All posts in the teaching category

Parmegeddon (Because if it’s the end, I want cheese.) Part 1: The bearable rightness of being.

Published January 7, 2018 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

What is it that Robert Burns says about the best laid plans of Mice and Men?

I know perfectly well what Burns said. ““The best laid schemes o’mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.” I even know what it means.  The very rightness of knowing things has been both a lifesaver and an anchor in many of the storms of my life (How picturesque! I’ve been teaching children to write descriptively and I may have just lost the run of myself as I am wont to do.)

There is a lot on my  mind right now. There is even more in my sinus cavity because allergy season and kids around me all day, many of them with various and sundry illnesses. Being around my cherubs reminds me of my elementary school experiences and it makes me watchful  because in the anchor and the lifesaver category (world’s worst jeopardy home game) I have a good working memory and have vivid recollections of myself at nine years old and younger. I remember being in Kindergarten and getting into a screaming argument with Sam Honea and Janea Townsend that Ma’am and Mama were two different words. This would not be the first time that I would concede to loud blondes just to keep the peace.

I mostly remember knowing I was right, and not being able to wrap my mind around the fact that these two shrill beasts couldn’t accept that.  As I grew up and my intellectual curiosity was encouraged by nuns, librarians and student teachers (Pretty awesome name for a book store/lounge.) I began to ask a lot of what if’s. I remember asking my parents, “What if someone killed an entire classroom of kids, would the kids be buried together or individually?”  This was in 1980, and, of course, my parents were shocked by my questions because things like that didn’t happen. There are a few other incidents where I just knew something was right and it was. As an adult I have joked about being the pawn between good and evil and I know I have gone on quite a bit about that. With that power seems to come a bit of Cassandra’s curse (world’s worst Lingerie store)  I won’t go into my knowledge of Greek mythology and how Agamemnon should have had more sense to return home after 10 years with another woman, especially since the woman in question spent the entire voyage home warning him that his wife, Clytemnestra probably wasn’t going to be thrilled to see him at all, let alone with a female slave, but, of course, Cassandra was right. Unfortunately, Agamemnon didn’t realize this until after he met the business end of an axe.

Cassandra didn’t get to enjoy her rightness for very long, because  Clytemnestra was only slightly more thrilled to see HER than she was her husband.  And, of course, Cassandra died.

This whole rambly tumble of words is the preface to what will be part book report, part catharsis and part display of my education. (I have an obsessive need for constant reassurance)

This all came about because I just finished reading:

The Mandibles: A family 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver

and rereading:

The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S.Tepper

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

That kind of explains my mood.


Because a girl has to try

Published December 11, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

Today, while not the craziest day I have had teaching, and is not by far the most challenging, it is a rough day. It’s rough in a hurry up and wait kind of day.

Many years ago when I was in late teens I still fancied myself an actor, even though it was more nerve wracking than fun and I was far too thin skinned to last very long in the business. (In fact the thought of being in “the business” makes me roll my eyes.  You see, friends and neighbors, if you are female and more or less fit into the ingenue category (doe-eyed, more boobs than sense, and a strong endurance for the scent of Aqua Net)  You have a very small window of time to actually attain some level of success. It is a small and very narrow window.  In fact, it is so narrow that at 20 when I weighed a 138 pounds and was a size 7 on the bottom and a 10 on the top, I was STILL too fat to be considered a true ingenue. I would have to lose twenty pounds to at least be in the right shape, week and woozy it may be to audition for the “right” parts.

Anyway, around this time I was an extra in a little film called Born on the Fourth of July, staring a little actor named Tom Cruise. This movie was filmed in North Texas and one of the teachers at my college had an agent who got a whole bunch of students in on the film. Oliver Stone touched my hair and said I was pretty.  I spent a long, chilly day standing outside of the Dallas Convention Center pretending to be a young Republican.

All I can remember of this experience is that if the Film Industry is all hurry up and wait, then I was better off focusing on Theater.

