Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Be Nice and Mind Your Own Business"

This past week I was the "guest teacher" in three different classrooms and levels. It was only a four-day week and one of the classes was two, half-days. It was a week of contrasts and some challenges.

My first assignment was my most familiar Kindergarten as the P.M. part of a "well-oiled" Team. These professional teachers have it down. The organization is all there and the kids are truly benefitting from it. I can see growth since the beginning for the year. The major assignment for both groups of 20 was to make a folded display of their traced (and cut out) hands, colored differently and touching when you folded them together. In the middle of this was their own written words on, "What they wanted to do to help others" like Martin Luther King Jr. did. We had "primed the pump" with stories and songs about him and his life. Most of them got it, even if it was just to "help" give their dog a bath. One little girl's father came to visit our table and help his daughter with the cutting and writing of it all. This was really good to see since the last time I was there she was "having a tantrum" (pretty regularly) toward the end of the period. He complimented her greatly and complemented her too. He had her write that "she" wanted to be an "asternot" and he apologized for his lack of "spelling skill". I resisted the temptation to correct it or him, but effusively praised him and her. I'm pretty certain that this was part of the solution suggested for her by her regular teachers and it would work better if he came when he could hear the assignment and then understand how to help her, besides just keeping her from "going off" on her peers when she wasn't getting her way. This is definitely a "rubric" that more kids need i.e. regular visits and help from their parents.

My next assignment was at a 5th grade class in a portable next to the parking lot of a different school. The emphasis at this school is, across the boards "WE ARE COLLEGE BOUND!" and they let you know it. It is all over on bulletin boards and even in their early morning, shouted chants and cheers before they even enter the classrooms. They seem to do it for each other as encouragement and reassurance. I noticed "Biola University" is centrally featured near the office where everyone has to pass. The young teacher I was replacing had pendants from UCLA around the room. I decided not to mention that I had gone to USC. This class was also working on their own essays on MLKjr. I tried to help with that. I told them about my sitting behind Coretta Scott King in church and one girl shared that her grandfather, still living with her, was hit by fire hoses in Birmingham. I also mentioned the "Blue Eye Experiments in Discrimination" and the "Evil Eye" (glass blue eye) I had in my pocket (bought in Turkey). They had an hour-long video after lunch to reinforce all that he taught and what we want to remember about him. Unfortunately I had two boys who had other "ideas" of what they were going to do at school with a "sub" It started by not getting along with the boy seated between them. (they were all Anglo and Hispanic) So, I moved them and separated them so they could "work" better. Soon they were moving themselves to other unoccupied desks and stll not trying to do their work. The one that was back-talking the most and bullying others was finally asked to leave. It is called "a referral" to the office. Soon the principal called for clarification of the offenses and asked me to send his remaining work. Later on I saw he had been placed in another teacher's 5th grade class. She had offered earlier to take "any students who gave me trouble" since she had "three empty desks" just waiting for them and "they didn't like it in her room". She also led the P.E. for the grade level at 8:15 A.M. i.e. calesthentics and four laps around the large field..."that'll tire them out." "These kids now days are so out of shape."

My third assignment was actually two half days at a Second grade in a portable way out in "left field" on a gigantic campus dedicated to Second through fourth only. I went early and ate lunch with the teacher and kids which is what they do there. I enjoyed it. They announce contest winners and awards during these luncheon sessions in a large multipurpose room. The principal came well recommended by my first of the week team leader. "He's so nice." The room and teacher of this second grade were a "breath of fresh air" for me. First of all, as you walk in the door, the "class rules" are posted. This is not unusual. There is usually a long list of do's and mainly don'ts in every elementary classroom. This one, however, only had two, hand printed, "BE NICE" #1 and "MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS" #2. That was all that was needed they felt. I began to see why and what was the difference at this young age, 7 or so. It is so hard for this "age" to do just that. They love to be so "officious" and "rule-reminding" to each other and to their teacher. These kids were actually practicing these rules with some degree of success. It must be their teacher, I thought. I had met her. She gave me candy treats. She was very open to "new ideas" and even some of mine. She was reading "Sadako" a thousand cranes - to her class and had them drawing their responses to each chapter with sentences too. This is the story of the survivors of the Hiroshima Bombings. Pretty heavy stuff for second graders. She planned to challenge them to make 1000 origami cranes of happiness. We had fun with "The Magic Penny" Song and game, "Frere Jacques" as a "round" with a student leader, "Mr. Fox" song and story theater with masks, "Twenty Questions" and "Silent Ball" They loved it all. It was raining outside. RRR

