Wednesday, June 28, 2006

And it comes to an end....

Student reflections...

My favorite parts of science class this year was the experiments we did. Usually in science we just read from the textbook. In this science class we're hands on.

Things that Ms. Frizzle did to help me were explaining the things I didn't get. When I needed something she got it. Gave me words to use.

I wish Ms. Frizzle had a class of chemistry like when you mixe liquids and smoke comes out. I wish she also had things to dissect.

The kids overwhelmingly want to do chemistry and dissections.

I wished Ms. Frizzle had not given me alot of lab reports this whole year because that is so much thinking for the entire year.

Things that Ms. Frizzle did to help me were that if I didn't understand something, she would break it down step by step. She explains the concepts thoroughly for me to understand.

Things that Ms. Frizzle did to help me were waiting for me to finish my experiment even after the deadline. Or not complaining so much about a simple little things like other teachers do, she just takes it calmly not violently.

I wish Ms. Frizzle had given my mother study sheets earlier in the year because my grade could have started going up.

Things that Ms. Frizzle did to help me were... you picked on me. I didn't think it was bad. I was glad that you did that because other teachers don't pick on me just to pick on me. It's mostly to help, and I kind of liked it.
(Ed. note: she means picking her to answer questions) I am reallly going to miss you. You really were the only teacher who I feel who really cared. Thank you! Wow. I would not have guessed. Do you ever really know what's going on in their heads?

Things Ms. Frizzle did to help me was get mad at me. And always say that I had to meet her halfway. This from a bright but very, very troubled girl who never met me even one tenth of the way. I just kept hitting her with the same message. Maybe one day she'll be able to not just hear it, but act on it.

Things Ms. Frizzle did to help me were when she graded my work, she was really specific on what I had to do; and it helped me realize what I was doing wrong, so I won't make the mistake again.

I wish Ms. Frizzle had things to digest. It would be kind of fun opening frogs and stuff.

I wish Ms. Frizzle had an air conditioner. Every day coming into a hot room then having to think with hot air. It really doesn't work for me.
Doesn't work for me either, honey, but it's not up to me.

And the honesty awards go to...

My favorite part of science class was all the times wen peoples phones got taken away because it was funny.

My favorite part of science class this year was nothing because we only did work work work we did not relax a little.

And that, folks, is really the end. Ms. Frizzle is dead, or maybe, like Walt Disney, just cryogenically frozen in hopes of future revival. But there's still a lot of good stuff to read out there... my friends post-hip chick, Mildly Melancholy, se hace camino al andar, and many others... check the blogroll. And here's something new that I strongly suggest you check out.

Thanks - it's been a good three years!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I should be in bed, but

it's the end of a long day, and I need a few minutes to just sit on my bed and wind down. So I may as well write something. I'm still sick. But the fever is under control and the body aches are (mostly) gone and I know what it is and have Cipro to treat it, and so I was back at work today. I'm not sure if it was disorientation from having been in so much pain for four days and then re-entering the real world, or whether the fever killed off a few brain cells, or whether it was all the medication I've taken this week, but I definitely was spacey in school today, enough so that several people commented on it. Normally, the words that come out of my mouth line up pretty nicely with what I want to say, but today my words were trying to keep up with thoughts that kept jumping around.... it was kind of amusing, and harmless, and the kids didn't notice anything, so....

I have another prescription for more Cipro to take with me to India, so the worst that happens with the typhoid situation is that I get it, take the Cipro, and get better. I will not die in India. That's a relief.

I sign my lease tomorrow. I would be more excited about this if it weren't going to be such a huge strain on my budget. When I tell people the rent and the neighborhood, they point out that it's actually a good rent for a 1 bedroom in Inwood, which it probably is. But it's a huge increase for me, and the broker's fee is what really hurts. There's not a lot I can do, and at least I love the apartment. So much the worse to be broke and moving into a place you're not that wild about!

And I can pick up my work visa tomorrow. I probably won't make it to the Consulate, which is in a completely different part of town from the new apartment, but knowing that it's available to pick up is such a relief.

