"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Friday, October 30, 2009

what a wonderful feeling

this week has been terrific. just, really really wonderful. like, i can't help but smile blissfully when i reflect on the week i had, and how i couldn't have dreamed up a better group of students, it's so amazing that real life can be this good and so effortless, sometimes.

finally on friday i can sit here during my lunch break and think about my students and the small community we are building in our class and feel so proud and so energized that this kind of space exists in our school, and that i took part in creating it with my students. i feel that those weeks spent on developing common norms and shared goals for class, discussing respect and learning to talk to one another and listen, all of that is showing in the daily actions of my students. they are more dedicated to learning their math and science than picking fights with each other (for the most part) and know how to self-monitor their own actions and reflect on their decisions.

for example, one day this week i woke up a whole hour later than i usually do and rushed to work to get there on time, but was still 5 minutes late. but i got to my door and saw my students, all 12 of them, waiting in line patiently and saying good morning to one another, and me.

another day this week, i handed back graded papers and the students self-evaluated their performance and practiced math problems at different stations according to their areas of weakness (they also wrote reflections that told me they loved the activity because they felt they were getting better at things they thought were hard). later, when they took the Periodic assessments, the scores were so much better than i thought they'd be, and the students accurately reported to me afterwards that they felt pretty confident about it.

today i handed out candy and thanked my students for such a great week. and i got a little surprise of my own:

my student Christopher was folding paper at the beginning of class, and when i asked him if he was going to use it to store his candy, he replied, "um, kind of."

later, he walked up to my desk and handed it to me, "this is for you, Ms. Lee" and walked back to his desk. i opened it and this is what i found:

i was so delighted! that was the best "treat" imaginable!

lately, all this hard work has totally been worth it. these students are something special.

-Ms. Lee

Thursday, October 29, 2009

ho ho ho!


the weather in LA is changing. it is getting slightly colder every day and now, at the end of October, it finally feels the way it does in early September in Kentucky – like fall!

this makes me excited because Thanksgiving and Christmas are on the way. and without getting too Martha Stewart on you, i admit that the change in seasons makes me excited to do all sorts of crafty things around the house (mostly food-y things).

making apple sauce from fresh apples
pumpkin bread, muffins, and pancakes
acorn squashes!
cranberry sauce from scratch
gourd bouquets (so festive and rustic!)
eating lots of chicken (i'm putting on my winter weight!)

and lastly, and maybe most exciting: screen printing seasonal greeting cards!

every year, my dad goes up to the attic and brings down dozens of boxes of christmas cards (which my mom buys on sale from the year before) and takes over the entire dining room table for weeks writing cards to long ago friends (classmates from college or high school, distant family, old colleagues now retired or moved, the neighbors). this only happens twice a year: at christmas-time and in the spring, when my dad works on filing our family's taxes. it's fascinating and perplexing to watch how devoted my dad is to these two radically different tasks.

sadly, i never picked up my dad's dedication to correspondence. i used to write letters to my friends all the time, but when i finally started using the internet (in college), paper missives became impractical, slow ("snail" mail), and worse, wasteful (the takeover of digital media has been excused, even encouraged, in large part because of recent attention to reducing paper waste. letter-writing and personalized mail is now a lost art among many ppl my age, who view practices such as my dad's as strange).

so, this year, in an attempt to revive the forgotten art of creating beautiful paper mail to send to ppl, i think i will try screen printing greeting cards this year. i love book-binding and frequently do so to make cards for ppl (valentines, for example) but i've never screen printed my own posters or cards. i've been meaning to try it out for some time but never got around to it.

the silk screening process is pretty complicated and requires a lot of materials, but i'm opting for something real basic and easy to do at home. i have tons of left over transparencies from my first year of teaching, and i plan on using those to make my stencils. all i have to do is draw directly on the plastic sheet, and use an Xacto knife to cut it out. most of my prints will be single-color, so it's easier. for those interested, here's a run down of the much more complicated silk screening process, from my favorite DIY site, No Media Kings (i've been endorsing them forever! don't you check out my sidebar?)

as for patterns and design, i'm using these images as inspiration and points of departure:

i love the red pinstripe here:
i like birds on a secular card.
happy holidays! and happy crafting!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

there is only one sky.

listening to music on shuffle, starting with Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams."

madeleine cookies with fresh ginger in herbal tea.

dancing in the living room with the windows open. imagining the next dance party (but wait, it's happening right here.)

French Kicks' "Over The World."

sweat-covered face. and i'm out for more.

i feel like i could run for hours, run until the sun goes down, run until i can come back home and move on to the next step.

come on, i'm ready.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

sherlock you're not

just got off the phone with my aide. apparently, my 6th grade students think i'm pregnant because i haven't returned to school for 3 days. first order of business when i get back: reteaching the science lesson on collecting data and making inferences.

(actual reason: came down with the flu and a pretty nasty sinus infection. the doctor i saw seemed pretty grossed out by the drainage she witnessed in the back of my throat and told me, when i said i almost went into work that day, that if she were my boss, she'd rather i stayed at home than have to look at me. also: her office was decked out with signed photos from celebs, including the likes of owen wilson and the cast of friends. one particularly strange quote from dennis quaid read, "you can examine me anytime, doc!")

Sunday, October 18, 2009

saw Patrick Watson live last night at The Largo. if you ever get the chance, SEE him. the experience was akin to trekking out to the woods at night with a bunch of friends from college to get drunk, then suddenly realizing you're sitting by a campfire in the middle of an ancient forest, watching a band of travelling story-tellers illuminate the night sky by inciting meteors and the phases of the moon and stars, while banging on pots and pans and wailing thru a megaphone.

