How I Am Bilingual

Did you need proof other than the 15 ADD boys or the gang members in Debate that the counselors hate me?

Maybe the fact that she sent a girl from China who has been in the States 1½ months to join Fake Kid Government Club would prove the point.

Here's a sort of transcript for our conversation:

Me (in a louder voice, with bigger eyes, and many hand movements--a sort of bug eyed, hearing impaired hula): Do you know what court is?

Her: "Ahhhh..." (head buried in pocket translator)

Me (still with the hula): "A court? Court? Court?" because as you know, repeating a word a child has never heard will often endow her with a sudden and full understanding of its meaning. Then I think, "A lawyer!?!"

Her: "Lawyer! I know lawyer!"

We celebrate this victory a moment

Me: "Well, we pretend to be lawyers!"

Her: "Pretend? Uh..." again with the translator and she looks up, puzzled as to why we'd pretend to be lawyers "Pretend?"

Me: "Yes, yes!!!” Bolstered by this success, I attempt to explain Mock Legislature. “Now, do you know...uh...lawmaker?"

Her (clearly anticipating the "pretend lawmaker" explanation and already baffled): "Yesss... Lawmaker?"

Me: "Our students” (Big eyes! Loud voice!! Hand gestures!!) “pretend to do that also."

Girl Across the Room Who Owns Ferrets: "Ms. E--you forgot to tell her about the media branch!!"

I attempt to singe her eyebrows off with a look across the room that indicates I quite have enough on my hands, thank you, ferret girl.

And I begin the hula again

"So you might think about it. We have a lot of fun. It's ok if you aren't sure, though. We are just glad you came today!"

Her: "Uh...yes."

One Oprah Post Every Six Months And They Let Me Keep My Status As A Thirtysomething Woman

The comments on how Oprah is like Jesus is some of the best blogging you people have ever done on my site.

And lo! The prophecies are beginning to fulfill themselves!! The crowd, they shout for her to run for office! She is like unto Evita!!! And she, so modest, shakes off the adoration.

Cautiously optimistic

So far the school year is going relatively well. I'm mostly caught up with my grading, and I'm fairly well prepared to teach the 92 students (33 fewer than last year) sitting in my classroom at various intervals during the day.

10 Honors is still kicking my ass, though. I don't understand some of the material the other teacher presents, and I feel that I have to follow her lead no matter what. She's a brilliant person and an interesting teacher. She's the one who tells me I have more methods while she has more material.... which is true of course... but if I were to deviate from her curriculum, I would be proving just how ignorant I truly am.

Plato's The Apology is what I'm talking about. Why the hell do 10th graders need to be reading this? It's way too hard. I barely understand it myself. It's college level material that I feel is not appropriate for the classroom except in exerpts (which are the devil's handiwork, according to the lead teacher).

There are a couple of bimbos in my honors class as well. Not that they're stupid - they're just used to things coming easily and prettily to them. One of them lamented yesterday that she misses the 9th grade honors teacher (whom I've stopped admiring recently) who told them everything and made them take incessant notes. At least, that's my assumption. I wish I had time to sit in on one of her classes and watch what she does. I wish I had time to sit in on one of my lead teacher's classes to see how she approaches Socrates.

I don't know if there is an ideal classroom/teaching situation. Part of me wonders if the drama doesn't in fact inspire me. Teaching is a strange profession - definitely a love/hate relationship. But at least it's better than last year. Last year at this time I already knew it was going to be a looooong year. And was it ever.

OEDIPUS (with vegetables)

I will defer to the Mad Farmer McCartys as to how broccoli and an apple make a potato. Other than that, brilliant. I will analyze with you in the comments. Enjoy.

Someone Gave Calvin A Water Pill

I hate watching Calvin urinate. Especially when he does it off of a moving vehicle. The other morning, I saw a big ol truck (a Ford F4,908,704,708,472,863,593,629,505,736 maybe?) with two Calvins urinating off both sides of his back window.

The Calvin on the left was urinating on the word MOSLEMS--his spelling, not mine.

The Calvin on the right was urinating on the word ILLEGALS.

I think if I ever become a sticker on my car person, I'll have a sticker of Calvin urinating on Calvin urinating.

We Get Letters

More than one of you (yes, that's right two of you!) have asked me if you should see Jesus Camp. Isn't it just more of the same AmericaChrist (tm) talk that we could hear in any of a thousand media outlets?

Yes, I would answer, it is. The impact is greater for me because of the use of children, but I betcha you've still seen it.

