El Año Nuevo in Retrospect

This morning, I woke up with a longing for a New Year’s Eve day morning with my mom. Although New Year didn’t really involve as much magic and make believe as Christmas, my mom still had some traditions/superstitions she wouldn’t let go of like the 12 grapes with 12 wishes at midnight. Some she got from the morning shows she likes to watch. We would always comment on the new rituals. Which ones we could and would like to do, but never did.

One year, when my mom was working for Mrs. Raney doing the live-in thing, my mom and I completed the following in the first couple minutes of the New Year:

Ate 12 grapes making a wish with each
Toasted with some rancid Champagne
Swept the entrance to get rid of bad/old vibes
Retrieved pennies from the potted plant with our right hand and threw them into the house

I don’t think any of this really did anything, but it was fun. After running around like maniacs, we laughed perhaps at how ridiculous it all was. Still, it was so much fun, and those couple minutes always replay in slow motion when I think of celebrating el año nuevo.


New Year

I’ve never been big on New Year’s Resolutions. They seem like another thing that if I don’t get done I will beat myself up over.

Last year, I made two: work on my writing and be a better teacher. I think I did both. Sure I haven’t had anything published on my own yet, but I’ve been working on it. In fact, I have a lot of new material that I’m working on editing and work shopping. At the start of the school year, I was an awesome teacher, and I know a lot of people believe that my jump from 6th to 7th grade is something that a great teacher does. I think I pull my load and I don’t think I’ll ever really be content because there is always more that I can do in regard to my work.

Since the cana count has been increasing, in lieu of resolutions, I’m making one of those “things to do before I croak list.”

1. Ride a horse
2. Visit the Grand Canyon
3. Spend a day on the beach on the Pacific West Coast and East Coast
4. Go to as many museums as possible in NYC
5. Take a month-long vacation in Mexico
6. Go deep sea fishing
7. Pet a snake
8. Set foot on the eastern hemisphere
9. Publish a book
10.Write a story about Gabi
11.Have the office of my dreams
12.Learn to drive a motorcycle
13.Sit in the audience of a television show
14.Create a soundtrack for my life
15.Donate to a substantial amount to a charity

That’s all I can think of right now. I think this will work better for two reasons. The first is that I love making to do lists and crossing things off. There’s nothing like being able to roll your pen over a task and at the end of the day being able to condense or throw away the whole darn thing because there’s nothing left. The other reason I think this will work is because I have longer to complete this list. Sure, I could croak at any moment, but somehow, I think I’m doing this life thing for a long time.

Enjoy the last leg of ‘07 and the birth of ‘08.


Blue Christmas

I don’t know if my mom loved to or felt like she had to create this sense of magic for me at Christmas time. She wasn’t like some parents now who refuse to allow their children to believe in Santa. My mom let me write letters to him, asked me what I wanted so she could tell him, and insisted that on Christmas Eve, Santa come to visit. The only difference is that I was allowed to interact with Santa.

Somewhere, sometime, someone had acquired a Santa suit, and I think it was Filly, my middle brother, who would always wear it. I don’t know if the suit had come with or without the beard, but it ended up missing the Christmas when I was five. So they ended up making do with a remnant piece of blue faux fur that had been used in the doll house my mom and brothers had made me for me.

I don’t know if it was the beard or that Santa was so tall and lanky and had eyes just like my brother, but that was the Christmas I knew, for sure, that there really was no Santa. Still, I pretended to believe because it was tradition. Being that at five, I already had a niece, I knew I couldn’t ruin this for her.

During my dark years*, I would dress up as Santa and go around delivering gifts for my nephews and my brother’s friends’ children. It was so much fun to see the look on their faces when they saw me. It made the itching below the beard and hat worth it.

So if it was out of obligation, love, or just tradition, my mom’s work churned out so much more than happy memories. If I were to ever have kids of my own, I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same con blue beard y todo.

Feliz navidad!


Three Snapshots of My Mom

My mom sits across from me at the Chinese restaurant in a cramped booth. She puts a cube or wobbly cherry red Jello into her mouth. She tries to push it through the gaps where her teeth used to be, but the Jello is too slick. It slides out the side of her mouth and onto the table. We laugh and laugh.


We’re home alone. My mom decides we’re going to bake a chicken. She rinses it off in the sink and rubs salt and pepper on it. “Here, hold the oven bag,” she says.

I stand there, holding the bag just like she asked. She drops the chicken into the bag and it falls through the bag onto the linoleum floor. We laugh and laugh, neither of us can stop. I imitate the chicken several times as if a chicken carcass could have fallen and landed any other way. It is forever our little inside joke.


Mrs. Raney comes in yelling at us about something we don’t understand. We sit there and listen to her. Then my mom and I just look at each other. For some reason, a song pops into my head and I start, “Y los muchachos del barrio la llamaban loca!”

Before long, we are both singing together. Mrs. Raney responds with the same crazy look we gave her and walks away.


Gabi: A Character Study

My sister smells of perfectly brewed fresh coffee and brand new books. She sounds like Arjona, Intocable, y El Trí. She looks like a mosaic with her lightning-struck hair, swimmer’s legs, mocha Frappuccino-colored skin, and chocolate chip mole. To me, she represents gall, strength, intelligence, and compassion.



Today was one of those really long days. I didn’t have an off period because I covered a class for a colleague so that she could observe her mentee and there was a meeting during my other conference period. I ate lunch quickly, so that I could get caught up with some other things during that time.

Right after school, I had a mentor meeting. We did get this really cool gift pack of some photo albums, a journal, and a box for pics and a light dinner.

After that, I went to a local intermediate school for a reading. There weren’t a lot of people there because there was a basketball game, but the audience was quite attentive. There was this one kid there who was really cool. He was taking pics for the year book, and he seemed to be really into the whole thing.

I heard once that Cisneros said at a conference that readings drained her, but for me, they do the exact opposite. It’s so invigorating to talk to people and sign their books afterward. That’s my favorite part of the whole ordeal.


24Hrs of No TV

I've gone 24 hours without TV. I've done it before and for a longer period of time, but it's just so strange to me today.

Actually, I've been working pretty much the entire day. Here is a recap of my day:

6:10 AM Hit Snooze Button
6:20 AM Grudgingly get out of bed because the alarm is so annoying
6:55 AM Out of shower only to find the cats had knocked down the X-Mas tree
7:00 AM Pouring coffee into my thermos
7:05 AM Yelling at cats because they're trying to trip me
7:10 AM Gathering laptop, lunch, crate, purse, and work bag
7:15 AM Leaving complex for work
7:30 AM Arrive at work, sign in, greet whomever I run into
7:35 AM Rewriting daily to-do list
7:50 AM Room fills up with kids for tutoring, I try to work on to-do list
8:10 AM Bell rings, students leave, and I can get to work on fixing sub letter, alphabetizing folders, and inputing late grades for a class.
9:04 AM Bell rings, greet students, teach class
10:42 AM First class students leave, homeroom students start filing in, as I stand in the hallway colleagues asks when would be a good day to come observe my mad teaching skillz
10:46 AM Hand out Technology Survey to students, pick them up, joke around, tell them that they better be good for sub later.
11:06 AM Students leave, I run down to make extra copies of some assignments, return to classroom for meeting.
11:35 AM Meeting is over, check e-mail, each lunch as I delete and print e-mails.
11:50 AM Gather up G/T crate, late work, purse, lunch bag, and sweater and head out
12:00 PM Head to Starbucks for an afternoon fix
12:15 PM Arrive at Admin building for G/T meeting
12:30 PM Briefly discuss G/T issues with lady in charge, break out laptop and get to work on Student list and letters, ask lady in charge questions as they come up and she wanders in.
3:30 PM Head to Panera for dinner date with Dan the Man.
4:30 PM 99 Cent store to find objects for personification lesson
5:00 PM Get home, gather up laundry, check mail
5:20 PM Grade late work, log into grade book, pick up laundry
7:00 PM Work on lesson plans and resources
9:00 PM Send out millions of e-mails hoping to delegate some duties
10:00 PM Check out daily reads (blogs) and talk to Billy
11:00 PM Start thinking about heading to bed

Thank baby Jesus it's almost Saturday! Although I feel so accomplished, it sucks to work so much becuse it takes time away from the one thing I love: writing.


