Chick Flick Dreams

Last night, I had a dream that I was the star of a chick flick. Everyone in the movie was white. I think I may have been white too. I can’t say for sure because I was seeing it through my eyes.

The movie was about this girl who can’t make up her mind between two guys. There’s the one guy who is the good guy. He loved her with all his heart, but eventually, he got tired of the way she treated him. It was at this time that my character falls in love with him. However, it’s way too late because he asked the perfect, goody two shoes blonde, to marry him.

Then there was the other guy who has financial promise, but he’s sort of an ass and not as handsome. He proposes to my character, and she says no, but he tells her to keep the ring and think about it.

At the end of the movie, my character is at the wedding of the guy she loves and the perfect woman. At the wedding reception, the younger sister of either the girl is shooting hoops in her bridesmaid dress and everyone is shouting, “Go Squirrel!”

My character is eating a piece of pie feeling sorry for herself. Someone sets on fire the binder that contains all of the secrets of these girls (there was like four of them). The perfect girl, who’s wearing a simple cotton dress for a wedding dress, says she needs to get some joints out of her purse to burn in the fire. One of the other girls is watching my character eat the pie and says, “I loved him too.”

And the other character, who sort of looks like the lesbian friend on Roseann, is saying that she’s hoping to get transferred to Virginia (she’s a teacher), but the school secretary won’t let her.

At this point, I woke up, but fell back asleep and the dream continued.

Before the final credits start running, there are those freeze shot scenes that tell you what happens after the action. There’s a song in the background, but I can’t remember what it is. Anyway, lover boy and perfect girl end up happily ever after. Squirrel makes the basketball team, becomes some sort of All Star player. The chick that wants to move to Virginia doesn’t. And my character, she ends up with the ass.

I wake up again and force myself back to sleep. I want to change the ending.

The chick that was in love with lover boy ends up with the ass.

This is where the dream ends. I couldn’t break apart the perfect couple because somehow, it would ruin it. It would be too much like every other chick flick. And so, I’ve decided, I should never attempt to write a chick flick.


It's All in the Way You Say It

The horrid TAKS test is coming up, and since our school's budget and the teacher bonus depends on scores from this exam, we have all sorts of help for the kids. We hae the pull-outs in which certain students are taken out of their Math, LA, or elective class to practice TAKS strategies. We have what my mentor calls "The Giant Fairy" which is known schoolwide as KBL (Knowledge Baseball League). Homerooms go up against each other in Math and LA. We will eventually have a World Series, but we also have a door, locker and scavenger hunt competition. Finally, there are the extended days. Math stays after school three or four days a week. LA does three Saturdays before TAKS, 8-noon.

Last week, I had to hand out the letters to my students who I though needed the extra help. The day before I did this, I had an observation with my mentor. Before she read Ch. 3 of Face on the Milk Carton, she said, "I have given some of you a letter for Reading Extended Day. I need you to take it home and bring it back signed by your parent. It's going to be a lot of fun. We will be playing games and you will be getting candy every time you switch classes. And at the end of the day, we will have gym time and the teachers will be playing games with you."

"What kind of games?"

"Any kind of game you want. We'll have basketballs and pretty much all the gym equipment."

"What about wrestling," asked another student.

"Oh honey, don't even try because we'll beat you. Right Ms. Baeza?"

"That's right."

"I want a paper," one kid said.

"I'll have to put you on a waiting list."

"Put me on the waiting list too," said another kid.

The following day, when I handed out my Extended Day letters, I put to use my mentor's tactic. I had a similar response from my students. There were about five kids that wanted on the waiting list in each class.

During our ELA meeting, the racist said her students were complaining about getting a letter. My mentor quickly responded, "Not mine. Georgina saw, right?"

"Yep. I did the same thing with mine and they were asking to be put on 'the waiting list.'"

When academics are competing against entertainment industry, it's important how you say things. Of course, they're going to be learning, but it's going to be fun. If we have to take away a Saturday because these kids aren't drawn into studies to begin with, making it fun is our job.

The Lies

Back in December, I found out that one of my “Katrina” kids was an orphan. She lives with foster parents. I found this out because the day before we went on vacation, one of the coaches sent a kid up to my room with a gift for her. The gift had no name or anything. The kid, who brought it, secretly told me that the coach didn’t want my Katrina kid to know who had sent it, to simply say it was from Santa. When they announced that it was time to go to homeroom class, I called her over to my desk and gave her the gift. She didn’t ask any questions, she just took the gift and sauntered on out of my room.

When I took my homeroom class into the gym to watch the Orchestra concert, the kids sat on the bleachers so I was able to converse with other teachers who were standing on the sidelines. The coach was in there. She asked me if I’d given the present to the kid and asked if she’d liked it. I told her she didn’t open it in front of me. In fact, I saw her put it in her locker after she left my class.

