The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Marc and I bravely decided to buy tickets to a Dodger game for the entire family. I didn't realize until after we bought the tickets that they were for Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Friday of Memorial Day? Oh my... traffic is going to be a nightmare!  

So, we planned around it. We both had the day off, so we decided we'd head down early to beat the traffic. We left at 3pm and mostly succeeded. Traffic was slightly worse than it would usually be at 3pm, but not awful. We surprised Vinny and Tiana with the Griffith Park trains and ponies. We were standing in line for the train, and Vinny was talking to the woman behind us about getting on the train and she said, "My parents used to take me to ride this train when I was your age."  I smiled, turned to her and said, "Me too!"  I hope someday Vinny will be taking his own children to Griffith Park.  Tiana really loved the train this time -- more than she has in previous trips. She was practically giddy the entire ride. 

After the park, we headed to a restaurant in Silver Lake, right near Dodger Stadium. It is called "Home" and it really did have that feel. I love this place. At the entrance, there are little fountains with Koi and lily pads, which Vinny found very impressive. They had a beautiful little patio, where I would love to eat on a warmer day, but we sat inside. The place has a remarkably cozy, yet refreshing feel. Huge, unique menu.

Then, we were off to Dodger stadium. We arrived early and found it practically empty. Oddly, it didn't really fill up either. I have to say, I am impressed with the changes. I don't know why people are staying away. The reduced parking cost (now only $10) was a pleasant change. The presence of police and private security was quite high. When I set out hunting for something to fill Tiana's cup with, the Dodger stadium staff was all over helping me. A woman pointed me towards the new "Club Marketplace" on the club level, where I found a little store with "healthier" food (which essentially meant I was buying Tiana low fat chocolate milk, but it was better than filling her sippy cup with Sprite). This store is a new development at Dodger stadium, and it is a sign of overall improvements. 

In fact, the vibe overall was healthier. Tiana had a wonderful time. It might of helped that we had a row to ourselves, where she could run up and down and play with the seats, and sit on the ground and color.  She started to get tired around 8:30, but for some reason, she got a second wind around 9pm, which lasted until she completely passed out at 10, at the beginning of the 9th inning. 

The Dodgers lost...   :-(      But it was a good night. We watched the fireworks show from our car. We had gotten lucky and were parked right next to where they launched them. Marc and I thought it was cool. Vinny thought it was terrifying. Haha. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012


My research design proposal is due tomorrow. I am nearing the final, final stages of completing it.  I will feel a HUGE weight lifted off my shoulders tomorrow. And then I can bare the full weight of producing Willy Wonka... since I need like 10 million costumes and props and stuff. Alright, I exaggerate, but seriously, the amount of stuff I need to accumulate in the next week feels out of control. Yikes.

This week has been interesting. After finishing my final paper for my composition class, I focused in on getting through the huge stack of grading waiting for me. As I spent my weekend grading papers, I became acutely aware of my students' lack of understanding of real audience. I had given my honors students a very open writing assignment, in which they were able to choose the audience. One student actually wrote a letter "Dear Anonymous." Other students checked off multiple items on the "Where are you sending this" section of my turn-in slip. One student checked off "Letter to the Editor" and "Petition."  Somehow... he thought it could be either. They were just so stuck in the genre of "essay" that they forgot or had a mental block preventing them from thinking about the fact that there are other genres out there, with real, non-teacher, audiences. So... I set about brainstorming a way to help them understand the importance, preferably quickly.  I found one, but I shall return to that later. 

When I really looked at the results, I have to say something really interesting happened with this assignment. Students either wrote AMAZING things, or they wrote terrible essay-ish things. One student wrote a fantastic letter to a company who allows advertisements for "barely legal" escorts, who are often, in fact, underaged, kidnapped sex slaves who have been forced into prostitution. Her letter was fantastic and very convincing. I expect it to achieve results. Another student wrote a petition (which, admittedly, she lacked a final audience for) to convince media outlets to stop portraying women unrealistically. Today, the very last paper I graded, was a beautiful, beautiful children's story. It was an allegory about bullying using a crow as the main character. This story is honestly so fantastic -- solid plot, great details, beautiful message -- I wholeheartedly believe it deserves to be published. I wish I had this book to read to my children. I started searching for "How to get a children's book published" and printed some resources for the student. I will stand by him in this process for as long as it takes, because this story is one that every child should hear. 

Today, before passing back the paper, I did an activity to help the students understand the audience issue. (One cannot give back Ds and Fs to an honors class without prefacing it with some sort of commentary).  First, I wrote on the board "Write a paragraph about love."  They wrote for 5 minutes. I stopped them.  "Now," I announced, "I want you to write a paragraph about love you might give to your future spouse some day." After 5 minutes, I stopped them again, "Now, I want you to write a paragraph about love you could write in a card to your mom or dad or a parent-like family member." After this, I asked them to read the three paragraphs over again and to decide which was the best writing. Only a couple of students liked their first paragraph the best (which worked out just like I expected of course), and so a wonderful conversation ensued about how knowing who you are writing for produces better results. 

