Saturday, February 19, 2005

fun with books

Taken from A History Teacher.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

The book nearest me is actually a photography book, Women, by Annie Leibovitz and Susan Sontag. But the second nearest book is Historical Atlas of Islam by Malise Ruthven. Page 123 falls under the subtitle, "Muslim Minorities in China." Here is my tantalizing fifth sentence:

Though all Muslim groups were persecuted during Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) with at least one major massacre of Hui in the wake of an uprising in Yunnan, state patronage of the Yiewanis has persisted under the more relaxed climate that followed the accession of Deng Xiaoping.

I've been reading this book to guide me through a study group that I'm involved with for the district. I'm still within the first 50 pages and my study group is currently discussing the Moors in Spain. So needless to say, I'm not too familiar with the content discussed on page 123.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


life is about balance and somewhere in february my see-saw tipped over. i'm interpreting today as a wake-up call. i think i've been really self-absorbed lately. my stress level has peaked and this causes me to brainstorm over whether teaching is my future and the benefits and drawbacks of teaching. swept up in the tide of testing, status, and teaching ideology, i fear i might leave my students behind.

people are fallible and everyone has problems. my kids included. my kids eat drugs like candy and are pretty shitty with the idea of protected sex. but i don't think these issues are solely related to my kids. rich kids take lots of drugs too. in fact, they can afford the expensive stuff. yet, my kids get caught up in the system because they don't have lawyers or money to bail them out or to cover up their messes. they get steered through juvenile courts like cattle. many of them think it's inevitable. and with the glamorization of the ghetto, some of my students earn merit points when they get "faded". they even make up stories about it. not all of my students want to "be ghetto," as they put it, but some work really hard for that status. sometimes it's hard to take them seriously when you know that they've got two really hard-working parents and, despite the ass-sagging pants and the red or blue shirts, they are pretty good kids. they're faking it.

but tragic stories do unfold. we've all heard them. this kid's whole family is in jail, this kid saw his mother get shot by his father, this kid lives with her grandparents because the parents are dope feins. we've also got a lot of foster homes in our area. those kids are fucking depressing. i've noticed, and granted i've only been teaching for a year and a half, but lots of my foster kids end up in rehab or the state hospital. it's really really depressing.

today mikey came back to class. he'd been hospitalized after being beaten over the head with a tire iron. six boys jumped him and his two friends (one being a girl who fought three boys) and broke his jaw and fractured his skull. his eyes are still cloudy with blood and his face is swollen. what touched me was his need to talk to me, to reach out for help.
this kid has probably been in my class for a total of four weeks all year. he's been expelled and sent to the alternative learning center for most of the year on drug charges. but i've always liked mikey. he's a really sweet kid and he's really been dealt a difficult hand.
in the past mikey has always kept to himself so you can imagine my surprise when he spilled his guts. he talked about his family and how cps is getting involved and he's eighteen but still classified as a sophomore but he needs to get a job to support his family since his mother and father are in jail now... and whew. i'm looking at this kid and i want to lay out a step-by-step plan to help him. i want to be able to change things for him. i casually remind him that violence breeds more violence and he might want to think about the people he hangs around. but come on. his buddies are all that he's got. he's not going to give them up. i think he's been pushing drugs. but i honestly believe him when he argues that he's trying to put food on the table for his sisters and mom. he doesn't strike me as an extravagant kid. i don't know. i promised him i'd talk to his counselor about taking the g.e.d.

i've got another kid who's getting death threats because he's been deemed a racist. apparently rumors are flying that he's part of the KKK and, whoa, that's enough to start a riot. he was shot at the other day and yesterday another girl told him to "watch his back for what he has coming." i want to scream at these kids. LOOK. violence is not going to change anyone's views. if anything, this guy is going to start hating black people because he's getting the shit kicked out of him for views he doesn't hold. it's a no-win situation. and unfortunately, it's continuing to escalate.

i actually had a few more disturbing conversations today but i don't feel like writing anymore. i know this sounds naive, but i want closure. i want to fix it. i'm amazed that my kids can sit through lectures and projects about old, white, dead people when they have so much shit going on around them. stuff i never dealt with when i was their age.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

test this ****!

we had the mandatory hour-long "training" over how to give a test. THE test. the test we're all teaching to (and swearing we're not). apparently this year we are not allowed to let the kids talk, even if everyone has finished their test. our testing period is 4 hours long. we're stuck in a room circulating kids we don't know (it's all by alpha order) and ensuring that not a peep is uttered. let's all enjoy a good laugh. AHAHAHA. and maybe a tear?
also, cell phones are considered an irregularity. if one so much as rings we're required to report it to Downtown (which a fellow teacher calls the Taj Mahal). cell phones are not allowed at my school but the kids have them. the management of the "no cell phone policy" has been shitty. it's a lost cause. so, i'm supposed to trust that 30-something kids of whom i have no relationship with will turn off their phones so my ass doesn't get jumped when i call downtown to report an irregularity? fuck that. i'm going to instruct my kids to take out their phones. examine the phone. caress the phone. then stick the phone on the edge of the desk. and turn it off. i don't care if the phone is visible. i just don't want the damn thing ringing. because of the irregularity.

i think testing is an irregularity.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


everyone around me has been assaulted with this crazy respiratory virus or the full-blown flu. being a hyperchondriac, this is my nightmare. my hands are cracking from repeated washing. my house smells like lysol. my classroom will soon smell like lysol (after a trip to the grocery store). and i'm going to post a sign that says COVER YOUR MOUTH WHEN YOU COUGH. for god's sake people.

and all this deepens my february funk. i mean, i'm down in the trenches people. i have no patience at this point, and i can turn from a really cheery teacher to a nasty, sarcastic wench in a few seconds. oddly, my first period was terrible this morning and my fourth period was great. it's normally the reverse. in first period there's this kid who's come back to class and he's driving me insane. and i know it's partly my fault because i'm really worn down right now and i don't have the energy to redirect and correct him. and some days i'd rather talk about pop culture than stupid history. and i love history! as you can see, i'm funktified.

just for kicks, let me relay a conversation i had today. i have these conversations all the time, but i'm irritable today and it got under my skin.

Whiney Student: Ms, am I missing anything?
MH: You seem to be missing the section reviews from last Thursday.
WS: What's that?
MH: That was the assignment when you had a sub. Last Thursday. Were you here that day?
WS: Yes. I think I was. What was it?
MH: It was Chapter 4, sections 2 and 3 review.
WS: What is that?
MH: You know, the review at the end of the section.
WS: Huh?
MH: The review. The questions at the end of the section. Located in Chapter 4. Section 2. and then section 3.
WS: Wait, what does it look like?
okay, really I said this:
MH: You know how each section ends with a few review questions? It was that. Go look in the book.
(student walks over to book)
WS: Oh, wait. I think I was absent on Thursday.

it's not like this child has never seen a review before. i mean, it's a review. a section review. this is not novel.
on a lighter note, my fourth period was cracking me up today. ever since i hurt my foot they've really been nagging me to go to the doctor. on friday they told me i'll need surgery and possibly get gangrene if i don't go. i checked on the possible surgery. they were scaring me on that one. i'm pretty gullible and it's like those flying alien ship jokes from junior high are back. only this time they sort of crack me up.