Today the music teacher is staging the Christmas Musical. In the first place, none of the students is feeling particularly malleable, none of the  staff feel particularly festive and no one knows what are schedule is. So all day I have been herding kids from place to place and trying to get at least one piece of information to stick in someone’s head.

On the plus side, BatBeard is safe and I am at the point in my life that if I decide to jump back into show business I am now safely in the Ethnic Character Actress, so at least, I will get to eat.

I’m not made of puppets, so you can’t blame me for Youtube

Published December 7, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

As I said the other day, it’s chaos (be kind). Well certain recent events have compromised my kind nature, gentle spirit and otherwise cherublike demeanor. I will not go into it here, as it is not my own personal business.

I had the kind of day where you just want to throw yourself on the floor and roll around like a dust bunny, but you can’t because even though you only got 5 hours of sleep, you still have to corral and herd and possibly teach 9 year olds.

Highlight 1: One of my ELL’s, a sweet but intense Burmese boy who doesn’t quite have a grip on euphemisms and idioms, decided he would bust out with an Elvis impersonation to Santa Claus is Comin’ to town. Even better, this is apparently a dance that he does with his brother.

Low spot: One of my other students who has more angst than a 13 year old girl, was really down so I let his parents know because the same parents are very, very concerned. (this is not a bad thing.) However, I used half of my lunch talking to one parent, then the other parent showed up, which took the other half of my lunch.

In the conversation with the other parent, it was implied that this child did not have any interest in Social Media (re:Youtube and that vines/videos that feature Jake and/or Logan Paul) before this year because of the way last year’s teacher managed the classroom differently.

The teacher they had last year is a nun, and last year all of the kids were a year younger.

Somehow, this parent managed to imply that I am the one who is responsible for the social media that he is interested in and that I should stop any exposure the child may have to any of it.

I called The Mom to vent and she said that I should bring my puppets ( I have a full set of puppets) to do a story time. I told her, “I’m not made of puppets, Mom.” This of course made both of us stop for a minute. Then I realized that I definitely need more sleep.

And I’m not responsible for Youtube.

How are we supposed to have a cult with these personalities?

Published November 21, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

Logan Paul. Jake Paul. Rebecca Black. Kardashian. Kanye and all of the other Jackasses and Catfishes

I wonder what song Living Color would write if they were to reboot their song.

I have been compiling some research about this culture of rudeness that I see springing up all around me. This is just a preface to the longer blog that I will be posting. I just wanted to get this down because I am furious.  Twenty minutes ago, when I went to pick up my students from the gym, one of them, the hardest working and sweetest one of them was crying. Because at 10 minutes til eight, someone had already teased him to the point of crying.

I have no idea why.  After this, all of my boys commenced to talking about the latest Logan or Jake Paul video.

It’s really making me angry..

Now is Now part I

Published October 16, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

It’s been awhile (Great. Now I have that Staind song stuck in my head.) Since my return to the Mother Ship, I have been inundated with paperwork, lesson plans and learning the ropes at a new school.

I am on a mission that is very very very important I not screw up.  This is giving me a bit of anxiety, loads of happiness and some damn terrific moments.  It also takes a lot of my focused, coherent thought time (I know, it was news to me that I had ANY of that. )

It is half past early in the morning and I have a eight luxurious minutes before I have to blaze out of here and jump in the line (New, better song, my favorite version is by a little Austin band called Schrodeniger’s Cat. ) of a Monday.  A lot has been happening, most of which I can’t specifically talk about, but I did kick off a weekend of the whumps (A term coined by Esther Hembree to mean something on the sad side of grumpy) by watching The Green Mile.  Great movie, not much of a knee slapping comedy.

It didn’t do much to lighten my mood.  BatBeard wants me to stop watching the news. I can’t, because I promised my students that if we are on the verge of apocalypse, I would bring cupcakes.

Which brings me to Now. I’m writing this in pieces because I don’t have a lot of time.

Now it’s time for my mission.

It occurred to me a few days ago that a large part of my job is to teach my students how to be kind.

And sharpening pencils.

Sometimes it IS just the pencils.