So here's my list of

People Who Should See Jesus Camp

  • People who maintain that there aren't politics in the evangelical church
  • People who minister (especially those who work with children) outside of that evangelical loop
  • People who can take any of the two above groups to the theater to see the film
  • and then, somehow, this group that I fit into. Somehow, this time when I saw all those images and stories that I already knew, it felt like a call to arms. It seemed as though my duty to teach critical thinking was doubled. How do you know if you fit in this group? Search me.

For the rest of you, perhaps you should just check the clips on YouTube and download the press kit (Scroll about halfway down the page.) It's got interviews with Becky Fischer and parents of the young people profiled that you won't find in the film. Either way, I hope it brings new discussion of this important topic.

More All About Me

I just corrected the Beginning of the Year English Test that I give for evaluation purposes. This is the first year I have had to bring them home, but I was never going to have time to grade all of them at work. I have a feeling this may be a trend. Oh well.

In an effort to make lemonade out of my lemons, here are a few gems from their All About Me writing piece. Students were required to write 6 sentences about themselves. I’ve stayed true to the creative spelling.

1. My mom put me in violine becase she wants me to be in a orcastra.
2. I love to play on my bed with my brother when we are suppued to be sleeping.
3. I am one of those boy’s how dose’nt like there sister all thoe I get mad at her. I like animals even thoe I don’t know the name’s of them.
4. and ofcors I like horseback riding to. And I like my birthday
5. I like surfbording. Bot Nether me or my mom coode stand up.
6. I like to slepe.
7. I lick woter fawlis. I lick to do staf.
8. My favorite boringing thing to do is wach t.v. (Yay!!)
9. I hate cleaning my room.
10. I don’t like to lose playdates.

I definitely feel like I know a little bit more about each of them.

Maybe The Last Days Really Are Upon Us

Organizers of Spain's top annual fashion show on Saturday rejected five models as being too thin to appear in this year's event.

I read this shortly after publishing the Jesus Camp post and have decided that perhaps the end is truly near.

My First Trip To Jesus Camp Where Shorts Are Allowed

I landed tickets to the premiere of Jesus Camp Wednesday night. A look at their website shows no wide release date and that the night I saw the movie seemed to be its first round of premiers. Score one for the Bible Belt.

Here's the synopsis:

A growing number of evangelical Christians believe there is a revival underway
in America that requires Christian youth to assume leadership roles in
advocating the causes of their religious movement.

JESUS CAMP, directed
by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (The Boys of Baraka), follows Levi, Rachael, and
Tory to Pastor Becky Fischer's "Kids on Fire" summer camp in Devil's Lake, North
Dakota, where kids as young as 6 years-old are taught to become dedicated
Christian soldiers in "God's army." The film follows these children at camp as
they hone their "prophetic gifts" and are schooled in how to "take back America
for Christ." The film is a first-ever look into an intense training ground that
recruits born-again Christian children to become an active part of America's
political future.

My own upbringing touched the very edges of such experiences. Although my church experience was not in the Pentecostal tradition, I spent four years attending a Christian school run by an Assembly of God church.

Twenty-plus years ago, conservative politics were a smaller part of evangelical doctrine. I remember a chapel service in school and talks in church about abortion. The only mention of homosexuality in those circles was a homophobic youth minister who used the word "fag" like it was written in Scripture (in a fascinating sidebar, his wife approached me after I spoke at Dad's funeral half jokingly asking me to speak at both of their funerals. I wonder if he'd want my memory mentioned?). We didn't chant"Pray for righteous judges!" or welcome cardboard cutouts of the President at our worship services like these young people do.

Still, Becky Fischer, the children's pastor profiled in Jesus Camp, maintains that she is not training kids for political action. Her aim is only to "...teach our kids what the Bible has to say about life and how we are supposed to respond to it as Christians.". She cites Scriptural backing for every political message she gives to her campers. I won't argue these specific points except to say that for every political message she finds in the Bible, I could find others that support care for the poor and social justice that would run afoul of her cardboard cutout worship icon. I suppose we all find politics in Scripture, we just choose to emphasize different passages.

What my upbringing did have in common with the "Jesus Campers" is the Born Again experience. Salvation is depicted as an all at once, emotional, easy experience that once and for all brings the forever clear presence of God.

In the half-full theatre, most of the movie goers responded to the film as though it was a comedy. How could this be real?

I couldn't laugh. I know that it's real. I've been to the edges of this content. I just found myself thoughtful and a bit sad. Fischer calls the kids at her camp a "key generation" to Christ's second coming. I remember when my generation had a similar title.

