return to “Big J in Greater New Orleans” index
previous entry .......... next entry
written Sunday, 8/2/2009
As always the summer vacation seemed to fly by and even though part of me wishes it could last just a little longer it’s funny that every time in my teaching career that I’ve found myself on the verge of a new school year I’ve accepted the reality quite peacefully and actually felt ready to dive back into the melee of our public education system so this summer is no different and just this week the sense of anticipation and dare I say tentative optimism has arrived which is good since I plan to head back to my classroom on Monday several days ahead of the official Thursday faculty return date which precedes the students’ return by one week so this is a good time to reflect on my summer as it draws to a close.
While many teachers see summer as a time for travel I saw this summer as my first opportunity since starting my teaching career to enjoy a complete lack of graduate school or any other education obligations so I basked in the pleasure of waking up on any given day at any hour free of major commitments or prescheduled activities and the only traveling I did was back in early June when I visited mom because even though she now lives in Arizona and we chose not to go out and “do things” in the summer heat which is a dry heat so it’s not as bad as a sticky New Orleans summer in my opinion yet when the temperature reached triple digits on several occasions it became overbearing nonetheless so we just mostly hung around her apartment and talked about the same things we typically talk about on the phone and took care of some mundane appointments and tasks because she doesn’t drive anymore and I had a rental car and even though we both knew the visit wouldn’t be wrought with excitement that was okay because I’m her only child and she’s my only mom and probability and biology tell us that it will always be that way so dang we’d best keep enjoying and appreciating whatever opportunities we have to be in each other’s presence while we’re stuck in this world and looking at it from that point of view this was exactly the kind of visit that I wanted it to be so thanks mom.
For some reason I didn’t feel compelled to make any Flash animations or song parodies this summer but instead ended up reading more books during the past two months than I have probably read in the past ten years if I disregard that one graduate class a couple years ago that included crazy piles of reading and even though I didn’t set a world record pace it was a significant personal achievement for me since reading has always been a struggle but I think the key here was being finished with schooling and being allowed to read completely of my own volition and I found it very rewarding and I sought a variety of topics including a number of religious texts since even though I’ve got my issues with the way some people bully and manipulate with their brand of faith people have clearly put in quite a bit of time and thought on this topic and I’m not too arrogant to think that I could ever find all the answers I seek on my own and the years of self navigated travel through life have found me driving past the same stoopid gas station time and time again but back to my reading choices I also thoroughly enjoyed the two works of fiction by Khaled Hosseini set in Afghanistan because The Kite Runner just happened to be sitting on Mom’s bookshelf and I needed a break from the intense thought required to read the religious texts and holy crap that novel was incredible just like I had heard so as soon as I got home I immediately bought A Thousand Splendid Suns and it turned out to be frikkin awesome as well and if he had a third book out I most certainly would have read that next but instead the reading topic turned to education after meeting with a colleague and sharing my thoughts on the uncertain future of my teaching career which led him to lend me Teacherman by Frank McCourt which I started just days before McCourt died which made me wonder for a second whether I ought to check whether any of the other authors I’d read had recently passed away because if so I would definitely have to sacrifice this newfound interest in books for the sake of the literati but thankfully it appeared to be a coincidence so next I read Mrs. B’s Classroom which relates the true life experiences of a career switcher who enrolled in an alternative certification program to teach in Chicago and it was comforting to be reminded of the sad truth that countless others before me have also found teaching to be an abusive terrain in which one is challenged to find his or her own little oasis that makes it livable and perhaps even special and it’s funny that throughout my reading extravaganza that one book I did not read was the environmental exploration A World Without Us which perhaps I would have enjoyed if a friend had simply recommended it to me but instead it was assigned at the last minute by my school to students and teachers alike as a summer assignment so I adopted the adolescent mindset of “screw this -- how dare you tell me what to do over my vacation” and therefore it remains unattended on my to-do list and despite having started a book on the golden ratio at the end of last school year I have not yet revisited it so it’s surprising that amongst all my summer literary travels a topic that eluded my itinerary was math which is kinda cool that I was able to branch out like that but my loyalties really haven’t strayed but I suppose it’s good to take a break from my true academic love which will make my reunion with math at the pending start of the school year all that much sweeter.
Oops It Happened Again
Got my precious little heart crushed once again because God wants me to know how my cats feel when I dangle toys in front of their faces and then yank the prize away at the last second for my own petty amusement but dang at least I eventually let Kong and Estelle capture what they pursue so as middle-age looms ahead I keep waiting for my goddamn kitty toy and although I’ve managed to hold it together emotionally pretty well since the moment of heart trouncing I figured it was as good a time as any to try out something that I initially looked into when trying to manage the stress of my first year at Lusher so several weeks ago I started seeing a therapist not because I need to sob on someone’s shoulder or receive affirmations of how beautiful I am but rather because as mentioned before I have proven to be deficient in navigating my own way through life so I think it would help to have someone else assist me in organizing my cranial clutter so even though it’s a bit pricey I believe that if it helps me define and prioritize and seek out my personal and professional goals it will be well worth the money and in the end it’ll still be significantly cheaper than messin’ around with the unfairer sex for a while anyway.