You’ve Been Promoted!

When I’m not being obscured with expectations, I find that statement funny. People think that just because I’m teaching a higher grade that qualifies as a promotion. I have more work because I’m learning/testing the depth of the curriculum I teach, figuring out how to best teach writing for a water downed test, and learning to deal with a whole new animal then it is a promotion. But then when you look at my pay stub, it’s actually still the same. I’m getting less respect in the classroom than before and some of the people that I work with now haven’t even really acknowledged that I’m on their team. In fact, some of them still give me the very strained good morning that I got before.

Mix Ups

I’ll tell ya though, it’s been quite interesting with people getting me all mixed up about whether I’m still teaching sixth grade or now in seventh. Today, a new kid came into my class. So of course, I gave him a seat and gave him his homeroom assignment. Then, I asked him to see his schedule so that I could ask a kid to help him get to his next class and tell him where he sits for lunch. However, when I looked at his schedule, it looked strange because he had PE 3rd period and 7th graders have PE 4th. So I looked at it again, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Then, it finally clicked.

“Are you a sixth grader?”

“Yes,” he said meekly.

I’m sure this kind of stuff will continue for the rest of the semester if not year.

Why I Will Continue to Teach Seventh Grade

The sixth graders that I had this year were really a great bunch. They were like no other group of students I’ve had.

So many people complained and complain about them, but the students that I had, man, they were awesome. On reading days, there were but a few who I had to get onto once in a while. For the most part, the others were very interested in reading. Their reading interests were so varied. They knew what they liked to read and made it a point to bring it to class.

Teaching them as like wearing your favorite jeans. They knew where I would give a little; I knew where they would give a little. Things went smoothly in class because I had laid out procedures that worked for both them and me.

Before I broke them the news, the thought of how they would take the news invaded my mind like Bush and Iraq. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t shake off the guilty feeling.

So many of them sent me feathers for the annual NJHS Turkey Feather Sale, and it’s a constant stream of hugs and hellos every time I set foot outside my classroom. At least one of them will visit me daily just to say hello, catch up on what they’re doing, or to tell me that they miss me.

I know that once my inherited students and I get into the swing of things, I might build the relationships (I already have with some), have smooth-running procedures, and they will learn to meet my expectations, but I still feel like my sixth graders and I were robbed. Today, when one of those sixth graders, who I really just clicked with, stopped by to say hello and chat, I knew that there is no way I can leave seventh grade the upcoming year. I’m going to have to stick to it one more year. Then after that, I can move back down, especially if I’m still convinced that I was born to teach 6th grade.


An Update for Those Who Insisted

The Day of the Dead lesson was awesome. I really, really enjoyed the last week with my 6th graders. They seriously are, by far, the best group of kids I’ve had.

My first week of seventh grade ended pretty badly. The kids were worn out from testing and I was worn out from covering classes for teachers who were out. I don’t mind covering a class here and there, but twice in one week, that’s a bit excessive. Anyway, there were many times that I thought, why did I decide to move up again?

This week has been better. I hope I don’t jinx myself by saying that. It has though. I also like my schedule. I used to get a break after every class which was sweet. Now, I have all of my breaks in the morning and then I power through the afternoon. For some people this would suck, but for me, since I’m not exactly a morning person, it’s perfect.

November 1st, I got to attend a reading by Tato Laviera. That was the most amazing thing ever. It was so cool. It was even better that I got to go break bread with him afterward. If you haven’t read any of his work, you seriously need to go out and find one of his books. I highly recommend reading his poem titled “Graduation Speech.”

This weekend a group of girls from work and I are going camping. Well, we’re going city slicker camping because we rented a cabin. It should be really fun. That’s been my motivation to not leave my grading done until the end of the week. I have to stay on the ball now that I have athletes in my class. The coaches constantly want to know their grades.


Last Hurrah

This week is my last week as a sixth grade teacher. Yes, normally people wait until the end of the year, but since the last time I wrote here, a 7th grade teacher has resigned her position “effective immediately.” This has, of course, left a large group of kids up a creek without a paddle. Sure, they have a sub whose been filling in with lesson plans other teachers have put together, but they’re not lesson plans for those kids. They’ve been winging it, and honestly, I don’t blame them. I mean, it’s very time consuming to plan for yourself, much less for someone else.

Anyway, as you can imagine, my do-gooder self decided to take on the challenge. Do I regret it? At times, yes, very, very much, but I can’t back down now, and I know that those 7th grade kids need a familiar face.

A new teacher has been hired to take my place in sixth grade. My current students were pretty upset over it. I told them Friday and their response was either, “Noooooooo” or “You’re a traitor!” Some of them seem to be consoled with the possibility of having me next year and others were happy to hear that I’d still be around in case they needed me. Still, telling them was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I’ve really taken the relationship of this “Rigor, Relevance, and Relationship” theme to heart and built a relationship with more kids than ever.

It seems very fitting that my last week with my students I get to work on the Day of the Dead unit. I can’t wait. I’ve been thinking about this week for about a month. This year, many of my colleagues and I have ended up in the lower part of the dip a lot earlier that November. I think many of us have made ourselves at home there (It's not true that it's just for new teachers, we all feel it). We just sit around slinging back “coffee” after “coffee.” So it’s given me time to think about Día de los muertos a lot. Tuesday we begin the preparations. I’ll try to get some pics of the altar to put up.


Low Point

I’ve started monitoring comments again because of comments like the last one in my last entry. I’m happy people have religion in their lives, just don’t post it on my space…bastards.

I woke up this morning in a very reflective mood that quickly put me in a very negative state of mind. I started thinking of everything I hadn’t done and all of the things I currently can’t change about my job. At this point, all I really want is to be able to spend time in my classroom, working with my students, and planning their instruction. I’m not interested in attending another meeting or another staff development to learn another strategy. I have learned plenty of strategies in my 80+hrs of staff development this summer; I really don’t need any more for now. I promise, I’m golden.

I know it’s not anything anyone can help right now, and I’m okay now. The strategies that I can implement from today’s staff development have already been discussed and the rest are going to sit on my bookshelf until I get to them or need them.

Anyway, I had a rough couple of weeks in regard to time and Friday was just one of those days where the monkeys fling their fecal matter at the ceiling fan and it ends up all over your nice things. I decided that afternoon that this weekend I would dedicate it to my mental sanity. So I slept, read, and watched movies.

Saturday night I spent it on our new sofa reading Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I read it until I was finished because I knew that otherwise, it wouldn't happen. I got it from one of the staff developments I had to attend last week. It was really entertaining. I loved that it had illustrations. I thought about not putting it on my bookshelf because it gets a little edgy, but after the conversation I had with my department head today, I think it needs to go up there. (The narrator mentions masturbation once and it’s got a few curse words.)

Saturday afternoon, we ventured out to see 3:10 to Yuma. I really enjoyed it. I’m not one to watch westerns so I was surprised that I really liked it. It also helped that Christian Bale was in it. He’s pretty easy on the eyes.

We also watched Halloween, the Rob Zombie remake. It was pretty good. I liked it a lot better than the original. Fraility was pretty good, too. Hostel left a lot to be desired. Hollywoodland was pretty unclimatic for me. I think I took a nap while it was on. Lastly, we watched a mocumentary that follows a first-year-teacher, administrator, and some three-year-teachers during a school year titled Chalk. That was really pretty good. Dan the Man was a little upset when he found out it wasn’t an actual documentary. But it was dead on with its portrayal of the first year. I was having flashbacks watching that poor teacher struggle with his students. When it was over Dan the Man asked, “So you’re still within that crucial first three year period. How likely are you to quit?”

