On my Soapbox

Periodically, I like to pull out my lovely little soapbox, stand on it, and rant. So, the soapbox (it’s name is Fred, thank you very much) is out and I’m here to rant. Cover your ears if you wish…and consider yourself warned.

I’m a teacher assistant. This means (according to my university) that I spend about 15-20 hours a week with a professional teacher in the field working in her classroom while also taking a few (four) seminars on teaching.

What this really means: I’m at my school, which we’ll call WCA, for about 23 or 24 hours a week. I run around a building with a very talented and very overworked teacher who loves her students more than words could ever express. Senora, as we will call her for the next few months, has over 650 students in about 27 classes over nine grade levels. I see a little over half of these kids/classes. In between teaching them manners and loving them and being kind to them when no one else is, we try to teach them Spanish. And somewhere in there, we have to grade papers, make copies, and go to the bathroom. Then, I go to my university and take four seminars PLUS an additional non-college of education class in the afternoon/evenings. I have to put up with idealistic professors and classmates who haven’t realized that we don’t all teach in ideal schools/circumstances. (And I know that my school is a pretty good school/placement as far as things go. I honestly love it there-people, location etc.) I also have homework to do at home. And then, I have to find time to sleep, eat, shower, socialize, and believe in God. I try to get eight hours of sleep but that rarely happens.

In other words, (to quote Monty Python) “We used to have to get out of the lake at six o’clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of ‘ot gravel, work twenty hour day at mill for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would thrash us to sleep with a broken bottle, if we were lucky!”

In other words, it’s not an easy job. And one of the hardest parts as that somewhere in the past four weeks, I started to love my kids. They aren’t just my students anymore; they’re my kids. Senora calls them her “bambinos” and tells them that they’ll be her babies until they’re 18. Umm, I’m not quite ready to go there yet, but I love those kids. I have one class that I see three days a week; it’s an advanced class of eighth graders. I may not be that much older than them, but they’re my kids. I don’t want to see them get hurt in life. And I know that life is pain. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something. I know that.

But I also want them to be safe and loved. I want them to believe that there is still good in the world. This is why last night’s episode of Glee bugged me. It was the Britney Spears episode. And I watched it before I judged it. As an adult, I found it enjoyable. It was kind of a fun spin on the music of my middle school years. But I don’t want my kids seeing this.

Last Thursday, a five-year-old told me that he was going to watch Glee while he ate dinner. Senora and I both raised our eyebrows at each other and moved on. But we both think that it’s inappropriate material for his age. Last night was doubly so. There is a difference between age 5 and age 22-and the subject matter that those ages should see.

On Monday, one of my eighth-grade students told me that he also watches Glee. This didn’t surprise me at all. But it also made Senora and I again raise our eyebrows. Is he old enough for it? As she said, are we as adults really old enough for some of what happens on that show? (Teen pregnancy, “sexting,” complicated male-female relationships etc) The show is amusing. The dialogue is witty. The music is wonderful. But is it appropriate for a 13-year-old? I’m not sure. That’s a parental decision. And if R were my child, he would not watch this show. But I’m his teacher, not his mother. I can’t control what he watches at home.

I can’t control any of these children’s home-lives or pasts or anything. I can only try to make my classroom the best possible place for them to be during the 30-45 minutes (depending on the class) that I’m their teacher. And that is hard. It’s challenging as teacher. It requires large cups of coffee. It requires a lot of rest that I don’t get. It requires support in my personal life-that I don’t always get. (Note to my friends: Sometimes, I really do not want your analysis of what is going on in my teaching life. Sometimes, I just need a listening ear. Do not try to fix what you do not understand. Just listen.)

In the end, all I can do is love them and try to show them that in all I do. I think that perhaps it was St. Francis of Assisi-a teacher of sorts, who wrote my educational philosophy for me when he said:

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

That is the teacher I want to be. May God help me.

I breaked a rule!

Tee-hee! That title breaks a rule too. That’s okay. We’ll all live.

So I mentioned earlier on this blog how I have this rule whereby I only knit two projects at a time. Yeah, I broke that rule. But I have a good reason for it!

I’m currently knitting a hat for my friend’s eighteen-month-old daughter, G. However, I am making G’s hat out of a sweater that I was making for myself last winter but then decided that I didn’t want/like. So I’m unraveling it as I knit the hat. I can’t exactly carry this around with me everywhere I go. I can only work on it at home.

My second current project is a beautiful sweater with lots of cabling. It requires a TON of attention to detail. This is not a “throw in your purse and work on during a lecture” project. This is a “sit on the couch and work on while watching a movie alone” project.

My third current project is a scarf for my friend, K. It’s her Christmas present and so I’m not in any sort of big hurry on it. Plus, it’s half done. I’m totally getting there. And this is my “throw in your purse and work on during a lecture” project. It gets a lot of love and attention that way.

But yes, I breaked a rule. Live with it.

I’m real

That title is a veiled reference to The Velveteen Rabbit, my favorite children’s story. The theme/message of the story is that only by being loved and enduring all of the consequences of love can you become real.

