... and there's not much time left in which to write one. Ten more free days, then meetings and classroom work begin, and on August 24th, students are back and the 2015-2016 school year begins. For some reason I always have difficulty figuring out exactly how long I've been teaching, maybe because we do the years in that half-and-half way... I began in October of 1998, after the school year had already started, at Lowell Middle School in West Oakland, which no longer exists. There are two schools sharing that site now, a KIPP school ("Knowledge is Power Program" Charter school, with extended school days, extended school years, and extended school/work hours for teachers... not with extended pay, or union representation, mostly) and the West Oakland Middle School... what is their fucking PROBLEM, with that name? James Russell Lowell was a dumb enough name... OBVIOUSLY if you're naming a school in West Oakland, an overwhelmingly African-American (and historically significant black nationalist) neighborhood, after an American poet, Langston Hughes is the poet to choose (there, I'm a poet and I didn't know it). And, equally obviously, the school mascot should be a Black Panther. I mean, DUH.

ANYWAY, I began in October 1998... which means this is my

2004-2005 (left Lowell; left Oakland Unified School District)
2010-2011(left first middle school in new district for second middle school in new district)

eighteenth year of teaching. I don't think I come off as a hoary veteran teacher, secure in my skills and satisfied with my teaching. At least, that's the best spin I can put on the fact that whenever I meet new teachers (at Professional Development trainings, e.g.) they seem extremely surprised that I have been teaching this long. I could, of course, put a very negative spin on that reaction, too. I struggle a lot with impostor syndrome, for damn sure. And this upcoming year is an evaluation year, hallelujah! Oh, glory, glory, glory. Not. We have a (still) new principal, whose first year was sort of her (in her own words) watchful waiting year. Now she feels like she's made the transition from high school to our particular middle school and is ready to put her own ideas into place. I am terrified of being evaluated by her, because a) after my experiences with two (women) principals in specific, I have fucking hella PTSD around classroom observations, and b) she is one of those people whose faces you cannot read AT ALL. She is immensely awkward and I do not get her. On the other hand, she is very intelligent and I do not think she is an evil administrator who lives to carry out district mandates.

Okay. I am trying not to borrow trouble here. This year, I am going to try to pull together a teacher inquiry project and ask for alternative assessment, even though everyone agrees that it is much harder and has very difficult hoop-jumping involved. I still feel like I will hate it less than being observed in my classroom... which, by the way, does not mean that I will not be observed teaching: we all are, frequently, on random walkthroughs which are supposed to produce non-formal written reactions. The principal was in my classroom loads of times last year, but I only got one such non-formal written review. It was depressing, in that she observed kids off task at the back of the class.

Anyway, beginning to organize a teacher inquiry is part of what I need to do over the next week to ten days. I know I want it to be about kids' reading, which is a powerful mystery to me, and which happens to coincide with the PD I went to this summer, the Reading Apprenticeship program. I also want to work in technology in the classroom and how that can affect student reading and writing (since, after last year's Project LEAN-In, I have a full set of chromebooks and a charging cart dedicated to my class alone)... and the practice of Socratic Seminars. It's going to take some doing to craft a concise set of questions and imagine what kinds of data I can collect. I know I want to start with some baseline writing and reading samples and with a self-survey about reading unfamiliar texts, and a reading interest survey.

Other things I have done here in the waning days of summer, and then things that I still want to get done:


1. Cleaned out both of the big closets in my apartment and threw out seven (at least) huge black garbage bags of junk, as well as giving away eight grocery bags worth of clothes and stuff.

2. Got rid of a bookshelf and two-thirds of the books on it, as well as a total of six other bags of excess books which I have purged. No Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Luxemburg, Mandel, Freire, or Kollontai was harmed in this purge. On the other hand, lots of mystery series I now own as ebooks have made their way to a new home in thrift shops.

3. Cleaned and wiped and dusted bookshelves.

4. Cleared and reorganized a strange piece of furniture next to my desk which seems to be made of dark-stained plywood. It came with the apartment, which I got basically furnished, through subletting from a friend of my sister's who moved to NYC and then Spain, seventeen going on eighteen years ago. I've changed out a lot of the furniture over the years (to cheap IKEA stuff, basically) but there are still a lot of the original things, some beautiful pieces of art she painted herself, like my coffee table and a hinged piano bench I use for tools, and some just weird like this drawer/shelf combo. But it's ORGANIZED now, with a section for Hindi study, for art supplies, for envelopes and folders (and, apparently, my cat, who I just disturbed there at the back of the bottom shelf. I had no idea that was one of Devlin's hiding places).


