Monday, November 18, 2002

Have things gotten better at the Dirty Dozen, you may inquire? You better back up with that shit. (That's D.D. lingo) It's six hours a day in the Gibbon cage. My coping strategy is to stop living there constantly. I had a lovely weekend, celebrating birthdays and life, eating tacos, sirloin, deviled eggs, sweet and sour chicken, chorizo and eggs, and cookies. YUM. Went dancing at the Pyramid, jumping and scream-singing, my favorite kind. And I sorta found some resolution to my dissolution of expectations.

I could have found myself in a nice little teaching spot, say with second graders at one of the "model" schools. It's possible. I have friends there. But instead I was placed in hell for awhile. Sometimes people still say, "You're doing a good job with them," or even better, "You're such a good teacher," or once I got, "You're a hero." That was good. But everyday when I sigh, and then take in a slow breath big enough to fill the new and improved diaphragm, then scream-talk to pronounce my will over theirs, I simply say to myself, "I hate this."

I don't think the problem is with schools. The problem is with kids. I've got plenty of good, dedicated parents. It's the kids, and how they are influenced by what's around them. During one golden moment last Friday, some of my kids opened up about their fathers during a book discussion, fathers in and out of jail, who've killed people, who deprive their kids of love on a regular basis. That made me think for awhile about little Kevin's resentment, and Cherif's desire to inflict violence on his pop. But then there's Davon with his ma and dad right there, calm, guiding him sternly. Is it that people don't know how to parent? I don't know how to teach. I still think more responsibility should be placed on the kids. Maybe they're outright rebelling against the norms of this society as if to say fuck you white America, Eminem style. Fuck rules. Fuck making me do anything. I'm tired. I want to eat seeds and roll around on the floor, throw pencils, say fuck you to anyone who stands in my way. I don't know. I haven't gotten wise yet about these matters. Raising kids is quite the complex conundrum.

My resolution is that I can leave this behind without feeling like I couldn't cut it. I don't enjoy making people follow rules. Rules are what school is all about. I suppose it's what societies are all about, systems, yadayada. No thanks, folks. I'd like to fit into some other spot as a community helper. I have my dream job pretty clear in my head. I have trees and hills and open fields pretty clear in my head.

Sometimes finding yourself in extremely uncomfortable, non-form fitting situations tells you the things you need to know. For that, I thank my children. But I won't miss them next year. I'm not sentimental or idealistic about public school teaching in the least. I'm glad I'm here in the middle of it to know and to explore facets of our world. This one is shocking, but very real. Knowledge is liberation, my friends.

Philosopher V

Monday, November 04, 2002

"Demographics is desitiny in Texas tomorrow," so says some pollster talking to Lou Dobbs right now. Ron Kirk, he's our man. I have to say that politics has been boring the piss out of me over the past two years. Perhaps all the vim and vigor was syphoned out of me during the HISTORICAL, carnival-freak-show-esque past presidential election. Maybe it has something to do with 9/11, local debates losing their luster. But I read a great article on Kirk in the New Yorker a few months back and felt excited about championing the right choices again. Politics for me is all about what's right. It goes back to 1980 . . . while standing, waiting for the yellow school bus with Melissa Muench, the two of us got into it about what a pig Ronald Reagan was and how cool Jimmy Carter was, trying to rescue the hostages in Iran and all. (Future Habitat for Humanity peace, love and happiness guy, need I say more?). Well, Melissa didn't agree with me, so the two of us got loud, pointed fingers, and did a lot of standing with hands on hips. Nine years old, yeah. (historical tid bit--Melissa later became Miss Austin.)

I went on to University of Texas School of Government alumni status, worked for the elder statesman of the Texas House of Reps, and found my way into a seat in the audience of the Texas House Committee on Public Education's hearings for rewriting the state's education code. Fuel for my fire for the right choices, I tell you, Paul Sadler, he was my man--a now-retired state rep who headed that committee for 5 to 7 years. I am drawn by those who have the compass. They say what's right in a way you instantly recognize, but never could piece together in such a clear way yourself. Leaders define for us. They serve many purposes, but the one that makes me cry (I'm a bit of a freak show myself) is the way that they make oral art through definition.

Politicians have become our Howdy Doody cartoons, but leaders draw out the right amidst all that is messy. Go to the polls, all you Texans out there. Vote for Ron Kirk!

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

I've developed a strange tick

Sometimes in the morning when I'm arranging my room, moving chairs around and moving ten steps ahead in my head to the math, the Writer's Workshop, the gosh darn SFA!, I say "shhhh." No one's there.

When walking around a person or two in the busy subway underground, instead of saying "Watch it!" or "'scuse me," it comes out as "shhhh."

