Saturday, November 28, 2009
so thank you, everyone. for sharing yourself and making our celebration the wonderful gathering that it is. i lament future celebrations to be missed and look forward with great joy to those that will be shared.
Monday, November 9, 2009
i have a student that is a selective mute. she can speak, she simply chooses not to. ever. until today. she actually raised her hand and volunteered answers. of her own volition. repeatedly. and then, when i called on her, she answered. loud enough for me to hear from 10 feet away. it was amazing.
and then, in small group, she did it again. she read words to me. the selective mute that can't read, read words to me. i can't even believe it.
too much english
yesterday i got an email from my principal. all it said was that there was a parent concern with one of my students and asked if i could come talk to him about it after school today. so of course i tell him, sure, no problem, but in my head i'm thinking, oh god, this can not end well.
so i go in today and my principal says, "don't worry, it's nothing bad. it's kind of an odd request really. his daughter says there's too much english in your class and she thinks it's a little much for her. she wants to move to the newcomer class." seriously? too much english? honey, people in your country pay good money to send their kids to english-immersion schools. the newcomer class is for kids that have recently arrived in america as immigrants or refugees and legitimately don't speak english. i can't understand why you would want to dumb things down for your daughter who seems to speak english just fine.
the thing that amazes me is that apparently we are actually considering it. my principal is going to look into the numbers. seriously?
i generally eat lunch with a few of my kids as a reward for good behavior. as it worked out today, i just had one. now, angie is one of my most respectable, well-mannered, trustworthy students. but the stories she told me today...i don't even know.
to be continued...
Monday, October 19, 2009
11/1/09 amendment: i think i may have been mistaken in my initial assessments. i now believe that i have a happy food dance, which is not limited to, but commonly accompanied by, sandwiches. i am still investigating these claims and will update with any further developments as they are uncovered.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
on the upside, i get to call home for awesome behavior today, so i'll call it a win.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
by the second day of school, 3 of my boys and one of my girls had seen the principal at least once, some twice.
i have exercised my shouting voice at least 3 times each day. this doesn't include shouting for effect during a read aloud. i should note that i do my best not to shout at school and do not enjoy it when it happens.
my kids have spent at least 50% of their recess time walking laps in reparation for offenses in the classroom.
they have spent probably 30% of their total time at school practicing walking up and down the hallway because we just can't seem to get it right.
i have already earned an almost brand new pack of my favorite american gum. ah, fringe benefits.
we have spent half an hour with our heads down trying to figure out who thought they should leave said gum on the enrichment teacher's rug.
and, finally, the same 3 boys mentioned previously have already managed their first in-school suspension for getting in a fist fight in the hallway/bathroom. yay! the upside of this is that the rest of the class had a surprisingly productive day after they left.
i should also mention that i'm referring to only one class, which has managed all of this in the half of the day that they spend with me. i can only imagine what else they've accomplished in mr. rollins class.
i predict that i will learn a lot this year, even if my kids do not.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
i'm not saying i have all the answers. and i'm not saying we are necessarily worse than anyone else. but something has got to give. the way things are now, is not helping kids be better. it's not helping teachers be better. it is making it difficult for good teachers to be good teachers.
i want to teach kids. i don't want to waste my time turning in bullshit paperwork under the facade of accountability. that is time i could be spending helping kids.
i think part of what really bothers me, is that we have all of these rules and regulations and guidelines and policies. and we all put up a good front. we smile and nod and turn in the things we're asked for. but when we go into our rooms and close our doors, almost every teacher is picking and choosing, following just enough to not get in trouble and disregarding the rest. our focus is getting the kids what they need. sometimes the district is really helpful in that regard. sometimes it is really not.
what bothers me about this is that it's such a facade. if no one is really following all of these things anyway, then what's the point? can we set it up somehow so that there are the guidelines and support that are needed, but in a way that teachers can really use and follow? actually follow. what are teachers already doing that will tell the policy-makers the things they need to know, without requiring extra asinine paperwork that is supposed to tell you what we are doing, but essentially means nothing? can we please align these things a bit more? is anyone even asking the teachers? it's unfortunate that not a lot of teachers feel inclined to go into politics. (really, i find politics to be kind of unfortunate in and of itself, but that's another rant.)
