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Showing posts from June, 2006


I'm going to Mexico for two weeks to visit my good friends (second family) who run an orphanage there. In honor of that, I thought I'd share a little essay one of the kids wrote: My dad told me about when he was a soldier in Mexico. When he was a soldier he went on a helicopters to go where they told them to go and keep mexico safe from other armys. He told me his life as a soldier. He said life as a soldier wasn't easy so he said don't go to the army. soldado means soldier in spanish. for my little mexico.

Surviving By Meanness

One of my kids from last year, Juan, was knocked off his bike while he was riding to the store and thrown on the ground. The kid is ten years old, and he now has a black eye and a puffed-up lip, and his whole face generally looks like he was in a prize fight. He says the boys who did it were teenagers and that there wasn't a reason for it. He's scared but doesn't want to show that so he's just acting a lot meaner. I want to find the teenagers that did it and get them arrested or beat them up or something. Until I remember that they're not that much older than him and the exact thing probably happened to them. And that I can see in Juan's eyes that he's learning to do the same thing to smaller kids and he'll probably end up right in the same position. Then I just want to cry, because he's figured out that to survive in his neighborhood, he has to be mean. There are a lot of characteristics inherent in this child - he is creative, loving, loyal, and h

Free Lunch

Question for you all: I've been told (usually by liberals) that there are people "out there" (usually said to be "those Republicans") who want to do away with the elementary school free lunch program because it's not effective or because it's demeaning. Anyone else heard this? Is it true? Could people really think it's ineffective or demeaning??? Am I listening to crazy people? Last week of school... finally...


Number of School Days Left (with kids): 4 Number of School Days Left (for teachers): 5 Number of Total Days Until School's Out: 7 Number of Lockdowns So Far This Year at School: 3 Total Number of Lockdowns Covered by the Media: 0* Total Number of Lockdowns Effectively Dealt with By Police (in my opinion): 0* Population of Oakland (2000 Census): 399,484 Total Number of Homicides in Oakland in 2006: 61 Number of Homicides in Oakland in 2005 (at this point in the year): 35 High School Graduation Rate of Oakland Public School Students: 35% *To be editorialized upon in a future post. Lockdown today - a little frightening and frustrating, although everything turned out all right.

Exploratorium, Continued

Actually, this is the after the Exploratorium part... As it turns out, these kids have never been to the beach, except once with another teacher. So we were planning on taking them to Ocean Beach. I asked if they wanted to build sandcastles, and the older one said, "I don't know how to build a sandcastle." They didn't know how to build a sandcastle! We had to stay there for a while - building sandcastles (is that one word or two?), digging moats, writing their names in the sand, racing with Austin (my brother, who met us there). After we all finally became exhausted, we drove home. At this point, Warren asked me if they were going to get dinner. They called home and the answer was no, so Warren stopped to buy them dinner. If he hadn't, it would have been a hard call for me because I want to take care of them in the worst way, but I had already spent a lot of money on them that day, and it's hard to know where to draw the line. I was very grateful - not j

The Exploratorium

A few weeks ago, Warren and I took a couple of kids to the Exploratorium in San Francisco. The kids are brothers: Jorge and Luis (not their real names, but what I call them), finishing up 4th and 1st grade, respectively. Jorge was in my class last year. He is an incredible, intelligent, beautiful child who has the misfortune of being the most responsible "adult" in his family. His father is somewhere else and his mother is generally either in rehab, jail, or living with whoever her current boyfriend is. His grandmother is officially taking care of him, but she's pretty hands-off as far as child raising (and by the way, is only 40 years old - grandmother of an about to be 11 year old). She also doesn't speak any English and is illiterate in English and Spanish. Jorge is the oldest of four children. All this means that Jorge is in charge of signing all forms (his grandma can't write her own name), dealing with everyone over the telephone, getting his brother and h

Recycled Sculpture

We went on a field trip last week to MOCHA (Museum of Children's Art) in downtown Oakland. MOCHA is a great place - I haven't looked into where they get their funding or anything, but I've taken about 7 or 8 field trips there in my time teaching here, and each one has been a thoroughly positive experience, with teachers who know art and know children. Also, with all the focus on reading and writing in school, we're barely teaching math - you're not about to see art in schools. The kids thrive even just during a one-hour class. It's obvious that they need art. MOCHA offers a variety of classes. I have in the past taken kids to book making, color theory, clay sculpture, painting, and this time we did recycled sculpture. I think this one is my favorite. Each child gets a hot glue gun, a pressed wood base, and access to all sorts of recycled materials: water bottles, wood pieces, crocheted fruits, cinnamon sticks, pine cones, plastic tops, and things that I could

What's Normal To You...

The remarkable thing about my students – or any students from an area like this, I suppose – is what they consider normal. We went to a park downtown (to eat lunch after a field trip), and when it was time to clean up, I said that each kid had to pick up their own trash and ten extra pieces. Then I clarified that they were to leave the beer cans and the cigarette butts. They looked at me strangely, because they didn’t seem to see anything wrong with picking up beer cans and cigarette butts. In fact, a few of them kept picking up the cigarettes even though I kept telling them not to. But the leaves and sticks freaked them out. Almost every child came up to me with a leaf or a stick and asked, “Does this count as trash?” “No, that’s nature.” “Teacher, how that nature? That trash!"


I don't remember what time I went to bed when I was eight years old, but I feel like it was some reasonable time, like before nine o'clock. The trend with my students seems to be that they are in charge of setting their own bedtime. Think about it. What eight year old in their right mind will go to bed any earlier than one a.m.? Especially when there's wrestling to be seen... There are not words to express how much I dislike WWE. For anyone who wants to support Stephanie in going to the People to People Forum in April - here's the website where you can learn more. Any amount helps - she has to have the majority of the money in by the end of July or something like that... email me for where to send the check. You'd be helping a really incredible girl.