Sunday, December 16, 2007

futurism vs. passeism

i've been listening to a lot of blonde redhead lately, a reminder that i too, was once 15 and incredibly moody. and as i'm trying to think of a way to close this out, i have been taking stock of the projects i've been doing:

- digital zine unit plan utilizing the conception of voice and writing workshops for peer and self evaluation of portfolio work. integrating web 2.0 tools into their productions so that they can have creative control of the medium that their writing best represents. (the possibilities are endless, how do i scaffold?)
- movie starring some very special 3rd and 4th graders.
- burning 20 copies of said movie for parents, as fundraiser for class.
- video starring our 4th and 5th hour, to be played for them on the last day before winter break.
- rwt, which i am *enjoying* putting together?!?
- DVD of kitze's and my semester so far.
- finish knitting scarf for kitze.
- myspace-ing my students. having j. send me an message today saying, "Miss, I promise to be better in class. It will start right now." after I pulled him out of class on Thursday.
- writing a grant for 3 books I will need in the spring.
- setting up gradual roots in cali.
- creative presents for the close few who love the made tokens.
- writing letters.
- reading for fun.
- blogging like a maniac.

only 4 on that list are sans technology, as in, technology that i have been loaned by this program. knitting, crafting, writing, reading. i've always been the same, i just keep finding more ways to express myself. writing lessons has become an obsession. collecting resources my hobby.

and yes, i've answered my own question. small increments of contact can sustain you for this long. i am proud of myself for looking forward. i've had a breakthrough. and i love my life. it always comes together in the end. i have been charmed.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

teleportation station

my final thoughts on technology:

(j/k, it's a poem about teleportation. final thoughts to come... after web 2.0)

this will eventually be a short story about the lengths that long distance lovers will go to in order to see one another, in this case, by volunteering to be a guinea pig for a teleportation device. purely hypothetically speaking, of course, heh. (i can't wait to be there, less than two weeks...)


each time, i would volunteer.
i would be the first to test it,
let the metal bite down around
my shoulders.
i would drain seas and drink air,
open vortexes to new dimensions
in the same instant so that
my body can travel lightly.

these particles can distribute
themselves all over in an instant,
but i want the control.
i want to see two worlds at once.

risk is laid to cool rest
under my tongue.
i would empty my chest,
place my heart on the table
and let you watch it stop,
to show you what this means.
when my breath hits your face
and you smile. a sideglance
gleaming off of your cheek.
your index finger tracing
a circle around my spine.

these are why i'd risk dying everytime,
to open the latch,
let the smoke dissipate
and find you here.


this urgency has become a theme in all i do. i blame t.v. and it's focus on instant gratification (my kids wrote an essay about pro's/con's of TV).


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

RIP Phenzwaan 1977-2007

a dear friend passed away this morning, the circumstances of which are unfortunate, and he has been taken from this world much too soon. his talents were numerous and his voice, his spirit, his passion are things that i will always take with me. his impact on my life has been so large and i am one of so many that he has touched, through his words or through his presence. i am struggling to understand, but believe he will find us again, in another form. here is a poem that does not even begin to do justice to his beauty. you can find his work here: (i'm having trouble getting the link to post, sorry)

for phenzwaan

this has been a year
when the words died.
when great wordsmiths
have muted their breath
for a braver journey,
and i'm finding my heroes
slowly fading, stars
burned out in a galaxy
i have not yet found
on any map of mercy.

time rushes with age and
i find myself moving
too fast to reach back,
grasp your hands again.
you, ascending
and my acceleration
breaches the plane of
touch, this emotion
has exponents that my
eyes cannot look up
high enough to graph.

we make a mantra,
we mumble. we say it
louder, tomorrow is not
, bring me your best
everyday. i always say
i love you when i leave you.
and i am used to this,
but i never remember
the sharp slice and dull deluge.

how it feels to close my
lips around your name
and know that you will
never hear my voice.
the numbers on my hands
grow, the names i say
in my head in that
part of the prayer,
there are more lights
that fade in my eyes.

i don't know of a better
reason to meditate on
the moments of morse
code we sent back and
forth across violent seas
while trying to name
our reigns of lighting.
we licked the waves and
our wounds, afterward.

i command you now to heal.
i conjure every word you wrote
down and deem it doctrine
of this religion of verse
that i worship. you preach
every time a breath reaches
up to you. you breathe always
in the vibrancy of your voice.

love always,

Saturday, December 1, 2007

the four billy goats and the elephant.

is the name of the production we're putting on next friday at roosevelt elementary school in keego harbor. it's gonna rock! having just shot it today, i can tell you this for sure, especially with the effects that i'm figuring out on (the link goddesses are not with me at this time). soooo looking forward to it. i was on the floor shooting the scenes from different angles and we had so much fun, then i stayed to play some games of set, got some real cute photos of all the kids. a slide show and bloopers reel will totally be on the dvd, not for nuthin.

hey, and in the name of some really great music, check out this video of the seven chakraz, one of my fave groups, at the elbow room last night with belikos. mmm belikos.

(insert here, as soon as the link works)

caroline and i had fun dancing with ourselves. paul and i wiled out, like we do. good times. back to mad studying. it was fab to get out for a minute, as i've been on the mend and stuck on the couch, watching many marathons of CSI with my dad. but oh, how life is great when dad and i can appreciate horatio caine (david caruso) with all of our hearts. thought i still love las vegas better. forensic science nerd, holla! happy weekend, i'll see you in the grad lab.


Friday, November 16, 2007

digital zine thoughts.

so, i've been thinking a lot about a cumulative project for the end of my unit/end of the semester that is able to highlight my students' progess in myriad ways, utilizing the technology that we have available to us in order to give kids choice in how they choose to develop their work. i see it happening like this:

alt-x - where the digerati meet the literati (clever catchphrase!)

a place either divided by genre, by topic, or even divided by students (such as, you can see all of destinee's work here) that can highlight a few pieces of their best work, which they would select and develop in preparation to "publish" it. workshopping would be integral to the process, we would also integrate editorials, persuasive essays, journalistic pieces, poetry, fiction, rhyming, acting, and i would allow students to visually represent their ideas, as well. i think about using comic life to create comic books, having them make videos of themselves performing their work (or videos as their work). there are endless possibilities to how this could go.

but we are limited by not being able to post these things online like as a regular e-zine, so i'm thinking a DVD format would work best. but i worry about students not being able to share it with their folks for lack of technology, so i would want to have a viewing of their work, inviting parents in to go through the zine with their kids, or even having live performances from their work in the zine.

all of these ideas are just forming, so this is a think-aloud, essentially. but i think that it could be an incredibly fun project for students and we could integrate much of the benchmarks into a semester-long mega-unit that culminates here. i'm going to propose it and i'm going to start getting the words into my head so that i can see what grants i can write.

and i'm glad i suddenly have my unit plan forming - but just like my individual lesson plans, which can never seem to fit into one class period, my unit plan will not fit into 5-6 weeks, ha. my inner overachiever really is a gay man with delectable taste - who tends to think large and elaborate. you know how i do.

oh, and having Pete come to us from Clemente yesterday was amazing! more about that soon.


