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All posts for the month October, 2016

I didn’t know it would be this hard

Published October 23, 2016 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

My grandmother was born in a box car.

I have opened several speeches with this little fun fact about my family.

My grandmother was born on May 5, 1930 in her family home which, at the time, was located in boxcar out behind the Swift Meatpacking Plant in the Stockyards of Fort Worth Texas.

She is very light skinned and had red hair. My Great-Grandparents, especially my Great Grandfather were dark skinned.  One day great grand pa and my baby grandmother when a few men came by and asked where he got that white baby. His  response, “I found her along the train tracks.” (This started off a long history of inappropriate and ill-timed quips from family members.) The sheriff came looking for him with the goal of returning the white baby to her true family.  Fortunately my grandfather’s boss was around and vouched that the baby did indeed belong to that family.

This story is the beginning of my immediate family history. My mother’s side of the family is a fun and exciting blend of Gonzalez, all of whom are strong willed, benignly crazy people and the Zarates who now consist mainly of mule stubborn very strong women, some who are two shots of tequila away from being poison mean.

My grandmother, the very light skinned baby with red hair grew up “passing” for white to the point that she was often sent to do family chores that involved the exchange of money because she would be treated fairly.  When she was seventeen years old, she was a dead ringer for Rita Hayworth.  This was around the time she met and married my grandfather, Angelo Gonzalez.

Angelo  went with his friend Jesse Zarate to meet Jesse’s younger sister at the bus stop and decided that he would marry this strong, lovely girl.  My grandfather was newly returned from the War and he was known to be a drinker.

My grandmother, showing quite a bit of grit and fortitude for a teenager told him in no uncertain terms that she was not going to be one of those women who wait for their husbands to stagger home from bars.  If he wanted her, he would have to stop drinking.

From what I understand this was quite the task, but he did it. He quit drinking and married her.

She became a social worker in the early  70’s and I vividly remember attending the ceremony when she received her certification.  (I also remember my brother saying that he was going to yell, “Yay Grandma!” when her name was announced. My mother said that if he did she would snap his head off. This made me laugh for hours.)

My grandmother is living what probably are her last few days. She is 86 and says she has been ready to go for awhile.  I’m not at all ready. I have lost both grandfathers, one grandmother, several aunts uncles and cousins. Mr Steve died just a few feet away from me. I knew it was coming and I was ready.

I’m not ready this time.  I’ve grown used to being dead inside and the arrival of Batman in my life has helped me heal to the point where I can feel things again. I’m not ready.

I spent some time with my grandmother this weekend and she wanted to know if I was going to vote.  I told her I was. She said that if that man wins the election our country will turn into Nazi Germany.

As we discussed this real fear I realized that my grandmother is starting to slip a little mentally. Yet she sees things far more clearly than the rest of the world seems to.

She is not afraid of dying or of being poor. She is afraid for our country.

Because she was born in a box car.

So, what’s the ending?

Published October 12, 2016 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I truly meant to write something on Friday, October 7th, but my brain went home early.

Friday, October 7 was the best day I have ever had as a teacher. Ever.  Please keep in mind that I have been teaching in some form or fashion for twenty-five years.

As I have mentioned, I teach in a great school and have some truly special students.

I have some extremely gifted students.I also have some above average intellect students. I have some students who are one lab accident away from being a super villain. And there are a few “normal” kids tossed in there for contrast.

The great day started in the morning.

My English class was working on a review of the Time Machine. They were supposed to go over the first two chapters and then retell it in their own words . I looked up from my desk about ten minutes after I gave my instructions.  Every child in the room was working quietly. They were working as partners and everyone was on task and focused.  

 As anyone who has worked with sixth graders will know, this is an odd occurrence.  It’s as unexpected as Ryan Gosling coming in with my teacher of the year award and complimentary foot rub.  I was stunned.

In the afternoon, I took my most challenging class outside for a observational nature walk.  After they finished gathering the required amount of information, I let them have some free time. It was a nice day and we were ahead of schedule.  The kids began playing with what ever was available and that included some giant tires that are set out on our field for obstacles and climbing.  

