Friday, January 13, 2017

so today, after about seven days of subbing, at the high school and middle school level in our local town, i got to sub in a social studies classroom where the guy had a great library, with lots of textbooks, other books, and magazines.

i should mention that he also had five classes in a row of very highly motivated, well-behaved students, so that i occasionally got to look at the books, though for the most part, i did as i thought subs should do, namely, give them their assignment, and then glare at them expecting fully that they use the hour well; benevolently i had to allow that, since i was a sub, and it was a friday, they might have had other things they'd rather be doing.

one book that struck my fancy was a new mexico history book. it had the word "indians" in the very first sentence, which was a tip-off that new mexico might be a little behind in the history-book department. the book was from 1993; it's very possible that that was the last time the guy had taught new mexico history, and that in fact it was being updated regularly and continuously since 1993; i have no idea. i read it carefully in some specific parts and not so carefully in others. one thing i'm interested in is the treaty of guadaloupe hidalgo, because of which this area became part of the u.s.a., and in which the nation, the u.s.a., promised spanish settlers in new mexico, and elsewhere, that they could keep their spanish language and culture forever, upon entering the union. the book was very shallow and not thorough about this at all. in fact i'm not entirely sure of it myself, and may do more research on it. but the book had several other insights that did fascinate me.

one was that the dropping of the nuclear bomb here was really quite a big deal, and i often forget that; it happened maybe fifty miles west of us and it happened with the understanding that there really weren't many people in the area anyway, so, what the heck. but hey, you got hiroshima, you got nagasaki, and then you got the trinity site, white sands new mexico. those are the three.

the book made a big deal out of the pueblos, and did a pretty good job of explaining the complex relationship among the comanches, various tribes of apaches, the navajo and their various branches, and others, including kiowa, ute, etc. the book maintained that the hopi were in fact like the pueblos themselves. i'm still chewing on that one.

but the whole thing stirred me up a little. my son challenges the whole concept of state history classes; he thinks it should be an elective, in which case he would decline to elect. keep in mind that he's now tolerated both illinois history and texas history, so in a sense this is a third, and he's developed absolutely no genuine or permanent loyalty to the state itself, though he likes cloudcroft itself and is ok with the move over, in general. still, when he challenged me for specific justification for a state history class, my main one was that in a world where racial and ethnic groups are somewhat isolated it's important to get a general picture of whom one lives with, where they came from and why, and how the general relationship ended up the way it did. we should know our own specific region for the same reasons we should know our country and our world. but that's all i could say. i hadn't really developed a comprehensive, effective justification.

i have no idea if new mexico history is coming open as a class in which a teacher will be needed in the next five years, but, i'm inclined to jump on it if it is, being a historian, naturally, and attracted to the area. and i'd also like to write the next book. about this i'll just mention that i've had another two projects on the back shelf for years as well, and in fact, in line with my earlier post, which laid out what i want to accomplish in the near future, i'll just mention these three projects as things i've always wanted to do, but never had quite the circumstances to pull it off.

a high school grammar book, i think, would be in high demand. it would complement whatever else an english teacher does, and would be small. by the way i've noticed that there are no english subbing jobs, noenglish (or as they call it ELAR) permanent jobs, not much in the way of that kind of work. but making young high school seniors more fluent and competent in grammar, and in origin and nature of their language, would be high on my list. you look at today's high school seniors, that's one thing they're missing.

a new mexico history book, or something like it, would be quite interesting. this one i picked up had large subheadings and very simple language. it was as if he had taught a sixth-grade version of it, or something like that (very possible), or, as my wife suggested, that they were putting all books in fourth-grade language, to ensure that more people got the important concepts more often. i'm not sure; more research is necessary here. i thought of the idea only today, when the first sentence referred to "indians".

a book on linguistic theory, namely, how language is a self-organizing system - and by the way, you can look back on this blog, i'm sure, to last year and probably the year before, and confirm that this one has been on my docket for quite some time. the idea here is that it might take some calculus or high-level math to truly understand what i need to in order to explain it effectively, but i'm obviously in a better position to do that, than i used to be. and the most critical element here is time, and having room in the brain (and time to chew) that would make this whole project doable.

