Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Reflections: 1st Week of Substitute Teaching

This was my first week of substitute teaching for a nearby school district. I am subbing in an effort to gain both experience, and a full-time teaching position. I worked on Tuesday, Thursday, and today (Friday).

My first assignment was supposedly to be "extra help" in a science class at a 6th-grade school. I was really jazzed about it, as I'm certified to teach 4th-8th Science. When I arrived (early, mind you), I was sent to an ELA (English Language Arts) class instead. This is a district policy: if you come for one assignment, the school administrator can move you to another if they need to. I thought, "Okay, that's fine, this will just help me cultivate that thing they call 'flexibility'."

On Thursday I filled in for the art teacher at an elementary school. Despite the lack of lesson plans- instructions said to give the kids a "free drawing day"- it was a great experience overall. I saw a class from each grade level for 45 minutes, except my last class. It was only a half-hour, but filled with at least 50 1st-Graders [shudder]. But I was amazed by how many drawings I received from the students that day!

Today I taught Kindergarten at a very close school. When I walked into the room, the sheer amount of stuff was enough to make my little heart flutter. Oh my. There were an assortment of tables and chairs and rugs and posters and books and cubbies and shelves and toys and supplies and files and...yeah. The day started off with "Storybook Parade", which I guess is the new PC alternative to Halloween.

Things I still need to work on:
  • Learn to use the Promethean Board! I've heard it's easy- I just need to call the district's office for training.
  • I forgot to set time limits for things. I was taught that students need to know up front: 1) what they're doing, 2) what tools to use, and 3) how much time they have to do it. I missed the boat on that last one quite a bit.
  • How to prevent-or nip in the bud-or ignore? the making of paper airplanes and poppers. I really didn't see the harm in the doodling or coloring or folding some of the kids did; it wasn't bothering any of their classmates.
  • Further familiarize myself with, and practice, the principles from Love and Logic.

What I already knew:
  • From my mom, "Kids never completely shut up." I found that to be spot-on. Even at its quietest, my room had a little murmur going on.
  • Some kids process by reading out loud, or mouthing the words, or tapping their pencil. No big deal.
  • Some kids will do anything to keep from doing work! I don't understand why- that in itself takes massive energy and thought.
  • The "bad kids" are some of the smartest in the room.
  • It's easy to tell when kids need a stretch break.
  • Walking around during class is pretty effective for keeping kids focused.

What I discovered:
  • A box of prizes from Dollar Tree is a pretty strong motivator.
  • You can see in a student the sort of person they are going to be as an adult. There was a quiet girl who finished her quiz early and started doodling (like me!). Then there was the troublemaker who gave me an aww-shucks grin- the kind of guy who will act cute to try to get out of stuff the rest of his life. There was the play-dumb kid: "Miss, what's a quiz?" who will try to get by on what he doesn't know. There was the smooth-talker, who, when I passed his desk, murmured, "Wassup, fashion model?"
  • I am NOT a Kindergarten person. It's like herding cats. Cats that want to "help" you or show you their work or their outfit. Give me a fifth- or sixth-grader any day.
  • I can really yell if the need arises!
  • High heels=bad idea.
  • Expectantly extending an open hand in front of a student and receiving rubber bands from them gives you a giddy, powerful feeling.
  • I still feel like a kid when I'm in a school. Will this change? Would that be a good thing if it did? I sat in my art classroom before class Thursday, grinning as I looked around me at all the cool projects and supplies. "I can't believe I got away with this! I get to be the teacher!" I thought.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pics from the weekend

This was a creative weekend for me! I began a project, but not sure what exactly to call it 'bout "mixed media piece?" I also took some photos of things I found visually interesting around Jesse's studio.

Here's a lovely Saturday afternoon. I was struck by the colors and angles. Plus, the cracks that recently appeared around the covered-up window (visible just to the right of the little light fixture) are so haunting...and the way they connect to the still-existing window makes me think of a memory (of a person, or event, or otherwise) that can follow you around for a while, whether that is good or bad.

