Archive for September, 2009

Frustrating Day

On days like today, I wonder whether I’d be better suited to, oh I don’t know, shoveling dog poop for a living (is that even a job?  Sorry to the dog poop shovelers out there).  Generally, my days at work are awesome.  When I first started student teaching, I told my cooperating teacher that the ratio of good days to bad days was about 3 to 1.  Not shabby.  I define a good day as a day when the kids are engaged, responsive, and, ya know, understand what I’m teaching.  Over the last couple years, the ratio has improved.  Now, I would say that the ratio is maybe 13 good to 1 bad.  So, about every two weeks I want to bang my head against a wall.  And even then, it may be only one period out of a whole day who does me in.

Well, I’m concerned about my first period.  I’m not so brazen as to refer to them as dead-from-the-neck-up like another teacher did, and they are really sweet, well behaved, trying kids.  But. holy. cow.  We have been doing parts of speech now for about a week and a half.  It should be largely review at this point.  We covered nouns.  It was a little slow, but they got them.  We covered action verbs (piece of cake).  We covered linking verbs (a little rough going).  Yesterday, things were looking up.  They were getting it!  They followed commands to write sentences using look and feel as 1) action verbs and 2) linking verbs!  They were pumped!  ADJECTIVE TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wrong.  Today, a snapshot of the lesson:

Me:  Who can identify the adjective in this sentence?  Remember, adjectives describe NOUNS and tell us which one, how many, and what kind.

Maggie*:  (Long pause) Umm.  Feet?

Me:  It’s a nice try, but what are feet describing?

Maggie:  Oh.  Are they a thing?

Me:  Right.  So, what part of speech would that be?

Maggie:  A noun?

Me:  Good.  Can anyone help Maggie find the adjective?

Ryan:  (very excited, hand up, butt out of chair, ooohing)

Me:  Yes Ryan?

Ryan:  ARE!

Me:  Hmmm…  does are describe anything?

Ryan:  Yeah, feet!

Me:  Really?  Which question does it answer:  which one, what kind, or how many?

Ryan:  Ummm, which one?? (now confused)

Me:  Who can tell me what part of speech “are” is?

Edgar:  A linking verb

Me:  (doing mental somersaults)  That is great!!  So that leaves which word?  What word is the adjective here?

Edgar:  Feet.

Me:  (wonders whether it would be prudent to keep a bottle of vodka in her closet)

* All names changed to protect the innocent


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Caster Semenya

The issue of gender is one that has long plagued the human race.  Men have penises and testicles and are big and burly, a la Gaston in Beauty and the Best (oh, Gaston).  Women are small, delicate, demure, and gentle.  If you believe that, I’ll tell you another.  In a time when medicine can probe all aspects of a person’s body, we are discovering that gender is not always as neatly packaged as some always thought and hoped.  The issue of Semenya, the sprinter from Africa, has been all over the news and has frustrated many a person.

What defines gender?  Clearly, not genitalia.  So, hormones?  Chromosomes?  What then, in the case of people who have identifying factors of both genders but the ones clearly visible to the naked eye point in the “wrong” direction?  This girl did not ask for this scrutiny. Nowhere does it seem more clear that life holds continuums as opposed to blacks and whites, rights and wrongs.   Coming from a small African village, I can only imagine that while it would probably be considered odd that she never grew breasts, was hairier than her female counterparts, and never got a period would not necessarily be chalked up as conclusive evidence of her manhood.  After all, she has a vagina.  She identifies as a girl.  She did not seek to defraud the other runners or the IAAF.

It’s a shame that now, she faces the fact that even if her medal is not stripped away, she will likely be unable to continue competitively in the sport she has been so successful at.  Sure, she could proceed as a man, but not at the high level she has been.  And no, it’s not really fair to the other runners since she does have such insanely high levels of testosterone.  So, what of it?  Does change need to come about in the way we categorize athletes?  Why does this bother me?  As far as I’m aware, I know of nobody personally who is sexually mosaic.  Still, it seems unfair that there is a whole class of people who, by society’s standards, are entirely unclassifiable.

Maybe we’re all wrong in our approach.  In some ancient cultures, it’s been clearly documented that hermaphrodites were worshiped as gods.  Why do so many now revile them or fetishize them?  They’re people, pure and simple.  Not gods.  Not perverts.  Just people.

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Howdy, Ya’ll!

When we were growing up, my family moved a lot.  My dad was in the service and as such, he got new assignments every few years.  One of his assignments brought us to Carswell AFB (now closed), in Fort Worth, TX.  Being little, my sister and I were pretty adaptable.  We got used to the regular moving and got really good at fitting in to new places and making new friends (maintaining long terms relationships, however, remains a weak area).  With the experience now of an adult who has also done some moving around, it strikes me as impressive just how excellent my mom was at adjusting to new places and fitting in.  I won’t lie, it’s not always easy when you don’t have a safety net to fit in as an adult.  Friendships are more transient as children.  The stakes are lower.  But without fail, Mom always managed to find her niche regardless of the fact that she had no job and little way other than church to meet people.

In Texas, Mom quickly found friends among our neighbors and, like each other place we’d been, started incorporating the local cuisine into her repertoire.  Some background:  Mom grew up in a small city in a small northeastern state and did not really go anywhere until she graduate high school.  She lived in the same house for the majority of her childhood (something entirely foreign to me) and her wildest story that I recall is of the time she painted her room watermelon without asking permission.  When she met Dad, she was thrown into a whole new world.  Many would flounder; she thrived.

This is going somewhere.  At this point in our lives, there’s a good chance that Mr. Cookie and I won’t be static in our location.  I have been excited for the adventure but also afraid that I have lost my ability to adapt and meet new people.  A failed experiment for me in Chicago suggested to me that maybe I’m not as adaptable as Mom.  But today, I had a day that leads me to believe maybe I need to have a little more faith in myself.

A new friend and an old friend converged in our little apartment today to share in the fellowship of making some heart and stomach warming food:  homemade burritos.  I got up early this morning and, conjuring thoughts of my mom (currently far away in AK),  filled the pot with soaked beans and water, shook in the seasonings, chopped the onions, stirred, and taught some good people how to make homemade tortillas.  When they left, they left with bags full of hard earned but worthwhile gains.  I have a freezer full of our product.

The fact is, I have a lot to offer and I’m learning how to offer it to new people.  I think I’m ready for this, if it happens.  Time will tell.

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How did this happen?

Today, I am surfing the interweb while the darling Mr. Cookie watches educational tv (people, he’s watching a show on performing open heart surgery.  He’s not even a doctor!).  It is a blissful lazy morning.  A well deserved one, given our work schedules lately.  Was it really so long ago that we met?  It doesn’t seem like it.

This morning, he came home from playing squash with some of his friends, scones in hand.  A close friend is going through some love struggles right now, which made Mr. Cookie’s unrequested hug and scones all the more sweet.  We are both so aware in this moment of how lucky and how content we are.  There may be a couple dishes in the sink, some clothes still need to be put away and the apartment may or may not be losing the battle against clutter, but these are not the monumental frustrations they once would have been.

I am struck with the beauty of our life.  I think I’ll go learn about open heart surgery now.

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