Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Good day.

Today has been a surprizingly good one!

It's poetry month, and I've got all my students digging deep to write poems about an emotional moment. It could be any emotion, whether happy, sad, angry, scared, nervous, etc. All I asked was that it be true, and they describe how their bodies felt when they had the emotion. Some of them are struggling with that concept, or with the concept of turning a story into a poem.

On the other hand, some of them are getting it, getting it in a way that takes my breath away. Literally. I get all...what's the Yiddish word...verklempt. The kids tease me about it, but they beam with pride when I get so excited. One girl really struggles in my class, but she wrote an amazing poem about her father dying. She had a strong understanding of what words could be omitted and how to break the lines to make it poetic. She also did a great job of explaining how her emotions felt: "I began to shake// like I was freezing.// My mother held me// like she was trying to make me warm." When I told her she got an A on the project (actually, in New York it's by number, so she got a 4), her jaw dropped in disbelief. "Really? A four, Ms. K?" Then she asked me again at the end of the period, perhaps afraid I would change my mind. I don't think she'd ever gotten a top grade in language arts before. I know she never has with me. I'm so proud! And she's just one example.

Eighth period, my students were kind of rowdy. One girl, nicknamed Bzanka, has been driving me nuts lately. Instead of doing her work, she kept leaning back in her chair and distracting the kids behind her. I warned her to stop. Later in the class, she fell and before I could help it, I cracked up. The kids have never heard me all-out laugh before, so that caused all of them to go crazy laughing. Bzanka was fine, and I apologized for laughing at her, still laughing until my eyes teared up. Not laughing at the silly things my students do (trying to derail my lessons) is part of the job discription, but it felt good to let down my strict facade for a moment.

During the extended day, I was talking to a student about her lateness. She replied that I'm late sometimes, too (which is regrettably true, though I have improved a lot) and that I run on "CPT-- Colored People Time." I admonished her that she shouldn't say racist things, not even against her own race. I added that it was a stereotype. I know lots of black people who are prompt and lots of white people who run late. "Nope," she replied. "It's like my aunt...Grandma says she'll arrive late to her own funeral. I think you're black, Ms. K." Then I realized what she was doing with her teasing.

"I'll take that as a compliment, Monae." Her face broke into a big smile. She was excited that I had recognized her teasing for the compliment it was. Then she gave me "pounds," a show of respect done by tapping her fist against mine.

That reminds me: I've added shaking hands with my students to our classroom routine. They have to shake my hand and tell me they're ready to be scholars before they come into my room. Class 705 used to run into my room, chasing each other. Now they stall for a little bit by refusing to shake hands, or by trying to give me pounds or jive-shakes (there's probably a better term, but I'm not cool enough to know what it is. I'll ask them tomorrow), but once they get in the room, they're more tranquil. Well, April's almost over. Just May and June to go! Wish me luck.

Monday, April 24, 2006


When Tut died, I was really upset-- partly because I loved him and partly because I was losing yet another part of what it meant to be home. At Christmas, it was strange to be in a random apartment instead of the house but it was so comforting to have Tut crawl into my bed in the middle of the night and curl up on my torso, purring.

Hooligan is not exactly comforting. Petting a cat is supposed to be soothing and lower one's blood pressure. Petting Hooligan, on the other hand, requires nerves of steel. At any moment, he could snap and claw you. I was reminded of this the hard way my second day of vacation. I was on the couch, working on my research project, and he jumped up on the back of the couch really near my head. I was happily petting him when he suddenly scratched me. I was rather miffed. Then dad came home and saw Hooligan perched by me.

"Huh," Dad mused. "He doesn't usually do that." Hooligan usually sleeps on chairs that are pushed in at the kitchen table, or under the kitchen island. It turns out, my homecoming was making Hooligan atypically social. He really did like me. He wanted to be near me and lay by my head and purr. He just didn't want me to touch him. Once we came to that understanding, I began to enjoy my furry, purring couch decoration.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I had thought I might travel around Iowa visting family, friends and cultural attractions. Did I do any of that? NO! Will I do any of that? No. Thursday Mom picked me up from the airport. It was a fabulous 88 degrees out! We went to a local restaurant for supper, the the Maundy Thursday service at church.

Friday I was getting some much needed rest at the apartment, though I did walk the dog three times in the glorious sun. That night I went to my friend Jessy's pretty new apartment in Johnston to see my Des Moines friends.

Saturday was spent and Unkie and Helen's farm, working the sheep with Mom and Dad. Helen made us a wonderful lunch (pork tenderloin sandwiches!). Then Mom and I decided to pick out a movie to watch together. I wanted one we could all enjoy and that would keep Dad awake, so I got Mr. & Mrs. Smith. I liked the movie, and I thought Mom would enjoy the comedy and Dad would enjoy Angelina Jolie. I think I was right.

Sunday, we went to Waverly to see J.B., Erika and Brooke. Brooke is cute as can be, and smart as a whip. She's not even two and she can already sing the alphabet song. I know that everyone is convinced that their baby relative is the cutest and smartest, but mine actually is.

Yesterday I spent the day working on grad school assignments. Grandma Carol and Grandpa Kenny came over for supper. It was so nice to see them, especially since I didn't get to the last time I was in Iowa. Grandma is toying with writing her memoirs, and she should because it is a dramatic and fascinating story. By the time she was 23, she was widowed with three kids. I told her I didn't know how she managed it. She laughed and said, "I didn't have much choice!"

Today I did more grad school stuff, and that's the plan for tomorrow, too. Tomorrow night, though, I've been envited to my cousin Hannah's concert and supper after. Then, Friday morning, Mom will take me to the airport and I'll fly back to New York. It goes so quickly!

Monday, April 10, 2006


I can do this. The surgical interns on Grey's Anatomy save lives without sleep. Navy Seals fight guerrilla forces without sleep. New parents raise tiny babies without sleep.

I'm a surgical intern, a new parent, a Navy Seal! Okay, no, I am clearly not ANY of those things. I'm a grad student with my Master's portfolio and a major research project due...not to mention lessons to plan (including one for an observation) and papers to grade and students to educate. And all without sufficient sleep.

I'm really trying to get everything done, but I'm not sure I'm going to make it. Oops. Admitting doubt and weakness is not very Navy Seal of me, is it? Well, that's yet another reason why I do not belong in the armed forces.

At least I'm coming home to Iowa on Thursday. Hooray! Then I can sleep.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

No life...

I've been so busy lately, working hard at school and grad school. It's a case of too much to do and too little time, with everyone expecting so much. No one cares what else I already have on my plate. I know you all can relate to that, right?

Now that I'm single, I have a little more time to get things done. I haven't gotten much chance to use that time so far, though, since I was recovering from the flu. The doctor said sometimes it can take weeks. Ugh. I finally feel better, but I'm still exhausted because of all the stuff I have to do and DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME. It throws me off completely.

But right now things are going pretty well with my students. They say the cutest things. Last year a student told me teachers smell like books. Last month, one student insisted on saying over and over and over that I have "no ass." One of my little, pre-pubescent boys tugged my sleeve and sweetly said, "Don't worry, Ms. K. You have a nice ass." So many things were wrong with the whole scenario!

Today a student was dawdling at dismissal and I told her to hurry up.

"Miss, for once I want to stay and do my work and you want me to leave."
"Well, I want to go home. You know I have a life outside of school, right?"
"Do you really want me to answer that, Ms. K?"

Ha! The funny thing is, lately she's been pretty much right.