royal burgundy beans go! . . . also, soon I'll take proper pictures - it's been photobooth so far)

Then, I headed to my gas-capped but still unsafe building. Determined to make something of my weekend, I made a catalogue of all the books in our English dep't Book Room. There are 121 different books within that have at least enough copies to do book circles - most have enough for class or grade sets. 
Huzzah! Full-year curriculum planning can commence for the weekend!

The lovely L. has arrived for the weekend, so I'll pop off. I'll leave you with a few photos of the room: the new "news section," the identity Big Goal, and the coolest door in the school (given that no one else has decorated their door, it's not saying much, but still)
Over and out!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rez Time

At Zuni High, we're starting behind the rest of the district and much of the state.

Okay, wait wait! Before you say "oh, gosh, Teach For America, I've had enough of your bell-tolling-nay-saying-deatwatch-beetle-scratching melodrama," hear me out.

I arrived prepped and primed for the first day with my four classes of Junior English, one of Sophomore pre-AP, and one of Journalism. I had my gads of copies (I have roughly 90 students total), my classroom was decorated to the nines, and I didn't look so shabby either. The only perceivable downside was the fact that they're currently roofing, so it sounds like a Viking bowling tournament above my head.

Then, as I was allocating my dialogue journals (SO excited for these!) to the proper shelf based on period, I  started to detecting an odd odor. "Qué vida!" I thought. Not only did I have a cacophonous classroom (even without kids), but now it was odoriferous as well. But really. It smelled like a putrefying swamp. Determined to persevere, I continued reviewing my notes for the "First Day" lecture / info session.

Then a science teacher jogged by.
Me: Huh --?
Him: Evacuate the building!!!
Me: Huh??

Then the fire alarm went off. So I gathered a notebook and my keys, and did exactly that.

The verdict? A major gas leak had sprung when the roofers (whose daytime job is actually demolition), attempted to bodily tear off one of the swamp coolers. So we were left to shepherd our students and wait.

Our principal, really a stellar guy - he kept in good spirits throughout this fiasco, if that tells you anything - called everyone and their guinea pig and told us the news: we would begin our school year on Friday, not today.

So when I said that we at Zuni began behind, I meant it: we're literally beginning behind the rest of the district.

A more sobering update is that we don't have school tomorrow either - it turns out that the gas leak, while capped, revealed that the entire gas line is shoddy, suspect, and susceptible to the same sort of damage if the roofing continues. While this is good for curriculum planning (I'll go make a list of our book room books tomorrow morning), it means that I'll see my kids on Monday at the earliest.

If I had had ONE day with them, I would have assigned them homework, at least. If I had had a month or two (and if I'd built proper culture), I feel we could have an outside-of-school class meeting or discussion or something! But as it is, not even knowing their faces or their names outside the roster, I'm relatively helpless.

The writing diagnostic - replete with an Ian Frazier quote ("I'm afraid of people thinking, 'There's nothing out there anyway, so let's ruin it.' There's an idea of the Plains as the middle of nowhere, something to be contemptuous of. But it's really a heroic place.") for the juniors, a John McPhee story for the 10th grade pre-AP (the must-read "The Silk Parachute"), and a photograph of the Chilean riots for my journalism students to mock up an article - will have to wait. "Museum Indians" (Susan Power) and "Sole of Summer" (class culture assignment where kids trace their foot and decorate it with summer memories) will have to wait. And most importantly, I believe, the sense of urgency must wait. It's a tough thing, and I'm not sure how to phrase it, but I know it behooves me to talk about the fact that they NEED to take the SAT this year. They NEED to catch up - their NMSBA (state test) proficiency level is at 27%. And as part of this, they NEED to start (or continue!) finding ways to relate to a curriculum and a canon that largely portrays people that are nothing like them. I'm just anxious to begin our study of "Identity in America."


But shall I take a brief step back? I think I shall.

My name's Ms. Lix, and I'm a 2011 Teach For America corps member working in the Zuni Pueblo. When absolutely elated about my transfer to the NM region (and that's another story), I often spoke with my friends at college about my excitement (and ignorance) about living "on the rez." In college, I was a drama major, the "Chicken Lady" of our school farm, the chair of our queer-identified campus group, and an RA: my life was theatre, farming, rainbows, and ResLife. In other words, a far cry from rural NW New Mexico.

Anywho, one day when I was voicing these thoughts with a good friend, she looked at me earnestly and said: "Well, it'll be ResLife to Rez Life, huh?" Finding this one of the wittier things in recent memory, I promised her that if I made a blog, that's what it would be titled. So, voilá! - ResLife to Rez Life.


If you're familiar with the TFA model, you'll know I've spent all summer preparing for teacherhood. The first week was Induction at the wonderful El Rancho in Gallup; the next seven weeks, at the hellmouth Phoenix. While the city itself is a preposterous (we're talking inconceivably, without precedent bad) waste of resources and the clime intended for saguaros, gila monsters, and little else, I enjoyed very much teaching 3rd grade to a group of "College-Bound Coyotes" at an Imagine Charter school. Institute - as the "teacher bootcamp" is called - was exhausting, overwhelming, but a very human thing. Also, I was exceedingly blessed with a grade-A awesome group of people: New MexiCorps, my roommate (who's now my housemate!!!), my school team, my COLLAB (whom I co-taught with), and my kids. The latter were certainly a challenge, but that made the victories with them all the better. Meaning, reading Gooseberry Park with them and having them cling to every last word was an exceptionally validating experience.
It was at Institute that I was hired by the Zuni Public School District; so, after a weeklong visit to Pojoaque and Colorado to visit loved ones and pick up my kitty Checkers and a week of Orientation back at El Rancho, I moved down to Zuni.

And that's how I find myself here - in a lovely little trailer near the old pueblo and next to the most popular park in town (we're talking c. 50 kids playing basketball on a smallish court nightly). Emily and I have planted a little garden, so we've the bean and squash and lettuce and chard and beet babies just poking their heads out of the soil. Checkers has eaten every spider in the house, a visit from my mother put us much at ease and put leftovers in the fridge, and we've scavenged a big ole dog house to use as a chicken coop. 

All sorts of beginnings. It's funny to think how many more people have been catalogued away in my brain that two weeks ago, I didn't know existed. (Let alone the entire summer!) The kind neighbors, the crazy / cool teachers at ZHS, our next-door Dachshund who growls and carries around stones. The first time I witnessed this, my next door neighbor reprimanded her, saying "Tina! We are NOT playing rocks right now!"
Oh, yeah. Her name's Tina.

I reckon I better be off to read more of the Unit One selections in my Prentice Hall textbook. So far I've read and enjoyed the short stories in the collection. ("Tepeyac" by Sandra Cisneros, "Games at Twilight" by Anita Desai, and "The Leap" by Louise Erdrich, to name my favorites. "Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs and "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" by Jack Finney were also quite enjoyable)

It's a beautiful place. It's already firmly earned the title of "Home."

Now, to firmly earn the title of "Teacher."

(the classroom)
(The numbers are SAT goals, along with [barely visible] boxes that show colleges with their median scores. The board underneath the "700" is the Shout Out board and is bordered by pictures from the La Manchan lagunas in Spain)

(I've been temporarily robbed of my bookcases, but the classroom library will be under these two posters. The lefthand poster says "like chicks? we do!" and is on its third life. In its first life, it was a sign advertising taking care of the baby chicks at the Farm; in its second life, it was used as décor in the "Gay"sement of our house last year; and currently, it is adorned with women writers: Cather, Austen, Morrison, Walker, Hurston, Power, Woolf, Cisneros, and Sappho.)