1. Plan teacher inquiry, as stated above

2. Reorganize bulletin board above desk

3. Upload photos from phone and from camera... I am somewhat OCD, so that involves captioning or titling every single photo... I cannot bear them not to have titles

4. Scan more of the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of old photos I got this summer

5. Do All Of The Laundry, ugh, probably at a laundromat because I hate going up and down the stairs to the basement, and we only have one washer and one dryer.

6. Clear and reorganize the living room bookshelves, though I already weeded the books.

The sad thing about this is that although *I* know that all of this work has taken place, it doesn't necessarily show up clearly to someone visiting my apartment. Frustrating.

Devlin has abandoned her super sekrit hiding place and is now relaxing between my arms again, as I type.

A Meme!!!

Feb. 5th, 2015 10:21 pm
From [personal profile] mistersmearcase and [personal profile] villagecharm

Nine things you do every day
1. drink some variety of orange-cut pekoe black tea... English or Irish breakfast tea. With half-and-half.
2. feed, pet, get covered in orange cat hair by my cat Devlin
3. ignore making the bed
4. mess around on the internet -- FB, the Guardian, Wikipedia, Goodreads, YouTube, Ancestry.com
5. doodle
6. wear my glasses from opening my eyes to turning off the light at bedtime
7. read
8. write
9. either teach or think about lessons I want to teach

Eight things that annoy you
1. edubabble spouted by administrators at any level
2. ads -- which since I don't have a functioning TV are these days mostly internet ads and particularly, Facebook ads
3. a new teacher at my site who is creepy and has asinine politics with kneejerk ignorant self-deluding racism* who has for some reason chosen to KEEP TALKING TO ME
4. my own inertia, sometimes
5. laundry, cleaning, dishes
6. the lack of off street parking in my area
7. my utterly terrible, tiny, awful kitchen
8. when books in series are not all available as ebooks, but just some random selection of them

Seven fears/phobias (not sure I have seven... also, hella depressing topic)
1. bad health; specifically the complications that progress with diabetes
2. trying to keep up with fast-moving crowds, e.g. demonstrations, these days
3. dementia, which an uncle has... though his seems to be vascular dementia
4. cockroaches and most chitinous beetles, UGH
5. ants
6. unemployment
7. an impoverished old age

Six songs that you’re addicted to
1. "Beeswing" as performed by either Richard Thompson or Christy Moore
2. "Landslide" as performed by pretty much anyone
3. "Roobaroo" from one of my favorite Bollywood movies Rang de Basanti
4. "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba
5. "50 Thousand Deep" by Blue Scholars
6. Right now, "Highwayman" but not the Phil Ochs (or god forbid the Loreena McKennitt) version adding music to the Alfred Noyes poem, but instead an original song and collaboration between Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson. I do love the Phil Ochs song, though.

Five things you can’t live without
1. my family
2. friends, whether in person or via the internets
3. books
4. tea
5. my cat

Four memories you won’t forget

1. being present and witnessing my older niece's entire birth, and cutting her umbilical cord
2. finding out I had won a French prize my Senior year of high school which meant I would be flying to Paris and taking classes at the Alliance Française and living at a nun-run hostel on the Île St. Louis (and then escaping the classes to go to a revolutionary youth peace camp in Germany with revolutionary marxist youth from all over Europe)
3. meeting a young(er than me, by a good 12 years) Air Force linguist at a bar and deciding to go out with him, despite the many and highly obvious reasons this was fairly ridiculous.
4. coming back from Spring Break to teaching, my fifth year of teaching (2003) and being greeted by the principal, the vice-principal, and four teachers in a row with queries about my arrest at an anti-war sit-in in Richmond, at the Chevron HQ, a photo of which I had not known had featured on the front page of the Oakland Tribune

Three words you can’t go a day without
1. "Turn to page..."
2. "Hey, baby" -- to Devlin, my cat.
3. "ludicrous" possibly not DAILY, but fairly frequently, at school -- it used to make my Oakland students howl, in the early 'aughts. Because, Ludakris

Two things you wish you could do
1. go swimming at the Richmond Natatorium (salt water pool!) more regularly
2. recommit to learning Hindi... and/or FIND A DAMN CLASS in the language. That doesn't cost $5,000