I guess that could be one reason why I woke up acting like a grumpzilla. It could also be that we’re hitting that low point in the year. Whatever it is, I’m planning on having many more relaxing weekends. Regardless of whether I bring work home on the weekends or not, I’m still not getting home until 6 or 7 and doing more work at home, might as well start enjoying my me time. It's just one of those life lessons I need to have to collect.



I sort of disappeared off the face of the planet after last time. I’ve just been, well, busy, as usual. It’s like it never ends. I’m not complaining, just saying.

Yesterday, my brother’s wife gave birth to their second kiddo. His name is Jorgito and he weighed 8lbs 1oz, rather exciting. She wasn’t supposed to have him for another week, but she was losing fluids so they were forced to go through with a C-section. He kept saying how he’d wished she was going to have him while I was there so I could see him, and sure enough.

So yeah, I’m going to El Paso this weekend. I’m going to read at the Great Southwest Book Fair. I’m pretty psyched. Here are the details in case you happen to be in El Paso:

Date: September 29, 2007
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Place: El Paso Public Library
Address: 501 N. Oregon, El Paso, TX 79901

Tomorrow is parent night. One of the veteran teachers came into my room and said, “I love the way your room feels. It’s so bright. I think you’re ready for tomorrow.”

All I did was slap up some student work this morning. I’ve been having them do a ton of projects with the novel we’re reading (My Father, the Angel of Death). Currently, they’re creating their own wrestler. It’s been pretty cool. Today, my appraiser walked into my room. The kids were working on their wrestler and I was organizing some folders. One kid came up to my desk to ask me a question and said, “Mrs. W is in the room.”

She walked around and talked to the kids about their wrestlers and went along her merry way. Yesterday morning, she also walked into my room as I was telling the kids that they had to read their own book (we’d just finished reading a chapter from the novel). The kids were begging for me to read them another chapter. Then they asked if they could read another chapter on their own to which, I of course, said yes. Then someone near the front told her how great the book was and I heard her say, “Yeah, I know, I’ve read it.”

I used to worry so much about the walk-thru’s and observations my first year. Last year, I stopped caring so much, and this year, I just don’t care. I have so many great kids, and I’ve become so much better about keeping them busy and entertained. There’s still the whole issue of finding fun assessments for parts of speech, but hey, I think I’m in this for the long run so maybe this coming summer I’ll focus on parts of speech.

I’m off to pack and prepare my fancy outfit for tomorrow. If you’re in Houston this weekend, don’t forget to go check out the Latino Book Festival at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Bueno, have a good weekend.


Good Day

Today I met with mom from previous post. She okayed for her kid to read two novels A Long Way from Chicago and The Watson’s Go to Birmingham—1963. She said her daughter didn’t feel comfortable reading any of the other novels. That’s fine.

In the meantime, my students are begging me to keep reading to them from My Father, the Angel of Death. Today, I had them do this activity that helps them learn to draw connections. I typed up a list of names, words, etc. from the text. Then, I had them cut out all of the words and glue them onto a large piece of paper. Tomorrow, they will have to draw lines to the words that have something in common. Some of the kids were able to start on that last step. I heard many of them saying it was fun and I even had to go over and take away an assignment from a student because we had to leave for the library.

Then, in the library, I completely lost track of the time one period. One student came up to me and said, “Ms. Baeza it’s already 1:18.”

I gathered up all my kiddies. When we were standing by the door, I said to the student who reminded me about the time, “Thank you so much. I was having such a good time I forgot about the time.”

“I know, I was having fun, too,” he replied.

It made my little teacher heart smile. I love our new librarian. I love my job, too. I like being around these kids. When we go the libaray, I dismiss from there. So I end up in the 8th grade hallway and I love standing there. So many kids say hello to me. And yesterday, the 8th grade boys had their first game (they were my students my first year) and I was so proud to see so many of them in their jerseys.

Last teacher story of the day, I promise. I have a student, who came to me about a week ago, and he’s been in all sorts of trouble. Apparently, he’s got a past or whatever. Monday I was out for a GT meeting and the sub left me his name, so I gave him detention. Anyway, after lunch some teachers asked me for his name because he’d apparently had a confrontation with another student. Earlier that day, I’d asked him to fix his pants and shoes (they like to leave them untied and show off the front of their shows; the untied is a problem b/c they might fall and the other stuff I don’t know why they tell us to tell them to fix it); he fixed them right away.

When I get everyone working, I pulled him aside. “What’s the deal?”

“Nah Ms. It’s just that the sub…”

“Look, do you want me to change my first impression of you? That first day of school, I went home and talked about you because you were so respectful and I was so impressed. You know teachers talk don’t you?”


“When they say stuff about you, I always say you’re great in my class. I don’t want that to change. Can you please be the guy I remember that first day? For me?”

He looked back at me with his eyes shiny with tears and nodded his head yes. I really hope he stays out of trouble. He’s a bright kid who has it.

I write all this because this morning, I went by the store to get some flowers for my friend. Today marked the 7th anniversary of her mom’s death. On my way to and from my car, I got soaked. My shoes were wet, my pants soaked up the water up to my mid-calf, and my shirt got wet. I felt so icky. My feet hurt and the blisters on my feet from the shoes I wore on Monday were killing me. I also didn’t have a chance to get breakfast because my shopping trip took longer than planned. But I was rewarded, I made my friend smile, the cafeteria manager prepared breakfast for the staff, and I felt like I actually made somewhat of a difference today.


Parents and the New Addition

If you know me in the “real world,” this will probably all be old news to you. Nonetheless, I still want to talk about it.

School has been going well. Talking with one of my good friends at school, I realized what it was that seems so off about this year; I don’t have a class that I dread. I really hope it stays that way. It makes the days go by so much faster and I think I do a better job. There are a couple kids that are difficult, but it’s all about staying calm and sticking to the consequences I’ve laid out.

I am having trouble with one parent though. Our school asks that each kid have a permission slip for each novel that we read as a class. It’s a pain in the ass, but it has to be done. After having to chase after kids all of the time last year, I decided that this year, I would send home a letter with the novels and films for the whole year at the beginning of the year and we’d be done with it. The novels we will be reading this year are My Father, the Angel of Death, A Long Way from Chicago, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, The Westing Game, and we’ll be watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Selena.

I got back most of the letters right away and almost everyone’s parents were okay with my choices. There, as always, was that one parent that just couldn’t do it. She marked no on every single novel and yes on both films. When I asked the kid why, she said she didn’t know. I was pretty upset because well, it sorta threw off my plans. I had an idea of a backup, but I didn’t think I’d have any opposition until The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. And I could handle a novel or two, but all of them. So I had to call mom.

She told me she wanted to meet with me in person to talk about it because she felt that the novels went against her teachings. I told her I’d be available after school and she was more than welcome to stop by my room so we could talk. In the meantime, I talked to the assistant principal and grabbed a copy of all the novels for her to take if she desired.

So mom comes by after school and I try to explain a little more what the novels are about and the whole process of selection and yadda yadda. And she says, “Es que esta niña tiene una imaginacion. Aveces me asusta con las cosas que me pregunta.”

Now mind you, this kid is pretty bright and she’s a good kid. She’s one of the brightest in that class. So I don’t think that the things she’s coming up with are terrible.

Anyway, mom keeps talking and saying she’ll think about it. In the end, she takes the novels. I haven’t heard from her. I’m going to call her sometime next week and see if anything has changed. I doubt it.

At first, I was really upset. I thought, fine, if she wants her to get that kind of an education whatever. But now, that I’ve had some time to think and reflect, I can’t let the student have that kind of education. She loves to read and I need to continue to inspire her and most importantly, I have to help her keep her imagination alive. Sure it’s going to be extra work on my part, but I have to do it if I want to be half of the great teacher I aim to be.