Field Day was cancelled due to the likelihood of rain. It didn't rain, but I didn't hear any complaints. Our awards ceremony was pulled together through herculaean efforts, given that no one did anything about it on Monday and essentially all the color printers at school were broken, but we did it. Of course, even though we'd reserved the auditorium, a teacher from the elementary school was using it and would not be budged, so we ended up having it in a gym space, with the kids sitting on the floor. It was kind of anti-climactic.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


1. I'm sick as a dog. It was over 90 degrees in our classrooms on Friday, so hot that no one believed me when I told them I thought I had a fever. Then I went home, lay down, took my temperature: 102.5. I've had to run around all weekend looking for an apartment. I missed the 8th grade graduation because the trains were all messed up and I was late to my first apartment visit earlier that morning and then was too far away to make it back to the ceremony.

2. Anyway, I think I've found a place: it's too expensive, but it's huge, beautiful, in a pre-war building in Inwood, and, most importantly, they liked my credit and let me leave a deposit to hold the place until I can fax them a hundred more financial documents. The whole process makes me so angry. Why do you need my last three paystubs, my last bank statement, my tax returns, my social security card, my last six rent receipts... I pay my bills! That's what the credit check proved! They are charging a high fee for a "broker" who, as far as I can tell, doesn't exist and has done nothing to rent the apartment (although I have her business card and have to make out a money order to her. The previous tenant posted the ad and showed me the place. He's as pissed as I am. But enough rage, the point is, it's a gorgeous apartment in a pretty and safe neighborhood.

3. My health plan won't cover my typhoid vaccine for India. Luckily, they will cover the malaria vaccine. I'm irritated that I have to pay $75 out of pocket for something that will protect my health while travelling, but that's not the main issue. We have to fill "maintenance" prescriptions through a mail-order service. I didn't think a typhoid vaccine was a maintenance medication, so I took it to my normal pharmacy, way back in May when I got the prescription. Two days later, they told me they couldn't fill it, so I mailed it in. I got two automated messages on my voicemail telling me the mail order pharmacy had received and filled my prescription. But nothing arrived in the mail. I started to get a little anxious, because I have to start taking this at least two weeks before I go (I'm leaving July 5th - we're now well past the two week mark). So, I called customer service to ask about the missing prescription. They told me they would re-order it and mail it overnight mail, but I'd have to pay the co-pay again. Okay. Two days later, guess what arrives? A letter informing me that they couldn't fill it, and my original prescription. Upshot? I can't get the medication until Monday, and as a result, I will be at risk of getting typhoid for the first few days I'm in India. What I fail to understand is why they didn't tell me on the phone - or earlier - that they couldn't fill the prescription. I could have gone to my doctor for another, taken it to a local pharmacy, and filled it myself a week ago!

4. Earlier this week, my exchange partner emailed me, saying I needed to fax her my transcripts immediately, along with copies of my diplomas. I faxed the transcripts the next day but.... I have this weird situation with my master's degree diploma, which you can only understand if you work in NYC. Basically, I got my masters during a two year period when Teachers College, TFA, and the DOE teamed up to pay for teachers to get masters degree in exchange for a longer commitment to teaching in NYC schools. It was a sweet deal; I didn't have to pay very much for my degree. I did my part, and Columbia did theirs, but of course, when it came time to pay the bills, the DOE never came through. So, when I graduated, I couldn't get my diploma. The school acknowledges that I graduated when asked, but no diploma. I went back and stood in line at the registrar's office three or four times in the year and a half after I finished my degree, but each time, the story was the same. The agreement was between TC, TFA, and the DOE, so I couldn't really apply pressure on the DOE directly, as it wasn't an agreement they entered into with me personally. Finally, I gave up, figuring I had the degree, TC would back me up on that, did I really need the piece of paper? Hmmm. Now I do. I'm hoping that when I stop by TC on Monday afternoon, the problem will have resolved itself and they'll be able to give me a diploma. But I have to admit, I'm not confident of this.

5. Monday is our awards ceremony and Tuesday is Field Day, both of which I am really, really involved with planning, only I've been too busy and too sick and waiting on information from other people, and now... I don't know how they're going to happen.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Loose Ends

There are a lot of ends in my life right now, and nearly all of them are loose.


This is the first day in - I literally don't know how long - that I have been home before six on a weekday. Dinner has transformed from a meal often cooked at home to the question, Do I eat out the expensive way or the cheap way? And so, despite the 90 degree, you-can-nearly-swim-it's-so-humid weather, I think I'm going to make homemade pizza tonight. With bell peppers and fontina cheese. Ahhhhh.

