Tag Archives: Lorena

My Proclamation

I am fired up! So I am going to write it and not think twice when I hit publish!!!

I have felt the tightening in my stomach during the staff breakfast pot lucks, as I scooted about the school, feeling too new and as if I still had not yet penetrated the walls to be able to join in the merry conversation and sweet treats of a shared breakfast. But I did not let that stop me and I kept my presence in the school, smiling and saying hello to everyone.

I have had teachers tell me that they learned nothing from the time we spent together (five days). Time spent planning lessons, time spent debriefing, time spent observing, time spent reflecting and it had all come to nothing, according to these individuals. But instead of calling it quits and burying my head in the dirt, I woke up the next day, apologized to the teacher and asked if for the following month they could sign up for another coaching cycle so that I could try again to support their work.

I have had days when everything went wrong: I left realia at home and this realia was a crucial piece of my demo lesson. I didn’t bring a spoon so that I could enjoy my yogurt. I didn’t have time to plan my debrief, so I walked empty handed into a lion’s den. I deleted a key email and now I didn’t have a template that I promised to give a teacher. I wore the wrong shoes and my feet squished and compressed, are screaming. I couldn’t find the right handout for the PD session and then went 10 minutes over the time. But instead of seeking employment at an Oreo factory and fulfilling my dream, I stuffed a bag of realia in my trunk along with a pair of kicks, set a pad of large post it notes on my clipboard, and shoved a box of plastic cutlery into my desk drawer. I relived that day and made a decision that I would not let awful days ruin my spirit. That I would decide when my day would be bad and that I would not let it fade my smile.

I refuse to let others tamper with my desire to better education. I will not succumb to petty trifles as forgetting objects or not having enough handouts. My work is much more important than that. I am relentless and this perseverance matters much more than talent or intelligence. Because this ensures that I will not stay down. I will not let anyone or anything keep me from the things that I know are right and good for children. My effort matters more than anything because it is what will make me a better person, a brighter person prepared for anything, and a person to fear because I…will not…stop!

A Lesson from Childhood

Today served as a reminder of something I experienced when I was about ten years old.

My mother caved in to my longing for a cat. And one day soon after my birthday, in the heat of July temperatures that can easily hit 110, we drove to one of her friend’s homes. She led us to the backyard where there was a small storage shed. There, prancing and hopping beneath its cool shade was a group of little kittens. They chased and bit and pawed at each other. Bright eyes looking everywhere. I instantly knew which one I wanted. It was all white except for some spots of different shades of brown mixed with black. I would later learn that this type of cat was called a Calico. I took it home and my mom christened it Polkas.

A year later Polkas got really fat. It looked like she had swallowed a football. Her large, overblown stomach swung from side to side as she walked. I was too scared to touch her during those days, but still spent countless hours watching her lick the overgrown mass.

We were watching TV, cartoons shown in the afternoon, when we heard tiny screeches and little meows. We stared at each other, our open mouths revealing what we each knew was happening. Kittens! Polkas! We rushed to the sounds and found Polkas on my brother’s bed, pinkish blood staining his sheets as a wet kitten emerged. Polkas licked it vigorously and then lay her head down again. We watched. We said nothing. Life was coming into the world in front of us. Finally the last kitten came out, Polkas gave it three exhausted licks and lay down, closing her eyes, surrounded by that wet mass.

One month later, I came home from school and eagerly searched the floor of my room. I found Polkas and what remained of her brood beneath the rocking chair. It seemed that she could not find the best spot for her young family as each day I came home, I would find her in a different place. I examined the kittens from afar and saw the tiny black one laying at Polkas’ feet. It looked very weak. Each of the previous few days I had come home to find a dead kitten. One was dying every day and it looked as if this one might be next. Wanting to help, I gently moved it closer to Polkas’ belly. The tiny thing just raised its head and opened its mouth in an effort to meow, but no sound came out. I lifted its little head, but it did not go near the nipple. I tried to angle his mouth and put his face into the belly, but the kitten would not respond. Desperate, I shoved one of the other fatter kittens away. It meowed in protest and Polkas glared at me, but I didn’t care. This kitten was going to make it and I was going to do whatever it took to keep it alive. I held his head, practically shoving it into the nipple and did not let him go for quite some time. All I wanted was to help. To help keep this little life on Earth. Help. Help. Help.

The next day, as soon as I came home from school, I ran to my room. I found Polkas beneath my bed with three kittens. I slowly stood up and searched the rest of the room. The tiny black body was in a corner of the closet. Lifeless. Cold.

