One of the hazards of living in very, very close proximity to Pratt is the random art attax that spring up in the surrounding blocks. This morning as I walked to the bus, I was fortunate enough to peep a piece of dog shit on the sidewalk that had been meticulously painted gold on one side and red on the other and the solitary word LOCALTY scribed delicately beneath in white enamel. And now, some Johnny-come-lately dilettante of a guitar player is fumbling through some Yo La Tengo chords in the loft directly across the alley from mine. I’ve officially entered the “grouchy” phase of my life.
Tonight was by all means one of the Top 5 happiest moments of my life. I’m nowhere near a point where I can even articulate why and how I am this proud of my country and my peers right now, but believe me, I’M THERE.
There’s honking, cheering and music flooding onto the streets of Brooklyn tonight and we’re not alone.
Ha. Tomorrow they have me proctoring the PSATs. What’s funny about that is that my memories of sitting through the PSATs are still vivid enough to talk about with my students. I told them that they needed to wear comfortable clothes, bring a SCIENTIFIC calculator, and EAT BREAKFAST. All things that I completely neglected to do when I took them, but look-at-me-I-turned-out-fine-etc.-etc.
How the tables have turned.
Ahh. I don’t know if my brain is cut out for this blogging thing. But I’ll push on. Try though I might, it’ll probably be another month before I opt to resurface.
I am stuck in a whirlpool of anxiety regarding this job. I am absolutely convinced that I have no fucking clue what I’m doing. And I have no idea how to change that. It’s been about 7 weeks, 7 weeks under my belt as “teacher” and my classes still feel as disorganized, chaotic and frustrated as they did during the first week. Are my students learning, or am I just repeating the same failed ideas that they didn’t get the first time around? The academics feel like a bit of a bust, and the social learning is even worse. My AP thinks I’ll be burning out in no time. I don’t see that necessarily happening on the horizon, but I’m also petrified of being fired/excessed/rejected because of this overwhelming ineptitude. Overwhelmed is definitely the word I’d use to describe it.
Interestingly, I’ve been informed that my lessons are essentially flying over my students’ heads. I’m giving them way more than they can handle. It’s already a challenge to simplify what I’ve got going on, but now I have to break it down even further. It’s such a counterintuitive process to what I experienced as a student throughout my life, that it’s been such a strange and mortifying experience trying to being effective in this role.
But… enough griping. I have the resources in front of me, and I am slowly figuring out how to use them. I’m visiting a professor at her house in a little while just so that we can work on lesson planning. I have meeting after meeting with mentors, other teachers, administrators, just so we can talk though what it is that I need to be doing. They say that this is the hardest stretch. The first few months of the year, before winter break, and then some kind of stride is hit after the holidays, and before you know it… the year is over. I just want to have something to show for it!
In other news, I’ve had Oregon on my mind a lot lately. It’s been weaseling its way into my long-term thinking process. I have this deep-seated feeling that I’ll be winding up there a lot sooner than I imagined. I’m craving familiarity in the face of all of these strange new experiences. I find myself thinking about Westwind all the time, and totally regretting my decision not to go back and work there last summer. I know that life and the decisions within it will naturally involve regret, but I’m constantly wishing that my regrets just didn’t involve that place. Let me screw up along any other path, but keep the sanctuary safe.
If anyone ever reads this from any point forth than where we are right now they will be immediately aware that my string of 4-posts-in-a-row was a total anomaly. I started this thing to keep a log on the goings-on of my first year of teaching, which has proven to be an even more ridiculous and harrowing experience than I ever imagined. EVER IMAGINED. So to you, future reader(s?), I’m glad you noticed that this bundle of posts on September 27th was a phenomenon never to be repeated.
I wrote something very long last week that was an attempt to document what’s going on with this new and crazy experience in education, but the powers that be with the Internet consumed the text and it totally vanished. I had a hard time believing that the intangible energy I exerted into the tangible product of text on screen (is it so tangible?) could actually really be lost. I scoured my history folder, looking for some record of the many paragraphs that I fit my rants, raves and hopes into. No dice. I was so angry with the whole affair that all of the passionate thoughts that I’d just written about were immediately replaced with irritable indignation and a refusal to write it all over again. GONE FOREVER, etc. etc.