The other thing I wanted to share is that we’ve made an addition to our little family. He came to us about two weeks ago and his name is Smokey.


First Day Part Deux

I had a good first day. My kids were all sweet and nice and tried to pay attention. Some of them cracked me up. One kid was very cordial. When I went to get my homeroom class, he ended up at the front of the line. As we walked down that walkway, he said, “How has your morning been Ms. Baeza.”

There was also the kid who told our principal we’d been making collages. She walked in just to see how the kids were doing. She was impressed that they said they’d been having a great day. They were right though. It was a great day—if only I could find shoes that feel like clouds and all will be well.

One of the best things about the first day of school is seeing all the older students. Seventh graders are the best because they’re the ones that always come back. All of my former students, who I refer to as old sixth graders, wanted to come by to say hello and see the new sixth graders. Half of the ones that came by wanted to be back in my class. It’s nice to be able to turn them away because they deserve to be in a 7th grade class.


First Day

Tomorrow is the first day of school. I was a little nervous this whole weekend, and then I met one of my students today. She’s the younger sister of one of the 8th graders. She came by with her dad and her brother. I told her she’d be in my homeroom and talked to her dad a bit. He saw my poster of Cesar Chavez and told me about having met him in California. It was really cool.

I have to constantly remind myself that this isn’t my first year of teaching and I know a lot more now. My biggest fear is having students like the ones I had my first year—some classes are more challenging than others. But if I make it about building relationships before completely focusing on instruction, I think it will make all the difference. At least that’s what I learned last year.

I’m sure that once I get into super star mode tomorrow all will be great.


Don't Label Me Anti-American

Because I am a proud Chicana, a lot of times I get labeled as "anit-American" or "unpatriotic." This really bugs me. I say the Pledge of Allegience, out loud, every day with my students. When 9-11 happened, I was just as shocked as the rest of the country. I went out and bought ribbon to make bows and put on our fence and I also light candles for those lost in the attacks and the soldiers that have died. However, at the same time, I will wear an anti-war t-shirt and I won’t support Bush.

It breaks my heart that young kids, who can’t even have a beer, are dying for this stupid cause. As I told my friend Shelley the other day, this fight is over an abstract noun, an idea. It’s like if I were to go on a rampage to end Catholicism. Sure, I can burn down churches and bibles, smash saints, and kill priests and their followers, but will I ever really end it? Probably not.

Would I prepare care packages to send to the troops? Drive them home if they don’t have a ride? Cook them meals? Host one in my house? Of course I would, but will I support this fight against terrorism? Hell no. Quit wasting young lives and really protect our country by bringing them home. Take care of them when they come home and they can’t sleep because they’re remembering the horrors of war. When they get sick ten years down the line due to something they were exposed to when they were in your war, don’t schedule their appointment for six months later or pass it off as something they probably got somewhere else.

And now, the irony of it all, illegal immigrants, the ones that we don’t want in this country because they broke the law to get into this country and we will rally together to get them all out, are giving up their lives for this idiotic war. They’re proving that they, indeed, want to be part of this “American dream.” And hey, why is not making the news? Why is the only place I can find a link to this is on a Spanish-speaking news station? Oh, and if they die in battle what about their illegal wife and/or child? Will you give them amnesty? Perhaps after a long, drawn out fight, right?

So if I don’t wear the U.S. flag on my sleeve right now or applaud the monkey for the way he handled 9-11, don’t call me anti-American. It’s just really hard to support the administration that has made me lose hope in the U.S., a very difficult chore.
Thank you President Bush.


Lo que quisiera...

Ricardo Arjona
Adiós melancolía

Tengo un domingo en stand by, por si algún lunes te deprime,
Y en la cartera un ánfora que guarda olor a ti,
Tengo boletos de primera fila, para verte despertar por las mañanas,
Tengo la firme convicción, de que si estás me consolido,
Y la sospecha de que ni sospechas cuanto te amo,
Tengo tu foto puesta en la pupila,
Y con tu voz baila el estribo, el yunque y el martillo.

Tengo risas, tengo llantos, tengo un termostato,
Que me enciende cuando estás,
Y que me apaga si te vas
Pa` no morir de la nostalgia.

Adiós melancolía,
Gracias por la compañía,
Pero aquí ya no hay mas sitio para usted.

Adiós melancolía,
Le agradezco la poesía,
Que entre versos hoy me deja confesarle a esta mujer,
Que me saque la lotería cuando la vi.

Tengo una dosis de perdón, por si haces algo que me duela,
Y una canción de más por si algún día la echas de menos,
Tengo un stock de besos sin estreno,
Y un camión de amor del bueno, para ti.

Tengo risas, tengo llantos, tengo un termostato,
Que me enciende cuando estás,
Y que me apaga si te vas
Pa` no morir de la nostalgia.

Adiós melancolía,
Gracias por la compañía,
Pero aquí ya no hay mas sitio para usted.

Adiós melancolía,
Le agradezco la poesía,
Que entre versos hoy me deja confesarle a esta mujer,
Que me saque la lotería cuando la vi.

Hoy cuelgo mis sueños en el pearcing de tu ombligo,
Mientras la melancolía observa y es testigo,
Quiere estar segura, un poco por ti,
Un poco por mí, un poco por celos.

Adiós melancolía,
Gracias por la compañía,
Pero aquí ya no hay mas sitio para usted.

Adiós melancolía,
Le agradezco la poesía,
Que entre versos hoy me deja confesarle a esta mujer,
Que me saque la lotería cuando la vi.

Tengo agua de mar en la bañera, y en la cama aire de cordillera,
Tengo sol de mayo en la nevera, y flores de abril en la escalera,
Tengo un cuarto lleno en primavera, y un beso esperando en la trinchera,
Un jarrón que llora cuando espera, y te tengo a ti por donde quiera.
Y te tengo a ti por donde quiera.


CNN You Tube debate

I was unaware of the debate yesterday. Since I haven't been on You Tube in a while and CNN is not my preferred news channel, it sort of makes sense. I did, however, see an article about it on AOL of all places. Fortunately, CNN is a cable/satellite channel which means reruns.

CNN is treating this thing like MTV treats all of their awards shows—there has been much dialogue, amongst their anchors and pundits, which has spawned from this. I only watched the post dialogue coverage because I was interested in seeing how they rated the different candidates.

One thing that they all keep saying is that it was such a great format and that it could be the wave of the future. Really?

I thought it was really cool that people were able to submit their questions via You Tube, but really, it was just another debate. It didn’t change my mind. They were all still up their in monkey suits and Hillary in her pink coat trying to appear “more female.”

They know better than us, what’s going on. They know what to say to try to convince people to gain their vote. My callousness is sort of surprising. Perhaps it has something to so with the fact that I watched Sicko recently.

I had a lot of hope that this upcoming election would bring the change that the country needs. However, I don’t know that anymore. Yeah, the question format was innovative, but is this going to make people who wouldn’t normally vote go out and vote?


Summer Soundtrack and Books

Earlier this summer, Cindylu posed an important question, “What songs will be playing on your summer soundtrack?” Originally, I had stated that the summer had just begun and there was still time to choose. My summer is almost over, and my summer soundtrack has remained the same.

I don’t think I’ve really added anything new to my music collection. In fact, the things that I have added aren’t anything new, but rather old school songs that allow me to reminisce about the past.

Sometimes I worry when this happens. I start thinking I’m getting old. Having turned 27 this summer and witnessing the invasion of the canas, it became a real worry. I tried listening to the radio to get some good ideas, pero tocan lo mismo all of the time. And music shows on TV drive me nuts. The ADD (I self diagnosed) kicks in y ya estuvo, I start flipping through the milieu of channels we currently have.

