Monday, October 31, 2011

What the Hey?

It is what?  A plan, for the whole year?  Is it a lesson plan?  No, it is called a Pacing Guide, a P.G., for short.  Another teacher called it, "teaching by number," as in paint-by-number paintings.  Those paintings looked beautiful far away but up close, they were obviously fake.  What gives?  I decided to investigate.

I didn't need to look far.  On my desk was something titled, "12th Grade Pacing Guide."  It looked suspicious and smelled like a greek salad.  It was definitely not from Subway.  Since it was a day famous for haunting and haunts, I decided that it was John Fante haunting me with his humor.  I need that because with a horrendous head cold coming on and students reading Canterbury Tales and The Crucible (apologies to my 9th Grade Pacing Guide), to be honest, the D.V.D.'s I ordered from the library were not arriving quickly enough.

I checked my work email named after a flower, named after me.  There were some antiquated ideas contained in some of the missives, possibly a result of the present holiday.  They were haunted with the idea that teachers begin with a standard and they scramble around to find material to match and then "teach."

It wasn't Valentine's Day, so why was I so disappointed?  It was all part of the beat, part of the groove I was trained to observe.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Horses, Eggs, Questions re: Ye Olde Pacing Guide

Yesterday was another mystery but it came in the form of questions by the young people sitting in bunches of chairs in front of my very eyes.  They seemed expectant and yearing for the unknown.  After watching a film about Sea Biscuit, a famous animal athlete, their questions were such: 

What if horses laid eggs?
Why do wasps eat each other?

It was high school, true, therefore I was not wholly expected to answer their questions but to admire their attempts to verbalize.  Anything. 

Sea Biscuit had nothing to prove.  He was the richest horse in history.  There was only so much expensive hay he could eat.  After watching his life story four or five times, I saw that my own life was a series of races as well.  The race to solve mysteries.  Pegasus probably did not lay eggs in the old mythology but that could be changed.  Wasps?  Their cruelty towards one another?  I reminded the young minds about the mammals surrounding our very lives.  Ourselves.

Another day leaving no stone unturned, no child behind.  My student loan paid for another thirty days.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Case of the Cloudscratcher Tumor & something else

Master Terrorist Series #4
Hawaii Special Ed. Teacher, The Case of the Cloudscratcher Tumor
                                       & The Mystery of Campus Security

                                       Chapter 1, Heartbeat of Excitement

       Teaching sure isn’t what it used to be.  After a few years on the job, I decided to throw in a little something more into the mix:  crime detection and tumor care.  The usual suspects in the usual places.  This time, The Pacific Rim Conference on Disabilities.  I was overdue for a refresher on ADHD.  I made sure to itemize the purchase order so I could slip under the radar of my school admin. undetected.  I  brought along my tumor just in case I needed a disguise.  My real purpose was to observe Clay Aiken, American Idol, keynote speaker.  The Idol was smooth, a charmer.  His Modus Operandi.
       Aiken spoke to a crowd of burnt-out yet secretly hopeful do-gooders at the convention. They were all suspect in my book.  Special Ed teacher in his pre-Idol life, now a millionaire, handing out postcards of Waikiki. We could also turn into millionaires if we danced enough, if we sang enough. The right place at the right time. The card sits in my bag (fingerprints) and I get it out for laughs because there were no pink sunsets at the Sheraton.  Only red drippings from the tumor.  Evidence from moving it from towel to sheet, to pillowcase and back again.  Something the Idol would never imagine in a thousand years.
       What was to come was not exactly the clincher in a series of small disappointments, but actually a realization on my part:  Diamond Head dominates everything about Waikiki, but here it was, a deep green yet mousey-looking feature on the postcard from a
terrorist.  I was deep in the heart of sky scrapers, cloud scratchers, Wolkenkratzers,  and how fast time flew by—yawning during the Idol’s speech about not leaving a child behind in America’s education system (make that a double yawn), waiting to catch the bus back to the airport in the chunky heat mixed with more fire breathing “breezes” and how it took 5 minutes but it was really an hour to realize that my tumor was not going to get stolen where I left it on the beach.            
       Not a chance, there wasn’t anything interesting enough in that bundle to attract even the most ordinary of thieves:  the tourist pretenders.

