Friday, March 31, 2017

a whole week as a permanent roving sub at alamogordo high school. this means i know where i'm going every morning, and they place me wherever they want. in return for the security of a job in a single place, for the rest of the year, i agree to be a sub in any or many classes during the day or week; whereas some teachers get a prep break or hour off, they can just put me anywhere, and i do it.

one other benefit is that the middle schools are behind me. in one of the middle schools, some kid brought a bottle of xanax and distributed them among middle schools; thirteen ended up in the hospital and one was still not awake according to one of the students. i was relieved to be nowhere near that middle school, even though it was my favorite of the two middle schools. high school students, in contrast, are more mature. just as bad, just as irresponsible, sometimes, but more mature.

i say that 'embrace the tiger, return to mountain,' to the chinese, probably means live life to the fullest, keep your spiritual center. to me it means shoot down the mile-high mountain to alamo high school (home of the tigers) in the morning, climb the big long hill when the day is over, back up into the clouds, where there's still snow, and it's always at least twenty degrees cooler. i saw baker the policeman this afternoon, conferring with somebody about their speed of ascension. i myself was going barely over the speed limit but enjoying every minute; i was returning to mountain.

nobody respects a sub, and they certainly don't want to do any work in what they consider a freak but well-deserved vacation from any serious thinking, but they don't mind talking about life, or about whatever you bring up. i asked my students today about bluegrass bands in alamo and they didn't know. they knew the difference between football xanax and schoolbus xanax, but they didn't know from bluegrass. one claimed it was her cousin who had distributed the pills, and she was furious that such a thing could happen. but i've taken to engaging them more. for one thing, i know them a little better now; i know who's trouble and i can spot right away who's not going to do the work. fortunately, it's not so much my concern if they don't do the work. it's more my concern if they're truly disruptive to those who do do the work. it's also my concern if teachers stop in from nearby classrooms concerned about the noise level, or the destruction of furniture. they tend to watch out for subs, having seen this kind of stuff before.

it's actually not so great being the "cool" sub who lets them use cell phones or doesn't really care whether they finish the work or not; actually you kind of undermine the system if you're too loose, or if you let them do stuff that other subs or teachers don't. it's pointless having a battle with them, or letting the class be a confrontation, when so little is at stake. i'm a one-time visitor; i hate sending people to the office, and don't want "he-said" "she-said" to define my experience. on the contrary, i reward people who finish the work, also people who say they've been sober for a while, or that they gave up smoking. i think they deserve some recognition for being a teenager in a complex and difficult world, and, of all the times they are supposed to be focused on learning, their time with a sub is not truly one of them. one reason they resist learning anything from a sub is that they instinctively know that it could be different from the way the main teacher teaches it - and if so, that's a problem for everyone.

early in the week i got into new mexico history, and read about the lincoln county war (pat garrett and billy the kid) and the pueblos. i was hot on the trail of the claim that some of the pueblo people came from the caribbean. today i had no access to computer, so i simply read camus' "the stranger" which had been left in the room. i got about half through it and will probably finish this weekend. my mind is relatively free, yet i should pay attention to students, what they do, whether they work, etc. "babysitting," some people call it, yet i know my teaching time will start soon enough, and that will involve grading, and testing, and everything else, so i might as well enjoy a little break myself. thirty years of hard teaching, and now i get to sit around, look at tiger posters, and watch kids make movies of each other on their phones. they are my sub, because suddenly, i don't really have to teach them. i was in a spanish class, and i started to teach them about diminuitives, which are used differently in spanish than english. they were impressed, a little, that any old duffer would know any spanish at all. but they still didn't want to learn it. i might as well have been talking about the movies.

everybody's a little traumatized by the thought of thirteen kids in the hospital, but it's spring break, and we've all gone home now to relax for a week and get over it. those parents might just yank those kids and put them in to some private school, but the lone private school in town is about to close, and that might not be an option. actually i have no idea what those parents will do or think. i can't even imagine what their experience is like. i try to take seriously the idea that above all, i am a protector of young souls, who often don't have very well-developed judgment. for that, i'm hoping the city of alamogordo will respect me, and make it possible for me to keep embracing the tiger.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

on monday i was a sub at a new mexico history class. now that's a little frustrating for me, because i love new mexico history, and basically kids refuse to learn anything from a sub, until i figure out how to get through to them. they see a sub, and they figure, it's vay-cay time. in this particular class, though, there were lots of books, and the teacher had left a lot of stuff for them to do. it was like they had some huge worksheet to finish, and all i had to do was sit there.

so i opened this book, which was called nuevo mexico, though when i wrote this i'd lost the details, like the author's name. seems to me the author was joe sando, or something like that. well, deep in that book was a story of the language families, and specifically, the language families of the occupants of the pueblos.

now when i asked the students, they all knew about the pueblos. there are nineteen of them today. they were there when the spaniards arrived, in the late 1500's. there was a rebellion against the spaniards (the first american revolution, one book called it) where they actually removed the spanish control over their lives. but this book made a claim about the language families of the pueblo people. it claimed that there were three basic families. the first was the tiwa/tewa/towa, the biggest one, responsible for maybe ten or eleven of the modern pueblos, and distantly related to navajo and other well known families of languages. the second was keresan, the language of about five or six of the pueblos, and the last one, zuni (i think?), residents of a single pueblo, unrelated to the others and possibly from mexico. but of the keresan, he (the author) said that he personally felt they were from the caribbean - he had proof based on their words for north, east, south and west, and he had spent considerable time trying to prove it. he further said that these people had stopped in florida on their way out, whereupon they had picked up the habit of naming the leader's (shell-covered) abode as the "white house."

