Thursday, April 29, 2010

"What Does Booty Mean?"

Today I found myself asking a third grader in my tutoring group, "What does booty mean?" Upon hearing my supervisor's gasp from the other side of the partition, I quickly clarified, "Pirates' booty, I mean."

Sigh. Nothing like an ordinary day in AmeriCorps.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

No More Avocados

It will be a long, long time before I am ready to face another avocado.

Honestly, I love guacamole. There is no greater complement to Spicy Black Bean chips than a well prepared guacamole. However, after my latest case of food poisoning, I can't imagine eating anything containing avocados for at least a year.

This was my third case of food poisoning in two years. The other two cases took place in Central America, so they're really a whole different ball game. However, even one case of food poisoning in two years is really one case too many.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Carbon Offsets

I am seriously looking at The Carbon Fund's Carbon Offsets. This is a tax deductible way to reduce your impact on the earth for the miles you have to drive anyway.

The Carbon Fund clearly promotes reducing your impact on the earth as much as you can (by carpooling, recycling, biking to work when possible, and other means), and then offsetting what you can't. For me, that would be my trip out to Washington to begin my stint with AmeriCorps, two trips back home after a family member was diagnosed with cancer, and the offsets required to heat the house that I share.

All told, it would cost me about $79 to offset a year's carbon production. This seems like an easy, efficient way to offset the carbon that I use.

How do you reduce your carbon footprint?

Dyslexia in Public Schools

I think the roughest part of working in a public school is not being able to directly name problems. I can't suggest that a parent get her child tested for dyslexia---I can only write that her son "experiences letter and number reversals" on his learning plan, and hope that she understands the code words for dyslexia. To write anything else would be "deleterious to the child's self-esteem."

Similarly, if I think a child has ADHD, I can't just ask the parent if she has been tested---I can just mention the child's distractability and behavior issues. To do anything else would be insulting.

To me, this is completely illogical. If a child truly has dyslexia or ADHD, we are doing them no good by gently sidestepping the issue. They won't get the help they really need, and that's when their self-esteem will really suffer. It suffers when they try so hard, only to fail time and time again. It suffers when they see just how easily everyone else can read a page of information, or pay attention in class, and they can't. They'll start to blame themselves, and feel like they are failures. They'll stop trying to do better, since it never helps.

Imagine the difference a simple diagnosis could make! They'd realize that they aren't stupid, or defective, or any of the other labels they (and other kids) put on themselves. They'll learn strategies that will really help them, instead of muddling through this on their own.

This just goes to say, that just maybe---on my last day---I may gently mention to the children's parents that their children be tested---self esteem and insults be damned.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Twenty-four Hours of Lesson Planning, Did You Say?

Oh, dear. My throat is starting to ache. This is not a good sign. I finally got better!

Anyway, parent/teacher conference time is upon us. I get to spend twenty-four hours over the course of three short days planning lessons and waiting for a parent to deign to visit me. Oh, how I pray for a visit to break up the tedium of my day. There is only so much lesson planning that one girl can do without going absolutely, positively bonkers.

On the plus side, my new poetry unit is now completely planned out, and I have several new, glossy pictures to spark journal entries.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


A couple of weeks ago, I flew home to be with my family. My grandpa had passed away the night before, so there was little laughter in my day.

That is, until I started reading the SkyMall catalogue. Who buys a $59.95 Underwater Pogo Stick? Sure, it will propel you across the pool, but whatever happened to good, old-fashioned swimming?

Needless to say, I cannot live anohter day without a $69.95 Personalized Branding Iron for the grill. My tofu will never fall into the wrong hands again, once it has my initials boldly emblazoned on it! How's that for frugal?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sierra Mist, I Love You

I woke up on Friday morning with the worst feeling in the world: a raging case of food poisoning. I spent the next six hours barricaded in my bathroom, projectile vomiting. Fifteen times.

Did I mention that it was 1:30 in the morning? And that I really had to be at work the next day?

Needless to say, work didn't happen. I called the school switchboard at 5 a.m., just to let them know I cared. I e-mailed all the teachers I could reach, before sprinting back to the cool, cruel recess of the bathroom.

All of that changed when I met you. You took away my pain. You filled my very soul (and my stomach). Oh, Sierra Mist, how I love you.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Pickles

I am still such a college student. I crave simple meals (and some strange ingredient combinations). I love Garlic Mashed Potatoes and pickles. A simple tofu stirfry with plenty of vegetables (usually frozen, from the Farmer's Market in the summer) is a perfect dish. I usually make up a bunch of brown rice ahead of time and freeze it for a quick complement to the meal. I also like fifteen minute meals: Curried tempeh, Teriyaki Tofu, and Tofu Guacamole Sandwiches fall into this category. On the weekends, I might make a "Hamburger" Hotdish, or Teriyaki Garbanzo Beans.

If I can find Teriyaki Chex Mix at the discount grocery store, I am a happy camper! I am absolutely in love with the discount grocery store. I can find 75 cent tofu, $1.99 Soy Dream Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream, and $2.49 "Chicken" tacos. It is a paradise for the budget shopper!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

WA State Dept. of Health Decrees: "Don't share toys!"

Yes, our illustrious Washington State Department of Health has issued the controversial ruling that bans the sharing of toys. The culprit? Stealthy germs that lurk on the toys' surfaces.

