Sunday, September 28, 2008

Breaking off a piece

It works like magic
on your insides,
the parts suppressed by adulthood,
your center, your soul,
the hideaway you keep.

It loves you -
a brief respite from daily matters
that makes you smile,
intense on your tongue,
curiously erotic,
making your eyelids flutter and
filling you sweetly,
kisses melting on your tongue
soothing every imaginable pain.

You forget
for a moment
where, what, why.
The treasure of the Amazon
has become your delicious secret.

That’s why women I know have buried
Russel Stover in their lingerie drawer
Whitman’s in their desk
and Hershey in their handbag.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Drinking it all in

Depleted, I walk out onto the back step
barefoot and t-shirt
stand, quietly
rediscovering whistles and chirps
remembering the scent of grass and tree bark
tilting my head back to
let the sun kiss my face, my arms
closing my eyes, feeling my chest tighten
with heartache
missing the way the sun would hold and feed me
when I had the time to sit with her
I miss this
I miss her
my eyes water from too much light
but my skin drinks it in
something is taking over me
bringing me to tears
the sting of loss
and just plain wanting to sit and be.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dedication and dehydration

I am dehydrated and frustrated. I am tired and annoyed. I am doing the best I can. I am running around in circles. I am doing what I know is best. I am trying to please the unappeasable. I am reading, signing, checking, conferencing, questioning, supervising, planning, documenting, and differentiating. The “Lone Ranger” theme plays in the background while I hurry my charges from math, to vocabulary, to writing, to reading, to lunch, to ESL, and then through a frenzied science lab which we manage to plow through in 20 minutes. A few minutes before dismissal I sound like an auctioneer rattling off the homework assignments and reminding them to get their forms signed, while the principal drowns me out with her booming afternoon announcements. We have chaos in Room 219.

I spent 12 hours at school today, and not once did I stop to drink water! Of course, many teachers avoid water as we do not have the freedom to leave our students and run off to the restroom. I arrived extra early today and stayed very late to organize, clean up, and catch up (because I’m already behind) and even then, I did not stop to take care of a most basic need. Hydration.

They say water is vital to brain function. No wonder I feel brain-dead tonight.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Some "Brazen" self-promotion

This Brazen Teacher has paid me an awesome compliment! Do visit her blog and find out why I'm smiling.

Brazen is an art teacher with an attitude. She writes a thoughtful and humorous blog about school, teachers, kids, and life. You can tell she has faith in her craft and in the kids she teaches, regardless of how confining a place called "school" can be. What I like most about her blog though, is that she asks tough questions of both the reader and herself. I imagine Brazen, sticking out her chin, head tilted to one side, asking "But why? Why does it have to be like that?"

Brazen asked me some questions and posted them on her site. She made me remember a student from a long time ago, and she had me thinking about why I do what I do. Read the interview and check out the rest of her blog at

And thanks Brazen, for the validation, support, and for reminding me why Oil of Olay is my best friend!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

School shoes shined up and ready to go!

Tomorrow will be the start of a full week of school. It will be grueling and intense. The body and mind are still in summer mode; my feet fight the confines of real shoes, begging for flip-flops, and my mind just wants to sit back with an iced coffee and a book.

I did say though, how excited I was to start school again. And I am. I've got a class of 18 beautiful, eager kids from Argentina, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Peru, and Puerto Rico.

They've all been in this country a little over a year, so they have plenty of what we refer to in my field as BICS or Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills. In other words, they have the kind of social and survival English that develops in a couple of years. It will be my job this school year to help them develop their CALP or Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency, which we understand can take from five to seven years.

BICS and CALP are a large part of what bilingual and ESL teachers take into account while developing lessons. To the untrained ear, any of my students may appear to have already acquired enough English to function in a general program class. These students, however, are still developing necessary academic language, the language of the content areas.

It's one thing to be able to say, for example "I went to my friend's house this weekend" and another to have the language to express "Precipitation is the term for the falling, condensed water molecules, which come down as rain, snow, sleet, or hail--depending on conditions in the atmosphere." I know that when I see my students tomorrow morning, they'll be able to tell me in English what they did this past weekend. I also know they don't quite have the English vocabulary to discuss Scientific Method and safety, which I must teach this week.