                                       Chapter 10, The Defibrillator 

       At the safety committee meeting, the security manager got there a little late. Alibi:  another altercation.  Parents fighting under the coconut trees.  He and the school nurse brought it to the table:  a purchase of a defibrillator was highly needed.  Not only one, but at least several; one for each building, even J Building.  Teachers could be trained to use them, we could get student volunteers up to speed.  What about old fashioned C.P.R. and first-aid, a call to 911, I asked.  Well, this machine could save someone’s life. (Code:  stupid haole.  Stupid haole teacher.) The only thing is that if someone is touching the body during it, some serious problems could occur, such as instant death.  Plus the batteries cost thousands and upkeep is a pain.  Especially if they’re not in the budget.  Just look at Pahoa School.
                                       Chapter 58, The Big Picture

        I can see it and am good at it, that’s probably why I am sitting in this (Vice Principal’s) chair, she said, late for the second time.  A quick run to McDonalds. 
       The phone rang and a parent wanted to know if the school could guarantee the safety of her child.  I cannot guarantee that, it is not within my authority to say that to you. How could I make such a guarantee to you. Your child is like any other child. Lifted eyebrows.  I sat on the chair that touched her desk and nodded, understandingly. 
       That was my big mistake, I thought later that evening under the ceiling fan that chose to conduct itself like a crazy, silent helicopter.  If you get a marginal on your Pep-T Eval then let me know, the union rep said, we’ll take it to Milton and file a grievance.
       Today, Kim, my acupuncturist, told me not to drink things with ice in them but I couldn’t resist the cranberry-blueberry #5 with booster of immune from Jamba Juice. After that, my chi started moving a little too quickly for my liking.  It avoided the tumor and hid behind my desk during Prep Period.  I was lucky this hadn’t happened in a room full of students. The grievance was building in my head like previews of a popular movie possibly called, “Re-runs of All The Jobs You’ve Ever Had And Tried To Want.”  Anticipation stopped me from worrying about everything else, like my rubric and curriculum map supposedly aligned to the Standards. 

Rubric Chapter
Did I tell you about Tante Hedel, my mother asked. Well, I’ll tell you the story. It was right in Ueberlingen beside the church.  We just came out of the store that sells really nice things.  Tante Hedel bought herself some blouses.  One was really weird. It had
bright yellow and some embroidery and then there was one that was brown with a faded part like it had been burnt with an iron.  These blouses were very peculiar, but in
the peasant-style that Hedel likes. We came out and there was a woman, maybe from Romania, with a child. The woman asked if we had some money to spare. Tante Hedel brought out her wallet and gave the woman 20 euros. Then, the woman asked if she could have a 50 because she saw that there was one in the wallet. She said she would give back the 20 in exchange for the 50.  Hedel said o.k. and gave her the 50. Then, you won’t believe this, but the woman saw the 100 bill Hedel had left in her wallet and asked for that, begged for that, saying she would give back the 50 euros.  And Tante Hedel gave it to her!  By the way, don’t worry about your job because they always need teachers!

Husband Chapter
Mostly, he is in the form of a fern, hanging on the edge of the caldera, see the orange part? but sometimes, he can be a pig or a man or a fish in the ocean.  That is what is so special about him.  Even though he doesn’t speak in a fluid way, he is always around, wherever you go.  In the water, mist, rain on the side of the volcanic mountains.  We walk around and realize that the debris from adze making looks just like blocky flowers in the refined desert; sparkles, powder, strong scents. Down by the water, near where the umbilical cords were left in little holes, is a soft, grassy area, perfect for sleeping, dreaming, and watching the lava flow down the cliffs at night into the sea, listening to the language of the wind, the stars.

