Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas

I haven't posted in a while. I'm sorry to the two people, including my mother, who read this. Here are some good things that happened in the last month:

1. I got my figure skates sharpened and I plan on trying them out in the next week at the St. Paul winter carnival.

2. I've had a great experience with my seventh graders. In the last few weeks we've gotten even closer and it's been wonderful. I got some really thoughtful and meaningful gifts from my students.

Here are some not so good things that happened in the last couple weeks:

1. My last day at my long term sub job was done on Friday.

2. I got sick again for the third time. The problem is that when I thought it went away, the next day I came down with a cough. I had a cough for two weeks. And not like a little crack once in a while. It was a constant coughing all day every day. Finally, on Tuesday afternoon, my voice quit working halfway through the work day.

3. On Wednesday I finally caved and went to a clinic which sent me to an urgent care/hospital in case I had pneumonia. I didn't. But my cough still lingers.

4. On Tuesday morning on my way into work I hit a patch of ice on 35, spun out, hit a guard rail and ruined my car. And I mean ruined.

My life has not been too fun in the last week. But there are a couple things that have made me smile. I have posted my favorite part of the Charlie Brown Christmas. I always cry when Linus tells Charlie what the meaning of Christmas is. I needed this perspective at the end of this week.



I also watched this part of Elf. It made me smile. Its meaning is not quite as profound. But I still cry when I watch it. It's still funny to me.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I will not let winter bother me this year

I seem to struggle a little bit in the winter. I like to sleep more. I like to not deal with people more. I think that while I seem to be a relatively social person on the outside, I like large amounts of time to be alone and this is especially apparent in the winter. Last winter I didn't really have to worry about this because I saw the same 22 people every day, all day, and sometimes the large part of the night. Parts of my personal life were at an all time high and other parts were as low as they could possibly be. I didn't have time to think about hibernation or all the gray and darkness outside. It was a wonderful, draining, terrible and exhausting feeling.

This year, I seem to be doing well during the week, since I'm generally too busy to think about much else except work. But the weekends are starting to get to me. So, to combat this, I have created a playlist that is both happy, but has a touch of that melancholy feeling I seem to like having in the winter. I listened to it three full times in the car yesterday. It's an interesting story why:

I went out Friday (I don't know what I was thinking; I needed new bath towels). I walked by Victoria's Secret and they were having a sale. I bought two things and they gave me this ugly free bag, which I said I didn't want. When I got home I checked my bank statement and there was a $90 purchase pending. I couldn't figure out what that was. At this point, I had cut the tags off my two things and emptied all my bags. I found the Victoria's Secret receipt and saw that my two things were what cost me $90. I nearly fainted thinking I paid $90 for two bras. So I took the receipt and bras back to the store yesterday. They told me they couldn't return them without the tags on them. I pointed out the style number (since I know how retail works as an expert employee at Gap) and asked why they couldn't just type that into the register. Apparently it doesn't work that way for their store. I went home, dug out the tags from the garbage, and went back. This time they told me I needed to have the free bag I got too. I swear, if I could have developed a tick in my eye, it would have been now. I went home AGAIN and dug the bag out of the garbage and brought it all back. I don't think there was anything more I'd rather do on a Saturday afternoon than drive to the mall three times.

Here's my playlist (I tried to pick odd videos for them):

1. "Whatever Happened?" - The Strokes (Room on Fire)
2. "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)" - Mika (Life in Cartoon Motion)
3. "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" - Scissor Sister (Ta-Dah)
4. "The Model" - Belle and Sebastian (Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant)
5. "The Boys Are Too Refined" - The Hush Sound (Goodbye Blues)
6. "Tears Dry On Their Own" - Amy Winehouse (Back To Black)
7. "Tell Me What You Want" - The Pippettes (We Are The Pippettes)
8. "Turn Off The Lights" - Nelly Furtado (Whoa, Nelly!)
9. "The Enemy Guns" - DeVotchKa (How It Ends)
10. "Luv (Sic) Pt. 3 (Feat. Shing02) - Nujabes (Modal Soul)
11. "New Soul" - Yael Naim (Yael Naim)
12. "She Moves In Her Own Way" - The Kooks (Inside In/Inside Out)
13. "Coming Home" - The 88 (Over And Over)
14. "If Looks Could Kill" - Camera Obscura (Let's Get Out Of This Country)
15. "When You Were Young" - The Killers (Sam's Town)
16. "How To Be Dead" - Snow Patrol (Final Straw)
17. "This Modern Love" - Bloc Party (Silent Alarm)
18. "You Were Right" - Badly Drawn Boy (Have You Fed The Fish?)
19. "Don't I Hold You" - Wheat (Hope and Adams)
20. "Chicago" - Sufjan Stevens (Illinois)

Monday, November 24, 2008

My cool points have significantly increased

Thank you, again, Rick Beach for being the master of all that is technologically relevant in the classroom. You may or may not recall a project in which my wonderful accomplice and I did a class project on covers last fall. Here it is, if you don't remember, or don't feel like reading posts from a year ago: What makes an awesome cover song?

Last week, we did a unit on voice, part of the 6 + 1 Traits of writing. Andrea, it's your favorite topic. No, they're not called the 7 Traits of writing; 6 + 1, remember? So, in order to understand voice, which is more or less the way (tone and word choice) the writer uses to write something, I brought in music. I asked if students ever turned on the radio, without any prior knowledge to the song playing, and knew who was performing it.

This is where my cover project came in. Sort of. So in order to understand voice and how no two people will ever write the same paper because of it, I made a cd of three different songs, performed by several different people. My playlist is as follows. I will say, that when we got to Rufus Wainwright's version of "Hallelujah," they were quite impressed that I was aware of current music and movies, since that version was on Shrek 3 or 10 (I don't remember which). They also loved that not only did I know who Britney Spears was, but I had awesome covers of her music and they liked that I loved The Beatles. I know, I just all around rock.

"Across the Universe"

"Hallelujah"

"Baby One More Time"


Oh, and my students wanted to know if Fiona Apple was like Britney Spears. This is exactly how I described Fiona Apple: "She's kind of a crazy woman. And I don't mean crazy as in 'rock and roll crazy.' I mean crazy as in 'the old woman that shuts herself up in her apartment with 15 cats.' "

Monday, November 17, 2008

On Feeling Alive

This past Friday I helped host a school dance. I was more or less dreading this after the ungodly displays of affection at the prom last year, but it ended up being pretty innocent. A few of my students created their own dance and tried to get as many people involved in it as they could. At one point they had this massive circle that was so packed, people had to push and squeeze their way into it. A lot of students, namely boys, played dodge ball and Guitar Hero. Ping pong boy, from a previous post, challenged me to a game of ping pong, since tables were set up, and soundly beat me. He said I wasn't that bad though (he may have just been trying to be nice).

While watching the students on the dance floor, and sometimes partaking, I got an old familiar feeling I used to get when I was in high school and college. "Dance Floor Anthem" came on. The kids started jumping up and down to the song, and I felt it instantly. It was the need to feel alive.

Obviously, we're all alive, thinking and breathing. But there are moments in my life where I've desperately needed to feel it. This often meant committing some rash act that may or may not have endangered my life. For example, I needed to feel alive, so I pierced my ears three times at once. I needed to feel alive, so my friend and I chased every large wave on the lake in an attempt to flip over her jet ski.

I saw this moment in a more touching light on Friday. The kids danced to the song so close, moving against and around other people, touching their hands while they were reaching up in the air. They needed to feel alive with each other. It wasn't the kind of feeling that made me want to remind myself that yes, I will indeed die some day. It was the feeling that made me want to bond and connect with someone else. They wanted to know they were alive together and share this moment. Years from now, the same need will probably be felt during long car rides at night, or watching a fire works show huddled on a blanket.

I've felt this when I've listened to a familiar song as if it's the first time I've been introduced to it. And I don't mean hearing a song. I mean, really hearing a song. Hearing a song that I connect with and understand so well that I think for a moment I may have written it because it captures my thoughts and understanding of the world at that exact moment. I think, whether they recognize it or I'm just crazy, my students experienced this. They connected with a song and each other. They felt alive together.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Homeroom

I have the best homeroom ever. I love them all dearly and I think they like me too. This last Thursday was the last day of the quarter and on Wednesday, I worked through my prep hour to get my grades entered so I wouldn't have to stay late Thursday and all afternoon Friday. I had my lunch while I worked, which basically consisted of my usual peanut butter on bread, a granola bar, water and, since I found about 75 cents in change that morning, a soda too.

After my kids came back from lunch for homeroom, I remembered that I should have gone to the bathroom before they came back. Cute as they are, they sat down and waited for me to make my announcements. Of course the only one I had was that I had to go to the bathroom because I don't know how to manage my time yet or that I have the smallest bladder known to man. Lisa, I know what you're thinking, and no, it wasn't as bad as the night in Rick Beach's class (but it was close).