I believe that the mind needs space and time to wander, for one's sanity. Time to notice and take in and wonder, time to think morbid thoughts and silly thoughts and worry a little, time to hear the way words sound together and take in the smells and sounds of the street, time to remember and to anticipate. Without that, my mind, at least, becomes forgetful, errands and appointments and commitments overlooked, papers misplaced, phone calls unreturned. And I stay up late because when I do not give it time to wander, my mind seizes that time at the end of long days.

One of the things keeping me up nights has been worry about my work visa. I am allergic to paperwork and bureaucracy. When I have important papers to fill out, everything feels ominous; I am sure that long lines and mean-spirited, beleaguered clerks await me, that I'm missing a crucial piece of information or misread a line of instructions, that I will be rejected for an incorrect digit. In this case, I was certain that my visa would take weeks, that they'd need my passport at the same time that I'd need it in order to go to India, that I'd have to rush around, beg, plead, bribe, that I might be allowed into Turkey but only after promising my first-born. Today, I finally gathered all the necessary information, passport-sized photos, copies of documents, and fees, and rushed downtown to the Turkish Center at the UN Plaza, bracing myself for bad news. The consulate was empty, and air-conditioned, the first two reasons to fall in love with Turkey. The woman found my name on a Fulbright list, took my papers, and twenty minutes later slid my receipt under the glass: Your visa will be ready on June 28th, bring this with you to pick it up. And that was all there was to it! As I waited for my visa, I looked around at all the words that I know how to pronounce but don't understand - which is progress - spotting familiar suffixes and guessing at the meanings. I intended to say Teşekkurler instead of thank you, but shyness (and sheer relief) overcame me at the crucial moment...

So, walking home on the East River promenade, my mind finally had a chance to wander. The city is smelly and hot, oppressively humid, but it's New York, and I wouldn't have it any other way: the industrial waterfront, the diesel smell of the highway, the guys fishing and couples making out, the flowers in curving beds, the bikers whistling a warning as they zip by, the epic bridges, a lone waterbird, construction everywhere, high school students wading among the pilings near 23rd Street.


Contest winners.

Muriel nailed it:
I'll venture a guess, but I won't be very precise with the details. It would have been easier if you had also bought eggs (the famous eggshell experiment).
As you bought both sugar cubes and extra fine sugar, I'm guessing you're going to work on solutions and mixtures. The fact that you bought different liquids might mean that you're going to work with different solvents.
Exp 1 : Use the same solvent (water) to time the dissolution of the same amount of sugar in cubes or fine. This could show that fine sugar dissolve more easily because it has more surface contact with solvent (I'm guessing that's a good enough explanation for middle school).
Exp 2: using the same amount of sugar, time the dissolution in different solvents (water, vinegar, cola, alcohol). This would show that different solvents dissolve the same thing at different rates. I'm not sure how far you would go in the scientific explanation of this.

and Kris made me laugh:
She has been presented with the tremendously difficult task of teaching 7 middle schoolers to work cooperatively. To do so, she challenges them to create an accurate replica of Scooby Doo in less than nine minutes using only the following materials: a box of sugar cubes, a box of super-fine sugar, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, a bag of 50 plastic cups, and a box of 50 plastic spoons. Ten minutes later, she is faced with a semi-doglike structure, 7 grinning students and quite a mess from the 'glue' the team created by mixing rubbing alcohol and super-fine sugar. Being environmentally conscientious, she uses an entire bottle of white vinegar to clean up, and sits down to a well deserved meal: one of Annie's brand Indian microwave dinners and 3 bottles of Pepsi (she desperately needs that caffeine).

And so they will each find a cheesy - very cheesy - NYC postcard heading their way in the mail.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

From Tom Brokaw's commencement address to the Stanford class of 2006:
The memorable people for me represent that vast population of young and old of every hue and origin who gave up comforts and convention to answer their conscience, who are guided by their moral compass to difficult challenges and who are determined to make a difference. They lived in the real world and they took responsibility for it. They did not attach themselves simply to a virtual experience and find satisfaction in a search engine. They were boots on the ground, hands in the dirt, nights in scary places, healing and courageous. They stepped into the unknown and they made it more welcoming for the rest of us.

...These are difficult times. We are at war. And this war, as all wars are, is one freighted with mistakes and miscalculations, lethal consequences, highly charged emotions, defeats and successes. It is the debate in which we all have a say. I have a special place in my mind and in my heart for those who understand that patriotism is not a loyalty oath. I am never more proud to be an American than when a fellow citizen steps forward and says, "Can't we do better?"

