Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Days

Last day of school. Early dismissal at 11:30. What in God's name could I do to contain the crunk 3rd grade on such a day? "Bring 'em to P.E.," Coach Fantastic Lady That Always Saves My Ass instructed, "we'll play the classes against each other in dodge ball". Was I dreaming? I lined them up and brought them in and as soon as the Bee Gees started playing loudly throughout the auditorium, ball started flying everywhere. And kept flying everywhere. For over an hour. This is the life, I thought. Both classes of the day knocked down and I barely had to lift a finger. The kids zipped by, eyes narrowing, dodging and whipping balls at each other. I saw some talents I had never seen in Spanish class. It was awesome.

And then they were gone. I sat through two pitiful days of post-planning, waiting for those a-holes to cut my feral ass loose. And I didn't go feral. I am just waiting, waiting, waiting for the minute I get in the car, get in the car and drive to Arizona, drive to California, drive to Tijuana, go south, drive that car all over the place. Fly to Nicaragua. Run wild, not just sit in this hot city. I should have left at 11:32 on Thursday. I don't need any down time. Time to clean the house, time to do the laundry? I don't need it.

I just need to go.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Between a green moon and a dark sun

"Henry, I think Gilbert just said that she loves you..." I mentioned cautiously. "I know," the first grader responded, "she hits me all the time". Well, at least she hasn't cut you into little pieces.

"So muchachos, today is our last Spanish class for the school year" I announced to the fourth graders. A few started clapping and cheering. It hurt my feelings. I admit it. Fuck you, I thought. I'll remember that next year while making worksheet copies instead of spending a fortune on sugar skull kits and all the other fun shit I do for you. Fuck you. After the applause occurred with several fourth and fifth grade classes, I decided to be open with them. "If you told someone that you weren't going to see them for two months and they started cheering and clapping, how would you feel?" I asked them. They seemed a little stunned, but at least they stopped clapping.

"So muchachos, today is our last Spanish class for the school year" I announced to the second graders. "NO!" the argued, "We have more! WE HAVE MORE!" I showed them the schedule, we don't have anymore and they started booing. Christopher stopped me as I wandered around the class monitoring their work. "Can I put a GPS on you?" he asked. "Why?" I responded. "So that I can always find you..." The situation repeated itself with first grade and kindergarten. That's when I realized I shouldn't take any of it personally, their reactions were developmental. The upper grades cheered about the end of classes, the lower grades cried. Maybe that's why I like the lower grades so much. Niceness doesn't get enough credit.

"Andy, I'll miss you over the summer. But I'll look for you in the woods if you escape forever so that you won't have to come back to school". The blond boy smiled with delight. It was a private joke between us. He was one of the few dislikers of school among the kinders. "Yeah," he said "I'll live wild, in the woods...." Other kids started listening...."Wild, like Tarzan!" one responded, dark eyes gleaming...eyes were lighting up around the room, "wild" I heard, "WILD". "Okay, raise your hand if you were born in the wild" I asked the class, giggling. Hands shot up and eyes gleamed. Heavy giggling. "Raise your hand if you were raised by wolves!" More hands, out right laughter, calls of "yeah!". Everyone wants to live in the wild. Half these kids are still practically feral. That's what makes them so fun.

I've been getting a pretty tough beat down from some of the adults in my life. For once, it is not happening at work, but it is indeed happening. I feel pretty misunderstood, powerless and maligned. But with the kids, I realized, I feel good. There might be something kind of fucked up about that. But I feel like they see the real me, the me that is definitely eluding others.

"I like your new haircut, does it feel good?" I asked the first grader with a new crew cut. "Yeah, it feels great!" he responded, "Know why I got it? LICE!". I quickly removed my hand from his head.

"Do you want to paint faces at Field Day?" the P.E. teacher asked me. "Are you crafty?". Want to? I'd love to. Here I was thinking I'd have to monitor some insane obstacle course all day. "Can I make you like, a little cheetah?" I asked Ricky. "YEAH!" he screamed. "Me too! Me too!" the others yelled. "What about, like, a lion?" I asked another. "YEAH YEAH YEAH!" they called. I have never done this before. But the kids said I could totally practice on all of them.

Wild animals. Everyone is going to be one on Monday.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The List

"Put 'em on the list" kinder Jay said solemnly. "The list, Jay? Do I really need to go talk to George's parents about getting him up too early on Saturdays?" I asked. "Yes," he responded, "on the list". Okay. George's parents were on the list, along with the asshole parents that made their kids go to church, go to bed early and eat vegetables. George snickered with delight. "I'm gonna go over there, George" I promised. "I know where you live".

I happily skidded through downtown Atlanta on my sister's bike, mine got a flat. It was May Day, rallies, and Georgia has a lot to worry about. We chanted and roamed a bit at the Capitol, then got hungry and well, thirsty. In most cities, downtown is where it's at. In Atlanta, downtown is where yucky people in suits work from 9-5, Monday through Friday and then drive their SUVs to the suburbs, leaving it a ghost town until Monday. The rest of us live a mile or two away from downtown, where normal life continues: restaurants, bars and movies. But the downtown, well, it's dead.

