Monthly Archives: January 2007

this is just to say.

Just real quick because it’s past my bedtime: loving children is very easy, but teaching them is very hard.  And teaching them when they are mostly the children of poor immigrants who don’t realize that their life’s improvement (which, in many cases, was their parents’ primary reason for moving here in the first place) will be based almost entirely on the degree of education they obtain is wildly frustrating.

But loving, being the easy part, is what I will go to bed thinking about tonight, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to fall out of bed in the morning.  I wish they understood that my goal, simply, is to help them attain their dreams.

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Scarf Surgery

Several years ago now my Grandmother made me a beautiful scarf. Like most of my winter clothes, it ended up in a plastic bin that now supports a temple of bookshelves in an effort to save space in my small Manhattan bedroom. It’s difficult to get into that bin. But I missed that scarf. Especially in these days since I’ve become an avid knitter, it seemed undignified to continue to wear the GAP produced scarf I’d been wrapping myself in. Since I’ve yet to make a scarf for myself (the others have all been gifts), I needed to resurrect my Grandma’s scarf.

Although this was easier said than done, I did do it, but found it did not make it back into the land of the wintry living unscathed, as you can see below.
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I don’t know what got into that plastic bin to eat those holes, but something needed to be done. I brought the problem to Ravi’s attention (check out her blog in my blogroll…), and together we decided that the best way to save the scarf would be to amputate the rotten bits and bind off anew. Following her advice, I used a tapestry needle to thread yarn through the stitches of a row several rows away from the last hole. I then cut below the hole and unraveled.

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With that newly freed yarn, I knit two more rows and bound off. (I’d include a pic of it here, but I can’t get that pic to resize correctly…) Fortunately my Grandma made the scarf so long that the removal of 10 inches didn’t render the thing useless, and now I can wear it proudly with any of the number of hats made for me by friends…I haven’t made one of those for myself yet either, but that’s what’s next for me to learn once I finish this baby blanket.

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Voila.

It’s late and I’m drained of all energy and good humor, but I wanted to quickly post a pic of Her Loveliness, the inimitable drama teacher extraordinaire, Ms. Lisa-Erika James wrapped in a chic li’l 2×2 ribbed scarf I made for her.

Happy Tuesday.

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It’s my time of the month and I’m feeling (sic)!

Okay, let me just say that I am not laughing at my students when they confuse English words and malaprop things all over the place. I’ve been in their place. I spent six weeks during the summer of 1999 teaching in Mexico, and I asked a student of mine if I could see his “chaqueta,” which in my mind and on my tongue meant “jacket.” And it does mean “jacket” in Spain, but in Mexico it means “to masturbate” (chaquetar). Basically, instead of asking if I could see his jacket (which was new and colorful), I asked if I could see him “jack it”…and a chorus of laughter ensued.

We make mistakes when we dress our tongues in new languages, it’s how we learn. And it’s flippin’ hysterical to native speakers of that language when we do it.

As was the case today, when an ESL student told me quietly (and with a sense of lost honor) that her 13-year-old cousin not only had a baby after having sex, she also lost her vagina!

Me: I don’t think you mean “vagina,” you mean…

Student: Oh yeah, I know that…I mean she lost her vaginity.

🙂 From the mouths of babes…

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One knitting bag to rule them all…

In spite of my novitiate status as a knitter, I have a pretty f***in’ sweet knitting bag. When I attend a group of more experienced yarnies, I feel as though I haven’t earned this bag. Be this as it may, the bag found me and decided I was to be The One to possess it. It’s a burdensome role, but, you know, it’s fate — what can you do?

Actually, it was a Christmas gift from my friends who taught me how to knit. In hopes of warding off the jealous stares, I will tell you why it’s fabulous and where you can purchase one for yourself.

So, the Eagle Good to Go Bag is a great bag because it is made of sturdy canvas (so your needles won’t poke through) and is flanked on its sides by six pockets ready-made to hold a skein of yarn each; each pocket has a hole that you can run your yarn through so that it will pull through the inside of the bag, allowing you to knit comfortable when you’re out and about without having to hold your yarn between your legs or in other strange places where yarn just shouldn’t go. On the inside it is lined with myriad pockets for your gear, as well as elastic needle holders. It’s deep so that it can hold several projects all at once.

