Monthly Archives: December 2007

2007, take 1

2007 take 1

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This is not a blog about movies but…

I’ve seen four good ones in as many days, two in theaters, two on DVD, so…

Juno:  Over-hyped (but how could it not be?) but hilarious.  Like the hype is saying, this is Ellen Page’s big break (because I don’t think Hard Candy was everyone’s cup of tea).  The dialogue is as witty as promised, after trying a little too hard at the very beginning.  Jennifer Garner channels (rips off?) Charlotte from Sex & the City in her crazy-baby-wanting-mama role.  Am I the only one who sees this?  Now my question is, will this spark the resurgence of the Moldy Peaches?  Because lots of people are going to google that song.

Persepolis: Just as great as you know it’s going to be.  When it ended, I was expecting another couple of hours, another couple of chapters.  It’s a story that’s absolutely particular to one woman’s experience, but universal in the struggle with identity that it portrays.  And her grandmother is fabulous.  Punk is not ded.

Once: An indie made in Ireland starring two real-life musicians (and the woman was only 19 when this film was made, I think!).  It’s a sweet story, could be too sweet but mostly avoids that, and the choices made in the end are brave but not expected.  I loved this in the same way that I loved Italian for Beginners.  But this one also has really good music.

Naked City: A 1948 film noir set in NYC.  There’s a frame voice-over about how it was all shot on location here.  I was multitasking while I watched it, but soon I wished I’d been paying more attention… there’s the Bronx courthouse in 1948, here’s the LES in 1948, I wanted them to slow down and show me what things looked like back then but of course the story moves on.

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This is me on a Friday night…

working away on planning the first few weeks of January, the beginning of our Weather & Water unit.  Planning curriculum has been one of my favorite parts of teaching; it occurs to me that I really miss that process of making choices about what to teach and how to teach it.  No matter how committed to FOSS I am, I’ve lost a little creativity and autonomy this year.  But it’s still exciting to start a new unit, and now, with Levers & Pulleys in the past (finally!) I am able to make more accurate predictions about how I need to modify the curriculum (mostly by adding to it and spreading out lessons over a couple of days), so I’m back in the swing of planning, although still with less autonomy than I’m used to.

Tomorrow, brunch, then El Museo del Barrio, then dancing with a new-old friend and her friends.

Sunday, more schoolwork.   My friends will be arriving from the far corners of the globe where they spirited themselves away for the holidays, and those who’ve been here but working will emerge from their offices again… so really, anything could happen, and then it’s New Year’s Eve, and then New Year’s Day and 2008 starts.

Meanwhile, the process of thinking about what needs to change, and what doesn’t, and what the possibilities are, continues.  And with it, the certainties and reversals of certainty (yes, Jonathan, I waffle!), the absolute confidence that I could do x, y, or z followed by absolute confidence that there’s no way in hell that I should be telling anyone else what to do at this stage of the game, the questions about what kind of work is meaningful but also satisfying and sustainable.  Turns out that when I say casually I’d like to write a book, ha ha, what I really mean is, I’d like to write a book.  A book about science, or education, or history.  Nonfiction, but possibly with a twist of personal history or whatnot.  Now all I need is an idea worth following out on that particular limb.  There are ideas… but worth following?  As my friend pointed out, when you find it, you know.

I think I’ll watch Once and go to bed really late.

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Hey school bloggers, need a job?

Get paid to do what you already do (only, more so). The skinny? You’d be launching a blog for The Open Planning Project, which already launched StreetsBlog, the roving reporter on everything to do with improving NYC’s streets, from transportation to community… The idea behind TOPP is to use the open-source model of software development as a basis for community improvement. Or something. The idea is tantalizing but I’ve only given their website a glance-over, enough to take in their gorgeous new graphic logo but not quite long enough to figure out if it’s available in t-shirt form. More time must be spent investigating (and perhaps tweaking that resume?), though I have to admit I’m a bit skeptical that they can really offer a blogger, described as likely being a “former teacher or principal,” a competitive salary and benefits… is there really that much money in web writing for a (non-profit?) start-up?  Not that I’m raking in the dough in teaching, but still…

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Gifted

This morning I read in the Boston Globe about the creation of Handmeon, a “gift ecology” website which aims to introduce gift-giving rings inspired by the practices of the South Pacific Kula tribe, where significant objects are passed along to confer social status, with no expectation of return.  Here and now, part of the appeal is the nonconsumer, temporary nature of ownership within the Handmeon ecology, as the gifts are supposed to be handed-on after a few weeks of enjoyment by the gift receiver.  Another side of the appeal is the creation of story – in this sense, second grade teachers are way ahead as this sounds like a  Flat Stanley for grownups - since each gift has a little blog of its own where temporary owners can write about the meaning of the item for them.  The Globe article raises the question whether this sort of gift-giving may at times be problematic, as the gift comes with the burden of passing it on.  It seems to me that in part what you are giving when you give someone a handmeon is the item itself with its history and meaning, but also the gift of belonging to a network of this kind in the first place.  So as you think about whether the recipient would appreciate the gift itself, you have to think about whether the person would appreciate the gift of a new way of giving gifts.  So now the question I have for you, and it would be kind of cool to see it posted on your blog with a photo if you’re so inspired, is, What item do you have in your home that you would consider giving away as a handmeon (if any)?  or  What item have you received that you would consider handing on?  (not in a white elephant kind of way).  Books, by the way, have been handed on in this way for a long time… (why can’t I remember the name of the website I’m thinking of?  Here’s one and another, but neither is quite what I meant).There was supposed to be a part 2 of this post, about another website I heard about recently, but I can’t remember the name of that one, either, nor has any web search turned up a lead.  This one is where you find volunteer opportunities, bank hours, and can then trade in those hours for services.  So, for example, if I tutored for six hours, I could find someone else on the site and “spend” my hours on, I don’t know, music or language lessons.  Anyone know what I’m talking about?  I remember it had a sort of catchy name. 

