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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Presidential Inauguration

Last week when it was announced that the entire 6th grade would be watching the Inauguration in its entirety, I was immediately worried about my special ed students sitting through the hours of pomp and circumstance leading up to an event that few of them seemed to understand. Since I'm no longer a classroom teacher, I don't get a chance to plan lessons or work with the kids on any type of unique curriculum, but because I'm such a history buff, I decided to run a contest. Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day, today the Inauguration of our nation's first African American President. I printed out photos of MLK giving his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. I taped up photos of JFK and RFK, two of our countries greatest and most storied political leaders. I covered a bulletin board with photos of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts and the marches on Washington during our country's fight for integration. The task was simple in my eyes: 11 questions about our nation's history having to do with the Civil Rights Movement and how that generation's fight led to this very day when at 12:00 pm, Barack Obama would take the Oath of Office.

I was immediately disappointed when students began asking questions like, "Didn't MLK die of hypothermia?" Or, "How do I find out who signed the Emancipation Proclomation?" I was flabbergasted at the idea that these 12 year olds had no basic knowledge of their country's history.

I told my fellow teachers, "This is it. We've finally raised a generation that has no idea where they came from."

Automatically I assumed that today's Inauguration and its vast, sweeping historical significance would be lost on these students. The only way we could make them understand that the Nation's Mall was not actually a shopping center was to refer to a scene in the movie "Forrest Gump" where Tom Hanks' character is looking out over the Reflecting Pool. We had difficulty making them understand that today is the day when we would see the culmination of Dr. King's Dream as a member of a racial minority would take the highest office in our nation.

I went down to the auditorium at 11:30 to watch the minutes leading up to the Oath and the Inaugural Address. The kids were understandably restless, having just come in from recess, and other grades and classes were flooding in, making sure they didn't miss the big moment. The announcer began reading off the names of senators and government representatives who were descending the steps onto the stage at the head of the Nation's Mall, but it wasn't until Obama's calm, collected, and unarguably proud face flashed across the screen did I realize these kids know a hell of a lot more than we give them credit for.

Obama's name was announced and the auditorium erupted. Kids were clapping and cheering, chanting Obama's name. Suddenly, even the kids whose parents were staunchly against Obama's political platform were cheering along with their friends. We watched as Obama stumbled through the Oath with a smile on his face and when he said the final words, "So help me God", the noise in the auditorium was deafening. The kids were on their feet and I had a hard time keeping the tears back.

The cameras panned across the crowd as Obama delivered his Inaugural Address. The faces of individuals who were alive to see Dr. King deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech, cried as they watched their nation finally see the ultimate end to segregation. The crowd in Washington roared as Obama invoked the spirits of Dr. King and all those who fought alongside him for freedom and equality for all American people. While my cynical side frequently feels like our nation's history has begun to fade, watching today's events reminded me that as long as there is one person who remembers, our history will never disappear. We are a nation who has survived world wars, civil wars, race riots, invasions, foreign conflict, economic crisis. I hope that in seeing history being made today, some of my students will wake up one morning and say, "I want to know more" and they will take the time to discover from where they came. They will ask the questions and find a way to enrich their lives with the words and actions of those who made today possible.

"As of today, this generation, and generations to come, will never know a world without an African American president."

Border Patrol

Dear Canada-

Thank you for letting me into your country without commenting on my obvious lack of ability to speak my native language. I realize now, in hindsight, that blurting out the word "TRAINS" when asked what I was doing in Canada, was not an entirely appropriate answer. I also apologize for repeatedly calling my carbonated beverages "soda" as opposed to "pop", and for making jokes relating to American history, the FBI, and Target. None of which exist in Canada.

Thank you, and God save the Queen.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dear McDonald's,

I'm sorry for harassing your drive through employees.


