Wednesday, June 28, 2006

In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth…and Legos!

Chili introduced me to Fussy’s concept of using action figures to demonstrate Ashtanga Yoga. Check it out! [HERE] They are hilarious!

Now, I would like to present to you the Holy Bible, told via Legos--[HERE]. Irishbroadsword gets the credit for sharing this with me, and kudos go out to The Rev. Brendan Powell Smith! This is what creativity in storytelling is all about! It absolutely cracked me up to read this. I nearly spewed coffee out my nose when I read his version of Genesis, chapter 4. Wonderful! What do you think?

Vanx, does this count as an individual creation of the Last Supper?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

World Cup and Action Research...

They broke my heart.

It hurts me as an American that our nation did not field a competitive team for the world’s most prestigious event in the world’s most popular sport. I don’t care that they don’t win it. Frankly, I like it that most of the world is better than we are. It irritates me that we didn’t show up to play. It’s no wonder the U.S. is ridiculed by the rest of the world. We’re a superpower. We can launch rockets. We use 97% of the world’s resources. Yet, we can’t find, in a nation of nearly 300 million people, 23 who can want to play this game consistently as well as any other nation in this half of the world. Even Trinidad & Tobago, which has a population of only 34 people, have done better in Germany than we have. They came to PLAY. We came to GET OUR ASSES BEAT.

Now I’m pulling for Ghana. They came to play, and showed they’ve got the stuff. They play Brazil next. They probably won’t win, but they’ll put it all out there. That deserves some support. Go Ghana!!


Countdown to M.Ed. -- 3 courses.

The next one is a research class. Action research. Sounds all superhero-y doesn’t it?

Action research is the kind done to directly affect current practice (in my case, teaching practice), so it’s supposed to have something to do with what I’m doing in my classroom currently. Well, not currently, since I’m essentially done teaching until September, but you get the idea.

The thing is, I’m torn. I have things relative to my current teaching I could explore, but I’ve been so thoroughly disgusted with my teaching this year that examining it objectively is going to be tough.

I’ll admit it. It’s been a tough year. Being gone the first two months of the year. Trying to make up for that lost time while still trying to figure out which way is up. Graduate school kicking back in. No Child Left Behind.

I feel like my students haven’t learned a god. damn. thing.

Worse than that is the nagging, gnawing feeling I have that I didn’t teach them anything. They went through this whole year and got nothing worthwhile from me, and when I look back at why, there is so little that I can honestly say I could have done differently. I don’t have any problem taking responsibility for my teaching, and I’ll own up to the fact that I made decisions that meant my teaching was less inspired because I had other things to do, but it happened the way it had to. I’m not happy with it, though, and I’m carrying a little resentment at having to make decisions that don’t support the part of my life that really nourishes my soul.

Maybe that’s what I should research: The effect of real world bullshit on veteran World Language teachers.

Actually, I’m debating whether I want to make the effort to research teaching practices in schools and programs that work primarily with foster/adopted children. The Landmark Community School project is investigating whether this is a viable demographic to serve, and it makes sense to get the lay of the land, to see what people are already doing and whether it’s effective. It’s a lot of work, though. I’m not sure my constitution is going to handle it. Maybe I just need some coffee.

Friday, June 9, 2006

A moment of silence, please...

My truck has just been diagnosed with a terminal “illness”. Her life’s blood is slowly leaking away. She is 15 years old, with nearly 175,000 miles, so I knew this would happen sooner or later, but I was hoping to get enough time out of her so that we might enjoy some time without a car payment (Wifeness’ van will be paid off in a few months). This vehicle has been very good to me and my family, and I will mourn its loss.

There just wasn’t any sense in putting the money into it at this point. Her body and frame is rusting out (old age is a bitch!) and, in addition to the valve seal job she would need, she’s well overdue for a new clutch, a power steering pump, new shocks and a new seal for her sunroof. All together, it just wouldn’t be worth it.

So, while she’s on her way out, the process of finding a suitable replacement begins. Callous, I know, but she’s been gracious enough to give me time so I want to put it to good use. Who knows how much longer we’ll have, after all.

Wifeness and I have talked about what qualities my “new” trusty steed should possess. Please consider the following as an example of the intrinsic differences between what we each value in a vehicle.