Monday, November 12, 2007


i want to post the video we "found" about school reform for tomorrow's 649 class SO BADLY, but i cannot give it away. check back here again after tuesday night. i also wanted to talk quickly about the fact that "Crashboomlove" is the best book of poetry i've read in awhile and i'm sure that my students will be into it during my poetry unit in the spring. i'm thinking about writing a grant to get copies for my students for free, i bet i could talk to ming louie, from the detroit public library about how to go about this. speaking of ming, here's a magic trick that he did when he was talking about the program we're participating in:

oh and there's nothing like getting an idea and then getting the chance to implement it almost immediately -- my kids are doing projects on "the watsons go to birmingham" and wouldn't you know it? a bunch of them want to do claymation dioramas, ha!

anyhoo, back to old english, where i belong to beowulf.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

text msg break up

if you've ever seen kelly's text msg break up video, you'll appreciate this. but if you've ever worked on a text analysis, you will also appreciate this. the part of me will be played by me. the part of text analysis is played by will mcgrath. (and this is an actual transcription of said break-up w/ t.a.)

me: text analysis, we're breaking up. i've spent too much of my life on you.

text analysis:
baby wait! i can change. just give me one more chance. i... i love you.

me: no! i've heard this all before. i'm tired of being the only one who works on this relationship.

t.a.: me me me! that's all you were ever intersted in!

me: true, the text was amazing, but you were only ever interested in my body, not in my mind! i'm through!


p.s. i'm done!!!!


Friday, November 2, 2007

claymation and playmation

yay to claymation! katie j. and i had a lot of fun making this lil nugget, using i-movie and stop-animation... i feel that stop animation videos will be making many blog appearances in the future, as they are time consuming, but incredibly fun! i hope i can find a way to use them with my students, who are always talking about how they want to do dioramas and creative projects, maybe they can use this to illustrate a scene from a novel we're working on (the watsons go to birmingham?) i would have to think of ways for everyone to work on one... such as some people being responsible for creating the figures, some people taking photos, some people working on set, some people responsible for the final edit/music/etc. maybe i could work with mr. dominguez in the mac lab at school, so that more students could be involved, taking the rough material and making it their own through the editing process. that would be pretty cool!

i also wanted to talk about my day at roosevelt elementary... we are working on producing two plays; i'll be making them into movies and showing them publicly at the school in the beginning of december (it's on a friday morning, if anyone wants to go to the final viewing!). today i worked with 9 students; we did a reading of the script and the kids were so cute, so dramatic! we rehearsed "the billy goats gruff", assigned parts, understudies and backstage crew to help with direction, sets, costumes, etc. we brainstormed for some set and costume ideas and i had both the actors and the understudies first do a read-through (while sitting at a conference table, they felt so grown up!) and then started to mark it out... showing me where the bridge should be that the goats trot, trot, trot over and what other types of set requirements they had for their "masterpiece". i'm trying to be helpful in giving them direction but also let them be creative with it, as they have a lot of great ideas. 3rd and 4th graders are so much fun, and it was cute that they were very excited to see me, even though they'd only just met me last week. and elementary school kids are fun because you just have to act excited, and that excitement will radiate, and absorb into them.

not to mention, carrie is a really wonderful teacher. she has the kids in very strong routines that are incredibly effective, from quieting them down to communicating with them about cleaning up, how much time is left, and she does this call and response thing with them, as well as has a class currency, where students earn them for positive behavior, answering a question correctly, listening attentively, etc. and have to give them up for unruly behavior, or to buy supplies and fun things (cool pencil cases, erasers, computer time, etc.) i remember doing something like that in 5th grade, but it wasn't worked so completely into every aspect of the classroom. anyway, i'm excited to go back next week.

and now to stop procrastinating on completing my text analysis.


Friday, October 26, 2007

from our 504 class today, a digital story about the end of the world, thanks to the damn conceptual terrorists.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

happy halloween...

october bulletin board
Originally uploaded by writeinblue
read a good booooooooooooooook. ha ha. our classroom bulletin board for this past month. some suggestions from books i'm reading:

- gender play by barrie thorne
- gender: an ethnomethodological approach by suzanne kessler and wendy mckenna
- hope was here by joan bauer (young adult book, teaching next spring)
- homeboyz by alan sitomer (young adult book, teaching next spring)
- teaching community: a pedagogy of hope by bell hooks
- sister outsider by audre lorde
- black feminist thought by patricia hill collins
- the watsons go to birmingham (young adult, teaching right now)
- persepolis (graphic novel) by marjane satrapi

anyhoo... back to class.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

i am claiming closet traditionalist

"science is a self-evaluating way of viewing the world". -michael's dad
(a quote that came from a conversation about how knowledges need to be continually revised, but in dominant culture "fact" stays "fact" even after it is disproven)

in our methods class last night, we were sharing our records of practice on our "Challenges of Teaching Writing" project, a mixture of video interviews, student work, and other proof of our mentor teachers' approach to grammar vs. content, in different genres of writing (personal essay, analytical essay, informal journaling). i admit that i am a stickler for grammar, which makes it unfortunate sometimes when i see my students' writing that has potential, but lacks mechanics. i do think that i'm doing a disservice to my students if i don't comment on these errors and set high expectations for their written work, but the reality of the situation (as i recorded in a really great interview with my mentor today) is that they don't tend to remember these things year to year (it's like they forget them over the summer!)

gillian termed me a closet traditionalist, because it would appear from the surface of my positionality that i would be less-focused on traditional aspects of teaching english, and more toward progressive models. while i do aim to teach for understanding of concepts, themes, connecting prior knowledge to text... i think that syntactical structures for writing (be it personal, creative or analytical, expository) are crucial for being able to effectively communicate your ideas. for me, this is not an arbitrary stance, but incredibly political.

i aim to educate my students in the language of power (orwell) in order to empower them in having access to a world that they may not choose to participate in (i.e. dominant or mainstream culture, the business world, etc.), but i do not have the right, as a teacher, to decide for them their destiny by allowing them to not learn standard English. i also think it's crucial for ME to respect and learn AAVE, Spanish and the other languages that my students speak, and have a responsibility to educate myself, because i don't believe that they dominant language is the most important one for them to learn, or that it holds authority over all other forms, dialects of English (or other languages), but being that we live in a society that values standard English and literacy in it as cultural currency directly related to success, I want my students to know it, so that they can subvert it.

i have always believed in the power of changing the system by infiltrating it, so perhaps that's why i would not seem at first glance to believe in tradition... but i think it's important to know it in order to fight it, in a certain sense. more on this later.

and now for something completely different, a video about fall colors (as taken on the train to chicago last weekend), featuring the sounds of my good friend krts.

the forest falls

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

quick links and a lil diatribe.

first of all, tou fue posted this about the achievement gap between white and black students (always the binary) in Ann Arbor Public Schools. I found it incredibly interesting (and not surprising) because we often look at the disparities between two communities (Savage Inequalities), but not often does the microscope turn intracommunity. So, when the same amount of money is spent on students and the achievement gap is still there, we know that you can't just throw money at the problem, that there is something much more inherent in the culture of our school systems that fosters some students to excel, while tracking and limiting others. Ah, how schools are a microcosm of society.

and then this, which makes me incredibly upset as it speaks to the fact that while many folks trapse through this country thinking that racism is done and over with, it's acts like these (and like the jena 6 series of events, which also started with nooses) that eerily recall a period of time not so long ago in our nation's history when it was not just nooses being hung, but people in those nooses.

And to pull the two together, while slavery has been over for nearly 150 years, and while there were some major advances in civil and educational rights for people of color in the 60's and 70's, the long-lasting effects are still evident in so many ways, from the digital divide to the achievement gap, from graduation rates to MEAP test scores, from who goes to college and who doesn't to the occupations that we "choose" (because is it always choice? and if so, choice for whom? and how does social culture and structure affect choice?) and how they affect wealth and socioeconomic upward mobility.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

careful caution while proceeding.

