Thursday, February 22, 2018

Parkland, U.S.A.

"Some teachers are retired military and law enforcement and would not hesitate to protect our children."

"But, you will be apart of innocent children and teachers being defenseless against a killer??? No Gun Zone = Invitation to criminals and psychos."

"It's so obvious that liberals don't care about protecting children."

"We value life and want our children to LIVE. If you don’t want to carry that is fine, there are teachers already trained and equipped to protect."

"You obviously don’t care enough to do whatever it takes to protect your kids!"

"No says the voice of the fricken teachers union ..."

"There will be other teachers who love their students (and yours) enough to do whatever possible to protect them!"

"It takes an average of eight minutes for first responders to arrive...our children don’t have that long to wait."

"Let your co-workers who are willing to be a last line of defense do so as you are helping evacuate more children safety."

"Good, we don’t need any more chicken shits “educating” our kids!"

"Stay the hell out of the middle American states, you would probably melt down when you realize just how much Guns are part of life out here!  Where do I send the case of paper towels to wipe you up when you melt down!"

"Yeah, I was just told by a police officer that I'm being selfish for not wanting to defend my students."

"Some teachers and staff DO want to protect the kids and we should let them."

I could feel the tide turning pretty quickly.  If you have some doubts about adding "armed guard" to your list of duties during the workday, you are a teacher who doesn't really care about kids.  You know, the same way you don't really care about kids if you want to get paid for your work.  Or if you don't buy your students school supplies out of your own paycheck.  If you don't spend weekends raising money for the school.  You really don't care.  You really don't have a 'passion' for this, do you?

I expect you to have gone to the best schools.  I expect that you have experience teaching in the best schools. I expect you to teach my child all day, exactly to my specifications, because though you went to the best schools, I know what's best.  I expect you to support my child emotionally, answer all of my emails within minutes, and perform the services of an armed guard.  I expect you to take a bullet for my child.  THAT IS WHAT A GOOD TEACHER WOULD DO.  Someone who really cares.  

If I do not expect this of you, it is because there is something wrong with you and you could never be trusted anyway.  Everyone knows teachers are idiots.  

"My mind goes straight to a teacher having a breakdown and my kids locked in that room with that gun."

"A good number of teachers are on medication for anxiety and depression."

"And the teachers' lounge is essential a bar, or so I've heard."

Sometimes I wish the teachers' lounge really was a bar.  

Friday, February 16, 2018

Blue Valentine

They were swinging, hard.  Like all fist fights, everything was fine until it was not, and when it was not, you knew it.

I hadn't been around too many fist fights until I started teaching.  In high school teaching, they could be pretty awful.  Blood on the walls, people pinned to the floors, mayhem.  Threats of even more violence, things that go home on the bus and to the neighborhoods, guns, group attacks.

We walked back from the city-run auditorium, shepherding our kids to the Center after they practiced their Black History performance.  It is a joyous time that has filled me with pride for the past two years.  It is enlightening and celebratory, a presentation of African-American contribution that has often gone uncelebrated.

I heard something familiar, something unwanted, and started to run.
They were going to hurt each other.  My favorite fourth grader, who was now in sixth, and our troubled fifth grader had erupted in a brawl.  The only other adult close by was another woman, and she was trying to pull them apart.  They are large boys, and they were angry.
I yelled their names, knowing I wouldn't grab either of them because I wouldn't be able to separate them.  A mysterious man from the community ran in, and grabbed Jiinow by the waist, pulling him off.
"Go to the Center!" Ms. Harmon yelled at Jiinow.
"Take Mumar with you," she instructed.
"Mumar, let's go, come with me, you're not in trouble, but I need you to come...."
I know him, and I know that he is not sound.  He growled.  They were both crying, faces pulled with rage.  I knew what he would do, that time he ran away from the school, flight, flight, flight...
"An adult is speaking to you...." the mysterious man said lowly.
He ran.
Their enraged faces flashed in my mind, over and over again. The tears, the humiliation.  The abject pain.

"I'm going to Saudi Arabia."  Anward announced the next morning.
"To the Haj."
"You're kidding, that's amazing!"
"I will get to smell the stone," he announced, peppering his words with perfectly pronounced Arabic words that adding a flavor to his description.
"But you know, I'm a Kurd.  My Arabic sucks.  I hope it's okay."

"I might just need to go on a junket...."  my boss at the Center announced, as we walked back from the Black History performance the following day.
"I don't have plans for the vacation, but I really might need to take a junket somewhere...."

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Downward Dog

"I love modulars."  Mowliid announced randomly.

I gazed at the bright eyed boy, small for his age, with consistently the cleanest clothes I think I have ever seen.  Why he loved the trailer at school was a mystery.
"Why do you love modulars?"
"THEY are good buildings."
"AND, they can go on a truck."
"And be moved to a new location?"
"YES." he answered definitively, a look of satisfaction on his face for having explained himself fully. 

I have nearly completed a Soberuary, or a booze-free January.  At times, I feel like the Seinfeld episode when George Costanza gave up sex and became hyper-intelligent.  Other times, I feel overstimulated by the extra activities I do in my new-style quest for healthy living. 

