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May first. Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the shooting at Lindhurst High School, an event that changed the lives of so many, myself included. I felt the pall of the day kind of hanging over me all day. I was just out of sorts Ė kind of sad and detached at the same time. I wonder how much it really changed me. Was I different before that day? Did I really trust men more then? I mean, did I really think that by the simple virtue of being a man someone could remove or protect me from harm? Surely not..
Today Avery had her gall bladder removed. Why did this child of mine receive the flimsiest organs? Kidney stones, gall stones, allergies, weight issuesÖyet she is so strong in every way. She came through the surgery well. Lots of pain, yet she tolerates it quietly. Taking Vicodin, of course, but I get the feeling that just dulls the pain, doesnít take it away. It is nice to have her and Mayaoel here. I like taking care of them. Iím out of practice though Ė I think I could be better at it. Like having the right foods, and keeping things neat.
Ahhh, finished The Fountainhead. Victory is mine. In the end, the opadcity of the characters becomes clearer. The mindset of that book is very sophisticated. It made me think in a new way, to view the world differently. Is that the mark of a classic? It doesnít matter how old it is, it just has the effect of making one see things in a new way? This is not a new book. I seldom read ďclassicsĒ because they are old and I like to read new things. But this book, as difficult and opaque as it is, remains timely. Hmmm.
Planning my exercise week. Iíve decided I need new things to do that donít relate to my work. I have chosen to begin with exercise and then see what comes next. My plan for this week is to walk 5 times, do yoga twice and do a resistance training circuit 3 times. That is exactly 100% more exercise than I am accustomed to, so seems like a good place to start. Next, my yard Ė planting flowers, making a new patio and shading it. Then getting some comfy furniture to sit on, a barbecue and some Concord grapes. Oh and music.
Tomorrow Iím going to the middle school to meet with the teachers Iíll be working with next year. I think I will have a slightly different perspective than they do because I am not already part of either faculty. It was pretty interesting to fill in there last summer Ė the issues of middle-schoolers are a little different from those of high school students. They are more passionate about smaller things. They are also meaner to one another, it seems. Not to say they arenít mean in high school, but it seems more petty and more hurtful among the younger ones.
Once, back when I was married, I read someone talking about their home being their safe haven. I loved that concept, particularly because my own home wasnít that. Since Iíve had my own home, Iíve sort of managed to create that feeling, but never completely. It felt the most havenlike when I lived with someone else, who wasnít even anyone I should have been living with. He kept it cleaner (maybe because he didnít work as much as I did!) and we did things like work in the yard and cook together. It felt like something was always happening here.
Now rather than a safe haven it kind of feels like a black hole. I come home with intentions to clean, plant flowers, get rid of stuff I donít need, go for a walk, do something creative. But all I do is read and click around on my computer. I seem to do just about anything but create that feeling of a haven that I so long for. I look around and donít know where to begin to clean and make it lovely, so I just open a book. Or make a comment on Twitter or check my email again.
I recognize that these are the signs of depression. Iím thinking about the chicken and the egg, which came first thing. Like if I suck it up and slog through cleaning and decluttering (what a buzzword that is), altar creating, maybe I will begin to feel safe and creative here. Certainly Iíll feel like inviting friends over, which I never do anymore. I kind of go along thinking that once I am not depressed any more I will make my house lovely, rather than the opposite. Itís certainly worth a try. One foot in front of the other, like that.
Again I seem to have gotten myself into a little trouble. Nothing big, but it brought further debasement. (At least my frame of mind was in de basement afterwards!) I am always willing to go out on a limb for the good of the students, and recently I seem to have once again overstepped my bounds in that effort. I donít feel bad for what I did, and the details are really insignificant. What it brings up is the realization that we all think differently, and without wanting to cause problems, sometimes we just canít help creating a little conflict.
Being the low one on the totem pole at the district office, I back down every time, but I donít think I am wrong. I am not such an in-the-box thinker as some of those I work with, and that definitely can create ripples. I understand that others have to report to the powers that be, which perhaps causes them to hold back, but really I think it goes beyond that. Some people are just naturally more cautious than others are. And neíer the twain shall meet, as they say. They will be glad to see my back, Iím thinking.