I told my class that I had to go to the restroom and I was trusting them to behave and that I didn't want to come back and find someone "dead on the floor or taped to the wall." I did actually say that.

I came back about a minute later to see two things: first, that every student in my class was lying on the floor pretending to be dead, and second, two students from another homeroom standing at the front of the room staring in disbelief at all the students face down on the floor. One of them turned to me and said, "What do you do in your homeroom?"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I remember caucusing like it was yesterday

Today is election day. I'm just throwing that out there in case you've been in a third world country trapped under a very large and sound proof rock for the last two years.

I have one short story related to the title. On Super Tuesday last winter, I was riding home with my friend Chris. We stopped at a stoplight and Chris said to me, "Do you think that homeless guy over there knows to caucus?" He then rolled down my car window and nearly threw himself out of it, yelling across the street and on-coming traffic, "Remember to caucus!!!!" I'm surprised, for how long this election has been going on, at how that memory doesn't seem so long ago. And after today (God willing), it will all be over. I'm very relieved, but at the same time I think it will be somewhat weird to not have the country all up in arms over the next president. It's been going on for literally years now. But really, I'm mostly filled with relief.

For the rest of my post, I'm linking all of my previous political posts in a nostalgic effort to see how far I've come and where the political year has taken me. I think it will be pretty hard to figure out who my vote is going for. No, Dad, it's not McCain.

To: Red Forman
A Sad Face with a Tear
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Obama Your Mama
Obama-rama!
No, I really do have a crush on Obama
Happy Birthday Dad
Who would you rather have as president?
IDK my BFF Toni?

P.S. I still got a crush on Obama.

Monday, November 3, 2008

What I do at staff meetings

Today we, me and the five other teachers on my team, did this little questionnaire as a group. I'm curious to see what other people put as answers. Fill it out as we go and then I'll explain it at the end. No cheating! Ready?

1. What is your favorite animal?
My answer: dog (I know, big shocker)

2. Four adjectives that describe why you like that animal:
My answer: cute, friendly, loyal, trustworthy

3. What is your favorite color?
My answer: green

4. Four adjectives that describe why you like that color:
My answer: natural, neutral, pretty, naturey (I'm an English teacher; I'm allowed to make up words)

5. What is the last book you read completely?
My answer: The Alchemist

6. Four adjectives to describe why you liked this book:
My answer: exciting, quick, interesting, meaningful

7. What is your favorite movie?
My answer: Amelie

8. Four adjectives to to describe why you like this movie:
My answer: funny, understanding, meaningful, deep

Okay, so here's how it works:

The responses to the second question describe who you are. The answers to the fourth question describe how other people see you. The answers to the sixth question are how you view school and the responses to the eighth question are supposed to describe who you will be in 30 years.

Looking back on my responses, I see now that I should have chosen more wisely on some of them. I feel a little conceited and self centered now. I'm not sure how true it is. I don't really know how people see me. I guess I am friendly and trustworthy. I do see school as exciting, interesting and meaningful. And I don't know what I'll be in 30 years. I'm a little disappointed I'm not understanding, funny or deep now. I have to wait 30 years for that, seriously?

Also, Mom, it seems I have taken over as the family hippie, if you note my response to question four.

How did yours turn out?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

IDK my BFF Toni?

Why I seemingly laugh at nothing sometimes

My school still does homeroom. During lunch, another teacher who doesn't have her own room has her homeroom class in mine. Sometimes while I eat, I pretend to be entering grades at my desk, but really I'm watching her students.

Today a boy sat not too far from me rolling his pencil back and forth across his desk with an expression on his face that looked as though he himself was falling off a very large cliff. I immediately thought of Bri on Friday and her story about the boys in her class that furiously rub the tip of their pencil on their desk and then touch it on their cheeks and hands to feel the heat, yelling "ouch" in a tone that would indicate it was just as shocking as the first time they tried it. She added that they do this all day.

The image of Bri telling this story combined with the thought that we actually teach humans who do these things made me laugh out loud during homework time. I tried to stifle it without much success. That boy rolling his pencil stopped and looked at me like I was insane for laughing at no reason whatsoever.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

Wit from my students

I didn't think I'd like seventh grade at all. Through my entire graduate program I told myself, and anyone stupid enough to listen, that I was a high school teacher, the older the better. But I'm finding I love my students more and more. I've only been there a couple weeks but we've really connected. They laugh at my jokes, most likely because they don't know better, and I laugh at theirs. They want to talk and share and want me to know about them. They especially laugh when I tell them they need to stop talking because I'm the cutest thing in the room. Don't think I don't say it.

This last week we've been writing papers. And this weekend, almost all of it, I spent grading papers from my students. I teach the same class five times throughout the day and have about 160 students. It was a long weekend. I laughed myself to tears at one kid's paper though. I ran and showed it to my roommate Jessie, another English teacher, and she laughed too. Lisa, you will love this. The last two sentences of his introduction are exactly as follows:

Do you want to enter the rest of the fun-filled story with more exciting events about my ping pong experience? KEEP ON READING!!!!!!!!

My feedback:

This is a good introduction. And, while the last two sentences are cute as can be, in an academic paper it wouldn't be very appropriate. You made me :)

Monday, October 20, 2008

I'm employed as a teacher!

I will not drink coffee.
I will not drink coffee.
I will not drink coffee.
I will not drink coffee.
I will not drink coffee.
I will not drink coffee.
I will not drink coffee.
I will not drink coffee.
I will not drink coffee.
I will not drink coffee.

I am so tired. I don't know how I did this last spring.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Yoga

I haven't been writing much lately. I've felt slightly uninspired in recent days. I miss my wittier and more charming posts like my one on rules at the university or my three post series on Utah. I also kind of miss the ones in which I address my personal growth or the ones that included some amount of depth or perspective. Maybe I'm just too pretentious, or my standards are too high. I'm not sure.

Today, I did yoga for the first time in about three weeks. I love not doing it for a while and then going back to it. My favorite is when I move from upward facing dog to downward facing dog and I can feel my back adjust in three different places. I like the good hurt my legs and arms feel. I like looking at my yoga mat that has an adorable paisley print on it.


Every part of me loves yoga. Well, every part except my knee. My right knee enjoys giving me warnings that if I keep up doing yoga I'll be needing replacement surgery much sooner than I orginally planned. If I've gotten nothing else from my mother, I've inherited her bad joints. But actually, in her defense, my bad knee may have more to do with a rough fall on the ice when I was 15 rather than bad genes. I generally just tell it to be quiet and that my back needs the exercise more right now.

There is one part of yoga I don't like. That is my stability ball. I have a terrible time staying on it, even when I'm just balancing on it motionless. I think it may do that to me on purpose. It likes to see me fall off of it. Meet my nemisis:


Notice how I posted the picture in black and white for added dramatic effect. Makes it look extra evil, doesn't it? The ball is actually a pinkish red color. The ball is slightly too large for me even though it's the smallest size available. I've had it for two years now and I keep gradually letting more air out of it but it still doesn't seem to be the right fit. Oddly enough, while Lukey was visiting in July, he found the ball and thought it was the best toy ever. I took it outside with him and we played with it in the yard and driveway (take that, you lifeless piece of rubber).

I need to shower now. Apparently I sweat a lot when I do yoga.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

So apparently I live in St. Paul now

Honestly, I never thought I'd end up here. I always told myself that I was a Minneapolis girl. I still may be. I don't know what I am anymore. Minneapolis is a lot more hard edged than St. Paul seems to be. I kind of like that. It makes me feel safe.

Yesterday I went for a walk in an attempt to find a Wells Fargo so I could deposit my check. For being one of the largest banks in the country, there certainly aren't any around where I live. While I was walking, I stumbled into a rougher neighborhood. And even though I knew it was a rougher neighborhood, I didn't feel especially alarmed after living in north Minneapolis.

I really like St. Paul though. It's neat that I am actually within walking distance to fun things. I like that I have a view of downtown. I like that I have my own place with a nice girl. I like that I have my things again. I like that I have a home again.

I remember waking up in November one morning and realizing that where I was wasn't home anymore. I don't know how it happened or what caused me to wake up feeling that way. I looked around my room and just realized I wasn't where I was supposed to be anymore. It was a terrifying feeling. I didn't know what to do, who to talk to or how to fix it. And while I liked where I was in Eagan, I had two boxes and my clothes. I'm happy to have my bed and dresser, and everything in my own closet and drawers. It's good to be home.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Close Talkers

One of the moms at work is loud, and a close talker. The loud part is just annoying, especially when I like to remain in a half asleep daze until about nine or ten in the morning. Her crashing and yelling makes it difficult for me to maintain a healthy glazed over expression.

