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All posts for the month February, 2014

Opportune Importance

Published February 28, 2014 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I wonder if the authors of the classics every sat down and said, “Today I will write a story that will survive throughout the ages to taunt and torment students in perpetuity.

I have been substitute teaching for a long time. I love to see how other teachers create a learning environment. (I find that I can learn something from it or at the least I enjoy it as camp, or kitsch or as cautionary example) I also take a look at the books in the room, including the textbooks.

A story that has plagued me on a number of levels is still featured in the curriculum.

This story is Guy De Maupassant The Necklace.

For those of you have managed to escape this story here’s a quick rundown:

Mathilde Loisel is a good looking woman who is married to a good man who can support her, but is not wealthy. She is not happy with her lot in life and moans and groans a lot. Husband gets an invitation to a society party but inside of being happy at the prospect of night out, she is upset because she doesn’t have the clothes. The husband scrapes up some money for a new dress, but then she is unhappy that she doesn’t have any jewelry. After a lot of whining, she borrows a diamond necklace from her one wealthy friend.

The Loisel’s go to the party where Mathilde has a great time but the husband is bored. Mathilde is reluctant to leave and insists they walk away from the party so no one will see how shabby her wrap is. When they arrive home, she discovers that the necklace is missing. Since she has no idea when or where she has lost it, they must, of course replace it. Mathilde doesn’t tell her friend she has lost the necklace, instead the Loisel’s borrow the absurd amount of money it will take to replace the necklace.  They live in abject poverty for the rest of their lives

After several years Mathilde sees her friend, who doesn’t recognize her. When she explains why she looks so terrible, the friend reveals that the original necklace was costume jewelry and not worth anything at all.

 

I understand that you can milk a lot of themes and symbolism out of this story and that is probably why it is still around. There are many, many things about this story that make me want to rant and rave (I know, Quelle Surprise!) but there are also other stories that could serve the same purpose.

The reason I am thinking about this story at all is one of the prompts on the sample test for the English/Language Arts certification test is

Write an expository essay discussing effective teaching strategies for developing literature appreciation with a heterogeneous class of ninth- graders. Select any appropriate piece(s) of world literature to use as examples in the discussion.

The first time I read this, after my inner child stopped screaming, was ask myself if I could name any specific piece of world literature.  Well, of course I can, but not well enough to manipulate into fun shapes for others to enjoy. Since I’m not the kind of teacher who will settle for glossing over the highlights in order to plan a lesson, I decided that I would find some world literature to read in my spare (!) time.  So I looked for short stories (on audio book, because really, how much time do I really have anyway?)

When I did a search on world literature, guess what story came up?

Since I do not want to expand the reach of The Necklace, I decided to check out De Maupassant’s The Hand. It was interesting and marginally creepy.

I came up with new essay prompt that may actually have practical applications.

Write an essay comparing and contrasting De Maupassant’s The Hand and WW Jacobs The Monkey’s Paw  use this  as the lesson plan referred to an expository essay discussing how to teach the stories while simultaneously predicting what student is likely to have a violent outburst. Include your reaction and solution to said outburst taking into consideration the location of the school.

They never ask you the important stuff.

A funny thing happened on the way to use my superpowers

Published February 28, 2014 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

After that time when my head blew up (My brain hemorrhage, July 23, 2003)  my sense of smell was extra sharp. So sharp I could actually tell how many packages of hot sauce someone was putting on their tasty Taco Bell fiesta bowl. I could also tell when the coffee at the nurse’s station was about to go from scorched to seriously rotten.

At the time (and now ) I thought “Oh great. That’s a stupid superpower to bring back from the brink of death.” I was very sensitive to smells for awhile. That power has faded.

As you may be aware, teachers and parents have an innate set of powers. I am a little out of practice in both areas, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I still have something left.

A few weeks ago, Actor Boy and I were hanging around discussing our progress in this year’s adventure. Our enthusiasm has been compromised by life and budgets and the world’s increasing ability to ignore our collective awesomeness.

This whole conversation was bringing us down, so Actor Boy suggested a movie for us to watch on the Netflix.  He had seen the movie and he wanted me to enjoy it as much as he did.

Because I’m kind of ADD and my focus needs a lot of shiny and bright things going on at the same time for me to fully relax, I was playing candy crush on my table. Actor Boy started to get vexed with me because he didn’t think I was paying attention.  He asked me to describe what had just happened on the screen. 

I told him verbatim what dialogue had been exchanged along with the costuming for each actor plus their placement on the set. 

He was amazed that I could absorb all of that without actually looking up. 

My teacher superpowers have returned.  Parents are required to have eyes on the back of their heads. Teachers must be able to view everything that enters their environment. 

Since my powers have returned, I am going to surge forth and get my teaching certification. To that end, I have to spend a lot of time studying. (I do see the bitter irony in that I have to learn to the test so that I may do everything within my power to create and environment where students can learn more than how to do well on a specific test.) 

