Tag Archives: kids

Teacher Rant

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It’d be so damn cool if teachers got the respect they deserve. Or the pay. Or the acknowledgement.

I have this dream that I’ll see all those wishes of mine granted in my lifetime. I know that people who make touchdowns and music videos and movies will still be earning over triple the amount of income and recognition, but I have faith that one day after I’m gone, that will change too.

I’ve tried to pinpoint in my three short years of teaching, what exactly it is that makes our job seem so easy and worthless. Most likely, it is the fact that we get summers “off”. I guess most people don’t realize that we are never really “off”…we are constantly planning, collecting, brainstorming- bettering our teaching and our classroom. Our kids follow us everywhere like nagging/loving little hairs flying across our face at all times. They are our motivation. And let me tell you, we are forced to be the most passionate and motivated profession out there- because we’re in the business of “failure is not an option” and “no child left behind” and “give me only your best”.

We are warriors of Potential and Effort and Rigor and Pride. We are champions of Respect and gladiators of Equality. We are artists because we “mold the minds of tomorrow”. We are absolutely, bona-fide crazy- but in a “you WILL find a book that you will enjoy” kind of way. Glorified babysitters? Sure, if a glorified babysitter can stomp the flames of bullying and teach a kid what onomatopoeia means all in half an hour.

I realize we don’t carry briefcases (if we did, they’d be filled with stickers and pencils- you’d be surprised how much a kid will write for a sticker/pencil prize). We don’t wear suits. We spend our entire day with mini adults. But if we had business cards, every millimeter would be filled with tiny text, listing our hundreds of roles and responsibilities. Or they’d just say Professional Badass.

If you think juggling 100 middle schoolers, all with their individual needs, is easy, I welcome you to come trade shoes for a while. Please don’t forget to modify for the language learners and special education kids, scaffold for the different levels, add in each type of learning style, give the kids choice but structured choice, stay on top of behavior management, make sure you utilize technology, keep cultural significance in mind, let them have individual, partner, and group time, and of course, they should be engaged, participating, and having FUN!
P.S. Plus, you have a department meeting, a professional development, a team meeting, a faculty meeting, a parent meeting, tutoring sessions, UIL practice, monitoring duty, a REED, an ARD, an SST, and an observation all in the next couple days.
P.P.S. You have 100 essays to grade.

Yeah.

Sorry to go all Mali on y’all.

The Keiki

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Gangstas v. Surfers

I have officially accepted a teaching job in Texas. You’d think I’d be ecstatic, right? A solid job to move back home to, back to the land of delicious Mexican food, sweet tea, and floating the river. I’ll finally get to be roommates with my best friend, I’ll finally keep a job for longer than two years…

But honestly, there’s something bothering me that I can’t quite shake. It’s not the fact that I’m leaving paradise—perfect weather, perfect tan (see I Heard This Place is Hard to Leave). It’s the keiki, man.

The kids.

I’ve been pampered for the last two years. My students might drive me crazy, but they freakin’ adore me. The biggest issue I’ve ever had is their lack of motivation…and I don’t blame them. I’d rather go to the beach than do homework too.

I remember what the kids were like in school back home. Also, I’m allowed to talk shit about the ghetto Mexicans and the white trash since I am both Mexican and white. Boom. Please remember that for the rest of this blog…

Those two types of people make up a LARGE percent of the population. Rednecks and gang members, knife fights at lunch, “pinche” being every other word out of most of their mouths, and a huge teen pregnancy problem. Ah, Tejas.

While this is an exaggeration, it’s only a slight exaggeration. So basically, I’m scared.

I spent 22 years in Texas, surrounded by a large Hispanic population, most of whom I was probably related to. But as for teaching experience? I’ve taught approximately two Hispanic kids in the past two years. Here in Central Oahu, the student population is comprised of SO many different ethnicities—Japanese, Hawaiian, Filipino, Samoan, Micronesian, Chuukese, Tongan, Korean, Chinese, and more. They’re so mixed that most of them don’t even know what to check for race on surveys. They think it’s weird that I’m “only two things” and they don’t tease each other about being “too much” of something or “not enough” of something else.

Duh, there’s still racism and homophobia and bullying and drug abuse and all those other terrible things that happen everywhere.

But I swear, Hawaii’s kids are probably the most tolerant human beings in the U.S. It’s all aloha and shaka and howzit and bruddah and sistah and auntie… it’s kind of crazy how happy people are here. Oh wait, the sun shines every day. There are rainbows every day.

The kids I went to school with would beat these kids to a pulp and then tattoo something about it on their necks. Or they’d tie my kids to cows and pour Lonestar all over them. The white kids I went to school with would call my kids Mexicans and when my kids would try to explain that they’re actually a Hawaiian-Japanese-Filipino, they’d say, “Whatever, you’re brown, so you’re Mexican.” The Mexicans I went to school with would call my kids wannabe Mexicans.