Published September 17, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I have been teaching for twenty-six years and in that time I have the need for pencils. (I know this sounds weird, but it’s true.) When I taught theatre, pencils were imperative for preliminary sketches for storyboards or first drafts as well as for taking blocking notes.  For some reason, actors never have their own pencils.

When I began teaching full-time and I was having to push a mule uphill while trying to teach 160 students per day and communicate to the administration that a Theatre classroom looks different than other classrooms and trying to shove us all in the same size box was damn near impossible, I had a hell of a time keeping up with pencils.  Kids don’t bring their own pencils, and due to some very bizarre verbage in the FWISD manual, no student should be denied the lack of education because they don’t have a pencil. (No one is at all interested in my retort that the students can’t keep track of them because they don’t have any motivation or real commitment to their own education. Ah, that’s a can of worms for another time.)

Last year I worked at  a charter school that was striving to be a paperless campus. I say striving, because, really, nice idea, but how, exactly does that work if you are trying to differentiate education and there are so very many students who are tactile learners who need hands on choices and it’s hard to be hands on with one eye on a computer screen. It’s even harder when some of the kids don’t know how to type.  Seriously. Nice idea.  But either way, I needed pencils for the percentage of time that the computers didn’t work. And kids who were told they are on a paperless campus NEVER NEVER NEVER have a thought about where pencils come from.

Now I am in a more traditional classroom and the mountain of necessary supplies are provided, but I have been blessed with a group of cherubs who take five minutes longer than the rest of the world to do anything, anything at all. I’m comforted by the fact that I will get to live five minutes longer because nine fourth graders will make all of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse wait for them to get a drink of water and use the restroom, or go back for their sweater.  Except it will dawn on someone that Armageddon is likely to be toasty warm, so then everyone will have to take off their sweaters and fill up their water bottles.   Something tells me I’m going to spend that last few seconds of my earthly life shrugging at Conquest and War while Famine and Death roll their eyes at me.

So we have the pencils, but since I don’t have the extra hour a day it would take for 9 students to decide at differing times that they need to wander about the room trying to decide if they should sharpen their pencil, or should they maybe use pen, unless it’s math or a rough draft and then they need their pencil and if the pencil doesn’t sharpen to rapier’s edge, they  have to stare out the window while the mangle the wood , yet somehow do not manage to sharpen the pencil into a workable instrument.

That is why I spent most of last weekend and all of my test monitoring time. (Yes, we had that already) sharpening well over fifty pencils. I started with three for each student, and then that accelerated into sharpening the pencils that were on the floor in the room at the end of the day, because why would it ever occur to a child to pick something up?

Maybe i should warn the horsemen so they don’t trip.

Well, there you go, part II

Published July 17, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

Before anyone goes ber-bonkers looking for part I, I won’t be posting that until tomorrow. But the follow up is fresh in my crowded head so I’m going to put that one up first.  I can explain my process if you want, but I don’t think it’s very interesting.

Today I was meandering through my errands because it’s beastly hot and I didn’t really want to get anything done. As I walked from one place to the next, a woman called out to me and said, “Did you teach at Metro?”

My first teaching gig was teaching a theatre class at an alternative high school. I wasn’t a classroom teacher, but I was part of the curriculum for a psychology/health class. I taught basic acting and playwriting.  My students ranged from an emancipated sixteen year old who was trying to graduate as quickly as possible to go to college to a lesbian couple who was bullied out of their high school. Some students were former gang members and/or returning after dropping out.  Many of my students used the class as a way to process the bizarre events of their lives.

The woman who called out to me was a student of mine about twenty years ago.  We talked for awhile; she has raised four kids, three of her own, one adopted from a family member. She has finished court reporting school and is working and investing in her future.

She told me a little about her kids and the things she tells them about education. As I listened to her, I realized that I had heard some of things before; they were things I recall saying to different classes.

I told her I remember every student I have ever taught.  (I do, I’m just terrible with names.) I do remember her. I remember wondering how she would turn out and if she would survive high school.

She did. She graduated from high school and faced some challenges and is working very hard to instill the value of education in her children.

So there you go.