I learned a lot from this life lesson. A lot about life and a lot about me too. The way I coped with this pain was that I didn’t have another pet. Years later, my older brother gave me a kitten, again for my birthday. But, knowing what would eventually come, I let my other brother take care of it and it became his cat. This way I didn’t have to carry as much emotional pain when it got hit by a car and died during the night, alone in his cardboard home. I am not cold or emotionless, but sometimes it is just what has to be done.

Behold! The FIVE Paragraph Essay!

Beware readers that the following was a response written to a piece about the importance of teaching the five paragraph essay to students. This writer could not restrain herself from writing the essay below and hopes that you take it with the amusement that overcame her in writing it.

Have you ever thought about how badly students need structure in their writing? Well, I have and I am going to tell you about it. Students need instruction on how to write an essay and you need to teach them.
First of all, students never have anything to write about because they don’t do anything and they don’t ever think anything either. So you need to tell them what to write about. For example, the students only write about non academic topics such as skateboarding and friends. There is nothing there that is interesting or of higher level thinking, so assign them the topic. Giving assignments like finding the theme or main idea, is more academic. Furthermore, assigning them that topic is really going to help them so that the next time they have to write, that teacher will have to assign them the topic too, proving that students don’t have a brain of their own. This paragraph was all about students never having anything to write about.
Next, when students write, it is all out of order. It is messy and hard to read. As you know, English teachers know all about what makes good writing so if they can’t make sense of it, it is an utter failure. For example, when I write and don’t follow the five paragraph structure, it doesn’t make any sense and no one gets my point because I didn’t put it in the first paragraph. Also, students should not be writing if they don’t know what a paragraph is. I learned about a paragraph in third grade with colors. The colors were green, yellow and pink. If you had a lot of pink, it meant that you had a lot of details. I bet there is a lot of pink in this paragraph. This paragraph was all about students not having writing in the right order.
Last of all, students need to be taught how to write an essay because there is only one way to do it. We live in a five paragraph essay world where everything we read is in five paragraphs, with a catchy introduction and thesis statement in the first paragraph. If I don’t learn how to do this, I won’t be able to apply for college and I won’t do so good. Furthermore, English Learners have to learn this kind of writing and as you know their writing is awful and really hard to read because of all the spelling mistakes. If you teach them how to organize it with this five paragraph model, it will be a little bit better. They might not be thinking of other ways to organize the writing that might be more interesting, but they shouldn’t be thinking anyway. Students need to be taught how to write a five paragraph essay to get to college.
All in all, I love the five paragraph essay, don’t you? Some of you might be thinking that there are other ways to write, but you need to remember, students can’t pick their own topics, their writing is messy and there’s only one way to write an essay. The next time you are assigned an essay, think about the five paragraph model.

Flow

And it was like a dream. It just came out of nowhere, something entirely unexpected, without warning and it felt utterly surreal. We were about 11 writers seated in lime green chairs with black wheels that would help us scoot next to a partner or scuttle across the room. We were nearly done with our open discussion of selected passages from Elbow’s Vernacular Eloquence, when our attention was brought to a section in which “flow” was brought up.

I had read this passage and hadn’t thought much of it as I had struggled to just gather some meaning from the book. Sure, my mind had tried to make sense of it, but I let it go. Now, here we were in our circle discussing this miracle. For some of us, finding yourself in “flow” was scary as it meant avoiding family and neglecting personal care and just being utterly consumed in the writing, in “flow.” For others it meant being with the writing, finding yourself in there. This is when I thought I was having an out of body experience and realizing suddenly that I was not alone.

Yes I had felt “flow.” I feel it whenever I write and yes, it happened to me when I was just toying with an idea while walking. But I never knew this also happened to others, that others experienced this. How was I supposed to know? How would I know that this was what other writers experienced? I had never thought to ask someone. How would I do that?
Me: So, I have a question for you.
Friend: Yeah? What is it?
Me: Ummm, so when you’re writing, do you… uh, do you ever get lost in your writing?
Friend: Lost? What do you mean?
Me: Yeah, like you are in there, like everything around you is forgotten about and you don’t even realize you are you and you feel like you’re with your characters or the words whisk you away…Like you are not you, but rather living in the writing.
Friend: (squinting, lips turned down, eyes looking at me oddly) hmmmm…
Me: Yeah, I don’t know what to call it, but you just get lost in your writing. And it happens even when you are just thinking or coming up with ideas. You could be walking down the street and you’re not there, but rather in the writing.
Friend: (still frowning)
Me: (feeling like an idiot) Ummm, I was just wondering, so let’s get some coffee…

But now, I know that I am not the only one. How comforting to hear that my fellow writers feel this too. That they have experienced flow and that they knew what it was like to live in the writing. It gave me chills, because now I am convinced that I am in the right place after all. That I am indeed a WRITER.

