Monday, October 26, 2009

With, without. and who'll deny, its what the fighting's all about?

I went to the Howe school of Excellence on Chicago's West side.

It was intense.

We started Junior Great books as well as starfish corps today.
Junior Great Books is a program we do that involves pulling kids out of class to read and discuss literature. I did this immediately after our morning greeting of the kids.
We only had five kids, we are supposed to have fifteen. This made things awkward, as when we were introducing ourselves it didn't take very long and we had a lot of time. So we read "the house on mango street", a story we were supposed to start in our next session with these students. It is about a dissatisfied home owner who used to live in apartments with their family, and now has a real shoddy house.

After JGB, I went into my sixth grade classroom for in class support. I worked with a table of four girls, one of whom was working quietly and well, so I helped the other three. They were easily distracted, especially by my wavy blond hair, so keeping the focused was a challenge. This is not to say I was a distraction, when I got there they were doing nothing, I got them to finish one side of the worksheet before the teacher moved them on. But while the teacher was talking, I couldn't get them to stay focused, so they had to split up the group into rows where the whole class was in groups of four or five. One girl blamed this on me, and I felt bad.

I went from classroom help to finishing some things for starfish for 20 minutes and then back to the classroom to talk with my teacher during prep period. We worked some things out, and she gave me some weight to throw around, including detentions with her consent in certain cases. I can finally do more than tell kids "please don't do that. you are creating a negative learning environment for all those around you. It breaks our hearts." ( I don't actually say that)


Back to in class help, much better results.


The starfish are 3-5th graders after school. We first brought a snack, and the kids were a little rowdy, but not too bad. After that, we helped them with homework. I helped the adorable and well-behaved third graders. They were estimating how much Ulysses spent on a t shirt and baseball cap. the answer was $67.00, when you add 19.99 to 46.99. because its an estimate. Watching them come to that conclusion is always grand. They're amazing.

We split into our animal groups, I lead the octopi with Kiki. We had one kid who wanted to fight someone, and his ex girlfriend. These kids are in fifth grade. Why does he have an ex girlfriend?
Anyway, they're getting split up tomorrow. Also there was a kid who really wanted to be a Tiger, but he was assigned to Octopi. He was angry about this at first and wouldn't move or sit down or speak. But after he realized how awesome we are, he joined us. It was an exhausting two hours, and I'm going to have it monday-thursday every week. But we'll pull through. My team couldn't be better.

I left my house at 6:55. I got home at 7:15.
It's going to be a long year, but I'm optimistic about it being rewarding.

Now I'm listening to Pink Floyd. What could be better? It is what the fighting's all about. Darnell had the red crayon. Antonio wanted it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

cold, kind, and lemon eyes

Yesterday we had a perfect attendance challenge rally, which encouraged the kids to come to school everyday and gave them reasons for it. They could win a laptop if they have perfect attendance, which is pretty sweet. Also I was in a skit in it. I was a bad kid, i threw a pencil at Jenna and tripped Tim. I stopped coming to school as often, and got kicked off the football team even though I was the star player. Nosa was a good kid. He joined young heroes, a city year saturday service opportunity for middle schoolers, and young heroes in high school. I got arrested 3 times and didn't graduate. He graduated and plays football on a scholarship at UIC.

Today I went to a Howe football game, and we won. Twenty four to zero. After the game, one of the players told me I could have been on the team if I hadn't gotten locked up. Oh, how it warms my heart to hear that they listen and care.

My dear sister Emily and her friend Abby came last night, we made brownies and ate half the pan. Not a whole lot happened besides that, but it's for your health.

I don't eat meat any more.

This is the news from Uptown Chicago.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Like Gasoline.

6:20 A.M.: Wake up to the red hot chili peppers

6:25 A.M.: Get out of bed, eat oatmeal, make coffee, take shower

6:50 A.M.: Get out of shower, put on uniform, walk to train station while drinking coffee

7:00 A.M.: Board the red line at Lawrence, standing because there are no seats

7:37 A.M.: Arrive at lake and state, transfer to green line platform toward Harlem

7:40 A.M.: Board green line

7:45 A.M.: My fantastic Junior great Books Discussion partner, Adrienne, joins me at Clinton

7:55 A.M.: Arrive at Central stop on red line. Meet up with Kiki and Ashley at the Dunkin across the street, introduce ourselves as city year, get awkwardly ignored.

8:00 A.M.: Cross street to local corner store, see Tim in his chevrolete everycar. accept ride. he pulls around the block.

8:02 A.M.: Stand on corner with Ashley and my Timberland shoe box. Get asked "you sellin them boots, playa?" agree to "playa", but not selling boots. Adrienne and Kiki go into store, introduce city year, recieve free beverages and rubber gloves.

8:07 A.M.: Get into Tim's car, turn down the wrong street twice, finally arrive at Howe school of escellence for a wonderful day of service

8:15 A.M.: After the whole team gets there and we brief the day, go outside and play "ride that pony" for a half hour with screaming children. Terrify them with height. Vow to stay away from the timid short ones.

8:45 A.M.: Kids line up for class, we disappear into our building.

8:56 A.M.: While paging Willie, the custodian, or "engineer", learn from one mother that she wishes to pull her child out of the after school program he is currently signed up for and put him in city year's "starfish corps" because she didn't realize we were back this year. fell good about self, the woman who runs the other afterschool program is borderline mentally capable and is horribly misguided in thinking A) she is better than us. B) she is going to use our floor (the principal is on our side, don't worry) C) she runs the building.

9:05 A.M.: Make "parts of speech" poster for the homework help room for 4th graders.