So yeah, I'm guessing that by now there is a picture of my face with a caption reading "Do NOT Serve Food to this Woman" in every McDonald's in America. And maybe a couple in Canada. It all started last night when it began to snow like a bastard. By the time my friend B and I got up this morning, our cars were buried under a foot of snow so we decided to just stay in and do nothing. However, "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" came on and we looked at each other, movie star style, and said, "McDonald's!" Still in our jammies, we went down to clean the snow off my dad's MINIVAN (my car blew a tire) and pulled out of the driveway. Well, not really. We tried to pull out of the driveway but we got stuck. In our jammies. For ten minutes we pushed the minivan, pulled the minivan, kicked the minivan.. No dice. Finally we pulled out the BROOM because we don't have a SHOVEL and started hacking away at the snow under the front end of the minivan. Thankfully that worked and we got out of the driveway with a minimum of swearing. We headed down the street to McDonald's and pulled up to the drive through where I promptly realized that the 4 piece chicken nugget is no longer on the Dollar Menu. Here's how the rest of it went:

"Welcome to McDonald's. Can I help you?" Or at least I think that's what he said.

"Yes can I get two double cheeseburgers, two 4 piece chicken nuggets, and two large fries?" I watch it all pop up on the screen... and then silence. Of course I took this as my cue to loudly bitch about the fact that inflation is a mother. "How the hell can they raise the price of chicken nuggets from $1 to $1.39? What the F*&K! God dammit. Bastards ruined my life."

Then I hear static and shuffling coming from the speaker, then a woman's voice, laughing hystercially says, "Can I get you anything else?"

Yes. My dignity back.

We pulled around to the window where all of the employees were bent over laughing. At my expense of course. The poor guy who originally took my order was still laughing so hard that when he reached for my debit card he was actually wheezing.

By the time our food was ready, every employee at the McD's drive through had pointed and laughed at the crazy lady in her puffy purple coat, flannel jammies, boots, and unbrushed hair.

"Would you like sauce with that?" Says the poor boy who still hasn't recovered from taking my order. "I kinda forgot to ask."

"Um yeah. Sweet and sour. Sorry. I guess I distracted you with my profanity. Sorry."

And there you have it. I apologized to the McDonald's drive through staff. Twice.

Friday, January 9, 2009


Hey everyone. Just had to announce that Eating the Paste has reached 1000 unique views! Thank you to everyone who reads faithfully and laughs heartily at my expense!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dinner and a Movie

One of the beautiful things about a residential is that the kids not only deal with each other all day in school, but they also go home to each other at the end of the day so when there's beef between two of them, it usually erupts quickly and violently.

Most of the staff members become desensitized to this kind of thing pretty quickly. It wasn't at all unusual to see one of us looking like a cartoon character, arms outstretched with a kid clutched in either hand while they continue to throw fruitless punches at the air. Usually it was a fight over a girl, sometimes a fight over who stole someone else's pencil or some other inane and asenine issue, but to them it was the fight of a lifetime.

But because it was so common, some of us were at times slow to react to a fight. Sometimes we also knew exactly what was going on and we knew that there were moments when certain kids needed a few minutes to experience the concept of natural consequences. If you call your room mate gay, chances are he's going to punch you in the face at some point. Cause and effect kiddies.

One afternoon there were about three different classes out on the playground. For some reason the older boys loved to play Four Square, a game I never thought could be classified as violent but I now know it depends on how you play it. Other kids decided to play basketball, and the rest chose to simply mill around and watch everyone else work off the two helpings of pancakes from breakfast. I typically monitored the Four Square game because it was the only one I didn't totally suck at, and on this particular day that's exactly what I was doing which meant I was concentrating on the possibility of my first ever Four Square win against John and Bobby. What I was NOT concentrating on was the two 250 pound boys beating the snot out of each other under the basketball hoop. I looked up just in time to see the science teacher dive in between the two of them, shoving one to the ground while the other backed right into the waiting arms of a TA. The one who landed ass first on the pavement slowly got back on his feet and tried to rush the other kid but it was useless. Two more TA's had jumped into the fray and the fight was officially over.