In short,

I've been in California at my brother's graduation from Stanford, where I had lunch by the bay with phc and met the cute, sleepy, and extremely easy-to-get-along-with Olivia. Graduation events with my family - my brother graduated with a major in Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity, a thesis about labor history at Stanford, and a minor in Spanish and might be going into teaching - and a little nostalgia for my old campus. I still know when to jump when the LSJUMB plays "All Right Now"... Then a show at my friend's art space, CounterPulse, and a lovely breakfast with her. More graduation events and a little World Cup in the student union. My parents drove me to a friend's house party (it's been a long time since that happened!), where I unexpectedly knew almost everyone! So I got to catch up - however briefly - with people I haven't seen in years and others whom I see every year. My friends are union organizers, work with youth, sell t-shirts, work in the arts, teach... they are silly and smart and inspiring and good people, and I miss them. My brother gave a speech at graduation, we went out to dinner, I chatted with a friend of his who studied abroad in Turkey. It was a good weekend, and a whirlwind, and I am left a touch sunburned and asking myself the unsettling yet persistent question: Why don't I live in San Francisco?

Lots to say about a lot of things, no time - ever, any more - to say it. I spent most of today grading seventh grade final projects about climate change and sixth grade lab reports about solutions, so that I can enter all my grades tomorrow, prepare certificates for an awards ceremony, plan field day, and continue my search for an apartment. I'm nervous as hell about my work visa, but I don't yet have an address in Turkey and have been asking and asking... I'm supposed to be taking my typhoid vaccine to prepare for India but I had to order it from the stupid mail order pharmacy and it hasn't arrived and hasn't arrived. Neither have the malaria pills, though I don't take those for another week or so.

Things will ease up when school ends next Wednesday, but I have no interest in wishing away days. My head is in a thousand places, and sometimes leaves me feeling like the last person you'd want to know. Or maybe I just feel that way tonight.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Threadless shirts are cool but tend to shrink a little weird... but d*mn, do I wish I knew a geologist to buy this for. Especially 'cause it's only $10 right now. This one's pretty geeky fun, too. No, I don't know why I always like the brown ones best.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Science Program Grant: "Making a Difference" Award

My principal just forwarded me a link to this grant application: DCAT "Making a Difference" Award. It's for $2500 to expand a successful middle school science program. You have to describe your program and prove that it has been successful. I think it would be a relatively easy grant to write, and that we might have a shot at getting it. We have the test scores as a starting point for proving our success, and I'd ask some former students to write letters of support indicating their on-going interest in science. What would be harder is making the case that we have a coherent program at all. What we have has developed organically - is still developing - and is full of holes that we are struggling to close. Although we've done some curriculum mapping and whatnot, I don't feel like we have a strategically-designed "program" yet. Then again, if I learned anything in college, it was how to take fragments and present them as though they were a whole - and I can do it pretty convincingly. And goodness knows, we could use the funding, and I would LOVE to attend NSTA (except I'd be out of the country and wouldn't be able to go, anyway).

And then there's the bitter, immature part of me that is like, Write the d*mn grant yourself. You don't even want me here. But why cut off my nose to spite my face? We'll probably apply.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


The field trip went off... not without a hitch, because there were hitches (a few kids got seasick, some problems with the subway, etc.)... but really, really well. On the train downtown, one girl was already telling me this was the "best field trip ever." Uh-oh, I thought, those are some high expectations to live up to... But the trip was already exceeding my own expectations, because despite the forecast of nothing but thunderstorms, I'd awoken to partly cloudy skies, and as the day went on, the sky cleared completely, and we ended the afternoon with brilliant sunshine. I lugged around three children's ponchos that I'd purchased for the unprepared and several layers of fleece and raingear that I'd packed for myself, and never had to use them, but I'm not complaining! In the end I had a line of children in front of me with a hand out for a squirt of sunscreen; we'd ranted and raved to them about the need for raingear and had kind of neglected the sun-protection lecture.

We arrived downtown right on time, and I headed over to Pier 16 with the group that was sailing first. This sail was the calmest. We started with a brief safety talk, and then the kids got to help raise the sails. They lined up along the halyards and hauled, hand over hand, shouting Heave, ho! at the end when it got really heavy. By this point, the kids who were initially nervous were smiling and chatting with their friends. The crew put a few kids to work coiling line, and others raised the foresails.