I remember too my generation growing up. With few exceptions, we all had some sort of faith crisis, a way that the simple answers we were given as children didn't cover our lives any longer. Some of my contemporaries gave up on faith when those questions went unanswered. I thought of my own faith crises--because despite the fact that my faith somehow generally outlives spiritual crisis, I still find myself wrestling with God.

So what happens when this "key generation of Jesus Campers" hit their crises and issues of faith are no longer simple? I take that question from the film more than any other image or quote. It makes me hope for reasonable, nuanced faith to flourish.

So the movie is important. It's part of the world you should see if you have not. If you have seen this part of the world, think it through again.

Edited to add--Rev. Dan has posted clips and more opinions on Jesus Camp here. Well worth the click.

A Non-Daddy Post Is Coming, I Swear

Soon, my complicated reflections on Jesus Camp (the movie, not a trip to Falls Creek). But first, Shakespeare and Dad. Two favorite topics of my friend and I right now.

Surprises Shared

The first time my students participate in Share (show-and-tell) I assign them a small All About Me project. Each child finds a shoebox and creates a box that tells me something about who he/she is. This means students decorate the outside and place 4 or 5 times that tell something about them inside. During Share, students explain why they decorated it the way they did as well as why they chose the objects that were placed inside. Every year this is marvelous! I get to know them a little bit better and they have a surefire hit the fist time up.

This year there have been a few eye-opening moments related to Share. First, a student asked if he could take his box home because he had shared it that morning. I told him that was just fine and thanked him for his great Share. In response he explained that he was so glad he didn’t have to sleep without his favorite stuffed animal again. The poor kid. That is such a great example of how nervous my students are at the beginning of the year. They can’t imagine doing something against the rules. Well, most of them are like that.

The second incident was absolutely delightful. . . and surprising. I have a new student who seems very sweet. He is incredibly smart and very well mannered, but a little spacey. He seems to play on the periphery of group games rather than joining in. He watches, learns and then attempts to play on his own or on the sidelines. When he presented his Share this morning the kids were riveted. He had a coin collection, that was pretty cool, and some soccer pictures from his team. The thing that the kids were most interested in amazed me. It was an award he received from his teacher for being a great helper. I give awards all the time. Who knew they cared so much?? At recess today one of my run-around-boys told his buddy he couldn’t play handball because he was going to play with the new kid. YAY!

Names and Checks

Is it ever too early to start using your behavior modification technique? Why does it feel mean to write a kid’s name on the board the second week of school? Unfortunately, my students left me very little choice today. I gave warning after warning. I even gave one kid his “final warning” three times. The third time was when I realized what a terrible precedent I was setting.

The biggest downfall of most behavior modification techniques is the consistency with which it is applied. Today it became clear that the same kids will push and push until I put my foot down. Well, it went down with a thud.

I have two names on the board and one has a check next to it. When your name goes on the board you loose 3 minutes of recess. If there is a check next to your name that is 6 minutes, with two checks it becomes 9 minutes. Once there are three checks I call home. Nobody wants me to call home. The names and checks are erased as soon as the student has “done their time”. As the end of the year approaches, or the particular group of kids needs it, the names stay on the board for up to a week and students sit out on Fridays from snack, or everyday that week. There are lots of ways to adjust the method in order to best redirect you class.

Something to keep in mind if you, like me, take recess time away from your students: they need to use up that energy. If you have the kids sit out during play time they have almost no choice but to play during work time. I have found that if I force the kids to do calisthenics during recess I kill two birds with one stone. The kids use up their energy and aren’t wiggling around like maniacs when they come back into my room. They also didn’t get to play all of the games they were looking forward to.

I’ll let you know how this works out tomorrow with the new crew. The names and checks were put on the board after lunch, so sentences will be carried out tomorrow during snack.

The First Monday

I have yet to see my entire class in the same room. One is still out sick with Strep, but my no-show from last week has finally arrived. I’m not entirely sure I sent her home with all of the notes from last week that she needed, but so it goes. She’s lucky to have her work on our hallway bulletin board. Thank goodness she is a quick little thing and could get it done during our Morning Business slot. Am I coming across as less than flexible? I’m really not… less than… I mean…I am flexible…usually.

This whole “large class size” thing is running me ragged. It’s not that I can’t do it. It’s just that I feel like I’m starting over again. I could teach the curriculum to a class that was 25-30% larger than last year, no problem. It’s this whole 50% increase that throws me. Why is it that 4 kids can make such a huge difference? I managed to get some planning done during my free periods today, so hopefully the rest of the week will fall into place. I’m ready for things to feel normal now.