I stared at a book that leaned against the white board in one of my classes.  Its cover had one of those famous Dust Bowl photos of skinny, rugged white people, looking strained.  The title, MIGRANT WOMAN, was emblazoned across the front.  I wondered why people viewed poor white migrant workers as valiant but poor brown migrant workers as takers. 

"Did you show them what child abuse was?" one of my students asked, snickering.
"Don't make me come over there...." I responded, laughing.
"Are you going to turn the car around?"
"Don't make me turn this car around, I'll give you something to cry about...."
"Do you want something to cry about?"
The whole class was laughing.  They love my stories about popular, parent sayings from the seventies. 

Next, I'd like them to try one of those old metal slides in the summer while wearing shorts. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Day of Kings

"When does the tree come down?"
"You have to wait until after Epiphany.  At least Catholics do."
"What's Epiphany?"
"The day the three kings arrived with weird shit like mir for the child-God Jesus."

"I saw a picture of my mom IN FRONT OF A CHRISTMAS TREE."  Shanika informed me during tutoring, eyes wide.
I blanked for a moment.  And?
"She used to celebrate it...."  Shanika added, in a whisper.
She says that they don't celebrate any holidays at all anymore, but that the lack of commemoration is religiously based.  Sometimes I wonder if it's actually poverty based, or a complete rejection of material things in a quest for purity, influenced by their circumstances.

Maryan showed me a small, clear stone with some sort of object in the middle of it.  It was the second time in two days that she had shown it to me.  I knew she loved it, but I couldn't figure out why.  She would only tell me that her sister gave it to her.  This time, she held the stone up so that I could get a better look at it.
A small, pink imprint of a baby's foot was in the middle of the stone.
"It's for the baby."  she told me, her mysterious eyes locked on mine.
"For the baby that died."
She turned the stone over and over in her hand, then quickly obscured it somewhere under her hijab.

The circular machine arched over my head.  It made a swooshing noise over and over that reminded me of the contraption in "Contact" that Jodie Foster tried to go to space in.  My right arm was bandaged from a blood extraction.  An IV with a strange, coiled tube extended from my left arm.
"Okay, I'm going to start, and I'll stay here to monitor.  You will notice a metallic taste in the back of your throat, you will flush and you will feel like you have to urinate.  Don't worry, you won't.  Here we go."
He activated the IV, paused, and left the room.
"Don't breathe.  Don't swallow."  an automated, authoritative voice commanded.
I began to roll backward through the tube-like machine.
I stared straight up, watching the radioactive symbol on the machine begin to glow brightly as I passed through the tube.

"Rafa has died.  He will be buried the sixth of January."  Rafa.  Probably our closest friend in Tijuana.  Why?  How?  My breath caught in my throat.  He was gone.  Rafa was gone.  It seemed impossible.  They were burying him on the Day of Kings.  The Day of Kings.

I ran through the Housing Authority, chasing a runaway ball.  The air was almost Spring-like after days of below freezing temperatures.  The kids cheered and laughed, waiting for my return with the ball.  As I rounded the fence and down the hill to the ball, I realized a huge smile had spread across my face.   I couldn't have stopped it if I tried.

"Thank you for the apartments, thank you for the apartments, thank for the apartments...." repeated over and over in my head as I turned and ran back to the kids with the ball, hair sailing in the breeze.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Weather Outside is Frightful

"Rudolph the red nosed reindeer!"  the kids howled mere feet from me while I tried to answer emails in our office during my lunch break.
"Reeeeiiindeerrrrr......" a teacher harmonized.
"Had a very shiny nose!"
"Shiny nooooose...." the harmonizing continued.
"And if you ever saw it!"
"Saaaawww it...."
The kids, I could handle.  The adult, no.

"A man can let a woman be independent when he knows he's the man."
I gulped some of my small glass of wine and ate a wildly overpriced fried oyster.
"BUMP.  What do you mean, if he knows he's the man?"  my supervisor advised my other supervisor.
I was glad she was willing to take on that fight.  I just wished my wine and entree hadn't cost so much.

The kids laughed at the Charlie Brown Christmas story.
"Look at that tree hair!"  one called, when faced with the famous tree's falling needles.

I stood at the Housing Authority with the kids, ready to do the monthly walk to school that requires me to be at school at 6:30AM, meet a parent and drive to the apartments, and then walk with the kids back to school and have them arrive by 7:30.  I don't have to do it, I hate getting up early, but I always end up enjoying it.  I felt bleary, I had been at the Housing Authority dinner until ten hours before I was standing in front of the Center the following morning.

The little girls put on reindeer antlers and Santa hats over their hijabs.  The boys ran like heathens.  The people of the upscale community we walk through looked on in distaste.  My tutorial group of girls purred lasciviously at the assistant principal they have a crush on.   Mohammed screamed like a girl when a dog walked beside him.  It was good.