“She talks to me a lot. Sometimes she comes to my office and she talks and talks. She lost her parents. You know that she lives with foster parents? They have a lot of kids and there is always a lot of noise around.”

So when coach had asked her what she wanted for Christmas and she said, “Something to listen to my music on.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know Coach, one of those CD Players. The ones with the headphones.”

Fast forward to Valentine’s Day, we were sitting around after we’d read the novel. I think the kids were working on some kind of activity. Katrina kid sits right by my desk. I was sitting at my desk grading and she says, “Ms. whatcoo making for dinner?”

“Steaks I think.”

“Mmmm, I love steaks. You know, my mom defrosted some but she ain’t make ‘em. She said she was too lazy. Can you save me a steak?”

“I’ll try.”

"You know, I’m an only child. And my mom always says she ain’t got nothing for me for Valentine’s Day and when I get home she always has a surprise for me.”

Last week, on the mock writing exam, she turned in an essay that talked about her mom, dad, brother, and sister leaving Louisiana.
I’d like to believe that she was telling the coach the truth and lying to me, but it’s hard to tell.


El Paso

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before somewhere, but it’s been on my mind lately and I have to write about it. Last night, I was procrastinating my work duties. I felt entitled to it though. I woke up at the butt crack of dawn to take my PPR. I was done in about two hours, but it still doesn’t negate the fact that I’d been freaking out about it all week. I think all went well, though.

Anyway, I was messing around on Yahoo playing games and junk when this guy contacts me via the messenger thing. Turns out, he’s from El Chuco. I was amused because I don’t get to talk to many Paseños these days. It was interesting that he said he prefers San Antonio. It brought back all these memories.

When I used to live in El Paso, all I wanted was out. I wanted to get the farthest away as possible. During my high school years, my friends and I all made plans about how we were going to leave as soon as we graduated. One of us was going to Texas A & M, another to Texas Tech, and me, well, my sister had put out the invitation to Houston. We were going to help each other move and we would all meet up for Spring Break.

When I graduated, all that became well just talk. Most of us ended up at EPCC (El Paso Community College), the lucky ones at UTEP, and the really unlucky ones, well working for the man. Years passed and still, all I could think about was getting the heck out of there someday. Then there came that day that I got the e-mail from my sister, once again, extending her invitation. I knew it was “now or never,” so without thinking about it further, I said yes and started making plans to leave.

A couple months later, I was beyond eager to leave. I couldn’t wait for the summer to end; I made it my personal goal to leave by the 4th of July weekend. Never mind that school didn’t start until late August, I needed to leave before to get things in place. Thinking back now, I don’t know what the hurry was. I like to think that I was dying to get out of Hell Mart.

It’s been about three and half years now, and I wish I could go back. It took me leaving to realize that my hometown wasn’t El Craphole. It’s so rich in many things. Yes, things are much different there. In some ways, life is slower, in other ways, life is much harder, but you can’t deny that the place has personality, lots of it.

Sometimes, I think the saddest thing is that no one really cares. Many of us, who have left and “made” something of ourselves, dream and think about going back, but we never will. We’ll extend a hand to someone else in hopes that they’ll make something of themselves and go back and help out our fellow Paseños. Me, well, I’ll continue to teach these kids that go to a school a lot like mine, but I’ll probably never go back and help out the kids that go to the school I went to.


Are You Going to a Quinceñera?

Last Thursday, I wore a skirt to work for the first time. Since I have tattoos on my ankles, I shy away from capris, guachos, and skirts since it is school policy to not show tattoos. However, I felt real macha that day, not to mention, I got a pair of free panty hose in the mail and that was the day I was going to see Dolores Huerta and the Guerrilla Girls, so I risked the balls of my feet and wore my boots with a skirt.

The kids were shocked. Some of them walked in and were like, “Ms. you’re taller today.” Others walked in and just stared. One mentioned to his neighbor that I looked nice which he immediately reported to me and the rest of the class. During the last period of the day, there was a lone student who inquired, “Ms. are you going to a quinceñera today?”

It was amazing to see Dolores Huerta. I was giddy with anticipation the entire day. I couldn’t believe that after two cancellations, I was finally going to see her. Sadly, I didn’t get to be there for the entire session because the Guerrilla Girls would be taking the stage across campus at 7:30. My sis, ex roomie, and I all agreed that we should have ditched the Guerrilla Girls and stayed at the Dolores Huerta event. In retrospect, even though I didn’t get to hear her entire lecture, I’m just glad to have seen her.

A similar thing happened when Rigoberta Menchú was giving a lecture. I had to miss it because I had to be in a math class that I would be dropping later that week. However, that weekend, I attended LASA in Dallas selling books for the press. I went up to the room to get something and when I came out of the elevator, right in front of me, all alone, was Menchú. We looked at each other and smiled, and then a group of people consumed her with questions and requests as I walked off the elevator. Even though there wasn’t an exchange of words, it was cool to see her like that.