Luckily, I'm prepared to make it happen. Eighteen years as a bilingual teacher has made me examine constantly what I believe about culture, language, learning, good teaching, and expectations.

I'm still learning. I'm still excited. I'm ready to put my school shoes on.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Happy Back-to-School Day!

Tomorrow is the first day of school! I am so exhausted. Yet tonight, I will not be able to sleep. I'm thinking about all I still have to do.

Today we had staff development. The presenter, who was very engaging, ran us through the new science program we'll be using this year. It was somewhat overwhelming. I'm sure teachers everywhere can understand how stressful it is to add on new material and more expectations to an already overloaded curriculum.

After lunch, we returned to our schools for more grade level meetings, science discussion, opening more boxes, counting and distributing texts and materials, and setting up for opening day.

I stayed until 5. I managed to put up my bulletin board out in the hall, and I cleaned up the mess from the box-opening frenzy. I got started on my paperwork, and I sketched out a plan for tomorrow's activities.

I'm a bundle of tense nerves. There is never enough time in the day. But I'm excited about tomorrow. For me, the first day of school is like, well....... it's like Christmas.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Looking forward to the first day of school

My summer vacation is over. But, in a few days, I will celebrate the first day of school. It’s an exciting time for me. The beginning of the school year is filled with hope and possibility. I’m psyched and ready to put my all in this work that satisfies, that frustrates, that tires, opens doors, and means so much.

I imagine the children are also feeling somewhat giddy and anxious. I’ll bet some have already gone out with their parents to buy a new book bag, pencils, notebooks, and many other school supplies that are so fun to play with (before they’re actually used for schoolwork.) Some are probably thinking, “I wonder what the teacher is like? Will there be lots of homework? Will I have friends?”

I also know many of my new students are not looking forward to school with the same enthusiasm. These are the kids who are missing something – food, love, security, self-confidence, or the basic skills to be successful in school. For these children, school is a worrisome place. I hope to change this.

I welcome each and every one of these children to our class. I’ve prepared it with lots of care. The desks are all set up. On top of them, I’ve placed colored pencils, scissors, notebooks, rulers, the reading text, and many other supplies so that we can start working right away. We have everything in our school. We lack for nothing. I’ve even put curtains on the windows, plants on the sills, and cinnamon/apple Plug-Ins in some of the outlets to make us feel like home.

The door is open for learning.

Esperando el primer día de clases

Se me acabaron las vacaciones de verano. Pero, dentro de unos días, celebraré el primer día de clases. Es una época bastante emocionante para mí. El comienzo del año escolar está lleno de esperanza y posibilidad. Tengo ganas de poner mi todo en este trabajo que llena tanto, frustra demasiado, cansa mucho, abre puertas, y significa todo.

Me imagino que los chicos tambien estan sintiendo algo de emoción y ansiedad. Seguro que algunos han salido yá con sus padres a comprar la mochila, los lápices, algunos cuadernos, y varios otros útiles escolares que tanto fascinan (ántes de usarlos con motivo). Algunos estarán pensando, “¿Cómo será la maestra? Habrá mucha tarea? Encontraré amistades?”

Sé también que algunos de mis alumnos nuevos nó esperan el primer día con el mismo entusiasmo que los demás. Estos son los chicos a los cuales les falta algo – comida, cariño, seguridad, confianza en si mismo,o las destrezas más básicas para poder tener éxito en la escuela. Para estos niños, la escuela es un lugar por temer. Espero cambiar esto.

Doy la bienvenida a cada uno de estos niños a nuestro salón de clase. Lo he preparado con mucho cariño. Los escritorios estan puestos en orden. Encima les he puesto lápices de color, tijeras, cuadernos, reglas, el texto de lectura, y tantas otras cosas para que podamos comenzar a trabajar de una vez. Tenemos de todo en nuestra escuela. No falta nada. Hasta he puesto cortinas en las ventanas, plantas verdes en los estantes, y coloqué unos Plug-Ins en los enchufes para que el aroma de canela y manzana nos haga sentir en casa.

La puerta está abierta para aprender.