"Pedagogy that begins with the egoistic interests of the oppressors (an egoism cloaked in the false generosity of paternalism) and makes the oppressed the objects of its humanitarianism, itself maintains and embodies oppression. It is an instrument of dehumanization." -Paulo Freire.

I want to tread carefully when I talk about this, because it is not meant to implicate anyone as dehumanizing their students. It is surely a critique that I too must internalize and think about very critically and seriously, but it's just something I want to bring light to. I've been re-reading some of my old critical theory faves (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Pedagogy of the City both by Paulo Freire, Teaching Community, A Pedagogy of Hope by bell hooks and We Make the Road By Walking by Paulo Freire and Myles Horton) and I want to keep in mind that while we're all seeking to empower our students through the skills that we can teach them, it is dangerous to approach students from a paternal perspective, where we set ourselves up as the "hero" that "saves" them from (i.e. Dangerous Minds' message) as this perspective is based on a power dynamic that reinforces social, racial and economic classes as they are. This is not revolutionary or emancipatory education.

This topic comes to mind because it is a mistake that lots of educators make, with regard to caring about their students and believing that they wholeheartedly have their students' best interests in mind. Sometimes I think that white educators go into urban schools because they will feel better about themselves at the end of the day, for doing "the good, Christian work" of helping others, but what Freire is saying is that if we adopt that attitude when approaching our students, we are doing nothing to disrupt power structures and free them from oppression. It definitely takes shape when teachers are making the choice as to where they want to work and examining why. Lots of educators go with the "I want to work in urban public schools, those poor kids" train of thought, which seems altruistic at first glance, but is really more selfish and egotistic than the hypothetical-teacher-in-question could ever dream of. What assumptions about the lives and experiences of your students do you make when you approach it this way? How can you effectively engage them? What will you do on a daily basis to ensure that they are getting what they need to walk away from school more prepared for a world that is set-up to deny them their right to a prosperous life? What skills can you teach them to survive in their reality? What is the disconnect between what the state says they need to learn and what they will actually use?

I'm not expressing myself very clearly today because I have a lot of assignments weighing heavily on my brain. But I guess I can tell you now that there are some educators I've known who are not even on the level of misguided attempts at altruism by choosing jobs in the city; I've run into many people who flat out will not work in urban schools, but who "admire" me for my decision to firmly plant my feet in my home and look around me, telling my students that they can do this. Who want to hear the exploitative stories of how rough my school is and of the gang violence and teen pregnancy, because it continues to feed their stereotypes about who my students are and what they are capable of. Yes, they have a lot more to deal with on a daily basis, but I should not be celebrated for choosing to work with them, how racially charged is that when you remove it from context? I feel an obligation to their survival as a fellow human being, and try to open up doors out the ghetto (and even within the ghetto) for them through teaching them how to critically think about themselves in the world, and how to read and write exceptionally well.

It's so damn difficult, especially during standardized tests, to look at the girl who came to school starving, soaked in the rain from walking a mile without an umbrella, and think that she could ever be expected to perform at the same level as a her suburban white counterpart, who came to school with a full belly, had a ride from a loving parent and a lunch made with care. The fact that these inequities still exist and will continue to exist until our society also begins to see value in all people is disheartening, yes, but inspiring in its great challenge.

Anyway, this is in the vein of teachers needing to be advocates for their students, but if we are going to take on the task of teaching, we need to destroy this authoritative context to our work. Yes, we have a curriculum to teach, but what do they already know? It is our job in seeking to be effective teachers that we begin by getting to know who they are and what they know already, and then finding ways to make our curriculum relevant to their lives. But first we need to make their lives relevant to us, see how we are all interconnected and think long & hard about where we choose to work and what factors inform that decision.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

my inner over-achiever is an effeminate man.

we decided that rachel's inner overachiever is a large burly man.
michael's inner overachiever is a voluptuous woman.
my inner overachiever is an effeminate man.

these personifications as applied to our collective overachievers seem to fit incredibly well, toward the nature of their effects on our styles of working. just an interesting moment in after-school thinking that pleases me because of the gender-bending aspect. (for context, these make particular sense when you consider our physical comportment...)

i've been thinking much about my sociology of gender class as i approach technology in the classroom these days, and many of the gendered ways that my students see and interact with technology (re: boys being the ones to help me or my mentor teacher by coming up to the front of the classroom and attempting to help us fix the overhead/computer/printer/AV equipment) and their roles in the classroom, as far as participation in discussions, handing out papers/materials (a "girl's job" as described by rick in 4th hour, though this particular gangsta 14 year old is self-assured enough to volunteer for it all the time. love him).

in middle school particularly, the presence of gender is incredibly flagrant sometimes -- from physical seats that students take in class (Barrie Thorne, Gender Play, Boys and Girls together, but mostly apart), to the roles and personalities of students within the classroom (i.e. louis taking the role of the "class clown" sometimes as he uses humor in a masculine attempt to devalue what we're reading as "stupid" and "girly" if it pertains to poetry/creative writing). It seems sometimes that the boys are afraid to admit that they understand, connect with a text or answer questions and prompts from the teacher, or will be more apt to make fun of a character, emotion or idea that is deemed by their peers as feminine, in order to place themselves directly in contrast and masculinize their presence vocally in the classroom. i'm also reminded of herbert kohl's book "i won't learn from you", and it's been years since i've read it, but specifically, willful not-learning as a statement of defiance, with regard to race and assimilation into dominant culture.

i think often about how English, as a subject in school, has been gendered as a class in which females are culturally expected to excel (especially in the creative sections) and males are culturally expected to disengage in English/Language Arts and excel in the science/math/computer realm. we talked about this extensively in our digital divide presentation a few weeks ago and i notice it also in how teachers can be gendered in the subject area they teach (many, but not all of course, English teachers are women). within my school, i also notice that there is a technology coordinator who is female and teaches computer classes, and a male computer teacher, who is often the person to whom questions about how the school network is configured are defaulted, even though ms. yglesias was the person to set-up the network.

anyway, these classes are intersecting in very interesting ways, and as we're looking at how children perform and are socialized into gender as they enter into school, and how students have agency in their own perceptions and performances of gender, but how their interactions (within a structural and cultural context) are integral in kids understanding their own gender and what "gender" means in their lives (run-on sentence, i'm aware). we're specifically looking at kids entering school (at 4 and 5 years old), though of course, i'm noticing how all of this is present and prevalent in my middle school students, very visibly in their bodies and interactions, as they're all dealing with becoming adults in a very stagnantly gendered society. what is their specific developmental stage and heavy peer-influenced interaction shaping in their minds as we speak? what notions of gender are they undoing and defying as they learn to interpret this new territory? what borders are they crossing to test the limits? i have so many questions for them.

and as always, you cannot divorce gender from the ways that race, ethnicity and class affect the lives of students... as what it means to become a Mexican-American woman in Detroit to my 8th graders is different from it means to become a Caucasian-American woman in Ann Arbor in 8th grade, and this process of understanding and emulating begins very early, though i have to say -- it is incredibly interesting to me to take a look at how socially reinforced some of these behaviors are, by both fellow students and teachers/administrators in the building.

just some thoughts...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

welcome to the sMACdown

oh okay, you can... consider it a tease, so that you know what you're in for. everyone should come, our presentation is going to rock!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

virtual college and the digital divide

this is ms. yglesias, the tech coordinator at earhart middle school, and her thoughts on the digital divide.