Then I say it back to myself to see if that's what really just came out of my mouth. "Shhhh"?

* * * * *

The news from 301--
I told a City College observer to get out of my room today. People skills. I got 'em. The kids are getting hyped up UP UPP. Today was muy mal. I was angry. Grrrr. But I'm not really discouraged like the Ms. Haley of old. I'm tired. Tired. But I think I'll whip 'em back to acting right. I've got to make parent phone calls up the wazoo, which I hate doing. DEspise. I told the lady to git! She didn't say a word, turned around and walked out. Taunting the forces . . .
(the principal accompanied by a police officer came a knocking during the last period today . . . so what else is new.)

Ms. Haley

Sunday, October 20, 2002

Good morning friends. If any of you will be driving Texas way for the holidays, avoid the state of Virginia for gosh sakes (I'm watching Sunday Morning and Joey Chen reporting on the latest shooting).

Thanks for all the cents y'all chipped in. An update--they were able to figure out most of the boys who broke into my friend's room. Police officers were at our school on Thursday and Friday. The boys have parole officers now, and if they get another offense they will go to juvy. Apparently our principal gave the fourth grade a big speech with weight. Our school on Friday was more of a normal place, but I'm not fooled. These kids' moods swing wide. I do not know why they act out the way that they do. Seeing and hearing violence and having it well up within me is a disturbing place to be. I'm sure whatever is coming out of them is a result of their surroundings.

Drifting in and out of blog and Sunday Morning, the movie reviewer reviewing "The Grey Zone" quotes, "We are all in the ghetto."

I haven't made any decisions. I was able to have a very good day with my class on Friday. Those days help but are rare. I need the paycheck. That's a big motivator. Oh, and I want to be a teacher. That's motivator numero uno. Every first year is difficult, but is every first year violent?

Our job at PS Dirty Dozen (The Post grouped us as one of the 12 worst schools in the city) is to socialize these children. I don't believe I have any special talents in that area, no inclinations or affinities. I'm free-to-be-you-and-me girl. Never had the sales touch. I'm down with the mind, analytical processes, language, expression. Socialization is for social workers. Mom, Dad, how did this happen?

Joking aside, I'm not a social worker. I've lived, learned, and I know this about myself. When whimpers come out like "I suck . . . I can't do this," I'm saying this isn't me. We are most miserable when we try to be something we're not, right? But I do believe there are teaching jobs where you're primarily instructing. Alas, I'm going to keep at it this week. I hope I stay with it so that I can find myself in a rewarding teaching job perhaps next year or the year after with some stability in my life.

Me, me, me!!! What about you! Let's hear some posts about you!

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

I was going to blog last night with cheer, but the site wouldn't let me in. Perhaps it knew more than I. Today all I can say is, uuuuuugggghh. My brother warned me last night. He was right. Today I was hostile towards them. That's what lingers with me, my growing resentment for it all. I have four tables. One became a table of four boys who resisted their new seating arrangement. They got away with it, and proceeded to push my boundaries at every turn until they were throwing paper wads, one after the other, right at this poor little girl's head. I couldn't do anything to make them stop. I can't do a thing. I'm useless. I suck. I fucking hate it. There's no detention room right now, no one to call for aide, just me and my babies, threatening phone calls home, which I made tonight. But I hate them for doing it to me. I am taking it all personally, which is going to defeat me all the more.

Today the fourth graders rioted (about 70 of them), throwing chairs at Ms. Berry and Ms. Taylor, breaking the metal door handle off of Ms. Brown's door to break in and wreak havoc. They stole stuff and threw books and papers around the room. They inflict and they inflict. The smart ones (the teachers I mean) maintain themselves. They stay centered, thus maintaining their authority. I get angry. I scream at them. I've been manhandling my boys, yanking them by the shirt or coat to get them in line or to keep them inside my classroom or to make them sit down. I said, "Get the hell out of my room" today to this strange little girl who kept popping in. I don't even know who she is. Kids coming into the rooms all day! Whose kids? I'm sure some are mine after they decide it's time to roam. I feel like I have nothing on them to make them do the right thing, thus I don't. I see teachers who struggle and I see myself. I see teachers who are cool and who know who's boss. I don't have that. I can't seem to get it. And underneath it, I don't think I want to get it because it's not who I am. I don't know how to find it because it's so unnatural.

Friday, October 04, 2002

Terrific Tickets, they're Grrreat!