I could go on and on, trashing and exaggerating about the kind of kids I went to school with (reminder: I’m allowed), but what I’m getting at is I DON’T WANT TO TEACH TEXAS KIDS, I WANT TO TEACH HAWAII KIDS…BUT IN TEXAS.

Sigh.

Will I be facing a major culture shock? It’s kind of ironic, I realize. I was born and raised in the area, I’m obviously super familiar with the Hispanic culture. But teaching is a different story. I’ve finally reached a point where I feel qualified to teach Hawaiian mythology and “local, Pidgin kine poetry”. I feel comfortable discussing and analyzing the differences and similarities of Asian cultures. I’ve finally mastered the stereotypes, resentments, and unspoken bonds between these groups here—it’s been incredibly hard.

So will my teaching suffer?

Will it be like my first year all over again?

What about my ELL kids? Will I know how to accommodate them? Is it the same?

I know that this entire blog is probably a huge freak-out, completely uncalled for and unnecessary. I’ll adapt, I’ll be fine, and my memory about how horrible all the kids were is probably extremely blurry and skewed. Let’s be real, I only remember one knife fight in my 13 years of schooling.

Every culture is unique, and I know how important it is to learn about my students’ cultures and incorporate them into my work, but does every culture require some sort of special, secret teaching skill? No, of course not. Teaching with love, passion, and curiosity is across the board—that’s all I need…which is good, because sometimes I feel like that’s all I have to offer as a teacher.

Hopefully, my Mexican kids will love me just as much as my little mixed plate loco mocos do here. Hopefully they won’t judge me based on the fact that my Spanish is only at an intermediate level (only when I’m drunk). At least I know all the bad words, that’ll be helpful.

I will adapt and I will do it FAST, just like I did here. I still remember the first time I tried poke and spam musubi, thinking they looked like the most disgusting things I’d ever seen. Look at me now—using chop sticks like a pro and giving directions like a local.

I still say flip-flops, not slippahs. Not budging on that one.

I’ll miss this place and I’ll miss these people so much. I don’t think I’ll ever love my students more than I love these, my Hawaii babies, my keiki. But you never know. All I can do is try.

Happiness=Groceries(x) ?

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The grocery store seems to be the only place where one can feel completely alone, yet completely free at the same time.

I look at the boy, my age, carrying a bowl of poke in one hand and a 7-Up in the other. Two hands; two items. His skateboard is tucked under an arm like an afterthought. If he is a boy, I am undoubtedly a girl.

I look down into my basket, hoping to see something more respectable, anything that doesn’t scream, “I AM SINGLE AND POOR AND I AM GOING TO GO EAT THIS RAW FISH AND DRINK THIS 7-UP IN FRONT OF THE TV PLAYING VIDEO GAMES ALL NIGHT.” I see a gallon of milk, three apples, and a carton of eggs. I am no better. I am single, I am poor. These are the only items that ever seem to need refilling in my lonely, clean kitchen. It’s a big day when my cart holds slick chicken breasts, a rain stick of spaghetti noodles, or an icy bag of broccoli. It’s sad how big those days are.

Today I wheel toward the check-out line, mulling over the boy and his purchase. How amazing. To go into Foodland every single day maybe, just to buy that night’s dinner. Tomorrow, maybe he’ll go with bagel bites and a water. I could see that. The point is, it’s beautiful—to be careless, to be selfish.

I won’t always have this kind of choice (well, maybe I will, but most likely and hopefully no). There will be a day when grocery shopping means thinking of someone else’s wants, needs, and allergies ha! One day, cooking won’t mean leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. Maybe I won’t be able to avoid meatloaf, sauerkraut, or olives. Maybe I won’t be able to add mushrooms and tomatoes to every single dish I create. The truth is, it’s nice, cooking for someone—seeing a familiar smile after that first bite, feeling mischievous arms around your hips as you stir.

There will be a day in which my grocery cart may in fact hold another human being. Scary thought, makes me cringe currently. But it’s true.

However, at the moment, I am incredibly, undeniably free. If I wanted, for a month straight I could live off the year-old Ramen and oatmeal packages that are cowering in the corner of my pantry. This is a time in my life that I should soak up and photograph, rejoice in its liberty.

And yet…I see the family in front of me, their basket overflowing with oddities I’ve never given a glance (diapers, dinosaur shaped macaroni, formula). I see their teeth, their glow, their hands squeezing. I could reach out and touch the happiness if I wanted.

I can’t help but wonder: is bliss inversely related to the emptiness of a grocery cart?

I look again at my milk, sweating onto the green plastic bottom of my basket. Perhaps.

Then the baby starts wailing, simultaneously causing 20+ magazines to crash to the tiled floor with one sweep of her miniature leg. I head to the Express Checkout, biting my lip to keep from laughing in relief. Perhaps not.