I stood, openmouthed, not sure whether or not it was ok to laugh when one of my middle schoolers came up behind me, grabbed my arm and yelled, "Did you see that? That was dinner AND a movie!"

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

MySpace is NOT YourSpace!

Ok I readily admit that I'm a FaceBook junkie. I love looking at photos of my friends doing stupid things. I love sharing my favorite books online with friends who live in other states. I get a kick out of being able to communicate with my friends who live in other countries like say, Canada. The only thing I don't like is the shift in boundaries that these sites sometimes create.

The other day Nick managed to find my MySpace page. Now, I'm extremely careful with what I post on my public pages because I do value my job and I prefer to keep my private life still semi private. I share my photography, I talk about what movies I've seen or I comment on a news item so I feel I have little to worry about in that regard. My students would never learn anything about me that they didn't already know from having spent time in my classroom. I also know that a kid like Nick is in desperate need of a positive connection with an adult and as he's a former student, I don't mind trading messages with him now and then. In the course of considering all this, I also found that another of my former students also has a MySpace page. This time I made the first move and sent him a message to ask him how he was doing in school, how his mother was, and how it felt to be 16 and back in public schools. I wonder though, would I do the same if one of my current students tried to add me?

Truthfully I don't think I would allow any of my public school students, current or even former, to add me on MySpace or FaceBook. I see a pretty vast distinction between the types of students I have worked with. The kids in the residential really don't know how to form friendships or relationships with anyone, especially adults. I find myself developing bonds with those students that I don't feel the public school kids need. I also believe that the public school kids don't need a window into my life. It's a very professional environment in public school with a very clear boundary between teacher and student, a facet of my current job that I actually enjoy. These kids have homes, they have parents, they have friends. I don't need to be their "friend" in any way.

That being said, you out there who are also teachers, what do you think? I've read countless articles arguing both sides of the coin. Some articles have even suggested that FaceBook, with it's ability to post video and chat live, may be the classroom of the future. FaceBook may become the central meeting place for student and teacher to conduct class, a concept I'm not sure I'm really looking forward to. Either way, I'm glad to have gotten in touch with a couple of my DarkSide kids and am equally grateful that most of my current students are too lazy to search for me online!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Two for the price of one...

May 2006

So tomorrow I'm being observed by the Department of Education. Did I mention that my lesson plans are blank as of tomorrow? The book I planned on finishing with the little dears has conveniently disappeared from the classroom, never to be seen again. I assume one of the evil geniuses remembered me saying I had special ordered the book and figured if the book vanishes, there's no way we can finish it any time soon. Well, I've got news for them. We'll just start another book and I'll make twice as many worksheets to go with this one. They'll never be able to get out from under the amount of work I'm going to use to bury them.


The best part about this was that I managed to find the book a few days later. One of the kids had taken the keys to my cabinets and locked ALL of my books in the cabinet where I kept the art supplies. Good call guys.


August 2006

Nothing really interesting happened today. No, yesterday was the day where I got a really good chuckle after resisting the urge to bitch slap a fellow teacher. See, we took a few kids to the animal shelter to visit the cute little kitties and doggies. One of the kids picked up a kitten who I quickly discovered had no eyes (eek) so I asked him if I could hold the kitten and proceeded to make my way back to its cage, trying desperately to make it there before the kids noticed. Of course, my colleague, a tiny little British woman who I am convinced drinks on the job, yells (imagine the accent), "Oh my God love! It's got no eyes! Children it's a blind little kitty!" And she proceeds to cry. Then she spots a young couple looking at the blind kitty's brother and, sobbing, convinces the couple to take both the brother, the sister, AND the poor blind kitty. Needless to say the couple looked slightly dumbfounded when they left with not one, but three cats. One of whom qualified for a handicapped parking space and a little red and white cane.


A quick update- this particular teacher finally did get the old heave ho when administration finally realized that all she ever did was wander the halls with one or two of her kids telling everyone what angels they are while the two kids made faces at her or kicked each other.