Shout out to Pinky B for your kind words last week. Shout out to Anne for your many superb inspirations. I believe in the bribe. I'm a believer. My friends who came in this week to shake up the joint (4 Fellows were sent over to help the international teachers--Americans take it to the mat) started this whole Terrific Ticket thing. You get a ticket for each thing you do right. Positive reinforcement all day long! Complete switch-a-roo from, "DAVONDAVONDAVON!!!!!!!!!" Now it's, "Thank you for being on task," "Thank you for raising your hand and not calling out." ["On task," "Calling out," "She's fresh," "He's fresh"--this is teacher speak.] "Fuckers" is also teacher speak, but only after hours.

So we had this whole blind drawing and prize giving at the end of the day. It was fun. Good times. One of the best girls won. My girls. And then two of my annoying-but ever-so-cute-in-a-weird-hateful-kind-of-way boys were stomping their feet, twisting, crying for ANOTHER DRAWING. "Only one a day," she says with glee.

I was laughing out loud, saying, "Straighten your lines!" hee, hee.

Prizes are so complex and psychological. They're amazing.

So today was a good day. Grace be to God.

Sistra Teach

Thursday, October 03, 2002

the yard

Today was humbling (as is every day). I called in sick yesterday thanks to my sweet brother's insistence, slept for 15 hours, no shit, did some school-like stuff, and then went out to a comedy show last night for a few hours. I felt like a human being again, or at least that I was playing one on TV. So this morning it was back to PS in yo face, and what a difficult walk it was. I said "grrrrrr" as I entered my room, thinking, "What did they trash?" After a minute or two my eyes found their way to my board, which read: "Ms. Haley, we talked a lot, but weren't that bad. We miss you and hope that you're okay," signed 5 of my girls. Lashonda, my bad ass tough mama, who I love, wrote me that she loves me and misses me. What? And then tart Destini wrote that she followed my homework direction accordingly to sign each child out a library book. (no boys expressed no love, you know, but they feel it, right).

Well, anyway, that gave a jump start to my day. Downstairs in the yard it was a show. Every teacher in the place was on hand. We were told to keep our children there until they got it right. If they couldn't walk up right, we were to walk them back down. My class was the last to go up. We made it to floor two, and then headed back down. We made it to floor three, and then Ms. Garvey told us to go back down for one girl at the end of the line, leaning on the wall, and not in line. We went all the way back down to the yard, and slowly crept our way to the top of the building on the far end. (This was an hour after school starting time, no lie).

So the morning started off with children sitting in my chairs, but after an hour or so their unstoppable will crept back in and I was fighting them yet again. Not sure what to do, I asserted my authority by calling them out one by one in the hall (which never works, but today it did a little good). By noon, their heads were down with the lights off. They hadn't gotten the message, were talking all over the place, ignoring their classwork and me.

One of the APs gave me a long talk after school, saying that they see me as this mild mannered, petite woman. She told me to lower my voice and put on a show. To take vitamins and go in with as much energy as I can muster. Rough em up. Tear em down. Break em. Let them know I'm in charge.

I'm questioning all that because I've tried a million things. I'm not consistent with my persona everyday, which likely hurts me. Sometimes I'm more demanding. Sometimes they're so freaking crazy that I try to ignore their shit. Sometimes I'm zapped. I keep wanting to defend myself to me. Ms. C, who's telling me all this, told another teacher that she'd spent most of her day in my class and was wiped out. I spend every day there. But maybe it's such a chore, or more of one, because I'm not whipping them into shape.

Well, my principal told me this morning that it's my classroom, not theirs, and to do whatever it takes . . . "Whatever it takes." Any clue as to what she's talking about?

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

my whole school is wack! tid bits: 15 kids having a paper fight, disregarding lunch detention consequences, mother fucker, i don't fucking care, somebody said dildo, paper penises being made, two strangling attempts, doritos in yo face!, discipline board? my discipline board, ms. haley, seed spittin, trash can contents out the window, me locking kids out my room, 5 chanting down the hall as they stroll 20 paces behind my line. ridiculousness. so what do you think they're really saying, yo? that they rule the school? yes. that's it. they do. for fighting they write a sweet little note that retells their story. for disrespecting the teacher, breaking the rules, walking in and out of rooms, trashing the place, swiping, drinking on gin and juice with a side of now and laters they get lunch detention, a phone call home, told to walk themselves down to the detention room, left there alone while the dean gets his lunch, writing on the blackboard for fun, then granted the keys by being allowed to walk back when and how they please.

i writes my shit down.

Sunday, September 29, 2002

Last weekend I didn't know if I could make it, lots of sporadic tears leaking out. But I was able to get it together by Sunday evening to take on a new week. Tuesday they did in fact riot (sort of), but luckily the 5th and 6th grade teachers had been sent out after lunch to tour a "model" school and its classroom set ups. The punks were corralled in the auditorium, only gaining strength through their numbers. Mr. S isn't so smart sometimes.

