Monday, June 23, 2008

unravelling my monday...

since i left work, i have been unravelling the layers of this story one of my students told me today, while waiting for her parents to pick her up:
This girl, we'll call her S, was born in the u.s, not far from san jose. Her family, however, is from India, and most of them still live there. "When I was born, my skin was white," she explained, then added that actually, it was "kind of a pinkish color." Then, she went to India. She went a few times, for months at a time, and after a series of these trips, the sun in India turned her skin brown, little by little, till it transformed into the color it is now, and she said proudly "that's why my skin is brown," and looked at her arm, smiling.


Another transformative moment during the actual class:
Another child (also Indian) today told the whole class how NOT to mispronounce his name: "It's not chimney, chimpanzee, etc," he said, and listed a variety of unwanted nicknames he'd received throughout his life. He then pronounced his name clearly, so that everyone knew, and would remember what it was.
Of course the rest of the kids responded by calling him everything he'd asked them not to. Eventually I asked them to stop - gently - and told them that it was important that we all feel safe and trust each other, and that means being respectful. This boy had specifically requested that his name be pronounced correctly and not mocked, and we all had to honor that request. "We can all make requests that are important to us, and everyone should honor those."
And after that?
...they stopped.
Not because I threatened them, but, it seems at least, because they understood that it was important to be respectful. And more importantly, because he had asked them in the first place.

Respectful children make me smile.
Empowered children make me hopeful.
Strong, respectful, and empowered children inspire me to be a better teacher and a better person.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

thoughts, all jumbled and rambling


not enough time for errands & resting & fun on the weekends. im tired.

race, class, gender in the classroom:
observations from this week –
power & privilege play out so MUCH, but it's hard to call them out, because (1) there's another level where I, as the teacher, actually have the most power so "calling out" is not the same as it is with peers and (2) we'd have to go waaay back to some kind of beginning/baseline, because i'm pretty sure these kids, unlike the ones I worked with in SF, don't talk daily about racism, classism, and sexism with their principals and other school leaders.
anyway, if anyone has any ideas about how to address this with a group of 7-14 year olds, please pass them my way.

if we use it all up, do you think that would make the war in iraq stop? 'cause i'm thinking maybe that should be our new strategy. i mean it's set to run out in 2012. …what difference is a couple of years gonna make?
and by the way, it's set to run out in 2012. it's 2008. why do people still talk about this like it's way in the future?


normal sleep hours:
i miss you

please don't end after tomorrow, i'm not ready to leave you yet

is it true what they say about violence in the media getting into these young kids' minds and changing the way they see the world and conceptualize violence? their stories are scary. especially scary: when i had them writing to various songs (trying to match their style with the rhythm, although they all just matched it with the words, so i went with that) and i played a nancy ajram song their words got even more violent. this only happened after they asked what language it was, and i told them it was arabic.

what a brilliant idea. actually, almost a little socialist... i mean a building full of books the government pays for, that you get to borrow and then return, instead of always trying to buy your own? shh, don't tell anybody, 'cause i'm sure as soon as they notice, they'll privatize 'em.
just got an oakland library card today. yay!

my neighbor's crying baby or possibly meowing cat:
either way, glad it isn't mine

Monday, June 16, 2008

what don't we want? grammar!

*yawn,* except not as much as i should be.

i got a job!

i'm teaching writing here:

so far, interesting.

today i decided that teaching my students about picketing was more valuable than teaching them about nouns, verbs, and adjectives, so when one girl made a sign on a piece of folded up looseleaf paper that said "no more grammar," i took the opportunity to explain (and pantomime) a picket. they agreed that they were, in fact, picketing grammar (once they learned what a picket was) and we decided to write stories instead.
it was fun.
i have fantasies about them attempting to use this strategy in their regular classrooms and starting some kind of uprising when an oppressive teacher refuses to cave to their demands.

these kids though, are really into violence/war/weapons. it's intense. "ak-47" seemed to be their favorite "noun," and they wrote collective stories about a man who started a war with the world, and then the universe (i mean they do have dubya as their "leader", so i guess we shouldnt expect any different).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

as plain as day

a lot of writers dislike the cliché.
they say things like "never use the words soul, love, or heart in a poem."
even words like "liberation," "justice," etc, they want you to describe it.
ok, well when we're all liberated, i'll tell you how it feels in metaphor and simile. till then, it's just an idea, and i can't say what it tastes/feels/smells/looks/sounds like 'cause the truth is, none of us know.

anyway this isn't supposed to be a rant as much as a reflection

about how in moments of extreme emotion, it's the cliches that suddenly make a lot of sense.

boiling anger, for example...
absolutely. it isn't cliché as much as a pure and simple description. no one ever said the 'blue sky,' is cliché. so then neither is boiling anger. it boils, it feels hot, like it's rising, and haven't we all wondered if one day it's going to rise up right out of us…
maybe it does. maybe that's what our activism is.

and the heart as the location for intense emotion,
you know,
they were onto something. they really were.
i remember the first time i ever realized that,
i was surprised, because i'd never really felt my heart before,
and suddenly, there it was, burning. even breaking.
that was years ago, of course.

elitist writers bother me. like they think they're not just better at writing, but better at feeling than everything else, like their anger doesn't boil, like when they're crushing on someone, or loving them, or hurt by them, they don't feel it in their heart. well, if that's what makes a real writer, then let me just say that i'm not one. 'cause mine does. and i do.

of course they don't all make sense…

crystal, for example…not particularly clear, since it reflects light, and shines colors all over the place.
and, just personally, no matter how nervous i've been, it's never actually made my feet feel cold. but hey, that's just my experience.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

this poem has so much truth in. never heard so much truth in just one poem. can't sum it up, but i guess that's the point, right? if what a poet had to say could be written in a sentence, then they'd just write a sentence. right?
anyway, just listen to it.

you know, i feel weird that i haven't written for so long, and especially that i didn't write on the 60th anniversary of the nakba. i guess it's like suheir says, sometimes you don't have the language...

i'm still trying to swallow this concept of time, and the idea that 60 years is long (not that it seems short, it's just hard to even conceive of so many years when you've only been alive for less than half that time...), and the idea that the occupation of this land (the u.s.) has been a LOT longer.
maybe part of it, is it's hard for me to write just one poem or just one piece or even just one blog entry on the anniversary of something- not that i don't think commemoration is important. but mourning on that one day isn't enough. feeling on that one day isn't enough. it's a tool, like anything else, to draw attention to a situation. but the mourning, for something like this (the colonization of palestine)- so many people, so much land, so much life stolen - that can't fit itself into one little day.

annnd speaking of palestine, come ON obama...i wanna like you, wanna get into this groundswell of enthusiasm everyone's feeling, but that whole 'jerusalem belongs to israel,' speech, did you have to? and still use language like "the audacity to hope" - well, obama, how 'bout you give us a reason to hope, and then we'll have the audacity? how 'bout that.
not saying i'm not gonna vote to him, not saying i'm not glad he won over clinton. but still.

sorry for the bitterness. i'm actually in a really good space right now, personally. found an awesome new roommate, getting a bunch of writing done lately, just had a bunch of friends over for dinner which i haven't done in awhile...

now if only we could just get rid of all this imperialism (& gentrification, it's local manifestation), racism, heteronormativity, etc...then i wouldn't be so bitter. let's get on that. oh wait, we already are...