We spotted the Statue of Liberty and had a brief discussion of local geography. Now, I'm not exactly known for my sense of direction, but once I know where Manhattan and Brooklyn are, I do have a rough sense of where the other boroughs must be. Not so the kids. Where's the Bronx? the ship's educator asked. Several hands pointed towards New Jersey. Where's Queens? This one, they were sure, was in the direction of New Jersey. Where's Staten Island? And they all pointed towards Jersey. Every time we do a big trip like this one, we talk about just getting a couple of subway maps and talking to the kids about local geography and how to get around the city. Some are old pros at taking the subway alone, but others.... uptown? downtown? local? express? No clue.

The ship's educator gave the kids a few minutes to just look around them and take in their surroundings. For this first sail, she asked them to do it in silence. It was so peaceful, and the kids were mostly quiet, looking around, listening to the wind, the sails, the waves. For many, it was their first time on a boat, maybe even their first time downtown. For that alone, it was worth it. Everything has to be about enriching kids' knowledge of the world, adding to their experiences. The next time they read about sailing, or the ocean, they will have a memory to relate it to.

Then we played block & tackle tug o'war. We put one little girl on the end of the line that was attached to a block (pulley). One of our larger boys was on the other end, a fixed line. The kids gasped as the girl easily won! More heavy people were stacked against her. She continued to win. But she has a pulley! they said.

On our way back, we split the kids up into three stations. One station built boats out of aluminum foil to test how the shape of the hull affects how much cargo the boat can hold. They tested their boats in little tubs of seawater. Another group did a workshop on sail theory. A third group looked at navigational charts and how to calculate speed in the water.

Finally, we reached the pier and headed back to shore. The kids were happy, the teachers were happy, our parent chaperones were happy. As we took kids to the bathroom and let them buy icees, the next group arrived, and I was off sailing again.

The second and third sails were much like the first, except that each group had more energy than the one before. By the end of the day, it was really hot and bright out, and they'd been scarfing candy at every opportunity and were very excitable. First one boy complained of seasickness. He sat for most of the sail with his head on his knees. Soon others started complaining. I wasn't sure how much it was real and how much it was the power of suggestion, until three kids started puking over the side of the boat. I'll give the kids credit, though, they were very brave about it. They felt bad, but didn't cry or fuss, they just calmly vomited and sipped water. I brought extra bottles of water, but next time, I'll bring even more.

Our other two groups had left for home by this point, and called to say that the subway that we needed to take was not running. Uh-oh. Luckily, nearly every train line runs from lower Manhattan, so we brainstormed another route and braced ourselves for a slow, crowded trip home. My group stopped to watch a juggler for a few minutes, and by the time we got to the train station, everything was normal again, although you really haven't lived until you've taken 26 kids home from a long day's field trip in a rush-hour subway car (it didn't even get better uptown, because there was a Yankee game and we were just in time to get caught in the middle of all that traffic, too).

By the time we straggled home - around 7 pm - all the teachers were wiped out. What. A. Day. But the kids loved it, and that's what matters.

And it didn't start raining until hours later, after I had dinner with another teacher, as we headed home to crawl into our beds.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Why I will miss New York, reason #36:

The Bow Bridge, Central Park. I wandered through on my way from the Indian Consulate to the doctor's office today. I love the East Village, but I lived three blocks from the northern part of the park for three years, and it truly was the best backyard ever.

Eureka! NYC Educator found it first...

so, head over to his place for some news from the Colbert Report on the state of science education in the United States. (And at the start of the clip, it becomes clear that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales could use a little timeline of technological history...). Oy.

Never call yourself akılsız, even when you feel that way...*

This is how I imagine my attempts at Türkçe are going to go:

Nasılsın? (How are you?)


(5 minutes later...)

Az hastayım. (A little sick. This is why I'm home... the kids have the day off today, and I'm staying home to try to kick my bad cold before our sailing trip tomorrow.)

Neredesin? (Where are you?)

...okay, I'm at the train station...

...tiren istasyon...

...except that's a noun modification...

...tiren istasyonu..., I need the suffix for location...

...tiren istasyonuda...oops... use an "n" before a suffix after a noun modification...

