Monday, November 24, 2003

In the spirit of the season I was watching my good friend, Bobby Flay, the other morning make a brunch of Bloody Mary, coconut cake, and corn muffin grilled with a slather of fresh blueberry butter. He was talking to me as he went along and struck up a conversation about his three favorite things in life.

Ah yes, three favorite things, one honorable mention allowed. So Bobby loves cooking, eating, and dancing best, with a dash of drinking on top.

The following day I was walking with my new good friend, Erin, and we discussed. She popped her answers out, badgering me: "C'mon, c'mon. Just say whatever comes to mind!" (so demanding, this new friend) I'm a contemplater.

Sistra's list:
uno--food and drink, but cooking, eating, and drinking with others, not just a potato sitting there staring at me from across the deli.
due--language, everything you could scoop up about it, hearing it, speaking it, writing it, reading it, thinking about it, and so on.
trois--lovely, unbeatable, mother nature. can't beat it with a stick.

honorable mention--musica, raised on it in so many ways, styx and kiss posters like papier-mache, spinning with mommy in the living room to the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, sitting in front of my dad's stereo system, listening to Fleetwood Mac and The Rolling Stones, and my flava as a little girl--Barry Manilow.

Tell it people. Talk to me.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

note from teacher: never say a phrase like, "it's easy street."

Sunday, November 09, 2003

A game of pool is going on. The room is a dingy garage with plywood walls, a locals' bar. At the table, a tall gentleman joins our game. We introduce ourselves with a handshake and exchange of names. And then he and I go off to our respective gentlemen's and ladies' rooms. I hear dialogue when I close the door. It's just him. No one else there. He is singing at first. And then his tone changes. Gay in a homophobic world. He is angry.

I can't shake it today. It was like one of those funhouse rooms with the mirrored walls. There are all these slices of you, of the others, and you can't leave so easily. You have to stay there in the confusion for awhile. I was hearing these secrets, and so easily we came back out into the open, same as before.

It's not so good to hide things, I think. Maybe the slices of you grow more plenty when you do that. If that chap wanted to sit down with me and have a conversation about alienation and his feelings, I might do it. I can't say for sure, but you have to give people a chance to take the bad things away.

Monday, November 03, 2003

it's easy street

Two months in and the prediction is partially true: this school year is much better, but I was wrong about it being physically and emotionally draining. It's easy street.

Now what am I supposed to do with that? I spend as much time as I can noticing the child--catching fireflies on the carpet is one of my favorite glimpses, wiggling loose teeth and being so proud of the blood, not being able to possibly be the last one touched in a game of tag, all the tattling, being vulnerable to the hundreds of opportunities for praise and reprimand each day, tears, bright wide eyes, holding hands, kindness, tenderness, dear little people.

Within the first three weeks of school, Lacey pushed me to reach another child he wanted to fight. This was in front of the class, and purposely done to test the boundaries. This child tries to be away from the crowd, prides himself in not being duped by teachers' ways to motivate kids to do what they want--okay, bribery. He's preteen at ten, has older cousins. You know the type. But after several weeks, I now feel close to Lacey.

I've befriended him and made inroads through letting him know I'm checking up on him. He knows I care, I suppose, and has found a little more security from that. Progress like this so quickly amazes me. I was sure he couldn't care less. I was sure he knew, like I, that I'm a wimp of a teacher. But that's my internal speak, my doubt that the children really don't see, no matter how perceptive I believe them to be. This is part of the second-year teacher curve--what I'm supposed to be doing with what I've got.

I've said many times that I don't know how to teach children. I absolve myself when I use that statement, but also humble myself so that perhaps some learning will permeate my teacher persona. There's language to every professional culture. "Community building" was big when I was with the Lutherans. As long as you used the language to build messages and then delivered them, you were doing okay. With teaching there's the oral, the behavioral, and beyond that, showing all the aspects of your own humanity.

Lacey remains the most problematic student in 4-320. He continues to test me, and Ms. G too. He constantly needs to know that we can in fact make him abide. For people who have this need, the burden shifts to those around them. It's rooted in something I have not yet identified. But it has something to do with a security that is missing within. I like Lacey. I like them all. I really do.

The word from fourth grade . . .
Sistra Teach

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Hola amigos. I'm on holiday in fair Towson, Maryland. Last night we journeyed toward the Chesapeake, had a look at it in the night sky while driving over the 4-mile stretch of the Bay Bridge. Me likes water, even when it's grey.

This time has been relaxed, up to eleven people in the house at one time, shuffling between 3 floors and an outside deck. It's these holiday moments that make me remember how much I love stuffing myself into a house full of friends.

After I turned about twelve or thirteen, my stepmom's parents left Kerrville and built themselves a house in the Piney Woods near Quitman, Texas. They had both grown up there, driving in old Ford pickups and learning about life from railroad tracks and picking rows of whatever crop was up each year. They are part of the old breed of Texas working-class Democrats. Grandparents as Democrats, yes, they do still exist. But they also use misnomers when referring to the Black and the Proud. So, these grandparents built themselves a home right next to an itty bitty lake, calm, murky teal water with perch and trout. Wild pigs have gained force on their land over the years. It can be downright dangerous to take a stroll these days, so they say. I've never seen any of these "pigs." But the grandparents, who have four girls, ten grandchildren, and two great-grand children didn't want any more stuffing of people in their new house. So, they built a bunkhouse out back. It's one room; well, it's a trailor with a bathroom. The room is probably 15 x 9, and it sleeps about 16. Perfect! Bunkbeds, a television, hot water, and a porch surrounded by fallen needles, still moist and fragrant.

Bunking in back woods or Towson, Maryland, either one will do this weekend.