i was astounded by this, and the following day, i was a sub at another new mexico history class, this one in the middle school. once again students were resistant to learning anything from a sub. but hey, i told them, pay attention. they were studying the period of time when our part of new mexico was an independent nation (the republic of texas) and the treaty of guadalupe hidalgo, in which the usa, which badly wanted to expand westward and increase its land, promised the spanish settlers of albuquerque (who had been there, speaking spanish, for about 250 years) that they could continue to speak spanish and live in spanish, vote and be full citizens, if they chose to join the us. the spanish wanted to - they didn't care much for mexican rule, and didn't see that the anglos changed much about their lives, so they agreed. little did they know of course that trump would come along and claim that they were all rapists, but that's another story. at this time, the time of guadalupe hidalgo, everyone thought it was a win-win, and there was fifteen million bucks involved too, if i'm not mistaken. or maybe it was a hundred fifty.

well anyway i told this class about this book that claimed the keresan people were from the caribbean. as far as i'm concerned the author of that book was a genuine historian, though he may have been wrong about the keresan, who knows about the ancient people? but i find his theory fascinating for several reasons.

first is that if the ancient people crossed from the caribbean islands to new mexico, then my guess is that they followed the river, namely the rio grande. but the question is whether they knew where they were going or not. and, did they know there were people where they were going? had they had visitors that told them, that at the end of the rio grande, was a high valley where people could settle and grow stuff? or did they just take off in river boats not knowing what they would find? and did they have enough to live on, up through big bend, el paso, las cruces, t or c, the long haul up to the new pueblo?

all good questions worthy of further research. just now i was forced to get up out of my chair, whereupon i found the little scrap of paper i'd written some of this stuff on. so i now know the following: this came from the book nuevo mexico, p. 28; the kerasan pueblos were acoma, laguna, santa ana, san felipe, santo domingo, zia and cochiti (notice that zia is the one with the north-east-south-west symbol on the new mexico license plate; it's also featured in the new mexico pledge, perfect friendship among all peoples, that my students recite every morning). also, here are some of the keresan expressions: hane (east), pune (west), crowa (south), tipani (north). hana ha'i (when we were in the east)...

at the end of the chapter, there were three references. one was by sando himself, sando and agoyo (2005), but was about popay, the leader of the first american revolution, by the residents of the pueblos against the spanish. another was marder (2005) - indians of the americas. and the last was graham (1981), ancient mesoamerica. so begins my research. he could have been speaking off the cuff - but this was a textbook, and my guess is that if he had done all this research he had put it somewhere. not necessarily in the book about popay - the others had articles by other experts as well. such books are golden and are available at local libraries.

the ancient people, if they didn't like one continent, they just set out for another.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

embrace tiger, return to mountain

Sunday, March 12, 2017

so, as a substitute teacher in middle schools and high schools, i've taken to reading the signs that teachers put in their classrooms to inspire students. of course i also read their directions (agenda) - what students are supposed to do - and anything else there is to read. i look at their family pictures sometimes, and imagine what their life is like as a teacher. i try to imagine how happy they are.

but the directions for the students, i try to figure out. i'm probably the only one who reads them, or rather, students who have been in the class since august have some idea what they intended, whereas i, a one-time visitor, have to surmise or assume.

got to an esl class the other day, eight students only, who all knew each other very well. one of the signs in their room said, "always raise your hand." we can guess what that one means, you need something, that's how you make it clear. but, if you read the sign, the sign says to always raise your hand. excuse me?

same day, i'm in a math class. it had one that said, "reason abstractly and quantitatively." i thought that was interesting. i couldn't quite figure out how to do it though. I mean, i can use both kinds of skills, abstract and quantitative, to figure out a geometry problem. i can't quite reason quantitatively though. and i'm still stuck on why you can't divide by zero. it seems to me, if you reason abstractly, that you can divide by zero.

ok, so i'm subbing in cloudcroft, where everyone's bears, rather than tigers, and they want the students to think like championship bears and be fierce, loyal, smart, and everything like that. so theirs say, "bear in mind" to do most important things first, "bear in mind" to syncretize, etcetera. and they all make sense to some degree, although you don't always bear this stuff in mind. but my favorite is the last one, "bear in mind" to sharpen your saw.

now we can assume that they want their students to think sharply, incisively, and all that. and i'm sure that your mind has tools for doing this kind of thinking. well, if you think about it, we must have some tools for thinking incisively and sharply, though i'm not sure, and i have no idea what they would look like. but if i don't even know what they look like, how can i sharpen them? i have saws, and i can sharpen them, though i don't, and i can recognize that my work would be easier if i did. but the kinds of tools that middle school kids use to solve science problems (that was in a science class by the way, and all the students knew those bear habits) - well, i'm still guessing about that. i just don't know.

there was one cooking class where they let the students make the signs. one said "alway's wash your hands"....i was horrified. if i was a teacher, i'd have simply made that student draw the entire poster again. no way i'd hang it on the wall. except maybe to say, there are apostrophe errors, then there are classic stupid apostrophe errors, which nobody on earth should allow anyone they know to produce under any circumstances. but i tend to be a little judgmental about such things. it's partly because my entire life is discipline now, and i don't even really get to teach much. i was in an english class, and they were doing metaphor and allusion, and the allusion (which was to eden) went way over their heads, because kids don't know from eden these days. but when they were doing metaphor, i said metaphor was like "love is like a flower," and then i brought out my "bear in mind to sharpen your saw" metaphor. in some ways, love is like a flower, i suppose, and in some ways it is not; and, your mind, we could say, is like a saw, to some degree, maybe. i hope mine isn't rusting out, out in the back where it rains and the fog rolls in and sits on us, up high in the mountains where we are. bear in mind, to sharpen your saw. it's my new motto. that, and embrace the tiger, return to mountain.

Monday, March 06, 2017

new story:
Mannequin Challenge
comments welcome! enjoy!