Here we have some Homies, with my glasses. It was funny to me (ok, not ha-ha funny) that my glasses match the left-hand girl's shirt perfectly. I just happened to set my glasses so that one wheel of the car is framed within each lens. I also like the warm, soft light in the bathroom.

And finally, in an homage to Richard Wentworth's Making Do and Getting By series, a repurposed brick chunk.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Art Project: Nests

So for the past couple years, I have been finding/receiving/swiping/otherwise accumulating little bits of prettiness. They are strips of ribbon and trim, hunks of interesting paper, and even colorful twist-ties.

Recently the idea occurred to me that, as I scavenged them much like a bird would, and live in a treehouse, I could also construct them into nests. I wanted to make them into something that would show others the beauty I saw in these materials.

The nest idea also brings to mind safety, comfort, and refuge. The act of creating them is an outlet for me, itself a refuge from anxiety. And I am making them at a time when my own nest is "threatened"- by my unemployment.

I am planning to take this idea a step further, and photograph the nests in contexts that exemplify the various avenues of my [unnecessary] worry. But, for now, I am happy that I finished constructing two of them last night. Behold, for your viewing pleasure: Nest #1: Fiesta, and Nest #2: 5 a Day.

PS- These are much more colorful in real life. Uploading the photo made it look washed out for some reason.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Movie Review: Coco Avant Chanel

It is a gorgeous rainy morning out, the kind that makes me want to curl up with the biography of Coco Chanel that I got from the library yesterday. My choice of reading material was inspired by my recent viewing of the film Coco Avant Chanel (Coco Before Chanel). I wanted to get more of the details of her life, and see how accurate the movie was.

The film is, as you can probably deduce, a biography of Coco Chanel before she became famous. As a woman raised in an orphanage, who later founded a fashion empire, she truly was self-made. It was fascinating to see her beginnings in fashion as a milliner. She had an eye for style that was truly ahead of her time. The film is full of beautiful clothing and hats, especially the final runway montage.

The always-charming Audrey Tautou did an amazing job as Mlle. Chanel. Tautou's sweet smile makes rare appearances as the steely, determined Coco, but I was too intrigued to mind much.

The film is in French with English subtitles. I love that. It irritates me when movies set in other countries just have actors speaking English with accents. So lame!

See this movie! It is beautiful, intriguing, and inspiring- just like Coco.
(Plus, who wouldn't love to look this killer in their early 50's? And this is pre-Botox and -Photoshop!)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Movie Review: Apocalypto

Like many viewers, I was put off by Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic rant during his recently-expunged arrest, and did not bother seeing Apocalypto in 2006. I finally watched it last week. I think that was a brutal case of bad timing, contributing to the movie being very underrated.

Apocalypto follows a brave Mayan warrior named Jaguar Paw, as he fights to survive. He has been captured to be sacrificed to the gods. However, he is determined to return to his village, to save his wife, Seven, and his son, Turtles Run.

This film is epic in proportion and earnest in its authenticity. The body count alone numbers 114 (courtesy IMDB). The actors, who are pierced, scarred, and tattooed, speak Maya.

At 139 minutes, it is an investment. However, the balance of action with more intimate plot details keeps it clipping along nicely. It is definitely violent. I am pretty squeamish, and had to allow myself a few extended blinks! The ending is a bit of an abrupt twist, but a good one, that leaves you thinking about what it means for a civilization to end.