I also tried listening to the music they play at Barnes and Noble when I’m there finishing projects, but I get annoyed by all the, “Oh my God! Let’s get some coffee!” from the teenagers trying to be hip and the conversations from the loud asses that congregate there thinking that by being around books will automatically make them smarter.

Maybe this isn’t the summer of music. At least it’s been the summer of movies, writing, and books.

Speaking of which, I wanted to comment on a couple books I’ve read recently. The first is The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Even if you don’t have kids, you will enjoy this book. The format of the book is awesome. It’s a huge book, maybe 500 pgs, but a lot of it is pictures. Anyway, the story is that Hugo’s dad finds this machine; it’s the bust of a man and can write a message. It’s busted and the dad is trying to fix it, but he ends up dying and Hugo ends up living in the train station in Paris. So then, Hugo continues to try fixing this machine and ends up making a couple of friends along the way. I swear the story isn’t so cheesy, but I’m afraid to give away the story. It’s so well done.

I also read an upcoming APP title, Chicken Foot Farm (no linky link yet) by Anne Estevis author of Down Garrapata Road. It’s a sort of coming of age story about Alejandro and the farm where he grew up. The stories are so cute, not at all maudlin by any means. She also doesn’t pigeon hole the story to Tejas. I can’t wait to get a copy of this to share with my students. I don’t know if it’s going to be a Piñata book, but it’s safe for middle schoolers and above.

The other book I want to comment on is Fun Home. I found a review for this book in one of Dan the Man’s comic book geek magazines. It’s by Alexis Bechdel who illustrates and writes Dykes to Watch out For. The novel is a graphic memoir about her coming out and the death of her father. It’s a really quick read, tons of allusions, and I love the ending. It’s a little emotional, but so well done. But my favorite thing about the book is the humor. The descriptions of her dad are way funny, but the funniest thing was reading and seeing illustrations about her OCD.

Anyway, on queue I have Dante’s Ballad, which was done in Spanish first. I'll most likely get started on this tomorrow in hopes of getting it done by Monday. I also have a couple of school books I need to finish reading. Maybe Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile this Sunday will put me in the mood for The Westing Game.



Last night was a bad night for me. I stayed up until this morning. I believe I finally made myself go to sleep at 5 AM. All day, I’ve been dragging. I knew a nap would really help, if only I could make myself take a nap. I was flipping through channels trying to find something entertaining yet mind numbing enough to make me fall asleep. On MTV, there was some show that talked about pranks kids did in high school. I was sucked in to this show. I believe I saw two episodes, and at the end of it, I was fuming.

In one, this group of guys and a girl that plotted to shut down the school for a day. One of their friends’ mom, who worked at the school, handed over her keys to them so they could get inside to make phone calls and even game them the secret password needed to cancel school. They got busted and as a punishment, their mothers were to go to school with them. Two of the mothers ended up in the same class. They began talking during instruction and thought it was funny that they’d upset the teacher. They all thought it was a huge joke and that their kids had pulled off a great prank.

Then, there was another group of kids that took over the senior and faculty parking lot. They forced the faculty to park in the junior parking lot. When the pulled up to the group of kids (apparently, they’d gotten the entire Senior class to participate), they would jump on their cars, bang on their windows, squirt water at them with water guns, and tell them to go away. Only after school had started did the district police show up.

Being on the other end of this, it really upset me. It baffles me that parents and society wants to place all this responsibility on teachers and then allow behavior like this. These kids were proud of what they had done. I understand where they’re coming from, but this isn’t anything to be proud about.

I know that if I had pulled some kind of prank like this, my mom would have skinned me alive. I would have been grounded, and my school would have probably pressed charges.



One of the coolest things this summer for me is that I've actually had time to watch movies. Normally, Dan the Man and I watch a movie a week, but having extra time off allows us to watch more, plus, it’s been raining tons so fishing, going to the beach, swimming, or taking a drive isn’t much fun.
Here is a list of what we’ve seen so far in no particular order:

Hard Candy-this was a really interesting film. It’s about an internet predator.
Quinceañera-I thought this was a little cheesy but kind of cool. A young girl is planning on celebrating her quince, but winds up pregnant. I love the character of the older uncle.
Alpha Dog-I saw the trailer for this last summer and had wanted to see it in theaters, but didn’t get a chance. I really liked this movie. I think Justin Timberlake did an excellent job in it.
Running with Scissors-I found a copy of Augustin Borrough’s copy at the Half Price Bookstore and had been intrigued with it since. I didn’t buy the book. Later, I did get another of his memoirs (Dry.). I thought it was kind or quirky and cool. I might read the book now.
Man of the Year-This was another one of those that I wanted to see in theaters. Dan the Man wasn’t too interested in it. The political commentary was good. I laughed quite a bit. However, if you’re not into politics, this might not be a movie for you.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer-Ah, it’s aight. I liked the fist one better. The Silver Surfer was cool though.
Pan’s Labyrinth-I’d wanted to see this movie for a long, long time. I was so glad I finally did. I loved it.
Knocked Up-I was amazed at what a chick flick this turned out to be. I thought this was going to be more of a comedy. Still liked it though and I would watch it on video again because at the end of the movie there are bonus kiddie pics from the cast.
The Godfather-“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” now I know where that line came from! I still think I like the second part better. Al Pacino was good looking when he was young.
Love Actually-Another chick flick. I really enjoyed this one though. I like when movies tell many stories at once.
Bobby-This was an excellent film about RFK. Again, this movie involved following many different character’s lives. Even though RFK’s assassination happened a couple decades ago, the issues still remain.
The Holiday-Total chick flick that had me gushing the whole time. I didn’t know it was possible.
Ocean’s 11-Mmm Brad Pitt.
Ocean’s 12-Mmm Brad Pitt again.
Ocean’s 13-Mmm Brad Pitt yet again. I liked all of the Ocean’s movies. Only in the movies do they convince you to cheer for the bad guys.
1408-I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
Blood Diamond-I’d read the abridged version of this film in one of many magazines Dan the Man likes to waste money on. *Spoiler alert* I was glad DiCaprio’s character died. I really hope it makes people stop spending insane amounts of money on diamonds.
Transformers-Tons of action, but there were some very disturbing remarks about women. Also, the Puerto Rican guy keeps being told to stop speaking Spanish and is wounded and never heard of again.

Here’s what I’m planning to see later this summer:

The Godfather III
Requiem for a Dream
Run Lola Run
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Almost Famous
The Queen
The Last King of Scotland
Music and Lyrics
(I’d like to see it, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen)
Hotel Rwanda
The Simpsons Movie
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
The Bourne Ultimatum
A Mighty Heart

I’ve also been reading. Maybe I’ll post an entry with all the stuff I’ve read.



After a two hour wait at the Saturn dealer and a long excursion through Harris and Montgomery counties, we finally found a place which seemed conducive to our activity for the day: fishing.

It was ironic to me that being in an area with so much water; we couldn’t find a place to fish for free. We weren’t intending on keeping any of the fish since neither of us really knows how to gut them and Dan the Man only has a vague idea of how to filet one taken some from memory and the rest from the packaging of the filet knife.

We finally ended up at the Sheldon Lake docks when I followed my instincts and turned right on a road. The only drawback of this lake is that it’s infested with alligators and water moccasins.

Despite the gators, heat, and not getting even a nibble, it was pretty neat. I learned how to cast my pole. Maybe next time I'll actually catch something.


Mixed Tapes

The writing class I’m taking this summer is proving to be a lot more useful than the class I took last semester. One of our assignments for next week is to mimic the form of one of the pieces we were given to read. The one that seems most intriguing is the one about the mixed tape. Each chapter talks about a different song from a mixed tape. I’d give you the author, but it’s sort of dark in the room and I’m afraid if I leave this to find the name, I may not make it back. Anyway, we were given the liberty to do anything we want with the piece. He said we could pick movies, or scents…or whatever we seem fitting.