To quell them he says, "You'll stay here until 7 if that's what it takes for you to settle down." They rushed him, broke through, and ran through the halls as pre-K and K kids were being picked up by parents in the entry hall. I heard stories that kids were destoying bulletin boards, but I haven't seen evidence of that.

As punishment, the 6th grade was given silent lunch in the classrooms for the rest of the week. A team of 5 teachers and administrators laid it down first thing Wednesday morning, made them write essays and have continued to come in for spot checks throughout the days. For my part, I created a new seating chart, Daily Assignments folders equipped with sheets for every period explaining the directions and the task. They can't handle discussions or being led from the board. It's simply, "Pass around the next sheet. Read it. And get started. Independent work! No talking!"

Things have improved for three consecutive days. In that time we did have two strangling attempts, so it's not all peaches and cream. But the point is that I'm not going anywhere. It's PS #& and the sixth grade for the year, unless my principal decides otherwise.

Of note: A fifth grade teacher quit on Friday for being hit by one of her students. A sixth grade teacher was replaced last Friday for poor classroom management and poor lesson planning. Two new Fellows have been recruited to take their places. I know them and feel for them.

The word from Room 301 . . .

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

they're close to rioting.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

hey peeps, i think i'm going to be on break for awhile. one of my friends put it well today. writing requires the room for reflection. i would add that it sometimes requires a shot of adrenaline to get you into blog mode. i have none of these now.

unsure about this path. sad about that. i am failing, and don't pump me up. i'm failing at this. the only thing to do now is to turn it around or realize that this particular situation isn't for me.

i'll let you know how the turns go.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002


almost cuddly,
but scary as they Tango up
ten steps
then to the side
in a swipe like "I see you, smell you, follow you."

How fast do they run?
Like Cockroaches scampering?

Eewww! Two
on either sidewalk.
I'm in the middle.

134th Street.
Safe ground?
Free from fat, feral rats.

Tonight anyway,
there's no place like home.

Monday, September 16, 2002

Ms. Haley's my name, infrequency's my game. Lo siento, readers. I have moved to the Land of the Lost, another plane, aka, the sixth grade. But it's Yom Kippur today! God love the Jews.

Friday was super. Mr. S, the fickle AP who's got my back, me and the other upper grade teachers, marched the whole sixth grade to the auditorium after lunch and parked them there until some future time yet undetermined. It was a show for which I wish I had popcorn. The best line in the lecture was, "You will stay here, and your teachers will get to pick who they WANT to teach." Sizzle, crack, ka-bang!

In the midst of his 15-minute tirade, these little bad asses (about a third were still bad asses) called out, cackled, put their feet on the chair in front of them. Lots of "Ah, man(s)," "I got a question(s)," and random whistling and other odd noises intended to be comedy of the sixth-grade kind. Noises are so clevah!

That's the latest from Room 301. How are things in your world?

Saturday, September 07, 2002

I hate kids, yes I do. Day 2 of school was not cool. Books thrown across the room back and forth (Jammal at Davon, Davon at Jammal). You know why? Cause the silver book was the best book, so Davon got up and took it. A child's wallet gone missing at the end of the day. Tears. Davon again. My special one. They're almost all special cases, at least the boys. I had 4 new additions, two troublemakers of the child kind, and two notorious like B.I.G. of the teenager kind, a boy and a girl. No teenagers aloud in my class. Go somewhere else to be a star.

My body feels like it's been slapped around by a bundle of stones. What a work out yelling is. Yelling on day two? So sad.

I'm not down or even close to being out. I'm ready to come back fighting, with strategery. Recess? You like to play b-ball? Uh hugh, you know what I'm talking about.

hyped-up Ms. Haley, coming atcha

Thursday, September 05, 2002

oops. I forgot to say thank you to each of you for your suggestions, pep talks, and well wishes. THANKS. You rock.

First day of school and I have no energy to be spunky on blog. But it was a very good day indeed. I stood out in the yard with my neon orange "Ms. Haley, 6th grade" sign and slowly had young children (younger looking than i expected) walk up to me and ask if they were in my class. Bernard was the first, then Kennard (they rhyme), Destini and Doniqua, Khadim, Desmond, and Davon. A few parents came up as well. I shook hands with one and all. They liked that. I did smile, but I was serious about school! I lucked out in that all my kids are sweet. Silverster likes to pester because he just can't stop talking. Davon suffers from the same disorder (the kid kind), but that's why school buildings are so great. They attract kids all over the neighborhood. A place for kids. How cool. I love em, yes I do. More to come . . .