The entire class, most of whom do not get along, proceeded to play King of the Hill. This group includes two of the smartest kids I have ever worked with. Both of these kids have very limited social skills and one rarely puts away his computer.

They were all playing together and the pushing and teasing was all on a playful level where it stayed the entire time.  The smallest of the group, let’s call him Eli, kept getting knocked off. This is where Eli would usually start crying or proclaiming that things aren’t fair.

Eli hopped back up each time and only stopped once to bring me his glasses.  He got very dirty and and rumpled and had a glorious time.

My day was perfect.

The students were active and engaged and had fun.  Just like it’s supposed to be.

This morning I was startled to see Eli at my classroom door.

He wasn’t in dress code and had clearly been crying.

He told me that he wasn’t going to be coming to school anymore.

He cried on my shoulder and said that he would miss me.  His mother was looking on and said, “It’s just not working out.”

I have no idea what that means.

I missed Eli all day and explained to my students that I would miss each and every one of them if they weren’t there.

i don’t know where this story ends, but I am going to try to stick the ending with Eli’s smiling face as he brushed the dirt off the knees of his pants as we went back in on Friday afternoon.

 

 

A little wild in the kingdom

Published October 2, 2016 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

We had parent-teacher conferences yesterday.  I know that teachers world-wide sigh and groan at the concept of being held hostage in your classroom playing  mind checkers with parents who defend/explain/ threaten as you discuss their cherub’s progress in your class.

My school is pretty amazing. Our conferences are fairly low key; we meet with the parent and students in a designated section of the cafeteria. We have at least 2 teachers per grade so the parent and student get more than one set of feedback. Our administrator is usually at the ready to answer the difficulty questions.

The faculty meets in teams, two by two if you will, to reinforce  the notion that we are all in this together.

Yesterday I failed in the most spectacular way.

We have a student who has been hamstrung by his disability and  inferior school systems that have failed to meet his needs. After a great deal of discussion and many trials, this student now has an aide who works on his core subjects.  This student also attends our classes for presentations and projects.

This student’s parent is very outspoken and, quite frankly, is a bully. The plan for this conference was for all  three teachers, the aide and an administrator to meet all together and have a quick discussion before moving on to the  meeting with the parent.

The bully (picture a lumbering water buffalo) arrived early. The other teacher and I (picture one calmly grazing gazelle and a twitchy meerkat, guess which one I am.) watched the slow approach.  The gazelle looked at his notes and said calmly, “We don’t have you scheduled for another thirty minutes.” The meerkat said, “garrble blarkity thirty minutes.”  The last of this sentence was said as I glanced over to the main table where the counselor had been sitting just moments before. She was not there;I hopped up with my meerkat arms in the air and zipped over to another conference table where two other teachers, one of whom is a former football player and is well over 6’5″. (Picture these two as large, kind animals, friendly rhinos perhaps.) I popped my meerkat head in between the two of them and said, in what I hoped was a calm voice, but probably wasn’t, “I need one of you to come over to our conference.” I was rewarded with a kindly, “We are just wrapping up here.”  I said something akin to, “No time, Sabu! Beast at watering hole.” I zinged out of the cafeteria and down the hall where the counselor, the aide and the sweet secretary were waiting. At this point everything was starting to look like an horrifying documentary. The counselor (a small, wise owl) and the aide (a very patient mama bear) and the secretary (a friendly bird, like the ones that helped Snow White) all looked at my wild giant meerkat eyes and asked me what was going on. I began to explain and then realized what my flight must have looked like. And the result is that I left a calm gazelle alone at the watering hole.  And then I started to laugh. I couldn’t stop laughing for several minutes but got it together long enough to have that conference. It went fine.

And then I lost it. I laughed so hard I was sent out into the hall. When I came back the student asked me, “Did you ever get your toaster problem worked out?”

That is a story for another time.

Fortunately this student’s parents think I’m just the right kind of crazy to teach their child.