Iím looking forward to change in my workplace, but also change in my life in the world. When I put too much emphasis on my work life I take the knocks harder than when the more valued portion of my life is outside of work. For me that is a lesson hard-learned. And the kids that I work with are needy in so many ways that it is impossible to put them on the sidelines. I have to try to find a balance, and to keep on fighting for them. And fighting for myself, and what I believe is right.
The weather is heating up already. Is this global warming? Should I invest in air conditioning? Having a second floor bedroom is less than comfortable already. I need to have a screen door made and maybe buy a portable air conditioner for up there. The screen door with a fan out on the balcony might be enough, but again it might not. I canít put in central air, so have to weigh my options. Iíd love one of those ďsplit airĒ systems like they have in Asia and Mexico. No one really uses them here, and Iím not sure why.
Still more heat. Iím going to LA with Mayaoel this week, for Amandaís graduation from medical school. Iím hoping it will be somewhat cooler there. At least there will be a pool and the rooms will be air-conditioned. I feel some trepidation about this trip. I havenít spent much time with my sisterís family in the past years. I see my mom and talk to her often, but my sister chose to keep her children free of my influence (or revelations), so I donít know her kids all that well. Iím sorry about that. I wish it had been different.
Iím scheduled for a haircut and color today. Iím not willing to give up my haircoloring yet. I have a weave, which leaves plenty of grey, but not as mousy or as much grey as it would have naturally. I like this hairdresser. After going to the same person for about twenty years, this was a good change. There was nothing wrong with the other person, I liked her, but she didnít want to do new things. She thought she had my measure Ė and maybe she did, then. I hope she didnít feel bad when I left. It was time.
Some people think children (or anyone) can learn English in a yearÖwith the right program, and if the teachers donít get in the way trying to actually teach. Actually, our lawmakers believe that. The data being taken from the California English Language Development Test is showing that is not true. Teachers and scholars who work with English Learners have known this for a long time. Eventually those lawmakers may have no recourse but to recognize it as well. But I doubt that will happen anytime soon. They all still believe too much in the magic of frequent testing as panacea.
Since I have been blogging and have been using Twitter, I am not as regular about writing here. I still want to do this, and mean to, but I forget. Then the blue days build up and writing is daunting. This is my twelfth month of writing 100 words, I believe. I began last June, at the annual working meeting of the ELL Leadership Team, in Denver. This year it is in Philadelphia, the first weekend in June. (Cheese steak??) It has been awesome being on that team. It has pushed me in ways I never would have pushed myself.
Some people think that new immigrants donít want to learn English. Maybe some seem this way, but I think they are afraid to try it. It is scary to learn a new language, as anyone who has done so can tell you. Non-English speakers in the U.S. know that their life would be easier if they knew English. It is just really, really hard to learn and embarrassing to try to speak, cause you make so many mistakes while you are learning. Having learned Spanish as a second language myself, I have great respect for anyone who is learning English.
Some people think that once a person can speak English he or she is fluent. And then they donít understand why those English Learners do so badly in their content area classes. And why they fail the benchmark exams that are given every six weeks. Oral proficiency in English can be acquired in three to four years, while academic fluency takes closer to seven. So just being a fluent speaker is no guarantee of success in academic content classes. That kind of language needs nurturing, and takes time to develop. But we want them all ďfixedĒ right now. Breathe deeply!
Some people think that their studentsí parents donít care about their kidsí education (usually they are referring to parents who may not speak English and may not have had the opportunity to go to school at all and donít know what is involved with it.) School can be a formidable place for people who have no experience with it. Their kids go there every day, and they come home with homework, but many times parents just donít get that and donít know how to help. And blaming them for not getting it doesnít help the families. Really, it hurts everyone.
Some people think looking at a variety of test scores will tell you who a student is. We have a wide range of scores to choose from Ė the CELDT, the California Standards tests, the quarterly benchmarks, the High School exit Exam (for 10th graders), the District Writing ProficiencyÖthe list is long. And it is tempting to categorize a student based on their scores. But what none of these tests scores can tell us is who a child is. There are too many factors involved in a test score to judge someone by it. Unfortunately, at times thatís all we have.