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piggy bank

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Morale…

I gave each of my teachers on the sixth grade team a small gift certificate and a bunch of stickers, and a little note of appreciation. We had a cake at our team meeting, and coffee. I have such low morale myself right now, but I really want to do every little thing I can to boost my teachers’ spirits. I got a lot of thanks back after that, and it’s funny because I feel so stuck in negativity and overwhelmedness, but I guess I’m doing all right from the point of view of others. Keeping our eyes on the big picture and the little victories feels so important. Showing appreciation feels so important. Meanwhile there’s a lot of complaining going on and it’s so inappropriate to be a part of it, but I get drawn in and then feel crappy because I should stay above it. The middle – not just a teacher, not an administrator – is a tough place to work. Every mistake I make feels magnified.

Everyone’s like, vacation will help. And it will. It will. But you can’t let the morale of your employees rest on the fact that every so often, just when the pressure builds up to that level, we get a week off. Can you?

And a colleague told me last night that he’d found my blog. I don’t know if he meant this one, though, there are old ones out there, too. He said he doesn’t read it. Blogging, especially when you’ve got a lot of big questions about life, is such a weird choice. Its easier to write honestly – in some ways – when you don’t really know most of your readers. Having my parents, a few friends, and now possibly others whom I work with reading this feels a little scary… but when I say that, I feel like Paris Hilton complaining about too much media attention: not convincing.

Still, it was an odd conversation, not helped, perhaps, by the fact that it was 4 hours into a night of celebrating the start of vacation in an Irish pub. And I walked away wondering how he found me, and what he takes away from it all, and why he googled me if that’s indeed what he did, or what the accident was if it was an accidental search result. And questioning, again, whether everything about keeping a blog might not be a mistake?

And also, while I’m questioning confessional mode, I may as well add to the confession: all my life, I’ve been this intense, hard-working, taking-things-too-seriously, a little wound up kind of person. But I’ve also been someone who tries new things, has wide-ranging interests, gets a lot done and done well, and so on. People who know me, know that, and the rest is just high school. And all my life, I’ve been told (mostly by people who DON’T know me well, to clarify for a commenter) that I need to relax, to take more risks, to go out there and have fun, to stop being so serious, etc., etc. There may be some truth to some of that, but I’m also really tired of hearing it from people who jump to conclusions about who I am and what I’m feeling, about how I should be, about what I need. And I thought, at 29, that maybe I was finally free of that kind of unasked-for psychoanalysis. So it’s upsetting to talk to someone I barely know and get grilled with such questions as, “What’s the last really crazy thing you did?” Like the solution to life’s stresses is just to get out there and do something crazy. Even if I knew what that meant. Because I go to art parties and rock shows and coach robotics and walk the whole length of Broadway and bake wedding cakes and keep a semi-secret blog and travel alone and laugh my head off with friends and stay out super late (once in a while) and party more than I should (once in a while) and date on-line and live in New York and teach in the South Bronx and give my phone number out to 12 year olds and every single one of those things counts as crazy in somebody’s book.

(Meanwhile, N. up and quit! Good luck to her!)

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STRESSFACE

STRESSFACE

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Oh well.

I love this, but the authorities removed it.  I think we all need whimsical things to wake us up, make us pay just a bit more attention to the world out there.  But, alas, not everyone agrees.

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(Dis)comfort

He doesn’t feel comfortable in my class, he tells his mom, which is why he chose not to come see me Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or today when I sat in the cafeteria at lunchtime conducting office hours for students who failed their lab report (most of them) and wanted to rewrite it a third time (I put copious comments on the 1st drafts and taught a lesson targeting the skills where they had the most trouble…. a lot of kids lost points on the final draft for leaving out sections entirely, not reading my comments, etc.  I don’t mind helping you out, but at the point when we get to third drafts, it’s on your time – which also happens to be my time – not class time).  Let me say that again: this student did NOT take advantage of four days and about 3 hours of possible extra-help time.  At no point this week did he even mention wanting help.  Let me also say this: he was drawing in his agenda today when I gave instructions for a new project.  So when that one comes due, what will the story be then?  Uncomfortable?!  You should be uncomfortable in my class, you’re not doing your work!  You don’t even know what the question is!  But there’s a fine line between uncomfortable and uncomfortable… so I set up a meeting with the mom, who is convinced that this is not her child, that somehow I am refusing to help him.  If he really doesn’t feel okay approaching me, then that’s a real problem and one worth addressing… siiiigggghhhhhh.  It will all be fine, I was firm but eminently reasonable on the phone.  And it’s not like there’s a teacher in the building with a different story to tell about him.

And that came after a two-coverage (no-prep), teaching-all-day, no-lunch, extra-help, after-school, staff-holiday-party, 7:30-5 kinda day.

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