There is a Taylor Mali poem about "What Teachers Make," in which he says, "I make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor."  After explaining to the class the audience issues with the paper, I explained that there were significantly higher numbers of Ds and Fs than usual, mostly because of the audience issue. I offered them the opportunity to rewrite, which many will take. But I have to tell you, the celebrations that went on in my classroom today... they were wonderful. I am an admittedly tough grader. I give very few As. In my book, a student who scores in the top section of the rubric has very little room for improvement. This does not go over well with my honors students, but by May, they are starting to get used to it. If you have ever taught honors students, then you know that anything short of an A is often a disappointment, yet today, there were celebrations. A student with a B- said, "I am so proud of myself! I really worked for this B- and I know I deserved it!" 

A couple of weeks ago, one student sent me his rough draft of an audience-void essay in which he essentially stereotyped every Christian and talked about "them" all as the hateful Falwell-esque, "God Hates Fags" types. I pointed out the error in his logic and the irony in his stereotyping, told him honestly that I was hurt and offended by some of his remarks, and asked him kindly to revise. He did. He did his research, thought about what he was saying, and wrote a passionate, reasonable letter to a church denomination. I was genuinely proud of him, but the letter still had its issues. It received a C-. 

After he looked over his paper, he looked up and me, beaming from ear to ear, and said proudly, "It improved a lot, huh?" 

"Yes, very much," I replied with a smile. 

A C can certainly feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor... or in this case, a Nobel Peace Prize. And honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if this kid someday wins one.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Last weekend, I was irritated because I just wanted time and space to just be. This weekend, I am thrilled that I have just that. Okay... so I have a stack of hundreds of papers to grade, but other than that, lots of free time.

I had a very productive rehearsal today with tech and everything, which was nice. I have some very enthusiastic sophomores who are excited to learn tech and have already signed up for drama next year. Thy also are very promising kids, really. One kid is like so thrilled to be the spotlight king, it is wonderful. He spent the afternoon mastering the spotlight. You might not think this is a super complicated task, but Willy Wonka is kind of a complicated show, and in our auditorium, where lighting is just plain substandard, the spotlight can really create some magic. Another kid did a really good job of figuring out which lights were which and memorizing which numbers went with which scene. I'd shout, he'd fix. It was great. Plus, my semi-experienced student was totally on top of the music cues and did a fantastic job, especially for the first tech rehearsal. The best part... I get to keep these kids for two more years. Woo hoo!

The only thing I am worried about now is the situation with costumes and props. There is so much we need, it is not even funny. We are the scheduled group on campus for fundraising for this past week and next week, but we need so much money than I think we are going to be able to make.

We went to SubZero ice cream tonight after dinner. It was very cool. Vinny was impressed with the liquid nitrogen magic. I like the variety of flavors. I still like Hula Cookies and Ice Cream better, but this was a pretty close second. I <3 ice cream so much.

Next week is senior week. Since I am a senior advisory teacher, this means that I will be on field trips most of the week. The nice part is... barely any lesson planning. Okay, getting paid to spend time at Magic Mountain and the beach is pretty cool too. It does make for a kind of chaotic week for me though. That's okay. I'm looking forward to it, especially the beach.

Tomorrow, Vinny has his first rehearsal for the summer musical theatre workshop he is doing. He will be in a production of Sound of Music at the end of the summer. He is excited, and I am excited for him. I think this is going to be a good fit for him.  The rehearsal is at CSUN, which works well for me. I can get my lit review revision done.

I love weekends.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Behind my eye balls

Stress is doing terrible things to me right now. Seriously. I am writing this right now instead of writing the lit review that I should be writing, because writing is cathartic and I need to write.

Yesterday, I was so stressed that I had a difficult time eating dinner. We eat dinner at my parents' house on Sunday nights, and my dad barbecued. I love when he barbecues, but I could barely finish half a burger.

I woke up feeling like my thoughts were swimming in a sea of grey matter in my brain. By the time I got to my classroom this morning, I realized that the physical effects of stress were really taking their toll on me. These effects have gotten progressively worse throughout the day. My neck feels so tight it is painful to move my head quickly. I can actually feel the knots in my shoulders and the back of my neck. I mean like, when I rub the back of my neck, I can actually feel the knots in my muscles. It is the strangest thing. If I rub them, they roll.

I finished one of my finals tonight and experienced some momentary euphoria thinking about how good it felt to be half done with that task. Then, about 30 minutes later, I started to develop a crazy bad headache. It is like a combo sinus-stress headache. One where it feels like the center of the pain is right behind my eye balls. I realized that I hadn't taken my allergy meds in a couple of days, which was really stupid.... I just forgot. Too much in my head. Lately, if it isn't in my phone... if my phone doesn't pop up a reminder to tell me to do it... then it doesn't get done.

Just a few more days.  I can do this. My papers are due Thursday. Grades are due Tuesday. If I can survive the next 9 days, it should be smooth sailing from there.