now, i don't want anyone to think that i'm proposing that we have no restraints or guidelines for our education system. even good teachers need support and guidelines to help inform their practice. and i understand that having district or schoolwide policies in place is important in saving everyone from a lot of legal trouble (which is also a rant for another day). there are also quality control issues to consider. i fully support accountability of teachers. i just want it to be authentic and meaningful. i'm more than happy to turn in and do things that are actually helpful and meaningful for my job. which is to teach children and create good citizens. but i don't want to waste my time on things that, in the end, are nothing but not helpful b.s.
is there a way to balance the accountability and guidelines of a district with the freedom teachers need to be really stellar?
see also this TED talk about rules gone bad: http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_romer.html
Paul Romer is discussing cities, but i can't help relating his ideas about unfortunate policy to the educational system. i'm not sure about applying his solution to education on a widescale. charter schools come with their own problems. though it's something i'm willing to consider.
Monday, August 17, 2009
no reason to rush.
life is here.
it will be here.
take each moment and enjoy it.
there is no point
in rushing to the next thing
so you can rush through it
to get to the next thing.
s l o w . d o w n .
why do anything at all
if you don't appreciate it while you are there?
anything worth doing
is worth the time it takes.
all of it.
take it all in
every touch, every taste, every sound.
the sights and the smells.
you only get this combo once
be with it.
really with it.
let. the rest. Go.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
when i left last summer i was surprised to find that houston had almost become more home than lincoln. all my friends and favorite restaurants were here. plus the driving. oh, i loved the driving. all that was left for me in nebraska was my mom, ivannacone and a handful of friends. not nearly enough to satisfy my adventurous soul. i couldn't possibly imagine staying there for more than just a visit.
but somewhere along the way, something changed, as things inevitably do, and my assumptions about myself and my life started to go out the window (a fact i have also found to be inevitable). and, as it turns out, i kind of really like nebraska. there is something about it that just feels good. there is something in the landscape that speaks to my soul and makes me happy. and you know what, i kind of like lincoln. i like that people are friendly. i like knowing my way around. i like that we have things like movies on the green and pinewood bowl and jazz in june. they make me happy.
and while i still can't believe that i can say this, i could maybe even live there one day. not now and not forever. i've got a lot of traveling to do. but you know what, somewhere down the line, it might be a good place to raise a family. when i get to that stage in my life, of course.
now, it's fair to note that i am probably suffering, in some part, from the-grass-is-always-greener syndrome. so far things in houston haven't quite been...ideal. this isn't quite the job i had envisioned for myself when i decided to come here. nor is our house quite what i was expecting, though it is adorable. and, of course, we have the TAKS. the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, also known as the bane of my existence and the reason i never wanted to teach in texas. yet, somehow, here i am.
i know that things will calm down. as i get my classroom in order and we finish unpacking our house, i will feel less and less unsettled. and soon i will have some time to rediscover all of the things i loved about houston. who knows, months from now i may never want to leave again.
for now, though i am representin' for you, nebraska, and sending much love northward. you've wormed your way into my soul and i'm fairly certain that no matter where i go, a part of me will always find comfort and solace in your wide open arms.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
- it's not better or worse, it's just different.
- i love chopsticks.
- it's amazing what you can communicate with a shared vocabulary of 10 words.
- taxicab and consumerist chinese - i can get home and i can buy things, what else do i really need?
- people can get used to pretty much anything.
- the rules and skills for bartering are highly relative to the location.
- in houston, all good things came in strip malls. in china, they come on mobile carts.
- grab/do it when you see it. it may be your only chance.
- nature makes me happy deep down in the pit of my soul.
- so do wide open spaces. but i think i already knew that.
- see also: rock music.
- in practice, buddhism can have way more rituals and deism than i ever realized.
- there are like 4 different kinds of eggplant.
- kindergarten is a wonderful place to start a teaching career, though i'm not sure i need to do it again.
- i've still got some things to learn about teaching.
- yoga is way better when you understand what the instructor is saying.
- this is a stereotype, but in my experience, japanese kids are adorable.
- 5-year-olds amaze and amuse me.
- my stomach, unfortunately, is not made of iron.