Children everywhere rejoice, and parents rue the declaration, that forevermore forbids parents from declaring that toys must be shared!

Paper Pile-up

It's kind of scary. Sometimes I almost pray for a flood or a disaster to wipe out most of my possessions so that I don't have to lug them around anymore, or determine which I really need. I still have a room full of stuff at home and in the garage that I don't see for most of the year, and have found a way to live without. Most of my possessions don't contribute much to my life; there are a few things that are really handy and that I'd hate to be without, but they are in the minority. I'm dreading sorting through five boxes of school papers. Most of it I don't really need.

I don't really want a natural disaster. Maybe I can just pretend that one has occurred, and toss out all of my "flooded" papers. They've been sitting in a box for two years, so it's not like I'd miss them.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I Have Mastered the Copy Machine!

Today I mastered the copy machine. I can now copy double-sided, collated documents, and have them stapled, all in one fell swoop! I am a master!

On the downside, this now means that my supervisor will expect all of my handouts to be double-sided and collated, "to save paper." Oops!

I love the Book Bazaar on Paperback Swap. I got half a dozen elementary school books for two credits---and these aren't picture books. My students are going to love this! I'm always trying to collect sets of books so that we can stray from the "A Mop for Pop" and short story readers. They're just so dull! I figure that if I, as a teacher with a long attention span, can't suffer through the material, it isn't fair to subject the kids to it. There are so many great books out there, waiting to be read!

So we read "My Father's Dragon," a few Magic Treehouse books, and a ton of "Amelia Bedelia." Sprinkle in some funny school poems, and life is no longer so dull.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Live Poverty

Now, AmeriCorps is serious business. I mean, getting pooped on in a regular day is nothing to laugh at, right? Sometimes, though, amidst all of the learning plans and books on dyslexia we forget to laugh at ourselves. The AmeriCorps website has changed all of that. It reads, verbatim:

"Join a team committed to social change. Serve NY members not only fight poverty but live it, not only lead the community but are a part of it, and not only change the nation but are changed by it.

Yes, you read that right. Live poverty. Who, exactly, may I ask are they targeting? Live poverty! You'll love it! And here I thought the goal was to get people out of poverty, not sink into it yourself! Is that not just a self-defeating prospect?

Honestly, $1,000 a month seems like a fortune to me. Maybe my perception is a little skewed---I did just graduate from college, where a $15 a week grocery budget was the norm. $1,000 a month is good money, enough to pay rent, pay student loans, and travel. After Guatemala, $1,000 is a fortune.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

See the Teacher Blush

Buying wine can be so awkward if you're a teacher. First I forgot my ID (awful!). Then my phone rang and I had to stash my basket full of bread and tofu and other good things to answer it. Then I ran into my student.

There are certain things that students just don't want to know about their teachers. Their use of toilet paper is one. Their consumption of wine is another. In the student's mind, teachers live in their classrooms. That is their natural habitat. They don't rollerblade, they don't eat birthday cake, and they certainly never buy wine. To find one with a bottle of wine is mind blowing, to say the least.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I Love Half Days

I love half days. They're one of the joys of being a public school tutor: occasionally, it is time for parent/teacher conferences and you get nearly a week of half days. Technically you're supposed to sit in on conferences, but when the parents don't show have a lot of free time.

I spent my most recent half day working on learning plans. NINETEEN learning plans, to be exact. This is the downside of tutoring. I then jumped in my car and headed to a service project conference in the next town. On my way, I almost hit a biker who came whipping out of an alley at top speed, without checking the street first. Scary.

I got to the conference just in time to down a bowl of delicious vegan chili and eat a caramel brownie before the actual conference started. I guess the near accident affected me more than I thought, because suddenly I broke down in tears during our visualization exercise. How embarrassing!

So I left the conference and scrounged up some food for my very hungry second graders at the discount grocery instead. I found some awesome vegetarian "chicken" tacos, and a bottle of great, southwestern salsa to go with them. Heaven!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Never Laugh While Eating Soup

It just doesn't end well.

I love my land lady. Her whole family came up for a birthday celebration, with plenty of Vietnamese food. She invited me along, and even cooked vegetarian Pha for me. Isn't she sweet?
Her family is hilarious, by the way. We were all eating our soup with chopsticks, and then they'd say the most random thing and disaster would occur: soup everywhere. It's not so easy to get Pha out of long, thick hair. It doesn't do much for make-up either. Maybe it's the newest moisturizer?

A girl can dream.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Call Me Miss Manners

Somehow, the math and reading tutoring is just one piece of a very large, very messy puzzle. This means that I don't just teach children how to add or what Clover labeling is. Instead, I am a self-confidence builder, Miss Manners, and a math tutor all rolled into one.

I teach children that we don't eat food that's fallen on the floor. "But it's still good!" "Well, where have your shoes been? The boys' bathroom, right? Would you eat off that floor after it flooded for the third time this week?"

I instruct others in how to politely ask to go to the bathroom. "We never yell our need to fart or pee. It's not polite."

I reveal new, powerful words that are "loads better than any curse word. Have you ever heard of the word horrendous or putrid before?"

Simply teaching a child to add or multiply is easy. Teaching them to believe in themselves, not fight with scissors, and refrain from scatalogical conversations is something else entirely.