About the Roster Check
       He went missing for the whole semester.  I only saw him in the hallway about twice, cuddling up to the Food Science teacher and smoking on the corner by Security.  The last encounter did not go so well, him storming into my room and yelling that I told everyone where he lived.  He must’ve meant the time I picked him up hitchhiking near
Kaloli Drive
and took him way down through the subdivision to where people squat in their jungle shacks. On the way there, I told him about Oregon and the ash from Mt. Mazama, how unique Oregon archeology really is because of it.  He was half listening, sweating and agreed to come to class if I’d reward him with McDonalds coupons.  He accomplished this a total of one time; disappearing, invisibly angry, already over it.  Over it already. Refusing to work on his job portfolio binder because the page that said references made him so mad.
      I can’t read, she said, reading the story about the little green shark and the Great Red Shark that is the ancestor of the people of the southern part of the island.  Yesterday, she showed me her new tattoo. Her brother’s names around a heart on her wrist, self-made. Her foster mom is her aunt and she baby sits for all the little kids. She gets to see her mom on the weekends if she stays out of trouble.  Nobody can disturb her when she
makes a poster. The one about No Drugs with a red slash on top of a pot leaf.  Her ex and current girlfriend got in a fight the other day before school in front of H Building.
Nobody knew what they were fighting over, she said. Security came after A. and D. had bashed each other around for what was two minutes but seemed like ten.    
       Come on, she said to the two girls, then pacing in a circle.  Do you want me to take your whole class, then, the guard asked sarcastically. No, just these two and these other two instigators, she said.
       A lit firecracker rolled from the door a few minutes later, bursting in a cloud of grey smoke. Hello, could you please send security, someone just threw a firecracker into my room.  Could you check the camera in hallway of H Building, upstairs from around ? Alright, everyone back to work. 
       What are you going to teach us, then, Miss?  How to talk like you? How to talk about the Mainland? How to be a hippy or a hillbilly?  I hate this school and I hate this class.  We don’t learn shit.
       Listen very carefully.  Pick the answer that is best.  Remember, listen very carefully to the following.  You will have 40 minutes to complete this test. Look only at your own paper.  Do your best and then wait for the next question. Listen and then choose.  Your score will be determined by the number of questions you answer correctly. I will repeat a question only once.  Please raise your hand to signal that a question needs to be repeated.  Mary is waiting by the bank and sees her mother drive by in a car. Mary waves and then picks up her cell phone to call her mother because she and her brother have been there 20 minutes and maybe she didn’t see them as she drove past.  What happened first? 

     The Union Rep. brought in the settlement paper for my signature.  I looked down the list of names cc’d, the names became another link to an unsavory future I did not want a part of.  What would become of me if I stuck with this job—even though I was working undercover?  Would I just be another mealy worm wiggling around in the sawdust while a pet reptile waited to devour me?  I felt an almost relief at this realization.  It came too late.  Too late to be of educational value.  Like a pull-tab ripped out of the pop-up book of my assignment—I felt something necessary, yet disappointing being deleted out of the heart of this picture.  Teaching.  Detective Work.  Tumor.  Care.
       The earthquake preparedness manual stated that stacks of paper do not compress when a building collapses.  A triangle or void of safety is made beside them.  The great advantage would be to lay in a fetal position beside such a stack.
       I looked at my stack of progress reports.  They were deceiving.  The computer sitting beside them held more than enough “paper work” to allow me to survive.

Furlough Fridays

            It is hard to focus on those days, difficult to concentrate.  I am not a fan.  Or am I?  I learned how to speak this way by a lot of practice and a lot of observation.  It was sort of damaging.  It also didn’t matter much, I found out at a later date.
            A series of days cancelled off the calendar.  Crossed off.  Everyone who regularly attends is eternally grateful.  Glad for the time off.  The time away from the institution.  It all seems so bitterly bland.
            There is nothing left to enjoy.  I cannot focus.  I’ve hauled out something but I don’t know what it is.  A big, gigantic fish that I didn’t know what to do with.  Not at all.

Professional Development Workshop

For the motivational video, a corporate trainer spoke behind the barbed wire at Auschwitz.  It was strange how the barbed wire looked newish and the gate with the famous slogan, “Arbeit Macht Frei” did too.  It was a bit mysterious as to why a video like this would be shown.  Could it be for the students? Or the teachers?  Or is our society an Auschwitz that we must survive? Victor Frankel’s story about throwing starfish back into the ocean was a little closer to the target of thinking about students.  That a few may be saved.  I wonder about this story and the mysterious arms that grow into new starfish.
            The parent newsletter will tell of the planner. “If you take all the issues and try to do them, then everything will backfire and nothing will work.”

Grievance Meeting

            Rather than a hearing, Grievance #0616.  What about #0614?  Need to combine the two hearings.  Addressed to Pat? No, #0614 is addressed to Mary.  “All in the packets.” (Mark).  All the paperwork that is involved.  Need copies, oh, no, need #0614.  A technicality.  You’re saying that #0614 is combined with #0616.  Personnel offices felt…would reconvene at Step #2.  What happened on that date? Employer was asked to supply documentation for overall rating.  It was prepared by the Vice Principal and how was the document presented?  Documents that supported the marginal rating.  Did she get a copy of…?  Failure to sign would result in disciplinary action.