- life is always a trade-off. i love my adventures, but i hate missing everything at home.
that said, i am definitely seeing things with new eyes and finding that some things seem a bit different than when i left. and so, here is my list of things that seem strange or weird me out about being back in america (in no particular order):
- driving. it actually feels completely natural to be driving again. what else would you do here? however, i've noticed some things about my driving, as well as that of everyone else's. americans are all about multi-tasking while they drive. it makes me kind of nervous to observe all of the things that people do while they are supposed to be watching the road. i'm just as guilty as anyone, but still. i can't believe we don't have more accidents.
- speeding. i've always been one to drive fast. i've come to realize, though, that fast is relative. after never going more than 80kmph (about 50mph) for a year, i'm pretty content tooling around lincoln at 40mph. i'm also incredibly paranoid about getting pulled over. i have never been so worried about cops in my life as i was driving to and from houston last week. thank you, authoritarian china.
- i miss chopsticks. american food is no good for chopsticks.
- i will now eat just about anything. and kind of like it. this is partly due to the decreased sensitivity of tastebuds that comes with age. it is also related to a widening of my acceptable flavor palettes from living in multiple cultures. regardless, i've always identified kind of strongly with my food preferences and it's kind of weirding me out.
- change. in shanghai, nothing stays the same. every time i walk down my street at least one business has begun renovations or closed or started selling something completely different. this happens literally overnight. in lincoln, nothing ever changes. with the exception of about 10 businesses, everything is just the way i left it. which is nice, in a way. i can always find the things i want. but it kind of freaks me out that a place can remain so stagnant. how does that happen?
- dryers. this morning i thought about washing my sheets. then i thought, but where would i hang them to dry? will they be dry in time for bed? then i remembered that i am in america, a magical place where things dry in an hour.
- when i see asian people, in addition to trying to figure out where they are from, i feel a sort of kindredness that i'm sure they don't share.
- i can drink tap water, with ice - this is amazing! (amusingly, though, i generally prefer my water without ice now.)
- diversity. i can't get over how different everyone looks. so many ethnicities in one place!
- toilet paper. every bathroom has it. including the park. and it goes in the toilet. this is amazing! (it took almost a week for me to stop reflexively wanting to throw it in the trash can.)
- americans are fat. i know that's kind of mean, but collectively, it's true. we are also way less healthy than i remembered. in my head, america was a utopia of healthy eating. in reality, while that is possible, we eat just as much shit as the chinese. a different kind of shit, but shit nonetheless.
- i get kind of excited when i remember that i can be as frivolous as i want with my american gum because i can easily purchase more.
- i'm surprised by how not strange it is to eat apple skins. i used to peel these?
- target. a whole store full of clothes that i actually want to wear. every time i go i feel like a kid in a candy store. it's wonderful.
- american beds are amazing. so incredibly soft and inviting.
- sometimes i go to the grocery store and i don't know whether i recognize a particular brand from america or china. it's getting to be a little bit disconcerting.
- hurrying. americans are constantly running to get somewhere. i noticed this first with my one american student. he kept getting in trouble for pushing in line as we walked down the hallway. when i asked him why he was pushing, he replied, "he's not going fast enough!" where are we going that is so important? and what are we missing along the way? partly it's the cops but partly it's a shift in perspective that has mitigated my need for speed.
- and, finally, the sky. have you noticed lately how incredibly beautiful it is? fluffy white clouds...bright blue sky...stars! every time i look up i feel like i am in a fairy tale. this can't possibly be real. and yet it is. every ravishing square inch.
all in all, it feels mostly normal to be home. just with some new perspective.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
that used to be one of the most fun things to say. i used to say it just to experience the sheer amusement of saying it. amazingly, i have to try really hard if i want to say that with any sense of awe now. it has somehow become something of a mundane fact. or an excuse for strange behavior. "i live in china, what can i do?"
and my life here? yeah, that feels pretty normal, too. it completely sneaks up on you. you don't even realize it's happening until one day you suddenly realize that nothing seems at all strange about fighting your way down the crowded street to buy a phone card from the man in the folding chair on the corner. nor does it seem odd that you don't actually know where else you would buy one. (do they sell those in stores? i don't know.)