...tiren istasyonunda... I need my personal ending...

...word ends in a vowel, personal ending starts with y...

...a goes with ı...

...tiren istasyonundayım...

(forty minutes later)

Tiren istasyonundayım! (I am at the train station!)


*My teacher explained that the Turks never refer to themselves as "stupid" when they mess up, like many people do in English. They just say Çok fena - Very bad - and move on.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Talk about a teachable moment...

I'm not feeling well and am immersed in finalizing the details of Friday's sailing field trip, but here's something I hope never happens on any of my trips...

In other news, some of our seventh graders lit a book on fire in the classroom during social studies class. The teacher was in the doorway, speaking privately to another student. By "fire," I mean actual flames, not just a singed corner of a page. Flames, people. Apparently, they had a lighter that looked like a pen, and had been passing it around all day, threatening to jump anyone who snitched.

Monday, June 05, 2006

It figures.

The closer we get to Friday, the-day-we-take-80-pre-adolescents-all-the-way-downtown-to-go-sailing, the worse the weather forecast. Cross everything you can cross, donate any weather karma you might have stashed somewhere, pray, do whatever it takes, but please, please make Friday sunny. Hell, I'd take misty or even partly cloudy. Just... no thunderstorms.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Rhythm, Music

The stage in our building's auditorium is only a few feet off the ground, flanked by a blue curtain, with no backdrops of any kind. The words, "Anything Is Possible," are stenciled onto the back wall, white on black, and from nearly anywhere in the audience, you can see the door to backstage propped open with an orange traffic cone, our school aide sitting on a piano in the "wings," coaching the performers in our annual talent show.

Our two emcees are 8th grade boys, one in our school's sweatsuit (it's a gym day), the other in shirt & tie. They are funny and enthusiastic, heads swelled with the pride of being on stage, the power of emcee-ing. Whenever the first boy speaks, I hold my breath, hoping he'll stick to whatever they rehearsed.

The first four or five acts are all musical. Two willowy 8th grade girls, the lucky kind who are top-of-their-class smart, well-mannered, and beautiful, perform "The Boy is Mine," backing each other across the stage, pointing fingers and giving the hand with exaggerated attitude. Near the end of the song, the girls walk away from each other towards the corners of the stage, where the emcees are sitting, staring up at them. As she approaches, tall and in a rather small skirt, one emcee suddenly realizes he'd better sit somewhere else. Or maybe her look tells him to move. He moves, and looks out at the audience. A sixth grader performs next, another pop/R&B ballad, followed by several similar performances. The audience sings along, claps in rhythm, cheers enthusiastically. Anyone who doubts the benefit of or need for arts education should take a look at an audience of kids who bop, sing, clap, and sway to any rhythm you play for them, fairly bursting to dance and sing.

The kids have arrived at or been coached in a compromise between sexiness and school-appropriate dress - flowing tops, tight jeans, short-but-not-obscene jean skirts worn with high-heeled boots, button-down shirts, colorful neckties... A group of 8th graders gets up and does a step dance. They're good, that's undeniable, but should they know how to shake it like that?

There are long pauses between acts. The music nearly always must be started again. There are no mic stands, so the emcees place the mics on the floor or hand them to the performers at the start of their acts. Yards of wires clutter the stage, one emcee belly-flopping onto the stage to pull them out of the way as the performers begin dancing. The emcees shout out Puerto Rico and shout out the Dominican Republic, and to all those in-between! The audience goes wild.

A tiny sixth grader, a girl who approaches life as though it is a constant crisis, her hand waving furiously and her face semaphoring urgency whenever she needs anything, belts out a gospel tune. She's so young you can see the little girl t-shirt she's wearing under her tight, low-cut white shirt. My front row of sixth graders sways, raises their arms, partly in irony, partly infected by the energy of the song. The girl on stage stomps her feet and gestures grandly as she sings. Her mom snaps pictures.

