teaching

All posts tagged teaching

What side is this?

Published August 2, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

About a million years ago, back when I was in the middle of my other career, I attended Graduate school for a M.A. in Performing Arts. (I was still young and had hope.)

I wrote a paper in support of my proposal for my final project.  I could not get my graduate committee (The three faculty members who were like some kind of three headed hydra.) to tell me what format my paper needed to take, so I just free formed it.

The paper was subsequently rejected and I was directed to a variety of academic papers written to support modern dance projects. (I, too, was surprised that such a thing existed.) I read the papers and noticed that they were written in the traditional MLA format.

I rewrote  the paper using the format and was commended on the amount of scholarship I had demonstrated.  I wanted to snort with the laughter and direct the Hydra to my undergraduate transcript which stated I was a McFadden Scholar.  I have no idea why people are so shocked and amazed to find out that I do have a fine mind nestled snugly under the crazy.

Anyway, they accepted the paper and approved the project.  After I put  200 plus hours into the project, including written and photographic documentation, the Hydra said they were not going to approve my project because, “We don’t do that here.” They didn’t want to align their Drama department with a public service theatre project that brought together Developmentally Disabled adults and At-Risk youth. Both groups met weekly to design puppets and develop a script that was then performed for school age children throughout the city.

I can’t expect a State University to get behind that. I don’t know how I could be so foolish.

I told them I needed some time to regroup, so after a full blown tantrum conducted at a high speed ride home and face down on the floor at home. I debated and discussed with everyone and finally asked the universe for a sign. (At this point I only lacked a final project to win the race and get my MA) In the meantime, I still had grants to write for my ongoing programs.

One of my friends from the ARC, the organization that worked with my kids in the hood, was a McDonald’s employee. At the time there was a supply grant available through the company, but you needed an employee’s endorsement. I helped my friend, Michael, write the letter and I asked him what he wanted to use for his closing signature. I explained that when I finished an official letter, I signed it, OutReach Director.  I asked him what title he wanted.

He said, “Your Friend.”

It took me a moment to recover and process and when I did, it became clear that this was my sign.  I didn’t want to be on the side of a group of people who would deny credit for hard work because it didn’t jibe with their perception of art.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately because I recently had a similar crisis of conscience when dealing with the problems at my previous job.  I did what I knew was right.

Because when it’s all over, and our current world/political situation indicates it will be soon, I know where I will stand.

Because I’m Michael’s friend.

 

I had no idea they were interchangeable.

Published July 11, 2017 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I got an email saying that my Glow in the Dark T-Rex was out of stock.  The email was very apologetic, as I guess one would have to be when stating the obvious, after all, the actual T-Rex is permanently out of stock (although to be honest, I would not at all be surprised to see one totally dominating the Starbucks drive-thru.)  I was offered the option of waiting for it’s eventual return, or selecting another creature in exchange.

I think waiting for the return of the T-Rex is too spot on a metaphor for most of my life, so I selected a Blue Kangaroo (How could you not? It just sounds delightful)

Before someone alerts the nut-wagon to come and shake me out of my tree, I am referring to a prize that I won playing Total Trivia. Yes, yes, I did get bored enough to click on a Facebook link (an enterprise akin to picking up a bottle that says, ” Drink Me.” and taking a big glug.) and have subsequently played. To date, I have won a bracelet, a necklace, a laptop sleeve, two tote bags and the aforementioned T-Rex.

Why?  Well, I have jewelry, I have tote bags, but I don’t have a glow in the dark creature. I don’t need anymore of the above, but my new classroom will definitely be enhanced by a blue kangaroo.  It will fit right in with atmosphere of acceptance and  creativity.

As I prepare myself for a complete shift in methodology, (I’m ever so smart!) as I will be teaching a fourth grade in  self-contained environment, I am reading and researching a lot. I know my weakest area is Classroom Management and I am most comfortable teaching three of the four core subjects. I want to be effective in all areas so I do have a lot of prep work to do. (This will also be the first time in 26 years that I haven’t taught Theatre.)

Something I have run across is that the first impression to students and parents is what they will carry through for the rest of the year.  I know I need to appear professional and pulled together, especially since I’m don’t look my age. (I have actually had more than one person look at my resume (Twenty plus years teaching, five endorsements on my certificate, two Master’s Degrees, etc.) and say, “I thought you would be an older teacher.”  I AM an older teacher.  The polite thing is not to mention it. At least no one has said to me what they said to Laurie Notaro, “I thought you would be prettier.”