suddenly your spanish becomes peppered with chinese, instead of the other way around. and you don't even think twice about thoroughly peeling your apple. next thing you know, you're standing in the middle of the street as buses wiz past inches away on either side and your heart isn't even beating fast. that's when you know it's over. this is your life and it's just not worth writing home about anymore.
sure, you still write, but there aren't anymore amusing anecdotes about bizarre chinese behavior. of course couples wear matching outfits and girls walk down the street holding hands. what else would they do? no, your writing turns inward, to the philosophical musings that always seem to erupt just as you're getting comfortable.
i actually got scared about coming home the other day. that same nervous anticipation i had before i came to china. america seems so far away and so foreign. i can only guess how it will seem after a year here. i expect as many things to feel strange and bizarre as feel normal and comfortable.
so i apologize for the tapering of my writing and the lack of amusing daily-life stories. things just don't seem that interesting anymore. and who wants to read about boring old normal life?
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
it started tuesday. i come back to school in the evening for a pta meeting and one of my coworkers informs us all that she found them while she was tutoring one of her students after school. bugs, everywhere, poor girl. anyway, the school gives us all lice shampoo, we tell the parents, and in the morning we check all the kids (as well as checking ourselves for the third time). everyone is clean. great. we take everything soft out of our rooms and go on with our day. then the nurse comes in the afternoon to check everyone again. all those kids we thought were clean, yeah a couple of them have eggs or bugs. unfortunate, but still containable. the teachers, according to the nurse, are fine.
apparently the nurse was not as well-versed in the ways of lice as we would have liked to think. i'm sitting on the bus on the way home, with ms. jenna behind me when i hear "oh my gosh, kim!" and feel her grab my ponytail. "are there bugs?" i ask, guessing just by the gasp and the tone in her voice. there are. and they're moving. jenna grabs the ones she can and throws them out the window while i call my vice principal to let her know i won't be coming in to school tomorrow.
and, mostly, i'm pretty calm. it's not until i start to be able to legitimately feel them that i start to get a little uncomfortable and wish the bus ride was a little shorter. it's disconcerting to have someone confirm that that itch you feel is in fact a small parasite crawling around in your hair. i do, however, wish i could have seen them crawling around in there. just out of curiosity.
so of course i go home and shower. and then make my roommate check my hair again. and i check hers. and we both check my other roommate's. multiple times. and we all can't help but laugh because we feel like little monkeys grooming each other. i had no idea when i got here just how close i would get to my roommates and coworkers. it's kind of incredible, really, how much we have learned about each other in such a short time.
at any rate, while the shampoo that i have seemed mildly effective yesterday, it is proving to be beneficial over time. i think i'm pretty much clean. i would check, but i'm still developing the eyes in the back of my head, so i must wait for someone to get home. for the moment i am just enjoying my day off and trying to figure out how to deal with the mountain of bedding and laundry in my room. it is times like these that make me really wish we had a dryer. turns out lice will survive a good washing, but can't take the heat. oh, china.
and perhaps this is one component of the reason the states are so anal about student-teacher relationships. i always assumed the caution about touching your students was a PC thing, but that is the main way that diseases spread. in such a big system, i can see how they would want to be cautious about it. that said, i think PC reasons carry more weight than germ-spreading ones. but this at least makes me feel a little better about life.
update: i am clean once again. the chinese lice shampoo proved to be very effective and i managed to boil my clothes and sheets in the sink, in lieu of a dryer. it was an interesting weekend. i'm glad to be past this hurdle. as one of my friends put it, i have now been hazed into teacher-dom. i think i'm legit now.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
what is up with the matrix and could someone please get on that?
update: according to one of my bosses, this means my life is going exactly to plan. which is interesting, because i was unaware of any such plan for my life at this point.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
i think it will seem very clean and open - particularly clean in houston and open in nebraska. and green. i'm excited for the greenness of lincoln. ooh, and blue skies.
i expect to experience sensory overload. which is kind of strange because there is so much going on everywhere you look here, it's constant sensory overload. but in a different way. here it is traffic and tons of people and lots of flashy lights that say things i can't read. at home i think it will be overwhelming to suddenly be able to read everything and understand everything everyone is saying. especially since i tend to read anything i can see and i've gotten very used to blocking out conversations here, since there is zero chance they will make any sense to me. maybe it will be more auditory overload. and to have tv and movies that default to english. summation: it will be weird to have english everywhere.