I am rather excited because this week, my students and I will embark on a literary journey. We will be reading The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963. Being that it is Black History month, I think that this book is very appropriate. I would love to have them read Y No Se Lo Trago La Tierra or something of the like, but I’m taking baby steps at la escuelita. I’m going to be doing an in depth study with them about the context of this novel. Luckily, I found this neat magazine on Civil Rights at the library and it has a ton of information on 1963. I’ve even downloaded some of the songs that were cool at the time to play for them. I hope they enjoy it.


Day off

Today was one of those teacher waiver days. That just means that if there’s some kind of training we need, this would be the day to do it. The thing about these days is that the trainings only really take 30-40 minutes and we’re left to our own demise the rest of the day. The only stipulation is that we have to stay on campus. Well, we were fortunate enough to have to day off. I’ve done nothing that useful.

I did my homework and graded a big pile of papers. I also managed to read a couple more chapters of Inkheart. I would love nothing more that to stay in and read. Or put a chair on the balcony and read the rest of the afternoon, but I have that class to attend tonight. If all goes well, we should be out by no later than 7:30.

I really don’t have much else to say. I hate having so many bitchy posts. For now, I'm off to do more reading until I have to get to class.


What's Going on in Houston:

(Please excuse the breaks)
Kicking around Houston 1836Soccer team sends the wrong message to Latinos

By naming the team Houston 1836, the newly arrived Major League Soccer franchise has chosen to identify with a year that may divide the city rather than unite it. While the team intends to highlight Houston's founding along the banks of Buffalo Bayou, the year also commemorates the defeat of the Mexican Army by a largely Anglo Texan militia at the Battle of San Jacinto. Whether by ignorance or design, choosing 1836 has the potential to alienate Houstonians of Mexican origin, a group that is surely a large part of the team's fan base.
The year 1836 was, no doubt, a significant year in history. As a 19th-century historian, I welcome the attention the team name brings to what I feel is a misunderstood era. But choosing 1836 sends the wrong message at the wrong time. Texans of Mexican decent constantly struggle to identify with a place that was created out of Mexican defeat.
Houston stands perched to take its place among the economic centers of the Americas, thanks in great part to its sizable Latino population. This is not the time to exclude us.
This team name comes at a time of increased awareness of how mascots and names can stereotype or offend Americans. Last year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association scrutinized the use of Native Americans in team names such as the Florida State Seminoles and the Carthage College Redmen (now Red Men). Team names such as the Atlanta Braves and Washington Redskins sound anachronistic to modern ears. Not long ago the Washington Bullets changed their name to Wizards for similar reasons.
Thus it came as a surprise to me, and many of my students and colleagues, to hear 1836. Some thought it was a joke when I mentioned it. Surely the team must have anticipated this response if they knew anything about Texas history.
Lately I have noticed college students taking a more cynical or media savvy approach to explaining these marketing terms. One student in my class thought the name was a ploy to get attention for the team and that the real name would could later. But all of them saw the contradiction inherent in naming the team 1836 while expecting Latino fans to attend games.
Team officials state that 1836 was primarily chosen to represent the city's founding. A team name doesn't have the luxury of explaining itself. The link to Texas secession from Mexico during the Texas Revolution is inescapable.
The team logo compounds the connection by depicting Sam Houston on horseback, leading the charge against Mexican troops. What other conclusion can we draw?
While the year represents Texas independence, it also raises the complicated and sometimes shameful history that came along with it. Initially seen as economic boosters, Anglo American immigrants brought slavery and failed to keep contracts made with state officials. For Mexicans, Texas secession started the process of American conquest culminating in the invasion of Mexico in 1846 and the loss of almost half its territory. Few would disagree that Texas independence was an important chapter in the imperial story of American Manifest Destiny.
Houston has undergone many transformations and reinventions since 1836. Digging the Ship Channel, the Galveston hurricane of 1900, discovering oil and sending a man to the moon all took place since then and all changed the face of the city. Naming the team 1836 smacks of nostalgia for a time when Mexican people were absent or at least knew their place.
Another student in class generously noted that perhaps the team took for granted Latino fans and wanted to increase Anglo interest with this team name. Perhaps soccer is already too identified with Latin America and Europe Perhaps this is retribution for the vocal support the Mexican national team receives when it comes to town.
A more sinister reading suggests the team wants Latino aficionados, but only on their terms. Those terms are leaving your heritage, identity and family at the door.
The team has started its relationship with the Latino community off on the wrong foot. Short of changing the name, the team needs to make extra efforts to appear open to Latino Houstonians.
Only then, and by removing Sam Houston from the logo, will the team come to symbolize the promise of a global capital.
Ramos is assistant professor, Department of History, University of Houston.
I told the people I sit with at lunch about this and the racist from across the hall said, "I don't know what the big deal is."