"When might be a good time to call you and address your concerns?" I emailed the pervasive parent, who had emailed half of the school about some perceived affront to his child, taking nearly a month before actually contacting me.
"Can we talk Friday during the break?  I've had a busy week!"  he responded.

I watched a teacher I work with allow students to shave off his beard by the flagpole in order to raise money for one of our kids that has cancer.  The sick child is my student. 
The live stream flashed on the screen and the class I was with screamed with excitement.  I saw a cell phone flash on the screen and I saw Andrew's face.
They face-timed him.
I saw his pale face, laughing, bald head laying against the hospital bed. 

I stood in line at the Dollar store, waiting to buy treats for my Housing Authority kids.  It was the last night of tutoring before the break.  I had cash that I had received as a gift from one of my classes.  The line was taking forever.  I child I teach at school was a couple of people ahead.
"That's the Spanish teacher,"  he said loudly.
"Everyone hates her."

I made it.  I survived the week.  Family Christmas matters crashed in, but I navigated that, too.

I looked at Facebook.  A video popped up in front of me of a man swinging an axe into a live pig's head.  It stood next to him, innocently, unaware of what was about to happen.  I quickly swiped away, trying not to see.  I felt a prickly heat crawl up my neck and on to my face.

And then I cried.

Friday, December 15, 2017

These Are the Days

"Now click it, Piggy!"  the little boy shrieked, calling his classmate by her fake 'Quizlet Live' name, while commanding her to click the right answer on her iPad.

I stood in the market, tampon in hand, waiting to sign the receipt for my snack that I eat between jobs.

"Her mother attributed some of her suicidal tendencies to your Spanish class.  Sorry, but I have to run."
"That's quite a bomb you just dropped on me."
"Just letting you know it was said."
Okay.  Thanks.  I appreciate that thought.

I showed my Housing Authority students a picture of Lola in her new sweater.  It is a ridiculous expenditure and I knew that they would think she looked cute in it. 
"Your house looks NICE."  Miriam commented.
I felt uncomfortable.  My house is nice. Very nice.  I hadn't thought that they would notice.  I hadn't thought about it at all. 

"I went to my first concert last night!"  Hunter squealed.   I taught him last year as well and have never see him more animated.
"Who was it?"
"TAYLOR SWIFT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  he howled.
"We had special seats!  And then, we went to the club!  It had leather seats and a bar!".
"It's 'prepara' people!"  he interjected, slapping his hand on the table to instruct the rest of his team to hit the right answer on their iPads.
"I'm flying first class to South Beach for Spring Break!"  he continued.

I crept out of school and walked toward the Housing Authority, climbing over the railroad tracks while fearing that somehow my shoe would get caught between the wooden planks and a train would come, then slid down a rocky hill on my crouched butt and hands, like a disturbed skier, before shooting into the bike path and nearly getting run over.

"MISS WAGNER!!!!" a child screamed, hand outstretched from a passing car.

I rose and steadied myself, and waved back with a smile.

Friday, December 1, 2017

La fuente

We sat in the classroom on our "work day".  Most people think a teacher work day means that we get to catch up on work:  planning, grading, thinking ahead.  But, we had Professional Learning, classes taught by other teachers to help us improve our trade.  It was alright.

During a session, a teacher volunteered to read aloud a section.  He did it in a jokey manner, to entertain us,
obviously we were among friends.  It was funny.
"You sounded like Barry White!" a teacher commented, jovially.
No he didn't.  He sounded like a teacher making a joke.  Just because he was black doesn't mean every voice over is Barry White.

I marched through the Farmer's Market, TWO DAYS before Thanksgiving, as opposed to the day before Thanksgiving nightmare that I have thrust upon myself since assuming the weird adult role of hosting family events at my house, though I have no children, am un-married and have cast aside any other semblance of traditional life except for getting a mortgage.
"Listen, as a person who has to deal with gluten free shit everyday, just pick one"  a side-stander said to his partner.
"I hate the grocery store, I HATE THE GROCERY STORE."  another bystander announced, while strolling through the too-full aisles.

"Frosty the Snowman!  Was alive-ass he could be...."
I checked my ears while staring at Johnny Cash sing Christmas songs on some public access channel, my stomach full of Thanksgiving food.

I stood, staring at kids eating their lunches, while chatting with my fellow teacher at large, who also had lunch duty.
"Hey man!"  a fellow teacher announced to my paisano.
"Where did you get that jacket?!"
"The place where I work during the holidays, I get a discount." he answered.
"Hook a brother up!"  the new teacher announced.
It was cute.  Call the black teacher "brother".  I love it.  Ingratiate yourself.  Bruh.

I drive between my school and the Housing Authority, where I work after school, three days a week.  I cut through the fancy neighborhood, trying to make it on time, often while eating a snack because I am starving.

I noticed a boy, tossing a football with his dad in the front yard.  His face filled with a huge smile, every time they passed the ball back and forth.  Just that simple act.

I watched Anna, in my class during the last period of the day.  She read the lines she was supposed to read for her skit, and her face spread with a smile and excitement for what she was doing.

Their capacity for joy fills me with wonder and envy.