I will also have to do a lot of essay writing. 

I bet I come up with some exciting stuff. 

Get ready for some high quality snark. 

 

What prompted that?

Published February 18, 2014 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I may have an attitude problem. This comes as a huge shock to no one. I have been reevaluating my overall demeanor and outlook because, Job-like, I have decided to embrace the glaring reality that I am the pawn between good and evil and just make the best of what I can with the tools available. I am not at all saying that I am happy about it, I’m just not going to let it make me bitey.(Well, any more bitey than usual)

The first thing I did in the proactive so I don’t murder anyone or possible have a stress-induced stroke or rage-based incident, is to get to slow down a little.  That means I needed to get rid of one onerous task. So I cut the least lucrative: ghost writing the romance stories. I’m kind of afraid that I’m going to lose my writing stamina. At my most productive, I was writing nine hours a day.

While all that is well and good, it’s a hard pace to keep, especially since I have two other jobs that are more lucrative. (Plus I think I was suffering from extreme burnout. In the last two stories I used a flatulent dog as a deus ex machina and made a vibrator joke. There was also another dog, non-gasseous, named Reymundo who made a guest appearance. It was time to stop.)

Anyway, I have been looking around my horrifyingly filthy house to see what might inspire me to write, as always I turn to XO Jane for comfort, support and inspiration. I saw the headline

AND THEY SAY CHIVALRY IS DEAD: THAT TIME A GUY CALLED ME A “FAT BITCH” ON VALENTINE’S DAY

That made me think of Jen Lancaster’s book, Such a pretty fat which was inspired by the fact that a guy called Jen a fat bitch and she was upset because it didn’t offend her as much as it should.

A stranger calling me a fat bitch wouldn’t slow me down either and I wish I could get a book deal from my subsequent behavior.

I think they would call that a prison memoir.

JOB application

Published February 13, 2014 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

Hello! My name is Lynda. I understand that there has been an vacancy for the position of prophet of Gentiles and Islam. I enjoyed Mr Saffire’s succinct job description as quoted from the First Dissident,and although Mr. Saffire suggests that disagreements with job assignments be taken directly to the CEO, GOD  as loudly as possible, I tend to adhere  to the more traditional job description of resigned acceptance and grim determination.

I feel that I am an excellent candidate for this position because of my years of experience. You will note that near death experience was resolutely accepted with a minimum of complaints. (True, I was drugged and unable to speak clearly for a lot of that time, but I think I should be commended for not actually following through with my dark thoughts.)

In addition to this life experience, up to and including the death of a friend, the loss of a marriage (which has NOT been dealt with by the death of a friend and his adulterous girlfriend and I think I should get points for that.) and the many, many slings and arrows so efficiently delivered by your branch, Outrageous Fortune, I would like to point out the relative calm with which I have handled the events of the last 24-48 hours:

* New Leak  in Roof causing water to fall dangerously near the remote controls and creating a puddle of water on the tile floor. I cheerfully remarked that I didn’t slip on the floor and bust my head open and at least I don’t have black mold.

* Serious congestion causing my eyes to crust over like someone recovering from a botched Lasik operation. I chose to use this as an opportunity to test my balance by slaloming around the cat as I press a damp washcloth on my eyes so I could cherish the gift of sight by opening my eyes.   I thanked the universe for my unbroken leg and unsquashed cat and enjoyed the view of my sinusy, puffy face, leading me to conclude that I needed actually medical help and not round the clock shots of NyQuil.

*Three hour long hiatus from writing. I relish the idea of enforced downtime away from my computer, because really, I do work better with a deadline and hey, it’s 9,500 words by Saturday, so I needed that time spent waiting for drugs and painful shot in the hip.

*Mostly flat tire when I finally arrive home ready to write.  Well, at least these are new tires and still under warranty, so it should be a breeze getting the tire repaired first thing in the morning when my crustless eyes will want to reassess the situation.

You will notice that I have checked “no” box on the spot on the application that asks “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”

I understand that the job of JOB is more of a calling than an assignment, but I respectfully request that you review my application.

I welcome any and all feedback.

I thank you for the opportunity.

Humble, thy name is naptime and other things I learned from the Haunted Frog

Published February 6, 2014 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

No one can ever accurately predict how their day will turn out. Things can turn on a dime and in the blink of an eye you can find yourself in a place you never thought you would be.  I know this firsthand because of  That Time My Head Blew Up and the whole best friend dying while you watched Veronica Mars, and the whole BTW, I’ve been banging the Ex and now she’s pregnant and here’s a house with a big hole in the roof thing, so I am very familiar with the idea of the unpredictable nature of life, love and clearance chocolate.

This is why I select Subbing jobs in places where I kind of know how it’s going to turn out or at least can predict the kind of weapon I will need.

I just spent two days subbing for PPCD, which is Early Elementary Special Ed.  Yes, folks, that means I just spent the last two school days in a small classroom with 11 kids with an assortment of special needs. (One was a biter, one was a runner, two have severe Cerebral Palsy and one is a three year old.)