This post isn’t a shot at the assignment; instead, it’s about a memory that piece evokes.

When I was a kid, Gabi, Jorge, and I spent a lot of time together. To pass the long summer days and Christmas vacation, we watched television, played made up games like “Basta” (our version of Scategories), annoyed one another (or our dad), or sang.

One of our favorite things to do was listen to music and sing along. I remember we had a copy of a choir book that someone had brought home from school. It had a greenish marble effect on the cover with a white spine and inside. It had many classics like “The Star Spangled Banner,”
“El Paso,” “Silver Bells,” and my favorite “Cuckaberra.” Other times, we belted out our current favorites from pirated cassettes. There would be times we would listen to the radio for hours trying to catch a song to pirate only to push down the play button only instead of the play and record buttons at the same time.

My brother Jorge was always my hero. I thought he was the smartest and funniest person ever. I felt that I could always count on my big brother, but music allowed Jorge and me to strengthen our bond. I remember being a four or five and hanging out with Jorge in the room he shared with our other two brothers and listening to the oldie’s radio station on a little radio as we lay on the floor in between our brother’s beds trying to sty out of their way. When he started listening to country so did I. And when he came home on leave from Army with a Simon and Garfunkel tape, I started to like them too.

His time in the Army was one of the saddest periods in my life. I hated that he had left, but I knew that it’s what he wanted so I learned to deal with it. One thing that made it somewhat easier was that he wrote to me a lot. He’d send postcards, letters, and my favorite, mixed tapes. I did the same for him, especially the mixed tapes. Thinking back on it now, it was pretty cheesy because we’d not only record songs off the radio, other cassettes, or cd’s (when we got the fancy equipment), we also talked…sometimes while the songs were playing. Often times, we would sing along to the song and record it all.

I’ve often wondered if he listened to these tapes while his friends were around, and if he did, did he get any beef over them like the time he kissed me good-bye in front of his friends when I was in first grade and he was in eighth. Still, it was cool. We were like Felicity and her pen-pal only we came first.

After he came home from the Army, music was still something we had in common and it continues to be an interest we share. As with my friend Gabriel, there are so many songs I can listen to now and spark up some sort of memory about my beloved brother, Jorgie Porgie.



Being the youngest of six, I tend to be sort of the brat of the family. I am truly the baby of my family. I also have many of the “baby qualities” and perks. So it’s no surprise that my b-days are pretty sweet.

As a kid, I always had a huge party. Also, it almost always rained on that day, so the whole party had to be moved inside which resulted in lots of cracked cakes. Thinking back, I imagine the gift table stacked beyond belief and a long train of bills pinned to my dress or short suit. I always felt like a princess that day. I wonder what my mom had to do to get enough money to throw me such huge parties.

Every couple of years, my family will still have a party for me like that. For my 18th birthday, my brother had a frog piñata specially made for me. For my 22nd birthday, I had a going away/birthday party. Again, Jorge made me some special invitations that involved Hershey’s bars with a personalized wrapper that included all of the party info. I also had two piñatas, a Hello Kitty and Sponge Bob, and a brinca brinca. Then for my 24th, my sister had a hot dog and cupcake party for me at the office. I love having these types of parties once in a while because it reminds me to stay young.

The years that I wasn’t having a kiddie party, I’d be doing something equally cool like going to Western Playland (the amusement park in El Chuco), bar hoping with Carolina, hanging out with my Sis and Co., or being showered with gifts and attention by my mom and/or Dan the Man.

Of course, I’ve had my share of bad ones like my 12fth when my brother’s left, one to the army and the other to drive a truck, or when I turned 21 was sick due to gallstones, but I didn’t know about it, or when I turned 25 and for some reason (probably PMS and an unknown future) I was a total basket case and cried most of the day.

Still, most of them have been pretty great. And today, well, it’s not an exception. My work buddies celebrated my day with a yummy chocolate moose cake before school let out. Today, I’ve gotten so many b-day wishes from my friends and brother on Myspace, my mom and sister called me. Daniel surprised me with a poem, cake, a pink fishing pole, and pink UH beer coozie, and later, dinner with my Sis and Co.



I hate how I let things go at times. There are so many things that I wanted to blog about and didn’t. Sometimes, I did come home and try to write a post, but they’d always end up sounding trite and maudlin so I banished them to a folder in My Documents. (I recently learned the word maudlin and was dying to use it. I heard it on the Gilmore Girls and it was on the back cover of a book I was reading.)

Anyway, I finally got around to uploading some pics that I needed for some of the posts that I was planning. Here goes…

Friday May 11th was a very literary d
ay for me. First, we had an author Ray Villarreal come visit our school. I was so excited because I’d worked really hard to get all this worked out. The kids really enjoyed it. He didn’t present to my class because we have hopes that he’ll come next year. He presented to an eighth grade class and their teacher, Ms. Hays, did a phenomenal job of preparing the kids for the visit. If you have any kids (yours or borrowed) that enjoy wrestling or just a good story, pick up a copy of
My Father, the Angel of Death for them. (Insert Reading Rainbow music here.)

The other literary event going on that day was the release part for
Windows Into my World, it was my debut as a published author. I went over to my sis’s right after school and had a beer to help calm the nerves. Before the reading began, I was surrounded by my friends from work. It was so nice for so many of them to come. Our faculty party was the same night quite a ways away and still, they showed up. On Monday, this bulletin board/showcase was adorned for me. An announcement was made during the morning announcements. I didn't really get to hear it though because my students began clapping midway. They all made me feel like a super star.

I was really sad at the end of this year because I wasn’t going to see my co-workers as often. Our sixth grade team is the best. One of the concerns I had when I was looking for a job was if I would find an environment like the one at Arte Público. Our production team was tight. We worked so well together because we got along really well. Luckily, that’s how it is at San Jac. Once I got past the first year nerves/fears and some of our colleagues have been replaced, our team has become a very pleasant group. I’ve learned a lot about my colleagues and have realized that some of my initial impressions were a bit erroneous.

So far, summer vacation has been going well. I know I’ve only been off for one week, but I was seriously scared about becoming depressed or whatever. I spent the first couple of days being lazy.

Monday, I got to work on cleaning the house. I did this mostly because my friend was coming to get me in the evening so that I could go with her to get some ink (a tattoo). She didn’t end up getting it because it was raining and the guy doing her tattoo couldn’t leave his house because his street flooded. We ended up having dinner at a restaurant on the
Kemah Boardwalk that smelled like beef.

Tuesday I had to spend with Dan the Man because he was off. We didn’t do anything interesting. I think he ended up playing video games in the living room and I reading and wasting time on the internet.

Wednesday, I tackled the bedroom. Pancha, my old, broken down desktop pc, had still not been put away. However, to get me in the spirit of cleaning, I did some retail therapy. I bought myself a new purse and some shoes.

Thursday, I had staff development. This particular class was titled “The Best of Talking Books.” Basically, you’re given the synopsis of a book and some websites related to the themes and/or settings of the book. The best part about this is that we get free books. Ironically, everyone that was sitting or thought about sitting at the table I was at won during the first round. I got a book called
Strange Happenings. So far, it’s pretty good. Because there weren’t many people there, some of us got two books. The second book I got is The Invention of Hugo Cabret. When she started talking about that book, I knew I wanted it. I couldn’t wait to get home to read it which is what I did as soon as I got home. The book was amazing. It’s about 500 pages long. However, a lot of them are illustrations. Check out the link, I think you can see the format of this book. I think it’s one of the most ingenious layouts for a book I’ve seen in a while.

Today, I went to get a haircut. Dan the Man and I usually go get haircuts at the same time. When we pulled up to the Super Cuts, we noticed that there was a ton of people. Dan the Man suggested the place across the street. It turned out to be a terrible idea because we ended up paying fifty bucks for our haircuts. He usually pays for them because they get done with his hair first. When I heard how much they were charging us, I didn’t refuse the wash or styling. I know some people pay that or more for a haircut, but not me. Todavia me duele el codo.

