Thursday, September 27, 2007

Welcome to George C. Moonbat High

That's just my little name for the place. We are a small, intensely process-oriented charter high school, just opened this year, and oy va voy, is it...interesting.

I am teaching English, and a history section. Many of my students have been, let's say, badly let down by their previous education. These are fourteen and fifteen year olds. I am working on five-sentence paragraphs. Not with all of them, but enough.

Most of the kids are fine, lovely children, but we have a few with real problems. These frequently get kicked out of class, shouting things like "F--- you! I don't want to be in your stupid class anyway, you don't teach nothing!"

We're located, geographically, at a point where suburbia and ghetto run into each other. We have students from both sides of the divide, and all points in between.

It is very interesting indeed. Details to follow.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

This Year

You know what I want to do this year? I want to build a sukkah.

I have never done this, exactly. When I was a kid, we lived in an apartment building where there was a communal sukkah in the courtyard, and my family had dinner and then slept out in it at least one night. We moved from there when I started high school, and we never had a family sukkah. I've helped with a lot of shul sukkot, and the like, but I've never had one of my own.

This year, I have a big cement deck, which will hold a very small sukkah, and I am going to try to go for it, heeding the words of this gifted rhymester:

"The Laws of the Sukkah according to Dr. Seuss"

You can build it very small
You can build it very tall
You can build it very large
You can build it on a barge

You can build it on a ship
Or on a roof but please don't slip
You can build it in an alley
You shouldn't build it in a valley

You can build it on a wagon
You can build it on a dragon
You can make the skakh of wood
Would you, could you, yes you should

Make the Sukkah from leaves of tree
You shouldn't bend it at the knee
Build your Sukkah tall or short
No Sukkah is built in the Temple Court

You can build it somewhat soon
You cannot build it in the month of June
If your Sukkah is well made
You'll have the right amount of shade

You can build it very wide
You can not build it on its side
Build if your name is Jim
Or Bob or Sam or even Tim

Build it if your name is Sue
Do you build it, yes you do!
From the Sukkah you can roam
But you should treat it as your home

You can invite some special guests
Don't stay in it if there are pests
You can sleep upon some rugs
Don't you build it where there's bugs

In the Sukkah you should sit
And eat and drink but never ...
If in the Sukkah it should rain
To stay there would be such a pain

And if it should be very cold
Stay there only if you're bold
So build a Sukkah one and all
Make it large or make it small

Sukkah rules are short and snappy
Enjoy Sukkot, rejoice be happy.

I want foil apples and grapes. I want Sukkot schlock. Check back for more details.

The New Job

My new job is as the humanities teacher at a very small, new, Bay Area charter high school. We just finished the first week--and I have yet to teach a class in my content area. Monday.

We spent the week doing orientation--long, slow, orientation. We did a get-to-know-you anti-bullying all-day program to kick off on Tuesday, which was pretty good, but about which I have mixed feelings. (OK, here's a thing I disliked--the part where people were asked to pair up, lock arms back to back and then do the 'booty dance'. Have you ever been back-to-back with a teenage boy, young enough to be your son, and asked to 'shake your booty'? People get ARRESTED for things like this. My God. We also did the exercise where you cross the line if you're of a particular ethnicity, or have had a particular experience...for some reason, this always feels slightly canned to me, and I don't know quite why...I went up as a 'Middle Easterner', although what she meant was 'Muslim'--there's no other reason to include Pakistanis in a description of 'Middle Eastern'--then went up again as a Jew--then thought that for many Muslims and Jews, the extensive intergender touching demanded by the program would be totally impossible, and thought about cultural assumptions made by people who think they're educating others out of their cultural assumptions...)

The kids liked it well enough, although they had some issues too, mainly that I think many of them were unconvinced that this one emotion-filled day was enough to totally change the way teenagers act toward one another. Ah well, I suppose it's a good Elul activity.

The rest of the week, pretty good. The kids seem like very nice young people. They hang out together very happily, and we've had almost no real problems, and they are generally so far polite and willing to roll with the weirdness of our start-up days. They look like the neighborhood--African-American and Latino, a scattering of white kids. A lot of them have apparently struggled academically elsewhere, or been 'bad kids' at other schools, and I assume they haven't left all their problems behind, but they are mostly here because they have very supportive families, and I think that will help. They're incredibly interesting. I have one boy who raises reptiles, another who's into archery. Lots of them go to the same churches, and have relatives in common--this is something I noted at St. Colmcille, too.