The afternoon ends with a performance from our incredible ballroom dance team, the boys in black pants, dress shirts, and burgundy-and-peach striped ties, chosen to accent the girls' tasteful, flowing peach shirts and swinging black skirts. They perform a merengue, which has the audience clapping and swaying and supervisors from the elementary school's afterschool program swinging their hips as they wait for us to clear the auditorium. Then they do a dramatic tango, arms arched over their heads, eyes locked on each other. They finish with a swing number, lots of old-style attitude, hands shaking, big smiles. The sixth graders, who have been chatty (and catty) throughout the show, are dead silent, eyes fixed on the stage. I ask my principal if the ballroom dance program is cut for certain next year - and it turns out it isn't! Sixty-six hundred dollars, she says, and every dollar was worth it. And we're having an outside organization provide PE and arts programming next year, and they will do additional ballroom dance with the younger kids (many of whom participated in the dancing classrooms program in elementary school and were nodding along as each song started, remembering what it was and how the steps go).

And then flowers were given to the organizers, and to the kids, and we took our classes and sent them out into the rainy afternoon.

Why I will miss New York, reason #83:

Walking home through the East Village. Crossing the street against the light, a little old lady walks slowly, bent over her cane. A young guy on a bike comes screaming around the corner, just missing the little old lady and just making the light: Waaaaaaaaatcccccccchhhhhhhhh ooooooouuuuuuuuttttttt!!!!!!!

A few minutes later, the sky goes yellow-green and opens up, raindrops the size of strawberries, the streets running with two inches of water after only ten minutes of rain. I am soaked through, even with an umbrella. So wet that when I get home and am checking my mailbox, one of my neighbors comes downstairs, sees the state I'm in: Jesus!

It's the kind of rain that, once you realize you could wring out your clothes but aren't likely to get any wetter, is pretty fun to play in, the kind that makes waiting it out in doorways seem romantic, wading through the puddles seem courageous, racing through the park hilarious.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Contest! Contest!

I will send cheesy NYC postcards to two winners: one for the answer the most closely matches reality and one for the funniest/most creative answer:

Say you're working at a supermarket check-out at 7 am on a Wednesday. A young woman unloads the following from her basket: a bottle of white vinegar, a box of sugar cubes, a box of super-fine sugar, 3 bottles of Pepsi (all the same size), a bottle of rubbing alcohol, a bag of 50 plastic cups, a box of 50 plastic spoons, and one of Annie's brand Indian microwave dinners. How do you explain this combination of items?

Make sure you leave your email address along with your answer in the comments, so I can contact you for your mailing address should you happen to win! Or, if you're spam-avoidant, go ahead and email me your answer: ms [dot] frizzle [at] gmail [dot] com.

Why I will miss New York, reason #71:

I was walking home through Tompkins Square Park today and happened upon a small stage, like you'd set up at a small-town Fourth of July celebration, festooned with balloons that spelled out, "Kulpick* Wings Eating Contest." A small group of ordinary people stood directly in front of the stage, clapping raucously, yet oddly almost in rhythm, slightly too-smiling, it seemed to me. A couple of women stood on the stage, tossing chicken wings casually into the crowd.

And, oh yeah, a hip young man stood on the stage between the women, pointing a giant camera down at the clapping, smiling extras.

*I might have this name wrong. Something like.


And speaking of New York, this just nails it.

Violence Prevention

I finally did my state-required two-hour violence prevention workshop, yesterday. Before you ask, no, I don't know how it took me this long to get around to it. It was... interesting.

I had somehow acquired the misconception that this was going to be a workshop about preventing violence between students. Turns out, it was about preventing students from being violent towards me!

I've never felt personally threatened by a student, possibly because I independently figured out many of the "Seventeen Principles" of violence prevention, such as staying alert, being aware of environments and days that might trigger violence, keeping lines of communication open, providing physical and psychological space, and so on. Learning to provide a "violence-prone" student the psychological space to back out of a situation while saving face: that's a hard one, but so important.

Our instructor was hilarious, both intentionally and unintentionally. He's a former PE teacher and current college athletic director. Tall and lean, there was something about the cut and color of his suit - like this one, only silver-gray - that perfectly matched his classic old school New York accent. He taught through stories, providing two or three real-life examples for each of the seventeen principles, usually examples of what happened when people didn't follow the principles. Some of the stories were kind of scary - teachers leaving building doors open or guards stepping away from their desks and outsiders entering the building and attempting to rape or stab people inside. Some were funny - he imitated us entering the room, choosing our seats in an almost-mathematical attempt to maximize the space around us.

Be aware of cultural differences, he said, and proceeded to explain that in some Oriental cultures, parents teach their children not to look adults in the eye.

Never a dull moment.

I still wish I'd learned how to do more to prevent violence among children. Now that would be a useful workshop!