Some people think it is possible that one program for English Learners will accelerate the rate at which they learn English. People have developed multiple programs. Each of these programs is better than nothing, but none is a ďSilver Bullet.Ē Kids need a strong multi-modal methodology. That is what trained teachers know how to do. Students must be presented with a low- anxiety setting in which they feel safe to try out language, and they must be challenged to do work that is just a step or two beyond their current level of proficiency. And they must be given time.
Some people think that celebrating Cinco de Mayo and Kwan-zaa is honoring our studentsí cultures. Celebrating the outer trappings of a culture is fun, but what is more critical is learning about the rules and beliefs of our studentsí cultures. We need to know who to defer to in a parent conference, what their home structure is like, (what is the likelihood that homework will actually get done, given the needs and circumstances of the family?), and so forth. Expecting only the culture to bend to fit the structure of the school is insulting and confusing and not particularly effective.
Some people think that our schools and students will ďgo backĒ to the way they were. English learners will be ďcured.Ē They run their classes as though the students understand everything they say, and blame them when they donít. Our English Learners are capable of learning on a highly academic level, and are often some of our most highly motivated learners. They can and will succeed in our most challenging classes if they are given the time it takes to fully learn English. And then they will spend many years beyond that academic competence trying to figure out our culture.
This is only a short list of misconceptions about English learners and their families and cultures. There are many more in action in our schools and community, some more counterproductive and hurtful than others. What we must do as educators who truly care, is to chip away a little bit at a time at our own and othersí ignorance and misconceptions, in the hope that we can truly make a difference in the lives of those who so desperately need us. Itís going to take time and a willingness to be wrong, and to change when we realize our error.
Well, the graduation was great. It was inspiring to hear 180 voices taking the Osteopathic Oath. Will they all live up to it? One hopes so. Being with my family was great as well, if a little sad, or regretful. I felt like an outsider among them. I kept thinking, ďThis is a nice group of people. They seem to have fun family traditions, and are fun to be with. I wish I knew them better.Ē I suppose I could start now. Weíve all been through stuff, but today is a new day. At least there arenít fights to mend.
I have so much to do at home, yet feel gripped by paralysis when it comes to doing it all. Or any of it. Letís seeÖoutside there are so many things I want to plant, a patio to make and a shade structure to construct. Concord grapes, raspberries, flowers and a new drip system. Out front I want to bury sprinklers and put them on a timer. Rent a trencher for that? It all seems so big and un-doable to me. The drip system is a snap, it just needs to be planned. But underground stuffÖI donít know about that.
Today I spent the day at the middle school again, filling in as Principal or Assistant Ė not sure which, since I was the only administrator there. I like it there Ė I feel valued, and like people are happy Iím there. I remember when I thought that age group would be horrid to work with, but now I canít remember why. Their behavior problems are generally less intensive than those of high school kids, yet in many cases their life problems are so much worse. They are too young to have to know all they do. One fears for their lives.
Today I donít have to go to the middle school and fill in as originally planned because the assistant principal has become the principal. He was going to be the leader of a different school, but plans changed. He is quite puffed up about it, and I fear he will make changes based on his reaction to the previous principal rather on what will be best for the school. He is young and rash and may not always consider the ramifications of his actions. Itís too bad, as the previous principal had a clear agenda regarding school and student progress.
The school year is fading now. I will be glad to see the end of this one, as itís been hard for me. I havenít felt valued in my job this year, and Iím ready for a change. I wonder how much of my feeling of demeanment was my own perception, and how much was coming from others. People say Iím good at my job, that they like me, whatever all that is. Yet I donít feel it. So is that my lack of self esteem or am I hearing the undercurrent of their words? Itís probably some of each
Today I went to a workshop to learn to make prayer beads. Really it was a day with an artist, a day dedicated to my creativity and my dedication to centering and creating a life outside of my work. It was great. Now I want more, so on Monday Iíll go buy the string or wire or both, and a bunch of seed beads, and see what else I come up with. I will probably deconstruct the strand of beads I made and begin again. The string I cut was too short to do what I really wanted to do.
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