The refusal still holds! And that is partly because whatever it is that I was feeling last week is nowhere near what I am feeling this week. I am utterly shocked by how polar each day as a special education teacher can really feel. I completely underestimated the totally emotional, painful and visceral side of this job. I’d been warned over and over again before settling into a school that this isn’t exactly a job that you can leave at the office at the end of the day. I find myself thinking about my students as I’m falling asleep at night, when I’m riding the subway, watching a movie, daydreaming, whatever. There is this immediacy that I feel, when I attempt to negotiate my role and my budding relationships with these students. I wanted to be effective on the very first day. I wanted to be planning fantastic lessons that taught these kids all the basics in one fell swoop, turned them into avid positive readers and ready to write their memoirs. I hit the ground running on day one at this school, but lately it feels like I’m running into brick walls or in circles rather than towards some grand end goal. Planning for just one day’s work takes as much brain power as I can muster. The scariest thing in the world, I’ve decided, is standing in front of a classroom with 15 eager pairs of eyes, waiting and watching for your every move.
This is not a job for the weak, and I’m still working on convincing myself that I’m one of the ones with strength. And, to reference the haphazard title of this archive, I can still hardly believe that this time last year, my days were so idle and indulgent at the same time. And I mean that in the fondest way possible, especially when I consider how much work I have to do this weekend.
Oh! And! In other news! Whenever I find a song on an em-pee-three blawg that really sends me, I feel like it’s the greatest fucking gift I’ve ever been given. Just amazing. This time, it was courtesty of gramotunezzz. Thanks, dudes. My thing for songs with batshit, yelping vocals is totally being satisfied right now. And this one starts so pretty and sweet and shit, only to just tear it up like the world’s coming to an end.
Originally from 8/28/08. Still true.
Today, I encountered the worst eating experiences I’ve ever had – IN A ROW!
I was assigned to teach at a middle school somewhere in the heart of Jewish turf in Brooklyn. Fair enough. The school was beautiful and the above-ground subway ride was pretty nice at 7 a.m. My early bird tendencies are starting to crop and I feel like a total adult when I’m strolling to the train with the rest of the working community. I land at the junior high magnet school with time to spare and land in the teacher’s lounge fair game for grazing on coffee and bagels. The bagels were gone, but the coffee was definitely flowing. THANK GOD.
So after a morning of bizarre reel-tapes about blood bourne diseases (?) and lectures on why my students must never, ever open the windows themselves (apparently they’ll fall out), I was FAMISHED. I marched out of the school in hot pursuit of something delicious, assuming there would be a deli or cafe around. No dice.
I should preface this triad with mention of the real first place I went to, which was advertised as “coffeeshop” and mentioned gyros and souvlaki on the board outside. I’m down! I went inside and I heard the record player screech to a halt. EVERYONE turned around, stared me down in complete silence, and didn’t look away until I slowly backed out of the shop. Uh, what? It was like 12:15 on a Thursday noon. What sort of illicit activity was going down to prevent me from munching on some tasty lamb bits? I would lay it on the race card but these people were white (I’m guessing). Whatever. It wasn’t meant to be.
My first stop was this Hasidic grocery store called Lombard’s. Their subtext was “the kosher inflation fighter since 1941” or something. I scurried in and around, not recognizing any of the brands and completely disinterested in a lunch consisting of carrot slaw. There were surly men shelving gigantic jars of whitefish and women with thick stockings and thicker wigs everywhere. I made a beeline for the produce aisle, grabbed some pineapple chunks and retreated, unsure of the shopping experience I’d just been a part of. I found a nearby bench, popped open the pineapple and was met with the FOULEST ODOR IMAGINABLE. Shit was rotten! I promptly threw it out and embarked on lunch item #2.
Next was a completely unassuming bagel stand across the street [I should point out that in my sojourn for lunch, I managed to walk like a mile away from school] Now was my chance to redeem myself for missing the free bagels that morning. I order up a toasty one with veg cream cheese and the dude prepares and wraps that shit up faster than lightening. I make my way to a different bench, park it, reveal my bagel and the fucker has burnt that shit to a crisp and slathered it in cream cheese as if to cover up the charred mess he’s made. I pick desperately at it to salvage my pride, but there is no hope.