But really, I can live with the noise. It's the close talking thing that creeps me out beyond all reason. Even the people I know and love I prefer at a comfortable two feet distance. On her second day of work she actually walked up behind me, looked over my shoulder and rested her head on it. I swear, if she needs to ask a question she stands six inches from my face. I've noticed I habitually start leaning away when she approaches me.

Today, I made a joke while she was about a foot from me and she laughed,which caused her to spit. On my face. In my eye. And I'm not talking about a couple drops. I did all I could not to gasp. The Mexican woman I work with saw it and did though. I quickly walked away and wiped my face off. My right eye does not feel okay.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Color Test = Career Predictions?

Tonight I took a test based entirely on selecting colors that was supposed to predict fitting jobs and my personality in terms of work. I had to take it simply to try to prove it wrong. It was created by Career Path. The test is free, so go take it. I should say none of their colors were all that desireable to me, so this was a somewhat difficult task. The test just asks you to choose colors you prefer most and least. Of course, most were: green, brown, black. Least: lime green, orange, white.

So let's break down my results and see how accurate it was.

Congratulations! I am a "creator." That's why I was such a pain in the ass, mom and dad. I was always destined to be an artist.

I am:
1. Nonconforming (true)
2. Impulsive (true...as much as I hate to admit it)
3. Expressive (mm...sometimes)
4. Romantic (hopelessly so)
5. Intuitive (I can be)
6. Sensitive (I've begun to develop a thicker skin, thank God)
7. Emotional (...yes, sigh)

As an original type, I place high value on aesthetic qualities and have a great need for self expression (okay, pretty true, although "aesthetic qualities" is a little vague). I like to: work independently (check), be creative (check), use my imagination (check), and constantly learn something new (double check-ask Lisa, I once said I could go to school for the rest of my life).

Fields of interest: art (check), drama (check), music (check), writing (uh...duh), places where I can assemble, express, implement creative ideas (damn, it's pretty good).

Occupations:
Advertising executive
Architect
Web designer
Creative director (these all seem much more high paying than the career I chose)
Public Relations (eesh, no way)
Fine or Commercial Artist
Interior decorator
Lawyer (yikes, not on your life)
Librarian (boooooring)
Musician (now we're talking!)
Reporter
Art teacher
ENGLISH TEACHER
Author
Editor

My second best fit is "social manager." Well that sounds bossy. Okay, maybe I am a little.

I am:
1. Tactful (sometimes)
2. Cooperative (fairly often)
3. Generous (well I think I am)
4. Understanding (I try to be)
5. Insightful (sometimes)
6. Friendly (I don't think I bite)
7. Cheerful (again, sometimes)

I am a very social type (skin crawling, skin crawling) who enjoys working in groups (not so much), sharing responsibility (yes, because I'm lazy), and being the center of attention (........yes, dammit).

Fields of interest: instructing (yep!), helping (check), nurturing, caregiving. I discuss and consider feelings in order to solve problems (sometimes), lead (at work I do), direct (isn't that the same as "lead?"), persuade (not really), guide (again, "lead"), organize (not really), enlighten others (well, those who are stupid anyway).
***********************************

So on the whole, it was pretty accurate. What are you?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Consignment shopping/high end shopping

Yesterday was a really nice day and I finally had my car back from the dealership, after two weeks of arguing with them, so I decided I'd try going window shopping at places that I don't normally shop. I went for consignment and high end stores. I used to shop at Banana Republic when I worked at Gap, but that was only because I got 40% off there. The logic behind window shopping yesterday, since I don't like shopping much in general, was that it would get me out in the perfect weather, listening to music (thanks dad, for failing to mention that the radio didn't work in your car) while I drove around. And since most high end and consignment shops are in cute trendy areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul, I'd have to drive off freeways and I'd have to parallel park. Now, let me address parallel parking. I love to parallel park. It's one of the few things I can impress people with because I can do it well and in tight spots (that's what she said). I did it four times yesterday just because I could, especially since I was too scared to in my dad's Jeep for the last week.

Things I learned from consignment shopping:
1. Smaller women should not be allowed to shop. Most anything I found in my size was horrifyingly ugly. I can look at my closet now with a higher level of respect.
2. People in general buy really unattractive things.
3. If I find a pair of jeans that fits in the waist, it will not fit in one or both of the following: hips, inseam.
4. Shirts have been stretched out from the original owner, who was larger in areas that I am not.

Things I learned from high end shopping:
1. Martin + Osa: The store looks like an ultra modern cabin. It made me dislike people who own a cabin because they did not carry pants in a 30" inseam. They apparently feel that cabin people are only average or tall. But their sweaters were really soft.
2. Metropark: The person that came up with the concept for this store was clearly too pretentious. Also, it made me hate posers because they, like cabin owners, only had an average inseam for their pants, and for women the brands were mainly Rock and Republic and True Religion and I have no interest in investing $200 in a pair of jeans.
3. Ruehl: Too loud. Too much like Abercrombie and Fitch. Also, they lie when they label their jeans; a 27" x 31" inseam is really a 27" x 33". Liars.
4. Karma: I am not a rich enough hippie to shop here...which seems somewhat contradictory, but whatever.

The redeeming parts of the day:
1. I got to drive around Grand Ave in St. Paul. I'm starting to like it more than Hennepin Ave in Uptown. Less traffic, less people, older buildings, safer neighborhood. The only downfall is that the think-they're-better-than-you crowds of St. Thomas and Macalester are too close. Get over it: your parties are weaker and your education is overpriced compared to the University of Minnesota.
2. I got to drive around with a kick ass mix all day. Here it is, just for you.

  1. "Freckles"- Gorky's Zygotic Mynci (Spanish Dance Troupe)
  2. "American Girls"- Weezer (I'm actually not sure where this came from, so I'm going to go with the name my friend called the Weezer mix he made me- Rock Music)
  3. "Lucky Today"- Cloud Cult (Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus)
  4. "Yesterday, Today and Probably Tomorrow"- The Courteeners (St. Jude)
  5. "Pure"- The Lightning Seeds (Pure)
  6. "Time for Heroes"- The Libertines (Up the Bracket)
  7. "The Sun on his Back"- Camera Obscura (Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi)
  8. "Fresher than the Sweetness in Water"- Gorky's Zygotic Mynci (The Blue Trees)
  9. "Somebody to Love"- Queen (Greatest Hits: I and II)
  10. "She Don't Use Jelly (Lounge-A-Palooza)"- Ben Folds Five (Whatever and Ever Amen)
  11. "Crimson and Clover"- Tommy James and the Shondells (At Their Best)
  12. "Soul on Fire"- Spiritualized (Songs in A & E)
  13. "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces"- Ben Folds Five (Whatever and Ever Amen)
  14. "We Get On"- Kate Nash (Made of Bricks)
  15. "Bide Your Time (Acoustic)"- The Courteeners (St. Jude)
  16. "I'm Yours"- Jason Mraz (We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things)
  17. "Kate"- Ben Folds Five (Whatever and Ever Amen)
  18. "Black Magic"- Jarvis Cocker (Jarvis)
  19. "Lunar Sea"- Camera Obscura (Underachievers Please Try Harder)

I would like to add two things: 1. I don't normally use links much in my blog, but I did this time for shits and giggles. It was annoying for me to do. Hopefully the people that read my blog are smart and don't need them because I don't really want to do it again. And, 2. Arran, just because I have Jarvis Cocker on my mix doesn't mean I necessarily like it. Notice I have the original "Crimson and Clover" on there too. I still think it's far superior to Jarvis.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Um...Excuse me?

I've made the choice to leave the hooded sweatshirt I wear for work at work, instead of taking it home or leaving it in the car. On Friday, most likely when I was freezing, I realized I couldn't find my sweatshirt. A little irritating, but I figured I just brought it home with me and forgot to bring it back.

This morning, one of the moms came in to work wearing the navy hooded sweatshirt that I rightfully stole from my dad ten years ago. She said nothing to me, walked around in it all day, and then spilled dressing on it. Generally speaking, I would rather die than have other people handle my clothes, and even if they do ask before taking them, it's rare when I allow it.

Oh yeah, she's going down.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Who's the cutest thing on the whole planet?

JJ's the cutest thing on the whole planet. JJ is the son of one of my instructor's last fall and this summer, who was also my supervising teacher this spring. JJ is three years old.



This summer, JJ came to a few of the kickball games. He was repeatedly (honestly, about every ten minutes) asked to sing the Minnesota rouser, because really, is there another three year old that knows that song? This is a picture of him, very excited that we won the game (after he pushed me to the ground). And, if you ask him, he'll tell you that his shirt says "dos-ocho."


I saw JJ during school meetings frequently this spring since they were held at his house. When he walked in one afternoon and saw all of us sitting in the living room, he muttered, "Not you guys again."