Ms. Haley

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Hi. I'm almost out of breath from biting my nails so much. I suffered an internal freak-out this afternoon after listening to two teachers tell stories about the kids and parents at my school. "They'll treat you like garbage." It's not that I don't think I can handle verbal abuse. It's that I began to envision an entire year of battling disenchantment, resentment, anger, fear, and failure. I feel alone and I am afraid. I predict that this will be the toughest year of my professional life. (No drama)

But I'm secretly excited about teaching the sixth graders, a secret to myself so that I will still grab a nice little first or second grade class if the opportuntiy arises. Things are in flux like you wouldn't believe at the district. Teachers change placements daily. Many will not know what they will be teaching on day one because the schools are still waiting to see who the no shows are. Umm, maybe the district should make a more timely rule about that. What do you think? Well, I know not the ins and outs of "Let's Make a Deal," school teacher union styley, so let me get back to the point of this post . . .

In battling the freak-out I've been preparing my "Periodical Pocket," filled with vibrant and varied mags and newspapers for our classroom library. Quite proud of it at that. And I've been searching the web, circuitously leading myself toward more ideas for the little buggars. I'm thinking, Harlem is bad ass. These kids should do projects about their community and important Harlemites. I'm looking for black newspapers and I happen upon the Harlem Youth Project. It's an organization that promotes careers in journalism and media for minority students. I look onto their schools page and, can you believe it, they work with no schools in Harlem. They're all in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Long Island, and New Jersey. I suppose they work with the specialty schools, but still. Seems criminal. They're called the HARLEM Youth Project. I think I'm rambling again.

I want my kids to do some kind of class newspaper. I'm thinking a year-long project. Can you give some thought to meaningful ways these kids can write and graphically explore the world through their little sixth-grade eyes? I'm looking for brainstorming on writing ideas, video, art, places. I'm not really sure what I'm looking for. I just know I want it to be cool so that they'll think it's cool and absolutely CANNOT laugh in my face and tell me how lame this plan is. I want to stimulate them and push them into meaningful ways to interact with the world around them.

Ideas?? Post away friends. POST!

Monday, August 26, 2002



Could this be a little joke from above??? When I was in sixth grade we made Ms., I can't even think of her name, I can't even see her face. What's wrong with me! She was our student teacher. We made her cry. We made Ms. Roberts cry, our regular, long-time, experienced teacher. I wore Gloria Vanderbilts, Izods, and anything ESPRIT. I borrowed my brother's parachute pants one day and topped the outfit off with a nice little bandana around my neck, you know, sort of hanging down, tied in a tiny knot at the bottom. I think it was black and purple checked. Prince was big then with Controversy. Or maybe that was the underground circuit in those days. I did have a juvenile delinquent for an older brother, a salesman if you will. You could call him that. Anyway . . . SIXTH GRADE!

I'm not really scared, though. Anxious, nervous, but I think it will be an okay year.

Saturday, August 24, 2002

Blue Silos at Night

Last night I went on a journey, a drive through neighborhood streets leading to several open soccer and softball fields, leading to the parking lot of an old grain silo. It took a moment before I could see the silo from the car window. When I did it hovered in the sky, fifteen stories or more of white concrete ridges, worn and marked in beautiful smokes.

Sitting on a burlap potato sack and resting my hands back on asphalt crumbles, the show began. Like a drive-in movie, interviews with longtime Redhook residents projected onto the silo. The interviews started off side-by-side, two close-ups played at intervals; then the voice tracks layered in rounds. Little fairies danced from strings on top of the screen, pushing off of the concrete in deep bends that allowed them to swim in the sky. Dressed like miners, the acrobatic dancers interpreted clashes of old and new.

The final scene projected wheat fields, close-up, swirling in a strong wind. Five fairies dropped down to play in the wheat, swooping, jumping, spinning, and dancing, continuously.

more on Picture Redhook

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

what does a last name get you?

out of the bronx and into harlem.

random placements by the nycboard of ed--alphabetically. haleyfoy, together, are off to a new ps makebelieve #, filled with peewees through 6th, who'll be stylin uniforms, eating peas and rice (jamaican, people), and holding hands around a courtyard garden, "the focal point of our school." how cool is that.

Saturday, August 17, 2002

I'm back again in New York, the life I've made. Last night I was grumpy. Today I'm a - o - k, just accepting things more gracefully. Perhaps Stanley Tucci and Edie Falco helped me tonight, and today my friend Steve. On the plane ride home I was composing a great little ditty in my head entitled "Turbulence" that I hope debuts sometime soon. But back to my hot-a apartment and la vida loca . . .

I was wrong to be judgemental about our houseguests. They're quite a lovely bunch. Tomorow we may all head to Coney Island! See what I'm talking about? (sometimes I don't even know if I'm being sarcastic, but often times I do know that I hate myself for it). Really, they're great. Everyone's great. Calm, concerned for one another's happiness, a connected group I'd say. However, they're off right now at the Brooklyn Inn whilst I sit gloriously alone at my screen's side. Who's the pooper?