One person you trust:

I trust a lot of people. It's hard to reduce this one to one person. I trust everyone in my family. Hmm. Of non-family people, I trust [profile] amarama


*I am trying to think of an example of this. It was obvious the first time he buttonholed me in my classroom after school, condescending to me because he has a masters in some insanely stupid field of history... oh yeah, the history of the Olympics, and then talking confidingly to me about "these kids, you know, they come from broken homes and drugs and just can't handle higher levels of thought; they're ignorant of any kind of current events and have no capacity to analyze what's going on, and they don't care" -- after which I shot down every fucking word he said and talked about students I'd taught in West Oakland and their extremely on point political understanding. He's kind of been trying to backpedal and I guess curry favor with me since, and I wish he'd stop and just hate me and avoid me.


Feb. 5th, 2015 09:46 pm
What is it about the apartment upstairs? Am I doomed to having to overhear people's private couples fights for my whole life? Ugh. I don't know if it's better or worse that this one doesn't sound like it's alcohol-fueled, as the old ones inevitably were. I should probably have vaguebooked this, sigh.

There, instead, I've posted in LJ, because there's another layer of almost-no-one-who-reads-this-knows-my-address-or-neighbors.

By the way, 2015 sucks so far:

1. My mom fell right before Xmas, which I may have posted about. She is recovering slowly, with a walker. She has a torn shoulder tendon (we think) which is inoperable and possibly won't ever fully be repaired, and a fractured hip, which the ER Xray did not reveal.

2. I fell, myself, a couple of weeks later, twisting my knee, and hobbled around on a cane for ages. Sucked.

3. I missed jury duty by accident last week and emailed the court in a panic, expecting to get a new date ages away. Instead, I got one the next Monday, which was bad timing in terms of school stuff. The original date would have been bad, and maybe worse, because I was scheduled to be administering a computerized test.

4. At least I didn't get picked for a jury, though the other teacher FROM MY SAME SCHOOL who was there on the same day did.

5. The next morning (this past Tuesday) I went downstairs to find my car booted for accumulated tickets, which are like an extra payment on top of my (admittedly insanely cheap) rent BECAUSE THERE IS NO FUCKING PARKING IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD, and plus right after I fell, I got quite a few tickets. The price of releasing the boot pretty much eviscerated the backpay settlement we got for our belatedly settled contract. And also I had to wait for a cop to come remove it because the stupid code didn't work and was therefore two hours late to work.

6. Tonight my battery died and I had to wait for Triple A, and then I had to buy a new car battery.

I am really glad we have a three day weekend. I need it. Although I should probably spend quite a lot of it cleaning my apartment and doing laundry.


Random better things:

• my cat Devlin is still and always awesome;

•I make very, very good computer slide shows (that is, PowerPoints*), these days using Google Slides;

•I got to riff on Nat Turner and primary source political cartoons today -- as part of my one-a-day Black History Month slideshow of people none of my students have heard of before... the original list of people is pretty much unchanged from when I started this back in February of 2012;

•also a Slides presentation on the importance of agricultural changes and "new rice" in the Song dynasty, that was weirdly fun;

•I have rediscovered the joys of gin and tonics, which I used to occasionally drink in company with my grandmother -- they were her favorite cocktail. I'm using Bombay Sapphire gin, which I've always been intrigued by for the Indian allusion and the blue bottle. I think my grandma's favorite was Tanqueray.

*I know these are outdated, Google Slides or whatever, and that even Prezis are past their sell-by date, but I still haven't mastered Prezis, and I am sure when I do that I will be into them ages and ages past their popularity. And honestly, a Slides presentation is still more effective to introduce readings or mini-lectures than NOT having visuals.
-- The Glee cast duet of "Baby It's Cold Outside" sung by the two main gay characters as a seduction piece. Awesome.