Last night, his parents hosted the cohort barbeque. When he made his grand appearance, he announced on the steps of the patio that he was going to play soccer and wanted to know who was going to play with him. Of the three of us there, I volunteered myself. I told him I had never played before and he explained that his coach had taught him all the special tricks and secrets to play, and tonight he would show me them. He added that after tonight, I'd be as good as he was.

After about two minutes of soccer, he decided he wanted to play hockey. He pulled out a stick for me to use and we took turns being goalie. Once, the puck or his stick hit him in the leg. I thought for sure he was going to cry. I offered to check his hurts, and was able to inform him that he, in fact, still had a leg. This made him errupt into laughter, and then change to playing basketball.

Upon finding out someone had brought cookies to the party, he concluded we should take a break. I encouraged him to steal Lisa's chair when she got up to get something to drink. He slowly sat himself in her chair next to me, all the while turning his head to see when she was coming. When she came back he threw his hands in the air, sqealing. Here is a picture of him, clearly proud of the joke he played.


He moved to my lap, chocolate on his face and fingers, eating his cookie. Nothing gets cuter than that. Shortly after, he proposed a tour of his bedroom and sticker collection. This led to in depth discussions about the velcro on his shoes and how difficult they were to use, and which he liked better: his crib or bed.


At eight, it was time for bed. He told his mom that he didn't want the girl in the pink shirt to leave. I was the girl wearing the pink shirt. I was told that I could not take him home with me.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My New Haircut

That is the title of a hilarious YouTube video, but is somewhat inappropriate for this blog.

But really, I got a haircut. I'd been growing my hair out since early this winter. On Friday, I had a sudden impulse to get it cut. I asked for a pixie cut. Whether or not I got that is your mystery. Also, for those of you who don't know what a pixie cut is, here is an example:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

New Playlist

I've made the 16 year old girl at work a mix. I'm really quite proud of it even though it's not that great of a mix. It combines some of the music I listened to when I was 18 and 19 with some of the music I'm listening to now. I attempted to weave a complex array of happy, poppy and depressing music because that's what being a teenager is about, at least it was for me: being incredibly happy and incredibly depressed. I've uploaded it onto Rapidshare for you all to listen to because I love you so much.

Here is the playlist if you need enticing:

1. "Grace Kelly"- Mika (Cartoon Motion)
2. "Troublemaker"- Weezer (Red Album)
3. "Photosynthesis"- The Hot Toddies (Smell the Mitten)
4. "This is Not an Exit"- Saves the Day (Stay What You Are)
5. "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk"- Rufus Wainwright (Poses)
6. "So Impossible"- Dashboard Confessional (So Impossible EP)
7. "Come on Feel the Illinois!, Pt. I: The World's Columbian Experience/Pt. II: Carl Sandburg Visits Me in a Dream"- Sufjan Stevens (Illinois)
8. "I'll Cry Instead"- The Beatles (A Hard Days Night)
9. "Army"- Ben Folds Five (The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner)
10. "Don't Stop Me Now"- Queen (Greatest Hits I and II)
11. "Over the Rainbow"- Me First and the Gimme Gimmes (Are a Drag)
12. "Cavanaugh Park"- Something Corporate (Leaving Through the Window)
13. "O Valencia!"- The Decemberists (The Crane Wife)
14. "Feather"- Nujabes, Feat. Cise Starr and Akin from Cyne (Modal Soul)
15. "Fake Plastic Trees"- Radiohead (The Bends)
16. "Chocolate"- Snow Patrol (Final Straw)
17. "Car Crash"- Cloud Cult (Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus)
18. "True Affection"- The Blow (Paper Television)
19. "This Modern Love"- Bloc Party (Silent Alarm)
20. "Patio Song"- Gorky's Zygotic Mynci (Barafundle)
21. "Happy New Year"- Camera Obscura (Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi)
22. "Anyone Else But You"- The Moldy Peaches (The Moldy Peaches or Juno)
23. "Sea of Love"- Cat Power (The Greatest or Juno)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Why I like my mom more than other moms

It has become my responsibility to train two new people at work, both are mothers of 16/17 year old kids. I think it has mainly become my job because my boss wants as little to do with them as possible. If I were her, that's how I'd feel. Well, I feel that way even though I'm not her.

1. My mom would not do something stupid, like use all of the dishwashing gloves and then throw them rolled up in balls on the counter instead of leaving them to lay flat so the insides dry out. Futhermore, she would believe me when I tell her that I have an extremely high tolerance for hot water, and even though my bare hands are in it, it does not mean that her's should be.

2. My mom doesn't drive a mini van. She refuses to be one of "those" moms. Her children didn't play soccer, so she doesn't deserve the title of "Soccer Mom."

3. When I was 16, my mom was the cool mom that let me watch MTV with my friends who weren't allowed to watch MTV. There was generally a party of two or three of us watching Daria in the afternoons at my house.

4. My mom didn't talk about how perfect we were to other people. She was not the mom that said her kids have a 4.0 and are looking at expensive private colleges. I still think it's odd that most parents I talk to tell me their kid has a 4.0. Are they just easier to come by these days? Anyway, my mom was great at balancing out conversation that addressed both our strengths and weaknesses. And she never made it sound like we were smarter or better than other students (and I don't think she wanted my brother and I to be).

5. She doesn't pretend she knows everything. She understands that even though she is a mom, she was not just automatically handed all of God's knowledge.

6. My mom laughed at the Emily jokes when I told them to her. My mom also would have laughed when I asked the 16 year old girl at work how she lives with herself knowing she's so ugly.

7. My mom likes to brag about her partying days. The best part is that I get the impression that she thinks I party as hard as she does. Mom, I am so weak compared to you.

8. She doesn't buy expensive designer purses by Coach or wherever else you get them. Seriously, why would you spend $100s on something that will most likely end up on the floor of a public restroom one day?

9. She's not afraid to tell her kids that they're stupid. When I told my mom I'd sell my car and live and work downtown. She flat out told me that I'd die without a car and that I was stupid for even thinking that I could manage without it.

10. My mom wasn't one of those clueless moms that thought they knew what was going on in their kids' lives, but really had no idea. My mom knew everything for the most part, even the things I did illegally. In fact, I believe it was her that told me where the extra toilet paper was when I TPed my friend's house. She told me she wasn't going to come get me if I was picked up by the police, but I know she would have.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Shoes


Everytime someone sees these shoes, they always tell me how cute they are. I bought them for $20 a few months ago and have only worn them maybe three times. All they seem to do is sit by my door.

Last night, I went for a run in them. Well, it didn't start out as a run, since I obviously wouldn't choose a pair of slip-ons to exercise in. But at 9:00 pm (which is a time I can go for a walk safely in the suburbs; take that, north Minneapolis!), I opened the front door to go for a walk and my legs just started sprinting.

I don't know why I ran, but I did as hard as I could. I wanted to feel my heart explode, or my entire body explode. I couldn't keep the running up for very long because I could feel my knee giving out. And since tripping, falling and rolling along the pavement didn't seem to have the same effect, or level of drama as a bodily explosion of some sort, I walked the rest of the night.

I've been feeling anxious and restless the last couple weeks and it seems to have built at a rapid pace over the last weekend, forcing my body to relieve stress through rash means, like running. I know why I'm feeling this way. I'm starting to feel the stress of this fall coming. I don't have a job yet. I want a job. Badly. I don't know if there is a school district in the metro I haven't applied to yet. I hate you, NCLB, for fresh starting those schools in Minneapolis. I need a place to live in October. I can't start looking for a place to live until I know how much I'm making or where I'm working. I don't have insurance. I'd like insurance, even though I probably don't need it. But I've never been without it, so I'm feeling a little panicked to have it. At this point I don't really care what I do for work, so long as I make enough to live in the metro area, and it has benefits. It's all so cyclical and that makes the whole situation even more irritating. I can't sleep because of it, so this morning I woke up at 4:30 and did yoga before work. The day before, I cleaned. I know, Mom, I can come home, but in the words of your beloved daughter, "I can do it myself!" Insert stamping foot here.

I've noticed I'm moody and today at work, I almost cried when I realized we were out of foil wrap. All I could think was that if I was at an office, someplace civil or anywhere other than the food industry, this wouldn't happen. I'm not really a crier. I tear up at movies, but it generally takes a lot more, and I mean, a lot more to make me cry. Even as a kid I was like this. My mom would actually tell people, "I could beat her half to death and I bet she wouldn't even bat an eye." My boss/friend/person, who's son died in April, gave me a hug and that made me feel even worse because she, of all people, is the one that needs to be comforted.

I just wanted to write a post that didn't relate to the stress in my life right now.

Oh. Dammit.

