Thursday, December 21, 2006


Oh man I love blizzards! It has been snowing for two days straight. We have over 25 inches of snow and the city at a standstill. The last two days of school for the semester were cancelled and I took sick day on Tuesday so I only had to go in on Monday.

Yesterday Obsidian and I made a snow fort. At that time the wind was blowing super hard but we didn't really care. By the end of our adventures Obsidian looked like one of those grizzly mountain men who had just summited Mount Everest (see photo).

Obsidian and Ember's eyelashes are sooo long. It's really cute. The snow was clumping onto Obsidian's eyelashes when he was outside.

The nice thing about blizzards is that it makes people slow down in this crazy capitalist world. I met three of my neighbors for the first time, borrowed a snow shovel from one and helped another's stuck car out of the snow. The stranded neighbor gave me 5 bucks for helping him!! I tried turning it away but he insisted. It's nice that there's still some sense of community around here. We should have more blizzards to get to know each other in.

Friday, December 1, 2006

the horrors of unschooling

This morning there was a breakfast for staff. I overheard a teacher say in disgust "I read an article in the Post today on something called 'unschooling'. It made me want to vomit! It's some sort of new movement where the kids get to learn whatever they want!" She was livid, as was the other teacher listening to her explain this absurd concept. It's interesting. Why is someone a teacher when the idea of kids following their desires is nauseating?

Typically the more a teacher has a martyr complex, the more they distrust and dislike students. They're the ones that spend the entire lunch hour gossiping about students and their families. It's something I need to start intervening with. The level of disrespect that is demonstrated sometimes is shocking and typically I bear and grin it. Gossiping from teachers about their fellow workmates is rampant as well. It's pretty ridiculous and is a real indicator of the type of environments that sometimes take hold in the school setting. Resolution- I'm going to start sticking up for students and teachers and calling this stuff out.

moving mountains

Everytime I sit down to try and write thoughts I have on my first year of teaching an outpouring and rambleness pours out. This job is the most layered, complex, overwhelming job I have ever taken on. In some ways the venting is helpful but then I found myself exactly where I was beforehand. So, to try and make things manageable I am going to take Whitney's advice, or well Whitney's cleaning mentor's advice.

Whitney has this website she goes to called Fly Lady and it gives people a home cleaning regiment. She also gives people advice on how to get their house under control. When the totally disorganized, cluttered people come to her pleading for advice on where to start she says the kitchen sink. Just shine the kitchen sink- It's an easy, quick yet rewarding task.

I can say that slowly but surely my classroom has moved to become a super boring assembly of activities. I am in survival mode and it sucks. We aren't doing much of anything cool. Somehow any real science or social studies has slipped to the wayside and the students are writing these essays that they don't care about and honestly I don't really either. I need to kill this project now- it's a giant leech sucking our creativity, energy and whatever little love these kids previously had for writing.

Well this post actually isn't going to start with the kitchen sink after all. I just spent the past 10-20 minutes surfing the net trying to find resources for radical teachers. I've come up with some semi-good stuff and stumbled across an article giving advice to new teachers. This particular quote isn't exactly advice, but it really describes this setting and explains why I am here in the first place. I mean I'm an anarchist working for the government, working in a job with some of the highest amounts of bureaucratic nonsense concentrated in one profession. However, as teacher activist Stan Karp says

"'s helpful for new teachers to understand that as social institutions, schools have a very contradictory character. On the one hand, they are probably the last place where an increasingly diverse and divided population still comes together for a common purpose. They remain places where people can struggle to improve the conditions of their lives, to increase their access to wealth, power, and opportunity. On the other hand, schools are state institutions that reproduce the class, race, and gender inequalities of the larger society in a host of obvious and not so obvious ways. It's a system that doesn't work as it should, and all of us have a hand in trying to set it right."

Yeah exactly- my life is one giant contradiction. The tensions drive me nuts sometimes, but at the same time I get excited every time I get a new tool to push the margins and infuse critical thinking into a wasteland of standardization and cynicism.