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.