Artists

My friend, Arran, created a really neat video recently. It took him forever to make, and after posting it on YouTube, it looks like he is going to be showing it at a Klaus Voormann exhibit this coming fall. How exciting is that?

The music is his own cover of The Beatles "For No One," and the art replicates the cover of Revolver.




Lisa and Meaghan, these are the kinds of videos we wish we could have made in Rick Beach's class. Well, yours were much better than mine.

I feel special because I got to watch this whole thing process and be created. This was my favorite part, stupid as it may seem. I loved seeing what changed or how it became more elaborate as he worked. The pictures and drawings in the video are of my friend and his two sons. At the end, Arran's hands pick up the picture. This was filmed by his son. So cute.

Oh, yikes, I've got to leave for work soon. That's why I write these at midnight normally; I'm not late for work then.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Meaghan

Also, even though that rotten girl is too lazy to read my blog, she has finally, after a four month break, posted a new blog entry. So precious. I comment on her blog because I'm a good friend.

Meaghan's Top Fives

Monday, August 11, 2008

Survival

That is what I'm grateful for. I'm grateful for surviving this last year. I don't know what happened to my life. I look back on it and I wonder why everything had to start with this small little drizzle and end in a flash flood that wiped out my entire life.

Lisa and I were talking about how we sat next to each other for half of last year, completely unaware of what was going on in our lives. The things people deal with and don't talk about are insane.

A year ago, I was finishing up my summer classes and working at Prudential. Even then, as crazy as my life was getting, I didn't see myself here.

Things I'm grateful for surviving this last year:

1. The 35W bridge: What was that about? I had taken it twice already that day and was planning to visit a friend later that night, crossing it again. I was playing with Violet in the yard when I heard the rush of sirens. I could see the smog and dust in the air and Vi quickly got quiet and wanted to go inside. The next day was so surreal taking University Avenue in, instead of 94 and 35, walking across the bridge over 35 and looking out to see the road just end suddenly. It's that feeling that makes your legs weak or your stomach turn inside out.

2. The UM Masters program: I remember looking at my schedule before starting in June and laughing. "I'll so be able to work through the summer!" I'll tell you my laughing quit the first day, within the first five minutes. I'm grateful for this program because I've finally reached becoming a teacher. It took six years and a dollar amount that makes me ill to think about, but it was worth it. I'm also grateful for it because I met some of the closest, most fun, and stimulating people and it gave me a massive network of friends, something I've never had before.

3. Lyme disease: Ask me sometime; it's the best story I could ever tell you. It starts off with the mystery of wondering how the girl who hates camping got bit by a tick that doesn't live anywhere near the city, has medical side effects at inopportune times, and ends with an awkward ride home with a friend. Seriously, that night for my dad's birthday, I think I made everyone at the table laugh to tears.

4. Getting attacked in a deserted street in north Minneapolis at 7:00 am: One of the scariest moments of my life.

5. Crosswinds: For the entire week before Thanksgiving, the only thing I could eat all day was a sandwich bag of Chex cereal. No, not Chex Mix. Regular, boring Chex cereal. You know the kind that you've got to add a bag of sugar to so it has a hint of flavor. But it was all I could handle. Because my stress level was so high, and I wasn't sleeping and I was working too hard, I couldn't eat much of anything. So there I sat, all day, working on a Ziploc of Chex. Most of us all know how that week ended. It made Nathan and I BFFs.

6. Three car accidents: I'm not counting the ones when Jessie was parallel parking and backed into my car as Meaghan and I watched from the sidewalk. None of them were my fault and, shockingly, there was no damage to my car. Ford's slogan should be "built VW tough."

7. Student teaching: I loved my cooperating teacher, but I thought the students would eat me alive. I thought she would eat me alive. Here, I lived on two slices of bread with butter for lunch. My stomach had slightly settled. I could eat butter by this time.

8. Starting my life over: Thank you, Lisa, my parents, Hayley and Heather, Janet, Toni, Andrea, Meaghan and Jessie for your help this summer.

9. Getting a job: This one is still pending, and my confidence for the three positions I applied for this weekend is dwindling quickly.

Seriously, how am I still alive?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Violet

Some days I miss her more than others. Today is a day I miss her more.




If you want to see larger images, I think you can click on the slideshow and it will take you to my web album.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Milk

No, I haven't died! I needed a slight vacation from writing after my class.

Yesterday, I got to buy milk. This is a big deal for me because I love cereal, and macaroni and cheese and chicken a la king. Well, it's actually not a big deal because of the food I like. It's a big deal because I've been living with bad milk for the past three weeks.

The people whose house I live in bought me milk while they were grocery shopping a few weeks ago to be nice. And they are. I very much appreciated it. I had breakfast with them the next day with said milk. I happily poured it over my Frosted Flakes and dove in, only to find out through taste alone that it was 2% and not skim. Yes, I like blue milk. I grew up on it and that's what I'm used to. You know that part in the movies when someone bites into something terrible and they don't want to be rude and spit it out so they struggle to eat it? That was me that morning. I don't know how my dad drank whole milk growing up. I think he's lying when he tells me that.

Since I still didn't want to be rude, and partly because I didn't think I had the money to be so wasteful, I didn't throw the milk out after they left. Every day I'd open the cupboard and my box of Frosted Flakes would tell me to have a bowl. Then I'd open the refrigerator and there would be the 2% milk staring me down. I quickly grabbed my blueberry jam and had toast instead.

This went on for two weeks. Yesterday, the 2% milk passed its expiration date. I actually said out loud, to no one, "Oh sad! I can't drink it anymore," and then poured it down the sink.

Look how good my cereal looks with skim milk:

In other picture news, I seem to be on a Frosted Flakes binge. They are giving away Indiana Jones themed spoons. The scooper part lights up. If the power ever goes out at midnight, I know what to grab. I've gotten three of them so far. I gave one to Lukey. I threw the other away. I'm considering sticking this one in the garden like a shovel.

Look at how happy I am to be eating my cereal with skim milk this morning. Actually, this was at one in the afternoon, but you get the idea. And yes, my Frosted Flakes are "grrrreat!"

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday's Post

The Dilg chapter made a lot of points I agree with, but the thing that stuck out the most was the section on social hierarchy (haha...I typed "hierarchery") and social dominance.

I have to disagree with Dilg slightly on this. I do agree that the dominant population marginalizes minorities. But I would argue it's not so much about race as much in Minnesota as it is about social class. I think people are much more likely to be looked down on and treated differently based on their socioeconomic status. People don't want to be seen as being poor or behave like they're poor. It's been a long time since since I've mentioned Rick Beach, so I'm going to now. He once told us that people can take classes, watch videos, etc. to act and "look" upper class, sort of like Pymalion or, if you want a musical, My Fair Lady. That's right, you can learn to walk like you're rich. I understand that a lot of times race and poverty can go hand in hand, and that socioeconomic status embodies race. I just feel like things that are typically marginalized have to do with being lower class these days. For example, I see a lot of high school students mocking gang signs. I think more and more, gangs are increasingly a problem among lower class teens rather than just minority races. I'm sure the students I saw making the gang signs have no idea what being in a gang is like beyond MTV (and we know that's about as realistic as it gets).

I also sometimes think that social dominance is this innate survival mechanism because I've seen so much marginalization within the dominant culture. I went to a mainly white school and I was definitely not part of the dominant culture. I'm not sure what I did wrong early in my school career, but I learned to avoid most people in school and had very few friends. Not only was I marginalized because I didn't fit in with my peers, but also because I was a girl. A math teacher actually told me once that he wasn't surprised I was doing so poorly in his class because I was a girl (nevermind the fact I had gotten A's up until that point).

I'm now going to address the MTV issue in our society because this is what came to mind when reading the Dilg section on social dominance (I'm not quite sure why). I don't think any media source marginalizes minorities more than MTV. My main issue is the glorification of women as sex objects. No mainstream popular female singer gets on MTV unless she's wearing barely anything. I discussed this in a previous post on Fergie. You can find that here. It's fairly brief. I definitely feel like kids are receiving so many ridiculous and harmful messages in watching MTV. Women are portrayed as this sexually empowered, attractive creature whose only job is to walk around in underwear and tease men. Why have actual music talent and intelligence when you've got a nice rack? I remember watching MTV in high school and it disgusted me even then. Rather than feeling empowered, women receive messages that they should be over concerned with their looks. When was the last time we saw a realistic portrayal of a woman in the media? They receive messages that they should have casual sex with men and be treated as sex objects. They receive messages that it's okay to be called derogatory slurs and names that reduce them to said sex objects. This is a video of two of the top selling artists, 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg. I'm sorry, did you just write a hit song attempting to talk women into prostitution? I think you did. You're right, the woman could choose to go into prostitution as a productive means of income. Silly me, the men are just bosses and the women like it. No one is dominating anyone. My favorite line in that song is when Snoop Dogg says, "I'm about to show you how my pimp hand is way strong."