I'm still struggling to learn names. Some of them look distinct, much younger than the others, or short, or very tall, zaftig or skinny, or with a particularly effusive personality, or in the case of one girl, with bright blue extensions in her braids, or another with blond and violet streaks in her hair, or our only redhead, and they are pretty easy to learn. There are others, though, that I'm going to have to learn quickly, who I've only sorted out into a general physical type--for example, there's a whole group of seven or eight girls who are African-American, about five-seven, slim, wearing jeans and printed tops, with straightened hair or braids worn long, and pretty faces. I need to stop addressing them all as 'honey'and thinking of them as 'kid with long hair' and learn names.

I'm struggling not let old failures and insecurities keep me from doing a good job. Right now, I'm a little freaked out, because there's a woman at our 'parent' school I'm supposed to be getting in touch with, and haven't, and our ed director is getting gently concerned. Will deal with.

I hope this works out. I hope. Oh, wow, how I hope.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Appreciating House

I love House. It's just one of those TV shows that keeps me entertained and happy. But I just realizewd, watching all of Season One, that one of the many things I appreciate about it is that house, to the extent that he has relationships with women at all, has them with women his own age.

Hugh Laurie is in his late forties. If Jerry Bruckheimer was producing this show, his ex-girlfriend would be about twenty-three, but the beautiful and inaccessibly married Stacy is played by stunning Sela Ward, who's fiftyish. His major ongoing flirtation on the show is with Dr. Cuddy, approximately forty. (Best House/Cuddy exchange ever: House: "One small feel for a man, one giant ass for mankind." Cuddy, in bathrobe, moving away from him: "Call the Make-A-Wish Foundation".)

Honestly, it's kind of weird, if you've been watching TV long enough, to see a man who's interested in women of his own generation. And for a mid-thirties Balabusta, it's decidedly nice to see grown-up women looking hot and running hospitals and stuff. You know, TV like real life. Well, real life except for the dramatic medical cases that get solved in an hour, the hilarious one-liners, and the fact that the medical team keeps breaking into people's houses.

NCIS has this too. Another point in its favor.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Ayn Rand annoys me

I'm employed again. Don't think I mentioned that, since it was right before the wedding, and everything was crazy. High school, near the house, start-up.

Anyway, for work I've been reading some novels on themes of rebellion against social strictures and beliefs, and a website led me to Ayn Rand's Anthem.

It's not a bad book, overall, although Orwell did so many of these themes so so much better. Short novel set in a future collective agrarian society set up after the collapse of modern civilization as we know it. The word "I" has been removed from the vocabulary, as have first person nouns--everyone refers to themselves collectively. The hero eventually is cast out from/escapes from this community with his girlfriend (one isn't allowed romantic ties either). They head off and find a house from the before-times.

Here's where I started to get cranky. The last word of the book is EGO. (All caps.) The entire, pounded-home-with-a-hammer message is the importance of the individual and their right to self-determination. Now I don't believe that as strongly as Rand, but I do believe it. But nearly the last thing that happens in the book is that our hero abandons his community name and number and renames himself "Prometheus". (He's been doing some reading.) And he names his girlfriend "Gaea". (She's been spending a lot of time staring into the mirror.)

He. Names. His girlfriend. And she says "That will be my name."

Great. And then he goes off in a happy reverie about how his sons will be free men. His daughters, I guess, will be good mothers and wives.

(Additionally, I nearly choked over the part where he asks her, before they escape, how old she is, and nearly dies of relief when she says 'seventeen', which means she's a virgin, because she hasn't done the 'time of mating' thing yet. He's been twice, of course, and thought it was just awful, but forfend that SHE should have been contaminated. Then they make love in the forest, and despite the fact that neither of them knows a dang thing about romance, and his only exposure to sex was apparently pretty grotesque, it's perfect and dreamy. Groan.)

Sometimes you just want to hit someone with a wiffle bat, even if they are dead.

Saturday, September 01, 2007