Lost and wandering the streets of Kensington like a hopeless tramp in search of a meal, I wind up back at the fucking deli/bodega across the street from school. Whatever. Boar’s Head, make me something great. I open the door and am greeted with a screeching buzzsaw. Construction! What! The guys inside usher me in, guiding me to the sodas and shit. Guys? Leave me alone. I stare pitifully at the deli counter and finally one of the dudes is like “you want something mami?” YES, SIR. I figure turkey, provolone, lett/tom on a roll is a safe bet. After informing the dude at the meat slicer at least 4 times that I do not want mayo, I’m given a sandwich and a diet coke. Hallelujah.
I leave the store clutching the bag with such ferocity that one would think I’m smuggling drugs. I’m on the homestretch, ready to nestle into the teacher’s lounge with my sandwich and a mounting sense of victory. Right at that moment of satisfaction, some little Hasidic girl with pigtails and rollerblades comes careening around the corner and I rip/drop my bag. I DROPPED THE SANDWICH. I scream “FUCK!!” way louder than I ordinarily would have, the girl almost falls over, and I pick the bag up despite the rips and tears. I am determined to eat this fucking sandwich, so I run to my classroom and start to devour it.
OK let’s run through my ingredient list.
Stale roll, hard as a rock? Check.
Dry meat shavings slightly resembling turkey but tastes like Carl Budding slices? Check PLUS!
Bizarrely sweet, almost ketchupy tomato slices? Check
Shredded lettuce taken straight from that bitter core of the head of iceberg? Oh, and check!
Not a dollop of mayo to take the edge off? Check mate.
Lessons learned? Never skip the mayo and always pack a lunch.
Original: August 21, 2008
On the walk home from the subway today, one of those ones where it doesn’t feel like you can get home fast enough, Molly and I breezed into this community garden that I/she/we pass by on a regular basis during our daily commute to the apex of Bedford and Lafayette. The timing was just right – gate open, caretakers milling around but not particularly busy, evening sun nestling into the horizon. It was so inviting. The temperature had cooled to something that felt like equilibrium on my skin and we stomped around that garden, marveling at eggplants the size of thumbs and stuffing our faces into bunches of herbs. Can you believe there’s a pear tree around the corner from our apartment? I’d asked. I’m covered in bugbites and we’ve only been here 5 minutes. There was this brilliant red and green leafy monster later recounted as swiss chard. Gigantic stalks of bok choy rose from behind a small mound of rotten nectarines, indicating the coming of a hardier harvest.
We walked home rambling on and on about farmer’s markets and raw diets and we could really try that couldn’t we and I’m going to write a note on the fridge about the Sunday market in DUMBO AS SOON AS WE GET HOME DON’T LET ME FORGET. Naturally, there’s no note and a long-term love affair with dairy pulled the plug on a fancy raw diet before we even made it to our floor.
I’ve been pulling some great soccer mom shit lately and re-reading my collection of Barbara Kingsolver books, pawning them off on my friends and trying to deny the coming of the storm: joining a book club. But right now I’m getting into “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” her narrative about starting over in a year of sustainable living and growing gardens that are meant to feed. It’s surprisingly dry, not nearly as maternal/Earth Mother as I expected. It’s sprinkled with these essays and recipes to give it a practical edge over the “sowing the seeds of sustenance with my own bare hands” reflections that would have made the book entirely foreign to me. All skepticism and prejudice that I normally harbor aside, I’m really into this book. It uses language that describes food in terms of socio-economics and culture that is at no point alienating or confusing. I’m actually a little shocked with myself for not making the concrete mental connection between sheer fuel consumption associated with carting our fruits and veggies back and forth across this broad country. I was at PathMark the other day and actively selected something from New Jersey instead of California, thinking it was a little victory on the path towards bigger triumphs. So I think I’m actually serious about that farmer’s market in DUMBO.
Update (9/28): The Ft. Green farmer’s market is way better than DUMBO’s.