I have a short clip from The Merchants of Cool which discusses media messaging to teens. It supports my marginalization of women claim. This video would be good to look at as a class to start talking about how races, genders, sexes, and whatever else are portrayed in society. Watch until the end. I think the last 30 seconds made me throw up in my mouth a little.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday's Post

No, no, no, no, NO. You cannot change the the name of English or Language Arts to Cultural Studies. I'm sorry. I really couldn't handle it if I had to teach "Cultural Studies." Why? Because that's not what I'm teaching. It's part of what I'm teaching, but not enough to teach all of it. My argument for this can go in two directions. One is that if you change the name, are you changing the approach too, or are you just changing the name to make people feel better? Because if you're changing the name just to make it "sound" better, I think that's a little patronizing. While I was reading the article, it seemed like things would change, but not really. If you're changing it with a massive emphasis on culture, you will miss a huge aspect of Language Arts that doesn't have much of anything to do with cultural studies.

Another problem I have with this is that the name is too close to social studies. I didn't think this article distinguished what the differences would be enough. I'm not convinced that what we would be teaching as "cultural studies" would differ all that much from social studies. Is this social studies with books? It would seem so. I need to know what the application would be and explicitly how English would be taught as cultural studies. I just wasn't seeing this clearly enough in the article. I liked that the article recognized that the subject of English covers a lot, but didn't like that that we weren't teaching them enough. I know he wasn't blaming teachers, but it was still a little irritating to read.

This brings up my final question. To me, at the very end of the day, literature is an art. When I read a book I look at the artistic techniques the author uses to express their purpose/point. Yes, there is a large cultural aspect. But there's also the mechanics, the message, the dynamics of the work that play into literature as well. Culture is only one piece that is used in understanding an artistic statement in writing. Let's not go overboard.

Maybe a better solution would be not to change the name of English, but to break up the class or use it in conjunction with social studies so English and social studies units are planned and taught together. For example, the English department could teach The Diary of Anne Frank while the social studies department teaches historical and cultural aspects of the Holocaust. I've actually heard about a lot of schools doing this and the teachers and students seem to like the set up. Or, since English is such a broad field, why not split the class up. This way students receive a balance of grammar, literature, culture, literary techniques, journalism and media and whatever else we have to teach that I forgot to mention. If not splitting up into small narrow-subjected classes, maybe splitting into two different English classes would be better, although I don't know how it could only be broken up into two classes. The thing about English is that it's so broad and there are so many things to teach, but not enough to be broken up into very productive classes.

I am solutionless on this subject. But I definitely don't think it's to change the name.

Also, Ann, I was still laughing about something you said in class on Thursday. "It's fresh start; kids, bring your own teachers!"

Wednesday's Post

I heart Love Medicine. If Louis Erdrich was a man, I'd want to have her babies. I just love her ability to wrap humor in such a sobering story like Love Medicine. I've never laughed at a book like I did when I got to the end.

I like Louis Erdrich as an American Indian author because, unlike James Welch, she doesn't play into stereotypical speech and brings up contemporary issues on and off the reservation. She is able to create this complex story that incorporates critical things like alcoholism and poverty on the reservations as well as bring up issues with Indians that leave the reservation. I would say she is very much the female counterpart to Sherman Alexie, although Alexie's humor is difficult to compete with. I also like this book as a text for class because it is a collection of stories on two families. This means the perspective changes from girls, boys, adults and children. It appeals to a broad audience and the use of symbolism is brilliant.

I liked this chapter for a couple reasons outside of getting to read about Love Medicine. The first was that it actually showed the application of a multicultural text and the discussion the class had. I liked how it used several different text examples and how they can be discussed in the class.

I also liked that it discussed other issues present in Erdrich's novel, for example Catholicism, as other topics for discussion in the multicultural genre. This was crucial to me, because sometimes when we talk about multicultural literature, it seems like we can only focus on one aspect that makes it multicultural. This was part of my argument before on choosing multicultural texts. With Erdrich's novel the students were able to talk about multiculture in terms of American Indians, Catholicism, as well as age and gender. Up until now, it seems like if we do choose a multiculture text, we choose it for only one reason. I'm not sure if that's how it's actually practiced, but it seems like it is when it's discussed sometimes. This chapter gave me an idea of how I can adequately use a novel for multiple topics.

I don't have too much else to say about it. I'm sorry this is a short post. I absolutely love American Indian literature, so it was fun reading about Erdrich's book.

So! I've got resources for American Indian books below to make it seem longer.

The first is a link to a professor I had during my undergrad, David Treuer. I had him for my American Novel class and he was great. Once he went on a rant about people who hang dream catchers in their car, "Are we supposed to assume they sleep in their cars?" He also lectured us as a class on how we did not get out enough as he clearly saw more movies than anyone else present at the time. But really, he was an incredible instructor, and I should say I felt quite inferior to him. I also sold my soul to him as he wrote one of my recommendations to get into the grad program and may have single-handedly gotten me into it. Thank you, I owe you my life.

This is an interview with Louis Erdrich, that really kind of beats out all entertainment value in her novel and Minneapolis, but it's pretty recent. I swear, her books are way better than this interview would lead you to believe.


And finally, an interview with Sherman Alexie, on his book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. He reads quite possibly the best part in the book and does it well. I love him too.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Okay, Okay, Okay. Tuesday's Post for reals

I'm done procrastinating now, I think.

I thought the articles on GLBT were all helpful. I'm not trying to be sarcastic, I promise. To be honest, I'd never really thought about incorporating these topics as a unit or "a thing" in the curriculum. I think this may be for two reasons.

The first reason is that I don't really think about GLBT as being an issue in literature since two of my very favorite authors, Oscar Wilde and E.M. Forster, were both very gay and several of their works allude or even graphically discuss their homosexuality. I've been reading Wilde since I was 11 or 12 (he was one of the authors that helped me to like reading, Ann), and Forster since I was 16. I knew Wilde was gay and it didn't really have an impact on how I felt about him. Obviously I didn't get the full allusion to gay sex (bunburying) in The Importance of Being Earnest until I was about 17, but that's not the point. I do understand for the most part that both Wilde and Forster's most well known (which isn't saying much for Forster) works are about heterosexual relationships with subtle references to homosexuality. But a lot of Forster's lesser known works, short stories and essays are very open and honest about it.

The second reason is that I don't know what kind of books I would teach that discuss GLBT issues. I feel like Oscar Wilde is thrown in between this middle school/high school limbo where he is sometimes too difficult for middle school or too simple for high school. Forster doesn't seem to be a well known author. His short stories are brilliant and often bring up homosexual issues in addition to other social conflicts in a wonderfully satirical way. The only other book I've really read (to my knowledge anyway) that deals with these issues is Funny Boy. I refuse to teach this book because I just felt it was so poorly written. Not only that, but I feel like it would encourage the ridicule of gay people, especially given the involuntary maturity level of high school students.

Another issue that I continue to think about is that, while I do agree that these issues should be a big deal and treated as such, I think you can bring GLBT issues into a class without centering an entire unit on it. I think this is a safe way to incorporate it into the classroom without this feeling of losing your job or going against the entire school. I know this isn't ideal and I'm not advocating for this necessarily. But when you deal with a subject that is seemingly so taboo, even for a liberal state like Minnesota, you have to find ways of incorporating these subjects without trying to "push an agenda." I think this gets especially tricky with GLBT topics because so much of it can become political. When a teacher advertises that they are spending an entire unit solely on GLBT, it is forcing people, people who will not always agree at all with your views, to digest a "political" statement. I do understand that this is not the purpose of a GLBT unit, but some parents and students will interpret it this way. Like I said, the situation is not ideal, but I'd rather teach them gradually, over time, mixed with other issues in a text, than not teach them at all.

While I was reading, I thought about instances of teachers coming into conflict with parents, staff and administration. Sometimes I worry that we get in this position of being the expert (as we should be) so much so that we stop listening to other sides of the story. We get so caught up in needing to be right, or standing by what we believe is right, that we lose sight of our very present opposing view, and tend to spit on it as we walk all over it. This goes for both sides of the literary argument. Traditionalists and multiculturalists alike partake in this. I'm still arguing for a balance. I don't think this needs to be so extreme. I feel like once we only discuss "multicultural" texts--which I still feel has a somewhat passive-aggressive definition in terms of inclusion and exclusion--or only discuss the canon, we are losing something important in our teaching: the ability to gain perspective out of all works. If we are so forceful, we are not teaching the kids anything, regardless of what text we use, except our own projected values (which really defeats the purpose of studying literature altogether).