I knew it would be busy and I knew I would be tired.

I also knew that I would wind up learning a lot more than I taught.

The job started off with one child, the biter, greeting me with the kind of hug that almost knocked me off of my feet, literally. Never underestimate the tackling ability of  five year old who wants a hug.  I spent the rest of that day singing along with an alphabet song, introducing the letter “Q”, and dancing with snowflakes. I also learned that the school used to be a mental institution. (There are some that would say that it still is. They call the voluntary patients “Teachers”. )  One of the rumored holdovers from the institution is the thundering sound of chairs being shifted on the second floor. That could be explained, but it doesn’t happen regularly and what teacher would allow all of their students to move their chairs around at the same time? And who can get fifth graders to do anything at all in unison? One particularly creepy story involved  a teacher double checking that all of the toys were switched off before leaving for the weekend. When the teacher returned and unlocked the door, an animatronic frog greeted her with an “Hola!”  The teacher stepped out of the room, grabbed the custodian and told him that she didn’t want to go in the room because the frog was creepy. The frog then said, “Adios.”

I don’t know if it’s an odd coincidence or if ghosts are bilingual or if there’s just someone in that neighborhood with too much time on their hands, but I would have run shrieking out of the room.

There are plenty of just plain weird and hilarious things that happen that are planned.  Like the Speech Therapy that never happened. It was on the schedule. According to the staff, the therapists do not come to the school with any regularity and never let them know what is going on. It is my understanding that therapy works best when it is conducted on a regular basis and that all little kids learn well if it is part of their routine.

But I’m just some rambling idiot with a blog and internet access.

I knew that I would be humbled by many, many things.

Things like helping the two children with CP get ready for nap time and placing the weighted blankets on the students with Autism (it’s comforting and gives the sensation of being held. )

I helped one student walk forty-five steps. We counted them together and I was reminded of how I have started taking basic movement for granted when at one time I had someone counting steps with me while they helped me stand up.

About half-way through the day I started to get tired. One of the kids carried her blanket over to me, led me to her mat and said, “Night Night.”

I’m going to assume that she thought I needed to nap and not that some possessed frog told her to smother me.

 

The truth out there

Published February 2, 2014 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I really don’t plan some of the things I say or do. I mostly just bumble around like a wind-up toy and bounce away from the stuff that might stop or crush me. Sometimes things become completely clear and too real for bouncy avoidance.

Top of the list is the fact that I am being dragged kicking and screaming into the grown-up world.

Yesterday I had to stop myself from buying a pair of shoes I don’t need. I didn’t and later on I went grocery shopping and the amount of money I spent to make a week’s worth of lunches was exactly the same amount I would have spent on the shoes.  I felt like I should be given a fan-fare in recognition of my rational behavior.

And then I saw this article about Wal-mart and its customers suffering from the cut in food stamps. A lot of people can not afford the bare minimum essentials at a notoriously inexpensive store.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/14/walmart-food-stamp-cuts_n_4273498.html

So now I feel like a chump. But this chump has food.

In other news, I am also compiling more information for my eventual tirade on education. I keep notes on everything. Last week I subbed in a Content Mastery class at a high school that has a sketchy reputation.

I had a great day. The staff was so positive and enthusiastic that it had a trickle down affect on the students. True, I only saw a handful of students and they were all volunteering to come for extra help, but it was still a good experience.

I also did a half-day in a Kindergarten ESL class. Not entirely frightening. I did get a little nervous when I discovered that it was the permanent teacher’s last day in the district.    I got even more nervous when I arrived and found out that the first language of most of the kids was either Hindi or Vietnamese.  Tiny kids are not good with the language anyway, but tiny kids who are not good with a foreign language and have a virtual stranger try and keep things from going kerfluey is a lot confusing.

There were about twenty kids.  That’s a lot of little kids.  It was also the first day the kids were able to go outside for recess in three weeks.  I had also forgotten that it takes a little kid three times as long to do anything as it would take an older child. Multiply that by twenty and add a teacher who is terrible with names, any names, and also refuses to point and call a kid, “You” because it’s demeaning and insulting and divide by the number of kids who are trying to curry favor by tattling on each other but can’t remember the teacher’s name.

Yeah. Big fun.

The worst part is that Kindergarten eats lunch at 10:30 AM.  Really. Then they don’t get another big break until school is out at 2:50.

The regular teacher had “Snack ” on the main schedule, but not in the notes she gave me.  I understand. Kids will be hungry about two and half hours after their ridiculously early lunch.  Apparently she forgot about snack for that day. I think it’s something she usually provided and the kids were most disturbed when it didn’t appear. Several of them reminded me and then showed me where snack was usually kept. Nothing there but craft paper.

It almost broke my heart when the child who was line leader looked up at me with her big brown eyes and said, “Miss, I’m hungry.”

Absolutely nothing I could do in that situation.

And that’s the truth.