Thursday, November 13, 2008

mighty to save

Here is a school update :)

Last Friday I was scheduled (at the very, very last minute) to be observed as part of my formal "I'm a new teacher so I need to be observed several times each year to ensure that I'm not destroying the literary competancy of my students" obsesrvation. The only period available for observation? Fifth.

Oh. Crap.

Here's the deal. My fifth period is kind of crazy. Like, monkeys in a banana factory crazy. They are loud and off-task and goofy and immature and generally pains in my rear. They are sweet kids but, good Lord, I would pay so much money to just get them to be quiet and let me teach.

So. Formal observation during fifth period. On a Friday. With only one day to prepare. Awesome. This is totally going to go so well.

So I cobbled together a lesson plan involving a reading quiz, a Think-Pair-Share activity, a worksheet about parallels and conrasts in Of Mice and Men, and some independent work time to let them get caught up in their reading packets.

I prayed for a fire drill. Or a real fire.

Friday rolled around and the kids came in from lunch, sat down, and did their opener - quietly. I passed out their quizzes and they took them - quietly. I collected the quizzes and reviewed the questions. Several students raised their hands to answer and the rest? They sat quietly. We started talking about parallels. I gave some real life examples, and then one or two obvious examples from the text that we have already discussed. I then asked them to think for a minute and write down one more parallel. When they were done, I told them they were going to share their parallels in pairs and then we were going to share them with the class (See? Think. Pair. Share.).

Surely, I thought, this will not go well. This activity will, as numerous activities before, instantly devolve into madness. I stood back and watched....

My students thought quietly for a moment. Then, they turned to their pairs and shared briefly. Then they all looked at me and waited for their turn to share with the class. And then they raised their hands to share! And they shared! We had an amazing discussion, everyone was engaged and participating, and no one spoke out of turn.

It was a little creepy.

When I gave them time for independent work, I reminded them about one page in their packet called the "Chronolog" which was designed to help them review the plot of the story. Victor raised his hand, "Is it in chronological order?"

"It is," I replied. "Does everyone remember what that means from the first week of school?"

And then, as though inspired by angels, the entire class chorused in unison, "The order that events happen in time!"

My post-observation conference was today, after I threatened to rip the gum out of a fifth period student's mouth if she blew another bubble while I tried to teach and made another student sit outside for the duration of the period because he couldn't just sit quietly while we watched the end of Of Mice and Men.

"You are doing an incredible job," my VP said. "I don't have a single recommendation for you."

Oh, come on.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

political musings

Like many others, I am so proud to be an American today. I spent yesterday evening on my couch, under a blanket, watching the election results come in like I was watching the Superbowl. My roommate(s) walked in and out, asked uninformed questions, and looked at me like I was crazy. I ate a mini Snickers bar and read The Last Empress during commercial breaks and may have shed a tear or two when Obama's electoral vote count jumped from 200 to over 300 at 8pm.

Obama's speech... I don't have words for it. I am excited at the prospect of change. I do not think Obama has a magic bullet to fix all of American's problems, but I do believe that he desires to make positive change in our country and, as I told my students this morning, begin sewing up some of the gaping wounds from the last 8 years. We don't need a Band Aid, we need major surgery. I am disturbed by the tendancy that Obama opponents have to demonize our new leader just because he is different and represents change. How can anyone not realize that what we desperately need right now is change?

McCain ran a good race, but in the face of an economic crisis I believe that America is reluctant to trust another Republican. We saw this with the presidential race, but also with the House and Senate races. As one of my students pointed out, all the blame will fall on the Democrats if something goes wrong, but I don't know what else the Republicans could have done to secure this election when the Dems made such a concerted effort to turn the big swing states blue and McCain focused mainly on shoring up his own defenses. In the end, it just wasn't enough. When economics go south (especially as a result of a war that many do not support that was started by a Republican), it is hard to concede the leadership of our contry to another Republican. I believe that McCain did all that he could do, but the situation was against him. Do I think he would have won without the depression we are in right now? I'm not sure. But I do think it would have been a much closer electoral vote race.

So while I am proud to be an American today, I am disappointed to be a Californian. Although I'm not shocked at the Prop 8 ruling, it still makes me sad that, as many of my friends have already pointed out, right now we care more about the rights of farm animals than those of our actual citizens. How sad that we live in a state that can elect an African-American man as our president but cannot get past our own ignorance and close-mindedness to allow people to live their lives the way they choose to.

As a human being, I believe that we all deserve to be treated as equals. No one should have their basic rights as citizens taken away because of a lifestyle choice, because they are different. Who do we think we are to tell somone that because they are different from us, they deserve to be treated as "less?" It literally makes me sick to my stomach. Gay marriage is not about education, nor is it about religion. Gay marriage is about treating people like human beings, with the dignity and respect and fairness that, as human beings, we deserve.

As a Christian, I believe that we are instructed by Jesus, first and foremost, to love. I do not believe that it is my place to judge the lifestyle choices of someone else, nor do I believe that I have any right to tell someone that they are living their life incorrectly until I fix all of the junk that is in my own life. I think that we need to be a little more concerned with love and a lot less obsessed with legality. I cannot believe that Jesus would actually want me to tell someone that they are not good enough to share the same rights that I have just because they are living a lifestyle that is more openly taboo than some of the more private sins that I personally deal with. It's sometimes hard for me to wrap my liberal Christian mind around it, but in the end I always come down to love. Prop 8 passing has nothing to do with love and everything to do with ignorance and judgement. I am a sad Californian and a sad Christian.

I think Prop 8 is largely a generational issue and I do believe that in coming years we will start to see a definite shift.

There's more but.... I'll get off my soap box now.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

never leaves too soon

Do you dream that the world will know your name?
So tell me your name
And do you care about all the little things,
Or anything at all?

Do you believe in the day that you were born?
Tell me do you believe?
Do you know that every day's the first
Of the rest of your life?

This is to one last day in the shadows
And to know a brother's love
This is to New York City angels
And the rivers of our blood
This is to all of us, to all of us.
-Thriving Ivory, "Angels on the Moon"