i'm so proud of myself! it's been a tech-day, and i have great blogworthy things to say that are DIRECTLY relevant to technology in the school and in the students' lives. of course, since our digital divide "episode" is coming up on friday (you'll see and should come!), everything has been themed that as we put our presentation together and have an excellent time doing it. one interesting aspect from my research was a report published by the university of toronto which talks about the multiplicity of the divides and insists that "divide" should always be plural, as they are interconnected but have different elements. this is similar to the concept of multiple literacies that is always on the front burner of my brain, as both are often seen as singular and finite, but are both on a continuum. more thoughts on this on friday (stay tuned, insert shameless self-promotion here).

today in my placement was especially tech-shaped as i not only spent some time with ms. yglesias talking about such things, but we set up my gaggle account and on thursday i am going to help her set up the rest of my students' accounts. we also attempted to look at, but the site was down for maintenence, and even MORE exciting: my students are part of a pilot program with Wayne County Community College this semester. they are going to be taking an online college course (they're 8th graders!!) at WCCC and "become" virtual college students. mr. vasquez, the principal, emphasized the authenticity of this program by letting them know that we will be touring the campus, that they will receive ID cards and have access to the libraries and computer labs of WCCC. they will receive a syllabus and course-work that they must complete independently, first through their computer classes as part of the curriculum, but scaffolding them into doing some of the work at home. the class is called "career development and preparation 101" and the program consists of 3 middle school pilot groups in detroit.

and here's the real cool as hell thing. if they pass, they receive real college credit for taking the class. we filled out actual WCCC applications today with them in English class and had them write statements of purpose for the application. the program is designed to get the students interested in self-actualized learning and to show them that they can handle college-level work - it's just analytic, metacognitive thinking and self-direction.

the students were elated. they are so incredibly excited and said that they felt differently after we went back to 1st hour after the assembly. you could tell by the way that they carried themselves. mr. vasquez said to them "this is something that i believe you can do, and you can excel at. you're the first 8th graders in detroit to be college students! go home and tell your parents that you're a college student now and talk to them about this." it was adorable and you could see in their eyes that this was an opportunity that seemed surreal and strange to them. but the matter-of-fact approach that mr. v took and his enthusiasm spread from little giggles to wide-spread smiles on their faces by the end of the assembly.

i am soo excited to begin. and on a joking level, mr. vasquez (the principal) said "and for those of you lucky enough to have ms. fardig as your student teacher, now you can say to her, 'i'm on your level, man!'" they looked at me and i was like "it's true, you are!" i love my students more and more every day. and how ironic that on the day i come ready to discuss the digital divide, my students gain such a great technological opportunity seemingly out of the blue.


Sunday, September 9, 2007

9/11 - 6 years later.

6 year strut.
trying to make sense of what i saw and breathed, 6 years later.
(a work in progress, your comments and dialogue are much appreciated)

This will be the 6 year anniversary of September 11; it's on a Tuesday morning again and the weather in Detroit looks like it will mirror that bright and cloudless day. The only clouds we saw were the plumes of smoke encasing the city like the largest crime scene I've ever lived in. This year, I will spend it at school, but thinking deeply about what it all means now (as I do not only on the anniversaries, but frequently throughout my days), and not getting into the hype about record sales. Why do we always divert our attention from what's really important to the superficial media-fed story-of-right-now that no one will remember in a few years? I know that albums always drop on Tuesdays, but have some respect.

Here's some numbers I want to throw your way. 6 years later, 4 and 1/2 years of war against a shape-shifting enemy, nearly 3,000 civilians killed in New York, 3,761 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq (which was not the original location for our retaliation, but a secondary locale), 3,300 of which have been since the capture of Saddam Hussein. 78,065 Iraqi people have died and while there is some military effort to stop the killing of civilians there, we still cannot own up to calling them people. We call them casualities, unfortunate “inevitabilities” of our glorious attempt to “liberate” the people of Iraq from an awful regime. Because when our royal texas son of a leader is trying to redefine imperialism and domination through ballistic warfare, when there are two sides to a binary story and folks are misinformed by the media but convinced of our patriotic rightness and “their” dark and terrible wrongness, we continue to support this war through our own inaction.

While watching ‘Sicko’ a few months ago, my friends and I mourned the ability (or desire) for large-scale protests in America. Yes, there are tens of thousands of college-aged and left-wing radicals who do participate, who are going to marches in D.C. who were at the anti-WTO rallies in Seattle, who daily use direct action to make a difference and make people think. I am not trying to undermine the important work they do, but in a country of 300 million people, the proportion of active participants in public demonstrations are extremely small. Why don’t we? Do we feel so powerless that we have become wholly futilistic? Do we think that there are other ways to act and that large protests are meaningless? Do we just not care about anything outside of the health and well-being of our nuclear families?

6 years ago today, we were chalking the streets of the West Village with “do your own research on the wtc”, and “an eye for an eye makes us both blind”. We were marching against war in the streets for months, we were conducting teach-in’s about the history and beliefs of Islam in attempt to educate and reduce ignorant hate crimes in the city. There was an urgency to each move we made, and years later, I find myself disappointed in my own inability to stay active. Where has my own zeal gone? Do you realize the intense luxury in being able to be disconnected from the political sphere that implicitly affects your daily life? The technology of war has grown so that because we are not there, we are not inundated with its daily affects (with the exception of gas costs, economic depression, and general disgust with the U.S. when you travel abroad). This makes it all the easier for us to move about our lives concerned with our own needs and desires, and not with the well-being of others across the world, whose lives perish at our hands. There is blood on all of our hands.

See, here’s the thing I’ve always believed. Each human is connected through the commonalities of our struggles and hopes. We need basic things to survive, we strive to learn, grow and understand – even if only for communication’s sake and not for scholarly endeavors. We breathe, we have hearts that pump blood through us, we believe in family and the preservation of culture. We have evolved out of an oral tradition. We have always been able to heal ourselves and are resilient and tenacious creatures. What I’m so desperately trying to understand is a more broad question: how can we value ourselves over other people in the world? When a life stops, there is great loss, regardless of the dollars or debt that the person leaves behind. Regardless of national origin, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation. Who dares to stay that one life is more important than another? Our department of state, our military and president. Despite the legacy of this being a country founded on freedom, it was never meant to be freedom for all – ultimately, that’s much too dangerous.

When I think of September 11, I have the experience of being there, of watching those boy twins burst into smoke and exhale their exhaustion all over us. It was a metaphor that my favorite hip-hop group, the Coup, had put on the cover of their album, “Party Music”, which was released the week before Sept 11th– alluding to the destruction of capitalism as a necessary catalyst to achieving equality this country. It was a grand collapse over a stunned city of survivors, and it was the first time that I went to sleep with tanks on the streets not knowing what the world would look like tomorrow outside my window. If I would be so fortunate to wake.

When I did wake, I found it incredibly devastating to see the missing posters, which were pasted on every available wall, scaffold, bulletin board and window at eye level. There was a vigil on Union Square, right across the street from my house, for two weeks solid, though many of us met there for months afterward to strategize. There, I experienced something so incongruous to many tales of visiting New York – human connection with strangers. We exchanged our stories, let each other know about upcoming events, protests, and volunteer opportunities, distributed fliers, wrote down messages to the lost, deceased and their families. We used the space as a center for trying to understand and make sense of this, tried to put everything into a historical perspective instead of joining the reactionary war-mongers, who seethed with their desire to initiate revenge upon whosoever was responsible, regardless of why it happened. Forging a community in the midst of loss, we worked to honor the loss and understand the causes – explicit and implicit. While Guiliani credits himself on creating this community for New Yorkers, he did not once visit Union Square to speak to us.

