Saturday, July 28, 2007

Polish Movie Posters

I'm kicking myself...I went through about 300 of these last August in a really great antique shop in Krakow. I didn't find any remotely this good though. It was a whole damn afternoon going through posters, and these suckers are three feet across and four feet long.

Advice for New (Special Ed) Teachers

I got my first email from my replacement, suitably enthusiastic and not quite done with her Credentialing Program. Kind of makes me want to stuff her under one arm and Noogie her head.

Here is a sample of what I told her. I think it goes well for everyone who teaches with a staff.

Dear ****,

I'm glad you wrote; the scrap of paper with your email address was misplaced.

Things that don't work:
1. Please, please please do not arrive during break and switch around the position of the furniture. Do not switch their assigned cubbies- they know where to go! If you want to do one piece at at time, after a month of being in the room every day, do it. And stick to your changes.

I've seen this frequently, and "Out With The Old, In With the New" mentality where the students come back to New Teacher with the furniture all switched around."Where am I, Mars?". My students don't like change in general. You will be making your life very difficult if you change more than what is absolutely necessary. Do not succumb to the temptation- I understand there are ideas afoot by the ______ for new carpet, new cubby separators, etc. She comes into my room infrequently. Introduce change slowly is the best advice I can give you.

2. Please, please listen to your staff. I am handing you (hands down) the best group of women This school has to offer. They have been there, you're new. Listen to how they talk and work with their assigned students, because they know what they are doing.

3. Don't mess with the snack/lunch/PE/Toilet Times. You will lose.

Things That Do Work (broadly):
1. Rice Krispie Treats. Buy stock. Staff and students alike.
2. A sense of humor. Don't be afraid to laugh out loud.
3. A very high pain threshold
4. An ability to measure success in subatomic increments
5. Confidence. Fake it till you make it. This is YOUR classroom. You have to implement the goals you write, you have to call the parents, you have to change the diapers. Follow your gut instinct at all times.
6. Praise. Thank Yous. Appreciation. "Thank you for your work today."

Things to be Aware Of:

Always work your new goals from what you see in their past IEP, successes or failures. New, innovative goals for a student should have a strong basis in knowing that students' strengths and you don't. You will be justifying your IEP goals in front of their parents, and they will tell you this, point blank.

You might have a lot of outside pressure to create goals centered around Discrete Trial sessions. Well and good, if the shoe fits. Remember you are the teacher in the student's best interests, writing goals for the student in particular and the classroom dynamic as a whole. If you don't feel you can reasonably implement the goal, don't write it. That's your name on the paper, you are legally responsible and will be held to account. Not the people leaning on you to do it their way.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Feelings make you really tired

And I'm very tired.

I understand that Baldur, in Norse mythology, was invincible except for the innocuous looking miseltoe. The gods were playing a game of "What Bounces Off Our Buddy"( rocks, branches, small appliances) and someone threw a sprig of miseltoe. Sharpened.

The world went dark. Baldur went to the seat of Hel- I'm not sure what happened next, I was in sigle digits the last time I read that story.

The lesson here, is that the most humble object that you look at every day often hides life and death power. Perception is everything- what appears invincible is not. A small plant with pretty flowers is our undoing, frequently.

I walked out of my classroom and threatened to leave campus for the first time, ever. With a couple of past collagues, this was a weekly (if not daily) event. But less than 4 weeks from the end, and I did it for the first time. Someone threw a sprig of miseltoe, sharpened, after trying for months with rocks, branches and small appliances.

I'm not invincible, and I've never claimed to be. Keeping your buttons well camoflauged is not the same as being invincible. Achilles had a heel, but he also wore hightops.

I think more than anything, I'm truly shocked at the lengths this person is going to, to try hurting me. Okay, fine. Take your best shot. If you have to throw punches, wear yourself out. I don't understand why, but if you feel it's necessary...

Maybe I'm just tired. But it baffles me, and not in curious way I'd like to investigate. It scares me. Because not in the darkest times of my life did I ever wish this person ill. I dislike dischord and disharmony between people, and I don't raise my voice. I don't like disrespect or unkindness, so I go out of my way to be respectful and kind.

Why this would trigger a passionate volley of unmitigated angst and venom, beats the shit out me. I'm going to find a tree.

"No Intuhnet! Someone gonna die!"