-- Celestial seasonings herbal tea -- I forgot how good this stuff is. Mmm -- Mandarin Orange Spice. My sister had a sampler, and her daughters pressed various kinds on me, the past few times I've been over of an evening. This led me to buy some boxes -- the aforesaid Mandarin Orange Spice, and Lemon Zinger, and Tangerine-Orange Zinger -- when I was out shopping this afternoon. Also bought: a frozen mini-quiche for breakfast, some fresh squeezed orange juice, some Straus Dairy organic egg nog, some fancy canned cat food, diced boneless lamb for scotch broth tomorrow, some pine-smelling votive lights

-- having cats, even cats who bat at ornaments on the tree (really, only Devlin is prone to that)


-- having a brilliantly-lit Xmas tree, even if one cat bats at the ornaments

-- pine smelling votive lights

-- heat I can turn on, that eventually fills even this high-ceilinged room

-- fresh orangey-red freesia flowers

-- a hella comfy chair and ottoman and cover, from which I am going to watch some DVD -- possibly the only BluRay disc I own (it was the cheapest one at Best Buy, that seemed watchable) The Last Samurai. Or maybe one of the very many Bollywood movies I am behind on, though the ones that come to mind are both serious nationalist political pictures -- one is called The Man Who Wanted to Kill Vasco de Gama, and the other is one of the proliferating narratives of non-Gandhian, non-pacifist nationalist rebellion against the Brits.
maeve66: (fairylights dhamaka)
Michael Jackson's a cappella voice singing a schmaltzy Xmas song when he was eight or something. "Give Love on Christmas Day". It's ridiculous, but I love Xmas music, of most varieties. Every year I try to buy a new album of some sort.

Changing my laptop's wallpaper to a picture like the one in my icon -- fairylights from a past Xmas tree photographed by a moving camera. It seems odd that laptop wallpaper can affect my mood, but it totally can.

Drinking tea.

Eating sliced jarlsberg cheese on buttered toast, and also excellent beef-thyme-barley soup from Mama's Royal Cafe which I got to go right before they closed this afternoon. I need to make some Scotch lamb barley stew, mmm. Lamb and carrots and thyme and bay leaf and onions and barley in a chicken broth, but very thickened by the barley.


Reading a Regency Romance -- even though it is by another LDS author: damn these LDS authors are EVERYWHERE. You know why, right? Because they are stay-at-home-mothers. Yes, of course housework is labor, and should be recompensed by the State. Nevertheless, I might be an author in those circumstances. Maybe. Anyway, this LDS woman's politics are sort of... compelling to try to tease out in her plots and such.

Going to bed hella early. I've got about another hour. This FUCKING sinus/ear whatever it is is still kicking my ass.
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?

beautiful wrapping paper and shiny, shiny curling ribbon!

2. Real tree or Artificial?

I am going to channel my grandmother here, and say "I don't understand the preference for artificial trees"... though nowadays people will make an environmental argument, and in the past, I don't know what it was. My great-aunt had one of those aluminum trees. It was silver, or white. It scared me.

3. When do you put up the tree?

I haven't ever had a full sized Xmas tree of my own... two years ago I got a little one in a pot, which was nice. My sister puts hers up the first week -- we decorated it last night, in fact, and my brother-in-law gave me shit for throwing marxist materialism out the window for December. I don't see how I do that: it's not like I believe in the baby Jesus or Santa Claus. I just like all the gaudy trimmings, quite literally.

4. When do you take the tree down?

I guess my sister does it right after New Year's. My mother has been known to leave hers up for QUITE A WHILE.

5. Do you like eggnog? I like the IDEA of eggnog, and I like eggnog liberally dosed with brandy or rum. By itself, not so much.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

Oddly, I think my favorite gift as a child was a particular teen-aged barbie doll where when you circled her arm around, she got taller, her hair "grew" long, and she developed a bosom. I loved that thing. My sister got a blond one, and I got a brown-haired one. I have never been able to find even a NON-functioning one of these on eBay, though there are entire landfills full of pristine, NIB Sunshine Family Dolls. Which I love, don't get me wrong.

7. Hardest person to buy for?

I think my sister is the hardest person for me to find a gift for, followed closely by my brother-in-law. Sorry, y'all, but it's true. What do you want?

8. Easiest person to buy for?

Buying presents for my mom is a no-brainer. She likes anything I like. It's super easy to buy for M., too, and apparently despite being really broken up this time, we are still going to exchange Xmas presents this year. I wasn't assuming that, but he sounded alarmed when I asked, having already got me thing(s), apparently.

9. Do you have a Nativity scene?

Ha ha, no.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?

E-mail Xmas cards? What the hell is that? Jesus (not the baby Jesus) I have a hard enough time buying them and not making them by hand. My niece looked at me sadly when she heard me say I might buy them last year. She is a total convert to my family's credo that "if it's not handmade, it's not love. Or art."