Today was something--all over the map. Steve and I started off lunching at West 79th, meandered through the park in the rain, heading towards Frick's house of oil paintings and bronzed sculpture. We meandered afterwards to the Algonquin and then to Frankie and Johnny on Broadway. At the Algonquin Steve and I had one of our famous chats about life, love, lonliness, and, yes, the ever-present search, but this time things were different. We have indeed grown and the fight has lessened. I'm so tired of the fight.

But a new thing to fear came right up in my face that has something to do with my brain and the depths that I traverse, which seem to get in the way of my coveted human connection, especially with that someone special. I'm special. Your'e special, but today the kind of special we all want to avoid was planted on me. It's the kind of special that keeps you from getting picked for kickball or the typing team. "Fingers ready! Go!"

I apologize.

And then I am cradled in a dark balcony seat, first row, by this woman about my mom's age. She spins a good tale--chit chat, but the kind that's like peach pie, making you want to hug goodbye. Frankie and Johnny worked for two hours to climb through a jungle of love insecurity, relationship insecurity. The thrity-some-odd minutes of in-the-flesh nakedness are the perfect metaphor for the play: you have to reveal yourself to love.

In the middle of applause where you hold your breath and take one, stop-motion plunge together with the whole audience, I hear the woman I'd been chatting with two hours earlier say, "I hope you get everything they're dreaming of." And then in my awkward giggle of surprise and thanks it was gone. But the gift of those words planted in me, for me to take on home. Thank you fair lady, thank you Stanley and Edie, thank you Steve . . . gifts of the day.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002


Toes are to wash when you take a bath.
Toes are to count to see how many.
Toes are five on each foot when you count from the right.
Right foot toes belong on the right foot.
Left foot toes belong on the left foot.
The big toe is the thumb of the foot.
All the other toes worry about the little one.
The big toe likes itself very well.

by my good buddy Carl S.

now i'll go


Moms are the best of all types of people.
Moms let you sit on their laps even when you get too big.
Moms ask you what's your favorite food and then make it for you.
Standing up tall is encouraged by moms.
So's elbows off the table.
Best of all moms tell you you're the best, smartest, nicest person you can be just about everyday.
I like moms.
They're the best of all types of people.

(for me mum)

Now you go!

Monday, July 29, 2002


Music is when your ears like what they hear.
Music is any voices you like to listen to.
Music is any sound you want to go on and on.
Music for you is anything you hear that clicks
with you.

by Carl Sandburg

"'Who was Carl Sandburg?' you ask . . . Sandburg was a fun-loving, questioning, dreamy boy who always wanted to know the whys and wherefores of things . . . [skip to adulthood where] prizes and awards came his way . . . He liked to write stories and poems for children, for he knew that children love the sound of words just as he did . . . He [also] liked to write about the inexplicable mysteries of the world and the universe, for he knew [again] that 'what can be explained is not poetry.'" by the Hendricks

Sunday, July 28, 2002

The doors are a scientific effort to equalize air pressure. Revolvers, as they are known in the industry, prevent the city's skyscrapers from turning into highrise wind tunnels. When cold weather sets in, for example, and a skyscraper's heaters are turned on, hot air rises to the top of the building, leaving a vacuum on the lower floors. If a regular swinging door, or swinger, is opened, cold air is sucked in to fill that void, creating winds that muss hairstyles and blow papers around lobbies.
from Saturday's NYTimes.

Who knew?

Monday, July 22, 2002

fine show this evening, inverse & friends. although md takes no credit for writerly choice & juxtoposition, it was his sense that brought the work forward and gathered such winners to give it to us. very glad I went. it was a great, great reading--fairies, trolls, ranch-hand peasants, bubble-gum brides, and crab-laden hearts all come to life right before my eyes.

production--reading of anne sexton's transformations poems (the brothers grimm reborn)

Saturday, July 20, 2002

It's 8:45 on one of those July mornings when you wake inside a box with the lid shut. But I don't mind. I don't even mind that my eyes popped open at 7:45. That's two hours more than the weekly usual, not bad. The roommate's on the Jersey shore with her Pappy, so the house is quiet. It's all mine.

I have no topic today, just free flow.

My morning view is out into the world of traffic. The block is a quiet one that starts to come alive with the sun. A few people dot their stoops, cupping morning coffee. Many have these little gated areas in front that corral things like weimeriners and toddlers. It's a peaceful comingling.