So what impression will a Blue Kangaroo make?  Maybe I should get him a coat and tie for the first day of school.

Because it’s Friday, November 4,2016

Published November 6, 2016 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I am having a relatively calm day. Mostly because a horrible orange psycho is trying to get into The White House and as a Mexican American, I have a genuine fear for my safety post-election.

Some people have been trying to soothe me by saying, “You don’t have to worry; you’re a citizen.”

Um, I think there were quite a few members of the Jewish faith who not only were German Citizens but were also German Army veterans.

I didn’t get to finish this on the 4th because, you know, sixth graders.  This is when I would stop creeping up on the slightly dead horse and move on to another topic, because things move fast.

This morning I got a phone call from someone asking for Actor Boy.  Actor Boy has my number listed in a few places as his because he knows I can track him down if I have to. Anyway it was cold call for a Disabled Veterans fund raising campaign. I explained that as a school teacher, I have limited funds but might be able to do something after the first of the year. I agreed to accept an information packet. (I was planning to have it sent to my PO Box; I’m twitchy, not stupid. )  As soon as the caller heard my last name, Rodriguez, he told me to have a nice day and he hung up.

This was odd. And a bit startling.

I don’t know if some organization is starting a clandestine Spot the Beaners campaign, but it shook me up.

Because this is how it starts.

I have been told that I speak very well (for a Mexican.)

I have been stared in grad school because I was the only Mexican in the building who wasn’t also cleaning it.

This elections scares me. A lot. Not just because Donald Trump is so crooked they are going to have to screw  him into the ground to bury him.

I’m scared because there is a very real chance that this psycho will win the Presidential election. And then  the real nightmare will begin.

I can’t believe that we, as a society, are so far removed from the genocide that happened seventy years ago, not to mention the genocide that is continuing to happen all over the world, that we don’t see death when it staring us in the face (or grabbing us by various parts, depending.  I don’t think I’m pretty enough, and I’m damn sure not thin enough for the Donald to consider me attractive, so I’m probably safe there.)

I think we don’t understand how big of a number six million really is, when you think of people instead of a number.

Let me break it down for you using a quote from The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Little

“Imagine ,if they can, 13 people from their circle of friends killed in one minute.”

Now imagine that cycle perpetuating until all of your friends are gone, and the only people who are left are either THEM or US.

I realize that it’s easy for me to think about this in the abstract because I am at home, a cat snugly nestled in my chair (trying to shove me out of it, actually) writing on a computer that cost me about a month’s living expenses. I have a job that I love and am mostly solvent.

But my fear is real. And I want to share it with the blog-o-sphere.

Because I speak so well.

Dis(associative)

Published July 10, 2016 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

Have I mentioned lately that I am not a big fan of being told what to do?  Well, I am not. It is in that spirit that I approach teaching the legions of  balky, high spirited and clinically quirky children who have made up most of my classes and tutoring clients.

(I realize that being a resident of North Texas I might be ignoring a band wagon and/ or soap box by not speaking about the horrifying  events that happened last week leaving scores of people terrorized and five Dallas Police Officers dead, but I am numb and I am trying not to think about it so, instead I’m going to focus on the good parts of last week.)

I am back to tutoring the same two children I worked with last spring.  I am reading the Phantom Tollbooth with one and A Little Princess with the other.

What I am enjoying is introducing both children to a whole different universe. A world that makes sense in itself and a sensibility long gone.

I am, however, finding it challenging to help a modern child understand the concepts and historical significance laid out in A Little Princess.  How to you tell a child who is a very literal thinker and whose most challenging literature to date includes the books in the Dork Diaries series? (I am in no way slamming that series, Rachel Renee Russell has hit  upon a very clever, and may I say addictive thread of fiction.)  The inciting incident in A Little Princess involves the British occupation of India. The school Sara Crewe attends does have a similar social stratta to that of Nikki Maxwell, but no one in at Nikki’s prep school gets their ears boxed for being slow to perform a task.

A Little Princess is on the summer reading list for the school Child A will be attending in the fall. She is also supposed to read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  I have no idea how to begin to approach the concepts with her over this one.

The challenge I face is directly related to the information that is accessible to children 8-12. I have been boning up on my middle grade fiction so that I may be better informed when I load books into the reading pit that I plan to have in my classroom next year.  I do enjoy the Dork Diaries, probably more than I should, but the other books in this particular genre of first person narrative fiction that also includes The Judy Moody series, Junie B. Jones and the I Funny series tend to dumb things down, IMHO for the reader.  (I will freely admit that I do not like Judy or Junie and I might actually jump out a window if either of these children popped into my classroom.  I would warmly embrace Ramona and Beezus and even Susan of the Boing Boing Hair. I have not read the I Funny series, mainly because I don’t think James Patterson needs my money.)