I think the best part of this seemingly remote, historic tale is its relevance. I had chills when I heard an old man tell this story to the villagers gathered around a fire:

And a Man sat alone, drenched deep in sadness. And all the animals drew near to him and said, "We do not like to see you so sad. Ask us for whatever you wish and you shall have it." The Man said, "I want to have good sight." The vulture replied, "You shall have mine." The Man said, "I want to be strong." The jaguar said, "You shall be strong like me." Then the Man said, "I long to know the secrets of the earth." The serpent replied, "I will show them to you." And so it went with all the animals. And when the Man had all the gifts that they could give, he left. Then the owl said to the other animals, "Now the Man knows much, he'll be able to do many things. Suddenly I am afraid." The deer said, "The Man has all that he needs. Now his sadness will stop." But the owl replied, "No. I saw a hole in the Man, deep like a hunger he will never fill. It is what makes him sad and what makes him want. He will go on taking and taking, until one day the World will say, 'I am no more and I have nothing left to give.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Believe on Jesus"

This morning, I left my treehouse to run an errand. While sitting at the intersection of 7th, University, Camp Bowie, and Bailey, I spotted a man standing on one of the medians. He was sporting a fluorescent yellow/green sandwich-board sign that read:


Now, while I have to admire his cojones, there are several things wrong with his approach, the sum of which makes me sincerely doubt his motives.
First, his message is pretty abrasive. This has got to have an impact on his effectiveness. Sales 101 states that you can't make someone angry and sell them something at the same time; i.e., you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
Second, if he is seeking to reach non-believers, how many do you think he will encounter early on a Saturday morning? Crap, even the evangelists who yell into megaphones downtown on weekend nights have got to be more effective simply because of the time and place they choose to proclaim their faith to the masses going out for dinners and drinks.
Finally, did he really think it was okay to wear a sign emblazoned with such a flagrant typo? Does he not know any better? It's certainly not helping his credibility any. Although, as one publishing professional recently told me via voicemail, "Most people don't care about editing anymore." Sigh.

...All these considered, I can't help but think that this man wasn't out there for the good of humanity. My speculation was that he felt some sort of obligation, but not one of the sort that we Christians all should. We should be moved by God's grace to love and befriend everyone, to give thanks in all things, and to offer aid and comfort to those who need it. I believe that this man, with his ineffective tactics, wanted to make a martyr of himself, to feel as though he accomplished (or sacrificed) something important. I think that, had Jesus been passing by, He would've told the man, "Buddy, what are you doing? Let's go hang out with the bums at the bus stop."

I tried to photograph him, but was pretty far away. Here he is anyway:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pumpkin-Flavored Frozen Treat Review

Well friends, it is that perfect time of year here in Texas: you know that fall is around the corner, but it is still warm enough to enjoy a cool confection. So what is the best thing to do in such a situation? Get yourself a pumpkin-flavored frozen treat, that's what! I have sampled some from my neighborhood, and reviewed them below, for your convenience.

1st Place:
What: Single-dip of pumpkin ice cream
Where: Braum's
How much: $1.35
Why: The price alone wins major points with this unemployed treehouse-dweller, not to mention that the single dip is the perfect size! The ice cream is a lovely, pale orange hue. However, it has a tiny touch of gritty-ness that is not quite ignorable. Whether that is to bring to mind nutmeg, cinnamon, or even pumpkin texture, I don't know. That's the only drawback to this affordable, petite treat.

2nd Place:
What: Regular pumpkin pie shake
How much: ~$2.70
Why: This was the first pumpkin-flavored ice cream product I had ever had. A few years ago, my mom and I, feeling adventurous, ordered one to share. We had no idea we were in for such a cool, creamy, pumpkin-y delight! It really is delicious. The only flaw here is the big size. With only regular and large to choose from, you'd better have a companion nearby who wants to split it with you.

3rd Place:
What: Kid's size pumpkin frozen custard
How much: ~$2.90
Why: I am a big fan of Curly's. Really, I am. It is just down the street from me, and they feature a different flavor every month! However, it is pretty pricey, and the super-rich frozen custard melts quickly. Again, the kid's size is perfect for me. They even top it with a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar!

