Friday, February 27, 2009

How to teach an old dog new tricks!

I have a new camera, but I have been too overwhelmed to use it. The sole purpose of getting the camera in the first place was to add more pictures to my blog and facebook. It hasn't quite turned out that way...

I found out when I got back from my fab Big Bear trip that I had a new job. The job of my dreams. Teaching history in the inner city. The inner city I am referring to is close to downtown Long Beach CA. It definitely meets my criteria. 100% of the students come from economic disadvantage. Many of them live with someone other than their parents, and they have problems that make my worries about affording my mortgage and sending my daughter to college look like the common cold! There is a slight is middle school, 8th grade to be exact - US history.

I don't in principle have anything against 14 and 14 year olds. My adolescence was so horrible, I can't help but feel for what their bodies are putting them through! Add poverty, crime, a run down neighborhood and the temptation to do something illegal to make money to the mix, and you have a recipe for disaster.

These particular kids in my classes have been without a regular teacher since before Christmas. She left to go on maternity leave telling the kids she would be back in April. She changed her mind, and isn't coming back until the fall. I could leave my babies at 9 months so I don't blame her. I hope she is basking in the joy of new motherhood. But the kids have had substitute after substitute. Two of whom were supposed to stay until their teacher came back, and just changed their minds and left. After a week in this situation, I have had thoughts of doing the same, but I can't, and I won't. They are hurting, and their more than average ridiculous behavior is proof. They think of it as a game now. How long will it take us to run her off! Well, I have made a promise to them and myself that I will not be run off. I want them to know, if it takes until June, that they will see the same face when they walk into class. I want them to know that I respect them, and care about them enough to show up even when they make that difficult. Perhaps that will change their behavior. It has already changed me.

I realize that there are many times when teaching is about more than the curriculum, this is definitely one of those time. This position is about gaining their trust and teaching them to respect themselves enough to respect others.

I have begun a major cleaning and organizing campaign in the classroom. They deserve a clean room to work in, as do I. They complained about the smell of bleach, but I think they got the message. I will work on the room until it feels like home.

I have learned that I need to relax about somethings. I have to make sure that the kids who want to learn get what they need, and that those who already know they are going to drop out of high school will get what it is that they need. My first response to that question is to not drop out. But, as true as that is, it is much too obvious. Some of these kids realized that they were going to quit high school 2 years ago. What do I have to teach them. That will be a big part of my learning experience

They definitely need to learn manners. They need to learn to care for themselves and others. They need to figure out how they are realistically going to make it in a bad economy without a high diploma. How will I help them with these things, I have no idea. I do know that I have to think and approach them with my heart and not my head! The rest will be playing it by ear.

Wish me well dear readers - all 4 of you. The best to you all!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Back to Big Bear

Probably the most exciting and frustrating parts of my recent trip to the mountains was getting there. I was really looking forward to the trip until my husband informed me that it was not recommended that chains be put on PT Cruisers.

Well, I must digress and say that my PT (Patience Tiffiany) is my favorite car EVER!!!! It is the ninth car I have owned, and it is the only one that magically makes me cuter! Seriously I am cuter because of this car. The chain situation involved the clearance between the tires and the wheel wells - I think. Anyway my husband told me stories of people getting there cars shredded. Needless to say this did much to damper my enthusiasm. How could a car with shredded wheel wells make me cute? I was terrified!!!!!!!!!

Takiing a leap of faith I listened to my savey neighbor, whose wife owns an almost identical PT and off we went. My husband had not told me he really had no idea how to put the chains on, nor that he had bought the bungee cord like things to keep them in place at the last minute!

I became apparent that their was a problem when we reached the snow line, and almost an hour passed and we were still sitting there with my husband struggling to get the chains on. I had to break into the stash of chocolate we had brought to share with our friends so as not to show my quickly approaching nervous breakdown. Thank GOD for kind strangers who will help hopeless flatlanders put on their chains for beer money. It cost 40 dollars, but the chains were one, and we were on our way.

All was well until we realized that our yahoo map had left out the last turn before the street we were heading to@! We remained calm. (Seriously - most of the time anyway). We cam upon a very stuck pick truck and trailer with some sort of vehicle that resembled a Zamboni! They were blocking the road and very grumpy! They sent us on an hour detour that got us even more lost. We ended up outside of the local Wal greens considering checking into a motel. (Oh, we forgot to make sure that our friends phone numbers were in my cell phone. WH keeps washing his so it only works sporadically!)...I have to get ready for work now much more to come.

Monday, February 16, 2009

One trip...too many blogs...

I just returned home from 3 nights and 2 full days in Big Bear California. It is a resort town in the CA mountains. We were with 4 other couples in a smallish house that barely fit us all.

In spite of the slight, very slight, room issue, the trip was wonderful. I have been dreaming of a snowy ski vacation in which I would stay in the cabin and read and knit! My dream came true! Most every one else either skied or went to do other fun snow activities, I played "Keep my feet off the floor"!

The food was amazing! First of all the sheer amount of snacks, and wine was astounding (pics to follow later). Each couple made a meal. I made my buttermilk blueberry pancakes for Saturday's breakfast.

Dinner on Saturday was Chicken tikka masala with brown rice and curried roasted veggies! I didn't think I was a fan of Indian food. Boy was my mind changed!!!!!!