Plugged

I just brought this laptop back to life. I had it shut down for five days and not once did I miss it. But its soft black keys that caress my fingertips do feel comforting, welcoming almost. I wonder if it missed me.
I never thought of it as I ran errands on Friday and packed my stuff to visit mom for the weekend. Then Saturday morning was the drive up to Sonoma County. All was going well until just before Petaluma (famous for cows) where 101 goes from 4 lanes to 2 and your car moves from 70mph to 15. The traffic is not because of the lane reduction, it is all due to the large casino located in Rohnert Park. Admit it, you have seen the commercials and are planning on going any day now. Graton. Casino resort. Gambling. Food. Gambling. Food. Gambling. It is all there. So I sat in traffic for a great 45 minutes, crawling through until getting past that exit for the casino. Laptop was home and well out of mind.
Then upon arriving at moms, the onslaught of attention that only a mom can give began. And I loved it. I loved how I sat at the kitchen table and mom served me a heaping plate of home made goodness. And she never once asked if I could wash the dishes – it was official, mom no longer saw me as her slave, but as her guest. And she brought out a small cheesecake because she knows I love the stuff – oh this was heaven. What laptop?
Sunday was lazing, and eating. Eating at a buffet for brunch – waffles and salad anyone? It was the perfect combination of breakfast food with lunch food – so delicious. I ate about 5 plates and stole a few cookies on the way out. Then just a few hours later, mom ordered pizza. I haven’t eaten pizza in years. But this was a treat so I allowed myself to have two pieces – yummy! Was I missing anything? In the evening we sat outside and stared at the stars. It is a scene that you cannot view from San Jose because of all the light pollution. At moms, you can see many many many stars.
Monday – the 4th. Big brother made a spicy breakfast of sausage, ham, eggs, and strong coffee. Felt just like that opening scene in Charlotte’s Web, but without the pig drama. The day was foggy and I knew it would burn off at midday to reveal deep blue sky and endless possibilities. Oh this was vacation.

Applesauce

There is a large plastic jar of applesauce in my fridge. It is haunting me. Because I opened it about a week ago…I think. And I need to eat it all soon. So what the hell can I do with it?
I bought the massive thing because I use applesauce in my cookie recipes, but as you know it has been way too hot to bake up cookies! Can I put it in shakes? Is there a way to add it in to pudding or ice cream? What can I possibly do with that jar of applesauce?
Any day now it is going to start turning pink, oh you know that yucky pink that lets you know it is ROTTEN! Should I take it to work and leave it on the famous table where any type of food is eaten up immediately? Hmmm, I could scoop it out into pretty little bowls and put spoons. Oh that would really make it disappear!
I could also wake up crazy early and bake cookies in the coolness of the morning before the temperatures start to peak…
I could just eat it out of the jar as a snack – yeah I could eat like 5 cups of the stuff every day for the next week…yum yum.
Too bad its open, otherwise I would donate it… or try to pass it off as a year supply of baby food.
I was thinking about putting it into breads but that requires turning on the oven. Can I add it to oatmeal? Does it go with peanut butter? Should I try Craig’s List?
I know exactly what will happen! I am going to google something about no bake recipes with applesauce and some granny in Virginia is going to school me on how to make some yum yum potato salad with the stuff! Then she will give something like ten tips about applesauce like using it to make your own BBQ sauce or combining it with Jell-O for some potluck dish everyone will love! She might even have some kind of recipe for making it into a marmalade because this granny knows I love toast…And afterwards I will feel like a fool that I could not come up with these recipes!
Hmmm, well for now that is all I can think of…I am going to find this granny.

Illegal Activity

This has to be illegal. My day was full of illegal activity and I am sure that in another state or country I would have received some hefty fines…

Soooo my genius self used the wrong sign in sheets yesterday and then had the audacity of leaving the ones needed for today at the wrong school…How to explain that? Uh I have had thirty billion logistical pieces flying at me at like 90 mph…We should all be glad that I at least show up wearing shoes and not my house slippers! Illegal.

Then in the middle of a PD session I uploaded the wrong planning template. I think I was supposed to leave it as is with only rearranging the pages, but hell I went a step further and uploaded the most recent one with the hefty changes… How did I handle that? Well I made sure to head to the restroom minutes before teachers started downloading the plan and when I returned the presenters were in a huddle steeped in conversation as to how to tame the chaos that had ensued. That’s when I cowered behind my laptop and slowly flipped it around to show what I had done. I really wanted to say, “Ha, ha! April Fools! Just kidding!” and then I really wanted to see the teachers burst out in similar laughter and then dance about the room in perfectly choreographed leg kicks similar to the Vegas dance girls. BUT that didn’t happen, instead the huddled conversation went absolutely quiet as all eyes stared at me – I gulped wondering if this would be the moment when I would finally get fired. No, it wasn’t. Pretty sure I still have a job. I think I should have just stayed quiet and not admitted my error. I swear that ought to be sooooo illegal.