i wonder if blond and black people will shock me a little. especially black people. i've seen all of about 5 since i got here.
i think it might be confusing not to see asian people everywhere. i actually feel like that might be a little stressful at first.
i may experience attention withdrawal when i suddenly blend in eveywhere. and don't have 9 5-year-olds watching my every move.
in some ways i will be glad for traffic laws but i think i will also resent them in certain situations.
really, i'm just trying to prepare myself for a transition that will be more jarring than one would expect.
Friday, April 17, 2009
for me, it's large expanses of wide open space. particularly a nice landscape. to me, this is one of the most gorgeous things in the world, even when i know it really isn't that impressive.
it's rock music. especially when played live by people who clearly love what they are doing. then it doesn't even matter if it's good.
it's watching one of my students read a new word on their own. or remember to use please and thank you. with each other.
it's a good hug from a good friend.
it's watching fight club.
it's a friendly interaction with a complete stranger, despite a mile-high language barrier.
it's sunshine on my face and warm grass beneath bare skin.
these are all fairly inconsequential things i could easily live without. in fact, i do much of the time. and yet they are, in some ways, the things i live my life for. these are the experiences that i greedily drink in whenever i get the chance, in hopes of staving off the next draught.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
today was one of those days that makes me really appreciate and love my job. i was joking with my student from hong kong that she could teach us chinese today, since our chinese teacher was gone. somehow our joke evolved into a 20 minute counting session in 6 different languages. i realized that almost all of my students speak a different language, usually in addition to english and chinese. between the 8 kids and myself, we represent 8 different languages. i find that incredible.
(it's so random, too. we've got the expected asian mix: mandarin, cantonese, japanese and korean, but then there's also polish, german and a touch of spanish. seriously, how many people do you know that speak english, chinese and polish?)
and they are so excited to share and learn from each other. i've started having one star student each week, who gets to bring a special show and tell, etc. one of the things i want them to do now is teach us how to count to five and say hello and goodbye in whatever other language they know. as they weren't awesome enough already.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
- cooking with a wok
- sesame oil
- butternut squash
- family style eating
- openness about everything
- microwave baking
- Chinese New Year celebration
- boudzah if i can learn how to make it
- tomato and egg
- "no problem, no problem"
we shall see if this list comes true...
- constant amazement
- constantly meeting people from all over the world
- fun taxi drivers
- asian-style/family style eating
- my kids
- my coworkers
- life with my roommates
- my friends
- liquid yogurt
- dancing at zapata's
- constant challenge
- cheap produce
- mandarin oranges
- raisins - i know they have these at home, but they are so much better here
- dried kiwi
- body wash with whitening
- constant attention due to my white white face
- being able to claim cultural ignorance when i do things i shouldn't
- having strangers ask to take pictures with me
- awesome fireworks and their utter disregard for public safety
- constant activity
- street vendors
- my bus
- the blaze (oh, rock and roll!)
- spaghetti sauce
- cotija cheese
- wide open spaces
- relative calm when i step outside my door
- conversations with my friends
- my mommy
- all of my friends and family, of course
- an oven
- a clothes dryer
- being able to be barefoot outside
- wal-mart, target, old navy
- swing night
- the ability to read signs and converse with anyone at will
- a natural understanding of my environment
- central heat
- whole wheat products
- quality art supplies
- quality merchandise
- bayou goo and swirl
- american gum
- apple skins
- Jimmy John's
- thrift store shopping
- water fountains
i don't intend for this list to be negative. i think it is interesting to pay attention to the things you miss. they say something about you and your home culture. i had no idea how much i appreciated some of these things until i couldn't have them. i also find it notable that so many of these items are food. it makes sense to me that these are the things i would miss the most, since eating is such a basic need that i am reminded at least three times a day of how drastically different the cuisine is here. i'm not sure if food is the thing i actually miss the most, but it is definitely the thing i notice missing the most. i think people would rank right up there, as well, which makes sense since these are my two main sources of comfort.