Now that I feel I’ve caught you up, I’m off to do more housework. At least Dan the Man is cooking tonight, he promised me that if we bought a grill he’d cook more often. I wonder what I need to get him so that he’ll take out the garbage or change the litter more often.



Tomorrow is the last day of school. As I perused the pages of my year book, I couldn’t help but notice how the kids have changed. Most of the have stretched and lost some of their “baby fat,” many of them have attitudes now, or are way more concerned about the opposite sex.

Last year, I was relieved when the final bell rang. I was glad to put the year behind me and one notch on my belt of experience. I don’t know how I’ll feel when the final bell rings tomorrow. Although I’m already looking forward to next year, making plans, talking to my team, and itching to work with our new librarian, I think I’m really going to miss these kids. They’ve showed me so much love. I know I’ve made a difference in some of their lives like the little girl who’d never passed the state test on the first try before, but did this year or the kid who couldn’t spell but has learned some tricks thanks to our morning tutoring session. I’ve often wondered how much of it was me or the mix of kids I got this year.


Good News All Around

It’s been a week of much excitement in my corner of the world. Yesterday, I received the long awaited phone call from my sis. After many meeting with University officials, she was finally recommended for tenure. I don’t know that I can really mention much about it. But I will say that Latinas still have a long, long, long way to go in regard to equality in the workforce. I’m sure that doesn’t come as a shock to many of you.

The other good news that I have came in an e-mail this afternoon. We received a yay, nay, or commended TAKS list. Even though I don’t believe this exam really tests my student’s knowledge and skills, I understand the importance of it for them. Anyway, out of 64, 62 passed, and get this, 37 were commended (that means that they scored in the 90th percentile or higher). I am so excited and I can’t wait to break the news to them. No word on when we’ll be able to do it though.

It was also confirmed today that my niece has finally passed the math TAKS and will be graduating from high school. Finally, my sister has a copy of the book. She says it’s very purple. I can’t wait to take it to school. The kids have been asking me about it everyday.



Years ago, when I didn’t know many things (not that I’m all knowing now, but still), I hated corridos. I thought they were such a waste of music. I scoffed at the guys who wore tight wrangles, funky colored vaquero shirts, and sometime icky colored botas de armadillo or vibora.

After some university hours, I realized that corridos were actually very important to my history. I became acquainted with El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez, El Lavaplatos, and El Corridos de Joaquin Murrieta. I even felt knowledgeable enough to write a paper about it in one of my American Literature courses.

I felt ashamed that it took me so long to understand something so important to my culture. Although I grew up in a place where the majority of the population was Latino, Mexican really, I never really learned about my culture. Sure my family had many traditions, but I thought that’s what all families did. Sure, our traditions weren’t like those on Growing Pains, Family Ties, Full House, and they sure weren’t like what they did on Rosa Salvaje, En Familia con Chavelo, or Chespirito; but they were what we did and what a lot of the people that I knew did. Our traditions were a hybrid of a lot of things. I didn’t learn their importance until much later.

Now that I have the power to manipulate young minds, I like to teach them about these traditions and their culture. It can be a lot of work writing up new lesson plans, finding age appropriate materials, and sometimes getting everyone else on board so that all 6th grade students get the same opportunity.

This is why as part of their poetry unit; my students are analyzing and writing corridos. At first, when they heard the songs, there was a lot of snickering and giggles, but when it came time to work, they got down to it. After listening to El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez, one of my more verbal students exclaimed, “It’s like a story!” I had explained that when we talked about the basic form, but it was good to know that he had seen it for himself and hopefully internalized it. Amazingly, the class who never turns in their work until I make them come in after school actually has 90% of their corridos turned in.



I really should be asleep, but who can sleep when there’s all of this good music?

It all started on I-tunes when I was looking for Soñador. Then, I mozied on over to YouTube to find some song called “Shoes” that they were playing on the radio to promote some contest. I finally signed up for my own account and decided to add more videos to my favorites.

I typed in “Intocable” and got nothing at first. I typed it in again and I got some videos which lead me to more videos and more videos, and you get the picture. Now I’m uploading some of my favorite cd’s onto the computer as I listen to others I’ve already loaded.

Tomorrow, I will be paying for this. As I trudge around my classroom, in a half daze, wishing my students would just hurry up and finish the darn test, I will swear not to get on YouTube during the week.

Earlier, I typed up a log of my day. (We started TAKS today.) I was going to post it, but it’s lame, so I’ll spare ya’ll. One more song and I’m off to bed.



Today, I had to get a new cell phone. The one I had was a hand-me-down from my brother’s friend. The mic was going bad and the battery never really charged.

Since I also had to get new shoes, I stopped by a kiosk in the mall. The other line I have was eligible for a $150 credit, but not the one that I use. I got a new phone for the other line because Dan the Man decided he liked the phone. I was kind of upset because, I was the one that really needed the phone.

When we got home, I called the 1-800 number to ask about the insurance on my phone and the girl told me I’d have to go into a store to have it checked out. When I got to the store, the guy and I worked out a deal where I added a new line, for the same price, and got a sweet Red Razor for free AND I had the best service I've EVER had at a Sprint Store.

On another, yesterday, I went to dinner and a movie with a colleague. After dinner we sat there for a long time just talking. For some reason, we got on the topic of gangs and she asked, “Do white people join gangs?”

“Yes. But once there are two whites in the gang, it’s not longer called a gang. It’s called a mob.”

I sure hope she didn’t believe that.


Looky, Looky!

It's finally out!

I will also be taking part in this event:

Friday, May 11, 2007 – 6:30 pm – Houston , TX Contributors will sign books at a book party celebrating the publication of Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives at Talento Bilingue de Houston, 333 S. Jensen, Houston , TX . For more information, call 713-743-2999.


A Gentle Reminder

On my way home, I stopped by the cluster of mailboxes near the entrance of our complex to get our mail. We often forget and with ads coming in on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, our mailbox is pretty full by Thursday. There’s a bulletin board on the back wall of the mail center where people post up crap and announcements.

There’s been a letter from management about properly using the security gates around our complex and about checking our mailboxes on a regular basis otherwise the postman will assume we have moved for the last couple of months. Today, there was a new message on this letter. It stated:

INS will be picking up all wetbacks 4/20/07 please leave now

I read the message four or five times trying to grasp why someone would post that. Then I stood there trying to figure out why it was written there. Then I thought to all of the raids going on near Dan the Man’s work and wondered if this would really be happening. Then, I took my mail and continued to wonder. I wished I’d had my camera so that I could take a picture of it and analyze it further.

When I got home, I told Dan the Man and he insisted that we go take it down.

But what if it’s for real? What if they come raid our complex on the 20th?

Strange things are happening in this country, especially in the area I live in. People are still very xenophobic, and the diversion of attention from Iraq to immigration is really stirring the pot.

When I took down the warning, I slipped it into the mail drop at the office and added my own message “Is this true?”


Too Little, Too Late

Today, in our 6th grade team meeting, as I was being booed by a colleague because I opted not to partake in Friday’s pep rally events, I made a vow to myself that I wouldn’t be so concerned with the upcoming exams and not mention it to my students until maybe next year.

I’m tired of this last minute push to get the kids ready. The way I figure, we’re four days away; they either know it or they don’t. There really isn’t much that I can do now. It really upsets me that it’s now that we’re getting help from up above about it. Never mind that some of this kids haven’t turned in work and when sent to the office returned with a warning or a day’s worth of after school detention, or that when they were assigned to in school suspension and work returned undone, no one was reprimanded.

On the mock exams, my students had 87% and quite a big being commended. I told them that my goal is 100% passing rate and hope they’re on board because there’s no way the 7th or 8th graders should enjoy a day of swimming the last day of school.