Breakfast on Sunday was scrambled eggs with onions, bell peppers, bagels and cream cheese! Yumm!!!!!

Dinner on Sunday was butternut squash ravioli made from scratch! Oh MY GOD!!!! I don't like squash, at I didn't used to. I brought a copy of the recipe home with me. I am definitely going to make that!

Even today as we were rushing about to leave, we had veggie, and veggie with ham frittata's and biscuits! Awesome!!!!!

I don't want to even go near the scale for a few days!

I will write more about the trip later....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Time, or lack there of...

Okay, so a life well lived is one that is full of fun right? Well as I attempt to engage in the activities that I find fun, I realize that I have less and less time to engage in the activities I find fun! Sorry about the circle logic...that is my state of mind at the moment.

I love to knit! I have been indulging this passion with abandon lately! So, I am behind in my reading, gardening, and I haven't been to a yard sale in months! What am I doing wrong?

I have been trying for years to learn how to knit and read at the same time. I remember when I was first knitting, about 16 years ago, and some friends gave me the book "Jitterbug Perfume", by Tom Robbins as a birthday present. They became frustrated with me because I was too busy working on a vest I was knitting it took me too long to finish. I did end up reading the book, and loved it!
I think that a life well lived is full...possibly so full that one feels they have an embarrassment of riches! I am living life as fully as I can!
Ps - I finished The Shop on Blossom Street!! Great book for anyone who likes to knit, or who likes books about female relationships! I am on to the Queens Fool. Will keep you posted!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Shop on Blossom Street

I just finished the first book on my list, The House on blossom Street. It tells the story of a woman who has batteled cancer twice, losers her father and decides life is too short to not be doing what you love. He love is knitting, and she opens a yarn shop. Her first class introduces three very different women. Throughtout the process of becoming friends and learning to neat each of their lives is changes. Without giving any more away, I want to highly recommend this book. It is about life, love, marriage, courage, and becoming the woman you were meant to be. If you are looking for your purpose, or are secure with what you are doing with your life,you will enjoy the journey these 4 women take.

I am trying to read the Burnt House by Faye Kellerman for my book club meeting on Thursday evening.. It is not on my list, and not easy to read. Wish me luck. I haven't decided which of my list books I will read next, I am leaning toward, The Queens Fool by Phillipa Gregory.

Happy reading...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stitch and Bitch!!

Yes!!! I have joined a knitting group, and it was almost as wonderful as chocolate. I sat for 2 hours knitting and talking to a group of funny and intelligent women. I also discovered that after 16 plus years of knitting, I know little or nothing about the knitting world. I am overwhelmed with the amount of information I ingested tonight!

The best part though was the fact that we had to have a sit in, or should I call it a knit in to get to have the meeting. As far as I understand it, the group has been meeting at the Barnes and Noble on PCH in Long Beach for several years. The community events coordinator was let go, and we were informed that there "is not a Februrary calendar". Apparently in this extremely intelligent mans mind no calendar equals no meeting. We asked if we could just go sit in the events area and make a circle of about 12 and knit. Although the employee never said no directly it was heavily implied! We stood outside the store for about half an hour trying to decide upon an alternate location. We came to the conclusion that since 2 members of the group had actually made purchases, and the people in the evenst area hadn't that we could just go and knit. Well, the employee wasn't happy, but he got a few extra chairs. All was well in the end, but I will think twice before purchasing books at Barnes and Noble in the future!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

World Without End, Ken Follit

Anyone who has read Pillars of the Earth and enjoyed its description of medieval life in Europe, and the building of the massive Cathedrals we still enjoy today was probably excited at the thought of another such book by Ken Follit. World Without End takes place a couple of hundred years later. Europe hasn't changed much. The feudal system is still firmly in place at the beginning of the book, the church is still corrupt, as is the local government. The rich get richer, and the poor stay poor!

Unfortunately, this book like its title suggests didn't know when to end. I was ready for the story to be over by about page 800. Knowing that I had just over 2oo more pages to go, made me weary. I love a long book. When a book is really good, I don't care how long it is. I want to continue my relationship with the characters for as long as possible. I take the journey with the characters of a book that really captures my attention. The problem with this book is that there are too many characters that lack any redeeming qualities. I found myself hoping for the worst outcome possible for about half of the people in this book. I was not disappointed. However, it became a chore to read after awhile. I am not one to just stop reading after 800 pages, and so I pushed on. Besides, my husband and mother had read the book, and I wanted to be able to talk to them about it! The conversations have been mostly about how awful most of the characters were! Even the "good" characters were sometimes frustrating!

The final disappointment was finally finding out about a secret that could destroy all of England if uncovered. This devastating secret was revealed somewhere between page 900 and 1000. As I read it all I could think was..."this is what all of the fuss was about?" Perhaps I was weary from the rest of the book, but talk about anti-climatic!!!!!!

I will end with saying that you should definitely read Pillars of the Earth. It is an engaging and incredibly well written novel! If you LOVE it read World Without End with the caveat that it is not of the same caliber, but I am glad I read it.

I am now about 159 pages into a sweet novel about a yarn store, The Shop on Blossom street. I needed something light, and this book is on my 2009 to read list.

I love reading....