Last night in the city I got caught up in the storm. Do you know it? It was the one that everyone knew would hit in another 5, but went about their basketball and chess, taunting the sky to break. Bring it on. I made it 3 avenue blocks before umbrellas flipped out and people crowded under awning spaces. When I peered onto Broadway it looked like someone was taking a giant spray hose and gently sweeping the gush back and forth over the crevices of city blocks. An NYU flag that was stuck onto the outside of a building cowered like an animal being whipped into the bricks. This was Chicago wind, no doubt. I've seen it many times. Been pushed around by it until all I could do was turn my back and lean against it with all my might until it stopped. People were having great fun. I saw running and skipping and handholding. Heard lots of outbursts of one simple HA! Flops were lost in the streams that grew from asphalt. Umbrella sales were up!

And today the dow is down. I didn't know. Black Friday?? What's going on in the world? Someone give me the skinny.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

becoming a bug zapper
from the inside out.

a slow wooziness builds like a bell
being tolled
in the shaft of a San Francisco tower.

no. it was Advil Cold & Sinus
accidentally taken in double dose.

Friday, July 12, 2002

Sistra is in super-high-contrarian mode today, granted, but when the freaking superintendent drags us to an un-ac'd middle school in the Bronx at 8:15 on a hot Friday morning in July and serves us up generic Entemmanns and cheese squares for breakfast, the training should at least be good.

The problem started with the fact that "FAKE THIRD GRADE TEACHER"/Trainer was a Human Being Promoter more than an educator. Her Mama told her lots of parables about things like glossy shines on floors and seeing your reflection. Fine. Hardwork. I'm not down on Mama, truly. It's just that after she modeled reading a children's story aloud, reading every page, every word, for thirty-five straight minutes, allowing us not one stitch of input, reading it flatly and slurring words ("teacher" was "tisha"), all the while walking around the outer edge of the room in full circles, again, again, again (i didn't follow her with my eyes once), I got angry. I resented her for the shower I skipped this morning so that I could get there ontime (which turned out to be 45 minutes early. they lied to us). I resented her for the hot check my old job wrote me, which I had to re-deoposit a hundred blocks south and then a hundred blocks back north to get back to the afternoon session--all during my lunch hour. I resented her for the sleep I always seem to be thirsty for.

But that wasn't it. That I could have swallowed without too loud a grumble.

When Fake Third Grade Teacher was almost finished reading the story, she stopped. Her voice broke. There was silence in the room. I knew what was up, although I wasn't quite ready to see it. The freaking story about the little girl who couldn't read, and then learned to read because of her elegant and tall teacher, Mr. Falker, got her. Her eyes were red. Tears were dripping from her cheeks. She walked around the room again as if a different vantage point would allow her to finish or maybe just put her in more classmates' views.

Is teaching about crying? If we are so touched by overcoming an academic handicap that it chokes us up, will that make us good teachers? Apparantly this morning my class thought the answer was yes. So you know what they did? They started crying too. One woman spoke up and shared, "I was the little girl in the story." No, the story is fiction. It couldn't possibly be you. Is this group bootcamp? Come on people. Buck up. Stop crying! It's not sad. It's really not. It's a happy story. Kids do not know how to read. That's why they go to school. That's where they learn. Pretty cool, eh?

Call me crass. Call me contrary. I still say there's no crying in teaching. At least not at IS makebelieve # during a mock lesson on a hot July morning with no ac.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Room 502, the 3rd Grade-

Today Krystal began writing a story about Dalmations. She named one that was her imagined pet: Haleyfoy
(a cross of Ms. Haley & Ms. Foy, the two fellows who are her teachers).

Does it get better than Haleyfoy?

Sunday, July 07, 2002

What NYC Means to Me--

This fourth of July weekend is my one-year anniversary living in NYC. I ended up here by default. For me, it was being ready to leave someplace but not knowing quite where to go that placed me in the lap of this city. The experience getting here was one that I love--loading up the Ryder (it gives me a great sense of freedom to feel me & all my possessions together as a mobile unit), driving through the hollars and plateaus of this country, seeing cities I’ve never seen before, places like Pittsburgh, wondering what I’d be like if I grew up there. Would I talk funny? Would I scramble to get away all through my teenage years? My brother went with me to Pittsburgh. We started out in Chicago and ended in Astoria, Queens. When I think of long trips, he's usually there too, riding the many windy backroads of Texas with my Dad and stepmom in the front, chain-smoking with their windows cracked an eighth inch, and Jeff and I in the back leaning toward each of our windows like caged birds in the middle of a yellow, hazy coop. But I loved it. I love being on the road. I probably spent half my childhood in a car, going to Richardson, Port Aransas, and Kerrville again and again. All our friends and family were in Texas. We never left the state. Everybody’s there, and I’m in New York.