More correctly, no "M Jak Miłosc" after work on Friday- my subscription to TVPolonia is linked to the cancelled card which someone stole, and now my account is suspended. One more reason to beat the unholy crap out of the bastard when I find them. And WAMU, for not expiditing my card. And everyone else who comes within Whup Ass distance. I'm PMSing, and there is no "M Jak Miłosc." Look out.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Work, matters?

It's an oddly carbonated, liberating feeling to be written off completely by your work.

I've met my replacement- almost ten years my junior, 1/3 of my size and so fresh there's cream practically rising from the air around her. I love the unsubtle fact that my supervisory staff feel there is something to mold and impress and create in their own image with that petite being. That dainty being, who stood in the middle of my classroom at thirty minutes before Bus Time on a Friday, with the classroom understaffed by two and a child sobbing into my waist, and offered to show them a Power Point presentation.

That dainty being, who stood in the middle of my room, and saw nothing.

One woman, the one we've conjectured has a deep seated thwarted longing for me, practically scuttled out of the room in joy when I asked her if she had met the new teacher. She spent the rest of the day holed up, doubtless sending emails about the bright potential of the classroom now that my intractable self is going to another country. They see absolutely no correlation between the fact I've been the only teacher in that room to stay longer than 5 months, and that I don't give a rat's wet tailpipe what they think.

Which means, I actually succeeded.

"And the raven never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting..." Yes, you guessed it. Our hero is still angry. And staring. And stomping. Sometimes, when I've got the two biggest B. A.'s in the room sobbing on each hip, I get the feeling he's about to make a third. Then I think of the three of them smacking each other, and I have to stop.

A sense of humor kills it, I think. Take P__, my Prince from Polish School who Proposed in the Parking Lot. (At least, there were no Beer Nuts involved this time.) He's struggling with his English and my (absolute) refusal, and Pan Dyrektor is in the doorway, waving like he's landing aircraft, shouting "YOU'RE LATE! IT"S TIME TO TEACH YOUR CLASS!"

Like I told P.D. later, "I'm not terribly romantic or anything, but..."

Yes. So, back to our hero. You must understand, small creatures with soft noses and bows in their tails are quite sacred to me. And I have this peculiar eyesight for spotting them in the most unlikely forms. Despite his burly and forbidding outward appearance, he is indeed sporting a bow and soft velvet nose. Which I have somehow bruised and mutilated. Cruelly! Apologies aren't enough! How could I?! Just leave?!

(more baleful glaring)

"Zorowaś Marja łaskiś pełna..."

I know I must appear as unfeeling and obtuse as roadside gravel. It's very difficult for me to watch this, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. I've had my tears, so now I'm having a bit of a giggle. So much happiness to be had for the asking...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bearing Tirimisu and Lemonade

Pan Dyrektor came calling today, after I returned from Sacramento. Calling as in visiting, sitting (in this case half dozing) on the couch in the old fashioned way, talking about non-commital things and his friends . He brought a tirimisu and a bottle of lemonade! What's not to love, about a man who brings tirimisu and lemonade on a breezy Sunday afternoon, and looks like Derek Jacobi? Then insists you keep the leftovers?

Pan Dyrektor remains unconvinced of his own personal attractiveness, augmented as it is by a dessert in one hand. All interpersonal relationship issues between us were resolved in April, under the double threat of being banned permanently from working on the Volvo and his refusal to make any more Golubki. A mechanical engineer and stupendous cook, he's never more happy that working on two cars at once. Unless he's at Costco.

He's recently switched jobs, and part of my vacation was spent with him in my VW, running all over Santa Rosa trying to find him a house. He owns a '81 Buick, and I had the impression that his air conditioning in the car had died. He'd never really asked to use my car before.

The real story was, that he'd left his 6 parts sugar : 2 oz. coffee cup from 7-11 under the front seat overnight. An entire ant colony had moved in to his front seat, and he sprayed it with Raid. He'd been driving with a contact high and the remainder of an ant colony in 100 degree heat for about 7 days before I talked to him.

We go to the flea market, have breakfast, joke about the people we see, talk about my most recent collection of bruises and cuts from work. It's a very comfortable, happy time. He tells me about the random phone calls for marriage and cigarettes he recieves from friends of friends of friends, his fathers' twenty year collection of soap and jam, and pushing a motorcycle across Warsaw for 12 hours.

I mention him, because of his tendency to drop what he's doing and go to Siberia. Or somewhere equally distant and uninhabitable, since Vladivostok was last autumn (duh, Josie). I don't have any family of my own, so the friends I pick up, with all their quirks labyrinthed out by a language barrier, are more precious than clean water. You'll hear about him again, I promise.