I don’t think of this experience as unique, in fact I file it with those of people all over the world who have witnessed massive tragedy or scales of violence. It is of particular interest to me that large-scale destruction and death, in its spectacular glory of explosion, seems to outrank slow-but-steady genocide. Hiroshima (70,000 dead), Nagasaki (40,000 dead) often eclipse the Holocaust (almost 6 million dead) in discussions of WWII, because of the awesome visual spectacle and introduction of nuclear force, as well as the element of immense shame involved in such mass genocide, in retrospect. There are people who still believe that the Holocaust never happened, because it is easier than admitting that their fathers and grandfathers participated. I also tend to align events of this magnitude with natural disasters – such as hurricane Katrina (which killed 1,900 people and displaced tens of thousands), and the tsunami in Indonesia (killed 186,983 people) – but as it is with natural disaster, there is no enemy to blame except for an angry earth who is watching how we destroy her.

Despite many conservative attempts to disprove conspiracy theory and a mainstream media gag-order on divergent points of view, I will always believe in the conspiracy theory that Sept. 11th was allowed to happen by the U.S. government because our president had planned to finish a war that his father could not finish; but needed public support in order to justify it. This is to say, I believe that intelligence knew and chose inaction, that the president wagered a few thousand lives being worth the advantages of access-by-force into the middle east. I don’t see a blatant disregard for human life being so out of the question with the current administration, and in fact, find it utterly crucial to think about who passed away as important to how American grief was collected into war support. What if the planes had struck the low-income housing projects that line the East River, housing almost 10,000 people? Would we, as a nation, have reacted the same way? Would we have jumped up to support a war on terrorism in their names, too? As evidenced by government reaction (or lack thereof) to hurricane Katrina, I feel confident in saying that the outcome would have been different if it was not middle-class white business people who were mostly affected by the World Trade Center, Pentagon and flight 93 hijackings.

Being in New York at the time, I have heard countless stories of people who were called and warned the week before, were told not to fly, not to be in the area by their government-employed friends and relatives who were breeching confidentiality in order to warn their loved ones. I have heard and seen evidence on both sides with regard to the attack on the pentagon (see this video: and also this article from time magazine:,9171,1531304-3,00.html ). Conservative theorists look to debunk the conspiracy theory based on “expert” opinion, usually provided by someone who is in some way connected to the FBI, CIA or current administration. The left often does not have enough information to support its claims, in part due to immediate confiscations of surveillance tapes and other evidence by the FBI, who were there within minutes to collect evidence from non-government owned local businesses for their investigation. While I think it’s important to understand and to have the American people know what really happened on that morning, I find these debates to be ego-bashing and -tripping more often than they are genuinely useful toward logical, fact-based assessment of the events.

I don’t even know how to move forward and conclude these thoughts. Rereading some of the things I wrote six years ago (, I realize that I’ve made a very conscious disconnect from a lot of the war coverage, in attempt to distinguish war-mongering from reality. I feel like I don’t know as much as I should right now and am quite tentatively going to publish this. But after years of processing, talking, dialoguing, commenting, re-illustrating, telling my story and listening as much as possible to the stories of others, I still believe that education for social justice is at the crux of trying to envision a world that rises above this madness and looks to value the lives of all people, not just those in power. Critically educating people to understand themselves as citizens who can have power and DO have power, in the face of a media that seeks to keep us pacified and unquestioning, is a liberatory and difficult stance to occupy.

What I know is that the depth and breadth of the patriot act, as well as the subsequent loss of our civil liberties are incredibly alarming. The argument that you must give up certain freedoms in order to eventually be free is akin to the logic that we are at war in order to preserve peace. The fact that we are setting up democracies in other countries, modeled after our own corrupt and fraught system is ludicrous. I have always highlighted the importance in continuing to do your own research about the history of the U.S.’ involvement in the middle east, and how it affects our political and economic interests there today. I urge you to begin making connections between your own life and some of these issues (war, terrorism, national security, diplomacy, imperialism, racism, religion, oil) as they do affect each of us.

There are many ways to get involved and better understand our post-s11 politics and the detrimental affect on our society as well as global culture and politics. I do not wish to be prescriptive, but rather ask you to locate an organization that interests you. I ask you to think of the importance of participating in your democracy, which is corrupt, but can still function if we believe in our own power and start using it. Vote in local elections, as well as presidential ones. And always, keep talking to one another, challenging, thinking and questioning. Critical inquiry is at the basis of change. And at the end of the day, I have to remember that change is very slow, but I believe that education is at the root of change, and this is where I will be working.

In solidarity,
Lauren Fardig

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

first day madness

disclaimer: tech related in part, but i'm also in need to process the first day of school. jeff and liz, this is a cross-posting. i don't have my field journal with me, so these reactions and observations are off the dome. drawing off of the "participant observation" article, i realize that the most difficult part of my ethnographic observations of my classroom will be to be mindful of the language i use when writing down field notes. i am a practiced ethnographer and have often noted differences in language due to my background in English, but it will be crucial to keep good verbatim records of what is said, instead of summarizing.

tou fue and i arrived 45 minutes early on the first day, as i know the tendency for things to go wrong, especially in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants district of Detroit, and we wanted to feel fully prepared for the day. both of us were wearing an earhart dark blue polo shirt and khaki's, it made me feel like we were part of the team. kitze and i received some of our class rosters last week, but found quickly that they were quite wrong, as half of the students in our homeroom were not in the right place. miss kitze appeared flustered as she was trying to figure out where the students were who were supposed to be here. we kept hearing announcements over the loudspeaker as to the locations of stray students and new students located in the cafeteria.

to assist in bringing order to the situation, i found myself trying to take over the administrative duties of filling out the scan sheets, taking attendance records down to the attendance office (met mr. sanchez and the whole staff there, too) as well as passing out pencils and forms to students, who diligently filled out the 6 different forms that the district requires of them for attendance and scheduling/counseling. miss kitze sent students out originally to try and locate students that should've been there, and asked about the whereabouts of each student she named. when she came across a familiar name or face, she always asked if they had a brother or sister, or if she had substitute taught them -- and in many cases, remembered the exact play, story or science lesson she was teaching when she met them.

i located myself at her desk, in the front corner of the classroom, and introduced myself to the homeroom as the student teacher for the whole year, that I was from U of M and that i would be here tuesdays and thursdays. given the chaos of the day, i decided that i would take a more observational stance but try to be helpful to ms. kitze as much as i could. the first question they asked me was whether or not i had a myspace account. i learned that the school system has a social networking site called "gaggle" and that there's also a computer program that many of them used last year called "accelerated reader" that i want to learn more about. i also heard the word "ATLAS" thrown around a lot, which is a district-wide professional development seminar/program that they're involved in, and must do more research on that.

the homeroom time that we spent together was spent on going over lunchroom procedures, locker procedures, reminding them about dress code -- i did not participate in most of this section, but noticed that our homeroom is quite talkative and seem to know each other quite well. i noticed that some students were not in dress code, but they have the first few weeks of school to "get into" dress code and can be provided with proper attire by a special program at the school if they cannot afford it. miss kitze told me between class changes that 100% of the students are below the poverty level in this school.

i took particular notice of locker assignments, which was one of the things that we did during lunch, before the students were called down to the lunchroom. the majority of homeroom divided themselves up into pairs for splitting up lockers, but i noticed that there were 5 students - serge, griselda and i have yet to learn the other 3's name - who didn't have partners and had to go out into the hall with kitze to be paired up. i noticed the way that serge looked at the floor the whole time. these students also were all seated at the back of the class and didn't seem to be interacting with the rest of the homeroom class with the vigor of the majority. kitze and i discussed this after class).