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A New Year

2008, the "Year of the Rat", is finally here. It has been a long time coming for me. 2007 didn't end well. It was the "Year of the Fire Boar" (pig) full of clashes of fire and water. I can understand that. Hopefully, that is all going to change. "The Rat" is very productive and driven. I was born in the "Year of the Rabbit", my wife, "The Dragon". We had the most trouble with "The Snake".
We were reminded of all this "superstition" with our recent visit to Las Vegas and the Belagio. The whole place, especially their Conservatory, was decorated to honor the Chinese New Year. China, the largest and most populous country, will continue to have a major influence on our World's economy and environment/atmosphere. They must we reckoned with and dealt with, as a World Force, A Culture and Society and as Individuals. This is becoming very evident and pressing. We have certainly seen it in our own family. I now consider all this as "Life's Rubrics". Best learn from them, and not the hard way. Feng Shui will come in handy now and in the future.
Speaking of that, the lobby of the Belagio has changed radically recently. Right in the center is this gigantic stallion all sculpted in tiny, mosaic mirrors. It is awesome. They've cleared out everything else except for some couches nearby to sit and gaze at it. All kinds of tourists are flocking around it constantly to take pictures. I had trouble getting the "clear shot" above and had to go early in the morning. The ceiling is the same (Morano Glass Flower Sculptures) which are still spectacular. Behind the "check-in-out" counter is an alcove completely decorated in big, bright red ball ornaments hanging in groups over mandarin orange trees fully loaded and piles of oranges all around them. What symbolism! The "Year of the Horse" is not due for a few years (2014)...and the "Rat" and the "Horse" don't "get along"...not compatible at all, according to the Chinese calendar lore. Very Interesting! Why have that symbol, which definitely improves the Feng Shui there but is in conflict with with the current sign? They are having the current Democratic Presidential Caucus right there. Is it an omen? Hillary's people contested it, Obama's went for it since the "Vegas Culinary Union" has endorsed him.
From the balcony above the conservatory are the spacious spa and salon rooms of the casino. I had never been up there so...what the heck, I had just won a video poker jackpot from an attendant so why not relieve some stress. I chose the unique "Scalp, Hands and Feet" massage. Wow! Did it help with my migraine-type sinus headaches. Reflex-ology really works.
While I was sitting there by the horse waiting for my "gambling family" I heard the strains of "Fur Elise" from the lobby bar piano. I went over and asked, "Do you know "Traumerai"?, one of my favorites, with memories. The musician said, "If I cheat." Pretty soon, here come the familiar, melodic phrases of "pathos" and "longing". I was moved sitting there and teared up a bit. "What could've been" says to me. Further release from my massage I would guess.
Our favorite "coffee place" at the Belagio is "Palio". It is on the way to all their "Convention Square-Footage" with all the "professionally upward and mobile" stopping by for their caffine "pick-me-ups" The reason we like it is not just the stronger coffee (espresso) but how it reminds of our visit to Senea(?) Italy and the famous day of the "Palio" - an annual horse race in the town palacio. It is quite an event and one can get "trapped" in it and the crowds. The neighborhood "colors" (flags) and symbols are all paraded and bet on or against. Horses from these areas can win, by any means, I mean any...and even without a rider as the charge pell mell around the square. Del Mar Race Track near San Diego has their top-most restaurant/bar named the "Palio" probably for this very reason. It is open and you look down on the finish line with your bet tickets in hand. The symbols I chose from the ceramic hangings all the walls of the coffee shop are the most appealing to me now..."an owl", "a turtle" and "a snail" Atypical symbols for a race, don't you think? This is where I feel I am now in "my race", "my guest teacher career", my family and life. Easy does it, one step at a time...
In the last two weeks I've visited five different school's primary grades. I'll concentrate on these levels now, less stress. I've enjoyed them by and large. In one, I was told by the "observing principal" to "slow down", some of the weaker ones, academically, were not with me. I took it as good advice. What's the hurry? The lesson plan left by the regular teacher doesn't have to be on schedule and followed to "a tee". I'll take time to sing with them and joke with them. These times are precious and I'm so priviledged to be allowed to work with them...I alway have. RRR