• Must have a back seat (adequate for carrying two children and car seats)
• Must be enjoyable for her to drive (she HATES driving my truck!)
• Should have airbags, antilock brakes and appropriate safety features (“You may NOT die on me!”)
• Should be cost-effective to drive and maintain (25+ mpg would be great!).
• Should not be ugly


• Must be a stick-shift (How can I drive like Ayrton Senna with an automatic??)
• Must have storage adequate to transport one soccer team’s worth of equipment (or the equivalent in fast-food wrappers)
• Should have a sunroof (since I’ll never own a convertible…)
• Should be able to drive around in the snow and mud without sniveling and WITHOUT GETTING STUCK!! (I don’t go off road a lot but, when I do, I damn sure expect to be invincible!)
• Must be able to properly and easily carry a 4x8 sheet of plywood and a canoe (but not necessarily at the same time).

I put it to you, fellow bloggers!

What kind of vehicle, in your own estimation, matches these criteria the best? Do you own one? Do you like it? Your opinions and experience are, of course, muchly appreciated.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

The Rewards of my Profession...

On Thursday last, I got to see a production of La Casa de Bernarda Alba, by Federico GarcĂ­a Lorca. The production I saw was in Spanish, but the actors also presented an English version later that evening. The theatre in which they performed was small (less than 80 seats), and the set was cleverly incorporated into the entire space. The costumes were beautifully made to appear authentic to the time and location of the play (rural Spain at the turn of the last century). It was amazing!

You wanna know what was best about it?

I didn’t go out to see this production. I simply walked downstairs from my classroom to the “Shoebox Theater” and watched the end-of-semester project of my school’s Spanish for Native Speakers class.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. This was a class. A semester-long class, to boot. Since February, these students have been studying Lorca’s work (not just this play, but the others in the trilogy), the history, culture and politics of Spain and learning how to interpret and translate poetry and dialog between the two languages. There are only two seniors in this class, and none of the others had any on-stage experience prior to this production.

Did I make it clear that these guys are studying and performing Lorca? In high school? And not just in Spanish, but English as well! Plus, several of the students in this class were double cast (played different parts in each version of the play) for this production. This is big, people.

To give credit where it is very much due, I do not teach this class. That honor goes to Benigno Sanchez-Eppler. I work with many of the members of the cast in other ways (soccer coach, academic advisor), but two of the women (they deserve that title) in the cast were students of mine last year. Both spent time in Central America during the summer and fall (one in Guatemala, one in Mexico), and I was proud to see them move into that class when they returned to school.

It is both a blessing and a liability of teaching both French and Spanish that I do not teach upper levels of either language. I could not hope to do all the things I do and teach four separate classes in a day, and teaching introductory language classes offers me some sanity. This comes with a cost, though. I get most of my students when they are 9th and 10th graders, still in the throws of adolescence and not having a clear sense of who they are or why they’re here. They very often transfer from other schools, where they struggled academically and any real confidence in themselves as individuals. I see them in class every day, all year, when they are still getting used to being in high school. I’m in the trenches with them at the beginning, and I don’t often get to see what happens to them after they move on from my class.

It is always a special treat to see my students at their most amazing in a context that is not my class. I was moved nearly (nearly, mind you) to tears as I watched them afterward talking to the audience and members of the local press about the play, their interpretations of the language and the experience of being on stage for the first time (in their underwear!) There was an energy in that space then that was impossible to describe completely, except to say that it was positively exquisite.

That event brought to light other students I have worked with recently, and the ways they demonstrate their amazingness, and I thought I’d share with you a couple of them .

We have a jazz a cappella group at PVPA that a number of my students work with. 5-Alone makes truly beautiful music (I know this because they practice in the classroom across the hall from me in the afternoons). You can buy their CDs and check out their tour schedule at their website. (Lucia, in the front, still owes me a research paper!)

I don’t get to say that Sonya Kitchell is my student now because she withdrew from PVPA at the end of last year to pursue her career in music, but I am still very proud of her efforts for me. It took a lot of work on her part to go to school and get herself started at the same time, and I’m really excited that it’s starting to pay off. She was just on NPR, so you can hear her there. She also has a website.

Brianne, whom you have read about recently, gets props for putting the costumes together for the Bernarda Alba cast with absolutely no time. You did a great job! Now, finish your work for me and earn credit for French!

There are others. You’ll hear about them in time…