The book on teaching in Chicago was of particular interest because for some reason I feel that city might be calling me which is odd since I’ve never even visited disregarding a few brief layovers at O’Hare yet I keep coming across people who’ve lived there before and describe it fondly or at least in a way that piques my interest and I’m recalling that Chicago is where I would have most likely relocated from California four years ago except that I got spooked since my slender frame was not built to withstand bitter cold but now I’m starting to think that’s a lame reason to rule out a city so I plan to explore this option over the coming months and see if this is just a passing infatuation or whether the Windy City continues to beckon and I will simultaneously check out the even more adventurous overseas opportunities with International Schools or Department of Defense schools since from all the personal accounts I’ve heard or read it sounds like there are some sweet incentives for teachers and the experiences sound incredible and in the end you only live once and it’s been thirteen years since I’ve even left the continental U.S. so in this coming school year I’ve got a lot of investigating and soul searching to do because I have indeed developed an affection for New Orleans but the ties are not strong enough to bind me here and given the hurricanes and crime and the fact that I’ve accumulated too much metaphorical baggage for someone who travels so little I figure it may just be time for me to get the hell up outta here.
Spent some more time with my little homey Jude and also spent a couple sessions with an adorable two year old named Aidan and while for the most part it was a pure joy to hang with them there were some incidents when they cried for mama inconsolably and everything I did just made it worse and I had to wonder whether the toddler or I felt more helpless at those moments and I am still no closer to figuring out whether I ever want to have kids of my own but I guess I gotta deal with first things first before that question even becomes an issue.
A year and a half ago when Mom last visited me in New Orleans she arranged for us to volunteer at the Just The Right Attitude food bank that she had read about located in New Orleans East which is a region that has been largely abandoned by businesses and politicians since Katrina and on the first Monday in July I went back to donate some money and a day of my time and I couldn’t believe it when the woman who founded and runs the non-profit organization remembered Mom and me from those many months ago and perhaps that helped me feel welcome and appreciated so I’ve returned to JTRA each Monday since then to work alongside the handful of employees and other volunteers and visiting church groups from other states and prison inmates doing community service and as I observed the lines of people waiting to pick up a free meal and bag of groceries I listened to the viewpoints of those around me and it was a pleasure to interact with all of them as well as a good and perhaps necessary reminder that no matter how lost and misguided I feel sometimes there are many good fortunes for which I need to be grateful and whether it be during vacations throughout the school year or next summer I intend to visit JTRA again because it has also helped remind me that even though I’m an adult Mom still has a role in shaping the person who I am so once again thanks Mom.
Spent many hours sitting on the floor of a small unassuming building talking and bonding with people from six or seven or eight different countries and even though at times the language barrier hindered communication we connected over one thing that we all share.
For some reason I tend to become interested in some things long after they’ve achieved mass popularity such as my brief obsession with Pacman a mere sixteen years after its 1980 release and I don’t recall exactly when poetry slams and spoken word recitations peaked in mainstream attention but I think I dismissed the genre as a fad at the time yet now I’m jumping on that bandwagon because about a week ago I saw a video of poet Taylor Mali’s “What Teachers Make” of teacher email inbox fame and I soon found myself spending hours viewing Def Poetry performances on youtube and holy crap some of those poets are amazingly talented and sharp and thought-provoking and funny with my favorite artists that I’ve seen so far being Shihan and Black Ice and Daniel Beatty and Lamont Carey and I hope it doesn’t appear sexist that all those artists are men but most of the most prolific performers were men and it just turned out that way and the timing of this new interest is funny given that earlier in the summer I felt like I had lost my desire to make any more math-themed song parodies so I think it’s entirely possible that math-themed spoken word poems could conceivably fill the creative void and meanwhile I’m pondering whether my students might also find this fun so I’m intrigued by the thought of a mathematical poetry slam at school sometime this year since it would be a challenge to see if I can get kids to summon the passion and conviction of a good slam when the theme is mathematics and even though I’ve pitched the idea to several colleagues and the typical response has been something like “Hmmm…interesting” expressed in such a manner that suggests underlying sentiments of “Hmmm…lame” I’m going to keep working on several poems of my own to better demonstrate to others what I envision and I’m still really diggin’ this crazy idea so time will reveal whether it fizzles or flies and of course I make no promises but I’m enjoying the exploration regardless.
As we’re about to start a new school year, I revisited and edited this fond memory from three school years past.