we then went to ms. brakefield's room down the hall for the ATLAS portion of the day -- which were activities designed to build school pride and community within the houses -- for instance, we're in house A and the teachers thought that it would be good to have the opening activity acquaint the students with the teachers in house A (even though we will not be teaching them), as well as giving us an idea of who the students are in house A, so that we can begin to get to know them. since each teacher MUST stand in the hallway right outside of their door between passing periods, the teachers want to know which students are supposed to be in the house and who isn't.

this is to be continued later... i must go to class, but here are some highlights -- after watching ms. kitze and ms. brakefield teach two sections of the activity about amelia earhart's life, i taught the final two... assessing KWL (prior Knowledge, Wonder/Want to know and Learned through the activity) before reading a page on her life and accomplishments. we asked the students to pull out two facts about her life and were interesting to them and also to define a few vocabulary words. each subject area (science, math, social studies) had their own related activity -- for instance, the math classes took at a look at angles of flight patterns and the science classes looked at directionality variables with paper planes).

there is much more to say about getting to know the students during lunch, and what happened after lunch when our real classes came for short sessions with us. class personalities and the differences between them are no joke!

anyhoo... this is just the beginning, it was a hectic day, but i loved every moment of the chaos, and ms. kitze responded by just laughing about it "what else can i do?" she asked. i need to break out the old ethnographical lens again. and learn that it's okay to be long-winded, i'll have a lot of "evidence" to sift through. ooh, and i want to talk about generational differences in technological know-how as i feel that i may become the tech expert of the classroom (there is a technology coordinator as well as a computer teacher -- the computer teacher is a mac specialist, mr. dominguez, and the tech specialist is ms. yglesias, i need to talk to her about the existence of a digital projector for my laptop, note to self).


Thursday, August 23, 2007

from the beginning til the end of it.

jurassic 5 on my mind, quality control has been the soundtrack to the season. i met with mary (my mentor teacher) at her home in novi yesterday. we've planned out our first essay and in an effort to get to know the students, i'm going to be videotaping a performance of their "all about me" intro essays... we were both bringing up ideas for projects and she's letting me take over the poetry unit in february, as well as the persuasive essay unit. she made it clear that because of detroit funding issues, the first two months of school really are all about the MEAPs, and she found my interest in diving in and collaborating with her on curriculum to be cool.

with a new superintendent in the schools, she broke it down to me quickly: "i don't tend to plan until i get there, because they change it up on us every year, i don't know what the expectations are, and we have to run by the pacing charts, so... we fly by the seat of our pants." she's really excited to explore the kinds of projects and group work we can accomplish with two of us and it already feels like we're on a team. every sentence seemed to end with "we're on the same page" as a conjunction. and though i know already that our styles are different, (when i told her that i was doing the videotaping records of practice thing, she said "oh my god! i better plan exciting lessons, ha!") i can already tell that she's the type of teacher that her students remember for years.

we went over MAC's guidelines and expectations and talked about some of our own objectives, as well as some of the nitty gritty (weekly lesson plans are due on mondays, she will be printing a copy for me for records of practice. we talked about me saving a copy of worksheets/student work, and about their do-it-now (bellwork) journals. thursdays we're going to have a weekly meeting, her prep period is last period, so many details so little time.) over and over again i hear "get to know the secretaries, the janitors, the lunch ladies, the security staff. we talked about dress code for students and teachers, the heat index in her classroom, obtaining a digital overhead for my laptop so we can do powerpoint, i feel like it's alllll taking shape. 2 professional development days and 2 days to set up/clean/organize the classroom next week. i am so incredibly excited, i just can't hide it.

and now back to organizing the effective teaching handbook.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


has been quiet. being the dork that i am, i made a list of objectives. i have watched much golf and csi with my dad. been to shows, dog parks (to meet my mentor teacher!), punk week, chilled with my cousins, gone mini golfing, dancing, karaoke-ing, had a lot of fun. still reading books, still listening to common, not quite ready to go back to the world yet. but i've been keeping busy. i want to volunteer as a mentor at the peace center, i want to make the effort to not have my best friends become acquaintances this year. i saw sparks. but what i've learned is that you all are becoming my good friends, too.

i awake to find no peace of mind. said how do you live as a fugitive? (there has been a coldplay influence, too)

Monday, August 6, 2007

how are myspace/facebook infringing on our own civil liberties?

now, this is not surprising, but it's still hella creepy (excuse my lack of intellectual language, the substantive conversation paper has been leeching my brain). i just wrote an email earlier today in which i had asked an educator friend of mine how he felt about having his students on his myspace page -- as i have to think about how to edit mine before heading into schools. they will find me (as will potential employers and many other folks unbeknownst to me) i think i've already talked about this once in my blog, but it represents my burning desire to be fully ME whereever i am, and realizing how i need to tone certain parts of myself down for my students. for instance, especially this year working in a middle school, i really don't need them stumbling onto my page and finding out that i'm not straight. the question of coming out to students is kind of another ball game...

the question i wanted to ask was -- why, as someone who considers myself to be an informed cultural critic and very much a conspiracy theorist, am i participating in this so completely? i admit that part of my myspace obsession is about vanity, but part of it is also about staying connected with friends from all over the world, being able to be updated on their lives by seeing their pages as "records of life", i'll also admit that i like to use myspace as ethnography -- but as liz pointed out in a comment on an earlier blog, the internet has been archived for the past 10 years or so... how can i be supplying so much information about myself and my beliefs? i know i've been on CIA/FBI lists for years because of my activist work, but didn't realize how my blogs might also put me there. add this entry to the list.

so, just advising you (and checking myself) to think about what you put up online. especially on sites that are "personal networking sites", as one of the ulterior motives of these are really marketing ploys (come on, myspace is owned by rupert murdock, it's not a better alternative to facebook, just a different flavor of evil) to gather massive amounts of information and identify trends in pop culture to increase consumption. what are the dangers of our ignorant participation? and how can we best use these tools for their benefits without putting ourselves at risk? i will continue thinking about this.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

i miss new york. my old neighborhood, ---> where it's about to be august and the heat is oppressive, but everyone is out in the streets. reggaeton blasting from every car, there is a vibrancy in every molecule of air in brooklyn during the summer. the city itself has such a strong august personality and will be much on my mind.
i have made a commitment to myself to read a lot over our break (a partial reading list to follow shortly), and while the pure volume of theory that we've been reading over the past six weeks does not seem conducive to reading for pleasure, i am also committing to reading one non-school book (or other form of text) per week during the fall -- as i'm thinking about going back into the classroom, i'm concerned that i haven't been reading enough content texts. i've been reading a lot about literacy and multiple literacies, but not challenging myself as a reader (well, except for speed-reading, which is quite challenging as a technique... but so satisfying!) to delve into new fiction, new poetry, and creative non-fiction, too.
i also had an epiphany today, after the dork squad drove me to my mom's office. i have learned so much in the past few days from our presentations on effective teaching. i want to make a handbook of effective teaching, using all of the records of practice from 695 and our lessons, so that we have something to go back to that is tactile and physical as we head into schools this fall.(or maybe an online resource? thoughts?) i have learned so much already from each of you in this program, and find myself blown away by how different each of our lessons have been, but how much i've taken away from each one.
oh... and while it's not quite done yet (i'm still waiting on some feedback -- there is another revision or two), i wanted to post the poem that i read at my friend's wedding last friday. thank you so much for all of your constructive criticism, it is much appreciated. in the wake of losing sekou and some disconnection with other poetic partners in crime, i realize that there is a large void in who i turn to for feedback. i need to start building that community again -- and given my hectic fall schedule, i get the feeling that this blog may start to take that shape, too. talk about a multi-tasker!

the diva and the poet
(for erin and tony - 7/27/07)

let me tell you something.

when we are in your living room
and talk, surrounded by coffee,
elephants and drawing
the circle bigger, you are two
that bellow large love in
its real form, from home.

you are exactly what i have
in mind when i envision how it could be
to locate my soul alive
in someone else's body.
the way your faces ignite
at the smallest exchange
of touch.

i adore what you
hold open to each other.
there is evidence in
the everyday of
your gentle care and loud passion.

for years, i have watched this grow.
for years, i have admired the
calibrated movement
between your hearts.

i would wish you luck, but
can say with certainty
that your love is how
strength is defined.

