Friday, January 25, 2008

ASPCA poem

My volunteer coordinator at the ASPCA sent this out and it got me all weepy, so I thought I'd share it...please remind all those you know that are contemplating getting a pet--any kind of pet--to go to their local animal shelter and adopt a homeless animal. There are too many homeless pets out there that die every single day in kill-shelters simply because the supply outweighs the demand for house pets. Think about that before you or anyone you know even thinks about buying an animal. Go to a shelter!!! And get your animal spayed or neutered!! Responsibility saves lives.

Here in this house...
I will never know the loneliness I hear in the meows and barks of the other cats and dogs 'out there'.
I can sleep soundly, assured that when I wake my world will not have changed.
I will never know hunger, or the fear of not knowing if I'll eat.
I will not shiver in the cold, or grow weary from the heat.
I will feel the sun's heat, and the rain's coolness, and be allowed to smell all that can reach my nose.
My fur will shine, and never be dirty or matted.

Here in this house...
There will be an effort to communicate with me on my level.
I will be talked to and, even if I don't understand,
I can enjoy the warmth of the words.
I will be given a name so that I may know who I am among many.
My name will be used in joy, and I will love the sound of it!

Here in this house...
I will never be a substitute for anything I am not.
I will never be used to improve peoples' images of themselves.
I will be loved because I am who I am, not someoneĆ¢€™s idea of who I should be.
I will never suffer for someone's anger, impatience, or stupidity.
I will be taught all the things I need to know to be loved by all.
If I do not learn my lessons well, they will look to my teacher for blame.

Here in this house...
I can trust arms that hold, hands that touch...
knowing that, no matter what they do, they do it for the good of me.
If I am ill, I will be doctored.
If scared, I will be calmed.
If sad, I will be cheered.
No matter what I look like, I will be considered beautiful and known to be of value.
I will never be cast out because I am too old, too ill, too unruly, or not cute enough.
My life is a responsibility, and not an afterthought.
I will learn that humans can almost, sometimes, be as kind and as fair as cats and dogs.

Here in this house...
I will belong.
I will be home.

by anonymous

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Another pair!!!

I FINALLY finished my second pair of socks--and let me tell you--it was not an easy road with these babies. I commenced knitting them almost immediately after I finished my first pair. That was roughly April of last year, mind you. The first sock went off without a hitch. Then I stared the NYC Fellows program. Let me tell you--driving to work everyday seriously cuts into your knitting time. I didn't start to turn the heel until Brad and I went to visit my uncles in Florida at the very end of last summer. And then, in the airport on our way back to NYC, disaster struck. I screwed up god-only-knows-what, and I frogged the whole heel. Then I knit it again. AND I FROGGED IT AGAIN. Do you see a developing pattern here? By the time we got back to NYC, I gave up. There was no point. I started teaching in another week and that--let me tell you--has consumed my life for the past 4 months! Oh I've picked them up, knit a row or two, and then went right back on my tirade of how my students can't seem to construct proper sentences, lesson planning, paper-grading mania of the last semester. Over Christmas break, the socks and I recommitted. I was told that I had been neglecting my yarn and that the yarn fairies were determined to play tricks with me until I paid them their homage, finished the socks, and started knitting like I used to--that is--constantly. I will humbily oblige, oh yarn fairies. I never want to invoke your wrath again.

Sawyer appreciates the socks!

And just so you know, I hate this colorway and will never knit it again. Though my husband picked it out and the socks are for him, I deserve a medal for knitting day-glow socks.

Friday, January 18, 2008

First Semester Finished!

I seriously cannot believe that I made it through my first semester at the H.S. I teach at. Considering it's 95% boys and I'm a fairly young(ish) woman, it was that much more difficult.

I'm glad that I came back to teaching, but it is very hard to not be jaded and frustrated, and believe it or not, sometimes it is not the students that have me pulling my hair out when I get home. Hearing things like, "Our students aren't ready for us to insist on homework as a major part of their grade," and "We have to realize where these kids live," etc., etc. just annoys me. Perhaps because I come from the very unique perspective of having taught at both the 4-year and 2-year college-level, I feel a great sense of urgency in the education and preparation of my students. I have very high standards. (Not to say that others don't, of course.) I expect them to learn and value their education, now, immediately, and to realize that if they have any plans of getting out of whatever potentially bad situation they are in, they can only guarantee it with a solid education. The excuse is just that--an excuse. Everyone must work hard, and I admit, some have an unfairly more difficult starting point than others, but complaining without actively doing something about it is not going to help them get a high enough score on the SAT to place out of remedial English and Math.

I've taught remedial English on the college level. It is not a good place for ANYONE to be, especially students just graduated from NYC public high school who are entitled to that same education they will get in remedial English--and pay for--when they were high school students for free. Making excuses and claiming "Our kids aren't ready," just allows them to become comfortable with mediocrity--because ultimately, aren't we claiming that because of their race, socioeconomic status, and zip code that they do not have to be held to the same standard of academic excellence? And isn't that doing them a greater disservice than insisting on excellence from the get-go? And isn't that racially, socially, and economically biased? I'm sorry, but I'm just not comfortable with that.

I've seen what happens when teachers make excuses for their students--and I've taught those students, struggling through their third, paid for, semester of remedial English, still struggling to pass the CUNY WAT (Writing Assessment Test). No one will convince me that the test itself isn't significantly flawed. I've graded it, and it is. But at the moment, it and other college-level writing assessment tests are what our kids are facing--and those tests, and eventually their bosses--don't care where they grew up, or what happened in their neighborhood the night before, or what financial difficulties their family might be having--they want results. They want high-performance. They want a student and an employee with skills. As an educator, aren't I obligated to prepare my students for this world--cold and harsh as it is? Because if I don't prepare them, and I don't give them the tools and skills to succeed--aren't I not doing my job? I'm not going to be able to write out 120 resumes for each of the seniors I might teach in a year, and I'm certainly not going to go on a job interview with them and explain to their hopefully future employer that, "Yes, Mr./Ms. So-and-So, Billy does not speak or write standard written English and he has not mastered the art of managing his time to successfully meet deadline, but you see, he's not ready for that, yet I think you should hire him anyway." How's that going to go down? Shame on anyone for not thinking about that aspect of their students' educations.

Perhaps I should be more idealistic, but that just isn't me. I could put on those perpetually rose-colored glasses and say that yes, all kids want to be successful and they want to achieve. I could say that--but I won't. I'm pragmatic. I want to deal with the issues now--not two, three, or four years down the road--because that is just too late. I'm okay with saying that many, if not most, of my students are content with mediocrity. Sure, they probably wouldn't mind being academically successful, but they aren't currently going out of their way to do anything about it. They do not realize how dire--how truly urgent--their situation is--and isn't it my job to instill that urgency? To make them realize just how dire the situation is? For whatever reason, there IS a culture of under-achievement in our educational system. To lie and say that it doesn't exist seems insane to me. Education standards need to be high--in all areas, for every student--and I will put the blood, sweat, and tears in to make sure they are successful, but I'm not going to lower my standards because of claims of readiness, race, or anything else, because if I did, my students are going to be the ones to pay for it--literally.