I thought you might enjoy these two winning quotes from last Friday:

I was reading the kids a book about Luis Pastuer and his discovery of the rabies vaxine when Loud Girl put her hand in the air.
“Yes, Loud Girl”
“I had a disease once. It was called Hand and Mouth and Food disease. You get it when you don’t wash your hands.”

This was followed up with a comment from her tablemate, “My uncle is a doctor and he says an earache is worse than having a baby.”

Do with that little gem what you will.

Living Large

Today sucked. Suuu-ucked.

The air went out at school and I was forced to wrangle fifteen ADD Sophomore boys in a windowless classroom. The unexplained nagging pain in my back stayed around for another day and I officially became weary of requesting that young men pull up their pants so we could no longer see their panties.

Yeah, I said panties. I found out today that at least two other teachers outside of my school say that to young men, so again I say panties.

I also started tutoring today and therefore couldn't leave work until 5:30 and so off I went, steeped in the lingering teenage funk of my classroom and ready to just be home.

And for a second, something in the mailbox saved me.

The director of my blessed summer Shakespeare camp sent a copy of the letter he written for my administration.

First, I cried a bit for the vivid reminder of our sacred Green World. Then for the complimentary nature of the words---this guy misses me? Lastly, for the list of names. I remembered looking at that list before I left.

Sitting in the hospital waiting room all those months ago, I read their names and worried. I worried that I wouldn't be as good as them. I worried that the huge burden of my Dad that I carried would be too much for them to take from a stranger and I wouldn't have friends for that month. I was scared. I was scared of Elizabethan dance class, scared of keeping up with the reading, scared to live big. Living in a hospital for two months had made me small. I'd learned not to show emotion in a public waiting room when everyone else had tragedy. I'd learned not to show emotion to my dad just in case he was conscious enough to be worried by our tears. I lived curled up in a ball, invisibly small. Those names scared me. In the end, they probably saved me.

My month in Massachusetts helped me find a way to live big again--impossibly big. I was so big there I could dance horribly and laugh about it. I could sing impossibly loud in voice class, I could enact the huge and public murder of Julius Caesar.

It was very big.

I'm living medium about now. I aspire to big and I'm working on it, but sometimes the brown world I know here makes me shrink up a bit.

It was so good to get that letter and be impossibly large again.

Large and Unwell?

There are so many of them!!! I have 50% more students in my class this year compared to last. Wow, does it make a big difference. The biggest problem seems to be my timing. Last year I would often be able to finish little projects in 5 minutes or so. This year I can’t do anything in just 5 minutes!! I also have to get used to the new volume of the room. It doesn’t bother me if my students chat a little, when it is appropriate, as long as they are not disrupting other students. With my new class size, the gentle hum has turned into a small rumble.
Thank god they are cute!!


Well, we are off to a lovely start. One child left for a doctor’s appointment at 10:30 and didn’t return. His mom called after lunch to let me know he has a form of Strep throat that exhibits itself through scabs on your face. Doesn’t that sound great?? He can't come back until Monday. I know I've come in contact with him. . . several times. Another child went home at 12:45 with a fever. Oh yes, we are off to wonderful start. Who knows what adventures tomorrow will bring! ;)

I'm Probably Supposed To Think This Is Charming...


Is anyone else more than a bit troubled to the point of hilarity at the Depends undergarment commercial with the bride so old she requires adult diapers?

I laughed. A strong laugh at first, then one that turned inward.

Hah!! Hahahaha...hey...

Inspired Again

I keep waiting for the beginning of a new school year to become something mundane and wrote. Seven years in and it is still as exciting as it was the first time. Granted, I don’t have anxiety about the “What ifs” anymore.

What if I forget to teach something?
What if the kids don’t listen?
What if I totally blank in front of them?
What if they are mean to each other?
What if I haven’t made the copies I need?

Believe me, I could go on and on like this.

The truth of the matter is, we all forget, are not listened to, have mean kids, and are missing important copies, from time to time. The test of a teacher is how we work through it. Shouldn’t we be honest with the kids and let them know that even teachers make mistakes? Isn’t it just another teaching moment? It seems to me a “What if” can easily become a lesson in how to adapt to new situations.

So, release yourself from the “What ifs” and enjoy the beginning of your best year yet. You, my teacher friends, have new smiles to meet and young minds to enlighten. What a great job!!