The other child I teach is not a reader, which is why I am reading to him.  He is very bright, kind and sensitive child, but he’s not that great about listening for detail. I am reading him The Phantom Tollbooth two chapters at a time and it is a book best heard. We discuss the figurative language as we go along and we are going to do a fun, comprehensive activity when we finish the book.

Now he understands complicated concepts and ideas, so much so that I think it hurts his perspective.

Speaking of perspective, having to speedy-quick adjust my comprehension and attitude to work with these two students has helped me put a wedge between the pointless cruelty that abounds in the “real” world.  And who wouldn’t choose to jump in the car with Milo and Tock and perhaps ask Sara and Becky if they would like to rescue Rhyme and Reason.

The choice is, as Child A would say, Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s nature, right human?

Published July 4, 2016 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

My forty-seventh year got off to an odd start (Not as odd as last year which involved my friend Choir Boy accidentally hitting me with his car and causing me to sprain my ankle. Of course the twist-jump-fall move that  cause the hurt ankle also cured fixed my aching back. I hurt my back dancing the previous day. What a drag it is getting old.)

I taught a writing class every day last week and got precious little writing done myself.  I do have some notes that I can ponder for future inspiration. I ate entirely too much sugar and slama-jammed too much coffee last week thus throwing off my sleep cycle.  So now here I am with the only things I really have to do besides die and stay Mexican (That was for you Actor Boy.) is try and stay on top of Mount Crapmore, as I am fondly calling my house, and study for the Texes Core Subjects test.  This is another endorsement that I need to add to my Certification so that I can teach Sixth Grade Science (The polite thing is not to laugh like a donkey at the very idea)

My theory on how to keep from completely melting down over this process is to simply handle five things at a time. Five pieces or crap picked up and tidied away, five practice questions for the science test.

I do have a few other things on my agenda, mostly because I can’t keep my head from engaging in the rest of the world.

As the universe knows (Universal Nose?) I have had my share of bad luck when it comes to relationships. But haven’t we all? Something I have noticed is that when someone we once trusted betrays us we immediately blame ourselves. Especially when that someone (Succubus, rat fink , Hell Spawn, Arkansas White Trash, The Absence of All That is good and Holy, it goes my many names) seems to have escaped Scot free. (Why the hell won’t Scot step up and do his job?!!)

Case in point: I am a nice person albeit not very rational and I try to do kind things and be nice to people. I love kids and I love watching kids learn. This is why I have left the glamour of show biz for the equally lucrative field of education.

About four years ago I had a procedure that would make a future pregnancy highly unlikely (because in my family, we don’t say impossible.) At the time I mentioned to EH that if we wanted to have kids the ship was about to sail. He said,” If we really wanted kids we would have had them twenty years ago.”

Fast forward to now when he is the father of three little boys, all of whom are adorable and will probably inherit their mother’s terrible teeth.  Meanwhile here I sit with a slight overbite and no kids.

When I found out that AWT was in labor with the current batch of children, twins, I ate two pieces of cake and I mountain of Cheetos.

It is human nature to blame ourselves for other people’s bad behavior.  It is not my fault that my Ex-husband decided to be adulterous. It is Actor Boy’s fault that little girls think its fun to lie, especially since his heart is so genuine he can’t imagine a world where someone he loves would be devious.

Trusting someone you love should be a given.  But sometimes you have to take it back.

Comfort, it’s not just for the South.

Published June 22, 2016 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I listen to a lot of podcasts because I don’t like my brain to have too much free time on its hands.  (Yes, my brain has hands)

I usually stick to the true crime or history podcasts, but sometimes I’ll pick up an unfamiliar blog if I’m interested in the topic.

Right this very minute I am listening to This American Life because the title is “Tell me I’m fat.”

A good portion of the podcast is about accepting who you are and why Fat is still the big, flabby arena where we allowed to rip people apart.  One of the speakers, Elna Baker, talks about the huge amount of weight she lost and an ongoing argument she has with her SO Mark. He essentially told her that they would not have gotten together if she was still 110 ten pounds heavier. He is most insistent that the real Elna is thin. Her argument is that she is still the same person, it’s not as if she were walking around with a fat suit waiting for the right time to meet people.  Seriously. This man, her HUSBAND says that he would probably not have been interested in her if she was still fat.

