Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Tip For New Parents

Don't ever name a child Angel. It rarely works out that said child is able to live up to the name. Most of the time, they seem to be rebelling against it.

Also not recommended: combination of mom and dad's name, names of universities* ("Stanford"), football teams ("Raiders," yes, in the plural), or any kind of fruit. Oh, and "Dung." If you live in the United States. I understand that it is a perfectly valid name in Vietnam and I may be culturally insensitive to say this, but don't put your child through that in an English-speaking country, please. Especially (hypothetically, of course!) if the child's last name is Phuck.

*Because it is especially sadly ironic when a child named after a prestigious university is in special education because he is mentally retarded. Actually mentally retarded; I am not using that as a pejorative term.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Sign From God

I'm sending in my resignation from my district! As I think I had explained earlier, I took a leave of absence to make sure that I wanted to quit. I do.

The sign from God, in case I had any doubts, was this:

I got a letter from the district saying that I am on a previously approved leave and I need to tell them if I am coming back or not because I can only be on leave for one year... blah blah blah.

This is the good part:

"Please complete the attached form(s) as appropriate to indicate your employment plans for the 2008-2009 school year. Should we not receive a written reply from you by April 24, 2008, we will interpret that to mean that you do not intend to return, and we will terminate your employment with the District."

The date on the letter? April 22. The postmark? April 23. They gave me exactly no time to say that I wanted to come back. Since my mail comes after the district office closes, for me to reply by the deadline requested, I would have had to go back at least an hour in time and drive the form over instead of mailing it. Good thing I wanted to quit!

It's almost funny if it weren't so dysfunctional and incompetent. And career-destroying for many people. But I guess now I can save myself a stamp and not send this in!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Good News!

I got a phone call this week - out of nowhere - from a former student. We'll call her "Shawna." She was my student during the 2000-2001 school year, which was my second year of teaching ever, and my first year of teaching third grade. She was smart but really angry (I think her mom was in jail, which goes a long way towards making kids have anger problems). She was also a total tomboy, playing mostly with the boys and dressing as non-feminine as possible. This makes perfect sense when you find out that she lived with her dad, older brother and younger brother.

Another interesting fact about Shawna is that her dad had her when he was 61 years old. Her mom, obviously, is younger, but her dad has a couple of dozen kids (I don't think I'm exaggerating; if I am, it's not by much) with various women. I think that Shawna and her two closest brothers might be the only kids he's actually raising, and raising by himself.

Last year, when I was still teaching, Shawna showed up in my classroom to say hi. I hadn't seen her in almost 7 years so it took me a while to recognize her. She told me that she had a 4.0 GPA and promised to bring me report cards. She brought me a copy of her report card - which was indeed straight A's - and some pictures of her, including one at prom.

Shawna got my phone number but apparently lost it until this week when she found it and decided to call me. She's still her same old self in terms of attitude - she is what we call "ghetto" - and strong opinions (which might be why I like her so much). When I asked her about various cousins I had known, she would say things like, "Oh, he dropped out of school; he told us he didn't, but he sure did." or "He look just like a crackhead now. I don't hang out with no crackheads." or "She crazy. I'm not wasting no time with crazy people who be jealous that I'm light-skinded and got good hair." (If you don't know what constitutes "good hair," you need to spend some time with people who aren't white.)

She also told me that her school counselor is pushing her to do "all these things I don't wanna do but I'm good at them so now I be glad." Gospel choir, various scholarship programs, some kind of guaranteed summer employment, driver's ed, and she's still on the honor roll! I told her to call me when she has performances or awards ceremonies and I hope she does.

She also said that her dad - now 76 years old - was in the hospital over Thanksgiving with complications from diabetes and they thought he was going to die. Her older brother lives with his 29 year old girlfriend (he's 17 - yeah, that's not legal), so it's Shawna (almost 16) and her brother who is either one or two years younger than her, I forget which. I can't imagine being that young and having to deal with a parent's serious illness by yourself. Her mom lives about 20 minutes away but doesn't seem to be too stable still.

I'm very excited for her - she says she's starting to think about which college she wants to go to already and promises to invite me to her high school graduation. She has NOT had it easy but she is a stubborn one and I'm sure glad she's chosen succeeding as what she's determined to do.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More Craziness

First, here is a picture of Solomon's teeth so that you can all see how scary he could look if he wanted. Of course, that scariness might be negated by the fact that I can put my hands in his mouth and move his lips around and he isn't really bothered at all.


The neighbor's ex-boyfriend came back and the neighbor was hollering and really upset because he broke into her house again so I called the police and the landlord. The police - who told us on Sunday that he would be arrested if he stepped onto the property - came and said that since the boyfriend had also called the police, they were sure he was just fine and look! He wasn't even on the property.

Yeah, that's because he stepped OFF the property as soon as the cops came and was standing 6 inches off the sidewalk by our house. Before that, he had been on the front lawn screaming at my neighbor who didn't have the sense to just go back inside her house and quit arguing. She tried to talk to the police officers and they just kept telling her to go back inside.