Monday, October 12, 2009

radical math

a little embarrassed i didn't think of this myself, but so glad i found it, and now, glad to share it with everyone else:

radical math.

this website compiles lessons that incorporate issues of social and economic justice into math and science curricula. for example, i found lessons i plan on using in my math class (most can even be modified for special ed!) which look at the cost of the iraq war and encourage students to develop alternative uses for the billions of federal dollars that may actually benefit their communities. another lesson i looked at invites students to analyze the budgets of smoking teens over time and encourages media literacy and healthy lifestyles.

a pretty great sunday-night find!

p.s. while tagging this post, i realized that i didn't have a "Social Justice" label! i was disappointed. well, situation rectified!

Friday, October 09, 2009


(adj.) of or relating to harmonious proportion (esp. in art).
(n.) a 1980s British pop group fronted by Annie Lennox.

related or not: eurythmia. an irregularity of the heartbeat.

i am currently suffering from the latter.

description of symptoms: butterflies in the chest cavity. a sudden gasping for breath. my heart pounding against the wall of my ribcage like a small animal running against a wall.

there have been a lot of things lately that cause my heart to beat against time. mostly, thinking about next year and what i really want to do and what options are open to me. trying to determine my motivations for acting, and knowing that the next step i take influences a lot of other things (relationships with people, future careers, future living spaces, distance from family, fulfillment of life goals, general happiness of myself and society, etc.) in addition to full awareness of the consequences, knowing that i haven't provided myself enough time to really think things through, to contemplate the different paths, to explore what lies at the end of each choice.

i am a horrible decision-maker. in times like these, i wish some higher power would intervene and throw me in the right direction, whatever results in the greatest positive sum in the end. if higher powers existed, they would be able to decide based on destiny or fate, while i get all confused considering the infinite possibilites. i know i can't be objective, so i get confused considering other people's interests, other people's wants, and then i can't balance others' wants with my own any more. i think about "what could have happened." you know those "choose your own story" books? or the flow charts where you go one way depending on what you answer? i'm the kid that always answers it one way the first time, then goes back 5, 10, 20 times over to explore the other possibilities if one of those choices was a little different. only with life, the option of retracing one's steps is not so simple or possible.

i cannot decide where i want to live and what i want to do. and it is making my heart skip beats.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

race matters

another imperfect grad school ed-related blog post:

At the end of Chapter 10, Provenzo implores teachers to be critical multiculturalists, and question the assumptions about US culture and US schooling. While reading Ch 10, I felt myself taking on the perspective Provenzo advocates, and feeling frustrated and disappointed with what I see.

Throughout the text, Provenzo has outlined the role of schoolng in the domination of minority cultures, in deculturalization, and in perpetuating hegemony or the dominant ideology. On page 220, Provenzo lists a range of methods used by deculturalization programs. I found the following particularly interesting:
-"Use of teachers from dominant group"
-"colonized people are directed, they do not direct themselves."
I found these ideas interesting because they manifest themselves in my observations of my school and in the Teach for America Program. Later in the chapter, when Provenzo discusses race and privilege, and the compensatory education programs of the civil rights movement, I can't help but feel this is a perennial problem in education that won't ever go away. He talks about how the inception of Title I was supposed to extend opportunities and resources to "help disadvantaged children" (248) but that time and data has proven that people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds do not do well in school. Maybe this is because the public schools are "middle-class and upper-class institutions that automatically place the poor at great disadvantage" (248) or that "historically, US schools have contributed to racial inequality and discrimination" (248) rather than integration and equality. When I think about my school faculty and the people who typically apply to Teach for America, Provenzo's point is confirmed: they are usually white, middle or upper class people from more affluent and privileged backgrounds than the children they teach ("teachers and those who plan to become teachers are usually white and middle class" - page 249). What message does this send to our students who are from minority ethnic groups and cultures, when the authority they must answer to and whose rules they must abide are those of another culture? And, if that culture is the one representing the dominant majority class? This sends a hidden message to our students about dominance and subservience. No wonder our students may not necessarily do well or have trouble learning in these school environments, if they feel they are in a constant state of dominance and deculturalization. Worse, when we teach SDAIE strategies or try to integrate the students' cultures into our lessons, it sends the message that not only are their cultures removed and bleached from the classroom, but they are so out of touch with their own culture that now we must teach it to them.

Furthermore, the text discusses the Supreme Court cases of Brown v. Board and Swann, and how they made efforts to transform racial attitudes and integrate schools better. It discussed busing as one solution that has proven problematic, because it takes children out of familiar and "safe" environments and neighborhoods, and injects them into "alien" places in the name of integration. "At best, busing has proved to be an imperfect way to overcome past inequalities and discrimination" (247). I strongly disagree with this. Busing is problematic because it is not a solution to underlying problems, such as the fact that segregation exists in society at large, and not necessarily because of past laws, but because of unspoken and unwritten laws. Segregation occurs because of unfair economic distribution, gentrification, urban planning, etc. It is a temporary solution and one only seen in schools, and does not remedy society holistically, but expects schools to fill in those gaps. Furthermore, what does it matter if racially different schoolchildren are being bused into different districts, if the curriculum taught at school is still "White" or lacking in color or cultural heritage to begin with?

It seems there are only problems and no easy solutions.