Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Many happy returns















After a completely pleasant conversation, way back in August during the second week of school, a smiling teacher looked at me and said: "A lot of really experienced teachers applied for your job and didn't get hired. I don't know what's going on. I think it's something political".

I remember being stunned, a little broadsided. Yeah, I guess it's completely mysterious why anyone would hire me over someone else.

"I applied for your job," the teacher at a neighboring school informed me today, after inviting me to her classroom so that we could coordinate our Spanish programs. "I wasn't hired. I'm too expensive, I have an advanced degree".

Well me, I come cheap. I'm a bargain. K-Mart prices. Maybe I'll get on over to college someday.
"After I saw your schedule I was relieved that I didn't get the job" she added.

"Ms. Maestra we missed you!!!!!!!!" the kindergartners shrieked. "We're glad you're back from Chicago!!!!!!" one yelled. Lola squinted and gave me an enigmatic smile as she sang the buenos días song. Dragon hissed happily. Gilbert slyly kicked the other kids at the table, raised her hand and said the children were kicking her.

I missed them too.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Way Life Should Be

So I bolted from the school and went straight to the airport. We were off Monday and Tuesday for day of the first tourist to the Americas, I worked Wednesday and spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Fulbright conference in Boston.

I personally prefer this type of work week.

It's a pretty frightening look at the American education system when experienced teachers from around the world spend a couple of months teaching in the U.S. and recoil in horror. "I cannot plan quality lessons in the time allotted for planning" one remarked. "I have no life," many others stated, "I am working twelve hour days and weekends to keep up with planning, grading and paperwork for my classes". The bottom line was that the demands on teachers in the United States are ridiculous. It does make one wonder if teaching in the U.S. is the smartest plan and if the grass is possibly greener in various other parts of the world, including developing countries. Go USA. We're number one.

And the behavior of the students...well that is another story. "I am not used to thanking my students for coming to school" one international teacher commented with painful sincerity. I am deliberately leaving out other descriptions of the student behavior they have encountered. It's too dark and awful and indicative of our failings as a country.

I am not sure what came over me when I had to address the entire crowd as an alumni resource. After describing my position in Tijuana and how to make the most of your exchange, I found myself wandering...."My host school also did not provide me with a lot of guidance or indication of norms and expectations. So I just did whatever I wanted....do whatever you want! Do what you do!" Even as the words spilled from my mouth I knew I was in trouble, especially when an American school administrator stood up to challenge me.

I'm not so fond of public speaking.

I love the Fulbright program. I really mean that when I say it. When I see their view of what public education should be, I am freakishly in agreement. Leaving them makes me sad. I departed the conference conflicted, yet oddly motivated to re-enter the classroom and um, do whatever I want.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Día de la Raza

"Take this leaf for good luck. When you go somewhere, think about what you want and touch it" Lola told me gravely, her small hand sliding through the chain link fence and slipping a green leaf into mine. "I'm moving out of my house," she continued, "I want to live alone. I'm going to the tree house. I watch you from there, but you don't know it. I see you walk to school".

"Jamal, we are going to design the butterfly wing. As a group, you will brainstorm your design and color the wing. We are going to design the butterfly wing...", "Do you know who I am?", "Yes, Jamal", "Do you know who I am?", "Of course, we are going to design the butterfly wing" Suddenly, a bright light shined in my eyes and Alec's face was in front of mine. I was in my bed, sitting up. It was the middle of the night.

"Joe, quit manhandling Laurie" I called to two kids about to throw down in the leaving line. "Manhandle! I love to manhandle!" the booty wiggling blond boy called out "I manhandle my sister. I manhandle my dad!"

And off I go to Boston tomorrow.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Kids Are Alright

Some kids really can't sing. Most do alright with the little Spanish songs we sing in class, but there is usually one extremely nonrhythmic kid in almost every group. "BUENOS DIAS, BUENOS DIAS!" they thunder, completely off of the CD and louder than any other member of the class.

I give them extra points for that.

Let's just say things are not really going well on the job. I've decided to go Israel on them in the remaining eight months that I will work there. I can't win no matter what I do, so I'll just do whatever the hell I want. It worked in TJ.

I miss seeing signs that point to Los Angeles when I drive on the highway.

I don't know why the fire drill alarm startled me so much. I've done a million of those things. The Kindergarten teacher I was speaking to about my apparent ineptitude looked really stunned when I screamed in her face.

I was invited to Boston by Fulbright to help out with this year's teachers from Mexico. They always seem to come through right at the right time, when I feel the most maligned. "Well you may not approve of me, gross public school administrator, but the FULBRIGHT folks do!". I'm flattered and looking forward to it. I never thought I'd see them again.

"Maestra," the only serious Kindergartner of the sixty-whatever I teach stated "a bird pooped in our classroom today". He stared at me gravely when I burst out laughing and glanced out of the door, only to see my seventies-style bang wearing Dragon student walking by. He stopped, waived nicely, then hissed loudly and ran outside.

I guess it's all in a pinche day's work.