I thought that maybe they were not wanting to talk to her because she was hysterical (or black, although I hate to be cynical) so I went and told the officers that I saw the whole thing and that he kicked the door in yesterday, and they told me that they'd "get to me." They spent about 30 minutes talking to the dude, who was calmly explaining to them a whole lot of lies about how he's always lived there, and he wasn't even on the property today, and he never broke in anywhere...

After this long, I was frustrated so I went and very politely talked to the other officer, telling him that the guy was on our property and that the landlord has a restraining order against him. He said he didn't need to talk to me because he could talk to to the officers who were here yesterday. He turned around and gave his business card to the restraining order dude, telling him to call if he needed anything!

So, I called the landlord who was nearby... and pissed. He came and talked to the officer who asked him if he was another tenant. The landlord said no, he was the owner. Well, then they talked to him but they still wouldn't arrest the guy who literally left laughing at having made a fool of my neighbor.

This is behavior I would expect of Oakland cops, to tell you the truth, not my nice little island city. They wouldn't talk to either woman. Or to my roommate (another woman) the day before. They were happy to listen to Mr. Crazy Breaks Down Doors But Can Sound Sane, and happy to listen to my landlord.

Oh, one interesting comment from one of the cops: "He said he lives here."

Landlord: "No, he's never lived here."

Cop: "No, he does live here, because that's what he's told his parole officer this whole time."

Landlord: [disbelieving look] No, he's never lived here.

Since when have the cops been on the same side as parolees with restraining orders against them?

So, we're just glad to have the attack pup right now, and are probably going to go get our own restraining order later in the week.

Here's the dog not looking so ferocious.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Solomon the Hero Dog

This is off-topic, but I just have to sing the praises of my dog right now. Some of you have met my dog, Solomon. He is very gentle, so much so that my friends' 16 month old can feed Solomon his entire dinner one piece of kibble at a time out of her little hand. She can also try to push his head into the water dish so that he won't be thirsty and he doesn't retaliate in any way. He has not fussed when toddlers have pulled his tail, stuck fingers up his nose, when I step on his feet (which are frequently in the way), or at any other time. But he knows who the bad people are.

I didn't get to witness his heroism, but my roommate, "T," was home when our upstairs neighbor tried to break up with her boyfriend. Apparently, boyfriend was not too pleased about this and yelled enough that our neighbors who run a rat dog day care called the police. The neighbor brought her 3 year old down to stay with T and eventually came down herself to hang out in our apartment because she needed to get away from crazy now ex-boyfriend.

So, dude decides to deal with this by TRYING TO BREAK DOWN HER DOOR. Big hole in her door. Then he must have figured out she was in our apartment, because he tried to kick in our door. Nice big dent in our door now. At this point, the old lady downstairs called the landlord and the police and now there's a restraining order against him.

But the whole time that he was trying to kick down doors, Solomon stood on guard. According to T, all his fur was standing straight up (and he has quite an impressive "mane"), he had his teeth bared, in attack position, growling, looking scarier than she had ever seen. I've had this dog for 8 1/2 years and I've never seen him look anything like this. If the guy had managed to get through the door, T is sure that he would have bitten him. She said he was crouched and looked like he would spring up and go for the throat. After dude left (which T thinks was at least in part due to the growling coming from our side of the door), Solomon spent the next hour guarding the door.

You'd never guess now that he was so ferocious; the landlord is thumping around fixing the door and the dog is trotting around smiling just as happy as could be. But it's a relief to know that there's some instinct in him that lets him know which thumping people are to be attacked and which are fine to just lick and greet with a wagging tail.

I miss all the excitement! I wish that someone had at least gotten a picture. I guess that wasn't their first priority.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Two Exciting Things

First of all, Stephanie is in Europe at this very moment! She is probably the only kid on the trip whose daddy couldn't just write a $4500 check for the trips, judging by the surprised response I got from the agency when I asked about fundraising possibilities. But I don't think she will care. Her dad deserves some serious credit for working double and triple shifts to get her there, and my friends who donated money are pretty awesome too. I'm excited to hear how it has gone.

Secondly, Oakland's middle schoolers created a poetry anthology that has been made into a real book and is for sale at the Barnes and Noble in Oakland on Saturday, April 12. I think it will be a very interesting read.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Testing Stories

In honor of testing season (already!!), here is my favorite testing story. Both of these stories are from a friend who will remain nameless but may be related to the person I'd like to be president.

During my friend's first year of teaching, one of her second graders was so freaked out by the CST [standardized test] that while she had her back turned, he stood up and peed on the test. He, of course, told her there had been a leak in the ceiling, but the other kids ratted him out.
And anyone who's ever even seen these tests sympathizes with the poor child. I'm not sure what the teacher did with the test though.

Another story from the same person:

The other story was about a student and the ice cream in his desk. A girl told her teacher earlier in the morning that this boy had ice cream in his desk. The teacher went over to check and found 4 melted otter pops. She threw them away and the class continued about their day. During workshop right before lunch, she looked over and saw brown goo dripping out of Paul's desk. She asked the student what he had in his desk. He said "nothin'." She asked him again and of of course his reply was the same. She told him to scoot over and found a half gallon tub of Neapolitan ice cream jammed into his desk, along with two spoons. Needless to say it took about 45 minutes and three students to clean up the mess.