another book on the way technology influences a language would also be on my list, since, for years, i worked to present to the tesol conference a clear picture of ways in which technology was influencing the way people learned. i'm actually interested in a wider view: technology influences the way people learn; it influences what they know as language; it influences what is actually produced as opposed to what they perceive as right; it's a big picture. and it does this to every language. this is one more case where i can watch a simple slice of modern society, in my case 16-18-year olds, and i'm pretty sure i'm seeing an entire town's worth, more or less, about a thousand of them, and i can say, these folks are living in a different world than the one i grew up in, and the language they produce is different as a result.

part of this relies on the inevitability that 1) i receive a class to teach, thus our family has an income to live on, and, i get some insight into raising teenagers that is badly needed in spite of the fact that i've already raised three or four, or maybe six, or even seven if you count one who's in the chute as i write. one valuable thing about what i'm doing is that i can now see what things are just general to the age, the ages of 12-15 specifically and 16-18 as well; but, i also have to follow through, in a sense, want the job, get the job, get certification, keep it up, get myself in the class that will make myself most happy (determine that such a class exists), etc. it's a long road ahead of me. and, i'm sixty-two; sometimes, in this subbing gig, i'm really feeling it. i mean, people respect me, they don't give me really serious discipline problems; they are nice overall, and i feel i could teach in this situation, but after thirty years of very respectful internationals the simple lack of self control that i've seen in the last nine days is astounding. and far worse at the junior high level. i think most likely i'll stick with the high school, if only because they seem so civilized in comparison.

heard one story about a woman, sub, who had come in, and had control problems. so she brought a whistle, and thought she'd use it whenever she needed to. but alas, the students got around her, and behind her, and one actually got on the desk, and got the whistle, and was using it as continuously and as loudly as he could...while standing on the desk....this, i thought, was a pretty good story of how bad things could get. they never got quite so bad with me. i did have a v-tech class that was pretty rowdy, and a middle-school class that pulled just about everything they possibly could. paper airplanes were common. crumpled up paper that didn't make it to the wastebasket was the battleground. it was my job, the way i saw it, to make sure it did make it to the wastebasket. and sometimes i had to make sure they knew that was the line. there was a lot of line-crossing. in general, though, nothing got broken. no kids got injured. it was close, but if we weren't heard in other classes, that was a success.

and so it goes. it's my new job. and part of it is, i go down a hill 6000 feet in the morning, and back up 6000 feet in the afternoon. it's my life. there are cliffs on the side of the road; ancient caves; it snows at the top, but at the bottom it's sunny and warm. my ears pop. it uses a lot of gas to go up. the cliffs are narrow and not much room for error. deer and elk populate the roads in the off-hours. some people don't know how to use the passing lanes. there's construction, orange cones and reduced speed, delay, as they cut down part of a rock cliff to make the road wider, in a place where some logging truck clipped someone earlier in the year, because his log just couldn't get around the narrow mountain. and, heavily patrolled; at the passing lane, if you go ten or twenty over to get around someone, you're dead. safety corridor, double the fines. work area; double the fines. double it twice, it's probably over a thousand, as those have become a little steep. so the pressure's on, and winter hasn't even started. but hey, they're closing the road altogether in april, for a while, late at night, and then, things will get really interesting. hope i'm still in the game, is all i can say. i'm feeling a little old, sometimes, as i'm not used to the 40-hour schtick. gotta get my stamina up, i guess.

my job, as i said, is usually giving out worksheets, which they may or may not take seriously, and glaring at them, hoping they follow my rigid rules about cell-phone use and making noise with potato chips. as a sub, i'm fully aware that they're going to be a little looser than they usually would. i have mental freedom; i can think what i want, and do. i'm tired of my poetry, yet have been working on it, as i usually do, when i have the chance. i've written a few more stories (see below). i am kind of free to arrange it as i wish; they are nice to me; they are grateful that someone would be willing to be a sub; there seems to be plenty of work subbing. i have seen many many kids; i'm getting to know a few of them. this town, by the way, is bigger than the <1000 town i live in; there's probably >1400 kids in the school. not sure. i can tell you, there's an interesting mix.

but i've just begun to notice.


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