Tuesday's post

I dare you not to smile.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Monday's Post

I liked the points made in the Ensisco article. I remember attempting to read Maniac Magee in middle school, a book that was pushed on me by my peers because the character's name was like mine but it was a boy. Eleven year olds think they're so funny. It didn't help that this was a highly recommended book too. I think I got about 30 pages in before I couldn't read it anymore. Up until reading the article, I couldn't remember what the story was about (honestly, I was thinking run away time traveller; obviously I didn't remember the book). There were very few books that I did read during the age range of Maniac Magee. But I remember my younger brother reading it with my mom years later. My mom really kind of expressed the same issues the researcher had in this article; the black characters seemed to be so one-sided and stereotypical.

Ensisco talks a lot about the power of authority when it comes to choosing texts. He mentions the Newberry logo and the power it has over students. That emblem to this day makes me cringe because I hated reading between fifth and seventh grades, and I mean hated it. Up until about eighth grade, I was considered a struggling reader because of my lack of interest. The Newberry books were supposed to be the "good" books, and harder and better and probably God himself wrote them (at least in my mind anyway--I was cynical even as a young kid. Ask my parents; they'll agree). These books were so important, that we were given double points in class. The only Newberry book I read in middle school was Number the Stars. I liked that book better than most when I was between ten and twelve.

I don't remember a lot of these books being all that rich in exploring multicultural perspectives though. All of the books that were recommended to us by librarians and teachers (people of authority) seemed to be about poor people in the south, or some kind of time travel/separate world kind of thing, like Freaky Friday or The Giver. I wasn't all that interested in these kind of books. I'm not sure why nothing looked appealing. I liked the American Girl series about the Swedish girl. I could read one of those books in an afternoon. I liked that it referenced culturally relevant things that my family, as Swedes, practiced or had. I liked seeing the illustrations of trunks that had the Kurbits painting style on them because I saw them in all of my relatives' homes. I was so excited when I read the Christmas story in that series and found out that I was not the only girl to have to wake up early on St. Lucia Day to make breakfast wearing a crown of fake candles. No, you cannot see pictures.

I asked a librarian once if they had other books like that series and she told me they didn't carry books like that because they weren't the right kind I should be reading and had no value in a school library. I cried out of frustration and stopped going to the library after that. These memories, trivial as they may seem, are ones that still haunt me. I don't go to libraries, if I can help it, even today. At ten years old I knew that what that librarian said to me was wrong. Not only were my interests insulted, but so was my cultural background as well as my family. The worst part is, I am not a minority, nor am I all that culturally diverse from the dominant one.

This article reminded me of the influence we as teachers have. It's reminded me to choose class texts carefully and provide other varying works that compliment it for additional perspectives. I sometimes wonder if students coming from a minority culture experience similar situations in libraries. Is this why so many students who aren't of the dominant culture struggle with literacy and/or education in general?

Also, out of curiosity, some of these articles are capitalizing the words "White" and "Black." Have I been wrong to not capitalize them? I feel like they shouldn't be.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Unwritten Rules at the U of M

Forget academics for just a moment. I'd like to discuss what I've really learned at the U.

First, the university will not spend money on things related to liberal arts or education. During my undergrad, I had the classrooms that were not air conditioned, falling apart and had a general smell that wasn't pleasant. When I started my graduate program, it was the same thing plus cockroaches (I didn't even know we had cockroaches in Minnesota). Once, I had class in one of the science buildings. It was freezing, and the seats were padded. The building was well maintained. Sometimes I wonder if Peik Hall is ever checked. It just always remains open and people use it. The university doesn't even realize it. It seems that way anyway.

Second, waiting to get to a crosswalk is for sissies, no matter how busy the road is. If there's a break in traffic, make a mad dash. This one is well practiced and is mainly recommended when crossing Washington and University Aves., or 4th St. Also, if you happen to be at a crosswalk, don't wait for the signal to turn if at all possible. I've noticed in other parts of the city and suburbs, these rules do not carry over. I walked before the signal turned not too long ago while I was downtown and people stared at me like I was insane.

Third, the squirrels, regardless of what you may have originally thought about the food chain, are in control. Once, I threw something in a garbage bin outside and a squirrel came out of it and nearly killed me. They're not afraid of anything. A lot of them look quite rabid, with only patches of hair, and some have no tails. I imagine this is due to the bike traffic. Seriously though, don't mess with the squirrels. They don't even look cute on campus. I think a horror movie should be made about them. Well, actually it would be more like a documentary since all the film crew would have to do is set up a camera near garbage cans and watch defenseless students run away screaming and crying. Don't ever get caught near a squirrel alone at the U; you'll never survive.

Finally, parking is a bitch. The choice is to pay $5,000,000/day to park in a ramp or at a meter, or to park nearly out of the city. I usually park about a mile away, two neighborhoods over. I don't mind the walk; I tell myself I need the exercise. Yesterday was a little problematic since it seemed to be race-to-your-car-before-the-massive-storm-starts day. If I could have, to save time, I would have jumped onto moving cars and leapt onto the sides of brick walls, climbing to the rooftops with my impressive upper body strength, flinging myself from building to building in Dinkytown to the roofs of homes in Marcy Holmes, until swinging from the branches of a tree back onto the ground. I'd have my own theme music too (I could be just like Kronk). But I was wearing a skirt, so this was not possible. Although my mom will tell you I had no trouble throwing myself over the backseat of their SUV in the very same skirt. I made it to my car just as it was starting to rain anyway. My superhero powers were not needed.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why I sometimes think these articles are trying to talk us out of becoming teachers

What was with the Goebel article? That was certainly not a pleasant thing to sit through. Instead of naming it "'Who Are All These People?'" it should have been "The Reasons Why You Will Be A Terrible Teacher." This article came from the University of Utah, and we all know my recent experiences with things from Utah.

I mean, come on, the first section talks about all the ways that a student, even if they're from similar races and ethnicities, is so entirely different from everyone else in a classroom and we as teachers need to accomodate for that. I feel like some of these articles seriously over analyze the situation. At the end of the day, the students are all moody, confused and struggling. They may be feeling this way for different reasons, yes, but nevertheless, they are experiencing similar feelings and attitudes.

I sometimes worry that in the process of attempting to create and build a curriculum around each individual student, we are losing sight of giving students an ability to adapt, change perspectives and understand each other. When we focus so much on an individual and how that one person learns, that person then doesn't see that other people learn differently. They don't understand that other people have equally important needs, they lose the ability to share in understanding and asking for help from peers. In some ways I think it even encourages a student to feel the opposite of its goal. That is, instead of helping students to feel accepted in general society, they may feel even more isolated and unusual.

Students are durable creatures too, believe it or not. Keeping an open communication with your students that invites feedback and clarification will help to eliminate most conflicts in dealing with different cultural backgrounds. Encouraging understanding when mistakes are made as well as correcting when necessary will help the student to understand that not everytime someone says something wrong, it's meant to be offensive. I understand that I am a white middle class woman with absolutely no difficulties or personal challenges of my own as such, but I didn't fly off the handle or completely shut down when someone asked if I was German, or thought lefse was German, or funnier yet, when someone asked if I was Asian (you would be shocked to know how often that happens).

I worry that when we start to bring up differences and expressing uniquenss and individuality it makes people develop a belief that they are incapable of being understood and these mistakes (within reason, of course) are reasons to become angry and expect to be treated differently, which is a little contradictory of what it means to be created equal. And yes, I do know that this is not always the case, and some people are stupid and ignorant and can't be changed and that is offensive. I'm not arguing against that. I'm saying that for the vast majority of the population, this shouldn't be a problem, and drawing attention to life's frequent awkward moments is making a small barrier even greater to pass.

I still don't think the five paragraph essay is the work of Satan

I took a course on teaching writing this last spring. I'm pretty sure I was the only one in it that still supported using the five paragraph essay and did not want to have Tom Romano's babies. I had to do blog posts for that class too. If you want to read more about my thoughts on essay writing, see how embittered I was, or make fun of me, here are two posts that are probably most relevant:

Multigenre Writing
My Rant Continued

The second one is funny because the people that commented thought I was entirely serious in my post.

Anyway, I'm still going to say that the five paragraph essay is a must. I agree with the article that it has a poor name. Because, for the last time, just because it's called the five paragraph essay, does not mean it has to be five paragraphs. In terms of academic writing, I still don't really know what or how you would teach it without using the five paragraph essay format. While I do think that multigenre projects are valid, they are not the same thing, have the same purpose, nor reach the same goal as an academic essay does. When people argue for other ways of teaching writing, their answer is always the vague "there are other ways to teach writing that are creative." The problem with this answer is the five paragraph essay is not stifling, perhaps formulaic, but the students are still able to fill in their own thoughts in an organized manner. The second problem I have with that response is that I am still not getting specific examples or methods of teaching or ways of writing. And finally, when we are teaching academic writing we should not be especially concerned in how creative the students are. If that's what we're after, we should be teaching a college creative writing course.