Honorable Mention:
What: Small pumpkin pie Blizzard
How Much: $2.70
Why: I just got one this evening, feeling I needed to give it a whirl. Granted, I never understood what the big deal about Blizzards was, anyway. They are just cups of soft-serve, with stuff mixed in. But, I decided to go for it. The ice cream was the best part. The alleged pumpkin pie flavor went undetected by my taste buds. It tasted overall like vanilla-plus-something-else-but-I-can't-tell-what. The pieces of pie crust were eerily crispy for having been submerged in ice cream.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another Morning Jam

This morning, I spilled my oatmeal, and nearly dropped the sugar bowl. I blurted out, "C'mon, butterfingers!" And that brought to mind this song, by Bomb the Bass, ft. Fujiya & Miyagi (whom I love). Plus the video is pretty cute. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Woke up with this song in my head

I think it is because yesterday I learned from the seemingly ordinary leader of my Bible study group that she also loves The Decemberists! We discussed the nautical, whimsical, sometimes-depressing nature of their lyrics, the epic scale of The Crane Wife, and our shared unfamiliarity with their latest album. I adore those moments: discovering you share a particular passion with someone else.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hey, Blogosphere!

Do you know of anyone in the DFW area needing an editor/copywriter?
The combination of unemployment and finding typos in everything I read is getting old.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Blessings felt and passed on

In preparation for spin class, I took a seat at the top of my stairs to put on my socks and shoes. When I looked down at my little naked toes on the wood steps, I was just filled with the not-quite-a-feeling-but-not-quite-a-thought that God loves me... and that He loves us all. He gives us evidence of that in little moments like those, or in big ways (e.g. His Son). It was refreshing to remember how precious we all are. I just wanted to share it and hope you'll feel loved too.

I got my Blitzen back, Blitzen back, Blitzen back!

HOORAY! I just returned from picking up Fraulein Blitzen Weiss at Caliber Collision.

My thanks to Enterprise, for providing me with a rental these 3 weeks. My applause, however, goes to the guys at Caliber, including T.C., my service advisor. They did an amazing, thorough job! She looks so gorgeous!

I am overjoyed at having my car back. Every control and instrument in the proper place, the fun of getting to shift and rev and coast, her plaid seat cradling my frame as if it were made just for me....sigh. I sure was happy to see her. Was the feeling mutual? Just check out that smile.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


... From this weekend felt like they were out of a sitcom of the Seinfeld-ish variety. I suppose that is the height of couple-Narcissism, isn't it? Thinking the inane banter you have with your significant other is potential TV show material? Oh well. I will refrain from trying to reconstruct them here, but I will tell you that they touched on a number of topics, such as:
  • Do potatoes have a season (a la squash or tomatoes), or are they grown year-round?
  • Would a magnet, hurled upward at just the right angle, stick to Jesse's tin-stamped ceiling?
  • The armadillo is not the Texas state reptile, nor is it a reptile at all... but it is scaly!

It's Just Like...

This weekend, in between bouts of rain, Jesse and I rode bikes. I have not rode a "real" bike in 4 or 5 years. However, I have made it a point to attend Spin class at my gym on a weekly basis for the past 2 years. Riding outside and riding a stationary bike are very different things, my friends. At first, I was amazed at what an effort it was to maintain balance. However, it was, as they say, like riding a bike! Some part of my memory revived and we were off! As we cruised around his neighborhood, I felt a giddy sense of enjoyment that biking used to bring when I was little. I wondered:
  • How would it be possible for someone to be on a bike and be in a bad mood? I couldn't NOT smile!
  • Why don't more people use this as transportation? (Around here, anyway. I know that other parts of the world are more bike-friendly.)
  • When can I go again?
Wheeee! What is a fun activity that you have discovered/rediscovered recently?
PS: The photo is not me. It appeared in a Google Image search for "biking in heels."

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Cute and clever hints abound in this MSN article, 50 All-Time New Uses for Old Things. My favorite would have to be the first tip, if only for the typically girly reason, "It's just so pretty!" I also like the showercap-as-shoe-holder...'cause who actually uses a showercap? Which tip do you plan to use?