After her weight loss, she had several surgeries to get rid of her loose skin. She is embarrassed about her loose skin, I’m assuming. I personally kind of enjoy the fact that my arms and thighs are famine and drought resistant.  She states that her past journal entries indicate that she was more accepting of herself and possibly happier when she was heavier because she enjoyed herself more .

She took phentermine to help lose weight and she continues to take it at  varying intervals, because as thin as she is, she can still be thinner.

She says she and her spouse are working on it. (I guess they are working on his accepting her for who she is, not what she’s wrapped in?) I wonder how they are going to do if she has a heart attack or stroke because of the speed that she is using to maintain her weight loss. I don’t think he is likely to stand by.

Now say what you will about EH. . .(And if you are short of a few curse words or actual hexes, I can forward your information to The Mom, Amanda Friend or Batman, all of whom would be happy to help you out.)  EH was always accepting of who I am, regardless of my weight. I gained a lot of weight around the time I started Grad School, while I have lost a lot of weight and maintained that loss, he never made me feel less than attractive. And when my head blew up due to a sudden spike in my blood pressure causing a an aneurysm to burst, he did step up and made it possible for all of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men put my cracked up little head together again.  (True, AWT was still around, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who picked up on her negative vibe, because, you know, she wanted EH to herself)   But all in all, I got my brain back  and EH left me  because he is an adulterous whore, not because I’m chunky.

I started actively losing weight a year after Mr. Steve died. I did this because I know he would want me to have my best life. And my best life includes avoiding the family diseases of diabetes, high blood pressure and a serious overlap of the belly area (I call this Front Butt) It has taken me five years to lose about twenty pounds. But I’ve kept it off.   I still have problems with trust but that has nothing to do with my weight.

In fact there have been several incidents as of late that reinforce that I am worthy of love, no matter what my circumference or volume may be.

I worked with Connor yesterday. We had a good tutoring session and he still has balky moments.  At the end of the session I was talking with his mother about his progress and what I plan to do for the rest of the week. Connor came bounding out of the house and said, “I want to give Miss Lynda a hug” He then threw his little boy arms around me and gave me a squeeze right around the fattest part of me.

He didn’t care that I have a certain roundness I’m not a big fan of. He just card that Miss Lynda read to him and played word games with him and just maybe tricked him into learning something.

I can get comfortable with that.

 

 

You can’t have negative penguins! and other signs from the universe

Published April 3, 2016 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

I heard the following words come out of my mouth today, “A Venti- Aised coffee with non-fat milk”

I have to say it took me by surprise, not just because I was having quaffing a giant coffee at 2:30 in the afternoon on a non-work day, but because my Texas Accent roiled forth like warm Dr. Pepper at a Haltom City Christmas Party. (Excellent with canned biscuit Monkey-Bread.)

My Texas accent only comes out when I am extremely tired, angry or drunk. (On one occasion all three. I sounded like a cast member from Blazing Saddles.) Considering it was 2:30 in the afternoon and I hadn’t interacted with many people, I can blame my drawl on tired.

And why, you may ask, am so tired? I’m tired because I worked at all three of my jobs this week. I am grateful for the work, and I do like knowing that I’m going to be able to feed myself and keep a roof over my head for a few more weeks, but I have to say that my ass is thoroughly kicked.

I am still enjoying the teaching thing. So far the only dangerous thing is that a Krispy Kreme is about to open a few miles away from one of my private students.   I am still struggling to find that balance between making a living and having a life.

There are signs that I am moving in the right direction.

Yesterday I got to teach something in my subject area: Social Studies, and lucky for me one of the classes was working on the Renaissance. (Studying it, not recreating it) and lucky for me, a large portion of my classical education involved the cultural history that time period.

I had a lively discussion with a bunch of sixth graders a few of whom are now terrified me. (Who knew that a vast knowledge of The Inferno was intimidating?)

The strangest thing happened at 2:30.  I somehow managed to get 20 fifth graders to work in silence. On a Friday.

I have no idea how I did it.

And then I had a few minutes after school to grab a beverage and relax, sort of, before meeting my student.  This is the same student who I had to goof into working last week was delighted and giggly to see me.  (It’s rare that anyone is so pumped to see me.)

This kid is so smart that he’s running rings around me. I am going to have to do quite a bit of studying this week to keep up with him. I was going through the steps of a division problem with him  and I was trying to get him to focus and I told him that he needed to set up the problem another way because he was going to have a negative number.  He started to get balky (Who can blame him? I get the same way about Math.) so I set up the problem in terms of penguins.

And you can’t have negative penguins.

Not without Aaised Coffee.