From a couple of years ago:


11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

I used to get some very odd shampoos in bottles shaped like women in antebellum hoopskirts.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?

I feel like this is utter cliché, but I adore both A Christmas Story and It's a Wonderful Life.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

Later, rather than earlier. Not quite as late as my dad, who tries to cram in a trip to the Barnes & Noble on Christmas Eve. But pretty late.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?


15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

Xmas cookies that are frosted and decorated...

16. Lights on the tree?

As gaudily colorful as possible, all the colors of the rainbow, more than are "necessary", and a mix of the new cool bigger ones and the cheap-assed old tiny ones. Never the kind that go off and on and induce seizures.

17. Favorite Christmas song?

Hm. "Children Go Where I Send Thee" by the Kingston Trio. Every other Xmas song by the Kingston Trio. "Good King Wenceslas"

18. Travel at Christmas or stay at home?

Virtually always back to Chicago.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's?

I guess so.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?

Star, though I did make an Xmas card one year with a hammer-and-sickle on top of the drawn tree. Angels make me ill. See above, for the imaginary hammer-and-sickle tree-topper.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?

Xmas morning

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?

Um, nothing at all?

23. What theme or color are you using?

I hate color themes; they make me ill. I like gaudy and mismatched trees.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?

My family doesn't do Christmas dinner, really. We gather at my dad's on Xmas Eve and eat lots of good cheese and crackers and cookies and sandwich stuff and drink eggnog with alcohol and play board games and have one or both of the referenced films on in the background. But otherwise... sometimes we get fresh bagels on Xmas morning.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?

Okay, now I get boring. What I want for Xmas is a bunch of Borders and Barnes & Noble gift cards. Seriously, there's pretty much nothing else I want. I will love whatever my nieces give me, and whatever books or CDs M. gives me.

26. Who is most likely to respond to this?

What does "respond to this" mean? Comment on it? Why would anyone, necessarily? Although anyone is welcome to! Adopt it as a meme? Huh. Possibly [livejournal.com profile] florence_craye might, I don't know. Or maybe [livejournal.com profile] john_b_cannon? I don't know, y'all, surprise me! [livejournal.com profile] mistersmearcase won't because he hates all this crap, which is fair enough.

27. Who is least likely to respond to this?

I don't know.

26. Favorite Christmas Tradition?

I am ridiculously in love with Xmas traditions, though none of them are that important by themselves. But everything I've written here -- from decorating the tree at my sister's, and my mother's, to listening to carols, to making cookies and Xmas cards, to wrapping presents... I like all of it enormously.


Dec. 15th, 2007 01:32 pm
I want to write a whole post on this for the Soli webzine, I swear to god. Why do wishlists feel to me like some combination of crass consumerism and overweening entitlement, instead of simply an honest and helpful guide for friends and family who might otherwise not have a fucking clue what one would like?

Things I Would Like for Christmas

First category: silly impossibilities that are fun just to write -- maybe that will get me into the consumer mood?

1. A MacBook Pro, hells yeah. 15-inch glossy screen.

2. A Subaru Outback station wagon, in dark red. See -- this is something I do not need in the slightest. But if someone were asking what kind of ridiculously unnecessary things I would buy if I won the lottery, this would be in the list, even though I love my Mazda, and even though that car is apparently emblematic of lesbians, and is not some hot Mercedes or BMW or whatever.

3. Rosetta Stone for Hindi, levels 1 AND 2. That's a computer program to support language learning. The military uses it, for the very beginning stages, though students move on from it pretty quickly. It costs about $300 for both levels together.

4. Guitar Hero II and the game system to play it on. This is COMPLETELY ridiculous, but I played it at M's sister's house in Georgia, and it is the one video game I actually enjoy. I don't even know what game system it is. PlayStation? That's a laugh, on my crappy TV.


Second category: slightly more realistic, but seeming pricey, to me:

1. Mac OSX Leopard Edited: Sad. I just found out last night that my PowerBook G4 cannot use Leopard. Bastards at Apple, upgrading everything unnecessarily.

2. a number pad to plug into my laptop, because I can't play Civilization anymore, without it.

3. Civilization IV, if it is any good. I can't tell. If I COULD use my laptop for it, I'd still be playing Civ 2.

4. A plug-in webcam for my computer, so I can use Skype. Oh, I want this. Not that a webcam is exactly NECESSARY.

5. My Amazon wishlist is here, and actually has things I'd really like, from CDs to DVDs to books.



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