We wandered around. And finally, went to the Underground, an odd tourist attraction that has higher odds of getting mugged and shot than actually enjoying your bad tourist self. We went to a sports bar and ordered some food. It was sunny and nice and seedy, with signs advertising a multitude of things that you couldn't carry into the bar or do in the bathroom. "We got four dollar pitchers of margaritas" our earnest waitress offered us. I was surprised when my sister took her up on it. Good days. Good days in the Underground. Happy May Day.

I sure am going to miss that Osama bin Laden. I was as horrified as the rest of you that day in early autumn, ten years ago. I was shocked when I looked through the window of my La Guardia bound flight when it flew over the smokey pit that used to be the World Trade Center, six weeks after the attack. I bawled my head off at the funeral I was attending for everyone and everything that had happened. I am surprised by how I feel about his death. Believe me, I know this guy was was THE hijo de la gran puta. It is just not everyday that a person, raised in privilege, decides to dedicate his life to a conviction that does not include silk sheets. To start a movement. To put his money where his mouth is. I am impressed by his ability to organize. Would you know how to do it? No, me neither. Obviously, I don't agree with what he agreed with, but I have to respect his conviction and ability to organize multiple countries into a massive movement. He's the Che Guevara of the Arab world. A few slight changes and I would have been cheering for his wild-ass, guerilla army. But he killed us. And wanted to keep killing us. And I am one of us. But I haven't done shit with my life and that guy gave it all up to actively and wholeheartedly pursue what he believed in. It is a lesson to me.

Well, except for the killing of civilians part and freaky religion stuff.

I quickly perused my email, hair still wet and late for work. Alejandro had sent me a message, another Dreamer in trouble, sign the petition. It made me sad. It never ends, does it? It just goes and goes and goes.

And then Governor Nathan Deal signed the law, putting us second only to Arizona for hate laws against immigrants. We're number two!


Friday, May 6, 2011

De colores

"I went to a pig roast this weekend" the second grader responded when asked how he was doing. "I ate PIG".

Well, I eat shit, I thought, as his teacher waved her hand in my face in an act of dismissal and stomped out of my classroom. I forget sometimes how important these elementary school teachers are. That my job is to be their lady in waiting, their babysitter, their maid, whenever they feel like dropping their classes off because they need a break. Silly little me thinking I was a real teacher. And for having a little self respect when I marched my ass down to her classroom and let her know that I wasn't her maid. She told what she really thinks, which was even worse than I would have ever imagined. When she apologized, I told her that I wanted to drop it. She thought I was being gracious, but I wasn't. I know what she thinks and an apology won't fix that, or the fact that half the people I work with share the same impression; that "specials' teachers are not a real teachers, that we work less than they do, that our classes don't matter, that we are only there to make their lives easier. It's a little hard to take. But I don't want to argue about it. I've defended my job enough lately.

"Just trust us" the board representative told the teachers after we refused to sign our contracts. "Well I feel better now!" one of my fellow teachers exclaimed and they signed. Simultaneously, the board announced that they wanted to significantly increase the size of our student population and house the new kids in my classroom. SUCKERS!! Not only would I have more instructional hours added to my packed schedule, I would have to roll around on a cart and visit the various classrooms in order to teach. I began applying for jobs immediately.

"We have to think about direct action against Nathan Deal while HB87 sits on his desk. Who can find the governor's schedule for the upcoming week?". The meetings against Georgia's hate bill were up to twice a week and included homework. Spreadsheets, phone calls, emails. "I need information from you as soon as possible how increasing the size of the school will effect student achievement in Spanish" my co-worker requested "I need data. We have to stop this thing". More homework, after two or three faculty meetings in the same week. "So, how can we help you with the school wide assembly?" the group of parents asked me at yet another after school meeting. "The props are done. Everything is done. The assembly is less than a week away" I answered. Where the fuck were you while I was busting my ass to make this obligatory thing happen? Alone. Managing the costumed skits, rehearsals, setting up risers, videos, songs and dances of 370 elementary age children, alone. Meetings everyday, immigration, faculty, some days with double headers after school. Little help from the K-5 teachers, no help from parents. Only the other "specials" helped. "What bitches," they said "we'll help you. You can't corral 370 kids by yourself during an assembly".

"De colores...." the fourth grader sang "...y por eso los grandes amores de muchos colores me gustan a mí..." I was surprised that I was chocking up. She volunteered to do it, wanted to do it, to promote the assembly. Stood up there with her dad and sang the entire lovely song in Spanish. I felt proud. Their skinny little arms hugged me, circled my neck, my waist, my leg. It's their way of saying "hi" and they do it instinctively. I am proud of them.

I was standing in a parking lot, drunk. The assembly was a bit of a disaster, technical problems, communication errors, but the kids had a blast and the damn thing was over. Parents popped up at the last minute and helped corral the kids during the assembly and one dad even put a suit on and mc-ed the thing for me. And... the Board decided not to add the extra group of kids. No cart for me....I could keep my classroom.

Decisions, decisions.