The second answer I hate getting is how the five paragraph essay forces competition in grades. I think this is a matter of perspective. When I grade my papers, I don't look at subjective things, like creativity. While I think that makes a good writer and the paper more enjoyable, my main concern should be that the paper making a point in clear and logical way. This is the goal in high school. For some schools, that goal may be even lower. I hate grading on creativity; it's too subjective and not all students are creative or want to be creative in writing.

Finally, and I know this is going to piss everyone off, I don't care what anyone says, if you're doing academic writing, you are still using the five paragraph essay format. Maybe it's not as simplistic and has grown and developed, but it's still going to have an introduction with a thesis. It's still going to have supporting evidence paragraphs for your thesis and you're still going to have a conclusion that sums up your paper. If we're looking for a little mix up in the paper writing, we could make students do an experiment and research project and have them write an APA style paper. Kidding, kidding.

Anyway, I do agree with the article when it states that the five paragraph essay is a victim of poor naming. It gets a bad reputation for being extremely rigid and stifling creatively. I also agree that it shouldn't be used for everything. I think you can incorporate creative writing projects and other multigenre projects into the curriculum. But I don't think these things should ever replace or dominate over the five paragraph essay because I still strongly feel that multigenre projects do not provide skills for the general population's success. We still need to keep in mind as English teachers that we are teaching high schoolers skills that will be useful to them in the future, and very few of them will be professional writers, or even want to go into a profession remotely related to that.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Water Hoses

When I read the Dilg text, it immediately reminded me of when I taught The Secret Life of Bees to my 10th grade students. My classes were not like the author's. Mine were fairly limited in terms of multicultural-ness. The Secret Life of Bees is about a white girl who goes to live with four black women in the south during the civil rights movement. Instead of telling my students about the 60s and preparing Powerpoint after Powerpoint, I made them do the research and present to the class. Each week they had a different topic, and as small groups would go on the internet and do research, post it on a wiki, and then present to the class on Friday. I remember the day we talked about the riot in which black children were being sprayed with fire hoses. Each class was the same. The group would present the topic, tell what happened, show the pictures and finish, waiting for me to ask them questions or add to their topic. I could tell no one thought this was a big deal, not because they wouldn't be outraged if it happened today, but because they just did not understand what it meant. They did not have that perspective since they were so far removed from the situation.

To fix this I asked the group to show the pictures again. I told the students to study the pictures and tell me how threatening or violent the people in the pictures seemed, what their facial expressions looked like and what their body language said. After a few stock answers I finally asked the class if they knew how powerful a fire hose was. I asked if they understood how painful getting hit with a fire hose was. One girl said her dad was worked for the fire department and said that it's really dangerous because it can actually tear your skin away. Finally, I started to see some students understand. I asked the group to tell the class what the students were doing to cause the fire hoses. I then asked how it would make them feel if they were the ones in those pictures, and finally how they thought the people in the pictures would feel, and people fighting for the same cause would feel. I asked why such measures would be used. After constant prodding, they finally started to get it and I could tell the images were starting to greatly disturb a few of the students. But it wasn't easy.

This wasn't a continuous and natural discussion through the rest of the unit for my students. They did not have that tension in the class without purposefully putting it there. It was something I had to teach them to do. By the final topics, they were picking up on asking these questions in their own research, but just barely. Their brains, I don't think, were developed enough to place themselves in such situations to fully comprehend, nor were they ever taught to look so critically at something. I sensed these both earlier when we studied the Harlem Renaissance. It wasn't a matter of experiencing the tension. The tension was not being recognized in my classes because they did not have the personal history of cultural tension yet, at least not in terms of the civil rights. To them, that was history (I know this because I asked them). It was something that was studied from a distance and not something that they thought about on a personal level, because, as one student pointed out, racism is in the past. They were the typical American white kids that felt that they did not have any culturally independent value (because in many ways white Americans are raised to believe that they have both no culture and are not part of the word "multiculture"). They were not aware of their influence on other cultures, and they weren't aware of other cultures' influence on them. I don't think it's getting the students to discuss their own history that's a problem for schools like the one I taught at. Rather, it is the cold fact that they are not taught that they have a culture and are not exposed to understanding what it means to be multicultural.

Back to Class...Again

Here's my first post for my summer class. I'm sorry we talked about this so much in class already, Ann.

I think it's interesting to note that Smagorinsky states within the first page that while the slogan "celebrate diversity" is all over our schools (a phrase that makes my skin crawl), people don't practice it. S/he says this is because people are not open-minded enough to do so. This automatically made me look critically at this article because I don't think it's fair to assume that people are closed minded, or choose to be ignorant and that's why we don't "celebrate" multiculturalism. I feel like a more logical cause for this would be that people simply don't understand how to celebrate it, much less comprehend what specifically diversity is. It's not fair to blame the population for not understanding something that even some "experts" can't agree on. However, beyond this, I agreed with the author, although it was hard not to since it really seemed like just 13 pages of questions that aren't answered. Valid questions they may be, but it left me feeling more frustrated and a little more lost.

One thing stuck out, and this was something that has been in the back of my mind since I began the program. I feel like in terms of multicultural literature, there will always be this predicament in which teachers choose multicultural texts at the cost of historical and artistic aspects. This is not to say that I want to teach the canon only, or think that it should be the only thing taught by any means. What I'm saying is that texts are not being chosen for either their great writing, use of literary techniques, or the importance to society. Instead they are chosen solely because they're not about white people. This is where my dislike of Toni Morrison comes in. Sure, she writes (somewhat) controversial things about black people, but her writing ability falls short of inspiring. And I certainly don't think that all authors in the canon are great writers either. I'm looking at you, Shakespeare.

In my fuzzy dream world, I still feel like it's possible to incorporate artistic ability with multicultural topics into lessons and even traditional texts. Isn't this one of the goals of literature after all: to express overarching themes, feelings and social situations across cultures and history?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My Classic American Life

My plans for the fourth this year were busier than any other year. Normally I might go see the fireworks. I didn't have any real plans until about Tuesday, when Lisa invited me to her entire weekend with her mom. Her mother's name is the same name as my mom's so I usually just referred to her as "Lisa's mom" the whole time. I would not say that I am generally someone that is caught up in a lot of overly American things. I blame this partly on my father, who would make us leave the fireworks before the finale because he didn't want to deal with traffic.

Lisa's husband does fireworks over the holiday so we went to see one of his shows at Treasure Island Resort and Casino. The four of us, which included Jessie, drove clear across the metro to see them. The car ride was half the fun. I'm sorry Lisa, but it was hilarious when you said the tipi lights were a pyramid and wanted to know if the casino was on an island because it was called "Treasure Island." These things make me love you more, especially because it's usually me that says things like this, and you come off as the all knowing and super smart friend. The fireworks were a strange set up where we actually sat in the parking lot rather than on grass, but they were amazing. We sat so close to them and they had different designs and shapes. Some were smiley faces and others were hearts. Precious. On the drive back, I swear we saw a UFO. We were driving on a mainly deserted highway through fields. When we pulled over to turn around we saw quite possibly the brightest flashing light through the trees. No one in the car could figure out what it was, and it was done within a couple seconds. We were all slightly creeped out.

On Friday, we went to the parade in Apple Valley. Lisa's mom set her blankets out on the sidewalk at 9 AM the day before the parade. This was a necessity. Some people taped their chairs to fences and trees. We were not so eccentric. The parade was decent. I don't know if I've ever seen such a parade. It was over two hours long, but fun. Lisa gets really into them. I made a video of our day.



On Saturday, I went to my aunt and uncle's cabin. My great aunt and uncle, Mark and Judy, visited and made dinner. They are known for making the best steaks and long islands on the planet and for just being really nice people to talk to. I went tubing and have a sore body and burns on my arms to prove how much fun it was. My cousins and I went water skiing towards the end of the day. I made a video of my cousins, Ashley and Nick, and I. It is mainly of us laughing. But that's okay, they're adorable.



This whole weekend, in a way, showed me what it means to be American. These are the times that I like being American. It reminded me of my all-time favorite Simpsons episode. Because really, everything in my life relates back to the Simpsons in some way or another. It is the episode where the family goes to the Flanders' cottage. Lisa becomes popular and Bart and Milhouse aren't. This is my favorite because there are just so many good jokes and lines. It's loosely based off of American Graffiti, so dad, you should like this one. I have a link to the entire episode below. If you've got 20 minutes, watch it. It's hilarious, and kind of a forgotten episode it seems like. I don't have a favorite part, because there are just too many scenes that are awesome. I would just end up quoting the whole show, and that's no fun.

The Summer of 4 ft. 2