(love you big).

Friday, July 27, 2007

wheatley and lisa delpit

i have a terrible migraine today, which is upsetting b/c i'm supposed to be in a wedding in a few hours and i can't go outside - the lights are too bright. will i be standing there in my dress, with sunglasses on? probably. hot!

anyway, i've been thinking ahead to my placement a lot lately. i haven't yet met with my mentor teacher because of this wedding and general craziness and she lives in novi, but i will very soon - we are both incredibly excited to begin and i definitely get the sense that she will let me lead pretty early on... but my research topic for 695 and much of the reading on adolescent literacy we've been doing (i'm loving speedreading, by the way!) is really causing me to shape my inquiries on two things: engagement and classroom management.

i feel that i can have a strong grasp on engagement, i see myself experimenting all the time with new activities, new projects, new designs, in order to keep my students interested and engaged in the material. i know already that it will be generated from them. and that there is much planning and scaffolding that must go into a lesson plan so that choice can be implemented and done WELL. i am not just looking to teach some surface level factual thinking, i'm trying to teach for understanding, for critical thinking, reading, writing skills, i'm trying to teach to question. there needs to be a generation of active questioners.

i have been blogging back and forth with mr. shannon wheatley, a high school history teacher in houston, texas. his blog, (education noir) is about his thoughts around education, adding a voice to the teachers of color perspective. and a strong voice! i am honored to read his writing, and look forward to the opportunity to dialogue with him about our experiences. mine the first time in the classroom in awhile, his at a kipp (knowledge is power program) school. i'm interested to learn more about these schools of choice.

shannon makes me think about lisa delpit, in an article she wrote about how black educators are often scolded by the (very white) progressive education community for being too stern... but their teaching is often more affective for urban students than alternative education. teachers need to understand how to communicate with their students; part of knowing them is knowing their cultural backgrounds, traditions and codes. and i am going to be a difficult teacher. but hopefully a class with me will be a memorable experience!! ha. i'm getting a little nervous for the fall.


Friday, July 20, 2007

shoes!! oh my god shoes... just testing out the lovelies of gliffy.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

r.i.p. sekou sundiata

my poetry mentor passed away yesterday. i just found out today, and i have no words for this. this wreaks violent havoc on my heart. there is nothing to mute the sound. but at least the sound is his beautiful, deep, velvet tone pulling at my heart strings. i wanted to share sekou with you. and this too.

"where is my witty?
where is my sovereignty?
and where the hell is my cool?"

women like that need an inside job. you can't take them from without.

(i'm trying to talk back to you now. this is a slow process of trying to form the words, the sounds that will shape your memory. i take this seriously.)

hearing you again and again in my dreams. i live in the past, but it makes sense in the future. i can't count the colors on your hands. and tonight, we were small and intimate, we burned bright coals on your legacy. i told your story, keep another inside the frame of my skull. there are some things that are always secret. but only dancing makes her clean and i wanted to be washed free of it all. start tomorrow a fresh body and breathe you blue into my mornings. i take it you're there. and i go there everytime. the place where rain brings thickness to the air and i can calibrate my movements to your breath.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

where is my mind?

i apologize in advance for this post's lack of technological pondering, i need to vent.

i am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but i am highly critical of myself. in thinking about this afternoon's in-class assignment and my frustration with it, i found myself nearly in tears about not being able to easily come up with 19 questions that stratified the cognitive and knowledge dimensions. i realize that it's difficult to come up with questions that are diverse in their knowledge type and grasping different cognitive utilities... and i guess i've always thought of myself as someone who thinks of great questions. we are all stressed and tired, i don't want to blame my visible outbursts on that because i am not the only one feeling that stress. but as hard as we worked, we were struggling to come up with ways to relate the text to meaningful questions.

what i was really impressed by was how people started to come over to help us, but i think it was an ego hit, because i'm not used to being that person who needs help. i don't deal with it well; i'm used to being the one who helps others. it was also about the fact that i do love the synthesis between theory and practice, but was struggling to ground the theories into the text. and struggling further in thinking about how to do this in the fall and spring. i am imagining the look and feel of the classroom already and i think that teaching lessons for 695 will be the beginning of where i feel the application. i think we need to hold class outside. i think we need to change the shape of what we're doing sometimes and i realize how my mind sometimes turns off in front of text books, still. i have unlearned how to see them as useful...

but, as liz de groot pointed out yesterday... we will have to use them despite what we think about text books, politically. how can we use them as a resource that is not frustrating to us and to our students? in the process of moving from student to teacher (and always remaining student, too), i need to ground this in the body. my brain is really feeling rocked and it's a beautiful inquiry into its capacities, but really difficult to grow so much so quickly. and to never be able to stop thinking about it.

part of this is also that i don't have an outlet for this language at home. i have to break it down, de-code the language to my family (which is exactly how i'll have to break it down for my students), so i feel like when i go home, i'm teaching, too. in all of this, i'm trying to find the space for me. holding onto the creativity and trying not to get bogged down in the details.

nam myoho renge kyo, and a nap - both are necessary. goodnight!


Sunday, July 15, 2007

the concept of lolo

i mapped myself out in some key identity concepts... i will add some things as this changes, ha ha. just having fun with inspiration. what i was thinking about today was myself as a person and myself as a teacher, two very different identities. while i know some teachers who connect with their students online through myspace or other social networking sites, mine is quite risque (that could be the understatement of the year... check it out -- and in thinking about proceeding into this next year, i want to navigate how to be able to keep my true self up on my page, and how to also not suggest to my students that i will be out, partying and dancing all the time and so it's not necessary for them to do their work. how do we become ourselves in the classroom in a way that can navigate this difficult terrain? i don't think it's always necessary to lie about myself or hide aspects of myself (i.e. tattoo's), i believe it's conditional, but i have to also think about being a role model and the types of messages i'm inadvertantly sending. i think it's just important to be deliberate... and maybe take the village voice photo shoot where i was on the cover of the gay pride issue off of myspace, yes?

that's another thing that i've been thinking about. i came out when i was 14 (and ironic that on the concept map above, i didn't list queer as part of my identity). i don't necessarily feel the need to come out to the whole MAC program, i think that it's been guessed or implied anyway... if you talk to me about it, you'll find that it's very complex. i don't believe in labels that are over-arching and all-determining, but i am queer. how do i use this vast community of resources and central part of my life in my language and approach to homophobia in my classrooms? to talking about and empathizing with different literacies? i was thinking about this in connection to the ways that an online space can be a place to build community within educators, as i was contacted by a member of my buddhist organization who is looking to connect with other gay SGI members on the east coast ( for more info about my buddhist practice)... ooh, one more thing. i was really excited to make a strong connection with an educator working in houston, texas. he's a high school history teacher and has very strong ideas about how to approach his classroom, we share a love for critical pedagogy, though we are in different subject areas, we have some pretty aligned approaches. we are going to have a dialogue that is rooted in our blogs, but for my ability to record it, i'll also be emailing with him, to deepen the level of exchange.

um and in other news, i'm completely obsessed with my group's wiki. like, dorkily so. and now i step back from procrastination in writing my summaries for pat... and get working. be well!!!


