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!