Easter break was good. I spent a lot of it fighting with the computer trying to get my internet to work and watching movies. I saw The Departed, which I didn’t think was that great. I also tried to watch The Good Shepherd, but was unable to maintain the attention span. At the theatre, I saw Blades of Glory, which wasn’t as funny as I imagined, and Grindhouse, which was, by far, the best movie I saw all weekend.

As time marches on, I can’t wait for summer vacation. I know that after a couple of weeks, I’ll wish school to be back in session, especially since this summer is longer than usual; but it’ll be nice when I wake up wanting to go to the beach or stay in bed all day and be able to do it.


All in Small Doses, Please

As the time for final exams approaches, the headless chicken syndrome becomes the burnt out syndrome which means that you may begin to think, “Why do I have to do all this? *Insert colleague name here* isn’t doing all this s&%!, why do I? Seriously?” Also, certain become much more irritating. Usually, these are the ones that you couldn’t stand in the first place, so the irritability level has sky rocketed. This is why it’s good to only be around them for short periods of time. Unless of course, you’re stuck at training with them for seven consecutive hours or it would be against the law to just them to go home early because what seems like an opportunity for extra fun is loss of instructional time.

I’m holding onto the notion that in May, the fun will begin. Or is it just a small coincidence that the 6th grade field trip just happens to be the day after the Pre-AP End of Course Exams is given?

In the meantime, I’m trying to recall what life was like before I became part of the red apple, yellow school bus society.


On Writing

I’m starting to think that signing up for this writing class wasn’t the best idea. Don’t get me wrong, I have learned a few tricks and it’s also nice to hang out with people who are interested in literature.

The problem lies in the writing part. We do one writing activity per session, and it’s not the utmost important thing. Out of the three hours we’re in class, we spend maybe 25 minutes writing and the rest critiquing. I’m not of the group that says that writers don’t need to read, but I would like to spend more time writing, even if it was only 20 more minutes.

Also, we end up with a lot of homework. Each week, we have to critique, at the very least, three other stories. With the weeks I’ve been having, I barely have enough time to critique the pieces, let alone write.

It just seems that other workshops I’ve had, I’ve been allowed to do more writing than in this one. Nevertheless, I will continue to chip time away from other things to fit in some writing time here and there.

Last week, when we didn’t have class because of Spring Break, I got up early on Sunday and spent two hours at the computer typing my life away. I’m hoping this habit will congeal once class is over. I rather enjoy my Saturday morning literature time.



Happy International Women’s Day!

I hope you all had/have a wonderful one. I had some of the vagina shaped chocolates one of my colleagues gave me as a thank you for purchasing tickets to her church’s production of The Vagina Monologues. Also, if you haven’t done so, sign the Mujeres de Juárez petition, or pass along the link.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve last been here, hasn’t it?

A couple years ago, when I signed on to do this teaching thing, I didn’t really realize how much of my time it would take up. I mean, I knew there would be grading at home and maybe some research, but I didn’t think there would be this much.

The giant TAKS Fairy is back in town. It’s been perusing the halls causing students and teachers to do weird things like this:

My students did most of the work on this. I just put forth the ideas, supplies, and ultimate delegation powers. They will also have to decorate lockers and perform a stomp and some other crap. Although it is a lot of work, it’s a whole lot of fun and the kids are so proud of their creations.

Some teachers get really competitive and begin to poison the kids. One in specific, tells them, “We’re going to win because I’ve never, in all the years I’ve been here, lost. I’m placing first in something.”

Her comments really bother me because I don’t think its right for an adult to say something like that to kids. My students have had so much fun and they are so proud of their work, and really, that’s what it’s about for me. Last year, I did a lot of the work and it was sort of sad. But this year, I’ve had at least five kids stay after school or come in before school every day to help. I don’t care about placing because we’re already pretty famous around the school, and my students love that.

In other news, I’ve actually been keeping my resolution about writing. The class I’m taking is okay. It’s a lot of extra work, but our teacher gives us tons of ideas/tips. I got work shopped a couple weeks ago and it was quite fruitful.

Spring Break is one day away and I can’t wait. We’re going to some tiny Texas town called Jarrell, outside of Austin. I suspect I’ll be making a lot of trips to Austin or spending a lot of time out by the pool.


Foot in Mouth

Yesterday, we had a parent thing. They called it something like "TAKS Training Camp." It was meant to inform parents about how we prepare their kids for TAKS and what they can do to help us prepare their students.
I don't know if I've mentioned Mr. C before. He's our new 6th grade Assistant Principal. He's really cool. He's Mexican American, and he's a little different than the people we've had before, but he's not revolutionary.
When we first met with him, he, of course, did the obligatory speech to introduce himself and yadda yadda. I was taken back when he said our school's name. Most people never say it the way he does because the way he says it is with the Latino accent. He also referred to his daughter as "mi'jita." With that, I felt really comfortable around him and the feeling has only grown since.
So when he gave me the basket with door prizes and tickets, I replied, "Why me? What did I do?"
"I'd give the to Orozco, but he'd steal them. Es una rata." (He was kidding of course. We give Orozco a hard time.)
I was glad to have something to do. I felt useful standing by the door greeting parents and handing out tickets. Being in charge of this also meant I got to draw for prizes. Halfway through the presentation, Mr. C came up and told me to hold off on the door prizes for a bit because we didn't have enough to do one after every presentation. Since he whispered this to me, the coach didn't know we weren't doing a drawing before his presentation.
As coach walked up to the promethean board, he said, "Is there a door prize?"
The only words that came out of my mouth were, "Nope, you are the door prize."
As you can imagine in a room full of women, there was a lot of laughter and a lot of red on my part. Fortunately, he blew it off and continued. My colleagues who were standing around me couldn't stop laughing, and I'm sure I resembled a ripe tomato.
You'd think that'd be enough foot in mouth syndrome, but nope. Not for me, I'd have to shine the light on my a little more.
When our enlightening training was drawing to and end, I sauntered up to the front of the room with what I thought was the final prize, a $25 Wal Mart gift card. I allowed Mr. C to draw the last number, but he was confused. He'd put a card in his pocket thinking it was the one I had.
As I said before, foot in the mouth once a night is not good enough for me. When Mr. C said he had another one, I said, "Well how many did you hide? You got one under your hat?"
Everyone in the library cracked up.
All day today, the A-team (the administration) teased me about my foleys. I don't really mind it. I could have been written up.


Doing the Right Thing

I haven't been able to log into my account for the longest time. Anyway, here is a post I wanted to post a couple days ago. I have another post I've been working on too, but it's not ready yet.
Last week, or maybe the week before that (I get the past all mixed up these days), Mr. C walked into my class and told me that my name had been drawn for the ground breaking ceremony. (By the time the kids I have now are in 8th grade, we will be in a new building.) The principal has asked that we nominate people to attend, and I had nominated our team leader.

Last year, like me, she was a new teacher to the school. However, unlike me, she has been teaching for about ten years. So for her, it was a transition. She quickly caught on and began to create an environment that I was really comfortable with. She’d always check up on me when she hadn’t seen me making jokes or I’d been hiding in my room too much. This year, as team leader, she has done that and more. She makes our meeting useful and fun by keeping us on track and having some sort of door prize drawing.

So when Mr. C told me that she had drawn her name and how much she wanted to go, I knew what I had to do. I didn’t tell him immediately, but later during the day sent him an e-mail asking if she could take my place. At the end of the day, the principal sent out an e-mail naming the teachers that would be going to the ceremony.

She was confused since she’d drawn my name and neither Mr. C nor I had said anything to her. During d-hall duty, a lady walked in asking for a student, and I walked her to the office so that someone could page her daughter. When I walked in, Shelly was standing in Mr. C’s office. Upon seeing me, she said, “You didn’t have to do that!” and gave me a big bear hug. I knew right then, I had done the right thing.