Thursday, July 12, 2007

this is actually a response to jon's blog, in which he was writing about hermeneutics (interpreting a text out of context, check his page for a real definition)... i just learned how to speed read and i'm looking forward to using that as a specific "technology" with which to approach texts... anyhoo...

i've been writing blogs for almost 10 years. i have ones that are more personal (i.e. not trafficked, hidden deep in the corners of cyberspace), ones that are more widely read, some with a specific intended audience, some that started off as "poetry only" or "political only", but the reality of each of these is that once i press "publish", i don't retain control of these factors anymore. i've also learned over time that i have an incredibly hard time drawing lines to say "this is for this purpose", even in this blog, i constantly ask myself "okay, is it about the class? can i post it there?" when i post something, i don't know who is reading, what they thought and because i have had a lot of blogs over time, i don't have a consistent readership that comments frequently... in this way, i am frustrated with the medium b/c i believe in its innate ability to be interactive, but often it is just musings that go unaddressed, when i'm always searching for dialogue. i think we were talking about this before with the egoism of blogging, how it can be a communique or soapbox, but it's crucial for me to get feedback, so lay it on me!

the safety of online spaces is something that i struggle with. i have never believed that there's anything "safe" about the online space... anything can be accessed by anyone. now, that there will be droves of librarians at my door for not using in-blog citations is pretty unlikely b/c it's one of millions out there... while i believe big brother is watching, not that close, ha.

i really enjoyed (jon's) post, and i too see the danger of hermeneutics. the writer's intent only goes so far... it's also about the reader's perception and the reason why i study language and communication (through English) is because i'm fascinated by the fact that every word we speak/write has the weight of our experiences in it. when i say "love", i bring to the word every time i've ever known or felt love... and to think that anyone else would understand the nuances of that is crazy. we share a language and i think it's crucial to constantly define what we mean, because definitions (as we see with trying to define literacy) are not static, and must change to reflect the culture and language we speak in. but the challenge, for me, is in trying to make those connections, so that i know you well enough to know what you mean when you talk love, hate, education, home, etc., and context is crucial.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

metacognition of a migraine

the convergence of systems in my head caused a linear breakdown. i could see the lights going out in every window along the block. used to short circuitry of this kind, i know when and how to step down. close my eyes, massage my temples. drink caffeine. there are a few strategies i've learned. perhaps now that i'm starting to understand some additional frameworks, now that i'm looking large ahead, my eyes are too small for all they're seeing. for how bright and how dark the schema is. i think big and need to sometimes remember that i am a body, i am grounded and i am not always capable of everything.

now, we all know that i need no excuses to listen to thunder. but i don't have a backup generator anaymore, my skin is showing itself to be wiser. sleep is crucial and i want to be in my dreams pretty often these days. i require time with myself to uncover what i'm really thinking about, what really grinds my gears. and let me tell you , turning inward is not usually hard for me to do, but i still have growing pains of the brain (all the time).

i will call this that. a time when i am expanding and unable to accommodate spatially what i have acquired. a reading last night said "Every book has the potential to be a teacher" (paul & elder, 15, APA citations are my life) and this is why i received 9 boxes of them today. even when my head has no room, i can always go back to them, re-introduce myself to my mentors and find that they remember me, and have silently watched me grow. just look in the margins, notice the simplicity with which i thought about things then. i used to make assertions with such conviction. how does it only get more stratified as i get older?

this too is a mark of becoming.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

no footballer left behind

stewart had sent this around via email, wanted to share:

"All teams must make the state playoffs and all MUST win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable. If, after two years, they have not won the championship their footballs and equipment will be taken away UNTIL they do win the championship.
All students will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time even if they do not have the same conditions or opportunities to practice on their own. NO exceptions will be made for lack of interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities of themselves or their parents.


Talented players will be asked to workout on their own, without instruction. This is because the coaches will be using all their instructional time with the athletes who aren't interested in football, have limited athletic ability or whose parents do not like football.

Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in the 4th, 8th, and 11th game. It will create a New Age of Sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimum goals. If no child gets ahead, then no child gets left behind. If parent do not like this new law, they are encouraged to support private schools that can screen out the non-athletes and prevent their children from having to go to school with bad football players."


i like that taking it out of context, you see that no child left behind just doesn't make sense! i mean, i already knew that, but i liked the way that this illustrated it so simply.

but what i really wanted to comment on was how, in addition to blogging, the email list that we use for the MAC group (and sub-groups, as we set off to do some projects) has become another kind of community for us, as well. i have gotten to know c-tools by wading through it and asking my classmates for help/clarification. it is really exciting that we are already teaching each other from our own specific backrgrounds, and moreso, that we are all open to learning from each other. i feel that there are so many ways to connect with one another, and organically, opportunities are opening up as people learn each others' hobbies, interests and extra-curriculars. i suggest that everyone gets involved with some sort of outside of class activity -- i have a feeling that we will need something else to think about, something to provide balance and a break.

just some saturday thoughts...


Friday, June 29, 2007

vicodin-induced introduction

welcome to the land of lolo, i hope that you enjoy your stay.

i am incredibly excited about this class, as i feel that there is a great expanse of innovative and interesting resources that i can learn and live in my future classrooms. unfortunately, i got a tooth pulled over the lunch break today, so i wasn't able to participate fully in the class today, though i am quite sure that i will be all up in it quite soon.

revolving around blogging, here
is my myspace blog, which i write in a few times a week and which will probably also be heavily school focused in the next year.... i see blogging as a great tool for building community in the classroom in a new way, connecting learnings to one another in a space that they have a really direct impact on. blogs also touch and reach students whose speaking skills aren't as strong, or shy kids. it gives students another medium in which to participate, in addition to strengthening their cognition of the subject material, ability to respond to others' writing, and building their own writing skills.

i have to say that i am intrigued by the use of blogs in the classroom, and reminiscing to my own experiences of creating the online community. people say things on the internet that they will not say in real life. people admit, have the discussions that they wouldn't dare to if you were sitting across the table. and i think it's a great addendum to a classroom environment.... though personally, i think it's important to address wholly different styles of learning and yes, in class participation in addition to extra-curricular or online input is crucial.

i think blogs are useful tools to expand upon, clarify and further the class discussion, but certainly not a replacement. i love technology and want to integrate it into my classroom as much as possible, but i worry about its effects and making people lazy enough that they don't interact, don't explore in person and save it for the "safe" classroom.

online space is never safe, folks. when you put it out there, it is no longer yours and the audience is able to do with your writing what they want. your intention only goes so far. and really, i think that the quality of in-person discussion can be stellar if the real-time classroom is fostered and created with expectations for quality, respect, confidentiality.

anyhoo, as someone who has blogged for 8 or 9 years now in many different venues, i think that the level of conversation and community building is crucial to understanding the language of the students we work with, however i don't see entirely online classrooms as effective as a combination of media with a real discussion. having the ability to say it aloud, to argue a point on the spot and not hiding behind the screen... it still holds value with me.

anyway, more very soon!! looking forward to all that we explore in this class.

lauren (or lolo, as i'm known outside of class)