Pretty fab, and you don’t have to take my word for it:

http://www.knittersreview.com/forum/topic.asp?ARCHIVE=true&TOPIC_ID=41939񒀸

And you can get it at Michael’s, either in store or online.

http://www.michaels.com/art/online/displayProductPage?productNum=nw0231

I’m not usually one to proselytize, but what can I say? I like this bag.

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We don’t like your bush.

My students are learning about the Revolutionary War and the events leading up to it.  I had them analyze Ben Franklin’s “Join or Die” cartoon (the one with the snake chopped into bits, each bit representing one of the colonies), and then they created cartoons of their own.  The assignment yielded a spectrum of sophistication, from abstract commentary on our school’s uniform policy, to the colonists’ desire to maim King George III, to my very favorite cartoon. It’s my favorite not because of what she meant to say, but what she actually said.  This student (I don’t feel comfortable revealing names on this blog) is an English as a Second Language student from the Dominican Republic, and her cartoon depicted 20 people wearing Mickey Mouse ears and sour faces, and carrying signs that meant to read “We Don’t Like You, Bush,” but instead read what I’ve written above as the title line.

You can make it into a t-shirt if you like, but I get two shirts for free, one for me and one for my student to give to her when she graduates from high school in five years, hopefully with a stronger grasp of English.

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a spoonful of sugar with your humble pie.

If you’ve read my “About” section, you probably aren’t left with any concrete sense of what I’m going for here with this blog, but you’ve at least gleaned that whatever it is I’m trying to say will be said with levity and mirth.

For this reason, I will not use this blog as a forum for badmouthing people. Not much anyway, and if I do, all statements will be thoroughly disclaimed and apologized for, and will only be made if indeed relevant. Such is the statement that I’m about to make.

I attended a knitting circle tonight and expected to enjoy the company present there more than I truly did. No matter — they seemed to be enjoying themselves and I am glad for them. Several of the knitters present, however, were involved in education, either as teachers or policy shapers, and a discussion ensued about the dire state of the public schools in New York City.

When I overheard a couple discussing teaching, I tried to chime into the conversation but was either not heard or simply ignored. No matter: the more I listened to them, the more I realized that participation in the discussion would only wear me out. It amounted to the same sterile palaver that one always hears when teachers bitch: parents don’t know how to be good parents, students would rather play video games in class, the teacher factory organizations like Teach for America and Teaching Fellows aren’t actually helping the problem because the teachers they provide never stay more than two or three years (and ain’t I special for staying longer than that…). Believe me when I say that I understand the need to vent, because it’s not as though any of these statements are untrue. Teaching middle school is such a difficult challenge, so difficult, in fact, that we refer to it as “a calling.” It doesn’t make sense to us that we would choose of our own free will to take on the highly stressful challenge of teaching America’s most impoverished and deprived children to read and write and think, so it must be a calling. And it probably is, but for many it seems in retrospect that it must have been a wrong number call. Or maybe a prank.

But this doesn’t matter: we have chosen it, after all, and we can leave if we want, but in the meantime we have a job to do. The New York newspapers ran a story last week about how middle schools received failing grades as schools in the wake of the city’s push to improve elementary and high schools. As an insider, I can’t disagree with that statement. I, too, have bitched about the problems. I, too, have found comfort in apathy at times. But now I’m tired of all that. I don’t want to approach my schools problems with the attitude that everything is doomed, because even if it is (and I don’t believe it to be) that’s all the more reason to tackle the problems with a sense of humor. If you feel like you are fighting waves with a sword, simply put down your weapon and swim. You’ll either realize that you can’t fight water with a sword, and you’ll begin to ask why you’re fighting water in the first place.

And since it’s getting late and I’m beginning to write in trifling platitudes anyhow, I’ll end with this one, because I just heard a commercial on the radio for Mary Poppins. That irreverent nanny once sang, “To every job that must be done there is an element of fun: You find the fun and — Snap! — the job’s a game!” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

So anyway, expect from me the reasons why teaching middle schoolers in the South Bronx is sometimes a lot of fun. I’ll do so in part to entertain you readers, but mostly to remind myself in the harder times that middle schoolers are actually kind of funny and teaching them is, well, kind of neat.

Does this globe make my belly look big?
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