I’m painting a picture of separation, but in actuality this not being true has given me my sense of belonging since I moved here. The other morning I was walking down my block on the way to work and a childhood friend zoomed past on his bike. I called out and we had a chat before heading off. That’s community. It's smalltown.

That’s what NYC has come to mean to me--smalltown. There’s great comfort where you can simply be, amongst people doing the same. In some places in the city I feel this more. Tompkins Square Park reminds me of Barton Springs, the drag, and Hippie Hollow in Austin. If you walk through neighborhoods you notice the shifts--ten blocks moves you from bohemian to uptight, Arab to Italian--you notice the blends, and a melody of languages. There are not-so-pleasant times when the horns, concrete, and metal tubes underground start to close in on me. I long to be near water that expands to the horizon, or standing in the middle of hills filled with cedar and oak. In these moments I’d settle for not breathing in dirt. But because the city gives me meaning, I'm learning to temper these feelings.

I don’t think I’m having a love affair with New York. It’s more like New York is letting me give it a try. I didn’t expect the city to speak to me. I didn’t expect much at all. When I moved here I had been broken down for awhile. But what it has given me is a sense that helps me attune to humanity. It speaks to me through the many languages and brands of people communing. It is tolerance and fluidity. It never stops.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002


watching table guy
sucking on edamame
li! li! li! li! li!

edamame pod,
is sea salt an isotope?
do you marry well?

laughter is nervous
my sister rants in prisms
she is far away.

my beaded change purse
wants to pledge allegiance, God
strung red white and blue.

Pablo Begala
i knew you in Austin T.
now you’re a star; why?

double-dashed hand stands
parallelisms that twist—
grammarian hop.

velvet cake pieces
blushing until they redden
the ego sliced.

Monday, July 01, 2002

okay--what you've all been waiting for--Another School Update!
(to the tune of Sam Cooke's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore")

first day of summer school (day 9 camp fellows)--

There are 11 of us at PS makebelieve #, the Bronx, yo. We arrive bright-eyed, doe-eyed, pick any babyfresh-like eyed and that is us. I could go into a tale about Principal E, but you'll be getting plenty along the way, and I'd rather go straight to the goodness.

I was placed with a buddy fellow into a 3rd grade classroom of 5 students. We entered into a serious discussion already in progress where each child was asked and expected to answer why he or she was in summer school this year. Uh. Excuse me, maybe that's personal. Maybe Krystal doesn't feel like sharing this morning. I felt for little Krystal, but the teacher persisted firmly, and then I began to see the logic of her guidance or the guidance of her logic. They were to begin a writing exercise on this very topic. Talking beforehand gets the juices flowing. But that wasn't the whole bag. Teacher was working on instilling some sense of accountability in these little ones--very important, in fact born into the journey they will take for (hopefully) all twelve years of their public school life. Accountability, ever heard of it?

My buddy fellow and I hung back about 3 feet from the five snuggling desks, standing cross-armed. Umm, teaching involves what exactly? But we warmed to the process farily soon thereafter.

I was amazed at how vividly I could see these kids' minds at work--how they piece together their own inner narratives with sounds made into letters, words they've seen other places that might fit, transposin all over the place. Their little heads were going, going too fast to stop and think about how to spell. I'll just write "riajon" (for "reason") and be done with it. Little Krystal is truly fond of the letter "i." She uses it in every instance calling for a vowel. Hmm? And then it suddenly clicked that homework actually is important. You see, when I was a lass, school was school and carrying jeff's sax home was afterschool. We were free to roam the trails, build forts, make homemade horror flicks, play calico vision. No homework, I tell you. But today it's a mission, a new trend. Fine, I just favor play. However, I could see all the tremendous progress in store for Krystal if I could only help her one-on-one for say two hours a day. That's reasonable isn't it. What do you think?

School is great.
for you folks to think on:
(the topic, public education, of course)

"I’m . . . sad to say it, but the truth is that we are, to a degree, what you have made of us. The United States now has, in many black administrators of the public schools, precisely the defeated overseers it needs to justify this terrible immiseration. It is a tradition that goes back at least 300 years. A few of us are favored. They invite us to a White House ceremony and award us something—a ‘certificate of excellence’—for our achievement. So we accept some things and we forget some other things and what we can’t forget we learn how to shut out of mind and we adopt the rhetoric that is required of us and we speak of ‘quality’ or ‘excellence’—not justice."

code: immiseration--to make miserable

this quote is from a black principal of an American public school who requested to remain anonymous, as interviewed by Jonathon Kozol in Savage Inequalities.

Sunday, June 30, 2002

overheard today:

"vigilance is the price of freedom."

air supply coming from a 5-story apartment building window on a quiet little side street.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

wow. i've got a blog. thank you sistra b. now to figure it all out . . .
and so it begins...