I had an amazing day at school today-absolutely amazing, wonderful, fantastic. And yet, I feel like crying.

Today, one class of fourth-graders invited me to sign their classroom “social contract.” The social contract lists all of the things that the students promise their teachers (homeroom and specials) they will be during their classes. They sign it and then they ask their homeroom teachers and their specials teachers to sign it. Today, they asked Senora Z (my cooperating teacher) to sign it. And then, they asked their teacher if they could ask me to sign it since I am a teacher. He told them to go for it. So they asked me to sign their social contract since I’m one of their teachers too.

Then, we went to eighth grade elective. In every class, we go around the room and ask the kids to share one “good thing” that has happened to them in the past day/week/month/summer. Today, they asked me if I had any good things to share with them. I couldn’t think of anything in the moment. But still, they asked me. They’re accepting me as their teacher!

I feel real. And I’m teaching my first lesson in front of kids Monday. Pray for me!

I’d learn to knit BUT…

Let me throw a scenario at you. Cecilia is sitting in class/in the hall/at a meeting/at a party/at a friend’s house and knitting. Person X says “Cecilia, you knit? That’s so cool. I wish I could learn to knit but it looks so hard/I have no time/I’m afraid of needles.”
Cecilia says “I could teach you.”
Person X says “Oh, that’s okay. I wouldn’t be any good at it.”
Cecilia smiles and goes back to what she was doing. But inside, she thinks to herself “Why do you say ‘I wish I could knit’ to a knitter if you don’t actually want to learn to knit?” I
People, knitting really, really, really is NOT that hard. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes diligence. But it will not kill you. My first knitted piece was not perfect. Even now I make mistakes. (Remind me to sew up those slipped stitches on that sweater I’m making. And remind me to really carefully read the directions so that I increase twice where I’m supposed to instead of only increasing once.)
Knitting is not that hard. Yeah, there are pointy sticks involved. They’re kind of scary. But they won’t kill you. And who knows? You might end up loving it. So next time you see a knitter and she offers to teach you, take her/him up on it. You might end up loving it.
And please tell people who don’t really want to learn how to knit to stop telling me that they wish they could knit. It confuses me.

Random Saturday

It’s not Monday but I can still be random. And, it’s raining as I write this! But I still can’t find my umbrella; I must have left it at home.

1) We have internet in my lovely home! Yay!

2) I started teacher assisting on Tuesdays and all I can say is that I love it. This is what I was born to do. I once saw a “Ravatar” on Ravelry that was a picture of Professor McGonagall from the Harry Potter movies that had the words “And gladly teach” imposed over her. I get it. I so totally get it now. I am supposed to be teaching. The kids are lovely, really genuinely lovely. My Cooperating Teacher is beyond wonderful. And life is good, very good.

3) God is good. All the time. There is no rhyme or reason to me saying this other than the simple truth of the statement. He is very good to us and he has blessed me wonderfully.

4) I finished my socks on Tuesday. I think they’re lovely. And I wore them yesterday. They really are lovely.

5) I’m knitting a sweater for me and a doll sweater for Show, Tell, and Sell. Both are progressing well. And I’ll show you pictures when they’re done.

6) I promise more updates about teaching as they come.

I Like Rain

I haven’t posted in a while, so this is mostly just to update people on my life-very quickly.

1) I moved back to school last Saturday and am now living in a (currently Internet-less) charming apartment that I love with a dear friend whom I also love.

2) M. (my roommate) and I are getting internet a week from tomorrow. Hurray for small victories…like me actually working my way through setting up something like an account with Comcast. And yes, we have to get Comcast; it’s the best deal around that actually provides service in our area.

3) I’m back at school. I’m taking classes but I haven’t started teacher assisting yet. That comes on Tuesday. I’m nervous and excited and it’s coming. It’s coming. And I’m growing up-like it or not.

4) I have my practice Oral Proficiency Interview a week from today (9/9/10) and that’s a big hurdle to cover. I need to pass the practice test and then the real one WITH FLYING COLORS. If I don’t, I can’t retake it for 90 days and that is too much time to wait for everything to work out properly for me to graduate when I’m supposed to. I know that God will get me through it but it’s nervous-making regardless. But the practice exam is next Thursday at 12 noon. So PLEASE PRAY!

5) It’s September. And the Pumpkin Spice Latte is back at Starbucks. I’m happy. And it’s raining today. While I can’t find my lovely purple gerbera daisy umbrella at present, I don’t mind walking in the rain. I like rain. It reminds me of Spain (where the rain doesn’t stay mainly in the plains) and it makes me happy. I know; I’m an odd duck. Or maybe I just am a duck…

6) I’m still knitting my sweater and my sock. And my sock-knitting continues to impress people. I’m not sure why but but I love that. I love knowing that people are just astounded when I sit there and make socks. It’s a lot easier than it looks, I promise. But I guess it’s easier to say that than to believe that. I want to finish the sock this weekend but I don’t know if that will happen. Here’s hoping!