Soon after this I had to speak to our small bilingual teacher group to highlight the modifications of the heinous template so that they knew what standards to teach in Spanish. Brilliant, as I had no idea how that would work and I could barely understand the template (which way is up?). My awesome self sat with the teachers and started explaining when I suddenly found that I was in a fishbowl as the director and managers crowded around us (Oh so this is how zoo animals feel…). I tried to make my voice go really low, down, down, down to barely a whisper and I prayed that the break would start soon, but time seemed to have stopped to mark this grandiose moment when I sat in a circle and could think of nothing to say…Absolutely illegal.

And then guess who they put in charge of capturing video? Oh yes, me! Great idea since I had never ever ever used the darn camera. So there I am with the huge tripod and tiny camera on top when the teacher who I am supposed to capture SITS down on a chair and I find that she is not even within the frame of the video so I try to lower the tripod, but it doesn’t cooperate. And I am screaming bloody murder, because the minutes of this great lesson are blowing away like air escaping from a balloon. So I just lean the tripod slightly down and manage to get her neck and head in view – that is good enough! But the show is not over yet because then she gets up and starts moving around amongst the kids seated on the carpet. I have to fight with the tripod to surrender the camera and it must have looked like when wrestlers hold each other in headlocks. Somehow I manage to get the camera off the tripod and lean in really close…She confers brilliantly with a student about spelling strategies, such awesome stuff, I am already patting myself on the back because I caught the moment and it is gold. I move away as she scoots to the next child and it is then that I see that I NEVER had the thing recording!!! When I snatched it off the tripod I must have pushed the red recording button and stopped it…Where is the damn police to arrest me? Really? Can I get away with all this stuff?

Just bad, bad, bad. What do I tell myself so that the guilt doesn’t eat me? I think that there is always tomorrow and that this illegal activity cannot repeat itself because I am learning from it and I can only get better. Just in case, though, I am wearing an orange jumpsuit tomorrow.

I am not done…YET!

I got my head beaten today
by the rubrics I am trying to create.
No one really knows what is going on
or that a new section called “craft”
just popped right in!

Needed 4 Motrin this morning,
caffeine overload by 1 pm,
sugar crash came following soon after.
Rubrics will be named a disaster.

Would like to call in sick
for the remainder of the week.
Waive a white flag
rather than go down with the rubric ship.
But I am not done YET!

No one can say that I haven’t tried.
Bleeding and screaming to fine tune the beast.
I will not give in!
Because I am not done YET!

Finessing and wordsmithing.
Establishes, produces, expands
all writing words to describe what
writers can do.
But I am not done YET!

Living and breathing standards,
Writing or language – which one?
Events that unfold naturally
and orient the reader,
but wait and see
Because I am not done YET!

Look for the Glamour

We may not have awards ceremonies or big galas, but who needs it? You know what we have? We have hugs from children. They might have dirty hands and funny smells, but they give us hugs.

Perhaps our work facilities don’t have large communal kitchens with granite counters and natural light streaming through huge windows, but that’s because we don’t need it. We have lunch in a rush anyway and we always eat beside our colleagues who share with us their own natural light.

So along with no kitchen we also don’t have an on site gym or a “play room,” but once again we don’t need these. Gym? HA! Standing, walking, talking, moving stuff up and down on the walls is enough exercise – you give it a try. You try corralling 20 some kids and teaching them stuff and then come and tell me you don’t feel “worked out.” As for the play room, once the door closes, that’s it, you ARE in the play room.

Oh you wanna talk about the breakfast bar or the free ice cream sandwiches doled out every Wednesday? You can keep it! We have bona fide cafeteria food that offers things like waffle sticks, crustless PB & J, and mini pizzas loaded with so much cheese that it can be removed in one large pancake like thingy. And on real special occasions, we get authentic food, made by hand and brought in by the parents and community who appreciate all we do.

Perhaps we don’t cruise around in fancy SUV’s, large and black, but we’re happy with our economical cars. They may not attract the attention of paparazzi or give the hint that someone famous is cruising around, but we don’t do what we do for attention. We don’t care if at the moment we step out of our vehicles, there aren’t flashing lights, it’s ok we don’t like that jazz anyway. What we get are 20 some sparkly eyes focused on us, thirsty for learning and ready to stretch themselves as far as we want. That is much better than any fancy car, no matter how large or how deeply tinted the windows are.