9:50 A.M.: Begin painting. white paint, two coats per room and more where there are horrible murals from last year to cover up.

11:30 A.M.: Finish first coat in first room, continue poster.

12:00 P.M.: Break for lunch, travel to another Dunkin and purchase heavenly coffee. Note the vagabonds on the street.

1:00P.M.: Begin on poster once again, but Jenna says I should paint. She is my team leader, and I am flexible, so I do.

3:30 P.M.: Tim, Hannah, and I are in the second room, for the second coat. the fumes have gotten to us. We are shouting loudly about getting not paint, but service on our pants. Also "this is Howe! THIS IS SERVICE!!!!" (that's a 300 reference) Jenna comes in and tells us not to frightne whoever may be downstairs. She is informed of a butterfly nest. I inform them all that "I ate all the butterflies" and proceed to explain this statement. (it's MIFA, folks)

4:15P.M.: Edging the third room, listening to Regina Spektor, The faint, and Margot and the Nuclear So and So's. Singing, "Control Control Control Control Control Control Control".

5:00 P.M.: Finally the day is winding down, we've cleaned up most things and are in final circle of the day. Jenna drives me home, as she lives by me.

6:15 P.M.: Arrive home shortly before Stephen, put on pajama pants and my strong bad sweatshirt I got for five dollars at the brown elephant thrift store. Go buy a burrito. Eat the delicious burrito while talking to Stephen about matters of importance. Stephen begins simultaneously cooking food and playing Rinbow six Vegas two on the xbox.

7:00P.M.: Jeanne comes home, we three sing and dance to "Don't stop believin'", watch various videos from the onion.

9:00 P.M.: I join Stephen in playing Rainbow Six vegas Two after discussion of which is more lame, him playing it or us watching him play it.

10:20 P.M.: Make lunch talk to Greg (who just got home), get ready for bed.

And here I am. Its been a good day, week, month, year so far.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

introverted, interesing, intellectual.

Saturday I went downtown and walked two miles for leukemia for “light the night” I thought it was going to be a run. I was misinformed, but I came out of it with a two bunches of free bananas and a belly full of free pizza and soy granola bars, so it was all good. I also power read cider house rules because I need to finish that. I’m almost done now, if you care.
Sunday I was going to meet my sister Emily downtown to feed the homeless, but I got a little lost and she got done early so we met up for like five minutes. Oh well.
It was all good, because then I met Bradford at the Hancock building. We went downstairs and were asked to show our University of Chicago I.D.’s He had one, so did his other friend. I didn’t as I do not go there. But I was let in as a guest, and I was the only guest.
We went all the way to the top floor, and viewed the city. There was also free food. It was amazing.
Monday we got into Howe for the first time to really get it cleaned out. First we toured it extensively, and I found some amazing posters on the third floor that say things like “pollution pete” and “Danny and the Doughnuts”
These are now hanging in my bedroom.
We also cleaned out one massive room, for starfish corps (third through fifth after school) and several other rooms for the junior great books sessions (sixth through eighth during school). The building we are in is forgotten by most of the school. We get two floors to ourselves, but it is a concrete building with few windows that never gets cleaned by the schools janitorial staff. Thus; it is disgusting. We found a city year coat from last year, proof that it has not been touched. We found bread as well. And a cupcake with one bite out of it. Some cigarette butts. The third floor is haunted and doesn’t have heat. We’re not technically allowed to have students in it. It was supposed to be torn down four years ago. You know, the usual. Apparently they use our rooms as storage for all the things that have no home. Then we come and clean it up, and use it for the year. Rinse and repeat.
Tuesday we did a lot more cleaning, but first we actually met the kids on the playground. I felt like a zoo animal, they kept staring at me and whispering to each other about how tall I am. I love being dutch…
We split up and went into various sixth through eighth grade classrooms as well, just to see how it worked. I started in a seventh grade reading/writing class, and they had just gotten a new book shipment. They were all looking at the books, they like Bluford High and Artimis Fowl. The teacher had great control of them. I was impressed.
Next was the eighth grade boys, the eighth grade is the only grade split by gender. It’s a Pilot Program, just like my Junior Great books sessions. I’m piloting a pilot. WHEN DOES IT END? The eighth grade boys were incredibly well behaved. There was only really one problem child, and you could spot him a mile away because he had a popped collar. I wanted so badly to tell him it doesn’t look good on anyone, but it’s not my place.
The eighth grade girls…
They were hormonal. At best. And the teacher didn’t handle them so well. She was a first year teacher, and they took advantage of that. (all the teachers in the school are first or second year, thanks AUSL!) The girls ran that classroom though. Every time the teacher turned around, they were kicking the smaller girls over, passing notes by walking across the room, one girl even just strait up left. That room made me a little nervous. I hope I’m not put in there.
AUSL is an initiative that takes failing schools and replaces the entire staff with younger people and cuts down the population of the school so they can be better managed. Howe underwent this process two years ago. I like it, it employs younger people, so they can get a job easier without a teaching history, and also gets more energy into the kids, because lets face it, old people and middle schoolers aren’t going to mesh well. Its part of the “no child left behind program”
The other part of that is the bi weekly assessments that the students need to pass regularly for the teacher to keep their job. This part is lame, because it makes all of the teachers need to teach the same caliber, because they need to teach to the tests. The tests don’t even follow the textbooks. One of the teachers complained to us for a good thirty seconds about it, it sounds awful.
Yesterday was opening day. We painted an old convent now used to house mentally disabled folk. Then there was an awkward ceremony that thankfully didn’t last very long. My mother and sister came and my mother gave me a teapot and some craisons. Those are similar to raisons, but made of cranberries.